Saturday, January 25, 2014

Movie Review: A Little Bit Zombie (2012)

Ah, the zom-com. Seems to be more of them than you can shake a stick at these days, because well, zombies are cool. And people have been proving for years that zombies can also be awesomely funny which is what A Little Bit Zombie manages to do brilliantly.

Six days before their wedding, Steve and Tina take their matron of honor and best man to their family's cabin in the woods for a little R and R in preparation for the big day. Steve is nervous about the situation considering Tina's obsessiveness about the wedding, and the fact that she doesn't get along with his sister Sarah, the matron of honor. And all that is put to the test when Steve is bitten by a mosquito carrying a zombie virus. Somewhat resistant to the infection, Steve is still mostly human, but he can't feel pain and has an insatiable need for brains. Meanwhile, two zombie hunters find out about Steve's unique condition and while one wants to cure him, the other wants to see him dead.

What I liked the most about A Little Bit Zombie was that it found its own way, and never seemed like it was trying too much, if at all, to be like Shaun of the Dead or any other zom-com. There's a small Evil Dead homage in one scene, but for the most part this movie found its own plot line, its own gags, and its own sense of humor that I've never seen before. Their take on the zombie story is somewhat different in that our main character Steve only becomes a little bit zombie and doesn't really want to hurt anyone but finds out that he must feed on brains - fresh human brains - or he will deteriorate physically.

The acting is really what sells this ridiculous story, and at the risk of over-exaggerating, everybody was dynamo. My favorite characters were Max and Penny, the zombie hunter and scientist who drive around in an old camper and refer to a glowing orb to let them know when a zombie is around. Underused actor Stephen McHattie and relative unknown Emilie Ullerup play absolutely beautifully off of each other with wonderful comedic timing and physicality. McHattie loves the zombie killing and fuels up for the fight by chowing down on some "Tactical Bacon" - hilarious.  Ullerup is kind of a bumbling brainy type who tries to keep Max in line, but she's equally hilarious in her own way. The incredible campy-ness of the movie is given real credibility by the acting of McHattie and Ullerup, and by the rest of the actors as well. The characters of Craig and Tina are sometimes exaggerated in their reactions and dialogue but it's all part of the tone and feeling of the movie. They're all good enough that it never gets too cheesy, and there's also never any lulls in the established tone.

Even though this is a zombie movie, there is hardly any gore to talk about. And surprisingly, I didn't mind it one bit. Max gets things started off right at the beginning with a funny scene of him and Penelope taking care of some zombies at a sideshow carnival. After that, it's not until the end that you see more gore, but it's not zombie related. The stuff that is zombie related in the movie has more to do with the comedy element and they came up with some really good ideas here. There are some wonderful scenes where the group scours a local meat shop to by some brains for Steve; a scene where Steve goes off into the wilderness to catch him some animal brains - and fails; and a great part where the girls Tina and Sarah get all hooker-ed out to go to a bar and find a "bad person" that Steve could kill and eat his brains. One of my favorite things was how Steve would would drool every time somebody said the word "brains" - and not just a little dribble from the corner of his mouth, either, a full-on half a cup of spit would spew out. I really appreciated the ingenuity from the filmmakers to go a little outside the box from what other zombie movies do and take a different route.

The ending is a bit of a surprise and not where I expected it to go at all but it was still a good end to a great zombie movie. I think horror fans and zombie fans will be able to enjoy and also appreciate A Little Bit Zombie, even if it doesn't have your typical zombies actually in it. The movie is hilarious and fresh and I think it really brings something great to the zombie genre.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Project Terrible: Buttcrack (1998)

Yeah, you read that right. I watched a movie called Buttcrack. I guess I should know by now that there's no getting out of my Project Terrible duties as far as Alec is concerned, so here we go. This pick is from Alex Jowski, and as you can probably tell by the title and the cover art, it is a god awful Troma picture (though actually not directed or written by Lloyd Kaufman) that is a blessedly short 67 minutes long. It's available on YouTube if you're wildly curious, but your time would probably be better spent getting a root canal or something.

Brian is desperate to spend some time alone with his girlfriend Annie, whom he wants to propose to, but his overweight and highly annoying roommate Wade keeps getting in the way. Wade's biggest offense is the fact that he can't kept his pants up, constantly showing his buttcrack. One day Brian gets so mad at Wade that he accidentally kills him, and Wade's sister puts a curse on him so that anyone who says the word "buttcrack" twelve times in one breath will bring Wade back to life so he can get revenge.

To put my feelings in the most eloquent way possible... OMFGTHAT'SSODUMBIWANTTOKILLEVERYONEWHOMADETHISMOVIE. I don't even really know what to say here - how could one measly hour hold so much awfulness? The term "low budget" doesn't even cover the almost non-existent production value, the actors who don't even try, or the filmmaking techniques that look like a child was behind the camera. Had I been in a better mood before I started watching this, I'm sure I would have found Buttcrack hilarious, and I know that you're supposed to. It's so ridiculous and stupid that it's not trying to be anything but ridiculous and stupid.

As possibly the most annoying person on the planet, the actor playing Wade is quite talented. Not only is he physically repulsive with his overhanging gut and unibrow (not to mention the buttcrack), he also has a super-annoying voice which he uses to sing horribly and talk non-stop about playing Atari. The other actors aren't any better. Brian's friend Ken is probably the worst because he can't seem to show any emotion at all and spends the whole movie with the same blank stare on his face. Brian's girlfriend Annie and her scrunchy face don't help anything either, and Brian himself is unattractive and dresses like he still loves 80s. Some idiot named Mojo Nixon takes his role as Preacher Man Bob very seriously, acting like the quintessential evangelical religious nut who has to speak at least five octaves above everybody else and has no control of his hands. They're bad. They're all bad.

I didn't even know that this was going to be a zombie movie, but when Wade awkwardly brings into a conversation with Brian that his sister is into voodoo, I knew that it was heading into that direction. Even though the movie is so short, you still have to wait until the last ten minutes or so for anything zombie-related to happen. And trust me, you've never heard anything like this before. Wade's offending buttcrack, which in once scene literally makes Annie vomit all over him, is actually what makes the people around him turn into zombies. Yup, just one look at that disgusting butt cleavage after Wade rises from the grave instantly turns several people (actually almost the whole cast because there's only about six of them) into zombies who for some reason develop nasty wounds out of nowhere in seconds.

And actually, the zombie effects were better than I was expecting considering the production value of the rest of the flick. In just a few minutes, they manage to pull off a guy getting his neck ripped out, a woman taking several gunshots to the face, and poor little zombie Wade getting one of his arms yanked off at the shoulder. So I was mildly impressed by that. Not much else.

At the end of the movie we get the most unnecessary scene of some people visiting Wade's grave a year later because he's become some sort of local legend. They then proceed to give the audience a recap of everything that just happened in the movie. It was three minutes ago. Do you really think we could ever forget what we just saw??? They say "buttcrack" again twelve times and the last shot is Wade's hand coming out of the grave again. Oh thank goodness, it's over. If you know what's good for you, you will never, ever watch this movie.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Movie Review: Doghouse (2009)

Okay, somehow my review of Doghouse got "reverted to draft" so I have to publish it again... Scroll down for the movie review I meant to post this morning - V/H/S 2!

Hmm, what to think of Doghouse? Some of me likes the movie for what it does right, but the rest of me is still having a problem with the things it gets wrong. Feminists and others of similar beliefs will probably have a problem with the movie, too, because the overall theme of the movie is kind of anti-woman, mostly in regards to how they treat men in relationships. For the most part, though, Doghouse is still a pretty good, gory flick that is worth at least one viewing. I guess you just shouldn't take it so seriously.

Trying to help a buddy through a painful divorce, six friends travel to the tiny, isolated town of Moodley, where the women outnumber the men. As soon as they arrive, however, they find out that their plan of drinking heavily and chasing tail is not going to happen because the women of Moodley are sick with a dangerous virus that makes them very violent and hungry for the flesh of the men.

One thing that the movie really gets right is the blood and guts. Gorehounds sniffing for something good will probably like what they see in Doghouse. There are tons of gags involving axes, SuperSoakers, radio controlled cars, swords, and golf clubs. The effects are practical, which is of course always welcome, and there are some really great looking shots of men who have been cut open and gutted. Very realistic. The look of the infected women is also fun, with their red eyes, sharp teeth and bumpy faces. Later on, they go through a second phase of the virus which makes them mutate a little more - long, nasty fingernails, for one - and also makes them stronger and more intelligent. All the actresses playing these chicks were truly fantastic, really going crazy in their roles and playing very effective zombie-like monsters. Miss Scissorhands (or "The Snipper" as she's actually credited) particularly stood out for me.

The comedy element is really where the film falters a bit. There are a couple of lines and situations that were funny and got a chuckle out of me, but mostly I was listening to the dialogue and thinking that I knew that they were trying to be funny and it just wasn't working on me for some reason. The problem was with the actors' execution and line delivery which was sometimes deadpan and lacked any physicality. Of course it's funny when three of the guys dress up in ladies' clothes to try to sneak their way through the horde, and actually pretty much the whole movie is absurd enough to be laughable, but the comedy still could have used some tweaking. Other than that, I enjoyed the actors in their roles and despite all of them having something annoying about their personalities, they make themselves be likable by being very cute and charming. There are also some moments where their brotherhood and love for each other shows, and that was cute.

Okay, the woman thing. Thinking about it a little bit more, I can see both sides of what they were doing here. At the beginning of the film, the audience is given a little introduction for each of our six guys specifically related to their problems with the women in their lives (they're all in the "doghouse" I guess). Their women are bitches who yell and throw things at them, so it's no wonder why they would want some guy time. The virus in Moodley only affects the women and the only people they want to kill are the men. The infected women are not even wearing normal clothes, but rather more like costumes of different stereotypical women - there's a bride, a dominatrix with big tits and a bigger sword, a schoolgirl in pigtails, a fat housewife, etc. There's even a point in the movie, when the men have some downtime from their fight to get out of Moodley, where they actually talk about how hot some of the infected women are! Oh, boys, you're unbelievable.

On the other hand, though, there are tons of movies about men doing wrong to women and about how evil and violent men can be towards women. Why not a movie about nice guys getting shit on by women? It happens, and these guys chose to deal with it and finally bring that male aggression to the surface. And really, it's easy not to take the misogyny seriously when you look at just how they chose to deal with it - flesh-eating crazies that are barely still human. It's a ridiculous extreme that's not even a very good metaphor for the types of women that these guys have to deal with in their real lives.

So I guess I'm giving Doghouse a half thumbs-up. It mostly gets the job done of being an enjoyable horror comedy, despite it not really being all that funny to me. The movie is just crazy and gory enough to be enjoyable for a lot of horror fans. Men, if you've had a bad breakup or something recently, I say give Doghouse a watch for a feel good time. Your women probably won't feel the same way, though.

Movie Review: V/H/S 2 (2013)

I'm really starting to fall in love with anthologies, and I'm so glad that people haven't forgotten about this film sub-genre, especially when it comes to horror movies. As with pretty much all anthologies, though, things are going to be hit or miss when it comes to ranking the different segments. The same was true with 2012's V/H/S which had a few shorts that I loved and the rest... eh, not so much, but the overall film was pretty awesome. And obviously popular, because now here we are with V/H/S 2 (argh, they should've stuck with "S-VHS") and it has one returning director and four new ones helming five segments, one less than the previous film.

Tape 49
Directed by Simon Barrett

Tape 49 serves as the wraparound narrative for V/H/S 2. Two private investigators, Larry and Ayesha, break into a house to look for a women's missing son. They don't find him but they do find a house full old VHS tapes and a video that the young man made. Ayesha sits down to watch some of the tapes while Larry investigates. There's not a whole lot to this wraparound until the end, but even then it doesn't make much sense and fails to really explain what is going on. As Ayesha continues to watch the  tapes, it starts to affect her in a strange way, plus a figure keeps appearing in the background of the room in which she's watching them. The ending to this segment is delightfully gruesome but all the unanswered questions (what the hell was happening to Ayesha? Why did the mother send the PIs there?) bothered me a little bit. I did like the fucked up motivation of the son's to make his own insane VHS tape like the ones he's been watching and collecting, however, this could have been fleshed out a lot more.

Phase I Clinical Trials
Directed by Adam Wingard

Director Adam Wingard stars as his own main character in Phase I Clinical Trials as a man who suffered an eye injury in a car accident and is participating in the testing of a new kind of camera eye. Though he has his sight back, the patient soon finds out that his new eye also allows him to see other things - things he never wanted to see in the first place. This short plays out like a typical ghost story with a lot of "boo!" jump scares that you can see coming a mile away. Though some of the imagery is rightfully creepy, like the shape of a body under his covers and the look of the actual bionic eye whenever the man looks in the mirror, things get weird when a strange woman shows up. She has a cochlear implant and can hear or sense the ghosts instead of seeing him like our main character can, and other than to explain what is happening to him, she doesn't serve much of a purpose. After that there's a bit of a chase leading up to a supposedly shocking climax that doesn't really manage to shock at all. Phase I Clinical Trials gets the award for figuring out a way to do the found footage in a totally new way and for the ending, but I'm still a little "meh" about this one. I would say that this short could be better if given a longer time limit but the basic premise has pretty much already been done with The Eye (no, not you, Jessica Alba... go away).

Still love both Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett though because they are so my homeboys. Can't wait to see You're Next.

*UPDATE* Watched You're Next last night and really liked it! Review hopefully coming soon...

A Ride in the Park
Directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale

I have no idea who these two directors are but now I know that I like their style. Mike is a bicyclist going out for ride through the woods and for some reason he has a camera on his helmet and somewhere on the handlebars of his bike, pointing at him. Anywho, he comes across a woman who asks him for help but ends up attacking him and turning him into a zombie. So now we get a short from the point of view of a zombie, which turns out to be strangely gruesome, funny, and sad at the same time. This is one of the best looking shorts of the bunch with many shots that are framed perfectly (the accompanying picture is my favorite) and some nice gore work as Mike chomps down on some victims - and himself - even pulling out some intestines in one scene. The funny part comes when he tries to eat the guy's wallet and spits it out. That was cute. I'm not so sure about the whole zombie-still-remembers-love thing by the end of the short but it worked on me in the moment, and made for a better ending than just somebody else putting him down with a gun. All in all, a very good little tale that I quite enjoyed. Thumbs up!

Safe Haven
Directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans

Okay, let's all just stand up right now and applaud these guys, because Safe Haven was beyond words awesome. Perhaps that is a little unfair seeing as how this is the longest segment of the five and therefore had a lot more room to develop and show us lots of cool stuff, but damn, did it ever deserve it. The story follows a news crew as they film and interview the "father" of a cult called Paradise Gates. After entering their compound and getting deeper into the community, things soon get seriously out of hand for our characters. I was definitely expecting something weird to happen with the whole cult thing, but not anything like this. There are so many amazing moments that happen here - the throat slashing (which I both love and hate at the same time), the body exploding, the room of guys who commit suicide, not to mention the full-grown fucking demon climbing out of a woman's stomach. Effects work is fantastic all the way through and looks so realistic that the VHS quality actually makes it look even more awesome, you know? Safe Haven is pretty much an all around amazing little bit of filmmaking right here. The acting, the story, the fantastic effects that just get more surprising with each new scene... all leading up another great conclusion that actually had me laughing my head off from pure enjoyment.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction
Directed by Jason Eisener

As the last segment in this anthology, Slumber Party Alien Abduction is severely misplaced. Knowing the title before I saw it kind of ruined the surprise for me but there's still a lot wrong with this segment. A group of kids are making mischief and filming it while their parents are gone, when, duh, aliens land and come after them. Yawn. Despite being young and innocent kids, the characters are all unlikable and annoying. The camera mounted on the family dog is no doubt inventive and a good way to explain how they are still filming while being chased by aliens, but it's still weird. The aliens themselves are your typical grey boys with bald heads and long limbs, so there's nothing new or fun there. The short is also too short! There's a little bit of a set up and then most of the exciting stuff is just a quick chase sequence where not much else happens. I'm bored. Order is definitely important in an anthology, people, and this one did not deserve to be last.

V/H/S 2 is a step up from its predecessor in a few ways, with more likable characters and bringing the number of segments down by one so that some of the better shorts have more room to breathe. Two of the shorts are fairly weak (Tape 49 and Slumber Party Alien Abduction) while the other three are much more successful. Is V/H/S 3 coming soon then? Well, technically this series could go on forever because they are only linked by format instead of story, and I'd be more than happy to see more of this kind of stuff in the future.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Movie Review: Aftershock (2012)

As a blind Netflix watch, Aftershock was more of a joy than I could have hoped for. I remember hearing about this output from Eli Roth quite a while ago, but then... nothing. And it's really a shame because though Roth left the directing to Nicolas Lopez this time, his work as co-writer, producer, and actor came together to make a movie that is not only very different from his previous films, but also far more mature and intriguing.

A group of friends vacationing in Chile are partying at a nightclub when a devastating earthquake hits. They escape the rubble and make it to the streets, but the city is in chaos, especially when the tsunami warning sirens start going off. While trying to get a severely injured friend to the hospital and make it to safety themselves, the group finds more and more dangers lurking, because the quake has also caused a local prison to collapse and now the criminals are free, taking advantage of the situation to cause more chaos.

Disaster movies already inherently have a touch of horror in them, and Aftershock manages to break the mold on both on both genres by continuously giving us plot twists that are unexpected. You can guess who is going to live or die and when, but you'll be wrong. The setup before the earthquake happens lets you figure out who you like as you meet the bumbling Gringo, the gregarious Pollo, the comic relief Ariel, the sweet Irina, the party girl Kylie, and the wetblanket Monica. How exactly they all know each other and came to be together is not really explained but together they're a fun group. Shot entirely in Chile, the locations are gorgeous and colorful, a great contrast to the tempered hues in the last half of the film. 

So I feel like I've been really unfair to Eli Roth. I've said before that though I like his movies a lot, he kind of annoys me as a person. I saw him as being somewhat arrogant and full of himself, and maybe that was just a weird form of jealousy. As a writer and specifically as an actor, Roth proves himself to me with Aftershock. As the character known only as Gringo, he is more likable than I've ever seen him before and his acting skills have hit an all-time high. He is sincere and at times heartbreaking, especially in the scene where he is trapped under a pillar and confronted by the group of prisoners who want to rape the girls. This is where the movie might lose some people, but this scene and a few others are saved from being overly horrible by showing a lot of heart for the characters, maybe even some that you didn't like at first.

There is gore aplenty in Aftershock both from the earthquake devastation and the human rampage. I've heard some say that the film has a bit of an "exploitative" streak, but I didn't get that feeling at all, even after reading that Aftershock at first received an NC-17 rating. Even the rape scenes are not terribly graphic and in fact, I was more disturbed by the part where one character is burned alive because, well, fire is terrifying and not the best way to go out. There's also some business with axes and guns and hands getting torn off, and it's all done well and realistically. Except the CGI fire which I understand in that situation couldn't have been avoided. The city disaster scenes are also well shot and quite beautiful. Locations from the real earthquake that happened in Chile in 2010 were apparently used (though I don't know which ones) which gives the story a whole other sense of realism. Lopez and Roth actually developed the idea for the movie from the true experiences of Lopez after that disaster. 

When the final survivor escapes onto the beach, you know the big ending that is coming but you are still happy to see it. All in all, a satisfying conclusion to a movie I didn't know much about and probably never would have if I hadn't given it the chance it deserves.  

But seriously, what was with the dead aborted babies side story? It only has resonance with one character, and it doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the plot. It's good for one last shock and gross-out, but really kind of uncalled for.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Movie Review: Airborne (2012)

A recent impending snowy night was the perfect recipe for a movie night, and though I did not watch what I had initially intended too, the two films I chose turned out to be very nice surprises. First up was Airborne, a 2012 British film that is more of a thriller-mystery than horror with a bit of a strange twist that will probably piss off most people. Sometimes I guess I'm just too easy to please.

During a terrible storm, the last plane of the night takes off from Britain heading toward JFK in New York City. And what should be an easy flight with very few passengers slowly becomes anything but when passengers start to go missing and the plane starts to deviate from its intended destination. On the ground, an air traffic controller working his last night before retirement tries to help the people in the air when they are unable to contact the pilots and the plane disappears off the radar.

This movie caught my eye because the basic plot is one that I absolutely love and can't seem to get enough of - a small cast in one location for the majority of the movie. Each of the characters gets their own chance to stand out here but plot is what drives Airborne. And while the movie takes its sweet ass time working through some of the tropes of similar flicks, I couldn't help but completely enjoy the plot as it was being unfolded, despite the fact that they kept me in the dark about just what the hell was going on for most of the flick. I sort of like a movie to frustrate me to a point because, hey, at least it's keeping me interested.

Airborne is another one of those movies that's not fantastic but it's not horrible either. There's enough skill, talent, and seriousness here to warrant Airborne at least one watch to see if you like what it has to offer. If anything, you'll probably enjoy seeing none other than Mark Hamill in the role of the retiring air traffic controller Malcolm in a rare movie appearance. All of the cast are really on their game for this movie and it's part of what helps make it such an enjoyable ride.

The only thing about the characters that really made me scoff was the seemingly requisite horny young couple who mentions the Mile High Club roughly two minutes into the flight. Not only is that an instant spoiler that these two people will most definitely die, it is so freaking overused in any kind of movie that involves a plane. Come up with something new, seriously. My favorite character was the secretive, older businessman who travels with two bodyguards and says "fuck" every other word. Perhaps that should be annoying, but the guy had me in stitches with every line. Loved him. The director Dominic Burns also makes an appearance as the talkative passenger Bob, and Simon Phillips is perhaps the most likable character as Alan Fletcher. Each actor plays well to the whodunnit angle of the story, as they all at one point seem like they could be killer.

I have to talk about the twist now, so if you get all pissy about spoilers, this is your chance to run. The whole thing going on here is that the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service - the British CIA, I guess) is using the plane to transport an ancient Chinese vase to be sold overseas, and one of the stewardesses and her partner have plotted to detour the plane to South America where they will sell the vase to some drug lords and leave the rest of the passengers to be killed by them, as well. WHEW. Well actually, that's not it. The vase in question also happens to hold the soul of an ancient god that possesses people and makes them either kill themselves or other people. The strangest part about all this, though, is that when it all comes out, it's not as stupid as it should be. It's all handled in a strangely classy enough way so it wasn't even a problem at all.

Airborne turned out to be just my kind of movie. It's a good mystery with a more than competent cast to keep the plot thick and interesting right up until the somewhat ballsy conclusion.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Movie Review: The People Under the Stairs (1991)

This isn't my first rodeo with The People Under the Stairs. I've seen it many times before many years ago, but when I saw it pop up on my Netflix suggestions, I thought it deserved another, fresher view. I knew that there was more to remember about this movie than just Ving Rhames's outfit. That hat is really hard to forget. Anyway, The People Under the Stairs is for sure an odd little flick, with a strange mesh of horror and comedy that doesn't always work the way it's supposed to. However, there's still enough of the good here and there to make it at least an interesting romp for horror fans.

After receiving an eviction notice from their ghetto apartment, young kid Fool helps his sister's friend Leroy break into their landlords's - the Robesons - house in order to steal a stash of gold coins they are rumored to have inside. They soon find themselves trapped in the fortress-like home with a pair of maniacal siblings who call themselves Mommy and Daddy, their bloodthirsty Rottweiler Prince, and Alice, their meek daughter who has only survived by following Mommy and Daddy's strict rules. The pair also keep a group of feral young boys locked in the basement, where they have been starved into cannibalism.

I've claimed before that Wes Craven is my favorite horror director. The dude has definitely got some classics under his belt - don't think I even need to name them here - but the dude has also got some downright weird and downright awful films in his oeuvre as well. The People Under the Stairs is not one of the classics, nor is it one of the awful ones either. Maybe it's not for everyone or maybe not everyone will really "get" it (I'm not even really sure that I get it) which is precisely why I think this one deserves a closer look. Like I said it's an odd duck. The Netflix description mentions it being like a fairy tale, and I think that's true. If there's a specific fairy tale this is based on, I don't know it, but I do see very fairy tale-like or fantastical elements in the story - the quest of the young hero, the evil stepparents, the treasure, the morality explanation at the end. Craven brings his own dose of twisted reality to this sorta-classic story and, thus, The People Under the Stairs was born.

Just to get this out of the way first, the biggest problem I have with the overall movie is the constant conflict of emotions in relation to what is happening. The way this normal house has turned into a fortress that no one can get out of, the fact that Mommy and Daddy have never been caught for any of the crazy shit they do, etc. leans me more toward liking the movie for its over-the-top whackiness that you couldn't possibly ever take seriously. But I know Wes Craven, and I know how he likes to throw in some kind of element, even subtly, to make the audience really uncomfortable, if only for a moment. It's hilarious watching Daddy wear full S&M gear to chase Roach through the house with a shotgun (that no one in the neighborhood hears until he fires it outside - whatevs). But then there's that shot of Daddy grabbing his crotch while in the attic where Alice is tied up alone. There's the horrible abuse that Alice suffers under Mommy, like scalding hot baths. Maybe you just can't let yourself to think that deeply about what's really going on here in order to enjoy the movie.

And there definitely is a lot to enjoy here, don't get me wrong. Mommy and Daddy, played by Wendy Robie and Everett McGill, are gloriously grotesque in their performances. They are very crazy, of course, but also slimy and weird enough in a way that makes you kinda like them because they are able to become hilarious fodder for Fool and Roach throughout the course of the movie. The amount of times they are able to overcome Daddy makes it almost slapstick and helps to ease a bit of the aforementioned uncomfortableness. The performance by the child playing Fool left a bit to be desired as his reactions to some things were not very believable sometimes, but he's definitely cute and memorable as the smart-talking ghetto kid who decides to take on the Robesons. A.J. Langer as Alice ("My So-Called Life, FTW) was probably my favorite as her performance was spot on in every on of her scenes.

The setting is definitely another talking point. The house that these supposedly "rich" people of the neighborhood live in is quite large though it doesn't look it from the outside, but very unkempt on the inside. Strange contradiction there. The house is also an almost unbelievable labyrinthine castle with crawlspaces between the walls, secret doors everywhere, and lots of strange and dangerous contraptions (the stairs, the spikes through the walls, the chute that the dog goes down). I loved it. Minus the cannibals in the basement and the crazy people owning it, this was almost like my dream house because it looked like it could be so much fun to live there. Clean it up a bit with some new paint, and I would totally be playing around in those crawlspaces, I'm not even joking. The house is another character in the story, and the way that it constantly changes on us is a way to keep the story interesting throughout because this is basically our only real location for the movie.

Survey says that despite an uneven tone, generally, The People Under the Stairs is kinda awesome. I didn't get into the gore in my review but when it's there it's pretty good... even though there could have been more. The movie is kooky, and I love kooky, so I'm giving this one a thumbs up.