DECEMBER 20, 2008
After swearing off both the Xbox/Netflix hybrid, and direct to video indies, I watched Plasterhead, which falls in both categories. Hey I'm nothing if not a goddamn liar. Actually though, I HAD heard of Plasterhead; one time when I was covering the news updates for Bloody-Disgusting I got a press release about the fact that it had been picked up for distribution. I asked for a screener and never got one. But even though it sounded generic, the killer looked cool, and this being a year or so ago, I had not yet tired of these movies, so it remained on my radar.
Unfortunately, it's not much better than the movies that had me swearing off such things in the first place. Yet another group of kids take a shortcut, stumble on an isolated house, and get picked off one by one. Albeit very slowly. Actually, come to think of it, I'm not sure if any of them actually die. There's four of them, one obviously gets away, but the fates of the other three are left unclear. The resident black guy gets shot in the belly but he is alive last time we see him, with Plasterhead dragging him off somewhere. And the would-be hero, surprisingly taken down with a hammer, Kirk style (or was that Jerry?), is last seen lying in the road, still breathing (whether that's just the actor doing a terrible job at holding his breath or not, I have no idea). The resident slutty girl (who is going on spring break without her boyfriend, despite just getting engaged? Huh?) is pretty much dead though, but even she lives for quite a while after her initial attack.
It's also painfully acted across the board; only the woman playing the waitress manages to come off as slightly believable. Everyone else has two modes: wooden or ridiculously over the top, particularly the sheriff, who plays one of those movie-only cops who refuses to believe anything that makes sense lest the movie not fall into inane cliché, which seems to be the intent. So when he finds some bodies, obviously it is the work of the two college kids driving through town, NOT the town boogeyman (whose origin lies in the sheriff's own doing, something he knows perfectly well), and thus holds them at gunpoint rather than listen to reason.
Another insanely ridiculous development occurs early on, when one of our heroes (for lack of a better word) finds a purse with 500 dollars cash inside. He wants to pocket the money, which is understandable, yet even though no one saw him find the bag, he's "honest" enough to show the bag to his friends (whom he should know are more goody-two-shoes-y than he is) and announce his desire to keep the cash to use on their vacation. Why the fuck not just pocket the cash right from the start then? Why bother risking a "We have to report it to lost and found!" reaction when 500 bucks is at stake? Oh, because then there would be no movie, which brings me back to my initial question. Dude could have saved himself AND me at the same time.
Luckily, there are a couple moments that rescue this from the crap heap. One is the requisite "The gas station owner is creepy and also has no gas" scene. The guy playing the gas station owner is only like 30 or so from the looks of it, but he talks like an old man (and later we are told he hasn't had gas in 30 years, which means he was a VERY ambitious, if not business-savvy, toddler). It's the most charmingly nutty thing I've seen in quite a while. Plus, there's a nice little reference to Friday the 13th, and even though the winter setting is not really utilized, it's better than most snow-bound slashers, such as Shredder or Iced.
Also, the killer's backstory is unique, in that it takes a sad truth about the world (a hate crime) and uses it as the motive for a slasher with a plaster head (I bet he took like, two weeks to come up with his name). They fail to put this sort-of sympathetic character trait to good use though, as I thought maybe the black guy in the group would sympathize with the killer (or vice versa) and he would be let free or maybe even take up the mantle of Plasterhead. But no, even though the guy's dying from the sheriff's racism-fueled gunfire, Plasterhead doesn't seem to care. But at that point, neither did I.
One final thing I want to point out - the opening credits are bizarrely out of order. They will show a cast name or two over movie footage, and then cut to black for a crew credit (the DP, music, director, etc), and then return to cast names. I believe there is actually a union rule about such things, but what do I know about credits? Also, it is listed as "A Kevin Higgins/Michael Salerno film" ("THE" would be more accurate), but Higgins is the writer and director, with Salerno merely producing. Again, I'm pretty sure the director's guild has rules about such things, and the last thing you want to do is piss off those guys. Hollywood guilds are very strict about being complete assholes in order to "protect" the very people they are hurting when they pull rank.
What say you?