Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review: Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

Director: John Boorman
Starring: Linda Blair, James Earl Jones, Richard Burton

"I was possessed by a demon. Oh, it's okay. He's gone!"

It takes a special type to review so many bad movies. You start to question things – you start to really look at yourself and how you spend your time. Sometimes you feel like giving up. ‘This is stupid,’ you’ll say, wistfully looking at your work and deciding that you’ll stop doing it, that you’ll quit and start doing more productive things with your time. Like feeding homeless people, or helping autistic children. Yes, you’ll say…this is the way to a better, more productive life. But the demon is always there. Do you feel it yet? It’s nagging at you. Kind of…small at first; a little itch in the back of your mind. And the rage builds up, and then you find yourself there again, in the midst of it all, sitting through another product of humanity’s misery and lunacy.

Huh? Oh, right; I’m still doing a review. This one was hard to swallow, people. It’s just…yergh, what a bad one this was. If you remember the original Exorcist movie from ’73; well, it was a masterwork, with a sick, festering demeanor that really elevated it above anything else at the time. But even if you disagree with that statement, I think we can all come to the conclusion that the sequel, released a mere 4 years later, is an abomination upon man and beast alike. Yes, folks, this is Exorcist II: The Heretic, widely reviled as one of the worst films ever made in the history of filmmaking. This movie is so bad that most people don’t even want to acknowledge its existence, instead preferring to jump to the third Exorcist movie instead. It’s so bad it caused riots at the theater when it was first released. So, the question on everyone's mind: is it really that bad? Yes. Yes it is.

We kick off our magical ass-raping adventure with a black screen that displays the title while some cats are apparently being murdered in the background, as the horrible yowling noise that continues on throughout the credits suggests. As a side note, the soundtrack for this movie was done by the same guys who did Once Upon a Time in America and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Isn’t that sad? Then we see a priest trying to exorcise a girl in South America as a crowd protests. She gets set on fire somehow, lets out a really fake scream and then...we cut to a scene of people rehearsing a stage performance? What?

That’s a pretty messy transition there, guys. But don’t worry! If you didn’t like that, there’s only a MILLION MORE HORRIBLE TRANSITIONS like it to come! We’ve got two hours of movie and you can bet your shorts they’ll exploit this horrendous directing to the fullest!

Among the performers is Regan, the girl from the first movie, played again by Linda Blair. Yeah. She’s grown up a lot in the last few years. And the movie won’t let you forget that, either, as every scene she’s in seems to show off her perky breasts like trophies, because I guess that’s all her vapid, stupid character has going for her. Not that I have a problem with this, though – probably one of the only redeeming factors in this movie. Might as well just make two hours of Linda Blair stripping. I know her character is only 16 here, but…you’d still end up with a more integral, intelligent movie than we have here.

Yes, apparently she’s still under the care of a psychiatrist to make sure the memories of her demonic possession don’t resurface, I guess. She also has a caretaker named Sharon, played by Kitty Winn, who reprises another role from the original film. I’d go into more detail here but really there’s no substance – the scenes are so short they’re gone before you can even process them; what, is the movie on speed? And were they…instructed to act like they do here? I call it acting but really I don’t know what they were doing. They’re so wooden and so completely devoid of any kind of feeling that it’s like I’m watching the robots from the Jetsons emoting in a horror film. Take a guess if you think I ever wanted to see the robots from the Jetsons acting in a horror movie. Just guess.

If you picked ‘yes,’ then go lobotomize yourself with the blunt end of a hammer. There’s no hope for you.

So we see the priest from the opening, whose name is Father Lamont, talking to an older guy who I think taught Tommy Wiseau from The Room how to act; he’s just about as stiff. The older guy tells him to investigate the death of Father Merrin from the first movie, who is under posthumous charges of heresy as the church didn’t like what he was writing about, not wanting to acknowledge Satan as an actual evil presence anymore. I do think this is a pretty interesting subplot, but of course it’s never given any due attention and quickly fades into the background. Disappointment, thy name is Exorcist 2. But don’t worry, there’s more of that to come, too.

That scene ends abruptly after like 2 minutes again, and I really have to wonder how anyone didn’t just go up to director John Boorman and kick him straight in the ballsack for this, because how am I supposed to be invested in this movie when EVERY SINGLE SCENE just randomly cuts off and ends, no tension whatsoever? It’s insipid as shit! This is really textbook bad filmmaking right here. Seriously, guys. Try and make a scene longer than a minute and a half.

Okay, so we have Father Lamont coming to Regan’s psychiatrist to try and talk to her. Somehow this leads to a strange, strange experiment where Regan and her psychiatrist are hooked up to a machine that links their brain waves, or some shit like that; I don’t really know. It flashes a light repeatedly while a cheap synthesizer plays one plodding note over and over again, all while the characters talk in monotones that somehow manage to be even less convincing than the regular acting.

Well, that’s alright. It will end after a minute and a half, right? And then we can move onto the next scene and forget about this abysmal crap.

…right? RIGHT?!

No, apparently THIS is the scene they were saving the mindnumbingly long duration for! Yep, this is like 5 straight minutes of nothing but one-note synths and a flashing light over the characters’ faces while they babble about ‘coming down to one another,’ or some other inane garbage that the writers probably shat out of their asses while on a marijuana high. Have you noticed the weird sexual undertone to this whole thing? Talking about ‘trying the machine,’ ‘going deeper,’ ‘doing it like I showed you’…it’s pretty damn disturbing, and I don’t think I’m alone when I say I don’t need to see a threesome with Linda Blair, a psychiatrist and a priest – that sounds more like a really bad joke. The synth noise in the background is just hysterical, too; like hypnosis performed by a drunken sloth on Ritalin.

Look at that; it's like they hired the special effect editor's five year old to help with their movie.

Don’t you always think of these images when you think of The Exorcist? Isn’t it just a perfect fit?

Through a highly silly attempted recreation of the demonic possession of the first film Father Lamont finds out the demon’s name is Pazuzu, which sounds kind of like a particularly colorful Pokemon name or something. We see possessed Regan again in the vision, except her voice is now more like a kooky old cat lady rather than the embodiment of evil from the original film. Then we get some highly weird, drugged out montages of African wilderness and animal life through the eyes of a locust flying around. Did the movie just decide it wanted to be a documentary instead? Maybe the director wanted to go to Africa and just figured, hey, why not put what I saw on my Safari tour into the movie I’m making? That’s good filmmaking!

Run! The cameraman from Exorcist II is going to put us in his movie!

Augh, and they’re still going with this one scene, too! What is up with this? Just fucking end it already!

Of special note is at the end of the scene when the psychiatrist lady actually gets a heart attack from being wired to the machine. Isn’t that silly? I guess it backfired, huh lady? And then after that we see the movie turning into a satanic Lifetime special as the movie shows us Regan using her unconscious psychic powers to get an autistic girl to talk. This scientific miracle should have been studied and marveled over by everyone in the world, but I guess it’ll have to wait, as the psychologist doesn’t want Regan to study these powers until she’s older. Why? No real reason. That’s just how this fucking movie rolls I guess!

So since Father Lamont saw some weird visions of a little African kid surviving a demonic possession just like Regan did except over in Africa, he wants to go there and track down the kid, who he thinks will be able to help him figure out how to stop the demon, and has to disobey the church like a kid with his hand stuck in the cookie jar. Even though they wanted him to investigate what happened to Father Merrin, now that he actually has a lead, they don’t want him to do it anymore. Weird. It turns out that kid has grown up into James Earl Jones…but first we have to sit through some highly pointless, aimless scenes of Father Lamont wandering around in Africa with some tribal men. Yep, the movie is set in Africa now! Surprised? Yeah. Because you really think of tribal Africa when you think of The Exorcist. That makes a lot of sense.

But hey, at least we have a naked chick to show for no good reason! And Ned Beatty is in the film now, too! Surprised?

...that's really random. Both of these images are.

No, it’s all building up to the big meeting with James Earl Jones, who can apparently give Father Lamont all the answers he needs. Yes, this guy right here is going to finally reveal what this movie has been about all along and give us some much needed coherency. THANK YOU, Mr. Jones! You are a legend! You are a…locust?

….Hahaha! Hahahahahaha! What the hell is that? Are we really supposed to take that seriously? You know what I think happened? I don’t even think they told him to wear that costume. I think he probably just wears it randomly whenever he feels like it! It makes just about as much sense as anything else. He just walked onto set wearing nothing but that costume for the day and they just had to shrug and go with it. Maybe he knew this movie sucked and was just having fun or something. I couldn’t blame him for that one.

Then Jones takes Lamont on a tour of his research facility, because the whole locust thing was really just a dream – yeah, I know, just go with it – and talks to Lamont for a long time about locusts. Lamont goes back home and then everything Jones talked about is quickly forgotten and shoved into the movie’s abyssal ass-crack of forgettableness just like everything else in the plot. WHAT? I’m sorry but WHAT? You wasted ALL THAT TIME and showed us ALL THOSE POINTLESS SCENES just to forget about it the second they’re out of Africa? And he didn’t even learn anything! He just listened to Jones talk about locusts and then left! What happened to…oh, I don’t know, INVESTIGATING like you were supposed to? Did anyone even bother proofreading this script? Is anyone even aware of what they’re doing here? MAKE MORE SENSE.

Okay, so through more recycled scenes of the locust’s POV flying around Africa and mind-numbing scenes with that brain synchronizer machine that makes the synth noise, the movie reaches its climax, which is sort of like the armpit hairs of the movie Poltergeist. Somehow Lamont gets possessed, and then Sharon sets a car on fire, and there’s suddenly two different versions of Regan, and everything is flying around and exploding, and…it’s a mess. Sharon dies from some burn wounds and then the movie just kind of ends, no resolution at all.

Holy mother of shit, this was a bad one. I mean, what the hell can I even say about this? What can I possibly do to sum up why this movie is so horrible? It’s just unsalvageable. The acting is some of the worst out there, the directing is muddled in faux-symbolic stupidity and the storyline just makes no sense. At all. Plot threads are introduced with little fanfare and cut out with even less. Scenes plod along until they’re given the ax unceremoniously, ending without any kind of resolution. And the crowning jewel of the movie’s accomplishments is James Earl Jones wearing a locust costume; can you possibly get any less sane? This is just the cinematic version of the green vomit-like bile that Regan spat out in the first movie, like it mutated into a festering abortion of film. Just heinous. HEINOUS!

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Review: D-Tox (2002)

Director: Jim Gillespie
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Charles S. Dutton, Polly Walker, Kris Kristofferson

When I say Sylvester Stallone, what do you think of? A horrible slasher-thriller that rips off every other slasher and every other thriller ever made, is run through an unbearable miasma of white snow and dark shadows so that you can't see anything that's going on and has no trace of anything resembling good filmmaking? Oh, you...don't think of that? That's because nobody knows about this movie, called D-Tox, and rightfully so. This movie is so bad that Universal Pictures doesn't even want to admit that they distributed it. It's so horrible that it actually has a reputation for being unwatchable among film critics. How bad can a Stallone-ified slasher movie get? I bet you're just on the edge of your seat for that one!

Our movie begins with a rambling onslaught of deep-throated narration that is so pretentious that even the SAW team didn’t want it. It’s also done in the most garbled, slurred voice ever used for one of these serial killer manifestos – I think some speech classes are in order, guys. Make sure you can enunciate your words before you go all philosophical and try to justify your killings. I think Jigsaw is rolling in his grave right now.

I want to play a game...a game far away from anything to do with this movie...

Then we switch to Sylvester Stallone buying a wedding ring for his wife before going out and drinking with a bunch of angry, drunk cops who are trying to catch that guy from the opening sequence after he killed one of their own – or something like that. It’s all pretty well, but why the hell does he come back inside his house with a little wind up cymbal monkey? Is it supposed to…represent the deep emotions running through Stallone as he wrestles with his own grief as well as the proposition of marrying his wife? Either way, they’re happy here, which most likely means they won’t be soon enough.

After that we see one of the cops from before stumbling around in his dark house when he hears a knock at the door. He calls out to his friend Jimmy and sarcastically asks if he is going to tuck him in – and then is promptly greeted by a power-drill through the eyehole of the door. If only they just wouldn’t look through the damn thing then I guess he wouldn’t be able to kill them as easily – but this guy does and is promptly shot by the murderer, because I guess knives and chainsaws are out of fashion – even though he uses a knife later on, making this whole thing kind of silly. Oh, and his tag line is “ICU” cut across their faces in blood, with their eyes gouged out. Yeah, with their eyes gouged out, like they just saw an advanced screening of the movie they had made. And really, “I see you”? Could you possibly pick a more generic serial killer tagline? Scooby Doo villains have had better.

And wouldn’t you know it? Stallone’s wife is killed in the very next scene; they really aren’t wasting any time here. Apparently the killer is doing this because Stallone led the case against him years ago when he was trying to kill prostitutes. “Oh no, he tried to stop me from doing a crime? HOW HEINOUS!” Seriously; they obviously didn’t catch this guy, so what the hell? If Stallone stopped him then why don’t they know more about him? Shouldn’t they have some clues as to who he is if he’s already committed some terrible crimes in the past? Why did he wait until now to attack Stallone’s wife? ANWERS, MOVIE. I DEMAND THEM!

So after a series of Se7en rip-offs the movie decides that it’s bored with this time period and switches to three months later, where the big black Uncle Phil from Fresh Prince knockoff who is apparently the FBI captain comes in and finds Stallone sitting alone at a bar, looking miserable. He tells him about a detox center run by cops for cops, and Stallone doesn’t really want to do it. He hands Stallone a gun and tells him to blow his own head off. Stallone doesn’t do that, and he just gets up and leaves. Uncle Phil stands there shouting at him but does not try to follow him or do anything else really – real true friend there, huh? Stallone goes home and drinks in the rain and then slits his wrists, because even though a gun won’t do it for him, I guess slitting his wrists is just fine.

We cut to another time later where it’s unclear what happened after the whole wrist-cutting scenario, with Stallone just driving in the car with Uncle Phil to the detox center. Did we miss a scene or something? I thought he didn’t want to go to this place. What changed? Anyway, it looks like a giant metal porto-potty stuck halfway in the ground. Just look:

So we go through a sequence of scenes with the patients at the detox center – which is more like a fortress as it is completely isolated from society in a snowy wasteland – talking with Kris Kristofferson and “battling their demons” – which is stupid, as they aren’t really doing much but arguing and wallowing in misery. Real top notch detoxification program you got there, doc!

Stallone makes friends with this woman who for some reason is sympathetic more with him than with the other patients…but then to be fair, maybe it’s because he is the only guy in this damn place who isn’t neurotic, doesn’t have a stick up his ass and isn’t older than dust. One of the other guys somehow finds a needle and kills himself with a drug overdose. I guess the security system just really sucks, doesn’t it? How about some…I don’t know, cameras or something to monitor these things? Seriously, what kind of morons would just leave lethal drugs lying around for a bunch of junkies and addicts who are obviously depressed to get at any time?

Then we see more of Kristofferson’s brilliant ideas of healing as one of the guys picks on this old man cop for letting his partner die on the field, making him cry. The first guy then starts saying that this is an example of why the program won’t work, because the guys are too damaged.

…seriously? Seriously?! That’s ridiculous! You can’t just bully the victim of a horrible tragedy right after he was admitted to a place to get better and then say the program won’t work when he gets broken up about it! That’s why he was admitted in the first place! What are you, retarded? This is like saying, “hey, I think we should just kill mental patients instead of trying to treat them. Clearly they’re already too far gone and any amount of treatment will never change who they are inside. So c’mon! Throw ‘em in the burner!”

Ugh. And then the douchebag continues acting like an ass even when this other guy gets sick and starts having convulsions. He even makes fun of Stallone for his wife dying. Who is this guy? Where did they find him, the asshole farm of America? He’s completely one dimensional; it’s like watching a cartoon character. Doesn’t he have any humanity or remorse at all? Why the hell is he even in here? He doesn’t seem to have any problems beyond just being a crazy fuck!

“HAHA, your wife got butchered by a psychotic killer who you still haven’t apprehended yet! You’re so stupid!” Man, this movie makes about as much sense as a feminist at a strip club.

So the next twenty minutes or so mostly consists of a very half-baked, uninspired murder mystery as we try to figure out who’s killing all of these people and making it look like a suicide. Kris Kristofferson even gets the ax in classic slasher style from this dude in a parka with his face covered…it’s revealed that apparently one of the orderlies at this giant metal dildo in the ground was actually a veteran who killed his squad leader on a mission, or something like that. Why did they hire him? This is so stupid that even the characters can’t believe it as they rightfully express their astonishment! But it’s never really brought up again, making this entire scene completely useless.

Then the movie turns into a bloody white Christmas as we see our indistinguishable personalities run around in the snow and get hacked up by the killer, who is apparently incredibly lucky to have the most convenient snowstorm in the world to attack these guys in. Somehow, in the flurry of cold snow and wind, he actually gets one of the guys hanging from something. Yeah, apparently he took the time to do an incredibly elaborate ritualistic kill in the middle of a FUCKING SNOWSTORM. Never mind that he just kills some of the other guys with a knife to the throat or something, because that’s not inconsistent. OK, writers. I know it’s hard to use your basic brain functions to come up with a plot thread that is at least a teeny bit realistic, but you’re going to have to try. You’re going to have to try for the sake of all of us.

"I" think that's incredibly retarded...

Oh, wait, what’s that? We find out a few scenes later that he also wrote “ICU” underneath that guy’s eyelids? Yes, folks, this movie has now turned into a retarded ‘ghosts of the past come back to haunt you in the most incredibly implausible ways’ slasher made popular by…oh, God, you’re not serious. No wonder! This movie was made by director Jim Gillespie, who also made I Know What You Did Last Summer. Now it all makes sense! Of course this movie is a retarded brain mash of epic proportions. Of course it has no bearings or groundings in reality or any kind of good taste. Now I get it!

Oh, right. I’m still doing the review. They find out it’s this British guy who did it all the whole time, do not marvel at his incredible lack of a life as he wasted this much time on an elaborate plan to mock this one specific FBI agent, and then it just sort of ends in a crappy dissolving montage. Phew.

I think drinking a lot would be a viable solution to forgetting D-Tox. I wouldn't begrudge you for taking that route if you've seen this one. I mean, this makes I Know What You Did Last Summer look like a masterpiece! There’s just nothing about this tripe that is in any way compelling. I was hoping this would be kind of funny or campy or something – it’s a slasher movie with Sylvester Stallone for Pete’s sake! – but it’s not even that. The plot is stupid beyond belief, the characters are so transparent they might as well just be like the little stick figures you see on public restrooms with name plates slapped on them, and it’s just DULL. Everything about it just sucks. So fuck you Jim Gillespie! I think I’m going to go call the Expendables to dispose of this toxic cinematic waste…

Review: Whip It! (2009)

Director: Drew Barrymore
Starring: Ellen Page, Alia Shawkat, Carlo Alban, Kristin Wiig, Marcia Grey Harden

Brooke Cavendar: I'm supposed to buy you shoes from a... a head shop? Does that really strike you as responsible parenting?
Bliss Cavendar: Fine, the shoes are a gateway drug.

Say, are you tired of horror movies yet? I’ve reviewed quite a few of them already. I think it’s time for something else.

Whip It!, directed by Drew Barrymore, is a teen dramedy about a girl named Bliss – odd choice. It’s kind of like a New Age name if it were…a parody of a New Age name. Oh, wait. That’s exactly what it is! So she’s played by Ellen Page, a quirky, unique girl who works at a diner themed around pigs, is forced to go to beauty pageants by her mother and absolutely hates her small-town, mundane life. Isn’t that just precious? And of course she’s a natural at roller derby, the random hobby this movie has chosen to bestow upon us. She’s…never skated any more past her Barbie-skate stage, never even heard of roller derby before some chicks posted flyers all over a store she happened to be in, but she’s a natural. And pretty soon she’s skating with Austin, Texas’ primary roller derby vixens even though she’s only 17. All while balancing a secret boyfriend from her parents as well, who she doesn’t even know and yet wants anyway – because he’s hot.
Well, that part I can believe. But the rest of it is just ridiculous!

Even more ridiculous is that it’s actually a really great movie. I mean…it really is. It’s incredibly well done on every front, and I haven’t had more fun watching a movie in a while now. This is one of those cases where a movie ticks off all the boxes in its chosen genre – this one being ‘idealistic feel good teen drama/comedy’ – and yet rolls with them to create something absolutely wonderful. We’ve got quirky characters, we’ve got a completely unbelievable plot, we’ve got an inspiring non-suburban thing to get our pretty, practically perfect-looking main chick excited about her teenage life and we’ve got lots of stylish and weird comedy to make it more light hearted. And it’s all done absolutely perfectly.

I think one of the main reasons this works is that it just feels honest. It’s not like Juno where they tripped over themselves a million times trying to be funny. And it’s not like I Love You Man or any number of Judd Apatow movies where the comedy just feels forced or shoved in by a bunch of thirty year old ex-fratboys trying to be hip with the kids. Whip It! just works because the story came naturally, with the funny parts and the dramatic parts falling into place because they have to be there, and more so, because they make sense. They just flow naturally into the ebb of this movie’s waves, fitting in like a jigsaw puzzle.

Well let’s see. Kind of hard to review one of those movies that is just pure enjoyment, but let’s try. The characters are great. Ellen Page really is a wonderful actress, overcoming Juno with every leap and every bound she makes in movies these days. She’s funny and makes the quirkiness actually entertaining rather than obnoxious. I also really liked Alia Shawkat as Pash…what is this movie’s fascination with these weird-ass names? But she’s cute and funny and steals almost every scene she’s in with her huge personality. Carlo Alban as “Birdman” is great, as is the dad, and pretty much all of the roller derby racers…hell, I won’t even spoil any more of it for you. There’s just too many surprises and fun parts to miss out on.

The dialogue is good, never too silly but still goofy and cinematic enough to make the movie entertaining. I won’t ever try to claim this is how people really talk. But it’s a movie, and it doesn’t have any kind of pretension – it’s just silly fun. Check out the quote at the top of the page for one example, or perhaps:

 Pash: But you don't have the balls.
Bliss Cavendar: I can grow the balls...

It’s just stuff like that; the snappy retorts and silly, witty comments that spice it up and make the movie more enjoyable. Is it indie-ified as all get out? Yes. But I don’t believe that to be an automatic disqualifier of quality. It’s fun.

The story progresses along pretty normally, with your usual build up and coming down and funny parts and serious parts. The roller derby scenes are excellent and always really tense and exciting. The scenes where she runs away from home are really good, in particular the one in the car with Kristin Wiig…or Maggie Mayhem as she’s known in the movie. The scene in the pool with her and her boyfriend is great – although I REALLY think the movie is stretching its plausibility when, in the middle of her front yard in broad daylight, she takes off her shirt and trades it with her boyfriend’s jacket. I mean come on! It’s right there in front of her own house! Anyone could have seen her. But I guess that’s just part of what makes this movie what it is – it’s just doing its own thing with no regard for sanity or normalcy.

And then it doesn’t really turn out like you thought it would in the end. I mean, sure, it’s still really idealistic and really indie-ified, but there are some pretty decent aversions from the usual clich├ęs. And at 2 hours, I felt I had spent my time well.

This is just one of those movies, people. It’s just really well written and really enjoyable. It just works like a new car, or a day at the beach till sunset. The characters are great, the plot is fun and it just rocks. Sure as hell made me want to roller derby.

All images Copyright (c) of their original owners.

Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Gunnar Hansen

I believe this serves as sort of an instruction manual – a blueprint, if you will, for horror films…if you’re asking how to start one off, how about with a grim, seedy black backdrop while a scrolling text tells the audience that what they’re about to see is an account of some teenagers who witness something truly horrible and tragic:

"The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre."

It sets an atmosphere incredibly well, and is only furthered by the weed-ridden, dusty Texas outback setting that we’re dumped into next. Everything is untrustworthy and suspicious as hell. Then we get introduced to the characters – they’re all fairly interchangeable hippy types, except for Franklin, who is an invalid and needs help getting around in a wheelchair. They’re going out to the Texas lowlands to visit their grandfather’s grave. However, this turns out to not be a good idea. Especially when they pick up a hitchhiker who cuts his hand open and sets things on fire – I think that means it’s time to kick him out, guys. Sooner than you did, at least.

Just look at this setting. Has there ever been one more fitting of a horror film? I don’t think there has. It’s just such a desolate, unsettling setting; this broken down husk of a house way out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by unfriendly woods. Pure terror. The kids all split up to explore the house, on top of the world and believing they can never really be hurt, and that’s when they’re struck down. There’s a ton of atmosphere bleeding out of every inch of this scene as they explore the grounds of this weird back country Texas lot. It’s weird, it’s minimalistic and it sets a better atmosphere than any other horror movie at the time, and even better than many in the future.

Until a giant in a skin mask appears out of nowhere and murders them all individually with hammers, chainsaws and meat hooks.

I cannot even imagine what it must have been like to see this in 1974. Even today it’s scary as shit! I mean…wow! This is just such a stark, cold-blooded scene. There’s no emotion there at all; it’s just pure, detached slaughter. Imagining what’s going through his head is even scarier, because he’s just so unpredictable. Leatherface is like a child here, and the shot when he’s sitting in that beam of light by the window is one of the best in the film. He looks at you with those blank eyes and that half-open mouth full of deformed teeth, and you’re trapped in the movie’s world for good. Nothing will ever be the same again. After this dead-end point the movie becomes a complete nightmare on all sides.

An eternity in the dark follows – chased through the woods by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. Listen to the sounds of their screams and that revving, rusty sawblade. How can you possibly have any hope? The scene where Franklin is butchered is another masterwork of complete, bile-spewing terror. Completely void of any kind of emotion, and for that, scarier than almost anything in mainstream horror cinema since.

Then we get the scene where she goes back to the gas station from earlier in the movie, hysterical, screaming for help. Good, right? Maybe she’ll finally get some help out in this insane miasma of Southern weeds and dirt and blood…maybe someone will help her out and get her to safety, the poor girl. Oh, wait, no; the guy at the gas station is in on it. Isn’t that just the ultimate gut-punch in this situation? The one guy she actually finds out in this backdoor of the world is in on the whole thing and he takes her right back to the bloody mayhem from where she already came. Look at that scene where he’s got her tied up with a bag over her head and he keeps prodding her with the broom handle. Sickening…

And of course what comes next is the Big Horrific Payoff. Because there’s no way to end these movies other than with a bang. You have to escalate the terror to its breaking point and then push it further; that’s the only way to do it. And TCM does exactly that when it puts the lead girl tied up in a chair in the middle of a room full of yammering wackos who could kill her at any minute. This scene has been influential to countless horror movies, the biggest of which being Evil Dead and House of a Thousand Corpses off the top of my head. Just pure, unadulterated chaos. Points for those creepy, bugged out shots of her eyes as her mind breaks. Just chilling. We then get the classic, iconic scene where Leatherface chases her out of the house and starts spinning around with his chainsaw as she gets away with a truck driver. It’s cool. And it is the perfect way to send off this grave, unforgettable masterpiece of the genre.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is just a classic. It’s not one of those dull movies that you call a classic because it’s old and important; no – this is still a landmark of fear and paranoia. This could be you; that’s what’s so scary about this. It could be you out there lost in the Texas outback, and nobody would ever hear from you again. Therein lies true fear. All posers beware.

All images are Copyright (c) of their original owners.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: The Grudge (2004)

Director: Takashi Shimizu
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar and some other interchangeable faces who I don't even care to look up.

Well, I've held off on this one for long enough. The Grudge is a movie that many people who have never seen any other horror movies find terrifying and one that many other people will tell you is a disgrace to the original Japanese version. It's just a plain old disgrace in general. To everything. Is it scary at all? Not really. Are you excited yet? I think we've dragged this intro out to a suitable length, so let's just dive right into this carnival of crap.

The movie starts off scary and ominous with a black screen telling us about an inner rage and some demons and the dead and some other bullshit that I can’t even be bothered to waste time analyzing. We see a woman waking up to see her husband standing at the ledge of their incredibly beautiful, picturesque apartment, and then he jumps off. Her reaction is to get up and look down wordlessly without any trace of the panic that a normal person would feel upon witnessing this horrific suicide. I guess maybe she’s seen too many of them and they just don’t shock her anymore? I don’t know. Then we cut away to a Japanese girl named Yoko – because every Japanese person is called that in Hollywood – who is going to her job as a caretaker of an old woman with mental health problems in her deteriorating age. She looks around at the empty house as scary music plays until she looks in the closet and is promptly swallowed whole by a mysterious thing inside…see, goddammit, you opened up the Lovecraftian portal to the realm of Yogth Sothoth. What a nuisance.

Then we cut to another scene with two more characters…because I guess they really just couldn’t choose one or two main characters to focus on…who are just starting their day. Yes, these characters are the same ones you’ll see in more masterpieces like Shutter; a pretty, super perfect blonde girl and her equally unnaturally attractive boyfriend. The girl, named Karen, is played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, because I guess they couldn’t sell this movie without a perfect face and a perfect body as a vehicle for their incredibly bland character. She and her boyfriend kiss a little, exchange some pretty standard dialogue and then go outside, where they see some old people performing a Buddhist ritual. This sentimental scene will likely have a hollow and unimportant meaning later on in the film. Take notes!

So Karen gets assigned as a substitute house-keeper for the old lady from before, and after a carnival of jump scares and allegedly ominous camera shots she finds a little boy trapped in the closet with a black cat. Karen tries to set everything straight but it mostly just leads to confusion. They find out the boy’s name is Toshio through an incredibly wooden display of acting from the poor child, and then Karen goes in to check on the old woman. Before she gets her to bed, Karen sees a huge black ectoplasm of a ghost hovering in midair, staring at her with evil eyes.

Don't tell her that ghost is behind her. It's gonna be hilarious.

Where most people would scream in horror and have an extreme reaction, Karen just sits there and gapes at it. Why is everyone in this movie so calm in these incredibly shocking situations? It’s practically ridiculous.

Then we cut to some more characters looking to buy a house…oh come on! You really can’t just stick to one main cast? This is like a fucking game; connect the characters or something. Just pick one or two main characters and develop them before you switch to another couple! These characters have no distinguishing factors aside from their names and genders. That’s it. This movie is about as detailed and exciting as a piece of cardboard.

Anyway, the guy selling the house goes into the bathroom and finds it full of black murky water. When he reaches his hand in, a little child grabs his hand and screams, and he pulls it back to find a clump of wet black hair on it. A second later the gullible white douche comes in to tell him he’s buying the house – and I doubt he intended to mention the screaming child in the bathtub, since that way they would never  buy the house and get him that big fat paycheck. It’s for the mortgage, as Aaron Eckhart might say.

So after some more predictable jump scares, bland conversations and other shit I don’t care about, the wife of this family gets sucked into the closet by some unnamed force too. Then her husband comes home and finds her lying around on the bed, petrified. A little kid pops up like a jack in the box from the other side of the bed and opens his mouth to reveal teeth covered with sticky black shit that would later be used to write the script of Jennifer’s Body, but here is mostly just gross and weird. The husband is…apparently trying to act scared...not really doing well there, pal. And then I guess he gets the axe too. Boy, I’m so glad they didn’t add, you know, depth or anything to these characters! I’d hate having to actually empathize with any of them or give a crap about anything in the plot! I’m just so happy this movie goes the extra mile to suck out any and all enjoyment. Joyous!

Ugh. So then we get the police finding Sarah Michelle Gellar in a trance by the dead old woman’s bedside. These two detective guys look around and find the body of Yoko from the beginning of the film in the attic. OK, seriously, how are there this many secret things in this house? First it was the little boy locked behind the walls, now it’s a bunch of dead or catatonic bodies in the attic. What is this, the house from House of a Thousand Corpses or something? You’re telling me that nobody ever noticed any of this was going on?

Yep. I think that’s my bullshit meter going off!

We cycle through some more delusions with the one guy’s sister who the police found getting haunted as well for some reason. I especially like this one part where she sees a random shadow stumbling around in the hallway on the security camera – oh no, there are PEOPLE IN MY HALLWAY! RUN! Yeah, it’s stupid. Then she gets killed just like everyone else in this movie with a vague supernatural type thing where a woman appears underneath the bed wearing rejected Halloween Horror Nights makeup before the screen cuts to black. This movie keeps doing the same shit over and over again. It’s getting old and stupid – well, stupider – with every single time.

AHAHAHA...oh wait, this is supposed to be scary. Yeah, right.

Then we see Sarah Michelle Gellar researching the murders and finding out that a guy played by Bill Pullman committed suicide after them. She talks to that detective guy from earlier who tells her that in Japan, if people die with rage inside them, it harbors itself on Earth after the death and haunts anyone in the vicinity. So…shouldn’t there logically be lots more cases exactly like this one for people to compare? Shouldn’t there be some general knowledge about this supernatural serial murder epidemic to where people can try and stop it? Are you seriously telling me that not many people die with rage in them? That this is an isolated incident throughout the world, for one woman and child to die without resolving their problems in life? Yeah, right. And I’m the son of a Mexican drug cartel with syphilis and three eyes.

And I don’t even understand what this is supposed to be getting across, either. So…the husband killed his wife and son, so that’s why they’re back, right? But then it’s revealed that the wife had a crush on Bill Pullman? And maybe that’s why she’s still on Earth? What is this movie trying to get across? What is the purpose? They just keep throwing in so many pointless characters and plotlines that it’s like trying to untie a knot. So…yeah. Sarah Michelle Gellar just watches while her boyfriend is horribly killed by the ghost, not even trying to do anything.

Our hero, folks. Our hero.

So in a truly weird, pointless and ridiculous ending we see Gellar in a hospital afterwards with the ghost still haunting her…woohoo? Well, I’m glad this movie’s over. I just don’t really have much to say about this one. It’s kind of a brain fart of a movie; it’s stupid and ridiculous as hell, but it really doesn’t leave much of an impact. It’s a blank space in the creative minds of everyone who worked on it and it will be the same in everyone who watches it too. I’ve already mostly forgotten about this movie at the time of writing this paragraph two days later. In fact, what am I doing? Reviewing…something? Reviewing butterflies?

Yes. That must have been it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: Gamer (2009)

Directors: Mark Niveldine, Brian Taylor
Starring: Michael C. Hall, Gerard Butler

You ever have a movie that you just flat out don’t like? That just rubs you the wrong way in every direction imaginable? One of those movies that just pisses you off from beginning to end? Yeah. That’s Gamer. Let’s just get this over with before I put my boot through the fucking screen.

We start off with a bunch of news reports and advertisements about a new reality TV show called Slayers, where convicts have the fated magically vague computer chip jargon inserted into them so they can be controlled manually by outside parties who play the games. We see that they are controlled by Dexter – I mean Michael C. Hall, who is an eccentric billionaire who designs these groundbreaking futuristic interactive TV show games. Among them also is Society, a play on the SIMS series where participants are paid to sell their bodies to players who control them at their whim in online gaming zones throughout the world.

Yeah. We get it. It’s like prostitution. You don’t need to shove it in our faces.

So then we get Gerard Butler as a wrongly convicted criminal toughing it out to get back to his wife and daughter – ooh, feel the tugs at your heartstrings yet? This character is just boring, as even though Butler tries, he just can’t really make such dull writing entertaining. We see some pretty clumsy action scenes as he and some disposable buddies run around and blow shit up without any control over what they do.

Yeah. We get it; it’s making a statement about the commercialization of violence. Stop trying so damn hard.

After that we get some shots of what exactly the whole Society game is like. It’s made up of mostly internet basement dwellers who sit around in their houses naked and jerk off while playing as female avatars. And one in particular who is Gerard Butler’s character’s wife! Yeah, it’s a small world after all. I guess after he went to jail she couldn’t pay the bills and had to take this demeaning job in order to put food on the table. And on top of that, her daughter has been forcefully taken away from her and put in a ‘better’ home! Isn’t this just so sad? It’s like they were trying to cram in every bad, hurtful thing they could possibly do short of making her an invalid. Oh wait. That’s exactly what they were doing.

Oh, and the guy who controls her is a particularly fetid caricature; this huge fat guy who can’t even get up to walk and has to breathe through a tube, and spends his time sitting in a chair completely naked and seemingly playing this game every waking minute. It’s so disgusting that I’d rather have my eyes eaten out by wolverines than ever look at it again. And wouldn’t you know it, the movie spends a lot of time showing us this, because apparently they decided it was the best possible way to get its message across. Why does this need to be seen? So what, did they think this movie would be too subtle if they didn’t put in a big fat parody of an internet nerd masturbating naked to online characters? That’s really insulting, and I hate the implications of this almost as much as I hate looking at this fat ass tub of lard himself.

So then Gerard Butler finds out from a mysterious source that they plan to kill him off in order to boost their ratings. Gee, that…is a complete and total rip off of Network from 1976. You really have no shame, do you? He somehow gets this really pretentious douche of a kid who was controlling his avatar – never really explained how he came to have it; he just does… - to let him go free and control his own body. He then constructs the most genius escape plan ever conceived!

…he drinks a bunch of alcohol and then pukes and pisses it up into the gas tank of a random car to drive it out of the game and escape. What would have happened if he didn’t make it to the car? Why couldn’t he have just taken the bottle itself and poured that into the gas tank? Is there any guarantee it would have worked long enough to get him out of the game? Who cares? I don’t. This is the worst idea I’ve ever heard to try and escape a place. It’s so retarded that it violates every single solitary rule of intelligence that I’ve ever held true. This is rock bottom, people. Take your seats.

He goes and finds his wife and the next half hour or so is full of half-assed action scenes, mind-boggling chase-escapes and ridiculous, unwatchable garbage with that fat guy jerking off. Yeah, now we get to see him trying to have sex with a freak in leather pants who tries to hump her doggy-style. Because this movie would have been SO MUCH LESS CLASSY without that! Fuck, this is like being lobotomized with a rusty pipe; it’s just intolerable! We really needed to see a shot of his huge, bloated stomach, didn’t we? That really gave the movie an extra edge!

So the entire rebellion group gets killed off by Michael C. Hall’s men, and I have to say this is the most believable part of this movie, as their leader is played by Ludacris. And a rapper getting shot is nothing that I can’t fathom. Finally, some grounded sanity here!

Oh, but then we find out – DUN DUN DUN – that Butler’s daughter was actually adopted by Michael C. Hall! What a shock. It is a small world after all. Why did he pick this one family to torment? Why would he even need the girl in the first place? Nothing. You could just take any explanation off any random Wikipedia page and it would make about as much sense. Truly worthless, hacked up writing.

Gerard Butler and Michael C. Hall square off after a pointless dance number that I guess I have to admit is the best scene in the movie, as seeing good old Dexter do this spacey, tripped out rendition of “Thriller” is just priceless. But it serves no purpose and the fight scene that follows is incredibly stupid. So he breaks Hall’s hold over his mind through the power of love for his daughter, who had no lines in the entire movie. Ooh, anything can be accomplished by the POWER OF LOVE! Ugh, what a load. And then he kills Hall just by making him think about being killed. Then everything is wrapped up in two seconds because presumably nobody on set could stand another five minutes working with this awful, awful script and direction.

Fuck this movie. It’s seriously unbelievable how annoying this is, and how much it rapes every fabric of good cinema that you can imagine. It’s not completely worthless, as there are some good ideas scattered here and there, but that’s just more reason to hate it. It’s just so awful and so garishly unpleasant that it’s impossible to enjoy. The acting is mediocre, the action sucks, the direction is a complete mess and the message behind it is so hammy that it’s insulting. It’s not like you have to shove everything under our noses with big bright neon lights or else we won’t get it. We can use our brains, you mongoloids. Try taking that into account next time you vomit out a script.

It’s like the Fifth Element smoked some cannabis and then went out and pissed on the scripts of Network and The Running Man, all while trying to play Call of Duty with its toes. That’s the level of insanity this movie has brought to mind! And really, people. Just go play a fucking video game. It’s more entertaining, more stimulating and far less wretched than anything this pile of alligator piss has to offer.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: Jennifer's Body (2009)

Director: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Megan Fox's Body

"You're giving me such a wetty."

This movie makes several things very clear to me. Karyn Kusama is indeed continuing her tirade against the progression of women in movies. Megan Fox’s acting is inversely proportional to the amount of times they show off her breasts and ass in any given film. And Diablo Cody should never be allowed to pick up a pen to write a screenplay ever again. Ever. Again. No, seriously. EVER. AGAIN. Just had to emphasize that. Yes, this is the writer from Juno, the director of Aeon Flux and the lead actress of Transformers, people; we are in for a hell of a shit-carnival in 2009’s Jennifer’s Body…man, am I ever scared.

This is just such a dirty, unpleasant and all around trashy film in every respect. It is a sad, depraved case that is completely removed from reality, without any trace of anything resembling normal human logic. There’s no shame or dignity to it at all; it’s like a festering wound. Odious, sloppy bile seeps from every pore. What am I supposed to learn from this? Never run in with a Satanic emo band? Never become friends with a girl who feasts on flesh? It’s just shit, people. It’s really, really shit.

Sigh. Let’s get started. We kick off the shitfest with a girl named Needy, who is in a mental hospital. Presumably after seeing this movie and realizing she would never work in film again, but I’m not going to judge. She gets pissed at an orderly who tells her to eat healthier and then fucking kicks her across the room somehow, even though she’s like a third of the orderly’s size. Then she gets locked up in solitary, where the idea for this movie should have stayed. But no, she has to tell us her story, because I guess she thinks we give a shit. “Hell is a teenage girl,” she narrates, and…I guess we’re supposed to sympathize with her or something? Who cares. Let’s just get this over with.

The flashback begins with a crappy zoom shot through a house with spooky noises all around it. Does the movie think it is a haunted house tour now? All that’s missing is an evil laugh done in a deep voice, and then the movie is set! But no, instead we have the destruction of women’s rights to be seen and documented…like here, with the first bit of dialogue between Needy – what kind of a name is that again? – and her baby-faced boyfriend Chip:

Chip: Those jeans are hella low. I can almost see your front butt.
Needy: It's a rock show. This is my rock look.
Chip: Well, I can see, like, your womb, so...

Huh. Maybe that’s not representative of all the dialog---

Jennifer: [Grabs Needy's breasts] These are like smart bombs, you point them in the right direction and shit gets real.


Needy: The whole country got a tragedy-boner for Devil’s Creek.


Jennifer: I'm not even a backdoor-virgin anymore, thanks to Roman. By the way, that hurts. I couldn't even go to flags the next day. I had to stay home and sit on a bag of frozen peas.

Okay, okay, make it stop!

Jennifer: You give me such a wetty.

A wetty? A tragedy-boner? WHAT THE HELL DOES ANY OF THIS MEAN? Talk like normal people, you wretched excuses for humans! Who lets Diablo Cody write this, anyway? Who the fuck is actually under the wishful thinking that Diablo Cody’s writing is in any way intriguing or intelligent? It’s totally ridiculous, every bit of it! “But ooh,” you’ll say. “She won an Oscar for Juno! She must be a good writer! It’s so quirky and original!” Fuck that noise. This is completely inexcusable. And the whole goddamned movie is full of this. Every scene is full of dialogue that makes me want to gouge out my eardrums with a chainsaw. It’s an hour and forty minutes of dialogue that would make Cashback blush. That is shit.

Fuck! Let’s just try and get through the actual plot. If there is one. So basically Jennifer, played by Megan Fox, is a snobby cheerleader who is so one-dimensional I’d be able to see through her if it wasn’t for the thick layer of stupid clouding her entire person. She basically pushes her best friend named Needy Lesnicky, played by Amanda Seyfried, around all the time just because she can. They go to a rock concert where there’s an emo band playing, called Low Shoulder - that's a stupid name for a band. And…okay, here’s the next big problem with this movie.

The music sucks. I mean I am serious; could you possibly get any more bland and unremarkable music and call it rock? Every single fucking song; nothing but senseless guitar plucking and singing that could be done better by any given dead cat. It’s really hard to buy that anyone would actually find this appealing. Even the most brain-dead of indie rock blow-hards wouldn’t find this guttertrash in any way entertaining. It’s completely insipid and void of any kind of value. But then, that’s exactly what I would expect from two morons who are completely out of touch with reality, good taste and modern society alike. So I’m not too disappointed.

Luckily the bar burns down and kills everybody inside, except unfortunately Jennifer, Needy and the emo band survive. Fuck, I was really hoping the movie would end quick with that…you missed your opportunity, O God of Fire. I am disappointed. So the emo band takes Jennifer into their van, which isn’t suspicious at all, and then we fast forward to the night, when Needy is talking to her boyfriend on the phone and she hears a thump in the night. It turns out to be Jennifer, who does some creepy stuff, eats the food out of Needy’s fridge and then vomits up a black bile-like substance in a manner that I believe is akin to how this movie’s script was written.

The next day we see that their teacher is played by JK Simmons…okay, seriously, how did he even get in here? He’s a goofy high school teacher with a robotic hand for some reason…what, is this supposed to be funny or something? What the hell is the purpose of it? Oh well, we have a pointless kill scene to go through as Jennifer seduces the captain of the football team by telling him that his dead best friend in the fire wanted the two of them to be together. Why would he believe this silly, transparent lie? I think you know why.

What color are her eyes?

So she basically disembowels him and drinks his blood, all shown here in full, vivid color. Because this movie has no shame. She also kills an ‘emo’ guy played by Kyle Gallner, who I feel sorry for as he looks like he was gang-banged by a Hot Topic store. While this is going on, Needy and her dweeby boyfriend are having awkward high school sex with SuperTarget condoms (…yeah, they really do say that), and Needy starts having psychic visions of Jennifer killing the guy, leading her to get up and go find her. When she does that, she ends up at Jennifer’s house where they have a spontaneous lesbian make-out scene.

…what? I’m sorry, what? That’s…really weird. It just came out of nowhere! Yes, it was pretty hot but…why even put it in the movie? Right after it they just act like it never happened. Jennifer starts telling her what happened the night she got kidnapped. Apparently the rock band actually revealed to her that they were Satanists who couldn’t get famous any other way, so they had to start sacrificing virgins and bleeding them out in order to get fame and…do they really think any of this is funny? It’s not. Let’s skip it.

The movie plods along with Needy discovering that Jennifer has turned into a succubus by – get this – reading about it at the occult section in the school library. Wow. You’re not even trying, are you? It’s like they just said, fuck it, we don’t even care about trying to tell a story. WHAT KIND OF SCHOOL WOULD HAVE AN OCCULT SECTION IN THE LIBRARY? Fuck it, the movie’s almost over anyway. So Jennifer seduces Needy’s boyfriend and almost kills him before she shows up and they fight. Jennifer delivers lines like “Got a tampon?” when she gets stabbed…ugh…and then the boyfriend dies and Needy goes to kill Jennifer and does. But not before one of the greatest lines in movie history.

I am serious. It’s up there with “Rosebud,” “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” and “We have a failure to communicate.” This line is groundbreaking! Yes, in Megan Fox’s last breaths, as she is stabbed through the heart, she utters the beautiful and poetic words “My tit?” before she dies.

Swoon, audience! Swoon like you’ve never swooned before!

The people behind this movie seem to think Jennifer’s Body is on the same level as similar ‘female-themed’ horror movies like Carrie and Rosemary’s Baby. This is clearly wrong on every conceivable level, not to mention batshit insane. This is a movie that tries to be funny and meaningful at the same time and fails at both. The jokes are mired in wretched dialogue and the meaning is completely silly once you factor in the amount of pandering, slavishly unpleasant indecency on display – ooh, so it’s a metaphor; who gives a shit? It’s hamfisted, clumsy and very poorly written.

This movie is an ugly, wretched thing that makes me feel dirty even sitting through five minutes of it, let alone an hour and forty minutes. There’s just nothing at all likable about it. If you have any given chance to smash this movie with a sledgehammer, do so in the name of women in movies everywhere. Goddamn, what trash! What utter trash