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observation notes: Jolly Roger - Massacre at Cutter's Cove

Arrgh is right.

This fright of a film begins when a group of typically-hornball, beer-guzzling young folk goes coast-camping right after a hurricane. Amidst their nocturnal romps, a weathered treasure chest is discovered washed ashore by the storm, but when it is opened, it's not a treasure they discover inside, rather quite the opposite: the cursed spirit of a demonic pirate with a not-so demonic name - Jolly Roger. Jolly manages to slaughter the majority of the young folk, but the sole survivors, bad-boy Alex and good-girl Jessie (Tom Nagel and Kristina Korn, respectively), try to warn local law enforcement (Kim Little and Tom Downey) of this soggy, supernatural threat, but, of course, no one believes a bunch of kids, so the pirate goes about his mission of bloody vengeance as our teen heroes attempt to unravel the mystery around what exactly conjured Jolly Roger, what exactly he wants, and how exactly to send his damned soul back to Hell.

And oh, that we could go with him.

No, now, it's not that bad, really. It's bad, for sure, but not worth eternal damnation just to avoid. The performances, for the most part, are strong. The two standouts in the cast are two of the most-regulars, Tom Nagel (Beast of Bray Road, Pirates of Treasure Island, The Apocalypse, Hillside Cannibals, Dracula's Curse) as young, troubled Alex and Kim Little (Killers, Killers 2, Supercroc, War of the Worlds, War of the Worlds 2, Countdown: Jerusalem) as Lowenstein, the female officer in town. Nagel comes across a lot like James Marshall's "James" from "Twin Peaks:" the good guy with a tough past that resulted in an infraction of the law that wasn't totally his fault but now has him pegged as a no-good troublemaker despite his sensitive, kind and well-meaning center. Nagel crafts a hardened and world-wise if not world-weary young man well worth rooting for. And as far as Ms. Little is concerned, still in her ginger phase here, she assumes a sort of Scully-esque demeanor, both physically - in her oversized, androgynous, non-fitted suits - and emotionally - she projects a superficially cold and professionally distant demeanor that masks a soft core, a real, trusting, emotional center, and it is this center that elevates Ms. Little's supporting performance above mere supporting recognition. 

The rest of the cast, they do all right: Kristina Korn does an amazing job, but only if she's supposed to be playing the role as a self-centered, obstinately-naive, over-educated bitch; if not...She comes in late on most of her cues, and her overall emotional state seems to be one of weepy inconvenience rather than actual, unbridled fear for her life. Despite all this, however, she is a good pairing with Nagel's over-compensating milquetoast Alex. Tom Downey (a 13-film Asylum vet, including Beast of Bray Road, King of the Lost World and upcoming Ballistica) as Mathis is a great addition to the cast, but he's woefully underused in this one-dimensional character. Nice use of regular faces in bit parts though, including Griff Furst as a warehouse landlord, Leigh Scott as a strip club owner, and, in a spot that nearly steals the show, Amanda Barton as a rockin' secretary. And then there's Rhett Giles, the great Rhett Giles, hero of so many Asylum films, a great actor and a charming fellow by all accounts - but even someone as talented as Rhett Giles could not make the character of Jolly Roger anything more than a bad joke.

I blame this on FX and script, honestly. Mr. Giles does his best - but for the accent, I'm not letting him escape that one - but the conceit of the pirate is just so incredibly cheesy, from his outfit to the crud all over his face to his dialog to the situations in which he finds himself, that there was never much of a chance audiences would take him seriously. I mean, it says something, to me at least, that every character in the film who comes in contact with Jolly, their first impulse is to think he's some douchebag in a costume (though I do have to give one bit of positive feedback at this juncture: I loved how old Jolly just walked around seeking his vengeance in his waterlogged pantaloons in broad daylight, often in public places, without giving the slightest hint of a fuck. That's some swashbuckling badass-ness right there.). And it's this failure to convince that kinda brings down the whole film. I mean, the concept is pretty neat, a little Scooby-Doo, but still ripe with potential. However, the screenwriter's attempts to realize this potential are at best half-cocked and at worst, laughable. Jolly ends up in a strip club, for fuck's sake, and not ironically; he's just there, killing strippers. Every time the pirate was off-screen, I thought this had the makings of an inventive, intense horror film. Every time the pirate was on-screen, he just ruined it, and no matter how great an actor was behind the crud, the crud was all that showed.

Every spectrum needs its parameters, two opposite ends by which everything in-between is defined, evaluated. If then, one end of the spectrum of Asylum films are my personal favorites like I Am Omega, Mega Python vs Gatoroid, Beast Of Bray Road and 2010 Moby Dick, then waaaaaaaay down at the other end of the spectrum there's a dark, dank, quiet and depressing hole in which I mentally filed Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter's Cove.

And I'll say it again, because despite it's own inherit cheesiness, it bears repeating: arrrrrrrgh.

1 comment:

  1. I have been following Amanda Barton for years. She is completely fantastic! My favorite role is Shelly in The Beast of Bray Road, but even her cameo in War of the Worlds was well done. I can't wait to see what she does next!