Posts Tagged ‘Movie’

Prevenge (2016)

October 18, 2017

88 minutes – Unrated but I would rate it R for some gore, grownup concepts, darkness and a deep sense of forboding.

Babies can be scary but usually in an entirely different kind of scary from what you might experience on Halloween. We fear our lives changing outside of our control. We fear failing to provide for a tiny, dependent human being and that it may come to harm through our action or inaction. The other day I held a month old baby boy and it was nerve-racking. He slept the whole time, secure that I was doing the best I could. I was pins and needles for the first moments because I was afraid of hurting this new little friend. There is no real need to worry so much but it helps us heighten our care with someone far more fragile than we are. Society is also wary to hurt or inconvenience a pregnant woman. The reverence we give for somebody literally and physically carrying a life into the world is justified. It also apparently can be a weak point because anytime we give somebody an inch, they could take a mile. Do not underestimate anybody for too long. We are all capable of anything.

Revenge is a fairly common horror movie trope. A lot of killers kill for the Hell of it like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Sometimes, it is just what they were created to do like Krampus or Hellraiser. Freddy Krueger kills to take revenge on the parents who murdered him by taking their kids away from them. Jason Voorhees’ mother and Jason himself kill to avenge his death caused by the inattentive child care that indirectly caused Jason’s drowning death and conversion into an undead monster. Chucky is huge on revenge. In the first movie, he wastes a lot of time killing people who have crossed him rather than get about his supernatural business. In subsequent movies, he kills anyone who even slightly irks him. I Spit On Your Grave and Last House On The Left are classic examples of brutal revenge from a serious wrong. They are often grouped in the horror genre because it is scary how quickly the person taking vengeance can become scarier than the original transgressor. Wrong or right, revenge can make for a very compelling story.

I was expecting this movie, a movie about a pregnant woman on a killing spree, to be more of a comedy somehow. It is such a weird concept that I thought it might be played for laughs. I was wrong. This is a slow burn of a horror movie. The concept is simple but the execution is anything but simple. For example, the movie plays around a lot with the concept of human sadness. Not just the sadness when something bad happens but the soul-sucking depression that we can fall into. It is a feeling I am all too familiar with. As the title suggests, it deals heavily with the concept of revenge. However, we do not immediately know what wrong has been done that cries for vengeance. Instead, the movie unravels that story slowly. It unveils elements of the story slowly so that I was left wondering what exactly was going on. Not that I was confused, but in the way that when you follow an unreliable source, you are not sure which parts to believe and which parts to discard. Maybe, in the end, it does not matter but it definitely matters during the journey because why you are doing something is sometimes more important than what you are doing.

The acting is really, really good. I had not realized when I selected this film that it was made in England but that just adds to the international flavor of this year’s selections. So, we get a lot of different British accents because we meet the lower class, the upper class and people obviously from various parts of the country. I find the accent (and others from that region) very pleasing. It is strange to watch a horror movie while such pleasing sounds are constantly going on. In the spotlight of this movie is Alice Lowe who plays the pregnant star of the film. She also wrote and directed the movie and it shows that this was a labor of love. There are so many interesting emotions in her performance. From bitterness to depression, to pity, to joy and even that emotionless stillness a person gets before a murder. She was fascinating to watch because she is on a journey and while her trajectory is tragic, I had no idea where it might lead. It helps that Ms. Lowe was actually pregnant and wrote and acted from an experience she was currently having at the time. Her performance really leaves some doubt as to whether or not the baby is actually guiding her actions.

Overall, I thought this was a great movie. Obviously, the actual professional critics agree as the movie has a 95 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie gave me a knot in my stomach as I watched it and it was not just because of the horror elements. The overall dark despair of the film often ran a chill down my spine. I was unprepared for this movie to deal so heavily with life itself while watching a woman deal with death while killing people.  Still, it was an interesting and fun ride.

Dolls (1987)

October 16, 2017

78 minutes – Rated R for horrible people, child neglect, gore and nightmares.

The uncanny valley is such a powerful tool in visual horror. The concept of the uncanny valley says that we will be creeped out by things more as they look more and more human. When something becomes completely human-looking, our unease is allayed. Seeing things trying to be human but not achieving it makes them look alien and frightening. We know what humans can do but near-humans look erratic and unpredictable. If they are inanimate, we have nightmares that they will begin to move around as humans do. This is largely where the fear of dolls comes from. People have long thought dolls are creepy. When I was in theater, we did a show where the set was adorned with Putti which were created by stapling wings to baby dolls and then spray painting them. People swore that the eyes followed them as they walked the stage. The dolls also periodically fell from great heights with no warning during rehearsal as if they were trying to attack. It was unnerving and there is power in that.

Small things are also terrifying. If you do not believe me, think about the story I heard as a kid about living in the desert and waking up in the morning and slipping your shoes on only for there to be a stinging scorpion hiding in there. There are many real tiny terrors in the world which includes spiders, scorpions, diseased mosquitos, ticks, and especially bees and wasps. I never worried about my dolls (ahem action figures) coming to life when I was little. Even when I was thirteen and watched Toy Story, I never really worried about it. However, I know plenty of people do fear that as kids. That is why there are so many horror stories about killer dolls. Childs Play, Demonic Toys, Puppetmaster, and Poltergeist all come to mind but there are dozens. I will probably see them all eventually. Little things are hard to keep track of if they do not want you to find them and they can turn up in the most surprising places. It’s a scary thought that they might be anywhere around.

I love a good horror movie with truly detestable people in it. It makes me feel less guilty to watch them get killed in inventive ways. I have quickly determined that if I have empathy for a character, it makes horror movies scarier because I dread anything happening to that character. This movie does not have that problem as most of the people, except for the little kid, are absolutely horrible. There is a strange combination of mean and moronic that personified a lot of horror movie victims in the eighties and nineties. Also, bonus points for having American tourists in England being completely awful and pushy. More bonus points for lower class British people being loud and rude. The movie not so subtly drops in one of the biggest concepts of fairy tales: be nice or suffer the consequences. The acting is very melodramatic but this is yet another Charles Band movie. The lower class punks are modeled after Madonna and the upper-class Americans are modeled after just about every rich person in the USA.
The saving grace for the adults is Stephen Miller who is kind of funny to watch and definitely a good guy.

They obviously spent a lot of time on post-production on this one. There are so much great puppets and practical effects. Someone obviously had a lot of fun making killer toys on a workbench somewhere in Italy (where this was filmed on a soundstage). I really would love to see a behind the scenes documentary or some blueprints on how they animated some of the dolls in this movie. By the way, based on the title, it should not be a spoiler that there are killer dolls in this movie. I suppose they used a lot of the same types of effects that were used in the early Child’s Play movies. It is difficult to imbue life on an inanimate object even with the aid of CGI and it takes a real puppetry master to make them actually scary. To me, these were way creepier than films like Puppetmaster or Demonic Toys and that has a lot to do with attention to detail and good production values. Of course, that is praise for this movie and I would never denigrate a movie I love like the Puppetmaster franchise. It may not be amazing by today’s standards (just wait for my Cult of Chucky comments on Thursday) but this type of thing fascinates me.

Overall, I thought this was a really twisted yet fun horror movie. I thought it would be a normal run-of-the-mill horror romp and in a lot of ways, I was right. However, the movie takes a lot of random left turns that surprised me or really weirded me out but they never felt forced. They left me dreading what was going to happen next but also looking forward to where the story might go next. This story definitely goes to some seriously forked up places, too. Charles Band rules my dreams and nightmares yet again.

Friday the 13th Part VII (1988)

October 13, 2017

88 minutes – Rated R for gory deaths, violence, brief nudity, and undead revenants

Friday the 13th has a rich tradition of fear. The first glimmer of this tradition is noting that the Last Supper was on a Friday and there were 13 people present. The actual origin of the superstition seems to be shrouded in mystery since it was far before the age of the Internet. I consider myself a man of science and not a man of faith so I do not believe in luck. I recognize that chance has something to do about it but only natural forces can affect chance. However, when I was a little kid, I believed in all sorts of things. My hands had to be above the covers and the pillow while I slept lest demons see this as some subconscious sign. I would absolutely not walk under ladders which is actually more of a good safety tip than a ward against evil. I would not pick up a penny that was tails up and stepping on cracks was off limits. I was nervous during Friday the 13th but it never amounted to anything. Still, that nervousness lasted into elementary school.

So, today is Friday the 13th which means that there was really only one series of movies that I was going to deal with today. Mommy’s favorite revenant has been a favorite of mine for a long time. The first movie centered on Mrs. Voorhees (37-year-old spoiler, sorry!), a mother still grieving for her dead son and dead set on getting blood in return for his death. Her death seemed to summon her son Jason back from the land of the dead. The early movies are good but I actually enjoy the later movies more because they get more outlandish and self-aware as they go. Also, Jason seems to grow and gain more magical powers each movie. My favorite is still Jason Takes Manhattan because it is the first quasi-confirmation of Jason’s teleporting powers as far as I know. Also, it is filled to the gills with plot holes. Ignoring or utilizing plot holes is also one of Jason’s powers (and also a weakness in Freddy vs. Jason). I once watched a string of these movies with my brother back when Blockbuster was still a thing so I thought I had seen all of them. I was wrong. After I saw gameplay footage of the new Friday the 13th game, I realized I was missing one movie right in the middle of the franchise. This cannot stand.

The acting was actually pretty good as Friday the 13th movies go. The teenagers act like typical teenagers and the adults are generally confused. The main actress was played by Lar Park-Lincoln and while she was 26 at the time instead of eighteen, she does a really good job of playing an emotional teenager. The other teens are appropriately catty and/or clueless. This is the first movie where Jason is played by the now legendary Kane Hodder. He is the man who played Jason for a record four movies including the movie where Jason goes into outer space. Unfortunately, he was tagged out when it came time to fight Freddy Krueger. Hodder has really imposing body language which is important for a character who is one hundred percent silent. He moves and kills with purpose but also the complete apathy of an act of nature. There is a reason they asked him to stick around so long and this is his first time out and it is really good.

This movie tackles more of the lore of Jason. Originally, this movie was supposed to be the original slot for the showdown between Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Unfortunately, New Line Cinema and Paramount Studios could not come to a deal and they had to scramble to do something else with Jason. Their options were open but they were really enamored with the thought of Jason facing off against somebody. Freddy had just faced off against the Dream Warriors and the movie version of Firestarter was only four years prior. Having Jason face off against somebody with psychic powers was kind of a no-brainer. Psychic powers have kind of been a timeless feature in genre films since they first emerged. For example, this movie was released twelve years after Carrie and the same year that Akira came out. The psychic abilities also allow the viewer to see some of the kills twice for added impact. It also puts to the test the idea of Jason as an unstoppable killing machine.

Overall, I really liked this movie. Sure, it feels like when they wrote the teenage characters that they had a checklist of cliques that they were trying to check off. Yes, the movie felt heavily edited (and I checked, it really is) and it feels a little less gory than previous and later installments. However, a good Jason film goes beyond all of that. It is supposed to be kind of silly. It is supposed to be suspenseful until an undead embodiment of death attacks out of nowhere. In that respect, it succeeds.

Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux Sans Visage) (1960)

October 11, 2017

90 minutes – French (Subtitled in English) – Unrated but I would give it an PG-13 for dread, some very bloody scenes, and creepy atmosphere.

Guilt is a terrible thing. I cannot imagine a single person reading this who has not felt guilty for something in their life. Guilt has an extreme power over normal human beings. Guilt can slowly unhinge us, causing a very negative change and maybe even becoming the monster we think we are. Guilt can also push us into the light, forcing us to atone for our guilt by doing good deeds. The thought of people discovering our secret guilt is scary. That sort of thing is a weak point, a big glaring example of why we feel we may not be worthy of kindness or happiness. If people found out, they would do something to condemn us, giving us the punishment we always imagine. However, people are human and atonement, acceptance, and change are very real concepts. We do not need to hide in the shadows, at least not from ourselves. The future is not yet written and you can be a better person and outweigh the sins of the past.

There is a tradition of masks in horror movies which is how I found out about this movie in the first place. Most of us clearly remember the iconic masks of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees but there are so many more. Ghostface from Scream, Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the deadly masks from Halloween 3 and another deadly mask in The Abominable Dr. Phibes also come to mind. There is even a prominent mask in one of the movies that I will be reviewing for the 31st this year. Masks weird us out because not seeing somebody’s face makes us uncomfortable. I talked earlier this month about the same effect that a clown’s face paint has. We cannot judge the true expressions of the person and therefore it is harder to judge their intentions. Also, it makes them look less human and anything less than human is something to be wary of. Finally, we cannot see what is under the mask and so we are left to imagine what must be under there. In that uncertainty, there could be anything beneath the mask especially the mask of somebody or something you know is a killer. I will be exploring this idea again next week.

The first thing I noticed about this movie was the great sound design in it. A good sound design can definitely enhance a good horror movie and make a great horror movie. This is especially true of older horror films where they had a low budget and could not rely on jump scares or expensive visual effects. This film does a great job using silence, something that newer horror projects do not use as much. There are long stretches of silence or periods where we just hear sound effects and no dialogue or music. The music, when it comes, is truly maddening as most of it makes use of the same musical motif which sounds chaotic and ratchets up the tension. It makes moments of true horror all the more shocking as they made me jump. The film is in black and white which is a sign of the times but it helps with the mood of the film, all light and shadows. The sets are simple but well-dressed like a Hitchcock film.

Tension is the main game here as this is a slow burn horror film. We find out what is going on early on in the film but the driving action waits until we are prepared for it. The tension must be high so that the existential horror really hits us. Edith Scob plays the titular woman who has had an accident which has removed her face, leaving only her eyes. She is absolutely spellbinding. The mask they constructed for her is so good and so creepy and she is a brilliant actress. She does so much with those eyes that I often forget that she is wearing an expressionless mask. I felt tense in every scene she was in as she was an unknown quantity, a desperate woman yearning to return to humanity and the true driving force of the movie. Her father is played by Pierre Brasseur and his gruff, detached manner is horrible to watch as he thinks about and does horrible things. Since the movie is actually mostly dialogless, many of the actors do so much with the movements of their bodies and sometimes just the way they breathe. I really loved that.

Overall, I really loved this movie and it is definitely the best movie I have reviewed so far this month. The movie starts with deep existential horror as it tackles things like lost, ennui and isolation. Then it moves on to actual, tangible horror including blood and violence but also guilt and insanity as well. I was really left shaken by this one as the director really nailed his goal of “anguish” very well.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

October 9, 2017

90 minutes – Rated R for gruesome deaths, language, and brutal violence

I remember when I first went to a summer camp that required that I sleep over. It was Camp Glencoe but we slept in dorms and we spent most of the days reading and writing so it was not much of a camp experience. The second camp I went to was Camp Shohola which was very much your standard sleepaway camp. There was definitely room for fear at summer camp. I especially dreaded doing the deep water swim test every year. We had to do so many laps without touching the sides of the dock and it made me so tired. I thought I would end up like one of the unfortunate watersports campers from Wet Hot American Summer. It was also so dark each night. Sure I had plenty of people around me but as a city boy, the sounds of just nature were unnerving. It was not just the sounds of nature either. Out beyond the concrete, there were far more wild animals and insects. Bears were sighted near the dining hall dumpsters and bees and spiders were sighted daily. I even saw a poor little mouse that had been overtaken by a swarm of bees once. That particular image has stuck with me.

There were bullies there too, the kind of person that makes a short kid dread certain parts of life. I was lucky enough to not have to deal with bullies too much but they were always there, the sharks out in the deep water. I remember the older kids at camp playing pranks from harmless to troubling. One summer, they snuck into people’s cabins while they slept and took their trunks and stacked them around the flagpole. My trunk’s lid was a little warped and was not closed so I was skipped and there was suspicion of collusion which was ridiculous. I was never that popular. Back in high school, I was guided to be an early adopter of the personal computer because as a freshman, there were seniors who came down to our hall and pushed people up against the lockers. My friends and I opted to have fun tinkering in the computer lab rather than loitering in Freshman Hallway. I think that ended well since I have an intuitive sense of how to work computer programs and very high typing speed. I did not like getting pushed around but we all survived and I harbor no ill will. After all, they did not try to kill me.

This is a horror story with a mystery to it. Up until the end, you are not sure who exactly is doing the killings. It felt kind of like the first Friday the 13th film in that respect. Of course, there are way more suspects than in that film. This movie is set in a rundown summer camp full of rough customers. The counselors and staff are either power hungry monsters or simply stand aside and let those jerks push people around. The campers also have the worst kind of teenage impulses. They are constantly playing mean-spirited pranks on one another and pushing each other around like prison inmates. This also leads to there being a lot of potential victim as horror films of any decade seem to like setting up victims that you want to see get punished. Is each death vengeance for something horrible happening or is it somebody who can no longer stand by and let the jerks rule? As people die, they recognize the killer but we never see them until the end.

The acting is very interesting, at least it is to me. A lot of the time the acting is pretty standard for an eighties horror film. By this, I mean that people act like normal people but maybe a little bit exaggerated because it is a movie. Guys razz other guys, girls pick on other girls, there is flirting and bullying and all sorts of normal behavior. Then every so often, there are performances that are either purposely or unintentionally hyper-exaggerated. Those performances are unnerving because I sat there trying to read into them and the cadence was all wrong like something written by David Lynch. This is especially true of Angela, the girl with a tragic past that the film is centered on. Mostly mute, she spends her days getting bullied by the girls in her bunk and teased by the guys in camp. The pacing is really good as we see the frustrating experiences that Angela endures as the weird girl and that is punctuated by creepy horror and gruesome deaths. We also get to see some really creepy flashbacks through Angela’s eyes.

Overall, it was definitely a good eighties horror movie. The movie is creepy throughout both the actual killings and the cruelty kids can exhibit toward each other. The tension builds steadily through the movie and there are plenty of red herrings if you do not know the actual ending. Do yourself a favor and stay away from spoilers on this movie because the ending is well worth the mystery. The movie also gets bonus points for looking somewhat similar to summer camps I went to.

Killjoy (2000)

October 4, 2017

1 hour 25 minutes – Rated R for Sexual Situations, Language, and Some Violence.

Clowns are scary. We have covered this. Again and again. But, as a kid, I was scared of anyone who covered their face. When I went to the circus, the clowns were these otherworldly characters because they completely painted their faces until they were no longer visually human. Beyond that, the bright colors and shocking white were designed to draw a person in. This was also reflected in their behavior because, more than any other performer, they craved interactivity. Every other entertainer simply performed their feat and went backstage but clowns got in the audience’s face and tried to make them laugh. Mascots at ball games and Disney World were much the same, approaching beings much smaller than them and trying to interact. I did not want to interact. I did not want to be part of the show. So from an early age, I tensed up when I saw these costumed characters and relaxed when they passed. That carried on to my present day wariness of clowns.

Full Moon Pictures may not always be scary but they are very good at utilizing things that could be considered scary. They have movies with tiny murderous things which can be very creepy. They have body horror, they have loss of self and they have things usually associated with children becoming deadly. A lot of it is done with a thick varnish of humor but, to me, that is a big part of what Halloween is about. Laughing at the darkness because it could eat us at any moment. Killjoy is no different. Combining something innocent (despite my hang-ups) like clowns with something evil like demons is a natural progression. Movies like Childs Play, Demonic Toys, Jack Frost, and Gremlins are all great examples of that combination of harmful with harmless. A high percentage of people are already afraid of clowns and dolls and these movies show how that might just save your life.

This movie does not waste any time. It gets right into introducing the characters (which is an all POC cast by the way) and what they are all about. However, it does take a while to get to the action like most horror movies. The acting is actually way better than I thought it would be. The writing is a little stilted but it is a horror movie made on the cheap by Full Moon so that is to be expected. I am here for their weird characters and their endless sequels, not their writing skills. Strangely, this one seems to have more locations and cinematography than I am used to (similar to the Evil Bong series) which surprises me because locations can be expensive. (Although, shooting on location without a permit such as on Leprechaun 3 is free). The effects are cheap CGI but, again, that’s fine because I am just in the mood for a silly horror movie.

I was wondering how Killjoy’s powers would work considering all of the vague supernatural beings that I have seen in horror movies. I thought he would be similar to characters like Freddy Krueger or Stitches and I was kind of right. Killjoy sucks people into his realm and then toys with them until he finally kills them. In this first film, he is played by a man who usually acts in Spanish language films but he definitely has a lot of fun in the movie. He shrieks with happiness and every so often he lets that demonic side of his come out in his voice without losing his enjoyment. He is a playful monster but he is indeed sadistic than Freddy, Stitches, even Pennywise. He plays with his food like a good horror villain should. He also has an awesome evil clown laugh similar to something John Leguizamo came up with in Spawn.

Overall, I really liked this movie. Sure it is nothing to write home about but I have a soft spot in my heart for the Full Moon Pictures line up that will never die. Ultimately, this is a horror movie which is about redemption and realizing the everyday things we do to hurt the people we barely even see. It is also a goofy, low gore horror movie. It was way better than I thought it was going to be considering it was made around the same time as the first Evil Bong movie. I am looking forward to watching the rest of this series sometime soon as I expect the budget and technology go up a bit as the years go by.

Hobgoblins 2 (2009)

October 2, 2017

1 hour 32 minutes – Unrated (But I’ll give it a PG-13) for puppet on human violence, language, and things you might not want to explain to little kids

Hobgoblins was never a modern cinema classic. The only time that I have seen it was in the 9th season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 where Mike and the bots thankfully riffed it as it went on. Since that happened, making fun of bad movies has become more and more popular. However, these days it feels like it has become a little harder. Bad movies like the Sharknado series fully realize how bad they are so they spend the movie being ridiculous and winking at the audience. This is the old defense to bullying from grade school. If you act like the criticism does not bother you, then the bullies will eventually give up. It is hard to make fun of something when it actively shows that it does not care what you think. It already got your money. This is similar to higher budget movies like the Transformers series of movies. Screw you, I got mine.

Beneath the terrible acting, writing, and budget, Hobgoblins actually scared me a bit. It focuses on beings that can make you lose yourself by invading your mind with fantasies. The teenagers involved become different people under the power of the Hobgoblins. I have spoken a little about that previously but loss of self is one of the things that scares me the most. I may not love everything about myself but each part of me is the result of how I chose to respond to the world. It was my choice. Having those choices and potentially my memories of those choices taken away is a terrifying thought. I would feel my ‘correct’ thoughts slip through my fingers one by one only to replaced with foreign, alien thoughts against my will. I love growing and changing but I like that it is my choice.

First, the movie goes very low budget on everything. The acting talent is commercial quality, the locations look like they were filming while nobody was looking and the film quality looks like it was filmed on somebody else’s semi-expired film. Of course, it is hard to tell how much of this is on purpose or not. The first film was so poorly done that it feels like they leaned into it this time and tried to go the Troll 2 route. In fact, doing a little research, the movie was shot on old school 35 mm. Also, everyone seems to be as dumb as a box of rocks on purpose so the poor acting actually works. They reused the hobgoblin puppets from the first film and they are just as ridiculous and awesome as I remembered. They saved a lot of money on this movie probably because they had to because I am one of the few people who actually bought this on DVD or watched it at all.

The story here is that the titular hobgoblins, a psychic race similar to gremlins, are back after surviving the first film. They use their mind powers to ambush their targets with fear instead of bringing out deep fantasies as they did in the first film. The movie is kind of a self-aware retread of the original movie. It is kind of a combination of Sharknado with Troll 2 in that way. They hired lookalike actors from the original to play the same characters. Somehow, the original characters both do and do not remember the events of the first film. There are sly references to the original and plenty of acknowledgments that the first film was pretty awful and boring. This includes references to the MST3K episode on the original movie.

Overall, this was way more fun than I thought it would be. I am glad that the original director was forced to wait for 21 years to make the sequel. If Rick Sloane had written and directed the sequel in 1990 as planned, he would not have seen the MST3K episode. Although he submitted the original to MST3K for mocking, he probably did not realize just how dumb the original was. These days, there is a market for self-aware, purposefully bad movies. I would liken this movie to Troll 2, the recent Plan 9 remake, Sharknado, and a lot of other low-budget horror movies. It is a movie that took a little while to settle into but once I did, I found it pleasant to yell at the stupid characters. I definitely recommend it especially if you are a long time fan of MST3K. Watch the episode here and decide for yourself.

A Blade Restrospective

January 22, 2015

Hello and welcome to the Blade retrospective where I talk about the Blade movies since I got the whole set cheap at Walmart.  I love buying cheap DVDs from Walmart and Target to add to my geeky movie collection.  I think that overall the Blade movies are good but don’t hold up to the current Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

All of the films are written by David S. Goyer who is very hit and miss as a writer.   He is responsible for good stuff like all three Nolanverse Batman movies, Dark City, the Constantine tv series and Jumper.  However he also is responsible for the awful FlashForward series, Nick Fury tv movie and Man of Steel.  He definitely has his faults but is just as capable of putting out decent stuff as he is of putting out crap.  There is no consistent director so all three films have different tones and visuals.

Let’s start reviewing the Blade movies.


Blade

The first movie is pretty good.  Wesley Snipes is absolutely the best casting choice anybody could have made.  He has the ability to be stoic while having the charisma to deliver a one-liner or two.  He actually does a decent job with a few emotional moments as well.  Kris Kristofferson is amazing as the gruff but loveable Whistler.  Stephen Dorff is Stephen Dorff, a villain you want to punch in the face forever which is actually a good thing here.  Rounding out the main cast is Donal Logue who I am actually a huge fan of.

The fight sequences are the highlight throughout which makes a lot of sense when you consider that Snipes knows martial arts.  The rest of the movie is pretty formulaic but that’s just fine with me.  There are plenty of cliches and corny bits but I found them fun and not yet tired.  Overall I recommend the movie if you like action and cool effects.


Blade II

The best Blade movie ever and not only because it was directed by Guillermo del Toro.  This time around they actually saw fit to develop the characters more.  They also went for a much creepier mood which fits a story about a vampire hunter teaming up with vampires to fight the next stage of evolution.  We get Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson returning and turning in even better performances.  Leading a cast of relative unknowns is awesome character actor Ron Perlman who is awesome.

As with any del Toro venture, this one is loaded with awesome visuals and dark storytelling.  However, the a lot of the cool fighting is still there as well.  This movie has more substance but it does have a few third act problems.  Since the movie was del Toro experimenting and proving that he could helm a Hellboy movie that makes some sense.  It still holds together better than the first one which was a bare bones action/horror/comic book film. Again, I recommend this film.


Blade Trinity

A lot of people did not seem to like this movie and, to be fair, I can see why.  After Blade II, Trinity is way too light with a change in cinematography and more jokes.  There is a distinct absence of Kris Kristofferson but we get Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds instead.  Then you add in four named villains.  One of them is played by Hunter Hearst Helmsley of WWE fame.  With all of this going on you could accuse the movie of having too big a cast but it’s only slightly bigger than Blade II.  Snipes seems to be barely trying which makes sense as he was upset and feuding with the screenwriter during production.

There seem to be less fight scenes due to the limitations of Biel and Reynolds and spreading the attention between the three leads.  Instead of fight scenes we get more action sequences and more ranged weapons.  I don’t see this as a huge problem but it does kind of stray from the meat of the first two movies.  Overall I would say that Trinity is not as bad as people think.  I think it follows the spirit of the first movie.  Reynolds is actually pretty funny and there’s plenty of vampire killing action.  While the movie feels lighter there are definitely some darker moments that seem edgier than the first movie. You know what?  I recommend this one too.

So that’s the Blade movies…  Wait, what?  A NEW CHALLENGER APPROACHES!?

3 out of 4 ain't bad
Blade IV: House of Chthon

Yes there was technically a fourth blade movie.  I was intrigued when I first bought the DVD and wondered why I never knew about this.  I usually keep abreast of comic book news.  I knew about the Blade anime series (which is decent) but I didn’t know about this.  It turns out this was the pilot for a Blade series that went 12 episodes.  It was on Spike TV which is the first nail in its coffin being on what is basically the Cops network.  I struggled through this movie because I apparently hate myself.  It was poorly paced and passionless throughout most of it.

The series includes Blade who is now played by a man named Sticky Fingaz who acts like LL Cool J doing his best Wesley Snipes impression.  Though, for a series supposedly about Blade, there is a distinct lack of Blade actually doing anything.  Instead we spend most of the “movie” following the female protagonist, Krista, trying to investigate the death of her brother and stumbling upon the existence of vampires.  Blade pops up now and then to kill a few vampires but is otherwise laughably ineffectual.  Eventually stuff actually happens and Krista gets captured and transformed into a vampire.  In the end, Blade and Krista seem to make an agreement to use Krista as an undercover agent inside the House of Chthon.  I yawn and I am grateful that the movie is over.

I have two words for you as advice concerning this movie:  Stay away.  It probably had potential considering the relative success of Dusk Till Dawn: The TV Series and Fargo: The TV series.  The pacing and acting are horrible and they probably decided to save all of the exposition for a later episode.  The writing is muddled and they save a good concept for the last twenty minutes after boring you for over an hour and 10 minutes.  All I know is that I don’t want to hear anybody badmouth Blade Trinity after watching that.

The Woman in Black (2012)

October 21, 2014


I recently watched The Woman in Black.  I actually started my usual method of riffing comments as they pop into my head but that plan died about three minutes in.  I’m not saying that this movie is unriffable but it just seemed wrong after a while.  This movie was too well done to really make fun of.  I was actually really looking forward to seeing this movie because way back in the day I actually designed lights, sound and helped build the set for a stage production of The Woman in Black.  (Most long time readers won’t remember this)

I realized that I never really talked about the rest of that experience.  Like any writer/artist I shudder when I look back at my old stuff and that was a full six years ago.  I was having a lot of fun playing with a new digital camera and I was genuinely impressed with what we were doing.  I continued to work on the show and it was an amazing production even if I was usually pretty frazzled back when I worked at Tri-State Actors Theater.

The show was very intense work and I fell into my usual ten to thirteen hour work days followed by sleeping late.   I built sets and hung and pointed lights in the late morning until the evenings.  The set was pretty much just a giant false proscenium with a black scrim stretched across it.  The structure was mammoth and it took three people to rig it to the ceiling with the cable and fittings we had picked.   The lighting was dark and subtle and a great fit for a dark, gloomy horror story.  I was really proud of all of that work because I had never done any work in horror before.

These long days originally left me doing all of the sound work in the middle of the night in my tiny, cold room that I rented in the back of a framing shop.  In retrospect, I probably should have seen a lot of parallels between my late night, solitary work and the work Arthur Kipps was doing.  Eventually, doing this work at night started to take its toll.  Finding horrible recordings and building sound cues like “Horse and Child Drowning in Swamp” in the middle of the night started to make me a little crazy.  I had to switch to doing the sound work in the morning and do the lighting work late at night instead.  My psyche thanked me for it.  Eventually we built a rich soundscape and true horror includes plenty of sound cues.

So after all of that, how did the movie stack up?  I really liked it.  Daniel Radcliffe plays a complex version of Arthur Kipps and gets a lot of mileage with very little dialogue.  He has come leaps and bounds from his time in Dumbledore’s Army and has really grown up.   The rest of the cast is spot on with a special nod to Ciaran Hinds who gives an especially moving performance.  The voice overs for the title character were well done and held the right amount of grief to the point of insanity.

The story is a rough one to get through and I forgot how much it terrified me.  I would warn those who are parents that any version of this story is going to be especially rough on you.  The terror is mixed so much with tragedy, sympathy and deep, dark emotions related to being a parent.  Themes include untimely death, revenge, grief, guilt, isolation and depression which are all incredibly heavy.  The story is told in a straight forward manner in the movie with very little actual dialogue.  The stage version has a framing device which actually adds a terrifying little twist but the story can do without it.

A little ways into the film I thought there was going to be too many jump scares and not enough real horror.  Jump scares are nice for startling the audience and jangling their nerves but it is startling, not terrifying.  The jump scares in this film are far more psychological and logical and pretty much none of them are the standard “Cat Scare” which have become so overdone in horror.  The movie can actually be really relentless and my heart was pounding pretty hard in parts.  The filmmakers obviously took a lot of care to go for a more literary horror than we’ve seen in bad horror movies in the past.  Hooking us like fish, ratcheting up the tension and letting us go and then reeling us back into terror until finally we realize there’s no escape.

One of the things that I liked so much about the movie was the attention to detail.  The production design was very intricate and most of the effects seemed to be practical instead of digital.  I am not putting down CGI effects because a bad practical special effect can look just as hokey as a bad CGI one.  This movie blended everything together pretty seamlessly but, as I well know, it can be easier to cover up flaws in the dark.

I would freely recommend this movie to anyone and everyone who enjoys horror movies and does not have a heart condition.   I don’t know what I want to review next but it probably won’t be Victorian Horror.  Probably.

Skyfall

August 19, 2014

I finally sat down and watched Skyfall.  I wrote thoughts down as I watched the movie and I’ll share them with you.  Fair warning: I am probably going to spoil a lot.  Maybe.  Wait a second, I’m reading ahead.  Yep.  Sufficiently spoiled.  You have been warned but this is why I tend to review movies that have been out for a few years.  That and I’m often behind on seeing things since I always have a long list of things I want to watch.

First, a few words on James Bond.  I grew up with James Bond movies.  I  haven’t seen them all but there’s twenty of them so I think I can be forgiven.  Octopussy came out when I was one but the first Bond film I saw was From Russia With Love.  I loved it and I loved all of the older Bond films that I saw.  When Golden Eye came out, I embraced Pierce Brosnan as the new Bond.  Golden Eye is really fun and brought Bond into the Information Age.  Unfortunately his other three films got progressively worse.  It felt like the same decline from Burton’s Batman to Schumacher’s Batman.  I think Casino Royale can be seen as equivalent to Batman Begins.  They rebuilt the franchise from the ground up and fixed a lot of what had gone wrong in tone.

Anyway, let’s get to my random comments.

“Three minutes in and… Holy Shit that’s an awesome gun.  A little silly but hell, I want to shoot one.”

The henchman that Bond was chasing had a full automatic handgun.  Like Elliott Spencer, I hate the existence of guns but unlike Elliott I kind of love to shoot them in a shooting range.  It’s hard to explain how a person sworn to non-violence could come to love shooting a gun.  I guess it goes back to riflery classes in summer camp.  It’s also the same visceral feeling I get from shooting my bow.  Besides, an inanimate target doesn’t count.

“… Roll end credits.”

Having the main character get shot by a sniper before the opening title is pretty startling.  Everybody immediately writes him off even though he has survived horrible torture and danger in two previous movies.  It makes sense but it ends up being ridiculous later.

“Oh shit, I forgot Adele sings the theme. Mute.”

It should be clear here that I do not like Adele’s music.  I generally don’t like slow ballads at all and she does poppy ballads that were overplayed on the radio.  My patience got worn out pretty quickly.  I did mute the title sequence but I did enjoy the imagery.  It’s always a fun, trippy sequence that leaves lasting symbols usually in my sub-conscious since my conscious mind seems to forget it as soon as it’s done.

“Why are all movie hackers prone to creating goofy animations and/or video packages?”

I’m not a computer expert by far.  I’m above average for the people I know but definitely below my IT expert friends.  However, I am an animation aficionado and an artist.  Movie hackers always seem to attach some flash animation to taunt their target.  It seems kind of petty actually but I suppose that’s the point.  For reference see Jurassic Park, Independence Day, Hackers

“Wow drinking games just got Nintendo hard.”

The scorpion drinking game was impressive.  At least, I hope it was a drinking game.  It shows how bad-ass Bond is but also shows how far down the hole he has gone.  It’s a pretty simple way of showing us in a few seconds how unstable the man has become.  Of course, justifiably feeling betrayed by the country you gave your life to can shake your worldview and mental health as well.  ‘Nintendo Hard’ is a term referring to how impossibly difficult old NES games were.  See games like Ghosts and Goblins and Contra and broken TV sets across the country.

“I love you Judi Dench. You earn that paycheck.”

She really does.  She’s been excellent in these three Bond films. I’m also paraphrasing a joke made regularly by Cinema Sins.  I am a horrible thief sometimes.  I blame my training at Rutgers.

“Um. Why is he briefing Bond as he’s taking his tests?  What if he fails the last one? Then they have to kill him?”

This struck me as weird.  Sure they all expect Bond to pass his tests and this to save time but what if he doesn’t?  Also, he doesn’t pass the tests.  He only gets reinstated because he’s Bond.  It becomes clear pretty quickly that he is not passing the tests.  Shut up about national secrets until he’s reinstated already.

“Don’t cock it up is probably what all new directors of James Bond movies are told.  You cocked it up Lee Tamahori.”

I could not resist an admittedly cheap shot at the director of Die Another Day.  Pierce Brosnan started off as a good Bond but they cheesed up the whole thing.  The movies kind of ran together for me.  As somebody who prides himself as being able to remember plots and characters with high accuracy this is troubling to me.  It means something when I can’t sort out the Bond films between Golden Eye and Casino Royale.  A few scenes later and Q basically explains why the Craig bond films are better than the Brosnan ones.

“Sexy mood lighting is go.”

The lighting and cinematography in this movie are really good.  You can see everything when you need to see it  and there are a lot of very pretty yet understated shots.  The scene in question in particular was incredibly intimate with darkness punctuated by neon signs.  It was just confusing enough to convey how confusing the room was for Bond.

“Wait, go back.  Why are we in floating lantern world? Oh for gambling.  OK I’m caught up.  Spy shit going on with the casino chip. Cool.”

I legitimately got lost here for a minute or two because Craig’s Bond doesn’t have a lot of dialogue to explain things.  I’m fine with it, it just took me a bit to catch up.  I probably got distracted too.

“Hi, I go around announcing my real name to everyone.  I’m the best secret agent ever.”

I always thought it was kind of weird that James Bond casually tosses his name everywhere he goes.  Even if it’s not his real name, he uses the same alias everywhere he goes.  He almost never uses a fake name when introducing himself.  It seems a little overconfident.

“I kind of like intense Raccoon Lady.”

The quasi-villainess, ‘Bond Girl’ whose name passed me by was really quite good.  I called her Raccoon Lady because of the heavy eye-makeup she wore.  She was intense and confident and fairly well-rounded for a Bond Girl.  She doesn’t stick around too long but she was fun while she lasted.

“Surprise, I’m in your shower and that’s not my gun poking you.”

If anybody besides Bond slipped into a lady’s shower fully naked, they would be kneed in the crotch and in handcuffs so fast.  Of course, here she could have had him shot in international waters.

“Hello, Javier Bardem, I forgot you were in this.  It’s weird to hear you speak but you seem cool.”

He really makes this movie.  I refer to his silent and brilliant role in No Country for Old Men which is the only other movie I’ve seen him in.  According to IMDB he was in Collateral but he wasn’t memorable.  He is funny, creepy and almost so intelligent that you find yourself agreeing with him during his first few scenes.  He reminded me of Ricardo Montalban in Wrath of Khan.   He was an epic, intelligent and batshit insane villain.

“Nope. Nope.  This whole thing has a Phillip Seymour Hoffman in MI:3 vibe to it.”

I was right.

“Hopefully Q will get smarter.”

He would probably be the first to agree that he makes a boneheaded play here.  At least for somebody who’s supposed to be as brilliant as he is supposed to be.

“Oh did I forget to comment for awhile?  This movie must be really good.”

At some point I got completely sucked into the film.  Journeying to the Bond estate in Scotland was excellent.  I want to learn more about their family but we know how much that is a whole set of scars for Bond.  He might not be talking about it anytime soon.  The movie just continues to be great and ends perfectly.  This might not have been one of my favorite movies but this was one of the better Bond films.


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