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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2013-Day 2: SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY (2012)

Rather than simply go over old movies for this annual horror overview, I sometimes take a chance on a more recent fright epic and I'm sad to say that with the indie film SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY, which originally saw limited independent release as SATURDAY MORNING MASSACRE, my curiosity bit me on the ass. WARNING: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!!!

Working from a great idea, specifically a dark parody of SCOOBY-DOO for grownups that takes on all of the beloved Saturday morning cartoon's tropes and runs with them, the film gives us the basic familiar template of a group of young paranormal investigators — hot chick, brainiac girl, stoner, big dude who drives their van — and their big dog, roving about and solving mysteries that at first appear to involve ghosts, assorted monsters, and even aliens, but that are invariably revealed to be the work of senior citizens scam artists, petty criminals, and filthy perverts who try to scare people away from their illegal enterprises by faking the supernatural. After getting dressed down by cops whose months-long investigation of a kiddie porn ring is undone by their well-intentioned efforts, the dejected gang are offered one last shot at a real case when a banker calls to enlist their services in checking out a haunted house that his bank is trying to sell. The problem is that all of the repair crews and cleanup people who are hired to fix the place up keep refusing to do the work because the house is apparently haunted for real, so the investigators camp out there overnight, setting up cameras and generally checking the place out in hope of finding a real haunting for once. Let's just say that they get a lot more than they bargained for.

With its tone initially established as a straight-up humorous parody, SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY almost immediately jettisons that angle and instead devolves into borderline-BLAIR WITCH PROJECT histrionics and dysfunction among its characters, while dragging the proceedings out interminably during its seeming eternity of an 88-minute running time. The alleged parodying of SCOOBY-DOO swiftly amounts to zilch as the characters fall victim to a jug of water that's laced with a considerable amount of LSD that the stoner hid there during an encounter with a friendly cop, and once within the house the tone shifts to full-on psychological/emotional drama as the foursome navigates the less-than-smooth waters of their assorted relationships, with only the dog coming out of it as pure and blameless. The first hour of the film is devoted to tons of boring talk covering that bullshit, an acid-induced semi-kinky sex scene that merely pads things out, and much shrill annoyance from the narrative's Velma stand-in (who's nowhere near as cool as Velma, by the way). And when things finally do start happening, it's revealed that the presumed ghosts that are haunting the house are actually a pair of feral kids who have turned the edifice's under-areas into the type of creepy, cluttered madhouse common to this type of yarn since THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974), so the investigators still don't get a real haunting, despite all the setup that goes out of its way to establish things as such, thus screwing both the characters and the expectant audience in the process. That twist would have been quite clever had it been included in a genuine parody that stayed true to its espoused intent from the beginning, but this is a film that has no cohesive idea of just what it wants to be, so the characters and the audience are boned from the get-go. There are even a couple of gory murders — the axe beheading of the Freddie stand-in being a welcome highlight, though quite brief — so there are no guarantees that any of the characters will survive, including the dog, but it's all far too little too late.

Bottom line on this one: SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY possesses a great concept but is inevitably a massive disappointment by virtue of its tonal schizophrenia, brontosaurus-on-Thorazine pacing, and utter failure to get the viewer to care about the characters, a quartet (plus dog) whose presumed interest is based on over four decades of their templates being familiar to us due to their now-indelible presence in pop culture. In this case, more was needed for these characters than mere sketches assuming our knowledge of the archetypes and the tropes that their adventures created. A lot more. Save your time and money and sit through something like PIECES again. That one's no classic either, but at least it's entertaining.

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