Tag Archives: F

DEMIGOD

Producers: Miles Doleac, Lindsay Anne Williams, Wesley C. O’Mary and James Victor Bulian   Director: Miles Doleac   Screenplay: Miles Doleac and Michael Donovan Horn   Cast: Rachel Nichols, Yohance Myles, Miles Doleac, Lindsay Anne Williams, Elena Sanchez, Rachel Ryals, Sarah Fisher, Christian Stokes, Chima Chekwa, Manon Pages, Tatiana Piper, Sherri Eakin, Mike Mayhall and Jeremy London   Distributor:  Gravitas Ventures

Grade: F

You have to have a degree of sympathy for filmmakers who pursue their dreams despite a singular lack of talent and meager resources.  Perhaps someday a Tim Burton will happen along who will do for them what he did for their best-known colleague Ed Wood.  On the basis of his work thus far, Miles Doleac might soon rival Uwe Boll as this generation’s prime claimant to the crown.

This time around, Doleac offers a horror movie.  Taking advantage of his doctorate in ancient history, he and co-writer Michael Donovan Horn have concocted a script about the reemergence of Cernunnus (or Cernnunos), a horned Celtic deity regarded as the lord of the forest and the hunt.  In their tale, set in Germany’s Black Forest, the creature is woken from his slumber by a trio of witches who are his acolytes—Hettica (Lindsay Anne Williams), Letara (Elena Sanchez) and Fell (Sarah Fisher), along with their lumbering assistant Grimur (Christian Stokes).  Cernunnus (Chima Chekwa, wearing a rubber mask with antlers—and sometimes glowing red eyes—and growling his lines in muffled tones) is roused by sacrifices they make to him by capturing hikers who have the temerity to trespass in his woods.

That’s bad news for Robin and Leo Murphy (Rachel Nichols and Yohance Myles), who arrive to claim ownership of the rustic house that her deceased grandfather Karl (Jeremy London, appearing in flashbacks) left her in his will.  They’re accosted in the forest by gruff farmer Arthur Fuchs (Doleac), who’s out hunting with his little granddaughter Amalia (Rachel Ryals).  He tells them the fearful tale of Cernunnus, which of course they dismiss as local folklore—a terrible mistake.  It’s not long before they’ve been captured and staked out in the woods—along with Arthur, Amalia, and other hapless passersby. 

From this point the movie turns into a tedious collection of escapes, pursuits, bloody deaths and confrontations in which Cernunnus, a garrulous fellow who pontificates endlessly on all sorts of matters and threatens everyone, finally engaging, for some reason, in a prolonged tussle with Grimur while the survivors attempt to get away.

“Demigod” wants to be suspenseful and scary, but it’s so inept that it merely proves risible—though not sufficiently so as to become enjoyably campy.  The dialogue is atrocious, especially laughable when some of the actors deliver it in terrible German accents, and the acting is strictly of amateur-night quality.  The threadbare visuals—a skimpy production design by Julie Toche, frenziedly murky camerawork by Nathan Tape, hectic editing by Keith J. Hollingsworth—are matched by the blustery score and sound design by Clifton Hyde.

This is one of those pictures where you can’t resist quoting from the script.  Early on a character intones, “Pain is necessary”—a sentiment it proceeds to demonstrate for both the characters and viewers, before repeating it again near the close.  There’s also the moment when Leo angrily shouts, “This is a bag of hot s***,” something with which one can readily agree.

Still, you have to admire Doleac for remaining undeterred in his quest to make a masterpiece.  Or maybe not.  He also teaches filmmaking at a New Orleans college, and one can only shudder at the thought of all the students who might be inspired to follow in his footsteps. 

VANQUISH

Producers: David E. Ornston, Nate Adams and Richard Salvatore   Director: George Gallo   Screenplay: George Gallo and Sam Bartlett   Cast: Morgan Freeman, Ruby Rose, Patrick Muldoon, Nick Vallelonga, Chris Mullinax, Dylan Flashner, Paul Sampson, Julie Lott, Bill Luckett, Joel Michaely, Miles Doleac and Juju Journey Brener   Distributor: Lionsgate

Grade: F

At the start of “Vanquish,” Morgan Freeman, as Damon, a much-honored ex-police detective in a wheelchair as a result of being shot on the job, enters a confessional to get absolution from a priest (Bill Luckett).  He says that he has much to atone for.  It’s a prescient scene:  Freeman certainly needs forgiveness for making this terrible movie.

That’s a bit of a surprise, since writer-director George Gallo has had some success in the past (though, to be fair, the rather distant past) and co-star Ruby Rose made a brief splash recently in the first season of CW’s “Batwoman.”

But here even the basic premise lacks interest.  Damon may be respected, but he’s a crook, the mastermind behind a bunch of crooked cops collecting the profits of the city’s illegal operations.  (The movie was shot in Biloxi, Mississippi, though the locale is apparently meant to be anonymous.)  Their cover is blown, however, when one of the gang proves to be an informant.  He’s killed before he can close down the operation, but the damage has been done.

Damon decides to scoop up his share of the proceeds while he can, and to do so he enlists his housekeeper Victoria (Rose).  She’s beautiful but lethal, a onetime drug runner and assassin with her now-dead brother who turned over a new leaf in order to raise her darling daughter Lily (Juju Journey Brener), who suffers from a serious illness.  Damon became their protector and support.

Now, however, he demands that she use her old skills to gather his ill-gotten gains.  She’ll have to go to no fewer than five criminal dens to collect the cash, and though she’d rather not, Damon kidnaps Lily to force her hand.  So Victoria jumps on her motorcycle and does his bidding, although he puts herself in danger at each stop, at most of which there are powerful people who hold personal grudges against her.

She’s helped—or not—by the camera and earpiece Damon orders her to wear.  The devices allow him to see things from her perspective and offer advice about how she should proceed, especially when she’s back on her bike being chased by villains as she makes her way back to Damon’s magnificent pad after each stop.  The back-and-forth between her efforts and his reactions just has the effect of dragging the picture out needlessly. 

Gallo tries to give the various places on the itinerary some special character, but the effort is a bust, and a grim, tedious repetitiousness quickly sets in.  The action has little style, the various villains Victoria has to deal with are sleazy caricatures, and the occasional attempts at humorous dialogue fall abysmally flat. 

To make matters worse, Freeman delivers his dreary dialogue as if he were intoning the phone book at half-speed, and Rose is apparently aiming to move her facial muscles as little as possible for the duration.  Perhaps it’s her way of trying not to laugh at the utter inanity of it all.  The rest of the cast is unremarkable, except for the ones who mercilessly ham it up.  The movie is visually drab as well, with a production design by Joe Lemmon that, apart from Damon’s house, is chintzy and cinematography by Anastas Michos that’s glossily repellent.  Editor Yvan Gauthier was frankly stuck with a hopeless task molding this material into something worth watching, and Aldo Shlialku’s score can’t give it any pep.      

In the end the fundamental problem with “Vanquish” is that it’s thin and boring.  During one of her stops Victoria is drugged and nearly unconscious.  Damon tries to help by shouting into her earpiece “Stay awake!”  He might as well be speaking to us.  The original title of the movie was apparently “The Longest Night,” and by the close it certainly feels like it.