Thursday, November 1, 2012

Silent Hill

This is another movie that I loved that everyone else seemed to hate.  Part of that was because the movie deviated so far from the storyline of the game upon which is was based, but I think that's kind of silly.  I don't even care if movies based on books deviate a lot, as long as the resulting movie is a good one they can change whatever they want.  It's when they change a bunch of stuff and then the movie sucks that I get pissed.  I don't think this movie sucks.  It's a little weird and out there, and there's that long, 20 minute sequence when a character walks into a room filled with white light and all forward motion and action stops so a narrator can go back and explain what happened in the past that led to the current horrific situation (come on screenwriters, you couldn't come up with a better way of doing this than that?) but otherwise, this movie was enjoyable and has been every time I've watched it.

The story is about a little girl who is adopted by a man and his wife who love the girl like their own child even though they adopted her later in her life, when she was eight, and even though the little girl has a lot of problems.  she has terrible nightmares and sleepwalks in the night, putting herself in danger, and screaming of a place called "Silent Hill."  The mother decides to travel to this place(because if my kid had screaming nightmares of a place, the first thing I'd want to do is visit there) so she sets off with her daughter to find this town that isn't on any map for some reason.  She gets into a minor accident and her daughter runs off into the town, and once she gets there something isn't right.  Ashes swirl in the air and soot covers the town and something dark and evil is there, something that wants to kill everything it touches.

There are a lot of creepy evil things in this movie.  People have complained about the BAD CGI effects, but they don't bother me.  I think everything looks good enough that it doesn't take me out of the story like bad effects can sometimes do.  I like the acting, too.  Rhada Mitchell is great, and Jodelle Ferland is a great little actress with such expressive eyes and face that it's hard not to be mesmerized whenever she's onscreen.  Sean Bean is always good, and everyone else does great in their roles as well.  I like the story of how evil can corrupt even the most innocent souls, how the damned in hell might not accept their fate and might lie to themselves, how the desire for vengeance can poison a heart, how children often see their mothers as the ultimate expression of good and protection and love, and mostly how a mother can love a child even if the child isn't biologically hers.  I love it when Rose said "from the moment I saw her, I knew I was her mother." I just love most everything about this movie, and what I love makes up for whatever I might not like to make this movie worth watching again and again.

I Know Who Killed Me

I saw this movie a few years ago, and even though a lot of people seemed to hate it, I really liked it.  I worried that it wouldn't hold up to repeated viewings, but I enjoyed it this time around as much as I did the first time I saw it.  I also noticed more this time around, which is always fun for me.  I think a lot of blowback against this movie is because Lindsay Lohan is in it, and people seem to love to hate on her and dump on her these days.  Here's my take on that.  first of all, I love Lindsay Lohan.  I've loved her since she was a little kid appearing in movies, and I still love her now.  Yeah, she's done a lot of stupid shit, but so did I in my 20s, and I've seen a lot of drug abuse and alcoholism and such firsthand and seen them tear people apart, so I'll always be sitting on the sidelines, quietly rooting for Lindsay to make it.  I may not know her personally, but I think she's a talented actress, and I've known so many people who have gone through a lot of the things she''s gone through, and it's possible to get your act together and have a life and a career and move on.  I'll always be hoping she does that.  So no, I'm not going to hate on this movie because she was in it, even if she's done some bad things in her life and in her career.  I think she does a good job here with her character (or rather characterS) and it enhances the viewing experience for me seeing her in it, because the movie is so much of art imitating life, as the old Lindsay Lohan (the good girl everyone loved) is contrasted with the new Lindsay Lohan, the bad girl who does everything wrong and lets drugs and alcohol and sex ruin her life.  Rings true, now doesn't it?

The movie is about Aubrey, a perfect young college student who has the world at her feet and all the opportunities in the world.  One night Aubrey disappears, as many young girls in the area have disappeared, later to be found tortured and dismembered and dead.  Aubrey's parents are devastated, until one night Aubrey is found, battered and bloody and missing some body parts, but alive.  except she doesn't remember her parents or anything from her life, and she insists she is a stripper named Dakota who has no idea who Aubrey is.  The movie follows the FBI and police and Aubrey/Dakota as they try to piece together what the hell is going on.  The police are sure she's lying, and Dakota doesn't know what to think since she remembers her life and she sure as hell doesn't remember having all the money and opportunities Aubrey had.  Meanwhile, we see flashes of Aubrey being tortured and dismembered, and we wonder what the hell is going on too.

The twist ending is kind of farfetched, sure, but it's something I've seen done to an extent in other movies, something I've also heard happened in a few cases in real life, so it doesn't ring as false as it might otherwise for me, and Lohan's performance manages to keep me engrossed in the movie and wanting to find out what happens next.  I enjoy this movie.  yeah, some of it is silly.  I mean, Lohan plays a stripper who doesn't take her top off (or anything else...those poor guys at the bar aren't even getting their cover charge worth!) and she even leaves her bra on for the sex scene!  Come on, it looks silly here, folks.  but whatever.  The caveats don't keep me from enjoying the movie.  It's worth watching, and worth watching again, even.

MST3K: Warrior of the Lost World

This movie, bad as it was, reminded me a lot of "Mad Max."  Of course, I saw "Mad Max" when I was a kid, so it's possible that it wasn't any better than "Warrior of the Lost world" and I'm only remembering it as better because I saw it when I was 10 and everything was cooler when I was 10.  I even liked "Jason Takes Manhattan" back then, whereas now I realize it's a big pile of crap.  So this movie, about a futuristic world where normal folks work like drones and obey every order sent down from a super controlling government, is dismantled by the "warrior of the lost world" who is a guy on a motor cycle who hates authority, so he rides around defying the government with no purpose until he meets these people who want to dismantle the government and start a "New Way," so they enlist him as their hero because their prophecy says he's the savior...yeah, it's stupid, but the commentary provided by the robots and the human Joel is actually pretty funny.  I had fun with it, at least.  I also liked watching poor Donald Pleasance cashing a paycheck as the leader of the evil government, and he was way too classy and put way too much effort into his role in this cruddy movie.


Here's the thing about this movie.  It's always advertised as a comedy, you know, a laugh riot, but I didn't laugh much with it.  Not that it didn't have its funny moments, but mostly for me this movie was like the Agatha Christie mysteries I loved so much as a kid, with demented people bumping off other demented people in a big mess of psychotic motivations and drama.  I loved it.  Also, this had the added fun of being a mystery where the remaining characters are all trying to solve the murders together, instead of one person (like Miss Marple) having to do all the work because even the cops are too damn stupid to figure out what's going on.  there's also a real sense of menace here, at least for me, because these people are actually being bumped off.  there's actual lives on the line, so for me this movie is a lot like "House on Haunted Hill," which I enjoyed a lot as a kid (there are shades of "Ten Little Indians" here as well).

this movie is about a group of eccentric people arriving at a dinner party at a creepy mansion on a dark and stormy night.  they learn that they've all been summoned by a mysterious invitation that assigns them a phony name to give the other guests, and they are promised a financial reward for going through with the festivities.  Later they learn that they are all being blackmailed by someone because they each are hiding some secret, and the invitation they received to the strange dinner party hints that the blackmailing will stop if they attend the party.  Soon murder ensues, and they can't leave the house because the doors are all locked, and they are forced to figure out who among them is murderous enough to kill to protect their secret.

I really enjoyed this movie.  It's everything I loved about the old mystery/horror/noir flicks I watched with my mom when I was a kid (the only kinds of horror she would let me watch were movies like "House on Hsaunted Hill") so the nostalgic look back was a lot of fun for me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

MST3K: Final Justice

This is another one of those movies that's just plain horrendous, and I wonder sometimes how movies this terrible get made now that we don't even have the Mystery Science theater 3000 gang to release pre-mocked versions for us.  We just have to sit and mock the movies ourselves now, and that's sad.  But this was funny to watch for the most part, except that the humor relied a little too heavily on fat jokes.  Ok, the main actor is fat, we get it, can we move on please?  They literally bring it up every five minutes (I started timing it after awhile) and it gets old when your only comedic commentary can be reduced to "hurr hurr, he's fat!"  Though I did enjoy the snarking of the ending credits theme song where they warned people to "hide your sandwich, he's coming!"


Totally out of the blue today, it occurred to me that while I've surpassed 100 horror movies this month, I haven't yet watched a "rape revenge" flick.  Typically that's one of my favorite sub-subgenres, so it's usually one of the first ones I go to every year, and I bust out "The Hills Have Eyes" remake, or "I Spit on Your Grave" (original or remake) or "Thriller: A Cruel Picture."  I own so many of these flicks that there aren't many I haven't seen.   That probably sounds messed up to some of you.  For those who don't know, "rape revenge" flicks feature a character who is raped, the character survives, then the character gets revenge on the rapists (or someone gets revenge on behalf of the victim, like the parents in "Last House on the Left" who systematically murder the people who are responsible for raping and killing their daughter).  Doesn't sound like fun viewing, and it's not most of the time, because it's harsh and violent and brutal, seeing someone violated like that, and it's hard to watch even the revenge, because it's usually violent and nasty and even revenge can't make up for what happened.

Mostly that's what I need to see in these movies, I think, the reminder that even if we get revenge on those who hurt us, it still doesn't erase the pain we went through, and vengeance is never sated.  It doesn't make things better.  Not all "rape revenge" flicks get to this deep point, of course, but the good ones, the ones that are worth watching more than once, show me the dark side of humanity and how it can degrade someone, and how even when revenge sounds like a great idea, it doesn't erase the pain the rape has caused to the main character.  The good movies show how sometimes we have to fight back, but if we take revenge too far, we run the risk of becoming what we were fighting against in the first place.

Forgive my wordiness.  I'm so used to having to defend why I want to watch these movies in the first place that I have these ideas at the forefront of my mind a lot of the time, so I have a response ready when someone vehemently asks "How can you WATCH that stuff?" or something to that effect.  I wince, and then I take a deep breath, turn around, and try to explain.  Sometimes it comes out better than others, but most of the time I don't think other people really understand, and that's ok.  I don't need everyone to agree with me that these movies are good, as long as they don't condemn me for finding value in such films.  And "Descent" definitely does have value.  I've heard of it before, of course, being something of a connoisseur of such films, but I'd forgotten all about it until recently when I added it to my stash of movies to watch this October, then got distracted by shiny objects and forgot about it again until today, when I read over my list and realized it was missing something.  It had MUCH less rape than usual, and that just won't do.

This movie has a lot of rape in it.  It's about a shy, dedicated young college student played by Rosario Dawson who doesn't get out much, and on one of the rare nights when she does go out, she is brutally raped.  She sinks into a depression after this attack, turning to drugs and promiscuity to dull her pain, until one night, by chance, she gets an opportunity to exact revenge.  The movie is difficult to watch.  I love Rosario Dawson, and I identified with her character, since I was once a shy, dedicated young college student.  It's hard watching her be violated like this, and it's hard watching the pain in her eyes afterward and seeing her try to find ways to escape.  Dawson gives a hell of a performance here.  everyone in this film gives a hell of a performance, actually, I don't think there's one bad actor in the bunch here.

The performances sucked me into the story, and this is the first film in a long time that actually felt shorter than its running time of an hour and 41 minutes.  When you watch 100+ movies in a month, they do start to drag a bit after awhile, but this one didn't.  Someone told me how this movie ends, or rather, part of what happens in the end, but even knowing that, I wasn't prepared for the "revenge" part of the movie.  I never am.  It's pretty harsh, let me tell you.  There is a very good reason why this movie has an NC-17 rating.  Some movies make me look away or wince, but this one had me staring at the screen with my jaw hanging open, and that's difficult to achieve (I've seen a lot, ya know).  I can't really recommend this movie, because it's not horror enough for the people who want to see someone's face get eaten, and it's too rape-y for the average person, but for someone who takes an interest in dark, violent films like this, I will say that the movie has a lot of value.  I can't say I "enjoyed" is, but I AM glad I finally checked it out.

Kevin smith Burn in Hell

Now listen, it's not my fault that Netflix pitched this movie to me as a "horror documentary" so I watched it thinking that's what it would be.  I'm counting it for my horror movie month, and that's that.  Though really, it's not horror related.  Sure, Kevin Smith talks here about how he conceived the movie "Red State" and why he considers it a horror movie, and how he got the idea, and how the Westboro Baptist Church has reacted to the movie (which features a church that reminds viewers a lot of them with their "AIDS Cures Fags" rhetoric).  I would agree with him that this kind of rhetoric is more horrific than a lot of what I see in horror movies (though to be honest, the WBC kind of seem like caricatures of themselves at this point, so their signs don't affect me the way they used to).  Smith also talks here about filmmaking, why it's important to have passion for what you do in life, and how his family, friends, and fans have inspired him throughout the year.  It's a good watch for fans of Smith's work.

MST3K: Soultaker

Sometimes the movies this show lampoons are so bad that I really can't believe that they were ever intended to be serious films in the first place, and this is one of those times.  Joe Estevez plays a black trenchcoat wearing invisible guy who walks the corridors of hospitals and other places where people die, ready to take their souls because you see, if you kill people or cause their deaths while human on earth, when you die, you become a "soultaker" and have to suck one soul for every person whose death you caused, so he keeps this little plastic looking black ring in his pocket, and when he takes the souls, he places it over the dying person's chest and it sucks out the soul and turns the ring neon green...are you still reading this?  Can you believe someone pitched this movie, and not only did they not get booted out on their ass immediately, but the movie actually got MADE?  I'm in the wrong line of work if this shit can pay the bills.  Anyway, the movie is terrible, but the commentary is funny, so I had fun with it.

Paranormal Activity 2

This is the installment of the movie that everyone seems to hate the most.  A lot of people called it stupid after it came out, and I bought it when it was released on DVD but waited like 6 months to watch it.  Partly I was scared it would terrify me as much as the original had, and partly because I was scared it would bore me to tears and make me regret buying it.  I watched it for the first time last Halloween before seeing part 3, and I remember liking it, but thinking it was a lot of filler in between parts 1 and 3 (which is how a lot of second movies are, honestly) and not thinking it was really scary.  I popped it in tonight wondering how I would see it now knowing a lot more of the story than I did when I saw it last year.

In this movie, the events take place before the events of the movie (and a little bit during, and a little bit directly after).  Kristi, Katie's little sister, is married to a man with a teenage daughter from a previous marriage, and she and he have just welcomed a new baby boy, so of course they're taking lots of video to document his first weeks with them.  Then something bad happens, their house is burgled one night when they are gone, and the father installs six security cameras around the house to catch any more nighttime predators in the act (I presume he installs alarms and stuff too, because just installing cameras doesn't make much sense, but whatever).  The cameras start to pick up more than just household happenings, though.  Something bad seems to be in the house, and as the paranormal events get worse and worse, the family has to make a terrifying decision about what to do to fight back.

More than this movie just being filler in between the first and third movies, I noticed tonight that a whole lot of nothing happens in this movie, and that might be part of why people don't like it very much.  This movie is 12 minutes longer than the original film, and there are definitely lots of scenes that could have been cut.  There are so many shots showing that nothing is happening outside, yep, the yard is still quiet, and I don't get why those shots are there.  We don't want to see NOTHING happen, you dildobrains, we want to see SOMETHING happen, something scary.  Maybe this was supposed to build tension or something, but it mostly got real boring, real quick.

Also the characters in this movie are kind of unlikable.  Ok, mostly just the dad.  I understand that he has to make a tough choice near the end, but what he decides to do is just plain terrible, and seriously, how did he think nothing bad was going to happen to HIM as a result of his decision?  You can't just do evil shit like that and expect no bad repercussions to come back to bite you in the ass.  Even if you don't believe in karma, you need to have more common sense than that, because "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" comes from science, not the supernatural, you tool.  Also, he annoyed me because he kept whining that he didn't believe in anything supernatural, even after confronted with truckloads of evidence, until I just wanted to stab him.  Plus they have a nanny who advises them about the occult, but she could see enough into the supernatural to see what they had to do, yet not enough to warn them about what might happen as a result?  You suck at this, lady.  Jeeze.

The movie had some good chill scenes.  There were actually some scenes that startled me, even though I knew they were coming because I remembered them from seeing them last time.  Plus there were a few scenes, like the Ouija board scene, that I totally didn't remember from last year.  This movie isn't all bad, but it does pale in comparison to parts 1 and 3.  I still liked it enough to appreciate watching it tonight, though.  Now let's see if I ever sleep again after watching 4 of these movies in one night.  Nighty-nightmares!

Paranormal Activity

I like this poster because I want to remind people that when this movie came out, it was a big deal.  People may hate on this series now, but when it hit the horror movie festivals, people were screaming and running in the aisles.  Big, strong, macho guys I worked with were so scared after they saw this movie that they slept with the lights on for a week.  It was THAT freaky to people.  I actually haven't watched this movie since I bought the DVD and watched it the first time, because it scared me so badly that I was messed up for a week afterward, too, and I really didn't want to relive that experience.  I popped it in with trepidation today.  Would it hold up or would it really suck, thus letting me down for being a "one-trick pony"?

The movie is about a woman and her boyfriend who've recently moved in together and they've noticed some strange and possibly supernatural phenomena in their house.  The boyfriend wants to investigate, so he buys a camera to set up in their bedroom to record all night and see if he can catch anything happening on camera so he can study it and maybe figure out what it is and how to stop it.  The woman has had some phenomena like this happen to her before, in fact we learn it has happened a few times throughout her life, and a supernatural expert they invite into their home posits the idea that this isn't a ghost they are dealing with, it is a demon, a non-human entity bent on destruction, and it probably wants to take the woman's soul.  The boyfriend is skeptical of this at first, but as the scary events escalate, the pair become more and more convinced that something terrible is stalking them and it will harm them if they don't put a stop to it.

This movie definitely has a "slow build."  By that I mean it was almost boring at times, because I was waiting for something to happen.  I think it's because I watched part 3 first, and while that's technically chronological, I don't think it's such a good idea.  In part 3, you learn a lot of stuff, so it feels like going backward in part 1, even if the events happened years later.  There's a lot of character development going on in part 1, quiet moments where we get to know Micah and Katie, the couple with the strange events happening to them, and I appreciated it the first time I watched the movie, but this time I kept wanting the movie to get on with it.  I think if I do a future marathon viewing of these movies, I'll just watch them in the order in which they were released.

Once things get going, they really get going, and I felt really bad for these two.  the movie also does a good job of answering the question of why they don't just leave the house: it wouldn't help.  The demon wants Katie, and it will follow her if they try to escape.  I also just watched the third movie before this one, and in that one, they DO try to leave the house, and it doesn't help.  The scares in this movie feel a little bland after seeing the scares in part 2, which is further proof that I need to watch the movies in a different order next time.  the third one had bigger spectacle because it kind of needed to after building audience expectations with two movies before it.  This one is quieter.  The movie still felt creepy though, and I can see why it affected me so badly after I first saw it.  The idea of a demon attaching to a person and following her throughout life, and getting more violent after she tries to communicate with it (which a lot of people will tell you to do to get rid of a demon, tell it to leave, but here the movie says that will just piss it off more).  It's creepy and it hold up better than I thought it would, so I was happy.

Paranormal Activity 3

This movie really really terrified me when I saw it last year.  I was actually cringing and tears sprang to my eyes at one part because I was so freaked out.  Going home wasn't much fun after the movie was over, because I was alone and scared and of course everything in my apartment conspired against me to make weird noises and terrify me into a coma.  I wasn't relishing the experience of watching this movie again this year, but after seeing part 4 and having a lackluster reaction to it, I wanted to remind myself why I liked the third installment so much, plus chronologically the films should be ordered 3, 1, 2, and 4, so I wanted to watch the other films in this series in that order.  It was a good experience.  This movie didn't terrify me as much as it did the first time I saw it (which was actually a good thing) but it definitely gave me chills.

This movie is a prequel.  After an opening sequence kind of setting up the idea, the movie goes back to when Katie and Kristi, the women from the first and second movies, were little girls.  the first and second movies give us an idea that something supernatural and terrifying happened to the girls when they were little and changed their lives forever, and we get the idea that whatever happened set a demon upon them which followed them throughout their lives thereafter, and this is the story of what happened back then.  It's actually kind of tragic, because when the home movies begin, we meet the man who is their mom's new boyfriend (the first man she's dated after their father died) and we get to like him, and we know that things aren't going to be pleasant for him in this movie.  After accidentally videotaping something in the house that appears to be supernatural phenomena, the boyfriend decides to set up cameras around the house to record and see if he can catch anything else.  He's a videographer, so it's fun for him at first, until things get increasingly scary and it becomes clear that whatever is in the house is dangerous and might mean the family actual harm.

This movie is cool for me partly because I was the same age as the little girl Kristi in 1988, so I remember the toys and things she has around her room, and her actions and reactions ring true to me because I probably would have said and done the same things she did in a lot of this movie.  Seeing little kids around evil things always freaks me out, and hearing Kristi's conversations with Toby, her "imaginary friend" in this movie, give me the chills.  I also remember playing "Bloody Mary" like Katie does in this movie, so that gives me a nostalgic twinge.  I probably would have thought it was cool to have a ghost in the apartment until it got too scary and freaked me out.  everything rings pretty true and makes me like this movie more.  There are also little touches throughout the movie that really get under my skin and freak me out, like the scene with the sheet.  That haunted me for weeks after I saw the movie and still gets to me now.  I noticed more about it this year than I did when I saw it last year (probably was too busy crying and hyperventilating back then to pay much attention).

There are some caveats, of course.  The movie stretches the limits of plausibility a bit by having people carry the camera around when they totally would have dropped it and ran.  throughout the movie, the cameras stay where they're set up around the house, so that doesn't bother me, but in the end they break this by having people carry the camera around long after any other person would have dropped it and bolted, so it's a little ridiculous.  I can think of some ways they could have gotten around it, so it's kind of lazy on the part of the filmmakers to leave it in that way.  Other than those few minor quibbles though, I really enjoyed this movie, even the second time around.  It holds up well, and I was afraid it wouldn't, so I was grateful.

Paranormal Activity 4

I was eager to watch this movie after loving the third installment so much (I think the third is actually my favorite), and by the time I walked home, there were gale-force winds to contend with.  I'm lucky I didn't get blown away like the cow in the movie "Twister."  I also don't know about anybody else who saw this in theaters, so maybe it was just my theater or something, but the audio in the version of the movie that I saw was really wonky, and it was hard as hell to understand what people were saying (it almost sounded like people were talking underwater) so after awhile, I mostly sat back and watched the images onscreen to decipher what was happening and ignored the dialogue.  That might have had an affect on my enjoyment of the movie, I don't know, but while I did enjoy it, this was my least favorite of the four movies.

In this installment of the movie, it is 2011, five years after the events of the first and second movies (chronologically, the movies go 3, 1, 2, 4).  A family starts to notice weird things happening after a woman and her young son move in across the street.  The young son of the family soon becomes friends with the new little boy, and things get even weirder.  The teenage daughter of the family has her boyfriend set up cameras around her house in order to catch any strange phenomena.  The girl soon begins to suspect that the  new woman and her son are not what they seem to be.

For those who've seen these movies, the new little boy is the older version of the toddler boy from part 2 of the series.  Telling you who the woman claiming to be his mom is would spoil things for people, but you'll recognize her when you see her if you've seen the other movies (or when you see the actress's name in the credits).  I honestly think that this movie will mostly appeal to fans of the other three, since it tries to be a stand-alone film but it kind of fails.  Also, it's stretching the premise a bit too far.  I mean, what's the purpose of setting up the cameras around the house if the bulk of the action occurs when the teenage girl is carrying a camera around with her anyway?  And who in hell would keep carrying a camera while some of this scary shit is going on?  In part 1 and 2 they made a big deal about using the cameras because of the night vision function and because they can't see in the dark, which made sense, but in this movie, she doesn't really need the night vision function, she just carries the camera around because the script told her to, and it's much less believable.  Also, the mom and dad of this family are the worst fucking parents in the history of film.  I get that they don't want to believe anything supernatural or nefarious is going on, but...


After my daughter nearly DIED when the garage doors locked her in and the car turned on by itself and filled the garage with carbon monoxide fumes, and she had to drive the fucking car THROUGH the garage door to escape, I wouldn't just act like everything was fine and nothing weird happened and stay in the house and go about my life.  I'd fucking LEAVE.


In the previous movies, they make a big deal about telling you that the demon is haunting the family, not the house, so moving won't solve anything, but in this movie, they could have at least TRIED to leave the damn house, and the fact that they didn't do so wasn't plausible at all.  It was just stupid.  Maybe leaving wouldn't have helped them either, because by that time the demon had a hold on their family, but the fact that they didn't even consider it made my suspension of disbelief roll its eyes and stomp out of the theater, slamming the door behind it.  There are some good jump scares and some of the imagery is creepy, but this one is definitely showing that the series is on its last legs.  If they plan on making a fifth movie, they'd better come up with something good to do to renew audience interest, because otherwise this series will be dead in the water.

Bay of Blood

I've heard a lot about this movie over the years, but I've never gotten around to seeing it until today (thank you Netflix).  For instance, someone once told me that the original "Friday the 13th" was a "loose remake" of this (I took that to mean "a ripoff" of this) and watching it today, I can see where that comes from.  A lot of the death scenes are very similar, suspiciously so, and one death scene in particular was lifted right from this movie and transplanted into the sequel, "Friday the 13th part 2."  It was the only really good scene in that movie, too.  Poo on them.  While the plot is different, the filmmakers clearly drew inspiration from the awesome death scenes in this movie.  Mario Bava is great at filming spectacular death scenes.  I used to count myself a huge fan of his until I saw "Blood and Black Lace" and just lost my taste for his movies, but this one reminded me why I used to enjoy them so much.  Perhaps I need to give him another chance.

So this movie is about a cantankerous old woman who happens to be rich (and also confined to a wheelchair, which renders her kind of helpless) and she's murdered at the beginning of the movie.  The murder is made to look like a suicide, so her heirs stand to inherit her huge estate, so they all get money hungry and start trying to ensure that none of her other heirs get their grubby paws on the money or the huge piece of property by the bay.  Murderous hijinks abound.

It's hard to feel sorry for any of these characters, because they're all a bunch of greedy jerks who are willing to stop at nothing (including multiple homicide) to get what they want.  One in particular really gets to me, because this person is seriously willing to off everyone in the movie, not even stopping to consider that if everyone else is dead, the police MIGHT just possibly consider that person the only suspect?  Also by the end of the movie there are so many damn bodies in the bay that the water probably contains about 50% blood, so the title is very fitting.  The acting is mostly good here.  Some of the characters are annoying, but the two most annoying ones to me were also the only two people in the movie who weren't murderous and evil, so I softened to them by the end of the movie.  There's also a killer ending (hahaha, I said killer) that is very fitting for the film, especially considering what went before.  The lines are kind of stiff and stilted but that's to be expected with Italian horror movies like this.  The English language track is always a little wonky. Other than that, there's really not much to complain about here.  I had a blast with this one.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue

I'm glad I caught this movie tonight.  I wanted to squeeze in at least one documentary this year, and this is one of the best I've seen in a long time, so I'm glad Netflix suggested it to me.  Here a bunch of recognizable horror directors and filmmakers wax philosophical about the impact of horror movies and the evolution of horror cinema throughout the years, from the silent horror films of the 20s to the present-day new millennial horrors.  I know a lot about horror movies since I'm slightly obsessed with them (in case you couldn't tell from reading this blog) but even I learned some new stuff from this documentary, like how the movie "Gremlins" was originally a spec script shipped around by Chris Columbus hoping to make a name for himself, and the original movie was far more gruesome, but once the filmmakers realized how much money the movie would cost (and therefore how much they'd have to make back in sales) they decided to cut the gore down and make the movie less bleak in order for it to appeal to a wider audience.  "Gremlins" is a movie I really enjoy, so whatever they changed, it seems to have worked out for the best.  This movie is full of fun musings and cool little factoids, so it's worth checking out for film fans in general and horror film fans in particular.


So as I was watching this movie, I mused to myself that it should have been named "Road Train" instead of "Road Kill," since "Road Train" is the term the main characters use for the huge semi trucks that take up most of the road and pull two or three trailers behind them.  After searching for posters for the movie, lo and behold, it appears that the movie's original title was indeed "Road Train" but they seem to have changed it for the Fangoria Fright fest release, probably because they think USians are stupid and won't understand a movie entitled "Road Train" if they've never heard the term before.  They're probably right, but I like this title and this picture better, so that's what I went with to introduce this movie to you.

The movie is about four twentysomethings on  road trip through the Australian outback together, camping out and enjoying each other's company, except it seems that they don't exactly all get along, and there's a lot of tension and some hidden secrets that I'm sure will be addressed as the movie progresses.  After a harrowing encounter with the titular road train, they get into an accident and total their vehicle and one of them is seriously injured, and the huge truck stops ahead of them on the road and the driver has mysteriously disappeared, so they decide to try and drive the massive vehicle to safety, which of course is a bad idea, but they don't have much of a choice at this point, so I felt for them.  What follows is a flood of unpleasantness and stupidity and gore that is hit-and-miss but ultimately satisfying.

I ended up liking this movie in the end, though for awhile there it does go off the rails a bit with its weird ass plot.  I should be grateful that the filmmakers tried something original here, and it mostly works.  The actors are good, even though the characters they portray are mostly unlikable dicks who are ready to stab each other in the back (sometimes literally) at a moment's notice.  The gore is pretty plentiful and the truck is hulking and menacing, so the movie mostly works for me, and I'm glad I checked it out.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Episode 50

Oh for the love of crap, will people stop making movies like this unless they have an original idea?  Maybe I'm cranky because I've seen so many of these movies this month, but this one takes the cake.  While "The Shrine" may have copied from like, 100 other movies, at least that one had solid acting and gore to ramp up the interest.  This movie doesn't even have that.  It doesn't even have the guts to stick with the stupid "found footage" idea, instead switching back and forth from traditional movie to found footage until it winds up looking like a big mess.  Not only that, a lot of the actors here seem like they're from some second rate soap opera or something.  I hate saying stuff like this about indie movies, especially indie horror movies, since I love them so much, but this one just plain sucks.

The movie is about a television series where paranormal investigators "debunk" claims of actual hauntings (I put "debunk" in quotes because they don't actually DEBUNK anything, they just say "well it could be explained by this" and then walk away, smirking arrogantly, as though they just solved everything and are way smarter than everyone else who continues to believe in ghosts).  This is the infamous 50th episode of their show, which was never aired on TV because it was too stupid boring shocking.  Setting up in an asylum that has long been rumored to be haunted, they find they have to share space with a group who truly believe they are called by God to cast out demons and set trapped spirits free.  There's friction between the two groups, which would be intriguing if anyone here could act.  As it stands, it just looks like a fight broke out at a bad actor's convention.  Anyway, as the night goes on, one group tries to summon ghosts while one tries to prove there ARE no ghosts, and there's a plot twist about some greater demonic plan bringing them both here tonight, and the movie drags on while I wish I could catch up on some sleep.

There are some cool visuals here which prove that the filmmakers do have some talent hiding under all these cliches, and I wish the movie were better, but it's not.  The movie poster is blatantly riffing on [REC], the beginning of the movie is stolen from "Grave Encounters," the middle is stolen from "Session 9," and the end is stolen from "The Last Exorcism," but this movie doesn't have one fifth of the impact of any of those films.  Netflix recommended this one to me too, and Netflix can go suck my left nut, because this movie was terrible, and I feel like I wasted my time with it when I could have been watching something better.

The Shrine

This is a movie that Netflix keeps bugging me about, trying to get me to watch it, saying I'll like it, so I finally gave it a shot today.  There's nothing horrifically wrong with it, really, it's just highly derivative and there's not really one idea in it that I haven't seen somewhere else before.  It's about a small village in Poland where people keep disappearing, never to be seen or heard from again.  A reporter wants to check it out but her boss says no, so she sets off on her own with an assistant and her boyfriend who is also a photographer.  Once they get to the village, the villagers are unfriendly and try to get them to leave, but of course they don't listen, they have to head deep into the woods toward this mysterious cloud of mist and investigate what it's hiding.  What they witness inside triggers the villagers to spring into action, and a bizarre ritualistic killing soon leaves them running for their lives.

This movie has echoes of "The Ruins" in it (which is funny, because actor Doug Ashmore is in that movie, and his twin brother Aaron Ashmore is in this movie) and "Unrest" and "The Sacrifice" and about a hundred other movies.  The acting is great in this movie, and everyone gives a good performance, even people in smaller roles, it's just that it's hard to get excited about a movie that I feel like I've seen a hundred times already.  This one is more recommended for people who haven't seen many horror movies (and probably for people who aren't watching 100 horror movies this month alone) because they'll probably get more enjoyment out of it than I did.

Baby Shower

This movie is sick and fucked up.  I mean seriously.  I knew it was going to be a slasher, and with a pregnant woman in the cast, I figured it would probably be pretty grueling whatever happened, but I didn't expect THIS.  The movie "Inside" is another movie with a pregnant woman and a lot of grueling bloodshed, but the killer in this movie makes the psycho in "Inside" look like captain of the Sane Parade.  Holy crap this movie was MESSED UP.

This movie starts off with a pregnant woman running through the woods begging someone to stop, then she falls, then we cut to an earlier time when she's in some kind of prayer meeting/Lamaze class with a bunch of her hippie looking neighbors.  Turns out she's recently converted to some kind of earthy religion and lives in a semi-commune and plans to have a home birth.  I know a few people who've had home births so this didn't seem all that out of the ordinary to me, but the other people in her "commune" set off my squick bells pretty early on and I figured they might play a part in whatever scary stuff happened later on.  I actually suspected everyone onscreen, even the pregnant woman herself, as it quickly turns out that she's summoned some of her closest friends later that day to her home to have a baby shower that turns out to be a ruse set up for her to confront them about a secret they are keeping from her.  Since this all takes place out in the boonies there's no cell reception, so as the group gets separated by a big fight, one by one bad things start happening to them and soon it's clear that someone wants to punish this group of friends for their sins.

This movie is pretty violent, and for me to say that it must be pretty bad, since I watch a lot of violent movies and this one had me cringing.  It's just so NUTS, the explanation behind the killings and what's going on is so out there.  I did appreciate that everyone is a pretty good actor here, and once the carnage starts, the women don't shrink away from violence and run into the woods and break their high heel and go down flailing, they actually fight back and things get pretty bloody.  One scene even got me because I thought one thing was going to happen (and I was pretty pissed at how insulting it was) and then it turned around into something else entirely different from what I expected, and I was proud of the chick who pulled a fast one even on me.  Good thinking, sister.  Of course the characters are kind of unlikable, but that doesn't mean I wanted them to be tortured and killed, so I could still root for them to make it.  The movie is weird and incoherent at times, but it's a bloody and violent and exciting ride, so I enjoyed it.

The Pack

Ew ew ew ew ew!!!!  Ok, now that I've got that out of my system, allow me to try and compose myself to write a semi-professional review of this movie.  I hope you appreciate my effort, too, by the way, especially considering that this is the only poster I could find that didn't use, like, a picture from the fucking end of the movie and give everything away (who designs these movie posters today anyway, Spoilers R Us?  The same people who think it's a good idea to give away the whole damn movie in the trailer so you don't need to go see it?)

So this movie's description really tells you nothing about it.  It says that a girl picks up a hitchhiker while driving (because she's never seen a horror movie ever ever in her life ever) but when she stops at a bar out in the middle of the boonies and he goes to use the bathroom and disappears, things start to get weird for her.  She can't get anyone to help her investigate what might have happened to him, and an old local cop who seems about 12 cans short of a six pack doesn't offer much guidance, so she goes back to the bar to investigate one night and winds up in deep trouble.  My description is longer than the one I got from the movie's file on Netflix, and it still doesn't tell you anything, but you're better off discovering what happens in this movie on your own.  Plus you might not even believe it if I tried to tell you what this movie was about anyway.

No really, I spent a lot of time staring at the screen wondering if THAT just happened or if I possibly hallucinated it.  It's THAT out there.  I've seen some weird movies in my life, but this one impresses me, because it's not just weirdness for weirdness' sake, it actually has a plot, it's just a fucking weird-ass plot that I'd never have guessed in a million years.  The main character is likable enough, and even though she gets herself into a bad situation I kind of felt bad for her, since she really was trying to help someone else.  At first, I thought I knew what was basically going on because I thought I'd seen movies like this before, but then things took a sharp right turn into mindfuckville, and nothing was ever the same again.  I don't know where these fucked-up French dudes get their ideas, but I love them for it.

The movie is pretty bleak and nasty and mean and gory, and you really never know who is safe and who might die when, because the movie doesn't care about you or anyone else, so it's a rough ride.  I have to laugh at one website's classification of this movie as a "suspense thriller."  Oh yeah, it's a suspense thriller.  Where at one point we see someone's legs get eaten onscreen.  You know, like they do in all suspense thrillers.  Make no mistake, this is a HORROR MOVIE, folks, and a freaky, icky one at that.  But I loved it.


Ahhh, this movie was just what the doctor ordered tonight.  After watching the unsatisfying trifecta of films I endured tonight, I was about ready to throw my TV out the window if I had to sit through another movie that throws a bunch of creepy images at me but raises a lot of questions and then never bothers to answer them.  I started this movie without bothering to look at the credits, and then when it started, I noticed who the director was - don't worry, it wasn't Pascal Laugier again, it was Jaume Balaguero.  As some of you know, I'm in love with him.  I momentarily ended our love affair after watching "The Nameless" earlier this month and hating it, but I can't let one bad movie ruin the impression that all his good movies have left with me, and I had faith that if anyone could lift the dark cloud over my head, he could.  And he came through for me!  What a guy.

This movie is about a run-down hospital in England that will be closing down soon so it's operating with a skeleton crew.  After some unsettling events, the night nurse quits, so another nurse is hired as a last-minute replacement for her, and the unsettling events ratchet up to just plain terrifying.  The children claim to have seen someone they call "the mechanical girl," a girl named Charlotte that none of the adults can see, and they claim that this mysterious Charlotte is responsible for the creepy "accidents" that keep happening at the hospital.  Soon the new night nurse is coming unhinged and doesn't know what to do to protect the children and herself from this menacing spirit, but she knows she has to try.

Calista Flockhart plays the new night nurse Amy, and she does a great job.  I'm not familiar with her work, though I know she was Ally McBeal, but she kills it in this role.  everyone does a great job, actually, there's not one actor that makes me go "oh honey, don't quit your day job," and that's rare for me (especially when I'm in as bad a mood as I was in by the time I watched this movie).  Like all of Balaguero's films, this one is very atmospheric, with the creepy corridors of the hospital becoming almost as frightening as the ghost itself.  And what a ghost!  The creepy critter in this movie is so freaky looking that I actually winced whenever she was onscreen, so that definitely added to the tension for me.   I did figure out what was going on with the haunting before the movie reveals it, but not for awhile, so that didn't really bother me, and the story is scary even though I did clue into what was going on, so I didn't mind that I'd solved the mystery.  I loved the characters, loved the atmosphere, loved the ghostly effects, and just plain loved this movie.  Just what I needed to see tonight.

House of Voices

After watching two very frustrating movies in a row, I really wanted to settle down and watch something more simple, a straightforward ghost story or something, so I picked this one without bothering to look at the credits.  I should have paid more attention, because if I had, I would have noticed that the director of this movie was none other than Pascal Laugier, the same guy who directed "The Tall Man," which I finished watching right before this one, and I could have turned it off and picked something else.  Now this is not to say that this movie isn't good, but it's unsettling and unsatisfying, and it raises a lot of questions that it never bothers to answer, and basically it fucked with my mind just as much as "The Tall Man" and "Martyrs" did, and now I kind of want to kick Pascal Laugier in the nuts.

This movie is about an orphanage in the late 1950s that is being shut down after a child has died there.  A teen girl is hired to work as cleaning staff, getting the orphanage ready before it closes (ready for what?  The movie never says).  The girl is hiding secrets of her own, and the remaining staff of the orphanage are hiding secrets of course, and there is another young girl living in the orphanage who is too old to be adopted with the rest of the children, so she remains living there and we're not sure what is going to happen to her after the place closes.  There are a lot of suspicious happenings at the orphanage  possibly supernatural phenomena, and the new girl becomes determined to find out what happened there and why the place is haunted.

The imagery in the movie is very effectively spooky.  The camera can simply pan around the inside of the orphanage and give us chills even if nothing actually happens.  The music is very atmospheric  sometimes too much so as it drowns out dialogue or overpowers more subtle acting by the cast.  Judith, the girl who lives at the orphanage because she is too old to be adopted, is often frenzied and out of control, and the cleaning lady who works with the new girl says that Judith is simply crazy and no one should listen to what she says or believe her.  Because of this, and because we can see how erratic her behavior is, it's hard to tell whether we should believe what she says when she starts hinting that she knows what is going on behind the haunted happenings at the orphanage.  The new girl is rather unhinged herself, albeit with good reason, and it's hard to tell where reality ends and fantasy beings with her perceptions, which makes the movie even more headache-inducing.

This movie bears more than a passing resemblance to the movie "The Orphanage," which came out two years after this one, so it's not a ripoff, though it might appear that way - it certainly crossed my mind - and "The Orphanage" is better than this one, I think, because it's much more straightforward and doesn't fuck with your head as much as Pascal Laugier seems to enjoy doing.  Like "The Tall Man" (and "Martyrs") this movie raises a lot of questions that it doesn't bother answering, and some dialogue during the wrap up doesn't match what we've been told by other characters, so it's hard to tell who was lying or disturbed and who was telling the truth.  It makes the movie rather unsatisfying and again, it's not one I can recommend, but I can't say it was bad or that I regret watching it...I just wish I hadn't watched it back-to-back with the other unsatisfying movies I watched today, because now I'm in a cranky mood.

The Tall Man

This was a very frustrating movie.  I knew I'd heard the director's name before, and as soon as I started searching out movies posters for this film, I figured out where I'd heard his name.  He directed the movie "Martyrs."  *snerk*  Oh, it all makes sense now, Pascal Laugier.  Which isn't to say that I hated this movie or anything.  I didn't hate "Martyrs," either, but I have a love-hate relationship with it, for a lot of the reasons why this movie is so frustrating to me.  All of this probably makes it sound like I didn't like this movie, but on the contrary, I loved it...I was just very frustrated by it, and I think that's the way I'm supposed to feel about it, which kind of irritates me more, since I don't like being emotionally manipulated (some residual crankiness left over from "The Innkeepers," maybe).

This movie is about...ok, this is going to be fun, because writing a plot summary for a movie like this is a pain in the ass, because so much of what you think is true isn't actually what you think it is, so I have to try and give you an idea of what happens without giving away every fucking twist in the movie (like I have time, there's a million and we'd be here all day).  Ahem.  So yeah, this movie is about a small backwoods mining town where children have been disappearing recently, vanished without a trace, and locals attribute the kidnappings to a specter known simply as "The Tall Man," a man in a hooded coat who spirits the children away in the night.  A small town doctor played by Jessica Biel tries to treat the townspeople and earn their respect, while living in the shadow of her husband, who was a legend in the town for years before she took over his practice after he passed.  One night, the Tall Man spirits away his latest victim, and this abduction hits too close to home for the doctor, so she runs out into the night after him, and what happens next changes everything.

This is one of those movies where nothing (and I really do mean nothing) you see is what it appears to be.  You've heard of unreliable narrators I'm sure, but this movie kind of makes YOU, the viewer, the unreliable narrator by making you tell the story wrong because you don't have all the information, and pretty much won't until the very last shot of the movie, and even then you might not know what to think of it all (I didn't, and the movie had me arguing with myself in my head after it ended).  I think that was the director's intent, and in that way the movie is pretty frustrating and unsatisfying, but I can't say it's bad.  It had me on the edge of my seat, and even after the "twist" is pretty much revealed I still had a lot of unanswered questions, so I had to wait impatiently for the movie to explain itself, and even after it did, I was still unsettled.  I can't say this movie was bad, but it's definitely not for everyone, and I think I'm developing the same love-hate relationship with it that I already have with the movie "Martyrs."  Sigh.

The Innkeepers

I fucking hate movies like this.  Seriously, I do.  I'd rather pull all my hair out than even bother trying to write a review for this, because the people who love the movie will blather on about how I just didn't "get it" and the people who hate the movie will think I wasn't being harsh enough because I don't have the balls to say what I think (never mind that this IS what I think, dickface, or why else would I bother saying it in a review?)  Can you tell I'm in a bad mood right now?  I was excited to see this movie.  Despite being warned by friends who believed the hype and then got annoyed with the resulting film, I was worked up to see it today, and for a lot of the running time, I thought I had a winner on my hands.  Yeah, there are annoying flaws plastered throughout the first hour and a half, but I was able to let them slide because I liked the characters and thought maybe there'd wind up being enough that I liked to counteract whatever I didn't like.  Then the ending came, huge bullshit cop-out that it is, and it pissed me off so much that it put every flaw I'd been pushing under the rug in glaring technicolor spotlight and made me hate them even more.

The movie is about two minimum wage employees at an inn which will be closing its doors after this last weekend.  The inn was once a grand, elegant place, we can tell, but business has died off and the owner is incommunicado on vacation, so the two ditzy young employees are all that's left of the staff.  The rooms on the third floor have already been closed off and stripped, and soon that will happen to the rest of the place.  For this last weekend, the two employees are planning to investigate the rumors that the inn is haunted.  They split up the front desk shifts and just sleep at the inn during their off time, and they wander around recording EVP (electronic voice phenomena, where ghosts communicate in a room at a level we can't hear with our ears, so there's a special machine to record it).  So these two nitwits investigate, in between being shitty hosts to the few guests at the inn, when the supernatural happenings increase in their fervor.  What's going on at the inn?  Are the ghosts really haunting the place?  If the ghosts are real, what do they want?  Most importantly, by the time we find the answers to these questions, are we going to care?

The answer, for me, was a resounding no.  I seriously pegged the male innkeeper/desk worker/dipshit and figured out what his plot twist was in the first fifteen minutes of the movie, and same with the female worker, because the script makes it so glaringly obvious to me that I couldn't help but figure it out.  Maybe I've just seen too many movies, but I knew what was going to happen with these two, yet I still enjoyed myself because the story was kind of fun to watch and the acting wasn't bad.  I tried to ignore my inner rage at the "quirky" music and the "comedic" elements that had me rolling my eyes, and I hoped I''d be wrong about the plot twists or at least that there'd be something coming that I didn't see, but as the story unfolded, I figured everything out as soon as it was foreshadowed in the script, so I got kind of bored.

The supernatural happenings held my interest, because honestly ghosts just freak me out, but as the film drew closer and closer to its inevitable conclusion I got more and more annoyed, and by the end I was snapping obscenities at the screen.  Ti West, you're not as clever as you think you are.  I can't say that I didn't enjoy this at all, because the performances and the supernatural aspects did distract me from the rest of this sinking ship, but by the time the movie draws to its inevitable conclusion, I just didn't care anymore.  I feel like I wasted my time with this one, and there was enough talent there that the movie could have been way better than it was, and that's the most annoying this about it for me.  If you're going to suck, do so from the beginning, don't give me enough good stuff to string me along so when you pull the rug out from under me, I fall on my ass cursing the day I ever decided to give your movie a chance in the first place.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Children (1980)

Back in the day, when I was a kid (so you know, prehistoric times) there used to be shelves of VHS tapes to rent in almost every grocery store in the small towns where I lived, and this was almost always one of the ones included, so I remember seeing this movie cover a lot and always wanting to see the movie and find out what was wrong with the titular children.  As I got older and got more into watching horror movies, I heard more and more people complain about how bad this movie is (IMDB only gives it like 2 1/2 stars) so I backed away from watching it because I figured it would probably be terrible, but it's horror movie month, so what better time to give this movie a chance?

I have to say I don't understand where all the hate comes from.  Is this movie the pinnacle of cinematic genius?  No, but I didn't expect it to be.  It's even older than I am (it came out in a limited theatrical run the year before I was born) and it's pretty clear that the movie has a tiny budget.  The acting isn't great, but the actors who matter here are the kids, and all they really have to do is shuffle around and look creepy, and as much as I love kids, I have to admit that they can be pretty creepy when they want to be, so the kids roaming the outskirts of town looking for victims manage to be pretty scary looking.

The movie is about a leak at a nuclear power plant which causes a yellow cloud of gas to form and it happens to form over a road where a school bus is traveling with a load of children returning home from school.  The first victim is the bus driver, and I don't really understand why he didn't turn into a zombie too, since he went through the same cloud of gas the children did, but whatever (the movie does seem to suggest that only children are affected by this gas cloud, as evidenced by something we see at the end of the film, but I still think this explanation is silly).  The bus driver's death is the only one that really irked me, since it totally looked like they just smeared butter and strawberry jelly on his face and called it good.  The other death scenes fare a little better in the effects department.

The early scenes, before we know what really happened, are pretty effective too, since the bus is just abandoned by the side of the road with the engine still running and all the kids' stuff still inside, and watching the sheriff roam down the aisle of seats and expecting something to jump out at him at any moment is pretty tense.  No one in the town seems very worried that the children have disappeared except for the sheriff, so that kind of annoyed me.  the movie could have been trimmed by about a half hour and still kept all the essential information.  It would probably have been a better movie, too.

It seems like the filmmakers just want to pad the running time with pointless scenes, but some of the scenes that the other reviews I've read have complained about, like the extended opening sequence with the children singing in the bus before it hits the cloud, and the long shots at the end of the movie panning across the dead children lying in heaps on the ground, actually work for me.  The opening sequence establishes the innocence of the kids before it is brutally cut short, and the sequence at the end is spooky with the heaps of dead and dismembered kids.  The movie even has some (probably) unintentional social commentary, since the real way you can tell a kid has turned into a zombie is that their fingernails have turned black...and I hear people complain all the time about kids and teens wearing black nail polish being all satanic and evil.  They should watch this movie and have their fears confirmed.  This movie is kind of silly, and yes the acting and special effects leave a lot to be desired, but it's not as bad as people have been saying it is.  I enjoyed it, and it probably would have freaked me out if I saw it as a kid.  It's worth checking out.  Watch it with your kids this Halloween and scare the shit out of them.

Hellraiser IV: Bloodline

Oh GOD this movie was terrible.  I know, I know, I said that last year when I reviewed it too, and I should have known better, but if I'm going to go through all these Hellraiser movies again, I might as well watch this one and see if there's some redeeming value I missed the first time.  the answer is no, by the way, I didn't miss anything.  And someone told me last year that I needed to keep in mind that this movie had a lot of problems in production, and it had budgetary constraints that prevented the filmmakers from shooting the movie they WANTED to make, but my answer to that is that I don't have to keep ANYTHING in mind, because if you have a small budget, then you make a movie that will work with the budget you have and still be good, not cobble together a shitty, incoherent mess that doesn't make any sense and then slap "Alan Smithee" on the movie because you don't want your name associated with this movie as director.  Too bad the cast can't dissociate themselves from this as easily.  At least they TRIED to turn in something worth watching, which is more than I can say for the director, but even the cast's noble effort doesn't save this sinking ship for me.

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth

Everybody seems to hate this movie.  Talk to fans of the franchise and it's typically placed down there at the bottom of the pile, and I think undeservedly so, though this movie has its terrible moments.  I really tried to pay more attention this time watching the movie for the third time, because I'll admit that in the past my attention wandered because for long stretches of time, the movie doesn't do much, so I get distracted by shiny objects and wind up basing my positive opinion on the parts of the movie I saw and not the stretches of time when I was ironing my socks or whatever.  I must say though, the movie still holds up as better than everyone else says it is even under closer scrutiny.

Of course the story is kind of garbled, and it's a little silly with the lead character's nightmares about her father that don't do much but tell us that there's a way for Pinhead to get to her, but there's still a lot to like in this movie.  The gore is pretty cool, and most of the characters that I don't like get horribly mangled, so there's a cathartic release there.  The movie also adds some cool touches like showing us a character rushing off to help after watching a TV news report of something horrible happening, only for the camera to pan down and show us that the TV was unplugged the whole time.  Whoops!  Of course, there SHOULD have been cops and news crews at the scene of this crime (everyone in town must be blind and deaf not to have noticed) but never mind that, the movie still has some cool tricks in store.  this is the beginning of reducing Pinhead to a wisecracking smartass horror villain instead of mysterious denizen of hell, though, so I can see why fans of the series piss on this movie so much.  I still find it an entertaining way to kill an hour and a half though.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Roger ebert summed up Hellraiser II thusly in his review of the film:  "Hellbound: Hellraiser II" is like some kind of avant-garde film strip in which there is no beginning, no middle, no end, but simply a series of gruesome images that can be watched in any order."  He also said that the movie was for people with little taste and atrophied attention spans who glance up at the screen from time to time just to ascertain that something was still happening up there, but who probably wouldn't be bothered to read his whole review of the film.  Well, I read the whole review, sir, so go fuck yourself with your own elitist attitude, but you have a point about the movie not really having much of a plot beyond the graphic images onscreen.

Except for the review's quip about the nightmares in Hellraiser II only happening in movies because our real nightmares have low budgets (my nightmares tend to have budgets as big as whatever movie supplied the idea for the imagery therein) the review is pretty spot on in its assessment of the movie's plot (or rather its lack thereof).  I always tell people that when I first watched these movies, I didn't like the first Hellraiser and I liked the second Hellraiser.  Then they ask me why, and I sound like a freak or a shallow ass, because the truth is that I didn't like the first movie but really liked the second because honestly, even though the story is better in the first movie, the second movie is a lot cooler to look at.  It's got great special effects and there's a real sense of menace because the horrors onscreen seem real and not like something I can construct with sub-par animation skills and props from Goodwill.

I DO appreciate a good story that is well-told, but when the first movie started to fall apart into really silly looking special effects, I start to get annoyed.  It was only upon repeated viewings that I came to appreciate the story the original Hellraiser was trying to tell, whereas the really cool imagery onscreen in part 2 is still just as cool even if you don't know much about the story.  I think the filmmakers tried to insert some plot into the special effects display that is "Hellbound: Hellraiser II," but it doesn't really manage to hold up to much scrutiny because there's just not much there to hold it.  We know who Kirsty is from the first movie, and Tiffany is barely given a backstory that is only revealed through vague clips and snippets of memories distorted by the demons of hell to scare her, so we're not really sure what to think about her.  I cared for these two and wanted them to defeat the demons, but that's really all that's going on here.

I suppose I could argue that there's a subplot about the doctor who wants to know the secrets of hell and gets more than he bargained for and blah blah blah, but he's a tool, and thus beyond wanting to see what the demons are going to do to tear his soul apart, who really cares?  I still maintain that this movie is good though, because the special effects really are special, and if you watch this and the first film together, it does an interesting job of adding some details to the story.  Sometimes style over substance works, folks, and this is one of those times.


This is actually an image of a fan poster made for the remake of "Hellraiser," which was supposed to come out in 2011 at one point, but of course the date has been changed so many times no one really knows when this movie is ever going to be made, let alone released.  We fans remain hopeful however.  It's not hard to see what has attracted such a rabid fan base over the years.  watching the original "Hellraiser" as I did for the tenth or so time tonight, the movie holds up surprisingly well.  The special effects tend to look hokey now, especially the cartoon lightening bolts that shoot out of the puzzle box during the climax of the film, but the depravity and gore in the story are still pretty cutting edge today.  Few filmmakers want to go there.  Somebody call the guy who made the movie "Martyrs," I think he gets it.  I don't know about anybody else.  But this movie is a fun one to revisit every few years or so.  It's icky and nasty and it was one of the first horror movies I ever wanted to see as a kid, so it sticks with me.

MST3K: Monster a Go-Go

Ugh, this one stunk.  To be fair, the movie is so horrible that it's hard to find anything to say about it besides "someone got PAID to write this?"  It's snots of a tall actor with crap stuck to his face lurching around after actors who can barely remember their lines and who were obviously chosen for their dancing ability instead of any acting talent (and I was singularly unimpressed with their dancing talent as well).  I kept trying to doze off during this one, and my body didn't like it when I kept having to wake myself up.  It was like, "you woke me up for THIS?!?!"

MST3K: The Giant Gila Monster

This was a much more enjoyable experience than watching the MST3K version of "The Corpse Vanishes."  For one thing, this movie is so silly all by itself that it practically begs for satire.  there's a cute little lizard crawling around a set and knocking over toy trains, and it's adorable, and then whenever there's supposed to be a closeup of the monster eating a person, the filmmakers use an unconvincing and hokey model of a lizard arm and foot that made me laugh.  The commentary is inspired here, too, and I was giggling a lot, so I had fun with this one.

MST3K: The Corpse Vanishes

This would be an example of what I was talking about before, where one of these Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes is really boring.  I understand that the movies are going to be boring and stupid, but that's why it's important to actually SAY SOMETHING to satirize the film, otherwise we're just watching a boring movie with some boring comments made offscreen, and that isn't what I'd call an enjoyable viewing experiences.  At least this saves me from ever watching the film itself, and I've considered doing so many times, so I guess I should be grateful to this experience for discouraging me from doing that.

MST3K: Mad Monster

This is another good one that had me laughing, though the doctor/scientist guy in the main movie is far more of a monster than the "monster" he creates.  I kind of wanted to jump into the screen and stab him in the face, though I figured that karma would take care of him by the end of the movie.

The Eclipse

If you're wondering why this movie poster looks like it belongs to a freakin' Nicholas Sparks movie or something, it's because this is much more a romantic drama than a horror movie, though it's better than anything Nicholas sparks has ever written and it DOES have its creepy moments, courtesy of the main character's heightened sense of guilt and the tendency for tragedy to follow him around through life.  the main character is a father with a teenage daughter and preteen son who were left motherless when the man's wife died a little over a year before.  The man also has to deal with guilt because his father in law is in a nursing home, and he is too busy to visit as often as his wife did.  He feels guilt about a lot of things, really.

Enter a writer's convention where he meets a beautiful woman who writes ghost stories and an infamous male writer who is a total jackass (and who is also romantically interested in the ghost story writer woman).  A romantic triangle ensues, complicating things for everyone involved.  The main character also starts to get gruesome visions of his father in law dying, as well as visions of his dead wife, and it's all very sad and mysterious.  Not a "happily ever after" kind of movie because it's far too complex for that kind of thing, but it does have a satisfying sort of conclusion eventually (though you have to slog through a lot of sadness to get there).  I'm glad I watched this movie, though Netflix is doing it a disservice to classify it as horror where most people who might be its biggest fans won't see it.

MST3K: Night of the Blood Beast

Mystery Science theater 3000 episodes are always hit and miss with me.  I like the idea of having people sit and mock a bad movie so I don't have to do all that work myself, but the surrounding story of the human who was kidnapped and taken into outer space to live on a ship with some robots and forced to watch bad movies as an experiment...yeah, I could give a shit less about that.  I think the surrounding story, including the theme song, is annoying and stupid and could just as well skip it.  the commentary sometimes sucks too, when they mostly just sit there and watch the movie and don't really make any funny comments, but this movie was one of the funniest I've ever seen.  Their comments were spot-on most of the time and some of them had me rolling.  I can't imagine watching this terrible movie without the sarcastic commentary accompanying it.

Supernatural Season 6 Episode 19: Jump the Shark

Where the title of the last episode was cute, the title of this episode irritated me.  For those who don't know, "jump the shark" is a term used for the point at which a TV series becomes so bad it's beyond salvation and should just be canceled.  This convention got its name from a point during the TV series "Happy Days" when a water-skiing Fonzie jumped over a shark.  The saying annoys me because people overuse it for whenever they think a show is beyond help, usually a point at which I still like the show, and also because come on, "Happy Days" had become worthless LONG before Fonzie jumped a shark.  It's a term elitist nerds use to justify their opinions, so it bugs me.  I suppose though that the creators of the show "Supernatural" are aware that people bitch that the show "jumped the shark" in season 4 (though people say that about every's what people DO, they bitch about everything) and they want to poke fun at the conventions of what a dying show can do to renew viewer interest, such as attempt to introduce a new heretofore unknown family member, which is what this episode does as Sam and Dean find out they have a little brother they never knew about.  For the record, I enjoyed this episode and do not think that the show "jumped the shark" here.  It's a creepy little story and while having a new little brother shoehorned into the story is always kind of annoying, I think it's done well here and the backstory is plausible, so I had fun watching this episode.

Supernatural Season 6 Episode 18: The Monster at the End of this Book

The show "Supernatural" goes meta with this episode, and I really enjoyed it, starting with the title.  for those of you who don't know, "The Monster at the End of this Book" is the name of a children's book which goes from page to page promising that there will be a big monster at the end.  It's a fun little reference, and I like that I caught it (I'm a big kid at heart, apparently).  The monster at the end of this episode is Lilith, the antisocial demon who is wreaking so much havoc throughout this season of the series, and the episode reveals some interesting details that help add to the overarching story of this season, but it's also fun for people who might not know about the whole big story and just want to enjoy watching Sam and Dean discover the dime-store novel versions of themselves that are popular with geeks and nerds like me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Caller

I discovered something new about myself tonight.  I always knew that ghost movies tend to scare me, and "found footage" movies tend to scare me because, you know, they look all real and stuff.  Tonight I discovered that time travel movies scare me, too.  Not like, "Back to the Future" or anything, but a movie like "The Butterfly Effect" had me in a funk for days, because throughout my life there have been many things I'd think I'd go back and do differently if I had the chance, and that movie posited the idea that even if we could go back and change one thing, it wouldn't necessarily change everything for the better, because other people still have free will and the ability to screw up their own lives and the lives of others, even with our help.  It gave me a lot to think about.

Tonight I watched this movie, "The Caller," and I find I'm sitting here creeped out by the idea of something from the past, something I thought was over and far away and couldn't hurt me anymore, coming back to haunt and hurt me in the present, and it's not a pretty picture inside my head right now.  Ugh.  I might be doing permanent psychological damage to myself with this challenge.  I blame this movie (and also "Atrocious").

So anyway, this movie is about a woman who moves into a new apartment after a bad divorce and she starts getting phone calls on her landline phone from a woman she doesn't know.  She engages the caller at first, but after finding that this might not be a good idea, she tries to sever ties with the woman, and this ends up having dangerous results.  I really can't say much more without giving away the plot of the movie, but suffice it to say that the ideas in here are pretty creepy (it's only a movie, only a movie, only a movie...) and with the solid acting, dramatic music, and even the camerawork managing to add to the sense of menace and dread, I really enjoyed watching this...until now, when I try to go to sleep, and keep hearing strange noises creeping around every corner...maybe I need to watch movies about puppies and kittens for awhile.  This one was a chilling experience for me.  Definitely a keeper.