Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hold Your Breath (2012)

I decided to change things up this week. For something a little bit different, I will review a bad movie! Yes … truly something original … anyway, this is Hold Your Breath. I think I’ll try feigning disbelief at how bad it is and then making jokes involving pictures from the movie. Yep, that sounds good.

Director: Jared Cohn
Starring: Katrina Bowden, Randy Wayne

We start off this sure to be masterpiece with a truly promising sign …

Yes, The Asylum; always known for good movies, right? Oh well. Maybe I could be wrong. Maybe this is where they turn around and really do something good … but I doubt it. We start off with a crowd of people waiting in an asylum – so that’s why The Asylum put this out! Now it all makes sense! – apparently for the execution of some serial killer. The warden of the place comes in and recounts the horrific acts the killer committed which landed him here in the first place. As some of the victims are among the audience, it seems a bit cruel for the guy to recount the details of the killer’s crimes – but hey, what do I know?

"Yes, I, an obvious victim of this killer, really needed to hear about the crimes he committed, reliving the horrors he inflicted on me that I already have to live with every day, before my ultimate satisfaction of seeing him die." Seriously, is this just the death row version of making pregnant women look at a picture of the fetus inside them before an abortion?

The execution goes about as well as you’d expect: the guy gets loose, murders the warden in cold blood. And then they finally strap him down and electrocute him right as a lightning storm comes around. As we learned from Child’s Play, which truly is a realistic film, a lightning storm at the same time as a death means the dying person will turn supernatural and start killing people again after death.

But maybe that won’t happen here. After all, take a look at the next scene! The sun is shining, people are having fun and crappy alternative rock is playing. Apparently a bunch of unlikable jackasses are going camping. They talk about asinine things like that one time one of the guys shot his teacher in the neck and she had to go on sabbatical – because hurting people paid to help you further your future is awesome.

The main guy takes their cell phones because apparently they all promised that earlier. Even though now, as he’s asking, half of them start bitching and complaining about it. Either this is a brilliant satire of modern technology addiction, or not. Based on the fact that the plot of this movie involves a body-jumping spiritual serial killer, I’m leaning towards the latter.

"What do you MEAN we have to give up our cell phones even though we agreed to that already?!? And what do you MEAN we're going camping even though we got in this car of our own will and clearly had PLANS together?! AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!"

While driving past a cemetery, one of the girls says they have to hold their breath because otherwise an evil spirit could go into them. I’d expect this from a mental asylum patient, but not from a seemingly preppy white girl who likely never saw Mardi Gras in her life – then again, with all the high-end celebrities touting exotic religions just to look cool, who knows? I just love how fervent she gets about it, shouting and screaming until they all hold their breaths. The one stoner guy coughs or something, and they end up crashing the car next to an old abandoned mental hospital – the same one from the opening scene.

As their car is still working you would think they get out of there, but nope, it’s time to go exploring in the old mental hospital. Two of them decide they just CAN’T go on without having sex, so they literally just go inside the building to find some place quiet to do that – if this seems insane to you, well you are probably a functioning and contributing member of society, unlike these characters apparently. Because, you know, any good horror movie has porno sex scenes set to crappy music:

Ssshhhh, don't tell them fucking in a dirty abandoned mental hospital may lead to diseases. This is Darwinian natural selection at work in full.

I love how the lyrics don’t even make sense with the sex scene … they’re more in line with the title of the movie and the plot, about holding your breath and what not. How incongruous. Hmph, and to think I expected a tasteful and subtle sex scene out of a horror movie with a plot about a body-jumping serial killer!

Speak of the devil, by the way – the stoner guy of the group apparently got possessed by that killer guy from the opening because he didn’t hold his breath all the way. Some cop approaches him, so he does the natural thing: gouges out his eye and then ties him to the steering wheel of his car, and then lights him on fire.

And nobody inside hears the explosion at all - makes sense to me, but then again I have seen too many movies like this and my brain was fried long ago.

Yeah, well, like they always say, marijuana makes you kill people. Such is the travesty of drugs.

Meanwhile inside, this one guy gets dared by the two chicks to sit in an old electric chair and even lets them tie him up in it – all for the promise of a blow job from the ‘hold your breath when you’re driving by a graveyard’ chick, because she’s such a catch. Apparently she also sees some ghost of some girl, which is supposedly making her tie the guy up? I don’t know. It’s never brought up again and the movie continues as if the only killer were the original serial killer guy – so yeah, makes sense!

Then an electrical storm starts up with the guy still tied up and the girls don’t untie him. It’s at moments like these – and they are so plentiful in horror films – that I understand how the wacky death news stories CNN and Yahoo report on happen. I can picture this being a headline the next day: Stupid White Kids Accidentally Electrocute Friend In Abandoned Mental Asylum.

Meanwhile on the other side of the building, there seems to be no electrical storm at all and yet they still hear the guy screaming. Is it supernatural, or just terrible directing and writing? Oh Hold Your Breath, always blurring the line between storytelling and complete incompetence. I have to say, though, them just leaving that mental asylum without any kind of satisfying conclusion is pretty weak. They go to some lake and just hang out. I love how the camera keeps focusing on the chicks’ asses, really just giving them priority over everything.

We're supposed to be focusing on the nice river in this shot.

It’s just a shame that these girls had to be subjected to this sexist insanity. Here they were trying to act in a movie about a body jumping serial killer, and all the director cared about was exploiting their scantily clad bodies.

Oh well, I’m over it. We see one of the guys gets possessed by the killer and then claims he left his bag at the old asylum. He gets one of the chicks to drive him to go get it, because I guess she didn’t believe he could just drive himself … and then he hits her in the head, knocks her out, takes her shirt off and constructs an elaborately complex trap with barbed wire, rope and his car to slice her clean in half:

The whole idea behind this kill is fascinating to me in that I have no idea how it was thought up or why someone would even take the time of day to think of anything this overly elaborate. Boy, for a supernatural body jumping ghost, he sure has a lot of free time on his hands! And he must be glad no other cops came to check on that other guy that never came back!

I guess strangling was out of style.

The rest of the gang waits several hours before even doing anything. I shit you not; several hours – even though apparently it doesn’t take long to get from the asylum to the lake they’re at now. They finally get suspicious and go look. They find the dead girl and then the possessed guy is about to kill them with a rake, but he gets shot by random old man who was once a guard at the asylum.

It happens.

Because the movie realized it didn’t make any sense at all, we get this guy haphazardly shoved in as a plot device to explain everything: every year on the anniversary of his death, the killer comes back as a ghost and possesses people who don’t hold their breaths at graveyards, or something like that. And apparently THIS is the first time the old man has decided to do anything about it! I guess all the other times, he just let innocent people die horribly without explaining anything … either that, or he DID explain it and they all died anyway, because he is a fucking idiot. Either one wouldn’t surprise me.

Somehow he figures out that the blonde chick has been possessed. She gets up and runs away. They all start panicking and preparing for battle. Eventually the blonde chick comes back and kills one of the guys with a blender:

There's a dick metaphor in there somewhere.

Why even bother with this? Wouldn’t it be smarter to just pretend to be normal and not draw attention to yourself for a while, luring them into a false sense of security? Eh, I guess not.

They somehow get out in the forest just in time for the special effects ghost duel of the century between the ghost of the killer and the ghost of the warden who also died that same night. Yeah – he’s back now, too. I guess we’re just making up the rules to this as we go, now.

The fight goes on and the characters just kind of leave, like, ‘we don’t even give enough of a shit to watch the rest of this.’ Either that or they ran out of money to pay the special effects people. The ghosts finally get sucked into the old man’s body, because what we really need is a crazy old guy with a gun and TWO spirits inside him, right?

And that's full circle, we've officially entered the realm of horrible late-80s CGI fighting arcade games.

I also love the epic looking sunrise that happens after that, as it is just so incongruous with everything else in the fuckin movie:

Yeah, THIS thing really benefitted from that shot! Truly just caps off the epic atmosphere this movie had going, right? We then end the film with the guy and two girls in the car. Everything looks like it’s going to be okay until…

Yup, just like every craptacular horror film, it ignores the rules of its own universe simply to give the viewers a real downer of an ending. Oh how I have missed these horror clichés. Or not, because this was a turd of a movie.

It had its goofy moments, it had its terrible moments – it sure was a recitation of everything good and bad about crappy mid-2000s horror. Your appreciation for it will depend on your tolerance level for that style of movies. Either that or the movie will end up killing you if you care one bit about the basic tenets of filmmaking. Pick and choose your own adventure. Ride the wave. And remember, hold your breath when you're driving past a graveyard, or else you might end up killing a girl by taking her shirt off and tying her to a tree with barbed wire hooked up to an electric current charger. It happens.

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

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Top 13 Movies of 2013

Drum roll, please ...

I remember when I was first starting out 2013 - well, for the first several months, really, I just wasn't finding many really good movies. For big theater releases, that will always be a problem, as they just put out a lot of crap at the beginning of the year with only the occasional indie flick spliced in for good measure. Summertime brings us a bunch of big action movies. Whereas last year had a lot of them I found really great, this year we got a bit short-changed, let's say. I just wasn't finding much to really dig my teeth into.

And it's so hard to see everything you want to see when it actually comes out. That's why I spend January watching movies I missed over the last year. And lo and behold - what I thought was a fairly weak year for films turned out to be a year full of amazing movies. I still didn't even see everything I wanted to. I'll be catching up on this year as much as I have on any past year in terms of films.

But I did find a lot of gems I'd missed throughout 2013, and so I decided to make this list. Let's start from the bottom!

13. Prince Avalanche

Two guys, pretty much polar opposites, work on a desolate road in the late 80s. While doing that, they run into women problems and learn some things about each other. It’s fun and charming. Great acting from Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd is icing on the bromance cake. If there were a TV show with these two, I’d probably watch it – that’s enough for me to say this is a good, good flick.

12. Fruitvale Station

The real life account of Oscar Grant, a black male who was assaulted and killed by police on New Year’s Eve 2008 – a case which resulted in an overhaul of the police department. This is well acted and really does a good job of showing a real life account of this guy before the tragedy happened. While it’s a good account of police brutality and modern-day racism already (though it could have stood to include some more scenes after the event happened and been better for it), the real reason this deserves a spot is its between-the-lines commentary: your reaction to Grant’s death will gauge where you fit in terms of your opinions on those very complex issues. Whether you think the film was too sympathetic to Grant or did a good job presenting things idealistically, it just means the film had an impact on you. The only way this wouldn’t be a good film is if you didn’t care enough to think about it even a little.

11. Gravity

The deepest recesses of space provides the scariest movie all year. While this isn’t a horror movie by any standard, the sheer terror you feel looking at the vast black canvass of stars puts it up there anyway. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are great as two astronauts in this, but their characters aren’t the real focal point. The focal point is when you see Bullock spiraling uncontrollably away from everything she’s ever known into a dark abyss from which there is no guarantee of return. My heart stopped when I saw this in the theater. The sheer scope and magnitude of the events is just great and the film’s strong point is its adventurous feel and the danger it puts the characters in. A great survival film.

10. The Butler

Another real-life account, this time of White House butler Cecil Grant, who served under eight presidents from the 50s to the modern day. Forest Whitaker puts on an Oscar-worthy performance in this, and David Oyelowo as his son Louis is just as good. While parts of this get a bit Hollywood-schmaltzy, the best parts of the film, and the meat of it, are the interactions between the father and son – when set out over this vast historical backdrop, it really makes the film a genuine epic. Bonus points for the great choices of who’s playing the various presidential figures!

9. Pacific Rim

The best action movie of the year hands down. People will tell you this has no substance, that it’s just mindless action, but really it’s very well done action. The battle scenes are the best all year, the fights are incredibly well crafted and gripping and the special effects are amazingly good. The characters are serviceable; they’re not going to wow you, but they do the job they were supposed to – they keep the story fast paced and they allow the action scenes to roll over you like a fucking war tank. Pacific Rim rules.

8. Don Jon

A very down to Earth romance about a kinda Jersey Shoreish dude named Jon who can purportedly get any girl he wants and yet loves masturbating more than anything else. Through the course of the film he discovers true love, blah blah blah – sounds cliché, right?

Absolutely not. Joseph Gordon Levitt’s directorial debut is a splendid take on a tired genre, mixing clever, funny dialogue, some very memorable and snappy scenes and genuinely good characters into a delightful brew. It’s just very real, and shows off some great insight into the average human relationship. I like that the characters aren’t idealized; they are presented in a very natural, low-key fashion and not treated like they’re better than your everyday people. They are kind of unlikable, and that makes it all the better when, like real people, they have their individual moments of goodness.

Even when the film occasionally does get Hollywood on us, Levitt’s mastery of the style makes the moment feel realistic enough that we believe it. Don Jon is a top notch romantic comedy.

7. The Place Beyond the Pines

Grand, sweeping epic masterpiece. This chronicle of three different intersecting lives over many years spans a bank robber looking out for his estranged family, the cop who kills him and both of their troubled sons. At times this is a bit too baggy and long, but only in parts. The sheer weight of the film is massive and the acting and storytelling put together something very compelling about the effect one’s actions have on anyone on the receiving end. It’s very much the Butterfly effect, as each segment bleeds tangentially into the next one as the characters each try to get ahead and look for ways out of the darkness brought upon them by their ancestors and their circumstances in this life. They all dance on the edge of the place beyond the pines, which is a place none of them really wants to go.

6. In a World…

This was a delight. A quirky, off-beat comedy about a woman trying to get into the voice-acting field that doesn’t want her – as her father says, there isn’t a demand for a feminine voice in a movie trailer. But she goes at it anyway and actually gets the jobs despite her father’s misogynistic old-world views and the challenges from another arrogant asshole of a voice actor. This could have easily turned into a cliché ‘inspirational’ picture, but it plays things pretty mellow and doesn’t focus too much on the “little train that could” mindset. Instead it’s just a high-energy, kick ass comedy spliced with romance and just the right social feministic themes – it really is a very empowering movie for women, saying more with less. Nothing here is cliché, there are tons of funny moments and it’s got a lot of complex things to say and yet does it in a laid-back way like it was the easiest thing in the world. There is a lot to love with this. I’d be selling it short if I spoiled it. Just go see it.

5. Prisoners

The best crime film in years. This takes me back to a time when this genre was about good storytelling rather than stupid gimmicks, redundant cliché and gore-filled garbage. Reminding me very much of films like The Pledge and Mystic River, Prisoners will knock you on your ass with its palpable suspense and mounting tension. The film, about two families and a detective trying to find two missing daughters, is legitimately terrifying, and I found myself just forgetting everything else and sitting there with my jaw on the fucking floor at how good this movie was. Every time it seemed like there had been some kind of emotional high water mark of pure blackened screaming terror, something else happened to raise the bar.

Everything that happens is horrific to watch, but you can’t peel your eyes away because it’s also incredibly engrossing, and you have to see what happens next – the hallmark of any great crime film. The movie’s pacing is excellent and just rolls over you like a wave. The directing really works to create an atmosphere – this misty Pennsylvania with its high reaching trees and dark shadowy buildings – and add emphasis to the film’s best moments. I couldn’t stop watching this. At 153 minutes it was still too short.

4. Short Term 12

A bunch of 20-somethings working at a home for troubled teens discover some things about themselves – most notably Grace and Mason, whose relationship is about to enter turbulent waters. I can’t say very much else without spoiling this wonderful film, but it really is just a peach of a movie. Strong, funny dialogue and good dramatic scenes play off one another brilliantly, each knowing its place and not forgetting that the other is also needed for levity.

The characters are brilliantly done and the story unfolds gently but sturdily, not treating the audience like children or obscuring the point too much either. The story just is, and the bare honesty it has is just a breath of fresh air. It has something it wants to say and just says it in a way that is frank, honest, tragic, funny and heartbreaking all at the same time – yet ultimately rewarding at the end. Like any troubling time in real life, the tide breaks and the characters come through to the light again, and the feeling is very, very satisfying.

There’s no bullshit with this. I can talk about the technical reasons the writing is good all I want, but it speaks for itself. I loved the characters, loved the story – just a wonderful movie.

3. The World’s End

The worst thing about the final installment in the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Edgar Wright trilogy is that it’s over now. This stands up strong with its predecessors, and was well worth the wait. Like the other movies before it, The World’s End is full of great jokes crammed in at light speed, making for a very complex take on comedy. The story, about a bunch of old friends reuniting to try a pub crawl again after something like twenty years, is funny, heartfelt and thoughtful all at the same time, packing in a message about not living in the past and coping with the present day and future rather than fighting them. This might be the best I’ve seen Pegg yet, and the characters are all generally good, starting off a bit bland but really growing as you go through the film.

This isn’t gut-bustingly funny like the other two, but a more complex and calculated work. The jokes are even more based in repetition than before, with every scene a call-back or foreshadowing to something else in the movie and lots of little sight gags and wordplay crammed in. The whole thing unfolds like an origami. The maturing of Edgar Wright since Shaun of the Dead is notable – and we shouldn’t stop short of noticing the parallels between the evolution of these movies and the message of The World’s End: things change, and we should roll with it.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese is the devil himself, and we’re just along for the ride. This is the best I’ve seen Scorsese in years, and also the best DiCaprio performance maybe of his whole career thus far. The Wolf of Wall Street … is not like other movies. It’s just not. This is a three-hour megalith of sex, drugs and insanity. It’s also a wonderfully, perversely deviant work that smashes boundaries and expectations like a wreckingball coming straight for your childhood home. You wanted a moral? A redeeming social value? Any kind of character development? Well, the movie has none of those things. And it revels in that.

I’m just so tired of Hollywood schmaltz like several of the films on my Worst Of list – I’m tired of movies that have to shove a moral down your throat out of some primordial Christian fear of being reprimanded or shunned – because that is what so many lesser movies are. They have to underline and bold-face their morals to fit into some kind of vague notion of what a movie should be. In doing so they don’t really have much of an artistic ground to stand on, because they are pandering to some sense of social normativity. They compromise themselves. This is something else.

If The Wolf of Wall Street was poorly made or acted, it would merely be a curiosity, but the production values are through the roof and the acting is outstanding. Jonah Hill performs at 110% as do all the other supporting cast members. And as I said, Leo is mint in this. Scorsese’s directing is master-class too, not that I expected anything else – but the rampant energy that courses through every minute of this three-hour film is something to be wowed by. Most movies this long slow down and get caught up in their own weight – this is full fuckin’ speed all the way.

Frankly this is a godsend for movies in the modern day. It will be polarizing, but I for one cherish it.

1. Catching Fire

With all the great movies already on this list, I can’t say this one is really sky-high above the rest, but it is a whole and complete work of art and really, stayed with me more than anything else. I was wondering why that was – and there are a lot of reasons.

The thing is, movies are escapism – whether it’s escaping into a realistic story and losing yourself in someone else’s problems, or escaping into a fantasy story and finding a whole new world. No other movie this year quite sucked me in like this one. The atmosphere in this is so thick, and the settings so good, that I felt like I really was there – some of the scenes in this are heartbreaking and haunting. I liked the jarring directing style of the first movie, felt it added to the effect, but the directing in this is just astounding in its scope, clarity and memorability.

As a book-to-movie transition it is an absolute triumph, as it successfully does pretty much everything that needed to be seen with the story while also remaining an artistic, very well done film on its own. I can’t imagine anyone complaining about stuff from the book left out in this one. The acting is just stellar, too, with Jennifer Lawrence getting my personal Best Actor/Actress in general all year – the fact that she was nominated for American Hustle instead of this really outlines how little respect there is for movies deemed “too young-adult.” Which is pretty deserved in a lot of cases, but not this one.

Overall this is a film about rebellion. It is an aching, angry heart in the middle of the film’s oppressive dystopian regime – every scene just bleeds resentment and rebellion. It is a movie about strength in the face of innumerable odds, about Katniss and her ongoing struggle. Above all there is strength in this movie. And that’s why this is the movie of the year.


And that's my top 13 of 2013. I was so prepared for this list to be full of simply good movies - not stuff I was really passionate about. But I did find so many films to love when I was going back to see what I had missed. There were a lot of really amazing films this year. And there are every year. This is not some kind of lone-standing incident, but a lesson to be learned. Never simply be content with whatever's right in front of you. You never know when something else you may love even more is lying just a little bit left-of-center.

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

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Worst Movies of 2013

So here we are again with the most prestigious time of the year for movies, the end of January. A lavish celebration that touts the best movies of the previous year and recognizes them for the pieces of art that they are. Truly this is a special time for cinema-goers as it really puts together a collection of what is truly most important in the world of films.

What? No, I’m not talking about the Oscars! I’m talking about the Cinema Freaks Best and Worst of the year lists! Get your head in the game. This is the worst movies of 2013. Like last year we’ll start off with disappointments.

Disappointments of 2013

V/H/S 2

The first V/H/S was a cracking, bloodthirsty horror movie with enough energy to power a small city. It was a real retrograde slice of fun and one of the better anthology horror movies out there. This one is the table scraps of that film, mostly relying on silly self-ironic horror comedy, which is a trend I really hope dies out soon. Unfortunately even though this isn't an actual bad film, there's just not much replay value in it, and none of the stories are really very good. I hate to be a cynic, but I am not looking forward to the endless stream of poorly-made sequels to follow this ... because unfortunately, that's how the horror genre seems to work.

Now You See Me

This one, I didn’t have many expectations for exactly, as I had not heard about it and just saw it on a whim. It was fun at first and generally entertaining, if pretty shallow as far as storytelling and characters go. But then the ending came around and ruined the entire thing. Usually that wouldn’t be enough to land a movie on this list, but the ending to this one really did just destroy the entire experience with how completely nonsensical and illogical it was. Sad.

And now with that out of the way, here we are with the absolute worst of the worst; the shittiest movies all year. The ones that will make you cringe. Let’s dig into the worst of 2013.

7. Man of Steel

This doesn’t do anything that the old movies didn’t do better. While I’m not opposed to the idea of a more somber, dark take on the character, the film is limp and lifeless, going through a rote collection of tired cliché – there’s just so little to really get into with this. The action is good, but everything is so mired in every stale modern movie stereotype that it’s tiresome to sit through. From the shaking seizure camerawork to the over-done “gritty” texture that covers everything in the film like a coat of fresh mucus, this is just weak. The story is pretty hollow too – lots of reiterations of the “conflict” the character is going through, plus an utterly boring cast of side characters that ticks every box from the helpless-yet-“strong” heroine to the curt black boss and the helpful father figure, none of them in any way fun to watch. It says a lot that a film in the mode of the original 1970s Superman films would be absolutely original and retro these days, as this kind of action movie has just about reached its boiling point now. Skip it.

6. The Conjuring

Aren’t people getting tired of this bullshit yet? There was nothing original about this, and even less that was interesting. It's just a collection of the same old exorcism tropes you've seen before, and the high production value and acting quality will really make you wish the makers had put that talent to use on something with value. Back in 2005, this kind of thing was at least a little bit interesting with Emily Rose. But like Man of Steel is for action films, this is a contrived and lifeless addition to an over-saturated subset of horror films. This will be the death of horror as we know it.

5. Kick-Ass 2

I may have overstated the quality of the first Kick-Ass a bit. I still like it, but the novelty has kinda worn off in the intervening years. That said, this is just garish. A few funny scenes, but everything is so poorly done and immature in this that it makes the original look Shakespearean in comparison. It’s not the content within, but the execution. This movie is just thrown together with too many plot lines and characters to really work, and the “humor” comes off like a bunch of middle schoolers giggling at toilet humor – it’s really just embarrassing to watch. You will be embarrassed to sit through this.

4. Ender’s Game

If this movie had any more self-fellating I’m-so-important drivel hammered into it, it would practically be an orgy. Every second of this movie is self-indulgent Hollywood pap, and the vast majority of the writing in this movie isn't trying to tell a story; it's trying to show off how great the movie is for simply existing. The acting is some of the worst all year – and even from vets like Harrison Ford – and the story is just mind-numbing. I pretty much hated everything about this.

3. World War Z

Just pure soulless tripe. From the bland characters to the boring storyline, World War Z is just a mess – not to mention the awful camerawork, which is about as good as a five year old with a handheld camera playing ‘tag’ with her friends. If you want to see some shitty modern Left for Dead/Call of Duty FPS game put on screen as a movie, be my guest, but I think putting this much money and time into making that into a movie is just a big waste of time. Imagine if they took the money used to film in all those different locations and put it towards helping the impoverished and war-torn people of some of these places. Wouldn’t that be a novelty?

2. Only God Forgives

Nicholas Winding Refn follows up Drive with a film of far, far less merit. This goes for minimalism with shots held for too long and the characters' scarce dialogue trying to get us to read between the lines, but there is nothing between the lines. Refn wants us to think there is so much symbolism and meaning in every drawn-out pause of the characters just staring blankly at the scenery, but the film is an empty void of meaning. Fortunately, as the critical reception for this movie shows, people are finally starting to see through Refn’s bullshit. The emperor is naked and people are finally starting to pull up the wool over their eyes. And I am thankful for it.

1. You’re Next

Oh my God this is just a nightmare. The fact that the movie wants us to be sucked into the “mystery” of why these abominable unlikable asshole characters are being killed off is a joke – it’s because anyone in their right minds would want to put on shitty animal masks and shoot these miserable people with arrows. And yes, that really is what horror movies in 2013 have been reduced to in terms of plot. I'm sad, too.

This starts off a zero-star movie with bad dialogue, bad acting and bad characters, and just keeps getting worse and worse as it goes on, if you can believe that. No production value, nothing to say with the script, no tension, no scares. Hell, good luck even making out what’s going on; this whole fucking movie is so dark and blurry.

I can’t think of even one redeeming factor. No, movie, a lamb's head mask does not incite fear in the audience. What's next? Are we going to have a horror movie where the killers are dressed like old Nickelodeon cartoon characters? Maybe cereal mascots? The possibilities are endless. And abjectly terrifying. But not in the way that was likely intended.

Tune in tomorrow for the Best Movies of 2013!

All images copyright of their original owners; I do not own any of them.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mr. Hush (2011)

Mr. Hush is a movie that doesn’t even feel real. This feels like what a space alien would produce if he saw a movie a hundred years ago in some kind of intergalactic museum long after humankind went extinct. And then he went back intending to try his hand at it, but he got lost and ended up wandering in a spatial void for dozens of years, losing his mind in the process. And then he got back to his own universe but was unable to cope with the reality of all that he had lost, being that everything he’d once known had now forgotten him. Eventually, years after descending into a drug and alcohol induced stupor, a tiny lightbulb sets off in his brain and by some miracle, he remembers the movie. While trying to make it, after months and months of blood, sweat and tears put into the project, he accidentally urinates all over it whilst on a boozing spree. The finished product gets shipped back in time and released by some con-artist movie studio as Mr. Hush.

What I’m trying to say is, this movie should come with an ‘abandon all hope all ye who enter here’ sign taped to the front of the DVD box.

Director: David Madison
Starring: Stephen Geoffreys, Brad Loree

The movie starts off with some credits – or rather, a PowerPoint presentation displaying the credits of all the people involved in this whole mess. You know, just so you know who to blame. And the over-dramatic music seems to be under the impression this is a movie which deserves over-dramatic music.

We then get some cardboard cut-outs of human beings chatting in a kitchen. How rude of the director to trick these two porn actors into lowering themselves to appearing in this horror movie!

So I guess these two are parents of a little girl named Plot Device. Maybe that isn’t her name, but shut up, you’ll never actually watch this anyway. We get an agonizing over-five-minute scene of these people talking about their Halloween plans. The dad, Holland, says he has fond memories of his father starting Halloween early when he was a kid so he could dress Holland up in two costumes and hit all the houses twice.

This guy was Michael Myers once. As if that is some sort of offense man, I'm sure you're really nice and all, but that just means you can be silent and walk around angrily really well.

Uh, I’m not sure that’s a fond memory, dude. I hate to break it to you, but your dad was probably either robbing those houses or cheating on your mom with the housewives living in them. Your childhood was a lie.

We then get several way too long scenes of the family just being cutesy, doing things with absolutely no substance and wasting the audience’s time with acting and dialogue so bad, you could practically call this an interactive horror film. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s simple – most horror films have characters dying as a plot point. This one, however, makes YOU want to kill the characters, in incredibly violent ways, with how annoying they are. What an interesting, avant garde way to make a horror movie! YOU are the killer! What a fascinating moral grey area with which to look at ourselves through the mirror of film!

What an amazing camera angle ... I love scenes tilted to one side where you can't even fully see all the actors in the shot...

Oh, I’m sorry – am I drowning out the super important scenes of the husband and wife talking about who’s going to be invited to a Halloween party? Not only that, but a Halloween party we never see! Genius writing, I must say. Then we get another near ten minutes with nothing happening. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say that … after all, we get a lot of really important scenes here. Like, talking about how good of a father Holland is. Or about what costumes Holland saw while taking his daughter trick or treating.

So if you were wondering if this was just a compilation of some family’s home videos – the acting levels and camera work certainly would forgive you for wondering that – we do finally get a plot dragging its fat ass through the door. Some creepy guy in a priest outfit comes to the door and asks if he can use their bathroom, saying theirs is the first house he’s seen for half a mile with its lights on – yeah, I really believe THAT, seeing as the movie already said it was Halloween night and these people live in a populated suburban area. Since I gathered that simply from my own powers of reason and deduction, and Holland believes the guy’s story despite that he ACTUALLY LIVES in this movie’s universe, I think it’s safe to say the air in his brain got cut off somehow when he was inside his mother.

I mean seriously. He just lets the guy in and points him to the bathroom, then sits back on the couch and does nothing. What an absolute waste of existence. But hey, maybe it will be okay. Maybe the guy won’t actually do anything at all … oh, wait:

I'd say 'I told you so,' but I have a feeling Holland was passed out drooling on the day they taught 'don't talk to strangers' in Kindergarten.

So, yeah, the wife gets killed and then the daughter gets kidnapped. Holland gives an agonized scream and it COULD have been a sad moment – but come on, if you’re this dumb, how are we really supposed to feel bad? Maybe if the acting was any good. But seriously. This whole thing is just a poorly made PSA for not letting strangers into your house. Oh, the killer sings the “hush little baby, don’t you cry” song? Why? To give the film a reason to be called Mr. Hush? Can’t these goddamn movies just have a killer without some kind of stupid gimmick that makes no sense? I mean there’s just no logic in it. It never has any kind of tie-in to the story. You might as well just have him wear a top hat, a clown nose and singing Happy Birthday. Why? Well, it makes as much sense as what the movie actually has in it.

We then get a bizarre sequence in which Holland goes to the dentist and finds out that there’s been a slight change of personnel:

Yeah, because God knows that’s the final straw! You can kill my wife, you can kidnap my daughter, but impersonating my DENTIST?!? That’s just too far. Oh well; it turns out to be a dream anyway. Which makes way for the best old-man costume I’ve ever seen:

I can believe he gets really worn out and haggard looking, but he doesn't look anything like he did in the opening scenes anymore. I mean at least try for a little realism...

Seriously. Benjamin Button, move over; we’ve got a new prize for old man makeup in films. Praise the Gods who let this effect come to be! Oh okay – it’s terrible in every sense of the word. How are you supposed to take this seriously, you ask? Well, it’s simple: lots and lots of alcohol.

So despite now looking like a reject from a drunk 90s bar rock band in rehab, Holland works at some shitty diner and gets shouted at by his boss. He lives in a tent with some fat homeless man, and mopes around all the time. Here’s another example of how haphazard the directing in this is: for like ten minutes, we have no idea what exactly happened after his wife was killed in the opening scene. Eventually he tells us he’s been looking for his missing daughter for ten years now. Yeah because you know, moping around and spending your time taking peoples’ shifts at a shitty diner will totally give you tons of time to search for your missing daughter. Brainpower! It's not just for the sane anymore.

Another one of the amazing camera angles this movie has to offer us. Truly lopsided shots with one actor badly out of focus despite being right there are where the money is at.

Then he gets invited over to this woman’s house who he works with. She has a daughter who acts as if she had a gun pointed to her head forcing her to do this. I mean there isn’t any other explanation for why she sounds so bored. The woman and Holland have some riveting first date conversation about how the woman’s husband died in the war overseas. Because that’s such great first date talk … “hey, let’s talk about my dead husband and emotional scars!” Well I gotta say, it’s no wonder this woman’s schedule is so full of dates with different men all the time!

Oh, wait. It isn’t? In fact it’s emptier than a Blockbuster store? Color me shocked! But hey, she did find the only guy in the universe willing to play “one up” with her as he tells her the story of how his wife was murdered and his daughter was kidnapped. It’s extra hilarious now because, for any sane woman, this would be a prime advertisement as to why she SHOULDN’T see him ever again! “Oh, he had a kid and wife and let some strange man into the house without even questioning it? Sounds trustworthy to me!” Also, nice job looking for your daughter again, dirtbag – truly sitting in this house flirting with some woman you barely know will help!

They even admit they barely know each other, and yet just a few minutes before, the daughter said the mom talks about Holland all the time. Writing is fun!

I’m nearly 1,500 words into this review now and I haven’t even gotten to the fucking plot of this thing yet. This isn’t a long movie, people! It’s 88 minutes!

I’ll just sum up a lot of the next ten or twenty minutes: just these assholes talking and talking about nothing. They have a seemingly endless dinner scene at the woman’s house that honestly makes me feel like I’m stuck in hell. I mean it; it’s agonizing sitting here listening to these fucking idiotic characters spewing dialogue that sounds like it came from the director’s ass. Is there even anything else in the movie? Or is it just an endless stream of fake-cheery dialogue that not even world class actors could make sound convincing? Talking about the characters’ music tastes and love of certain foods doesn’t count as meaningful dialogue!

Thank fuck the killer comes back in again. Holland sure didn’t learn from the last time he let a stranger into the house. It happens again and the same guy comes in and kills the woman! Geez, what bad luck! The daughter gets kidnapped again too. What a coincidence. And in case you were wondering, no; the “Hush little baby” song still isn’t scary. Try again.

Then Holland gets kidnapped by Mr. Hush and locked up in some dirty basement. Why? I’m pretty sure the movie doesn’t even have an idea. The next thing I know, I’m watching the Mr. Hush guy do some ridiculous song and dance about how he has this vendetta against Holland for an unknown reason. In case you were on the edge of your seat wondering, no. The acting has not improved. I know; I was shocked too.

He comes in, makes some vague threats and then leaves...blood curdling terror, really.

We also get introduced to this other character who will make you wish you were deaf, his voice is so annoying. I guess he’s supposed to be the Renfield to Mr. Hush’s Dracula. And if you thought Renfield was annoying in the original Dracula story … well, this character is more annoying. I’m actually fairly sure he was introduced just to punish the audience for some kind of invisible perceived crime. GET HIM OFF SCREEN.

Apparently 'that weird semi-retarded uncle who comes to your parties and hangs out in the corner by himself' is now a valid movie character for your horror film. This guy was in Fright Night like 20 years ago, but I don't really think that's something to be proud of at all...

They bring in the daughter of that woman Holland started seeing, and tie her up too. She still acts like she’s got a gun to her head forcing her to be in this – can’t you at least try, honey? Nobody’s going to make you put this on your resume. The two bad guys also bring in some other chick and chain her to a table. They’re about to cut her open with a chainsaw, when Mr. Hush pulls back and says “Just kidding! What kind of psycho do you think I am?”

Well gee. It’s great to know he has a sense of humor. And great to know he just keeps a chainsaw around for no reason other than to make that joke … why am I even bothering? There was no coherent thought process to this. We then see exactly what kind of psychos these two are, as they then hook an IV up to the unconscious girl and start sucking her blood that way. These guys are the laziest vampires ever. Why not just put it in plastic McDonalds cups and drink it with straws?

WE NEED BLOOD...and we have to tie people down on tables to get it now. Modern vampires are such pussies.

And yeah, I guess THAT’S what they really were this whole fucking time – vampires. I shit you not. Couldn’t have clued us in on that at a more dramatic time, huh? It had to be in this weird, vague manner? And next time, really sit down a second and think: is having your villains make “I Love Lucy” jokes really a good idea? If your answer isn’t “no,” please put down the cocaine and the bottle of Jack Daniel’s. It’s not good for your creative processes.

So get this – the daughter escapes from her binds by using the grease from the chainsaw to slide her hands out of the chains. Which could be possible, but, one – is the chainsaw really that greasy? Is it just like spilling shit all over the place, and close enough for her to get enough to slide out? Two, SHE DOES IT WAY TOO EASILY. It’s like instantaneous! Then she goes over and just snaps his binds like it’s nothing! These two should be starring alongside David Blaine! Modern-day Houdinis, I say!

Then the daughter escapes and runs down the block to the police station, which apparently is just right around the corner from Mr. Hush’s kidnap torture den. Maybe re-think your lair next time, geniuses. She screams a lot, and finally gets them to come with her. Finally, some kind of competence in this whole thing. Although the cameraman’s fumbling around with the camera makes the whole thing kind of come off like he just accidentally dropped the fucking camera and they were almost out of shooting time for the day so they just went with it. But I’ll take what I can get.

The small of her back truly is what we should be focusing on here...

Meanwhile back at the house, Holland comes across a teenage girl sitting in a room upstairs that he eventually figures out is HIS own daughter Amy, who was kidnapped all those years ago. What was Mr. Hush doing with her this whole time? Why didn’t he just kill her too? Never explained! She barely gets any lines in the movie. The movie doesn’t think she's important. Was Mr. Hush just trying to brainwash her as revenge on Holland? Well, apparently, but even THAT explanation is giving the film too much goddamn credit.

It’s pretty much just brushed over like it doesn’t matter. I mean, it’s ONLY the main motivation for our lead character! Who cares about that anyway? Just sweep it under the rug! Focus on more important things. Like blackface Fright Night here:

Heh heh heh – that’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. Who came up with that? It’s just so goofy! That makeup makes it completely impossible to take his whole backstory seriously either. So what, he killed Holland’s grandfather because the grandfather drove over a wooden stick which accidentally impaled Mr. Hush’s girlfriend and killed her? How does that even work? I dunno. What kind of a story is that, anyway? Apparently a good enough one to give more importance over than the actual dramatic (heh heh) conflict of the movie (the missing daughter story). Logic is overrated.

So then a fat black police officer comes in and shouts “Freeze, motherfucker!” It’s not as funny reading it, but watching this guy:

…pointing a gun and shouting “Freeze, motherfucker” at this guy:

…is just about the stupidest, yet most hilarious thing in the whole movie. Whoever came up with that one just redeemed a lot of the torture of the rest of this movie. Good job! So I guess Holland’s daughter stabs Mr. Hush through the heart and kills him. Then they move in with the other lady’s daughter and that fat homeless guy, making for one hell of a sitcom set-up.

Then cancelled after two episodes.

Then the doorbell rings and Holland and both girls let out a huge “NOOOOOOOO!” Because, you know, this movie did for doorbell ringing what Jaws did for sharks.

There’s also a post-credits scene, because the audience was just so blown away by the rest of this movie that we really needed more, right? Some dude walks around in the woods and reveals that he’s actually related to Holland. Which somehow means that Mr. Hush’s minion guy can find him instantly and kill him with a hammer to the face.

Oh go back to the convenience store.

And no, he couldn’t see that hammer coming even though the movie makes it look like the attack came from directly in front of him. I guess he’s got a rare kind of eye cancer that affects his line of sight … no, wait, he’s just a fucking idiot.

This movie was crazy. Pure batshit insanity all the way through. You really can’t even comprehend how bad this movie is until you see it for yourself. In its worst moments it is pure torture, without one redeeming factor – you sit there waiting for something competent to happen and nothing ever does. It’s almost not worth even bitching about since I am really almost positive this was just some kind of home video project that the director blackmailed a studio to actually get a real release out of. The acting, the camerawork, the story – nothing was done well!

But at the same time, there came a certain point when the badness of the entire affair broke through and made way for a wonderful sense of “so bad its good.” There are some pretty hilarious scenes here. A relieving sensation overtakes you as you realize this. And then you will know – that you have been totally lost to the movie. That’s when the men in white coats will come in and cart you away. That, my friends, is the power of Mr. Hush.

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