Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Netflix Roulette: Heartstopper (2006)

I sometimes think that making horror movies is like growing cotton. If you grow your cotton in the same soil again and again and again, it leeches the nutrients from the ground and leaves it barren. I couldn't get this idea out of my mind while I was watching Heartstopper (2006, directed by Bob Keen), a film that springs from a long since depleted plot, watered by a poisoned well.

The plot here finds sherrif Robert England witnessing the execution of Chambers,the occult serial killer he finally managed to catch. Something goes wrong, of course, and our killer returns from the dead intent on exacting revenge. If this sounds familiar, that's because it is. This plot has been used multiple times in film and television, including Shocker and The Horror Show and god knows how many episodes of The X-Files. The surprise here is that Englund isn't the unkillable serial killer, I guess. Props for casting against type. The killer, of course, has been possessed by a demon, and in his short time in the ambulance, he comes into contact with Sara, a suicidal teen who becomes infected with part of his demonic essence. It's love, I guess. Chambers wakes up and rampages through the staff at the hospital looking for her while a storm rages outside.

The main reason this movie exists at all is as a showcase for elaborate gore effects. Chambers's preferred method of murder is reaching into the chests of his victims and ripping their hearts out. There's a lot of this, and I'm sure that the gore hounds out there will groove on this. Some of the gore is downright spectacular. Gore can only take you so far, though. Never mind the derivative nature of the plot, the performances are wooden and the dialogue is atrocious. Compounding the fault is the Biblical gobbledegook it puts into the mouth of its killer, lending the whole thing a ridiculous portentousness. James Binkley doesn't have a moustache, unfortunately--he's one of the current crop of badass bald guys that are all the rage in the movies--but if he did, he would surely be twirling it as he speaks some of this dialogue. Englund aside--he's pretty good in a small, underwritten part--the performances are strictly community theater.

This says nothing of the movie's plot construction, which is incompetent on so many levels I don't even know where to start. It starts with Robert Englund I guess. I'm sure they had Englund for a limited amount of time, else his part would be larger, but even in this context, they use him poorly. They set him up as the savant in the classic monster/savant horror movie dichotomy and then give him a hasty exit about 23 minutes into the movie. I can think of all kinds of things to do with his character at the end of the movie. You've paid him for his star power, so there's the presumption that he's the reason to see the movie. Keep him around to keep the audience interested fer pete's sake. The handling of his character reeks of impatience, but then, the flashes of gore interspersed with the opening credits are a signpost along that road, too. The end of the movie reeks of the same kind of impatience, with BOTH a talking killer fallacy AND a deus ex machina in the form of a passing tornado. The tornado is kind of a disappointment as well, because, if, as I say, this movie is an excuse for the gore, it seems wrong that it doesn't feature a scene with the debris cloud of the tornado flaying the skin off its victim right before our very eyes. Derivative horror movies never have the conviction to follow through on the things they suggest. Pity.

No comments: