ESC

‘Something Wicked:’ Romeo and Julie-Death

Shot and written alternately like a Lifetime movie, an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and a Brawny commercial (lots of lumber, saws, and wooded cabins), Darin Scott’s Something Wicked is something, all right. It was shot in 2009 and shelved for a while, one of the reasons being that it’s Brittany Murphy’s last film. In it, she plays a pediatric psychiatrist named Susan, who is married to Bill (James Patrick Stuart), a cop and the older brother of grief-stricken teen, Christine (not the car). Christine’s (Shantel VanSanten) parents were killed in a not-so-accident, in which she was pretty badly injured, along with the love of her life, James (John Robinson, who I immediately nicknamed “Soft Voice.” It’s so soft.).

In trying to get past her parents’ death, which at first she seems to do with suspicious ease, she begins to be haunted and chased by something wicked (ohhhhh there’s the title). It’s not clear if it’s a stalker or a ghost or a stalker-ghost, but it’s complete with hooded figures, a girl in a creepy mask whispering her name, and visions of her dead parents. Susan is convinced that Christine is having a psychotic break (until Susan out-of-the-blue has one of her own kind of sort of?). Others are intent on catching and killing whomever’s tormenting the poor girl. In the midst of all this, Christine and James move forward with their ill-advised plan to get married, and they spend their honeymoon weekend at a cabin that belongs to James’ boss at the mill (yes, he works at a “mill,” a workplace that only exists in the world of the shitty thriller). Meanwhile, the side characters for no reason deal with issues of infidelity and infertility, neither of which have anything to do with the story at hand.

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The sheer amount of justification the writer, Joe Colleran, felt he had to include is massive, which leads to so many half-D stories, that is tangents and strains of dialogue, Shakespeare quotes, and exposition that seem to point in a certain direction but then are quickly abandoned and left to shrivel in the heat of their ultimate irrelevance. It’s really incredible. Possibly, Colleran wanted to throw the viewer off the pretty obvious trail of the plot, in which case, he didn’t really achieve his goal. Or rather, perhaps he did but screwed up the reveal of the twist. That could have been it; there is a twist, but it’s not very twisted. 

It’s a poorly constructed movie in almost every way, but still there remains something endearing about it. Mostly student-film-grade acting, hilariously different tones to some of the shots (I’m no camera expert, but some of them are OFF), and a somehow too simple yet overly complicated script make Something Wicked feel like a TV movie, but only one from the 90’s, before TV movies recognized themselves for what they are. The earnestness with which this film is executed is admirable, at least. It’s reminiscent of R.L. Stine Fear Street books — sort of sultry, teen horror for the melodrama lovers, and in that way, it sparks some nostalgia. It would have been easy to give in and camp it up, but, and this may seem like a backhanded compliment (it might be one), you don’t see many bad horror movies that take themselves entirely seriously, as a character drama as well as a spooky scarefest — at least it doesn’t view like every other movie out there. 

That’s saying something, right? Something wicked, maybe, but then again, I’m a critic.

Grade: C-

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