Saturday, October 31, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Eden Lake

2008, James Watkins (The Woman in Black) -- download

A movie back from when Michael Fassbender was still a relatively unrecognizable face.... wait, what? Fassbender was Azazael in that British TV show Hex ?!?! My power of recognition has failed me !!

Ahem.  So, the final one. The last of the series. The best for the... oh  no, not really. In fact, it flew in the face of everything we avoid in this series, i.e. torture porn, but we couldn't stop watching. It was not a great movie but it was gripping, and I really had no clue where it would go, given this was not from the Fassbender star machine.

Fassbender and Jenny (Kelly Reilly; Mary from the RDJ Sherlock Holmes) are on a weekend trip to a flooded quarry where he and his scuba buddies used to go. Its a remote place, a romantic place away from civilization. Keyword civilized. This movie is the British equivalent to the American movies where people vacation in Alabama foothills and bump into banjo playing rednecks. But the rural chavs they run into are a hell of a lot more menacing than any inbred yokels.

It starts with foul mouthed kids at the beach. After a bit of a confrontation and Fassbender's attempt to be a diplomatic 90s guy, avoiding violence but only garnering more, the kids steal their car and gear. One accidental dead dog later and the leader of these kids is going nutzo. They chase the couple through the overgrown public park with intent to kill. What started as relatively harmless harassment becomes murderous torture, after they capture Fassbender and the leader records each of his minions cutting or stabbing him, so none will be exempt from the action. Jenny has to watch from her hidden viewpoint.

It was a gruesome movie where the city dwelling upper middleclass folk fear for their lives against the underprivileged. Really, that was the message. Even the quiet nerdy kid betrays Jenny when set against the sociopathic kids, and only gets a bucket of gas on his head for reward. City folk always feel a sense of superiority when comparing themselves to the country living folk, especially if none of them are stereotypes of friendly farming. This just took the idea and ran with it, and I know at least a few people who would probably never go camping after seeing this.

The movie does something unexpected for me, as I hadn't reminded myself Fassbender was still relatively unknown. They kill him. Sorely wounded during the stump & barbed-wire torture, he actually passes when Jenny runs for help. And after he dies, they pore the before mentioned gas on him with the idea of burning all evidence of their crimes. Jenny escapes, runs for the rest of the night before being rescued by the brother of one of the kids, who is out looking for them --- its after dark, after all and they are kids all alone in the woods.

And then she is brought back to the house so she can rest, cleanup and call the cops. Until she realizes the parents of the rambunctious psychos are all in the room with her. How do you think that will turn out?  Exactly.

Friday, October 30, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Late Phases

2014, Adrián García Bogliano -- download

So, follow werewolves on a train with werewolves in a retirement village. Yes, seriously.

In the world of indie horror, often the concept is king. The execution is secondary, because getting enough funding to hire & film is primary and what is left over is used for effects and whatever. This time it really shows. They pump all the budget into the skin ripping scenes, ever popular since The Howling and very very little to the actual were. Its a little better than the man in a fur suit from Blood Moon but not much better.

Marmy downloaded this one because it stars Nick Damici from Stake Land. He is not old enough to be playing the retired Vietnam veteran in this movie, but add a bit of white makeup to his hair and we are supposed to buy it. I didn't.

Basically a young guy, Ethan Emry who bought it after only one episode on The Walking Dead dumps his dad in a nice, small retirement village on the edge of a big, bad wood. Residents keep on being eaten by a wild dog, one that jumps fences, plows through doors and rips the residents to shreds. But the local sheriff doesn't care. At first I thought he must be in on it, but no, the movie isn't that smart. They want to stress this is the place where people go to die and dispense with any plot holes that might create.

Its a terrible movie. Damici shows up, angry at his son, angry and snippy at everyone else, but kicks it into high gear after hearing his neighbour torn apart. Oh, forgot to mention -- he is blind and refuses a cane (even though its been years) and only gets really angry after his dog is torn apart. No, this is no John Wick. So, Viet Vet (are Vietnam vets still a thing in anyone's mind?) finds the local silver bullet smith (yes, the town has one) and goes up against the born again Christian werewolf, said man in the fur suit. And some senior citizen weres he creates for good measure. The vet defeats them and dies in uniform. Sigh.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Days of Halloween 2015: Howl

2015, Paul Hyett (special effects guy on a ton of stuff) -- download

Speaking of werewolves; werewolves on a train !!  Followed soon after by weresnakes on a... ahh, skip it.

Yeah, this one, in premise, is kind of lame. Its a closed room story where a train breaks down in a wooded area with a legendary breakdown years ago, where lots of people unexplainedly died. Guess what, this one will probably be unexplained as well.

The thing about werewolf movies is whether you go Full Wolf or not. Most go mid-Wolf, which is a hairy human body with a wolf head. Some have the conversion to full, because its easier to CGI in stunt wolves. And then some go with the icky hybrid, some they can highlight that they have a good special effects guy. And considering Hyett's background in rubber monsters, this one better look good. They kind of do, in that weird, elongated merging of beast and man look.

So, commuters on a train to or from London... I have to admit, I only wandered in after the credits had rolled. It was the end of this run and I was running out of energy and not committing [ed note. kind of like writing these]. And I didn't think that this was going to require a lot of brain investment. I missed how the train breaks down, but driver (8?) Alfred the Butler (Sean Pertwee playing the recognizable face) gets out to inspect. Munch munch. Yes, he only took the role as a brief appearance; easy paycheck, his name on the credits did their job. Now onto munching the unknowns.

Closed rooms always have a rag taggle of people -- the asshole, the whiny bitch (get it get it !!), the old folks and the tough guy. And of course, the middle of the road man or woman -- usually the hero(es). They are all jammed together, annoyed their commute home has been interrupted followed by annoyed they are all being eaten. They squabble, bitch at each other and only after a few losses, band together to defend themselves. P.S. Why do they continue to sit with their backs to the many many windows on a train?

Like most horror movies of this ilk, the monsters hide in the bushes until a key point in the story, and then we get a full on reveal. We get to see the monster effects in its full glory, and while technically its rather good, man are they icky. Think elongated beast people with not wolfy but bestial heads, pale skin and long claws. As the train is not expected to have a lot of silver bullets, this myth is sidestepped and they just smash a were until he is pulp. I never understood how massive amounts of damage were not going to kill a monster only susceptible to one element -- either you go with instantaneous healing or unbreakable skin. But if you crush his skull with a fire extinguisher, I am not sure how you heal that.

This movie was as fun as you would expect a "werewolves on a ________" movie to be, with no real introspection on the genre, just slashing, munching tension and action.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Wer

2013, William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside) -- download

More werewolves!

Back when Marmy and I were getting to know each other, she mentioned a vampire interest. It was the Anne Rice era, so I bought her some books. Lots of books. In contrast, I mentioned my love of werewolves and she got me a copy of The Werewolf of Paris. I loved it. But this is how memory works; I was convinced it was a fictionalized account of the Beast of Gevaudan, an historical account of a large wolf in south-central France, that killed many people. Alas, no, no connection at all. Memory can be funny that way, as I now have no recollection of how I even know about this beast.

Wer is about a rather bestial looking man charged with the horridly brutal deaths of some campers, including their young son. The camping area happens to be near Gevaudan, which made me chuckle. AJ Cook (from Criminal Minds) is the American working as a defender in France and takes on this case; her focus is human rights issues, cases where it's likely her client will be taken advantage of. Talan suffers from a form of porphyria, which until now I knew only to be the vampire's disease, responsible for his abnormal hair growth and enlarged bone growth. Even without the accusations, Talan is a monster, over 6 feet with massive hands and a bestial look.

Of course, he is the monster.

The movie really picks up once it dispenses with the pseudo science misdirection and pseudo found footage. He doesn't so much as wolf out, but grow a little larger, a little hairier and immensely stronger. On France national TV he tosses about SWAT cops (hmm, I need to Google the French version) smashing them like so much rag dolls. AJ is no longer seeking to protect him but feels responsible for letting it get this far, including the fact her ex was scratched and is showing signs of the same infection. OK, a little pseudo science is left.

I never expect werewolf movies to be good, but if they have something I can sink my teeth into -- get it get it -- then I am happy. The depiction of Talan (talon! get it get it) is wonderful, a truly wolfish man with the strength of a bear. The brief scenes where his bones crack and reform as he expands are well done, subtle, without any skin pulling and shredding.

The movie ends with a cliffhanger, or at the very least, a hint of an opening to a sequel. There is a market for these movies in Europe, in Uwe Boll proves anything, and it was decently done instead of his horrendous productions.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: No One Lives

2012, Ryûhei Kitamura (Versus, The Midnight Meat Train) -- download

I haven't asked myself, "What has the director of 2000's Versus been up to?" but I should have. I loved that movie.

Too bad it was this.

Not that it is terrible, it just isn't very expansive. It fills the gap of serial killer versus reprobate criminals that we didn't know we needed. But it doesn't go for entirely stylish or any sense of new. But there is the keyword versus so there is that.

No need to do a detailed recap or plot; I am just going to spoil the hell out of it.

Luke Evans (he did this right after The Raven) is a serial killer who collects beautiful young women, converts them and has them help collect the next in line. They are eating at a diner when they run afoul of some thuggish criminals who don't all get along. Do criminal gangs ever do? Lee Tergesen (who will always be Chett from Weird Science [TV not movie] to me) desperately tries to steer them away from the handsome stranger but nope, they have to mess with him. Flynn, the sociopathic takes Evans and his girlfriend and, inadvertently, the girl he has in the trunk of his car. Of course Evans escapes.

Thus begins a typical slasher style flick where the Bad Guy (Evans) picks off the "kids" one by one. But the kids are also bad guys, so we are left with a weird sensation of not being sure who to root for. No, not the debate where a couple of the kids are assholes, but these are out and out Bad Guys, burglars and murderers.

The movie is kind of gleeful in its dispatch of the kids (might as well continue to call them that), especially one particular gruesome scene where Evans emerges from the oversized body of one of them, naked and covered in blood. Like all psychopaths, he is calm and creative, dispatching each in his own particular way.

The hitch for the audience is that the girl in the trunk is also trying to escape both parties, and is rather resourceful herself.

As I said, its not an entirely bad movie, just not very expansive. And not completely innovative enough to fit into my purview of Small Film. It chooses to be gleeful, but I would have wanted it to be a little more tense, a little more filled with fear and rage. Alas, everyone is doing the utmost to be cool and charismatic.

In the end the girl in the trunk escapes.... and so does Evans. Sequel !!

Monday, October 26, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Hidden

2015, The Duffer Brothers -- download

Full disclosure. I may have marked these things for the date they were watched, but I am writing them days if not weeks after. Life, procrastination, whatever.

So, how appropriate that as I start a new po-ap (post apocalypse) game (Fallout 4) I am writing a bit on such a movie. A family living in a bunker, fearful of creatures that are stalking them in the world above. Short of food, low on patience, doing their best to stay positive. At least in the game, they get to come out.

There is something about bunker movies. Ever since Graig and I saw The Divide, the idea has sat in the back of my mind. Not that the idea has been captured a lot on film. But the isolation, the scarcity and the close quarters are something that make my gut twist. I wonder how the idea of bunkers ended with the close of the Cold War but we still tell  tales of them, which often leads to these bunkers being stale holdovers, replete with the aged resources. Will there ever be more tales of new bunkers, where people ride out the zombie plague or comet fall? Does the one from Lost count?

Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) and Andrea Riseborough (Oblivion) are keeping their daughter safe in the dark. The bunker is not so far below ground as they are not aware of the surface, so every day, nighttime or not, they keep alert to whomever could be hunting for them. The Breathers have been looking for them ever since whatever happened on the surface. We get the impression the Breathers may be monsters or merely the hungry infected. The family has rules: stay calm, stay quiet, stay alert and don't talked about the Breathers.

We get the occasional flashback, as the family deals with the breakdown of their stable if utterly soul sucking life. We learn of a disease, a distant thing but something looming closer. I have always liked the way information seeps in slowly, via the Internet and news, when we know that news would spread over social media like wild fire. Nobody would not know if something big was going on. Between flashbacks we see things going wrong, rats eating their food and fire destroying some prized possessions. And fire means smoke, and smoke escapes. And can be seen.

SPOILERS. Do I have to keep doing this?

The third act of the movie is the twist, the alteration of the direction the movie had taken. The Breathers have found them! And guess what, as I was beginning to suspect, they are not so much as monsters as they are.... us. Soldiers, the American government, are who is looking for them. Normal people. And if the soldiers are the normal ones, then... oh wait, that means... wow. Yep, the flashbacks to a disease spreading and the subsequent firebombing and blocking of the mountain pass reveal our lovely family to be the monsters. "Stay calm" was not just a way of staying hidden but kept the real horror of the disease in check -- rage virus. They suddenly get all veiny and powerful jumping on the pursuing soldiers, ripping them limb from limb.

I loved it, it was quite the turnaround. And so we didn't lose complete faith in the family, they are are able to draw it back, rein it in after the soldiers are dispatched. They may be the infected but they are still people. Somewhere in there. Hidden.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Bone Tomahawk

2015, S. Craig Zahler -- download

Yeah, Bone Tomahawk is more thriller than horror but it pushed all the buttons that a good horror movie should --- it elicited fear, tension, sympathy and gut churning revulsion at events taking place. It is a cowboy movie set near the end of the cowboy era, very close to the turn of the century. Life is more civilized than we expect from the Old West but not entirely so. But damn does Kurt Russel's Sheriff Hunt wear a tie nicely. And the moustache from The Hateful Eight.

Starting this one over; lost the thread of what I was saying. Part of writing these in blog post format, and not in any formal 'review' style is not being attached to any rules of what I am saying. But sometimes I have more to say than a simple recap; I want to actually have something to say.

The centre of this movie is a walk, a long, stressful, tension filled walk. A focus character has a broken leg that, frankly, needs sitting down. This is not the usual guts n grit character who walks off a bullet wound; well he is, but the point is that he shouldn't. Farmer O'Dwyer broke his leg falling off the roof and has what is technically called an open fracture, i.e. the bone came out. He really shouldn't be heading off as part of posse, but his wife has been taken. He's getting her back.

Taken by white painted, howling like beasts from hell, cannibalistic indians whom The Professor, the educated native in town, calls Troglodytes. David Arquette, playing his usual wrinkly nosed scuzzy character, led them to this town when he and his bushwhacking partner blundered into their burial grounds. Probably not burial grounds but that is the trope term for sacred lands marked by skulls and standing stones. The trogs attacked town to take back Arquette and took O'Dwyer's wife (town doctor) and the deputy as well. Sheriff Hunt, O'Dwyer (Patrick Wilson) and gentleman gunfighter John Brooder (Matthew Fox) head out, along with unrecognizable Richard Jenkins as Chicory, the old coot.

And they head west, into the hills, at first by horse, then through mischance, on foot. Horseback is bad enough for O'Dwyer but on foot is nigh impossible. Sweating, gritting teeth and sucking it up is what he does. And every rest, he collapses into exhaustion giving us time to listen to these cowboys have some of the best dialogue I heard all season. This may not be Tarantino but damn, its decent writing.

When O'Dwyer rebreaks his leg, and has to be left behind, I was on my last frayed nerve. Maybe it was the weeks of tense movies and intentional on edge feelings, or maybe its just the usual from work, but I was tense. And we haven't even met the cannibals yet. Yet, as his friends wander into the forsaken land to take on the trogs, he crawls after them.

The encounter with the trogs, the expected climax to the movie is just horrid. These are not just psychopathic cannibalistic indians gone wrong. They are all about the terror they cause before killing and eating their prey. They have modified their bodies with claws and horns and bones in their throats that allow for hellbeast howls. And titular bone tomahawk is used for horrific purposes. Of course, O'Dwyer rescues his wife but not without cost.

When the movie ended, we both let out a sigh of relief. It was intense. And I hope we get to see more movies with Kurt Russel's moustache.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Infini

2015, Shane Abbess -- Netflix

P.S. This is more recap with commentary, because I enjoyed so many of the little elements of this movie, but not the movie as a whole.

Monsters in Space !  Ever since Alien, the sub-genre of scifi horror feels required to play against it as a benchmark. Usually, they involve monsters that eat people or zombies or infections; in other words, anything that could be done on our home planet, but even more fun when transplanted onto an otherworldly location. I am OK with that, as I am always happy to toss a bit of space opera into my cereal bowl. Spaceships, technical readouts, pew pew guns and the cold dark of space. And the challenges of getting out there, of course.

Infini uses a rather unique idea of space travel, dispensing with big expensive spaceships travelling slowly via sublight engines or WHOOSHing via some sort of FTL -- this world uses teleportation. Transporters, or more precisely digital disintegration, transmission and reassembly move people and equipment from Earth to Out There. How they overcome the transmission speed issues (again, FTL ?) or deal with the aspects of souls or accidents where there ends up two of you, is not covered.  Neither is how they discover their transmission points. But this is common place tech, still dangerous, and there is always that chance you come through with your brain a bit scrambled.

Whit Carmichael works for a security company; dangerous work, but he needs the money as he has a new baby on the way. His first day on the job blows, as a squad returns from a mining planetoid with a case of the crazies. Guns fire, alarms go off, contamination is identified and the entire west coast base is being sterilized, lethally. With fire. But via a bit of jiggery pokery, a coworker activates Whit's teleport device and, poof, he is off to the mining complex, where it cannot be worse than what just happened to his base.

Flip scene to an east coast base where the Search & Rescue team is being scrambled. They got wind of the events on the west coast and are being sent to find any survivors at the mining base. Why? Why not just avoid the contaminated place? Because someone there has setup an automated transport of volatile substances which could take out a good amount of Earth upon arrival. So, go there, find survivors, turn off the automated transport. Search & Rescue also means armed to the teeth.

The team teleports and ... well, due to some unstable time dilation, its actually about a week since things went awry, even though its only been minutes since the west coast facility was turned into cinders. The base is a mess -- no oxygen, no power and bodies everywhere. In true Aliens fashion, the soldiers hack this terminal, flip this switch but are have no luck. But with the flashing of some terribly dated screens (separate commentary on how in order to reflect on Alien, all readouts have to look like 80s tech) and the sound of a dot matrix printer, bing! suddenly everything starts coming on. Whit was hiding inside the computer room, the sole survivor of the catastrophe here and had gone to computer school before finding more lucrative work in security. And he has a tale to tell, of people going mad, with his only recourse of blowing all the air out, freezing the crazies solid. He had mad computer skilz.

Thus begins (yeah yeah, long recap already, for just the setup) a typical infection / possession story, as once again the arriving team begins to go crazy and begin killing the others. But some don't go bonkers as quickly as others, so even though Whit knows he is infected, he wants to stay calm and try and work out what is going on. There is lots of gritting of teeth and fighting, weeding the team down to Whit and one other. Along the way they find out that the resource the mine had been digging up was also a lifeform that had the ability to take over and mimic cells it infected. But no, not a rehash of The Thing, but more taking control of the body from the inside out -- assimilation through biological replacement. All the meat of the movie is rather bland, typical of other movies, but then... the end.

You would think they would have the typical ending where they identify that this infection cannot be allowed to reach the Earth, that the only solution is for everyone to die. But no, Whit as the sole survivor just has an argument with himself, yelling to the he who he is becoming, and then slitting his own wrists.  He makes a very good point, that an alien life form that is smart enough (or engineered well enough) to replicate the cells of and become the host lifeform, then why does it have to use VIOLENCE to direct that assimilation? There are so many ways first contact could happen.

Maybe it was angry at being used as a power source, or maybe it was at the core of human beings to turn to violence, so the aliens just used that. But whatever the reason, Whit gets through and bing! everyone is alive. It was only a bad dream! Whit is confused, as his arm his healed but the sticky dried blood is still there. And everyone who was killed, or he killed, is standing there. And ready to go home. Teleportation in 10 minutes.

What? What about the evil, assimilating ice cube aliens? Did Whit get through? They obviously repaired everyone's dead bodies but ... but ... they can still come through and take over the Earth, right? Did Whit's monologue break the (newly formed) hearts of these aliens and convince them of the sanctity of life? As the gang fades away, Whit looks up to see said alien jelly ice cube creatures in  the shape of human beings. All is well.


Neat idea, badly played out, but neat idea.


Friday, October 23, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Demonic

2015, Will Canon -- download

Found footage. Yeah yeah, another season another, "its OK, its bad, its a novel use, its oh so tired." Meh, skip it. Its now no less a valid trope in horror movie making than The Last Girl, which also implies you can play around with the idea. Its no longer just the idea of piecing together a story purely from the footage that was found.

In Demonic, in the 80s, a girl invited a bunch of friends over to her lovely country house and then slaughtered them. Only one lived, and not the murderer. These days the house has been left untouched and unsold and is the local creepy place. A neighbour is sent by his wife to investigate some screams she heard from over there. And guess what, he finds bodies! And even stranger, he actually calls the cops before going deeper into the house and thus does not become a cliche opening murder scene.

Cop Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) shows up to find the scene -- bodies everywhere, obviously who were doing some sort of paranormal investigation. All but one. They drag him out, handcuff the poor kid, who is in shock, and begin the interrogation. And we flashback to the found footage, seen through the cameras of these college kids who are investigating the haunted house.

John, the survivor, is coaxed to venture into this house, by his girlfriend and her friends, because he has been having visions of his recently departed mother in that house. You see, she was the survivor of the 80s murders there. Instant conflict comes in the addition of ex-BF of John's GF running the investigation, and man, is he a dick. After a brief visit to the gas station trope, they set up in the house.

These kids are serious paranormal investigators, with all the right equipment, previous experience and some knowledge of spirit mythology & the other side. There were some ritualistic connections to the murders here and they hope to summon a spirit, but protect themselves from whatever evil caused the infamous acts. They know how to find the sensitive spots, summon ghosts and how to record them.

The movie progresses, flipping back and forth between, the cop investigating and the haunted goings on in the house, things get creepier and creepier. It does a good job of actually making us nervous, with creepy rooms and scare jumps and really, tangible stuff to scare the pants off these kids. And yet, they won't leave. Dickish Ex won't lose his valuable time just because the ghosts are a bit violent, but then they realize it had never been a seance for the recently departed, but a ritual for summoning something much worse. And guess what, they are recreating that fateful night.

You would think a movie like this would be all about the kids being killed off, one by one, but once its revealed that something much much worse than a ghost is involved, the movie shifts focus back to John and two more survivors, one being the dick. Demon possessed? GF is pregnant? The shift to a setup for forthcoming movies, or at least a legacy we can speculate about is great. So, they summoned a demon, the cops all saw the events happen, and cannot deny. What now? What goes into the report? How do they close the murder case? From a spooky ghost movie, I would swing the sequel into a haunting action movie, but that's me.

I liked this one, but as Kent knows, likely only because I was already spinning the continuing story in my head. Still, its decently done.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Henjel gwa Geuretel

2007, Pil-sung Yim -- download

Or Hansel & Gretel.

Again with the family focus, I really need to think back on western culture horror movies to see if the focus on family situations is as prevalent an element of their culture. Of course, many are seated in the conflicts between families, but I find that that is more about the development of the characters involved, rather than the primary focus. You build good characters by giving us something to connect to, and family situations lend to that.

But in South Korean horror cinema, there is so much of the centre of the plot connected to family. Lost family members haunting you, families broken apart, children needing parents, parents missing children etc. I know you cannot separate the culture from the cinema, and maybe it is my own distance from my family, but I don't find connection with these stories.

This movie starts with Eun-Soo wanting to deny the child he has sired while traveling to see the mother who never cared for him. He gets in a car accident (distracted driver!!) and ends up wandering the wrong way in the wood. Out of the dark comes a red riding hood, just a misdirecting cue as she actually leads him back to her isolated gingerbreading decorated home. Gingerbreading, not gingerbread. No big bad wolf in this tale.

He finds himself in the perfect home with the perfect family, three lovely kids, two lovely parents. The home is decorated in toys, with a sign post stating House of Happy Children. In fact, the next morning he sees exactly how dedicated this household is to happy children, as breakfast is basically cakes and sweets. We immediately get the feeling of him being fattened up for the oven, and assume a witch is involved.

But no, things may have some connection to the tale but this is not a mere retelling in another culture's setting. The tale of Hansel & Gretel is just a frame work here, a context to build weirdness upon. There is something dastardly going on with those kids, and their desire to place Eun-Soo as their new parent figure (he is both stern and protective), but there is no evil witch. But trapped in a house and trapped in the woods he is. This story is more akin to that old Twilight Zone episode, It's a Good Life.

Bad things happened to these kids in their past, very bad things. And for some, completely out there, reason Santa Claus appears and gives these kids a mystical power of control over their own reality. Or maybe it came from within, or another mystical source that appeared in their minds as Old Saint Nick. No matter, these kids have the power of wish, a bad exposure of what adults are capable of but a desire to live perfect child lives. Eun-Soo accepts this, proffers them that reality can be better, while acknowledging his own familial desires.

So, there is horror, scares and horrible dealings, but the laser focus of this movie is these kids and their desire to be a family. It just doesn't connect with me, and while the gestalt of the movie is not bad, this focus kept on pulling me out. These kids have the power to control reality, and Eun-Soo could be exploring that, making use of it, for his end and for their betterment. But no, the movie really only wants us to sympathize with the little monsters and hug them. But dude, they fed you their previous father!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Blood Moon

2014, Jeremy Wooding -- download

So, low budget does not always mean low quality. In this case, very much so. Imagine a group of RPGers got together and decided to play a game of Boot Hill (the 1980s old west RPG) but mix it up with a bit of Halloween flavour -- add werewolves. Then they decide to LARP it. Then they decide that was so spectacular, it should be a movie. And that movie goes to Cannes and gets a distribution deal. I am not saying that is how this movie was made, but damn, that was how it felt. That was how it was scripted, directed and acted.

A stage coach full of travellers ends up in an abandoned town where they are set upon by some cartoon bank robbers, or at least that is what they sounded like to me. And I mean, close your eyes and think back to all those overly exaggerated cowboy villain voices you hear in cartoons -- now apply it to a couple of recognizable supporting actors playing the Norton Brothers. The only thing they were missing was the hat with the front flap folded up. The stage coach crowd consists of a marshall and his new wife, a preacher, a newspaper man from England, a sexy widow and a well dressed gun fighter. Almost immediately they are besieged by the werewolf. And killed off, so we don't get confused with too many NPCs.

Meanwhile a Sheriff from a nearby town is tracking the bank robbers with his drunken Indian sidekick. Other than being an offensive stereotype, she also exists to be exposition on Native American skinwalkers, so the movie can claim to have some mythological relevance to the Old West.

The movie wants to be a Bottle Episode, or single location, as the focus takes place inside the saloon in the abandoned town, with a limited number of characters in conflict with each other and the external danger.... but they keep on going outside. They also don't seem to be very scared. Oh the gunfighter should be the fearless one, as he seems to be the DM's favourite NPC with a mysterious, possible mystical background, but everyone else should be peeing their pants. Nope; everyone has no issue bucking up to fight the big hairy.

Said gunfighter also keeps on spouting a line that I think the writers believe we should know. When asked where he is from he answers, "I'd tell ya, but I don't think you'd have heard of it." Three times. Anyone know where that is from? Consider they make a tenuous connection to The Lost Boys, as the gunfighter was apparently on his way to Santa Carla to fight red eyed demons. Maybe it is a cowboy movie reference.

As for the werewolf himself, calling it a man in a rubber suit would be complimentary. It is a man in an old gorilla costume with a bad rubber werewolf head. It was just terrible, not even good enough to be considered a Halloween costume. From what I read elsewhere, even the director was not aware at how bad it looked till he saw it in a screening. See? The power of the table top RPG !

Now, normally, werewolf movies end with the reveal, changed back to human scene, and we recognize the werewolf from somewhere. Nope, other than the drunken Indian, who happened to also be a skinwalker, or half-skinwalker or whatever, hearing another wolf howl at the end, once the besieging werewolf is dead, the movie ends. Not sure if they understand how movies are supposed to end, but if it was just the DM pushing himself back from the table, all makes sense.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: The Final Girls

2015, Todd Strauss-Schulson (Betas) -- download

Downloading is getting confusing these days. I see a trailer on Apple Trailers or IMDB, and I think this movie is about to come out in the theatres. Then I almost immediately see a copy on the download sites. I understand, some Straight to X might get a trailer, and get released to the OnDemand services almost immediately, and then that means, gets ripped almost immediately. But some, like The Final Girls, I was pretty sure was getting wide theatre release. And yet here it is, a great media rip up for the viewing.

And don't get me started on the way Amazon does TV.

Anywayz, yes, I did expect to try and see The Final Girls in the cinema. Don't get it confused with Final Girl or the other movies that also play on the trope -- that in horror movies, there is usually a last girl who survives, by virtue of her virtue, and defeats the bogeyman. In The Final Girls, Taissa Farmiga is Max, the daughter of a woman who played a not so virtuous girl in this world's analog of Friday the 13th. She didn't survive, in the movie or long into Max's life, and now we have Max being dragged / guilted into attending the local rep theatre's showing of her mom's movie. Local celebrity and all.

An accidental fire leads the group of friends and frienemies through a tear in the screen and into... yep, you guess it, the movie. In a great introductory sequence, the group encounters the van with the kids from the movie, on their way to the summer camp to be slaughtered. At first they are just confused, but 92 minutes later, they are even more confused. Let's ignore the timing ignores In Movie time for running time, but along comes the van again, repeating the scene until they climb into the van to join the kids. At that point, they realize the only way out of the movie is to live through the movie, by surviving until the end, when the Final Girl kills that camp's bogeyman.

This movie was a lot of fun, as it balanced the weight of the film between the absolute lunacy of what these camp kids represent, blatant non-real chances for the "real" kids to go home, and the death and fear going on. They stand by and watch one couple die in the woods, pretty much assuming they are not characters, but observers, immune to the deaths that are coming. Or are they? Do they tell these kids what is going on and help them, or do they just run the movie to the end?

The sweet scenes between the daughter and the character who looks like her mother are odd, as the movie attempts, only somewhat successfully to add emotional weight. The camp kids are even more caricatures of real camp kids, then they are in any of the movies we have seen, but does that mean they deserve to die, even fictionally? Once things go kind of sideways, then they become as immersed in this world as the camp kids and all questions of what is real or not are abandoned.

The movie doesn't actually ever give a reason or an explanation for what is happening, just leading you from the camp into the sequel, leaving you to decide whether these kids were already dead in the theatre fire or all this is truly magical realism. But really, who cares but my brain, as the fun is in seeing how they handle the bogeyman, right down to the gearing up montage and the creative deaths scenes.

Monday, October 19, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Let Us Prey

2014, Brian O'Malley -- download

Another cheat. But maybe one I won't need, as Marmy has been getting us to watch some doubles to fill in.  Oh well, cannot get enough out of my queue and onto the screen. This screen; we already did the widescreen.

Now, how's that for weird. When we started watching Last Shift, the movie that started this whole season of horror, we immediately asked, "Is this an American remake of Let Us Prey?" that we had watched earlier in September. Both begin with a young woman starting her first shift at a local precinct in a small town, this one being in Scotland. And I started the draft of this writing with the title Last Shift, instead of the proper one.

But really, Let Us Prey begins with Liam Cunningham, the Onion Knight, crawling out of the ocean in a heavy overcoat and lots of premonition.

PC. Rachel Heggie is beginning her first shift, and is welcomed by Sgt. MacReady. And if by welcomed, you mean berated and screamed at, the you would be correct. Like Sgt Cohen, who welcomes Jessica in the other movie, MacReady is a pock marked asshole. It doesn't help that on her first night, Heggie is dragging in the local asshole who almost hit a stranger on the road, in a case of reckless driving. They toss him in the clink but actually cannot find the stranger, Liam, until he appears at their door acting all mysterious. And just about begs to be tossed in the clink himself, right next to the man who almost hit him.

For her first night, things get pretty intense, as the jail begins to fill up and Liam acts more and more creepy. For a stranger with few words, Liam seems very aware of the sins people are committing. And likes to tell them how very aware he is. This includes the town doctor and MacReady himself. And yet, he is completely fine with Heggie, who has flashbacks to having been abducted when she was a child. Obviously protecting people had an origin story for her. As the night progresses, it becomes very clear Liam is definitely here for some retribution, and not the earthly kind.

Liam Cunningham has the intensity to pull off being a rather biblical entity out for punishment, and the coat doesn't hurt at all. As the movie falls into a pattern Simon Pegg would be fond of, Heggie maintains her cool and picks up on the cues Liam is giving. In the end, as the world burns down around her, he gives a choice, once I was rather surprised she accepted.

This was a fun movie, if not overly complicated. Bad guys get punished, and not without just merits. For a small sleepy Scottish town, there is a lot of nasty evil going on.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Hausu

1977, Nobuhiko Ôbayashi (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) -- download

Back to the terrible (not the future), but finally, we get to see the classic Japanese surreal horror movie that is in turns fascinating and so very very terrible. It is your classic movie to be seen in a rep cinema with friends and copious amounts of alcohol.

P.S. I have called it by the Japanese name, but in reality, it is billed as House even in Japan. I just don't want to confuse it with the 1986 movie, which is apparently not a remake.

So, 1970s Japan. The special effects are not so special but the kink we know well is already in place. As are many of the tropes we know well today. Add to that some references to WWII and atomic trauma, and it actually had some current affairs for a bad movie about heads biting bums.

The girls are named Gorgeous, Fantasy, Melody, Kung Fu, Prof, Sweety and Mac, as translated by our subtitles loosely adapting the descriptive names in Japanese. Its school year's end and everyone is planning their summer holidays. Gorgeous is going with her dad to a resort town and most are joining Mr Togo in summer camp. I am never sure if Mr Togo was a teacher or a boyfriend, but whatever he was, it was wildly inappropriate. But Gorgeous's plans are foiled by her dad's new fiance (a new mom he found in Italy) and summer camp being cancelled. All the girls end up going to Gorgeous's Auntie who she hasn't seen since her mother's death.

The psychadelia begins right away. Nobuhiko is having a ball. The travel montages are a mixture of bad backdrop scenes (you know, badly painted canvasses representing the passing countryside) and scenes where we supposed to think its a backdrop, but its an actual painting on the roadside. This is his hint he will be messing with us.

The house is your typical menacing, rundown place on a hill in the countryside which is hard to find until you go the gas station run by the creepy guy. Sorry, I mean watermelon stand run by the creepy guy. Its Japan; they have their spin on the tropes.

Auntie is old and in a wheelchair, but inviting. In traditional fashion the girls dive to help clean house and prepare dinner, as Auntie makes disconcerting references to how tasty the girls look. The first to go is Mac, who is still hungry and goes after the watermelon being kept cool in the well. When Fantasy goes to find her, she gets bitten by Mac's decapitated but still quite ambulatory head, bitten on the ass. But Fantasy sees things so everyone dismisses her.

And then one by one, things go batshit. Sweety is beat up by futons & bedding to be turned into a doll. The girls sniff her panties to confirm its her. Kung Fu defends herself from chopped wood, loses her skirt and spends the rest of the movie running around in only panties. Gorgeous, who if this was an american movie would be the Final Girl, is... well, it involves her aunt's dressing table, mirror and makeup. And a terrible special effect that is her being consumed by ... fire? I have no idea, but she is missing. All the while Auntie has jumped up from her wheelchair and is dancing. And in case we didn't get it, we get a scene of her chowing down on Mac's limbs.

I forgot to mention the white cat that found her way to Gorgeous's bedroom at the beginning, into the train car when the girls were coming to Auntie's home in the country and finally, into Auntie's lap. Nobody ever asks why but guess what? That cat is Evil with green blinking eyes that initiate a lot of the batshit events.

I am not sure now, as I write this, that things were supposed to have a surreal aspect. I think it was more meant to be scary as all hell but the special effects are so terrible, things seem to drug induced to not be way out there.  I get Melody being eaten by a piano, but what is with the psychedelic lit up keys and her chomped off fingers continuing to play?

The thing that surprised me most about this movie was the familiar kink of current Japan fiction. Fan service, ala panty shots galore, is ever present but some "clothes ripped off" nudity was not expected. I get it, 70s horror movies in America were doing it then, having the bad girls murdered while changing or sexing it up, but this is very much the form we see in all the anime and schlock horror movies of today. Just wasn't expecting it to be a thing of the 70s as well.

In the end, this is a very very bad movie but so enjoyable because you are never sure what is intentional or what is just someone's attempt at shock or eeriness. P.S. We never do get to know why Mr Togo, the creepy old guy coming to find them, was meant to do because he gets turned into a bunch of bananas by Creepy Watermelon Guy.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Crimson Peak

2015, Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy) --- cinema

Finally. Finally a great movie. What a relief.

P.S. Peak, not plural, not Twin Peaks reference.

Crimson Peak is a creepy gothic romance period piece. Let's get that straight. It is not, primarily, a horror movie. It is a throwback to the period storytelling where the setting and the characters were much more important than the ghosts, with often the latter being metaphorical in nature - as in main character Edith Cushing's novel. But don't get me wrong, there are some very fucking scary ghosts in this movie, but their impact on the story is not as important as the setting and characters.

Oh, the setting. We know well del Toro loves to set dress, but once he gets the story to the Cumberland region of England, it is just jaw dropping. A crumbling, and I mean holes in the roof crumbling, old stately manner on a snowy moor in the middle of  nowhere is where we spend much of the movie. Edith and her new husband Thomas Sharpe (run away! Its Loki in yet another disguise!) move here after the unfortunate death of Edith's father. The Sharpes, Thomas and sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain in a role that was channeling Eva Green) are down on their luck and seek the infusion of Edith's inheritance. Nefarious plans! Creepy family! Even more creepy house!

This house! Sinking into the red clay bogs, it has sucked up and is expelling the clay -- the walls literally bleed red at random intervals. They cannot afford to repair, so everything is in a state of haunted house disrepair yet they live in it all by themselves. No servants to get in the way of their dastardly plans. There is a creaking, swaying elevator that goes up to the attic workshop full of creepy toys and down to the cellar with the clay pots, that look more like places to punish wayward wives. And moths have made their home everywhere, fluttering and flitting about in the dark shadows like so many shades of death foretold. And yet, in all that, it is so beautiful in its decay, so well laid out with the hints of glamour once was.

del Toro tells a tale of wife beset by her husband and his sister. At first we suspect the ghosts may wish her harm, as they are the scariest spectral entities to haunt the screen since Mama, of which del Toro had his fingers in. But in gothic fashion, the people involved are the true villains. Poor Edith, will she escape the clutches of the Sharpes? Well, if still-playing-American-even-in-England Charlie Hunnam as Dr. McMichael has a say!

I have to watch a currently set movie with Mia Wasikowska to see if she is unfairly type cast. Ever since we saw her in Jane Eyre she has been in period pieces. And I kept on turning my head slightly to the right, thinking this movie was her Alice in Wonderland character learning just how nasty the real world can be. But she is fabulous here, not a truly weak willed wallflower as the role is meant to be, but very much in control of her fate. She doesn't really need to be rescued by Charlie, just requires a bit of assistance. She has it in hand.

So, for the Halloween season, I think it is the perfect choice. Hauntingly beautiful as it is haunting. And yes David, I am pretty sure I saw a blurry image of you in the background, over someone's shoulder.

Friday, October 16, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Suburban Gothic

2014, Richard Bates Jr. -- download

Follow up a bad movie with a terrible movie. Way to trend David.

We almost turned this comedy ghost story off but I wanted to see how it ended, despite cringing and yawning through just about every scene. This indie comedy struck me as a director doing his utter best to be edgy and appeal to the horror film fest circuit to at least get a distribution deal. Grabbing Matthew Gray Gubler, best (only?) known for being the genius on the spectrum profiler on Criminal Minds and Kat Dennings doing her best fashion goth look, and whom I am beginning to accept is entirely one note in all of her roles and finally, Ray Wise, who shall forever be cast in cast in comedy horrors, Bates then wastes the skills of all involved on a painfully self-indulgent movie.

This movie played bingo with indie cred. It had a weird character, a prototypical hipster wearing thrift store finds and being painfully alternative, despite it only leading him back to the bedroom in his parents house. It has an abrasive bartender who says she doesn't want sex with said main character, but ends up having it with anyway. Bright colours! Weird connecting scenes where people act strange for no reason! Oddball small town characters! Wasted cameo by John Waters! Racism as humour! It felt like someone saw Odd Thomas and decided it needed to be merged with a John Waters film, but only put as much effort into it as convincing John Waters to waste his time on camera.

Plot? Kid has an ability to see ghosts, long suppressed by his blood pressure meds, actually antipsychotics. Returns home to his childhood bedroom (cute cut scene of a millennial just expecting work as exec), finds unearthed child casket in back yard and has to solve / foil haunting. In the end he finds purpose by opening a ghost investigator business. It as if Bates actually thought they might get an online TV or movie series deal. Or just a painful closure of millennial with no prospects finding his niche.

Should have turned it off.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: The Voices

2014, Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) -- download

What makes a good horror comedy? Subverting the tropes?  Working entirely within the tropes but putting a good comedic spin on it? Good jokes? Wry humour? Gross outs? Of course, we know the answer is never one of those things specific. Maybe Kent can weigh in more, as he is the comedy guy, but I always find myself not sure whether a premise is going to work. And even if it makes me laugh, its not always a good comedy, let alone a good movie.

If you run with the premise, The Voices is about a schlep of a guy working at a factory who hears his dog & cat talking to him. The cat, standard marmalade tom has a Scottish accent. The dog, a big rolly polly mastiff with drooping eyes and jowls, has a cartoony big galoot voice. Both are just the our main character Jerry's voice, i.e. Ryan Reynolds having some fun. Jerry is a little unbalanced, and not because the pets talk to him, but because of what they ask him to do. The dog is a nice guy, and the cat is expectedly an asshole, a sociopathic one to boot.

This movie looks like it wants to be set in North England, in a small factory town with all kinds of outrageous characters working there. Yet, its probably just somewhere in the midwest. Gemma Arterton is the extroverted office worker he has a crush on. Anna Kendrick is the introverted office worker who has a crush on him. Neither seem to notice Jerry is not just a handsome nice guy but very very much off. I am not sure if I bought into the fact Kendrick could like him in that way, despite that being Ryan Reynolds.

On a fateful night Jerry has to drive Gemma, ok her name is Fiona, home from a night out. Its pouring and she has no choice. She is flirty, dismissive and drunk. When she sees him deal with the deer they hit on the slick, rain obscured road, she really really sees how off Jerry is. And he has to kill her.

The movie is funny. The cat is funny. The talking heads in the fridge are funny. The acting is decent and the script is as well, if familiar. But it is just not a very good movie. Again with the not so good, not so bad. I am getting a bit frustrated. Even the break with the splendor of Spring, we are getting shelved with bad attempts to do out of the ordinary, comedy horrors.

And I am not really sure why the movie had to end with a song & dance number. Really really not sure, other than to highlight, "Hey look at us, a fun quirky movie! Songs! Dance! Those are fun right!"

Another celebrated director saddled with a crappy followup American movie.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: The Lazarus Effect

2014, David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi) -- download

Yes, the director of the acclaimed documentary about a sushi master, has also made a cheesy horror movie. He should stick to documentaries.

More cheats! I left a few horror movies sitting in my list in case I do something in the evening other than watch a movie. This is one.

It doesn't take much to call this a remake of Flatliners, it actually is much worse. At least that movie had the brat pack of that era going for it, but this one has Olivia Wilde and Donald Glover, and that is about it.  Am I supposed to know who Mark Duplass is, because he is not convincing as the tortured scientist working on a drug that will prolong the period from which people can be revived.  You know, revived from death. By combining a milky substance with massive electrical shocks, they figure out how to draw you back from the beyond. But didn't Pet Cemetery teach anybody anything? You always come back wrong.

Olivia Wilde is his partner, his lover and the first human victim of his folly. And of course, she has to have a dark past which will be dragged back with her from over there. But for some reason they decide it will have a side effect that is not much different than "all your brain cells active" scifi, such as that in Lucy, but with the added bonus of black demon eyes. When did they decide that an entirely black eye means demonic?

They could have gone for a more science focused movie but completely, utterly dispensed with that for scares and darkness and crying side kicks. It goes no where, delivers everything else in a lazy fashion and inspires no desire to know how things will end up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Spring

2014, Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead (V/H/S Viral) -- download

"What's this one about?" I ask Marmy.

"A boy travels to Italy and suspects the girl he meets might be a mystical creature," she answers.

"Doesn't quite sound like it fits the theme," I reply, thinking we are going to have a romance fantasy along the lines of Ondine or The Secret of Roan Inish. Yes, both about selkies but they were the first that came to mind, but it does make me wonder if there are other countries producing wayward romances involving mythological creatures.

But, this movie, yeah not a wayward romance. OK, it is, very much so, but not a fantasy, but a good, solid romantic horror. In much the way the last one is a solid familial ghost story, full of sweet tragedy, this is a scary monster story within a solid summer romance.

Evan has had a crappy couple of years. He left college when his dad died, to move home and take care of his mom, who soon after died of cancer. He has been working as a line cook in a crappy bar and on the night of her funeral, ends up beating a thug to a pulp; said thug was about to smash Evan's buddy with a bottle. On a whim, he takes off to Italy to sort himself out.

Evan's an average guy, mild mannered but assured of himself enough to travel Italy on his own and to question the intentions of the red dressed hottie he hits on, when she wants to immediately leave the bar for sex. Whoah, too quick. He wants to flirt, have some coffee, get to know the girl before disappearing into her room. He rightfully suspects he might be robbed, beaten, drugged or whatever incredible looking women do to American tourists in sleepy Italian villages. She laughs and walks away from him, but that only intrigues him more.

This is the kind of indie film making I enjoy. No recognizable faces and a hazy lack of recognizable genre directing that is definitely going to lead somewhere. The two do connect, in a Before Sunset sort of way, hanging out exclusively for about five days while we catch glimpses of weird things going on around Evan and Louise. Flowers spontaneously blooming, mysterious injections, patches of weird skin, etc. By the time Louise has to dump Evan, we are well aware something very very strange is going on with her.


But it doesn't end there, after the horror of the transformations she is going through are dumped for a science fiction explanation of immortality through unique biology. Louise is over two thousand years old, and every twenty or so years, she has to get pregnant and use those cells to regenerate a new body. She tells Evan, wanting to protect him from the intervening transformations that are uncontrolled and dangerous. She fully expects him to run. He does but then, well, he decides he is live love with her. Can she abandon immortality for him? What was it like living over 2000 years? Can they even have a life together? Yeah,  this kid is pretty messed up if he can forget monster for pretty girl. But the movie does a pretty damn good job of convincing us this is sweet and romantic while also telling us that she is willing to give up all she is for him. Come sunrise, well, in the shadow of Mt Vesuvius decisions are made and...

Monday, October 12, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: La casa del fin de los tiempos

2013, Alejandro Hidalgo -- download

The House at the End of Time -- see, you can literally translate a movie title and have it mean exactly what it said in the original language. Here we have a Venezuela movie that is as much family tragedy as it is hauntings. One that is as touching as it is spooky.

I will have to properly go back and read some of my older posts (cringe) but I am sure another South American flick we saw in Octobers past fit the description of touching and haunting. The tale is done so very well, a story of a family in a house already spooky enough to be haunted, but not so, until Dulce starts experiencing things.

But wait, sorry, I jumped ahead. But not as much as the movie did, for it begins with her face down in her own blood, slashed and scared. Into the basement she goes, to find her husband with an ornate knife buried deep in his shoulder, alive only for a moment, before expiring. She then chases further yelling her son's name, "Leo!!  Leopoldo!!" At the edge of a creepy metal framed door he stands and she begs him to come back. Just as he creeps forward, something reaches from the dark to snatch him away. From basement to tomb like subbasement she searches but never finds him.

She is taken away, for the murder of her husband and son. The boy is never found and she never explains what happened, but is sent away for 30 years. And then the movie picks up with her release, back to the house where it all happened, house arrest maybe for a Venezuelan form of early release? She is allowed to be visited by a priest, and thus begins her tale, to him, to us.

Dulce and her husband were already having troubles, mainly around money but also around something from her past. Her two sons are both perfectly loyal to each other and competitive siblings. She tells the priest of the things that haunted her in the house, seeing figures walking about, hearing thumps and bangs.

The tale is a time jump, going to from current day, as the older lady struggles to live in the house, to her relating the night of her husband's stabbing in detail, to further back, to the real tragedy in her life -- the death of her youngest son. The priest listens to all. We see the more of it. And then things begin to unravel, or possibly spool together.


Its all tied, and sweetly so. Not only is this a spooky, jump filled movie of strange ghostly figures, but it is a thrilling time travel movie. For, you see, the house was built by a strange English mason at the turn of the 20th century. And every 30 years, this house causes many of its inhabitants to just disappear. Dulce finds out exactly how and why, as she is carried back and forth to eras of the house, haunting herself, scaring her sons and they, in turn, frightening and influencing each other. In one incredibly heart breaking scene, the older boy gets to embrace his younger brother, whom he has recently seen die. A brother who misses his sibling dearly. And the thrill of how everything ties together makes for the first fully satisfying movie of our seasonal watching.

I highly recommend this one.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

2006, Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies) -- Netflix

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is an odd duck film, a movie made in 2006, did the film circuit around 2008 but due to complications with its distributors and luke warm appeal here in North America, didn't receive wider release until 2013, after Levine had done 50/50. So when most people are familiar with his cancer buddy story, Warm Bodies, the zombie romantic comedy must have seemed like an odd next choice.

So, his first real full length feature was supposed to be a horror movie acting as an expose on horror movie tropes, not quite Cabin in the Woods, but left of centre of the genre.

Aggh; I hate that almost every movie I am viewing this season is of the "its not a bad movie, but there is nothing great about it" ilk. Sure, I already admitted that we have already seen the best horror movies of 2014/2015 in non-October months, but there should be better out there. I guess we are just not finding them.

Don't get me wrong; I liked Mandy, I just didn't find it wonderful. It is an atmospheric, decidedly non-genre take on the teen slasher movie. I often felt I was watching a more inciteful look into teen life, the popular kids vs the non-popular ones, the rampant promiscuity vs the virginal, except, well except that there wasn't a lot of real incite. The dialogue & plot structure was most definitely standard teen slasher, but it skewed the usual with the style of shots, long and hazy, wonderful camera work. And with the music, shelving the eerie tension announcing soundtrack for late 90s rock music and out of time covers. Timelessness also contributed a definitive element where only the cars and the lack of smartphones defined the movie as being most definitely not current, but maybe really, actually 2003, the era when it was first written?

Oh yeah, what is it about?

Mandy Lane is the weird girl blooming midway through high school. This was Amber Heard before she came out, before she married Johnny Deppe. Blonde, curvy, with an etheric beauty, she is presented as the unsullied lovely whom all the boys want, but none have had. Marmy asked me if she is actually awe inspiring, and while I said no, I understand what they were presenting. Every school had that popular blonde who rode the line between popular and innocent and always seemed to have perfect beams of sun backlighting her.

Mandy used to be friends with the school weirdo, until an unfortunate party accident ended that. Now, months later it is the weekend party in the country, just past the last gas station (sans The Harbinger) on an absolutely lovely isolated ranch. Each of the boys attending intend on having their way with Mandy, despite the more than willing girls already in attendance. Probably in spite of.

Are you surprised if I say someone starts picking them off?


You don't like any of these popular kids, not even the likable one, so you don't mourn their deaths. And its not about creative murder, like so many others, but more about the proper why of the slashing. And when it all spins down to the inevitable end, we are only mildly surprised.  What did surprise is how well Amber Heard pulls it off. Doing an entire 180 from quiet, demure Mandy to knife fondling, girlfriend gutting murderous Mandy is not shocking but entirely convincing.

Her manipulated little weirdo "just friends" boy wants to be the latest spree killer in the news but not if she has her way. Its the dead cow pit for him. And why she does all of this is never explained, leaving Mandy as the perfect sociopath, having punished the kids that deserve punishment (but no, not death) and driving off into the sunset with the last surviving boy whom Mandy shouldn't want. But...

Saturday, October 10, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Double Dose of Little Blighters

Cooties, 2014, Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion -- download
Ich Seh, Ich Seh, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz -- download

Marmy wanted to catch up to the pure idea of doing 31 movies during the month. Even if I had already filled my own quota with the two TV shows, I was happy either way. So we grabbed two that have been doing the blog circuit, one an Austrian creepy thriller and the other a comedy zombie romp.  Both focus on kids, so consider this our Child Free entry for the month.  *evil grin*

I am not sure why but Ich Seh, Ich Seh gets called Goodnight Mommy in its English release, which is not even a straight translation. I guess the reference to a child's song would not carry any weight in North America, but I still hate when they do that. If its a phrase that doesn't translate into English, then sure, but if the words have meaning, use em.

The movie takes place in the countryside, in an old wood near a lake next too which stands a modern house marking wealthy inhabitants. Twin boys run around, playing by themselves in the woods and lake with no supervision. Mommy is returning home soon, from her surgery in the city. To begin with, the weirdness of them being left alone while mom is away is somewhat jarring, and never explained. It establishes the off kilter place we are presented, and lends itself to our sharing the same belief as the kids -- that the woman all wrapped in plastic surgery bandages might not be their mother. The other weirdness, is that mom only ever addresses one child at a time, and poor Lukas is ignored.


It took Marmy about 10 minutes to guess the twist but I was of the idea it was supposed to be telegraphed to the audience -- Lukas is dead; he drowned in the lake. I wanted the movie to be more about how things will progress, and not the sixth sense of only one of the children being alive. Is Mommy their mommy? What the hell happened? Why did she go away? Why were they unsupervised? Why, if she is their real mother, is she so fucking strange?

Alas, the movie indeed seemed focused on the twist, and really, the only way I could explain to myself the oddness of all the dealings and circumstances was that we are seeing entirely through Elias's eyes -- he doesn't understand what has been going on, having been a bit broken since his brother's death. It does explain how the boys end up being quite the horrible little things, doing nasty things to Mommy, when they cannot get her to prove she is their mother. That they would even torture a strange pretending to be their mother, says a lot of about these/this boy(s).

Creepy little fuckers.

Speaking of little fuckers, Cooties is really about how bad kids can get. OK ok, only how bad they can get if infected by some sort of zombie virus. The movie begins with a vegan propaganda film about chicken nuggets being processed. OK ok, maybe not so much propaganda as reality, but the added disturbing bit is something green dripping in and becoming a nugget on its way to a kids cafeteria, to be bitten into by the 'cootie girl'. Dash dash dot dot, she wished she had her cootie shot.

Fort Chicken produces mounds of chicken nuggets. Clint (Elijah Wood) as recently moved back to work on his novel, but really, has just failed at getting away from his hometown. Fate finds teaching at the elementary school where he went. And where his teen crush (Alison Pill) works along with her PE boyfriend (Rainn Wilson) and the other oddballs on the faculty.

The story quickly progresses as cootie girl infects the rest of her class and they all become ravenous monsters that eat most of the staff and leave the rest of the run. Jokes and blood spills forth as all the cliches are broadcast and despite a recognizable capable cast, the plot is humdrum run of the mill by the numbers. As expected as I am to use catch phrases and overused writing idioms, the movie jumps on the expected bits of humour.  Its not offensive or tiresome, except when it wants to be, but there was nothing really new or particularly well done.  All acceptable, popcorn and chuckles.

I did chuckle at the scene where they comment on the montage gearing up scene, before the launched into it. But that was only because all the video games I have been playing, that involve slaughtering zombies, have had their full share of McGyver'd weapons.

Friday, October 9, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: The Quiet Ones

2014, John Pogue (writer Ghost Ship, Rollerball) -- download

Jared Harris in two horror movies in a row, is now our GoTo Guy for ghost hunters, as he was basically the same character in this movie and Poltergeist, albeit altered by his time between the 1970s to now.

Harris plays Professor Joseph Coupland who is running an experiment on a young girl named Jane. Jane has pretty much been possessed since childhood, but Coupland doesn't believe in possession. Jane must be manifesting telekinetic abilities and if manipulated properly, she can expel all this negative energy as a single entity, named by Jane as Evie. The professor has some loyal followers helping him and brings in Sam Claflin (Finnick in The Hunger Games) as a new cameraman.

This is actually a Hammerfilm, and if you watch it in that context it is actually much better. Hammerfilms are expected to be a bit cheesy and over the top but taking themselves very very seriously. This movie definitely wants to be a creepy exploration of psychic powers that prove themselves to be something much more dark. Alas, as a stand alone movie, I am not sure how it ended up on so many Best Of 2014 lists, as it was only acceptable.

Olivia Cooke is quite good as Jane, the child not allowed to grow up, but possessed of an alluring / scary look & feel. As the rest of the cast was limited, there could have been much more detailed and attentive use of the actors, but really, it wasted the opportunity. Cookie cutter sex triangles and conflict was not as intriguing as the potential of what the truth behind Jane could have been. But was the truth satisfying?  No, not really. And to be a proper Hammer ending, there needed to be much more melodramatic of a climax.

Again, great poster though.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Poltergeist

2015, Gil Kenan (City of Ember) -- download

You know, I wasn't convinced Sam Rockwell could pull off being a dad & family man. He always plays the dorky character who cannot keep a straight line. But as we settled into the story of a dad leading his family to a new neighbourhood, because he has been out of work for so long they cannot afford their last house, the dorkiness kind of works. King of the Dad Jokes. And once the movie leads the daughter to the other  of the TV screen, he really owns it. Oh, did I spoil it for you? Really?  You are not not intimately aware of the original Poltergeist and its child eating closet ? A whispered, "They're here....." is not part of your pop culture lexicon?  Poor you.

So, its not a new house, so part of me immediately wondered, "Then why this family? Why not the family who had the house before them?" Sure, everyone knows it used to sit above a graveyard and who wants the power lines so close to a large neighbourhood?  Well, Hamilton of course. Cough. Anywayz, its not the house but the daughter she is a sensitive that the evil dead things on the other side want to help them reach "the light". That part never struck me as well thought through. The Light? Are these scary mofos going to make it into said Light, assuming some semblance of Judeo Christian mythology?  Nuh uh, they are sacrificing a child to get there; I would expect something with a red bulb, something on the ground of this Other Realm, not the classic white light in the sky.

Some had accused the movie of being a photocopy of the first. In basic plot, yes. In recreating all the classic scenes: grabby trees, evil clowns.... sorry, toy clowns, TVs with child's voices, ropes into closets and out through ceilings, etc. All the great stuff is there -- alas, no Hulk toy riding a horse. And they update the scary little lady with Jared Harris as Carrigan Burke, the psychic soldier with his own reality TV show. Burke is incredible, a guy who runs a show that everyone doubts but has encountered so much real real evil entities, he has the scars to prove it. He knows what is going on, and gets right down to saving the girl. But the movie does really feel new.

In the end, I rather enjoyed this light hearted romp into recreation. It was well pulled off, but came and went from the collective mind, that I don't know anyone who even knows it happened. It is original feeling but not enough so, nor skillfully created enough to really, truly stand out. Like much of the horror genre, it remains OK, a stable, solid example of the genre. If I truly enjoyed anything, it was the obvious truly heartfelt connectivity of this family, and the noble switchover of son Griffin, from scared wallflower into the hero he needs to be, to protect his little sister.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: iZombie S2E1

2015, The CW -- TV

Wait, have I ever used a tagged to infer I actually watched this on broadcast TV ? Weird. Also weird, but I did this back in 2011 with The Walking Dead, not broadcast, but used the first episode of the season as one of the night's viewing cheats. Also, I am surprised this show didn't already make it into an I Am Watching or One Episode post. Weird.

Diane Ruggiero & Rob Thomas, who were responsible for Veronica Mars, loosely adapt the Mike Allred comic (which I have not read), to focus on a girl who is a zombie, but not the shambling undead type, just a normal dead white girl with a thirst for brains. If she doesn't regularly chow down on them, she can become a ravenous monster. She was made a zombie after an ill fated boat party. The fact there are not tons of ravenous creatures out there is either not explained, or glossed over -- I cannot remember -- but Liv Moore (get it?) survives because of her job at the morgue. The side effect of eating brains is that you get memory flashes and personality traits of the eaten dead.

Liv pretends she is a psychic and works with Detective Babineaux to fight crime. Meanwhile her family & friends feel alienated as her (hidden) zombie state has derailed her life. She doesn't explain the dead white skin & hair, nor her reclusive attitudes, but as the first season progressed, and through the friendship of Ravi (who I assumed was named Robbie throughout most of season 1) she regains some semblance of humanity, while investigating a cure and foiling the plans of a master zombie who feeds the undead of Seattle through his hipster butcher shop. And breathe. That was a hell of a sentence.

Season 2 picks up with her having reverted an evil master zombie, and her ex-fiance (Major Lillywhite -- best zombie name ever), to human form -- two separate guys, BTW.  The latter was because she had to "convert" him to save his life (after which she immediately cured him) and the former, to foil his nefarious plans to create a criminal underground of zombies. Meanwhile she couldn't cure herself, because she used it all up, nor provide her brother with a life saving blood transfusion because... well, because, you know. Instant family rift.

This show is just pure fun.

So, here is Liv once again on the outs with her ex-fiance, still playing psychic buddy to a cop and still at odds with the evil master (ex)zombie. Their not at all realistic banter is the best ("Whitey Shamblemore begs to differ"), especially considering they are supposed to hate each other. The conspiracy of the evil energy drink company continues, and is expands, as they monitor Liv and her friends.  As with many first episodes of the second season, they don't try and reinvent the wheel, just let it roll. Further plot expansion will happen as they pick up things, like how the Utopian street drug will play into things, and how are the city's zombies feeding themselves now that the hipster butcher is gone.

I like this show.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: You're Next

2011, Adam Wingard (segments in ABCs of Death, V/H/S) -- download

Right off the bat the creators run with some classic horror tropes -- unfulfilling sex between an asshole (ugly one to boot) and pretty girl leads to their death. I am not sure why they killers in their fun but creepy animal masks decide to write YOU'RE NEXT in a very carefully kerned font before taking out the next person, but they do. It never really has a reason beyond some breaking the fourth wall bit of weirdness. Considering there were only two people in the house, it was pretty evident. But preamble death complete, onto the story.

You're Next is actually a lot of fun (are we allowed to say the murder of several people is fun?) and a rather good twist of the usual 'murder a house full of people' plot. The Davisons are gathering in their dad's fixer upper in the country, for a weekend celebration of the parents' 35th anniversary. Said fixer upper is a multi million dollar home because Dad is a wealthy retired defense contractor. The family includes wimpy teacher son Crispin (go figger, with that name), not doing well for himself in academia, upstanding aggressive son Drake who always picks on Crispin, gothy (black clothes always mean death worshipping goth, duhh) reprobate Felix and bubble headed daughter Aimee. They all pretty much hate each other, much to the embarrassment of parents and partners. The weekend starter argument is interrupted by a crossbow bolt through the forehead of Aimee's new beau Tariq (director Ti West). The Fox, the Lamb and the Tiger masks are hunting down the family one by one.

The fun twist is that Crispin's girlfriend, the TA he shouldn't have started a relationship, is not only in control of her emotions, but takes control of the situation. No screaming, running crazily into the night, but a collected gathering of weapons and skilled fighting back. So, as one by one, the family and partners are killed off, so too are the hunters. Chop, stab, slash, smoosh.  And blender. Rather than spoiling everything, there is a method to the madness on both sides of the machete, but the whole movie title is never explained. I get it, gimmick for our benefit but...

3 Short Paragraphs: No Reservations

2007, Scott Hicks (Snow Falling on Cedars ) -- Netflix

Even though most of my energy will be to the horror movie I just watched, I have to clear these out before they get relegated to the I Saw tag.  Seems rude for some of them; for others, like this one, not so much. Normally food movies are always a good pick for a day when nothing else on the My List hits, and one that is a remake of a popular European movie usually makes for a win. All of the great food movies are remakes of others (slap me on that one; the originals are great to begin with) and there are only a few that originated over here. I refuse to link to any listicals as they all seem to want to include Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. A pile of giant candy does not a food movie make.

This is a remake of  the German movie Mostly Martha, and not a dramatization of the Anthony Bourdain book. The latter would have been better. Kate is the chef at a popular resto in Manhattan. She dedicates her entire life to the place, focusing on food all day and often all night and even waking up on her days off to visit the early markets. The movie wants us to believe it is to her detriment, but really, the people in the kitchen like her and its only her inability to deal with asshole customers that sends her to a shrink. The sudden death of her sister plops a niece in her lap and the single woman has to learn about life work balance.

This is a good plot. She accepts her new role as adoptive mom and attempts to insert the new relationship into the existing working one. Things don't work out and her work begins to suffer, which then inserts Aaron Eckert into the resto. More conflict. All good for drama. But the movie presents everything in a quick cut, snap snap snap snap snap snap, style that never allows anything to be absorbed. I just never felt a story was being told, which would have been forgivable if I was looking forward to the next food scene, but those were sorely lacking, making me doubt it was even a proper food movie.

Plus, I never trust a movie with only one known poster.

Monday, October 5, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Fear the Walking Dead

2015, AMC -- download

The premise of Fear the Walking Dead is a great one -- if the main series started weeks after the outbreak, how did it come about?  OK, not exactly how it came to happen, but more, what was it like in those early hours, days and weeks? What was the fall like? What was it like when nobody believed it was happening? Origin story its not, but introduction it is.

The fucking problem is that they spun the drama in the same exact way as they narrowed the plot on The Walking Dead. Again, we have to deal with fearing the humans more than we have in fearing the dead. Yes, I get it, that is the successful formula that draws in the viewers, but this is a new show, couldn't we have had at least one decent person? And I mean a decent person who isn't proven to be a liability?

I fear the world we are living in where we accept doing whatever it takes, no matter the cost. And our pop culture reflects us, so...

The show starts with introducing us to two connected families. Travis is dating Madison but was married to Liza. There are teens in each family, including Maddie's heroin addict son Nick, the first to experience the walking dead, as his (dead) junkie (ex?)girlfriend eats the rest of the junkies in their shooting gallery. The slow burn of the first episode shows strong bonds between them all, albeit strained ones. The hints of what is to come are there, with fewer and fewer students showing up at the school where Maddie and Travis work, weird stories in the news, and the basement dwelling internet kid spouting enigmatic "it's happening!" rants.

There were a lot of complaints about the first episode, in that it was too slow and didn't have enough zombies in it. Oh shut up; how can you do a proper intro story if you don't take your time and establish the characters and the environment they are living in? How can you see how quickly civilization falls if you don't actually see the calm but nervous exterior of it? If I had any problem is that they didn't establish it enough. Where was the flu that was killing people? Oh there were minor mentions of it keeping students at home, but nobody actually is sick in the entire episode. Well, nobody that isn't already bitten. The virus killed people as a flu to begin with, before people got back up and bit other people, then continuing the infection. The primary element of the first series is not that the main characters are survivors but also immune and/or carriers of the virus. If they got sick, they beat it, if they ever got sick to begin with. And where was the social media? Sure, the internet kid knew things few others did but if this was happening nation wide, it would have been all over Facebook and Twitter. But no, they made vague comments about the Internet being down and moved on. They do understand that is why and how the Internet was made, right? It doesn't go down because some cities go black. It finds the route around. Oh well, this is Your Parent's internet -- not understood.

The fall happens by episode three, leading all the characters back together behind quickly built fences and chain link gates. The Army is here to protect them, but no not really, because this is a WD show, and thus the army is as much or more an enemy than their dead neighbours. Abuse, corruption and an agenda that expands far beyond protecting civilians is at play. But why? Why the fuck would the American government sink resources and men into temporarily protecting people if their final agenda was not to actually do so? It was a means to a conflict for the show, which didn't ring so true.

Amongst our main survivors, Travis stands as the naive one, where I just wanted him to be the moral one. They keep on proving him wrong and he keeps on being a decent, stand up guy. Its like the show thinks helpful, nice people are morons and the only ones who should survive are evil people. They even present the capable survivor as a man who once "disappeared" people in El Salvador, a torturer and evil regime man who fled the country when his power base was taken down. He is presented as the hero who figures things out. Again and again, Travis is proven an idiot, until finally, he himself is given so much evidence of the necessary evils in man, that he believes it himself.

Talk about bleak.

In the last few scenes of the last episode, the junkie character Nick is relaxed and even toned, even though he hasn't had his fix in ages. No longer jonesing, no longer detoxing, he seems somewhat... happy. When asked, he claims that all his life he has been trapped in this nightmare, and finally, it seems like the rest of the world is catching up. While part of me cringes at that, I actually see that. As one of those guys who always felt at odds with the world, never fitting in, never part of the wife, family, house, job world (but not really having any viable alternatives) I get what he is saying. He now no longer has to worry about being the standup guy, like his mother's BF, he can just be a survivor like everyone else. And if there is anything a junkie is good at, its surviving when all is at its worse.

Again, weeeee bleak.