Frighteningly Awful

Stan Helsing

on October 23, 2009 by Steve Ramos

The Weinstein Co. reports that their spoof slasher series Scary Movie will be back with a fifth installment sometime next year. It's proof that horror send-ups, as well as spoof genre spin-offs Epic Movie, Not Another Teen Movie, Meet the Spartans, Dance Flick and many others, are too profitable to stay out of theaters for long. Until Scary 5 arrives, Anchor Bay's copycat spoof, Stan Helsing, delivers C-list stars, zero-effects production values and non-stop double entendres around the tried-and-true premise of friends getting in trouble on their way to a Halloween party. With just a sliver of the comic ingenuity the Wayans family members displayed throughout the Scary Movie s, the laugh-less, sex-less, scattershot Stan Helsing is bad enough to end the spoof boom for good when it enters theaters Friday for a brief run prior to its DVD release.

Stan Helsing 's standout gag comes midway in the film when Naked Gun and Airplane! star Leslie Nielsen appears in drag as a roadhouse waitress. Nielsen, something of a spoof godfather, is at his deadpan best announcing the climactic karaoke contest between the titular hero (Steve Howe) and famous movie monsters on his trail, including Freddy Krueger (Ben Cotton) and Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies (Charles Zuckermann). Leslie Nielsen looks hilarious in drag but only reminds us how much funnier the Airplane and Naked Gun movies are in comparison to Stan Helsing.

Mistaken for the famed vampire hunter Van Helsing, Stan and his gang, a pretty blonde and a brunette in bare midriff costumes (Desi Lydic and Diora Baird) and his best friend, Teddy (Keenan Thompson in a lumpy Superman costume), face an escaped prison convict, a crazy hillbilly and his dead dog, a hippie gas station owner who spies on customers through a bathroom peephole and Michael Jackson operating an ice cream truck, all while cracking masturbation jokes, smoking weed and unloading numerous references to horror movies from The Ring to The Blair Witch Project.

Out of the barrage of jokes concocted by writer/director Bo Zenga (who wrote the spoof Soul Plane and executive produced Scary Movie ), some hit the target but most miss. Lydic and Baird may be pretty but they're no Anna Faris when it comes to comic skills. Keenan is good-natured in his two-sizes-too-tight Superman suit and Howe, something of a Ryan Reynolds look-alike, does an impressive job trying to make the off-target gags work.

While current horror phenomenon Paranormal Activity proves that zero budgets are not an impediment to exceptional storytelling, Stan Helsing is a blatant reminder that a well-written script is essential with a low-budget comedy. Cameraman Robert C. New, along with editors Dennis M. Hill and Sterling Scott, maintain the film's shoestring appearance, although the work of make-up artist Todd Masters does stand out. To its credit, Stan Helsing is no less funny than the studio comedy Couples Retreat, meaning that even marquee comedians like Vince Vaughn couldn't save this film.

Stan Helsing shows little value as a theatrical release, even with audiences who seek out horror spoofs. Expect modest box office similar to previous Anchor Bay slasher parodies Hatchet and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and larger audiences via home video. For fans that cannot get enough of horror spoofs, they'll have to wait for Scary 5.

Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Steve Howe, Keenan Thompson, Leslie Nielsen, Desi Lydic and Diora Baird
Director/Screenwriter: Bo Zenga
Producers: Bo Zenga, Jere Hausfater and Scott LaStaiti
Rating: R for crude and sexual content, some drug use and language.
Running time: 90 min
Release Date: October 23 NY/LA

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