In 2001, R&B boy band B2K hit the scene. Decked out in shiny suits, bare chests and braided hair, the quartet had a string of hits that kept the panties wet of all us girls desperate for a new sensation in those post pop boy band years. With their fifteen minutes of fame spanning three years, B2K and their manager Christopher B. Stokes produced two successful albums and the infamous movie, You Got Served. However, the group quickly faded from the spotlight with only lead singer Omarion Grandberry and friend of the band and fellow Stokes protégé, Marquis Houston, slightly emerging unscathed from the wreckage of sodomy and rape accusations against Stokes post-breakup. Unbeknownst to me, somewhere in the midst of their personal crash and burn, Omarion and Marquis starred in a horror film directed by Stokes, and yes it’s just as bad as the poster leads you to believe.
Somebody Help Me is an all-around mess, an entertaining one, but a mess nevertheless. Brendan (Houston) decides to rent a cabin for the weekend to celebrate his girlfriend, Serena’s, birthday with his best friend Daryl (Grandberry) and his girlfriend Kimmy. Joined by more friends as the weekend continues the boys begin to sense something amiss when their friends fail to return the next morning after wandering off into the woods for quickies. Brendan and Daryl soon begin to realize a killer is loose in the woods and they are the next targets. I almost don’t even know where to start in discussing what’s wrong in a movie like this, but like an onion the layers must be peeled back to admire the catastrophe from the outside in.
Stokes is competent enough as a writer to make a film that at least started off with promise. Somebody Help Me is slightly aware of itself and its surroundings as a horror film. Common questions viewers may ask during certain scenes get answered, such as why not just call the cops or why not just leave the cabin (however, the answers are irrational because Brendan doesn’t want his Uncle to find out about his missing friends and that he feels responsible for their disappearance.) In one sequence, Daryl and Brendan wait until a menacing character leaves his home before sneaking into it to find possible leads in the search for their friends. The boys only spend about 5 minutes inside before the flash of lights from the homeowner’s car floods into the house. Daryl and Brendan retreat with Daryl asking, “damn what does he do? Drive around in circles?” Aside from these few positives, including the actors actually doing pretty decent jobs, this film has no other redeeming qualities.
Stokes obviously knows the general ideas of filmmaking, but not how to successfully capture and deliver images. The lighting throughout most of the film is pretty poor and amateur at best. Night scenes teeter between being unnaturally lit with such high lighting that the source could only be the moon lit on fire, while other scenes seem to be lit by only one source of light making movement and actions nearly impossible to see. Yes I get it, everything is supposed to be dark to prompt fear but for god sakes have these people turn on some lights so both audiences and the characters can see what’s happening. Most of the secondary character’s screen time is spent in the pitch black basement of the killer’s lair making it hard to remember the faces of who’s who when we finally see them in high key lighting.
So I’m assuming there’s just fifteen parked cars with their lights on behind the house, right?
While we’re on the topic of characters, watching Somebody Help Me brought about an important question: who the hell are these people? The characters don’t resemble real personalities, only the roles they play like “the sheriff,” “the skeptical girlfriend” or “the idiot friend.” The opening of the film teases audiences with the volatile relationship between Kimmy and Daryl. Kimmy often stares longingly at the interaction between Brendan and Serena as he is sweet and gentle to Serena while Kimmy and Daryl argue, rarely seeing eye-to-eye on anything when they are not making out. Looks are often shared in close-up between Daryl and Kimmy hinting at a possible taste of bonding or a moment that comes to a head between the two. However, nothing ever comes of the stolen looks; instead the couple spends most of the film arguing or apart. I cannot even begin to think of anyone else’s name in the film because everyone else is expendable and their short time on screen and non-existent character development proves that.
The editing during scenes of torture is frankly awful, and not in the sense of a scene cutting back and forth to the reveal sloppy laziness of a character’s hat being magically turned forward then back during reverse shots, but in the sense that stylistically they’re just in bad taste. When the killer tortures his victims viewers can barely keep up with what’s happening as the scenes flash with rapid blaring white light erratically cutting back and forth from various angles and double exposed images. These jarring, awfully constructed edits are meant to represent the sinister clinical nature of the crimes but instead appears like watching scrambled porn on a television with bad reception.
Ahh the good ol’ days.
The score in this movie is so laughable that I was sure it was a joke. Have you ever hung around a person who makes terrible jokes but repeats them to make sure you heard since you’re not laughing? Somebody Help Me tries it’s hardest to make you react by repeatedly featuring escalating string symphonies that ever so slowly gets louder and louder until….DUN! Loud noise, yet no bang for the buck as nearly every shock scene results in a dud scare.
Now for the biggest gripe of all: how unoriginal and frankly absurd Somebody Help Me is. Characters ask rational questions and bring up logical points within the film that they immediately contradict or go against, reminding viewers that this was written by a complete tool. When minor characters offer to split up the common reaction by main characters is of skepticism with them often commenting on how ridiculous of a decision it is. Yet immediately after stating so, the rebuttal from the other character is a simple “come on man it’ll be fine,” thus easing the mind of the hardest skeptics resulting in a split… and what do you know? Someone goes missing!
“No dude trust me, splitting up was definitely the right thing to do…”
To say that writer/director Stokes got his inspiration from horror films of the past is to give him more credit that he deserves. It seems Stokes shamelessly ripped off every horror film he’s ever been exposed to, obvious from the film’s first shot. I initially assumed the film would be a nod to Friday the 13th as it opens to a wooded area saturated in gray, tinged fog as a man walks sinisterly in the distance.
However, as the film continued I realized what Somebody Help Me instead does is try to use past film conventions to pass them off as original ideas. This rip off is evident in the fact that Brendan is haunted in dreams by a girl swinging on a solitary swing singing “Ring Around the Roses,” strangely similar to the likes of Nightmare of Elm Street. The killer somehow is able to ominously catch up to his victims despite their pace of running or even their proximity to him, much like but not as smart as Michael Meyers in Halloween. Elements of the films Scream, Psycho, Hostel, and seemingly every other slasher film are blatantly ripped off throughout Somebody Help Me, making it more insulting considering the film’s writing doesn’t explain the abilities and prowess of the killer.
You know what else isn’t explained? Who key characters are; including the person believed to be the killer throughout. Why is he killing? How is he getting around? And how is he invincible? Perhaps all these are answered in the sequel…
Yes, there is a sequel. *face palm*
Somebody Help Me could have worked if in different hands; however, Stokes’ problem is that he does not flesh out any characters or the story enough for viewers to truly care. This is the worst kind of movie in the best way. It’s one of those movie that you can’t be mad that you watched because the fact that someone actually distributed it and thought it was worth others’ time is entertaining enough. It just goes to show that money can buy you anything and yes, even distribute the shitty movie you made with your friends to millions of people.
Take a Drink: when the Killer walks away unharmed.
Drink Every Time: a character is killed
Do a Shot: if you actually remember who they are.
Take a Drink: when a character makes a poor decision
Take a Drink: when someone flip-flops on their own advice or suggestion
Take a Drink: when you can barely see because of the lighting.