Urban legends are, for the most part, not very terrifying. They can be creepy ("he was trying to tell her that there was a man in the back seat...WITH AN AXE!") and a little unnerving (lepers really work in the Dr. Pepper bottling plant?) but, for the most part, the horror is of the cautionary tale, not blood and guts variety. Indeed, most of these mini morality plays come out of a desire to change socially unacceptable behavior (necking in a car with boys/girls), fix human flaws (vanity kills, or at least leads to spider eggs in your bouffant) and spread vicious, vile rumors (in all walks of life, from business – rats in KFC's chicken, to pleasure – Coke and Pop Rocks in combination will make you explode). In reality, there is no truth to the majority of these ethical limericks, just gross over exaggeration and the love of a good story. The same goes for mythical creatures, like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and a talented Julia Roberts – beings alleged to exist but never actually captured and available for scientific study (well, maybe Julie Roberts. The results were inconclusive). Indeed, these imaginary organisms are practically jumping out of the overgrowth, strange creatures with names like the Burkittsville Witch, El Chupacabra, the Fauk Monster and the Artist Formerly Known as an Unpronounceable Symbol. We can now add the African shape-shifter, the Half-Caste (roughly translated as "mixed race") to the all points bulletin of the usual unusual suspects. This leopard-man, similar to the Western Werewolf or the Hollywood Robin Williams, is a heart-eating, soul-snatching refugee from a French-Canadian circus. And just like that certain Du Soleil, it stars in what is only a horror film in concept alone. But no matter what you call it (Film de Scaré?) The Real Story of Half-Caste is just a boring, backwards bastardization of the real thing.
OK, here's the story...sort of. South Africa has this manster called the Half-Caste (a name, frankly, that sounds like a bad, low end wine) a spirit entity with the power of omnipotence, or the ability to read minds, or just the desire to munch on human organs, something like that. Half-Caste's are created kind of like Bush's Baked Beans: there's an ancient tribal secret that not even a talking golden retriever could explain away, something to do with burying babies alive, or being bitten by another Mr. Mutato head, a transformation trick dealing with death, somehow. Anyway, when a group of Hollywood documentarians arrive in "the Veldt" to try and film a hapless catdude in its unnatural habitat, it's time for all manner of first person POV vomit. And to make matters worse, another documentary crew is around to film the other documentary crew for a website. Then there's a whole "fake scaring" scenario; unexplained noises in the night; the ethical debate over when to "stop filming" and the cute as a bug's ear baby Half-Caste that gets carted around like an infant T-Rex in a Spielberg film, all of which adds up to a night of unbridled slaughter as the star shows up to claim its own portion of its particular craft services spread. People die, some more people die and a trick ending is attempted. The failure registers like a diamond drained fault line under the city of Johannesburg.
There is good news and a fat guy's leotard full of bad news regarding the supposed horror film The Real Story of Half-Caste. Before the pummeling begins, let's get the sole glad tiding out of the way, shall we. Here it is, all you fans of this faux fright fart, the only adequate aspect of this anti-entertainment: this movie is so hollow and empty that it leaves no traces of memory in your mind only a few short hours after viewing it. Like a self-cleaning oven or a shot of Drain-O after a hard day's night, The Real Story of Half-Caste will leave no residue on your groovy gray matter. Like the bark of a spider, it will waft into the air, catch the next breeze that happens to blow by, and mercilessly leave your bubbling brainpan forever. Now, what other member of the cinematic Apocalypse can make that claim to fame. Not Da Hip Hop Witch. Not Shadows Run Black. Not Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid. Indeed, the fact that this film leaves your short-term retention pond so quickly after being ingested makes it better than a convenience store burrito, the lyrics to an Avril Lavigne song and the concept of religious based guilt in the pantheon of the proposed purgatives. And with this thankfully ADD attribute out of the way, the truth can also be told; The Real Story of Half-Caste is essentially the authentic yarn of bad acting, even worse directing and a premise so putrid that Charles B. Pierce is calling: he wants his Boggy Creek monster back, and he and the little creature mean business.
This motion picture sucks sheep snot. It blows fetal pigs. Roasted rabid raccoon nuts would go down easier that this hack home movie. It violates at least ¼ of the Geneva Convention and a couple of tenants from Everything I Know I Learned in Kindergarten. If the makers of that first person POV puke called The Blair Witch Project could only see what is being wrought in their name, they would actually be looking up from their well-appointed private island in the Caribbean (nice case of take the money and run, eh?). Besides, nations have fought for, had their citizens die for and even made backroom underhanded treaties to avoid having to be stricken with this case of the South African scoots. You think playing Sun City was bad? Check out the self-appointed hyphenated dreadfulness of director/star/producer/writer/cameraman/editor/musician/labor saving device Sebastian Apodaca - whose own personal name is a billion times scarier than the incorrectly labeled title creature (some much more valid, more truthful designations for our beastie would be Half-Assed, Crap-Caste, Half-Catastrophe or Hate-Caste) - and his douche bag monster movie. Obviously thinking that anything passing in front of his viewfinder is the second coming of Akira Kurosawa and/or Dale Restenghini, all of it pandering to a mostly meat-headed moviegoer mentality (just curse and act cool a lot and the desirable demographic will go wild. Works for Colin Farrell, right?) Apodaca misconstrues mise-en-place for mise-en-scene and serves up a spoiled, sour shambles of a cinematic salad bar. He creates a movie that portions out its pointless plot in random quick cuts and indistinct scenes.
You can tell there were some big, bogus ideas at work in this narratively confused crud ball. This woefully misguided, atrocious little turd of a film wants to find a link between that now cliché DIY making-of mentality of '99 and those Italian cannibal movies from the mid-70s. It wants to be a throwback (and that's exactly what any consumer should do – toss across and OUT!) to those jungle epics where the natives end up showing the white man the proper serving size for a severed penis (or at least, how to kill and eat still-warm monkey brains). But when the end result makes Make Them Die Slowly look like Berlin Alexanderplatz (all 15 and ½ hours of it), you instantly understand why there should be a justifiable homicide exemption to the War Crimes Act. Apodaca populates his movie with actors that all resemble one another (even the gals) turning the evocative notion of a doppelganger into a bad case of double vision. At several points throughout the course of this film, you will find yourself saying things like "wasn't she dead?", "I thought he left?", "Wasn't he just in the other room?" "Honey, do we have any Pepto Bismal?". Then to make matters worse, our daffy director gets infected with the Pulp Fiction plague and decides to fold space and time by making his plot as non-linear as a Spirograph squiggle. We begin with an event, flashback to the episode preceding it, then flashback even further into the past to the opening aspects of the storyline. We freeze and then randomly tiptoe back and forth across and around the cosmic clock like Mr. Peabody and Sherman after smoking crack-laced Pixie sticks. Even the ending expects us to remember scenes we saw 70 mindless minutes before, and not even a Mensa case taking a gross of memory enhancers has that kind of sadistic recall.
Of course, Half-Caste's real problem is that it's not scary. Not in the least. Junior Samples was and remains more frightening than this sham of a shocker (and remember, the number to call to demand a refund is BR5-49). The movie claims that the Half-Caste is more deadly than the werewolf or evil than a vampire because, get this, it has the ability to get into your mind. Interesting. How, exactly? Like a weevil, some manner of overfed head lice with feline issues? You would think the heart ripping and the throat garroting would be enough, but no, the Half-Caste adds a little mental fornication to its bag of badass tricks. And we're supposed to be afraid of this concept? Sorry, won't work. Goofing with your cerebellum is not a fear factor. If we balked at every baneful brainwashing entity in the Western hemisphere that meant us harm, people would be petrified of their TV, most of Madison Avenue and the Republican Party platform (come to think of it...). Anyway, a horror movie needs chills. It requires thrills. But mostly, a scary saga would just accept a coherent script and some idea of what the wombat is going on most of the time. The Real Story of Half-Caste can't even begin to offer any of these things. When the God of movies was offering scripts, the makers of Half-Caste thought He said "trips" and they asked for one all over the map. What they got instead was a shredded sample from the typing pool's reject pile and you can smell the glue and sense the Scotch tape they used to paste this problematic product together. The Real Story of Half-Caste is scattershot because, frankly, that was the approach the filmmakers had taken all along.
All jesting aside, The Real Story of Half-Caste is a disaster, a near incoherent mess that can't manage to get is story, tone, acting, action, horror, history or ideas straight once it starts. It longs to be a first class fright flick, a cynical statement about Hollywood showmanship and an experimental narrative all wrapped up in the beauty and grandeur of the African continent. But all it ends up feeling like is a trip to Lion Country Safari minus the lethargic retired circus animals (all except our supposed supernatural house cat, that is). The mulatto mix-up at the center of this shite is indeed a reject from Cirque de Soleil, about as frightening as a gymnast or a yoga instructor and the ramshackle direction and editing continually undermines any attempt at terror. The acting is all shouts and assertions, the characterization about as deep as a chickpea. And when it comes right down to it, the wildly shifting tone and inability to maintain a true narrative flow is this film's final undoing. The Real Story of Half-Caste may, indeed, be based on a true story. And some of the elements, if handled in a completely different fashion, could have made for a creepy, crawly thriller. But all the hidden video/surveillance camera crapola mixed with the dunderhead dramatics equal a failed film on almost every level. The Real Story of Half-Caste may be trying to recreate "reality" to shock and scare, but all it manages to do is challenge your charitable nature regarding independent film.
It is almost impossible to judge the video value of The Real Story of Half-Caste. Since it uses the "mixed media" approach to moviemaking (utilizing a hodgepodge of stocks: film, video, digital, analog) one would argue that as long as it can consistently maintain those divergent elements and render them watchable, the visual aspect is acceptable. So, granted, this movie does this and the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is clear, crisp and colorful. Still, the hyperactive chimp in the cutting room really weakens any attempt at mood or atmosphere.
Again, we are dealing with aural aspects of different quality. Some of the movie is recorded professionally. Other times, the camera's internal mics are picking up the audio action. And there are still other moments when the sound is subverted by the technical issues (i.e. footage 'caught" by security cameras). Still, the Dolby Digital Stereo mix manages to offer the awful dialogue and lame sonic shenanigans in a definite, discernible manner.
There are two bonus features here, one that is easily accessible and another that is a real pain in the rump. There are two trailers that are only available prior to the movie starting. They play automatically when you start the feature, and are almost impossible to skip over. On the actual menu screen, you can go to the DVD Extras and there you will find deleted scenes/outtakes. Now, if the actual presentation of Half-Caste is a visual nightmare from a plot perspective, imagine what the stuff they cut out is like. From the extended idiocy of the airport interview to even more mindless minutes of the "oh, I'm sooooo scared" interrogation, this is additional content in name only, not necessity. Thankfully, we are spared a commentary or "making of" documentary.
A quick scan of the Internet reveals that The Real Story of Half-Caste has a double purpose, one that it may or may not actually succeed in. Apparently, this is the brainchild of Heat Productions; a company founded by 'jerk of no trades' Sebastian Apodaca and Kim te Roller (who also stars in the film) to increase independent production in South Africa. Like a travelogue combined with a sales pitch, Half-Caste is supposed to show how easy and atmospheric a film made in that part of the world can be. And on this level, all cinematic bumbling aside, our intrepid team has a point. Even though it looks like it was lensed in and around Disney's Animal Kingdom, and ancient episodes of advancing dung beetles on the Discovery Channel have about as much mood and ambience, The Real Story of Half-Caste makes South Africa appear appealing for movie manufacturing. Too bad it couldn't have worked the same Swahili magic on the film's main story. If Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez can be blamed for anything (their abhorrent little webcam-scam aside) it's giving filmmakers an excuse for chucking the time honored issues of old-fashioned professional moviemaking to create detestable documents to the Do It Yourself ideal. Half-Caste wants to have it's Blair Witch and expand on the shocker too. Unfortunately, Heather Donahue's massive ass is more interesting (and creepy) than this jungle rot. And to make matters worse, it decides to employ that other prehistoric objet d'art, the mythical beast, to do its dirty work. It's hard to imagine, though, that anyone involved thought it would be this polluted or pathetic. The Real Story of Half-Caste is one of the worst indie horror films ever hatched out of the spirit of homemade cinema. Someone needs to find a primordial burial mound to inter this stillborn stinker into pronto, before it tries some manner of retarded reincarnation.
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