I am not a huge Tim Burton fan, but there many times where I can see his genius manifest itself in his work. For me this is often this is through comedic timing. One such instance is in his 1994 film "Ed Wood". The scene involves studio executives in a screening room watching one of Wood’s films. The laughter comes, when after just enough time of watching the execs stunned faces at the poor quality of the film the silence is broken by one of them asking, “Is this a movie?” Nearly 20 years later, I still laugh even thinking about that scene.
While viewing "Don’t Let the Riverbeast Get You!" from the comfort of my humble abode- Bastard Castle- a similar scene played in front of me. As the film started – my wife, Lady Bastard- came into the room – she stopped for a second to see what I was watching (usual not a good idea) and asked “Is this a movie?’
This exact question was on my mind as well from the first few minutes of the film – I would admit that I am not usually this dense. It took me about 20 minutes to form two hypotheses – 1: This movie was a monumental piece of shit or 2: I had been lulled into a false sense of disappointment only to be won over by the film’s end…I encourage you to keep reading to find out my conclusion.
The story is very simple…well sort of:
The film opens with an on-screen narration, which breaks the “4th wall” by telling us- the viewer-that appearances by the Riverbeast will be forewarned by the screen flashing red. This throwback to 1950’s Sci-Fi first films of a Saturday Double Feature tips the audience off that not much of what we are about to see should be taken seriously.
Beckoned back home to his quiet New England hometown by his Godmother to attend a wedding– tutor Neil Stuart (Matt Farley) is immediately greeted home by way of strange looks and taunts. We quickly learn that Neil fled the town in shame over rants that there was a horrible Riverbeast living in a local body of water. Neil is determined once and for all to prove the existence of this menace and rid the town of it for good. The town-folk themselves are a motley crew of ex-lovers, bullies, a retired sports star, overly suspicious deputies and a rag-tag band of tutors, who come off like a secret society, which acts as the glue holding the town together.
The acting is terrible… or is it? The beast costume is amateurish… or is it? The dialogue sucks… or does it. The effects blow… or do they?
Get the point?
Every single actor speaks in the same stilted, monotone, awkward manner delivering lines that sound like they were written about 1931 for a local radio play. Words like “fisticuffs’ and “drat” pepper the storyline. I can't explain how or why- but it works!
While I never burst out laughing – In retrospect, I did have a dopey grin on my face for most of the viewing of "Don’t Let the Riverbeast Get You!"
This stockpile of misfires for me comes together in a very fun, well-intended and consciously executed Horror-Comedy… or is it a Comedy-Horror. Check it out, and decide for yourself.