Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Shallow Ground

(2004) ***

This one had been lurking in my "to do" pile for years, having been recommended by both Brothers X-Pants back in the early days (and also last year by Catfreeek). My compatriots' reviews mention the original idea and the charm of anything made well for 72 thousand dollars, and Shallow Ground does have that going for it.

The ploot: The tiny sherriff's station in a woodsy town is shutting down, having only been created to police the crew of a dam project that is now complete. A naked teenage boy covered head to toe in blood walks into the station without a word. Apprehending him, they find the blood that coats him comes from at least three different people, all murder victims from years ago. A run of his fingerprints reveal they are a composite of the fingerprints of more murder victims. Miles away, another mysterious bloody guy shows up.

Sigh. Okay, yes, this one gets three stars from me because I think my fellow 'thonners might like it, but... oh, geez, I figured it out right away.

There's an item in Octopunk's Book of Story No-Nos that I call "The Second Set of Brainwaves." Once I decided to watch an episode of a Babylon 5 spin-off series called Crusade, that had a ship on a quest and yadda yadda yadda. In one episode they fight a race of aliens that have no form but possess other aliens through physical contact. They discover this dead ship with one baaarely alive alien in it and that's where all the possessor aliens are lurking, in that guy. And the doctor is scanning and says something like "I'm getting a ghost image, like a second set of brainwaves." And I said "THERE. THAT. That little fact right there is the THING that you are going to be dealing with for the next 60 minutes, and it's probably going to endanger your life. You're looking at it right now." And my problem isn't so much that people who have watched years of TV sci-fi are going to spot that like I did, but that people who are plumbing the depths of outer freakin' SPACE should learn to pick up the clues.

Both the blood types and the fingerprints are perfect examples of The Second Set of Brain Waves. Clues that give the whole game away. Am I being unfair to the small town sherriff shack? Probably. They're not seasoned space explorers, after all. But I just wanted to yell to the protagonists "Can't you see? He's a..."

Okay, I won't say it. You'll probably like this better than I did, so I won't spoil it. I only included the details I did because they've been mentioned in other Horrorthon reviews.

I like to imagine that, were I myself in a similarly mysterious situation, I'd spot The Second Set of Brainwaves quickly and deduce the strange answer. But with my luck, I'd be the one character everyone thinks is crazy.

I'll tell you this for free: The main character in Shallow Ground is stupid. He's haunted by something in his past that these current events dig up. His team was stalking a serial killer in the woods, hoping to recover (alive) a friend of theirs who had been taken by the baddie. We see the killer and the still-alive victim, as she endures a non-fatal but agonizing cut down the center of her chest.

Then! Our hero shows up and the killer flees. So he unties the wounded victim, gives her his jacket, and says he'll be right back, leaving her there to be snatched up by the killer again so the job can be finished.

That's what's haunting him. And it should, because that maneuver was unfathomably stupid. So stupid! I have to say that immediately shunted me out of the movie, that I was meant to like this obvious fucktard.

So I had some problems with it, but you may find it charming. It's definitely a scrappy little movie, and it does feature some boobs and a lot of bloody teen boy butt shots. Also the grown up Patty McCormack, who played Little Miss Evil in The Bad Seed.


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