Someone's in the house. He's watching. He's creeping round, only you can't see him. He's watching you from the walls. He's right behind you now. Looking over your shoulder. He wants the remote control. He's a bad boy. He wants to watch bad movies. Bad bad Ronald...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

BadRonald Peephole Review: Sunshine Girl Gets Real Creepy

Black Eyed Kids (aka BEKs) is an urban legend that's been going around for the past fifteen years, or so, with stories of encounters with children with pitch black eyes, no pupils or whites. As the legend goes, the encounters usually happen in a car, with the children asking the driver for a ride home. Other versions have the children knocking at doors, asking to be let in. All versions tell of a strange, overwhelming power that the BEKs seem to have, that weakens the willpower of the people who encounter them.

Sounds like the kinda kids you want to meet up with on a cold rainy night, right?

A caught on tape encounter with a BEK is at the open of Sunshine Girl and the Hunt for Black Eyed Kids. The viral video, featuring two young lovers in a parked car, appears to be a self-made sex video which goes horribly wrong. The young man (holding the camera) coaxes his date to take off her top, which she does, reluctantly. Nothing scary there. Until, at her window appears a young boy. It's late, and he's begging for a ride to his mom's house. He seems harmless, until they see his eyes, dark and creepy. As the couple tries to leave, the boy becomes frighteningly enraged, and starts pounding on the car.

Cut to Sunshine Girl, who sits in her room, addressing the camera, vlog style, explaining how someone sent her the video, and how the BEK legend is her absolute favorite, and how she's making a movie about them, and... Well, as Sunshine herself says, "Before I get ahead of myself..."

Sunshine Girl is the teenage YouTube sensation, who's been vlogging about her strange encounters with ghostly things around her home in suburban Washington. It's not as dark and sinister as it sounds, though some of her adventures have gotten pretty dark and sinister. Just as interesting as the paranormal encounters is her encounters with her Mom and her pop culture fanaticism. She's part Veronica Mars and part Scooby gang, wrapped up in a Ghost Hunter world.

And now she's jumping from the computer screen to the big screen, going on the hunt for these BEKs. But, first she has to get Mom's permission. As is typical in her webseries, Sunshine has to match wits with her Mom (played by Mercedes Rose). Like a teenager asking for the car for the night, Sunshine (who "reveals" her real name as Frances Jones) is surprised that her mom puts the kibosh on her plans to go meet the admittedly creepy guy who has been feeding her info on BEKs. It's these conversations that Sunshine has with her Mom and her friends that really make her program so unique.

Where most other paranomalists cable shows have bickering and forced drama between the cast members, Sunshine Girl feels more like an episode of Gilmore Girls or Seinfeld, weaving dialogue around and away from the subject matter, and then back again. This bit of flavoring is due greatly to Sunshine and Mom being an actual Mother/Daughter act.  But, also mostly due to Sunshine creator, and BEK director Nick Hagen.

We've already encountered the "caught on tape" successes of Paranormal Activity, [REC], Cloverfield and the like. But Hagen's BEK isn't your typical a caught on tape movie.  Really, it's a hey kids, let's make a movie movie. His Sunshine webseries works because of the air of naturalism he'd created, that emulates the gazillion teen vlogs out there, where kids just spill their existence out in front of a camera. Short two/three minute episodes, where the cast members ad libbed the dialogue worked with great success, giving every appearance that it's an average everyday teen YouTube rambling.  To translate to the big screen, however, Hagen sets aside the Flipcam style shooting for a more polished Hi-Def look.  Cleverly, he does this by having Sunshine hire a professional camera crew to film her exploits. This little plot point allows the BEK movie to separate from the rest of the found footage pack.


The major draw of the Sunshine world is, of course, Sunshine herself.  Not only does the camera like her, but she has that undeniable "it" factor.  Her charms and talent have attracted nearly 22 thousand subscribers, and over 10 million views on her YouTube channel.  And as much credit as she deserves for the successes of the webseries, equel credit has to go to Hagen for his credible talent behind the camera. His real genius is making Sunshine's world appear to be so unusually normal. Never going going overboard, and keeping it all "real" (real enough to have scores of fans debating -- and fighting and cursing -- over whether Sunshine is a phoney or scam artist).

And now, with Sunshine expanding into the bigger, feature length motion picture world, Hagen has pulled off another major feat, in keeping Sunshine's world still just as grounded and real. He does this, as I mentioned earlier, by creating a let's make a movie scenario. Sunshine is still playing "herself." only this time as the subject of her own documentary. She moves about her same, familiar world, dealing with her Mom, and her Scooby gang sidekick Nolan, only this time, when she starts meddling in places she shouldn't. Hagen steps up the intensity, taking Sunshine's viewers into more frightening territories, and makes it all work, again, by not going overboard. Like the best of the creepers from the 70s era, the pace begins slowly -- enthusiastic, but unhurried -- keeping the audience in a happy place. He keeps the action placed in typically not-so-scary places, like a busy block in Downtown Portland, or a suburban neighborhood.  By the time Sunshine, Nolan, and their Shaggy new sidekick Andrew meet the creepy man with the inside knowledge of the BEKs, the usual Sunshiney world becomes unsettled. But not nearly as unsettling once they actually encounter the BEKs.

This is the fun part about Sunshine Girl and the Hunt for Black Eyed Kids -- it plays fun and bright, but then watch out -- you're in for some real frights!  There are some genuinely chilling moments in this film.  Hagen pulls off a terrific caught-on-tape chiller.  And Sunshine proves that she's ready for bigger adventures.

No doubt, after seeing Sunshine Girl and the Hunt for Black Eyed Kids, there will be that moment when you see some seemingly normal kid walking about in the dark, and you're gonna just be waiting for them to look up, so you can see their eyes.  But, by then, it's too late.

Go to the BEK site, and get the movie for just a few bucks.  Seriously!  Do it now!!!

2 comments:

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  2. What a well put reply Burun. Your keen insight and creative grammar had me riveted. Can't wait to hear what you have to say about the actual review.

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