Monday, July 27, 2015

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

This week, to celebrate a review that's been years in the making, my friend Tony and I did a podcast talking about our history with this movie and what we thought about it. Check it out:

William Shakespeare is always a tough one to tackle when making a movie, because there are so many things that can go wrong. You really just need the best actors and the best understanding of drama possible, because otherwise you could end up churning out something rather misguided or silly.

And when you don't feel like even trying, you can always just make something like Romeo + Juliet.

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes

Co-written with Tony and Michelle.

Yes, this is the 1996 Baz Luhrmann film that some people like and other people wonder why those people won't share their illegal drugs. Seriously, guys, it's bad. I respect any opinions to the contrary, and I know it won a lot of awards, but there's no mincing words or dancing around the point here. This is a bad movie.

We start off with a TV news report talking about the Capulets and the Montagues in their ongoing strife in a big city. I guess the idea is kind of clever, but it's just done in such a goofy, cartoonish way. Hearing Shakespearean dialogue coming out of a bunch of news anchors in suits on a TV screen just doesn't fit. It's like wearing sandals with socks.

And the directing is just so god-awful. Everything is done in sped-up cartoony pace, with lots of exaggerated movements and over the top flamboyance. It's annoying as shit. Everything happens super fast and there's just no room for the film to breathe. Like, really, even before the characters actually come in – you get tons of quick shots of the city, and things burning, aerial shots that are supposed to represent the chaos between the two families.

Maybe they'll report on that King Lear fellow next town over, too, and his familial drama.

You'd think the National Guard would step in, seeing as this IS supposed to be modern times and in the United States, and these families are seemingly wreaking havoc on a whole entire big city. But I guess that wasn't important – fuck actually doing work with the stupid ideas and themes you came up with, right? "It's an artistic decision" isn't a catch-all for bullshit, guys.

And, apparently, this is now a Full House style sitcom. Because the movie can't make up its mind on fucking anything.

The very first actual scene is perpetual bad movie machine John Leguizamo as Tybalt and a bunch of other idiots as the Montagues, fighting at a gas station. I bet Shakespeare envisioned his classic work this way when writing it – idiots with Hawaiian shirts and dyed pink hair and cowboy boots fighting with guns and blowing up cars in the middle of a crowded traffic hour. THAT'S the Shakespeare I know and love!

This isn't a fucking ballet class. In real life you'd have been shot by now.

I think I finally know the real problem with these sorts of scenes. In the original story, yeah, it was two packs of young, testosterone-filled morons fighting in the streets. Fine. But you're updating this to the modern day. It really doesn't make sense to have them fighting and shooting guns at each other in the middle of a crowded city. In any modern society, they would be stopped and arrested for this. Why not just have them meet on a sidewalk somewhere in some shitty neighborhood and fight there? There's just no need for this much theatrics.

You're making Skittles look like they're all black and grey. Jesus Christ.

The more and more I watch, the more I'm convinced Luhrmann put all this over the top wackiness in there because he thought the audience would be bored by the dialogue, and so he wanted to make it so grotesquely goofy that the Looney Tunes' conflicts look like Casablanca in comparison.

Leguizamo's acting in this is so bad you can see it from outer space. The aliens are laughing at us, and this performance is why they haven't made contact yet. Every scene he's in, he's screaming, doing weird motions with his eyebrows, baring his teeth like a rabid dog, and dancing around everywhere. His wardrobe seems to be a collection of clown clothes picked out by a blind person.

The only love of Leguizamo's life...

So then we get Romeo, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Give him credit, he tries – but him exchanging Shakespeare's beautifully written dialogue about longing for young love while hanging with a bunch of dude-bros with surfer haircuts and Hawaiian shirts in a pool hall is fucking eye-gouging, ear-raping terrible.

Meanwhile, Juliet, played by Claire Danes, is in her house while they're getting ready for a party. She's probably one of the better actresses in this, but her mother played by Diane Venora is probably the worst performance in the movie (well, next to Leguizamo). It probably wasn't even her fault – I blame whoever directed her to emote every line like a woman who was just in a car crash and is screaming for the medics to help her.

Is this shot pandering to the dentists in the audience? Eugh.

Every fucking line, she's screaming her head off. Was it supposed to be funny? Because it's not, unless you just think really loud things blaring in your face are funny. In that case, I have another recommendation for you which I am sure you will also find hysterical:

So they go to a party, where Mercutio (Harold Perrineau) is dressed in drag as a disco ball, apparently, and goes into a whole song and dance about...well, I don't really know, as frankly I'm too distracted by the annoying, garish visuals to pay attention to what they're saying.

This is a carefully crafted assault on our collective minds...

I get it, they're trying to go for spectacle here, fast and entertaining and colorful – but this is way, waaaay over the top. Shakespearean theater is no stranger to silly comedy, but what you did here was like someone bringing a mechanic a car and telling him to polish up the exterior and change the tires, and he instead adds big wheels with flashing strobe lights, paints flames on the sides and puts a rocket launcher to the top.

Also, why is there a guy in an astronaut costume at this party? I guess it's a costume party, so anything goes, but seriously, doesn't that just seem slightly out of place? Or maybe that one was just between the lines in the original play.

Juliet always dreamed of being with a man who wears adult diapers.

Romeo meets Juliet, and they go through the whole routine, falling in love faster than a celebrity can backpedal after the media catches them saying racist things. It's a decent scene, as whenever the camera is just on these two, the movie is at least kind of tolerable. And by that I mean it isn't a hyperactive blast of rainbow-colored annoyance, so that's good at least.

Ew, cooties. Gross.

But alas, they find out they're from warring families, so they can't be together. In the original play this made sense, as it was hundreds of years ago and kids their age had little control over their lives. But in a big modern city like this movie is set in? Shit, man – these kids would be running away, smoking blunts in a hotel room and probably be pregnant in as much time as the movie takes place, if this were real life.

The movie kind of blathers on for a while, and we get a scene where the two of them horsing around in a pool. I love the scene where there's actually a security guard for the Capulets' mansion dressed up in regular clothes and watching a security cam, and he comes out and checks on Juliet after hearing them fall into the pool.

"I should probably retire, but being a security guard is fun because I don't have to do any work!"
The point where she learns she can get away with anything with just a smile...

He sees her for a split second and she gives him a thumbs up, so I guess that's OK – I mean, maybe she's just the type of person who falls into pools all the time. No point in checking to make sure she isn't being held hostage at gunpoint and being forced to pretend she's OK, right?

Romeo then goes to a priest and asks him how he can marry Juliet. The priest doesn't think to tell him it's a stupid idea – he just escalates the situation, presumably because he is a sick man who likes to play with peoples' lives.

"Father, shouldn't we talk him out of this crazy idea and be rational?"
"Ssshhhh... I want to see where this trainwreck goes."

But luckily, before that can come to fruition, Mercutio is brutally murdered by Tybalt. Oh, did I say luckily? I, uh, misspoke. I meant it's very tragic. Ahem. Yes. He was an annoying man who didn't deserve to know what, I'm no good at eulogies. I just can't put my whole self into it.

Romeo then chases down Tybalt in the rain and kills him, too – it's another awful, wretched scene full of bad directing, with lots of super fast cuts that make you more nauseous than that rickety old carnival ride that made you puke on your date last year after you ate a chili dog. Incidentally, this movie is also the number one cause of people puking on their dates when watching it.


Because of this, the judge of the court banishes Romeo from the city, which is something a lot of judges do. I remember when Casey Anthony was on trial and then they banished her from Florida afterward. That was an intense day.

Juliet's family then forces her to get married to some doofus who didn't have any important lines in the movie. Still hopeful that Leonardo DiCaprio will win an Oscar back in 1996, she rebels and runs away from her family. There's also an awful, repugnant scene of her father (Paul Sorvino) screaming at her for disobeying him. Wow, an angry father taking out his insecurities on a daughter who won't obey him? Please, movie, dazzle us with more of your brilliantly original scenes!

Juliet then goes to that priest from before, and threatens to commit suicide if she has to marry that other guy. She also points a gun at the priest, which was the best scene in the movie for me.

DO IT!!!

The priest sits down with her and talks her through it, calming her down and helping her realize suicide isn't the answer.

Nah! Just kidding. He gives her a potion to fake her death until Romeo can come back and save her. He really had this whole fake death thing planned well, huh? He didn't even skip a beat – just brought it up like it was the most normal thing in the world.

He tells her his plan with the aid of images horribly green-screened behind him, which makes this whole sequence look like a bad anti-drug video they would make you watch in fourth grade.
"Here, take my faking-death potion that I mysteriously, worryingly have for suspicious reasons!"
"But Father, wasn't that your real bottle of shark poison?!"
"Oh, well... shit."

Meanwhile, Romeo is hanging out somewhere in the desert doing nothing. Really, Juliet – are you sure this is the guy you want to marry? He doesn't seem particularly motivated. Oh, except when he learns that Juliet killed herself. Then he does an excellent overly dramatic scream at the heavens with his fist pumped. Yeah! There's the old Romeo spirit. Bravado underlined by utter pointlessness.

Also it seems like he's been exiled to North Dakota. Which makes sense - if you're going to exile people from a city, might as well send them to places with wide open space, a lot of room and no reason to want to continue living.

He had to wander around in the field and find the best spot to drop to his knees and dramatically scream at the sky. It's a talent of his, and he's becoming an expert.

It's really just too bad he couldn't put as much effort into checking whether she was really dead, as he did in that dramatic scream. Because when he finds her fake-dead body, he kills himself for real. And right before he dies, she opens her eyes and reveals that she wasn't dead!

So then she shoots herself in the head and dies along with him. I really have to admire the neat and clean way she shot herself in the head, with no blood and her head fully intact!

Guys, I know middle school theater productions of this play don't have blood, but the least you could have done after making us sit through the movie, was show us the characters' mangled and bloody corpses. Thanks for fucking nothing.

I hated this movie for years growing up, and in fact for years in high school I proclaimed this to be the worst movie ever made. Watching it again now, I don't find myself mad, but rather just very, very fascinated with all of this. It's loud, it's stupidly colorful, it's goofy, the acting was bad, the costumes were bad and I'm pretty sure it would smell bad if you could smell it. It's an assault on every sense you have, and it's amazingly, relentlessly annoying almost every minute of screentime. Tony said later that the movie deserves the same treatment as the ET game cartridges, with every copy buried in a landfill, and I'm inclined to say he's right.

The way they tried to modernize the story was half-assed and not clever at all. The story's silliest moments seem extra dumb now when you couple them with the goofy acting and the awful directing. The entire thing is just a cacophonous mess and it's actually kind of amazing how weirdly awful everything is. It's seriously a marvel how little of anything was done well here.

But really I just had to come back to one thing – in the original play, you got a sense of the young, fleeting, passionate love the characters had. You got into the drama. It was a story about two kids who fall in the kind of stupid, blind, insane and passionate love that kids fall into, and reading it or watching a faithful adaptation makes it clear how little teenagers and the young love they share have changed in the hundreds of years since Shakespeare's time. It's a timeless story and can resonate with anyone who was ever a teenager and had a boyfriend or girlfriend. That's what made it so fucking brilliant.

This movie doesn't have that timeless feel. It's tired and extremely dated now, and it just can't make you connect with any of the drama in it. Between the folds of fat of the ridiculous garish colors and over the top acting, it loses the humanity and drama of the story. I guess I can see why people like this, for the over the top artsiness, but it really fell flat for us here, and failed at everything it tried to do.

Luhrmann said in interviews that he wanted this to reflect the kind of bawdy, theatrical goofiness that would have kept crowds watching in Shakespeare's own time, when he was alive. But really, we don't need that now, because audiences are intelligent and can understand more things without gimmicky flashiness and over the top cues every second. I mean, it's just hard to take any of this seriously when the hero dies wearing a shirt that looks like it's from Spencer's.

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

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Green Inferno, online petitions and freedom of speech

Oh boy. Here we go again. It's time for another round of "freedom of speech" suppression when talking about a provocative film - this time, Eli Roth's upcoming The Green Inferno. There's a petition now to ban the film altogether for its portrayal of indigenous native tribes in the forest, and I'll get to that in a second. Here's a trailer:

The film is about a bunch of kids who want to save the rainforests getting eaten by cannibals, or some shit like that. Roth himself has said it's supposed to be a critique of the Internet's social justice warriors and slacktivist movements - i.e. people who take up these causes but don't do anything except post online about it - and a throwback to old 70s-style gore flicks like Cannibal Holocaust. And, I guess he really just wanted another excuse to show how much gore he can fit into a movie. He doesn't really have much else, but hey, be nice to him, he doesn't realize how much he sucks.

The petition... well, it's basically just more of what you expect. It talks about how the film is offensive because indigenous native tribal peoples are often portrayed as the villains on screen. Which, yeah, is pretty obvious. I don't think anyone is going to dispute that.

Where it goes wrong is the same way anything like this goes wrong, namely by trying to ban it. That's become our first instinct now, all the time - don't like something, try to get it banned completely. We know it's offensive. That much isn't news to us. But trying to ban it won't work, especially not with a stupid online petition. Nothing has ever really been accomplished with an online petition. You're just throwing more words into the void that will evaporate like an early morning mist. Nothing will come of this - you won't change a thing, not if you're just trying to get the movie banned.

Why not write some new stories yourself and get those published, or just talk about how shitty the movie is without wasting your effort on a petition? Both of those things would be more positive and better overall then beating the dead horse of an online petition, which is basically an early grave for any potential thing getting done. It's frustrating because your efforts are in the right place - trying to fight for movies that better represent your culture. But you're wasting your time with the petition thing!

But really, what always pisses me off is the kinds of people who keep trotting out the "freedom of speech" bullshit every time something like this happens. They're taking our freedom of speech! Censorship! Come on, nobody cares about censoring you. Maybe you should get over yourself, deflate that ego balloon you're so intent on stroking.

Why is it that every time this happens, it's inevitably because of something that was worthless in the first place? People sure love to talk about freedom of speech these days, but only when defending the most lowbrow, sexist, racist trash. But I guess you need your freedom of speech to be as much of a hateful douchebag as possible, right? Or is it not my freedom of speech to say that you suck as a person for perpetuating these ideas? The train just keeps going, does it not?

The funniest thing about this is that all these "freedom of speech" rallying cries have no idea what they're talking about. Freedom of speech in the United States means you can say whatever you want and the government can't send you to jail for it. It doesn't mean we can't call you assholes for what you say, or that nobody can criticize you. Just because you have freedom of speech, doesn't mean everything you say is worth listening to or deserving of praise.

And fuck off with this whole "I may not like what you say, but I will defend your right to say it" thing. That's pussy, half-measure shit. Have some conviction, and just say what you think. Freedom of speech is best left to the actual lawyers and courtrooms, and we don't have to clutter up our own arguments with misappropriations of what we think the law is.

The Green Inferno is probably gonna suck ass anyway. The trailer looks shitty and the movie is probably just an excuse for gore. But at least you'll get to see us review it here at Cinema Freaks!


A few things...

I really think it's worth saying that the efforts of these people to ban the movie is no different from the efforts of super hardcore Christians to ban books in schools. You're just taking what you don't want to see and trying to make sure no one else has to look at it. While I'm more sympathetic by far to your cause, it's still not a good idea. Going too hardline in any direction is bad. Instead, just try talking about why it sucks and why it's offensive without this whole petition angle. That's all you need.

The efforts of those who hate censorship are misguided too. If you think "censorship" is bad now because some individuals don't like racist or sexist messages in media...well, you'd better be glad you're not living in the time when the Comics Code Authority was a thing, when comic books were so censored that Batman turned into what the Adam West show ended up being - the Joker was so censored, he didn't show up in comics for years! If you pissants today who bitch about censors lived in THAT time...well you'd probably kill yourselves. But hey, fuck historical context, right?

I also love the blogs I've seen saying that they defend Roth's "right" as an artist to make movies about whatever he wants. Claiming Roth is an artist is a pretty laughable statement. He's more like that guy who used to draw pictures of giant pulsating penises in art class to shock people. Plus he's said his insulting depictions of foreign people in movies, which have made entire countries angry, are meant to depict "Americans' ignorance of the world around them."

Which makes sense to me! I'm going to go make a movie set in the 60s that has black people as possessed serial killing aliens from the future who are intent on destroying straight white American culture. But it's not racist, because it depicts the white Americans' fear of the unknown. Fuck Eli Roth, fuck his movies, fuck anyone who defends his movies. He's trash, plain and simple.

Really, it's just clear - if your "freedom of speech" is all about being able to watch an Eli Roth movie that depicts other cultures as serial killers and savages, well, maybe you have other fucking problems.

So I guess I'm kind of saying that everyone is wrong. OK. I'll go with it!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Clown (2014)

Why are people afraid of clowns? There are so many movies about scary ones, and that's because so many people are scared shitless of them. I guess a lot of it just comes from how strange and outlandish they look. People are scared of them because they look weird and goofy and alien to what we're used to, and maybe because they have those creepy-ass smiles on their face all the time. Eugh! The modern man has no need for smiles!

I guess it also comes from a certain book written by a somewhat well known author.

Though, really, I'd think the real life man who dressed up as a clown and also had the unfortunate hobby of murdering people had something to do with it.

But nah, maybe not...

Either way, it seems like the fear of clowns is hear to stay. Which must be the worst feeling in the world for people who grew up unaware of this fear and just wanted to be clowns to make people laugh. That has gotta suck. Imagine spending all your time training to become something else, like, say, a painter, only to find out that painters were regarded as subhuman sexual deviants in the community you lived in, lepers who should in no way be trusted.

But not all movies about clowns portray them as creepy serial killers! Some of them portray them as immaterial, immortal monsters who, if you put on a clown suit, possess you and make you kill people.

Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Eli Roth, Peter Stormare, Andy Powers, Laura Allen

Co-written with Michelle.

Well, OK. That's fine.

Clearly as the movie is called Clown, it had to start off with a bunch of loud noises over pictures of clowns, then the word CLOWN in bright bulbous letters. You know, just to make sure we didn't confuse this for the other kind of clown. We had to know it was about the kind that everyone and their brother is afraid of at birthday parties.

Then we get an opening scene with a birthday party for little kids. Like I said in the Godsend review – nobody wants to see a birthday party for kids in a movie. Especially not one where the only source of drama is that they're waiting for a fucking clown to show up. I think most kids would just be waiting to open up their new Xbox One at this point – the clown really has no relevance. I don't even think the adults remember why they wanted a clown. The clown is going to be there for no one. What a sad nihilistic existence.

Pictured: the face no child makes for a clown.

But the clown doesn't show up, so the mom, Meg, has to call her weenie of a husband, Kent. Kent is a real estate agent who seems to think it's ethical to browse around in the basements of old houses and take shitty looking costumes he finds in the attic. People like this guy are the reason Party City is going out of business. You scum!

"Man, I really need a fucking drink right now."

So he shows up looking like a hungover Ronald McDonald and, apparently, entertains the kids somehow – probably because the birthday boy had already peeked into the closet beforehand and seen that Xbox in there, so he knew he could stand the stupid clown. Later on, he almost has sex with his wife with the clown suit on, but she pusses out at the last second. I'm glad the movie shows both lights of being a clown – the disappointing last-ditch effort nature of taking the job, and the fact that their lives inevitably end up sexless and asleep on couches.

It isn't even a good looking clown suit. It's ugly as fuck. That suit looks like your grandma's knitting quilt made into a costume. I hate to say it, but Gacy did it better in terms of being a clown.

The next day, he discovers that he can't take the clown suit off. Ugh! Yet another annoyance of being a clown in the modern world. He even tries to slice it off with a power drill, but that has no effect except that it makes him bleed like a leaking faucet. He has to go to the hospital, where he insists very adamantly that he isn't a clown – well, buddy, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and appears in a movie titled Clown...I think you're gonna have a hard time convincing anyone.

So I guess his next move is putting on orange face make-up that I imagine he stole from an Oompa Loompa factory nearby and trying to disguise himself as normal.

Zero stars, movie. Zero stars.

He tracks down the guy who originally owned the house he found the suit in, who is of course some scraggly homeless-looking guy who warns him vehemently not to put on the suit – not knowing yet, of course, that Kent already has. Kent shows up and the guy gives him this whole spiel about how clowns are evil and came from these monsters who used to live in caves. Then, somehow, over time, that evolved into makeup people wore to entertain kids at parties., I just...don't have any fucking clue what your problem is. I mean, it's good that you're trying to satirize this overdone trope, but it feels like you aren't exactly aware that you're not actually making a joke. That's like saying you don't believe in God because you hate make believe fairytales, but then saying you have absolute faith in Odin and believe he will return next year and smite all of your personal enemies.

One thing I don't get is, how is that clown suit still in existence? Part of the backstory, I guess, is that the crazy guy apparently got it off someone else years ago. Why didn't he burn it or hide it away somewhere better than an old house's attic? I guess he really just wanted to cut off someone's head the next time anyone put the suit on.

Because, apparently, that's how you kill clowns. By cutting off their heads.

Are you taking notes at home, kids? Next time a clown comes to your party, trumping up your driveway in those big annoying red shoes, you know what to do.

Kent escapes though, and bursts into his house screaming about what just happened, only for the camera to pan over and see the rest of their family sitting around. Because, I guess in stupid movies, they didn't exist until the camera panned over there, and Kent is the type of person who can't look a few feet to the left before screaming insanely about clowns.

The faces of everyone who saw the advance screening of the movie, which were promptly disregarded completely.

Then we find out that he tied up that crazy guy and plans on taking him to the police. But the crazy guy escapes, so Kent has to incapacitate him with his newfound clown super strength. He also attacks some other dude a few minutes later.

Yes, another common and well known side of being a clown, super strength. I can't even tell you how many clowns I've seen who go to make a balloon animal and then accidentally break the balloon, causing a horrific loud sound that rips the fabric of time, opens a void into another dimension, and scares all the children at the party. It's just not good.

Kent has to go into hiding in the woods, where he calls some kid from a boy scouts thing over and tries to eat his hand. It doesn't work. But I do think this is one of the more effective scenes in the film – there are quite a lot of cool shots and scenery in this film, but they're so often hampered by boring and tepid cliché.

Later, he hides out in a motel room that I guess he was supposed to be selling at his real estate job. Feeling that everything is hopeless, he takes a gun and tries to kill himself in the bathtub. Like all clowns, his blood has been replaced by rainbow slime:

Wow. You tried to make suicide funny and...didn't succeed at all. Not that I'm offended though, it just isn't funny.

But ultimately he survives that, because I guess the bullets just have no effect on evil clown monsters. He tries the next best thing to being shot – constructing a ludicrous set-up of industrial sawblades and sitting in a chair to fall back into them. You know, the normal go-to when shooting yourself in the head doesn't work – killing yourself via sawblades!

"Man, I can't believe I went through this much trouble to kill myself. I should kill myself for this!"

You know, this whole clown suicide sub plot is interesting and all – not to mention realistic for clowns – but really, for a horror movie it just doesn't work. It's confused as hell; even moreso than that girl in your high school drama class who dyed her hair blue and started talking about how she was a lesbian. The tone is just off. Some parts of the movie were funny earlier, but these darker scenes just really, really don't work in contrast.

But anyway, Kent is still trying to kill himself with that sawblade thing. Unfortunately for him, a kid comes in and distracts him, so he misses the blades when he falls, and knocks a piece of the blade at the kid, which impales and kills him.

Wow. That could only have happened in a completely implausible, stupid ass movie like this. Thanks for not being in any way clever, Clown! You hack-ass piece of shit.

But yeah, I guess that was just a set-up so Kent could then taste the blood of a child, which is an important rite in any clown's career, really.

Next we see his wife coming to find him, telling him she's pregnant and that's why he shouldn't give up on life. Because of course she is – pregnancy is just a catch-all, easy solution in these kinds of shitty movies. What other plot point could a woman ever participate in? Her womb is the only interesting thing about her.

I think the movie missed an opportunity though, by not having the wife be pregnant with a clown baby. Because as you all know, clowns are a separate species of wretched degenerate subhumans.

"There's nothing else to do for a woman besides be pregnant, right?"

The pregnancy thing persuades Kent to come back home, though he forces Meg to lock him in the basement tied to a pole. Meanwhile, Kent's son at school is bullied by a couple of kids who care way too much that his dad looked like a clown. This is the kind of shitty writing these movies always have – making the bullies just way too implausible. Really, they want to smear paint on his face because his dad looked like a clown? THAT was the best bullying they could think of? Fuck, just give him a wedgie, you twerps.

The son goes home and lets out Kent, who then goes and disembowels and eats the little bully kid. Which, yeah, seems a little excessive now that I write it out that way.

This movie sure loves killing kids. And that's the greatest thing about it.

What follows this is something I've always wanted to see in a horror movie. Well, not really, but now that the movie brings it up, it seems like a good idea: a slasher scene set in a mall playplace.

This is why they started to phase out playplaces at McDonalds - too often, demented Ronald impersonators would try to kill anyone who entered them.

This is actually pretty damn good, building tension and atmosphere even despite the goofy setting – actually, I'd argue the setting helps the scene through the contrast. Surprisingly, this part ends up being easily the best thing about the entire movie.

Meg teams up with that crazy guy from earlier, who wants to help her get rid of the clown by cutting his head off. There's this whole fucking dumb, boring scene of the two of them going over all this clown mythology bullshit. Why do these movies constantly do this? We don't need scenes of them researching things and we don't need a made-up “history” of evil clowns in a movie about a clown suit that takes over your body. Just give us a fucking story about an evil demon clown killing people if you want – we don't need to take this so seriously!

That's Eli Roth as the clown monster's final form, by the way. He's mad because this piece of crap movie is still better than his own movies. But seriously - THIS picture is all we need out of the movie. Just a clown being evil. Nothing else.

After that, though, we get another extremely silly scene where the clown demands Meg bring him a child to eat or else he'll just come home and eat his own son. Meg finds a girl she knows from the neighborhood and gets her in the car and drives her out to the woods to give her to the stupid clown monster. My favorite part about this scene is that the girl gets out of the car not realizing she's in the woods and not at her house. How do you not SEE that without getting out of the car? “I live in the woods, but not THESE woods...”

"Praying she's stupid enough to fall for this awfully planned out idea...YES!"

Then we go back to the house where the clown has gone to kill everyone. This climax is seriously just full of every cliché in the universe for these sorts of slasher horror movies. There are shitloads of scenes where it goes quiet, the kid being chased looks out to see if the coast is clear, but then something surprises him...

There's a scene where Meg's father, having seen blood from the clown on the floor, thinks Meg has killed someone and wants to help her cover it up. He of course moves right in front of the door, strategically placed for the clown to burst through the window and kill him.

Then we even get the always-vomit-worthy scene where, after committing God knows how many heinous acts and killing a bunch of people, the clown turns back into Kent for a second and goes “help me!” It's practically a grocery list of bad, bad cliché that all of these kinds of movies have. Wake me up when the credits are done rolling.

Finally, they kill him, and the clown suit is put into evidence at the FBI headquarters.

Truly an image striking fear into the hearts of men.

Wow, I can't wait for a sequel where an FBI agent puts on that suit and becomes an evil clown monster too!

Damn, a lot of kids died in this fucking movie. I mean Jesus. Talk about an overreaction. Most clowns kill a couple of kids during their careers, but THIS many, wow, just too much. Wasn't the movie educational about how clowns really are, guys???

This movie wasn't too awful or anything – the acting was fine, there were a handful of pretty decent scenes, and the movie looked very suitably creepy and also carnivalesque and fun. But despite only being like 90 minutes long, it had so much dead space and padding, and just felt so much longer. Just give us a dumb, corny movie about an evil clown killing kids. We didn't need any of this nonsense about the mythology of clowns or anything like that.

The writing was strictly pedestrian and lazy, padded out with every old cliché in the book, none of them done well enough to justify their use. It's hard to be enthusiastic about this when it mostly doesn't care enough to give us anything beyond the standard. Plus, the tone was just confused as hell – is it a campy horror comedy, or a serious drama about a pregnant woman trying to save her husband? Make up your minds. Some direction really would have helped here.

I guess what really bothered me was – what was this movie trying to say? “Hey, kids, clowns are evil! Be scared of them!”? Yeah, awesome message there. Eli Roth apparently compared this to The Fly, and I dunno – the 1980s The Fly was a better movie than this, with some social commentary on STDs and a good story about a man's tampering with science. In fact, that's the first time something has been better because of STDs.

This has nothing except, I guess, the fear of clowns? There isn't much else to glean from it.

I think people have always been afraid of clowns. It wasn't some newfound fear that never existed before IT came out. Some people don't like the makeup or the smiles or the fake-jubilance. I think scary movies and stories about clowns are made because people like juxtaposing something so cheery and happy with the darkness of a horror story.

But really, if you've got nothing to fucking say aside from 'be afraid of clowns' – is it worth making a movie? It'd be one thing if there were a lot of good movies about evil clowns, but there really aren't. Most of em pretty much fucking suck. I dunno. Maybe it's not a worthwhile story if all you're really doing is making someone's job, that they like doing, look like Satan's caretaker.

I'm pretty sure most real clown suits don't possess you and turn you into a demon, is all I'm saying. Food for thought.

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

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Ouija (2014)

“Hey, guys! Let's make a movie based around a Ouija board! Hasbro would really love that!”

“Uh, I'm not sure that's a good idea at all...”

Then that second guy was dragged out of the board meeting for Satan's Movie Studio, and a gunshot was heard. His body was hung up on a cross in the front lobby to set an example for anyone else with similarly contrarian ideas. Hasbro executives collectively grunted their approval in deep demonic voices like the rumblings of a dragon's bowels. The first guy was promoted to God of the company that same afternoon. Production on the movie Ouija began the next day.

Director: Stiles White
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Douglas Smith

Co-written with Michelle.

This was produced by Michael Bay and Brad Fuller, the guys behind a production company called Platinum Dunes. If you don't know who they are, well, they produced a range of movies from merely terrible, like the Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street remakes, to absolute unholy crap like The Purge: Anarchy, The Hitcher remake and The Unborn. Christ, their line-up reads like scrolling through the past history of Cinema Freaks.

Anyway, like all great films, this began production in 2008, six years before it actually came out, and went through a shitload of script changes, director changes and basically everything else, with the promise of a super huge Pirates of the Caribbean style adventure with a huge budget. Yes, a Pirates-level budget for a fucking board game movie.

...I think it's really just time for everyone in Hollywood to go home and spend some time with their families. You know, before their families disown them for stupid shit like making blockbuster films out of board games.

Things seemed to be looking up in 2011 when the film seemed to be dead in the water due to budget issues, but only a few months later, it was unfortunately revived, like some horrible Re-Animator-esque abomination. And now we have to suffer for it. My favorite part is that, apparently, after its botched and horrific revival, they went with a significantly lower budget for the final project, as if to say, "yes, we've come to our senses and realized we can rob audiences of their money and time, for less of a budget."

The movie begins with a blonde girl named Debbie playing with a Ouija board with her friend, Laine. They're both little children at this point, which makes sense, because no one but little children will be scared by the movie.

Then we flash forward years later to when Debbie is a teenager. She never got over that Ouija thing, and she's still playing with it now, because characters in these movies are flatter than concrete outside and have no believable motivations. We see her tossing the board into a fire, which is really rude, because I'm sure her parents paid a lot to buy that piece of shit.

Hmm, that second image doesn't seem right. Let's fix that:

Ahh yes. Much better.

She wanders around for a bit and notices weird things like doors opening and closing slowly by themselves. Usually, when that happens, I call my fucking landlord and tell him the hinges are kind of loose, but I guess here it's supposed to be scary.

Also, the burner is on! Maybe you should pay more attention when you're cooking.

They should just put a pan on the stove and start cooking. Take the chance! Ghosts be damned.

Burning that Ouija board was apparently not the right move, though, as then Debbie gets hanged by a bunch of Christmas lights.

75% of people hang themselves if their parents bought them Hasbro toys as kids.

Based on the sad music and the people in black carrying flowers up to a house, I'm guessing we're supposed to be feeling sad or something.


It's good they put those cliches in the movie, because otherwise I wouldn't feel anything for Debbie. We knew nothing about her – she was basically just put in to be a standard open kill. They spend so much time dwelling on how sad everyone is, though, so I guess I'm just emotionally dead from watching so many of these terrible scenes over and over.

Laine is now also grown up, and she spends her time hanging out in comically anachronistic looking diners with her boyfriend, who seems to think John Hughes movie fashion is still cool. Because I guess Bay and his cohorts all have zero idea what anything in real life is like now. They probably haven't even seen the outside of their board room in years.

Like, totally hip, man. Breakfast Club.

After Debbie's death, Laine spins totally off the rails and demands that all of her friends accompany her to the creepy abandoned house of the dead girl and play the Ouija board to see if there was anything they could have done to prevent her suicide. Which is totally acceptable and sane. “Hey, could we have done anything to prevent you killing yourself? Yes? Wow, I feel better already!”

Let's get real for a second; knowing whether or not you could have stopped someone from committing suicide wouldn't help you at all. Are you insane? Who writes something like that?

I also love how they all accuse each other of moving the Ouija counter thing around just to prank one another. Like that's something these people believe their friends would apparently do a day after their friend committed suicide. Maybe in that case, you guys all need to stop hanging out, because you're all horrible people. Frankly, I think they should have asked the Ouija board if they'd still have careers after this movie. The answer would have, no doubt, disappointed them.

For some reason, they all get up and walk around the house afterward, because despite the fact that all of them have repeatedly stated they don't believe the game works, they're now superstitious. You guys really have the fortitude of a marshmallow left out in the sun, you know.

But they do all end up leaving, and go home, you know, like you do after your friend forces you to play with a Ouija board to work through her insane grief. I love how in one of the next scenes, Laine apologizes to one of the others and says she won't do it again. Yeah, you know, just a normal way of coping – playing with Ouija boards to try and defy the laws of death. You know, time heals all wounds!

All is not well, though, when everyone starts seeing this mysterious phrase “Hi Friend” all over the place. One time it's creepily in a car in the cold...

In this one, a human hand slams on the inside of the window afterward as if someone was inside the car. The girl doesn't question this at all, gets inside the car, and then nothing else happens. I guess the movie was just drunk and forgot to make that scare mean anything.

There's one time where it's written on the wall of a creepy tunnel – though I think that time was just a poor homeless guy being crazy.

The money used to make the movie could have been put to helping the homeless. But instead, the movie was made. Was it worth it?

Another time, it's written on a word processor on a computer screen:

What is wrong with you, movie? Are those things really equivalent? No better way you could've conveyed the horror of the situation? It's really just so evident nobody making this really cared.

If you can believe it, they actually go back and try the Ouija board again after seeing these things, because their sense of consequence and action is so fucked up that even jailed convicts would wonder what they were thinking. This time, the ghost just up and reveals itself to NOT be Debbie, but instead a mysterious evil entity called “DZ.” I just don't get why the ghost revealed itself that fast. Surely a better plan would have been to keep pretending to be their dead friend and lull them into a false sense of security. I'm not even a malignant entity of hell (despite what some people would tell you) and even I can see how this could have been better.

So I guess this one girl dies when she sees the Ouija board ghost in the mirror, and the ghost slams her head against the bathroom sink. It's good to know that, if you die from having your head brutally bashed against hard ceramic, your makeup won't run and all you'll get is a tiny gash on your upper forehead. How cosmetically convenient.

Yup, looks like her face was smashed against a sink...

There's also this other woman, a Spanish housekeeper for Laine's family, who of course knows everything about Ouija boards and has no other character besides that. Wow. You know, they used to cut peoples' hands off for stealing things. Can we reinstate that now, except for people who write hack work racist trash like this that doesn't help anyone? No? Damn. Why does this keep happening when I try to propose new rules?!

After that, if you can believe it, we get a long and drawn out scene where Laine and Pete, who was Debbie's boyfriend, actually sit around and search for clues about who the ghost is that's haunting them. All they have is that name, DZ, but through the convenience of lazy script writing, they find out what they need to know. Apparently, some little girl went missing years ago, and her mother was thought to have killed her, and blah, blah, blah. Whatever!

"My brain is a pile of oatmeal-y mush because of the script, but we found what we needed! Hooray! Durrr...."

This leads Laine to go find the sister of the girl who went missing. The sister is apparently now in a mental hospital because she killed her mother years ago for apparently killing the other sister. If you're confused reading that, don't be; no one cared when writing it. Just go with it.

This character is played by Lin Shaye, who was obviously also in all the Insidious movies. Goddamn, did you just have her blackmailed to keep appearing in all these dumb supernatural movies? Did you just grab her right off the set of Insidious 3 and plop her in a wheelchair for this one? You must at least really be paying her well. Shit.

What kind of awful Satanic magic did you guys use to force her to keep doing all of these films? Jesus. I can't imagine the Kafkaesque nightmare her life must be doing all these pieces of utter garbage year after year. Does she get them confused? Like, she'll be on Insidious 5: The Great Who Cares and then go 'hey, aren't we on Ouija 3: It Still Fucking Sucks?' And then they'll go, no, this is Insidious, and funnel more money into her bank account. And the cycle will continue.

The character here is, somehow, even less substantial than her character from Insidious, as she only exists to spew EVEN MORE soul-sucking exposition – this time about how the only way to stop the killings is to free the little girl ghost from the evil mother ghost. I was bored just writing that sentence, and the movie doesn't seem to care either. It's a carnival of not caring up in this shit. But hey, Hasbro got your money, so I guess they won out in a way.

So we get a very silly scene where they find this dead body under Debbie's old house, and then cut off these stitches on her mouth. I guess for some reason that's what breaks the spell – it's kind of like something out of a really cheap haunted house.

This scene would only be cool if Indiana Jones was in the background stealing a gold chalice or some shit.

After that, it seems like it's all over, but whoops, apparently not! Because the movie doesn't seem to get that we want it to go away and stop annoying us, apparently Lin Shaye's crazy old lady character was lying, and it was the little girl ghost who was evil the whole time, and NOT the mother ghost! Wow. Maybe you shouldn't listen to a murderer who lives in an insane asylum, huh? Maybe that would have been better.

Oh, and then she goes full on cartoon villain and starts cackling insanely about how her evil ghost sister will come save her. She gets dragged off by security, presumably to never be allowed to interact with the outside world again. Man, I really don't think THAT was a good plan...but whatever.


So the boyfriend gets killed off unceremoniously in a pool, which is a callback to a scene earlier where he played with the pool tarp. That's really clever if the only other movie or TV you've ever seen is Blue's Clues. They also have the gall to insult our intelligence by having him show up with his back to them, as if there's any possibility he's not going to be dead and it's not going to be a stupid jump scare.


Then right when Laine is about to die, the ghost of Debbie appears very conveniently and stops things right as the movie is reaching its climax – I mean, she could have stepped in earlier, but where would the fun have been in that?

"I had to wait until now, the most dramatically convenient time, because otherwise the movie wouldn't have been good!"
"The movie already isn't good!"
*Fiery cataclysm of death*

So that's Ouija – what can I say, it wasn't good. The bar was set super low already – it's a corporate product put out to make money for Hasbro. The characters, writing, plot, scary moments, atmosphere and everything else are all terrible. The script is stereotypical and shallow, with zero real meaning to anything that happens. Characters act in ridiculous ways for no reason and the story isn't about anything except “this toy is cool!” Like the 2011 The Thing prequel, it really shows how much active disdain there is for horror in Hollywood – this is a joke to them, and they do not think it's worth their time to put any effort into.

Don't spend your money on this crap. Download it illegally, and then write scathing reviews online. I don't know if that will make a difference, but it's worth it if you really need to vent your annoyance with how bad this movie is, and how bad everything else the people who made it were involved with is. And hey, it's a better pastime then playing with a fucking Ouija board from Hasbro.

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