Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shreck (1990)

Roger (William Lantry), one of the members of a trio of teenage horror fans calling themselves the Dogs of Gore (I dunno, man, must be a US small town thing we wouldn’t understand), lives in the house that once belonged to their rural small town’s local serial killing Nazi, one Max Shreck, who named himself after Nosferatu’s Max Schreck but obviously didn’t know how to spell the name. Because making a pretty hilarious (except for the inserted real footage from concentration camps that’s just dumb and tacky) exposition video about Shreck and dreaming of tours through the killer’s house isn’t enough for an evening’s entertainment when one’s parents are out, the Roger and his horror fan duo of friends hold a fake séance to conjure the spirit of Shreck into a Shreck dummy one parentless day.

Unfortunately, fake séances work as well as your local TV preacher says, so our heroes soon find themselves confronted with the actually possessed Shrek dummy, the ghosts he conjures up by hitting some bedsheets, and timey-whimey troubles that suggest a Doctor Who episode that really went off the deep end.

Before there was the digital camera revolution with its opportunity for everyone and their pet monkey to make a movie in their backyard, there was the camcorder revolution that provided many a young horror film withe means to do the same, just with less yellow. Not surprisingly, many of these films are pretty unwatchable and/or devoid of any charm, which is easily excused when you keep the films’ amateur pedigrees in mind. However, as with the slightly more professional arm of SOV horror, there are quite a few of these films worth watching if you can find them. Though sometimes, I’m convinced, they actually find you.

For my tastes, Shreck certainly belongs to this elite group of kind of awesome films. Obviously, little about it is professional, but as the product of people who at that time had little going for them than the ambition to just make a damn movie, it’s quite charming, somewhat coherent and even features some pretty good ideas that might not make sense but which are fun and interesting if you prefer your entertainment dream-like. The bedsheet ghosts, for example, are obviously a supremely silly idea but they are executed with verve and earnestness, their appearance marking the point where the film leaves the world of your run-of-the-mill backyard slasher and becomes something more goofy as well as something more interesting.

Director Carl Denham (with a name that suggests a movie fan nom de plum, and no further credits despite his partners in crime here later turning up making movies, or turning into Jim Wynorski, I’d not be surprised if he did work under a different name or were indeed a group name for his writing partners Don Adams and Harry James Picardi) avoids the lengthy scenes of nothing happening these kinds of films often have and achieves a nice flow of weird shit happening with pleasant frequency. Even though the camera set-ups tend to the static side of the tracks, there’s clearly some thought put at least into the effective framing of the static shots, so there’s generally a degree of atmosphere that fits a film that does clever if awkward things like providing its exposition via an awkward self-made video made by one of its protagonists.

On the crazy front, Shreck also provides with its bedsheet ghosts, a very specific idea of time travel, a decapitation by swastika ventilator, and the final murder contraption Shreck builds, a thing that combines the basic idea of sack racing with murder. All in all, not a bad achievement for something made on someone’s grandmother’s farm.

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