Monday, December 26, 2016

A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

Most Christmas movies try to replicate some feeling of the holidays in some way. Well, this movie is like the stale feeling of the day after Christmas when you have to stand in line at the mall to return some shitty toy your kid decided he didn't want, and then going home to eat leftover Christmas dinner that just isn't as good.

Director: Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan
Starring: William Shatner, George Buza

Co-written with Michelle.

This is an anthology series, Trick 'R Treat style with the stories all intercut within each other so the movie is constantly going back and forth between all of them, but that's really about the only similarity with Trick 'R' Treat. That movie was actually fun and had a good sense of wit, and this one... well, neither of those things describes this movie. The best I can say about it is 'you could do worse.'

We start this off with Game Of Thrones Santa here hearing some weird noises from behind a door... and then it just kind of cuts away without properly starting a story. Uh, I think you guys were sleeping through the part of class where they taught how to start a fucking movie.

Then we get a bunch of other stories, like this one about a radio host played by William Shatner of all people, who just yammers on and on to no one, babbling about things that make no sense, until this one other guy in the studio with him just has enough:

Strangely this is what happens every time William Shatner tries to tell anyone anything - they respond with 'Fuck Christmas.' It's an oddly specific trigger for some reason.

Then there's the family going to visit their grandma who lives in, apparently, a mansion from a CLUE game or something. The father, who is apparently cast as a discount Chevy Chase from National Lampoon, is only really going to shake his aunt down for some of that sweet, sweet inheritance money! Merry Christmas!

"The only thing more powerful than the Christmas spirit is my relentless, disgusting greed."

Fortunately (for me; unfortunately for him) his idiotic son breaks a Krampus figurine on the grandma's shelf, which prompts her to throw them all out immediately. Oh how I can just feel the Yuletide spirit flowing through this movie's veins. I like how the rest of their story involves them being hunted by the Krampus... what, just because they broke that stupid figurine? Really? Who knew the Krampus was such a whiny baby.

Then the Krampus went and told on the idiotic son to the teacher, who put the boy in time out for this heinous offense.

I guess it's revealed later on that they've all done some horrible things to warrant the Krampus coming after them, like the daughter has stolen a few things and the little boy has killed a bunch of animals in the neighborhood. Wait, hold on, woah – that's a fucking insane thing to just drop out of nowhere. How is this just a footnote in this movie? Shouldn't the whole story be about the little serial killer in the making? This kindergartener version of fucking Dexter? I really think that would've been more entertaining of a story.

In the end, only the mother survives, and she goes back to the grandma's house, where she learns that the Krampus is actually sort of a weird werewolf-type creature in this story, who someone with a lot of rage and anger can just turn into at the holiday times. This is such a dumb story that I am amazed anyone wrote this crap with a straight face. It's not even played like a comedy – it's totally fucking serious. There are a lot of people angry at the holidays. Do all of them turn into the retarded cousin of the Abominable Snowman on Christmas?

Anyway, the wife then turns into the Krampus herself, seemingly understanding exactly how it works despite it being a totally alien concept. She kills the grandma, because violence against old people is always cool.

In another story, a family is out getting a Christmas tree at, I guess, a location they're not supposed to be in. The little kid gets sucked into the tree from Stranger Things and when his family finds him, he's acting strange and different.

"Hey, our kid came out of a tree-hole, better not ask him if he's okay and instead just go back to normal life! Whoop-de-do!"

Like, later on he just will not quit eating spaghetti – I know, the horror, right? He's so in love with spaghetti that he stabs his own father with a fork for trying to take it away from him! Ouch! That's gotta hurt!

He also does other weird things like stand in the bathroom and watch his mom take a shower. I'm just blown away at the creativity and imagination of this movie's evil kid actions – eating too much spaghetti and watching his mom shower. The most evil and diabolical shit ever, truly.

If by now you're thinking that this kid must warrant some type of disciplinary action, well, the father has all your domestic violence needs covered as he starts shouting at the kid and asking what's wrong with him. The kid responds by upping the ante on violence and killing his father, like it's some kind of fucking contest. Jeez, kid! Bit of an overreaction!

Just, tone it down a little, ya know.

Continuing in the mold of child abuse, the mother, recognizing that there's some kind of demon inside her son, beats him up with a baseball bat until he's unconscious. You know, I'm starting to doubt that there's any demon in this story. This family is just fucking violent and fucked up.

But there IS a demon, I guess, so the mom has to take him back out into the woods at the behest of this weird fat guy who says he's the guardian of the dwarves or some bullshit.

… you know, when I write that out, it sounds pretty fucking stupid.

What follows is an extremely half-assed “climax” to this story where she accidentally shoots the fat guy somehow (whoopsy-daisy! This accidental murder is never mentioned again!), so I guess there's a moment of thinking there's no way to get the kid back. The thing she THOUGHT was her son turns into a weird dwarf creature that looks like your 85-year-old neighbor run over with a truck and then put too long in the dryer.

Looks like Gollum with leukemia.

Fortunately, despite its hostility before, now it just wants to help: she looks into its eyes and asks for its help, and it just goes into the Stranger Things hole in the tree and gets her kid back for her, no further trouble at all. Wow is that underwhelming. What's next, a story about this thing helping an old woman across the street? Is this the PBS Kids Horror Hour now?

The other story is about three idiots breaking into this abandoned mental asylum or school or something like that to film a documentary. This one is pretty boring and mostly consists of them just wandering around like morons, even settling in to sleep there once they find themselves locked in, I guess. That's good for the one girl, though, as she coaxes this nerdy guy to come with her and have sex.

Then it's discovered that there's some convoluted plot about a ghost girl or something who tried to have a child but died in childbirth I guess. So now the ghost just tries again and again to have a baby through a human girl by possessing them to have sex. I guess it works this time, too, as she gets pregnant and kills the guy, presumably then going off to have her baby and live in the dank, abandoned mental asylum or something. This is the worst porno setup ever; zero out of five stars.

What did this have to do with Christmas, anyway? Because there's a crucifixion pose in it? That is a pretty thin point of connection.

Meanwhile in the wraparound story about Santa, he ends up fighting all of his elves as they turn into bloodthirsty zombies. It's not too bad of a sequence, with some fun violence and carnage. But it's pretty hard to find it badass when he keeps shouting out the elves' names as he's killing them – hearing anybody shout 'Not you, too, Sparkles!' before chopping off an elf's head is pretty confused and jumbled. It's mostly just silly.

Then he fights the Krampus in the manner of a stale ripoff of a bad superhero flick, with him saying a bunch of stuff like 'Krampus, my mortal enemy.' It's all pretty lame. Like if the kid from Jingle All The Way wrote a horror story.

Then it's actually revealed that none of the Santa shit was real, and he was actually just some nutjob that went on a rampage in a local mall, butchering and killing a bunch of innocent people. Wow, that's horrifically unpleasant – maybe it'd be a good twist if this was a whole movie's worth of a story, but as is, it's just tonally confused and kind of ugly and depressing. Merry Christmas!

This is a pretty weak anthology. I guess you could do way worse – nothing here is outright awful or anything. But the stories are not really that well written, with have extremely weak endings and a lack of any kind of point. I said the final story was tonally confused, and really, the whole thing is; the movie doesn't seem to have anything it particularly wants you to take away after you finish it.

In addition, the way the stories are all jumbled up just doesn't work, and further removes any kind of tension or scares this might have had because they're not really cut up in an engaging manner. It feels like this was all just thrown together at the last minute, like a really shitty, lazy last minute Christmas present.

And who likes those? It's usually better for everyone if said gift is just never given at all.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 remake is a movie I picked to review around the holiday season because it is all about a family and the dysfunctional ways they have to live with one another. This was the worst movie I had ever seen when I was 14 and didn't know any other movies. I figured maybe I had been overexaggerating, and in the years since, I sort of had it built up in my head that this wasn't too bad in the grand scheme of things.

Well, I was right back at age 14. This is a huge pile of cinematic manure.

Director: Marcus Nispel
Starring: Jessica Biel, R. Lee Ermey

Co-written with Nathan.

This was back in the days when horror remakes were made by people who had no clue how to make a horror movie. Like, their idea of a good cast of horror actors was, cast a bunch of people who look like they belong on fashion magazine covers or underwear/swimsuit model ads. And Jessica Biel – can't forget her!

And their idea of dialogue was to just have every character be a total ass to one another for no reason! They just bitch and whine and argue so much that Leatherface is basically the new good guy of the movie. Congratulations if that was what you were going for. This is basically Tucker and Dale vs Evil from the perspective of the teenagers.

Unfortunately, Leatherface doesn't show up for like the first forty minutes of this movie, so until then it's a lot of arguing about nothing from these characters who have the personalities and looks of background extras in a shitty music video. Hell, they even pick up a hitchhiking girl who is depressed so much by their horridness, she kills herself right in their van:

Is that not what happened? I dunno. It is to me.

Anyway, they keep on arguing from then on what to do about the body, with some of them insisting it would be wrong to just dump the body on the ground. They try to pawn it off at a local gas station, but the lady won't have it or help them at all, except to say the cops could be there several hours from now. But they're going to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, so they don't have time for that shit. So I guess driving around with a bloody corpse in the back seat is the new plan!

"Look, can we just leave the bloody corpse inside your store and go to our concert? We could leave it in the Produce aisle."

I guess they're trying to find a police station to pawn it off on, but they don't try that hard – instead of just finding out where the next police station is, they seem content with driving around randomly with no direction. Okay then! They do find a house with an old, legless man in it, and he lets them call the cops. The only problem is, the old man gets stuck upstairs and makes Jessica Biel help him up, as an excuse to grope her ass... because THAT'S what Texas Chainsaw Massacre needed, an ass-groping scene randomly.

The OTHER only problem is, Douchebag Boyfriend guy decides to come in and randomly poke around the house. Which is a terrible idea, because that's where Leatherface is lurking around! He kills Douchebag Boyfriend guy with a hammer while his back is turned. How did he stay so quiet and unnoticed before this? A big guy like Leatherface, you'd think Jessica Biel would have heard him and he would have killed her. But I guess he has very tiny, quiet feet and can move like a mouse. And because Biel is the main character, she gets immunity for now for no reason.

So she comes back out and finds the rest of her friends, all of whom are mildly concerned that Douchebag Boyfriend is missing but not that worried. They search for him by doing the Old Cliche Dumb Horror Movie thing: just walking around shouting his name. Maybe if they stand three feet over that way, the acoustics will carry and he'll FINALLY hear you shouting his name and come out from wherever he is!

I also love the stupid bullshit in all these movies where characters assume their missing friends are playing pranks on them. Who does that? Are they just such shitty people that they'd make you believe they were missing in a strange, unfriendly place? I guess I can see why they'd think this, though – one of their own guys decides to stick his arm inside a hole in a car and then pretend to get pulled inside, only to reveal it was a joke. What a douchebag. If I was the rest of them, I'd just leave his ass behind.

"Ha ha ha, I'm a worthless waste of human air and you should be ashamed for knowing me."

They do eventually get split up, and Biel and this other moron get stuck inside the Leatherface house again. The moron ends up in the kitchen, where he checks under every pot and pan on the stove and even looks in the fridge, finding all kinds of weird, wacky stuff. What is he expecting to find in there? Does he think his friend shrank down to a miniature size and is now hiding in the fridge behind the rotten meat this family no doubt keeps there?

"Bro, are you in there?"

Meanwhile, this crazy “sheriff” guy shows up, immediately spitting a disgusting brown loogie out of his mouth. That is so gross that I would've just been like 'nope, bring me another sheriff! This won't do at all!'

So he basically tortures the other three assholes for a super long time, and in a not-very-scary way – he has the nerdy glasses-wearing guy mime how the girl from the opening scene killed herself. I guess this is supposed to be threatening, but honestly it drags on waaaay too long and was never scary in the first place. Mostly it is just annoying to watch the sheriff guy mug for the camera and chew scenery like a starving man on a desert island given a rump roast. Jesus Christ is he bad.

Jesus, will somebody get the suicide help line on set for these maniacs? On second thought, eh, maybe don't.

I guess after that we get the reveal that the sheriff guy is working for the Leatherface family! Wow! I couldn't have seen that coming unless I had even the smallest morsel of a brain cell! Also, this barely feels like Texas Chainsaw at all. I don't care if you don't keep every little detail of the original, but this just feels like Shitty Midwest Horror Movie #933357.

Even the crazy family trope that was so integral to the original is toned down. The original family was totally unhinged, just mad and raving and constant screaming and noise. This one? Eh. Just kinda irritating and gross! Not that big of a deal. Pretty sure you could find some similar families in any rural outback state if you turned down a creepy enough road. Remember, the overall theme of Texas Chainsaw Massacre is “Mediocre boring stuff, because the crazed excess of the original was just not that important to bring back!”

Guess which one of these pictures is from a movie that's actually scary?

So Biel gets kidnapped and thrown in a basement, where she finds the one guy whose leg got cut off in another scene hung up on a hook. He doesn't really seem to be bleeding or in any great pain, and earlier we saw him trying to unhook himself from the hook and acting like he just got a hangnail rather than a meathook in his back – why would THAT hurt, after all? Biel ends up killing him to put him out of his misery. Got to love how there's no blood at first when the camera is on him, but then it's just all over Biel in the next shot.

Blood: who knows how it works? It's just magic!

Speaking of Biel being all wet, this movie sure does love to make up excuses for her to get her white T shirt wet and show off her boobs. That seems to be what they wanted to get across: Jessica Biel has breasts. How informative of them!

Honestly, though, as the movie drags on and on through the endless, boring, poorly done chase scene, Biel just keeps getting that tight white shirt wet! The movie seems to have an endless amount of excuses – the sprinklers are on in the random meat factory she runs into and that gets her soaking wet! Then outside, even though it was perfectly dry all movie, suddenly it's a monsoon of pouring rain that soaks her to the skin!

To offset this, the director and producers just thought about feminism and Susan B. Anthony a lot while filming, so this is actually OK in my books now.

Christ. Just call this 'Jessica Biel: Wet T-Shirt Contest Winner,' put it in the Special Interest section of the video store and it would've been more honest. I mean, I wouldn't be complaining if you did that – it'd be honest. But as is, it's not like she ever gets naked or anything, so what really is the point?

And this isn't some kind of porno. It's a fucking horror movie. Do the directors of this kind of trash think we have nowhere else we can look to see tits? If your only source of seeing boobs is to watch a serial killer slasher movie... you probably have a freezer full of dead animals that I think the cops should know about.

I know that was a lot of talk about boobs, but honestly, there was nothing else of interest happening. Fucking boring, shitty chase scene that has nothing on the terrifying 1974 version, and Leatherface is basically just Jason Voorhees with a chainsaw here. Total snoozefest.

I guess there is some subplot about a stolen baby, possibly from the woman who killed herself at the beginning of the film, though it's never elaborated on. Biel figures out the baby doesn't belong to them. I only bring this up because, in a totally unrelated scene, the baby goes missing from the Leatherface family's home! Now, come on. Don't jump to conclusions. Maybe baby's just taken his first steps!

But no, of course Biel took him. They drive away in a stolen car. I'm sure that infamous 'dinner scene' is coming up soon, right? I mean, any second now...

Wow. They just left it out, huh? Ah well. What was ever important about THAT scene in the original movie? You can totally just do TCM without it! Doesn't neuter it like a sad cat at all. Remember, the motto of this movie is 'Mediocre boring stuff that doesn't have the craziness or extremity of the original, because that wasn't important.'

This is horrible. I can't believe this ever was some kind of cutting-edge horror – but it kinda was, for 2003. This was sadly the norm for that time period, with awful disposable characters acting like jackasses so you would root for them to die in terrible ways, a lot of blatant and pointless sex symbolism that was never needed and, especially in the case of remakes, they missed the point of the original work. You don't have to keep everything identical – I like it when things change, I want to see your original interpretations of it. But to just miss the point this hard, and take out everything that was good...

Fuck Texas Chainsaw Massacre '03. Thank god this kind of slop isn't the norm anymore for the genre.

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