Written & Directed by Dex Baxter
Miranda Gamble...Elaine Barstow
Peter Gamble...Jeremy Winston
Melissa Jost...Heather Gamble
Tom Huston...Ezekiel Smit
NOTE: Due to a technical issue, I was a little late getting this review published. Hopefully you all aren't sick of hearing about this movie quite yet...
Just when I start thinking that nobody is reading this silly little blog of mine, something amazing happens. Sure, I've had a handful of screeners sent to me, and I've received a few small awards, but never have I been invited to a movie premiere. Until last night.
Apparently this film, Manic Monday, is all geared up to be the next Little Movie That Could, following in the footsteps of Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. There were a number of simultaneous 'Secret Screenings' in various states, and as this is a horror movie by horror fans for horror fans, among the invitees were genre bloggers from the twisted bowels of the interwebs.
The story follows the Gambles, your typical middle class family living in your typical middle class neighborhood. The director goes out of his way to show you just how typical this family is, almost idealistic really, but things turn a bit squirrely before long.
The daughter is hiding a bit of a secret. She harbors a secret fascination with the darker, decadent side of life that goes far beyond reading Poe and watching The Crow. She's goth on the inside and a cheerleader-in-the-making on the out...kind of like a reverse Oreo cookie. Her parents wouldn't approve of her dark fascinations--especially her mother, who is a devout Baptist (albeit one who honors her religion quietly, which is why she can be married to a man who is agnostic at best)--and so she pretends to be something she's not. And she has everybody fooled...until the night of the Ouija Board!
While tinkering with the Other Side, she accidentally unleashes hell, quite literally, on her family.
To give away any further plot points would be a disservice to first time viewers, so I'll leave my synopsis at that. But I'm not yet done talking about this picture.
The familial relationships here are varied and complex, full of as many layers as they are with lies; that is to say, they seem genuine in a way that hasn't been seen or felt since Lance Henrickson and his son in Pumpkinhead, or the Freelings in the original Poltergeist. The acting was pretty solid all around, actually, although there were a few instances where the mother came off as perhaps slightly too melodramatic.
The characters were flawed and believable, but that doesn't equate to likable in all instances. The greatest character here by far was next door neighbor Ezekiel, a dark and mysterious man with an accent that I would have sworn was extinct. His tall and impossibly lanky presence cast a creepy shadow over every scene that he appeared in, and was almost a special effect in and of himself. He figures prominently in the plot, but was woefully underused when it came to screen time. His kitschy little catchphrases will be stuck in my head for quite some time.
The director, I'm told, was a one-time indie music video director, which thankfully didn't translate into an MTV-inspired mess. It may have influenced the soundtrack though, which was low-key and unobtrusive, and composed by unfamiliar bands. However, in an inspired if surreal moment, Aerosmith blares in the background when one of our characters gets their hand caught in a moving garbage disposal! (I can't tell you the title of the song, because I was never much of an Aerosmith fan except for those videos that featured Alicia Silverstone in her hottie heyday).
The special effects were outstanding, really shining in all their gruesome glory in the aforementioned garbage disposal scene, and a nice little bit of nastiness involving a cheese grater! There was even a scene with animated demons that was a subtle reference to The Gate, of all things.
So is this movie going to take the world by storm? I certainly hope so, and I think it's capable if the filmmakers play their cards right. This simultaneous premiere is a step in the right direction, a surefire way of building up hype before the official release...assuming it gets one. I heard murmurings among the crowd (unconfirmed murmurings, mind you) that different premiere cities were playing slightly different edits of the film in order to judge which version garners the best viewer reaction. If, on the off chance that this proves to be true, it should be noted that I caught the Wichita, KS showing.
Right now, all you diehard horror hounds are asking, "But is it scary?" Let's put it this way: I may have just barely escaped without shrieking like a girl (and believe me, there was more than one macho male in the audience who can't lay claim to that)...but I did spill my Cherry Pepsi all over my lap during the initial Ouija scene, and probably would have done so again if I hadn't been too embarrassed to get up for a refill.
This film deserves an audience just as much as Evil Things does. So consider this a clarion call: get out there and spread the word about this movie; call your local theater and demand that they book a screening; and most importantly, if it does come to your town, cancel all plans and buy a ticket! I promise you that you won't be disappointed.
"Well I'll be a monkey in a hen house!"
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