Posts Tagged ‘Bad Ben : The Mandela Effect’

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.