Sunday, March 29, 2015

Some Ed Wood silliness

What am I getting myself into?

Well, I already know this will be AWFUL thanks in part to the mercilessly droning narrator talks about juvenile delinquency (???), and there's this laughably sparely furnished police station with an Ed Wood picture hanging on the wall (why???). An old couple screech about something nightmarish (that old wife actress is especially wretchedly dreadful) before being led out of the station. Later, after something regarding "those crazy kids and their delinquent ways" (dancing about outside a Sonic drive-in: to shame!), a mauling where a group of bullies pound some unfortunate joker before snatching his cash while some girl watches in boredom (!), and a car wreck (with a shot of some driver dead outside a window; this is Ed setting up a "poignant artistic shot of tragedy"), there's the finale of a bad date where the girlfriend slaps the boyfriend for trying for a little nookie. The boy runs after the girl while some "ghoul" (a woman in a black dress, bugging her eyes, with a covering over her face) attacks them both (biting them?).





There’s the “tale of the couple that drove towards the house near Willow’s Lake where there lived ‘that old mad doctor who made those monsters’” where the old farts who couldn’t act for shit (look at how the old timer with a throat clearing problem who needs a lozenge takes to the steering wheel; horrible) get the car stuck in mud near a house where a beautiful blond walking as if a zombie off the island of I Walked with a Zombie or Isle of the Dead approaches out of the foggy darkness.






The police chief sends out his cop (dressed in tuxedo and top hat! Seriously, what the fuck???) to investigate the house near Willow’s Lake. The ghoul girl (not the blond but the chick in the black dress) is looking on from within the woods nearby.

The viewer?

Dr. Acula

Really scary, right?




Poor Tor

Guess who lives in the house…a swami named Dr. Acula!

“You must watch your step. The passage ahead will be very dark.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Houses October Built



 **½

Here’s the thing about The Houses October Built: it gives away the horror before the whole shebang gets started. When you see a damaged beauty tossed in a trunk with a camera recording her awakening from unconsciousness, the gig is up before the buildup can even start. So we immediately know that whatever happens to the gaggle of RV-traveling friends isn’t going to end well. The whole premise builds on the embracing of, demand and desire for danger…something “extreme”. You can just hear, “Be careful what you wish for” rolling around in your mind as this found footage effort (sort of a document of the six days to Halloween, interviewed subjects who work at and are customers of scare houses, as friends who grew up together take a trip to various haunts across Texas and eventually into Nawlins) unfolds. That’s not to say I didn’t like it. I found it quite creepy (when our group finally encounter what they are looking for, they get more than they bargained for, including a creep boarding their RV, quietly recording them while they sleep, and eventually airing the footage online), relevant (the idea that some might push the boundaries of how far you’ll go to frighten or horrify an audience that attends your venue isn’t all that unrealistic), natural (camera recordings of the inside crazy shenanigans of lo-fi, rural, backwoods, built-from-scratch, off-the-beaten-path funhouses seem positively genuine, right down to the reactions of those we are following being freaked out by those trying to terrify them), and intense (when the nutcases unleash the terror on the group, they truly do encounter an “extreme haunt”, this time recorded by those inflicting the horror on them; the irony is that for most of the running time, it has been a document on others but as the film ends, they are the ones being documented).

So I think this will be worth your time. Those in the group are just a fun-loving bunch who got in over their heads and tempting fate when there are signs that danger was close and near simply wasn’t wise. When you realize that there was someone in your RV recording you, and that they left a cut out heart in your refrigerator, it might be wise to cut in run. You visited some haunts, got a few laughs, were shaken a bit, and remained alive. But that wouldn’t follow the found footage formula which often requires the bleak conclusion. The cautionary side of pursuing something extreme instead of just visiting some rather harmless (except to tremor you out of your complacency a bit) places that want to rock your nerves and make you scream. The buildup, after the opening pretty much sums up what will happen to the principles in the cast, features snippets of interviews with those in “disguise” talking candidly about their seasonal profession during Halloween time. That glimmer in their face and eyes, the cheery thrill in their voice, and just the general method with how they talk about the funhouse scare (and how far one could and should go to achieve it or of going as far as necessary to the extreme haunt) is all an approach to reveal that there are those who would go too far. That actually hurting and killing someone to achieve total fear and horror is possible in certain people. The group in this found footage film get what they seek after…and pay a price for it.


Memorable scenes include a weird girl in a warped doll mask boarding the RV and screeching after twisting her face towards them, with darkness in her eyes, a crazy in clown costume confronting the group about supposedly recording illegally in his funhouse, actual trips through funhouses including one truly disturbing haunt with lots of horror setpieces, a visit to a “horror-themed strip club”, and the assault on the RV once the group make it to their extreme haunt destination. The finale has a feeling of The Strangers in that the silent group of “haunters” besieges the innocents and quietly terrorize them. The vocals come directly from the group tormented not by those wanting to do them in.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Day of the Mummy




 *½



Welcome to the cursed earth, Jack.

Sadly, it takes a whole 65 minutes to get to the Pharaoh Mummy, so I’m not particularly endorsing the first killer tomb mummy movie that seems to have come down the pike in a while. At least it isn’t overblown with CGI bugs and Brendan Fraser mimicking Indiana Jones, but Day of the Mummy  doesn’t exactly set off a 4th of July fireworks display of awesomeness either.






One thing I got pretty tired of after a while was Danny Glover and his demands in Egyptologist/archeologist Jack finding a particular stone. Glover’s face is a constant, showing up in a frame to the lower left hand corner of Jack’s glasses requesting over and over, ad nauseum, a diamond of priceless worth believed to be with the body of a long lost Pharaoh reputed to have finally been discovered by a missing archeologist. I was worn down by Glover’s face and his expectations in Jack acquiring the stone that the film became taxing for me.






Day of the Mummy concerns an expedition to find a Pharaoh. Jack (William MacNamara; Argento fans will know him as a young man that is the lover of the heroine killed while she must watch in “Opera”) is hired by Glover’s wealthy benefactor, Carl, to get a diamond that rests within the chest of the Pharaoh’s skeletal remains. Hired by an archeological crew led by Dr. Cooper (Eric Young), which includes a woman he quickly desires, Kate (Andrea Monier), Jack Wells will be wearing a pair of glasses with a special camera device that allows Carl to see what he does during the expedition. A mini-ear piece to hear Carl is included, so Jack must keep in contact with him during the whole thing much to our dismay.







A majority of the film deals with meeting the crew, the Middle Eastern guide, traveling to the location where the cavernous dwelling of the Pharaoh is, venturing inside it, and ultimately getting trapped/lost in the tunnels, eventually encountering the burial chamber and killer mummy inside. There are also some Egyptian soldiers that cause our crew a bit of a pickle, a cave-in, the guide turning on them in favor of his support for the mummy, and the discovery of the former archeologist who went missing with his remains revealing a missing heart and deteriorated corpse.






The final ten or so minutes may be too little too late, but when we get the mummy he’s rather awesome. Still we get a lot of POV, as this is an experiment in the “found footage” vein where most of what we see is through the glasses of MacNamara. He turns out to be quite a hero as he tries to find a way out for the crew, while all the while looking for the diamond Glover so desperately covets. He cares about their safety even as his mission is secret from them. Kate he builds a care for specifically and she even saves him at one point from certain death. The cavernous tunnels is nicely claustrophobic and scary in that passages often present themselves leaving us to wonder if MacNamara will ever find his way out. Obviously I always figured he would, but the found footage genre (which this emulates) is prone for ending things bleakly.





I just feel like for a majority of the audience watching this (those who just want a fun killer mummy movie) will be sorely disappointed that the film waits so long to turn the mummy loose and when he does get to kill it is all rather underwhelming. So what we are left with is a rather spooky cavern and a rad killer mummy but not much else. Even getting to the cavern seems to take forever, and once inside little but the avalanche happens. The rest is Glover demanding the diamond, MacNamara lusting for Kate, Jack reading hieroglyphics when he isn’t arguing with Cooper, and a poor member of the crew just getting hurt constantly (the guide cuts him up, he gets his arm underpinned thanks to falling rock, and he’s carted off to be killed by the mummy). I wish I could say this was a fine addition to a rather disreputable subgenre that hasn’t seen a good movie in ages (I can only remember a fun segment with Christian Slater in Tales from the Darkside: the Movie featuring a killer mummy and that was quite a while back), but I’d be lying. The current imdb rating is sadly accurate.

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