Saturday, April 20, 2013

SyFy vs. the Mind: Heebie Jeebies (2013)

Because gold-loving local "businessman" Billy Butler (Michael Badalucco, going from annoying odious comic relief to delightful scenery-chewing) can't leave his family's old goldmine alone, a horrifying monster begins munching on the local townsfolk. The thing eats and bleeds gold, exudes a fear-inducing gas and looks like several corpses moulded together to form a large maw on legs, which, as we will learn later on, is pretty much exactly what it is.

The only people standing between the town and a hungry monster are deputy sheriff Todd Crane (Robert Belushi, second runner up for the title of "blandest hero in a movie I watched this week"), his secret love interest Doctor Theresa Lim (Cathy Shim), and the grumpy yet incompetent sheriff (Carl Savering). The latter's answer to a mass murder by monster in his town isn't to call in real police but to assemble a hunting party of local monster meat. As if that weren't bad enough, Todd for his part suffers from debilitating panic attacks that make him totally unfit for police work and rather problematic for heroism, and Theresa is hobbled by the fact that the script treats her as the only sane person in town but doesn't actually let her do anything. But hey, at least she has an expository Grandmother (Lucille Soong), and a younger sister (Olivia Ku) perfectly positioned to help Todd's sister (Evie Thompson) out at not being the only teenage girl threatened by a monster.

Heebie Jeebies is among that number of SyFy Originals (I still want to set the word "original" in quotation marks sometimes) that do their job as inoffensive, silly monster movies with pride and conviction. If you won't to see the movie equivalent of decent fast food, this will fill you and make you happy for ninety minutes.

Despite its basic silliness, and its hugely predictable structure Heebie Jeebies (directed by a certain Thomas L. Callaway who mostly seems to work as a cinematographer, and written by writer/actor/director/everything Trent Haaga) does from time to time put a little effort into giving its clichés some slight twists, proving it wasn't written by a robot. I do appreciate a film that has a very peculiar monster with just as peculiar habits which actually make sense in the context of its creation; I also can't help but root for a film doing right by its expository Grandmother, using her with a casual sense of irony while making fun of the "inscrutable oriental" thing. It's also nice to find a film like this that just has a somewhat multi-racial cast as a matter of course (though it still has rather problematic black characters, if you're thinking "representation of diversity rather" than "useful characters for a monster movie narrative").

And, you know, this is a movie featuring a CGI and rubber gloves monster made out of murdered (by the evil capitalist's evil capitalist ancestors, obviously) Asian miners, eating and bleeding gold and exuding fear gas, which in practice isn't quite as awesome and subversive as it sounds on paper, but really provides Heebie Jeebies with the bit of strangeness and individuality it needs to entertain jaded old fools like me.

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