JULY 19, 2009
Last night, some friends and I were discussing Project Greenlight, and how only the 3rd season guys (John Gulager, Marcus Dunstan, and Patrick Melton) managed to make a career for themselves, while the winners from the other two seasons were never heard from again (Pete Jones made another film, which played a festival in 2004 and was released on DVD in 2007 - I haven’t seen it). So imagine my surprise when the opening credits for Vengeance Of The Dead revealed that the film’s DP was none other than Peter Biagi, the douche-y DP for Pete Jones’ Stolen Summer!
Now to be fair, the reality show editing process can make anyone look like a douche, so maybe the guy is all right. But the fact that I remembered his name from a show I watched 7 years ago should be a good indicator that he left an impression with his antics. Anyway, this was shot after Stolen Summer (or at least, it was COMPLETED after Summer, Vengeance seems to have been shot over two time periods), and on a technical level, it’s certainly a step down. It often resembles a student film, one shot in 1986 at that. More than once I thought I was watching The Dark Power, and wondering when Lash LaRue would step in and whip the shit out of something.
But it’s not too bad. At 72 minutes (8 of which are credits), it’s not long enough to really annoy or bore you, and there’s just enough weird stuff going on to warrant a look. For starters, the plot revolves around a ghost getting revenge on the 3 men who killed her in a fire. They are all old guys, and since she believes in equal revenge, this means that our setpieces all involve old men being immolated. So if you’re an MST3k fan, think of the climax to The Puma Man (“Burn, an old man, singe all his skin off!”) and times it by three!
The 2nd old man has the best one though, because of the damn near ten minute icky shower scene before it. His granddaughter tells him like five times that she’s about to take a shower, and then strips down and does just that. He goes into the room below it and looks at her undressing through a spyhole, while he planes some wood (that’s what the kids are calling it these days...). He then begins to fantasize about her doing some sort of aerobic routine while coming on to him (“you like this Grampa?”). I understand it’s Morgan Freeman’s favorite movie.
That’s just one of the many wonderfully batshit scenes/lines in the film. A radio report comes out of nowhere to tell us that someone shotgunned three kids, a kid who looks like he’s 19 talks about high school as if it were decades ago (he even describes it as “back when I had my whole life ahead of me”) before building a model rocket with his grandfather, and good ol grampa describes a guy as “a fella that surprised a lot of folks round here some years back when he killed himself”. It’s charming.
Less charming is the music, often ripped directly from 80’s era John Carpenter scores (The Fog and Prince of Darkness, mainly), as well as the really annoying “echo” that all of the (many) flashbacks have. The dialogue is kind of generic anyway, and this dumbass design ensures you have to hear it all twice. This of course, just helps pad the film out; despite its short length it has plenty of stuff that could have been tightened or removed entirely. Christ, even the shower/fantasy scene goes on too long. If a film has a scene where an attractive woman is seducing her grandfather, and I’M the one saying it’s too long, then you KNOW it’s too long.
The ending is particularly harsh. Not only do we find out the identity of the 3rd bad guy (which isn’t too surprising because there are only like 4 people in the entire movie), but our hero is immolated as well. His ghost gets to make out with the ghost of the woman that put him up to all of this though, so I guess it works out OK enough. Besides, he already graduated high school, so his life was pretty much over anyway.
As I watched this on Netflix instant, I don’t have access to the extras. Apparently the disc is jam-packed and includes a commentary. I wouldn’t mind listening to it, but time is, as always, a factor (even worse this week due to Comic Con) so that’ll probably never happen. So I’ll just assume its low points are the result of a troubled production and give a final vote of not too bad. More entertaining than Stolen Summer anyway.
What say you?