Brett Kelly has a point. It's the same position Gene Siskel used to take back in the heyday of Sneak Previews/At the Movies. Why remake GOOD films, movies that were semi to successful the first time around, when there are literally hundreds of half-baked and crappy titles that could truly benefit from an updated motion picture makeover? Leave The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left alone! Instead, go after such seminal cinematic stool samples as Not of This Earth, From Hell It Came, or Attack of the Giant Leeches. So that's exactly what Kelly did. Throwing out his own original ideas for independent macabre, he went back to the Roger Corman trough and slurped up the story of a small town terrorized by a bunch of mutant annelids. His efforts are being marketed by distribution upstart Midnight Releasing (which may or may not be the new imprint of indie icon J. R. Bookwalter), and that's a shame. The new company deserves better than this tepid retread into blood soaked stupidity.
When various members of its inbred populace turn up missing, the sheriff of a small swamp town believes there's foul play afoot. But when one particularly intoxicated resident claims to have seen giant leeches in the water, the cop turns things over to a belligerent park ranger who's new to the area. Making matters worse, the government official has taken up with the policeman's ex-girlfriend. As a group of vacationing college gals cavort next to the marsh, more and more members of the citizenry wind up MIA. This includes the adulterous wife of the town's property magnate (he owns the diner AND the general store) and a few toothless dorks. When various searches turn up nothing, the scientist daddy of the ranger's woman makes a suggestion - blast the bog. Nothing living could survive the concussive force of some TNT, and they might just turn up the cause of all the carnage as well.
Here is all you need to know about Canadian Brett Kelly's attempted remake of the 1950's b-movie cheese fest, Attack of the Giant Leeches - the results make Roger Corman's original look like Citizen Friggin' Kane! There is nothing wrong with purposefully trying to manufacture schlock. Camp and kitsch can often be created out of noble intentions and a nostalgic love for all things dumb. But Kelly's inept version of the 'classic' animals attack film is just plain dull. We spend too much time in inconsequential character development and not enough time watching rednecks getting de-sanguinated by oversized slugs. This should have been a goofy, gory mess, with lots of lame creature F/X substituting for style of substance. Instead, Kelly goes the more serious route, attempting to bring a touch of true terror to this otherwise dipsticked idea. He doesn't succeed. In fact, he barely comes close. The only time this Attack of the Giant Leeches wakes up and walks erect is when the filmmaker drops the dread and goes directly for the Canadian T&A. His bikini babes may not be Sports Illustrated fresh, and their drunken antics may be straight out of a community college acting class, but they sure as Hell beat the otherwise uninvolving "horror" on display.
Now Kelly has some ability as a director. His Bonesetter series was a quasi-decent foray into fright flick folklore, and he's helmed a couple of goofball genre comedies (the Spacemen and Go-Go Girls Double Feature, and My Dead Girlfriend among the lot). But for the most part he seems to be emulating the late Albert Band. His manic homemade motion picture modus operandi runs along the lines of (a) get an idea, (b) bang out a halfway literate script, (c) round up a collection of your friends and family, (d) go gonzo guerilla style on the material before anyone notices how mediocre it is, and (e) pray for the direct to home video best. That he can do so consistently is worth acknowledging. After all, many would-be auteurs can't get a single film made, let alone a dozen or more. But Kelly consistently shoots himself in the foot when forming his ideas. We don't come to something like Attack of the Giant Leeches to see the simmering potboiler particulars of small town romance. We want arterial spray - or at the very least, some half-assed attempt at same - and we want it now!
By remaining reverent to the original (we still have the cheating wife, the embattled park ranger, and the know it all father scientist, for example) and avoiding anything remotely polished or professional, Kelly commits the ultimate sin of any remake - he fails to fulfill the promise within the material. One could easily see a Planet Terror like experience where wonky narrative elements are stitched together with lots and lots of human vivisection. Even with the Golden Corral level casting could be excused by wallowing in a little human stew. But Kelly clearly doesn't have the budget for such gratuity. Instead, he offers overlong conversations about emotional attachments and past relationships. There's lame humor and wasted white trash antics. Even the Great White North-iness of the filming location is revealed whenever the actors muse over issues they are concerned "aboot". Brett Kelly continues to flummox those of us who consider ourselves full fledged fear fans. One the one hand, he appears to be a true believer in the genre, dedicating himself to finding inventive ways of bringing horror to the new millennium. But with something like this fetid retread, he argues for his wholly amateur status. It's one big mess, just like this movie.
Kelly clearly comes from the camcorder school of cinematics, and Midnight Releasing obviously wants to doctor up such digital prowess in post-production. What we wind up with then is a widescreen presentation (somewhere around 1.66:1 to 1.78:1) that's dark, fuzzy, overprocessed, solarized, jumpy, washed out, overly soft, and purposefully problematic. Now, there is nothing wrong with trying to mimic the drive-in dynamic of forty years ago, but Kelly and company can't keep their knobs dialed in a consistent direction. Instead, we get certain sequences that look like someone's audition tape. At other times, the outdoor setting is stunted by crap contrasting. Overall, the image is subpar to say the least.
On the sound side of things, Kelly keeps the dialogue mostly clean and up front while giving the decent musical score ample room to breathe. Sometimes, the Dolby Digital Stereo mix lets the backing tracks take up too much ambient space, but for the most part, the musical backdrop is the best thing about this movie.
A photo gallery and some trailers. That's it. No commentary track. No Making-of featurette. No EPK like collection of cast and crew interviews. Just some bare bones basics and a direct to DVD drive for dollars. While such skinflint conceits are clearly aimed at keeping costs down, it would have been nice to hear what the director had to say about remaking the Corman creation. Thankfully, such information remains a single Google search away.
Perhaps it's time to develop a new grading scale for films like Attack of the Giant Leeches. Instead of Recommended's and Skip It's, maybe we should rate these efforts by how far back in one's head your eyes roll during the running time. An optical range of "partial" to "full" could be implemented, allowing readers (and eventually viewers) a physical basis for the ridiculousness they are about to experience. Clearly, something along the lines of Brett Kelly's latest would mandate, at the most, a Rent It. Under the new system, a suggestion of "rammed right back into the middle of your skull" might not even suffice. There are just too many missing elements in this Roger Corman revamp to consider it worthy of your time. Brett Kelly clearly had the right idea. Too bad he lacked the ability to fully realize it.
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