In my review of LONG WEEKEND I mentioned that the same Australian, Everett De Roche, had written that one, RAZORBACK, ROAD GAMES and LINK, and because a track record like that is rare for a non-director screenwriter I would definitely have to watch some of his other works. Since I am a man of honor and what not I’ve already done that with the much more recent STORM WARNING (2007). I’ve found references to the script being 25 years old, but I think De Roche worked with them to make the movie, they didn’t just find it in a closet somewhere and shoot it without telling him.
Like LONG WEEKEND this is about a married couple put in an extreme situation together, but this time they get along better and the threat is not Nature, it is Man. (Full disclosure: Nature does give Man a hand by trapping them on Man’s isolated island.)
See, Rob (Robert Taylor) and Pia (Nadia Farès) go out fishing in a little sail boat. Again like LONG WEEKEND it’s more the guy’s thing than the lady’s, he’s kind of pushing her into it and showing off and she’s a little worried about it but going along with it to be nice. And again the guy doesn’t really know what he’s doing and gets lost and then it gets dark and stormy and they’re kind of fucked. But they see a light on this island so they go try to get some help.
(I’ve noticed this sometimes happens in horror movies.)
Nobody’s home, but they’re able to get inside, and it looks more like a squat than somebody’s house. It’s filthy and there’s garbage everywhere and a blowup doll. It’s hard to really tell if somebody will be back or if the place was abandoned. They don’t check to see if the blowup doll is warm.
They look around and there doesn’t seem to be a phone or anything. At least there’s a roof. Then Rob finds where they grow the pot. And oh shit, a truck just pulled up.
To make a long story short Rob and Pia end up guests/prisoners of one of these families of degenerate outback rednecks we know from the movies. It’s two brothers, Jimmy (David Lyons) and Brett (Mathew Wilkinson), their dad Poppy (John Brumpton) and their dog Honky. Turns out there’s no phone and nowhere close that they can go to get help, and since the brothers know that they know about the pot there’s some threatening going on here. The guests have to pretend like they appreciate the hospitality even though the hosts are being openly sarcastic and hostile about it, and when they let them use the shower they steal their clothes. Then they make the poor lady kill an animal and show them her ass. And if you think Rob and Pia are gonna go easy on this place when they review it on yelp.com you are sorely mistaken.
The director of the movie is Jamie Blanks, who did the dumb SCREAM ripoff URBAN LEGEND. But free of Hollywood and the 1990s he’s a completely different director. This is nothing like that all, much more naturalistic in its acting and photography, more believable characters, no TV stars, no pop songs and much simpler. Blanks actually co-edited and even did the music himself (modern electronical stuff, mostly pretty effective).
The script uses more than one classic type of horror movie tension. Obviously you got the trespassing tourist protagonists, an old favorite from TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. We identify with this couple so we feel uncomfortable about breaking into these people’s home, invading their privacy, wasting their water and electricity, tracking dirt around (or so the guy claims – considering the condition the house is in that one seems like he’s just being a baby).
Then you got the class tension. Rob is a lawyer, Pia is an artist, the brothers consider themselves workers on “a working farm.” They call Rob “Slick,” “city butt-stain” and “fuckin yuppie tort rat.” Then he admits he drives a Volvo and that becomes his name from that point on. When Pia talks and they realize she’s French that seems to bother them even more than the Volvo. Her name becomes “Oui-Oui” and they make her show them “some of that frog talk.” They’re real resentful so they assume these yuppies look down on them for not having a phone or indoor plumbing, and get all offended about insults that never actually happened.
Also I think they might’ve said the wife was a vegetarian at the beginning, or at least she’s squeamish about watching her husband kill a fish. And if you’re up on your cannibalism slang you’ll catch a reference to the brothers eating human flesh. So there is some dietary culture clash there too. I like these kind of conflicts in a horror movie because they get you off-balance and uncomfortable before the knives come out.
The story is pretty basic. It doesn’t go in too many directions that you don’t expect. It seems to me it has a non-judgmental view of Rob and Pia having to turn savage to survive. It’s not necessarily saying it’s bad, like Wes Craven’s takes on this subject. De Roche sets up some subtext early on with Rob saying he had to drop a case he was trying to prosecute and Pia being mad that some criminal is getting away with some injustice. During their ordeal she starts to feel he’s being wishy-washy and goes Old Testament on that ass. But Rob is sympathetic so it doesn’t seem like it’s mocking him. It’s not all black and white and throwing the book at them. He tries to smooth things over by saying even he smokes weed sometimes, he doesn’t consider it a major crime. Kidnapping, though… come on, fellas.
The point that makes the movie laughable – but also kind of awesome – is when Pia realizes her way to overpower her foes is with boobie traps. She says, “My father said to me once, ‘To catch a mad dog you must think like a mad dog. Only madder.'”
I mean come on, man. I know in movies everybody had something wise said to them one time by a relative, but let’s think this one through. What kind of a thing is that for a father to say to his pretty artist daughter? What kind of conversation could they have been having where that would come up? Were they literally talking about capturing mad dogs, or was he also using it as a metaphor? I’m not sure which one would be weirder.
Or was this just some crazy shit her dad ranted about. Oh, you know Papa, always talking about catching mad dogs, and then he writes letters to the local newspapers about the Jews and embarrasses her at school. Was it always a source of great shame to her, and if so, how does she feel at this moment when it has given her life-saving inspiration? Has she gained more respect for her insane father, or does she have a “broken clock is right two times a day” attitude about this?
Well, before we’ve had a chance to consider any of these things she’s weaving a complex web of fishing line and metal implements she finds in the barn to create a boobie trap that would give Jigsaw a boner. I mean she doesn’t just cause a hammer to hit him in the head like Nancy did to Freddy. It’s like a full-on HELLRAISER “Jesus wept” moment for one of the brothers. I know she said she was an artist, but where the fuck did the inspiration come from for this one? Everything else in the movie has been very plausible and down-to-earth, so this part is questionable.
Then again, it’s memorable. It makes it stand out as something other than a well-executed version of a common story. Points also for her invention of the Chinese penis trap. And what the dog does when he encounters it.
This is what you would call a small horror movie. If you’re somebody who just watches a couple horror movies a year that everybody says are good you would probly be underwhelmed. But for a guy like me that likes seeing many variations on the classic scenarios this is a solid and impressive one, especially considering my expectations for this director.
Shit, you know what? I think this calls for a ribbon:
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.