Thursday, August 11, 2011

Turdsday Movie Review: The Tripper (2006)

Sometimes you reach a point when viewing filmed entertainment made by, or featuring, a particular individual that you find yourself wondering why it is exactly that this individual is gainfully employed in the industry. I rented The Tripper because it was written and directed by David Arquette. It wasn't until afterwards that I thought, "hang on, why did I do that?"

The Tripper feels like it's the product of jotting down a whole bunch of ideas, sticking them in a blender and filming what comes out. I'm speaking metaphorically, of course, because if you did that literally you'd just end up with grey sludge which, in fairness, would be less interesting than The Tripper. But only just.

The Tripper starts with a contrived prelude, set sometime during Ronald Regan's presidency, featuring a stand-off between a hardworking, struggling logger just trying to do his job (of chopping down trees) and a belligerent arrogant hippy standing in the way of the logging trucks. The poor old logger pleads with the hippy that his wife is dying of cancer and desperately needs medical attention that he can only afford if he's allowed to get his logging done. The heartless hippy doesn't give a shit and soon finds himself on the wrong end of a chainsaw when the logger's young son snaps and attacks him.

The film then skips ahead to the present day... and... well... I'm not sure where to start in terms of giving you a concise plot synopsis that adequately describes all the random crap that transpires during The Tripper.

I guess the basic story is this: a music festival, held in the forest, is terrorised by a madman with an axe wearing a Ronald Regan mask.

The Tripper crew quietly ponder who put the clown in the red hat in charge.

That, of course, only scratches the surface of what transpires. There are the potty-mouthed escapades of a principle group of stoner protagonists at the festival. There's a group of local rednecks (including Arquette in a minor role) who terrorise the festival goers. There's the clichéd Mayor who insists the festival must go ahead even when things start to turn pear shaped. There's the under-resourced local law enforcement trying to keep a lid on things. There's the desperate promoter, trying to smooth things over. There's full-on musical numbers. There are nudists strolling here and there. There's a complicated romance between two of the main stoner kids. There's a pathological ex-boyfriend sent to complicate the already, aforementioned, complicated romance. And then... there's the logger's son... all grown up, sporting a Ronald Regan mask, and randomly wielding an axe amongst it all. And I do mean randomly.

Add to all this madness and mayhem some seriously confused political sub-text and The Tripper is a complete mess. It doesn't work as a horror movie because it's never scary or suspenseful, and if Arquette was hoping to make some sort of political point his message comes across as being incredibly muddled (think Sarah Palin at her I-don't-know-the-difference-between-North-and-South-Korea worst). The basic idea sounds like it should be a hoot, but it's such an undisciplined scatter-brained effort, full of clichés and half-baked ideas, it's actually a bit of a bore.

I'm now at a bit of a loss to explain why I ever thought that a film "written and directed by David Arquette" would necessarily be a good thing. Notwithstanding Arquette's outstanding, academy award worthy, performance as Deputy Dewey in the Scream films (ahem), I'm just not sure exactly why Arquette has the profile he has, or how he got finance to write and direct The Tripper.

Despite a few promising elements in The Tripper, Arquette fails to convert them into a cohesive horror and/or comedy movie, and his performance as one of the rednecks is a pretty awful cherry on top of his grey sludge cake.

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