Series 7: The Contenders (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This movie takes a brilliant and frightening approach to parody. 

The general premise is this: take the TV show "Survivor", and make one change. Instead of voting other people off the show, the contestants must kill the others. Each series starts with a half dozen (heavily-armed) people, and works it down to one. The movie we are watching is one season's worth of episodes condensed down to 90 minutes of film.  


The comic approach is as follows: if anybody walked past your TV while this was on, they would be completely convinced it was real until something happened that was too over-the-top to believe. Completely real. As I watched it, I forgot it was a movie and was actually following the fates of the three or four main characters, suspending my disbelief. Oh, I knew it was fictional, and I knew it was parody, but they pulled it off marvelously. It has the same look and feel as reality TV, follows the same conventions, has the same invasive nature as reality TV. It combines the Survivor series with Jerry Springer, with the TV sports coverage that shows us the athletes "up close and personal".  It makes fun of the audiences as well as the participants in such spectacles.

There is the eight month pregnant reigning champ. Can she kill the others before he water breaks? She's won twice, and this time they've located the show in her home town, so she's a major celebrity. Does she have a home field advantage? One of the other contenders is her former high school boyfriend. Can she kill him, even though she still pines for him? 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • full screen

  • Full-length director commentary

  • delete footage

  • "director's lab"

Another contender is an 18 year old girl with Little League parents. They accompany her on her stalking, and really encourage her killing. She reveals to the camera that her boyfriend chipped in for her bulletproof vest, so he must really love her.

Absolutely brilliant satire. I recommend this movie whole-heartedly, if the concept sounds good to you. The writing is funny. I laughed a lot. But the acting is completely convincing, and the direction is completely straight. They do everything they can do to convince you it is real - and you know what? It almost is. Given the nature of our world, and our real TV entertainment, it's possible that people will watch this decades from now and not realize that it was a parody.

I do have to warn you that it is very violent, very black, very intense, and ends up bad for everybody. It may be the most unpleasant comedy ever filmed, so skip it if you're looking for feel-good humor.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, Apollo 42/100, BBC 4/5

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 72% positive reviews

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.1 
  • With their dollars ... grossed about $200,000 in the USA, about $300,000 in the UK.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Very violent and intense. They do this to make it seem real. If it were not so realistic, I would give it a B and recommend it to broad audiences, but as it stands, it is so intense that it is only for fans of mockumentaries and black comedies. And don't try this at home.

Return to the Movie House home page