21 October 2014

October 21st

Sensored (2009) directed by Ryan Todd
Robert Picardo stars as an OCD-suffering agent for the CIA working on interrogation techniques in his basement. The tone of film is very dark at the onset, looking like it'll be another Saw-inspired torturefest. It's not at all. After some nastiness with spikes in the heels near the beginning, the movie veers into pure psychological thriller territory.

And I do mean "pure psychological." The twist in this film is sort of obvious almost immediately, and I correctly guessed that both Lucas and Jefferies were Wade's versions of Tyler Durden. Less obvious was that everything we see in the entire movie up to Wade's shooting is all in his head as well, with the film ripping off The Usual Suspects for the source of the other character's in crazy Wade's dream.

The movie's pretty low-key, not particularly full of surprises, and more derivative than it ought to be. I will say I always enjoy watching Picardo, though, who's one of our great character actors. Nice to see him get a lead role to chew on.

20 October 2014

October 20th

Sheltered (2010) directed by Josh Stoddard
I think I just found the one good movie in that $5 Highway to Hell Collection I bought. Just on production values alone, this movie's galaxies beyond the other two films I've watched in the set. Competent acting, professional-looking lighting, the sound is actually audible and free of hiss, and some imaginative editing; in this set, it doesn't take much to impress me.

Storywise, the film isn't particularly special. It has a bit of a Psycho riff, with a crazy-but-normal-looking guy running a bar in the middle of nowhere who invites a group of young folks to take shelter from a storm in his house. As they party in his house, the bar owner slowly loses control and begins to kill his guests. Along the way, we learn more about how he came to be the way he is. It's all fairly predictable and drags on a little longer than it should, but Gerald Downey's strong performance as the killer keeps things interesting.

One bit that I thought was fantastic, however, was a flashback to the killer Joey's childhood. After breaking into Joey's house and killing his parents, a killer sits next to Joey and has a conversation. The killer intuits that Joey is like him deep inside and they talk about "the voices" that they both hear whispering to them. It's an intense scene, reminding me a little of Frailty in its depiction of madness.

19 October 2014

October 19th

Invaluable: The True Story of an Epic Artist (2014) directed by Ryan Meade
This is a documentary about Tom Sullivan, the SFX artist who worked on The Evil Dead. He's a super-nice guy and a mainstay at many of the conventions I go to. In fact, you can see me rather clearly in the background of one shot in this documentary, taking a picture of something at the Flint Horror Con. Cool!

Not a bad documentary, especially considering I didn't care at all for the last Ryan Meade movie I saw. Naturally, the largest chunk covers The Evil Dead. Michigan guy that I am, it's a story I'm well familiar with, but it was interesting to see it told from a purely Tom Sullivan perspective. Outside of that, the film covers how Sullivan stumbled into the world of art as a child, and also the personal tragedies that affected him post-Evil Dead. It's this last bit that could've used a little more attention. While the documentary implies that Sullivan was able to pull himself out of depression due to attending horror conventions (feel the love from us horror geeks!), it would've been nice to have this journey illustrated a little better.

Tales from the Darkside 2.03: "Ring Around the Redhead" (1985) directed by Theodore Gershuny
An earthquake opens a portal in a man's workshop. The portal leads to a constantly changing destination and the man wisely lowers probes into it using a rope and hook in order to find out what's on the other side. When one probes comes back with a woman holding on, his life completely changes. A creative episode, though almost silly in its nerd wish-fulfillment.

The Real Ghostbusters 2.08: "Night Game" (1987) directed by Marek BuchwaldMasakazu Higuchi
A haunting at a baseball stadium turns out to be far more serious. Like Mortal Kombat, the fate of the Earth is going to be decided by a once-every-500-years baseball game between good and evil. I like the forcefulness of the message in this one. "Don't cheat kids! Else you may damn the entirety of humanity!"

18 October 2014

October 18th

The Blob (1988) directed by Chuck Russell
This one has always been in my list of "remakes better than the original." I know some would disagree. Unlike The Fly and The Thing remakes, this isn't a spectacular movie with something to say on the human condition. What it does share with those two movies is an incredible display of prime '80s practical effects wizardry. People are dissolved, they float inside of the Blob in various states of digestion, and the Blob shoots out vents and cracks under doors and an entire street in an aggressive quest to eat. With the exception of a handful of wonky blue screen shots of the Blob moving, it's all fantastic.

I'm not sure I'm a huge fan of the plot twist invented for the remake. Instead of being alien goo in a meteor, the Blob is now an out of control bio-weapon experiment conducted by the US Government. This allows the film to insert a bunch of Feds in bio-containment suits carrying guns to terrorize the town. I'm not sure this was entirely necessary, as the Blob is pretty scary all by itself. The treachery of the head agent -- who orders people sealed under the street with the Blob -- feels completely uninteresting when there's a giant ball of jelly dissolving people.

Night of the Demon (1980) directed by James C. Wasson
Been wanting to watch this one for a long time ever since I saw the trailer, which, among other things, features a dude getting his weener ripped off by Bigfoot. Let me repeat that: one way that Bigfoot kills a guy in this movie is by suddenly jumping out of the woods on man peeing, grabbing his penis, and ripping it off. If that doesn't make someone want to give this a watch, I don't know what will.

The rest of the film is about as good as that one scene. Horrible acting. Utterly incoherent editing. Pretty good special effects. You can certainly tell where the money went. They knew it, too. Gore shots in the film are lingered on for a disturbingly long time. How's a full minute of staring at a hatchet would gushing blood sound? Good? You'll love this movie.

In the movie, a professor and group of college students set off into the woods to search for the elusive sasquatch. Along the way, they discover the horrible secret of their local bigfoot: he's a rapist. Yeah. And he's pissed that his would-be father-in-law killed his baby. Yeah. In the end, only the professor survives his wrath after an incredible, incredible scene of Bigfoot going apeshit on everyone in a cabin. Holy cow. The entire scene is in Incredible Hulk TV show slow motion, with Bigfoot ripping everyone to shreds while roaring. At one point, he rips a guy's intestines out of his guts and then uses it to whip the rest of the people.

Oh yeah, I will be ordering the Code Red DVD. Watch it below if you don't believe me:


17 October 2014

October 17th

The Invasion (2007) directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel & James McTeigue
I wish I knew what the original ending was. WB didn't like Hirschbiegel's film and brought in the Wackowskis and their pal McTeigue to change things around and spice things up with more action sequences. I'm guessing this is why the supposedly non-violent infected throw a Molotov cocktail at Carol's car shortly after zombie-hording it with their bodies.

Until the too-quick happy ending, I was thinking this was an awful anti-vaxxer movie. There are no pods in this pod people movie. Instead, the alien is a space virus that rewrites DNA. The infected like to spread it by tricking people into drinking liquids they have projectile vomited into. So, of course, their big plan is to puke into the city's water supply and spread the virus incredibly easily that way.

What's that? That's not remotely what they do in the film? Hmm. Instead, they tell everyone there's a nasty flu and convince people to get vaccinated with their fake vaccine. Once infected, what do these people act like? Why, they're socially awkward, have trouble expressing emotions, and have a penchant for organizing their Halloween instead of eating it. Yep, sounds like autism.

Strangely, a vaccine ends up saving the day in the new ending. I'm wondering if what we're seeing is the result of a battle between original writer and possible anti-vaxxer loon David Kajganich, and the more sensible Wachowskis? Perhaps someone will write a deathbed book some day and explain.

Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again (1982) directed by Jerry Belson
When this Jekyll changes into Hyde, a rug of hair bursts out of his chest, gold jewelry appears on his fingers and neck, and one pinky fingernail grows to coke spoon length. That's about all you need to know about this one to understand the tone they're going for. I thought it was hilarious, in that late '70s / early '80s goofball comedy way. Together Again sits comfortably next to the likes of Airplane and The Naked Gun, with just a bit more "adult" (read: sex and drugs) humor in it than those classics.

Whatever you think of the movie, no one could argue that Mark Blankfield doesn't give his 110% in the titular roles. In sort of a nutty professor role, he's awkward and obsessed as Jekyll, and completely off the leash as Hyde. His Hyde is the ultimate parody of a player, seemingly unable to walk without a boogie in his step and unable to talk without some jive in his speech. Hyde's the ultimate ladies man and Jekyll finds himself waking up in ridiculously trashed hotel rooms that nearly put the one in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to shame.

I dunno. I had fun watching it.

16 October 2014

October 16th

Body Snatchers (1993) directed by Abel Ferrara
Unlike its two predecessors, this one has little to say. Given that the film is set at a military base, I suppose it's trying to comment on the rigid structure of the military and how recruits are broken down in basic training in order to make them more efficient at thoughtlessly following orders. Sorry, that's not something that particularly worries me, much less frightens me. The military works pretty well that way.

But, it's hard to tell if this movie is trying to do much of anything. At a scant 83 minutes, everything is rushed. The movie doesn't care to spend any time having the main character Marti slowly grow paranoid about the weird behavior of the people around her. Instead, it is far more interesting in just hitting the cool beats from the infinitely superior '78 version. We get pods that spew fluid from one end and make sounds like a fetal heartbeat. We get white tendrils reaching out for people. We get people dissolving when the duplication has finished and the pod person dumping the remains in garbage trucks. Most of all, we get pod people screaming and pointing. There is lots and lots of screaming and pointing in this movie. I get it. I liked the ending of the '78 version, too. But, c'mon, man.

15 October 2014

October 15th

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) directed by Philip Kaufman
Ideological isolation: that's the fear I see in this version of the story. Early in the film, when Elizabeth explains to Matthew that her boyfriend Geoffrey doesn't seem the same to her, he tells her to see a psychiatrist. Matthew explains that the shrink
...would eliminate whether Geoffrey was having an affair, or had become gay. Whether he had a social disease, or had become a Republican. 
That last bit in there seems like a joke, but what if it's not? What if the population of the notoriously liberal San Francisco started to change into Republicans overnight? The unaffected natives would suddenly find their viewpoint increasingly in the minority. No longer would they be able to comfortably assume that most people they met shared their perspective. Before the discovery of Jack's duplicate body, Elizabeth is continually noticing people in the street sharing secret looks with each other, and when she follows Geoffrey he is having secret meetings. When they glance at her, it's with a dead stare the tells her she's an outsider. Few things could feel more alien than suddenly being excluded like this.

What if society moved onto a different way of thinking and left you behind? Would you pretend to go along with the flow to fit in, or would you steadfastly hold onto your beliefs? How long could you hold out if everyone else thought of things differently from you? We do have examples of this in the real world and they rarely turn out well. I'm thinking of a guy like the Unabomber, or even Elliot Rodger. Being unable to fit in can drive you nuts.