Posted in: Disc Reviews by William O'Donnell on December 20th, 2009
Two couples looking to cut loose at a biker rally blindly say “yes” to every proposal a pair of untrustworthy and visibly dangerous strangers make until they find themselves in a psychotic game where the women are abducted and their husbands must become killers in order to save them.
This movie stumbles along as a lame attempt to imitate Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects, by having a group of serial killers be not just cartoonish but also have an endless line of comrades who are able to help them along at every turn. There is a major tangent I could go on about creating such characters, the sort of bad guys that audiences are meant to appreciate and have whole populations of friends, but I already did just that this past Halloween, on this very site ( http://upcomingdiscs.com/2009/10/11/31-nights-of-terror-why-cheer-for-the-bad-guys/#more-9955 ). Using that essay as a backdrop, we can see how Poker Run means to appeal to fans of Rob Zombie’s films, along with an added element of seeing how far one is willing to go to save a life, be it your own or someone else’s, with murder and mutilation, which is unmistakably the thesis of the Saw films.
There are many problems this film has, and one that stands out in my mind is that I don’t find the villains scary. These days, if you create a character who is a murderer, they’re not scary in of themselves. What is truly frightening is the motivation behind the evil. This is the problem with BOTH Devil’s Rejects and Poker Run. Being psychotic is one thing (you have to be in order to be a serial killer) but simply killing while either clowning around or being gruff in your tone and conduct is neither original nor affective. Poker Run‘s pair of killers embody both of those demeanours (clowning and gruff) and ride it to the bitter end. The film tries to implement some sort of supernatural madness surrounding one of the character’s need to sever ties to his past, but it is muttled up and we are purposefully distracted from this possible explanation when the film becomes outright goofy. This happens well before an obese family from Iowa turns out to be a part of some death cult for no good reason and a severed head is shown to be aware of it’s own situation immediately after being removed…just lying there with a look of worry and sadness while it looks around at what is transpiring, but those are the finest examples of said goofiness.
To make matter worse, the killers hardly have to put any effort into their killing spree. Not only do the male heroes walk right into a road trip with the killers with no motivation whatsoever, but one of the female victims literally walks into the killer’s motel room, allows herself to be handcuffed and gagged, have kinky sex with him (cheating on her husband, the hero) and then is shocked when things get weird and dangerous. My goodness. I cannot recall a character I had less sympathy for. I mean, nobody deserves to be the victim of brutal violence, but she leaps at it at eye level with her clothes off!
So, along with being ridiculous and a cheap imitator of something already massively flawed (two things that is), the camera moves around too much in close up and creates a nauseating effect and made it hard to watch at times. Both the story and the picture itself had no stability.
Adding to the problems I have, the performances are quite amateur. One of the biker heroes Robert, is particularly pathetic and the gruff killer is supposed to be massively influential and have a dangerous presence but I see none of that, he just looks unshaven and thinks that emoting little equals tough.
16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen. The picture is inconsistent with quality, and never very good. It dances between fuzzy stock footage and the sort of picture quality you might get from old copies of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (the more recent one) or a soap opera. Mixed with the constant shakiness and close ups, the picture becomes quite irritating.
Presented in good ole Dolby Digital 2.0. Not too bad but certainly nothing too special going on. There seens to be a little bit of a balance issue, most likely between the on set audio and every dubbed in after, but so long as all the Harley Davidson Motorcycles have that distinctive rumble of theirs I guess things are fine.
Billy’s Creepy Vintage Cartoon: An old RKO cartoon that one of the killer’s is watching at the beginning of the film. This is an amusing addition and shown in its entirety.
Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery: This is a nice looking assembly of production stills set to some good ole country music. Decent looking enough.
Deleted Scenes: These were REALLY painful to watch. Seriously. Remember that girl who was tied up and such? Now you can see her topless in almost every cut scene including a time where she is doing cocaine with yet another strange and potentially dangerous person. As well, well we get some terrible speeches by the lead killer as he tries to sound like some sort of outlaw wiseman, but each speech is achingly insipid. All of them are just terrible, terrible, terrible and should not have been created, never mind just cut.
Trailer: An R-Rated Trailer.
Gag Reel: A pile of bloopers set to s’more country music. Yea hah!
Director Commentary: Poor Julian Higgins has such optimism for working on a movie with a small budget, which he has every right to be…good for him for trying but just can’t sell me on this film.
Kids, going on a massacre is not cool. Also, don’t trust strangers who are either cackling to themselves while on crack (literally) or being rude and threatening without instigation. As well, don’t trust these same strangers enough to go on a road trip with them, off the main highway (their suggestion) and camp out with them. And kids, after all of these warning signs, don’t go into their motel room and tie yourself down naked…chances are you will be hurt.