Sunday, October 30, 2016

Harefooted Halloween: Bats

Image result for bats 1999
What I Liked: Wow what a fast paced and extremely slimed down story: there are genetically mutated bats on the loose and it’s up to the best damn bat expert there is (Dina Meyer (Starship Troopers)) and the local sheriff (Lou Diamond Phillips (Renegades)) to take ‘em down.

The bat attacks are frantic and plentiful.  Interestingly it’s not just the sheer number of these things that make them a threat but also the fact that any single one can rip your goddamn throat out in one bite.  Also, a good effort was made to vary the attacks scenes.  Sometimes people are stuck in a car, wide open on the streets, in a mine, in a school, etc. and that kept things exciting.  Even though the movie keeps throwing yet another bunch of bats at you it never gets old.  I found myself getting into it every time.

One thing I didn’t expect to see were animatronic/puppet bats.  I thought these fuckers were gonna be 100% CGI but they only used that technique for the massive swarms.  Otherwise you got honest to goodness tangible creatures and boy does it look charming/silly.  Look I love this shit but a bat with a frowny face wiggling its head at you from the dude shaking the thing just off screen is a little hard to take seriously.

Image result for bats 1999What I Didn’t Like: We know next to nothing about the characters.  There are a few funny quirks the filmmakers added in though like the bat lady’s terrible story about how her dad forced her to confront her bat phobia by holding one, and the sheriff’s secret love for opera.

Unfortunately the attacks are shot mostly in close-ups and chopped to shit in editing so you can’t make out what’s happening too well.  This style wouldn’t be popular for another four or five years so you could call this movie a pioneer in that regard (that was sarcasm by the way).  Really though I can’t fault the filmmakers too much because they had to find a way to cover up the cheap CGI and puppets that the actors had to pretend to fend off.

Image result for bats 1999Overall Impressions: I can’t believe how much of a good time I had watching this.  When it came out I remember the reviews were horrible but I honestly don’t get it.  Those assholes must’ve had bats in their belfries because this film has everything you’d want out of a killer bat concept.  I think it might be the ongoing prejudice against bats.  They don’t get a lot of love so it seems like a knee jerk reaction to bash anything bat-centric.  But not here.  I support the little fellas.  Although this movie sure ain’t doing much for their reputation.

This one’s a real easy watch.  You don’t have to be batty to like it, but that might help.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Harefooted Halloween: Crimson Peak

Image result for crimson peakWhat I Liked: The set and costume design are spectacular.  In terms of sets it’s all about the crazy house the filmmakers came up with.  It’s like a small scale version of the one in The Haunting with gothic as shit architecture, a labyrinthine layout and lots of different colors and textures.  The 1800’s style is exaggerated to hell and also made to look hellish.  I actually like this house better because it’s less sprawling and feels more intimate.

They went only slightly exaggerated for the outfits and that was an excellent choice because it ups the creep factor in a more subtle way.  Some of those shoulder pads go a little too fuckin’ far though.

The cinematography in general is fine but the lighting is a little too uneven in my opinion.  I get that they wanted some contrast by having the house stuff dark and shadowy and the non-house scenes lighter, but I think the filmmakers overcompensated and had the non-house stuff overly bright and shiny.  The house shit is outstanding though with vibrant deep colors.

Image result for crimson peakWhat I Didn’t Like: The script is pretty bad.  It’s not only a very typical ghost story but our leading lady (Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland (2010)) is a proud graduate of Dumb Fuck University.  It’s baffling how she could fall for and trust such an obvious bad guy and think his incredibly eerie house is an ok place to live.  I have no sympathy for this character because they set her up as an intelligent independent woman who then suddenly can’t put two and two together.  It’s lazy writing to seemingly have your hero be strong but then force them to make bonehead moves so you can have certain scary scenes.

Overall Impressions: This one is way too damn predictable.  After the first ten or fifteen minutes I successfully guessed everything that eventually happened in the rest of the movie.  There’s almost no creativity with the elements of the story or how it’s told.  All the revelations and plot twists become “yeah, no shit” moments and that made it sorta tedious to sit through.

I’m not sure what Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim) was getting at with this.  I wanna say he wasn’t totally satisfied with Mama (which he produced) and thought he could do that particular ghost better in his own movie, while also taking huge influence from The Haunting and The Shining.  But apparently the script had been kicking around since 2006 so there goes that theory.

Image result for crimson peak ghostI dunno, everyone calls del Toro a visionary but the only film of his that I liked and thought was original so far was Pan’s Labyrinth, which makes me think it was a fluke.  I wanna keep giving him more chances but it’s getting harder.

Crimson Peak comes off really stale.  Sure it’s pretty as shit to look at but there needs to be a decent story there too.  Alright, it has one of the nastiest head smashing scenes ever but I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing.  I was afraid to put that comment in the “What I Liked” section because I didn’t want you all to think I was some sorta weirdo that enthusiastically praises graphic bludgeoning.  But del Toro at least made me feel something with that scene which…oh and there’s that really horrible shovel blow to the head.  Ok, there were two things in here that made me feel an emotion, right or wrong, but that isn’t a great track record for this piece.  Better luck next time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Harefooted Halloween: The Neon Demon

Image result for the neon demonWhat I Liked: Visually gorgeous.  So many vivid colors, excellent framing and seizure inducing strobe effects.

The acting is mostly good.  Elle Fanning (Maleficent) is great at conveying the na├»ve newcomer vibe while turning on the sinister when it’s necessary.  She’s the most human character out of everyone (along with her brief male friend).  Everyone else plays it more robotic but that was on purpose so I can’t exactly fault the movie for that.

Keanu Reeves (Dracula(1992)) was maybe my favorite part of the film.  He plays a lowlife motel owner that doesn’t give a fuck.  Even when a goddamn cougar brakes into one of the rooms he’s still gonna make sure someone else pays for the damages.  This was such a pleasant surprise because this might be the most different I’ve ever seen him.

Image result for the neon demonThe general concept about the modeling industry being this monster that can possess your soul in a way that it literally becomes a kill or be killed business is very cool.

What I Didn’t Like: The storytelling.  Things felt disconnected to the point where almost any major event seemed to come out of nowhere.  The way the plot unfolds and how the characters develop doesn’t gel for some reason.  I wanna say there are a number of scenes missing but I think it might be the editing and pacing.  All the key points are there but sometimes it’s like I’m treading water.

Image result for the neon demonOverall Impressions: The movie seems to technically be there but it slips through my fingers.  I get this is supposed to be arty and sort of a sci-fi picture where the environment and characters come off strangely alien, but there’s something about it that doesn’t work.  Weird.

On subsequent viewings it’s almost guaranteed I’ll like this one more though.  I love Refn and think he’s a genius but like Terence Malick he’s getting very inside his own head as he gets older.  Each picture gets more Refn-y than the last which isn’t a bad thing.  At least we know whatever he comes out with will be, as Keanu puts it, “not generic”.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Harefooted Hallowen: 30 Days of Night

What I Liked: This scene:

What I Didn’t Like: The general premise and the vampire design.  As far as I’m concerned these barley classify as vampires.  Here’s why…

Image result for 30 days of night josh hartnettOverall Impressions: The plot involves a remote Alaskan town where the sun sets and doesn’t rise again for 30 days.  So vampires use this opportunity to take over and massacre everyone.  This may sound silly but what I don’t get is why the filmmakers bothered to have the attacking creatures be vampires and why this whole thing had to take place over 30 sunless days.

One, these vampires never display human emotions.  They’re mindless killing machines looking to tear every person to shreds.  The beauty of a vampire is that there’s still some human part left so there’s plenty of conflict, relatability and trust issues.  When you take that away what makes them any different than zombies or those things from The Descent or the graboids from Tremors or whatever?

Two, the vamps are never in danger.  Since there’s no sunlight, threatening human population or hunters to hide from then I have to ask again, why go with vampires?  You might as well make up some other creature that kills indiscriminately if you’re not gonna play on any of the vampire’s strengths or weaknesses.

Image result for 30 days of night axLastly, the 24/7 nighttime angle doesn’t work if our heroes hide out for almost all of it.  I think the idea was supposed to be that they’re in constant danger for 30 days but that’s not the way they really play it in the movie.  The plot skips ahead a week at a time with the humans seemingly able to get by with no problem for long stretches.  So what’s the point? 

If the film took place during regular day/night cycles and the bad guys were an original type of monster that weren’t sensitive to sunlight the plot would still be exactly the same.

This is a pretty weak vampire film and not a great horror picture in general.  You could do a lot better.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Harefooted Halloween: The Howling

Image result for the howling 1981
What I Liked: The werewolf transformations are cool with plenty of morphing animatronic head movement, crazy rubber latex and elaborate makeup effects.  This was achieved by the master Rob Bottin (The Thing (1982), RoboCop) who worked under the indomitable Rick Baker (Star Wars, Videodrome, Men in Black) before breaking out with this picture.  Baker did An American Werewolf in London the same year and the transformation scenes are very similar.  Wolf in London was done a little smoother and better but that’s only natural due to more years of experience.  Bottin does a fantastic job with all the effects in The Howling though and shows why he’s so damn good.

What I Didn’t Like: The camera work and editing is a bit haphazard.  The opening for example is really confusing with shots of a television program being taped intercut with other folks trying to listen in on a CB radio.  It took a long ass while before I realized the people listening to the radio were cops engaged in a sting operation to catch a serial killer.  They’re using this TV news anchor (Dee Wallace (Halloween (2007), The Lords of Salem) as bait because the killer is stalking her.  That could’ve been so much clearer.  Plus there are many awkward edits and shots inserted that don’t seem to make much sense, like the burger being fried on the flattop over the end credits.  Wha?

Image result for the howling 1981Not the best acting all around.  And I gotta say that it’s so weird to me that Dennis Dugan, future director of screwball comedies like Problem Child, Brain Donors and Happy Gilmore has a big supporting role in this.  Turns out he was a successful actor before he became a director.  Now I know.

Overall Impressions: It’s an alright werewolf picture.  The story isn’t anything great and the execution is mostly barely competent.  But the effects work is very good and might be worth checking out just for that.

Image result for the howling 1981Joe Dante is a hard one for me.  I’m not the biggest Gremlins fan (the sequel is better in my opinion) but The ‘Burbs and Innerspace are awesome.  They’re inventive ideas done with the right tone.  I like Dante’s sense of adventure but I don’t always agree with how he tells the story.  The Howling is another one of his movies that isn’t bad but still falls a little short.

It ain’t no Dog Soldiers that’s for sure.  If you’re looking for the best damn werewolf movie that’s the one to see.