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: Stalked by My Doctor

Stalked by My Doctor (2015)
Written and directed by Doug Campbell
Produced by Robert Ballo, Ken Sanders, Timothy O. Johnson, Marianne C. Wunch
Starring Eric Roberts, Brianna Joy Chomer, Deborah Zoe, Jon Briddell, Carson Boatman, Wyntergrace Williams, Caryn Richman
Look out, ladies: one creepy, crazy, craggy cardiologist (Roberts) is on the prowl for Mrs. Right, and liable to throw a psychotic, doll-mangling, trash-flinging tirret whenever rebuffed, as in response to one of his marital proposals at the prandial climax of a first date. Alas, L.A.’s dating market’s dispossessed of its most eligible bedlamite when he runs afoul in his OR of a foxy young patient (Chomer) sequent to an automotive crash ensuing her doltish boyfriend’s (Boatman) synchronic assays to drive and text. Who’s to say that writer/director Campbell didn’t craft this footling feature as much for casual riffers as for Lifetime’s targeted proto-menopausal demographic, affording as usual the lovely, imperiled maiden upon whom they can project their conceptions, her solicitous mother (Zoe), whose suspicious disapproval serves as the link for their identification, and toxic, misogynistic, patriarchal oppression personified as both the lunatic physician whose progressively criminal stratagems (in teetotal neglect of his Hippocratic oath) propel the plot with no minor expedition, and his victim’s faineant father (Briddell) and brainless beau, who enable him with damnable rationalization. Never mind its plenteous plot holes, or the stale and logically soluble propaganda as essential to this flick’s story as to its genre; Roberts is a gnashing delight in the lead, as much for his smarmily nonchalant bedside manner as his slurring, raving ebullitions, looking for all the world like a neatly preened, grandmotherly vagrant. As the weary gender wars will soon yield to authentic identitarian conflicts, propagandistic fare demonizing (invariably demented) guileful men and potentially rival women to capitalize on the feminine hindbrain’s instinctual triggers won’t be available in incessancy to aficionados of televised schlock. Savor them while they last!
Recommended for a double feature paired with Talk to Her.