Richard J. Leskosky:Some bizarre movie plots
Last month, I wrote about some of the more amusing linguistics quirks and gaffes in the blurbs used by film companies to sell their films at the annual film market at the Cannes Film Festival.
This month, I'm offering a list of some of the more bizarre plots. Just remember, there may be a lot of prestige involved in having your film screened in competition at Cannes, but anybody can try to sell a movie there. And again, everything in quotation marks is just as the folks selling the films wrote it.
(This one is just in the development stage, but the producers are already looking for foreign markets.) "A super hero thriller for the digital generation. Tom's average teenage existence is turned on its head when a violent encounter with local thugs leaves fragments of shattered iPhone embedded in his brain. Tom knows, sees, and can do more than any normal boy ever could. With his new powers he sets out to avenge Lucy, the girl he loves. Taking the law into his own electric hands he faces moral decisions as well as fearsome local gangsters." Right, if he can just stop playing "Fruit Ninja" in his skull.
"The Human Race"
This sounds like one of those classy photomontage documentaries, doesn't it? But no, it's science fiction with a punning title. "Eighty people are abducted from a city street by an unknown entity and forced to participate in a brutal race to the death. The rules are simple: step on the grass and you die, get lapped twice and you die. There can only be one winner, but who will survive and for what purpose?" Well, given the "step on the grass and die" rule, whatever else he might be, the unknown entity must be his race's equivalent of a crotchety old codger.
"A mysterious new girl arrives in a posh suburban neighborhood and quickly sets out to terrorize the town. As she starts breaking into homes and torturing the occupants, they begin to realize that she isn't just another girl next door." Sounds like she might live next to the previous film's unknown entity.
Supernatural revenge films often come off sounding fairly absurd, as do the next couple of cases.
Also known as "Forest of the Living Dead," it sounds like an Asian horror film but is actually an American production. "By taking her own life in the infamous Suicide Forest of Mount Fuji in Japan, an American covergirl supernaturally transforms into a demonic spirit to wreak a violent revenge, one by one, upon those who helped her ex-boyfriend leave her." Wow, that's even worse than her Tweeting disparaging remarks about his sexual abilities. By the way, the suicide forest is real — Aokigahara. It's very quiet; Japanese myths associate it with demons and suicides do favor it — 57 occurred there in 2010.
At first, it sounds like any other grotesque rape/revenge violent film, but then it takes a turn into the weird. "A deaf girl is brutalized by a murderous gang who are then hunted by her when the bloodthirsty spirit of an Apache warrior inhabits her lifeless body." So it's another punning title. And I supposed technically it's a transgender horror/revenge film.
Hong Kong action series
Each film in the Hong Kong action series "The Four," "The Four 2," "The Four 3" and "The Four 4" has more or less the same description, but I'm pretty sure that's simply some production office intern's mistake. What I do know is that description spirals into ever-increasing gonzo-ness. "Undercover cop COLDBLOOD is assigned by his corrupt chief to infiltrate a rival department and sabotage their investigation of counterfeit currency. What he discovers is the counterfeiter's real plan. To overthrow the capital. Not by flooding it with funny money. But with an army of undead." And what I don't know but strongly suspect is that the producers of "The Four (1,2,3,4)" must sock away all their profits at Fifth Third Bank.
It's a horror comedy, so you would expect the description to be off the wall. "Three college girls go on a care-free vacation of drinking games, topless sunbathing, and sexual exploration. Their frolicking fun comes to an abrupt end when toxic zombie beavers try to EAT THEM." A look at the trailer confirms my suspicion that the movie was made primarily to provide a platform for a lot of beaver jokes — not to be confused with dam jokes, which worked so well in "Vegas Vacation" when the Griswolds visited Hoover Dam.
And, finally, we have updated Sharktopus sightings. Sharktopus, as you surely recall, is a half-shark, half-octopus, genetically engineered as a weapon for the U.S. Navy, which escaped its creators and immediately went to Puerto Vallarta to snack on college students both in the water and on land (as chronicled in the 2010 TV movie). Now it has more things to worry about than the Navy coming after it.
In "Sharktopus Versus Pteracuda," for instance, we find that " Sharktopus' offspring goes toe-to-toe with the latest science experiment "Pteracuda" in a battle for supremacy." Oddly they forgot to mention that Pteracuda is a half-pterodactyl half-barracuda hybrid! Well, there those scientists go again — tampering with Nature!
You may wonder what could be worse for a Sharktopus (or a movie viewer) than a pterodactyl/barracuda combination, but in "Sharktopus Versus Mermantula," the scientists have surely come up with the ultimate Sharktopus opponent (and Nature-tampering). "In order to take down Sharktopus, Ray Brady, a former basketball player is injected with a transformation serum that alters his genetic make-up to become part man, part pirahna and part tarantula. Though, unsuccessful at his first attempt to bring down Sharktopus, Ray injects himself with a growth hormone, increasing his strength ten fold and has a final showdown with Sharktopus in a baseball stadium."
What? Ray's a former basketball player (although the commas in the description would seem to indicate that he's Sharktopus) . What's he doing in a baseball stadium? Hey, come to think of it, who cares what Mermantula can do to Sharktopus? I'd just like to see what that super-strong man/piranha/tarantula could do back on the basketball court!
But this still leaves unanswered the question of whether we will ever see that ultimate aquatic horror, the Sharktopusnado!
Richard J. Leskosky taught media and cinema studies at the University of Illinois and has reviewed films for more than 30 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.