APRIL 13, 2011
Hey, remember when I said I wasn’t going to watch backyard nonsense like The Night Divides The Day anymore? What happened to that? How did I end up watching a shot on VHS slasher movie from 1999 that doesn’t even have its own IMDb page? I can only assume I queued it up years ago on Blockbuster and this week it finally clawed its way to the top. I certainly wasn’t being very selective when I added it; according to the information the movie ran 127 minutes. No way in HELL I would ever add the movie if I had seen that. I have Xbox games to play and tivo’d episodes of Fringe to watch.
Luckily (as I somewhat suspected), the movie wasn’t really 127 minutes, but rather a far more understandable 87 (or, 1:27). It still dragged interminably, and certainly FELT like a two hour plus affair, but technically it was “short”. So there’s something. It’s also possible that whoever was providing the timing was including the two short films that are included on the disc, which are curiously listed on the main menu (and before the feature to boot!).
Plus, I had already watched two of their other short films in the feature! In one of the most insulting and yet hilarious examples of padding ever, our heroes tell a couple of campfire stories that are simply earlier short films from Jeff Burton and the other folks behind this masterpiece. Needless to say, they don’t have a goddamn thing to do with the movie, nor are they even appropriate for the setting – one of them is basically an abstract concept that in no way can be explained by someone telling the story with words (to be fair, most of the characters admit they “don’t get it”, but it’s just as silly that one girl DOES, because it’s impossible to comprehend without the accompanying visual).
As for the actual movie, well, it’s pretty terrible, but I knew it would be as soon as I realized I was watching something shot with a VHS camcorder (it even has a fuzzy gray line at the top of the image for the entire movie), not to mention the amateur actors trying really really hard to sound spontaneous and natural, which of course just makes them seem the opposite. Or they just don’t act like any human being I’ve ever met, like when a girl gets stabbed in the leg by the killer and responds with “What is going on, here?”, with the same amount of concern one might use when your internet has disconnected and you haven’t yet noticed so you can’t understand why your Facebook status hasn’t gone through yet.
It also commits the cardinal sin of slasher movies, in that it gets our protagonists into the woods (at night) fairly quickly but takes forever to actually get to killing any of them, or even having the killer watch them via a POV shot. Instead, they just talk and talk, mainly about books (seemingly every horror author gets name-checked), tell their short film stories, smoke, banter, talk about sex... none of this is interesting! The actors are too terrible to create characters worth caring about, it’s ugly to look at (when you can actually see anything, there’s an entire kill scene that goes by without lights, rendering it nearly incomprehensible), and the pacing is just unforgivable.
Since Burton and the others don’t have IMDb pages, I’m not sure if they have made any movies since. So I guess I’ll offer them a few tips on the next one, just in case they haven’t learned on their own yet (assuming they have figured out “we should probably use lights” on their own). But before I begin, as always, I do want to point out that it’s impressive that they got the movie made, finished, and distributed, and no one can take that away from them. A lot of movies don’t even get that far, regardless of their relative quality. So I’m not trying to be mean or snarky - this is legit advice!!!
1. Try to be a little more discerning with the soundtrack. Rarely has a film provided such a schizophrenic aural experience, as if whoever was in charge of the soundtrack was trying to include every single genre; metal, acoustic rock, techno-y nonsense... there’s probably even some country in there. The score follows suit, with atonal mood music mixed in with typical horror movie stings, and even a brief piece that sounds directly stolen from Prince of Darkness. It just makes the movie seem sloppy. Folks like a little consistency in the music department. If Creed’s on there, you want the other bands to sound like Creed. Sure, it will be a fucking awful soundtrack, but a consistently awful one at least.
2. Slasher movies are supposed to be kind of fun, so why add in the fact that the killer is also raping the victims? Not that I was disappointed, but we never see him raping anyone, and he’s also killing male characters, rendering the entire “news broadcast” at the top of the film where we learn that he’s been raping and killing female students largely pointless. All it did was sour the mood, on a plot point that had no bearing on the actual film (I could also argue that it helped make the killer’s identity even more obvious, since it turned out to be the guy who couldn’t stop talking about his big dick).
3. Endings - try actually shooting one. A couple of cops running around somewhere with no sense of where they are in relation to our heroine, and a final ambiguous shot of the killer about to stab her, does not make an ending. It just seems like you ran out of film, which we know is impossible because you’re using tape that cost 2.99 and were available at every store in the world until the last 4-5 years. And you certainly weren’t worried about not being able to match the lighting on a different night.
4. Even a bad actor can be wrong for a role. I know that with these sort of ambitious productions, you don’t have the money to pay good actors, but you could at least hire ones that looked the age they were supposed to be. There’s one student who looks old enough to be their professor, and the two cops looked younger than most of the folks in the cast. The girl playing our heroine’s little sister also looked less like her than every other female in the cast.
5. No one likes to see the same names over and over in the credits:
It’s great that you did all of this (well, actually it’s NOT, because the more jobs you tackle, the less focused you are on each of them), but do you really need to credit yourself as the Chief Lighting Technician AND under Lighting? There are six credits for Burton on this one card alone, plus five for Michael Grabemeyer, and four for Michael Nickerson and Alex Hencken. Ultimately, Burton’s name appears a total of 38 times in the end titles, which is at least 30 too many (and those other guys probably come close to matching that total). You certainly don’t need to make separate credits for each piece of instrumental music when the information is the same. Besides, if you’re so stoked to have been able to do all these different jobs, why not take the time to make yourself an IMDb page, so people can see what you’re capable of without scouring the end credits of a shitty slasher movie?
6. Make a goddamn IMDb page for your movie, especially if it’s named after a Doors album. Some folks like to look up information after they watch and don’t want to be besieged by the lyrics to “Break On Through”. NOTE – this one might just apply to me.
Thankfully, the DVD’s only bonus feature (besides the shorts) is an “outtake” collection that’s also just sort of bland behind the scenes material. Almost worth watching to hear one of the actors refer to it as a “kind of a horror thriller”. Yeah, kind of, but not quite. Oh well. Tomorrow’s movie will definitely be shot on film and starring at least one person I’ve heard of, dammit!
What say you?