Saturday, November 30, 2013

Among Friends


A group of school friends (their friend, Lily, is noticeably absent…for a reason) are gathered together (well, I use the word, friends, loosely) for a specific purpose, and it isn’t what they think…far from an amicable party to celebrate their co-existence, why they are in the same house together will soon be revealed. This revelation will not be to their liking. Far from it.
**½
 had read about a film Danielle Harris had directed. I was immensely curious, wondering just what this beauty had creatively to show us horror fans who have followed her career since Halloween 4. The film plays out like the classic “revenge for a tragic event from the past” in the vein of I Know What You Did Last Summer, in that a select bunch are responsible for something traumatic that happened to an innocent (that or their complicit participation in other acts that would cause great agony if made known). What ultimately happens to them is up for debate but what that will be we can only guess. The results of the gathering is for those responsible to confront, much to their discomfort, their part in it all.









When they arrive to the house, no one is there, but instructions await the group. It is for a game. Who is the killer? Clues are throughout the house for the principles to discover. The game has the group coming to the table with all the clues brought forth, but the participants will be in for a surprise because nothing is as it seems. The party is at Bernadette’s house and she seems to be hiding something (there’s this wicked glimmer and knowing plan in place soon to be unveiled). Drugged, losing feeling in their extremities, and soon to be duct-taped into position in chairs around a table, the gang are in for a night of terror as Bernadette will provoke a reaction from them all as she forces them to examine their own faults and dishonesty. Being “outed” for your past sins while taped to a chair and forced to endure suffering (psychological, physical, and otherwise),  while those around you must watch is all part of the “human torture” aspect (no, I’m not fucking calling this torture porn) that has become par for the course in the likes of Saw and The Final.

Alyssa Lobit is the major star of the cast of unfamiliar faces as the psychotic Bernadette, playfully basking in the misery of those she punishes. She chops off a finger after being told to stop the showing the recording of a secret masturbation to lesbian lovemaking (the character of Jules (Brianne Davis) is a lesbian “actress” unknowingly performing while fellow friend, Marcus (Christopher Backus) is jerking off across the room). Sara (Kamala Jones) gets scalped and a nail driven through her hand. Marcus takes those chopped fingers. Blane has an eyebrow sliced off. We see that Melanie (Jennifer Blanc) isn’t some do-gooder, but in fact gets it from both Blane and almost from dopehead Adam (AJ Bowen) while wasted. Oh, but Melanie and Blane wasn’t a one-time thing. That was when Blane was with Sara, too. That’s the way the film goes. This turns into Jerry Springer. I get what director Harris is going for. Part of the awesome Hugh Laurie show, House, is “everybody lies.” That is a mantra that proves true time and again. Does proving that these people sitting around this table are cretins justify Bernadette tormenting them and harming them cruelly? Vigilantism is nothing new in film. Of all the misbehavior already mentioned, this pales in comparison to the real genesis of what purposed the “game”. Adam’s connection to the supposedly dead Lily (the victim of a botched abortion, Bernadette says) is at the forefront of all this.

Boy does the film go off the tracks into loonyland when Jules, having supplied herself with shrooms before and during the party prior to the torture table game, hallucinates. During the hallucination, Jules envisions a “casting party” (including Michael Biehn and Danielle Harris in her Halloween clown costume!!!) with director Xavier Gens (of all people) directing the table scene with different people in the roles of the party Jules is amongst. This is just wild. Jules goes in and out of this state and Harris heightens the hallucination by having voices talking over each other and the actors screaming out and at one another. Kane Hodder even has a special appearance as a foul-mouthed limo driver making the mistake of crossing paths with Bernadette (even not knowing her to be a maniac, it just wasn’t his night). It is a nice cameo considering Harris and Hodder worked together on Hatchet II.

While Bernadette wasn’t exactly justified in her homicidal antics, Lily (Dana Daurey) gets to say her piece and address these people who aren’t friends but guilty in mishandling the truth of a rape, doing nothing about it, and ultimately brushing it off when it appears they are rescued from harm. These people blow it when they have a chance to admit their wrongdoing, but fuck it up instead.

When I watch a film like this, I kind of develop apathy because I don’t feel a damned thing for those enduring the suffering. These are people that task our ability to summon the least bit of sympathy for what they are going through. I don’t want to feel a desire to see them punished or take the abuse with a vicarious thrill, but oftentimes the characters are so full of themselves, act in ways that are selfish and heelish, behaving without a sense of honor at all for those who might be pained by their actions.  And even when faced with the truth of how mean-spirited and heartless their behavior might have been, these people fail to truly take into account the effects of their actions. Lily is about to set them free, and they accost her on why she held the rape to herself instead of telling them. Lily sees them in this moment, still unchanged and concerned only for themselves. Oh, to sic Bernadette on their asses. Lily might just have that option even after it seems she has rendered Bernadette “subdued”.

There rarely is a balance. To see characters flawed but still feel for them is rare in these types of films. To understand that we all make mistakes but have a conscience and feeling for others. By film’s end, the characters are just as self-absorbed and willing to forget what has been shed to light so they can get out of the house, wounds and blood and missing parts, off to continue their rotten existences. It is just as well that Bernie has some fun with them.
But in regards to Harris, I hope she gets a chance to direct again, but this time with the ability to proceed beyond one building and a stage-like set up. The budget and cast may not be exceeding in the quality often provided to a Rob Zombie or those who directed Halloween sequels, but I would enjoy seeing Harris being able to function with more room to take a story and characters, outside such a confined space. She still conducts quite a horror show. I still felt like she ran out of budget and story before a satisfying conclusion could truly send her movie off with a real bang, but she acquits Among Friends with plenty of darkness, winking at us that those unfortunate enough to appear in her film are bequeathed to their just desserts and Harris has a sweet tooth.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Warm Bodies


 
Came home from work totally exhausted and kicked back on the bed to watch Warm Bodies (2013) a film I have had in my possession for several months but hadn’t gotten around to viewing. It was right at the start on Cinemax West so I decided to give it a go. About what I expected, a Romeo and Juliet zombie film with the violence off screen; the graphic bloodletting of Walking Dead, on cable television has more visible, explicit gore than Warm Bodies. This has a few touches that differentiate it from the typical zombie films we are accustomed to, but Romero was getting to the end results of Warm Bodies with his last few (not well received) Living Dead pictures.
**

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Moon 44


Moon 44 has a mining colony that contains ore that is extracted by ongoing machinery for a company who turns it into fuel. It is the last colony available to the company since robot-manned drones attack them by order through thieves who use them for their own financial purposes. An Internal Affairs agent (Michael  ParĂ©) is sent to the colony to investigate why mining shuttles were going missing (he doesn’t know that the company sending him understand he’ll possibly not be able to leave, and that the prisoners he will be transporting with (he’ll be undercover as a prisoner) are to fight the robot-manned drones attacking the moon without a way off!) The company chairman obviously won’t tell him this, pretending that once the mission is accomplished (finding out if the person in his file can give him information on who has commandeered those shuttles) he’ll be free from employ at the IA division…just not off the planet! That’s the rub: this agent will be stuck on the moon, even in an investigation his chance of survival is grim (the company just want the answers he investigates, not in the mind of his personal safety while doing so).
***½

Moontrap




While on a routine space mission, two astronauts (Walter Koenig and Bruce Campbell) encounter an ancient space ship, derelict, with the remains of a humanoid lifeform soon startling them. On board the ship, Koenig removes an alloy-based "cocoon" which we later observe holds a robotic entity that can take spare parts (mechanical or human) and build itself into a killer machine of enormous strength with laser weaponry quite dangerous tohuman civilization. There seems to be only malicious intent; this is proven when a NASA scientist attempts to communicate and reason with it. A moon mission is soon on the horizon after NASA soldiers do battle with the killer robot (Koenig eventually travels in a crawlspace above it to blast its head apart with a shotgun, ending the shootout), and Koenig and Campbell will finally be able to complete the astronaut dream. Both the ship and lifeform were 1400 years old!
***½

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Galaxy of Terror



For a long time, it irked me that Galaxy of Terror was considered a rip off of Alien. I often wondered if those who claim this ever watched Galaxy of Terror. This little New World B-movie indie maintained a nice cult following among us low budget sci-fi horror aficionados. I actually own a VHS copy I rented numerous times and before that I watched a second hand recording from my uncle (he recorded it off of late night HBO, I assume) on multiple occasions. This isn’t a movie where a decent budget was available, and Corman didn’t necessarily equip filmmakers with a lot to work with. I think that is an endorsement for Galaxy of Terror because despite of the limitations, I think this has a rather interesting premise and with all that darkness and the nightmares unleashed, the film at least appears inspired.
****

Friday, November 15, 2013

Heavy Metal



It is sad to say, but I didn’t grow up with Heavy Metal like my 80s brethren and I ache because of it. This would have been on VHS rotation had I been in access of it. It just never come across my attention (I’m not even sure why) or was visible to my eyes at the rental store. It wasn’t really until 2007, when I noticed it on VHS in a mom-and-pop (now gone, replaced with a clothing store (*sigh*)) called Movietyme (I drop this from time to time because it was a reminder of the old days when aisles and rows of VHS tapes were all over the place; they had DVDs all over the place, too, though), that Heavy Metal finally caught my happy attention. I rented it three times (!) when Movietyme was in business (it wasn’t in business but maybe four/five years tops; it was a late attempt to appeal to old school movie fans, but the economy was in the absolute shitter during their small era) and fell in love with it. It was exactly what I would have cherished as a nerdy kid who loved loud rock music, animated gore, and big-busted bunnies.
****½

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hell Baby



Horror comedies are incredibly difficult to pull off. Sometimes movies try hard to be funny and that air of desperation seems alarmingly obvious. Sometimes no restraint can and cannot work. Sometimes it seems as if they are scattershot (or maybe buckshot is better) and the laughs hit paydirt or land with a loud, resounding thud. And people’s sense of humor varies so what works for some doesn’t others. I have seen reactions vary towards the likes of American Werewolf in London and Return of the Living Dead, with some not drinking their Kool-Aid. Sometimes films are just so bizarre they elicit laughs because of dialogue that seem random, daft, and out-there. Sometimes, like in the case of Hellbaby, those involved find themselves funny, make their movie based on how they laugh at each other’s gags/jokes and the product that comes out of them fails to rub off on the audience. That’s not to say the hard work to tickle our funnybone isn’t a lack of trying. Sometimes those in front of the camera wholly commit and believe in the material’s ability to make us laugh while poking fun at the genre (in this case Hollywood’s insistence on loud sound effects and a roaringly obnoxious score; there’s even heavy use of piano (something I’m a sucker for)), and I admittedly will sometimes smile and laugh at them because their efforts don’t go unnoticed. There are times when I pity good actors struggling with trying to reinforce how funny the material is when it isn’t all that uproarious. I think Hellbaby is an example of this as well. Like in Club Dread, I actually recognize and admire that energy in the cast and direction to entertain and amuse us. Whether it is a success or not depends, I guess, on what you find funny. You can be as animated and loud with the dialogue, which cries aloud, “LAUGH PEOPLE!!!” and it just come off as a hopeless cause. That’s not to say, though, that the effort isn't totally in vain.
**

Robert Corddry and Leslie Bibb move into a house in the projects, much to the surprise of the neighbors and sure enough their happy abode (a run-down work-a-day ordeal for them, needing a great deal of repairs/home improvements) is possessed by a demonic spirit. Bibb is pregnant and her fetus becomes possessed with the Devil. She also is possessed as she starts to behave strangely. Demon-fighting Vatican priests (Warriors of the Cloth, I like to refer to them) will be sent their way to do battle with hellbaby.

The house looks like a death trap with plankboards and wood all over the place, along with open wires and cords. To say this house looks hazardous to your health would be an understatement.

Look, there are moments here that did have me laughing a bit. The oral sex by a creepy nursing home patient scene where Corddry realizes that bludgeoning her with a fire extinguisher after she provides him with a blow job (under the sheets he thought it was his wife, much to his surprise!). I questioned why I would laugh at it, but fuck-all if I didn't. But then there’s the scene where Corddry wayyyyyy overdoes a freak out when Bibb, in demon voice, recites some sort of warning to a dog that realizes its presence in her. Sometimes there’s something funny followed right after with something that falls harder that a nickel to the sidewalk from the Empire State Building. With this movie it has highs and lows, immediately following each other.

I have seen a lot of comedies—especially satires—that go off on tangents that do leave me laughing a bit. Like when Bibb agrees to see a psychiatrist (Michael Ian Black), and he’s in bike shorts that “outline his penis” with Corddry doing his damnedest to ignore the impossible. It is so genuinely silly, I couldn’t resist laughing at it. It has no purpose towards the story of the film (what little there is) whatsoever and seemed like something thought of during the scriptwriting stage (and was probably also an excuse to get Black in the movie). There’s also the thick Italian accents the actors playing the warrior priests (one of them headbutts a do-goody “no-smoking please” local for trying to tell them that Louisiana indoor laws prohibit such activity!) lay on for all their worth that could amuse or seem a bit much considering whether or not you fall for the shtick. And yes, when the one priest says, “…this is where the girls a flash-ah their boobies, yeah?” I couldn’t help but grin (I tried, honestly, not to. It is the eye-rolling grin, though). I did like how the other priest referred to the beads provided to girls “flashing their perky breasts” as “fool’s gold”. Yeah, that’s the kind of comedy you are in for. But the nonsense with the old naked lady from the nursing home (the costume is far too noticeable; even if on purpose, it was just a bit too over the top for me personally) wanting a hug from Corddry, with LA Parish police insisting he cooperate, did nothing for me at all. I didn’t even want to include an image from it on the blog, I disliked it so much…saying that, this kind of ghastly stuff sended up for laughs will suit the fancy of those who embrace the warped bad taste this scene adheres to. This culminates in Corddry trying to pry the woman from him while she has her clawed fingers in a tough grip in the crack of his ass while the morons on patrol soon put her down with their stun guns before shocking each other for kicks and giggles! Absurd hi-jinks. “I’m gonna go wash all this old lady vagina off me.”

Oh, and much to your delight, we get a scene where the cops and priests enjoy the meal of po-boys….after viewing the crime scene of the psychiatrist, hammered to the wall of his office in the form of a crucifix with his entrails hanging out of his torn stomach. Lots of close-ups of eating, some farts and burps accompanying the approval of their meal with “Mmmms.” Yep. To continue the slob humor, there's a later scene where four are eating "pizza salad", the cops show up so show the photos of the psychiatrist gutted, and what commences is an all-out puke-out that reinforces the point that sometimes too much can stretch a joke until it just wears out its welcome. They puke. They puke again. And about four or five pukes later, the joke has reached its expiration date. There's only so much mileage you can get out of potty humor. Maybe some of you like that over and over, but after a while, I check out.
























"I am so sick of being startled!!!"


The finale is what you might expect. The twins are born, one perfectly fine, the other the titular hellbaby with a ferocious bite that goes for the jugular. The two idiot cops, the two priests, Corddry and Bibb, the home-dwelling, never-leaving Keegan-Michael Key (with the very expressive face, always interrupting Corddry before he can be kicked out on his ass), and Bibb’s practicing-Wiccan sister Riki Lindhome (her character no good with men and staging a lengthy pot-smoking “house cleansing” that results in the house shaking “from the inside”; her stunning full body nude scene, which lasts for minutes much to my surprise and amazement, with an uncomfortable Corrdry is one of the film’s highlights) have to deal with hellbaby on the rampage. It takes out a few of them before Corddry puts that damned no-good lamp (with a short in light with a nasty bite that shocks him a couple times) to use in the end. One is actually shot; others are bit in the neck and leaving lots of bloodshed all over the place. A hellbaby, with little horns and small, sharp teeth, scurrying about and sprinting towards its victims, is a sight to behold. This whole ordeal punctuates the bonkers premise, and the cast respond with faces screaming and in terror (reactions that are comedic, not serious), before it ends with hellbaby scorching. Is it funny seeing a baby pummeled and fried, regardless of its evil ways? I must admit I was a bit uncomfortable and ill-at-ease with it, but the film was leading to it, so there you go. At least, we get to leave the film with the old batty lady that looks like a demented witch riding a bike…all’s well, that ends well.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tightrope





“There’s a darkness inside all of us, Wes. You, me, the man down the street. Some have it under control, others act it out. The rest of us try to walk a tightrope between the two.”

This comes from a psychologist Eastwood’s Wes Block talks to about his current serial killer in Nawlins. It does aid the obvious focus on Block’s darkness. The emphasis on sexual kink is rather surprising considering Eastwood’s involvement in such lurid subject matter.

You know how you watch films about law enforcement where the question is posited regarding the full moon out in the sky, “You think it brings the crazies out?” I like Eastwood’s (he is a detective) reaction to partner Dan Hedaya in Tightrope: “They’re always out.” In New Orleans a psychopath is stalking and strangling pretty women and it will be up to Eastwood to find him.
 
****

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Haunter

 
This “if you blinked, you missed it” horror film that emerged briefly in October of 2013 (maybe, you saw a Direct Tv commercial for its VOD, “catch it the same time as it appears in theaters” release, which brought this to my attention) has teenager Abigail Breslin (some consider her a rising star in the horror genre after her hit film (starring Halle Berry), The Call actually made surprise box office bank) starring as a victim of a serial killer in 1985 reliving a specific day with her father, mother, and brother over and over.

**½

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Thing of the Past


When Movie Gallery was located where I live in my hometown, there was this really cute blond who noticed I always rented horror movies and would talk with me about them (and rec some to me as well). I thought about this a little while after another rental store (Movietyme, it was called) closed its doors as the Great Recession in 2008 reared its fucking ugly head and roared with a ferocity and rumbled through the country like Godzilla leveling Tokyo--still felt--during the period when I learned I was losing my job at the factory after 12 years (it would actually lead to me getting a college degree and a nice office job, so ultimately I was better off, but that’s a whole other topic altogether). At Movietyme (a mom-and-pop that felt like a holdover from the rental stores that left the town due to various factors), there was a female owner who also noticed I rented a lot of horror movies and admitted she liked them, recommending some to me as well. The cute blond told me about Blackwater Valley Exorcism while the woman at Movietyme told me Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon was a must see. I remember both conversations distinctly (how I felt during them, liking the fact that women were talking horror with me), and I wax nostalgic thinking about them with a fondness that reverberates at this writing.

What’s the point of this? Ahhh, I’m just reminiscing, I guess. Message boards and fan festivals are venues for such discussion, but I just miss the intimacy of that one-on-one conversation that organically happens when I visit that rental store and something magical blossoms. I rented BE—thought it was rather blah—and it isn’t the film itself I recollect, but that the girl and how pleasant our rapport was.

I also recall rainy Saturdays in Hassells. It was an rental appliance store that rented out movies on the side. Clearly, this store wanted to rent stoves or lawnmowers, not movies. But they had aisles of movies. This was my golden age of VHS. They had a really run down copy of Dawn of the Dead. They actually had that “lighting eyes” VHS box of The Pit. I remember passing by Trancers, with the title of Future Cop on the VHS box. Rows of movies, and I remind myself of how time could pass and the passage of said time would amuse me. There was no pressure, and I could just search carefully for a movie that might suit my fancy.

I guess kids today can do that with torrent sites or at Netflix, or even Youtube. The internet superhighway has stolen away the thrill of the old fashioned hunt, or as I like to classify my activity as a “haunt”. Plenty of pacing on those floors, for sure. There was Downs video, with endless shelves of horror. So much horror. We took it for granted. One of the final rentals from Downs for me was Phantasm: Oblivion. About a few months later, that store would close for good. Hassells decided to go completely appliances and sell off their VHS tapes. People converged upon that place as they sold them off dirt cheap. Stripped bare, the store would no longer rent movies and soon after closed its doors for good.

Buildings once holding movies now sell goods of a different kind, sit without occupation, or are completely gone. Like drive-ins, rental stores are a thing of the past…a past I hold fondly.

The Rental Store Will Be No More


The death of the brick and mortar has been weighing on my mind over the past few years, but it definitely entrenched itself within my mind when the announcement of Blockbuster came out a couple days ago. Extinction of an industry that was such a part of my teenage years leaves a melancholy that harvests itself and causes this state of overwhelming sadness. Some will probably cheer the demise of Blockbuster because of how the chain worked as a type of Walmart, popping up and causing the closing of mom-and-pop rental stores everywhere. However, there’s just something special to me about perusing aisles at a rental store and eyeballing an old release you haven’t seen or thought of in some time, taking it home for a spin in the video/dvd player. Redboxes (with very limited product that beckon immediate attention) and Netflix (sure streaming is available, but for many of us where fiber optics still haven’t become readily available, we have dvds to rent in order to watch product not of the typical norm) are now the status quo. No longer will I walk around in the rental store and search for that odd title that kind of peeks out and beckons a look-see. Those days will soon be a distant memory. I mourn the loss a whole generation will not even experience after me. Too bad.

This isn't a lament necessarily for Blockbuster but for the video rental store. Not as much about dvd, as about a store that rents movies. I had rather groaned inside when video rentals (SIX back in the late 80s/early 90s just in my little hometown!!!) start to go away and Movie Gallery was all that was left. Blockbuster in the two big cities where I lived remained. So when I say I'm a bit down about Blockbuster closing its doors, this is really about losing video stores in general. Part of this is like when we lose someone/thing we enjoy and he/she/it is no longer around to visit. Never to return.

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The Boogens - Intro

While I must admit that as a monster movie, The Boogens (1981) doesn’t quite measure up (its monsters aren’t particularly menacing ...