Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Soul To Take

I suppose it’s only fitting that, after watching one of last year’s best horror movies yesterday, today I watched one of the worst. For those that blinked and so missed this getting released and swiftly removed from theaters back in October, this was writer/director Wes Craven’s proud return to horror after a lengthy hiatus following 2005’s Cursed (though he’d probably rather you focused on 200’s Scream 3). Going by what a muddle this one is, however, I think it would have been fine if he had just waited until Scream 4.

The film opens in the past, as notorious serial killer the Riverton Ripper finally realizes, after a security camera takes some video of him, that one of his personalities (he’s schizophrenic) is the killer. He calls up his psychiatrist for advice, who quickly calls the police, but the personality that’s been killing everyone is pissed that he told anyone, and decides to take action against his family. The police arrive too late for his wife, but gun him down just before he kills his young daughter. And then they have to gun him down again when he revives, grabs a cop’s gun, and shoots the cop and the psychiatrist. And then he comes to again in the ambulance, killing a paramedic and somehow making the ambulance explode. AND THEY NEVER FOUND THE BODY….

We now cut forward sixteen years. At the same instant the ambulance exploded, seven kids were born prematurely at the hospital, one of which came from the murdered mother (not real sure how that worked), and they now celebrate their birthdays each year at midnight by one of them killing the Ripper in effigy. This year’s celebration goes awry, however, when the police show up before Bug (Max Thieriot, the son of the Ripper) can destroy this year’s effigy, and now the students are all afraid that this means the Ripper will return for real. Of course they’re right, as otherwise there wouldn’t be a movie, and the body count starts rising pretty rapidly.

Let’s start with the obvious good parts. First, the movie is pretty ridiculous at times, and I mean that in a good way. Bug and his best friend Alex (John Magaro) do a presentation on the Californian condor, and it’s not enough that Bug made Alex a creepy full-body costume, he also uses the opportunity to get back at the school bully by giving it an alleged condor defense mechanism of projectile vomiting on anyone that tries to touch one of its feathers, and then he gets back even further at said bully by giving it a secondary defense mechanism of having projectile diarrhea in case the vomiting just wasn’t enough. It’s the best scene in the movie, and it’s a shame it arrives so damn soon in the film because nothing that comes later can really live up to it.

Unfortunately, the film simply isn’t ridiculous enough to make up for its other problems. After the over the top nature of the prologue and the presentation, I was kind of hoping for an almost Argento-ish madness to the film, or at least a Drag Me To Hell-ish madness. Instead it soon devolves into fairly standard slasher fare, something made all the worse by the completely outlandish dialogue. The dialogue alone probably warrants its own paragraph, as listening to this movie, one could get the impression that Craven’s sole understanding of how teenagers speak comes from repeatedly watching Juno. He used to have a pretty good ear for this sort of thing, I have no idea what the hell happened to him here. Unlike many of the film’s detractors, I didn’t hate the dialogue so much as was amused and fascinated by it, as one might be fascinated by an alien culture trying to learn English but without understanding any of the basic syntax or grammar, but it’s certainly something pretty damn far from anything one would normally expect or want in a film.

There’s also the issue with the killer. It would be somewhat dishonest for me to accuse the film of cheating with the killer, when roughly half the slasher films ever made have done the same thing (the other half just made the killer some evil mutant/supernatural monster), but here are the basic facts. Our main character spends so much of the movie having sudden nightmares about each new victim being killed before anyone else knows about it, has a history of mental illness and blackouts, and is the son of the previous killer, and they spend so much time all but shouting from the rooftops that he’s the killer that it’s completely obvious that it’s not him. However, they spend absolutely zero time on trying to establish any other possible suspects (one character jokingly suggests the new principal might be the killer, but that thought is never mentioned again aside from the one line), so when the killer is finally revealed, it’s obviously just someone completely random that you can only identify because they’re just about the only other surviving cast member left. If it’s not outright cheating, it’s still pretty damn lame (My favorite, by the way, is probably in the slasher film Cutting Class, where they spend most of the movie trying desperately to convince you that one of the main characters, who used to be in a mental asylum, is the killer, to the point where you have to dismiss him because he’s too obvious, and then he turns out to be the killer after all).

And that’s how this film is: pretty damn lame. It’s appallingly paced (not only is it too long, at 107 minutes, but we’ll go about half an hour without a single kill, and then three characters die almost at once), fairly light on the blood (outside of the prologue, this probably could have gotten a PG-13 for violence), and an opening that promises sheer craziness but stops delivering anything really wild after the first act. It just might be the weakest film I’ve ever seen from Craven, and I say this as someone that’s a much bigger fan than he should be of all his ridiculous 80s horror movies that nobody in their right mind would watch. You should all definitely avoid this one.

Rating: * ½

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