Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween guys!  Enjoy yourself and keep an eye out for the Wolfman's nards.  They're out there somewhere.  Be safe and have a good one.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Mish Mash (Happy Birthday to Me, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode, Frankenstein (1994), Rabid)

Here’s a bunch of other shit I saw this season:

Happy Birthday to Me

Eh, your standard slasher flick.  There’s a sorta nasty scene of brain surgery that must’ve been edgy for 1981 and a double twist ending that’s pretty stupid.  This was directed by J. Lee Thompson who did The Guns of Navarone and Cape Fear (1962).  So kind of a weird choice and Thompson doesn’t do a particularly good job here either.  Skip it.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

I’m glad I re-uped on this because it was better than I remembered.  The opening with Leatherface racing down the road side by side with this other car tearing into it with his saw is fucking great.  I love the creepy corpse costume he wears during that too.

Sure it’s a lot of rehash of the first Chainsaw but it still works.  It’s all good stuff.  The father character seems even crazier, the metal plate guy that looks like David Cross is entertaining, Leatherface is just as loveable as ever, the female lead is a strong independent woman and Dennis Hopper’s tilted performance where he’s fueled on revenge and Jesus is a welcome addition to the family.

The thing I appreciate the most is that this isn’t a formula slasher movie.  You won’t find any group of bland unlikable teenagers that cross paths with a maniac here.  Instead it’s about a guy looking to get some payback for what happened to his brother (Franklin) in the first installment and a disc jockey that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Just that setup alone feels refreshing.  Tobe, you did good.

If you put this one off because it looks dumb and bad and, perhaps mainly, because they spoofed The Breakfast Club with the cover I can totally understand that sentiment.  But I think you should check it out.  It ain’t no Chainsaw 1, but then again what is?  It’s a really fun sequel that has a nice blend of new and familiar shit.

Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode

This was a very informative documentary.  They go through what may have inspired Bram Stoker, the places he visited and the research he did for Dracula.  It seemed like he took real life events and places and twisted them a bit to fit them into his book. 

There’s also a history of the guy that the novel was named after, Vlad Tepes.  Vlad and his family were members of the house of Dracula (the Dragon or the Devil)…or some name like that.  He had nothing really to do with the title character, except he was apparently one merciless sonuvabitch that did kill a lot of people in gruesome ways.  But Vlad totally wasn’t a vampire, not even a little.

You all know by now that I’m a big Dracula fan so I enjoyed this quite a bit.  For you casual fans this probably won’t float your boat.  If you don’t care about the movies or the character then you sure as hell aren’t going to care about the creation of that character.

Just one last thing I want to mention, some guy in the doc says that Dracula is the “biggest single selling novel ever written” and that’s not true, not even a little.

Frankenstein (1994)

Remember when I said Chainsaw 2 was a good re-up?  Well this one wasn’t. 

The biggest problem is everything is too rushed.  All of the scenes are executed at a rapid fire pace with no time for contemplation.  Victor chooses his horrible creation over his fiancé?  Don’t worry about it, we have to get this monster up and running.  Victor and his fiancé get back together?  Forget it, he has to hunt down the creature and destroy it.  Fiancé is dead?  Just reanimate her without thinking twice.  Bang, bang, bang.

The part where the fiancé creature sets herself on fire and the whole house goes up like it’s soaked in kerosene is pretty hilarious though.  And why does the monster have an American accent?  And how the fuck does he keep sneaking past the guards like a goddamn ninja?  He’s the most ungraceful thing that’s ever existed and somehow no one sees this guy breaking into houses.

So it’s kinda funny and kinda entertaining but that’s because it’s put together poorly.  Take that for what you will. 


It’s a Cronenberg picture about a new type of rabies epidemic.  This strain takes effect almost immediately and turns humans into flesh craving, mouth foaming, beady eyed monsters.  The carrier is Rose (Marilyn Chambers (porn)) who craves blood.  She sticks her victims with this needle dick thing that shoots out of her armpit.  When she takes the blood this turns the person into a rabid mad dog and they eventually die.

What’s not totally explained is how Rose developed this unique ability.  You see, she was in a motorcycle crash which put her in a coma.  The doctors had to do some experimental skin grafting procedure and I think they want you to buy that that’s how this whole thing started.  It’s kinda weak but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  You got a person spreading mega-rabies and all of Quebec (at least) is in a panic.  Deal with it.

Initially I thought of this as a vampire zombie mash up.  Rose is like a vampire because she needs to suck folks’ blood and that process creates a zombie byproduct.  The zombie then produces other zombies because it too needs to chomp on some human.  Seems like an interesting concept to me.  I was actually a little disappointed when they tell you it’s rabies because that’s too ordinary an explanation for a movie with a chick that drinks blood through an armpit barb.  Although the thing is called Rabid isn’t it?  I guess the title should’ve tipped me off.

This movie’s a lot of fun.  It’s a bit strange and fleshy but that’s just Cronenberg for ya.  All of his shit is like that.  I wouldn’t say I’m rabid for Rabid but everything about it is solid.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Lords of Salem

From a technical standpoint Rob Zombie knows how to make a fuckin’ movie.  The Lords of Salem is executed very well.  The problem is the material that Zombie is shooting is not very good.

Witches, that’s what this one is about.  A coven of witches in Salem, Mass fuck with this radio DJ named Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie (Rob Zombie’s other films)).  She listens to a transcendental record and has visions of some weird stuff like a mutant baby and her giving head to a priest.  I guess the purpose of this is the witches want to ravage the town’s women and they see this as the best way to go about that.

All of the performances are very good here.  Sheri Moon does a bang up job as a person going through this hellish change and being tortured and confused and all that.  The picture hinges on her and she pulls it off no problem.  The supporting players are great too.  I liked Bruce Davison (X-Men) in particular.  He plays a lame witch expert but his character feels like a real person.  Everyone seems very natural in their roles and with the dialogue.  That’s so hard to achieve usually.

Zombie did an excellent job shooting this thing too.  I remember some folks saying it’s Kubrick-y and I can see that.  But at the same time it feels more influenced by Kubrick than, say, just copying him without understanding the technical and artistic knowhow behind it.  Zombie composes his shots in a manner where he looks like he knows what he’s doing.  I’m not sure if you can put together a film this skillfully by accident.  I mean his other movies are made with competency for sure but his chops grew quite a bit with The Lords of Salem.

The thing that’s really unfortunate is the script isn’t strong.  I’m not against abstract surreal films but it’s tricky to navigate that route.  If you’re not careful it could seem haphazard and turn into an apparent mess real quick.  Also, it’s a personal preference thing.  You see, 2001 worked for me because I love space and all of the imagery that comes with it but The Lords of Salem didn’t totally suck me in because I don’t care about witches.  They’re pretty weak horror material, or really just any kind of material, in my opinion.  Worshipping the devil and babbling about shit around a fire doesn’t interest me that much personally.  If you like that kind of stuff then you’ll probably get more of a kick out of this.  With presenting an abstract piece of art either you’re gonna dig the subject matter that the artist is turning on its head or not.  It’s not straight up so it’s going to be more difficult than it would normally to accept what’s being offered.  Again, if you’re into witches, devil worshipping, etc., you’ll probably like this. 

This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the film.  Some of the stuff that Zombie puts out there is cool.  I liked the creepy crumbly faced creatures that show up a couple of times and my favorite part was when Heidi walks into this extravagantly designed and decorated church/theater/museum place.  It looks amazing, the music is stunning (Mozart’s Requiem that he composed while on his deathbed) and that mutant baby thing is just great.

So overall I had a mixed experience.  On one hand I was happy to see that Rob Zombie has grown tremendously with his filmmaking skills.  And it looks like he’s trying to grow creatively as well by branching out beyond the slasher/crazy family horror type picture.  This is definitely the least straight forward movie he’s made to date.  Good for him for trying something different.  I appreciate what he’s done here.

On the other hand I don’t give a shit about witches and don’t buy the music can drive you crazy angle.  It’s a mood piece that slowly plods along.  I think this movie caught me on a good day because I could easily see myself becoming very frustrated and maybe not even finish it.  But that didn’t happen so it’s all good.

It’ll be interesting to see what Zombie does next.  So far he hasn’t been able to top The Devil’s RejectsThe Lords of Salem is actually extremely encouraging though considering he’s coming off of the absolutely terrible and unnecessary Halloween reboot and its sequel.  So things are looking up for the ol’ Zombie.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Room 237

To be able to see this movie you have to have seen The Shining.  Actually, let’s go a step further.  You have to have seen The Shining fairly recently or many times so that you have a good handle on it.  Otherwise Room 237 is gonna seem even more ridiculous…than it already is.  You know what?  Fuck that perquisite crap.  You can see Room 237 even if you don’t have a firm grasp on The Shining.  It’s mostly bullshit anyway.  Whoops.  Did I tip my hand too soon?

So this whole thing is people theorizing what The Shining means.  One guy says it’s all about how white people massacred the Indians, another says it’s about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and someone else says it’s about faking the moon landing.  “Evidence” is shown to support each idea and they all link it back to Stanley Kubrick.  These folks say that everything you see in the picture was done on purpose, orchestrated by Kubrick.

There’s this one guy that even claims that there are dozens or hundreds of pieces of symbolic imagery inserted throughout the movie.  He says that when Jack and the manager of the hotel meet for the first time and shake hands it looks like the manager has a hard on sticking out of his pants.  He also insists that Kubrick stuck an image of his own face in the clouds after his name appears in the opening credits.  The penis thing I could kinda see but I couldn’t make out the face in the sky one.  But even if Kubrick really put that stuff in there what does any of it mean?  I have no fucking clue (and I don’t think the fella who saw all of this does either).

What people assert the film is really truly about wasn’t very interesting to me.  It was other shit that had me thinking more.  For instance, one of the most fascinating experiments someone did is they simultaneously ran The Shining forwards and backwards and superimposed them on top of each other.  So at certain points some cool things line up like when they show the two girls murdered there’s also a close up of Jack’s face or when Jack and Grady are talking in the bathroom Danny’s face appears.  It’s kinda neat and I wonder how well this technique would work with other movies.        

But you know, the weird shit that people point out that’s actually in the film for real (without camera tricks like the superimposition I mentioned above or the imagery that’s up for interpretation) is the best part of the documentary.  Like in one scene there’s a chair that you can clearly see behind Jack but when it cuts back to him a couple of seconds later the chair is gone.  Or when Danny is playing on the carpet with his toy cars the carpet is facing one way but when he goes to stand up the carpet is suddenly facing the other way.  Are these simply continuity errors or were they done on purpose?  It’s hard to say.  Kubrick was a master filmmaker and meticulous as a motherfucker so I want to say it was done on purpose to give an eerie feel.  It may have been like what Francis Ford Coppola did with his version of Dracula (you can read what I thought about that film here).  In that movie Coppola constantly used camera tricks to make the whole experience feel slightly off-putting.  A lot of times it’s not stuff that you’ll notice with one, two or even three viewings but your brain picks up on it anyway and interprets the situation as unnatural and/or creepy. 

Carpet faces on way...
...and then it faces the other way (by the way Danny's
Apollo 11 sweater is clear evidence that Kubrick was
involved with faking the moon landing)

And I think that’s part of the genius of The Shining.  For three quarters of the picture it’s not in your face horror.  It’s all about the buildup and creating tension and feelings of isolation, cabin fever, remoteness, declining mental health, diminishing will power, descent into madness, etc.  All of these continuity issues help to promote the sensation that there’s something wrong with the hotel but you can’t quite put your finger on it.  Then when Jack totally fucking snaps and the movie begins to clip along at a frantic, as well as violent, pace it has more impact.  It’s such a contrast to the slow moving and extremely methodical journey that you’ve taken up to that point.

I guess what I’m trying to say is The Shining is a masterpiece, plain and simple.  It’s just Kubrick’s take on a horror movie.  I don’t buy any of this stuff about what he was really trying to say with it.  All of the theories in here like the moon landing cover up ‘n’ shit sound so dumb.  At the end of the doc the question is asked “why make a film so complicated?”  And that’s really it.  Almost no one would go through the trouble, not even Stanley fucking Kubrick in my opinion.

It’s definitely an interesting idea for a documentary though.  Instead of doing something more traditional like “Shine On You Crazy Axe Murderer: The Making of The Shining” director Rodney Ascher decided to get some folks’ opinions on the thing and dish out some trivia as well.  Whether you agree with what’s in the doc or not it’s a unique approach and I appreciate that.      

In the end this was fairly frustrating but also really thought-provoking at times.  If you’re a fan of The Shining then I recommend it because the good stuff is worth it.  And who knows, maybe you’ll be swayed by some of these people’s arguments too.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cemetery Man

Cemetery Man is a weird one.  I’m not even sure how to describe it.  Most of the time it’s the straight ahead story of Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett (Inspector Gadget (1999), Shrek 2)) who watches over a cemetery.  When the dead come back to life he and his sidekick, Gnaghi (pronounced nog-ee), kill them.  Since this shit happens almost every day they got used to it and nonchalantly pick off the zombies. 

But then the story will suddenly go off into another direction, like when Dellamorte goes to get his penis removed, or introduce a new element entirely without much follow up, at one point Dellamorte starts to kill living non-zombie people.  I guess my recommendation is that you have to be flexible with this kinda movie. 

It’s part horror flick, part comedy (although apart from the opening scene it takes a while for the funny stuff to start rolling) and part romance film.  This woman that Dellamorte is in love with keeps showing up over and over again as different people.  That may sound confusing but it’s really not.

Michele Soavi directed this.  He also did Stage Fright (aka Deliria) which was a nicely done slasher picture.  He does a solid job here too.  It’s shot fine and all the effects and makeup look good.

So I dunno guys.  I guess I cautiously recommend the Cemetery Man to do your burial.  It’s fun and has some good gags.  Just don’t expect a real serious piece.  If you go with the flow more often than not you’ll be rewarded.