SEPTEMBER 10, 2007
Yesterday, I got some constructive feedback from a blogger who apparently signed up just to provide his or her insight without being anonymous (much appreciated – down with anonymous!!!). Some of his/her choice comments were “You suck” “fuck, fuck”, and “Wow, you really suck.” Amidst these carefully and thoughtfully written posts was “Stop reviewing horror films.” Well, as I often do when a movie is as awful as Fright Club, I looked for other reviews of the film before writing my own, to make sure I wasn’t watching a practical joke someone had slipped into the DVD instead of an actual film someone thought enough of to release to a paying public. And I couldn’t find any! Not a single review on any DVD or review site. The IMDb message board only had one message, and Bloody-Disgusting had no information on the film at all. So I am sorry, opposer of me, but if I don’t review this thing, I ask you, who else will?
I should also probably take the time to explain my philosophy (I use the term as loosely as the word can possibly be used) behind reviewing a movie. The most important thing is story. Giving me something I haven't seen before will almost always please me. But if the story is nothing new, I simply judge a film based on how well it presents the story it is telling. Which is why, despite its status as one of the most hated films of all time, I really enjoy Armageddon. I know it’s a fucking stupid movie, and I’ve never claimed otherwise. But I defy anyone to make a superior version of a film about oil drillers flying into space to blow up an asteroid the size of Texas. The film is technically sound, doesn’t take me out of the narrative due to pointless cameos or incomprehensible camera/sound work, and delivers what it promises (the asteroid is indeed blown up). And since it is obviously a film that was made with genuine care and effort (the last thing you can ever accuse Bay and his crew of is being lazy), I am a lot more forgiving of its other faults (implausible story, cheesy ballads, silly dialogue, etc.). But if the film doesn't provide either originality OR technical competence, why the hell should I give it a pass?
You might say that I am too hard on some of these low budget horror films. Maybe, but think about it: would you read a book that had typos, varying fonts, and uneven page sizes? When someone reviews a film on the internet and it contains numerous typos, what’s the first thing someone says? “Why should I listen to you, you can’t even spell or use punctuation.” I approach a film the same way. There’s a difference between not having a lot of money and not having any respect for the audience. Unless you are telling an original story (which this certainly isn’t), making a film when you obviously do not have the money to make it right just means you’re just looking for a quick buck, a cynicism that will always translate onto the screen. And if you simply MUST make a generic movie, for the love of Christ, at least make it professionally. I don’t care if you have two dollars or two hundred million, there is no excuse for the lack of competence on display here.
For starters, the film doesn’t even have a consistent aspect ratio. It’s an anthology, and the 1st story is presented in 1.85:1, even though the rest of the film is presented full frame (and bizarrely, at one point there’s a shot of the moon, likely stolen from another film, presented at 2.35:1). It doesn’t cost a goddamn thing to give all your film footage the same dimensions, so it’s not a budgetary limitation. If the filmmakers are so lazy that they can’t even crop, mask, or zoom into their footage in order to present it in a consistent and professional manner, why the hell should I care about what’s on screen?
Especially if what IS onscreen are boom mikes, dime-store vampire teeth, and a police station that is represented by a portable wardrobe and a card table. And a wrap around segment shot through a visibly dirty lens. Yet, none of that is as idiotic as when a vampire character, realizing his reflection is beginning to fade, ALSO fades from sight, along with his reflection, due to the effects guy clearly not understanding the basic principles of simple compositing.
The film is chockfull of laugh out loud moments like that. There’s another scene in a tattoo parlor where they try to “spook” us by zooming into a tattoo on the wall of a wolf (the story is an urban retelling of Little Red Riding Hood). So what? It’s just a generic tattoo display. There’s probably a dragon next to it. It doesn’t mean a goddamn thing. Another character explains his new style of music: “It combines hip hop with gothic. I call it Goth-Hop!” Inventive.
Plus, like many other anthology films, the stories are being told by characters in a wraparound segment. But if you think about that while we watch these stories, you realize that to the people listening, the story is needlessly incomprehensible. This is especially true in the middle story, which includes layered flashbacks and recalls. So the storyteller is saying “At this point, we return to the present, where the police captain says once again, that the dead people couldn’t be vampires. So then we cut back to a scene we saw earlier…” And why are they padding their own narratives? “Then the main character goes to a hip hop club, where he watches a girl dance for a bit. Then he leaves the club and the plot resumes.”
Still, the movie offers one highlight. The film is ostensibly about a group of the director’s friends who are trying to enter the “Fright Club”. To gain entrance, they have to tell scary stories. After the 3rd and final story, the guy in charge says “You are not worthy of Fright Club.” “Those were our best stories!” they exclaim. Well then no wonder you’re not allowed! If those were your BEST stories, I’d hate to hear your worst. Christ.
Then they all get eaten as the main guy cackles, the film ends, and I wonder if I should apologize to the filmmakers of Vampire Assassin(s) and A Brush With Death, films that are positively Kubrickian in their professionalism in comparison to this wretched piece of shit. It’s movies like that that make me wish that the money men would just meet up with other money men and combine their projects into one. Had the makers of this film and say, I dunno, Death Row, pooled their money together, we’d have 1 generic but probably passable ‘urban’ horror movie instead of 2 colossally bad and totally useless ‘urban’ horror movies.
And to the guy who said I should stop reviewing horror movies – believe me, after a movie like this, I am inclined to agree.
What say you?