What's the bigger crime in a horror movie: offering up a zipper-backed man/monster that's about as believable as an Ed Wood extraterrestrial? Providing the possibility of gory murders without showing any actual sluice? Or giving us a big-busted heroine in a sexy t-shirt, and yet never once finding an excuse to get the 'previously seen in other movies shirtless' gal nekkid? The way you react to these questions will be very important before viewing the latest Anchor Bay release, It Waits. An indie effort, produced by none other than Stephen J. Cannell (that's right, Mr. Hunter/Rockford Files/21 Jump Street himself) and co-scripted by the son of Richard I Am Legend Matheson, what we have, potentially, is a cheesy splatter film full of bloodletting and boobs. What we get, though, is a whole other matter. Instead of horror we get hilarity. Instead of grue there's goofiness. And perhaps the biggest abomination of them all – instead of tits, we get tease…WAY TOO MUCH TEASE!
Poor buxom Danny St. Claire. A night in Vegas pounding shots resulted in the drunk driving death of her sister in skankhood, Julie, and the well-endowed Miss blames herself for the tequila-induced fender bender. As a result, she has taken up forest rangering, and now resides in a lonely observation tower smack dab in the middle of a notorious national forest. Seems several months before, a group of college student researchers unsealed a long closed off cave, and unleashed a horror more deadly than Danny behind the wheel of an SUV. Bodies began piling up like empty Jell-o shooter cups. This dormant demon with a penchant for practical jokes soon sets its sites on the chuffed chested beauty and her new, normal beau Justin. Randomly attacking the ranger station and bellowing like a banshee, Danny initially seems unperturbed. She's too busy knocking back vodka and talking to a smart alecky parrot named Hoppy (it belonged to her now dead best bud) to give a crap. But once the Hellspawn gets personal, Danny doffs her uniform, expands her already outgoing pecs in empowered woman mode, and prepares to face the evil spirit head on. Little does Danny know that this is no ordinary emissary from Hades. Before it kills…It Waits…or so the screenplay says.
Cerina Vincent is pretty hot stuff. Strike that, make it VERY hot stuff. Decked out in a wife beater and adding a few pounds of pulchritude to her already rounded figure, this voluptuous beauty isn't much of an actress, but as a more adult version of the ever-present entertainment ideal of eye candy, she's lip smacking luscious. Her Danny St. Claire could be the Antichrist, smashing puppies with a dead seal in front of impressionable children during her off hours, and we'd totally forgive such a 'minor' shortcoming. Her allure is just that arousing. With a rack that requires – nay DEMANDS our unbridled attention and a mane of hair that suggests a far randier Rachel Welch, she's reason enough to give It Waits a lust…Sorry, I mean a look. Again, her acting consists mostly of pouts and promises, and when she finally builds up the gumption to take on the hounding Hellspawn, it's about 80 minute to late for our already beleaguered attention span. But the way she fills a top renders such reservations pointless. As long as she drops said blou and let's us witness her physical wonders, all is right with the direct to DVD horror film world.
Well, here's the horrible news my fellow lovers of lungs. Ms. Vincent never once appears naked in this film. Oh sure, she has a sex scene with some no-name bozo whose Canadian curriculum vitae is nothing to write home about. But thanks to the close-up conceits of director Steven R. Monroe, all we see are wistful eyes and silky shoulders starring at each other. No breasts. No butt. Not even a momentary slip of nip. After the intimacy, Cerina is shown laying on her side, sheet meticulously covering the curve of her personal pillows. A demonic bit of clairvoyance later, and our pert pair are covered by a shirt! While it seems silly - and substantially juvenile, not to mention perverted and unsettling - to focus almost solely on this facet of the film, such a carnal concentration exposes one of It Wait's many major problems. There is so little here to hold our interest that all we can do it pray for a preposterous excuse to see our lead actress sans shirt. Granted, a simple Google search can easily appease our mammary mandate, but this critic is old enough to remember a time when Jason V. or Michael M. couldn't be coaxed out of their undead dreamstate without the introduction of a little gratuitous T&A. It's a modern macabre concept, like the murder of copulating teens, or the killer never dying the first time it's supposedly "destroyed".
But It Waits takes its title tenets far too literally. It wants to get by on location (the gloriously gloomy woodlands of Northwest Canada standing in for the similarly situated Pacific pines) and atmosphere alone, leaving elements like splatter, sex and skin to those who are determined to dabble in such tawdry trappings. Sadly, that's all us post-modern horror fans have come to expect. After three decades drenched in all aspects of dread, we cravers of the creepy are used to being underwhelmed and unsatisfied. As long as you deliver the goods in the blood, beast and boobs arena, you'll get our retail vote each and every time. We have long since stopped caring about logic, plotting and character. Cater to our more primal paranormal needs and we will sit back slack jawed and be happy. Unfortunately, this pretentious little fright flick wants to pile on the implausibilities and challenge our horse mierda meter by including Native American lore, a collection of convenient victims, and a whole lot of cinematic crutches. None give us the guttural relief of monsters, massacre or mommy bags.
Monroe, whose tenure in television should guarantee at least a few medium shot sequences, more or less leaves his glass teat tendencies in the directorial dust bin. Instead, he plays with camera tricks and editing, overdosing on mannered montages (Danny loads her gun – MTV style) and adds that most miserable of Indie film facets – the Ani DiFranco-esque slop pop, loaded with lyrics about self esteem and inner strength. Nothing spells scares more than Lilith Fair laments about bruised goddesses and love's labors lost. Add in the acting, which is barely coherent, and the whole Native American/nurturing sprite subtext and you've got a film that feels like an hour of set up followed by a single successful action scene. Indeed, the only instance throughout the entire running time of the film when we aren't wondering if Cerina Vincent is going to blow bra is during the climatic car chase (which is actually rather well done). With lots of angle cheating, some semi-successful CGI and a few good jump-in-your-seat 'gotchas!', we indeed get a pulse pounding reprieve from all the mindless meandering that came before. This doesn't make It Waits any more successful as a scarefest, but it does save it from being a complete waste of time – a lack of visible va-va-va-voom from Vincent aside.
Anchor Bay usually delivers a decent technical package, and It Waits is really no different. The 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen image is visually interesting, the foggy forest setting rendered realistically in the color correct and detail dense transfer. There is some minimal grain during the night scenes, and the movie does overdose on intercutting with its sometimes spastic editorial style. But overall, there is a real sense of vastness to the locale, and we do feel the chilly mountain air on several occasions.
The aforementioned fem-rock moments aside, there really isn't much in the way of sonic sensations in this release. There is a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix, but there is limited use of directional cues and spatial ambiance. The channels are barely challenged at all. In fact, in almost all cases except the final chase, the 2.0 track is just as effective. Even when the demon is droning on like a pig in heat, there is a sense of immediacy in the aural presentation that suggests a lot of post-production ADR.
The added content offered on It Waits is rather limited. There is a trailer and an EPK style Making-of (carrying the pompous title of Blood on the Pines…ooooo, scary!). The biggest bonus feature offered on this DVD, however, is an audio commentary from director Monroe and Miss Mounds herself, Cerina Vincent. Don't get all excited though. Our lead takes a powder after about 30 minutes in, but it's no great loss. By that time, she had already reduced her recollections of the shoot to a series of "that was great" or "that sucks" statements. Monroe is more moviemaking oriented, and gives us lots of on-set anecdotes about the non-stop rain in the Vancouver area, the last minute casting issues and how effective/ineffective he feels the final film is. Genial and quite sincere, his honest approach makes criticizing his efforts all the more difficult. Here is a filmmaker who knows he's not making a masterpiece, but hopes he delivered a decent does of genre goodness. Unfortunately, he didn't quite succeed.
Call it sexist or chauvinistic, but when an actress with a tendency to take off her top in previous films refuses to exposure her epidermis in an otherwise thankless horror romp, a recommendation is more or less an outright impossibility. Indeed, an overall determination on It Waits definitely comes down to the following question – will fans of old fashioned monster movies find enough here to enjoy without seeing some skin, or will the lack of a little fright film flesh make for the cinematic equivalent of blue balls. Because there are some minor pleasures to be found inside this implausible pretender to the terror throne, a score of Rent It is in order. Besides, Ms. Vincent is so easy on the eyes that a suggestion of Skip It would seem aesthetically insincere. Of course, the horror genre should have to rely on more than creatures, claret and cleavage to get by, and back before macabre became a direct to video marketing ploy, writers and directors tried to make their scary movies interesting and innovative. Sadly, like most things in our post-millennial world, we've boiled the basics of fear down to a few boo-based buzzwords. It Waits may be looking to avoid such a superficial fate, but does little to transcend such time-honored tradition. You too will be waiting…for something to enjoy.
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