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Simon Says (2008)
4th Feb 08
Five college friends choose to spend their vacation camping out by a cursed riverside (as you do) only to find their idyll interrupted by a psychotic storeowner Stanley and his twin brother Simon (both played by Crispin Glover). Stanley and Simon want to play a game, their preferred game being kiddies’ favourite ‘Simon Says…’
Which of the five will win the game? Will it be the stoner Zack (Greg Cipes), the fashion-conscious Ashley (Kelly Vitz), either of young couple Riff (Artie Baxter) and Kate (Margo Harshman), or gagging for it bimbo Vicky (Carrie Finklea)? And which one of the poor girls has Simon got an eye on as the girl he would like to take home to meet Ma and Pa?
As the five youngsters soon find out, if you don’t do as ‘Simon Says’, then expect to meet with an inventive and grisly death. Not much fun for them, but a lot of fun for the viewer.
Reading the plot outline above, chances is that you rolled your eyes and groaned at the lack of originality. On paper Simon Says reads like one huge cliché that sounds destined to languish unloved and unwatched on the bottom shelf at your local Blockbusters. And to some degree it plays like a cliché too, but with one big difference to the standard ‘young people in the peril in the middle of nowhere’ flick in that it's fun - refusing to be taken seriously at all.
Simon Says namechecks Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre early on and from all of the movies it poaches from, it is this one and some of its other spin-offs - the Wrong Turn series - that we are readily reminded of throughout. When it comes to the situations and characters originality is hardly in abundance. Where the film comes up trumps is in the absurd way people are killed off and with such regularity too.
Once the shaky set-up is out of the way this movie totally delivers. With Stanley and Simon’s elaborate and frankly ridiculous weapons and traps scattered throughout the woods no one is safe and that includes surplus characters such as an ill-fated paintball team. Quite how the large number of the flying pickaxes doesn’t off the operator isn’t even worth starting to contemplate as the sheer over-the-top and bonkers number of pickaxes being dispatched is enough to justify the rental fee.
Some moments don’t quite work such as the huge joint used to off a stoner (very Freddie Krueger) but are more than balanced by such laugh out loud moments as a victim’s head ejecting a CD.
For an actor that has made a career out of playing geeks and oddballs, Crispin Glover seems a little reigned in as Simon / Stanley. By most standards he is still really freaky but the edge for this reviewer has softened a little. This is a far cry from the freaks he has played before such as the bad guy in the Charlie’s Angels movies, Marty McFly’s dad in Back to the Future or most recently the monster Grendel in Beowulf.
Despite this, Glover still carries the film making up for the adequate but unmemorable performances elsewhere in the cast. Look out for Glover’s dad Bruce playing Crispin’s characters’ dad too. Nepotism is rampant elsewhere too with producer Ernie Lively getting relatives Blake, Ernie, Lori, Robyn and associated partners onscreen.
Writer / director William Dear (still best remembered for Eighties flick Harry/Bigfoot and the Hendersons) claims that he was surprised that his movie was getting laughs as his intention was to make a full-on gruesome hardcore horror. Sorry Bill, you haven’t, but it matters not one jot what his intention was, what plays out on the screen is wonderfully silly entertainment. From a trampled poodle to catapulting pickaxes, Simon Says is gleefully absurd, eliciting loud laughs and leaving a huge smile on the viewer’s face. There is already a sequel in the works and more planned to follow.