Monday, December 4, 2023

Just a Weird Case of Prehysteria: The Stoneman (2002)

The Stoneman (2002)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Pat Morita, Christopher Atkins, Robin Riker

Take the plot of, let's say, The Giant From The Unknown (1958), have it directed with the same level of cheese and ham as a cheapo drive-in shlock like Eegah (1962), chuck in a bit of slasher mayhem within that troglodyte-centered mess and you'll get The Stoneman (2002)! For better or worse... 

Narrated by one Professor Fitzgerald (director Ewing Miles Brown, who will continue to pop up now and then to annoyingly and unnecessarily spoon-feed us what's happening as if we couldn't figure it out on our own), it all started at the heart of a safari where a native finds a perfectly preserved body of a huge humanoid creature in a bog. Dr. Stevens (The late Pat Morita) is then notified of the discovery and he soon have the remains shipped to the US where he and his colleague Dr. Weston (Robin Riker), along with an excited university journalist named Kip (Christopher Atkins), awe at the find once it arrives. A Professor Milano (Bernie Kopell) isn't buying the authenticity of the body, however, though Stevens is confident that what they have here is a genuine troglodyte, so much so that he already planned to have the find showcased to the press.

That is until the body suddenly springs back to life and murders one of the university staff some time after everyone left for the night. 

It isn't long before the cops are called to investigate the crime scene and detective lieutenant Hill (Ron Masak) suspects the old-smash-and-grab, just with a mummified cave man stolen and an additional fresh dead body on the side. But Dr. Stevens believes something else might be going on here, especially when he took a good look at the murder victim's neck and notices the rather large bite marks. As more victims start falling prey to the stone axe-wielding fella, Stevens, along with Weston and Kip, set out to find the Stoneman and capture him back (for science!), all the while attempting their best to convince the investigating officials that what they're dealing with in this recent string of murders is no ordinary man. Will they succeed or will there be more victims to be hacked to death with a deadly stone axe?

I really shouldn't be enjoying this disaster of a movie given how questionable its entire production is; the acting reeks high on underacted/overacted cheddar and the writing is hammed up with an entire pig winking at us with its tongue pressed firmly in its cheek! The effects are laughably cheap (yes, that's, uh, that's definitely a stone axe our creature is wielding. Definitely not a plastic prop...), so much odd direction is put into the plot that it's near parodic and, furthermore, it's clunkily pieced together as the picture and audio quality dips once in a while. One moment the pic and sound is bearable enough to watch, next thing you know the darn thing is fuzzy and sounds like it was recorded in someone's backyard! (Also, I think one of the scenes was ripped straight from a test footage as a portion of the damn timecode is visible!) And yet, here I am enjoying the ever-loving crap out of The Stoneman (2002)!

The whole film is practically a love letter to 50s/60s Z-grade drive-in flicks, where corny characters step up to save the day from a threat so outlandish, it's spectacularly terrible yet laughably fun. The Stoneman (2002) practically nails the tone and sway of these movies, down to the silly banters between our unlikely yet likeable heroes consisting of two doctors, a snarky journalist and one disbelieving yet well-meaning detective, as well as the entertainingly crazy murder spree of our titular killer caveman who proceeds to unga-bunga-bash people apart with his stone axe while said people dramatically screams in terror til' their dying breath or, during one hilarious fiasco, be yelled at by an angry neighbor for being too noisy! The caveman is played by a sizeable fella named Steve Henneberry, looking like your typical cartoonish depiction of a prehistoric man donned in animal fur, only with a more pronounced brow, distinguishably huge nose and overly large canines, doing a fine enough job working the Neanderthal maniac gig with a singular motive of hunting at nightfall. Not a lot of extreme blood and gore offered here, though, but with set pieces like the Stoneman casually entering and attacking a biker bar just for the kick of it, or go toe-to-toe against a woman armed with pepper spray, slow-mo'd for phenomenal effect, I say the film done more than enough to make up for its lack of genuine horror and be an amusing piece of bad filmmaking!

As clumsy as The Stoneman (2002) is in terms of quality production, it is still as an obscure trash masterpiece that deserves a good watch should you find yourself in the mood for low brow-levels of celluloid craft. A fun throwback of yesteryear's weird yet wonderful cinema sillies! 

1 male hacked to death with a stone axe
1 female slashed across the neck with a stone axe, hacked to death
1 male strangled, later found with a bitten neck
1 male hacked to death with a stone axe
1 male strangled, later found with a bitten neck
1 female hacked on the face with a stone axe
1 female strangled to death
1 male gets a thrown stone axe to the chest
1 male falls off a cliff
Total: 9

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