Thursday, February 27, 2014

Uli Lommel's Black Dahlia (2006)

It’s been exactly a year since I reviewed the cinematic train wreck that was Black Dahlia. In remembrance of that horrible experience, I now feel the strange compulsion to review another Black Dahlia film. Why? Well, because I have flashbacks of a girl with pigtails doing military training, of course; why else? Also because I was traumatized, and all I wanted before I died was to see another Black Dahlia film. Or something like that, anyway.

Sigh. If none of this makes sense to you, it just means you’re any other human being on the planet besides Uli Lommel.

Director: Uli Lommel
Starring: Elissa Dowling, Sutton Christopher

This movie is a hackneyed excuse for filmmaking made by Uli Lommel, who is renowned for making nonsensical, off the wall movies without any kind of logic to them. This is the first one I’ve seen and it’s exactly what I just said. Add in the fact that the film is put out by something called Shadow Factory – which sounds like a lost level in a Legend of Zelda game or something – and you have a perfect recipe for disaster.

We kick off this film with a reenactment of the Black Dahlia murder, which is confusing due to very poor editing. Instead of a fluid narrative that shows events in a way that makes sense, Lommel’s directing style seems to be based around the idea that filmgoers want to have seizures while being entertained. The shots are choppy, there are constant flashes and the camera shakes like a drunk man riding a roller coaster. It would be one thing if it was just done in this scene to add some kind of psychedelic effect – I mean, it would still be bad; no getting around that – but no, it’s the whole fuckin’ movie. So yeah, this is just how Lommel thinks people like to see their movies.

We then get some kind of bust on a kidnapping or something, with this young cop pretending to be an accomplice in a kidnapping plot and then turning on the guy and getting him arrested. I dunno, to me the conversation the cop has with the criminal before the bust, about kidnapping someone, just reminds me of how this movie was financed.


Meanwhile, some blonde girl is going for her new movie audition at a truly credible, professional looking studio:

Yes, with the empty jail cells, tall, silent and menacing looking guys covered in blood and the basement with a table with shackles on it? I totally believe this is a legit studio that will help me advance my budding film career.

… except I’m being sarcastic. And the girl in the movie? She really falls for this. As do several other ladies in the rest of the movie. I’m sorry, but HOW?! How would you fall for this? It’s a recurring theme in the film: these girls come into this obviously decrepit, run down torture chamber and really, honestly think it’s a fuckin’ movie audition studio. Even when the obvious serial killers stare her down, measure her body parts and then tie her to a table, SHE STILL THINKS SHE’S AUDITIONING FOR A MOVIE.

"I ... I really don't like the way this audition is going!"

I … I really don’t even know … how do you even make that mistake when writing a script? I mean, I know they’ll have plotholes, that’s inevitable – but seriously. Normal people don’t act like this. Do I even have to say it? Saying it would just demean me further. But, fuck it, looks like I gotta say it: normal people, when invited to a “movie audition” where scary men covered in blood take measurements of your body parts and strap you down to a table, don’t still think they’re going to be auditioning for a movie.

Sigh. Well, I’ve hit a new low. I’ve explained something that even a monkey with cranial damage could comprehend. And yet people who can’t grasp that, are making movies widely released to the public in the world. I may have to sit down for a moment.

I guess after that we get some truly bizarre happy music played over scenes of the killers dismembering the body and leaving parts all over town, sorta-kinda like the original Black Dahlia murder in the 40s. Hurray for historical relevance? Though I don’t even think the other Black Dahlia movie had the cops talking about breakfast while looking at the dismembered body parts.

Why is it black and white? Did Lommel just forget to turn the color on? Or did he not have enough money to film everything in color?

Seriously. This fat redheaded lady cop jabbers on endlessly about bangers and mash to the other guy, not even really talking about the crime at all, just blabbing about how she wants more breakfast. The guy even starts talking back and they have a conversation about it. While standing over a bunch of bloody dismembered arms and legs.

… I can’t do this. There’s really no way. Every criticism I have of this whole goddamn thing just boils down to basic common sense. The jokes would come off more like statements of the obvious than anything. It’s like making fun of a mentally handicapped person. Jesus.

So, yeah, one of the new cops sees a link between this and the Black Dahlia murder, and reads endlessly the same articles on the Internet over and over that talk about her death in a basic, rudimentary way – yeah, maybe if you read it a sixth time it’ll tell you what you need to know, you fucking genius.

THE INTERNET IS COOL, GUYS. Also, that website design is fucking horrible. This is really supposed to be 2006? More like 1998.

I guess he finds this old man director guy, who saw the Black Dahlia before she died. The old man has a granddaughter or something who lives with him – who is also the little girl who helps torture people in that old dungeon place. These three have an entirely aimless conversation about what the old man remembers about the Dahlia, which amounts to “she was pretty but not that smart.” The cop lies and says he works at a video store, which prompts the little girl to ask if he works at a porn store. Why? Because maybe Lommel was horny while filming and just really wanted to know where a good porn store was in town.

Then the girl offers him a shoe that she claims is a shoe formerly owned by the Black Dahlia. There’s no proof that it is, and it never comes up again, so bravo Lommel for introducing another ridiculous plot point. She offers the show in exchange for a free video tape, and they just sort of go off talking about videos, sort of like Lommel or whoever wrote this just forgot about the rest of the story.

"Heh heh...I went to film school for six years and I ended up in this. Now I just smoke a lot of weed every day."

After that, we get something truly new in the film – another chick going to that creepy old prison dungeon warehouse place thinking it’s a movie audition.

She acts really crazy at first and takes off her shirt, saying all kinds of strange things that weird the little girl out. I find it odd that the little girl keeps telling her to shut up – why don’t you just kill her then, if she’s that annoying? I mean it is a torture dungeon. And it’s not like you’ve exactly skimped on killing before.

So they strap the girl down and start to mark her body up with a large rusty hook. Through the whole thing she keeps on asking why they’re doing this if it’s a movie audition, and saying she’s not sure about the whole thing anymore. At this point I think if you can’t tell that you got tricked, you deserve to die. I know that’s cruel, but … that’s what the movie has driven me to. And to be fair, she does die anyway. So I’m off the hook.

Seriously. I’m surprised they don’t keep asking when the filming starts while the killers are cutting them up. It’s just amazing how bad it really is. There are no words.

Then we get another scene of the cops looking at the body parts. If that fat redheaded lady brings up bangers and mash again, I don’t know what I’ll do.

Aaaaaaand she does! That’s it! The fuckin’ movie is broken! Everybody run and duck for cover!

I mean … is there any point in reviewing the rest of the movie? I’ve already covered everything it has to offer, after all. What is there to say? If you actually keep watching after the first 20 minutes, you get some more torture scenes – like, four or five, and they all go the same way: dumbass girls go into this objectively terrifying place, get stared down by the obvious serial killers, and then get tied to a table and butchered. Then the cops talk about food some more.

After a while, it got so repetitive that – as if I were watching the same movie multiple times – I began to notice the smaller things that really pointed out how absolutely batshit crazy this movie really was. I’ll give you an example: there are these two guys who kill all the girls:

Why does one of them dress like some kind of fancy butcher, with the apron and the steel mask, and the other one just a football helmet and a black T-shirt? Did they only have money for one costume? I don’t mean the characters – I mean Lommel and whatever poor saps he actually suckered into being his crew. “Alright, we’re gonna get these two really awesome butcher costumes, and … wait, what do you mean we only have one? Ugh. Fine, go get my brother’s football helmet and that shirt I wore two days ago. It’ll have to do.”

And what’s up with the shots of the girl doing military exercises spliced in with the kill scenes?

Yeah, during every kill scene, we get these shots put randomly in there for no discernable reason. The girl looks a bit like the pigtailed chick who helps the killers, but nothing is ever established as to what the fuck it means. It’s not even one of those artsy metaphoric things, as that character is never the focus, and we don’t learn anything about her. Maybe the editor just got drunk and spliced his military girlfriend’s home videos into the mix of this. I dunno.

Furthermore, how the hell do the cops never catch onto these maniacs? I mean, notwithstanding that the killings are already similar to the Black Dahlia thing, and a cheap sign with the words “Black Dahlia Audition” mysteriously appeared on an old jail/warehouse building …. It’s just weird that none of these girls told anyone that was where they were going. If they had, then surely the cops would have pieced together that fact when interviewing the families of the girls after they identified them.

"I really feel like my movie career is off to a great start."

“Oh, they were all auditioning for the same fake movie based in a shady location none of us have checked out yet? Eh. Must be coincidence.” Then again, that makes sense, seeing as the cop assigned to the case spends literally all of his time in some bar bothering the staff:

No, fucking seriously – the other characters even say it! They address the fact that he just spends time in bars all day! When he should be doing his job! This movie just makes no sense! WHAT IS YOUR MALFUNCTION.

And you'll love the reason why all of this was happening in the first place. Are you ready for this? So that old man director guy wanted to see the Black Dahlia again, as he'd never gotten to make a movie with her. I guess he got his granddaughter and those two other weirdos to start an audition and find someone who looked like the Black Dahlia so he could make the movie before he died. When someone came into their incredibly creepy and horrifying "audition" that wasn't the spitting image of the Dahlia, they massacred her and scattered her body across town.

... I don't even ... I mean ... WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? I mean, for one, it's banking on the fact that the Dahlia-lookalike will be stupid enough to fall for their flimsy cover story anyway. Two, what would have happened when they found her? They just make a movie and forget about the mass murder and butchery they committed on dozens of girls prior? How would that work? How, in any conceivable reality, would that end up the way they wanted?

Lommel was going "hey, I know this doesn't make sense, but here's a pointless half-naked shot." Oh, who am I kidding? He just wanted to milk the one chance he'd ever get to see a woman like that naked. There was no other reason.

God, okay, what the fuck ever; let’s just end it: that one young cop FINALLY finds the abandoned prison place, threatens to arrest them all, yadda yadda – somehow they get him on the table and kill him. As the other cops are coming to his too-late rescue, the movie just ends. Just like that, it’s over; no conclusion, no resolution to anything that happened. That’s just the end.

This was seriously just a miracle of horribleness. It was a genuine so-bad-it’s-good sort of flick – except then it turned from ‘good’ to ‘hideous’ again when I realized the awful implications of this whole mess. It’s a movie that takes a real life genuine mystery and turns it into torture porn garbage with goofy music played over top. Not only that, but, seriously – this stuff really happens. Young girls really do go to these fake auditions and end up dead in ditches outside town.

That shit happens every day! And you had a chance to represent that, Mr. Lommel – but hey, I guess the silly serial killer cult movie with goofy comedy music and characters so dumb they’re not sympathetic at all was just too good to pass up. Screw saying anything meaningful or relevant about real life tragedy and horror.

I just hate every fiber of what this movie implies, of what it truly is. It’s so despicable it actually makes me sick. But on the other hand, everything that went into making it is so darkly hilarious. This is a funny, funny movie, on a very deep, unintentional level, and it’s so god-awful and ridiculous that I can’t help but laugh at it too. Which directly contradicts the hate I was feeling towards it seconds earlier! It’s maddening! Ahhhhhh!

P.S. I still like it better than the Brian De Palma one.

Images copyright of their original owners. Though I can't imagine anyone would sue me for this one... how much could they get? A couple quarters maybe?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Call (2013)

I’m getting really tired of serial killers. Since the classics like Dirty Harry through modern-day marvels like The Pledge or Zodiac, the genre has spawned some amazing films. But it happens with every fad. From slasher horror movies in the 80s to ghost stories in the 90s to exorcism stories in the 2000s and finally to the vampires and zombies currently polluting our airwaves, movie theaters and bookshelves, it happens – a genre gets oversaturated, like a fat kid whose parents didn’t teach him when to stop eating cake. At some point, you reach the bottom of the barrel.

The Call is the bottom of the fucking barrel.

Director: Brad Anderson
Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin

No, wait – it’s not. It’s not just the bottom; it’s right through the barrel and into another barrel. It’s just so amazing that this movie got past the censors at all without someone running screaming into the bathroom, clawing out his eyes and screaming profanities in tongues he never knew he could. Maybe that happened after the premiere. I dunno.

Either way it’s a marvel – a film that, admittedly, has a somewhat decent premise: an emergency call operator has to coach a kidnapping victim through her ordeal and try to save her from a killer. But the film apparently used up its entire two and a half brain cells coming up with that. So the execution of that plot is … how shall I put it in the most eloquent of terms? Oh yeah. Completely fucking mongoloid retarded.

We start off with a bunch of disembodied voices calling 911 for various emergencies. As the film’s central character is a 911 operator, I guess it kinda makes sense. To tell the truth this is an interesting enough concept for an opening, and sets a certain mood … if the acting weren’t so bad I’d rather watch a bunch of Kindergarteners try and perform King Lear in another language.

We then get some girl being chased by a killer. She hides under the bed and calls 911. When the killer can’t find her, he starts to just leave – I guess he must be the ‘easily discouraged’ kind of killer. If he can’t find someone to kill within a few minutes, he just goes home and watches Friends reruns. But once he hears the 911 operator on the phone, he comes back and grabs her from under the bed. When the operator, played by Halle Berry, threatens the killer that the police are on their way, he takes it well and stabs the girl to death right there in the room.

Don't put the camera that close to her face, you'll kill her!

So of course, after that, he’s caught and spends the rest of the movie on trial. Oh, wait, no. He gets away and somehow doesn’t leave a trace that could lead the police to him. Yup – that’s right. He somehow gets away with that, escapes before the cops arrive and they don’t find anything. Yeah, all that blood and gore all over the place, no DNA on the body, no fingerprints all over the house where he was walking around – it’s just too difficult.

Amazingly enough, the movie that can’t even master the basic tenets of reality actually tries to introduce a second plot line into the mix. And not only that, but one about teenage girls. Gee, it won’t have anything shallow or cliché like having them talk about nothing but boys and sex, will it? Of course it will. Exactly that.

I just don't think movies without even the basic sense of realism can tackle something as complex and nuanced as teenage relationships - why even try? You'll fail. You fuckin' know you will. Unless you have real teenagers writing the script, you'll fail.

So they exchange some bland dialogue that sets up the main girl going off alone to the parking garage where she’s almost hit by some guy. It turns out to be the killer though, as he grabs her from behind in broad daylight and stuffs her in a trunk. Amazing – he must be the luckiest man in the world for nobody to notice him doing this in the middle of a parking lot at a public mall in the middle of the day. Truly astounding. And if you can believe it, the movie only gets worse from here in terms of the killer’s bizarre lucky contrivances.

Like the very next scene which shows her in the trunk of the guy's car. He doesn’t bother to tie her up or gag her or even take away her cell phone. Are you fucking kidding me? The killer from I Know Who Killed Me would be laughing at you right now! How the hell has this guy been doing this for so long? Like you’d expect, the girl calls 911 and immediately gets them on her trail. So she talks to Halle Berry a bit, making chit chat, and also being counterproductive by babbling and crying like an insane person the entire time.

If you're kidnapped and you call 911, wouldn't it make sense to shut up and listen to what the operator has to say? I mean, wouldn't that be actually helpful? Isn't that like going to a fast food restaurant and standing in line, endlessly deliberating on your choice of food whilst talking to the cashier about your love life? Nobody wins there.

Don’t get me wrong, I get it – she’s scared. But she never shuts up. How is Berry supposed to help this chick when she’s non-stop blubbering and screaming over everything Berry says? Isn’t that counterproductive? Fortunately, Berry finally gets her to shut the fuck up for two seconds, and lo and behold that’s when they actually get stuff done. For a while, it actually looks like the girl is gonna escape – she kicks out the taillight and actually gets people to notice her in the car.

It's just one of those weird Japanese models. The car with an arm sticking out of it - truly an avant garde make and model.

But the killer catches on because of a serious thorn in the side of every serial killer movie victim – the good Samaritan. Some lady calling 911 tries to get a look at him to describe him to the police, and that tips him off, so he pulls off the highway and into a wide open parking lot just off the highway. He opens up the trunk right there and threatens her – you’d think that would prompt someone to notice this, but nope, apparently open spaces with no cover in the middle of a sunny day in a big city are a blind spot for most people. He threatens her a bit, but doesn’t bother to take away her phone or restrain her at all even after she’s caused him trouble now.

"I'm gonna keep threatening you and stuff, but gagging you or making sure you can't make noise? Nah, that would be stupid."

Dude, seriously, what the FUCK is your deal? I know I’m becoming a broken record here, but HOW DOES NOBODY NOTICE THIS SHIT?!? How does this guy NOT see that leaving her untied and able to thwart his schemes is a bad idea for him? Maybe the other victims just went quietly and didn’t mind being kidnapped and the guy got used to that? I hate to break it to you, genius, but most people don’t like being stuffed in a trunk and kidnapped. Most people are going to fight you if you do that!

Oh, who the hell cares – get caught for all I care, you moron. Why don’t you just murder someone brutally in broad daylight and then put him and the girl in the trunk of a different car? I’m sure nobody will notice, in this magic fairytale land the movie takes place in.

And yes that’s exactly what happens next.

Fortunately we transported to the Twilight Zone where we're the only people in the world, and that's why nobody can see us doing this even though we're clearly right next to a freeway!

How many other ways can I possibly keep saying the same thing? I just can’t comprehend how anyone thought this plot would work. It’s so stupid it’s impossible to even really joke about it. I mean it’s just so far removed from any conceivable reality. What other jokes can I even make? The film just keeps constantly doing the same horrible, nonsensical mistakes over and over again! Hell, it doesn't stop there - it turns out he didn't even kill the guy, and so he throws him in the trunk with the girl. Then when the guy starts amazingly and unexpectedly making noise, as the killer didn't restrain him either, he goes back there and stabs the guy a bunch of times:

But that's not the stupid part. That isn't the part that will absolutely kill you: after killing that guy, the killer takes his phone away! So it isn't just like he doesn't know that cell phones exist or something. He could have apparently very easily taken away the girl's phone too, and prevented her from doing anything harmful to him like calling 911. But that wouldn't fit the movie's ludicrous plot, so that couldn't happen! Ha ha ... I'm losing my mind.

Sigh. Oh, and here’s a great tip: if you’re a serial killer, and you plan to have a kidnapped victim locked in your car unrestrained and not gagged at all, make sure NOT to fucking go fill up your car with gas beforehand. And when some poor sap inevitably notices that you have a kidnapped girl in your car, douse him with gasoline and light him on fire right there in the gas station! Isn’t that brilliant?!


The stupidity continues like a bad hangover. So I guess there’s some plot about the cops finding the killer’s wife and kids … so, yeah, he has a wife and kids and somehow still finds time to go out all the time and execute ridiculously complex kidnapping schemes. Which will seem even stupider in just a few scenes. But mostly during these scenes you won't be wondering about any of that; you'll be thinking, "why does that killer have such a stupid looking mugshot?"

Yeah, amazing, isn't it? It looks like he's doing a purposefully goofy jackass face in a joke picture; you know the ones. Like after you take a few serious photos you go "Okay, now it's time for the silly one! Make the most ridiculous face possible!" That's what this is.

Meanwhile at random underground lair, we learn the secrets to kidnapping: like, when you want to wash someone’s hair, it’s imperative that you cut their shirt off. Never mind the excuse to show teenage girl boobs! IT MAKES SENSE!

I checked to see if maybe I was overreacting and the girl was already above 18. But nope, she was around 17 when making this, so yeah ... the film is just a big pedophile.

As the cops have figured out who the killer is, the boss at the emergency dispatch place tells Halle Berry to go on home. But she can’t go home! She has to save the day! So, yeah, she actually goes out to try and find the killer and the girl on her own.

I … I just got nothin’. I don’t know what to say anymore. The 911 operator goes to save a kidnapped girl. Is this just some kind of ridiculous fantasy? Maybe the writers just thought Berry was still playing Storm or Catwoman and just got the scripts mixed up with the ones from those movies. I dunno. Either way it’s awfully written, and makes me ashamed to speak the same language. If aliens ever come to Earth and ask who’s responsible for making The Call, infuriated and ready to destroy our planet as I know they will be, I will pretend I don’t speak a word of English.

So through some of the most boring scenes put on film in 2013, we get the killer’s backstory. Are you ready for this? It’s a gem: basically, his sister had cancer and died, so now he kidnaps girls who look like her, scalp them and then throw their scalps into a fridge with a bunch of other scalps.

"NOBODY WILL UNDERSTAND UNLESS WE SHOW PICTURES OF THE KILLER WITH A GIRL WITH CANCER! PEOPLE CAN'T GRASP THE COMPLEXITIES OF THIS STORY!" Ugh ... seriously, movie, just fuck off. The human mind isn't just some simple little crossword puzzle you can connect the dots with. It's not that linear. 
Okay, fuckin' seriously; this is the bottom of the barrel, the absolute nadir. This is where serial killer movies have finally come to. Scalped heads of hair in a fridge. My god. I have no words. Why don't we just start making reality TV shows about serial killers, glorifying them and making them movie stars? I mean, since we're clearly not interested in portraying them in any meaningful way.

THAT MAKES NO SENSE. Movie, you go bash your head against a slab of raw cow meat until you come up with something else. Because I guarantee you it would be better than THIS.

Seriously; what the hell is this? This is what serial killer movies have come to? You couldn’t come up with anything more interesting or realistic than THAT? Christ. Scooby Doo episodes have been more plausible. It’s just so ridiculous because, aside from being goofy as fuck, serial killers don’t act like this. Yes, they probably have some psychological issues that lead to their trauma – I’m betting most of them do. But just simplifying it like this, going from point A (‘My sister died from cancer’) to point B (‘I want to scalp young girls so they look like her’) is just so insulting.

It’s not interesting! There is absolutely nothing positive or enlightening to be gained from a story like this, or indeed, like many recent serial killer films. It is downright insulting to take the human condition and turn it into something this grotesque, goofy and parodic. It is insulting to both the real life study of these killers and to good storytelling. Basically, fuck this shit.

Sigh, so what? They end up outsmarting the killer by smacking him a few times and then locking him down in that cellar forever? Snore. I love the line the killer says when he sees Berry. He looks up at her with just a spark of knowing in his eye, and goes “oh, you’re the 911 lady.” Fuckin’ seriously? I love how he says he “thought she would be taller.” Oh yeah, because a serial killer totally has time to ponder about what the lady on the phone with 911 would look like in person, right? I guess with the minimal amount of thought he put into his killing schemes though, IT MAKES SENSE THAT HE WOULD THINK ABOUT THAT.

This movie was just horrendous. It was dumb scene after dumb scene. The first half is admittedly kind of enjoyable just for how ludicrous it is. But like a child repeating its own dumb mistakes well into adulthood – after a while it just gets old. The second half of this is grueling, unpleasant and nasty as hell, without anything good about it.

The whole idea is just ridiculous, like I said; how am I supposed to get invested in a stupid-ass story about some dingbat crybaby serial killer who doesn’t even possess the common sense to know that just throwing a conscious person, unrestrained, into your trunk might not make them very happy?

It’s contrived as shit. I mean there were a million better ways to do this plot. How about if she was running around in an open area, like the woods, and the killer was hunting her? Maybe she has to keep in touch with 911 so the GPS can track them, but the killer keeps closing in by the sound of her voice. Wouldn’t that be better?

But no, people just eat up anything with a serial killer plot now, all thanks to Dexter and some other movies and shows that got popular – so nobody thinks they have to try anymore. So we get fetid bullshit like this and The Following. I know there’s a lot to be said for opinions, and in a way I can see how people would like it – the fast pace and racy themes are enticing for someone who just wants goofy entertainment. But it’s not good. It’s junk.

Fuck this movie, fuck The Following, fuck all of it. Just go watch Prisoners instead. Now there’s a killer movie!

…. No pun intended.

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

Saturday, February 15, 2014

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

So it’s Valentine’s Day again, that special time of the year when couples are at their happiest, pink hearts replace dollar bills as currency, and the birth rate anticipates a spike in November of the same year. Yes, it’s true this is a controversial holiday, full of all sorts of great things if you’re in a relationship, but at the same time carrying a sort of stigma – why should we only care so much on this day? Can’t we love any other time of the year as well?

Well, yes, but we can also have romantically themed slasher movies any other time of the year too. But I’m doing it now. Frankly, if you can’t trust the guy who gave you a zombie romance movie to give you a heartwarming good time on screen, who the hell can you trust?

Director: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Amber Heard, Michael Welch

So we start off with some indie pop music and scenes of high school girls looking hot and stuff. If you're among the small, deluded part of the population who really wanted to revisit the shallowness and idiocy of "popular" high school life, you'll be in heaven with the opening scenes. For the rest of us, this is just a reminder of why it's so great that people grew out of phases like this and actually got personalities later on, like plants coming into bloom.

But another thing that's coming into bloom is Mandy Lane, played by Amber Heard. She apparently used to be a nerdy girl and then got hot over the summer. Which then gives douchebags like this the right to shamelessly flirt with her at random pool parties:

"Hur hur, I'm an alchemic mutation of every douchey guy you see at parties like this." 

He’s not very good at it or anything, mostly just kind of telling her how hot she is in a way that 99% of girls would never go for, not bothering to compliment or flatter her in any way.  So she tells that guy to fuck off. He then goes up on the roof with Teenage Edward Norton, a friend of Mandy’s who I’m sure has another name – but I’m just calling him Teenage Edward Norton. Because holy shit, it’s fucking identical. I mean if you told me he was plummeted from the Primal Fear days of the past into the present day, I'd believe you.

Teenage Edward Norton tells the jock guy they should do something cool, like jumping off the roof. Jock guy thinks that’s a pretty cool idea, so he says yes, but it turns out Teenage Edward Norton isn’t dying today! What follows is pretty much another in the long line of modern horror movie scenes that could be completely plausible wacky Yahoo! news stories: "Stupid Guy Jumps Off Roof and Kills Self in Pool."

Then people in the comments section got into a seven page debate about ethics, a topic which nobody had a real clue about.

Next scene is set nine months later, where a bunch of guys and girls are going to some barn way out in the middle of nowhere to drink and party, a plot I'm sure you've never seen in a horror movie before. The guys are all just interested in Mandy for the most part, even though there are other girls going. What ensues isn't so much a bunch of kids having a party as it is a sort of wild, feral jungle hunt, with Mandy as the presumed prey.

The first guy to make a move happens to be the black guy, Bird, who tells her he’s different from the other guys. I'm sure. I'm also sure he'll be the first one to talk about how girls only go for jackasses and how he's the only nice and sensitive guy left. Snore. He holds her hand, tries to kiss her – it’s actually pretty suave. 

That is, until Mr. Cockblock here shows up:

Yes, this born and bred farm boy is named Garth, and he will serve as … well, the hot guy who lives in the barn. Later they have a pool party and take off her top in the water, horsing around in a way that may be a little too serious for her. Luckily Garth shows up again, like a guardian angel, and shoots his gun a few times at "snakes" in the water - thereby saving Mandy's ass from becoming even more of a coveted sexual treasure than it already was.

The next candidate on the flirt train is Jake, this douchey kid who thinks he's all that because he can drink a bottle of hard liquor like a 40-year-old alcoholic. His hobbies include driving trucks in his underwear with a gun AND a bottle of liquor:

Sounds like the kind of thing Rush Limbaugh fans would be into.

And flirting with Mandy by berating her and insulting her because she doesn't find him charming. You know, the best way to get a girl. Grabbing her arm and shouting about how she thinks she's better than everyone else? That will win her over for sure.

But this isn't just a speed dating game - it's a horror film. In true slasher fashion, we get some pretty gruesome kills, such as this girl, who finds out that a gun in her mouth isn't as fun as having a dick in her mouth:

An actual good kill scene, WHAT'S THAT?!

(Note: I'm not being sexist here. The previous scene that girl was in, she was sucking off that Jake kid! Don't shoot the messenger. The movie is the one with the obvious symbolism!)

And then we get Bird, who gets his eyes slit rather bloodily and then stabbed several times in the back:

"No, I hate knives being run over my face without actually touching me! AAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!"

He at least gets in some good punches before he dies. That isn't something you see very often in slashers. I mean even in Jason Takes Manhattan, the fights were all pretty one sided. But I guess Young Edward Norton as the killer here isn't quite as imposing as Jason Voorhees, so it makes sense.

The last kill of the movie, among the main characters anyway, is the shallow blonde bimbo of the group, Chloe, who gets stabbed in the gut by Mandy herself. That's right; Mandy was in on it the whole time with Young Edward Norton. Apparently they were in some sort of weird suicide serial killer pact thing, which thankfully isn't elaborated on too much. It would really cheapen it if there were some kind of big explanation to this whole plot with tons of flashbacks. The implications are scarier than anything the movie could show you. Partially because it's so realistic; this kind of stuff could happen in real life.

And the social commentary in the film is spot on too. This is a movie about how young girls are treated. All the boys in this movie are so driven towards getting Mandy and her virginity that it becomes basically what every pretty high school girl goes through: a hunt, in which she is viewed as a piece of meat, a trophy to be won. She isn't a person at all to most everyone, including the girls in the group; she's just something to be idolized. A pretty face and a curvy body. Hell, even the girls find her attractive, as demonstrated in this scene:

There's nothing immediate that can be done to stop this, as unfortunately there's no way from controlling the thoughts of young teenagers. But it's an important problem to be aware of, as this kind of shallow objectification of someone based on her sex is something that affects a lot of girls. Whether it's the "hot" ones who get told they're not worth engaging on any level beyond a purely trashy physical, looks-based one, or every other girl who feels like less of a person because they aren't idolized that way - it's a problem among our young people.

The solution the movie offers us is simple: get together with your psychotic friend and kill the offending parties off. Like the classic horror films, it takes a social ill and pours tons of blood, guts and bile all over it, attacking it viciously like a rabid dog. This is totally in-line with any of the greats of the past. I don't think it's as raw or shocking as those films were, but All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has something to say and says it well, in the classic horror style.

But hey, maybe I'm looking too deep into this. Maybe some of the film's critics have a point.

Seriously. It's a fuckin' movie about high school kids. When do they ever put thought into why they like someone? The shallowness of high school physical attraction is in full force here. Why do we need to give Amber Heard's character some kind of in depth personality? The film doesn't need that at all. It's intentional that she seems like a dull character, because she isn't a character to the other people she's with - she's a blank slate to project their sexual desires and insecurities onto. That's what the movie was about.

And yeah, the director's a pervert; that's why the film was showing any shots of even the most remote female nudity ... not for any kind of meaning or point. And since the director is a pervert, that's why the character of Mandy was sexualized and shown in so many nude and sex scenes. Oh wait, she never even took her top off. You're an idiot.

I mean, I get it; if you found the film dull or whatever ... there's nothing I can do about that. It's just personal taste. If you didn't like the story or the way the twist unfolded ... well, that's your own thing. But at least try and understand what a film was attempting to do. You can still hate it, but at least be informed in your hate of it. I dunno, people will like and hate whatever they want. But I just don't think some of these responses hit anywhere close to what the film was trying to achieve. It's not even a really difficult message to get. It's quite un-sutble.

Even more baffling is the second contingent of people, who are obviously intellectual pillars of their communities:

Part of the dark genius of the film is that it brings out that ugly side of people, and they don't even realize it. The people making these comments are doing the exact thing the movie is fighting against. This kind of overly critical body-shaming crap is the exact message the film is lampooning and bringing to light. All that's missing from these comments is a declaration that women should remain in the kitchen or the bedroom at all times. And following that in this movie's universe, a mass butchering of everyone in a five-mile radius.

And even aside from that ... anyone who can't see why people would be attracted to Amber Heard is trying too fuckin' hard. She's a beautiful woman, and that's that.

So this is a good movie. It's a great recitation of the slasher genre that brings something new to the mix. Along with Teeth, it's one of the best feminist horror/thriller movies in quite some time, with a great message and an even greater, bloodier, more visceral way of showing it. But people didn't get it, and instead crap films like Drag Me to Hell or the latter-day SAW sequels got all the press while good films like this one wallowed in obscurity. Just more proof that horror fans have no clue what they're talking about.

I think this movie kicks ass, and I recommend it to anyone interested in good horror movies. Go see it.

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

Friday, February 7, 2014

Insidious Chapter 2 (2013)

The first Insidious was a pretty decent horror film, but it was made more entertaining than it had any right to be because of the production value, the special effects and the general zeal and energy it had when it pulled off even the most generic jump scares. It blended some classic horror style imagery and tropes into the modern style, and overall was a cut above the usual modern horror crap we get most of the time. So how much do you want to bet the sequel is pointless, lame and has no reason to exist?

Director: James Wan
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne

There was no reason to make a sequel to Insidious. It was actually a solid horror film on its own and didn’t need any kind of explanation or elaboration of the story. But, hey, that’s the modern filmmaker’s bible: the audience is stupid. The audience doesn’t understand subtlety and can’t read between the lines. And most importantly, the audience needs every little detail of the story explained to them like a Kindergarten teacher reading Clifford the Big Red Dog – there’s no room for mystery, intrigue and all the other things that make up actual horror! WE NEED EXPLANATIONS!

Basically the directors of movies like Insidious Chapter 2 think the audiences are all like this:

So with that said, anyone else ready to take a plunge knee-deep into some of the lamest modern horror you’ll come across? Yeah me neither. But hey, fuck it, you know?

We start off with a flashback of main character Josh as a kid, showing how he got possessed by spirits when he was a kid and that lady Elise came to help him the first time. They do some kind of weird overly complicated set-up where he shows her where the evil spirits are by communicating via walkie-talkie as she walks around the house. He seems to get the most distressed when she approaches the closet in his bedroom. Probably because he has a porn stash in there.

"Oh my, look at these copies of Bestiality Monthly I found under here! I've been looking for these for ages!"

So I guess it plays out exactly like we heard at the end of the first film – they beat the demons and save Josh, who goes on to live a perfectly boring life until the events of the first movie. Snore. Why did we need this scene? Because without showing every painstaking detail, nobody would understand the movie’s clear genius.

Anyway, back in the modern day, we see the aftermath of the first movie: Elise is dead and the police don’t investigate very seriously at all the fact that she died in these peoples’ house and nobody knows who killed her. I mean, I guess we get one scene where the wife Renai is being questioned by Sergeant Doakes from Dexter for a second:

But other than that, what the hell? How is their house not swarmed with cops? How are they all not immediately locked up in interrogation rooms questioned for hours by the toughest cops the bureau has? I guess old ladies’ lives rank low on the police’s list of priorities. Anyway, we get some boring scenes where Renai questions Josh about what happened, but because this shitty ass movie needs an excuse to keep existing, these scenes are downplayed. God knows, the movie world would just be at a loss if we didn’t have the ensuing hour of dead-eyed supernatural boredom to wade through.

I mean, think of the possibilities otherwise – character development? An interesting moment? Something that actually furthers the story rather than just chucking more exposition at us? THE HORROR!

There’s also these two asswipes; the comedic duo from the first film who served as a sort of foil to the seriousness of the rest of it – they’re some kind of paranormal investigators or something. Give them credit for not being like the investigators in every other movie, but they’re just as bad in a different way. Here they find a videotape in Elise’s old house and put it into the machine. Oh, good, will we get a shitty horror-comedy anthology with aludicrous “wrap around” segment now?

No? Oh well. I must’ve gotten the wrong terrible sequel in 2013.

I guess what we do get is the revelation that Elise once had this other guy she worked with named Carl, or some shit like that – a flimsy plot device used to bring someone with some kind of credibility into the story, because otherwise no-one would know anything. So this guy is some kind of psychic or something, and he knows almost as much about the whole “Further” concept as Elise did. I guess he rolls some dice and that lets him talk to Elise from beyond the grave almost immediately:

This guy must be really good at Scrabble.

What is this, Dungeons and Dragons? Get a life. I’d find it hilarious if the dice accidentally spelled out something randomly while Elise was still thinking of a response. Like if they were asking “how do we beat these evil spirits?” And then the dice just came up with “Cat” completely at random. Would this become Public Enemy #1?

Man, I don’t even know. Most of the first hour of this is so boring, I have to make up completely ridiculous scenarios to even sit through it. What am I supposed to grasp onto otherwise; scenes of Renai hearing creepy noises at night and jumping? One of those times it’s at a glow-in-the-dark baby stroller:

The epitome of terror.

I can just feel my eyelids growing heavier and my brain getting number. Jesus, this is fucking boring. What happened to the manic energy of the first one? That movie was on fire half the time. In even its most generic moments, it felt big and immediate, not letting the viewer fall asleep or get bored. This one is on Valium. It’s just no comparison.

So what, there’s some scenes where they meander around in this old-ass hospital looking for clues? It doesn’t really matter how they get there; the reasoning is so convoluted you’ll go crazy trying to decipher it … something about how this old man grabbed Josh’s arm as a kid and then died the next day.

His mother saw him in the elevator anyway though, even after he died, and then re-enacted the old cliché “I just saw him in the elevator!” “But he died last night!” thing. Usually it’s a good cliché. Here it’s not … after his mom finds out the guy was dead, she just walks away without questioning anything at all, and nobody stops her. I guess they were just used to her spouting random insanities.

Somehow this leads them to the old mental hospital, where they find an old newspaper clipping about five minutes into their search about the “Black Bride,” a serial killer from years and years ago. Within like, a few scenes, they figure out the truth: the Black Bride was actually some weirdo whose mom made him dress up like a girl, and then forced him to kill people for her. Why? Shits and giggles.

Hell, make these guys heads of the detective department! I’m sure we would all benefit from their mental wizardry. Truly they are the master sleuths of the modern age; figuring out decades-old murder cases without even trying. It’s almost like the movie was completely phoned-in in every aspect imaginable, as this clearly is so far removed from reality that you could just label it a fan-fiction, actually.

Most of these flashback scenes are so badly acted, I can’t even tell you. It’s like watching one of those satirical horror movies where everyone overreacts on purpose, but this is supposed to be 100% played straight. There’s a truly horrible scene sometime later where we see a flashback of the killer as a kid while his mom shouts at him cartoonishly for drawing a picture in school with his real name on it, instead of the “girl” name she gave him.

This scene brought to you from the bowels of Tim Burton's subconscious.

This is, no joke, one of the worst things I’ve seen on film at all in recent years – up there with the Kick-Ass 2 “vomit and diarrhea device” scene. How a well-known director like James Wan put this shit on screen is beyond me. I mean I knew he wasn’t great, but c’mon, I expected something that wasn’t … this!

Ugh, Jesus, so I guess everyone starts to guess that Josh isn’t really Josh, but some kind of spirit possessing his body after the end of the first movie. Carl goes in to try and do something I guess, though really since they already know, it seems like there’d be some kind of better plan … I guess not. He gets stabbed with a knife after an overly long “taunting” scene, and then ends up in purgatory with the real Josh, who fortunately has a lantern to help guide him through his aimless “doing nothing” adventures.

"You mean I can actually do things to further a plot?"

Yeah – that’s right. He’s spent the whole time since the end of the first movie just aimlessly wandering around “trying to get out.” He says some bullshit about how he’s been weaker and weaker ever since, but he seems fine to me, so I dunno. I guess he’s just a complete pussy.

So if you were wondering how much further down the bunker-hole of cliché this movie could possibly burrow, we actually get the inevitable return of Elise in ghost forum. I shit you not, she actually says the following line:

"I've seen that better place, but I came back here because I heard you calling, and I think I can help."

Really. You’ve seen the other side, and you still chose to come back and help these two morons. You could have been sipping wine up there on golden thrones with singing cherubs all around you, and you came back. You could have been fine dining with dead celebrities and artists, and you’re here schmaltzing it up in the name of the whoredom that is modern horror cinema. You goddamned sap. Are you even serious … did you read the script? YOU COULD HAVE BEEN LIVING IT UP WITH THE CREATOR OF MANKIND. 72 VIRGINS. ETERNAL PARADISE. WHATEVER YOU WANT. And you’re doing this.

Jesus. So I guess she tells them to go toward the light – hey, why be original now? I guess we get some boring scenes where they go back in time and try to warn their past selves of the demons, or some shit like that. It comes off like a weak-assed version of the Christmas Carol story. Did we really need Scrooge done up by the Casper ghosts? Because that’s about where you’re at. I mean, Doctor Who's latter-day Christmas specials are more plausible.

Back in the real world, possessed Josh decides to take a different path to parenting than his children have perhaps been used to. I like to call it ‘traumatizing 101.’ He strangles her and what not, and I guess anything’s better at this point than the flashback scenes. Sad my standards’ve gotten so low.

We'll start a journalistic expose: From the Spiritual Other Dimension to the therapy chair.

But then they’re saved by the comedy relief:

Brilliant … just brilliant. We get some stupid scenes that I think James Wan confused with his next foray into mainstream pandering, The 40 Year Old Virgin 2: The 40 Year Old Haunting, Because It’s Been Done for 40 Years Now. What I’m trying to say with that is, having a scene where the goofy comic relief idiot busts through the door attempting to look badass right after the climax is over … is a poor way to try and elicit laughs.

*straightens bow-tie*

This movie sucks. There’s nothing about it that’s in any way interesting, except how humorously awful it can be. While it isn’t the worst out there, the writing is a complete mess of cliché and the story is just pointless. So what, the whole first movie happened because some serial killer’s mom made him wear a dress as a kid? Get fucked, movie. I mean, isn’t it just obvious? Isn’t THAT just so apparent to you while watching the first one? With all its subtle hints? Oh wait, there were no hints because you made all of this up on the spot to get more money. Insidious 2 is just a giant piece of shit.

And what’s this? Another scene after the movie ends where the two comic relief jackasses go to some house and ask about a girl? The girl’s father gets defensive, but the younger daughter asks who the woman is behind them – and lo and behold it’s Ghost Elise, because she has no other purpose in life but to be a supernatural slave to these two bungholes because they can’t tie their own shoes. She goes upstairs, sees something scary that the audience can’t see aaaaaand that’s the end. What did she see? My guess is, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Frankly, I can sum up this movie's attitude towards death with one video clip:

Thank you, Matt and Trey. Insidious 2 is nothing but a commercial cash in and you are part of the fuckin’ problem if you liked this one. I hope anyone who saw this in theaters took it upon themselves to go out, after the film was released to DVD, to their local Targets or Walmarts, took the DVDs and burned them right there in the fucking aisles. Because really, the DVD cover isn’t representative of what this soulless film actually contains. Let me show you what it really is:

That’s more like it.

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