JULY 5, 2010
When I was in high school, I remember coming up with a fairly ridiculous movie concept called The Scavenged with my buddy Eric, in which a scavenger hunt team is (for some reason) forced to find the body parts of one of their dead friends hidden around the city. No idea what the fuck the point would be (what happens when they find them all? Where do the kills come from?), but if we had developed it further instead of just laughing about the title for the next five minutes, maybe it would have turned out better than Red Hook, which also takes the “Deadly scavenger hunt” premise, but haphazardly works a slasher plot into it, culminating in a “twist” that I literally called the second the character who turned out to be the killer was introduced (and my wife is a witness!).
After a confusing prologue in which a young girl named Jenny sees her sister murdered by a guy in a cop outfit only to be almost instantly gunned down by actual cops (who were apparently in the neighborhood), we flash forward 10 years or so, as Jenny is now grown up (and quite attractive - she looks like a young Courtney Cox) and slightly agoraphobic. Yet she’s off to college in NYC anyway, and everyone she meets knows about her tragic past and more or less treats her like a freak. The only person who is nice to her is Gavin, a guy with his own tragic past. I could name all of the other characters/red herrings, but anyone who doesn’t peg Gavin as the killer from his first moment on screen just hasn’t watched enough horror movies. I guess in the minds of writers Sammy Buck and Elizabeth Lucas (the latter also directed), the fact that he was the only one who WASN’T antagonistic toward her should be enough for us to never suspect that he could be the bad guy. Irony for 4 year olds!
They also don’t give him a clear motive, which bugs me in films with complicated scenarios. In Halloween he just escaped from his institution and stalked the girl (and her friends) who was snooping around his house, which was enough of a motive for the equally simplistic plot. But this dude takes over a scavenger hunt that spans pretty much the entirety of Manhattan, placing bodies around as “clues”, puts together a video, fucks with the cell phones of each participant... you’d think he’d have a good reason for going through so much trouble. I thought maybe it would turn out he was the younger brother of the dude who got shot at the beginning of the film and was doing the whole thing to frame the cop who shot him (Terrance Mann, aka Ug from Critters), because the main girl thinks he’s the one killing everyone, but no. He just says something about how he killed them because they would never understand what it was like to lose someone or some dumb shit like that, and then he gets shot (by Mann, who once again just sort of shows up in the nick of time) and then its over.
The film also has, without a doubt, the single most annoying character in a slasher movie of all time. Jack Black in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer has got nothing on the character of Angela (who demands her name be pronounced Ann-GEL-ah, like it rhymes with [Nelson] Mandela), a drama major who possesses not one single characteristic that would make it even remotely plausible why anyone would want to associate with her. I just do not understand why so many horror filmmakers are so hellbent on creating annoying, unlikable characters in their slasher movies. You look at any well regarded slasher, and you see one common trait - you LIKE THE FUCKING PEOPLE IN THEM. Sure, they usually have a ditzy girl (Tatum in Scream, Lynda in Halloween, etc) or something, but they are still generally sympathetic. Christ, I loathe Rose McGowan and even I never thought “God, please let Tatum die next/now.” And Angela is just the worst of the lot, she’s not the only one who failed to earn even the slightest bit of sympathy from me. Apart from Jenny, the only other character who I sort of liked was Deena, her lesbian neighbor who joins in the hunt halfway through seemingly because she had nothing better to do (perhaps she was meant to be a red herring, but as with several other things in this movie, that is unclear).
It’s also poorly made (something that shouldn't surprise me since it was recommended by HMAD reader ingrsco, who pointed out that the film was "god awful"). Lucas and her editor seemingly went out of their way to make sure that characters were in as incorrect positions as possible when they cut to other angles. It’s the type of error you see all the time, particularly in car scenes - the person in shotgun will be facing forward in one angle, and then facing the driver when they cut to the other angle. But Red Hook takes this to a new level - characters will be in different spots/positions entirely when the angle is reversed. Lucas also bizarrely zooms into what were obviously much wider angles when originally shot, and cuts back and forth between two characters in a room where the same space between them is visible in both shots (sort of like when they pan & scan a scope widescreen movie for TV). There’s also a hilariously botched moment where they think the killer is watching them, but it turns out to be a dog. Or a foley artist playing a .wav of a dog barking - we just hear some barking and one girl says “he was more scared than we were!” but we never actually SEE the dog.
However, I do give them props to obviously using a real dorm room (or at least a set that’s the appropriate size) instead of the usual palaces that characters seem to get in movies and TV (I still love Buffy’s dorm room, which was roughly the size of my apartment). Its pretty obvious that Lucas and her crew weren’t exactly visual wizards, so that they made it more difficult for themselves by shooting in a cramped location is sort of admirable.
Also, what the hell is up with the push pin scene transitions? Throughout the film we see push pin and string “progress” markers on a map of NYC, but it seems that the map is tracking more teams than actually exist, not to mention showing more locations than were actually used. Plus they never seem to match up to anything we’re seeing, though the geography doesn’t seem to make any sense anyway. Even with my limited knowledge of Manhattan, it seems to be that the characters seemingly get around quicker than Jack Bauer, especially the killer, who seems to be in several places at once on more than one occasion (including the climax, where the killer clearly chases Jenny into a room and then she finds Gavin - who IS the killer - already inside of it, undressed and somewhat tied up). For a while I thought maybe it was a Scream thing where there was two killers, but no. It’s just stupid.
One thing about the movie tickled me though - its hilariously unflattering depiction of New York. Not since Jason Takes Manhattan have I seen a film that was seemingly designed to scare people from wanting to go to the Big Apple (oddly, the trailer inexplicably points out that NY has the lowest crime rate of the nation's ten biggest cities). During their first date, our leads go into a convenience store (pretty much the first time we see them leave the school) and instantly the place is held up, with the robber and clerk ultimately shooting each other. Then she is mocked for being upset, as if a NY resident should be used to people being shot to death right in front of them whenever they walk out the door. All clerks that they encounter are jaded assholes, and every place they visit looks like a hellhole. I mean, the scavenger hunt was actually designed as a real one for new students - shouldn’t he have chosen landmarks for them to visit in order to find clues instead of closed down dance studios and anonymous seedy bars? And even odder, when one girl is killed, her body is left in plain sight on the sidewalk for a good chunk of time, undisturbed, which just suggests that a corpse is nothing unusual in the city. Luckily for them, none of their scavenger clues take them into the sewer, or else they would have been killed by the nightly toxic waste flood.
You know, I think I’ll give Eric a call and see if he wants to finish developing The Scavenged. It could be the Armageddon to Red Hook’s Deep Impact.
What say you?