FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Aug 31, 2009

we are not amused

There came a point last night when I was faced with that dilemma which has plagued mankind since the very dawn of time- you know, when you sit on the couch late at night, all slack-jawed, thinking to yourself "I totally feel like watching something, but oh, whatever shall I watch?" Most times, I spend precious moments scanning my shelves (and my roommate's shelves) for a title to catch my eye, but then I end up watching nothing because I talk myself out of watching everything. This be how I do:
  • "I've seen that movie too many times already and I know everything that happens and I can't be bothered to labor through it all again at the moment" (Event Horizon)
  • "I've never seen that movie and I'll review it one of these days but I know it's going to be dreadful and I just don't feel like dreadful right now" (Nail Gun Massacre)
  • "It will most likely be good and perhaps even scary, but I know it's going to be a very, very quiet movie and I'll fall asleep within ten minutes and if I'm going to fall asleep I'd might as well go to bed because my bed is much more comfortable than our Golden Girls couch" (any ghost-flavored Asian horror flick)
  • "I wouldn't mind watching that, but it's not horror and I really ought to watch something I can review on my blog, which has taken over every facet of my being" (Sunset Boulevard)
  • "The Asylum...Maneater Series...Ghosthouse...After Dark...mehhhhhhhhhh" (any Asylum, Maneater, Ghosthouse, or After Dark title)
...and so on, until my brain finally 1) catches on fire, 2) freezes itself with liquid nitrogen, then smashes itself into a kajagoogooillion pieces with a hammer, or 3) goes and sits by itself in the corner, wondering what the members of Kajagoogoo are up to today.

Don't ask how my brain wields hammers and/or sits down- just trust me when I say that it does. The point is, life is very hard when it's late and you're kind of tired but not really tired enough to go to bed and you want to watch something but you can't figure out what. Wait! Actually, the real point of this is that last night I watched the direct-to-DVD feature Amusement (2009), a film I hoped would keep me awake and wouldn't be so bad that I wanted to kill myself- yes, sometimes my standards are that low.

Oh, don't act so surprised.

Amusement is an anthology that's not really an anthology; in other words, the film comprises 3 segments which eventually come together in a big, fat, denouement. Not a bad idea. Then again, someone though Crystal Pepsi was a good idea. Which it was. Wasn't it?

Okay, I'm not going to lie: I've never had a Crystal Pepsi. I'm a Diet Coke fan, what can I say? But I saw one once and it was totally futuristic, so it must have been a good idea.

ANYWAY. As the movie begins we meet Shelby (Laura Breckinridge), a young woman going...somewhere...for...some reason or another. Look, let's not get hung up on the details, alright? You need to keep in mind the big picture, which is that Shelby is the passenger in a car driven by her boyfriend. Her boyfriend has an inexplicable boner for convoys. No, not the film, which might be understandable- I mean he's obsessed with being in a convoy, and he spouts dialogue which makes it seem as if 3-car convoys are what all the kids are into nowadays. Merr? The Boyfriend gets even more excited when - GASP! - the entire supermassive three-vehicle convoy stops for gas. Can you feel the excitement?

The Boyfriend introduces himself to one of the other drivers, The Nerd, but they're both ignored by the third driver, The Creepy Trucker. Shelby spots a bug-eyed girl in the window of The Creepy Trucker's rig, and it's obvious that something's just not right. Soon, though, everyone is back on the road, heading through the woods and the something's just not rightness gets amped up when the bug-eyed girl holds up a sign that says HELP ME. Moments later, she's somehow launched out of the 18-wheeler and splats in the middle of the road.

Et cetera et cetera, The Nerd is really the bad guy and he kidnaps Shelby. I'm serious when I say "et cetera et cetera". If I attempted to actually relay the happenings and twists and turns of the segment, all while trying to ignore a little something called LOGIC, my fingers would shrivel with exhaustion and you'd be holding up your own sign asking for help.

Cut to Tabitha (Katheryn Winnick), who shows up at her aunt's house for...some reason something (noticing a trend?). She finds her two nephews home alone- they claim the babysitter just up and left. This is a good enough excuse for Tabitha, who decides to stay the night. Soon, a mysterious stranger shows up at the front door to let Tabitha that he knows what she did last summer asking about his girlfriend, the missing babysitter. Hmm...I get the feeling that something's just not right!

After he leaves, Tabitha settles in to her aunt's clown room for a little nighty-night sleepy time. What, doesn't every house have a clown room? This one is extra-special because it features a life-size clown with an eeeevil face. Oh, and he's alive.

He eventually chases after Tabitha, but her fate is unknown. Yours isn't, however: you've got another segment to deal with!

Meet Lisa (Jessica Lucas). Lisa is concerned that her cautious roommate went on a one-night stand with some dude from a bar and never came home. She remembers something about the guy, that he's staying in some hotel out in the middle of nowhere or something, so she goes to look for him.

Okay, I'm going to cut through half an hour of bullshit: the guy who runs the "hotel" is also The Nerd, who is also The Big Clown. He's lured Shelby, Tabitha, and Lisa to his headquarters to...exact revenge on them because, as we learn through a clumsy flashback, they did not find his 4th-grade diorama (in which he flayed a rat while it was still alive) funny. All of the scenarios he rigged to capture the girls reflect the subject matter of their 4th-grade dioramas.

Yes, Amusement ultimately revolves around 4th-grade dioramas.

AnyonetimeIdidaFrankensteindiorama, we come to discover that this dude apparently has built the entire town of Silent Hill miles underneath the farmhouse where he's keeping the girls. I can't be fucked to tell you any more than that, other than one of the girls escapes. The entire plot is built on the flimsiest of flimsy slasher movie-style 'revenge for childhood taunting' setups, and if you think about anything you're seeing or what this dude has actually done throughout the film for more than a nanosecond, your logic circuits will surely smoke, spark, and overload. That would be a bad thing.

I will say this: the three girls are decent enough actors. The dude, however, was far more irritating than frightening...and all you need to know about his performance can be summed up with this picture, specifically what's indicated by the helpful yellow arrow I added:

Tongue. See, that's how you know he's ca-RAZY!

Amusement was also nicely photographed, although it might have benefited from, say, 70% fewer dolly shots. But overall, it was pretty.

And pretty fucking ludicrous. Beyond pretty fucking ludicrous, actually...but I stayed awake throughout the entire affair, so I guess that's worth something.


Robson said...

Nice review!

But SUNSET BOULEVARD is totally a horror movie.

Jim Giar said...

Funny you should mention this. Thursday night, whilst my wife subjected herself to the horror that is "The Jonas Brothers" concert with my 9 year old daughter, I stood before the black double door cabinet of horror. (I refinished the cabinet and convinced my wife to finish it in black just so I could call it that.) Me and my oldest daughter stood starring into the cabinet and settled on watching [REC] for the 5th time. However, I mistakenly began the film in the English dubbed version and had already planted my ass on the sofa with a glass of wine and didn't feel like muckin' around with it. If you get a chance watch it and fast forward to the Asian family being interviewed. The voice over is enough to have charges filed against the actors and actresses. We rounded out the evening with The Blairthumb and all was right with the world.

Brad Nelson said...

Hey, I guess this diorama-tormented fellow had a case of being TOO SHY SHY, HUSH HUSH, EYE TO EYE.

Otherwise he may have had like a conversation with these girls instead of exercising slasher tropes and a blatant disregard for logic?

Or maybe things would have been the same, like that U2 song, "With or Without Kajagoogoo."

Ed Howard said...

I love reviews like this, where I just don't even need to watch the movie anymore. I feel like I've seen it now. It sounds awful, and I'm sorry you had to suffer through it, but the review is way more entertaining than the movie sounds.

But you really should've gone with Sunset Blvd, which, yes, IS a horror movie -- Norma Desmond is Nosferatu.

Stacie Ponder said...

It's definitely a lesson learned- when in doubt, do the Desmond. I was in the mood for straight-up, don't think too much horror, though. Guess I got it! :D

r.▵. m○n○-ϟy said...

Sunset Boulevard ALWAYS beats every other film. Ever. Fact.

Verdant Earl said...

I do this all the time as well, but it usually winds up with me drinking bourbon and eating potato chips while watching NCIS reruns on USA.

Oh, and Limahl (a fierce 50 year-old) and the rest of the gang from Kajagoogoo are back together again and they are recording a new album. They are currently touring the UK and Germany.

Anonymous said...

Brad, a Kaja Googoo theme would have made this movie far more entertaining.

I found Amusement to complex to follow-to boring to care. At every point where I thought, "I think I missed something when my eyes glazed over" at no point did I think I needed to back it up and make sense of the story. It just... happened. Stacie summed this film up quite well. I never want to sit through it again.

Stacie Ponder said...

I just couldn't get over how IMPOSSIBLE it all was, from his capturing the girls to his multimillion dollar palace of EEEEEEVIL. It was just absurd. ABSURD I TELLS YA!

Jason Adams said...

Wow I'd forgotten that I even saw this movie. And yet... I never truly SAW it, if you know what I mean. And if you do know what I mean, please tell me, I have no idea.

Stacie, I think a full quarter of my life, upon my death, will have been spent staring at my piles of DVDs completely paralyzed with indecision. And it's only going to get worse since my movie collection is growing more insurmountable with every passing week. One day I will be found dead buried beneath a pile of spilled DVDs, having choked to death on a copy of Funhouse that I'd tried to eat in my starvation-induced delirium.

Bill Walsh said...

No picture of the Frankenstein diorama? RIPOFF!

I once made a diorama of Hercules and Cerberus. Of course, all the effort went into making Cerberus out of clay. Herc was a generic G.I. Joe-type 12" doll in a loincloth. Oh, though he did have the skin of the Nemean Lion over his shoulder: it was a swatch of lion-ish color fur with a couple eyes glued to it.


Theron said...

Perfect review. And, actually, Norma Desmond is the Mummy. Really? And Max/Erich von Stroheim is Igor. Don't ask me how Igor ended up in a Mummy film though...

Anonymous said...

BTW, I am glad to see other folks of discerning taste struggle with "What do I watch".

Jay Clarke said...

Couldn't have said better myself. Jessica Lucas and Katheryn Winnick were the only things drawing me to this ridiculous affair.

Anonymous said...

Oh how I should have listened to you! This movie was the absolute worst!!! Everything you pointed out is correct, from the total lack of logic, to the way the women just showed up places for no real reason, to the ANNOYING killer. When he finally did get to the actual killing it was just so Ho-hum; just stab stab fall fall. Ugh, not to mention the woman's one liner in the truck at the end. After this and the "When A Stranger Calls" remake can we just put Jake Wade Wall into some intricate diorama of death?