Oh, you’re damned right I’m kicking off October with one of my favorite traditions- reviewing the absolute worst horror movies that Netflix has to offer! Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a masochist, since watching most of these 1-2 star rated flicks on a regular basis over the course of a month could be considered a form of torture or punishment to those with a more refined cinematic palate- but I really and truly do enjoy it. You could say I’m even inspired by these typically low-budget filmmaking endeavors- because you know that as bad as they are (and they usually are pretty terrible)– they came from a place of love and respect for one of my favorite genres, and were made with the best of intentions…
… They’re just almost always executed awfully from start to finish.
Choosing the first movie to sink my teeth into for what will be my third year of doing “Horrors of Netflix” proved to be slightly difficult. I mean, I wanted to start this season’s reviews with a bang. Scrolling down my recommendations and watching as the rating for each film that passed by my eyes gradually became lower and lower and the covers became more and more cheesy- I wanted something that looked suspenseful, not-too-old- and, wait–
— oh my God, is that Val Kilmer? The same Val Kilmer I had a crush on when I was nine?
We have a winner.
2010’s “The Traveler” boasts a rating that falls just a fraction higher than one star. The synopsis, via Netflix:
“A mysterious drifter wanders into a small-town police station and confesses to a series of murders, none of which has occurred… yet.”
Wuh oh. That “yet” in the description is pretty ominous!
As always, I’ll be posting the thorough and detailed review under a “Continue Reading” cut for those who would rather watch the movie for themselves. You’ve been warned! If you don’t want to be spoiled- do not proceed!
“The Traveler” is already off to a strange start, with the first scene consisting of a little girl- suspiciously dressed like she’s going to an Amish funeral- jumping rope in the uneven terrain of a forest while her pet cat roams around nearby. Now, having enjoyed jumping rope like most other girls when I was a kid- the surface of where you’re trying to double dutch meant everything. Playground pavement? Fine. Roots and leaves in the middle of the woods? Rookie mistake.
Before the weird Amish-looking girl can learn the error of her ways, she’s snatched from behind by an unseen person and dragged away kicking and screaming for help- which is tied in with the opening credits. No word on if the cat that was with her is okay.
Cut to a rainy Christmas Eve, where two police officers enter the front lobby of their precinct- swearing and dragging in rain water all over the freshly mopped floor, which draws the ire of kinda’ nerdy and heavy-set Officer Gulloy, who I assume is the rookie based solely on how disrespectfully the two cops treat him after he confronts them about their foul language and for their overall inconsiderate douchebaggery for messing up the floor.
Elsewhere in the precinct, which is by far the most depressing looking police station I’ve ever seen- two other officers are completing end of the year paperwork and it’s quickly established via one kiss that they are either in a relationship and/or sleeping together before they’re interrupted by the two inconsiderate douchebag cops from the previous scene who obnoxiously intrude on the tender and-not-appropriate-for-the-workplace-moment by acting like a couple of juveniles who have never seen two adults kiss before.
Detective Alexander Black (his name displayed on a door leading up to his introduction in this movie), is shown in his office somewhere else in this bleak-as-hell building- listening to a voicemail from who I assume is his estranged wife/girlfriend, and who tells him she’s taking their kids away- from him- for the holidays. On Alex’s desk is a framed photo of the little girl in the weird Amish dress from the beginning of the movie. I know this is meant to establish the fact that Alex was/is the girl’s father and should probably make the audience sympathetic towards him because, you know, it’s Christmas and everything- but I can’t help but be annoyed that he was apparently there (or, at least, whoever took the picture was,) the day she vanished- considering she’s IN THE SAME WOODS IN THE PHOTOGRAPH– and didn’t see her get kidnapped or hear her screaming for help? What kind a cop are you, Black?
Back in the lobby, Gulloy is… Doing whatever it is that he does- looking at a sign-in sheet or something- when the front door opens and Val Kilmer steps in, dry as a bone despite the fact that it’s still pouring outside. He tells Gulloy he wants to make a confession- to murder- and Gulloy reacts the way most cops do these days. He immediately draws his gun and screams for help- prompting the douche-ier of the two douchebag cops (his name is Hawkins, for future reference) to come out and see what’s going on.
Eventually, one of the other cops comes out to see what’s going on- and finds Gulloy still aiming his gun at non-compliant Val Kilmer while Hawkins continues to order him to place his hands on his head. The rest of the precinct- including Black- come out, too (there’s seriously only like, 6 cops on duty in the entire building, it seems), and even Black can’t get Val Kilmer to cooperate before he just orders his ass get dragged to the interrogation room. While he’s calming down from the not-that-intense-silent-stare-down, two State Troopers stop by to let them know they’re re-directing traffic due to a nearby accident- and that the remaining cops in the precinct are going to have a quiet night- which in horror movie terms, means “you’re all screwed.”
In the interrogation room, Val Kilmer is once again being uncooperative to Hawkins- playing some cryptic head games with him and insinuating that the cop is a coward- which doesn’t seem far off considering how insufferable he is. Hawkins prepares to get physical until Detective Black comes in and dubs Val Kilmer “Mr. Nobody” after he fails to provide the cops with a name once the actual questioning process begins and Hawkins and his sidekick shut the hell up for five minutes. After some pressing, it turns out that “Mr. Nobody” hasn’t actually murdered anyone yet- but promises he will before the night is over- before he’s hauled off for processing/fingerprinting.
In another equally dilapidated part of the precinct, the two cops that are involved in some sort of relationship- Jane and whatever the guy’s name is- are attempting to share another tender moment by humping-while-on-the-clock before they are interrupted yet again. It’s not by Hawkins and his sidekick this time, however. Jane thinks she catches sight of “Mr. Nobody” watching from the shadows and cuts the tryst short- even when it turns out that no one was there after all.
During booking (and after taking what I can only describe as the most unintentionally hilarious mugshot ever,) it’s discovered that “Mr. Nobody” doesn’t actually have fingerprints. Gulloy is called in to take him to a cell while Hawkins and his dipshit partner try to figure out what to do. Gulloy and “Mr. Nobody” have a brief exchange as they saunter down the cell block together. Moments earlier, Hawkins had hallucinated “Mr. Nobody” bleeding profusely from his head in-between snapping mug shot photos. It lasted for a second- and Gulloy has a similar moment of confusion after he locks the guy up in a cell- only to see him in the hallway for a split-second after the fact.
Yep. It’s going to be one of those movies. Just hang on for the ride.
Detective Black doesn’t seem too phased by “Mr. Nobody’s” lack of fingerprints after Hawkins and what’s-his-name go to him with the news, and Hawkins opts to finish the booking process to the best of his probably-shitty abilities on his own. Upon reviewing the mugshots he took of the weird, cryptic, rain-proof stranger- he notices that someone has apparently Photoshopped the face out while he wasn’t paying attention:
Hawkins confronts “Mr. Nobody”, where his incessant whistling from inside his holding cell is enough reason for police brutality all by itself. He gets nowhere with his questioning- again- just like elsewhere, Detective Black is getting nowhere as he pleads with his wife/girlfriend over the phone to reconsider her decision to leave. After yet another flashback to the day his daughter was kidnapped- he’s ready to take his frustrations out on some prisoners, or, the, uh- one prisoner- they have in custody. Hawkins, on the other hand, deals with his uneasiness by chain smoking outside the precinct and has some inner-reflection. We’re treated to a different flashback. This time, it’s of Hawkins and the other cops- lead by one Alexander Black- beating the shit out of an unidentified male in a cell while screaming at him to reveal the whereabouts of Black’s daughter. Said unidentified male pleads with his assailants and insists he’s innocent. HMM. I WONDER WHO THE GUY IS.
Back in the interrogation room, “Mr. Nobody” is once again giving the cops cryptic answers and descriptions of his supposed crimes. Hawkins is absent, having decided to check on the cell block- by himself- at a painfully slow pace and over some eerie opera music. Near the end of the hall, one of the cell doors opens abruptly- and Hawkins is yanked inside by an unseen force. He’s tortured, similar to how he tortured the “unidentified man” (spoiler alert: it’s Val Kilmer’s character) in his earlier memory/flashback- which we see more glimpses of throughout the ghostly ass-kicking. It finally concludes with Hawkins getting his tongue cut out with some hokey gore and dying by what I assume is choking on his own blood because simply tilting your head forward isn’t an option, apparently.
One down- five to go. Hurry this up, Val Kilmer.
Detective Black, Gulloy, and- uh- that other guy- find Hawkins after hearing his pre-death screams of pain. As it turns out, Hawkins has a visible tattoo on him that matches a pretty bizarre description “Mr. Nobody” was giving in the interrogation room during his confession. Black confronts him before ordering that he be placed on lock down- meaning cuffed in the interrogation room- while he and the remaining officers on duty go to secure the grounds. Apparently, Black hasn’t taken “Mr. Nobody’s” passion for parlor tricks into account. The guy keeps disappearing, reappearing, switching cells, and getting in and out of handcuffs- and yet Black thinks simply locking him in a room will do the trick.
While outside investigating and securing the perimeter of the precinct, Gulloy gets attacked by a hair piece. At least, it looks like a hair piece. After further investigating- it turns out it’s the cat that Detective Black’s daughter was playing with in the forest in the beginning of the movie prior to her getting abducted. At least we finally know what happened to that poor thing. Gulloy and the other cop (I’ve given up on his name at this point) go to the others with this information. While they process this startling development- we once again see a snippet of the earlier beating/torture of “Mr. Nobody” in connection with the disappearance of Black’s daughter. In this flashback, however- we see the involvement of each officer- with Black at the helm. He refers to the still-unidentified-but-we-all-know-who-it-is-guy as a “nobody” during the torture sequence, so at least now the nickname makes some sense. Black, not doing the already sullied reputation of cops any favors- eventually stabs the guy, leaving him strung up by rope in the cell with a plastic bag over his head to bleed out or suffocate- whichever happens first.
The officers, realizing who it is they’re dealing with and why he’s come back for them- begin to crack under the pressure- not helped at all by Gulloy reminding them that the man they helped beat the hell out of was innocent since the guy who ACTUALLY kidnapped and murdered Detective Black’s daughter was found and killed by State Police after-the-fact. Oops.
Just as Gulloy admits he’s kept tabs on the guy they attacked- who is apparently still in a coma somewhere following the beating (shooting my “oh, Val Kilmer is a ghost” theory straight to hell)– and pins the subsequent cover-up of the incident all on Black, the group hears footsteps on the roof. Gulloy and one of the other cops go to the roof to investigate, leaving the remaining three to check on “Mr. Nobody” in the interrogation room. “Mr. Nobody” goes on to talk about how he snuck up on his second victim- strangling him and hanging him with a piece of rope. Up on the roof, Gulloy suffers the same fate- his lifeless body hitting the interrogation room window.
Despite there CLEARLY be some paranormal/supernatural stuff going on- Black seems to think that simply locking up “Mr. Nobody” again, elsewhere in the police station, will solve the problem. Afterwards, while the team contemplate and ponder their next move- one of the cops decides to check the hospital Gulloy had mentioned earlier where the drifter they had all collectively beat into a coma was being cared for to see if the he had woken up and escaped to seek his revenge without anyone at the hospital noticing somehow. Turns out, the guy had died just a few hours earlier- and per Gulloy’s sign-in sheet next to the phone- at the exact moment “Mr. Nobody” walked through the lobby’s doors to make his confession. OoOoOoOoooo…
… Ghost theory is back on. YES.
Before they can phone for backup, the phone lines go down. Jane and the cop she’s banging leave the precinct to go find the State Troopers who had stopped by earlier to advise them of the nearby traffic accident and road closure- leaving Detective Black and the remaining cop to essentially fend for themselves inside the police station where “Mr. Nobody” is still whistling non-stop. Black goes down to talk to him, and then attempt to silence him when he begins another confession to another murder- this time his story resulting in the demise of Jane’s boyfriend as he’s searching the woods where the aforementioned State Troopers’ were supposed to be. He is attacked and gutted by a shovel.
Yes, a shovel. Wielded by a mysterious and unseen force. Terrifying.
Jane finds her beau’s corpse and promptly screws- heading back to the station to meet Black and- OH! HIS NAME IS PINE! Okay. Anyway, she goes back for Black and Pine- tearfully telling them what happened. Black informs her that “Mr. Nobody’s” confessions are what’s killing them one by one. “Every time he confesses- it comes true!” is Black’s exact explanation- and for some reason- Pine doesn’t seem 100% convinced despite every single thing he’s seen and heard leading up to that point.
The three remaining officers decide to leave the station together- although Jane’s recently-deceased-ex is proof that doing so isn’t going to solve a damned thing. Regardless, she goes to start the car only to find that the engine won’t turn. Rather than just get into a different cruiser or the Chevy Impala that has been parked outside of the station and has been predominantly featured in every exterior shot since the beginning of this movie- the cops are determined to get this one specific cruiser working for whatever reason. They even pop the hood in the pouring rain and everything.
While Jane is attempting to turn the engine, the radio in the car switches on. “Mr. Nobody” is confessing to his fourth murder- and suddenly Jane is locked in the car. Since she had been the one to initially place the plastic bag over the formerly-comatose-now-deceased drifter’s head during her precinct’s brutal interrogation of him- she meets the same end. A plastic bag is pulled over her head and she struggles to breathe while Black and Pine try- and fail- to break the glass of the windshield to free her. Since that’s apparently not punishment enough, however- Jane’s head is also promptly detached from her body for some inexplicable reason. Okay then.
Pine snaps (after he throws up all over the concrete and I think a little on Jane’s severed head since it was right there) and storms back into the police station and down to the holding cells to unload about twenty shotgun shells into “Mr. Nobody”. It goes about as well as you’d expect. He’s essentially fired into nothing- and when he goes to inspect his poor planning and terrible shooting- he’s ambushed. It’s the first kill in the movie that “Mr. Nobody” is actually pretty hands on with. He literally tears Pine apart all on his own in some weirdly shot montage of blood splatter and cheap looking gore.
Detective Black is the last man standing, and he and “Mr. Nobody” finally have a one-on-one, man-to-man (or man-to-ghost) confrontation. As it turns out, “Mr. Nobody” actually wasn’t innocent when it came to the kidnapping and murder of Black’s daughter in the woods.
… Wait, what? Huh?
For this entire movie, the buildup and premise had been the tale of a wrongly-accused and wrongly-punished man getting revenge from beyond the grave on the very people who ruined and ultimately took his life. Now, in it’s final moments- with only minutes left to spare- we find out that “Mr. Nobody” actually DID commit the crime and is picking off the cops one by one because they beat his ass for it? Are you shitting me?
You’ve got to be shitting me.
Just as “Mr. Nobody” begins his final confession- murdering his last remaining victim- Black decides that he can’t be killed if he can’t actually hear the confession. So he does what any rational person would do: he STABS HIMSELF IN THE GODDAMNED EARS WITH A PEN.
While bleeding profusely from his friggin’ skull, Black takes off- falling into his office with “Mr. Nobody” in pursuit. His dead daughter’s ghost is hiding under his desk for whatever reason, and she tells him she knows how to help him- which probably would have been incredibly useful information to have about an hour and twenty minutes earlier.
As it turns out, “Mr. Nobody’s” one weakness is hearing his name. Black’s daughter’s ghost whispers what it is to him- and he both hears and understands her despite his eardrums being more than a little perforated at this point. I was waiting for some sort of demon name, or something in Latin- or maybe even a name drop of Lucifer himself- but nope. “Mr. Nobody’s” weakness? The one thing that can stop him?
Get the fuck out of here.
Uttering this completely stupid name turns “Mr. Nobody” into a mortal or something, and Black shoots him with his gun- sending uh, Stanley, through his office window and to his death/re-death below. And that’s it. That’s how what was otherwise a pretty merciless entity gets defeated. By hearing his stupid name and getting shot.
Detective Black has one final moment with his dead daughter’s ghost before she scampers off to wherever she came from. Black walks away- still bleeding from the ears- just as ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ begins to play and the ending credits begin to roll.
No follow-up. No post-credits scene where Black has to explain to ANYONE why or how five of his cops died horrifically or what the hell happened to his ears. Nada. Nothing.
Holy shit. I knew I wanted to start with something bad this year, but this was- wow. This was something, alright.
It’s a shame Val Kilmer got his name attached to this. The guy is, by all accounts- still a pretty good actor. I mean, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is such a great movie- and to see him go from that, to this? Ouch. Have some self-respect, man. Do better. Just love yourself and do better.
If this movie is any indication how the rest of this year’s “Horror of Netflix” series is going to go- I’m deeply concerned for my own sanity and well-being.