Tuesday, March 3, 2009
CRIPPLED CREEK (2005) d. Hans Hartman
Reviewed by Rick Trottier
When people begin an exercise program, they generally expect something to happen to their health and a change to take place in the shape of their bodies, given enough effort and time elapsed. After the days and weeks have crawled by with much sweat having dripped down their forehead and no change or improvement having occurred, the exertion is often seen as useless and it tends to be discarded for other activities. Movies are often a lot like a failed workout regimen. After the minutes have dragged by and nothing much has happened in regards to the story or the characters, a lot of folks will abandon their cinematic torture and move on to some other film or even a different form of entertainment. Watching CRIPPLED CREEK made me realize that no amount of arduous physical strain, even the three-a-day soccer boot camp I lived through in high school, was ever as unpleasant as this viewing experience. While there are almost always a few things worth praising in most films, and I can find a few here too, I have dropped weights on my feet or torn muscles during cardio routines and those injurious moments felt better than my CRIPPLED CREEK ordeal. Maybe this is what it feels like to be “crippled”, seeing as I felt like I couldn’t escape from what I was forced to endure since doing a proper review means sitting through a motion picture to the bitter end.
CRIPPLED CREEK is the “story” of Mady Hooper, her cousin Bambie and their friend Aubry Laput, all young women eager to spend some time together off in the woods drinking, smoking, cursing, gabbing aimlessly and hitting on any guy who can potentially provide them with sexual stimulation. On their drive out to the wild and while they are staying at Mady’s grandparent’s wilderness hovel, the girls are warned that there have been strange happenings in these woods, but the three ignore the admonitions and proceed to find ways to amuse themselves, although most other people would find their methods of passing time rather mundane. After an interminably long time, the feeling that they are being watched grows on the girls and finally a killer decides it is time to start picking off the campers and their “boy toys” in a very “woodcrafty” fashion. By the end, a series of “killings” have occurred, not the least of which is 92 minutes of life that has been bludgeoned to death by the hefty hammer of tedium that is CRIPPLED CREEK.
If CRIPPLED CREEK was a student film, I hope that it was given a failing grade. If it was made by former film students, let us hope that they failed out of school, are working as laborers somewhere and made this appallingly boring movie in their spare time. Where does CRIPPLED CREEK go wrong? Just about everywhere. First and foremost, the story and the accompanying dialogue do almost nothing to build tension, develop characters, establish menace or initiate any kind of momentum. All actions in any plot and dialogue in a screenplay should advance the narrative, but that is rarely the case in CRIPPLED CREEK. We are treated to trite lines bandied back and forth between the girls that focus on their sexual interests, their desire to meet “cute guys” and occasionally there are short anecdotes that are reminiscent of “ghost stories” but have little or nothing to do with this story. Most of the interaction between the girls and their guy friends, Tom and Gary, is just as inane and sitting through these senseless moments of verbal intercourse is tantamount to cinematic throat clearing. Just as incredibly tedious are the actions of the characters. We get to see them walk through the woods, sit around a campfire, pass bottles of alcohol and/or pot pipes back and forth, make some food and occasionally find ways to copulate. We are even treated to three moments of voiding their bladders/bowels and one vomiting scene. What seemed to be the case here was that the makers of CRIPPLED CREEK took themselves, this project and their efforts entirely too seriously and in an attempt to create a horror film with a cinema verite feel or even a BLAIR WITCH aura, they created a snoozer of epic proportions. Not even the fact that the female cast members were surprisingly attractive both in face and figure and that all three are seen disrobed in one form or another is enough to jolt the plot out of a terrifyingly uninteresting rut the depth and breadth of the Grand Canyon.
It gets even worse. From an audio and visual standpoint, CRIPPLED CREEK looks and sounds like it was filmed using Fisher Price movie-making tools and then edited and finally encoded/authored on a Radio Shack close-out sale computer. The fact that it was shot on video wasn’t a good thing to start with and most of the camera angles were uninspired and the editing was not terribly exciting, but in the encoding or transfer process a graininess and pixel-y quality arose that makes CRIPPLED CREEK look worse than most of the 1980s VHS tapes I watched on my single head Sharp VCR and ancient Toshiba television. CRIPPLED CREEK often looked like it was projected onto a burlap sack that had none of the corn dust beaten out of it. What should have been the penultimate scenes in CRIPPLED CREEK, the murder moments, were also a total let down. The ideas for the “kills” that transpired were right out off Joseph Conrad’s The Most Dangerous Game and the reason for killing the campers seemed to evoke memories of THE FOREST (1981), but like so many other components of this misery-fest, they were not shot well or shot to be “creative” and ended up just being a mess. On the audio side, whoever miced the cast and possibly the people who mixed the sound didn’t know how to do their jobs either for the dialogue was nearly impossible to hear unless the actors were screaming. At that point, I was actually thankful for the overacting and poor performances for at least I could hear what was transpiring. There were a few moments where somewhat atmospheric incidental music was utilized and had this been done more often, some kind of “mood” might have been fashioned. What was usually the case was that “music” produced by rock bands who were probably friends or associates of the crew was laid over the dialogue and “action” sequences, but it ended up sounding like someone had left a radio on during the filming and occasionally remembered to turn it up. What may have been the greatest shame of the poor camera work and poorer video and audio techniques was that CRIPPLED CREEK was entirely shot in Connecticut and had a very authentic “camping trip” look to it. The exterior sets could have looked very attractive had we been able to see them cleanly and while none of the actors seemed like gifted thespians, I have seen worse portrayals and if we could have heard them better, maybe their lines might have made more of an impact.
Even the bonus features of CRIPPLED CREEK were a fiasco. On the back of the DVD case, it says that in addition to the “theatrical trailer” (this played in theaters somewhere?) that there was a “cast biography” section and a “production photo gallery” segment. HA! There was a trailer and that was it. If there were other extras to be had, they were the best hidden “easter eggs” devised yet for I couldn’t locate them. If there was any disc that needed extras to sweeten my soured heart, this was it, but there was nothing beyond a trailer that wasn’t much more interesting than the feature film.
It isn’t often that I tear apart a film that has some qualities that should make me cheer heartily for it. CRIPPLED CREEK was a New England effort and has three very comely actresses who were obviously willing to get naked for their “art”. There was a killer loose in the forest and the girls were forced to “dodge” him wearing tight tank tops and short shorts. The beefy bo-hunks who provided the much needed “man-meat” for the girls get their just desserts, for there is nothing worse than a useless and well-muscled boy toy in a “slasher” film. In the end, CRIPPLED CREEK is an outstanding study in horrendous execution on nearly every level from pre-production all the way to post-production. Just as someone toiling away in the weight room will get nothing out of their efforts if they don’t understand how to do it right, the people who made CRIPPLED CREEK obviously needed a lot of schooling when it comes to writing and making a motion picture. This movie should be used in college classes on how NOT to craft a horror film.