January 6th, 2014

SNITCH (2013) ** ½

The Rock’s dumb kid stupidly holds a package full of Ecstasy for his friend and gets sent to jail. The prosecutor (Susan Sarandon) agrees to reduce his sentence if he snitches on some dealers. Since the kid doesn’t know anybody in the drug game, he can’t rat on them. The Rock then volunteers to snitch on some dealers to help his son. Before long, he convinces an ex-con co-worker (Jon Bernthal) to introduce him to some drug dealers. Things quickly escalate, and pretty soon, The Rock comes face to face with the leader of the Mexican drug cartel (Benjamin Bratt).

The two words that would best describe Snitch are “earnest” and “serious”. And while the film earns points for its earnestness, and should be commended for its serious treatment of its subject matter, it’s missing an important word in its vocabulary: “fun”. The Rock is solid in the lead and gives an earnest (and yes, serious) performance. However, I for one wished the film at least offered his character some moments of levity. He is at his best when playing over the top characters, and although he equips himself nicely as the desperate family man, I would’ve liked to see him kick a little bit of ass, or at the very least, toss off a one-liner or two.

Even the action sequences suffer from a certain lack of fun. I dug the finale where The Rock uses his semi to flip cars off the road left and right, but the energy is much too low for the stunts to have much impact. And at 112 minutes, the flick suffers from overlength.

Don’t get me wrong, Snitch is still rather enjoyable. I thought Jon Bernthal was excellent as The Rock’s partner in crime, and Susan Sarandon was quite good as the bitchy prosecutor. It’s not a bad movie at all, it’s just that it never really lets its hair down and cuts loose either.

BLOODBATH AT THE HOUSE OF DEATH (1984) **

A group of people are brutally murdered at an old spooky house. Ten years later, the supposedly haunted place is visited by a team of paranormal investigators. A group of monks who worship Satan try to scare the investigators off, and when they fail, Satan creates evil doppelgangers of the scientists to bump off their respective likenesses.

Bloodbath at the House of Death is a sloppy spoof of horror movies that is somewhat in the vein of Student Bodies and Saturday the 14th. There are a handful of funny moments here, I’ll grant you that much, but for every joke that hits, there’s about ten that miss completely. A lot of the humor is derived from gay jokes and fart jokes; none of which are particularly funny. And when the film gets desperate, Vincent Price (who plays the head monk) is called upon to do some mild swearing; because you know, seeing a horror icon like Vincent Price say “shit” is supposed to be funny.

The film also manages to spoof a lot of the horror and sci-fi films of the era, with varying results. There are takeoffs on Carrie, An American Werewolf in London, The Entity (which is actually pretty funny), Alien, Star Wars, and The Shining. So in that respect, it plays like a bad British version of a Scary Movie sequel.

But for all its obvious punchlines and unfunny send-ups, Bloodbath at the House of Death has its moments. There is a great operating room scene as well as a decapitation by can opener that has to be seen to be believed. The film also offers us a quick glimpse of Superman 3’s Pamela Stephenson topless, so I can’t completely hate it or anything.