MARCH 6, 2013
Back in the day, the Asylum used to distribute indie productions like The Legend Of Bloody Jack, but it seems they've given up on that sort of thing and focused on their own. And shockingly enough, that's probably for the best - not that any of their movies are particularly great, but few are as bad as this, which suggests they either lacked an eye for quality horror flicks, or couldn't afford anything but bottom of the barrel nonsense that made their mockbusters look like genre standouts in comparison.
I can say two nice things about the movie that could have saved it if not for all of the things I'll describe afterward. One - it's an indie horror film from the 2000s that was shot on film, which is wonderful - I had forgotten what real dirt and flecks look like (as opposed to the filtered ones that are tossed on every 4th horror movie post-Grindhouse). Second, even though they're pretty much terrible, at least they continued with the "old school" (also called the "right") approach and used practical FX for the kill scenes - cheapo fake guts and the like are still better than a bunch of poorly rendered After Effects tricks.
However, in a way that's also kind of representative of the movie's main fault - it's a guy who thinks he had the right tools to make a Friday the 13th style slasher but failed to use them properly. He's got the bland kids you won't mind seeing die, the isolated locale, the camera, the bucket of Karo syrup... but, judging from the script and abysmally flat direction, not an ounce of the skill needed to actually pull these elements together and make a decent movie. Believe it or not, these movies might not be Oscar contenders, but the ones people like tend to be made by folks who actually know what they're doing - it's not as easy as the cynically minded might think. Hell even I know I'm not talented enough to make anything even as good as one of the junkier Friday sequels (OK, MAYYYBE I can do better than Buechler), and I take these movies much more seriously than I should.
I did consider that this was supposed to be a spoof, especially when I stopped after about 20 minutes to see if this was a student film only to discover that the director is Todd Portugal, who is the guy behind those "Thumb" parodies (The Blair Thumb, The Godthumb, etc) and thus might be looking to try his brand of humor with full sized actors. But if so, it's a pretty tone deaf approach to such things, and would have to be considered a conceptual spoof where there's really only one joke and they're seeing how far they can stretch it. There are some laughs (like when a character says "Sometimes things happen" and the reply, in this very boring movie: "Not to us"), and it's not hard to imagine Portugal telling his producers "We're gonna make an intentionally dumb slasher movie, it'll be hilarious" and forgetting that making fun of them is just as difficult (possibly even more so) as doing one for real. The timing of jokes, the ability of an actor to play dumb material straight... all of these things require skill as well. At any rate, if your audience still isn't sure if a movie is supposed to be a joke or not by the time it's over, it's not a successful one either way.
You know what the saddest thing about this movie is? (Spoiler ahead!) It all turns out to be a goddamn dream, and I was actually relieved. Not only did it help explain the horrendous continuity (no closeup ever appears to have the same lighting of the wide shot, and the character's hand or whatever will always be at a different angle), but not all dreams are exciting, and this movie captures that perfectly. Sometimes you have a dream where you find yourself forced to talk to your pal's girlfriend who you have zero connection to, or endlessly walking around outside your house doing some menial task (gathering wood, here). And sometimes a character will show up, take over the dream for a while, and then exit just as randomly, as the obligatory cop (or ranger) does here. So Portugal really nailed that aspect of it, and the twist also involves the killer showing up and killing them all again (for real this time), doubling our value and allowing us one last chance to try to tell the two main male characters apart (I failed to do so).
The movie does have one interesting element to it, though it seems like just a half-assed way to justify shooting the whole thing during the day (film that you can use at night is way more expensive) - it takes place in that part of Alaska where the sun doesn't fully set for months, leaving the region in permanent daylight (the movie Insomnia also had this unusual backdrop). Since it was shot in California it's clearly just their way of avoiding night shoots, but I can't deny it might be an interesting idea for a movie funded and created by someone who knew what the hell they were doing.
What say you?
P.S. My main motivation for watching this was the realization that I'm only about 30 slashers shy of enough for a full book, "A Slasher A Day" or something. So I'm gonna bulk up and hopefully find enough unreviewed faves to do that.