Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Movie Review: Kingdom of the Spiders

I got interested in this gem from Trick or Treat Pete's recent post about nature-related movies and the still from Kingdom of the Spiders looked cool. And lo and behold, as I'm perusing through my video store the other day, what DVD do I see? What, you need me to tell you? Okay, it was KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS - in the new release section, I might add. Out for the first time on DVD I'm guessing?

Now, I love the movie Arachnophobia, but obviously it still gives me the willies. Holy fucking crap, Kingdom of the Spiders was about a thousand times worse than Arachnophobia. A) Tarantulas are fucking big and hairy and scary and B) THERE WERE A WHOLE FUCKING LOT OF THEM. Okay, here we go.

Plot paragraph: So William Shatner is Dr. Robert "Rack" Hansen, a vet in this tiny town in Arizona. When a local farmer's calf gets sick, he sends off some samples of stuff to the university in one of those big towns in Arizona. A really hot bug scientist (Tiffany Bolling as Diane Ashley) shows up and tells him that the calf was poisoned by spider venom. The theory is that many spiders were the aggressors and not just one, which is confirmed by the discovery of a huge spider hill containing thousands of tarantulas. And as the spider population in Camp Verde grows, the human population diminishes...

I can't believe how many actors they got that agreed to have 20 spiders - no, no, not just spiders, TARANTULAS - crawling all over them. I mean look at this:

and this...

and these two dead dudes...

and the dead sheriff...   (OMFG, there's a huge one right over his EYE)

and this extremely brave actress...

and even this fat guy...

I mean, there's no end to the little bastards! Plus we have little girls on a bed covered with spiders; spiders falling on people's heads from an AC vent; spiders in the truck; spiders on a hill; spiders on somebody's hand - this whole GD movie is just freaking covered with spiders! And that one hot bug scientist chick just kept picking up the spiders like they were little fluffy bunnies or something and I kept screaming in my head, You fucking crazy bitch, put that thing down! What the hell are you doing?! My mother came in while I was watching this and I must have looked like a scared little kid or something because she said, "What are you watching?" To which I replied, much like a scared little kid, "I DON'T LIKE THIS MOVIE!" 

Actually, I did like the movie, obviously I just don't like spiders. Well, I don't mind spiders - I can usually take one on by myself if it shows up in my house but if I were in this movie? No way, Josie. I'd be a wreck. When they're crawling over people in the movie, those ain't no CG spiders. They were the real deal, so I guess I have to give a pat on the back to pretty much everyone involved in making this movie for being able to stand being surrounded by spiders every day they went to work. Some of them must have been really desperate to meet William Shatner.

Who could resist this hunk of burning love?

Entomologist Diane Ashley actually falls for Rack and his good ole boy cowboy attitude, despite his making fun of her in an earlier scene at the gas station and his initial disbelief in her killer spider theory. I'm always amazed in these kinds of movies how quickly people seem to "fall in love" with strangers they just met. But the love story in this movie is cut short by the invading hoard of spiders. Oh, what might have been.

The environmental stand they took was funny. We all know now that DDT sucks, but this movie seems like they were saying, "Look what could have happened, you dipshits. Don't fuck with nature." And the ending was absolutely hilarious. Billy Shatner looks out the window after somehow surviving the night in the lodge spider-free, only to see that the entire town is covered in spider's webs! Brilliant. Let's see you get out of this one, Captain Kirk.

Other things that are awesome about Kingdom of the Spiders: a pilot with spiders on his head screams like a girl as he tries to cropdust the sons-of-bitches out of town and then crashes his plane; the scene where pretty much everyone in town dies; and the actors playing Mr. and Mrs. Colby (the farmer with the first sick cow) are kind of amazing.

Two thumbs up... though I don't know if I want to watch it again...

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Week of "P" Movies: P2

I know I'm getting into the next week with this post here, but I had to get P2 on my blog somewhere.

It's a divisive movie among horror fans and I sort of understand why. I'm on the side that really likes the movie. I would think more guys would like this movie... the whole poster is just of her boobies. Don't men like boobies?

The "here's what it's about" paragraph: On Christmas Eve, Angela is working late at her swanky office building, trying to get done so she can go to her sister's house. When her car won't start and she can't get out of the building to get a cab, she's abducted by the night security guard, Thomas. He says he just wants some company for Christmas, but Angela realizes that he's not all there and has to find a way to get out of this parking garage alive. Rachel Nichols plays Angela and Wes Bentley's eyebrows play the madman Thomas.

I'd like to give a through-the-Internet
fist bump to Alex Aja. 
P2 was the brain child of gore-meister Alexandre Aja and some other dudes. Completely different from his other films but that's awesome. P2 is more simplistic and atmospheric, while it does have a touch of gore just for fun. I like the casting of Rachel Nichols because she is one of the only actresses who looks like a normal person. Pretty, but not insanely hot, therefore I like her and her character. Wes Bentley I only knew from American Beauty so when I first saw the movie, I wasn't sure how I would feel about him playing a psycho, and playing it believably. He's a little young for role, maybe, but on the whole his random crazy outbursts and sweet-boy face that can instantly turn into mean-boy face actually worked for me.

After Angela wakes up from Thomas drugging her with chloroform, we get a very creepy scene of Thomas's Christmas dinner romancing thing he's set up for her. It's a good surprise moment when Angela, feeling sick, falls out of her chair and we see that her ankle is chained to the table leg. Then when he makes her call her sister to say she won't be able to make it to the family gathering, Thomas stands behind her, grabbing and caressing her neck and chest and it's almost torture to watch her try to keep her composure. Why she doesn't just yell out something like "I'm still at work, HELP!" is beyond me. But then we wouldn't have a movie, would we?

He's right behind you, dipshit.
I have to give the filmmakers credit for making a movie set in an underground parking garage and being able to keep the action different and interesting. I think of those places as just big, open spaces. Creepy, yes, with the shadowed corners and echoing noises, but there's not much to them. P2 gives us something unexpected at every turn. Angela tries hiding in an elevator, which Thomas fills with water. The touch of gore comes in when Angela stabs Thomas in the eye and when Thomas rams a guy strapped to a chair into a wall with his car and his intestines spill out. Niiiiiice. A game of vehicular chicken shows Angela's horrible driving skills but leads us to a great conclusion to the film.

This movie even includes the absolute one thing that I hate seeing in movies which is somebody's FINGERNAIL BEING RIPPED OFF. I don't even want to look for a picture of it because I can't fucking stand that shit. Chop off their heads, pull out their guts, put them in a meat grinder, I don't care. Just don't show somebody's fingernail popping off. Even if the fingernail thing is a POSSIBILITY, I don't want to see it. Like one of those scenes where someone's being dragged and they're all scraping at the floor and walls - that's enough to get me squirming in my seat. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

I'm telling you, those eyebrows
are out of control.
And get this: there's an evil dog in the movie, and Angela actually kills it. They break one of the unwritten rules of films - you can't kill dogs. Kill as many humans as you like, but once Fido gets it, the audience will fucking hate you. "Yeah, but what if it's an evil dog who tries to eat you?" Eh, still a little iffy. There's usually some asshole in the movie who's going to say, "He's just a defenseless animal!! How could you do that??!!" To this, I say, Defenseless? My ass. Eighty pounds of muscle and sharp-sharp teeth hardly constitutes as defenseless.

Most reviews call Wes Bentley's performance, and the film overall, comedic. You can tell me that all you want and I still won't believe it. I think Bentley's reputation as the weird kid from American Beauty helped him in making Thomas more menacing. He doesn't actually hurt Angela in any way, but rather keeps getting in her way of escaping. His character is not meant to be a knife-wielding psycho. He is simply a cunning foe who knows the location better than our heroine, therefore he has one up on her. I sincerely believe that Thomas does not want to kill Angela. He has murderous tendencies, obviously, but perhaps he will only keep her locked up in his office for a few days instead of killing her. That wouldn't be so bad, would it? I'm sure he has plenty of frozen dinners to eat, Angela, and maybe you'll come to think of his dorky Elvis impersonations as, well... kind of cute. Or maybe not.

I give the movie props for trying something new that could have come off as cheesy and ridiculous. Some people still say that it is cheesy and ridiculous... and implausible and laughable and all kinds of other mean words but I say they're wrong. I like P2 and I don't care what you think!

The film also gets points for reemphasizing the fact that calling a woman the "c" word is never a good idea. Burn him, girlfriend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Week of "P" Movies: Pelts

Fuck you, Dario Argento. Fuck you and your GD genius of gore. Don't get me wrong, I love you and all, but fucking Pelts fucking traumatized me for life. Thanks.

No, sincerely... thanks. I mean, Pelts has got some of the best gore I've seen in a long time, but still. Is it possible that this is maybe too much gore?

I never thought I would say that.

In Pelts, Meat Loaf plays a sleazy fur trader obsessed with a lesbian stripper named Shanna (I must admit, she has a very nice ass), who wants nothing to do with him (I mean, it's Meat Loaf, hello!). When John Saxon, one of those dudes who catches and skins animals for furs, captures a slew of raccoons with apparently gorgeous pelts (I didn't know raccoons were that awesome), Meat Loaf really wants them to make a fur coat for Shanna so he can finally have her (and by have her, yes, I mean have sex with her). Ah, but these are no ordinary pelts. For some reason that is never explained, the pelts make those around them go insanely cuckoo and also makes them mutilate themselves in the grossest ways ever. Let the gore commence.

If loving Argento is wrong,
I don't want to be right.
Now, I'm going to admit that I really hated Argento's first Masters of Horror episode, Jenifer. It was just, like, I don't know... weird. So I was thinking that this next one had to be better. I was never warned that Pelts was perhaps the goriest thing produced by Masters of Horror yet (well, except maybe Takashi Miike's Imprint, which never aired, which I still haven't watched yet for some reason), but the element of surprise was worth the experience of watching Pelts for the first time.

Let's just talk about the gore for this movie, okay? Yeah, I could talk about the acting and the subtext about obsessions and passions or whatever, but who cares. My first gore review, whoopie! Let's go scene by scene.

1. John Saxon's head bashed in with a baseball bat. You see his head cave in on the very first strike. Not as inventive a kill as it could have been, but very brutal.

2. Kid putting his face into an animal trap. The scene that traumatized me for life. This and that jaw rip death from Mirrors have freaked me out more than anything else I have seen. After beating the shit out of John Saxon's head, this kid goes down to the basement, lovingly strokes the raccoon pelts, puts an animal trap onto a table, opens it, smiles, and then PUTS HIS FUCKING FACE INTO IT. And this is Argento, so we don't cut away at all. Noooo, we have to see the whole GD thing, up close and personal. Excellent makeup effects, but FUCK. Was that disturbing.

Even worse: When Meat Loaf and this other dude discover the body, Meat Loaf sort of smiles and looks at it like it's the most beautiful thing in the world. Creeeeeeeepyyyyy.

3. Man eviscerates himself. After being berated by Meat Loaf for cutting the pelts wrong, one of his workers pulls out some scissors while sitting in his car. He cuts into himself from belly to throat, rips his skin apart, and starts pulling out his guts. The makeup, and sound effects especially, were a little too good in this scene and I almost horked on my shoes. 

4. Woman sews her face shut. A little lame and a little too obviously CG. One of Meat Loaf's stereotypical Chinese female workers stays late one night to finish the fur coat and instead decides to sew her nose, mouth, and eyes shut. Kind of boring. I wasn't impressed.

5. Meat Loaf makes Shanna a skin tank top. The penultimate event of the episode. Meat Loaf takes the fur coat to Shanna's apartment, bangs her, and then goes into the bathroom, saying that he "needs something sharp." Uh oh. He finds a knife in the kitchen and starts to slice along his body, and you're wondering, Well, hm. What's he doing there? Then again, we have a full on effects and gore shot that doesn't cut away of Meat Loaf pulling his skin off, over his head like a t-shirt. Ew, ew, ew, ew, EW.

6. Shanna rips her hand off in the elevator doors. In the same scene, Meat Loaf chases Shanna to the elevator of her apartment building. Trying to get away from him, she gets her hand caught in the elevator doors as they are closing. Somehow (I'm thinking this is not very possible) she just rips her hand off, leaving behind the bloodiest crime scene ever. The CSI team is in for a long night.

So there you have it, the gore highlights of Pelts, on my list as one of the best gorefests (at least, from what I've seen so far) out there.

Did you notice how everybody's death has got something to do with what they do to the raccoons? The baseball bat to bash their skulls and kill them; the trap to catch them; the scissors to cut the pelts once they're dried; and the needle and thread to sew the coat together. Meat Loaf skinning himself is obviously with how they skin the newly killed animals and Shanna getting her hand caught in the elevator and ripping it off is reminiscent of animals chewing off their own limbs to get out of a trap. Clever, screenwriters. Clever. I like it.

Side note: Haven't seen all of the Masters of Horror episodes yet, but so far my top three are Pelts, Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, and Cigarette Burns

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Week of "P" Movies: Primeval

Ah, yes. Primeval. The love-child of Lake Placid and Blood Diamond. But you know what? I love Lake Placid and I love Blood Diamond. So yes, gosh darn it, I love Primeval.

First of all, fuck all of those initial teasers that led us to believe that the movie was about some wacko serial killer that killed over 300 people. Remember that? Remember feeling like an idiot when you found out that the serial killer was actually a fucking CROCODILE? I do. And I was pissed at first, but then I was like, "Giant crocodile? Eating people? I think I'm gonna like that."

The plot: A reporter, producer and cameraman travel to Burundi to do a story on the legend of Gustave, a massive man-eating crocodile that has been feeding on villagers for years. They also take on the impossible task of capturing this beast, so they bring a guide, a croc expert, and a big cage. Yes, I'm sure that will work great. In the midst of their adventure, there is still civil war in Burundi - mass killings and terror at the hands of the elusive Little Gustave, an evil warlord who soon wants this team dead after their cameraman films him slaughtering an entire family.

We're not safe on land, either.
Most people, as I recall, had a problem with the movie incorporating the whole genocide thing into the story. Like, "Please. We just want to watch a crocodile eat a bunch of Africans. Let's not get into real-world issues here." Or they spouted off some bullshit about how the movie "couldn't make up its mind on what it wanted to be: a horror movie or a political commentary." When the fuck did a movie ever have to be either-or? Why shouldn't a movie, based on a true legend, set in Africa, confront the issues that were going on in that region at the time? People might have even been more pissed off if they hadn't included that bit into the film.

To the movie's credit, they give a reason for how Gustave's reign of terror came to be and what this has to do with the genocide. The bodies of those murdered by Little Gustave and his men were dumped in the water and Gustave fed on them, getting his "taste for human blood." The commentary here is obviously that they fear and are trying to kill this beast, when it was man's violence that created him in the first place. Okay, I'll buy that. It's a good enough explanation for the movie.

Basically, Primeval is not a bad movie. If Gustave was the only thing the team had to fear in the movie, then the audience would just scoff and tell them to pack up and leave. Bringing Little Gustave into the mix puts our heroes in a much more dangerous situation. Making him the man who was their contact into the country also shows that he has the power to not let them out of the country, as well.

Ooooh, creepy, isn't it? 

The plot is fairly predictable, but that is not always a bad thing. Of course I knew that we would eventually meet Little Gustave and that Big Gustave would eat him. That was pretty much a given. Doesn't mean that I still didn't enjoy seeing Little Gustave's head crushed like a grape in the big croc's mouth. While he was covered in urine. Good stuff.

Yes, there are a lot of unbelievable situations here where most of the main cast should have easily died. I know that, I see it. The worst scene is at the end when Gustave comes plowing through the back window of the SUV. That car and fucking everybody inside should have been mincemeat after Gustave spent five minutes thrashing around, but amazingly everyone survives and the car still runs. Whatever.

Eat, you beautiful thing you, eat!
Gustave himself actually looks pretty amazing. For an entirely CG crocodile, the effects come off almost seamlessly. He interacts amazingly well with the environment, especially the water. Watching the effects feature on the DVD, you see that a lot of the water was CG as well, and while I know fuck all about computer effects, something tells me this must have been a pain in the ass to accomplish. So a big kudos to the effects team for the work on Primeval. We're well-learned in how really bad CG can ruin a potentially good creature feature (coughcoughSYFYORIGINALScoughcough), but I think Primeval pulled off the task quite well. Despite the fact that Gustave wasn't exactly an ordinary crocodile, like he was supposed to be. I'm thinking the CG dudes added some enhancements and scarier looking scales or something because he looked way more menacing than regular crocs do.

So all in all, it has its flaws and at times some distasteful jokes that some would find offensive, but I would say that Primeval is one of the better animals-run-amok movies out there. It's a serious movie, but still fun, but then not so much fun that it's laughable.

I still don't know how I feel about Dominic Purcell in this movie. Do I like him? Is he really that bad of an actor? Sometimes he's tolerable. I don't know.