Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Should Have Known Better...

Creep Van (2012)
Director: Scott W. Mckinlay
Seen via: Netflix Instant
Rating: 2.5 / 10

While visiting my family over the holidays this past year, I was tasked with going to the Redbox across the street and picking out a movie filled with holiday cheer for us all to watch together. When the cover for Creep Van scrolled by, I very nearly stopped scrolling. Because, I mean, Creep Van. It then occurred to me that this was the kind of movie you bring home to the family on Christmas if you want to undermine nearly thirty years of trust. I chose something else.

Nevertheless, the idea of Creep Van kept tickling the curiosity center in my mind. This is precisely the reason we have Netflix Instant, and also precisely the type of movie for which it always seems to pull through. Good taste be damned! I'll see my standards in hell. With a title like Creep Van, it was inevitable that I was going to watch this movie.

Not that you should, because Creep Van is flat out bad.

How else could the film open but with a child playing ball in a quiet suburban neighborhood? Lurking nearby on the curb: a rusty old Ford Econoline. You can almost hear the heavy breathing from inside and see the stinklines seeping out of the doors and windows. When the na├»ve child ventures too close to the van, his mother pulls him back just in the nick of time. "Stay away from vans. Only bad people own vans," she says. Sound advice (although somewhat weird coming from a suburban soccer mom), but this is not that kind of Creep Van.

This is the kind that's been rigged to slice, dice, hammer, and run down all breed of delinquent interloper. Windows cut teenage bodies in half, doors crush heads, and airbags blow nails into the faces of overly talkative passengers. The owner of this van clearly sprang for the fully equipped model. And if all the gadgets fail, there's always good old-fashioned methods of vehicular homicide - i.e. running some poor bastard over with a ton of rusted metal. This van is designed to kill, and who knows what the motives of this van's owner are. I'll be damned if we ever find out in the film. Personally, I was hoping that the van had become supernaturally sentient. At least that would have made sense. Instead, we get a creepy guy murdering people because the plot needs some action.

Have I not mentioned the actual plot yet? That's because I don't give a shit. There's a poor guy named Campbell (Brian Kolodziej) who is down on his luck and is assigned to work at a car wash by a temp agency. His life sucks, he moans and whines about not having a car, and he tries to impress fellow car wash employee Amy (Amy Wehrell) in a bunch of stilted romance sequences. His roommate, Bob (Justin Kolodziej), does stuff like this:

Because there has to be something to make the reptilian portion of your brain go "huh?" every once in a while in lieu of interesting events occurring on screen.

Why putz around with a guy like Campbell when there's a killer Creep Van on the loose? Well, because a movie must have a protagonist who is not a Creep Van, but is nevertheless connected to said Van in some way. Campbell needs a car, remember? Of course you do, because it's all he talks about. When he sees a for sale sign on the Creep Van, he calls and becomes entangled in the Van's murderous antics so that we can continue to have a reason to watch the Van kill people. The Van is killing people because... right... yeah... Many other questions come to mind when watching Creep Van, such as: "why is the van for sale in the first place?" "Is Campbell's torso as thick as it is wide, or is that an optical illusion?" "Why am I still watching this movie?"

Honestly though, I got exactly what I expected with Creep Van. It's not always boring, especially in the beginning when it appears to be taking itself seriously. There are also a few mildly funny gags mixed in among the groaners. It also boasts a guest appearance by Lloyd Kaufmann, who's always a delight. If you're just in it for the gore, the effects are done by Almost Human, who also was responsible for Laid to Rest, another poorly written and mindless slasher that didn't have as many bad jokes. Make of that what you will.

Still, the idea of an evil van is one I'd like to see executed well, if only due to several van-related memories of my own. If you'll allow me to digress for a moment - I can recall the time in high school that a friend and I "rented" a huge black van from a religious conspiracy nut who ran a chop shop out in the Minnesota wilderness. Our plan was to drive eight hours to Wisconsin for a concert, and by some miracle this van mustered up the structural integrity to get us there and back without dying. By the time we returned home our clothes had absorbed the smell of the van forever, and we likely incurred lung damage that won't manifest until later in life. But the things we saw in the ashtray - oh the things we saw. They were more terrifying and fascinating than anything in Creep Van:

This is the actual ashtray in the van we rented. It's unfortunate a still image like this
can't capture the seething/crawling aspect of whatever evil was inside. 
If you choose to watch Creep Van you probably already know what you're in for. This review is not likely to sway you either way. That's okay - movies like this fill a niche, i.e. "what will we put in this open slot in the Redbox library?" or "I feel like watching mindless trash in the background on Netflix Instant." And for that at least, Creep Van is a screaming success.

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