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Monday, April 2, 2012

Frightmare (2000) Horror Slasher

Frightmare (2000) - Listed on imdb as "Paranoid" (Not the Jessica Alba movie where she is drugged and taken advantage of) it is a not so great slasher film that just was all over the place never really forming solidly into a coherent plot. It lacks honest motivation and action in the characters and the authority figures act so irrational and dismissive that it is maddening. When the reveal does happen it is way too late to save this film. In fact I would argue the way you find out the details of who the killer is and his/her motivations is the worst possible way of finding out. It is so horrible when the killer explains everything he/she has done while chasing the final victim in a locked enclosed space. So instead of the story showing through the character her/his motivations we are just told at the end. It is a very frustrating approach that negates the storytelling earlier in the film for the cheap surprise of a reveal at the end. Don't get me wrong it is not easy to balance the line between wanting to hold back details for the turn and giving foreshadowing through character. This film unfortunately fails to do it in a way that is satisfying to the viewer.
In the opening scene we have a worker (Tyler Thebaut)at a Gold's Gym closing up for the night and at the same time being stalked by a dark figure. It is classic horror with flashes of the figure and the victim creeping around the empty gym, the tense music adding to the atmosphere. There is some misdirection here as you see the stalker take the girls keys but when she gets panicked and reaches for them they are there. Did the stalker take her car key? She gets out of the gym and goes for her car the figure closing behind her. She does have the key and drives away just in time. So what does it mean? Since the focus stays on the girl, we see her as she arrives home we know there is more to come. The music gives away that we should start getting tense as she finds her front door opened. After the kill scene we learn through the reporter on the television that this seems to be the work of the serial murderer known as the "Conscience Killer", but it is odd that he has moved to the small town of Sugar Hill.
Introduced to our main character at the end of the news report, Sarah Falls (Shanda Lee Munson), a high school student who happened to lose her sister Rebecca in a murder a couple years before. Her Mother and father are heading out on a trip, her Mom obviously still very depressed since the death of one of her twins. Sarah working with her fellow students on a haunted house to raise money for the senior trip to the Cayman Islands. We meet the group, Jason her boyfriend, Norman (Brandon O'Dell) the unpopular kid trying to change his image by creating the haunted house, Courtney her hot blond friend, Hell Raiser (Denny Zartman) the druggie always looking for a party, and Michael the guy who just moved to town from Boston and the really obvious red herring and dating Courtney.
Four of them Jason (Shawn Wright), Sarah, Michael (Michael Short) and Courtney (Summer Sloan LaPann) head over to Hell Raiser's place together only to have Michael's car overheat. To find water for the radiator they wander to a nearby abandoned house. Here we get to hear the single most annoying piece of thinking out loud in the movie as Sarah walks with a flashlight and says "It so isolated and alone" speaking about the house. It is not alone though as we can plainly see candlelight in the vacant frames of the windows. The four go in finding no water but definitely finding the trouble and saying stupid shit. Examples you say?
"Hello we're a bunch of high school kids with a broken down car, we need some water for our radiator." shouts Michael (At least with this line we can assume that the writer is being tongue in cheek by having this line spoken out loud.)
Jason says" I don't think anyone lives here as he stands in front of a mattress with rumpled sheet, a small TV that is on, and lit candles all around. Really that is the best dialog writer Ash Smith could come up with? No who are we kidding you don't even have to put two and two together. Neither do most of the characters either. as they look in the room with all the articles pinned to the wall including a wanted poster, they find weapons and a bloody clothes. Sarah says "Things are starting to add up. This is the perfect house to hide in. Killer articles, bloody clothes, weapons no two being the same." and two different characters at this point pipe in "What are you trying to say Sarah?" Really it is not evident what she is getting at. These characters are really that dumb. Oh wait she must be saying it for the audience since either we are seen as really dumb or the writer was so unsure we would figure out who lives there he had to spell it out. grrrrrr... Anyway if you are paying attention there are some clues to the somewhat complicated plot here. When they find writings on the wall for the Conscience Killer and he shows up in a mask and with a chainsaw we are in full swing. There is a chase and an escape but there is no real tension in it.
Now the incompetent police in this genre of movies but really. This crew in Sugar Hill is something to wonder at in their inability to perform the simplest of investigative work. After the murder that opened the film the kids head to the police with their story of seeing the killer in the abandoned house. Not only do the police laugh and dismiss them as playing a prank, but the chief locks his own son, Jason in a cell for safe keeping or to learn respect or something. This is not like in Killer Klowns From Outer Space when Mooney does not believe Debbie and Mike as they explain there are Klowns from Outer Space killing people with popcorn guns and cotton candy cocoons. This is a group of teens who are reporting finding the hideout of, and seeing the killer the night after a gruesome murder and the police just laugh it off. They do not even send out a car to check out the house. WTF! Now again if the film's intent is to parody cops in horror films then this is spot on and the writer is hilarious, but to this point the film seems to be taking itself very seriously so it is difficult to see this as parody.
As you can guess the killer starts after the kids but boy is it a slow process, there is a large chunk in the middle focusing on the Concience Killers motivations and the kids acting out since they are not being listened too. We learn about Sarah's sister Rebecca and ho her killer was never caught. Oh and did I mention the killer Rave, yes taking time out from being hunted and talking and talking about being hunted they have a party. It sure takes a long time from the time they are confronted at the killer's house and the beginning of the climax, like 55 minutes. So finally we get to the final night of the fund raiser and all the seniors are going on their trip. Celebrating in the haunted house with the main group minus Michael who was killed in the rave, wonder what happened to him. Some suggest maybe he was the killer, body never found he is just gone. When the three guys head into the black light room to smoke some killer weed it is just moments until the death and destruction starts up. The climax as I explained in the beginning is just a mess and after the killer is reveal her/his motivation it is really dumb. Adding some bullshit weird last scene can not save this film. So If I were you I would just skip this film and not suffer through it.
Rating (3.7) 5.0 and up are recommended, some are just more recommended than others.

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