Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
December 1st, 2007

Haunted Boat

Haunted Boat
Directed by Olga Levens
Written by Olga Levens, Jason Levens Starring Courtney Scheuerman, Sarah M. Scott, Tien Pham, Travis Hammer
Produced by Olga Levens, Jason Levens
98 mins

Call this one the adventures of half a dozen self-centered asshole teenagers (look more like twentysomethings if you ask me) about to get horribly killed on a boat.

Or, if you're feeling a bit more existential, call it "Karma's A BITCH".

Whilst out on a wreck of a boat that one of them got for his birthday with enough booze to float the Bolivian Navy home, a sudden tragedy strikes. Planning to turn around to fix their problems, they discover the engine won't start. Worse, strange events start happening all around them, none of their cell phones work, they have not a clue in their empty little heads what the fuck a radio is, they're on a boat in the middle of Nowhere Ocean heading for Catalina and they're all about to get killed by their own worst fears.

Yep, Class X Standard Horror Movie fare, all right. Random Script 27-A.

Worse yet, we're stuck on this boat with the biggest assholes on the face of the earth--spoiled rich California kids. People so spectacularly ignorant and self-absorbed that they really truly honestly believe that, if they didn't see it or don't remember it, it doesn't exist. I'm not kidding. That's a quote.

And the next stop on the "even worse" tour is just how these methods of death come about. For example, the horrible CG-inserted shark that tears apart one of our vapid teenagers. Wow, that's just sad. At least, it was sad until I saw their reactions to the loss of said torn-apart vapid teenager. Screaming and crying and begging for help and blaming each other back and forth and not one person spending more than three minutes actually looking for their friend who got torn up by freaking sharks. And then they don't even mention the sharks--they actually think he might be playing a joke on them and went underwater to the front of the boat. He got attacked by sharks, dammit, he's not swimming fucking anywhere.

Then, as a plot device, they actually reduce the ambient light level of the film by like ninety percent, making a large portion of the film unviewable. They take this opportunity to reduce the movie down even further, to the point where they're telling each other ghost stories.

And then, finally, we get to the ending of this little parade of misery to a thoroughly nonsensical end involving hallucinatory weirdness, ghosts aplenty, and corpses, corpses, corpses! Oh, and don't forget extremely improbable last-second rescues out of absolutely nowhere.

The special features include audio options, English and Spanish subtitles, and trailers for "Open Water 2: Adrift", "Haunted Forest", "Beneath Still Waters", "The Nun", and "Sea of Fear".

All in all, this waterlogged little wreck is far more dinghy than racing yacht. Holed below the waterline and sinking fast, stay away from this pleasure cruise to nowhere.

Curse of Alcatraz

Curse of Alcatraz
Directed by Daniel Zirilli
Written by Glase Lomond
Starring Alex Quinn, Jessie Camacho, Joe Jones, Candise Lakota
Produced by Daniel Zirilli
87 mins

Join us for a bit of film history this week, as "Curse of Alcatraz", the last film ever to be shot on Alcatraz Island, slides into our DVD players. The question as always, of course, is do we want it there in the first place, or is our last chance at film from The Rock going to be a bust?

And incarcerated in the last Alcatraz film ever is a surprisingly interesting concept. Basically, a group of grad student archaeologists went to Alcatraz Island to investigate a collection of unsolved murders, when they fall victim to a curse on the island that arose from the torture and isolation that took place there. Basically, if you've ever seen an episode of "Ghost Hunters" on the Sci-Fi Channel, you know what's going on here, except the hyperbole level's been ramped up like a million percent for the sake of a movie.

Needless to say, there'll be plenty of comely young co-eds getting attacked and lots of other folks getting chopped to bits. Which is nothing you haven't already seen dozens of times before, but "Curse of Alcatraz" does manage to put its warmed-over plotline out with a half-decent execution and a little bit of style all its own.

Which is saying something, frankly--it at least manages not to look like it's been done half to death and that's a step up from the common herd.

Perhaps even more interesting is how "Curse of Alcatraz" manages to take the single oldest horror movie device--the "ancient Indian burial ground"--and give it something of a new life by staging it on, of all places, Alcatraz.

The down side to "Curse of Alcatraz" is that it's surprisingly slow of pace. Nearly half the movie goes by before there's anything resembling an attack in the modern era, and frankly, in a horror movie that's dependent on its plotline for entertainment and keeping things moving rather than special effects or surprise events, that's downright unforgivable.

Though I will admit that they do manage to get some more action into the last half hour, it's still not quite enough to salvage the boring opening.

Which leads me to the ending. The rest of the movie has been building up to this--and frankly, it's been spending most of its time building up--so you'd expect a pretty decent payoff, right? Even though most of the destruction comes in the last twenty minutes or so, it's still not all that exciting. Even the marginal twist ending isn't what you'd call all that exciting either.

The special features include audio options, a commentary track, English and Spanish subtitles, a making-of featurette, cast and crew interviews, and trailers for "Curse of Alcatraz", "Drunken Monkey", "Dead Clowns", and "Open Water 2: Adrift".

All in all, "Curse of Alcatraz" had a great idea, but couldn't manage to do very much with it that was any kind of interesting. Suffering from a blindingly slow plot and almost no effects to make things interesting, "Curse of Alcatraz" is a pretty sorry way to end an era.