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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor  [July 6, 2012]




[]  Motern Media's creative duo -- writer/director Charles Roxburgh and writer/actor Matt Farley -- are back with their third film: Don't Let the Riverbeast Get You!

As with their first two collaborations (Freaky Farley and Monsters, Marriage and Murder in Manchvegas), Riverbeast is a funny, shaggy monster movie. Paying homage to filmmaker William Castle's publicity stunts, Riverbeast opens with a professorial man warning viewers that those of faint heart might not be able to bear seeing the film's dreadful Riverbeast. Thus, before each of the Riverbeast's appearances, the screen with flash red, giving viewers a chance to cover their eyes.

Despite such dire warnings, Castle's monsters were rarely scary. So too Motern's Riverbeast, which looks like a cheap rubber suit. This is intentional. Roxburgh/Farley's films are affectionate parodies rather than thrill rides.



Don't Let the Riverbeast Get You! again stars Matt Farley, with supporting cast likewise drawn from Motern's two previous films. Farley plays Neil Stuart, a legendary tutor who left his small town after being humiliated -- and left at the altar -- for claiming to see the mythical Riverbeast. He returns to Rivertown, USA for his god-cousin's wedding. Like Jimmy Stewart (whom Farley's Neil evokes), he ends up touching and fixing the lives of friends and neighbors, all the while struggling to prove the reality of the Riverbeast.

As in Freaky Farley and Manchvegas, a charming innocence and celebration of small town America pervades Riverbeast. (Which was shot in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.) Neil commiserates with his fellow tutors at a local cupcake shop, never at Starbucks, much less at a bar. He takes swigs from bottles of chocolate milk, never alcohol.

Adults in Riverbeast express childlike glee at simple pleasures. When Neil asks, "Who wants beef jerky?" his friends exclaim, "I do! I do!" Yet the dialogue is not only hyper-literate, it parodies its own literacy. It's the sort of satirical verbosity practiced by David Letterman and Chris Elliot. Neil's best buddy says of his girlfriend that she must be "free to fly as a beautiful avian creature." Most people would have said "bird."



And as in a David Letterman skit, Riverbeast's actors deliver their lines stiffly. But while the acting isn't casual, it is consistent. The film credits an acting coach. I suspect he was on set not to improve anyone's acting, but to maintain an aesthetic consistency of performance. Intentional or not, that's the result. And it works. The cast's uniformly stiff deliveries support the parody.

Even so, Don't Let the Riverbeast Get You! is Motern Media's most polished effort to date. Farley's performance has improved since Freaky Farley. He appears comfortable on screen and at ease in his character. Roxburgh has also improved. Riverbeast is his best-paced film to date. By contrast, Freaky Farley felt slow at time.

The photography is professional, at times even beautiful, in both the lighting and composition. Note the balance and colors in the below shot. The characters standing past the building's hard shadow, and balanced by the tree whose colors are in stark contrast to the pastel background. Throughout the film, Roxburgh takes advantage of New England's autumnal colors.



See the bright orange sun blazing between the barren trees during the final, faux epic, Riverbeast battle. It may be serendipity. Or not. Happy and unhappy accidents both happen on a film set. But either way, the shot works.



In an age when "cutting edge horror" too often means sordid, ugly, and mean-spirited, Don't Let the Riverbeast Get You! is an homage to old-time horror and old-time Americana. It's a feel-good horror movie, one that avoids falling into either cynical irony or treacly sentimentality.


Also read the Hollywood Investigator's 2011 report on Motern Media's previous two films.


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