Saturday, July 9, 2011

Movie Review: Stan Helsing (Movie)

Chances are most people reading this have heard of writing/directing duo Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, commonly referred to as Seltzerberg. They're infamous for writing and directing lazy, low-budget, raunchy spoof films, usually named some variation of "___ Movie." Examples include Epic Movie, Scary Movie, and Disaster Movie.

I should mention, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer were not involved in the production of this movie at any point. Why do I bring them up then? Because I'm almost certain their work was used as a template for this movie. This movie falls victim to all of the same problems that plague Seltzerbergs' worst films. It's so bad that I actually had to go back and check to make sure the title wasn't "Helsing Movie." That's right, this movie is a low-budget ripoff of a Seltzerberg picture. Think about that for a while.

So who did make this movie? It would spoil the surprise if I told you now, so instead I'm going to make you wait until the end. No skipping ahead!

But first, because lists are easy and because I suck at segues, here are the top reasons Stan Helsing sucks.

4. Fweddy.
No, I didn't spell that wrong. Fweddy is what this movie calls their "parody" of A Nightmare on Elm Street villain Freddy Krueger. The reason I use the sarcastic quotes is because, honestly, I'm not convinced this qualifies as a parody at all.

Freddy Krueger is possibly one of the most unique slasher movie villains out there but -with the exception of the evil doll Chucky from Child's Play- is also quite possibly the easiest slasher movie villain to make fun of. The guy once killed a kid by trapping him in a video game. In A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge he ties up a naked gym coach and smacks him on the butt with a towel until he dies. For God's sake, Freddy Krueger is a pedophile with a face that looks like melted cheese. How much easier of a target for ridicule could you find?

So how do they parody him? By having him wear a clock necklace like Flava Flav. But wait, that's not all! He also does the famous Krueger pose, smirking with his bladed glove in front of his face, except wait! The thumb's "blade" is actually a toothbrush, and he brushes his teeth with it.

So yeah. That's your big Elm Street parody? Freddy Krueger brushing his teeth? That's almost as bad as Seltzerberg "parodying" Little Miss Sunshine by having one of the characters die while wearing a shirt bearing the movie's title.

3. Leslie Nielsen as Kay.
Leslie Nielsen hasn't been in anything good since the 90's, so it may come as a surprise to my younger readers when I say this: Leslie Nielsen is quite possibly the funniest actor in the history of comedy.

Nielsen has the ability to deliver ridiculously nonsensical dialog and subpar jokes with a completely straight face that makes them drop dead hilarious. The man might just be a real life alchemist; he takes awful puns that should go over like a lead balloon, and transmutes them into 24 karat comedy gold. Don't take my word for it, though: even Roger Ebert once referred to Nielsen as "the Lawrence Olivier of spoof movies."

With that in mind, what sort of madman casts Leslie Nielsen in his movie, then gives him absolutely nothing funny to say or do? Nielsen doesn't get any jokes in this movie, not even bad jokes. The closest he gets to doing anything funny is that his character is a woman. No, seriously, that's it. He has fake tits and a bad wig, and he calls the main characters "freaks." That's all he does.

This is the equivalent of drafting NFL all-star Peyton Manning for your football team, then making him the water boy.

2. The setup.
Up until now we've just looked at specific examples, but really the entire thing is just bad in general.

The title character and star of the movie is Stan Helsing, a weed-smoking slacker whose motto in life is "don't get involved." His plans to attend an awesome Halloween party with his friends are put on hold when he's ordered to make a delivery to his boss's mother's house. Unfortunately, the mother lives in Stormy Night Estates, a small town/gated community (the movie doesn't seem to be sure which) that's said to be haunted.

The first half of the movie follows Stan and his friends on their way to the gated community/town, as they are subjected to one horrifying incident after another, including a hitchhiker who turns out to be a psychotic serial killer, and a dog they run over whose vengeful owner brings him back as a vicious zombie.

To be honest, it's actually fairly effective. It's scary, and so over the top horrible as to be fairly funny too. The problem is that none of this setup pays off, ever. Once they arrive at Stormy Night Estates, all of the enemies they picked up on their way are anticlimactically dropped and replaced by lazy parodies of famous slasher film villains, thereby rendering everything we just watched completely pointless.

1. The payoff.
Warning: The following contains spoilers for an awful movie. I shouldn't need to give you this warning, as you could probably see all of these "plot twists" coming even if you never watched the movie.

As it turns out, Stan Helsing's real name is Stanley van Helsing, he's the descendant of famed monster hunter Abraham van Helsing, and at this point absolutely no one cares. Faced with his past he instantaneously discards the philosophy of non-involvement he's held for his entire life in order to save a gated communitown full of people he has no reason to care about from a group of parodies/ripoffs that don't even seem to be that much of a threat.

But first we're treated to an awful karaoke scene where the monsters fail to parody The Village People. Incidentally, how do you fail to parody The Village People? Anyway, after this scene accomplishes nothing but padding the movie's runtime Stan is forced to fight the villains for real. He remembers he has a scroll telling him how to win, but all the scroll says is "the monsters have weaknesses."

Somehow, this cryptic nonsense works and Stan magically guesses all of the monsters weaknesses on the first try. Freddy is dispatched when Stan removes his famous razor glove, revealing his hand sparkles like Edward Cullen in daylight. Pinhead is then destroyed by Stan pushing the pins on his head...into his head. That retardation out of the way, the writer apparently gives up on thinking up weaknesses and Stan takes out Jason and Michael Myer by...honestly, I'm not even sure. He just sort of fondles their masks for a second then pushes them both out the door.

Really, I can't even think up any jokes for this, that's how awful it is.

Stan Helsing is more than just bad, it's aggressively bad. The movie seems to delight in teasing you with actually decent jokes and scares, only to instantly squash them in the laziest way possible. This goes beyond simply not caring. I can't say I know what the director had in mind, so, I don't know for a fact that any of this was intentional. That said, if I can be real here for a second? If the writer/director is NOT a supervillain who plans to take revenge on the world by subjecting it to terrible movies, then he has a lot of explaining to do.

Back at the beginning I promised I'd tell you who made this movie once I got to the end of my review, so here it is. You ready?

Stan Helsing was written and directed by Bo Zenga, who also wrote and directed Soul Plane, a lazy, racist (to both whites and blacks), low-budget raunchfest, the plot of which can be basically summed up as "wacky black people are on a plane, the end."

All of a sudden, everything makes sense.

Annotation From The Future:

It always adds an extra layer of tragedy to a bad movie when you discover that it was the last movie of a great actor. For example, film buffs are always quick to mention how sad it was that Emmy award winner Raul Julia's last major movie role was in Street Fighter. While on some level I suppose it is sad that the guy who once played Othello ended his career in a crappy video game movie at least he was clearly having loads of fun with it and besides he was also in two Addams Family movies, so he was clearly not above taking on a comedic role.

What's truly unspeakably sad, however, is that this movie -Stan Helsing- was Leslie Nielsen's final role before dying of pneumonia. This is a tragedy exactly three times greater than Raul Julia's, and I have scientific proof to support that: IMDb has only attempted to revise history by sticking Raul Julia's name to one other project that happened after he died. Nielsen, on the other hand, has three. Q.E.D.

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