There's a little movie opening tomorrow called The Human Centipede (First Sequence) that I think has wrestled its way into the spotlight for longer than most could have predicted. Even if you have no interest in actually seeing it, once you know the premise of Tom Six' film, you can never forget it: a crazed doctor kidnaps three people, surgically removes their kneecaps so they physically cannot stand, and then grafts them together in a mouth-to-anus chain to form the titular abomination. That's the kind of premise that you just have to tip your hat to. It's so absurd, so ghastly that it demands to be seen by anyone with a sweet tooth for the morbid.
Trouble is, The Human Centipede isn't a very good movie. I know, what a shocker, right? But even beyond the dreadful acting that would warrant a walkout from anyone without prior knowledge of the plot, Six' film falls short because it's all concept with little-to-no follow-through. The only reason anyone would want to see it is because of how curiously disturbing it promises to be, but the actual execution is pretty tame. The only remotely bothersome moment arrives when their newly united digestive system starts to function for the first time, but beyond that it's a surprisingly run-of-the-mill horror movie delivery.
So I'd like to log The Human Centipede as the first film in my Cinematical Seven list of movies that are all concept, no follow-through. Joining it are:
6. AVP: Alien Versus Predator
Man, what a clustercuss. I think most people were moderately excited when the horror/sci-fi movie icon mash-up of the century was officially announced to become a feature film, but then it fell into the hands of Paul W.S. Anderson. Now, I'm not a routine traveler on the W.S. Anderson Hate Express, but it's films like AVP that make me want to buy a rail pass. Here's something that could have been, nay!, should have been a no brainer. You stick the two fan favorites together and have them duke it out with all the glory and gory their respective franchise are known for.
That's a little harder to make happen when you're working under the constraints of a PG-13 rating. The result was a movie that technically delivered on its promise of seeing the two outlanders fight, but exerted no effort to make any of it worthwhile. Not only did it lack innovation, but it also was without a single character worth rooting for; a stunning failure considering they even managed to get Lance Henriksen back on board. And once it actually becomes Human Archaeologist and Predator Versus Alien, it sealed its fate as all concept, no follow-through.
5. Dead Snow
I've found there are few things that can set horror fan tongues wagging as quickly as the words "Nazi zombies". And that was the entire hook behind Dead Snow, Tommy Wirkola's Norwegian film about kids on a ski trip who fight, well, Nazi zombies. And though the zombies in the film were wearing Nazi uniforms, there was no follow-through on making that identity relevant. Wirkola tries to work in a back story about Nazi gold, but it's barely tacked on.
Now because there is no importance placed on these zombies being Nazis, they're just regular old zombies. The movie does boast a few admirable gore gags, but they too make no attempt to play around with the distinct origin of their undead. And that's just annoying, because as a horror fan, it's sad to see a movie that's all concept, like Dead Snow, get all the buzz while another film with a similar concept gets brushed under the rug. So if you want to see a film where it is actually relevant that the zombies are Nazis, you would do well to track down a copy of Outpost. It's got a great cast (Ray Stevenson, most notably), great production values given its budget, and it follows through on actually utilizing a Nazi occult back story.
4. Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus
You'd be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of the Syfy channel than myself (trust me on this one; as a critic I'm constantly hearing "What do you know, you watch Syfy movies?" whenever someone who knows about my addiction to this dreck disagrees with my opinion). Once you watch enough Syfy, you get to know the players involved and you can instantly tell the difference between a film made by the (progressively crappier) network and one they bought from a third party to fill their Saturday night movie timeslot. And sadly, quite often that block is filled with a film from The Asylum.
Granted mockbuster factory The Asylum exists entirely to make films that are all concept, no follow-through, but the epitome of this bad behavior is definitely Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus. With a title like that and a cast that includes Debbie Gibson, one should at least expect a minimal amount of fun. But no, MSvGO is just as piss-poor as almost all Asylum titles are. It's the kind of let down that instantly makes a nerd like me say, "You do have Mega Sharks and Giant Octopuses on your Mega Shark and Giant Octopus tour, right?"
3. Space Jam
Even as a kid I knew Space Jam was a movie whose entire purpose was to have a meticulously engineered concept that could lure in as many ticket buyers as possible-- Michael Jordan helps Bugs Bunny and all the other Looney Tunes play a game of basketball against a group of aliens in order to save the Planet Earth. And sure, that's exactly what the movie delivered, but the reason it's on this list is because of how lazy it was in doing so. Just because a movie has a simple, broad premise for kids doesn't mean it has to be simple and broad. In a world where Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Toy Story, and Beauty and the Beast were (relatively) fresh in the minds of fans of animation, there's no excuse for such uninspired execution.
It is only a testament to how disappointing the number one film on this list is that the number two film is Roland Emmerich's disastrous 1998 remake of Godzilla. Every bit of promotional material for the movie was a tease, refusing to show audiences what kind of Godzilla they were in store for. And everyone bought it because A) those were actually fantastic teaser trailers and B) it's freaking Godzilla; everyone loves him.
Then the movie arrived and people realized it failed to follow-through on delivering the Godzilla they wanted to see in a big, big way. Sure, people turned out for it at first, but that's only because it's the kind of film that everyone just has to see for themselves to understand. No one had any respect for its glorified iguana running around NYC, as well they shouldn't.
1. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
So much has been said about this film already that I know I'm hardly blowing the lid off anything here. That's okay though, because I'd be happy to never see the cacophonous cries of disappointment caused by Episode I die down; to that end I'm glad to join the din.
Episode I is no mere "If you build it, they will come" movie like the others on this list. No, the lack of follow-through here is of historical proportions. It was a massive, unprecedented moment of a filmmaker turning his back on a level of fandom the world had never known before and would never know again. If a film ever develops a wider, more influential fan base than Star Wars, I will eat a plastic Boba Fett figure and then pray to Chewbacca that its fans never taste the bitter tears of their own Episode I.