Review: Totem (1999)
Man, I was in the mood for this the other night! I had just come off a weekend of Asylum Films dreck, and Totem hit the spot. So, the following review is gonna be: why I liked this movie / why you won't.
The plot follows a well-worn convention, by getting some kids (6, in this case) into a cabin in the woods on a dark and stormy night. What little originality there is plotwise, comes from the fact that the 6 kids have been summoned by some unknown force (the film begins with the 6th arriving) and can't get away because of some invisible barrier that turns them all slow.
The kids discover a graveyard containing an old stone totem with some monster statues. The graveyard seems to be the center of the circle of their confinement. As the bodies pile up, they discover that they have been summoned to wake a stone totem monster by killing each other (3 killers, 3 victims).
There is absolutely no action in this flick (and very little gore). Large chunks of conversations between the kids (becoming more and more panicked) make up most of the film, and in most b-movies that's the kiss of death. But, for Totem, there is a pretty good script and the actors convey the sense of impending doom (besides a brief make-out session) that is necessary for it all to work.
The final 5 minutes of Totem faces the ugly challenge of wrapping up the 3v3 kids, the three totem puppets, and two newly awoken zombies. The challenge is not met, and the film meanders through an almost incomprehensible ending with lots of thunder and lightning. The puppets just sort of hang out by the totem (I guess puppeteer Bergschneider wasn't around on the final day, and Dave DeCouteau couldn't figure out anything else to do...).
I know I'm being too kind with my 3 rating, but dammit, I liked this one, and would recommend it to any Full Moon fan who may be tiring of really fake gore efx, and just want a good story. But, please don't waste your time on this on my recommendation alone: I don't want you thinking I've lost my touch.