Sam Strange Remembers: REINDEER GAMES

Sam Strange remembers the time he made a movie nobody remembers.

Dear Mr. Chase Whale,

Thank you for your kind letter. I do not often respond to fan mail, but I’ve made a special exception for you because you mentioned your favorite Sam Strange film was Reindeer Games, and that must mean you’re mentally handitarded. I love handitards, and on behalf of all your people, I am willing to take time from my busy schedule to discuss this film with you.

First off, yes, I did make Reindeer Games. I made it because it was the only way I could get Charlie Theremin to take her clothes off in front of me. This was back when she was just an Ambassador from South Africa. I doubt I would have to go through so much effort today. (Have you and your handitarded friends seen a movie called Monster?)

Anyway, you probably can’t remember things, so let me remember Reindeer Games on your behalf. This will save you the trouble of watching the movie again because, while we both may have been gifted with Total Recall, mine is the kind that does not have three tits.

Reindeer Games is all about this guy named Ben Aflac who is in prison for car theft. Ben Aflac prison-loves a guy named Other Ben played by Archie Cazale, Jim Cazale’s third most unfortunately-faced son. Both guys are getting out of jail on the same day, and Other Ben is really jazzed because his sexy female pen pal, Ashley, is loyally waiting to vigorously re-heterosexualize him. This eats Ben Aflac up inside because both sides of this planned tryst make him jealous. He fights through this jealousy with sweaty, shirtless push-ups and Tarantino-esque quips.

Of course, the day before their release, a giant black guy tries to kill Ben Aflac and sticks Other Ben instead. When the released Aflac sees Other Ben’s super hot pen pal waiting sadly for a man who will never arrive, he decides to get into her pants by pretending to be Other Ben. The two shop for clothes and have lots and lots of sex. As sort of an instruction manual for guys like you, every time they kiss you can see what their tongues are doing.

Interrupting these tidings of joy, Ashley’s brother and his group of hilarious do-badders break in with a bunch of guns. See, before he died, Other Ben told Ashley how he once worked at a casino. Ashley told her brother this, and he figured he could use Other Ben’s intricate knowledge of the casino to rob it. Obviously, this is a problem for Ben Aflac because he’s not Other Ben at all but, rather, Ben Aflac. I’ll repeat that slower and with more volume because I want you to understand: THE BAD GUYS THINK THE GOOD GUY IS SOMEONE HE IS NOT, AND NOW HE NEEDS TO KNOW WHAT THE OTHER GUY KNEW OR THEY’LL SHOOT HIM.

At this point in the film, Ben Aflac gets pretty fed up with Ashley. He’s mad that she got him involved with her brother, and he calls her all kinds of mean names. It doesn’t quite work because she cowers like an idiot and keeps liking him, so we just feel sorry for her. Fear not, however. The end of the film will teach you that this is an adequate way to treat women that like you because they’re actually just using you. Especially guys like you and Ben Aflac.

Gary Sinus plays Ashley’s brother, Gabriel. As the name implies, he’s a forty year old meth-head holding desperately onto his rock n’ roll roadie past. His greasy long hair is emphasized by black tank-tops and completely unnecessary workout gloves. Not only that, but we find out later that he and his buddies aren’t even criminals at all. They’re truckers. Gabriel’s truck is decorated with guitars and “Haulin’ Ass” posters, and you can practically smell the its cigarette/cologne/McDonalds suit of armor against respectability. And if that’s still not trucker enough for you, when the time comes to torture Ben Aflac a little, Gabriel uses him as a human dartboard.

Because Gabriel is really just an out-of-his-league trucker, and because Ben Aflac has to pretend to know stuff he doesn’t actually know, Reindeer Games really represents a “Battle of the Wits” film where everyone involved is as stupid as possible. This should appeal to you.

In fact, this film actually utilizes a film technique I invented called the “Handitard Shot.” A Handitard Shot is when stuff in a normally-framed shot of dialogue or action is 3/4ths blocked by a random character’s very confused face blurred into the foreground. This very confused character is you, trying to figure out the plot, or perhaps your caregiver, trying to figure out why you like Reindeer Games so much. Don’t listen to her. Don’t you never listen to her.

To illustrate how this battle of wits works, Gabriel presents Ben Aflac with a blueprint of the casino that he drew in blue crayon complete with cute little pentagrams and scribbled cell numbers from trucker bathrooms. Ben Aflac doesn’t recognize the layout, so he quickly lays on a lie about how the place must have been recently remodeled. Even you could see this as the dumbest lie ever told.

Rather than throw some more darts into Aflac for treating him like a sucker, Gabriel buys the story, like a sucker. He makes Aflec dress like a cowboy and survey the new floorplan, something any of them could have done. This leads to a near escape starring Ashton Kutcher.

Rather than shooting Aflec for proving 1) his worthlessness to Gabriel and 2) Gabriel’s own worthlessness to himself, Gabriel’s ears perk up when Aflac starts rambling about a Pow-Wow safe. Even you could see this as the second dumbest lie ever told. At the last minute, it turns out there really IS a Pow-Wow safe. It’s filled with weapons in case of a robbery. So one guy is super wrong, while the other was super right on accident. This is why chess games between idiots and masters alike can take well over a year to finish.

Somewhere along the way we discover that Ashley and Gabriel aren’t brother and sister at all but lovers trying to use Ben Aflac in a way that doesn’t require a cover story at all if you’re gonna put a gun to his head. We get to see Charlie Theremin’s boobs again, and this time you get to see how tongue kissing works with Gary Sinus rather than Ben Aflac. Sometimes it helps to have multiple models.

With no criminal experience and a plan based upon lies, the crew dresses as a bunch of Santa Clauses and try to rob the casino. The casino kills them almost as soon as they enter, but Ben Aflac and Gabriel manage to escape with the loot. Back at the meet up spot, Ashley reveals that while she was only pretending to be Gabriel’s sister, she was also only pretending to be Gabriel’s girlfriend. Before Gabriel can even unravel what that means, she shoot him and Old Ben steps from the shadows, revealing himself as the mastermind behind the whole thing.

Confused? It goes like this:

Old Ben and his girlfriend Ashley want to rob a casino by getting others to do it for them. They plan a two-prong plot to make it happen.

First, Old Ben gets himself arrested. While in jail he needs to make friends with any handsome young guy who also happens to be getting a release on the same day. To foster this friendship, he must have lots and lots of sex.

Meanwhile, Ashley will find a pathetic trucker to fool into robbing the casino. To foster this relationship, she must have lots and lots of sex.

Ashley and the trucker send letters to Old Ben solely so he can read them aloud to Ben Aflac for four years. All this time, there’s tons of sex happening on both sides.

When the day comes for their release, Old Ben pays a dude to stab him, then pays an entire prison hospital staff to spread word that he died from his wound.

If their letter plan works, Ben Aflac will be unable to resist Ashley. This part of the plan also requires tons of sex.

Furthermore, not only do Ben Aflac and Gabriel have to be painfully stupid, but so does Gabriel’s crew and the whole casino staff.

Somehow, Old Ben has to get released from the hospital in time to wait behind a tree for his cue to stroll from the shadows while whistling a Christmas carol of his choosing.

It all works except for one thing: Ben Aflac kills them. (But not before one more Charlie Theremin lesson on how to kiss with your mouth open as wide as humanly possible. If you don’t know how to kiss by the end of the movie, you were never going to know in the first place.)

So now Ben Aflac has all the money and everything is okay. He goes home to enjoy Christmas with his family. He eats some pecan pie and drinks some hot chocolate and looks just a little left of camera while laughing at something funny his uncle said.

That’s the Reindeer Games we all remember. But because I feel so sorry for you condition, I’ll tell you something no one knows. Gary Sinus’ character Gabriel was actually a Federal agent the whole time, wearing a wig and acting like a trucker. It’s just that Ashley shoots him before he can do his big reveal, so we never find out about it. If you don’t believe me, go back and rewatch the scene where he rocks out some air-guitar while sitting on a jukebox. He’s either an undercover cop or your dad making fun of MTV.

Hey, thanks for watching Chase. Best wishes to you and your bid for presidency. You can do anything.


Sam Strange

(three stars)