Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Netflix Roulette: Necrosis

I'll tell you what, if the random movie generator doesn't take pity on me soon, I might be chucking the whole "roulette" concept and going back to watching obscure art movies. Movies like Necrosis (2009, directed by Jason Robert Stephens) are demoralizing. It's the kind of movie that reminds me of those leech branches that grow around the trunks of large trees, leeching the vitality of the tree, only the tree is the horror genre.

The story here is your standard young people in a cabin Evil Dead rip-off, only our trio of bickering couples are haunted by the ghosts of the Donner Party, who, having turned on each other with axes, opened the gates of hell. (Those of you familiar with the tragic history of the Donner Party are probably saying "wait...what?" And you would be right. This would have been better off inventing a fictional history). Having framed this story, for good or for ill, it then loses the plot and veers off into Alfred Packer territory, or, more to the point, The Shining territory. It also occasionally loses track of where its characters are within the geography of the frame.

The weird thing is, this has a veneer of professionalism. If anyone involved with this movie deserves to go on to better projects, it's cinematographer Deanna Esmaeel, who clearly knows how to light a scene and shoot it. Individual frames of the film look great. It's not her fault that her collaborators don't know what they're doing. This goes double for the actors. The actors here are uniformly awful, though I'm not inclined to blame them, given the screenplay they've been handed and the indifferent way the director views their performances. The big "star" of the movie is eighties teen star Tiffany, who seems a little long in the tooth for this movie, quite frankly. Her line readings are so stilted that I'm almost sure her dialogue was all post-dubbed. Hell, it sounds like most of the actors were post dubbed. It's kind of distracting. Oddly enough, James Kyson-Lee has a more familiar face than Tiffany these days after a long career in television. You also get character bits by Michael Berryman and Mickey Jones as the locals, and they at least have interesting faces. From a structural viewpoint, this has one trick--visions that turn out to be dreams that end in abrupt waking--and it works it for all it's worth. After a while it becomes redundant. There's not much in the way of connective tissue between these scenes.

This is a hard film for me to write about, because I mostly want to jump up and down and scream "This sucks!" which is, I think, a perfectly valid reaction. I mean, there's nothing to argue here, no subtext to explore, no social commentary. There's only the echoes of other, better films and the vague unease of watching a movie make trivial a historical tragedy.


Aubyn said...

Having grown up in California listening to the Donner party story since the age of 5, the whole "Donner Party Axe Murderer Ghosts" concepts is one big WTF. It's like if someone made a movie depicting the victims of the Titanic as brain-eating zombies. And if someone has made that movie I don't want to know about it.

On the other hand, if someone ever finds a way to incorporate the Boston Molasses Disaster into a horror film, I will be very impressed.

Vulnavia Morbius said...

Hi, Rachel.

The Boston Molasses Disaster figures into Dennis Lehane's novel, The Given Day. Unfortunately not a horror novel, but Sam Raimi is currently slated to make the movie version. That's close enough, isn't it? (Okay, I'm reaching).

Erich Kuersten said...

Boston molasses disaster?? Netflix roulette? Man, my world just got a whole lot better. What's it all about, Morbius? I got a Netflix roulette choice you might like: In the Dust of the Stars, a 70s East German film about a UN-style peacekeeping rocket that visits an evil capitalist disco, more or less... and great clothes! If you've seen it, forgive me. forgive me...

Vulnavia Morbius said...

Hi, Erich,

Netflix Roulette is based on a random number generator I made in an Excel spreadsheet. It generates a page number and a slot number for the horror section of Netflix's instant watch service. It's completely random. I review the movie it generates every Tuesday. It's a cruel, cruel taskmaster.

I love me some Eastern Block sci fi, so In the Dust of the Stars looks like a good prospect.

As for the Boston Molasses Disaster...read on.

Mykal said...

Dr. Morbius: With regard to the discouragement expressed in your opening paragraph, I hope you never surrender the concept of Netflix Roulette. It's a brilliant blogging concept, adding a true wild card into the mix of the vast glut of movie review blogs (a glut to which I have shamefully contributed) which review the same set of movies over and over and over and over.

Sure. You get a stinker now and then. Sometimes more now than then, but that's what makes your feature so special and fun. Always remember: Any boob can review a grade A picture. It takes something special to review the movies like Necrosis (or to see the filthy, uncut diamonds amid the dross). I love how you bring full attention (and that's the special part - you never phone in a review) to movies like those you have highlighted with this series.

Vulnavia Morbius said...

Hi, Mykal. It's not so much that I get a stinker "now and then." It's that it's a steady stream. As if the whole process is actively malevolent. But I'm enough of a masochist to soldier on. They can't all suck, can they?