Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie Review: Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

How strange that I should watch this movie in such close succession to watching Lucio Fulci's The Black Cat because both films claim to be based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story "The Black Cat." Of course they changed the title a bit for today's film, obviously because Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key is much more simplistic, easier-to-understand title. I seriously have no idea what that title means. How can somebody's vice be a locked room? Am I misunderstanding the definition of "vice"?

In a palatial but dilapidated villa, failed writer Oliviero Rouvigny lives with his wife Irina where he throws decadent parties every night with a local hippie commune. He drinks heavily and humiliates and abuses Irina whenever he can, and obsesses about his dead mother. When a local girl Oliviero had relations with is found murdered, he becomes the prime suspect, making him more paranoid and letting loose his sadism against his wife, who herself is falling deeper into depression and madness as well. There is also Oliviero's black cat, Satan, who used to belong to his mother and who Irina fears.

Sergio Martino was not before on my list of giallo directors to look out for, but after Your Vice, he definitely will be. This film is tightly shot and paced, with hardly any lulls in the story and almost every scene has importance to either the plot or the arc of the characters. There is murder, of course, and free-flowing and sometimes perverse sex, but that never detracts from the core story around Oliviero and Irina. Oliviero's niece Floriana comes into the story later, manipulating both of them to her own gains. Complex characters, a tight plot, and a murder mystery - the perfect recipe for a truly engaging and entertaining movie.

I'd be remiss not to comment on each of the three lead actors. Luigi Pistilli as Oliviero is almost terrifying in the emotionless way he carries out his various atrocities. He has such a calm demeanor throughout most of the movie that it is hard to watch him abuse his wife, molest his black maid Brenda in the middle of the party at the beginning, and, most of all, take up a sexual relationship with his own niece while he plots to murder his wife. Anita Strindberg's best asset as Irina is her face, full of sharp angles, a tight mouth, and wide, expressive eyes. You absolutely believe every emotion that she portrays with that face. Edwige Fenech (whom you might recognize as the art class teacher from Hostel: Part II) is the seductive and intriguing Floriana. Her role is an interesting one with the way she wedges herself in between Irina and Oliviero, actually having sex with both of them. We find out that the only reason she is there is to get her late aunt's expensive jewelry, but you can tell that she almost enjoys the sick things she chooses to do in order to possess them.

As a giallo film, I was expecting lots of lavish and beautiful death scenes. I was a tad disappointed in that regard, with only a few neck and chest slashings, but they were still filmed to look very pretty. Fausta's throat being cut was probably the most well done out of all of them, while the long gash from Brenda's chest to her stomach was too obviously a prosthetic. The bright red paint serving as blood, a giallo staple, is a great image and helps to overlook the fact that the other special effects are sometimes not up to par with the rest of the film. After Satan the cat kills some of Irina's beloved pet doves, she goes a little crazy and stabs out one of the animal's eyes. Subsequent scenes of Irina's obsession with the cat wanting revenge on her show a ghastly bloody hole where his eye used to be. It doesn't look all that real, but it's certainly memorable and gets the job done.

Poe's "The Black Cat" is a story about obsession, fixation, and paranoia, and cleverly crafted right up until the gleefully fitting end. Given the fact that in the story is was the husband who murdered his wife, and it was her cat that he was afraid of and tried to kill, I should have known right away that Irina was actually behind everything that happened. Bah, what's wrong with me? The film ends the same way that he story does - with Satan the cat revealing Oliviero's dead body behind the cellar wall - but it's hard to feel as satisfied about this conclusion because of the sympathy the audience probably has for Irina. Though she has planned and carried out several murders of innocents in order to get to her husband, she suffered under him, and there is no reason to have any sympathy for Oliviero. Eh, I guess justice was served on both sides.

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key was more than a welcome surprise. I never know what I'm going to get with some of these giallos, but several times I have been happy that I gave them a chance. This was a great find, and I hope that there are many others like it out there.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Movie Roundup: Just Some Random Stuff...

So despite my lack of posting lately, I have actually watched a bunch of movies, just never obviously got around to writing about them. I shall now do so in my Movie Roundup, Random Stuff edition!

Carrie (2013)
I was nervous as hell about what they would do to one of my favorite horror flicks, but as with all the remakes, I gave Carrie the benefit of the doubt. But... I fucking hated Carrie. There were some things that I was okay with - they changed the gym teacher's name back to Desjardin like in the book, added in Sue Snell's pregnancy, and did a nice job updating the flick to the modern day with the Internet video of Carrie's locker room humiliation. However, I was not sold on any of the performances. Though Chloe Moretz did her best, she just did not have the same feeling about her to make her as sympathetic or vulnerable as she should have been. I hated the scenes where Carrie was practicing her telekinesis because that totally went against who Carrie is supposed to be and the shock and redemption you're supposed to feel during the prom massacre. Moretz played Carrie too confident and rebellious against her mother. Julianne Moore was actually good casting, but I just could not get Piper Laurie out of my mind. That is one of my favorite performances ever, and I don't think anyone could have topped her. Sue and the rest of the girls were your basic stick-thin, pretty, popular bitches and they weren't memorable at all. The prom sequence was okay enough, but damn did I hate the deaths of Billy and Chris. The way her face was sticking out of the windshield? Ridiculous. 

One of the worst things about Carrie was that I went to see the movie with someone who had not seen the original before, and the remake was so bad that he said that he had no desire to see the original! I tried to tell him otherwise, and I only hope he listened. I tried not to compare the movie too much with the original while I was watching it, but with a film as big as Carrie and one that I admire so much, it was really hard not to be critical.

Curse of Chucky (2013)
I wrote a short post about how stoked I was for Curse of Chucky after seeing his new look for this sixth installment. For the most part, Don Mancini and crew did manage to take Chucky back to his scarier roots, however, I'm still not a big fan of the story they came up with. So Chucky is mad because a woman he kidnapped and whose husband he murdered called the police on him? Really? That's shocking! And it didn't really match up for me that this was the same night he transferred himself into the doll because where was his partner Eddie who left him? Not explained. As for the rest of the movie, I kinda dug it. It had a very old-school, old-dark-house feel to it with the location, and Chucky freaked me out just as much as he ever did in some specific scenes. Though his hair was a little too long, I was happy that they went back to Chucky's non-scarred look, and really disappointed when they brought the scars back again toward the end. Brad Dourif is fantastic as ever, and even gets some screen time himself during flashbacks. His daughter Fiona carries the film well as paraplegic Nica, and the other characters are fun and refreshing for the series. There's even some surprises that I never saw coming, and actually the whole plot was constructed in such a way that I never knew what direction they were going to go in. A very good installment for the series, and loads better than the atrocity that was Seed of Chucky. Here's hoping for more Child's Play fun in the future - and hopefully they'll actually put "Child's Play" in the title this time. I'm getting a little sick of this "of Chucky" crap.

How much did I love seeing the stuff with Andy at the end? A LOT, I tell you. A LOT.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1958)
There have been several adaptations of The Body Snatchers novel since 1955, and the only one I had seen was 2007's The Invasion which I don't even remember at all. Part of this 1958 version is very cool even by today's standards but I admit to getting a little bored toward the conclusion. I like how the film was introduced as a frame story; it gave good reason for the voice over and gave the audience some insights that they might not have had just from the plot itself. The effects work on the blanks and the pods was impressive, even that bubbly, sudsy effect, and a bit more gross than I was expecting. As for another effect - the cheese effect that is possible in any kind of B horror movie - I was happy to see that it was quite minimal. The movie has a very serious, creepy undertone stemming from the fact the more pods and replicas that are created, and the longer they go without sleep, the more likely it is that our main characters will fall victim to it as well. Very excited to see the Donald Sutherland version now, because, well, Donald Sutherland.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Holy goddamn, you guys. I don't really have much to say about this movie other than that it was FUCKING AWESOME. Why, oh WHY, have I never seen this before? I loved every second of it and actually haven't had that much fun watching a movie in a long time. I'd really like to do a proper review of it soon, but I'll have to see it again in order to catch me up on the specifics. For now, just know that I am in love with this movie and want to have its baby.

The Black Cat (1981)
Definitely NOT Edgar Allen Poe's Black Cat, that's for sure. Shame, because that's one of my favorite short stories. Anywho, this Black Cat is of the Lucio Fulci variety, that mad genius who entertained the hell out of me with The House by the Cemetery. Sadly, he couldn't do the same with The Black Cat. I was beyond happy to find out that Patrick Magee, my favorite bushy eyebrowed actor, was in this one, and I love cats so I love seeing them  even when they're all evil and scratching and killing people. The problem though is that the movie lacks Fulci's famous gore and is mostly a bore. Fulci does once again show his love for doing lots of close-ups on people's eyes but nothing about this movie is up to snuff with other movies in the same genre. I'm bored now.

Bruiser (2000)
Well, hm. This was interesting. Actually on second thought, no it wasn't. This wasn't a good movie and it hurts me to admit that about something my beloved George Romero did, but this was just... weird. I mean, was there supposed to be some metaphor here about standing up for yourself when you lose your old identity and have the freedom to do what you want? Or something? Because this sure was an odd way to do it. The premise of the story is really just kind of stupid, with a guy waking up one day to find out that his face is nothing but a blank white mask. How or why this happened is never questioned by anyone, and main character Henry Creedlow runs with it too easily, immediately taking out anybody who makes him feel like the doormat he used to be. Boring, silly, unbelievable. Didn't like it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Zombie SantaCon

In the spirit of the holidays, here is a short video from Local Empire, a sketch comedy group, about SantaCon 2013 in New York City - with a small zombie twist. Enjoy, and happy holidays from The Girl Who Loves Horror!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Movie Review: Grabbers (2012)

What could be more satisfying on a winter's night than curling up on my comfy couch and watching a movie about hilarious drunken Irish men and women fighting a giant alien squid? Nothing, I tell you. NOTHING. There are some movies that you just know you're going to love, you know? I first read about Grabbers quite a while ago, saved it in my Netflix queue and eagerly awaited the day that they would add it. They finally did (weeks ago, actually, but I'm a well-known procrastinator) and tonight I had the pleasure of viewing it. 

On a small Irish island, two police officers lead the town in a fight against a huge blood-sucking, squid-like alien creature. After figuring out that the creatures don't like the toxic level of alcohol in their victim's blood, the entire town proceeds to get drunk while still trying to kill the creature.

Despite heavy influences, or at least close reminders, of other horror comedy creature features like Tremors, Grabbers is a movie that really seemed to find its niche and roll with it. Though the film is specific to its location, the jokes can easily be enjoyed by people of any country. Is it racist to say that Irish people are funny just because they're Irish? I love the accents, and they way they call people things like "gobshite" and use "feck" to replace "fuck." The humor is not dirty, but rather the quick-witted commonplace humor from everyday situations, and that is something that I can always appreciate. 

Special effects-wise, Grabbers delivers. There's the usual fair at the beginning of the film where the monster is only heard and not seen, and we only see the little grabbers first before seeing the big daddy grabber at the end, but what they give us is quite wonderful. There's nothing particularly ingenious about the design of the creature; really, it's just an octopus with a lot more legs and without the creepy bulbous head. There's a circular mouth in the middle where a smaller tentacle shoots out and attacks. With the well-rendered CGI, the way the creature moves and reacts with its environment, the movie is given just the right amount of semi-realism to be both believable and funny at the same time, which is something a movie in this genre needs. How the grabbers "walk" was probably my favorite part, as they had all of the, oh about 30 legs or so making it roll around like a ball. 

The only real flaw in the movie is the lack of explanation for the creature. It is, in fact, an alien, which we get from the requisite flaming-ball-of-rock-hurtling-toward-Earth scene at the beginning. At the risk of thinking too much into the situation, I don't really see how this thing could be from another planet. They figure out that the creature needs only blood and water to survive, two things that I'm pretty sure still don't exist on other planets yet. I digress. I really don't care that much about the non-explanation, but it did need to be pointed out. The alcohol thing, while probably mostly done for hilarity's sake, is a simplistic yet workable solution for the situation, so I'm cool with that, too. 

You'll love all the characters here. There's the curly-haired, lovable Garda (police officer) O'Shea and his new partner, the adorably eager Lisa Nolan, as our two main characters, and they're both a joy to watch throughout the film. When the drinking starts in the last act, Lisa (actress Ruth Bradley) proves herself to be the cutest drunk ever. Seriously, she's adorable. There are many yucks to be had from the rest of the townspeople as well, like the dorky marine ecologist Smith, the town crazy Paddy, and the dirty-minded pub owner's wife Una. All their little actions and quirks were wonderfully timed and executed, even though some of them could have a used a bit more character development so they that they didn't seem as much like the usual Hollywood stereotypes of what Irish people are like. 

Grabbers is one of those movies that there should be a lot more of. On the surface it seems like a silly, light-hearted comedy with a crazy monster in it, but the film is really very smart and uses good thought to get our characters out of this insane situation. Some movies just have that cute factor about them. Grabbers is a cute movie and I'm sure you'll love it. You also might need the subtitles like I did to catch all that Irish humor, though!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Movie Review: The World's End (2013)

Ay yi yi. Are the holidays over yet? I need my regular boring life back.

Edgar Wright. Simon Pegg. Nick Frost. No joke, three of the greatest things to happen to movies in the last decade. Shaun of the Dead is beyond words brilliant as a rom-zom-com with blood, guts, belly laughs, and a lot of heart. Hot Fuzz was an immensely successful follow-up that ventured into the buddy-cop action movie genre, but still had the blood, guts, belly laughs, and possibly even more heart. And now the fan-coined "Cornetto Trilogy" concludes with the appropriately titled The World's End. The blood and guts are blue this time, but they're there, and so are the belly laughs and never-ending heart.

Five childhood friends return to their hometown to attempt to complete an epic pub crawl they began over 20 years ago - 12 pubs in one night, concluding at The World's End. As the boys rehash old times and deal with their issues, they realize that the town is not the same as they remember, and for good reason, too - most of the townspeople have been replaced by robots.

The boys surely haven't lost their touch in creating something that audiences will love, both newcomers and those already familiar with their work. Once again I was impressed by the writing and the delivery of the writing by all the actors. The jokes come at rapid-fire pace (and people make fun of me for always using subtitles) and the humor is smart, sometimes dirty, but always cleverly laid out in relation to what the movie is about and situations that come later. Watching the movie again lets you catch on to some references you missed before, the double meaning behind some of the lines ("We're here to get annihilated!" "It must be the network"). They did similar things in their previous two films, but it still works and it's still brilliant how they're able to pull it all together.

Pegg and Frost are of course great in their roles, especially since here they are sort of playing a reversal of their previous roles in both Shaun and Hot Fuzz. Pegg is the wild and goofy Gary King, spouting out more one-liners than I could keep up with, while Frost is the more professional, subdued Andy Knightley. Nobody plays best buddies better than dudes who are actually best buddies in real life. Truth be told, though, I kind of loved the actors playing the other three friends in the group - Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, and Eddie Marsan - a bit more, as they were all completely adorable and hilarious. It was good to see all of them have their chance to shine, instead of the movie being all about Pegg and Frost (not that they would intentionally do that, but they are the stars of the show to the fans).

Looking at the movie for what it is on the surface, it works as a weird hybrid action-scifi-comedy-bromance thing but there is a message and a reasoning for what they did. I liked the whole thing at the end about how human beings have every right to be fuck-ups because I get it. Conformity makes you normal and safe, but making mistakes lets you learn, become wiser, and help others. There's also something there about conforming and making uniform all the charming small town pubs and stores and whatnot (as two of the pubs in the movie look exactly the same) which is also somewhat bothersome. How long until real mom-and-pop places just cease to exist? However you choose to look at it, The World's End is a very charming movie about the simple things in life - friendship, a good night out at the pub - and how important they are to people.

It almost feels wrong to heap so much praise on pretty much everything these guys do, but I really can't help it. I fucking love Shaun of the Dead, I really super-duper like Hot Fuzz, and now I'm all kinds of giddy over The World's End. Wright and Pegg probably aren't completely done making movies but I do wonder about what they are going to do next. Something totally different? More of the same but different actors or something? I don't know, but I do know that I will be right there to experience whatever they come up with.