*** Originally published on Beyond the Marquee, 06/30/12 ***
Hey Doc, welcome back. I was just thinking: You know the thing I love about low-budget films? The creativity that often compensates for a lack of funds. They’re also fun to watch if you love the production process, as you can catch little flaws that are harder to spot in big “hollywood” pictures. These movies also provide great examples of clever marketing. Look no further than Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman (the modern day P.T. Barnum) if you want to learn promoting at a doctorate level. So you can just imagine how happy I was when I received Some Guy Who Kills People from Anchor Bay… and it came with a promotional ice cream scooper! Right from the start, I knew I was in for a treat – be it the movie itself or the bowl of Rocky Road I scooped before pressing play. The film, about a random fellow who murders others, hits DVD on July 3rd, but is it worth an hour and a half of the freedom you’ll be celebrating at the next day’s barbeque?
Some guy named Ken Boyd (Kevin Corrigan), has a troubled past. Having spent several years institutionalized after a brutal attack by some high school bullies, he’s now a recluse thirty-something who scoops ice cream for a living. He also enjoys scribbling all kinds of crazy in a notebook he hides from the world. Did I mention Ken also appears to find joy in decapitating his tormentors? ‘Cause yeah… there’s some of that revenge stuff going on, too. One day, eleven year-old Amy Wheeler (Ariel Gade) walks into his ice cream parlor and introduces herself as his daughter. Unlike any episode of Maury there’s no doubt about the paternity as Ken readily acknowledges a post “loony bin” courtship that ended in pregnancy. With the aid of his best friend/co-worker Irv (Leo Fitzpatrick) and the urging of his mother (Karen Black) he begins to pick up the pieces of his life. Slowly opening up to his daughter and even embarking on a new romantic relationship, Ken’s world begins to brighten – before his murder spree threatens to destroy it all.
Remember the low budget marketing stuff I mentioned earlier? I don’t mean the scooper, Doc. The box proudly displays “From Executive Producer John Landis” at the top. This is one of those marketing gimmicks. An Executive Producer title means nothing and Landis had absolutely no connection to this production whatsoever aside from once wanting to direct it. When he dropped out, that was it. The filmmakers asked if they could attach his name as Executive Producer to help get funding and Landis said ok. Misleading, sure… but smart. This is fully acknowledged in the extras on the disc. So if you LOVED the Thriller video or The Blues Brothers, don’t let that devotion alone influence your decision to pick up this movie. Those production flaws I mentioned? Watch for any large groups of extras, like in a party scene at the start of the film. It’s someone’s birthday and the guests walk in a constant loop around the yard. This would be an Assistant Director’s job. They co-ordinate the background to look natural, filling in large gaps on the set with people or taking some out accordingly. If done properly, the audience watches the main actors. If done poorly, the audience watches everything in the background because they’re too distracted to pay attention to what they should be looking at. It’s a thankless job, but an extremely important one.
Other flaws of the film are from a lack of common sense, causing believability to suffer. The “eleven year-old” girl is far too adult for an eleven year old. I don’t mean in looks, but in intelligence. She’s also running around town by herself without a guardian. How she’s not taken away by Social Services is beyond me. The cherry on the sundae (keeping with the ice cream theme) is when she shows up at the home of the father she never knew (and still doesn’t) and announces that she’s going to live with him for a week. The mother who purposely kept Ken a secret from their daughter for her entire life, is cool with her walking BY HERSELF to a virtual stranger’s place to live for a while. The guy was in a mental institution! What if he was some sort of *ahem* psycho-killer!?? Qu’est ce que c’est!
And the mayor of the town is played by Ahmed Best. Jar Jar Binks, Doc.
But it’s not all that bad. I just pretended the girl was fourteen and, plugging my ears, sang “la la la la la” whenever they tried to preteen her. That way I didn’t hate her mother as much for being negligent and bought into the movie a little more. The story is really good, not great. The film looks to be quirky and funny, vicious and gory, touching and dramatic all at the same time. That’s a delicate balance and you normally need to know exactly what you’re doing. Is this a horror-comedy or a comedy-horror? I really don’t think director Jack Perez could make up his mind and the first half of the movie feels very confused. The second half, however starts to cook. Once you’ve made a connection with the characters and you see Ken changing, you want to see him do good. There’s a nice little twist on the end, but in some ways it feels a bit too neat; all tied up with a pretty l’il bow. It’s all forgivable, because at the end of the day it’s a fun movie and not nearly the train wreck it probably ought to be. The acting is pretty solid across the board, though I found Bostwick’s Sheriff to be kind of annoying. Karen Black really shines and young Ariel Gade doesn’t overact like many child actors tend to. Hell… even Jar Jar passes in the two lines he’s given! But Kevin Corrigan has now made my list of actors to watch and he’s the main reason this film is as successful as it is. His facial expressions and body movements speak volumes when he’s not uttering a word of dialogue and that’s something only truly talented actors can pull off.
The DVD has few extras on it, including the trailer. There’s a short film titled The Fifth on which Some Guy Who Kills People was allegedly based. It’s funny, if not a little harsh and I don’t see much of a connection between the two aside from murder. A mediocre “making of” featurette is also included if you feel so inclined to watch it. It has some cool behind the scenes footage, but it’s really nothing to write home about. Commentary with director Perez and writer/producer Ryan Levin is decent, but not exactly required listening.
Some Guy Who Kills People is a 2 out of 4 deviler, Doc. With an estimated budget of $300,000 the filmmakers have managed to get quality, semi-name talent and a really well-shot film. It’s sufficiently entertaining and never lags, despite a script that’s tonally disoriented. Overall, Some Guy is worth a rental, but I’d think twice before dropping twenty dollars on it. After all, twenty bucks can buy a lot of Rocky Road.