Saturday, July 10, 2010

Movies: Constantly intellectually ambushed by the obvious.

I kinda feel bad about this. Here I've not done a movie review in a million years, and now this is what I bring you: Razortooth, Patricia Harrington's 2007 straight-to-video creature feature about an outsized, man-eating freshwater eel.

I feel like a husband who has come home hours late, stinking of booze and cheap perfume, and my only excuse is, "Um, I was attacked. By a giant mutant eel. That stunk of booze and cheap perfume. I'm lucky to be alive and certainly happy to see you again, my dear. How was your day?"

But giant eel is what I've got. So here goes . . .

Razortooth opens with a scene of two on-the-run fugitives fresh from a jailbreak being chased by a small gang of cops through a swamp. You can tell the people chasing them are police officers because they all wear identical t-shirts: black tees with the word "Police" on them. They have no badges; no vests; no holsters and equipment belts; and apparently chased these dudes on foot, as they have no vehicles anywhere.

It's the first of and endless stream of goofy, amateur-hour moments throughout the film. But, honestly, they feel more playful than painful. Not in an ironic, self-conscious way; but rather in a "hey gang, let's make a movie" way. One almost wonders if sales of the video didn't go to save the youth center or pay off Granny's mortgage. A certain underdog-boosting goodwill goes a long way. To return to the police shirt example, it reminds one of the branded thug t-shirts villains in the original West Era Batman show used to wear. It cheesy, but also clearly a product of a production with so little money that most of the prop guns that appear in the flick are BB guns (in fact, one of the officers in the film even gives his gun a pump to build up some pressure - as if the fact that it was a BB gun was actually part of the in-film world). In contrast, Frank Miller pulls the same "uncostume" bit for his semi-disposable thugs in his abortion of a Spirit adaptation, only he thinks the joke is so worthwhile that he not only repeats it throughout the flick, but makes it part of an on-going CGI gag that must of cost him about 20 Razortooths. The former seems auto-Sweded, the latter seems like another sad example of that peculiar brand of Hollywoodland creativity that believes an idea is rejuvenated if one simply does it more expensively.

That said, Razortooth is still a God awful film. The kind of flick where somebody can follow the line "Somebody tore this place apart" with the line "Or something" and think they've really nailed a dramatic moment.

The plot of the flick involves a handful of excuses to fill a Florida swamp with folks who'd make fine grub for a giant, mutated eel. Somewhat awkwardly, the various plot threads need to happen in the same place (though, maybe not - the eel seems to be able to get wherever it is needed through a truly labyrinthian sewer system that forward thinking civil planners connected to every potential eel-victim kill site), but the are also dependent on happening in parallel dimensions of cluelessness. Violent escaped cons prowl the swamps; but, despite the fact that authorities believe these dudes slaughtered a handful of their Brothers in T-shirts, they do nothing to stop kids camp group from rowing into the swamp. In another instance of "and now you tell me" storytelling, an animal control agent is apparently aware of the fact that a mad science type in the swamp lost his position at a local university for mad sciencey violations of, um, the science code or whatever; but, again, he does nothing to indicate this to a handful of grad students who have shown up at his mad science base camp to help him with his mad studies.

This curious narrative dependence too-late exposition is somewhat explained by the fact that all the characters in the flick seem to be not stupid, really, but rather constantly intellectually ambushed by the obvious. For example, the mad scientist responsible for the beasty at the heart of the film explains a plan for killing the murderous monster. He gives a bit of backstory: An experiment caused the creature to experience amazing, unchecked growth. As it continued to grow, it broke lose from its tank, ate some researchers, and escaped to the swamp. The good doctor then explains that he plans to poison the beast. When the creature busted out, it was x feet long and, the confident scientist explains, he's done the calculations and has brought enough poison to bring even a creature that large down. At this point, one of the grad students wonders if the creature isn't bigger than that by now because, well, you know, the whole unchecked growth/continued growth thing. The scientist and the rest of the eel hunters seemed gobsmacked by this. You half expect the scientist to say, "Ye gods, the boy is right! Gettingbiggerosity, or the trait you non-scientists call 'growth,' does suggest the eel would have grown since then!"

Harrington's made the kind of flick that, prior to unlimited free access to porn over the Internet, used to passingly entertain young boys on bad weather Saturday afternoons. Now these flicks seem to exist mainly to garner snarky, self-satisfied horror blog reviews, and on those terms, Razortooth is a raging success.

As a postscript, imdb informs me that director Patty Harrington was once the casting director on a softcore crime actioner called Hot Ticket (a.k.a. Strip for Action, a.k.a. Hard Run). I don't know anything about this flick other than the fact that its tagline is the priceless "She stripped for a living. Now she must strip to live." Nice. If there's a sequel, I hope they used "You must strip to live on the Planet of the Hot Tickets!"


Troy Z said...

I understand the reflexive underdogging a viewer can use to defend a film.

A terrific and genuinely heartwarming in-film example of this "Hey Gang, Let's Make A Movie" ethos you cite can be found in the 2007 British film "Son of Rambow" [ ] . Certainly not a horror film, but it will resonate with film fans like yourself and your readership.

CRwM said...


Son of Rambow is a fave at the wM household.