JULY 28, 2011
The near miracle of my Blockbuster actually stocking a new DTV horror movie was enough to make me interested in Goblin, as it is literally the first new release I’ve been able to use for a HMAD there since February (The Traveler). I know DTV horror movies continue to exist, but whether it be their financial troubles or the fact that I’m probably the only one who rents these things, they just don’t put them on the shelves anymore, which means that there are probably a bunch of minor gems like Goblin that are passing me by.
Now, I stress minor. The first half hour or so is pretty bad, literally racing from one cliché to the next (the lack of cell phone signal AND the electrical problems in the house are revealed in one sentence) and focusing on a very unlikable teenaged girl, who, like many sullen annoyances before her, is angry at her dad for remarrying, hates the stepmom, resents having to help take care of her new infant half-brother, etc. Again, just once, can a teenager get along with her (it’s always a girl, too) new stepmother? Granted, I never had to deal with that personally, but my dad remarried (to my mother, he was married before her) and his daughter from his first marriage gets along great with my mom and always has. Hell she even stays with my mom when she visits even though my dad has passed away. To be fair, yes, she’s a little old to be petty and surly like a horror movie girl, but again, they always got along – it IS possible!
But then, something magical happens around the halfway point: our titular goblin eviscerates the ever loving shit out of one of the obligatory “cute guys in town” that have come along, distracting our heroine and her best friend away from watching the baby. Not that I was surprised he got killed – his name might as well have been Fodder – but it was so delightfully violent. The goblin is a sort of Sleepy Hollow-esque local legend and appears largely as a specter, so I wasn’t expecting too much in the way of gore – it was a nice little surprise to see entrails and what not being thrown around.
And it just gets better (spoilers ahead)! The best friend is killed, which I was a bit surprised by, figuring the “safe” family unit would extend to the friend, leaving everyone else as fair game. So when she got torn apart, I figured “Oh, I guess then her new boyfriend will survive instead” – but I was wrong again! Dude gets his throat slashed in the climax. Bonus: stepmom bites it too! In fact, there’s still a ways to go when she dies (well, gets fatally wounded, she sticks around for a while gasping for breath and what not), which serves not only as a great shock moment, but also a great way to keep me focused on the film. With the stepmom (who is not an “evil” type, it should be noted – she actually dies trying to protect the bitch of a stepdaughter) dispatched, I was no longer convinced of ANYONE’s safety, something that is increasingly difficult to pull off with me as, as you may have noticed, I watch a horror movie a day. Anytime I can be surprised at even one death is laudable; if you can actually get me to believe that no one is safe, I’m full blown impressed.
It’s just a shame that the production value and other elements don’t measure up to the script’s willingness to think outside the box a bit (a baby gets tossed into a fire in the first scene, it should be noted – the goblin curse involves the death of all infants). For one thing, the goblin is atrocious looking. Luckily they stick to a sort of vague black robed figure for the most part, but when we do see the creature underneath, it’s sadly one of the lamest CGI creations I’ve seen in some time, and yes I’m including Sharktopus. I know “looks like a video game” is an easy criticism to throw around at bad CGI, but in this case it’s incredibly apt – when he is fully shown near the end before getting offed, I swore I was looking at a cut-scene from a Philips CD-i game (how’s THAT for an obscure gaming shout out?).
Another issue is that the movie takes place on Halloween (nice little shoutout to Halloween too, with the ominous date/title card over an otherwise pleasant daytime exterior), but you’d never be able to tell for the most part, as they let a few lines of dialogue (and said title card) to tell us that it’s Halloween instead of things like costumes, decorations, etc. Hell I can’t even recall seeing a damn pumpkin in the movie. Granted, the movie primarily takes place in a house that has been abandoned for a while, but even the few town scenes don’t look very festive, which makes me wonder why they’d go out of their way to say it takes place on Halloween, when all it does is raise expectations within the horror genre. No one expects greatness from a movie set on, I dunno, March 4th.
And what’s with Syfy hiring actors from Battlestar Galactica to be in their original movies, and then viciously killing them? Last month we were “treated” to Sol being murdered by the Ice Road Terror as his poor wife watched (and then got killed herself), even though his character was a pleasant, helpful heroic type that neither deserved or needed to die, and now Doc Cottle gets the same treatment. He plays the “crazy old man who’s actually right” type character, trying to warn our heroes early on and later giving all of the exposition, and even with so many good guys dying off I figured he might have a shot of making it out alive, but no. Goblin actually tears him apart even though a terrible human villain character is right there. She dies a few minutes later too, but the fact that Cottle gets it first (and so viciously) just makes it all the more mean-spirited. Hey, it’s not the actors’ fault that the show devolved a bunch of pseudo-religious horseshit! Stop passive-aggressively taking it out on them!
One odd thing about this release is that it’s from Lionsgate (which hid its Syfy roots from me for a while), as Syfy originals usually get released by Image or Anchor Bay. But that means that instead of trailers for Hatchet or whatever, we get a new Saw ad that highlights kills/events from the entire series, hawking the fact that you can now own the entire series on Blu-ray. Sure, but when the hell are you guys going to make a boxed set with all versions, all the bonus material, and new features? Until you do, no one is going to believe that the series is really over! Sadly that’s the closest thing to a bonus feature; I wouldn’t have minded a featurette or something, as the director is one Jeff Lando, who also made the “better than expected” Thirst (which also had a painful first act) and less successful but still watchable House of Bones. Let’s be honest – most of the names I see over and over in this area of the genre just inspire dread (Declan O’Brien, for example), so to see the same guy behind three movies that weren’t a total chore to sit through is sort of comforting. Also, awesome name.
What say you?