Heebie Jeebies (2013)
Five Chinese labourers were killed in an accidental detonation at a gold mine. A curse was put upon the mine by one of their widows. One hundred and fifty years later, local prospector Billy Butler wants to reopen the mine to tap into seams of gold that remain unmined. However, the reopening of the mine unleashes a horrific supernatural character which wants to extract vengeance on the small Southern town.
Heebie Jeebies could possibly be one of the worst titles I’ve heard and coupled with the fact it was made for television on Sy Fy, it didn’t exactly endear itself to me before I started watching. And guess what? Its limited promise delivered exactly that – limited entertainment. I’ve seen dozens of these monster movies and the only thing that surprises me now is just how bad some of them can be. When you think you’ve reached rock bottom, another one comes along which digs new depths.
Heebie Jeebies exists for one reason only – to fill up a television schedule. There’s no art form here. There is no auteurship. There is no desire to make a strong and compelling feature. It is paint-by-numbers in cinematic form or committee filmmaking. The production companies simply tell their teams to copy and paste the ‘successful’ formula time and time again and give them a few months to come up with an end product, with little concern for its overall quality as long as it lasts for ninety-minutes or so - enough to fill the schedule. Heebie Jeebies smacks of all of the above, a half-serious, half-campy effort which has some curiosity and novelty value but uses all of that up too quickly.
I’ll start by giving Sy Fy some credit here. Most likely because they’ve run out of real and mythical monsters to turn into their monster-of-the-week baddies, but now they’ve just started making their own random creatures. The monster looks original at least - cartoonish, sort of a mutated chunk of gold with five corpses mashed and a big set of teeth in the mouth which makes up the bulk of its torso. It bleeds gold when hurt and will spew out a gas to make its victims scared, making them easier to kill. It also has gold vision, ala the Predator. The ‘Five Heads Beast’ as they call it here is given far too much screen time and there’s no real horror to it because it looks and moves so daft. Once you see it in a full body shot, Heebie Jeebies doesn’t recover despite trying its hardest as the CGI is so atrocious.
Apart from that, it runs like your generic Sy Fy monster movie, with some pointless character sub-plots padding out time in between monster appearances, all bar one becoming inconsequential by the climax. The monster constantly targets a load of non-characters who only appear for a scene or two, most of the time without dialogue, before being killed off and it generally avoids all of the main characters because of their plot armour. The monster is well-fed but the problem with giving us too much carnage is that it all becomes meaningless. Sometimes killing off fewer, but more developed, characters will have much more of an impact than a slew of nameless grunts. But once the monster has taken out a group of miners, a film crew and some random locals, the script brings on board a load of militia-types to feed it. The attacks are badly-filmed and the limited amount of blood does little to create any suspense or tension.
You won’t care about any of these characters, but you will care about the main characters, which makes for a massive change from the norm. Robert Belushi and Cathy Shim do well in the lead roles, giving their poorly written characters some warmth and depth. Belushi’s police officer character constantly gets panic attacks at the wrong time which you just know will come into play when he comes up against the monster. Shim’s cute doctor is helping him to overcome the problems and obviously romance blossoms between the two single leads. The romance doesn’t feel forced though and the natural, easy-going chemistry between Belushi and Shim is the film’s strongest point. The least said about Michael Badalucco's stereotypical “yee haw” prospector character, the better.
At eighty-five minutes long, Heebie Jeebies feels like it’s treading water long before it’s finale but despite the nonsense on display, the likeable characters do enough to keep the silliness contextualised, even if the carnage is more of the same low-thrill nonsense that Sy Fy have been pumping out for years. It’s not one of their worst films, but it’s definitely one of their most absurd.
Director(s): Thomas L. Calloway
Writer(s): Trent Haaga
Actor(s): Robert Belushi, Cathy Shim, Michael Badalucco, Lucille Soong, Evie Thompson, Dave Davis
Duration: 85 mins