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Creature of the Sunny Side Up Trailer Park, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Walkin' that thin line between parody, pastiche, and homage"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: If there's one phrase I'd like to stomp out when when talking movies, it's "so bad it's good". It's right up there with "guilty pleasures" - you shouldn't feel guilty about liking any sort of movie, even if it's a cheaply-made monster movie. Also, the movies we describe as "so bad they're good" are good for reasons beyond the actual quality or lack thereof. Otherwise, logically, any idiot could ineptly make a movie and it would be a hoot.

There is a certain vibe to those movies we enjoy, but it's not easy to capture deliberately. If I had to guess, I'd say that you have to take your subject matter seriously, or at least convince the audience that you do, no matter how absurd it may be. That's why a jokey parody like, say, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera falls flat on its face, while something like Christopher Coppola's Creature of the Sunny Side Up Trailer Park works so well.

After an opening depicting an ancient blood ritual, we're introduced to half-brothers Donnie Daniels (Andre Ware) and Doug McCoy (Steve "Chickenbone" Hedden). Both have received a letter from a probate lawyer, informing them that they've inherited some land from the mother they never met. They don't know of each other's existence until they arrive, and the discovery that they don't share the same skin color (Donnie is black and Doug is white) is hardly welcome. Despite taking an immediate dislike to each other - although both take a shine to Jackson (Andre Marcus), a Native American kid who separately invites them to his birthday party - they are agreed that they will sell the property.

Enter the evil force that doesn't like outsiders.

For the first half of the movie or so, Coppola and company play it pretty much completely straight. Sure, there's comic relief, but it's not exaggerated "look how goofy these genre tropes are" stuff - it's the half-brothers bickering, local belle Lynette (Lynda Carter) flirting with both of them. The conventions are respected, and even if recognizable faces like Lynda Carter and Frank Gorshin aren't doing their best work, they're not going overboard trying to look like bad actors, either. When a monster attacks the projectionist at a drive-in theater, it's a legitimately decent bit of bloody mayhem. And if Coppola and his writer - his wife Adrienne Stout, who also plays that ill-fated projectionist - recognize that the "prejudiced folks discover they have a black/white sibling and put it behind them" is more than a little hackneyed, they don't let on. The movie is earnest on that point.

Toward the end, the movie loosens up a little bit. Shirley Jones shows up as the boys' late mother, and it's a hilariously sharp cameo that turns the usual "remorseful ghost" bit on its head. The final scene where the brothers fight the monster is just a bit over the top, in a good way. And the chase scene that gets the brothers there - well, it involves go-karts, and is the most flamboyantly silly set-piece the film has, but it's still played with a straight face.

Coppola, obviously, has filmmaking in his blood - for those not familiar with the Coppola family tree, Francis is his uncle and godfather (no, really), Nick Cage is his brother, Carmine is his grandfather, etc. He's got a real and unquestionable affection for this material, though, and I get the impression that he got exactly what he was looking for. He shot the movie on 24fps digital video (the kind used for the Star Wars movies, as opposed to mere HDTV resolution), and the 35mm blowup looked pretty good.

The casting of the movie is also worth noting - there are several familiar character actors in smaller roles, but the leads are pretty much unknown. Neither Ware nor Hedden seem likely to carry a movie, but they do all right working off each other. They look more like brothers than many people who've been cast as siblings - they've got the same burly build, and they scowl the same way.

I'll readily admit that the environment where I saw it is likely skewing my rating - the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival encourages a certain amount of audience participation, and we were making some of our own fun. Maybe if I'd seen it late at night on the Sci-Fi channel, I'd have just figured it was average direct-to-video fare. Well, maybe a bit above average. It's fun enough, anyway, but definitely more fun with a crowd.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11599&reviewer=371
originally posted: 03/13/05 00:15:40
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

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