Friday, May 6, 2011

Dead Above Ground Review

Who To Know
Chuck Bowman................Director

Stephen J. Cannell.............Writer

Stephen J. Cannell............Carl Hadden - Nerdy teacher who can't get the girl.
Josh Hammond.................Jeff Lucas - Weird goth kid. Claims to be George Lucas' nephew.

Don Michael Paul..............Tom Donaldson - Pot smokin' gym teacher. 
Antonio Sabato Jr..............Sgt. Dan DeSousa - The Barney Fife of modern homicide detectives.
Lisa Anne Hadley..............Dr. Brenda Boone - She has a thing for incompetent policemen. 

The Story Goes...
A disturbed student at a high school has a series of encounters with both students and faculty members. After one altercation he is accidentally killed when he drives off of a cliff while being chased by another student. It is one year later and students and teachers begin to die at the hands of an unknown vicious killer. Together they must discover who the killer is, and how to stop them.

My Thoughts
I originally watched Dead Above Ground  because I saw that Corbin Bernsen had top billing in this. "Hmm," I thought to myself, "Corbin starring in a teen horror movie? Sounds like fun." Well, I'll be honest, I was a bit let down. Corbin only has a very small roll, and he is in the movie for about five minutes or so. However, being the trooper that I am, I decided to keep watching, and I discovered that it wasn't as bad as I had thought that it would be based on other reviews.
Corbin Bersen and Cindy Margolis(?)
First off, Dead Above Ground is a low budget, by the numbers, straight to video b-horror flick. There is no real originality, or even much interesting dialog being used throughout it. To give you an idea of the quality of writing that this film has, it helps to be aware of the fact that it was written by Stephen J. Cannell (who also plays the role of Carl Hadden). If you're not sure who that is, just be aware that he is responsible for writing such classics as the tv shows Renegade, 21 Jump Street, The A-Team, and The Greatest American Hero. If you prefer this level of cheesiness in your favorite productions, and consider them to be high quality entertainment, then you may enjoy Dead Above Ground. 

One great aspect of this film is Josh Hammond's over the top performance as the psychotic Jeff Lucas. Jeff is the goth of goths. Everything that he wears and says is about the occult, especially when he's sputtering what sounds to be total nonsense about equinoxes and things. I won't go so far as to say that Hammond's acting is on par with Eric Freeman's from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, but it's pretty darn close. Subtlety definitely isn't in this young man's vocabulary, but I have a feeling that he knew what kind of movie he was taking part in, and he just decided to go all out.
Josh Hammond as Jeff Lucas
Most of the other actors are just playing the standard "we're just here to help drive up the body count," roles. Though, another standout is Antonio Sabato Jr. as the not-so-observant detective. This guy just throws around accusations all willy nilly, all the while never having any real proof of his claims. He likes to detain and release suspects based on the results of polygraph tests. Personally, I like Mr. Sabato because he helps prove the argument that it isn't only women that are chosen for roles based on their looks. After seeing him in this film, I can't help but get the impression that he is actually daring future casting directors to not hire him. Dude got balls(!), but not much talent.
Antonio Sabato Jr. as Sgt Dan Desousa
My favorite character, and one that I would like to see in other movies, is coach Donaldson. He gets fired from his coaching position, and instead of looking for another job like a normal person would, the only response that he could think of is to park his van, which I assume he lives in, in the school parking lot, and to smoke lots of Jane while taunting Carl Hadden. Perhaps I have a fondness for him because in my personal life I try to surround myself with losers like him to help boost my confidence and self esteem. In any case, this character is a winner in my book, and I'd love to see him in a spin-off...possibly costarring Stephen Baldwin.
Don Michael Paul as Coach Tom Donaldson
The movie does an ok job of concealing who the killer is, but you probably will not be blown away when he is revealed. Part of me believes that it was the intentions of the filmmakers to make this a mystery/horror, but it fails in that respect for the most part. Dead Above Ground almost seems to be an amateur's imitation of what horror movies in the later part of the 90s were like.

All in all, I would say that Dead Above Ground is a comedy with elements of horror. I know that Cannell has produced some questionable material in the past, but I just find it hard to believe that he wrote this dialog without realizing that it was incredibly unrealistic, and often times unintentionally funny. When I hear characters relating their internal struggles to others with lines like "sometimes I feel kind of out of place around here. Everybody here drives BMWs or Acuras. I drive an old Camero. I don't belong," I can't help but think that their stupidity is entirely intentional.

On the brighter side, the quality of this film is definitely better than the majority of what The Asylum has put out. Though I'm not sure that's an accomplishment to write home about. It's corny, cheesy, and is definitely not to be taken seriously. I didn't find it to be terribly boring, but I would say to rent it or watch it on Netflix. Unless you're a huge fan of ineptness, in which case I would say to buy it. And yes, there are quite a few unintentionally funny moments in this film.


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