MAY 28, 2011
I've seen so many movies with awful scripts that I'm almost tempted to give River Of Darkness a pass on the basis that its story/structure actually ain't that bad. It's a ripoff of The Fog, sure, but it's actually paced slightly better and has a nice little ironic twist at the end. But it's an inexcusably cheap looking movie, with sub-"Kid playing with his dad's camera" direction, the worst acting I've seen in years, and the hands down lamest climactic fight I've EVER seen in a feature film.
According to the IMDb this movie cost three million, but I'm guessing someone "accidentally" added a zero to the real budget in order to come up with that, unless the trio of wrestling stars (the non-active Kevin Nash and Sid Eudy, plus Kurt Angle) got nearly a million a piece to appear in this thing. I guess their name value can help the movie get sold in certain territories and stick out a bit on the shelf, but since all three are lousy actors (though, depressingly enough, better than most of their co-stars), unless they worked for scale it did the movie a disservice to hire them. How else can one explain the lack of any real action and almost laughably bad cinematography (take a drink every time the camera moves... you might almost get a buzz going by the end) if the movie really cost three million bucks? Christ, Troll Hunter cost that much and that has pretty realistic CGI trolls running around for half the movie.
And the camera they used! It's bad enough that nearly every shot (including death scenes) has the camera sitting motionless on a tripod*, but whether it's moving or not it just looks like a live broadcast, or maybe a soap opera. I'm not sure what setup they were using, but it did NOT look like a professional feature film. Until the title came up I was convinced that they had put the wrong movie on the disc or something; granted Nash and the others aren't exactly the biggest names in wrestling (despite what the box art says), but I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that the producers had somehow convinced them to be in a movie that looked like it belonged on the Pendulum Pictures demo reel. It's also clunky as hell; a major scene in the finale is almost incomprehensible because director/DP Bruce Koehler couldn't be bothered to show a wide angle that explains where everyone is in relation to one another.
The acting just kills any possible chance the movie had to be believable, though it's also the only thing that makes it any fun. Angle's deputy in particular was hilariously wooden; at one point a mother calls the station to report that her daughter was missing, and you get the impression that he's possibly never spoken to another human being before due to his toneless, awkwardly delivered responses. The sort-of final girl is also wretched, playing the least likely ghost hunter in history. It's possible that somewhere, someone is justifying her terrible performance as intentional (spoiler - she's just posing as a ghost hunter), but: no. The girl just can't act. The assorted locals also have trouble delivering lines, and it's funny, since I have very little knowledge of the wrestling world, I wasn't sure which ones were the wrestlers, since they were all big tough looking dudes with admirably bad facial hair. Angle actually ain't TOO bad as the sheriff, but since most of his role requires him to just stand around and listen to other people tell him what's going on, it's not like his skills were really being put to the test. The Rock certainly doesn't have to worry about him taking his roles away from him (hell, John Cena doesn't even need to worry).
And again, the ending is just a giant slap in the face to anyone who has gotten that far. None of the kills were particularly memorable, but they were at least more or less on-screen (except for the aforementioned little girl, though the fact that she was killed at all was admirably ballsy). However, when the ghosts finally catch up to the guy that was primarily responsible for their deaths in the first place, they raise some axes and then we just hear a bunch of fruit being sliced or whatever other foley effects their sound guy came up with as we watch Nash and a half-assed posse look on in "horror" (read: they just kind of stand around looking off-screen, with an expression that can best be described as the halfway point between looking interested and looking asleep). Especially when the character is being played by Bill Hinzman, who was one of the folks involved with the NOTLD 30th Anniversary thing - if there's one guy horror fans deserve to see getting hacked to pieces...
There is one scary bit in the film, however. I squirmed, I got upset, I was worried I'd have nightmares... all because of THIS:
Yes, as mentioned before, I suffer from ichthyophobia, or the fear of fish. Their puckered mouths and dead eyes just freak me right the fuck out, so when they cut (twice!) to this giant school hungrily sucking at the surface of the water, I was genuinely unnerved and horrified. If you are a fellow ichthyophobian, I'd urge you to steer clear (well, I guess I'm urging you to steer clear anyway).
Sadly, the DVD contains no bonus material of note; I would have loved to have heard someone brag about how great the director was (or maybe get a look at the camera). Hell, I'd even be open to listening to a commentary, because I KNOW that the director would claim that he was influenced by Seven in relation to his backwards (top to bottom) running end credits, which would be pathetically hilarious to hear. There is a "Bonus Feature" menu, but clicking it offers the trailer and "Main Menu", rendering it worthless (why not just put the trailer on the main menu and save yourself some scripting?). The disc also lacks a chapter selection, a basic feature that has been part of DVDs for the past 13-14 years now, but would you expect any less from Echo Bridge? And it opens with a trailer for Death From Above, another movie from the same people (and seemingly shot with the same camera) that somehow roped Tom Savini into its production.
Look, wrestling fans - I know your heroes don't make too many movies, but please, don't support junk like this. If you need a horror movie with a wrestler, watch See No Evil, which at least looks like a professional film and has some great kills (plus a mean streak that makes Silent Night Deadly Night almost look puritan in comparison).
What say you?
*It probably didn't help that I watched the movie right after Bourne Supremacy, in which I think even the end credits were shot with a shaki-cam.