Friday, March 16, 2012

The Green Monster for the Win

Decisions, decisions. I had two different 2011 horror films to choose from on my Instant Watch queue, Zombie Apocalypse and The Oregonian. Both had virtually identical scores of 4/10 on IMdB. The zombie film starred Ving Rhames, whom I like, but who seems to be cashing a Brinks truck worth of paychecks these days and thus, the movies he's been in haven't always been quality. The other movie had Lindsay Pulsipher, a competent young actress best known for her stint as Crystal Norris on True Blood. The Oregonian was an indy film written and directed by Calvin Lee Reeder who had done a few shorts, none of which I'd seen. At this point, it's a coin toss as to which movie to watch. I do love P/A stuff, even when it flogs the worn out plague zombie corpse yet again. However, I noted this movie was made by Asylum for the dreaded Syfy channel so the odds that it would be anything approaching the least bit original or entertaining were slim. A further check of the IMdB stats showed that over half the people rated The Oregonian either 9 and above or 2 and below. The zombie movie's stats were pretty evenly distributed denoting that there weren't really any strong feelings about it. Previously, I've found a love/hate movie is always more interesting than a meh one so I chose to watch The Oregonian.

Film Synopsis:
A young woman from Oregon, who is traveling in the northwest, regains consciousness behind the wheel of her wrecked automobile and seeks help.

Note: I think it's best to go into this film as blind as possible. Most viewers will suss out what's happening sooner rather than later, but it still adds to the film if one is as disoriented as the main character after she stumbles out of her car.

At the beginning of the movie, there is a kind of And Soon the Darkness vibe as the titular character (we never find out her name), played by Lindsay Pulsipher, wanders up and down a deserted, rural Washington highway looking for help. She eventually stumbles upon a strange, seemingly crazy lady who doesn't speak but only smiles at her manically. Unable to find anyone else, she returns to her wrecked car where she makes, not one, but two, previously unobserved, horrifying discoveries. Ultimately, she flags down a van, the driver of which is the quiet weird type. The 'make or break' scene of the movie then ensues as the driver pulls over to take a leak. I'm pretty sure that a stream of urine has never been used to convey a plot twist in a movie before, but it does in this one. From then on, things get even weirder and even though the girl acquires a shotgun along the way, you don't get the sense she's any safer in this odd universe.

I'd fully understand any frustration with the film as it tips precariously on the edge of Lynch-sanity on numerous occasions seeming to conjure up bizarreness for its own sake especially towards the end. Director Reeder does strike the weirdness button once too often later on in the film, and at times, it feels like he is just trying to run out the clock out by padding with variations on scenes that have played out already. There is also a big technical problem with the audio level of the film. At first I thought the sound was blown out, but when I turned my volume down to half its normal level, it sounded very passable. Since there's very little dialogue in the movie, and what there is isn't critical to understanding it, there isn't any irreparable harm done by this technical flaw.
On the positive side, the film does occasionally break up the grim nightmare aspects with some black humor and even a little heart. At one point, the main character stumbles upon another accident where the driver has been killed, but a passenger, dressed in the cheesiest green monster costume of all time, has survived. The monster is endearing partly because of its crappy costume (which against all practicality, it won't remove), and partly because it follows Pulsipher's character around, at one point, giving her a much needed monsterly hug.

But that's about as close to cheerful whimsy as the film ever gets. It's a pretty dark ride otherwise that may be off-putting to some in its bleakness and lack of narrative. Pulsipher is easily the best actor in the film and Reeder wisely stays focused on her throughout. At a certain point, you can just feel Pulsipher's character give in and just start rolling with the weirdness. Up until the last ten or fifteen minutes the pacing is fine and the movie is involving, especially early on when everything is still in question. As I said the director goes to the weirdness well a couple of times too often, and the film would have worked better at 70 minutes instead of 83 but it's an interesting ride that beats the heck out of generic plague zombies.

Score 6.5/10

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