Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring John Schneider, Katharine Isabelle, Ryan Kennedy, Chelan Simmons and Brendan Fletcher
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
A group of college age friends on an excursion happen upon a tiny backwoods town isolated from the rest of the world that appears to be stuck in a timewarp as if it were still the mid-1800’s. The town elders struck a deal with the devil to save the town long ago leading to immortality on their part but at the cost of having an evil monster come calling for its annual human sacrifice, and now the young friends who’ve stumbled upon this secret might be the next ones sacrificed.
Hold on just one cotton-pickin’ minute!
Group of good-looking young’ens? Town stuck in a timewarp? An unholy curse? Evil monster that collects sacrifices on a timeframe? I’d swear the Sci-Fi Channel already premiered this movie last Halloween when it was called Headless Horseman. The set-up is practically the same.
Headless Horseman did not, however, feature a creature that looked like Vince McMahon’s ideal version of Shrek. Like a pot-bellied boss monster from a video game, the ogre in all its hokey CGI glory looks like a giant inflatable crossbreeding of Shrek, a sumo wrestler, and the blocky title monster from Sci-Fi’s S.S. Doomtrooper, which itself was one of the most LOL-worthy monstrosities they’ve ever unleashed upon viewers. If you don’t come close to doing a spit-take the moment the ogre first appears in the film’s opening minutes then the best thing you can do is switch the channel immediately because its goofy appearance is one of the only two things Ogre has going for it. For goodness sake, THE OGRE HAS BITCH TITS!
Ellensford, Pennsylvania in the year of our lord 1859: Sir Henry Bartlett (“Smallville‘s” John Schneider, considerably less annoying than he was in Lake Placid 2 earlier this year) is named the new magistrate after the village elder dies from the plague that’s been killing the townspeople. Why do the townsfolk hastily elect Bartlett to be their new leader? Because Sir Henry Bartlett is the town magi and they believe he can cast a spell that’ll save them.
Town magi? I seem to remember learning in history class that people such as this during that particular time period tended to be religious and none too accepting of people proclaiming to practice the dark arts. Guess my history teacher never heard of Ellensford, PA; they not only accept this sorcerer, they make him their leader and allow him to enter them into an unholy contract with the devil to save them from the pox killing off their community. Good ol’ Satanism, the only 100% guaranteed cure for the common cold.
The plague is gone and the denizens of Ellensford gain immortality, but there’s a catch. There’s always a catch, isn’t there? Everything evil and diseased that has befallen the village has been pulled out of the people and manifested in the form of an enormous ogre. Now every year on a certain day during the winter solstice a chosen one amongst the villagers will be sacrificed to the ogre King Kong-style.
It’s worth noting that the ogre hides it shame behind a loin cloth. It may be the living embodiment of all the town’s wickedness and disease but never let it be said that the forces of darkness have no modesty.
Present day: a group of young hikers are out in the Pennsylvania woods partaking in their own personal “Destination Truth” in search of the lost town of Ellensford. One of them will trip and fracture his ankle. He’ll be left behind with another female to tend to him while our two leads, the non-dimensional Mike (Ryan Kennedy, soon to be seen in the highly anticipated Poison Ivy 4: The Secret Society) and a brainless ninny named Jessica (Ginger Snaps‘ Katharine Isabelle, giving an embarrassing performance of Tara Reid-ish proportions), go looking for help, preferably a ranger station. They won’t have to go far before happening upon a gated dirt road with an old, homemade “No Trespassing” sign on it. Naturally, they trespass. Once doing so, these modern interlopers quickly find themselves in Wicker Man territory.
Sir Bartlett will blame these trespassers for Ellensford’s latest ills brought on after ankle boy and the girl that stayed behind with him unknowingly unlock the lair where the ogre is kept until it comes time for the yearly sacrifice; now it’s skulking about killing indiscriminately: grabbing, slashing, gutting, biting off heads, and taking a page out of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s book by stomping a mud hole into people and walking it dry – literally. Bartlett’s daughter, Hope (Chelan Simmons, the naked tanning bed victim from Final Destination 3 that wasn’t Crystal Lowe), will attempt to lead an uprising against her scheming father and put an end to the ogre curse once and for all using the magical anti-evil amulet her evil dad gave her.
All the while the ogre just seems to be wandering around aimlessly until it’s time to mutilate a cast member. This is another one of those monster movies where I found myself wondering just what the heck was the monster doing during all the time it wasn’t on the screen, especially considering the very limited proximity of the area it has to wander around in.
I also couldn’t help but detect a basic fundamental problem with the townspeople and their unholy bargain. They may be immortal but they’re incapable of spawning – very Highlander-esque of the writers – so if they continue with the sacrifices there will eventually be none of them left anyway. If they deny the ogre its sacrifice and attempt to fight back it’ll kill them all. If they succeed in destroying the ogre they’ll all die, disintegrating into a beam of light as happens to any villager who attempts to exit the town’s outer limits. Any which way you cut it, they’re all dead. Honestly, other than the horror of having to give someone up every year to be mutilated by a hideous monster, what does it matter how all this all ends for them since it all ends with them all dead regardless?
That’s also the biggest problem with Ogre as a film – everything is inevitable. You know the townspeople are history regardless of how it turns out so that just leaves us with the two leads from our time and their fate – also quite predictable. Not that you care much about them anyway; Mike and Jessica are practically supporting characters only necessary as catalysts to unleashing the ogre who afterwards come across as completely expendable side characters.
Not expendable though is John Schneider as the Voldemort of Hazzard County. I’ve complained in the past that John Schneider usually just plays John Schneider. If that’s truly the case then this time John Schneider is playing John Schneider as one of the judges in a stage production of The Crucible. A very theatrical acting job if ever there was, he’s a site to behold dressed in his Witchfinder General attire, sporting a pilgrim beard, and wielding a stone encrusted wizard staff straight out of Lord of the Rings. I’d swear I’ve seen that very staff for sale in one of those catalogs that specializes in fantasy gear and weaponry. I don’t think I’ve ever written this line before so here it goes: John Schneider steals the movie.
I can tell you precisely the moment all the air gets let out of Ogre, though doing so requires a SPOILER WARNING – assuming anyone cares about such a film being spoiled. After devoting so much time setting up Henry Bartlett as a scheming villain with magical powers, the character is unceremoniously killed off by the ogre about mid-movie. Schneider’s performance was so hammy as to be genuinely amusing and the moment the movie lost him it lost a major source of its cheese factor and as I said from the outset, that cheese factor is all this movie has going for it. But worse than just losing a major provider of its cinematic lactose, the bulk of the film’s first half worked to establish antagonism between Bartlett and his daughter, he and the two unintended interventionists, and the ground work had even been laid for a confrontation between the townspeople who had begun dividing up into those that trust Sir Henry and those that agree that it’s time to end this infernal pact. The moment Schneider gets killed off the movie in effect kills off the biggest source of its dramatic conflict, negating almost everything it had been building up to.
Following that major misstep the second half sinks into the repetitiously lame Sci-Fi Channel everyone-rally-together-to-kill-the-monster motif and by then we’d already seen so much of the ogre that the novelty of this silly computer-generated creature running amok was beginning to wear off, much like whatever charm the film itself had.
2 out of 5
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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