terrible movies

Wolf House

Homo homini lupus est.* Why, oh why, do filmmakers have to subject us to herky-jerky terrible found footage movies like Wolf House? Well for starters, they’re cheap as heck to produce. And storyboarding them isn’t as rigorous.

Found footage/documentary-style films are highly polarizing. After all, the notion that people’s lives are so unimaginably compelling that every single second of their existence absolutely has to be documented by some idiot…well, that’s a tough sell, even to the most battle-tested reviewer who’s sick to his eye teeth of up-nostril shots.

And that’s not to say the odd found footage film isn’t decent. It’s a bit like the occasional salmon that survives a spawning run. When it comes to Wild Eye releases in particular, Head Cases: Serial Killers in the Delaware Valley is an adroit, if flawed, piece of work and worth a watch.

Wolf House, though, is a slop bucket of genre cliches: the “put that damn camera down!;” one character doing a mock David Attenborough wilderness voice-over; the night vision view that focuses on friends and what might be lurking in the dark; and of course, a guy so worried about his pending demise that he records a message he thinks will be viewed posthumously (subjecting the poor detectives to hours of solipsistic garbage and dizzying camerawork).

The Wolf House narrative is simple. Friends go missing in Niagara County, Upstate New York. And this is their story.

The setup is “cabin in the woods.”

Everything’s going splendidly, and one of the guys, who looks like a linebacker Travis Bickle, proposes to his girlfriend who’s described as a “real looker.”

One morning he shoots a creature that’s not a bear but what could either be a Sasquatch or “the last surviving Bigfoot.” And then things go predictably haywire.

There are doubled up references to Harry and the Hendersons as well as to Steven Spielberg (jeez, if your conceit is that the guy obsessively documenting the proceedings is a budding filmmaker, at least craft a few decent camera shots!).

Also, Wolf House uses split screen, but Annie Hall this ain’t. In fact, it’s the only time where there’s respite from motion sickness. And even THEN it’s a useless conceit, as the split screen is for, get this, a TRANSCRIPT of a 911 call. “Caller, what’s your emergency?” “Another bargain basement turd of a found footage film. Send help immediately!”

*1/2 (out of 5)

*Latin for “Man is a wolf to man…”

Snowbeast

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A hulking Bo Svenson in a bowl cut, is somehow more sinister than the ineffectual creature in Snowbeast, a 1977 horror show of a film that takes a minimalist approach to…well…everything.

These are some of the weakest special/practical effects you’ll ever see. Promise.

As skiers prepare for a tepid winter carnival in Colorado, billed as “an orgy of fun and games,” a banner descriptor belied by the sad-sack school gymnasium, hanging balloons and marching band that belts out Rule Britannia, one of their ranks goes missing.

Eyewitness accounts of a large hairy creature, neither human nor known beast, are met with skepticism…If horror films rewarded such queries with core competencies, they’d be 35 minutes long instead of 90.

The ski resort is owned by granny matriarch Carrie Rill, who instructs her grandson Tony to bury the tale, because it’s bad for business dontcha know?

Local strapping Sheriff Paraday obliges, saying the missing skiers were killed by a bear, rather than a fantastical Yeti creature roaming the backwoods, which looks like someone in a mink coat moving their arm into the frame. [Editor’s note: Interestingly, six years earlier, the actor who played the sheriff, Clint Walker — best known for Pancho Villa, The Dirty Dozen and the Western, Cheyenne — narrowly escaped death in a skiing accident at Mammoth Mountain, California. Walker fell off a chair lift, and was pierced through the heart with a ski pole].

But don’t expect anything death-defying here, as far as scares are concerned.

snowbeast_movieAt the resort, as it happens, is former ski champ Gar Seberg (Svenson), who gets wind of the cover up and heads up into the mountains to look for his missing missus.

Snowbeast is notable for little other than a gregarious Svenson attempting (at times), a southern accent.

There’s also a bizarre subplot where the chalet matriarch’s grandson makes a very transparent play for Svenson’s wife. And right in front of him too!

Wacky (and unintentionally hilarious) made-for-TV fare.

** (out of 5)