Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Halloween Season 2011 Horror Movie Tally Part 2: Totally Goblirific!

Continuing a proud tradition I just began about a week or two ago, you could do worse than reading the first part here! 

Up to speed?  Ok, moving right along...

Although lauded upon its release,"The Blair Witch Project" has found itself relatively maligned in recent years.  So it goes for the trailblazers.  The "found footage" gimmick was effective at the time, and I still think it makes for a creepy little show to this day (even though the actors can grate on the nerves a bit).  It was my favorite kind of horror picture: the kind that showed you so little, that your mind swam with the terror of possibilities. 

Where BWP popularized the modern "found footage" genre, America's increasing submersion in reality tv, the advent of YouTube, and the surprise smash success of "Paranormal Activity" reignited interest in the genre, and it has exploded in the world of straight-to-dvd flicks.  No wonder: they're cheap and easy to make.  Any drama school dropout with a webcam can put one of these babies together.  Why not roll the dice and see if it turns you into a big-shit movie mogul?

The conceit behind ""8213: Gacy House" is easy enough to digest: Six (was it six? I can't remember) paranormal investigators stay the night in the former home of mass murderer/sex torturer/clown/painter John Wayne Gacy.  I think they tell you from the start that the footage was found along with the bodies. Oops, spoiler!  Thanks, movie.  Why sustain any interest in whether or not the cast is going to survive the ordeal?

The combination of found footage/reality concept with an actual, real-life mass murderer presents a question of questionable taste, to be certain.  John Wayne Gacy was a real guy who really killed real people, and it wasn't even that long ago.  Is it in bad taste to trot out the stories of his victims in the interest of serving up substandard chills in a subpar flick?

I dunno.  Ordinarily I wouldn't be squeamish about that sort of thing, but there was at least one scene that gave me pause.  But at the end of the day, the more important question remains: is it scary?

No. No no no. Not scary.  Dull, for sure.  And dumb, to be certain.  But not scary.

So, with that question answered, the follow-up is: is it worth watching?

Maybe with one finger on the fast-froward button.  There are a couple of things you might want to see.

There were several moments of "OH MY GOD" stupidity on display.  I'm still not sure if these moments were included because the characters themselves are meant to elicit that response ("Oh my god, this person is so stupid, I'll be happy when the fat ghost chokes them to death") or because the writing was really that poor.  I'm not going to waste much time thinking it over.

The first "OH MY GOD" moment, which doubles as the first moment when I seriously considered the questionable taste of the entire episode, comes when one of the members of the "crew" holds a seance of sorts.  During this seance,  in which she attempts to summon the spirit of John Wayne Gacy, she attempts to entice the spook into showing up by offering the undershirt of her 15 year old brother.  You know, because he loved to sexually torture and murder young boys? Har har har.  That's a laff riot.

This same character continues to say things of such shocking stupidity that again, I am left to question whether or not the person writing the dialogue is that stupid, or if they really hated the character as much as I did.

There are some howlers, such as: "Take this, it'll protect you, he'll think you're a fan of his art" , and most notably,  "It could be Gacy, it could be Loki..."

Eyeroll worthy line readings aside, this swollen-breasted psychic offers up the one moment that I think actually validates your queuing this turd up on your Netflix: she actually manages to get scared OUT OF HER SHIRT.

I am not even kidding.  See, in addition to providing the narrative AND the annoyance, she is also called upon to provide the requisite T & A.  Her boobs are comically large, and her shirt comically tight.  It doesn't do much for me personally, but I appreciate the effort here, film producers. Thanks.

At any rate, there is another seance moment, and yes, the girl gets scared backwards with such velocity that her actual shirt FLIES RIGHT OFF, and if her boobies weren't fashioned out of such sturdy surgical appliances, they most certainly would have been a-floppin' about.  Really, it's something else. It was almost, ALMOST worth the preceding snoozy 70 minutes just to bray like a jackass at that ridiculousness. But not quite.

But that's it.  That's the movie.  I think I can sum up the experience best when I tell you that reading the Wikipedia entry on John Wayne Gacy is actually a thousand times creepier than this movie.

Still, "8213: Gacy House - It'll scare your tits out!" would have been a pretty effective tagline.  Missed opportunity there, gang.

This movie is not scary, but there is a very funny scene where an emotionally overwrought father is "jamming" on his "axe" in his mid-life crisis basement studio, and becomes so overwhelmed with emotion that he smashes his guitar into his amp. Only it's not Paul Simonen style.  Maybe Paul Simon style. Today. When he is 70. He just sorta whacks it sideways in lame rage. I laughed and laughed, folks.

This movie plays like "Unsolved Mysteries" with a budget, telling the tale of a family who move into a former mortuary to save money.  The oldest boy has cancer, and is taking an experimental treatment which may cause hallucinations.  I'll admit that the "is he hallucinating or is the place really haunted?" concept can make for a solid cinematic foundation (see "Rosemary's Baby"), but the movie tips its hand to the "yep it's really haunted" side fairly early on, thus disrupting any potential tension.

Mostly it's just kinda dull, though.  Is this the first thing Virginia Madsen booked after she got that Oscar nod for "Sideways".  Probably regretting that now, right?  At least Elias Koteas got to cash a paycheck.  Also, there's some ectoplasm.  Otherwise, "Meh: The Motion Picture".

I feel like I'm extraordinarily hard to please.

My friend Danny introduced me to the work of Jadorowsky, and while "El Topo" is not a horror film per se, it certainly possesses more than its fair share of horrific images.  And images is really what this movie is all about.  (I guess that's really what ALL movies are about, really.  Except for Kevin Smith movies).

On the surface it is a hodgepodge of religious symbolism dressed up in psychedelic cowboy regalia.  But it's more about the images themselves than what the images represent; once El Topo, the greatest gunslinger in the world, takes his naked son onto his back and they ride their horse into a town that has streets literally running with blood, the slaughtered folk littering the streets, you know you are in for something special.

Jodorowsky loves freaks, and the film is chockablock with real folks with real physical deformities.  There are many repeated themes, such as people using other peoples' arms in place of their own, men speaking with women's voices (and vice versa), sexual obsession, and lots and lots and lots of blood.  Again, it's not a horror picture, but it should make you laugh and wince and get all creeped out much more than any horror flick you find littering the cineplex today.  Sure, you could go see "Paranormal Activity 3" this weekend, if you like more of the same crap you've seen time and again.  Or you could pop in "El Topo" and get your requisite fill of blood, gore and boobs while also having your mind positively tilted on its side.

I've been hearing about how great this movie is for a long time now, and I've been hearing about how great the Swedish original upon which it is based ("Let the Right One In") is for even longer than that.  And I'll add my voice to the chorus, it IS great.  Can I endorse Stephen King's claim that it is "the best American horror film of the last 20 years".  Well, no.  But it IS a good horror flick, and more importantly, a touching tale of young romance.

And perhaps even more important than that, it adds to the weekend's ELIAS KOTEAS QUOTA.

When I was a kid, the name "Elias Koteas" stuck in my head because I loved the first "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle" movie, and he played "Casey Jones". And Casey Jones was awesome!  It is gratifying to see that he has turned into one of the most visible character actors of the last 20 years or so, turning up in all sorts of roles in all sorts of places.  His role in this one isn't a huge one, but in addition to admiring his awesome 80's mustache, in only a few scenes he still manages to create a sympathetic presence, which makes you care about what happens to him.

I liked this flick.  It wasn't scary, really, but it used horror imagery successfully to create an intense and foreboding atmosphere, that ultimately pays off in an incredibly satisfying way.  Again, didn't fall in love with it to the point where I'm declaring it a masterpiece, but it was definitely a better-than-average movie (regardless of genre) with surprising heart and quality of craftsmanship.

Resident Evil :Afterlife

What is going on in this movie? Why would anyone watch this movie? Why am I watching this movie?

Let's get this out of the way: I really, really enjoyed the first "Resident Evil" flick.  I thought it was superior popcorn, and what it lacked in smarts it made up for with an actual sense of style, dread, and fun.  The pre-credits sequence is gleefully mean-spirited, and while most of the action beats owe so much to "Aliens" that Jim Cameron should have gotten a co-writer credit, I still, somewhat inexplicably, really dug that movie.  No shit.

I was sad that the sequel, "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" was so crappy that it couldn't even be saved by a Milla Jovovich nude scene.  Man, it sucked.  Then I saw "Resident Evil: Extinction", and reflected that by comparison, "Apocalypse" is a model of taste and craft.

In fact, whenever I think of RE:Ex (which is as rarely as possible when I'm not complaining about it on blogs) I think about a scene where the "good guys" are someplace, I dunno, a gas station or a desert or wherever, and they are assaulted by hordes of what are very, very clearly stuntmen in very, very poor rubber masks.  Man, that movie sucked.

So why did I return to "Resident Evil: Afterlife"? Well, I'm stupid, I guess.  This movie was a real chore to get through.  And I can't imagine that it would have been any better had I seen it in 3D at the theater.

I am all for the suspension of disbelief, and I am all for clever action.  This movie asks that you completely suspend all brain functions, and there is nothing clever about it.  The leaden, awful dialogue; the complete lack of any sort of real atmosphere; the very real feeling that you're watching actors (term applied generously) on greenscreen stages; the mind-numbing, it is a mess.

(I will allow that there is EXACTLY ONE thing that I liked about it: the requisite "zombie dogs" learned a new trick, in that now their heads can split open to reveal Lovecraftian tentacles and whatnot. That was kinda neat.)

I actually hated this movie, and I am more charitable than most when it comes to horror pictures. But seriously, fuck this movie.  Paul W.S. Anderson, the writers, the actors, all of 'em!'re still hot.

Can't wait for the next one!


  1. So have you seen the original ("Let The Right One In")? I enjoyed certain aspects of it, though I don't really hail it as a classic or anything. (And I haven't seen this American version.)

    Like you, I can't stop watching Milla Jovovich zombie movies. But I actually thought this last one was the second best of the four. ...It's been a while, and I can't remember anything about it, but I do recall thinking that. ...Wait, there was a boat near the end. I remember that.

  2. You made me watch 8213: Gacy House and, oh, how I brayed.

  3. HA! Well then, my work here is done. Although I feel somewhat guilty that I actually coerced another human being into watching this movie.

  4. Oh, Glen, I watched "Let the Right One In" this morning and my review will be up this week!