NOVEMBER 12, 2012
Folks ask me often why I'm quitting HMAD in a few months, and since I hate repeating myself, I think from now on I'll merely instruct them to rent No Tell Motel, which should answer the question handily. If it was just the watching, I could probably keep going, but writing the review after is the problem - I just can't think of anything else to say about all of these generic horror flicks. Not that I haven't seen worse, but really, the only reason I made it to the end of this was because I "had" to so I could write up this review for y'all and fulfill my daily promise. Not really the best use of anyone's time.
At times I swore I had actually watched the movie before, as it dealt with a group of five kids who experience road trouble (their motorhome flips over) and end up at a strange location, in this case an abandoned old motel. As the film progresses, everyone reveals a secret about themselves (drug addict! cutter! etc!) and I once again watch a film where I don't understand how any of the characters were friends prior to the film's beginning. Conflict works best when the people DON'T know each other (Night of the Living Dead) or when it comes after we've spent some time seeing how close/friendly everyone is. But here, as in far too many modern horror films about a group of high school/college age folks, everyone in the circle seems to actively hate one another, and if not we will find out that they SHOULD.
For example, our heroine buys a pregnancy test early on and mentions getting black out drunk on Halloween. We're supposed to assume it was with her boyfriend, but there's a vagueness to it, and then later his brother expresses feelings for her. And then, at around the one hour mark, he tells her/us what we already figured out - he was the one who got her pregnant in her blacked out state. So yay, we also have a rapist in the mix. Worse, no one in the movie (including the heroine) acts like a human being - even after she is told she was raped, she mostly just seems annoyed, as if he told her it was him that took the last Hot Pocket or something. And this comes after her best friend is killed, another huge deal that she doesn't seem to get too worked up about beyond simply saying that she's upset. I'm not sure if she's just a weak actress or wasn't well directed (or, like me, simply didn't care about anything in the script) but since the story weighs so heavily on people facing up to their mistakes and taking responsibility for their actions, it would have been nice to buy them as real people instead of cardboard cutouts.
The ghost scenes (or three dimensional flashbacks, I guess) were oddly directed as well, with present day characters standing near the ghosts without any sort of effect to differentiate what was happening in the present and what was in the past. So our heroine will watch part of the backstory from a few feet away (like Lisa Zane seeing the flashbacks in Freddy's Dead) but there's no transition or color shift to show us the change; it just looks like the flashback characters are ignoring her. It's especially problematic when the script opts for a "history repeats itself" climax, with present day characters inhabiting the roles of those in the past, shot exactly the same. Change the lighting or something at least, jeez.
I will give it this much: it doesn't waste time, which at first seems like a good thing before you realize that the plot sort of NEEDS you to have some sort of attachment to the characters in order to be invested in the proceedings. But still: they crash in the first 5 minutes or so, plus someone gets hit by a car in a manner much like Gage Creed. And one of the five is dead before long, so you can't accuse the movie of taking too long to get going. Perhaps a Lost-style series of flashbacks could have helped to flesh out their backstories a bit, and then cut down on the repetitive "looking around the motel"/"Where is ____?" type scenes that make up the bulk of the 2nd act. I don't deny that there's a decent idea somewhere in here, but the execution always falls under one of two modes: lifeless or clunky.
And can we give ghostly little children a rest for a while? You've actually managed to kill their inherent creepiness due to omnipresence. How about ghost teenagers, like Victor Pascow (sorry for all the Pet Sematary references; I don't know why it keeps popping in my head) or that one stalker guy in the Twilight movies? Those are due for a revival, I think. Give little girls with white dresses and sunken eyes a break.
What say you?