Friday, March 3, 2017

The Beckoning (2006)

Now that I've washed my hands of "Full Moon Fever" last month, it's time to move forward with B-Movie Enema.

For this month, I had to wonder what it was I would do for movies.  Seems like January had a series of movies that had bad things happen to good girls.  February was dedicated to Charles Band and his Full Moon Features.  I know April will be Phoebe Cates Month.

Oh...  Spoiler Alert!  April is Phoebe Cates Month.

But what about March?  Well, I was sitting around eating cheese and crackers, shirtless, one afternoon...  Because I'm a horribly lonely, disgusting person.  (I may have said too much.)  Anyway, I thought about how I always say I don't like "modern horror" movies.  I think that's a way for me to snobbishly drop the ax on any movie that I think "looks stupid" so I don't have to watch it.  However, I do this blog.  Most of these movies suck balls.  I make myself watch them.  Which is another way of saying I have to watch them.  Oh fuck it.

I have this Amazon Prime thing on the interwebs.  I decided to turn my gaze in that direction to check out some horror movies made in the 21st century.  I am probably going to wish I hadn't, but whatever.  That's how I landed here with 2006's The Beckoning (also known as The Chatterley Affair which sounds like another type of movie I'd feature on this blog).  This came suggested somehow through whatever algorithm used by Amazon to make suggestions for what movies to watch.  I watched the trailer and was mildly attracted to our lead star, Lindsy Drummer, but also intrigued by the shot-on-video look of it, and that it specifically states this shit is based on real life.  So...  Meh.  It'll do the trick for this week.

Here's what the Amazon Prime Video synopsis says: "This campy, horror suspense thriller, based on actual events, is packed with demonic spirits and repressed memories of a terrifying past life, as an innocent young co-ed discovers secrets so terrifying that they unleash a vengeance across the ages which play tug-of-war with her very soul.  Shot on the actual Northern California locations where these events took place, really."

Hmmpf.   First, that is the actual synopsis.  I didn't doctor it.  It really says "really" at the end as if to try to convince us that it's for really real.  Also, it used a ton of commas in one sentence, but not in every place it should be used.  I know I am not perfect, go fuck yourself, but we're looking at a low budget movie shot on video that demands critique.  Additionally, "terrifying" is used twice in that gigantic sentence.  Finally...  There are four ratings on Amazon for this movie.  They were all 1-star reviews.

Fuck.

Okay, the third card that comes up at the start is "based on true events".  They are pushing this hard.  So much so, a narrator talks about Francis Drake sailing and landing at this place that is marked with a stone called Nova Albion.  Okay, so now there's a real tie to historical people and places.  But, wait...  What's wrong with this picture?

Could you at least wipe the bird shit off the rock you are opening you goddamn movie with???  It would be one thing if there was shit on the rock itself, but look at that plaque.  You can't see anything in the writing BUT the two big splotches of bird shit.

Oh we are off and running, boys and girls.

Okay, so Shit Rock is in modern day Marin County, California.  We're introduced to Barbara who is driving through town.  Then walking through town.  I'm starting to get a whiff of some serious Birdemic bullshit here with all this real time walking and driving.  I don't know if she lives here or just in town to visit George Lucas or what.  We've just seen her drive through town and walk through town.  The movie has told us nothing yet other than what's on Shit Rock above and who the actors were who are in this movie.  I can tell you one thing for sure - the note she finds in front of her door is not placed in front of an apartment.  This place is definitely a hotel...  Or maybe a college teacher's office door.  I literally don't know what it is, only what it is not.  That only adds more confusion about what Barbara is doing here.

Oh look!  The lost verse to Three Dog Night's "Shambala"!
Alright.  Barbara has this note that looks like it was on an old piece of paper and written in old timey sans.  She stares at it for so long she wanders away from her door and walks outside, down some steps, out into a field, and then into a thicket.  There's not much on that goddamn piece of paper, Babs.  Were you really that into it?

Also, there are sounds of someone walking through fallen autumn leaves when she's not walking on them.  And she's alone.  Amazing.

Barbara fights through some dead branches to a castle like building in Marin County.  Which you can easily see towering over the thicket.  Which has to be a pretty commonly seen and visited place in Marin County, California.  I mean it's this castle like structure and Skywalker Ranch.  That's all there is in Marin County.  Oh and wine.  Lots and lots of wine.  Let's not forget there's a ton of wine in Northern California.
Amen, sister.
At home, she tells her muscly boyfriend (who constantly calls her "Babe" - he's said it at least three times this scene) about what happened to her after she read that whatever it was.  She guzzles wine and says that whatever happened to her after she read that "chant", it "happened fast".  That was a boldfaced lie.  It did not happen fast because nothing in this movie has happened fast.  The only thing that has had any get up and go to it was her guzzling wine.

"Oh... Oh, God.  Is that chocolate inside there?"
This leads to a romantic scene that is about as awkward as the one at the beginning of The Room.  This scene involves them sitting, fully clothed on the floor in front of a fire (while it's broad daylight outside, natch) feeding each other chocolates, the guy open mouth kissing the girl with chewed up chocolate in his mouth, fully clothed making out, and then we cut to later and he's passed out open mouthed (again) in bed and she's dressed and heading out to her friend's.  We're given some riveting conversation about how she needs to get to this beach house of her friend's before dark, and how she needs a book returned to the library and asks him to do it.

By the way...  In Marin County, does it take long enough for it to get dark if you are driving to the beach and leaving a little after 4pm?  No way, right?  I looked it up.  It's not that big of a county.  I mean unless she's stopping off at Skywalker Ranch to guzzle some wine with George Lucas, but if not...  Oh fuck it.

Try as she might, Barbara found no plot inside any building in
Marin County.
So Babs gets to the house and her friend, Jackie, is out running errands.  Babs uses this chance to go find the "Drake House" which is A) an apparent obsession of hers since it's been mentioned heavily in the pre- and post-coital scenes and B) a hard to find spot in Marin County.  I keep stating this is in Marin County because unless you are on some sort of wine tour or going to Skywalker Ranch, I don't think there's much to write home about here.  Even Shit Rock is shitty.

So Barbara keeps looking around for someone to give her directions and she finds a scary big guy with a hammer.  He doesn't have much to say until she tells him she's heading to the "Old Drake House".  She shows him the message she received saying it is an "invitation" for her to go there and use their books to do some research.   So now, we know that was left in front of her office door, not an apartment.  She's also apparently doing research on Francis Drake.  And she could read that mumbling garbage on the piece of paper that was left for her.  Well, at least enough to know it was an invitation to come use some of their books for her research.  "Frank", the guy she is asking for directions from, isn't going to give her any info until she says, "C'mon...  It's really important to me," and "Just give me the directions and I'll worry about the rest" when he says no one has been there for years in a very foreboding way.  He shows her where to go to get there.

This ultimately begs the question: Who is Frances Drake?  Well, she was an American actress best known for playing Eponine in the 1935 version of Les Miserables.  Not sure what's so spooky about her to make an entire horror movie out of, but...  Wait.  That's not right.

Sir Francis Drake was an explorer, politician, and held a high rank in the British Navy.  He was the second person in history to circumvent the globe in a single expedition.  He did indeed stop in Northern California, but the exact landing has been kept somewhat vague.  Apparently, he didn't want the Spanish to know exactly where he landed, so he hid most of the physical evidence.  A writer who was with him did describe it well enough for most historians to agree that his "Nova Albion" (New Britain in Latin) was in Marin County.  He apparently got along well enough with the natives in the area, the Coast Miwok,  Then, he ventured out into the Pacific after staying there for a little while.

Ooh...  Spooky story there, bro!

Marvel at the craftsmanship of late 16th century homes!
Barb drives off, in the opposite direction the guy said to go, but whatever, the movie will eventually get there, right?  Again, much like Birdemic, the movie meanders while she drives very slowly through the Northern California landscape while music plays.  She stops at a house that calls to her.  She gets out to look around.   When Barbara knocks on the door, no one comes originally, but she finds a basement door opening and closing on its own.  She, naturally, goes inside - as most people would when they find a legendary, so-called abandoned house that is subject to some legends and stuff...?

First up on our list of spooky, dark-old-house tropes is the spider web obstacle in the basement.  There is so much cotton strung across the pathway in the basement to look like spider webs that you could knit sweaters for a Catholic family.  Next, she finds human bones near/in front of a grand fireplace.  Third, she sees a painting of Sir Francis Drake.  By the way...  keep in mind he was in America in like the 1570s.  This house was built in the 1800s at the earliest.  This is not a home built in the 16th century.  But back to our checklist of tropes.  When she finds the portrait of Drake, the lights go out.  She walks upstairs, because that's the first place you go when the lights go out (even when it is bright and sunny as hell outside).  There, she finds a book that was supposedly Drake's diary and also supposedly confiscated by Queen Elizabeth some four hundred years ago.  We then see a ghost of a conquistador, she gets freaked out by loud whispering and noises all around her, and she gets locked in the room with the diary before eventually falling through the floor... I guess?

Check
Check
Check

Yup, we got ourselves a good old fashioned haunted house movie.

Amen, sister.
That night, even though it is totally not night in every shot except for the shot of the full moon, Barb finds herself stuck in some trap in the floor.   She cries for help.  Instead of getting help, she has a flashback of herself as an Indian girl who was captured by Drake's men and accused of being a witch.  When she snaps out of it, she sees rats nibbling at her feet.  We get a close up of her shoes that have some sort of Native American design on them.  So I guess she is of Indian descent and definitely this girl in the visions reincarnated.

Even her boyfriend gets visions of her past, her getting stuck in the trap, and even of Drake who looks real scary and menacing, and played by an actor who is way older than Drake was.  The next morning, her boyfriend looks through that library book he was supposed to return and sees a photograph of the Drake House.  This is found in a book that most definitely seems too old to be publishing photos inside it.  Now the boyfriend knows something odd is up and he walks around town and checks stuff out and we have to see it all.

Meanwhile, there is another story going on here.  So, I guess Barb and her boyfriend are pretty serious.  He wants to finish his book and then ask her to marry him.  She kinda blows that idea off before leaving for her visit.  It's like she just likes the bone but doesn't want all the rest of the meat.  When he calls to check in on whether or not she made it to her friend's place, Jackie says she went to the Drake House and was planning on getting dinner, but then tells us as the audience that she doesn't like covering for her if she's not that into him.  When Barb never shows, Jackie thinks she's off fucking some other dude.  Is this supposed to mean something?  Is Barb like really into fucking dudes?  Is she a whore?  Is her boyfriend just her cup of tea for now, but just a big dufus and she wants to dump him at the first sign of a hot Sir Francis Drake fanatic?  I have a feeling this is all meant to be depth for Barb.  I'm guessing the writer would say this makes her seem "driven" or "willing to go to any length to get what she wants".  Trust me.  I've seen this before in people who don't know how to write a character or doesn't know how to properly include this shit in their screenplays.

Oh whatever...  Maybe Barb just likes the dick.

Alyssa Milano and Jon Voight in We Don't Need No Color
Correction
Now the visions seem to be happening more frequently and in more detail.  Indian Barb is met by Drake who asks if she was the one who was casting the evil spells or whatever guys in the late 1500s would say to a hot chick.  She says she recognizes him as Sir Francis Drake who circumvented the world and fought against the Spanish Armada - things that have not yet happened.  This doesn't help her case against being burned at the stake because she knows these things that haven't come to pass yet.  So Drake's chaplain comes to try to exorcise her.  She kicks him.  Drake decides to leave her tied to the stake to see if a night in the wild will "loosen her tongue".  If you ask Jackie, though, she is pretty sure her tongue is already loosened.

Because she likes that diiiiiiick!

We are just barely over the halfway mark in this movie and that sucks.  Her boyfriend calls Jackie again.  Jackie gets pissed at Vic (by the way, that's the boyfriend's name) and tells him that if he's so possessive of Barb maybe he should marry her so he can keep eyes on her at all times.  Whoa, Jackie...  Dial it back a little bit.  You have NO FUCKING IDEA where Barb is.  Aren't you at all worried about her?  Like at all?  As far as you could possibly know, Barb never returned to your place.  She went to an old, creepy house and then said she was going to see an old friend for food.  This is the shit that is always seen in Unsolved Mysteries.  Instead, you're all like, "She's just fucking some dude.  It's cool.  Vic's an asshole."  She might be fucking some dude, but it's possible it isn't her choice to.  Ever think about that, Jackie, ya bitch?

Now, Jackie appears as some old witch in the flashbacks.  The witch says it is her that is making her life hell in the past and present.  Whatever she's doing is having some sort of effect on present day Barb, but maybe Barb really is also the Indian girl?  I don't know.  I don't really care.  Maybe Jackie is some super spook cunt.  She doesn't answer the phone when she knows it's Vic calling on the third day that she HASN'T seen Barb.  What's going on there?  Is Jackie even important?  Yes, as the witch, sure, but in the present?  Unless she is a witch bitch in the present, that character can go fuck off right out of this movie.

By the way...  The Marin Library sucks.
I kinda feel like George Lucas should pony up some grant money to get them some better computers.
Now believing there really is something to all the mystery surrounding Drake, Vic hops on board with Barb's nonsense and does some research at the library.  While he's picking up some books on Drake, and there are a BUNCH of books in this library about Drake, a book cart comes to life and attacks Vic.  It drops the very book he returned for Barb onto him.  He reads through it and finds out there was a mysterious pox that led to Drake needing to burn a native witch at the stake to appease his men.  Since, all sorts of kooky crazy shit has shown up.  Some even report seeing Satan in the form of cats, goats, and mice - all things typically found in and around farm houses built in the 1800s.

What I mean to say, is this legend is bullshit.  Nowhere near the bullshit that is Vic's heavy handed voice over though, but, unlike the legend about Drake burning some chick at the stake, that voice over is the kind of bullshit that is amazing.

Oh, hey...  Remember when Barbara was the main character in the movie?  Like she was out there having ghosty shit happen to her in a supposed old house?  Yeah, I guess that's not important anymore.  Vic calls Jackie's place, and Jackie lies by saying Barb is still doing research and will call him back tonight.  Vic says he's going to come up to her place, but Jackie says he shouldn't.  After the call, Jackie heads out to... I guess find the Drake House to see if her friend is there?  Maybe she thinks Barb is there fucking some cock and not in mortal danger whatsoever?

Jackie finds the house.  Somehow, Barb can hear a car outside and instinctively knows it is Jackie.  However, Jackie, after looking over the house, drives away.  Jackie finds the old coot who gave Barb directions.  She describes Barb to the guy, he tells Jackie that he warned her to not go up there, but she didn't listen to him.  She asks for a phone, and we're shown her walking from the old guy's place to about 100 feet to a pay phone.  We are then treated to her dialing Vic's number in full.  She comes clean about lying to Vic.  Vic says he is coming and tells Jackie to not go back to the Drake House.

Lucky for us, we get to see Jackie wait pretty much the entire time it takes Vic to drive to the old guy's place.  That's only a mild exaggeration.  Jackie finds a medallion with old timey markings on it.  She hears the chanting and she gets in her car and goes back to the Drake House.  Jackie bangs on the door.  Now, for some reason, Barb has demon eyes because why not.  Sure, let's go for that.

Jackie finds her way into the Drake House the same way Barb entered.  I'm not sure why Barb is now all demonic.  I missed the part where that's a thing that should happen in this movie.  I also missed the part that makes me believe that ANY of this is a true story.  Jackie LITERALLY searches the entire house.  Barbara breaks through the wall and attacks Jackie.  Why?  Beats me.  Maybe she got rabies from the rats nipping at her toes when she was trapped in the floor (we saw many shots of rats biting Barb's feet because either that proves she is rabid thanks to the mice, or the filmmaker was really into this actress' feet).  Jackie does slap the shit out of Babs a few times.  So two girls roll around on the floor grunting at each other.  Jackie, who is trying to defend herself and talk sense into her friend even kicks Babs off herself once, but decides that bitch won't get away with that and jumps back onto Babs to fight some more.  At one point, Jackie actually starts to STRANGLE Barbara.  That's a good way to get her friend to snap out of whatever demonic possession thing she's got going on.

Vic comes into the house, again, through the basement (I guess the front door doesn't work).  Jackie tells Vic he doesn't want to go near her or she'll kill him.  I guess Jackie is like "fuck that bitch" but Vic wants to help.  He knocks her out when she attacks him.  Jackie and Vic try to get Barb out of the house, but the house tries to keep her inside.  There's a fuck ton of screaming at this point and I don't know what's going on.  I guess the house is trying to draw her back into the walls and she's possessed or something, but they are trying to drag her out.  Fuck, guys.  I'm really not sure what's going on because they are just cutting flashbacks from previous scenes in between shots of them screaming at a hole in the floor.

Finally the old weird guy they got directions from breaks open the front door and they escape.  Jackie, Barbara, and Vic walk away from the house and collapse on the lawn.  I have no idea where Frank went.  He's not there anymore.  He just busted the door open and boogied on out of there I guess.  I mean what do you do after you ax open a fucking door?  WAITAMINUTE...  What's all this?

Never mind.  I guess he didn't ax open that fucking door because it looks in pretty good shape there!

I guess this is the end of the movie.  Barbara claims she saw visions of the past and that she was burned at the stake by Francis Drake and she sold her story for MILLIONS!   Frank shows back up and nails some boards over the basement door and his eyes glow red.  Why?  Fuck if I know, man.  Vic looks into the backseat and asks if Jackie and Barbara are okay.  Jackie says everything is fine and now HER EYES ARE GLOWING RED!  Before you ask why, just know I don't know.  This movie didn't tell me if Jackie is the reincarnated witch or if she's just possessed by the house or what the fuck all.

There is very little to this "movie" and I use quotes because I'd barely call this a movie.  I'm guessing the script was about sixty pages.  If we go by the rule of thumb of one page per minute of screen time, you can see where I'm going with this.  The other 27 minutes that comprised this movie was painful driving scenes, research scenes in a library, slow motion when slow motion was not called for, and people looking for someone in an empty building or calling out for each other in the haunted house.  But, hey, it's based on a true story, so I guess that places this a little above my usual fare here.

Mr. Big Dick himself, Sir Francis Drake.
I decided to Google "francis drake burning witch".  I came up with some interesting stuff.  A little bit before his landing in Marin County, California, he did accuse Thomas Doughty of witchcraft and mutiny.  That guy was beheaded for those acts.  Drake was a known slaver (but mostly for business as that was the way things were then - not defending the act or nothin'), and even something of a pirate.  However, aside from that Doughty dude, he didn't go around executing witches on the reg.  Instead, it was he who his enemies, mostly Spanish, thought was a practitioner of the dark arts.  He was feared by the Spanish and he got that reputation of having supernatural powers all his own.

This movie was just trying to cash in on a little known mystery about why his landing in California was so secretive beyond his own historian's writings and on something that was quite common in horror movies of that time - the "based on a true story" angle.  Remakes of The Amityville Horror and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were already based on older horror movies that claimed to be rooted in fact, but there were a ton of ghost and demonic possession movies in that time that tried to sell audiences (mostly younger adults or teenagers on dates) that what they were about to see was real.  Sometimes they would play up certain mysterious elements and coincidences more than what happened in real life, but if someone claimed they got haunted or possessed, Hollywood was there to buy their story and crank out a dumb movie.

I could have spent more time on all the obvious errors in the movie.  For example, the main actress'  hair was obviously red when they shot the footage for the opening credits, but was dark brown for the entirety of the movie itself.  However, fuck a buncha that noise.  I was too preoccupied with the insanity of the rest of this shit.

I wondered at the beginning if this movie was going to be worth a view at a party with your bad movie friends.  The answer is a definitive no.  There are some good chuckles and some good goofs in it, but as you hit that halfway point, it gets pretty bad and nearly unwatchable.  Let this be a lesson to any would-be movie makers out there - this movie not only got filmed, but there was clearly some backing and it is now out there on Amazon Prime for all the world to see.
Amen, sister.

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