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A scene from the spoof Stan Helsing.

1 out of 4 stars


Stan Helsing

  • Directed and written by Bo Zenga
  • Starring Steve Howey and assorted others
  • Classification: 14A

That's right, Stan Helsing, but feel free to confuse him with Van the famous monster-hunter. Everyone else does - it's a recurring joke that bobs through this relentless comedy like a hunk of flotsam on pounding surf. Yep, what we have here is a parody so incestuous that even the subtitle, A Parody , is a parody. Is it any wonder that the guy directing this spoof of scary movies once produced Scary Movie , which spoofed other scary movies? Enough, enough. When a culture has its noggin this far up its derrière, everybody's head aches.

Of course, it's Halloween and Stan (Steve Howey) is yet another video-store clerk, the better to equip him with a knack for making incessant film references, saying of an ashen-faced corpse, "You look like a really messed-up Paul Giamatti," or of a girl in a short skirt with her legs akimbo, "Now would be a good time for a reverse point-of-view shot." Clever lad. When not proving his cinematic cred, he's heading off into the spooky night with his small gang of costumed friends: a chubby black Superman, a Pocahontas in a push-up bra and a blond bimbo dressed down as a stripper - or, I confess to some confusion here, she may be a stripper dressed up as a blond bimbo.

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Either way, the foursome venture into the movie for the sole purpose of encountering gussied-up archetypes from other movies. You know, every street is Elm Street, every church has its exorcist, every bar its chainsaw-wielding redneck, and every Tom, Dick and Harry is Freddy, Jason and Chucky. Since none of this is meant to be remotely frightening, but just ferociously imitative, we have ample time to ponder the quality of the bantering dialogue. For the first five minutes, it's lightning-fast and occasionally funny; for the remaining 85, it's lightning-fast and totally pointless. No, I lie. There is a point: to see how many film references you catch and to proudly tally your score. And maybe that's valid. Maybe this is the greening of the silver screen, recycling trivial pictures into a rapid-fire game of Trivial Pursuit. Funny thing, though, about playing Trivial Pursuit - you're unsure whether to feel more embarrassed when you don't have the answer or when you do.

Happily, as Stan and the gang venture further down their road to perdition, we discover to our delight that the horror genre isn't the only target on the parody radar. What with curvaceous vampires doing pole dances and gay guys inventing new uses for lube, it seems the script is also out to spoof porn flicks. It's a wise pairing, given that mediocre horror and porn have much in common. Both are iterative in nature and boring as a consequence, since their only purpose is to repeat the same act - mindless violence in one, heartless sex in the other - over and over and over again. Everything in between is irrelevant.

But how do you make fun of boredom without being boring? Well, that's a tall task requiring lots of smarts and even more artistry. Problem is, any writer-director in possession of such talents wouldn't be stooping to parody in the first place. (Talent steals to reinvent genres; it doesn't borrow to mimic them.) So our culture's vicious circle continues, leaving noggin and derrière to keep intimate company. Locked in that posture, Stan Helsing is all that Stan Helsing can be - the mediocre mocking mediocrity.

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