If the last two entries of this column were the Good and the Bad, I now bring you the most reviled, yet oddly intriguing of the trinity, the Ugly. The first film is an appalling recent entry in the oeuvre of the clown prince of B-grade pictures, David DeCoteau, which fails to live up to his past gaudy greatness. The second is a terrifyingly tripped-out retch-fest that seems to be lost somewhere in ’90s-style nihilistic animation and brutality.
And now, on with the dry heaves.
BLOOD: Save for a bit of a splatter, there’s very little to speak of. This is a PG-13 venture.
BUDGET: Estimated at $1 million, but it had to have been pulled off for a lot less.
No doubt riding the popularity of the recent fairy tale craze brought about by prime-time TV hits Once Upon a Time and Grimm, as well as the summer’s blockbusting bombs Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman, former B-movie baron David DeCoteau proves you don’t need a big budget to make a big bore.
Delving into subject matter normally covered by The Maury Povich Show, juvenile delinquent Snow (Shanley Caswell, Detention) is sent to a boot camp for troubled teens by her evil Stepmother (Maureen McCormick, TV’s Marcia Brady, Return to Horror High), much to the passive chagrin of her spineless father (Eric Roberts). Punished by easy yard work and uniforms made up of black T-shirts and skinny jeans, these youthful ne’er-do-wells are delightfully picked off one by one by some hooded slasher.
Those looking for a movie along the lines of DeCoteau classics such as Dreamaniac and Lady Avenger will be severely disappointed with this teen fantasy made for people who believed Twilight was too mature. Rife with obvious day-for-night shooting; office and hospital locations clearly shot in someone’s house; and an unnatural lack of blood, gore and violence for the amount of death that occurs, this pubescent potboiler feels like a slog even at 83 minutes.
Let’s not mince words: A Deadly Summer makes high school filmmakers look like clever producers and Lifetime dramas seem like gripping thrillers. Come on, David, you made Creepozoids for Christ’s sake. Find the next Kim McKamy, give her a brutal melee weapon and make the camp counselors turn into crappy monsters. Then you’ve got a real Deadly Summer.
BLOOD: It’s all CG but there’s still plenty of red pixels.
BUDGET: You can scoop up some solid 3-D animation software for about $100 and then there’s the actor fees. I would gauge it in the low thousands.
If you were to take the urchin comedy of MTV’s Wonder Showzen, bring it further into the dark recesses of the human mind and strip it of all its humour, you’d probably come up with something similar to Jimmy ScreamerClauz’s third directorial feature, Where the Dead Go to Die.
Taking place in a sort of dream world that houses every severe social sickness of humanity, this putrid picture journeys through a tripped-out anthology in crude computer animation reminiscent of TV’s Reboot. Three sick tales are spun throughout the film’s festering 90 minutes: Chapter 1, in which Tommy, thinking his mom is pregnant with the Antichrist, decides to murder her and the fetus she carries; Chapter 2 features Johnny, a junkie who’s addicted to the liquid produced in the back of the brain that holds people’s memories; and finally Chapter 3, about young Ralph, his conjoined head twin and his neighbour Sophia, whom Ralph tries to save from a life of kiddie porn, instigated by her sadistic father.
All stories are told in a sort of psychedelic stream of consciousness with tons of surreal eyeball-centric imagery. (Imagine a TOOL music video directed by David Lynch.) Each chapter features a red-eyed, demonic, black Labrador retriever named “Labby,” who guides the characters through their story like a demented Admiral Al Calavicci from TV’s Quantum Leap. In his annoying, ghostly voice (provided by ScreamerClauz) Labby goads each protagonist to perform acts of sex and violence, and even gets buggered himself by one of the child characters at his own request.
On paper, the film seems very imaginative, original and arty, but in practice comes off as derivative, disturbing and senselessly shocking. It no doubt finds a place among the many recent horrible horror films such as The Human Centipede and A Serbian Film, but lacks their technical prowess. In the end, this hour-plus Sega Saturn cinematic is just out-and-out unpleasant, extremely hard to sit through and probably a day-ruiner for any poor soul who watches it.
I like a little levity with my depravity, and not just disgusting degeneracy, which is why I’ll stick to Adult Swim cartoons and consider sending my copy of Where the Dead Go to Die to the police. But first, I think I’ll take a shower.
Both films are available on DVD and Blu-ray through many major and minor retailers, with Snow White only available on Blu-ray outside the US and Canada.