Not that long ago I wrote that true fans of horror films have to learn to take it where they can get it. By that, I meant that sometimes you have to be willing to lower your expectations when it comes to scary movies. You could apply the same principle to the “urban” horror sub-genre (or, as I like to call them, “horror in da ‘hood” flicks), but the problem is you would have to flush your expectations completely down the toilet. And the reason for this is because an overwhelming majority of urban horror films are total and absolute pieces of steaming shit with no redeemable qualities whatsoever. So, when I say that Holla is among the better urban horror films, it is not something that in any way, shape, or form should be considered praise for the movie.

Like so many other horror films that have come before it, Holla—which is urban slang for holler, as in “to scream”—is a recycled amalgam of several familiar stories. The basic story finds a group of friends camping in the woods, where they are killed by a maniac in a mask. The premise is so familiar, formulaic, and has been done so many times before, that making a film with this story should be a no-brainer. I mean seriously, the never-ending list of 1980s hack ‘em-n-stack ‘em flicks is so rich with material to glean from that it gave birth to the Scream franchise, which reinvigorated the genre in the 1990s with films like I Know What You Did Last Summer, which in turn gave birth to the toilet-humor filled Scary Movie franchise. I guess my point is that there are so many movies out there that have tread upon this well-worn cinematic path that if you chose to make a film like this, you better make damn sure you know what you’re doing. If you can’t make something at least as good—or as bad, as the case may be—as any one of the Friday the 13th films, or as self-referential as the Scream films, or as comically lowbrow as the Scary Movie series, then ultimately you are wasting time. And while it has moments of entertainment value to be found in its too-long 86-minute running time, Holla is more of a waste than anything else.

Shelli Boone stars as Monica, the star of a popular television sitcom, who is planning on spending the weekend at a cabin in the wilderness with her friends. Thanks to an opening sequence that is ridiculous, yet unfunny and devoid of frights, we know that Monica has survived an attack by a masked killer. The overwhelming number of clichés that run rampant during the first few minutes of Holla serve as an indication of what is to come as we jump ahead several years, as Monica and company make their way to the cabin. Along the way, thanks to an eye-rolling coincidence, they stop to pick up a hitchhiker, Troy (Young Sir), who happens to be the ex-con cousin of Monica’s boyfriend, Dwayne (Charles Porter). It is important that we know Troy is an ex-con with a shady past, just as it is important that we see him flee the scene of a crime with blood on his hands, because that way we can suspect him of being the killer. At the cabin, as the soon-to-be-dead partygoers begin to settle in, Monica is surprised when Greg (Michael Bergin), her agent, shows up. Greg is desperate for Monica to commit to two more seasons of her show, so he can collect the commission, which is why he’s followed her with a blonde bimbo in-tow. As everyone settles in for the night—with a terrible storm raging outside—the killer cuts all power to the cabin, and then begins systematically bumping everyone off. Everyone runs around the cabin screaming (it’s worth noting that this is the biggest cabin the world), while the audience is left with the uncanny feeling that they have seen everything in this film before, only done better.

holla.jpg For the record, there is nothing wrong with making a movie that is little more than a bunch of tired clichés, as long as you know what you’re doing. Wrong Turn 2 is a perfect example of this—a movie brimming with clichés found in dozens of other horror films. But Wrong Turn 2 director Joe Lynch has such an incredible working knowledge of horror films that he could probably recite every killing in the Friday the 13th films, in order, and tell you what the weapon of choice was. As a filmmaker, Lynch understands that what he is doing has been done hundreds, if not thousands of time before, and that he really needs to put something special on screen to make his film work. The makers of Holla, by contrast, give no indication that they think that way at all. They have made a film that is nothing but a string of tired clichés and worn-out conventions that never seems to be innovative or fresh.

I suppose could make the argument that Wrong Turn 2 had more money to spend than Holla, to which I would then point to The Other Side, which cost approximately the same amount of money, but is infinitely better and more entertaining. No, the problem with Holla has nothing to do with how much money it cost to make, and everything to do with the movie itself. The script, despite its urban flava, is tired, unoriginal and lacking in character development. Nearly the entire cast of corpses-in-waiting are forgettable, one-dimensional caricatures. It is one thing to not care if someone in a horror film lives or not, but it’s pretty bad when you don’t even care enough to see them get killed.

The lack of interesting characters is just the tip of the iceberg, as Holla falls apart with each minute that ticks by. There must be at least five scenes that consist solely of Monica and her friends, locked in a room, screaming hysterically while they try to figure out what to do; but each of these scenes feels exactly like the last one, and none of them are interesting. The script also fails to deliver tension, and at no time do we ever think that Troy, who is ineptly set-up to be the prime suspect in the murders, is the killer (and even if you’re half asleep from boredom, the identity of the masked lunatic is so obvious that it insults the intelligence). All of this and more build up to the inevitable failure of Holla.

After watching the “making of” featurette, I was surprised to learn that Holla was a mix of horror and comedy. Yes, there are some comedic moments, nearly all provided by Robbyne Manning as Monica’s friend, Frieda. But Manning’s comedic relief do not a comedy make, and if Holla is indeed supposed to be horror/comedy hybrid, that makes the film a double failure, because it is neither scary, nor consistently funny. That said, Manning’s performance is the only reason to watch Holla.

Compared to urban horror crap like the films of Zach Syngg (Vampiyaz, Zombiez), Holla won’t seem that bad. But that’s not enough of a reason to watch any film, especially when it is as flawed as Holla. Instead, you’re better off watching Gangs of the Dead (which isn’t that good itself), or Nailed, which is actually pretty good, and a far superior film.



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