Friday, 28 November 2008

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #9- "HOME ALONE 4." (4 WEEKS OF CHRISTMAS: WEEK 1)









PRICE: £1.00

I make no apologise for having nothing but fondness for the first "Home Alone," movie. and not being able to resist the temptation to
watch at least a little bit of it if it's ever on. Yes it's formulaic and over-sentimental, it's moral is at best confused, and some people will never forgive it for bringing Macaulay Culkin to the world's attention (although he's had the last laugh over his detractors, because he's now regularly having sex with Mila Kunis and they're not). But I can forgive all that, because the scenes of him outsmarting Harry & Marv, torturing them with a variety or frankly genius homemade traps makes it all worth wild. Thoses scenes are the inside of a little boy's mind, and when I watch them I'm eight again, designing intricate death traps in the back of my Math's book when I should be learning my time's table. It's probably that movie's fault that to this day I'm convinced I'm numerically dyslexic. The second one I don't have the same affection for. It was alright, but even back then as I was watching it, I can vividly remember thinking, "This is the same movie as the last one." Plus he wasn't home, and since he was in a hotel he was never really alone either.

All of which makes it strange that I had no idea this movie existed. None whatsoever. I knew there'd been a third one, because it actually got a theatrical release, and I also remember one monthly movie magazine giving it three-out-of-five stars, at which point I decided never to buy another issue of that magazine again (I
was a pretentious little wanker during my teenage years, but I never regretted that decision for a second, and still don't). I also know the third one, like "Halloween 3," didn't follow the exploits of the original cast and characters, but instead introduced us to a new kid, played by a new actor, and four new bad guys attempting to find a lost microchip, and also like "Halloween 3," this apparently resulted in something of a backlash from people who were angry not to see the continued adventures of Kevin McCallister up on the big screen. The fact that anyone could care that much is both funny and infuriating to me, but amazingly the people resposible for this seem to have listened, because Kev's back (although they'll have to make do with the small screen).

He's not played by Macaulay Culkin, because that would be strange. Inspired, but strange. Instead we get Michael Wienberg, and
his casting has inadvertently opened a whole new can of worms. You see, maybe I'm wrong, but the Kevin in this movie seems significantly younger than the one we saw in "Home Alone 2." So do his brother and sister (actually they look younger than they do in any of the movies). Infact, so do his parents. So, if you're going to be literal-minded about things, this must surely mean this movie takes place before the events of that movie. So even though this is called "Home Alone 4," it's actually, "Home Alone 2," chronologically, which would make "Home Alone 2," now the new "Home Alone 3." I don't know where that leaves the original "Home Alone 3." Floating off into outer space trapped in The Negative Zone, maybe.

From the second I press play, it's obvious that nowhere near as much effort has gone into this as went into the first three. For a start, there's no real opening credits, the "Home Alone" logo just falls into view, with the "4," tagged onto it almost like it's an afterthought. Then the movie begins, and I noticed just how cheap the production value is. Yes, I get it, there's absolutely no artistic ambition here at all. I'm not saying there was much in the previous films, don't misunderstand me here, but the well has totally run dry on this one. It is now just about tacking the "Home Alone," brand onto anything and trying squeeze every last nickle, dime, penny, dollar and pound out of anybody that still remotely cares about it. A similar pillaging is happening with the "American Pie," franchise. The difference between those movies and this one however, and I can't believe I'm about to type this, is that I think the DTDVD "... Pie," movies may be of a higher quality than this. At the very least they still look a little bit like actual movie. This has the kind of look and feel to it of an early-ninties sitcom. Most TV shows today would be ashamed to look like this. It's descended from a bloodline where the first film alone raked in over $200,000,000 domestically and was once ranked as one of the highest grossing films of all time. You're telling me they couldn't afford slightly higher quality film stock?

We first meet Kevin when he's lying on his bed watching a video of his family celebrating last Christmas together, which we discover, once his Mother walks in and starts talking to him, actually was their last Christmas together as a family, as his mother and father are separated and in the process of divorcing. Not exactly cheerful stuff for a family Christmas movie, but then "It's a Wonderful Life," was all about suicide, so I can't say anything really. It does screw up my timeine though, as Kevin's Mum and Dad are still very much together in the second one. Maybe they get back together at the end... oh, who am I kidding? Of course they will. It almost goes without saying.

They talk about the split a little bit, Kevin asking if it was either his or his sibling's faults. We later find out that his parents split about eight months ago, which makes the fact that he seems to be asking these questions for the first time here odd. It becomes apparent in this scene that not only does the Kevin in this movie look alot younger than the last time we saw him, but he acts alot younger than in any of the other films. One of the fun things about the first film's script, and Culkin's performance, was that Kevin was portrayed as a kid with a vocabulary and understanding of the world around him way beyond his years, who would occasionally
get excited about something and turn into a little boy again. They try to invoke a little bit of that on occasions, such as here when he spouts a cliche-filled monologue to his mother about the effects of divorce on children that he claims to have heard on TV, and later when, after being given a high-tech miniature plane by Natalie, his father's new girlfriend, he tell's his father, "I think she's trying to buy my affection." But other than that he's just a generic nine-year old, the kind you'd find in any movie like this. We don't even get a scene of him talking to himself in the mirror.

We see a little bit of his homelife when his brother and sister pretty much attack him unprovoked and sit on him. His brother at
least sort of has a slight reason for doing it, as he apparently had plans that night that he can't take part in because he's got to babysit. His sister, on the other hand, seems to be doing it for no other reason than it's something to do. Their mother sees this happening and, instead of marching over there and pulling the little shits off their poor brother, just casually says, "Get off him." And when they don't, when they just sit there and have a conversation with her for a couple more seconds, she makes no further effort to make them. Jesus Christ, no wonder this kid misses his Dad.

And speaking of his Dad, here he comes to save the day! He privately tells his soon-to-be-ex-wife that he plans to marry Natalie, which
she seem none-to-pleased about, and would like the kids to spend a couple of days with him over Christmas to get to know her better. To me, this isn't an unreasonable request, although I'll admit it's kind of sprung on her at the last minute. Her reaction to this however is akin to him asking if he could sacrifice one of them to Satan so he could sell his soul to him. She says he has to ask the kids if they'd like to go with him. The first two turn him down for really selfish reasons, like they'd fall out of the loop if they were away from their friends for two days, but Kevin reluctantly does so because he says he wouldn't want the family to be totally separated over Christmas.

Now surprisingly, this scene got an emotional reaction out of me. However, that emotion was anger. When Kevin is considering his father's offer, his Dad tells him that some kind of Royal Family will be staying with him and and Natalie soon and that he'd have a Crown Prince to play with. For a start, this is total bribery. Very strange bribery, because if his girlfriend is rich enought to hobnob with royalty, then why not just say how many cool toys they have waiting for him when he gets there? But this isn't what pissed me
off the most. What got me was when Kevin looks over at his mother, she looks back at him with a look on her face that says, "Please don't do it." And when he decides to stay with her, she shoots him a smile as if to say, "Good boy, you made the right choice." It was as if she was telling him that wanting to spend Christmas with his father, a man he clearly adores, was a bad thing to want to do, and that in spurning him he had got his mother's approval. Talk about emotionally scarring this poor kid for life, now everytime his Dad wants to do something with him, all his Mother has to do is give him a sad look and he'll say no, because obviously Daddy is a bad man, and if he does anything with him, that makes him bad too!

Wow, I actually don't know where that came from. And before anybody says anything in the comments section, my parents have been happily married for over 20 years.

His Dad leaves clearly disappointed, and then their mother goes off with their sister to some kind of dance thing, leaving Kevin in the care of his brother. Knowing he'd spend the night torturing him, Kevin asked if he could be left home alone, and when his mother said
no, he countered with, "You've done it before!" For my sins, this drew a small chuckle out of me. So they're alone together, and as expected Kevin is subjected to a list of humiliations, the most painful of which being when his brother slams a garbage can lid down on his hand as he's taking out the trash. When his mother comes home (without her daughter, it's worth noting), she finds him sitting on the stairs clearly upset, telling her that he hates his brother and never wants to be left alone with him again. Does she ask him what's wrong and what he did to him? No, she just chuckles and say, "Awwwww honey, I know he picks on you," in a highly patronising tone. And when he, not unreasonably in my opinion, says he wishes he was an only child, his mother acts all disappointed and tells him to go up to his room and think about all the things he does have, instead of the things he doesn't. WAT? This kid has been abused all night, and because he dares to be angry about it, you're sending him to his room? Oh Kevin, did you ever back the wrong horse.

Luckily, he realises this, and decides to take his Dad up on his offer, catching a cab to their place. Logically this
makes no sense, because when he arrives it seems like this is the first time he's ever been there (again, this has taken eight months?), so how did he know the address? But that could have been overlooked if him getting there had been any fun. If this had been done with the spirit of the old movies in mind, we'd have had a sequence of Kevin ordering the cab, possibly altering his voice to sound like an adult as he did it, sneaking out of the house to get catch the ride, and then giving the driver some elaborate story about why a kid would need a cab anywhere at this hour. But with this movie, the next time we see Kevin the cab's already outside Natalie's place. He even pays with his piggy bank. The closest thing to an explaination we get is that the driver seems to have some kind of Eastern European accent, and being a forigner he's obviously an idiot and will fall for anything (that's the movie's seemingly zenophobic attitude, not mine).

As expected, the house is a mansion, and Natalie is indeed rich. Kevin manages to just catch the two of them after they've arrived back from some kind of charity fundraiser and are happily spending the night necking on the couch. He's instantly welcomed into the house, and to the film's credit, initially at least it doesn't portray Natalie as some awful shrew. She seems like a nice woman, who genuinely wants her fiance's kids to like her. And how could Kevin
not when he sees his room, an electronic day-glo Wonder World of toys, video games, huge TV screens and a truly awesome looking gaming chair. It's every nine-year-old's dream. Actually fuck that, I want that room! She also tells him that the mansion is a "Smart House," and gives him an electronic key with which he can open or activate anything with just a few words. Gee, I wonder if that'll come in handy later?

It's around this point that we're introduced to the film's antagonists. In a strange move for a movie that seems to be at least half-heartedly pandering to nostalgia geeks, they decide to bring back only one of The Wet/Sticky Bandits, that being Marv, here
recast with French Stewart, and give him a wife to act as his sidekick, named Vera, played by Missi Pyle. You'll probably be aware of both of them from previous TV or film work. Stewart played Harry, the most eccentric of a group of aliens disguised as a normal human family on the sitcom, "3rd Rock from the Sun," and had the distinction of being possibly the funniest character on that rare thing- the sitcom where almost all the characters were pretty amusing. Missi I've been a fan of for a while now. She played the alien love interest Laliari in one of my all-time favourite sci-fi films, "Galaxy Quest," and was also the hideous potential shemale Fran in "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story." Unfortunately she's also in "Big Fish," one of the few Tim Burton movie I don't like, but it could be worse, she could have been in "Planet of the Apes." She's attractive in a quirky way, and not afraid to take prat-falls or bury herself under mountains of make-up to get a laugh. I'm amazed she's not been called the new Lucille Ball yet, It seems like there's one of them every five minutes (I think it's Anna Faris' turn this week). To be honest, seeing them in this movie is a bit depressing, but I suppose bills need to be paid.

French Stewart's portrayal of Marv is strange, but I don't think that has much to do with him, as he's really playing Marv in name only. To explain- if you cast your mind back to the exploits of The Wet/Sticky Bandits from the first two movies, you'll remember that
Marv was the comedy relief of the pair, the goofy idiot who who came up with those names after he started flooding people's houses and created a glove out of double-sided tape so he could easily steal change. Whereas his partner, Harry, was the grumpy, surly, slightly more serious straight man, the brains of the outfit, if such a thing even really existed. However, in this movie, Marv is suddenly all gruff and serious, constantly befuddled by his wife's ditziness. He acts... well, like Harry. If I had to take a guess at what happened, I'd say that in the original version on the script, this character was supposed to be Harry. Then Stewart was cast in the role, and it dawned on them that, even here, trying to pass this guy off as a character previously played by Joe Pesci wasn't going to fly, so they switched it to Marv at the last minute, and couldn't be bothered to do rewrites. Either that or the writers didn't know which character was which. That's entirely possible, too.

So they're staking out the place, with the intention to not rob it, but to get the lay of the land so that they can kidnap the Prince that had been previously mentioned and collect the ransom. As part of the staking out process, they decide to break into the house when they think it's empty in order to get the lay of the land, so to speak, doing this by using one of those voice keys (how did they get one of those, I wonder...) to open the back door. Only the house isn't empty, because Kevin is there, as he's been left home... alone. He literally
flushes the pair of them out when he draws them into his bedroom's bathroom and pelts them with water from the power show. And I mean POWER shower, that thing's coming at them like six hoses. Eventually they ride the wave down the stairs, and Marv finally gets a good look at Kevin. "YOU!" he exclaims. "Hello, Marv," Kevin sarcastically replies. I can't really do justice to how surreal a moment it is when two characters who've met each other before meet again when played by two different actors. It's like that old comic book blurb, "Together again... FOR THE FIRST TIME!" I also for a second thought this stunt might be another sly wink at the audience, what with one of The Wet Bandits getting drenched and all, but I think that might be giving all involved too much credit there.

Marv and Very swiftly depart, leaving Kevin to try and explain to his Dad and incoming Step-Mother why the entire first floor of their home is now a paddling pool. He tells them what happened, and calls for their butler, Prescott (Erick Avari), to back him up, as he's in charge of all the cameras in the house and must have seen what happened. He, however, claims to have seen nothing, and accuses Kevin of treating the house like one big toy. It's this scene, and the one later where Marv says they have an "inside man," on the property, that's supposed to make us think that Prescott might be in league with the villains. He's also been nothing but hostile to
Kevin since he got there. So it won't be him then, it'll be Molly (Barbara Babcock), the kindly irish maid who's adores Kevin. Mark my words.

Wanting to find evidence to back up his story, Kevin goes into Prescott's private quarters where the monitors are, and a place that he'd been sworn out of not too long ago, to try and find a tape of the event. Which he does, only to find the cameras had been turned off at the crucial moment. Then Prescott walks in on him sitting in his chair, Kevin screams, and... suddenly Kevin's not screaming anymore, and he answers Prescott's question about what he's doing there in a calm manner? Okay, this is a TV movie, and that's clearly
where an ad break would have gone, but couldn't they have smoothed out the edit even a little bit? That cut is really jarring. "Didn't I warn you what would happen if I ever caught you in here again?" Prescott asks. "Not specifically," Kevin replies, to which he's then informed, in as sinister a manner as is possible in a U-rated movie, "Trust me, it won't be pleasent." Okay, there's where the scream should have gone. Kevin's then saved by Molly, further proof that she'll be the bad guy.

Kevin's Father and Natalie discuss ways in which the can help Kevin adjust to the changes that are going on in his life, as they've decided that the events of that morning were him acting out. They
decide that the best way to do it would be to trim the tree together, something that's alien to Natalie, as she's always had other people to do it for her. Again, this doesn't mark her out as a horrible person, just one that's lived her life in a bit of a bubble. By this point I was actually slightly impressed that the movie seemed intent on not going the easy route with their relationship. Everybody seems to be having a good time during the tree-trimming montage, laughing and smiling. And even when Natalie recieves a call for her to be somewhere, she doesn't kick up a stink when Kevin's Father says he'd like to stay home with his son, and her leaving doesn't spoil anything. Genuinely refreshing, and something I wasn't expecting. Of course, a chink in the armour appears the next day when the guys come downstairs to find their tree totally redecored by the professional tree trimmers that Natalie says she forgot to cancel, but even there, it could just have been a genuine mistake. The tree looks nicer now anyway. And all is forgotten when Kevin is allowed to open another present to find a fully-functioning spy kit. Wow, what a conveniently useful gift!

It's at this point that Kevin's Mother, missing him, decides to drop by the mansion along with the rest of the family. I like how in this scene Kevin's siblings now like him because he has cool toys. There's an awkward meeting between the Mother and Natalie, but
that's to be expected, and again, neither woman is really portrayed as being better or worse than the other. The closest we get to that is Natalie's reaction to a story told about Kevin's bear, that being that he's going to be having so much fun playing with the Prince that he won't even miss it. She also expresses concern that the kids might break a garden sculpture with Kevin's toy plane, but after everything that's happened already I don't think that's an unreasonable concern, and almost immediately after she says that the plane bumps into the window, so she's not worrying about nothing.

Natalie and Kevin's Father leave him at home with the help whilst they go to the airport to pick up the Royal Family, and Kevin soon
finds himself once again face-to-fact with Marv and Very, this time disguised as waiters for the party that's being thrown for the guests arrival. After locking Prescott in walk-in freezer (remember when you used to be able to do that to the butler in "Tomb Raider?" That was awesome), he then stalks his prey, who pretty much do themselves in- Vera gets in the sack that Marv intends to capture the kid in, and then even demonstrates how he'd lower him down from the window. Using the house's technology, Kevin manages to send both of them flying out the window, with Marv also getting a grappling hook up the arse for good measure. It was with this scene that I realised one of the big things that's wrong with this movie, and that's the fact tha Kevin doesn't really have to work or think too hard to beat these two. In the first one, it was fun watching him make his plans and put his traps together, because it helped illustrate how clever he was, and that's one of the big fantasies of a little boy, that if push came to shove, he could prove he's smarter than any adult in the room. Here, the house is already wired up to a computer, so he doesn't really have to do much. There are a few traps later on, but they're nowhere near as creative as past ones. One essentially involves tying a cooking pan to a piece of string and swinging it at them. Give me a blowtorch and a scolding hot doornob any day of the week.

The Royal Family's plane gets snowed in wherever it is that it's flying from, which bums Natalie out because now her party isn't going to be as special. She asks Kevin's Dad if it would be okay for her to announce their engagement instead to make up for it, which he
agrees to. The announcment is indeed made, and everything seems fine, until in the aftermath of Kevin doing battle with Marv and Vera, Prescott gets released from the freezer and literally slides out of the kitchen and into the main hall like a human ice cube, knocking people over and sending things flying as he goes. Kevin again tries to explain to them what happened, and again they don't believe him. It's later revealed that he managed to record Marv talking with his spy equipment, so why he doesn't just play them that, I have no idea. In any event, he finds himself back where he was when he first decided to take his Dad up on his offer- sent to his room. Whilst there, he phones his Mother, who's tearfully watching "It's a Wonderful Life" (lucky cow). We later find out that it's supposed to be a family tradition for them all to watch this movie together over Christmas. I was unaware of that. I always thought the only Christmas tradition this family had was child abandonment. Later, whilst lying in bed, Kevin is visited by Natalie. At first she expresses concern for him. Then she says this: "If you ever pull a stunt like that again you'll be out of this house so fast your head'll spin. So your father's getting divorced, boo hoo, everybody's parents get divorced, that's life, you'll get over it. But you're not going to get between your father and me. He wants you in his life, and I think that's admirable, but if you want him in your life you better not cross me, understood?" Aaaaaaaaaand she's a cartoon villainess. Well there goes this movies one attempt at something close to complexity.

So Christmas morning comes, and Kevin's Dad and Natalie have to leave to pick up the Royal Family again, leaving him with the help once more. Seriously, at this point, if Kevin was just doing this to fuck with them, they have nobody to blame but themselves, because they keep leaving him. Yes, there are other people there, but they've proven themselves to be totally impotent in the face of this boy. Just put him in the fucking car and take him with you! It's a limo, there's room!

Marv and Vera recieve a call from their insider telling them to come
back to the house. Literally seeing them coming thanks to his telescope, Kevin locks Prescott in the wine cellar and gets ready to defend the house, only to discover that he wasn't their informant, but instead it was... yep, Irish Molly. Who's also exposed as Marv's mother, just for kicks. They lock Kevin in the basement with Prescott, and they have a chat, where amongst other things Prescott reveals that he really didn't see what wet down that first day, because he was using his alone time to take a crafty nap, as Natalie works him practically 24 hours a day. He and Kevin share a laugh, seemingly become instant friends, and... oh, I get it now! This is that scene from the first two movies, where Kevin is initially scared of the Street Salter/Weird Bird Lady, but then talks to him/her to discover he/she has a heart of gold, and even gets helped by him/her in times of great need. Believe it or not, I find the fact tha the people remembered to include this scene almost comforting. A "Home Alone," movie wouldn't be the same without it.

They talk about how they're going to escape from the cellar, and Prescott eventually remembers he has a cell phone on him. Really, you just remembered that? In any event, instead of using it to call the police, he gives it to Kevin, who uses it to call his Mother's house three times before that battery dies. These two, geniuses. They then discover a Dumb Waiter (i.e. one of those food lift things) hidden behind some boxes, and Kevin uses it to escapes the Cellar
and once again attempt to fend off his nemesises (nemesi?). I should really go into detail about this sequence, but to be honest with you, it's really nothing special. There's one creative trap set up, when Kevin rigs a pair of fake legs up to poke out from under his bed that, when pulled, causes a bookshelf to fall on the person doing the pulling. Other than that it's one uninspired stunt after another.

So Kevin defeats that Bad guys, his Mum and Dad show up after they become concerned following the calls he made, the police come and take everybody away, Natalie and The Royals arrive, and then it
seems like all the vaguely nice people get to have a happy ending- Kevin's Dad literally out of fucking nowhere decides he still loves his wife and wants to return to his family (hey, my timeline holds up!), Prescott quits his job, The Royal Family decide to spend Christmas with Kevin's so their son will have someone to play with, and Kevin gets not only his family back, but snow for the holidays. And what does Natalie get? She gets to cry and hyperventilate into a brown paper bag.

To say this film is the worst in this series is putting it mildly. The acting's nowhere near as good, with the exception on Stewart and Pyle who work harder trying to squeeze laughs out of the material than is strictly advisable, the script seems to have been written by two people with only a passing notion of what came before it, and it looks cheap, as already mentioned. But none of that was really bothering me. To be honest with you, I didn't really know what was bothering me until I got half-way through my second viewing, and then it hit me- WHERE'S THE FUCKING "HOME ALONE," SCORE?! None of the signature themes are used anywhere. Even people who hate these movies will happily admit that the score is iconic. Hell, as a kid I really had no clue how important music was to the overall structure of a movie, and even I would sometimes find myself humming the instrumentals from these. How could anyone forget the happy one that goes, "Da-d-d-d-daaaaaa-d-da-d-d-d-duuuuu, da-da-da-da-doooooo" of the one just before The Bandit's show up that goes, "Da-d-d-dum, da-d-d-dum, da-d-d-dum, da-d-d-dum, DA-D-D-DUM, DA-D-D-DUM, DA-D-D-DUM, DA-D-D-DUM, DA-D-D-DUM, DA-D-D-DUM, DA-D-D-DUM, DA-D-D-DUM, DA-DADA-DADA-DUM, DA-DADA-DADA-DUM, DA-D-DA-D-DA-D-DUM-DUM!" I can't, obviously. But the people behind this did.

So, I suppose you're thinking, "Binned then?"

Well actually, no, you'd be wrong.

"Kept then."

Nope, not that either. It's...



She'll like it, all she'll see is a cute little boy.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and Merry Christmas ya filthy animals.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #8- "CREATURE." (MONSTER FLICK DOUBLE BILL PT. 2)









PRICE: £1.00

Before I get onto this movie and it's director (and believe me, I
have alot to say about both...), I'd like to spend a bit of time talking about the company that distributed both this movie and "Crocodile," Boulevard Entertainment. They are, to my mind, the most lazy, slap-dash, bare-bones distribution company I have come across in all my 26 years. When I say "bare-bones," I don't mean the DVDs themselves have no extras, even though they don't. I don't expect them to, so to complain about that would be churlish. No, I say it to mean the amount of effort they put into the whole package, from the disc itself right down to the front and back covers of their DVDs.

At this point, I'm going to use photographs to make my point. I don't like using too many pictures in these things because I don't want it to look like I'm slacking off on the writing and using them to bulk up the posts, but I really do need visual aids to get what I'm saying across properly.

First of all, let's examine the actual discs themselves, as in the labelling of them. Unless it's quite clever, you never really notice the amount of effort that goes into them. They're just there so you know what disc you're putting in your player. But in this case you definitely do notice them, for the wrong reasons. For comparison's sake, here's a picture of the "Going Overboard," disc, a film that I bought for 50p, remember...... it's alright. It's nothing special, and when I hold it up to the light I think it may actually be see-through... I've never seen a label so thin on a disc you could see light through it before... wow... um, anyway, but it does the job, It's fairly colourful, it's got the logo for the movie on it, everything you'd expect.

Now here's a picture of the "Creature," disc, which cost me one
pound...... black text on a white background. That's it. That's your lot. The disc for "Crocodile," was like this too, and I've seen one other disc put out by this company, and that was exactly the same as well, so this wasn't a one off, this is the amount of effort they apparently put into labelling all their movies. All they do each time is change the name that's going on there. Even the BBFC rating is in black & white! When I label up my discs, like when I make a mix CD or something, I put more effort into it than these guys do, just by virtue of the fact that I'll sometimes use a red pen.

Then there's the back and front covers of the boxes themselves. I sometimes find that reviewing the packaging the movies can be as much fun as reviewing the movies themselves, and this was no excepting. For a start, here's the covers of both "Creature," and "Crocodile" laid side-by-side...
... "Being John Malkovich" levels of originality there, I'm sure you'll agree. Compound that with the fact that both these movies were distributed by the same company and apparently released a year apart, and I'm almost lost for words. It may not even really be a year either, for all I know "Crocodile," came out December 2006 and "Creature," was released January 2007.

Then, finally, the back of the "Creature," box provides plenty worth talking about, specifically the credits at the bottom. For a start, there are two credited writers, but they don't share a credit like I had them do up top- instead, Adrienne Stout-Copolla gets a "Screenplay by..." one, and Christopher Copolla get a "Written by..." one. Could someone please explain to me what the difference is between these two? How has he written this movie if he's not contributed to the screenplay? Did he just come up with the idea? Isn't that usually noted with a "Story by..." credit? Did they not know what that was?

Then there's the cast credits. I was making note of who's in this in order to fill out the "STARRING," section up-top, And I couldn't help noticing how many names there were, it was as if they had just put everybody who's in this on there. Then I got to a credit that simply read, "Leon." Leon? Just one name? What did they do, stunt-cast some obscure eighties pop star? Confused, I did what I've done many times before and surely will do many times in the future, which is turn to IMDb to ease my troubled mind. I typed "Creature, into it's search bar, and after I discovered doing that was as useful as typing "and," into Google, I instead searched for the the director and found what I was looking for, discovering two things- 1) This movie was originally entitled, "The Creature of the Sunny Side Up Trailer Park," a title so amazing that whoever suggested it be shortened to the generic "Creature," should be eaten alive by ferrets, and 2) the "Leon," in question wasn't an actor, but the name of the character played by Fort Atkinson, whose name comes just defore Leon's. It turned out that half the names I had made note of were, infact, fictional. I realised what had happened. They'd put the actors names down, then the characters they were playing next to them, but made no effort to differentiate the credits from one another. No quotation makrs, by "as.." between the two names, nothing. And nobody had picked up on this. Nobody.

"Boulevard Entertainment: We truely don't give a shit."

There's also another complaint I have about the cast listing, but that one makes more sense to mention within the context of the actual review. So I suppose I should talk about the director and the film now, shouldn't I? Seems like the thing to do.

I'm sure by now you've noticed that last name, and yes, Christopher Copolla is from that family, specifically nephew of Francis Ford, cousin of Sophia, and perhaps most fantastically of all, Nicolas Cage's older brother. As well as directing movies with titles like "Dracula's Widow," and "G-Men from Hell," he's also a writer, producer, actor (and oh, the movies he's been in...), and has appeared as himself in television shows such as "They Live by Night: The Twisted Road," and "Acts of Violence: Dealing with the Devil." In all pictures I've seen of him he looks like he'd be at home in some dive bar downing shots of the house whiskey before tearing off
on his Harley, with his shaved head, bandana and leather waistcoat. I bet he livens up family gatherings.

When he movie begins, it's instantly obvious we're going to get a very different film from "Crocodile." There's no happy-go-lucky music for a start. Infact to begin with, there's no music at all, as our perspective is from the back of a mail truck as the Postman rides around. The Postman, a short, weaselish-looking named Chuck. Whilst doing his rounds, he finds a bunch of letters in one of the post boxes with a note attached to them from a woman named
Charlotte, asking him to send them urgently, because she's running out of time and he owes her. So already we know that this isn't going to be the light-hearted romp that the last film was, this one seems to want to take itself a little more seriously. Not to seriously obvisously, because it's still about a monster, but it wants to set a more foreboding tone. And that's okay, I can deal with that. Just as long as it doesn't get too cheesy and introduce a cult of people with robes and hoods carry torches, it'll be...

... oh, there they come. And here also comes the dark, ominous stock music that soundtracks every scene of hooded figures doing mysterious things, such as seemingly escavating a temple and cutting themselves, tossing bodies into holes, things involving fire, everything they're doing here. This scene also serves as the credit sequence, and I was trying to pay more attention to that's going on with the montage, but every now and again one would catch my eye, such as Christopher getting a "Story by..." credit, which proves to me that whoever was in charge of typing up the credits for the box didn't know what that was, and then this...


... WAT? No. No way. It couldn't be that Lynda Carter. I mean, what kind of a DVD distribution company would have fucking Wonder Woman, a genre Goddess, appear in a movie that only genre geeks would give a damn about, and not make a big deal about her on the box? Even if she's not in the movie that long, She'd easily be the biggest star in this thing. Nobody could be that...


... oh dear Lord. THEY HAVE WONDER WOMAN IN THIS MOVIE AND THEY NEVER THOUGHT TO MENTION OF IT! I swear to Christ this company must hate money and the prospect of making any. Okay, mentioning her isn't going to turn it into a blockbuster, but she has fans, very rabid fans, all over the world, and maybe seeing her name on the box would have inspired a few more people to buy this thing. I've had a few people try to tell me that she wasn't mentioned because maybe they were trying to keep it a surprise for when she appears
, to which I say simply, no. For one thing, surprise cameos only really work if you've got a movie people want to see regardless. If you're movie's gone straight to video as this one has, then alot of people aren't going to want to see it, so your job is to make them want to see, by mentioning everything and anything that would do that. And also, HOW IS IT A SURPRISE IF SHE'S MENTIONED IN THE FUCKING CREDITS!?

It's worth mentioning that on the wall of this temple or cave or whatever it is these people are working on, there are drawings, one of presents two figures who look exactly like the guys who eventually recieve the letters; Donnie (Andre Ware) and Doug ("Chickenbone," which is a great nickname). One's black, the other's white, but other than that they could be brother, both being huge men with beards and bald heads. A little bit like Christopher Copolla himself actually, thinking about it.

Andre we meet in his place of work, a bookshop-cum-coffee shop that he appears to own. There are black power posters on the walls, and the movie tries to get across that he, at best, has a dislike of white people, and at worst is out-and-out racist. The only problem is it tries to do that by having him scream at a white guy dressed up like a Rasta who orders his coffee with a Jamaican accent. Fair game. Doug meanwhile is seen mooching around his apartment with his two stoner buddies, who find both a cat licking a bird's head and a man saying the word, "penis," to be hilarious, like any good stoner should. Both the letters say the same thing, that they were left a patch of land by their dead mother, The Sunny Side Up Trailer Park (seriously, who gave the call to change this movie's name? Unforgivable), and that they're to travel to California and claim it. I guess that would make them brothers, and... oh God, I bet Doug's racist too, and they hate each other on sight, and over the course of the movie they learn the error of their ways and learn to accept each other as people and family. Oh please no. Yeah, it's a good lesson to put out there, but I don't want social commentary during my monster movies. I just want to see people get eaten.

Doug reaches the town first after Donnie's car break's down, and after a very strange conversation with the city clerk over a game of miniature golf, is told to drive up to the trailer park so they can have a sit-down talk later. There's something strange about the clerk and his friends, as were not-so-subtly alerted to when he starts rubbing a tattoo on his arm. So, cult member then? Gooooooood. This is compounded by the fact that the first person Doug sees when he reaches the park, upn being asked who's in charge, pretty much tells
Doug he'd be better off getting the hell out of there. Something's going on here, and I'm willing to bet some kind of creature's involved.

And oh look, there's Lynda Carter! She plays Lynette, a character who's, as she describes herself, "the epitome of trailer trash." Her job in this film is mostly to distract both Donnie and Doug so that the people of the trailer park can do such things as steal their wallets, which later end up being ritualistically sacrificed by fire for... no reason I can think of. It's not the biggest role in the world, but she has fun with it, seemingly enjoying being the
vixen at a time in her life when the chances to play those sort of roles should have well and truely gone away. And it's definitely big enough for her to be mentioned on the bloody box.

Oh, and by the way, she'd be, what, well into her fifties when she filmed this? I still would.

Donnie has pretty much the same conversation with the clerk when his car is finally fixed with the help of a police officer, who then escorts him to where he needs to go. Donnie's reluctant to accept his help, and I don't really know if that's because he just doesn't want the help of a white guy, or if he just senses something's not right about the guy. I mean, he's very nice. Obviously a cult
member, but nice all the same. Both he and Doug have a meeting with the park's interim owner, Burdus (Frank Gorshin) a blind guy who both looks and sounds a bit like Mickie from the "Rocky," movies would if he'd had a stroke. They're told that the land was left to both of them, and that their mother's wish was for it to be turned int a nature preserve. We're told this a few times actually, enough to make me think it might be important to the plot, or at the very least that we'd see some kind of pay-off with regards to it. We don't.

Donnie and Doug then start fighting over who owns the and and how they can both share the same mother, and as I predicted, Doug is indeed a racist man. However, and this does bare mentioning, the movie very cautious with this fact, to the point that you could almost call it cowardly. Over the course of this ninty-minute plus film, Doug drops exactly one N-Bomb, and I'm amazed they had the guts to do that. It's like they're trying to say, "Yeah, he's a
racist, but he's not that bad, he doesn't use that word that much." Bullshit. Don't insult my intelligence, and also don't go with something if you're not willing to fully commit to it. If you're going to have one of your main characters be a racist, have him be a racist.

We're then introduced to Jackson (Andre Marcus), a pudgy little kid who speaks in a strange, riddle-like manner whose eyes have a habit of rolling into the back of his head from time to time. So he'll be the monster then? In any case, until that's revealed, he befriends both Donnie
and Doug, who both proceed to teach him some of worst life lessons I have ever heard. When it becomes apparent to Donnie that Jackson has no friends, he offers him this advice: "Real friends, they're overrated. They're hard to come by anyway. You've got to learn to rely on yourself. That's what being a man is all about. You learn how to look after number one and you don't take shi... no stuff from anyone." And when Doug sees scratches on Jackson's body ad suspects his grandfather is abusing him, he has these tender, heartfelt words words ready: "Somebody hits you, hit 'em back twice, somebody calls you no good, you spit in their face and you hit 'em twice." Lovely. And I kept waiting for the moment when either or both of these guys later spoke to Jackson again and told him they were wrong, but nope, it would seem that the movie really does believe what it's preaching to it's audience in those case. Fascinating.

Donnie decides soon after meeting Doug that it isn't worth the hassle staying in the park and tries to leave, only to find his car won't start again, none of the phones work and the only man who can fix it for him has gone to Vegas for three days. It would seem the the people of the park are trying to keep both him and his brother their, which confused me. If their mother brought them here to stop whatever's going on, as Jackson also keeps hinting at, and the residents, who we've already established/guessed are all in on it, would like to see it continue for whatever reason, wouldn't they want to
see the back of one or both of them? So what good does keeping them around do them? What's going on? And then Donnie, whilst visiting his mother's place in order to use what is seemingly the only phone that works, starts randomly bleeding from the nose and ears. The sudden violent nosebleed has really become a horror movie cliche, hasn't it? Once he's done washing away the blood in the sink, he looks in the mirror to check himself, and sees that his eyes are glowing red and his face is partially obscured by what appears to be a mask. This is one of the few uses of CGI in the entire movie, and after seeing it, all I can say is good. Donnie then inspects a mask on the wall of the bathroom, which of course would have you think that masks, and maybe even that mask in particular, will play into the plot.

It doesn't.

Why does this movie keep making a big deal about things that mean jack shit in the grand scheme of things? I'll tell you now, that CGI effect amounts to nothing too, other than to say, "Freaky stuff is happening here!" I could have worked that out on my own, thanks.

Lynette and Doug then go to watch a drive-in movie together. I find it strange that, when she invites him, alrady in her car presumably heading to her destinatin, it's at best mid-afternoon, and by the time they get there it seems to be the dead of night. How long did they drive for? In any event, I'll accept a loss of time worthy of an alien induction, because in this section of the movie we finally get to see the monster, when it attacks the projectionist, who's planning to get away rom the park and whatever's going on there with her boyfriend. The best thing about
it is it's a guy in a suit every time we see it, which is totally in keeping with the spirit of these movies. It looks kind of cool too, like if The Creature From The Black Lagoon had mated with a chicken and then their offspring had been painted red. The best thing, though, is the way it kills people- it opens it's massive beak and CLAMPS DOWN ON THEIR FUCKING HEADS! At first I thought it just crushed them like it seemed to do with the woman here (And I'm not kidding, there is so much fake blood in this scene that at one point it's running down her face like a waterfall) But later it attacks another woman trying to leave (which seems to be all it does), and it actually rips her head clean off. Both of these death scenes are cool, and really makes me wish we saw more of this thing, which is another complaint- in "Crocodile" you got loads of Crocodile, yet a movie called "Creature" is, well, seriously lacking creature.

Oh, and this thing has a name, but I'm not going to mention it until I get to the point that it's spoken in the movie, because it's hilarious.

Doug begins to suspect something's wrong when he's buying Lynette a box of popcorn and sees a river or blood flowing off the ceiling and down the walls of the snack shop. He runs back outside to get his date, only to find she's gone, along with
everybody else in the drive-in, as well as seemingly everybody else in the whole park. So after this distressing occurance, the first thing he does is... go into a trailer and take a piss? Okay. When you gotta go you gotta go, I guess. He's then rudely interrupted during this very human moment by the projectionist's boyfriend, who was sent back to their house, despite her knowing how dangerous it would be, to get her cat (sounds like something my Mum would do). He too would appear to have been set upon, but still has his head, so at least he got lucky there. Or at least he did, until the creature comes back and finishes the job. After that, Doug finally has the sense to want to get out of dodge, tries to start his truck, only to find it won't start. I like how it's almost a running joke that things just stop working the second either of the two main characters touch them. Desperate for help, he bangs on the door of his mothers house, not knowing that's what it is, and is shocked to see Donnie open the door, at which point he decides, hey, I don't really need help. So, he's such a racist that he'd rather be ripped to shreads by a monster than accept help from a black man, but he'll still barely use the N-Word? He then tries his truck one more time before just going to sleep. This thing is clearly a threat to be taken seriously.

The next day Doug wakes up and, instead if continuing his attempt to get away, decides to not only stick around, but to continues his fight with Donnie over who actually owns the land. And these two, I want this on the record now, I was so sick of these two fighting by this point. I know I said I didn't want social commentary in these movies, and I don't, but I would actually perfer it over this. They're constantly bitching and throwing snide remarks at each other, and when they both have to walk to the city clerk's trailer, they even
refuse to walk on the same side of the road as each other like a couple of five-year olds. And this goes on for literally almost the entire movie. And why do either of them still want this place? It should be obvious to both of them at this point that something very wrong is going on here, and why would anyone want any part of that? Just let these people do what they want to do and wash your hands of it.

Following some more strange occurances, like Doug discovering that the reason his truck wouldn't start is because the engine had been filled with blood, the brothers finally have an actual, physical fist-fight inside their mother's house. It's pretty good ruck, lots
of stuff gets smashed, and also this has to be the moment they get all their hostility out and stop fighting, especially since the only reason they stop is because they're visited by the ghost of their mother, who tells them to do just that, and finally explains to them why she brought them together. She's awesome by the way, a cantankerous old broad with a detatchable head, made completely out of blue light like a dead Jedi.

"Your old dead Mama's askin' ya t'set aside ya hate, and work together for a greater power. The strongest in the universe."

The Force?



It turns out she wants them to find some gold shell or something
that she found and had stolen from her. "HUMAN NATURE SUCKS!" she says. "IT FLAT OUT SUCKS! Only money can ease the pain." This movie has the most screwed-up world view of any film I've ever seen. According to it, people are better off alone leading selfish lives, turning the other cheek is for pansies, and the only thing that makes life better is money and material possessions. What a psychological case study Christopher Copolla must be.

The next day, Jackson invites both of them over to his Grandfather's trailer, in order to finally tell them what's going on, and also because it's his birthday. Here, we learn that when their mother found the shell, she awakened the creature, or opened a portal, or something. We even see a flashback scene of her digging up the shell, which features Charlotte dressed like she's in the sahara, a Native American gentleman and... is that a camel? It's here we finally discover te creature's name. "It's keeper... the bringer of dreams... the tester of faith... the spirit they call...

... Bloodhead."

Bloodhead. Yes, the bringer of dreams is called Bloodhead. And it gets better. If they return the shell from where it originally came from, Bloodhead will "turn dreams to life." and when Doug finally asks what I've been wondering for a while now, which is where's his Grandfather, Jackson points at his chest and says, "In here." Is this going to be another one of those movies where everything ends up being a dream? I don't think I could cope with that tonight.

Jackson finally says something that makes sense when he reveals that Burdus has the shell stashed away in his trailer. They break in and start turning the place upside-down, with Donnie eventually finding it. So, does he take it to the rest of the group and set the plan to end this madness in motion? Don't be silly, of course he doesn't. He puts it back where he found it so he can come back for it later and keep it for himself. So, even after their fight and a visit from their dead mother, both men are still trying to screw each other over. The joke is on them though, as when Donnie tries to take the shell later, he finds that it's already been taken. He presumes by Doug,
who proclaims his innocence, they start arguing again, and yep, another fist fight, which is again broken up by Mama's spirit, in a manner that implies she's as sick of this as I am now. They then see a car being driven away with Jackson in it yelling for help, so do they stop the fussin' and the feudin' that second to try and save him? Again, nope. They both get one more shot in each, Doug to Donnie's balls, before jumping on some very conveniently placed Quad Bikes (that actually work!), and give chase. And even during that, they ram into each other over and over again until they both explode, sadly not with them on them.

They get to the temple/pit thing that all the cult stuff has been happening around, where Jackson is standing in said pit screaming for help. To their credit, they actually pull themselves away from trying to kill each other long enough to try and save him, but end up being pushed into the pit themselves by the cult members, who turn out to be almost everyone in the park, as expected. The
cop even still has his hat and sunglasses on. They're told that this is their destiny, to "share the dream," "our salvation, your destruction." What are they talking about? What destiny? What are Doug and Donnie supposed to do? Jackson, care to shed any light on this?

"I can't hear my Grandpa, I dont know why..."

Who's your Grandfather? What are you talking about? Why were you so intent in getting Doug and Donnie to stop the creature when
they're apparently part of the cultist's prophecy? What...

"That's because he's not here, Jackson..."


"... When we share the the dream we take the place of your

I was about to yell, "WHAT DAMN DREAM ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?" when Donnie's kind enough to do it for me.

"The dream of birth from a womb of death."


... Of fuck off. That's it, I've had enough. I'm not recapping anymore of this in any detail, because I've clearly put more effort into doing that than was put into coming up with it. Basically, as I suspected, Jackson's the monster, he fights Donnie and Doug, they win using their shirts (not making that up), get out of the pit,
fight Bloodhead some more, he dies, everyone in the cult dies, there's one more big explosion for shits and giggles, and our two heroes drive away, now completely fine with each other.

Be honest guys, you just wanted to make a film about a monster that bites people's heads off, didn't you? But you didn't want it to look like you just wanted to make a movie about a monster that bites people's head's off, you wanted it to look like you wanted to make a proper movie, so you came up with all this stuff about ghost mothers and dream bringers and boys that speak to dead people (wow
, I only just noticed that) and cults and multi-racial brothers and cursed artifacts. And then you couldn't put all those pieces together in a way that made sense, but you did it anyway.

When I started watching this, as I noted, I was worried this film would take itself too seriously and be a downer. Oh how I now wish that was they way they went. Instead, they made something that's almost impossible to follow, full of horrible characters nobody
could root for, featuring a monster I'll be amazed to find out was on-screen longer than ten minutes tops.

The lesson I took from watching "Crocodile," was that as long as you keep things simple, don't bite off more than you can chew (no pun intended), and don't lose sight of the fact that the audience should be having fun, then it's possible to make a riotous ride on any budget. "Creature," breaks every single one of those rules, and as such...



Also before anyone says anything, my bin has been emptied since I took this picture. It's just when I took it I'd barely left my bedroom in three days.

Before I go, an announcement. Starting next week is The Cheap-Arse Film Review's "Four Weeks of Christmas," which is what it sounds like, four holiday movies over four weeks, all bought within the budget I've set myself. There'll be festive fun, frolics, some alcohol, and possibly even a seasonal rejiggering of my ratings system. I'm quite looking forward to it until I actually think about some of the movies I'll be doing. Hopefully I'll see you there.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and don't be alarmed, ladies and gentlemen, those chains are made of chrome steel.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #7- "CROCODILE." (MONSTER FLICK DOUBLE BILL PT. 1)









PRICE: £1.00

This was originally going to be my first double feature review. I had this idea in the back of my head that at varying points in this project I'd do two movies in one entry, films that would be linked by a genre, or an actor, or a director, title,
production company, anything really, tenuous link central. I was going to try and invoke the spirit of those old fifties drive-in double bills with this one, reviewing two moster movies that share more than a couple of things in common, play them off one another, make mention of their differences and similarities, what worked and didn't in each, stuff like that. In my head, this sounded like lots of fun, and couple that with the fact that I was horricially ill over the weekend and really had nothing better to do but drink Dyralite, watch movies and write about them, I got stuck in.

It soon became clear that what seemed like a fun idea in my head was actually a total fucking nightmare in execution, to the point that I'm never going to attempt it again. Frankly, it's too much work. If you're reading this, I'm going to assume you've read a few of my
other posts already, but if you haven't, you'll soon learn what everyone else has, which is that I'm a verbose motherfucker and I don't know when to shut up. As a result, my reviews are looooooooooooooooooong. So imagine taking one, like the last one for instance, which even by my standards was huge (that's what she said...), and double it. It wasn't much fun to attempt to write (which was the first time I could say that about any of these, usually I'm sitting here having a ball) and I can't imagine it would have been much fun to read, either. So I put the ixnay on it.

The plan now is this- I still intend to review two movies this week, I'm just going to space them out over a couple of days. This review went up on Wednesday as usual, so you can expect the second review on Friday, Saturday morning at the absolute latest (I have a party to go to Saturday night). That way I can still address a few of the duel themes I wanted to, whilst also treating each as a self-contained piece. Like a good episode of "The X-Files."

So, "Crocodile." I've always been amazed that Tobe Hooper didn't become a bigger name director than he is. He made two great movies, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Poltergeist," the second of which I believe he was hand-picked to direct by Steven Spielberg himself. He showed flair and talent, and through both also showed he wasn't one-dimensional and understood how to make two very different kinds of scary movie. The future should have been bright, at the very least in the world of mainstream American horror cinema. But going over his career history as a director, you soon discover that the bulk of it is made up of TV movies, direct-to-video bombs and gigs on shows like "Dark Skies," "Perversions Of Science," "Nowhere Man," and "Masters Of Horror." I'm not calling him a failure, I would never do that. He seems to be that rare thing, a consistantly-employed director. And if he's happy with the path his career has take then God bless him. But I can't help but think that, in a genre where it seems like you don't have to do much or back up the things you promise in order to be held up as some great talent (hello Eli Roth), for a man who clearly showed he was good at this to be stuck directing episodes of "Night Visions," is disheartening at best.

The film kicks of with a thumping, upbeat pop-punk ditty, and suddenly I am transported back to the turn of the century, when I was 18 and life was strangely less and more complicated all at once. In a car driving down a long stretch of road, we meet our two main male protagonists, nice guy Brady (Mark McLachlin) and his fratboy prick friend Duncan (Chris Solari). Both seem really familiar to me, but I can't place them from anywhere. Solari apparently had a small part in "Great Balls Of Fire!" when he was a child, a movie I have seen, but there's no way I would have remembered that, and this was McLachlin's first screen role, and he's apparently only been in four
films since, in one being credited as "Dead Robber," which must have stretched his talents. Their final destination is some harbour so they can spend their Spring Break sailing, drinking and swapping various fluids, I'm presuming not with each other. Along the way they pass the time by discussing what they would have if they could only eat one food for the rest of their lives, with Duncan throwing his weight behind pizza, because as he puts it, "It's like sex... when it's good it's great, right? And when it's bad, it's still pretty damn good." I can't find fault in this logic if I'm truly honest, but will say that I've probably had more pizzas than I have sex in my life, so what do I know?

Another car full of college kids drives past and shoots their car with water pistols. It turns out this crew of shaved chimps is also with them, amongst them a pretty girl with multi-coloured hair in a tight T-Shirt. Her name is Sunny, she's played by Somme Knight, and she's a slut. Don't yell at me, I'm not being sexist, I just know how these movies work, and when a girl shows up dressed like that, surrounded by a bunch of baying males, she's either had or will have them all. And for fairness and balance, Brady, the hero of our piece, doesn't come across as some shining beacon of virtue either, as it quickly comes out that he's not pleased to see her because at
some point he and her would appear to have got to know each other carnally, which is going to be a problem because his girlfriend Claire (Caitlin Martin) is meeting them at the dock. At this point I was sitting here really, really hoping this wasn't going to turn into an episode of "Dawson's Creek," with a rampaging Crocodile in it. I mean, yes, that premise has some merits, but that's not what I came into this expecting. And happily, it's not what I got.

The gang reaches the boat they've hired, along with it's owners, Kit (Doug/DW Reiser), Annabelle (Julie Mintz), and they're horrible, yappy little ball of fluff that I ironically refer to as a dog named (GAH) Princess. I hated that dog on sight, but consoled myself with the thought that there as no way the little fucker was getting to
the other end of this thing alive. She may be the first to go. Brady meets up with Claire, there's some kissing, then off to town to buy beers, where they're hassled by the local police. Well I say "hassled," but in truth they do nothing to them that's in any way unreasonable, even though the low, slow guitar music and reactions from certain characters make it obvious the movie wants us to think this. They see a bunch of loud kids who could easily be underaged running around with beer, stop them to check their IDs, and tell them to be careful when they're out on the lake and make sure nobody operates the boat whilst drunk, otherwise something bad could happen. And all they get back is attitude. Which makes this as good a point as any to bring this up- with the exception of Brady and Claire, and Kit and Annabelle up to a point (they lose points just through association with the dog), every single one of these people is a cock. Borish, belligerant, sarcastic, hedonistic and in a couple of cases showing genuine evidence of mental instability, there's not a single person here you'd want to see survive.

And that's great. Because while I'll admit that you do need a few likeale human protagonists in there, for most of the movie, whether you want to or not, you're going to find yourself rooting for the monster. So any halfway decent creature flick should be kind enough to serve up a few arseholes for you to gleefully watch get chomped. And here you practically get a buffet full of them.

And speaking of chomping on arseholes, there's a very strange moment not long after this. The boat is now sailing, and we're in one of the cabins. There's a close-up of Claire's face, she's giggling and ever-so-slightly bent forward. We then move out a little bit to see the top half of her body, then Brady's head raises up into shot... from behind her.

Now, maybe it's just me, infact it very well could be, I'm not discounting that, but from what they're visually implying here, there's only a couple of things he could have been doing to her. And
they're either cool or gross, depending on your level of prudishness. Aaaaaanyway, through this scene, we learn a few things about the relationships of these characters, mostly that Claire hates Duncan with a firey passion because he got Brady caught up in some cheating scandle that got him kicked out of school, and thus he and Claire can no longer be together. I really don't care, to be honest.

Following some bodyshot-related party humour and some vomit jokes, we're then whisked to a campfire at night, which exists in order for Kit to tell he story of this movie's monster, the giant Egyptian Crocodile, or as it's called, the "Flat Dog," that was brought to America by Harlan Clements, who built and owned the old hotel that
could be seen from the camp. The Croc was said to be descended from the ones the Pharaohs rode into battle, and apparently Harlen worshipped it, created a shrine for it within the hotel and built a cult around it, believing that he could use it to harness the powers of the ancient Egyptian Crocodile Gods. He was about to be run out of town for his un-Christian ways, when the Flat Dog somehow laid eggs without obviously having anything to mate with. I don't understand why this stopped him from being run out of town, but never mind. It's then said that Harlen's eight-year-old son got mad at him for some unrevealed reason, smashed the eggs, and then all that was ever seen of him again was his hand. It's a fun tale, and you could easily buy it as a real urban legend. The most fun aspect of this scene though is the kids heckling and dicking around with Kit as he tells it though, throwing out such gems as, "Can we just fast-forward to the flying guts and assholes?" and the frankly rather random, "LICK MY HAIRY BALL SACK!" Also in later scenes more mention is made of the hotel, of a fire that happened there and evidence of some real freaky shit being found. I was rubbing my hands together, because I thought not only are they going to be chased around by a beast, but they're also going to end up in a haunted house with it. Sadly, this never happens, which confuses me. Why would you set things up like that and give the hotel an elaborate backstory if you're not going to do anything with it? It seems like alot of work for absolutely no return. I have found out this movie has a sequel out there, so who knows, maybe the house is featured there. Hopefully one day I'll get to find out.

Intercut with this scene is another with two fishermen. They're just dicks, kicking over a sign that tells them not to fish where they want to, complaining about "Goddamn animal rights activists," before finding a nest full of large eggs on the bank of the river and deciding, "HEY, DURR, LET'S SMASH 'EM!" seemingly for no other reason than for the louls. I was a bit embarrassed watching this scene, because these guys are just cartoon characters written by by a college student in a PETA T-Shirt, but at the same time I welcomed their arrival the same way a small child does Christmas, beause I knew they heralded, finally, the coming of the Flat Dog. AND HERE IT COMES, AAAAAAND...

... it's shitty CGI. God damn it, it's shitty CGI. I physically deflated (that may have been the Dyralite though), and almost turned the movie off right there, but instead I sighed, tutted at myself for expecting anything else, and sat back down to watch the rest.

Then something wonderful happened. The other fisherman runs away, and the Flat Dog gives chase. Only we see the chase from the Flat Dog's point of view, and I swear, it looks like they used the old Sam Raimi "Shakey-Cam" effect to pull it off. Then the guy get in the car, Flat Dog gets in with him, and... YES! YES! IT'S A RUBBER CREATURE! IT'S A REAL TANGIBLE THING AND IT'S BITING HIM AND HE'S SCREAMING AND KICKING IT AND IT'S BITING HIS LEG AND NOW HALF HIS BODY IS IN IT'S MOUTH AND HE'S STILL SCREAMING AND BLOOD IS SPRAYING ALL OVER THE SEATS AND THE WINDOWS AND THE DASHBOARD AND HE'S STILL SCREAMING AND THEN IT PUSHES THE CAR INTO THE WATER AND OH MY FUCKING GOD THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!!!

I quite liked it.

From that point forward they fall into the pattern of sometimes having the Flat Dog be represented by animatronics, and occasionally by CGI. Neither looks particularly realistic, but that's not the point, the point is, does the creature have character? And to that question, I answer a resounding yes. Even in computer-generated form. I've complained about the use of CGI in movies that couldn't afford it before, and I stand by those statements, but it seems here that everybody involved had the sense to realise their limitations and not go for an over-realistic look like so many small-budget genre
movies do as a way to overcompensate. Here, the Flat Dog look a little goofy, but you get the impression that was more by design by anything else. And they really do only use the effect for things they obviously didn't know how to do practically, so they weren't a slave to it. It's a good way to work.

Now the film sets out to establish a reason for why Flat Dog would want to kill the kids. Here's where it gets a little bit clunky. The day following the camp out, the kids are having fun in the river frolicking whilst Sunny shakes her boobs at them, when they find the remains of what was Flat Dog's nest, as well as the lone remaining egg. They are, as they are with practically everything, utter wankers about it, taking taking and tossing it around like a
football. Princess also eats the contents of one of the smashed ones as Mummy looks on (oh, you're going to get it, dog...). Upon returning to the boat, one of the nerdier and seemingly more unhinged of the group starts muttering some jealous ramblings about Claire, before putting the last remaining egg in her bag as a "joke." Okay, this is usually where I say, "two things," but in this case, THREE things- 1) Why does it seem like all Brady's friends hate Claire? What has she done to inspire this level of hostility from them? Other than not sleep with them all I mean, which seems like what you have to do to be a woman and for them to like you, 2) Where did this creepy loser having the hots for her come from? There's been absolutely nothing pointing to this in any way up until this moment, and 3) How is putting an egg in her bag even a joke? Okay, put an egg in her bag and then stamping on it, that's a joke. But just putting an egg in her bag isn't a joke. That's just... putting an egg in her bag.

In any event, this is briefly forgot about when we take a quick detour back to "Joey & Pacey Land" when Claire finally discovers her boyfriend has at some point been with Sunny, and to be honest with you, the dumb bastard has nobody to blame but himself. I'm not advocating anybody ever cheat on their respective others. I never have. But if you are going to, at least be able to think on your feet a little bit. Here's how it went down- Sunny's a drunk mess again, so Brady decides to help her back onto the boat. She starts to kiss him, and Claire tells her, in a firm but friendly
way, "back off, bitch." To which Sunny apologetically responds, "You're so nice, I never would have done it if I had known." Claire looks confused, asks Brady what she means, and the best he can come up with is to pause before saying, "She's been drinking." WAT?! There's no way any woman with half a brain is going to accept that! And he had an out! He could have told her she's obviously so drunk she forgot he had a girlfriend and was apologising for kissing him! But no, no, the best he could come up with was, "She's been drinking." What a moron. So then it all comes out, the shit hits the fan, Claire starts to cry, and Brady finds himself sleeping on the poop deck in his sleeping bag.

I can believe I just wrote a paragraph about te problem solving abilities of a fictional character.

After that little bout of melodrama I was really feeling the need to
see someone get eaten, and happily the movie obliged me- Creepy Dude Who Thinks Putting Eggs In Someone's Bag Is A Joke is left on shore so he can sober up. He wakes up, walks to the end on the peer to puke, and then BOOM! FLAT DOG OUTTA NOWHERE, SWALLOWING HIM WHOLE AND AND TAKING A MASSIVE CHUNK OUT OF THE WOOD! It also accidently cuts he rope holding the boat in place, causing it to float off. They all wake up later having floated miles down stream, with no real idea of where they are and the boat stuck on the bank. Like the ungreatful little shits that they are, most of the kids are more interested in making Bloody Marys and trying to convince their friend's heartbroken girlfriend to have sex with them to help get their vessel up and running again.

Brady's not much help either, as he just goes for a walk to be alone with his thoughts. He's joined by Sunny, who thinks the best thing to do to cheer him up would be to try and fuck him. Gotta love this girl. Her seduction technique is odd though, as it consists of her getting into the river fully clothed. Nothing sexier than soggy cotton. Have none of these people heard of skinny dipping? Thankfully Flat Dog shows up to stop Brady potentially making another big mistake. In many ways the monster is the most moral character in this movie. There's a critique of modern American youth for you. It's at this point some inconsistancies start to become apparent in Flat Dog. In some scenes he's fast enough to kil people in the blink of an eye, but in this scene he

The only disappointment is the dog survives.

While all this is going on, The Sherrif from the start of the movie (played by Harrison Young, who amazingly played "Old Ryan" in "Saving Private Ryan" two years earlier. Life of a jobbing actor, I guess) is having his own adventure. He discovers the chewed up remains of the two fishermen, as well as what's left of the nest, and pays a visit to Lester (Adam Gierasch) and Shurkin (Terrence Evans), two backwater hicks who run a very strange gift shop and also keep Alligators, suspecting that one of their pets had escaped
and done the damage. Shurkin soon puts him straight, telling him it was the Flat Dog and insistng on coming along to help The Sherrif take it down, as it killed his father and grandfather. It's a BLOODFEUD! there are no words to describe how superb that is. Lester stays behind, supposedly to keep an eye on things, but we later see him feeding the Flat Dog chickens. He seems to be caring for it, but the movie never really makes it clear if he's always been doing this, or if he just happened to find it and had some chickens on him. While feeding it, he asks it if it would eat The Sherrif and Shurkin for him. "Ah'm sicka Shurkin," he says, "ah'm sicka all his buggerin's..."

... Excuse me? Did... did I just hear what I thought I did? Where's the rewind button?

"Ah'm sicka Shurkin, ah'm sicka all his buggerin's..."

Yep, thought so. Wow. First implied analingus, now outright stated forced sodomy. This is the most anally-obsessed horror movie since "Deliverence." Who wrote this, John Stagliano? Anyway, Lester is spared any further, ahem, indignity when the Flat Dog decides to thank him for the meal by eating him.

And so we're back to the survivors, and the problem now is that because most of the total dickheads have already been done away with, seeing people get eaten might not be as fun as it had been previously. Thankfully, the movie seems to expect this and to have planned for it by having them argue and bicker amongst themselves to such an annoying degree that I'm eventually more than happy to see some of them go away. I'm not going to get overexcited here, instead I'm going to look at this scene objectively and point out what's good and not so about it. For a start, I find the fact that they've acting like this thing could pop out at them from anywhere to be ludicrous. It's huge, and they're walking through a not-particularly
dense forest. You should be able to see or hear it coming a mile away. On the plus side, there's one unique moment that made me go, "Huh." Once the creature appears again (when the group discover Princess STANDING ON IT'S HEAD, which was the exact moment I gave up on the dog getting it), everyone scatters, and Sunny, whose foot was already injured in the first attack, gets it stuck between to tree roots. She's screaming in pain and for someone to help her, and Claire finds her... but so does the Flat Dog. She watches it approach, and in most movies this is where Claire would show what a good person she is by saving the person who did wrong by her, maybe even by sacrificing her own life. But she doesn't. She just stands there, frozen by fear, and watches screaming as it eats her.

The remaining five eventually find refuge in a closed local convinience store, where they act like everything is now going to be fine, they hug, high five, Brady and Claire kiss. That last one is really weird to me, it's like the second Sunny died, whatever was wrong in their relationship suddenly went away, which doesn't seem like a sensible message to be sending out. "Hey kid! Boyfriend or girlfriend screwing around on you? Do away with the other person and everything will be fine!" They're looking around the store for food and weapons (we get obvious-but-fun wink to Hooper's past when they find a chainsaw, which sadly isn't used later), Duncan covers himself with bug spray (which actually does come into play later in
one of the most hilarious ways possible), and Annabelle sneaks off to the bathroom to have a bit of a cry, which felt to me like too heavy a moment for a film like this. I don't want to see tears unless it's people crying through pain. She also can't do crying acting worth a damn. She sits on the toilet with her dog, and all I could think was, "please let the Flat Dog burst through the toilet and eat her, please let the Flat Dog burst though the toilet and eat her." He doesn't, but he does the next best thing, he BURSTS THROUGH THE FUCKING BRICK WALL! THEN HE'S IN THE STORE AND HE EATS ANNABELLE AND BLOOD SQIRTS NEARLY HITTING THE DOG AND IT'S KNOCKING SHIT OVER AND PEOPLE ARE SHOOTING IT AND IT'S HAVING NO EFFECT AND IT MUNCHES ON DUNCAN'S FOOT AND KIT GETS IN A TRUCK OUTSIDE THAT WON'T START AND IT GOES OUT AFTER HIM AND IT KNOCKS GAS EVERYWHERE AND SOMEHOW THERE'S FIRE AND IT RUNS AWAY AND THE TRUCK BLOWS UP WITH KIT IN IT! A CROCODILE JUST BLEW UP A FUCKING TRUCK!!!!!!!

After this, we're treated to several lush shots of Shurkin and The Sherrif riding around in their boat, with inappropriately romantic music playing over the top of it, which given what we already know about Shurkin is enough to make me wonder what's been going on off-screen between the two of them. They see the smoke coming from the exploded store and decide to invetigate closer. "It just keeps getting better," The Sherrif say. I didn't know about that one at the time. I thought it might have peaked. Brady, Claire and Duncan are at this point a real sight to behold, clothes ripped to shreads
, arguing over who pushes Duncan in the wheelbarrow they have him in as he complains and sprays more bug spray over himself. If I were either of them, I'd have left him behind miles back, on the off-chance that Flat Dog finds him and get distracted for a few moments as it eats him.

They spy The Sherrif and Shurkin, and again act like they're saved when they get on their boat, which makes perhaps the least sense of anything so far, because you know what? The last place I would feel safe if I was being hunted by a giant Crocodile would be on a boat surrounded by water. And indeed, the creature appears, rams the boat, knocks Shurkin into the water and does the same thing to him as it did the previous two generation. At least he's with Lester
now. The Sherrif bites it next, along with half the engine, thus causing the boat to burst into flames and the other three to have to abandon ship and, once the egg is finally discovered, decide to use it as bait and make one last stand against Flat Dog, armed with a pen knife and some sticks. Duncan, who for most of the movie has pretty much been an insufferable twat, is actually hilarious in this scene, his declaration that he's had enough and is willing to let the creature eat him, and his utter disbelief at both his friend's desire to fight and the tools with which he wants to do it with both being brilliant.

So here they are, three beaten up teens hiding behind bushes armed with sticks ready to do battle with a giant Egypyian Crocodile. There's no way this fight scene can live up to what's come before, and in truth it doesn't. But there are two moments here that elevate it to greatness, and both in some way involve Duncan, who it seems like the writers realised they'd given the short end of the stick to most of the movie and tried to make up for this fact in the last ten minutes. Firstly, in order to stop Brady being eaten, he jumps on top of Flat Dog's mouth and attemps to hold it's jaws shut. Flat Dog's response? IT TOSSES HIM INTO THE AIR AND SWALLOWS HIM WHOLE! My God they did it, they actually managed to save the coolest death in the movie until the very end. Oh wait, did I say death? My mistake. Because you see, Duncan doesn't die here. How does he survive being swallowed whole, you ask? Well shortly after the fact, Flat Dog starts gagging and making hurling noises and... can you guess where I'm going with this yet? HE PUKES HIM UP! HE PUKES HIM UP BECAUSE HE'S SO COVERED IN BUG SPRAY THAT HE'S INDIGESTIBLE! I literally threw my arms in the air and shouted, "YEAH!!!"

And then the egg hatches, and Flat Dog and baby go away. I'm not being needlessly abrupt when I put it like that either. That's really what happens. It just swims away with it's kin, leaving the three friends standing on the river bank watching it go. And then the movie ends. No seeing how this event has effected the three and
made them closer and stronger friends, no scenes with them in hospital, nothing. It's just over. Roll credits. The End. And I liked that, it was a movie being satisfied that it had done what it set out to do, leaving when it had nothing more to add. More movies should have the conviction to do that.

I like this movie. I really do. It's not high art, but it was never meant to be. It's not that scary, but with these kinds of movies, that's not really the point. The point is to make sure the viewer is riotously entertained, which I was. There are flaws. While it looks fine for what it is, on account that it's directed by someone who
actually knows what he's doing, it feels like it's getting cheaper and cheaper the longer it goes on, like it was filmed in sequence and you could see them running out of money. There's also one continuity error right at the end- Brady tells Claire he saw the creepy guy mucking around with her bag, and when she asks why he didn't tell her about it, he says she wasn't talking to him at the time. Um, no, the scene where they fell out came after that one. I guess that's what happens when you have three people writing the screenplay. But I'll forgive that, because there were moments in this film that had me smiling, laughing, and yes, even cheering. It's like a frat party, it's childish, populated by dumb people, saying silly things, and you feel a bit ashamed of yourself for having a good time, but you're having one anyway. Just don't forget to bring beer.



One down, one to go.

Until, well, Saturday morning at the latest, I'm the Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and you sure do got a purdy mouth.