Sunday, July 21, 2013

This Film's Offbeat Charm Might Get to You: "Don't Let the Riverbeast Get You!" (2013)

The good citizens of River Town, USA are being terrorized by a giant river beast, and we must rely on a chocolate milk drinking disgraced tutor to save us all.

Neil Stuart (Matt Farley) returns to his hometown after being left at the altar by his fiancee Emmaline (Elizabeth Peterson) three years before. He is a believer in a giant creature that lives down by the river, but the rest of the town doesn't believe him. He is hassled and assaulted constantly, eventually staying in his godmother's (Joanie Greenan) basement with his former best friend Teddy (Tom Scalzo). Neil gets a gig tutoring Ally (Sharon Scalzo), the daughter of a former professional athlete (Kevin McGee). As various subplots begin to develop (Neil is hounded by a reporter, Teddy finds love), the river beast makes himself known to the local citizens and begins attacking members of the large cast.

This is the third film I have seen from Matt Farley and Charles Roxburgh, after "Freaky Farley" and "Monsters, Marriage, and Murder in Manchvegas," and this is the better of the three. These three films still remind me of John Waters' early films. The cast's delivery of their lines is stilted, the dialogue sounds like it was lifted from sixty year old films, and the monster is obviously a guy in a rubber suit, but this time Roxburgh and Farley have opened up the proceedings and I didn't feel like I was watching a private joke I wasn't in on. From the earnestness of Farley's leading man persona to the terminally cute Sharon Scalzo, this outing is nothing more than goofy fun, and part of that fun is in watching what weirdness the film makers have up their sleeves next. I usually wasn't disappointed, with cat litter and a harmonica playing big game hunter entering the fray.

Of course, this isn't a John Waters film, and I still wish I could get some edge. The film runs a few minutes too long, and the violence and gore is purely PG level. The odd universe this story exists in is fun, but this may not appeal to the average moviegoer. On the other hand, weird and underground cinema fans will probably eat this up. The technical aspects of this film are strong, the cinematography is crisp, the editing and directing are confident, and the sound is excellent.

"Don't Let the Riverbeast Get You!" is cornball stuff, but it's fun cornball stuff. I liked it enough to slightly recommend it, and it's good to see Roxburgh do such a good job behind the camera with each film he directs. (* * *) out of five stars.