AUGUST 20, 2011
I just looked over my list of “Crap” films on HMAD (refresher – films without any redeeming value whatsoever; the worst of the worst in other words), and I am hard-pressed to find a movie of less value than Beneath The Mississippi, which fails on nearly every level a film can be measured by. In fact, some of these films I should probably “de-tag”, especially the earlier ones in HMAD history as I was naively thinking it couldn’t get worse than things like They or The Breed (let alone harmless, forgettable junk like Pulse or Prey), but believe me, if 3-4 years from now I am reviewing something and saying “you know, in retrospect, Beneath The Mississippi wasn’t THAT bad”, I will quit on the spot.
Honestly, apart from a fairly decent main theme, there wasn’t anything even remotely approaching a decent movie here, or even a watchable one. Hell even in Dead Calling or Drive Thru (frequent punching bags) my reviews point out that at least there was a cute girl to look at or something, but this can’t even offer that much. And it’s not a slam on the actresses, it’s the fact that I can’t SEE THEM CLEARLY enough to judge whether or not they’re attractive or not. Just take a look at these screenshots:
Now, I didn’t go out of my way to find the worst of the worst, I just took them from 30 minute intervals in the film. You’ll notice the last one’s not THAT bad (still underexposed and poorly digitized/compressed), but guess what – that’s actually as best as it gets in the film, I think. Most resemble the others, where it’s so murky that it’s hard to even separate the character from the background, let alone any actual features. And yes, this is from Echo Bridge so it’s possible that the transfer is partially to blame, but with everything else in the movie clearly NOT the Bridge’s fault, I will side with them on this one and chalk it up to the filmmaker’s obvious incompetence.
What other problems, you might ask? Well how about the fact that the movie can’t even stick with one aspect ratio throughout its bloated 112 minute runtime? You get 2.35:1, 1:78:1, and some sort of approximation of 2.35:1 where the top portion and bottom portion of “black bars” aren’t evenly distributed, as if they did a mask over their footage in Final Cut Pro and didn’t bother to check to make sure it was even. To be fair, it DOES seem like there’s some sort of attempt to make this a creative decision, as one shot actually changes from 2.35 to 1.78 as a character dies (I think?) so maybe there’s some sort of “in the real world it’s 1.78 but in the hallucination world it’s 2.35” motif going on, but if so it’s a remarkably failed attempt at one, and if I hated myself enough to watch any part of this movie again I could probably debunk that anyway (in fact I know I can since the issue begins in the first few minutes, before they even set off on their trip let alone start going crazy).
At least, I THINK they are going crazy. I am not a deaf person (in fact my hearing is about my only sense that functions at 100%, I can usually hear my cell phone buried in my pants in another room while I’m watching TV in my pajamas!), but I think I know now what the world “sounds” like to those who have at least partial hearing left – it sounds like Beneath The Mississippi. The dialogue in the film doesn’t seem to be spoken, only muttered – only about 10% of the lines are clearly spoken and recorded. After the opening scene’s narration, at least 10-15 minutes went by before I could pick out another wholly discernible line of dialogue; even catching the character’s names took some effort. And some lines are clearly dubbed, so the filmmakers know how that process works, so I am baffled why they didn’t just re-dub the entire movie once it became clear that their sound guy was clearly drunk or working with malfunctioning equipment. I can understand a radio through a wall easier than the average scene in this movie.
In fact the movie inspired what will be my next week’s article for Badass Digest (I’m writing about Fright Night this week): taking pride in your work. Having just witnessed some of the post production issues on Chillerama, I understand that sometimes you just have to let stuff go because the time just isn’t there to do it the way you want (even with pointless stuff like my own credits – I wanted to do more animation with the full-screen credits for the four directors and the producers, but just wasn’t given enough time). But here’s the thing: Chillerama is premiering in two days and was bought up prior to completion by a major distribution company, with a release date in mind, whereas Mississippi was an independent film shot in 2004 and the movie was first released in July of 2011 (with a few festival screenings in 2008, as best as I can tell – their official website is maddeningly vague). Needless to say, I think they had time to go back and fix the sound, edit it properly so that room tone stayed consistent as they cut back and forth during a conversation, sync up the dubbed shots a bit better, etc. Hell I myself could improve this movie just using the DVD and my own personal (non-professional) computer, so there’s plenty of ways to improve it when they have the actual elements at their disposal. I'm sure they didn't INTEND their audio to be this awful, but the point is there was time to improve it, if not fix it entirely. And besides, being a primarily exterior film, ANY production would have known that ADR would be necessary as source sound would often be marred by things beyond control - i.e. planes, other boats, birds, etc.
They also could have edited it down a bit (or a lot). 112 minutes for a movie that’s essentially Blair Witch but with 6 people is ridiculous; even YellowBrickRoad came in much shorter. The one benefit to never having anything approaching coherent dialogue in your movie or a complicated plot (basically they go down the river, one disappears, the rest start freaking out and yelling at each other, one by one they die/disappear) is that you can literally just remove entire chunks of it and it won’t matter, because no one in the audience can probably understand much of what is happening anyway, nor have we been given enough reason to care about any of the characters to be upset if a slice-happy editor inadvertently removed the scene where they disappeared.
But dammit, I stuck with it. I would not let the unintelligible dialogue, the image so ugly that I was worried my TV might commit suicide, the laughably bad production value (a newspaper headline about the “Soul Survivor” of some tragedy is a particular highlight), or the basic fact that I hated it beat me! Sure, I had plenty of Xbox games to play and other movies/shows to watch, and could have just said “Fuck you”, thrown the disc in the trash, and watched some random Maneater movie on Netflix, but I was hellbent on making it all the way through. And this is great, because I then looked up the movie on IMDb and found that I seem to be the first person to actually watch the goddamn thing. Not only did it not have any external or user reviews, but it didn’t even have 5 VOTES yet (mine seems to be the 5th, in fact), and the only posts on its messageboard are from the director. The DVD has been out for a month and yet not even the usual trolls have bothered to chime in with their “worst movie ever!” insight (for once I might not even counter that they haven’t seen enough movies – I sure as hell have and I am contemplating slotting this as indeed the worst movie I’ve ever seen). Not to mention, it apparently DID show at a festival in 2008 (and won two awards, for the love of Christ), but the internet yields absolutely no reactions of any kind on any site. Even some of those obscure (pre-internet) Hong Kong movies I’ve seen at the New Bev I can find SOMETHING on, but this, after about a half hour, the only evidence of it being watched I could find were my own tweets about how terrible it was.
Let’s keep it that way. The movie is not available on Netflix streaming or anything of that sort, best as I can tell, and even a movie this terrible doesn’t deserve to be downloaded, so the only way to see it would be to buy a copy, and I strongly urge that you do not do that (I’ll be keeping my copy as a reminder to keep from being too harsh on any other film in the future). And it’s too goddamn long to even merit a “hey let’s get drunk and watch this” type viewing. Not to mention, the film’s presentation will have you convinced that you’re already drunk out of your mind even if you hadn’t taken your first sip, so it’s potentially dangerous as well.
You may notice that I haven’t mentioned any names yet. There’s a reason: it’s possible that the filmmakers (or at least, whoever did their credits) knew how terrible the movie was and tried to obscure their involvement, because how else could you explain these illegible credits? Even the damn title is near impossible to make out:
So perhaps Joanic Dshayivr? doesn’t want to be associated with this thing, and thus I will respect his/her wishes. I do not wish them luck on their next project, however. If in 7 years this was the best they could do I can’t imagine how bad something that was “rushed” (like a normal movie) would turn out.
What say you? (Nothing, no one else has seen it.)