Dismal (2009)

SEPTEMBER 23, 2010


Looking at this year’s reviews, I’ve only labeled 7 movies “Crap” all year, which is a record low (there are 96 total, for under four years). Dismal is number 8, and one of the worst of the worst, because at least some of these other movies provided an iota of creativity: Trunk at least had a fairly unique concept, Vampires Suck got a couple laughs out of me, Creature of Darkness had that cool “Predator collector” thing... but Dismal offers absolutely nothing, with each scene being a direct steal from another movie, except without those other films’ engaging characters, professional camerawork, or decent effects.

Christ, this movie even rips off Hatchet, as it opens identically – two rednecks in a swamp, hunting gators, only to be killed by the local backwoods brute. And the structure is curiously similar – our killer makes his presence known to the entire group from pretty much his first kill, unlike most slashers where the bulk of the characters are ignorant of the danger until its too late. But it also rips off Wrong Turn, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hills Have Eyes, and any other number of films in that “family” of horror movies. If there is a single original idea in the entire movie, I must have missed it.

Now, a wholly unoriginal film can work as long as it’s made well and the characters are enjoyable, but the film falters just as bad if not worse in this regard. The teens are a woefully generic lot, I literally couldn’t even tell two of the girls apart in some scenes. They speak either in broad strokes (“I like you... but not just as a friend...” “I know. I like you too.”) or in painfully bad attempts at humor, such as when the black dude (who, yes, dies first) returns from a bout of sex with his girlfriend, and when the others inquire about her screaming (from orgasm), he says “She saw a snake. A big black snake.” OH NO YOU DIDN’T! And the joke is terrible as it is, but they actually pause, as if they were giving the audience time to laugh heartily at this delightful bon mot and then catch their breath. The only exception is the guy playing the teacher's assistant, because it's sort of charming how they try to pretend he's not part of the cannibal family, by having him act weird (we're supposed to chalk it up to him being nervous around the Final Girl, who he wants to bone) and "killing" him off halfway through in the most obvious fake death this side of the April Fool's Day remake.

And the effects are shit as well. Enjoy a girl being sliced in half horizontally, as her top half just sort of freezes and slides away like Poochie returning to his home planet. Or the various spurts of CGI blood that I swear is SUPPOSED to look like a cartoon, because it’s among the worst I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen The Expendables). And Michael Bay would probably weep at the sight of this movie’s “explosion”, which is just a blurry orange thing in the middle of the screen. According to the IMDb, the budget for this film was 130,000 dollars – maybe try a few practical blood squirts or cutting up a mannequin? Why go the CGI route when anyone in the world can tell you that even big budget movies can’t always pull it off? They obviously saw Hatchet – were they under the impression that those kills were CGI? News flash – they weren’t. And an explosion has to be the lamest way to kill off a villain in a horror movie, so even if it was the best looking explosion of all time, it would still be a sore spot for the movie.

Someone on Twitter asked me if this was a Mike Feifer movie. It’s not, but it might as well be. Like his non-serial killer movies like The Graveyard and The Butcher, there isn’t a single thing in the movie that suggests anyone involved actually had an interesting story to tell. Instead, it looks EXACTLY like the result of a few folks seeing that movies like Wrong Turn 2 are profitable, and figuring they can turn one buck into two by making their own. So they write a script based on ideas taken from Netflix plot summaries of the top rented low budget horror movies, hire a bunch of local actors who look nice, and figure out the rest as they go along. As a result, the movie has zero personality, zero depth, and zero chance of even being remembered, let alone enjoyed. It's the cinematic equivalent of a guy at a party who makes the same joke someone else made 5 minutes before in an attempt to fit in.

Oh, one final note – the title wasn’t an admittance of the film’s quality, but it’s actually the name of the swamp where it takes place. And there’s another horror movie called Dismal that seemingly takes place in the same location. Let’s hope that one’s better.

What say you?


  1. I know it is probably terrible, but I thought this trailer was awesome! lol

  2. I saw the trailer for Dismal before, and it looked a bit naff.

    I agree with you, as I'm sure most would, CGI looks awful if you don't have the budget and can look just as bad when you do. I'm more of a fan of prostetics, etc. myself. However, I think it can get to the point of just being stupid, like the Saw films. (If you want to find out about my full opinion on the Saw films, I refer you to my blog post on them:http://titch-films.blogspot.com/2010/09/why-i-hate-saw-films.html )
    Take care.

  3. I agree with both of you guys, CGI just doesn't cut it if you are not dealing with a larger budget. With prosthetic's and other "do-it-your-self" props, horror movies are reverting to classic horror strategies--in particular, this new movie "Scar" I just saw. It had plenty of gore and blood and torture ideas and didn't rely on CGI as heavily as most movies do. I think it's out on DVD on oct 11th, i saw it on my campus as a special screening.


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