APRIL 6, 2010
Ordinarily I wouldn’t save my horror movie for the 2nd feature at the New Beverly on Grindhouse night, because things tend to run a bit late (due to the raffle, occasional surprise guests, announcements, etc) and I tend to run narcoleptic. Plus, since the films are obscure, I have little hope of finding them to rent/borrow (or in extreme cases, watch on Youtube) if I sleep through too much of it. Luckily, a Starbucks double shot and a candy bar, plus a relatively on-time schedule, seemed to do the trick, and I am happy to report that I only dozed for about 30 seconds of Crypt Of Dark Secrets.
And really, I probably could have slept longer and not have missed anything. I think anyone watching the film would agree that the editing was, to put it gently, insanely lazy. Nearly every shot in the film went on for 2-5 seconds longer than necessary, which is even more troublesome when it’s a slow film to begin with (and one that’s only 71 minutes on top of that!). I could edit this thing down to a half hour and it would still fall far short of being action-packed.
What’s it about, you might ask? Well, it’s sort of like The Crow, but New Orleans/swamp-ified. And instead of the wronged/dead guy getting revenge, some other folks do it for him while he walks around wearing an unbuttoned denim jacket and no shirt and offering “beer and coffee” to the local police. But on a base level it’s similar - some guys kill him, he is resurrected, and they pay for their crime. That sort of thing.
But really, that’s sort of a minor element of the film that’s on the screen (even though it’s technically the plot). Most of it is people slowly riding their canoes up/down the swamp, or voodoo weirdos dancing around. Oh and exposition that doesn’t really mean anything, and lots of it. It’s not uncommon for 3-4 minutes of the film to be devoted to someone rambling on about a particular voodoo ritual, or why they should put their money in the bank, or why they live in the swamp, or whatever the hell else writer/director Jack Weis can think of in order to keep the film from being exciting. Hell, in the film’s first few minutes, a character even explains how he “believes” there are two types of books - those that aim to entertain with a made up story, and those that tell you about a historical occurrence (so fuck you, travel guides and how-to guides).
Oh but it was such a delight. Part of why I managed to stay awake is because I was laughing too much. The guy playing Ted (the aforementioned denim enthusiast) may be one of the worst actors I’ve ever seen, and the others don’t really fare much better, so pretty much every awkward line reading resulted in laughter (the actual dialogue being so ridiculous didn’t help matters). And the overlong “ride down the swamp” scenes became a waiting game - “When will we move on to an actual scene?”. Every time the music began to loop back to its first stanza, the audience would laugh and applaud, because it meant another 20-30 seconds of boat riding. There’s also a scene where one of the bad guys says “You won’t believe this story!”, which is followed by about 30 seconds of silence as the four characters in the scene just look at each other instead of any of them prompting the guy for said story.
And the climax! Again, our "hero" doesn’t even really factor into the whole “revenge” aspect, but all three of the villains die at once! Some voodoo broad puts dolls of the three into the river, and this causes a “wave” (of no more than 6 inches in height) to topple their boat. We cut back to the voodoo woman cackling, and then back to the three villains, who are all dead, their boat smashed to pieces. All from what looked like the mighty wake of a child’s jetski. If I was watching this at home, I’d be livid. With a crowd? I applauded.
The first movie of the night, Girls On The Road, had some light horror elements as well (the two films combined could be almost considered full blown horror!). It was definitely more conventionally entertaining, both in a Grindhouse way (i.e. a guy slaps a woman for trying to sleep with him) and in a general way (things happen). It was also pretty short, 80 minutes tops, but it had some pacing issues. At least in Crypt nothing EVER happened, so it never technically GOT slow, it just WAS slow. Girls, on the other hand, starts off with our two heroines driving recklessly, trying to find an acceptable hitchhiker, and fighting over a bra. Meanwhile, a soldier (who looks like Ryan Reynolds playing a young George W. Bush, per my buddy Joe’s observation) wanders into a bar and bottles a guy for no reason whatsoever, before kicking his buddy in the junk and shoving a gun in his mouth. So far, so good. But it drags a lot in the middle, as the trio hang out with a bunch of hippies that live next door to their beach house. Sure, the hippie/cult dialogue is funny, but I wanted more action. Instead we get endless flashbacks to the soldier guy talking to his commander/shrink, which are all presented in headache inducing “under-water vision”. And all this stuff is just misdirection, because one of the hippies turns out to be the real threat.
But it’s still fun. It’s got the awkward dialogue (Girl: “Do you love me?” Guy: “I don’t know.” *they resume making out*), nonsensical plot diversions (guy with the guitar), and complete lack of an ending (a freeze frame of the killer about to kill our heroines while the hero is about to kill him) that I come to expect from these things, and like Crypt, the worse it got in a technical sense, the better it got in the audience enthusiasm sense.
Oh, and there’s no Crypt, no Secrets, and the entire movie takes place in broad daylight. Which is even funnier when you consider that unlike most 70s drive-in movies, this one only seems to have the one title. In short - you need to see this movie if it ever plays at your local repertory theater.
What say you?