October 23rd, 2008

HAPPY CAMPERS (2001) **

I’m a big fan of the cult classic black comedy Heathers, so I was pretty psyched to see Happy Campers; the directing debut of that film’s scribe, Daniel Waters.  It certainly has its moments, but overall it was kind of a letdown.  I guess that’s what I get when I go into a movie expecting lightning to strike twice. 

 

The plot is thus:  A bunch of horny camp counselors fall in and out of love at Camp Bleeding Dove where a myriad of sophomoric shenanigans ensue.  This sounds like a ripe set-up for some potentially fucked up fun from a twisted mind like Waters.  Unfortunately he goes the sentimental route on us and tries to make you actually care about the characters; which is kinda hard to do when all of them are more or less grating as all get out. 

 

That’s not to say that the performances are bad.  I liked Emily (The Rage:  Carrie 2) Bergl as the perpetually depressed counselor as well as the breasts on Jaime (Bulletproof Monk) King.  Justin Long (long before he was known as “The Mac Guy”) was also pretty funny as the dweeb of the group.

 

The problem with the flick is that a lot of it just didn’t make me laugh out loud.  I chuckled here and there, but for the most part, the laughs were few and far between.  Wet Hot American Summer it was not.

 

There was a couple of good lines in the flick, although not nearly as many as I expected.  The best dialogue award is a toss-up between “I got an F, a C, and a K and all that’s missing is U!” and (I’m paraphrasing here) “I took a dump that was so big I didn’t know whether to flush it or send it to preschool!” 

THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960) **

Max Von Sydow and his wife are all excited because they got this really cute daughter who likes to go to church and stuff.  One day, she goes out riding and comes across these dirty goat farmers who scam her into giving them some bread.  That’s not all they want from her though.  They want to tap that ass.  So they rape her and kill her and steal her dress before heading up to old Max’s place.  They con him into letting them spend the night, but they slip up when they offer Max’s dead daughter’s dress as payment for their hospitality.  This makes Maxy Boy so mad that he’s got to kill those no-good sumbitches.

 

If all of this seems familiar to you, it’s because it was all done much better in Wes Craven’s immortal Last House on the Left.  The problem with The Virgin Spring is that director Ingmar Bergman is no Wes Craven.  Old Wes really liked showing you the guts and gore of the father’s revenge, but this Bergman guy is a complete wuss.  Yeah, I know that this was 1960 and all, but dammit Bergman, you should’ve done a lot more with the revenge angle of this flick.  All Von Sydow does after he finds out that his daughter has been raped and murdered is stab the guys responsible; then he stands around moping and talking to God in Swedish.  At least Craven was smart enough for the father in House to use a chainsaw. 

 

Look, I know Bergman is supposed to be one of these cinematic geniuses, but I’m just not seeing it.  I recently watched Bergman’s The Seventh Seal and it didn’t do a whole lot for me either.  Let the art house have Bergman; us here in the grindhouse will take Craven over that pansy any day.

LAWLESS RANGE (1935) ***

John Wayne stars as a rodeo rider who gets roped into becoming an undercover Star Packer (that’s a sheriff, not a gay porn star) for the government, posing as an outlaw.  He goes to work on a ranch and helps rid the one horse town of a bunch of bandits.  Predictably, a lot of people mistake Wayne for a wanted criminal and he gets into the usual assortment of shootouts and fistfights.

 

This was one of many interchangeable cheap B westerns John Wayne made in the early 30’s.  If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all.  Wayne gets mistaken for a bad guy, has to clear his name, gets the girl, yada, yada, yada.  Anyone who’s not a die hard Wayne fan will get tired of seeing the same old shit over and over again.  I’ve watched about ten or so of these things and I haven’t gotten tired of them yet.  If you can’t groove to the unending stream of western clichés, you will at least get a few good laughs from Wayne’s poorly dubbed in singing voice.

 

Lawless Range actually might be a notch better than some of Wayne’s early stuff, thanks to some inventive stunt work and good action scenes.  I really liked the barroom brawl Wayne gets into where he shoots out the lights and the bad guys mistakenly rough up the bartender instead.  I also enjoyed seeing Wayne’s usual villainous supporting cast like Yakima Canutt and Glenn Strange creeping up the joint too.

 

Initially made for Lone Star Pictures, Lawless Range ended up being released by Republic Pictures when Lone Star went bankrupt.  Director R.N. Bradbury made a whopping FOURTEEN movies with Wayne during the 30’s, four of which were released in 1935.