Saturday, May 13, 2006

Incident On And Off A Mountain Road (Coscarelli, 2005)

Incident On And Off A Mountain Road is nothing but an excuse for tired slasher film clich├ęs delivered by a villain who is in turn an excuse for mildly diverting make-up effects and ironically meek attempts at coherent thematic development of themes not worth developing.

After crashing her vehicle, a woman is pursued by a man with a knife. She fights back, however, using techniques learned from her husband that the audience comes to know through flashbacks. He is a nihilistic Mr. Miyagi of forest-based guerrilla warfare who forces his wife to train in psuedo militaristic fasion whilst spouting weak lines that rival "wax on, wax off" for faux profundity. This is, of course, after he charms her with verbal misanthropy and amusing tales of child prostitution in Thaiwan. A real Casanova, this one.

These flashbacks actually convolute what would be better off as a lean, meaningless but not intellectually insulting slasher film. This is not unlike the other Masters of Horror episode I've seen, Carpenter's Cigarette Burns, in that rather than recognizing the fact that the series works best as a treat for genre fans rather than an opportunity to reinvent the wheel, the filmmakers choose overly ambitious projects that they simply aren't good enough to pull off. Not that Incident is mired in weighty concepts, but it's readily apparent that Coscarelli can't handle anything beyond stabbing and bleeding. The flashbacks do intrude upon the mediocre slasher portion, lending a tonal diversity, but diversity isn't inherently better than harrowing (if Coscarelli were able to muster such a thing) monotony and in terms of content we'd be better off without them.

The film is stupid to the point of being amoral. It seems to suggest that the totally fucked up husband deserves posthumous "hate to say I told you so" bragging rights for the fact that it's his direct influence that caused his wife's survival. Of course, maybe she was going to dump his body, so his presence got her into this mess in the first place. Regardless, discerning a purose that isn't utterly trite and juvenile is beyond logical expectation. This film is all surface, constructed with the skill and diligence of an amateur, with very confused undercurrents. Near-omnipresent shaky cam doesn't do much to smooth matters over, either.

Though it aimed for profound insanity, Incident On And Off A Mountain Road only attains dazzling heights of inanity. Hey, at least they rhyme.


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