Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Worst Film of 2009: Rob Zombie's Halloween II

I hate Rob Zombie. Hate him, hate him, hate him, hate him, hate him. I don't hate him because his movies suck. I hate him because he doesn't even mean well when he's making them. Ed Wood just wanted to entertain people and express himself. Uwe Boll thinks he's carrying the spirit of independent cinema. John Derek just wanted to make his wife feel pretty. You see what I'm getting at. But Rob Zombie? He wants to make movies that are repulsive. When asked why he chooses to work in the horror genre by a fan at a convention, his response was because "it's dark and fucked up". When I think of the great horror films, those words don't necessarily come to mind. "Spooky and fun", sure. "Frightening and hard to forget", absolutely. "Dark and fucked up" sounds like a nickname for Mike Tyson. But that's how Zombie defines horror and that sentiment permeates every one of his miserable movies.

Rob Zombie's Halloween was easily the worst movie of 2007 and I rank it as one of the worst of the decade. Less a remake than a poorly written fanfic, it transformed John Carpenter's elegantly simple story of "monster chases girl, monster kills girl" into an orgy of white trash, seventies love ballads, crude language, pointlessly hateable characters, psychoanalysis, and gratuitous violence. It was repugnant for the sake of being repugnant, which I guess Mr. Zombie considers his idea of "art". I hated that film immensely and it lowered my expectations greatly for the sequel. Those low expectations were not met. When I hear people defend Rob Zombie's Halloween II, I'm baffled. Not just the people who say it was actually good, but even the people who say it stank but "at least it wasn't as bad as the first one". I question whether these people have any taste at all. Not only is this movie not good, it's not even as bad as the first one. It's significantly worse. For all it's faults, at least Halloween had a plot you could follow. Halloween II is designed to be as confusing and nonsensical as it can. As such, you'll have to forgive me if this review isn't very well organized. I was going to watch the whole damn movie over again and break it down scene by scene, but I hit my danger level of anger about three minutes in and had to shut it off.

Appropriately, the movie opens with text defining visions of white horses as a symbol of great anger.

Right there, you've pissed me off. A) that's pretentious. B) as if it wasn't bad enough watching Dr. Loomis analyze Michael for forty minutes in the last movie, you're telling me the entire two-hour movie is going to analyze him in the sequel?

And it's not even like it's going to analyze him by actual psychotherapy standards. This white horse crap is just something Rob Zombie pulled out of his ass. Like the entire movie. The film picks up at the end of the previous one, with Laurie Strode putting a bullet in Michael's head and EMT's taking his body away. I find it odd that they left the mask on him (how'd they check his pulse through that rubber?). As they drive off to the morgue, which apparently is somewhere in Sisterfucker, Kentucky judging from all the farm country they're passing through to get there, the EMTs discuss such lovely topics as raping the corpse of one of Michael's victims because she was so goshdurn purty. So distracted are they by this conversation that they fail to see the cow in the road ahead of them until it's too late. And since this cow is seemingly made out of solid lead, the ambulance is utterly decimated in the collision, leaving the sole surviving EMT to sit there in the wreckage and growl "FUCK" over and over for three minutes straight.


If you think that's annoying to read, imagine how bad it is to watch. So annoying it is that Michael rises from the dead just to cut the guy's head off to shut him up. Michael then sees a vision of his dead mother walking alongside that damned white horse, and stomps off into the greater wilderness of Illinois, apparently now conveniently located in Middle Earth judging by all the vast expanses of open space and green fields. Momma Myers will continue to make these appearances throughout the film, acting like some sort of bizarre pagan advent calendar reminding Michael that it's almost Halloween again, and that means it's time to go get Laurie and "bring her home" to complete the family. Yes, it is total nonsensical bullshit.

Elsewhere, Laurie is being patched up at the hospital and, in an homage to the original Halloween II, Michael shows up to chase her all over the place. This being a Rob Zombie movie, this sequence lasts all of ten minutes and ends up being a dream sequence because, ya know, we can't admit that Carpenter actually had a good idea for a movie there. Flash forward one year and Laurie is now living with Sheriff Brackett and his daughter Annie. Judging from the surroundings, they live somewhere inside Oscar the Grouch's garbage can. Seriously, this house of theirs is absurd. It's filthy and disgusting and the walls are covered in graffiti, as if Laurie went on a tagging rampage to vent her anger or something. And just to make things even dumber, Laurie has posters of Charles Manson on her wall. Would the sole survivor of a brutal mass murderer really want to idolize a mass murderer? You'd think she'd find that traumatic. Speaking of disgusting, Laurie herself is just repulsive. She has Rob Zombie's hairdo and his sense of cleanliness, too. She seemingly hasn't showered in a year and her hair is a knotted mess of sloppy dreadlocks. It's like Zombie was living some transgender fantasy vicariously through Scout Taylor-Compton. It's creepy.

Laurie's story is that she's learning how to deal with the memory of Michael's rampage. She goes to therapy, she cries on her friends' shoulders, she inexplicably loves to party at costume balls (wouldn't those freak you out after you just barely escaped a killer in a Halloween costume?). In other words, she does nothing of consequence. The vast majority of Laurie's screentime is made up of MySpace role-playing games with her gal pals at the coffee shop or wherever the fuck they work (it's never made clear because Rob Zombie doesn't know how to establish locations at all).

Finally, there's Dr. Loomis, or as I like to call him "The Human Plot Hole". Dr. Loomis died in the previous film when Michael crushed his skull and gouged his eyes out. So you, like myself, may be mystified to find out that Loomis returns in Halloween II with nary a scratch on him and his eyesight perfectly intact. That's just insulting to the intelligence of the audience. What's more insulting is how Loomis is reduced to a walking joke. No longer a good-hearted doctor at all, Loomis has instead become a money-grubbing media whore. He's published a book based on Michael's killing spree and become fabulously wealthy, to the point that he can reach into the future and buy a Blackberry phone even though this movie takes place around 1982. He's also become a total asshat, a callous and mean spirited prick who even goes so far as to insist on holding TV interviews in front of the Myers house. To put the cherry on top of the shit sundae, Loomis' book includes the revelation that Laurie is Michael's sister, something he didn't bother to tell the poor girl in person.

This movie is so God damn stupid just from a plot perspective that I could probably end there and have made my point as to why Rob Zombie's Halloween II is so awful. But the fucker just had to go and screw everything else up, too. For one thing: Rob Zombie has a shitty grasp of geography. Where in the hell is Haddonfield supposed to be located? Michael's scenes take place in vast wilderness seemingly miles from civilization. Laurie and the Bracketts live and work in suburbia, and Loomis is always show in some big city. Furthermore, it takes Michael several days to trudge into town and find Laurie, yet once he does find her it only takes him ten minutes to get back to his shack out in the middle of nowhere. Did he stop for frequent naps on the trip into town? Did he get lost? Does Rob Zombie just suck? Another issue: when does this movie take place? The previous film was set sometime in the late seventies, so one would expect this to take place in the early eighties. And yet there are cellphones aplenty, suggesting a later time, while televisions are constantly looping The Moody Blues performing "Nights in White Satin" on the Ed Sullivan Show, suggesting an earlier time than the first movie!

You want to know something even more annoying? The dream sequences. Oh the dream sequences. Laurie (or maybe it's Michael, who knows) has nightmares about...well...the great pumpkin I guess. There's some bizarre banquet being hosted by a guy with a pumpkin for a head (the credits identify him as "The Earl of Pumpkins") and Momma Myers is there with her horse...and it makes no sense. These dreams serve no purpose other than to confirm that Rob Zombie actually thought he was making an art film. Let us shame him with mockery and laughter.

Plot holes and setting confusion aside, I also must make mention of the technical issues. Namely: Rob Zombie can't direct or photograph to save his life. Halloween II is a cinematographic and editing disaster. Close ups are so close you can't tell what you're looking at, long shots are so hazy you can't tell what you're looking at, and conversations are so choppily edited and insanely close-up shot that you can't tell where people are in relation to one another. Plus, the whole movie was shot on Super 16mm film and then blown up to 35mm, which means it looks like shit. It's too grainy, the colors are faded and washed out and the picture is barely even there. Grindhouse movies produced by Roger Corman looked better than this. It hurts the eyes to behold Rob Zombie's Halloween II.

And there's one more thing I have to mention: Michael spends most of the movie with his mask off. Not only is that stupid because it goes against everything we know about the character, but it's stupid also because Michael Myers unmasked looks like Rob Zombie. Same beard, same hairdo, same exact facial expression as Zombie on the cover of the Hellbilly Deluxe album. It can't be a coincidence, folks. Rob Zombie purposefully created a jacked-up seven-foot clone of himself to play Michael Myers. So the climax of the movie is a giant man who looks like Rob Zombie trying to kill a small girl who looks like Rob Zombie. Maybe Rob Zombie has gender identity issues and he used Halloween II as a metaphor for his masculine side trying to destroy his feminine side in order to avoid having to go through with the sex change operation he secretly wants. Or maybe he's just a narcissist who likes to dress people up to look like himself and I'm just reading way too much into things. Movie still sucks either way.

The conclusion of the film is crap, but it's only fitting since the rest of the movie is crap too. After reading that she is Michael's sister, Laurie goes totally batshit crazy, to the point that when Michael is holding her hostage in his shack, she too begins seeing Momma as well as a younger Michael dressed up, pretentiously enough, as some sort of Fellini-esque clown. When Loomis, suddenly good-hearted again, shows up to save the day, he finds Laurie thrashing about as though the ghosts were assailing her, while Michael just stands there and watches, perplexed. And then Michael freaks out and kills Loomis - again - at which point Laurie turns it around and kills Michael - again - leading to an insanely stupid climax. Donning Michael's mask, Laurie stumbles outside and gets taken in by the police, who drop her off at the hospital. And then Laurie is shown locked up in a padded room, where Momma and the horse greet her (who knew lunatic asylums made rooms with bigass halls your delusions could walk down in slow motion?). So yeah, Laurie's insane and Michael probably never existed anyway.

Way to crap all over the audience, Rob.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Box

It was about an hour into The Box that a very powerful thought occurred to me.

This is stupid.

I think it was what they call a "Moment of Clarity" - a moment in your life when a single thought allows you to break through to another plane of existence and see things in a new way, a clearer way than the mind can normally achieve. It was like Col. Kurtz's "diamond bullet in the brain" from Apocalypse Now: I saw things I shouldn't have been able to. I saw the pure, raw, unfiltered essence of stupidity itself. I stared into the abyss and it stared back. Cross-eyed, buck-toothed, and with it's tongue wagging out as it guffawed like Goofy.

Yes, this movie is exceptionally stupid. To boil it down to it's very simplest terms...would require a doctoral thesis because this movie is so absurdly complicated and nonsensical that it's simplest terms are about four million words in length. The setup is that Frank Langella plays a freakishly deformed man named Arlington Steward, who gives random people an offer: push a button and receive a million bucks in exchange for someone they don't know dying when the button is depressed, or walk away from the money. His reasons for doing this are intricate, convoluted, and very, very stupid. Suffice to say it involves people who control lightning, aliens, portals to the afterlife, mind control, parallel dimensions and time travel.

Did I mention The Box was directed by Richard Kelly? Oh right, I didn't have to. Throw a bunny costume into the above equation and you have Donnie Darko all over again. But, oh, how much worse The Box is than even that.

Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play Norma and Arthur Lewis, the latest contestants on Frank Langella's bizarre little game show. Norma is a college professor who just lost her tenure and has a club foot she needs fixed, and Arthur is a NASA scientist who just got denied the right to be an astronaut (on a mars mission. In 1976. Richard Kelly is an idiot). Apparently these things sink them into financial ruin, although the fancy house, uppercrust neighborhood, and nice clothes would never belie this supposed fact. When Langella shows up and makes them the million dollar offer, it seems too good to be true. But, after a day of deliberation, Norma presses the button and much like Eve eating the fruit, she gets her family in some serious trouble with the big man. Only this time the big man is a seventy year old lightning strike victim with half a face.

Oh yes, of course there's a catch to the box. You don't just take the money and run. No, once you push the button you then have to put up with some bullshit undefined, impossibly huge and complicated and ultimately utterly pointless conspiracy that involves everyone on the face of the Earth being in on it except you. What "it" is is, well, nothing, except making you the victim of the next person to press the button. What a surprise. Yes, the whole point of you killing someone else with the box is to plunge you into a series of bizarre cirumstances that ultimately lead to you dying at the same time someone else is pushing the button. And really, the button has nothing to do with it except acting as a catalyst for your mental breakdown to start the ball rolling. Even if the next person chose not to push the button, you'd still find yourself in the same deadly circumstances. Really, the button and the death are just really well timed to happen in the same instant. And so I ask you


What does this guy achieve by having people push buttons and kill themselves a few days later? Oh sure, there's a scene where he vaguely hints at the idea that he's the driving force of human extinction but...wouldn't it be easier to just unleash a virus or something? Why give us the chance that someone will break the chain and end the violence by not pushing the button (and why agree to stop the whole thing if just one person says no?)? Did Frank Langella watch The Day the Earth Stood Still and think that was a nifty idea so why not do it? IS FRANK LANGELLA KLAATU?

Better question: Did Richard Kelly rip off The Day the Earth Stood Still and use a classic Richard Matheson short story as a cover? Yes, yes he did. Between this and the numerous failed attempts to adapt I am Legend, Matheson must be driven to hard drinking just to keep the pain away. Matheson's The Box is only six pages long. How do you pad that out to a two hour movie? You fill it up. With stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. It doesn't have to make sense, and no two scenes need to logically lead into or out of one another. You just need to do random stuff and have the same actors present during all that stuff, and you can call it a story. Ladies and gentlemen, the Richard Kelly school of screenwriting. This movie just keeps throwing random things at you and it never goes anywhere with any of them. Hey, here's a newsreel about Langella's accident. Hey, here's a bunch of people spying on you. Hey, here's a water slide to heaven. Hey, here's some malarky about Arthur C. Clarke's third law. What do they have to do with each other? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

The acting is acceptable all around, which is to say that these poor people had nothing to work with and just delivered their lines the best they could. It's not their fault that this sucks. The writing and directing are abominable. Richard Kelly couldn't direct his way out a wet paper bag. He lets Diaz stop limping every other scene (and ultimately tosses in some BS prosthesis as an afterthought to explain it away), he consistently fails to give us any idea of where things are happening in relation to one another, he falls back on his needless use of CGI (Langella can't just be burned, he needs half his fucking head missing via a very fake chroma key effect that is laughably cartoonish whenever you see him front-on), and he fails to connect any of the plot strands. This was mistaken for genius when Donnie Darko came along, but by now I think we can recognize it for what it really is: Richard Kelly is an amateur and he always will be.

Oh, and did I mention that Frank Langella is a zombie? Ugh.

Monday, September 14, 2009


So you're going to make a thriller about a serial killer, and you decide to hire a director who's worked in that area before. Good idea. You choose someone who hasn't actually made a movie in eight years, and his last film was Swordfish. Bad idea. Admittedly, Dominic Sena did make Kalifornia, one of the classics of serial killer films and arguably a flat-out classic of cinema itself, but anybody who takes nearly a decade off from work is going to be rusty, and anyone sixteen years removed from their last serial killer movie is going to have forgotten some of the steps in that all-too-easily screwed-up dance. Such is evident in Sena's return to filmmaking, the snowbound Antarctic thriller Whiteout.

I'd go so far as to argue that Sena has forgotten everything he ever knew about making a movie. I've heard of ring rust, but this is complete ring decay; the direction of Whiteout ranges from merely pedestrian to "Ed Wood would laugh that off a screen". Sometimes you feel like you're watching a really bad episode of CSI: New York with the generic "dramatic" camera pans and generally flat and lifeless photography, and other times you can't tell that you're actually watching any discernible "thing" at all. I can respect the fact that Sena had to incorporate the violent snowstorms typical of Antarctica into his exteriors, but come on dude, you don't have to crank the snow machine up so high that we can't see the actors! Even the film's climactic action scene where a main character dies is obscured by massive snowfall and excessive wind. You can just barely sketch out what happens, but you don't really see it so much as you imagine what it must have looked like in your head.

Luckily, you don't care all that much because the plot isn't the least bit compelling. Whiteout is an appropriate title for a film that feels as though lots and lots of that particular product has been applied to it's screenplay. After a merely boring first act, Whiteout plunges into befuddling second and third acts where the plot shifts to things that really don't matter because all the scenes establishing their importance are simply missing, if they ever existed at all. The film starts off with a decent enough premise: the US Marshall assigned to maintain law and order at a science station in Antarctica is preparing to retire (in two days, as cliche as it gets), when she finds her stay on the job indefinitely extended when an incoming plane spots a corpse impossibly lying out in the middle of nowhere, too far from any building for the person to have walked there without freezing to death far sooner. Soon thereafter, the Marshall receives a distress call from the dead person's home base begging her to come. When she arrives, the only person there is dead and a masked killer armed with a pick axe reveals himself and chases the Marshall out.

That's all fine. It's a perfectly good set-up for a whodunnit about the mystery corpse and how it got there, and who this masked madman is. Theoretically, this could be compelling stuff. And then you get to the second and third acts where the plot is suddenly all about a Soviet plane buried under the ice which seems to have recently been excavated and plundered. Sound confusing? Oh yeah, of course it does. I thought I was watching Smilla's Sense of Snow all over again, that awful movie where the plot changes from "how'd that little boy fall off the roof" to "how'd those alien worms get under the Greenland ice?" with no good explanation. It's a problem of two separate plot idea that were never fully fleshed out being smashed together to make one movie and save some time. Imagine Silence of the Lambs mashed up with X-Files: Fight the Future and you've come close to Whiteout, except for the fact that those two movies are far better in every regard.

Now, even the worst of plot can sometimes be saved by good performances. Even if the material is downright goofy, one or two solid, passionate performances from actors who feel it can make a movie better. Whiteout unfortunately finds itself saddled with Kate Beckinsale and Gabriel Macht. One of the first scenes in the movie finds the camera following behind our US Marshall (dressed like Margie from Fargo) as she walks into the science base. They keep teasing that she'll show her face and you start to wonder who it could be. Is it going to be Frances McDormand? Maybe It's Jodie Foster, she played one hell of a cop in Silence of the Lambs. And then she turns around and it's Kate Beckinsale and I find myself letting out a groan. Like oh, that's too bad. Being a director and finding out that your star is Kate Beckinsale must be like finding out your brain has an inoperable tumor: you're a goner. As promising as Ms. Beckinsale may have been in her early films like The Last Days of Disco, her work in the current decade has made her out as one of the lamest actresses out there. As fine as she may look in leather, the Underworld films have done zilch for convincing anyone that she knows what she's doing any more, and Whiteout is another step in the wrong direction. Carrie Stetko is supposed to be a hardened, bitter cop who's finally going to retire after two years in self-exile in Antarctica after she lost her shit when she had to kill her partner back home in Miami when he tried to free a criminal they were transporting in exchange for a bribe. Beckinsale fails to convince us that she is bitter, that she is hard, that she's at all messed up over her partner, that she is anywhere near old enough to consider retirement, or that she is in any way proud to be in this movie. She just walks around looking bored and embarrassed the whole time. How bad must your film be if Kate Beckinsale thinks she's above it?

As for Gabriel Macht, you'll remember him as the douhebaggiest superhero ever in last year's disastrous The Spirit. And just in case you were thinking his terrible performance in that film was the fault of Frank Miller's inept directing, Mr. Macht proves you wrong by utterly sucking in Whiteout, too. The guy's just boring, that's all there is to it. He's a lifeless non-personality with a monotone voice and dead eyes who thinks growing out a five o'clock shadow will make him seem gritty, intense, and world weary. It makes him look like a hobo. In the role of a UN officer sent to handle the case, Macht is simply unbelievable. Which is to say that you'll be thinking "I don't believe for one second that this guy would ever make it as a UN officer". The guy's a dolt who wanders into bad situations, can't think very hard, and is generally an idiot. Take for example a scene where he and Beckinsale are trapped inside the plane after an avalanche, and his solution is to just blow shit up to punch a hole in the roof and hope they'll blow all the snow off, too. Sure, it works in the end (otherwise the film would be over, and they aren't having that kind of mercy on us), but he had no reason to expect it would. The guy's just a dummy. Way to bounce back, Gabriel.

But when it comes to idiots in Whiteout, the grand prize goes to the killer. As if the guy didn't look goofy enough covered head to toe in ski gear and wearing an eyehole-less mask with ski goggles over top (how does he see?), the guy makes an even bigger buffoon of himself whenever he's called upon to move. I can't believe this guy ever successfully killed someone, his every blow telegraphed from a mile away by bringing his arm all the way back and then bringing it forward with a huge, wild swing. Whenever we actually see him attacking people, he always misses and his momentum carries him ass over head to land flat on his face. On top of that, he constantly trips over his own feet and in outdoor scenes he gets knocked over by the wind, while tiny Kate Beckinsale is able to move freely without so much as her hair getting blown about much of the time. They should have dubbed in a soundbite of Thelma from Scooby Doo saying "Oh, my glasses!" over every scene this guy is in because he is constantly on the ground fumbling for his lost axe. The movie expects us to take this guy seriously, but all I could do was laugh at him.

As Whiteout progressed through it's final act with the killer captured and the plane booty revealed and one final meaningless plot twist to make you care even less, I went from confused to perversely amused and back to confused before finally walking out just bored. The movie's bad, but not bad enough to consistently enrage or entertain me. The moments of "so bad it's good" and "so bad it's pissing me off" are few and far between and are overwhelmed by many, many moments of "meh". The director's off his game, the screenplay is an obvious studio rewrite by some hired hack and the actors don't give a fuck.

Wow, this really is CSI: New York. I suppose the obligatory The Who theme song would have to be "Tommy" because

That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure swings a mean pickaxe

Thursday, August 13, 2009

GI Joe:Rise of Cobra

As I watched GI Joe: Rise of Cobra, a certain thought kept popping into my head over and over: Hal Needham oughta sue. I was flabbergasted as I watched this movie and realized that it was an unabashed complete and utter clone of Needham's 1982 sci-fi/action flick MEGAFORCE. It sounds absurd to say that anyone would even be aware of MEGAFORCE, a film that hasn't even been released on DVD and is rarely, if ever, acknowledged by those who are aware of it since they're all embarrassed to have seen it; a film so cheap, so poorly made, so hopelessly inept that it has gone down as a little more than a punchline for bad movie geeks' jokes. But allow me to make my case:

MEGAFORCE involves a super-secret, hi-tech army of futuristic fighting men made up of elite soldiers from around the world, which officially does not exist.

GI Joe involves a super-secret, hi-tech army of futuristic fighting men made up of elite soldiers from around the world, which officially does not exist.

MEGAFORCE battles tyranny and evil in every corner of the globe

GI Joe battles tyranny and evil in every corner of the globe

MEGAFORCE makes it's HQ in a secret bunker hidden under the sands of a desert

GI Joe makes it's HQ in a secret bunker hidden under the sands of a desert

MEGAFORCE HQ is an obvious, poorly drawn matte painting

GI Joe is an obvious, poorly rendered CGI backdrop

MEGAFORCE has an invisible car

GI Joe has an invisible suit

MEGAFORCE have motorcycles and trucks mounted with machine guns and lazer cannons

GI Joe have motorcycles and trucks mounted with machine guns and lazer cannons

MEGAFORCE leader Ace Hunter is old friends with their enemy, Duke Guerrera

GI Joe leader Duke was once engaged to marry their enemy, Ana

MEGAFORCE uses holograms to fool their enemies about their whereabouts

GI Joe uses holograms to fool the audience about the characters' whereabouts

MEGAFORCE have access to weapons thought by the rest of the world to only be theoretical concepts

GI Joe have access to weapons thought by the rest of the world to only be theoretical concepts

MEGAFORCE has to save innocent, peace-loving people from an evil gay cowboy

GI Joe has to save innocent, peace-loving people from an evil gay Scotsman

MEGAFORCE's action scenes are filmed in such a way as to render them incomprehensible

GI Joe's action scenes are filmed in such a way as to render them incomprehensible

IT'S THE SAME MOVIE. Literally every scene of GI Joe contains elements of MEGAFORCE. Blatantly. Directly lifted, not the least bit altered. It's almost a direct remake. So fuck it, if you want a review of GI Joe, just go read my MEGAFORCE review and substitute the names. There's literally no difference. It's astounding to me that this could happen. At least when Trey Parker and Matt Stone remade MEGAFORCE (as Team America: World Police) they were honest about how goofy it was and made a spoof out of it. The idiots making GI Joe don't even admit that it's a remake and they expect us to take this material seriously. Yeah right! I was laughing my ass off the entire time I was in that theater watching GI Joe unspool, laughing at how bad it is and laughing at the sheer, unbelievable audacity of it all. Screw Obama's Audacity of Hope, Steven Somers has the Audacity of Crap!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Cave

Some bad movies age like wine, getting funnier and more lovable every time you see them. MEGAFORCE, for example, is a film that never ceases to reveal yet another nugget or two of awesome, hilarious badness I never caught before. As terrible as it is, it actually rewards additional viewings just to see what other wackiness Henry Silva's evil gay cowboy or Barry Bostwick's homoerotic BeeGee impersonator had been getting up to all along.

And then there are bad movies that age like milk. 2005's The Cave is a great example. I remember seeing The Cave in a theater on opening day and having a blast with it. It was cheesy and hokey and poorly made and even more poorly acted and I laughed myself silly. I rushed home to praise it's wonderful badness on another blog that I had back then. I believe I called it "akin to Sccoby Doo, only with an old chap in place of the dog" and celebrated how the film's monsters were so fake you could almost see the zippers on their backs. It was a hoot and half and I felt it my duty to encourage others to see it.

Flash forward to today, when I sat down to rewatch The Cave so I could write this review. Oh my God, it was so awful. And all the funny had been drained out of it. Oh, I was so sad. I remembered all the parts that had once made me laugh and now I sat there watching them and wondering why they were so funny in the first place. With four years to allow my tastes to mature and the initial rush of adoration wear off, I could finally see The Cave for what it really is: an extremely boring film.

The Cave begins thirty years in the past in "Cold War Romania", where the most intrepid and inefficient team of gold thieves in history trek all the way out to some remote, nearly impossible to reach location in the Carpathian mountains. I don't know if they had already gotten the bank and the jewelery store and were otherwise out of places to hit or if they're just morons. Nah, they're just morons. They come upon a church built precariously atop a cliff so high and steep it should be insurmountable to a bunch of average joes with no climbing gear like our friends here, but they reach it anyway. Apparently, according to local legend, this church is built over the mouth of a cave containing two things: some gold, and some big, winged demons. The church is supposed to channel the holy ghost to keep the demons back or something. The thieves blow their way through the floor into the cave, only to be sealed in when a sudden rock slide flattens the church above them.

Flash forward to today, when Dr. Nikolai, one of those great movie scientists who's never pinned down to a particular field of study (because the target audience wouldn't care anyway), leads an expedition down into the same cave. Shortly after entering, he finds that it drops way far down into a big underground river and decides to call in some friends who happen to be deep sea divers who specialize in mapping underwater caves. Ah, yes, the divers. A veritable Scooby gang to Nikolai's, well, Scooby, they are just generic and good looking enough to make the perfect cast for a movie where they'll never have any character development and they're all going to die anyway. No point in getting good actors, just get some handsome guys and a hot chick and that's all that matters. The only person here (and in the entire movie) I recognize is Piper "Cinematic Kiss of Death" Perabo, a true luminary having starred in such classics as Cheaper by the Dozen, Cheaper by the Dozen Two, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Whiteboyz and the delightful sounding Slap Her, She's French. This woman is an utterly horrible actress with the pedigree to prove it.

Anyway, the team shows up and together with Nikolai and his frigid cohort Katherine, they head down to explore the ninety-mile long cave. Those of you expecting a thoughtful National Geographic film on cave mapping will be saddened when things almost immediately go wrong, the winged beasts proving to be real and an explosion sealing the way back and forcing the team to slog all ninety miles while being picked off by the creatures. And that's where it gets boring. Well, it was already boring but now it gets really boring. They walk through the cave. They swim through the cave. They walk and they swim some more. Some of them die, another gets "infected" with monster DNA or some crap and starts becoming one...and there's all that walking and swimming in between. Seriously, this is an advertisement for spelunking more than anything else. The action sequences, such as they are, are few and far between because dammit we need more shots of people stumbling their way through an uncharted area like blind fools. This movie is only 97 minutes, but it feels like 97 years thanks to all this walking and swimming being so tedious.

And it's not even like the monsters are cool. They look stupid, like big flying skeletons with gargoyle wings, made out of papier mache and moving along fixed wires like something they'd employ as Halloween decor at Knots Berry Farms. They're not scary, they're just kinda goofy. Oh, and they had to knock something off, so the monsters totally have the head of the Alien from Ridley Scott's sci-fi opus. And while the monsters are usually CGI, there are shots where they're actually guys in suits and you can practically see the zippers on their backs. So, so hokey. And yet not in any amusing way anymore. This go-round I was just offended by how little care went into them. The sets at least look decent, but I do have to question one sequence in which they, erm, forgot to build the set I guess. The characters ride down a water slide and find themsleves in a giant room which is just a water tank on an empty, darkened soundstage. When they cast their flashlights about you can even see where the tank ends and the soundstage wall begins. It's like no one realized they could have glued some of those foam rubber rocks from the other sets up there. I was reminded of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, when Supes goes to the moon and you can see the folds in the black curtains that are supposed to represent "outer space" off in the distance.

The acting is abysmal, even if you ignore young miss Perabo. This cast is so wooden you'd think they were freshly carved by Gepetto. It's just an army of blank, expressionless, faces that aren't even trying. Just watch Cole Hauser reacting to someone's death and try not to be utterly amazed at how lifeless he is. "Ah, he's dead. It's over". Like he'd just squashed a bug and was trying to reassure his sissy girlfriend she could come down off the chair now.

God, I don't know what I ever saw in this garbage. To be honest, I fell asleep while rewatching it. Mind you I had gotten twelve hours of shut eye before hand. And still, I got groggy and fell into a coma and woke up to realize I'd miss the ending. I just ejected the DVD and moved on. It really doesn't matter, because nothing can redeem this tedious piece of trash. It's just a lame twist ending trying to set up a sequel anyway. Thank God they failed at that.