OCTOBER 3, 2009
On one of his CDs, the late, great Mitch Hedberg tells a particularly clunky joke, and immediately follows it with “All right...that joke is going to be good because I'm going to take all the words out and add new words. That joke will be fixed.” It’s a joke I couldn’t help but think about (and entertain myself with) as I watched Spike, because if you took out every line of dialogue in the film and replaced it with something that sounded human, it might be an OK movie.
90% of the dialogue in this film either sounds forced or bafflingly unnatural, to the extent that I often wondered if the actors were reading from the same page of the script. I wish I could cite specific examples, but alas I had no means of taking notes and thus cannot recall any lines word for word. But to try my best, there was a scene where one character asks if the other is familiar with Shakespeare (I think?), and the other says “Why, did he ask about me?” As these people have just been in an accident and two of their friends are missing, I don’t think such “wit” (for lack of a better word) would naturally come to mind, and the actress isn’t good enough to make it sound good anyway. It sounds like a screenwriter’s poor attempt to add levity to the scene, and nothing else.
There are also large chunks of exposition that are seemingly missing. Our “villain” is a guy who has the misfortune of suffering from some sort of disease that has turned him into a porcupine. It’s actually kind of a cool image, and largely works (only the actor’s Steve Buscemi-esque face, seen plainly at times, makes it look fake/goofy). But his switch from villain to hero is jarringly abrupt. He drags the heroine into the forest and rips off her clothes, but then it’s revealed that he is simply trying to locate and then heal a snakebite she has endured (an event we never see). At first she is screaming and trying to fight him off, but suddenly she is not only OK with him, but actually recognizes him and begins talking about how they are old friends! There isn’t a single moment where she begins to realize who he is, or any sort of shock that her childhood friend has suddenly re-appeared in her life after not having seen him for seven years.
Of course, even ignoring the bad dialogue, the movie would still ask WAY too much of its audience to accept. In order to work, we have to believe that Spike knew that she was driving along this particular road, that his ‘trap’ (one of his porcupine stingers left in the road) would only bring her car to a stop, and that the blown tire wouldn’t cause her instant death. We also have to accept that he would drag her around and tear off her clothes, instead of just saying “Hey, it’s me! Your old pal. Listen, I think you’ve been bit by a snake, I need you to find the bite and let me extract the venom.” And that would have been the least dumb line in the entire film.
There is also a scene that has easily earned the record for the most superfluous and jarringly pointless scene in a film, ever. Right after the car crash (in which none of our characters seem all that anxious about - people not only don’t SOUND like human beings, they rarely ACT like them either), the only guy in the car starts to wake up (he slept through the accident). As he does, we cut to what I assume is the dream he was having prior to waking up, which finds the driver of the car straddling him and making out, in a room seemingly lit by lava lamps. It’s not only pointless already, but later we learn that he is actually the driver’s brother, and she is a lesbian to boot. So a guy dreams about fooling around with his lesbian sister, and the filmmakers never bother to address it again? What the fuck is the point of showing it at all?
Oh, padding. The scene takes place in the film’s first few minutes, so it actually does serve a purpose, as it helps prepare us for all of the similarly useless padding to follow. Spike “tortures” the guy three times throughout the course of the film, and we also have scene after scene of Spike telling the girl how much he has missed her and how much he wants to be with her. We got it, buddy - move on. There is also a subplot about the other two (the lesbians ) arguing over whether or not to try to find the others or look for a call box. These scenes are so similar they might as well have just filmed one such version and re-used it whenever they felt the need to cut to this drivel.
But, like I said long ago, the movie COULD have been good, after several rewrites. The idea of a guy who has inadvertently turned into a monster and wants to be rejoined with his one true love is a perfectly decent one for a movie, and I’m always happy to see the breakdown plot combined with anything besides a bunch of backwoods rednecks or mutants. The cinematography is fine too; if you mute the film you’d swear you were watching a good movie.
As this was a festival screening, I am not sure when it will be made available for all of you to not enjoy. But as the IMDb has four fake reviews (comments made by users with no other reviews, all made within the 24 hr period or so) and four legit pans, I think it’s safe to say that it’s not one anyone needs to be looking forward to. Luckily, unless FOX buys it and calls it X-Men Origins: Quill, I doubt it will ever reach anyone but its intended audience (Poetry fanatics who suffer from Asperger's?) anyway.
What say you?