MAY 18, 2012
Had I started The Familiar 20 minutes later, there would be no way in hell that I'd be able to give it a fair chance. But I was already annoyed with the movie's bad acting, cheesy score, and clueless preachiness BEFORE I looked at Twitter (because I needed a "breather" from the movie, in fact!) and saw that Dan Harmon had been unceremoniously fired from Community, which he created and wrote and also happens to be my favorite show on the air. But while I was understandably a bit peeved throughout the rest of the movie, I am pretty confident that my opinion of it wouldn't change much if I had just learned that the show was renewed for 50 more episodes and that they would be shooting the movie next summer.
Once again, I find myself puzzled as to who these Christian horror movies are supposed to be aimed at. While not as thematically confused as Camp Hell, I fail to see how anyone could walk away from this thing changed for the better. The plot concerns a pair of kids who "sin" by looking through some porno mags, which unleashes a demon, apparently. 25 years later, one of them is a grieving widower (he takes the form of a reckless drunk) and his life is turned upside down by the arrival of Laura, his dead wife's sister, who cleans the house and throws herself at him. Later we learn that the demon has taken control of her (well, at times he does) and wishes to finish what it started when Sam was a kid. Not even the worst plot ever (close though), but it's how they go about it that makes it such a baffling exercise.
For starters, it's boring as all hell. Nothing happens in the movie, the body count is 0, and even when Laura is in "full" demon mode there's no real makeup or FX to enjoy - her voice is distorted and that's about it. There are more scenes of Sam watching country music videos than there are of Laura snarling and making empty threats, which is a bit of a problem for a 100 minute movie that only has five characters.
Worse, the message is clear pretty much right from the start: DON'T SIN, EVER. This movie operates under the impression that God is a hateful asshole who will send demons after a kid for being curious as to what breasts look like, which I don't think is the best way to convert someone to a life of faith. It would make a lot more sense to depict the evil as something that is raised for reasons unknown, with God/faith protecting our heroes from the evils of the world that they cannot control. But by putting the blame squarely on them, what good does it do? If a parent is showing their kid this movie as a lesson, he's going to realize that it's all bullshit, because more than likely, whatever he did wrong to be punished did not result in being attacked by demons from hell.
And again, why scare potential converts off? Follow God's orders or you'll die? What the hell kind of approach is that? Any Catholic school a kid attends is bound to scare them plenty thanks to the nuns and horrible attire, so it's just overkill to do it from the start. And if you're already a practicing/good Catholic, nothing the movie tells you is going to be news to your ears, so why should they watch this either? You can get a far more enriching experience by just going to mass on Sunday, and be done in half the time to boot.
It's also just a lousy movie on a technical level. It looks cheap, the music is atrocious, and the actors are all awkward and stiff. Laura Spencer (as Laura) is an engaging enough presence, but there's only so much she can do with such a laughable script, and she has no real chemistry with the guy playing Sam. The script also tries for humor on occasion, with one particularly awful bit having Sam's friend the sheriff arrest him for drunken driving despite passing the "walk the line/touch your nose" tests easily, ending with Sam threatening to "tell his mom about this". The only thing worse than unfunny writing is unfunny writing delivered by amateur actors, and I'm not exactly what this "comedy" is supposed to be "relieving", since nothing ever happens in this goddamn movie (oh shit, I just raised a demon!).
The disc has three extras: a teaser trailer that can't even manage to make the movie look interesting just with alleged highlights, a music video for some alt-rock, 3 Doors Down-ish tune that is honestly the best thing on the disc, and a look at the ADR session. You know you're in for a roller-coaster time when the disc's only real supplemental material involves a guy standing in a booth saying his lines again, and this also serves as the final insult about this thing - they clearly had the means to replace this movie's boneheaded dialogue with something interesting, and yet didn't take it! It would have been better to not have this "bonus" at all so I could go on just assuming they didn't know any better.
But the movie is still better than what Community will be without Dan Harmon.
What say you?