NOVEMBER MIX N MATCH reviews
Some of the flicks I’ve watched this past week:
I liked INTERSTELLAR and its themes of family bonding and human determination (even though the theatre’s sound was crazy, but we’ve discussed this problem before).
DELIVER US FROM EVIL did a good job mashing up police procedural with the supernatural genre (the exorcism in it is shot as if it’s a police interrogation..!), but there’s a moment that really disappointed me, where Eric Bana’s character should be at rock bottom and emotional rather than solemn and justified. I think they missed the mark big time with that and marred my final judgment of the film.
I’m a fan of the original TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (I even have an old VHS copy of it), so was curious what they’d do with the remake/reboot/sequel/whatever-label-they-slapped-on-it. It comes off as a pretty solid 1980s era-style slasher in tone with really slick modern day cinematography. I think it also comes off as too much inspired by SCREAM, but hell, SCREAM comes off a little too much like HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, so whatever.
I really liked THE PURGE ANARCHY. I mean, it’s wholeheartedly a crazy ass premise that would never, ever, ever work in a really real world situation (there’s no way a country could pick up the pieces after a yearly night of Purging, and I’m deep-down an optimist when it comes to human morality — surprise!! — so I don’t think it would fly.) BUT, I do think the film was scary and tense, so it did its job.
Finally, the kids wanted to watch THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN and THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE. BRAIN was garbage. SHRINKING MAN is quite good with an existential ending.
KING OF KONG / THE DOUBLE / WORLD OF HORROR mini-review
Of these flicks (that I watched the last few days), I’m gonna recommend THE KING OF KONG the most. It’s manipulative documentary filmmaking, but it’s pretty entertaining stuff. There’s a guy named Billy Mitchell (set up as the villain in it), and he’s pretty spot-on for some guys I actually know who take their shit way too serious and somehow have collected a group of sheep who forever nod yes to him.
I didn’t like THE DOUBLE and turned it off a half hour in. For all I know, it may have become the greatest film ever made 31 minutes in, but I got bored watching Jesse Eisenberg in a three-sizes too big suit walking around like human milquetoast.
And.. if you’re a horror fan, you should watch DARIO ARGENTO’S WORLD OF HORROR. I had to order it from Amazon, and it’s a scant 111 minutes, but you get to see how they filmed Jennifer Connelly’s bug stuff in PHENOMENA while wondering what Argento would look like if he took Vitamin E regularly and not take hair combing advice from the Frankenstein Monster.
FADING GIGOLO review
Dear Hollywood, I’ve accepted many things from you over my long relationship with you. It’s called suspension of disbelief.
I’ve accepted vampires, werewolves, little girls possessed by demons, invisible witches, and haunted hotels. I’ve opened my mind to spaceships, laser swords, shape-shifting aliens, talking dogs, talking monkeys, cloned dinosaurs and time traveling dopes that enthusiastically play air guitar.
I even wholeheartedly bought Andrew Dice Clay in BLUE JASMINE.
Where I draw the line is when anyone — ANYONE — can have a three-way with Sharon Stone and Sofía Vergara with as much interest as I have when I clean hair from the tub drain. I understand John Turturo is in love with another woman while he’s doing it, but Jesus Christ and all the Saints, it’s Sofía Vergara! from behind! with Sharon Stone! In lingerie! Lacy black lingerie!
Between this, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER Lincoln, and THE HAPPENING, you have officially failed me.
PS: please bring Buffy back.
THE VANISHING ON 7TH STREET review
Last night’s Halloween flick was a bit of a disappointment. THE VANISHING ON 7TH STREET had a lot going for it: I like Hayden Christensen and John Leguizamo just fine and am a big, big fan of Brad Anderson (SESSION 9 remains one of my favorite horror films of all time; I saw it five times in the theater alone). And it sure as hell wasn’t the premise, which is undeniably chilling. It was the execution that bothered me.
In my humble opinion, survival horror must always stand up against Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD: it has to say something meaningful about our nature or our civilization; outwitting and dodging the threat just isn’t enough. In the end, I didn’t really find the threat (as original as it was) or the characters say anything substantial about us, and that’s a shame.
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD review
It must have been Halloween of 1986 when my pal Orin and I watched RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD for the first time. It kind of sums up a perfect Halloween movie for 14-year-old boys: tongue-in-cheek, energetic, kitsch, gory and fun. Linnea Quigley’s weird punk-goth dance on the gravestone didn’t hurt matters much either (however, the fact she walks around killing people as a monstrous ghoul while still naked did create a lot of conflicting emotions).It seems RETURN has no aspirations to
It seems RETURN has no aspirations to be a message movie (that’s why we have Romero), but it actually has a lot. The punks aren’t deplorable thugs (they’re actually quite level-headed and loyal) and join forces with the older generation quite easily. I often argue that humanity’s nihilism in zombie films is overstated. People come together during horrible events like 9/11 and the Paris attacks and I believe something in us desires the social contract more than anarchy. So kudos to RETURN for having a bit of arguing but a whole lot more cooperation.But when it comes down to it, RETURN is just plain funny. The zombies are verbose (one explains they eat brains because it quells the pain that death brings) as well as smart and clever (I absolutely love they get on a radio to order more cops and paramedics into their graveyard). The characters are
But when it comes down to it, RETURN is just plain funny. The zombies are verbose (one explains they eat brains because it quells the pain that death brings) as well as smart and clever (I absolutely love they get on a radio to order more cops and paramedics into their graveyard). The characters are likable and practical: the humor is on the insanity of the situation rather than their cliched stupidity.
To tell you the truth, after that first episode of WALKING DEAD, I really, really needed some RETURN in my zombie diet.
CABIN IN THE WOODS review
Although it ain’t no AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, CABIN IN THE WOODS is a clever, fun twist on probably the most overused staple in the horror genre (its title). The characters are smart and likable (even Fran Kranz’ character, the typical annoying stoner, didn’t get under my skin like most of his counterparts in other films). Plus Anna Hutchison does about the best seduction I’ve ever seen to a stuffed wolf’s head (which is saying a lot; I grew up in Northern BC).
If you’re not in the know, CABIN’s about five kids who go up to an isolated shack and are besieged by supernatural forces. The movie’s shrewdness lies not in the set-up, but with why so many of these cabins in horror films are occult death-traps. There are greater evils at work in the form of an indifferent bureaucracy and dark, ancient Lovecraftian gods.
If the film has any weakness, it’s with the lighting. There was a whole section where I couldn’t make out a damned thing (and I was watching on Blu Ray). I don’t know if that also compounded that the threat initially invoked a family of undead red-neck psychopaths played blandly at best. I could never tell how many of them there actually were or what they were wielding for weapons. Truth be told, like one of the company button-pushers, I would’ve preferred to see the Mer-Man attack them too.
There was also a plot hole left unanswered about why the tunnel didn’t blow up initially. Was the glitch in the system caused by the Elder Gods? Were they getting tired of the yearly ritual and just wanting to fuck with the show?
My pal Rick threw me a theory (a very plausible theory) that CABIN is a metaphor for filmmaking and the horror fans that consume them. Can’t dispute that. As a horror movie enthusiast, I can tell you I carry both a god complex and a sick curiosity in watching fictional characters croak.
POLTERGEIST (1982) review
Do you want to know how good Poltergeist is? I had no desire to get up and go to the bathroom while watching it. I could’ve paused the Blu-ray player at any time, and I didn’t. I gambled a possible bladder infection because the movie is that good. The only thing– and I mean the only thing — that looked off to me was the initial animated whisp of ethereal energy emitting out of the TV right before Carol Anne’s “they’re here” line. Everything else is great, this movie is close to perfect.
Speaking from a male/dad/husband perspective, I’m kind of tired of my breed looking like dicks in the horror genre. We either cause the problem (SINISTER), run from the problem (INSIDIOUS), willfully ignore the problem (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) or are the problem (THE SHINING). When I watched A HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT (I spelled that right without autocorrect by the way), I wanted to take a shovel to Martin Donovan’s head. What an asshole. In POLTERGEIST, Craig T. Nelson does it up right: he’s a loving husband, he’s a nurturing father. When the shit hits the fan, he’s dying because his family’s in peril. He doesn’t have the typical “I can solve this myself” macho stance (in fact, he’s the first one to say “no one goes in the kitchen till I get someone to figure this out”). He’s skeptical but open-minded. Kudos to you, Coach (it doesn’t make up for your food stamp comment though).
So, if you want a great Halloween flick, you can’t do any better than POLTERGEIST. You know it, I know it; the clown under your bed knows it.
ED WOOD review
I decided not to do a horror film for last night’s Halloween Marathon, but instead, watch my favorite Tim Burton flick ED WOOD.
It would have been easy to make a movie looking down at these Hollywood fringe dwellers, or even delve into Ed’s darker nature (alcoholism, softcore porn pics, depression), but it’s made with a filter of love. Even Lugosi’s tragedies are non-judgemental and sympathetic. These people had a rough enough life as it is; at least their biography shows their world as sentimental.
Depp (still in that magic phase where he could do no wrong) plays Wood like a confident, breezy car salesman who seems most alive when he’s surrounded by other misfits, shooting anything/anywhere for a few hundred bucks (we get the feeling the line between film producer and cult leader is a thin line indeed). Landau deservedly won the Oscar that year — I hope just for uttering the words “that limey cocksucker can rot in hell for all I care!”
A lot of us live in this fringe of filmmaking: hustling for cash, doing our best to keep a circle of friends around us involved in our dreams, scrounging creative measures for lack of budget. If anything, Wood is a patron saint to anyone whose wanted to play with ILM or KNB and is left downloading After Effects tutorials on the internet.
BEETLEJUICE (1988) review
Hey, so remember there was a time when a Tim Burton film didn’t deal with Johnny Depp in a weird hat? Or Johnny Depp in weird make-up? Or Johnny Depp doing a stupid accent? I went traveling back to that magical time tonight before goth was just another cliche and I could enjoy Jeffrey Jones’ work before realizing he was a sexual predator.
We all like BEETLEJUICE, right? It’s campy, hip and vulgar, but pretty sweet and corny (I always imagined me and my wife enduring purgatory with the same affection Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis do). And it’s funny. Who doesn’t have a deep fear that the Afterlife will be just a complex bureaucracy filled with indifference and red-tape?
I know there’s a lot of excitement every few weeks when a possible sequel is bandied about. That kind of talk does nothing for me. BEETLEJUICE was an odd duck out even when it was released. That’s why it’s so adored. I have a sneaky feeling any visit back to the sandworms and shrimp hands will make me sing “daylight come, and me wanna’ go home.”
THE LOST BOYS (1986) review
Before he put a bullet into the Batman franchise, Joel Schumacher made THE LOST BOYS, and boy am I glad he did. Everyone in my generation loves it and rightfully so.
It’s well written, funny, stylistic, engaging and massively entertaining. It’s rock ‘n roll filmmaking with its creepy groove soundtrack, theatrical lighting, and gypsy wardrobe. I really love the family dynamics in the film, especially between the two brothers who banter with one another, but stick with each other no matter what (vampirism included).
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched the damned thing, all I know is still puts a smile on my face when I do.
“One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, all the damn vampires.”