Posts Tagged ‘Spoilers’

Blood Dolls (1999) A Spoiler-Filled Rundown

February 6, 2023

Written, Directed, and Produced by Charles Band under his Full Moon Features banner, this movie is a great example of the weirdness Band has always churned out. His movies do not worry about making sense and are instead full of wacky hijinks mixed with gruesome imagery. The movie went straight to video which was not abnormal for Full Moon Features which had been at the forefront of the VHS market before many companies had really figured it out. Of course, this was released on DVD. 

We start the movie in the twisted mansion of Virgil Travis. As the opening credits roll, we see a bit of Travis’ office as he prepares for a meeting. We see him pick up his mask and we also see the front page article from the Wall Street Tribune that details Travis Software’s loss in an Anti-Trust case. The paper estimates that Travis Software lost a billion dollars because of the court ruling. Two attorneys who worked on this case arrive outside of the mansion. The guy, Howard Loftus, is understandably nervous about seeing their client but the woman, Cindy Agami, tells him that she can handle Mr. Travis. However, she does have to spout some exposition at him as they enter. Cindy tells him that Mr. Travis is eccentric and to not be alarmed if there is a dwarf and/or clown inside. Also, don’t be alarmed if there is an all-female rock band in a cage. These are Mr. Travis’ personal rock band. Also, don’t be alarmed that Mr. Travis always wears a mask. 

As they reach the door, Mr. Travis speaks over an intercom (did he hear them talking?) and asks if it is Cindy. When she confirms her identity, the door is opened by Mr. Mascaro. Mr. Mascaro is dressed like a butler in a suit but also has full-face clown makeup. He acts sternly and not clownlike at all. He invites the attorneys in and leads them down to Mr. Travis’ office. Howard bumps into a dwarf named Hylias who is surly. Inside a cage, four young women are fighting amongst themselves. Cindy greets them as Cotton Baby, Razor Baby, Black Baby, and Shirley. They are a band called Caged Babies. Shirley tells Cindy that Mr. Travis has a surprise planned for the attorneys. Cindy doubts that Mr. Travis could surprise her anymore.

The two attorneys are summoned into Mr. Travis’ office. Mr. Travis invites them to sit down and has Hylias shock the Caged Babies to get them to play Song #3. Mr. Travis shows off his new acquisition, two dolls. He holds up Pimp and Cindy remarks how racist it looks (and it does look like a very racist depiction of a black pimp stereotype). Mr. Travis brushes off the comment and admits that he is indeed racist. After Mr. Travis shows off the second doll, Howard comments that they look strangely familiar. Mr. Travis mentions his displeasure at them losing the case. Cindy says to blame the judge and the federal prosecutor instead. Travis activates a switch that restrains the attorneys in their chairs. Mr. Travis reveals that three competitors are behind Travis’ ruination. He will get his revenge.

Travis kills Howard horribly in his chair as Cindy, Mr. Travis, and Mr. Travis’ henchmen watch. Mr. Travis takes off his mask and reveals that his head is much smaller than his body. He was genetically engineered by his mother Eugenia. Travis orders Mascaro to put Cindy in a machine. The machine compresses a human body into a doll form. He reveals that the two dolls that they saw before, Pimp and Sideshow, are the judge and the federal prosecutor. Cindy is compressed into the racist doll Ms. Fortune as the Caged Babies play Song #7. 

We cut to a meeting of the three competitors of which Mr. Travis spoke. Mercy Shaw, George Warbeck, and Harrison Yulin (accompanied by his wife Moira) are toasting their success. Virgil Travis and Mr. Mascaro are spying on the meeting through a camera drone. Mr. Mascaro comments that Harrison seems like an idiot but Travis claims that it is a disguise as Harrison was the mastermind. The meeting breaks up and Mr. Travis complains that some countermeasures keep him from spying on the upstairs. No matter. Mr. Mascaro and the dolls will kill Harrison Yulin and his compatriots.

We cut to the Yulin bedroom where it is revealed that Moira is actually the mastermind behind everything. She has Harrison in a highly unbalanced BDSM relationship where she manipulates him into doing whatever she wants, usually through pain and humiliation. She reveals that the Yulins bribed the federal prosecutor and judge who have now been murdered (actually turned into dolls). Moira reveals that she expects Mr. Travis to attempt to murder them next and also reveals that she has secretly had several people murdered to further their own goals. Harrison was oblivious to all of this. If Travis kills Warbeck and Shaw, that will actually be beneficial for the Yulins as it will allow them to acquire their shares. 

Travis sics Mascaro and the dolls on Warbeck. Mascaro shows up at the Warbeck estate without his makeup on and poses as a repairman. Mascaro remotely shuts the power off in the estate which eliminates the security grid. Mascaro intercepts their call for repair and shows up. He unleashes the dolls inside the mansion. The dolls work together to murder Warbeck as Mascaro murders a security guard to prevent him from saving Warbeck. The dolls then murder another security guard.

Mr. Travis once again spies on the Yulin residence. Harrison Yulin and Mercy Shaw are meeting. Moira is guiding Harrison through an earpiece.  Mercy is planning on leaving town to flee from Travis’ wrath. Harrison offers to buy out her shares. Mr. Travis still wants to kill Mercy Shaw even though she is out of the game. Travis also hears Harrison say the words “coming up” and ponders over it.

Upstairs, Moira berates Harrison once again. She reveals that she planted cameras in Warbeck’s mansion. The recordings reveal the existence of the dolls through still images. 

Mr. Travis continues to ponder the meaning of “coming up” and sends Mascaro and the dolls to kill Mercy Shaw. Hylias has the band play Song #4. At Mercy Shaw’s mansion, she loads into a freight elevator. Her security has arranged several identical vehicles to leave alongside her to confuse attackers. The power cuts out and Mercy and her guards are killed in the elevator between floors. 

We cut back to the Yulin residence where Moira is whipping Harrison as she talks with him. She is already in the process of acquiring the shares of their former partners, Warbeck and Shaw. Harrison worries that they are the next targets but Moira reminds him that she looks like a civilian in this war and Harrison would be Travis’ target. Both the Yulins’ and Travis’ security are so high that neither could hope to successfully attack. A stalemate. Moira refuses to give up.  The dolls attempt to attack the Yulin mansion but Pimp gets burned by a fire trap. 

Back at the Travis mansion, Pimp receives healing. Mascaro reveals that the Yulin defenses are impregnable and the design of the defenses reveals that the Yulins know about the dolls. Meanwhile, Moira has shown up at the Travis mansion. Travis is thrown off by her arrival and her desire to meet with him. He asks Mascaro to locate her vehicle. Travis goes to meet Moira with his mask on. Travis suspects that Moira’s presence is part of a plot by Harrison and tells Moira as much. Travis then guesses correctly that Moira actually came on her own. Moira asks for an armistice. She flatters Travis who is taken by her beauty and her wit as they recite poetry and philosophy at each other. Travis declares that Moira will not be harmed when Travis attacks.

The dolls have been loaded into Moira’s limousine and return with her to the Yulin mansion. Travis sends Mr. Mascaro to pick the dolls up and make sure the job is done as the Caged Babies play Song #10. 

Moira was impressed by Virgil Travis but she also claims that Travis was smitten with her. Moira says goodbye to Harrison, saying that his usefulness has come to an end. She already has the necessary signed documents to own everything Harrison owns. Moira leaves as the dolls enter and murder Harrison in a BDSM rack contraption. Moira watches the dolls start to leave (proving that Travis was sparing her) and she captures them in a cage. 

She calls Travis and acts scared and accuses him of lying about sparing her as she acts like the dolls are attacking her. Travis confesses to killing her husband and calls off the dolls over the phone which Moira records. Travis realizes that Moira was the mastermind all along. Travis is heartbroken by Moira’s betrayal and hangs up the phone. He admits to himself that he had fallen for Moira and is angry that she used him. He vows revenge. He has the band play Song #1.

Moira talks to the dolls in her office and muses over her victory. She also plans to surprise Mr. Travis saying “surrender is victory”. Mr. Travis calls and requests a meeting in a public place. Moira turns that down and agrees to come to the Travis mansion. This is convenient for their plan to ambush Moira. This change perplexes Travis.

Moira arrives at the Travis mansion once again and is led to speak with Mr. Travis. Moira explains that she put herself in Mr. Travis’ power to make a deal. She presents Travis with all of the evidence that Travis was involved in the murders. She also signs over her company and signs a confession of the murder of Harrison. She offers up her life to Virgil Travis. She offers marriage to Travis. She also offers to mother his children, creating a dynasty together. The two of them together could do so much better. Her death would return him to the status quo but their union could make them lords of the Earth. Virgil agrees to the marriage. Mr. Mascaro is ordained to perform the ceremony. 

We cut to the wedding in Virgil Travis’ office. Mr. Mascaro performs the brief ceremony and they are married. Travis removes his mask and reveals his tiny head. The sight shocks Moira and revulsion spreads across her face. The dolls maim her legs and Hylias ties her up. Travis declares that he did not like what was under Moira’s metaphorical mask either. His life is no longer pleasant. He resolves to kill himself and his entire staff with toxic death. Mr. Mascaro and Hylias declare their loyalty and agree to go down with their boss. The dolls free the Caged Babies who get their revenge on Hylias. The band carries the dolls out of the mansion and they escape in Mr. Mascaro’s truck.

The movie stops cold and Mr. Mascaro tells us that this is only one of two endings to the movie. They will now show the second ending.

In this ending, the Caged Babies are released to attend the wedding. They still assault Hylias but are threatened to behave by Mr. Mascaro and a machine gun. They play the processional. Mr. Mascaro marries Moira and Virgil in another brief ceremony. Once again, Virgil removes his mask to kiss the bride. Moira is surprised by Virgil’s small head but this time she speaks eloquently about falling in love with Travis. She is surprised by how much she cares for him. They are both marvels and monsters and are meant for one another. Now the world has something to really worry about. The band plays a final song over the credits.


This movie is absolutely insane and that is why I love it. It was anything but formulaic and a lot of the acting is way better than you would expect from a B-Movie. In particular, Kristopher Logan (Virgil Travis) and Debra Mayer (Moira Yulin) have amazing performances. This is also surprising because it was Mayer’s first film. I could listen to the two of them talk to each other for hours. There are also no good guys in this movie. The Caged Babies are prisoners but also revel in Cindy Agami’s “death”. There is nothing to cheer on except the movie itself and what depths it will descend into. It is an atypical horror movie. The deaths mostly include filthy rich people who maintain their wealth through unscrupulous means. That makes it almost a perfect movie for me.

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Hard Rock Zombies (1985)(A Plot Rundown)(Major Spoilers)

September 5, 2022

Sometimes horror movies are so crazy that in order to truly process them, one must go back over them in detail. I really want to tell people about this movie because it is crazy and I believe that a lot of my friends would not watch it on their own. If you are inclined at any time to watch this movie, I would suggest that you do and join me in the experience. Those who want to save yourself 96 minutes are free to stick around and let me regale you. I’m thinking of doing this with other weird movies because the Internet needs to have a comprehensive record of the strange.


We start with a convertible cruising down a rural highway with some great eighties rock and roll playing not from the stereo but as background music. I like to imagine that they are actually driving in complete silence. These rocking dudes are in the car and obviously having a great time, though. We have no idea what their names are because they have zero lines in the film. The dudes see a young and leggy blonde woman on the side of the road and slow to a stop to pick her up. She excitedly gets in the car. 

Two little people up to no good.

We cut to a small lake or pond where three men in suits are cavorting around. Two of them are little people and one is tall. The tall one is looking around through binoculars. The driving trio stops at that same watering hole and they strip down. This gives us some cheap full frontal nudity as the lady does a quick striptease and gets into the water. She and one of the vaguely interchangeable guys swim about for a bit until she decides to playfully dunk him and then not so playfully hold him under until blood comes to the surface. The three men love what they see. The tall man is taking pictures. Somehow, the other guy did not notice what happened to his friend as the lady swims up to him. Without any preamble, she pushes him under the water and holds him down until blood rockets to the surface again. The opening song ends.

Back on the shore, the men have helped drag the bodies out of the water and haphazardly wrapped them in plastic. The men excitedly try to move the body but the woman grabs a knife and lops the body’s hand off at the wrist in one swing. She holds the hand up to her cheek dreamily and softly sings one line of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”.

Because there has been almost a full minute without rock music blaring, we cut to a concert in progress. This is where we first see the heroes of our movie who are singing a pretty great tune. The band is made up of a bass player/singer/frontman, a drummer, a guitarist, and a keyboardist. The frontman is named Jessie and he is the creative and sensitive one. The rest are mostly interchangeable goofballs.  

A few minutes later, the song is over and we see the band getting changed backstage after their gig. They are tired but their manager/roadie tells them that they have to mingle with the groupies outside so that the wild pictures can make it into the magazines. In what must be a first, the guys vehemently argue against having to flirt with young ladies who already think they are cool. The manager states that if they won’t go out to the girls, he will just have to let them in the dressing room. The ladies flood the place and climb all over the four rockers whose protests seem to evaporate. The guys begrudgingly sign breasts and thighs as flirting continues. 

Jesse pushes his way through the crowd and finds peace in the hallway. He also finds a young, nervous girl. Jesse softens and asks if she wants to come in and meet the band. She instead warns him to not bring the band to their next gig in the town of Grand Guignol. The town does not want them there. The girl scurries away as Jessie is once again swarmed by groupies.

Cut to the band in their tour bus on the way to the gig in Grand Guignol. Jesse is noodling with a song that nobody else recognizes that sounds vaguely like Latin. He says that it is from a book written in the Middle Ages when people used it to bring the dead back to life. As he sings it, their manager repeatedly smacks the same mosquito which repeatedly comes back to life each time it dies.

They look ahead on the highway and spot the same woman from the opening who is more obviously hitchhiking. She climbs into their van and they start talking to her about the town of Grand Guignol and the warnings Jesse received the night before. The woman shrugs off the questions by being vague. The woman does not introduce herself immediately but her name is Elsa. 

Elsa is a creepy lady.

She invites the band to stay at her family’s home for free as it beats staying at a motel. The band agrees and they drive to the manor. We hear a howling sound as they pull up and see a female-presenting werewolf kind of wiggling as she howls. One of the little people from before walks up and asks if the band needs a hand. When they agree, he holds out a hand out for a handshake and it is the hand they cut off the body from earlier. This and the howling freaks the band out but Elsa smooths it over by calling the hand a toy and the howling her mother’s primal scream exercises. We briefly cut to Elsa and the little person putting the severed hand in a jar as Elsa once again sings. This time it is one line from “One Hand, One Heart”

We get another music video as the band parties it up in the town and has fun with the local teenagers (?) and people their age (?). Jesse spots the girl from the night before and chases her as she literally sprints away. He catches up to her just as she bumps into her father. Her father takes one look at Jesse and tells his daughter to go home. We learn that her name is Cassie. Jesse gets a little too big in his britches and boats a little about the concert scheduled for the next night. The father tells him that the concert will not happen.

Jesse returns to the band just in time to get arrested by the local sheriff for parking their van illegally. The band panics about their upcoming gig. Record executive Don Madson is coming to their gig and this is their big break. Cassie throws an envelope from outside into the cell and smiles at Jesse as he flirts with her. They continue on until her father chases her off. She tried to give them bail money but it is a pitiful 37 dollars. 

We cut to an old German main schtupping a woman elsewhere in the house. She says something about him being over ninety but still virile. The little people pop up and beg to watch. They are allowed.

Meanwhile, Elsa has bailed out the band. One of the band members gloats and they invite everybody to the show. The sheriff says that there will be no show. Jesse spots Cassie and goes to talk to her as Elsa watches disapprovingly. Jessie gives Cassie a keepsake and runs to catch up with the band. 

Back at the family manor, the band gears up for a sound test/private show for the family. The family watches with amusement as their gear malfunctions and the band collectively receives a massive electric shock. They console the band members and apologize.

We cut to an emergency meeting of the town council. They bicker about the arrival of the band and how it is affecting the youth in town. Ronnie is in attendance, apparently being the only one smart enough to see the trouble brewing. The clearly corrupt and insane town leadership votes to enact Statute 6969. Because rock leads to premarital sex and has demonic messages, the new statute will effectively ban it. All rock and roll materials in town are to be destroyed forthwith. Ronnie tries to speak up but is chased out of the meeting.

We cut to Jessie who is once again experimenting with the song that raises the dead. He smashes a tarantula and brings it back to life. We also see the human hand from earlier come alive in its jar.

As music plays, we go through a montage of two things: The first is the Family murdering the band members one by one. It is revealed that they have done this for a long time and keep photos of the murders and trophies from their victims. The grandmother turns into the werewolf we saw earlier. The other thing we see is the town destroying all manner of rock and roll paraphernalia in the middle of town. The violence from both is frenzied.

Cassie arrives to try and save Jessie. The two run through the woods and then hide. Jessie tells Cassie that he loves her and hands her a cassette tape to play if they catch Jessie. The two get split up and one of the Family catches Jessie and kills him with a weed whacker. 

The least offensive picture of Hitler in the movie that I could find.

We cut to Family dinner which is also attended by the Sheriff and Ronnie. The  Family thanks the Sheriff and the town council for supporting them. Now that Ronnie is out of a job, they offer him a job. Ronnie objects, saying his friends’ funerals were literally a few hours ago. Apparently, he has not found out how they died. A red light starts flashing and the grandfather excitedly jumps to his feet and unmasks. He is Adolf Hitler, hiding under a mask for decades. Nazi flags are unfurled and everybody is celebratory. He is filmed for a satellite feed where he says that he will be taking over California and tomorrow the World. 

We cut to Cassie sitting at the graves of the band members. She softly tells Jessie that she loves him and then plays the tape. The song causes the band to rise as zombies in corpsepaint and they march off, leaving Cassie behind. 

We cut back to Hitler who is giving a stunned Ronnie a tour of his facility which includes a working gas chamber and furnaces. An increasingly unhinged Ronnie turns down Hitler’s job offer and he is tied up to be killed. He is saved at the last moment by the zombie band. In a montage, Ronnie watches horrified as the band slaughters the entire Nazi family. 

Ronnie runs back into town and bursts in on members of the town council sitting around. Out of breath, he explains what happened. The eldest member of this small group (who is obviously Jewish) starts protesting how horrible that is. They approve of Nazi death, of course, but Hitler and his family become ghouls upon their death and their bite can create more ghouls. He also reveals that Hitler made a secret deal with Harry Truman to spare Hitler and Eva Braun’s lives. They snuck off to America to create a family. They need to act to stop a Nazi ghoul outbreak.

Back at the Manor, the Nazis rise where the band members killed them. They begin to murder anybody they run into, creating more ghouls.

Meanwhile, the band climbs into their van and heads off to do their concert. They arrive at the theater and set up and start to play. Cassie follows them. The record producer arrives but is oblivious to what is going on. He is the only one in the audience but shrugs and says it must be a tough town. He loves the band. The band sings a song apparently directed at Cassie and it is intercut with music video footage of Jessie and Cassie dancing in period costumes. 

We cut back to the ghouls killing people. We also see Ronnie and the townspeople trying to prepare for an assault on the Manor. Also, one of the little people finds himself tasty and starts eating his own extremities. We cut back to the band still playing and the record producer on the phone doing comedy schtick. The ghouls have invaded the town. The townspeople start dying because they misinterpreted old wives’ tales about the ghouls. The town is now overrun. The ghouls burst into the theater and chase off the record producer and Cassie barely escapes.

Back in town, Ronnie and the remaining townspeople are frantically trying to figure out what to do. One of them speaks of a tale that says that if they let the ghouls ravish and devour a live virgin, the ghouls will rest for 100 years. At that point, it’s somebody else’s problem. Cassie arrives at the shelter. 

The record producer offers the band a contract but they tiredly get back into their van and drive off leaving the producer to get devoured by ghouls. The one little person is still eating his own body. The band returns to their graves.

The townspeople tie up Cassie as an offering to the ghouls. Objecting, Ronnie frantically goes to the band’s graves and begs them to get up for one more show. They begrudgingly rise from their graves and listen to their manager one last time. The band starts to play the magic song again, this time summoning the ghouls to them just as they are about to reach Cassie. Ronnie frees Cassie. The band leads the ghouls into the underground of the Manor. The horde follows them into the gas chamber which Ronnie activates from outside. The ghouls are all utterly destroyed by the gas. The one little person finishes eating himself, leaving behind only a skull.

Cassie and Ronnie mourn their friends once again at the cemetery. As Cassie leans down and tells Jessie that he will always be the only one for her and that she will return to visit him often. Jessie’s hand rises from the grave and she rubs her cheek against it. 

The end

The Swarm (1978) – Spoiler Review Pt. 2

January 11, 2021

When we left off last Monday, I was talking about loose plot threads and padding.

  1. Patty Duke is Single and Pregnant

Early in the movie, we hear a recording of the soldiers who were attacked on the base and one of them is bragging about his girlfriend who he is about to propose to. He mentions that she is pregnant and working as a waitress. We actually meet her later and visit her throughout the movie as she struggles with grief and then the chaos around her. She is about to get on the doomed evacuation train when her water breaks and she is brought back to the hospital where she has her baby and starts to fall in love with the head doctor there. It is kind of a sweet story that shows the aftermath of a death in the military but it also has zero impact on the movie.

  1. Maybe Eat Something Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda plays an immunologist whose main contribution is to figure out the lethality of the bee’s venom. He tries to develop an anti-venom throughout the movie after they find living bee subjects. Out of nowhere, late in the movie there is a plot where we find out that he is working so hard that he is not eating meals. He is lightly chastised by Caine who tells him he will get him any meal he could want. At that point, Fonda decides to test the anti-venom on himself. In a very long and tense scene, we watch as Fonda suffers the pain of the venom and then injects himself with the experimental anti-venom. He dies when his vital signs go out of control, proving just how deadly the bees are. He does the test on himself because he correctly reasons that human volunteers for trials would be hard to find on short notice. Except, shouldn’t he have eaten a meal before carrying out this test? He injected himself at his most tired and hungry. No wonder he died.

  1. Richard Chamberlain Goes Boom

A brief thing but Chamberlain plays a scientist who is sent to a nuclear power plant to convince them to shut down and join the evacuation of the path to Houston. They hem and haw over it and the bees end up causing the plant’s destruction leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths (which are only related to the viewer on a news ticker). How much padding is in this movie when a nuclear explosion is a footnote?

  1. Lee Grant Action News

We briefly follow a reporter played by Lee Grant who has been assigned to the Flower Festival and ends up in the middle of a bigger story. She has very little impact on the story except as another body out dodging the swarm during the big Maryville attack. She also has a big scene where she interviews Caine but Caine refuses to comment and they move on. Another great waste of time.

  1. That’s a Big Bee

A small point but in two separate scenes we see a victim of the bees (the boy and Ross) hallucinate a giant bee while suffering. It is a very silly element as you see what looks like a bee the size of a Buick hovering in the air grooming itself. A lot of time is spent on these two scenes. I wonder if they would have been less silly if the victims instead hallucinated that the swarm had gotten into the hospital. That would have been terrifying.

Overall

My mother and I really enjoyed this movie even though it was very, very goofy. A lot of the acting was very good or at least better than it had any business being. I also want to note how ruthless this movie was. There are so many scenes where the bees kill a lot of people including little children. There are several times in the movie where it feels like they should have filmed more takes. For example, Caine is a great actor but sometimes when he was shouting he was unintelligible. Ross delivers a scream in one scene which ended up being comically bad (although really good lung strength). The script needed a bunch of revisions to tighten it up and the various plot threads should have been tidied up and made to actually tie together. However, I feel like that would have made the movie less enjoyable. It is a great B-Movie because it was so bonkers and I would not have typed this much if it was a tight, serious science fiction movie.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

April 16, 2019

(SPOILER ALERT for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Go watch it and come back or read on at your own risk)

I am a huge fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas. I have written about the movie several times before. Last year, during the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I started a tournament bracket for best Disney Animated film and I took Nightmare Before Christmas all the way to the finals and the movie won the whole thing. You can find those words in the First Round, Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals, and Finals. Basically, I talked about how I have dealt with both anxiety and depression in my life and how the movie mirrored a lot of moments in my life. I also talked about how Danny Elfman’s music was probably the best he will ever achieve in this movie. I also related how I had experienced my own job-based depression and I learned to better balance my life and work. I also finally found a job that I love doing which allows me to kick ass by day and be creative by night. I am almost always thinking about this movie in one way or another so I want to express some of that.

A thought I literally had last night as I was driving home from work was sparked by the lyrics of “Town Meeting Song”. The song suddenly resonated with me even more when I realized a few things. First, I feel like the song is mostly about cultural differences but I will set that aside for the moment. The song takes place about halfway through the movie and Jack has just arrived back from Christmas Town. He is bubbling over with excitement about this huge discovery that he has made. Then he tries to explain something that he does not fully understand himself. He talks too quickly and when his audience does not get it, he keeps plowing forward instead of going back to clarify. This is so relatable. The more excited I am, the more I tend to ramble and throw things out there. It is excitement through the lens of anxiety. When I have a moment to breathe and maybe write things out, I do so much better at explaining everything in a linear manner. Part of the real emotional conflict of the movie begins here.

Even if Jack explained himself better, his endeavor would probably still be doomed. Jack loves Christmas because it is a shiny new toy but he does not really understand it himself. He proves that in “Jack’s Obsession” when he experiments and tries experiments to dissect Christmas. As I got older, I grew to appreciate this scene better. Jack is trying too hard. Christmas is not world peace or famine relief. It is a holiday intended to be a simple and good time. Sometimes you just learn to enjoy things by taking a deep breath and a break and coming back to things later. I have solved a lot of my problems by letting my mind wander and coming back to things. A problem that had bested me previously was now something I easily dominated. Jack also isolates himself from everybody else in the town. Sometimes another perspective can help you figure out a problem. Another set of eyes could have been just what Jack needed.

Continuing along that line of thinking, I was trying to think of what Jack could have done to actually succeed at his mission in this movie. He clearly got the citizens of Halloween Town excited about the possibilities of Christmas but he was having trouble getting everybody to see his vision. At first, I thought that Jack should have taken the townspeople in small reconnaissance groups to actually show them Christmas Town. That way they would have actually seen and understood what Jack was telling them about. Then I realized how stupid that idea was. It is just spreading the problem around. The secondary conflict of this movie is between Jack’s vision of Christmas and the rest of the world’s vision of Christmas. In order for Jack to succeed, those two visions should be one. If he had actually stopped to talk with Santa Claus then he could have set up a cultural exchange between the two towns. Of course, that would have stopped him from having a huge life event that allowed him personal growth and allowed him to overcome the main conflict of the story.

Of course, he does not stop and talk to Santa Claus because he does not believe he needs to. I feel that this is because he has a confidence problem stemming from depression. Jack has been the King of Halloween for a long, long time. We are never told but I always thought it was probably since the advent of the holiday (whatever that means). He has gotten really good at his job which means that everybody is always looking to him for guidance and saying what a good job he is doing. Part of his depression is that he is disinterested in his job because he is too good at it. He discovers Christmas and is happy at a possible new challenge. However, he is still stuck in that mindset where he is the king of all he sees. So he dives into Christmas with overconfidence. Shaking loose from depression is not that easy and he literally crashes and burns. It is only when he accepts who he is and learns to not be complacent that he truly starts to find happiness.

So those are a few thoughts I have had recently and I hope they let you love this movie a little bit more. Please tell me what you think about The Nightmare Before Christmas or tell me why I am wrong about it being the best Disney movie.

 

(Written on 4/11/19)

Undertale

April 24, 2018

Alright, this post is definitely going to get very spoiler heavy but for a computer game that came out over 2 and half years ago. If that sort of thing bothers you, I do not blame you if you step away right now. Also, if there is any chance that you would play a game that I will be actively endorsing (#notsponsored), go and play it first. The rest of you may stay and learn why I think that this was an important game that everybody should experience in some way. If the way you want to experience it is through reading this post instead of playing an admittedly frustrating game for hours then thank you for sticking around. That being said, let us get down to business.

The game is a combination of a roleplaying game and a bullet hell game. “Bullet Hell” is a genre that often leads to very difficult gameplay that often has a fairly sharp curve. In bullet hell games, literally a multitude of objects come at you and you must dodge them or die. Winning the fight is more about survival than actually attacking the target. The video below will illustrate what is generally considered hardest fight in the game, one I never even attempted. Most of the combat is easier than that. The other part of the game is roleplaying which means you spend a lot of time going to and fro and talking to people and fetching items while you are traveling from point a to point b. The closest thing I have seen to it is probably the Paper Mario games.

The thing about that roleplaying aspect is that practically everything that you do is a choice that you made which effects the way the story goes for the rest of the playthrough. The story begins as you play a small child who falls down from the surface to a cavernous world of monsters. In any other game, your goal would be to fight every monster you come upon to escape the monster kingdom. Except that your first clue that this may not be the case is that after you fall, you are taken in and fed by a kind sheep woman who wants to protect you. When you try to leave, she stands in your way and refuses to budge because it is too dangerous out there. Your first real choice is made at that moment. You can kill her to start your journey toward freedom or you can wear her down by being stubborn until she realizes that she cannot make the decision for you and lets you go.


This video brought to you by Holly Conrad and Ross O’Donovan.

This kind of sets the tone for the rest of the game. If you wait and see what happens, you are often rewarded with pacifist options to get through the rest of the game. Your next destination brings you to a monster village dominated by two skeleton brothers one of whom was friends with the earlier sheep lady. Their names are Sans and Papyrus (after the fonts Comic Sans and Papyrus). Papyrus talks a big game about wanting to kill all humans but when it comes down to it, he is a pathetic guy with few friends and is overjoyed to change his tune if you befriend him instead. Sans is a lazy guy who just wants to tell puns and live in peace. The fight against Papyrus is the first time where it is really difficult to tough it out until he becomes your friend. You are almost punished with harder gameplay for being nice which is a great mechanic. It is harder to be nice sometimes but it is ultimately more rewarding.

As you continue through the game in this “pacifist” route, you really start making friends instead of enemies. Befriending Papyrus allows him to help you befriend the hardcore soldier Undyne who is as intense about being your friend as she was in hunting you down. Having befriended Undyne, you will have an easier time befriending the kingdom’s nerdy, shy royal scientist Alphys because she has a major crush on Undyne. Finally, you reach the only exit of the kingdom but the King Asgore (scary name) stands in your way. You find out that he only wants to kill you because he can combine your soul with six other dead children to free his people from a magical barrier. He does not want to do it but his people will eventually die out trapped in the cavern and he feels they deserve to be free. He also wants to do it in honor of his son who died which broke apart his marriage to Toriel, the sheep lady from the beginning.

In the end, if you chose a pacifist run, you are able to defeat but not kill the king and you are to able to defeat and lay to rest the spirit of his dead son. In doing so, you are able to wield the energy from the seven hearts and break the barrier, freeing all of the monsters. It is such a touching moment as you look out over this new horizon with your new friends, all of whom have come to love and accept you. Through the game, you spend a lot more time talking to characters to get them what you want to achieve a peaceful resolution. In fact, the random monsters that pop up to attack you all can be disarmed by giving them gifts, telling jokes, complimenting them, petting them, or just running away. As I said, this makes the combat more difficult because you spend a lot of time dodging obstacles while not attacking. Instead, you spend time figuring out what each monster wants and how you can give it to them.

Of course, this is only if you do the pacifist run. To get the other half of the game’s experience, you have to finish what is called the “genocide run”. In the genocide run, you do what comes naturally in a video game. You go around and you kill everything and everyone. Doing so gives you EXP and LOVE and makes it easier to get through a lot of the bullet hell segments, at least early on. However, you later learn that EXP does not stand for “experience” and LOVE does not stand for “love”. Instead, they mean Execution Points and Level of Violence. The more creatures you kill, the more evil you become. Characters who could have become your friends now flee before you and the ones who tried to stop you in the pacifist run are even more desperate to do so. And you know what? You can sympathize with them. I actually wanted them to defeat me because I felt bad for them and their deceased friends.

Eventually, you reach the end of the genocide run and you have murdered everyone who did not run away from you. The level of power that you have absorbed from all of the blood you have shed takes a form separate from you as a malevolent murder spirit. It asks you if you want to join it in destroying the universe. Whether you agree to join it or not, it will go ahead and destroy the universe. In addition, two characters in the game (Sans and Flowey) know that they are in a game. Even if you start a new game, they will both remember that you finished the genocide run. Forever. It will permanently change any other playthroughs of the game even if you go on to be as nice as you can be. The game remembers that you were the real monster. Because, just like in real life, everybody remembers the bad things you do and you must learn to live with the mistakes you have made.

So why is this game so important to me? Why did I think it was important to let you know about it? I can answer that in one word: Morality. The game is a great example of what sticking to good morals can get you and the consequences of bad morals. You can be as wrathful as you want to be. It will probably get you money and things and power. However, it will not win you any friends of substance and you will ultimately be alone and angry. It can truly be harder to be nice and positive sometimes especially in the face of adversity. When being mean is a shortcut, we all consider it at some point. However, most of us know that we will not be able to live with ourselves afterward. This game left me with a lot to think about and hopefully, this small bit leaves you with something to think about.


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