MAY 5, 2009
There’s nothing wrong with making a slow-paced horror movie (or one in any genre, really). Session 9 is a good example - it’s a great fucking movie, and yet there is very little traditional “action” until the end, and a chunk of it is off-screen anyway if memory serves. There is an art to doing it, and I assume it’s not an easy thing to do right. Otherwise, films like Old Hag would be a lot more interesting, and simply a lot better to boot.
The problem with Hag, other than the fact that it’s NOT about a killer granny as the title would suggest (apparently it’s another name for sleep paralysis), is that there is nothing to draw you into the story to make up for its leaden pace. We’re over a half hour into it before anything even REMOTELY horror/suspense related occurs. Hell, it’s almost that long before the movie offers anything at all beyond a few folks sitting around a warehouse, biding their time and mocking one another. The story is almost non-existent, and even when it “gets going”, it’s hardly compelling.
On top of that, it’s simply confusing. They work in a warehouse, but nothing seems to be stored there. Their job apparently requires them to flip coins into cups of coffee, argue over who should do rounds, and every now and then lift a box (by hand) and put it down a few feet away. In fact, most of the rooms are entirely empty. Anyway, for whatever reason, a recently deceased serial killer is being stored there, and one of the warehouse employees wants to get a picture of the corpse. You might think the guy isn’t really dead, or there will be some Shocker-style resurrection to enjoy, but no, he’s dead. It’s just a macguffin; the real villain is... a fat guy who works there. What he wanted to accomplish is beyond me, and he’s taken out by a character who has only appeared in one other scene prior (which would be like if the guy who told John McClane to scrunch his toes was the one to take out Hans Gruber at the end of Die Hard). The end. I’ve seen more complex, well-rounded plots in SNL skits.
I will give credit where credit is due though - the script has the balls to kill off the perky main girl, the direction is occasionally impressive (loved the opening scene with everyone in silhouette), and the acting is serviceable. But it’s all wasted on a story (for lack of a better word) that seemingly has no point. There are just too many problems with the film as a whole, not the least of which is that it’s an ensemble of sorts, but the characters are largely indistinguishable from one another. I mean, I can tell them apart by their physical appearance (the girl, the long haired guy, the fat guy, etc), but in terms of what they do or how they act toward each other, it’s all the same. I couldn’t even tell which ones were in charge.
There are also a lot of interruptions in the dialogue, or people starting to say a line before the other actor has finished theirs, only to quickly shut up and then say the whole line again when they’re supposed to. Granted, people interrupt each other in real life and thus it is “natural”, but it doesn’t come off that way. It comes off as inexperienced actors (Rebecca Larsen, as the lead girl, is the only one with a significant IMDb filmography; most of them are credited solely for this film) who failed to rehearse properly. Worse, there is a character named Grover, but the obligatory Sesame Street reference is interrupted as well.
Now that I think about it, Session 9 seems to be a direct influence on this film. Not only do both films take place entirely in one location, but both feature a team of blue collar workers who need to finish a particular job in a few days. Also, the days are broken down (“Monday”, “Tuesday”, etc), and there is an attempt at “is this supernatural or psychological in nature” suspense, something Session 9 excelled at. Hag - not so much. The bad guy puts some LSD in the coffee,, which explains some of the things characters see, but that doesn’t quite explain how a guy can be pulled across a floor by an unseen force.
There is one saving grace in the film: the fire marshal character. He appears to have been dropped in from an entirely different movie (and acting school), but this movie is the better for it. At the end of the film, he has to explain what happened to a character who was unconscious for the final “battle”, and it’s easily the best part of the movie, due to the guy’s completely laid back cluelessness. “I tried reasoning with the guy, but like the old song says, you can’t reason with a psycho. So I let my buddy Smith & Wesson do the explaining, and they got that explaining thing down pat... what’s up with you?” (this is also the last line of dialogue in the movie). There’s also a hilarious bit where a cop assumes that a 19 year old kid drank himself to death.
Oh, and this isn’t the filmmakers’ fault (I don’t think), but the synopsis tells us that director Channing Lowe serves up the “bloody thrills”, but there isn’t a drop of blood in the entire film. Not that a horror film needs blood, but if its promised in the goddamn synopsis...
I really hate when I have to pan an indie. The movie probably cost less than what I make a year (if so, ouch), and as I said, the directing and acting are largely acceptable (the last 20 minutes take place in almost total darkness though; I assume they wanted it dark but not damn near invisible). I didn’t mind the fact that the film was seemingly shot with a cell phone camera, because I knew that film or even high quality HD video would be out of the question. But as I’ve said so many times before - a good script costs nothing to write. Even if you can’t afford great effects or A-list actors, you can always write a compelling story, regardless of your limitations.
What say you?