Dead Above Ground
Stephen J. Cannell
Oh, I'm scared from the very beginning on this one.
I'm not scared because of the quality of the script, or the skill of the actors.
I'm scared right before I even took the video out of the box.
I'm scared because of five little words at the bottom of the box, in very small
print, that you need to strain to see. And not "Lions Gate Home Entertainment
production," either, scary as that usually is.
I'm scared because of this:
"Written by Stephen J. Cannell."
That's right...the guy who brought us fifty billion hackneyed crime dramas
decided that, somehow, he just wasn't hitting his stride on stuff like
Hardcastle and McCormick, so why not take a crack at horror?
Even worse, the select cursor on the title screen is a pentagram. That
automatically loses points with me. Anyone dumb enough to use this tired,
hackneyed plot device in a menu select screen just doesn't merit much respect
from me. Stop using the pentagrams-puerile, pointless blasphemy like that is
like a four year old running around screaming the opening rap from Jay and
Silent Bob Strike Back at the top of his lungs. It's just plain disrespect to
Even ignoring these obvious problems, you know we've got a real winner on our
hands, though what it wins is a big plaque laden with profanities.
So what we have here is the story of Jeff Lucas, a future Columbine Award winner
from somewhere called Bay City. Jeff isn't what you'd call a popular kid, and
the local popular kids seem to have forgotten the numerous lessons of school
shootings and have marked Jeff for all the torment they can dish out. Things
get even worse for Jeff after he makes a horror movie instead of a documentary
in his Communications class.
The popular kids decide to take matters into their own hands for reasons that
defy the logic of anyone with more firing brain cells than your average jar of
mayonnaise, and engage Jeff in a little vehicular homicide, running him off the
road in the midst of a high-speed chase.
And if you think Jeff is taking his flaming death amidst twisted metal lying
down, well, you don't watch very many horror movies, now do you?
I can't believe, genuinely, that bullying of this stripe keeps going on in
schools. Does nobody catch on? Does no one stop and think, "Hey, today's
picked-on no-name is tomorrow's mass murderer, with me on the bad end of their
daddy's gun barrel?" Okay, never mind that Jeffy's got a head like Pinhead in
Never mind that Jeffy's entire personality seems to waver wildly between
"nihilism" and "gleeful in a Dungeons and Dragons sort of sense."
Never mind that Jeffy really does need a severe beating rather desperately, and
this is from a fellow movie geek and high school popular kid target.
Never mind that Jeffy's movie, what little I saw of it, would get precisely zero
stars from me. In fact, my review of his schlocktacular title would involve
choice phraseology like "the worst of low-budget crap" and "patently idiotic."
Never mind even more that the incredible doofus they hired to do Jeffy acts
roughly the same way Richard Horvitz does when doing Invader Zim, except this
isn't supposed to be a parody. Jeffy's over-the-top delivery of stale,
overblown lines like "You will all taste the axe of reckoning!" and "You're
totally unacceptable! You...are...about nothing. Mr. Haddon. Your end is nigh!
You will die on the seventh equinox of maven!" just shows me how truly desperate
Cannell was to drive this particular point home:
"Jeffy is a dark and sinister little goon who will be trying to kill a whole
bunch of people before the end of the movie, if he doesn't get his ass kicked
and sent home to his mommy with a really horrific wedgie first."
In fact, just never mind this entire movie, unless you're really interested in
laughing your way through the most hackneyed of dialogues and infantile of
acting, if it can even be called acting. And check him out at the twenty five
minute mark--he sounds like he's lip-synching to a Danzig soundtrack--screaming
gutturally for a full minute.
The ending is exactly what you'd expect from a movie like this, no more, no
The special features are nonexistent. There's not so much as a subtitle or
deleted scene to be had in the whole mess.
All in all, as a comedy, Dead Above Ground satisfies immensely thanks to
Cannell's fantastically overblown dialogue and the virtually utterly no-name
cast's incredible ability for puerile acting. As a horror movie, however, this
wouldn't scare a nun. Look elsewhere to get your heart pounding.