DECEMBER 6, 2012
I've pretty much retired the "Crap" tag here (only using it 3 times in the past year and a half!), but 6 Degrees Of Hell really had me tempted to take it out of virtual storage. The only reason I didn't is that there's actually a good idea in there, buried under the weight of a lot of lousy acting, poor production value, and a needless abundance of both characters and subplots that left me constantly wondering if the screenwriter had three different ideas but only had time to actually write one, and thus decided to combine his script notes at random and hope for the best.
The good concept is this: a guy who runs a Halloween-time haunted house attraction in Pennsylvania uses real haunted objects as set dressing, and one inadvertently possesses his staff so that they actually start killing the punters on Halloween night, with others just assuming it's part of the show. The movie sort of builds to that (and by "build" I mean "has a bunch of scenes that don't fit together very well and aren't very interesting"), however, to the extent that describing that in its synopsis would be akin to a spoiler. Personally, I think that concept deserves its own movie, but had everything before it worked it would have worked as a fine "main event" thing, like Jason finally getting to Manhattan for the 3rd act of that not-as-bad-as-people-say sequel.
But instead, it's just a complete chore, and a confusing one at that. For some reason, director Joe Raffa and writer Harrison Smith (who both produced) opted to bring Corey Feldman into the mix to make things worse, as a paranormal investigator who is being told the story of the movie. For all I know they made the thing without him, realized the movie was 10 minutes short, and called in a favor to get him for a few hours, because I honestly don't see what he adds to the proceedings. The character who is telling him what happened isn't a very prominent one in the story he is telling, so I was constantly wondering how HE knew about, say, private conversations between characters who presumably didn't feel the need to tell a random cop about their personal drama. Plus, news flash - Corey Feldman sucks. I know he's got nostalgia going for him, but he snorted away what acting talent he ever had, and is just laughable now, using his "gruff" voice at all times and trying to hide the fact that he's 40.
But he DOES fit the movie in one way - he's taking it way too seriously. Throughout the endless 90 minute runtime I kept getting the impression that Raffa and Smith were going for a more dramatic, "adult" horror film, and if not they certainly didn't inform the actors that they were playing it all wrong. The central concept is actually fun, but when you add in the abundance of subplots and side characters (Reality shows! Unsolved murders! A guy who hates his powerful stepfather! A psychic who had a vision of 9/11!), it just becomes too much work to keep track of who is who, let alone what they're doing. And until all hell breaks loose at the haunted house, it's too dour to be enjoyably confusing, like a good Italian horror flick or something. You can bore me or confuse me, but you can't do both!
I was also disappointed that Raffa didn't get enough use of his best location - the actual attraction in PA where the film was shot. Unless the thing is open 24 hours a day, he could have theoretically set the entire movie there, but after the opening scenes (which are confusing due to another factor - more on that soon), we spend the next hour mostly in bland houses, police stations, etc. At least Jason Takes Manhattan had the good sense to have Jason in a new environment (the boat) before he got to what we came for, you know? How much more would people hate that movie if he was just doing the same old shit in the woods for an hour before just jump-cutting his way to the Big Apple?
Not too surprisingly, F13 part 8 is NOT one of the movies that Smith (who also wrote/produced the superior, but similarly over-plotted/ underwhelming The Fields) name-checks in this blog post, where he explains the dozens of movie references he worked into the movie. I found the blog after I watched the movie (I was looking to see if my theory on Feldman's participation was correct; couldn't find any info one way or the other), and it confirmed my suspicion with the opening scene, which tried to pretend it was a teen slasher film before the reveal that they were just in a commercial haunted house (since they can't actually have much of a ruse, the movie seemingly starts in the middle of a scene). But it also highlights a new problem for the movie - they were so busy referencing other (superior) films, they didn't have time to give theirs its own identity. There's nothing wrong with loading up on references, but there has to be a sense of joy to it - see a Joe Dante film for what will almost assuredly be a good example. Just tossing them into a talky, "serious" horror film is counterproductive; even if we catch them (I have no idea what the Last Man On Earth reference may have been), it's just going to remind us of movies that are not only superior, but for the most part simply more fun to watch. What good does it do them to have us thinking about Fright Night or Beetlejuice?
So in short, it's a mess. Maybe a well-intentioned one, but a mess all the same, and that Stir Of Echoes ripoff cover art isn't going to help matters any. Plus, if there ARE people out there who will watch a movie just because Corey Feldman stars in it, they're already sad enough - why make things worse by tricking them for a movie where he barely appears and has no actual interaction with any of its main characters? It's just mean-spirited, really.
What say you?