“You don’t have to see or hear to understand love.”
That’s not the tagline of the movie by the way. Those are words of advice given to Helen Keller by her mother as she is dying in the aftermath of a wolf attack. A fully hearing, full sighted Helen Keller I might add. This is the tagline of the movie:
Yup, that’s braille underneath!
Looking at the poster, anyone could be forgiven for thinking that this was a low budget SyFy Original. Now that’s usually a good thing, as low budget SyFy Original movies are one of the consistently entertaining franchises in existence. But the opening 5 minutes established this movie as one that’s hilarious on its own merits and not dependent on ironic laughs.
The only way I can do it justice is to describe a few of the scenes/exchanges.
- Helen’s family friend Anne describes how she was abandoned in a butter churner when she was 12 and had to eat her way out. The experience left her blind and deaf for almost five years, which forced her to touch people’s lips to understand what they were saying. She complains that people kept throwing up on her hands, and that her doctor forced her to go vegan to drain the cholesterol from her body. She concludes by remarking that because she had great breasts, high school was still a positive experience.
- A drifter and nightwolf attack survivor offers to assist Helen’s group. William (her effeminate adopted brother) asks if he has “some kind of sick fetish for visually impaired girls” to which the drifter indignantly responds, “My wife was deaf and blind so yeah, I guess I do!”.
- The phrase “F**k me squatting gently in a rainforest!”
This movie also understands how to make a low budget work in its advantage.
SyFy Original movies are notorious for using stock footage for movie introductions. If a movie takes “place” in the Amazon, you’re guaranteed to see a montage of scenes stolen from a documentary. To show that Helen’s family has been surrounded by nightwolves near their wooded cabin, they use quick cutaways to stock footage of wolves to simulate the “pack”.
In SyFy movies, it’s funny because it’s supposed to be serious but is completely unconvincing. But Helen Keller vs. Nightwolves is actually trying to be funny. So how do you make a budget constraint funny on purpose? You could go for cheap shock value, making one of the cutaways something irrelevant like a chimpanzee wearing a suit. It’d be stupid, but funny. Nope, it does something way subtler by using footage of wolves not in the woods.
The camera will cut to a pack of wolves in the woods, but on the next cut it’ll show wolves in a tundra or a desert. It’s surprisingly hilarious, because it’s a way to let the audience know that the filmmakers themselves understand how cheap it is without being obnoxious. It’s a wink rather than an elbow to the ribs.
This movie isn’t perfect however.
The jokes are delivered fluidly during conversations rather than as one liners, which is normally great as its what makes American Dad vastly superior to Family Guy. But when the scene is unfunny, strap yourself in for an extended period of occasional sympathy chuckles. The good scenes outnumber the mediocre ones by a fair margin, but it’s still noticeable.
The most egregious example regards the “director” St. James St. James.
See, Helen Keller vs Nightwolves is technically a movie within a movie. It’s a movie made by St. James St. James, a fictional director (played by real director Robert Patterson) who couldn’t find a distributor for this “hidden gem”. In the introduction it’s wacky and hilarious, but there are multiple instances when the entire film cuts away to St. James St. James and his idiot sidekick. The movie is fantastic, why drag it down with a useless gimmick?
All said and done though, this movie is unbelievable. It’s a campy, low budget, zany horror-comedy and I can’t believe it took me this long to find it. Plus it’s only 75 minutes so it’s something you can pop in with your friends if you’re bored one night.
Oh, and it’s free in 1080p on the director’s YouTube channel!