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Side Sho

Directed by Michael D’Anna

Written by Frank Fox, Paula Fox

Starring John David Hart, Toni Robider, Dana Poulson, Elizabeth Bailey

Produced by Paula Fox

Rated R

89 minutes

**

Just when I think that I can’t find any movie more condescending, unintentionally funny and cringe-inducing, along comes Lions Gate to show me how wrong I am. Lions Gate has introduced me to a whole lot of crap—from their amazingly dull direct to video pics to the horrible, horrible career of Ulli Lommel, it seems like Lions Gate has a knack for finding some of the most godawful nonsense on the face of the earth.

Oh, sure, they’ve had their successes—Drive Thru, for example—and they’ve put out plenty of solid pieces that I’ve enjoyed immensely.

Side Sho is not one of these.

Side Sho is the thoroughly predictable and thoroughly familiar (I seem to remember seeing something almost exactly like this but I can’t quite seem to remember where) story of a family taking the kids to softball camp when the father, who’s writing a book on old roadside attractions (oh wow…that sounds REALLY familiar…where have I heard of that??) whereupon he and the family discover a side show—rather, a side SHO as the W is missing from their sign—in the middle of the swamp.

Of course, said sho is creepy as all hell, mostly because of the carnival barker running things, and as the family van suddenly breaks down trying to get away from the sho, they run afoul of the sho’s many secrets. Like it used to be a prison camp. And it’s packed with heavily inbred psychopaths who want to get a couple fresh branches for the family tree in the form of the family’s young daughter and her best friend who inexplicably came along.

Oh crap, I just remembered where I’d seen that whole “carnival book” thing. House of 1000 Corpses, the gigantic steaming cinematic shitheap from crime against film audiences Rob Zombie, used it to kick off the whole opening sequence. How desperate do you have to be to rip off Rob Zombie?

But I’m being a bit too harsh, in all honesty. The last half of Side Sho proves to be a frenetic killing spree as hubby writer runs amok trying to save his family, and butchers him some freaks in a high-speed-metal fashion that’s actually somewhat watchable. If you can get past the sludgy, derivative, mildly exploitative first half, you might actually get some fun out of Side Sho.

However, if you do see this, I recommend strenously that you not watch it through to the end past the end credits, because if you do sit through this drivel and watch the end part, you will be spectacularly insulted. I sure was. The ending is a pretty fair thrill with a nice twist, but going past the end credits does horrible things to the whole thing and drops the average through the floor. It’s that bad, really.

The special features include a making-of featurette, a blooper reel, and trailers for Side Sho, Bangkok Dangerous, Twin Daggers, Dead Clowns, Frontier(s), and The Shadow Walkers.

All in all, Side Sho is really too unpleasant to recommend, but if you do watch it, you may find yourself less disappointed than I am. A solid second half is not enough to induce forgetfulness on the lousy first half.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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