Worth A Look: 5.41%
Just Average: 2.7%
Pretty Crappy: 5.41%
1 review, 31 user ratings
|Long Time Dead
by Andrew Howe
If I asked you to name three genres commonly associated with the British film industry, you’d probably mention gritty drama, quirky comedy or the type of sweeping historical epic favoured by the late great David Lean. Four decades of tradition wasn’t good enough for Marcus Adams, however – he wanted to emulate his Hollywood idols, so he created a schlock horror film that wouldn’t be out of place amongst Urban Legend and any Nightmare on Elm Street that wasn’t directed by Wes Craven. That should be enough to convince most of you to give it a wide berth, but if you require further evidence feel free to join me while I spend a few hundred words treating the film with precisely as much respect as it deserves.Here’s the drill: eight guys and gals head over to the local nightclub for an evening of dancing, drugs and high-spirited horseplay. Once the E kicks in you’d assume they’d retire to their chambers to do what comes naturally to teenagers sporting excessive levels of hormones, but for reasons which are never entirely credible they retire to a disused back room to play with a Ouija board instead. Before you can say “bad trips all round” they’ve summoned a Djinn, whose message from beyond the grave is that they’re all going to die. It’s not attempting to start a philosophical debate about mortality, of course – the implication seems to be that they’re all going to die soon, a prophecy it spends the better part of the film fulfilling. Cue running, screaming and crimson splatter all round, with the usual cheap shocks, red herrings and nausea-inducing camera angles thrown in for good measure.
"The best of British? Not on your life."
It appears to have taken no less than six people to script this exercise in originality, and while Adams and James Gay-Rees are taking the lion’s share of the credit I imagine the contribution of Chris Baker and Andy Day should not be underestimated (interested parties may refer to my Mean Machine review for pertinent comments on their scriptwriting prowess). It’s not impossible to do this kind of thing well, but they should have spent less time congratulating themselves on securing finance and more on studying Everything I Needed to Know About the Horror Genre I Learned from Wes Craven’s “Shocker” , which would have provided them with the following erudite advice:
Know Thine Enemy
Shocker’s chief slicer and dicer was a paragon of malevolence - possessed of equal parts animal cunning and twisted sadism, he’s the kind of villain whose leering face looms large in many a sweat-soaked nightmare (except when he steps aside for Freddy Krueger, about whom no more needs be said). Long Time Dead, on the other hand, offers a mute, largely unseen vengeful spirit that possesses exactly as much personality as mute, largely unseen vengeful spirits generally exhibit.
This, of course, is brought to you from the Friday the 13th school of filmmaking, which stipulates that strong silent types make for the most unnerving hatchet men. That’s fine if you’ve got arms, legs and a mask, but incorporeal beings need moonlit woods, cutting-edge special effects and Bruce Campbell as a foil, none of which feature in Adams’s latest opus.
See You in the Next Life
OK, it’s a horror film, so somebody has to cop it sweet. The problem with most slasher flicks is that it’s impossible to become invested in the characters’ fates, since they’re either despicable cretins or marked for death from an early stage, leaving the manner of their demise as the only variable in the equation.
Shocker turned this on its head by presenting us with a likeable, intelligent protagonist whose continued survival was a cause for concern, and moreover certain characters who seemed destined for an early exit actually made it to the closing credits. In Long Time Dead’s defence, the lead players are a likeable crew, but by the halfway point it’s apparent they’ve been recruited from the local purveyor of all-purpose fodder (just add grievous bodily harm). The entire character roster start falling like ninepins, with nary a finger raised in their own defence, and most of the actual death sequences are anticlimactic and unusually restrained.
Innovation is not a Dirty Word
Shocker represented Craven’s finest hour as a scriptwriter – it fools you into believing it’s a standard serial killer flick, segues into some interesting (if not entirely original) territory about a third of the way through, then launches itself into left field for a truly bizarre climax (I might add that it’s one of the only modern horror films that doesn’t leave the door open for a sequel, which automatically earns it a measure of respect).
Long Time Dead, on the other hand, is concerned with nothing more than uninspired bloodletting. Watching people run, scream and die is not particularly interesting – you need a storyline that picks up steam as the protagonists develop a plan to deal with the situation, with every character doing their bit to bring down the phantom menace. If the scriptwriters had a brain between them they would have allowed the characters to band together and behave in an intelligent fashion (see Final Destination and Nightmare on Elm Street 3 for examples of what I’m talking about), but in Long Time Dead they just wander around trying to work out what’s going on, and then they die. Special mention must also be made of the climactic showdown, which is one of limpest, stupidest and most derivative conclusions to an occult thriller I’ve ever witnessed.
Did someone mention atmosphere? The failure of the creative team to make use of the British locations is the final nail in the coffin – if it wasn’t for the accents you’d be hard pressed to tell it’s set in Blighty, which is ridiculous when you consider it’s the land of standing stones, mist-shrouded moors and unnerving rural types who can dispense warnings of impending doom with greater authority than anyone else on the planet. John Landis did all this and more with An American Werewolf in London, but since Long Time Dead already cribs from the worst examples of the genre I suspect the generic location work is simply the result of Adams not having sufficient funds to drag the entire crew out to the countryside for a shoot (having already spent most of it on his top-notch scriptwriting team and whatever backyard boys he chose to concoct the garden-variety special effects).
Look, it’s like this: there’s only one Wes Craven, and even he’s capable of the occasional misstep (any Scream with a numeral in the title is a good place to start). However, there are hundreds of unemployed scriptwriters who could have devised a more intelligent narrative than the one Adams and his cronies cooked up (and don’t you believe for a second they don’t know it), so I can only hope that public indifference to their self-proclaimed talents returns them to the dole queue post haste.Long Time Dead? Not nearly long enough, and like anything that’s exhumed it’s the worse for wear and tear. Adams and his cronies have given us the least palatable British export since Mad Cow Disease, so do your bit for cross-border protection and avoid it like the plague.
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originally posted: 04/17/02 06:35:21