Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Movie Roundup: Motels, Monsters, Monster Cars, and Mistletoe

...and some other stuff that I couldn't think of that started with "M" to keep up the alliteration. Usually these roundups are a nice compilation of hits and misses; sadly, these flicks are mostly misses with one surprise hit.

Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986)
Put this one in the "why the hell did I even bother watching this" category. They got the "mountaintop" part right, and the "motel" part, but the "massacre" part? Barely even worth it. The first hour or more is so boring, introducing us to character after character who aren't all that interesting. The perpetrator of the "massacre" is old Evelyn, a woman who spent a three-year stint in an insane asylum and accidentally killed her daughter while in a rage. She has a nice setup at the motel - an early version of what we saw in Vacancy, with underground tunnels giving her access to each motel cabin. At first she just plays pranks on the guests by setting loose snakes, roaches, and rats in their rooms. BORING. She does eventually start killing people, but in the most dull fashion. Certainly not worth having to sit through the first two-thirds of the movie which is just a whole lot of talking about nothing and no action. I guess if you're seeking out obscure 80s slashers you might be interested in this one, but most horror fans can probably just skip this one and not miss out on anything.

C.H.U.D. (1984)
C.H.U.D.'s a tough one for me. One, I don't really understand all the cult classic love for it as a horror film because there is very, very little horror courtesy of the Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. Two, the movie is actually very serious and political, something I definitely did not expect. None of this is to say that I didn't like the movie, though. I loved C.H.U.D. It's only that I thought I was going to be watching a movie about creatures eating people and enjoying that and stuff, and instead when I was done watching it, I suddenly had the urge to devote my time to helping the homeless. Not that that's a bad thing. Anyway, even if what C.H.U.D. promises is much different than what it delivers, what it delivers is definitely worth a watch. Daniel Stern, whom I didn't know was in any other movie besides Home Alone, is a real joy to watch as the Reverend, and every other actor just takes everything so seriously, you know? I couldn't believe it, everyone was so awesome and really made C.H.U.D. at least an interesting experience for a first time viewer like me who had no idea what to expect. Bring on Bud the CHUD!

Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009)
You guys, I so wanted to like this movie before I saw it. I just kept thinking, "Of course I'm going to like this movie! It was written and directed by two chicks and it's called 'Dead Hooker in a Trunk'! This is what I've been waiting for!" And yet, all that determination still could not make me like Dead Hooker in a Trunk. Did I miss the awesomeness that everyone else seemed to find here? Or was this just not the movie for me at the time? I think if it had been more of a straight-up horror or horror comedy instead of some homage to grindhouse I might have liked it more, but all the illogical plot points that kept coming up really turned me off. I still admire the Soska sisters going out and making a badass movie like this - there are some really nice hack-n-slash, gore, and torture scenes and I love the fact that two girls are responsible for that. A lot of stuff here just didn't jibe with me, though, and the movie was quite disappointing.

Silent Night (2012)
I don't even know why I bothered. I wasn't expecting anything remotely entertaining or new or fresh from Silent Night. I haven't seen Silent Night, Deadly Night in several years now so I've forgotten a lot of it, but I do remember liking it a lot more than this quasi-remake. Silent Night is cheesy, with all the bad dialogue, tits, and annoying characters one would expect from a movie that never tries to be anything above what it is on the surface. "We're making something about a killer Santa Claus? Nah, this doesn't have to be scary or inventive at all. Just toss in all the cliches and a really fucking unsatisfying ending and call it a day." Yes, Malcolm McDowell is in this and he of course has that strange ability to make everything he's around be 10 times more awesome than it should be, but even he couldn't save Silent Night from being a brainless and forgettable movie that not may people are going to see in the first place.

Super Hybrid (2010)
Silly, unexplained premise? Check. Cliched, underdeveloped characters? Check. CGI effects of a giant, octopus-like creature that dresses itself up in the form of cars? Check. Enjoyable movie? CHECK! Yeah, it's true. Despite everything I said about Silent Night being forgettable and silly and not too deep, Super Hybrid could no doubt be described the same way, but I couldn't help it - I liked Super Hybrid! That hour and a half of watching it goes by fast and is strangely interesting. This is perhaps mostly because after you find out that there is some sort of creature under the hood of the strange car brought into a garage at night... you kinda want to eventually see the creature in its true form. That part was a bit disappointing. The rest of the movie is surprisingly not. It's a quick time waster and sometimes I like a good, dumb time waster.
Also, would like to point out that the guy playing Ray took not only his looks but also his character traits from the guy who played the jerky foreman in Graveyard Shift. I mean, obviously. This guy was just less dirty most of the time.

Next post: My Anthology Quest continues! Is the next one an English rock band or a movie starring Boris Karloff? Both, apparently!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Anthology Quest: Chillerama (2011)

I was wondering why I hadn't heard anything about Chillerama before despite it's just being released in 2011. There is a lot of talent behind all of the segments in this anthology, including directors Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Tim Sullivan, and Adam Rifkin, and I definitely feel the love that these guys have for the genre but this resulting movie is almost a complete failure, at least for me. Chillerama is mostly humor but it is the most juvenile, frat boy crap I've seen in a long time. But again, that's just for me. I would never want to potentially ruin someone else's enjoyment of a movie because I don't like this kind of stuff. 

The wraparound story in Chillerama starts out with a man digging up his wife's ten-year-old corpse to, um, defile it a bit, I guess and ends up with her coming to life for a second and biting his penis off - thus the zombie sickness occurs. The man then heads to work, which is at an old drive-in, run by Cecil Kaufman. The theater is celebrating it's last night open by showing four rare horror films - "Wadzilla," "I Was a Teenage Werebear," "The Diary of Anne Frankenstein," and "Deathication." As various drive-in goers enjoy the show, the zombie plague that the dude in the beginning brought in begins to spread after his bluish zombie goo gets into the popcorn butter.

"Wadzilla" is first up on the chopping block and is supposed to be a nod to the "giant [insert menace here]" B-movies of the 50s. In the hands of these yahoos, that becomes a story about a man who goes to the doctor to increase his sperm count and takes an experimental drug that ends up making his one measly sperm turn enormous and wreck havoc on the city. Yup, a giant sperm. With teeth. Must've sounded just hi-larious when they were throwing it around the idea room, but this was completely lost on me. The costuming and overall feeling of the segment is nice in a cheeky, whimsical way; there are some funny gore gags; and Eric Roberts shows up later (the wonderful Lin Shaye also has a small part here, and in the next short) - that's about it as far as positives go. The special effects just get epically more bad as the story goes on - and I totally realize this was part of the whole point of the piece, but damn, was it painful to watch.

"I Was a Teenage Werebear." Oh, how unprepared for this I was. Not being a part of the gay male subculture, I had no idea what the fuck was going on for most of these awful 15 or so minutes. Wiki says that "Werebear" is a parody of Grease, Rebel Without a Cause, and Twilight but I mostly caught Lost Boys references. Anyway, this is about a young in-the-closet kid who meets up with some other kids who turn into these hairy, cannibalistic, leather-clad vampire things when they're feeling all gay and awesome. "Bear" is a name used by gay men to describe a hairy, burly man. I couldn't relate to or understand this piece so it didn't work for me, although it does have some really hilarious moments. The main guy's girlfriend gets a nasty head wound early on and spends the rest of the time gibbering like an idiot. She does a really fun job at it and I loved it. The few gore gags are cheaply done but still effective at keeping up the campy tone. 

Okay, finally something I can get into! "The Diary of Anne Frankenstein" is Adam Green's segment and by far the best of the bunch. So apparently Anne Frank's full family name is really Frankenstein and they've got some special book that shows how to build a monster. Hitler shows up at the beginning, takes care of Anne and her family and takes the book, eventually building what turns out to be a Jewish Frankenstein Monster. This segment works mainly because of the amazing and hilarious performance of Hitler by actor Joel David Moore. For "Anne Frankenstein" to not be completely offensive and awkward, Hitler had to turn into a cartoonish buffoon  that is easily made fun of and Moore is fantastic at this with every second of his screen time. Most hilarious is the fact that though the whole thing is in German and subtitled, it's easy for anyone who doesn't speak German to catch on that after a while, Hitler goes from speaking what I'm guessing is standard German to just spouting out nonsense. At one point I caught him saying "Osh Kosh B'gosh!" Kane Hodder is Meshugannah, the Jewish Frankenstein monster and the woman playing Eva Braun is equally hilarious in her role (so is her slutty Nazi outfit). 

The last segment is "Deathication" and is thankfully a fake-out that is cut short when the zombies take over the drive-in. It's just a bunch of poop-themed gross-out scenes, so nobody really misses anything. But Dan Akroyd... that was awesome. 

Then the wraparound, "Zom-B-Movie," takes over for the rest of the time. It's got a great, really clever title and is about horny zombies with teal colored blood attacking theater goers by sort of having sex with them and ripping them apart at the same time. A lot of crazy and gory stuff happened here and it was all so well and funny, if not totally disgusting and abhorrent - but that's what makes it amazing. I would have preferred a more straightforward zombie story, but then it wouldn't have been a spoof now, would it? Then at the end, "Zom-B-Movie" zooms out to reveal that the movies within a movie was actually within another movie that the four directors are watching in a theater.

Basically, I could have completely done without three of these stories and not missed too much. "The Diary of Anne Frankenstein" is the only enjoyable segment of the bunch, along with most of the wraparound. Sometimes I have with a movie is that it only caters to one specific audience. Chillerama's audience for the most part does not include me because I am not a 13-year-old boy. Am I getting too old for this shit or is this really not funny in the first place? I like a good love letter to the genre type movie, and I just wish they had been a little more clever with their approach and not so ridiculous and juvenile. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Anthology Quest: Creepshow 3 (2006)

Next up in my quest for horror anthologies is this oft-hated turd - the dreaded, name-stealing, non-Stephen King or George Romero-related, terrible, terrible movie Creepshow 3. Weird that I should watch this one right after seeing what should have been, and what Tom Savini calls, the real Creepshow 3, Tales from the Darkside. Anyway, I made a promise to myself way back when I started this blog that I was always going to be 100% honest in my reviews.

So are you all going to disown me when I say that I didn't entirely hate Creepshow 3 (notice I said 'entirely')? Probably, and I don't blame you because this little straight-to-video sequel seems to have every Creepshow fan frothing at the mouth at its mere mention and swearing death to the two filmmakers responsible for its existence. So I say, let's not think of this as "Creepshow 3" for this review, m'kay? Let's remember that this is technically not really a Creepshow movie at all and that King and Romero never went anywhere near it.

Are you still doing okay? Breathe. Remember to breathe.

Yes, Creepshow 3 sucks ass. I get that, I really do. But I'm not going to lie and say that I didn't at least have some fun watching it and laughing at it. I didn't get angry at it for trying to pass itself off as a Creepshow film - it's fairly obvious in the first five minutes or so that this thing was not going to be nearly as charming as the original film. So I calmly put that out of my head and just let the movie be what it was, which is to say a convoluted mash-up of five of the most retarded quasi-horror stories I've ever seen. The stories are thinly strung together; the acting is at times like watching a bunch of hyenas bouncing around throwing poop at each other; and the writing and direction show all the skills of a schizophrenic on acid... BUT, it still has mild entertainment value at some points simply because of its silliness. You also cannot take it even the least bit seriously, and again, remember that it is a Creepshow movie in name ONLY.

The first story is called "Alice" and confused the hell out of me because I thought for the first few minutes that this was the wraparound story instead of the first of the shorts. Alice is a typical bratty teenager who never really seems to do anything wrong other than make fun of her neighbors. This is however apparently enough to make the strange professor sell her father a strange remote that somehow manages to turn her into a bulbous, pus-filled mass. Then at the end he again somehow manages to use the remote to turn her into a white rabbit, which he keeps as a pet. Stupid, stupid story. But nice makeup work on Alice - just a little stupid how Alice deals with her morphing body by... eating the professor's wedding cake when she walks into his house for help. That's not even funny at all. That's just stupid script writing.

One of my new acting loves A.J. Bowen stars in the next segment called "The Radio." Absolutely nothing horror in this one at all. Just a radio that talks to a guy in a sexy female voice and tells him to steal money. I liked watching this one only because I like Bowen, and he plays this character with that subtle comedy and charm that I like so much. The rest of the thing is dull. This is a horror anthology, people. Yeah, this may be supernatural and Twilight Zone-y, but it's also freaking lame, especially the ending. Give me the next one.

Now we've got "Call Girl," which stars a chick with a kick-ass body (yes, I'm jealous) as a serial killing call girl who gets her comeuppance. She goes over to the wrong john's house and ends up getting killed by the dude after she has supposedly killed him herself. You see, he's a vampire. And he's a really stupid-looking vampire, too. Quite possibly my least favorite vampire makeup from any movie ever. It's cartoony and silly, with the mouth all big and full of sharp teeth. I liked that they had a woman be a serial murderer and the scene where she kills the vampire is nice because she really seems to enjoy it in a sickening way. Other than that, there's nothing else to the story and they really could have come up with something much more interesting.

I hate to have to admit this, but "The Professor's Wife" was my favorite. I think this is the one story in the whole bunch that actually fit in as a Creepshow-worthy story because it has that same feeling of being funny, bloody, and campy that the real Creepshow movies have. Bad part about this segment was the lamely shot little "flashback" scenes while the two guys remember the pranks their professor used to play on them. They've come to the professor's house to meet his fiance, whom they suspect is a robot. The professor leaves, and the guys decide to take the robot apart to find out how she works. Of course, she's not really a robot and the scene where they gleefully cut her up and marvel at her craftsmanship while playing with her insides was admittedly pretty hilarious and kind of a joy to watch.

Now, we're to the last story which is called "Haunted Dog." And by that I mean "hot dog." This is by far the worst of the bunch, even if it is the funniest. A smarmy and thoughtless doctor causes the death of a homeless guy by giving him a hot dog that the dropped on the ground. The homeless guy then starts haunting the doctor until he finally kills him. Again, retarded story, but the surprisingly funny performance by the doctor made this one more than slightly enjoyable, especially in the montage scenes where he's popping pills while attending to his patients. He was hilarious and I dug these parts.

Are we still friends, guys? I'm not saying that Creepshow 3 is a movie that I'm going to want to see a dozen more times (hell, even as a completist I don't feel any kind of need to add this to my collection) but it's also not one that I completely loathed watching. It has its fun moments, though few, and had it been called anything other than Creepshow 3, I'm fairly sure that people wouldn't hate it as much as they do. It doesn't resemble either of the two original movies in shape, form or guts - it doesn't even have the goshdarn Creep! Blasphemous! - and I completely agree that it shouldn't bear the Creepshow name. But, it is a movie that one can enjoy at least for its runtime if they are in the right kind of mood. I guess I was in just such a mood when I watched Creepshow 3. Didn't love it, but I've seen way worse.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Anthology Quest: Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)

Watching V/H/S a few weeks ago and now catching up on Tales from the Darkside, a movie I've been wanting to see for a long while now, I feel the need to dive into the often odd world of the horror anthology. I've added some classic ones, and some new ones, to my queue and the anthology quest will continue. First up (obviously) is this fantastic little piece of awesomeness from 1990 based on a TV series that I've never seen. Will look into it.

The wraparound story involves a seemingly normal professional woman driving home with some groceries, going into the kitchen, and handing some cookies to the boy she's got in a cage. She plans to cook him and serve him at a dinner party that night, but the boy tries to stall her by reading her three stories from a book she has given him. Why she would be conned into hearing stories she already knows - "Tales from the Darkside" is apparently her favorite book from childhood - doesn't really matter because the stories are awesome anyway. 

Deborah Harry of Blondie and Videodrome fame is our Hansel and Gretel-inspired witch, and she plays the somewhat small role with ease and just the right sense of humor to set the tone for the rest of the stories. A tiny Matthew Lawrence is the poor newspaper boy destined for the oven and he doesn't have that hard of a job in this movie, which therefore makes him kinda indistinguishable from another early 90s kid. I liked this wraparound story a lot and was interested in it as a feature story itself, even if the ending was predictable. Well, not totally predictable because these are supposed to be "tales from the darkside" and they could have taken the more dark approach where she really did cook the kid in the oven, but I wasn't counting on that. Anyway, it's a cute story to weave between the following three very different stories

"Lot 249" is the first story told and contains the most star-studded cast of the whole thing. Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, and Christian Slater join for this tale of mistreated college boy (played by Buscemi, obviously) who brings a mummy back to life to exact his revenge. I must point out that I love me a screen wipe for a transition, so I was kinda giddy to see them used a few times here. Always makes things more fun. Slater is strangely not annoying as he usually is and actually gives a great performance in his scene with Buscemi tied to a chair and Slater slicing a mummy up with an electric bread carving knife thing. This short also includes a quite yicky death when the mummy does a crude brain extraction on a guy by shoving a needle up his nose. Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew, ew.

The ending to me almost screamed "ghoulishly funny Tales from the Crypt" ending - I couldn't help but expect the Cryptkeeper to be in the next shot, laughing and delivering a cheesy one-liner - but it has got to be the perfect ending for this particular story. 

"Cat from Hell" is the next story on the menu and one that I was quite familiar with because it is based on a Stephen King short story. An elderly pharmaceutical tycoon hires a hit man to murder his cat, whom the man claims has murdered his whole family and has him next on the list. Does Stephen King like or hate cats? They always seem to be kind of evil in his stories. Me? I love kitties so this was a fun story for me to finally see on the big screen, despite already knowing the oddball story and conclusion. You just haven't seen an awesome horror story until you've seen a full-grown cat crawl out of dead man's mouth.

Lots of fun here from both King and George Romero, who adapted the story. I really enjoyed the parts where the hit man is chasing the cat around the mansion - although he might have killed it a bit sooner if he would have stopped taunting it for a minute and actually shot it. As if it could actually hear him, you know. Anyway, the ending is of course the best part about this short. Completely unbelievable and ridiculous but so freaking hilarious at the same time. 

The last story is "Lover's Vow." I wasn't sold on this one at first. I thought it was too boring to be the final short in this anthology because it was more mellow and less exciting and fun as the rest of the stories, but it grew on me by the end. A man, Preston, sees his friend killed by a winged creature (turns out to be a gargoyle) which then speaks to him and tells him that it will not Preston if he promises to never tell anyone that he saw it. That same night, Preston runs into a stranger named Carola whom he immediately falls in love with and seems to save him from his miserable life and the memory of that night. Doesn't really take a genius to figure out that Carola is really the gargoyle in disguise. Sorry if I spoiled the surprise.

I still kind of think that this one is a bit boring, but I also believe that it was a nice way to round out the other two stories which were much more kitschy or tongue-in-cheek. Lover's Vow was more romantic, or as romantic as a horror tale can be, and had a very heartfelt ending. There are some nice creature effects for the gargoyles here. Which reminds me, KNB is responsible for all the effects in the film, and I love them so I gotta give them their props. You guys rule.

So, as a horror anthology, Tales from the Darkside is pretty great. The three stories, plus the wraparound, all compliment each other well with each one standing out for different reasons. Big thumbs up! I'm digging it, and I can't wait to dig into some more anthologies.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Movie Review: The House on Sorority Row (1983)

Okay, Netflix. We are going to start having a serious problem in our relationship unless you quit with the lying to me. You made me think The House on Sorority Row was going to be a great slasher. You said in your oh-so-deceptive description that "this gleefully low-budget 1980s horror flick features ample doses of sex and gore." Well, the sex part I don't really care about because I'm not a dude, but you were so totally wrong about the gore part. I'm only going to forgive you for this just this once because although the gore in The House on Sorority Row sucks (a lot), I really liked the rest of the movie.

Seven graduating seniors of the Pi Theta sorority decide to finally get back at their evil house mother Mrs. Slater when she refuses to allow them to throw a graduation party at the house. They come up with a horrible idea for a prank that ends with Mrs. Slater's death, which the girl's smartly decide to cover up. But either she didn't really die or someone else knows what they did because the girls start getting picked off one by one (in ways that are so totally not gory at all).

So for anybody with half a brain, you can figure out the end of the movie pretty much from the very beginning. A title card says it's 1961 so this must be a flashback to the house mother's life. She has a back-alley baby basically and we're led to believe that the child died but it's pretty obvious that it didn't and that it's going to grow up to be the person who kills all the sorority girls. I mean, DUH. And of course, he also ends up being a deformed mongoloid like Jason whose mother has hidden him up in the sorority house's attic all his life. Annnnd, also like Jason, he sees his mommy killed by the girls and gets revenge and kills them. He also wears a mask. His name is Eric.

But I didn't really mind that I basically knew who the killer was from the start. I had a good time watching these sorority girls (whom every complains about not being as "hot" as sorority girls should be, but fuck that) try to deal with the situation. Speaking of the situation - children, NEVER try to hide or cover up an accidental death. YOU WILL DIE FOR IT. Just sayin'. I actually liked all these characters, though I was fully prepared not to, and the ones that I didn't really care for are thankfully pushed to the wayside anyway. There are some recognizable faces such as Harley Kozak, of Arachnophobia and Parenthood fame; Eileen Davidson has been on both Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless; and our final girl Katherine is played by Kate McNeil from the genre classic Monkey Shines. They all play their roles in House on Sorority Row well, and though they each to play to some sort of slasher character cliche, they are good enough actresses to pull it off. This could very well be the only 80s slasher I've seen where I do actually like the main characters - especially when they are all girls. 

The plot continually surprised me by not going the predictable way and throwing different stuff at me from time to time. There is a lot of stealing from other films, though - Diabolique, Friday the 13th, Black Christmas - but that's to be expected I guess from an 80s slasher. One thing that I really liked they did was the scene after Katherine is given the drugs by Mrs. Slater's doctor. Sitting in an armchair, she has this funky hallucination of dead Mrs. Slater and her dead sorority sisters standing in the open French doors, with Slater's can spinning on the ground by itself. Is this scene out of place in this movie? I don't know, but I loved it, and it looked really good. The one stupid-character-idea move I hated was after Jeanne is first attacked by Eric and she escapes and gets inside where she runs into Katherine. Katherine is all, "Oh you were just attacked and he could still be nearby? Stay here by yourself so he can finish the job" - then she leaves Jeanne and goes to help or whatever. Soon after, Jeanne is killed (she's the one with the head in the toilet). Bah! Such an annoying stupid character move. 

Now, the biggest downside of The House on Sorority Row is the death scenes. They suck. They're boring. The gore is nonexistent. Eric uses his mother's cane as the instrument of death, but he was hardly as inventive with it as he could have been. There's a stabbing through the throat and one through the eye and one fantastic shot of a head in a toilet - but that's about it. Two deaths are off-screen and in another, where Liz gets her throat cut, there is no blood. How can you slit somebody's fucking throat and not have there be blood?! So lame.

The House on Sorority Row is definitely better than its remake, which I hardly remember seeing at all, and more than on par with some similar films released during the same time period. It severely lacks in the gore department and the ending is frustratingly ambiguous, like they just gave up or something, but the acting is great and I liked where the plot went. Good movie.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Catching Up On The Classics: Diabolique (1955)

Diabolique is one of those movies that reminds me why I love movies in the first place. It's a brilliant movie that doesn't really need to do a lot to be as brilliant as it is. Diabolique is so many things all rolled into one - a classic noir film, a suspenseful mystery, a twisted drama - and it all leads up to one well-known and stunning climax.

At a boarding school in France, the wife of the cruel principal and his mistress secretly plot the man's death to finally be free of his abuse. After drowning him in a bathtub and dumping his body in the school's murky pool, they think they are safe and their plan has worked. But when the pool is drained, they find that his body has disappeared. People start claiming that they've seen him around and physical clues also lead them - and an inquisitive private detective - to believe that something very mysterious has happened.

The movie's French title, Les Diaboliques, translates to "The Devils" and I guess that refers to the two women. There's Christina, a teacher and the principal's frail wife who suffers from a heart condition. She's married to Michel (not me), a guy who is a total dick, and physically and emotionally abuses his wife and his mistress, Nicole. She's also a teacher at the boarding school, and is this hot little blonde femme fatale who I thought was pretty awesome. Nicole and Christina have apparently known about each other for a while and have actually developed somewhat of a bond. Their relationship seems a bit scandalous seeing as how they don't hide the fact that they are "friends" from anybody at the school, including Michel. His attitude toward their relationship is interesting, too. He doesn't care. He's that much of an asshole that he doesn't think these girls can do anything against him.

This movie plays out very much like a stage play. There's not a lot of action and the film mostly consists of talky-talky between the characters. Of course that's not a bad thing because the audience gets to know the main characters and is able to feel all their same feelings of confusion and fear when the plan goes awry. There is also not a lick of music to be heard during the film, except during the opening and closing credits. This increases the suspense as the mystery goes on and makes the audience feel like they are in on these women's dirty little secret, but are just as lost as they are as to what has happened to Michel. Diabolique is a movie I like to refer to as being quietly brilliant, as the story is strong enough to keep you enthralled and doesn't need a lot of frills or fuss to make it intriguing.

Vera Clouzot is breathtaking as Christina and expertly plays her as both meek and sickly, but also as woman who has had enough and will do what needs to be done for herself and others. Under the control of Nicole, Christina finds her strength, even if her morals haunt her throughout the ordeal. Simone Signoret craftily portrays Nicole, the brains behind the operation, as strong and confident but not one to take any crap from anybody. As the audience finds out later on, she's the kind to hug you with a knife in her hand, if you know what I mean. Paul Meurisse is slimy and mean as Michel, and some of his scenes of him mistreating the women were quite risque for the time and were wonderfully played. The shot of him dead in the bathtub is classically creepy and made me gasp just because of how freaky he looked. All they needed to do was give him scary, dead eyes and place his wet hair just so and they had one fantastic image that will be in my memory forever.

So, thanks to Bravo and its "100 Scariest Movie Moments" list, I already knew the ending to Diabolique before I saw it. The awesome thing was that I didn't remember that I already knew the ending. And holy crap was I ever thankful for my bad memory because I would have missed out on almost peeing on myself when Michel got out of the bathtub.

What made this twist so great was that throughout the whole movie, you're thinking of all these possible scenarios for why his body went missing and who else could be involved. Literally, almost every idea went through my head - except for the most obvious one. So subtle, so genius. Granted, it was all set up so perfectly that you (hopefully) would have never thought that Michel was still alive. We saw Nicole drown him in the bathtub; we saw his dead body in the bathtub; we saw his dead body in the wicker trunk. Christina's worsening heart condition is also set up wonderfully. It's not that cool that she had to die, but she seriously has one of the best deaths in movie history. Ever. To be literally scared to death and do it so beautifully, and in a way that scares the shit out of the audience as well, is an awesome way to go, in my book.

(I do strangely feel the need to mention the similar, but more funny and less scary, death from Child's Play 3. Not nearly done as well, but it makes me laugh to think of it.)

My goodness, I am in love with Diabolique. It is just such a tight, successful mystery and noir that had me completely entranced. A new favorite has been born!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Project Terrible: Robot Monster (1953)

I can't believe all the ridiculous problems I had trying to watch this movie that is only an hour long. But I finally watched Robot Monster, assigned to me for Project Terrible by Maynard Morrissey, and boy, was it completely not worth the wait at all. There is mild charm in the all-around awfulness of Robot Monster, a feat that only really, really bad movies seem to accomplish. However, seeing it once is more than enough.

A creature from another planet known as Ro-Man has been sent to Earth to wipe out the rest of the human race after most had been destroyed by death rays or something. Six people remain - a boy, his two sisters, and his mother, as well as two archaeologists the boy met in a cave - and they have some kind of immunity against Ro-Man death rays. But Ro-Man will surely find a way to kill them... or will he?

Heh. Actually, none of that really happens. To spoil everything right from the start, the whole movie is a dream. God. Damn. It. I should have seen that coming after things stopped making any kind of sense in the beginning, when the boy, Johnny, falls in the entrance of the cave and suddenly the entire freaking story does a complete turnaround for no reason whatsoever. Now it just seems so moot to spend a few paragraphs griping about the ridonkulous shit that happens in Robot Monster because it was from the mind of a bitchy little kid. Not fair.

There are some things that I must talk about though. First of all, Ro-Man himself who was truly fantastic to behold. I just want to know who in the heck thought that a thing from another planet would be a gorilla in a scuba diving helmet. Not that anything in this movie really makes any sense, but come on. I think the true story actually is that the filmmakers had a gorilla suit laying around or something and decided to use it in Robot Monster. Nice ingenuity for saving on the budget. Sixteen thousand dollars can't get you squat, apparently, least of all a costume that resembles either a robot or a monster.

Speaking of things taken from other movies, there are some other nonsensical scenes in this movie that can be explained by the simple fact that they edited in scenes from other movies. Of course I'm talking about the random scene at the beginning (and one later at the end) where Johnny gets knocked out in the cave. There's some flashes of light coupled with a really annoyed sound effect that gets repeated over and over and over again, and suddenly a giant lizard and komodo dragon (I don't know if that's what they really were, I'm not an animal expert) are rolling around the desert fighting. Say what? Wh- where did that come from and what does it have to do with Ro-Man? Nothing, really.

And then there's the people. If this really had been an end-of-the-world story, I would have been ashamed that these people were representing the human race. They're idiots. I was rooting for Ro-Man most of the time because these guys don't really do anything productive to try to stop him. They waste time wandering around the desert, arguing with each other, then suddenly falling in love and having an impromptu wedding. Dumb. Just dumb. The best part about this whole little scenario is when Karla, the little girl, utters one of those great "kids say the darnedest things" lines. It is implied that Alice, Johnny's older sister, and Roy, one of the archaeologists, kind of get a little kinky in the desert together. When they return to the "house," Karla asks them if they've been playing house together. I almost died with laughter. But that's about where the amusement for Robot Monster ends.

I am just so glad that I had to jump through all these hoops to get this movie watched for Project Terrible (thanks, blog buddy!). I can now say that I have seen yet another of one of the worst movies ever made. Is that good for me or bad for me? I can't decide.

Take us out, hard-to-read title screen...