Friday, July 4, 2014

The Legend of Sorrow Creek (2007)

Are you tired of your movies having any budget or financial means put into making them at all? Well, meet The Legend of Sorrow Creek.

Director: Michael Penning
Starring: Freya Ravensbergen, Matt Turner

Co-written with Clayton and Kayleigh.

This thing was co-produced and co-filmed by Geoff Klein, who is a mini-celebrity of the Cinema Freaks blog as he directed Bikini Girls on Ice, which I reviewed three years ago. As I am not one to look down my nose at a man who could make something of that quality, of course I was going to give this a chance! (I’m also glad to see he’s kept up appearances by directing something else called Pinup Dolls on Ice four years after his first masterpiece.)

The Legend of Sorrow Creek, however, is a personal project – written and directed by a guy named Michael Penning, who also did the music, co-produced it and edited the sound for the film. Various other people sharing his last name, who I can only assume are relatives, also worked on the film in various capacities – including a guy named William Penning who plays one of the ghosts in the film. Given that, I’m sure this will be a well-rounded and balanced film with no flaws at all.

Heh heh heh…heh heh…heh.

We start off with some highly annoying scenes of a girl getting hanged, shot with constant flashes to black – I suppose this is to create some kind of atmosphere, but really it’s kind of like a kid turning the lights on and off repeatedly to tell a ghost story at camp. Oh, and then we get a title sequence where the letters slowly fade in from black – yeah, guys; probably not a good fuckin’ idea when your title is five words long. Thank the Heavens they just do the Sorrow Creek part like that…

We then get the sheriff and some braniac from a college walking in the woods talking about an abandoned civilization in the woods or something – apparently after a series of incidents that spooked the residents of this town near the woods, everyone just packed their shit and left. Chief among them being when a super-religious father carved his daughter’s eyes out because he thought she had seen the devil, and then hung her – the scene from the opening, apparently. I guess that’s a better reason to leave than piranhas killing everyone.

I'm really not sure why they had to come out into the middle of the woods to have this conversation, as they don't even go to the scene of the crime at any point; they just stand there and talk in a random spot in the woods. Why couldn't this have happened down at the sheriff's office again? Also, look at how bad that pixellated video quality is. Is this just one of those mid-90s interactive video role playing games or something?

Then we get a bunch of people hangin’ out in the woods after one of them got a fish hook stuck in his hand. The only thing that would make this scene better is if they broke out into song during it like in the 2010 version of Don’t Go in the Woods.

Then they go get lost in the woods on their way back, not even knowing if the way they’re going will lead them back to their cottage. Sure, they have this theory that the river will lead them back to the cottage faster than the other way, but they don’t know – I mean all it does is lead them to a river full of water that nearly makes main girl Kayla throw up:

Eh, it's no big deal; this is where Dasani gets their water from, and you know they're trustworthy.

I also love some of the dialogue we get here, like this one guy talking about his heart problem. One of the girls asks what happens if he doesn’t take his medication in time and he cheerfully responds: “My heart will explode, and I’ll die.” It’s pretty goddamn funny, and sounds more like the guy was reading off a cue card for an instructional school video or something. You know, a school video about dying from a heart problem. The best kind.

One girl, Jesse, says she wants to stay behind and sketch the markings on a tree, and says she won’t get lost and will find her own way back later on. Like the amazing friends they are, they agree to this insane plan and leave her alone in the woods as it’s getting darker. I guess it’s an alright plan though. I mean they do have a good insurance plan for this kind of thing under Obamacare – it’s called the Blair Witch plan, and if you make a home video movie of your experiences lost in the woods, you can get your insurance to pay for any and all injuries.

So it gets to be dusk and Kayla and her boyfriend Ashton Kutcher here have a conversation about how he’ll understand if she doesn’t hang out with him as much because she’s trying to get published. It IS impossible to work on a relationship while also waiting on emails from publishing companies, so I get it. Best line from this scene is when she chides him about wanting more time to hang out with his “other girlfriend” – I dunno, given how little we know about these characters, maybe she’s not joking after all and is actually the other woman in his sordid romantic affair.

Eventually after it’s nighttime already, they FINALLY realize Jesse hasn’t come back yet and MAYBE they should go find her. Why start now? I’m sure you can wait until you’re back at your day jobs and she still hasn’t returned yet to start panicking. After a creepy phone call of Jesse crying for help over static, they really get worried and go out to the car – though they forget the keys for one, and two, Ashton Kutcher says he doesn’t want to go anywhere and just wants to “get ready” in case they have to.

Yeah, man, let's sit in the car JUST TO GET READY in case we have to go anywhere. Y'know, because we usually get really anxious when things get stressful and just end up driving into walls instead. THIS TIME we're really prepared!

Uh, your friend just called the house crying – well, the phone didn’t work and it was an illusion, but still, she hasn’t come back yet anyway – what more do you need? Does your friend possibly being in danger not seem like a big deal? Then they see a large caveman-looking guy standing in their headlights not responding when they call out to him, which I’m sure is normal.

Pfft, that's just your senile old neighbor getting lost again. He's not scary, he just needs help getting back home.

The guy is clearly still in the area, which prompts our heroes to do the natural thing – not go anywhere in the car and instead go back in the house themselves. Fortunately the guy they saw was an optical illusion. I mean phew, dodged a bullet there! What would they have done if it really WAS a madman waiting to kill them? That would’ve just made it really stupid that they didn’t immediately leave. Also fortunately for them – luck is just going their way tonight – Jesse comes back all on her own! I mean, sure she’s scratched up to hell and half insane, but at least she isn’t possessed! Oh, wait, yes she is:

Either he's trying to date-rape her, or she's possessed. Either way I think this situation is bad news all over.

Also this prompts the funniest heart attack scene from a movie ever - maybe next time you should NOT let the guy with the heart condition be in a horror movie about evil spirits and possession. Just a thought.

Aaaaand I'm going to hell for laughing at this scene.

This prompts Ashton Kutcher to go into the biggest and toughest game of tug-o-war ever, which is REALLY GRIPPING when the girl on the other side of the door is like 110 pounds when soaking wet:

I guess this guy's muscles are just wet noodles.

Possessed Jesse is not given any real explanation. But you know what REALLY makes me mad? When they show Jesse walking down the hall and one window has sunlight shining it, while the other one at the back of the hall is CLEARLY still night outside!

Well that's it, this movie just lost ALL credibility with me!

Jesse tries to kill Heart Attack Boy, but when she realizes what she’s done, she moves the knife across her throat without actually making contact. Oh, my bad, was that supposed to be cutting her throat for real?

I personally only like horror movies where they cut their throats FOR REAL on screen. 

Now we get what this movie REALLY excels at though … scenes of Ashton Kutcher and Kayla sitting around holding each other crying, saying they need to leave but never actually doing so.

I jumped around for over a half hour of the movie's running time - I'm just fuckin' astounded that they keep doing this same set-up OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

"I'm so scared, we should leave!"

"Nah, we should just keep repeating this same scene over and over again until we puke!"


"On second thought, ewww."

Sure, their car gets destroyed and sort of strands them there, but how is that an excuse? They could still leave on foot, especially considering Kayla used to vacation here all the time and should know the way out of the woods, but no, then we wouldn’t have a movie. I don’t even get it … they’re scared of the ghost guy around the house, so they stay in the house. If you can make any sense of that, let me know, because I sure as fuck can't.

Eventually they do try to leave, going into the toolshed out back, but Ashton Kutcher gets a chainsaw dropped on his leg and this somehow breaks his leg. Kayla takes him back into the house and says she’ll go get help, but I don’t know why she’s bothering; clearly she’ll end up back there in five minutes crying with him some more about leaving – why stop now? Just have that same scene on a loop for the next hour; that’s good cinema.

I guess she does actually make it to the road though. She doesn’t make it far though, as a bunch of ghosts appear to her, including a little girl with anuses for eyes and the Halloween Remake Michael Myers guy from before:

You’d think they would have just killed her, but no, she’s back in the next scene. She wanders back through the woods and finds the river from before that choked her when she drank from it. She also finds a trap door in the ground and, being one of the smartest young people of our generation, she gets in and traps herself in there. I’m really just waiting here for Jason to open up that box and stab this girl, but the filmmakers apparently couldn’t find a goalie mask in time.

I never thought I'd be able to make a comparison between a low budget supernatural slasher film and that movie Buried with Ryan Reynolds, but there you go.

Instead we get the box filling up with water as someone pushes the box into the river which leads down into a lake somehow. You’d think THIS would be the end for her, but nope, she escapes somehow! Because you know, almost drowning in an enclosed box randomly placed in the woods is really easy to escape from, and she’s just a natural at it. When it comes to finding help in a place she’s been going to all her life, however, she’s stumped!

Come to think of it, if she’s been going here since she was a kid, and the town was abandoned after that guy killed his daughter in the 1800s, WHY is all this ghost shit just happening to her NOW? Did the ghosts just see her as a kid and go “nah, we’ll wait til she’s of age; we’re really considerate ghosts!”?

Oh well – back at Casa Possession Murder, Ashton Kutcher lamely crawls outside to the tool shed where he broke his leg. Because second time’s the charm, ya know; THIS time it’ll go fine! Except it doesn’t and he gets gasoline poured on his face. This creates the best camera effect of all time – the “I forgot to wear my glasses today” style:

"Hey, son, it's Mr. Jenkins from down the road. I noticed you were in trouble and decided to come see if I could help you. Are you alright?" OK, I know it's actually one of the ghosts coming to get him, but wouldn't that have been the funnier ending?

Meanwhile out in the woods, we see the ghosts somehow got Kayla, too, and have turned her eyes into anuses as well:

We also see that the film’s budget was good enough to include a noose for her to hang herself from.

Then we switch back to the sheriff and the other dude from the opening of the film. They blather on some more about the movie we just saw being a mysterious crime that hasn’t been solved, and they find a picture of that girl from the opening with no eyes, apparently drawn by Jesse while she was lost in the woods. Except it’s really not very accurate, since in the drawing she clearly has both her eyes:

I have to come clean with you guys now about something that pains me to admit: Ashton Kutcher wasn't really in this movie. It was a joke based on the main guy's appearance. I'm so sorry I deceived you all like this. I can never show my face in public again!

What were the ghosts even trying to do here? Kill the main characters? They had multiple opportunities to do so, but kept letting the characters live (even when they had Kayla surrounded and alone on the empty road) for no reason but that the movie needed more screen-time. Screen-time which, if you forgot, was mostly taken up by the two main characters sitting on the couch crying.

Also, the possession subplot was totally random, as it only happened to one character before seemingly being forgotten about entirely. Add to that production value that looks more like a 1990s movie rather than a 2007 one and tons of dialogue awkwardly shoehorned in as exposition, and you have what mostly feels like an unfinished home video project. But with that said, the ideas are at least decent and not just riding on current trends to be flashy and get noticed, and the raw darkness of the woods scenery is at least trying to conjure up a feeling close to fear.

So in conclusion, I’d totally watch this again over anything Lionsgate is pushing out these days!

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.