Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Disappointments Room (2016)

Here we go again, with another ghost story movie that really could've been improved in a number of ways... most of all in this case, if the filmmakers had had any kind of point or plot to anything they were doing. Welcome to The Disappointments Room!

Director: DJ Caruso
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Mel Raido

Co-written with Michelle.

Apparently this movie was made a few years ago, but only released last year after the studio came back from a bankruptcy filing after a bunch of lawsuits and missing loan payments. Would it really have been too much to ask for it to have just STAYED lost?

Also, director DJ Caruso was also responsible for Disturbia, which is... yeah, great, I guess? I dunno. Let's just dig into this crap pile.

This is another ghost story, paranormal type of film, in the mold of Insidious and The Haunting of Connecticut and God knows how many others. It's got a super original premise where a troubled woman, Dana (Kate Beckinsale) and her family are moving to a fancy house in the country to try and get away from their problems – something people in real life do all the time, and something totally relatable to the modern person. Not feeling good about anything? Just do the totally plausible and affordable thing and move to a fancy old house in the country. If you can't do that, YOU DESERVE TO SUFFER.

It's so simple. Just make sure you have access to enough wealth and personal opportunity to move to a place like this at any time you're sad. Then you'll never truly be in the dark.

The movie actually starts with the family singing in the car driving to the place, and it's really quite annoying. The dad is waaaay too into it, he looks like he's doing his best Off Broadway musical voice. Calm the fuck down, dude. I'm pretty sure there are no talent agents out on the road in the woods that will hear you.

I guess one of the first things that happens is a leak in the roof – you know, the best possible way to start off a horror film. I can't count the number of horror films I've seen where it was good but would have been improved with a subplot about a leaky roof. Also, it starts to rain – so this is a really bad movie to watch if you have to pee really bad.

They do some more boring shit like go into town to talk to the weirdest lady the movie could find – she's just super excited about everything, blathering on about how there's a hot carpenter in town who's father is an alcoholic, which is stuff I'd find really interesting if I was wasted off my ass at 3 a.m. and unaware of my surroundings. But I'm not, so this scene just falls flat.

But there's actually SOME creepy shit that starts happening... like, Dana sees a dog in the yard one time. OOOOOoooooOOOOOOOoooo! Scary!

It turns out to just be a wheelbarrow or something. Easy mistake to make, they look exactly identical.

There's also, of course, the weird little room they never heard about when they were looking at the house, up in the attic. It starts to weird Dana out, but she can't open it at all until a separate scene the next day when she finds a key to the place. Wonderful scriptwriting – no way at all that couldn't've happened in the same scene. But I guess the movie had to fill its insanely difficult hour and 15-minute runtime somehow! These guys really know how to write movies.

Then she does get in, and the door mysteriously closes behind her. That's just how houses in the south work – they're super polite, always wanting to make your living experience easier by taking steps out of everything. She tries to get out, but apparently the house doesn't want her to get out. Oh well. It happens. Then I guess she's just a really unmemorable person, because she falls asleep in there for several fucking hours and nobody notices she's gone.

Seriously? Her husband doesn't notice? I guess he WAS busy playing with his kid outside though. This guy is such a weirdly immature character that I'm not sure whose idea it was to do this.

This is actually advance footage of the next Avengers movie. Looks lazy.

The rest of this is just full of nonsense jump scares that we saw in 2004 and some really bad dream sequence scenes that are so obvious you could see them in space... like, yeah, I'm sure she really woke up and found her kid with blood all over him... no way THAT could be a hallucination. These scenes can work, but only if you have a strong story narrative and connection to the characters. This movie doesn't.

The “story” I guess is that this old house used to belong to a family who had a deformed daughter and kept her locked up in the attic. This is relayed extremely calmly to Dana by an old lady in a museum who knew about it before and didn't tell them when they initially talked about buying the house. GEE, THANKS A LOT, LADY!

"Heh heh heh... fucking with the new people in town is the only way I feel alive anymore."

If you're wondering, like I was, what's going on with that leaky roof thing, then never fear. The movie rushes through all that boring “horror” shit and gets back to that with a scene probably longer than the horror ones – the super handsome construction guy from the town comes to the house and openly flirts with Dana with apparently no shame, and she hashes out a deal for him to work on their house. Wow! WHAT. GRIPPING. CINEMA.

Like, what in the fuck are you doing, movie? There's barely any horror in your horror movie! This thing doesn't even seem like it wanted to be a horror film – it seems much more preoccupied with these scenes of Dana and Hot Carpenter Fuckboy there quasi-flirting. Where's the scares?

Oh – another overly long hallucination dream scene of her kid supposedly getting eaten by a dog. Yeah – not convincing me, movie.

Apparently part of the reason for all this, we find out, is because she accidentally rolled over and suffocated her other child a while back and has been traumatized ever since. This is a horribly tragic thing to have happen. But this movie just isn't doing very well at articulating that. Can't it take a page out of a film like, oh I don't know, Lars von Trier's Antichrist?

Then what? She decides to burn some old paintings in the house for... better interior decorating, I'm guessing.

But who cares about that? What's going on with her and that carpenter guy now?! I guess he finally takes it too far when he offers to sleep over when her husband is away. Ooh, shot down like a U.S. government drone flying over the farm of a devout Luddite with a gun.

Keep in mind, this movie is less than 80 minutes long, and this is what we're focusing on.

How about a scene where the husband is talking to a therapist about his wife's troubles? Is THAT going to be any good?

He is actually talking to just a pair of legs.

What is this movie's fascination with showing us scenes like this that have NOTHING to do with the movie? I get it, character development is good. But they're not developing characters! They're just showing us random bullshit that distracts from the point. It's like if The Shining took a detour to show us Wendy and Jack sitting at the table talking about what color curtain to put in their bathroom at home, no scares or anything else revealed. Just ridiculous.

After finding the grave of the deformed girl in the woods, Carpenter Wonder Boy is then killed by a ghost himself, and hung in a tree where Dana finds him. Later on, it's revealed that apparently he wasn't really in the tree. Even though we see him killed by the ghost from his own point of view, apparently that DIDN'T really happen. These ghosts are up to some super complex Houdini type shit, I'll tell you.

It's extra funny if he really did die though - in that case, apparently they just leave him out there to rot while they have their little family therapy session in the house later. What a bunch of dicks.

I guess there's some sort of a “climax” after that, where she learns through magical unexplained psychic ghost powers that this old guy in the house murdered the disabled girl in the attic. What an awesome revelation that I truly care about.

Then, I guess, the ghost of that guy tells her that her son will die, so she runs to his room with a hammer and attacks a pillow that she thinks is the old man's head trying to attack her son! But really it's just, you know, a pillow, and she scared her kid. Whoops.

Wow, what an imagination she has! She should go into creative writing.

Then she and her husband talk in the kitchen about her grief from letting her baby die, which wasn't her fault, but really kind of was. Her husband says it's cool and they can work on shit, and they hug and then the screen goes to a sunny day with them leaving the house. Because that's all you need to cure emotional trauma! A hug and a 'it'll be okay' and then you're fine. Nothing else necessary! Wow! I never knew it was that easy. Apparently anything is fixable with enough money to move to a nice country house, move out and the support of a loving family. That truly is a great moral, movie. Really learned a lot from this!

This is a lame and awful movie. It didn't even feel like a finished film. But I will give it this – its plot was generic tripe I've seen a thousand times and should've been retired five years ago, but at least this movie didn't spend too much time on it. This one was trying really hard NOT to even be a fucking horror movie, what with all the time spent on the roof fixing plot, that they barely spent any time on the usual cliches I hate.

Speaking of that, what ever did happen with the roof of that place? I guess the family moved out before it could get done, which is the real reason I think this sucks! No resolution to its main plot!

Images copyright of their original owners, we own none of them.

Friday, April 21, 2017

13 Reasons Why and all the controversy surrounding

A lot of buzz these days about 13 Reasons Why, the new book-to-Netflix adaptation about a teenager who kills herself and leaves behind 13 tapes explaining what led her to that point. I’ve heard praise for it and also, recently, a lot of criticism based on how the show treats suicide.

The show is basically what I said - a girl, Hannah Baker, kills herself and leaves behind 13 tapes explaining why she did it. Her friend and would’ve-been-boyfriend Clay is the main character and we see things through his eyes as he listens to them and figures out this unwinding mystery of sorts. I was drawn into it almost immediately - not in the least due to the incredibly thick suspense and tension about it. It turns into this bat-shit crazy thriller set in a high school with this group of teenagers trying to keep those tapes hidden and save their own asses from the mysterious crimes that begin to unfold. I couldn’t help but be invested. It was exciting shit. I had to find out what was really going on.

What I did find was also a very well done and poignant show about the teenage experience, the isolation, the confusion - it had powerful and relatable themes, and it wasn’t just a show about suicide so much as it was a show about the whole experience of being in that world and going through these problems. The way the show tells these interwoven stories of escalating isolation, bullying, sexual assault and more is compelling and important to show on screen in some way.

Now, going forward - keep in mind that I have a fairly laissez-faire approach to art. I believe you should be able to talk about absolutely anything in your art if you're going about it with the intention of expressing a sincerely-held truth that you believe. That said, obviously opinions will vary on the execution of those things. That's where pretty much every discussion, debate, etc over film criticism and the meaning of films, especially in terms of important real-world topics, comes from.

This is an unreliable narrator story. We’re seeing things solely through the eyes of these kids, and a lot of it tends to ring true - as high school students, they don’t have the breadth of knowledge to recognize depression or see the long-term consequences of all their actions like the bullying. People can kind of suck and kids are mean to each other. The way the side characters are developed in the wake of the suicide is also excellently done, with a lot of attention to detail and important social commentary woven in there as well. And there are scenes of Hannah’s parents trying to reconcile what happened - they didn’t see the suicide coming either. It happens. No one thinks something like that is about to come their way. I can believe it.

What the show DOESN’T feature is a more in-depth look at Hannah’s own psyche or whatever it really was inside her that made her want to kill herself - the kind of deep depression or illness that, maybe, it could’ve been. So I get why that troubles people, because it seems on the surface like it’s trivializing or glamorizing suicide. But we don’t really see inside Hannah’s thoughts. We just hear her words on the tapes, and teenagers like her character are not fully formed in the way that they can rationally explain everything up front. That’s all we’ve got - it’s an unreliable narrator thing and it isn’t supposed to be the Truth, per se. I took this as a show about bullying and about the American teenage experience, with the suicide as a theme as well, but not as some way to explain or rationalize suicide - merely to present it as a stark fact of something that happens, without offering a true explanation, of which there usually is none. Sure, you get the tapes, which is an over the top and unrealistic thing, but it’s just used as a way to convey this story in an artful manner and move it along to get the point across.

Though I appreciate that people critique this aspect of it - some have said it’s sensational and teaches kids that after their suicide, they’ll be important; that sort of thing. It’s a fair argument. I am not sure how suicide should be handled in fiction. The best we can hope for is that it opens up the lines of discussion. Either you shouldn’t do it at all, or you should do it in such a way that discussion is encouraged. I think this did well for the latter. After watching the little featurette on Netflix, "Beyond the Reasons," I think the creators and cast were doing their best and I can side with them here.

And you can find a number of articles where mental health experts decry the show’s portrayal of suicide in that it could cause more suicides, or make it look fashionable or glamorous. I understand that. It's a thin line to walk. As I said, I’m not sure what the 100% reliable way to show these topics on screen is. In the final episode, they show this incredibly awful, graphic depiction of Hannah killing herself. The creators say they wanted to hammer home how suicide isn’t the right decision. Opponents say it could encourage more people, particularly young kids, to kill themselves. I think the existence of this scene, and the show, are enough to make the argument that this is exactly why we need to be more active in talking to kids and making sure this does not happen. We should be so open and honest about these topics that we can prevent as much of it as we can. That’s the value of this show and what good art about serious topics should aspire to do.

You should know what your kids are watching and you should talk to them about important stuff like bullying, rape, suicide, etc when applicable. 13 Reasons Why accentuates the reasons for that. I can understand the critiques of this show and I am not saying they’re not valid. In fact I think they’re part of the discussion I think is so important. Keep talking about this stuff.

The national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Image copyright of its original owner, I do not own it.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

#Horror (2015)

Well, it's been a hot minute, but we're finally back to doing what we were born to do on this blog – reviewing terrible, never-heard-of-it horror films found in the bowels of Netflix's giant stomach. This week, the one we are looking at is called #Horror. Yes, Hashtag Horror, or, the movie most likely to confuse the fuck out of your elderly aunt who thinks that's still just the pound sign on the phone. But then, isn't confusing elderly people the main aim of all horror movies?

Director: Tara Subkoff
Starring: Chloe Sevigny, Timothy Hutton

Co-written with Michelle.

I guess this was directed by artist and fashion designer Tara Subkoff. If that's your thing, great! Personally I did not have an opinion on her one way or the other before this, and now afterwards, I am very confused.

We start off with an old classic for a horror movie: people having sex in a car and then getting murdered! Wow! What a way to set up a story!

Apparently fucking Carmen San Diego is a real fetish... why would she wear that fucking hat?

Then, in a truly inexplicable choice, we see that the credits of the film are a seizure-inducing blend of horrific CGI graphics and garish, cartoonish colors that, I think, are supposed to be the Internet or some sort of app popular with teenagers. I'm guessing the reason it looks like the vomit of a Care Bear who just woke up from a bad hangover is because they couldn't afford better effects – in which case I think they definitely should've saved up more money and then bought the rights to use Facebook and Twitter in their low-budget horror film. It's so simple!

These images brought to you by... I honestly don't know. I've got nothing on this one. This is beyond insane that anyone would put this shit in a movie.

Our main characters include an asshole father who constantly tells his pre-teen daughter Cat to stop playing with her cell phone, and a wealthy lady who spends much of the first 20 minutes of the film whining about the fact that her family is falling apart because her husband is fucking his therapist, or some nonsense like that. They're so dysfunctional that they live in separate wings of their huge mansion and almost never talk to each other. Wow, I'm sure they do a lot of crying into their wads of hundred dollar bills every night. Boo fucking hoo.

The blonde lady is just a caricature of what a rich person is like – she constantly walks around in bathrobe type clothing with her hair up, screams at her clearly hyperventilating and overworked servant to find her phone, which ends up being under the couch she's sitting on. Great scene, five stars!

"Lick my boot, peasant!"

Oh, and all the main characters the movie focuses on the most are teenage girls around 12 to 14 years old – which hasn't been done before either. But maybe that's because it's a terrible idea.

See what I mean?

Seriously – I guess it could work if you had good characters and writing. But this movie just seems to be content with having bad characters and writing. Like, did we need a several-minute long scene of the one girl, Cat, bullying the fat girl at the party? It's like, did they just leave the camera off? Why is this going so long? She tells her to KILL HERSELF for fuck's sake. It hasn't been that long since I was a kid – who are these little sociopaths?!

Oh, and the backstory here involves this guy named Ray Jameison who used to live in the house, who once killed all the people at this party he was hosting because they wouldn't leave! There's your ghost story. Just that. I guess it IS a way to make sure no one COMES to your future parties... but honestly, I'm just amazed that they chose Ray Jameison as the name of the ghost. That's not a ghost name – it's the name of a burnout hippie guitar player who you can find six nights a week in that bar by the beach playing to ten people.

The movie becomes a faceless run of mush after that – a lot of scenes of the girls just talking about bullshit, including one where they point a gun at one another! Glad that one was in there.

Maybe Russian roulette would be a good thing for this movie? Please consider it.

Finally, they kick Cat out after she won't quit bullying the fat girl. I don't know why, though – it isn't like the other girls are any better really; they're all mean as fuck to each other too. They have a few scenes where they're nice to each other, but then by the climax they all hate each other too.

There's some talk about how the fat girl's life is ruined because of stuff posted about her on the internet, and some other scenes where they actually decide to stop looking at their phones. That's actually the least realistic thing in the fucking movie. But then they also have scenes like this one after they lock their phones away:

Movie... please stop. PLEASE STOP!

So really, I am not sure how much of a victory this was at all. Girls, just get your phones out and go blind looking at them. It would be preferable to more of... whatever the fuck this is.

Then Cat's father, Dr. White, shows up – a real asshole, who seems to get off on screaming at little children. He's there, I guess, because his daughter is still missing and the others kicked her out of the house. This leads to him threatening them with a large knife!

I'm sure glad we're dealing with this situation in the best most mature way possible. Phew. What a relief to have a real adult here!

He spends so much goddamn time screaming at these little girls that I think he could've found his daughter by now if he'd actually been doing something constructive. Jesus Christ. This scene also goes on for an inordinately long amount of time and I'm inclined to think Subkoff fell asleep in her chair at some point and the actors just started improvising. Because if THAT wasn't the case, then it means someone watched this and thought it was a good idea to show the world. And that scares me more than most horror movies ever could.

By the blessing of Odin and all the other gods, the guy finally goes away and bothers someone else. That just leaves the girls to start freaking out like the apocalypse is happening. The one fat girl begins to eat cupcakes constantly, and that is all everyone else talks to her about for the rest of the movie, just a constant barrage of fat jokes. Another girl, they think she lied about having sex once, so they just start bashing her for that. DIALOGUE, THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT!

Then, mercifully, the killer realizes it's almost the end of the movie, and so starts killing everyone. This happens in extremely interesting and new ways, like their throats getting cut with a knife. Wow, a real Jack the Ripper here. Real original.

Totally unoriginal, 1/5.

Finally, I guess, the killer is revealed to be Cat the whole time, the little girl who they kicked out before. Woah, I totally couldn't see that one coming! But then again, I am an idiot. She then kills herself with a gun in the driveway of the house, which is really the ending this miserable fucking movie deserved all along.

Oh, except for the insanely trite ending where they have a bunch of fake news clips about how there were a lot of people watching and doing nothing except taking videos on their phones for social media. What incisive social commentary! You are the new George Orwell! What a fucking genius you are, and everyone should immediately blow you right now.

What was the point of any of this? It was long, boring and had almost no story structure, to the point where it was hard to even write about what happened scene to scene. The whole plotline about Ray Jameison the ghost went absolutely nowhere since it turned out to be a real person killing everyone. If it was supposed to be social commentary about people being on their phones, what was it really trying to say? It's totally a muddled message because they don't do anything with it beyond have the kids USING their phones. Not exactly a biting social satire.

I guess it was supposed to be about cyberbullying? I don't know. I can see it now that I've read the Wikipedia page, but honestly, it didn't come across very well in the film. I appreciate the attempt to tackle a real world issue, but it came off as muddled and confused the way the film did it. I didn't like or sympathize with any characters, either, which could've helped in a movie about bullying victims...

So what are we left with in #Horror? A really dumb title and an excruciatingly boring, annoying film. I guess you should see it if you want to know what a bad movie looks like? Either that, or if you've watched literally everything else on Netflix.

Images copyright of their original owners, we own none of them.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

I can't believe after all the years doing this blog, I'm still reviewing Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. I know what you're thinking – couldn't you just, like, stop reviewing them, then? The answer is yes, yes I could. But that would be so much less fun in that sweet schadenfraude way. I have to do this. It's just how it is.

Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: R. Lee Ermey, Jordana Brewster

Co-written with Nathan.

This is a prequel to the 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is a real feat of confidence, as the gall it must take to assume anyone cared about that piece of shit movie and wanted to know more is far greater than anything I've ever felt.

This one starts off with a woman giving birth in the middle of a meat packing plant, which as everyone knows is exactly how you birth a serial killer. I'm glad they showed us this because I never would have known how Leatherface was born if they didn't and that was always the worst thing about the original movie. The way humans are born is just a total mystery to me so I'm glad this movie is setting the record straight on that!

Then we flash forward like 20 years to the same meat packing plant, now closing down, I assume, to become a vegetarian meat packing plant. Damn new trends... actually it's because of financial woes, I guess. For some reason, Leatherface is working there right as it's closing down – he's working in the exact same place he was born. I wonder what that's like... must be weird.

Then we learn by watching the manager that it's a bad idea to insult a mentally handicapped giant with a hammer in his hand while you're all alone in close proximity in the dark – it doesn't turn out well for him, to say the least.

And we see how he gets his infamous chainsaw – he just picks it up off the table at the meat factory as he's leaving. What an Earth shattering revelation. I am amazed how these writers were able to tie together the rich history of that chainsaw throughout multiple movies.

The main characters this time around are totally different from the last movie. Instead of a bunch of really attractive people, it's a bunch of really attractive people who have a few lines in the movie about going to Vietnam to fight a war. What a change! I guess these two guys are brothers and one of them doesn't want to go back to the war. Yeah, this is awesome. I watch slasher horror movies for serious plots about Vietnam war draft dodgers. I'm weird like that!

I do like the one scene of the brother tied up about to have sex with his girlfriend, and then he can't do it at the last minute because he's thinking about his brother too much. An every day occurrence I'm sure. Maybe producer Michael Bay is working some stuff out with scenes like this.

This is the time for deep thinking...

So I guess the Leatherface family, helmed again by R. Lee Ermey's Sheriff Hoyt character, are upset that the meat factory closed down because, I guess, this will mean the town is taken over by hippies and bikers? What a weird correlation. Except then we see that they're right – bikers just magically appear in town. Right on cue!

Did they sprout from the ground like mutated weeds? What the hell?

What follows is an incredibly strange scene in which this one woman biker chases the heroes on a motorcycle on the road with a giant gun to rob them – because I guess the movie forgot that this is TCM and not fucking Mad Max. But to be fair, a Mad Max sequel would be way better than this movie.

I liked her better when her name was Sarah Connor.

There's also an insane car crash that flips the car over and shatters several windows, yet the people inside don't break any bones or show much injury at all save for some blood on their heads! Man is that gonna be a mess! Damn car crashes.

It'll take hours to wash this off and put makeup back on! Fucking car crashes!

Hoyt shows up and kills the biker girl though, kidnapping three of the main characters – both brothers and the blonde chick. The other girl is not kidnapped because she was instead thrown out of the car in that crash earlier, yet she's perfectly fine and without a scratch on her! Because, I guess they can't have anything that ruins her hotness at all, lest they lose the interest of the people they delusionally think are watching.

The next forty minutes of this movie is all a bunch of torture porn nonsense. Really nothing scary at all – just gore and torture crap, which is almost always awful no matter what. A few highlights:

There's a needless scene where Hoyt makes the one brother do push-ups and then keeps hitting him while he's down. It goes on waaaay too long and has no point – Ermey's character just isn't well written enough to make it work as a tense scene. It's kinda gross and weird, but not scary or tense in the least. Plus being in broad daylight makes it kind of lame.

He's in the military and can barely do any push ups. Weird.

The main girl teams up with this lone biker guy to go save everyone, and their brilliant plan is of course to go do it alone. No point in even trying to get help, because what would THAT accomplish? You know, except for an awesome scene where a bunch of badass bikers fight Leatherface? That would actually be a cool scene, but what do we get? Just more of the same boring crap.

Instead, the biker shoots this old man in the family and then is butchered by Leatherface in an extremely predictable manner – it is always amazing to me how horror movie scripts do these tired, predictable scenes over and over like this. Do they think we all just have amnesia and really don't know what's going to happen at every fucking turn? I really want to meet the ideal person they think is going to watch this: “Holy fuck, I never expected him to jump out at that extremely obvious moment! What avant garde film technique!”

It's gory, but is it scary? No. No it isn't. That would require actual suspense and stuff we haven't seen a hundred times over.

Then Hoyt decides to make Leatherface cut off the old guy's legs, both of them, because he was shot in one of them. Even the other family members seem baffled by this, which is the real Litmus test for what a piece of shit you are, if the Leatherface family thinks you've gone too far.

So while the 2003 remake skipped out on the dinner scene so infamous in the original film, THIS one decided to put it in for no logical reason at all! Better late than never I guess, even when it makes no sense. Except I guess to establish that... the family is crazy and has always been crazy, since they apparently do this constantly? What an astute judgment of their characters. Why aren't the writers working in the field of clinical psychology?

"We could just kill you now, but that would make no sense for our plan of making no sense. We're just crazy! So we do nonsensical things!"

Hoyt gets beaten up with his head smashed against the floor several times, which looks pretty bad. It was mentioned at some point that he was in the Korean war – so can this just be a Jacob's Ladder scenario where none of this movie happened and it's all in his head as he's dying? Both of those things would be the best case scenario for me.

Then the main girl escapes and goes running through another meat factory, exactly like in the end of the 2003 remake. I wonder if the Leatherface family feels weird about their lives repeating all these moments over and over again, verbatim, like they're trapped in a Hellish loop.

Perhaps the silliest part of all is when she finds this car and gets in, only for Leatherface to suddenly pop up in the back seat after several minutes of driving and kill her. How did she NOT see him back there? He's a seven foot tall fucking giant with a chainsaw. That car isn't that big – it's not like he had a lot of room. So what the fuck, right? I don't feel bad at all about her dying because of this.

"I am very quiet and flexible enough to fit into small places. Isn't that cool?" 

I turned to Nathan before this happened, as she was getting in the car, and was like, wouldn't it be funny if he just popped up in the car behind her like Michael Myers? We laughed about it. Then it happened. That's pretty bad. How dare this movie appease the ridiculous whims of my imagination?

Then Leatherface gets out of the car and walks away into the complete black darkness on the other side of the road. Why is it like that? Can't they put in some fucking street lights over there?

She crashes her car into a state trooper and kills him - some street light could've prevented this tragedy.

Seriously, though, what's the point of anything in this? It's supposedly a prequel to show what happened before the Texas Chainsaw story, but it doesn't do anything but give us a rehash of the same shit we already know about. Oh, but there's a two-second scene of him being born and then finding a chainsaw! The audience was really too dumb to piece THOSE things together!

The rest of it is just boring. The original was good because the violence felt real and they didn't just shove blood and guts in your face from people tied to tables. This one is a bunch of torture porn gore garbage. Fuck this.

Images copyright of their original owners, we own none of them.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Logan (2017) and the Value of Quitting While Ahead

Here's the Cinema Freaks podcast (featuring myself and Tony) for the new movie Logan, in theaters now:

(SPOILERS in the video!)

By now you've likely seen Logan or at least heard about it and have plans to see it, so here's my take. This is one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. I don't think that's too hard a bar to clear – what else would make the cut? Superman from the 70s. The 1989 Burton Batman. The Dark Knight. Maybe a few others based on your personal taste, but I think this is pretty close to a prime cut for the genre that has grown out of being a niche and into a full-blown phenomenon as you can get.

People love superheroes, and this movie is basically for the people who were kids in the 80s and 90s and have now grown up – but still love their old favorite characters. Superheroes, like it or not, aren't just for kids anymore – geek culture has gone mainstream and those who liked this stuff when they were younger aren't letting it go, entranced as they are by the timeless stories and the iconoclastic characters. Logan the film is a dark, gritty, brutal and ultimately emotional and somber picture, and it's made from something that, in the 90s, was marked by pastel colored cartoon characters and colorful costumes fighting giant robots.

And yeah, I know that old show and the X-Men as a whole could be quite great at times before – I'm not saying it was just kiddie stuff. But Logan is another level – it's a superhero action film made with the class, artistry and style of an A-list drama. While it hits all the tropes you're familiar with, from a cross-country road trip chased by bad guys to a superpowered little girl and a reluctant hero, plus boatloads of cool action sequences fueled by superpowers, it does these things with a very serious temperament and a care for great cinematography and atmosphere more befitting of a No Country for Old Men-style dirge.

It's just really well done from a directing point of view, made whole by powerful performances from leads Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. We've seen this kind of stuff before – old men reckoning the ends of their lives, regrets buried deep coming to the surface, an obligation to do what's right even in the face of the desire to just crawl into a dark bar and stay there. But Jackman and Stewart, framed by a vague story of horrible happenings years ago in which most other mutants like them died apparently, make the story visceral and intense. The story is tried and true, but what's new about it is how well it is done.

I like that you get so little of the backstory behind this – the film takes place in 2029 and follows, as I said, an apparent tragedy that killed off most of the other mutants in the world. I like how vague that all is. Please, filmmakers, if you read my blog – don't make any prequels to this, nothing explaining how this came to pass. Also, if you read my blog, I'm sorry if I bashed any movie you made and you're now considering making prequels to Logan in spite of that.

But seriously – that also goes for the fact that Stewart and Jackman will reportedly not return for any more X-Men movies after this. I hope they stick to that as close as they can. I think there is a virtue in going out on top and not over-extending your welcome. Personally, I hate it when a series just drags on forever and loses the quality it once had, and I usually value a concise, beginning-and-ending story contained in one film over a never-ending sprawl of them. The story should end whenever it needs to, and if that takes three good films or only one, I personally like to see it end at that point – not just milked afterwards for money.

In this case, both Stewart and Jackman are going out on fucking top. There's nowhere else to really go from here. Logan is a wonderfully made, dark, harrowing and sad epic, but it's also a testament to the power of quitting while you're ahead. Here's to that.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Get Out (2017)

So after the rousing success of Get Out, including a 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, director and comedian Jordan Peele is set to direct a handful of other horror movies about 'social demons' over the next 10 years.

I think that's fucking great news.

We need more horror movies about stuff like this – about the current issues of the day, about social ills. 

In Get Out, Peele talks about race relations and prejudice and turns those things into a bizarro-funhouse horror/comedy flick. The film, about a black guy named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) who goes home for the holidays to his white girlfriend Rose's (Allison Williams) parents' huge mansion and begins to notice things askew, is a breath of fresh air for the nuance and intelligence with which it talks about its subject matter.

SPOILERS henceforth... is henceforth even the right word? I don't know.

The basic concept is that he starts to notice that the family's black servants, and the other few black people he meets in the area, are all acting really strange, like robots or aliens – to the point where things start to get disconcerting. At first, you think it's a pretty obvious and heavy handed thing – oh, it's about slavery, they hate black people, et cetera. And I thought so too. But as it went on, you see it's different than that. These old people are actually using the black peoples' bodies as a kind of body-swap thing, brainwashing them and then putting other peoples' dying brains inside them and becoming them. But still, also, leaving a part of the original person inside, too. Pretty cruel stuff.

I love the humor in this too. Like Rose's dad has a line about thinking Barack Obama is the greatest president of his lifetime. So how could HE ever be racist, right? I love it. Pretty soon, all the conversations turn into stuff like that. It's crazy to me – but hell, to a lot of people, this kind of stuff is likely routine and depressing in how often it happens. We don't know how to talk to one another well enough.

And I like that this is a film about race, made by and starring black men, that isn't just a period piece retelling the horrors of slavery or something like that. I think some more modernized takes are welcome now – there's more to talk about then that. Between this and Moonlight, I'm enjoying the takes on subsets of American culture we haven't seen enough raw, real takes on in mainstream movies. That's a good thing, to see more diversity and culture than just that of the standard middle class white guy protagonist we've seen over and over for decades. It's a step forward.

It's the mutation of racism into the modern day coded words, the 'oh, we don't hate black people, we enjoy conversations with those rare specimens under microscopes and in controlled environments.' It's all the bullshit racism still prevalent in our society that dumb people pretend doesn't exist anymore because slavery was outlawed and Civil Rights happened in the 60s, and that's all there was to worry about, right? God bless the U.S. education system whitewashing everything else that happened.

And we should have more movies like this – so, good that Peele is making more. We live in some weird, crazy times right now, very polarized politically, and social issues are increasingly in the spotlight as we continue to fight over them in the USA. Movies can be mirrors of these social issues. They can have a meaning behind them. Horror, too, maybe more than some other genres, can be used in an allegorical manner – fears run wide and far of so many different things in our society and that's why we created monsters like the Wolfman and Frankenstein to talk about them. Modern horror can do that, too. Movies like Get Out are an important step in that direction, again – I'm glad this was so visible and so well-reviewed.

“The best and scariest monsters in the world are human beings and what we are capable of especially when we get together. I've been working on these premises about these different social demons, these innately human monsters that are woven into the fabric of how we think and how we interact, and each one of my movies is going to be about a different one of these social demons.”
--Jordan Peele, in the article I linked earlier.

Spot fucking on, man.

For that matter, it's just an entertaining film. It's a horror comedy that exists as a tense, creepy thriller, but also injects a fair amount of humor into the whole thing. This is a funny movie, both in awkward, subtle ways as Chris navigates his girlfriend's family's weird, creepy neighborhood and in overt ways with the character Rod (LilRel Howery), a TSA agent friend of Chris's who helps get to the bottom of what's going on. It's just good to have a horror film that's also funny WITHOUT parodying the genre's tropes – we've seen enough of that shit. This is just funny while also being scary. It is possible.

So this is a great, smart horror movie that manages to be creepy, funny and socially aware all at the same time. Go see this. I can't wait to see more of Peele's films.

Image copyright of its original owner, I don't own it.