Somebody Help Me (2007)

Somebody Help Me is really nicely packaged. The DVD box comes inside a cardboard slipcase, which is nice - if a little excessive - especially since it's sort of metallic and shiny. If I were giving out stars, I might have to give the film an extra one just for the packaging.

Sadly, having watched the film, it wouldn't be an extra star so much as, er, the only star. This film is dreadful. It's your generic slasher movie, employing every single cliché it could get its hands on, without an ounce of coherence.

It opens with a darkened room in which some girls are apparently trapped - and then abruptly skips three years into the future, to a long sweeping shot over a forest. Some truly awful R'n'B plays as a van drives (and drives, and drives) through the woods, and we're introduced to the main characters. There's a romantic, good-looking, likeable couple, and a slightly less good-looking couple who argue a lot and are generally irritating. It emerges that they're a group of friends travelling from LA to a cabin in the middle of nowhere to celebrate the better-looking girl's 21st birthday. As you do. It seems that they're going somewhere completely isolated and out of the way, except that when the scene changes to the party, another three couples have magically turned up. Plus we go with the boys to pick up food in the nearby town, and see their creepy next-door-neighbour spying on them, so, y'know, maybe not all that cut off from civilisation after all. All the couples proceed to get very drunk, and some of them go outside into the woods to have sex. Cue the scary music, because as we all know, if you're having drunken sex in the woods, you're going to get murdered by a psychopath!

From that point onwards, everything goes insane. The two couples who went outside to have sex disappear. Another couple goes to look for them. They don't come back, either. The two remaining couples - the ones in the van at the beginning - split up, and the girls disappear. At seemingly random times, we're treated to badly edited scenes of a surgeon cutting off random bits of the missing people's bodies. Meanwhile, everyone panics. A lot of time passes, nonsensically: everyone who didn't go missing on the first night spends the entirety of the next day wandering around in the woods, except it only takes about five minutes (they go outside in daylight; then they comment that it's 4pm and they've been looking all day; then it's suddenly dark) and no-one ever seems to need to eat, drink, sleep or use the toilet. After about half an hour, the sheriff says it's been 36 hours since the kids disappeared; the two surviving girls comment that they haven't eaten or slept for two days because they can't find their friends, which seems a bit stupid to me.

Lots of other slasher movie clichés get rolled out - there's no mobile phone service in the woods, for example. Every time anything happens, generic horror movie music (think I Know What You Did Last Summer) plays. The killer randomly pops up in the background then disappears again, even when all the doors are locked and there's someone standing directly in front of the entrance. There's very little characterisation, beyond the initial likeable couple/irritating couple assessment, which is mostly due to the fact that the dialogue is terrible. It's unnatural, repetitive, and nonsensical. The worst part is probably when the sheriff initially asks the kids why they're in town, and they claim that they're staying at the annoying kid's uncle's cabin. His uncle, he says, is "Charles Bronson." It sounds like a joke, like they're lying to the sheriff, because Charles Bronson is so blatantly a famous name, but no, apparently we're supposed to take him seriously - his uncle's name really is Charles Bronson. Give me strength. (Runners up for worst lines of the movie: the fact that everyone at the cabin insists on saying "On behalf of me and my beautiful [insert girlfriend's name]"; the description of the missing kids given by the irritating girl to the police - "White.")

Race is obviously an important part of this movie. It was produced by Codeblack Entertainment, a company which specialises in the urban market, and stars Omarion and Marques Houston. And that should be really interesting: most slasher movies feature a group of privileged white kids going out into the woods to get killed by underprivileged white hillbillies, with, if you're lucky, a token member of an ethnic minority who'll either get killed first, or make quips about how he (... I can't think of an example where it was a she) is going to get killed first. Because that's how wanky postmodern filmmakers roll, using all the tropes of the genre in a knowing, self-referential, winking way without ever thinking about why films work that way or how the stereotypes might be subverted. Sticking a group of urban black kids in the same situation should provide scope for some kind of social commentary, or, if you don't want to get overly heavy, there's at least an opportunity to do something different with the genre, because chances are they wouldn't react in the same way as your typical privileged white kids. In Somebody Help Me, though, all that happens is that the girl from the irritating couple continually talks about white people in a derogatory way. Beyond that, nothing's different.

And there's not really a lot else worth talking about here. Somebody Helps Me just picks up the most memorable images from recent horror films - the Hostel-style torture chamber, the creepy little girl - and plunks them down in the middle of a complete non-story. People get kidnapped, there's a few seconds of low-budget gore as they get their ears or fingernails removed, and then the survivors panic a bit more. The killer, when the final guy gets to confront him, wears a mask and moves slowly. He gets stabbed, then disappears as soon as the heroes have their backs turned. He gets shot, then disappears as soon as the heroes have their backs turned. The little girl on the cover is a complete waste of time: she shows up in a couple of nightmares singing creepy nursery rhymes, and then pops up to help rescue the kids who haven't died yet, which doesn't seem to strike anyone as strange, and then at the end there's a bizarre attempt at a twist, or maybe just a final scare, as the 'real' girl sings the song she was singing in the nightmare. For ... no apparent reason, because that doesn't make sense.

As well as there being no sense of time passing properly, there's also no sense of space or location, because the cabins are always framed one at a time, with no clue as to how they connect to one another. Ditto on the sheriff's station and the town's shops. According to the sweeping fly-over shots, it's all just forest, but that doesn't make sense since there's apparently a cabin "just over the street." Nobody has thought about this, at all, and the more I think about it, the more annoying it gets. As far as the explanation for the killer goes, there's a lot of fuss made about the date (March 6th) and that there were previous murders three years ago (hence that very short scene at the beginning) except then the creepy little girl says that the killer goes out looking for fresh victims "every night." So the date had nothing to do with it, then? And why does there always have to be a precedent? Why are films never made about the first time maniacs go on killing sprees, only the times they apparently escape and do it all over again in exactly the same way?

The only explanation is that it's that way because it's always been that way. There's nothing original in this movie - it's just a bunch of kids going out to a cabin to get murdered by a guy in a mask on March 6th instead of Friday 13th. The most positive thing I could say about it is that you can't really tell that the two male leads are musicians, rather than actors. They've done a fairly good job with an absolutely execrable script. Which, in the end, doesn't make for anything worth watching.

IMDB link

1 comment:

blankshots said...

I commend you for sitting through this crap just so you could warn us about it. ;-)