Riddle (2013)


It’s a movie about a girl solving a mystery in a town called Riddle. Soak that in. If anything, “Riddle” isn’t a complete loss of time when you consider that Elizabeth Harnois and co-star Diora Baird are mind-blowingly gorgeous. The pair can also provide good performances when given the right material. I’m still not sure why Elizabeth Harnois keeps being handed these roles that straddle the line between horror and drama. Is she trying to garner a fan base while not being pegged a horror scream queen? She’s very pretty and a decent performer. Diora Baird is now and will always be a bombshell of a woman, so her presence is welcome. She has charisma that make almost any movie watchable. That said, “Riddle” is not quite a drama, and not quite a horror film. It’s just right there in the middle for a broad audience.

To prove how badly edited and directed this film is, the story is set right where character Holly is going to high school. Star Harnois is in her mid-thirties and Diora Baird is thirty, thus both women can barely pull off playing high schoolers. Not to say they look like they’re pushing fifty (both women are beautiful), but buying them as high schoolers is a stretch in and of itself. Holly has a relationship with her little brother who has a social deficiency thus is often picked on in high school. After an incident, two of the school’s bullies take an odd shine to him, and go for a drive while Holly is at her cheer session. When he goes to the bathroom, he’s suddenly disappeared. As an example of the terrible editing we meet Holly a few years after her brother went missing, but there’s no indication of it. So we’re left assuming Holly is still in high school when she’s really out of school now and still searching for her brother.

She goes to the town of Riddle to continue the investigation, despite the sheriff’s (Val Kilmer) protests, and befriends old schoolmate Amber, who spends most of her time flirting with men, and being chewed out by her dad Doc Holiday. Diora Baird looks just as bored as the audience, stumbling around with a sleepy gaze and delivering lines in a mumble, while Harnois tries to pick up the slack for everyone by pushing her emotional turmoil to eleven. I was convinced in the beginning that “Riddle” was leading somewhere. Maybe Holly was dead, or perhaps she was chasing the ghost of her brother that’d lead her in to a bigger mystery. Maybe, she’d even uncover a huge conspiracy in the journey to find her brother. But “Riddle” oddly enough leads nowhere. Hell, when she first enters Riddle, it’s deserted, she encounters a creepy hobo, and everyone acts unusual, so I was anticipating something in the vein of “Silent Hill” or “Twin Peaks.” There’s nothing even remotely close to that in this movie.

William Sadler appears for a thankless two minute cameo, Val Kilmer shows up with his kicky ponytail every so often as the town’s sheriff and literally appears for a moment to tell the characters “I don’t want to see you four together, again” only for him to drive off inexplicably. There’s also never an actual explanation for why Holly’s brother went missing at all. To make things even more puzzling, Holly is plagued with nightmares of nurses without eyes, and a killing spree in a hospital that never opens in to anything, only for the audience to be led in to a boring finale with a murderous hobo, two huge guys who can’t take down the hobo, and Diora Baird walking back to town with a bear trap on her leg. The whole point of bear traps is to hobble the prey, writers. Not even the sumptuous Baird can withstand its intended purpose. Anyone expecting a huge twist will be sorely disappointed, as “Riddle” is a tedious, dull, and anti-climactic mess, and one that introduces a huge mystery only to peter out in the final moments.