Sunday, June 29, 2014

Stop Saying FX's 'Louie' Is A Drama

FX’s Louie is a great goddamned show. Everyone knows it by now; there’s no point in elucidating on that point. But when I talk to people about the show, I always hear one thing that kinda confuses me – people saying it’s a drama with no comedy whatsoever. I really think a lot of these people need to watch the show more closely.

I’m mostly going to talk about the latest season here, since it’s the freshest on peoples’ minds – and it’s the one I most recently watched. If you haven’t seen the whole season, you better just click on something else for now, because oh man are there gonna be some SPOILERS up in this shit. Don’t worry; this will still be around by the time you do finish the season. Unless my blog gets shut down or I die somehow. But those things are rather unlikely.

Now, I won’t deny that it has some serious moments. It’s certainly not just lighthearted slapstick or goofiness all the way through. However, I don’t think the show has ever gone full into drama per se – not nearly enough to say it’s a drama instead of a comedy. I think watching this show and CK’s standup alternatively really brings out one great truth – the show is just an extension of the type of humor espoused in his standup routines. It’s a full-out comedy, with the dramatic elements only serving to enhance the comedy – after all, comedy and drama do not have to be mutually exclusive. We can find laughter in our most somber moments, and we can take our funny moments to mean something deeper and learn things from them. I think CK really understands this and it’s a big part of his show, his routine and why he’s so funny in general.

For those of you who watch the show and are not familiar with Louis CK’s standup, I’ll elaborate a bit: he has a very cynical, witty sort of style, not exactly based around going for big punchlines so much as just letting his jokes play out like run on sentences. When you think he’s about to stop and talk about something else, he gets this goofy grin on his face and just keeps running with the joke, adding more humor and contorting the joke – he’s good at getting a laugh by just taking a situation, playing it out for humor and then going “Hmm, what if…?” and taking it the extra mile. His humor is dark, self-mocking and somewhat underplayed.

The show is a reflection of the types of things CK finds funny – the stuff that inspires his stand-up routines. You get a real sense of his sense of humor and the way his mind works – a weird blend of odd, bad things happening to him, moral preaching (there’s a very feminist-centric episode this season about Louie dating a fat girl) and the absolutely random and bizarre. The show pretty much chronicles the life of Louis CK, except if he was a down-on-his-luck comic rather than a worldwide superstar like he is right now.

I think this last season has people confused because a lot of it was based around Louie’s romance with a woman named Amia, who doesn’t speak English. This is one of the points that I would say is very dramatic – as it actually has Louie’s character evolving over a series of episodes. He and Amia go through happy moments and frustrating ones, and through it they share a very realistic, touching – albeit bizarre – relationship. The scenes of the two interacting even with the vast language barrier – usually just making gestures and doing a weird kind of charades – are both affecting and romantic and very, very funny in a sweet, non-cynical way.

You can see humor in the little things – such as Louie’s reaction when he initially thinks he can’t be with Amia because she’s leaving. He goes back to his room, takes a baseball bat and begins hitting the keys of a piano with it – producing a rather jumbled musical sequence as he works out his rage. The effect is very, very funny. Of course a second later there’s a knock on the door and she tells him she’ll be around long enough to spend more time with him.

There’s also the biggest red flag of them all in terms of this show being a comedy: so there’s this whole really serious, really dramatic sequence where Louie and Amia sleep together, which is a problem because Amia is leaving and doesn’t want to get too attached. While this is all going on, there’s also a huge storm coming that Louie has to go save his family from – which results in some of the more interesting parts of the show from a visual aspect, as the storm makes everything suitably tense and dangerous-feeling. Louie has to leave Amia to save his family, but the two end up patching things up before she leaves with the help of a friendly translator from a restaurant. It’s a touching scene.

Next episode has Louie learning from his helpful doctor buddy that “loving someone means something only after they’re gone, because you can appreciate them more.” So what he does is move on immediately and start going after his old friend/possible thwarted love interest Pamela, recently moved back into town. After so much build-up and drama with Amia, the fact that he just IMMEDIATELY fuckin’ throws it all away and starts trying to get with Pamela again is funny. It’s realistic and relatable, but it’s funny as shit, and totally intentional the way they set up the episodes. If Amia had not been the subject of so many episodes prior, or if she and Louie hadn’t shared the most dramatic moments in the show thus far, it would have lost its comedic impact.

I think what confuses people is that they expect ‘comedy’ to be nothing else but non-stop laughs, and they think any remote infusion of something more serious qualifies the show as a drama. In reality, a big part of comedy IS real life stuff and drama – they’re two sides of a coin; yin and yang. Louie isn’t a comedy like Big Bang Theory where it’s just stupid punchlines made for canned audience laughter – it’s a show about real things and about finding the funny shit in your every-day life. Just because a show (or any kind of story in any entertainment medium) is billed as a comedy, or intended to make you laugh, doesn’t mean it can’t do other things too. A drama can have funny moments in it, and a comedy can have serious stuff going on in-between the jokes. The expectation that something ONLY has to stick to its prominent genre isn’t really an accurate one – ESPECIALLY in today’s very nuanced entertainment culture where things are blended together more than a fruit smoothie by a health and fitness nut at your gym.

I don’t think there’s a real case to be made for this show as a drama. It’s not, really; the closest it ever got to the character progression and development necessary for a drama was this season’s Amia arc – the first two seasons may have a bit of development here and there, but for the most part they’re just really surrealistic and wry vignettes to make you crack a smirk. It’s fine if you watch this show differently than me, and you’re welcome to have a different opinion. After all, variety is the spice of life and art is made to be interpreted differently – yadda yadda. You’re welcome to disagree.

But I think one thing we can all agree on is … “Of Course/But Maybe” should seriously become a party game.

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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Piranha 3DD (2012)

It shouldn’t be that hard to make a Piranha movie – put in some stock characters, spice in a bit of bullshit pseudoscience and then put in huge doses of boobs and gore and you have a movie. The bar is low and nobody ever expected anything at all out of this series. So with THAT said…Piranha 3DD is a giant mess that I’m not sure who it was supposed to appeal to.

Director: John Gulager
Starring: Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush

Yup, from the super classy title on down, this movie is basically just confused. It’s confused about why it even exists. Frankly, so am I. So let’s play detective and try to get a hold on what the fuck went wrong with this botched attempt at a sequel.

The movie starts off with a news report explaining that the town from the last movie was abandoned because of all the piranha attacks. There doesn’t seem to be any context for showing this news report now or anything, so I guess it was just rerun day at the news station.

Also, what, the ENTIRE FUCKING TOWN was abandoned because some people died in a piranha attack one day? There was no government intervention to try and help out? No scientists sent out to investigate? Nothing?

What's the big deal? It's just a mass murder by way of killer fish. Get over it. Pffffffttttt.

Okay. I totally buy that.

We then get a couple of rednecks playing Open Kill Fodder out on a lake with a dead cow. I’m really just waiting for Jason to show up and kill these guys, but all I get is fart noises and piranha eggs coming out of the cow’s ass.

Worst Hatchet sequel ever!

Our main characters this time are a bunch of people at a theme park. Apparently that guy from Thank You for Smoking who wasn't Aaron Eckhart is now playing some jackass running a water park with an adult section full of nude women swimming around.

Ohh yeah, late night commercials will totally bring in the millions; you're such a fuckin' genius of marketing.

I really don’t get who would ever go to this place – the usual audience for a water park is kids, whose parents would DEFINITELY not take them to some place where there are a bunch of strippers swimming around naked. And the perverts who WOULD usually flock to see strippers WOULDN’T be paying the exorbitant prices for a water park – they’d just be going to a strip club down the street. I mean it’s really not worth the effort.

Also, yes, going down a water slide naked with fireworks in both hands that could easily kill you is an AWESOME way to die horribly and/or live a life of agonizing, crippled and humiliating pain. You truly are the smartest person in the world.

Should I go for a Darwin Awards joke, or is it already implied?

Anyway, enough of that boring stuff – it’s time for OTHER boring stuff, like characters having sex in the water. Apparently this girl named Shelby is a virgin, and has finally decided to give it up to this random guy she just met tonight. They strip and go in the water with her asking him “not to try any funny stuff” – then immediately gets up close to him for a kiss afterwards. Clearly we’re dealing with a real brain trust here. This is further proved when she mistakes a bunch of piranhas nipping at her lower legs for the guy's hard-on against her belly – I know she’s supposed to be a virgin, but unless you just had this magical idea in your head that a guy's dick can disperse into hundreds of tiny, sharp-teethed fish, this is pretty tough to believe.

After they get out of the water, she asks if the guy thinks her friend is prettier than her. The guy says no, he’s never been attracted to girls with big breasts – to which the girl says that’s sweet. I can’t – I just can’t. If I even try to think about this dialogue too much, I'm pretty sure I'll end up turning into an alcoholic in a few paragraphs.

Elsewhere we get more idiots having sex, this time in a van that I guess they forgot to put in “Park” – as it starts rolling down the hill and lands in the lake. Because the one guy had his hand handcuffed to a pole, he can’t get out when piranhas start attacking. The girl says she’s going to go for help. Even though the van is clearly not far from the shore at all and she could easily jump or even walk to safety, she just stands on top of the dumb van and screams for help when clearly nobody is around to help.

Keep shouting, you idiot, I'm sure you'll make it out okay. I mean it's not like you're in a horror mo---oh. Never mind.

I’d like to say nobody hears her because they’re just not around, but I really think the REAL answer is that they all DID hear her and just wanted her to die. I mean, that’s what I would have done.

The next day, main character Maddy is comforting Shelby, who is sad that her best friend, Stand On Top of Van Girl, is missing and probably dead. Shelby then says the girl has stolen 11 of her previous boyfriends – wait a fucking minute; 11 PREVIOUS BOYFRIENDS?! And she was one of your best friends? What, were the rest of your friends serial killers? Child pornographers? How is someone who has stolen 11 of your boyfriends over the years in the running for BEST FRIEND?!?

On second thought, anyone who has 11 boyfriends and still can’t get laid clearly doesn’t deserve sympathy. So I’m good with that. And anyway they DO almost get killed immediately afterward, which is cool:

They fall right into the water where the piranhas are, and somehow don't just die immediately. I guess it's 'cuz they're the MAIN CHARACTERS!

Even despite all of what’s happened already – the piranha attack they saw firsthand and the fact that their friends’ van was found empty in the same lake where piranhas just attacked them – they never alert the authorities and never even really piece together the connection between any of this. You goddamned morons.

But hey, I’ve heard of worse excuses for a Christopher Lloyd cameo:

Flux Capacitor, Marty, yadda yadda yadda.

Gee. Either that’s actually Doc Brown from the future taking the present one’s place, or you just called Christopher Lloyd at the last second and he said ‘fuck it’ and rolled out of bed and came straight to the set. Either way. The scene is pretty much just a bunch of pseudoscience. I mean, THIS is what passes for ‘studying fish’ for him:

Yup, just putting his face up to the glass and imitating piranha teeth snapping. Amazing. The rest of this scene is just filler trying to explain how the fish are going to kill everyone later. I’d go into detail, but really, who cares? Who is this scene supposed to appeal to? Your built-in audience isn’t exactly the type that’s going to really give a crap what you make up to explain your “plot” – they’re pretty much just here for the boobs.

We also get a David Hasselhoff cameo – he’s in this hotel room with a couple women playing some dumb song on his miniature keyboard. I mean really, guys? What, you couldn't throw in a Kurt Russell or Steven Seagal cameo too? Maybe "Who Let the Dogs Out?" to complete the timeless references?

Meanwhile, we get the end of the ‘Shelby is a virgin’ subplot – she’s been feeling sick all day and is afraid she’s going to die, so she begs that idiot to fuck her. Yeah, you could at least GO TO A DOCTOR if you’re afraid you’re going to die, but I guess that would make too much sense, and would deprive us of the absolutely essential scene where a piranha comes out of her vagina and bites the guy’s dick off.

Pfft, not nearly as good as Teeth. Call me again when you have symbolic and metaphoric implications of the feminine coming of age and THEN we'll talk!

Yeah, you just saw that. I’m just amazed it took this movie of all things to show the way piranhas really work. They’re like werewolves! If they attack you, they then proceed to burst out of you like that thing from Alien. That is how werewolves work, though, right? Right?

The only other slightly funny thing that happens is when Marcellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction shows up with no legs – apparently his legs were eaten in the first movie and now he’s chosen this water park opening to try and beat his new fear of water.

That's pride fuckin' with ya. Fuck pride.

He tries to get his sidekick guy, who looks something like a drowned Steve Buscemi, to push him in the water, but keeps changing his mind at the last second. He even says not to listen to him when he protests and just to throw him in anyway. This results in a scene where a lifeguard sees the guy about to push him in and stops them – it’s small change in terms of humor, but eh, you could always do worse I guess – you could always write the crap the rest of this is filled with.

Like this other scene ripping off Nightmare on Elm Street, because yeah, when I watch a Piranha sequel, I really fucking expect to see a parody of Nightmare on Elm Street in it:

We get a couple of scenes of Maddy trying to warn everyone about the piranhas, but her jackass stepfather won’t listen and even has his cop buddy physically pick her up and carry her away to prevent her from telling anyone. It’s pretty much a waste of screen time though, as within the next few minutes after this piranhas are everywhere, and causing a bloodbath if I ever saw one.

Pulling her out of the water to safety would be easy, but I guess that would make this guy a likable character...gee, he'd really be good buddies with Arkin from The Collector, I guess.

If the gore was better, I’d say this was a pretty fun climax – but it’s mediocre, and there are a bunch of flat out what the fuck moments on display. Like, really, do I need to see a 3D close-up shot of this guy’s ass with a piranha attached to it? I mean, that DID have the effect of making me unable to sleep peacefully ever again. If that was your intention, good fuckin' job on that!

I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry for your oncoming flood of night terrors for the rest of eternity after seeing this.

And what’s up with that scene where the stepfather sees a little girl crying over her dead mother and then gives her a bunch of money to try and make up for the dead mother? I mean wow - pretty dark for a horror comedy about fucking piranhas. I mean Jesus.

Then he accidentally runs her over and kills her with his golf cart, turning the whole scene from depressing and unpleasant to absolutely miserable. Thanks a lot for that gem of comedy gold too, movie! Fortunately, the movie then shows us you can get decapitated by a party streamer line if you drive into it. You don't even have to go that fast or anything. Just colliding with a party streamer line will decapitate you. Funny world, huh?

Only in death, however, does this wretched character finally score with the ladies:

I'd say this is incredibly fucking tasteless, but ... no, it's just incredibly fucking tasteless. That's the end of it.

So I guess they kill the piranhas by draining the water from the park and sucking most of them back down the drain. That one fat guy from the instant-mental-scar ass shot from before goes down and blows up the water supply, causing a big torrential downpour upstairs that ends up impaling the cop guy from before with a trident. I dunno, I'm far past the point of caring by now, but what REALLY makes the scene good is the pseudo-epic orchestrations put in as a joke!

Eh, still better than the ending of The Collection. I mean this was supposed to be stupid; when The Collection did it, they were trying to be serious.

Then they get a call from Doc Brown again, telling them the piranhas are evolving and growing legs – well, that’s completely fucking stupid. If you make a sequel of that, I will stick a harpoon in your gut. Some dumb kid goes up to the last piranha flopping around in the shallow water and tries to take a picture of it. His mother warns him against it, but he tells her she’s stupid and piranha can’t move as fast on land – she SHOULD just physically just DRAG him away, but I guess having a kid so stupid was unappealing to her, as she just watches as the piranha devours her child's head:

Hasselhoff ends the movie by calling the kid dumb, which sounds insensitive, but honestly I pretty much agree. I mean, what was that kid’s future, anyway? Certainly nothing good if he’s the type of little moron who approaches the fish that was just murdering everyone to try and take a picture.

I mean, clearly the real injustice here was that the kid shouldn’t have been allowed to have a cell phone at that age! Insert your own social commentary about Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, complete with self-indulgent prattle about how Millennials suck. Now you're ready to write for the Huffington Post.

So that’s your movie! Child death, fish coming out of vaginas and David Hasselhoff. I think that really says it all. What else do you want? A dissertation on the shit-ass godawful dialogue, characters, plot and overall story this movie spewed out as if from a leaky sewer-pipe? Pfft. I think we all know why this movie was really made...

Hmmm...nope, it's still not quite coming to me...

On second thought, I'm stumped.

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

Friday, June 20, 2014

Rest Stop: Don't Look Back (2008)

Due to the overwhelming critical response to the first Rest Stop, the demand for a sequel was through the roof. So now we have Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back, a sequel so good it doesn’t even have a “2” in the name to signify that it’s a sequel! Because not being able to tell if you’re getting the first one or the second one is the real way to make a good horror movie.

Director: Shawn Papazian
Starring: Richard Tillman, Jessie Ward

We start this one off with a guy breaking down on the road and getting picked up by the family in the Winnebago from the last one. We get a couple of scenes of them being weird, but the thing that really throws me off is how these two Funny Games guys never stop drinking from their soda cups:

What they’re not showing you is the scenes of these two having to stop at every rest stop to take a piss that lasts about twenty minutes from how much they’re drinking.

So I guess the Winnebago has soundproof walls, as the family outside doesn’t notice the hitchhiker and the wife fucking inside, even though it would have been the easiest set-up in the world for anyone to notice if they’d just gone inside.

I guess it was just a set-up though, as we see the wife egging her husband on as he beats the shit out of the hitchhiker after he finds them. Then they tie him up out back and gouge out his eyes and bury him in the desert. Unfortunately for them, he doesn’t need eyes to survive as he comes back and slits their throats!

I'm surprised all the soda they're constantly drinking didn't leak out in place of blood.

I guess this guy was supposed to be the rest stop killer, killed by these Winnebago people, who he killed in return – and now they’re all ghosts roaming the highway forever. And that’s your plot for the first film which wasn’t explained there, instead shoehorned awkwardly into this one. Magical. Some loser truck driver fucked another guy's wife and then came back to life as a zombie after they killed him for it. Well gee, if that doesn't sound worthy of a full length horror movie, I don't know what does!

We then switch to our real main characters, Five O’ Clock Shadow and Blonde Bimbo. I guess their names are really Tom and Marilyn, but who cares about that? Apparently they’re going on a road trip to track down Nicole and Jesse from the first movie, because they’re close family and friends. They also team up with this dorky loser named Jared, who comes along because he’s stalking Nicole or something – see, filmmaking is easy when you can just make up characters at your whimsy and say they knew the old characters not in the movie anymore! Totally not a cheap ass way to shoehorn in a story.

"Yeah, since I'm easily ten years older than you, it totally makes sense that we hang out!"

I guess I should be glad for one thing though, as at least this is trying to follow the original story, rather than just putting out some nonsense. Though as you’ll find, nonsense and Rest Stop are pretty much synonyms. For example, check out their awesome road trip set-up they have, where Tom and Marilyn ride in one car and Jared takes a completely different one and they speak via walkie-talkie.

The most convoluted way ever to say "I hate you but am too nice to NOT let you come along on our totally pointless road trip to the middle of nowhere." Also without the gas station man telling them in an overly long scene where to go, they really WOULD have been driving to nowhere. Brilliant.

Yeah because you know, THAT’S how people take road trips! Totally makes sense. Even though later on we see that they all get one hotel room just so Tom and Marilyn can have sex while Jared sleeps in the bathtub.

"Sex is so much better when that annoying guy I hate is sleeping in the bathroom just mere feet away from us!"

That’s also how you have a good road trip! If you just reversed these two – have them all in the same car, but in different hotel rooms – it would be perfectly normal, but I guess that’s not Rest Stop.

What is Rest Stop is watching a supposedly grown adult driving a car with headphones on and playing with dinosaur toys, complete with goofy voices, while driving. Those are excellent ways to get into a car accident and die. Please, keep doing them!

Are you five years old? What the hell? This is just glanced over and never mentioned again, making it just a WTF moment. Thanks for that, movie!
There IS a thing called car speakers and a CD player, you jackass. You can always wait to listen to the latest Lady Gaga album until you get to where you're going otherwise.

To complete the triage of annoyance, he also does nothing but fart while in the car. OK, I see why they didn’t want to drive with this guy now.

He stops at a porta-potty just randomly inserted on the side of the road, and is SO SURPRISED when it has no toilet paper:

Yeah, next you'll be telling me these porta-potties DON'T have proper sewage systems for good hygiene after using them! I am just so utterly shocked!

Fortunately the killer comes to rectify his shitty situation:

Every horror movie would be better with scenes of the main character swimming in his own shit. Ohhh yeah Rest Stop 2, keepin' it classy as fuck!

So is he just attacking random porta potties now? Should the movie title be changed to “Porta Potty”?

Meanwhile at the actual Rest Stop, Marilyn goes to the bathroom and hears some noises while in the stall, which she immediately assumes are Tom coming in and then begins asking if it’s him repeatedly. Because any activity in the girl’s bathroom MUST be him coming in. It could never be anyone else in that public restroom! I wonder if she pulls the same shit in the Walmart or Target bathrooms – just calling out Tom’s name while sitting on the toilet every time she hears someone new enter the bathroom. Oh horror movies, always playing to our most socially awkward moments of total idiocy.

We do get an actual scary bit when she hears Nicole crying in the stall, opens it to find no one there, and then goes outside only to hear whimpering and crying and shuffling from inside again – then goes back in to find that it’s now a decrepit hellhole and not at all the clean bathroom she thought she was in. It’s actually an effective scene, and perhaps the only remotely frightening one in either Rest Stop movie.

Unfortunately the film realized that it reached its "one scary moment per two films" quota, and then decided it didn’t have to try anymore.

We get Jared finding the ghost of Nicole in the woods, only she’s played by a different actress – the funniest part is that this actress is actually better than the girl who played Nicole in the other movie. They sit down and she tells him how she was tortured and stuff. Because that’s instant sexual ambrosia, they start having sex on the blanket he bought with him, but it turns out she wasn’t really there and he had just gotten naked all by himself there in the woods.

Hate it when that happens! Also, why did he bring two different types of underwear with him on this trip?

You mean you DON'T pack tighty whities and boxer shorts at the same time?! Loser.

Then he goes and finds Marilyn at the other rest stop and they talk about how they saw Nicole. Because he’s blushing, she instantly deduces that he slept with the ghost of Nicole – I guess Marilyn just has a lot of experience with the sexual politics of the undead and anticipated this happening, because otherwise I have no idea how you’d deduce that!

Then we switch over to Tom, who’s getting tortured in the Rest Stop Killer’s Magic Rainbow Bus. We get an entirely too long scene of him threatening the killer, because I’m sure after the twelfth time he says “YOU BETTER NOT HURT ME” the killer will go “Oh, you’re right, I’ll stop now. My bad. How could I be so rude? Let's instead sit down for tea and crumpets, and talk about Blackadder, Manchester United and the Queen.”

That doesn’t happen, but it’d be funnier and more worth putting on-screen than the torture garbage we do get:

Boy, the Magic School Bus reboot isn't as fun as I thought it'd be.

He escapes and finds his brother Jesse, played by the same actor from the first movie, locked up in a cage with no tongue. The two of them escape in Tom’s truck and drive for a while, just wasting screen-time with insipid dialogue, all leading to the punch-line that, whoops, Jesse was never really there anyway! He was a ghost the whole time!

How do ghosts even work in these movies? They’re corporeal until a certain time interval passes – never the same for any of them – and then they’re just revealed as ghosts? I don’t think the writer for this movie ever watched Ghostbusters as a kid. Clearly Slimer and inderdimensional portals of Gozer are the only ways to do a ghost movie right! Well, unless you have Patrick Swayze I guess.

They all find each other again, somehow, and go to the gas station from earlier, where they find the gas station man. He tells them the only way to kill the killer is by burning his eyeballs, which nobody knows where they are. Apparently this is all part of some Indian ritual or something, which is especially baffling because everyone involved is white and likely has no ties to Native American religion, and has probably never even heard of it. But whatever, who needs logic now?

Also, how would they even know which eyeballs belong to the killer if they DID happen across a bunch of eyeballs? I dunno. Fuck logic anyway. Didn't you hear me just a paragraph ago? Fuck logic in the ass. Just obey the movie’s subtitle and don’t look back at whatever plot you made up while high on meth in five minutes. Plots are just inconvenient anyway, and a tool for the weak and powerless!

The killer and gas station man (who was working for the killer, I guess) tie up Jared and Marilyn and take Marilyn’s shirt off for some reason – because the movie hadn’t reached its boob quota yet. They force Jared to drill into her thigh because she was, apparently, unfaithful to Tom while he was overseas in the military. How does the killer know that? Why did the gas station man tell them how to beat the killer if he was working with him?

...Didn't you hear me the other two times? FUCK LOGIC FOREVER! The end is right around the corner! Just show some boobs and gore and that’s all you need.

"We could have just killed both of our victims, and neither movie has shown us to do ANYTHING like this to our victims before, but hey, that wouldn't allow us this SUPER COOL climax coming up!"

Then we get the final battle, which is really riveting as now most of the characters are limping around:

Yes, the heroes hobbling on one gimp-ass leg each slowly to battle. You sure know how to get the blood pumping, movie!

They don’t even really find the killer’s eyes; they just kinda kick him around and then blow him up – glad the burning-eyes thing was in the film at all when it had zero relevance to anything.

We then switch to a scene some time later where Tom and Marilyn are in bed – but whoops, Marilyn’s actually a ghost the whole time and the killer apparently got her off screen! Tom is still completely fine somehow. How did the killer get HER alone and not him when they'd both been together the entire time? Maybe it's implied that she got killed by the drill back in the gas station, but I dunno, that seems like it'd be giving the movie too much credit for subtlety.

"It's okay, honey, you don't have to put Rest Stop: Don't Look Back on your resume. Just forget about it like I do: by drinking a lot of alcohol."

This whole movie was nonsense. It tried to have more of a plot than the first one did, and even attempted to explain a few things. Unfortunately, it didn’t even really do that very well – the whole story feels half-assed and unfinished. I really mean that, as the ways they try to explain the stuff from the first movie come off as rather hasty back-tracking – “look, we CAN explain the randomness from the last one, honest!” But very little actual importance or drama is attached to anything that goes on, so it's not like you get invested in the story, even when they do try to have one.

I really think they just had zero real ideas and wanted an excuse to show off boobs, gore and explosions. I think this would have been a more enjoyable movie had it simply stuck to the idiocy and complete unabashed randomness of the first movie, which, while technically a worse film, was also more entertaining than this. As is, while this has a couple funny scenes, it’s short-change compared to the first Rest Stop film. All in all, a disappointment. Shame on you Rest Stop, I expected better!

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

Friday, June 13, 2014

Rest Stop (2006)

One of the best things about horror movies is how they can be so imaginative, taking common ordinary places and ideas and turning them dark and morbid. Jaws did it for the beach, Psycho did it for taking a shower and some other movies did it for weird obscure things you wouldn’t expect. Well in 2006, some genius had the bright idea to make one about a rest stop on the highway. Did they succeed?

Well, it sure struck a fear in me of Winnebagos full of circus freak Addams Family rejects, and of getting my finger bitten off. Given that my standards are so low after many years of running this blog, I count that as a Grade A success.

Director: John Shiban
Starring: Jamie Alexander, Joseph George Mendicino

Review co-written with Michelle.

The cover art tells me a lot about this movie – it’s about a pair of legs fighting a truck at a rest stop. Sounds exciting to me!

I’ve reviewed movies from directors I’ve called despicable scum, incompetent or just plain strange. But this is one of the only ones where I have to come to the conclusion that the director was literally insane. Because clearly there’s no other explanation for what happens in this jumble of incoherent “plot” elements trying to pose as a movie – really it’s more like whatever this thing was skinned and flayed the concept of movies and is now masquerading as some grotesque Leatherface-esque parody of one. And that sounds good to me!

We start off this movie with a lady taking a shit, which is probably how the idea for the movie came about. “Hey, I’m making this awesome movie about a rest stop with ghosts and torture and an RV full of crazy people that adds NOTHING to the overall story!” “Sounds awful. How’d you come up with such a mental abortion?” “I was taking a shit and…” “Oh.”

After she gets killed, we get introduced to our main characters, Jess and Nicole – a couple heading out for Hollywood to become movie stars. Clearly if they were going to star in anything good, they would have done that instead of appearing in Rest Stop, I mean you know THIS isn’t gonna be a shining point on your resume when it has a several minute long sex scene put in for no damn reason, and filmed in really awkward close-ups. I mean I for one am glad the characters in this movie aren’t porn directors. They’d probably just focus on the elbows and knees of the participants.

And yeah, while you’re wondering – it really IS a good idea to have sex in the middle of the day in some random field right next to the road. Gotta live dangerously! And no there’s no point to this except to add in some nudity. I guess they couldn’t figure out a way to shoehorn THAT in with everything else and the kitchen sink later on.

So what are these characters’ personalities, you ask? Well, Jess is an asshole boyfriend. In the beginning of the movie, he’s introduced to us by pretending to let Nicole get in the car, then pulling away. Who does that? Also, most of his dialogue is comprised of telling Nicole “not to be such a fucking baby” in regards to going on this road trip and not telling her parents. Yeah! Because not telling your parents and making them think you’re dead, kidnapped or something else horrible? TOTALLY grown up. What an asinine character. I sure do hope he gets murdered with a disease-infected rusted rake with acid covering it.

This really does put a thorn in the side of anyone arguing AGAINST the "girls only go for douchebags" argument...sadly.

Nicole pretty much just cries a lot when the camera zooms in on her. It’s not even dramatic movie crying. It’s baby-crying.

They come to this rest stop so she can take a piss, and when she comes out, Jess and his car are both gone. She stomps around like a temper-tantrum-throwing toddler for a bit and then intones angrily to herself about what an asshole he is. She isn’t even that surprised that he left – she just thinks he’s an asshole for it. That’s how much of a worthless dick-cheese this guy really was. “Dammit, he did this to me again! I should really learn to stop going on road trips with assholes who just leave me at random rest stops in the middle of nowhere!”

Yeah I'm sure they'll answer the fuckin' door if you try a TWELFTH time. I mean, maybe they just didn't hear you the other eleven godforsaken times you knocked.

Also, HOW LONG could she have been in the fucking bathroom for Jess to have been taken by the killer already? Did she just drink an entire aquarium that morning before they left and was in there for a half hour just peeing? Or does the killer of the movie just take after The Flash in terms of his superpowers?

So then we get the best use of time in a movie ever: Nicole just sits around for hours and hours in a security guard shack drinking a Wild Turkey and doing nothing. Yup, apparently after a few minutes of being stuck there, she just gives up all hope, hides in a dark room and starts drinking herself to death – on alcohol that doesn’t belong to her, no less. What a great main character.

Seriously though, you can’t just start walking in either direction and look for some car to help you?

No? No proactive ideas beyond just sitting around on your ass?

Sigh. Wellp, I guess that does it. Truly sitting in the dark drinking is the solution here! WASTING TIME IS THE ULTIMATE PINNACLE OF CINEMATIC FILMMAKING! I’m so glad we’ve come so far from The Great Train Robbery on through Dr. Caligari and then to Citizen Kane and Casablanca, and then to Bonnie & Clyde, The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction and more, all leading up to the cinematic genius of Rest Stop, with its masterful understanding of economy and time in storytelling. Truly this wouldn’t have been the same without a near-five-minute scene of the main character doing nothing. It doesn’t even matter that it’s the complete antithesis of good writing, as the main character should be taking some kind of action in any scene that occupies the screen so dominantly as this does. Because, really, the main character doing nothing but admitting defeat and drinking heavily is the height of our cinematic progress in the modern world.

On second thought, no, I don’t really like this.

Then she goes outside and gets attacked by the killer. She escapes by leaping headlong into that weird Winnebago that’s been sitting outside the rest stop THE ENTIRE TIME up to now, which for some reason is now leaving. Yeah because you know, I guess the people inside were just hibernating the entire day until now. What the fuck were they doing sitting there ALL DAY? Maybe they don’t require oxygen to perform basic utilitarian functions, because they’re idiots – I’m going with the second one.

Okay, guys, I’m gonna level with you here: what happens next was probably part of a different movie just accidentally spliced into this one – or maybe it was on purpose as a joke, as the actual story doesn’t make sense with itself anyway, but I digress. Nicole enters the Winnebago and is greeted with a crazy old lady who constantly talks about masturbating, and two creepy teenagers who I think are on leave from the set of Funny Games:

But trouble starts when Nicole sees some flashes from the back and goes to check, finding ……… a weird baby midget thing playing with a camera.

It’s never explained, has no relevance to the story, and is completely ridiculous to boot. Maybe if we had any context as to who these people are or what their story is (or even why the fuck they’re hanging out at some random rest stop in California) it could be weird in a TCM-ish way, but we get nothing. Oh, except the crazy lady screaming and calling Nicole a whore.

Don't eat me!

Oh, well in THAT case I totally see the point of all this! Hilariously enough, they drop her right back at the stupid rest stop where she started. So that whole bizarre thing you just watched was sort of like a commercial just haphazardly shoved into the middle of the movie. We now return from these messages from our sponsors at Barnum and Bailey’s Circus to your regular showing of ludicrous bullshit.

The truck guy chases her back into the bathroom again, because most good movie heroines do nothing but cry and hide, you know? There she sees that apparently everyone killed by this Rest Stop Killer wrote very detailed graffiti on the walls about what happened to them – y’know, in case a shitty horror movie was ever made about it and the main character needed a hackneyed way to find out the killer has been doing this for years! Just picturing the victims crawling back into that bathroom stall and taking the time to write all that shit on the wall about what the killer did to them, is so funny it's insane to me.

Then she finds a naked girl in the closet of the bathroom. She talks to the girl and finds out her name is Tracy, and that she got tortured by the killer for an indeterminate amount of time. It’s eventually revealed that, gasp, she was a ghost the whole time and wasn't really there, and this was all a big ol’ red herring! Apparently she died in the ‘70s. It makes sense though, as she said she was going to see the Rolling Stones, and nobody in 2006 would really do that ever.

Oh, great, disgusting torture scenes; that's what horror's, I've talked too much about these scenes in recent reviews. Copy paste generic "torture scenes suck" rant here.

Then it’s time for the old cliché “cop shows up and gets killed” scene – we get the true rising star of the police academy coming to check out the rest stop and finding her panicking and scared. Oh, wait, you say that isn't quite what we get this time? Well, color me surprised! Not to spoil it, but what happens is actually even more ridiculous, however...

He gets her inside the guard cabin and asks her a series of way-too-slow questions that don’t accomplish anything – he COULD just take her away from there, given she’s obviously panicked and something is going on there, but nope. He has to go outside and talk to the guy in the truck that is CLEARLY exactly what Nicole was describing. But because the guy lies and says he’s just asking for directions, the cop does nothing.

Yeah, buddy, you just stand there at the site where a dangerous madman is potentially lurking and ask her dumb questions about what he looks like. I'm surprised he doesn't go into even more inane detail in these questions. I mean, why not go all the way? Have him ask her to describe the killer's hat, his boots and the tires on the truck he's driving! It's all adding up to nothing but a contrived scene where things go bad again, anyway.

… I just don’t get it. How did they let this guy be a cop at all? I mean, clearly since the girl is so scared, it at least merits some questioning, as well as taking Nicole away from the area to safety. But nope, he just lets the guy go. And so the killer is free to do wacky things like run the cop’s legs over, then back up and do it again, then back up and do it a third fucking time:

Well, personally I think the cop deserved that, so I’m good. It is pretty funny that the killer seems to agree – I don’t really know why else he would continually hurt THIS guy and not the girl he’s supposed to be hunting, anyway…speaking of which, why hasn't he captured her, again? He clearly has many opportunities to do so, and she's so dumb and helpless it's like hunting a wounded, retarded, blind animal. You'd think he would have just kidnapped and tortured her after this many hours of cat-and-mouse nonsense, but I guess that would make the movie too short!

So she drags Mr. Super Cop into the rest stop bathroom again, because it’s the stupidest option available – it’s closed in, there’s nowhere to run and it puts Mr. Super Cop in agonizing pain every time she lifts him up under his arms to move him. Clearly she’s as qualified for this as Roman Polanski is to run a girls’ boarding school. But I digress.

The cop then takes an agonizingly long time to complain about how he’s dying, and shows Nicole pictures of his family. He says his son wants to be like him – oh ho ho, buddy, I don’t think that’s a good idea. You’d better call him up in your last breaths of his life and tell him to follow his dreams as an escape artist/stuntman/alcoholic, because clearly that would be less dangerous than imitating YOU. This scene just goes on for way too fucking long – he clearly isn’t mortally wounded if he's still cogent and able to talk this long, so I don’t get all his ballyhooing about how he’s dying. And Nicole just sits there and cries while the camera does more close-ups; we haven’t had enough of that yet, please give us more!

"I could actually try to act, but that would be more than this movie deserves, so...have fun with nothing but endless crying scenes from me!" Seriously, I could do a whole other review-length post with nothing but the pictures of this girl crying - it's insane how much of that there is in this.
"Yeah, I'm really dying here; that's why I have time to make this over-five-minute scene with nothing but faux-emotional sappy drama! And yes, we're really doing this tired, trite scene again even though you've seen it in a dozen other films!" 

Then they finally get an idea to DO SOMETHING. Nicole sticks her finger out the door to try and unlock it (I guess the killer locked them inside while we were being bored to death by Super Cop’s amazing stories…), and then the killer comes up and bites her finger off:

Did he just have shark teeth implanted? Otherwise, no, I have no idea how he just bit her finger off with just his teeth.
It is astounding to me how many shots there are in this movie of her whiny ass crying. At least this time it's because of a legit reason - she got her finger bitten off. But if I didn't tell you that, you wouldn't be able to tell this scene apart from the other three dozen close-ups of her scrunched up face whining like a bratty child.

I personally think it’d be hilarious if this actually wasn’t the killer biting her finger off, but instead just some random homeless guy walking by. That’d be pretty funny.

More hilarity comes when the killer starts dousing the rest stop bathroom in gasoline and trying to blow it up. Not wanting to die in fire, the cop tells Nicole to take his gun and kill him right there. He tells her to put it in his mouth, of course, because THAT’S also the stupidest option available – seeing as how shooting someone in the mouth might not automatically kill them. Why not just tell her to shoot you in the forehead, where it’s much less likely to miss and leave you alive still? Which is what happens exactly – she puts the gun in his mouth and misses, leaving a big hole in his head, and has to shoot him a second time.

To go with the easy joke of "he just didn't have a brain," or to not go with that joke...tough choice....

While I think it would add to the comedy to have her keep missing and having to shoot this moron even more, the movie doesn’t have time to waste – yes, this movie is done wasting time now! So she goes out on the roof and does a Die Hard jump off the rest stop building just as it’s blowing up. Amazing. I’m sure this obvious Die Hard rip off will really add to the movie’s charm levels.

Yeah, somehow not as good as Bruce Willis jumping off a burning building with a firehose around his waist...I can't imagine why that is....

So after some more running around aimlessly in the woods, it’s daytime now, and she takes off her shirt to give the audience some more boob shots – I guess it’s been so long since the beginning of the movie’s nudity, the director figured he’d show some mercy and have more at the end. She goes outside, fills that Wild Turkey bottle with gas from a car, and then firebombs the fuck out of the killer’s truck. But he appears behind her, looking like a cartoon drawing of the Boogeyman when you were young, and presumably kills her:

Then later on, the rest stop is SUDDENLY full of people, including cops. Where was all this for the whole rest of the fucking movie? She was there for nearly a DAY, and almost NOBODY showed up! Did they just decide that after a dozen fucking people had gone missing there, NOW it was time to remodel the place and start making sure no one else died there? Some girl goes in the bathroom, hears Nicole’s ghost saying help me, and then we get this dumb shit to end the movie:

Oh, fuck off; what, did you use all your money on the amazing gore scenes from earlier and now you just have to resort to crappy third rate Halloween vampire makeup from the party store?

This was amazing. I really can’t believe this movie was serious at all. It being a complete joke is the only explanation. Nothing made sense – every single random plot element, from the overly long drinking and doing nothing montage to the crazy Winnebago people and the cop’s humorously overlong “dying” monologue, just served to pad the movie out unnecessarily. It’s literally just like the director was getting paid by how long his movie was, so he added in random bullshit that had nothing to do with the story – it’s hard to convey exactly how pointless so much of this film really is to the overall “serial killer tortures woman at rest stop” plot.

Not that THAT plot is really good at all either. It’s mostly just a generic “serial killer is CRAZY and gets his kicks TORTURING PEOPLE” thing, with added insanity by way of having the kills date way back to the 1970s – picturing a geriatric old man doing all this does make it funnier though. And isn’t that really the greatest thing Rest Stop can lay claim to? I mean, it is pretty fucking hilarious. I’ll take that any day over super-serious, pretentious ass-shit like The Collector or its even worse sequel. As these are truly standards to be proud of, Rest Stop can rest easy knowing that.

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