Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: WTF!

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet

Directed by Peter Herro
Midnight Releasing / Cthulhu Productions           
75 minutes, 2017

This film has just been released on VoD today (August 1, 2017), which makes sense since it’s definitely summer fare. To sum it up and categorize it in a single descriptor that is to be further deconstructed, it’s a cabin-in-the-woods-slasher flick.

In my humble opinion, what the twin-subgenres needs to be anywhere interesting, considering the umpteenth version of it, is some form of originality mixed into the formula. Right from the start, they begin well with an obvious nod to the godfather (godlessfather? godlessmother?) of all cabin in the woods films, The Evil Dead (1981). Got my attention, for shizzle (yeah, I’m that old). Not to mention the nudity in the first 30 seconds. Maybe a great start.

There is the mandatory – albeit brief – flashback bit, but there also seems to be a flashforward to the future piece at the beginning, as well. Ever more interesting.

As we get into the meat-and-gravy of the core story, we meet a couple of… I want to say overage college students? A pool party is raging, and we are introduced to the mostly male doofuses that are also obligatory, including the king of the cameos Shawn C. Phillips and (of all people) Perez Hilton. Is he still alive? A decade ago or so he was omnipresent. Now, well, this is the first time I’ve seen anything associated with him in a very long time. I don't have anything against or for him, just an interesting choice for a semi-celeb walk-on. Anyway, yeah, the guys are your typical genre skuzballs whose choice of topics are sex (here, one says, “You still haven’t done anal? That’s Jesus’ favorite!”), being drunk, hitting on women (even Donnie, the gay character played by Hilton, hits on the “hot chick”), and drugs – in this case pot. A bit too cliché, methinks.

Callie Ott
Into the party walks the queen of the group, Bonnie (Andrea Hunt in full Paris Hilton mode (”Those oldies but goodies remind me of you-ah-ooo…”). Meanwhile, Bonnie’s best friend and the protagonist of the story (aka The Good Girl) is Rachel (Callie Ott), who was The Last Girl after a bunch of her friends were slaughtered by a serial killer three years earlier. We get to see short clips from then strewn through the film. Perhaps eventually to be a prequel? Hey, this is all on the film’s description; I won’t give away anything that is not already avowed by the production team itself. And now, Rachel and her band of…jocks and Rich-Girl friends are heading to a cabin in the woods to party.

Some of the other cliché characters include The Stoner Jacob (Benjamin Norris, who is actually quite good in the role), the ambiguously and possibly gay Bevan (Adam Foster), and the Mean Girl, Lisa (Sarah Agor). Rachel’s boyfriend Sam (Johnny James Fiore) joins in, just in case she has (in her own truly clever wording) “a spring breakdown.” What could possibly go wrong, right? In total, the group includes four doods and three chicks (as opposed to four men and three women).

Even after the obligatory old guy at the gas station warns them to stay away, they go on ahead. If I were rich, I would love to just own a lone gas station in the middle of nowhere so when people ask for directions, I could say, “I’d turn back ifn ah wuz you.” But I digress… Instead, they head on to the cabin where they continue to act like complete asses. When Rachel thanks them for being supportive, one guy responds with “Show us your tits!”

Now I have to say, for a cabin, this is certainly a huge step up from the rustic ones you usually see in these kinds of films. Perhaps it is a mile in the woods, with no Wi-Fi or hardly any phone signal, but it’s huge, modern and has most of the amenities, having been owned by Jacob’s uncle, before he…well….

About half way through the film, the gristle starts to fly as these dum-dums get picked off one by one. Now, I want to be clear, while I feel justified to be mocking these characters, I do not want to give the impression that this film is lacking for entertainment value. Rather, there is a lot going on, some of it amusingly self-reflexive of the genre, which is a good thing. For example, while a lot of the dialog is – pun intended – WTF, it has a nice snarky tone, and some lines that are definitely quotable, such as, “C’mon, my balls are like fuckin’ Smurfs right now!” And if one were to make a drinking game of every time someone says, “Are you serious?!” in some form or another, you’d be plastered by the end.

What I get out of this is that rather than falling into merely formulaic characters, director Peter Herro is acknowledging the stereotypes that perpetuate this kind of film. What leads me to believe that is a number of things, such as two women having a pillow fight at a motel (seen through the window during a pan shot), and one character doing that added vowel at the end of sentences when annoyed, such as “You should dump him-muh!” and “I don’t know-wah!”

Then again, this is the director’s first film, so perhaps he’s being careful, rather than striking out with too much originality, i.e., playing it a bit on the safe side? I’m hoping to find out at some point. If there is any real flaw to the film, specifically the script, it’s that there is way too much talking during the first half of the film, especially before the killing starts. Parts of the party scene at the very beginning were painful in their over-sexualized tones. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all the nudity, it’s the constant hitting on by the men and the relentless ridiculing by the women. It goes beyond stereotype into drooling. But that’s easily solved with script editing in the next film; I’m hoping there is more for the director as this shows a large promise of things to come.

The acting is quite well done, especially Ott and Norris (as I said earlier), though everyone hits the mark with a decent reading and timing. The picture certainly looks great, with some sharp photography and editing. The gore is not abundant, and doesn’t need to be, but more important is that it looks good.

As for the ending, yeah, I figured it out pretty quickly, though there was a specific twist I did not see until near the end. Actually both guessing correctly and not getting it made me happy. Be sure to stick around for the credits and follow the art, as it continues the story.

Lastly, and this is my own snarky humor that’s neither here nor there, and it’s meant for a laugh, shouldn’t it be WTF? rather than WTF! If it were me, I’d take the easy way out with WTF?!

If you’re a slasher fan, I sincerely believe that you won’t be disappointed. There is just enough humor and tension – and even at least one jump scare – that make a viewing worth seeking out.

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