Maya and Joey wander along for a bit until Joey runs ahead and stumbles upon a pretty fake-looking cave. He glances around surreptitiously to see if anyone’s watching, as if he wants to make sure Maya can’t see him so he can leave her out to starve or freeze to death, whichever comes first, and I can’t really blame him.
Turns out there are a couple of bad guys watching him from behind a rock, armed with samurai swords, presumably because these are a couple of unpaid college kids who were asked to supply their own costumes and props and had to scrounge together whatever was in their apartment at the time.
This scene would have made a lot more sense if we’d established why Joey thinks someone is chasing them. I mean, yeah, there were some people after them a while ago, but Maya and Joey have clearly forgotten about them.
Maya runs up and calls for Joey, who answers, and then says she’s scared and wants to go home. This is not the first and will not be the last time she says this. Joey agrees, but says they’re coming back tomorrow – and helpfully exposits that they have a three day weekend. Sure.
Cut back to their house where Joey is packing up his camo duffel bag. Maya explains that it’s “Friday the 13th” and she’s not going back to the cave. Okay, hang on. You had the day off school yesterday so you could spend it fucking around on Pebble Beach. Meaning yesterday was either Saturday or Sunday, so this day could not possibly be Friday.
Unless yesterday was Thursday, and they actually have a four day weekend, and Joey just can’t count very well.
Joey makes fun of her and says it’s “the right day for an adventure” and asks Maya if she is scared. Maya scoffs and tries to play it off like she’s totally not scared at all, like she didn’t just tell Joey to his face that she was scared. Yesterday.
Joey tells her what to bring while examining a giant machete that he owns. Maya sees he’s bringing a bag of apples and is disgusted with this for some odd reason, and finally yells to her mother that they’re going to the beach.
I cannot stress enough how strangely she says this line. Gloria says most of her lines like she’s never spoken English before, but this comes out like “Ma-hom! We’re going to the beeeEEEEEEEEAAAACH!”
Seriously, listen to it:
I need to set this as my ringtone for someone that I hate.
We pan over stock footage of a waterfall and a hillside and then we’re back to the two samurai-sword-wielding thugs from before who are sitting on some rocks staring mournfully off into the distance like the actors are wondering where it all started to go wrong for them.
Maya and Joey roll up to the cave, and we cut to stock footage of a dove sitting on a rock, and I think we’re supposed to infer the dove is watching them? We cut over to the thugs and one of them starts to draw his sword but the other one stops him with a “No!” The music instantly, jarringly cuts off, and then all the sound stops for a second while one of the actor’s lips are moving. It’s like they decided they wanted to remove one of the lines, and they didn’t shoot enough footage to cut around it, so they just muted the entire soundtrack for a couple of seconds. Recording ambient sound to layer it in to fix sound and editing issues is filmmaking 101.
Clearly, we need to put Gerry through Remedial Filmmaking.
Evidently the thugs don’t want to kill Maya and Joey here because…reasons? They’re incompetent? If they attacked now they’d kill our main characters? The head thug explains that they’ll kill Maya and Joey in the cave where no one will find their bodies, because…they care about that? I mean, you serve the Evil Lord Abaddon who rules most of this country with an iron fist, also I’m pretty sure you actually need to take their severed heads back with you if you want that sweet sweet reward money, and let’s not forget they’re in the middle of fucking nowhere and nobody is around.
Except for the dove, which Maya comments on and Joey blows her off because he blows off everything Maya says throughout this entire fucking movie.
They walk inside a remarkably well-lit cave and wander through the fifteen feet of cave they have to film in and spot a mermaid statue. Joey is ecstatic because, well, it’s treasure, and he grabs the statue. Instantly the entire cave starts shaking and dust begins falling like Indiana Jones inside a burial death trap, except way lower quality, the type you get from someone shaking the camera slightly back and forth while another person pours sand in front of the lens. There’s also some fake falling dust CGI’d in that is pretty obvious because it’s moving at a completely different speed than the actual dust.
The thugs freak out because “the gods must be angry” and take off. Joey puts the statue back and everything calms down, and then he runs off to see what else they can find, evidently unable to recognize that you might not want to pick up random shit in this deathtrap of a cave. Maya glances off-screen, screams, and sprints after him. We don’t actually see what she is reacting to, because this is not made by people who understand storytelling. Or film.
She catches up outside the other end of the cave, freaking the fuck out, and says:
“Joey, Joey, Joey, I saw two men were watching us in the cave!”
Joey blows her off – it’s his only consistent trait – and says she probably just saw some bat’s or rat’s eyes. Maya insists:
“No seriously – I saw two men – they just disappeared behind the rocks!”
Joey says that that doesn’t make any sense, which is normal, it’s like other human beings…uh, exist. But Maya is having none of it:
“Look Joey, listen to me. I saw two men watching us behind the cave!”
Just to be clear, in case you have missed it: Maya saw men, two of them, and they were in (or possibly behind) the cave. The filmmakers really want to drive this point home.
Maya goes on:
“Look at me, Joey. I’m trembling, I’m scared. I want to go home.”
She’s definitely not trembling. Her expression is the kind of expression people put on when they’re trying to look scared but they don’t know how to act so they just furrow their brow a little bit.
Joey is having none of it, and he throws out a list of options: the wind, her shadow, her imagination, or a little critter. And then dramatically says that the ONLY weird thing that is going on…is that his watch stopped. Right. Definitely wasn’t the mermaid statue that triggered a giant Indiana Jones deathtrap when you lifted it that instantly stopped when you set the statue back down. That happens all the time in real life.
A bit later, wandering through the woods, Maya looks at her watch and realizes it’s stopped as well. They compare watches and realize THEIR WATCHES STOPPED AT THE EXACT SAME TIME OOOOO SPOOKY.
In the background, there’s a quiet howling like someone is trying to imitate a wolf, and then there’s the sound of faint hoof beats, so they take off running. Then we cut to…three women with painted faces sitting on horses not moving at all.
For fuck’s sake, Gerry: learn the basic principles of telling a fucking story. If you want us to think that someone is chasing them, and you layer in the sound of hoof beats…I dunno, maybe show someone on a horse that is actually moving?
We cut back to Maya and Joey, hiding next to a rock, and suddenly a voice perks up “Every living thing has a soul!” which is an interesting saying, especially when used as an introduction. It continues: “Everything alive has ears, eyes, and a voice!” Also completely not true. He has heard of worms and moles, right?
Joey stares off and asks… “Is that dwarf?”
You’re goddamn right it is. As you may recall, when the Tesches re-released the Maradonia books as smaller volumes, one of the changes was having Hoppy the grasshopper turn into a dwarf. And they clearly couldn’t afford that visual effect, so in the movie, I guess he’s just a dwarf. He’s being played, incidentally, by Dave the Dwarf, according to the end credits. He doesn’t have an IMDB page.
Hoppy is standing next to…I am honestly not sure. It looks like a bunch of bones molded together into the shape of a motorcycle?
The Dwarf Formerly Known As a Grasshopper explains that they’re now in a world of magic. Joey scoffs, but Hoppy expounds that in this world they’ll be able to see ghosts and spirits and stuff, which sounds interesting, but also doesn’t sound like magic. Hoppy explains that is why he has his “ride” while patting the bone motorcycle, because it goes “faster than time”.
Maya freaks out because she sees someone following them. Naturally, we don’t see them, since it’s way cheaper to just have your characters point and react to something off-screen like a high school stage production – and so Hoppy has them leap on the back of his super-fast bone motorcycle and they go speeding off…sorry, just kidding, they take the dwarf’s arms and go jogging off through the underbrush.
Later they stop and Hoppy explains they’ve been getting a lot of activity through the cave – ravens flying through looking for things. He abruptly transitions and says that Maya should visit the blue lagoon of the mermaids. Maya is immediately excited:
“I’ve never seen a real mermaid!”
That’s because they don’t exist in real life, you stupid fuck.
Maya explains to Joey that when she was in the pool, she saw a mermaid and heard a voice telling her to come to the lagoon. And Joey…blows her off. Admittedly, in a pretty funny way:
“Maya, several people may have seen whoever pushed you in, but nobody saw any mermaids.”
Hoppy advises them that a “wise wizard” once told him that you can’t go back in time, which doesn’t relate to any of the words before it or after it, so I guess the Tesches just threw it in because it sounded Deep. He tells them to head east and follow the river to the lagoon, and that’s the last we’ll see of Hoppy the Dwarf in this movie. It was good knowing you, l’il buddy.
Well, actually, we get one more shot of him standing on a rock waving his staff and shouting “FIND YOUR DESTINY!” which is pretty much impossible to hear, because they recorded it on a windy day from about 45 yards away, and then layered blaring orchestra music over the top to really drown it out. From two filmmakers who clearly take a lot of masturbatory pride in the words they write, they really don’t want us to hear them.
There’s a brief scene of them walking where Joey offers to carry Maya’s coat and she recoils like he just offered to strangle her puppy, and moments later, Maya freaks out because she lost her necklace, and Joey…blows her off.
Next scene, they stumble across a couple of snakes…fucking? They’re mildly intertwined, at least:
One of the snakes opens its mouth and a cheesy CGI effect makes it look like it blasts magic across the screen. While it is cheesy, it is, however, perfectly synced to the snake opening its mouth, making it easily the most impressive effect we’ve seen thus far.
Maya says “It’s a snake” because Gloria Tesch thinks that people talk by describing things in their field of vision, and then the most impressive effect is immediately surpassed when the snake turns into a woman dressed in snakeskin:
This is Gloria Tesch’s mother, of course, presumably before she divorced Gerry for squandering the family fortune on this piece of shit movie. It immediately becomes clear that this is where Gloria gets her voice, her command of the English language, and her acting talent.
Mama Tesch wanders around them, chewing scenery like it’s going out of style, drawing out her hisses, and waving the snake in their faces. She introduces herself as “the famousssss Arabella” and that she can tell the future.
Joey immediately starts falling under her spell and comments on her jewelry. Arabella slides off her ring and says that King Apollyon has a lot more treasure to offer them.
Maya butts in and says that she’s “never heard of King Apollyon.” Well, no shit, you did just step through a wardrobe cave into Narnia a magical fantasy world and you’ve only spent about thirty-five seconds talking to a dwarf, it’s not really that weird.
Meanwhile, the ring is giving off cheap CGI sparkling effects. Joey is now fully hypnotized, so he says screw the lagoon, let’s get some more treasure. He addresses Arabella as “snake lady” which is one of the few genuine moments I laughed out loud during this movie; when I wasn’t laughing derisively at the movie. They wander off, and it’s intercut with stock footage of eagles flying in slow motion.
Arabella freaks out because she hates the eagles and they head off in a different direction. Moments later, they stop, and we get…stock footage of a dove flying in slow motion.
Joey, for once, responds semi-appropriately and asks what the hell is going on with this place. The shot of the dove then cross-fades into a woman who introduces herself as…Libertine. I take it she’s supposed to be the dove’s human form?
Libertine explains…using a lot of…long pauses…between…the words in her…sentences…that she’s been sent by the Light King to look after them, and they need to follow her and fulfill their destiny. And that the snake – Arabella – is not their friend and is possessed by evil spirits. Well, that would be one way to explain her acting.
Maya and Joey turn to the protesting Arabella, theoretically stunned by this dramatic revelation, but unable to show this on their faces by acting. Maya randomly loses her ability to form a coherent question:
“And this snake are spy…possessed?”
Joey asks Libertine what she means, possessed. Apparently he’s never seen a horror movie before, but Libertine is happy to explain:
“To be possessed by an evil spirit means…that a different spiritual creature lives within you…a spirit that leads you…controls you…and uses you…for his OWN purposes.”
Now that we’ve established that important fact about demon possession, we cut back to the same stock footage shot of the dove flying, but now it’s been mirror flipped so the dove is flying THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION! Oh my god, it’s like they’re learning how to show things!
Arabella warns them that she has seen the future and that they’ll have to pass seven bridges that nobody has ever passed, and they’re going to die. And then she vanishes.
Somewhat perturbed by this turn of events, our heroes sit down to discuss what that all might mean and who they can trust in this strange land – strike that, we immediately cut to them walking along a road and this is all forgotten.