Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Burlesque



I'm a sucker for the "small town girl moves to the big city and achieves her dream" kind of movie, so I loved this movie. It bears much resemblance to "Coyote Ugly" and movies of that ilk (some of the scenes are even exactly the same as those from "Coyote Ugly") but that's ok, because I love those movies too, so I don't mind. here, Christina Agiulera plays the small town girl who gets a job at a club in the big city and dreams of dancing and singing onstage like the girls she sees at the club. Of course the owner of the club doesn't want to let her, and of course she gets her chance and proves everyone wrong ans achieves her dream and yes, you know what's going to happen before you put the movie in, but so? I repeat my mantra: not every movie needs to be "Citizen Kane."

The music and the dancing in this movie is top notch. when Christina burst onto the scene in the 90s, she was part of a wave of teen pop that was fun but overproduced, so for years, no one recognized that she could sing this well, but she can. She has an AMAZING voice, and she KILLS every song in this movie, even though I'll be honest, I don't really like a lot of the songs she sings in this movie. I love her voice, but hate the lyrics. they gave Cher the best song, which is ok by me, since she, too, has an amazing voice and I love to hear her sing. she's been one of my favorites my entire life. she's also a lot of fun in this movie, and her sarcastic back-and-forth banter with Christina and with Stanley Tucci (lovelovelove him too) makes the movie a lot of fun to watch

Monday, December 5, 2011

For Colored girls



I have been sorely misinformed about this movie. I thought it was going to be a documentary with people sitting around giving interviews on what it's like for "colored girls" out in the world, because I knew the movie was based on a book and a poem, and it had a lot of recognizable stars in it. It definitely speaks about the experiences of being a colored girl (and woman) in the world, but it's not a documentary, it's actually a movie with a multitude of main characters interwoven and interconnected into one big story. It's something I've loved ever since I read the Charles Dickens novel "Great Expectations" as a child, so I was riveted just because of that. also, the movie is interspersed with lines of poetry and with dance and music (not like a musical, but a bit like performance art) so that was fun for me to watch too.

I have to caution people who might be considering watching this movie, it is HARSH sometimes and it shows things that will hurt, and when you want the camera to pan away or give the characters a happy outcome to complex and often horrific situations, that won't happen. A few times this movie felt too real to me and I felt like I'd been stabbed in the gut, so I do want to warn people since I had no idea how hard this movie would be to watch at times. It's beautiful, though, with great performances from a strong cast, and no pat answers or surface-shiny happy endings, so I appreciated that, too. I think this movie is well worth checking out. I plan to buy it next chance I get.

The King's Speech



I avoided this movie for a long time, even though I love Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, because I thought it might be too stuffy or boring. It's neither of those things. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat thrilled with tension because I was waiting for a guy to make a speech. Now THAT takes filmmaking talent. I thought the movie was riveting and am glad I finally checked it out. If you're worried this movie might be too stuffy or boring, give it a chance. I for one loved it.

Beastly



Ok, I know this movie is a fantasy and all, but who in hell think Alex Pettyfer thinks he looks like he's in high school? What is he, 30? Give me a break. At least Vanessa Hudgens looks younger than she is. Plus I know this is missing the point of the movie and all, but does anyone else think the main character looks better after he turns into the beast? I happen to like tattoos and piercings, so I think he looks much better with them (and much better after he loses the hair he has at the beginning of the movie...dude, you look ten times better without it).

But like I said, this movie is a fantasy, and for all its glossy shallowness, it's still a fun watch. It's not trying to be realistic or anything (on what planet would Mary Kate Olson be the ugly girl in school?) And honestly, for a movie that seems to be trying to say that beauty is as much about what is inside as what is outside, it does like to contradict its own message all the time. When the "witch" Kendra turns Alex Pettyfer (Kyle) into the beast and he's supposed to be "as aggressively ugly on the outside as he is on the inside" I still don't think he looks bad (he looks better! Come on people, it can't just be me here). so yeah, "beauty is on the inside...look at all these ugly tattooed freaks omg!" It could be better if it stopped stepping on its own toes for five minutes, but it's not a bad way to kill two hours.

Anyway, after he disses the "ugly witch" in school, she turns him into a guy with major tattoos and piercings and his rich dad sends him off to live in an apartment in the city away from prying eyes, and he has a year to make someone fall in love with him. And that's when the movie is good. The developing love between the lead characters is actually sweet to watch. And the side characters, played by Lisa Gay Hamilton and Neil Patrick Harris, banter a lot and make the movie more fun. Also, usually in movies like this it's the girl who gives the speech about the end about how she loves the guy and when she's with him she feels beautiful, but in this movie, we get to see the guy make that speech, so it's a nice twist. Plus I always hate how these Beauty and the Beast stories seem to be saying that if you love someone, they'll change and be everything you want, which is shallow and annoying, but at least with this movie and the Disney movie version there are other people's lives at stake, other people affected by the curse too, so that adds an extra element that will benefit from the breaking of the curse. I don't know. This movie isn't perfect, but it was a fun watch, so I dug it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why did I Get Married too?



I heard a lot of bad things about this movie before I watched it (and not just from the same people who bash everything tyler Perry does, even fans of the original "Why did I Get Married" have a lot of problems with this one) so I was apprehensive about watching it. After watching it, I can definitely see why a lot of people don't like it. the first half hour to 45 minutes of this movie feels like we're all just standing around waiting for a plot to happen, because I don't really understand the reason for the movie. It's great to see all the characters again, but I didn't really understand what the movie was going to be about for a long time. I think it takes too long to get going and that lag in the first 45 minutes just feels kind of awkward.

Once things get going though, they hit with a BANG. Let me say that in the first movie, while I liked Patricia (Janet Jackson's character) she felt kind of cold and distant to me and I kind of wished she'd lose it a little and scream and yell and cry a bit. anything to break that wall she'd seemed to build around herself to keep her emotions locked inside. well, let me tell you, in this movie, she doesn't just lose it a little, she loses it a LOT. both she AND Gavin (who was kind of cold and distant himself) spend a lot of this movie yelling and screaming and breaking things, and while I know it's not the healthiest way to express yourself, I appreciated it because I know how harmful it can be to hold in your emotions because you think there's something wrong with expressing them (in fact, this movie might be a perfect example of WHY you shouldn't hold everything in until you explode and start breaking coffee tables with a golf club). In this movie, Gavin and Patricia are still struggling with grief over their son's death, and Gavin is reaching a breaking point over Patricia's refusal to let him in. For Patricia's part, the facade of successful therapist and author is starting to crumble around her, and when it cracks, it EXPLODES.

The other couples are going through tough times too, of course. Marcus and Angela are always fighting, but it seems that Angela's lack of trust is hitting a high point and Marcus is getting sick of always having to defend himself against her attacks. Dianne and Terry had the little boy that Terry always wanted, but Terry is starting to suspect that Dainne's recent happiness has more to do with another man than with he and the kids. Sheila and her new husband Troy are handling the stress of having a new baby, moving to a new state, and dealing with Troy's unemployment, as well as Mike's sudden interest in getting back into his ex wife's life. I have to say, Mike redeemed himself in this movie. I spent most of the first movie wanting to beat the shit out of him, but in this movie at one point I actually yelled at the screen "Oh my God, no one learned ANYTHING from the first movie except MIKE!" Mike starts off slow, but by the end of the movie, he seems like a genuinely good guy, and I can finally see what everyone saw in him being friends with him all those years.

This movie isn't perfect. It kind of feels like a truncated season of a TV show rather than a movie, so it feels like a lot is left out, but there's enough good here that I enjoyed the movie, cried a little, laughed a little, and actually wouldn't mind seeing a third installment if tyler Perry is inclined to make one. I can definitely see why people didn't like this movie, and the awkwardness is a bit much to handle, but it has enough good that I enjoyed watching it and wouldn't mind adding it to my collection as well.

Why did I Get Married?



I always get a lot of crap for liking Tyler Perry movies. I don't know what this man did, but whatever it was, it was bad enough to make some people rabidly hate him and bash everything he makes. If you don't like his movies, fine, but I happen to like them, so leave me the hell alone. not only that, but I think his movies keep getting better and better. this movie is a case in point. I didn't think it would be possible for me to love one of his movies more than "I Can Do Bad all by Myself," but I think "Why Did I Get Married?" might be even better than that, which is a feat I never thought he'd achieve.

This movie introduces us to four couples who meet every year for a week long marriage retreat, to re-evaluate why they love each other so much and why they want to stay married. Marcus and Angela are always fighting, loudly and everywhere about anything and everything. Dianne and terry love each other, but Dianne's job keeps her away from home most nights, and they don't seem to see eye to eye about having another baby. Gavin and Patricia are the core of the group. Patricia is a successful author and therapist who wrote the book detailing the principles the couples use to evaluate their marriages during the retreat. They love each other, but they've recently suffered a devastating loss, and they don't seem to know how to relate and reconnect anymore. And then there's Sheila and Mike. Sheila is overweight (a fact that Mike harps on all the time during his constant put-downs) is harried and at her wit's end trying to figure out how to save her marriage. Mike is emotionally and verbally abusive, constantly bashing everything Sheila is and does and making cracks about her appearance every chance he gets. he seems to have no interest in saving his marriage, even bringing along another woman to the marriage retreat (who is supposed to be a friend of Sheila's but doesn't act very friendly toward her, instead choosing to be friendly toward Mike).

Each of these couples have problems, but it is Mike and Sheila's marriage that caught my interest the most. I'll admit it, I spent most of the movie wanting to jump through the screen and beat Mike in the face. He is such a jerk to his wife, always putting her down, so much so that she often does it herself, without his help, even when other people compliment her or her looks. It's heartbreaking to see her reach out to Mike over and over again in an attempt to reconnect, only to have him beat her down again. the other couples aren't faring well either, finding that the things that are driving them apart are getting stronger than their attempts to hold everything together. during a climactic dinner party scene, all the secrets come out, and the fallout from that dinner party will take a lot to repair...if repair is even possible.

I really liked all these couples (well, except for Mike) so I was rooting for them to get their acts together (again, except for Mike...the only thing I wanted him to get together was a long fall off a cliff). The movie really touched me. I spent most of it crying, and laughing, and crying. angela is responsible for most of the laughs here. I loved seeing her take everyone to task and stand up for her friends. Because of the scenes with Mike putting Sheila down, the movie is often hard to watch, but I definitely think it's worthwhile.

Rabbit Hole



I tend to have the attention spam of a flea these days, as I've said before, so when I first started this movie I had no idea what was going on and I had to turn it off after about 20 minutes and come back to it later to give it another chance. I really like Nicole Kidman, so I wasn't about to pass the movie by without giving her a chance, and it turns out that this is really a good movie, though it's very subtle and quiet in its storytelling, so I really had to pay attention to fully appreciate what was going on.

The plot of the movie is that this couple has recently lost their young son to an accident, and they're trying to work through their grief and put their lives back together while everything seems to be falling apart around them. they try to go to a grief counseling group, but that just seems to be awkward and not much help (and the parents who say losing a child is "all part of God's plan" really piss them off, which I don't blame them for). Family and friends don't really know what to say to help, and they don't know what to say to each other, so they sort of float through life in this trancelike state, wondering if things are ever going to get better.

It's harrowing stuff, and without giving anything away, I can say that this movie doesn't offer easy resolutions or pat answers, and there are scenes that are hard to watch because the movie refuses to sugar coat the awkward, heart-wrenching feeling of not knowing how to pick up the pieces after a tragedy. I'm impressed that this movie was willing to go there and stay there, even when its hard to watch. Definitely worth checking out, though it's not always easy to watch.

Colin



The funny thing about this movie is that a few months ago, I hadn't even heard of it. Around the time the October horror movie challenge was going on, I heard a few people mention that they'd seen it and that it was a decent independent horror flick, and so I added it to my blockbuster queue based solely upon that recommendation. I knew nothing about this movie, didn't even know what it was about, and I couldn't really tell from the cover picture (is that kid a vampire or a zombie?) So I got this movie in the mail and I let it sit around my house for about a week, and then one day I'm tired and bored so I decide to watch the movies I got from Blockbuster, but I don't know if I'm in the mood to watch "Colin," so I decide that if I'm too tired after watching the first two movies, I'll just return it without watching it. I watch the other two movies and I figure I'll give "Colin" a shot, too, so I put it in, and then proceed to spend the next two hours glued to the screen, transfixed. I LOVED this movie, and it cracks me up not how a movie went from being one I wasn't even interested in watching to being one of the best horror movies I've seen this year.

"Colin" is a zombie movie (not a vampire movie, just to clear that up) and it's unlike any other zombie movie I've ever seen. Most of those movies feature people running from the zombies and the suspense comes from wondering if they will escape the zombies or not. In this movie, the main character, Colin, becomes a zombie in the first few minutes of the movie, and the rest of the movie is spent watching life from his perspective. that might sound boring (I know I sure as hell wouldn't have given the movie a chance if I'd known that this was the premise, because who wants to see a zombie lurch around for two hours?) but somehow, it works. Colin isn't a typical brain-dead member of some flesh eating horde. He clearly has some consciousness left, and it's sad to watch him stagger around, not really fitting into the zombie world any better than he fit into the human world. It's sad to see Colin's family react to him as well, since they obviously want to find some way to cure him but it doesn't seem to be possible, though this doesn't stop them from loving him and being sad that he's gone (even while he's technically still alive). That drama is handled well and adds to the overall sad feeling of the movie.

The special effects aren't anything spectacular, but I was impressed as hell with how real they looked (especially considering that this movie was supposedly made for about 70 US dollars...this makes me want to go out and make my own movie, if a movie this good can be made that cheaply). I was seriously blown away by this movie. every time I started to think "Ok, this is getting kind of long, it can end now" the movie would toss some other plot twist at me and get me hooked all over again. It's such an impressive movie that I want to run out and buy a copy (and buy copies for all my friends). Well worth checking out. Tell all your friends.

Somebody Help Me



You know, I watched "Somebody Help Me" after I watched a movie that many consider to be a "cult classic" and an "underrated cinematic gem" and blah blah blah blah blah, so I probably had a better experience than I would have had otherwise, but I really enjoyed the hell out of this movie. I like slashers to begin with, so I'm always up for a movie about a group of friends going to a secluded location and getting picked off one by one by a sadistic killer. I've wanted to see this movie since it first came out, and I'm kind of glad I waited, because getting to see it (a movie that of course gets no respect from anyone) after seeing a movie that everyone slathers with praise highlighted for me the reason why I like this movie and why I have great amounts of disdain for the other one. That movie, to be sure, had some scenes that were brilliant, but hey were buried under piles of boring crap. This movie, while never approaching anything "genius" or "brilliant" nevertheless was a TON more fun to watch than the other one, because this movie was consistently entertaining, whereas that other movie had flashed of brilliance that were lost in a sea of pointless crap that had me wanting to gouge my own eyes out from sheer boredom.

This movie has a premise we've probably all heard before. A group of college students goes to spend a weekend partying in a secluded cabin. There's a sadistic madman on the loose, and when their friends start disappearing one by one, these characters must try to put a stop to the killer before it's too late. I definitely enjoyed how the movie's tagline that there are things worse than death plays out in the movie. seeing some of what this madman does to his victims is pretty freaky, and the worst part is imagining being kept alive praying for rescue, waiting for help that doesn't come. It's nothing I haven't seen before, but the movie did well with its premise.

Also, the acting was WAAAAYYYYYY better than a lot of what we see in movies like this. the two main actors, Marques Houston and Omarion, interact and exchange dialogue that makes it easy to believe they are friends. Sometimes the dialogue in movies like this can be painful to watch, but it was fun watching these two onscreen because they sounded like actual friends talking, not two guys who sound like they're reciting their lines. I appreciated the effort, and it made me like their characters more.

The plot isn't really original, but it had some touches that added to the suspense. Little kids always up the creep factor in movies like this, and this one was no exception. The characters also fight for their lives instead of standing around waiting to be picked off, which made me root for them, and they actually have a halfway intelligent reason for staying at the house instead of running away once people start disappearing, which always helps. all in all, this movie isn't anything groundbreaking, but it made this slasher fan happy, and that's all I asked for.

Seconds



Here's the thing about John Frankenheimer, the director of this movie, and I have to get this out of the way before I say anything else. Everyone goes on and on about what a genius he is, and it frustrates me and makes me want to pull all the hair out of my head. Not because I don't think Frankenheimer is a genius, but because he IS. If he weren't, if he were a two-bit hack who should never be allowed near a camera for any reason, then I would be fine with his movies. I would probably even love them, because the moments when his movies transcend their medium and become not just films but ART, those moments would shine if he weren't a very good director. I would be impressed and I'd probably fall all over myself to praise him too. Because he rose above my expectations and created something great.

Here's the thing, though. Because John Frankenheimer IS a great director, because I KNOW he's capable of creating art, and BECAUSE his movies are full of genuinely great moments, I can't just sit here and praise him. I can't give him a pass when over half an hour of this movie is blathering, plodding, slow, boring, mind-numbingly pointless, and insulting to my intelligence. BECAUSE John Frankenheimer knows better, and because he is capable of creating some of the GREAT scenes on display in this movie, I have to take him to task for wasting my time with over half an hour of useless footage that bogs this movie down when it could have been an hour long and been a BRILLIANT film. It would have made a great movie if he'd cut all the pointless stuff that we don't need to see, all the repetitive garbage that's supposed to make us feel disoriented and send us into a dreamlike state, but is more likely to send us into an ACTUAL dream state when we fall asleep out of pure boredom. THIS is what pisses me off about John Frankenheimer. He ALWAYS does this crap. He did it in his OTHER movie I saw, called "Prophecy" (not to be confused with "THE Prophecy" with a creepy christopher Walken) and it makes me want to track him down and smack him in the face for not only wasting my time but for ruining a movie that would have been great if he'd gotten out of his own goddamn way and learned when to shut the fuck up and leave well enough alone.

The premise of this movie is intriguing, and like any good episode of The Twilight Zone, the movie keeps it enough under wraps to disorient us while keeping us intrigued and wanting to know more. Basically, a man who is dissatisfied with his life encounters an organization that offers him a chance to start his life anew. Plastic surgery gives him an all-new appearance, he gets a new job and a new place to live and a new life. It's a dream come true...or is it? The thing is, since it took like, two sentences for me to explain this premise to you and I'm sure you understood it, there's no need for Frankenheimer to try and beat the idea into our heads that this guy is uncomfortable in this new life, that things aren't perfect, and that he's not happy. We get that point. we got it BEFORE we started the movie, so to spend over a half hour of useless, boring, repetitive, redundant, bullshit footage to drive home the point we already understood before we even watched the movie? THAT is the kind of thing that makes me want to track Frankenheimer down and smack him in the face. Seriously, there's a scene involving grapes and wine that drove me into a homicidal rage because it was so repetitive and pointless. I'm also sure that an audience who was used to seeing Rock Hudson laughing it up with Doris Day was freaked out at the thought that someone wouldn't want to live Rock Hudson's life. The idea that even "beautiful, successful people" can have horrible lives probably added to the shock value for this movie back when it was released. I honestly wish this movie was better, because there are so many positive things going for it that it's really infuriating to see Frankenheimer systematically ruin them one by one. Sure, the ending was powerful, but did I really have to wade through so much shit to get there? If I could edit out the pointless bullshit scenes and make this movie into the hour long masterpiece it's begging to be, I would, but as it stands, it's a great idea buried under a pile of shit that is worth a watch for sure, but is infuriating because it could have been so much more if Frankenheimer had known when to shut the fuck up and leave well enough alone.

Never Let Me Go



now this is a movie that takes some settling in before I can write a fair review. I tend to have the attention span of a flea these days, and I've wanted to see this movie for over a year, but when I finally put it in the DVD player, my attention was wandering around the room, and I didn't understand why I should care about what was happening to these characters, and I was tempted to turn the movie off. then the movie jumps ahead, and these "kids" are in their late teens/early college years, and again, I don't really understand why I should give a crap about what's going on, though at least there's some drama now that they're old enough for a love triangle to crop up. then the movie jumps ahead AGAIN, and at this point I kind of want to stab the filmmakers, but what happens in this third act manages to tie everything that came before together so beautifully that it made my heart ache, and it totally changed my view of everything that had come before. I'm just glad I was patient enough to get to that point.

First of all, let me say that I wasn't kidding when I said my attention was wandering. somehow, I was glancing around the room and so I missed what was apparently a rather lengthy explanation that flashed across the screen in the beginning of the movie. I managed to figure out most of what was going on without reading this explanation, but I recommend you read it, because it helps put everything you're seeing into a context and it makes the events of the movie make much more sense. Essentially, it is the future, and science has discovered a way for people to live well past the age of 100, but it comes at what I think is a pretty horrific cost. The children in the boarding school in this movie are clones, and they will live out their childhood and teenage years, and then when they reach a certain age, they will begin having their organs harvested. their organs are then transplanted into other people, thereby allowing the other people to live for many more years after their original organs fail.

*shivers*

Seriously, this premise freaked me out. It still freaks me out. I mean, brrr. I used to watch movies and read books like this and enjoy seeing a world that was so different from my world, but now when I read these books or watch these movies, all I can think about is what will happen if our world BECOMES this world? It's a frightening world to have to imagine. These kids are basically harvested for spare parts until they can no longer survive and they die, and society deems this as ok because these kids are cloned from the dregs of society (drug addicts, prostitutes, the poor unwashed, you get the idea). So society sees nothing wrong with using these kids for spare parts because they don't see these kids as people. Um, ew. The explanation that flashed across the screen sets this up, but I missed it, so I didn't understand why the boarding school scenes were important because nothing significant seems to happen. the kids take classes, make some art, and hang out, but nothing groundbreaking is going on. It's only with the revelations in the third act where we learn WHY these activities were so important that the early scenes start to have more of an impact.

The acting in this movie is top notch. I love Kiera Knightly and Carey Mulligan anyway, but they really shine in this movie. their roles are complex and they manage to portray characters that aren't always the easiest to understand. I mean, it would be easy to want to hate Kiera Knightly's character for being such a self-centered bitch, but then none of us really know what it's like to know from the moment that we're born when we're going to die and how, to know we're going to waste away so someone else somewhere can live a long and happy life, so in that context, it's hard to blame her for wanting to carve out some happiness for herself. And it's easy to want to reach through the screen and smack Carey Mulligan's character for being so passive and accepting this horrible society without trying to fight for anything for herself, but again, we don't live in this society where everything is so set in stone and everything is accepted, even this horrific system for harvesting people for their organs, so it's hard not to admire her for being strong and caring in the face of what is a pretty terrifying fate. Andrew Garfield does a great job here, too. The scene at the end with him smiling at Carey Mulligan through a window is such a quiet scene, but it haunts me. It's stuck in my mind and won't go away. That's a lot of power for one scene to have, and it's just one reason why I loved this movie so much.

I have to say, I wound up loving this movie and I want to read the book now and I want to buy the movie and watch it a million more times. It's very quiet and subtle at the beginning, but give it a chance. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 81: Paranormal Activity 3



So knowing that the first movie frightened me into hysterics, what did I do? Why I decided to watch the second and third installments on the same night, within hours of each other, and I nearly gave myself a heart attack.

Here's the thing with these movies. They don't have a lot of special effects; they're just regular people hanging out in their house when suddenly things start happening that can't really be explained by natural causes, and the people get more and more frightened and everything builds to a conclusion that usually doesn't end favorably for everyone involved. In most movies like this, you scream for the people to get out of the house, but in these movies that won't necessarily help, because the evil is attached to the people, not to the house, so it can follow them even if they move. Furthermore, the demon/evil presence thing seems to feed on fear, so the more people get scared of it, the stronger it grows. Even trying to cast it out seems to give it the attention it needs to grow stronger. It's impossible to fight. The only way to stop it is to give it whatever it wants, which is usually something indispensable, like your soul. It's a terrifying premise for me. That's why, no matter how cheesy the movies get, the underlying mythology of what's happening to these people is enough to make my skin crawl right off my body and hide in the closet. And even there it's not safe.

This movie certainly has its flaws. The video quality, being from the 80s (supposedly) is bad, and sometimes it's hard to see what's going on, and the twisty explanation for the events onscreen is a little hokey, though I think in the end it works. I'll be honest with you. I love children, I adore them, I think they're wonderful...but they creep me OUT sometimes. This movie is chock full of little kid creepiness. It also has some gags involving regular household objects falling or flying around that manage to creep me out. One particular scene involving a white bedsheet probably shouldn't have worked, but it scared me so badly that I screamed and cried (it is embarrassing to watch movies with me in a theater). Once the characters finally realize what is going on it's mostly too late, and the climax of this movie really had me torn. On the one hand, I was tempted to roll my eyes at the cheesiness of it, on the other, I was thinking in the back of my mind "damn, I have to go home alone after this and sleep..." not a good thing. Every noise in the house was amplified and seemed sinister and foreboding.

That's the thing about these movies. They feature regular people in regular houses, except in these movies, those noises, those bumps in the night you hear when you're lying alone in bed at night? The ones you tell yourself are nothing? They are SOMETHING. something evil that can come after you and stalk you throughout the years until it finally kills you. Nighty-nightmares! That is what makes the movies work for me. In spite of everything that may be wrong with them, they remind me that every little spooky noise I hear could be an evil thing that wants to kill me (like I needed another excuse not to ever sleep again). The movie may not be great, but I do think it's good, and it will probably haunt my dreams for awhile after watching it. If you like these movies, give the third one a chance. Sweet dreams.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 80: Hush, hush Sweet Charlotte



I love this movie. I mean I LOVELOVELOVE this movie. Really I do. I watched it back when I was a kid and every twisted twist shocked me, and I loved seeing the evil people who do evil things being haunted by the evil they created. It was like watchung one of those old "Tales from the Crypt" and "Vault of Horror" and "Haunt of Fear" stories come to life, and in a lot of ways it was creepier and more effective than the TV show "Tales from the Crypt" ever managed to be. Don't get me wrong, I loved that show, but there's something about reading one of those stories, where despicable people commit despicable acts and are then haunted by something trying to get revenge from beyond the grave that never translated well onto film for me, until I saw this movie when I was ten. Here, houses are haunted by more than ghosts. They are haunted by memories and past misdeeds can catch up to you even years later, and people aren't always what they seem, and things can be so disorienting and confusing that it's hard to know who is a friend and who is out to harm you.

That's the mystery haunting Charlotte in this movie. Years ago, she was all set to run away with her married lover, but her father wouldn't allow it, and on the night she was supposed to escape with him, he was murdered. The image of Charlotte walking into the ballroom of her father's mansion covered in blood and confused about what was going on is a GREAT image that still holds up to this day. Of course, no one was able to pin the murder on Charlotte, but in the small town in which she lived, everyone had her tried and convicted, so she grew to be an old recluse in her father's decaying mansion, getting more and more eccentric every day. By the 1960s, the state is set to tear down the mansion that has been her home and her prison, and she doesn't know what to do. Her cousin Miriam returns, ostensibly to help her, but what really happened all those years ago when the man Charlotte loved was murdered? And what is haunting Charlotte now, trying to scare her to death? Is it her lover's ghost?

This was the first gothic mystery I ever saw as a kid, and it stuck with me. Looking through the gallery of movie posters trying to find the best one to include with this review, I was happy to see this movie has been translated into many languages and seems to be beloved by lots of other people besides me. I'm glad, because I honestly think this is a great movie and I don't often see it getting the praise it deserves. Of course the "mystery" has a solution that is blatantly obvious to me now, but it shocked me as a kid, and even now after seeing this movie many many times over the years, the climax is still just as explosive as it was when I first saw it. I couldn't ask for a better ending. Give this movie a chance. It may be old and dated now, but every time I watch it, it peels back the years to my childhood, and suddenly I'm ten years old again, rooting for the mystery to be solved and the truth to come out and the troubled spirits finally get their revenge. Like I said, I loved it then and I love it now and if you watch it, I hope you have as much fun with it as I do. Happy Halloween.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 79: Pandorum



I've heard so many mixed things about this movie that I didn't know what to expect. I heard everything from "It's great!" to "It's the worst movie of the year!" and everything in between, so I was unsure about checking it out. One comparison stuck with me, though. someone compared it to another horror/sci-fi movie set on a spaceship, a movie called "Event Horizon," and while I love and adore that movie, a lot of other people hate it, so trusting that the case might be the same with this movie, I decided to buy it and check it out in spite of my reservations. And I'm glad I did.

You know those movies where a group of people wake up to find themselves in a place and they aren't sure how they got there or what's going on and they're fuzzy about the details of their lives leading up to whatever brought them together? The "Saw" movies trade on this scenario a lot, and it's a good one because it's disorienting and confusing and puts the audience at the same disadvantage as the characters in the movie: they don't know what's going on, and they have to find out along with the characters. "Pandorum" uses this setup. A man wakes up in a hypersleep chamber on a spaceship, gets out and is confused about what's going on and what brought him to be where he is. Soon another guy wakes from hypersleep too, and they try to figure out what's going on together.

Crawling through the air vent system in a spaceship is a claustrophobic experience, it would seem, and this movie uses that to great effect. The guys encounter lots of strange things along the way, and they split up and communicate with walkie-talkie like things, and that adds to the tension because each of them are discovering things separately and neither they nor the audience is sure exactly what's going on. Memories return in fits and starts, and soon the men find they aren't alone on the huge, cavernous ship. there are creatures that appear humanoid but are violent and dangerous, and there are other humans aboard, each providing a different piece of the puzzle. Once everything is revealed, it's a fight for survival against horrors both real and imagined (or are they?)

As you can probably tell, this is a very disorienting movie. I actually had to check out the movie's wikipedia page after I was done watching it to make sure I had everything straight, but I don't consider that a bad thing, necessarily. It's a complex plot with a lot of heady imagery and some philosophical ideas mixed in with action and horror, and I loved it, honestly, but I can see why a lot of people didn't. People claim this movie is derivative, and to some extent it is. There's some bits of "Event Horizon" and "Alien" and "Pitch Black" and the "Saw" movies and probably a ton of other movies thrown in here, but it's never so obvious that I thought the movie was actively stealing something from other movies. Rather, I just saw it as showing things that are universally scary and confusing and interesting, and since these experiences are common to a lot of people, they're going to crop up in a lot of movies and books. that doesn't means anyone is stealing from anyone else, it just means that we humans have a common language, and while we have a ton of differences, we also have a lot of experiences and feelings in common, so often we find ourselves telling the same story in a lot of different ways in order to better understand our world.

That sounds like a lot of claptrap, I'm sure. It kind of sounds that way to me, and I'm the one writing it. But I'm serious when I say that this movie has a lot of elements in common with a lot of other movies, but it doesn't "STEAL" anything, it just uses some of the same things to tell its own story, and I don't see that as a bad thing. I like the disorientation of the movie, the thrill of trying to put the puzzle pieces together as they are revealed to us and to the characters, and I like the idea of "pandorum," which is a term for a condition that can affect people in hypersleep, causing them to get shaky and confused and eventually to have delusions and become dangerous and violent. An early scene showing one instance of what happened on a ship where one of the crew suffered from pandorum is very creepy. That image is still stuck in my mind right now as I'm typing this. It gives me the heebie-jeebies and enhances the scariness of my experience. And while I kind of guessed the final "twist" early on because yes, it has been used to some extent in other movies, that's not a bad thing and there are enough other twists along the way to keep me occupied. the bottom line is that not everyone will like this movie, but I think you should give it a fair shake and see it before you decide you think it's a derivative piece of crap. I for one loved it (of course; I don't do anything the way anyone else does).

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 78: The Hills Run Red



This movie starts off great, then after an hour it turns kind of stupid and annoying, but by the final shot, it's turned itself around enough that I definitely liked it in spite of not liking its twist at first. In the beginning, the movie is about a horror movie geek who is obsessed with finding out the backstory behind "The Hills Run red," an infamous movie released during the 80s slasher craze that was pulled from theaters right after its release for being too sadistic and violent. I feel for the film nerd here, because I would definitely want to track down that movie, too, though I'd like to think I'd be smarter about it than he is.

The interpersonal dramas in this movie were well done, too. Let's just say that the relationship our main nerd Tyler has with his girlfriend is strained, and his best friend has been less than truthful with him as well. When Tyler tracks down the daughter of the director who originally made the film, he finds that she's a drug addict turning tricks in order to get by,. He forces her to get sober and enlists her help in finding the original locations of the movie and helping him flesh out the story for a documentary he's planning. Once the group starts off into the woods following the trail of the director, the movie is set up to be a cool slasher.

This is where things take a turn, and to be honest, I didn't appreciate the twist at first. It got on my nerves, even though I had suspected it to some extent, and I had a hard time with this movie's final hour. there's a lot that's good in it, but there's also some stupid and cheesy overacting from people who had been competent in their performances up to that point, and I was more angry than scared. But like I said, by the final shot of the film, everything has tied itself up into a sufficiently creepy package, so I forgave the movie its faults and enjoyed it for what it was; a better than average slasher movie tailor made for people like me who are huge slasher fans. If you're a fan of slashers, this one is definitely worth checking out.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 77: Paranormal Activity 2



I feel that I should explain my history with this movie. The first Paranormal Activity scared the shit out of me. I mean I turned on every light in the house and sat up all night crying and singing hymns, afraid to close my eyes. THAT kind of scared. I know that a lot of people think these movies are stupid, and I understand where that is coming from. Take this sequel. A great majority of this movie really does feel like you're watching some stranger's home movies. The original had a better balance of rising and falling action, I think. Scary things would happen, but even when nothing scary was happening, I got enough information about what the characters were going through that I cared about what was happening to them.

In this movie, I seriously timed 25 minutes of nothing happening before anything actually happened. I know the main characters were supposed to have returned home to find their house ransacked and we're supposed to think some ghostly force did it (though they don't suspect that at first) but that doesn't count as scary for me, because we didn't actually SEE anything ghostly happen, just the aftermath. BORING. And the rest of the video falls flat. The dad comes out to the pool to find the pool cleaner has somehow made it out onto the patio every morning, but that's not very scary, and the geniuses still don't suspect anything at first, because they're dipshits.

Once scary things do start happening, though, I think this movie picks up and holds its own and manages to be creepy as well as having a mean-spirited streak that I enjoyed with a twist at the end. I definitely dug it, though it didn't scare me as much pound for pound as the original movie did. Still a very spooky movie to kick off my Halloween night.

Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 76: Repo: The Genetic Opera



Movie musicals are a mixed bag for me. I love music and I love singing along (though my voice has been known to crack windows and scare small children and animals) but when moviemakers try to film characters walking around bursting into song at random intervals, it tends to grate on my nerves. Thus, while I love music, I don't always like musicals. When I heard about this movie, a mixture of graphic novel and musical and bloody gory horror movie and dystopian future fantasy, I gave the whole concept the stink eye and avoided it on principle. I finally watched it the other night, and I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised.

First of all, the music is good in this movie. I didn't mind hearing the characters burst into song because the songs didn't make my ears bleed in the first place. Second, I loved the feeling of unreality shrouding this movie. Comic book panels dissolve into a colorful yet dark and gruesome future world fantasy where people can obtain artificial organs that allow them to beat disease and cheat death, but this comes at a high price, and if they can't afford to make payments on their organs, well...yeah, you saw this already in "Repo Men," I know, but it works here, too. It's scary because I can see this happening in the future. I saw a news story recently about a lab developing artificial organs and I felt my skin go pale because that nightmare future world suddenly seemed much closer than I wanted it to seem.

The acting here is excellent as well. Anthony Head is great here as the grieving father who does the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde bit, switching between his two personalities as he tries to take care of his daughter one minute and performs his gruesome job of harvesting organs the next. Alexa Vega (yes, LavaGirl) is sympathetic as the longsuffering daughter who has to stay cooped up in her bedroom because her overprotective father tells her she will die if she goes out into the world. Paul Sorvino is the heartless man who owns the company responsible for making the artificial organs. Most people bitch about Paris Hilton in her performance as his daughter, a shallow twit who is addicted to plastic surgery and drugs, but I think it's the perfect part for her and she works well in it.

The gore in this movie is pretty nasty and the effects are well done. Over-the-top at times, but it works within the framework of the movie. I also loved how characters were introduced as we met them and we got a glimpse of their backstory, seeing how their lives intertwine and learning the truth about past events that help us understand what's happening in their lives now. Very Charles Dickens, that. the movie is splashy, gory, creepy, and cool. I loved it.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 75: Queen of the Damned



First of all, I don't usually care for Stuart Townsend, but he kicks ass in this movie. He manages to be sexy and creepy and seductive and somehow still sympathetic. I didn't know he had it in him. Kudos. Aliyah isn't a great actress or anything, but she manages to exude that same creepy sexiness, so it was fun watching her character. she also had a very regal air, which worked for the "Queen of Vampires." Much is made of anne Rice and her whiny vampires who complain and piss and moan for all eternity, but in this movie, the dichotomy between enjoying living forever and having supernatural powers and hating yourself for killing people and forever having this unquenchable thirst for blood really shines through. I know that no one else likes this movie, but I do. Sue me. I mean, don't get me wrong, this movie isn't great cinema or anything, but I dug it. the vampires were cool and creepy looking, the soundtrack was great, and I had a lot of fun watching it (even if I did spend a lot of time snarking what I saw onscreen). For my money, this is a fun vampire flick that I really enjoyed watching.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 74: A Nightmare on elm Street (2010)



Where do I begin here? Ok, first, enjoy a priceless bit of dialogue from this movie:

Daughter: "Did you ever know a guy named freddy?"

Mother: "I don't think so."

Right, never in your life have you ever known anyone by the name of Freddy. Ever.

In a way, that sums up this movie's problems in a nutshell. This kind of nonsensical dialogue pours from the characters' mouths and I just want to jump through the screen and punch them in the face.. The movie LOOKS great, a lot of the nightmares are creepy, and the characters LOOK the part...but then they start talking, and it all falls apart.

You can tell this movie was directed by a guy who usually makes music videos. It LOOKS great, at least visually. When it comes to plot and twists and mystery and depth, however, the movie just falls flat on its face. Contrast this with the original, which had some special effects that look pretty silly now, but it had subversive twists and an air of tragedy and mystery surrounding it that makes it work in spite of those less than stellar visuals, whereas the remake has really cool visuals but virtually no plot. we don't even get to know who these kids in the movie are before they start getting slaughtered. the original gave us a chance to get to know them before anybody died, so we actually had a chance to give a shit about them. In the remake, we barely know who the kids are, so why should we care when they start dying?

Not only that, but when the movie starts trying to have a plot, it gets really stupid and start insulting our intelligence. Kids who knew each other when they were five aren't just going to FORGET that and think they never knew each other because their parents tell them so. They might not remember everything, but I remember things from when I was five years old (and why the hell does the movie tell us that all this stuff happened to these kids when they were in preschool, which is idiotic because five year old kids would be in Kindergarten, not preschool in the first place, and also, all the child actors are quite obviously older than five, so it looks stupid)? Ok, maybe they didn't want to use really young kids in the movie, but then don't make the kids so young in the script. Make them about six in the plot, put them in Kindergarten instead of preschool, and then it won't look so stupid when you start telling us that these eight year olds are actually five years old. Didn't this movie have editors around to catch these kinds of stupid things and fix them before unleashing this movie on the poor unsuspecting public?

I know I'm a great big Wes Craven fangirl, but in my opinion, the original "A Nightmare on Elm Street" does everything right. It introduces us to characters, lets us get to know them a bit, introduces the terrifying idea that someone is killing them in their sleep and this causes them to die in real life (can you imagine if nightmares really COULD kill you? I'd be dead a thousand times over) keeps us in the dark about why everything is happening, then reveals the backstory which explains why this nightmare man is stalking, terrorizing, and killing these kids. The remake throws deaths at us right from the beginning, doesn't tell us who these kids are, keeps the killings coming without giving us much reason to care, then tries to manufacture a backstory that doesn't make much sense because it keeps changing its mind about what it wants to say. In the original movie, there was this back and forth that tore at the viewer...it was wrong for the parents to burn a man to death, but the things he did were terrible. In the remake, the parents are portrayed as a bunch of hotheaded dipshits who don't think things through before they act, and thus it's almost impossible for us to identify with what they did. Are they trying to make Freddy into a tragic hero here with this movie? Then the story changes its mind, and then it changes its mind again, and I want to stab it in the face. "The movie is really about THIS. Just kidding! THIS is what we're really trying to say. PSYCHE! THIS is really what happened...you believe us now, don't you?" By that point, more discerning viewers have probably stopped caring.

In the original, Freddy was a sadistic man in life who became even more sadistic after his death. I don't even know what the movie was going for with his character, and it seemed like they were trying to make the ending a surprise, but unless people have been living on the moon under a rock their whole lives, most people already know the "twist" is coming before they start watching the movie. I'm sure the plot had a point, but whatever it is, it doesn't have half the emotional impact that the original managed to have, and I know it had the budget to hire good writers, but instead they spent their entire budget on fake blood and didn't think anyone would notice or care. It's just irritating. You make a remake in order to improve on the original movie, not just to cash in on the name recognition of the original movie with a half-assed attempt at telling a story. the original had an impact with audiences because it toyed with some deep philosophical ideas and questions, and it had a nightmarish dreamlike atmosphere that haunted audiences with the scary thought of what would happen if their dreams really could hurt them. The remake has a bunch of attractive actors and gallons of fake blood. It's insulting to me that people would think horror fans aren't smart enough to realize when a movie is devoid of depth or plot development or character. Those are the things that make a movie endure throughout the years. I usually tend to like remakes better than a lot of horror fans, but this one was just boring. I wanted to fall asleep and get killed by Freddy so I wouldn't have to finish watching it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 73: The Skeptic



So I saw the poster for this movie, saw that it had Tom Arnold in it, and went "Nope, pass." I wasn't going to subject myself to this. Especially since IFC films releases as many terrible movies as they do good ones, it seems. But I saw the trailer for this movie, and the trailer looked really awesome, and that put a fire under my ass and then I really wanted to see this movie. so it was with much anticipation that I popped the DVD in this morning. So how did the movie fare?

Well, from the start, Tom Arnold doesn't have a very big role in this movie (he's another lawyer who works with the main character at the same law firm) and I think his name is only out there in the promotional material because it's a name the filmmakers think people will recognize. Unfortunately for them, the name recognition works AGAINST them, and people who recognize who Tom Arnold is probably won't want to see this movie because of him, and that's a shame, because he's not bad in his little role and he certainly doesn't detract from the movie any. The plot here surrounds a man (played by Tim Daly) who prides himself as the world's best skeptic. His life is ordered, orderly, a place for everything and everything in its place. He thinks it works for him. Unfortunately, it doesn't work for his wife, who asks for a separation hoping it will shake him out of his emotionless rut and is irritated when he takes the suggestion as a chance to move out and go live in his recently deceased aunt's house until the estate is settled.

His aunt was his last living relative, so he thinks he should get the house, but his aunt left it instead to an institute for the study of paranormal phenomena, which as you can imagine sets Mr. Skeptic off leik whoah. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, he's experiencing strange phenomena in the house which he's sure aren't ghosts (because ghosts don't exist, of course) so it's not until things start to spiral out of control that he begins to think maybe things aren't as they seem and maybe what he thinks he knows about his life might not be accurate, and maybe something is going on beyond the realms of natural understanding.

It's a hell of a trailer and a hell of a premise, and even though I don't like the main character, I still kind of wanted him to figure out what was going on and stop the evil. I loved everything right up until the ending, which seemed really rushed and really confusing to me, and I'm still not sure I "get it" 100%, so I'm going to have to let it sit for awhile, maybe buy the movie and watch it again, maybe read some other reviews to see what people thought, but it's not a "bad ending" by any means, at least I'm not ready to categorize it that way yet, so I'm just going to say the ending was kind of a let down, but the movie is definitely worth checking out. It's not perfect, but I really enjoyed it. Some spooky good fun.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 72: Masters of Horror: The Damned Thing



This is another movie that I totally looked at the cover and thought "ew, that's going to suck" and then I never ever watched it until I started going through all the Masters of Horror for this year's horror movie challenge, and then I watched it because I kind of had to, and I was very pleasantly surprised at how good it was. The premise is that a young boy watches his father kill his mother after muttering something about how "the damned thing found him," and the boy grows up to be a very paranoid, cautious kind of man. He's the sheriff in the small town where he grew up (um, why would you want to live in that town? And in the exact house where it happened? Not the sharpest tool in the shed, are we, sheriff?) The sheriff is having problems with his wife, and they're separated, but still friendly and he still sees his son all the time. his wife just can't take his paranoid, mopey mood anymore, and I kind of don't blame her. he's not an unlikable guy, though, so when events in the town start to mirror exactly what happened that led up to his father murdering his mother years ago (apparently, people got angry and violent in town a LOT back then) I was rooting for him to figure out what was going on and to stop it. The story is simple (and then it gets complicated and I'm still not exactly sure about a few details, but not enough to detract from my enjoyment of the movie) and the acting was good, and I cared about the characters, so I definitely recommend this movie. It's one I plan to add to my collection as well. Let's see if I can't figure out exactly what happened upon repeated viewings, shall we? Check this one out. You might like it as much as I did.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 71: Masters of Horror: Family



This is another one of those episodes that I thought was going to suck. I saw the cover art and thought "Oh God, I would rather watch paint dry," and thus I avoided it like the plague until this horror movie challenge, and I decided that since I've avoided much of the "Masters of Horror" movies for this long, I had better at least give this one a chance. Again, this movie wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Actually, this one is pretty good and it works much better than I thought it ever could. George Wendt, for those of us old enough to remember the show "Cheers," is in this movie, and it's creepy to see him playing such a freaky weirdo. Right from the beginning, his happy, smiling face is contrasted with the horrible, sick things he's doing, and that juxtaposition is enough to make these scenes chilling. I wanted to smack the camera guy who made a slow pan of every square inch of this guy's house in the opening sequence (overkill, dipshit, we get it, he's alone and has a quiet, clean house) but when the camera finally pans to the basement, the money shot is worth the wait as we see what our kindly neighbor is doing in that basement. Eep.

The new couple moving in next door have their own problems (though we know their problems are about to get a lot worse, and they don't seem to realize this). The husband a wife have recently suffered a tragic loss (there seems to be a theme running through this season of Masters of Horror; tragic family losses and the people who are left to pick up the pieces afterward) and they spend so much time wrapped up in those troubles that they don't realize there's something weird going on with their neighbor until the shit has hit the fan. I feel bad (well, I feel bad for the wife, but if I'm honest with you, I didn't like the husband and kind of wanted to push him off a cliff so I had trouble working up too much give-a-shit where his fate was concerned) but the movie delivers the chills (and they're some nasty chills, at that) so it's well worth a watch. Much better than you probably think it will be.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 70: Calvaire: The Ordeal



This is one of those movies that everyone recommended to me forever but that I put off forever because I kept forgetting about it or wanting to watch something else more, so I just now got around to watching it. I think at some point someone warned me how brutal this movie was going to be, but I must have forgotten or pushed it to the back of my mind, because I wasn't expecting it to disturb me as much as it did and it was a hard movie to finish.

When I say "brutal" here, I'm not necessarily talking about gore, because there didn't appear to be as much gore here as in other movies I've seen, but I'm talking about the torture the movie's protagonist endures. It's really tough to watch at times. the movie is about a musician traveling in the rain one night whose van breaks down in the middle of the road and he accepts help from an odd man he sees walking around in the rain looking for his "dog." As you can probably guess, this guy is about 12 cans short of a 6 pack, and as soon as our hero follows the weirdo out into the night, he's basically screwed. Things don't just go from bad to worse, though, and that's what makes the movie hard to watch for me. Things go from bad, to a little badder, to a little badder, to a little badder, as the strangeness increases in such small increments that the good guy doesn't realize he's in trouble until it's too late. I could see the spider building its web and I kept yelling at the good guy to escape (why don't they ever listen to me?) but he just sticks around, ignoring his rapidly growing sense of dread, until it's too late.

Like I said, there isn't much gore on display here, but the torture is disturbing enough that it had me flinching and turning away for long periods of time, which was bad enough for me. I won't spoil anything for you, but for the people who are expecting sawed off body parts, you'll be disappointed. this isn't that kind of movie. This is the kind of movie for those who might almost rather have their body parts sawed off than deal with some of what this guy has to deal with in this movie. It's not one I can recommend, as in "hey. get all your friends to sit down and watch this movie!" They might have you committed. But for fans of the kind of films that make our skin crawl and make us very uncomfortable, those of us who should know better but watch this kind of movie anyway, this is worth a look. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 69: Let Me In



And now for something completely different. This movie is a remake of the much-loved (in horror circles anyway) film "Let the Right One In," which is a total revolution of the classic vampire story. Based on the book of the same name, by author John Ajvide Lindqvist, the movie burst onto the scene a few years ago and knocked everyone on their asses for changing a lot of the ways people looked at vampires. It was about a middle school kid who falls for this new girl who lives in his apartment complex, Eli, who keeps telling him she isn't a girl, and he soon discovers this is true in many subversive and shocking ways. Those who hate the movie (they exist, I assure you) bash it for being too slow and having all buildup with no action, but people like me, we were riveted by the story of the corruption of innocence, the complexity of young love, the creepiness mystery of vampirism, and we pretty much loved every minute. the book is more detailed than the movie, but in some ways I think the lack of details in the movie helps the story along. too much exposition kind of bogs things down, and having everything remain a kind of mystery helps keep me intrigued.

So as with all remakes of much-loved foreign films, lots of people wanted to hate this remake. They saw it as dumbing the story down for US audiences, and I would have agreed with them, but Chloe Grace Moretz was cast in the part of the vampire (here renamed Abby) and I knew how great she was in the movie "Kick-Ass," so I was willing to give her a chance, and the movie along with her. This is one of those rare, rare cases where both the book and the adaptation and then the remake of the adaptation are pretty much equally good, at least for me. They each have flaws, but I think they each have things they do better on their own, so I wound up liking them all equally.

First, I don't think this movie is dumbed-down. I think some aspects of the plot were made more explicit to help further the story, but it's not talky and over-explainy and it doesn't sugarcoat anything or tack on a generic "they all lived happily ever after" ending. I think this movie stayed true to the mysteriousness of Abby's condition, kept Abby's past a secret (but not in an annoying "we're editing 100 pages of text into 20 minutes" kind of way that made it seem choppy) and they kept some subversive things I thought they might change just so people didn't run from the theater screaming. Moretz is superb here (I knew she could do it) and her friend-turned-boyfriend Owen is played by Kodi Smit-McPhee (what, was there a rule that all young cast members must have three names?) does a great job making us like him and root for him even though his life is rather dark and hopeless even before Abby enters the picture.

The scenes of bullying at Owen's school are more graphic in "Let Me In" than in the original movie, and that made it hard to watch. Additionally, the climax, which takes place at Owen's school at night, is weaker in this remake than it is in the original, but it still works, and the very end, the denoument, is well done in both movies. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this remake and plan to buy it because I think it does most everything right. I suggest that fans of the original movie or of the book at least give this movie a chance. They might be pleasantly surprised.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 68: Masters of Horror: The V Word




I see the title "The V word" and I immediately think "vagina" (don't pretend you didn't think that, too) but alas, there is no vagina to be found in this movie. there is, however, a VAMPIRE, and it's kind of a cool vampire at that. Two bored teenagers decide to break into a funeral home in this movie (hey, why not, it's that kind of party) and they find that one of the corpses in the funeral home is not exactly dead, but is rather UNdead, and then their worlds are turned upside down (because vampires don't exist, right? I mean, they're not supposed to) and they have to figure out what to do from there (let's start by going back in time and never having the stupid idea to break into the funeral home in the first place, you geniuses). This movie doesn't suck (HAHAHAHA I AM SO FUNNY) but it doesn't have much bite ether (I AM A COMEDIC GENIUS OMG LOL) and there's not much plot to sink your teeth into (LMAO THIS IS COMEDY GOLD RIGHT HERE) so I did enjoy this movie and will probably check it out next year as well, but it wasn't ground breaking or anything and I didn't love it as much as say, "We all Scream for Ice Cream" (OMG stop talking about that, Lillian) so it's recommended, but not like, glowingly so, or anything, you dig? It was good, but I wanted it to be better? I love you, but I'm not in love with you? It's not me, it's you? I hope we can still be friends (don't call me, I'll call you).

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 67: Masters of Horror: Pelts



This is another one of these movies that I didn't want to watch. Really. I mean, I love Dario Argento, and when he's good, he's GREAT, but when he's bad...well, let's say he helps give new meaning to the word "bad," which I guess is a compliment in and of itself, but I had reservations about this movie coming in, and I was mostly proven right. Now honestly, the movie wasn't as bad as I probably thought it was going to be> I don't know if Meat Loaf Aday was cast here as a joke, but I happen to think he's not a bad actor, and he definitely holds his own in this movie, and the movie is subversive, with a lot of mean, nasty people having mean, nasty things done to them, so it's not all out terrible or anything. It's just kind of...flat. It had the feel of one of the old E.C. horror comics Tales from the Crypt stories, where bad things happen to bad people and it's gory and nasty, and I appreciated the effort there, but whereas a movie like "We all Scream for Ice Cream" worked in spite of having everything against it, this movie kind of just hangs there in spite of having a bunch of plusses in its favor, and while it really wasn't BAD, I was annoyed that it wasn't BETTER.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 66: Masters of Horror: The Washingtonians



I really don't even want to get into this movie. so much so that I had to throw this review together at the last minute, because I had forgotten about this movie. I suppose that was my mind trying to protect itself from having to write this review. If I'm being honest, I'll admit that the movie wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, as I was certain that it would be the worst movie I'd ever seen, but it wasn't THAT bad, really. I just...ok, this movie is about the hidden secret historical fact that George Washington was a cannibal who loved to eat the flesh of virgins (no, I am NOT making that up, but are you starting to see the problem here?) and there's a secret society of historians who know this fact and want to keep it hidden from public knowledge, and they're known as the "Washingtonians," and they are all cannibals too...yeah, I know, you're thinking whoever made this was probably on drugs, and I'm thinking that being on drugs is probably the best state of mind in which to watch this movie, and I wasn't on drugs when I saw it, so I just kind of stared blankly at it for awhile, and then had the strong urge to go watch paint dry. The movie doesn't know if it wants to be a comedy or a horror movie or a gross-out splattery mix of the two, and so it kind of just hangs out in the middle wasting everyone's time. The premise is so stupid that for it to be at ALL redeemable is an achievement I guess, but it's just kind of dumb, and though it's gory and icky and trying to shock people, it just makes me want to watch something else. Something better.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 65: Masters of Horror: Valerie on the Stairs



This is one of those movies I'll probably have to give another chance later, because I was really impatient with it when I first watched it, so I probably didn't give it the fair chance I should have, and it kind of pissed me off, to be honest. Here's the thing. It's about a young man who is a struggling writer, and he moves into a halfway house for other struggling writers, with the stipulation that if he ever becomes a published author he has to move out and find somewhere else to live. so he moves in and starts working on his novel, but he starts having visions of a beautiful, naked woman on the stairs outside his room, and as he talks to her more, he finds out she is in danger. all the other residents of the house deny that they've ever seen anything ghostly and they call him crazy, but as time goes on it seems they all might know more about her than they're letting on. The premise is intriguing, and I can't really point to one thing that doesn't work in this movie. I can see a lot of Clive Barker in it, with its sly commentary about writers (we're all crazy, you know) and aside from Tony todd being kind of silly in this movie (I love him, I really do, but I kept wanting to crack up because his character is supposed to be scary but when he's just sitting around trying to look menacing he looks like one of the gargoyles from Disney's animated "Hunchback of Notre Dame" movie and it ruins the effect) but the movie just came off as...kind of silly when it was supposed to be scary. I'll likely give it another chance, but it really rubbed me the wrong way and made me roll my eyes into the next century, so I'd caution people not to expect too much lest they be disappointed.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 64: Masters of Horror:



This is a movie that SHOULDN'T work, for all practical rights and purposes. I'm going to describe the plot to you, and then you're going to think "Damn, that sounds stupid" and I agree with you, because that's what I thought, too. In the opening scenes of this movie, a father is pleading with a little boy not to eat some ice cream, and the little boy eats the ice cream anyway, and the father shrieks in terror and suddenly MELTS into a puddle of ice-cream and dead guy goo. I know, ridiculous, right? Except somehow...within the universe of this movie...it works. It turns out a sadistic ghostly ice cream man dressed as a clown is delivering ice cream to kids in a small town, and the ice cream is irresistible to them, but once they eat it, their parents will melt into ice creamy goo. I understand how stupid that sounds, but somehow it just works. The clown helps, I'm sure, because those things are creepy anyway, and particularly this one, long dead and deranged and vengeful. Plus the whole idea id disgusting and creepy. Kids killing their parents? Parents melting into goo? Icky nasty demon ice cream? It's everything that would have been the best movie ever made if I saw it when I were ten years old, but it was still pretty damn good even at thirty. I suggest that you give it a chance (but you might not want to eat ice cream for awhile after seeing it).

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 63:Master's of Horror: Sounds Like



This is a pretty sad movie. There's a lot going on here. A man has a strange auditory gift (he has a very heightened sense of hearing) but it's more of a curse, because he can hear often muffled or faint noises as though they are very loud, and it makes his life difficult, to say the least. He's also coping with grief from a recent loss, a wife who is pushing him to move on, a boss who is pushing him to increase productivity at his job under threat of getting fired, and all these stressors combine to slowly chip away at the poor guy's sanity. The guy's auditory enhancements start to grate on me after awhile of watching this movie, and suddenly the enhanced, LOUD noises he has to endure start to get to me, so I can't imagine how he lives with these noises without totally losing it...and then his predicament become oven sadder for me to watch. This movie is very effective and does what it does a little too well, but I admire it for that. It got under my skin and disturbed me like horror is supposed to do.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 62: Master's of Horror: The Screwfly Solution



This movie really pissed me off. At first, it's intriguing and disturbing and pretty damn cool. The movie details that bad things are starting to happen in the world. suddenly and inexplicably, men are starting to snap and violently beat then kill women. while this event is nothing new in the world, it's starting to happen at an alarming rate, with men unable to differentiate between sexual desire and the desire to kill. Bad things ensue and women start dying off in record numbers and needing to go into hiding to protect themselves from men, and as everything starts going down, it's pretty hard to watch. So like I said, everything is disturbing and creepy and effective...and then suddenly it's like the filmmakers said "Wait, we were supposed to make a BAD movie! Shit, quick, do something really really stupid!" and then they made the ending, and it was really stupid, and it made me want to punch the filmmakers in the face, and that annoys me because up to that point, they had a pretty cool movies on their hands, and I hate when that happens.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 61: The Black Cat



This is a movie that combines Poe's titular story "The Black Cat," about a man being tormented by a feline that seems to refuse to die (but he's a jerk, so we don't necessarily root for him in his battle with the cat) and it combines that story with elements from Poe's own life (his difficulty in writing during his later years, his drinking problem, and the illness of his wife). The movie combines these elements and weaves them together into something pretty cool (but then I'm a huge Poe geek, so I've read everything he's written, even his essays, and will watch/read anything even tangentially related to him, so I'm pretty much the ideal target audience for this kind of thing). It's a little disorienting, but Jeffrey Combs does a great job here as Poe, and his performance ties everything together into one creepy and weird little movie, so I liked it a lot.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 60: Masters of Horror: Dream Cruise



This is one of those movies that I was skeptical about, but also intrigued, because as a rule, Asian horror movies tend to creep me out a lot. US ghosts jump out from behind doors and yell "Boo!" but Asian ghosts, they crawl out from under your covers when you're in bed, they turn your TV on and crawl out of wells and then step out of the TV screen and come after you, they step out of security camera footage and come after you...basically, they kick ass and take names and then drag you to hell. That's really creepy. This movie manages to combine two of my biggest fears, ghosts and drowning, and combine them into one hugely creepy mix to haunt my dreams for awhile after watching it. I dug it. It's also a love story, though the two people who fall in love are causing all kinds of trouble, because she is married and he is her husband's lawyer, so bad things are going to happen when all three of these people decide to go on a cruise together. Ghostly things and drama and near-drowning ensues and gives Lillian nightmares. All in a day's work.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 59: Masters of Horror: Pro Life



This would be my OTHER favorite episode of "Masters of Horror." The idea behind that show was to gather directors who were responsible for great horror movies of the past, and give them free reign to create an hour-long horror movie on any subject they desire. Truth be told, I have seen very few of these movies in the past (I'm trying to rectify that now by watching the entire series this year if I can) but this is one of the movies that I bought without seeing it first, both because I love the director, John Carpenter, and because the subject matter was abortion, which intrigued me because of its potential to be horrific. This movie certainly IS horrific, and I forget that every time I watch this movie, and then I watch it again and get all upset all over again, but though this movie is sick and nasty and gory and disturbing and angry-making, I still appreciate how it manages to get under my skin every time.

2011 October Horror Movie Challenge Movie 58: Right to Die



This is probably my favorite of the limited Master's of Horror episodes I've seen, and truthfully, knowing it was about the "right to die" movement, I bought it without checking it out first when it hit DVD, because I was pretty sure I'd like it. I'm glad Rob Schmidt didn't disappoint me here. The movie is gory, nasty, and subversive, and I love it for that. It's about a man who gets into a car accident that leaves him without a scratch but puts his wife into a coma with terrible burns covering almost all of her body. He insists that she wouldn't want to live as a vegetable, her mother insists that he just wants to kill her, and the fight begins. the man isn't telling us everything, and we find out lots of things along the way, like how his wife is PISSED at him and she is lying in her coma plotting how she will soon take her revenge against him from beyond the grave. I've seen this movie several times, and I like it more every time. Highly recommended.