At a convention last weekend, Spooky Dan approached me, handed me a card, and said “Hey go get this guy’s DVD, he wants you to review it.” He then went off in search of more Red Bull. I, on the other, less caffeinated hand, headed over to the table and introduced myself, and got a copy of It’s My Party And I’ll Die If I Want To, promising to watch it as soon as possible.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much out of it, but it quickly earned my interest and respect by having a guy who looks like the Quaker Oatmeal dude bash in his young son’s head in the film’s opening scene, along with the rest of his family (including another kid, though that kill is largely off-screen). It’s like the Charlie Bowles story come to life (except with a mallet instead of a hacksaw)! From that point it gets a bit slow as we meet our cast and set up the events that will take over the film’s finale, but that is to be expected. Also, since the film only runs about 75 minutes, it hardly takes “forever” to get to the good stuff. Still, maybe one more kill somewhere in the middle would have benefited the film’s overall pace.
I’m not sure why, but some shots seem to be compressed at a different frame-rate than others, which occasionally makes the film feel jerky (and in one case, ruins an otherwise impressive “Monster POV” style shot). It’s shot on consumer video, so I hardly expected the film to wow me on the technical level, but this kind of bummed me out. Especially when the DVD had been so well put together in terms of mastering – in addition to a surprising anamorphic transfer (whoever mastered the disc should work for Lionsgate), it also automatically displayed the audio setup menu before the film began, allowing you to choose between 5.1 and stereo. I can’t believe no one else has done this yet; it’s a great idea, especially nowadays when DTS tracks are more commonly placed on the disc. Since no DVD will default to DTS; I have watched entire films in lowly Dolby Digital due to not even realizing I had other options. On the flipside, I hate going into a setup menu only to find “English subtitles on/off” being the only thing on the damn page. Excellent idea.
As for the film itself? Not bad at all. For starters, it’s exceptionally well made considering the low budget – lots of camera movement, decent production value, etc. The cast is good (save for one thankfully minor character, a girl who looks like Michael Rosenbaum in drag), and the girls’ chit-chat comes off as very genuine, instead of the usual line-reading we get in these things. And bonus points for keeping the hottest friend of Final Girl alive the longest, something that is sadly rare (like the original Prom Night – Wendy was the hottest one and they kill her first!). Even better, the gore/makeup effects are very good – but that WAS expected, as Wash is a protégé of none other than Tom Savini (who makes a brief, somewhat superfluous cameo). Finally, the final gag is great – you get to the point where you think the movie’s over, and then they add in a joke that turns into an unexpected extra bloodbath.
I also liked the Creepshow style scene transitions, though I feel they are a bit overused (much like in Creepshow itself). At one point we just watch like 2 straight minutes of a girl playing with a balloon and assorted other padding in comic-style frames, a sequence that could have been removed entirely. The ending also has the sort of blue/red background hyper-reality style that Creepshow featured, a nice touch.
Speaking of Creepshow, Wash clearly knows his 70s-80’s horror. In addition to the obvious (Creepshow, and the plot is similar to Night of the Demons), there are some more obscure homages sprinkled throughout, such as a guy named Ben Tramer. One that WASN’T an homage was a scene in which our heroine practices karate; a sequence that reminded me of the one from Nightmare on Elm St 4 (a scene that introduced me to Dramarama’s Anything, Anything; thank you music supervisor!). I asked the director if this was intentional and he said that it was not. Which is a great thing about these indies – you can easily contact the film’s director and see if you’re wrong about something. How great would it be if, when arguing with someone over the ending of The Mist, I could just ring up Darabont and be like “Yo Frank… is it about faith or not?”
I also discovered a funny thing about nudity in a film. When someone you want to see naked (say, Jessica Alba or whoever) uses an obvious body double, it’s incredibly annoying and disappointing. Which, if you think about it, is kind of silly – you’re still seeing a nice rack and ass, just not the one you “wanted” to see. This was no more evident than in a scene where our heroine showers, and her body double is ridiculously unmatched. Since I didn’t really care to see the real actress naked (partially due to the fact that I had no idea who she was), it didn’t bother me that the double looked nothing like her. Kind of funny.
The disc comes with some nice extras, including two of the director’s short films, as well as a 20+ making of (which is largely blooper material). Another cool feature, one I haven’t fully played with yet, is a Choose Your Own Adventure version, which allows you to make choices that alter if/when certain characters die. After choosing the “wrong” thing, you will be taken back to the previous menu so you can pick the right one and move on, which is good because it allows you to watch all of the choices without sitting thru a bunch of the movie over and over (unlike say, Return to House on Haunted Hill, which made it more of a chore to see the different versions).
It’s not fully distributed yet, but it is available through the film’s official site, and I’m sure Wash will be showcasing the film at other horror conventions. It’s definitely worth checking out, and the type of indie I highly recommend supporting – it may not be perfect, but it’s made with genuine care and love for the genre, which is more than you can say for (at least) half of the films I’ve watched; movies that spent more in a single day than Wash and his crew probably had for the entire production. Kudos to them.