DECEMBER 26, 2007
A few weeks back, Horror Movie A Day was finally “legitimized” when I was asked if I would like to review Somebody Help Me for the site (all of the DVDs/early screenings I usually write about are for Bloody-Disgusting). So hurrah! I am a real critic now! Or something.
Well things aren’t off to the best start. This is not a very good movie, though it does have some merit. I wasn’t expecting much, since the DVD package itself screamed ineptitude. For starters, the aspect ratio was simply listed as “Letterbox”. That is not an aspect ratio. Then, I opened the DVD, and the damn thing was backwards (the disc was on the left). Also, anyone familiar with free DVDs or CDs or whatever will probably know that they often come with a hole or slit in the barcode. Well this one was seemingly just stabbed, right through to the black plastic! And they basically missed; the barcode is still intact. And, unsurprisingly, the disc was non-anamorphic (sigh). Also, the movie proudly admits that it’s from the director of You Got Served. Come on, give me SOMETHING to make me hopeful!
Then the film began, and I almost considered just watching something else. For nearly 20 minutes, the male characters do nothing but discuss their intention on bedding their girlfriends, while the other male characters agree with their sentiments by replying “For realllllls” and things of that nature. Meanwhile, the females are all shrill, yet equally horny. Of course, our hero is slightly more romantic, and thus we are treated to a “Not as beautiful as you” AND a “this locket is so you can always keep me close to your heart” in one scene! AAAARGGH!
Finally, around the half hour mark, someone’s ear gets cut off. Woo! For the next hour, the film sort of straddles in between a Hostel/Turistas style torture film, and a woods-set slasher. And it’s not all that bad, with some nice stalk scenes and occasionally wince-worthy torture (seeing a tooth get pulled out will never be easy to watch). But then the final 10 minutes or so turn into a J-horror type thing, with a little girl who may or may not be a ghost helping the hero (or is she?), leaving the film’s conclusion a bit of a head-scratcher. Had they just stuck with one idea this would have turned out pretty good, but by going all over the place they lose a lot of the impact.
The film is also entirely too long. 100 minutes? This type of movie should be 85, tops. And it doesn’t help when we have a pointless dream sequence that adds 5 minutes to the runtime. Also the hero keeps doing stupid things in the last 3rd that merely pad the running time even more. The film would be a normal length without it, so I am not sure why they chose to lessen the tension and make their hero look less efficient in order to make the film longer than necessary. And Christ, there’s another 20 minutes of deleted scenes, which means the film could have been even LONGER.
On the plus side, non-anamorphic presentation aside, the film is technically sound. The “letterbox” framing, sometimes referred to as “scope” or 2.35:1, is rare for a DTV film, and director Chris Stokes fills the frame well for the most part. There’s also a decent surround mix, and the gore, minimal as it is, is also more than sufficient.
Also, the movie offers a nice twist on the “black guy dies first” horror movie stereotype. Our four leads are all black, but their fodder, er, friends, are all white. It’s almost comical how quickly the white friends are all dispatched 25 minutes into the film, as ALL OF THEM go out into the woods to fool around at once. In the end, not a single one of the black characters get killed (indeed, for a slasher movie, this one has a higher than usual survivor rate) but pretty much all of the white ones are dead. Even funnier, one of the white guys is shown to be alive near the end when the hero goes to save everyone, yet he isn’t shown in the epilogue. Did they leave him to die? They also have a nice twist on the "small town sheriff". When we first see him, he’s looking at the hero and his friend suspiciously, so we assume he will be a redneck who immediately distrusts them. But instead, he’s quite nice to them since he’s friends with one of their uncles (whose name is Charles Bronson for some reason), and comes to their aid more than once.
Finally, my favorite line of bad dialogue of the year is in this film. After some weird things start happening, a cop says “Hey, do you remember what happened three years ago around this exact same time?” Oh man. Classic. It replaces “He wouldn’t be caught dead dying” from The Breed. And, in a very odd coincidence, both that film and this one have a confusing year of release. The Breed was listed as 2005 on the film itself, 2006 on the IMDb, and was released in 2007. This movie was also released in 2007, but takes place in 2006, and is dated 2005 in the production credits. Weird.
The acting is decent enough, and the technical aspects are all above average for a direct to video horror movie (even more impressive when you consider that the budget was only 600,000, according to the IMDb). But the schizo script brings it down, with too many ideas and themes that never quite gel or pan out to any sort of satisfying conclusion (the last scene is baffling in every way possible). Oh well.
Anyway, thanks to the PR folks for this movie! I never would have watched it otherwise.
What say you?