Sunday, May 27, 2012

Movie Review: The Innkeepers (2011)

Okay first of all, how much do I love that awesome retro poster? A LOT, I tell you. It's kind of fantastic. Secondly, how much did I love The Innkeepers? Again, A LOT and I have to say that I would rank it a bit higher than the other ghostly movie I watched the other day - Harry Potter and the Woman in Black... er I mean, just The Woman in Black of course. I'm not the first person to make that joke, am I? Oh, poor Danny Radcliffe. He's always going to be Harry Potter, isn't he? Anyway upon first hearing of The Innkeepers way back when, I was totally jonesing for a good ghost story (I LOVE GHOST MOVIES) and was hoping that this one would not disappoint me. It totally didn't.

On its last weekend open for business, two employees of The Yankee Pedlar Inn - Claire and Luke - have to deal with some pretty strange supernatural and natural guests. The inn has been long thought to be haunted by the ghost of Madeline O'Malley, a woman who hung herself in the hotel when she thought her lover had left her, and Claire and Luke will try to spend the next few days getting proof of her existence in the hopes of keeping the inn open. But they may get more than what they bargained for...

My first experience with Ti West as a director was really not good. I cannot begin to describe how much I utterly hated Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (one of the reasons being the use of the word "fever" twice in the title) and I wish to erase the experience from my brain. Second experience with Mr. West was much better, with the wonderful The House of the Devil, and that movie gave me more confidence  in what he could do with The Innkeepers. So I guess I kinda like this new golden boy of horror now. We'll see what he does next. With House of the Devil and now Innkeepers, his obvious chosen style is the slow burn type of horror story which I am really starting to like. It definitely works for this particular movie as it is a character-centered story, although that may not be readily obvious in the first part of the movie.

And really, it is the portrayal of the two main characters that first got me loving The Innkeepers. Sara Paxton plays Claire, a somewhat introverted and mousey girl whose age is hard to pinpoint because Paxton always looks like a 14-year-old boy. Comedic actor Pat Healy is Luke, a lonely guy who has an obsession with the paranormal, and a crush on Claire. Their interactions throughout the movie are played so real and lovable and they are exactly the kinds of characters I like to watch in movies because they remind me of how I am with my own friends and co-workers. Some might find Paxton's portrayal especially as a little annoying and a bit like she was "acting" too much, but to me it was endearing. She's not a bitch, and she's not a complete pushover either. She's ignorant of Luke's feelings for her but that just makes Luke all the more endearing as well.

Okay, so I liked the characters. How about the rest of the movie? It is well shot and carefully constructed to wind up the tension very tight and keep it there until the end. The tension is good and there are small releases of that tension along the way, but you can tell that it is all leading up to something much more involved. The scenes of Claire doing the EVP recording, especially the thing with the piano, were my favorite parts to watch. With any ghost movie, these scenes are usually about either waiting for something big to happen or waiting for something small to happen... or even waiting for nothing to happen. For me, it doesn't matter which one of these outcomes is actually followed through with because it's all about the suspense. And I like the suspense in The Innkeepers.

As for the ending, yes, it's unexpected. Yes, it sucks because it's not what we want to happen. But I was okay with it. I didn't get it at first, but another reviewer reminded me of the conversation Claire and Luke had with the psychic about deja vu, and the psychic mentioning that she saw three ghosts in the hotel. Not everybody will pick up on these details, which is probably why I've read so many comments about the ending being uneventful and a letdown. To me it was not exactly satisfying, but I understood it (if not after the fact) so I appreciated the director going for non-happy ending to keep up with what happened earlier in the film.

The one thing I wish West hadn't done was show the ghost full-face before the end... or even at all. The scare with the ghost under the sheet in Claire's bed was very effective but I was almost disappointed at getting to see the ghost so early in the story. More so, I was disappointed at the look of the ghost itself (or herself). She's too generic looking, like every other ghost I've seen in horror movies in recent years, and it reminded me too much of the myriad of female ghosts in Asian horror movies. I just wish the ghost had been kept more hidden until the denouement, which would have made that scene all the more frightening and disturbing.

Otherwise, I'm loving The Innkeepers for the moment. It's got what I like most about horror movies - GHOSTS, I LOVE GHOSTS, GHOSTS GHOSTS GHOSTS! - along with some wonderfully quirky characters, and a tight, yet delightfully slow and drawn out plot. Thumbs up!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Proof That I Am A Total Movie Nerd

This is maybe more of an example that I am a little bit obsessive-compulsive than an example of the fact that I seriously love movies, but I'll share with you guys something that I've been doing for years. It's not as exciting as you think it is...

I save the ticket stubs from every movie I see in the theater. 

See? Not that cool. A search on the Google tells me that A LOT of people do this - saving ticket stubs from movies, concerts, and other events is of course a great keepsake method - but I'm pretty proud of myself for how long I've been doing it and the fact that I've kept it up. It's become an unconscious thing of mine to drop my stubs into my wallet after showing them to the ticket guy and putting them in my little Ziploc baggie of stubs when I get home. 

So just how long have I been doing this, you ask (or don't ask, whatever)? The first stub I have (I think it's the first one, at least) is from The Lost World: Jurassic Park. 

That came out in 1997 and the date on the stub is 5/31. 

You guys. THAT IS ALMOST EXACTLY 15 YEARS OF MOVIE TICKET STUB-SAVING. Holy crap. I'm impressed with myself. There might be a few stubs I'm missing, from ones that I've lost or whatever, but this little pile of paper is a pretty accurate portrayal of the movies I've seen in the theater for almost half my life. Of course, I saw many movies before The Lost World, but that's just when I decided to start saving them.

I wish I had kept them in better order - I think some of them are out of place - but they're as well organized as they can be for being kept in a Ziploc for 15 years. Should I list all the stubs I have?

Meh, I'm curious. Let's see what I got!

The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Forces of Nature
Fight Club
Saving Private Ryan
The Thin Red Line
Batman and Robin
Speed 2: Cruise Control
Picture Perfect
My Best Friend's Wedding
I Know What You Did Last Summer
In & Out
Men in Black
The Other Sister
Titanic (yes, AGAIN)
Forces of Nature (yeah, I saw this one twice, too! I loves Sandra Bullock)
Cruel Intentions
Notting Hill
Mickey Blue Eyes
Grease (OMG, the Grease re-release! This was so much fun!)
The Newton Boys
A Civil Action
Deep Impact
Hope Floats
Armageddon (what?? I don't remember seeing this one twice but I obviously did!)
Patch Adams
A Simple Plan
The Parent Trap
Lethal Weapon 4
Titanic (yeah, I saw this THREE times in the theater. Each time, I had to go with someone who hadn't seen it yet and really wanted to. But I liked the movie... and still do... so I didn't really mind)
Urban Legend
The General's Daughter
Girl, Interrupted
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
The Astronaut's Wife
Deep Blue Sea (FUCK YEAH)
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
The X-Files 
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
Double Jeopardy
American Beauty
The Haunting
The Sixth Sense
Runaway Bride
Ever After: A Cinderella Story
The Green Mile
American Psycho
Reindeer Games
Analyze This
Wild Wild West
Mission Impossible 2
What Lies Beneath
The Perfect Storm
Ocean's Eleven
Save the Last Dance
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Mummy Returns
Moulin Rouge
Catch Me If You Can
A Guy Thing
Final Destination 2
Pearl Harbor
AI: Artificial Intelligence
The Fast and the Furious
Jurassic Park 3
America's Sweethearts
Hearts in Atlantis
The Others
Spy Game
A Beautiful Mind
Lilo and Stitch
Eight Legged Freaks
Men in Black 2
Fear Dot Com
Star Trek Nemesis
Wrong Turn
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The Dark Knight
Kill Bill: Volume 2
The Forgotten
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
White Noise
House of Wax
The Amityville Horror
Wedding Crashers
Land of the Dead
Saw 2
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Wolf Creek
Brokeback Mountain
V For Vendetta
The DaVinci Code
The Lake House
Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Beginning
The Phantom of the Opera
Dead Silence
Hostel Part 2
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Pirates of the Carribbean (not sure which one)
Spider Man 3
The Reaping
Halloween (Rob Zombie's, of course)
Saw 4
The Unborn
My Bloody Valentine (the first 3D movie I ever saw!)
The Uninvited
Friday the 13th (shitty remake)
Slumdog Millionaire
The Last House on the Left (awesome remake)
The Ruins
Saw 5
Revolutionary Road
The Haunting in Connecticut
Drag Me to Hell
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Saw 6
Shutter Island
A Nightmare on Elm Street (another shitty remake)
Piranha 3D (fucking awesome remake)
Resident Evil: Afterlife
Saw 7 (or Saw: The Final Chapter or whatever the hell the official title is)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Scream 4
Kung Fu Panda 2
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Shark Night
and finally....
The Cabin in the Woods

Whew. So what I gather from my collection is that I don't see many movies in the theater anymore... I need to get better at that... or I need more time in the day. Also, my taste in what movies I see in the theater has gotten a bit better over the years. Did I really waste my time and money on Speed 2: Cruise Control??? Well, Sandra Bullock is still my favorite actress, so that's the only excuse I have for that one. Some of these movies I don't even remember seeing at all. Spy Game? A Guy Thing? I put a little note on that stub that says "A Guy (Gay!) Thing" so I obviously hated it. And where is Saw 3? Because I know I've seen all the Saw movies in the theater.

Anyway, that's my nerd post. So do any of you guys do this or have some other nerdy movie keepsake ritual?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Movie Review: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

This movie, and its sequels, was one of those 80s goodies that just wasn't at my disposal for the longest time, so I never cared all that much about getting around to seeing it. And Slumber Party Massacre, despite the ambitious title, is not something I'm going to call a "classic." I liked it a lot though, and it is without a doubt a great example of all those formulaic 80s slashers movies.

Eighteen-year-old Trish decides to invite some friends over for a slumber party one night when her parents are out of town. The pretty, new girl Valerie, who lives next door to Trish, is invited to the festivities but declines to take care of her younger sister. It's going to be a long night for all of them, though, because a crazed murderer armed with a power drill is in the neighborhood - and he wants to join the party.

One of the cool things about Slumber Party Massacre is that it was both written and directed by women (not the same woman, though). The uncool thing about this is that I couldn't detect a woman's influence hardly anywhere in this movie, with the exception of one scene. I mean, in the first few minutes there is a tit shot as Trish changes her clothes in her room, and then not too long after that, there is a bevy of teenage flesh on display when the girls take showers after playing basketball. Like, of course there's a shower scene. The director even lingers on a shot of one girl's flat ass for a really unnecessary amount of time. And there are more boobs to come later in the movie. Feminist? I don't think so.

Anyway, the storyline here isn't all that bad so there was at least some thought put into making the movie a bit more plausible than some of the other slashers at the time. I mean, the situations just never seemed as farfetched, even though there is a bit of humor sprinkled throughout. Like when one girl gets hungry during their ordeal and they all approach the dead pizza guy cautiously with their knives to get at the delicious pie - that was kinda funny. Valerie running up the stairs with the band saw still plugged in was another good bit. But the humor almost doesn't make sense in this movie. It's subtle enough that you'll get it if you're paying attention but for the most part the movie is rather serious and trying its hardest to be all scary and creepy. So I don't see the point in making it funny unless it's trying to make some point I don't get or to be a comment on something that I don't really care about.

The power drill-loving killer is a rather cliche escaped crazy guy who looks like a guy you'd run into at the Home Depot. I always knew to never trust a guy in a jean jacket. Anyway, I thought it would annoy me that they don't hide the killer's face through most of the movie - probably 'cause that's what I'm used to from these slashers, you know - but it becomes pretty clear that who this man is doesn't matter in the least. He's just a guy using a very obvious phallic symbol to attack women. So the only "feminist" moment I can see is when Valerie comes after him with a big 'ole machete and chops off a part of his drill. Yup, friends, she emasculated him. Hard to miss the subtleties there.

If there is one thing I can say about the other characters in Slumber Party Massacre, it is that they all seem to be suffering from a case of selective deafness. You know what that is, right? It's when the people in a horror all seem to have perfectly normal hearing in everyday situations but for some reason can't hear or ignore those sounds which are most important - like for instance screaming... or the sound of a power drill. This happens several times throughout the movie - first when the boys ignore the phone repair girl being killed in her van, then when the other girls in the house can't hear Diane's screams or the car horn honking several times, then when Valerie can't hear that one guy pounding on the front door - you get the idea. Stupid deaf people in horror movies are about as annoying as just plain old stupid people in horror movies.

So to end this somewhat incoherent and non-flowy review of Slumber Party Massacre, I'll say that I liked the movie. It's got some characters that aren't too annoying (for the most part), a pretty good body count, and it was created by two chicks. A nice, nostalgic look at 80s slashers, and there are better ones out there, but this one is mostly a good time and deserves its place in the cult favorites section of the horror genre - but still not really a "classic."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Movie Review: Who Saw Her Die? (1972)

Okay, I know that this one is giallo for sure! It's a murder mystery with a killer who wears black gloves and there are lots of red herrings and a bit of violence and sex. Survey says: giallo. Also, the Netflix description said it was, so there you go. The genre is perhaps better presented in other movies (or not, I don't know), but Who Saw Her Die? is still a nice little Italian thriller that I really enjoyed.

In Venice, Italy, Franco Serpieri welcomes his young daughter Roberta for a visit, as she had been living in London with his estranged wife Elizabeth. While Roberta is out playing one evening (and Franco is at home canoodling with another woman), she is murdered and thrown in a nearby canal. Franco becomes determined to find his daughter's killer, but there are many likely suspects and things get dangerous for Franco and Elizabeth as he gets closer to solving the mystery.

Child murder in movies, while not totally uncommon, is still a pretty taboo and emotional subject. I guess I don't have as much a problem with it because I'm not a parent and I probably watch too much Law and Order, where kids get killed all the time, but I get the problem that other people might have with it. The first scene in Who Saw Her Die? shows a different little girl out sledding one day in France. She goes off by herself and is accosted by a veiled, black-laced glove wearing woman(?) who bashes her head with a rock and then buries her in the snow. Dang. That was much more brutal than I was expecting and it was a great way to kick off the story.

From then on, the movie is a slow build of suspense and mystery as it first works up to the inevitable death of Roberta and then works up to the identity of the killer. The main characters are likable and well-acted by these unknown-to-me Italians, even though at times they do not seem to emote enough for me in given situations. For one thing, the father barely shows any real grief over his daughter's death. The mother's stoic, quiet grief is understandable (love love LOVE that shot of the two of them in bed together with her tear-stained face), but I wanted to see a bit more passion and possibly anger from these people to really feel the weight of the loss.

Sidenote: They could not have picked actors who looked less like a family than these people. There's a dark-haired father with an angular face, a drop dead gorgeous mother with blonde hair... and then there's Roberta, a fair-skinned, freckled red head. Um, are you sure she wasn't adopted? I'd be pretty dang pissed off I had a supermodel mother and came out looking like a plain Jane ginger. Just sayin'.

The gore paragraph that I usually like to include in reviews is not going to be as exciting for this one because there is hardly anything to talk about. There are some nice instances of bad looking red paint blood, most noticeably in the death of beautiful Ginevra, who is strangled in the theater while waiting to meet Franco. There's a close up on her mouth as the paint blood oozes out... and just why being strangled would cause blood to come out of your mouth is anybody's guess. Then there's the totally unconvincing stabbing of the child molesting lawyer where all you see is paint blood stains on his shirt but no wounds. The killer gets a most surprising death that kinda makes up for the lack thereof in the rest of the movie when he gets into a throwdown with Franco and then gets set on fire and dives out a window. Cool.

One thing I can't go without mentioning is the music. I usually don't pay as much attention to the music in movies as I should, but with this one it was hard not to notice. Each time the killer is in the vicinity, this crazy loud music with children singing or chanting blows through the speakers, usually accompanied with a through-a-black-lace-veil POV shot of the killer approaching Roberta. This happens two or three times before the killer actually gets the chance to do the deed - something or someone would always interrupt - and instead of being annoying like it maybe should be, this music heightens the suspense of the scene because you only hear it when the killer is nearby and you don't know just what is going to happen. Granted, there are a few times where the music cuts out way too abruptly and that was a little unsettling, but I tried not to let it bother me that much. Other than that, love the score and thought it was perfect for the story.

Side-paragraph: As with most of the Italian films I've seen, even if most of the plot is easy to follow, there is always at least one weird and seemingly completely out-of-place scene. In Who Saw Her Die?, this scene comes when Franco goes off in search of the family of another red-headed girl who was murdered a month earlier and he finds a most unhelpful and odd person. This guy is sitting in a chair outside with a turtleneck pulled up over the bottom part of his face and shooting at birds. Whuh? Then when Franco tries to question him, the guy will only talk if Franco plays ping pong with him. I shake my head. I just... I don't get it. Am I supposed to?

Though maybe not as well known or recommended as other gialli (as some other reviewers have said it is), I'm really glad I gave Who Saw Her Die? a shot. It may have a lot of similarities to another movie that came out the same year, Don't Look Now, but I think it's good enough to stand on its own. I'm still a little confused about the killer's motive - did I miss the explanation? - but almost everything else about this movie is a joy to watch.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Movie Review: The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Oh, Lucio Fulci, where have you been all my horror-loving life? Terrible dubbing actors aside, The House by the Cemetery is just aces in my book. I'm still a little confused on the whole "what is giallo and what is not" thing, and whether or not this movie can be considered one, I have to say that this is one Italian horror film that actually has a mostly coherent plot, some kick-ass gore, and a truly disgusting looking killer.

Norman and Lucy Boyle and their young son Bob leave hectic New York City temporarily so Norman can do some research on the strange death of a colleague. They are put up in a rundown mansion by a cemetery which houses a most unwelcome guest in the basement - a slaughtering maniac who needs human flesh to keep himself alive.

Can I get one thing out of the way first? "Bob" is not a good name for a child. I mean, if his full name was Robert, wouldn't it be more fitting for him to be a Bobby or a Robbie when he is still a kid? You don't generally become a Bob until you're much older, so this was kinda weird.

Anyway, I like this movie! It may seem a bit disjointed because it's a strange combination of a haunted house/ghost story, a slasher, and possibly a zombie film at the same time. I thought it all mixed together quite well myself, for if the story ever got boring, there was usually a great gore sequence to kick things up a notch. We don't get to know anything about the characters - why Bob is randomly psychic with a ghost kid named Mae for one thing - but, like I usually say about a lot of these movies, who cares?! There's some totally awesome and realistic gore and that is what makes this movie special to me.

Almost right off the bat, we're given an inkling of coolness to come when a girl and her boyfriend are killed in the house after having a mattress party. The guy comes through the doorway so messed up that I don't even know what happened to him and the girl gets stabbed in the back of the head with the knife point sticking out of her mouth. Pretty good, but it gets better. Ann the babysitter (whom for most of the movie looked like she was on the killer's side but I guess not so much) gets one of the best and most realistic throat-slashings I've ever seen. The knife goes one way across her throat, then the other way, and both ways it's AMAZING. Love it.

No doubt the best death is that of little Mrs. Gittelson who decides to stop by the house at exactly the wrong time. Gittelson is deliberately and slowly stabbed three times with a fire poker - twice in the chest and once in the neck. It is the aftermath of the latter wound that probably caused the movie to be so heavily cut in earlier releases. There is an extensive lingering shot on her neck wound as arterial blood spurts and sprays out of it.  Cooooooooool. Also just as realistic looking as Ann's death.

Another thing about blood in this movie. Two words: maggot blood. Maggot blood coming out of Dr. Freudstein when he's stabbed. A little bit vomit-inducing.

The only gore sequence that wasn't all that great was the overlong killing of the bat that attacks Norman and Lucy in the basement. Seriously, how difficult is it to get a bat off your hand? You use the other hand, grab it, and kill the dang thing. But apparently that doesn't work for Norman as he has to run all the way up the stairs with the bat on his hand, flail around a bit, and then stab it a few times. Just a totally unnecessarily long scene that is so random and not in the least bit important to the story. I guess Fulci wanted to include it because he could.

Another strange Fulci choice: the insane amount of close-ups, especially on people's eyes. Whenever Ann and Norman are in the same room together, it's like a showdown at the OK Corral because all their communication is done through them looking at each other and Fulci zooming in on their eyes. There's also a few weird close-ups on random objects to dictate their importance. Zoom in on the girl's ring! The same ring appears in the basement later on! Zoom in on the bar where Peterson hung himself! I don't really know why this is important! Odd style choice. Not saying I hated it though, because it was rather amusing.

Again, despite the freaking horrible acting by the people doing to dubbed voices, The House by the Cemetery was hella fantastic and I will definitely be adding more Fulci films to my must-see list.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Movie Review: The Falling (1987)

Ugh, what a letdown. Never before have I seen such a boring alien invasion movie. For all the excitement that happens in The Falling, you may as well just watch an episode of Three's Company. Plus, way too many other good movies came out in 1987 - The Lost Boys, Near Dark, Dirty Dancing... hell, even Mannequin is a more sophisticated and interesting movie than The Falling. Alright, let's see if I can write a review without boring myself to tears.

Years ago, the Skylab from the Apollo 14 moon mission crashed and brought some aliens with it (or something like that). Scientists from a NASA lab in the tiny town of Duarte, Spain don't really do anything to stop the aliens from infecting people and I guess it's a big problem even though it never really seems to be. Meanwhile, three friends traveling to Madrid end up in Duarte and get caught up in the alien mess... and then nothing happens.

My goodness, I am already exhausted trying to come up with something to say about a movie that doesn't deserve to have anything written about it. It's really quite a turd. The plot could have been a lot better but I don't think they were really trying all that hard to make it any good. And it shows. The transitions between scenes and new characters are very abrupt and it made it hard to follow what was going on. Plus weird people just show up wherever the main characters happen to be to screw around with them, and all these scenes are shot on the same two streets in the town. A little variety is not that much to ask.

The characters are actually okay and though they do a bit of the overacting, they were the most enjoyable thing about the movie. Damon and Michael have been friends for a long time and they both have a crush on the girl, Samantha, and continuously act like dorks trying to impress her. Lynn Holly Johnson, who plays Samantha (and is a former Bond girl), is a very beautiful woman whose looks are wasted here. I can't say much about her acting talent except that she's very good at flipping out at the boys for no reason, which she does several times.

A big problem I had with The Falling is that even though it's about an alien organism that enters people's bodies, they never made it seem like that much of a threat. The scientist that the kids meet tells them that the whole world could be taken over in a matter of weeks by this alien, but I don't believe it. From what the audience sees, there are only about five people in the whole town of Duarte (I don't know, maybe everyone else was already dead) so it's hard to see how the infection could really spread that fast. Our main characters only run into a few infected people and they never seem to be in any danger of infection themselves, mostly because it is never explained just how the freaking aliens infect people.

What also makes this scenario a bit unbelievable is that the audience doesn't get to see the alien until the very end. How are we supposed to be threatened by something that we've never seen? The alien makes its appearance in one of the only good gore gags in the movie, when it explodes out of a gas station attendant's head. Otherwise, the makeup and gore are almost nonexistent, which is very sad and disappointing for an alien movie. There's one scene at the beginning that was quite yucky when two dogs are feeding on the innards of a dead cow by the side of the road. The organs and stuff looked so real in this scene that I'm pretty sure the filmmakers just said "Screw it" and really slaughtered a cow and pulled its guts out. There was also a nice makeup job on the dead infected guy that the scientist checks out. He's got a huge bulbous prosthetic on the side of his face and his neck - quite nasty and uncomfortable looking.

What's maybe the most annoying about this movie is that it has way too many alternate titles, so searching the net for stuff (I think I was pretty lucky to get those two pictures up there) is freaking impossible. I'm just calling it The Falling because that's how it's listed in Netflix but it is also known as Alien Predator, Alien Predators, and Mutant 2. But you know, it doesn't even matter what it's really called because the movie sucks. It is a cheese-tastic 80s movie, for sure, but even the bad ones are better than this. The characters are funny at times, but with the lack of any real alien action, The Falling is just not cool enough for me.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Movie Review: The Thing (2011)

I had to put off seeing The Thing for a while because I hadn't yet fallen in love with The Thing... I mean, John Carpenter's The Thing, not the prequel ... OH MY FREAKING GOSH, why did they give a prequel a name that is exactly the same as the movie it's prequel-izing?! Argh. Okay, if I'm going to mention both movies here, maybe this will clear things up: the 1982 film will hereby be called "Thing 1" (because it's the original) and the prequel will be called "Thing 2." Thank you, Dr. Seuss. Onward.

Scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson recruits young paleontologist Kate Lloyd to dig up an alien specimen found on a research site in Antarctica. The thing is still alive, though, and able to absorb and replicate a person when it attacks. The team fights to survive, but they soon realize they can't let the thing escape the facility - a task made all the more difficult when they don't know who's human, and who's not.

Unlike probably every other horror fan in the world, I did not see Thing 1 until a few months ago and believe it or not, the first time I watched it, I wasn't completely crazy about it. Granted, I was a little distracted and not in the right frame of mind to really appreciate it, so I knew I had to give it another chance. Holy crap... that movie is a-freaking-mazing. I am now in the club of everybody who thinks Thing 1 is one of the best horror movies ever. So... what about Thing 2?

Basically, the problem with Thing 2 - and one that I saw coming a mile away - is that it has a little too much in common with Thing 1. I knew the plot of Thing 2 before I even saw it: people find the thing, they realize the thing is alive, the thing starts to kill, they realize the thing can replicate humans, they stop trusting each other, they die, the survivors fight the thing, they think they kill it but obviously they don't really because this is a prequel. DUH. And yup, that's pretty much what happens. No surprises, and nothing all that new is introduced to enhance the story.

Actually one thing I really liked was the new way they came up with for identifying who's a thing or not, if only because it makes more sense than what they tried to do in Thing 1. When Kate finds tooth fillings on the floor after someone has been attacked by the thing, she figures out that it cannot replicate inorganic material - fillings, steel rods for a broken arm, etc. So then there's a somewhat suspenseful scene where Kate goes around to everybody with a flashlight and looks inside their mouths. The way the scene is played out makes you expect something squiggly to come flying out of somebody's mouth and attack Kate. It doesn't happen, I'm sorry to say, but it was a nicely crafted little moment.

Another problem I have with Thing 2 is the effects. I don't completely hate CGI on principle - it can give us some really cool things to look at in a movie - but it did not work for me at all for Thing 2. When you're basing your prequel off of Thing 1, a movie that is known specifically for its awesome organic effects, and you go all CGI, it just doesn't feel the same. I miss the practical effects, okay? They look a heck of a lot better and are more convincing, plus they are just nasty, real and visceral and that's always fun for a horror fan. Thing 2 was all about somebody's body ripping apart and these weird tentacle things flying every whichaway. The ideas for the effects were very interesting and cool; I only wish they had gone with the practical approach to achieve them. I did like the two-headed thing, though. Props for that.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead replaces Kurt Russell in the role of the person who's really not in charge taking charge of the situation. And she does a pretty good job here - much different than the ditz I only knew her as in Death Proof, by the way. All the other characters and actors are kinda forgettable and I could never tell who was who or what their role was. They are mostly just fodder for the thing and you know who the survivors are going to be right from the beginning, so who cares, right?

If there's one part of Thing 2 that big fans of Thing 1 will love, it is of course the sequence during the end credits. When the movie "ended" the first time, I had a few seconds to go, "Wait, what? How can that be the end? What about the guys in the helicopter and the d-- ohhhhhhhh... there you go!" It's nothing all that big but I'm sure it was greatly appreciated by those who know and love Thing 1 (which now includes me!).

So did I hate Thing 2? No, I really didn't but I could also never recommend it over Thing 1, even though they are kinda the same movie with kinda the same characters. The CGI pulled me out of the movie a lot, but although Thing 2 is not a horrible movie, it won't ever get the same attention or admiration as the original.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Read My Book Review on The Zed Word Zombie Blog!

You guys, where have I been? Where am I now? WHO am I??????

Okay, dramatics aside, I always feel bad when I neglect my little blog for over a week. One reason for this is that at the end of last week, I got a kick in the pants from The Zed Word - Zombie Blog, whom I had promised to read a book and write a review for it. So that's what I've been doing.

The review is for Dead of Winter, a cannibalistic bloodbath from new author Brian Moreland.

The novel was actually pretty darn good and a lot of fun to read. It was fast-paced and bloody, which is absolutely perfect for horror fans! So I thank Aaron over at The Zed Word (and Brian Moreland, of course) for letting me do this thing for him, and hopefully I can do a few more reviews in the future.

CLICKEN THE LINK HERE to read my review of Dead of Winter!

As for upcoming movie reviews and whatnot... I have only watched one movie in the past week, and that was prequel to The Thing, which is also called The Thing (does that still bother anybody else?). I've got some thoughts on the movie so it's possible that a review could be coming soon. I'm ready to see some new horror (well, new in the sense that I've never seen it) so I need to get plowing through all my movies on the Netflix. Let's make it happen!

Be well, bloggers!