Tag Archives: You’re Next

BLOG: YTC Episode XXXIV: Would You Watch This For A Scooby Snack?

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

The YTC podcast can be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

FINAL.2.2Trick ‘r Treat, Cabin In The Woods, and You’re Next are all horror films that have been well received critically, but that also took years to be released. Each one of these movies has sat on the distributor’s shelf for some time before being released. Why was this the case for each film? A combination of studio structural changes, advertising concerns and sheer bad luck by all accounts. In each instance the films did eventually see the lights of day, and each seems to have been received with much love since, at least judging by their general reviews across various media. Personally speaking I enjoyed all three, and waited with quiet excitement for each film to be released. Their strong reputations had permeated into my shell-like ears long before they were ever officially made available.

Like the three titles above, a fourth film had also caught my attention some time back. Saturday Morning Massacre was screened at a few festivals, gained some buzz and had an intriguing trailer released on the movie’s website.

 

 So when the movie did not seem to find a distributor and no release date was put forward in the trade magazines, the official website or the internet horror community as a whole then two thoughts popped into my head. Firstly that the film could just be bad and no studio wants to release it. Or secondly, that Saturday Morning Massacre could be the latest wonderful horror-comedy to sit on a shelf somewhere. Unreleased, unappreciated, gathering dust.

So imagine my joy when I discovered that this film I had kept an eye on- much like Trick ‘r Treat, Cabin In The Woods, and You’re Next- was finally released on DVD this year. Would this be the latest horror gem to escape from the coal mine that is Hollywood? Or would it be a lump of hard, black stuff instead? Well I bought the film to find out.

 

 As you may be able to tell from the above poster, the title has been changed. The film is now known as Saturday Morning Mystery. This is the films current title, which explains one of my problems in actually tracking the movie down. The original title of ‘Massacre’ in place of ‘Mystery’ was hardly dissimilar, although I do think it was a stronger title. ‘Massacre’ implies danger, death and mayhem. ‘Mystery’ could refer to misplaced car keys.

In fact, the full title of ‘Saturday Morning Massacre’ also implies a nice mix of a literal cartoon violence- something ideal for a horror comedy which the trailer presents the movie as. ‘Saturday Morning Mystery’ reads more like Elmo starring in a puppet-based detective story. Still, it’s of no real consequence. So the title has changed? Big whoop! The gentrification of one word is a small matter if it means that the film finally gets released.

bigdeal

A handy title card informs the viewer that it is 1994- which will handily explain away the lack of modern technology on display by the characters. An equally handy voice over informs the viewer just what is going on after a quick opening scene. Saturday Morning Mystery is a story about a group of meddling kids (and a dog) who drive around in a van and prove paranormal activity to be hoaxes. One of the male leads is a stoner, the other is a clean cut figure. One of the lead females is bookish, the other wears short dresses. Or as the Voiceover states

“There’s no such thing as ghosts or monsters or aliens. Only people with secrets to hide. My best friend Gwen and I co-founded the gang straight out of our Freshman year. She’s a great partner in business and even greater at fighting crime.

Chad’s our Sound Guy. He’s the only one who believes in the paranormal- and he also brings the van.

Before we found Floyd he repaired robots but now he’s our rockin’ gearhead! Hamlet’s his dog; Part-Great Dane, part-something else and all affection. He’s the muscle.

I’m Nancy, just a few months shy of getting my detective license and already years experienced in shady shit.”

(for the record, that quote is from memory- so it’s more of a paraphrasing. But hey, the fact I can recall that much amazes even me!)

 Clearly this is Scooby Doo brought to life. Nancy is a take on brain box Velma. Gwen is an alternate version of sex kitten Daphne. Chad is a replacement for ‘why-did-he-dress-as-a-sailor?’ Fred. Leaving Floyd and Hamlet as parodies of Scooby and Shaggy.

The Scooby gang V2.0
The Scooby gang V2.0

 

However unlike the actual official live action Scooby Doo movies, Saturday Morning Mystery presents the entire homage in a dim light. In this film there is zero doubt that Shaggy is a dope head. Annnnd he’s an acid head. Annnnd he likes to pick fights with Chad. Annnnd he used to be in a relationship with Nancy who he still lusts after.

‘Fred’ and ‘Daphne’ are not just a good looking couple who go off together for some private time as is implied in the cartoon. In Saturday Morning Massacre Chad and Gwen’s romance is a lot more pronounced. Which is probably for the best since they engage in a lot of sex on camera. You don’t get normally that sort of action in cartoons! Well, not unless you live in Japan.

 

This isn’t from any Anime,. It’s for Tamagothci, which I never played. I just thought it looked cool. Honest!!

Finally, Nancy is not a glasses wearing nerd here. She’s not so much a brave and curious ‘Velma’ as she is a pushy and manipulative Nancy. In fact it is Nancy’s quest for success and money that ultimately puts the gang in danger throughout the film. At one stage they are all set to escape potentially being murdered when Nancy convinces them all to go back into the danger zone to make their fame and fortune.

 

I’m actually reluctant to go into any further spoiler territory concerning Saturday Morning Massacre. Like any good Scooby Doo mystery, trying to work out what is happening is half of the fun of watching it. However what I am willing to confirm is that, sadly, Saturday Morning Massacre never rises to its own potential.

The core reason for this seems to be just how much of a brilliant the concept of a darker Scooby Gang in the ‘real world’ starts off with. However the movie abandons this very conceit quite early on. The most enjoyable aspects of the film are all of the adapted Scooby Doo motifs. The failures tend to shine through when Saturday Morning Mystery ignores its origins to become more ‘original’, which in an incredibly ironic fashion is in fact just hackneyed clichés available in any low budget horror film.

Emo Scooby
Emo Scooby

 

One such instance of the film’s success via parody is the opening of the movie. This reveals the gang uncovering a haunted house mystery that is actually the front for a kiddie-porn ring. This is a fun way of bringing together the idea of a Paranormal Gang with gritty reality, but all the more so in that their very solving of the case ruins a police investigation! This is the comedy of the ideal meeting the real, which should be the key to the entire experience.

Obviously in no way do I condone this sort of insult. But Polical Correctness sure is the bastion of retards sometimes.
Obviously in no way do I condone this sort of insult. But Polical Correctness sure is the bastion of retards sometimes.

A further traditional Scooby Doo element hinted at with a knowing wink is the notion of probable suspects. The bulk of the plot takes place in a haunted mansion. This gang take on the case of disproving the existence of anything supernatural in the building so the property can be sold more easily. When the Gang agree to take on this case they do not see who they are dealing with over the phone; a dubious looking businessman and a quiet janitor. Both of these are classic culprits from the animated adventures, so little references like this are great fun for audiences. Be it as one-note jokes or red herrings for later aspects of the narrative, the inclusion of infamous character tropes is a fun one.

And he would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for Wayne and Garth

A final example of a successful ‘Scooby-isms’ is that one part of the film features the Gang all chasing a suspect through an abandoned house. The suspect knows the house well and is able to run both figurative and literal rings around the gang. This leads to a clever parody of the ‘just missing each other in a hallway of doors’ chase scenes from many a Scooby Doo episode.

 Jinkies!
Jinkies!

Still, sadly enough for the aforementioned positive aspects of Saturday Morning Massacre, the negative ones take up a lot more of the run time- and at a short 82mionutes long, that is saying something.

Two of the major issues with the film are the look to it and the acting. Both are frankly terrible. The footage is so under lit that it can be hard to make things out on screen, whilst the actual production design looks like the film was made with a budget of $10.

(The story of my life!)
(The story of my life!)

The acting itself is pretty weak all round, although Johnny Mars as Floyd, aka Shaggy, is fun. Mars nails a performance that balances a nice level of loathing those around him with wanting to have simple pleasures (weed, sex, food) in his life. If you were stuck working with a cowardly-druggie like Shaggy, aka Floyd, he would be pretty selfish and easy to hate but he’d also be pretty easy to party with just as Mars nails him.

Johnny Mars- not just a pale dude in a scarf.

Sadly the rest of the actors play their characters as complete one-notes. This in itself would not be too bad if the notes remained clever parodies of their animated cousins. But instead there is not much beyond the superficial resemblances hinted at in the opening.

Gwen is nowhere near as vampish as a more interesting take on Daphne as a Sex kitten could be. Chad is not a big lunk like Fred could have been, but is instead a big whiner. Seeing how a jock handles real terror would be more fun than someone just moping around. Nancy is just a fool hardy woman pushing the rest on, where as a more arrogant version of Velma could be much more fun to follow. If Nancy appeared as someone that over-estimates her smarts with deadly results the film could be far more a more entertaining.

The fact that these core characters are all introduced in the opening Voice Over as fun parodies but the actual film deviates them into regularly assigned horror film roles. Soon they are all just victims and/or aggressors depending on whatever the scene calls for and they are all completely interchangeable.

"Real Rooby Rooby Roo?"
“Real Rooby Rooby Roo?”

Most short-changed is Hamlet. OK, he’s just a dog. But for the ‘all affectionate muscle’ introduced at the start, Hamlet is tied up to a pipe for most of the film and barely features at all.

I cannot imagine that this weakness of character development was missed by the screenwriters, since they go to the effort of bringing in a Sheriff character, Officer Lance. Lance has as much screen time as the gang. Played well by Paul Gordon, Officer Lance is presented just as blandly as the rest of the Scooby Gang characters. His presence is proof that variety is not the same as depth. Instead of adding an extra character in a one-note role, the film makers should have further developed the five fascinating ones already at hand.

Don’t Mess

The unfortunate truth is Saturday Morning Massacre fails when it tries to become its own film. Oddly, the more it sticks to imitating Scooby Doo then the better that it is. It seems strange to rebuke a film for being its own thing and not being enough of something that pre-exists, but then of course that is the point of the entire film. By becoming a completely generic Stalker/Haunted House type of horror film after the initial set-up, the movie becomes just like any other cheap horror film.

Saturday Morning Massacre is very much a case of a great idea, a good set up and a lacklustre payoff. This is one of those rare time that I long for a re-make. I imagine a Joe Lynch version of a ‘real’ Scooby Gang adventure would leak cartoonish-energy from every pore, just like he achieved in Wrong Turn 2. Or perhaps Adam Green’s ear for snarky dialogue and frustration shown in Frozen could be put to a much tighter version of the script. Or maybe Ti West’s knack for slow-burning suspense mixed with perky ghost hunters could bring the spooky elements to the forefront as he did with his superb film, The Inn Keepers.

I respect the actual film makers for coming up with a fun spin on Scooby Doo, and for getting the thing made. However the final product in this instance is perhaps proof that sometimes it is better to take your time and seek out help. Fools rush in, where as Shaggy and Scooby always take their time to seek out support…


Next time something fairly different. It’s a One Man Rap Battle!!!

Thanks for reading,

MJ

BLOG: YTC EpisodeXXXI: For-F-Sake

FINAL.2.2Well it’s the Summer in England, which means a mix of Sunshine and rain; joy and gloom. Ideal for a Horror Film Festival then, eh?

Last year I volunteered my cameraman ‘skills’ (aka ‘drink coffee, carry equipment and press buttons’ skills- you know it’s all true, camera operators!) to FrightFest. A recap of that can be found here http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/hollyweird/hollyweird-episode-na-what-happens-at-frightfest-stays-at-frightfest/

ff

This year was my second go round on the old FF merry-go-round of death and doom, gore, applause, fans and fandom at the 2013 event. Here were a few of 1/2 of the You Total Cult experiences of FrightFest 2013.

Does this count as a deviant act given where my left hand is?

Does this count as a deviant act given where my left hand is?

First up on the first day was meeting Chucky. Well, Don Mancini, the creator, writer and partial director of the entire Child’s Play franchise and Fiona Douriff were there too since were interviewing them. But Chucky was the main point of interest for myself.

This was an actual puppet with a metal frame, not just a toy replica. Apparently it was not used in the latest film, but it was genuine- and I completely believe that because it weighted a ton. Naughty Chucky needs to lay off the pies.

By the way, Don and Fiona were both lovely and happy to chat away to fans, which is a great energy to start off a festival with.

Later in the evening, the European Premiere of the new- and for the first time uncut- screening of Curse Of Chucky occurred. For this event, masks given out to the crowd which led to a weird ‘Cult Of Chuck’ moment that I was able to observe from my position as a Cameraman.

My name is Legion...
My name is Legion…
... For we are many
… For we are many

Curse Of Chucky brings a haunted house feel to the film series and absolutely gets it closer the spirit of the original film. For the record- it is cannon and does tie into the other movies. And also for the record, it has one of the best Post-Credit sequences I have ever seen.

 

Later in the same evening was the UK Premiere of You’re Next. This was probably my favourite film of the event- it features a seemingly simple home invasion story with a nice twist; one of the intended victims is a serious badass who begins to decimate the invaders. Technically it is not a decimation as there are not 10 invaders, but the Protagonists ingenuity deserves some hyperbole.

The film had a nice creepy feel, but it was the strength of the leading lady that really made the film such a delight. It was just refreshing to see a female lead who is smart, tough and capable and is not allegedly those things whilst relying on wearing tight leather trousers or posing seductively with guns.

The screening also featured these nifty posters being given out. Score!

 

I'm gonna need some more wall space for this bad boy
I’m gonna need some more wall space for this bad boy

 

By the next day, my cohort, and experienced Media Wall interviewer, Jennifer Eiss was given a chance to interview the Variety Icon award winner of the festival, Ben Wheatley.

Not only was this fun for Jen, it also meant that I got to ask Ben what his favourite pub in Brighton is. I know now, but you all never shall… unless you offer to buy me drinks there in which case I will lead the way.

ben jen

Anchor Bay gave out some fun Coloring Books that were filed with a few games and a cut out Michael Myer’s mask. Fun for adults and kids, but kids really shouldn’t be at Frightfest anyway.

anchor bay

Hatchet III was more of the same, but it is in the same tone as the first two entries. So it is a fun way to see the end of a franchise that plays as one large, single movie when put back to back. It also features Gremlins star Zack Galligan in featured lead role, and some fun cameos too, so bonus points all around for that.

One smaller film that I can recommend is In Fear. I knew nothing of the film, and resented having to film the screening event as the title was so poor. In fact it was an extremely well acted drama that wring a surprising amount of tension out of two people lost as they drive their car around eerie countryside. I found the final act a bit dull as it features a third character and the tone shifts a lot,but it was certainly well made. I stand by the title being poo, though.

Picture 009
Some random Cult

Another film that I did not expect to like was Odd Thomas. Although a little bit cloying and trying very hard to be cool, the film is genuinely breezy and unique. It seemed to me like a horror-detective version of Scott Pligrim Vs The World, and may be just as equally destined for cult status

V/H/S 2 was introduced on stage with the line “If you love V/H/S, then you’ll love V/H/S 2!”. That may be factually correct, but I found V/H/S a mixed bag of overall mediocrity. A better descripition may be “If you didn’t mind V/H/S then you’ll not mind V/|H/S 2, either!”

My final film of the festival was Rewind This!, a documentary about the rise of the VHS Format, its part in popular culture and how it still remains loved by a small and passionate few fans. The film had some problems, but it was very heartfelt. I think this was an idea film for myself to exit the Festival on- something that was low key, sparsely attended and made with love. Just like many classic horror film viewings that undoubtedly caused such devotion in horror film fans.

 

rewind_

As the 2013 festival wound down, I can reveal that there is a particular bar frequented by the crew, the guests and the organisers of FrightFest every year.

Although I could not manage the main drink-a-thon after this years event, I ensured to graffiti my name onto the 2013 Poster hanging in the bar the night previously. I’m just to the left of Bobcat Goldthwait in faint biro.

If you can't make it- fake it!
If you can’t make it- fake it!

 

Although there were numeorus incidents I got to chat to directors and actors etc, and there were a couple more movies that I saw at the festival, there were also a lot of highs and lows that will arise with any large event. Instead what I will say is that for horror fans, FrightFest is a great chance to meet icons and see a mix of unknown films and bigger releases.

Oddly enough though, my own highlight may well have been separate to the entire Festival. During a break, I managed to pop to a small 2nd hand music shop in Berwick Street that I frequent whenever I can.

Inside the shop I found a £2 Album from a band I had not heard of, but that makes me smile even now. Ladies and Germs, , allow me to present a CD by whoever the hell Orcquesta El Macabeo are.

Cover

 

Yep. The front has a Goat playing bongos…

macabeo2…and the inside cover has a Bowtie-wearing skull with Macarneenas for crossbones!

Sadly, the music does not live up to the enticement of the featured images, but the very fact this CD exists make me stupidly happy.

 

E-C- F'n-W... Wait up, I mean T-F'n- C!
E-C- F’n-W… Wait up, I mean T-F’n- C!

This Total F’n Cult will now leave you with an interview that I helped to film. It features one scholar and one gent. I will not say who is which, but it was the most fun interview that I was a part of this year.

Incidently, Bobcat was promoting his new movie, Willow Creek. I did not manage to catch the movie, but I hear it was genuinely terrifying for those that did.

So, until next year, uh…maybe, I hope you had a ball at FrightFest if you were there and check it out one year if you like the sound of it.

-MJ