SEPTEMBER 9, 2009
When someone actually re-invents the wheel, I hope they start from scratch and come up with their own thing. If Dead Wood directors (and writers/producers/editors/DPs) David Bryant, Sebastian Smith, and Richard Stiles were to do it (seriously guys - learn to assign roles), they’d make a standard wheel for the first 75% of their manufacturing time, and then start doing the re-invention. And it might work, but by the time you got to their changes, you’d already be thinking it was the same old wheel, and.... OK, I’m losing the metaphor here. Let’s just stick to straight explanation.
The problem with Dead Wood is that it spends so much time lulling you into thinking that you’re watching the umpteenth “Kids go into the woods and get killed” movie, that you’ve long since gotten bored with it by the time it starts mixing things up. The actual plot is actually kind of cool, with a great creepy way of killing people (that we really only see once, but I guess it makes it all the more memorable) - just a shame that these elements don’t come into play until the movie is almost over. We’re over 40 minutes in before something bad even happens, and then it’s another 20-25 minutes before the killer’s MOD is revealed. By then, there’s only 15 minutes left of the movie including credits (and a dumb “final scare” epilogue that negates the effective finale). I mean, I guess it’s better than a movie that blows its creative wad in the first 10 minutes, but it’s still a silly way to implement a good idea.
Another problem is the atrocious quality of the “HD” video that was used. You know when you use the zoom function on a DVD and the image starts getting all smeared? That’s what this movie looks like at its native resolution. Not sure why - usually my problems with HD are just a lack of detail and pitiful contrast ratios, but this just looks like ass on every level. The audio isn’t much better; it seems like it’s all ADR (and not very good ADR at that - there’s a shot where a guy is clearly saying stuff but we don’t hear his character).
Now, despite all this, I can still give the movie a pass. For starters, as limited as it may be, in the end it’s NOT yet another slasher, so there’s something. And the kids are natural-looking and believable, instead of vapid CW wannabes. Plus, not only did I not identify the Final Girl, there’s a moment with her character that legit made me jump (and then laugh, because I’m an asshole. If you’ve seen the movie you probably know what I’m talking about). I also enjoyed the unusual soundtrack, which is primarily female singer-songwriter stuff. It may not be perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction, which is always preferable to taking a step back (The Evil Woods), or simply treading water (Rob Zombie).
As the DVD is a screener, it has none of the extra features that the release copy has, including a commentary with the trio and a bunch of deleted scenes/outtakes, plus special effects comparisons. For once, I would actually be interested in those things for my own benefit (as opposed to making sure I have a complete review), as there are some clumsy character introductions (or removals) that may be explained via deleted scenes, and I always enjoy listening to a commentary for a film that suffers from technical woes.
So this is as good as a time as any to reveal my plans for this year’s “October Extras” series, which will be entirely reader oriented. As always, I’ll be watching movies I’ve already seen - but this time, I am limiting it to movies I’ve already REVIEWED. Think I was too harsh on something, or not harsh enough on something else? Or in cases like this, should I be watching the extras on the DVD to give me a new perspective on the film? Let me know! I am only going to do movies that readers suggest (so, unless I get 31 or more suggestions, it won’t be a daily column), so it’s up to you. If it proves to be successful/interesting, I might make it a regular bonus “column” on the site, like once or twice a month. I’ll post this information as a regular post when we get closer to October, but start thinking about titles now! I know Wind Chill is one I want to revisit for sure (which has already been suggested by readers), are there any others? And for fans of Dead Wood - are the extras going to help change my mind on the film or forgive its blemishes (i.e. “it’s blurry because the lab fucked up and it couldn’t be restored”) or is it just the directors rambling about how much they loved everyone? Or do they at least explain how THREE fucking guys work as the DP on a film?
What say you?