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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day 89: Masters of Horror: Deer Woman

Masters of Horror: Deer Woman
Better call the Deer Hunter

I need to learn more about Native American mythology. I know chunks of information from various other cultures mythology (mostly thanks to comic books and movies), but Native American culture is just so vast and varied. It seems like an untapped market for fantasy, sci-fi and horror. Thankfully, John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, The Blues Brothers) decided to give us a story that is both unique and enjoyable.

Deer Woman stars Brian Benben (Dream On, Radioland Murders) as burned-out Detective Dwight Faraday. Faraday, who has been relegated to animal attack cases, is called out to a remote area where a vague call about a possible animal attack or murder has occurred. He's joined by beat officer Jacob Reed (Anthony Griffith). At the scene, they discover a horrible mass of blood and flesh that once was a trucker. Faraday questions a witness who describes the victim as being with a beautiful Native American woman with yellow eyes like that kind on deer when it's caught in headlights. He goes to study the body down in the morgue and discovers that hoof prints have been left on the body. Faraday tries to concoct various instances in which a deer hoof would be used to murder someone, but he dismisses all of them as being too ridiculous. We see the mysterious Native American woman charming various men, always leading to the same result; horribly mutilated bodies with deer hoof marks and more evidence pointing to a deer as the culprit. Reed and Faraday travel to a local casino where they learn from a Native American employee the legend of the Deer Woman, a forest spirit who appears as a beautiful woman, but has the legs of a deer. She arouses men and then kills them just for the thrill of it. Faraday believes the story, but Reed is skeptical and wanders off. He drinks and a beautiful Native American woman joins him at a gaming table. Will Faraday be able to save him in time?

"Looks like Arby's to me"

There's no doubt about it, John Landis knows how to make a fun movie. Deer Woman puts more emphasis on humor than horror, but I'm ok with that. The scene where Det. Farady thinks of various ways the trucker was killed with a deer hoof is literally laugh out loud funny. If you ever wanted to see a giant deer costume, dressed in flannel, carry off a screaming woman, this is for you. Brian Benben is great in his role. He's sort of a defeated character that just doesn't care anymore, but still manages to crack a few jokes. Anthony Griffith also does well with some one-liners, making him a good paring with Beben. They could actually do well together in a cop/buddy movie. Get on that, Landis! Another great source of humor are the references to Landis's other movies, such as An American Werewolf in London, where Farady explains how a wolf-like creature was shot dead in Piccadilly Circus in 1981. 

She can trample me any day

The story itself is fairly unique with the inclusion of Native American mythology. It's origins trace back to tribes in the Western and Pacific Northwestern parts of the United States. We get a little bit of the legend, but I would have liked to hear more. It's so rare that we get to hear about Native American culture in pop culture and it's a shame they didn't delve deeper into it. There is a decent amount of action and blood, though more focus is put on the actual story than horror. For being such a funny movie, it does end on a serious down note. That works out for me because I like being bummed, but it may disappoint others that think the entire movie is lighthearted.

Makes sense to me

Deer Woman is a witty horror movie with some great acting and directing. The subject matter is very different from your typical horror and it's too bad there wasn't more time to learn more about the rich Native American culture and mythology. There are lots of legitimately funny moments throughout and with the violence being minimal, this is a good watch for non-horror fans as well. John Landis does a great job crafting this fun watch and I look forward to any future projects he creates.


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