Looking at the cast list, which was helpfully posted across the top of the video case, I decided to give this one a go. Sure the list says, with Christian Slater and Stephen Dorff which generally means that neither of them, as a rule, will get much screen time.
But, au contraire! Christian Slater, while not on screen constantly, is on quite a lot and has easily the best character in the picture..or rather his Cheech Moran soundalike monkey does.
But I digress…
Written and directed by W. Peter Iliff I am sure that the film looked great on paper. Unfortunately there is many a slip between film and script and somewhere something went a bit haywire for this film of two titles.
Although you’d never tell from the film’s chronological order, it appears to be about two brothers; Benny and Nathan (Wes Bentley and Ryan Donowho respectively) and quite possibly Dani (Kate Maberly) as the part Chumash Native American who is monumentally screwed up after killing a mother and child whilst driving under the influence of…everything.
It is also about Christian Slater’s character; a once “respectable” business man who lost his wife and child to Dani’s wanton law breaking by driving and killing innocent people while under said influence.
Delgado (Slater) is a wig wearing coverall clad nut case, whose loss has driven him to drugs; the making of and consuming of, and has made him nuttier than a squirrel on caffeine. Delgado lives on Benny and Nathan’s late father’s ranch which has a Chumash burial site on it.
While part of me fell about with laughter every time Delgado had a conversation with his dead son’s non-existant stuffed monkey toy – who sounded like Cheech Moran, remember – the other part of me was reacting in horror at the fact that I found Kate Maberly incredibly attractive.
What’s wrong with that you may ask?
Well for starters, I still watch a film called A Secret Garden on a semi-regular basis. Dame Maggie Smith plays a governess who is absolutely horrid. Brilliant job. But, and here is the problem, also knocking her performance out of the metaphorical park is, yes you guessed it, Kate Maberly! A very young Kate Maberly, like about ten years old young.
Every time I found myself thinking, ‘she is so pretty,’ the image of her youthful self would spring to mind and I’d suddenly feel like an old, extremely dirty old man.
But, personal problems aside; the film could have been so much better.
The plot seemed to be about Benny, a social inept who is addicted to the hallucinogenic drug found in a local plant root that the Chumash Indians used in Shaman ceremonies. He is on the lookout for a bride and after killing one accidentally (Briana Evigan who was so criminally wasted in this role) he sets his sights on Dani.
Not a problem except that instead of having a honeymoon on their wedding night, he’s planning on killing her and himself so that they can be together forever in the Happy Hunting Ground.
While I cheered up every time that Slater was on screen; it’s amazing how good he actually was in this, the obvious continuity errors and editing problems destroyed the film. It did have some charm, but it could have; considering the acting talents of the cast, been so much better.
The other part of the film that bugged me was the obvious “Shemp” moment with Stephen Dorff’s character. In case you haven’t read it, Bruce Campbells first autobiography, If Chins Could Kill talks about “Shemping” it’s where you use just anybody to fill in for a regular cast member who cannot be there for that day’s shoot.
That was blazingly obvious with Dorff’s part. He played Professor Nash, who has gone to the ranch to participate in an ancient Chumash ritual with his students and girlfriend. He gets some of that “root” hallucinogenic drug and gets incredibly stoned. He sees Chumash Indians and he follows them to the beach.
In a moment that actually screams body double, he sinks to the sand and the camera swings around behind him. He then inexplicably puts up the hood of his sweat shirt and starts following the hallucinatory Indian girl into the water. It is clearly not Dorff and the intermixed shots of his face sans hood that were edited in to make it look like he was walking into the water, didn’t work.
There were other problems, most of which had to deal with Delgado and his talking stuffed monkey.
Still the film was entertaining in a “don’t expect too much” sort of way and it did have stand out moments (the monkey/Slater double act did make me howl with laughter, it must be said) but, the film didn’t warrant the 9 pounds sterling that I paid for it. (that’s about 16 bucks American)
A real 3 out of 5 star film that only gets that much because of the Cheech Moran soundalike stuffed monkey. Seriously? Wait for this to come on Netflix or LOVE-FILM, it’s not worth the price of a rental.