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
|Bright young things trapped in crazy killer cage|
|Lou Lou: Cute but dim escape artist|
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:
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!