I think I dig getting involved in masochistic relationships with men when they don’t know it. That’s incredibly unhealthy, but I have no other way of explaining why I’d watch “Simon Says,” an irritatingly-titled, late-model slasher film by the director of “Harry and the Hendersons,” “The Sandlot 3” and “Leslie Neilsen’s Santa Claus.” Unhealthier still--I actually liked this particular irritatingly-titled, late-model slasher film. Why on earth subject myself to such a deliriously torturous experience? It’s like asking a submissive why he doesn’t just smack his foot against a door jamb when he gets the urge, instead of dropping serious coin on some anonymous-yet-harsh bird with a flogger. The details are important, and there’s a really vital element to “Simon Says.” Friends, that detail is Crispin Glover.
Taken on its own merits, “Simon Says” is poorly-scripted, crammed with unlikeable (and unbelievable) characters, and stupid to an impressive degree. I’m not much of a fan of the slasher genre, with its telegraphed morality messages and almost nonexistent plotting, and the characters in this movie make the ones in “Friday the 13th” look like the UN Security Council. Five campers who have no reason to be friends with each other (a stoner, a slut, a prude, a jock, and the jock’s girlfriend who is supposed to be nice because she has naturally-colored hair and appears to have no interests outside of talking about getting married and having kids) go deep into the woods of Somewhere that there is mining and encounter a pair of psycho killers who employ pickaxes as their primary means of dispatching strangers. Why? Because they’re kuhrazee and killed their parents when they were adolescents. So yeah–the movie is a life-support system for pickaxe killings (though not for much boob-showing–so caveat emptor, dudes).
TANGENT: I’ve been a big fan of pickaxe killings on screen ever since I saw the late-80s BBC mini-series adaptation of J. Sheridan LeFanu’s “Uncle Silas” (released in the UK under the title “The Dark Angel” and well worth tracking down if you’re a fan of 19th Century Gothics). I was a young teen, and was emerging from an Usher-sibling-like cocoon of stimulus allergy. There’s a super-creepy scene in which a character is dispatched via pickaxe that resonates with me to this day, in spite of having a lot of red-tinted water under the bridge of my cinematic experience. So yes–in my formative years I learned to love a) pickaxe murder and b) creepy men. This is really turning out to be all about my puberty, isn’t it? FIN TANGENT.
Do not take camping advice from these men.
Back to the pickaxe killings at hand! I’d have felt like this was a reasonable expenditure of 90 minutes if I got to see a couple of obnoxious campers get thonked through the sternum with pointy miners’ implements, but this is where the real virtues of this movie reveal themselves. After a slow start (the glorious sight of Mr. Glover’s mannipples through a fitted thermal shirt aside), the method of the mayhem reveals itself. Stanley and his brother Simon (pronounced “Say-uh-mun” in some sort of inscrutable hick patois by Glover) have rigged the woods surrounding their general store with a series of impressive pickaxe booby traps. Pickaxes fly through the air, spring from the ground, and drop from trees. PICKAXES!
There are no pictures of pickaxes in this review. In order to compensate, here is an image of the second-best use of a ghillie suit I’ve ever seen.
As one might expect, stage blood is employed liberally here. Blessedly, this isn’t the dubious CGI splatter favored by some recent productions, but rather the kind of syrupy, dark stuff that gorehounds have come to know and love. Human bodies behave in ways that human bodies do not generally behave–they fall apart when whacked with heavy things, turn into jelly when someone needs to shove something through someone, and are unbelievably flammable. But that’s all part of the fun here! Sensing that a body count of five might not slake the thirst of this film’s target audience, the filmmakers toss a hitchhiker and some paintballers into the mix, all of whom are creatively done away with (right down to their little dog, too).
Slasher fans will find themselves happy with all this, and were I a die-hard of that stripe, I’d be able to stop here, convinced that folks reading this would be satisfied with the recommendation. But this wasn’t what affected my appreciation of the film–Crispin Glover’s dual role as savage Stanley and simple Simon was what put this over the top into full-on Guilty Pleasure territory. Some cineastes will gasp and bite their knuckles at what I’m about to assert, but I think Crispin Glover is the Klaus Kinski of this generation. He’s a genuine eccentric with a bold, even unhinged screen presence and a striking appearance that combine with… well, some dubious script choices. That having been said, there’s something in even his diciest roles that will delight completists. And his role in “Simon Says” isn’t a “blink and you’ll miss him” one–Glover is front and center throughout, enough so it’s worth suffering through the jock and the jock’s girlfriend’s love spats, the uncomfortable stereotyping of the Asian woman as a prissy bitch, and even the predictable stoner comedy bits.
Crispin Glover is Ernest P. Worrell in “Ernest Goes Batshit”
And I think I might have kid-gloved this in prior paragraphs, so let me tell you hold outs that CRISPIN GLOVER PLAYS A RETARDED PERSON in this movie. A retarded person with a marble-mouthed hillbilly accent. Seriously.
Understand that “Simon Says” is stupid. Understand that “Simon Says” isn’t particularly well made. Understand that “Simon Says” has one of the most aggravating killer catchphrases in a genre pockmarked with aggravating killer catchphrases (HINT: IT’S THE TITLE). Also understand that, for splatter enthusiasts as well as fans of truly out-there performances, “Simon Says” is a treat.