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There's a very good reason for Crispin Glover's rabid cult following - the man is great. He's not only a good actor but he's a complete eccentric, which makes him not only quite watchable in the various films he appears in but also a genuinely interesting guy. It's his presence, and some rather impressive gore, that make William Dear's (the same William Dear who brought you Harry And The Hendersons) otherwise ridiculous slasher Simon Says watchable.
The film follows a jock, his stoner friend, and three hot chicks who head up into the woods near an old burial ground where Billy The Kid was laid to rest for a weekend of camping. They stop off at a store for supplies and meet a strange simpleton of a man named Simon and his rather mean spirited identical twin brother, Stanley (Glover in a dual role) who expresses an interest in one of the girls. This doesn't go over so well so they take their whiskey and head up to camp. Later on, as the group explores the area and one another's naughty bits, either Stanley or Simon starts running around slaughtering them. He also slaughters a team of paintball players.
As it would turn out, Simon and Stanley have a strange past. You see, they were accused of killing their parents one day when they got high together and have obviously got some deep rooted issues because of this and other social problems they've encountered over the years. Some time in an asylum doesn't seem to have helped them too much, because here they are, killing people with giant pick axes and intricately designed machinations conveniently placed in the woods and active by a series of trip wires.
This movie has two things going for it (aside from some fleeting topless nudity - always a nice touch): Glover, and gore. Let's start with Glover. Crispin's played a lot of interesting parts over his career, from Back To TheFuture to the criminally underrated Willard to his own strange directorial efforts and it's rare that any of his performances fail to entertain. That same statement thankfully holds true with his work on Simon Says where he plays the dual role of Simon and Stanley, who are as opposite as they are alike. The character's quirky mannerisms and twitches give Glover ample ammunition to go over the top and around the bend and he makes the most of it. Playing his roles with a ridiculously over the top southern drawl, his natural weirdness lends his performance not so much an authenticity as a credibility and were it not for his work here, this film wouldn't be worth the plastic it's been pressed on.
With Glover's manic turn as the backwoods maniacs covered, let's talk gore, because Simon Says actually has a lot of it and some of it is creative and at times even quite funny. Tredding the line between splatstick and a lame attempt at genuine suspense, the film makes the uses more pick axes than you can possibly imagine in scenes where Glover's machines fling hundreds of them at our fleeing teenagers. Throats are slits, torso are stabbed. Stomachs are impaled and poodles are squashed. Cadavers enjoy picnics and bodies bounce off of van windshields. You get the idea. A lot of people get killed in very bloody ways. Some of it is handled through some shoddy CGI work, which is a strike against the picture, but enough of it is done the old fashioned way that we can look past that.
That said, the rest of this movie is pretty bad. The actors, Glover not withstanding, are incredible only in how bad their performances are and the script notable only for how many clichés it throws in and how little suspense it actually delivers. There's nothing even remotely scary here nor is there any tension. The film will probably make you laugh in a couple of spots, intentionally mind you, and it will entertain you thanks to the aforementioned 'Glover and gore' combo, but let's be honest here, for a lot of people that won't be enough to save it even if it did appeal to this rather jaded reviewer's sensibilities.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a bit quirky. Often times skin tones look very hot and some of the actors look orange. On top of that, there are a few instances that show some compression artifacts and even a couple of spots where you might spot some mild macro blocking around some very fast movement. Shot on HD-DV, this isn't going to have the clarity of a 35mm production but detail levels are actually pretty strong here and black levels stay nice and deep. Those aforementioned idiosyncrasies do hurt the picture a bit though.
Simon Says sounds fine thanks to this English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. There's some good channel separation in a few spots and the levels are properly balanced throughout. There aren't any issues with hiss or distortion though there are times when Glover plays his character with a more soft spoken side which may have you reaching for the remote to turn up the volume. Some rear channel activity would have made the kill scenes more fun and this probably should have had a 5.1 track but the 2.0 mix is at least free of any major problems. Optional subtitles are included in Spanish only.
Extras include a commentary track with director William Dear and his second unit director Oliver Dear. This is a fairly standard track in that it covers how the project came together and what it was like working with the various participants on the project. They discuss Glover's participation and point out various family members in the cast (including Glover's own father in the role of Simon's father in the movie - the resemblance is uncanny and you won't have trouble spotting him) and talk about some of the gore effects that the technicians conjured up for the picture.
Also included on the DVD is a behind the scenes segment that runs roughly fifteen minutes. Here you'll get a look at what it was like on set as well as some input from the various cast and crew members who worked on the project, including Glover. This is worth skimming through if you dug the movie but it doesn't deviate too much from your standard EPK style presentation.
Rounding out the extra features is five minutes worth of storyboard to film comparisons, a still gallery, animated menus and chapter selection. A few trailers for unrelated Lionsgate properties play before you get to the main menu screen.
Simon Says is terrible by all accounts but there's enough wanton and creative gore here that, when coupled with Glover's ridiculous performance, it's at least entertaining in its awfulness. This isn't a film that you'll go back to time and again, but horror fans will appreciate the gratuitous splatter and Glover's given ample opportunity to go over the top here. Be warned, it's not a good movie but it does have its merits. It's hard to recommend a blind buy on this one, because quite frankly it kind of sucks, but how often do you get to see Crispin Glover throwing pick axes at teenagers? Not often enough, that's for sure. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.