Thursday, October 7, 2021

Black Roses (1988)

It must have been an interesting time in the 80s when the biggest thing to worry about was the dangers of subversive rock and heavy metal music. Black Roses is a slasher that sort of doubles as a PSA for the PMRC, seeming to posit that maybe heavy metal really IS bad and will make kids kill people! Finally, someone is tackling the real issues!

Director: John Fasano
Starring: John Martin, Sal Viviano

This starts off with shots of this band of weird demons, making GWAR look like they could play your corporate holiday party even if only through believability, playing a song… or, rather, miming along as Lizzy Borden’s “Me Against the World” plays. It’s a good song and got my hopes up unjustifiably for the movie. So now I have a bit of a grudge against it. Though, frankly, what I heard of the newer Lizzy Borden material maybe should've clued me in.

Then we’re introduced to your stereotypical small town with a lot of Christian stuff going on like banning rock and roll concerts because they’re Satanic and will destroy the moral fabric of society, etc. One lady, who I believe was a Frankenstein’s monster combined of all the uptight Christian moms of the 70s and 80s and who has probably never known what fun is, just straight up reads some of this band Black Roses’ lyrics out loud. C’mon. You know the delivery is half of it.

But apparently Black Roses are cleared to play the small town anyway – it’s apparently the band’s first live show ever, and they’ve only ever played in the studio and have mysteriously chosen this random backwater town as the location to play for four nights straight or some shit. Well, all of that sounds completely insane, better just greenlight it and let it happen! No red flags!

There’s a bunch of other stuff that happens. Like there’s the high school teacher who spends the whole movie trying and failing to get his students to care about Wordsworth’s poetry. It doesn’t go anywhere. As a bonus, he’s apparently involved in some weird romance with one of his students! This guy becomes the hero of the movie, by the way. This is our moral compass for this grand epic of a film.

I do think the first rock show is funny where the band pretends to be this nice sentimental pop ballad type of band for the first song, only while the adults are in the room – then as soon as the adults go ‘huh I guess this music isn’t that bad’ and leave, the band immediately strips off their clothes revealing skintight black leather, and begin singing about how they’re going to take over the town! But nah, I’m sure the lyrics are just metaphoric. You know - rock and roll at its best is just open to all sorts of interpretations.

The rock shows keep getting weirder and weirder after that – by the end, it’s literally just chanting with red lights like it’s the cult from “Mandy.” Except the guy in that movie played better music than this. Frankly, I know there have been periods where there has been music that got popular that was super avant garde or atmospheric, very removed from what was traditionally popular. But I’m pretty sure this shit isn’t charting. Maybe you should go back to the drawing board.

I guess all of this hypnotizes the kids, and they start all wearing black, acting ruder to their teachers and parents and whatnot. As we know, children have never acted out before. This is totally new behavior as of the late '80s. I'm glad the movie is this socially aware. Then things get even worse and they start killing everyone. The kills aren’t even very good. Like one is a car hitting someone, another is a gunshot to the head. Yeah – real slasher hall of fame shit. I personally want my on-screen deaths to be better.

The main source of morality in all this is the teacher, you know, the guy who has a forbidden romance with a high school girl. Fantastic source of good and bad, I say!

The climax, where the teacher goes and tries to burn down the concert while all the kids are in the building, involves some of the worst CGI you’ve ever seen. It’s seriously like somebody was handed an assignment to make the goofiest looking CGI monsters possible. Like I guess the point of the movie was to show off how the evils of rock and roll were. To me it was just like I’d rather convert back to Christianity than ever see this shit again. Mission accomplished, movie. You won.

Overall the whole thing is complete garbage. Go listen to rock and roll and ignore this whole movie!

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

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Pig (2021)

SPOILERS for the movie in here.

Director: Michael Sarnoski
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff

Food is such a fraught, weighty thing; it can be political and it can recall all these memories and mean so much to people. In Nicolas Cage’s new vehicle “Pig” these kinds of themes are explored. Cage’s character Robin Feld, an ex-chef who now lives a solitary life in the woods, has a line maybe two-thirds of the way through that really encompasses everything the movie is: “You only get so many things to care about.”

Most of the rest of it is just this tour through the strange and seedy world of the restaurant underground. It’s a curious backdrop for a film and endears me to it – this wholly singular kind of plot and setting. There’s some pretty wild and ugly things that go on like an underground fight club for cooks? I want to know how much this is based on real life. Something tells me there has to have been some real-world connection there. Then you get the more artificial side of the actual front-facing restaurants, so fussy and over-prepared that there’s nothing real in it. All of it really ends up showing you why someone might end up leaving that life.

But he’s got to go back in though. Someone’s taken his truffle pig. He and Alex Wolff’s character Amir, who is trying to start his own business in this crazy culinary underworld, end up on a tour of said underworld, as Robin tries to figure out what the hell happened.

It’s all very moody and somber and the movie doesn’t spell anything out for you. Cage is remarkably restrained and his killer stare does a lot of the work as he chooses his words very carefully. When he does speak it’s like a thunderbolt. You fucking pay attention. Wolff’s character talks tough but he also talks too much and betrays that maybe he’s not as worldly as he wants to be.

Robin goes through this whole thing with a cloud of impending violence over him. But the violence never really comes. There’s one scene with the fight club I mentioned where you get some pretty grisly stuff comparative to the rest of the film, but everything else tends toward the quiet. One of the best scenes is when he visits his old restaurant – now a bakery – and has this really short, tender exchange with the lady who’s taken it over. He gets some baguettes. It doesn’t sound exciting but like I said – food has layers and layers of meaning for people.

Eventually he finds out who took the pig – Amir’s father, played by Adam Arkin, who is now some kind of big kingpin in the Oregon culinary world. Arkin apparently ordered the pig stolen to do what his son was doing selling the truffles but even better. It’s pure capitalistic bloodthirst. No real regard for the humanity. Robin and this guy commiserate just slightly on the fact that they’ve both lost their wives. In an earlier scene Amir had said Robin once cooked a meal for his (Amir’s) parents that they talked about for years after. Unlike your usual “who took my (x)” Taken/John Wick sort of film, there’s no big beat-em-up action scene. Instead Robin cooks the same meal as he’d done years before – he says he remembers “every meal he’s ever cooked, every person he’s ever served.”

Killing the other guy with compassion. Reminding him of what was lost and what matters in life. It’s genius. I wish I had thought of it. The underlying theme speaks to me of the human connection that really matters more than anything else. It sounds like something obvious, but stripped to its core with how the movie presents it, and especially with the raw, quiet ending - it comes off profound. At the end of the day, by the time the last line tells you Robin's deceased wife had given him the pig as a gift and that's why he's so hellbent on getting it back - you kinda guessed that by then, but the emotional effect is as resonant and heavy as an obelisk anyway.

The whole thing really comes out to a grand piece of film. It’s quiet but the themes and ways these characters are unveiled comes out to something that the greatest movies are all about. Mightily human and vulnerable stuff. The reason you go to the movies. Don't miss it.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Bunnyman Vengeance (2017)

This kind of movie is honestly tough to review because you know it wasn’t really serious. It’s a fucking guy in a bunny costume. That could be the whole thing right there, but it wouldn’t be fun to read.

Director: Carl Lindbergh

Co-written with Michelle.

The first one, at least, was funny – particularly the Grindhouse edition we reviewed a while ago, which was so batshit and absurd that it rose to some weird arthouse level of insane humor. I didn't see the second one and in fact only found out about that just as I was finishing this review. So if there's something I missed from that movie that could've put context to the nonsense that is this one, I apologize and I'll revoke everything I said.

I guess it starts out with this black dude getting stopped by a cop. You might think this is a parallel to real life, that we’re about to really get some serious social commentary from this movie about a man in a bunny costume. But no, the cop just grills him on whether he’s left or right handed, I guess as the script’s attempt to make tension with the fact that the black dude is hiding a gun out of the cop’s sight. But it’s as boring as the most boring thing you can think of. No tension and nothing happens. Great scene!

Then we see the Bunnyman on the same road and he’s beating up some random child in a bag. There’s no real context and it comes off mostly tasteless… he sets the now lifeless, possibly dead kid up at this bus stop and I’m mostly wondering who’s going to school way out there, they’re in the middle of the desert and there’s literally nothing around. But I’m thinking too hard. The Bunnyman puts the unconscious/dead (?) child on the bench, then gets mad and kicks the bench over? I don’t know. Maybe someone else can make this make any fucking sense.

The cop shows up and tries to apprehend the Bunnyman, and then the black guy from before runs him down with his car and addresses the Bunnyman – “Michael, get in!” Apparently they’re all part of some kind of criminal gang or whatever? I guess they have some big fortress in the desert and they shoot people who randomly accidentally get too close. There are some scenes where they try and make drama with all these guys in the compound, but it eludes me like a faint gust of wind. I couldn’t tell you anything that happened in this if you had a gun to my head.

There are just a shitload of boring scenes in this thing – boring scenes of the Bunnyman interacting with a deaf mute, looking at old photos that I guess are supposed to mean something about his past, eating dinner with these guys who run the compound. There’s just nothing that happens. It’s like the director was just given a $20 bill as a budget plus a scrap of napkin from a cocktail bar with the word “guy in bunny outfit” as the only script, and he just had to improvise because he needs the money to feed his family who are currently living under a bridge somewhere.

Or sometimes there IS stuff that happens, like when the gang kidnaps these random people in the woods and tortures them by making these women choose between drinking poison or having spiders crawl on them! That’s weird, right? Later on he chainsaws some more random people in this weird carnival attraction the gang is running. There’s really not much more context to it. The whole fucking movie is just random scenes of slow, badly acted, random murder scenes. I wish I could say it was even funny like the first one. The best we get is a non sequitur musical trip-out scene of the Bunnyman flying through space or some shit, seemingly just thrown in at random in the middle of the murder scenes. But this is only funny in comparison to the dour tone of everything else, which has the atmosphere of sitting in the DMV for too long while you have to pee.

I mean I guess there are a few funny parts though – the main guy is trying to have this whole circus or carnival event or whatever it is, and one of the Bunnyman kidnapping victims comes running out screaming that they’re being killed. The carnival guy’s response is to take out a gun and shoot her right there in front of everyone! Who says being a businessman is hard?

I can’t even really keep talking about this because it’s all just nonsense. There’s no plot here. It’s just a dude in a bunny costume doing random stuff. That sounds like it should be more fun than this is. I hate to even rag on this shit since it’s not even really a movie made with any serious budget behind it. I should have spent this time bashing something lame and corporate. Or watching good movies. I thought this one would at least be entertaining schlock but we’re all wrong occasionally, even me, I’ll admit to it right here.

Oh well. Happy trails, everybody.

Image copyright of its original owners.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Bunnyman: Grindhouse Edition (2019)

Well, I had to revive the blog for this one. Thing was, I’ve been looking into some urban legends and found this Bunny Man story kind of interesting. If you don’t know, there were a few incidents back in the 70s of people running across a deranged man in a bunny outfit with an ax, who told them they were trespassing on private property and threatened them. Not much else was ever found out. It’s an interesting story to me because it’s actually some real dude – not a weird mythological creature or some shit like that.

Anyway this movie doesn’t have anything to do with any of that shit.

Director: Carl Lindbergh

Co-written with Michelle.

Apparently this came out in 2011, but was later redone as ‘Bunnyman Grindhouse Edition,’ and it’s absolutely batshit. I mean this makes about 90 percent of what we’ve reviewed on here seem like a milquetoast quaint church program.

The thing starts with a black and white intro explaining how the Bunnyman was burned alive and that’s how he’s the way he is. It’s as dramatic as the intro to a serious dramatic movie, only it’s about a Bunnyman character. Get it? It’s about the juxtaposition. It goes on for several minutes to the point where I was wondering if this wasn’t some kind of Silent Night Deadly Night 2 situation just recounting some movie we haven’t seen.

But nah. It’s basically just this group of weird dead-eyed white 30-somethings driving in the woods with no clear destination – it’s never said. They have no personalities and even the dialogue feels improvised, to the point where it’s like the script probably didn’t have any dialogue at all. I bet the script was just a mysterious rune wrapped in paper that, whenever the actors stared at it, just filled them with the mythical arcane knowledge that time is a flat circle and all of space is a swirling endless stairway to the gods and the Earth and our reality is just a flimsy illusion and our minds would shatter like Christmas ornaments dropped on the ground if we perceived it as it really is, and they just spat out this dialogue as if truly inspired. That’s what I’m going with.

They run across this crazy big truck which tries to run them off the road when they cut him off. They try and confront the driver but the windows are mirrored and the truck just sits there sinisterly. Then they end up crashing their car against nothing on the side of the road. One of the idiots goes under there and fix the car, but the killer comes in the big truck again and gently bumps the back of the car, which somehow rips the one dude’s face off and kills him instantly! What a strong car they have. True triumph for the American auto industry here. It’s 100% more murder-friendly.

From here on out you get some of the insane changes they made apparently – as they wander through the woods hardly even mentioning the horrific murder of their friend, they step into a portal into 70s New York City with a goofy voiceover and vintage B-roll filler overtop? And they appear to be traveling across the globe, with arrows pointing them across oceans to Africa and then Australia?

It’s just really absurd editing. Props to the director. Just taking a fucking hatchet to his own movie and going wild like he’s on acid. It’s actually kind of admirable how utterly insane everything is. Slasher movies weren’t fucking high art. But this thing goes so far off the deep end, it comes around into being brilliant in a weird infinity circle. Just don’t think about it. Just go with the flow. They have an intermission with some weird ads about kidneys or food or some shit like that. It’s just a marvel of absolute weird shit. It's every cliche you ever heard about weirdos just flinging paint at canvasses and creating art. Just a masterclass in utter creation.

Then they’re wandering through the woods aimlessly. They see a bunch of bags of bones in the trees (always a great sign for the country and a thing that feels inviting to me!) and then they come across this random redneck with a gun and a beer. They have a long conversation trying to get this guy to let them use a phone. The guy says he wants to fuck one of the girls in exchange, and one of the guys just keeps ignoring him and repeating the question, asking this redneck if he can use the phone, with the look on his face like he’s a complete newborn who has never had a human interaction before. It goes around and around in circles. The emptiness in the main guy’s eyes is total and terrifying, like a void in outer space. The redneck guy threatens them with the gun and they leave with the other dude saying “fuck you” which seems like a smart thing to do when the other dude has a gun. But who am I to judge?

After wandering for what has to be hours, one girl goes “where are we going?!” Which, to me, that would’ve been a thing I asked before they even started walking, but I guess in the movie’s logic that would be why I’d have died before this by a lot. Who woulda known? She and the one idiot dude from the last paragraph get into a fight and she almost beats his brain out with a rock. Which is funnier to me than a lot of actual comedies. This shit is gold to me. Get it on TV somehow.

There’s another weird intermission cutscene. In this one, a naked chick is killed in the shower by a guy in a bunny costume. I hope she got paid for this, but in reality we all know she didn’t. Then you get a scene where they intentionally, poorly voiced over a bunch of goofy European sounding accents on all the main characters. More surrealism.

After this, it basically turns into a low-rent Texas Chainsaw Massacre ripoff. There’s really not much else to say. It really becomes a lot less entertaining after this, but I guess there are a few actual moments where it approaches serious scary stuff, with a few nice chase scenes going on and shit like that. But the finale is a pretty annoying attempt to re-do the TCM dinner scene and it just doesn’t work.

But that first half with all the weird edits – man, what art! Flawless. Slasher films becoming everything they were destined to be!

Friday, March 12, 2021

Legion (TV show) and how to resolve stories without fighting

I want to talk about the TV show Legion, which I finally finished all of a while ago, but also more in general about the concepts of superhero stories and action and all the other ways you can tell a story than what we get.


Legion, the Noah Hawley vehicle, ran for a few years in the late 2010s and came to an end in 2019. The first season, I bought in 2018, and I found it interesting and visually colorful, but I’d be lying if I said I really connected with the characters. I put it in mind to check the rest but it wasn’t a priority.

But now, of course, I had more time. So I delved into the rest of the show. I found season 2 to be an arresting display, arthouse cinema meets superhero fantasy. I’d never seen anything like it from a superhero medium. It was like they'd taken influence from the old avant garde filmmakers of the '60s and '70s and applied it to this modern thing. I found the ways Hawley and the writers portrayed the various characters and showed development to be kooky and off-beat but also artful, communicating truths and ideas in vivid ways. And the action scenes were interesting because they were pretty much the inverse of what you would expect. In one scene, two characters do an impromptu old-school wrestling match in a dream realm. In another, you get singing, a dance battle and cartoon animations laid over what’s really happening.

It’s all very conceptual. Me describing it here won’t do it justice. But it’s like taking the essence of conflict itself and just doing these creative things with it. Instead of typing out a lot more word salad, I’ll just paste what Hawley himself said, which has in turn inspired my own creative juices for writing recently…

"A fight is a very black and white, two-dimensional thing. We're fighting and I'm trying to beat you and you're trying to beat me. But what if the scene is... part of it is peacocking and part of it is a courtship dance and part of it is fighting because 'I hate that I have to work with you' etc. You can't express that in a fight sequence, but in a dance fight you can.”

I’m just drawn to the idea of conflict being resolved in other ways beyond fighting. Fight scenes have long been a weird thing for me. I like action, sure – but for a long time since I was younger, some types of action just came off perfunctory, even boring. I found myself longing more for good dialogue and themes. You can show a big fight and it’ll look good on the big screen for everyone with their popcorn, but that doesn’t always stick with you forever. Or it doesn’t for me. A lot of the recent MCU movies have this problem – I just find myself sucking in breath and waiting for the fight to be over. Like it’s just obligatory, a fill-in-the-blanks thing that has to be there. They’re also so bloodless and predictable that it isn’t like it adds much anyway.

Don’t get me wrong here. I like violent media as much as anybody. I like stuff brutal and quick and realistic. I love Sicario’s pitch-black bile, and Mad Max Fury Road is a high octane burst of insanity. Blue Ruin is more my speed for a revenge film because it shows you how ugly violence and revenge really are. There's an underlying reason for every horrific thing that happens. That’s worth a lot more to me than your John Wicks, polished and pristine to the point where I just can’t really get invested.

The essence of stories is always one where things are resolved at the end. And not everything needs to be resolved with a big fight scene, as the shows and stories from our childhood told us. I grew up watching a lot of anime – all these big flashy colorful fight scenes to determine everything. In the end, though, it becomes a formula, rigid and ramrod-stiff. Maybe this sounds like me trying to tell you your taste is shit. But really it's more that I am trying to break my own biases from when I was younger. Freeing from a thought-cage, if you will.

As I got older, other stuff just became more compelling to me. Twin Peaks: The Return has a few scenes of utterly warped, psychedelic action in its last few episodes, but that isn’t what the whole series hinges on either. That’s another example that’s inspired me lately. The conflict is fluid and metaphorical, and gives me ideas of transformation and righting the wrongs of the past. The violence is never the focal point. 

Legion ends with its third season, which is the most action-packed of all of them, with the most traditional fight scenes (though I guess ‘traditional’ for this show is still utterly weird for any other one). They’re well done and don’t take away from anything. But the actual end isn’t based on violence – the characters end up subverting things pretty blatantly, and love and forgiveness wins out. That sounds like hippie shit, I know. But it allows the story to come full circle, and makes a stronger point about damage done through the years, about the ways we can grow and change and maybe everything bad isn’t permanent after all.

More interesting ending to me than ‘good guy beats the bad guy,’ you know? This is the kind of thing I’d like to explore more. Stories are damn fascinating to me. There are infinite ways to do them.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Possessor (2020)

This one got a lot of good reviews, but man do I ever not like it! Apparently, this was a movie made by David Cronenberg’s son Brandon Cronenberg, who probably grew up surrounded by surreal body horror props and scenes and it bled into him, and this is what came in lieu of seeing a therapist.


Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Co-written with Michelle.

Possessor is the kind of movie I haven’t seen in a while, got to say. It’s the kind of thing that made my friends and I keep doing these blogs all those years ago, so inept and infuriating that there was nothing to do but crank up the snark. It was fun, and came with an easy outlet for creativity. In recent years we’ve fallen off a bit, sure, and the general premise seems dated now. But every once in a while – hoo, boy, sometimes something just comes along that reignites the fire.

This is about a weird alternate 2008 – according to Wikipedia; it’s never said in the movie. Why 2008? I can't think of that much interesting about that time period. But then, maybe that reflects the movie as well. Might as well be consistent with the uninteresting-ness of everything.

The main character is a dead-eyed weirdo of a woman who works as a professional assassin. The twist is, her company has this convoluted technology where she can jump into the body of someone else to carry out the kill! I seem to remember decades of time in which hits were carried out by the person themselves, who was unknown to the target. Those were better days.

There’s really no reason to do the body jumping, and also, nobody ever seems to acknowledge that they’re wrecking random peoples’ lives when they do it since those people get blamed for the crimes. The main character Tasya, never shows any conflict with this aspect, nor do any of the people she works with. This could be interesting with deft writing, it could show moral conflict or corporate soullessness and such. But guess what’s missing from this movie?!

I guess they try to sell you that Tasya misses her family who she separated from to do the job, and her boss wants her to cut off any human attachments. Tasya goes back and has sex with her husband and sees her kid again, too, before taking a new job. All of the “character development” is just stated blankly in the dialogue, while the movie and actors do nothing to actually convince you. It’s like the script is the shitty public defender for the most irredeemable defendant alive, the worst, guiltiest and least likable person imaginable.

The main plot is that they want Tasya to jump into the body of this guy Tate who is dating the daughter of some high-up business guy. The job is to kill the daughter and the business guy so the assassin company can buy the business guy’s company? Is that even possible? Sure does seem like a lot of nonsense to go through for this fucking goal, and there's no stated reason what the real endgame is or who's behind it all - just Jennifer Jason Leigh's mid-level management character who barely gets any real dimension to her. It’s like the 80s comedies where dorky scientists would invent these whole complex contraptions that just ended up like, making toast or some shit.

The whole movie is like that – I’m sure she could just get into this business asshole’s office somehow and shoot him and be done with it, but then we wouldn’t have a whole movie of art-school bullshit hallucinating scenes for no reason. Yeah – there are a lot of weird trippy scenes just shoved in seemingly whenever the movie was at risk of getting (more) boring, just eyes being pierced and odd hazy blue people screaming and colors flashing like an epileptic nightmare. They do this like half a dozen times in a less than two-hour movie. I guess it’s supposed to represent something. Really it just comes off as the movie equivalent of filling out your term paper with more white space and periods to inflate the character count.

But yeah – despite this being a fairly clear-cut assassination goal, they can’t just go and do that. There has to be this endless soul-sucking drag of random other shit. Tasya as Tate goes to some weird job where he has to look at curtains in peoples’ houses? It’s never really explained but is an excuse to throw some random sex in there. Then he goes to a party where they all have the worst inane conversations rejected from a Tarantino film. Then some more sex, this time with Tate and his girlfriend. If you really need to see this much sex and nudity in a thriller movie, why not just go watch porn? It's not cool, fun sex. It feels weird and gross in the context of this movie.

The party comes, and the idea is for Tasya as Tate to get thrown out of the party and then come back in and kill everyone. Why not just kill everyone right away? If you already went through the process of doing the whole body swap thing, do you need even more pointless rules? Oh, right, I forgot, padding is needed to give this thing a decent runtime. My bad, so silly of me.

If you like gore, I guess the scene of Tasya stabbing this dude in the mouth and wrenching teeth out is something. But I like gore when it's fun - this movie is about as fun as reading tax documents. It's dour and unpleasant. Everything from the sex to the gore is just lifeless, weird and lame.

I guess the story from here is that Tate fights back against Tasya possessing him and stabs himself to stop it – why was that a possibility? Seems like your tech sucks ass. Just go kill people regular next time. It's DIY. Small business, artisanal stuff. It's more all-American, classic style and we need some of that sometimes.

Anyway, it leads to a fragmented mind where he’s seeing a bunch of stuff from Tasya’s life and feeling like he’s going insane. He kills a few more random people as he tries to figure out what the fuck is happening. These scenes of him with his face twisted in agony, not knowing what’s going on and realizing he’s fucked up his life by being associated with what’s happening now are the only relatable scenes in the movie.

There’s at least thirty minutes of meandering nonsense left. It’s amazing how awful the pacing is in this thing. Everything is so slow and yet there’s not even the minimum attempt to endear you to any character or situation. If you wanted to simulate the feeling of being stuck in rush hour traffic, with the sun beating down as you move an inch every five minutes, and you’ve had to piss for the last twenty minutes, fantastic job.

With the whole mind-swapping thing, there’s a super long sequence of Tate taking some mold of Tasya’s face that looks like it was burned in a car accident. It’s not scary but it is weird and gross and makes me hate living a little more. I love that it's superimposed over scenes we already saw in the movie. This thing is less than two hours and we're reusing scenes. it's like being at a party and trying to avoid the annoying guy who won't quit talking to you. When does it end?

Somehow it ends with Tate finding his way to Tasya’s house and killing her husband brutally with a knife. No real reason for all this, but hey, gore! That’s something, right??? It also turns out the boss lady from Tasya’s job takes control of her son and gets him shot too. There’s a lot of screaming, guns firing and a little kid dies – is this an edgy adult dark movie yet? Please, this is all that’s left in life. It doesn’t matter if the motivations are unclear, there’s no discernible character development and the plot is fuzzier than an out-of-focus 1995 disposable camera. All that matters is that the movie is dark and edgy.

Finally it’s over, leaving me with the vague feeling that I’ve seen some weirdo’s school shooter manifesto translated somehow to the screen. It’s not that I’m against dark films, or avant garde shit. I spent quarantine last year watching every David Lynch and Gaspar Noe movie I could find. I’ve seen David Cronenberg’s old material several times. But Possessor is just so awful in every aspect, from the stiff, vague plot to the deadened, nonexistent characters and right down to the stale, too-cold settings and expressions on the character’s faces. It’s just unpleasant in every single way. I truly didn’t enjoy anything about this at all. No exaggeration.

And sure, in old reviews, as was the case in the late 2000s and early 2010s, it was en vogue to bash the creators and make all these hyperbolic statements, this is the worst thing ever, et cetera. And I’m not as about that anymore. Brandon Cronenberg is probably an OK guy and I like his dad’s movies. Nothing personal here. I just think Possessor is the void where any kind of hope goes to die, the thing that fills me with nothing but hate and misery towards everything. But nothing personal. You know how it is.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Frankenstein (2015)

Am I still doing these? Let’s see what happens. I'm posting this with very little editing. I don't know if anyone reads blogs anymore. But this is still here, still heaving onwards like a strange misshapen behemoth forgotten by time. Here we go.

Director: Bernard Rose
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Carrie-Ann Moss

Co-written with Michelle.

Frankenstein is a new adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel from so long ago, because I guess somebody really wanted more stories like this after all this time? This version starts off with very little backstory, just a couple of scientists making a 20-something white dude in a lab. There’s no real info on why they did this, no real details on who they are. Just a fun science experiment. The creature can barely walk and shows no discernible skills, but they take a lot of shots and inject him with sedatives a lot! Then he gets some boils on his face randomly so they decide to kill him.

Sorry, so what was the point then? Doesn’t seem like a very good experiment to me. Luckily the creature, who calls himself ‘Monster’ in this, just breaks free and kills everyone. He gets out and sees sunlight for the first time, and the cops just appear from nowhere like vampires and start firing guns without even asking questions. I give the movie points for a realistic portrayal of cops.

He goes out into the world and makes friends with a dog like it’s a fucking Disney movie from the late 90s. Then he finds some little girl to race sticks in the water with – truly this will be one of cinema’s all-time greatest scenes. He throws the little girl in the water for no reason, which is actually kinda hilarious. She gets out, but there are more cops there almost immediately ready to shoot him without asking questions – these guys are real desperados, man! Living on the edge!

He traipses through some fairly nice looking scenes of the city, until he finds Tony Todd, the Candyman himself, hanging out as a bedraggled blind homeless man playing a guitar under a bridge. This is actually a portrayal of how he's been doing since Candyman!

Anyway, he’s also cool, accepting and can do a lot of shit despite being blind, but doesn’t really have a character aside from that. It’s about as cliché as a movie can get. This stuff is like they were playing Mad Libs in the studio. It’s like they were trying to angle for an Oscar but didn’t know how to make the whole movie, instead of just individual scenes. It’s actually charming in a doofy kind of way.

Tony Todd introduces him to your usual cool, down to Earth hooker who wants to have sex with him. They go to a hotel and the hooker continues to treat ‘Monster’ like he’s a regular dude who just doesn’t talk much, even though he’s actually a catatonic freak show. It’s one of those dumb movie things where it doesn’t make sense why anyone doesn’t just see he’s an abnormality and treat him as such – the movie’s writing isn’t clever enough to sustain it. The bridge is giving out. You can feel the free-falling air meeting you like an old friend…

Anyway, he comes out of the shower naked, completely fucking scarred and with no dick. She freaks out and says she doesn’t want to do anything anymore, and he accidentally kills her. Then Tony Todd’s character comes up and ‘Monster’ kills him, too. The issue with the movie is just that he’s so strong he can do fucking anything. How is this an interesting plot if nothing hurts him and he can just swat anyone around like a fucking King Kong impression? Not very, I think.

He ends the movie by going back to the scientists as they’re about to have sex. They interrupt their good times to go down to the basement and care for him yet again. The dude tries to kill him yet again, also showing him a newer model of the same thing – still no reason why they’re doing this by the way; it might as well be gibberish. The woman scientist then tries to stop the dude from killing ‘Monster,’ but the dude ends up slashing her gut and killing her. They were having sex before this – that’s just funny to me now. What a tumultuous volcanic relationship. What a weird dynamic.

Anyway, that’s the movie I guess. It’s at least not a straight re-telling. I liked a few of the scenes’ camerawork. But overall it was kind of a joke. Why would you make this and title it Frankenstein and then just do it so unpretentious? Why was there no backstory to anything? I don’t need a huge amount – but this literally had nothing explaining any aspect of why these things were happening. That would be fine if the movie was gripping, but really, because he can just beat the shit out of or kill anyone he wants, there’s no drama. It’s like half of a premise became a movie with no vetting.

But maybe the pointlessness is just reflective of how life is now. Of how looking for meaning is really just naive and not constructive at all, and we might as well just go along with whatever weird tides life throws at us. Yeah. Maybe that’s it.