Sunday, June 12, 2011

Morty the Mannequin, On the Move!


Even the most fervent devil’s advocate won’t take up the defense when I say that the 1990s were one of the worst decades for the horror genre. Theatrical releases were (for the most part) uninspired and unmemorable, while direct-to-VHS films generally took that route with good reason. Movie maniacs of a certain age bracket have mediocre memories of prowling the video store aisles for something--ANYTHING--that offered even the mildest of entertainment.
For me, one such attempt was The Fear 2, which sucked me in one Halloween night for its cover art involving wood people and clowns. Like so many Blockbuster rentals, it was a disappointment but that didn’t seem any reason whatsoever to not track down (some 12 years later) its source material, 1995’s The Fear.
Quick Plot: Richard, a grad school psychology major, has recurring nightmares of running through the woods into a pair of Troggish/Tusken Raider-esque villains digging a grave while chanting “diametric” in ominous tones. His advisor urges him to investigate these dreams, but Richard would much rather pitch his final project of dragging pals to a cabin and making them face their own phobias in the name of science. 
Silly Richard. Don’t you realize your teacher is played by none other than Wes Craven (!) and is therefore the most intelligent person associated with your film, the one directed by a man whose most notable imdb credit is “Locations Liaison” for Kindergarden Cop?”

Kids never learn, so Richard and a gaggle of pals head out to Evil Dead territory where they immediately discover Richard’s wacky Uncle Peter, his blonde trophy girlfriend, and most notably, Morty, a life-sized wooden doll that used to be Richard’s childhood friend.

Yes folks, this is a horror movie wherein its monstrous villain is named...Morty.
No offense to any readers named Morty (I should've learned my lesson with the name 'Troy' following an unwarranted rant on GleeKast). I’m just convinced it’s a title reserved for middle-aged butchers or husbands who pull their backs cleaning out the gutters.

It doesn’t take long--actually, it really does--for Morty to animate, possessing some of the gang and killing the rest as Richard tries to recall a childhood memory and his girlfriend attempts to figure out who amongst the group is the famed Campus Rapist. Oh, and Richard’s tiny dreadlocked friend--get this--Troy (who bares an incredibly strange but definite resemblance to The Manitou) is trying to make out with his adoptive big sister who is all for it though she kind of maybe reveals that she’s actually sorta his mother.

I’m serious.
On one hand, I appreciate the effort that clearly went into The Fear. It would have been easy to strip each victim down to his or her defining characteristic without saddling everyone with a soap operatic backstory. We’re used to that in our Wes Craven ripoffs. But maybe the mere presence of the man inspired only-time director Vincent Robert to aim for the stars.
Unfortunately for The Fear, its closest thing to a star is Monique Mannen whose best credit is Boring Girl/Dancer in the classic Eddie Murphy hit, Coming to America.

What is this, velvet?
It’s not the worst mid-90s straight-to-video horror you can find on an oddly overdesigned barebones DVD. So it does have that going for it...
High Points
The score for The Fear is actually quite good, with nice carnival undertones creating a strong mood
Any film that references the hilariously un-PC Danish myth of Santa’s evil henchmen Black Peter instantly gets my horrified wink
Low Points
Ah, cheap and dirty DVD releases. How nice it would have been to see what happens in the film once in a while

Lessons Learned
Psychology is a spectator sport
The quest for wholeness is not all it’s cracked up to be. Who knew?!
If going on a coed camping trip with a bunch of college students, expect that every attached male will be aggressively hitting on every attached female
Rent/Bury/Buy
The Fear is not easy to find on DVD (official ‘Long Wait’ on Netflix) so unless you just really enjoy a challenge, I wouldn’t advise investing your energy into seeking it out. It’s not overly awful compared to some of its timely rivals, but eh. Should it fall into your lap, you might enjoy the random oedipal themes and silly woodman killings (which mostly equate to closeups of him cut with closeups of carousel horses). The choice is yours.

8 comments:

  1. Film quality can really be a bummer sometimes, I just bought the DVD for 1990: The Bronx Warriors and I hope that the film quality is as low as the on I bought on every print and I haven't got an inferior-quality copy! (At least it's better than the Masters of the Universe DVD I bought along with it, which was scratched!)

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  2. Ooooh, Bronx Warriors is SO damn fun. I don't know that it's possible to find a clean copy though, but I feel like that movie works even when dipped in bacon grease and projected on the fender of a totaled Toyota.

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  3. Its the true, the 90's were starved for good horror. The only horror film I remember seeing in the theater during the 90's was Lord of Illusions.

    That little manitou guy is awesome.

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  4. There were some high points somewhere underneath all those hyper color windbreakers. It's just not an easy decade to sift through.

    And anytime I can cite The Manitou, I shall!

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  5. Man, you watch some obscure shit! I've never even heard of this movie...

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  6. Clearly you're not raping your Netflix queue nearly hard enough!

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  7. Snaps for the Coming To America reference. My first thought after seeing the movie poster was, 'Did Max Headroom make another movie?' or 'Was Max Headroom actually in a movie?!'

    Some parts of the 80's remain to be but a blur...

    For me, even the bad 90's horror I saw was good. Because it made you laugh and passed the time on Saturday afternoons when you were grounded.

    I'm thinking from your review, watching them now could give you an even worse opinion than before. Even whilst contradictory loving "bad" cinema.

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  8. You know I never turn down a Coming to America reference! Excuse me while I finish this McDowell's burger.

    Dee-lish. And like you, I do have an odd nostalgia for '90s horror because hey, what other options did you have? They've aged badly, though the more time that passes, the more kitchy they become. Think of how we thought of '80s films back then. Slowly but surely, the '90s are getting some cool points.

    Where's the spoon? Ackhaaaaaa...

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