Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day of a Thousand Screams (2012)

Directed by:
Ruben Rox

Slasher flicks have been in abundance since the late 70s. In the thirty-some years since HALLOWEEN (1978) it's become quite clear that most filmmakers weren't going to even bother deviating from the established formula. Day of a Thousand Screams actually does attempt something different. It's one part backwoods slasher and one part supernatural / ghost story, with an environmental message thrown in. Yes, environmental message. Please don't litter, and recycle, too, cause you never know when Mother Nature's gonna come after you. I won't mince words here: this film is strange. Very strange. There's even a quip at the beginning stating that it's "non-serious" and "disjointed." Disjointed is certainly an apt description for what you will see here, but I don't know about non-serious. The movie actually does seem to take itself rather seriously and doesn't seem overly comedic. It's certainly no spoof and I wouldn't even call it a horror-comedy despite some out-of-left-field in-jokes referencing other films. When one character mentions going to see a band called "Severe Face Damage," only a select few die-hard B-movie fans are going to be able to connect that to the Rick Sloane-directed POLICE ACADEMY knock-off VICE ACADEMY (1988).

Day begins in a picturesque National Park with a pair of female joggers; Betsy (Cara Mattern) and Dee Dee (Rachel Wise), running across mysterious, bearded, black-clad Carl Ziegler (David Hoffman). Ziegler promptly impales Dee Dee's hand with a stick before goring her forehead with it, sending Betsy running off in a panic. Meanwhile, a three-person TV crew consisting of nightly news reporter Natasha McGrath (Catherine Franklin), Natasha's personal assistant Olen (director / writer Ruben Rox) and cameraman Wade (Kyle Cardenas) show up to do some kind of Halloween story at a cemetery that they hope will be able to compete with rival reporter Matt Morbid's (Lucien Eisenach) ratings. Strangely, the two female joggers who had already been attacked and presumedly killed end up running across the crew as if nothing had happened. Was what we already saw a flash-forward? Actually, no. Well, maybe, yes. Well, sort of... I think. The whole group of people have become trapped in the woods in some kind of time warp where they're on a continuous loop to get attacked and killed over and over and over again by the same guy for what could be the rest of eternity. Hence, the thousand screams.

Not much is really answered in this vague film. Why this group of people? Is it because they simply all happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time? Or becaue it's Halloween; a special day of evil? Personally, I didn't get that impression so much. Nearly everyone who is killed is seen at one point or another throwing garbage on the ground while the Ziegler character follows behind them and picks it up, so he's clearly angry they're nonchalantly mucking up a beautiful park. Speaking of the Ziegler character, he's completely ambiguous and given no backstory. Aside from being a caretaker, we have no clue who he is or even what he is. He seems to be a cross between Mother Nature and Father Time, and carries around a satchel whose contents we never see. Every once in awhile, he'll get a handful of white powder and blow into the air or onto people. I wasn't quite sure if the powder was used to stop time, repeat time, revive the dead so he can kill them all over again or what. At one point it seems like he has revived one of his victims as a zombie to kill another person, but since we only see a close-up of a mouth it is again difficult to tell. There's also the possibility that the forest (where strange noises and screams after often heard) has somehow possessed Ziegler, but that's just opening up another can o' worms.

All of the above happens to be just the first portion of the movie. The Olen character manages to get out of the forest time trap, though it's not explained how he was able to accomplish such. Perhaps because he didn't litter? Olen returns home and a month passes. We then see him go through his everyday routine. He reads the Terror on Tape book (hey, I have that one too!), eats, watches a horror movie (which seems to be clips from another of the director / star's films), sweeps the kitchen, takes out the trash and runs on the treadmill. He seems to be haunted by ghosts, though we never get to actually see them. Every so often he'll look off to the side and scream. Finally he has a nasty encounter with a broken VHS tape. These concluding scenes seem grafted on to the original film (which doesn't appear to have been completed) to boost up the running time. They also mark an abrupt drop in quality from the first portion. The woods scenes feature semi-decent DSLR outdoor photography (courtesy Alex Williams) with a very nice faded look (probably added during post-production), while the later indoor scenes seem shot with a lower grade camera and are dark and grainy. This actually works fairly well stylistically.

Because it is mostly set in some kind of constantly-repeating time warp, a nonexistent continuity creating a constant confusion and disorientation can almost get a pass here, though it clearly could have been rendered in a smoother fashion. Scenes are repeated. Scenes are put in slow motion. Scenes are repeated and put in slow motion. Many viewers are probably going to be confused, but the open-ended storyline - with plenty of room for viewer interpretation - will engage others. The music is pretty good, it makes great use of some picturesque Oregon locations and possesses some interest for a surrealism that from all indications was accidentally achieved. And hey, at least it's a little different from the norm.

* I viewed a workprint version of the film and will make adjustments to the review if necessary upon seeing the finished cut.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...