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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dead Above Ground

Happy New Year! My New Year's Resolution is to watch a shit-ton of lousy slasher flicks, mixed in with a small sampling of somewhat entertaining slasher flicks. I'm willing to bet that I can keep that resolution...

First up for 2014: a movie co-starring and created by TV prodcucer Stephen J. Cannell, starring a group of actors mostly known for being on television. Wow, what a shocking development. Oh, and I'll be watching it on my new Playstation 4! SPOILERS and fun times ahead!

Right, so the movie starts out with some frickin' funny credits. We get some dude in a hood, and he's brandishing a large scythe. Whenever he gets tired of seeing credits, he comes back out to slash them off the screen. In between these strange moments, we also see a crowd gathered at the Academy Awards. Ironic, eh?

After about the 100th or so appearance of The Credits Killer, the movie finally begins. A couple are celebrating, because they are now the proud owners of an Oscar. They drunkenly manage to get themselves home in one piece, only to discover that someone has painted some satanic-looking imagery on the front door of their modest mansion, along with the phrase DEAD ABOVE GROUND. Hey, that should be a movie title!

Anyway, the husband, Mark, still gripping his award, urges his wife to run back to the car, in case the intruder is still inside. Apparently, there's also a handgun in the car. Then he enters his home. Oh, and he turns the award over, to use it like a club.

After searching the main hallway, Mark enters some kind of gameroom. He picks up a sword, gives it a few swings, then decides to continue exploring the house. The killer, in an undisclosed location, prepares to meet him, by picking up a massive bear trap.

Mark sneaks about halfway down the hall, then finds himself under attack by ravens. After flailing around, he discovers that they've flown away again. Feeling sort of stupid, Mark enters the kitchen, yelling that he has a weapon. Wow. I'm guessing that "feeling stupid" is probably something that he's grown accustomed to.

He sees someone at the other end of the kitchen sitting in a rockingchair, and asks them who they are. The figure says nothing, just continues to rock back and forth. Overcome with anger, Mark swings the sword, and decapitates the stranger. It turns out to be a stunt dummy from a movie, and Mark feels even dumber than he already did.

Suddenly realizing that the dummy was used as a diversionary tactic, Mark runs back to the front door, only to find it locked. A hooded figure appears, and Mark runs to another door, which is also locked tight. Mark quickly heads into the nearest room, locks the door, then leans against it.

The killer starts to break down the door. Mark begs him to stop, then tries to offer him money, a part in his next movie, or even his car, if the killer just stops his attack. The killer stops trying to smash the door open, instead setting up the big trap we saw him  pick up earlier.

After hearing some thumping sounds on the door, Mark places the blade of his sword up against one of the cracks in the wood, then attempts to stab his attacker. He hears a grunt and a gasp, and assumes that he wounded the intruder. Drawing back the blade shows that there is, indeed, some blood on it.

Mark opens the door, only to find that he actually killed his  wife by accident, as she was left there by the killer with duct tape over her mouth. Marks runs down the hall, sees the killer standing at the top of a staircase, then walks right onto the bear trap. As he howls with pain, the killer uses his scythe to hack Mark to pieces.

Then we get a scene on a beach, nearly 6 months later. Before we get used to having any fun, the scene transitions to a California high school, where we meet our main cast. There's Jason, a football player; Monster, some kind of a combination of a computer geek and a white rapper; Kari, a cute blonde cheerleader; Jeff, an outcast Goth, who also happens to be into demonology; Zara, Jeff's girlfriend, who doesn't even know how to pronounce Samhain correctly; Carl Hadden, a principal who also who teaches a class for budding film directors; Dillon, another football player; and many others that I'll identify as we go along.

Anyway, Hadden realizes that he left his lecture notes in his office, and he sends Dillon to fetch his stuff. After he jokes that he'd forget his head if it wasn't attached, they all clearly hear a voice threatening to do harm to the instructor, but no one seems to know who said it. In an attempt to regain his composure, Hadden announces that they're all going to start screening some student films that they worked on, a project that involved making documentaries.

Reaching into the pile at random, Hadden pulls out Jeff's movie first. It doesn't have a title, and Jeff defiantly announces that, instead of doing the assignment, he just did what he wanted to do. They watch his video, which is a short slasher piece that stars Kari as the girl being stalked. Jeff is the killer, and his character in the piece transforms into a killer clown, then decapitates Kari's character. When that happens, the entire class erupts into cheers, jeers, and raucous laughter.

Angry that his work isn't being taken seriously, Jeff threatens to kill the entire class. He even uses that phrase again, "dead above ground", just to remind us what movie we're watching. Hadden tries to calm Jeff down, but that just pisses him off even more. Jason is ordered to fetch the football coach, in case Jeff needs to be subdued.

Oh, he does! Monster starts to mock him again, so Jeff shouts his rants even louder. Then Jason returns with the coach, and Jeff is dragged out of class to face disciplinary action. The only person who seems to care is Zara.

At the end of the school day, Hadden describes how scary Jeff was to Brenda, the school counselor that Hadden secretly admires from afar. They encounter Tom, the coach that took Jeff out of class, and he flirts with Brenda. This has gone from Prom Night to Melrose Place in one scene!

Brenda heads in to try to counsel Jeff, despite Hadden's misgivings about leaving her alone with such a troubled teen. She finds Jeff waving a trophy around like a club, yelling and shouting magical spells and incantations. Brenda gets the trophy away from him, but he barely seems to comprehend that she's even there.

Outside, Hadden is trying to ignore Coach Bradley, who is telling him that a kid like Jeff should just be thrown into a psych ward. Hadden's response is that he's the one who ultimately decides what to do with unruly students. Then their talk turns to an end-of-the-year pool party that Hadden throws for the students in his communication class, and Coach Bradley brags that he's going as Brenda's date. He teases Hadden, then strolls away.

Brenda asks Jeff about his home life. She's concerned, because the phone number appears to be out of service, but Jeff just sputters some nonsense about how Celtics have no families. Yeah, I think that we can assume  that Jeffy-boy killed his folks.

The day of the pool party arrives. Jeff and Zara are there, and they somehow spawned a third Goth kid to follow them around. Dillon is there with his girlfriend Darcy, but he's whining that he thinks her parents don't approve of him. Hadden's busy at the grill, and Brenda's telling him that she thinks that Jeff is schizophrenic. Then the coach starts to taunt Hadden about his taste in music.

Something happens between Dillon and Jeff, and Jeff ends up punching Darcy right into the pool. Coach Bradley breaks up the altercation, but then Jeff makes things worse, by hitting Dillon's car as  he drives away. Dillon grabs his keys, and a chase begins.

The cars end up on a winding cliffside road, and Jeff has totally gone off the deep end. Dillon swerves into the other lane, and the cars engage in a game of chicken. As Jeff accelerates, he turns away from the road to laugh at Dillon. Then he plunges right over the cliff, and his car explodes in a ridiculously massive fireball.

And now it's a year later. No aftermath, no reactions, no investigation scenes. One minute, a car explodes. The next, a year passes. Great.

Principal Hadden pulls into the faculty parking lot, where he finds Coach Bradley sitting in a van and getting drunk. Apparently, the coach was fired because the football team had their worst season ever. Oh, and his firing lead the coach to begin threatening Hadden, often enough that Hadden now owns a small handgun.

Hadden gets his gun, tucks it into his shirt, then approaches the drunk ex-teacher. After ordering Bradley off of school property, Hadden shows him the gun. Bradley punches him out, then crawls back into his van to resume getting drunk.

Then we see Dillon arrive, soon followed by Darcy and her best friend Latrisha, who discuss the fact that Darcy is no longer allowed to see Dillon, because many people still believe that he forced Jeff off the road. And last, but not least, we meet Chip Palmer, a new student. The girls find him dreamy.

Chip has a chat with Zara about Jeff, and she learns that Chip has seen him. In his dreams, several times. He has Zara point out Dillon to him, then walks over to introduce himself. Dillon tries to ignore him, but Chip's demeanor unsettles him.

That night, Coach Bradley is attacked in his van. A knock at the door of the van is followed by a growling voice saying, "Welcome wagon...", followed by more ravens. Then Bradley is assaulted by the hooded figure, who drives his scythe into the drunk man's chest.

In school the following day, Brenda is questioned by Sarge Dan DeSousa, the detective sent to investigate the murder. His main suspect is Carl Hadden, because the killer left a picture of him at the crime scene. With no other leads, and with Brenda helpfully telling him about the trouble between Hadden and Bradley, DeSousa decides to arrest Hadden.

DeSousa, accompanied by a cute partner named Burrows, interrogates Hadden. The detectives mention the history of problems that Hadden and Bradley shared, but Hadden tries to claim that he never let it get in the way of his job or his relationships. When they bring up the gun, he tells them about the threats he was getting at home, phone calls where the caller was whispering "Dead above ground" to him. Hmmm, now why does that sound so familiar?

Back  at the school, Zara is trying to put together a group for a seance. She wants to contact Jeff. Surprisingly, people are actually planning to go to this thing. Why? Except for Zara, they all despised Jeff. Then Hadden arrives back at the school, where Dillon makes the observation that it's no fun when people falsely accuse you of murder.

That evening, Zara has everyone sit on the floor in a circle, except for Chip, who is placed in the center of the circle. After a few false starts, Jeff arrives, and promptly possesses poor Chip. Chip's eyes glow, some ravens fly into the room, then Chip seems to foretell that the principal will be the next to die.

They all hurry over to Hadden's house, to try and warn him about his impending doom. They find a red symbol on his door, then Darcy trips over Hadden's dead body. Hey, as flawed as this movie is, you can't argue that the body count is too low!

DeSousa questions Dillon first, and bluntly tells him that he thinks that Dillon murdered Jeff. Then he also tells him that he looked into his family history. It turns out that Dillon's dad was a convicted murderer. Hey, an actual plot twist!

Also, according to the detective, each victim had a picture of the next victim left on them by the killer. Hadden was found with a photo of Kelly, the cheerleader who played Jeff's victim in his student film. Dillon is allowed to return to school, but even his closest friends aren't quite convinced of his innocence.

Zara believes him. She tells the group of friends that Jeff's spirit is restless, and that he's the person doing all of these killings. In spite of what they all witnessed at the seance, they still don't buy it. Zara concludes that Jeff won't stop until they're all dead, unless they can find a way to banish his spirit forever.

Then Zara hatches a plan that brings the movie down to a new low: She wants to perform another seance, but not just any seance. No, she thinks that it would be worthwhile to try to strike a bargain with dead Jeffster. Go ahead, ask me what kind of deal....Zara wants to find a way to get Jeff's horror film script made into a big-budget horror flick. See? Told you it was dumb!

Kelly goes home and changes into a skimpy bathing suit, then calls Brenda. She tells the counselor about Zara's  screwball plan, and Brenda is concerned, probably because she can't fathom how gullible and stupid movie teens are. Before hanging up, Brenda orders Kelly not to attend the next seance.

As night falls, Brenda meets up with DeSousa, and they discuss the case while taking a long walk on the beach. Brenda tells the detective about the weird stuff Jeff did in her office, and they both realize that Jeff probably left his fingerprints on her bowling trophy. Intrigued, they decide to head down to her office. Outside, a violent thunderstorm erupts.

The second seance is performed. No Jeff this time, possibly because he knows that they have an ulterior motive, but more likely because Kelly stayed at home. Chip offers to go get her, and promises to be back within the hour.

Kelly is getting freaked out by the storm's intensity, unaware that the hooded killer has come straight to her house. She gets grabbed as she tries to drive away, because he was waiting in the back seat. Kelly puts up a struggle, but the killer's strength outmatches her own.

Tired of waiting for Chip and Kelly, the other teens head over to Kelly's house. There they find Chip, bound and gagged, and suspended upside down. They untie him, and then go searching for Kelly.

It doesn't take long to discover her body in her car. They call the cops, and DeSousa asks Dillon more questions. Then Zara offers to tell the detectives what she knows. She explains that ravens and crows are harbingers of death and doom, then DeSousa has her take a polygraph test.

DeSousa takes Brenda out on a date. They have one of those generic "tell me about your job" conversations, then end up kissing. After moving the date into the bedroom, they have the giggliest sex scene in cinematic history. Seriously, they keep grinning and laughing during the entire montage, it's probably the least-sexy scene ever filmed.

After the autopsy on Kelly, DeSousa is told that a photo of Darcy was found in her stomach. Darcy and her family are told about the threat, and they decide to hire some private security guards. After DeSousa drives away, we see that Dillon has been hiding and waiting for the killer to show up, so he can stop the attack personally.

Dillon changes into a swimsuit, then swims around the beach to approach Darcy's home from the rocks. They meet in private, and Dillon swears that he will protect Darcy from the killer, or die trying. Then Darcy's dad shows up, and threatens to call the cops. Dillon and Darcy have a fast kiss, then Dillon escapes again.

Zara heads to the library, where Dillon confronts her. He wants to know more about what Jeff believed, and if any of that knowledge might save their lives. Zara starts to have an emotional meltdown, and Dillon offers his friendship to her. Then they both head to the police station.

DeSousa agrees to speak to them, and Zara asks  Dillon if he can speak to the detectives alone first. While Dillon waits in the hallway, Zara confesses to murder. She says that she was an accomplice in all of the killings, and that the seances and rituals were faked to make the victims trust her. When asked who the killer is, Zara says that it was Dillon.

After Dillon is formally charged, Chip calls Darcy. He has a different theory, that Zara arranged to frame Dillon with Jeff, because Jeff had always been afraid of his tormentor. With him tucked away in jail, Jeff's vengeful spirit is now able to finish up his killing spree.

But hey, guess what? Chip has a plan! A stupid plan, yes, but it's still a plan. He believes that they should do what Zara proposed earlier, and make Jeff's horror movie! Uh, but wasn't Zara also admitting a couple of scenes ago that the seances were all faked? Why would some ghost want to make a movie?

Anyway, before we get a chance to think too much, we see Brenda at the grocery store. As she passes through the aisle with the milk, we can see that the killer is hiding in the freezer case, watching her every move. Heh, I wonder how long he had to stand there before she showed up? Would've been funnier to see him in there first, then have a scene where she decides to go shopping tomorrow, followed by Jeff freezing his undead ass off.

Anyway, Jeff cuts the power, kills the store clerk, then attacks Brenda. The detectives tell Dillon that Brenda's gone missing. Then DeSousa reveals yet another kooky twist: "Jeff" was actually a mental patient named Ricky. He had escaped from a hospital, then assumed the Jeff persona instead.

Suddenly very afraid for Darcy's safety, Dillon begs the detectives to release him from jail. Because it's already evening, no judge will sign the release papers until morning, so Dillon wastes his one phone call to contact Monster, he  who hacks computers and raps like Ice Cube, yo. Monster agrees to hack into the police network, and fake the orders to get Dillon released from jail.

Chip gets Darcy to go with him back to where they had the seances. She sees that Brenda has been tied to a chair, and realizes that it was a trap. Then DeSousa also finds the house, and spots several ravens nesting outside. Yup, it's the right house!

Chip starts to ramble on about death just like Jeff used to, and the women both beg him to stop. Yeah Jeff, please stop. Then he pulls off his face, revealing that it was just a mask. You ready for this explanation? Get ready to make yourself dizzy as your eyes roll...

Rick is the son of the couple who were murdered at the start of this thing. Yeah, the award winners. And the ashes found at the car crash were his mother's, to make his fake death look even more convincing. This is even dumber than the idea of making a horror movie to appease a restless spirit...Can we do that plot instead, please?


Jeff/Rick/Chip picks up his weapon to slaughter them, but DeSousa stops him. As they engage in a pretty boring duel to the death, Dillon arrives to save the day. He ambushes the killer from behind, then gets thrown around like a doll. DeSousa uses the momentary distraction to get up off the floor.

DeSousa gets the blade away from the killer, then rips off one of his squishy-looking ears. The maniac retrieves his weapon yet again, and the men duke it out on the roof. A lucky punch sends DeSousa sailing into an antenna, and he quickly picks up a piece of it as Jeff/Rick prepares to finish him off.

Jeff/Rick/Chip is impaled, then falls off of the roof, where he gets even MORE impaled by the spikes on the fence that surrounds the property. DeSousa then releases all of the hostages.

Dillon and Darcy kiss, and Dillon reminds her that he promised to always protect her. Then Zara is brought to the crime scene, where she insists on seeing the body of the killer. She stares down at his body on the rocks, and vows to be around when he comes back. Both DeSousa and Brenda tell her that the only place he's going is the morgue, but then they see that his body has vanished. THE END...? I hope so.

Bad, bad, bad. I take back what I said earlier about the amount of kills being impressive, because I don't want this movie getting even faint praise. A pox on you, movie! A pox on you and any sequels you spawn! 1 out of 5 killer trees, just for being at least mildly coherent...but even that feels generous. Man, 2014's gonna blow.

And what *shuddering* did I learn after watching Dead Above Ground?

-When TV Producer/Director Stephen J. Cannell is the best actor in a movie, that movie's in serious trouble.

-Burn victims can wear multiple fake faces, get body parts ripped off, get impaled, and still survive.

-Sex can make you giggly.

My next DVD should be either Asylum of the Damned or Grizzly Park. Both sound like real classics. See ya on the flipside!