Creepshow 3Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 05/15/07 11:33:06
I was strangely cautiously optimistic about “Creepshow III,” a long-in-the-making direct-to-video sequel of the 1980s horror classic. After all, “Creepshow 2” might have been a low-rent junker, but it still had a certain flair for its EC Comics-inspired twisted humor. Maybe a new generation could deliver a new entry with the same kick to it.Not only was I wrong, I was depressingly, frustratingly, horribly wrong. “Creepshow III” is a beyond terrible, inhabiting a level of badness unto itself. Here is a movie so awful that not only do we wonder how the filmmakers could have possibly afforded to lease the “Creepshow” brand, but how they possibly could have found distribution. Without the title, no respectable releasing company would have given this mess a second look. Then again, even with the title, I hope HBO Home Video spent a long time uncertain about this one.
The film comes to us from directors/producers/co-writers Ana Clavell and James Dudelson, who are no strangers to the in-name-only sequel rip-off: their previous effort was the unholy “Day of the Dead 2: Contagium,” long hailed as one of the dumbest, most incompetent faux-sequels ever made. Such a title is sure to now be claimed by “Creepshow III,” for here we have a horror comedy with no scares and no laughs. Its grand finale is a short story that rambles on with no point at all, grasping at cleverness and missing by a mile.
But before we get to the ending, let’s get to the beginning. For those unfamiliar with the “Creepshow” films, they were anthology horror flicks that paid tribute to the irony-filled gross-out horror rags printed by EC Comics back in the 1950s. The first film, released in 1982, was the legendary pairing of director George A. Romero and writer Stephen King; the 1987 follow-up was a lesser sequel, with Michael Gornick helming stories penned by Romero. “Creepshow III” offers another anthology, although there’s barely any visible connection to EC Comics. (There is a cheap comic book motif to the bridges between the stories, and a limp CG cartoon at the beginning, but that’s it.)
Our first story involves a snotty teen girl (Stephanie Pettee) who gets zapped into various alternate dimensions whenever her dad tinkers around with his new universal remote, a plot that will have viewers aching for the glory days of “Click.” First zap, her family is now black; second zap, they’re Latino. And so on. With each zap, her body begins to melt into gooey monster form, sorta, except not always. The “Creepshow” stories and the comics tales that inspired them always liked to end on a devilish twist. We get something resembling a twist here, although it’s so undercooked that the best we can do is yawn.
Story number two is the only moderately watchable entry in the film. A lonely security guard named Jerry (AJ Bowen) steals a radio from a homeless guy. (Side thought: It’s evident that the filmmakers have some strange, unhealthy obsession with homeless people and prostitutes, often presented in a disturbing sort of boiling hatred. Either that, or the producers aimed for the sort of through-line to these chapters but missed wildly. Or maybe both?) Jerry later discovers the radio is possessed with the voice of a hot ghost babe, or something, and she convinces him to become a thief and a murderer. Here we get a hint of the cleverness this movie should have shown, had its makers had any real capacity for wit: Jerry makes a sandwich, pauses, then asks the radio, “Want one?”
Could the rest of the story be as sharp? Not even close. It’s the generic tale of a good guy gone bad, with the random murder followed by a frantic “whaddo-I-do?!?!” scene, plus what could very well be the most boring It’s Only A Cat fake-scare in movie history. The movie refuses to bring anything fresh to the table, sandwich jokes notwithstanding. More problematic is the filmmaking itself. The directors, obviously limited by budget and stuck filming most of the episode in a small apartment, are left delivering the sort of awkward close-ups and clumsy camera angles that amateurs shooting videos with their friends deliver. You and your pals could probably get this film’s quality on your own in just a couple of days.
Next tale: a shy kid (Ryan Carty) calls a hooker (Camille Lacey). The gimmick: she’s a serial murder, the famous “Call Girl Killer,” stabbing johns on the job. The twist: he’s not so innocent himself, evident by the family of dead bodies we see in one shot. The result: an unbearable amount of yawns. Here’s the sort of horror story that takes way too long to get to the shocker ending we already know is coming, so just get on with it already.
The kooky inventor seen briefly in the first tale returns for a spotlight role in the fourth. Professor Dayton (Emmett McGuire) is a genius who invited two former students (Michael Madrid and Ben Pronsky) to meet his bride-to-be; the kids become falsely convinced that she is a robot and conspire to disassemble her. It’s a one-gag skit where the one gag is terrible, an over-the-top comedy sketch that refuses to quit even though we all know its long worn out its welcome.
But when it comes to sheer pointlessness, we must salute the final chapter of the film, a long, painful exercise in irrelevance the filmmakers are calling “The Haunted Dog.” No, there is no haunted dog in this episode. There is instead the ghost of a homeless man who choked on a hot dog, and he haunts the world’s meanest doctor. The behind-the-scenes feature on the DVD reveals that one of the writers was given the previous sentence as the complete premise for his scripting assignment. This tells us:
1. The producers were convinced that this alone would make a great “Creepshow” story. They were wrong.
2. The writer, realizing a paycheck is a paycheck, delivered the best possible horror story one could possibly create involving a hot dog, a ghost, and a bad doctor.
It is disheartening to think that the people who are in charge of making a “Creepshow” sequel are the same people who think long, empty patches of nothingness and a few shots of a ghost with a hot dog sticking out of his mouth are enough to make this the main event of the film.
To be fair, the doctor (Kris Allen) earns a few almost-laughs during a (too) long montage in which he delivers terrible advice to his patients; it’s the sort of thing where the cameras rolled as Allen ad-libbed whatever insults could come to mind. (“There’s no cure for ugly.” That sort of thing.) But where does this scene take us? Nowhere. We already learned he is a bad man, having seen him mock homeless men and cut in line at the hot dog stand. Everything else is just sucking up time we should be spending on getting good and scared.
Oh, but don’t wait for the scares, because, as you should know by the previous stories, those never come. What we’re handed next is the most unnecessary snippet of filmmaker pretension you could get: as the doctor goes about his week, he crosses paths with all the other characters from the movie, making this a sort of horror comedy “Pulp Fiction” for morons. The professor arrives looking for spare parts from the homeless guy whose radio was stolen by Jerry. The doctor goes to a party thrown by the shy kid, who finds the hooker’s phone number. The party which takes us so far off the trail of the doctor’s story that we think for a moment we’ll end up with a vampire/demon bonanza, although that, too, never fully arrives. Memo to the filmmakers: take less time figuring out slick Tarantino-wannabe plot curves and more time making with the spooky.Indeed, the complete absence of anything resembling frights is the most insulting aspect of this non-sequel. With “Creepshow III,” it’s amateur hour all the way, and the amateurs can’t even figure out when to be scary, when to be funny, and when to be both. These are stories that would have gotten rejected from even the worst anthology horror series of the 1980s. No self-respecting “Creepshow” fan could possibly admire this clumsy mess; more to the point, no self-respecting movie fan could possibly make it all the way to the end, unless maybe on a dare.
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