SEAT AT THE BACK - SCRIBBLES! ~ Films on the Seat at the Back playlist right now: KIDS IN LOVE; JUNE; CURVE; WILD, BARELY LETHAL; GODDESS OF LOVE; THE VATICAN TAPES .. What a night in!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

'CRASH SITE: A FAMILY IN DANGER' (2011) ~ Katie Findlay & Charisma Carpenter in a woodland weekend of (mild) horror. . . "There's no Yogi Bear. He was keeping well out of all this!"

*There may be plot spoilers hiding in the woods below ~ watch before reading!*

There's something very fishy - or corporately espionagey - going on at the start of CRASH SITE: A FAMILY IN DANGER. Daniel Sanders, played by the
reliable Sebastian (Battlestar Galactica reboot/ sci-fi TV series First Wave and countless other TV movies you've never heard of) Spence, is at work in his office - some kind of corporate security firm (may be completely wrong here as much of this part of the plot is just TV movie sandwich filler - we all just want to get to the  fun in the woods bit!) when a couple of suited sleazeballs breeze through and transmit some kind of computer virus into the system that starts to cause all kinds of problems that people who know about this will know about.

Daniel can't hang around though to sort things out - he's been ordered to join his wife and daughter on a trip into the remote wilderness where they have a log cabin waiting and a whole heap of trouble lurking in the woodpile. And before you can say: "Hey, woods? Be careful in those places, some of us still remember: Evil Dead/ Deliverance/ Claws/ The Company of Wolves/ The Howling/ Cabin in the Woods/ Yogi Bear - The Movie. . ." - he's off.

Daniel's wife, Rita (played by ex-Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Charisma Carpenter) demands that hubby discards his mobile phone (I say 'discard' - later, just before a serious car crash, she tells him to throw it out of a window mid-drive, meaning bye bye to all his contacts and hello ridiculous plot hole bigger than the Grand Canyon) if their marriage is to survive, and not touch his laptop (not a euphemism) for a whole two days. It may already be dead (the marriage, not the laptop) but clearly there's still hope so long as the city boy gets back to nature and mucks in.

Stupid Daniel agrees to go wireless free for the weekend, for the sake of his marriage but mostly for his daughter, Frances (played by Katie Findlay) who hates him being a succesful businessman too and just wants his love not his money, log cabin, fast cars, technology straight from the soul of Bill Gates (hey - what's up girl?).

Teenage Frances has already brought along her boyfriend, Matthew (Steven Graym) and he looks decidedly suspicious. He either wants to spread a few wild oats while his girlfriend's mum and dad go for a drive in the woods. or plans to axe them all to death - he has that kind of look about him. Only trouble is, also staying at home while the parents go off exploring is loyal housekeeper or handyman, or all-round nosey parker, or Spence's best friend (seriously - this bit confused me more than the computer hacking earlier) - Nick (Keith MacKechnie) who seems to have lived in the cabin since Frances was a baby, I think he said at one point. Can I just say - that's just weird!

Hanky panky (not the name of another character) looks decidedly less likely by the minute. Still, seeing as Frances is young and cute and clearly taken in by random sleazeball men with bigger (hey, it's the new smaller!) mobile phones than her dad - you can bet they get down to it in the log cabin eventually. Sadly though, they don't.


Katie Findlay as the trusting but feisty enough daughter is refreshingly charismatic - I liked her role in this, despite some obvious plot mechanics that drag her through the hedgerow backwards from time to time (and she does sort of get to kick ass eventually like all decent young and up and coming actresses should). Findlay's career is already well on the rise and she has a starring role in the Sex and the City prequel series The Carrie Diaries and some endearingly quirky movies on the horizon, including the Groundhog Day sounding, Premature later this year. Unless it comes out earlier than expected (sorry - couldn't resist!).

Into the wilderness at last (thank god, for both review and movie) and there's some fun to be had when the jeep carrying Mr and Mrs Sanders crashes a little unconvincingly - but it's still more fun than the corporate espionage stuff going on back home. The vehicle careers off the road gently and rolls down the hillside a few times. I think there was a reason for the crash but I've forgotten that too - let's just say a bear jumped out at them (a smarter than average one - like Charisma's agent. Not!) but the bickering couple survive, although with serious injuries that even the filmmakers soon forget about (not just me then!). Now bloodied and dislocated, rather than head back to the road the bickering pair decide to veer off in another direction altogether and walk away from the road. Seeing as Rita had earlier resorted to throwing Daniel's phone out the window mid-route, they are now both well and truly up the creek or down in the woods without a paddle or even a wireless connection. Plot logic - don't fail us now!

Pitching down for the night, things don't seem so bad. Then Rita gets bitten by a spider. Or was it a snake? This is embarrassing - I only watched this film yesterday and already I've forgotten most of the plot. No - I'm going with snake.

Anyway the creepy crawly thing that bit her may or may not be deadly and poisonous but hey - I don't think anything creepy crawly is ever going to be friendly to any of the stars of this movie, sometimes I want to bite 'em too! Cue Charisma Carpenter going into delirious spasms and turning into a vampire. OK, maybe not quite that exciting - quick Buffy flashback there, sorry. But she is delirious and there's lots of spasming! Other dangers encountered along the woodland trail in the next half hour include wild wolves and snakes (or spiders) and bursts of infidelity. You can't say this movie doesn't have something for everyone. Except there's no Yogi Bear. He was keeping well out of all this. Clearly smarter than the average Hollywood scriptwriter!

Halfway through Crash Site, things get fairly weird for a TV movie and this is the point I can stop mocking it. Not Deliverance-style duelling banjo/ pants-dropping weird, but Grizzly (Adams)/ Little House on the Prairie 'the girls get lost in the woods this week and meet a spooky local American Indian' weird.

The deadly seriousness of the first half and straight talking about extramarital affairs and the possibility of rekindling a dead marriage gets ditched for knockabout comedy and wisecracks between Rita and Daniel - everyone lightens up and has fun. Wooo! And you know what - it's actually really enjoyable stuff from here on in. Carpenter, as she proved in her Buffy days, can handle wisecracks and a dash of saucy sassiness to perfection and proves an increasingly likeable cheating nag of a sour-faced wife (hey - she may be the first!). She loosens up, her eyes blaze with mischief and the race to get back to camp is revitalised. She also looks like she wants to bed her husband again. It's all that fresh air baby! Daniel and Rita are having a second honeymoon (despite being menaced by hungry wolves, suffering from deadly snake/ spider bites, being starving, lost and facing - oh enough already!).

CRASH SITE/ All images are copyright NGN Releasing 2012

Location scenery is impressive; lush and gorgeous. There's plenty of atmosphere to be had in the dark woods too, or by the glistening water - and plenty of overhead shots to establish there's a decent budget in place here. If hardly Indiana Jones territory there's plenty of wide open space (instead of studio backlot) to feel at least a little bit lost in (I still can't help wondering why Rita and Daniel didn't just walk back to the road though after the crash and go that way home but hey - they had their reasons and it's better than even more scenes in that dull corporate office seen at the start and that I'm sure has been used in every 'Skinemax' late night TV movie ever seen: Corporate Affairs, Indecent Office Liaisons, Scratch My Back and I'll Scratch Yours). Don't try looking. Those aren't real movie titles I just listed (and yes, I just checked!). Except for Corporate Affairs, there's two films with that name. I'm clearly tuned in to what the average Crash Site viewer wants more of!

Back at the cabin, daughter Frances is still being menaced by weird boyfriend Matthew who desperately needs the location of her dad's laptop that his back to nature-crazy wife Rita has hidden somewhere. Old Nick the handyman (or whatever it is he is and does for the rest of the year when the Sanders family aren't around) and good family friend gets suspicious of Matthew and ends up being walloped by one of his own garden tools - a spade, a big rubber one.

Now Frances is in really big trouble. She's about to be in the reasonably big bucks  TV series Sex and the City spin-off; the hot high school-set The Carrie Diaries in a couple of years time and needs a while to get to grips with the Kama Sutra, chick lit erotic fiction, Jimmy Choos, rampant rabbits and super pink lip gloss (and all the other stuff that Sex and the City generation 'girls' like to get to grips with).


I wouldn't count on Frances's parents saving her from evil Matthew (Steven Grayhm - actually very good playing a slippery dick), though. They are having way too much fun running with wolves and bickering, confessing to affairs or being bitten by. . . oh stop it, stop it!

Most of the time the lost parents are acting more like Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in one of those old Road To Wherever movies. You half expect them to do a song and dance number with the wolves before the end credits throughout the second half but they do eventually reach home and encounter their daughter's boyfriend chasing her around the house and not in a good way (like they haven't had enough crap to deal with already) and a fight to the death follows. Either that - or a couple of weddings and a funeral (guess which one of those Nick - the man who got hit with a spade - is more likely to be getting?)

CRASH SITE: A FAMILY IN DANGER isn't the best TV adventure movie you will ever see, but it's a weird one alright. It has lots of outdoor fun and changes course when things get a little dull - turning into something akin to 'Woody Allen in the Woods'; all self-depreciating wisecracks, random musings on life and the mating habits of grizzly bears (I think there was a bit of that in Annie Hall) and general marital disharmony.

Weary dad and hopeless husband Daniel is (it becomes increasingly obvious as he limps through the trees) just one big loser. I can't even remember him ditching that tag, even at the end of the movie, even after all that 'adventure'. Because if he's a hero, he's a hugely reluctant one. A forgettable one. But he knows how to have a good time in the woods when not being eaten alive and he's willing to suck spider (hey - even snake!) venom out of his wife's foot even though she tells him they only ever do that kind of thing in the movies and it doesn't work in real life. Exactly one hour before she goes into toxic shock. If there's a moral to this story - I'm guessing it's to be found somewhere around here.

Words: Mark Gordon Palmer

All 'CRASH SITE' images are the copyright of NGN Releasing

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