“SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY” (Movie Review)
SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY offers a tantalizing concept previously untouched by the genre: a grown-up, live-action, horror-movie take on SCOOBY-DOO. Spunky heroine Nancy (Ashley Spillers)—essentially a flesh-and-blood version of Velma—and her three pals Gwen (Josephine Decker), Chad (Adam Tate) and Floyd (Jonny Mars), who happen to bear a number of similarities to Daphne, Fred and Shaggy respectively, are paranormal investigators who cruise around solving mysteries with their dog Hamlet via an orange Volkswagen bus.
Jaded by their job, three out of the four crewmembers don’t believe in paranormal activity; the alleged “supernatural” phenomena they encounter winds up being explained through other, more earthly circumstances—until now, perhaps. Strapped for cash, the gang eagerly accept a job at an allegedly haunted abandoned mansion, home to many satanic rituals and occult activity throughout the years, as well as a vast number of deaths. They decide to spend the night at the location with hopes of finally unearthing proof of the paranormal; needless to say, the events that unfold hardly work in their favor.
Though the teammates are supposedly experts in their field, they handle the situation as clumsily as possible, and seem bent on self-sabotage. The close proximity and stressful circumstances results in much tension between the characters—or rather, it would be tension, but it’s nigh impossible to care for this group of unwashed-looking college grads who all evidently bear a certain amount of disdain for each other.
The film, which gets off to a deceptively promising start as a quirky comedy, takes a more sinister turn shortly after the gang arrives on the premises, and the result is a film that wavers between two genres and doesn’t quite hit the mark for either one. After director Spencer Parsons and scriptwriters Jason Wehling, Jory Balsimo and Aaron Leggett attempt to morph SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY into more of a straight horror film, problems continue to surface, including long chunks of expository dialogue (though punctuated with the occasional moment of humor); most notably, the story’s conclusion—the “only explanation that makes sense”—in fact doesn’t make much sense at all).
Nevertheless, SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY, which is currently on VOD and playing select theatrical bookings (Dallas’ Texas Theater this Thursday, August 22 at 9:15 p.m., Chicago’s Music Box Friday-Saturday, Aug. 30-31 at midnight and LA’s Laemmle Noho Friday-Saturday, September 27-28 at midnight), and hitting DVD as a Redbox exclusive August 27, has a few redeeming qualities. There are some fun kills and gore, the plot takes a few unexpected twists and turns, the acting is decent (especially Paul Gordon as the deadpan Officer Lance) and the filmmakers get credit for originality of concept. Overall, however, this is a fairly forgettable flick that doesn’t push the envelope enough in terms of genre tropes to make it worthwhile.