terrible movies

The Love Guru

There are two directions a film called The Love Guru can go: either a send-up of easy answer self-help inspirational culture of the kind that’s infested Instagram, or a satire of cults and their acolytes (interestingly, the line between these is often blurred).

When you don’t delve deeply enough into either, you’re stuck in a comedy middle ground, a laugh-less purgatory.

The indelible pop culture juggernaut that is Austin Powers could make sport of his own sexual inadequacy, toy with action film convention, and of course, mine the wealth of material that is the James Bond franchise. However, Guru Pitka, the title character in The Love Guru, is as under-developed as some of the Saturday Night Live-character-based full-length features.  In fact, even though its genesis is elsewhere, the bearded guru character feels like it was workshopped in front of Lorne Michaels, and kiboshed before making it to air.

The Love Guru is pretty grim stuff indeed, and a shame too as it’s unabashedly Canadian, peppered with arcane references to a storied (well, infamous and perpetually terrible) Toronto hockey team (and its owner) and featuring our national game in all its glory. And there’s a wealth of supporting talent in the form of Stephen Colbert, Justin Timberlake, and others.

The Guru is brought in to help one of the Leafs’ star players reconcile with his wife, who’s left him for a French-Canadian goalie. He figures this will catapult him to the top of the self-help heap, currently occupied by Deepak Chopra.

This threadbare plotting paves the way for loads of Myers’ cheeky innuendo and awful punning, the kind that a character as lovably lecherous as Austin Powers could get away with — but not so here. Especially when he’s laughing at his own tepid jokes.

Vern Troyer (as Coach Punch Cherkov…yep, that’s the kind of humor we’re dealing with) is the subject of a terrific gag involving his scaled-to-size office, however that’s possibly The Love Guru’s sole guffaw.

And with an 87-minute run-time, it still feels heavily padded (there are three, count ’em three, musical numbers, none of which is inspired).

Painful stuff.

*1/2 (out of 5)

[Be sure to check out our podcast of The Love Guru on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]!

Don’t Go Near the Park

Don’t be fooled by Don’t Go Near the Park. While it sounds like the other “don’t” films, don’cha know* (many of which we’ve covered here, including Don’t Go in the Woods, Don’t Answer the Phone!, Don’t Look in the Basement) it’s actually far from being a straight-ahead stalk ‘n’ slash. In fact, it’s far from being straight-ahead.

You see, Don’t Go Near the Park features immortal cannibal cave people, with a story so byzantine it makes Finnegans Wake look like Ten Little Indians.

Like its slasher brethren, DGNTP features an insane prologue. However, instead of merely going back a generation to explain how being forced to put on a dress turned Little Johnny into a wide-eyed campground Stabby McGee 15 years later, this film takes us back 12,000 years ago.

Picture it: humans lived by torchlight. In caves. Wearing loin-cloths. And they spoke English (who knew?)

We are introduced to cave-siblings, (Patty and Gar) who are somehow cursed to drink human blood in order to quell sped-up aging (ten years for every one). And in order to speed up the plot, the viewer is catapulted to the present, and then vaulted 16 years ahead after that.

Gar rents a room from a landlady (played by horror icon Linnea Quigley, best known for being antler bait in Silent Night, Deadly Night) in the time-honored fashion: walking in on her in the shower (!). Despite this breach of etiquette, he isn’t immediately sent packing in favor of another prospective tenant, but actually is allowed to rent the place (after which, they become a couple).

The 16-year narrative jump is for their teen daughter, the hilariously named Bondi (that’s “Bond-ee,” not like the beach, dear Aussie readers) who’s the apple of daddy’s eye. She’s ostensibly birthed so that Gar and his sister can feast on a virgin. Possibly. This requires a second and maybe a third viewing for further clarification, as the two seem to feast just fine on random people.

To plug the narrative gaps, there’s some exposition aplenty, provided by a somewhat confused local historian, Mr. Taft (the legendary Aldo Ray) who regales an orphan boy with tales of the “demons of Las Filas?” and who voices the film’s titular warning (odd, given there are two separate parks where Gar feasts on his victims, both of which don’t meet any definition of what most would consider a “park”).

With effects that wouldn’t pass muster at the HG Lewis School of Film-making, inappropriate nudity, head-scratching performances, and histrionic wailing like “You never gave me gold!” Don’t Go Near the Park is a bona-fide cult classic and a fascinating bit of gonzo cinema.

*** (out of 5)

[Listen to our podcast discussion of Don’t Go Near the Park]

[*Editor’s note: Many “Don’t” films were added to the Video Nasties list]