Saturday, September 14, 2013



Well, ladies, this was QUITE A MOVIEGOING EXPERIENCE.  This 2008 straight-to-video feature, directed by David Winning and starring Cindy Sampson, Bruce Dern and Nicholas Wright, is all about a SMALL TOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, troubled by a series of mysterious deaths in which the victims are found FLOATING FACE UP IN THE LOCAL SWAMP.  This is a bit of a recurring problem, as Cindy Sampson's character -- "Melanie Blaime" -- finds out when she goes home for the first time since age 12 to see her father (Dern) before he dies.  The call comes from a guy from her childhood she doesn't remember, Jimmy Fuller (Wright), and she drives to her old stomping ground to find the town virtually in ruins and deserted.   Why?  Although the good townspeople don't know it yet, they have a SWAMP MONSTER.  Where does Jimmy drop Melanie off to wait to meet her dad?  A cabin out in the middle of the swamp, where a sheriff's posse, including the half-mad father of a young woman who was murdered, is aiming to hunt down her dad.  WILL ANYONE SURVIVE?


>> This was a great idea, indifferently executed.  From the landscum POV, there was not enough character development, not enough scary swamp-romp scenes, and not quite enough paranormal build-up. 

>> From the fish POV, there is simply NOT ENOUGH SWAMP.  We never get to see any good human swampsmanship one-upped by a terrifying creature beyond human ken.  We never get to see any old swamp hands making their way in life by noodling Catfish.  There are no grim omens in the form of unnatural visions, happenings, or again UNNATURAL CATFISH in said swamp.  We don't see any bayou appeasement rituals or the crafting of old-fashioned hoodoo charms, despite the suggestion that swamp magic brought this terror about.  There is no sense of place at all, in fact.  Are we in the marshes of Michigan?  The saltwater flats of the Carolinas?  The Gulf Coast?  Search me.  Nobody ever says.

>> Oh, the creature?  Another great idea indifferently executed.  They resorted to the usual: a CGI cartoon.  This could have been beefed up considerably with a little more attention paid to the script and some serious suspense-building, plus a rubber monster suit. 

>> This movie was made by people who love and appreciate the Evil Dead  movies and attempted to answer for us what those killer vines were up to in those pictures -- a tempting image the Raimi brothers never really followed through on.  Again, the filmmakers in this case got off to a great start but appeared to run out of ideas partway through.  The killer vines may ultimately have been the heart of the story, but someone got distracted by a shiny object and nothing ever came of it.

>> Who was Jimmy, anyway?  He's a rather intriguing character who wins the trust of our heroine and leads her a merry chase through the story.  he is what you might call the recruiting operative in this story.  He takes you off into the swamp and you may never be seen again.  He clearly has an intimate knowledge of the local landscape, although we never really get to see him interact closely with the local fish, the local water, or most of the good townspeople.  What's his angle?

>> Who was Shellie?  Played by Bronwyn Mantel, she appears to have played a crucial role in the story but we never really got to see her do her stuff.  Is she a recruit of Jimmy's?  Did she herself recruit Jimmy, way back before the movie began?  How does she know him?  What is she getting out of this deal?

>> Above all, who is Melanie?  She comes off as this kind of once-bitten type who trusts nobody because her mom died and her dad abandoned her.  But she instantly trusts Jimmy, a total stranger, and goes to her hated hometown after a single phone call from him, then lets him lead her up, down and all around in the course of the story.  She'd be easy to recruit, that's for sure.  But was that her role in this story?  Jimmy made like he wanted to recruit her, then didn't make a single move to so do.  What was that about?

>> And this leads us back to WHO WAS JIMMY, ANYWAY?  What a list of wasted opportunities I saw for Jimmy to half-reveal his agenda, his essential weirdness and malevolence if he really is a demon from beyond the grave,, or his ultimately kind & welcoming nature is he really WAS a fish recruiter.

This is a movie that stimulates your imagination and hopes without ever really fulfilling any of the possibilities you end up wishing for.  But it gave me some great recruiting ideas for our bayou operatives.  Watch for new handouts and discussion topics at upcoming chapter meetings!


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