It’s no secret that movies these days are expensive. By the time you pay for two tickets, popcorn and drinks, you are out around $40 on a movie that is most likely a remake, sequel or poorly-executed sports comedy starring Will Ferrell. So why shell out a wad of cash for a movie filled with recycled gags and a boring plot (especially when we all have DVD players and hundreds of cable channels showing movies around the clock for much less)?
That’s why I’m starting a new feature here called the “Poor Man’s Movie Review.” If you are poor like me, instead of wasting your hard-earned cash on the latest big studio release, I’m going to start spotlighting lesser-known films you can enjoy without breaking your piggybank. They might not have the big-name stars or fancy special effects that Hollywood blockbusters contain, but they can still entertain you.
To kick off the “Poor Man’s Movie Review,” I am spotlighting Ogre, a SciFi original movie about, well … an ogre. More specifically, it’s about the town of Ellensford, Pennsylvania, which has been plagued by an ogre since the mid-1800s.
SciFi Original Movie
Steven R. Monroe
The Beach Boys: Nashville Sounds)
Bo Duke, several castmembers from Freddy vs. Jason, a guy who looks vaguely like Stephen Tobolowsky
Is a poor man’s:
Shrek, Harry Potter, The Village
“You are all at the mercy of the ogre now … and he shows no mercy.”
– Henry Bartlett
Why is the town plagued by an ogre? Well, you see, back in 1859, Ellensford was ravaged by disease. The opening shots of the film show a snow-covered mass grave and people being locked into quarantine. The citizens of Ellensford were dying and there seemed to be no cure in sight (this is the 1800s after all, where medicine mainly consisted of either covering people with leeches or sawing off limbs). When it seemed like all hope was lost, the town’s resident sorcerer Henry Bartlett (played by John Schneider, best known for his role as Bo Duke in the original Dukes of Hazzard TV show), offers to rid Ellensford of disease in exchange for being named town magistrate.
The citizens of Ellensford, assuming that Bartlett is “just a good ol’ boy never meaning no harm,” agree to his proposition. Bartlett waves around his glowing magic wand with his pentagram-marked hand and just like that, the plague is cast out of the town. However, the one thing Bartlett neglected to mention was that the disease wasn’t destroyed, it was magically transformed into a living creature – more specifically, an ogre. To keep the ogre from going batshit insane and destroying the whole town, every year on the winter solstice, one citizen of Ellensford has to be shackled in the town square and offered to the ogre as a sacrifice. Then, after eating the poor sap selected, the ogre returns to his lair, presumably to hang out with a wise-cracking donkey and a smooth-talking cat dressed like Zorro.
This annual ritual continues in Ellensford to the present day. The citizens are basically frozen in time; they no longer age and all look exactly like they did in 1859. Every year another one of them is sacrificed, which has slowly dwindled the town’s population down to only a handful of people. The outside world believes that the town is simply a myth; occasionally, small clues are found by hikers, but the world at large has forgotten about Ellensford. The citizens of Ellensford are stuck in the town – if they wander too far outside the perimeter, they dissolve into a bright light and disappear forever.
However, four young punks (two guys, two girls) begin trekking through the woods looking for this ghost town. Being carefree douchebags in their 20s, the four inadvertently release the ogre, who decides to forget about the whole “one citizen per year” agreement and instead goes on a killing spree, disemboweling anyone who gets in his path. The outsiders and citizens of Ellensford decide it’s finally time to stand up to the monster and rid their town of this curse once and for all (if only they had decided that back in 1859, they could have spared the 149 poor schlubs who were offered up as sacrifices).
This leads to some great ogre fight scenes and even a Harry Potter-style sorcerer battle involving Bartlett’s daughter Hope, who learned magic from her dad (it’s always nice to see fathers and daughters bonding, even if it is over the black arts). I won’t ruin the ending for you, but needless to say, it is CGI-tacular.
Many of you may be wondering what exactly the ogre looks like. Sadly, he looks nothing like Donald Gibb, the man who played Fred “Ogre” Palowakski in the classic 80s comedy Revenge of the Nerds. Basically, the ogre in this film looks like the lovechild of an orc from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a baboon (as you can imagine, he’s a handsome fella). Thankfully, he decides to keep his ogre-bits covered with a loincloth, but other than that, he is au naturale.
The special effects are about what you would expect from a SciFi original movie. The ogre is obviously CGI-ed, the quality of which is probably 10 years behind what you would see in theaters these days (and probably not even as good as what your average film student could produce on his iMac). The sorcery in the movie is equally as bad – it mainly consists of bright white lights washing over the screen anytime something magical happens.
The story is obviously quite ridiculous, but honestly no more ridiculous than the average horror movie. The plot and dialogue all move along at a steady pace and while the story is quite predictable, it is still well-scripted and entertaining (besides, the concept of the film alone more than makes up for the cookie-cutter plot). According to IMDB, Ogre is the first screenplay written by Chuck Reeves, which makes it even more impressive that the script doesn’t suck.
The acting in the film is actually solid, too. All of the actors were able to deliver their lines convincingly and they are giving much better performances than you see in a lot of SciFi original movies. (I’m talking about you, Alien Apocalypse – a movie so shitty and with so many poor performances that even Bruce Campbell couldn’t save it.)
I’m not going to try to convince you that Ogre is a classic film that deserves a place of honor on your DVD shelf, but if you stumble across this movie on SciFi one night, it’s worth checking out. I mean, it’s about a giant ogre that eats villagers. Seriously, what else do I need to say?
Random Thought of the Week:
Happy birthday, Mom!
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.