AUGUST 5, 2010
I was so determined to watch a good movie today (I haven’t really liked anything since last Friday’s Theatre of Blood) that I actually stopped watching my first pick, which I wasn’t enjoying at all, and put on My Super Psycho Sweet 16, which I had recorded a few days before. From what I had heard, the film was much better than anyone could have expected (including, most likely, MTV itself); even some jaded types in my circle had admitted it was pretty enjoyable. And they were right! Until its final few minutes, it’s an effective slasher, with a unique setting (a roller rink!) and a pretty creepy looking killer.
But I guess that’s what happens when you get a real filmmaker to helm a throwaway movie. The Signal’s Jacob Gentry could have phoned it in, but instead he made an effective slasher, which is even more impressive when you consider the film’s basic cable requirements don’t allow for several slasher movie traits (nudity, excessive gore, even smoking pot). The unfortunate commercial breaks are the only real TV movie thing about it – even the gore is decent (love the fire extinguisher kill, and any movie featuring a corpse, sans head, smashing into a cake while on roller skates, is automatically worth a look).
The refreshing lack of lame twists was another plus (slight spoiler ahead). After our opening scene, the killer is caught and supposedly killed in a car crash/explosion en route to the prison. My slasher-addled mind (My Bloody Valentine, for example) instantly makes me think that this is a red herring, that the dude DID die and the killer is someone taking up his mantle, but nope! It’s the same dude. This is actually a good thing, though – even though it sort of feels like a possible whodunit at times (the boyfriend seems to disappear whenever the killer is around), it prevents the characters from having to act suspicious for no reason just to keep the guessing game afloat. And again, the killer is pretty sweet looking – imagine the (already creepy) Burger King guy but in a cloak and half burnt.
I also didn’t mind most of the kids. The girl who is throwing the party (Friday the 13th’s Julianna Guill – and I must admit I had a tough time buying her as a 15 going on 16 year old, especially after having seen her “stupendous” breasts in that movie) is a spoiled brat, but that’s the point, and she even manages to make herself somewhat endearing for a moment in the film’s climax (only to blow it by turning into a selfish brat again – this is part of why I didn’t like the closing moments of the film). Our heroine, Skye (Lauren McKnight) is what Juno would have been like if her screenwriter wasn’t having her make references to cartoons and other things that were before her time with every line, and the jock boyfriend is surprisingly charming. But my favorite had to be the “Duckie” type character, the main girl’s virginal best guy friend. There was a bit of Cera/Eisenberg in his delivery, but he made it his own, and scores most of the film’s best laughs (his girlish scream when he gets trapped in the basement by a bully is definitely a highlight). Can someone explain how it is that MTV – “giver” of some of the most obnoxious people on the planet – has made one of the few modern slashers with characters I actually liked?
Not all is perfect, however. It takes a bit long to get going, and we really have to suspend our disbelief once the mayhem begins. One girl is killed right outside – no one is around? A loud party with high school kids – none of them are outside making phone calls or smoking? And how big is this place, for no one to notice the killer (even after a public killing) or any of the bodies he has left behind? I remember my local skating rink, shit, if you FELL the whole place would see. And did no one else have to use the bathroom?
And again, the ending really drops things a notch. There’s a sequel in production (with Gentry at the helm – yay!), so perhaps they can clear things up, but they suddenly paint the heroine in a very unflattering light, and toss in a pointless nightmare scene to pad things out. We also fail to see Guill really get her just desserts (she’s in the sequel too, so I guess maybe they were planning ahead), which is a bit of a letdown. An important tradition for slasher films is for the non-killer antagonist to get it but good during the climax. For example, the otherwise woeful Friday the 13th Part VII gives us that sweet axe (and toss) kill for that bitchy girl who had been making things so difficult for Tina (actually, now that I think about it, the film’s love triangle is pretty similar to that film’s throughout), which is one of the film’s best moments. Hopefully the sequel either delivers a top notch kill for the character, or gives her a new dimension to make her more interesting. And THEN kill her. Bitch.
The pop soundtrack also gets to be a bit much. One could claim “It’s MTV, what do you expect?” but that argument doesn’t really make sense anymore, since music seems to be the last thing on their minds. Even the barely music-fied TRL is gone. Hell, they now show regular horror movies from time to time (I was at a bar once and Pulse was on, twice.) and their reality programming seems to take up more than half of their schedule. None of this stuff seems to be promoting music. And, this is not the film’s fault, but I don’t appreciate hearing songs I remember being new as the backdrop for “flashback” scenes. I’m not that old, goddamn you!
The Blu-ray is coming out this October (when the sequel hits TV), and I guess you can get it now on iTunes with some added gore. Not sure if the Blu has any additional extras, but either way, slasher fans shouldn’t dismiss it based on its pedigree. Like Wrong Turn 2, this could have been the laziest piece of crap in the world and no one would have really cared. But Gentry, like Joe Lynch before him, put some effort into it and made something worthwhile. And as a result, the MTV movie based (loosely) on a TV show that makes me want to kill someone turned out to be my favorite movie of the week (actually month) so far.
What say you?