Is it wrong of me to admit that one of my long held desires is to see Cthulu
run riot through a children's film? How could you not enjoy seeing an Elder God destroy a precocious kid, heroic squirrel, or sassy princess?
"Some daaaaay my prince will come. Some daaay . . . my . . . Oh sweet mother of God! What is it? It's indescribable! Andit'seatingmymind!!!! Kill me! Kill me!!!"
Maybe that's just me. With 'Under the Mountain'
, we kind of get that. It's Johnathan King
's follow up film after unleashing the New Zealand sheep horror, "Black Sheep." Theo
, two ginger kids with vague psychic abilities, team up with a curmudgeonly Sam Neill
to fight Lovecraftian aliens living beneath the volcanoes of Auckland, New Zealand. 'Under the Mountain'
is a fitting enough title, but it should have been "Escape to the Witch Mountains of Madness."
And it's a 'be careful what you wish for'
cautionary tale. Your one sentence synopsis sums it up perfectly but, I'm gonna try to add my two cents anyway. I want to be perfectly clear: if you're thinking about making a film set in a fantasy world, just go ahead and go to New Zealand. That country is to fantasy films what Tom Cruise
was to wide release homo-erotic movies in the 80s and 90s. There's almost no point in making one if you can't get film there/get him to be in it. Sure enough, the landscape shots are all gorgeous and inviting and mystical, making one almost want to put in the mental work to fill in the blanks left by the almost completely unoriginal script. Unfortunately, neither that nor my need to give a special gold star bonus to any film that includes Cthulu
mythos in it is enough to save "Under the Mountain"
from it's crippling issues.
Crippling issues? Are we talking about 'Under the Mountain'
or the Tom Cruise
boxed set on your Amazon wish list? I wouldn't say the film had anything that really hobbled it. The New Zealand scenery was indeed stunning. It had nice special effects, a sense of its own history, and spooky villains. That said, the story was kind of muddled. The aforementioned history was half-explained and somewhat murky. The climax didn't really gel into something cathartic and was only marginally exciting. It's a fun, if ultimately forgettable family film that you can file next to the slew of other recent entries like 'The Golden Compass'
and 'The Seeker'
. In about 5 years, most folks won't be able to tell one from the other and the story elements will bleed together in their memories into a muddy soup. Plucky children, hateful, static bad guys, a prophecy, and pretty scenery. RENTAL
Crippling issues? Oh yes let's see. The story was boring and predictable with no real surprises of any kind. The only thing we knew about the ginger kids was that the boy was a douche and we were supposed to feel sorry for the girl solely because the boy was so crap. The effects were mediocre at best and the ending trite and forgettable. This is supposed to be a kid's film ostensibly but it's too lame for the older kids and too dark for the younger ones. I'm at loss to say who this IS for except for US distributors to completely ignore. If it wasn't for the beauty of New Zealand (which if you ask me, is heads and tails above Old Zealand...fuck that place) I'd have fallen asleep on purpose. At best this is a low RENTAL
Let it be known that Cyrus
hates the gingers.
And simply because it would make the most mis-matched double feature ever, let's talk about "Sweet Karma"
. This is a solid, low budget thriller out of Canada starring newcomer Shera Berach
as the titular 'Karma'
. (no jokes about 'titular', Cyrus
is a mute Russian bombshell on the trail of the scum who put her sister through the human trafficking meat grinder. She channels 'The Bride'
and works her way up the criminal food chain, engaging in a roaring rampage of revenge. Again, we've got a story that you've seen before. This is 'Avenging Angel'
. This is 'Thriller: A Cruel Picture'
. It's a rape revenge flick without the exploitation aspect. This is more straight to DVD than 42nd street, but has enough violence and sleaze to keep you entertained. To give it a bit of grimy authenticity, Berach
offered input into the script, relaying her encounters with genuine sex slaves while waiting tables in Canadian strip clubs. Don't get any ideas, Cyrus
. . .
Wait, where? Canada you say, eh? Well, that's it for this entry of Fantastic Reviews, gotta go, bye.
Oops, I forgot I'm not allowed back in Canada any more after the incident with Mountie and the bowl of poutine. Don't ask. I'm not allowed to say until the Lifetime Original Movie of the incident I wrote gets its premiere.
Outside of my short temper with horses and the men who tell me to put my pants back on while riding them, I can't agree with your assertion that this avoids the exploitation aspect. I mean hell, it kind of revels in it. And thank goodness (or more like thank lasciviousness) for that because Shera Berach
is SO very hawt and the film takes full advantage of that. One rather memorable strip dance from the lady here had me upright and at full attention, so to speak.
Aside from the obvious and memorable sexual content of "Sweet Karma"
the violence is startling and the performances convincing. This may be "Avenging Angel 2009"
but it comes to a rather surprising and different conclusion with something more to say than just "Revenge=good times"
which is more than I usually expect from these sorts of things.
This just went to a really weird place.
And if some gorgeous, murderous mute chick ends up bludgeoning you to death with one of your many improvised sexual devices, then you only have what's coming to you.
That is indeed true that there are some exploitation elements, only they're not goofy. They're realistic and brutal. To see the meek lead cut loose with explosive and at times remorseless violence is an eye opener. And this is one of those films that's not for the faint of heart, not because of gore or scares, but because of rape, abuse, and the ugly realities of human trafficking. I don't want to make it sound like an expose, however. This is a warts-and-all drama/thriller. It's not terribly memorable, as it doesn't do much new with the formula, but it's certainly worth a watch.
You summed it up well, Jason. I'll let you out of your cage for an hour today and I'll THINK about not beating you to death with one of my many improvised sexual devices after. "Sweet Karma"
is definitely a low MATINEE
Keep watching, more great festival reviews on the way...