Lionsgate // 2009 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // July 24th, 2009
Twin brothers who love killing even more than they love each other.
A line of dialogue heard dozens and dozens of times in this film: "You forgot to say Simon says."
Kate (Margo Harshman, Fired Up), Zack (Greg Cipes, Fast and Furious), Vicky (Carrie Finklea, Elephant), Ashley (Kelly Vitz, Nancy Drew), and Riff (Artie Baxter, Gridiron Gang) are five teenagers who have decided to take a camping trip. When they reach the incredibly creepy Middle of Nowhere, they stop and set up their tents. It's going to be a fun-filled weekend of having fun and partying in the wilderness...or so they think. It just so happens that some mysterious twins named Stanley and Simon (both played by Crispin Glover, Back to the Future) who have a murderous past are in the vicinity. You can bet that not everyone is going to make it back home.
I may be out of touch with the modern world, but seriously do teenagers still go on camping trips? You would think that after some 30-something years of slasher films, people would have learned a thing or two about surviving the attacks of crazed serial killers. Perhaps the first way to prevent such an attack would be to avoid going on a camping trip in some godforsaken area to begin with. Alas, in the decades that have passed, this genre (and viewers of the genre) has seemingly not evolved one little bit. Simon Says is another round of the same game that we keep playing year after year: some clichéd teens are killed one-by-one in creatively violent ways.
It takes less than a minute to learn everything that you need to know about the primary characters. Vicky is the slut who dreams of getting a Cadillac and breast implants, Riff is the tool of a jock who can't control his libido, Zack is the stoner who spends all of his time getting high, Vicky is the uptight bitch who gets on everybody's nerves, and Kate is the nice girl who stands the best chance of surviving the events of the film. These are such boring characters. I suppose the fact that we aren't interested in any of them makes it a little less cringe-inducing when they die, but that's no excuse for lazy writing. The slasher film continues to be the genre with the lowest standards in terms of creating realistic and engaging characters.
The film feels like the work of a 22-year-old first-time amateur, but I was startled to realize that veteran William Dear (who has given us such innocuous fare as Harry and the Hendersons, The Sandlot, and Angels in the Outfield) is responsible for both the writing and direction. It's bizarre to think a bona fide professional actually made this thing, because there are quite a few basic editing mistakes and plot holes that even an 8-year-old would notice. Dear seems to have no sense of space whatsoever, sometimes even transporting our characters from one location to another in a single cut during the middle of a conversation. You would think he might have also learned what is required to record properly during a location shoot, but apparently much of the footage here was unusable, as a large percentage of the lines have obviously been re-dubbed in post-production. I won't even talk about the preposterousness and scientific impossibilities of some of the crazy death machines the killers have set up in the woods.
I often complain about the fact that the killers in these movies are nameless, faceless bores who have the magical ability to transport from place to place in an obscenely mysterious manner. I do have to give the film credit for at least giving us murderers with personality this time around. It may not be a remotely credible personality, but it is a personality nonetheless. Crispin Glover doesn't really provide any noteworthy difference between Simon and Stanley, making them both supremely weird rednecks with a fondness for blood. Like so many hillbilly southerners in the movies, they both speak as if they have walked off the set of Gone With the Wind ("Sah-muhn, ahm-a goin' to go outside tuh chey-ak on the chul'drun"). These are two guys who make their presence known throughout the proceedings, cackling, screaming, and shouting punch lines at every opportunity. I generally like Glover's peculiar presence, but in Simon Says he simply becomes annoying after a while.
The film suffers from a horrible transfer, looking grimy, dirty and unpleasant in ways beyond the film's artistic attempts to seem "gritty." Color bleeding is a serious problem, darker scenes are lacking in depth and definition, and pixels as big as my fingers start popping up all over the place any time there's some sort of fast motion or action. Audio is even worse. The dubbed dialogue typically does not match the spoken words, the non-dubbed dialogue is often distorted and the music is cranked up way too loud. It's a pretty miserable audiovisual experience. Extras include an audio commentary with William Dear, a behind-the-scenes featurette, storyboard comparisons and a stills gallery.
Not much to defend here, aside from a begrudging recognition of some genuinely startling macabre gags (including one involving the nastiest CD player I have ever seen).
Simon Says is a pretty awful movie that just barely manages to distinguish itself from every slasher film ever made. Still, if you want to see Crispin Glover's wacky Foghorn Leghorn imitation, here you go.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Image Gallery
* Storyboard Comparisons