Synopsis: A few years back, Nathan Teller (Ryan Malgarini) vanished. The shy, socially awkward boy had taken a ride with a couple of boys from the town of Riddle and just vanished into thin air when they stopped at a gas station. His sister Holly (Elisabeth Harnois) has yet to give up hope, and when she returns home from college for a visit, she believes she sees Nathan in a truck heading to Riddle. Along with the two boys that lost her brother, she begins to investigate, but what she finds will uncover unpleasant truths about her own life and the whereabouts of her brother.
Review: I have to admit that I watched Riddle because of Fat Val Kilmer. Ok, sure, he’s probably not all that fat, but compared to his lean years when he was playing Doc Holliday, he’s looking more like Veruca Salt on her way to the squeezing room than anyone’s Huckleberry. Sadly, Val isn’t in this much. He makes an appearance as the do-nothing sheriff who sports a ponytail, but that is about the extent of his role. The other name actor, William Sadler, fares little better, but he does have one good dramatic moment before cashing in his check.
Riddle is really a story about the younger players, and the Southern Gothic tale it spins, one of a town, already impoverished by the loss of the local mental hospital, dealt its final blows in the ongoing hunt for Nathan Teller. I really liked the look of the setting. The boarded up Appalachian town looks like many run down communities that I’ve passed though over the years. There’s a quaint feeling that seems to lay on the surface, but underneith, you can almost feel the sense of loss as it pervades the boarded up windows. Sadly, that’s where the best of Riddle lies, in the look of the town of Riddle. The rest of the film flounders with little conflict until the last twenty or so minutes, and the only other real moment of menace is over and done with so quickly, without really adding anything to the plot, that it feels throwaway.
Elisabeth Harnois, who is apparently one of the leads on CSI (I’m not sure I’ve ever watched that.), does well enough as the tour turned sister, but it would have liked to seen her be a little stronger. When confronted by adversity or danger,her character generally cried or ran when I wanted her to fight. Not really her fault, but it left me less drawn in by the character than I would have liked. The other female lead, the sherriff’s daughter played by Diora Baird, was much more what I wanted out of the main character, and Baird has some genre cred having appeared in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Begining as well as Night of the Demons (2009) and Stan Helsing. The two male leads were so disposable that I hardly remember what they did in the film.
The real problem with Riddle is that there was no riddle. From the moment Holly sees her brother in town, the audience knows she will be reunited with him by the time the credits roll. While it vaguely hints at some supernatural mysteries, these are never explored, and that leaves no diverting paths or red herrings to follow. A clever viewer will figure out the whole scenario by twenty to thirty minutes into the film, and it leaves little surprises from there. Except Val, and how big he has gotten, and the fact that 50 Cent didn’t co-star with him this time. Which is, naturally, a shame.
Final Note: The only town in the United States named ‘Riddle’ is in Oregon. This film was not set in Oregon. It is possible Val ate Oregon.