What would you do, dear reader, if you woke up one crisp morning to find that Frank Whaley hiding in your backyard shed and he won’t leave? This is the question posed by writer/director Frank Sabatella in his magnum opus from last year, The Shed. Oh, wait. I forgot one detail. Frank Whaley was turned into a vampire right as the sun rose, and the shed was the first place he could get to before he was roasted to death, as this horror flick sticks to the vampire trope that the rays of the sun are lethal to vampires.
After an introductory scene, somewhat described above, we meet the main character of the movie, Stan, played by Jay Jay Warren. We are treated to a rather squishy family breakfast before it is revealed that Stan has just been dreaming (viewers should get used to dream sequences in this flick, as they are many). He doesn’t really have a marshmallow home life with happy parents. His parents are dead. And, after a stint in juvenile hall, Stan has been sent to live with his drunken, abusive grandfather (Timothy Bottoms). This is a shit situation for Stan, and his character shows all of the outward signs of a bad situation at home. He looks like he never gets enough sleep, he won’t make eye contact with anyone but close friends, and his skin always looks like it’s recovering from some injury. Sometimes, I bet he shows up to school with bruises.
Stan has a ‘fuck you’ attitude and a counterculture style. So does his best friend, Dommer (Cody Kostro). And yes, Dommer’s name is pronounced like Jeffrey Dahmer’s.
The pair make for a very authentic representation of teen angst. Dommer’s dialogue and Kostro’s portrayal gave me shivers, it was so close to the real anger and resentment that teens feel. Lest I give Sabatella too much praise for writing the perfect bullied teenager, Dommer’s character was ratcheted up to make final act happenings more believable. Inadvertently, Sabatella captures real life in a character meant to represent the unhinged.
Stan has a vampire in his shed, and no idea what to do. That’s a problem for him, but not for the viewer. Despite everything Stan does, people keep going into the shed and getting killed by Frank Whaley. It’s amazing. This ramshackle clapboard pile of garbage becomes the hot destination in this movie. It’s all Stan can do to keep from getting found out and sent back to juvey. On top of that, Dommer isn’t thinking of how to get rid of Frank Whaley, but how to use him to their advantage. What a conundrum.
For the first two acts of this film, I was engaged. Stan and Dommer are both compelling characters, even with the awful Holden Caulfield attitudes. In the final act, though, the interesting character study that came before gives way to the finale of The Lost Boys. There’s not anything inherently wrong with that, except the grit of the film was discarded to such an extent that the climax resembles a horror comedy more than all that came before. The shift in tone made me check out. I stopped caring about the characters and their fates immediately.
And that’s too bad. Because up to then Sabatella had a very good film on his hands. He wouldn’t have been trotted out to win any awards, but he showed he could make a film with tension. From the first time Stan gets yelled at by his grandfather, we viewers are wound tight. We share the shit that is Stan’s life, including the new problem out in the shed. And then it all disappears during the lock-and-load montage before the climax. I wanted the movie back that I had been watching the previous hour. Oh, well. At least it didn’t suck.