28 September 2012

September 28th

Raw Meat TV spot (1972)
Class of Nuke 'Em High trailer (1986)
Silly Symphony: "The Skeleton Dance" (1929)

Rawhead Rex (1986) directed by George Pavlou
I bought this disc more than ten years ago, but all it did was sit and gather dust.  It sat for so long, it became a running joke with my pal Casey.  Every Halloweentime, one of us would inevitably suggest "Rawhead Rex??" as a movie option for the night.  And every Halloweentime, we'd find something better to pop in.  Until tonight.  Finally, it's Rex time.

It wasn't as bad as I'd remembered.  I like the idea of a pre-Christian pagan god being unearthed and terrorizing a small town in the Old World.  I like Barker's sexualized spin on things, making Rawhead a hyper-masculine brute with an insatiable appetite and a short temper.  He's so masculine, he pees on a guy to baptize him ("mark his territory," I suppose) and can only be defeated by a woman holding a fertility statue that shoots magic lightning out of its stone vagina.

Despite this neat stuff, it's pretty clear why the film has a bad reputation: Rawhead's animatronic head is ridiculously bad.  It looks like something grabbed off the wall of a carnival funhouse.  Its movements are painfully robotic and the glowing red eyes just plain look silly.  It's impossible to look at the guy and not want to chuckle.  It completely deflates any menace the monster has and makes every scene with him look like a dude with a bad Halloween mask pretending to be crazy.  Funny how one really bad special effect can sink the entire ship, but here it is.

Watched: DVD from Artisan.

Intruder trailer (1989)
Blood Freak trailer (1972)
her fresh flesh (2010)

The Cabin in the Woods (2011) directed by Drew Goddard
Brilliant.  Cabin supports multiple interpretations, is very funny in parts, is somehow self-aware without being grating, has the most downer ending possible, and is packed with more cool monsters wreaking havoc than any movie ever made.  It's like someone cracked open my brain and dumped it on the movie screen, even going so far as to include a song from my favorite band in the end credits.  I was blown away seeing this in the theater and I still love it to death watching it again at home.

The most obvious way to look at the film is that it's a mirror held up to us, the audience of horror films.  We are the Old Gods who demand to watch young people sacrificed for their sins.  But, why?  I often dwell on this about myself.  Why do I like horror movies so much?  Looked at from the outside, I can see why some people think poorly of us horror fans: it is kind of screwed-up to get a kick out of seeing people fake-killed in gruesome and inventive ways, isn't it?

Following the logic of this movie, however, may reveal an answer.  The yearly sacrifices to the Old Gods in Cabin keep them sleeping.  Without those sacrifices, the Old Gods awaken and destroy the world.  I think horror tales actually do serve a similar purpose in the real world.  I'm a fan of the idea of catharsis.  I think we're not quite the rational, evolved species we like to think we are; we're violent little monkeys and we're going to need a way to blow off some steam.  Horror stories (and, even more effectively, violent video games) help us do this.  Without the catharsis of pretend violence in our media, I think we'd see even more real violence than we already do.

You could also look at the movie from the creators' perspective.  Cabin is a call for change in the horror genre.  It pulls back the curtain on the genre and says: "see how silly some of these things we do really are?"  Writers are forced to create characters who act in illogical and goofy ways -- almost like they've been gassed -- in order for them to further the horror story.  They lazily use stock characters -- the fool, the nerd, the jock, etc. -- even though no one really fits perfectly into those categories in real life (jockish Curt demonstrates how smart is really is when recommending text books to Dana at the start of the film).

Worse, new ideas are shunned in favor of the tried-and-true things that have worked before (as we're told in the film, the generic redneck zombie Buckners have a 100% success rate).  Bradley Whitford's character Hadley wants nothing more than for someone to choose the merman as their destruction, but he is always disappointed.  I think of Wes Craven here, who stumbled into his role as a horror movie guy but never really thought of himself that way.  When finally given a chance to break out of the genre with Music of the Heart, the film bombed and his fate was sealed.

The end of the movie, in which Marty decides that perhaps it's time for someone else to take over, seems like a ballsy -- maybe even arrogant -- call for new blood and new ideas in horror.  The scenes we'd just seen, with all of the familiar horror tropes running wild, are the film almost saying "here, we just used up every horror monster, ever.  Let's do some new things next."  Pretty bold for a first time director.

And, if you don't want to go all English-major-essay on the film, it works perfectly fine as cool horror film with a neat twist.  It starts in a place we've all seen before -- kids in a cabin in the woods -- and steers into into some fresh territory with some amazingly fun visuals and excellently drawn characters.  Easily my favorite horror movie this century.

Watched: blu-ray from Lionsgate.


  1. The last forty minutes of "Cabin in the Woods" are brilliant. Just some of the best monster movie stuff I've seen in years. Which actually makes the first half of the movie look pretty limp in comparison. I have to wonder, why wasn't the whole film like that? I mean, obviously, budget, dramatic pacing, etc. But, why wasn't that level of energy and creativity used throughout the whole film? Some of the creature designs at the end there, especially the Sugarplum Fairy, were brilliant. I would easily watch a whole movie about that creature. Seems to me Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard were complaining about how there aren't any creative horror movies out there right now. But, instead of just making a unique, creative horror movie, instead he had to be all clever and meta about it. Above the material. So it's a frustrating film, even if that last act is fan-fucking-tastic.

    And I personally think the monster design in Rawhead Rex is hilarious. Lovably goofy. The sort of thing that could only happen in the eighties.

  2. The Raid comes to mind. There's a movie that skips the appetizer and meal and goes straight to dessert for 90 minutes. While it's often massively entertaining, by the end even the most fantastic of the fights seemed mind-numbing. "Always leave 'em wanting more," as the saying goes.

    I don't see them as thinking they're above material. I think the whole movie is them saying "I love you so much" to the horror genre more than anything else. Also: Fornicus: Lord of Bondage and Pain. Hehe. Best Cenobite since the original four.

    Oh, I wasn't sure before, but I shall be keeping the Rawhead Rex DVD... he's a urinating goofball and I can't help but love him.