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I guess I just like liking things

Going to be honest, I’m doing Camp Nanowrimo this month and my brain is in “More words are better” mode, so if this post ends up even more wordy than usual, I apologise.

Now, on to the movie. Generally, I like a low budget movie. A movie made for the love of making movies rather than to fill a genre gap in a studio plan. A movie gathering, perhaps, friends and family together to write, shoot, perform and edit a tiny gem of pure creativity where every single dollar was spent on the final product. Of course, the risk with your basic low budget movie is that it will end up terrible. Which brings us to “Dismal.” Such an apt name.

Not pictured: Quality effects

Not pictured: Quality effects

A shiny man with big arms is floating on a boat through a swamp at night, shining a flashlight around and peering into the dark. He’s with someone else, who wants to know if he can see anything. Turns out the shiny man is a Movie Southern – which is a person putting on a Southern accent in order to be in a movie. It’s not a great accent, but this is a Dire DVD and good accents would ruin the mood. The shiny man spots something in the water. He tells the other guy to shut up because noise will spook it. He says this really loudly. All the excitement is about a huge rubber alligator, which I think is supposed to be a real alligator. The shiny man shoots the alligator and both men do some yee-hawing and leaping about. In a boat. Skillful. They row to where the alligator was, but it’s not there now so the shiny man gets out of the boat to wade around in the water. He collapses into the water like he’s been pulled under, and on the other side of the boat a hooded person emerges silently from the water and grabs the other guy. The not-shiny guy.

Both guys are dragged to a creepy cabin in the swamp where they’re chopped into tiny bits. This is all intercut with the opening credits, and the tiny bits are covered in unconvincing blood. They may also be rubber. Someone involved in this movie had shares in the rubber industry. There’s a close up of a mouth full of rotten teeth licking some of this fake blood of his fingers. There’s make up on the chin of the guy but it’s woeful make up. It looks like he ate his breakfast cereal really messily and didn’t wipe his chin after.

It’s a sunny day at Random College and a girl in Biology is freaking out about dissection. This is Dana and she’s completely squicked out about chopping up a snake, which makes me wonder why she’s in a Biology class. Some guy who might be a teacher’s aide comes over to help her. He’s intense to her frizzy personality. The music goes all spooky as she stares at the snake. She pushes a scalpel into it, to show someone already cut it open anyway, and then goes all grossed out again. The intense guy is totally understanding, and she’s all warm and fuzzy about that. Intense guy helps her cut the snake open and he is really, really into the whole “Look at the guts!” thing.

Dana is rightly worried about failing the class, but Kurt (the intense guy) whispers that he’s taking some students on an expedition to a swamp. It’s really just a camping trip, he says, but any student who writes a report on the wildlife will get extra credit. Kurt gives Dana his number if she decides to join them. She doesn’t look thrilled, because it’s all outdoors and stuff. The group will leave on Saturday morning.

Dana’s leaving class when her boyfriend rushes up to tell her about a party on Saturday night. She’s looking forward to it, but Kurt is hovering and doesn’t look pleased she’ll be skipping a swamp weekend for a killer kegger. Later that night, Dana’s boyfriend crawls out of her bed to go out with the boys. She’s annoyed because she wanted to hang out in her room with him. As she picks up some papers, Kurt’s phone number falls to the floor. Dana’s boyfriend is furious so Dana explains she needed to call Kurt about the field trip. The Boyfriend says she’s not even going to the swamp, because it’s not his problem if she fails and she’ll miss out on a killer party. Dana’s boyfriend is a jerk. Seeing that he’s upset her, he sighs and leaves. So caring.

Saturday morning, and a bunch of students are loading into an SUV. Jamal turns up with a girl who is almost wearing shorts, though it might be a belt. She’s not in the class, but Jamal needs her around this weekend. I hope she’s got bug spray, she’s got a lot of exposed skin. Then again, so do the other girls. They’ve all opted for short shorts and crop tops. The girl who forgot to put clothes on is named Eve. I mention this because I suspect she’ll be killed second. First to be killed? My money is on the black guy, Jamal. Formula Horror Movie 101, kill the black guy first. Kurt is worried about Eve’s clothes, but it’s totally cool because she has a hiking outfit. This consists of short shorts and a boob tube.

It’s time to go, but Kurt lingers, checking his phone for a message from Dana because he’s creepy about Dana. Just as Kurt gets into the car, Dana arrives, asking if she’s too late. This is a stupid question, because they clearly haven’t left yet. Kurt is all pleased again, and the group sets off for the swamp.

It’s a long drive, but although they’ve been driving through swamp for ages, it’s not the right bit of swamp. Kurt is determined to show them some genuine wildlife, so they have to go deep into the heart of the swamp. I’ve said swamp so often it’s stopped looking like a word, and we’re only 15 minutes in. One of the students notices he doesn’t have a phone signal, so everyone peers at their phones to confirm they also do not have service. Oh no! What if they get into murdery trouble?? Dana is concerned, because accidents happen. Kurt assures her he has a radio phone and if anyone gets bitten by a snake they can radio for help. Eve can’t believe there might be snakes. In the swamp. These people are supposed to be in college.

Although they’ve been begging to stop for ages, once the car does stop all the students stay in it. Kurt tells them the road stops here and they have to hike out to the campsite. Reluctantly, because they weren’t expecting to hike on a hike, they climb out of the car and set off into the swamp. Eve whispers to Jamal “You need to pay me a lot more for this.” So desperate to impress a bunch of college students, he appears to have hired an escort for the entire weekend.

I’ll say this for Dana, she might have enrolled in Biology with no love for the subject, but at least she’s wearing long pants. After everyone complains a lot about all this hiking around, Kurt shuts them down to show Dana a bird through binoculars. Although the group is in a swamp, the bird is in the desert. Where do I get these binoculars with such great magnification? I want to look at New Zealand! The group stops looking at the stock footage bird and sets off again fro the camp site.

There’s someone in the woods behind them. Judging by the breathy, gaspy sound this someone makes I’m guessing it’s a murderous psycho with cereal on his chin. The group makes it to the camp site, but are none too enthused about setting up their tents. Kurt is stressed out by this, because it’s getting dark and if it gets dark before your tent is up… then you have to put your tent up in the dark.

There’s four tents, and through the magic of editing, three of them are now up. Dana is putting up the fourth one but she can’t do it because she’s a girl who doesn’t like outdoors stuff. Kurt helps, like he did with the snake. Okay there’s less intestines this time, but still. His version of helping is holding a tent pole and explaining how his dad used to take him camping and build lean-tos in the woods. Dana could not care less, but Kurt keeps on chatting about his amazing dad. I’m wondering if creepy Kurt’s dad might live in a shack in the swamp.

Kurt sends the group off to take notes on animals, and tells them there’s an hour until lunch so they should aim to get back by then. So I guess it wasn’t going to get dark that soon after all. Unless he means dinner, because it’s late afternoon light. Who knows with Kurt? He’s such a wacky, intense guy. He stays behind to put up the tent Dana couldn’t do, and there’s a shaky cam shot of from the point of view of the heavy breathing guy, who is watching Kurt from about 6 feet away. Stealth.

The dark haired nerdy guy (Gary) has paired off with the blonde girl (Shelly). He’s explaining the history of the swamp, and she’s gazing at him like she’s never found anything as attractive as landscape measurements. It turns out neither of them are even there for extra credit, they just wanted to hang out together. They’ve been crushing on each other since High School and it took a weekend in a swamp to bring them together. Romcoms could learn a lot from this movie. They make out in the long dry grass, next to a pine plantation. I say these things to point out they’re not in a swamp.

Meanwhile, Jamal and Eve have the same idea, getting semi-naked against a tree. Don’t worry, heavy breathing shaky cam has caught up with them. Jamal stops kissing Eve because he thinks he hears something. He would investigate, but he decides it’s Gary and Shelly, besides Eve just took her pants off so he’s kind of distracted right now.

Dana, on the other hand, is wandering the forest touching Spanish moss and making notes in a teeny notebook. She’s going to get that extra credit! She stares at some moss for a while, then stares at some moss in a slightly different place. Gary and Shelly are too busy smooching at the waters edge to be taking notes about moss. Kurt, back at the camp, is messing around with the first aid kit.

Everyone heads back to camp where Kurt is all twitchy and overexcited about the concept of lunch. He’s going to take them on a guided tour of the swamp after they eat, but first he has to letch at Dana some more.

Dana is sitting on a log looking out at the swamp, and Kurt joins her. “Have you eaten?” Dana asks, offering him a turkey sandwich. Kurt gets slightly offended by this, because he tries to avoid eating meat. Speaking as a vegetarian, being offered a meat sandwich isn’t actually offensive. You can just say “No thanks.” Kurt explains he’s trying to be conscious about what he eats, and then gives Dana a long stare. Dana pops a cigarette in her mouth and Kurt stares at her again, so she explains she only smokes when she’s nervous. She goes on to spill the sad beans about her boyfriend, who is apparently named Brady. Kurt gets all goofy and nervous and ends the conversation by rounding up the students to go look at stuff. Swamp stuff.

As the group wanders along a broad, sunny path, Gary explains to them that gators nest on the banks of the river. He means swamp. Kurt tells them it’s rare to see a gator on the banks but then they totally see a (rubber) gator on the bank! Kurt, who claims to be studying to be a vet, picks up a handy stick to poke the gator with. It’s dead though, it’s the one the shiny man shot at the start of the movie. Kurt declares it dead without looking at it too closely, and even I know that gators can sit very very still for a long time. Kurt is an idiot.  Dana is devastated by the death of the gator, Jamal thinks it was eaten by a bigger gator. Chris and Shelly just stare at things, all sad.

“Poachers” says Kurt, pointing at the gunshot wounds. Jamal wants to know why the poachers didn’t skin it, Kurt says they must have been scared off and Dana wants to know who gutted the gator in that instance. The answer is “No one” because the gator isn’t gutted.

Kurt calls “Base camp” (what?), who send a guy out to look at the gator. The students are all standing around looking like it was their collective grandmother who was shot and (not) gutted. Sensitive souls. The wildlife guy, Dale, tells them not to worry, poachers don’t want to shoot people, they’re more likely to be eaten by a bear. No one looks cheered by this news. They decide to return to camp.

Brady is at the party, being completely miserable because Dana is on the camping trip. His friend tells him to call her in case she’s sleeping with someone for extra credit and Brady gets even more grumpy. He crashes out of the house, punching a door. So much rage. Brady gets into his car and drives off, still quite irate.

Jamal and Eve sneak out of their tent into the woods to have sex. This is a promising sign, it means someone is finally going to get murdered. I’m bored with all this non-murdery soap opera stuff. I’m right, here’s mouth-breather now, with a grappling hook and a home made camo suit. He throws the hook, it manages to travel in a sort of C shape to latch on to Jamal’s head and I want to collect on my “black guy killed first” bet now please. Eve does some screaming and then runs blindly into the woods. Mouth Breather follows, walking quickly. Horror movie, you know? Eve stops running when her foot is severed by a bear trap. Completely severed. At least she stops screaming. Instead, she starts hopping. Hopping! This ends when she hops into a second bear trap, severing her other foot. This causes Eve to fall over onto her face, which lands in a bear trap. Read that again, it’s poetry.

Does this shirt make my head look creepy?

Does this shirt make my head look creepy?

Everyone at camp heard the screams and they come out of their tents to stand around awkwardly. Kurt claims to have not heard anything. Gary sees that Jamal and Eve are gone. Kurt decides to take Gary out to look for them, and points out the first aid kit to Dana, in case Jamal and Eve come back. After a pointless argument about poachers, Kurt and Gary are surprised by Mouth Breather. Kurt is knocked out with a stick, but Gary gets away even though he runs really slowly.

The girls are sitting by the fire looking cold (still underdressed) when Gary runs in to grab them. They waste quite a lot of time as Dana insists on an explanation, but Gary tells Dana they don’t have time to try the radio for help. She insists, calling “base camp” (what?) but before they can respond Gary and Shelly are running for the car. Dana is all upset about Kurt, and has a little sad moment before catching them up.

They make it to the car, but Mouth Breather is in the bushes. This is a problem because the car is “stuck.” Gary gets out to see what the problem is and finds all four tyres slashed. Dana tries the radio again, and gets through to “base camp,” telling them Kurt is dead and giving them the GPS co-ordinates of the car. Dana’s phone has a GPS in it, you see. Remember Brady? He’s on his way to Dana. He’s tracking her phone I suppose, though with no signal I’m not sure how.

The three students are now hiding under the car as Mouth Breather walks by. They think they got away with it, until Dana is grabbed by the feet and hauled out. Mouth Breather is freakishly strong, and flings her around a bit until he’s disturbed by headlights. It’s Dale from base camp, who drove right up but apparently didn’t see Mouth Breather throwing a girl around. He checks on Dana and Shelly hands him a club made out of papier mache which is what he killed Kurt with. Dale is still not convinced, but when Gary insists on leaving, Dale swings the club and knocks him out, leaving the way open for Mouth Breather to come and grab the girls.

Dale tells Gary he shouldn’t have been rude, and swamp people like to use clubs on rude people and pretty girls. All three are knocked out. Dana wakes up first, and all three are chained to the wall in the shack. Dana freaks out, squealing as she looks around the room and sees the chopping block. This turns into a full on scream when she sees a decaying body next to her. All the noise brings in Dale and the Mouth Breather. Dale explains that the girls will be kept as sex slaves. He’s going to make them dinner, for their first date, and that dinner is going to be Gary.

Gary is chained to a table and Dale laments that there’s not much meat on him. “Your friends were quite tasty” he tells Gary, holding up two polystyrene heads with red paint and wigs on them. Okay the faces are painted in too, but you can see the base of the heads. Ridiculous. Mouth Breather takes a butcher’s knife and starts hacking into Gary. There’s a lot of fake blood being splashed around.

Dana must have passed out again, because she wakes up at the dinner table, with a plate of Gary in front of her. She begs Shelly not to eat it. Dale is angry, because out here in the swamp they have to eat what they can get. Apparently. He unties Shelly and drags her outside to catch something to eat since she’s being so snobby. Handing her a pitchfork, he sends her out into the woods, but sends Mouth Breather off to fetch the gun. Leaving Dana to scream and panic in the shack, Dale and Mouth Breather go after Shelly.

Dana flings herself around until the chair falls over and now she’s free, the falling chair having magically untied her hands. She’s about to leave when she hears a groan.

Not pictured: Quality effects

Not pictured: Quality effects

Shelly is caught by Mouth Breather, but jams the pitchfork into his leg. Sadly, as she runs off, she fails to see the trip wire that triggers a sword and her body is cut in half. The special effect for her torso falling off her legs isn’t so much special as “an effect.” Dale is sad because he likes to gut his food. Mouth Breather gathers up the bits to bring to the shack.

Dana spots some feet through a doorway. Picking up some butchers hooks, she creeps up on them. It’s Kurt! Dana helps him up because he’s still all groggy from the blow to the head, but as they’re leaving Dale and Mouth Breather return. Kurt, it turns out, isn’t that groggy. He grabs Dana and grins. “Done thought you were dead, son” says Dale. “You missed all the fun.” The generator gives out at this point, and the Mouth Breather takes some gas out. Dana sees the gasoline cans all piled up.

“Is this the only one left?” Kurt asks his father, gripping a struggling Dana in his arms. He slaps her, and takes a handful of the stew from the pot to eat. “My boyfriend knows where I am!” says Dana. Dale laughs, and opens the fridge to reveal Brady in there. I was wondering why he was taking so long to get there. Dana and Kurt wrestle some more before Dana grabs a frying pan and smacks both their heads with it.

Mouth breather mouth breathing

Mouth breather mouth breathing

Out in the woods, Dana spots the bear traps, putting her one step ahead of Eve. Since it’s day time now, it’s pretty easy to spot them, but they’re everywhere and she can’t see a way out. The shaky camera can’t be helping her focus. The three freaky men are following her with guns, so Dana runs back to the shack. She raids the gasoline stash and spills gas everywhere. When it’s all ready, she stands on the porch and screams “Come and get me!” The men hear her, and know exactly where she is somehow, running back to the shack.

There’s some shooting, then Kurt runs in to grab Dana. Once he’s inside she fumbles with her lighter, but Mouth Breather grabs her. She kicks him back and shoots him, making MS Paint blood splatter everywhere. Lighting the gasoline with MS paint flames, she sets the shack on fire. It blows up with Dale and Kurt inside.

Exhausted, Dana staggers through the woods. A hand grabs her shoulder. It’s Brady, who apparently was able to stay alive in an airless fridge (you can’t lie to me, I’ve seen the very special episode of Punky Brewster). A charred man staggers up to them, it’s Kurt and he’s peeling bits of his burned flesh off his head and eating them. Brady runs off to leave Dana with the crazy man (jerk). Dana threatens Kurt with a knife, but he reminds her she can’t do dissections. She decides she can now, and stabs him a lot. She pulls out a bunch of internal organs, laughing like a loon the whole time. Once he’s dead, she stands up, licks the blood off her face and smiles. Credits.

So, the first half of this movie was almost mind-numbingly tedious.  Boring, soap opera nonsense centered on a bunch of one dimensional characters. Creepy Kurt was too creepy. I don’t mean in a “it scared me!” way, I mean in a “you’ve given away one of your twists within five minutes of movie.” His nervous, intense insistence on taking the students out to the swamp was so obviously linked to the shack they should have given him a shirt with “I am a nutter!” on it.

Suspense would have been nice, but since it’s a formulaic horror movie (right down to the black guy dying first, the fleeing girl tripping and the nutter being involved from the start), you know they’re all going to die it’s just a matter of getting on with it. Not that there was any sense of impending doom, not even a shiver.

The second half of the movie was not boring, but it was unintentionally hilarious. The special effects were brilliantly awful, flat flames, painted on blood, fake heads. Oh how I laughed.  Mouth Breather’s make up was terrible, the fake blood was so fake looking. I will give a point for Dale being a psycho, because that did surprise me. No points for nutty Kurt because that was neon lit from the first scene.

The actors were, apart from some stretched Southern accent, actually pretty good with a bland script. The script was pretty ordinary, and there’s so many plot points that don’t hold up. If there’s no phone signal, how was Brady tracking Dana’s phone? How did he get out of the fridge? Why did a college student hire an escort for a camping weekend? Why was Dana studying Biology if it grossed her out so much? Who was the Mouth Breather? Related to Dale and Kurt, sure, but who? How? What happened to his face other than terrible make up? So much was made on how big the swamp is, but people kept finding each other easily. Also most of the swamp wasn’t a swamp, it was the woods. There was a little lake bit in the middle, but mostly woods.

And since I’ve said it so often , I’ll say it again. Swamp.


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