The film’s auteur, Don Coscarelli, has been at these absurdist sci-fi-cum-gore-fests for well over three decades now. So I don’t understand why his art, such as it is, hasn’t advanced much over the first film of his I ever saw, “Phantasm,” back in 1979.
A 25-year-old can get away with a sloppy horror-comedy mix of crazed visual effects and cartoonish characters. An aging auteur laboring in the same late ’70s, low budget, youth frolic genre without any improvement in storytelling or character is embarrassing.
The world of sci-fi, action and horror has moved on; Coscarelli has not. Best to leave this one for die-hard fans to adore on home video.
The film does start with a comic bang but disintegrates within the first half hour.
The film revolves around a new drug, dubbed Soy Sauce. Among its side effects, it gives those who ingest, whether voluntarily or not, the ability to read minds and perform psychic parlor tricks.
It also seems to have unleashed legions of other-worldly creatures from an alternative reality intent on destroying humanity. It falls to the film’s two slacker heroes, Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes), to save the world.
Coscarelli’s direction has always suffered from a compulsion to insert gooey, icky effects into nearly every scene. This happens to such a degree in this film that you stop reacting to a girl bursting into slithering snakes or heads popping off bodies: It’s the norm here.
Compounding the problem is a framing device that has Dave telling the story of the film to a newspaper reporter played by Paul Giamatti (who also exec produces). Certainly Giamatti’s presence elevates the whole enterprise: You pay attention at least to his scenes, nearly all of which take place in a Chinese diner.
But cutting back and forth in time to tell the story along with all the other leaps in the space-time continuum clogs up whatever momentum writer-director Coscarelli manages to build with his over-the-top scenes.
Most if not all of this is played tongue-in-cheek, to be sure. No one is taking the exploding bodies or garish other-worldly creatures seriously. Indeed for all the CGI here, the film acts and looks surprisingly old-school in its FX. It’s a throw back to a throwback, a spoof of a spoof.
In other words, a tiresome and tiring film style the director should have outgrown but apparently has not.
Opens: January 25, 2013 (Magnet Releasing)
Production companies: Magnet Releasing, Silver Sphere in association with M3 Creative & Touchy Feely Films
Cast: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Clancy Brown, Paul Giamatti, Glynn Turman
Director/screenwriter: Don Coscarelli
Based on the novel by: David Wong
Producers: Brad Baruh, Don Coscarelli, Andy Meyers, Roman Perez
Executive producer: Paul Giamatti, Daniel Carey
Director of photography: Michael Gioulakis
Production designer: Todd Jeffery
Music: Brian Tyler
Costume designer: Shelley Kay
Editor: Don Coscarelli, Donald Milne
R rating, 99 minutes