DIRECTOR: Ronnie Khalil, Monroe Mann, Jorge Valdes-Iga
CAST: Monroe Mann, Ronnie Khalil, Crystal Arnette
PLOT: Dumbasses go to Stephen King territory in Maine and bad shit happens.
In the clearly tongue-in-cheek YOU CAN’T KILL STEPHEN KING, a batch of rambunctious, vapid kill fodder brought over from the body count casting warehouse decide to go gallivanting off to Maine for a number of reasons ranging from partying to meeting Stephen King, who, of course, doesn’t wish to be met and whose fellow locals don’t wish to help strangers meet him. Once safely set up for a holiday of sex, intoxicants and fanboyism – not to mention relentless bickering and general assholism – the kiddies find themselves assaulted by roving gangs of Stephen King in-jokes (such as a boat [!] named “Christine” … and so forth). To cut right to the chase, the question is whether or not YOU CAN’T KILL STEPHEN KING is clever meta-horror or merely a parade of clichés cavorting under a misleadingly catchy title. Is the film’s jokey component satire, parody or simply a bunch of winking and nudging? The film is B beyond dispute but it has production polish; the verdict can easily fall either way. I’m sure the debate could be argued for hours in a room full of film fanatics without hope of a seeing a conclusive light at the end of the conversational tunnel. You’ll have to settle for my reaction. Lest you fear otherwise, the horror component isn’t compromised by the humor, a significant risk when mixing and matching fright with funny. The first kill is both classic and creative. After reel one’s tilt toward in-jokes over more meta mechanisms of humor, this initial death marks a swerve toward satire without jettisoning the surface humor that laid the film’s foundation for funny. The good news is that whether the film is being subtle or overt, its hash of humor and horror is well-balanced and effective. Of course, slashers are no stranger to hyuk-hyuk, or to satire, for that matter (the Scream franchise, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, the semi-slasher Cabin in the Woods). YOU CAN’T KILL … has more in the way of laugh fodder than others; indeed, it wears its sense of humor on its sleeve. Or title. The silly start was briefly a cause for concern, but the film fleshes itself out as it progresses and doesn’t take too terribly long to do so. The balance of emotional tones is kept safely in check. Overall, the movie starts out with a lean toward the doofy side but moves into the fearful side as it unfolds. Heck, it even works in some good character melodrama in the process. It’s oddly predicated on the id of the goofiest character in the story but his inept social fumblings catalyze actually compelling character tensions. This then thrusts us into the pit of horror around which the humor is huddled. YOU CAN’T KILL STEPHEN KING also quietly overturns a slasher trope or two. While the first kill is a blatant play on Who Dies First, a subsequent kill is surprising, an upset to the typical pecking order. Make that stabbing order. I get the sense the movie was shooting for something a little more layered and satirical and a little less in the realm of parody and in-references that halfway write themselves, but the scales aren’t heinously imbalanced and the movie is still effective. It also achieves some originality, even as it grabs left and right at horror tropes to incorporate (and, yes, rearrange) into its own context. It’s enough so that it stands out a bit from the rather populated straight to DVD B-horror world. Even without the attention-snagging title there’s enough panache to make this more than mediocre. Fun and fear intermingle, neither nullifying the other. Suspense is generated, particularly in regard to what the big secret is: Just what the hell is going on around here, anyway? The person or persons behind the body count could be anybody. I mean fucking ANYBODY. Nobody in town hides their hostility toward the outsiders. Is it a townsperson, then? Seems likely. It could definitely be a townie. Or townies. Hell, maybe the whole damn town is in on it. Wouldn’t that be a helluva horror staple – the small town whose entire population is in on a deep, dark secret – for YOU CAN’T KILL … to drag into the mix? I’m not saying that’s what it is, by the way. That sentence was written before I saw the end of the film. Call it guessing away mid-movie/mid-review. (What? You think I always write my words sequentially and shit?) See the fun here? It’s not the Lawrence of Arabia of scary movies but it’s a good time nevertheless. Funny, violent, even a lil sexy. All the best parts of a corpse-counter. And even those in-jokes – lest you think I’m deriding them – show up in subtle style at times. Some of it’s blatant as fuck … but some of the references are actually pretty sneaky. Case in point, if you’re paying attention you can hear the brooding opening music of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining show up briefly in this film’s score. The movie throws bloody obvious fanboy gags at the viewer with one hand while with the other hand deftly slipping in less forward references for the initiated. Over-the-top and under-the-table cohabit YOU CAN’T FILL STEPHEN KING with surprising ease, just like the scary and the funny.
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