Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer of Slash: Superstition

Watching nothing but straight forward slasher movies for an entire summer can be a bit of a slog; this is why I prefer mixing it up by finding different kinds of horror movies with elements of the slasher. Earlier in this series I covered the sci-fi/slasher hybrid Without Warning, and last year I tackled The Boogeyman – a weird mix of supernatural horror that often detoured into slasher tropes. That brings us to Superstition; a film very similar in tone to The Boogeyman in that it mixes (not nearly as well, unfortunately) the supernatural horror film with the slasher. 


The movie just jumps right in with both feet: two teens making out in a car in the driveway of an abandoned piece of property where a creepy house lies on the other end of the driveway. The girl wants to go somewhere else since the location they parked at – and get this – creeps her out. Yeah, no points for originality here. There is then a false scare that must follow as it is written in the canon of all horror movies made in the 1980s, and the false scare is kind of executed well. Two other teens, we find out, are spying on the necking lovers and proceed to drop a fake ghoul-looking thing on the roof the car. This freaks the couple out and they drive away. Those pranksters – one being stationed in the upstairs of the abandoned house as apparently there was a zipline involved in this elaborate prank – are then brutally dispatched by mysterious forces (one is cut in half by a window and the other’s head is cut off only to be put in a microwave so it can explode). So yeah, that opening is, well, it’s something alright, and it’s probably the main reason that police in the UK were looking for the film to confiscate even though it didn’t officially appear on the DPP’s Video Nasties list. It sets the tone for the rest of the movie which is firmly footed in the ever-so-popular category amongst die hard horror fans of being “so-bad-it’s-good.”

From the opening you have your basic haunted house plot: family wants to move into house; the county wants to condemn the house since no one has been living there for years and teens are dying on the property; county is frustrated because the church owns the house so only they can make the final decision on whether the house stays or goes; family where the father is an apprentice to the town priest moves in; weird things begin to happen; people start to die. Yeah, there’s a little bit of backstory about how a witch was burned sent drifting, tied to a cross and lit aflame, across a lake adjacent to the house. It’s all very tired and banal (and I’ve never been a fan of these supernatural horror movies), and straight-away one can catch the obvious influences here. Ideas are cribbed from such films as The Omen (supernatural deaths) and The Amityville Horror (family moves into haunted house) – also, much like The Boogeyman, the film has a mixture of references from much better horror movies (The Shining and The Exorcist are also referenced here). But that was the template for these kinds of horror films back in the day, and they figured if they could make a buck off of it, then why not?

The deaths happen fast and furious – and I like the way the filmmaker just fades in and out between every death piece. Essentially, a character will die and then the film will fade out; it’ll then fade back in for a little exposition and then another death scene and the fade out again and so forth. Despite the many references to better horror films, at least Superstition is certain about one thing: it knows what its bread and butter is (wacky death scenes) and doesn’t waste the audience’s time by trying to be legitimate. Still, it’s much too boring to be anything more than a curiosity for die-hards of the subgenre; never mind the short running time (which just ekes out being more than 80 minutes), which is a huge plus, the film still feels like a chore to get through.

The acting is terrible; an assembly of soap opera actors (and Stacy Keach Sr.!!) that aren’t helped by their incapable director (James Roberson mostly worked as a DP – so even though he knew how to set up a shot, and there are some doozies here – he knew nothing of how to get these already limited actors to at least be passable when delivering their lines) who so lazily cribs his material (especially the ending which is right out of Friday the 13th) that I felt like I was watching an Italian horror movie from the same era (this feels like something Lenzi would have directed). Still, if you’ve got some like-minded friends that love watching these types of horror movies, the atrocious acting and the rat-a-tat pacing of the deaths in Superstition make for a fun “pizza and beer” movie experience.


Post a Comment