The Scorned is scary as hell, just not as a horror film

On Saturday, I watched “Friday the 13th” for the first time. On Sunday, I watched “The Scorned,” the E! film that finally debuts tonight at 9 p.m. ET, and that we all saw being made on Kill Reality.

Surprisingly, the two films are extremely similar, both in terms of plot and the awkward acting. But “The Scorned” is only vaguely reminiscent of “Friday the 13th,” as Jason’s story hangs together much more believably. Its filmmakers make better choices, such as the decision to keep the killer and their motivation a mystery throughout most of the film. “The Scorned”‘s only real mystery is why Clay Aiken is listed in the credits under “special thanks.”

The real problem, I think, is that the film tried to hard to be taken seriously, in a see-what-reality-stars-can-do sort of way. In the film, there are a few hysterically over-the-top moments, such as when Bob bashes Ethan’s head and gets splattered by an obscene amount of fake blood. And there are some exceptionally witty lines, such as when a character admits she once dated Fabio (an inspired, brilliant reference). Reichen says, “You know I don’t have good gaydar,” and there’s also a good exchange when one character says, “I have some good news,” and the other responds, “What, did Ryan Seacrest die?” These work because they acknowledge the audience, which most of the film does not.

But far too much of the film is played seriously instead of as the campy, ridiculous farce it should be. Perhaps this is the fault of the actors, who can’t really pull off an episode of “Saved by the Bell,” never mind something as complex as camp. However, Ethan Zohn manages to do it, as does (surprisingly enough) Toni Ferrari, in all but one of her scenes. They’re clearly the best actors in the film. Trish is okay, but she’s overused and that hurts her normal scenes. But the lead actor, Steven Hill, really can’t hold the film together; his performance is scary but only because it’s so bad.

There are a few moments when the cast slip into their characters convincingly, but then their Kill Reality personalities distract us. It’s impossible not to see the reality stars we know and love, because they’ve made careers of being themselves, not being other people. And for the most part, their talent isn’t strong enough to make the transition.

The film’s post-production could have helped, but it actually hurts. The special effects are comical, and the editing is as awkward as the acting, especially when the film fades away and cuts in the middle of dialogue. But it’s hard to overcome the script and acting. When a character woodenly yet seriously tells a ghost, “I’m going to kill you,” you should be very scared.

The Scorned

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.