But, sometimes a spoof works, because the filmmaker(s) aren't just enamourd with their subject, but willing to create a story worth seeing... even the same old story for the umpteenth time.
Chillerama is a B-movie spoof anthology that does work for the most part. The film cleverly taken place in an old school drive-in, called the Chillerama, where Richard Riehle (Office Space) plays Cecil Kaufman (get it!!) the washed up owner, who plans one last night of B-movie thrills before closing up the box-office for good. This is the wraparound segment that encases the three other films in the anthology: Wadzilla, I Was a Teenage Werebear, and The Diary of Anne Frankenstein.
|Where's the "B"?|
As directed by Joe Lynch, these wraparound segments are some of the most effective in the film, reflecting nicely, those 80s horndog films of the 80s. The themes are universal (teenage love and lust, and the desire to preserve our old ways), and the gags are familiar (but freshened up for the contemporary audience).
|Momma's gotta a lot of stains to wash out|
|"Like this? This look right?"|
Next is I Was a Teenage Werebear, a giddy mix of Rebel Without a Cause and Twilight, with some Frankie & Annette thrown in. Only Annette doesn't sing so well, and Frankie doesn't get all hot and bothered from her. Instead, Frankie (actually his name is Ricky) is hot for Talon, the new biker in town. Director Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs) turns the beach blanket set on its head, with this analogy of budding teen sexuality. Morphing into a bloodthirsty wolf beast has been a clever twist to represent the trials and tribulations of puberty in many movies -- I was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), Michael Landon got all hairy (and not just his palms) when he got near the female student bodies, and Ginger Snaps Katharine Isabelle shags out once a month, not on a full moon, but with her period. In Werebear, a nibble on the backside of Ricky, from werebear Talon, unleashes Ricky's hairy and gay self straight out of the closet.
The last of the drive-in features is Adam Green's near perfect The Diary of Anne Frankenstein, the bombastic story of when Hitler tried to create the perfect killing monstrosity out of spare body parts, but winds up creating a "super-Jew." I am not an Adam Green fan -- I wasn't impressed with his slasher spoof Hatchet (what was hailed as a new franchise for the slasher spoof genre was just another retread of a retread) or thrilled by Frozen (the forced sentimentality was eye-rolling) -- but, I was tickled with this spot on spoof of the Frankenstein legend. As Green talks about in the DVD extras, with a lead character as controversial as Adolph Hitler, his script really needed to heavily lampoon the world's most notorious villain.
|"Ve vill ask ze qvestions!"|
And he succeeded with some real comic genius. Joel David Moore (Art School Confidential), who is hit or miss in so many other films, puts on a ribald, riotous portrayal of Mein Furor which could easily be lifted and placed inside a Mel Brooks film. Moore gives Green's caricature of Hitler the perfect frenzied pitch. But Green's idea to have the entire film spoken in German (with subtitles) and cast with German speaking actors, while not providing Moore any written lines in German, is pure comic brilliance. Having been coached in the early scenes, Moore's Hitler sounds convincing. His dialogue sounds in place with the other's. But, slowly we begin to detect a dash of gibberish thrown in, until Moore is careening through his dialogue with a cache of made up words and finagled pop references.
|Me dance... no goooood. Annnhhhhhh!|
The one miss in this segment was the casting of Kane Hodder as the monster. I don't easily bash on the icons of horror, but I don't much go for the hey look who we've got style of stunt casting, either. And this is where the entire film seems to falter -- in its commitment to the overall production values. Had Anne Frankenstein cast someone with some real comic chops as the monster, it could've pushed this segment into the comedy stratosphere. Instead of a comic performance generating good laughs, the hey, look who it is gag comes from the mere idea of seeing Jason Vorhees doing a Yiddish dance Oy! The filmmakers were clearly aiming for the fanboys in the audience. Had they aimed higher, and got someone to keep up to Joel David Moore, this segment would be accessible to all comedy fans. Not just horror fanboys.
In fact, the entire movie could've been vaulted into an accessible comedy, sitting nicely on the Netflix queue next to Kentucky Fried Movie or The Groove Tube. All the segments generated some fairly sharp laughs (as well as gross out groans) in their scripts and in the performances. But unfortunately, the entire project suffered from some poorly chosen production choices. Besides Kane working outside his usual elements (with chainsaws and machetes as props), other casting miscues threatened to derail other segments. I understand the comic idea of "bad songs," but I Was a Teenage Werebear was nearly put down like a rabid dog with the lethal combination of silly lyrics and bad singing. I don't mean the intentional bad singing for comic effect, but rather the kind of singing we all cringe at during the American Idol try-outs. It's easy to laugh at real people who think they can sing, but can't, because, again, we're laughing at them. However, that's not the kind of laughs you want to generate in your film.