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Movie Review: Viral
Penny and Devon are your typical outcasts at their high school in Blackfoot, Idaho. One day Penny brings an ancient urn to show and tell (or whatever it is they have at school nowadays). The urn holds some black sludgy substance that can turn anyone who gets smothered with it into an immensely attractive person (think Axe bodyspray). Devon gets covered in said magic sludge and goes mad with power as girls throw themselves at him. Unfortunately, it also turns Devon into an evil mofo.
I wasn't the biggest fan of high school growing up. With too many cliques and self-centred jackoffs (and those were just the teachers), it really wasn't what I would call a highlight in my so-called life. So I did have some idea of expected sympathy when it came to the two outcasts in CHEERBLEEDERS, director/writer Peter Podgursky's USC thesis film. Well, sort of. The film is ten minutes long, which doesn't leave much room for doing all that character and plot development stuff, but hey, with a premise and title like CHEERBLEEDERS, you shouldn't expect too much.
Unlike the previous short I reviewed, AKAI, CHEERBLEEDERS is cheese to the core, and gives way to such excuses as for young teen girls to squirt ketchup and mustard onto each other, or engage in liplocks, spankings and public screwings. Add to that the sound effects for whip-pan camera movements, the evil red eyes, the chocolate syrup for blood, and the list goes on. Obviously, there's a real love of B-movie insanity in this film, and it doesn't take itself too seriously. Over the top and cheesy as hell? Very much so.
Aside from Podgursky's effective use of cheese, there were some other cool things that I have to applaud him for. Taking a cue from Sam Raimi, we do get some first-person camera shots during a football game that were fun to see and experience. The acting by everyone involved was done with the tongue planted firmly in cheek, and really surprised me for being a student film.
However, the film wasn't without its faults. Being a low budget affair, it was obvious when certain sets were reused (namely the flashback at the start). Also, there were some rather gaping plotholes that were confounded further by the abrupt ending to the film, which didn't exactly resolve much of anything. Yes, it's a B-movie that isn't supposed to take itself (or be taken) seriously, but it bugged the crap out of me that proper story structure wasn't used, dammit!
Really though, I'm impressed with how much Podgursky was able to pull off in the film, plotholes and all. It's not something of EVIL DEAD proportions in terms of it's uniqueness or execution, but it's still done quite well, and still presents something horror fans haven't seen before (or recently).
Video: The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image looks really good, despite some minute interlacing errors. Colours are consistent and strong, as is the contrast. There is some minute film grain throughout the image as well, but isn't distracting or that noticeable until you start looking for it.
Audio: The only track, a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, does it's job. While there's nothing fancy in terms of directional movement or utilization of all frequencies, it still sounds great, without any muffled dialogue or distortion.
Nada. Not even the film's trailer (which is on the official website, however). No chapter stops, either.
Peter Podgursky has certainly crafted a great thesis film. While I'm not certain that it could be expanded into a full-length film and still retain the charm, it's still something that will lead to bigger and better things for Mr. Podgursky.