Thursday, December 23, 2010

Killer Movie

It’s always nice to get some contrast in our daily lives, and so after seeing the quite acceptable and entertaining modern slasher Midnight Movie yesterday, today I got to “enjoy” a much worse example of a modern slasher with a similar title. You can almost read this movie as an inversion of that, as this gets wrong nearly everything that Midnight Movie got right, from the characters to a plot that’s somehow even worse to all the awful reality TV references. It does have more variety in its kills, but that’s about it.

The film follows a group of people out to create a reality show or something up in the lonesome town of White Plains, North Dakota. Now, the first problem is that I’m honestly not sure what they were actually trying to film here, whether it was intended to be a reality show or a documentary, or what the premise was. They told all the townsfolk that it was meant to be a show about the local high school hockey team, but they repeatedly say they made that cover story up just to get the cooperation of the townies so they could ask questions about a mysterious death that had happened in the town loosely connected to the hockey team, and the feuding current and former hockey coaches, and while I’m certain they said this was going to be a reality show (and the stupid confessional scenes, terribly generic rock music, and overall structure of the film back me up on this), I have not the slightest idea how this was going to translate into one. Of course, it doesn’t really matter, as it’s all just an excuse to get a bunch of people in an isolated environment where there is no cell phone reception and apparently no working land lines either (one character even complains that each time she tries to get on the Internet at the local library she gets booted off after ten seconds), so that a killer can get at them. Now, everyone had difficulty with their cell phones in Midnight Movie as well, but it’s harder for me to get annoyed by that when the killer has a lot of supernatural powers that he’s repeatedly using to block the cast off from the outside world; here, apparently we’re just expected to believe that everyone in North Dakota casually accepts being completely cut off from the world.

Anyway, the big gimmick here is that the killer is making his own movie, planting cameras everywhere (particularly one on his shoulder) and filming all of his murders for his terrible -- well, terribly retarded, which almost counts -- purpose, and since he doesn’t want to get found out right away he frames the first few kills so that someone could almost look at them as suicides. And by almost, I of course mean that the very first kill in the movie involves a girl on a quad getting beheaded when she drives down a road at night that has barbed wire strung across at neck level, and the local police rule it a suicide, because clearly what else could it be? The cast of the reality show does make a lot of jokes at the expense of the local police for their overall incompetence, but quite frankly, when the bodies start piling up and nobody actually gets nervous enough to try to leave, who’s the idiot then? Of course, unlike Midnight Movie, this continues the cliché tradition of everyone not finding out there’s a killer until more than half the cast is dead, to help further drive home the point that everyone in the cast is completely retarded and we should not care about a single damn one of them.

The killer is a little bit dicey as well. We do get a much better variety of gore from him than in Midnight Movie, which is certainly important in these kinds of films, but his costume just makes him look like the killer from Urban Legend (that the first kill, with the wire across the road to decapitate someone, is a fairly well known urban legend doesn‘t help matters), and his secret identity isn’t exactly hard to figure out (hint: it’s the only major character that kind of disappears for a good half hour without anyone noticing). Also, the reason he gives for why he’s committed all these murders is simultaneously retarded and cliché, and the nonsense in the epilogue made me want to break the DVD in half. Without spoiling too much, he basically pretended to be dead after getting shot with a rifle a couple times, and then the next morning, after being confirmed dead by some EMTs, he managed to slip out of his body bag, out of his bullet proof vest (which he leaves behind, I suppose, for no reason beyond to clue the audience in on how he survived, since I can’t imagine how it otherwise benefited him), runs across a street and across a long field into the woods without any of over a dozen people running around spotting him. And then he films the heroes staring into the woods trying to spot him, because this means he won, I guess.

The only real bright spot in the movie, aside from the blood, is the reality show’s big name star Blanca Champion, which made me keep thinking that she must have become champion through her devastating combination of Capoeira acrobatics and electricity-based attacks. I don’t know that that’s enough to justify the ending, where one of her fellow cast members asks her “Is it worth it? Being so famous?” to try to drive home a clumsily inserted moral about the perils of celebrity, but I take my fun where I can find it, thank you.

If you ever needed to make a double bill of horror movies to showcase how just a few simple changes can make or break a film, this and Midnight Movie would be perfect. They’re both fairly similar (one has people making a movie getting killed off one by one by a mad slasher, one has people watching a movie getting killed off one by one by a mad slasher), both came out around the same time (both were made in 2008, and the DVDs were released a month apart), and yet one by and large works while the other is pretty damn lousy. Sure, you’d have to watch a bad movie to accomplish this, but if I had to, damn it, so can all of you.

Rating: * ½

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