There is a great deal of potential to the set-up of the psychologist interviewing the disturbed killer The Silence of the Lambs (1991), which is the films clear source of influence, and tvs Cracker (1993-6) have milked the simple set-up of the two sitting across from each other in a cell for considerable dramatic potential in recent years. Unfortunately, Scott Reynolds fumbles the idea. He seems so distracted by playing visual tricks throughout that he forgets that the drama of such an idea lies in turning it into a detective story a whydunnit exploring the psychology and the inherent tension in entering into the killers disturbed mind. There are a number of flashbacks to Simons childhood throughout, however you reach the end of the film with still no idea why he did it. Psychologist Rebecca Hobbs challenges Paolo Rotondos Simon to show her the truth but Scott Reynolds never does. Instead, the film circles around a clichéd plot about parental abuse and lost love but never provides any answers. Paolo Rotondo is bland as a serial killer, particularly one in a Silence of the Lambs-influenced film like this, he lacks the necessary menace. Such a character should bristle with magnetic charm and dangerous threat, instead Paolo Rotondo is just a pretty boy who gives the impression he would be more appropriately employed on a fashion layout doing occasionally menacing poses. Rebecca Hobbs is not much better when she tries to confront Rotondos Simon she merely becomes shrill.
Undeniably, Scott Reynolds has style. There are often striking images of Rebecca Hobbs literally following Paolo Rotondo back into the past; of posters and knives from the flashbacks suddenly appearing in the cell; the spooky appearances of the Visitors with green bleeding mouths; and one wonderful image of Jennifer Ward-Lelands mother waiting for the young Simon to return home in the doorway of a house that is backlit red. Yet for all Scott Reynolds style and his appropriation of the subliminal flashes, partial glimpses and cut-up style pioneered by Se7en (1995), The Ugly is a film of surprisingly little effect. Reynolds wants to make a horror film but hardly ever engages us in horror or tension. There is only a single sequence where he does where Paolo Rotondo hides in Vanessa Byrnes bathroom just as she returns home and we not sure whether she is going to enter the bathroom or whether he is going to jump out and kill her.
Moreover, Reynolds desire to impress with flashy visual tricks ends up swamping the film. They get in the way of even basic credibility it is impossible to accept that the psychiatric hospital portrayed is one that could ever exist in the real world any hospital that had debris and broken lights strewn through its hallways and bullying guards who had dirty dreads, bare chests and a sullen attitude, or even where lights have for some reason been placed under the seat cushions in the waiting room would surely be closed down by the authorities without even a question. For no particularly clear reason, all the blood shed in the film is coloured green. Reynolds throws in flash fantasies of people killing one another although it is never clear which characters mind these are taking place in. The random flips between past, present and fantasy entirely corrode any sense of narrative coherence. Case in point is the climax where Rebecca Hobbss character is seemingly murdered but one leaves the film unsure whether it was real, a dream or what.
In the end, The Ugly is a frustrating and disappointing film because Scott Reynolds does have promise and the film could have worked if Reynolds visuals had been connected to a strong story. It is just that he needs to learn his weaknesses the primary one being that he needs to work in conjunction with a good scriptwriter. That said, Reynolds improved considerably with his next two films the imaginative clairvoyance film Heaven (1998) and the fine and underrated psycho-thriller When Strangers Appear (2001). Alas, that is all we have seen of him to date with his late screen credit being writing additional dialogue on the South Korean Wu Xia/Western The Warriors Way (2010).