Thursday, April 12, 2012

SNOW WHITE: A DEADLY SUMMER (2012) - mirror mirror on the wall...who's the least Snow White-ish Snow White cash-in of them all?

Fairy tales are a fun, fantastic, and sometimes scary (well, invariably scary) way to impart lessons, relay the rules of society, and even manifest the subconscious. As societies change, these tales evolve to fit each new generation. With that in mind, let’s look at David DeCoteau’s variation on a classic fairy tale, Snow White: A Deadly Summer

As Mr. DeCoteau is best known as an exploitation filmmaker that inserts beefcakey dudes wearing nothing but their underwear into his films (side to side with the usual breasts, beasts, and blood), we might expect his variation on Snow White to feature seven dwarves who are all beefcakes standing between 5’3” and 5’6” (for a beefcake, that is pretty much dwarf proportions) who only wear matching speedos and pointy hats, with each "dwarf" being a different color. Snow White forces them to work up a sweat performing important menial tasks, like repeatedly bending over to pick up widgets. Now, I know exactly what you’re asking yourself; surely they would whistle while they work? Yes, surely. The evil witch seeks revenge because Snow White’s calves look better in high heels than her own, or some other such fashion crime. Now, you’re probably wondering what kind of lesson a story like this might impart to children. I think the answer is obvious; even women (or gay men) want to watch dumbass movies where attractive members of the opposite sex (or the same sex) get nekkid for no reason whatsoever. 

Well, it seems I’ve jumped the gun folks. Snow White: A Deadly Summer is nothing like I imagined. Maybe because it has fuck all to do with Snow White. In fairness, the lead girl is named Snow, and she has an evil stepmother that talks into a mirror. However, both of those plot points seem completely forced in and have nothing to do with the rest of the movie. It’s as if you took Slumber Party Massacre and renamed the final girl Ahab, inserted a scene of her fishing, renamed the killer “Mr. Whale”, and then retitled the movie “Moby Dick: A Slumber Party Massacre”. I guess they don’t call ‘em exploitation films for nothing. 

Anyway, Snow (the engaging Shanley Caswell) is one of those bad girls who distrusts authority, and when she rides shotgun while her boyfriend gets pulled over for speeding in a stolen car (always go the speed limit after you steal a car dumbass), this gives her parents (Eric Roberts and evil stepmother Maureen McCormick) an excuse to send her to off to a military camp for asshole kids (“Camp Allegiance”). The camp is run by an ex-Navy Seal named Hunter (Tim Abell), and this guy is truly not fucking around. His approach to youth reform is to simply yell as the kids to do situps, pushups, or run laps. He even tells Snow that he will “beat the white off of (her) snow white ass” if she ever speaks without first being spoken to. If that doesn’t qualify as irony, it’s close enough for me to say “kudos, my good man”. 

Check out the tree stump wearing the red boots.  When you've hit the big time like Eric Roberts, you can afford to throw bagfuls of money away on cutting edge art.

Of course, with the subtitle of the movie being "Deadly Summer", people start to get killed off. So, who’s the murderer? Is it the camper who cuts his hand with a stone for no reason? How about Hunter’s beefcake assistant (Jason Shane-Scott, strangely clothed from head to toe) who likes to play with a hunting knife for no reason? What about the crazy old lady who lives in a shack? How about the druggie redhead (Kelsey Weber) who looks uber-metal with her lip ring, black tank top, tight jeans, and Converse hi-tops? I hope it’s her. She’s vomiting from heroin withdrawals in a camp for naughty high schoolers and suddenly decides to start killing people for no reason. That’s so metal. 

 "Kiss my converse!"  YES MA'AM!

However, we don’t get a typical stalk and slash camper flick, except for one scene where a couple runs off to make out in the woods before getting killed. The plot is largely driven by exposition, like when the drill sergeant informs everyone that one of the “campers” died after stealing his car and crashing it, even though we don’t see any evidence of this no doubt too expensive bit of potential action excitement. The plot does move quickly, but neither is there a basic mystery that plays fair, which is what the movie initially seems to promise. It’s constantly cutting to various dreams and visions Snow is having, but they just mostly seem to jumble up the narrative, rather than provide real clues or add some psychological weight. It feels like a typical forced slasher script, where plot points are just shoved in there in order to justify scenes of stalking and slashing and maybe a shocking twist, but minus the stalking and the slashing and the shocking twist (there’s a twist, but horrific it is not). I’ve said it before and I’ll say I again; if you’re gonna make a stupid movie, make sure it isn’t boring. Taking a stupid movie and making it boring does not make it less stupid. It just makes it more obvious how stupid it is. This is rule #1 of the screenwriting workshop that I teach. If you want more advice, you’ll have to sign up and pay a low low fee of $129.95. Incisive brilliance isn’t free folks.

 that there is a shot
Snow White: A Deadly Summer is so low budget is feels like most of it was filmed during a single weekend in a 100 square foot campsite in Griffith Park. A lot of the movie takes place at night, so they simply tint the movie blue using Final Cut Express and throw in some cricket sounds. Now, I’m all for shitty day for night in small doses. It can add disorientating atmosphere to a movie if done right (or done wrong), but here it just looks like they are camping out on a strange planet where the sun casts a piercing blue light at night that messes with the camera exposure. This is amusing for maybe 3 minutes, but after that, it just completely undermines any potential atmosphere or menace. 

 filmed in "blown out tinted blue-o-vision"

The 1982 campground slasher Madman used a similar “blue tinted woods as day-for-night” approach, but that actually worked pretty well, so it’s not inherently impossible to accomplish. Maybe it’s the cheap digitalness that undermines the attempt. So, if they ever come out with a state-of-the-art day-for-night expansion pack for Final Cut Express, DeCoteau can go back and fix Snow White: A Deadly Summer for a theatrical release, and maybe throw in some CGI nudity and gore, like a naked hentai-style animated camper chick who gets impaled by a trident. I’m just trying to help. 

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