Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

Stan Helsing (2009)

"The most feared monsters in cinematic have met their match"

Plot

Stan Helsing and his friends are on their way to a Halloween party but they get lost and forced to stop off at the Stormy Nights estate, formerly a film studio and now a gated community. The people who live there tell Stan that he is a descendant of the great monster hunter Abraham Van Helsing and that he is the only one who can free their community from the monsters that have plagued the town for the past decade.

 

Nine years after the first Scary Movie came out and after a whole load of increasingly terrible sequels, Stan Helsing comes along to trample what little mileage the horror spoof had left into the ground. Given that pretty much every big horror film of the last forty-fifty years has been spoofed at some point, was there even enough material to do something fresh and original? Hell no there wasn't. So Stan Helsing trots out the usual suspects like cheap copies of Leatherface, Freddy Krueger and their iconic counterparts, throws in the usual array of frat boy humour and attempts to weave together a load of unfunny standalone sequences into a bigger tapestry. Are these films made by idiots for idiots? Or is it a case that the sole target audience for this film were the friends and relatives of the director and writer and only they would get the jokes? Surely most audiences would have seen Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street being spoofed already dozens of times before, so where is the freshness in seeing Freddy lay down some smack? I mean the character has his own rap videos ("Are You Ready for Freddy?") so it's not like seeing him bust a move is going to get audiences rolling in the aisles in the 00s.



The film has the most flimsy of plots and it runs like a scattergun of spoof scenes, some of recent films and some of older films. You get spoofs from Psycho, Pet Semetary, Jeepers Creepers and The Blair Witch Project amongst others. They see fit to throw in a Ring joke even though that's old news. 'Michael Jackson' is even here, dishing out phallic ice-lollies to kids. All of the allegations and fuss about him has been a soft target for spoofs for years but it's too old to be relevant or funny anymore. Even sending up the likes of Freddy, Michael Myers, Pinhead, etc. has been done time and time again and it's just not funny anymore, if it ever was to start with. Watching these movie monsters collectively dance to the YMCA at the end of the film, I knew that I had hit the bottom of the barrel and could go no further. I mean, the YMCA? Really? That hasn't been a funny joke for decades now but like the bulk of the humour in Stan Helsing, you figure someone has just woken up from a forty-year sleep and has been catching up on all that they missed. At least the Scary Movie films tried to stay relevant and contemporary by spoofing recent horror films and pop culture fads.


Alas Stan Helsing isn't just about spoofing horror films and there's the usual array of sex, bodily fluid and fart gags that teenagers will laugh their socks at and also plenty of pop culture references are thrown out there for good measure (including President Obama turning up at a karaoke contest but he doesn't say anything, doesn't do anything and isn't the receiving end of a joke - so what's the point?). You get peeping toms in toilets, gay priests, lesbian Harpies, the list goes on. It's silly, it's juvenile and above all, not funny to an adult (well maybe an odd fart sound still raises a chuckle or two from me until the sound effects gets overused). Stan Helsing may not be as crude and offensive as the earlier Scary Movie films but it's got its fair share of smut. There are a handful of decent scenes, probably the pick of which involves the characters stumbling onto the set of a hardcore gay porno featuring Frankenstein's monster. But its slim pickings and they are too few and far between.



I really feel for Leslie Nielsen. I do. Here is a man who was a serious actor and starred in the sci-fi classic The Forbidden Planet yet found a niche and major popularity in comedy with his turns in Airplane! and The Naked Gun, two of the funniest films ever made. Since then he's been stuck in spoofs and comedies, all of which seemingly get worse than the last. If The Naked Gun sequels weren't as funny as the original, at least they were infinitely more entertaining than Spy Hard, Wrongfully Accused, Dracula: Dead and Loving It and 2001: A Space Travesty. Watching Nielsen try the same old deadpan stick as he did in the early 80s is like watching your granddad embarrass himself in public; even worse is when he joins in with the slapstick nonsense in drag. Part of Nielsen's comic appeal was that he wasn't 'in' on the jokes in his earlier comedies but the older he got, the more desperate he was to get a laugh and thus become the joke, a rather unfunny one at that. At eighty-three years old when he made this, Nielsen clearly didn't need the cash.


At least the rest is cast is actually pretty good, even if they are lumbered with some horrendous ‘comic’ lines. Steve Howey makes for an amiable reluctant hero. Diora Baird is just smoking hot in her Native Indian outfit and has a pretty decent dead pan delivery. Kenan Thompson (who I will always remember as the fat one out of Kenan and Kel) is actually pretty funny and has some decent moments, most of which involves him responding to comments from others by mumbling things he doesn't want them to hear (and they sometimes do hear him which adds to the effect). They're all likeable heroes and they deserve better than the script they're served up here.

 

Final Verdict

Stan Helsing should be the final nail in the coffin of the daft spoof cycle but it won't be, that's for certain, just as soon as the 'next big thing' in horror becomes a fad to spoof. Maybe someone will finally realise that these films are actually embarrassing to watch, even if the intentions behind them are honourable or get back to making spoofs and parodies that are, you know, actually funny.



 

Stan Helsing


Director(s): Bo Zenga


Writer(s): Bo Zenga


Actor(s): Steve Howey, Diora Baird, Kenan Thompson, Desy Lydic, Leslie Nielsen, Kit Zenga, Darren Moore


Duration: 108 mins