JUNE 6, 2012
Sometimes I do those jigsaw puzzles where they don’t show you the actual picture on the box, and you just have to figure it out based on your awesome jigsaw puzzle skills. And every time I do, I reach a point where I’ve gotten the majority of it completed and know what the “answer” is, but there’s still like 100 pieces of filler to put in before it’s actually done, which is boring even by puzzle standards (I do them to relax, leave me alone). Anyway, I got that same feeling while watching Fear Island, an attempt at taking a Usual Suspects type approach to a generic teen slasher.
See, the whole movie is flashback, with survivor Haylie Duff telling the cops the story of how all of her friends ended up dead during their impossibly generic island vacation (“one last get together before we all went off”). There is no reason to do this unless it’s trying to keep us from figuring out a key twist too early, so right off the bat any sane viewer would be expecting Duff as the killer, just as the cop does. Side note, the cop is played by Martin Cummings, aka the nerdy Wayne from Jason Takes Manhattan! Great to see that dude.
But of course, that’d be too easy, so the movie is presented in a way in which it’s impossible for Duff to be the killer, because she’s elsewhere during a kill scene or two, which makes the other twist easy to figure out as well. Indeed, the movie even barely tries to hide who Duff claims the killer is (at the very end; she has “amnesia” so she can’t just come out and tell the cops who the killer is), with the person randomly pointing out an item she wouldn’t have actually noticed unless she put it there. It’s bad enough to figure out a twist, but to figure out that it’s a fake twist AND figure out the real one? Come on, I’m not THAT good at these things. You’re all just lousy writers, and now I have it all figured out with another 25 minutes or so to go, which is just torture.
Then again, the movie is clearly aimed at teens, most of whom are probably too dim or not paying enough attention to figure these things out (indeed, the IMDb board has several “I don’t get it!” posts from people who couldn’t follow it), so maybe they knew they couldn’t make it too hard to figure out or their target audience’s heads would explode. Likewise, they might have assumed no one would be putting too much thought into it and thus wouldn’t question that the real killer’s plan makes no sense at all and requires a “body double” to get away with it. The cops would also have to conveniently neglect to pull up the photo ID of someone they suspect of being a killer (there’s an assumed identity element), but this is Canada so maybe they do things differently.
And I could forgive all that if it was at least a decent slasher, but it fails there too. Nearly all of the kills are off-screen, and there’s no gore of note when the bodies are discovered (the movie was apparently produced for television, but it was released theatrically – you’re supposed to go back and make it worthy of its R rating when that happens! See: Mulholland Drive). The killer doesn’t have any sort of costume, and there aren’t even any real stalk scenes; they come out of nowhere (if they’re on-screen at all). No, most of the movie is simply the characters running around by themselves until they find one of the others, at which point they inquire as to where the still off-screen characters are. There’s a subplot about a stolen dog and the usual relationship drama, but otherwise the entire thing is an extended “____ is missing we have to find them!” “No we need to get the hell out of here!” type argument that never ends. Oh, and the back-story reveals that just about all of our characters are even bigger assholes than already expected, so there’s another red mark.
Oh, and it has cinema’s quickest solving of a riddle ever. The killer keeps leaving these words around, like "Innocent", "Evil", "Guilty", etc. Out of nowhere, one of them realizes that it’s a code and writes them all down, at which point they see that the first letter in each word spells out REGINA, the name of the girl who died in the obligatory tragic back-story. I was actually hoping it was referring to Regina, the Canadian town where they shot Grace and some other horror films, and the characters would have to go there to figure out more of the mystery, but alas. I also like that they guess words that don’t have six letters (“Angie?”) as if the killer was trying to throw them off of his weird puzzle by adding extra letters.
But that just strengthens my point: it’s such a stupid goddamn movie, and if you’re a smart teen you should be insulted by the fact that this is the stuff producers are trying to sell to you. Stick with the ones your older siblings (or even your parents, now) tell you about, you’ll be a better person.
What say you?