Lake Dead / The Deaths of Ian Stone / Unearthed
Crazy Eights / Tooth & Nail / Nightmare Man / Borderland
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STUDIO: Lions Gate
RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes
Miss Horrorfest 2007 webisodes
Bodies stuffed into trunks tend to be a little pissed about the whole situation.
Dina Meyer, Frank Whaley, Traci Lords, George Newbern, Gabrielle Anwar, Dan DeLuca, Karen Beriss
And consequently, in the 2000 presidential election…
Six friends gather together for the funeral of a mutual childhood friend and discover that his final request for all of them is to go and open a time capsule they buried when they were kids. When they do, they find the body of a young girl among some childhood mementos. This sets off a chain of events that eventually finds them all trapped in an abandoned orphanage that was the scene of a long-forgotten tragedy that they get reminded of by an old dead friend.
Oliver: “I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have you participate in this 3-D reenactment of Starship Troopers‘ shower scene, Dina.”
Dina: “My pleasure. Where do you want me?”
Oliver: “Right there is good. Feel free to disrobe at any time…”
Crazy Eights is a pretty good chiller that needed just a couple more things to possibly be one of the better scarefests of the last couple years. The set-up is sound, if a bit reminiscent of Stephen King’s It: six friends gather after the death of their mutual buddy to revisit a mystery from their past. The friends are Jennifer (Meyer), a college professor; Lyle (Newbern), a priest; Gina (Lords), a singer; Brent (Whaley), a lawyer and Beth (Anwar), a sculptor. The friends have been experiencing strange phenomena leading up to the death of their friend, Brax, who committed suicide. These included vivid and haunting dreams, hallucinations and voices coming from nowhere, all involving a young girl. The catalyst of these phenomena and ultimately Brax’s suicide is really no mystery as it has to do with the little girl’s body that Brax directs them to find. What is the mystery is how they are all connected to it.
Huh, so that’s what Jacko did with Emmanuel Lewis…
Invariably, they get drawn to an abandoned secret hospital in an orphanage referred to briefly in the opening of the film. It’s where children were experimented on in ways that aren’t made very clear, but involved various forms of cruel mental conditioning. Of course that’s where the ghost of the little girl is waiting to make them all go bye-bye. What follows is a fairly predictable scenario where the friends are stalked by the ghost of the little girl, named Karen, and are dispatched in suitably bloody fashion. The story follows many of the boilerplate, scary-type conventions in that they split up, say they’ll be right back, and frequently see things that make with the eerie. Karen is also running around with stringy hair and a tattered hospital smock, all of which we’ve seen a little too much of lately, especially in recent Japanese horror remakes.
Director: “Okay Traci, now in this scene you’ve been blinded and um…well…uh…”
Traci: “Is there a problem?”
Director: “I just want to be sure for my own sake…you are over 18…right?”
Traci: “Oh goddamnit! Are you f-ing kidding me…?”
Along the way the friends discover that the orphanage in which they’re trapped, while not at first familiar, does hold a lot of secrets to their past and slowly reveals their connection to Karen. Invariably they start freaking, blaming each other and turning on each other as they discover elements of their pasts and their lives aren’t at all what they thought they were. There’s a noticeable Session 9 feel to the surroundings they find themselves in.
Director / writer / editor / producer / executive producer (honestly, the guy has about seven credits on the damn thing) James K. Jones does a pretty good job of establishing the dread in Crazy Eights, which is quite palpable. There are also some legitimately good scares, though most coming by way of the ole camera / music crescendo jump. Jones uses the orphanage location where most of the film was shot well, working the shadows, mirrors, and overall dreariness of the environs to a good effect. He has some nicely framed shots and lets the narrative develop at a solid pace.
“Okay, so was it me who was the shepherd and Jules the righteous man, or…no, that can’t be right…I was the selfish and Jules was the Lord…no, no, wait! I got it! I was the weak and Jules shepherded my ass through the valley of the darkness with Mr. 9mm…”
However, it’s the narrative that’s a couple of looneys short of a full bin. In other words, Crazy Eights needed a little more meat – okay a side of beef really – on the backstory. There’s precious little set up of the six friends, who they are, who they were as children, and what happened to them at the place where they find themselves back as adults. Also unsatisfying is the explanation of why they don’t remember that they were there. Was it conditioned out of them? Was what happened so traumatic that they repressed it? Who was Brax besides the disembodied stiff who put this whole thing into motion? I chalk it up to budget constraints, but without this connection to the friends’ past, there’s not as much impact to their current situation. Plus the character who seems to have the greatest empathy to the situation is offed
before that thread of the story can really be explored further. The ending also lacked a suitable oomph to it. And at only 80 minutes, Crazy Eights is more spartan than a leather-thonged Gerard Butler.
Unfortunately for Ms. Anwar, it’s only now, years later that we’re finding out the effects of receiving too many ‘HOO-WAAs’ up close…
Crazy Eights is the most impressively cast entry in the Horrorfest so far, with Dina Meyer taking a sabbatical from the Saw franchise to head up the cast, along with Frank Whaley, whose been in a ton of things recently but for some reason had almost completely disappeared off my radar. Superman George Newbern also puts in appearance as does Traci Lords and Gabrielle Anwar. This is a decent old-fashioned ghost-getting-some-payback exercise that could have been quite a bit better if it has some more rotting meat on its bones.
Jones bathes the film in washed out dreariness and shadow that work well for it in 16:9 widescreen and the sound is also suitably fine. However, like the film itself, the disc needed more as it only has the ubiquitous Miss Horrorfest 2007 webisodes.