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Boardheads
(2003)

Director: John Quinn        
Cast:
Bronson Pinchot, Loretta Swit, Alex DeBoe


I can't say that I have seen, for a number of years now, any horror movie that has really scared me. Oh, there have been horror movies One of the million or so shots of gorgeous women in bikinis (*sigh*)that have made me taste a foreboding atmosphere. I've also seen horror movies that deal with extreme subject matter that made them somewhat disturbing to watch, and I have been jolted out of my seat a few times by quick and surprising occurrences. But a horror movie that gets my heart pounding and makes me check and double-check the lock on my door before I go to bed? Nope, not since I was a kid. In fact, the only way horror movies get any chill up my spine these days is with their television commercials, when I hear that guy with the raspy voice utter at the end with the utmost creepiness, "Rated R." (Oooh!) You can probably easily guess why horror movies from today or in the past, from this continent to all the others, fail to move me. Quite simply, I have seen so many horror movies that I have become comfortably desensitized to anything that may frighten me in a movie. I've seen so many different kinds of horror movies that I am familiar with all the plot turns, all the tricks. Another obvious reason is that as I've gotten older, I've learned that much of the subject material in horror movies is unlikely, if ever, to actually happen in real life. There are no such things as vampires, werewolves, or protozoa-eating goblins. Zombies and mad cannibals are another thing... but since I don't live in Haiti, or Milwaukee (or Germany), I feel pretty safe.

I think I should also point out that there have been some kinds of horror films that have never scared me, not even when I was a kid. A lot of the "classic" horror situations like haunted houses never moved me that much, perhaps because the particular movies of these types I was first exposed to I found harder to relate to - even back when I was a kid, my world was in color and had better special effects. Another kind of horror movie I never found particularly scary were those that were horror anthologies. You may have guessed the reason why if you've been a regular reader of this web site for some time. I've mentioned in the past that I loved EC comics and anything similar to them when I was a kid. Even when I was young, I knew the creators of these stories weren't taking things too seriously. The stories were simply too outlandish to be frightening. The same subtle sense of humor could also be seen in the art, which presented the subject material in a more cartoony than realistic viewpoint; it's not surprising some of these same artists later worked for Mad magazine, which I was also a voracious reader of at the time. Even when I started to find more graphic presentations of the form, like the comic novelization of Creepshow (which I sneaked peeks at countless times whenever I went in a bookstore and my parents weren't looking), my viewpoint of the horror anthology had been set. So much so, that even upon finally seeing the form and its mayhem in live-action not long afterwards, it felt familiar and comfortable to me.

Of course, there are other reasons, pretty straight-forward ones at that, why horror anthology movies have never frightened me. The most obvious is because they are made up of several short stories and not one long story; with less When Spain gets uppity, his hair really *does* stand on end!time to tell a story, it's much harder to come up with something in that short time that will scare a viewer. You often have to work long and hard first to build things like characters and atmosphere before you can start putting in the scares. But the biggest reason I feel that horror anthology movies fail to give me a scare is that so many of them are not even good. Garbage like Tales That Witness Madness, Deadtime Stories, or Freakshow. In fact, they are so bad that contrary to what you may be thinking by now, I am not reviewing one this week. (Suckers! Ha ha ha ha ha!) Instead, I am reviewing Boardheads, which is instead a comedy. More specifically, of the particular kind with a beach setting, a la Harbodies. The central figure in Boardheads is Link (DeBoe), a struggling artist uneasily balancing his love of surfing with his friend Bernie (Douglas Spain, Resurrection Blvd.) with maintaining a solid relationship with his ever-frustrated girlfriend Sunny (Gabrielle Anwar, Scent Of A Woman). His problems just increase when his landlord (Swit, M*A*S*H) threatens him with eviction after not paying his rent for the past three months. But he soon finds himself in luck. Three middle-aged men have just moved into the neighborhood, and while the slick Ronald (Pinchot), cowboy Conner (William Bumiller, Boat Trip), and nerd Howard (David Packer, V: The Final Battle) may be fabulously rich, they find not even their fortune gives them success in picking up all those "tasties", as Link calls all those abundant bikini-clad knock-outs. So the three men hire Link to teach them the art of the pick-up. Yeah, I know - not only does this movie share the same genre as Hardbodies, it also shares its plot!

Even if you had no prior knowledge of the fact Boardheads spent five years on the shelf before being released straight to video, you've probably guessed that it is not a very good movie - after all, this particular kind of movie doesn't exactly have a number of shining examples on hand. And you would be right in your guess - even the die-hard surfers characters that appear in Boardheads  would call it a lame and bogus experience for sure, man. But all the same it manages to be much more bearable than just about all its brethren. For starters, it eschews the strident and often mean-spirited attitude found in most of these films. Instead, everything is very relaxed, and the movie puts a great effort into making just about every character a likeable one. While Link may be a little too obsessed with surfing for Sunny's liking, and often gets distracted by the many bikini-clad women, we soon see he's not really a bad fellow. He may be a little immature, but he does love Sunny, and admits he's too hung up on her to ever actually cheat on her. Bernie is a goofy but loyal and caring friend. The geeks come to the beach with one thing on their mind, but soon find true love and friendship more appealing, and abandon thoughts of one-night stands long before the movie ends. And while Mrs. Jones at first appears to be the movie's villain, since she does manage to evict Link, she has a warm personality at all times that makes it impossible to dislike her. In fact, even though Link has the opportunity later in the movie to get revenge on her, he instead chooses not to, and the two end the movie on good terms.

The beach community where the movie is set is presented in a very inviting light. The weather is fantastic 99% of the time, and even the nights are filled with glowing and attractive colors. It's a clean and extremely Pinchot thought that shades and surrounding himself with perfect strangers would hide his humilation being in this moviefriendly place, where even the local cops who come to reprimand you for the noise you are making at a party can be easily quelled by introducing them to some of the local girls. And oh, what girls; everywhere you look in this town, you see tons and tons of bikini-clad girls who are all gorgeous. (Someone give the casting director of this movie a bonus!) No doubt about it, this gentle and amiable spirit of Boardheads is a very pleasant change from what we usually get, and itself makes the movie fairly painless to watch. But it's not enough to actually make the movie good, and unfortunately there is not that much positive to say about the rest of the movie. The biggest problem is that the movie simply isn't that funny; not once did I laugh at any of the jokes. I did smile during the scene where Link is struggling to teach the geeks the proper way to use a certain four-lettered word, and the later "bathroom" comment by one of the geeks made me smile again. But otherwise the jokes are far from inspired, and even further from being funny. I'm talking about a sense of humor that thinks people having potato dip poured on their heads is hilarious, the use of stink bombs as knee-slappingly funny as they were back in the third grade, and the idea of people in their senior years still having sexual urges a howl. You get the idea.

But it's not just that the humor in the movie is juvenile, but that it's done with absolutely no sense of comic timing. Time and again, each attempted moment of humor goes by with no feeling of energy, sometimes even without any recognition of possible amusement in the scene. It's fine to have a laid-back spirit in the background of a movie, but it becomes deadly if it extends into the comedy. Director John Quinn (who also wrote the screenplay) doesn't seem able to direct a comic moment any different from the other material in the movie, and his oft-repeated technique is little more than point and shoot. He doesn't seem to have talked to the performers a lot about their characters, and the performers often come across as a little lost; the sometimes awkward way DeBoe and Spain swagger around as surfer dudes comes off more as a lack of guidance than any lack of acting ability. The screenplay certainly doesn't give any real insight into any of the characters. Take those three geeks, for example. We learn early on they are rich, but how did they earn their wealth? Well, we later (much later) learn that Howard is a software programmer, but that's it. If they're so rich, why are they all renting the same house? For that matter, why were they only able to rent one that leaks when it rains? How did they all become friends, especially since Texas cowboy Conner seems to come from a completely different environment than the other two?

While the movie later on has a few nice and surprisingly life-like moments of the three of them laughing and partying with Link and his friends, these are just brief candid Considering this is where Swit's career has gone, I am surprised she wasn't partaking in the hard stuff as wellmoments, nothing that adds any real character to anybody. The movie doesn't seem particularly interested in going that direction, and the few times it does make a stab in that direction (like the subplot involving Sunny wanting to open an auto shop), it forgets about properly resolving it. Even when a true villainous character appears and has revealed to have done something particularly despicable towards the protagonists, the movie has him jump on a motorcycle and escape into the night forever, never to get punished or even mentioned again. With this character gone, the movie runs completely out of plot, yet there's still several scenes that are yet to unfold. The reason, by the way, the movie runs out of story prematurely is because most of the second half of the movie before this point is devoted to the gang's planning and running of a beachside bikini Olympics. Thinking back to this portion of the movie, and putting outside observations like that the event gets media coverage but no spectators, I offer some advice to wannabe filmmakers: Whatever the subject matter of your movie is, stick a bikini contest in it at some point. No matter if the rest of the movie happens to be as bad as how utterly bad Boardheads often is at times - the sight of skimpy bathing suits will go a long way in cajoling horny movie critics. Trust me.

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See also: Hollywood High, Hot Chili, Hot Resort

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