Thursday, April 30, 2015

Danger: Diabolik (1968)

Let's take a journey back in time to before any of us were born pretty much. It's a magical time full of psychedelic colors, svelte soundtracks and action movie heroes who slaughter people indiscriminately. One of those three things has survived today, anyway, but unlike your latest Liam Neeson flick, this one has a complete lack of any moral center. But on the other hand, it has lots of gold and money that the characters have sex on top of, so you can live vicariously through that.

Director: Mario Bava
Starring: John Phillip Law, Marisa Mell

Co-written with Michelle.

Directed by renowned schlock artist Mario Bava, this was based off a comic book from back in the day. It was a cheesy flick back in the day and seems even moreso now. And since this comic is apparently being remade again now (because we don't have enough comic book movies yet), I'm sure we'll get a modern remake full of dark grittiness and moral grey areas and all kinds of melodrama. But maybe, just maybe, if I review the original, I can help steer Hollywood in the right direction to make a better film.

This movie begins with an acknowledgement that cars are pretty cool: 

We don't need to see your driver's license test, guys.

And especially when they drive under bridges and stuff!

We also get some sweet swirling psychedelic colors for the opening, which go on longer than that time you were given a swirly in the school bathroom by that kid who smells like his drunk father's cigarettes.

Groovy, man.

Apparently main character Diabolik and his girlfriend, Eva Kant, are professional criminals who have stolen a lot of money from under the noses of the cops. A recurring theme throughout this thing is that the cops are apparently completely powerless to stop these two – like they're demigods and the cops are just sitting around twiddling their thumbs at the donut counter. It's pretty one sided.

As this was the 60s, I guess the fashion is a bit different. I'm not one to harp on little things like fashion from a different time, but some of these choices are starting to push it, man. Like, Eva really needs a shirt with a hole right where her boobs are? Really? That's kinda like a guy wearing pants with the zipper wide open all the time.

For that matter, it takes a hell of a woman to want to fuck a guy who looks like the bad guy from The Collector.

Diabolik and the girlfriend go back to their mysterious cave home, because why not, you know? If you're rich enough, fuck it, just forsake housing altogether and live in a fucking cave with futuristic gizmos enough to make Superman blush.

Look at this shit – they have enough money to just throw it everywhere on their weird rotating circle-bed thing and have sex underneath the giant piles of money. I get the idea this is what rich people fantasize about doing with the money they get from tax write-offs and stuff. It's what Congress members would do if they still had any sex drive.

They say money can't buy happiness, but...well, they're probably poor as shit if they say that and are just jealous!

Afterwards, they take showers in the best showers ever made, which is to say they are completely transparent boxes with no curtains, just weird ornaments hanging over where the boobs and face are:

Ah yes, Salvador Dali's shower designs finally got some good use...

So I guess the plot, if you're really paying attention instead of just gawking at all the bizarre shit they put in this cave, goes like this – this other crime lord guy makes a deal with the cops after they catch up to him, telling them he can deliver Diabolik, who is a much more wanted criminal. The cops are apparently so baffled that they can't find the guy despite him driving fancy cars and living in a goddamn futuristic cave – but I guess we can excuse them.

After all, they are trying their best. Like when they let this obvious serial killer and sexual deviant up on the podium to waggle his crazy eyes at everyone:

He's supposed to be some kind of political figure, but I think he killed the real official and is a crazy impostor.

Diabolik, meanwhile, is enjoying the spotlight so much that he can just sneak up on an entire press conference full of cops and spray them with laughing gas and somehow get away afterwards.

Eh, it WAS pre-9/11...we'll give it a pass.

I think these cops just secretly like being bested by this guy. Maybe it gives them an odd titillation and thrill and helps them sleep better at night knowing a challenge is out there, always right outside their reach. Only this is a challenge that sometimes likes to blow the shit out of your police cars and slaughter innocent policemen with throwing knives.

"Don't tell my family I got killed by a guy in a GIMP costume!"
"No promises!"

Meanwhile, the other crime lord is flying on a plane with his henchmen, and when one of them doesn't agree with him, he opens up a trap door right where the guy is standing and lets him fall to his death. And I think that's great, because more planes need trap doors. It's a lost art.

But enough of that nonsense. Let's have a scene now where Diabolik stretches out a long role of mirrored screen so the oncoming cars will see it and crash into it because their headlights blind them, then go careening off a cliff to fiery, horrific deaths.

If this brutal violence for no reason bothers you, just pretend the guys who died were child molesters. Did that make it easier to swallow their deaths? I think it did.

That should be a good palette cleanser from these scenes that didn't have Diabolik in them!

Diabolik breaks into a castle to take some pictures and really just kind of fuck with the cops some more. He's also trying to steal a necklace for Eva, which he does very easily, because this place leaves its valuables on a platter for any thief to take. Like almost every scene in this movie, there are just some things that don't make sense. There's a “secret” security camera hidden inside of a painting. It's instantly noticeable, because when I think of terrible security, I think of defacing classic works of art.

There are also a bunch of guys dressed as Revolutionary War soldiers hunting Diabolik right alongside the cops, because again, why the fuck not? It makes perfect sense to me.

The powdered wigs help them aim better.

Diabolik himself has chosen a fitting outfit – he's dressed like a sperm as he crawls up walls and takes pictures inside fancy rooms.

I will also accept 'KKK ninja.'

Then he ditches the suit so the cops go chasing after that while he hides, presumably naked, up on the roof of this castle. Good job, Diabolik. They'll never notice a naked man wandering around their weird castle place. But then again, even though that was sarcasm, somehow it's true and they really won't ever notice him.

Meanwhile, some goons working for that crime boss kidnap Eva while she's at this spa place and take her away. They use her as leverage against Diabolik, forcing him to give himself up. He agrees, but then throws himself along with the crime lord out of that conveniently placed trap door in the plane. They go free-falling through the air like sacks of potatoes dropped from the sky, landing right where they need to be to find Eva – who is tied to a bed and getting burned with cigarettes by her captor.

There truly is no middle ground between damsel in distress and hot kick ass "Black Widow" type chick with no personality. It's just a matter of which kind of sexism you prefer more.

To let Eva get away, Diabolik pretends to be dead by taking a pill. He gets taken to the morgue and presumed dead while apparently every member of the media comes to see. Eva somehow poses as a nurse and gets him out of there.

They go back to Diabolik's cave and sit in a pool while Diabolik puts priceless gemstones all over Eva's breasts and shoulders. Not to echo a sentiment done too many times already, but again – why the fuck not? You got that much money and jewels, hire a girl with big tits and put them all over her. I'd do it too if I was that shamelessly wealthy.

They also blow up a bunch of buildings, which is totally reprehensible and bad, until they hit this one:

In their infinite wisdom, the cops decide to move a shitload of gold right now – right after the notorious unstoppable thieves who have proven they can fuck you over just for fun escaped being dead. Yeah. I'm sure THIS won't backfire at all, right? I'm sure that gold will get to its right place without any incident. That's why they're showing this part in the movie – to show how effortlessly the authorities can move gold without it getting stolen!

Couldn't just keep it in one place for a while, huh guys?

Also, get this – they melt it down and put it inside of some kind of indestructible container. Bit overkill when you know nothing bad is gonna happen and this gold isn't gonna get stolen at all, guys. Come on. Have some faith in yourselves.

Big surprise, Diabolik and Eva manage to steal the gold. Through a complex sequence of events involving seducing truck drivers and scuba diving, they get the gold back to their cave. The cops find the cave NOW of course, because it's the climax of the film. A shoot out ensues, in which the gold explodes and covers Diabolik. The film ends with him alive and encased in gold.

Which I'm sure, despite the fact that he can no longer move, eat or drink anything, makes him happy – the guy's lust for wealth has finally led him to its logical conclusion. This is what he deserved all along.

This movie is pretty bonkers and over the top, but it's not bad for all that, and it remains entertaining with no real plotholes. It's a crazy, wild and bizarre movie from a crazy, wild, bizarre time. The action is fun and the characters are enjoyably insane. It's also very colorful and fast paced and it doesn't take itself all that seriously.

Really, a lot of modern action flicks like John Wick and The Equalizer just glorify revenge and make it too glamorous looking. They goad us to root for unstoppable killing machines and make us not care about how many random goons die at their hands who didn't deserve to. Most action movies do that in some measure, but the ones I'm talking about are worse because they try and make it a moral thing. They want you to root for these killing machines because they're doing it for a good reason. So, you know, that makes mass murder okay.

The random thugs killed in a movie like John Wick are made to look as despicable and one-dimensionally evil as possible. They don't have any humanity to them on purpose, because they aren't real characters – they're tools used to elicit a cheap emotional response. The movie isn't terrible or anything, but the way it's written just doesn't lend any kind of depth to the revenge storyline. It comes off as hackneyed and morally bent, and rather than a compelling story it's mostly just a silly good versus evil cartoon. Since the movie was not going for that, the effect is dampened a bit.

At least in movies like Die Hard where the main character kills a lot of people, he's doing it because they attacked the building he was in first. And he's also not invincible, and really struggles like an underdog to save everyone in the building. In John Wick and The Equalizer, the main dudes are just completely immortal badasses who hunt down their prey like serial killers. But again, it's okay, because they're doing it for the right reason. Right?

Danger: Diabolik forsakes all of this. It doesn't try to have a moral at all. The main character just kills whoever the hell he wants, with no hesitation, and then never thinks about it again. It's just a goofy action flick, and I love it for that. I guess if you take one thing away from this, well, uh...if you can get rich off stealing from people, do it. The rewards are pretty fucking sweet.

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cinema Freaks LIVE: Unfriended (2015)

Welcome to our first sloppy attempt at doing an audio review of Unfriended. You can listen above for me and Michelle and our friend Mercedes talking about this film, but I'll also talk about it a bit down here as well - you know, for you poor saps looking at this in a cubicle at work or some shit. There are definite spoilers in the video and in this review, so if you really want to see this, don't read or listen to this yet.

This movie is getting a shitload of attention for being a found footage horror movie set all on Skype. The basic story is as follows: cyberbullied girl kills herself, then comes back for revenge on all the kids who had a part in bullying her through making a video and telling her to kill herself, etc. Conveniently all of them are online and chatting on Skype exactly when she decides to enact this revenge.

The title and plot sound like an SNL skit more than a serious movie. Unfriended? Really? But the actual movie, in practice, isn't too bad or anything. I've certainly seen worse found footage films, and at least this one is putting a new, unique spin on things. The film IS set only on Skype and only in these characters' rooms - a lot of movies like this tend to stretch it and have characters using their webcams while walking outside, or in any random room they happen to be in, and that isn't really how we act in real life. Not most of us, anyway...

The acting is actually surprisingly good, and you can believe these people as shitty, petty, cat fighting high school cliques who keep stabbing one another in the back. They're not good characters for the most part, but they're believable for this story at least. You know, unless you wanted people who actually looked high school aged. These people were either held back several times in school and have now become bitter as a result of a perpetual loop of high school clique (which would explain a lot), or they're actors in their 30s. Pick your own answer.

Plotwise it's pretty basic; just an anti-bullying story and nothing else. It's not done with any particular subtlety. One of the main things that really irritated me about this was how silly all the reveals were that all these characters had done bad stuff to the dead girl. Like they kept denying it and shit and then the ghost would prod some more, they would scream and cry about how sorry they were, and then they would die. This happened over and over again, and we were supposed to be surprised when one of them had done something bad - but after a while it was just stale. Too many long scenes of the characters just screaming at each other and crying gets grating in general. My ears!

Overall it really is more of a funny movie than anything scary. A few of the deaths aren't bad, but really with this set up, over Skype and all, it's near impossible to make a death scene anything less than ridiculous. The movie has fun with the deaths though, and doesn't try to get too supernatural on you or anything. It's more worth seeing for the visual style than the story - the way the film uses the computer desktop and the mouse cursors and Skype text chatting to convey story and character is pretty interesting and well done. Even when the film itself can drag or get too irritating to listen to, the visual style was obviously well thought out and constructed.

If you already hate the premise and don't want to be impressed, well, you'll hate the movie. But if you're like us and actually want to see what the fuck they could possibly do with a Skype horror film, check it out, it's worth your time for at least that one viewing. All I gotta say is, I'm staying off Skype next time I decide to humiliate someone to the point of suicide.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Why Found Footage Horror Can Work

Hey guys! Let's go buy a video camera so we can film everything!

Awesome. Make sure to film awkward interactions with your family and friends. After all, anyone who gets a video camera is suddenly overcome with a childish, two-year-old-style desire to play with it 24/7 and film every little fucking thing.

We might run into some bad, scary stuff later, but it's okay. That comes with the territory of owning a video camera these days. When you're running away from whatever Eldritch demon you somehow conjured up with your own tomfoolery, you won't drop the camera at all. You won't miss a goddamn thing. And even if you die during your chase, your camera will be found by magical film-fairies who will edit the footage together in a convincing manner AND slap a "Based on a True Story" title card before it all, as if anticipating a major theatrical release. That makes it super real. So real, you guys.

I laid on the sarcasm pretty thick there, but you get what I mean – those are the worst things about found footage films. I've seen a lot of dumb movies that do this shit. I used to be really dead set against this whole style, and it made me miss out on the most interesting things about movies like Paranormal Activity. Recently I've had a kind of change of heart on these kinds of movies – there are still things wrong with them, yeah, but also plenty of ways to do it right.

I've said in the past that these found footage shaky cam movies are a product of who we are as a people right now, and it's true. We are millennials, as much as I personally hate that term after reading one too many think pieces about how we're all lazy fucks, and one thing we do differently than other generations is recording ourselves.

Whether it's Facebook, Twitter or Tinder, we love using the Internet to show off what we find unique about ourselves or how we're feeling. We put ourselves at center stage at all times. These horror films take that and put a morbid twist on it, putting characters at center stage, filming themselves, even as they're dying or coming face to face with horror. That's fine because everyone is like that deep down – we all sorta view ourselves as the main characters of our own films. I don't think that's specific to just millennials.

The point is, this is a trick that can be done well. There are a lot of films like The Devil Inside, Apartment 143, The Taking of Deborah Logan, the last two V/H/S films and plenty of others that do it wrong – they're just shitty scripts and shitty movies, with little creativity or nuance. The camera gimmick is stretched thin in all of them and there isn't enough quality there otherwise to make a difference.

But every once in a while … you get a really good one. People, I'm talking about The Houses October Built.

Director: Bobby Roe
Starring: Brandy Shaefer, Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Mikey Roe, Jeff Larson

I guess it's a good thing found footage has kinda been fading out of style recently in favor of artier flicks like Starry Eyes and It Follows, because now we can distinguish The Houses October Built as the kick ass movie that it is. This is a pretty stripped down story about a bunch of friends going on a road trip to do a bunch of haunted houses. As a self-professed lover of haunted houses myself, I was all over this shit.

It's just a well done movie. The dialogue feels realistic and you get to like the characters, who really just act like regular people you'd see at your job or at a local band's show or whatever else. That takes some talent to do.

The scares come slow and creepy. You really get a sense for the atmosphere at these haunted houses, which I understand were all real places the cast members went and filmed interviews at. It's playful ambiance, and transitions almost seamlessly into the scary bits through little, eerie moments here and there. The pacing is very good in this. When the scary shit does start happening like a landslide, it feels natural and you do actually feel as claustrophobic as these characters, trapped in horrible places.

Since the topic of this article is the found footage, well, the handheld camera perspective actually works for the movie. You get a sense of being right there with these people. The interviews with haunted house cast members are also cool and add a spice to it that a lot of these movies miss – very individual.

I guess some of the scenes on their RV feel a bit silly when they constantly have the camera on, like even at breakfast. Maybe a better idea would be having those parts as a normal movie without the camera, but I guess for that 'realistic' effect, it's not too bad - still better than the ways some movies do it, mostly due to the realism of the dialogue and how much you end up liking these people.

That's really a minor thing though, and overall there are comparatively few moments that feel really forced or silly with the camera – certainly no Paranormal Activity moments where they grab the fucking camera before going to see if someone needs help. And there are actually a few times later on when they do turn the camera off when they're asked to for secret haunted house business. That's really something more of these movies should try – it leaves the imagination wanting more and it's actually realistic. Most of the time, people in real life aren't gonna want you filming everything.

The really scary moments at the end feel extra seedy, dank and creepy as fuck with the low-res camera lens and the realistic audio, so points for that.

People will have mixed reactions to this, and if you don't like American haunted houses and that kind of shit, you might not get it. But I think it's one of the better movies of its style out there. It's on Netflix, so you can go watch it right now. You know, unless you don't have Netflix or something like that. In that case, I guess you're fucked. Sorry.

Found footage horror isn't dying out yet, and I actually think they're getting better now than they were in the mid-to-late 2000s. This one is my favorite I've seen recently, but other ones like Grave Encounters and The Den, despite having problems, are certainly worth a cursory view if nothing else. So don't write off the style yet even if you hated all of these movies I've mentioned. It might come out with something that interests you eventually; you never know.

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

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Animal (2014)

Animal is a 2014 movie about a bunch of kids in the woods getting chased by an animal. Oh wait, no it isn't. It's about a bunch of kids in the woods getting chased by some kind of horrific unexplained abomination of mankind and nature alike. Great false advertising, guys!

Director: Brett Simmons
Starring: Keke Palmer, Jeremy Sumpter, Elizabeth Gillies

Co-written with Michelle.

We start this off with a bunch of annoying idiots in a car going for a hiking trip. You might be saying, hey there Cinema Freaks, why disparage these kindred souls so harshly right out of the gate? You never know. They could be upstanding, fine youths! Give them a chance, at least the morsel of a chance!

Well, oddly cultured sounding contrarian strawman that I just made up, I'll give you an example of what this movie thinks is appropriate to introduce us to the characters with – this one gay guy, Sean, puts his headphones on, music blaring full blast, and the others have to shout at the top of their lungs to talk to him. Because I guess this movie thinks normal human beings wouldn't just turn off the fucking music.

Sigh. I miss Rest Stop 2's idea of what a road trip looks like - you know, riding in two separate cars and the one guy playing with dinosaur toys on the dashboard. That's still better than this.

There's also Alissa and Matt Рa fairly new couple I gather, who spend most of their time spouting hollow clich̩ jokes about gender and how girls don't usually like to go camping. Wonderful, I guess we're operating in the 1950s mentality again, like sadly a lot of these movies seem to. Alissa is also played by former Disney star Keke Palmer, and I really think this movie would be better if it had more Disney-style random song and dance break-outs.

"How did you end up in this movie if you used to be a Disney star?"
"Hey, a job's a job!"

Then they get lost and the brother and sister in the group have a huge shouting match about getting lost. Instead of actually just turning around and going back the way they came, they stand in one place and shout about it until the sun goes down. You guys truly are the greatest at hiking. I'm glad we trusted you to keep the spirit of the American adventurer alive. Oh wait, we never did that. Whew!

"Anybody else tired of these forced scenes at the beginning of a horror film yet that are really just filler to make the movie feature-length?"
"No, not at all! MORE PLEASE!"

Before I forget, I might as well mention the very forced subplot that only lasts through the first ten minutes about the fact that a lot of America's forests are being torn down. Yes, they actually give the one “leader Alpha male” dude, Jeff, a bunch of lines about how he used to come to this forest as a kid and now they're about to destroy it. Which, after seeing the later parts of this movie with bloodthirsty man-eating monsters in the forest, is probably a good thing. Burn those fucking forests to the ground!

But yeah, that plot never comes up again, which I just love and think is the best thing ever.

They get found by the monster pretty easily, and somehow the strongest and most fit guy dies first, which will happen way too often in this movie. I guess the real way to survive is being a total wimp.

Gore in a horror movie - always best when it's too shaky and close-up to actually see shit.

The monster, content enough to snack on that guy, lets the rest of them go, and they find a random cabin in the woods to hang out at. There are a few others around, a husband and wife couple, Carl and Vicky, and this guy Douglas, whose only job is to bitch and moan and act like HE knows what's best to survive, even though he hasn't survived so much as just hidden in the cabin with the rest of them.

Yes – this character is the most obnoxious in the entire movie, which is a hard feat. For most of the first twenty minutes we see him, he does nothing but condescendingly sneer at their suggestions of what to do, while offering none of his own. His voice is too sexy for a guy this annoying. He should have a really whiny, grating voice like Urkel gurgling broken glass. That would more befit his character I think.

But oh well, at least they're safe in that weird house. Oh wait, no, they're not – the monster is able to get inside through some random room upstairs.

"I was originally in here to read my copy of Moby Dick, which I've been slacking off on recently and need to get back to. But now that the camera is on me, I'M A BLOODTHIRSTY KILLING MACHINE!"

It doesn't come out and kill them in the main part of the house, though – it just breaks into those rooms and waits for them there. I guess it's a very considerate monster; it just waits until the camera is on it to actually do anything. I love the one scene where they're struggling to hold the door up so the monster can't get in, and Carl tells Matt, “Go, I can hold it!” Because these movies love stupid irony, he immediately gets slashed on the arm by the monster. Probably even worse things would have happened too, if they didn't act quickly afterward - so, go you guys. You're the best.

Their next idea is to go hang around outside with Carl standing around acting like bait while Matt tries to run and escape. It backfires, though, when Matt gets killed almost instantly. Gee, maybe it would have been a better idea to have more than one guy running alone in an unfamiliar area where a monster's lurking. Nah, never mind; that's a terrible fucking idea. I should be ashamed.

Then Douglas tries to lock the other two survivors – Sean and Carl – out of the house. The women try to stop him, but he is stronger then them and has more of a penchant for screaming about how he's the only one who knows how to survive. Never mind that if he really knew how to survive, they wouldn't be losing people left and right and stuck in a cabin hiding, but whatever, don't tell him that. He's insecure about it.

"Isn't it a bit unrealistic for you to be this one dimensionally douchey and awful?"
"NO! I'm the unlikable asshole of the movie! I HAVE NO OTHER CHARACTER!"

Anyway, the two guys he said were hopeless and couldn't get back in without the monster coming in, end up getting back in just fine without a scratch on them. Wow. It's exactly an 180 degree opposite from what you said would happen, you dick. You're the worst leader ever.

So apparently then it's time for Sharing Hour, where Sean tearfully reveals that he and Jeff were having a gay affair together. It's largely a pointless scene and never comes up again. But if we're sharing secrets, OK then, I'll join in. Huddle closer, you guys. I don't want anyone to hear this...

...Okay, is the coast clear? Lean in real close and I'll tell you a secret: I paused the movie during this scene and instead made an ice sculpture of Vladimir Putin in my yard. It was pointless and retarded, but still better than this scene, and probably more patriotic, too.

"Non sequitur outburst!"
"Great! I'm sure you'll live 'til the end of the movie!"

Then we get the reveal that Mandy is pregnant! Why the fuck wouldn't she be? I mean, it's a shitty horror movie. Of course someone is secretly pregnant. That is the only way to create drama, right?

They go down in the basement after finding out the one guy is still alive down there, somehow, despite being so mauled he can't move. I guess he had the willpower to conveniently find his way into the basement and not the fucking front door. Selective strength! It's a thing, really.

Unfortunately for them, the monster was down there in the basement too! He was just waiting for the camera to pan to him! Again, what a nice monster. As long as you're trying to go about your business and the camera isn't in his face, he'll just save his energy for the next time it is, and then he'll show off. But because they try to carry the wounded dude up the stairs, the only able-bodied dude who isn't a complete psychopath, Carl, has to get behind and carry the legs. Then the monster decides it's kosher to kill him, because again, the strongest guys in this movie are apparently the easiest targets.

Upstairs, Matt gets out a few last words, and then the psycho from before, Douglas, bashes his brains in with a baseball bat to feed him to the monster outside – because now, I guess THAT'S the plan. He shouts a lot about how he's the only one living in the real world, and it's all very boring until that old irony strikes again and he gets killed by the monster immediately, as if the monster just really wanted to kill someone right after they said such asinine dialogue. Eh, fuck it. I'm on the monster's side now.

"Maybe I shouldn't have stood conveniently by the door for the last part of my self indulgent crazy douchebag monologue! The monster has douchebag-seeking powers!"

Oh, and they kill the monster with fire. Yes – that's really all it would have taken this whole ridiculous time.

The two hottest chicks in the group, Mandy and Alissa, survive, and run outside only for Alissa, who is the more interesting character, to get killed unceremoniously. Because she was the one who wasn't pregnant. Also, it's revealed there are TWO of the monsters! Shock and awe! Maybe you should make them wear different colored ribbons so we can tell them apart next time.

Mandy runs over the other monster with the jeep they came in, and then as she drives away to presumably live in a room indoors for the rest of her life and never come out. Then we get a shot of a third monster that comes and looks at the body of the second one.

Uh, okay, somebody has to raise the question – how did nobody ever discover these monsters? Wouldn't a bunch of man-eating, rabid beasts of questionable origin turn a few heads at least? They're not THAT fucking far from civilization if two different groups of people came out there within a few days of each other. Or maybe they just got there from some science experiment and-or alien invasion. Great. Except that's not in the movie, like at all. If I have to make up random shit that you never even came close to implying let alone actually explaining, your movie is a bit lacking.

Why did the monster just do nothing conveniently when standing in a room until everyone else notices it? That's the stupidest thing ever. The characters make no sense and are either unremarkable or made unlikable later on through poor decision making. The movie tries at drama, but really isn't terribly good at it – mostly just throwing things like the pregnancy subplot or the impressively random gay romance in for one scene and then never talking about them again.

The cinematography can be okay at times, and there are worse movies out there, but this still isn't very good. Really, the film is just notable because it tried to shoehorn in a pro-environmental message in the beginning and then forgot about it – and worse, in the end, shot itself in the foot completely by showing how many bloodthirsty monsters are in that goddamn forest they wanted to save so bad. Somehow, I doubt you'll convince the big heartless corporations not to bulldoze that place and build a Walmart instead.

So really, this is the sequel to Animal:

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

Friday, April 10, 2015

Event Horizon (1997)

With all these movies offering cautionary tales about the bad things that happen when you go into uncharted deep space in search of some abandoned space ship, I really think the astronauts of the future will have it pretty easy. When they're thinking about going out to some bum-fuck barren stretch of starry wasteland to rescue the no doubt alien-infested carcass of their lost ship...they'll probably reconsider. Especially with movies like this one as part of their space training curriculum.

Director: Paul Anderson
Starring: Sam Neill, Laurence Fishburne

Co-written with Michelle.

Event Horizon is from the pits of the 90s and made by the guy who did Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat, so you know it's good. It's a sort of splattershot mix of a low-rent Alien, a low-rent The Shining and gore from the Hellraiser series, put together with the craftsmanship of a guy with two broken hands trying to fix your porch.

The film starts off innocuously enough, with some incredibly boring opening credit scenes. Oh yeah, you really padded out the length of the film to make it look longer than it is!

The characters are kind of a mish-mash of various inoffensive stereotypes that, while they don't irritate me, do kinda come off like a checklist of the various types of people that have to be on every spaceship in the future – the obligatory super serious captain guy and of course one goofy comic relief guy, at least one woman who has some perfunctory emotional issues that cripple her ability to do her job and a mechanic guy who does nothing but talk about how horny he is.

I guess none of the characters are bad – they're mostly just bland, and so stock and predictable that it really feels like they were just thrown in there because this same set of characters HAS to be on every fucking space ship ever. The only differences between most of these characters is how many lines of soulless exposition they're allowed to spout out like a broken fountain.

Oh, yeah, you better believe there's a shitload of exposition in this movie. This whole thing is knee-fucking-deep in the kind of exposition you can only get from the thriller genre's awkward late-90s, early-2000s phase where there couldn't really be any fun or good cheer in these movies – only dramatic explanations of the plot. I get the idea that if Event Horizon tried to smile, it would crack into a million ceramic shards of its former self. Its idea of fun is probably reading help manuals for lawn mowers.

Okay, so I've said there's a lot of exposition. So what's the plot? They're going out to find this ship called Event Horizon which disappeared years ago, but now has come up again on their radars. Sam Neill's character tells them all of this when they get there, which takes a long time and is broken up by seemingly everyone else there interrupting him every other sentence. That's really all we get in terms of dialogue – people interrupting each other. It's almost like being at a really shitty Thanksgiving dinner, which is really something to strive for in your movie's dialogue!

Furthermore, why are they just now learning what the mission is? They really didn't know any of this shit before? Either the company they work for is just super anal-retentive about information, or they're just the kinds of people who hate asking questions before going billions of miles into space...either way, it's stupid. Oh, and apparently the government lied about what happened to this ship – amazing, a government lying about something? What kind of twists will this movie pull out next?

They find the ship instantly, and normally I'd be more complementary of them for completing their mission, buuuuut finding a ship ten times the size of yours isn't really THAT impressive. Should I make a Malaysian Airlines/CNN joke, or will that not make sense in a year or so?

"How did we lose this big-ass ship again?"
"Well, the navigator was preoccupied by sleeping with the hot chick who served the coffee at the space base, and..."

They get on the ship and it takes about five seconds before their young astronaut character finds a horrific abomination on all of mankind that threatens to kill them all:

"Maybe if we had painted this ship in other colors besides ominous blues and dark grays, we wouldn't have this problem."

Despite this, Neill acts indignant and whiny when the captain, played by Laurence Fishburne, tells him they're shutting down the room with that hellish otherworldly portal-machine thing in it and nobody else can go in there.

"Aw, what's the big deal? It's just an insane hell-portal to another dimension that could kill us all! You guys are buzzkills, man."

The characters aren't really very good in this, as the writing seems to think showing us the fact that they had relationships on Earth that they left behind is enough. Which really isn't a very inspired choice to make. Everyone who does something like this in a movie always leaves someone on Earth behind that they miss. You need more than just that. It's like saying, “yeah, her favorite color is blue,” and then going okay, that's good enough for character development!

But I do admire your penchant for putting boils on the legs of children:

And apparently Neill just has a fetish for his wife wearing red eyes, because that's what he sees in his visions.

As the movie goes on and more weird things happen, the characters start to distrust each other and show this through extended, overblown screaming matches, like they do in every other shitty movie. Guys, drama isn't created when you raise your voices high enough to lose them for the next 12 hours.

Later on, we get more “family drama” as the one lady who misses her son sees an illusion of him and tries to go to him – unfortunately for her, there's a giant hole in the floor for some unknown reason that she easily could have seen. Why is there a giant hole there? Space and stuff! Technology! Who cares! But seriously, she should have seen that shit. I don't know how good of a mother you are if you can't see giant gaping holes where you can fall to your death.

It's good that she's separated from her kid on this ship, because for one, apparently there are giant holes everywhere to fall into. And two, she can't see any of them. Awesome.

Meanwhile, Neill continues to act shifty, claiming he doesn't know what the deal with the ship was. Though later on, it's revealed that the ship went to Hell or something and that's why it disappeared. It also now has its own brain, or some shit like that. I'm glad it has its own brain and can think endlessly about taking people to Hell with it now, or whatever the story is; that's a relief. I was worried I was never gonna see that in a movie. Can it also play dead?

Neill's character goes crazy, murders a few people and stabs out his own eyes. He comes out looking like he got in a fight with a Gillette Blue blade.

It's like if a werewolf cut himself shaving.

Oh, and he can also show Fishburne some visions of his crewmates getting tortured in hell, because why not spoil the surprise, you asshole?

Hey, bucko, I didn't want to see the end of this. Now I won't be surprised when it happens!

He fights Fishburne and dies. Fishburne and the other survivors all shout a lot more while explosions go on, so you know it's serious. They find a way to get off the ship that they never considered before – by blowing up most of it and escaping in the one part of it that is conveniently safe and will allow them to do that!

And the remains of the ship get sucked into the anus of Neptune.

Wow. They could have done that when their crew was all still alive and before Neill went crazy, but I guess that wouldn't have been dramatic enough. Also there's no way to make sure the evil of the ship is really gone – you know, except for the fact that we mercifully got no sequels to this.

We end on a fake-out scare of the one lady waking up from sleep in the ship to rescuers coming in, only one of the rescuers turns out to be Neill with the scarred face again! Shock and awe!

"Surprise! I gotcha, didn't I?"

Except it's just a dream and the movie ends on the real rescuers comforting her. Kinda anticlimactic.

I used to like this pretty well, but after rewatching, it really just didn't hold up. The ideas are interesting – the whole cosmic occult thing is kinda cool, and the visuals aren't bad or anything. But in practice, there's just nothing interesting to this. There's a dump truck load of exposition, and then people start dying. It's Point A to Point B with very little deviation from the path and no real character or plot that isn't strictly generic and could have been made by anyone else.

It is better than other space-horror movies like Jason X or Hellraiser: Bloodline, though, which is a standard you can feel comfortable in when you lower your actual standards enough to buy this from the Walmart discount movie bin to watch while drunk off your ass.

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