Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The One I Might Have Saved...


While I've always wanted to contribute to Arbogast's "The One You Might Have Saved", I never got around to it because of the sheer volume of the ones I wanted to save.

See, I walk into pretty much every horror film and immediately put my money on the dark horse. Not because I'm fool enough to think that any one of these brunettes will actually make it to the final frames, but because they're the ones I'd like to. They're the ones with moxie, but... sigh.

FWIW, I'd love to see the redhead make it to sunrise, but she is probably more likely to get it first than the brother. There's fool betting, and then there's damn-fool betting.


But for some reason, as a rule the makers of horror films like to play safe and make
as the obligatory final girl your bubble-headed-bleach-blonde. One look at that feathered hair and you see a bedroom replete with teddy bears and unicorns and plenty of pink slathering all over her bedroom walls to indicate just who she is.

"Keep your hands off, Buster, and keep the conversation light."

Y'know, the kind of bedroom that the average horror fan wouldn't be allowed in to in the first place (even if they wanted). Well, back in the Eighties. Now, that twinkie probably has Rotten.com bookmarked on her iPad.

What?

Um... yeah. Where were we? Oh..."The One I Might Have Saved."

Let's go in blind (trust me), with what is easily my favorite moment in an otherwise forgettable horror film:

video
Okay, then.

I'll cop here... my two favorite movies have always been It's a Wonderful Life and Night of the Living Dead. Seriously. The two kill me every time, in entirely different ways. They're like bookends to what I love about film. Really... it's a race between the two as to which one is darker.

So, back in '92 when I caught Jim Wynorski's 976-EVIL 2... let's just say that the above bit just killed me just as well. But it was sort of a bummer, also.

Poor, poor Paula (Leslie Ryan). Who after a lot of thought is The One I Might Have Saved.

As a horror film fan back in the day when meeting a nice girl with similar un-nice interests was nigh impossible, Paula getting whacked was insult to injury while watching an otherwise interminable slasher film. Not to mention that she was way hotter than the vanilla final girl. So to hell with that popcorn-wielding Barbie, let's shake things up and have this brunette make it to the final stretch!

Oh.

*Tears up ticket*

But, hey... it would have made the film more interesting.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Oh, Snap...


Going back to the strange fundamentalist aspect of The Mist (strange in that as the Fundie caricature Mrs. Carmody rants about everyone mocking the fundamentalists, the film sets about doing exactly that), I was watching the black-n-white version and caught this moment...

Dude goes riding out to meet the Beast, forkin' the Devil's Horns.

Okay, then.

Friday, February 19, 2010

THE WOLFMAN (2010)


"Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."

Evoking the classic line from the 1941 Lon Chaney, Jr. vehicle The Wolf Man, Universal attempts to jumpstart another franchise from its early 20th century monster stable.

Unfortunately, while the attempt to resurrect the Goth beauty of the old school Universal output is welcome, the end result is a flat-looking mess, handicapped by 21st century ADD writing and bad pop psychology.

Interrupting his run as Hamlet on the international stage, 19th century prodigal son Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro) returns home to the English familial estate after his brother's gruesome death, to find the marble floors adrift with dead leaves and the staircase all cobwebby.

Spooky, right?

Almost as spooky as Sir Anthony Hopkins waddling down the stairs with a double-barreled shotgun to welcome his son home. "Welcome" being subjective, seeing how it's Hopkins and even when he's playing a nice guy, Hopkins is always packing a secret. Due to clumsy foreshadowing, it's pretty obvious early on what his secret is (believe it or not, it involves Gollum).

Papa Talbot also has a righthand man, a Sikh cleverly named Singh. In addition to being a pisspoor handyman (seeing that he only gets called to duty once a month, would it kill him to rake the floors or dust the bannisters?), Singh's only narrative purpose is to pull a Scatman Crothers and provide some weaponry for the third act before he dies. He's also pretty sad with the aphorisms:

"Sometimes you chase the monster...

...sometimes the monster chases you."

Eventually (a fairly long eventually) Larry gets bit by a werewolf and starts loping around the foggy moors ripping villager’s lungs out. Blood-spattered Jane Austin posturing for the Emily the Strange crowd ensues. It's supposed to be a pretty basic story, right? Unfortunately, here the basic is spread out to make things complicated for no other reason to make things complicated, but without the narrative chops to make the complications add up reasonably.

At times, it seems like the money shots for the trailer were written first, with the rest of the script thrown in as an afterthought. Any potential twist is telegraphed clumsily. Tone-deaf (and often laughable) dialogue is spouted by a dead-eyed cast that seems more eager to hit the craft table than to show any craft in front of the camera. An extended dream sequence is straight out of "Horror Filmmaking for Hacks."
Plot threads are introduced abruptly, then left dangling. In this run at the mythos, the gypsies serve no other purpose than to run around screaming and dying during the first werewolf attack. Eventually, Maleva shows up to offer some obvious advice, but nothing useful. Although I do get the vibe that the old gypsy was Larry's grandmother. But if so, it's another complication that got lost in the revisions and that's pretty much it for the Gypsies.

Then an abrupt detour to London is thrown in for no other reason than to have an American werewolf in London ride a gargoyle. Wait a minute... they've got gargoyles in London? No matter, 'cause after tearing up some CGI London, it's a long walk for Larry back to the estate for a Hulka-mania WWF climax that reads WTF rather than thrilling. Even the werewolf's howl is sad and pathetic, seemingly provided by some intern imitating Warren Zevon.

But, hey... del Toro's hair is perfect.

Part of the disassociation also comes from the lack of empathy del Toro evokes. The brooding bundle of resentment doesn't come across as pure in heart from the moment he rolls into the picture. He's lusting after his dead brother's fiancée Gwen (Emily Blunt) almost from the get-go... and the implication is that it's because she looks like his dead mother.

Okay, then.

Meanwhile, after being bitten Larry spends a month in a coma so's not to interrupt the proceedings with something as boring as showing why Larry and Gwen actually fall in love with each other. Or at least in like enough to explain how he knows where she lives in London. As it is, Larry just spends the course of the movie looking only like he's torn between wanting to fuck her or eat her. Like I said, they try to make it more complicated than it needs to be, while losing the tragedy of the original:

“Even a man who is pure in heart…”

The prosthetic effects and bloody mayhem is solid, though. Credit master monster maker Rick Baker there. But not solid enough to sit through the movie to experience, although there’s an unintentional camp aspect to the mayhem, at odds with the retro tone of the rest of the movie. Aside from Baker's effects work, there is absolutely nothing to recommend this generally boring misfire.

It's a wannabe Tim Burton period piece without the Goth feyness, attention to detail or even a noticeable understanding of the source material.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Y'know... I Love This Photo


When dealing with the 'net, I have hundreds of graphics thrown at me daily in a never-ending cycle. I see more goddamned cats from behind my desk than I do on the streets.

But a few times a year, I'm impressed enough with an image that jumps up in my face that I have to drop it into my own personal gallery. This is my first of the year:

Well, yeah... she's hot. I'll cop, that's generally a recurring motif with the grabs I save. But there's also the lack of context... who is she? What was the project or event? When?

Without context, the anonymous graphic invites creating the context. Whoever she is seems to be looking at the director, (in whatever context that may be) and her mouth, her hands seem to be saying, "I can't believe I'm doing this..."

But her eye, so vivid and alive, seems to be saying, "... but I love you."

THE BOOK OF ELI (2010)


The world is having a bad day. It’s been having the same bad day since nigh on 30 years before, when some folks got into an argument about religion. One thing led to another, the sky was opened and the sun was let in at maximum volume. Now America looks like an Aussie post-apocalyptic movie from the 80s, just with more money tossed at it. And a li'l Segio Leone thrown in for spice.

It’s like The Road, but with more warm ’n’ fuzzy. Which ain’t saying much. Motorcycle gangs are still raping and murdering for entertainment, and some folks are eating other folks. Others occupy their time maintaining battlewagons bristling with ghetto armor. No one rides a bicycle. Even in the post-apocalypse, everyone seems to think that bikes are silly. Silly America. So everyone else just huddles in the doorways of ruined buildings looking miserable.

Like this review, The Book of Eli takes way too much time getting around to the story. The story here is that we've got ourselves some desert despot who wants some wandering dude’s Bible. Dude’s name is Eli, and he doesn’t want to hand it over. It’s his Bible. Granted, after the war everyone left who wasn’t blinded by the sun gathered up all the Bibles and burned them, so Eli’s Bible is the only one left. Seems pretty selfish to keep the only copy of The Word to oneself and not spread it, but that’s just the kind of guy Eli is. He’s also the kind of guy who can filet a room full of hard cases with only his bad-assed self and one nasty-looking sword.

He’s a polite sort, though, when he’s not killing people over his Bible. Eli’s played by Denzel Washington, so you know he’s a nice guy at heart. And the despot is played by Gary Oldman, who's introduced reading a biography of Mussolini, just so you know what he's all about. Which means plenty of scenery chewing until he gets his hands on that Bible. And being Oldman, his plans aren’t nice.

But mostly Eli walks. Walks, walks and walks. It takes fifteen minutes for Eli just to wander up to the story, moving in slow motion and with high-end music soaring. After the story gets rolling, sometimes people get in his way and asses get kicked. Despite that, there isn't any real conflict. Sure, people keep trying to take Eli's book away from him and he keeps messing their shit up for trying, but... it's a book. Yeah, a very rare one, and with some amount of power. But it's a book. And as the big, goofy reveal shows...

HEY, SPOILER:

... not one worth dying over. Actually, since he had it memorized all along, it was really, really stupid to die over it. And the bit about him actually being blind entered everything into unnecessary silliness. Served absolutely no purpose. Didn't mesh with what came before, either. Not very New Testament either, when you get down to it. No turning the other cheek and blessed peacemakers in Eli's book.

SPOILER OVER, OKAY?

... and then the story is over, too. Well, sorta. After that the movie keeps wandering along with a voiceover that explains everything to the slower members of the audience.

It’s a nice-looking picture, though. In an aggressively ugly sort of way. Sort of like a spaghetti western with too much sauce. The movie almost seems to be embarrassed to be revolving around a pedestrian Mad Max with a Bible. Or maybe the directors were trying to make the padding look good.

What with the big reveal at the end, and trimmed down to an hour, the film'd feel right at home as one of those old hour-long episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Monday, January 25, 2010

DAYBREAKERS (2009)


Welcome to the world of 2019, where the day-to-day has become the night-to-night after a vampire plague has turned most of humanity into vampires. The good news is that oil doesn't seem all that important anymore. The bad news is that human blood is the new oil, with fresh supplies dwindling rapidly. But a dour, chain-smoking Hematologist (Ethan Hawke) is on the game, looking for an alternative for a multinational blood chain. Thing is, he's looking into a cure, and that's not in the interest of the corporation's bottom line. Sociopolitical satire and sporadic action sequences ensue.

Which is all well and fine, but as such Daybreakers falls into the inherent weakness of the vampire genre. Too much time spent with the monster morosely waxing existential. Not much joy de morte. Too much telling, not showing. The moments when Willem Dafoe shows up to chew the scenery infuses a li'l hot blood into the proceedings, but feels like they belong in another picture. Like he wandered in off a D2DVD sequel to John Carpenter's Vampires.

Daybreakers never really settles on exactly what kind of horror film it wants to be. Is it a dark comedy, a bloody actioner or heavy-handed sociopolitical allegory? Even Romero can't pull off the latter anymore, and he's an old hand. And while Tarantino may pull off mash-ups, he's spent an inordinate amount of time getting it down. The brothers Spierigs are pups, and don't have the chops yet to try and tackle such a difficult stunt.

What I enjoyed most about the Brothers Spierig's debut zombie slapstick debut Undead was their obvious exhilaration in making a movie without any money, a roll-up-the-sleeves and bark-the-knuckles in a Aussie "get-er-done" delirium. None of that energy seems to be on display with Daybreakers, as if being handed a real budget has sapped their creative spunk. Or worse, exacerbated the creativity to the point that they try to pack two or three movies worth of ideas into one, without having the discipline (yet) to make it cohesive.

Ultimately I found Daybreakers to be no fun. It was sloppily written, a barely connected series of vignettes rather than a cohesive narrative. Subplots are introduced and left mostly unexplored, or resolved abruptly. What should be left as subtext is made overt through dialogue.

But it's not a horrible entry, and the political cartoon aspect might be fun for budding anarchists. And I do respect that it's more ambitious than most American genre multiplex filler.