Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Sarah Livingston Evans, Edward Gusts, Anna-Marie Wayne, Nancy P. Cobo, Jared Edwards
Written and directed by Robert Beaucage
"An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure."
That's actually a quote from Steel Magnolias. The title character of Spike probably wouldn't consider Steel Magnolias literate enough for his "Masterpiece Theater" tastes, but I assure you a more befitting quote to sum up my feelings on Spike you will not find.
Writer-director Robert Beaucage does deserve to be commended for attempting to make a Gothic romance with loftier goals than the standard teens-broken-down-in-the-woods-hunted-by-a-monster it looks like it's going to be during the opening minutes. Unfortunately, Beaucage overshoots his target by a wide margin and ends up crafting a grandiloquent bore suffering from a fatal overdose of pretension. Over the course of 90 minutes I went from being intrigued by its uniqueness to admiring the filmmaker's ambition even though I wasn't enjoying it to growing increasingly irritated by the stupid characters and their turgid prose to finally just outright hating the film. If you ever want to see a horror movie that is completely full of itself, look no further than Spike.
Not one character in the cast of five is ever given an actual name. There's the brother, his fiancée, his sister, her lesbian lover, and, of course, the monster. The brother will be incapacitated by one of the monster's quills moments after their car is sent careening down a ravine in the woods, but not before we're treated to an utterly bizarre dream sequence that would seem to indicate this guy wants to have sex with his sister. What this had to do with anything to come is lost on me and why it was included at all is anybody's guess. It really serves as the first warning sign that the misguided director thinks he can get away with flourishes of David Lynchian surrealism just for the hell of it.
The creature drags the badly injured brother off into the woods and his fiancée wanders off looking for him. His sister would rather leave him and his fiancée out there to potentially be killed by whatever took off with him than go look for them as her girlfriend insists they do. That sister then cold cocks her lesbian lover upside the head with a snow ski, ties her up unconscious, loads her into the back of their now broken down vehicle, and attempts to escape. When the girlfriend awakens, she is the most forgiving human being on the planet, only mildly annoyed at her lover for still not wanting to go look for the others rather than for cracking her skull and hog-tying her. In real life that's a relationship ender if ever there was one. This was just frickin' stupid.
There is no denying that the monster costume and make-up are top notch. Creature designer Rachel Ford-Pritchett deserves special consideration for dreaming up such a fantastically ghastly monstrosity and believably bringing it to life. I felt a little sorry for the actor having to wear it since all those spikes of varying length protruding must have made something as simple as sitting down difficult.
The moment the creature opens its mouth and waxes poetic with an endless array of lofty literary quotations, my negativity towards Spike truly began to kick in. A forest-dwelling human porcupine that talks like he should be in college getting a doctorate in English literature and then hanging out after class at the local coffee bar where he periodically takes the stage to try and impress everyone with the profundity of his poetic musings - this monster is a poseur.
The monster is in love with that guy's fiancée and set this whole scenario up so they can finally be together. The two were once childhood friends; this back-story is never adequately explained and constantly talked around in the dialogue. Doing so left me with not enough of an understanding of their history together to make all their relentless twaddle about unrequited love mean anything. The creature constantly quotes from Shakespeare, Beauty & the Beast, Greek mythology, The Elephant Man, and any other classical title thematically relevant. In case you're unsure what all he's quoting from, his bookshelf will be shown in one scene and all the appropriate titles are right there front and center for us to take stock of. It doesn't take long before all the pompous prose and hollow emotions become overbearing.
The monster and the girl do their Beauty & the Beast by way of a Lifetime Network stalker flick, while the boyfriend whom she truly loves remains a critically injured hostage of sorts and lesbians fumble about the woods not really contributing much of anything to the proceedings other than ensuring there are even more going nowhere fast scenes involving characters I grew increasingly to dislike.
I can see Spike possibly appealing to the art house horror crowd (if such a thing exists) and maybe emo girls that think they're above the whole Twilight thing. I can say I watched it with two friends who ended up hating the film even more than I did, one of whom was a female who'd I assume would be more open to a Gothic romance such as this. She voiced disdain afterwards, in particular that the monster never behaved like a monster even when it should have and that it did not commit a certain act at the end even though doing so would have been thematically appropriate considering the circumstances. Her boyfriend thought so highly of Spike he asked me if I would allow him to stomp on the DVD. Although I told him no, I did have to think about it for a moment.
1 1/2 out of 5
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