This legend will tear you to shreds
Sometimes I get myself in trouble deciding to watch things just reading the description. I once accidentally found myself in an Uwe Boll film because the description sounded passable and I didn’t look at who was involved with it. Tonight, I find myself looking at a movie that if nothing else promises to be a creature flick - and I like those. None of the names mean a thing to me - haven’t heard of any of them - but the description tells me the premise could be interesting in the same way any other creature feature could. So I throttle in the DVD, turn off the lights, and prepare to follow up on the surprisingly good psycho-horror of last week with something that’s way more up my alley - and within the first ten minutes I know if its going to be a good time or I’m going to want to claw my eyes out. Perhaps it should have stuck with it’s more sludge-oriented original title, tonights entry is Clawed.
Normally I like to go over stuff and save the final thoughts till the end, to potentially keep a reader reading, despite the fact there really isn’t much of a reason to. For this one though, the first ten minutes of the movie had driven two things into my head. One: I’m pretty sure I’m about to watch a student film that somehow got published to a wide release. Two: hit the eject button if you don’t like B-movies. If you don’t like turning on cheesy and bad SyFY or Asylum movies, don’t even both here. I’ll break it out more in the later segments, but if you don’t go into this thing with a mindset of bottom bar, you are probably gonna have a bit of a nightmare watching this one. Thankfully, I’m pretty easy to please and find myself enjoying most those shlock-fests. I will admit right now though, I found myself getting a bit bored here, and largely disappointed by the film that I thought at first at least had some potential to really be something enjoyable.
Acting is generally not good. There’s a few moments when it’s passable, but again I’d like to emphasize my earlier comparison to the fact it feels like a student film. I was in a student film a few times - and let me tell you, acting isn’t for everyone (myself in particular), and here I can’t fault people for not trying. Problem being, trying only goes so far - and in honestly a bad acting job only really tends to work when the movie knows it’s absurd and plays itself accordingly. At one point, there’s even a flubbed line that manages to not get cut out, and I almost would have rewound to double check it if I didn’t already want to not spend more time than required on the movie. Some of the annoyances in regards to the acting are certainly due to other departments - such as audio or writing - but when Sheriff cheese chewing up the scene and lines is the best you have to work with, it’s not a great sign.
The audio is probably the more hindering part when it comes to the bonus weights on the acting. Terrible writing can give us such wonderfully bad lines as “I hate sand",” but having clear audio will benefit even the bad actors. On top of the previous mentioned flub that remained in the movie, we also get all sorts of audio static and pop, as well as hard cuts in the audio when it swaps between actual camera cuts. You can still hear everything - the balance is fine - but when the hiss of background finally cuts out as it switches to something that might have gotten added later through ADR or simply a different mic you suddenly notice that hiss all that much more. Now, this didn’t strike me as a super-amped up budget film - again, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a feature length film from a bunch of college kids - and it feels like it shows the strongest when it comes to audio. Every now and then a folly sound also stands out - like an exaggerated swallowing sound or thump - but not in the “stands out because it’s awesome” sort of way, although those with the B-movie mind set might find it more entertaining than the average person (even though I highly doubt that’s the intent). Most the rest of the folly work sounds pretty decent though, so it’s not like the entire movie is a pile of snakes and cartoon sound effects. Sadly, there’s also times when dialogue just isn’t there, or someone is cut off and there’s just an awkward silence there.
When it comes to the writing, it might be the second largest thing that turned into a let down for me. The concept was delivered on - creature in woods killing people - but with how the movie started it had this great opportunity to essentially lay itself out as a sheriff’s case file or perspective as he flashes back to the event he’s describing to the interviewer. Instead, as soon as the flash back occurs we get treated to a whole mess of things that the sheriff wouldn’t know about in any way, and a surprisingly small amount of the sheriff even being involved in things for the most part. Part of the disappointment there is it would help set it apart a little from the general shlock - suddenly turning it perhaps into a more Predator 2 type of movie with plenty of chances to keep the beast hidden or only in glimpses until the end, helping to cover for the budget. The other part of the disappointment is this causes a bunch of moments to end up just feeling like generic slasher movie filler - a random kidnapper or murderer taking some girl out in the woods under guise of being a photographer, only to get murdered by the beast and play no actual role in moving the plot along at all? Why is that even here? Some random topless lady in the woods with a partner whose been reduced to a skeleton for some reason? Sure, why not. An unnecessary surprise at the end to try and be a twist? For the love of pete!
The largest thing that let me down was the effects though. Having seen no trailers or anything, I wasn’t exactly expecting anything going in. When I get there, the first thing I get to see is a beat up sherrif with some right gorgeous looking scar work done. Well, now I’m excited - regardless of how this thing goes, it should at least have some cool looking effects in it! And then the next scene involves a lady puking out her disease in a “expelling a demon” black projectile mist from her mouth - except it looks like my level of amateur pasting an effect over footage in movie maker, complete with no regard to having it appear to be coming out of her mouth instead of just over-top her mouth. It was at that point I started to worry about what I was getting into. Then we start seeing plenty of full on shots of the creature, and it doesn’t really look great. The head almost looks cool, but the floppy fingers and at one point obvious guy wearing shoes with costume around it largely keep this thing from being impressive. It is a bit of a shame, because the idea of a ooze-creature fueled by evil and disease is a pretty rad one, but given the title and the bear claw present on the artwork and emphasis on “Bear Claw Massacre” I sort of expected something more bear-like intimidating. A bunch of the gore effects fair more along the lines of the sheriff’s scars - they look at the very least good enough to be enjoyable in that cheese kind of way. Eyes pop, bodies get shredded, and a couple of decapitations are even in there. On the other end of that, we have a pretty fake destroyed hand in there as well - so it’s got some highlights and some lowpoints in the effects category.
Now, cinematicaly the thing probably showed the most thought. Although not every shot is the greatest, they are usually brought down more by the at times shoddy effects than they are necessarily whoever is in charge of the camera. Particularly during the first search party incident, there’s some shots that are really well done, with the creature drifting right by with the camera as it pans or swings its focus on a character, giving you this quick out of focus glimpse of the beast to set up the danger that’s about to happen. Every now and then you also get a nice angled shot, up from the ground as a door is about to be opened to give a nice tense view of the character about to potentially be in danger, for example. At times, thing’s aren’t the most steady and that can be a let down, but there’s also a little punch added to the opening talking heads by doing things like having a shot zoomed in on the mouth as well. It’s nice touches, although not really enough to punch the movie up to anything more than what it is. If anything, it only adds more to the feeling of student film - grabbing whomever you can that wants to act for you, finding that one friend whose really good with the gore effects, smacking together a simple and basic plot, and fitting in some of those different angles and film theory to show that you payed attention in class. There are times when things are a bit underlit - be it on purpose or not I don’t know - but for the most part it’s never an issue where you can’t see something you are supposed to see.
When it comes down to it, this is a pretty easy one when it comes to where I stand on it and that’s something I can appreciate. If you aren’t the kind of person who could throw on Santa Claus Conquers the Martians or perhaps Avalanche Sharks and have a good time, don’t touch this one with a stick. I didn’t go in with any real expectations beyond what it delivered on - that of a creature - but even then I found myself being disappointed at plenty of things. Most SyFy original films have a one liner that stands out as a reason why I watched them - that one thing someone said that makes me laugh and sticks with me such as how the power of love will protect from snow sharks, or ripping off Indiana Jones while trying to trap a giant snake in a tube and delivering the line “I am going to die here” with your face squeezed up to a small hole. For this movie, the closest moment I got to that was characters yelling “Doctor Jones” into their walkies. The concept had some promise, as did the effects, but in the end nothing really impressed all that much here. It’s not bad enough that I regret watching it, but I’ll honestly say their “surprise” ending felt like it was the movie overstaying it’s welcome to me.