Reel Life mini-review: 'Saturday Morning Massacre'
Or it might be titled "Saturday Morning Mystery." I've seen both titles used, and the "Massacre" one is much more accurate. We know that a massacre will be coming along on Saturday morning. We've been warned!
Spencer Parson's low-budget, gore-soaked horror tale -- as the title suggests -- parodies the Saturday morning ghost hunter cartoon series "Scooby-Doo," down to the fearless canine and his sartorially challenged human co-stars.
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Except that "SMM" isn't big on actual parody, cleverness or fun. It merely plugs live-action characters into a haunted house tale that winds up being relocated in Splatter City.
Only 67 seconds into this movie, Nancy (Ashley Rae Spillers) wipes blood from the face of fellow-ghostbuster Chad (Adam Tate), rubs it between her fingers, then puts it in her mouth and announces, "It's blood!" -- without any awareness of poking fun at a stupid horror cliché.
"SMM" completed principal photography in 10½ days with much of the dialogue improvised by cast members who, politely, are not graduates of Second City classes.
Parson clearly has affection for the ridiculous artifice of the "Scooby-Doo" TV show, but none of that translates into this meandering, uninspired riff on haunted silliness.
"Saturday Morning Massacre/Mystery" opens at the Music Box Theatre, Chicago. Rated R for drug use, language, nudity, sexual situations and extreme violence. 83 minutes. ★ ½
Holy Batman, Batman!
Join me and film historian Raymond Benson as Dann & Raymond's Movie Club celebrates its seventh season opener, "It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's the Greatest Superhero Movies!" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, at the Schaumburg Township District Library, 130 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg.
Catch clips from early "Captain Marvel," "Superman" and "Batman and Robin" serials, plus Tim Burton's groundbreaking "Batman," along with Christopher Reeve's "Superman" and all the Marvel comics characters the silver screen can hold. Super free admission! Go to stdl.org or call (847) 985-4000.
Reel Life film notes:
• The Chicago Film Critics Assn. presents a special showing of Albert Brooks' outstanding 1991 comic fantasy "Defending Your Life" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, as part of the "Film With a View" program at the Studio Movie Grill Wheaton, 301 Rice Lake Square, Wheaton. Admission costs a measly $1! How can you go wrong?
Brooks plays a man who dies and discovers that before he can go forth in the afterlife, he must explain and defend all the fears he experienced in earthly life. "Defending Your Life" will be hosted by CFCA member Patrick McDonald of Hollywoodchicago.com and the Chicago Film Tour. Go to studiomoviegrill.com.
• Hollywood filmmaker Fred Dekker flies into Chicagoland this weekend to help the McHenry Outdoor Theater throw a "Terror in the Aisles" horror marathon to finance its conversion to digital projection.
About 350 drive-ins remain (down from more than 4,000 in 1956) and many are predicted to go under if they can't afford the cost of switching to digital projectors at a cost of $70,000-plus per unit.
Scott Dehn's McHenry is one of several suburban theaters to host fundraisers to finance their digital conversions: Barrington's Catlow successfully raised digital capital from donations; Mike and Mia Kerz used proceeds from their Flashback Weekend Horror Convention in Rosemont this month to keep their Midway Drive-In in Dixon operational; the Cascade Drive-In in West Chicago converted last spring.
Friday and Saturday (Aug. 30-31) Dekker will introduce his 1987 movie "The Monster Squad," which starts at 8:30 p.m., followed by Lucio Fulci's more graphic "Zombie," "Sleepaway Camp" and Mario Bava's "House of Exorcism." Tickets cost $10 ($5 for kids). Go to goldenagecinemas.com or facebook.com/terrorintheaisles.
• To commemorate its 40th anniversary, the cult movie "The Harder They Come" will be released theatrically in a restored, remastered version at local theaters on Thursday, Sept. 5. The late Perry Henzell directed this raw and ultralow budget tale starring aspiring reggae singer/songwriter Jimmy Cliff.
Thousands of fans rioted during the grand opening in Kingston, Jamaica, when they couldn't get into the Carib Theater. The feature spent six years as a midnight movie staple around the United States. A Blu-ray version will be released later this year. Go to thehardertheycome.com/theatres for tickets and details.
• I finally caught up with the cliche-riddled home invasion horror film "You're Next," which was smart enough to emulate "Scream 2," not "Scream 1." Still, everyone in this gory survival drama proves to be so stupid, no one really deserves to live until the closing credits.
When crossbow assailants fire bolts into a family gathering around a dinner table in a remote summer house at night, nobody thinks to turn off the lights. Or instantly flee the room. The whole movie pivots on the premise that these people can't afford proper window treatments -- or never, ever close the ones they actually have.
Best line in the movie, delivered by a mystery villain to an invited dinner guest: "We had no idea you were so good at killing people!"
• Before watching "You're Next," I saw a trailer for Sylvester Stallone's upcoming prison movie "Escape Plan." It contained three major clichés: 1) introducing a woman by showing us a close-up of her shoes 2) uttering the overused "Showtime!" 3) showing a character coolly walking in slow motion while something explodes in the background. Maybe when the movie comes out Oct. 18, we'll have even more clichés.
• The blues doc "Born in Chicago" will be screened by the Midwest Independent Film Festival at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3, at the Century Centre in Chicago. Director John Anderson will field pre-movie questions along with producer Timm Martin. It's the "untold" story of the Chicago blues evolution. Go to midwestfilmfest.org.
• The 25th Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival starts Thursday, Sept. 5, and runs through Sunday, Sept. 8, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Columbia College Chicago's Ferguson Theater and the Music Box Theatre (Sunday). Tickets cost $11 (general admission), $7 for students with discounts for film center members, students, faculty and staff of the School of the Art Institute. Go to chicagofilmmakers.org/onion_fest.
• Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!