The Fourth Time’s Not The Charm : “Bad Ben : The Mandela Effect”

Posted: August 25, 2018 in movies
Tags: , , , , ,

If writer/director/actor Nigel Bach — the pride of Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey — holds true to form, eventually he’ll see this review, and won’t be able to resist leaving a snarky, self-congratulatory, vaguely passive-aggressive comment on it. How do I know this? Allow me to explain —

When I hacked out a fairly positive write-up of Bach’s first film, Bad Ben, I didn’t hear a peep from the guy — but when I wrote a negative review of his next one, Steelmanville Road : A Bad Ben Prequel, he stopped by and “congratulated” me on my “little blog,” boasted about how well his movies were doing, and implied that I’d never achieve as much with my life as he has with his. Then he “thanked” me for my time and effort, and that was that. Honestly, it was enough to make me not want to like the supposed “conclusion” to his then-trilogy, Badder Ben : The Final Chapter.

Here’s the thing, though — for all my numerous and obvious faults, I’m always an honest appraiser of the flicks I check out, and I absolutely loved what I thought to be the “last” installment of the Bad Ben “saga,” and stated as much plainly and proudly. Again, no word from Bach — and so when I say I expect a comment this time out, you already know which way this review is going to go.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but as of right now, it looks as though Bach really should have quit while he was ahead, because 2018’s Bad Ben : The Mandela Effect (notice the misspelling of the film’s own title in its makeshift “poster” — never a good sign) isn’t so much running on fumes as it is sputtering, and maybe even threatening to stall out altogether. Believe it or not, though, that’s a real shame in my estimation, as you could make a pretty solid argument that this is the single-most unlikely “franchise” in horror history, a noble attempt by one guy, armed with nothing more than an iPhone, to create a genuine grassroots phenomenon by means of no greater a “distribution network” than Amazon Prime’s streaming video service. Bach’s not just “on” the cutting edge with this extended project of his, he is the cutting edge, and he deserves an awful lot of credit for that. With a budget of zero dollars, he’s produced a reasonably popular series of films from the confines of his own home (or car, or yard), and has acted as his own one-man crew both behind the “camera” and, to a large extent, in front of it. That’s admirable. That takes guts.

But that doesn’t mean he should milk his own premise for a whole lot more than it’s worth, and that’s what he’s done with this fourth film, I’m sorry to report.

After branching out and expanding his cast the last two times out, Bad Ben : The Mandela Effect is once again strictly a solo venture, with Bach himself back as Tom Riley, protagonist and narrator of this assemblage of ostensibly “found” footage cobbled together from the security cameras that are a positively ubiquitous feature in his life, but here he’s going all Groundhog Day on us, demonstrating that the bumps in the night that so disturbed his existence when he first bought his home are either happening over and over again in more or less the exact same sequence in various parallel realities — or else he’s stuck in some sort of fatal repetition “feedback loop” in this reality, doomed by fate (again and again) to experience the same shit over and over unless and until he finds a way to break the cycle.

It’s an intriguing enough premise, no doubt about that, but it’s one that runs out of steam fairly early on here, and Bach kinda feels like he’s mailing in his performance as surely as he is his script.  This is such a tedious retread, in fact, that it seems as if we’ve seen it all before, even if we’ve only seem something very much like it before — until this fourth and latest chapter, that is, when we (along with Bach.Riley himself, of course) are forced to live through essentially the exact same sequence of events ad nauseum. Even though this flick only clocks in at 67 minutes, it’s still an utter bore and a complete waste of time, and yes — while I do feel bad about saying that for reasons already expounded upon, I can’t in good conscience recommend this one to even the most hard-core of Bad Ben fans.

That being said, when I heard that Bach was already putting out a casting call for yet another film in this series, I was as cautiously optimistic as I was unsurprised. The Bad Ben “phenomenon” may seem to be pretty well played-out, but Bach really has been a trailblazer, and his franchise deserves to end on a higher note than this. Whether or not it will remains to be seen, of course, but I was of the opinion that he should pack it in after part two, only to be happily proven wrong by the third. I’m hoping to be every bit as mistaken this time around, as well, but it’s all dependent upon whether or not Bach breaks his own mold and does something entirely unexpected one more time — the “back (to back, to back, to back) to basics” approach of Bad Ben : The Mandela Effect is a serious (to say nothing of repetitious) step in entirely the wrong direction.

Comments
  1. Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

    Reblogged this on Through the Shattered Lens.

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      Needless to say, the best favor you can do for yourself in regards to this flick is just to skip it.

  2. johnrieber says:

    I have never heard of this series, but based on your review I will check it out – for that alone, he owes you – you are shining a light on more obscure projects like this, so I guess your site provides a valuable service, no matter how he writes about it

  3. Scott says:

    Its too bad that he was kind of a dick about the negative review of the 2nd movie. I am a fan of the Bad Ben series, but I agree, the second one was a chore to get through. I haven’t watched this one yet, but I appreciate the review, kind of setting my expectations. Especially after Badder Ben, which I agree should probably have been the last just because it was such fun to watch, end it on a high note, y’ know?
    But this series is so unique and the fact that he can carry a movie with so limited of budget and, in the first one, having it be just one person in one setting, is very cool that it works. Like he has to be applauded for that. But, like i said, as much of a fan as I am with 1 and 3, 2 just didn’t do it for me so much.

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      What did you think of the fourth one?

      • Scott says:

        I still haven’t watched it yet. I have to admit, with the hundreds and hundreds of B-Movies on Amazon prime I get distracted because I want to watch them all. I was going to watch it yesterday then I found a movie called “The Supernaturals” about Confederate ghost zombies starring Nichelle Nichols, Lavar Burton, Maxwell Caulfield, and others that I couldn’t pass up. It wasn’t great, but then I end up with Deepstar Six, so…I do intend to watch it, though, I’ll comment my thoughts when I do.

      • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

        I would say you made two viewing choices infinitely wiser than sitting down to watch this.

  4. Scott says:

    So, I watched this last night and yeah. I don’t know. I agree, it kind of takes a while to not feel like I’m watching the first movie. In fact, after a few minutes I did pushed the up button on the roku remote to make sure I didn’t pick the first one. I feel like there are ideas in this that could have made a great “for the fans” movie, but there’s not enough time spent in a single idea to make it interesting.

    The doll thing could have work I think as a sequel where Tom Riley follows through with becoming a paranormal investigator. Where he has to investigate a completely different house and gets stalked and attacked by dolls. I think him going on other adventures would work, as I did get many chuckles out of the cartoon they did with him and the witch. I feel like, fleshed out a bit more, and in a different house that would have been a good sequel.

    I think that if they would have gone all Groundhog’s Day from the get go it may have worked, but the doll thing was the first half-hour before the repeats started. I was kind of expecting when he was in the backyard at the beginning that what he was unburying was going to be like some of his own personal effects, like showing that he had somehow been there before and not remember. I think that if there was a full steam ahead of that it would have been pretty neat, maybe. But there wasn’t enough invested into either idea to make either really all that interesting.

    The two things I do remember chuckling at though were when he lampshaded the Peanut Butter M&Ms and Swedish Fish in the living room, and also the ending where he’s all “fuck this!” and leaves.

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