Posts Tagged Movies
Here we go, another month of several hours wasted by terrible movies. This month’s theme was trying to find the worst zombies available and examining movies that try to substitute good acting, writing, direction, and cinematography for as much sex, rape, nudity and torture that you squeeze into a dirty supply closet.
First up is Zombie Town (2007), which screams louder of low budget than the compilation of its victims from the moment its grainy film quality flashes on the screen. The narrative follows a local mechanic, Jake, with old flame who returns to town in the middle of a Zompocalypse, and teams up with his old love, Alex, that conveniently happens to be a scientist of some sorts. Alex discovers that the zombies are given life by bad blotches of CGI that are supposed to be slugs, ala Night of the Creeps (1986); but, fortunately like real slugs, the strange creatures react in the same manner to salt.
At this point, I was expecting Soy-Sauce Moltov Cocktails, but alas they didn’t go that route, however their methods are no less ridiculous. Even though the absurdity of the film is somewhat entertaining and you can almost appreciate the humor and efforts of a low budget troupe trying really hard, sometimes it becomes just a little hard to take. Once the actors start looking into the camera describing gore that was happening off screen that they obviously didn’t have the resources to pull off, I was about done. However I did, with lack of better judgment, stick around for the ending that was also weak, and didn’t make a lick of sense.
Rating… If an actual Zompocalypse does occur and you’re so bored of being boarded up in your house that you want to go outside and feed yourself to the horde, then watch this instead. If that hasn’t happened then don’t.
Moving right along to The Video Dead (1987), and I should have left this one in the 80′s, but unfortunately I didn’t. Much like a metaphor for the horror of watching this film, Video Dead starts off with a evil TV playing a black and white zombie film that apparently opens a portal which lets the seven or so zombies out into our world. The TV is accidentally delivered to a writer who the Video Dead promptly murder, but then a family of four move in unaware of the evil TV the house still holds.
The zombies, that are of the smart variety, start terrorizing the neighborhood and the teenage son, Jeff, starts to suspect something is up but he can’t convince his sister, Zoe, until a strange Texan comes a-knocking at their door and claims he’s been hunting the Video Dead. Zoe remains skeptical until she witnesses a zombie with a bad flock-of-seagulls haircut taking Jeff’s girlfriend away.
Hungry for revenge, Jeff heads off with the Texan zombie hunter to kick some ass. The hapless duo cause some havoc but ultimately both get owned leaving the sister alone to fight the Video Dead. After realizing she’s out numbered and has no tactical advantage, she decides to be nice to them, invite them in, and sit them down to bowls of Dinty More stew. Yeah, I’m not kidding. Of course, this works despite the fact the creatures have killed everyone else on sight, and she eventually lures them down into the basement for some post dinner dancing. God, I wish I was making this stuff up. Zoe’s brilliant plan causes the zombies to start starving to death and feed on each other, which is awesome I guess, but the film has to end with the typical last scare-no one is safe cliche.
Everything about this piece is terrible, but perhaps nothing tops Jeff’s “gee-whiz attitude” through out the film and the indescribably horrible dialogue that’s paired with it. After the hunter and Jeff wound a zombie, the hunter pulls out a chainsaw to finish it and this horrendous string of dialogue begins: “Oh my God, you’re not going to believe this. My all time, absolutely all time favorite horror movie is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I’ve seen it six times!” After being asked if he needs to be told how to use the chainsaw he replies, “Use this! I told you I saw the movie six times! Stand back and watch the master at work!” That says it all.
Ratings: If you were in same situation as above… Feed yourself to the zombies instead of watching this film.
In a series that has spawned a cult classic, fallen prey to self parody, and has coined zombies’ most cultural one word phrase…(Braaaains), I didn’t know what the hell to expect of this one. The series has gone from serious to parody to serious to horrible, and part 5 is mostly back to being funny. The plot kicks off with the familiar ominous barrels except this time they end up in the hands of drug dealing college students who think the government’s biological weapon will make a good rave drug, hence the ironically name ‘Z’ is born and the students pass it out around a Rave with typical results.
Even though this series went back into self parody again, I think they executed the balance of dark humor and general silliness with a nice dash of style this time around. For example, “Rave” brings the cult favorite Tarman out of retirement, but only to be forced to flee after taking too much lead from a duo of trigger happy Interpol agents, which leaves the Tarman forced to try to hitchhike to the film’s climax. From time to time, the film actually cuts to the rotting dripping corpse standing on the side of the interstate with a “Rave or Bust” sign. You can’t ask for funnier than that. Perhaps, the film’s greatest strength is the two bumbling Interpol agents whose slapstick antics are endlessly amusing in a Three Stooges meets Rambo sort of way.
Rating. If you’re a fan of the series’ sillier side than this one will do well ripping your funny bone out and chewing on it, if not then at least this installment was leaps and bounds above Necropolis.
A good bridge between Zombies and Sexplotation is Dorm of the Dead. (2006) Remember all jerks and prissy girls that you couldn’t stand in college but had to put up with because they lived on your floor? Well, they got together and made a bad movie. There’s nothing good to say about this one, people. It’s a college film at its worst, and I’m not even going to waste any time describing the feeble attempt at a plot. The only amusement to be had while watching this piece is the fact that they couldn’t cast anyone old enough to play the college staff, so all the adult roles look like little kids playing dress up.
Rating. Unless you’re life is very sadly deprived of cheap T&A then don’t watch this film.
Our first in Sexplotation, is Stash (2007/I), which is another low rung, low budget, piece of garbage about two punk kids that try to steal from the local backwoods pot grower, but end up at the working end of his shotgun. Bud, the grower, makes a deal with them that if they kidnap three women in the following three days and bring them into his basement he won’t hunt them down and kill them. The story from here follows the abduction and consequential rape and torture of the girl they kidnap on the second day, Sarah.
The film follows the police’s attempts to rescue Sarah as Bud rapes the girls that the idiot kids deliver to him. Since Bud’s delivery boys are morons, the police eventually find Sarah and gun down Bud, to the joy of the audience who are probably glad its over, which unfortunately its not. Stash tries to justify its awful existence and produce depth through a monologue delivered through Sarah’s journal writing, but at this point…Why bother?
Rating: Not Dorm of the Dead bad, but pretty close.
Next up Naked Fear (2007). Ever since Richard Connell published his short story “The Most Dangerous Game” about hunting humans there has been over a dozen adaptations starting in 1932 with the film of the same name, but hasn’t anyone ever thought to themselves: “this story would be better with strippers and hookers.” Well, most people haven’t, but apparently someone did, because that’s essentially Naked Fear.
The film has a long build up centering around the protagonist, Diana, who drifts into town to try and make some money as stripper, but ends up sinking into prostitution. Unfortunately, her first “John” kidnaps her, rapes her, drugs her, and flies her out to the wilderness where he intends to hunt her. From here on out, the movie picks up steam, and if you like this sub-genre of movie, its not a bad entry into the cannon of Richard Connell homage films.
However, the film tries to build a story around those back in town by developing a shamed cop who was forced out of his old detective job after trying to get a conviction against the mayor who killed an old woman in a drunk driving accident. Once he discovers that one of his superior officers his probably the culprit behind the missing girl the obvious parallel forces him into a moral dilemma. Unfortunately, all the characters back in civilization such as: “the good cop,” “the skeptic partner,” “Diana’s hooker with a heart of gold roommate” are all bad cliches that populate a bad story. Whenever the narrative switches to them the viewer will just find himself restless to return to Diana fighting for survival in the wilderness. At the end of the day, all come-upings are resolved and the audience is hit with a cheesy epilogue about how Diana has chosen to bring justice to the world.
Rating: Not bad Predator-Prey genre movie… If It Bleeds, You can watch it.
Finally we have Pervert!. (2005) This aptly named Sexplotation piece makes no claims to be anything otherwise. The humor is raunchy. The sex is constant and you’d be hard pressed to find five minutes of screen time that doesn’t include toplessness. Scene wipes are actually done with that 70′s dances montages (alla That 70s Show or Austin Powers Film) to provide more nudity, and the narrative arc is constantly clogged up with soft porn. However, the film is ripe with some witty humor if you can watch it for more than ten minutes without feeling like you need to have a talk with your psychologist or pastor.
Basically, the little plot Pervert! has follows the story of a LSU student, James, who has returned home for the summer to his father’s ranch to discover his father has taken on a lover a fraction of his age. Of course, James sleeps with her and she ends up dead shortly after. James also discovers that the locals think his father is insane and James considers the notion after learning his father has a habit of making human sculptures out of meat. Thinking that his father is using his victim’s as supplies for his new hobby, James launches an investigation that leads to more bloodshed, and, of course, depraved sex.
The plot thickens as James reaches for the truth, and the actual reality he discovers takes the film light years beyond Looney Toons, but fans of sophomoric humor should have a ball with this one.
Rating. Stylistic and amusing in a very stupid kind of way. Enjoyable but you feel like you need a shower in holy water once you’re done watching it. Raunchy humor fans only need apply.
The past ten years of horror movies have been a mixed bag of re-done, over-done, and just plain horrible. While the last decade was dominated by slasher flicks, teen horror, and zombie stayed buried, this decade was mostly dominated by new puzzles of flesh and film, a handful of redos/imports, and the return of zombies; this time with running shoes. Let’s take a painfully closer look at the defining moments of the years 2000 through 2009.
While it was ironic that both decades ended with a low budget hype factory, The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2009), the similarities ended there. The year 2000 saw some over flow of teen horror as the Scream and Urban Legend franchises’ final chapters hit us, but aside from the Final Destination franchise, the teen horror genre didn’t seem to have the same dominance as it did in the 90’s. Instead, the 2000’s dragged in a bloody sack of imported Asian horror, torture horror, remade horror, a new brand of zombies, and, of course, our patron saint of mockery here at No Room in Hell, Rob Zombie.
The Asian Horror Invasion
I’ve related my experience with the movie The Ring (2002) before. People were on the floor almost sobbing as if Samara crawled from the screen itself when she did her deformed animal shuffle out of that TV. The scene was endlessly creepy with a fresh new feel, and unfortunately a slew of Asian horror followed her through that TV set but none of them (including The Ring’s sequel) had the power like The Ring did to make audiences believe that those rotted hands were about to emerge from your popcorn bag.
Most offensive about this movement was that each film’s monster was almost identical. I can imagine the police lineup. “Okay ma’am which one of these undead kids with black hair and discolored skin crawled through your TV and killed your husband?” Line up the creatures from The Ring, The Grudge (2004) Dark Water (2005), and Shutter (2008) and I’ll be damned if I could tell’em apart.
With each successive Asian horror remake to hit the U.S., the initial creepy vibe that The Ring introduced rapidly diminished.
The Asian horror invasion didn’t stop with dark hared children either. Pulse (2006) and The Eye (2008) also thought they’d be better with English and an American budget. The real question is what scares Americans more: Asian horror or subtitles?
Well, I blame Saw (2004) for this genre. Granted, Saw could be its own movement considering it produced six movies in this decade, but that’s another blog post. Still, something about its formula was different, new and exciting. Years of slasher horror’s guillotine blade racing down and giving audiences a three second payoff of a face molded in death had made us desensitized, bored. Saw showed audiences that victims could suffer in cruel and unusual ways for minutes or even the whole film. While I applaud the first Saw for being different, the franchise has gone out of control and down the path of self parody since. Worse yet, it opened the doors for films like Hostel (2005), Wolf Creek (2005), and Turistas (2006).
In a genre that is constantly insulted for being formulaic, we don’t need torture horror. Slasher films took twenty years for the formula to get used up and old. Torture horror took until the closing credits of Hostel. I am not ready to jump on the “It’s just torture porn” bandwagon, but I warn developers of these type of films that this genre has very few places to go unless we have a real interesting premise like in Martyrs (2008). I hate to paint it with the torture horror brush, but is the closest example of a movie with torture horror elements that transcended them with artistic brilliance.
My final words on this genre are “boycott Saw” and force the filmmakers to stop making them before they hurt themselves and the genre. And an open letter to Mr. Eli Roth: stick to making Thanksgiving. No Hostel III, please!
It’s bad enough that we imported half of Asia’s horror movies, our lack of originality has American horror producers also re-re-ing their own to get a new product on the screen. Before 2010 is out, almost every slasher icon from my childhood will have two versions. In the past ten years: Jason, Michael, Freddy, Leatherface and those good ol’ freaks from The Hills Have Eyes (1977) have all been copied and modernized. Why?
Money, of course. Sure, our country is founded on capitalism but is it so wrong to hold on to a smidge of idealism? You know, the idea that we could just leave a great movie untouched solely based on artistic appreciation. Insanity, I know.
I’ll bet that right now, someone somewhere is probably trying to get their hands on Leprechaun (1993). “Come on there’s been seventeen years worth of advances in CGI. It’s time for more fun with the most disgruntled leprechaun on screen since those damn kids tried to steal Lucky’s cereal.”
Rob Zombie Crawls Out Of The Mud
Okay, I know we spend a lot of time on this site being harsh to Rob Zombie, but I feel it’s honestly with the love of a disappointed parent. His awesome music populated the background of my high school years and we all marveled at his talent when we found out he had hands in creating the peyote dream from Beavis and Butthead Do America (1996). Obviously a talented artist, Zombie making a film made sense, and since teen horror was ruling the day when he announced his project, horror fans waited for Rob to arrive with it like Moses coming back down from Sinai.
Instead of a leader to bring us into a new age of horror, we got an inexperienced filmmaker unloading a poorly edited mess of tied up cheerleaders, people in bunny costumes, strange misplaced monsters, dream sequences, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre scenarios. Was it supposed to be a joke? Was it supposed to be scary? I would just like to ask him in the most serious way possible what he was trying to do.
The house was not only packed with too many corpses, but too many characters, too many clichés, too much fluff in general. The best way I can put it is the parts that were original made no sense or were tonally awkward, and everything else was very unoriginal. Part of me thinks it was supposed to be some kind of homage, but to this day I’m not sure.
The Devil’s Rejects illustrated a little bit of a learning curve on Zombie’s part. The film’s opening sequence wastes most of his irrelevant characters and plot elements with Swat team gunfire, and to his credit, everything that remains resembles a tighter narrative structure and manageable character development. Wisely, Zombie even throws in Ken Foree, portraying a pimp – the film’s best character – for good measure. Even though this piece resembles a film, at least, and had some redeeming value, I still think it illustrated that Zombie had a bit to learn about being scary, directing, writing, etc…
Then he moved on to Halloween, which is a move that baffles me. For a guy that loves film and the horror genre to not realize that remakes are what’s wrong with the industry is beyond me. Furthermore, Zombie has barely been able to put together a decent vision of his own, before he started making a mockery of someone else’s.
The main issue with Zombie’s films thus far is not so much his directing as it is his writing. Particularly with The Devil’s Rejects and Halloween, Zombie illustrated that he at least has an eye for shot composition and pacing. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit here because he had cinematographers work on both of these projects too. What has remained painfully constant is his penchant for mistaking sleazy hick dialogue for disturbing dialogue. The entire opening sequence of Halloween is unintentionally laugh-out-loud funny because it tries so hard to disturb us by showing poor little Michael and his trashy family. The dialogue (and miserable acting) is ridiculous and just goes to show that Zombie was using the same shtick found in his previous films. Granted, with Halloween he’s taken a stab at character development, but the results were just more clichés.
With the next ten years about to start, Rob should focus on his own work (better yet music, but if he absolutely MUST keep making horror films…) and something simple. Maybe a low budget flick with like five characters would be good at least until you get the hang of this film maker thing.
Real Zombies Crawl Out Of The Mud
The 90’s were cruel to the working class Joe of the undead world. No one had heard from Our Father, George Romero, Hallowed be his name, and his holy trinity seem destined to stay that way, just three movies. Then rumors were pushed about that he was being considered to take the helm on the Resident Evil (2002) project. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Instead we got Anderson, Milla and an average zombie movie franchise that may not have been great, but it got people interested in Zombies again (and we love Milla).
Then, 28 Days Later blew the walls off the genre. It may not have been living dead , but zombie horror had entered the twenty first century at warp speed and this excellent film kicked the doors wide open for fast zombies and a Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake. Most fans of the original shrugged and said, “Well not as awful as I thought it was going to be,” but more importantly the interest in hordes of zombies was poppin’ again.
The return of the king came the next year with Land of the Dead (2005). Romero got to play with slow zombies and a big budget (for him), and the film itself was a decent entry into his mythos, at very least offering better closure to fans than Day of the Dead (1985). Romero since then has released two indie films in his universe – Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009). While these have fallen upon mixed reviews, the importance of Romero doing what he does best should not be overlooked.
Zombies are pretty much everywhere now. Video games, board games, dozens of straight to DVD titles line the shelves of stores with happy rotting faces racing there covers. Even zombie comedies have become popular. Zombieland (2009) and Shaun of the Dead (2003), both zombie-comedies, were not only hilarious and excellent films but also two of the best horror films I’ve seen in years.
With these positives growing from the seeds of Resident Evil and House of the Dead (2003) it goes to show that bad movies can sometimes help to refresh a genre. Hey, maybe that’s what our buddy Rob Zombie is hoping for…maybe not.
So, are we hopeful for the next ten years of horror? It is hard to be. One of the most telling events of where the genre is going was Let The Right One In (2008) being slated for Americanization in the form of Let Me In (2010). Originality is not spilling all over with the blood here in The States these days. Recently, fans of the genre are turning to foreign films because of their ability to be different, raw, and generally less influenced by the norms and taboos us Yanks are used to, which probably is what makes the need to import every decent horror film over here that much more offensive. Not everything good has to be seen through American-goggles.
We have to sadly acknowledge that the remake machine isn’t stopping anytime soon and focus our attention toward foreign and indie horror. There’s a lot of crap to sort through, but there are still some gifted horror filmmakers out there somewhere waiting to take the genre in new directions.
And what would a end-of-the-decade blog post be without a list or two. Here are our favorite films of the decade. I think we already give enough attention to the worst of the genre around here, so we’ll forego that list. Here’s to hoping for a new movement of originality in our already saturated genre.
Happy New Year.
10. The Hamiltons (2005)
9. The Children (2008)
8. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
7. Dead Girl (2008)
6. The Descent (2005)
5. The Orphanage (2007)
4. Shaun of the Dead
3. Land of the Dead (2005)
2. Let The Right One In (2008)
1. 28 Days Later (2002)
10. Paranormal Activity (2009)
9. Frailty (2001)
8. Dog Soldiers (2002)
7. [REC] (2007)
6. Ginger Snaps (2002)
5. Martyrs (2008)
4. 28 Days Later (2002)
3. The Descent (2005)
2. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
1. Let The Right One In (2008)
And these movies got way too many props:
1) Inside (2007)
2) High Tension (2003)
3) Midnight Meat Train (2008)
With another Night of the Living Dead “Re-Re” on its way, a prequel called “Origins”, I think a retrospective is in order. Fans of the Night of the Living Dead (1968), remember Sheriff McClelland’s memorable, comical, but awkwardly perfect description of the members of the undead horde, “They’re Dead, They’re All Messed up.” Director George A. Romero himself had said the line was improvisation, but something you just have to go with when you get on film. Comical, memorable, awkwardly perfect, and something you just have to go with when you get on film says it all about the experience that is Night of Living Dead.
Watching it today—as I did on Halloween with my girlfriend’s mother and her boyfriend whose response “it’s so terrible it’s wonderful”—I am often surprised myself how slow paced it seems. The laughable dialogue and lack of urgency that occur as Ben saunters around the house and Barbara babbles lingers and wastes away the tension. I can remember me and Matt watching it when we were still in college and Matt kept repeating Ben’s comical sentiment to Barb, “you should just calm down,” despite the half-a-dozen flesh eating corpses gathering outside. The pacing, tone of this movie are awful by today’s standard, but somewhere in between the bad dialogue, over dramatic library music, and general fluff there is some secret enchantment that bewitches generations of horror fanatics. This is our Citizen Kane (1941), our Lawrence of Arabia (1962), our Casablanca (1942); any educated horror fan knows you can’t have a discussion about the greatest horror films ever made without including it.
NOTLD’s magic, and a mishap with copyright that caused its slip into public domain, has kept film makers dragging this piece out of the grave for forty years. Including the recently discussed Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated (2009): NOTLD 68’ has been remade, reimagined, released, and retooled about a dozen times. Notable entries include Tom Savini’s 90’ version, John A. Russo’s editing room butcher job: Night of the Living Dead 30th Anniversary Edition(1999), and (shudder-cringe) Night of Living Dead 3D(2006).
While the Savini version at least had some merit and kept it in the ‘Romero troupe family,’ the other two productions are vomit-in-your-mouth worthy. Russo’s 1999 re-cut of the film actually tried to add what can only be called a sub-story by injecting new footage alongside the original. The new stuff includes a fanatical priest, an undead dinner waitress, a car accident scene, and an unnecessary back story for the film’s first on screen zombie, not to mention some of the worst acting and directing I’ve ever seen. The new footage is glaringly obviously tacked on, and is completely detached from the original survivors. If someone accidentally recorded an episode of That 70’s Show in the middle of my old NOTLD VHS I’d find it less jarring.
NOTLD 3D is just as bad in a different kind of way. At times its slower than the original as a bunch of pot heads sit around, bitch about nothing, and WATCH THE ORIGINAL ON TV. I wish I was making this stuff up. Really, it’s nothing more than a new movie injected into that title with 3D, unnecessary gratuitous sex, bad writing, and Sid Haig. Hey anything with Sid can’t be bad; isn’t that right, Captain Spaulding?
With every horrible thing that has been done to this movie, I’m not too excited about the currently filming Night of the Living Dead: Origins that claims to bring NOTLD into what they’re calling an American Anime, whatever that means. While I’m too numb to be appalled anymore, I think the greater contemplation is what makes Romero’s 68’ vision a piece destined for strange immortality. Why can’t we just shoot it in head and let it die? Why is it so ingrained in the culture that’s constantly referenced, parodied, and even it’s made into a commonly used adjective: eg. “Before a cup of coffee I walk around like Night of the Living Dead.” It’s part of our culture, because somewhere in that grainy old skippy black and white footage and archaic soundtrack is a secret spell, a formula that every horror director wants but few have been able to even imitate. Just like Romero implied about the Sheriff’s line, it’s just a touch of serendipity and a magical moment in time that happens.
Metaphorically, while growing up we all have accept the fact that you can’t go home especially if the windows are boarded up and cold fingers are scratching on the door. We need to mature past NOTLD dead and treat it like that faded photo of the first Christmas we were old enough to remember, which we gaze upon whenever we need to remember and feel nostalgic, but how often do we use a cheap magic marker to scribble on the photo some crude drawings of presents we wish we got that day?
Something is innately scary about children. Their big eyes look into you without the inhibitions of society and their unbridled excitement for newness is ever-present, making them the manifestation of unpredictability. Not to mention the sound of their laughter that can echo like distant bells. Tom Shankland and Paul Andrew Williams tapped these veins dry to create their film, The Children (2008).
The premise is simple. A family, two couples and their young children, gather in the country for a holiday. The heroine Casey, (Hannah Tointon), is a late teen or early twenty-something who is stuck in the middle and is plotting to sneak out mid-weekend to go to a party. Everything is bumping along nicely for everyone until the children start acting oddly and contracting a strange virus.
The build up on this one is like an over-inflated balloon that you keep blowing air into. The tension escalates and even the meaningless subplots make you uncomfortable. One of the mothers keeps forcing her child to play with her sick cousin with the promise of golden stars in an artificial rewards system. The parents make thinly veiled shots at each other about their parenting techniques, and Casey sneaks off to the green house to smoke pot with her uncle that she seems sexually stimulated by.
Once this discomfort inflates past capacity, the balloon pops with a sledding “accident” that leaves one of the parents dead and two of the children missing. Full diapers hit the fan soon after, as the children start outwardly attacking their adults and setting traps for them, breaking their legs and tearing their hoop earrings out with their mitten fingers.
While I think the plot needs to be experienced and can be done no more justice through summary, this movie has many other strengths. Every image of gore is medically precise and wince invoking. Not a single drop of cartoon blood is spilled. The Children uses the proper recipe of gore to avoid the comic book feel that some blood bath movies start to lapse into by the midway points.
The cinematography is also visually appealing from beginning to end. No wasted scenes were filmed to get a person from A to B. Every image blends into next with an artistic ease as the plot gets more intense and the tension builds to one of the most downright creepy endings I’ve seen in a long while. Most importantly, The Children doesn’t cop out with that last scare, that clichéd no-one-lives and “ha ha you thought they won” BS, that every horror movie feels the need to do. The final scene is much more thoughtful than that and left up to personal interpretation.
Too often, the most horrifying thing about video game movies is that they’re actually made, and, not to mention, given an astronomical budget to exist and promote awful film making. Why is this always the case? One, no one has stopped Uwe Boll, the genius behind such “masterpieces” as House of the Dead (2003), when on basic principal alone he should have been put on an asteroid with no cameras years ago… Two, often the games chosen are popular but have a weak narrative, and the fact is that video game movies have a build in audience, the most loyal-build in audience, stereotypically – the youth. Why waste time making a good product when a half-assed one is guaranteed to sell?
These days, I do my best to hold my Wii-mote in front of my eyes, secure the wrist strap around my neck, and try to ignore these disappointing money making demons, creatures with the ability to ruin two beloved mediums in one swing. However, there happens to be a trinity of survival horror titles in the works that has me more anxious then usual.
Resident Evil Afterlife (2010) is already filming as we speak, and, at this point, I’m almost too numb from this series to get fired up. The RE movies have all but formed their own mythos, centered around everyone’s favorite T-Virus-infected-chick, Milla’s “Alice.” While Fans tend to be split on whether or not these flicks should even exist, most can agree that each sequel has declined in the decent writing and general relevance department.
Afterlife has raised the stakes, however, by promising to finally introduce Chris Redfield – the character that probably should have controlled the narrative flow of the franchise like three movies ago. Wentworth Miller—of “isn’t that the guy from Prison Break?” fame—will be portraying the zombie killing machine while his evil counterpart, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) will hopefully play a more pivotal role than he did in Resident Evil: Extinction (2007).
The direction of Wesker may be the deciding factor on whether this film bites worse than the complication of its walking corpses. Since Extinction offered nothing more than a cameo, Afterlife has the potential to do up his over-the-top-eviler-than-Hitler presence with a hint of British comedian wit and a generally cooler than the other side of the pillow attitude. At very least, Paul, do a better job than you did with Shang Tsung.
My final note on Resident Evil is that it’s the lesser of many evils in a world of terrible video game adaptations. However, it often fails by trying to maintain a strange balance between being its own entity and placating gamers by injecting familiar faces for the sake of it and only offering average zombies at best. The series has a few positives – they all start will with “M” and end with “-ovich”. It’s no secret that the girl that we’ve all been in love with since Fifth Element (1997) has been carrying this franchise with her unique screen presence, ability to make Alice her own, and her short dresses with thigh-hi boots might weigh slightly on our minds, just perhaps. Either way, I’ll probably be in the seats when this one hits the screen.
Next up, and ironically linked to RE by Wentworth Miller, is Bioshock. Slated for 2010, Bioshock is supposed to bring the 2007 sub-sea utopia gone haywire video game to the silver screen with Miller portraying the mostly faceless and completely voiceless lead while Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is set to direct. They, and everyone else involved with this project, have serious work to do.
Bioshock (2007 VG) set a new standard for what video game storytelling and clever point of view could accomplish; the film should set the bar no lower. Somewhere between Ayn Rand’s philosophies, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and Stephen King’s The Shinning, is Rapture looming beneath the sea, its people obsessed with violence, power, and plastic surgery in a shaken snow globe unseen by the world as bloody flakes of torn skin flutter down about the chaos. The setting of a fallen Utopian city rotting in a bubble beneath the sea is going to be an endless challenge to portray, not to mention the millions of ways they could mess up the entire story line.
Fresnadillo, whose most notable work was the not-as-good-as-its-predecessor 28 Weeks Later (2007), has his work cut out for him, but more important than just his direction is that the project has to be taken on by people who care about its art and story. This isn’t the type of movie that anyone has the right to package up into a nice little American-action flick package with a PG-13 rating and a level of intelligence to match. Give us a thoughtful, creepy, darkly funny, and brilliant film that deserves the name Bioshock. Nothing less on this one, please!
The last bit of flesh on the chopping block is EA’s Dead Space (2008 VG). While this one has only just been announced and projects a sometime in 2011 release date, I already have concerns. The something-has-gone-wrong or the we’ve-lost-contact-with-the-space-station-send-a-team-to-investigate plot has been done in Hollywood many times. Most fans of the series recognize that Dead Space’s environment and moods owe a great deal to the Alien franchise and Event Horizon (1997). To make this game a successful film, the creators need to focus on the original aspects that the Dead Space universe has brought to the table.
Since this series has already produced an animated film Dead Space: Downfall (2008), writers already have a touch stone, but a good adaptation needs to go beyond Downfall’s bloodbath violence. With psychological horror, government conspiracy, religions fanatics, and reanimated corpses with ridiculously long claws, the creators will have plenty of material to mold. Molding it into a shape that resembles something watchable, deep, scary and not just a laser light show is another story.
Video game movies have consistently been a mess. I’m not even going to get into Super Mario, Double Dragon, or Alone in the Dark, but with the rise of this triad, I’m hoping that at least one of the three pleasantly surprises me. Is that just too much too hope for? -Sigh- Probably.
This is old news by now but I’m excited that us lucky folks in the New York City metro area will be able to see Paranormal Activity. If you haven’t already heard, this movie is being touted as the “next Blair Witch” type movie and is said to be tremendously scary. The movie is comprised of footage of a couple trying to document paranormal experiences that was supposedly “found” by the San Diego Police Department.
I’ve read that Blair Witch comparisons aren’t necessarily fair but this movie is going to be compared to it anyway. I don’t mind the comparison, personally. That is, it’s not off-putting. I was one of those people who loved seeing The Blair Witch Project in the theater. It scared the crap out of me and from what I’ve heard thus far, Paranormal Activity is just as scary.
It was released in select markets a few weeks ago and the producers encouraged people to demand it in other cities. If the site gets 1,000,000 demands, the film will open nationwide. They’re currently close to 400,000. Get on there and vote! Official site: http://www.paranormalmovie.com.
That’s right folks, according to a Variety article, plans to remake Dario Argento’s classic are still underway. Apparently, David Gordon Green will be writing the script. Green directed the pretty hysterical Pineapple Express and wrote a few drama/romance/thrillers (Snow Angels, All The Real Girls, Undertow), none of which I’ve seen. I guess I’m somewhat intrigued as to how someone would approach rewriting Suspiria.
Out of the Argento catalog, I suppose Suspiria most appealing for a remake. It’s a huge cult favorite, is visually stunning, and has a linear plot structure. Amongst other things, what worries me most is the potential for the remake to forget what made the source material so special – a deep study of atmosphere and color. If you haven’t seen the original Suspiria, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s amongst Argento’s most accessible work, has a great soundtrack, and it illicits some genuine scares.
Here’s a quick plot summary: A young American dancer travels to Europe to join a famous ballet school run by the strange Madame Blanc. While the young American is trying to settle in at the ballet school, she hears strange noises and is troubled by bizarre occurrences. She eventually discovers that the school is merely a front for a much more sinister organization.
My favorite filmmaker, Rob Zombie, has released a new image from Halloween 2 (courtesy of Bloody Disgusting) which is set to open on August 28th. This new still shows Michael in his long-haired child stage restraining an adult Laurie. I assume this is some kind of dream sequence, as this situation is chronologically impossible. But then again, with Rob Zombie you never know. Also this synopsis:
“Unleashing a trail of terror that only horror master Rob Zombie can, Myers will stop at nothing to bring closure to the secrets of his twisted past. But the town’s got an unlikely new hero, if they can only stay alive long enough to stop the unstoppable.”
I agree with one thing here. Rob Zombie definitely can unleash a trail of terror – namely, his career as a filmmaker. Truly terrifying. But despite the fact that it will probably be about 101 minutes of rednecks, cliches and a few jump scares, I have to go see it. I suffer for my hobbies.
In somewhat happier news (depending on your stance), Platinum Dunes released its first image of Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger in their 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Part of me wants to not like this movie because I’m generally annoyed at remakes and “re-imaginings”. While the original NOES is a great genre-influencing film, as the series progressed, Freddy became a caricature of himself. The terrifying Freddy of 1984 was replaced with a sarcastic ghoul who spouts one-liners.
From what I’ve seen and read so far, it seems like Freddy is returning to form with this new film. He looks pretty damn creepy in this shot anyway. I’m down for this one. Hopefully we’ll get a trailer soon.
Let me start this off with a disclaimer – when I was contacted by Phil Messerer, the writer, director, and producer of Thicker Than Blood: The Vampire Diaries Part I, I was at best skeptical. I’ve watched a lot of bad low-budget horror movies over the years and let’s be honest, they usually suck. They’re riddled with cliches, lousy acting, and miserable production quality. I’m always willing to give things a chance but to be completely honest, I do tend to go into most things with a bias one way or another.
Also, vampires are everywhere these days it seems. From Twilight to True Blood to Let the Right One In, everyone is competing for a place in this sub-genre, some with more success than others. The point is, as a writer/director it is difficult to say something about vampires that hasn’t already been explored to death (no awful pun intended).
Surprisingly, what I found with Thicker Than Water was completely unexpected – a competent narrative, solid acting, creative art direction, and some genuinely funny moments. Messerer succeeds by crafting his tale less around scares than around the changing dynamic of a dysfunctional family thrown into a moral dilemma when 16-year-0ld Helen Baxter (Devon Bailey) becomes a vampire.
The film centers primarily around Helen’s twin, Lara (Eilis Cahill), a socially-awkward goth girl who literally prays to an Anne Rice shrine, tries to cast Wicca spells and secretly wishes to be accepted by her peers. We are introduced to the family’s world through a series of often funny monologues from Lara. What I like about this is that Messerer instantly begins to give his characters depth, which unfortunately is usually lacking in the genre. And beyond Lara, The Baxters all have their quirks. Helen is a beautiful, blonde goody two shoes whose personality stands in stark contrast to Lara’s. Their brother Raymond is a scientific genius and closet homosexual with a stockpile of gay porn hidden under his bed. The family’s matriarch is a former Ukrainian Olympic figure skater who gave up her craft to marry, which she sadly regrets. And the father is a typical American man who “likes to take the bull by the horns”.
The Baxter family dynamic goes from dysfunctional to insane after the parents decide to separate and Lara’s jealousy of Helen continues to mount. After Lara casts an “ancient anal acne” spell, Helen begins gushing blood from her nose and subsequently dies from blood loss. Oops. Later that night, Helen shows up back at the house covered in blood and screaming incoherently about killing someone.
Raymond analyzes Helen’s blood and discovers that it is infected with an unidentified virus that feasts on red blood cells and is destroyed by ultraviolet light. Apparently, Lara has made Helen a vampire. The family is then challenged by a heavy moral dilemma. Do they become serial killers in order to feed Helen or do they let her starve? I won’t delve into plot details much further, in order to avoid spoiling anything.
However, there is an interesting sub-plot (that ultimately ties in with the Baxters) about how the Mayans sacrificed humans to a female vampire held captive in one of the temples at Chichen Itza. Once the Mayan civilization crumbled, the vampire escaped. The legend and life of this vampire was researched and made into a book by an author who apparently committed suicide after its publication. He was found missing multiple limbs. Strange suicide method, no? Following his death, all of the books were destroyed except for one, which just so happens to end up in a store called The Freakatorium in Lara’s hometown of Sugar Loaf, NY. While this story adds depth to the plot, it also acts as a vehicle for Messerer to show off some damn cool etchings done by artist Rostislav Spitkovsky.
Aside from its unconventional vampire plot, Thicker Than Water really derives its strengths from solid dark humor. Messerer does an excellent job of making the viewer laugh at a pretty awful situation. There’s something undeniably funny as the family sits down to Christmas dinner in a basement room where the walls are covered in blood, Helen is rocking and twitching uncontrollably due to lack of nourishment (blood), and holiday music plays in the background. It’s an awesome juxtaposition of convention and dysfunction.
While Thicker Than Water is not based on gore, visual arts director Randall Leddy manages to pull off some impressive effects with a minimal budget. There are some amputations, stabbings, face removals and decapitations that look better than some effects I’ve seen in big-budget films. I admire effects artists who don’t rely on computers to make us squirm. Say what you will, but the best gore effects are almost always done with latex and fake blood.
Thicker Than Water does have its weak points – an over-the-top Cajun vampire and some last minute revelations that seemingly come from nowhere – but overall, it’s a solid movie. There are a few awkward audio transitions between shots, but nothing that detracts from the film as a whole. The score throughout is well executed, particularly the classical music. If you’re interested, the film can be viewed on demand at Amazon or check out the official site. Clearly, Messerer has a knack for screenwriting and the ability to infuse an often stale sub-genre with some new life and laughs. Next time he releases something, I’m going to be less skeptical.
Just returned from a week-long vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which was awesome but that’s off topic. Before leaving for my trip, I attended Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors for one day in New York City. This was my first fan convention and I’m not going to lie – I’ve always shied away from them because the idea of going to one makes me self conscious. Would my friends think I’m a weirdo? Maybe. Maybe not. Would the convention hall be loaded with crazy horror fans? Yes. But wait – I’m one of them. I don’t dress up like Leatherface or Freddy in my spare time, but I’m just as crazy as anyone else who attends these conventions. So, with (most of) my self-consciousness in check, I went for it.
I was initially drawn by the guest list – Benicio Del Toro, Tobe Hooper, Dario Argento, Tom Savini, Doug Bradley and dozens of other genre icons. Held at the Javits Center, I envisioned a sprawling utopia of vendors selling DVD’s and merchandise, displays of movie props, stars signing autographs, presentations. What I found was a bit more humbling. The event was held in one of the Javits Center’s smaller rooms, featuring no more than 15 vendors selling DVD’s at outrageous prices. A few dozen fans watched a panel of speakers in a separate auditorium. Needless to say, I was underwhelmed from the get go but I had already purchased my Tobe Hooper and Doug Bradley autograph tickets so I was determined to give this thing a shot.
Walking around, there were tons of crazy horror fans including a guy dressed up as Leatherface (butcher apron and mask included), a Jason impersonator, women clad in Renaissance dresses, men wearing solid black contact lenses, and heavily tattooed/pierced body art advocates. And then this woman. I have no comment.
Amidst the overpriced DVD vendors were some makeup and prop artists demonstrating their craft by painting extremely realistic wounds, bruises and sores on fans. I stood and watched these guys for quite a while. It was interesting to see what goes in to creating some of the effects that make horror movies come to life. Check out those heads!
Unfortunately, both Argento and Del Toro were not scheduled to appear that day, but I was happy to meet Tobe Hooper, Doug Bradley, and Tom Savini. Hooper apparently has a habit of canceling his appearances at these conventions according to Jim, a horror convention fanatic who stood next to me in line. Jim told me that he has traveled as far as Los Angeles to attend these events. He’s met George Romero, Dario Argento, Robert Englund, Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, you name it - but never Tobe Hooper. Apparently I got lucky on my first trip to a horror convention.
Despite his reputation for cancellations, Hooper was an extremely pleasant and friendly guy who seemed to genuinely care about the fans he met. He spent several minutes talking to some fans, made an effort to find the perfect place to sign each item, and graciously posed for photos. It’s nice to see a celebrity without an ego. Though he was happy to talk, of course I got within two feet of him and realized I had nothing to say. What am I going to say to the creator of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? “I love your movies” is what came out. How’s that for originality? Way to hit him with something unique, Matt. Here we are together, cinematic genius and mute moron:
Tom Savini was equally as friendly. Doug Bradley was pleasant enough but seemed more focused on getting out of there than conversing with Hellraiser fans. Betsy Palmer, who played Mrs. Vorhees in the original Friday the 13th looks nearly unchanged in the last 29 years.
Oh yeah. I almost forgot that Gwar was there, clad in ridiculous outfits as usual. Check out the lead singer – thong and huge plastic genitals included.
I wouldn’t say the day was a bust but it wasn’t amazing either. Apparently L.A.’s version of this event is much larger and more fun but unlike Jim, I will not be traveling 3,000 miles to attend. Attending the event gave me some insight about the convention circuit and allowed me to meet some fellow horror fanatics. It also encouraged me to not take myself too seriously. I’m a nerd and a fanatic at heart. And that extends beyond horror movies. I’ve always been obsessive about video games (especially Final Fantasy), books, movies, and collectibles. There’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe I should give myself a break sometimes.