There are many criteria by which you might measure if a film sucks. If you watch a DVD you have picked up from the bargain bin for € 1,50 and by the time the end credits role feel that you have been significantly overcharged, I would say that is a pretty strong indicator.
Wanting to watch a vampire film last night, I chose Shower of Blood – for no other reason than the DVD case promising me a running time of 90 minutes. I did not want to watch a very long film, and all the other films I had taken from my shelf while browsing were longer. So Shower of Blood it was. It turned out that the film has in fact a running time of only 80 minutes – 74 minutes if you disregard the credits and only count the actual film. But at 74 minutes, this film still feels too long.
The story starts like that of many other cheap horror flicks. A group of five young people sit in a car, studying a map. They have stopped in the middle of the woods for several reasons, one of them being that they are lost. It seems they are on their way to a concert, or some similar event, and want to use the house of an uncle of one of the girls as a stop-over point to spend the night.
Now, I assume you know all the hallmarks of this particular sub-genre. And I can assure you that they are all here: young people geographically lost in the middle of nowhere; an empty, isolated house; no cell-phone reception; a “slut”, a virgin, an idiot (or two, in this case) – and lots of alcohol, sex, and nudity.
But you will discover very early on that this film differs slightly from the usual fare – and not to its benefit. There is much more nudity in this film than usual (or necessary) – conveniently the house has, we are told, four showers and a hot tub. Annoying as gratuitous nudity can be, you can often ignore it as it is mostly a sub-element. Not so in this film. The nudity immediately veers from “gratuitous” into “ridiculous”, and that is a thing that is hard to overlook.
More damaging to the film are the writing and the acting. There are no convincing characters in this film. The characters seem to have been written by someone from outer space who has never met a human being before but watched a lot of teen-slasher films and teen-comedies, and who then simplified the characters he saw in those films by 90%. Normal cheap teen-slashers usually only have 2-dimensional characters anyway, but in this film most of the young people are 1-dimensional. You have two male characters who are completely obnoxious (where other films would usually try to show that they may have a charming or soft side as well). And they are both entirely identical. Which means that the writers could not even come up with two male characters that are obnoxious in slightly different ways. The staple “slut” character, Megan, is also 1-dimensional. The “virgin” (Heather) as well as the lead character (Lisa, the niece of the owner of the house) both also barely scratch the surface of a second dimension. But at least the two actresses playing these parts (Melissa Mountifield and Lia Montelongo) are not quite as untalented as the rest of the bunch, which helps a bit. Which brings us to the house owner, Uncle Marty, who is written as “mysterious”, so we do not learn a lot about his character. However, the actor, Martin Shannon, clearly has some talent, even if he can only show glimpses of it in some scenes – the script does not allow him to actually do any really decent work in this film.
The two young guys and Megan, however, are played by actors so devoid of talent that it beggars believe. Megan is played by Playboy™ and Penthouse™ alum Robin Brown, who probably has no real acting experience, so she did what she could – which in this film mainly meant being naked. The two male actors (Peter Renaud and Dave Larsen) are not even able to convincingly deliver a single line in a natural way. Not that this matters, as the dialogue written for this film is also incredibly bad. There are a lot of snarky comments, come-back, and attempts at humour. Most of these lines do not work; there are a few that just might, but these are destroyed by the fact that they are not connected to anything else, or simply by the delivery.
The film has a premise that should work on paper (even if it is not a new one). But what little plot there is is thrown out of the window at some point and we never really know what is happening, or why. Many scenes seem barely connected to each other, and if you are trying to actually follow where each character is (and when) things get really confusing. In fact, there is at least one entirely unconnected scene that comes out of nowhere, featuring characters we have never seen before and will never see after. It is as if the editor looked through all the filmed footage and then tried to cobble a story together by any means necessary.
Talking about the editing… Admittedly, my hearing is not the best, but I am very sure that a number of sounds have been edited in during post-production – sounds that are too loud, that come so clearly from outside the world of the film and that simply do not mesh in the least with the on-set soundscape. Slurping, gum-chewing, burping, farting, and lots and lots of kissing – all of these sounds have been added later, and all of them sound like they come directly from cheap Nickelodeon™ cartoons. There is no way that all of these sounds can have been used in earnest. The only possible explanation is that someone in post realised that they were looking at a giant train-wreck, and then tried to use these sound-effects to add to the ridiculousness of the film in such a manner that they might be able to sell it as a cult-film in the “so-bad-it’s-good” niche-market. That is, of course, a complete miscalculation. This film might have some (not much) “so-bad-it’s-good” potential; but that only works if the film seems to take itself seriously and if it feels as if the filmmakers were trying in earnest to create a good horror film. These sound-effects destroy that feeling.
So, with a film this bad, who do you blame? The poor director, Tiffany Kilbourne, who never directed a film before or after? Or editor Michael Vaglienty, who never before or after edited a film. Or the three people who cobbled together the script: David C. Hayes (who should know better), Keith Knapp (with a single writing credit to his name on imdb), and Kyle Kline (3 imdb writing credits)? Or should you blame producer Jeff Orig, who not only was responsible for the casting but allegedly also meddled in the script? I guess the blame has to go all round. But it is still astonishing that when someone does a cheap horror flick whose plot is so basic, so generic, and so derivative, it is still possible to fail in such a relatively simple task.
The practical and special effects are passable for a low-budget production from 2004, and the sets and props mostly look OK. In some scenes, there are songs or score music that are half-way decent and fitting (if at times slightly too loud). I am not sure if any of the artists got paid. The film’s composer (Dylan Langhoff Moeller) gets named and lauded in the film (!), which one could speculate was in lieu of pay.(*) And the DVD credits tell you where to buy the sound-track, which might be a creative way to pay off the artists/bands whose songs were used?
I rate this film at 0.5 out of 10. And that half-a-point is only for some of the brave but futile acting efforts undertaken by Mountifield, Montelongo, and Shannon.
It is probably unnecessary to explicitly say this, but: don’t be deceived by the current imdb-rating – avoid this film at all cost.
(*) Here’s the dialogue in question:
Lisa: "Is this Mozart?" Uncle Marty: "It's a contemporary virtuoso: Langhoff Moeller." Heather: "Hmm, it's breathtaking!"