NOVEMBER 15, 2008
At long last, a film in the Ghost House Underground series (besides Last House in the Woods, which I saw a while ago, pre GHU) that I can wholeheartedly recommend! The Substitute (Danish: Vikaren) is a bit light on the horror stuff (the R is only for language, and I honestly can’t even recall any F bombs), but it’s a super fun movie that delivers a lot of the promise that The Faculty squandered on “hip” self-referential dialogue and WB casting that was all the rage back in 1998.
Essentially a more serious, live action episode of South Park, the movie is about a substitute who is really an alien. And like a lot of SPs, the kids catch on and try to stop her, and their parents are morons who are easily swayed by whatever they are told. This leads to what is possibly the best scene in the movie; the teacher is taking them on a “field trip” and the kids are all crying and trying to run away as their clueless parents drag them onto the bus.
But what’s awesome about the movie as a whole is that there is none of the usual “reveal” shit; nor does the sub even really try to hide her non-human nature. In her first meeting with the kids, she berates them, displays superhuman intelligence, acts bizarrely... I love that writer/director Ole Bornedal just got right to the goddamn point. Which makes the lack of violence/gore even more impressive; the movie feels fast paced despite the fact that there is no action whatsoever until the final 10 minutes (and even that is hardly a big spectacle). I don’t need to “learn” that she is an alien halfway through the movie; that’s a plot point that would have been spoiled by any trailer or plot synopsis anyway.
I also loved the title character, because she reminded me of a character Kristen Wiig might play on SNL. I love Ms. (it IS just Ms, right? Please?) Wiig, because not only is she cute, she is also goddamn hilarious, and has turned passive aggressive behavior into something of an art form (see: Knocked Up). There are a couple of bits in the movie that I could perfectly see Wiig playing the role in the eventual remake (the movie is in Danish, so there MUST be a remake for us stupid Americans, right Hollywood?), such as the end when she is attempting to reason with our hero. First she tries to use his mother issues (his mom is dead) to win him over, and then gives up and admits she came on too strong. It’s fucking hilarious. Oddly enough, whoever did the dubbing for the character on the English track sounds exactly like Wiig’s Suzie Orman impression.
I also liked that the movie was kind of sad. The main kid misses his mom, but his dad gets plenty of choice moments as a grieving and now single father. Bornedal keeps the balance perfect throughout the film, it never gets too funny that you can’t accept the serious parts, and it never gets too serious that the funny bits seem out of place.
And longtime HMAD readers will be happy to know that the image seen on the cover of A Brush With Death (one of my more vicious reviews) reflects a scene in this movie. Since it didn’t correlate to a goddamn thing seen in that piece of shit, I wish Lionsgate would just use the cover again for this, especially since THIS cover makes it look like a zombie children movie. Goddammit Lionsgate, even when I really like a movie you have to go and fuck it up!
Bornedal contributes a commentary, and it’s not the best track ever, but it’s worth a listen if you have the time. He even points out that he’s kind of boring and calls anyone who listens to the whole thing a “hero” (NOW I AM REALLY A RUSSIAN HEROOOOO!), so at least he’s up front about it. It will also allow you to listen to the English dub (please don’t watch the dub version for when you watch the movie itself), which is terrible and thus amusing. And he takes a minute to knock the Silent Hill movie, so that’s cool.
Oh, I almost forgot: the alien transformation scene is fucking awesome too. It sort of builds itself out of a sphere (not too Phantasm-y though). Kickass.
What say you?