David DeCoteau is doing something right... I just can't quite figure out what for all the wrong here. (Originally reviewed for DVDsnapshot.com)
In this edgy tale of horror, a troubled teenage girl finds herself in a web of lies and deceit when her stepmother attempts to murder her by sending her to a discipline camp.
The ever-prolific David DeCoteau has made classic Eighties B-movies, lots of Full Moon features, and created the “Horror Guys in Underwear” genre (The Brotherhood and 1313 series). This genre of bad, bland horror films, light on gore and heavy on tease, is mostly notable for being unable to decide if the target audience is straight women or gay men, then failing to reach either. DeCoteau has evidently decided to take a break from being the only director surrounded by more hot young guys than Chi Chi LaRue and audition for the ABC Family Channel. (I can only assume as in Snow White: A Deadly Summer there's gender equity and everyone keeps their shirts on...)
The plot of with this teen-centric “horror” feels like a TV movie, but TV generally requires higher production values. Here, between a borrowed mansion and a camp for teens that resembles a neighborhood public park, DeCoteau makes the best of limited resources with a quickie take on the Snow White story. (Beating the upcoming big-budget ones to the punch?)Problem Teen Snow (Shanley Caswell) has a milquetoast father (Eric Roberts) and cold meanie of a stepmother (Maureen McCormick) who'd like the mildly-inconvenient brat out of her McMansion. After bad dream sequences and the worst day-for-night you've never seen, she's kidnapped and shipped off to Camp Allegiance. It's for troubled teens and run by gym-bodied beef-piles out of an office that's obviously someone's breakfast nook. Pastel drapes and floral light-fixtures don't exactly scream “Military Academy run by a Navy seal.” (The whole camp is clearly someone's house and some parkland.) Between the male model counselor and the cop in jeans and a T, it's clear we're going for “cheesecake” over veracity. The interchangeable co-ed campers, identified by their problems as opposed to their personalities, quickly start getting knocked off. Will Snow figure out who the killer is before it's her turn? Is there any doubt who the killer will turn out to be? ...and did I even mention that Snow seems to have precognitive dreams, or that the ending will actually annoy you?
There's no real mystery here. Genre fans will enjoy seeing Carolyn Purdy-Gordon and Eileen Deitz in small supporting roles, along with Eric Roberts, proving he'll do anything for a paycheck and do it well. The real camp draw here is Maureen McCormick, playing high-strung and crazy from the get-go. She plays schizo with some gusto, clearly enjoying herself.
(I guess I should have taken it for ominous when the neighbors dogs started barking and howling as soon as I put this DVD in. It's like they know. When I saw the box copy saying “Children of the Corn meets A Nightmare on Elm Street in this modern-day pulse-pounding tale of horror,” I actually looked up the writer of such hyperbole to verify he was real.)
In the end, I admire DeCoteau. He has skill, works steadily, and gets distribution. The man could probably teach a Master Class in the realities of film making that I, for one, would pay to take. He's produced some very entertaining films (Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama) and more personal, idiosyncratic work, like Leather Jacket Love Story. I'm all for striking when the iron is hot, but grinding out schlock isn't doing him or the audience any good.
Not a lot on offer for this disc. The film itself is a 16x9 widescreen presentation with 2.0 stereo audio (note: not Dolby). Rounding out the disc are: trailers for other Lionsgate titles, a stills gallery (and they do mean stills – these are frozen, grainy video frames), Spanish Subtitles, and a commentary track featuring director DeCoteau along with cast members Chase Bennett, and Jason-Shane Scott (both actors were discovered by DeCoteau).
Snow White: A Deadly Summer could be a hit with teen girls who want a few thrills, minimal violence, and protagonists their own age. However, the film is equally for those who appreciate atrociously funny “day for night” and the high camp of Maureen McCormick as a wicked stepmother in a flick from the King of “Horror Guys in Underwear.”
Movie: C- (but a B+ for genre fans and drinking-game creators)