Stars: Amber Connor, Joe Estevez, Tom Downey, Tim Lovelace and Dan Haggerty
|I'm asking major filmmakers to pick two movies from their careers for me to review here at Apocalypse Later. Here's an index to the titles they chose.|
The idea behind this one is to take one of the great American tall tales from the nineteenth century and mix it up for the modern day. Those two founders, Gary Jones and Jeff Miller, thought of Paul Bunyan and how legend had the Great Lakes form from his footsteps and the Grand Canyon from the dragging of his axe, and spun that idea into a slasher movie. With Jason Ancona, they turned it into a script which Jones directed. I liked this idea and it made this slasher more American than most, which is a good thing in my book because, even though most slasher flicks are American, I still think of the genre as Italian because nothing I’ve seen has compared to Mario Bava’s A Bay of Blood or Twitch of the Death Nerve, which had arguably started the whole thing. I liked this film too, at least for the first half to two thirds. Up until that point, it had walked a fine line just this side of cliché, but then it got sloppy and ended cheaply. That’s a shame because a little more effort to wrap things up properly would have made a big difference.
He’s killed by a routine looking maniac in a lumberjack shirt and a latex mask, after returning to find the camp the scene of a massacre. Given how many slasher movies have been set in camps, I’d wonder why nobody’s made Lumberjack Camp Massacre yet but then there wouldn’t be any quality boobs. Of course, anyone remotely familiar with the Paul Bunyan legends has probably figured out what’s going on by now but the rest of the world has to wait until the explanation halfway through, from the token mountain man after the fit has already hit the shan. That provides a neat opportunity for a little more exposition in 1894 and thus a little more screen time for Haggerty and his lumberjack crew, but it’s still not much. I’ve found a lot of Make It a Double choices fascinating for a lot of reasons, but one is the odd discovery that actors sometimes choose films that they’re hardly in, this following in the footsteps of Gunnar Hansen’s choices and Dee Wallace’s Love's Deadly Triangle: The Texas Cadet Murder.
The five juvies are also roughly what you might expect, even if their presence here doesn’t actually make much sense. There’s a thin nerdy kid with glasses called Martin who hacked into the IRS and stole twelve million dollars. Well, eleven and a half. The skeletal white trash girl in a skimpy top is Trish, whose sassy attitude led to three counts of assault on a police officer after she punched a cop who looked at her ass. Zack is an upper middle class drug dealer whose friends needed things. Rosa is the token black chick in distressed jeans and a bitchy attitude; she went down for contempt of court. And Claire, or CB, is the odd one out, a normal girl who was merely ‘a little buzzed’ after a party when she hit a drunk driver who had run a red light in front of her after crashing into three other cars on the way. She’s the one that everyone else gets to sympathise with because justice is a bitch who cares nothing about perspective. She’s also the one with a back story that comes in useful later in the film after things have gone pear shaped.
Originality really isn’t the point here, outside of that initial idea of updating tall tales to a contemporary framework. Then again, how many slasher movies have you seen that have even a trace of originality. I thought as much. Slasher movies tend to be rated on the number of boobs shown and the quality of the death scenes. On those counts, this one does poorly on the former but rather well on the latter, because we only get one pair of boobs and those not for long but as much imagination in the deaths as is possible given that Paul Bunyan really only has one weapon. The effects work is surprisingly good, given how bad the greenscreen work is throughout, and it’s the deaths where they’re put to the best and most frequent use. I was especially impressed with Haggerty’s death scene, where the younger Bunyan forces his head backwards into a circular saw that’s used for cutting trees in half. The scenery is also good throughout; it isn’t Minnesota, but forests in California and Ohio work just as well.
And, of course, that’s what Jones and Miller were going for. For the most part they succeed, even if Bruce Campbell’s memorable quote overplays it a little. ‘Cheesier than a Roquefort sandwich,’ he quipped, ‘but I enjoyed the hell out of it.’ He’s presumably being generous because he has history with Jones, who had started out doing effects work for a whole slew of Bruce Campbell movies, beginning with Stryker’s War, which Campbell co-wrote, and Evil Dead II but moving on to more prominent fare such as Moontrap and Army of Darkness. In fact, most of the crew members have long strings of credits behind them of movies we’ve heard of and have often seen. This may well be a Roquefort sandwich, but it’s a tasty one for most of its running time. With the exception of the cheap and unworthy ending, it bodes rather well for Kinetic Filmworks LLC. I love trying to figure out why people picked the films they did for Make It a Double and I think that, beyond this being the most recent film Haggerty made, it was also a fun experience for him.