Monday, April 15, 2013

Announcement: Hiatus, Future Plans and Previews for May '13!

Hello, audience, and thanks for reading more of my Cinema Freaks blog these past months after I came back from my last hiatus. Unfortunately for you all, it is time again that I take leave of doing my ‘big’ reviews (the ones with the pictures in them) for a few weeks while I cool off, so as to not get burned out again, and also graduate from college and move back to my hometown. I feel this is akin to a ‘season’ in terms of TV shows, and this one has now come to an end with I Know Who Killed Me. I really am happy with these latest few reviews, and I hope you all have enjoyed them as well.

But all is not lost, for on the hiatus I will be working on my top 20 favorite and least favorite movies of all time, just because I feel like it! Maybe you’ll agree with me, maybe you won’t…maybe you won’t read them at all. I don’t know. Rest assured, there is still more to come and more for the pickier among you to bitch wildly about.

In the interest of generating what little hype I can for this following summer, allow me to give you a brief sneak peek into the films I will be looking at in May:

...and even more! Excited yet? Well, come May 2013, Cinema Freaks will return with Dracula 3000! Until then, keep watching movies and stay classy, folks.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

REVIEW: I Know Who Killed Me (2007)

Well, well, we’ve finally reached the film I’ve been putting off reviewing for so long: I Know Who Killed Me, one of the worst films of the 2000s according to the critics. Hell, it won just about every Razzie the year it came out. This is one of the few times I'm going to just straight up agree with the critics, no qualms at all - this really is objectively one of the worst films of the decade. It’s got an unwieldy, clumsy sounding title, it stars professional screw-up, former child star and rehab-clinic regular Lindsay Lohan, and it’s an ungodly piece of cinematic terrorism. That should be enough to justify this review’s existence! Yup. It is. Let’s get on with it, then.

Director: Chris Sivertson
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Julia Ormond

We start off with what I like to call “positive, deep female character development”:

Yeah, if all you want in a movie is cheap stripping scenes that aren’t even really hot at all, you’ll be in paradise with this movie. But more on that later.

For now, we have some pretentious story being read by the world’s most generic high school student, Aubrey (played by the best actress ever, Lindsay Lohan). She’s writing about a girl who thinks she’s two separate people? If this weren’t an annoyingly contrived and asinine set-up for this movie’s very poorly written plot, I’d say this is incredibly half-assed. But then again, people tell me I nitpick sometimes.

We then see that Aubrey is so dedicated to her mediocre writing that she even quits piano lessons to focus more on her writing. Because doing both is just unheard of, and it’s really like she’s so jam packed in her schedule that she couldn’t find time after the lessons are over. Or maybe the movie is just really shitty, I dunno.

We also see some other exciting things, like how Aubrey has a boyfriend who thinks it’s a cool idea to tell her he loves her in the middle of science class, because that’s such a good place to do it, right? After that, to complete the butt-clenching awkwardness this movie has to offer, the teacher asks him to locate the female genitalia on their biology microscopes, and he points out the male genitalia instead. Yeah, that’s right; he told her he loves her in the middle of a science lesson on genitalia. Where’s Freud when you need him?

Touching your girlfriend's leg in science class while learning about genitalia; oh yeah, true love! This movie's up there with Cyrano de Bergerac and Casablanca!

At a football game later, we see that high school kids indeed play football, and afterwards, Aubrey goes missing while going to see her stupid boyfriend – although the crap-and-a-half editing will make this plot point as confusing as possible, not really making it clear at first what’s happened. Which is a pretty common theme in this movie, sadly. Her friends who we will never see again stand in one place, call her name three times and then deduce that because she didn’t answer, she must be missing.


Truly they should be the stars of the new Sherlock Holmes TV series that comes out next. They already had one with Watson as an Asian woman, so hey, why not? But I digress.

If you think all of this bland nonsense is exactly that, bland nonsense; well, you’d be right. Fortunately the film has other ways to suck right around the corner. Rather abruptly, the movie switches to some pained screaming and torture scenes, with Aubrey tied up on a table and getting her fingers cut off. This is the other big theme in the movie: fingers getting cut off!  Yeah, if the stripping scenes didn’t do it for you, at least you have the finger cutting scenes to get you going. But again, that will come more into play later on.

The jarring transition between the normal school night stuff and this is actually pretty good, but unfortunately this is just the beginning of a long, looooong train of unnecessary, gratuitous gore without any real purpose.

We then cut to a lady driving on the road, who discovers Aubrey bloodied and disfigured in a ditch – insert your own Lindsay Lohan in real life joke here; I’m above that. She’s taken to a hospital and is missing an arm and a leg – in maybe the only genuine moment in the film, she sees what’s happened to her and the effect is fairly disheartening. It’s probably the only moment that actually elicits sympathy for Lohan’s character. A notion that will be ruined by the bland writing and haphazard attempts at being deep to follow…

A tragic, affecting scene that I can empathize with. The movie realized this mistake and thus never did it ever again.

She claims she’s not Aubrey at all, and that she’s actually Dakota, a down-on-her-luck stripper who has truly lived the tough side of life. Or, what this movie THINKS is the tough side of life, but is really just a cobbled together pastiche of clichés that white suburban people think hard living is like. We get some flashbacks, and really, it’s just so trite. There’s no subtlety or depth here, and the character is about as believable as a multi-million dollar actress playing a downtrodden character from a bad neighborhood could ever be. Seriously, movie; just get real. Lindsay Lohan may have been a strung out, disgusting junkie at the time, but, in reality, she was being a strung out, disgusting junkie IN A REALLY NICE PENTHOUSE.

And the circle is complete: it is now impossible to care about her character in this film, after seeing this. Thank you and you're welcome.

And we come now to the most egregious, banal, talking-down-at-audience “symbolism” ever – literally everything in this movie is bathed in blue lighting for no reason. At first, for like the opening five or six minutes, it wasn’t too intrusive, but around the time this torture scene starts up, it just gets really stupid, and it’s ALL THE TIME. The blue coloring is supposed to represent Aubrey, and later on we’ll get a lot of red lighting for Dakota’s scenes. The lighting is supposed to symbolize which character is which, and show the contrast between their personalities, and honestly I can’t think of a way the director could have created something LESS intellectual and smart. I mean, c’mon, do we really need blue lighting for everything? Even for the tools the goddamn serial killer is using?

Did he just buy those at WalMart? Did he get a discount in the ‘everything blue’ section of the handyman’s construction aisle? Seriously movie, just because you’re trying to be all deep symbolism and character meaning doesn’t mean you have to stop making logical sense. You’re still operating in some form of the real world. It’s not like this is a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory knock-off. Sometimes, blue doesn’t have to be a metaphoric symbol for something else – sometimes it can just be the goddamned color blue.

Sigh. So at the hospital, Dakota talks to some cops who are unnecessarily hostile towards her and seem to not care at all about her well-being; just about questioning her because, well, that’s what the FBI does! Get with the program, man. They go back and forth, recounting some boring flashbacks, and I guess this could have been a decent mystery, but mostly it’s phoned in, the characters are unlikable and just spend a lot of time shouting at one another, and the whole thing is a lead-up to the movie’s first love: stripping scenes.

I know I should think this is really hot and everything, but come on: it’s grungy-looking and dirty as hell, the editing is like a rejected Rob Zombie music video and the music sucks. This isn’t sexy; it’s practically in need of a good bottle of Clorox, it looks so grimy. The way the film looks and the atmosphere being set up are like being on the inside of a porta-potty at a KISS concert in 95 degree weather. And the scene just drags on and on for like six or seven minutes or some shit. The story literally just stops in its tracks, in the middle of a flashback trying to explain something, to show the stripping scenes. Yeah. We get it. She has a tough life and needed to take a demeaning job to make money. For a movie trying to show us how bad this chick has it, it’s sure glorifying the exact undesirable position the main character only took as an easy way to get cash!

Real good message there, movie. Being a stripper sucks, life is hard, but just look at those tits and the way she moves that ass! Go to hell, movie; you’re a goddamned dirty hypocrite!

After that bullshit, we see Dakota fitted for a robotic arm and leg that will allow her to at least be a little bit normal again, and to go back to “home,” or Aubrey’s house, as they still think she’s just Aubrey with some mental trauma. Her boyfriend comes over and they go upstairs and find out how good sex is when one person only has one leg:

I swear if you cut out the stripping/sex scenes and the gore scenes, you wouldn't even have a movie anymore.

Hahahaha…ha…ha…ahh, where do I even start? The lighting is all blue, which begs the question: why would you have that much blue lighting in your room? I’ve heard of having a favorite color, but I’m fairly sure this would seriously just make you go blind after a while. I wonder what the process of pitching this to her parents was like…”Hey, mom and dad, I really feel like getting rid of the regular lights in my bedroom and replacing them all with really bright, obnoxious blue lighting! Can I have $300 to go do that?” “Why do you need all blue lighting?” “GOD! YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND MY DEEP AND COMPLEX NEEDS!”

Another silly thing in this scene is the mother downstairs scrubbing the kitchen tiles with a sponge. I just think this is so hilariously inept…you get the sex scene interspersed with the mother cleaning furiously – get those stains out, mom! If this was intended to be funny as hell, good job, 10/10, two thumbs up. If it was intended to build character and show the difference between Aubrey and Dakota…well, back to the drawing board again, guys. You may just have to stay sober this time.

While they’re lying next to each other afterwards, the boyfriend asks Dakota what it was like to get cut like she did. This prompts a flashback to Dakota’s stripping days, when she was doing her thing on stage and her hand started to hurt. She went backstage afterwards, took off her glove AAAAAAANNNNNDDD…

Yeah, finger falling off? Not too big a deal I guess…she doesn’t accept anyone’s invite to take her to the ER like any sane person, no matter how downtrodden, would. Instead she wraps her hand up in a big towel, pretends it’s just a cut, and goes home. On the bus, she meets a guy who imparts some brilliant words of wisdom to her. They are words so poignant, so intelligent and so meaningful that Jesus Christ, Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi would swoon if they heard them. Are you ready, viewers, to witness this intellectual gestalt? Brace yourselves…

Then we go back to the present day, and Dakota repeats the same words to her boyfriend, as if that answers the whole question. Alright, seriously, what is up with the pacing in this movie? I guess by that I’m trying to say that there is no pacing. They set up that whole flashback for ONE LINE. They really needed like a five minute flashback to show why the character says one line? You could’ve easily cut out that whole scene and the movie wouldn’t have suffered for it. And this isn’t the only time it happens, either; almost every flashback is like this. The movie stops the story cold, focuses on some stripper bullshit and we forget where we were before the flashback until we’re abruptly jerked right back. It’s like the director had permanent short-term memory loss.

After this, the movie sinks into boredom as we get pretty much nothing worth talking about for like twenty minutes. We see Dakota doing some horror movie cliché researching scenes on the other girl who was murdered – even going into her house for a pointless five minute scene in which we learn nothing. I’m beginning to think ‘pointless’ is just this movie’s thing…like this scene, in which our lord and messiah "people get cut" guy returns for a bizarre cameo in Dakota's dream:

I'm just surprised there's a color in the movie that isn't red or blue.

He talks a lot of nonsense about people getting cut in half, which is related to the upcoming plot twist that, shock and awe, she is Aubrey's twin sister who got separated from her at birth! Why we needed this insane gibberish in the movie to get that point across, I have no earthly idea.

We also get some even more dull scenes where she researches the random bleeding spells she has and the weird way her fingers and limbs started falling off…surprisingly, she has waited this long to look into it. Odd. I’d probably investigate THAT right away, but then again I am not Lindsay Lohan. And yeah, these finger-cutting scenes are just awful. They’re grotesque for no reason, add nothing to the film beyond unpleasantness and are just generally a pain to look at. I guess you could argue that they’re effective in that they’re really, really hard to look at, but even then, the rest of the movie doesn’t go for these kinds of gross-outs – just these isolated scenes. And there’s the main problem with the film – well, one of them anyway: it can’t appeal to the gore crowd because it’s full of a bunch of stupid, sappy bullshit the rest of the time, and it can’t appeal to fans of elegant, dark thrillers because of the abundance of finger cutting scenes. It just appeals to no one.

They follow up a touching mother-daughter scene with I even have to say anything?

But either way, Dakota comes to the conclusion that only mentally lobotomized horror movie heroines would come to – she actually is related to Aubrey, who really was abducted by the killer, and the two share a psychic, stigmatic link that makes Dakota feel whatever pain Aubrey is in when the killer mutilates her. So whenever the killer cuts off one of Aubrey’s fingers, or a leg, the exact same thing happens to Dakota. That’s…so retarded I don’t even have words for it, but I’ll play along: this could have been an interesting idea, with way, way better writing. But the writing in this movie is about as good as a fifth grader’s school essay, so that’s out the window.

Sigh…we get some really dull scenes where Dakota finds out that it’s the piano teacher from the beginning behind it all. Really, the piano teacher did it? The piano teacher is your excuse for a Buffalo Bill-styled killer in this movie? Are you shitting me, or did we just get sucked into a South Park episode? South Park is usually way funnier than this, even at its worst, and I’m fairly sure there’s no shitting going on here, so I’m just going to go with the default option: the studio blew all its money on getting the gore effects, and forgot to hire a talented writer for the script.

Really, movie? Really? This guy would have been one of the random side killers that Hannibal Lecter killed off years ago in any of those movies. But here he's the main villain. Sad day.

And the motivation for him to mutilate and sadistically torture teenage girls? They dropped his piano lessons class. That’s it. That’s all we get…I’m really just at a loss for words at this point. Excuse me while I go violently strangle and murder the test dummies I keep in the back room for when I see movies like this, to let off some steam.

Still there? Cool.

Hey, now that I think of it, how did the police not suspect this guy? If the piano lessons are the common denominator between Aubrey and the other chick he killed, how did the FBI not immediately finger this guy for the killings?! I’m not even making a joke this time – I’ll just let this sink in. So two girls with a very obvious common denominator – their piano teacher – get killed/kidnapped, and the piano teacher isn’t questioned. WHAT PLANET IS THIS.

Good GOD, man - what are you even doing? All the Looney Tunes combined, Nicolas Cage and that plant lady from Troll 2 together couldn't beat this whackazoid in mugging to the camera! And yes, this is the image I am leaving you on.

Dakota kills him, I guess, and then goes outside and digs up the coffin where Aubrey got buried – of course the coffin is colored bright blue, ugh…and that’s just kind of how it ends. It doesn’t even really end. The camera just moves away from those two, focuses on some trees, and then the credits come up. I guess they just figured they’d tortured us too much already, and the only worse thing they could do at this point is physically send a madman to our houses and have him cut off our fingers.

This movie is horrible. It’s just a pain in the ass to watch and even a pain in the ass to think about. There’s literally nothing about it that comes off as well done – the acting is awful, the story squanders what little potential it had in a ton of unnecessary gore and stripping scenes and the directing is a confusing mess that can’t even tell the fairly basic story that well. Add to that the laughable pretension of trying to talk down to us with how obvious and blatant the symbolism of the red and blue lighting is – yeah, that’s got to be the worst attempt at complexity in a film I’ve ever seen in my life – and you’ve got a movie that makes a good alternative to brainwashing people for a sort of Clockwork Orange-esque youth correctional facility. Lord knows seeing this movie has already turned my brains to mush.

Frankly, I can’t think of a more wretched experience I’ve had lately. Just everything about this was botched beyond belief! If you really want to see this, if the plot just looks too irresistible, don’t bother renting it or even wasting the bandwidth to download it. Just follow these simple steps and you will get the effect of watching I Know Who Killed Me all the same:

1. Stand in front of a police car with the flashing red and blue lights on.

2. Cut your finger off.

And wallah! Now you can enjoy this movie with all its perks and wonders without ever actually having to pop in the DVD. Isn’t that great? I think it is. Well, I’ve said all I can say about this film, so I'm going to go off and do more productive things, like banging my head against a wall until I can forget everything I just saw and thought about. Let me know how those steps work out for you, guys!

The images in this review do not belong to me. They are copyright of their original owners. Please take them and never come back.

Friday, April 5, 2013

REVIEW: Evil Dead (2013)


Remaking a movie like Evil Dead was never going to be easy, but Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and some other guys backed up relative newcomer Fede Alvarez in making this revision of the storied gore-horror classic from over 30 years ago. Honestly, I don’t think this is too bad. But I do have a few big problems with it, which I’m going to address thusly – you know, because that’s what I do, I guess…

Director: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez

First off, holy shit, it’s been 33 years since the original Evil Dead came out. That really puts things into perspective. It shows us that horror is eternal, that what scared us back then can still scare us now, and the same for entertainment in general – the days of old aren’t really so far behind us like some people claim. While ‘retro’ has been the big thing in the last few years, this movie is of a more genuine stripe than whatever Exorcist rehashes are coming out these days, and there’s a certain feral energy about this film that works to pay tribute to the horror of old, rather than simply ripping it off (Midnight Meat Train) or parodying it in an asinine way (Raimi’s own Drag Me to Hell). There’s a thin line between shameless hackwork and a genuine attempt (even an imperfect one, which this film is) – and Evil Dead ‘13’s blood-soaked trail of horror decimates the line.

Second, let’s just get the good points out of the way first: The gore. That’s really about it. If you want nothing else but insane, disgusting gore attacked with the zeal of a mental patient on crack going after a dog on a leash. I mean this thing is PACKED. WITH. GORE. To the goddamn brim. Some of the stuff in this movie made me look away from the screen, and if you’ve kept up with this blog at all, you know I’ve seen some shit.

Not only is the gore rampant, but it also touches on the age-old mantra of gore in films that modern films seem to have forgotten in their quest for the bottom of the barrel – if your movie isn’t some kind of serious, real-life meditation on social problems, MAKE THE GORE ENTERTAINING. Make it over the top, make it goofy, make it extreme! While the gore in this film is brutal and extreme to the max, it’s also done in a very wry way – it’s so over the top that it becomes entertaining in its own twisted, perverse way. The pacing is quick and exciting, too, which aids the entertainment factor. Overall there’s a big feel of classic 70s and 80s splatter-horror about this, although done up in a slick, modern package, and the effect is that Evil Dead 2013 is a nicely done bridge between the old and the new.

BUT – and there is a but – the writing is pretty stock, and the acting sucks. Now, the acting in the original wasn’t exactly Shakespearean either, but the original didn’t focus on the acting as a big point of concern, so much as the actors’ bodies getting torn apart and destroyed in horrific ways. This movie tries to have more of a story behind it, rather than the occult mayhem hack-n-slash of the original, which is a fine idea…if you can get a good story.

This…well, it certainly tries, I guess. They’re trying to say that the five characters are going to this cabin to have a sort of drug intervention for Mia (Jane Levy), the sister of main character David (Shiloh Fernandez). In the first 30 minutes or so, there are some pretty decent moments where it almost seems like the things going on are all in Mia’s head – of course, everyone who knows anything about this movie KNOWS that isn’t true. But it’s a nice red herring and, if handled with more wit, could have blossomed into something really interesting.

However, the film just focuses too much on the characters’ drama between one another, and with the acting being so terrible, almost universally so, it really gets pretty stupid after a while. The focus on the whole brother-sister dramatic plot is just weak as hell, and the writing for that is about as sappy as it gets. Evil Dead was cooler when it was just about gore, gore and more gore. This movie just comes off like the awkward ‘tween’ years where Evil Dead tries to ‘branch out’ and find itself in new social circles…awkward…

And, really, even when you take out that bullshit, how stupid is the main character? It’s not uncommon for horror protagonists to make stupid decisions. But dude, seriously! If your sister was possessed a minute ago and then just starts talking to you out of nowhere like normal, RIGHT WHEN YOU’RE ABOUT TO FINALLY KILL HER…maybe she’s still possessed and is trying to trick you! Just a thought, pal. It wouldn’t be so bad if it happened like once, but it’s all the goddamned time in this movie, and after about five minutes of this kind of stupidity, it will make you want to hit your head against a wall. Repeatedly.

The reason the writing sucks is because these characters’ reactions to everything are so subdued. They see a possessed person vomiting black bile and cutting their own tongue in half? They barely raise an eyebrow. They see a loved one come back from the dead after being buried alive? Doesn’t even raise their pulse one bit. It’s lazy and comes off as more funny than anything, demeaning the gleeful evil of the rest of the movie. Also, one final nitpick – what is up with how invincible the characters are in this? They barely seem to feel a damn thing. If they were possessed, sure, but this all happens before they ever get possessed…they get arms cut off, they get stabbed repeatedly, get nails driven through multiple parts of their bodies; all kinds of shit, and they just keep stumbling on, only ever-so-slightly wounded. It’s a minor nitpick, as it doesn’t really hurt the movie, but that kind of silliness does become noticeable eventually.

Evil Dead 2013 is enjoyable, and I didn’t regret seeing it. The gore is great, the lighting and atmosphere is killer and everyone involved seems to be having fun. But the attempts at making it a more serious and mature film than the original don’t work because the writing isn’t good enough to sustain them. I think this is a great ‘turn your brain off and drink beer’ sort of movie to watch with friends, preferably around Halloween, but is it as good as the original? I wouldn’t say so. Recommended for Evil Dead fans, and for those of you who really dig modern horror movies.

Images copyright of their original owners.

REVIEW: The Host (2013)

Stephanie Meyer has become something of a talking point in society in general these days, mostly for those infamous Twilight films, which so many people love to hate. I have never seen those movies or read the books, and people can say what they will about them – personally, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like them very much, and as such, I don’t see a reason to watch them; it’s too far out of my interest for me to give a solid opinion on it. But here we have the adaptation of her newest novel The Host, and while it’s not really very good, I did at least have fun watching it.

Director: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Saoirse Roman, Jake Abel, Max Irons

This is a science fiction film about a sort of distant dystopian world where humans have mostly been taken over by little alien plasma bug things that have turned the Earth into a peaceful land, except one where people no longer have free will and their bodies are just hollow shells for these aliens. A small group of human rebels, as they always appear in movies – dirty clothes, living in caves, etc – are barely surviving out in the desert.

And it’s goofy. It’s so goofy. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly why, but I’m going with the acting as the main thing. I mean, the storytelling is fine and moves along at a pace that didn’t bore me, so that’s not it…must be the acting, which really is pretty hammy. I guess I’ll throw in the dialogue, too; I mean really a lot of the stuff these people have to say is awfully choppy and forced, even when the action is good. The main character Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) has been taken over by one of the ‘souls’ that invaded the planet, and the real Melanie talks in an inner-monologue inside her own mind. The effect is that it sounds like a very bored automated narrator in a PowerPoint project.

The corny back-and-forth romance triangle that pops up is about as ridiculous as it sounds in a movie like this…this really isn’t the type of thing that needs a love triangle, but I guess it appeals to the tweens coming to see the movie. Mostly it’s just groan-worthy and comes off as a time-waster rather than anything actually poignant. The acting just isn’t good enough to sustain the romance, and comes off more tacky and stilted than actually anything like what real kids this age would act like.

And, really, this kind of phoned-in character development is the biggest Achilles’ heel this movie has – the biggest thing preventing it from being more than a fluffy teen popcorn movie. The story is fine, the acting, while silly, wouldn’t be too bad otherwise, but really it’s the romance that drags everything down in the end. I never believed a second of it; was never convinced for a second that these people had any real connection going on. Romance can be so much more than simple ‘he likes me, he doesn’t’ crap, and with this movie’s plot and set-up, there was potential for a really investing romantic subplot. But the film just treats it as background noise, and none of the characters are ever really affected by it in any meaningful way. It’s just sort of there because it has to be, because the film is for tweens, and as such, the film’s integrity takes a big nosedive.

The real reason to watch this is just because the concept is pretty cool – it’s not your usual blow-em-up-enslave-humanity alien plot, and the cool neo-Western atmosphere is nice, even if they don’t use it quite to its full potential. The plot moves along quick and while it’s not anything too original, it keeps you fairly invested the whole way through and mostly does OK at keeping the tension up, even if it does sort of resolve itself way too easily and gets a bit sappy here and there.

So I guess what I’m saying is, it was certainly a movie. That much cannot be denied.

Did I like it?

Ehh. I didn’t hate it. I had fun riffing on its sillier moments and there were some cool parts here and there. Mostly what dragged it down was the rather cliché and trite romance plots, and with a little more thought and investment put into the romance, it could have been a much better movie. For sci fi movies, it ranks a bit below movies like In Time or Surrogates, which themselves are enjoyably B-level flicks. And it’s not as bad as Aeon Flux or Ecks VS Sever, so there is that!

But then again, that isn’t saying a whole lot. If you liked the book, well…ehh, from what I’ve heard you may be disappointed. On the other hand, critics who are seriously panning this are kind of off the mark, as there are far, far worse movies out there than this rather inoffensive and sometimes humorous one. See it at your own peril.

All images in this review are copyright of their original owners. I do not own any of them.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

REVIEW: Don't Go in the Woods (1981)

Slasher horror movies were the big trend in the late 70s early 80s, with everyone trying their hand at making one. And honestly, they shouldn’t have. That’s a phrase people usually use to be all polite and tell another person that he or she has done something far nicer than the original person deserves, and it sort of applies here – hell, I put far more thought into this review than there ever was in this movie. Yes, this is Don’t Go in the Woods, and it’s the original film that the 2010 musical slasher movie of the same name was based on. Awesome, right? Can’t you just feel the anticipation for more great musical moments?

Director: James Bryan
Starring: The woods

What’s that? This has nothing to do with the 2010 version and the only music we’re going to get out of it is god-awful screaming that would even be out of place on a Brokencyde album? Wow. That sounds absolutely hideous! So I guess I’ll review it…

Yes, this is a special kind of movie…I mean, literally you won’t even be missing much if you just didn’t even read this review. Just press the ‘back’ button right now. There are so many other things you could be doing instead of reading a review for this waste of time, vapid-ass movie, and I’ll list them right now: You could plant a tree. You could read a book. You could go talk to your local congressman about what to do to stop violence against the homeless. You could…aw, damn, you’re still there, aren’t you? You’re still reading this one. Well, alright. I mean, this is the kind of movie that I’m pretty sure had no actual director on set most of the time. I bet he went off to drink at the pub during most of this shitty movie. But if you really want to continue…sigh…let’s get into Don’t Go in the Woods…the 1981 version.

We start off with the credits! Yes, the first couple of minutes is nothing but the credits, which usually are at the end of the movie but here are just slapped right at the beginning. I guess so you know right away who to blame for this whole fiasco.

Pfft, yeah, story and screenplay, as if to imply this movie ever had either of those things.

After that, we get transported to THE WOODS, the hot spot for every slasher movie ever, apparently, where a hot chick is getting chased through the woods by some unknown attacker. She falls in the water and…that’s kind of the end of her. We don’t get to see the beginning of the chase or the end. Kinda disappointing there, movie.

This movie is cutting edge - I think she really got her blouse dirty in this scene.

Then we get something completely different as a GUY is walking through the woods and gets killed! Get it? It’s different because it’s a different sex AND he’s just WALKING through the woods as opposed to running. Oh, and something weird happens where he gets killed by a bunch of trees.

You can't see it that well, but the trees CUT HIS ARM OFF. How?! How is that possible? You don't establish at any other point in the film that the trees are evil, but here they can kill a man and cut off his arm. Oh, who am I kidding; I don't really care. As long as it's not The Happening, I'll buy anything you throw at me.

I guess this was the inspiration for that infamous Evil Dead scene, which I guess makes this a good movie. Hell, don’t even go see the Evil Dead remake this weekend. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m sure this is the better movie, as it obviously has more to do with the true spirit of Evil Dead.

We then get introduced to our main characters, the trees. There are some other side characters, like this group of Brady Bunch rejects wearing costumes that look like a South Park impersonation of wildlife preservationists…

Boy or girl? You decide...a common game to play in this film, sadly enough.

…but mostly it’s the trees which will be the focus of the film. I mean, why else would the director focus more shots on the woods than on the actual characters? There are so many scenes in this thing that just up and end, and then the director goes back to showing us stills of any random nature documentary. In fact, I think that’s what happened with this movie. There were actually two film crews in the woods; one making a slasher movie and one making a nature documentary. The slasher movie crew caught some of the nature documentary’s footage and just figured, screw it, nobody will ever watch this movie anyway, and the director won’t notice because he’s too busy getting drunk off his ass.

Alright, alright, I’m sorry for going on so many tangents in this review, but honestly, what the hell am I supposed to say? There’s no story. The first half hour of this thing is just the Brady Bunch rejects wandering around spouting dialogue that sounds more like the inside of a Safe Camping pamphlet they give you at the wildlife reserve. How am I supposed to be entertained by this? Is it bad that I’m actually wishing for the usual slasher tropes like sex and drugs? Please, somebody, get me out of this extended, badly produced after school special on camping etiquette!

I guess after a while we see the police trying to solve some of the unfinished murder scenes from earlier. We waste precious screentime that you could be using instead to walk out and go home by showing a bunch of characters talking about pointless things. The front desk lady gets asked several times where the sheriff is, and she tells them he’s “busy.” Right. “Busy.” I bet he’s just in his office playing golf.

Huh. I was correct...he was playing golf. And he also looks like a whale that ate Andy Griffith.

Uh, wait. No. That can’t be the sheriff. I’m sorry, I just think I’d rather have a sheriff more concerned with my public safety than where he’s going to find his next snack. And I know it’s mean to make fun of fat people, but come on; throughout this whole movie he is shown to be completely incompetent and with pretty much no redeeming qualities. Hell, he’s lazing around in his office playing golf right after somebody was murdered in his town. What kind of asshole is this guy? Hell, even his weight can’t be normal. I bet he got that fat from EATING LIVE CHILDREN. Look at him! He’s the kind of sicko who would eat children not even because he’s evil, so much as he’s just hungry.

Ugh, okay, whatever. We then see that the killer doesn’t like this lady’s paintings. And so he spices them up a bit.

I always said murder could improve modern art. I'm glad movies like this are finally listening to me.

The killer looks sort of like John Goodman if he went insane and started living as a crazy wild man in the forest. He’s completely ludicrous, is never given any explanation and spends most of the movie screaming horrendously at the top of his lungs. I mean, it’s god-awful – one of the most painful things I’ve ever heard in my life. Jesus; it sounds like a monkey getting butt-raped by a walrus. It’s literally like someone just took some still shots of the woods and then vomited all over them in the editing studio. I’d get angrier about it, this heinous noise, but really, what is the point anyway? Nobody ever took a second look at this once it was patched up to something resembling a movie. I bet half the people involved forgot about this thing a month after completion.

After that, we get a sex scene between an 80s blond version of Nicolas Cage and, apparently, Michael Jackson:

There's no way that isn't two men. Please don't even TRY to tell me that's a man and a woman sharing an intimate moment - that is two men!

There’s an image I never wanted to see. Fortunately they both get killed off by more bad editing and lack of funding for gore effects. Ahh, how karma pays back, and pays back well.

Let’s move on now, to something completely new and alien to this movie up to now: an actual plot! Yes, 45 minutes in and we finally decide which characters to focus on…isn’t that amazing? If you’re wondering, it’s these two:

They’re gender-androgynous like all the other young characters in the film, and they’re pretty bland…though they do actually find a way back to civilization, which is more than I can say for some of the other characters. The one girl, who has been injured, gets hospitalized, and the other guy goes insane. I’m not even making that up: he goes insane in the short time between this scene and the next time we see him, because apparently seeing a bunch of dead bodies wrapped up Black Christmas style with plastic suffocating them is traumatic or something. Pfft.

Either way, it’s bad writing. Surprised? I didn’t think so.

The cops finally hit on the great truth of what to do next – go into the woods where all of the victims have come from. Yup, it took them a whole movie to figure out this insanely easy truth, to just go where all the dead people are coming from, and MAYBE that’s how they’ll find their killer! What, did the sheriff just spend too much time eating children to do that before? Why the deliberation, you assholes? Any other county would’ve been out there five minutes after the first body showed up looking for clues! Not these guys. They’re the easy going, laid back and fun police department…child cannibalism debatable.

Apparently, the one crazy guy escapes from police custody – apparently it’s about as hard as opening a door of your own free will and just casually walking out. So out in the woods, we see more great policework, as they apparently bring the injured girl from the hospital out to look at the dead bodies and help them find the guy, because, yeah, this really happens! I’m sure police in real life always bring traumatized victims out to the crime scene, show them the dead bodies and the murder weapons…yeah, awesome work, you idiots. What’s next? Just…leaving her out there in the woods long after the night settles in, and then just shrugging it off and saying they’ll look for her in the morning?

No. No no no. Not even these morons could be that stupid!

…could they?

Well, according to the movie, yes. Yes, that is what the police do. Are you shitting me? What was the thought process? “Oh, she’s not following us…let’s just keep going, guys!” What were they thinking?

I really hope whatever donut shop these yokels are headed to blows up upon arrival.

Well, I know what the sheriff was thinking…

Well, I can speculate anyway.

There's this other chick from earlier who somehow survived up to now - I love how there's a scene where she finds a taco shell in the garbage, on the ground, and picks it up and eats it. Like she's really been gone long enough to resort to eating garbage. Lady, the road isn't that far away! Find it and go to a Denny's somewhere! If the other morons in this movie can navigate their ways to civilization, I'm sure you can figure it out! But sadly that never happens, because she gets killed off a few seconds later. And here is where all of the budget for this movie went:

Was it worth it?

We also get some scenes of a guy in a wheelchair aimlessly rolling through the woods. They’re randomly interspliced with the scenes of the cop buffoonery, and mostly seem pointless, until he gets his head cut off. Why? How? Who the hell was he? Why would you ever go into the woods randomly if you’re stuck in a wheelchair and have nobody around to help you? The answer to all of these questions is “no.”

After a clumsy fight scene between the crazy guy and the killer, the movie decides that it’s over now, probably because the rest of the crew all got bored and fell asleep, or just left the set entirely, never to return. And who can blame them? This is the kind of movie that mostly functions as a way to melt your brain. Like if you want a faster way than watching the current state of American economics, just turn on this movie. I never thought I would say this, but I’d rather even watch the 2010 musical crapfest over this movie! It’s seriously just nonsense, from beginning to end. There’s nothing about this film that really adds up, and frankly, with all the screaming and yelling without any purpose, it’s literally painful to watch sometimes.

But overall, this is just so confusing and strange that it’s impossible to actually hate. It’s like an alien artifact from a time long gone. While horrendously bad, there isn’t much about it that will really offend or disgust you. If I can’t even understand the mindset behind the film’s creation, how can I really hate it? A question to ponder.

But enough of these strange experiments in the most underground and unknown films around…let us venture again into something much more deserving of my hatred and spite...something so loathsome, terrible and all-around shitty that it ascends to a new level of hideousness and deplorable rotten spirits...

Brace yourselves!

PS. If you're interested in watching Don't Go in the Woods (1981), the full movie is up on YouTube for anyone to see! Go, my audience, and witness the 80s shlock in all its magnificent incompetence!

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