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STUDIO: Cinema Epoch
RUNNING TIME: 78 Minutes
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Let’s make another backwoods cannibal folk movie, only let’s not add anything new to the genre or make it interesting in any way, whatsoever.
Lydia Chandler, Tim Morris, Bill Oberst, JR.. Jack Harrison, Caper Kane. Directed by Gary King.
Dana (played by Lydia Chandler) is going to an unnamed school after an unknown degree. The only problem is that she’s failing biology due to her fear of cutting things open (I wonder if this will be important later). The teacher’s assistant, Curt (Morris) invites her to come with him and a few other cardboard cutouts (characters?) to The Great Dismal Swamp for an extra credit assignment of collecting wildlife and basking in the local flora and fauna. Unluckily for them, there’s a really big dude in a goofy Halloween costume who wants to make some Stupid Fucking Teenager Soup out of them. That is all.
I’m going to go ahead and do this now so you’re not expecting it the whole time. “The only thing more dismal than Dismal was my last colonoscopy.” Also, “This shit is so dismal I kickfucked my DVD player when it was over just to teach it a lesson about when to say no.” And, “If the next horror movie I see is as dismal as Dismal, then dismal dismal dismal dismal.” Now then, onto the review.
I really don’t ask a lot from my horror movies. When I worked at Hollywood Video (before they folded like a TV tray with a picture of The Ultimate Warrior on it) I was the “Horror Guy.” I had seen every single horror movie in our store as well as hundreds more from the indie store down the street. I could give someone a detailed and well reasoned accounting of why they needed to rent Ankle Biters (the midget vampire movie) instead of A Beautiful Mind. I’ve found myself on more than one occasion being an apologist for Hatchet and Cabin Fever in the same sentence and trying to explain why Cemetery Man is better than anything Tim Burton has done in almost two decades.
Horror movies only need a few small ingredients to get a pass from me. All I’m asking for is some inventive gore, one character to root for, a good evil (be it human or otherwise) and, if I’m very lucky, a slight variation on the genre; A tweaking of the tropes that gives the film an unexpected moment of transcendence. That’s not too much to ask for, is it? In Dismal, the only thing I got was some decent make up effects and one pretty awesome performance from Bill Oberst Jr. as Ranger Dale, who attempts to come to the kids rescue when shit turns to fuck.
The Great Dismal Swamp spans over a hundred and ten thousand acres, but the film is so limited in it’s budget that the only overhead shots we get are obviously stock footage and don’t resemble the woods’ locations at all. Oh, and it’s also called The Great Dismal Fucking Swamp and everybody’s out there in their short shorts and khaki pants, so I’m assuming that the real Great Dismal Swamp is actually more of a Great Mildly Uncomfortable Swamp or even a Fairy Exceptional Bog Of Itch. I mean, it looks dismal for sure, but people only start treating it as dismal when they start getting stalked by the bastard child of a thousand better slashers. I think they found the safest and most generic looking locations in the swamp that they could find and shot there, which is kind of unforgivable since they had a hundred thousand acres to choose from.
The real show killer for me, though, is Lydia Chandler as the Survivor Girl Dana. Her performance isn’t excruciating like a few of the other actors in the film, but the blandness that oozes out of her very being doesn’t allow you laugh at the performance or be invested in it. Instead, you’re left wondering why they couldn’t find someone with a little more charisma or at least a smoking body to drool over for 78 minutes. Dana spends the final 20 minutes of the movie making the exact same hyperventally, mewling noises while punctuating every single moment of silence with a half assed scream.
More interesting is Tim Morris as the T.A. Curt. For the first half of the movie it seems like he’s a weird hybrid of Paul Schneider and Seth Galifianakis and it really works. He was totally going to be my MVP of the movie until the second half where it seems like he went to the Nic Cage school of mega acting (as Outlaw Vern would say) and just completely shits the bed in regards to his character work and motivation. The movie is worth your time if only for the rubberneck appeal of watching Mr. Morris lose his fucking mind.
Nope, the MVP award goes to Bill Oberst Jr. who delivers his lines with such Railsbackian intensity and gusto that the movie almost doesn’t blow when he’s onscreen. I had to IMDB this guy after the movie and was shocked to see he’s 43 movies deep into his filmography and is playing Emaciated Pirate in the next Pirates of the Caribbean film. I’m assuming the part will be pretty good since he’s not Emaciated Pirate #4 or #6 or something like that; he’s the only skinny pirate in this particular Caribbean.
The movie does have it’s funny moments and inspired bits in Act One but once the screaming starts it becomes a run of the mill slasher flick. My favorite bit in the whole film is when one of the biology students (the black stereotype named Jamal) meets up with everyone going on the expedition. He doesn’t bring someone else from the class or his girlfriend or something… he brings a prostitute. He brings a whore camping on a biology extra credit assignment!! He also dies first which made me question whether that was clichéd or not since the black guy dying first has been fairly meta for the last ten years.
I dunno. I can’t really recommend this movie because of how boring, lifeless, stagnant and, dare I say, dismal it is but, then again, a few fascinating performances can go a long way and… no. No, I’m not going to say you should see this. If there was a moment of innovation in this film then maybe, but as it stands this is a creatively bankrupt slasher flick that feels like a film edited together out of deleted scenes from Wrong Turn 2, Hatchet 2 and The Hills Have Eyes 2. If you’re a horror completest (like myself) then go for it, but otherwise I think you should watch something else. I don’t care what just stop asking me so many questions.
Not a whole lot here really. It has the trailer for the film which manges to make the film look just about as good as it is. There’s a still gallery with a few cool behind the scenes pics and a few fairly sexy shots of the chick that plays the prostitute. Lastly there’s a 6 minute long slideshow showing the cover boxes of other Cinema Epoch releases such as Skirt Day, Missy and the Maxinator, Psycho Shark, Buffalo Bushido and Razor Babies. I made one of those up and I’ll never tell which one.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars