The Hills Run Red (d. Dave Parker) - On paper, this one sounds like absolute catnip for me, even though I kind of knew it wouldn't pan. A young guy named Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink) is obsessed with a lost slasher film from the 1980s called The Hills Run Red, directed by a mysterious fellow named Wilson Wyler Concannon (William Sadler), who, following his film's brief theatrical release, and almost immediate horrified withdrawal, disappeared. The film hasn't been seen since, and therefore quite a cult fascination has developed around it. So Tyler, his buddy Lalo (Alex Wyndham), and unhappy, unfaithful girlfriend Serina (Janet Montgomery) venture out to find Concannon, his film, and produce a documentary about their search. Their one lead is Alexa (Sophie Monk), Concannon's daughter, now a stripper and heroin addict. Apart from the always welcome Sadler, precisely two things about the film work. One is an early line of dialogue, spoken by Lalo to Tyler. Lalo is trying to get past Tyler's bullshit claims about why he's interested in this lost film, and he says, in effect, "All you want to do is show everyone that you're more obsessed than they are." That's a reasonably cutting analysis of a certain segment of fandom, which the filmmakers promptly fail to develop. The second effective moment -- effective in theory more than in reality, to be honest -- is the reaction of one of the characters when he finally gets a chance to view the mysterious The Hills Run Red. This reaction is, again, a fairly pointed swipe at modern horror film violence, and not only our reaction to it, but our intended reaction. But this is all buried in a fairly amateurish bit of moviemaking, where none of the actors (Sadler again excepted) register, and which you realize is actually just a slasher movie, gussied up. The script, by horror writer David Schow, might have gone somewhere had it been run through the typewriter a few times more, but the whole production has the feel of something that someone desperately wanted to have finished and on screen. So inauthentic is the film that at one point, Sophie Monk is shown shooting heroin, and I pointed out to my wife that Monk did not make a believable heroin addict, to which my wife responded, "And when you shoot heroin, I'm pretty sure you don't stick the needle straight into your arm."
Deadgirl - (d. Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel) - Inside the DVD case for Deadgirl, when you remove the disc, you see on the inside flap of the paper insert/cover a reproduction of the film's poster, with the tagline: Every generation has its story about the horror of growing up. My immediate reaction to reading this was "They do?" and "So?" More importantly, that sentence might give you an idea of the willed air of significance that directors Sarmiento and Harel, and writer Trent Haaga, want so desperately for their film to radiate. And, to be fair, the film ain't that bad. Two teenage pals, Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan), while frolicking, as teens will, in an abandoned insane asylum, discover what they initially believe to be the naked corpse of a young woman, but soon realize is the naked zombie of a young woman. Rickie freaks out, but JT sees the potential sleazy benefits of having a secret sex slave chained up in a locked room no one else ever enters. JT's immediate spiral into the darkest of perversions is offset by Rickie's unrequited pining for his classmate JoAnn (Candice Accola). The film is supposed to be a story about the horror of growing up, and it's well-enough made, and the acting is across-the-board solid, keeping the story grounded. But what it's really about is how dangerous the filmmakers think it is when teenage boys can't get laid. Which, okay, fine, if zombies really existed, I have no doubt that some of the prettier ones would be chained up and used in this very way. But the straining for significance that comes along with Rickie's unhappy quest for love has the effect of rendering the whole film sort of laughably earnest and immaterial. You're left wanting the filmmakers to grow up and stop thinking about their dicks all the time. Also, it's too long.
Then again, maybe the film is a metaphor for internet porn.
The G. I. Joes in The Price of Cobras (d. Stephen Sommers) - It is because of Sommers that one of the worst things in the world, Van Helsing, exists at all. Knowing this, I watched his G. I. Joe movie anyway, because, second-generation G. I. Joe fan that I was, I had a whole army of those little action figures, each with his or her (well, his) own combat specialty and codename and history and gun. I had two armies, even, what with Cobra and all. And I waged many a mighty battle as a young boy, battles which, in all honesty, I still remember certain specific moments from, and still remember fondly. So in the interest of nostalgia, I figured what the shit, and gave Sommers' movie a look. And I enjoyed it. Oh, it's stupid. Don't get me wrong -- it's dumb as a sack of lightbulbs. But it's fun. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the central action sequence, which takes place in Paris and involves a car chase, punching, shooting, nano-somethings, ninjas, and high-powered metal combat suits, is a blast. I was fairly stunned that this section of the movie had me as wrapped up as it did. It is precisely the kind of action setpiece that made me love summer movies, and the absence of which caused me to start hating them some years back. But, okay, yes, it's stupid. Yet I didn't care. There's a scene where the G. I. Joes are all in a giant robot shark, which is swimming towards Cobra's underwater lair, and only briefly did I think, "Robot shark?? The G. I. Joes actually made a robot shark submarine at some point, hoping it would come in handy down the road?" After thinking this, I then thought, "Yeah, okay." Sue me, but I had a good time.