Monday, January 30, 2012

Movie Review: Final Destination 5 (2011)

I'm nixing the Roundup for 1-22-12 to 1-28-12 because it would have only consisted of two movies. Hey, I was tired from work and all I wanted to do was lounge on my bed and watch episodes of Law and Order: SVU that I've already seen a million times instead of having to concentrate on a new movie, okay? I did get some new ones seen this week so I'm going to review both of them. Yay, right?

Reading the "Critical Reception" section on Wikipedia's entry for Final Destination 5, I'm wondering if I saw the same damn movie as everyone else who apparently gave it such high praise. Frankly, this installment of a franchise that is now getting very old was a big letdown. I absolutely love the first two Final Destinations (the second one ranks a scant bit higher); I don't even remember the third one; and the fourth one was a little bit better, with some awesome kills.

The formula is basically the same. The main guy is Sam who while traveling on a bus with some coworkers to a business retreat has a vision of a bridge collapsing and everybody dying horrible and gruesome deaths. He gets a bunch of people to get off the bus in time to save them, but guess what? Days later, they all start dying anyway, one by one. The one big thing added to the equation is that Tony Todd implies to them that if they kill someone before Death can get them, then they can take the years that person has left.

The film starts off rather dull and uninspiring, introducing us to our main group of characters whom we already don't care about right from the beginning. There is of course the clashing of personalities and instantly unlikable people like the boss, who can never remember Sam's name and is generally just an uncaring douchebag. The guy playing Peter looks and act a little too much like Tom Cruise a lot of the time, which was disconcerting. Sam, Molly, and Olivia are the only ones we get to know, but only in a very minimal way.

Okay, so then after we meet all these people, we get to what is supposed to be the most exciting part of any Final Destination film - the inevitable huge catastrophe that will kill a bunch of people. When I first heard about this movie, I was stoked that the accident in question was going to be a bridge collapse. The idea seemed like it was going to be awesome because it is on a much larger scale - literally - than any of the incidents from the previous films. However, I was mightily disappointed at the final result here. I read some critics' reviews that said that this scene rivaled the highway pile-up from FD2 in how well it was executed. Shenanigans! Nothing can rival that sequence, which is one of the best (and my favorite) crash or action sequence from any horror film. I love that scene! But this bridge collapse was too focused on what happened to the individual people rather than on making a really cool, huge, catastrophic collapse with cars and bodies going every which-a-way. It was just not as exciting as I pictured, I'm sorry. Maybe my standards are too high.

Now, after a kick-ass premonition sequence, the other thing a good Final Destination film needs to have is of course the awesome kills of the survivors. Here again, FD5 fell short for me. These scenes are known for delivering the most elaborate setups for the characters' deaths and then shocking the audience by killing them in way unexpected from the setup. The setups here are less elaborate and the payoffs only leave you yelling at the screen, "That's it?!" Although I do give the filmmakers props for the gymnast's death, as that was rather nasty. The human body is not usually allowed to bend that way. Also, the FD series seems to have fostered a strange addiction to deaths by eye trauma - fire escape ladder to the eye, rock to the eye, and now laser to the eye. But then that scene ends with the chick just crashing out of the building's window. Not gruesome enough by Final Destination standards.

The previous films have given other possible ways to cheat Death - intervening when another person is about to die, bring new life into the world - but this one introduces a new way that is so obvious you wonder why it took them five movies to think of it. If you can appease Death by killing someone else in your place, then you can be safe. But then again the movie sets up this scenario and doesn't quite follow through with it all the way. Plainly, it doesn't seem to work all that well for our "survivors." And actually the ending of the movie explains maybe why they didn't try this method before.

Speaking of the ending, that was the only part of FD5 that I really enjoyed - and not in a sarcastic way either, like I was happy it was over or something. Throughout the movie, there is constant mention of Sam possibly going to Paris for an chef internship. I was thinking in the back of my mind that somewhere, somehow, they were going to connect that to the first Final Destination. When the plane blew up in that movie, the kids were heading to Paris for a school trip, right? The only thing I couldn't figure out was what that could have to do with this flick, four sequels later. So in the last scene, the very second they showed Sam and Molly on a plane, I freaked out. Why? Because I immediately knew that they were on the same plane as in the first movie! I actually kind of loved that. And this turn of events actually does make sense and doesn't feel like a forced twist ending.

Hopefully the credit sequence for Final Destination 5 was an indication that this might be the end of the series. The formula is definitely starting to wear thin and when the last good installment was three movies ago, I'm thinking it's time to put the franchise to sleep. FD5 was a nice attempt at something different, but in the end was only a big disappointment.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: Masters of Horror: Family (2006)

Okay, I've found another Masters of Horror episode that I love! Family is getting moved quite close to the top of the list of the best ones. It was quirky and fun, with a fantastic story and some great acting by (almost) all involved. It's fairly campy and has the sadistic black humor of a Tales from the Crypt episode but it's all done extremely well and makes for a fun hour of horror.

Harold Thompson is a robust, lovable but lonely serial killer who kidnaps and murders people to make them a part of his "family." When a young couple, David and Celia, move into the neighborhood, Harold takes to the young woman and wants to make her his new wife - not knowing that these two might have something up their sleeves as well.

The "Master" behind this tale is John Landis, who is another director that was kind of an odd choice for this series because his claim to horror fame basically consists only of An American Werewolf in London (and maybe Michael Jackson's Thriller video). But I think Family was the perfect choice for this guy because it shows his immense talent at satire and dark comedy. This episode could easily become a feature-length film which I no doubt would enjoy just as much as this hour-long awesomeness.

So right off the bat, we know what's going on with Harold - that he's a serial killer and all - with the great opening sequence going from the perfect little American neighborhood into the perfect little American house, with it's cute and clean decor and an upbeat Jesus-y song playing... then down into the basement where Harold is up to some nasty business.

You see, Harold has got a bit of a Norman Bates thing going on with what he does with his murder victims. He has this whole elaborate routine where he burns the flesh away from the body with acid, bleaches the bones, then puts the skeletons back together and dresses them up. They hang out in one room of Harold's  house that looks like a Leave It To Beaver living room and seem very alive to Harold, as he can easily carry on conversations (and arguments) with them. These scenes with Harold's family were hilarious to watch, probably more so when they make it look like the skeletons are talking than when they bring in real people to act out Harold's hallucinations.

Celia and David also seem like the dream couple. They're young and successful, making a cushy life for themselves in the Midwest so that they can start a family and be even more disgustingly happy. Sure, they seem to have had some rough patches in the past but they've obviously moved on. Harold is attracted to Celia almost right away (he has some funny hallucinations of her saying stuff like how she's not sexually satisfied with David and how she wants to, uh... orally copulate Harold) because he thinks he'd be a better husband for her than David.

All this plays out in a wickedly funny fashion, interspersed with some brilliant scenes of Harold both getting new members added to his family and getting rid of one to make room for another, i.e. Celia. George Wendt plays this character almost perfectly as he becomes the most likable and charming serial killer I've ever seen portrayed. And he's not charming in the creepy way that most actors play bad guys. He's charming in the way that, when he's normal, he's just a really nice guy. Not standoffish or creepy or pervy at all. He's not good-looking or hot, but rather is like the guy you talk to at the bank or meet in the line at the grocery store. Completely nice and trust-worthy.

I can't say that I completely expected the twist ending, but I knew that there was something going on with David and Celia, I just couldn't figure out what it was. Celia was way too bubbly and upbeat around Harold, even though there did seem to be something else brewing behind her eyes, especially in the scene when she tells Harold that they had a daughter who died of cancer. And while Meredith Monroe delivered a surprisingly excellent performance as Celia, Matt Keeslar as David was a bit of a disappointing, as he often seemed very fake. Although, in retrospect, I guess that could have just been his character's apprehensiveness about what he was going to do.

Also in retrospect, I'm wondering if Celia and David actually planned everything they did from the moment they moved in. Was hitting Harold's mailbox part of their plan to get close to him? If it was, then that could have messed things up because it could have caused bad blood between them and Harold. Anyway. Another thing I wasn't too keen on was that one effects shot of Harold pouring the acid on Grandpa's head. While on the one hand it was awesome to see this effect in full view without cutting away, it was disappointing that the CGI was so obvious (do I complain too much about "obvious CGI" on here? Maybe I should make it a new label so you guys know to stay away from those particular posts). Then again, this melting-people effect is one of my favorite/most hated way to see someone die in a movie because seeing melting flesh kind of makes me want to vomit. Strangely, that is a big compliment for horror films, so there you go.

Family is another one of the few highlights I've discovered in the jumbled mess of episodes in the Masters of Horror series. Though the horror part is fairly minimal, I think fans will still enjoy the wicked sense of humor and appreciate the effort put forth by the main actors who make this episode a must-see.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Michele is in Resident Evil Heaven

In the general definition of the term, I'm a gamer. I enjoy wasting a few hours here and there in front of my PS3, but my problem is that I'm a very picky gamer. I only like third person shooters, and nothing fantasy like dragons or magic or stuff like that. To give you an idea, the only games I still own right now are The Godfather 1 and 2, Red Dead Redemption, The Tomb Raider Trilogy, Resident Evil 4 and 5, and Uncharted 1, 2, and 3. See? The same games over and over. But I'm cool with that because I love all these games and they are exactly what I want out of my gaming experience. 

Why does this matter? Because 2012 is turning out to be one freaking amazing year for one of my favorite, and one of the most popular, video game series - Resident Evil. So far there are three new RE games coming out this year alone, which is an amazing treat for fans since it has been 3 years since RE5 came out. I loved RE5 myself but most fans were unimpressed because the game was mostly just an adventure/shooter and seemed to do away with the scare factor that helped make the series a hit in the first place. Well, as previously mentioned, this year Capcom has three chances to make things right with fans with one minor and two major game releases.

Resident Evil Revelations
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: February 7, 2012

Not much interest in this game for me since it is exclusive to the 3DS, but I'd be interested to see how it would play out on the new platform. The gameplay is similar to RE4 and RE5 and the story centers around RE favorites Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. Plus from what I can tell from the descriptions, the setting seems like it's going to be much different, as it takes place on a cruise liner and not some desolate, isolated landscape.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
Platform(s): Windows, PS3, XBox 360
Release Date: March 20, 2012

This one sounds the most interesting as the gameplay seems completely different than what I've played before and will be a fun change from previous RE games. Players actually get to be the bad guys in this game and the story takes us all the way back to almost the very beginning of the game, right back to the outbreak of the T virus in Raccoon City. I never got to play the original games so I'm so stoked about this! Players can also vastly change the outcome of the storyline depending on what decisions they make, and they can also choose to become infected by the virus as a strategy for helping to complete the mission.

Resident Evil 6
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, Windows
Release Date: November 20, 2012

What a glorious surprise! The big boys kept a tight lid on the development of this game, so I never even knew that Resident Evil 6 was a possibility until I got slapped in the face with the amazing game trailer that was released just a few days ago on January 19. I admit I was happy enough with the news of Operation Raccoon City, but I am a helluva lot more excited for RE6! The trailer is (as I described it on another person's site) pretty much orgasmic, Leon Kennedy and Chris Redfield are back, and it looks to be the same kind of gameplay that I have come to know and love from this series. The only downside is the 10 month wait until I can get this piece of awesome in my hands!

Resident Evil: Retribution
Release Date: September 14, 2012

And to put the cherry on top of the Year of Resident Evil, the fifth movie installment of the series is also coming out in 2012! However, my liking of the franchise slowly dwindled after the first film, so I can't say I have high hopes for this movie yet. The story sounds interesting, though. We get to find out more about Alice's past, seemingly before her involvement with Umbrella from that one shot of her on a street with a kid, along with continuing the storyline presented in the last movie. Ada Wong, Leon Kennedy, Albert Wesker, and Jill Valentine will also all appear in the movie as Alice travels the world trying to put an end to the zombie madness. The zombies in the film will also be the Las Plagas parasites, which appeared in the RE4 game, so those effects should be at least fun to watch. As for the 3D... no thanks!

With all these RE goodies, I think this will be a bitchin' year.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Weekly Movie Roundup: 1-15-12 to 1-21-12

Bad Teacher (2011)
I'm seriously digging on Cameron Diaz after watching Bad Teacher. With this and The Sweetest Thing, it's not a stretch to call Diaz pretty much a comedic genius. This role was perfect for her and she plays it without fear and just goes balls out. The movie was so much more funny and raunchy than I expected, because really all I was expecting was a stupid comedy about a bad teacher who probably turns good at the end, you know? Not at all what I got! There's f-bombs and sex jokes and pot smoking and it was all hilarious - no joke. I've also had to admit in recent years that Justin Timberlake is actually NOT a horrible actor - I at least like him better in movies than that other thing he does. So I would definitely recommend Bad Teacher if you guys are looking for a good ol' dirty comedy - would also recommend that you keep the kids out of the room while you watch it!

Okay, um... WOW. This movie was rather... interesting? Weird? Disturbing? Stupid? I really haven't quite decided yet. David Hess (R.I.P.) is playing the same character that he did in Last House on the Left except he's changed his name to Alex and gotten himself a simple-minded friend to boss around. They go to some rich people's house for a party and hold them hostage and torment them for a while, but it was so frustrating and retarded because the victims never once acted liked they were scared or even the least bit concerned about anything that was happening to them! Sure, you learn the reason for all that at the end, but come on. The first two-thirds of the film is so unbelievable that watching this movie for the first time is akin to actually being tortured yourself. I know lots of people defend this movie and find hidden meaning in it or whatever, but this one is going to have to stew for a bit before I get there. Did love the Cillian Murphy look-alike, though.

That Thing You Do! (1996)
So I've got this movie pretty much memorized by now, but when I saw it was available for streaming on Netflix while I was perusing around the other day, I couldn't help but immediately start watching it again. It's so good, you guys! It's that feel-good movie that says that dreams really can come true and, short-lived or not, that's a good feeling to have. It's a love story, it's a comedy (Steve Zahn really shines here and Ethan Embry in the background is just genius), and it's a freaking musical with some songs that are so "snappy" that they just put you in the best mood you've been in all year. Am I praising this movie too much? Who cares! I completely love it. And yes, I totally purchased the soundtrack when it first came out, you better believe it.

This film takes a little bit of a different approach to the found footage genre, in that the story of two teen best friends that go missing weeks apart is told through the use of web cam footage, personal video footage, and fake news reports. This film is quite graphic not only in the last part of the film that shows what happened to the girls but also in its depiction of teen sex, partying, drinking, etc. It reminded me a bit of Kids, a movie that made me want to jump into the screen and beat the snot out of every one of those dipshits in the movie. Megan Is Missing is supposed to be a (yet another) cautionary tale for kids and parents alike about the dangers of the internet, but should the movie be lauded or condemned for going perhaps too far? Those pictures of Megan were pretty fucking messed up, I'll give them that. I might have more to say on this movie in the future, but for right now I'd say this one might be worth a look because it is rather interesting and different.

Tomb Raider Trilogy
Now is as good a time as any to declare my love for Lara Croft. I have already played and beaten all of these games several times but when I saw that I could get Legend and Anniversary AND Underworld (which I traded in several months ago) in one game for 30 bucks, I figured I should get my raid on again. Gaming in general takes up so much time that even though I love it, I hardly ever do it, but Tomb Raider is my kind of game! Third person shooter, puzzles, climbing about on things, and using your brain (or in my case, cheating and reading walkthroughs)... it's all here in all three of these games. They don't have much replay value and they're not terribly exciting or enthralling, but the graphics are awesome, the locales are beautiful, the puzzles are elaborate, and Lara Croft is hot. What more do you want?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: Masters of Horror: Right to Die (2007)

Director Rob Schmidt could hardly be called a "Master of Horror" at the time that he directed Right to Die because he only had one horror film under his belt. But seeing as how that one horror film was one of my favorites of all time, Wrong Turn, I was excited to see what he could do with this episode. Truthfully, I had been majorly disappointed by most of the Masters of Horror episodes so I stopped seeking them out after a while. However, since they're only an hour long I gave this one a shot the other day and I'm glad to say that this is one of the better ones.

After his wife Abby is left badly burned and in a coma after a car accident, Cliff Addison has to make the horrible decision of whether or not to "pull his plug" on her. The problem is that every time Abby flatlines, she visits Cliff in the most awful ways, hellbent on revenge for recent slights committed against her. Cliff then has to figure out a way to keep Abby alive, or risk becoming one of her victims himself.

The first thing that attracts me to this episode is that the plot is one of the most creative I've seen in a while. It is essential a ghost story (do you know what I'm going to say here?) and I loves me some ghosts, so I was impressed with the unique perspective they took on the typical ghost or haunting story. Abby basically has one foot in the grave with how nasty burned up she is, and whenever she "dies" in the hospital, she takes the opportunity to get back at her husband. The visits last only as long as it takes for the doctors to revive her. I really thought that was genius, especially when you consider Cliff's dilemma - it'll solve all his problems if she dies, but her spirit will mostly kill him if she dies, as well.

One place that the Masters of Horror have never disappointed me on is the gore factor and Right to Die has got some great gore moments. I have a pretty severe fear of being burned by fire so this episode did absolutely nothing to alleviate that. Abby has been burned basically over 100% of her body so she's bandaged head to toe but when she visits Cliff's mistress, Trish, and his sleazy lawyer (Corbin Bernsen rules) she is gored-out and bloody and oozy and I was very uncomfortable. But that scene where she's propped up on the table and the doctors are doing something like removing skin or whatever? YEESH. That was disgusting. Oh, and you know how when you pull a slice of pizza out of the pie and the cheese gets all gooey and sticks to the edges? Yeah, that's what it looked when the doctors use the defibrillator paddles on Abby while trying to resuscitate her.

The climactic scene comes when Cliff learns that the doctors only have a few hours to save Abby using skin grafts and they need a donor. Cliff finds a donor himself in the slutty Trish girl and proceeds to tie her down, dose her with laughing gas, and skin her alive - because, of course, the skin has to be fresh. The makeup effects here, and really throughout the whole episode, was very impressive and seamless. Everything is shown in all its bloody glory with nothing left to the imagination and it was fantastic. High five to those guys at KNB because they really know their shit.

By the end of the episode, I couldn't help but be on Abby's side. Sure she's kind of a vengeful bitch, but when the truth about what happened to her is revealed, you realize that Cliff has gotten off easy for all the things he has done. He had an affair, basically murdered his wife, and though he shows remorse for it all, his reasons for wanting to save her are completely selfish. At the end, when Abby has finally died (for good), Cliff walks through the front door where his wife's ghost is waiting for him and apparently takes his punishment. I was expecting a more bloody end for Cliff with a big climactic battle with Abby's ghost but this ending was so much more effective. You don't really have to see what happens to Cliff to know that he is pretty much fucked in the hands of the woman he betrayed and killed.

Schmidt definitely has some talent in the horror genre with this and Wrong Turn, so I would be more than happy to check out anything else he has to offer. Right to Die had a great story and was delightfully and disgustingly gory. Gives me hope for some of the other episodes I'm still catching up on.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Movie Review: Night of the Creeps (1986)

Oh, joy! Another 80s horror classic! Did I love this one as much as most of the others I've watched while to play catch-up? Hell yes, I did! Night of the Creeps has again made me think that I've just been wasting my time with all the other shit that I've been watching lately and that I need to get my hands on more classics like this.

Night of the creepy plot (that's terrible I know): Two college friends, Chris and J.C., inadvertently release slug-like aliens onto their campus when they unthaw an infected man who has been cryogenically frozen since the fifties. Now with the help of a sorority girl that Chris is crushing on and an aging, cynical detective, they have to stop the slugs from infecting their friends before the whole campus turns into murderous zombies.

The thing I loved the most about Night of the Creeps is that it is a B movie, and it loves the fact that it is a B movie. In fact, it is quite clear that this is a B movie that actually strives to be the best B movie it can freaking be. This is evident in the first scene (well, the scene after the weird little wrinkly aliens are running around) which takes place in 1959 when the alien slugs first come to Earth and attack a boy out on a date with his girl. This part is shot in black and white and looks like the most cliche 50s drive-in movies ever. There are sweaters, ponytails, and words like "dreamy" and "neato," plus the main guy in this story is named Johnny, just like every other hunky stud was named in the 50s, apparently.

Flash-forwarding to the present (well, 1986) and we meet the two dorks Chris and his unexplainably handicapped friend J.C. One minute into this scene with these two and I knew I was going to love the rest of the movie. From Chris's line, "Her! The vision, the angel, the goddess!" to J.C.'s seemingly unending tirade of one-liners, this movie isn't just 80s awesomeness, it is actually well-written and entertaining all the way through and the actors are surprisingly good. Some of the dialogue might be intentionally cheesy and ridiculous but the way that the actors delivered them made it all highly enjoyable.

There are several elements of the horror genre alive and at work here in Night of the Creeps. It's a little bit sci-fi, a little bit creature feature, a lot horror-comedy, and even a little slasher at times. The final battle with the slugs also reminded me a little bit of Carrie, as it takes place on the night of the school dance and all the college kids are dressed up in formal wear. The gore was a little disappointing but there definitely a few great moments - zombie cats and dogs are definitely included in that!

And here again we have another movie that decided to show its horror chops by naming several characters after famous horror film directors. Cronenberg, Romero, Cameron, Miner, Raimi, Landis, Dante and DePalma are all in there, plus a double whammy since J.C.'s full name is James Carpenter Hooper. Perhaps in a future homage-y movie and somebody wants to do the same thing, they can include director Fred Dekker's name in there as well. Although he only has a few titles under his belt as the big cheese of the movie, Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad are enough for me to believe that this guy deserves a bit of recognition.

The characters are awesome. The 'Thrill Me' detective, Chris and J.C. are all hilarious and even the blonde-coiffed dickhead Brad is not as bad as he could have been. Cindy was not your typical girl-in-peril, which I liked very much. She put on that flamethrower and gave it to the alien-infected zombies with all she was worth.

This was quite a strange little movie but I'm always up for a movie that seems to love itself and what it is and Night of the Creeps is that kind of movie. Fun and entertainment are not far off with this gem so run to see it if you haven't yet! Though most of you probably have... I'm always the late bloomer.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Weekly Movie Roundup: 1-8-12 to 1-14-12

The Countess (2009)
Hungarian Countess Erzebet Bathory is either one of the most prolific serial killers of all time - or not. Many tales have been told about Erzebet supposedly bathing in the blood of virgins to keep her youthful looks, but this 2009 psychological drama seems to be a more accurate portrayal of Erzebet's life and psyche. She falls in love with much younger man after her husband's death, but when her enemies conspire to keep them apart, she becomes depressed and consumed with a desire to look younger. Julie Delpy portrays Erzebet in this wonderful movie and directed it as well. Although not as interesting in the bloody sense (there are no literal "blood bath" scenes, just Bathory dabbing blood on her face with a cloth) I enjoyed this movie from a historical perspective. The sets and costuming are spectacular to look at and Delpy's performance and directorial efforts show quite a talent that I didn't know she had.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)
Gosh darn, was this movie one of the biggest disappointments ever or what?! I was bored out of my mind the whole time I was watching this, looking for other stuff to do and not believing that this movie could be so ineffective and dull. And stupid! I didn't know anything about the plot really before I saw it and when the creatures were revealed, I just had about had it. Little mean tooth fairy creatures? Really? Sorry, I'm just not into it. The house was beautiful and it was the perfect setting for a spooky film, but apparently this wasn't the right film. The acting from Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce and the little girl (who was great in this one episode of Law and Order: SVU) was fine and they did the best they could. The movie lacks serious scares and with that it also lacks a scary or believable villain.

Dead and Buried (1981)
One of the only good movies I watched this week, along with The Countess. My full review can be found here, but I'll say that I really enjoyed this one and thought it was an awesome 80s classic that needs more recognition and love.

The Bleeding House (2011)
This is one of those ones I'm still not completely sold on. The plot is interesting enough - mysterious stranger asks to stay the night at a family's house, the family stupidly agrees, the family has major problems and the stranger exploits those problems and messes with the family (in really weird ways, I might add). It's a dark, disturbing little flick and Patrick Breen is great as the stranger Nick, but the overall result was a little less than I expected. The teenage girl with serious issues is a confusing character who keeps pretending to want to go along with the stranger and then thwarting him. She has several opportunities to fight back if she wants to, but she doesn't until the end, which is frustrating because she could have done more to help. Nick's method and reasoning for collecting blood from his victims is never explained so I'm confused about the symbolism behind his acts. It's a movie some will enjoy and some will hate. Me, it left me a little underwhelmed.
Mum and Dad (2008)
Ugh, I didn't even finish watching this one. Well, I watched for the first 45 minutes or so and then fast-forwarded to the predictable ending. I thought this movie had a great premise for something really disturbing and disgusting and maybe it was in some of those scenes I fast-forwarded through, but either this movie was slow and boring or I wasn't in the mood to watch it. I'm passing it up for now and don't plan to try to watch it again any time in the future. And no offense to English people, but the accents were just funny in this movie and kind of took me away from the darkness of the situation. Dad is a gross bastard when you look at his acts (masturbating into a human organ???) but most of the time he kinda looks like this cute little plump English guy with glasses and not as menacing as he should be.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Movie Review: Dead and Buried (1981)

Shouldn't have let this little gem sit in my queue unwatched for so long! Dead and Buried (I'm nixing the use of the ampersand in the title because sometimes they show up all funny on Blogger) is not without its problems - and really, what movie isn't? - but heck, was it a fun, gross-out good time. It has a surprisingly different take on the "zombie" film, is very gruesome at times, and seems to be quite underrated, despite the fact that its plot is so much different than other horror films that were coming out at that time.

Dan Gillis is the sheriff in the small Eastern seaside town of Potters Bluff who becomes increasingly suspicious and curious about his neighbors when several visitors are brutally murdered. Things get even weirder when the dead people start showing up around town, apparently alive and well and living amongst the townspeople.

The movie's opening scene is delightfully misleading. There is a photographer on the beach, "Freddy", snapping away at all the beautiful scenery, when he spots a pretty lady through his lens. The two start chatting and flirting, and Freddy starts taking sexy pictures of "Lisa," all while this annoyingly romantic music plays in the background. I thought the whole scene was ridiculous bullshit and that if it went on any longer I was going to turn the darn thing off. But just as Lisa is propositioning Freddy for sex, the scene suddenly changes and about a dozen people turn up, beat the snot out of Freddy, tie him to a pole with a big fishing net, and freaking set him on fire.

I couldn't believe it! This movie was going to be awesome!

Dead and Buried actually has some great talent behind it. I haven't seen anything else that director Gary Sherman has done but he seems competent with this one. Dan O'Bannon, creator of Alien, also co-wrote the film and the special effects come courtesy of none other than Stan Winston. The effects especially are a big part of why I think this film is noteworthy, not to mention the interestingly original plot.

The zombie mythology in Dead and Buried is more akin to the Haitian voodoo mythology of zombie creation and how all the zombies are under the complete control of their creator. The quirky mortician Dobbs uses voodoo and dark magic to bring bodies back to life after he has restored them, because he believes so much in the beauty of his "art" and can't stand burying people after he has worked so hard to make them look like they did when they were alive. The funny thing in this movie, though, is that the zombies are not brainless flesh-eaters but rather just rebuilt and reanimated corpses who then go on living their happy and quiet little life in a small town.

This film can boast that it gave me probably the biggest freak-out of my horror life. After poor Freddy has been burned at the stake, Sheriff Dan and others are at the scene investigating. Dan (oddly) asks the mortician to determine the cause of death and when he goes in for a closer look at the body, we are treated to a nice effects shot of Freddy's gooey and burned-up-beyond-recognition face. The freak-out comes when the obviously dead guy suddenly screams in our faces! HO-LY SHIT. I almost fell out of my chair. Little hard to believe that anybody who looks like that could still be alive, but that's obviously where the shock comes from. Later on, poor Freddy is also the victim of another freak-out scene when Nurse Lisa pays him a visit in the hospital and stabs a needle into his eye.

All the other effects are quite well achieved with the exception of one. One of the victims of the Potters Bluff Zombies meets his demise by having tubes full of acid shoved up his nose. The prosthetic head is way too obvious and almost ruins what could have been yet another great gross out scene - although the flesh bubbling and bursting is still rather disgusting. The real stand out sequence is when Dobbs is reconstructing the head of a young hitchhiker (who was bludgeoned with a big rock) and they show, layer by layer and using dissolves, how she goes from looking like a bruised and bloody mess to looking just as she did the day before.

The acting by all the main leads and everybody who plays one of the townspeople is pretty good - nobody is as "80s annoying" (as I like to call it sometimes) as I thought. Melody Anderson as Janet, Dan's wife, became my favorite in her final scene, when she's talking to Dan after Dobbs has revealed his secret to him. Did I mention there's also a young Robert Englund in a small role here? The random townspeople are great at acting zombie-like, or carrying out the wishes of their master, especially in the scene pictured to the right when they go after a vacationing family cruising through town.

The aforementioned scene also showcases the film's likeness to a movie that came out the previous year, John Carpenter's The Fog. The family is driving through a thick fog; the residents are walking down the dark street surrounded by fog (and perfectly backlit as well); and in the scene right after this, Dan chases after the man he hit with his car through the foggy and misty alleys. I just couldn't help but think of Antonio Bay during this part. And since Potters Bluff is in Rhode Island and Antonio Bay in California, we now know that there is a creepy fictional seaside town on both coasts.

Now the ending is a small problem. The "twist" at the end seems like it was just tacked on there last minute  just for shocks, without the filmmakers really thinking about it. It doesn't make any kind of sense with the rest of the story and essentially just ends the movie without resolving anything.

On the whole though, Dead and Buried was quite the surprise. I liked the plot and at times darkly humorous script, and of course I loved pretty much all the killing sequences. Give this one a look if you haven't yet!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Movie Review: Kidnapped (2010)

Home invasions are probably some of the worst crimes committed against a person. Your home is your safe place, where you put your guard down and think nothing bad can touch you. So when evil invades this sanctuary, it is all the more horrific and terrifying - and it can also make for a damn fine horror film.

Kidnapped is about a family who, on the very day that they move into a new house, are held prisoner by three masked men. Unexpected guests often hinder the intruders' plan, along with the family's determination to fight back and protect each other.

Though variations of this scenario have been done a dozen times in other movies and TV shows, I realized fairly early on that Kidnapped was trying to do something different. That horrific opening scene scared the ever-loving shit out of me - as did several other well crafted moments throughout the movie - but it was the next scene that showed the film's use of a unique technique. The whole movie consists of only 12 long, unedited takes, something I have not seen since Alfred Hitchcock's Rope from 1948. When I realized that this is what they were doing, I thought it would make the movie too gimmicky, or too artsy-fartsy, but it was beautifully executed.

So why then did the filmmakers choose to shoot the movie this way? It must have been incredibly difficult to achieve, not to mention time-consuming. I think it was for the simple reason of making the movie more realistic and believable, and for that old stand-by of putting the viewer right there in the situation with the characters, making it impossible to turn away for even a second. In fact, the lack of real character development, save for the first part of the film before the intruders appear, almost doesn't matter that much because this more of a situational film. It strives to show the horror and atrocities that can have been committed in these types of crimes and I think it does a wonderful job at that.

For the first part of Kidnapped, the violence against the three victims is relatively tame, but it slowly escalates over the short period of time the film runs. When Isa's boyfriend and a security guard show up, the intruders are forced to do extreme things to keep the plan going, and the family in turn is forced to fight back even harder. The filmmakers get down and dirty with the characters' emotional turmoil, but they also keep the gorehounds happy with an insane head-bashing, an in-your-face throat slashing, and shootings and stabbings, not to mention a quite graphic sexual assault.

Many will probably be put off by the very brutal and surprising ending, but I loved it. No, it's not what the audience wants to happen and maybe the filmmakers chose to do it simply for the shock value. It works, though, and those last few minutes turn out to be the the most brutal and so much more engrossing than the whole rest of the movie. You realize at the end that the opening scene was there to set you up with a false sense of security and you hate it and love it at the same time.

Usually I try to be an equal opportunity reviewer and find faults even with the movies I love, but there wasn't anything here that really bothered me. Kidnapped was thrilling and engaging from start to finish and an excellent entry to the new "home invasion horror" subgenre.

Sidenote: Okay, I take back the previous about not liking anything in Kidnapped. There was one thing I hated and it wasn't the movie's fault at all. Netflix only had the dubbed version! Gah! How annoying! I don't see how anyone can find reading subtitles more irritating than a person's mouth not matching up with what they're saying. So distracting.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Weekly Movie Roundup: 1-1-12 to 1-7-12

For this, the first week of the new year, we have two winners and two losers. I like it when things are even like that.

11-11-11 (2011)
Oh my goodness... what a piece of crap. I am very nearly speechless about how crappy this movie was. It could have been good, it really could have but a lot of things just don't work here. It has an interesting premise, I guess with the whole 11-11-11 thing, but the actors don't do their jobs well. Then again, I feel bad blaming them because the story is plain retarded and the way it is presented is sloppy and silly. If all the devil worshippers needed was the boy and to have his parents away from him so that he could become the devil or whatever, then why the hell do they bother dropping hints all week to anybody who will listen? Wouldn't it have made more sense to act completely normal and then just bombard the family on the kid's birthday, kill the parents and let the son do his thing? But no, this way, the bad guys give the good guys plenty of opportunity to thwart them, and guess what? They do! What a shock! The father in this movie is also terrible and completely unbelievable and unlikable in everything he says and does. Bad movie. Bad, bad movie.

Hostel Part 3 (2011)
Jiminy Christmas, another piece of crap. I have this whole love/hate relationship with the Hostel movies. I don't love all the boobies and the overall misogynistic tone, but I love the overall concept, and the gore and the insanity. The movies really deliver on those counts. So I was expecting something maybe ten times as insane as either of the first two movies and what I got was the complete opposite. There is hardly any fucking blood or gore to be found anywhere here! What bullshit! All of the torture scenes were way too tame and immensely disappointing. Even at the end, when they had the chance to make up for it with that death by tilling machine, what do they do? They cut away and don't show us a damn thing. LAME. One thing I did like about the movie was John Hensley, the guy with the gimp leg, because for once I got to see him in a sympathetic role and he's not playing a douchebag like the other stuff I've seen him in (i.e. Nip/Tuck and the movie Shutter). Otherwise, avoid this like a venereal disease.

Revolutionary Road (2008)
And now for something completely different!
YOU GUYS. I don't just love this movie, I am freaking IN LOVE with it. I remember seeing Revolutionary Road for the first time after reading the book - a fantastic book - and being utterly amazed and ecstatic that this beautiful story I had read was being put up on the big screen exactly how I pictured it in my head. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio (whom I usually don't love all that much) far exceeded my expectations in how they brought Frank and April Wheeler to life - these very complex and emotional characters. I love this story, whether you think it is more a tale of a conflicted relationship or a social comment on life in the 50s. It works both ways and if you blend them together, it works even well. By far though, my favorite part of the movie is the final scene. Kathy Bates' character is complaining to her husband about how she didn't really like the Wheelers, how they were weird and neurotic. Her husband looks at her... and then slowly just turns his hearing aid down. The whole point of the movie is in that one gesture, and goodness help me, I abso-fucking-lutely LOVE IT.

Kidnapped (2010)
Not gonna say too much about this movie here because I want to do a real review of it in the next few days. Let's just say that although the style choice is nothing new and the plot has been done a dozen times over, I still loved the movie and thought it was quite successful at sucking me in and keeping me watching until the very bloody and surprising end. Excellent camera work and acting (although Isa was a tad annoying most of the time) make this one a very engrossing tale. Good entry to the whole home invasion horror movie thing.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Movie Review: Lady in White (1988)

So I don't think I've mentioned it yet this week, but did you all know how much I loves me a good ghost story? And I was ready to have an 80s style ghostly good time with this flick, Lady in White, even though I didn't really know that much about it before seeing it. Not the most talked about movie out there but it seems to still have some pretty damn loyal followers, so I hope I don't inadvertently piss any of them off with this review.

In 1962, young Frankie Scarletti is locked in the school's coat closet on Halloween night, the victim of a little prank by some fellow classmates. It's one hell of a night for Frankie as he witnesses the ghost of a young girl reenact her murder from 10 years ago and is also attacked himself by the same man. Frankie therefore gets himself smack dab in the middle of a murder mystery too big for his small town.

While I did like this movie to a point, there are a few things that are amiss here. As the story is told from Frankie's point of view, the movie starts off very cute and seems as if it is more of a kid's movie. Frankie has a funny home life with his older brother Geno, his father, and his constantly bickering grandparents, so all of these earlier moments are quite entertaining to watch - Grandpa lighting his pants on fire and Frankie riding his bike into wet cement, for instance. All the actors here were wonderful, too. It seemed as if they really enjoyed playing their roles and took them seriously while still having fun with them. The movie as whole is similar to stuff like The Monster Squad, with all the childhood hijinks, so that definitely got me into it in the first third.

But the movie also has a very serious undertone as the murder mystery Frankie becomes involved in is not just about the ghost girl he keeps seeing. She was the first of eleven victims, all molested and murdered over the last ten years. The school janitor was the only other person in the school when Frankie was attacked, so he immediately becomes the main suspect - and it doesn't help that he's also black. So then there's a bit of a racism element to deal with, even though that quickly gets shoved to the back burner as the story progresses. When it pops up again, it doesn't really matter too much to the main mystery, since it is quite obvious from the beginning that the janitor is innocent - it's not much of a mystery if the bad guy is caught right away, you know? These scenes really only slow the movie down, and I think it would have worked better if they had been left out.

The murder mystery is actually not that hard to solve if you've watched enough of those kinds of movies. As soon as those two nice-guy, friends-of-the-family dudes show up, Phil and Tony, I was thinking, "Yup, the murderer is one of them." I wish they wouldn't make it so easy sometimes. But the actual reveal of the murderer, and therefore Frankie's devastating realization of who almost killed him, is a very good scene. It's quite suspenseful and a little disturbing, too, because we know what this guy has done to all these other children, and here's our young lovable Frankie, all alone with him, with the murderer also knowing that he's been found out.

Now the effects are another problem. I know, I know, it was 1988 and they really didn't have a heck of a lot to work with effects-wise back then, but they are definitely less effective now simply because they are so dated. I actually liked the effect of the ghost girl, Melissa, as she was just kind of see-through and glowing. It's a classic way to say, "Hey, she's a ghost!" and it works in this movie. But later on, things get really hokey when the ghosts (yeah, there are actually two ghosts in this movie, Melissa and the titular Lady in White, who turns out to be Melissa's mother - I figured that out before Frankie did, ha!) start flying through the air and stuff. The climactic scene in which the two ghosts fly off together in a flash of light is extremely hokey, too, and almost made me laugh. But then I had to remember that this was from a child's point of view, so all these scenes were enhanced with a more fantastical element and it gives them a feel not unlike a fairy tale, which a child would better understand and relate to.

In fact, there are perhaps too many effects in this movie. Then again, that might just be a personal preference. I can get rather picky and overly vocal about my ghost movies, and I know what I like and what I don't like - or at least, what works for me and what doesn't. I understand the use of more exaggerated effects in Lady in White, so it is more fantasy than scary, but I'm of the mind that the unseen is much more chilling and effective. The famous ghost is called the "Lady in White" so of course she's this huge, floating figure, with her billowy white nightgown constantly flowing all around her - the typical ghost image perhaps taken too much to the extreme.

Many have said that Lady in White scared them a lot as a child, but that must just be a kid thing because I didn't see a single thing here that scared me. The only really creepy shot is when the Melissa-ghost is in Frankie's room one night (she's invisible here) and she's just singing and playing around with Frankie's things. She flips through his comics, goes through his drawers, puts on his slippers, rocks in his rocking chair and then BAM! The camera pans to the window where there's the Lady in White standing outside! That was a little unexpected, and I quite enjoy the unexpected so this was a great moment.

I understand that this is probably a movie that if you grew up watching it, you still love it to this day. I guess upon first viewing, I have mixed feelings about it. I'm a bit turned off by the dated effects (not a good enough excuse, I know, but I can't help it) and the story progresses far too slow, with too many characters and red herrings getting in the way. I do love the blend of the classic ghost story and the amusing fantasy world of children, all told from the point of view of a very capable child actor to boot. I suppose I'll have to let the movie simmer for a bit in my brain and then maybe give it another go around in a few weeks.