FEBRUARY 22, 2008
One of my more scathing reviews is for Drive Thru, a wholly worthless piece of shit that came out last year. I thought about it a lot while watching Wrestlemaniac, because both films attempt to do similar things: making an “old school” slasher movie with intentional comedy. The difference is, Drive Thru failed miserably, and Wrestlemaniac pretty much succeeds.
During the film I had exactly three problems. One: the endless opening credit sequence (nearly four minutes, and not over part of the actual film. Two: one character gets sick and goes outside to puke, but she walks about a half mile before finally stopping even though they are in a ghost town. And Three: they spell “Voorhees” wrong in what I assume is a shout out to Friday the 13th. None of these things really bugged me enough to dislike the film as a result, but the funny thing is, the first two are totally explained in the commentary track.
On the track, the director reveals that literally two days before shooting was scheduled to begin, they lost their primary location (an insane asylum) and had to relocate to the only other location they could get in the short amount of time – a ghost town. This resulted in many scenes having to be cut, because they no longer made any sense in the context of the location. In turn, this left the finished film running short, so the credits were lengthened for padding. This also meant that some of the necessary plot devices, such as getting the first victim separated from the group, had to be shot as if they WERE in the same location, which is why the girl goes so far for a “bathroom” that no longer actually exists.
(The "Vorhees" thing is unexplained. They don’t even mention it. It’s two “O”s, jerks!)
Knowing how many problems plagued them on the eve of shooting makes the film even more impressive. While the movie won’t win any awards or even give other modern “throwback” slashers like Hatchet any real competition, it’s still a lot of fun, and the last 20 minutes are top notch “chase n’ slash” fare. With one exception, the actors seem to know exactly what kind of movie they are making, and thus their performances are perfect for this type of horror (campy, but not an actual spoof). The one exception is sadly one of the primary characters – she doesn’t do nearly as well as the others of selling the ridiculousness of it all, and instead just comes off as a bad actress.
Luckily, the fact that all of the characters are pretty stupid gives the film an unexpected edge – it’s actually kind of suspenseful, because you won’t know right from the start who our Final Girl is going to be. This was a highlight of See No Evil as well (coincidentally, that film was written by Dan Madigan, who literally wrote the book on the type of Mexican wrestlers the killer in this film emulates) – though in that film they were just all unlikeable jerks (the biggest asshole of the bunch was in fact the hero!), whereas here they are a bit obnoxious, but generally likeable. You won’t care much that they die (that’s what we’re here for, after all), but you won’t want them dead within seconds of their introduction either. I would have liked to see Irwin Keyes (top billed for one scene) show up again near the end, or at least have a second scene to warrant his paycheck, but oh well. Again, it kinds of provides the film with some suspense – you keep expecting him to show up again, but he never does, making the somewhat downer ending even more effective.
The gore in the film is also pretty impressive. At first I was worried there wouldn’t be any at all, as the first two victims are killed offscreen entirely. But then in the 2nd half the gore is ramped up to 11, with generous faceripping and impalements to enjoy. I won’t deny that the film is a bit slow in parts (again, this makes more sense when you realize they were supposed to be walking around a “dark and scary” asylum instead of a Mexican village in broad daylight), but there is certainly enough gore (and yes, even some nudity) to make up for it, and at 75 minutes (barely more than 65 without opening and end credits), you don’t have to wait too long for it to get going. Also, while not without its share of eye-rollers, some of the attempts at humor work, which is nice.
It’s also pretty good looking. The Panavision HD system they used impressively simulates film, with only a few shots giving its digital origins away (most occur at night). The score is also above average, if a bit stolen from Halloween (near the end there’s an honest to God “scary mariachi” version of the synth-y Halloween II theme).
The DVD also has a making of, but it’s wholly worthless. However, the commentary is a must, and the film itself is far better than I expected. This could have been damn near unwatchable (indeed, the title is funnier than anything in the movie), but if nothing else it proves once again that no matter what the budgetary and resource limitations are, guys who genuinely want to make a film and not just a few bucks will always end up with a more enjoyable film than those who make a film without a single shred of respect for an audience or filmmaking in general (which is precisely what that piece of shit Drive Thru was). I know a lot of folks will probably hate it (some people even hate Hatchet for “trying to be funny”), but damned if I didn’t have a blast watching it, and I say thank you to writer/director Jesse Baget for getting it done right.
What say you?