FEBRUARY 3, 2013
SOURCE: CABLE (SYFY)
This will be a short review, because do you really need me to tell you whether or not you should watch Rock Monster? The title alone should scare just about everyone off who hadn't already seen it in the five years that have passed since its original airing on Syfy (back when it was still Sci-Fi!), but if that doesn't do the trick, surely the writing/directing credit for uber hack Declan O'Brien should more than suffice. I don't know what happened on Wrong Turn 4 for it to turn out pretty decent, because everything else he's made is terrible at best.
Indeed, this is probably his best movie besides WT4, but since it was also his first that's not surprising. A good filmmaker can improve as he goes, but a hack like O'Brien (and make no mistake - he IS a hack; he was heckling his own movie when it premiered at Screamfest - guys that give a shit don't do that sort of thing) is likely to at least put SOME effort into the proceedings his first time out, before he realizes that it's all for naught when your movie is just filling up a timeslot on the Syfy channel. So there's a bit of spark to the action scenes (once you get past their cheapness), and a decent performance or two in there, and hell even the visual FX are better than his other stuff - it looks bad at first, but when Rock Monster is "killed" halfway through and comes back in a new form, he actually looks pretty good and blends well with the scenery, as if someone went to the FX guys and said "This looks like shit, can it be improved?"
But, you know, it still sucks. For starters it's noticeably cheap and fake; check out the performances after they kill Rock Monster for the first time, all the extras just half-heartedly throwing their hands up and going "Yayyyyy...", as if every single one of them was someone's aunt or uncle that got dragged into a student film on a Sunday. The town is seemingly populated exclusively with drunks, too - you pretty much only see the bar and the area outside of the bar, plus the usual bland Bulgarian woods. And the pacing is awful; I don't know how well this did in the ratings but I can't imagine too many folks managed to make it all the way to the end (read: saw all of the commercials), as Rock Monster doesn't rack up much of a body count, and disappears for big chunks of the movie to boot. See, Rock Monster has been summoned "accidentally on purpose" as part of some evil wizard's plan, so he's the real villain and takes over for most of the 2nd half, with Rock Monster just sort of chilling in the background of a couple scenes and not really doing much else until the climax. Because of this, the movie feels more like a (bad) fantasy/adventure film than a horror, but at least when he DOES kill some folks - like the dumb bastard who leans against him while taking a break - it's sufficiently gory.
And that's reflective of O'Brien's other films - he simply doesn't understand tone at all. One moment the movie is a cheesy teen fantasy (our heroes are young college kids on a Euro-trip), the next a guy's head is being eaten in gory fashion (you can see someone's home movie recording of the scene below - I couldn't find the trailer, and since it's the best part of the movie by far I'm doing public service). It's not as bad as Wrong Turn 5's "fun" ending that involved the promise of a wounded girl being gang-raped by a family of mutants, but it still left me with whiplash. Those bits of gore were the only thing keeping me from telling my 9 year old niece to watch it the next time it was on, since she'd probably like the silly parts and half-baked romance just fine, same as she does the Star Wars prequels. Plus, it's about a goddamn rock monster; no one's being clever with the title, it looks and acts exactly like the one in Galaxy Quest. The only difference is it doesn't look good, it's not the only visually appealing thing about the movie, and under no circumstances should you be watching this, whereas Galaxy Quest is one of the most under-appreciated movies of the past 20 years and thus you should be watching it right now.
You can also watch Jaws for the 100th time, something that will probably cross your mind when Jon Polito does a scene that's a takeoff on Quint's famous introduction. But they can't bother to follow through with it; not only does he never really do anything Quint-like again, he also doesn't even die. The mayor does though, so it's like someone's wish fulfillment of how they wanted Jaws to end but wrapped in a movie that makes even Jaws 3 look good.
Of course, if you missed it and still want to see it, you'll have to wait until it airs again, as I guess it's never been released on DVD. Jesus, Rock Monster, can't you do anything right?
What say you?