Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October Horror Challenge 2017 #100: "Split"

Somehow, and I have no idea how this happened, but somehow it totally escaped my knowledge that M. Night Shyamalan had a new movie out. I tend to like his movies even when other people don't like them (hello, "The Village" and "Lady in the Water") but some of them even I couldn't stand (goodbye, "The Happening"). I almost feel like he gets too caught up in the formula of his movies, where everything is about the twist at the end, so he throws the rest of the movie away because the twist is the only important part. It's like he doesn't know that the REASON "The Sixth Sense" was so shocking was because people cared about his characters and the story behind their struggles. The plot matters too, dude. Focus on the story, the first hour and a half of the movie, not just the "gotcha" in the last 20 minutes. All in all, though, I've liked his movies more often than I haven't, so I'm excited to give this a chance.

I really don't want to give too much away (read: anything) but the story centers on three teenage girls who are abducted by a guy with split personalities. Now if you know me, you probably know that I don't like the way most media portrays "multiple personality disorder," more accurately known as "dissociative identity disorder" because it's usually played for laughs or for dramatic affect, so accuracy gets chucked out the window in favor of the most sensationalized bullshit that's not even within shouting distance of what the condition is like for real people. I bitch about it a lot. I don't think it's too much to ask that the filmmakers have some idea what the hell they're talking about before they use a real mental illness as the main plot point in their movie.

I will say that of all the portrayals of dissociative identity disorder that I've seen, this one does come the closest to the behavior and experiences of the people I know who actually have the disorder. It was nice not being so pissed off by the acting that I was unable to concentrate on the movie through the clouds of my rage. James McAvoy is a good actor in general, so I shouldn't be surprised that he plays the role so we'll, but I'm so used to seeing movies screw this plot up that I forget there's any other option. Anna Taylor Joy is a pretty good actress, too. She was the best thing about the movie "The Witch" that I saw last year for the challenge, and it's nice to know she's not afraid to star in more horror movies. Scream Queen status is just around the corner for you, lady, and I have to say it looks good on you.

So how does this movie stack up in the end? Is the whole as good as the sum of its parts? Can I answer these questions without spoiling the whole movie for you? Let me try. First, I have to say that this movie shares a lot of similar ideas with other movies that I love, in that the messed-up characters are the most interesting. "The broken are the more highly evolved," as this movie says. I will also say that while I have generally enjoyed most of Shyamalan's movies, there is one that will always be my favorite, and this movie gives a nod to that movie at the end, which makes my heart do a happy dance. Stay tuned after the "end," because there's more to come.

I mean, I'm not sure what else to say. This movie is twisty and weird, and honestly I could tell you right now how it ends and I'm not sure that would spoil it for you, only because what makes this movie good for me is watching it play out, watching good actors act their asses off. If I read the script, I'd probably throw it across the room at the end and demand my money back, because it's ridiculous, and yet it works for me, much the way 'Lady in the Water" did. That one didn't even really have a twist ending in the strictest sense, just a kind of fairytale story that worked in a way watching it play out that I don't think it would have worked any other way. I'm not sure if I've answered the question of whether you should watch this movie or not, but I'm glad that I watched it.

October Horror Challenge 2017 #99: "The Conjuring II"

I really really loved the first "Conjuring." I mean REALLY loved it. The family was compelling, I cared about them and was rooting for them, and the performances were so great. It was one of those rare horror movies that even a lot of non-horror fans loved, too. All around a great experience. I was stoked when I heard that they were making a sequel, and I was excited to see it, hoping that it would be great, too. Hope springs eternal, right? I wanted to wait for the October Horror Challenge before I finally saw it though, so I've been waiting almost a year. Bring on the ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night!

In this movie, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren are supposed to be on sabbatical after a particularly harrowing investigation, but find themselves traveling to North London to help a single mother raising 4 children alone in a house that she swears is plagued by a supernatural spirit. Damn ghosts always have to ruin everything, don't they? Plus the mom already has way more than enough to worry about without an evil spirit factored into the occasion. Her husband recently abandoned the family, her kids are acting out, her oldest daughter is having trouble in school, and her house is falling into disrepair while she's having trouble paying bills and making ends meet.

Right at the beginning of the movie, we see the kids playing with an Ouija board, like they've never seen a horror movie before so they don't know any better. Of course, they don't know that their house is haunted, so it really isn't their fault I guess. The churches I used to go to warned against using tools like the Ouija board because it gave demons and Satan a foothold in your life, like a doorway they can come through later whether you want them to or not, which is really creepy. If you didn't go to churches like that, though, you might not think of a board game as dangerous. Plus those churches also said I shouldn't watch horror movies because THOSE give Satan a foothold into your life as well, so you can see how much I listened to their warnings. At 100+ horror movies a year, I guess I'm doomed even if I never play with an Ouija board. Whoops.

So I told you how much I loved the first movie, but as much as I loved the first movie, it didn't scare me, just intrigued me. This movie definitely seemed scarier to me. It had several scenes that gave me chills. Plus I really liked the family in this movie. I feel for the little girl who is most affected by the evil spirit. First she loses her dad, then some evil spirit starts scaring her, then it possesses her and freaks her out and alienates her from all her friends. Mean ass fucking ghost.

Not everything is perfect in this movie, however. The subplot involving Ed and Lorraine Warren themselves feels kinda tacked on, and it feels like someone glued two movies together, or at least spliced scenes from some unrelated movie into this one. I feel like that should have been a separate movie unto itself instead of cluttering up this movie. And the conclusion had way too much going on, special effects and lights and magic and WHAM BAM THANK YOU MA'AM, and I think a quieter ending, like the one from the first movie, would have suited this one better. Aside from that though, I really did enjoy this movie and I'm so glad I finally checked it out. I think they could keep making these sequels for awhile using different case files from the Warrens, and I'm so here for it. Bring on The Conjuring III!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

October Horror Challenge 2017 #98: "Schizo (1976)"

Gotta love sleazy 70s horror films. For the second time today I'm immersing myself in trashy 70s gore and sleaze, and I love it. This is another movie I've been wanting to see for awhile, but I never got around to it for whatever reason. So many horror movies, so little time, I suppose. Luckily I've managed to catch up on a lot of those movies for the challenge this month, so here we go again.

This movie is about a woman, a famous figure skater, who is getting married to a man she hasn't known for very long. Love at first sight, I guess. One of the guests at the wedding is very much unwanted, however. It's a man from her past, who seems to be a crazed and dangerous man who is definitely not happy with her for getting married. He tries to track her down, and when he finds her, horrible things start to happen.

Of course, this movie gives a woefully inaccurate definition of Schizophrenia right at the beginning, souring my opinion of the movie before it even begins. A sleazy horror movie I watched last year called "Bleed" actually did a much better job portraying the reality of what Schizophrenia is like, which impressed me, because it didn't have to do that, but it did, and that attention to detail elevated the plot of the whole movie for me. This movie seems basically like the filmmakers' thought process went as follows "this killer is crazy, all crazy is same crazy, schizo is better title than just "crazy," so killer must be schizophrenic." Not impressed, movie. Know your shit or don't bother to give a definition at all. It was the 70s, though, so maybe knowledge of mental health has just come a long way since then and I shouldn't be putting my current standards of accuracy onto an older movie. But they could have just made the killer crazy and not tried to sound all sophisticated by having a shrink give a definition at the beginning of their movie which is just 50 shades of wrong. I'd have been much happier if they'd just made a gory horror flick called "Schizo" and not tried to sound all intellectual about it. Stay in your lane, movie.

Apart from the wrong wrong wrongity-wrongness of the psychobabble crap, the movie isn't bad. The acting is pretty good, and the filmmakers ratchet up the tension by making the scary crazy guy act erratically, so we're never sure what his intentions are for the main character and what he's going to do when he finally gets to her. I like the main character, she's in love but she wants to retain her own identity and focus on her career too, which makes her relatable to me. Her fiance/husband is kind of a tool, but he's ok I guess, just perhaps a tad too in love with himself. He also blames the fact that they don't know much about each other before getting married on her, because it's all one person's job to open up in a relationship, especially if she knows he's a douche who plans on using everything he knows about her past as a reason not to believe her when she says there's a killer stalking her. Nice one, asshole.

There are some great tense moments in this movie. Some kill scenes where gore is scarce but still used to great advantage. There's also a scene that takes place at a seance that gave me chills (and I watch a lot of these movies, so that's something I didn't expect). I like the sense of mystery here, too. I got the sense that the movie was hiding stuff from us, so I was figuring out possible twists in my head while I watched it. I love mysteries, so that's a lot of fun for me. Ultimately the ending of the movie isn't totally unexpected, but it's still well done and kinda freaky, so in spite of the silly pseudo-psychobabble crap at the beginning, I wound up enjoying this movie.

October Horror Challenge 2017 #97: "Deathbed (1977)"

Last year I watched a movie called "Death Bed," and the one I watched was a movie I'd read about in an article in Fangoria magazine sometime around the year 2000 or so. The movie I saw wasn't the greatest movie ever made, but it was fun. I'd heard of another movie though, one also called "Deathbed," and it was supposed to be a lost horror film, a crazy surrealist horrir film that sounded a lot better than the movie I saw. I was intrigued, so I put that movie on my list of those I definitely had to watch, and now I'm finally getting a chance to check it out.

Apparently this movie is actually known by it's full title "Deathbed: the bed  that Eats," and it's about a cursed bed that contains the spirit of a demon that lures people to it, convinces them to have sex in it, and then eats them. The bed sits abandoned on the edge of a crumbling estate that was once grand and beautiful. People who are dumb enough to have sex in a mysterious bed in a crumbling, abandoned mansion pretty much deserve what they get, and it's not like we really get to know any of the characters well enough to care much about them.

There's some pretty cool gore here. A lot of it is the "red paint splashed on people" style of special effects, but it's also cool seeing people get sucked into the bed and eaten. I can definitely see what they mean when they call this movie "surreal." There's  voiceover narration throughout most of the film, provided by another soul trapped inside a painting (don't ask, I'm not sure I understand it either) and there's lots of disjointed music and dreamlike imagery that gives the movie a nightmarish quality.

The movie is definitely creepy, but it was hard for me to look away from the screen, even though I wasn't sure if ever knew what was going on, so the filmmakers must have done something right. I can't really recommend this movie except to weird people like me, but if you enjoy strange movies that don't make much sense and give you a headache while at the same time hypnotized you so you can't look away, this movie is for you!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

October Horror Challenge 2017 #96: "Uncle Sam"

I've wanted to see this movie ever since I was younger and I read an article about it in Fangoria magazine. Bach when this movie came out, the country was still reeling from the conflict in Desert Storm, so patriotic media seemed to still be everywhere. This movie, being a patriotic horror movie, fit right in with the cultural zeitgeist at the time. Plus campy horror movies like "The Ice Cream Man" (which I also still haven't seen) seemed to be everywhere. I'm a little late to the party here, but I'm finally getting a chance to check this movie out.

The plot of the movie concerns a soldier killed in Desert Storm who comes back to life and decides to punish people from his small hometown who don't show enough patriotic spirit on the 4th of July. I kinda don't blame him, except it seems that he was a real asshole in life, a fact which most people seem to know except for his young nephew who idolizes him. I was a kid who idolized my uncle who was kind of a jerk too, so I can relate.

Aside from the kid, most of the characters are unlikable. I wanted to reach into the screen and kill the mom's boyfriend myself. Asshat. And the other townspeople aren't much better. At least we get to see a bunch of them die, though there's not much gore for a movie like this. I also liked the kid in the wheelchair and the disabled veteran security guard. Once I finally had some characters to actually root for, I enjoyed the movie a lot more. All in all, this movie was a lot of fun.

October Horror Challenge 2017 #95: "Driller Killer"

What fun, a sleazy, gory horror classic from the 70s that I haven't seen yet! I've heard about this movie a few times over the years, but it always got pushed deep down and buried underneath all the useless crap I store in my brain, and I always moved on to other things. But this is the year I watch a bunch of movies I've always wanted to see but never got around to watching, so I'm finally going to check it out.

This movie is about a killer who dispatches his victims with, you guessed it, a drill. It's nice when the movie's title helpfully summarizes the plot for you like this. I can feel for the killer in a way. He's obviously not right in the head, and he slowly starts to go even more insane as the movie progresses. He has to deal with stress over his largely unsuccessful work as an artist, stress over paying the rent and bills, dealing with his two roommates (one girl who bags him constantly about bills and one who is always strung out and kinda dumb). Plus he's dealing with lousy neighbors, a punk band who play loudly at all hours of the day, and whose music starts to get inside his head and wear down whatever sanity he has left.

Next thing you know, he's out in the alleys at night killing homeless people. Like u said, I can understand his motive, but I'd have started with the band members first. But soon he's taking his rage to the streets, at first just bullying the winos, but then he graduates to torture and murder. The title card at the beginning of the movie said to turn it up loud, and I totally get why now. The music is almost another character in the movie, driving me nuts after awhile too. His life starts to slowly unravel, and I expect he soon feels like he's got nothing to lose. The movie has some great gore, blissfully gratuitous nudity, and the music really got under my skin. I dig it. Yay for sleeze!

October Horror Challenge 2017 #94: "Return to Sleepaway Camp"

The original Sleepaway Camp was one of my favorite slasher movies. It was cheesy and silly, but you got to see bullies get slaughtered as punishment for their crimes, and the ending was creepy and transgressive. Definitely a classic slasher. The two sequels went an even more campy route, more comedy than horror, and Pamela Springsteen took over the role of Angela from Felissa Rose, who played her in the first movie. The sequels were fun, but part of me always wished they'd return and continue the story from the first movie. Several years ago, I and the other Sleepaway Camp fans got our wish when the director of the first movie and some of the original cast teamed up to make a direct sequel to the original. I was excited about it and couldn't wait to see it, and the plethora of terrible reviews didn't stop me from wanting to see it, though it did give me pause and push the movie further down on my priority list. I'm finally getting to watch it today, though. Here goes nothing.

This movie takes place 30 some years after the events of the original movie. The camp is different, but some of the employees are the same, and they're all still haunted by the events of the first movie. Soon, a new generation of kids are getting bullied by counselors and other campers, and grisly murders start happening again, seemingly as revenge for the bullying. What's going on? Does it have anything to do with the killer from the first movie, who's been locked away in an asylum for the past 30 some years?

Oh boy, where do I start with this movie? Ok first if all, I appreciate the idea of bringing back the original cast, but it's asinine having counselors who are in their 40s instead of teenagers. The "wacky hyjinx" that teenage counselors got up to in the first movie seem ridiculous when middle aged people are doing it. Plus the acting is terrible. The first movie didn't have the best performances, but at least the actors could recite their lines without sounding like stilted, awkward robots.

Plus the characters are incredibly annoying. I read people's complaints about this after the movie came out, but I thought people we're exaggerating how awful it was. Newsflash: they weren't. The characters suck. There's not one likable one in the bunch, and since none of them can act, the movie is physically painful to watch at times. In the original movie, I at least cared about the main character Angela and her cousin Ricky. Here I just wanted everyone to shut up and die, but unfortunately there aren't nearly enough murders to thin out the annoying cast. That's right, there aren't even cool deaths to look forward to like there were in the original.

There's one death scene near the beginning involving a deep fryer, a nod to the infamous "boiling water" death from the original, but that's really it for cool kills. They try at some points later on, but the long, boring, annoying stretches of tedium in between kills mean that they can't hold my interest enough to make the movie worthwhile, especially since the one really cool sounding creative kill happens OFF CAMERA. Ugh.

It's like these people have no idea how to make a movie. Except that I know they know how to make a movie. They made the original Sleepaway Camp, so I know they know better, it's like they just don't care. That pisses me off more than anything else. Wooden acting, way too old counselors, annoying shithead kids, bad dialogue, not nearly enough cool kills. This is bullshit. The original movie had fans that have loved it for like, 30 years. Thats supposedly the reason behind this sequel, a gift to the loyal fans. Well this fan says you can take your crappy movie and shove it. We deserved better than this.