The Ugly Movie Review

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 Meet Simon Cartwright.  Take a close look - he’s young, handsome, curly-haired and cherubic.  Now, take a step back and you will see that Simon is handcuffed and shackled to a table in a bare room with what looks like blood on the walls.  Why is this?  Because Simon Cartwright is one of the most prolific and unusual serial killers Dr. Karen Shoemaker has ever seen and Simon has requested her to come and do an independent assessment of his mental capability to stand trial for his horrific string of murders.  What fascinates Dr. Shoemaker and others who have examined Simon is that his crimes fit no established profile of a serial killer – none of his victims have any similarity with the others, he is an equal opportunity butcher.

 In New Zealander Scott Reynold’s psychological horror film, "The Ugly", we meet Simon (Paolo Rotondo), Dr. Shoemaker (Rebecca Hobbs) and the bizarre folk who run the mental institution in which Simon is incarcerated: Dr. Marlowe (Roy Ward), a creepy yet dapper dresser who has a bizarre relationship with patient Marge (Darien Takle) and the two Neanderthal thugs who double as security guards, Phillip (Paul Glover) and Robert (Christopher Graham), when they are not relentlessly tormenting Simon.  Into this environment comes up and coming expert witness for the defense, Dr. Karen Shoemaker, who has already made a name for herself in a recent trial by helping find the defendant not guilty and is hungry for more fame.

 During her sessions with Simon, the viewer is shown in flashback Simon’s Norman Bates-like upbringing with the mother from hell, Evelyn (Jennifer Ward-Lealand), who swings from smothering Simon with almost inappropriate love to lashing out at him both figuratively and literally.  During what is apparently a common occurrence, young Simon (Sam Wallace) is set upon by some school bullies who attack and make fun of him for being dyslexic as they find a "kiddy book" in his backpack, "The Ugly Duckling", which is promptly ripped in two by one of the bullies.  Julie (Beth Allen), his only sympathetic classmate, witnesses this and helps the injured Simon home where his mother bandages his face where it was damaged by his fall.  Simon now sees himself as "The Ugly", even after his wounds heal.  This event combined with secrets he discovers his mother has kept from him and the treatment his only friend, Julie, receives from Evelyn, seem to trigger Simon’s psychotic behavior.

 The director uses some clever effects in the flashbacks, such as having Dr. Shoemaker actually BE there, asking the adult Simon questions as the events are unfolding for the young Simon and dissolves from the 13-year old Simon running from his tormentors to the adult Simon running AFTER his victims.  The murders are graphic but the director makes use of BLACK blood, except in one scene, which makes for some interesting visuals and "The Visitors" who Simon claim are making him commit these murders are pretty horrific once they make their appearance.

But is all of this real or simply Simon manipulating Dr. Shoemaker?  He does finally win enough of her trust to gain a few privileges and she finds herself attracted to the handsome young man but is what he telling her the truth?  At first, he says he kills because he enjoys it, then he blames "The Visitors" (a name he got from Dr. Shoemaker’s "visitor" badge – shades of Verbal Kint in "The Usual Suspects"?) but then Dr. Shoemaker sees "The Visitors" herself and later, Dr. Marlowe asks her if she saw "them" but then corrects himself.  It is all a puzzle but also a frightening mind game with a shocking ending.  Give it a look – it’s no "Se7en" or "The Silence of the Lambs" but still an interesting look at a psychotic mind with supernatural overtones.

Review by Elaine,
Movie Reviewer for MoviesOnline

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