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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Final Curtain

Okay, so last week I mentioned that this week's DVD has 2 movies on it. Those movies are The Bonesetter Returns and Final Curtain, both of which are ultra-low-budget affairs. I more or less just flipped a coin, so you're going to suffer through Final Curtain with me, as I wasn't sure that I wanted to see a sequel to a movie about a killer I've never heard of before. I'll be SPOILING the entire film more than pretty much every film Ben Stiller's presence has ruined, so beware! (okay, to be fair, I enjoyed Mystery Men....but that was about it...)

The movie begins with someones Grampa trying to learn how to type on a computer, as music from a feminine hygiene ad plays at an ear-bleeding volume. Gramps pees into a drinking glass as he tries to figure out what all them tiny symbols on the cotton-pickin' screen do when you click on 'em(DAGNABBIT!!), then decides that suicide would be preferable to having to learn how to use Windows. He holds the gun barrel to his temple for so long, I actually started to wonder if he forgot what we was doing, and might wander away to watch "Matlock" or something.

Alas, Gramps does eventually pull the trigger. Before we go to opening credits, we see that he was typing "A MIRTH IN THE FAMILY BY VICTOR JAMESON". Wait, wasn't Mirth the name of the baby that Mork and Mindy had? Why the frickenfrack would he be writing a Mork fanfic? Well, at least it justifies the suicide...

SEVERAL YEARS LATER(as the movie tells us) a guy who looks like a roadie for Motley Crue approaches a building at night. Thrilling. He enters the building(which turns out to be a theatre) and then subjects us to a painfully awkward "reporter" talking into a black dildo. She tells the sex toy that A Mirth in the Family is a play, and that a disgraced director named Sanford Ash will be using the play as his comeback. Motley starts mopping the floor, then senses someone watching him. He shrugs it off, then stops a few more times to make a series of perplexingly goofy faces. After that he goes outside to have a smoke break, and an unseen stalker attacks him from behind. Oh, and a puddle of fruit punch "blood" flows onto the street from under the door. I guess our killer left his sippy cup in the dishwasher tonight.

Okay, I know we're less than 5 minutes into this thing, but I'm officially rooting for the killer.

We finally get to the credits. This thing has a cast of non-thousands, and the music starts getting to you after awhile as well. Not good signs. It actually gets sort of depressing, watching this huge font proudly declare the names of people I'll never see again.

Anyway, after the Bataan Death March of Obscurity ends, we see some building. It's supposed to be something called the Kanata Playhouse, where the previously mentioned play will be staged. It's being brought to the "playhouse" by someone with the unlikely name of Sanford Ash.

At the entrance we get to meet Heidi McMillan and Jim Miller, the young leads in the play. After a painful introduction, they step inside the theatre to meet everyone else in the cast and crew. There's Sanford Ash, whose voice and demeanor often reach Shatnerian proportions; Jen, Sanford's frazzled and overworked assistant; Natasha, a melodramatic stage actress with the worst fake accent I've ever heard; Barry, another actor who sounds like a snake-oil salesman; and a pair of female stagehands whose names I must have missed, because I couldn't tell you who they were if you paid me.

Once everyone has been introduced, Ash recites a speech that would make "Star Trek"'s Data seem warm and fuzzy. When he's finally done with his "robot voice", he and the others briefly discuss the supposed curse associated with the play: Apparently, the writer, before he killed himself, wrote in his suicide note that the play would never be performed. Since then, any time an attempt has been made to stage the thing, an accident or two have managed to close it down. Sounds like that "Spider-Man" musical...

Backstage, the 2 female workers complain about Sanford Ash and his attitude. As they open a closet to put away cleaning supplies, neither one sees the corpse of the scruffy guy just hanging there, in plain view. Yeah, that makes sense!

At 9 that evening, Natasha finds herself alone on the stage. There was supposed to be a read-through of the play, but she was the only one who showed up. Behind her, someone approaches while wielding a rather large blade. She begins talking into her hand, Barry tries to kill her, and it turns out that it's all part of the play.

They take a short break, and Jim seems bamboozled when Heidi mentions a granola bar. Once alone, Heidi nearly has a run-in with a black-clad figure I can only assume is the killer, but nothing happens. Then we find out that Natasha is wearing a wig due to cancer treatments, and that she and Sanford Ash shop at the same boutique for clothes. Oh, and we discover that Sanford and Natasha were once married, and that Jen and Jim used to date. I guess not all the daytime soaps were cancelled after all!

Jen goes upstairs to look for Heidi, and catches a glimpse of the killer. She then finds Heidi slumped in a chair, either dead or close to it. Barry rushes in when Jen screams, and he confirms that Heidi is, indeed, deader than a doornail. When the rest of the group enter, they see that Heidi's wrists are slashed, but the weapon is nowhere to be found. It's....MURDERRRR!!! Oh, and the phones are dead and the exits are all locked.

Another figure is seen lurking in the dark, this time dressed in white. The killer again, or someone new? Everyone splits up into pairs to double-check the exits, and Barry leaves Natasha alone to see if he can get the lights working. Then Jim and Jen split up to check the doors on opposite sides of the room they're in. Uhhhh, what happened to pairing off to remain safe?

While Natasha freaks out over Barry not coming back, he scares her half to death by actually returning. A masked figure is spotted, and Jim pursues him into the building's basement. Oh, and Natasha is almost killed by a falling light fixture, moments before Sanford rushes in. As everyone turns on each other to take turns at being accused of murder, Jen FINALLY realizes that Jim has vanished.

The figure that Jim is chasing somehow has time to change from a black costume to a red one. Nice continuity, movie. Oh wait, it's just the lighting. When Jim catches up to the guy, a fight breaks out. Jim gets kicked in the crotch, and the other guy runs away just as the others come to the rescue.

Barry offers Natasha a seat, then confesses that he loves her. As she tries to let him down easy, the killer is working backstage, trying to set up another murder. Another stage light comes swinging at Natasha, this time decapitating her. Jim runs after the stranger, this time catching up to him, but the stranger starts to get the upper hand. Then the others arrive, the stranger releases Jim, and Jim punches the guy so hard it knocks him out.

The stranger, who goes by the name Lawrence, wakes up. He tells them that he lives in the theatre, because his father used to be the caretaker of the place. Good logic there. After they question Lawrence about the killings, he turns the tables by claiming that they are more likely to be murder suspects. Then the lights go out. When they come on again, Sanford is missing.

Sanford has gone under the stage area, armed with a cigarette lighter. Jim and Jen decide to go looking for him, leaving Barry in charge of watching the prisoner. When the couple do find Sanford, he claims that he left to see if he could fix the lights. All 3 open the door leading to the circuit breakers, and the body of the Motley Crue dude falls out. Unfortunately, the control panel is also dead, and a quick check upstairs reveals that Barry and Lawrence are both missing now.

It turns out that Barry has taken Lawrence for a walk. Lawrence claims to have a set of keys for the doors, and Barry wants to get out of the building first. Lawrence convinces Barry to untie him, and the others catch up to them. After Barry tells them about the spare set of keys, the lights go out. Again. When they come up again, Jim has a gaping wound in his neck. Oh, and both Barry and Sanford have blood on their clothes.

Lawrence tries to throw suspicion their way, but no one believes him. The 4 survivors get to a door, but then a strange noise freaks them out. Sanford leaves the group, claiming that he wants to avenge Natasha's murder. Barry then goes after Sanford, leaving Jen alone with Lawrence. She stays with him at the door, ignoring the fact that everyone suspected him of murder about 5 minutes ago.

Sanford gets to the stage, and shouts for the killer to face him. The camera zooms in, then fades to black as we hear him say, "Ooooh-aaaah!" Geez, the guy can't even DIE without hamming it up! Shatner would be proud.

Lawrence tries all of his keys on the door, but none of them work. As a back-up plan, he tells Jen that he knows of a secret exit in the theatre. Unfortunately, it involves climbing around in the ceiling air ducts. They crawl around in the ducts for a short while, then the tunnel collapses under their weight. They "fall" into a back room, then hear Sanford scream.

A hand "stabs" Sanford, just before Jen and Lawrence find him. Barry then appears, covered in blood, and delivers a speech that seems cribbed from several episodes of Scooby-Doo and Murder, She Wrote. His motive was that he loved Natasha, but Sanford stole her from him. The usual jealousy thing, blah blah blah. Whatever.Lawrence and Jen take off, and Barry pursues them. Lawrence pushes Jen ahead, then turns around to fight Barry. Their fight is mostly in shadow, so it's pointless to try to figure out what's happening in this scene.

Jen, still running, decides to climb a ladder and hide above the stage. Lawrence comes looking for her, but Barry leaps at him, and they fight some more. Then Lawrence limps away to find himself a good hiding spot as well. Barry sees him, and throws a blade at him as he tries to get away, stabbing him in the back.

Jen peeks out from her hiding place, sees her shadow, and we get 6 more weeks of watching a dreary movie. Damn! She pokes her head out again, and Barry taunts her from an unknown position, promising to kill her quickly, because he likes her. Then he reveals an actual plot twist: he had a partner helping him? But who could it be???

A female hand grabs Jen, providing a big hint. It was Heidi, the starry-eyed young actress. Looking back at her death scene, it seems pretty obvious now...I mean, it was Barry who checked her pulse, after all. Oh, and that leads to ANOTHER twist I didn't see coming: Barry is Heidi's father. Boy, if the rest of the film had been written like this, the movie might have been almost watchable!

It also turns out that the play itself gave Barry a scheme for his revenge, due to it being "cursed" and all. Before they kill Jen, she wants to know one final detail...why did they bother killing the janitor at the start of the film? Both Barry and his daughter look perplexed, and claim that they didn't even know he was dead. Whodunnit???

A shower of electrical sparks fall from the ceiling, and the building starts shaking(my mind was aching, and we were faking it was YOU who shook me alllllll niiiight loooooong!), and a horribly fake explosion is seen from outside the theatre. When the dust settles, we get brief glimpses of Barry, Heidi and Jen, all dead. Then the credits roll. During the credits, we see the reporter with the weird eyes again, asking several people what they they think of Ash, and it's all pretty pointless and strange. Oh, and to add insult to injury, those 2 women who worked backstage weren't even given NAMES! No wonder I couldn't identify them....the freaking maker of the film didn't even do it. And don't get me started on the way he ripped off Sam Raimi in the credits...geez, this Brett Kelly guy has balls of TITANIUM instead of brass! And what about that ending! Did the play have some kind of demonic force behind it that killed the last few characters? Was it the ghost of the playwright, Victor Jameson? Was it just some freak earthquake? I mean, if you're going to try to give your MacGuffin some kind of cool backstory, SHOW it your audience!!!

Okay okay, I'm done venting. I'm not going to bother with the other film on the DVD...I learned my lesson about no-budget films, thanks! Just for making a film, I'll be generous and give it 1 killer tree out of 5, and that's a gift, considering that the film lacked any real gore, acting, or any semblance of a cool idea that was actually followed up in a satisfactory way. And what did this travesty teach me ths week?

-That you can have a high body count, and somehow botch nearly every kill in the film.

-All theatre people talk like the Master Thespian character that Jon Lovitz used to play. Google it, young'uns, it's totally worth it.

-Movies you make with your friends should stay private. Forever.

Okay, so now that I'm skipping that Bonesetter thing, my next slasher film will be an '80's horror flick called Neon Maniacs. Sounds great, see you next week!