Execrable: Santa’s Summer House/A Talking Cat!?!

Santa’s Summer House/A Talking Cat!?! (2012/2013)

Directed by David DeCoteau
Written by Andrew Helm
Produced by Marco Colombo, Kathy Logan, Gregg Martin
Starring Cynthia Rothrock, Daniel Bernhardt, Christopher Mitchum, Gary Daniels, Kathy Long, Jessica Morris, Rachel Rosenstein, Elijah Adams, Yung Woo Hwang; Johnny Whitaker, Kristine DeBell, Justin Cone, Janis Valdez, Alison Sieke, Daniel Dannas, Squeaky, Eric Roberts

Synopsis

With Christmas magic in June, Kris Kringle routes a vanful of vacationists to quarter at Santa’s Summer House, where St. Nick and his wife (Mitchum, Rothrock) minister miserable careerists (Daniels, Long) and their dweeby son (Adams), catering sisters (Morris, Rosenstein), and a prickish rocket scientist (Bernhardt), who patch and plant relational bonds as secret Santas. Subsequent shifts of A Talking Cat (Squeaky, vocalized by Roberts) introduce a lunky, retired programmer (Whitaker) and his timorously bookish son (Cone) to a caterer (DeBell), her ambitious daughter (Valdez), and aimless son (Dannas) as he counsels most of them.

Script

During his time here on Planet Earth, Helm has developed a rudimentary understanding of intraspecific human relationships and interactions, those interspecific with lower mammals, the English language, and technology in industrial societies. Alas, the limits of his knowledge are exposed by his characters’ unaccountably abnormal disorientation, behavior, vernacular, and idioms thereof. As hashes of terrestrial fiction, these are terrible screenplays, but actual humans have written worse.

Direction

No living filmmaker so personifies quantity over quality as DeCoteau, a cloddish, tireless cheapjack of gore and homoeroticism who’s currently churning out dreary domestic depravities for Lifetime. This pudgy perpetrator of pap perfunctorily forayed these family-friendly features: many shots simply dolly or zoom in, then out, those latter often jerkily. Even in scenes that are competently shot, his casts are clearly on their own when grappling with Helm’s bewildering scripts.

Cinematography

By reducing its brightness, boosting its contrast, and bluing his video, DeCoteau produced the most unconvincing day for night simulated in post-production since that seen in Deliverance.

Histrionics

No combat happens in the Summer House, despite its occupancy of four martial artists. They owe little longevity to dramatic talent, so what can one expect from screen shellbacks Rothrock, Mitchum, Bernhardt, Whitaker, and DeBell when they’re saddled with screenplays that read like poor translations of Soviet comedies spoofing American society? Fat feline Squeaky lazily upstages his bipedal peers. Roberts sounds plastered while literally phoning in his lines, but who can tell?

Score

He’s lifted from better music for decades, so Harry Manfredini was prepared to quote classic Christmas songs for a score that would’ve been better suited to a studio’s holiday comedy in the ’80s than this barely-budgeted video. For Talking Cat, he composed the best tunes for a circus’s clown act, theme park’s ride, and animatronic mariachi that you’ve yet to hear from the preprogrammed song bank of a consumer-grade Casio keyboard.

Highlights

Fans of Roberts are sure to enjoy his specially slurring, swaggering anthropomorphism of Squeaky’s vagrant quadruped. Every actor under 30 in these movies is quite attractive; one can only hope that Adams, Cone, and Dannas knew better than to fraternize alone with DeCoteau.

Flaws

Cloudy, sylvan, littoral, and residential B-roll (and especially establishing shots thereof) are glaringly recurrent in these pictures, constituting perhaps a fifth of both. A laser guiding Squeaky is thrice visible. DeBell’s chef removes a baking pan filled with cheese balls from a hot oven with her bare hands less than a minute before its tangency scorches those of Whitaker’s bumbler. An interminable croquet match at the Summer House drags on and on. Every scene contains some baffling incoherence or other.

Conclusion

Both of these videos are inoffensively horrendous, shot successively at a hideously furnished mansion where pornographic productions were staged. If you must watch these, do so with the commentaries of professional masochists.

Execrable: Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)

Directed by David Price
Written by A. L. Katz, Gilbert Adler
Produced by Scott A. Stone, David G. Stanley, Bill Froehlich, Lawrence Mortorff
Starring Terence Knox, Paul Scherrer, Ryan Bollman, Christie Clark, Rosalind Allen, Ned Romero, Ed Grady, John Bennes, Wallace Merck, Joe Inscoe, Kellie Bennett, Robert C. Treveiler, Leon Pridgen, Marty Terry, Ted Travelstead, Sean Bridgers, Aubrey Dollar, Kristy Angell, David Hains

Synopsis

Mass murder in an agrarian, Nebraskan town that was clearly committed by a syncretic cult composed of minors attracts the professional attention of a tabloid’s lunky reporter (Knox), who investigates several succeeding deaths and other local intrigues in a nearby community where the unmistakably sinister kids have been transferred and welcomed by its obtuse residents. His snottily hostile teenage son (Scherrer) accompanies him to pad the duration of this garbage by romancing a fetching blond townie (Clark).

Script

Genre hacks Katz and Adler contemporaneously co-scripted episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares and Tales from the Crypt, but their screenplay for this sequel to the middling adaptation of Stephen King’s short story doesn’t even meet the low standards of those series. Amorous interludes, messy invultuation, and an underplot concerning environmental crime were interjected into their rehash of King’s physitheistic creeper because they haven’t the imagination to elaborate on his concepts or craft a compelling story. Every character is a stock archetype or rural stereotype who utter shopworn, schmaltzy dialogue suited to diurnal soap operas. Very little is so mortifying as coddled boomers raised in an immanently neurotic Abrahamic faith who slavishly satirize the toothless faithful of another.

Direction

His zooms and crane shots are the most wearyingly routine images in Price’s dull presentation. He couldn’t even execute the movie’s sole jump scare competently.

Cinematography

Notwithstanding noctilucence that’s absurdly overlit, Levie Isaacks’s colorful photography is easy on the eyes, and one of this movie’s few assets.

Editing

Persistently poor comic timing should be imputed to Price and his cast, but Barry Zetlin cut the prosaic footage at his disposal as well as anyone could expect.

Histrionics

Most of these actors either woodenly recite or gnaw the very fabric of spacetime to enact Katz’s and Adler’s simplistic characters. Clark and Allen are tolerable, but haven’t much to do other than posture prettily and shriek when imperiled.

Score

Daniel Licht’s assemblage of choral and orchestral clichés serves the same function as ambient music without any soothing effect. His minatory variation of London Bridge is Falling Down sung by brats is exquisitely abashing.

Flaws

Every tritely slain victim could easily escape if they’d a survival instinct or average IQ. Purblind provincials unwittingly waiting to die aren’t terribly interesting either. Dismal digital effects that have aged horribly are twice implemented. Sweaty sex shammed by Allen and pudgily misshapen Knox is starkly sickening, even more vile than the coitus between Joe Don Baker and Linda Evans in Mitchell. Demonic possession and talentlessness cause Bollman’s heresiarch to speak with a peculiarly peeving cadence.

Conclusion

This is the very lowest grade of sequel: unfunny, vapid, gutless, hokey, tired, tedious trash contextualized in a faintly subversive pretense. Avoid it.

Execrable: Filth

Filth (2013)
Directed by Jon S. Baird
Written by Irvine Welsh, Jon S. Baird
Produced by Mark Amin, Christian Angermayer, Jon S. Baird, Will Clarke, Stephen Mao, Ken Marshall, James McAvoy, Jens Meurer, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler, Jessica Ask, Christopher Billows, Alexander Denk, Alex Francis, Benoit Roland, Berry van Zwieten, Sean Wheelan, Tyler Boehm, Rachel Dargavel, Jona Wirbeleit, Alexander O’Neal, Guy Avshalom, Tony Bolton, Jane Bruce, Charles E. Bush Jr., Mohammed Hans Dastmaltchi, Karin G. Dietrich, Ralph S. Dietrich, Stephan Giger, Stefan Haller, Marc Hansell, Jon Harris, Robin Houcken, Steven Istock, Zygi Kamasa, Pierre Lorinet, Benjamin Melkman, Nick Meyer, Matt Petzny, Yasin Qureshi, Marc Schaberg, Judy Tossell, Jean Pierre Valentini, Irvine Welsh, Paul Andrew Williams
Starring James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Brian McCardie, Emun Elliott, Gary Lewis, John Sessions, Shauna Macdonald, Jim Broadbent, Joanne Froggatt, Kate Dickie, Martin Compston, Iain De Caestecker, Shirley Henderson, Joy McAvoy, Jordan Young, Pollyanna McIntosh, Bobby Rainsbury
Akin to his American obverse Chuck Palahniuk, Irvine Welsh fares best when concocting humorous metaphysical mishaps and exploiting memorably crude conceits; when either delve too deeply into existential excogitation, their immanent immaturity issues as mundanely as the most formulaic romantic comedies. Trainspotting and The Acid House are audaciously appealing for their attention to Welsh’s fantastical degeneracy (notwithstanding the former’s maximal overestimation); the same can be said for only a few moments in this adaptation of his eponymous novel, which ebbs from goatish mischievousness into cloying moralization and introspective angst-by-numbers, affirming once again the propensity of Anglos to misrepresent masochism as moral play, and glamorize vice as a self-serving pretense of expiation. If he weren’t so preoccupied with pranks and gossip intended to undermine his constabulary’s other inspectors (Bell, Poots, McCardie, Elliott, Lewis) and invalidate their eligibility for a coveted promotion, a coked, boozing, madly misanthropic detective (McAvoy) might attend to the case of a Japanese tourist murdered by a thuggish gang (Compston, De Caestecker, McAvoy, Young). Instead, multiple addictions exacerbate his haunted, schizoid psyche until he desolates what’s left of his life and mars those of associates and acquaintances before committing suicide. The End!
Perhaps the best filmic evidence that GenX have become as obstinately ossified as Boomers is the junk constituting this pic’s rancid rubric, which was scarcely tolerable when Britain’s film industry was first infected with Tarantinism in the mid-’90s. Baird hoarily regurgitates by rote the obligatory, introductory strut in slow motion and abounding, artless exposition in pestiferously prolix narration and presentational shots. Just as wearying to watch and hear are edgy vitriol delivered by a supporting cast who overplay their one-dimensional roles like teenagers at drama camp, sluttishly overripe wives (Macdonald, Dickie, Henderson) among those, hallucinatory episodes where Broadbent and McAvoy retread unamusing references to A Clockwork Orange, Clint Mansell’s niminy-piminy music, and McAvoy’s fatuous breaches of the fourth wall. Filth was a domestic hit where a preponderance of ignorance and political correctness have lowered the popular threshold of transgression, so its moderate violence, harrassment, drinking, snorting, sexism, racism, homophobia, transvestism, erotic asphyxiation and disloyalty aroused Scottish critics and viewers to acclamation and animadversion unknown to other markets. Nothing sates the immoral appetites of a softened society as decadent froth with a syrupy center.

Instead, watch Bad Lieutenant or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Execrable: Tales of Halloween

Tales of Halloween (2015)
Directed by Dave Parker; Darren Lynn Bousman; Adam Gierasch; Axelle Carolyn; Lucky McKee; Paul Solet; Andrew Kasch, John Skipp; Mike Mendez; Ryan Schifrin; Neil Marshall
Written by Dave Parker; Clint Sears; Greg Commons; Axelle Carolyn; Lucky McKee; Molly Millions; Andrew Kasch, John Skipp; Mike Mendez, Dave Parker; Ryan Schifrin; Neil Marshall
Produced by Axelle Carolyn, Mike Mendez, Shaked Berenson, Patrick Ewald, Sarah Gorski, Charles Arthur Berg; Mike De Trana, Jace Anderson; Tada Chae, Michael Arter; Vanessa Menendez
Starring Adrienne Barbeau; Cameron Easton, Daniel DiMaggio, Austin Falk, Madison Iseman, Hunter Smit; Barry Bostwick, Marcus Eckert, Christophe Zajac-Denek; Casey Ruggieri, Trent Haaga, John F. Beach, Tiffany Shepis, Mia Page, Marnie McKendry, Clay Keller, Kennedy Fuselier, Sage Stewart, Bianca Rose Miller; Keir Gilchrist, Gracie Gillam, Booboo Stewart, Noah Segan; Alex Essoe, Lin Shaye; Pollyanna McIntosh, Marc Senter; Dana Gould, James Duval, Elissa Dowling; Nick Principe, Amanda Moyer, Jennifer Wenger; Sam Witwer, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Ben Woolf, John Landis; Kristina Klebe, Pat Healy
It’s a fait accompli, so any ordinance dictating that 80% of all motion pictures produced in Los Angeles county must be idiotically infantile and scored to the hacked hilt would meet with sweeping, immediate compliance and probable applause for its foregone success by Ellay’s dim and demented Board of Supervisors. Of course, such a rescript betrays a self-awareness that would forefend the unsatirical majority of those prescribed movies, as this omnibus of ten edgily adolescent chapters about a gluttonous revenant (Easton/Smit), mayhem instigated by a cartoonishly dapper demon (Bostwick), trick-or-treaters (Page, McKendry, Keller, Fuselier, Stewart, Miller) who wreak bloody vengeance on two married couples (Ruggieri, Haaga, Beach, Shepis), revenge realized by the conjuration of a timorous victim (Gilchrist), a single woman (Essoe) stalked by a story’s spirit, the psychotic downward spiral of a wretchedly childless couple (McIntosh, Senter), altercating Halloween decorators (Gould, Duval) who come to blows over their clashing bedizenments, one hulking, rural serial killer (Principe) confronted by a tiny extraterrestrial, abductors (Witwer, Cantillo) who struggle to ransom the seeming son (Woolf) of a wealthy industrialist (Landis), and a police detective (Klebe) who pursues a sentient, rampaging jack-o’-lantern. All of these demonstrate Hollywood’s inability to tickle or terrify, now that it’s overrun by unimaginative drug addicts straining to rekindle but a spark of the magic plied by American wizards like Romero, Carpenter, Raimi, et al. before their output in the ’90s declined, anticipating this dreck. For this, an embarrassment of obvious references to genre classics, lovable Barbeau’s mellow narration and cameos by Barbara Crampton, Stuart Gordon, Felissa Rose, John Landis, John Savage and Joe Dante are more dispiriting than diverting. This is almost unwatchable in toto, an example of what happens when gruesomeness and frivolity are accorded anteriority, absent substance.

Instead, watch Trilogy of Terror or V/H/S.

Execrable: Listening

Listening (2014)
Directed and written by Khalil Sullins
Produced by Jamal DeGruy, Travis Nicholson, Khalil Sullins, Pardis Sullins
Starring Thomas Stroppel, Artie Ahr, Amber Marie Bollinger, Christine Haeberman, Steve Hanks, Arn Chorn-Pond, Pamela Cedar
A compelling concept and some deep, decent concerns regarding the societal dangers of abused technologies are buried under a crushing cumulation of clichés, inanities and melodrama in Sullins’s first (and mercifully only) feature. Two reputedly brilliant educands (Stroppel, Ahr) enrolled at Caltech develop an apparatus that digitally transcribes thought; in collaboration with another decidedly dubious student (Bollinger, who resembles a tentatively reformed stripper), their invention is upgraded to enable wired telepathy. Disaster arises from a series of timeworn tragedies, inexplicable personal and ethical idiocies, and infringement by a covert division of the CIA, which impresses both undergraduates and expropriates their technology to further a program of mass cerebral control. “Primer for morons” was a phrase popularly applied online to this daffily disappointing science fiction upon its initial release, and more than a few elements seem lifted from Shane Carruth’s microbudgeted masterwork: two geeky protagonists, one of whom is miserably married; betrayal inspired by desperation; blued and yellowed footage. Comparisons are otherwise invalidated by stale, stupid theatrics, bountifully discomfiting dialog, frequently overcut sequences, and Edward White’s conventionally overwrought and relentless score, all typical of Hollywood’s hokum. Sullins frames his shots well, but he’s a schlocky storyteller. Every other turn of his plot is either a gaping hole or simple improbability, and its climax and conclusion alike are palpably predictable. His actors aren’t guided any more capably than his script’s written, wavering as often as not between ham and lumber. Worst, adolescent sexual sensibilities are incarnated in Ahr’s obnoxious character and ridiculous exhibitions of Bollinger’s figure, such as a close-up of her cleavage during a pivotal moment. Scenes set and shot at a Buddhist temple in Cambodia are as mustily conceived as anything else here, but almost refreshing in contrast to the stifling ugliness of the movie’s interiors, as well as urinary tints that ruin otherwise adequate photography. What a wonder of irony is a decerebrate thriller concerned with cerebration.

Instead, watch Scanners or Brainstorm.

Mediocre: Holidays

Holidays (2016)
Directed by Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer; Gary Shore; Nicholas McCarthy; Sarah Adina Smith; Anthony Scott Burns; Kevin Smith; Scott Stewart; Adam Egypt Mortimer
Written by Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer; Gary Shore; Nicholas McCarthy; Sarah Adina Smith; Anthony Scott Burns; Kevin Smith; Scott Stewart; Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
Produced by Tim Connors, Kyle Franke, John Hegeman, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Louise Shore, Aram Tertzakian, Dwjuan F. Fox, Brian James Fitzpatrick, Spencer Jezewski, Gabriela Revilla Lugo, Olivia Roush, Georg Kallert, Rob Schroeder, Peter J. Nieves; Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer, Jon D. Wagner, Adam Goldworm; Jonathan Loughran, Gary Shore; Stephanie Paris; Jonako Donley; Nicholas Bechard; Joshua Bachove, Jordan Monsanto, Kevin Smith; Amanda Mortimer, Jaime Gallagher, Jason Hampton, Sharmila Sahni; James Avery, Andrew Barrer, Nate Bolotin, Roger Coleman, Gabriel Ferrari, Will Rowbotham, Nick Spicer
Starring Madeleine Coghlan, Savannah Kennick, Rick Peters; Ruth Bradley, Isolt McCaffrey; Ava Acres, Petra Wright, Mark Steger; Sophie Traub, Aleksa Palladino, Jennifer Lafleur, Sheila Vand, Sonja Kinski; Jocelin Donahue, Michael Gross; Harley Morenstein, Harley Quinn Smith, Ashley Greene, Olivia Roush; Seth Green, Clare Grant, Kalos Cluff; Lorenza Izzo, Andrew Bowen, Megan Duffy
The best among this octad of shorts set during popular holidays are amusing or arresting, and the worst will leave one wondering how much sway and resources were wasted to insure their inclusion. Both a homely teenager (Coghlan) and her pretty, popular bully (Kennick) long for the affection and attention of their handsome swim coach (Peters); as Valentine’s Day and a talent show organized by the bitchy blond to raise money for his coronary surgery approach, her harried victim dementedly devises a way to kill two birds with one rock. After a one-night stand during St. Patrick’s Day, a childless teacher (Bradley) finds that her creepy, newly-enrolled student (McCaffrey) is inexplicably aware of her gravidity, but an anguine offspring isn’t what she’d expected. A trepid little girl (Acres) terrfied by sacred and secular legendry is scarcely stanched by her single mother (Wright) on the eve of Easter, and a nocturnal encounter with a stigmatic, leporine monster (Steger) confirms that her fears are not merely justified, but consubstantial. One young woman (Traub) is cursed to conceive — regardless of contraception — for her every copulation; following nearly a score of abortions, her physician (Lafleur) refers her to a woman (Palladino) who conducts ceremonies to promote fertility in the high desert, and meditates to celebrate Mother’s Day by cultivating hew latest attendee… Recorded by her dad (Gross) on the Father’s Day when he vanished decades before, an audiocassette’s program guides a lonely schoolteacher (Donahue) back to the littoral locus where it happened, and possibly to his fate. Rather than let the camgirls (Smith, Greene, Roush) in his employ out to party for Halloween, a perverted, pigtailed pimp (Morenstein) tries to rape one of them and falls afoul of their revenge. By theft and criminal negligence on Christmas Eve, a gutless father (Green) procures for his son (Cluff) immersive VR glasses that rely on online information to personalize each wearer’s entertainment. He’s commoved and contrite to discover that they also channel mnemonic data, but soon learns that he’s not the worst malefactor in his household. Seeking another date after he murders his first (Duffy), an awkward, hypersensitive, homicidal maniac meets a lonely lady (Izzo) on New Year’s Eve, but may not live to regret that they’ve too much in common. First, the worst: like all of his output, Smith’s segment is obnoxiously overacted, shoddily shot and cut, aggressively unfunny and pointless save as an excuse to grant both his annoying daughter and fellow epulose parasite Morenstein more undeserved screen credits. That a man with over twenty years of professional experience still produces movies this amateurish is astonishing. Better yet tiresome, Kölsch and Widmyer’s cordial contribution is well crafted but perfectly predictable, for which Kennick’s porky performance seems less an homage to De Palma than to Tarantino. Neither has (S. A.) Smith any surprises in her hoary ode to unbid maternity. Mortimer’s handling of Kölsch and Widmyer’s second script is equally mediocre though much more lively, gorily ringing in a new year. A cut above these, McCarthy’s syncretic reconception of the messiah is just clever enough to deserve a viewing. His sillier, superior, serpentine synthesis of Irish and Norse folklore results in Shore’s pompadoured black comedy, one of St. Patty’s few filmic lampoons. Eminently photogenic Donahue’s once again a believable unfortunate in Burns’ genuinely original, recursive vignette, in deserted settings of which he cumulates tremendous suspense with fine composition and his star’s potent presence, regrettably squandered on a silly climax undermining a conclusion that might’ve been chilling. Stewart’s penultimate comedy is probably the best of these, working a fun scenario and Green’s terrific comic knack for hilarious results. Promotional materials touted this anthology as “subversive” at the honed edge of X-treme marketing, but there’s little here that one could consider genuine subversion, itself a fait accompli imputable to commerce. At this late date, the jest in a few of these is but an afterthought. A salient absence of Jewish and Muslim holidays further explodes any lingering pretense of authentic audacity. Those few palatable portions do not a tasty cake make, the most significant slice of which oughtn’t have been intrusted to the moronic, perennially feckless celebrity.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Tales from the Crypt.

Execrable: Bang Gang

Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) (2015)
Written and directed by Eva Husson
Produced by Laurent Baudens, Didar Domehri, Gaël Nouaille
Starring Marilyn Lima, Lorenzo Lefèbvre, Daisy Broom, Finnegan Oldfield, Fred Hotier, Raphaël Porcheron, Manuel Husson
Two strains of cinematic hack can be severalized by gender among the superabundance of derivative dullards who’ve succeeded the last great French cineastes in the wake of their attrition to reduce Francophonic cinema to a trendy, tacky, Americanized, globalist cesspit: effete epigones who strive and fail to mimic the likes of Truffaut, Rohmer, Chabrol and especially Pialat, and thick women arrogating the tone or style (without the substance) of Agnes Varda or Catherine Breillat. That latter camp produces idiots like Husson, who in turn produces idiocies such as her debut feature, which drearily depicts vapid, vacuous teens who bond at private, prurient parties over drugs, dull sex and duller music, until their local physicians sweep up after their venereal indulgences by treating them for incident outbreaks of syphilis, gonorrhea and at least one unbidden pregnancy, as though the repercussions of such debaucheries are purely corporal. Husson struggles to generate, or at least evoke a zeitgeist with adolescent pretensions embodied in postures and vocalized via clunky, narrational metaphors, but only ultimately betrays her own naiveté. If her young players are as jejune as her story, they can’t be blamed for roles that are almost interchangeably alike, only varying in how they miffingly mope. Besides, the most attractive among them (Lima, Lefèbvre) are annoyingly so, while the ugliest (Broom, Oldfield, Hotier) are visual indignities whether in conversation or coitus. It’s as responsible as a narcoleptic babysitter, aphrodisiacal as colonoscopic footage and personally profound as an episode of a reality show, but its parenthetic subtitle is accurate: this Modern Love Story radiates its directress’s limitless love for herself.

Execrable: Dead Awake

Dead Awake (2016)
Directed by Phillip Guzman
Written by Jeffrey Reddick
Produced by Phillip Guzman, Philip Marlatt, Galen Walker, Kurt Wehner, James LaMarr, Derek Lee Nixon, A.J. Gutierrez, Jeffrey Reddick, LeeLee Wellberg
Starring Jocelin Donahue, Jesse Bradford, Jesse Borrego, Lori Petty, Brea Grant, James Eckhouse, Mona Lee Fultz, A.J. Gutierrez, Natalie Jones, Billy Blair
It’s as apt as inevitable a subject to be exploited for the conception of a horror flick, but sleep paralysis isn’t ever in reality so soporiferous as this flat pap concerning a social worker (Donahue) who investigates the inexplicable death of her identical twin (Donahue) with her sibling’s boyfriend (Bradford) and an invariably incapable somnologist (Borrego) who’s colligated historical, apocryphal and personal evidence of a dread beldame (Jones) who strangles her somnially immobilized victims. Actualized by Guzman’s perfunctorily practiced direction, Reddick’s story typically, torpidly totters from one prosaic, progressively preposterous scene to the next, each replete with a tranche of spoken and conceptual clichés. Securely typecast Donahue prettily navigates her leaden, often footling dialogue with facility as spare as her figure to surpass most of her co-stars. Borrego and Blair seem to vie for the goofier performance, and Bradford’s greasily bewildering crinal extensions and beard impart to him a semblance of Colin Farrell cosplaying as Dick Masterson, dubbed by A.J. Bowen at his most nebbish. Much of Dominique Martinez’s photography is weirdly desaturated when that banal blue filter isn’t applied, and both modes are as ugly as Donahue’s god-awful wardrobe. Presumably intended for audiences possessing an infinitesimal threshold for horror who enjoyed Reddick’s Final Destination, it’s not likely to unsettle any save the smallest children and animals. Howbeit, this picture may be someday pressed as the nonmedical, hypnagogic remedy that finally cured insomnia.

Instead, watch A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Execrable: Can’t Buy Me Love

Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)
Directed by Steve Rash
Written by Michael Swerdlick
Produced by Thom Mount, Mark Burg, Michael Swerdlick, Ron Beckman, Jere Henshaw
Starring Patrick Dempsey, Amanda Peterson, Courtney Gains, Seth Green, Tina Caspary, Darcy DeMoss, Sharon Farrell, Dennis Dugan, Devin DeVasquez
Both the remuneration and service tendered of an inadvisable transaction seem mutually inadequate when a nerd (Dempsey) as distasteful as graceless pays $1K for the sham society of a crabbed cheerleader (Peterson) to insinuate himself into a popular clique embodying neanderthaloid, tricenarian jocks and slutty, suspiciously overripe pom-pom girls. The results are as predictable as pedestrian: an ephemeral intimacy between geek and girlfriend purchased inspires her unlikely ardor before he deserts his dweebish friends for the fraternity of athletic apes. Guess the rest. Resembling a Penn brother vocalizing whines suggesting Woody Allen’s, musteline Dempsey’s rankly repellent as a dork distinctly destitute of character anteceding that commonplace, corrupting influence of peer pressure, and generates no sparks whatsoever with forgettable Peterson. As his mischievously inquisitive junior sibling, Green’s the only effective entertainer here. Susceptibility of a degree demonstrated by this dud’s permed herd of pseudo-adolescents may be a precondition to its enjoyment.
Instead, watch Revenge of the Nerds, The Breakfast Club or Heathers; to hear McCartney’s single in a satisfactory cinematic context, try A Hard Day’s Night.

Execrable: Practical Magic

Practical Magic (1998)
Directed by Griffin Dunne
Written by Alice Hoffman, Robin Swicord, Akiva Goldsman, Adam Brooks
Produced by Denise Di Novi, Robin Swicord, Bruce Berman, Mary McLaglen
Starring Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Aidan Quinn, Goran Visnjic, Stockard Channing, Dianne Wiest, Evan Rachel Wood, Alexandra Artrip
If he learned anything at all from the filmmakers (Landis, Scorsese, Heckerling, Zieff, et al.) for whom he’s performed or his famed father Dominick, it’s how to gratify an audience; obviously less deft behind than before a camera, director Dunne aimed low at an easy target by adapting fluff penned for hausfrauen in the vomitous vein of the siblings Marshall to appease that very demographic. Descended from a line of witches ostracized in their insular Massachusetts town, and so beshrewed that every man with whom they share true love is iced by some mishap or other, sisters Bullock and Kidman cope fecklessly by converse means, the former eschewing sorcery to raise her daughters (Wood, Artrip) in dull domestic placidity as the latter wantons trashily in the southwest. Conventional abuse, a resulting manslaughter and demonic possession reunites them as predictably (and adorably!) as the crow flies. Scarcely bearable (albeit wildly overproduced) during its first hour, this chick flick shot by numbers shifts insufferably from a menstrual to menopausal milieu during a third act wherein an exorcism conducted to expel the wraith of her murderous beau (Visnjic) from Kidman’s body assumes the inanity of a Tupperware party certain to spellbind suburban shrews and repulse all others possessing an IQ exceeding ’98. Everyone present save Quinn overacts with sufficient sustained pressure to burst blood vessels, especially Kidman and Channing, the latter of whom apes an especially deviling Hepburn impression. Alan Silvestri’s saccharine score (in the idiom of his music for The Odd Couple II) drips like drizzled treacle from this cloying Halloween fruitcake surfeited with exposition and explicit in its focus on male expendability for witless women bound for the spinsterhood this story inadvertently promotes, if not some other household malaise. Where’s Witchfinder General Vincent Price when we need him?