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Stan Helsing (2009)

Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/27/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: None

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/20/2009

Not long after horror movies became popular, filmmakers decided that the audience would like to see someone transform the horror into comedy. As soon as Abbott and Costello made meeting monsters funny, horror-comedy became a sub-genre. These sort of films continued for years. Then, the horror-movie parody was created. This was a horror-comedy which took a particular genre or characters and made fun of it. When the slasher movie wave started in the 80s, the parodies, such as Student Bodies and Pandemonium weren't far behind. The genre went underground for a few years when movies like Scream blurred the line between straight horror and spoof. But, the success of Scream brought about the Scary Movie franchise and horror spoofs were front and center once again. The last entry, Scary Movie 4, came out in 2006, and apparently someone thought that this left a vacuum which needed to be filled, and thus we have Stan Helsing.

The titular character in Stan Helsing (played by Steve Howey) is a slacker video store worker. The film is set on Halloween night, and Stan plans to go out with his friends -- Teddy (Kenan Thompson), Nadine (Diora Baird), and Mia (Desi Lydic) -- to a party. But, his manager asks him to drop off some videos for his mother. Stan convinces his friends to make the detour and they find themselves trapped in Stormy Night Estates, a former movie studio which is now a small town. There, they are encountered by famous movie monsters and other oddities. As they night goes on, they try and fail to find their way out.

The idea of making a horror movie parody is simple enough. If you've watched a bad horror film with your friends, you've no doubt made jokes about it. And, trust me, those jokes were a million times better than anything in Stan Helsing.

I've honestly never seen a movie as lazy as this. Most horror spoofs, specifically the Scary Movie films, have some sort of plot. The story are typically lifted directly from a real horror movie, and the writers simply insert jokes along the way. In contrast, Stan Helsing has no real story. We are introduced to the main characters (and introduced is a strong word) and then we watch them wander aimlessly from location to location encountering other "characters". There's no sense of continuity, flow, or narrative at all. Is a story all that important in this kind of movie? Well, it can certainly help as it gives the writer some place to hang the jokes.

Did I say "jokes"? That would be a stretch. There are things in this movie which I can only assume are supposed to be jokes, but none of them are funny...in the least. First of all, we have the attempts at making horror movie jokes. The movie tries to "spoof" horror film by introducing "comedic" versions of Pinhead, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Chucky, Jason, and Freddy. The problem is that these are either pointless or non-sensical. Michael Myers has tiny eye slits in his mask and he wears a yarmulke. Why? The mask sort of looks like French Stewart, which doesn’t make any sense. And why is he Jewish? Is that funny. As for Jason...it’s simply a guy dressed like Jason -- there’s not even an attempt at a joke. Freddy sort of looks like Flavor Flav -- Wow! That’s topical! The film’s title implies that it will be a spoof of Van Helsing, but the only reference to that film is an appearance of the “Harpies”, who here are three bimbos with costume wings.

Aside from the anemic attempts at horror movie jokes, the movie tries some more general gags. However, the jokes about peeping toms in toilets, gay priests, and dumb blondes fall incredibly flat and feel out of place. There is a subplot about a dead dog that keeps popping up but feels as if it came from a different movie. And for some reason, Stan Helsing thinks that simply saying “karaoke” will bring the laughs. The saddest part of all of this is that 83-year old Leslie Nielsen is trotted out -- in drag, no less. Is it a law that he has to appear in every spoof movie?

At this point, you may be wondering, “Did you actually expect anything from Stan Helsing?” (This is an especially compelling point considering that the DVD box touts this as being from “The Writers and Executive Producer of Soul Plane”.) Actually, I did expect something from the film. Despite the fact that the Scary Movie films certainly push the envelope, they are also produced by a major studio and the jokes have to be aimed at a certain audience. Being independent, I thought that Stan Helsing may reference some more obscure horror films and be aimed at true horror fans. In reality, I’m not sure at whom this is aimed. I can’t think of anyone who would find this funny or engaging -- not even 12-year old boys. (And don’t be fooled by the cover art which makes this look as if it’s part of the Scary Movie series.)

Stan Helsing gives the crickets something to do on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is quite sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. (Why is it that the worst movies always look pretty good?) The colors look very good, most notably reds and greens. The image is never overly bright or dark, which is good considering that the entire movie takes place at night. I noted some mild artifacting in some shots. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects were acceptable and some made nice use of enhancing off-screen sounds. The surround sound effects were intermittent, but certainly worked well in crowd scenes. The in-film music sounded fine. I didn’t note much in the way of overt subwoofer effects.

The Stan Helsing DVD contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY which features Writer/Producer/Director Bo Zenga and actors Kenan Thompson and Desi Lydic. This is an OK talk, as the trio speak at length throughout the film. However, they are having far too much fun while watching the movie. You know why? They’re watching it with the sound down. Lucky. "Killer Parody: The Making of Stan Helsing" (11 minutes) is a an odd little featurette which contains comments from the cast and Zenga. There is also some on-set footage. The cast interviews are far from serious, as they make fun of each other. The DVD contains six EXTENDED, ALTERNATE & DELETED SCENES which run about eight minutes. As one would expect, there's nothing funny here either. There is a 5-minute reel of OUTTAKES. The extras are rounded out by the film's TRAILER, a STILL GALLERY, and a STORYBOARD GALLERY.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long