If you were to run across Mute Witness on the wall of the local video store, you would probably assume that it is a horror movie. The cover, featuring a woman with her mouth sealed with crude stitches, looks quite comfortable between Mutant Night and The Mutilator.
The first few minutes would do nothing to change your mind. However, we soon find out that the murderer we see stalking a woman is an actor, and we are watching a crew make a movie. From what we see, the movie they are making is a rip off of Halloween.
We meet the members of this film crew, led by a neurotic director (Evan Richards) and his girlfriend (Fay Ripley), and the main character of the piece, Billy (Marina Sudina). Billy is a beautiful special effects artist who is trying to make sure the film has enough blood on screen. Oh, and she's mute (hence MUTE Witness). Did we mention that for some reason this film crew is making this slasher flick in Moscow? The plot kicks in when Billy gets locked in the studio after hours and blunders upon a couple of the members of the Russian crew filming a porn film, which climaxes with the death of the featured actress. Billy, of course, after witnessing this (hence Mute WITNESS) knocks over a coat rack, and spends the next 10 minutes or so running away from the two baddies.
Of course, she escapes. And from this point on the film changes gears into murder-mystery mode. Billy alerts the authorities, but the two baddies convince them that all Billy saw was special effects. Naturally, there are absolutely no signs that what Billy saw actually happened. Completely discredited, Billy forges on to prove their guilt.
Actually, she doesn't. That would make far too much sense. Instead Mute Witness throws logic out the window and introduces the Reaper, played by Sir Alec Guiness. Yes, that Sir Alec. In any case, the Reaper is an international snuff film dealer, and he wants to buy the baddies film. Except, he wants no witnesses. Huh? Why would he care about a discredited witness who couldn't link him to anything? In any case, this sends the baddies after poor Billy again.
Soon after, both of the baddies are dead. Well, that's the end of that, right? Now there is no way the Reaper could be linked to any of this because the only people who knew of his involvement are dead, right?
Well, perhaps. But the screen writers fall back on that old standby, the computer disk. You see, the girl who was killed at the beginning of the film had on her person a computer disk, given to her by her boyfriend, that details the Reapers businesses. And she had that disk on her. When she apparently went knowingly with snuff film makers to star in a snuff film. Huh? How does this involve Billy? She is the only one who knows where the disk is, of course! From this point on Billy must decide if she can trust the police officer with the dubbed voice (Oleg Jankowski) who is undercover with the Reaper's gang.
This is a profoundly flawed film. Besides the fact that the plot makes no sense, there are some weird stylistic inconsistencies. For instance, most of the film is ultra gritty, filmed in realistic style against dingy background locations. Yet when Billy drops a hair dryer into a full bathtub that a baddie has fallen into, he has cartoon electrical arcs crackle around him.
On the plus side, much of the editing is very good, and good use is made of the Moscow locations. There are also some funny moments, such as when Billy, unable to yell for help as her apartment is broken into, attempts to attract attention to her plight by flashing her breasts at the man in the apartment across the way.
But when to get right down to it, all the stylistic tricks in the world can not save this script. This movie mocks horror conventions in its first few moments, yet it is itself the kind of film that cuts away from a murder about to happen to someone cutting into their roast beef on a plate. And after about an hour, you begin to get the sense that Billy's being a mute has nothing to do with building suspense. It actually saved the screenwriters from having to write all that pesky dialogue.
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