Biology 101 (2011)

Description (from the DVD box):
Bill Pollard is a calm and stable husband and father, and teaches biology at Thatherton Community College. He is also hopelessly addicted to internet pornography. The object of Bill’s obsession is webcam vixen Dani Darling. He spends his nights entranced by her scintillating images, keeping his illicit fantasies hidden from his wife and family. When new student, Marissa Weaver, transfers into Bill’s Biology 101 class, there’s something very familiar about her. Bill comes to suspect that normal college student Marissa Weaver may lead a secret private life as Dani Darling. His pathological desire to find the truth leads him down a destructive spiral of perverse sexual obsession.

Major Cast:
David Christian Welborn as Bill Pollard, Noelle Dubois as Marissa Weaver, Deborah O’Brien as Diane Pollard, Emily Bicks as Hannah Pollard, Morgan Peter Brown as Marty Figeroua, David Alan Graf as Mr. Duke, Gregory MacTavish as Shawn Delacruz

Special Features:
None (Screener)

Written by Christopher Smith & Liz Bradley
Directed by Christopher Smith

Something I will never, ever understand: why would you want to go sneak off to check out internet peep shows (where you a. have to pay for it, b. have just some chick by her self to impress you, and c. can’t actually touch anyone other than yourself) when you have a very willing and able wife at home? Right from the opening, I didn’t get – and really, didn’t particularly like – Bill Pollard. His wife Diane wants him; she practically begs him for sex. Instead he would rather disappoint her, wait until she passes out sad, and then sneak off and check out a girl maybe three years older than his own daughter. And pay for it. A lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve been happily married for 13 years, but I just don’t get that, and right away this made me have very little empathy for what I knew was going to come for Bill. He deserves this shit.

Things you SHOULDN'T be doing in class, Mr. Bill.
Things you SHOULDN’T be doing in class, Mr. Bill.

Bill has a pretty mundane life; he’s a science teacher at a community college, has a daughter that doesn’t really care one way or the other for him (and “like all teenagers,” lies to him), and there isn’t a whole lot going on. What he does have is his private fantasy life as the online lover to Dani Darling, an internet sex chat room girl that swears he’s “the only one” and loves him (for his money). Bill’s life is sent topsy-turvy when he gets a new student whose face seems a bit familiar, but whose tramp-stamp is 100% burnt into his memory. Pretty much no ifs, ands, or buts: Marissa Weaver has to be Dani Darling. Of course, this is when things start to get interesting, and go wrong, in Bill’s life. He can’t separate the fantasy from the reality (leave well enough alone), and before he knows it, he’s in too deep in a world he doesn’t know the first thing about.

Dani and Shawn plan Bill's demise... and he doesn't have a clue.
Dani and Shawn plan Bill’s demise… and he doesn’t have a clue.

BIOLOGY 101 is a fun premise for a thriller, even though you pretty much know right away (and I mean right away) that things are going to go bad for Bill. There is a good build up of the life at home, the life at school, and the private life behind closed doors before the gradual fall where those closed doors are thrown open for the world to gaze upon. The story / plot is nothing too surprising or out of the ordinary, and this both helps and hinders B101. It’s a good thing because this makes the film very believable; this could really, easily happen to someone with the right set of not-too-outlandish circumstances. It also hinders the film because there are really no surprises; I pretty much saw where the entire thing was going, each twist and turn, long before it got there. I do like that the filmmakers worked hard to keep B101 grounded and real, as too many suspense thrillers go so far the other direction in an attempt to throw the viewer off and make it “fresh” that the films just end up being way too unbelievable… I just wish they had taken a few more chances here and there to keep it from being just so very straight and narrow.

B101 is anchored by, and continually driven through the power of, its actors. I was very impressed with the performances of the entire major cast, and much of the supporting cast was stronger than to be expected in this level of filmmaking as well. While I just didn’t like his character, Welborn did a great job as the central character in a character driven piece. His antagonist, Dubois, was just about as good as he was, which is important. If you have a hero or a villain that outshine the other, then the film falls apart. Welborn seems a bit more versed in his acting chops, but Dubois has the skill to hang with him for sure. With all of the characters though, the one that really caught my eye was MacTavish’s Shawn. He was able to play both cool and killer, both charismatic and creepy. While not quite to the same level, his performance made me think of both James Dean (in general) and a little bit of Viggo Mortensen’s Lucifer in THE PROPHECY, in the way he is both very accessibly cool and very obviously chilling.

Wow, these standard tests these days...
Wow, these standard tests these days…

On the production side, the fact that B101 was shot on a RED camera did not show through so much on this DVD. I would love to see it on a Blu-Ray to see if that wonderful piece of equipment gave off more sheen when it was put on the right type of media, but on the disc I got it really didn’t look great. Don’t get me wrong: it didn’t look bad either. It just didn’t look like the cinematic beauty I expect for a film that’s shot on RED, and often you can still get that feeling, even though the movie was burned to a SD DVD rather than a BR. I don’t know if it was more of a matter of the cinematographer’s work not being up to par, or an issue of mastering, and without a BR I truly never will know. B101 was not boring to watch, but never did a whole lot beyond the utilitarian to get its point across. There were some camera moves, some decent zooms and pans and whatnot, but nothing that made me go “ooo, that was a nice shot” anywhere in the film. There was never much use of focus to push they eye to certain things, at least not that I noticed. The composition was overall, well, somewhat bland. Everything was easy to see (though often lit a bit too harsh), but there just wasn’t (that much) beauty to look at.

Questions you just don't ask your "internet lover"
Questions you just don’t ask your “internet lover,” especially if you actually know the answer.

Overall, I enjoyed B101. It wasn’t the most original movie ever, and it wasn’t the prettiest movie to watch ever, but it was a solid film that did a good job building suspense and had a good payoff at the end, but really just didn’t do too much to get there that surprised me. And I like being surprised. B101 did build on a strong cast, and a good production backbone, but I think if it had gone a bit more extreme, or a bit more out there, it would have peaked my interest more and really sucked me in more than it did.

Overall 6.5 / 10

B101 on the IMDb:

B101 is not for sale, but is looking for distribution right now

B101 site:

Biology 101 (2011)
Biology 101 (2011)

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