What I'm Watching: Sledge
Welcome back, Triskelions, I've got more review for you, and today it's another from the backlog. Sledge has been sitting around for about as long as Swamphead, but really the similarities end there, almost.
Because, oh good, yes, please start out with another portrayal of the mentally challenged. At least the killer of this movie is using him as a diversion and making the cops think the other guy did his crimes. Which is STILL horrible, but I don't *expect* the guy bashing in skulls with a sledgehammer to be a bastion of niceness. Also, the movie doesn't keep coming back to Dickie to make endless jokes at his expense. I know these things are bad and problematic, but if they're done sparingly, I can sigh and move on.
ANYways, the plot is pretty typical. There's a legendary killer in the woods with his own backstory, a la Cropsey, and Madman Marz, and Junior Joad, and fill in any other name here. And of course, a group of friends go into the woods to camp, and end up on his radar. The movie breaks up the action by occasionally cutting away to a girl dealing with a breakup who is actually watching the movie on some late-night local cable horror show.
Interesting to have a girl watching the movie while we watch the movie. It lets the movie skip to stuff as an alternative to the missing reel trope. She actually doesn't have anything to do with the main movie, but she does serve as a kind of Greek chorus function to the narrative. ...Which may be the first time I've said a horror movie uses a Greek chorus.
"It's Sledge, I think it's called? It's pretty bad so far. Which is awesome."
Yeah, I really like this girl...but I digress!
Sledge somehow manages to be your typical 'gang goes into the forest to camp and get killed' movie, while at the same time being something special, and it's hard to define what that is.
Part of it comes from the killer really standing out. Sure, he's a guy in a mask with a sledgehammer, and that's been done, but there's something about the *guy*. Even that is hard to pin down as to why. His narrating and being a snarky asshole while he watches his victims is hilariously fun, so that's one thing.
Also, so many of these 'guys in the forest killing people' fall into the silent, mumbly, grunty type, it's refreshing to see someone be a bit more talkative.
"Scary movies like that are so unrealistic and so dumb!"
The acting isn't great, but there's some good chemistry between the main cast, and some good dialogue. It works on the casualness. These feel like genuine friends just hanging out and shooting the shit. The biggest problem is that they do it a bit too long. Pop culture references and fun stories around the campfire are fun and all, but eventually you need to bash some heads in.
It's a looong 45 minutes of talking with the occasional mischief and murder in the background. Fortunately once Adam Lynch decides to get involved, things get interesting and bloody fast. He's self aware and *hilarious*. He pokes fun at himself and gets amazingly upset when someone accidentally dies. And my god, when he pops up after someone says Beetlejuice three times? GOLD.
"This character is just the worst. Adam Lynch, huh? Cool one liners, but so unrealistic."
And I'm a sucker for anyone throwing in a good ol' Ben Grimmian "It's clobberin' time!!" as they're about to cave in someone's head.
The problem with Sledge doesn't come from the overly derivative plot but rather at the movie doesn't really DO a whole lot. People in the woods, snark snark snark, relationship drama, which isn't bad here actually, and heads get bashed the end.
With the girl watching the movie, and even a commercial for a fake movie, this already short and simple movie feels *really* padded sometimes. If it wasn't so entertaining...
It's an interesting twist that Lynch is *sure* he's in a movie, and therefore what he does, doesn't really matter because these aren't real people. And the freaky thing is, because you're sitting here watching it, he's *right*. It's an interesting mental quandary to wander through. The movie doesn't do enough with the idea, and developing that could have been more interesting than Dickie's inclusion, or even our Greek chorus on the couch.
"I'm the good guy! I didn't have sex, I didn't do drugs!" "...You're a pussy, for Chrissakes!"
While the movie is short, with a lot of padding to even make it as long as it is, and it doesn't really do anything too original with the plot, or characters, it does end up being SURPRISINGLY fun.
The dialogue is almost Joss Whedon lite, with a lot of good snark and references. The movie is obviously self aware, and doesn't take itself too seriously. The plot isn't unique, but it is entertaining beyond any suspicion from the plot. I thought this was going to be another entertaining kids get killed in the woods plot, but it really brought something special and undefinable to the table. It could have done so much more, and it really needed to walk through the "I'm in a movie!" door that it barely cracked open. Sledge started off in one place, and ended up just getting interesting and stepping towards something truly unique and interesting.
I still definitely recommend seeing this because it's silly, campy and fun, with a lot of self-awareness that makes it fun. But it is a shame that it just started going towards something truly unique, truly its own, and didn't pull the trigger and go all the way with it.
But definitely worth checking out.