Saturday, December 31, 2011

Weekly Movie Roundup: 12-25-11 to 12-31-11

I might try a new feature on this here blog where I do a recap of all the movies I've watched in the current week - horror or not - because sometimes I watch so many movies and don't have the time or energy to review them all. And some of them are so underwhelming that I can't really think of how to review them, anyway, so then I don't post anything for days on end even though I've watched a lot of movies, you know?! It's crazy. Cray-zy. So hopefully this feature will be something I can stick with. Ready? Okay!

Super 8 (2011)
Cheating a little here. I watched this last week but hoo-doggy did I freaking love it. An homage to Steven Spielberg that is The Goonies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. all wrapped up in a mind-blowingly beautiful movie with some of the best kid actors I've seen in a long time. Is there some tension at the Fanning household now? Methinks there might be, because Elle, Dakota's little sister, is fabulous here and steals the show. The train crash at the beginning was big and loud and crazy and a lot of CGI but it didn't bother me so much because it was just awesome to watch. At the end of the film, all I could think was, "Hey! I really wanted to see the movie the kids were shooting!" And they totally show it in the credits which made me giddy. Pretty good little zombie flick for it being shot by 10 year olds, I must say.

The Help (2011)
So many rave reviews and award nominations came out of this movie and I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff so I had to at least give it a chance. Though it's a bit long, I really enjoyed this movie as well. Emma Stone is one of my new favorite actresses, as she has more than delivered performance-wise in everything I've seen her in (I even loved Easy A) and as Skeeter in The Help she adds to much of the film's comic relief and heart. I always get angered at movies set during the 50s that focus on the civil rights movement (is that supposed to be capitalized or not?) because it absolutely boggles my mind that people acted or even ever thought that way. Building another bathroom in your house because you don't want your black maid to use the same toilet as you? Really? Yet they counted on them to raise their children and do everything around the house because they were too lazy to do it. That's insane to me. So the story that this movie explores - where the maids get to share all their horror stories about working for bitchy white people - is a breath of fresh air to me, and I think the movie handled it well and produced something really good.

Clue (1985)
Seen this one about 25 times already but for some reason I had to break it off the DVD shelf the other day. Clue is by far my favorite board game EVER, though no one likes to play with me much because I always win (never be afraid to make a guess! And keep notes on who has what cards, that always works for me... and never forget that I am always Miss Scarlet) and the movie version of this great game is fantastic. Tim Curry, Lesley Ann Warren, Christopher Lloyd, and one of my all-time favorites Madeline Kahn all make this an immensely entertaining and hilarious movie to watch from start to finish. Kahn is a bit more subdued in this role but she does have that great scene... "I hated her SO MUCH. It was... FLAMES... flames... on the side of my face... heaving... heaving breaths..." Kills me every time.

Straw Dogs (2011)
Oh, another remake. And I'm not for sure on how I feel about this one yet. It was fairly well-made, and James Marsden didn't bother as much as he usually does so that's a plus. But they break away from the main storyline too much and dwells on that Jeremy dude who apparently is some kind of pedophile but it's never explained. Speaking of that, the rape scene here is just as confusing as it was in the original. I feel horrible saying this, but in both films it looks like a half-rape half-sex scene between Amy and Charlie like she sorta wants to do it but doesn't at the same time. Not very feminist of me, but you can't deny that this scene is a little weird because I can't tell if she's giving in out of fear of more physical pain or because there's still some feelings there for Charlie. Anyway. One thing this movie does wrong is the end battle where some of the killings are too stylized and not realistic at all - the nail gun and the bear trap, mostly. Also, the movie takes too long to get to the exciting parts and has too many characters, when the story should have centered more on David and Amy and the hooligans.

Leon: The Professional (1994)
Ah, one of my favorite movies ever! I used to watch this all the time on TV (it was one of USA's favorite movies for a while there, too) and liked it as a fun action flick but when I watched it as I was older and was looking at movies in a different way, I saw this movie in a completely different way, too. This is a movie with a big heart and a very emotional story to tell, it's not just about guns and blowing things up or Gary Oldman acting like a psycho, although that is always fun to watch. Natalie Portman delivers one of the best movies of her whole career, even though she was only 11 years old and it was her first movie. She and Jean Reno are beautiful together and they, and Luc Besson the director, created something very special with this movie. Love it to death.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)
This guy I work with talked about how excited he was for this movie a while ago and I never got around to looking into it or anything. But I saw earlier this week that it was on Netflix and decided to give it a go right away. So glad I did! Though it was not quite as funny as it could have been, I loved the story of two nice hillbillies being mistaken for the cliched butchering hillbillies that so many other horror movies have relied on. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine play the title characters to a T, although I was more excited to see Tudyk (love him from Firefly) when the movie was more about the Dale character. But Labine is so freaking lovable in his role that I was totally sucked in and loved watching this story unfold. The psycho preppy kid with the popped collar was also hilarious in his role of wanting to kill Tucker and Dale, plus some of the death scenes were fabulous and hilarious as well. Diving into the woodchipper and impaling yourself on sharp sticks is simply brilliant. This movie was a fun ride, really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Movie Review: We Are What We Are (2010)

Wow. I didn't know cannibals could be so boring. I had such high hopes for this Mexican horror-drama-thing after reading about it but it turned out to be quite slow and uninspiring, something that has all the potential in the world but somewhere makes a giant misstep.

After their patriarch dies suddenly, a poor family of cannibals try to figure out who will lead them in their rituals of kidnapping and eating people. Meanwhile, two city police officers are hot on the family's trail.

So again, yeah, We Are What We Are should have had it all. It should have been dark, gritty, and deeply disturbing with the gruesome subject matter that it promises. Instead it is way too tame and safe. The movie never takes the story by the balls and tries to go for it. It takes baby steps to the edge of the chasm instead of jumping into it, and if it it had, the movie could have been so much better.

Even the title promises more than the movie actually delivers. The family consists of the mother and father (who dies in the first scene of the movie in a mall after puking up some black stuff... ew) and three teenage children - Alfredo, Julian, and Sabina. The father is a watchmaker and fixer and is the sole provider for the family. "We Are What We Are" implies that this family has had to resort to cannibalism in a desperate attempt to survive (why the three able-bodied children can't go out and work is never explained but whatever) and also implies that they perhaps have no shame about what they do. Is any of this explored? Nope. Not a bit.

The actors are good enough in their roles and certainly could have handled darker and more outlandish material. The girl playing Sabina is best of them all, as her eyes convey so much intensity even when she's not saying anything at all. That final shot of her at the end is just fantastic and she milks the moment for all it's worth. The boy playing the eldest son, Alfredo, is also good as the one who reluctantly tries to take his father's place to the dismay of the other, more violent and capable son, Julian. This sibling rivalry takes over many of the scenes when this part wasn't really all that interesting and just became more boring as time went on.

What also brings the movie down a lot is the story of the two cops hunting the family down. They first show up when the coroner presents them with a human finger found in the dead father's stomach (which eerily doesn't shock them or anyone else in the least) and then they spend the rest of the movie acting like the most incompetent bunch of nitwits I've ever seen. They sleep in their cars, stumble across a crime scene without calling for help, and of course, allow themselves to get killed in the most embarrassing ways - well, embarrassing for them because they're cops and they should have freaking known better.

Now comes the horror part of this horror movie - the all-important gore factor. Survey says that We Are What We Are is also fairly tame in this aspect which is another sad disappointment. These people are cannibals, so we should be treated to some awesome scenes of them butchering and eating people, yeah? Again, no, not really. There's only one butchering scene and though it is done well, there's not really much to see. The blood looks good and the scene has a very dingy, realistic feel which sets the mood wonderfully. However, I wanted more. I wanted more action and more gore and they just did not give it to me.

So though the look of We Are What We Are is decent and is well shot, edited, and acted, the viewer can't help but feel like there's something missing here. Maybe the filmmakers were going for a more dramatic, quieter tale of cannibalism and family strife but had they gone further and really shown us the disturbing and gross side of this family's story, it would have been so much more effective. I liked it to a point and it's a beautiful movie but it just wasn't as great as I expected.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Horror Holidays!

Ah, it's the time for Christmas cheer and everybody being all nice and shit. But what fun is that? Thankfully, for years filmmakers have known how to spread the holiday joy in a way that makes fans giddy with delight. Mainly by making movies so seasonally inappropriate that only true horror fans could love them.

So here are some random screengrabs from some of our favorite horrific holiday flicks!

Do you feel the warm tingling in your heart yet? I sure do. 

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday (even if you don't do anything, surely you've got time off of work, right?) with lots of joy and fun with family and friends and all that happy crappy stuff. And you know the rules if you happen to get a Mogwai in your stocking.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Movie Review: Fright Night (2011)

Okay, I can't resist. I have to say it... WELCOME TO FRIGHT NIGHT! I've still only seen the original 1985 version of Fright Night once, but that was enough to make me fall in love with it. News of remakes don't shock me anymore, in fact they rather bore me, so I was neither hopeful nor skeptical of this remake. And I have no shame in saying that I loved 2011's Fright Night just as much as the original.

When teenager Charley Brewster's old friend Ed tells him that his new neighbor Jerry is a vampire, Charley of course doesn't believe him. But after witnessing some of Jerry's strange behavior on his own, Charley is convinced and soon enlists the help of a local magician and vampire expert named Peter Vincent to take Jerry down for good.

The film is very fast paced and after the first throwaway scene and some setup with Charley, his mother and his girlfriend Amy, we get right into the vampire action. I was glad for the lack of lulls, so to speak, because what I wanted out of this movie was just some good old-fashioned vampire comedy and fun, and boy howdy, did they ever deliver here.

I didn't find out until after watching the movie that the wonderful Marti Noxon, one of the main writers from the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer TV series, wrote Fright Night, but I completely believe that her talents helped make the film as good as it is. It's full of subtle hilarity and smart jokes (and maybe one reference to Buffy when Peter describes Charley and Amy as a "Scooby gang"), not to mention the best line from the original film... "You're so cool, Brewster!" This line was perhaps not as well used as in the original movie - I probably would have missed it if I wasn't paying attention - but it was still good to hear it.

All of the actors were pretty much perfect in their roles, even Colin Farrell as Jerry, the one I was the most unsure about. I knew he would be a great charmer like Chris Sarandon was, but I wasn't sure how he would do with the comedic side. However, Farrell played Jerry as a much more sinister and cunning vampire with a hint of comedy here and there, and I think it made the movie all the better. The real star of Fright Night, though, was Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Ed Lee. My favorite line from the whole movie was at the beginning when Ed says to Charley, "...and I'm really so angry that you think that I read 'Twilight.'" His performance is nothing short of genius with every line that he delivers, even something as simple as that line. One of the movie's shortcomings is that they severely underused Ed's character. For shame!

Also, did you love Chris Sarandon's cameo? I did. Very happy that he agreed to do that. I also thought that I would hate the new Peter Vincent, changed from the aging Roddy McDowall to the more modern Criss Angel-wannabe guy with black hair and leather pants. However, David Tennant was equally fabulous in his role and played it with hilarity and ease.

As the movie was made for a 3D experience, there are a few shots of things flying at the screen and some very unnecessary use of CGI blood. Argh! I hate CGI blood! In fact, CG is used quite a lot here where more practical effects would have been undoubtedly better. Other times it works pretty well. Loved the part where Doris explodes in the sunlight and Ed's death (though not as sad as the original). One of the scenes I was not too crazy about was the part with Charley, his mom, and Amy in the car as they are running from Jerry after he tries to blow up their house. It is one continuous shot weaving in and out and around the car as various things are happening all around them, and it is so obviously fake - meaning green screen - that it took me completely out of the moment.

Classic scenes from the original are not exactly copied, everything is just more updated and modern. Not a bad thing here. The story works well in the new setting, and speaking of sets - loved them. Peter Vincent's loft was a great place for the showdown with Evil Ed and I loved at the end where all the vampires come out of the dirt, plus Charley's final fight with Jerry was very well done.

Despite its relative lack of attention at theaters, I think they hit a slam dunk with Fright Night. It was good vampire fun with lots of humor and some terrific performances.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Movie Review: Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011)

The stellar 2007 infection film [REC] spawned a Hollywood remake, Quarantine, that was damn near the same film. Both films now also have sequels but the Quarantine sequel took the story in a much different direction than [REC] 2, which is a good thing in this case. And while Quarantine 2: Terminal is not nearly as good as either of the original films, it's not exactly a complete failure either.

On the same night as the quarantine in the apartment building from the first film, passengers and crew on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles are forced to land prematurely when one man shows symptoms of the same deadly virus. They think they are safe when they make it to the airport terminal, until the government quarantines them inside as well. As the infection spreads, the survivors try to find a way to escape the terminal.

So for this sequel, the filmmakers have completely done away with the found footage style, which was a welcome relief. It would not have made any sense for this situation and would have made the movie seem too gimmicky. Instead, they go their own way with the story while still answering the main question from the first movie which is what is this virus and where did it come from? The reasoning they came up with was not exactly what I expected nor does it make all that much logical sense but who would watch this movie for the amazing writing anyway? We want to see infected dudes and dudettes eating other people.

The first third of the movie is on the airplane and centers around a young flight attendant named Jenny, who later becomes the reluctant leader of the survivors. When a fat guy gets sick and pukes all over her, that's when the fun starts. And this wasn't in a 747, either. The situation is made more claustrophobic by the setting on this tiny plane with only one aisle and few passengers. The audience is glad to finally see them land and give the characters more room to move around - and therefore make it easier for them to fight off the crazies and escape being infected.

Sadly, most of the gore work is simply okay. There's lots of blood and neck ripping and biting, and even a part where an infected kitty cat bites an older woman, but there's nothing really new or exciting. Actually the freakiest part of the whole movie has nothing to do with the infected. It's when the bad guy, Henry, first puts some drops into his eye to numb it (you even see him pat his open eyeball with his finger - without blinking!) and then sticks a needle into his bottom eyelid. Yeesh. For those of you who don't like eye trauma, this might be a good scene for you to close yours!

The part I liked the most is the end when Jenny and young George are crawling through that tunnel, with George using the thermal vision goggles to see where they're going. It's quite suspenseful, especially when George looks back one time and sees the bite mark on Jenny's side. This is really the only suspenseful part of the movie as the rest is your standard fare of people running and fighting and getting bitten and infected. The survivors get into a lot of unnecessary fights and their characters are severely underdeveloped. You only really get to know Jenny and George, but only in the most basic way.

I can't completely recommend Quarantine 2: Terminal because really, if you don't see it, you're not missing a whole lot. But you won't be totally disappointed if you do see it either. It's better than I expected for a straight to DVD sequel even though I'd much rather watch the original, and even more than that, I'd rather just watch [REC]

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: "Bag of Bones" Miniseries (2011)

Oh-kay. How to talk about "Bag of Bones"? It's always hard for me to review an adaptation of a book I love so much and have such a strong connection to, and Bag of Bones is definitely one of those books. Most people would probably say that you have to look at the book and adaptation as two separate entities. To a point, I agree. Movies and books are different mediums and therefore must be dealt with in different ways. But when a movie has such strong source material, how can one not judge the movie based on its ability to effectively recreate what was presented in the book? Let's see how Mick Garris and crew did with my favorite Stephen King book.

Part One Review: Honestly, not much has happened so far. Jo Noonan died, Mike Noonan grieved, Mike went to Sara Laughs (even though it was never mentioned in the miniseries that Sara Laughs was the name of his lake house but whatever), Mike found out that Sara Laughs is haunted by Jo and Sara Tidwell, Mike met Mattie and Kyra, Mike got involved with Kyra's crazy grandfather Max Devore. There's still much to be covered and since they didn't get very far in the first two hours, a lot of story and action is going to have be crammed into the last two hours. Good or bad? We'll see.

I must say that the first part felt a little slow, and not necessarily suspenseful. Mike's dreams and his ghostly encounters felt like the filmmakers were just recycling the same old horror movie cliches, when in the book the mood was creepy but much more subtle. I loved the inclusion of the refrigerator magnets and Bunter's bell as how the ghosts communicate, though. Pierce Brosnan's crazed laughing about these incidents was a little weird, but Mike expresses in the book about how he is both terrified by the ghosts and a little excited at what he is experiencing as well, so I guess that fits.

I'm still not sold on Brosnan as Mike. He's a bit older looking - though that doesn't matter much - and he doesn't have Mike's sarcastic sense of humor or overall way with words (he's a writer, remember). The actors playing Max Devore and his yet-unnamed "assistant" Rogette are also quite good so far, though they haven't had much to do. Max has just the right amount of cunning and evil behind his eyes, just how I pictured him from the book and Rogette is perhaps even creepier looking than I pictured.

The big change I got pissed off about noticed was how Jo died. In the book, she has a brain aneurysm in a parking lot and Mike wasn't there. In the show, she gets hit by a fucking bus. I understand the need for making things a little more dramatical or whatever but this is going a bit far. And to have Mike running out and holding his bleeding and dying wife? I don't know that they should have gone for that big of a change for the sake of drama. It was too gruesome for me, but I admit that it did manage to hurry the story up a bit and get Mike to Sara Laughs, so I'm letting it slide for the moment.

A couple things I did like: Really liked the dream sequence where Mike kisses Sara, Jo, and Mattie. It set up for the audience who the important players were in this piece and was quite beautifully shot. Also really liked the actress playing Sara Tidwell. She's absolutely gorgeous, and if that was really her singing in that one scene, then she's pretty freaking talented, too. Though Part One is starting out a bit dull, I'm excited to see how the dramatic events of the conclusion play out. Time for Part Two!

Part Two Review: NO! No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Part One may have taken a few liberties with the story and changed things around a bit, but Part Two done fucked the whole thing up. What I'm complaining about though, is not just that they changed stuff (although, yes, I was very annoyed at some of the changes). The real problem with this was the way everything was handled. All the action went down too quickly and they seemed to treat the audience like they were stupid.

What I mean by this is that at several parts, they had characters literally spell out what was happening instead of revealing it in a better way and letting the audience figure it out for themselves. The worst part was in the scene of what happened to Sara Tidwell. They actually had a bloody Sara say to the men, "I curse you! You will kill your daughters! Your sons will kill their daughters! And so on and so forth!" before she died. Ri-donk-ulous. What, is she a witch now or something? Mattie had to actually say to Mike, "That's why Jo didn't tell you she was pregnant! She knew about the curse!" What about the fact that all the children's names that the men killed started with a "K" like Sara's daughter Keisha (in the book, it was a son and his name was Kito)? All those little facts just make the mystery seem more involved and bigger and more powerful than the miniseries made it out to be.

I did love that they included one of my favorite parts from the book, which was when Mike met Rogette and Max on The Street and Rogette starts throwing rocks at Mike in the lake. It was a much longer scene in the book and always felt a little ludicrous to me, but also very funny and showed how crazy those two were. I actually had an actress in my mind for Rogette while reading the book - Marian Seldes.

I'm telling you, when that chick gets angry, she is the scariest-looking person on the planet. The other lady is great in the role, though, and she has a great look with that black hair and costuming. 

I admit that Bag of Bones was probably a hard novel to adapt. Much of it centered on Mike alone and his inner monologue which is not only difficult to translate to film but it also would have been very boring to watch Pierce Brosnan get scared at ghosts for a couple hours. Some scenes were great, like the dream sequence of Mike and Kyra at the fair but other important scenes were either watered down for TV or hyped up too much to make them more exciting.

A couple random comments: Rogette kissing Max in the bathtub before she killed him? Ew! She's supposed to be his daughter! They don't say that in the show but for people who've read the book and know that fact, this was a very weird little scene. Also liked the reference to Lisey's Story when Mike mentions "Booya Moon." Liked Mattie's death scene - that bullet wound in her cheek was horrendous. Did not like the scene where Mattie Devore appears to her daughter formed out of water. Too silly for my tastes.

On the whole, though, "Bag of Bones" was a complete failure. There was too much information that they tried to cram into the last two hours and the result was something very sloppy. This book is really so much better than the miniseries made it out to be. I know that must be annoying to hear, but I have mad love for this novel - it is probably my favorite book, period - and I think the story is so beautiful and heartbreaking and this adaptation does it no justice. Mick Garris, you are hereby banned from adapting anymore of King's work. Leave it to Frank Darabont, because believe me, he does a helluva better job than you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Bag of Bones" Miniseries Starts Tonight!

Mick Garris takes another shot at adapting Stephen King's work with the premiere of the two night event of "Bag of Bones" starting tonight at 8 pm! Bag of Bones is probably my very favorite King novel and I have been awaiting an adaptation pretty much ever since I first read it. The miniseries stars Pierce Brosnan and Melissa George in the lead roles (Brosnan was definitely not who I had in mind for Mike Noonan, but George fits well as Mattie) about a man who retreats to his vacation home after the sudden death of his wife.

Is the miniseries a better form for King's work? Will they stay close to the source material? Will I ever like anything as much as the book? I guess I'll find out tonight (and tomorrow night...)!

Anybody else out there plan on watching this? What are your thoughts on what you've seen so far?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Movie Review: Ichi the Killer (2001)

So occasionally Netflix will give me the kick in the ass I need to watch all the movies in my queue by mysteriously making them unavailable for streaming on a certain date. Such was the case with Ichi the Killer, which is a film I know I should have seen a long time ago. And although it was quite a different movie than I was envisioning, it was no doubt a fun journey into the realm of mind-fuckery, courtesy of that austere auteur mind-fucker, Takashi Miike.

When yakuza crime boss Anjo disappears with a lot of money, his loyal henchman Kakihara - a sadomasochist with blonde hair and a heavily scarred face - goes on a revenge mission to find out what happened to him. He learns that Anjo was brutally murdered by a mysterious killer named Ichi, who is infamous for the fantastically bloody crime scenes he leaves behind after he's done his work.

To get the obvious complaint out of the way, no, that is not Ichi on the cover up there. That is Kakihara, who actually turns out to be a much more interesting character. Just his look makes him ten times cooler than anyone else in the movie, with his flashy rock star clothing and those weird-ass piercings on his mouth that seems to be holding the skin together (a later scene tells us that this is the truth - gah). Kakihara's character is also used to show the funny side of sadomasochism - as in the scenes where he gleefully tortures people ("KAKIHARA! What is going on here??!!"  "Just a little torture.") and the one scene where Anjo's girl Karen attempts to sexually satisfy Kakihara by beating the crap out of him.

But apparently Kakihara has nothing on the elusive Ichi in terms of blood and guts. So that we get an idea right off the bat of how dangerous Ichi is, the first main scene involves some men going into a room to clean up after him. There is gallons of blood literally dripping from the ceiling and walls, and all kinds of body parts and viscera on the floor, which one of the guys ends up slipping in. Ew.

And just who is this Ichi the Killer? In reality, he's a wimp. He's a whiny, pathetic little crybaby who can't be more than 25 years old. Turns out Ichi is under the control of Jijii who uses hypnosis and mind control to plant false memories into Ichi's head of him having been bullied at school. These memories enrage Ichi, and make him commit the murders that Jijii wants him to do. The best part is the fact that Ichi has this great all-black superhero outfit that he wears to do the killing, with the number 1 in yellow on the back. I thought this was silly at first, like Ichi was trying to say that he was Number 1, but a little research tells me that "ichi" is the Japanese word for "one." So I stand corrected.

Now I hate to sound like a jaded horror fan but it's true that I was a little disappointed by the violence and gore that this movie is supposedly so famous for. Or was I just not as affected by it because it was presented in a mostly comedic fashion? I'd say that's probably it. Many of the scenes reminded me of Tokyo Gore Police with the excessive blood-sprayage, especially in the two scenes where Ichi heel-razors those two chicks in the neck. I don't see how people can have a problem with this kind of violence, when it is very obviously cartoonish and so extreme that you can't really take it seriously.

The only parts where the violence was definitely not funny to me were the two scenes of the pimp beating up and raping a prostitute that Ichi likes. Though it is a bit over-the-top in how hard he punches her in the face, I wasn't too fond of these scenes because of how graphic they were and how close they were to reality.

I'm not saying that there wasn't some great gore gags in this movie, though - not by a long shot. Ichi the Killer has got some nasty stuff going on in it that I would have never thought of in a million years. When Kakihara takes out the piercings in his mouth and skins that guy's hand with his teeth? When Suzuki is strung up by those body hooks and has hot oil poured over his back and head? When the prostitute-abuser and rapist gets sliced down the middle of his body? Wonderful. All of these scenes were so much fun to watch, even if the special effects were mediocre on some of them - especially the body that gets split in half. I don't know if I was laughing at the effects at that part or the way the guy died, it could go either way.

As one of the most well-loved extreme Asian horror films, Ichi the Killer did not disappoint me. Even at over two hours long, it never felt drawn out or boring. I loved every minute of it and enjoyed the story that turned out to be so much different than I thought it was going to be. Another point for you, Miike! Good work!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Movie Review: 100 Feet (2008)

I first saw 100 Feet quite a while ago and never got around to reviewing it here, even though I liked it very much. And maybe I shouldn't like it as much as I do, with all the numerous nitpicky problems that other reviewers have with it, but fuck it. Sometimes certain elements of a movie are good enough to let you overlook obvious flaws, and the performances and specific scenes are enough to make me totally love 100 Feet.

Marnie Watson has just been released from jail after murdering her abusive cop husband in self defense. Now under house arrest for the rest of her sentence, Marnie is forced to live in the same home where the murder took place - and where her dead husband has now become a violent and malevolent ghost, hell-bent on revenge.

This movie was not only written by the incredible Eric Red, but also directed by him as well. The guy behind such amazing films as The Hitcher and Near Dark can't possibly give us a miss with this movie, can he? I don't think he does. Maybe there are a few plot holes and maybe the special effects can be seen as extremely hokey and/or lame but let's forget about that for a minute and focus on what the movie gets right.

For me, Famke Janssen's performance as Marnie makes up for a good deal of the movie's faults. She is a fantastic and beautiful actress whom I have always loved, and she can easily hold her own against anything crazy that happens here and gives the movie believability and class. She's frightened, she's angry, and she's even slightly comedic at times - easily going along with the shift in tones that occurs. This role also calls for quite a bit of physicality with things that aren't there and it all looks pretty seamless to me, even if the ghost effects don't look as well done.

As it turns out, Michael (Marnie's husband) is not your typical movie ghost. A few creepy ghost-like things happen at first - candles re-lighting by themselves, footsteps and shadows - but the big reveal of the Michael ghost is fairly early on and what he looks like might not be to everyone's liking. After he's thrown Marnie down the stairs, he appears before her, fully formed, with a shaky, smoky, gray digital effect that seems ridiculous even to me at times. The effects during the climax when Michael is finally eradicated are also, admittedly, pretty freaking bad.

This ghost is also different in how completely cruel and violent he is towards Marnie. Sure, she killed him, but he beat the shit out of her for a long time and got away with it because he was a cop. As a ghost, Michael is perhaps more violent than he was in real life - throwing Marnie across the room several times and actually punching her in the face, something I don't usually think ghosts should be allowed to do. Down in the cellar, Marnie is even able to kick him in the face as well. She also gets dragged down the hallway by her hair, has plates and knickknacks and furniture thrown at her, and has Michael's ghostly arm pull her hand into a running garbage disposal.

There are several parts in 100 Feet where the special effects are freaking awesome. You can't watch this movie and not be completely shocked at the poor little grocery boy's demise. Young Joey has befriended Marnie, which pisses off her ghost husband. But he doesn't really lose it until the morning after Marnie and Joey have sex and he kills Joey in the most gruesome way. He punches him a dozen times, breaking his teeth and dislocating his jaw until the bones protrude from his cheek. Then he twists his wrist around, then both arms at the shoulders, then slams his head at the ceiling, breaking his neck. DUDE. Brutal. Completely and utterly brutal, and I loved it. The scene right after this when Joey's body falls through the floor is also unexpectedly hilarious.

Bobby Cannavale as Michael's old partner Shanks plays his role way too cliched as the cop with a bad attitude and his entire character almost brings the movie down. First he's openly angry at and hates Marnie for killing his partner, then in the next scene he's offering to protect her. This actor needs to get his shit together because there is not one thing I've seen him in where I believed even an ounce of his performance.

So putting aside the cheap effects and the plot holes (the biggest one being that the distance from the box to the front door is most definitely NOT 100 feet long), I can't help but have a strange attraction to this movie. The ghostly action is more intense than other haunting films and having Famke as the star gives it a big boost. I say give it a chance if you haven't and at least be prepared for something different and exciting, with a little bit of a comedic edge. But don't be expecting something scary or with the greatest effects.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Am An Awesome Guest Poster

I recently read a post on William Malmborg's Blog where he posed a question for a guest post on what people consider the most frightening Stephen King book they've read. My definition of what really "frightens" me was perhaps different than what William had in mind but I believe in my opinion 100% and I hope others either agree or look at the book I have chosen in a different way if they don't agree.

Clicken here to read my guest post, and also take the time to peruse all the other good stuff William has to offer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Review: Zombies vs Nazis: A Lost History of the Walking Dead

Since I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into the writing genius of Scott Kenemore - Zombie, Ohio - I thought it imperative to read more great stuff from this author who has immersed himself in the world of the undead. Next on the list was Zombies vs Nazis: A Lost History of the Walking Dead, and though I much preferred Kenemore's writing in novelization, this book was no doubt a joy to read as well.

What COULD have happened at the end of the book.
The story is told in a series of letters, or reports, to SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich by three Nazi officers sent to Haiti during WW2 to research the possible existence of zombies and to harness the secret for creating these monsters to make an army of Nazi zombies. These three characters are Gunther Knecht (the leader of the three), Franz Baedecker, and Oswaldt Gehrin.

Though not technically a narrative book, Zombies vs Nazis does read similar to a novel, as each letter from the three Nazi inspectors tells a story of their progressing findings about zombies. They meet a zombie, meet several Bocors and Mambos - priests and priestesses with the power to raise zombies - and eventually learn and participate in the ritual to create a zombie. I don't know how much, if any, of this is part of actual Voodoo mythology, but it makes sense for the story.

I was immensely pleased to find that Zombies vs Nazis contained the same dry/black humor that made Zombie, Ohio such a joy to read. In this book, the humor comes with a bit more subtlety, like the perfect English and big words the inspectors use to describe the ridiculous situations they are in. Personal parenthetical comments given by Knecht were perhaps the best ones. I especially like the part where Father Gill (a clergyman working in Haiti) has introduced Knecht to the Bocor named Grandmarnier, like the "libation," and Knecht says "Though this surprised me at the time, in retrospect, I should have known that a drunkard like Gill would naturally associate with people bearing a relationship to alcohol in one way or another."

Author Scott Kenemore
The entirety of "Communication 10" from Inspector Baedecker to Heydrich, however, is the highlight of the book. Nothing to do with zombies, but it is freaking hilarious when read in the context of previous chapters. Read the book and you'll know! The personalities of each character are cleverly laid out in the missives in the way each person writes and the things that others have to say about them. This chapter in particular is more than an indication of Kenemore's talent for the hilarious and obscure.

The illustrations in the book by Adam Wallenta, albeit a bit sparse, also add to the humor and overall tone of the book. I love the style of the drawings, with the subtle detail and thick black outlines. The zombies look both gross and very, very funny. Page 204 is probably my favorite! In fact the overall look of the book is part of the appeal, because aside from the illustrations, the pages containing Knecht's letters are splattered with blood.

Perhaps it was just an unfortunate consequence of the style the book was written in, but I was a little disappointed at the lack of bloody zombie action! It's the gorehound in me, I apologize. When looking at the story as a whole, though, I can't help but love what Kenemore has presented here. I also can't help but believe that this book would make a fantastic zom-com film. I'm thinking actors like Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, and/or Harvey Keitel for the main roles. Somebody get on that, right now.

As far as I'm concerned, the self-proclaimed zombie expert Scott Kenemore has done it again and delivered a comical zombie tale that shows the disastrous side of people's attempts to control zombies or otherwise mess around with the walking dead (Day of the Dead, anyone?). Zombies vs Nazis: A Lost History of the Walking Dead is a fun, fast, and immensely entertaining read for anybody who loves zombies and the hijinks they can create.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Project Terrible: Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

Maynard, start running. I have finally stopped playing Uncharted 3 long enough to grudgingly watch Manos: The Hands of Fate and all I can say is... YOU. ARE. SO. FREAKING. DEAD. I am literally two minutes into this movie and I'm dreading the next hour. I mean, this has to be a joke, right? This can't really be an actual movie, can it?

Well, yes and no. A quick search on the Wikipedia tells me that Manos was made on a bet by a fertilizer salesman. A fertilizer salesman. Okay. It was shot in and around El Paso, Texas with some community theater people as the stars and a budget that was pooled together by everyone from what they could find in between their couch cushions. How in the hell did they even get this played at a theater?

Anyway, the "plot" of the movie is as such: A family of three - mother Maggie, daughter Debbie, and father Mike - get lost on the road toward their vacation spot and end up spending the night at some house where there's a weird guy named Torgo who worships some "Master" and the Master has six ugly wives and nothing else makes sense or is worth talking about. Oh, there's also a random couple that keeps making out in their car. What do they have to do with the plot of the movie? Nothing. Grrrrr.

Where do I start with the bad in this movie? The obvious thing is the production quality which is... well, let's check out for all the synonyms for "bad": abominable, atrocious, garbage, godawful, beastly, inferior, inadequate, poor, substandard, unacceptable. Yup, that about sums it up. The people who made this movie admittedly didn't know what the hell they were doing and dear goodness, does it show. The editing, however, is a thousand times worse. There are countless mistakes in continuity and an obscene amount of jump cuts that made me cringe every time it happened. Oh, did I mention the part where the clapboard comes into frame? Bad, so bad.

And the sound - jeebus. For the first twenty minutes, there is absolutely no ambient sound at all which is something I have never seen before. All you hear is the shitty dialouge and the annoying music that sounds like it would be more appropriate in a jazz bar. There were times, though, that I would have preferred no sound over the incomparable shitty acting by these theater geeks. When they weren't just standing there delivering their lines like pieces of wood, they were giving stupid awkward pauses that lasted about five seconds before delivering their lines. Several times there were awkward pauses where everyone in the scene stood around and didn't say anything! It was so freaking aggravating.

Let's talk about everyone's favorite crazy guy - Torgo! He's the Master's crony and man-bitch who does his bidding. He's also a guy who repeats himself a lot and walks around like he's either really drunk or trying to hold in a large dump, I can't decide. All I have to say is that I hope the actor was drunk while making this movie because that way he would have no memory of the horrid stuff he did.

The Master is actually played pretty well by whatever-his-name-is but the women playing his six wives are another story. They suck. Really, really suck. Which is kind of sad considering that the Master's wives don't do much except argue with each other for ten minutes about whether or not they should kill Debbie. It's really the worst argument I've ever heard. They literally say the exact same thing about seven times so it's no surprise that they can't come to an agreement. The wives also (famously) get into several spectacular cat-fights with each other for no apparent reason. They include some random bitch slapping and the shoving of faces into the sand, but I found that these fights were sadly not as sexy as they could have been. For shame.

So, Maynard, congratulations. This is the worst, most obscure movie ever made and I can now add my name to the very short list of people who were able to sit through the whole thing. Hopefully I will never have to do it again.

I did kinda dig the Master's cloak, though. When he spreads his arms out there are these two huge red hands on it. It'd be awesome to have that thing just to wear around the house.