Wednesday, October 13, 2010

13th Child

I really have no one but myself to blame for this one. I knew going in that this was going to be fairly dreadful, but I simply felt that Jersey pride necessitated that my horror collection include what is, to my knowledge, the only film yet made about the Jersey Devil. Between this and The Undertaker, it has clearly not been a very good week for me to watch horror movies set in my home state. Perhaps tomorrow it will go a bit better for me if I watch a horror movie set in, say, Germany.

Anyway, the film is set in southern New Jersey, and follows an assistant D.A. (Lesley-Anne Down) as she investigates a series of murders in the area that have been attributed to a seven foot tall monster that’s been seen in the Pine Barrens since the 1700s. Just from that sentence alone, an observant reader well versed in low budget horror may already have figured out the main problem with this movie. No, it’s not that Down is a fairly dull actress mainly known for her soap opera work. It’s that we have a horror movie that has made the cost-cutting decision to not show the monster until we’re about ninety minutes into the film, instead giving us a police investigation for the rest of the film, ensuring that the pacing is as plodding as possible.

It’s entirely possible that directors Thomas Ashley and Steven Stockage simply didn’t have enough confidence in their monster costume (it looks sort of like a blend between a minotaur, a skeleton, and cheap CG), and so they decided to hide it as much as possible, but that explanation doesn’t really wash with me. I would personally much rather have a cheesy looking monster that frequently shows up than a cheesy looking monster that we almost don’t get to see at all. To do otherwise is to simply deny the film’s very essence, and when one does that, all we wind up with is boredom and tedium. You know, like we do here.

The film’s structure is pretty critically flawed beyond that, as it’s set on Halloween night with an old black man locked up in an insane asylum screaming to himself about the Devil and how it was already too late for his friends, and then we flash back to his doomed friends like the assistant D.A., though repeatedly cutting back to the asylum because we clearly haven’t suffered enough yet for our past misdeeds. There’s also quite a bit of ridiculous backstory, bringing together everything from Lenni Lenape Indians to CG tarantulas that bleed from their feet to mad statements like how Einstein apparently once said “music was the 4th dimension of science!” If this doesn’t sound incredibly exciting to you, then that’s probably because it sounds exactly like what it is: an effort to try to throw additional plot points at us not because they work organically within the story, but because it was decided that the film needed to be at least ninety minutes long.

This is another movie that simply didn’t have enough worthwhile material to justify being feature length. Perhaps with some retooling (and a time machine) it would have been a good episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? (though probably without the brief nudity and blood), but as a full length movie this is just intolerable. My state clearly needs better representation in the horror community.

Rating: *

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