The Tattooist (2007)

NOVEMBER 30, 2008

GENRE: SUPERNATURAL, THRILLER
SOURCE: DVD (STORE RENTAL)

My friends over at A Butt Of Day are both tattoo freaks, so it’s no surprise that they saw The Tattooist a long time before I got around to it (I myself have zero desire to be “inked”, or to watch any horror movie with Jason Behr). They were both pissed off about a certain scene where a girl sits down and asks him for a tattoo. She doesn’t care what he puts on her, and also he apparently doesn’t wash his needle in between. And I guess that’s bad, but what pissed me off a lot more was that the movie was simply a giant fucking bore.

It’s apparent that screenwriters Matthew Grainger and Jonathan King have an interest in Simoan culture and wanted to write a movie that incorporated their customs and beliefs. And that is fine. But write a documentary or something, not a movie that’s one half baked and one half assed. Like They Wait, it often feels like a remake of a superior Asian film, due to the occasional cheap scare and an American who seemingly has no point to his/her life beyond immersing himself in an Asian culture. The difference is, \ with this one I wouldn’t want to watch the “original”. After about 45 minutes in which I couldn’t even tell if the story had actually kicked in yet, we get a single death scene (a guy’s tattoo ink spills out and... I dunno, envelops him), but the two or three that follow are off-screen. The rest of the time, the movie is simply Behr wandering around and having people explain traditions to him.

But that wouldn’t be a problem if there was even the slightest bit of excitement. Even as a thriller and not straight up horror, the movie is entirely suspense-free. Hell, our hero is almost never really in danger, since it’s only his cursed tattoos that cause harm, and he never tattooed himself. In the final 8 minutes of the film, he tackles the bad guy inside a suburban home, which is about as exciting as the movie gets. He might get a bruise, or knock a photo off the wall!

Also, the movie’s entire concept is just ludicrous. Behr is known for being able to heal people with his tattoos, but it never seems to work, so how did he get this reputation? Also, he just up and goes to New Zealand to give back a tattooing implement (which just looks the little rake from those therapeutic sandbox things that business people have on their desks), which he stole from a fellow tattooist. But he doesn’t use it, so why his tattoos begin killing people, I haven’t the slightest. I t’s kind of sad when a movie is about killer tattoos and yet that is the least baffling part of the narrative.

Back in college, I actually thought Behr was pretty good on Roswell, a show I inexplicably watched all three seasons of, even when it went to the UPN and ceased making any sense. However, in the three movies I’ve seen him in (this, The Grudge, and D-War) he’s been pretty terrible. Granted all of these movies kind of suck anyway, but he almost appears to be asleep in all of them. And he’s not quite up to the level of guys who can afford to be sleepwalking through their roles, so I dunno what his problem is. His co-star on the show, one Brendan Fehr, was pretty engaging, but I’ve only seen that dude in one movie since (The Forsaken). They should have gotten him.

The one thing I liked about the movie was that when the monster/spirit type thing attacks a girl in a hospital, the anonymous doctors and nurses seem to see it. A lot of these ridiculous concept movies always manage to find a way to keep their ridiculous nature hidden from uninvolved characters, so it was nice to see the hero get some witnesses to the strange shit he is seeing, even if for only a moment. But even that had issues, because the monster can only be seen in reflections, which means they are borrowing from Russian Night Watch culture instead of their own.

You got the Achievement for boringest goofy concept movie! 20 GS.

Behr and director Peter Burger contribute a commentary track, and even they admit that the reason for Behr’s character to go to New Zealand is rather weak, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just, you know, come up with a good one. There’s also a few featurettes and a handful of deleted scenes (one that gives a slightly better explanation for Behr’s sudden travel, which Burger cut because it wasn’t better enough), all of which can only be of interest to someone who were actually compelled by the film itself.

So in summary, and before anyone jumps down my throat – it’s not the lack of gore and violence that bored me, it was the serious approach to a goofy concept and the total lack of suspense that did. The pool scene, the only traditional sort of death scene in the entire film, was just as dull as everything else, and my favorite scene was just Behr talking to a doctor that reminded me of Aasif Mandvi (“Someone find Kenchy!”). So there!

What say you?

P.S. Hey Sony – you always start off your standard def DVDs with an advertisement for Blu-ray. Newsflash – you can’t see a true Blu-Ray image on a standard def DVD. So “showing” a comparison doesn’t quite work. Save it for actual Blu-Rays, showing how much better what you are about to see is compared to your old DVD. It's like watching Wizard of Oz on a black and white TV - you're supposed to marvel at something that isn't possible to convey on the equipment being used. Morons.

PLEASE, GO ON...

Re-Cycle (2006)

NOVEMBER 29, 2008

GENRE: ASIAN, GHOST, SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: BLU-RAY (ONLINE RENTAL)

Attn: Pang Brothers,
Please stay in Thailand.

Sincerely,
BC.

If one only saw the Pang’s two American films (that would be The Messengers and Bangkok Dangerous), they might think they were the absolute worst Asian filmmakers of all time. Which makes the greatness of movies like Re-Cycle (made in their home country; native title is Gwai Wik) all the more surprising; it’s almost impossible to believe that this wonderful blend of metaphorical and actual worlds can come from the same guys responsible for a movie in which Nic Cage just sort of wanders around Thailand in search of the gun that was Photoshopped out of his movie poster.

The best thing about Re-Cycle is how it manages to blend horror and fantasy so seamlessly. I was reminded of What Dreams May Come, which is a fantasy drama for 99% of the time, but then wastes a perfectly awesome concept of Hell in a should-be-scary scene that feels totally out of place with the rest of the movie. But here, it starts off like a straight up Asian horror movie (complete with an elevator scene), and then suddenly (but not jarringly) shifts into a fantasy world that seems like Terry Gilliam’s live-action version of a Miyazaki film. But even then, the horror aspect is never absent; there are like 3 scenes that can’t be described as anything but zombie attack sequences, and the Pangs manage to out-“gah!” Takeshi Miike’s Imprint with their ideas concerning aborted fetuses.

The fetii are just one of many conceptual designs concerning abandonment. There is also a room full of unread/discarded books (incidentally, today I cleaned my car and found my copy of the Jesse James book I began reading over a year ago and haven’t touched since the new year began), and a wasteland populated with giant versions of discarded toys. Even if some of the plotting/dialogue is a bit hokey at times, on a strictly visual sense this is one of the year’s most original movies.

The movie’s only real blunder is the final minute or so, which seems to be tossed in just so people don’t forget it’s a horror movie at heart. My advice? Shut it off at the conclusion of the “Transit” scene, unless you really love annoying plot twists that undermine the emotional impact of the entire movie.

I’m also amused that despite the movie’s strong themes of not forgetting your past and all that (something I am hugely guilty of), what got me thinking the most was the fact that I never realized how odd it is to type an Asian language using a traditional keyboard. Since they don’t use ABC letters, their Microsoft word type programs just sort of translate the letters into symbols as they type, with a series of confusing-looking number and letter combinations. You know when you’re using Word and you type like “Sept” and then “September” pops up? Imagine that action for EVERY SINGLE KEYSTROKE!

Not sure what the standard def offers, but the Blu has a few extras of interest, if not for the right reasons. For starters, there’s a behind the scenes thing that runs 15 minutes, but appears to be 5 three minute segments strung together. I suspect this because every 3 minutes we see a bunch of film clips flash by (same ones every time) followed by a card reading “Re-Cycle: Behind the Scenes”. Context clues! A lot of the same interview footage is recycled (heh) too, so half of it will interest you, the other half will probably annoy you. Then there are a couple of Q&A sessions from two screenings of the film. These are notable because I learned that in Thailand, they apparently seek out the most shrill and grating people on the planet to moderate post screening discussions. There’s a guy and a girl; the guy is merely over-enthusiastic, but the girl’s questions and approach make Billy Bush look respectable. Having done a few myself, I can safely say that I could have done a better job even without speaking the same language. Christ.

Finally, we get 8 minutes of deleted scenes that are not worth watching, but it’s worth noting that only one of them has any real dialogue, so the sub guys didn’t bother working on them at all. As a result, it’s the only time on the disc that mere sounds (“Groaning” comes up a real lot) aren’t given subtitles. I really wish these folks would learn the difference between close-captioning and subtitling.

If you can watch on Blu-ray, you should, but really, check it out any way you can. It’s one of the best Asian films I’ve seen in a while, and easily one of the year’s most visually exciting films, regardless of country.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

The Car (1977)

NOVEMBER 28, 2008

GENRE: MONSTER
SOURCE: DVD (ONLINE RENTAL)

Kiefer Sutherland can quit 24 and make nothing but shit movies for the rest of his career, and I would still respect him forever due to his response at the Mirrors press conference when someone asked what movies scared him and the other cast/crew. Usually, A-listers seemingly grew up in a world where the only horror movies are The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Shining, but Kiefer said that The Car scared him the most as a kid. Not that I doubt that those other movies really are the scariest some folks have ever seen*, but it just seems like such a stock answer since it’s literally ALWAYS one of those whenever a big star is queried. So kudos, herr Bauer, for having the gravitas to be honest, and show a little personality in your response.

(For the record, Amy Smart and Alex Aja both said The Shining).

In one of my first trips to the New Bev, Charles Band himself screened a print of his movie Crash! (not to be confused with Cronenberg’s not that good movie, or the horrendous and godawful piece of shit Paul Haggis film), which was a killer car movie in which the car would kill a cop car every 5-10 minutes, regardless of what else was going on in the movie (which, to be fair, wasn’t much). So as I was watching The Car, I began to wonder if Band’s film was a quickie cashin response to this one, much like a lot of the late 80s/early 90s Full Moon movies (Hollywood has Chucky, Band has Demonic Toys!). But I was wrong! According to the IMDb, Band’s film was released four months before it. I suppose he could have read a trade announcement about the film and got his done sooner, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

Besides, his movie was missing one crucial ingredient: JAMES BROLIN. Specifically, his moustache. The movie would be a lot of fun even without him, but Brolin elevates it into near-classic territory with his straight delivery. You might expect an actor to ham it out the entire time when dealing with this particular concept, but nope. You almost buy it as a serious storyline thanks to Brolin’s no-nonsense performance (not counting his goofy introduction, in which he tries to convince his girlfriend that eight minutes is more than enough time for lovemaking before work. Smooth.).

That introduction actually kind of fits with the rest of the movie, which is more than just a little “off”. Characters are introduced awkwardly, people say odd things, and bizarrely melodramatic subplots are tossed in, seemingly to make the movie feel less B-movie-ish, but just distract and inadvertently seem as odd as everything else. How else to explain Ronny Cox’s drinking problem, which leads to a honest to goodness “For your consideration” crying scene? But back to the dialogue – it’s worth noting that the car’s antics aren’t even the funniest things in the movie. An old lady yells “Cat poo!” after the car is scared off by a graveyard; Brolin’s daughter responds to his inquiries about him re-marrying with “Do you like it when I cook?” (it comes off like she is offering to take the wife position herself); and best of all, an old jerk sees a guy sitting outside of his house and demands “What the hell ARE you?”, without any respect for proper pronoun usage or traditional verb emphasis.

The old guy also mentions something about his “dynamite truck”, which would have been even funnier if it wasn’t just the most glaringly obvious foreshadowing this side of Cathy’s Curse. I love movie logic – the car can’t be dented with other cars, the tires can’t be shot out with a .357 at close range, etc. So why is dynamite any different? Ah, who the hell cares.

One can’t help but notice the similarities to Jaws in the film. A teen dies first, there’s a big annual town to-do that the monster disrupts (and no one wants to call it off because of the threat), a lot of POV shots, and our finale features a bunch of guys banding together to take it out with a plan that involves human bait. The key difference (well, besides the slight difference in overall quality, but come on) is that for whatever reason, writer Michael Butler can’t bring himself to kill anyone off during the finale. Even the dynamite truck owner, who is a drunken abuser of his wife, is spared. Yet, Brolin’s kindly girlfriend gets utterly annihilated at the end of the 2nd act, which is a great twist but still rather mean-spirited, compared to the rest of the movie.

I really hope this movie gets shown at the Bev someday. It’s too fantastic a film to watch at home with just one or two people. I also hope that the DVD gets double-dipped, since the existing one offers a trailer and absolutely nothing else (not even a chapter menu, which is almost unheard of outside of David Lynch movies). I bet Brolin can do a great commentary.

One final note – one of Brolin’s daughters is played by Kyle Richards, forever known as Lindsay Wallace and/or the vanilla twist loving plot device in Assault on Precinct 13. And according to her IMDb photo, she is incredibly fucking hot now.

What say you?

*If I was going to be honest, the "scariest" movies ever made are Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and Halloween 5, because those are the only movies I was too scared to watch by myself when I was 10 or so. If I was the star of a big budget studio movie and being told to suppress my personality, I’d go with Halloween or Blair Witch.


PLEASE, GO ON...

Wedding Slashers (2006)

NOVEMBER 27, 2008

GENRE: COMEDIC, INDEPENDENT, SLASHER
SOURCE: DVD (ONLINE RENTAL)

My friend Jib has recently been knocking on me a lot for my seeming obsession with incestuous overtones in the horror movies I see. It's not that I actually enjoy the idea, but look - some of these movies I can't even remember enough to write a review about them a couple hours later, because they are so bland and uninteresting. So if they throw in a line like Wedding Slashers' "That's my mother. She's also my sister", my interest gets piqued a bit. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Especially when it's played for laughs, like it is in this terrible yet sort of awesome movie. See, the heroine is supposed to marry her cousin (who is a bit peeved that her brother got her virginity), but she escapes her redneck family and gets engaged to a nice, normal guy. However, when the family shows up and starts killing everyone at the wedding, she seems pretty blase about the whole thing, as if it was commonplace. And writers John Howard and Robert Paul Medrano clearly play the entire concept for laughs, so kudos to them for making an intentionally funny movie based on such a horrendous and disgusting idea.

Unfortunately, the technical qualities and acting leave much to be desired. Had this been cast with good actors and directed more professionally, it would be the perfect bad movie, but too many great (poor taste) jokes fall flat due to the delivery of the non-actors. Maybe some of them didn't quite get that it was supposed to be funny, but either way it's a bit disheartening. The production value is also pretty atrocious; apparently, all you need to do is hang a cross on a wall and viola, you got a church! Or, what looks suspiciously like a dorm room with a cross thrown up before filming began.

Also, towards the end of the film, some of the rednecks begin what sounds a lot like improvised dialogue concerning the number of toes they have, the merits of Gorillas In The Mist, and other "huh?" topics. It's a bizarre but entertaining concept (imagine the Deliverance guys doing the "Royale With Cheese" scene in Pulp Fiction and you'll get the idea), and I wish it was part of the film throughout, not just in the final 7 or 8 minutes.

Finally, whoever was in charge of the setting titles needs a swift kick to the neck, because they ended up confusing me more than they helped me know where I was. The prologue seems to be set in the 40s, but no title is given. Then the title says "5 years ago", but that's in relation to the real time, not the scene we just saw, something that took me a few minutes to understand. I think there was "yesterday" thrown in there too. Christ.

The only extra is a handful of deleted scenes that go on too long, with the exception of the final one, in which Richard Lynch's character explains a bit more about how they found her (it involves a road trip to a funeral for a distant cousin and a newspaper - why cut this amazing footage?). Skip em.

One final note - the main chick is one Jessica Kinney, who was in Freaky Farley, another low-budget indie that revels in being kind of terrible. She has a niche!

What say you?


PLEASE, GO ON...

They Wait (2007)

NOVEMBER 26, 2008

GENRE: GHOST
SOURCE: DVD (STORE RENTAL)

I was interested in They Wait for a couple reasons. One is that it was executive produced by one Uwe Boll, automatically a point of interest (good or bad). Another is that it stars Jaime King, whom I would watch read a phone book (want proof? I watched Bulletproof Monk). And third and finally - it was directed by Ernie Barbarash, who made the above average franchise films Cube Zero and Stir Of Echoes: Homecoming (which I watched almost a year to the day ago, oddly enough). This would be his first original film, so I was curious to see how he fared without having to work alongside any mythology or sequel expectations.

So I suppose it's kind of ironic that the film feels like a remake to an Asian movie that I just haven't seen yet. A lot of the hallmarks of the sub-genre are accounted for: Americans dealing with Asian culture and being the only American around, despite the fact that everyone speaks English (a la The Grudge and Shutter), a child in danger (The Ring, Dark Water), lots of hospital scenes (The Eye, One Missed Call), and, of course, a ghost or ghosts who are mainly pissed about the fact they were improperly buried (see all of the above, plus about a half dozen others). Yet, IMDb's "Movie Connections" page for the film remains empty, so a remake it is not.

Luckily, it's not all that bad anyway. Sure, you can sort of see exactly where it's going right from the first 10 minutes - anyone who doesn't think that Michael Biehn is in the movie just to help provide some exposition doesn't know their DTV movies very well - but it still works as intended; providing the occasional jump scare and even the occasional gore gag (a head split nearly down the middle) that a paying audience expects/deserves. And King, who has never really had a lead before, proves capable of carrying a film nearly on her own (she's in nearly every scene, but other than her son, the other characters just sort of drift in and out).

The movie also has one of the best deaths for a villain ever, not to mention an A+ epilogue. After the movie is more or less done, we go back to one of the conspirators behind the tragedy that set everything in motion. She begins puking up human bones (including a full length arm bone - awesome!), and then all of the ghosts appear and presumably eat her down to her skeleton. SO MUCH MORE AWESOME than a cheeso "everything's OK, the heroine goes home and gets one final scare" bullshit scene you'd expect.

Another thing about the ending (minor spoiler!) that delighted me was a doctor who is watching over King's coma-fied son. She rushes to the hospital, and he turns to her with a stern look and says "I just don't understand it..." or something to that effect, and then finishes "He's completely better all of a sudden!" It reminded me of the terrible doctor on Arrested Development who would tell the family something like "he's gone..." and then 30 seconds later explain that their loved one actually just left the hospital. If a doctor ever did that to me, rest assured his cock would be punched into mush.

The DVD is slim on extras, with only a few deleted scenes, which all curiously take place in the first 20 minutes of the film. No making of or commentaries are included, which is a bummer, as I would have at least liked to have learned how in the hell Boll got involved with this.

In closing, I would like to say that I think it would be awesome if some Asian filmmaker remade this in his home country. Very meta.

What say you?


PLEASE, GO ON...

Timecrimes (2007)

NOVEMBER 25, 2008

GENRE: THRILLER
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (PRESS SCREENING)

NOTE – Timecrimes (Spanish: Los Cronocrímenes) is not really a horror movie, but it’s sort of set up like one (a guy in a mask is seemingly killing people with a pair of scissors). That, along with its coverage on Bloody-Disgusting and other horror sites, qualifies it as horror per my “rules”.

During my October Extras 2 marathon, I reviewed Primer, which is my favorite time travel movie of all time (or at least tied with Twelve Monkeys). The reason I love these movies as much as I do is because the time travel element is well developed and largely hole-free (ignoring the basic plot hole that time travel cannot exist, obviously). Timecrimes, for the most part, fits in with that template; the time travel is complex but largely consistent, and while not as perfect as those other films, it’s still one of the better TT movies in recent memory, and surely one of the more entertaining.

Unlike Primer, our hero isn’t a genius, or even involved with the time travel experiment. Hector is more like Joe in Idiocracy: an average man in every way. The film’s first 10-15 minutes really sell this concept, as we see that he is absent minded, a bit lazy, and just wants to sit around and look at birds all day. How he gets involved with the time travel machine is one of the movie’s most clever inventions, and writer/director (and co-star) Nacho Vigalondo wisely never bogs the movie down in explanations or special effects, keeping the entire thing from Hector’s point of view. Like Primer, however, this means that we see effects of the time travel before we are aware that time travel is a story element.

Unfortunately, this has a bit of a drawback, as once the first twist is revealed (something I had figured out), the movie has sort of shown its entire hand, and further twists/revelations become more and more predictable. Like Dark Floors, there’s some great bits when you see cause and effect situations being caused by the same person in different timelines, but it gets a bit rote after awhile. I didn’t like feeling so ahead of Hector; at one point he hears a voice on his walkie-talkie, and I knew instantly that it was him from a half hour or so in the future (or past, from the other one’s POV).

Also, the movie never makes clear exactly why Hector goes to such lengths to make things the way he found them earlier. I need to spoil a key twist in order to explain (it’s revealed before the halfway mark, for what it’s worth), so don’t read any further if you want to be completely in the dark.

Once we learn that Hector himself is the killer he is running from (the mask actually a bandage for a wound he encountered after time traveling), we sort of watch the movie again from his time-traveler's point of view. Which is awesome in theory, but I kept getting distracted by killer Hector’s insistence on re-doing everything exactly as hero Hector saw it. At one point during hero Hector’s journey (before the killer’s identity is revealed), he sees the killer turn around and mock his use of binoculars. So later, when we are with killer Hector, we see him keep spinning around and making the mocking action over and over until he gets it “right” (i.e. hero Hector sees it). But why do it at all? Hero Hector wouldn’t know anything was “different” (since it hadn’t happened to him yet), and killer Hector knows that hero Hector’s downfall is the result of his running from the killer. Killer Hector, in short, should have just hid somewhere, letting hero Hector give up and go back home, and thus never time travel in the first place. Killer Hector could then, I dunno, go to Maui and drink umbrella drinks or something, assuming he didn’t alter himself out of existence.

Things get further complicated when a 3rd Hector (let’s call this one “Smart Hector”) shows up and tries to set everything right once again. Again, he does things that ensure things happen the same way, which doesn’t make sense when he is specifically there to change it. He seems to want everything to happen the same way up until a certain point, but why THAT point is the one he chose is entirely unclear (the time travel device is a liquid chamber – just let all the duplicates drown!). Sure, it leads to some funny/cool moments (at this point, smart Hector knows more about what’s going on than the time travel inventor guy), but it seems contradictory to what the character is actually trying to accomplish. Smart Hector should simply kill the other two and be done with it.

I assume that Vigalondo is making the point that once something occurs, it cannot be changed, but it often seems like it COULD, because killer Hector does things over and over to get them right for hero Hector. It would make more sense for him to try to change things and inadvertently cause them to happen anyway, rather than the other way around, no? There is a moment later in the film that should be an example of how the sort of “can’t change fate” mechanism works – killer Hector is seeking a battery for the time machine, which the inventor has discarded in the woods. The inventor convinces Hector not to try to fix things anymore, and Hector tosses his walkie talkie (which he is using to manipulate the other Hector) on the ground, and then asks the inventor to shine his light on it so he could see to smash it. The inventor does, and then they see that the battery is there on the ground next to it. THAT is how the other scenes should work; selling the idea that it was fate that put the battery back in their hands.

In the words of the great Mrs... whatever her name was, “No matter what course of action Collins took, he was destined to his own fate. Fate never changes.”

But if you ignore these issues, you’ll have a lot of fun. Hector (all three versions) is a great protagonist, and I love the relative simplicity of the story (there are only four people in the film). And even though I started mentally calling the twists long before they occurred, it was still fun to watch Hector’s realization to these facts, even smart Hector got surprised a few times by realizing he was the cause of something that effected him in the past. It also has a surprisingly dark ending that felt very right.

So my advice? Go see it and only think about it as much as you would any straightforward movie. It doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a lot of fun and definitely a unique take on the genre. Let’s hope the American remake (reportedly by David Cronenberg) can retain the simplicity while somehow clarifying why Hector does things a certain way once he has become privy to the situation.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Graduation Day (1981)

NOVEMBER 24, 2008

GENRE: SLASHER
SOURCE: NETFLIX (ONLINE VIEWING)

One time I tripped and slammed my head right into a big wooden door. But that is nothing compared to the pain I feel when people try to convince me that “digital downloads” replacing physical media is a good thing. Ignoring the complete idiocy of trusting in a bunch of 1s and 0s to offer up your entertainment (“Hey guys, movie night is canceled, my hard drive is dead!”), the simple fact of the matter is that watching a movie via anything with the word “streaming” in the description is one of the absolute worst ways you can view a film or TV show. But unlike 99% of people on the internet, I back up my ranting whenever possible, so I decided to check out a “Netflix on Xbox” version of Graduation Day, one of the slasher heyday movies that had always passed me by. Now, to be fair, this movie could be on the most pristine Blu-ray disc of all time and still mostly suck, but even the worst movie ever made deserves a decent presentation, and this simply isn’t it.

For starters, a lot of Netflix “live” movies are full frame transfers (even when taken from a widescreen source!), which automatically degrades the overall quality. The only good thing about a fullframe transfer on an HDTV is that you can show some ignoramus EXACTLY how much of the film is being cut out for no reason. Plus, they are streaming off of low resolution sources – the Xbox will even allow you to watch the film at the stream’s native resolution, and you may be shocked to see how small it is before being blown up to your TV’s size. This results in hideously “smeared” images, not to mention the “droopy” effect (when the camera moves and still objects in the image sort of stay put for a second before “catching up” with the motion). Detail? Forget about it; you’re lucky if you can tell a person from a tree. Not to mention the fact that if your internet connection becomes slow, the movie pauses to rebuffer. And good luck with rewinding it; not only does it need to rebuffer, but instead of scanning like a normal device, it just shows you a series of frames that represent every 10 seconds, which is pretty much worthless. Yeah, this is the wave of the future! I’m not a fan of any sort of movie downloading, but Christ, at least if you download a full uncompressed rip of a DVD and burn it to a dual layer disc (congrats, you just saved, what, 6 bucks?) you are seeing a proper representation of the image.

Now, to be fair, they do offer “HD” streaming downloads, but as they are larger in original size, they take longer to startup and are more susceptible to re-buffering. Plus, it’s not even true HD – it looked about as good as TBS HD looks (i.e., not very).

In short – use your Xbox to play fucking Xbox games. It’s bad enough folks don’t want to go to the theater to watch a movie, it’s downright sickening that they will accept this type of presentation as a suitable replacement for DVDs as well. Stop being so fucking lazy.

Anyway, the movie itself wasn’t much better than its appearance. A lot of the slashers to come along post Friday the 13th (Halloween is often credited, but it wasn’t until after 1980, Friday the 13th’s debut, that all of the holiday/occasion based slasher movies began flooding theaters) aren’t exactly cinematic gold, but most have their own sort of charm and can manage a couple of interesting kills and/or killer look. But this one doesn’t even seem to be trying. There’s only one cool kill in the entire movie (the killer puts a bed of spikes under the “safety mat” thing for a guy practicing his pole vault), and the killer just wears a fencing mask for some reason (at least I know where the idea came from for Urban Legend 2’s equally inexplicable costume).

But worse, the killer’s motive is pretty clear right off the bat, and it’s a fucking stupid one to boot. In the opening scene, a girl dies of an aneurysm during a track meet*, and the killer clearly blames the rest of the team for her death and sets about offing them all. Despite the fact that this makes absolutely no sense, it also gives any potential investigation a pretty clear idea of where to start. So to get around that, screenwriters David Baughn and Herb Freed (who also directed) simply have no one notice and/or care that the kids are missing (it takes place over a couple of days, a rarity from this era). Parents call the school for some reason to ask why their son/daughter never came home, and the principal (Michael Pataki, aka Dr Hoffman from Halloween 4) just blows them off and spends screen time giving his secretary a lot of busy work. OK.

Worse still, the movie stubbornly refuses to have a main character! There’s a kind of cool twist early on where they start to set one girl up as the Final Girl (Denise Cheshire, Chrissy from Jaws and way hotter here as a brunette) and then kill her off, but after that the movie is pretty aimless. Our hero is a detective who doesn’t enter the movie until the one hour mark, and the dead girl’s sister, the closest thing the movie has to a center, inexplicably disappears for a solid half hour or so in the middle of the film. This bizarre screenwriting choice DOES pay off though, as the sister approaches the detective near the end and asks for his help. The detective has no idea who she is though (hell, she had been gone so long that even I almost forgot), and just replies “Who are YOU? What’s your stake in all of this?” Hahahaha, holy shit. It’s like Baughn and Freed wrote a shitty movie just so they could use this amazingly funny line.

It just gets dumber as it goes too. At one point the killer walks right by the sister as if she wasn’t a concern, only to chase her throughout the town a few minutes later. He is also killed both times (any movie slasher worth his salt has two “death” scenes) by his own playfully arranged corpses, which is kind of funny in a way - it’s certainly the only movie I can recall in which the “Find The Dead Friends” routine has any sort of dramatic payoff. He props a body up for no reason, and it ends up killing him. Awesome.

There is also a ridiculous amount of padding (more ridiculous when you consider that the movie is 96 min long – it’s not like they needed to get the length to a more acceptable running time). Linnea Quigley shows up to show her tits and use them to bribe a teacher into passing music class, but there was already some other nudity, and the teacher is never killed, so why bother? We know the killer is only going after kids on the track team, so a 5 minute sequence of a music teacher looking around a boiler room is completely unnecessary.

Speaking of the track team, there’s another really stupid moment when the detective sees a photo of the team (the killer has the same photo, and when he kills someone he crosses out their picture. It’s like a murderous version of The Terminal) and says “Who are they?” Well, gee, let’s look at the photo. There’s the track coach with his stopwatch, surrounded by 6 guys/girls in track shirts, standing on a track. Obviously, they’re the art honors society, you fucking twit.

The coach, by the way, is played by Christopher George, apparently on a break from Italian horror movies. He’s possibly the biggest asshole coach in the history of movies (he makes Jon Voight’s character in Varsity Blues look cuddly), and he’s also the woodworking teacher for some reason (it never pays off either – no one is planed or chiseled to death). The movie tries really hard to make the audience think he’s the killer, to the point where nothing he does actually makes any sense once you learn he is in fact innocent. Still, George is always fun to watch, and I almost wish he WAS the killer, since it would give him more to do (it was one of his last roles).

So in short, I would just skip this one. It’s not cheesy enough to be fun (though there is a ridiculous theme song called “Graduation Day Blues”, not a patch on the MBV theme but still entertaining), the gore is minimal, the killer’s outfit is dull (and barely seen anyway), and his identity reveal is anticlimactic since the character barely registered before that point.

Oh, P.S. – before the “Early Appearance Police” get on my ass, I should mention that Vanna White pops up as one of a pair of girls who always speak over one another and generally just annoy the audience.

What say you?

*This sequence reminded me of a story that scared me when I was younger, about a track star named Karen Ormsby who decided to kill herself during a race that she was losing. She did this by simply continuing to run straight off the track, over a field, and finally onto a bridge, which she jumped from. And she failed at this too, as she didn’t die but instead got paralyzed. Why this story scared me, I have no idea.

PLEASE, GO ON...

Waxwork (1988)

NOVEMBER 23, 2008

GENRE: MONSTER, SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REVIVAL SCREENING)

Lately, the New Beverly Midnights program has been showing almost a lot more 1980s horror movies (recent HMAD entries The Stepfather, The Gate, and The Keep were all part of the program), which is fine by me. Not only does it sort of open up my Sunday (per my 12:01am to 11:59pm ‘rule’, it counts for Sunday’s movie, not Saturday’s), but it offers me the premium setting to see movies like Waxwork, which I had missed back in the day and would now likely not enjoy as much if I had just watched it at home.

The finale of this movie is one of the more entertaining ones I can recall in my recent movie-watching memory. You get a bunch of old butler guys fighting a bunch of classic monsters, including The Phantom and an Audrey II, Zach Galligan using a sword, vampires, werewolves... I suspect that Die You Zombie Bastards’ Caleb Emerson is a fan of this film, judging from the similar kitchen sink approach to the finale of his film. It’s the type of battle that I could watch all day, and had the film not been so obviously low-budget, I would suspect that there was hours of alternate/unused footage from this fight sequence (as there would be nowadays).

The low budget occasionally hurts the film though. The editing is pretty bad at times (possibly the result of having to cut around a poor effect or something), and it’s kind of inert at times as well. For a while, it’s almost like an anthology movie, where someone gets trapped in a wax display and the movie becomes solely about them for a while. Plus each exhibit is different, so you get a werewolf fight in a log cabin, then a bunch of vampires in an old mansion, and later on a full blown zombie attack (for the sake of simplicity, I have ignored all of these subgenres and just settled for "Monster", as well as "Supernatural" due to the voodoo aspect of it all). And that’s all well and good, but after the first couple (werewolf and vampire) not much happens for a while. Also, the mini-movies aren’t all that exciting in themselves – the Marquis de Sade segment, for example, largely revolves around someone eating what looks like the cherry cobbler that comes in my Healthy Choice meal.

One thing I definitely love about it is that the hero is kind of a jerk, and not a very effective hero either. He’s played by Zach Galligan, and he’s a rich prick who has the butler light his cigarettes for him, and that doesn’t change a hell of a lot by the end (his butler gets killed, otherwise I bet he’d probably have him light his post-fight smoke too). He also doesn’t really DO a hell of a lot; most of his heroics revolve around saving his own ass, and the big battle at the end would probably go down the same way had he been somewhere else entirely.

I also love how ridiculously gory it is at times. Without the gore, the movie would probably be rated PG, as the premise is kind of goofy and the “romantic” elements are kept to a minimum (nice way of saying “no tits’). But Christ, when a vampire is dispatched, the red stuff sprays everywhere! A midget is also tossed into the Audrey II, and that alone makes the movie worth a watch.

And it belongs to the insanely high profile club of movies that feature a "funny" use of a Lesley Gore song (in this case, "Its My Party"). I wonder how Ms. Gore feels about the fact that there are probably hundreds of folks who learned of her existence solely via ironically placed songs in horror movies. She probably doesn’t really care.

What say you?


PLEASE, GO ON...

Seed (2007)

NOVEMBER 22, 2008

GENRE: SERIAL KILLER
SOURCE: DVD (ONLINE RENTAL)

I’ve had a bootleg copy of Seed for over a year now, but even though I am a minor fan of Boll’s (more the guy himself than his movies, though to be fair he’s been more or less improving, and I say without a trace of irony that Postal is hilarious and mostly great), I’ve never bothered to watch it. Part of that is due to my distaste of bootlegs (when I make an exception it’s usually for a film that doesn’t seem to be getting any sort of real release in the States, such as [Rec]), but partly because Boll always provides an entertaining commentary, and since the bootleg was obviously sans the alternate track, I knew I’d have to rent/buy it and watch it again anyway, so I figured I might as well wait.

Unfortunatly (sic), his commentary is surprisingly subdued, and he actually bails on it like 15 minutes before the film ends. On Bloodrayne II he got a phone call from his mother about a sale on bicycles or lawnmowers or something, but here, even though he warns us that he might take phone calls, he just sort of narrates the movie and names the actors on screen. He occasionally lapses into old-school Boll style ranting (he calls Saw II “a real piece of shit”), but he’s otherwise kind of mellow (in the same breath he praises Saw I and III). His critics are addressed, of course, but mainly to provide context – he wrote this (and Postal) as a response to all of the shit he takes, as well as what he saw was a severe decline in the human race as a whole. This may be the first commentary to point out that “the theme of the movie is that the earth would be better without humans.”

However, this movie is exceptionally dark, so I am glad I watched this surprisingly strong DVD transfer rather than some 2nd or 3rd generation copy. I seriously thought I was watching a Blu-Ray at times, as the image is incredibly sharp, with color details as vivid as I’ve ever seen on a standard def DVD. If I had to guess, I would say that this is due to the fact that some scenes are filmed in near total darkness, giving the DVD whizzes more disc space to use for the brighter scenes (colorful images take up more space than solid colors). One example is the (overlong) section of the film where a few cops go to arrest Seed in his remote home. At times, I couldn’t even tell what was happening since the image (by design) was showing so little of what was actually happening. Boll even points this out on the commentary, but he doesn’t explain why he went so overboard. Ironically enough, it reminded me of a video game such as Condemned (which also concerned a serial killer who lived at a remote farmhouse) or Dead Space, where you have a flashlight beam illuminating part of the screen and leaving everything else in total black darkness.

I say that’s ironic because this is Boll’s first non-video game movie for the States. He had made several in the early part of the decade, but since House of the Dead onward, all of his films have had some origin in a video game. This is a big part of why he is so vilified by internet critics, because he’s the only filmmaker besides Paul WS Anderson (no fanboy hero himself) to work so heavily in the video game adaptation subgenre. It’s not that his films are any worse (some are actually better, I would argue) than any other game based film such as Doom or Super Mario Bros, but it’s just a lot easier to single him out because he’s made so many.

And that’s a shame, because it led to this film being torn apart as well (even moreso than Bloodrayne, which has escaped the IMDb Bottom 100, where Seed still sits), despite the fact that it’s not bad at all. It’s definitely his most accomplished from a technical sense; it’s well shot and the production value is above average (especially for a period piece). For example, check out this newspaper clipping:

If you notice, the entire article is about the case. A lot of movies (even big budget ones) just write a headline and then the text is gibberish, but someone took the time to write out an entire piece that will be seen only by people with pause buttons.

The acting is also above Boll-average. There are a lot of his regulars (Michael Paré, Will Sanderson, Ralf Moeller, etc), but they play roles that fit them; i.e. Paré as a cop. Moeller seems a bit out of place due to his accent, but I certainly believe him as a warden, much more than I can Matthew Lillard as a prince or Ray Liotta as an all powerful warlock (Dungeon Siege, possibly the alpha and omega of badly cast movies). And Sanderson – I didn’t even know it was him! He doesn’t really do much (he never speaks a word), but he’s definitely imposing, and it reminded me of Tyler Mane’s performance in Zombie's Halloween (one of that film’s strong points). There’s a great bit where a few guards bust into Seed’s cell in order to rape him (sure, why not) and instead they are all dispatched (including a super cool move where Seed kicks a guy’s head through his iron bars). He then just sits back down rather than escape or go on a rampage. Nice work.

Speaking of Sanderson, Boll claims that after shooting Seed he retired from the film business in order to raise his family and become a doctor. Which is a bummer, I liked his dedication to Boll (he’s made like 7 or 8 movies with him), and, as Seed proves, he can acquit himself nicely in whatever role Boll has him play He is also the one to tell me how to pronounce Uwe (“Oov-a”), so I am forever in his debt*.

The film also has a strong score, by frequent collaborator Jessica de Rooij. Just thought I’d mention that, and that she is apparently younger than me! I always think of composers as middle-aged (at least) for some reason.

So is this some sort of masterpiece? Well, no. It might be an “original” movie, but it sure seems like Boll watched Shocker and The Horror Show before he wrote it. It might be darker than either of those films (not in the technical sense, but in the more nihilistic, depressing sense – this may be Boll’s most German movie ever!), but the serial killer comes back after being electrocuted thing has obviously been done, and the aforementioned arrest sequence is very similar to the one in Shocker. Plus it’s very jarringly paced... much has been made about the film’s allegedly realistic premise (that if someone survives the electric chair they are pardoned), but Seed doesn’t go to the chair until around the hour mark, and it’s a 90 min movie. And the film’s centerpiece, a 5 minute continuous shot of a woman being beaten to death with a hammer, would probably be a lot more grueling if I had any idea who the hell she was.

Still, Boll set out to make a dark and depressing serial killer movie, and he succeeded. It may not be very good, but for once that is the fault of Boll the writer, not Boll the director/producer, and on that alone, it’s worth a look. Plus, I’ll take it over Heartstopper any day of the week.

One final note – I made Boll yawn. You know how if you hear/see someone yawn, you yawn right after (I bet you just yawned reading that!)? Well I yawned, and then 5 seconds later, Boll yawned on his track. I like that.

What say you?

*I went to the premiere of Bloodrayne (tickets were surprisingly easy to obtain!) and sat in front of Sanderson. Boll had him come up stage to join him for his typically self-deprecating and angry intro, and when he returned to his seat, he muttered “well that was embarrassing.” A similar scenario repeated when I saw Postal and sat in front of Boll’s lawyer. When Boll began to speak, the lawyer guy muttered “Oh please let him be good...” Hahahaha. You gotta love the guy.


PLEASE, GO ON...

Ju-On (2000)

NOVEMBER 21, 2008

GENRE: ASIAN, GHOST
SOURCE: CABLE (FEARNET)

A friend tried to get me to watch... fuck, I forget what it was, for today’s movie, but I told him that I absolutely had to watch the 2000 version of Ju-On so that I could write my review of Ju-On 2, which I watched yesterday (see the J2 review for an explanation). Which is funny, because yesterday, before all of this debacle, I was self-admiring myself for my completely lazy approach to what I watch (other than theatrical screenings, I never know what I’m going to watch until about 2 minutes before I watch it). I don’t like setting things in stone. Leave stone alone!

Anyway, now that I’ve watched this movie, and most of the sequel again, I kind of understand what is going on, but it’s still the least coherent version of the three (they got progressively easier to follow in release order; naturally, I saw them entirely backwards). Like most of the others, it’s not so much a typical narrative but instead a series of loosely connected stories revolving around a particular house in Japan. And I want to comment on that, because it’s kind of interesting how much the house truly has become the main character. You always hear filmmakers saying things like “Well, the (boat, house, can of soup, whatever) is just as much a character in this movie as (A list actor who is very much more of a character than any inanimate object).” It’s usually horseshit; the setting may be striking and well designed, but the human characters are always the most important thing. Here, not so much. The characters drift and out of the movie, most of them barely introduced before getting killed off, but at this point, I recognize just about every nook and cranny in this goddamn house. I almost suspect that if someone were to parody the movie (didn’t one of the Scary Movies do a spoof on it?) that I would instantly spot things that weren’t correct. “Hey, that wall should be tan, not light brown!”

It’s interesting to see how many things in this movie were incorporated into the US version of Grudge 2, such as the frying pan to the face and the cool scene where the girl reaches above a desk she is hiding under to get a phone. At least, I THINK that scene was in 2. I remember it happening to a hot girl that wasn’t Gellar, so it must have been, right? I dunno. Who cares. It’s a good scene, but also an annoying one, because she doesn’t answer the phone, and it continues its shrill ringing for the next 4-5 minutes. ANSWER IT!

The most frustrating thing about this movie (besides the fact that I watched half of it yesterday) was that I genuinely love the concept, and I think that if someone were to approach it as a typical narrative, it would be one of the better of its type. The US remake tried, but it still had that awkward Gellar-less middle in the high-rise. I mean, one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen in one of these occurs in this movie (when Toshio’s dad rips the teacher’s baby out of her womb, puts it in a bag, and proceeds to kick it down the street), but I was so disconnected from the characters and storylines that it didn’t even really affect me beyond going “Christ.”, which is my reaction to just about everything. Contrast that with say, Inside, where a similar idea was merely threatened, and I all but covered my eyes like a 10 year old girl.

This movie has one of the strangest plot elements I’ve seen in a while though: the idea that when someone enters the house, they should drink Sake to see if they will be affected by the ghost. I guess if they spit it out, they shouldn’t live there. Well, Sake sucks, and I’d rather spit it out than drink it no matter where I was. It doesn’t really pay off (as always, it just gets mentioned in another vignette), which sucks, because I am curious to see how it works. So what if the world’s biggest Sake lover comes into the house? Will he never die? I suspect some of this may have been mis-translated, but if not, it’s pretty odd, even within the logic of this nonsensical movie.

Well I still have the sequel to the 2003 Ju-On to watch, and of course Grudge 3 (US) is on the way. But that one is directed by Splinter’s Toby Wilkins, so I have hope for it. And apparently Ju-On 2 (2004) ends with the death of all humanity, so there’s something.

As I watched these on Fearnet, there are no extras or commentaries for me to poorly review. I kind of like this, four movies in a row without extras to take up lots of my time! I’ve even been able to watch some of my stories at work this week! 6 weeks’ ago’s episode of Heroes, here I come!

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Ju-On 2 (2000)

NOVEMBER 20, 2008

GENRE: ASIAN, GHOST
SOURCE: CABLE (FEARNET)

(Note, this review was written on the 21st, after a 2nd viewing)

I’ve always been an advocate for watching movies in order; there’s nothing worse than seeing a lousy remake first and spoiling the original’s effectiveness, or seeing a sequel with revelations that don’t resonate as much as they would had I already seen the first film. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that’s been so utterly incomprehensible as Ju-On 2 was to me, having not seen the first one, even though I thought I did. See, I thought I had seen “the original” Ju-On, but I had forgotten that that movie was itself a remake, of a movie from 2000. Had I paid attention to the year of release, I would have realized that and watched the 2000 one first and saved myself a heap of time, not to mention probably a lot of head-scratching for the readers. So, to sum up, I was watching the sequel to a film I had seen two remakes of, but not the original that all of its storylines was following.

And to top it off, seeing the original today didn’t help much, because even that one didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. But coherency has never been the strong suit of any entry in this convoluted franchise, so that wasn’t really a surprise. However, at least now I have a better grasp on the material, so my review won’t be too ignorant. Hate to make anyone mad.

I think my biggest problem with this subgenre is that I am first and foremost a story/character guy. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy splatter movies or Friday the 13th sequels, but those aren’t really even TRYING to scare me. These movies, however, are designed to scare an audience, and I simply can’t get scared when I don’t know who the people are or even what exactly is going on. I mean, sure, there are some nice visuals and the odd creepy image here and there, but at the end of the day, there is precious little of my time spent feeling any sort of suspense or caring whether or not the characters survive.

And the Ju-On films in particular suffer from this feeling, because they are borderline anthology movies, which by design almost never have really well-rounded characters and deliberately plotted stories. Every 10-15 min, someone dies, and then a new character is introduced. They all have some ties to the house (they lived there, they used to live there, they are the real estate folks trying to sell it, they walked by it... any excuse seems to enrage the ghost(s) that live there), but otherwise the stories have no real connection. Characters are mentioned, but they never interact with the ones from the other stories (usually because they are dead). This presents another problem – a lot of them have very similar names (hey-o, ignorant American excuses coming in!), like Kayako and Kyoko, and the names are often said when those characters aren’t present. People will say “Do you know Kayako?”, but when Kayako is actually in the scene, no one says “Hey, Kayako!” So it becomes hard to match faces to names.

Another language problem – the subtitles are pretty good, even repeating things over and over when it’s no longer necessary (such as when a guy is looking for Toshio, the cat-sounding little boy, and says his name about twenty times in a row), but they often skip translating written things. So we’ll have a scene where a guy is stunned to learn something from a file or a piece of mail, and the subs don’t explain what he is reading.

I also take issue with any film that begins with the final half hour of the previous film. A flashback is one thing, and even helpful when you have something this baffling, but the flashback/recycled footage segment is almost as long as the new footage segment! Silent Night Deadly Night 2 is nothing compared to this. And since they came out in the same year, it’s a wonder why they didn’t just combine the two films into one for Stateside release.

Anyway, since the films (and in turn, my reviews) are so intertwined, head on over to the Ju-On review (the 2000 version) for more thoughts. My final word on this one though? It’s more like Ju-On 1.5 rather than a sequel, but if you dig these movies, I’m sure there’s plenty to enjoy (the ending is actually pretty creepy, even if, again, it makes no sense without context of the other movies).

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

The Graveyard (2006)

NOVEMBER 19, 2008

GENRE: CRAP, SLASHER
SOURCE: CABLE (FEARNET)

Well, so far I am 0-2 on Fearnet choices (not counting a viewing of Midnight Meat Train, which is airing “exclusive” prior to its DVD release). Granted, I don’t expect the greatest movies of all time (ones I haven’t seen, at that) to be airing for free, buried in the Time Warner cable menus, but I see some other decent stuff in there, like Friday the 13th Part VI (my favorite of the series, in fact) and The Eye 2, so why the fuck do I keep watching shit like Leprechaun in the Hood and now The Graveyard, which managed to be one of dullest slasher movies I’ve ever seen?

The most brilliant thing about Scream is that they pretty much tell you right off the bat that Billy is the killer, but you spend the entire movie saying “No way, it can’t be that obvious, it has to be so and so”. Apparently, screenwriter Michael Furst didn’t take any cues from that movie, or any other good slashers, since HIS killer is possibly the most obvious in movie history. The whole movie’s a sort of Prom Night ripoff in Friday the 13th’s setting, with a prank going wrong and then everyone going back to the camp (inexplicably located next to a graveyard) 5 years later for a reunion. So who is the killer? The guy who took the blame for the death and just got out of prison? The creepy friend who harbors an unrequited crush on one of the girls? Maybe the jilted girlfriend who decided to join the party at the last minute? Of course not. None of those would be viable choices, because it’s just lazy red herring screenwriting at its “finest” on display. And thus, anyone who has ever seen a single horror movie in his life (you might not even need that much to qualify) would instantly know that the killer is the “cook” who has been hired to “take care” of the group while they are camping.

Allow me to point out a few things here:

1. We have to believe that a bunch of grown men and women in the woods would need to hire a guy to cook for them in the first place.
2. The killer’s plan involves killing the real cook – so not only is the whole idiotic “cook” notion not even made up (they could have just run into the guy there and he could have said he was the owner’s son or some shit), it would only work if no one ever actually saw what he looked like. And, presumably, the killer would have to know how to cook better than any of them to sell his ruse.
3. Even if for some reason the killer’s identity wasn’t glaringly obvious, they actually show the real cook being killed! The LEAST they could have done is just have someone find the body late in the film and discover that their “cook” wasn’t who he said he was.

But of course, if the movie was set up like that, we’d lose on what may be the LEAST plausible thing in the entire movie: the requisite scene where an innocent group member is blamed for a killing by the town sheriff. Sheriff puts the guy in cuffs and calls in his ID. His dispatcher, almost instantly, comes back with the fact that the guy is on parole, and the crime was manslaughter. Yet, dispatcher DOESN’T have the date of parole (which would prove his innocence, since the cook was killed like 3 days ago, even though we saw it happen earlier that day; this particular plot hole is one that I just ignored for the sake of making fun of other stuff), nor the nature of his “crime” (i.e. an accidental death). Why would whatever info the dispatcher got that included his crime and parole status skip over that other stuff? Oh, to provide “tension!” Fuck you, movie.

Another nonsensical blunder of this setup is that the guy kills everyone off in the first hour, and since we know the guy in jail is innocent, this doesn’t even leave any other suspects. Yet there’s about 10-15 min worth of padding until he finally reveals himself as the killer to our Final Girl. If nothing else, a whodunit movie lives and dies on its ability to keep at least two options available up until the actual reveal (best way is to have actual killer kill the other possible suspect).

Let’s see, what else sucked... the direction was terrible, and I later learned that the director was the same soulless asshat responsible for A Dead Calling: one Michael Feifer. Since the movie is filmed entirely at Sable Ranch and it makes absolutely no sense for any of the group to go there again, I am guessing that, like the other movie, he simply had the location and jotted down a story that would fit there on a pizza box. I swear, I have to start remembering these assholes’ names so I know to avoid their other garbage.

And the ways that Feifer/Furst kept the movie “moving” insulted not just my intelligence, but the intelligence of the Hungry Man Meal I was eating at the time; like when one of the girls’ ex girlfriend (hey-o!) shows up to give the “you belong to me!” template speech of crazy girlfriend characters. She literally pops in out of nowhere, gets told to go home, and is then killed. Of course, since I already knew the guy’s identity, this also made zero sense, because he’s with the other girls at the time in the middle of the woods. So in order for him to go kill the lesbian chick, he has to leave our hero girls alone for like 20 minutes to pull it off (this assumes he had his lame costume on him, if not, he’d need probably another 10 to go back to his cabin and get it). These type of plot holes aren’t uncommon in whodunit slashers, but usually you don’t notice them AS THEY ARE OCCURRING. Again, this is what happens when you all but name the killer character “The Killer”.

Also, the movie kills some time (for an 80 minute movie with credits, there’s a shitload of padding) by having the parolee play a prank on the others with the help of one of the other guys. Asshole, you just got out of jail after 5 years because your boring ass pranks got someone killed! Plus, it’s hinted that the guys set it up WHILE HE WAS STILL IN JAIL! Jesus fucking Christ, the more I think about this movie, the fucking stupider it seems.

The gore sucks too. And there’s occasional nudity, but not from co-star Trish Coren, who is the only person in the movie that I recognized (she was in Boo and Headless Horseman), so that was a letdown too. The movie even stops cold to have her and her ex start to fool around (more padding that makes no sense at all), but then they get interrupted right as she’s about to disrobe. All this for a character introduced as a slut. Way to piss me off even more.

Anyone want to guess who distributed this horseshit? It rhymes with Brian’s Hate.

(Heh.)

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Twilight (2008)

NOVEMBER 18, 2008

GENRE: TEEN, VAMPIRE
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (PRESS SCREENING)

I remember it like it was this past Spring. I was at the Fangoria convention, and Tony Timpone announced the next thing up was some behind the scenes footage of something called Twilight. All the girls shrieked. I had to ask what the hell it was. What I saw was just a bunch of goofy looking teens with bad dye jobs running around the woods and being flung around in front of greenscreens. It looked suspiciously similar to the BtS stuff I watched on the DVD for Blood and Chocolate. But none of the females seemed to care; to them this was like, I dunno, me watching Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman perform "For Crying Out Loud" in my living room.

Since then I’ve seemingly been unable to escape the damn thing: my wife and most of her local friends are obsessed, my attempts to see the singer of one of my favorite bands (Blue October) playing acoustic were thwarted because his tour was actually just promoting the newest book, and a good friend of mine is currently making a mini version of it with puppets for some goddamn reason. My only interest, of course: seeing it and posting a review. Since it seems anything Twilight-related is devoured by its fans, a review would drive traffic to my site, and maybe inspire some of those readers to buy a few things from Amazon. Win-win-win!

So, penis firmly tucked between my legs, I actually GOT OUT OF WORK so I could attend an early screening tonight. But my reasons were twofold. One was the greedy “reviews = possible cash” excuse. But the other was that I figured that the press crowd would be far less annoying than an opening night crowd. See, if you didn't know, Twilight fans tend to be... well, disruptive in their excitement (to put it nicely. To put it correctly - they're fucking annoying). I learned this the hard way, when a wonderful new Blue October song was completely ruined by some idiot girl yelling "I LOVE EDWARD!!!!" in the middle of its first performance, followed by like 20 seconds of agreeable shrieking and cheering. So I figured the movie would be no different.

Well, no such luck, it was only about half press. The other half was regular folks; radio station winners, theater giveaways, etc. Unsurprisingly, this section of the theater was made up entirely of the 15-16 year old girls I was there to avoid. Oh well.

(I swear, I’ll get to the movie review eventually – if you’re new to the site, this is sort of the norm with me)

See, here’s the thing. Attraction to Kristen Stewart aside, I know I’m not the intended audience for the movie, but I can still understand the excitement of the fans, and didn’t even mind the expected cheering when their beloved Edward Cullen né Robert Pattinson first appeared on screen. But for the love of CHRIST, every fucking time a new character appeared, he/she was met with applause and cheering. Not to mention key lines, random situations, any sort of romantic moment... Hell, at one point, the cheering began BEFORE Edward entered the scene! So, last ramble type thing before I get to the review – I implore you: if you’re a fan of the book, or the actor, or whoever the fuck, fine, but please – try to respect that not every single person in the theater is a die hard fan. These people were actually detracting from my – gasp, yes – enjoyment of the film.

Because, yeah, it actually ain’t all that bad. There was about 20-25 straight minutes where I was actively enjoying the film and giving a shit about the characters (that would be pretty much from the moment Bella visits the Cullen home, up until the post-baseball game) without getting bored, or worse, annoyed by audience members. I could care less about any of the romantic shit (especially when the love story kicks off with a scene in which the male is supposed to be overcome by lust and hunger and LOVE!... but on film it just looks like he’s getting a boner), but put some vampires on screen and I’m happy, even if they’re not doing much. I liked that the family (save one “sister”, can’t recall her name) were accepting of Bella, and how they all rallied to protect her when the bad vampire guys showed up. In fact, if I feel qualified to make any sort of criticism on the plot, it’s that the more interesting/unique aspects (i.e. the vampire family, and especially the murderous villains) took way too much of a backseat to the rather generic romantic stuff.

I mean, I honestly don’t get what has set off so many young ladies on this particular love story. To me it just seemed like Buffy/Angel crossed with Liz/Max (that would be Roswell), without anything unique to add to it. Like Angel, Edward can’t fuck her or else he’ll... I dunno, I missed the explanation for that. He can’t, that’s all I need to know right now. And like Liz and Max, she is torn between her love of the guy and the risk of him being exposed if he starts doing more human type things. You want true romanticism mixed with sci-fi/fantasy? Check out Ludo’s EP “The Broken Bride”. That shit is EPIC. And you know, maybe the book has more stuff that the film dropped, but as far as the film goes, there was nothing unique about their romance, which I thought was a shame since so much of the vampire mythos was pretty original.

For starters, sunlight has no harmful effect on them. Instead, they just... sparkle? It’s kind of goofy, but whatever, it’s unique, I’ll give it that much. And if any of the other traditional weapons have any effect (garlic, crosses, etc) no mention is made of it. Also, they don’t get long teeth (interestingly, the only guy who has pointy teeth is this Jacob dude, who I understand is or at least becomes a werewolf later on, or something?). And I love the scene where they play baseball; using their vampire powers to dive around and what not. It’s a great scene, and it actually has a sense of excitement that was missing from the Quidditch scenes in the first couple Harry Potter movies (I’m actually kind of glad they stopped bothering with them).

Stewart aside, the casting agent apparently went out of his/her away to ensure the guys in the crowd had plenty to look at as well. Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene, and Rachelle Lefevre all instantly earned their place in the Hot Vampire Chick Hall of Fame (run by one Satanico Pandemonium), and Stewart’s best friend (Anna Kendrick) is pretty cute too. Hell even the vampire mom (Elizabeth Reaser) is pretty smashable. None of them get much screentime, since Stewart is the front and center of all but two scenes in the film, but there’s nothing wrong with that either. On that note - Greene, as the mind-reading vampire Alice... I guarantee I’ll watch the sequel if she’s given a bigger role.

I also dug the dad, played by Billy Burke, who was also a (actually, THE) highlight of Untraceable. While the rest of the audience laughed constantly throughout the movie, at things like the sight of Bella wearing a cast or a girl trying on a dress, I only legit laughed twice in the movie. The first was when Bella has Edward come over for the first time, something that occurs as Burke is cleaning a shotgun (he’s the sheriff). She asks if he can come in (oh yeah, vamps don’t need to be invited either I guess, since Edward just watches her sleep sometimes. Guy’s kind of creepy), and he pumps the gun and says “bring him in!”. It’s a generic gag, but Burke totally sells it.

The other laugh I got was when Edward shows her a giant mural made out of all the graduation caps that he and his brothers and sisters had amassed over the years. It’s a hilarious sight gag, but at the same time, it just brought to mind a slight plot hole that I didn’t quite get: the fact that they all go to school. I suppose that they need to “keep up appearances” so that they avoid suspicion, but they don’t talk to anyone else at the school, and even though they are technically stepsiblings, two of them are dating (which the rest of the school knows), so they stick out anyway. Plus, they seemingly live in the middle of nowhere (and not even technically in the school’s town), so if they were just “home-schooled”, wouldn’t that be LESS suspicious than a bunch of pale faced kids who keep to themselves and engage in light incest? They are also ALL absent whenever it’s actually sunny out, another thing that I think would cause more suspicion than it would theoretically prevent.

Another thing I was pleasantly surprised by was the almost total lack of music. Edward plays the piano, and there’s occasional score (actually quite good, courtesy of Coen brothers regular Carter Burwell), but until the final scene at the prom, there isn’t a single pop song on the soundtrack. Since the soundtrack went #1, and Meyer has posted “soundtracks” for all of the books (songs that she was inspired by, or listened to while she wrote), I thought for sure that popular music would be a big part of the film. Not that I’m some music snob by any means (on the contrary, a quick glance at the soundtrack’s tracklist revealed I already had a lot of the albums that the older songs originally came from), but since the crowd was taking me out of the movie enough as it was, I was thankful that Linkin Park and Paramore weren’t doing the same.

I’ve never seen any of Catherine Hardwicke’s other films, and this film didn’t really inspire me to do so anytime soon. It’s technically proficient, but her hand-held, small zoom “indie” style filmmaking felt very much out of place at times, which suggests that she is someone who would rather do her own thing (her other movies were legit indies) than do what is right for the story. It also hurts the romance angle; it’s supposed to be like, the strongest love of all time or whatever, and yet everything about it feels small and minor. I already mentioned the boner, but further scenes feel the same way; it never feels like more than a regular crush. Michael Bay can make a couple of guys taking medical exams seem exciting; why can’t Ms. Hardwicke make taboo love feel the same way?

My only other issue is that the movie had too many things that seemed like it was just setting up a sequel. The werewolf/Indian guys show up just long enough to foreshadow their eventual importance (without ever having any sort of bearing on THIS movie), and the final shot of the film shows the bad vampire chick watching them dance at the prom (something entirely unnecessary, if you ask me – a sequel could easily just flashback to show she was there). The bad guys aren’t even really introduced until the end of the second act, which is also a bit annoying. Maybe it’s like that in the book too, but it’s kind of hard to really fear for Bella’s life when it’s being threatened by someone we don’t know. It would be like if we never saw Darth Vader until he fought Obi Wan in New Hope. Christ, Edward posed more of a threat to her with all his silly “Spider Monkey”/tree jumping stuff. She could fall! I would have liked to have seen the “setup” elements dropped entirely in favor of further developing the threats in THIS movie.

For no reason I’d like to point out that both of Bella’s parents are played by 24 vets. Burke was the psychotic Gary from season 2, and her mom is played by Sarah Clarke (another MILF), aka the villainous Nina Myers. I miss 24.

So I dunno. Same deal as Prom Night (oh yeah, my man Rick, or Kellan Lutz as he’d probably rather be known, is in this movie too!): it’s not that I loved the movie, but I could never actually hate something that is designed for a completely different audience. Would I rather watch a bunch of vampires tear each other apart? Of course. But, I say again, I try to judge a movie based on how well it presents the story it’s trying to tell. It would be easy for me to write “Twilight sucks! Down with effeminate PG-13 vampires!”, but it’s not like the movie is being sold as anything BUT a PG-13 vampire love story, and no one forced me to watch it. I get what I don’t have to pay for.

Besides, I can appreciate that my opinion on it simply doesn’t really matter to the die-hard fans, so might as well just be honest for the folks that read this site regularly, because I’m sure a few of them will end up seeing it for whatever reason. If you think less of me for not slamming it, then fine. But think about it: if a 14 year old kid tells me that Dawn of the Dead sucks, I’m not going to listen to him/her, so why should the reverse be any different? Plus, I defy anyone to convince me that the gory, R-rated Lost Boys 2 is better than this in any way shape or form.

In short: If a 15 year old girl sees this movie and hates it, then the movie has failed. But if a 28 year old man sees it and doesn’t fall asleep, and even becomes a bit Twi-curious in the process (does the blond vampire like, kill everyone at the prom? And does the dad ever find out that the dude’s a vampire but become an ally, a la the Sheriff in Roswell?), then I guess the movie is probably doing its job. And obsessive as they may be, I do think anything that gets teens to read is fine by me. Just shut the fuck up in the movie theater.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

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