Returning to their family's cabin in the dark, Wisconsin woods to scatter the ashes of their father, a troubled young man and his brash sister are terrorized by signs that an ancient, ...
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Returning to their family's cabin in the dark, Wisconsin woods to scatter the ashes of their father, a troubled young man and his brash sister are terrorized by signs that an ancient, Native-American spirit, awakened by a ritual murder, has marked them for death.
An offering from America's Dairyland "found alive and of normal size." (Monster a-Go-Go (1965))
There are bad directors and bad directors, and there are an awful lot of these.
Then there are bad director's bad directors. The bad directors that other bad directors hold in high regard and who set the minimum standards of incompetence in the craft. This subset is much smaller.
Then there are the select. The ones who set the absolute standard. The bad director's bad directors who are also widely considered by film critics, scholars and the viewing public to be responsible for some of the very worst examples in the Art & Science of the Motion Picture. There are very, very few of these, and their ranks include such luminaries as Hal Needham, Francis Coleman, Harold P. Warren, Larry Buchanan, and Edward D. Wood, Jr.
On February 8, 1937, in Riga, Latvia, a new star was added to this firmament with the birth of Bill Rebane. Little is known of his early history and young adulthood, but twenty-eight years later, in 1965, Mr. Rebane amazed the world with his groundbreaking debut feature, the Wisconsin produced Monster a-Go-Go. For a first film it was an astounding accomplishment, and before the age of thirty, the new auteur was firmly established not only as the worst filmmaker in Wisconsin history, but as one of the worst filmmakers in film history.
Further triumphs followed, including such classics as The Giant Spider Invasion (1975), which featured an eight-legged, fur covered dune buggy, Alan and Barbara Hale, and a stained back brace. The Demons of Ludlow (1983), which introduced astonished audiences to a satanic, murderous, upright piano more terrifying than Jaws (1975), Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983) and Jaws: The Revenge (1978) combined, and Blood Harvest (1987), among a few others. Like the late Stanley Kubrick, Mr. Rebane's output has been relatively small, but exceptionally select.
Despite the fact that Mr. Rebane has not released any new works in more than twenty years, his status is still very much intact, and in the 1990s he became one of the few directors to have more than one work selected for review by Mystery Science Theater 3000; (specifically the aforementioned Monster a-Go-Go and The Giant Spider Invasion). And although they chose not to grant him public office in 2002, when he unsuccessfully ran for governor, residents of the Badger State hold Mr. Rebane in great esteem to this very day. Thanks to Bill Rebane, Wisconsin's reputation for producing the very finest cheese has been immeasurably enhanced from here to eternity.
In 2017, English writer, producer, director James Crow released the Wisconsin made feature Black Creek. Although this offering poses no threat to Mr. Rebane's reputation it does show a promising lack of ability and professionalism in its writing, technical proficiency and cast.
Made for an estimated three million dollars, Crow hides this detail quite creatively, successfully giving his opus the cheap look and feel of a film made for one-tenth-of-one-percent of that amount, or even less. Indeed, while watching, one is hard pressed to see where the cash went, (something even Bill Rebane never had to achieve given his more modest financing). It is not trivial to make the finest spring lamb look like leftover mutton, and, at least in this area, Crow is quite talented. Had I been associated with the production of Black Creek, I would have insisted on an independent forensic audit after viewing the results.
Unfortunately, among other issues, the script, while limp, vague and murky, fails to exhibit the gifted incoherence that marks true greatness, and is somewhat deficient in repulsiveness as well. And although the male lead's gruesomely pierced lip makes him a standout among an insipid and unappealing troupe, it also inspired this viewer to imagine what would happen if he got his kisser too close to a powerful electromagnet, such as those found in scrap yards or the Large Hadron Collider. This effect had a modicum of irony as one of the female leads, pierced lip's love interest, consistently wore what I guess was a headband but looked like three large refrigerator magnets glued across her forehead. These latter factors, while scoring well on the ineptitude metric, provided too high an entertainment substructure for the film's own good, and thus undercut its tedium index by a crucial two to three orders of magnitude. Despite the best of intentions, Crow still retains a shade too much respect for his audience -- something he may wish to address in future works.
(Another somewhat interesting curiosity is that Crow, like many foreigners, has an amusingly exaggerated view of gun ownership in the United States, combined with a general ignorance of basic terminology and use. (Doesn't Crow watch movies?) And while our teenage heroes are limited to one rifle that is repeatedly removed from and returned to a gun rack as needed, practically every other character is a more or less ignorant lout armed with a variety of handguns. In particular, one moderately suicidal fellow had an elaborate revolver that looked like it was borrowed from Yosemite Sam, with a barrel so long one expected a flag emblazoned with "BANG!" to pop out when the trigger was pulled.)
Still, a very creditable effort. Unlike Rebane, Crow is not a natural genius in this area, but his work is genuinely bad and worthy of inclusion in Wisconsin's retinue of poor-quality cinema. While Rebane is Camembert -- albeit runnier than some people like it -- Crow is able to raise plain cheddar up to a pretty solid Cotswold. Perhaps with a larger budget he could do even worse, attain a greater degree of sincere awfulness, and in the process move up from the general category of bad directors to the more selective level of bad director's bad directors. That potential might just be there, but I'm afraid membership among the elect of Bill Rebane's stature is likely beyond his grasp.
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