Serena and the Ratts (2011) – By Josh Samford

You can sometimes get a feeling for a movie based primarily on the advertising materials sent with a DVD. Free swag can be fun, but more often than not it isn’t expected for a reviewer of independent films. When Serena and the Ratts showed up at my door in a rather large box filled with memorabilia, it seemed that the filmmakers certainly had dedication to their project. This extra mile, while not having any effect on a review be it positive or negative (a t-shirt won’t secure you a positive review, dear indie filmmakers), does show how invested a filmmaker is in his or her project. The beautiful cover art, as well as the DVD menu found on this disc, seemed to further its appearance as a project that intended to take its place in a real straight-to-video market. While Serena and the Ratts might still have trouble with modern audiences who turn their nose up to low budget affairs such as this, the movie does show a wealth of imagination in its script and appearance. A hodgepodge of ideas and genre film aesthetics, this is a movie that may have some internal problems, but it attempts to make up for it with endless enthusiasm and some very impressive concepts.

Serena is a hired assassin who may very well be one of the most dangerous professionals in her racket. Despite her punk rock appearance, she is extremely dedicated to her job. When she and her partner are contacted about an important job, everything seems routine until the details are divulged. It appears that a group of scientists have discovered a way to produce wormholes here on earth. With these wormholes, they have managed to break down the space time continuum and someone has decided to play with fate. A man will apparently be traveling back in time in order to kill Adolph Hitler, which may very well completely avoid the second World War. However, as time travel movies have shown us before, playing with the space-time continuum can have dire consequences! So, Serena has been handed the contract to take this would-be hero’s life. Although she finds herself in a moral conundrum, she is soon confronted with the incredibly difficult task of killing someone who can quite simply travel back in time and stop their own death. How will she tackle this hit, and what secrets are held behind this mysterious job?

For this sort of production, with the minimalist budget that it likely had, this movie is supremely shot. Featuring some fantastic photography, well decorated sets and fantastic costumes, this movie looks far better than it probably has any business looking. During some of the more innovative camera moments, the filmmakers become creative with quick pans and crafty editing in order to give the movie further polish. The mix of visual techniques, with a lot of handheld and an equal amount of traditional dolly work, gives the movie a surprising sense of technical merit. Aside from the technical feats that are achieved, the movie should be most recognized due to its idea structure. Audiences are bound to be a little perplexed when they first start in with Serena and the Ratts, that is for sure. A bombardment of genre-film ideals hit the audience during its introductory scenes, and they are likely to be left a bit dazed. We are thrown into this assortment of wild movie concepts, and the movie never comes right out and spells out its next move. We have hints at science fiction, the assassin genre and even some strange David Lynch style tastes of surreal horror, but for the most part the audience remains in the dark. While the audience may have its expectations, as this movie plays out they will find that this is a movie that isn’t interested in playing by the rulebook.

If the movie has any problems going on in it, it might be that it takes too long to do too little with all of the great ideas that are floating around in the plot. While it is interesting to flash back to World War II, a time period that is tied closely to our story due to the Hitler assassination subplot, it seems that this idea is slightly less interesting than the "how do you assassinate someone with a time machine?" plot line that sort of stalls out after the first thirty minutes. The movie is certainly packed with inventive ideas in multiple areas, but at times it seems to become overshadowed by this creativity. Due to this, some topics that probably deserve more time are never fully given their credence. With nearly two hours worth of running time it would seem that there was plenty of time for the filmmakers to cover these issues, but it just didn’t pan out that way.

The performances in the movie are universally solid. Although there are a few instances of stilted dialogue, and characters who never really seem all that lively, but for the most part the movie remains afloat with several talented actors/actresses in the dominant roles. Evalena Marie is an absolutely stunning girl, no question about it. Independent filmmakers are usually lucky if they can manage to find a actor or actress who can manage to remember their lines without noticeably reading them from a cue card, but to find a talented young actress who also has model-good-looks, that is a rare find indeed. Although Marie has her slip ups every now and then, she actually stands out as one of the best performers in the film.

Overall, I have to say that I am a big fan of the movie. Although I can understand many complaints that viewers may inevitably have, I think that the promise of these young filmmakers tends to overshadow everything. Serena and the Ratts is a movie packed with energy and ideas, and while it has its missteps occasionally, the movie is too much fun to stay upset with. You can read more about the film via the official website at: