October 7th, 2009

WHIP IT (2009) ***

There is nothing sexier than female roller derby.  My God, if anything shaped my sexual preference it was watching roller derby babes beating the shit out of each other on Saturday afternoons as a youngster.  (That and watching Jane Badler in skintight red outfits on V.)  There hasn’t been a good roller derby movie since 1972 when both Unholy Rollers and Kansas City Bomber lit up the silver screen, so I had high hopes for Whip It.


The verdict:  It’s no Unholy Rollers, but it’s better than Kansas City Bomber. 


Ellen Page stars as a dorky chick whose crazy mom (Marcia Gay Harden) makes her participate in a bunch of lame-ola beauty pageants.  (They are the dumb kind of beauty pageants that don’t have a swimsuit category.  Why hold a beauty pageant and NOT have a swimsuit category?!?!)  Ellen doesn’t like that though and would rather compete with other females in ways that God himself intended:  By strapping on roller skates, dabbing on a bunch of mascara, and going around in circles punching broads in the face.  Of course, Mom freaks out and forbids her to roller derby so her Dad (Daniel Stern) has to finally sign the consent form so that she can Be Herself and Do Her Own Thing.


Yes, there are a lot of Be Yourself and Do Your Own Thing clichés that hamper the film’s second act.  Not to mention the conspicuous lack of roller derbying.  The useless boyfriend subplot also eats up a lot of valuable running time that could’ve been spent on bitches on wheels.  Whip It was Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, so I’m going to cut her some slack because it was her first time behind a camera.  But seriously Drew:  If you’re going to make a roller derby movie, MAKE A ROLLER DERBY MOVIE and leave all the stupid clichés and boyfriend subplots out of it.  I will give it to Drew, she can film roller derby action like few in the business.  This chick worked with such luminaries as Steven Spielberg and Wes Craven so she was obviously paying attention. 


The cast is enormously likable and kick plenty of ass.  Zoe Bell, Eve, and Kristen Wiig are all awesome as Ellen’s teammates and Juliette Lewis does some dynamite work as her bitter rival.  Drew also shows up as a space cadet teammate too but she isn’t as good as the rest of the cast.  (She was probably too worried if the shot was in focus to bring her A-Game.)  The movie really belongs to Page.  She’s great at playing the girl you root for and is a force to be reckoned with while skating.  Whenever Ellen is on the roller derby track, Whip It rocks.  Off the track, not so much.


Jason goes to New York and the franchise goes into the toilet. In fact, Jason Takes a Dump might have been more fun to watch than this ungodly mess.  The filmmakers must’ve known they were making something seriously shitty; why else would they have staged the finale in the sewer?


This one doesn’t even feel like a real Jason movie.  There is no opening credits sequence accompanied by the strains of Harry Manfredini’s Kill-Kill-Kill-Ha-Ha-Ha music.  Instead we get red and white titles over shots of New York while headache-inducing spoken-word beatnik poetry is read and soft rock crap plays on the soundtrack.


The plot has Jason getting shocked back to life by a stray power line and rising out of Crystal Lake.  A group of teens are going on a field trip to New York via cruise ship and Jason boards the boat and starts dispatching teens left and right.  When the boat finally docks in New York, Jason chases his prey into the sewer where he gets his comeuppance thanks to some handy toxic waste.


Filmed with too much light and zero atmosphere by an idiot named Rob Hedden who had obviously never seen a Friday the 13th flick in his life before directing this one, Jason Takes Manhattan is one supremely awful waste of 100 minutes.  Yes, you heard me… 100 minutes.  Why on earth anyone would make a Jason movie that freaking long is beyond human comprehension.  I could see maybe if the movie was actually good, but this one is a non-stop suck fest. 


God, where do I begin to describe the sheer suckitude that is Jason Takes Manhattan?  Let’s start with the fact that Jason doesn’t even get to Manhattan until about the 65 minute mark.  And even then, it’s just Vancouver.  (The cop Jason kills even has an obviously Canadian accent.)  Once in Vancouver, it takes another 20 minutes to get to the REAL New York.  Even once Jason steps into New York, very little is actually done with the concept.  Mostly he just walks down alleyways and docks.  Occasionally, he’ll get on the subway but instead of doing something cool like slaughter everyone on board, he just kinds shuffles along stalking The Final Girl.


Jensen Daggett, who plays The Final Girl in this one, is probably the worst Final Girl in history.  At one point she gets shot up with heroin by some gangbangers but her drugged up blank stare is basically the same as her acting in the rest of the movie.  What’s worse is that she sees a bunch of visions of Young Jason but nothing is ever done with it.  After about her 17th hallucination involving Jason, you’ll want to bitch slap her into the next county.  Her hallucinations are stupid as Hell because they show Young Jason sporting a full head of hair.  Everybody knows that even as a child Jason was a bald-headed, droopy-eyed mongoloid.  Further proof that this Hedden fuck never watched a damn Jason movie before stepping behind the camera. 


Even if I could forgive the fact that The Final Girl sucks, the fact that half the movie takes place on a boat, and that the real New York is only on screen for about 1% of the running time; you’d still be left with the dumb ending.  If you thought the ending of The New Blood was bad, brother, you ain’t seen shit.  Jason gets drowned in toxic waste and melts down to being a little boy again.  (Complete with a full head of hair and non-mongoloid-ian features.) 


To make matters worse, just before Jason gets deluged with the toxic waste, he actually SPEAKS!!!!  I hadn’t seen this movie since the DVD first came out and I thought I had remembered just about how sucky this movie was, but completely forgot about the part when Jason spoke.  God this movie is terrible. 


The only thing that gives Jason Takes Manhattan it’s ½ * is the deaths.  None of them are particularly good but there are a lot of them, which should count for something.  There’s impalement by spear gun (the gun part, not the spear), spear (minus the gun), guitar to the head, steam room stone through the chest, broken mirror to the whatever (couldn’t tell; it happened off screen), harpoon to the kidney, machete to the throat, strangulation, electrocution, impalement (sideways), axe in the back, hypodermic needle through the chest, slamming a Cholo’s head into a pipe, drowning in a barrel of toxic waste, and a wrench to the head (at least I think it was to the head, I couldn’t tell cuz it was one of those shadow puppet deals).  The novelty death this time around involves a boxer that gets his head punched off by Jason.  This is just so cartoonish and dumb that it’s not even good for a laugh. 


What’s irritating about these deaths is that most of people are introduced simply to be killed off.  This isn’t the worst thing in the world but when the victims are merely victims, and not characters, it takes the fun out of it.  All of the victims are paper thin (I take that back; that remark is an insult to paper).  There’s the film geek nerd that films everything, the Joan Jett look-alike rocker, the jock, the slut, the token Asian chick, the stuffy asshole teacher, the kid who doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps, etc.  Jesus, just thinking of these people again pisses me off something fierce.


The obvious joke of the movie is that there is a masked killer stalking and killing people and New Yorkers just ignore him because they are typical New York assholes.  This joke isn’t even all that funny to begin with and Hedden can’t even deliver any good punchlines.  There is one particularly pathetic scene where Jason lifts up his mask to discourage some punks from getting in his way.  Hello Jason, you are a complete badass mongoloid zombie killing machine; you don’t need to resort to stupid shit like that.  Leave the jokey crap to Freddy.  (Jason’s face by the way doesn’t look scary in the least and resembles a jack o’ lantern covered in week-old bubble gum.)


Jason Takes Manhattan is the nadir of the Friday the 13th series.  It’s only slightly more terrible than the next entry, Jason Goes to Hell:  The Final Friday.  That’s like saying syphilis is more fun that gonorrhea. 


<Tomorrow’s Horror Franchise Movie:  Jason Goes to Hell:  The Final Friday>