In the spirit of full disclosure, I must reveal that I consider the writer of this movie, Rick Suvalle, a friend. I’ve reviewed a couple of his movies in the past, and felt I’d created a bit of awkwardness between us because I tried to be honest as I always do in my criticism. He claimed to appreciate my comments, and by that I mean the negatives I offered up about the films. From what I know of filmmaking most of my problems with those two movies had little to do with the writing. But still, I’m sure my comments stung a bit. For that I am sorry. Don’t worry, we’re still friends. However, I had assured him that instead of reviewing his most recent film, “Scarecrow”, I would merely offer some promotional comments and talk about it in terms of how it relates to my annual month long Horrorfest this year. He seemed nervous at just that prospect, but I insisted that I wouldn’t offer traditional film criticism. Then I watched the movie, and I really liked it. As I write this I still don’t know if this is going to be some sort of review, but I have to say, I really liked it.Read More
The movie joins a very small collection of surprisingly compelling movies that have been featured in past Horrorfests centered on the horror icon of the scarecrow. A few years ago I revisited a made for TV horror film that I remembered well from my youth called “Dark Night of the Scarecrow”, which involved the spirit of a mentally handicapped man returning from the dead to take revenge on the men who tormented him in the form of a scarecrow. “Scarecrows” had a cult following, and although I didn’t like it as much as the people who had suggested it for my Horrorfest, it holds a special unique place in my Horrorfest memory. “Scarecrow” is better than either of these movies.
Made by the SyFy channel, “Scarecrow” shows a surprising resistance to the campy nature that infects most of their original movies. It involves a busload of high school kids who are sent to an abandoned farm for a detention punishment to dismantle a scarecrow for the town’s annual scarecrow festival. Once there they discover something that I guess we’ll call a scarecrow, and it is not happy to see them. Soon the body count starts mounting and the potential victim pool starts shrinking.
Rick told me he pitched the script based solely on the design concept of the scarecrow. Despite the limited recourses of cable television they nailed it with the scarecrow design. It is a creepy looking wraith-like thing that appears to be composed of rotting corn stocks. It climbs onto things like a rapidly creeping ivy with long claw-like fingers and an empty skull-shaped face. If I ran into it in a corn maze, I’d be leaving a puddle behind.
Director Sheldon Wilson takes Rick’s efficient script and builds a moody production around it that includes some wonderfully atmospheric scary locations. He and Rick are smart to take the action away from the cornfield fairly quickly. The action in the corn threatens to become monotonous and confusing for the audience. Soon we find our victims occupying a dilapidated farmhouse, a misty tree grove at night and a creaky boat graveyard. These touches help to elevate this made for TV feature to the level of a theatrical release. The film’s strongest feature by far is the design of the scarecrow, however.
So I guess I broke my promise to Rick not to review this film, but the movie is worth more than just a promotional write up. Unfortunately, SyFy’s final airing of the film for this Halloween season was Saturday. But surely, the movie will be available on DVD soon enough. Rick’s SyFy horror flick “Roadkill” is currently available on DVD.
Even the most casual genre viewer knows anytime a group of young people hit the byways for a road trip, it’s going to end badly. And if the trip happens to be on the rural roads of a foreign land, you might as well pack body bags along with the beer, condoms and pot.
While the premise of the road trip gone horribly wrong is indeed an overused genre trope, fans shouldn’t let that stop them from checking out the Syfy Original Movie Roadkill, which airs this Saturday, April 23, 2011.
Directed by Johannes Roberts and written by Rick Suvalle, this incarnation of the road trip to hell introduces us to five young Americans who decide to hit the back roads of Ireland for a scenic weekend. They haven’t seen one another in a while, one of their clan has relocated to Dublin for career purposes, and the group sees it as a chance to reconnect before the grind of adult life begins in earnest. It may also provide an opportunity for estranged lovers to reunite.Read More
They hit the road in a rented RV and take in the picturesque Irish countryside as planned, but it’s not long before things take a dark turn when they cross paths with a community of backwoods gypsies. Cultures clash as they always do in these paradigms, and during a hasty getaway the group runs over an old woman with their RV. When they try to help, she uses her last dying breath to place a curse on the shell-shocked clan, telling them the “Simuroc” will avenge her and kill them one by one.
Rather than suffer the wrath of the locals who will descend upon them long before authorities can arrive, the group opts to flee the scene, having no clue as to the cycle of events which has now been set in motion.
They soon find out the Simuroc is a giant bird of prey which will stop at nothing to complete its contracted mission of revenge, and it’s at this point the pic kicks into high gear as the RV speeds through the countryside with the Roc in hot pursuit.
True to formula, a series of events impedes the group’s escape, and just when the script appears to be entering all too familiar territory with a predetermined kill order, writer Rick Suvalle does a nice job of shifting character focus so we’re never entirely sure who’s going to be the next victim and, more importantly, who’s going to survive, if anyone.
Another nice change-up is, too often, the filmmakers of these Syfy Originals rely heavily on the monster of the week, which makes them one-note; thankfully that’s not the case here as Suvalle and Roberts take the pressure off their monster by wisely keeping the gypsies a part of the story dynamic. Rather than merely serving as a vehicle by which events are set into motion, the clan gives chase throughout the flick and, at times, is far more frightening than the Simuroc. This is due entirely to the stand-out performance of Ned (Sherlock Holmes) Dennehy as the leader of the gypsy clan. He’s genuinely menacing and almost single-handedly raises the level of the film. Stephen (Stuck) Rea is solid in the small role of a local policeman who knows all too well about the Simuroc and its exploits, and Kacey (Resident Evil: Afterlife) Barnfield shows strong acting muscle as “Kate”, one half of the estranged lovers. The rest of the cast is actually pretty good for a Syfy Original, but Dennehy is sure to leave the biggest impression.
Johannes Roberts handles directing duties effectively and does a lot to cover budget shortcomings. It’s hard to make a story which primarily takes place inside an RV visually interesting, and he compensates quite well by making the most of the optics when the plot ventures outside the vehicle. He and Suvalle also steer the pic much darker than the average Syfy feature, which is unusual for a cable network that tends to keep its genre fare campy and “horror lite”. It’s an appreciated shift in tone that sets Roadkill apart from other Syfy entries.
The creature effects are a mixed bag as they tend to be with these things. In this case, the effects bounce between bad CGI and looking like something created by Ray Harryhausen, which almost makes them endearing at times.
All in all Roadkill is a solid entry in the Syfy Original genre. While it suffers from some of the shortcomings we’re used to seeing with these films, there are enough pleasant surprises to keep it interesting. The filmmaking is strong overall, and it’s clear everyone involved was actually trying to make a good movie here. You never get the sense anyone involved simply showed up for a paycheck, and their dedication shows.
Roadkill is definitely a ride worth taking.
I was at the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour for two weeks. Panels started early; they went all day. Networks talked to us through lunch; they talked to us about things I hope to never think about again; they promised that every high-concept, elevator-pitch project was really about the characters. I was left ice-cold by things that went over well with almost everyone else; I got excited about things that became running jokes. I heard from Harry Belafonte and Oprah Winfrey and Gloria Steinem and Paul McCartney and Davy Jones, and I shook hands with Jon Hamm and remained upright. (BOOYAH.)Read More
But everyone needs a break just for survival — a moment when the brain can go into full and rejuvenating hibernation like a snoozing European hedgehog. That’s how I found myself sitting in my hotel room one afternoon, looking at a growing pile of brainy screeners from Showtime and BBC America and HBO and PBS, thinking, “I’m going to take out this screener of this Hallmark Channel romance called Honeymoon For One, starring Nicollette Sheridan as a woman who finds love in Ireland, and I am going to watch the heck out of it.”
Oh, yes. Oh, yes, I did, people. And I am telling you this because your chance to see Honeymoon For One on the Hallmark Channel comes tonight at 9:00 p.m. Note: I AM NOT SAYING YOU SHOULD. I am saying you can. You may. Science allows it. And if your brain is in a tired-hedgehoggy kind of place, it might even appreciate it.
So Nicollette Sheridan plays Eve Parker. And who is this woman? Well. As the Hallmark synopsis puts it, “Eve Parker is a confident, beautiful woman who has it all.” As you know, in a romantic comedy (which, in fact, is what this sort of is), any confident, beautiful woman who has it all is asking for trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Poor Lady Is Clearly Deluded.
Indeed, Eve is right about to get married to her boyfriend (he has a name, but we can just call him The Weasel), when she discovers that The Weasel is cheating on her and she calls it off. (Here, she suffers The Wound. Every such love story must contain The Wound.) But since she already has the tickets to Ireland for the honeymoon, she decides she’ll just go. She will stay at a resort castle called … Castlewilde. THAT’S RIGHT. It’s called CASTLEWILDE. (Undoubtedly the best place to go on a first date since Ye Olde Warme Hearte closed down.)
And there’s another catch, too, which is that she and The Weasel were involved in a business deal involving … selling their jointly owned business to MacGuffin Industries or something. Obviously, the deal falls apart when the engagement does. As you can imagine, you’ll want to keep that in mind.
Here are some things you should know: Eve takes more luggage than she can easily carry up the stairs. She does not have appropriate shoes for the countryside. She suffers the humiliation of being booked in the honeymoon suite alone. (Sad trombone.) But WHAT DO YOU KNOW? On the way into the hotel, she runs into a handsome fellow with a brogue and calluses on his hands because he likes the outdoors, and he helps her with her stuff. She, of course, is brusque with him, because of The Wound. If you guessed that his name is Sean because everyone in a TV movie set in Ireland is named either Sean or Patrick, you guessed correctly. If you further guessed that he works at Castlewilde so that they will be seeing quite a bit of each other during her trip, you have again guessed correctly. YOU ARE PSYCHIC.
Could you say no to this moppet (Katie Bannon) and her father (Greg Wise)?
Determined to enjoy her honeymoon in spite of everything, she sets out and encounters the one thing guaranteed to melt the heart of every successful woman laid low by heartache: a 12-year-old moppet. Here, a moppet with a brogue. Her name is Kathleen, and who do you think is her father? WHO? WHO? That’s correct; her father is Sean, and her mother is Sean’s Tragically Dead Wife, and she takes a liking to Eve.
Now. From here, you know everything that will happen, from the desire not to disappoint the moppet to the healing of The Wound. Here are some other things that are part of this movie.
1. The Environmental Dispute. You know how, in Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, they have to save the community center from being destroyed by the evil developers? It’s kind of like that, only it’s a forest and a golf course.
2. The Return Of The Weasel. Naturally, The Weasel still wants to sell the company to MacGuffin Industries, so he wants to convince Eve to forgive him long enough to sign some paperwork. Will she fall for it? Will Sean see her with The Weasel and misunderstand everything?
3. The Miraculous Business Presentation. You see, Eve also has a job, and it involves coming up with a logo for a giant Asian conglomerate, and she needs some inspiration. She just might find it when she explores her true self in the rolling hills. Might.
4. Castlewilde. Juuuust wanted to say it again.
It is ridiculous. It is so predictable that I found myself trying to predict lines out loud and really not doing all that badly. Hearts melt! Worlds collide! People coo! Nicollette Sheridan rides a horse a lot!
I’m not going to lie. My hedgehog brain purred like a kitty.
Pamela Anderson Lee lets costar Molly Culver nab the spotlight in the syndie hit’s second opener (written by Rick Suvalle). The “plot”? Culver’s Tasha was once brainwashed in a Siberian prison: She snaps into ruthless-killer mode with the trigger phrase “enter the red realm.” When Russian baddies arrive to turn Tasha on, so to speak, Val and pals must stop them. Think that’s funny? Check this: Val reads Open Toed Monthly magazine; Erik Estrada drops by; and Donny & Marie make a cameo. David E. Kelley will be lucky if Snoops is half this much fun. B+.
Fans of HBO’s award-winning Sex and the City need not fear! The girls are back! Well, sort of. 4 Girls Productions’ Cex and the Sity is a hilarious parody of probably one of my all-time favorite television shows.Read More
Now for those living under a rock the past several years (or anyone without cable), Sex and the City was a Sunday night must for many women, gay men, and just about anyone who needed a good laugh and/or an occasional cry. The premise of the show was simple-four beautiful female New Yorkers gossiped about their sex-lives (or lack thereof) and found new ways to deal with being a modern woman. And, as this originally aired on HBO, it was a cussing, no-holds-barred estrogen fest.
Cleverly written by Rick Suvalle, Cex and the Sity, in just about an hour, flips through six seasons of all the great and prominent memories of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda, who, for purposes of this parody, have now become Shari, Mantha, Scarlet, and Cassandra, respectively. But it doesn’t stop there.
We get glimpses of their initial meetings and what and where they will be in the distant future.
So much happens so fast, it’s almost hard to keep up. I’m sure I missed about a third of the bits and gags. Kudos to the entire cast for keeping up with the necessary rapid pace, most notably Marjorie Suvalle as Shari, who not only physically resembles Sarah Jessica Parker at times, but is just plain hysterical, reminiscent of Julie Hagerty a la Airplane. Also very good are Theresa Fowler as Scarlet and Elizabeth Bowden as Cassandra. The casting of a male in the Samantha role is a brilliant and somewhat obvious decision, though I am not sure Christopher Flynn is comfortable in the part.
Steven Campanella, Sam Dingman, Stephen James Longo, and Jay Spece round out the cast as all the men. Yes, this is a parody and it is sketch comedy, but I felt that there was just a bit too much ham from the boys. Only at times. Otherwise, they were fine.
Michael Ormond’s direction is rapid and right on. Aaron Mastin’s costumes are fitting. The sound design by Joshua Rosalis sets the mood for the entire evening.
One need not have been a fan of the TV show to enjoy this production, but a lot would be missed. That would seem like a downfall, but given how popular the show was (there’s an NYC Sex and the City bus tour, for crying out loud), I think there should be plenty of audience for this group to keep these girls alive just a little longer.
– John Samuel Jordan, nytheatre.com