Monday, June 27, 2011

Movie vs. Book: Tender Loving Care


Director: David Wheeler
Cast: J. Michael Esposito, Beth Tegarden, Marie Caldare, John Hurt

What do you do when you have the world’s most boring movie and you still want to sell it? Turn it into a video game!

That’s sort of what they did with Tender Loving Care; it’s become an interactive DVD. There’s the framing story: woman can’t come to terms with her dead child, so the husband brings in a psychiatric nurse. Said nurse manipulates and seduces both husband and wife. Disastrous results follow.

In between scenes, you get the main psychiatrist (played by John Hurt—thankfully someone who can actually act). He leads you through various psychological tests ala Cosmo personality tests. You also get an opportunity to explore various CGI rooms of the house, read diaries, look at what has been playing on the television, flip through the family’s books and magazines, even read their case files. It give you something interesting to do every ten or fifteen minutes or so.

The movie part is horrible. The characters are poorly written in less than two dimensions. The actors don’t do a damn thing to elevate the material. You can see what’s coming a good half hour before it happens. It reminded me of the forgettable made-for-television movies that the USA network would produce in the early 90s.

The interactive DVD parts are at least somewhat interesting. There are some fun visual interpretation questions, and now and then the answers are scattered with the occasional snarky and sarcastic answers to liven things up. One little annoyance is when they ask sexual questions. The answers are so male-targeted that, as a straight female, I just picked the first answer on the list. It’s a bit annoying, but not nearly as annoying as sitting through the movie part. But on a positive side, it does have save points. Which is a good thing, because if you explore all the different rooms each chance you get, this thing could take you hours.

A side note—from what I understand, you can purchase the movie as a stand-alone, without the interactive part. I can’t imagine why. Just the thought of it reminds me of a masochistic performance artist I’d seen a documentary on. He used to hang lead weights from his scrotum. I can imagine that’s what watching the movie on its own would be like.

The ending of the movie is horrible. Suddenly the husband character is so affectionate and caring when he spent the rest of the movie being coldhearted and selfish. And once the resolution comes, it gets dragged on and on and on….As far as the interactive part, it was fun during the first watch, but once you’re done…all those questions…they use your answers to create an edit of the movie tailored to your personal opinion. A couple hundred questions, and all they could do was give you a slightly different cut of the same nightmarish viewing experience you already had to sit through once.

I would say to avoid this movie if you can. Avoid it at all costs. Unless, of course, you truly and deeply hate yourself. In which case, go for it.

-- Jen

BOOK: TENDER LOVING CARE by Andrew Neiderman (1985)

This is a psychological horror novel from the 1980s. The cover copy promises something else, hinting at a story akin to Thomas Monteleone's Lyrica or one of Al Sarrantonio's moodier works. Instead, the reader is given Robert Bloch via The Waltons. This is not the first disappointment of the book; by the time the reader realizes nothing much is going to happen, they've already been disappointed in other ways.
That is not so say the book is a failure. It isn't. The author expertly maintains a sense of mood throughout the book, and he keeps the story moving. Unfortunately, when I say mood is maintained, the word is chosen carefully: the atmosphere of the story neither builds nor diminishes, with the result that tension fails to grow. The story moves, but because the principal players are introduced early, their attitudes and emotional states barely vary and the entire tale hinges upon their interaction, the reader is presented with an 80 page novella padded into a 306 page book.
I could easily be harsh to this book, but that would be unfair; this was a popular style of horror novel in the 1980s, due in no small part to the enormous success of V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic and subsequent family dramas. Viewed in that light, I have to give the author due credit. The dialogue flows naturally, the actions taken by the characters work within the context of the story and the author works to show nuances to the personalities.
That said, just as there is little to discredit the novel, there is little to recommend it above others.
Three stars out of five.
-- Bill