Sunday, January 09, 2011

Exit 38 – review

Directors: Dean George & Joel Franco

Release date: 2006

Contains Spoilers

Despite this low budget release being a bit rubbish, with bad dialogue, poor acting and very poor direction and photography – all of which I will return to – I wanted to like it. As I watched it I found myself willing it to improve; I don’t know why and it didn’t.

Despite the name – indicative of a slip-road off a freeway – this is not a vampire road movie. Instead it is basically a vampire strip joint movie but it begins with a couple of cops, bearing automatic weapons, with a couple of FBI agents.

Stevie Dean as Marie
Now, I didn’t get one of the cop’s name and I can’t be bothered listing the other as they were cannon fodder. The Agents are Marie Jones (Stevie Dean) and her Dad, Boyd (Dean George). Yes, it is a father and daughter FBI team – and her father is also a psychic. In fact when the cops discover his name they know who he is and riddicule him regarding his 'powers'. He is on the case because the serial killer they hunt, Mercer (Joseph Kung), is a vampire. The cops are soon dead, Boyd is captured, Marie shoots Mercer with holy water dipped bullets, Boyd is released but (by the time he comes to his senses) she has vanished and Mercer steals a car and legs it.

Joseph Kung as Mercer
Mercer leaves the freeway at Exit 38 – it looked suspiciously like it was after dawn but as vampires burn in the sun in this then it couldn’t have been! He goes to a strip club and we note that he has a gravely effect on his voice and the acting isn’t swell. A girl takes him for a private dance and he bites her. The owner and a bouncer come over and argue with him, as he demands another girl, as though what he has just done is normal unruliness. He kills the owner and announces himself the new management. During this we hear that he is waiting for the equinox.

Family Reunion
Three months pass and Boyd is at the bottom of a bottle. He has a new vision of Mercer and then a ghostly apparition of Marie appears and tells him he must continue his mission. He phones up his director, Reese (Martin Kove; Kiss of the Vampire and Revamped), who puts him back on the case with the condition he has a partner – his son-in-law Lee (Jeff Beech). They haven’t spoken for three months and fight as soon as they get near each other.

ritual on Boyd
This is when we start to see the big problems that plague the film. Firstly I am struggling with the three family members in the same area of the FBI and also in the fact that the idea of psychics and vampirism is so easily accepted by the FBI. But also the dialogue at this point has repeated lines from one scene to another and neither lead actor is strong enough to take the film forward. Anyway a woman, Mei (April Hong), turns up to take them to her father, Dr Shen (James Hong; Forever Knight and the Jitters). He uses a ritual to give Boyd more psychic mojo and tells them that the book Mercer has (that Boyd saw in his vision) has a ritual in it that will make Mercer an über-vampire if conducted during the eclipse on the day of the upcoming equinox.

Chris - a vampire
So, off they go and quickly – due to Boyd’s psychic power – discover where Mercer is hiding out. Also thrown into the mix are a couple of hitchhiking girls (en route to LA) who get themselves hired at the strip club to make some money. They are Pat (Josie Harris) and Chris (Crystal Eden). One of them, Chris, is turned and ends up becoming Boyd’s love interest and the other, Pat, is queued up for sacrifice. Also, Marie is not actually a ghost (as indicated when she appears to Boyd) but a vampire now helping Mercer… can she be trusted?

mojo used to prompt suicidal urges
Before I look at the film as a whole, let’s clear up the lore. Vampires cannot go out in the sun, can be staked, are hurt by holy water but also have a mean line in eye mojo and mind reading. They are strong and horny (or so Chris suggests). If you kill the vampire that turned someone then you cure that person. After the ritual – which involves plenty of heart removal of women of child bearing age – the vampire would cast no reflection, be able to shapeshift and fly but lose the weaknesses such as dying when staked or when tanning on Malibu beach.

light snackage
The trouble is the film was just too… well Boyd related I guess. I couldn’t get my head round this supposed psychic, who needed spiritual recharges, was sixty if a day and yet could get it on with the nubile hottie ballerina (I didn't buy that one, either) turned stripper. More, most of the film seemed poorly stitched together, plot wise, and I have mentioned the terrible dialogue and weak acting (though for some of the lead actors this was their first and only film). Directing wise, well Boyd is played by one of the directors, who also was an executive producer, we can see why his character was the improbable central character.

bad framing
However, self-nepotism wasn’t the only issue. I have put a screenshot with this paragraph and it is from a scene where the two Agents speak to corrupt sheriff Jimmy (Frank Hine). Note that they are almost out of frame to the left and that only Jimmy’s feet (and an errant arm) are in frame to the right with a whole lot of dead space between them. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, it wasn't as though this was a particularly short scene and this is some of the worst framing of a static shot that I have seen in a film – even Ed Wood never made a framing shot so bad.

Yet, as I said, I kept wishing the film better and the twists at the end were foreshadowed and the final one worked really well – I did chuckle. Still, it isn’t a good movie – 3 out of 10 is probably me still wishing it up.

The imdb page is here.

1 comment:

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I recieved an eMail from Bill C in Autin, Texas who has perhaps unearthed the cause of some of the bizarre framing. He writes:

"In my copy of the movie, some of the initial credits (before the cast listing at the very end) are slightly truncated on the right side! Look at Jeff Beech’s name (at 1:26:38 on my copy).

This is a clue that the original print of the film was trimmed down at some point, for reasons and persons unknown. This would also explain the bizarre framing you illustrated in your review."