Overview: A group of college girls go to Mardi Gras, but as some of them start to go missing one by one, the remaining girls begin to suspect the handiwork of the world's lamest cult.
Directed By: Daniel Zirilli, 2002.
The Case For: Attractive female leads distract from the incompetent camerawork.
The Case Against: The plot goes nowhere with such speed that the nonsensical quasi-twist at the climax just feels like Daniel Zirilli's way of saying, "Okay, how can I end this without spending any more money?"
I have issues with this movie. I think it's best to get that out in the open from the start. Let's start from the top, shall we? The movie is called "Voodoo Tailz." I have no problem with the "voodoo" part, but the "tailz" kind of irks me. First of all, people who pluralize words with a "Z" should be banned from using the English language in public ever again. Aside from propagating the sort of linguistic stupidity that makes me afraid to open any email that isn't from my parents or a royal banker from Nigeria, it's just unnecessary. It's not like there's a movie called "Voodoo Tails" already out there whose producers are just waiting to sue somebody. I checked. So really the "Z" can only be justified as writer/director Daniel Zirilli trying to urban up his crappy movie so it will have more appeal to the kids of today, what with all their hip hop and their rap and their drive-bys. Then again, there's always the chance that the misspelling is unintentional. After all, the word (with proper spelling) is "Tails," as in the long furry things that like to hang out around animals' asses. But there aren't any animals in the movie. Well, that's not entirely true. There is a cat in one shot, and one of the characters makes a reference to a cat a minute later, but it turns out he's speaking proverbially.
So there really isn't anything in this movie that has a tail, let alone multiple tails. No werewolves or giant lizards or anything like that. The description on the movie's package would love to have you think that the girls are being chased by a creature of some sort - "But someone, or something, is stalking all three of them" - but when you actually watch "Voodoo Tailz," it's pretty clear that it is, in fact someone. So "Tailz" doesn't make sense. That makes me think that Daniel Zirilli actually meant to call his pet project "Voodoo Tales," or at least "Voodoo Talez," meaning stories of voodoo. That would sort of work, because at a few points throughout the movie, a couple people actually do tell some stories about voodoo. Not good stories, but stories all the same. What I'm trying to get at is that this movie couldn't even get its own title right, and that does not bode well for the rest of it.
Of course, if you were intrepid (read: moronic) enough to pop this DVD into your player without even glancing at the name on the disc, you'd still find very convincing evidence that this movie sucks before you even encountered the title sequence. For instance, the movie begins with one of those slow, scrolling text intros that explain the things you need to know before the movie starts, because you, as the viewing audience, are retarded and need everything spelled out for you lest you get confused and freak out and run around the room peeing on things and people. Naturally, this intro is narrated. On the whole, I don't think text intros should ever be narrated, for the same reason that I think "Voodoo Tailz" is an insultingly dumb title - namely, because I can read. Nonetheless, the narrator actually reads the text fairly well, except that he sounds a little too much like he's trying to seduce you. That being said, the actual text itself is pleasantly devoid of major spelling or grammatical errors, which is a welcome change of pace, but that doesn't stop it from being a seething mass of idiocy. The opening paragraph begins thusly:
Every Mardi Gras, college girls have ended up missing. Nobody knows who is kidnapping the girls, but legend has it that there is a bayou cult which split off to practice their own form of voodoo.
Sure, it looks pretty, but if the camera wasn't shaking so bad, you could see that it's actually an Arby's.
Okay, we've got a little tense change, there, but hey, it happens. My major issue is, oh, I don't know, why the fuck Daniel Zirilli thought "Nobody knows who is kidnapping the girls, but legend has it that there is a bayou cult" needed to be one goddamn sentence! These are two separate issues! Two completely different thoughts! And what do we do when we've finished writing one thought and want to start the next, boys and girls? We end the fucking sentence! And gee, I wonder if the girls in the movie are going to encounter that bayou cult! That sure would be a big ol' coincidence, now wouldn't it, ass? Gah, this movie has me spitting little globs of rage and we're still on the first freaking frame. Not a good sign. Not a good sign at all.
Continuing the rampage of quality that the movie's opening sequence has been thus far, we are then treated to a few scenic shots of sunset over the bayou. Unfortunately, Daniel Zirilli wanted that gritty, shaky feel that lets you know you're seeing through the eyes of something evil, so the scenic shots of sunset over the bayou spasm like an epileptic in a centrifuge. We then cut to a young black woman sitting across from a police officer, who is played with pizzazz by Zirilli himself. The cop tells the girl that they found her sister, and she bursts into tears. Now, this could have something to do with the shaky camera earlier - perhaps the evil thing killed this girl's sister. Or, alternately, it could be a clip from a scene toward the end of the movie. Because this movie sucks, it's the second option. That in itself is not enough to make this movie suck, but wait until this scene comes up again later. Don't worry, I'll refresh your memory when the time comes. In the meantime, we finally get a hearty dose of opening credits. Now your intrepid spirit is crushed. There's just no ignoring the title when it's right there on the screen. Nice try, though.
Gah! I - I can't look at this anymore.
We come up on picturesque Los Angeles and after a ridiculously bad "Hey look, it's L. A., let's show stuff" sequence that would make the 1980's cringe, we zip off to a girl's dorm at USC. There, we find three college girls - Rose, Luna, and Nikki (who is also the girl from the police station scene earlier). Because this film is sensitive to the needs of the politically correct crowd, we've got a white girl, an asian girl, and a black girl! Hooray for equality! These vivacious young women are freshmen. No really, they are. It's completely believable. They're freshmen, and so are their implants. Rose is on the phone with her frat boy boyfriend Rick, who doesn't want Rose going to Mardi Gras with her slutty friends because she can just as easily stay and get drunk in California. But no, Rose is going to go anyway, because she's an independent young woman and because this movie would be four minutes long otherwise.
At the frat house, Rick gets brought up to speed on what really happens at Mardi Gras by his two frat brothers. Because this film is sensitive to the needs of the politically correct crown, we've got a white guy, a latino guy, and a black guy! Hooray for even more equality! They tell Rick that girls go to Mardi Gras, get drunk, and flash their breasts for beads. Oh, and also voodoo is a part of New Orleans culture. Okay, whatever. When a writer needs to convey information to the audience without telling them directly (like one might do in, say, the dumbass text intro at the start of this movie), a pretty common technique is to have one character explain the information to another character who doesn't yet understand. The challenge is to determine when the audience really needs to be filled in and when the characters will just look like idiots if they explain everything. Now I'd say that this is one of those cases where an explanation is not needed. Maybe - maybe - for the voodoo part, but is there honestly a college student on the face of the planet who doesn't associate Mardi Gras with drunken nudity? "Voodoo Tailz" was made in 2002. There had been at least four "Girls Gone Wild" tapes by then. In fact, one of the frat brothers even makes a reference to one of them later on. There is no way that Rick, a horny, Corona-swilling frat boy doesn't know what happens at Mardi Gras. And that's not even getting into the unlikeliness of this guy actually caring that his girlfriend is going to Mardi Gras. Let's face it, in reality he'd see it as the perfect time to hook up with another freshman girl. Okay, I'm through pointing out the gaping logical holes. It's time for a ROAD TRIP!
WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?
This is the worst road trip scene ever. Seriously. It's done in typical crappy road trip scene style, with a montage of Rose, Luna, and Nikki taking turns driving, versus taking turns being in the passenger seat or sleeping in the back of their massive white SUV. They've even got the shots where we pan along a map of the territory they're covering.. You know, the ones where there's usually a red line that traces their path and the map only shows the most important features, like state lines and major rivers? Okay, well this doesn't have a red line, and the map isn't quite so exclusive. In fact, one might say that it's just the camera panning nowhere in particular over an actual road map of the states, since it fucking is.
Oh, and while Rose is sleeping, she dreams of being crowned Miss Mardi Gras or something and getting to throw beads and wave from a moving car. I don't know. That part is sort of strange and has no bearing on the plot whatsoever. This movie weirds me out sometimes.
When they finally arrive in New Orleans, Nikki, who grew up there, leaves the other two girls so she can go have crazy sex with her ex-boyfriend Nick. Yep, that's right, Nikki is such a good friend that leaves Luna and Rose on their own in the middle of New Orleans on the day before Mardi Gras without a hotel room with nothing more than instructions to go find her sister in town because she's so sex-starved that she has to leap into the arms of her ex the second they make eye contact. Now that's a true pal! Luckily, Luna and Rose must have no problem finding Nikki's sister Jackie, since they're all partying it up in the next scene. After a montage of the three girls conveniently "just happening" to strike typical crazy-party-girl poses, we shift gears just slightly. Now, instead of a montage of the pre-Mardi Gras partying, we see a fake news channel's reporting of a montage of the pre-Mardi Gras partying. Now, I'm sure the news is done a little differently everywhere in the country, but where I'm from, when our news teams report live on the scene, their live feed doesn't include carefully ordered shots from a dozen different angles and a rap soundtrack. I guess I'm missing out. Eventually the news feed catches a glimpse of Rose flashing her bosom off a balcony, and by "catches a glimpse" I mean "gets a close up."
I don't know why, but I instinctively want to punch this woman, and I don't think I'm alone.
Back in California, the frat brothers recognize Rose on the news and alert Rick to his girlfriend's more than predictable activity. Rick, being an open-minded guy with a great deal of respect for Rose's ability to assert herself vis-a-vis her body as she sees fit, as well as being a horny frat boy who loves to have a hot girlfriend who runs toward exhibitionism when she gets drunk, just laughs it off. Oh wait, no, I was wrong. It turns out he actually gets in a car, drives to the airport, and flies to New Orleans so he can personally stop Rose from doing anything else. Yes, you read that right. Because Rose shows her breasts during a Mardi Gras street party, Rick instantly leaves the house, buys a plane ticket from L. A. to New Orleans, and flies out there so she won't get drunk and party anymore, which is what he wanted her to do back in California in the first place. God, I love it when things just make sense. Perhaps that's why I hate this movie so very, very much.
We rejoin the New Orleans crowd to find Rose running frantically through the streets, perhaps looking for someone to show her breasts to since she's such a big whore and all. At this point, it's too early to say. She finds a safe place and pulls out her cell phone. Panicked, she calls Nikki and pleads with her to pick up. She then explains that she's lost Luna and Jackie, as if that would make Nikki pick up harder. Someone needs to explain to Rose that the person you're calling isn't actually there until they answer the phone. It's a tricky concept, but since she got into USC, I'm willing to wager that she can grasp it in time. Nikki never answers, leaving Rose to fend for herself, alone and friendless without a place to stay in the middle of a city she doesn't know. It's a tough situation for a young woman, and it would take some creative problem-solving and bravery on Rose's part, so naturally the scene ends without reaching any sort of resolution.
What movies other than Rat Race could be improved by the surprising entrance of Smash Mouth?
day 2: still working on the car
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