NOVEMBER 18, 2010
It seems every Screamfest has a movie where I end up sleeping through the whole thing. In 2007 it was Hell's Ground, and 2009’s “Dozefest” was Damned By Dawn, which I reviewed last week. 2008’s example was The Season, which is unique in that I fell asleep in the first minute or so, and even though I woke up for a total of 10-15 minutes throughout the running time, never even saw the film’s hero, The Signal’s AJ Bowen. Epic nap!
What I DID realize was that when I woke up and the end credits were rolling, it was barely over an hour after the film began. And you all know how much I love short movies, so I was delighted to see that it was finally on DVD and thus I could see it “again” for the first time. All I knew was that it was another breakdown/backwoods weirdos (in this case, the Amish) trying to breed with unwilling tourists movie, but I couldn’t gauge if it was a good one or a bad one based on the 10 scattered minutes I saw.
Well, it’s not good in the critical sense, but like the similar Bloodlines, it’s just so damn crass, I couldn’t help but kind of love it in some ways. In addition to the casual remarks about inbreeding and a rather politically incorrect approach to mentally disabled folks (since they’re part of the villain family I guess it’s OK?), we also get one of the most potentially offensive but hilariously blunt moments in recent memory. Not too long into the film, an inbred baby is stillborn, and its grandmother casually picks it up and tosses it in a trash basket like she’s done it before (and in front of customers, no less – they run a purposely car-killing “gas” station). Nothing that would seem out of place in a Troma movie, but sort of novel here.
Sometimes they go a little bit overboard though, such as when the resident “doctor” pries out a little inbred kid’s teeth as a punishment for helping the heroes try to escape. There’s funny shocking, and then there’s just mean-spirited pointless “shock value”, a balance filmmaker Adam Edward Brooks sometimes doesn’t get quite right. I mean, I could see this playing at the New Bev on Grindhouse night and hearing everyone cheer and laugh for most of the movie, but this moment wouldn’t “fit”.
On the other hand, moments like this help keep up the fairly impressive pace. Granted with a 70 minute running time (with very slow credits) there isn’t much time for dilly dally anyway, but things kick off about 10 minutes or so in and rarely let up, with folks constantly running or chasing or getting killed. It’s a bit ridiculous that three separate cars full of people show up almost simultaneously, but it helps spread the action about – one guy is taken off by the attractive Amish girl who seeks a “stud”, some stick around helping the pregnant lady, others get chased by a couple of mutants... the whole movie takes place in the same basic area (think Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s house and gas station, albeit closer together), and Brooks is wise to keep everyone separated (and in broken groups – no one gets to stay with the people they “came with” for very long), which allows him to cut around and keep the momentum up.
Or should I say “fade around”? Every goddamn scene in this movie fades to black, which drove me insane. Do they think this is going to air on NBC or something? Christ, even a star-wipe would have been welcome after a while. I can only assume it was an attempt to make edits a little more graceful – I ASSUME that the movie wasn’t intended to be 65 minutes long when it was written/shot. I wouldn’t be surprised if some character moments were excised, possibly due to the woeful acting by several of the leads. J.P. Wohl in particular is atrocious, awkwardly delivering every single line he has. Some of the rednecks are pretty stiff as well. Bowen is good (not surprising he’s the only one in the movie with a lengthy resume – most have only The Season listed on their IMDb), and Julianne Mason as the obligatory “good” bad guy who aids our heroes is pretty decent, but everyone else ranges from forgettable to downright awful. I bet there’s a lot of cutting room stuff that they tossed just because it would have been unbearable to hear them talking without any action to distract us (Bowen’s brother, for example, starts off the movie getting out of prison, but we never even know what he was in for).
If so, none of it is mentioned on the DVD, though Bowen and some of the other actors allude to script elements that are in no way apparent on-screen in the 10 minute making of, which depressingly starts off with local news footage of the film’s audition/production process, with the anchors saying how it will be their big break and all that. Since it’s been almost 3 years since it was shot and 90% of the cast and crew don’t even have any “in production” credits since, I’m guessing super-stardom will not be coming as a result of working on this particular movie. There’s also a terribly edited trailer and some lo-res stills to waste disc space. However, the commentary is quite enjoyable, with Brooks, Bowen, Wohl, and another actor (sorry, forget which – one of the Amish folks though) discuss the usual stuff, but with a goofy camaraderie and a lot of ball-busting and self-deprecation. No one seems to think they made high art, so that was refreshing – I hate when a director or producer talks about their junky horror movie as if it’s something really unique or impressive; these guys seem to know that the movie isn’t going to be winning any awards and enjoy it for what it is (they also don’t complain too much about their independent production limitations, which is also nice).
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not recommending this movie outright. It’s derivative (the ending is practically shot for shot stolen from Chain Saw) and most of the acting is terrible, but it’s also got that je ne sais quos that keeps it mostly entertaining and watchable, and I think folks who share my sick sense of humor and love of all things tasteless will feel the same. And the Amish are underused in modern horror movies, I think, so there’s something.
Then again, maybe they were intending to make a serious horror film, in which case they failed miserably.
What say you?