One of the great challenges in reviewing films – especially smaller, second-tier, and independent releases – is that you see a lot of movies that, for whatever reason, never quite reach the level of potential you’d have wanted them to. This isn’t to say that they’re bad in any particular measure; rather, it’s just to say that – even as a critic – I want to see things succeed, excel, and find an audience that truly appreciates whatever story is being told. The dirty little secret is that reviewers such as myself WANT to be entertained, and sometimes what does entertain us is most likely not going to entertain a wider audience. This doesn’t make us special. It only makes us realists. We’ll watch something – especially something the next person would dismiss without a second thought – and we’ll find something worthy in there … and, much to my surprise, there are some interesting ideas at work in THE G-STRING HORROR.
Are these ideas effectively utilized? Not too much … but there’s no denying that they’re there.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary for the discussion of characters and plot. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
These days, horror films are an easy sell, so when the production company behind GHOST ADVENTURES stops in at the Market Street Theatre to explore some of the place’s oldest paranormal legends, they’re surprised to learn that truth can be stranger than fiction. The undead – a former janitor and a murdered stripper – begin co-opting the film in order to explore their own stories. If the filmmakers aren’t careful, they’re likely to find themselves trapped in the building’s labyrinth basement with the ghost of Baby Doll intent on making them her next victims!
THE G-STRING HORROR is a bit of an anomaly in that it isn’t a picture easily defined. Certainly, there is some true terror in its heart, but, given the fact that the story told here is kinda/sorta predicated on events on a legitimate and fairly mainstream program (Travel Channel’s GHOST ADVENTURES), I’m caution you not to necessarily expect legitimate and fairly mainstream storytelling. What Producer/Director Charles Webb has done is craft an almost hallucinogenic experience that’s cleverly part fact-based documentary, part traditional horror film, and part obvious fiction … a meaty concoction that doesn’t quite equal the sum of its parts in the final estimation.
Here’s how I’ve always seen things: the more complicated the story, the less complicated should be the delivery. Sadly, much of HORROR’s narrative is almost as herky-jerky as the shaky-cam that used to capture the entire film. Found footage flicks (which I know I enjoy more than most reviewers) can be distracting because of the view’s constant starts and stops; marry that technique to a story that wants to be too many things, and methinks you’ll lose the audience very quickly. Also, because the film wants to be too many things, I found it increasingly difficult to focus on just what was the story Webb and his cohorts wanted to tell. What’s most important here: the club, the characters, or the storytelling procedure? I’m always drawn to characters; obvious cinema feints and camera trickery only serve as a greater distraction to the folks at the heart of any tale.
For example, actress Debra Lamb plays a psychic named Lady Zee in what appears to be an all-too-obvious fictional character. While psychics get a bad rap for being a plot device, I’ve often found such characters to be the ‘humanizing’ element to horror films. They tend to see through the fog of reality, and they present us with the real motivation behind whatever force of evil is at work. Through their eyes, audiences grow closer to understanding what’s precisely at stake in any story; but Ms. Lamb is shackled under so many insane bits of dialogue and experiences that I couldn’t draw any sense from the performance. If you’re supposed to say something like “one of the strippers was murdered and she was pretty p*ssed off about it” while keeping a straight face, I think someone needed to rework the script. Otherwise, her expression when being told “Baby Doll was murdered, but they couldn’t confirm she was dead” ends up being pricelessly funny when it shouldn’t have been.
As I hope I clearly implied in my opening, there are elements here that I enjoyed. The idea that the ghosts or spirits were somehow editing the film themselves in order to tell their story should’ve been a delight, but it fell short. The scenes of a half-decayed corpse sitting and watching a strip tease while the literal audience whistles and catcalls behind it were inspired, but, with no context, they probably didn’t have the impact they should have. And Webb gets absolutely great mileage out of one of the creepiest basements/sub-basements ever; I just wished it had been in a better film.
THE G-STRING HORROR is produced by Global Amusements, LLC. DVD distribution is being handled by Apprehensive Films. As for the technical specifications? Well, as this is what I’d classify as a ‘second-tier’ B-movie style production, I think it’s safe to conclude that there are going to be some noticeable glitches when compared to a big budget release. For example, I had problems adjusting the picture’s orientation in the first few sequences until I realized that there was some scrolling text and credits clipped off the frame; this is a flaw in the production of the disk, most likely, as I’m sure no artist intended for the bottom quarter of a scrolling text to vanish from the screen. (Likewise, the picture begins with a disclaimer that’s missing the right and left edges.) As for the sound, there’s one sequence that – very weirdly – has a man speaking directly into a microphone, yet the mix is noticeably lower than the rest of the people speaking around him and in the previous and following sequences. Why this wasn’t mixed in post, I couldn’t tell you. Otherwise, the technical specs are fine. As for the special features, there’s a nice amount, including four behind-the-scenes bits about making the film, including one which involves special body make-up for its amply-endowed star (not to be missed!).
Despite all, I’d still give it a RECOMMENDATION for fans of horror (it bears some similarities to Euro-horror, especially, as well as some late 80’s schlock films). For everybody else? I’d say ‘pass.’ You just won’t enjoy it the way horror fans do.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Apprehensive Films provided me with an advance DVD copy of THE G-STRING HORROR by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.