JUNE 17, 2011
I enjoy frozen meals, and thus my grocery store's recent decision to put their crappy DVD racks in that aisle means I keep seeing these budget discs for like 5 bucks, taunting me as I try to decide which frozen pizza to get. And since I was sick of watching Netflix stuff this week (and I was between disc rentals), I decided to actually look through them for HMAD material. Thus, for the princely sum of 9.98, I walked away with two sets, 4 movies a piece, from something called The Midnight Horror Collection, and Disturbed was my inaugural selection (from the "Serial Killers" set; the other one is called "Dark Forces" in case you were that interested).
Unsurprisingly, Disturbed was a shot on video amateur production not unlike the nonsense found on the Decrepit Crypt set (and I presume the bulk of the others are as well, though one has Eric Roberts and Rod Steiger so I'm hopeful that one is an exception). Unfortunately, I paid more per movie for these; whereas a DC movie only runs about 40 cents a piece, these cost me 1.25! I don't like when I pay more than a dollar for something that probably only cost 10 bucks to make. But it's impossible to tell from the cover or a description whether or not a movie was professionally made, and since it was Echo Bridge I assumed they were pickups not unlike the sub-professional (but above amateur) productions I used to see from Lionsgate.
Anyway, it's a touch better than the average Decrepit Crypt flick, in that it's fairly well made considering the limitations. The audio is clear, the shots/blocking aren't too awkward, etc. The acting is all over the place, of course, but I've long since given up hope that the folks that make these movies will make use of their local high school/community theater departments.
And that's never been more obvious than in Disturbed, because director Randy Aldridge didn't even bother to go outside to find many of his actors. He plays the killer himself, his own children play two of the three main characters that the killer is sort of stalking, and his wife plays the killer's mom in flashbacks, scenes that take a cue from Black Xmas by having the mom rape her adolescent son. Not sure I'd want to be at the family dinner when Mr. Aldridge told his wife that she'd be perfect for the role of a woman who rapes her son, but whatever. Disturbed, indeed.
But the main character is seemingly not part of the Aldridge clan, so there's something. Her name is Melissa Deverian, and she was also the casting director and co-writer (there are three!), so it's an amazing coincidence that she got the part. She's not the worst actress, but she seems a bit young for the part, as she is supposedly a successful real estate agent and left in charge of the other two kids, but seems just as old as them. Seems like they should have had an older actress in the role (unless Deverian just looks younger than she is). Also, she still lives at home. Why can't a real estate agent find her own place? You'd think she'd know a guy that could get her a good deal.
The story is slightly more complicated than the usual slasher; our Michael Myers wannabe breaks out and sets out to kill the family of the guy who put him away, only to get to the house and find a new family living there. So he kills them and then finds out where his targets live now, and then tries to kill them as well. Pretty pro-active dude, but in typical movie fashion, everyone he kills falls outside of his intended revenge, as (spoiler!) the three siblings are still alive at the end (and their lawyer father - the one he actually had the beef with - wasn't even in town). Hell, he even kills the boyfriend of the daughter of the family that was living in the house. Whoops. That'd be like if you wanted to kill Kevin Bacon but you only managed to kill Jason Biggs*.
But what really kills the movie is the inconsistent tone, as it whiplashes from Lifetime drama to goofy comedy (what's up with the weird jogging dude?) to typical slasher stuff in its first hour or so, and then gives us an unpleasant (surprisingly graphic for this sort of thing) rape scene out of nowhere in the middle of the third act. Not to spark the ire of Roger Ebert again, but I think a rape element should never be introduced this late into a movie, especially one that up until that point had been more or less typical slasher flick (read: "fun" in that weird horror way). If it's Irreversible and you're using a flashback structure to explain why our main character had been so out of his mind angry, then it's one thing, but at this point we should be seeing our heroine trying to get her car started or finding one of her dead pals propped up in a closet, not seeing her in the shower crying (with the killer still in the house). I can assume that the intent was to lull us into thinking this thing would be a traditional flick in order to shock us and/or make us really want to see this guy dead now in the final 20 minutes, but it doesn't work. All it did was turn me off from the movie (which wasn't that great anyway).
And it just gets worse from there, as we are treated to the most overlong "aftermath" scene in film history, like ten straight minutes of the cops arriving on the scene, everyone hysterically trying to explain what happened (aided by a lot of what seems like improvised dialogue), bodies being wheeled out in body bags, etc. Plus, of course, a final shot of the killer coming back to life, which just further makes the rape element wholly unnecessary, as Aldridge and co. are now returning to typical slasher fare. Why does he want the audience to hate him/his movie?
What makes this stuff a shame is that I almost wanted to recommend the movie as a Disconnected/My Soul To Take level entry in the "WTF" genre, where people converse as if they had never spoken to other human beings before, plot elements come and go out of nowhere and make no sense, etc. There's an extended "subplot" about the younger sister (who seems to be somewhat mentally challenged) accidentally spilling a drink on a bitchy girl at school, who gets revenge on her by pouring a drink on HER later on (but doesn't tip the cup very well and ends up spilling most of it on the floor - it's the janitor who really loses in this movie), which breaks the cardinal sin of movie revenge by not having the bitchy girl do something meaner in retaliation. I mean, if this was Carrie, Chris Hargensen wouldn't just toss another drink at Carrie, she'd replace her shampoo with Nair or something. Anyway, the sister is so distraught by this that she just stands in the same spot for at least a half hour crying, while someone apparently calls the older sister and has her come to the school to pick her up (another hilarious bit occurs here, the sister runs into the school and says "where is she?" and a guy points vaguely down a hall, but it's the entrance so there's only one direction she possibly COULD have been).
And it goes on! It gets to the point where even her own boyfriend is like "Calm down, it was an accident" (she thinks a dimwitted girl purposely spilled a drink on her), and she refuses to believe that is possible. Then later she's on the phone with a friend and says "Hey Jen, want to go shopping later? That Fontaine girl spilled a drink all over my shirt, so I need a new one." So she only has one shirt? Why is she still hung up on this? There's also a wonderfully awkward bit where they cut back and forth between the murdered family (the ones living in the protagonists' old house) and a party scene with the Fontaines, so we see like, a kid drinking or nailing a trick shot at pool, then a slam cut to a cop telling another that "they both had body parts missing" (previous shots of their corpses reveal that this is not true). The bad acting in both sides of the sequence and hilariously vague dialogue at the crime scene (plus the abundance of overacting extras chattering in the background) just render the entire sequence a laugh riot, and since all of the kids disappear, the whole party scene is useless anyway.
But, you know, they finished the movie. Nice thing about casting your kids, they can't move away halfway through production and screw you over, or just flat out quit. Almost no one involved has a single other credit to their name before this (looks like a lot of the cast/crew have reteamed on The Devil Within), and that they ended up with something relatively competent when stacked up against things like Vampire Hunter or Before I Die is to be commended. Hopefully they have learned from their mistakes and improved with Devil Within. Especially since I'll probably end up buying that one in the frozen foods aisle of my grocery store someday.
What say you?
*Biggs was in American Wedding with January Jones, who was in X-Men: First Class with Kevin Bacon.