Sunday, September 17, 2017

Potent Media's Sugar Skull Girls – review

Director: Christian Grillo

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

I don’t know whether putting the production company’s name at the head of the title of this was designed to create a corporate franchise or to ape the tokusatsu feel that was injected into the film? If the latter then they may have lifted the style (unrealistic costuming, puppetry and characters that grow to giant size) but they didn’t capture the je ne sais quoi that makes much of the Japanese genre so endearing.

Despite having some horror icons in it, this is definitely aimed towards a kids’ market but, importantly, I felt it treated its target like idiots. However, I’m getting into critique without explaining what is going on.

Leslie Easterbrook as Azreal
In a trailer owned by Demetrius (John Amplas, Martin) a ritual is prepared for. Local psychic Azreal (Leslie Easterbrook) and her diminutive sidekick Thaddeus (Scott Strasbaugh) are there to draw the spirit of Demetrius’ granddaughter, Anna (Julie Ryan), from the Shadow World after her premature death (and presumably make her corporeal). The ritual is working and offerings, a photo and a lock of her hair must go in the cauldron. Thaddeus messes up putting the lock of hair into the cauldron and knocks three fetishes in instead. This then summons up Blue (Cece Hagen), Venus (Isabella Sobejano) and Luna (Addy Miller).

the girls
So what are the girls – other than, jumping a scene or two ahead, high school students? The blurb just mentions “demonic girls” but the dialogue directly mentions that Blue is a ghost, Venus is revealed to be a shapeshifter (I’ll come to what shape later) in a pointless Deus ex Machina moment and as for Luna… Well we are not told but, given the widow’s peak in black makeup below her blonde hair, her fangs, sleeping with arms crossed like a corpse, her green glowing eyes that can mojo a person and the fact that garlic breaks the mojo… we can fairly confidently categorise her as a vampire.

Anika Buchanan as Lindsay
Next we meet Lindsay (Anika Buchanan). It is her first day at the school, though the film neglects to tell us much about why she is there (later we discover her mother is on business in New York and that is about as much character background, and indeed characterisation, they bother putting in). Firstly she meets, at her locker, local Mean Girl Meredith (Morgan Elise Beatty), except… she’s really not that mean (we’ll get to that in a sec). Then she sees a giant (puppet) spider with googly eyes and follows it, as you do. It goes into the basement, she follows, meets the girls who warn her off Meredith and then they all decide to become friends (just like that). Next thing they are in Demetrius’ trailer prank calling a geek girl by pretending to be Meredith and saying *she* wants her to be part of her entourage.

Addy Miller as Luna
Now I said that she doesn’t seem so mean and this is because the most she seems to do is blow bubble-gum bubbles in your face or remain aloof. When she essentially dismisses the girl, Luna hypnotises her and she goes through a dress-up doll humiliation (until garlic breaks the mesmerism). You’d be forgiven for thinking that this would then set her up as their nemesis… nope, she is then out of the film. The crux of the plot is actually set around the fact that the ruler of the Shadow World wants them back.

could it be Audrey II?
The ruler is the Pale Witch (Carmela Hayslett) who, aided by her servant Hobbs (Michael Berryman, Tales from the Crypt: The Reluctant Vampire & the Absence of Light), launches a couple of unsuccessful attempts to get them back and then is drawn into the Living World herself – queue giant sized appearance. What more is there to say… flying apparatus that I assume where mechanical broomsticks but were actually rip-offs of Return of the Jedi speeder bikes… A plant that looked suspiciously like Audrey II, and we established that the Little Shop of Horrors is vampire. Incidentally Venus shapeshifts into a similar plant.

sleep like the dead
But all in all this was awful. There was nothing engaging that would let the viewer step beyond the unrealistic effects and puppets. The acting was stilted mostly (though Berryman and, especially, Easterbrook both chewed the scenery and gave more than the film probably deserved) and the jokes unfunny. The film’s narrative felt like vignettes stitched together as there was little in connective dialogue. All in all, it was a bit of a dog’s dinner and I can’t see the target audience buying into it on an artistic or corporate franchise level and, to be honest, it treated said audience like idiots. 1 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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