DECEMBER 31, 2010
For whatever reason, I was under the impression that Don't Go Near The Park was a Last House On The Left ripoff or something along those lurid lines, and almost considered watching something else for the day since my wife was around and she gets upset with those sort of things. So I decided to check, saw that it involved a 12,000 year old curse, and figured it was 'safe'. And thus, I am happy to report that it was a gloriously way to close out another year of HMAD, as it was not without some sleaze, but was 82 minutes of pure nonsensical entertainment.
While most films are content with a sole "_____ years ago" in its first 10 minutes, Park has two, and then leaves it up to our imagination/logical deduction powers to figure out the other time periods that are depicted until we finally catch up to the present day (a half hour into the movie!). The 12,000 years ago one shows some cavemen arguing with their elder, who puts a curse on them, which is fine, but it's the second title card-ed period ("Sixteen years ago") that really kicks things off, as we see one of our cavemen (who is immortal as long as he disembowels and eats a young girl every now and then) stalk Linnea Quigley and then rent a room at her home. After she discovers he's a murderer, she instantly falls in love with him, they get married, she has their kid, their marriage deteriorates, and we see that he dotes on the daughter. Again, this is all the first half hour of the movie.
So now the girl is 16, and after her parents have a hilarious fight during her birthday party (the guests all awkwardly leaving as she cries), she runs away and meets up with some other runaways in Griffith Park. From there the plot continues to get more convoluted, and to make up for the head-scratching elements, writers Lawrence D. Foldes (who also produced and directed) and Linwood Chase occasionally toss in some T&A, largely courtesy of Tamara Taylor, playing the 16 year old (19 in real life, thankfully). Foldes and Chase play a pair of would-be rapists who paw at her, she falls for a guy named Cowboy who goes to 2nd with her about 17 seconds after they first meet (and later gets it on with for real), her dad rips her clothes off near the end (purportedly to sacrifice her to end his curse, but it comes off more like he's trying to rape her). Hell, even the little runaway kid she bonds with cops a feel while she's sleeping, and when she shrieks he offers "I didn't know you were alive!" as an excuse. Like I said, the movie is lightly sleazy, but mostly it's just that special sort of batshit nonsense that I love.
I mean, it's only 82 minutes long, but we get all of the above and more - at one point, reporter Aldo Ray goes on and on about the history of Griffith Park. And there are a number of out of nowhere situations, like when some dude tries to mug the little kid, or a girl looking for her dog (curiously named "Starshine"). Plus a parade of some sort, and then, in a plot twist of some sort, we find out our immortal cannibals also have laser eyes! Hell, zombies even make an appearance in the final moments! It's cinematic stew - just toss in whatever you got, as long as there's some sort of center that folks can latch onto.
The one thing it DOESN'T have an abundance of is legit horror scenes. There's a few of the afore-mentioned stomach eating scenes, but they're all the same and the effects are too terrible for them to be enjoyed from a technical viewpoint. The zombies (!) don't show up until the very end, and a lot of subplots and characters (Linnea Quigley, for example) just disappear rather than end in another kill. I kept thinking Quigley would come back into the movie, but nope, she argues with the caveman dad and is never seen again. But honestly, I was too busy laughing or yelling "HUH?" at the screen to really notice until it was over. "Hey, was that even really a horror movie?" Good thing it had the zombies.
Of almost equal entertainment value is the commentary by Foldes and Quigley, moderated by Dark Sky DVD features guru David Gregory. Foldes has a really pleasant and young-sounding voice - he sounds like a PR rep or something, which just makes his often tasteless stories and anecdotes all the more hilarious. He randomly begins discussing Aldo Ray's drinking problem, gleefully points out that "as the director I got to cop a feel", and at the very end confesses that he wanted to jump Quigley's bones. He also more or less admits that the film existed solely to fit the needs of a few investors and try to make everyone some money, which might explain the film's record number of plot elements and out of nowhere actions (the laser eyes, for example - you can almost hear a producer saying "Hey, we need some sci-fi in there to make an extra 10% on foreign sales!"). There are a number of gaps in the track though; not sure if it's because they had to remove some comments or if they were just as momentarily stunned by the movie as I often was.
The rest of the extras aren't as entertaining. The "gore outtakes" are completely worthless, it's just a bunch of holding on shots of blood dripping from a wound or something. There's a lengthy deleted/extended scene piece that runs about 25 minutes, but half of that is just footage from the movie that they left in for context (or pure laziness). Most of the scenes are pretty worthless - most of it consists of Bondi and the other runaways talking, though there's a full frontal shot of Quigley that will be of interest to her fans. On the commentary, they discuss their guerrilla style shooting of a scene in front of Mann's Chinese, but the scene was cut from the film and doesn't appear here, which is a shame as it was pretty impressive how they pulled it off (even posting some ADs with 8x11 sheets of paper saying "By entering this area you consent to being filmed" at the sides of the area to cover themselves legally). The final extra is the film's rather misleading trailer, which makes it look like a full blown zombie film ("Zombie on a rampage of blood and terror!" - in the movie they wake up, move about 7 feet to the left, and kill the bad guy. Some rampage.), though I wouldn't envy someone who had to make a legit trailer for this movie that depicted its actual plot.
If you notice, I have added the label Video Nasties for this review and will go back and add it where appropriate for the others. Partially spurned on by Jake West's documentary that I saw at Frightfest, my goal for 2011 is to see all of the Video Nasties that I haven't already, because I'm pretty tickled by what made the list. This movie is pretty tame compared to say, Pieces, an equally batshit but far more gruesome film that was NOT on the list. But also, I was given the 3 disc set to review and I realized that I couldn't because they kept spoiling all of the movies on the bonus features (which, given the doc's brief length, the bonus features are sort of the meat of the release). So once I see them all, I can finally write my review - hopefully by the time it sees release in the US (as of now it's not available on Region 1 disc). Hopefully I can do it; I'm sure some of these movies are no longer available (or never were) on DVD and thus VHS will be expensive. And I want to stick to legitimate releases, so don't offer your bootlegs.
What say you?