12 December 2009

FRAYED/2009


 In an attempt to change the format of Necrotic Cinema and introduce more modern horror films into the blog here I decided to begin doing some double feature styled posts here. The site has suffered from a lack of posting and I want to get a steady readership of over 100 people a day here if possible and the only way to do that is actually post. Sticking to a theme for the double feature posts today I will comment on two films that use the concept of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) as it is called in the Psychiatric manual that every horror/thriller screenwriter should have on his desktop the DMS or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Now there is some controversy as to whether this or not this condition even exists except perhaps in the rarest of situations. There was a boom of MPD cases in the late 80’s and many were linked to whole Satanic Panic craze at the time. Most cases were later dismissed as bad therapy and to be honest I had one former girlfriend from the late 80’s who believed she a victim of Satanic ritual abuse and possibly some form of MPD. She was actually more normal than I make her sound here but I am just trying give an example of how prevalent the whole thing was at the time. There were books pro and con on the subject and the matter seemed to disappear after law suits began to appear focusing on questionable therapy techniques. I am not an expert on these matters and people have their own beliefs. I tend to fall into the skeptic category but skeptics probably make boring horror movies for the most part. But in the case of at least one these MPD movies it looks like true believers churn some boring dreck as well.
That film is 2009’s Frayed and it is a low budget, independent horror/stalker film that gets merciful reviews from some sites. I am beginning to think that these low budget-indie films garner sympathy from some reviewers that they do not deserve. Here is a quote from a review at Fatally Yours:

Frayed is an independent production from Washington State made by three lifelong friends with a dream of making a movie together. Though the film’s premise might sound like a typical slasher (and the film’s DVD cover certainly does it no justice), as the story progresses it offer much more than the typical stalk and slash movie. Frayed manages to transcend and discard genre conventions and delivers a film with an unexpected, shocking ending. It also manages to overcome the obstacle of a low budget and delivers a polished, professional-looking film that is sure to get tongues a-waggin’ in the horror community.

My tongue did not wag much but my eye lids definitely drooped. While I agree that the ending was sort of cool no genre conventions were transcended whatsoever. The bottom line is that is a simple body count movie with a psycho stalker in a mask (a psycho clown mask that looks like one of the guys from Slipknot actually). I recently gave three atrocious indie films my first ever no skull ratings. Frayed will not get that harsh a treatment as it is not as horrible as those messes but I am not going to be nice to a film simply because it is low budget and independently made by three old friends with a dream and video camera. I do not know if all of the film was shot on video camera but a good deal of it was. The first problem I noticed was when the credits were rolling and I saw that there were no less than five script writers and two directors involved. I just had a feeling that there were too many cooks and the kitchen and that none of them on their own could make a tuna fish sandwich.

There are a couple good death scenes to be honest but many of the deaths occur off camera and there are some major gaps in the logic as far as these go. I will touch on one of these in a moment because first I must spoil the entire film and say that my wife and I figured out almost immediately that the security guard that gets picked up from the roadside was the escaped psycho Kurt. And almost as immediately she figured out in advance that the images of the clown masked killer were hallucinations by Kurt and then that Kurt was innocent of the original crimes. It is hard to be surprised by the surprise ending when it is being telegraphed from the beginning of the film. There is a pedophile twist to the end of the film that caught us off guard but only because by then we were too tired and agitated with the film to try and figure anything else out in advance. I keep clicking on the ‘time remaining’ button on the remote to see how much more I had to endure. Some problems I had with the film are these:

1)    The music score was too boring and poorly performed. The ones seem to consist solely of two or three note ‘washes’ or sound pads. Not even any suspenseful arpeggios or drum machines. It is more like some sort of new age trance music and even the scenes were the music should jolt you are ineffective because the score does not know how to build up and deliver. A good score is essential in a horror film to help deliver the goods. An effective score can sometimes rescue a weak film. Here the music sounds like an attempt at some sort of Mark Isham score and just makes the lack of action and drawn out scenes more excruciating than they need to be.

2)    The acting is just too bad. Of course the budget of a film like this will not have any names in it. They cannot even afford a walk-on by someone like Robert Englund or Tony Todd. And that is okay. There are realities to low budget film making that even a novice like myself is aware of and tolerant of. There is also the reality that if your script cannot attract the attention of some old timers who sometimes show up to collect enough money to pay their rent for a month the the script probably blows bigtime. I recently saw the crappy film Hatchet and it featured brief appearances by Englund, Todd and Parry Shen. Not to say that the actors here have never been in anything before. Tony Doupe, who plays Sheriff and bad daddy Pat Baker, has appeared in a few films and usually plays a sheriff or deputy. But here his performance is so spacey and his lines so mundane and the banality of both are accentuated by the slow scenes and film score that there is not much he can really do. The actors cannot really emote or do anything o salvage the poorly scripted scenes. They cannot even effectively overact when the times calls for it.

3)    The dialog is bland and lifeless. The scenes of daughter Sara arguing with her step mother are lifeless at best. You would think with five script writers some believable dialog would have been generated but it is never the case. In the scene where Kurt (as security guard Gary) is in the car with Sam drags on painfully. The music is boring and why is so much space between the sentences? In another scene the sheriff asks one of his deputies to go guard his wife and daughter at their house and the dialog is not only crappy here but it goes on and on with the sheriff calling to the deputy as he walks away in order to deliver one more line of bad dialog.

4)    There are issues with the logic and flashback sequences. I stated earlier I would give one example of one problem with the logic and how the film’s surprises are given away and that is the scene where the girl’s boy friends are killed by Kurt as Gary the security guard. Supposedly Gary is being pursued by escaped psycho Kurt through the woods for most of the film. Suddenly the horny teens hear a sound and the guys get dressed and leave the tents to check it out and you can hear them being killed off as the girls panic. Suddenly Gary opens the tent and tells them not to be afraid and to follow him. Okay, why would Kurt not have killed Gary the guy eh has been stalking through the woods for the entire film? Why would Kurt not have opened the tent and killed the girls after he had killed their useless boyfriends? At this meant it is clear that Kurt and Gary are the same person. And issue is with how the flashbacks are done. I am not really an idiot. I do not see a repeated flashback sequence over and over to understand that is crucial to the plot and that by the films end we will understand what the flashback’s meaning. This is the case with the scenes of Kurt as a little boy in the mental institution as he looks out the slot in his door to a group photo of the staff on the wall. In fact after the second flashback I realized that the staff where the people in Kurt/Gary’s imagination and that they made up separate personalities in his mental disorder. I do not need to be hit over the head with a hammer over and over and the film makers gave away the big surprise yet again.

5)    And lastly there are cheap fart gags around the campfire scene. Fart gags are the last recourse of a bad filmmaker to add some humor into their lifeless script. And not just one fart gag but several. One fart gag is not funny so why would three or four be? People laugh at this crap not because it is funny but because the scene has embarrassed them.

See it if you want but do not be fooled by some of the praises this one receives on the net. In another post at Fatally Yours a reviewer puts down Twilight while encouraging readers to see a parody on Youtube Twilight with this remark:

It is safe to say that most of the horror community loathes the Twilight series (or Twatlight, as most of us prefer to call it), so I was laughing my you-know-what off when I watched Barely Political’s “Twilight Sucks” video where Dracula laments the rise of the emo vampire.
And in closing here lies my issues with Twilight bashing; how can the same web site say people (no doubt the ‘cool’ people) in the horror community loath Twilight while praising this amateurish load of rubbish? If you hate Twilight that is fine but be consistent. This film is one hundred times worse and yet get remarks, again at Fatally Yours (a site I like, okay, but just do not agree with them on this one) like “Frayed is an impressive independent film that offers much more than it first suggests. Though it looks polished and professional like a big budget film, the filmmakers took time to make sure Frayed had a well-developed and intriguing story, one whose horror will stick with you long after watching.” Uh, okay. I guess the memory of having a leg amputated would stick with you for a long time too. To be fair the film receives lots of deserved bashing on the net as well and as far as the praises go I again seem to missing something here while what I wish I had missed was the entire film.

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