DVD Review – The Helpers (2012)

The Helpers, 2012.

Directed by Chris Stokes.
Starring Kristen Quintrall, Denyce Lawton, Christopher Jones, JoJo Wright, Rachel Sterling, Dallas Lovato, Aubrey Allen, Black Thomas, Dustin Harnish, Cameron Diskin and Braxton Davis.

The Helpers DVD cover

SYNOPSIS:

After breaking down on a road trip to Las Vegas, seven friends check into a rest-stop motel and wake up in their rooms to a gruesome and bloody terror.

The Helpers movie

The Helpers tackles a story involving a group of friends who head off for a weekend of fun and frolics in Sin City, Las Vegas.  All seems well at the beginning, but just like an episode of BBC’s Casualty, no matter how good things currently seem, you know there’s danger lurking around the corner. So we then find our group of friends lost in the middle of nowhere with some car troubles. Luckily for the crew, they come across a group of friendly people who happen to run a repair shop/motel and agree to fix their car for them which may take some time, so they decide to stay overnight and make the most of their unfortunate mishap.   However when they wake up in the morning, everything isn’t what it seems, and the dream vacation turns into somewhat of a nightmare.

Unless you are a fan of R&B music, you may not be aware that Chris Stokes, the director of The Helpers, is a well-respected name within the R&B community, having written and produced for artists such as Destiny’s Child and Bobby Brown as well as discovering major R&B stars of the 90s like B2K and Brandy. Stokes made the move into directing and writing in 2001 with the hip hop comedy House Party 4 and gained mainstream success in 2004 with the dance film You Got Served, which opened at #1 at the box office grossing $16 million in its first week. This is not the director’s first venture into the horror genre, as he helmed both Somebody Help Me starring Marques Houston (You Got Served) and its sequel, the aptly named Somebody Help Me 2

The Helpers is a horror movie that attempts to borrow from various horror film styles. The whole notion of ending up stranded in the middle of nowhere and encountering murderous strangers has been covered since the days of Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The film also includes a found footage element, where one of the crew video tapes everything that is going on, so at times the film switches to a view where the audience watches the action through a video camera. The problems with combining these elements, is that it’s all something that we have seen countless times before, so The Helpers unfortunately doesn’t bring anything new to the table. If this film was released perhaps ten years ago, this may have been a slightly different review; however with the plethora of horror films and franchises at the moment such as Saw, REC and Paranormal Activity, the genre is currently flooded. Simply re-hashing a number of key elements from successful horror films doesn’t guarantee a good movie. What’s even more bizarre is the marketing for The Helpers claims that the film was inspired by true events. Having not been able to find any information about the actual real life events that inspired this film, one can only assume that a group of friends in fact did set out for a road trip to Las Vegas. However, that surely has to be where the factual events stop and the fiction begins. 

Regardless of the pilfering of elements from popular horror films, the screenplay itself just isn’t strong enough to hold the film together, with long and arduous scenes and a pretty ridiculous narrative, coupled with a rather goofy reveal that could been seen coming from miles away.  That being said, Stokes deserves some credit for his direction as when the scenes do finally lift off, there are a number of very stylish sequences. Whilst the cast do their best to keep The Helpers afloat, with the likes of Denyce Lawton (House of Payne), Christopher Jones (Big Momma’s House 2), Jojo Wright (Battlefield America) and Rachel Sterling (Wedding Crashers) all putting in decent performances, it’s just not enough to salvage this lazy film.

The Helpers is a film that is ultimately attempting to ride the wave of the current popular horror genre but unfortunately falls flat in bringing anything new or exciting to the table.  Die-hard fans of all things gory and gruesome will enjoy the scenes of torture and violence and if that’s all you’re interested in, The Helpers will certainly provide some fodder to satisfy a sadistic appetite. However, if you’re looking for something a little different from the average horror film, with some unexpected twists and turns, then look elsewhere. Whilst there is no question that director Chris Stokes is a talented individual and achieved a great deal of success in the music industry and had a degree of success with feature films, perhaps he is best suited in the mainstream dance/music genre. The Helpers just doesn’t pack enough punch to really compete amongst the current  worthwhile horror films on offer.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★  / Movie: ★ ★ 

Jeffrey Aidoo