MARCH 17, 2009
What’s that saying about throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks? I have the same approach to Lionsgate-distributed indies. The sheer volume means that at least SOME of them have to be worth a damn, right? Well, one such film is Scourge. It’s not particularly great or anything, but it’s competently made, occasionally engaging, and features pretty decent CGI, which puts far beyond their usual killer scarecrow garbage.
The story itself isn’t very original; it’s more or less another Hidden retread, albeit in a small Wisconsin town. So you get the icky “transference” scenes (involving a giant parasite going into the victim’s belly button), the “how do we stop it!” scenes, etc, but with suburban locales instead of big city ones. And without a single recognizable face. But that’s OK - the money clearly went to actual production value and special effects, instead of blowing it all to get Sid Haig or Ken Foree or someone in a distracting two minute role.
Part of my enjoyment stemmed from further realization that I have mastered the visual language of clichéd cinema. Our hero is introduced by walking out of his house and getting on a motorcycle, which instantly told me that he had a shady past. And he does! Later in the movie we learn he went to jail for stealing cars (though he was taking the fall for his father).
I also dug a moment later in the film, when a car is crashed, which causes the gas tank to rupture. This leads to what I think is the first time in history where a movie character saw the leaking gas and said “we need a flame!” (he wants to blow up the monster, pinned between the car and a brick wall), rather than have the car just blow up for some nonsensical reason. Little bits like that can help win me over.
I should note that the car in question is NOT the 90s model Chevy Cavalier that the heroine drives. Or at least, drives sometimes. After the car blows up, she and the hero “get out of here!” and run in the opposite direction of her car, seen on the left of the frame:
And earlier in the movie, we see the car parked at the fire station, a scene that occurs while her character is at home:
Maybe there is a deleted twin sister character who she shares the car with, but the DVD has no deleted scenes (or any extras at all, not even the trailer) that can help prove or disprove my theory.
The movie does have a few issues that I couldn’t quite forgive. One is the complete disappearance of the first victim, a firefighter who is actually responsible for the monster/alien thing being unearthed. He passes the parasite on, and then drops dead on the stairs at a hockey game. When shit hits the fan, no one mentions him. So through the whole movie I kept imagining this mangled corpse lying on the stairs at the community rec center. Also, writer Jonas Quastel has apparently never heard of any other states besides California; in the film’s first ten minutes we learn that both the hero AND heroine’s girlfriend have relocated there, and then the hero announces his desire to move there as well. It’s distracting and silly, especially when you are led to believe that none of these people get along with each other, yet it sounds like they have gone out of their way to stay close. The ending is a bit baffling too, it’s a setup for a sequel but it seems rather illogical.
These are minor, but there is one that really bugged me. When people get infected by the parasite, they seemingly don’t realize it (and forget about what I assume is the rather painful process of a giant slug thing worming its way into your belly button). After a while I just assumed that the characters WEREN’T complete morons and that they were under some sort of hypnotic spell, but even that is inconsistent. One girl even completely ignores the fact that part of her boob is falling off, but otherwise functions normally.
But at one point a man gets punched in the jaw, and that jaw flies off, hanging by a vein and some tissue, so I can’t stay mad at the movie.
So is it worth a watch? Well, I dunno. It benefits mainly from simply being better than its indie brethren, but it’s too derivative and mild to compete with other body snatcher type movies. Let’s put it this way: should you find yourself in some insane situation that demands you watch an independent film with a misleading cover (actually the BACK of the DVD is the real liar, depicting a major city in ruins with overturned cars and such) that was released by Lionsgate, it would certainly be the one I’d suggest. It’s even anamorphic!
What say you?