Thursday, September 26, 2013

REVIEW: World War Z (2013)

When I hear "zombie movie," I usually expect some things. I expect a story with some degree of social commentary, characters scrambling to survive and lots of bloody action. What I do not expect is for the filmmakers to take the "zombie" part so literally as to make a movie so dead inside and decrepit as World War Z.

Director: Marc Forster
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos

Apparently this movie was based on a book. I haven’t read the book, so this will be about the only mention of it in the review. From what I’ve read though, apparently the book was a collection of interviews and fake documents about what happened after a zombie apocalypse. I haven’t really read up much on it, so take what you will from this, but honestly that sounds really interesting and cool. So how did director Marc Forster (who made fucking Stranger than Fiction, one of my favorite movies of all time, what is he doing with this shit?!) go from that concept to such an asinine collection of soulless cliché?

I dunno. Let’s find out.

We start off with Brad Pitt and his wife Mireille Enos living out a perfectly idyllic Stepford Wives-style fantasy with two little girls who have a debilitating disease: they have no personalities. I guess it was contagious, though, since Pitt and Enos don’t have them either. Pitt says he doesn’t want to go back to his “old job.” I guess that makes sense too:

Anyway, they hear some stuff on the news about “martial law,” and Pitt decides it’s still a good idea to take the girls out for a drive. While they’re stuck in traffic, some guy on a motorcycle breaks off the side mirror on Pitt’s car. His response is about what you’d expect…he just sits there and blankly stares. When they get out of the car and an explosion happens, his reaction is similarly blase. Seriously, did Pitt just take a double dose of Valium before filming? YOUR FAMILY IS IN DANGER, MAN. THE WORLD IS AT STAKE. HAVE AN EMOTION.

Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave!
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
"Gee, I sure do like driving..."

On the one hand, I do like how he is seemingly trying to remain calm for his kids – sometimes it comes off as pretty genuine parenting. But it’s not that often, and it really doesn’t come up again for most of the rest of the film. And Pitt still keeps that same boring, generic monotone the whole time, never raising his voice or even ditching that pretty-boy expression on his face. Is this really the same guy who starred in Se7en, Twelve Monkeys and Fight Club? Dude, you’re a great actor! What happened?

Oh. Oh, that explains it…

So they all go on some tirade through the city, running from these zombies, and honestly I have to level with you guys here: whose idea was it to make this scene like something out of a fucking video game? The whole thing is about as nauseating as you can get away with in a movie, with the cameras shaking like the cameraman had a vibrator down his pants the whole time. And the action is constantly jerky and hard to watch – you will seriously have a hard time making out what is going on at any point during this sequence.

Nice lighting; did you steal that from one of the kill scenes in Horsemen?

And that’s one of the main problems with this. So much of the action – which is supposed to be the focal point here – is more like video-game action than movie-action. It’s like I’m watching someone play the latest Call of Duty game, and if I wanted to be bored that much, I’d just go back to my college’s game room and hang out there for an hour. There has to be a certain kind of narrative structure to your action. It has to feel like a movie and have that kind of flow to it – so you can see and understand what’s going on, and so it fits into the whole of what’s going on with the rest of the story. With this movie, it’s just like they stop everything else to throw in a shitty video-game wannabe action scene. I won’t harp along too much about this, but I’ll just say I am glad Pacific Rim came out a little while after this and reaffirmed my faith in action movies. God bless Pacific Rim.

So I guess after that nonsense is over, Pitt thinks he’s been turned and so he stands on the edge of the roof and counts to 12 – the movie’s magic number I guess – and sees if he’s about to turn into a zombie. While this could have been a very touching scene, the movie sees fit to suck it dry of any life whatsoever. Then they go to this military survival compound where the leader, who fits the role of Helpful Black Man for the movie to a tee, tells him the president is dead and the world is in ruins.

"Did I get something that kind of resembles depth and development if you squint? Yes? Okay. We're good for the entire movie now."

Wait a minute. So the president is dead and all we’ve been focusing on is these idiots running around in a shitty building? What the hell? Wouldn’t the president dying of a zombie apocalypse be a little more interesting? I guess not. I also have to applaud the secret service for being so incompetent as to do directly the opposite of what was best for the country – let the president be the first one to die in any situation. They truly are the country’s finest.

"How do I work this computer again?!"

Anyway, so the guys at the military base want Pitt to come back and help them, as apparently he used to work for them or something. He doesn’t want to, but they remind him that they are helping his family. Pitt gives in without any more hesitation and any drama that could have come from this with his wife is safely done away with. Phew. We almost had some character-building moments there. Thank goodness that won’t be happening.

Pitt teams up with the military dumbasses and they have this guy, a doctor who seems to have some rather interesting theories about how nature works…

“Mother Nature is a serial killer. No one's better, or more creative. Like all serial killers, she can't help but have the urge to get caught or what good would all those brilliant crimes do if no one takes the credit? So she leaves crumbs. Now the hard part, is seeing the crumbs, the clues there. Sometimes it's in your thoughts where the most brutal part of a virus is. Turns out to be the chink in its armor. And she loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths. She's a bitch.”

Uh huh. Yeah. And a second later he talks about how long he spent in school – just return your diploma, buddy; you won't need it after all. You can probably still get your money back.

Then they run into some more zombies outside. You know what would be a good twist? If this whole thing was just a big, incredibly elaborate game of that “zombie tag” people play on college campuses. That would be pretty funny. The scientist guy, Mr. Mother Nature is a Serial Killer Guy, is so good with his gun that he runs and trips and somehow shoots himself in the head.

Well buddy, I guess you were right – Mother Nature is indeed a serial killer. Brilliant observation. And you are Mother Nature's most recent victim, in the Darwinian sense anyway.

Pitt and the rest of the morons end up hiding out in this abandoned base type place, where they lament the fall of their idiotic comrade who shot himself. How stupid do you have to be to be in the middle of a fucking zombie war and die not by the zombies eating your brains, but by tripping and shooting yourself? I sure hope they don’t write that on his epitaph. Even the angels would be laughing.

Then as they’re about to leave, they come across a CIA guy who got arrested for selling guns to the enemy. The soldiers tell Pitt to pay no attention to him, but Pitt thinks he could have some useful info. So he sits down and talks with the CIA guy, who tells him that Israel was the first country to know about the zombies somehow, and they have put up a giant wall to protect their city from the zombies. So wait a minute, why did these soldiers even have that CIA guy locked up still? Why weren’t they listening to him? I get it, he was aiding and abetting the enemy with guns – but it’s the fucking end of the world! The enemy he was selling to is probably a rotting living dead corpse by now! I really don’t think the enemies need his guns anymore, guys!

So basically if Pitt didn't have a second thought, that guy would have been left in there and no one would have even thought to ask him about the information he clearly has - wow.

Sigh. This is just another example of what is wrong with this movie – clearly the writers just didn’t give a crap. Because this shit right here? This goes beyond a matter of taste. If you like this, if you can overlook it – fine; I have no problem with that. But it’s shitty-ass writing. It’s the kind of writing that shows that the people making this movie didn’t care enough to give their viewers a good script. They didn't care that they were just serving up the lowest kind of base slop there is. While that may sound harsh, I don't see a reason not to be. There is a difference between a plothole or two and simply not caring about what you write because, hey, nobody really pays attention to the plots in these movies anyway, right? Wrong. You should always try to write the best script you can for whatever medium it is you're writing for. Which these hacks clearly did not, and I cite this scene as well as...well, pretty much everything that follows plot-wise, as evidence.

Now, it may sound like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here. It’s just one plot hole, right? Well, the rest of the movie has about as many more as there are craters on the moon.

For another example of how the writers just don’t care, take a look at the next scene. Pitt is flying in a helicopter above Israel and he and the pilot see a huge explosion break through the clouds. His reaction is to stare blankly and never acknowledge it again. Why start having wonder and excitement now? His wife calls and basically just cries over the fact that he’s in a plane and going to a country without America’s Next Top Model.

I think this is the most dialogue she has in the whole thing - just crying on the phone wondering if he's okay. really weak.

Seriously, SHE HAS NO PERSONALITY. How is this not incredibly offensive to every woman who ever lived past 1970? It’s one thing to have a generally passive wife who takes care of the kids and sometimes cries, but come on – this is 2013 here! Give her a personality! Because as of right now, she has none. She doesn’t even do anything. This whole movie I was like “well, okay, that scene was a bit weak for her, but maybe in the end she’ll…” Nope. She never does a goddamn thing. To pull a character like this off, you need to take a cue from something like Breaking Bad – even if you have a female character who generally doesn’t contribute much, give her some spark, some personality, some kind of stake in what happens. Do not make her just some stock, one-note character there to cry and look beautiful and hug the main character.

To be fair Brad Pitt’s character is just as boring in a stock, generic male character way. But really I’m just disheartened, to say the least, that they took a great actress like Mireille Enos and put her into a role this lame.

So yeah, they get into Israel, where the leader of the country compares concentration camps to the Olympics while trying to explain how they figured out zombies were coming. I thought these Middle Eastern countries were supposed to be the ones chastising us for making low-brow comments about sensitive issues, not the other way around. Then the guy takes Pitt outside and shows him how they open the gates to this big wall they’ve built around the city to let random people in. Apparently it’s because “every person we let in is one less zombie we have to kill.”

Nice stinkeye there, pal. And you're not really the leader of Israel; you're a Borat extra and you know it!


Except for the infected ones who make their ways in in desperate moments of panic, you dumbasses! There are so many ways this plan could easily fail! God, this is making Land of the Dead look like Night of the Living Dead in comparison. All that’s missing in this shit-pile is for the zombies to literally do a human pyramid stretching up the entire length of the wall and catapulting over with very little effort…

I love how they're just falling from the sky like lead bricks. So resourceful, yet so clumsy. Also, notice how I can't seem to get any good stills of the action in this film. That's because no shot lasts long enough for the cinematography - which actually features some rather gorgeous scenes - to have any effect on the viewer. Every shot is hyperactive and is gone after just a few seconds. Like a video game, the camera work is jerky and way too angular - giving the viewers really no time to appreciate what's going on. Pretty lame, movie.

Aw, fuck. Oh well, it’s not like I had any hope for this movie at all. Maybe the Israelis should have spent less time letting everyone under the sun into their supposed hallowed fortress, and more time making that wall bigger. Also, who knew zombies were such good cheerleaders? They can really make a human pyramid. Maybe they can cheer on the other zombies as they eat the brains of the last surviving humans…hmmm…


Pitt survives in a plane with this one chick whose hand got cut off. He comforts her and what not, and it maybe could have been done well, but again – they skimp on anything even remotely resembling development for these characters. They have a scene with zombies on a plane, which sadly is not an Asylum film starring some cheap Samuel L. Jackson knock-off, but instead a scene where Brad Pitt fires a gun inside a plane and the zombies fly out like a bag of marbles poured off the Empire State Building.

"I knew I should have gone for Shaun of the Dead instead! Nooooooooo!" Oh well. Maybe some of them were professional skydivers in their former lives.

Amazing how boring and lame this movie can make even a scene that silly. Yeah, you keep on doing shitty video game-style action scenes…ya stupid piece of shit.

Then the plane ends up crashing. Pitt somehow survives, along with one-handed chick, and they go find this secret lab place where these scientists are who can, I dunno, help them stop the virus, or something like that. Apparently while on the plane, Pitt was spacing out while a bunch of flashbacks played in front of him, which told him that people who are already sick don’t get infected by the zombie virus. Decent enough explanation I guess, and I do like the way he figured it out – see, I can say good things about this after all!

But the soul crushing disappointment of that revelation comes when we get to this lab place and we hear the scientists’ brilliant idea for how to stop this virus: make people sick with something else and so the zombies won’t notice them. Great, and what about when you run out of that virus for a few days and have to wait for more to be shipped to you? I guess whoever didn’t make that initial run is just fucked. Also, what if the virus just causes more harm to humanity? You’d end up with half of humanity dead and the other half lying in sickbeds waiting to die. Not exactly the most well thought out plan!

And speaking of which, how are the doctors who came up with this plan doing?

This movie really has something against doctors. Every time we see one they're either the first to be turned into zombies or the first to shoot themselves in the head by accident. What's up with the anti-doctor sentiments? Maybe the makers of the film don't agree with the conventions of modern medicine? Or maybe I thought about this way more than the makers of the film did.

I thought so.

So this becomes an excuse for a long, boring sequence of nothing but Pitt and a bunch of nobodies wandering around in the dark. There is literally nothing to say about these scenes – they are about as dry as you can get outside of the bowels of the Sahara Desert. I guess eventually they come across the place where the virus is and Pitt goes in and infects himself with it. Rather than fall down and start convulsing, which I would’ve preferred, he just walks right past the zombie outside, which doesn’t even seem to notice him at all.

Urrrrrrrrrggggg....Mr. Pitt....can I have...your autograph? Urrrrrggggg...

Now wait a minute – who says that means a thing? Maybe that zombie was just a huge Brad Pitt fan in real life.

But no, he gets past them all, and even has time to slip in a quick Pepsi ad:

Yeah, because if you didn’t think this movie was a soulless plastic corporate tool yet, they just go ahead and throw all doubt to the wind by putting in a Pepsi ad; a fucking Pepsi ad, as one of the last impressions your movie leaves on the audience. You couldn’t be more of a sellout if you just plastered the Pepsi logo on the front of your DVD box cover. Or, hell, let me just fix that scene for you:

So they go back to the military base, Pitt reunites with his family and they pose for a greeting card, because that’s all women and children are good for, don’t you know?

Just empty, smiling cardboard cut-outs to embrace when you feel like it and then leave behind whenever something slightly more important, like the zombie apocalypse, comes up. What an awesome message.

Then to close out, we get a voice-over by Pitt that sounds like he was forced to do it at gunpoint. Apparently the world never finds out what caused the zombies but keeps fighting anyway. Gee, isn’t that…basically every end of the world story ever? Humanity keeps fighting? It's kind of like saying "Grass keeps growing" or "The seasons keep changing." While it is an admirable sentiment to say that humanity keeps fighting, it's not really anything new or interesting, and as the last line in the film? Gee, what a bland way to end such a bland movie.

Where do I even start? Oh yeah, this was a fuckin’ piece of shit. Everything about this was painful. The characters are barely characters at all, the story is riddled with holes and clichés and the zombies are so lame – they’re seriously just awful. They make noises that sound more like a hole poked in a Coke can in the middle of a hurricane, and they mostly just stumble around like drunk idiots when they’re not falling over one another like a plague of insane locusts – okay, that last bit sounded cooler than it really is.

Zombies across the globe are writing angry letters to Marc Forster and the movie’s writers and producers every day, complaining about their poor treatment in this film. How could you do this to us, they cry. How could you make us look like such fools; such imbeciles? What did we zombies ever do to you?

But who cares what they say anyway? This movie is the absolute pits. It’s not the most offensive or unwatchable thing you’ll see (well except for the camerawork on the action scenes; that's pretty garish), but for pure unimaginative tripe, this is about the best example I’ve seen in a while. Everything has been done before and there is nothing at all interesting or surprising being done here. If you like this kind of crap, fine; I have no problem. But I think movies are important, and I think caring about quality is important. It’s not about liking or disliking a certain type of film, or about making some ironclad list of what is “acceptable” to like. You can like whatever you want. But don’t tell other people they should lower their standards. Don’t you blame me for thinking the creative process can yield so much more interesting things than horseshit like World War Z.

This whole thing has gotten me worked up - the state of modern horror/thriller movies is dire! Something must be done! But what? Well, tune in next week to find out.

Images copyright of their original owners. I do not own any of them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

REVIEW: Horsemen (2009)

Genre defining movies are tough. Sometimes when you watch a detective mystery film, you get something really cool and interesting like Se7en. Then it catches on and everyone tries to rip it off. Sometimes that produces cool movies like Antibodies. Other times, you get crap like Horsemen.

Director: Jonas Akerlund
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ziyi Zhang

This is basically Se7en made by idiots. That’s about the best way to sum Horsemen up, and I basically don’t have to write anything else – that’s the entire review. But because I love torturing myself and have nothing better to do than watch 4th rate rip-offs of one of the best movies of all time, I might as well sift through this and see if any jokes can come out of it. That way at least some good can come of this whole mess.

We start off with the best actor in the world, Dennis Quaid, playing a father who is so cool that he routinely abandons his sons to go and do police work. Is this a cliché that is literally so old that it’s practically becoming revolutionary? Well, no. It’s still lame. Quaid’s character is basically that he just shouts a lot. But when he sees that he’s been called out to look at a miniature silver platter full of bloody human teeth, well, it’s safe to say he has no words at all.

Pfft, that's not a kill scene; that's Hannibal Lecter's equivalent of spitting out the seeds when eating a watermelon.

Apparently they called him for this because he has the oddly specific and not AT ALL contrived position of being an expert on teeth. Does this ever come up again? No. Is it completely useless to the movie and just put in to give him an excuse to be called out to look at teeth? Yes.

Back at the office everyone is just SO BAFFLED by these teeth, but then they get an even bigger call to go to a murder scene straight out of the first SAW movie.

...along with colors that make I Know Who Killed Me look subtle.

Apparently someone snuck in and did this in these peoples’ home. They question the kids downstairs but learn absolutely nothing, and so they just go and re-enact a scene from Se7en entirely. Yeah, they go to see a guy who invents crazy sex contraptions like the machine the woman was found dead in. The guy bitches about it a little, Quaid and his porno-stache partner threaten to arrest him for drugs, and he gives in. Totally pointless scene. The one from Se7en establishes some tension and heightens the drama going on. The one in this movie just takes up running time. Like any good scene in a good movie, you know.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the stupid “catch phrase” the kill scenes have written on the wall. Apparently the killer writes “Come and see” on the wall every time they string up someone in that weird torture contraption thing:

Because every movie like this has to have a stupid catch phrase for the killer. Otherwise it wouldn’t be allowed into the secret club of serial killer detective movies. It’s an exclusive group. It doesn’t even matter that the catch phrase makes no sense with the method of killing. Why bother having any logic to it? It’s not like having a more nuanced and well-thought-out connection between the two would make the movie meaningful or thought-provoking, right? Oh wait yes it would you hacks.

Through some rather dull scenes, Quaid discovers that the “come and see” thing is from the Bible, and is part of the myth of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. While this isn’t the most original set up for a movie – hell, Dexter Season 6 would do it way better a few years later – it does have potential. Unfortunately the potential is not that well realized here. He goes in and tells everyone at the station about his discovery, and they all rightfully call him crazy for a few seconds before believing him – another scene that will be indicted into the all-time greatest moments in cinema history, for sure.

Oh please, he can't actually read. Otherwise he wouldn't have signed on for this script.

We get some boring detective scenes with too-dark lighting that really don’t have much to do with anything. They find another victim strapped up to a harness, get a suspect – her ex boyfriend or something – and then that guy turns up dead, too. Very snore-inducing. We also get scenes with Quaid’s emo son back at home. Apparently Quaid’s wife died of cancer a few years ago and his son blames him for it, because he’s a hormonal teenager, and why not alienate what little family you have left?

There’s one scene where the son bakes a cake for his dead mother’s birthday like, apparently, they do every year. This prompts a big argument when it appears Quaid has forgotten about it. Quaid shouts a lot and the son says that Quaid wasn’t there “when it really mattered” – we get some dialogue a little bit later that alleges to the fact that the son was apparently the only one there when his mother actually died, with Quaid off working a case or something. And thus we have the reason why this family is falling apart: the father feels guilty and detached, and the kids are left alone to become more distant because of it.

Oh, and he doesn’t take them to basketball games because of his job; can’t forget that:

Can you smell the stench of disappointment coming off of these two?

But really, how well done is this whole segment? I really don’t think it’s handled all that well. Honestly, there isn’t anything in this plot that hasn’t been done before. Which isn’t a death sentence automatically, but come on. This whole “distant father, dead wife, neglected kids” thing NEEDS some more substance to it! Just having Quaid and the son shout at one another and then Quaid telling them that he’s “not going to be detached anymore” five billion times during the film doesn’t cut it! The characters aren’t interesting and there’s nothing particularly stirring about the drama going on. If all you’re going to do is pick a hackneyed scenario that everyone has seen done better a billion times before and try to pass it off as meaningful drama, what’s the point?

Sigh. But hey, at least we get some more riveting detective scenes. Like how Quaid is such a good detective that he can’t solve anything; the murderer, who is a small Asian girl, just walks up to him and confesses. They talk a bit, she hugs him, and then she says she “didn’t know her mother had this inside her,” while pulling out a dead bloody fetus in a plastic bag.

Well I for one think it's perfectly normal to carry around aborted fetuses in bags in your pocket...

Okay, okay…a few things.

First off, so what, Quaid is such a shitty detective that even though he’s been looking into this for days now, very intensely, he has to have the killer just WALK UP and talk to him to find her? At least Se7en had a psychotic Kevin Spacey as the discovered killer. This movie just has a tiny Asian girl. That a trained adult male detective couldn’t catch without her revealing her role herself. Don’t put that one on your resume, Quaid; I’m not sure it’s something you should necessarily be proud of.

Second, yeah, so she just carries around that fetus in a bag days after the murder. Right. Not like that would start to smell or anything, right? And you know, carrying fetuses around in plastic bags in your coat pocket is totally awesome and not going to draw attention in any other way, either. Plus it’s gross. And you’re gross. And you need help.

I guess that was this chick’s “evil switch,” because after that she gets arrested and pretty much becomes the movie’s Hannibal Lecter, constantly cajoling and taunting from behind bars. I don’t quite understand why she had to do this, except for the fact that otherwise, they would never be able to catch any of the killers. She has nothing to gain from being arrested, but I guess anything goes when you’re too stupid to think of real ways to move your plot along.

Insert Dark Knight joke here...or don't, either way it's still cliche and boring.

So yeah, her whole role in the movie from this point on is to look evil and vomit out plot exposition like a robot with a conveyor belt attached to its mouth. Without her in the movie we would never learn anything about who the killers ended up being. Basically, according to Psycho Asian Aborted Fetus Bitch here, the Four Horsemen are actually just a bunch of whiny kids who had fucked up childhoods, and so now they take out their rage by torturing their parents for hours and cutting them up like Swiss cheese. Real good motive there, movie…we then see exactly what she’s talking about!

Yup. The next scene is some gay kid and his douchebag brother who can’t accept the fact that the kid is gay. At first I thought the brother was being so rude and indignant because he found out the kid was part of the Four Horsemen torture-fuck club, but nope, it’s just because he’s gay. “Hey, bro, it’s totally cool that you’re a member of a group of freaks that tortures their parents for no reason."

"What? You’re gay? I WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.”

I guess maybe his brother doesn’t know about the torture thing yet. Possibly.

But it’s okay, because the kid then shows him!

More nightmare fuel for you...

And herein lies one of my other problems with the movie: this scene. It’s the only real “torture” scene we get, and despite the brother’s face with all those wires holding it up looking like a bad Adult Swim animation, it’s pretty indefensible. The kid shouts at his brother a lot about not accepting him, yadda yadda, and while it maybe could’ve been done well, with a radically different script…it’s just not working here. Okay, so yeah, this kid has been mistreated by his brother. That’s fine, and his brother is definitely portrayed as a real jackass and a thoroughly unlikable person. But when your solution is to tie people up and torture them in horrible ways, it doesn’t matter what the fuck your reasoning is – you are always wrong, and it is impossible to feel sympathy for you anymore.

Which is fine, as not every movie that has such themes is asking us to feel sorry for these characters. Sometimes it’s more complex than that, as in a movie like Chronicle. But with Horsemen, they don’t really try to do anything with this concept. As the concept of mistreated kids lashing out with repressed rage is quite delicate and weighty, it really needs a professional to handle it in fiction. With Horsemen, you don’t get that – instead you get the same old generic “shock and awe” reaction to these kids’ crimes. You are supposed to be shocked that this is happening, but the movie fails to engage you on any other level besides shock value. It takes the careful subject of a child’s failed upbringing and turns it into a circus act.

Again, look at Chronicle – a movie that takes a story about just one kid who has a shit home life and goes bad, and does a very good job at telling a story about it. The film portrays him as a human being, not just as some cardboard cutout intended to evoke some plastic, half-assed sense of carnival sideshow shock. In other words, it’s not Horsemen. Because Horsemen is lowest common denominator crap.

Well, luckily for me, the kid doesn’t actually torture his brother at all. Instead he kills himself.

You’re doing it wrong! I think you have this whole torture thing a little backwards actually…either way it’s a stupid scene, and while it coulda been done better maybe if the brother wasn’t harnessed up in that stupid contraption and just like, tied up, I’m not going to dignify this with trying to level with its story.

So basically, they come and take away the kid’s body later and the brother is still on the ground – his response to the whole thing is calling his dead brother a faggot again. Yeah, well I guess people really don’t change, do they? Once a bigoted douchebag, always a bigoted douchebag.

After that, after talking to Psycho Bitch some more, Quaid sends his porno-stache partner over to his house to make sure his family isn’t being targeted, because doing it himself would violate Quaid’s code of being a shitty parent. What was he saying earlier about wanting to be part of their lives more often again? I guess that was just bullshit. The partner guy gets knocked out, and Quaid thinks NOW it’s a good time to go home and check! So he goes home and finds…

Oh please, that doesn't mean anything - the editors just forgot to dump an overload of one particular color on this scene.

Yup, and apparently the fact that his son’s room is painted white means that he’s the leader of these four horsemen types. Why didn’t Master Detective Quaid notice this before? Well, apparently he hasn’t been inside his son’s room for three years. I know this because the movie says so just a few minutes later when they meet up. Now, pardon me if I’m not exactly up to speed on the conventions of modern parenting, BUT WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?! He hasn’t been in his son’s room for THREE YEARS?!? Are you shitting me?

I mean honestly, that has to take the cake for worst hackneyed way to explain a plot device I’ve ever seen. For a movie that isn’t a joke, and seems to be very serious in its execution, I really am just baffled at how this made it past anyone who wasn’t lobotomized! Movie, I’ll ignore the obvious social and parenting-related repercussions of such an implication – nobody cares. But I will talk about the plot of this film: you’re basically admitting here that Quaid is so unobservant and so bad at his job, that he didn’t notice HIS OWN SON was a part of a serial killing, torturing group of maniacs? And not only that, but also could have found out easily by just GOING INTO HIS SON’S ROOM? That is astronomically bad. I mean wow.

Ugh…so I guess Quaid goes and finds his son hooked up like a marionette at some kind of auditorium place. His son tells him that there are actually thousands of horsemen, all just waiting to unleash their hormonal rage upon the world. But for some reason only if the son dies…I think. Quaid shoots the ropes holding him up and he falls. The son dies and we fade out.

Quaid goes home and kisses his other son goodnight, the thousands of horsemen all around the world begin a mass murder and torture spree, and the movie ends on a happy note.

No, really, it ends on a happy note – I guess the fact that there’s a whole bunch more of these “horsemen” kids in the world doesn’t matter, since they never bring it up. Go figure. This movie is crap. While I guess I’ve seen worse movies, it doesn’t excuse the awful writing in this movie. And even if the writing were better, Dennis Quaid hams it up while simultaneously not giving a shit, and the kids in the movie are pretty much just High School Musical versions of famous thriller movie villains. It’s just an empty film without much to recommend about it.

But on the bright side…it isn’t World War Z.

Yeah, that’s the next review. God help us all!

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

REVIEW: Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare (1987)

Do you ever wish the 80s would come back? Well, this will probably make you reconsider.

Director: John Fasano
Starring: John Mikl-Thor VS THE DEVIL!!!

Yes, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, the best movie ever to feature John Mikl Thor, the Canadian rock/metal performer who got almost no exposure but has kept on releasing material anyway in the underground, refusing to buckle to trends. Or, apparently, to indecent exposure laws. The film is filled with music that’s about what you’d expect from looking at this thing’s cover. That’s right, it’s gangster rap with techno elements.

We start off our movie with a bunch of quick shots of a family in an idyllic suburban home, reenacting scenes from Troll 2. Don’t believe me? Check out the little kid’s impression of the famous “Oh my GOOOOOOOOOD!” scene:

Props for the flaming, melted skeleton popping out of the oven though. I didn’t expect that at all. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t clean your oven for too long. You just miss things.

It's like if you skinned a Gremlin alive and then stuck it in an oven...what kind of monster could be so cruel?

Then after that we get the true identity of the killer; the tracking shot from the beginning of Halloween:

Of course, it was Michael Myers all along! I never thought John Mikl Thor would go so low as to steal the whole killer from a separate film though. And also, I have to say this whole ‘show some tracking shot footage and then cut to black for a title credit every few seconds’ thing is a bit stupid. It’s kind of like watching a film editor have a seizure while trying to do his job.

And finally we get our title screen, which of course will showcase the brilliant name of this movie for all to---

What? The Edge of Hell? What the hell is that? Pfft. Well, my trust in this movie has gone majorly down as of right now…if I can’t even trust a film to get its title right, then what the hell can I trust it to do? It’s almost like movie studios can mess with a movie or something…feh.

Next we see a bunch of people whose fashion will never go out of style.

Truly they are hip and attuned to the coming storm of the future.

So, apparently, these people are here to stay in this cabin and write rock songs for a week, or some shit like that. I dunno. It’s basically a ripoff of the 2010 movie Don’t Go in the Woods, and how dare this 1987 movie rip off that 2010 movie! The gall of some people. The characters are all kind of interchangeable. The women all sport haircuts that would be better suited to characters in blacksploitation films and wear color-coded dresses – you still won’t be able to tell them apart though.

The guys pretty much just talk about sex a lot. One of them has a fake sounding Australian accent and he literally just sounds like a character off of Sesame Street. Not to mention the acting is about as credible as emails from Nigerian princesses asking you for thousands of dollars so she can win a beauty pageant or something. I mean really, I expect professional acting quality from a movie like this. How long did it take to make? IMDb says seven days. Seven days is more than long enough time to hire good actors, Thor!

Ahem…I’m sorry; I seem to have been taken over by the vengeful spirit of a modern Internet-age nitpicker with a stick up his ass. Excuse that.

I also love how one of the couples on this trip is on their fucking honeymoon. Yes, that’s right, they used their honeymoon to come to this cabin with a bunch of smelly 80s rockers and write music. Are you shitting me? Girls, maybe I’m just not in tune here, but…wouldn’t this be the sort of thing that sends you running to divorce court? I mean, it’s just not that good of a sign for the marriage. All I can see as the future for this marriage is lots and lots of cocaine and marriage counseling. But hey, I’m not an expert.

Then we get one of the movie’s favorite things – a scene of the band playing a song while Thor wears a jacket that looks like he skinned a disco ball alive. The song is actually pretty good; I’ll be honest. I hope they don’t remake this movie in the 2010s. Then it would just have a bunch of Myspace-era alt rock trying to rip off Neutral Milk Hotel or At the Drive In as the soundtrack.

Be honest, you wish your band could look this awesome while playing.

So while you’re busy wondering how a band practice jam turned into basically a music video for one of Thor’s new songs at the time, the band members decide to partake in some recreational activities. Especially this nerdy guy, who has a hot chick approach him on the roof and then denies her sex. I think this is basically a Litmus test for how straight you are.

Ew, cooties!

But it’s OK, because the woman is not actually a woman at all, but a rejected Troll 2 claymation monster!

You know the old saying…rock music gets you chicks. And horribly deformed and insane monsters.

So then we see that fake-Australian accented guy having loud, irritating sex with his girlfriend, never shutting up throughout the whole thing. Then he gets up and tells her he has to go “drain the dragon,” because yeah, that’s really a metaphor that needed to exist, right? He goes to the bathroom and then sees a hot chick waiting for him in the doorway. But then it turns out it’s just a rotting, decaying green zombie. I’ve made the same mistake lots of times.

Fuck this character anyway. He got what he deserved!

Meanwhile the couple on their honeymoon is having fun listening to everyone else have sex all around them. And by fun I mean the girl is probably regretting her decision to marry this bunghole. He even makes a joke about how they could’ve been somewhere romantic and exciting like Hawaii or the Keys! He’s admitting that this whole thing was an asinine excuse for a honeymoon! Somehow that doesn’t make it okay. It’s like an alcoholic going “Yeah, I sure do drink a lot!” Doesn’t really make it any more excusable or better.

Luckily for me, the movie has another surprise right up its sleeve – the one single girl and single guy in the group meet up when the girl comes in and says she couldn’t sleep and wants to “talk.” Heh. Yeah right. “Talk” in a movie where characters have sex more often than they exchange dialogue? Please. You’re being so obvious about a cliché porno scene set-up that even a blind person could see it bright as day – hell, in glowering neon letters even! C’mon movie. Stop jerking us around and get to it already! Just have them fuck like we know they…

Wait a minute. What’s going on?

"Aw man, I can't even get sex when a woman walks into my room wearing no pants? I must really be hopeless."

They’re really just talking and all she wants to do is sit on his bed with him and have a conversation? Huh. I did not see that coming. Good play, movie…

Next scene we get Thor and his girlfriend sleeping in what looks like a coffin together (which is never explained or even brought up, so I guess it must be the norm). Apparently the book he’s reading is really good, because every time she says something, he replies with “what was that, honey?” He doesn’t even miss a beat. She says something and then he just responds with that right after. She gets annoyed that he isn’t listening. Personally I think this is a subtle commentary on the repercussions of playing and hearing too much loud rock music. He isn’t an insensitive douche. He just has a huge hearing loss!

Also I’m not sure Thor can read, so I don’t really know what they’re playing at here.

The next day after another music video, the possessed Australian guy says in a creepy voice that he wants to take his girlfriend on a walk by the lake. The way he says it, it’s more like a child molester inviting little Timmy into his van. Eugh, who would fall for that? Apparently these girls’ huge hair is cutting off the flow of blood to their brains, because the chick just goes along with it without questioning a thing. She immediately strips her top off and, not to be outmatched, he rips himself apart from the inside out!

Well, it’s more like a demon hand thingy that comes out, but eh, who’s nitpicking? Its first move is to grab her boob. So it can’t really be that far off from the human part of him. I guess it kills her, but the movie doesn’t really go into too much explicitness about it or anything.

After that we get a scene with some fans of the band coming to the house. The nerdy guy – who is really the demon at this point, as we haven’t seen him in a while and the last we did see was him getting killed – lets them in and then demands they all take off their clothes so he can judge if they look good enough to be groupies. They’re really offended at it and end up leaving. I love how the nerdy guy just lets them go. What kind of evil villain in this guy? He just shouts at them to strip and then lets them go when they get mad? He doesn’t even try that hard! What on Earth was the point? I bet these girls didn’t want to do anything sleazy at all. They just wanted to have a sophisticated conversation on the merits of literature with the band. But alas, sexism wins again…

"What do you MEAN we get objectified when we act like groupies of a band and go to their house in the middle of the night? WE ARE RESPECTABLE FEMINISTS!"

Next scene we get two of the other morons having sex when they hear a little kid run by. I’m surprised that isn’t one of their fetishes. They assume he just let himself in off the street, because you know that happens all the time. They go and search for him, and figure out the answer to the mystery: he’s not a little boy at all. Just a character from Where the Wild Things Are.

Meanwhile, Thor and his girlfriend take a shower. I’ll give you a prize if you can tell who’s the man and who’s the woman in this picture:

Eventually, I guess it just comes down to Thor and his girlfriend, as she gets taken over by the demon too and confronts him as he’s sitting in the shed trying to write songs. We get some legitimately scary bits when the girlfriend comes downstairs and her voice starts changing into something demonic as the world fades away behind her.

That’s pretty goddamned cool, and really makes me think this could have been a much better film if they had just stopped right there and not used special effects – just have the devil be something intangible and unseen, you know?

But of course that would be antithetical to the movie’s goal of being as stupid as possible. So instead we get this, which looks like something ET shat out whilst partaking in PCP:

We also get a couple of the devil’s minions, which look like phallic symbols crafted by Jim Hanson if he was starring in The Exorcist. I seriously just don’t get some of this imagery. I mean what the fuck is THIS supposed to be?

If someone doesn’t make THAT into a meme and slap some goofy self-aware captions beneath it, I’m calling BS on the entire internet!

So I guess the story here is that the devil toots his own horn a bit, expecting Thor not to know who he is, but gets a nasty shock when Thor starts rattling off a list of the devil’s names and proves he knows the devil probably better than anyone. Even the devil himself.

An even bigger realization is that none of the other characters have really existed in the movie at all. They’ve just been part of Thor’s imagination this whole time! Apparently he was just trying to lure the devil to come to him by pretending to be in a shitty slasher horror film and thus creating characters that would fit in that world. Well, I’ll give the movie that: I didn’t expect this at all. And what is the devil’s first move? To throw rubber starfish at him of course!

I don't get it either. I guess starfish was in the movie's budget, and anything that actually looked cool or made sense was not in the movie's budget. Does the devil just command all starfish? Does Patrick from Spongebob answer to a darker master?

But it’s okay, because Thor has the magical power of transforming into a male stripper!

Seriously movie - this face...I can't even...I just...okay, I give up.

They wrestle a bit. The only thing missing from this whole thing is a crowd of adoring fans and a pole dancing sequence – then it’d be just about perfect. The devil eventually just gives up and disappears in a poof of smoke. What a whiny little coward. So I guess Thor wins and can then go back to writing music that sounds like distilled 1980s in a can. What a happy ending. And really, no one actually died in the movie, so you can rest peacefully now.

So that was Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare – aren’t you glad you know this exists now? It’s a marvel. It’s completely bat shit insane and makes no sense, but it’s a marvel. It’s so cheesy and ridiculous, but it also has a real genuine passion behind it that I really like. I can get behind the surreal atmosphere, and while a lot of the scenes drag on a bit too long, there are some very cool shots here – all the ones of the blue-tinted house at night with the wind blowing are pretty damn chilling. The characters and dialogue are all awful, but then, I guess that was on purpose, seeing as Thor reveals he just made everyone up to trick the Devil into thinking he was in a horror film. That’s…almost clever.

So yeah, I like this one. It’s stupid and half-insane, but it has a real idea behind it and goes all the way with it. I can respect that. Plus, we all know what my REAL rock ‘n’ roll nightmare is…

Eugh. Just watch Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare instead.

Pictures copyright of their original owners; I own none of them!