Covering cinema from the highest of the highbrow to the lowest of the low-grade.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
New on DVD, Special "Long-Shelved" Edition: DON'T GO IN THE WOODS (2012); DEMOTED (2012)
DON'T GO IN THE WOODS (US, 2012)
Filmed in 2009 and barely released to a handful of theaters in January 2012, DON'T GO IN THE WOODS is not a remake of the 1981 cult horror cheapie. A remake would've preferable to whatever the DON'T GO IN THE WOODS of 2012 is. Veteran actor Vincent D'Onofrio makes his feature directorial debut with this unbelievably bad slasher musical. Yes. Slasher musical. Ambitious, dictatorial singer/guitarist Nick (Matt Sbeglia) takes his shitty emo band deep into the woods for the weekend to work on songs for their album. No booze, no weed, no phones, and no girlfriends. He tosses out the weed, smashes the cell phones (that's convenient), and scares them with the story of the Wendigo legend, apparently for no other reason than to get Larry Fessenden excited if he ever watches this. Then the girlfriends show up anyway and Nick's plans get derailed, prompting him to...break into song! For the first 65 of its 83 minutes, DON'T GO IN THE WOODS might as well be called BAND PRACTICE: THE MOVIE, as we spend a ludicrous amount of time listening to the band's impossibly trite, banal tunes ("Break my fall, tear down these walls..."). By the time the cloaked figure roaming the woods finally starts doing everyone in with a sledgehammer, you'll be thankful. The characters behave so stupidly and the twist ending so obvious that it's possible D'Onofrio intended this to be funny, except that it's not. I can't see any reason he wanted to make this movie. He cast actual aspiring musicians in the leading roles. Did these guys paint his house or something and he promised to put them in a movie and they held him to it? Did he go to some open mic night at a bar and they saw him and said hi and asked him some questions about FULL METAL JACKET and they ended up chatting all night and thought dicking around in the woods for a couple of weeks, drinking some beers, playing some tunes, and making a horror movie sounded like fun? Is it some kind of elaborate inside joke? Is it all a D'Onofrio tax write-off? The cast is all unknowns and I trust it'll stay that way, but D'Onofrio's old LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT co-star Eric Bogosian appears briefly, which tells me Eric Bogosian is truly a loyal friend. (Unrated, 83 mins, also streaming on Netflix)
DEMOTED (US, 2012)
Shot in suburban Detroit in 2008, DEMOTED has a few sporadic chuckles (like, maybe five) and never seems like anything more than a stale NINE TO FIVE meets OFFICE SPACE retread. Michael Vartan and Sean Astin are two asshole sales reps at a tire company. They're the favorites of boss Robert Klein and treat everyone else like garbage, including the long-abused secretaries. When Klein drops dead from a heart attack after a night of partying with them at a strip club, Vartan and Astin are horrified to find his replacement is weaselly, ass-kissing David Cross. Cross, long the butt of Vartan's and Astin's vicious pranks, demotes the two down to secretaries. Where, of course, they realize what jerks they've been and turn over a new leaf, inspiring the secretaries to stick up for themselves and take on Cross and the other sexist sales reps. Cross' ridiculous character gets the few legitimate laughs (like when he's caught preparing to masturbate to a picture of himself), even if he's basically playing Tobias Funke as Dwight Schrute. Director J.B. Rogers, a Farrelly Brothers protege who also directed AMERICAN PIE 2 (2001) and spent time with the Roger Corman factory back in the early '90s, goes for the requisite grossout gag here and there (Cross sitting on an exploding toilet and rolling around in a mix of water and shit), but this mostly plays like an R-rated sitcom. Vartan and Astin are such pricks that it's really hard to care about them or their redemption, and the character arcs are completely predictable. The main problem with Dan Callahan's script is that workplace satires need to exist on some level of reality (which is why NBC's once-brilliant THE OFFICE is no longer funny and often quite terrible) to effectively make their points, and DEMOTED really doesn't have any. It goes for the easiest and cheapest laughs, and while a gag might occasionally land, that's largely why this sat on the shelf for four years without a distributor, only playing a couple of festivals in Michigan because it was made there. DEMOTED is uninspired and does the bare minimum to get by, but it at least reunites Cross with MR. SHOW castmate Jay Johnston, so it's not a total waste. (R, 94 mins)