We've said it before, but it bears repeating - Crispin Glover is a God. He's a heartbreaking work of staggering human genius. From smaller, more insignificant roles (dead "f*ck" dancer Jimmy in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) to major tour de force turns (Willard, Back to the Future's one and only George McFly), he remains one of Hollywood's shamefully untapped talent resources. One imagines that this situation is the direct result of his own doing. Glover has always tap danced to his own unique funky drummer, working in mediums (music, 'found' literature) that make his manic onscreen turns seem serene by comparison. Yet he is first and foremost a movie STAR, something that is quite obvious when you witness the otherwise brainless wonders of the silly slasher effort Simon Says. Even on creative cruise control, Glover outshines anything in this attempted horror homage.
When they were young, twins Stanley and Simon were accused of killing their parents. After the horrific deed, both boys were institutionalized, where the latter lay in a coma, the victim of some post-murder misunderstanding between the siblings. Now, several years later, they are running a local Miner's Supply Shop in the middle of Backwoods Nowhere, USA - and wouldn't you know it, a group of rowdy teen campers show up to cause trouble. Of particular interest for Stanley and Simon is Vicky, who the latter obsesses on as his "dream girl". It's not long before the gang has pitched their tents, passed the dutchie (several dozen times, and more than on the left hand side), and invited Jack Daniels to their little wilderness get-together. What they don't know is that Simon has decided to take his fixation to menacing, murderous heights. Pick axes in hand, he will systematically wipe out the debauched interlopers, proving once and for all that, no matter the treatment, a nutjob rarely changes his sanity stripes.
Man - is Simon Says dumb. It's lamebrained, lunkheaded, and artistically illiterate. It's all fidgeting and false jumps and features more flying pick axes than in 50 My Bloody Valentine sequels. Without Crispin Glover as "twins" Stanley and Simon, and minus a certain element that may slip past most film fans (more on this in a moment), this would be a gig-normous waste of time. William Dear, a director who's made his entire career out of skirting the fringes of major mainstream success (Harry and the Hendersons, Angels in the Outfield) puts on his wannabe horror hat and ends up being the laughing stock of this outing's fright fashion week. There is little that is terrifying here, unless you count the incredibly labored acting of the rest of the cast. The Great Glover aside, this TV friendly troop wouldn't know a legitimate line reading if it ran up and rammed itself into their respective mouths. They are bland, interchangeable cogs in a wholly unoriginal experience. Unless you consider the "inventive" uses of the aforementioned mining tool clever, you'll be hard pressed to see what all the slice and dice hubbub is about.
That is, until you figure out what Dear and Company are really doing out in these quasi-creepy California woods. If you painted the gang's van a startling blue and green, if you riffed a bit more on stoner Zack's grubby facial hair and tendency toward hippy talk, if you change the names of characters Riff, Vicky, and Kate to Freddy, Daphne, and Velma, you'd have an updated, post-modern, and very surreal reboot of Scooby-Doo. There's even a dithering 'dog' in the name of Asian honey Ashley (the dialogue refers to her as such more than once). That's right - the real genius behind Simon Says is not the casting of the man best known for almost kicking David Letterman in the head during one memorable late night talk show appearance, or the multi-pick axe catapults used by our title villain - that's right, multi-pick axe catapults! No, where Dear deserves credit, though he may not cop to same, is in the retrofitting of a famed '60s/'70s Saturday Morning cartoon icon into a kooky kids-in-trouble splatterfest. Of yes, there is blood here, though not necessarily in the abundance most gorehounds will enjoy. But if you ever wished death on any member of the Mystery Machine gang, Simon Says will provide said vicarious thrill - that is, if you look at it in the proper cult kitsch light.
Otherwise, this is crap. It's complete crap, without any crap supplements, additives, or crap concentrates. We've seen it all before, and done better and more effectively. There's no real question as to what is going on, no real effort to hide the telegraphed in advanced reveal. Instead, Dear just goes through the motions, making Glover do all of the heavy lifting - and that the actor almost manages it, almost saves the film from its incredibly crappy self, is a testament to his inherent greatness. Of course, if you don't like Mr. Crispin, you won't enjoy a moment of this mock macabre (and additionally, you should consider killing yourself, since you have no sense of taste or talent). In truth, this film lies somewhere in the middle of the schlock "so bad it's good" category and outright junk reality is frequently inhabits. You won't be scared. Instead, you'll be shocked at how hackneyed it is. You won't be surprised, unless you come to the same Scooby conclusion as yours truly. And in the end, you'll be stuck with the same thought that surrounds most Glover lovers - that is, why isn't this man the most successful name in all of Tinsel Town...and why is he stuck scraping the last available vestiges of entertainment out of the cinematic slop jar that is Simon Says? It's truly a crime.
Oh boy - here we go again. It's time to try and explain the whole "Screener Only" policy for those unfamiliar with the way these tech spec reviews go. No final product means Lionsgate will not get a final score for this film. The image is weak at best, and even worse, the proposed anamorphic widescreen presentation is constantly corrupted by a burned in "property of" logo that instantly turns the color picture black and white. That's right, several times during this critic's attempted "enjoyment" of this movie, the transfer took a major monochromatic turn, a switch that sometimes lasted more than a couple of minutes. Nothing is more annoying than waiting for a bit of arterial spray, only to see said blood go from juicy red to dull as dishwater gray, all to protect this title from being pirated. Ugh.
Again, no final product, no final score. Enough said.
In a simple phrase - who knows? The Screener case promises that the disc will have a director's commentary (yeah!), a storyboard comparison (snore...) and a stills gallery (does anyone 'still' care about these???). As for what this critic had to work with? Nothing. A basic preview disc, nothing more or less.
Hmmm...this is a hard one to rate, realistically. Glover is great (as usual) and there is a lot of goofy joy to be had at the subpar shivers offered. Dear clearly takes none of this seriously, and the Scooby-Doo subtext is a nice pay-off to the semi-conscious audience member looking for something salvageable. But a bad scary movie is a bad scary movie, no matter if it was made by a bunch of gore geeks in their parent's backyard or by a foreign mainstream filmmaker looking to indulge in a little b-movie mayhem. So this movie rides the fence between full blown fun and unfettered flop. As a result, it can only earn a Rent It, since this allows everyone the option of investing a small amount of their otherwise hard-earned cash to see if this is something they will enjoy - or otherwise want to avoid. As he continues on his own eclectic career path, Glover will always be an underappreciated Savior. He could earn a dozen Oscars and an equal number of People's Choice awards and still not get the credit he deserves. Simon Says may not be his best work in front of the camera, but it does certify his position as a talent Titan. Long live Crispin. Simon Says, on the other hand, can just quietly go away.
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