Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Insidious (2011)

It’s taken me awhile to write this review of Insidious (2011) because I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. Actually, I’m still not sure. It’s a generic concept—a happy family moves into new home and all hell breaks loose (optional: something baaad has happened in the past that they are trying to escape) with a particular focus around the mother who is far too svelte for having birthed three children in seemingly six years. Okay, I guess I can get behind that, plus I really like the word ‘insidious.’

The central plot of the film is that one of the three aforementioned children falls into an unexplained coma and does not wake up for months upon months. Doctors, naturally, are stumped. Then strange things begin to happen in the house because why wouldn’t they? Time to call in the psychics! This particular set of psychics and ghosthunters inform the family that their son has astral projected into a place called “the Further”—which, let’s be honest, is a terrible name for another realm of scary shit—and someone has to go get him back. What lives in the darkness that is “the Further”? If you guessed (spoiler alert) pinup girls with shotguns…well, 10 horror movie points for you.

You know, the great philosopher of our time Harvey Danger once said, “well, if you’re bored then you’re boring.” I decided that since I am bored just writing this up, this movie must have been boring. There were some good jump scares in it and the twist at the end is okay, though it’s a really obvious plot device to set up a sequel (see also: Friday the 13th, Halloween, and every other horror movie that has ever existed in series form). I can’t even get excited about drawing it because I can hardly remember a memorable scene. 

Well uh, I guess that's that. I feel like I've barely had any horror-watching this month and the day after tomorrow is Halloween. I'm thinking I'll review a couple classics over the next week or two instead of venturing into Netflix territory, particularly because my friend Mike argued SO PASSIONATELY that I need to watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 that he stepped off a curb directly into traffic and nearly lost his life. So, you know, I guess I owe him that much!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bong of the Dead (2011)

For months, Bong of the Dead (2011) has been at the top of my “recommended for Katie” list on Netflix. What does this say about me?

In all honesty, I love horror comedy. I mean, everyone loves the Evil Dead series, but I would even lump two of my all-time favorite films—Beetlejuice and Monster Squad—into this category.  I like stoner comedy: Cheech & Chong were childhood staples; Half Baked was a college staple. My band even once recorded the theme song for a Comedy Central pilot called “Stoners with a Time Machine”—all twelve seconds of it, and you can find it here.

So truthfully, by all accounts Netflix had it right. The straight-to-video classic Bong of the Dead was my destiny. 
(Also, the tagline “There will be bud” is good. I admit it, it is.)

The film opens with a ten minute sequence depicting a meteor falling to earth, I think, and then this old guy puts his hand into the crater, I guess, and pulls out some gelatinous muck that causes him to become a zombie, it would seem. He eats his wife and then she becomes a zombie and they eat each other. There is no dialogue in this sequence, only grunts.

I turned to Rob and asked, “What the hell are we watching?”
“I think it’s a Soundgarden* video.”
Cue the opening credits, and then we are introduced to our two stoner protagonists. I did not catch either of their names, just that one of them is wearing a “Team Weed” shirt. Then they started talking. Listen, I get it. Stoned people stereotypically speak a certain way. There is a way to do this well—Rory Cochrane as Slater in Dazed & Confused, Jason Segel in basically every episode of “Freaks & Geeks”, and so on. 

Then there are these guys.

No. Just…just no. I didn’t even make it through their introductory scene that consisted of waving around a glass jar filled with a substance that looked like slime from “You Can’t Do That on Television” that had…something to do with the zombies? I think it was maybe a mashup of...their brains? I couldn’t even tell you. I was out.

The Netflix time counter says we made it through 15 minutes. It felt like a goddamn hour. I guess there will not be bud.

*I know that this is the second reference to Soundgarden in under a month and I seriously don’t even care. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Les Vampires (1915-16), Episodes 4-8

It was originally my intention to cover every episode of Les Vampires one by one, but I can’t. The plot keeps twisting and turning, and I don’t want to give away any of it because I really think that everyone should watch this series. For your reference, I am pretty sure that each episode is on YouTube (but you didn’t hear that from me.)

In the last five episodes, a lot of stuff has happened.

A train passenger got stabbed in the ear with a hat pin!
A body fell out of a secret door in a closet!


Okay, that last little bit required some suspension of disbelief but the point remains: Les Vampires is so good and so engaging. I have seriously not been so excited to find out what happens next in a series since I watched 'The X-Files' pilot for the very first time(don’t you dare judge me) several years ago. Last night we realized that we only have two episodes left, each about an hour long, so we’ll finish up next week. I honestly feel bummed about it. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wish this 7-hour silent French crime story would keep going.

I know I mentioned this in my previous Les Vampires post, but prior to watching this, I definitely had a bias against silent cinema. I felt like it made it difficult to connect with the characters, that the storylines weren’t engaging and that it just wasn't for me. Les Vamps has definitely proven me wrong: in last night’s viewing, something happened that cause all four viewers to audibly gasp. I am pretty sure I covered my mouth and Kristina put both her hands on her head in shock. Dudes, we are into this big time. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Well it’s October, which normally means all horror all the time in my house but by some kind stroke of karma from the gods, the Pittsburgh baseball Pirates are still playing baseball. WE ARE STILL PLAYING BASEBALL! IN OCTOBER! so horror-watching has been a bit light.

Last week during an off night, we watched the Canadian slasher film My Bloody Valentine (1981). As soon as I saw the cover image, I remembered that I had watched the 3D remake of it several years ago but I had the wrong side of the disc in the DVD player, so it wasn’t actually in 3D and I was just squinting through these crappy glasses for nothing. As a result, I actually didn’t remember much of the plot.

Like all great slasher films, the plot is that a bunch of bad stuff happens on the anniversary of a bad thing happening. Actually, that statement could probably be amended to cover all slasher films period. Do the bad things ever just happen out of the blue in slashers? I can’t really think of one that does.  In the case of My Bloody Valentine, the anniversary is of a mining accident twenty years prior that caused the deaths of five miners and the immense trauma of the sixth, a man named Harry Warden. The accident could have been avoided, had the mine supervisors not been so anxious to get themselves over to the town Valentine’s Day dance. One year after the accident, the lone survivor murdered the two supervisors with a pickaxe (best weapon, seriously) then ripped out their hearts and put them into decorative chocolate boxes with a warning to the town to never have another Valentine’s dance OR ELSE. As far as warnings go, a human heart inside a heart-shaped chocolate box is really badass.
So, I am really into this premise for two reasons. 1) it’s 50% classic slasher and 50% Footloose (“You won't get any dancing here, it's illegal!”) and 2) I also hate dances so I can really get down with the idea of murdering people for having one. For sure. For whatever reason, two decades later the town decides to have this Valentine’s Day dance anyway and people start turning up dead. Guess who’s back! Back again! Naturally, some teenagers decide to have a party anyway because teenagers are dumb and often deserve to die, and naturally they decide to have it at the mine because WHAT COULD BE MORE SAFE THAN THAT?

The costuming of the killer (full mining gear complete with mask) is a really great choice because it incorporates the eerie expressionlessness of Michael Myers from Halloween and Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th—somehow it’s so much scarier to not see any sort of countenance or emotion on the face of the killer. All in all, My Bloody Valentine has some pretty good scares and decent death scenes and a nice twist at the end, so I was pretty pleased with it if not terribly frightened by it. I was about to call it a night and stroll leisurely upstairs to bed when I remembered being told that this version I was watching courtesy of Amazon Instant stream was actually the edited version, and an uncut version had been released later by a different studio. As it turns out, a full nine minutes of pure, graphic, gory horror were cut from the original version of the film to maintain a tolerable rating. I found the uncut scenes on Youtube and? And? And? Holy shit. They are awesome. Please seek out the unedited version of this movie and watch them—I  don’t want to spoil all of them, but I am going to spoil this one.

Yessss! Pickaxes are definitely the best weapons. Also, yes, I am aware that this blog is just denigrating into me drawing gruesome pictures with lots of blood like a child who isn't getting enough attention at home. It can't be helped.

So, I was scared after all. I’m not sure what it is about slashers as a genre, but I feel like my post-slasher ritual is to start out walking up the stairs and then find myself at a full run, two-steps-at-a-time, there's-definitely-something-chasing-me-oh-my-god by the top. I’m almost 30. This is who I am.