Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #3- "THE EVIL BENEATH LOCH NESS."









PRICE: £1.00

It is often said that the best laid plans of mice and men can still go wrong. And since I'm not a mouse, and, depending on who you ask, barely a man, the things I plan have a habit of going totally tit's up. Like my plans for posting this review.

The short version is this: I went on vacation to Scotland for five days this week, and during my trip, I intended to write and post a review on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, as is my plan for all of these. As you can see, I even had a topical, Scotland-based movie in place to cover. This plan went totally out the window the very second I got to the holiday camp in Ayr to discover that, not only did it not have Wi-Fi, but it didn't have any kind of internet access on-site. Seriously, it's TWO-THOUSAND-AND-FUCKING-EIGHT, very nearly TWO-THOUSAND-AND-FUCKING-NINE, and some places still think this is acceptable. I suppose I could have found an Internet Cafe or
somewhere in town that had Wi-Fi, but that would have meant altering the plans of our trip, and that wasn't happening, especially since this problem was at least partially my fault for just assuming something. So I just resigned myself to the fact that this review was going to be late. Yes, three weeks into this project, and I've already missed a deadline, a self-imposed deadline that I'd designed to be a lenient as possible so that it would be almost impossible for me to miss one. Oh well. By the end of the holiday, I had many more things to be enraged with anyway, not least the fact that the room we were given looked like a prison sell, we had nothing to cook with, no hot water until we asked nicely for it, paper-thin walls, which is great when you have neighbors who've decided that their idea of a fun trip away consists of bringing the entire clan out to the shared hallway and screaming at the top of their lungs, and most alarmingly, the fact that I seemed to be genuinely allergic to Scotland in general, spending every night there curled up in the fetal position with crippling stomach pains, that miraculously went away the second I touched foot back on British soil.

On the plus side, I got to eat Haggis. Very nice it was, too.

In order to make up for cocking up so badly, this is the plan- I'll finish and post this review, which will (WILL!) go up Monday night at the absolute latest, to be followed by a second review that will
(WILL!) go up on Wednesday. That way I will be caught up and we can pretend this didn't happen.

With all that said, onto the film. It had me onside with the title, really. Of all the mythological creatures, Nessie really has been dragged through the mud. The only other creature I can think of that's kind of on her level at this point is Bigfoot, whose reputation has a massive "Harry & The Hendersons" shaped dent in it, but even he's somehow managed to maintain his aura, his mystique. Nessie at this point is just kiddie fodder, after too many cartoons, too many stuffed toys, too many children's books and too many heartwarming family films starring Ted Danson. So just calling your movie "The EVIL Beneath Loch Ness" gets a thumbs up from me straight away. And my
spirits remained high when, after a couple of brief credits, the greatest thing you can ever put at the beginning of your schlocky B-Monster flick appears... a Bible quote.


-Job 41:31

Awesome. Sadly, this is almost where the movie peaks. And when you've made a creature feature where the second best thing in it is white text on a black background quoting from a book written
over 2000 years ago, before the opening credits have even really finished, something's gone horribly wrong.

We open with an intrepid team of divers, mostly American (of course), who are exploring Loch Ness, in order to prove that it was at one time a prehistoric breeding ground. Whilst down there, a massive underwater earthquake occurs, killing Gus, the team's leader and the only non-American, seemingly Scottish member of the crew. And there's my first complaint- the first kill of this movie isn't even caused by the monster, it's caused by Mother Nature. Since when has it been okay for these kinds of movies to have people die by way of tragic accidents? I mean, we get a brief shot of the creature, but it's in no way implicated that he had anything to do with Gus'
death. It's just... there.

Following this, we meet Case, who we discover was once a member of Gus' team but decided to jump ship because he was "chasing myths," who's called in from some dig thing in Afganistan (oooh, topical!), to finish the job by Elizabeth, a bitchy and annoying British woman who's helping fund the project so she can turn the findings into a TV show, who incidently looks exactly like Brigette Nielsen would if you left her in the dryer too long. Right away we're not-so-subtly alerted to the fact that there's some sort of tension between these two, and we later discover that they were (GASP!) married. The scene in which that's revealed is hilarious, by the way. They actually do the, "She slaps him, he kisses her" thing that's been parodied so much I
didn't think it was possible to do anymore with a stright face. I know I couldn't watch it with one.

When Case arrives, there's some fighting between he and the rest of the team, with him asking what they were doing letting a 58-year-old man perform such a dangerous dive in the first place, which is actually a fucking good question, and them blaming him for not being there, because you know, how dare this guy not want to risk his reputation hunting monsters.

It's at this point I was starting to wonder where Patrick Bergin was. You're probably asking, who's Patrick Bergin, and why would I wonder where he is? Well, he's an actor, obviously, probably the
biggest star in this thing (Christ, there's a dubious compliment) and the movie you probably have the best chance of remembering him from is "Sleeping With The Enemy," where he played Domestic Violence Terminator. And apart from just asking myself where he is casually in everyday life, he actually recieves top billing on the box, along with Lysette Anthony, who plays Elizabeth, which lead me to believe he was playing one of the main characters. I actually had him down as playing Case in an earlier draft of this review just because I wasn't paying attention. He doesn't play Case, that honour goes to Brian Wimmer, the only other actor here I sort of recognise but couldn't tell you what else I've seen him in. Eventually he does appear, playing Blay, a crazy local whose son was apparently killed by the creature, and provides the movie with it's greatest moment, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here...

The team eventually goes back to the Loch to perform another dive to find Gus' body, and have a brief near-miss encounter with the monster.
At the same time they're doing this, another bunch of Americans (and seriously, how many Americans need to be in this? This film may as well be taking place in Iowa for all the scottish accents I hear..) who run a Nessie fan site rig up a fake moster in order to scare a bunch of tourists so the can film it and put it up on their website, end up getting attacked when the real thing shows up. I feel the need here to comment on just how shitty the special effects are. Absolutely everything looks fake, and I don't just mean the creatures, I mean everything- the rocks, the cage they dive in, everything. It all has that plasticy, overly-polished look that all bad CGI has. It's hard to explain, but if you've sat through at least one Sci-Fi Channel original movie, you know what I'm talking about. Like my other reviews, I feel a little bad pointing this out, because this clearly didn't have the budget of your average blockbuster, but also like before, there were ways of doing this stuff, practical, probably less expensive ways that would have looked better, at least in some cases, so I feel pointing this out is justified. Putting CGI in a movie just because you feel you should is just stupid.

After the attack, and seeing a blurry video of the creature taken by the fakers, Case and his team decide to contact the local authorities in order to try and get the Loch closed. This of course does not sit well with the condesending, sarcastic local police Constable, who doesn't want to see all that tourist money just go away. Whilst it's nice to finally see a Scottish character on-screen, I can't say we really hear a Scottish voice- the cheif's accent is laughably bad, to the point where it sounds more Liverpudlian than anything else. I half expected him to burst into a rousing, acapella rendition of "She Loves You," at any second. It's during these scenes that Mr. Bergin finally graces us with his
presence, almost exactly halfway through the movie, vaguely telling Case that he can help him, only to get blown off by Elizabeth with the words, "We really don't need any help from anybody around here." Of course you don't, why would you possibly want the help of somebody who's presumably lived in this area their entire life? What could they possibly know that you don't? In any event, that whole bit is really pointless, because the very next scene is Case recruiting Blay to be part of his team. It's also worth mentioning that Bergin at least has a good go at doing a Scottish accent, it's not the greatest in the world, but his effort is appreciated.

Things take an unexpected twist when it would appear that Nessie is discovered dead washed up on the shore of the Loch. The Constable of course shows off the body in an attempt to convince people the problem has been dealt with, which causes Blay to have a fucking conniption and continually scream, "THAT'S NOT THE MONSTER! THAT'S NOT NESSIE!" Which moments later is revealed to be a totally untrue, because after illegally examining the body, Case and his team decide that this creature probably was Nessie, and the thing they've been following was something totally different. Infact, it's Blay himself that leads them to believe that the thing they're actually hunting is the Leviathan when he makes reference to the Bible quote from the beginnng of the movie. So, wait, just moments ago, he was convnced they were looking for Nessie, to the point that he's basically pointing at Nessie's carcass and saying, "Thas no real," but then without any real prompting he then decides it is, and then hints that he knew all along that they were looking for another creature? WAT?

But I can forgive this lapse in logic after what comes next. I was going to make mention of the fact that there were no overly offensive Scottish stereotypes in this movie, partly because there are so few Scottish characters in it, and partly because all the characters are so stock and bland. But then Blay appears dressed up like Mel Gibson in "Braveheart," brandishing a harpoon. He then
dives into the Loch wearing one of the protective suits, still wearing the facepaint and holding his weapon. It's like "Braveheart," meets "Moby Dick," meets "The Abyss," and it's so ludicrous, if you don't crack a smile when you see it, you've no soul.

Case goes down to attempt to bring him back up, and it now becomes a race against time, as the local authorities have agreed to start using heavy duty explosives to try and kill the creature, so they have to get out of there before they get eaten, or blown up, or both. This is the first time I noticed how badly done the under-water scenes are. Nobody's moving like they're in any water. Their movements are all too fast and precise.
Wimmer's the worst offender, he's just moving around during these scenes like he's lighter than air. I also noticed that, every time the Leviathan appears, they use the same piece of CGI, like an episode of "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers."

Case and Blay trap themselves in the newly closed-off tunnel the creature was using to get into the Loch, only to discover that it's an active nest for the Leviathan, causing Blay to have another seizure and start killing the unborn creatures whist screaming, "YOU KILLED MINE, I'LL KILL YOURS!" which of course angers Mummy, who promply attacks Blay, before he uses his last moment alive to blow the fuck out of everything with a depth charge. Case of course miraculously survives when he's found washed up on the beach by a
ginger biker, and surprises the rest on his team, sneaking up on them when they're mourning him by seemingly skipping stones. Elizabeth hits him, kisses him, and that's that.

I'll be honest, this was a really difficult film to review. If you haven't noticed by now, my review style is this- I'll watch the film through once, take a few notes, then watch it again whilst I'm writing the review, so I'm essentially commenting on things as they're happenng in front of me. With the first two movies, this technique worked well, because with "Toaster," there was stuff I liked amongst the stuff I didn't, so I had a reason to keep
watching. With "Camp Blood," that was a horrendous piece of shit (I've recently decided it's either the second or third worst film I've ever seen), so watching it again and commenting on it was fun. This, I mean, it's a bad film, if you haven't realised that by now, you've not been paying attention, but it wasn't bad enough to get the juices flowing. It's just your average direct-to-video movie, nothing more, nothing less. I struggled to get through it the first time, and watching it again just now was just a chore. Above everything else, it's boring, and it's hard to be entertaining about something that bores you.



This picture is in many the perfect metaphore for the last week of my life, because I wish I could just throw it in a bin and forget about it.

Anyway, until Wednesday, I'm The Cheap Arse Flim Critic, and I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick arse... and I'm all out of bubblegum.

(PS- You're not going mad, I changed my account name to say "Critic" instead of "Reviewer," because it was annoying me.)

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #2- "CAMP BLOOD"








PRICE: £1.00 (DUH)

It was not good sign when the main menu of this disc managed to piss me off. I put the film in my player, sat through the opening title
cards, and up it came. A half-way decent looking menu, too. So, I didn't see any of the four onscreen options highlighted, so I started pressing the up and down buttons on my remote so that I could see where it was.

I didn't see anything.

Okay, no problem, my player was obviously having a brain-fart and not showing the cursor, I thought. It's done this before, and it's a problem that's easily fixed, usually just by turning it off and on. So I did this, waited until the menu came back...

... and still nothing.

At this point I was starting to get a bit annoyed, thinking that maybe the disc was defective and I'd end up having to bin a movie without even reviewing it, but I decided to persevere. There had to be something I was missing. So, I moved so that my face was right up close to my TV, as close as you'd put it as a kid when your Mum would tell you to move back otherwise you'd get square eyes, and again started pressing the up and down buttons.

That's when I saw it.

The cursor was on screen. The words did become highlighted. They just became highlighted in the palest hint of yellow I had ever seen. It was almost imperceptible to the naked eye. Then I clicked to start the movie, and found that it then turns to an equally-slight shade of baby blue.

How can you do that? How can you screw up the main menu for your DVD so badly? Here's a hint to anybody looking to put out independent
DVDs- MAKE YOUR MENUS EASY TO NAVIGATE. I mean, yellow? Blue? This is a horror movie. What's wrong with, say... BRIGHT RED? And when you actually select something, what's wrong with having it turn, I don't know... A DARKER SHADE OF RED? And I know there are people out there reading this who are saying, "Well, maybe you've got the colour and/or brightness settings on your TV too low. Maybe if you turn them up, you'll be able to see it better." And maybe I do. But that's not the point, the point is, I don't have to alter the way I have my TV set up in order to know what I'm doing on the menus of any of my other DVDs. So why should I have to make a special case for this one? The answer is, I shouldn't.

I can't believe I've written this much and not even got onto the actual movie yet. This is going to be the longest review ever.

The film opens with two bird watchers walking through a forest, one of whom is played by easily one of the sleeziest-looking men I have ever laid eyes on. The woman babbles about birds for a little bit, notices the guy staring at her arse, they exchange cringeworthy
flirty dialogue ("You're supposed to be looking at birds, not me." "Can't I do both?"), before they launch into...

... actually, I don't know what to call it. I'm loathed to call it a sex scene, because at no point do either of them make any attempt to remove the bottom half of their clothing. I don't even want to call it a dry humping scene, because neither of them really move around that much. We do, however, see boobies. Well, one pair anyway, but
it's a good pair, which is the only thing this scene (and in many ways, this movie) has going for it. This goes on forever. At one point she is literally straddling the cameraman, rubbing her chest and reaching down as if to stroke his cheek. In many ways it took me back to when Channel 5 launched and this sort of thing was the height of erotica. Needless to say, shortly after this, both are dispatched with by The Clown from Slipknot. I'm not joking, that's exactly what he is, just in a gark gray jumpsuit as opposed to an orange one. And that's another thing...

... can we possibly have break from horror movies that have some
form of a clown as it's main Big Bad? At this point it's like, okay, we get it, clowns are fucking creepy. Can we move on now, please? We don't have to go too far, we can stay within the circus if you'd like. How about a seris of films about a killer lion tamer? Just imagine it- young busty girl, home alone, scared, she hears a noise, looks around the house, finds nothing, creepy music swells, she turns around, and BOOM! LION IN THE FUCKING FACE! Money, I tell you.

So, after this, we're finally introduced to the main characters/sacrificial lambs of this piece. You've met them before- there's the timid woman who doesn't think this is a good idea (we know this because she reads about the missing girl in the paper and I think straight up says, "I don't think this is a good idea"), her bland boyfriend who does because he thinks it'll be good for their strained relationship (which didn't seem so strained five minutes ago when they started fucking in the shower, in a scene where we don't see the woman's breasts, which leads me to believe she's
related to the director in some way), his arsehole of a friend (who we are shown is an arsehole when he bitches out another driver and then proceeds to go through the entire movie barely uttering a line that isn't in some way hostile to someone), and his spoilt, bratty girlfriend (who we know is spoilt and bratty because she takes a huge case she can barely carry camping, and also dares to take pride in her appearence). Note how I'm not mentioning any names here. I'm doing that for two reasons- 1) it really doesn't matter what these people are called, they're drawn with such broad brushstrokes that their names may as well be Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy, and 2) and this quite a serious issue...

... I barely know who these characters are. And I'm not talking about the film not showing me their hopes and dreams and what they aspire to be before The Reaper comes for them, I mean I barely know
their names. I'm an aspiring screenwriter ("aspiring" meaning mostly that I talk alot about it at parties so people will find me interesting). I've never had a film made, I may never have a film made, but even I know that one of the first things you should do is get the names of your characters into the heads of the audience as soon as humanly possible. This starts off alright. We're not given the names of the two birdwatchers until the very end, but even by slasher standards they're just meat, so that doesn't matter. We also find out that the name of the main male lead's character really quickly, as his name's actually the first line of dialoge spoken by the the main female lead's character. She literally shouts the name "STEVE!" into his face as he pulls back the shower curtain before stepping in. After that, though, is where it starts to get noticable. The next scene has two people in it, and is intercut with a scene with another person in it by way of a phone call. When the scene starts, I can only name one of the people on my television. When it ends, I can still only name on of the people on my television. Sykes doesn't think to have any of the characters here refer to each other by name, not one single time. He does, however, have the Arsehole Friend drop the name of his girlfriend, "Nicole." So, you're seeing fit to name characters that aren't even in this scene, but I have no idea what the name is of that character that's currently talking? That boys and girls is a perfect example of bad writing. Infact, it get worse; we don't actually get the name of the main female lead's character ("Tricia") until we're over 15 minutes into the movie and she's been in 4 scenes, 3 of them dialogue heavy, and, I'm not making this up, we don't get a clearly audible mention of the secondary male lead's character's name ("Jay") until we are over 31 minutes into this movie, this 72 minute movie. Including credits. I know what probably happened, the guy's writing the script and, because he's writing character's names down every time they say a line of dialogue, he's forgot to actually put those names into people's mouths. I've made the same mistake a few times with my writing, but the difference here is, I've never filmed anything. At some point, somebody should have realised that a mistake had been made and fixed it on the fly. How hard would it have been to have had somebody just say someone's name in an early scene? It's even more unforgivable when you take into account the fact that they did do this with a few characters, including the crazy old man who tells them to stay away from Camp Blood, who says his own name within thirty seconds of being on screen ("Thatcher"). All this tells me is that people weren't paying attention, or were and just didn't care enough.

So anyway, they meet up with their guide, get to the camp, there's some making out, some horseplay on a swing and some shots of The Clown From Slipknot seemingly riding a bicycle. It's all basically just killing time until Killing Time, which starts the second they step out their tents on the second day to find their guide has
been supposedly barbequed. Cue lots of screaming, infighting, some vomiting and some truly ludicrous assumption ("IT WAS THE CLOWN!" "THIS IS A GAME TO HIM!"). If you're thinking this will build to The Clown From Slipknot toying with them in an evil, cerebral manner, separating them and then killing them all one-by-one, well, you'd be wrong. Here's what he actually does- HE COMES RUNNING AT THEM FROM OUT OF THE UNDERGROWTH. And then gets PUNCHED IN THE FUCKING FACE, BEFORE LEGGING IT. I laughed so fucking hard. It was at this point that I looked at the timer on my player to see that this movie only had around 20 minutes left. 20 minutes to kill at least three people? This is going to rule.

So things go at a breakneck pace from here... Steve heads off in hot pursuit of The Clown From Slipknot... there's an awesomely bad knife-fight that words can't do justice to, with sound effects for the knife swings and punches straight out of the 50's, and at one
point a slow-motion effect that's just that thing you can do with your camcorder that makes it skip every other frame... Steve bites the big one, and it's difficult to feel for a guy who decided to chase after the known killer with the really big knife rather than take this opportunity to flee for his life... Nicole is kidnapped when The Clown From Slipknot just casually walks up to the group from behind when they're fighting... we get this movie's loan fairly creative kill, when Jay accidently stabs Nicole himself when she sneaks up behind him having somehow escaped. In a better movie, this would actually have been a great moment. As it is, it's just alright.... Jay gets a good, old-fashioned neck-snapping... Thatcher from right at the beginning is shown to be in league with The Clown From Slipknot... Tricia manages to save herself by GRABBING THE BLADE OF THE KNIFE WITH HER BARE HAND (and hardly making out like it hurt, either), and then the film becomes the most obvious rip-off of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" you've ever seen. She's literally running down the street covered in blood, screaming, with the killer making chase and swinging his weapon. All that's missing is the "BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ" sound-effect. It all comes to to a glorious climax though, as Thatcher runs over The Most Obvious Dummy You've Ever Seen Dressed Like The Clown From Slipknot, before getting hacked to death. It's then revealed that the killer was the guide all along.

OR WAS IT? Well... I dunno. The ending really doesn't make any sense, and makes less sense due to the fact that all three of
the other main cast members return to play THREE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CHARACTERS. I really don't feel like going into it, I think I've written far too much about this film already, and I'm not even done yet.

From a technical standpoint, this film is bad, although I'm not sure I'd say it looks or sounds as bad as "We've Got The Toaster" did. That's gifting it with faint praise, as the best way you could describe the production value here is cheap and nasty. There's one scene set around a camp fire where the story of The Clown From Slipknot it told (girlfriend fucks around on him, he goes insane, he kills them both, starts wearing a clown mask for some absurd reason), where the sounds of the crickets and general forest wild
life go up and down depending on who's talking. The effects aren't good, but I will actually say they were trying, and the first killing of the movie, where the guy gets stabbed through the chest and the blade comes out through his back, is not too bad. It's hard to pass comment on the acting too, as nobody is given anything to really sink their teeth into beyond their expected cliches. I suppose the best I can say is I was never embarrassed by anyone, even though I was occasionally embarrassed for them.

There are also some really major logic and continuity errors that should be mentioned. In the scene where the group meet up with their guide and discover it's a woman named Harris (yeah, the killer ends up being a woman, despite looking like a heavy-set man and having
the strength to snap people's necks with a flick of the wrist), Jay is all, "You're Harris?" and even says that he wouldn't have hired her if he knew she was a woman, but then he also says during the exchange that he spoke to her on the phone. So, he spoke to her on the phone, but couldn't tell she was a woman? That must have been a terrible connection. There's some really massive, noticable and confusing things that come out of the two birdwatchers being killed at the beginning. For a start, the newspaper mentions that the woman is missing, but makes no mention of the man. Was he just so smarmy people didn't care what happened to him? Also, and this is the big one, less than ten minutes into the film, the woman's carved-up, barely alive body is discovered by two hunters. Let me get this straight, she was missing long enough for it to make the papers just in time to scare Tricia before she and her friends make the trip to Camp Blood themselves, but not long enough for her to, y'know, BLEED TO DEATH? It's also mentioned that her car was found near the forest, so the area was presumably searched, but they didn't find this poor woman crying and bleeding out in the middle of a fucking stream? WAT?

But in the end, none of this matters. I could have saved myself the effort of writing all that. Because in the end, this film could have looked great, had award-worthy performances and been written by The Bard himself, and it still would have failed, for one simple

... it's not scary. Not for a second. There's no suspense, there's not a moment when you want to cover your eyes, there's not even a moment when you jump a bit. Part of this is becase it's mostly
filmed outside during the day, probably to save money on lighting, but I think it's mostly because it was written and directed by a man who doesn't understand what scary is. He seems to think it's blood and screaming. I bet he's a ball at parties.

The only real extra on offer here is a trailer. I usually think the trailer is the most useless extra on the entire disc, but this one, believe it or not, if fabulous- it's the entire film condensed down into just over a minute. Every kill (including an absolutely hilarious decapitation), every lame line of dialogue, every scream, all capped off by an incredibly disinterested narrator intoning towards the end, "Due to the graphic nature of this film, no persons under the age of 17 will be permitted to wear 3D glasses." How fantastic is that? This was so good, it was almost enough to save this disc...


... Almost. The nicest thing I can say about this movie is that it's not the worst I've ever seen. But it's high up in the top 5, that's for fucking sure.

Before I go, I want to share with you the only other amusing thing that came out of purchasing this shitty, shitty movie. I was at the counter at Poundland, when the nice, elderly lady who was working the till saw the movie I was buying and jokingly asked, "And how old are you, young man?"

Suddenly, I found myself mentally transported back to the days when I would go down to my local video shop and try it on with the owners, even though they had my age on their computers and I knew for a fact I wasn't getting anywhere with it. So, do you know what I answered?

"Ay... eighteen."

She looked at me very strange.

I'm 25.

Until next time, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Reviewer, and I am a Golden God.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

The Cheap-Arse DEBUT Review - "WE'VE GOT THE TOASTER"









Believe it or not, it was spotting this film on the DVD racks at Poundland that inspired me to do this. It's not so much that it looked better than the films around it, it just looked a bit... different. When you're surrounded by movies with titles like "Screw Killer," "Cheerleader Murder Squad" and "Death Camp" (more on that later...), just having a title like "We've Got The Toaster" was enough to make me look twice. The cover art, of a seemingly terrified young man in a Zippy T-Shirt set to a red background, also caught my eye. It just looked like something I would have been interested in if I hadn't seen it in Poundland. And that made me think that maybe I was being a bit sniffy. And so, here we are. Thank you, "We've Got The Toaster."

I suppose I should detail the plot, but I really don't think I need to bother, because it's so identa-kit to most other movies of it's type that you could probably do it yourself after reading about five
words. But nevertheless, I shall be a professional- Lance (Jamie Mander) is a nice, not particularly popular 16-year-old, who conspires with his porn-obsessed friend Henry (Rob Smith) to throw a party when his parents go away, mostly in order for him to impress Steph (Emma Blake), a girl we start the movie seeing him pretty much stalking. The party of course gets out of hand when more people show up then expected, the police end up being called, seemingly everyone gets laid except poor Lance... you get the idea. It's every teen comedy ever made since "Animal House." There are however two things that set it apart from most of those other movies and make it a little bit more original- 1) almost the entire cast actually is made up of teenagers playing their actual ages, as oppsed to men and women in the twenties trying to remember what it felt like, and 2) instead of being set in some pretty, leafy American suburb, the action here takes place in Royal Tumbridge Wells, and looks like it could be happening down the road from you.

There are some problems with this movie, I'm not going to pretend there's not, the biggest problem of all being the overall production value. Basically, there is none. Now, I can't stress enough how little a budget this movie seems to have been working with. I mean, the back
of the box even says it was at least partially funded by The National Lottery UK Film Council, so in a way pointing out that it looks cheap is a bit like laughing at the drummer of Def Leppard for only having one arm- it's not his fault, and he's still doing a damn sight better job than you could in his position. But even with that said, I've seen movies made on aggressively tight budgets that look and sound better than this one does. It looks, no lie, like a student film, like somebody just asked nicely if they could borrow their mate's Dad's camcorder and shot it in their spare time. Which is what I originally thought it more-or-less was, and I was willing to be a bit more forgiving about it. Of course it looks like a film made by children, it is a film made by children! Imagine my surprise when I found out the entire thing was written, directed and shot by adults, chief amongst them writer/director Mike Laloe, who admits my theory pretty much within the first thirty seconds of the "Production Notes" documentary on the disc when he says that his expectations of the project were, "zero," that, "we didn't know what we were doing," and his idea was, "let's just get a camcorder, get a bunch of kids and make a film," which is just a Gary Glitter joke waiting to be made. The camera work is pretty shocking, quite often shaky to the point that it's distracting. That's not the biggest problem, though. That accolade belongs to the sound. Now, I used to be one of those people who had a bit of a chuckle whenever the Oscar for "Best Sound Editing" was announced. I know I wasn't alone in doing that. But after watching this movie, I get it. It's easy to laugh at the thought of somebody winning an award for sound editing, because when it's good, you don't notice it. Here, it's bad, and dear God, do you notice it. It's very obvious that they they went through almost the entire movie working with sound recorded live, and there are points where this made certain scenes almost unwatchable. There were two scenes in particular, one with a bunch of girls walking town a school corridor, one with the two male leads talking and smoking near a road, where I could barely make out a line of dialogue, because of the echo and the sound of cars roaring past respectively. I had to turn the sound right up and sit really close to my TV to have any idea what was going on. Again, I'm aware they weren't working with alot of money, and these problems couldn't have been easily fixed, but at some point it's not unthinkable that somebody could have said, "Y'know what, these locations aren't working, let's move the scene somewhere else, somewhere a little more practical." There are always ways around these things.

Which is not to say this movie is a disaster, because it isn't. The writing was occasionally a little bit uneven and sounded too much like an adult trying to remember what kids used to talk like, the most obvious example of that being Lance describing Steph as "the
fittest thing since sliced fit," at the beginning of the film, a line they for some reason liked enough to have on the back of the box. But for the most part, it's a perfectly decent screenplay, with some good lines ("That wasn't a party, it was half the year ten football team playing Soggy Biscuit"), and characters that, if not quite three dimensional, are at least distinguishable from each other. And when the party abruptly comes to an end and the four remaining characters find themselves trapped in the house with each other, it actually turns into something a little bit unexpected and special, as they discuss their lives and their dreams (literally).

Most of the acting is fairly rough and unpolished, to be kind, with the two bullies and two indie kids at the party moaning about the the music and uttering lines like, "it's like Kurt Cobain died for nothing," giving the worst of the bunch. The three leads however give a good showing for themselves, even though Emma Blake doesn't have much to do most of the time except be chased after. The two
best performances here, though, go to two minor players, that being the duo of Will Bayley and James Green as Ralph and Ian. During the course of the film, they get thrown in a bin, decide to gate-crash the party, steal some non-alcoholic beer, drink mouthwash, show up at the party after it's finshed, and decide to end the night by hyperventilating, which they do until one of them passes out. They're obviously the clowns of the piece, but they're having so much fun, and seem to be enjoying working with each other so much, that you just go with it. Bayley also gives the film it's funniest image, as we see his chubby little face adorned with a drawn on Hitler mustache looking directly into camera as he tries to convince an off licence clerk he's old enough to buy beer. I don't care that he's not the main character, that should have been the picture on the front of the box. I probably would have bought it sooner if it had.

So what we have here is a film that is, from a technical standpoint, utterly flawed. However, if you can get past the awful camera work, the shitty sound, some bad performances and a couple of lines of dialogue that make you groan, you'll find a movie that's just
totally likeable. It's like a puppy that's missing an eye and a leg- it's got things wrong with it, but you love it in spite of that, or maybe even a little bit because of that. And so, with that admittedly slightly disturbing image in mind...



Like Laloe himself says in the "Production Notes..." doc on this disc (which, it's also worth pointing out, has a surprising amount of extras on it, that being two documentaries and some outtakes), "what this movie lacks in production value, it makes up for in heart." I could agree with you more, sir. You movie has earned the right to lean against Marv.

And so, we're off to a good start. Maybe this was a good idea after all. Anyway, until next time, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Reviewer, and greed is good.