I guess You Got Stabbed would’ve been too obvious. You Got Served writer/director Chris Stokes and stars Marques Houston and Omari(on) Grandberry reunite for Somebody Help Me, a nice-looking but scatter-brained thriller that thankfully never degrades into hip-hop dance-offs.
The best direct-to-video movies are the ones that aspired to be theatrical releases and had the budget to achieve that goal, but for one reason or another never made it the the multiplex. Somebody Help Me has that feel — it looks like it could’ve played in the theater — and you’d have thought that You Got Served earned Stokes & Co. the clout to get that kind of distribution, but lo and behold, here it is sitting on the Blockbuster shelves. Is it that bad? Well, no, but yes.
It’s certainly no worse than You Got Served — not only a theatrical release, but a bona fide hit. That’s no ringing endorsement, to be sure, but I’ve paid $10.50 to see worse. That said, Somebody Help Me seems determined to appease a perceived horror movie fan base by cramming in every cliche from every horror movie ever made. Horny, unsupervised teens? Check. Secluded cabin? Check. Deranged killer? Check. Ghostly little girl? Check. Dream sequences? Check. Obvious red herring of a neighbor? Check. Good-for-nothing cops who pooh-pooh the heroes’ story but secretly conceal the skeletons in the town’s closet? Check. Gratuitous scenes of so-called “torture porn”? Check. Scrapbook full of newspaper clippings that conveniently explain the entire mystery? Check.
To include all these cliches is one thing, but Somebody Help Me does so with such reckless abandon, it at some point turns into a drinking game. They never explain the story behind the little girl who warns the horny teens about the killer, much less a decent explanation as to why the killer is killing the horny teens or why the police are hiding the fact that the killer has killed horny teens before. And if the horny teens remind us one more time how horny they are, I’ll never be horny again.
The most unique aspect of Somebody Help Me is the fact that its four main stars (including Alexis Fields and Donna Summer’s daughter Brooklyn Sudano) are black, while practically the entire supporting cast (including the dude who played the bad guy in You Got Served) is white. This means that when the killing starts, it’s “the white guy” who’s the first to go! And the second…and third…and fourth. As refreshing as this is, though, the writing still suffers from chicken-headed logic:
- No one seems terribly concerned when four — count ’em, four — of their friends go walking in the woods one night and fail to return by morning.
- When they finally decide to go search for them, they look for any excuse to split up. Someone actually says, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
- The killer breaks into the house twice but just strolls around in the shadows, as if only to give our heroes cause to say, “Hello? Is anybody there?”
- The excuse for not calling the cops right away is that if Darryl’s (Grandberry) uncle, whose house they’re staying at, finds out that some of their friends disappeared, boy would he be angry…WTF??? And furthermore, Kimmy (Fields) explains, “We’re a bunch of black folks in this white town. Now, we don’t want to scare everybody. How would we look?” They immediately accept this reasoning as if it makes any sense whatsoever.
- Once the cops finally get involved, they order Darryl and Brendan (Houston) to stay at the police station, but they respond, “You can try and stop us, but you better be ready to put up a hell of a fight.” AND THEY LET THEM GO. What in the name of Bizarro Rodney King is going on here?!?
- Near the end of the movie, “hero” Brendan sits in a police car and grabs a shotgun…but when he goes to get the bad guy, he leaves it sitting there. So, when the time comes to save his girlfriend, he just sits weaponless in the shadows and watches as the killer SLITS OPEN HER FOREHEAD WITH A SCALPEL. Only when the little ghost girl distracts the killer does Brendan sneak in and untie her. Thanks, honey, I’ll always have this scar as a token of your cowardice.
To give the film some credit, the torture scenes are effectively grisly, if that’s your cup of tea, but they feel jarringly out of place in a movie that can’t decide whether it’s a slasher, a ghost story, or a kidnapping-and-torture flick.