Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Chance
VHS
***
Directed by Amber Benson
Written by Amber Benson
Cast
Amber Benson
James Marsters
unrated
75 min
www.chancemovie.com

First off you did NOT read any of those credits wrong.

This is actually a movie brought to us by Amber Benson and James Marsters of the now-defunct (unless you count the inevitable DVD and syndication) Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It is, in fact, the first from Amber and family's production company, the obviously titled Benson Entertainment.

Which of course begs the question. These two are among the biggest names in horror fiction today. Buffy was an institution. Anyone claiming otherwise simply fails to grasp the concept of "institution." What kind of follow up can do the appropriate justice and respect to the exemplary careers of the one and only Tara and Spike themselves?

The answer?

They didn't even TRY, folks. This is a shot out of left field in a totally different direction that will blindside viewers like a 747 falling out of the sky and hitting a pedestrian on the sidewalk.

What we have here is the story of a marginally regular girl, Chance (hence the title) living with her pretty damn bizarre roommate, Simon. Chance is off on the immortal crusade for that One Special Man. It's a crusade we're all amply familiar with, on one end or the other, and it has all the pratfalls one might expect. Benign stalker neighbors, guys who weep publicly and imprison girls in cars hoping to "talk like (they) used to," dumb schmucks who talk about MOSS, that kind of thing.

We couldn't get more existential than this. We're gonna be tackling all the biggies on this one--life, death, sex, double standards, telemarketing, parents getting divorced late in life, and everything in between and beyond.

And we roll on through this gigantic pinball machine of a movie, bouncing back and forth from topic to topic, with seemingly little in the way of overmastering point. But actually...who cares? This is slice-of-life at its best. Following Chance around on her frenetic, pretty much pointless life isn't a half bad ride.

Check out the pure-t originality Chance is riding here. Check out the opening voice over. Not one minute in and it's original. Check out the multi-pronged conversation at the one hour mark. Check out the truly awesome (I STILL can't believe that's the best word here but it really really IS!) scenes on the boat around the forty five minute mark. This is like nothing else out there. This is the kind of work that Kevin Smith would KILL to have in his arsenal if he weren't busy pounding Jay and Silent Bob into the collective unconscious like so many steel railspikes.

It's not going to be for everybody. People hoping that Benson and Marsters would ride the Buffy wave on into direct-to-video horror titles are going to be heartbroken. There will be at least ONE total loser who's so utterly shattered by a non-Spike Marsters that he will do something stupid, illegal, or both. Possibly ending in corpses.

Maybe Chance was the best thing for Benson, Marsters, and their ilk. Sure, Sarah Michelle Gellar went on to destroy Hollywood in a truly Cobra Commander fashion by having a hand in the making of the Scooby-Doo franchise (the concept of which STILL makes me shudder in balls-out revulsion), but Benson and Marsters are GROWING. They've made this incredible quantum leap from a part of an institution, being a piece of a whole, to maybe starting a whole of their own.

Damn, that makes you think.

The ending is actually a serious surprise, in light of the events that led up to it. But then, from the profoundly disconnected nature of what we just watched, ANYTHING would have been a surprise. An ending with Chance and Simon quietly playing Scrabble would've been a surprise. It's not hard to be surprising when you've just spent seventy-five minutes bouncing around like a Superball in a wind tunnel.

The special features are sparse in nature--just a handful of outtakes.

All in all, Chance is a highly original and truly interesting romantic comedy which if viewed by itself, on its own merits, is actually pretty pleasant. Sure, it's not the best of follow-ups if viewed in the long run, but you don't HAVE to view it in the long run. Just watch it.

 

Wishmaster: The Prophecy Fulfilled
DVD
*1/2
Directed by Chris Angel Well, here we go, folks...this is the end. The only end, my friend, and Artisan is taking us along for this particular apocalyptic ride. And I'll tell you this much--you will never, NEVER, be so glad to see a quadrilogy end. Okay, so what we've got here is the story of Djinn. Not genie, either. But DJINN. I know, I know--nitpick much? But still. Apparently we got part of the mythos right: anyone who manages to wake a Djinn gets three wishes. And this is, actually, a BAD THING. What? You cry in mystified alarm. How could such a thing be? Well, first off, these Djinn don't actually LIKE humans very much. Some ancient grudge or somesuch that I recall as actually being explained in prior titles, so you'll have to go there if you're truly desperate to learn just why anything so ugly could have a problem with US. And, should anyone actually manage to get wish number three over the plate and socked out of the equally proverbial ball park, all hell breaks loose. Not precisely--"the unholy legions of the Djinn" will break loose and be set on the earth. And this is, of course, a Really Bad Thing. And who's going to wake up our unholy legions? Why, the overly cutesy couple who just moved into a big run-down house labeled "fixer-upper" right on the bloody damn REALTY SIGN. Oh, and the previous occupants kindly left a bed upstairs so the overly cutesy couple could launch into a sex scene not three minutes into the movie. You know, there's pandering, and then there's Pandering. This qualifies as PANDERING. And then, in a real twist, the male half of our smarmy couple gets in a wreck on his motorcycle, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, a shattered, bitter, alcohol-chugging wreckage of a human being. The female half gets her hands on a terribly familiar (if you've seen the rest of the movies) fire opal. From there, our terribly familiar Djinn friend shows up and sets out to get three wishes out of the female half of the smarmy couple so that he can... ...RAISE AN UNHOLY LEGION OF DJINN. JUST LIKE HE'S TRIED AND FAILED TO DO FOR THE LAST THREE MOVIES. Wow. THAT'S not predictable or nothing, is it? Sometimes, you just wanna smack these horror figures upside the head and say: "HEY! Dumb schmuck in the hockey mask / clawed glove / plain white mask / horned carapace / what have you! It's time to stop this huge, insane plot of yours. It's just not working out, man. Have you ever thought of getting a day job? Contributing to society? Doing SOMETHING with your life besides killing teenagers in flagrante delecto? Be somebody's Big Brother or something!" But anyway--our born loser of a Djinn has to carry on as best he can, and the best he can is a real doozy. He's actually got a PLAN worth speaking of in this one--he kills a lawyer early on, poses as said lawyer, acts like sunshine and light to our smarmy female, and then quietly grants all the wishes she makes in that offhanded fashion that we've ALL been known to do from time to time. Plenty of bloody face disfigurement in this one; faces get cut to bits and removed completely. Extreme makeovers aside, Wishmaster: The Prophecy Fulfilled is a horrible flaming mishmash of Christian creation story and children's fairy tale that manages to offend its viewer on multiple levels. The script is jam-packed with predictability and only shines in comparison to its predecessors. It's not hard for a movie this poor to look good when stacked up against a series of truly awful movies. The acting is poor at best and anyone who's actually read a Bible story is going to be able to point at that opening text bloc and scream "Fraud!" without so much as a blink. The ending is shoddy and strangely predictable--no, the Djinn DOESN'T manage to pull it off, even with his fancy new plan. The special features aren't too shoddy, actually, with two commentaries, Spanish subtitles, a trailer, storyboards, and a couple of quirky little numbers masquerading as featurettes cleverly titled "Wishmasterpiece Theatre" and "Wishmaster Dating Guide."

All in all, yipes. Wishmaster: The Prophecy Fulfilled is by itself a sad and shabby title that distinguishes itself only when compared alongside its truly awful brethren. It is the sexiest troglodyte at last call, and that's still not saying much.

 

 

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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