August 9, 2013

Coffin Baby (2013)

"Hollywood, California is turned upside down by a series of strange and horrific murders creating chaos and turmoil in tinsel town. One particular victim is kidnapped, held captive and subjected to witness the torture and murder of numerous other victims. It is by her will, strength, and faith that she must survive the ordeal. Her escape seems hopeless and only worsens when outside supernatural forces become more difficult to contend with than her captor..."

To be honest, I didn't think this was going to be any good, and I only watched it because of the Lianne Spiderbaby plagiarism scandal. According to the IMDb, Lianne Spiderbaby has a bit part in it as "Samantha's sisters [sic] double", but it's only a "blink and you'll miss it" moment.

For anyone else who cares, "Coffin Baby" is supposed to be a follow-up to Tobe Hooper's "Toolbox Murders" remake from 2004. Most people thought that the project was abandoned a long time ago, but apparently not. The "rough cut" version is now floating around the big name video streaming sites as a dubious freebie.

Based on this allegedly incomplete version, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the opening scene. I have no idea who the gorgeous blonde is, but the tension and cat scare really did it for me! No, I'm kidding, the cat scare is as clichéd as the acting is abysmal. But damn, the gore which ends that scene is lush!

Unfortunately, it takes almost another 20 minutes before the meaningless plot gives way to more gory goodness. In that time, you have to put up with a badly handycam-filmed police investigation full of non-actors. I swear that if I didn't know any better, I'd assume that the camera was covered in butter so that it kept slipping out of the cameraman's hands, or he had some kind of seizure. Nothing else could explain the poorly framed shots and constant movement when there needn't be any.

Chauntal Lewis is hawt! Miserable-looking here but usually hawt!

Chauntal Lewis, playing the sister of the first victim, is extremely attractive and seems to be able to act a bit, but her character soon becomes as irritating as everyone else. Excessively loud American girls who don't follow instructions from authority figures are torture porn fodder just waiting to happen! To give credit where it's due though, Chauntal does provide a credible performance as a "scream queen". She definitely has a fine pair of lungs on her!

Once she's been kidnapped by a Dr. Phibes lookalike (I have no idea what the character's real name is) and locked in a cage, Chauntal is mostly tortured by having some kind of henna tattoo or supernatural branding burnt off her right forearm. I can't say that I disapprove of Dr. Phibes' actions because tattoos on women are absolutely disgusting anyway, but I assume it's all about either removing or invoking the power of magical sigils. Why? I haven't got a clue.

Roughly half an hour in, things change for the worse when what can only be described as a car full of wannabe "gangstas" and Elissa Dowling turn up to provide some unnecessary comic relief before getting killed in various brutal ways. Not to be mean about it, but I've never seen Elissa Dowling in anything decent, and I'm constantly amazed by how she keeps getting employed. Actually, I think I may have just answered that question for myself. There are some horrid practical effects and a lot of wish fulfilment in this scene, but it's still only filler.

"They see us rollin', they hatin'."

Between Dr. Phibes killing a random blonde, feeding Chauntal with popcorn while forcing her to watch a crappy movie, and hosing her down erotically, a police team led by Brian Krause from "Charmed" interrogate the sisters' joint boyfriend to create more padding. Somewhere in this mess, the story of their ménage à trois and their murdered baby comes out for what seems like absolutely no reason whatsoever.

Then it all starts to get even weirder as, after 10 days, Chauntel eats a cockroach, gets given an orchid because Dr. Phibes now loves her, and feasts on cooked human flesh from another blonde victim who looks just like the one who was killed earlier but with her previously sawn-off leg intact again. Hmmmm, so the Monty Python sketch about legs growing back is true after all!

At this point any attempt at maintaining the daily chronology or creating a logical plot goes right out of the window. There are more victims of the killer's toolbox (including the serial sister-shagging boyfriend), lots more blood and guts (plus a heart), Dr. Phibes gets an incomplete backstory about his dead mother in a coffin, and Chauntal starts to go through bouts of Stockholm syndrome as she's tortured into madness. This may only be a workprint, but there's no way it could ever be recut into something that makes sense.

"Love means never having to say you're ugly."

Rather than spoil any more of this utter crap for you by retelling the entire story like one of those lame "Women in Horror" bloggers who doesn't know the difference between a review and a synopsis, suffice it to say that things do not improve. I couldn't tell you if any of what happens with a little girl ghost and a cameo from Bruce Dern as a preacher is supposed to be real or an extended dream sequence anyway. It's all too muddled with zombies, ghosts, and decomposing corpses everywhere.

Somewhere along the line, writer/director Dean Jones obviously couldn't decide whether to go for a "They're all in Hell" cop-out ending or remake "Unborn Sins" (2005), so he did both and wasted several beautifully choreographed action sequences in the process. The abortion now known as "Coffin Baby" is the result.

By the way, I think Lianne Spiderbaby was a double for the first blonde victim in the bag rather than being Samantha's sister. At least I've cleared that up.

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