Simon Says (DVD)
Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Crispin Glover, Margo Harshman, Greg Cipes, Carrie Finklea
Directed by William Dear
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
You’ll know from the opening few minutes of this film that you’ve seen this before; hell Robert Kurtzman’s The Rage and David Arquette’s The Tripper open with almost the same shot; kids driving through the mountains in a van. Only difference here is, you really hate the kids in Simon Says from the get go.
Thankfully, this is one of those rare instances where said kids actually become somewhat less aggravating as the film goes forward, but it does take a while for the annoyance level to drop noticeably. By the time you see one of ‘em chained to a tree and about to be set on fire, you realize you kinda don’t want them to die.
It’s also one of those rare films that gets more competent as it goes along, though to be fair you really shouldn’t expect the director of Harry and the Hendersons and Angels in the Outfield to not know how to put a movie together, but for the first half hour or so that’s really what it was looking like. Don’t get me wrong, Simon Says never manages to rise above it’s somewhat lowly roots as a no-budget slasher film, but at least it becomes a bit easier to follow as it progresses.
So what’s it about? The “plot”, if you will, is quite simple; a decade or so ago there were a set of twins, Simon and Stanley (Glover, when they’re adults). Stanley was the smart one, Simon was slightly retarded and because of this, their mother heaped all her attention on Simon. So Stanley got jealous, put his brother in a coma, and now switches back and forth through the personalities at his leisure. This may seem like a spoiler, but honestly it never felt like we were supposed to believer there were actually two of them save for maybe the very first time we see them as adults.
Some massively stereotyped kids (jock, slut, stoner, goody-goody…), out spend some quality time communing with nature and their drinking habits, run afoul of the brother/brothers, and murders ensue en masse. This is where Simon Says will stand out for horror fan. You see, for some reason Simon/Stanley has an obsession with pickaxes and save for a knife and fire, it’s pretty much the only weapon he uses to dispatch those in his way. He’s also a wiz with machines, so he’s built all sorts of devices that he’s placed throughout his woods as booby traps that will cause pickaxes to come flying out of seemingly nowhere to perforate those unfortunate enough to hit his tripwires (look out for the Forest of the Flying Pickaxes!). It’s the ridiculous, over the top nature of the pickaxe killings that made me realize that William Dear wasn’t really taking this very seriously, so I was able to kick back and enjoy the film a bit more from that point on.
There are some laugh-out-loud funny moments, usually coming from Glover, who’s chewing scenery like it’s sustenance from the first moment he’s on screen to his last. It’s not so much his delivery, which is over the top to begin with, but the random acts of violence that come from left field that had me cackling at certain points. One really has to wonder if this was one of those roles Glover took just for the money and notoriety, after all a serial killer film with Crispin Glover should be an easy sell, or if he was truly looking to try something completely bizarre and out of type for what we’d expect of him. And did I mention how big he is in this? Not fat, mind you, just really bulky. At first I thought it was padding or something but no, he really put on some meat for this role. It certainly makes him a more menacing killer than if he were still his Charlie’s Angels size.
And before you ask yes, the gore is good. Some of the dummies used throughout are painfully telling of the film’s low budget, but the actual gore itself is plentiful and effective. The only really, really cheap effect is the aforementioned kid on fire, which is so badly done and focused on for so long you might start to wonder if they even noticed how disingenuous it looked. Other than that, though, there was obviously some thought put into how the horror audience would react to the gore, and really if you’re going to just say “fuck it” and kill everyone with pickaxes, you’d better be ready to spray the sanguine.
All in all, Simon Says was not a bad movie, just nothing all that interesting. Indeed, if it weren’t for the casting of Crispin Glover as the lead, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything about it (other than the pick axe murders, of course) that sets it aside from other similarly themed slasher films. This is a good movie to watch with a case of beer, a couple of joints, and some friends who have a good sense of humor and can appreciate cheese for the sake of cheese.
3 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
Discuss Simon Says in the Dread Central forums!