Posing as a horror film doused in a 90’s alternative rock aesthetic, High Voltage resembles a missed opportunity more than a solid movie. A musically driven film that delivers on a solid score, High Voltage falls short on providing a satisfying and cohesive plot.
Starring David Arquette as Jimmy, a washed-up musician attempting to the relive the prime of his musical career, the film confronts its viewers as a “cautionary tale” about getting what you want, at a dangerous price. As Jimmy recruits young musicians Rachel (Allie Gonino), Scott (Ryan Donowho) and Zach (Erik Stocklin) to form a rock band – ‘Hollow Body’, the four-piece soon find themselves the rising stars of the music scene.
But rock n’ roll and tragedy go hand in hand when Rachel (the band’s frontwoman) is struck by lightning and killed alongside her mother, Barb (Perrey Reeves). Returning from the dead three hours later, Rachel finds herself endowed with the power of lightning and life-draining abilities; using her new-found power to hurl Hollow Body into mainstream popularity.
Written and directed by Alex Keledjian in his directorial full-feature debut, High Voltage reflects his musical talents and abilities as the film’s primary songwriter (including all of Hollow Body’s music). A pleasant revelation throughout the film, Hollow Body’s tracks are well constructed, catchy, and filled with guitar hooks. Allie Gonino’s vocal talents are none to be ignored; she fronted American pop girl group The Stunners from 2007-2011. It seems the majority of production value was poured into the film’s soundtrack, which plays well from the opening sequence up until the end credits. But ultimately, the film’s vibe and script are no match for the enjoyable soundtrack, leaving the film slightly unbalanced.
Regarding the Los Angeles music scene setting of the film, High Voltage does shed some light on the conflicts and obstacles that plague the music industry. For example, Jimmy’s willingness to capitalize on Rachel’s tragedy as a means for press and popularity reflects the exploitations and ploys used against emerging, young, vulnerable artists. Jimmy, without reluctance, also uses Rachel as a pawn by means of sexual advances towards music executives in hopes of receiving front money. Also, when talented musicians such as Hollow Body are unable to obtain good gigs and cash advances due to ‘low social media reach’, what does that say about the music industry? Entertainment executive Rick, played by Luke Wilson, makes this point clear when stating, “Oh, you want an advance? What is this 1989? Get 500,000 Instagram followers, and then talk to me about an advance.”
Following the highs and lows of Hollow Body’s musical journey, Keledjian’s script focuses the narrative on our character’s choices and the consequences that follow. Although the film is primarily centered around Rachel’s new-found powers and relentless killings, there are a few subplots that float around the surface of the film. Jimmy’s own struggles to reach mainstream success and Scott’s failing efforts to maintain his crumbling relationship with his wife are slight focal points of the film, yet neither make any real impact toward the overall outcome; making these moments of the film quite monotonous at times. Even towards the film’s end, I found myself asking what each character learned and/or took from their experience. The answer: absolutely nothing.
Despite the rising body count and lightning gleaming off of Rachel’s eyes, all anyone wants to do is rock their hearts out on stage with a deranged killer. Perhaps this is the true meaning of rock n’ roll that Keledjian is attempting to demonstrate?
“If you’re into 90’s alternative rock with a modern spin, High Voltage is worth the watch for the music alone.”
Despite the film’s shaky and uneven plot, the overall acting, musical compositions, and Hollow Body’s impressive stage performances were nothing short of admirable. If you’re into 90’s alternative rock with a modern spin, High Voltage is worth the watch for the music alone. But ultimately the film’s lethargic plot has little to offer otherwise (unless you’re an David Arquette or Luke Wilson fan and are willing to ride it out). Keledjian seemed to be on the right track with High Voltage. Perhaps on his follow-up film in the future, I’m interested in seeing where he goes.
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