Take the splatter B-film SIMON SAYS, 2006, starring Crispin Glover, available on the Netflix streamy-thingie, and added to my queue blindly, because I was in a horror film mood, and Crispin's my dream man.
Twenty minutes into the film, I thought, Christ, this film is awful!, and I walked away from it for a bit.
The nature of its awfulness drew me back, since it was so terrible, I thought it might fall into that wonderful rare category mentioned above.
What we've got at the opening is the standard 80s slasher flick setup: mismatched high school kids in their 30s headed for the woods for a debauch; creepy gas station attendant and small town folks being creepy, creepily; flashbacks that should serve as exposition but are so garbled and affected it's really just the director's moment to shine as an art film dropout. Oh, and fog machines.
This is so cliché, I thought, groaning at the motivation and lines from the "teens," all suspiciously beautiful and half undressed even in the van. But maybe it's supposed to be cliché! I dared to hope. It is, after all, a Crispin Glover film, and his strength is that you can never really tell if he's kidding or not. Just ask David Letterman.
When watched through those rose-tinted glasses, the film suddenly became a sparkling gem.
To call the characters two-dimensional is an insult to a square. As we meet the kids driving to the woods to "pan for gold," (not joking) in the stoner's VW van so plastered with hippie stickers it can only be farce, they pontificate, "What if we do strike it rich?" which leads to informative glimpses into each personality.
- Stoner: I'd buy the seaquarium [sic] where Shamu lives? And make a bong out of it.
- Virgin: First I'd buy a tan. Then maybe travel for a few years, buy a house, settle down…
- Spoiled rich bitch: I'd save the animals.
- Slut: I would buy a set of boobs, then a really hot convertible, then a bigger set of boobs.
They pull over to an abandoned gas station, meet Crispin who Crispins it up for them, freaking the kids out, meet some local gravediggers who warn them about the murders and urge them to turn around…
…does this sound familiar? Not in a general way, but in a specific way? Ever seen CABIN IN THE WOODS, that brilliant love letter to the 80s slasher flick genre, which blatantly names each of the five archetype "teens" like this?
Well, Act I of CABIN is a direct homage to Act I of SIMON, which is an homage to the classic genre of non-camp films in the 80s.
The kills in SIMON really are imaginative. Pickaxe catapults, death by Fattie, poodle-stomping, and believe it or not, the human CD player. To up the body count, we stumble nonsensically upon some paintball warriors in the woods who serve as gore material, and there's lots of it.
I kept pausing the film to read "reviews" (mostly by trolls screaming, "THIS MOUIE IS AWEFULL!") I wondered if anyone else was seeing what I was seeing — a well done, thinly-veiled spoof. A few people got it; the unwashed masses missed the point, in their usual unwashed way. Crispin's tarted-up, over the top redneck accent is so unbelievably bad that it just has to be on purpose. There's no other credible explanation.
In fact the whole film is so unbelievably bad (yet shot so gorgeously) that, after some deliberation, I've decided I love it — perhaps because I initially hated it. And that is the rarest, most delightful kind of film.