White Fury (1990)

For those of you following the ISCFC’s review series of David A Prior, you may have noticed how he started to change – not having every movie be a weird Vietnam revenge story with a bad gunfight in it, for one – but prepare to be even more surprised by a movie which bears almost no relation to anything he’s done before (one delightful actor notwithstanding).

It’s a snow movie! Our hero is Danny (Shaun Holton), a snowboarding champion, whose girlfriend Christine (Christine Shinn), best friend Greg (William Berg) and Greg’s evil girlfriend Lesley (Chasity Hammons) go off to a cabin in the woods, in the snow, for a weekend of fun. Well, Lesley is a hideous beast who won’t let her boyfriend touch her hair and doesn’t want to go on a snowmobile; Greg is a miserable wet blanket who’s only interested in sex…but we’re expecting some sort of hijinks.

At the same time, we’re introduced to Tyler and Marcus (Deke Anderson and Michael Kaskel), two psychopathic bank robbers. After they’ve taken the money from one bank, they stand there and murder like 20 or so people with their assault rifles, then murder their own getaway driver later! There’s a hefty hint that murder is now Tyler’s main interest in all this business, as his look of sexual pleasure at butchering people does not go unnoticed. They decide to lie low with the bag full of cash, and guess which secluded spot they choose?

The final piece of this jigsaw is one Doug Harter, rapidly becoming an ISCFC favourite thanks to his roles in “Rapid Fire”, “Invasion Force” and now this. I’ll forever know him as “Pappy”, his character name in “Rapid Fire”, but here he’s a bounty hunter by the name of Martin Towers, who, despite being much older than Tyler, has apparently devoted his life to tracking him down. It takes him so long to integrate with the main plot that I began to wonder if this movie, entirely unlike any previous David A Prior effort, was actually someone else’s and Prior had bought it to splice some footage of Harter into to get to sellable length (it’s not this).

If you can get past the negative levels of charisma the four main cast members have with each other, and how Marcus looks more like a bland substitute teacher than he does a murderous bank robber, you’ve still got some curious editing decisions to really put you off making sense of “White Fury”. I’ll try to give an example.

At one point, all four stars are in the room, playing charades together. Tyler and Marcus are outside watching them, wondering why their lovely empty cabin is full of teen assholes. Tyler, who has rape and murder on his mind, looks pleased – but Danny is outside the room when the two men break in, instantly turns into a stealth-ninja and no-one apparently is aware he’s there until he tries to attack one of the men about ten minutes later. Plus, he steals the robbers’ cash to use as leverage, despite it being impossible he could have any idea what the men were carrying.

Further editing oddities include the weather changing from heavy snow to bright sunshine, depending on which character in a chase we were following, and in some cases changing even for those characters. Did no-one notice when inspecting the dailies for this movie? Did anyone inspect dailies? Did anyone apart from a bored, drunk editor watch this movie before it was released? You will be annoyed when you think back to the snowboarding at the beginning, which features a guy in a full scarf in the long shots so we can’t see it’s not Danny; then in closeups has the poor actor, now minus scarf, pretend to be flying about a snowboard track, despite there being no wind and the clouds and trees in the background staying entirely still as he makes his body shake about.

What I thought was the end, but was in fact just the middle, drags on to a ludicrous extent as the two men terrorise the teens and Towers is occasionally seen getting closer to his prey. It’s cheap and ugly looking and boring and everyone is a terrible actor, so it was a real bind to sit through, dear reader: when I discovered there was a whole extra bit, where Tyler turns into some superhero, getting shot, beaten with a baseball bat and still able to overpower three strong, well-rested guys and a bunch of park rangers, I really started to get bored.

Boredom is, unfortunately, the main thing you’ll feel while watching “White Fury”. It’s by far the most amateurish Prior movie to date, with nothing interesting visually, a script that forgot to have a remotely interesting central conflict or any good dialogue, and a running time that felt terribly padded even at 82 minutes. It’s available to watch for free, but unlike many of the AIP movies we’ve covered so far, it’s not even worth watching for that much.

Rating: thumbs down

PS – this even disproves my previous theory that rocket launchers or bazookas make all movies more entertaining. Even the nice guy bounty hunter carrying around multiple high-powered explosive devices failed to raise any excitement from this reviewer.

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Snowboard Academy (1996)

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When I was 12, I was in the Scouts, and to get one of our badges we had to put on a little play. We decided to do our own version of “Bread”, a popular sitcom of the time, and worked on costumes and sets, but the only joke any of us could come up with was to name one of the characters “Ramsbottom”. That play was still funnier than this movie.

Now, I don’t want you to think I’m just trying to be clever. This film is so unfunny, it will suck humour from the rest of your life. It’s a combination of elements which, on their own, are just bad, but together make something truly horrifying. Plus, it doesn’t really help that “ice movies” only really have one plot – the loveable losers who work at a ski resort are threatened by some rich developer or tax bill and have to win a ski-tournament to save the place.

Chantecler Resort, in Canada, isn’t doing too well financially. People are less interested in skiing, staff are having to work two different jobs, and a gang of snowboarders is terrorising the place – snowboarding is right out, as far as the resort is concerned (despite this being 1996, by which time snowboarding was enormously popular). The reason that these snowboarders aren’t arrested for their trespassing and criminal damage can only be that one of them is Chris (Corey Haim), the “cool” son of the resort owner Mr Barry (Joe Flaherty, a former “SCTV” cast member). The boring son is Paul, and he’s all about keeping the business afloat and blah blah blah. Mr Barry married evil Mimi ten years ago, then she disappeared immediately after the ceremony; she only came back when she found out he’d inherited a ski resort, and now she’s sleeping her way through the place and plotting her husband’s downfall.

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Dropped into this stew of tedium is Jim Varney, best known as “Ernest” in the underwhelming series of films, adverts and so on. He was clearly told to play it broad, so he gives it his “all” – gurning, puns, clumsy physical stuff, actual standup, and general going all out for a laugh. His style of comedy was old before he was born, and every single bit of it falls completely flat, which makes for a really curious experience – like seeing a poor sitcom with the laugh-track removed. He’s joined at the bottom by James Salisko as the bartender, who’s also the co-writer, so therefore has no excuse at all.

The boss decides to give snowboarding at the resort a try, and business picks up, but the two brothers feud, which leaves the stage set for a snowboard vs. ski competition! I feel like one particular scene of this battle deserves breaking down a little. Paul hires a bunch of ringers for the skiiers, including a few Olympic champions, and the first race is between one of them and one of the guys who’s been training on snowboards for about a week. It’s a giant slalom, and up to the three-quarters point the novice snowboarder is beating the Olympic skier, until he gets knocked out by a giant snowball (wacky!)

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Now, skis are faster than snowboards. Olympic skiiers tend to be an enormous amount faster than your average novice, so factoring both of those in…and then there’s the fact that literally no-one seems to care that a masked assailant is trying to murder people with giant snowballs. If there’s no consequences to your actions, then nothing matters, not even the stuff you’re trying to get the audience to care about. It’s awful. It’s just so awful.

“Hey Mark,” I hear you say. “It can’t be that bad, surely. Can you provide me with, say, a screenshot that illustrates that rubbishness?” Well, I’m annoyed that you’d doubt me, and yes. The big important letter from the bank, that drives the plot, is seen very briefly and thanks to the wonder of the internet you can now read it all.

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The way they frame the snowboarders-vs-skiers battle is, from the boarders, “skiing is bourgeois”. The idea that snowboarding is the peoples’ sport is actually a little offensive, coming out of the mouths of layabouts in their early 20s spending their parents’ money on expensive brand name gear and expensive snowboards, who are able to get to a mountain resort and pay the fees. Snow sports are not for the likes of you or I.

I wonder if this was intended as a kids film, as there’s Jim Varney, whose shtick could not possibly appeal to adults, no swearing, no nudity and a cartoony vibe from time to time. But even kids deserve better than this lazy, flat, terminally boring garbage. Corey Haim (RIP) looks high the entire movie, and almost certainly was; and they spell Brigitte Nielsen’s name wrong in the beginning and end credits. It’s such a horrible misfire, but is so bad so much that it’s almost worth seeing. Almost. Do you want an incredulous look on your face for 90 minutes? Then this could be for you.

Rating: thumbs down