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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dark Ride

Hey all, welcome to another SAW! This week(well, week and 1 day...), we have Dark Ride, an amusement-park slasher to watch. So strap in, keep your arms in the ride at all times, and get ready for SPOILERS.....

Wow, this DVD has about a month's worth of trailers and other ads. I hope there's a movie. Wait, did I have this long, stringy beard when we started? I did? Damn!

Okay, so the movie does actually have a starting point. There's a large, deserted-looking carnival, and 2 young girls are just sort of drifting around in the big empty area of the main fairground. A sign says that the place is in its final weeks, but it looks pretty damned dead even without a sign.

One girl, Colleen, lets some sound effects coming from the funhouse attraction intimidate her, and she starts to back away. Her sister mocks her, and Colleen quickly switches her tune. They each buy a ticket from a grizzled old barker, and he teases them a little to try to break the tension. I think I saw him on Dateline 2-3 times...

After getting belted into their cart, they get pulled into a dark, shadowy area, with various noises heard around them. The ride features what you'd probably expect: giant Devil heads bobbing at them, smog, lots of semi-scary mannequins in the background. As the ride goes deeper into the tunnel, things start to spring up and scare them a bit faster.

Colleen hates it. Even during the non-scary stuff, she keep averting her eyes from the entire experience. The other girl doubles her efforts to humiliate Colleen about her squeamishness. Oh, and neither one of the girls manages to notice a creepy figure who enters the tunnel right behind them. Golly gee, I can't possibly imagine where this is heading.

Following Colleen's latest round of being called names, her sister, Sam(I miss Pam Dawber....), appears to have been snatched out of her seat by someone. The dummies also now seem to be fixed up to look like murdered children. As her anxiety increases, Colleen realizes that her cart has now stopped again, in front of another chilling display.

This new one depicts a brutish hulk dressed in hospital scrubs. He's facing a "patient" on his table, as another figure looks on. Colleen gets a better view of the scene, and sees that Sam is the victim, with her innards exposed and pulled out in all of their glory. As Colleen screams, the title is displayed.

During the credits, we also get some backstory. Both girls were murdered, but the killer went on to have a pretty busy hobby. 14 more people were killed...hey, how 'bout showing us THAT movie? That would kick butt.

Anyway, as the film picks up in the present day, 5 friends are preparing for Spring Break festivities. The group consists of Bill, who seems to be the socially awkward "nerd" of the group; Cathy, an attractive brunette played by an actress who co-starred on The Sopranos(she played the daughter); Steve, who used to date Cathy, and is Bill's best friend and roommate; Liz, who is Cathy's bubbly blond best friend; and Jim, an obnoxious jock-type(who used to date Liz) whose van they're travelling in. Yay, the usual assembly-line of victims.

So, after everyone hugs Bill for some reason, they get the proverbial show on the cliche-riddled road. Before they even get into the friggin' van, Bill freaks out the others by re-enacting a scene from Midnight Cowboy, which seems pretty random. They start off on their journey, which consists of scenery from the Griswold family cross-country trip--set to a 70's-ish sounding tune that would make hippies long for heavy metal--and they all just mouth stuff at each other. Yeah yeah, I know it's a montage set to music, I'm just mocking them to stay awake. Hell, even the people who made this one seem bored, as the footage begins to run at super-speed.

They stop at a creepy gas station(yet another cliche....I'm betting Joss whedon was thinking of this movie when he wrote the awesome and under-appreciated Cabin In the Woods), which is open, yet seems deserted. Bill decides to go inside to have a look, and finds an old man who may or may not actually be dead. Bill acts out another movie scene to try to get a reaction from the geezer, but the guy doesn't even blink.

While Bill looks for a bathroom, Jim decides to see if the old guy really is dead by offering him a blowjob as a joke. He gets the shit scared out of him when the old man pops up and begins to talk at 500 words a minute. The old man gives them a coupon for a local eatery, then makes a wisecrack to Jim about getting oral sex from him. I have to admit, the old guy made me laugh.

When Bill returns to the van, he shows the others a brochure that he found, advertising an amusement park attraction at the Jersey Shore. The brochure refers to the attraction as a "dark ride", which prompts Liz to ask what it is. Bill apparently has an encyclopedic knowledge of dark rides, and he fills her in. It's pretty much just another way of saying "funhouse", but that movie title was already taken, so we get Dark Ride. Again, yay. And also....who the heck finds funhouse pamphlets in gas station restrooms??? You should wear a HazMat suit before picking it up.

Steve then adds that he's actually heard of this particular attraction, because of something that happened there 20 years earlier. I can't imagine what he's referring to. Was Snooki born there? Probably not, otherwise this would be even scarier.

Then we get a bit of time travel thrown into the mix, as the story grinds to a halt, and we see an event that took place 2 weeks earlier. Uh, and they couldn't just show this before introducing the college kids to us, and simply have their intro say "2 weeks later"....why exactly? Oh, and this distracting interlude takes place in a mental institution.

2 orderlies are making their nightly rounds, checking on patients in each padded cell. They come to a cell where a bald guy is sitting on the floor in front of a television showing static, and one orderly starts mocking him. When he gets pushy, the patient splits open his straitjacket, then grabs a flashlight from one of the orderlies and shoves it straight through the poor man's torso. Then he grabs the second orderly, shoves him up against the padded door, and tears him open. Afterwards, the lunatic simply leaves the asylum.

Meanwhile, back in the van, Bill has convinced the rest of the group to go visit the dark ride from the brochure, claiming it to be an adventure, or an act of rebellion, or some other load of bull. They probably agreed just to shut him up. Oh, and then they come upon a hitchhiker, and decide to let her come along with them.

The new girl is Jen, and she's kind of spacy at first. Then she tells the others that she once attended a Phish concert, where she met a guy who debated her knowledge of music before trying to rape her. She responded to him by punching him hard in the balls. The moral to her story? She believes that people are more or less decent, deep down. Uhhhh.......

Anyway, while Cathy and Liz text each other about the looney new passenger, Jen decides to take off her shirt. Then Jim offers her a joint, and all is good again. They tell her about the dark ride, and she gets all excited. As a way of thanking them for the ride, Jen offers up a baggy full of many, many hits of acid. Wish they had included one with this movie. I honestly can't remember the last time a horror film left me this bored.

They must have heard me, because they finally arrive at the dark ride. It's late at night, and they seem bamboozled by the fact that it looks like it's closed. They see a security guy, and decide that they can sneak in between his rounds. Well, everyone except Cathy....she's annoyed by Jen, and opts to remain in the van.

Jim breaks in first, gets frightened by a dummy making a face, then finds the fusebox to get the power turned on. With the lights on and the ride operational, he then lets the rest of the group into the building. Pretty smart thinking, having a loud, illuminated amusement park ride turned on in case another security guy or bystander happens to pay a visit.

Now that everyone is together again, the girls are skittish about exploring the interior of the ride. They are reminded that Cathy is outside, if anything goes wrong, but Jen still whines that she would have been safer accepting a ride from a creepy stalker. Geez, considering how long it took them to get to the place, you'd think they would have voiced these issues before their arrival!

They wander aimlessly from room to room, until Jim picks up a mannequin and begins dancing with it. A massive green monster-head pops out of a window behind Jim, and when he turns back to the mannequin, the face is suddenly mangled. He drops it and re-joins the rest of the group, as if nothing happened. Before leaving, Bill examines the broken face as well. From above the room, the escaped killer watches the incident, and he's now wearing a dollface mask, like the killer in The Hills Run Red.

Outside, the weather has turned rainy. Cathy notices the rain, then goes back to not having anything to do with the main plot. I wonder how much she was paid to more or less sit in a car for the majority of the film? I hope it was a ton of cash.

Jim, while smoking a joint, comments that Cathy doesn't know what she's missing. As they decide to sit in a circle and act out a scene from That '70's Show, Liz claims to see someone watching them. The rest just chalk it up to a reaction from the drugs. Yeah, I'm sure that's all it was.

Jim then begins to tell the story of exactly why the dark ride was closed, until he's interrupteed by Bill, who says that he grew up in the area, and knows the "real story". Hey Bill, how 'bout you chill out so Jim can tell the story, before you decide it's the wrong one? Geez, he's starting to get on my nerves.

Regardless of who tells the story(which Jim tells anyway), it's just the same events we saw in the opening sequence of the film. Jim says that the girls were twins, and that the killer had the mental capacity of a child. Oh, and he supposedly lived in the dark ride, due to his deformities.

And how could he have lived there without being discovered? Why, his dad operated the attraction, of course! Oh, and there was a brother who was younger, with no abnormalities, physical or mental. After the twins were murdered, the ride was shut down. When the girls ask Jim why he pretended not to have any knowledge of the place, he responds that they never would have agreed to go, had they known the history of the place.

Okay, Bill's turn to tell the same damned story! In his version, the killer was shot, but survived, and eventually spent the rest of his life in the booby hatch. And the big twist in his story is that the twins were also Bill's cousins. Oh, and the giant killer's name is Jonah. Supposedly, Jonah was discovered turning his victims into displays for the ride. After defusing the tension with a joke, they get up to explore some more.

Steve and Jen find a more private room to fool around in, but it's very dark. They grab a lamp from one of the displays, and use a mirror to try to bounce the light off and give more illumination. Doing this reveals Cathy, who appears to be dead, and used as a display to scare them. As they scream, Cathy leaps up, revealing that a prank was being pulled on Steve.

Steve gets bent out of shape over the joke, then gets angrier when he realizes that most of the others were in on it too. Heck, the whole visit to the attraction was the key component to the prank, and the brochure was one that belonged to Bill. He even talked Jen into helping to pull it off, which she was more than willing to do.

Cathy then makes a crack about paying back Steve for fooling around behind her back when they were dating, and that part really sets him off. He tells Bill that he just lost his only friend, and he leaves. While some of the others say the same to Bill, Jim actually seems to like him a lot more for pulling the stunt. Go figure.

As they arrive back at the entrance, they find that the door is locked from the outside. They all assume that Steve did it, but when they beg him to let them out, there's no response at all. Jim loses his patience, and decides to check the fuses and power source, to see if he can open anything from the control panel.

Within a minute of arriving, Jim is jumped by Jen. Faster than you can say, "Stupid idea!", they start to strip down and have sex. The rest of the remaining group all grab light sources, and walk in a line from room to room, to find any alternate exits. This seems like an okay plan, until Cathy sees a dummy on display that appears to be a very dead-looking Steve. She screams, and Jen and Jim stop screwing long enough to comment on it. Then Jen randomly blurts out, "I love this song,", and the sex resumes.

Cathy rushes to get the others, while Bill tries to warn Jim and Jen that something terrible has occurred. They ignore him, so that Jim can get a blowjob, and the killer sneaks into the room. He kills Jen without alerting Jim, and Jim winds up with her severed head in his hands.

Panicking, he tries to run away, and only succeeds in knocking himself out on an overheard pipe. Jim wakes up, and finds himself alone. Unfortunately, there are no unlocked exits in the room. Trapped, Jim is left crying and begging to be released.

Cathy and Liz are still trying to find an alternate escape door, but neither one of them is being very rational at this point. Cathy tries to inspire Liz to be calm and act strong, going into full-on Braveheart mode to get her friend going again. Cathy sees another corpse, and tells Liz that she feels completely responsible for what's happening to them. She runs back into the maze of rooms, and tells Liz to find the exit and get help.

Each room Liz finds is scarier than the last, until the killer finally nabs her. She barely gets away, but he keeps finding her. He finally gets the drop on her, and then drags her body along the floor to parts unknown. Along the way, Jim sees the body, and the killer decides to chase him down as well.

Meanwhile, the security guy outside has returned. He calls for backup, after describing the screams and other signs of activity coming from the dark ride. After a short debate, he's told that back-up is on the way to his location. Yay, more victims!

The security guard decides to enter the dark ride without waiting for back-up, because they always do in these movies. He finds Cathy almost immediately, which would be great, but the killer has somehow managed to get behind him. The killer splits the poor guard's head in half, right down the middle, and after he admires his handiwork, he resumes chasing Cathy.

Then we meet the "back-up". They receive the call to assist the security guard, and one says something along the lines of, "I hope we get there before he splits..." Hardy har har. The only reason for these 2 nimrods to even be in this movie, was for them to deliver that godawful pun.

Anyway, Cathy finds a window, and actually manages to escape from the building! She swiftly gets to the car, gets in, and drives away fast enough to make The Flash envious. Jim watches her leave, and begins to cry. What's with them finding exits all of a sudden? Were these windows somehow invisible until just now? Gotta love the logic on display in this movie.

Anyway, while Jim is running and blubbering(again, instead of going out a window????), the killer pops up next to him. I love how this gigantic hulk always manages to pop up from out of nowhere, like he's somehow hard to spot. Of course, it makes as much sense as anything else we've seen, so at least the writing is consistent. A giant ninja...genius.

Cathy, in the meantime, is trying to figure out how the "phone" part of her cellphone works. See? Actual evidence that texting makes you dumber. She gets a call from Jim's phone, and realizes that he's still alive. She decides that the smart thing to do is to go back into the dangerous building, and rescue the shit out of the lunkhead. Oh, and while we're talking about survivors, where the heck is Bill, our socially inept movie expert? He pretty much just vanished from the plot after they all went into the building...

Inside, things aren't looking too good for Jim. The masked maniac has caught up to him, and Jim has crawled his way into a dead end. The killer raises his weapon to finish Jim off, but Cathy saves the day by crashing the car through the wall. How she knew which wall to drive through, or even how she managed not to kill Jim in the process, is typical movie logic. Chalk it up to "magic", I guess.

The impact of the vehicle sends the killer flying into a wall of spikes or blades. Cathy passes out, and Jim tries to revive her. And that's when Bill reappears. Jim freaks out and gives Bill a semi-embrace, but Bill's only reaction is to ask if the killer is actually dead. Then he also asks if Cathy is still alive.

When Jim asks Bill how he managed to survive, he replies that he knows the building quite well....and then he stabs Jim. While he continues to stab Jim several more times, flashbacks reveal him planning the prank with Cathy, as well as killing and displaying Steve. It's revealed that the killer is Bill's older brother, and the twin girls were his sisters. Bill wanted to help his brother escape from his confinement, so that he could then kill his "friends", because they never really let him fit in with their group...

...and that's when Cathy finally wakes up. She watches Bill take his brother's mask, and he thanks her for helping with his revenge scheme. Cathy, still in shock, wanders back outside. A few emergency vehicles have arrived, and a resuer asks Cathy if she's hurt. Then there's a final close-up of the mask. THE END

Whoo-boy, this movie was all over the place. A good opening scene, followed by waaaay too much set-up, and numerous silly plot-holes and dumb elements to truly make this film scary. 2 killer trees out of 5....I would have given it 3, but these guys kept blowing every opportunity for something interesting to happen. At least the kills were somewhat good, though, so it's not a total waste. (oh, and check out the deleted scenes....some of them are actually decent, for a change...)

And what did I learn from watching Dark Ride?

-Well, if you want to enjoy a vacation with friends, you might want to do a background check on them first...

-Mental hospitals have no security measures at all, except for a pair of badly trained orderlies.

-Windows and doors are invisible until it's almost too late for them to be useful.

The next movie from Ballbuster is Ghost In the Machine, a cheese-tastic rip-off of Shocker and The Horror Show. See you then!