Sunday, December 30, 2012

Weekly Movie Roundup: 12-23-12 to 12-29-12

The Afflicted (2010)
I usually find that it's not a good idea to watch a movie purely for the actors in it. I checked this one out a little bit and was all, "Leslie Easterbrook and Kane Hodder? Sure, I'll watch that one." Bad, bad idea. It's about a mother who basically goes insane after her husband "leaves" her (I put that in quotes for a reason... read my spoiler after the break and you'll get it) and she starts spouting off religious baloney while beating the snot out of her kids. Sure, Easterbrook does a great job of being a psycho like always,  but the whole movie was nothing more than escalating the scenes of abuse and humiliation until by the end you have absolutely no faith in humanity anymore. And that is not a good feeling.

As for Kane Hodder getting top billing... Total bullshit. He dies in the first ten minutes. Sorry about the spoiler, but the movie is not really worth watching anyway.

The Hole (2009)
Well now, this movie should not have been as good as it was. Directed by Joe Dante, The Hole turned out to be a cute little thriller comedy thing that is more geared toward teens, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. Two brothers discover a seemingly bottomless hole in their basement and when they look into it, it starts to haunt them with images of their deepest, darkest fears. There's actually some really good creepy moments in The Hole - for one, because the littlest brother's biggest fear is clowns. It's scary without being too terrifying for even very young kids to watch and there's plenty of cute humor throughout to keep things light as well. The ending is a little bit hokey with the special effects but not overly so, and I'm surprised at how mature they went with the subject matter on this part. Overall, this movie was a big surprise. Very entertaining, with some great acting by the three main kids.

Michael (2011)
Gosh dang you, Maynard. I know I said I sort of liked these kinds of dark, depressing movies but I did not need to see this fucked up pedophile shit. Michael is an Austrian film about a boring insurance agent named Michael who has a young boy, Wolfgang, locked in his basement. In case there is any confusion about the "relationship" between these two, one of the first scenes shows Michael walking into the boy's room, and then the next shot is Michael washing his penis in the sink. OMFG. The movie never actually shows any of the abuse but scenes like this are enough to put your imagination into overdrive. Michael is very reminiscent of Michael Haneke's Funny Games in the almost boring way it is shot and the scenes that seem meaningless and mundane, but that's what makes the movie so good and hard-hitting. There is some heavily implied fucked up pedophile shit; however, don't let that shy you away from seeing this.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Movie Review: Excision (2012)

So, Excision is like, a really weird movie. Like, seriously REALLY weird. It's so weird that... what, wait a minute... Screw that, I love weird movies! Oh yeah! In that case, Excision was not only really weird but also really awesome at the same time.

Seventeen-year-old Pauline has got some problems. Her odd interests and fantasies isolate her from her classmates, her mother is a controlling bitch, and her little sister is dying of cystic fibrosis. After taking care of some little personal things like losing her virginity, Pauline works on a plan that will both save her sister's life and finally gain the approval of her mother.

The movie starts off cold, with just a quick title card, that then goes right into one of Pauline's fantasies. You see, Pauline has a pretty serious case of haematophilia. She likes to lie in bed and have these bizarre fantasies that always have something to do with blood or cutting people up or some crazy shit like that. The first one we see (and the one I liked the most) is Pauline sitting in a chair across from herself, basically having an orgasm while watching her other self vomit up blood and bleed from her nose. From then on, what Pauline can conjure up just gets more and more bizarre and graphic, until she manages to think of something much, much worse for real life.

All of these bizarre fantasy scenes are shot beautifully and make for very striking images. Pauline and anybody else who appears in her messed up mind are always wearing white, and in a room with blue tiled walls, both of which make a great contrast against the very pretty red blood. Hey, wait a minute - red, white and blue? Are they trying to say something with that? Eh, maybe. Anyway, these scenes are sadly too short sometimes, but it was good that they didn't focus so much on them and stuck more to Pauline's twisted story. There is a ton of dark, sadistic humor throughout to keep you laughing and creeped out at the same time.

Everybody and their brother loves AnnaLynne McCord in this thing and I don't feel the need to add to the pile-on of praise. She is beyond awesome in Excision and that's all that needs to be said. I'm also not going to praise her for being all "brave" in taking this role and making herself ugly in a movie. I really kind of hate it when people do that. Goshdarnit, these people are actors and it is their freaking job to do whatever is necessary to bring reality to a role. On that note, I will totally give McCord praise for being a freaky bitch and committing 100% to every crazy and freaky thing she had to do for this movie. She rocks.

And Traci Lords? Forget about it. She is really wonderful as Pauline's mother, who is obsessed with manners and her daughters being proper ladies. I'm glad that Lords has managed to make a (small) name for herself in mainstream movies because she is a great actress. She gives Phyllis all the hoity-toity mannerisms of a woman with a real stick up her ass, but also shows a real desire for a connection with her daughter. It's a wonder that she can be so accepting of Pauline's behavior, while in hindsight she should have done more than just send her to talk to the local priest  (played by John Waters - which cracked me up) instead of a real psychiatrist.

Now the ending, while still pretty shocking, actually comes as no real surprise. Take into account Pauline's obsession with blood, her desire to be a surgeon, the revelation that her sister needs a lung transplant, the title of the movie... are you putting the pieces together yet? Yup, that's what happens. However, the scene is still a shock because, considering Pauline's genuine love for Grace, you don't want to believe that she would actually do that to her, knowing the probable outcome. With all the dark humor, the movie makes you completely forget that Pauline is insane, and was totally capable of this act the whole time. You like Pauline - to a point, maybe - and you don't want to see her fall so hard and commit any atrocities, even though it was inevitable.

Excision is, as they say, perhaps not a movie for everyone, but it sure as hell is for me. I kind of loved it, and all those insane images have been in the back of my head ever since I saw the movie. AnnaLynne McCord gives a performance so good that it's ridiculous and the other actors (John Waters, Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin, and Roger Bart) all bring their own dose of awesome to the movie. It's an interesting film to say the least, and one you should give a chance if you think you can take it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mwhahahaha! Merry Christmas!

.... or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or whatever!

Happy Horror Holidays 
from The Girl Who Loves Horror!

*artwork by ToniTiger415*

Friday, December 21, 2012

Weekly Movie Roundup (The Strangely Eclectic Edition): 12-16-12 to 12-21-12

I did pretty good this week, guys! I almost have too many movies to talk about, and I couldn't pick which one would get the actual review treatment yet, sooooooo I'm a-talk about them a bit in my roundup and maybe that'll help me decide, yea?

This eclectic week of movies includes topics like pendulums, presidents, fish hangovers, turtle torture, and strangling people with jump ropes. Sometimes I just love my life.

The Raven (2012)
Despite some pretty low expectations for The Raven, I actually quite enjoyed it and had a really good time watching it. At first I wasn't entirely sure how I would feel about Edgar Allan Poe's life and work being put up on screen in such a fictionalized manner, but I found out pretty quick that that was easy to overlook with this movie. It's just a fun, nice paced, and not too thought-provoking little flick that easily killed a couple hours while I was recovering from my wisdom teeth surgery. John Cusack's performance of Edgar Allan Poe was not particularly convincing for me as being an honest portrayal of the real man, but at least he was charming and funny. The Pit and the Pendulum murder was nicely gory, I have to say; didn't expect that. One thing I also loved about the movie was the recitation of Poe's poem "Annabel Lee" by Emily in one scene. That one has always been a favorite of mine.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
Okay, now, this one was exactly the opposite of The Raven. For Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I had pretty high expectations and was so incredibly excited for it. In the end, though, it really let me down. The title and premise right away offers up the opportunity to have so much fun with the story that I almost couldn't believe the final result. The movie takes itself way, way too seriously! It's about Abraham Lincoln being a secret vampire hunter, for crying out loud! Why am I not laughing at campy one-liners and hilarious vampire deaths at the hands of Honest Abe with an axe? Why are they trying to be so historically accurate? I thought the whole point of the movie was being completely historically inaccurate? Another thing I hated about it was the style. I am really so sick of modern movies adopting this completely unrealistic, CGI-inflated, way-too-much-use-of-random-slow-motion style that is all about the visuals and absolutely no substance. It looks terrible and I hate it. So seeing it in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a big disappointment. So sad. Maybe the book is better. I do love that poster, though.

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
My Classic Monster Movie Marathon from a little while ago got interrupted by my moving into an apartment, but I had totally meant to include Creature from the Black Lagoon in it. So I finally watched it the other day and... well, I'm kinda glad I didn't have to review it for my marathon because I don't really have that much to say about it. Oh, sure it's nice and B-movie campy and there's a guy in a rubber suit and some hilarious homoerotic subtexts with the two guys who are fighting in their swim trunks all the time, but the movie just didn't interest me as much as some of the other classic monsters. I like the monster himself, though, especially the costuming which is actually a really nice design. The underwater scenes are filmed well too (although they tend to go on a little long sometimes) and the set design of the monster's secret home or whatever is cool. I might give this another look in the future but for right now I'm kinda meh about it.

The Innocents (1961)
Dudes, where has this movie been all my ghost-loving life? I mean, this is so freaking up my alley and I can't believe that I haven't heard that much about it before. The whole package was simply amazing - a huge, gothic mansion; two creepy, possessed children; a ghostly mystery; and a heartbreaking story with an equally heartbreaking ending. It seems like there is a lot of the talky-talky going on at first but everything that is said is important and warrants your attention from the start. There is the one amazing scene where Miss Giddens is wandering around the house at night and hears all kinds of creepy-ass whispering and laughing, but all the little tidbits thrown in the movie that add up to things not being all right with the children are pure perfection. Flora asking if tortoises can swim, Miles requesting a goodnight kiss... yeah, something's going on with those two. Deborah Kerr is wonderful in the lead role and carries the film beautifully. This is a new favorite. Really, really excellent ghost movie - I loved it!

Bloody Birthday (1981)
I have almost no shame in saying that Bloody Birthday was actually my favorite of all the movies that I watched this week. I know. I should say The Innocents 'cause it's all classic and stuff and I really did love it, but Bloody Birthday was so freaking awesome. Three murderous kids who take out anybody they don't like for whatever reason? And they use bows and arrows, cars, guns, jump ropes, and baseball bats? I love these kids. And the movie itself isn't really all that bad either. The acting by the three kids is very convincing - they're not trying to all psychotic and scary, just normal kids who kill because they have no conscience (I guess being born under a total eclipse does that to you). The story is interesting, and the usual 80s camp is surprisingly very minimal. This is a nice little sleeper classic that deserves a bit more recognition. Great movie!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Movie Review: Gut (2012)

Just an FYI -- having all four of your wisdom teeth removed does not make for a fun weekend. I've about had it with pudding and applesauce; you really don't realize how much you miss actually chewing and eating real food until you can't do it anymore. Bleh. Anyway, here's a little something about a movie I got sent a screener for...

Thank you to Anna Ganster of Gut Productions (and one of the producers) of the film for providing me with a DVD screener for Gut.

Gut is a fairly well done independent horror film from one-name director and writer Elias. It is the story of two long-time friends, Dan and Tom. Tom is the married guy with a little girl at home, and Dan is still the 30-year-old kid, trying to keep life interesting and fun for his friend so he doesn't fall into suburban oblivion. When Dan shows Tom a strange snuff-like film of a somewhat disturbing nature, it has a profound affect on both of them. The obsession slowly takes over their minds until there is no turning back to normal.

For my tastes and preferences, Gut is sort of a hard movie for me to pin down. On the one hand, I've always loved these kinds of quiet, methodical tales about obsession and a descent into madness. On the other hand, I've still got so many questions! I don't mind a little ambiguity in my films but this one had just about too much. The plot flows well but it is very constricted, never giving the audience anything beyond just what they get to see on screen.

And speaking of what you actually get to see on screen, the "snuff" film that Dan and Tom watch is incredibly lame. There is apparently nothing more to it than a man's hand cutting open a woman's stomach and sticking his had in it a bit. Sometimes a certain image or scene from a particularly disturbing movie will stay in my head for a few days, but they are usually a lot more powerful than a simple sliced gut. Yet this is enough debauchery to completely take over the minds of two grown men? And they are supposed to be old horror fans? Maybe there is more to it than what we are shown, but that was the main image that was repeated throughout the film. It's not shocking in the least, and certainly not enough to turn these two men crazy.

I rather enjoyed the acting by most of the parties involved, especially by Nicholas Wilder, who plays Dan. He is very natural and believable all the way through; I have and do know guys like him and Wilder reminded me of every single one of them. He plays funny, jealous, obsessed, scared, and mad all with ease. Jason Vail as Tom, though, gave a rather disjointed performance. He's good in the first part but when things get serious and more emotional, he fails. Almost all his lines suddenly sound rehearsed and unnatural, and in his one big moment where he has to watch a much more... uh, personal version of the original Gut snuff film, his emotion is too subdued and unbelievable. He really could have went for it, but he held back too much and the scene doesn't have the kind of power that it should have. 

The other two supporting characters are the respective women in the lives of these guys - Tom's wife Lily, played by Sarah Shoofs, and the waitress Dan has a crush on, Sally, played by Angie Bullaro. Lily was equal parts annoying housewife at times and still-interested sexual partner the other times. Sally is very hot and flirtatious (love the two-tone hair color, by the way) but she doesn't get nearly enough screen time outside the coffee shop. Her side of the story would have been so much more effective if the audience could see a bit more of her and Dan's budding relationship. 

The ending is sadly very predictable and really rather boring. I saw the whole thing coming and was really hoping that the filmmakers could throw a little extra cog in the wheel to bring the story together and make it more interesting (or at least give it a little more impact) but they just went for the easy and predictable scenario. Nothing has been learned and nothing is resolved. So what's the point of the whole thing? I personally didn't get anything out of it.

Gut had pretty good potential from the beginning, but fails to follow through with that until the end. The filmmaking is quite professional-looking, with good mood lighting in certain scenes and some nice camera angles and compositions (something I always look out for in indie films). The editing is clean and flows with the right pace to match the tone of the film, without having to use anything gimmicky. These guys know how to tell a story with a camera... they just kind of need to work on the story more for next time.

For perhaps a better review of the film, check out what my blog buddy Maynard had to say about Gut here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Catching Up On The Classics: Freaks (1932)

Freaks is a very rare kind of movie. In the special message prologue preceding the movie, it is said that "never again will such a story be filmed" and I think for the time being that that is probably true. Though based on a much darker short story called "Spurs," director Tod Browning still wanted to be able to tale a truly horrific story with Freaks - something he very much succeeded in because the film was widely controversial upon its release. Over time, audiences have come to more appreciate this tale of deception, prejudice and revenge; though it no doubt also still has the power to unsettle and disturb those who see it.

As a sort of "circus soap opera" (as one interviewee on the DVD feature put it), Freaks follows the behind-the-scenes lives of performers in a traveling sideshow circus. When dwarf Hans becomes infatuated with Cleopatra, the "normal"-sized beautiful trapeze artist, she plays along with him to get him to buy her things and laugh at him with her real beau, strongman Hercules. Cleopatra then finds out that Hans is actually due a large inheritance, and she schemes to marry him and then slowly murder him with poison to collect the money. Hans and the other freaks at the circus discover this and soon concoct their own plan for revenge.

(Simply for the purposes of brevity and avoiding confusion, let me just say that I will refer to any of the actors with real deformities here as "freaks." I'm not trying to be disrespectful or mean, obviously. Hopefully you get it.)

I loved this movie, but it's almost hard for me admit to that without feeling a little bad. My conflict is this: while I think the movie is well played out and expresses great empathy for the freaks, something in me niggles a bit at Browning's choice to cast people with real physical deformities. Freaks is often described as an exploitation film probably because of this choice. If (goodness help us) Freaks were ever remade today, there is no absolutely no chance that they would ever get away with using people with real deformities. I don't think Freaks is an exploitation film in the sense that it uses the real freaks to shock us. I think it is that the audience only feels like they are the ones exploiting these people simply by watching the movie, and perhaps trying to see as much as it can of their lives and what they can do. I felt like a peeping tom looking in on their private lives and guilty for wanting to see more.

Browning seems to even play on this a few times. There are several seemingly unimportant scenes with a few of the different freaks and Browning's intentions are either confusing or misinterpreted, depending on who you ask. He has short bits with the Living Torso lighting a cigarette with his mouth, one of the Armless Girls eating dinner with her feet, and a sideplot with the Siamese Twins and their respective fiances. Because these scenes have nothing to do with the central plot, I can see how some might think Browning included them just to "show off" the freaks and their freaky skills. It seems to me though that Browning actually had a lot of respect and love for them, though, and these scenes were included to show that the freaks were very normal people and it was only what was on the outside that was different about them.

All this confusion is made all the more difficult to deal with while watching the movie because the freaks are all awesome people. Aside from Venus the animal trainer and Phroso the clown (who is actually very annoying at times), it is the so-called normal people - Cleopatra and Hercules - who are the ones we hate the most for their prejudice of the freaks; their self-centeredness; their manipulation of Hans and Frieda; and their greed. The freaks are sweet, fun people who obviously feel very comfortable and at home in their community, despite the fact that their jobs are to show off their deformities for gawkers. Even when the freaks take their revenge at the end, a part of you is definitely rooting for them. I also have to point out here that while I hated her character Cleopatra, I absolutely loved Olga Baclanova's portrayal of her. The way she speaks and all her little gestures really sell that this woman is completely full of herself and just a really bad human being. Olga at the wedding feast is fantastic - every annoying drunk person you ever knew, right there.

That wedding feast scene and the final scene are probably the two most famous from the film. The former because of all the freaks chanting "We accept her, we accept her! One of us, one of us!" and the latter because of its very creepy and scary imagery. The whole sequence is really just stunning as the freaks go after Hercules and Cleopatra during a rainstorm. The shots of the freaks crawling in the mud under the wagons, weapons in hand, or running in the woods toward Cleopatra are all so incredibly beautiful and well composed and very disturbing all at the same time. It's what everybody remembers most about the movie, except maybe for the reveal of Cleopatra as the human duck thing in the next scene. In the version of the movie I watched, there was this whole denouement scene with Hans, Frieda, Venus, and Phroso, but I really didn't like that or think it was necessary. I think it would have been much more effective to end the movie on Cleopatra the duck.

So I've finally seen Freaks and I'm so glad that I did. Like I said before, it is a very, very rare movie in that we will never see anything like it ever again. A truly unique and fascinating tale, Tod Browning's Freaks was saved from obscurity to be enjoyed and appreciated for future generations and I think we all need to do our part to keep that going.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Movie Review: Silent House (2012)

Movies like Silent House are tough for me to form a strong opinion about. My initial reaction tells me that I should say that it's great, because it kept me totally transfixed until the end, and because I was immensely impressed with the filmmaking technique used (more on that in a bit). On the other hand, the climax seems like one of those contrived rip-offs that everyone always complains about. Can I stand by my belief that you shouldn't turn your back on the whole movie just because you don't like the ending? Let's see...

Silent House is actually a remake of a fairly recent film from Uruguay called La Casa Muda (The Silent House). It is the story of Sarah, a girl who goes to the family's summer house with her father John and Uncle Peter to fix up the place before selling it. Strange noises first make the dark house unsettling, and then terrifying as Sarah realizes someone else may be stalking her, and there is no way out.

Now, what this film (and the original) is known for - and what you should notice pretty quickly - is that it is in real time, supposedly in one long continuous take. Though nothing new, the technique is still fairly rare as far as I know and of the movies I've seen that utilize it, it's always been a success. Silent House pulls it off well. Of course, they don't actually use one hour-and-a-half long take for the movie - edits are hidden in there in 12 to 15 minute intervals - but the effect is pretty well flawless and impressive.

The movie starts on an overhead crane shot of Sarah sitting on some rocks in a lake, and then goes down to follow her as she walks into the house. From then on, the very crafty cameraperson is able to go from room to room, down hallways and stairs, through cramped spaces in the basement, outside following Sarah as she's running, and inside a vehicle and out of it again. Really, the variety and dexterity of the shots and compositions was wonderful to watch. It very rarely felt like a "shaky cam" type of movie except in the above mentioned part where Sarah is running outside. The only real visual problem I had with Silent House is how some of the very dark scenes came out looking on my Netflix. Very pixel-y and very much a bit of a distraction from the movie.

Now if there's one thing that wouldn't before have popped into my head when thinking about horror movies (or "thrillers" as this one is billed) is anybody from the Olsen family. Elizabeth Olsen is the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley, and I'm sorry, but she got all the talent. She does look a lot like her famous twin sisters, but I guess the absence of all the baggage from being a huge child star did her a lot of good. Olsen got wonderful reviews for her role in Martha Marcy May Marlene, and while she kinda just does a lot of frightened, contorted-face things in Silent House, I enjoyed her performance. She's able to turn on a dime pretty well in some of the last scenes, she has a pleasant voice, and for someone who is on-camera for nearly every single second of the movie, she just all around does an amazing job.

Okay, the ending. I guess I won't totally spoil it here, even though I really, REALLY want to. I can be more vague because my problem with the ending is not so much the story ending itself but rather the logic, or lack of, behind. Let's just say that it's a psychological thing that happens, okay? Similar endings have been used before, and guess what? They didn't make any sense then either. It's like the writers and filmmakers made up their own way for certain types of psychoses to emerge without caring how they are actually manifested in people suffering from PTSD or repressed memories or whatever. So while the audience may initially think, "Well, huh, I didn't see that coming! That's kind of cool!", stopping to think about it will make them think, "Well, how did she... why did they... who is... what is the point of..." about several things that are revealed in the climax. It's not necessarily a lazy ending or a cop-out to me, it just brings up more questions than answers.

Regardless, I like the movie. The effect of the single shot technique, the intrigue of the mystery, and the film being carried by a pretty competent actress are enough to let me overlook - or at least set aside for the moment - the ending. There are a good number of jump scares (I think I actually 'yelped' at one of them... don't think I've ever done that before) but mostly the movie is this like this confusing, but in a good way, labyrinthine journey through this house and through Sarah's mind. I'm giving it a thumbs-up. I dug it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Movie Review: Pontypool (2008)

Though I'm still mulling over the happenings in Pontypool in my head, I felt the need to come on here and say something about it - simply for the fact that the movie was able to be really good and really confusing at the same time. I love any kind of movie that does that to me. I'm also a huge fan of claustrophobic movies (ones that take place in one setting) so I was elated when Pontypool revealed itself to be one of those - I was already hooked, but the promise of more mysterious things to come just sunk the hooks in deeper.

Pontypool follows three people in a small-town Canadian radio station on Valentine's Day - Grant Mazzy, the DJ; Sydeny Briar, the producer; and Laurel-Ann, the production assistant. As they all go about their usual routine, with Grant and Sydney butting heads, reports start to come in about strange occurrences happening to the people of Pontypool. A sickness starts turning people in raving maniacs out for blood, and what is spreading this virus is our very way of communication - the English language.

Now like I said, I'm still trying to work out the movie's message in my head, but though I don't all the way get it yet (maybe I'll have it worked out soon through the magical therapy of typing) I can't deny that this movie had me from beginning to end. It's a very simple, not in the least bit over-stylized, way of making a movie and presenting a unique story to the audience. Three people in a room, but still able to communicate with and receive information from the outside world, where something very frightening is happening. Think "War of the Worlds," where you hear about everything that is going on but never see it for yourself. It's maddening, but at the same time keeps you invested all the way through because that next little clue that is given from a news report or a surprise visitor could be the thing that ties it all together for you.

And that's what I love about claustrophobic movies like this. You only know just as much as the main characters know and learn it at the same time they do. Aside from the beginning, which shows Grant driving to work, the movie never leaves the radio station. Even when Grant opens the front door to leave at one point, the camera angle is still facing inside the building, and not outside, keeping the characters and the audience trapped there. You're forced to really concentrate on the dialogue  to see if you can pick up on anything that will help you solve the mystery before the characters ('cause that always makes you feel smart for a little bit).

The acting for our three main characters is subtle yet believable for their situation. Stephen McHattie has a great voice and could probably no doubt have a career as an actual DJ. I didn't really get where a lot of his character's rambling at the beginning of the film came from and why Sydney always wanted to make him shut up after two sentences, but I guess it was just because he was trying to stir up controversy in the small town where everybody knows everybody else. Sydney herself is a very sweet, intelligent woman; as is Laurel-Ann. We don't really get to know a whole lot about these people, though, which is maybe a small downfall of the film.

The lack of any real blood or violence did admittedly disappoint me at first - only because I loves me some good zombie (or in this case, sorta zombie-like) action. However, when the characters are receiving calls from Ken, their reporter in the "Sunshine Chopper," about what is going on in town, his descriptions and the panic in his voice is enough for anybody with a good zombie imagination to form a mental picture. What little zombie action we see inside in the station when one of the characters gets infected is pretty gory and unsettling by itself, because you have no idea what the person is going to do or if our characters are in any danger.

What, then, is the message of Pontypool? I honestly don't know. I have few ideas running around in my head but none of them are really sticking. Language, or our ability to tell stories, is what supposedly separates us from the animals - just an ironic twist that language is the thing that turns us into animals? Is it a comment on the English language itself and how bastardized it has become? Or is it about relationships and communications - telling us to stop trying to communicate with each other using meaningless words and focus more on the feelings in our hearts and our bodies, and not our minds? If you say a word over and over again enough times (as the victims of the virus do), it starts to lose its meaning - has language made us lose the meaning in something about ourselves or what we are as human beings? Any of those theories make sense? Bah, I don't care. Still like the movie, even if I'm totally wrong on all of what I just said.

Despite me being an airhead and not really getting it, Pontypool is still a refreshingly original and interesting sorta-zombie movie. If you haven't seen the movie, I might have sounded really confusing up there but I didn't want to give away the whole "infection" story here - it's a bit more interesting when you find that out for yourself in the film. I also hear that if you want to get even more confused by this story than what the movie did for you, you should read the book it is based on - Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess (who, by the way, should use a pseudonym because of Anthony Burgess.... just sayin'). Anyway, definitely recommend this one.

And seriously, what the fuck is up with Blogger putting all the photos I insert at the TOP of the entire post instead of where my cursor is? It just started doing this to me and I really don't like it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Project Terrible: Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008)

The Internet has returned, o my brothers (and sistas), and life is ever the more glorious because of it. I fed my Law and Order addiction for a while and then finally settled down on this unseasonably nice December day to finish up my Project Terrible duties. I chose Craig from the blog Let's Get Out of Here as one of my torturers this time around, and was not disappointed in his terrible taste. Birdemic: Shock and Terror can be described with many an expletive as to its suckiness, however, I'll take the high road and just call it EPICALLY BAD.

It's probably easy to guess what this movie is about. A low-brow ripoff of Hitchcock's The Birds wherein we have to watch people fight stupidly against birds (in this case, eagles) who suddenly start to attack and kill humans for no reason. I was never even that big a fan of The Birds to begin with so already I was not excited for Birdemic. The fact that the film has garnered a cult status for being one of the worst movies ever made doesn't help in the least, but it does give me a lot to write about. 

But oh my gosh, where do I even start??? First off, there are no birds, and no shock or terror, at all for the first almost two-thirds of the movie. For 38 FUCKING MINUTES we have to watch some half-assed cheesy romance story between a software salesman named Rob and the beautiful girl that he meets (well, almost stalks) at a diner one day. Her name is Natalie and she's supposed to be a fashion model but the only place we see her getting her picture taken is at a one-hour photo place. Sounds legit. They go on dates, have awkward conversations, Natalie talks to her mom, Rob gets a lot of money from his job and starts a new company. Blah blah blah blah. Everything is just going so awesome in these people's lives and it's like we're watching the end of some romantic comedy instead of the beginning of a movie about killer birds. 

No fear, though! After 38 nauseating minutes, Rob and Natalie come across a dead (CGI) bird on the beach. Okay, let's get the killing started!.... What? No? We have to take a musical break first? 

Okay, I gotta admit that was really awesome. But back to the birds.

After Rob and Natalie wake up in their hotel room to the screeching of eagles and destruction of the city, they spend the next hour or so doing what any good character in a horror movie does, which is to drive around aimlessly, have no plan, and make plenty of stupid decisions along the way. The plot is completely nonsensical at every turn. Rob and Natalie meet up with another couple at the hotel, Ramsey and Becky, for a while they all do the noble thing like stopping along the road to save two kids whose parents were killed by the birds, but what is their real plan? Where are they going? And why the hell do they keep stopping to get out of the safety of their van? I can't count the number of times this group just starts wandering leisurely around outside - you know, WHERE THE KILLER BIRDS ARE - and oftentimes, they go wandering around so far from their van that they have to keep running back to it to get away from the birds. Argh. 

I could almost deal with the ridiculous plot and wooden acting if the execution of it all wasn't so amateur and annoying. Here's a rundown of the bad filmmaking techniques: horrible canted camera angles, awkward pauses while a shot edits from one person to another during a conversation, shots that linger on stupid things for too long, bad sound editing all the way through (sometimes no sound, sometimes too much background noise to hear dialogue, bad edits where background noise doesn't match up to previous shots), and of course, the intensely bad CGI birds, explosions and fires throughout. They were the worst. There is not a single live bird to be found in this movie and the CGI birds look like they were created by someone who has never seen a bird before in their life. We never see them from the front and they don't do anything that looks even remotely natural. I... I can't even describe it. The way they hover in the shot while Rob, Natalie, Ramsey, and Becky swat at them with coat hangers? How they never really flap their wings all that much but still stay in the air? It makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. And I'm pretty sure that at one point a bird actually explodes.

By the way, that coat hanger bit was the BEST. When they're preparing to leave the hotel room, Ramsey suggests that they find something to arm themselves with - and grabs a bunch of coat hangers from the closet. BAHAHAHA!! Really? And that's not even the best part - in the very next scene, Ramsey whips out a fucking machine gun and starts blasting away at the little feathered dudes. Like, where did you get a machine gun all of a sudden and why were coat hangers a better option before that?

You know what I couldn't help thinking of for most of this movie?

You betcha - DUCK HUNT. What a blast from the past. Seriously though, every time the birds are just sort of unnaturally hovering anywhere and Rob and Ramsey are shooting them, there are these awesomely bad shots of a bird getting hit and dropping out of the sky. I couldn't help but wonder where the giggling dog was. I would rather watch somebody play Duck Hunt nonstop for a week than watch Birdemic again. Mostly because Duck Hunt had far superior graphics. And I'm only partially joking there.

One of the most annoying things about the movie (besides, well, almost everything) is the whole tree-hugging and humans-are-evil mentality throughout. I love nature and all, and I know that humans are destroying the earth and each other with war and stuff, but I don't need some freaking Birdemic movie shoving it in my face. Rob is getting solar panels installed on his roof; Rob and Natalie go on a double date where they go see the movie An Inconvenient Truth; Natalie's friend Mai wears an Imagine Peace shirt and has a poster on her wall; Ramsey didn't like being a Marine because of "all the fucking killing in Iraq"; the groups meets a guy who lives in an actual treehouse (and stops to listen him go on about how the redwoods are his friends); the group conveniently meets an ornithologist who tries to explain that global warming is the cause for the birds' behavior, and on and on and on and on. I get it. Now shut up.

I'm done with this movie. There's no way to be kind about this: Birdemic is just awful, awful, awful. I could rant and rave for a lot longer about all the other ridiculous scenes and characters that we meet in the course of this pile of poop, but um... well, I'm hungry and it's taco night. You understand. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Moving sucks...

Happily, I am all moved into my new apartment - yea! - but unhappily, I have been without internet and will continue to be without it until this Thursday evening. That of course means no Blogger and even more important, NO NETFLIX. Seriously guys, what the hell am I going to do for the next few days? No Law and Order: Criminal Intent? No getting through some of the movies in my queue? I feel as though I will soon go batshit crazy. So if that happens, I might not be with you guys anymore. If not, see you in a couple days.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Project Terrible: 1313: Bermuda Triangle (2011)

Okay, Alec, I guess it was only fair that I had to watch one of these David DeCoteau 1313 movies, too. Doesn't mean I have to like it. I've never watched any kind of officially "gay" movie before either so this turned out to be an, um, interesting experience. 1313: Bermuda Triangle is thankfully quite short (didn't cut into my marathon of Law and Order: Criminal Intent that much) and quite dense, and only required the bare minimum of my brain power to get through it. Here we go...

So the first scene will soon become quite familiar as the movie goes on. A buff dude in swim trunks named Ryan walks into this random house. He proceeds to spend the next, oh, about four minutes walking into every room of the house and constantly yelling inane things like, "Hello? Anybody here? It's Ryan! Hello, is anybody there?" over and over and over and over and over agin. Who is this guy and who is he looking for? Already, I don't care. And we don't find out anyway because Ryan's search is interrupted when he walks into the gym and is hit with some kind of electric charge or whatever (CGI lightning appears on his body). The next bad effects shot is Ryan strung up by one of the gym machines in only his tightie whities. The cameraperson manages to get a pretty good amount of zooms on Ryan's package while he struggles around for a while.

Uh huh. So that's the kind of movie this is going to be. Goody. Like I said this is my first David DeCoteau movie. It sure as fuck better be my last. Don't get me wrong, I don't have any problem with gay and lesbian movies at all, but seriously. This is basically the softest core porn I've ever seen with only the slightest attempt at some other kind of plot. Shirtless guys walk around this beach house, swimming, taking showers, acting badly. Why didn't DeCoteau just make an actual porn and get it over with?

Anyway, back to the movie. After the first scene with Ryan, there's a quick scene with some other shirtless dudes including our main guy, Sean, talking about some secret diving mission. Not long after that, another shirtless boy in shorts, this time called Jesse, walks into the same house that Ryan did at the beginning, and starts wandering around asking if anybody is there. Oh my gosh, really? And guess what - he gets hit with electricity too and ends up (in his tightie whities of course) tied to the staircase railing. He does some more lame struggling, but does do some great poses that show off his ab muscles and ass, and then... nothing happens again.

Okay, so I guess the main "story" of this movie is about the aforementioned muscular hunk named Sean who is in the Caribbean searching for underwater treasure and planning to write a book about it and have a reality show or some such crap. He's a douchebag, but you could pretty much tell that by looking at him. We are later introduced to some "experts" that he's brought into his beach house to help him with research and stuff, but none of them end up doing much more than walking around in their speedos and go swimming. They all just happen to be hot young guys.

Oh no wait, a chick shows up! Not a hot chick, of course, but a chick nonetheless, and she does nothing to help the characters or the movie itself. These actors were obviously only chosen for their looks and their willingness to be in a really bad gay movie. Um, yea for them?

After the scene where Sean supposedly kills his island contact with an enormous piece of driftwood, and before we meet any of the other main characters, the movie goes back into a familiar pattern. Yup, a THIRD guy (Josh, as he tells us, and strangely not shirtless) walks into the house and starts walking around asking if anybody is there. STOP IT, STOP IT RIGHT NOW! I can't watch another scene like this again without anything happening or without them explaining anything. But surprise surprise, nothing is ever really explained enough to anybody's satisfaction.

Lemme just try to sum up what they say is going on here. While Sean was searching for whatever at the bottom of the ocean he took an important artifact from Atlantis. Yeah, Atlantis. One of the guys in Sean's house is impersonating the expert Clay he brought in and he's like a citizen of Atlantis whose been doing experiments on people and all the planes that disappear over the Bermuda Triangle and taking the people into the fourth dimension. Does that make sense? Didn't think so.

The most exciting part of the movie for our gay viewers is probably the scene where Sean takes a shower - though he doesn't need it - for THREE MINUTES. I say this is the best scene because Sean has arguably the best body of any of the guys in the movie. So DeCoteau lets us enjoy that by showing him running his hands over his (very ripped) stomach and arms. I thought for a second that something was wrong with the movie because he uses the exact same shot twice in this sequence... just to prolong it, I guess.

What happens at the end? Goodness help me, a FOURTH guy walks into the house looking for people. He gets hit with the lightning and tied up in the shower. Still no good explanation for why we have to watch naked guys struggling - other than to, you know, watch naked guys struggling. I don't really give a crap one way or the other but it's frustrating. And then what happens after the fourth dude gets tied up? No, more than just nothing - the movie ENDS.

It's bad, you get that. It's a gay movie and it's bad. The acting is one dimensional and mechanical, the plot is beyond lame, the music is repetitive and annoying. Shirtless guys walking around. That's all it is. And there are apparently a lot more movies like this from DeCoteau, which is cool for his fans and all but this is obviously not my thing. Until the next Project Terrible, I leave you with the only screenshot I could find for 1313 Bermuda Triangle, which is of our main shirtless guy, Sean. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


I guess if I wanted to keep up my marathon, it would've helped to update my dang DVD queue. Hence the Argh. So I'm gonna be a little behind on getting Freaks and The Fly done. Meantime, I've gotten onto one of my little TV show-watching kicks. This time it's...

... which means that I am now hopelessly obsessed with Vincent D'Onofrio. My gosh, is he awesome on that show. Per this obsession, I also had to pick up the new Jennifer Lynch movie with him in it.

Watching it right now, actually. Not sure if I'll do a review yet, but D'Onofrio is still kicking ass as always. He's doing something weird with his speech, though, and I don't get it. I might listen to the commentary on this one from D'Onofrio and Lynch before I send it back. 

Random update. See you all later!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Classic Monster Movie Marathon: Frankenstein (1931)

Of all the classic monsters that I have and will cover in this little marathon, I think it's safe to say that Frankenstein's Monster is perhaps the most iconic, if not at the least the most recognizable. You can be a snob and remind people that "Frankenstein" is actually the name of the doctor that created the quite well-known monster with a flat top head, bolts in his neck, and a lumbering walk - but honestly, that doesn't really matter anymore. What matters is that the bare bones of this story written by Mary Shelley have continued to influence media for damn near 200 years since it was first published.

The story perhaps does not need repeating but I like talking about it anyway. A seemingly mad scientist creates a human body from pieces he has stolen from graves and the gallows and brings it to life using electrical machines powered by a great thunderstorm. The creature at first seems to be rather simple and harmless, but soon shows his murderous capabilities - perhaps caused by the fact that he was implanted with the brain of a criminal. The creature doesn't understand what he's doing, but is nonetheless hunted down by the proverbial angry villagers with torches and burned down in the very building where he was "born."

Dracula and Frankenstein are like the two main Titans of this oeuvre of Universal monster movies. Everybody knows their names and their stories, but all the parody and popularization of their images has perhaps made many people forget (or not even know in the first place) that these characters were first presented to us in really, really excellent movies. Frankenstein may be an "old" movie and it may be in - gasp! - black and white, but guess what? It can still be an awesome movie, and this one most definitely is. As I've mentioned before with these Universal movies, there's much more beneath the surface than just a movie about a monster causing some mayhem. Like The Invisible Man, Frankenstein is a more character-driven story and is at its core an important morality tale.

Don't forget that the subtitle to the original novel was "The Modern Prometheus." Not that new Ridley Scott movie, but the mythical figure who created man by molding him out of clay, and who stole fire from the gods to be used by man. Mary Shelley was above all trying to tell a cautionary tale about any man who attempts to play God and messes with life and death, and the consequences that could arise from it. There are countless, and I mean countless, movies and stories that deal with some kind of monster or being created by science where things end up going horribly wrong. These scientific experiments are usually meant to somehow improve upon life - to makes us live longer, for instance - or they are done out of sheer arrogance, to prove that something seemingly impossible can be accomplished with science. And the moral of every story like this seems to always be that just because you can do something does not mean that you should do it, as Dr. Frankenstein proves in this movie.

The infamous scene with the Monster and the little girl Maria when he throws her into the lake and drowns her still makes the skin prickle a bit to watch it today. On the one hand, you're terrified for the girl who is incredibly adorable and innocent looking, but on the other, you feel bad for the Monster too. There's no way he can understand what he's doing, and his immediate fear and remorse show that he's learning. In that way, the scene can even make you angry at Dr. Frankenstein for doing this to both the Monster and the girl. Actually, the scene where the Monster kills Maria was not the worst for me. No one ever seems to mention the next part of the story, which has Maria's father carrying her dead body through the village to Frankenstein's house. The way her lifeless arm and head bounce around as he walks and the reactions of everybody in the background make this a difficult scene to watch, and a brave scene for the movie to do at the time.

I guess it's time to talk about the man himself, Boris Karloff. Frankenstein's Monster is his most well-known role and is what made him a Hollywood name. The Monster's inability to speak was perhaps fortuitous because it is what Karloff does with his body and facial expressions that really creates the character, and easily conveys all of his feelings of confusion, fear, and anger. The way he walks when the Monster makes his first full appearance, the way he reaches for the sunlight - all his moves are simply perfect in every way, and any actor today only wishes he could copy what Karloff does without looking silly at all.

A lot of love and praise is heaped upon Karloff for this movie, but what of the man playing Frankenstein himself? At least in the first part of the movie, he is the real star of the show for me, and yet I had never even known his name before I decided to write about Frankenstein. Colin Clive is remarkable as Henry Frankenstein. His portrayal is so magnetic and charismatic, aided by his piercing eyes and a voice that conveys madness, desperation, and determination all at the same time. That one lock of hair that falls in front of his eyes when he's going all crazy-rambling? Perfect image, and dead sexy as well. He made only 18 films during his short career, but he no doubt made a lasting impression with this role - helped by his wonderful delivery of the famous line "It's alive!"

Sidenote: Loved seeing Dwight Frye again as Frankenstein's hunchbacked assistant Fritz. Same as his role in Dracula, Frye brings such amazing creepy comedy and physicality to this role. Awesome actor! Also, the guy playing Baron Frankenstein was a freaking hoot.

Have I heaped enough praise on this movie yet? Do you get that it is an amazing classic that will never be forgotten? Good. There's so much more to talk about here - the ominous lack of music; the fantastic set at the windmill; the finale with the villagers - but hopefully I've highlighted enough of what the movie means to me to make you go see it and love it as much as everyone else does. Another horror icon with an indelible place in film history, the story of Frankenstein and his monstrous creation has and will always with be us, no matter where the genre goes in the future.

And just for the fun of it again, here's a picture of me with Frankenstein's Monster at Madame Toussaud's in NYC.