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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

SIMON SAYS -- DVD review by porfle

I think it's about time America finally acknowledged the fact that Crispin Glover is a national treasure. He's one of our most unique actors, upon whom we can always rely to give the kind of performance that nobody else could approximate or even imagine attempting to. I don't know where he goes to draw his inspiration, but it must be a strange and scary place. Whether moonily telling Lea Thompson "You are my density", out-weirding Dennis Hopper in RIVER'S EDGE, out-weirding Brad Dourif in DROP DEAD SEXY, being absolutely the only good thing in a "Charlie's Angels" movie, or simply getting kicked off the David Letterman show for being too much of a freak, he's one of a kind.

Except that in SIMON SAYS, he plays twins! Or does he? Simon is the sweetly-retarded one that Mom likes best, while Stanley is the jealous and hostile one who finally goes on a killing spree while the family is enjoying a camping trip in the forest. We see him kill Mom and Dad, and it looks as though he bashes poor Simon's head in with a rock. But we're not sure, because the next time we see them, they're co-managing a dumpy garage years later in those same woods. Still, we never see them both together at the same time, so...

Onto the scene toodles a gaily-painted van with exactly the cast of stereotypes you'd expect. There's Zack the stoner, Ashley the straight-laced "good girl", Riff the oversexed jock, Kate the girlfriend, and Vicky the slut. They're supposedly on their way to the river to camp out and pan for gold, but the real reason they're here is to get stalked, terrorized, and massacred. And boy, do they ever!

The actors play their roles to perfection, and the writers place them into a textbook series of cliched situations as though going down a checklist. Except that they twist things around a little here and there, just enough to keep us off-guard. And besides being a full-blooded charnel house of a horror flick, SIMON SAYS is also one of the funniest spoofs of the genre I've ever seen.

The best part is that nobody except Crispin Glover's character knows that it's a comedy. The rest of the cast play their parts as though they really are the worst bunch of overacting idiots from the worst 80s slasher flick ever made. I got the impression that the actors couldn't wait to inhabit these stereotypical nimrods and enjoy a delightful romp through the dopey side of slasher flick territory.

Zack the stoner (Greg Cipes) doesn't just smoke a lot of weed--he puffs like a smokestack even when he's running for his life. The group has barely pitched their tent before a shirtless Riff (Artie Baxter) pitches a tent in his pants when slutty Vicky (Carrie Finklea) comes on to him and they start making out behind Kate's (Margo Harshman) back. And good-girl Ashley (Kelly Vitz) is such an insufferable, prudish square--"SMORES!" she yelps giddily at the first sight of a campfire--that you just know she's got "last girl standing" written all over her. Oh,, she doesn't.

When Simon decides it's time to have some fun with these unfortunate idiots, all hell breaks loose. He has a penchant for creating intricate launching devices out of scrap machine parts and then loading them with pickaxes. In a couple of scenes the air is literally filled with a hail of twirling, swooshing, razor-sharp pickaxes as Simon calmly fires off round after round at his fleeing victims. It's wonderfully ridiculous to the point of hilarity.

The mayhem gets up-close and personal as well, as Simon goes on a bloodthirsty rampage that includes surrounding campers who are having a paintball war. Meat cleavers, hangings, and lots of dismemberment ensue. One victim is taken apart and stuck back together to form a festive troll doll with a CD-player mouth. Another gets to partake in a game of human tether ball with moving vehicles. Finally, there's a warm family gathering with Simon and his long-dead mom and dad around a picnic table where the last person (currently) standing must make a desperate attempt to escape. That is, after being offered a "hand" sandwich.

Through it all, Crispin Glover is at his flat-out nutty best. He revels in playing Simon (or is it Stanley?) in the broadest strokes possible, emoting his lopsided head off and grinning like a loon. He's also got the worst backwoods hick accent you ever heard, which just adds to the character somehow. ("Yew fuh-GOT...tuh say...Simon SAY-uz!") The scene in which he has a terrified captive strapped into the passenger seat of his wrecker truck is reminiscent of DEATH PROOF, but neither Kurt Russell nor Quentin Tarantino can do crazy like our boy Crispin. And hey, Bruce Glover is perfect as his dad in the flashbacks--it never occurred to me before that the guy who played the demented Mr. Wint in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER was Crispin's real-life dad, but somehow it all makes sense now.

For a movie of this type, SIMON SAYS looks great--writer-director William Dear has some gorgeous northern California locations to work with, and he shoots the whole thing with style. Once things get started, the pace never lets up. Even the sound design is noticeably better than average. I watched a screener so I can't comment on the DVD's bonus features, but they are listed as: director's commentary, storyboard comparisons, and stills gallery. The movie is widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound.

If you don't like Crispin Glover, then you should disregard a major portion of what I just said. If you don't like slasher movies, or even moreso, slasher movie spoofs, then you should disregard really big chunks of it. But if my description of SIMON SAYS sounds even remotely intriguing to you, then Simon says "check it out." (You knew that was coming, right?)

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