User Rating: OK
Pros:Crispin Glover and some good gore almost save it.
Cons:The campy humor, the boring characters...
The Bottom Line: Simon Says may appeal to fans of gore and low budget horror cinema, but even Crispin Glover's manic performance can't save it from mediocrity.
Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
There are two distinctly different ways of looking at Bill Dear's Simon Says-and neither view makes it stand out as a particularly good film. On the one hand, it's a throwback slasher film (which is all the rage these days it seems)-one filled with a hoary premise, stock characters, and some fairly gruesome kills. On the other, it's an odd black comedy painted in such broad and obvious strokes that it elicits more groans than chuckles. It's a case of a movie trying to be two different things and never really succeeding at either.
Crispin Glover stars as both Stanley and Simon-twin brothers who live out in the sticks. Simon is the mildly retarded brother, while Stanley is smarter but very creepy. Things set out for traditional slasher film territory when the brothers encounter a van full of young adults looking to party in the most remote part of the woods possible. The kids might as well not even have names-they're little more than character archetypes: the jock, the stoner, the rich chick, the slut, and the ubiquitous final girl. Each character is one dimensional-there's not even an attempt made at adding any sort of nuance to these people. You'll hate most of them from the first moment you see them, and it's almost pleasing when they meet their violent end at various points in the film's narrative progression. The exceptions here are the final girl and the stoner-who are at least somewhat likeable-or maybe they're just less annoying than everyone else.
Director Dear (whose previous credits include Harry and the Hendersons and Angels in the Outfield) seems to be aiming for the horror comedy subgenre (he also wrote the script). The horror parts of Simon Says are effective-if totally predictable-it's the comedy that falls flat. The jokes are too obvious (Glover milks the potential of the Simon Says title gag for all its worth)-particularly one that finds Simon telling one of his victims to "hang around" after he strings them up by the neck. I'm not opposed to camp humor, but the camp in Simon Says just isn't very funny.
Glover, who's no stranger to playing odd characters and infusing them with quirky traits, runs with the dual roles. Stanley and Simon aren't any more developed than their victims, but Glover's manic gleefulness makes the villains far more interesting than they should be. It's hilarious and so wrong when Glover literally stomps a victim's dog into the ground. It's equally bizarre and entertaining when he takes one victim and turns her corpse into a veritable CD player. Only Glover's incredibly over-the-top fake southern accent mars what is an otherwise decent performance.
The rest of the cast plays second fiddle to Glover's maniacal brother act, but Margo Harshman (as final girl Kate) and Greg Cipes (stoner Zack) both become more tolerable as the film moves along toward its inevitable conclusion. Meanwhile the rest of the kids are there for two reasons: provide some T&A-which the film skimps on, surprisingly enough-or be fodder for Glover's murderous impulses.
The other saving grace working in Simon Says' favor is that the film is fairly gory. For some unexplained reason, Glover's characters have a fascination with pickaxes-but it's not like My Bloody Valentine. Instead, Simon Says likes to use pickaxes in booby traps-sort of a merging of MBV with Saw. Glover has this "pickaxe cannon" contraption that shoots out whirling mining implements of death in rapid succession and over a wide area. When he's not using that, he's taking down folks with logs loaded with blades, pickaxe spring traps, and in one scene, an old fashioned pickaxe toss. Clearly, Dear put a lot of thought into the death sequences-they're easily the best part of the film. Better still is that the special FX work is good in spite of the low budget. The only really bad shot is a CGI burning at the stake that looks terrible (and is on the screen for far too long). Aside from that, the gore fans should get a kick out this one.
There's really not much else to say about Simon Says. It's campy and over-the-top and it features a "twist" near the end that's so obvious that it seems absurd that it even has a reveal scene. Glover chews so much scenery that I expected to find teeth marks on the disc when I popped it out of the DVD player, but I think we all sort of expect that from him by this point. I'd be glad to give this one a hearty recommendation if not for the fact that most of the jokes fall very flat. Instead, I can only recommend it to people who don't mind some cheesy camp in their slasher flicks. This is a low budget production, but that fact alone doesn't excuse the occasionally lazy writing and the film's penchant for obvious humor. There's still some fun to be had here, though-provided you're of the opinion that good gore makes up for many of a film's shortcomings or if you've just been curious as to what that crazy Crispin Glover is up to these days.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV