Thursday, August 30, 2007

Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain

(2003, 91 min.)

Starring Bobbie Phillips, Brandi-Ann Milbradt, Phil Price, Gillian Leigh, Neil Napier, Heidi Hawkins, Ginger Lynn Allen, Simon Peacock, Howard Rosenstein, Jenna Jameson, Richard Grieco. Chasey Lain, Lael Stellick, Taylor Hayes.

Written by William A. Mariani and Christian Viel.

Directed by Christian Viel.

A group of American (hey, Canada is technically part of America) anthropology students travel to Ireland, unaware that some schlock screenwriters have written them into a yarn about the old Sawney Bean clan, inbred cannibalistic murderers who, in this version anyway, have descendants who emigrated from Scotland and celebrate Samhain (apparently irrespective of when the celebration actually falls) by hacking up, eating and otherwise terrorizing the hikers that come there for vacation.

As per usual, the characters are stock and, largely, unlikable. There are Jim and Tara (Napier and Hawkins), the couple who can’t keep their hands off of each other; Shae (Milbradt), the withdrawn, bookish one; Steve (Price), the loudmouth jackass who won’t stop tormenting Shae (and it would be more tempting to feel sorry for her if she weren’t such a brooding little pain in the ass); and Barbara (Leigh), the blonde treat who repeatedly puts Steve in his place (until a later scene when she suddenly has a change of heart in the shower and puts him in her place). All of this rancor does nothing to improve the mood of the teacher who arranged the trip, Karen (Phillips), who is also along with her boyfriend, Paul (Rosenstein). Also in the mix are two locals, Gary (Peacock) and Pandora (porn legend Allen), their hosts and, in Gary’s case, the traditional crazy guy who warns them of imminent doom; and some hikers, Jenny (porn legend Jameson), and Amy and Mark (porn legend Lain and ‘90s TV casualty Grieco).

I must confess, and I am nothing if not honest about such things, that my initial impetus for watching this thing was the fact that, despite its cast boasting, as listed above, no less than three porn legends, along with ostensibly mainstream actress Phillips, who showed us her bulbous chest in Showgirls, the TV guide did not list nudity among its reasons for being rated R. I found this hard to believe. The fallacy was quickly dispensed with, as one of the very first shots is of Lain’s big fake boobs as she and Grieco get it on in a tent in the woods. (Jameson also briefly shows her chest, in a lovely little scene that apes Scary Movie, but Allen stays clothed, preferring to offend sensibilities with her undercooked brogue.) Their subsequent murders set the bar for what turns out to be a surprisingly graphic movie at times. I have to admit that, given the crowd at which it seems to have been aimed, I was a bit surprised at some of the places the filmmakers chose to go. Let’s just say that either the gore film’s traditional young male audience is now mature enough to handle images that in days of old might have induced homosexual panic, as thoroughly retarded as that may be, or this film’s creators at least believe them to be.

Unfortunately, shock value represents the lion’s share of what it has to recommend it. As I mentioned above, many of the characters are unpleasant, the narrative is muddled, the pacing is way off in places (the latter two of which can in part be blamed on post-production mischief by the distribution company), and the ending is just plain dumb. But I will give them this: in spite of a bit of capitulation to the current flashier editing style and a couple of completely unnecessary scenes in which characters in a slasher film once again detail the rules of a slasher film, this aggressively repulsive movie actually has segments that capture the feel of the old slashers from the ‘80s way better than the wave of post-Scream movies did. There may be several layers of irony to the idea that a contemporary film could work best when it most successfully recreates the tropes of a generally very bad genre, but, then, cult film love is a strange, complicated, and maddening thing.
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