Monday, November 30, 2009

'Netherworld' has some good parts, but they add up to nothing

Netherworld (1992)
Starring: Michael Bendetti, Holly Floria, Denise Gentile, Alex Datcher and Robert Sampson
Director: David Schmoeller
Producers: Charles Band and Thomas Bradford
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

A young man (Bendetti) travels to an isolated spot of Lousiana to reconnect with the father he never knew. (Well... and to claim the massive edge-of-the-bayou property and mansion he inhertited from him.) He finds himself surrounded by stranger-than-average Southerners... and voodoo-practicing hookers. And flying stone hands. And, like the saying goes: It's all fun and games until someone gets tied to the evil sacrifical altar.

Sometimes, a low-budget horror film can survive on mood and mysterious imagery and characters alone. Take "Phantasm", for example. I love that movie, but the story makes absolutely no sense and I defy you to tell me how the movie's various elements tie together, especially since the explanation "it was all a dream" goes out the window with the shock ending.

Most of the times, however, such films are miserable failures... and "Netherworld" fits into that category. I get the sense that there is an idea somewhere buried under all the crap here, but that writer/director David Schmoeller was either too lazy to develop it properly or too full of his own artisticality that he forgot to make a coherent film. Or maybe the producer meddled too much... or meddled too little. This film doesn't warrant the research it would take to find the answer.

The film has plenty of strange characters and creepy imagery--much of which actually feels like it was copied badly from the aforementioned "Phantasm--but the various parts of the film barely connect and when they do, they make no sense. And Schmoeller simply isn't good enough enough to make a movie that can survive on atmosphere alone, even when he's cribbing from a film that got it right. He should have explained how the voodoo hookers fit in with the lawyer and the house keeper; who is ressurecting people and why; and he should have simply left out the stupid flying stone hand and weird midget.

"Netherworld" is a total misfire of a movie. It's astonishing that the same team that made "Tourist Trap" and "Puppet Master" could screw up so badly on this one.

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