Three times. Three fucking times. I had to sit through this abysmal mess three fucking times to write this review.
I should get hazardous duty pay.
How the hell do I start a review of this catastrophe of a film? Two words — Meeno Peluce!
Anyone around the age of 35 or older will see those words and shudder. Meeno Peluce was a child actor thrust upon in the late 1970's who'd burned out his welcome in TV and film by about 1985 or so. He guest starred on fluff like Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Different Strokes, Chips, and had a starring role in the terrible TV knock off of The Bad News Bears (he played Tanner) before moving on to his own horrifically bad TV show called Voyagers.
Voyagers was better than, say, The Powers of Matthew Starr, in which Lou Gosset Jr. helped an alien prince move things with the power of his mind (very visible strings), but then even stubbing your toe on a hungry saltwater crocodile is better than The Powers of Matthew Starr.
Anyway, what I am getting at here is that Meeno Peluce is in Don't Go Near the Park, and if that isn't reason enough to stay away, the film is about 12,000 year old cannibals who eat chicken entrails out of poorly constructed latex stomachs.
We begin, ironically enough, 12,000 years ago as a cavewoman is haranguing her adult children Gar (Crackers Phinn) and Tre (Barbara Monker) about how they have destroyed the Earth's delicate balance. She condemns them to a life where they will age 10 years for every passing year, but never die, rather they must rejuvenate their life forces by eating the entrails of young people and thus absorb their youth.
Oh, and they gotta do it for 12,000 years until the moon and stars are in a particular alignment. Bummer. Cue the first of several scenes in which Barbara Monker demonstrates her awesome acting chops by screaming, "but we're your children!" over and over again. You can watch the way she warms up for each outburst, almost as if she is struggling to remember exactly what she's supposed to scream.
Anyway, Gar and Tre freak out, the old lady vanishes and leaves a gold and ruby amulet behind.
Cut to 16 years ago (that's 11,984 years later). A kid in suitable 1979 flares is fishing. Gar, now dressed in a handsome brown leisure suit, asks how the fishing is. The kid replies "fine" whereupon Gar strangles him and eats his entrails.
This goes on for like 5 full minutes. Which, if it wasn't so poorly done, would be great. But the stomach is very obviously latex and the guts are, in true rip-off H.G. Lewis fashion, animal entrails (Chicken livers if I am not mistaken). As Gar consumes the boy his hair transforms from gray black and his old man makeup disappears. Not coincidentally, the boy appears to age through the magic of a gray wig and a poorly applied rubber old man mask.
Tre stumbles into the scene and berates Gar for wasting his time with the whole eating people to be young stuff and demands that he find and impregnate a woman so that they can break the curse (by eating the kid).
Cut to a newspaper box with the headline "Kid in Flare Leg Pants Eaten in Park!" or something equally obvious.
Gar stumbles off to a parade and spies "Bondi's Mom" (Linnea Quigley in her first starring role). He follows her home and barges in on her in the shower. Gar explains that a stranger was in the house, that the door was wide open, and he was just making sure she was okay. Amazingly, though more perhaps because she is an idiot, Bondi's Mom agrees to rent him a room.
Cut to a blonde woman searching for her dog "Starshine".
Sing it with me now!!!!!!!!!!!
Ooobie doob doodbie, doodbie la la doobie, la la la no no!
She steps on a bear trap concealed in some hay. Tre appears, cloaked in black and a porcelain sort of mask, and eats her entrails. The stomach here looks just a lousy as it does when Gar eats the boy. Again, this scene goes on for like ten minutes.
Cut to Bondi's Mom (seriously, that's her name) checking out the briefcase that Gar is almost always carrying. Inside he has a peace pipe and a copy of the newspaper with the obvious headline. Bondi's Mom doesn't know what to make of this, because she's an idiot. Gar pokes his head into the room and, through the magic of quick cuts, hypnotizes Bondi's Mom so that she disrobes.
Film trivia freaks like me will be glad to know that both the shower scene and the full frontal disrobing of Linnea Quigley occurred for the first time in her career in this film. The full frontal bit was cut so the film could receive an R, but Dark Sky films was tenacious enough to stick every piece of discarded celluloid onto this DVD.
Anyway. We cut to, Gar and Bondi's Mom getting married.
Cut again and Bondi's Mom is giving birth to Bondi!
Boy does time fly in this movie…
Cut again and Gar is in bed with Bondi's Mom and he suggests naming the girl "Bondi" because it means "bound". Clever huh? Bondi's Mom is already annoyed with the amount of attention Gar is lavishing on the baby.
Cut to Bondi's toddler years where Gar has her out in a playpen in the yard. Bondi's Mom storms out, complains again, that Gar doesn't even notice her anymore, then storms inside.
Jesus! Is my DVD skipping or something? (checks DVD… Nope.)
Cut to Bondi's 7th birthday party.
Engage Tardis engine…
Cut to Dad and Bondi at the zoo. Bondi seems to have an affinity for wolves as she pets one of the caged zoo wolves through the bars.
Slingshot around the sun…
Cut to Dad telling Bondi a bedtime story, which, for us in the audience, is effectively a slightly longer cut of the first ten minutes of this movie, as if the actual first ten minutes of this movie weren't bad enough. Basically, though he changes names to protect the guilty, Gar confesses to being a 12,000-year-old eater of teenagers.
Ahead warp factor nine…
Bondi's sweet16 birthday party. Dad gives Bondi the amulet from 12,000 years ago. An act of fatherly love, and one that throws Bondi's Mom completely off her nut. "You never gave me gold!" she screams (off camera) as the party, embarrassed, breaks up. Bondi's Mom then insists that Gar choose between her and Bondi.
Bondi sneaks out early the next morning, never to return home. Bondi's Mom now exits the picture never to be seen again.
Actually, you could pretty much skip ahead all the way here and not lose even a single iota of information with regard to the rest of the film. I dunno, maybe Lawrence D. Folds thinks we're idiots, because he'll retell the "legend" of Gar and Tre at least two more times in this film, while constantly introducing new characters so that the whole effort is like watching the first ten minutes over and over and over again.
Now we get to the actual film related to the park. Bondi goes off looking for someplace new to live, and what the hell, at 16, doesn't know enough not to get into an late 60's Ford Van where she can be raped by a gang of thugs.
Like the entrail eating, the rape goes on FAR too long. In the midst of this chaos, Bondi screams for her father to come and help her, whereupon the amulet glows, and causes the driver to lose control of the van, killing all of the occupants except, miraculously, Bondi.
Lawrence Fold's visual treatment of Bondi is, uh, interesting — after the first ten or fifteen panty shots I found myself longing for the subtle and conservative cinema of Larry Clark.
Maybe it's a characteristic of my age, or the state of the world now, or something, but I can remember as a teen and young adult, not being bothered in the least by panty shots or lurid lingerings on teenage underwear and body parts. But now, when I see these films, even ones I've seen in the past, it's icky and almost offensive (not that I can be offended).
Griffith Park (and the associated badlands of Bronson Canyon) is as good a place as any to take up residence. Bondi follows a dog to a seemingly abandoned ranch. The dog is, obviously, Starshine.
SING IT WITH ME NOW!
Gliddy glup gloopy
Nibby nabby noopy la la la lo lo
Sabba Sibby sabba
Nooby abba nabba le le lo lo
Tooby ooby walla nooby abba nabba
An old woman springs through the door and spooks Bondi. She lunges for the amulet, then, as if unsure of her next line, asks who gave Bondi the necklace. Bondi says "My dad, he gave it to me." The old woman sort of awkwardly welcomes Bondi into the run down ranch.
The old woman is, of course, Patty, AKA Tre, played by, you guessed it, Barbara Monker.
Unfortunately for us, the ranch has two other residents.
Nick, played by Meeno Peluce. Cowboy, played by Chris Reilly.
Patty is old now, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense considering she ate Starshine's owner like a day or two ago. But then, this film leaps around in the timeline so rapidly, it could have been 16 years earlier. That would mean that Starshine was dead and we were happily singing along to the most powerful earworm ever for no good reason.
So, let's say it was not long ago, and that the dog is indeed Starshine.
Nick becomes almost the sole focus of the rest of the film. We get to follow his happy scampering antics around town for FAR too long. When he isn't trying to feel up Bondi while she sleeps off her rape, he's selling flowers on a street corner, or later stealing a bike.
Before we get to that though, Bondi has to have her minute of teenage love with Cowboy, who arrives carrying two bags of groceries. Cowboy, we learn through the magic of exposition, ran away from home too because his father was an asshole. Cowboy has money, a trust fund, but can't touch it (or something). He also wears his shirt buttoned only at the bottom so his hairless sunken chest is always on full display. And, to up the weird factor of his character, he is the most effeminate heterosexual I have ever seen in a motion picture.
Cowboy and Bondi compare shitty lives on the steps of the ranch while Nick scampers off to do Nick things.
Cut to Nick selling flowers on a street corner. Another kid comes up and starts pushing him around. This other kid, known in the credits as "other kid" is so bad an actor he actually makes Meeno Peluce and Barbara Monker look like regulars at the Royal Shakespeare company. Before Nick can get a well deserved savage beating at the hands of "other kid" he is rescued by an investigator, or reporter, or cop (it's never made clear) named Taft played by longtime character actor Aldo Ray.
Taft has been investigating the legends of Griffith Park. He relates the legend of Petronella, found as a young girl in the park in the 1840s and adopted by Mr. Griffith. Later, Griffith went bananas and shot his wife Patty in the eye before killing himself. He shot her in 1910 after accusing her of witchcraft or adultery or some fucking thing… the story changes so much between scenes and who is relating it (in expository dialogue) that it doesn't maintain any sense of continuity.
Let's go with the hilariously presented Aldo Ray version. See, the mountain is hollow and filled with demons. The worse of the lot is Petronella, so he says, because she put a curse on the property that would become the Griffith Ranch. Later, it is she who has her eye show out by Mr. Griffith because he's lost his mind due to the curse.
What does any of this have to do with the story so far?
We now return you to your regularly scheduled bludgeoning at the hands of Lawrence Foldes.
Nick and Taft become fast friends, and after hearing the weird legends of Petronella and the Griffith Ranch, vows to get to the bottom of whatever the hell is going on. Taft repeats that he wants to "get Nick out of that park."
Back at the ranch Bondi is snooping around and wanders upstairs into Patty's room. Nick is also there, trying to climb in the window. Nick spills the beans about hanging around with Tafty. Bondi recognizes "Petronella's Curse", not that it's ever been brought up around her before or anything.
Nick says that there is a cave nearby where immortal demons live. Before they can kill us with even more expository dialogue, Patty starts up the steps. Nick and Bondi climb out the window and clumsily try to get to the ground.
Petronella catches them though and Nick falls into a very soft looking pile of hay. It is apparently not soft enough to prevent a head injury though, which Patty cures with a leaf. Cowboy is there too, but for the life of me, even after three viewings, I have no idea why.
At this point I was ready to hurl the entire entertainment center out the window.
That night as Bondi sleeps on the couch, Nick peers in from the window on Patty as she puts on a cloak and mask before hitting the peace pipe. Patty heads downstairs and makes a move to eat the sleeping Bondi, but the amulet begins to glow and scares her off.
Bondi has a nightmare about being pulled into several coffins, then has a frame-by-frame swirly thing going on. Whatever the hell that was…
Anyway, she awakens screaming and alone then runs off into the night.
Cut to a lone female camper. Patty strangles and eats her while Nick watches. Patty becomes young and beautiful again then drags the aged corpse out of sight.
Cut back to Bondi careening through the wilderness. A dog chases her down a hill (she falls and rolls into a cave). The dog, for what it's worth, is Starshine.
Sing it with me motherfucker!!!! Good morning Starshine, the Earth says Hello!
Nick returns to the ranch but he's alone and begins to cry.
Cut to the cave where Gar is in his Native American regalia and smoking a peace pipe. Welcome back to the movie Gar!
Bondi awakens to a chamber filled with desiccated corpses, and Gar, and Starshine, and begins to scream. She doesn't manage to recognize her father, that is, Gar, who AGAIN relates the story of the 12000 year old curse.
Gar starts to rape Bondi. Tre arrives also dressed in her best Sweat Lodge attire. She chastises Gar for trying to rape Bondi and thus fuck them both out of escape from the 12000 year old curse.
Tre then does the single silliest thing so far in this movie. She shoots Starshine with her laser eyes.
Let me type that again so I can be sure you saw it. She shoots Starshine with her laser eyes.
Cowboy stumbles in as Gar and Tre engage in a pathetic two shot laser eye battle. Tre gets her eye shot out (again, HAHAHAHAHA!!!). A fire starts in the cave. Tre tells Bondi to swallow the giant gold amulet, which she does, then transforms into the Salt Vampire pretending to be Dr. McCoy's long lost love… No wait, I mean, an old lady. Though the transformation is the same, i.e. stop camera, apply latex appliance, start camera, stop camera, apply latex appliance, start camera. The exact same technique used way back in, oh, 1940 or so, to change Lon Chaney Jr into the Wolf Man. Bondi as the old Indian queen actually looks like Davros from Dr. Who, in a gray wig.
She blathers on and on and on about teaching Bondi about her past and wisdom and yadda yadda yadda you fucked up the Earth 12,000 years ago blah blah blah. NOW I WILL DESTROY YOU!
Huh? That makes no fucking sense. Didn't Old Lady Bondi just implore Gar and Tre to teach Bondi about their past? Now they have to die?
The hell? Did someone slip drugs into my coffee?!?! Also, if I had laser eyes, I'd use them all the fucking time. Car won't start? Laser eyes! Pizza arrives late? Laser eyes! Someone suggests I watch Don't Go Near the Park? Oh, you better believe its Laser eyes time!!!!
To carry out the death of Tre and Gar, Old Lady Bondi summons the cadavers laying all around the cave, and in true fashion ripped completely off from every Italian Zombie movie ever made, they eat Tre and Gar and feat on their butcher shop supplied fake entrails.
However, unlike the other deaths in this stupid movie we won't spend ten minutes watching Tre and Gar being eaten. Rather we will spend eight to ten minutes watching extras mill around Tre and Gar without offering us any additional poorly executed gore.
Bondi returns to her youthful and promiscuous self as Tre and Gar succumb to the zombie munchies.
Now Cowboy is miraculously alive, and Nick in regaining consciousness in the cave. What the fuck? Cowboy was hit with the laser eyes of death and doesn't even have a scratch. And how the hell did Nick end up in there, AND unconscious?
Hold on, the bizarreness doesn't end there. Taft arrives and using his awesome Aldo Ray powers of manly strongness, rips a hole in the cave wall and frees the three kids.
How did he know where they were? How did he know where IN THE PARK they were? How did he know WHERE, PRECISELY, IN THE CAVE THEY WERE?
Cut to Taft throwing a blanket over Cowboy as the kids sleep it off in his living room.
Cut to the three walking down the street. Careful viewers will notice the bemused looks of the people also on the street realizing they are in the shot.
Cut to (boy am I tired of typing those words) the three arriving at the ranch where they are told it's going to be torn down.
CUT TO the three walking down a country road discussing where they could possible go next. They run off into a playground. Bondi helps Nick up the slide then grabs his belly. Nick screams.
Ominous music plays, she stares at the camera, credits roll.
Big McLargehuge punches the TV into tiny pieces while longing for a marathon of The Powers of Matthew Starr.
Don't Go Near the Park suffers most not because the script is incoherent, lots of good movies are incoherent, look at Blade Runner. Anyone who tells you they get that movie is a liar. Sure, it looks great, and Harrison Ford delivers his lines like he was born to them. But the movie is baffling. Great movie. Fucking baffling. Akira? Great animation. Story makes not a lick of fucking sense. Ghost in the Shell; beautiful to look at, impossibly baffling narrative.
No, incoherence doesn't mean bad. But, Don't Go Near the Park is certainly incoherent. It also suffers from a wicked identity crisis. Is it a curse movie? Is it a late 70's teen angst movie? Is it a zombie flick? A witchcraft flick? An icky Larry Clark film? An after school special about rape and running away? Actually, it sort of tries to be all of these things at once and fails miserably at all of them.
And poor Aldo Ray. I mean, the guy has made some crap in his career, but nothing as bad as this, ever. Even his facial expression, as he tries to give life to his turgid expository dialogue says "please shoot me now".
Dark Sky gives this DVD the special edition treatment even though it isn't a special edition. They load it with dailies of the gore shots, and all of the footage cut to receive an R rating, almost all of it gore. However, there are also several flashback scenes that, had they been included, would have added a whole extra level of bad acting hilarity to the mix. They also have a commentary track with Lawrence D. Folds and Linnea Quigley (who sounds like she either smokes ten cartons of unfiltered Lucky Strikes a day, or brushes her teeth with a toilet brush. The commentary is sort of interesting for a while, but discussions about the camera equipment and who owned the house where a particular scene was shot are REALLY not all that interesting. I dunno why they didn't get Meeno Peluce to do the commentary track though. I guess he couldn't get a day off of his Wal-Mart greeter job.
The film is presented in 16x9 widescreen too, and it's crystal clear. Nothing says bad movie night like a pristine copy of utter and complete crap to watch.