Sunday, November 5, 2017

Jigsaw

Image result for jigsaw 2017How about one more horror review before taking a break from that shit for a while?  And this is appropriate considering I kicked off Harefooted Halloween 2017 with Saw I-VII.  After marathoning those fuckin’ things Jigsaw had to be seen.  Not because I became such a fan of the series but because it was all still fresh in my mind.  This was the best shot this film was gonna get from me.  And how would a new installment compare seven years later to a group of pictures that were all shot consecutively seven years in a row?

Well to get right to the point this is sadly probably the worst Saw movie in the bunch now.  It comes off like someone trying to remember what these pictures were like only having seen one of them a long time ago.  They managed to stick to the two main trademarks of the series, traps and plot twists, but they’re both handled so goddamn sloppily.  Let’s briefly go over both.

First the traps.  Almost all of these fuckers in the previous movies required the victim to complete some sort of mechanical action (which also usually caused unbearable self-inflicted pain) in order to prevent the insidious contraption from killing you or someone you know.  They were more or less self-contained.  In Jigsaw the victims need to get out of the traps by doing something only a human can recognize and that can’t be understood by a machine.  This is not in keeping with the franchise.  Here you need to do shit like inject someone with a syringe full of an unknown substance to free you from your neck collar, or you need to verbally confess your crimes to prevent lasers from splitting your head open, or you need to get slashed by a spinning blade and spill some blood to release the metal bucket on your head (and these aren’t those table saws that can sense flesh and retract, these stay put and shut off when it senses even a tiny amount of blood).  So Jigsaw needs to be standing there watching the whole game play out with his finger on the button waiting for the exact moment to advance someone when they do what he wants them to.  And we know from the other films he does not have time for that shit.  He has so many traps to construct and people to spy on and cancer treatment to go to and other crap.  He’s an extremely busy person.

Image result for jigsaw 2017One trap with sharp metal objects falling onto the victims in a claustrophobic silo particularly doesn’t work.  This is in the middle of the game so any one of the knives or pitchforks coming down could prematurely kill someone.  In the past there was typically a way to survive these things if you can hack it.  It’s not supposed to be pure luck.

The one trap that’s in the vein of the original series is the sawed off shotgun loaded with one shell.  It lies in between two people and they have to decide who will use it.  The twist with it is pure Saw and makes me think this was leftover from one of the other movies because it’s way too clever compared to the rest of the picture.

The other big thing the filmmakers fucked up are the twists.  The storyline is more convoluted than ever, even to the point where I’m not sure how the last ten minutes (which is what I’m really talking about here) fit together with the other installments.  The crazy sidewinder turns these movies would take used to be sincerely, and even pleasantly, surprising.  All the twists in this one are just perplexing without the added enjoyment of it somehow satisfyingly fitting in with the overall scheme of things.

Image result for jigsaw 2017And maybe I’ve developed some sort of intuition when it comes to these fuckin’ movies but I correctly guessed what the ending was about half way in.  So when they got to the big reveal it didn’t have much of an impact.  I think the structure of the story and the editing telegraphed too much which a savvy viewer can pick up on.  Events happen too close together for them to make sense so there’s a weird timeline issue that’s confusing but at the same time only leads to one logical conclusion if you think about it for a sec.

Oh boy, in Jigsaw everything you liked about the Saw films feels dumb and everything you thought was dumb about the Saw films feels a helluva lot dumber.  Better luck next time.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Harefooted Halloween: Sadako vs. Kayako

Image result for sadako vs kayako natsumiWhat I Liked: Good ol’ fashioned original design Sadako is finally back in action after a sixteen year hiatus and even then her appearance in Ringu 0 was brief.  With the most recent entries Sadako 3D was all stylized like you’re watching a live action anime and Sadako 2 3D is a Ring movie in name only with basically no Sadako.  So to see that sadistic ghost girl out there again doin’ her thang was kickass and really satisfying.

They expand the mythology to include repercussions for interfering with Sadako’s curse.  At one point two cursed individuals go to a shaman for help but Sadako doesn’t like that so during the exorcism she has these people kill themselves.  It’s a pretty intense scene that goes on for a while where shit gets weirder and crazier.

Everything is taken at face value here.  There isn’t disbelief that a cursed VHS tape and a haunted house exist, there aren’t really fake out moments that just extend the runtime, we don’t delve into the backstory or motives of Sadako and Kayako, it’s all very straightforward.

What I Didn’t Like: Why do each of these Ring films change the rules?  This one shortens the number of days left to live to only two, and I guess as long as you’re not staring right at the video you don’t get cursed?  What you see on the video is different too.  They got rid of the iconic well in the woods and replaced it with a large building that has an opened doorway and a walkway leading up to it.  What’s accomplished by changing the contents of the tape?

Image result for sadako vs kayakoThe filmmakers couldn’t figure out a way to naturally bring Sadako and Kayako together so they copped out and included a know-it-all-take-no-shit guru who helps guide our protagonists through the curses.  Out of the blue he has the idea to have the two entities face off in order to lift both curses from his clients (he’s getting paid to do this).  That’s very lame.

Spoiler on this last paragraph

The showdown between Sadako and Kayako goes how you would expect, they each land a couple of blows using their signature moves but the filmmakers had to be very diplomatic so as to not piss off fans of either franchise.  It’s the same exact mentality as Freddy vs. Jason.  I understand you can’t show one villain clearly overpowering the other but at the same time it’s gonna feel like a bit of a gyp if no winner is officially declared.

Image result for sadako vs kayakoOverall Impressions: This is way more of a Ring movie than a Grudge movie which was great in my case.  I’ve seen (almost) all the Ring films but only Ju-on: The Grudge so I’m not as familiar with that series.  The cursed video angle is more intriguing to me than the haunted house concept so to get two thirds of a real decent Ring picture, which hasn’t happened in a long time, was awesome.

With such a silly premise it would’ve been tempting to go over the top in the production design and execution but it’s great that the filmmakers restrained themselves.  Interestingly they went serious on this and tried hard to go for creepy atmosphere/imagery and big scares.  I mean it could’ve been neat if they did an exaggerated take like Sadako 3D except even cartoonier but I’m glad they kept it in the styles and moods that were established in each of these franchises.

Image result for sadako vs kayakoAnd you know what?  This film is surprisingly quite good.  The ending is actually the worst part because it’s dreadfully contrived.  I get that having these horror titans fight each other is supposed to be the whole idea but they couldn’t come up with a way to truly make it work.  And because all the other shit is mostly handled very well it made the brawl finale even stupider.

Look, if you’re a Ring fan check it out.  Those parts are fucking cool.  It could be the second best installment in the series strangely enough.  If you’re a Grudge fan, I don’t know.  It definitely plays second fiddle here so you might not be into that.  Either way this is something we all wanted to see, right?  RIGHT!?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Harefooted Halloween: Pet Sematary

Image result for pet sematary
What I Liked: The story about a husband/father (Dale Midkiff (Love Potion No. 9)) who keeps bringing dead family members back to life is pretty fuckin’ cool.  However you just gotta roll with how they unfold everything and not think about it too much.  If you can do that then you’ll be rewarded with an interesting riff on Frankenstein.

Yet another movie with a killer kid in it.  This one is by far the youngest too at like three years old or some shit.  The combination of the child being preposterously young and the obvious use of a stunt doll in some shots makes this infant murderer comical.  It was impossible for me to take that tiny bastard seriously.  In that regard it was amusing and sorta fun to watch, well up to a point.  More on that in a minute.  And on a side note what the hell’s up with the films I picked this year having adolescent slashers in them?  Such a peculiar trend to accidentally inflict upon myself.

What I Didn’t Like: The acting is not very good all around especially Midkiff who plays it too monotone.  Fred Gwynne (Fatal Attraction) is alright I guess but his exaggerated accent, which I can only assume is supposed to be a Maine one, is incredibly distracting.

Two scenes of “Nooooooooo!”  Once is really pushing it but two?  I’m calling foul.

Image result for pet semataryThere’s a bunch of superfluous shit in here like the laundry lady who hangs herself and is never mentioned again, the wife’s backstory involving a sick bed-ridden demon-possessed-looking sister who she hated, the ghost that tries to guide and help the family out at various points but ultimately doesn’t have any real impact on the story and etc.  Maybe this stuff had more meaning or worked better in the book but in the movie it’s thrown in without any thought of why it’s there.

Midkiff doesn’t learn his lesson that he shouldn’t reanimate dead creatures which is very frustrating.  Sure it’s a little funny because he’s such a stupid person but after all the horrific shit he goes through he still doesn’t see anything wrong with putting folks six feet under in that old supernatural Indian burial ground.

Overall Impressions: This was a mixed experience.  On one hand I enjoyed the general premise and how we ramp up from evil dead cat to evil dead person.  It’s a natural progression that you want to see and the filmmakers give it to you.  On the other hand the story becomes predictable which causes Midkiff to come off like kind of an idiot.  Of course whatever you lay to rest in the Indian cemetery, sorry, sematary is gonna come back all fucked up bent on murdering everything in its sight.

Image result for pet semataryAnd I can’t believe they actually went for the homicidal scalpel wielding toddler full on.  I mean his own father has to take him down making this even edgier.  The whole thing has a Child’s Play feel, particularly Child’s Play 2 when Chucky has that switchblade towards the end, with how relentless and vile the kid becomes.  I wonder if there was any influence but the timeline don’t quite add up so it’s unclear (Sematary book (1983), Child’s Play (1988), Sematary movie (1989), Child’s Play 2 (1990)).  The big notable difference however is one is a doll and one is a human child.

This is a tough recommendation.  It’s so well known that if you’re a horror fan you should get around to checking it out at some point.  If you’re not I don’t know if there’s enough here.  The odder things like the wife’s ghastly sister haunting her and the final twist at the end are completely unnecessary but at the same time kinda neat on their own merits.

Stephen King’s done worse and better.  This one is fairly typical of him in that there are good ideas but he has trouble fitting them all together.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Harefooted Halloween: 31

Image result for 31 richard brakeWhat I Liked: In spots this can be very pretty to look at like the big theater type hall where the 31 game is introduced and of course the gorgeous black and white intro scene.

Richard Brake (Hannibal Rising) gives a really good performance as the psychotic Doom-Head.  Unfortunately he’s not in the movie a whole lot and there isn’t much dimension to his character but his enthusiasm rubs off big time.

What I Didn’t Like: The dialogue is incredibly asinine.  It’s overloaded with bad dick jokes, unsubtle sexual come-ons and a large helping of pompousness.  Rob Zombie wrote this and has the actors deliver the lines like he thinks they’re so damn clever.  This is probably my number one complaint with the movie in general.

None of the protagonists are particularly likeable and the bulk of that has to do with the terrible dialogue I just mentioned.  It’s not that they’re bad people it’s that they’re annoying.  They think grinding on an old man gas station owner is a funny joke or that putting on a show centered around a guy in a gorilla mask is the greatest idea.  I don’t care about any of these people.

The shaky cam with quick cuts during the fight scenes is inexcusable today.  Thankfully that shitty trend went out a number of years ago so to see it pop up in 2016 is a head scratcher.  Maybe Zombie shot it this way to sneak in more carnage and still get an R rating.  Or maybe he genuinely thought it looked good.  Either way it stinks.

Image result for 31 rob zombieOverall Impressions: Essentially this is a Running Man rip off.  You have a group of people taking part in a game against their will that are let loose in a controlled environment and pursued by a “stalker”.  If they survive for a certain amount of time they win.  31 is nowhere near as good though.  The gore is amped up prominently and the stalker characters are ghouled up to push this into horror territory.  Oh and by the way 31 refers to Oct 31, you know, Halloween.  It’s when the movie takes place.

What’s most disappointing is Zombie was improving on his filmmaking skills and this feels like a step backwards.  31 goes in a more broad horror direction with generic shit like the filthy boiler room/factory setting, chainsaw wielding clowns, bland characters, etc (to be fair though the little person Latino Hitler stalker is certainly a memorable bizarre standout).  The premise is also much more basic than anything he’s done since the 2007 Halloween remake.  It’s just uninteresting and not the best made movie which is a shame considering Zombie’s shit has always been captivating for one reason or another.

Image result for 31 rob zombieThe film Zombie did before this, Lords of Salem, is his strongest visually.  And even though I didn’t care for the story all that much at least it was a different weirder tale about witchcraft.  The Devil’s Rejects remains his best piece though and a great horror picture in any regard.

31 isn’t a total wash however.  The intro that’s shot in stunningly crisp black and white and showcases Blake’s gripping performance is fucking tremendous.  It seems tacked on compared to the rest of the film and maybe it really was a short that Zombie decided to throw in there, but it’s my favorite part.  That scene is definitely worth checking out.

“I should apologize in advance for not sharpening this thing.  It might take a couple of extra whacks.”

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Harefooted Halloween: The Boy

Image result for the boy 2016
What I Liked: When Greta (Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead, All Eyez on Me)) is introduced as the new nanny to the little boy Brahms who is revealed to actually be a doll made me laugh out loud.  The parents treat the doll like a real human son so they’re acting sincere the whole time.  And the filmmakers must’ve realized this was an unavoidably silly moment because they had Greta laugh as well.

A lot of the movie is like a one woman show with Greta in the house by herself suspecting the doll is alive and playing games with her.  This is a somewhat demanding role and Cohan does a serviceable job.  Not really great but solid.

Spoilers from here on out

What I Didn’t Like: The twist with Brahms being an actual grown person living in the walls is incredibly fucking stupid.  Putting aside the terrible fact that we’ve seen this done many times before, I have a lot of questions.  Here are a few:

How did Brahms and his parents come to the agreement that he would live inside the walls?  Even if it was only for the couple of week period seen in the film that still seems like it would take some hard convincing.

Image result for the boy 2016With being a huge six foot plus dude living in the walls how did Brahms exist back there without making tons of noise in his movements and shenanigans like shifting the doll around the house and stealing Greta’s clothing and all of that?

Why do Brahms’ parents bother putting on the charade that the doll is their son in the first place?  They’re clearly all completely insane and the parents could’ve gotten a girl from anywhere nearby to throw to their son.

Why did the parents commit suicide?  They couldn’t handle taking care of Brahms any longer?  They could’ve left and never come back without killing themselves.

What exactly was Brahms’ plan anyway?  Was he ever going to reveal himself if the doll wasn’t smashed and Greta’s life wasn’t threatened, or was he going to continue to live in the walls for the rest of his life?

Image result for the boy 2016 lauren cohanOverall Impressions: It goes without saying this is a dumb fuckin’ movie (shit, why did I just say that then?).  Everything from the exceedingly generic title, to the asshole boyfriend character that’s only in the film to get killed, to the odd plastic CGI looking doll design, it’s all pretty bad.  If you’re scared of dolls there might be something for you (personally they’re not for me) but you can do much better with something like Child’s Play 2.  At least that has personality.

I was hoping this would be funny based on the awkward introduction of the doll sitting in a wingback chair but that was the only part that gave me a chuckle.  It doesn’t go on to be like a serious version of John Oliver’s Harding trailer that stars a wax mannequin in the titular role.  No, unfortunately the rest was boring and filled with crap you don’t really care about.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Harefooted Halloween: Possession

Image result for possession 1981What I Liked: The performances by Sam Neill (Event Horizon), Isabelle Adjani (The Driver) and Heinz Bennent are totally in-fuckin’-sane.  They were committed absolutely.  Every scene is filled with so much emotion, physical self-abuse and lots and lots of primal out-of-body yelling.  This is the reason to see the movie.

Most of the ballsy camera moves work where it’ll spin around at different speeds, go to strange angles and ride out a scene until the bitter end.

The look of this is everyday cinematic which is a new term I’m coining.  Nothing about the lighting, exposure, art or production design is beyond the normal boundaries of what you see in your everyday life.  But it’s a damn pretty and crisp version of how you might see everyday life.  (This isn’t to say the plot elements and character actions are ho hum everyday shit, all of that is entirely abnormal)

Image result for possession 1981 sam neillWhat I Didn’t Like: This is more of a minor gripe but the story is kinda hard to follow.  That’s probably just me though.  All of the shit in here has meaning I’m sure but fuck if I know what it is.

Overall Impressions: Possession is notorious for being difficult to pin down.  Is it horror?  Is it straight drama?  Is it fantasy?  I’m not sure myself.  There are certainly elements of horror sprinkled throughout but it doesn’t really feel like a horror movie.  Is this woman possessed by the devil or is she simply out of her goddamn mind?  The title implies there’s a demon involved and sure, there are wiggly slimy alien creatures to be found, but then again the picture could only be about divorce or falling out of love with someone.  Or this lady could actually be having an affair with Satan.  However you wanna see it.

Image result for possession 1981 isabelle adjaniThis is a tough one to talk about partly because I don’t know how to interpret this thing but also because you’re probably better off not knowing very much going in.  At the same time I would be remiss if I didn’t bring it up to you guys.  It’s just…so…fucking…weird.

Seriously though the acting is some of the craziest and best I’ve ever seen.  Everyone’s all in.  And if you’re daring enough to check it out proceed at your own risk.  Shit’s gonna get pretty out there for a little while.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Harefooted Halloween: Vamp

Image result for vamp 1986What I Liked: This movie doesn’t take itself seriously.  There’s a lot of fairly well done sarcastic humor as well as a few clever sight gags.

A lot happens in only ninety mins.  Our hero Keith (Chris Makepeace (Meatballs)) has to battle an entire town full of vampires in one night traveling through the streets, sewers, back alleys and various buildings so you really feel like you’re on a journey.

The wacky extreme pink/purple and green lighting grew on me the more I saw it.  There’s a somewhat fantasy angle to the entire piece and this use of lighting is one of the main aspects.

Everyone’s performances are infused with the right amount of horror, confusion and levity.  They all ham it up to some degree and the combined effect is fun to watch.

What I Didn’t Like: It’s a little confusing and unnecessary that the protagonists somehow spin their car out into this sleazy and possibly imaginary vampire town.  This element doesn’t come back around again like they have to spin themselves back to reality at the end or that it was all a dream.  So why even go there?

Image result for vamp 1986There were times when it seemed like the filmmakers didn’t quite know what to do next and things stall.  This has a very stream of consciousness type of vibe but it doesn’t flow the easiest.  The story, characters and how everything fits together could’ve been thought out more.  If this thing didn’t have so much charm it would be hell to sit through.

Overall Impressions: Ok, tell me if this plot sounds familiar: a group of people go to a strip club off the beaten path only to discover everyone working there are vampires.  The club members hide it at first and entertain the crowd for a while but then they let the charade go and their faces transform into hideous demon beasts out for some eats.  Yea it’s From Dusk Till Dawn only this came out ten years earlier.  I tried to find out if there’s any connection between the films but the only thing I could dig up was Vamp producer Donald P Borchers (Children of the Corn, Crimes of Passion) on YouTube claiming Quentin Tarantino stole the idea.  So who really knows?  The films are plenty different though other than the main premise.  Both can be a good time if you’re in the right mood.

Image result for vamp 1986And Vamp is definitely the weirder of the two.  From the awkward strip Grace Jones (Boomerang) performs all dolled up in exceptionally striking makeup, to the killer elevator scene, to the sewer rat guy, to the love interest’s inexplicable upbeat energetic attitude throughout the entire ordeal, it’s all sorta bizarre.  But it’s a good kinda bizarre I think and if anything it certainly stands out in the pack.

Writer/director Richard Wenk didn’t have much luck with the directing part after this picture but he ended up being a big Hollywood screenwriter with shit like The Equalizer, The Expendables 2, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and 16 Blocks to his name.  It’s too bad Vamp fell into the abyss with no one remembering it today ‘cause I liked it.  It’s pretty out there and absolutely not for everyone but if you’re feeling adventurous give it a shot.