Archive for the 'Horror' Category

23
Mar
14

Rubber (2010)

rubberposterUsually after watching a film, I have some idea what it was about. Additionally, it is normal for me to have some sense of how the movie made me feel: did I like it? Dislike it? Did I feel nothing? Almost always I’m able to answer all of these questions in some way, shape or form. In the case of Rubber, however, I must confess I am not entirely sure of the answer to any of those questions.

The movie starts off with a little lesson on Hollywood films. Movies have always had things happen for no reason at all, and we are told that this movie will be no different at all – in fact, Rubber is a sort of ode to “No Reason.” So when a group of random people who have no connection to one another collect together in the desert and don binoculars to watch a “movie” I try to let go of my skepticism and just go with it. Soon enough though, it is apparent the weirdness has only begun.

Finally, the “movie” starts: a tire named Robert has been left out in the desert to rot, and seemingly out of nowhere wakes up and begins to move. As it starts its journey out of the desert, it runs into things and has an urge to destroy them: water bottles, bunny rabbits, cars on the road with pretty girls behind the wheel, you name it! He has no problem destroying most of these things, he just vibrates insanely until the object of his ire explodes. Anyone who crosses Robert’s path is subject to his telekinetic whims.

Robert follows the pretty girl to a motel, where he leaves behind a trail of destruction. Eventually the cops show up, and it is here we find out that the Sheriff, Chad, is also in league with the people showing the “movie.” It seems they are on a quest to make the “movie” as short as possible, and will stop at nothing to destroy their own audience.

This movie is nothing if not filled with surprises, so it would be silly of me to reveal them all here. Suffice it to say, whatever you think is going to happen is probably not going to happen and vice versa. Rubber is truly one of the most bizarre and baffling films I’ve ever seen, and as I’ve already said, to this day I am still not sure if I liked it or not! Either way, the movie is certainly intriguing and I’m curious to see what else the director (Quentin Dupieux) has to offer. It is definitely entertaining; really, what could be more fun than watching a movie that could go in any direction it wanted? I’m still not sure what the point of the thing is, or if there was a point at all? Was this story shared with us for “No Reason”?

I can safely say that if you are a person who likes a movie with a clearly told plot, a discernible beginning, middle and end and lovable, relatable characters this is NOT going to be the movie for you. But if you appreciate a film that plays with its audience’s head and turns everything upside down, this is a must-see. That’s not to say that you’ll like it, but at the very least it will get you thinking.

 

07
Mar
14

RoboCop (1987)

I managed to go a very long time before first seeing Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop. Perhaps it is because I am not a boy, and RoboCop was for boys. Perhaps I was just a little too young when it came out, and Total Recall satisfied my Dutch-director quota. I really don’t know why it took so long, but when I finally first watched it, I was floored by how legitimately good it is. Now that a shiny new reboot is out, I thought it was time to revisit it and see if the five stars I originally granted it would withstand the scrutiny of a second viewing. The short answer is: of course it did. In fact, I think I liked it even more now than I did before, quite possibly because I am growing more and more pinko by the day. More on that later. First, the basics. Also: WARNING. SPOILERS LIVE IN THIS POST.

Alex Murphy, the unsuspecting, optimistic cutie.

Alex Murphy, the unsuspecting, optimistic cutie.

RoboCop is set some time in the dystopian future. Detroit is an absolute mess; there’s no money, no jobs, and crime is rampant. In a desperate move, the mayor signs a shady deal with a company called Omni Consumer Products (OCP), handing over control of the Police Department to the private company. OCP has a big stake in controlling crime in Detroit, because they’ve also got license to demolish the worst parts of the city to make way for the new, shiny corporate city of the future, “Delta City.” How could they market their new Utopia to the rich and powerful if they’d all have to worry about having their wives getting roughed up outside their own high-rise condos?
Detroit’s police force is in an uproar over the change, and many of the cops are considering a strike. Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is the new guy on the scene, passionate, a little cocky, but optimistic and ready to take on the mean streets of Detroit. His partner, Anne Lewis, is pretty badass herself. Together, they make a really good team. Unfortunately, there isn’t much time for their teamwork to gel: on their very first outing together they find themselves hot on the trail of Clarence Boddicker, a notorious drug lord and gang leader. The two become separated and Boddicker and his cronies pump wide-eyed Murphy full of lead. 

That's a big robot.

That’s a big robot.

Sad for the police force, but a boon to OCP, whose biggest decision-maker is on the lookout for a new, robotic policing option. The first proposal, brought to the table by senior president Dick Jones was nothing but a giant robot with bad programming.  When it blows a chairperson to pieces, the company’s at a loss, until up-and-coming corporate asshole Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) lets the RoboCop out of the bag. The only thing they need to start the cyborg project up is a fresh dead body. 
Enter Officer Murphy’s corpse. When the cyborg cop makes his debut at the station, the cops are more than pissed off, but Officer Lewis is pretty sure she recognizes what little of the cyborg’s face she can see – she knows it’s Murphy, but the cyborg has been programmed and reprogrammed to have no memory of its former life. It has only been programmed to seek out crime and squash it out immediately, by any means necessary. What could possibly go wrong?

RoboCop's Prime Directives.

RoboCop’s Prime Directives.

Imagine my surprise when I first saw RoboCop; I was expecting pretty standard shoot-‘em-up sci-fi horror fare, but it is so much more than that. The phrase “brilliant satire” is pretty irritatingly eye-roll-inducing, but god dammit, the shoe fits here. Just the company’s name in itself, Omni Consumer Products, is such a perfect name for corporate evil! I’m sure there are many films depicting the dangers of privatization and capitalism run rampant, but this is definitely the best example I’ve ever seen. It not only covers what people stand to lose when its government relies on corporations for protection, but also lets us in on the greedy guys who hide behind the corporate name and allow their insatiable thirst for wealth and power to consume their lives. 
Certainly RoboCop spoke to the political issues of 1987, when America was in the midst of Reagan’s presidency, but it is just as relevant today as it was back then. Living in the economically fragile time that we currently do, we hear all sorts of ideas about how to improve wealth and economic stability, but none are as loud as those who want to cut taxes and hand everything over to private corporations. I think we can all say pretty safely how Mr. Verhoeven feels about that idea.

The Future Has a Silver Lining indeed.

The Future Has a Silver Lining indeed.

As much as I love the message and how its conveyed here, there’s an even greater message to be taken away from RoboCop, and it speaks to the strength of the human spirit. Murphy’s reclamation of his own body tells us that no matter how insurmountable the obstacles seem, no matter how much they pump you full of lead, no matter how much of your body they morph into a robot, they can’t change who you are; they can’t own you – not if you don’t let them! Human will and character is too strong to be broken even by the biggest, nastiest corporations.
Wow, well, sorry for getting so intense guys, but what can I say, RoboCop inspires intense emotions in me. I wish more movies were as brazen and bold as this one. I sincerely wonder how it’s possible that Peter Weller is not the mega superstar he deserves to be. Sure, half the movie he plays a helmeted cyborg, but nobody does it better! I know this is a common Schlock Wave refrain, but why would anyone dare to attempt to retell this story? It can’t possibly be told as well as it was here. Admittedly, I am curious to see what they’ve done in the reboot, mostly I’d like to see if it holds any of the same values as the original. Even if it isn’t a total disgrace, it is most definitely unnecessary. I firmly believe Verhoeven’s RoboCop can’t be improved upon – it is nearly, if not totally, perfect. I love it a whole hell of a lot. I am gushing, and for that I apologize. But god damn what a fine movie!  
20
Feb
14

Bruiser (2000)

bruiserBruiser is an appropriate follow-up to our last post, They Live; both are almost-great films by directors who we know can be great. This time it is George Romero’s turn to take a great idea and turn it into an okay movie. Bruiser might in fact mark the beginning of the end for great Romero movies; everything he made afterwards have been mediocre cash-ins of the great zombie craze of The Aughts.
One thing Bruiser has going for it: there are no zombies! At least, not overtly, though our hero (if one dares to call him that) Henry Creedlow lives life an awful lot like one. He works for a magazine called, uh, Bruiser, where everyone is obsessed with image and status, especially Miles Styles, Henry’s boss (and the resident hot-shot). The only other decent human being that seems to work for the company is Rosemary, who just happens to be Styles’ wife, and who also has filed for divorce.
Working with a bunch of superficial assholes is one thing, but trying to live up to the standards of one you live with is another entirely. Unfortunately, Henry’s home life might be a little shittier than his work life; his wife Janine is never satisfied with the things Henry works so hard to give her. Their “home” is under constant construction, their car isn’t hot, fast or expensive enough, and the money she wants to spend just isn’t there. Henry is always trying his best to impress, but in the end, he does exactly the opposite: some drunken party-goers agree that Henry is nothing but a “blank slate,” an unremarkable, unnoticeable man who leaves no impression. The point is driven home when Henry sits at the bar and watches his wife diddle Styles and does absolutely nothing about it.
The next morning, he wakes up to two horrifying things. First, his wife Janine never came home from what must have been an all-night romp with Styles. Second, his face is gone, and in its place is a white mask that won’t come off. At first he panics, but as soon as his thieving maid shows up he starts to realize the opportunity behind the mask;  that anonymity presents an excellent opportunity to exact revenge upon all of those who have made his life miserable all these years. Unfortunately for the maid, she’s first on the list.
Here’s where the movie gets a little (or a lot) like Fight Club or Bad Influence; like the protagonists in those films, Henry finds the confidence and power to start taking control of his life, though instead of doing so through another person (imaginary or real) he does it himself under the protection of anonymity. What’s strange, though, is that he isn’t exactly anonymous; people still seem to recognize him, though they admit something has changed about him, they aren’t exactly sure what. 
And here’s where things get a little confusing. Henry makes some questionable decisions and the plot moves in some weird directions, and it’s pretty difficult to grasp the motivations behind Henry’s actions. Perhaps that is on purpose; after all, Henry is in the middle of losing his mind, maybe we are meant to lose it with him. On the other hand, it kind of makes things difficult to follow, and Henry a little unsympathetic, even though you really want to root for him. 
That is the shame about Bruiser; it starts off interesting, but somewhere in the middle things start deteriorating and I’m not quite sure what Romero is going for. The truth is, I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the movie as a whole. I know that I did not hate it, and I did not love it, but did I kind of like it, or kind of dislike it? Part of the reason why I’m not sure, I guess, is that I’m not certain what point it was trying to make, so I can’t even agree or disagree with its sentiment. I respect that it was trying to do something a little different, and applaud Romero for going out on a limb, I just can’t say that it actually worked. I will say the performance by The post-Glenn-Danzig Misfits might be the most confusing thing of the whole movie! 
17
Feb
14

Lady in White (1988)

When I was a kid, there was a handful of movies I watched over and over and over and over. The more of these movies I watch as an adult, the more I wonder to myself: what the heck kind of kid was I? I am very thankful to have had parents that trusted me to watch basically whatever I wanted, because the movies I considered favorites as a kid obviously have had an enormous impact on my taste in weird stuff later in life, and for that I am forever grateful! Though I wouldn’t call Lady in White a particularly weird movie, I think it’s at least safe to say that, despite the fact there are children in the movie, it is not a movie made for children! Just what the appeal was to an 8-year-old me, I can’t say, except I did have a thing for ghosts…

The story is set in Small Town, NY, 1962. It’s Halloween, and little Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas) is super pumped for his favorite holiday; the boy is, after all, an aspiring horror writer. He dazzles his class with his giant monster story, but two young boys are less than impressed, and decide it would be a great idea to lock Frankie in the coat room all night long. They trick him into thinking he’s left his hat, a gift from his father, in the coat room. While he goes in to look for it, they slam the door, lock it, and leave him to spend Halloween alone in the dark, conveniently overlooking a cemetery!

Frankie telling stories

Frankie telling stories

Frankie finally drifts off to sleep, but soon he is rudely awakened by the ghostly figure of a young girl, skipping and singing her way into the coat room. She is talking to someone, but we can’t see who. Their interaction becomes dark very quickly when the unseen person throttles the ghost and drags her out of the coat room by her hair. Frankie tries to keep silent and hidden, but eventually the unknown man notices him and starts choking him, too, until he passes out.

When Frankie wakes up, he is unable to identify the person who choked him, though according to the racist community all signs point to the African-American janitor, who had passed out in the school’s basement while drinking. The situation doesn’t look very good for the janitor; Frankie’s attack has been linked to the murder of eleven children over the years, one of whom is Melissa Ann Montgomery, without a doubt the same girl Frankie saw dancing in the coat room. Frankie senses the janitor isn’t the killer, but he has no proof. His only hope is to retrieve the man’s ring from the vent in the cloak room, which he is certain will identify the true murderer.

The ghost girl gets it

The ghost girl gets it

The film tells the story of a pretty standard murder mystery, intriguing for kids I guess because it’s kids who actually solve the thing, not the adults. And while there is definitely a lot of eye candy here for kids, there are some uncomfortable moments of violence against children that are definitely super creepy and must have scared the crap out of me when I was little. Perhaps the adult-world scary stuff was mitigated by Frankie’s friendship with Melissa the ghost girl; the two become “friends” and it becomes Frankie’s mission to reunite Melissa with her mother who committed suicide after her daughter’s death.

Then there is, of course, the actual story of the Lady in White, a local legend about an old woman who haunts a scary old house by the cliffs. The characters mention her throughout the film, and her true story is something Frankie uncovers while figuring out just about every other secret of his small town. So, there are an awful lot of dirty little secrets for a nine-year-old boy to stumble upon; good thing he likes a thrilling mystery.

All in all, this movie is good enough, though it must be said that it is absolutely dripping with sentimentality. Frankie is re-telling us the story years later, so I guess it’s understandable that a trip back home after years of being away would evoke strong nostalgia, but they lay it on pretty damn thick here – there’s Frankie’s grandmother, who is always yelling at the family to get out of the cold, and Frankie’s grandfather, who does his best to hide behind various buildings to get a smoke without being caught by his wife. There’s the general store with all your favorite old Halloween toys, goofiness between Frankie and his brother Geno; anything you can think of that would make you yearn for days long passed, it’s here and it’s a bit much. This is obviously something that didn’t strike me as problematic as a kid, but it’s virtually impossible to watch the movie now without vomiting a little in your mouth over its sickly sweetness.

The lady in white is... Katherine Helmond!

The lady in white is… Katherine Helmond!

If you can get past the overt nostalgia and the weird adult-on-child violence, this movie’s pretty okay, but it’s a far cry from a must-see. The best mysteries always involve a ghost here and there, so it’s got that going for it. But, the best part about the movie is probably the casting; Lukas Haas and his big eyes are just about perfect for the role of a budding mystery novelist. It is hard for me to see that guy as anyone other than Frankie Scarlatti.

 

15
Feb
14

Pulse (2001)

There was a time in my life where I was a little J-horror curious. I did my duty and rented all the staples; you know the ones, Ju-on, Ringu, Audition and the like. Looking back, I feel like I did this out of some weird sense of horror-love obligation, and not actually because I liked the movies. Audition marked the end of the road for me; after that one, which I did not like, I gave up on the J-horror experience. Ever since, I’ve been reluctant to sit down and dedicate time to them.

Never good when the weather guy loses his head.

Never good when the weather guy loses his head.

This is not fair, of course; one shouldn’t dismiss an entire sub-genre so easily. That being said, I think I still groaned audibly when the husband pulled out Pulse and informed me that’s what we’d be watching that evening. I probably said something along like: “Japanese horror? Ugh.” But I’ve too often said I’ll watch anything to declare J-horror off-limits, so I watched.

Pulse centers around a few different groups of young people working and studying in Tokyo. First we are acquainted with Kudo, a young woman whose co-worker Taguchi has been mysteriously out of touch for the last few days. Kudo decides it’s been too long and goes to his apartment to check up on him. When she finds him there, he is distant and aloof, and slowly walks away from her into another room where he promptly commits suicide. The only clues the group of friends has into Toguchi’s suicide are some mysterious pictures of him at his computer…

Meanwhile, Ryosuke, a college kid who doesn’t know much about computers gets his first internet connection. Without help from Rryosuke, his computer connects itself to a website that just shows dark,

You can try to tape up the horror...

You can try to tape up the horror…

grainy video of random people, all of them alone. Ryosuke goes to the university to see if anyone there can help figure out why his computer brought him to the website. Here he meets Harue, who offers him some suggestions on getting screen shots of the website for her to examine.

Throughout the movie, our friends continue to delve deeper into the world of this internet weirdness, and what they find is, of course, totally disturbing, though frankly I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is they do find. There are some creepy shadows on the walls, some disturbed people who refuse to talk, and other people simply disappearing into thin air. I guess really what they really find is alienation and loneliness. These feelings, naturally induced by the anonymity offered by the big city are only multiplied by the seeming connectivity of technology.

I appreciate what the film is trying to convey, but I don’t think I’m such a fan of how it goes about doing so. It bears a lot of the hallmarks of Japanese Horror, namely a deep, dark mystery that almost always has

Weird TV face!

Weird TV face!

long, black hair. There are weird ghostly creatures with mouths at jaunty angles and elbows and knees in all the wrong places. I guess I just saw this too long after I’d seen all the other J-horror flicks I’d already written off. I must at least mention that Pulse is one of the first of the new wave of J-horror as I think of it, so it definitely gets credit for that.

As far as Japanese horror flicks from the aughts go, this is probably one of the best I’ve seen. The fact still remains, though, I am just not all that impressed with the style of these films. If it’s the kind of thing you’re into, than this movie should definitely be at the top of your to-watch list, if you haven’t already seen it. If it’s not your bag, well, take it or leave it.

13
Feb
14

Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Writing silly blog posts about schlocky b-horror and the like isn’t a hard thing to do; such films don’t necessarily demand quality reviews. The task of writing up a legitimately “Good” movie is much more daunting. For example, how can the words of an amateur movie geek possibly do a film like Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face any sort of justice? The truth is, I probably can’t. This, of course, is not going to stop me from trying.

Louise (Alida Valli), the doctor's ever-loyal assistant, looking for a good place to dispose of a body...

Louise (Alida Valli), the doctor’s ever-loyal assistant, looking for a good place to dispose of a body…

Dr. Génessier is France’s premier surgeon, famous for his lectures and innovative techniques. Lesser known is his penchant for hideous experimentation; his secluded, maximum-security laboratory is home to many poor creatures who are subject to his scientific whims. One of these subjects happens to be his very own daughter, Christiane. Unfortunately for her, she has yet to fully recover from a car accident caused by her father’s carelessness. She is suffering perhaps the worst deformity a person could imagine: she has no face.

After “escaping” from the hospital, the authorities have no idea what’s happened to poor Christiane, until they find a body in the local river. They are convinced it must be Christiane, for the corpse had no face. Once Dr. Génessier confirms the body is indeed Christiane’s, he no longer has to worry about his daughter being found by the cops, and he can continue on his mission to graft a new face onto his daughter.

A bandaged victim.

A bandaged victim.

The only way to do this, of course, is to lure unsuspecting young and beautiful girls to the laboratory. He does this with the help of his assistant, Louise (Alida Valli, whom you probably know from Suspiria), whose own face is a triumph of the good doctor’s surgical abilities. Naturally indebted to him for life, she skulks around town looking for unattached young women who could do without their faces.

While the doctor claims his intentions are only to help save the life and happiness of his daughter, it is clear the man is a real ego case with an awful lot to prove; he cares not that his daughter is kept prisoner in her own home, thought dead by everyone, including her poor fiance, Jacques. He also seems not to care a lick that he must ruin the lives of other young women to preserve his status as France’s top surgeon. Christiane is filled with despair, not knowing if she will ever escape life behind a terrible, expressionless mask. With her overbearing father and Louise constantly watching her, how will she ever get out?

And a masked victim.

And a masked victim.

This movie is creepy to the Nth degree! Masks often provoke discomfort and horror, no? Here, there is also sadness: Christiane does not want to be cooped up alone for the whole of her life while her father attempts to perfect his surgical résumé, and even though we cannot see her face, there is something inherently sad about that expressionless mask. Each time she calls her fiance Jacques and hears his voice, but cannot respond, it’s almost as though the mask gets a little bit sadder.

The film is also surprisingly gory for 1960; the surgical scenes are pretty up-close-and-personal, not leaving a whole heck of a lot to the imagination. Still, it’s nothing compared to the ridiculous, in-your-face garbage most horror flicks tout today. Perhaps that’s just because there isn’t much of the envelope left to push these days? Either way, Eyes Without a Face definitely earns its horror badge, though the film is in large part a crime drama in addition to a horror flick. Anyway, the film is more creepy-horror than gory-horror; the domineering father, the mystery behind the mask, the wanton kidnapping of young women for dreadful surgical purposes; all of these elements will no doubt inspire horror and disgust in the viewer!

Finally, it would be wrong of me to write up this post without mentioning Pedro Almodóvar’s recent film The Skin I Live In. While not a direct remake of Eyes Without a Face, Almodóvar more than nods to Franju, and while watching Eyes all I could think about is how desperately I need a copy of The Skin I Live In! If only more filmmakers could show imagination and flair while nodding to their predecessors instead of blatantly ripping them off or doing soulless remakes…

28
Jan
14

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

She's written a letter to daddy...

She’s written a letter to daddy…

There are a lot of movies out there these days that aim to shock and horrify, and they’ll go to drastic measures to do so. Take, for instance, Tom Six’s The Human Centipede. The thought of hinging helpless folks ass-to-mouth in hopes of creating one digestive system out of multiple human bodies sure is shocking and horrifying. But, it is also ridiculous and unbelievable, and that’s ultimately why Six fails at his job. For something to be truly shocking and horrifying, it must be believable. That is what makes What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? such an incredibly successful and effective shocker; not only did the film’s two stars, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, despise each-other in real life, the storyline they play out here is totally and completely believable.

It all started with Vaudeville, 1917. Baby Jane is a huge child star, singing treacly songs about sending letters to daddy in heaven (sealed with a kiss, to boot). You can even get a life-size Baby Jane doll, complete with blonde ringlets. Jane’s sister, Blanche (Crawford) is mousy and jealous. Their mother

Ready for her close-up...

Ready for her close-up…

promises Blanche she will one day have her turn in the spotlight, and she is right: fast-forward to the 1930′s where Blanche is the star. The only reason Jane is getting any work is because it’s written into Blanche’s contract that for every picture she does, Jane does one, too.

Unfortunately, Blanche’s time in the sun is cut short by a tragic accident; she is crushed between a car and the gate of her family’s mansion and resigned to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, effectively ending her career, and her autonomy. Though Jane was never officially charged with causing the accident, everyone is certain she is guilty, and so she is charged with caring for Blanche for the rest of her life. And thus begins a sick and twisted journey into the mind of a deranged, psychotic, washed-up alcoholic and the torment and terror she rains down upon her meek, defenseless, paralyzed sister. Three decades after the accident, Blanche is constantly tormented by Jane, and once Jane finds out Blanche is trying to sell the house they live in and send her off to a sanitarium, Jane does all she can to cut off Blanche’s ties with the outside world and make her nothing but a prisoner…

A telephone never seemed so far away.

A telephone never seemed so far away.

This film is renowned for being a camp classic, and there is plenty of camp to go around. Bette Davis’s performance is absolutely outrageous (and fantastically entertaining), but it’s also not completely out of the realm of believability: people go crazy sometimes, especially in Hollywood. Jealousy and stardom really make a terrible cocktail, as evidenced by Crawford and Davis’s actual off-screen rivalry. But it’s more than just campy, it is legitimately frightening! It’s not often I think of anything that’s considered camp as actually scary, and that I think is what makes Baby Jane so awesome. I found myself shocked at what was happening to Jane and how she was treating Blanche, but also shocked by Davis’s acting. I mean, like, wow, that woman seems seriously unhinged! How can you ham it up so hardcore and still be believable? A true feat, I think, and one we are lucky to behold!

24
Jan
14

Lord of Illusions (1995)

Private Detectives: Nothin' but trouble.

Private Detectives: Nothin’ but trouble.

Private detectives are always getting into some sort of trouble; either they’re totally broke or they’re in way over their ignorant heads. It’s probably safe to say Clive Barker’s private detectives fare the worst of all. Just ask Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula), the gumshoe extraordinaire in Lord of Illusions. He managed to stumble his way into a freaky cult. I mean, like, freaky even for Los Angeles.

Thirteen years ago, a man named Nix (Daniel von Bargen) kidnaped a young girl with the intention of sacrificing her up to Satan (I guess?). His disciples, of course, were totally on board (I mean, that’s what disciples do, right?). Lucky for the girl, some former members

Swann and his fatefully stupid sword trick.

Swann and his fatefully stupid sword trick.

of the cult were able to shake loose of Nix’s mental grip and return just in time to save her from destruction. One of these saviors was a man named Swann, whom Nix thought of as something of a protégé. Burned by his rejection and stymied sacrifice, Nix casts a spell on Swann which causes him to see things as they truly are, or something. His friends’ faces become monstrous, the world around them liquid and terrifying. He finally snaps out of it, but never forgets the vision. He and the other good guys are able to trap Nix, put a horrifying iron mask on his face and bury him deep as hell.

Back to present day, Swann now makes his living as a famous illusionist a la David Copperfield. His beautiful wife has convinced D’Amour to help protect Swann from the cult members, whom she believes are assembling together for Nix’s resurrection. That’s all well and good, but one thing D’Amour can’t protect Swann from is his own illusions: his newest trick has failed him and he dies in front of his adoring fans. Or does he?
Kruger?

Kruger?

You know, I don’t think I liked this movie very much. It screams 1995 in some of the worst ways. Some of the characters exhibit those black and white extremes that only work if whatever you’re watching is laughably bad (I’m thinking Alien Warrior or Death Wish 3 here). The ones that don’t still manage to make decisions that you’d never make, and that left me frustrated with the movie. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Nix, the baddest of baddies, is played by Daniel von Bargen, none-other than Seinfeld’s Kruger (if you’re not familiar, he was one of the silliest, dumbest bosses ever portrayed in television history). Now, that’s hardly Clive Barker’s fault, but nevertheless made the movie that much more ridiculous for me.

Speaking of ridiculous, can we stop it with the edgy private detectives already? Look, I like Scott Bakula as much as the next girl that grew up in the 80′s, but even he can’t make this tired stereotype interesting. Snappy comebacks and a persistent sense of curiosity in the face of satanic magic is doubtful to get you very far. Perhaps there are some better examples, but after watching this flick I get the impression that the 1990′s and Noir tendencies really shouldn’t mix. Ever. Unless it’s a comedy.
11
Jan
14

I, Madman (1989)

It all starts with the turn of a page...

It all starts with the turn of a page…

I’ve said many times before, I’ll gamble my time on just about any movie. And, as time passes on it seems I’ll gamble my money, too. I don’t quite know if it’s a rush, a thrill, or what, but I’m more willing now than any other time in my life to blow a few bucks on a potential stinker at the used record store. And, as I’ve also said before, though these gambles rarely pay off it is worth it when they do. One such positive case: I, Madman. Completely sold by the synopsis on the back, we brought it home and were pleasantly surprised to find a competent, engaging horror movie. Yay!

Virginia works in a used bookstore by day, and reads pulpy horror novels by night. Her boyfriend, Richard, is a police detective and can’t wrap his

I never said he was a looker.

I never said he was a looker.

head around why she wastes her time reading that crap, especially because she gets so darn absorbed she always gives herself a fright. Things get particularly bad when she finds a copy of I, Madman on her doorstep…

Virginia easily sees herself in the shoes of the book’s main character, a young actress who is the victim of the affections of a mad scientist who incessantly stalks her. He’s also pretty good at murdering people, but it’s the strangest thing: the murders in the book seem to bear a striking resemblance to the murders that are happening around the city. Soon enough, Virginia knows she can predict where and when the next murder will take place, but can she

You'd probably scream, too.

You’d probably scream, too.

and the cops get there soon enough to prevent it from happening?

In the end, I, Madman is a fun horror flick that’s worth checking out. It seems to be sorely under-watched for something that’s actually worthwhile; I’d never even heard of it, and in fact probably never would have heard of it if we hadn’t seen it there amongst the other rejected DVDs. It’s directed by Tibor Takács, a name I wasn’t familiar with until seeing this movie, though he also directed The Gate, which was a childhood favorite of mine. I can’t say if his other stuff is worth checking out, but maybe, just maybe…

 

10
Jan
14

The Boogey Man (1980)

Every movie needs a shot like this.

Every movie needs a shot like this.

The first time I watched The Boogey Man, I’d never heard of its director, Ulli Lommel. A few years later I watched Strangers in Paradise and thought it was stupidly amazing. I wanted more Ulli Lommel, so I decided to revisit The Boogey Man.

Unfortunately, the two are nothing alike, except maybe that they’re both batshit crazy weird. That worked for Strangers in Paradise, which I think benefits from being a whacked-out mess. The Boogey Man, on the other hand, is just a terribly ill-conceived horror film that only succeeds at confusing its audience.

After having seen the movie twice, I still can’t really tell you what it’s about, but I’m going to try anyway.

Lacey's husband's idea of therapy: broken mirrors!

Lacey’s husband’s idea of therapy: broken mirrors!

Lacey and Jake suffer abuse at the hands of their drunken mother and her drunken boyfriend. Lacey gets the biggest knife she can from the kitchen to cut the rope with which her brother’s been tied to the bedpost. Then Jake takes the knife and murders the hell out of that boyfriend. Then he never talks again. Then years later mirrors break and an evil is unleashed and people start dying again. Lacey’s asshole husband doesn’t care that she’s emotionally disturbed and makes her keep a broken mirror in the kitchen, especially after Jake decides to paint all the other mirrors black.

It’s not really until looking at the description of this film that I realize the point of the mirror thing: Lacey apparently witnessed the murder through the mirror’s reflection and when the evil boyfriend died his

Not only is Jake a mute, he's also really into choking people.

Not only is Jake a mute, he’s also really into choking people.

spirit was caught in a mirror. So clearly that means mirrors everywhere harbor his evil spirit?

Yeah, dudes, I don’t know about this one. It’s confusing, arduous to get through and has little payoff. I spent most of its 82 minutes scratching my head, trying to figure out what the heck was going on. I will say that some of the shots are strangely amusing, like the knife bobbing up and down in the hallway, or the young boy whose head gets caught in a slammed window, but these oddly-shot moments don’t add up to a worthwhile movie. Still, something in me doesn’t want to give up on Lommel yet. I don’t want to believe that Strangers in Paradise was an anomaly. I want to believe instead that this is the anomaly. I’m almost certainly going to be disappointed…




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