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Remo D. Ruins Prom Night at the Spook Show

Posted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 12:04 pm
by Remo D
Okay--it's been a huge week and I have a lot of catching up to do.

Yes, I finally saw a 2008 horror release that boosted my faith during such a lousy year. And then I couldn't leave well enough alone. And then a local phenomenon perked things up again... oh, let's just get to it, shall we?

THE RUINS is the first film of 2008 to truly deliver the goods with intelligent, well-crafted, grisly, monstrous HORROR. Oh, and did I mention that it stands out as something ORIGINAL? And by "original," I mean "not a remake, not an obvious ripoff," not "you have NEVER seen anything REMOTELY like this," okay? If you want to boil things down to the premises themselves, we'll be here all week. And the premise is simple--young travellers, practically on a dare, decide to check out the ruins of a Mayan temple--one that doesn't appear in the guidebooks. They've got to go to great lengths to reach their destination--and by the time they realize that something horrible's waiting for them, it's too late to leave.

The trailers, for once, were perfect--they got the idea across WITHOUT spelling out the exact nature of the menace--and it's a pure "monster movie" type of menace we see far too little of these days. Remember what I said about CLOVERFIELD? I liked the movie, but people were eventually put off that it was NOT about the revelation of the monster, after all they'd been put through with the truly aggravating teaser trailers. THE RUINS, on the other hand, shows you just enough in the ads and then provides PLENTY of payoff--even though, again, the menace may not be exactly what you're expecting it to be. Unless you've read the book.

Ah, yes. The book. Scott B. Smith adapted his own novel (which, I admit, I have not read)--and he accounts for his story and characters most admirably. Besides the initial "don't wander off the beaten path" instinct, he provides clear--in fact, inescapable--motivation and logic for everything that happens once the film reaches the point of no return. Yes, they HAVE to try to climb down into the dark pit because the cell phone that might save them can be heard ringing from below. Yes, the women HAVE to go down the shaft on the rescue operation instead of the guys because the guys are the only ones strong enough to turn the crank and bring them back UP. And yes, one of them is a medical student well aware of the imperatives... etc, etc. In other words, nobody gets to yell "NO, IDIOT! DON'T DO THAT!"

First-time feature director Carter Smith (no relation to the author) does an excellent job straight out of the box (excellent suspense scenes and genuine tension), the cast is quite likable and sympathetic, the scenery (not actually Mexico, you might have heard) and photography (CGI-enhanced or not) get the point across...

...and oh, yes, the horror and gore are ladled on thick with equal emphasis on "gross out" material and pure psychological discomfort. The "get the cell phone" scene, in particular, is a masterpiece with a wicked punchline--when you realize what's really going on here, you'll be quite frustrated, but you'll hand it to the filmmakers all the same...

Yes, we've seen films "like" THE RUINS before, but this is its own animal, and it plays as a completely new thriller. Something almost unique in 2008.

So why did you do it? Why, Remo? You skipped ONE MISSED CALL, THE EYE, SHUTTER and FUNNY GAMES because you were sick of the remakes. You knew damn well that PROM NIGHT wouldn't be any good. So what were you THINKING?

Glad you asked. I skipped the Asian horror remakes because I truly am sick to death of the field. I want a moratorium declared on hair ghosts, cursed electronic devices and post-surgery visions. And Jessica Alba.

I skipped FUNNY GAMES because there was simply no need for me to see a scene-for-scene, shot-for-shot remake of a film I was already quite familiar with just because it had different actors in it. Especially when the director has a high-and-mighty "your country NEEDS this film as therapy" attitude.

But rather than simply declare 2008 over and done with now that I've seen a genuine contender for "best horror film of the year," I felt the urge to check out the competition that was guaranteed to whale on it. I haven't seen PROM NIGHT in a long time, this new PROM NIGHT is another "not really a remake" deal, and I was just curious enough to see what the filmmakers would actually SUPPLY since they knew they had the box office locked up with the PG-13 rating and the cast no matter HOW the movie was.

If I've seen such a genuinely shallow, generic and worthless "thriller" on the big screen before, I've purged my memory of it. I'm not kidding. I've seen "technically" worse films, I've seen more mind-blowingly "wrong" films, you name it. But 2008's PROM NIGHT sets a new standard for WORTHLESS. Yes, a NEW standard. Even the remake of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS tried to be SCARY (it wasn't, but it DID try).

Okay, maybe you've heard comments like this all over the place. So to show you that I MEAN IT, I am going to spoil the whole thing for you now. Consider yourself warned.





As noted, this is not a remake of Paul Lynch's PROM NIGHT. That wasn't a great film, either, but it was a hit thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis showing up in a post-HALLOWEEN slasher film. And it DID have a decent premise (the accidental childhood death) and some elements of mystery (could Leslie Nielsen himself be making those threatening phone calls)? Oh, honestly. I can't believe I'm defending a generally unremarkable teen-kill movie. But I have to--you need to understand how much BETTER it was than some, and how much WORSE things could actually get.

The new PROM NIGHT has no mystery. A high school teacher (about whom we learn nothing OUTSIDE of his psychosis) gets the obsessive hots for one of his students (Brittany Snow) and kills her family when they put a restraining order on him. He goes to jail. Three years later, he escapes. Just in time for prom night, just as Brittany (or whatever the hell her character name is) is facing up to her trauma and getting ready to reclaim her life.

The cops, in this case, are actually quite efficient and know exactly what to do, so the movie plonks out with some glitch that gives the nutjob three days head start before the local police are even notified of his escape. So our heroine is already at the prom (set in a big hotel thanks to the rich-bitch prom-queen rival and her daddy's bank account) before the cops even get the word.

Everybody says their room number in front of the killer (who has shaved his mustache and beard and isn't immediately recognized), so the killer checks in to the same floor. The desk clerk says that the fitness center is closed due to renovations. Okay, that means we're going to get yet another stalk and slash scene set in corridors draped with hanging plastic later. A bunch of horny middle-aged businessmen invite the girls up to their room for a party. And they emphasize "Room 604" repeatedly. Well, something must have been cut, because neither they nor Room 604 have anything to do with the film again.

The girls and their dates fret over the end of their high school days and where they'll be going off to college. Some fight. Some want to get laid. More bitchy prom-queen rivalry stuff. And the most potent line of dialogue? "What's there to care about?"

NOTHING. You want suspense? Forget it. This is as ham-fisted as it gets. A guy we couldn't possibly care less about pokes around the room looking for his (dead) girlfriend. He FINALLY gets to the closet. We already know the killer's hiding in there. And the killer's face emerges SLOWLY from the shadows before he pops out to kill the guy. I'm serious. Not even a "boo" to make the audience jump (though they try THAT with the phony scares about a hundred times elsewhere--it never works).

No gore. The driest PG-13 throat slashings in history.

No sex. But the two girls with the low-cut dresses are the ones who die, so we're still trying to do SOMETHING with the sex = death thing, I guess.

No matter what the cops do (and again, they're not stupid), the killer manages to slip away for a final showdown with Brittany (where she's living with her aunt and uncle).

He even kills her boyfriend (after yet another phony dream scare, we get the 'dead boyfriend in bed' bit) before he gets his hands on her.

And then the detective pops in and shoots him dead.

I mean that's it. No false scare at the end, no catharsis involving the victim doing away with the killer herself. All her friends are dead, she's freshly traumatized for life, the killer stays dead, and we have nowhere else to go, so the movie... just... ends.

WORTHLESS. And the WORTHLESS film is cleaning up at the box office--then again, even the PG-13 SUPERHERO MOVIE kicked the tail of the R-rated RUINS. So we don't get to argue with studio logic. We may hate the results, but they apparently DO know what's going to make the money.

But if YOU were guaranteed the money regardless of results, wouldn't you at least TRY to do something worthwhile?

TV director Nelson McCormick has now got his paws on a remake of THE STEPFATHER. God help us all.

Also caught a trailer for THE STRANGERS. And it looks EXACTLY like a remake of a French horror film called ILS (THEM). Trouble is, I didn't think ILS (from the guys who brought you the EYE remake that I skipped) was all that good, either (by the way, it also had a stalk and slash scene set in a series of rooms under reconstruction with large sheets of plastic hanging from the ceiling). But they insist that THE STRANGERS is NOT a remake. And that there WILL be a remake from the same guys who made the original. Which wasn't any damn good to begin with.

Rather than face the rest of 2008, I'm seriously considering permanent retirement again.

Oh, but there was fun to be had in Monterey County this weekend, and this weekend alone--I got to treat my family to ZOMBIE VOODOO SCREAM PARTY, a full-blown tribute to the classic "spook shows" done as a live stage musical. I kid you not--in the old-time movie palace, we got spiders dropping from the ceiling, monsters bursting from the screen to abduct audience members, a seance, a "snake expert" accidentally losing his specimen (as the lights blacked out and the airhorns screeched), you name it (and double-check with Professor Griffin if you don't believe me)--they had all the classic elements, including the "free dead body" for a lucky audience member.

Of course, if you try to stage such a show in Monterey County and advertise it on local television, somebody's going to call and complain about the ad (especially the "dead body" bit) and get it pulled from the station (even though the show itself was a charity benefit suitable for all ages).

Doesn't matter. There was a decent turnout all the same.

I'd say more, but truth be told, it was the one weekend only, it's supposedly moving to off-Broadway, and I honestly feel a bit miffed that nobody thought to include me in the project when it was being put together. But rather than be resentful, I should be grateful that we have like-minded locals with far greater RESOURCES than mine who can actually make these things happen, even if only for a single weekend. Good luck off-Broadway, guys... and anybody reading this should Google "ZOMBIE VOODOO SCREAM PARTY" and see where it gets you.

That's all for now--thanks for reading--now it's back to writing!

All the best,
Remo D.

Posted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 4:32 am
by I am 138
Wow a see and a do not see. The Ruins sounds sweet. Maybe I'll get to see it in like 5 months.

Posted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 3:51 pm
by steven_millan
I wisely skipped seeing this past weekend's No. 1 box office $22.3 million financial grossing "redux" due to....

1. Being heavily sick with the flu.

2. Seeing that this LaHoozaHer of a PG-13 rated redux has the likes of DTV sequel hackmeister/former Mr. Christina Applegate Jonathan Schaech("RoadHouse 2","8MM 2")and fellow writer/filmmaker hack J.S. Cardone("The Slayer","8MM 2","Shadowzone")amongst the folks in this film.

Otherwise,thanks for the spoilers,Remo,for we'll all wisely skip this film,since we'll be hearing lots of anti-PG-13 folks complaining about another PG-13 horrorfest making mucho box office money as Hollywood producers will continue to crank out more PG-13 outings:could a PG-13 rated "redux" of the ever-hated 80s teen sex comedy "Private Lessons"(a.k.a.:Sylvia Kristel's worst film)be possibly on the way ?!

Posted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 3:55 pm
by steven_millan
I almost forgot:here's a link to a "Prom Night 2008" review that really tells it like it is(and is straight below the cast and crew list,as well as the synopsis list),for it looks like not even cameos of Leslie Nielsen in his "Naked Gun" umpire uniform doing his umpire dance and moonwalk nor Robert Forster as a bathroom attendant could save this sorry film....

Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 7:04 pm
by Griff [Mola]
Hopefully word of mouth gets around and PROM NIGHT has a 50+% drop off on its second weekend.

Posted: Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:29 pm
by Remo D
Oh, and PG-13 is no excuse. Look at THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, which won my top spot for its year.

Hell, look at DISTURBIA! In the tradition of "if you must steal, then steal from the best," it offered likable characters, a terrific villain and some legitimate suspense. So it did Hitchcock and Argento for a crowd far too young to even appreciate those names--it entertained the hell out of them and it gave US a chance to say "If you liked that, have I got a movie for YOU" without insulting anyone's intelligence. It DESERVED to be a hit. There. I said it. All the more reason to insist that there is NOTHING to be said in defense of the execrable PROM NIGHT. Money. Sheesh. There are more honorable ways to make it.