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Friday, 13 July 2012

JULY 13, 2012

GENRE: BREAKDOWN, SURVIVAL
SOURCE: DVD (ONLINE RENTAL)

It’s bad enough that Comic Con has prevented me from celebrating Friday the 13th properly by watching one of Jason’s adventures, but it makes it that much worse when my “canon” entry for the day is a movie as terrible as Junior (aka Engine Trouble - seriously?), a woeful, creatively starved indie from the Netherlands that can’t manage to do a single thing right. However, it surprisingly ended on a scene lifted nearly wholesale from Friday the 13th Part 2, so it was KIND of like celebrating the holiday. Like eating a frozen Lean Cuisine turkey meal on Thanksgiving, or masturbating to scrambled porn on Valentine’s Day.

The most offensive thing about the movie is that it runs 90+ minutes, despite only having a pair of protagonists (a lesbian couple, one of the movie’s few somewhat novel ideas), an obvious plot you’ve seen in 596 other movies, and (ironically enough) a fairly quick route to the point of the movie where the car breaks down – it’s only like 15 minutes or so into it when someone who has never seen a movie before would recognize that something was amiss. I mean, if this was some slow burn version of this movie, where they’d spend like 45-50 minutes developing the characters and being all ominous like, it might work, but they skip that stuff – I’m still unsure if the characters were already a couple at the beginning or if they just decided it along the way (they live separately and one says “best part of this weekend: no men!” as if men were a usual issue for them? I don’t get it).

So if the title character (for lack of a better word – no one calls him Junior) starts doing his thing that early with only two victims, how the hell is this movie 93 minutes long? Simple: everything is dragged out to eternity and/or done twice. There’s a lengthy opening scene that serves no use other than to tell us that “Junior’s” mom killed herself, a story that is explained in full later. There are TWO scenes where the Final Girl goes into the gas station, talks to the weird woman who runs it, and looks suspicious about the growling “dog” that is being chained up behind a door, just in case we didn’t get the first time that the gas station, like many before it, is run by the bad guys. And since Junior is mentally challenged, it allows the screenwriter to have an endless scene where the heroine and the other villain try to convince him to kill the other, giving us what seems like an entire reel of the girl saying “It’s OK, I love you…” while the guy (his dad) tells him to kill her.

But the crème of the crop has to be 10+ minutes (not exaggerating) where she sits in her dead car (it dies twice, in keeping with this movie’s tradition of being NASA and doubling up on everything) and screams as Junior tries to get her from the roof. Why he doesn’t just jump down and smash through the window is a bit of a puzzle, but is it worth questioning the logic in this movie at this point? At one point my Badass-in-chief Devin (who I was sharing a room with at Con) came in and saw a moment near the beginning of this nonsense, went into his room, chatted with one of our other suitemates, checked his email, etc, and then came back and noted that the scene hadn’t changed. Honestly if we weren’t busy (I had to watch the movie in two sittings) I would have had him review the damn thing with me, since I’ve seen all of this shit so many times and have run out of ways to explain why it’s obnoxious, but I bet he’s only seen like, 10 breakdown horror movies, being that he spends his time more wisely.

The movie also has the most insultingly stupid “payoff” of all time, involving some lighter fluid. For no reason that I could spot, the heroine buys extra lighter fluid from the gas station (if she smoked – which we don’t see her do – why not just buy a shitty Bic lighter? Your car is broken down and your friend is missing, do you really want to be dealing with the lighter fluid refilling process?), and this little can somehow manages to stay with her throughout her ordeal – running from and battling Junior in the field, running after some random people who drive by and allow for some 2nd act violence (they don’t count as protagonists), being dragged from the field to the impossibly large dungeon under the tiny gas station, etc. I mean, wouldn’t it have just made more sense for her to grab some when she actually needed it (being that they were in the same goddamn location) and use it then, rather than have some bullshit reason to give it to her so long ago that most viewers would probably forget it even existed? For a great example of how do to this exact same plot point, watch Halloween II, when the cop offers Loomis a cigarette and the lighter, to which Loomis just absentmindedly accepts and puts in his pocket without even realizing what he’s doing (he doesn’t smoke!). It’s a great little character moment that doesn’t distract, but then later when he needs it, it has some motivation to be there. THAT’S how you reverse engineer a plot point!

At first I was terrified to spot a “Special Features” menu on the disc, but as it turns out it was merely a photo gallery (why?) and the trailer, which spoils the identity of the non-Junior villain for the zygotes in the audience who didn’t figure it out from the second he was introduced. I guess we can also count the box art as a special feature too, since the killer they show is similar but not actually the one in the movie (different clothes, different design for the face mask, and a pickaxe instead of the scythe – it’s particularly funny on the motion menu where you can see them side by side). In the movie he actually kind of looks like Darkman in “homeless/bandage” mode, so maybe they changed it so they didn’t confuse anyone into thinking this was Darkman 4: Die Shitty Horror Movies Die.

Silver lining - director Marc Ickx hasn't written/directed a movie since. I appreciate that.

What say you?


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