SEPTEMBER 28, 2009
I wish I had a review template to use for breakdown movies that are using their own template. They don’t bother writing anything new, why should I? You don’t even have to watch the first half hour or so of these things anymore - the only minor variations are the characters names, the name of the town where the action takes place, and of course, the title. This one is called Albino Farm, but it could just as easily be Plague Town, The Butcher, Side Sho, Small Town Folk, Plasterhead...
Honestly, though, this one is better than most of those I just mentioned, and had I never seen any of them, I’d probably be giving this one high praise. The makeup effects, for starters, are phenomenal. I haven’t seen so many great (and various) mutants in one of these movies in a while. And there are some truly sick moments involving them, such as when the main female one more or less masturbates as she prepares to (I think) rape the male lead. And there’s another bit later where the mutants sew two of the heroes together (by the arm). It’s not played for squeamish torture (we don’t even see the sewing being done), but rather for a unique obstacle for the two to deal with as they try to escape.
And the acting is largely better than I’m used to in these things. The various “stars” (Chris Jericho, Duane Whitaker, Kevin Spirtas) only appear in a single scene, but the four kids are engaging. Stupid as any of them, sure, but in a way that is more on the line of endearing than grating. I actually liked the requisite asshole of the group, because he was so damn enthusiastic about doing things that were going to get him killed. He also scores the film’s best line; as they pull away from the blind gas station owner, he yells out that he only gave him a five instead of the promised $20 for the tire. I was also tickled by the fact that I couldn’t tell which guy was with which girl. Asshole guy is overly touchy with both girls, and neither of them seem to mind.
But in the story department, Albino Farm simply does nothing new. Christ, in the first 7 minutes we have the "where we are isn't on the map" conversation, the “our cells have no service” explanation, the “swerve to avoid something in the road” scene (which results in the “flat tire” scene), the “crazy redneck at the gas station” scene... why filmmakers can’t come up with anything else to set up their story (which is equally generic) is quite puzzling. How about a bus full of old people is forced off the road when it exceeds the maximum height allowance for an overhead bridge? As for the cells, how about they are stolen by thieves pretending to be good Samaritans? Think outside the box, people!
And the rest of it is just as familiar. Would you believe our group is split up, with two of them getting into hot water while the other two learn some exposition and then have “Hey where are the others? They should have been back by now!” moments? Will the mute little kid turn out to be on the bad guys’ side? You betcha! My cat could probably tell you how the movie was going to play out as soon as the first dentally-challenged character appeared. And he hasn’t even seen Texas Chain Saw yet.
One thing that I COULDN’T have guessed is that the film would contain zero farms and only one Albino (played by non-albino Spirtas, in the film’s final scene). Apparently it’s a real place with a real legend that the film is really not based on at all. In fact the real story sounds a lot more interesting and covers ground not as oft-covered in low budget horror films (ghosts, instead of inbred mutants).
Not helping matters is the abysmal editing and often confusing blocking in any scene that has more than 2 characters. Say there are three people talking as they stand next to each other - the camera angles will cover Guy #1 and Guy #2 in one shot, and then Guy #2 and Guy #3 in the next, instead of a master of all three, or individual close-ups. It often resembles a poor pan & scan job more than actual direction. And editor Dan O'Brien often cuts to reaction shots of characters who aren’t reacting to anything. It’s probably just a way to hide a removed line or a split take (where they use part of take 1 and part of take 2 for a single shot), but it doesn’t make it any less awkward. It gets better near the end (because there aren’t as many characters to cut to), but it’s still a shame. I could have been more forgiving of the generic story if the directing/editing had been on par with the above average acting and effects. It’s odd - the film manages to succeed in the areas that usually plague low budget films (FX and acting), but fail in the things that don’t cost a time (a story, zooming the fuck out and filming everything in a master).
The DVD includes a lively commentary by the directors and producers (four of them, I can’t tell who is who as soon as they are done introducing themselves). They cover all of the usual ground, but like the film itself, it probably plays best to those who have never heard an audio commentary for a “Kids run afoul of inbred mutants” movie before. It’s possibly the first professionally released audio commentary to reference Christian Bale’s freakout on the Terminator set though, so there’s something. There is also a making of that is unique in that it just ends at the 25 minute mark without any sort of closing statements from the crew. It also frequently pauses to put the subject’s name on the screen, even for people who aren’t doing anything (like when they pause on a shot of 4 or 5 people and focus on one of the producers, who is just standing there and is never seen again in the entire piece). In short, kind of annoying, but worth a look for the makeup creation scenes (which deserve their own special feature).
And as this is an MTI release, it features what seems to be a four year old’s first After Effects project as a logo before the DVD menu comes up. It’s sweet that the owners of MTI allow their children to help on mommy and daddy’s big movie projects, but there is a time and place for such nonsense. Go ahead and show their cheap little animations to the family at Christmas time or something, but when it comes to a DVD some people might actually be paying for, maybe they can put something a little less amateur in there? Just a suggestion.
What say you?