Used to be it was the acting & amateurish direction & horrible cinematography that gave away the fact that you were entering a Z movie. Somehow nowadays there are fairly good unknowns acting in well enough photographed films that have the initial gloss of professionalism, tricking the viewer into an expectation of something worthwhile.
By the time you realize you're in sub-B lameness, you're already twenty minutes into it & committed. And the thing that fails tends to be the script & the film editing, elements so fantastically inept in their execution that nothing can save the experience.
It's becoming increasingly common to find films have been based on scripts that haven't a clue how stories are even told. As a generality, if done right, everything that occurs on screen should contribute to the viewers' understanding of a plot, giving the story as well as the film forward momentum. Without that momentum a twenty minute film can seem hours long; but with it, a three hour film can seem of normal length.
Instead of that momentum, as comes clear in the first five minutes of both Dark Remains (2006) & The Return (2006), we are "baited" with montages of disconnected, contextless images of horror that contribute nothing to character, nothing to plot, but which may in the last reel of the film be given some degree of meaning. The filmmakers have in essence mistaken "context" for "surprise ending" when the context should be clear throughout, not moments before it's over.
Instead of developing a story forward with some sense of inevitability to a rational but hopefully not too obvious conclusion, these bad, bad, bad writers just leave out required elements for a story. If they remember they'll tack those missing elements onto the end as though, the climax being only that information needed to get the story started, given instead as unsuccessful climax.
This is worsened by incompetent editing techniques that delight in giving the story out of order but with absolutely no skill at distinguishing between "now" "flashback" or "hallucination/dream." Thus any five bits of information might take place in the past, present, or in a dream, & the viewer is left to struggle to find any actual story components. If you find those components it's a matter of luck rather than thanks to filmmaker skill. And then said discoveries tend not to have been worth the trouble given that such films can't even rise to the level of mindless entertainment & shouldn't be burdensome puzzles.
Ther might be a new generation of filmgoers, themselves ill-read & not aware of the great books or movies of the past, are being trained to watch films not as a connected string of events leading somewhere, but as scene by scene moments that don't have to mean anything just so long as there's something gross & gorey happening every five minutes.
I think this because I've begun seeing many fan reviews in praise of badly written, badly edited films, which have successfully fooled viewers into perceiving competence where there is none, on the strength of moody photography & acting that doesn't suck.
They're usually throw-away films no more likely to have lasting reputation than last week's mass-market paperback romance novels. But in the short run they sell a lot of copies to Blockbuster & Netflix, & make a bundle on the rentals, though such films tend soon to be discarded in favor of new films just like them & just as worthless.
Dark Remains begins with a series of quick-edits showing sundry unrelated moments in time or multiple points in time. Because we as yet have no context for a story of any sort, the brain struggles to put these bits together into a cohesive pattern, but there really isn't one.
A wife is cutting her wrists in the baththub. A husband in another location is blowing his brains out with a gun. There's someone walking down a hall. There's a kid in bed. A husband & wife wake up & neither of them is dead from wrist-slitting or gun-firing (you'll have to rewind & watch it again to realize there are two distinct couples, & as to figuring out location, don't even try at this point).
Were they dreaming the horrible events? It's not clear, never will be. But down the hall in their daughter's room, she has her throat slit. The film will never tell us by whom or why, it's just a coincidence unrelated to the what happens later in this tenth-rate gore film.
Julie & Allen Pyke (Chen Christian & Greg Thompson) decide the best way to get over their grief for the loss of their daughter is to go be totally isolated in a Cabin in the Woods. Because, well, they're not very bright people.
Though we're told this cabin is far from anywhere, it'll soon be evident that there's an entire abandoned prison practically in their back yard since they can pop over to it to experience prison ghosts who have nothing to do with being imprisoned, the whole notion of it being a prison seems to have nothing to do with the story (again, talentless scriptwriting).
And the reason they'd pop over to experience prison ghosts appears to be because the cabin ghosts weren't sufficiently numerous, though there seem to be quite a few of them, at least four.
People start killing each other due to the influence of a dark spirit or spirits. It'll all be revealed near the end how & why most of this stuff is happening, & until the end, you just have to appreciate gore for gore's sake since it's not going to be much of a story. And the only thing you can realy look forward to is there'll also be a last-minute psychopath added. The story may never be coherent, but it certainly is cluttered.
I drafted a longer review that outlines the nonsensical plot but I'm just throwing that stuff away as this big turd is not worth sniffing at any longer.
Meanwhile on our double bill we go on to The Return which likewise begins with events lacking context, information required up-front that will be "revealed" until the very end.
And for The Return's tiresome duration, we just have to accept the chaos of incident that again mixes flashback with hallucination with memory of a former life with actual events of the here & now plus dreams -- & your chances of knowing which scene represents what moment in the overall timeline is very slim, thanks to the lousiness of a script worsened by inept film editing.
At a carnival, a little girl, Joanna, just can't get into it. "I want to go home." Then she sees a man who scares her for no reason at all & she hides in terror & has an uninteresting hallucination or memory about his feet. An instant later she's grown up to be Sarah Michelle Gellar.
None of this has inspired much interest, & none of it has added up to a glimmer of a story.
The scriptwriter thought it would be a good idea to withhold information essential to the story's function & tack that on the end as a "surprise" -- by which time it's no surprise & far too late to save the story, which is in part of revisit of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud as the Reincarnation of Buffy the Vampire Killer.
Through much of the film we don't know if she's reincarnated, possessed, or delusional due to some childhood trauma.
Joanna just drives along the Texas highway from place to place having tedious visions & pointless encounters along the way, never staying in any one place long enough for anything to develop.
She has very little character to speak of but then Michelle had a script that gave her almost nothing rational to work with. Her most interesting characteristic is she's a self-mutilator who does minor cutting on herself, but not much is made of that.
At the tail end of what amounts to a supernatural slasher, we're supposed to embrace a sudden change of mood so that it is suddenly a love story. Someone should take these filmmakers out behind the barn & just whip their asses raw.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl