Savage County (2010)

MAY 12, 2011


The history of Savage County kind of baffles me. I read that it was a web series, but the movie itself doesn’t have that sort of “broken up” feel to it that you’d expect from a movie that was originally a bunch of 10 minute segments. And it apparently involved some sort of “You Demand It!” type contest, but were there other movie/web series it was competing against? Was there another crappy horror movie left in the dust because it didn’t have enough votes from the lunkheads that watch MTV?

At any rate, it premiered on MTV2 (remember when that was the one that actually aired videos? Is there an MTV3 now or something?), but this DVD version is unrated with the gore that they couldn’t show on TV (there’s also an f-bomb or two, but I don’t know what MTV’s rules are for such things; it premiered at 11pm), making it – theoretically – the better way to watch the movie. But there’s not really a good way to watch this movie, because it’s pretty lousy. In fact I’d argue it was probably better on MTV, because then you’d get commercials to break up the monotony, and the lack of any real gore would be more understandable.

The plot is a boring blend of Wrong Turn/Texas Chain Saw style “backwoods types kill our heroes who were poking around where they shouldn’t” plotting with a minor blend of I Know What You Did Last Summer, albeit nowhere near as logical as that movie (yes, I am saying that comparatively, IKWYDLS was more logical than this – should give you an idea of how stupid it is). In that movie, they killed a guy on accident but the driver was drunk and they all had things to lose (scholarships and the like), so the cover-up in an act of panic made some sense. Here, they whack a redneck over the head with a shovel in self defense, as he is attempting to shoot them. I think the cops would understand, right? Well, they all just run away and decide not to say anything, a plan that lasts about 2 hours. Then they decide to tell the cops anyway, which makes their situation worse because – surprise! – the sheriff is in cahoots with the rednecks. Only someone who has never seen one of these movies before wouldn’t see that coming! something I might say if one of the rednecks doesn’t say in the first scene, when the obligatory opening scene victim pleads for her life and says “I won’t tell the cops”, “The cops already know!”. So not only is this “twist” never even given a chance to surprise anyone, but the scene also kills what could have been the only interesting thing about the movie – maybe these guys were just law abiding backwoods folk and are only taking out the kids in retaliation for what they ‘dun’ to their kin. But since they’re killing random teens right from the start, the whole “revenge” concept is pointless; they would have killed our heroes just for being in the area.

It’s also yet another horror movie in which our main group seemingly has no real interest in hanging out. Apparently to make sure they catered to all possible MTV demographics, we get an almost laughably generic group of stereotypes: the jock, the AV nerd, the punk, the goth, the prom queen, the cheerleader, and the valedictorian. If this is Breakfast Club and they’re forced to hang out because of detention, fine – but they all just take a road trip together, strung together by the loosest possible excuses (the jock needs the AV nerd’s help to edit a video, and said AV nerd is buying pot from the punk, who is dating the cheerleader and is foster brother to the goth..., etc). Needless to say, most of them don’t really like any of the others, and spend most of the movie bickering and mocking one another. I really don’t understand the need to have such a stereotypical group (an oft-mocked selection at that); I use Halloween all the time so let’s go with Friday the 13th to provide an example. Now, while they all had their little differences, they weren’t really pigeonholed; it’s not like Brenda was “the brain” (she was the one who wanted pot!) or Jack was “the jock” – I’d argue he was almost as much of a laid back funny guy as Ned, the requisite nerd who unlike most “nerd” characters (including the ones in the later F13 movies) wasn’t depicted as a despicable, virgin whiner who no one else liked. They were believable as friends – why is it seemingly so difficult for modern horror filmmakers to do the same sort of thing with THEIR characters? As hateful and annoying as the girls were in Five Across The Eyes, at least it made sense that they were all together.

If I can give it some credit, they don’t make anyone besides the final girl too obvious as a survivor or victim, and it wasn’t easy to peg the order in which they died either. Final Girl’s boyfriend bought it much earlier than I would have guessed, and the goth girl almost looked like she’d survive the whole thing, only to suffer the movie’s most interesting death near the end. The rednecks (who appear to be smarter than our heroes, actually) have a big vat of acid that they use to dissolve the remains of their victims and thus limit their chances of getting caught, and naturally, one of them ends up taking a bath in it himself for some poetic justice (or whatever the dumbed down MTV version of poetic justice is). So that was kind of obvious, but then with his last bit of life he reaches up and pulls Goth Talk into the vat with him, which is equally hilarious and nasty.

The actual ending is a total slap in the face though (uh, spoilers, I guess – you really shouldn’t care though), as not only does the guy who killed the redneck and thus more or less set off the whole chain of events (again, there is nothing to indicate that the rednecks wouldn’t have just killed them anyway) not get his just desserts, but Final Girl just leaves him behind! He’s a bit hurt and tells her to go on, and she does, saying “I’ll send help for you!”, but then she is found lying by the side of the road the next morning and picked up by an ambulance. She doesn’t mention the guy at all as the ambulance takes off, and then the movie just ends. No final scare, no resolution to the jock’s fate, and certainly no payoff for all the web media nonsense that kept getting clunkily inserted in the narrative (the jock’s girlfriend has a web series of some sort).

But really, none of this matters, because the project simply doesn’t make sense from the ground up. You can’t do one of these Wrong Turn/Hostel type movies with the basic cable restrictions. Even in this “unrated” form, it’s clearly designed for a “TV MA” audience, not a real R rating, so while certainly more graphic than you see on 24 or whatever, the deaths still are laughably tame compared to the movies it’s ripping off. And the generic story has simply been done to death, resulting in a wholly suspense-free affair where even the most minute aspects of the story have been done elsewhere, and better (did I mention the heroine is also pregnant?).

In a way it reminds me of the games that come out when a new game system launches (called “launch titles”). The Xbox 360 for example; when it launched in 2005, most of the games that were available were just franchise titles with prettier graphics (i.e. a new Call of Duty, new Madden, etc), and none of the games really had much of a lasting impression. The reason is, the game developers hadn’t yet realized the full potential of the new hardware, and were mostly just trying to deliver eye-catching, “easy-sell” type stuff to get folks on board with a new system. And thus, I could almost forgive this movie for being so shitty if it was the first one they had done, because they were new to the filmmaking game and hadn’t quite figured out what they were doing. But alas, there is My Super Psycho Sweet 16, which came along a year before this thing. Now, Sweet 16 is not a perfect film, but it was a lot better than I expected, and delivered a pretty decent slasher movie that also delivered what an MTV audience “demanded” (i.e. pretty, vapid characters, a disposable soundtrack, etc) – a good blend for both fanbases, in other words. So if they were able to get it more or less right the first time around, there’s no excuse for putting together something so damn lousy on their followup.

The only extra on the disc is the trailer. For that I thank them.

What say you?

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