The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

7 Below aka Seven Below (2012)

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I saw this was on Instant, and it had Val Kilmer and Ving Rhames in it.  That's it, oh, and it was 90 minutes long.  That helps too.  As an aside, did you know that Val Kilmer and Ving Rhames were born about seven months apart?  Both in 1959, Rhames on May 12, Kilmer on December 31.  imdb is a wonderful time waster, isn't it?

7 Below is about a house in which the family's adopted son kills them all in the early 1900s.  When a group of people in the present time, including Val Kilm and Luke Goss, take a bus trip into the Minnesota wilderness, and the bus crashes, local man Ving Rhames takes them back to his place to wait out a storm.  That place is, you guessed it, the house where the kid offed his family.

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I know Val, it hurts.  I don't know what we're doing here.  Too much nothing happening.  Too much almost happening but not happening.  So many loose ends flying together near the end that I needed a pair of safety goggles.  Maybe most egregious: our heroes do nothing to figure out their own plight or how they can fix it.  They stumble around aimlessly in the dark, though we're supposed to believe they know what they're doing, but they never get close to what's happening to them, and need it revealed in the last 10 minutes.  That's lazy in my book.  There was an attempt to affect a Stephen King style secluded location creepiness, but the characters don't buy in, which means we lose it; and the Vincent Price haunted mansion style film falls flat too when, despite Rhames's best efforts, his Price-like character is written too flatly to keep us intrigued.  By the time we see a ghost in a sheet attack the hero (I'm not kidding, it was almost bad Halloween costume ghost in the sheet), I was done.  This is a pass for me.

Val honey, I know, what is your agent doing?  How did you end up in this?  Yes, if you close your eyes enough maybe it'll all be a dream and you'll be back playing Jim Morrison.  His role in this isn't as big as you'd like, and while I'm giving some of the plot away, I think it's better to warn you going in that, while he's good, he barely makes it through the first third of the film.  A surprising development?  A plot twist keeping us on our toes?  Or a Kilmer bait-and-switch?  You decide.  (Oh, and I will not make any jokes about how former Batman Kilmer looks primed to play the Penguin in the next film.)  (Didn't you just say you weren't going to make that joke?)

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I don't know if this movie was trying to be original or hit us with an original concept, but it was pretty paint-by-numbers, right down to the classic White Man Will Save You trope.  Latina?  White Man will save you.  What reason do you have not to trust me?  There is not 500 years of history telling you you're making a mistake, this is a movie, and White Man is good, very good.  Yes, statistically speaking, if a woman is stranded on the side of the road with car trouble and a straight White Man pulls over to help her, things are more likely to end badly for her than good for her-- but not in Movieworld, where White Man is good and he will hug you and love and protect you from Bad Men.  Save us White Man!

Ving Rhames does his best to pull what he can from his character.  He tries to make it a cross between his own aesthetic and that old Vincent Price haunted mansion character, but there isn't much there for him to work with.  Man it was fun watching him try though.  Maybe that's why he took this role, for the challenge of pulling that off.  If you really want to think outside the box though, have the blond-haired blue-eyed hero play the Vincent Price character, and Ving Rhames be the guy that picks up the hot Latina who's having car trouble.  Now that's a plot twist for an American movie.

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Among the other stars, we had Matt Barr as our hero, Bonnie Somerville as Kilmer's wife, and Rebecca Da Costa as the woman Barr picks up by the side of the road.  They all do the roles you expect them to, though Somerville as Kilmer's wife was fun when she and Kilmer were arguing early on, and it was too bad she couldn't play off him more.  Then there was Luke Goss and Barr's brother.  We've seen him in a fair amount of DTV roles, and he seems to have carved out this niche for himself playing the early-thirtysomething all-American jackass.  He has it all down, the mannerisms, the speech (though his accent does peak out from time to time) the boot-cut designer jeans with rips in all the right places, the gaudy belt buckle, the knit cap, and the four-button muscle-fit henley.  The thing is, in real life he's a fortysomething man from London.  I guess if his twin brother Matty can carve out a niche playing gigs at Caesar's Palace in Vegas, Luke can carve out a niche as the all-American jackass, and I think he being removed from it like he is, he can bring a sense of self-awareness to his rendition of the character that a real all-American jackass wouldn't have.  In that sense, Goss may have been the most consistent character, in that like the others it was so one-dimensional, but he's going for that and nailed it.

Obviously this is a pass for me.  My girlfriend told me that when she looked it up on Netflix after I told her I was reviewing it, that one of the reviewers on there asked for the ol' temporal refund-- you know, "I want my 90 minutes back."  I never demand the temporal refund, because good or bad I get a review out of it, but you might, so I'd avoid it, because we all know no one has ever been made whole on that temporal refund in the history of movies.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1988781/

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