“Applesauce” contains some potentially interesting things in a movie — New York, infidelity and severed body parts. And yet writer-director Onur Tukel throws elements of comedy, drama and horror haphazardly into an unsweetened mash of genres that’s very unsatisfying. The movie is now out on DVD from Dark Sky Films.
Tukel is a no-budget director of relationship dramas who has edged into horror with his recent films. In his last, “S.O.B.,” he starred as a jerky, commitment-phobic New Yorker who find that being turned into a vampire perfectly fit his lifestyle.
“Applesauce” less overtly plays with horror elements, instead using gruesome urban legends as its hook. In sort of a framing device, a New York shock jock (the soft-spoken Dylan Baker, somewhat miscast) urges his listeners to share with him the worst thing they’ve ever done. This prompts a dinner conversation between two sets of couples, Ron (Tukel) and Nickie (Trieste Kelly Dunn), and Les (Max Casella) and Kate (Jennifer Prediger).
Ron confesses that he got into a bizarre frat-party fight in college that left the other guy missing two fingers, while Kate confesses to a bout of adultery between herself and Ron. The latter revelations sends shock waves through the foursome, as the friends start to turn on their spouses and each other.
Ron’s revelation has a very different kind of fallout; someone starts sending him severed body parts in the mail. He assumes it’s the guy with the missing fingers (strangely, the audience knows right away who the culprit is even if Ron is oblivious). Tukel wants “Applesauce” to be a nasty little comedy of manners, like “Carnage” but with more severed appendages. But all the elements are so clumsily handled that the scary parts aren’t scary, the dramatic parts aren’t dramatic, and most damningly of all, the funny parts aren’t funny.
I have a pretty low threshold for low-budget let’s-hang-out-in-New-York indies, but a plot like “Applesauce” needs a certain amount of precision to work. And it doesn’t have it. The characters are all pretty unlikable (especially Tukel’s Ron as a smug high school teacher), but the fatal flaw is that they’re all uninteresting, no matter how many fingers or toes they end up with.