Fans of independent horror often have to overlook certain things in order to appreciate the larger vision of a film. For good and bad, camp and horror have always been intertwined like a Gordian Knot. There is some rule of the universe that demands a low-budget horror film not just have bad dialogue, but horrible dialogue and performances. I say this as a fan of the genre. Everyone knows that “character development” is often filler in classic schlock films. In these days of digital media any extended interaction between two characters is a great excuse to grab a drink or hit the head. Of course, there are many really, really good horror films that evoke atmosphere, inspire dread and actually let you care about the people at the center of the nightmare. Unfortunately, Medusa is not one of these movies.
I don’t know much about Ameer’s career. I am guessing from his turn as the Witch Doctor in this movie that he is a fan of the campy side of the schlock world. This performance is actually one of the highlights of Medusa. I spent the whole time wondering if he was trying to act weird and just coming off as overwrought or if he was intentionally going for all-out ridiculous. Given the wooden earnestness of much of the screenplay I am leaning toward the former. Maybe he just didn’t let everyone in on the joke. I certainly missed that memo.
I can’t say where the problems start, really. The script is long and needed a few more revision passes. Many scenes could be cut in half or removed entirely. Pointless dialogue dulled whatever mood may have been building from scene to scene. I can forgive much but there are so many clunker lines in this I have to wonder how much the actors were paid. I really do hope they were paid.
Or maybe not. There’s a lethargic pace to the entire film that makes it feel more like a by-the-numbers thesis film and not an indie passion project. Pauses between lines of dialogue betray a theatrical compulsion to allow the dialogue to carry through an auditorium that isn’t there. While many schlock films of the past have the very same problem, I have hard time imaging that this is a deliberate effect in Medusa. This Quaalude-like quality would have ended this viewing at the ten minute mark if I wasn’t watching it for review.
Speaking of which, I should mention something as a point of advice for other filmmakers. I have seen advanced screeners for all kinds of films, from embargoed big-budget studio films to art house limited release previews. I have never in my life watched a screener with “Do Not Copy or Download” burned into the top and bottom of the screen throughout the entire movie. I am not talking 32 point subtitle font either, this is main title grade 100 point solid white text. If your warning text is blocking key details in the frame and making it impossible for the critic to see what is going on, then you could consider removing the text. This is an obnoxious solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. No one is going to steal this movie.
Like Ameer, I am a fan of Clash of the Titans (1981). I am also a fan of Hammer Films’ The Gorgon (1964) which also offers a modern update on the Gorgon myth and tries to introduce Medusa as a creature feature character. As dated as this is, the film stars both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as well as some pretty solid creature work. It pains me to think that I could’ve re-watched that film and had time to spare in the same span it took to consider Medusa. I heartily encourage you to seek it out instead. Unless of course you are willing to risk being turned into stone yourself. Stare too long at this movie and it could happen.