Monday, 11 October 2010

Somebody Help Me (2007)


 Although I’m loath to admit it, I’m probably not as young and vital and ‘street’ as once I was. The very fact that I used ‘street’ there to exemplify the cutting edge of gritty, urban youth culture almost certainly proves that original point. With this in mind Somebody Help Me probably wasn’t targeted at me, a geeky thirty five year old from the North East of England whose idea of a good time is a nice cup of tea and a Miss Marple on TV. For the benefit of better understanding, and to fill in my own cultural blanks of things that happened post 1986, I have conducted some research:

Somebody Help Me is directed by Chris Stokes, Chris Stokes is a record producer, manager, and film director. He wrote and directed the 2004 dance-drama film You Got Served (???) and House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute (slightly firmer ground here, I am aware of the work, and the hair, of Kid ‘n’ Play, though I had no idea House Party was a franchise. To make matters worse House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute is the only film of the franchise not to star Kid ‘n’ Play so I’m still no more culturally hip).

The movie’s two leads are Marques Barrett Houston and Omari Granberry. Marques Barrett Houston is an R&B singer, rapper, and actor and was a member of the R&B singing group Immature/IMx until 2002, he went solo in 2003. (I know what some of these words mean). Omari Granberry, better known as Omarion, is an R&B singer, actor, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and former lead singer of the boy band, B2K. He is currently a judge on America's Best Dance Crew. (I know what dance is).

Now, while I strongly believe the many assorted accomplishments of the cast and crew, listed above, to be valuable and impressive in the wider cultural sphere, these accomplishments, however, do not qualify them to make a credible horror film.

The thing about Somebody Help Me is that it could have pretty awesome. It makes an attempt to challenge the stupid stereotypes that shouldn’t exist in the 21st century film making, or indeed society. Our main protagonists happen to be black and this quite rightly isn’t treated as any kind of issue, but within the context of the horror genre it is addressed and our heroes and the white supporting cast are seen to challenge the assumptions of the horror viewer. Unfortunately it’s a half hearted attempt and this then leaves us in a cinematic no man’s land between the non issue of the these nice young people who happen to be black and this half formed challenge to horror genre expectations that doesn’t really go anywhere and that the film makers just seem to be coyly skirting round. So ultimately the viewer is left confused, we are not allowed to simply accept that protagonists happen to be black and get on and enjoy the film, but equally once the challenge is set and we’re aware of it we are not provoked enough to gain anything from the experience. Either way it’s a shame.

Anyway, on with the drama. After a confusing flashback to three years previous involving girls, dog cages and a crazy person, the action proper begins with two nice, young couples driving into the wilderness for weekend birthday celebration. Our two heroes, Brendan (Houston) and Darryl (Granberry) and their respective girlfriends are LA city types, they are headed to Darryl’s ‘Uncle Charlie’s’ cabin, but as LA city types they are a little apprehensive about the country adventure, however, by the time they arrive and everything seems deluxe cabiny fresh they happily resolve themselves to having a jolly good time. Although there is the small disconcerting of neighbouring creepy guy who seems intent on giving them a good staring at, but that’s probably perfectly fine.



Brendan and Darryl gallantly head off into town to stock up on the necessary party supplies, Battenberg cake and fizzy pop I can only assume, and there they run to the friendly local sheriff who spends a little time quizzing them on the nature of their visit. Here we learn two things; firstly that Darryl’s uncle is named Charles Bronson (honestly, he is) and secondly that sometimes young people staying in secluded horror movie locations are nice, friendly and polite and not just all about the drinking and the drugs and the sex. The sheriff seems taken with these nice young chaps and gives them his card for emergencies and reassures them that the neighbouring creepy guy is really quite harmless.

What happened next actually made me feel better about my whole lack youthful vitality and street cred. Back at the house our two couples are joined by three of the oddest, whitest couples in the world (seriously, one of them was dressed as an approximation of Velma from Scooby Doo and one had such chronic asthma she apparently can’t even blink without a demonstration) for the birthday bash. Now the gang are all assembled the dullest birthday party ever can finally kick off. If I was Brendan’s girlfriend and this was 21st birthday party I’d be praying for crazied up psycho killer to liven things up. Our hip young things blow up some balloons, listen to some surprisingly, given the pedigree of those concerned, bad pop music and drink some shots until Velma from Scooby Doo falls over a bit. On my 21st my friends and I woke up on the Albert Dock in Liverpool, 200 miles from where we started, because at some indistinct point in time the previous evening we’d thought it was good idea to commandeer the This Morning weather map and sail to Ireland using an AA road map as a guide. Now while this might not exactly be the epitome of rock ‘n’ roll it’s a damn sight better than balloons and pop. Well, kind of, I believe there was some singing of show tunes involved as well, but we’ll gloss over that. 

This Morning: A soul destroying late morning magazine show watched predominantly by students, the unemployed and bored housewives.

The This Morning Weather Map: 'Fred the Weatherman' would jump about on this in a variety of ‘hilarious’ jumpers in an ill-conceived attempt to make the weather more interesting and dynamic.

Me: Drunken idiot
When the evening eventually grinds to its tedious end some of the participants do make an attempt to rescue the monumental boredom of proceedings by making the sagacious decision to stumble out into the woods to have sex. I question the logic of this for two reasons: 1) they appear to be staying in a luxury cabin that probably has a ton of beds and 2) asthma lady doesn’t need woodland debris and vigorous exercise to add to her already apparently life threatening problems.

The rest of the revellers then head of to their respective beds for some nice wholesome sleep and the most exciting nocturnal action that goes on after that is Brendan having a nightmare about small child on a swing.

The next morning, after breakfasting and a mild asthma attack, the friends are alerted to the fact that the two adventurous young couples have failed to return. Now, it may look like things are heading towards some action now, but they’re not. What actually happens now is the six remaining couples wander aimlessly around in various configurations between the woods and the cabin, discuss why they can’t call the police like normal people and realise there is no phone signal in the woods. After much pointless meandering the final white couple also disappears.

Now that six people have gone missing our surviving four decide that now might be a good time to call the police and risk the unspecified wrath of mysterious Uncle Charles Bronson. So, once the friendly local sheriff is notified of goings on and once him and his deputy have had the necessary ominous conversation about whether this can possibly have anything to do with what happened three years ago to which the sheriff insists it can’t, no, and that had better not mentioned again, then we finally get to some action, well, not action exactly but more wandering around and harassing of the creepy neighbour.

Sporadically between the inept search party action there are glimpses of the plight of the missing friends. Apparently a deranged plastic surgeon has kidnapped them and locked them in dog cages and is performing some fairly bloodless and prosaic unnecessary surgery on them. This is all well and good, but my main concern here is that we have a dog cage not dissimilar to those of our psychopath and our pretty but dim daschund Lou Lou can get herself out of it with minimal fuss and much tail wagging. But apparently the three captive couples aren’t as bright as our somewhat mentally challenged daschund Lou Lou and they remain cramped up and screaming some weird guy’s shed. My second slightly lesser concern is if you are a deranged cosmetic surgeon you’d think that if you then went to lengths of kidnapping unwilling clients to perform your ghastly surgeries on that you would at least invest some of the skills you presumably posses into something more impressive and imaginative rather than just lopping an odd ear off, pulling a few teeth and fingernails and a quick scalping. Now I’m no fan of torture flicks but all I’m saying is: if you’re going to put that much effort into a convoluted backstory (and some considerable effort is put in, newspaper clippings and scrapbooks and everything) it should at least tally with the presented results.


Bright young things trapped in crazy killer cage

Lou Lou: Cute but dim escape artist
Unsurprisingly it is not long before Brendan and Darryl manage to lose their girlfriends to the lackluster nutcase. They are then left no other option than to engage in a little more wandering about in the dark and some amateur detective work.

On the off chance that you still want to see this movie I will refrain from divulging any more of the plot. However, before I stop talking there are a few notable moments that I simply can’t let slide:

1) Darryl Gets Gassed: Our hero Darryl receives an unexpected spray to the face from an inexplicably booby trapped telephone and then falls over. I had to spin this back because I missed it the first time. The first time all I saw was Darryl pull a sickened ‘something smells funky’ face and say the there was no dial tone. I just put this down to an unusual acting style, but on closer examination it did transpire that he had indeed been on the receiving end of pooft to the face from the mouthpiece of the phone. A man who merrily snatches young people from anyoldwhere and scoops out their eyes had taken the time to set a fairly elaborate booby trap on his damn house phone.

2) The Exciting Adventures of Brendan and Small Blonde Child: Left on his own after all his friends have all thoughtlessly gotten themselves locked up by an insane person, Brendan teams up a mysterious small blonde girl (you may recall her from Brendan’s earlier dream: she likes swings and singing in a sinister fashion) to continue his investigations. The best thing about this little union is that on meeting said small blonde child Brendan apparently sagely decides that the shotgun he had found previously in an abandoned police car is superfluous to his current being stalked by a murderous psychopath situation and a small blonde instead offers adequate protection.

3) Most Incompetent Serial Killer Ever: Crazy surgeon can’t find three whole people hiding behind a couch in his own bloody house.

4) Whathisface Who?: Despite living in a apparently small town where, judging by their interest in strangers and new arrivals, everyone presumably knows everyone the locals still manage to miss that a national news worthy on the run serial killer is living down the road. He’s got his medical certificates with his name on them on the wall for God’s sake!

Somebody Help Me could have been so much better than it was. The two male leads were very likeable and gave competent performances especially considering what they were working with. It could have easily been a clever even humourous comment on outdated conventions with regard to race within the horror genre, but instead it simply teased us with this concept then got distracted by something shiny. I would hazard a guess that what ultimately killed Somebody Help Me was that it was born from commercialism and not from a genuine love of the genre. I’ll happily watch and defend all manner of ‘bad’ movies, but only if I can see the heart in them, if I can tell that somebody loved that baby so much and loved the genre that cradled it then they have my heart too. Unfortunately here I think a list was drawn up of ‘what the kids are into these days’ and this was the result. As far as it being a horror film concerned it’s subgenre confused and shambolic. It meanders through slasher, torture porn and even nonsensically rubs up against the supernatural without ever really committing to any of them. Somebody Help Me is a horrifically laboured, soulless piece of film making, and to top it all off I spent an hour and half waiting for Charles Bronson to show up and he didn’t.



12 comments:

  1. i must admit, i would sit thru total crap for a charles bronson moment. hell, a clint eastwood moment. damnit, i'd do it for yul bryner even...

    too bad the heart was missing from Somebody Help Me. once the heart ain't in a film, nobody can help it.

    bummer...

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  2. "You Got Served"...
    Is that the one with John Inman? Hats off to this Chris Stokes chap if so.

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  3. Oh, and hats off to you for all that weather map business, obviously.

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  4. Ooh. Thanks for taking that bullet for the rest of us. I just subjected myself to "New York Ripper" and have no words ... absolutely no words to describe its badness ... yet...

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  5. I'm so glad that I never have to watch this. :)

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  7. You're made of stronger stuff than me. I tried to watch this one and gave up on it about forty minutes in.

    I too would have hung in if I'd expected Charles Bronson, though.

    (I typo'd in my previous attempt at posting this, and what can I say? I was educated by nuns -- I had to correct it!)

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  8. Excellent analysis of this movie....
    I think you're convinced me to skip it.

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  9. You guys are so funny. You make my day.
    I'm glad I've convinced you all to skip the nightmare that is Somebody Help Me. But by God if You Got Served had been an early vehicle for John Inman I'd have so watched that!

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  10. It rather depresses me that I know of the band B2K...and it rather worries me that I'm brave enough to admit to this...

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  11. Aw, Milly, I think probably means that you are just a lot cooler than me. And this point is doubly proved by the fact that I noticed how late you were up posting that comment on a Sunday night and am now worried that you are not getting enough sleep.

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  12. Pls i need d sound track or lyrics of d soundtrack of dis movie..can send it 2 ma fb inbox www.fb.com/jesuit.agbonma

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