Friday, November 8, 2013

'Saturday Morning Massacre' (Movie Review)

Scooby Don't

What would happen if the gang from Scooby Doo was thrust into a gruesome real life horror scenario? That's what director Spencer Parsons aimed for with his horror-comedy Saturday Morning Massacre (also known as Saturday Morning Mystery). It follows the misadventures of four meddling kids and their dog Hamlet as they debunk paranormal happenings and try to apprehend criminals.

Unfortunately, things haven't been going so well for them and they are on the edge of bankruptcy until their leader Nancy (Ashley Spillers) finds a job for them investigating an old boarding school that reportedly had some heinous activity going on. Little do they realize what's waiting for them inside the Kaiser House!

This sounds like a promising setup, and the movie starts by dropping us back into 1994 right in the middle of the gang trying to solve a case. After the opening scenes however, things start to go awry. Part of creating an effective parody or spoof is clever use of the source material. Parsons and the writing team for Saturday Morning Massacre really only went as far as some costumes, a van, and an adorable pooch. Besides a few other nods to the Hanna Barbera mystery classics, there isn't much parody happening. It's barely reflected in the oddly delivered script.  Apparently much of it was improvised, which may be why it seems to have a lazy, meandering quality to it. By the time the kids make it to the house and start investigating with Officer Lance (Paul Gordon), their "casual conversation" comes off as the actors being on Quaaludes.

Strange Satanic happenings begin setting upon the gang in the house, but it's all so obtuse that outside of a few cool moments (like a hallway chase scene) it's more confusing than scary. There were a LOT of writers credited for this script, and unfortunately it seems like that lead to its schizophrenic behavior. There's even a romantic sub-plot thrown in that feels unneeded and forced.

By the time the first act wraps thanks to a convenient plot device, we get to the gory second half. Now the action heats up! Things go sideways and its a total splatterfest as the group tries to survive and escape from the Kaiser mansion...wait, isn't this supposed to be a parody of Scooby Doo? Once the script really gets focused it degenerates into a by-the-numbers (but watchable) bloodbath. Sadly at this point there is zero reference to the source material and everyone (including the writers and director) seem to have forgotten what they set out to do in the first place.

Saturday Morning Massacre (I wonder if they re-named it Mystery to make it less "obvious"?) is a really clever premise. The costume design, ideas and special effects are all solid but it suffers from extremely poor delivery. My suggestion is this team regroups and takes another swing at aping Hanna Barbera classics. Maybe get a computer generated shark and call it JabberJAWS.

Grade: D+

Reviewed on DVD via Red Box. Running time 83 MIN.

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