Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #13: Ava's Possessions

After Ava get exorcised (in the opening moments of Ava's Possessions), she has to put her life back together: during the twenty-eight days she was possessed, the demonic spirit insider her really wreaked havoc: sleeping with friends' boyfriends, attacking people, causing all kinds of property damage.  Her family immediately starts nagging her about her shitty apartment and needing to take care of herself.  Her boyfriend dumps her.  She gets fired from her job.  Her friends don't want to see her.  Her lawyer, hired to deal with the multiple counts (see above) on which she's been indicted, gives her the available options:  (1) jail; (2) psych ward; or (3) Spirit Possession Anonymous, a program like AA that helps the de-possessed deal with their recent issues.

Her sponsor is firm about the depth of her involvement in the SPA program.  There's a huge manual to read; there are group sessions, role-playing and required making-of-amends; drinking and practicing of black magic are forbidden. As Ava starts making the rounds to find out what exactly she did while under the influence of her demon as that she can make up for it, it becomes clear that her family is hiding something from her.  What's not clear:  whether that something is something she did or something they did.

Despite the demons, Ava's Possessions isn't much of a horror movie.  There is a little blood, a little demon make-up but nothing actually scary.  It's pretty funny in parts too, particularly Ava's wry responses to learning what her demon had been up to during the posession period.  A couple of marginally interesting notes:  Carol Kane has a cameo as a hedge-witch; and Sean Lennon did the music for the movie.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

The Walking Dead S7E1 "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be" 10/23/16

When we left off: Maggie was sick and so everyone even vaguely important decided they should get in the RV and take her to the Hilltop doctor.  But Negan captures them and at the end of the last episode, they - Glenn, Rosita, Daryl, Michonne, Maggie, Abraham, Rick, Carl, Sasha, Aaron and Eugene - were all on their knees in front of him.  We got a POV of Negan bashing someone in the head with his barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat ("Lucille") and then cut to black.

When we pick back up:  Glenn, Rosita, Daryl, Michonne, Maggie, Abraham, Rick, Carl, Sasha, Aaron and Eugene are on their knees in front of Negan.  To save both you and me a LOT of time, I'm just going to tell you that MOST of this episode is Negan talking and talking and talking and talking.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan is obviously having a REALLY good time but it just goes on and on and one, Negan being jocularly terrifying and playing mind games with Rick, psychologically beating him down and down.  You see, Rick makes the mistake of telling Negan that some day, not today, not tomorrow, but someday, he is going to kill Negan.

And Negan is not having any of it.  He is going to break Rick and he's going to do it in front of everyone, so everyone knows that there's just no point in going up against him.  Thus the talking and talking and talking, some of which takes place away from the rest of the group, as Negan drags Rick off into the RV and drives him out to the middle of nowhere in a bunch of zombies.  And talks and talks and threatens and chuckles and talks and talks and throws an axe out the door and tells Rick to fetch it back for him.  And Rick fights the zombies and is having flashbacks to all his friends.

And he's having a flashback to the night before and then finally TWENTY MINUTES INTO THE DAMN EPISODE we finally see who Negan bludgeons to death with Lucille.  It's Abraham.  And it is gruesome and gory.  And if anyone in the audience knew anything about Abraham, really cared about him, and hadn't been jerked around by this stupid show playing games with us, we would be sad.  But it's just gruesome.

After Negan grinds Abraham's brains into paste, Daryl jumps up and throws himself at the man, getting one punch in before Negan's men subdue him.  "Oh my!  That is a no-no! The whole thing - not one bit of that shit flies here!"  The men drag Daryl back into place and Negan resumes, grinning and strutting and talking, reminding them all that he said the first one's free and then "I will shut that shit down ... I'm a man of my word and I need you to know me.  So, back to it!"

And at this I actually gasped out loud, which I haven't done with this show since I don't know when: Negan unexpectedly pounds Lucille into Glenn's head without warning.  If you thought Abraham's bludgeoning was horrific, this is even worse.  It is awful, violent and gory unlike anything this show has ever done.  I suppose we all knew Glenn's days were numbered - in the comics, Negan indeed beats Glenn to death in front of pregnant Maggie - but this is shocking.  But again, after the Glenn's death fakeout last season, and the fact that Glenn had very little character development other than being the group's moral center, I just don't care all that much.  It just surprised me.

Back in the now, out of the flashback, Negan brings Rick back to the group and talks and talks and talks and decides he still sees a challenge in Rick's eyes so he brings Carl out in front of the group and puts the axe in Rick's hand and tells him that either Rick cuts Carl's arm off or Negan will kill Carl and the rest of our gang here, plus everyone else back at Alexandria.  Carl begs his dad to just do it and Rick breaks, wailing and blubbering and begging Negan to take his arm instead and then he's going to do it and Negan has mercy (of a sort) and doesn't make Rick do it.  He tells Rick et als. that he's going to leave them now and that he'll come by in a week to see the offerings they've collected for him.  And then he and his army just up and leave (one guy stops to take a photo of Glenn's smushed head first), taking Daryl with them because Negan has decided he likes Daryl's spirit.

The last few minutes are just Rick's group - the few that are left - crying and burying their dead.  Sasha says she'll take Maggie to Hilltop to see the doctor; the rest of them, dazed and broken and completely in shock, head back to Alexandria.

And this whole fucking episode is basically my two least favorite things about The Walking Dead: talking and talking and talking plus being Rick-centric.  Just ugh.  On the plus side, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a wonderfully evil - if woefully verbose - villain.

Look, I get it.  I do.  The show has finally brought its violence and misery up to the level of the comics.  (Which, incidentally, I gave up on after the first omnibus because of the horrific violence and unrelenting misery.)  But this show is just no longer fun to watch and hasn't been for a long time.  I am hopeful that the introduction of new communities and new characters - what's up with that tiger? I am VERY hopeful about that tiger - will both broaden and deepen the story.  Otherwise it's just a dirgeful sadness-sufferfest punctuated by brutal violence.  And the shocking violence isn't even earned because none of the characters are allowed to develop and we the audience are only attached to them due to their respective longevity.  This show should do better.  I love zombies but I'm really starting to dislike The Walking Dead.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #12: Excision

I can't recall where I heard about Excision (2012) - some list of underappreciated little horror flicks, I imagine.  Starring Annalynne McCord (feral-looking and 180 degrees from her role in the CW's 90210 redo), this is a darkly comic teen movie for 95% of the time.  And then it just goes horrifically dark.

Pauline (McCord) is a pimple-studded, unwashed loner, shunned by her high school classmates and completely befuddling to her suburban parents.  She plots to lose her virginity to a popular boy, dissects roadkill, fights with her mother and begs to see a real psychiatrist (not just the free sessions with the family's pastor).  She pierces and cuts herself.  She has disturbing and vaguely glamorous sex dreams about corpses, gore and mutilation.  And her one goal is to become a surgeon so she can save her little sister, the one person she loves, from cystic fibrosis.  Her sister needs a lung transplant.  Can you see where this is headed?

This little movie has a surprisingly impressive cast too: Traci Lords and Roger Bart as Pauline's parents; Ariel Winter as her sister Grace; John Waters as the pastor; Marlee Matlin as a cotillion instructor; Ray Wise as the high school principal; and Malcolm McDowell as Pauline's math teacher.  I don't know where I found Excision but I'm pretty happy that I did.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #11: Carrie (1976)

Ah, a classic: Brian De Palma's 1976 retelling of Stephen King's Carrie!  This movie really needs no introduction or discussion but because I've suffered through so many dogs this October, I wanted to revisit it just briefly.  Because this one is a really good one.

First of all, Carrie is chock-full of now-recognizable names who were just fresh faced babies in 1976:  Sissy Spacek (Carrie White), Amy Irving (good girl Sue), William Katt (popular boy Tommy, and later The Greatest American Hero), John Travolta (bad boy Billy), PJ Soles (mean girl/tomboy Norma), Betty Buckley (Miss Collins, later the mom on Eight is Enough) and Piper Laurie (Carrie's mom, Margaret White).

Second, I'm not going to recap the story because we all know the story (and if you don't, you should fix that right away).  But here are my notes from watching it:

  • Piper Laurie as Carrie's mom is TERRIFYING
  • Was that English teacher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?  [he was]
  • William Katt has AMAZING hair
  • Everyone is soooo skinny
  • Travolta's accent is so bad
  • srsly William Katt's hair
  • When Tommy is nice to Carrie at the prom, it's really quite lovely
  • The prom starts out so pretty and sweet that when the HELL finally breaks loose, it's all the more shocking
Looking back on this iconic movie now, I find it hard to watch it with a critical eye because I love it so much.  All of it.  The seventies of it, Sissy Spacek really selling how terrorized she was by her mother, the tiny moments of people being nice to Carrie, the brutal bullying by the mean girls.  I do imagine, however, that back in 1976 it was fairly shocking - especially to those moviegoers who weren't familiar with the book - the horrible dousing with the bucket of blood and Carrie's subsequent transformation into a vengeance demon.  Up until that point, Carrie is really the victim and even afterwards, after everyone dies a bloody and/or flaming death, it's still hard to blame her.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #10: Unfriended

In Unfriended, a group of teenagers get together for an online call session on the one-year anniversary of the post-cyberbullying-induced suicide of a friend of theirs.  Almost immediately, they notice that there's an unidentified stranger piggybacked onto their session, lurking silently at first.  They try to hang up on him and when they are unable to, simply ignore him.  Soon enough, they are getting increasingly threatening Facebook posts and messages from their dead friend and before long, the urban myth that responding to a dead friend's messages online will cause your death, well, that myth becomes a reality.

Unfriended is actually a clever variation of the found footage/documentary style horror movie that has been afflicting us for the last few years.  The movie is entirely in real time and from the point of view of the laptop of Blair, one of the girls involved, switching from screen to screen as she clicks between Facebook, Messenger, Chatroulette, Spotify, email, YouTube, etc.  You see these kids in their FaceTime (?) feeds and whenever the streaming causes the video to freeze up, it starts to get tense since the viewer (us, the audience, and them, the kids in the online session) can't see what's going on.

I had just a couple quibbles with this flick.  A lot of what is onscreen is text (FB posts, instant messages) and even with my television, it was sometimes difficult to read - I suspect it would be clearer either on a large format movie screen or up close on an iPad/laptop.  And once the deaths started happening, the cause wasn't clear - was it the unrestful spirit of their dead friend or something else?  Unfriended isn't particularly scary - there are a few quick shots of brutal violence/death - but what is the most frightening is that it shows how terrible cyberbullying is and how easily someone's online life can be hijacked.  Makes me glad that the internet didn't exist when I was in high school.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #9: We Are What We Are

Note: This We Are What We Are is the American remake/re-imagining, not the Mexican original.  I didn't even realize there had been a Mexican original until after I watched this one and read some reviews of it.  Apparently they're quite different, except for the basic theme.  SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Parkers are your basic reclusive, southern rural, extra-religious family who, despite their strange ways, are accepted in their community (if not exactly embraced).  The two teenage girls, Iris and Rose, both of whom are quite pretty in a fragile, pale blonde way, go to the public high school; I at first incorrectly assumed they were home-schooled due to their very old fashioned clothes.  When the matriarch of the family collapses while running errands in town, hitting her head and drowning in a rain-swollen ditch, it throws the whole family into turmoil as eldest daughter Iris is expected to take her mother's role in the family's rituals.  This includes the killing, butchering and making into dinner of local girls.  Iris is troubled by this but not enough to refuse her father's insistence; younger sister Rose rebels, wanting to run away; their little brother, scarcely more than a baby, thinks the girls chained in the basement are "monsters" since they weep and wail and scratch at the door of their cell.  Back in town, the sheriff and the local doctor begin to investigate all the missing girls and I'm not going to say any more because I did NOT expect the climactic scene to turn out as it did and want to save it for you.

This is another creepy, atmospheric but not really scary, horror movie.  It's smarter than your average B movie but could perhaps use just a little more oomph to perk up the languid pace.  It is raining throughout the movie, downpouring at times, and that adds a nice visual to things: damp and dim with smeary outlines, curtains of water hiding things.  The family patriarch is quite a disturbing figure but the non-family characters don't get much in the way of development.  If you like to be creeped out and disturbed without much gore, We Are What We Are is a good way to spend an hour and a half.
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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Serives #8: When Animals Dream

When Animals Dream, a Danish import (with English subtitles), is an atmospheric take on a female-centric monster movie.  It is quiet, beautiful and dreamy, all pale colors and cold temperatures.

Marie is a solitary late teenager, out of school but still living at home in a tiny Danish fishing village.  She helps her father take care of her invalid mother - heavily sedated and stuck in a wheelchair - and starts a new job at a fish-packing plant.  She goes to the local doctor when she finds strange new patches of hair on her body.  Later, she catches her father shaving her mother's furry back and starts making the connections.  Her mother is kept heavily drugged to repress her aggression and transmutation.  It's genetic.  And the townspeople know this: they insist on Marie's mother's sedation and at her new job, Marie's coworkers harass her terribly.  After a night on the town, when Marie ends up having sex with one of the few friendly guys at work, her father and the doctor corner her in her room, trying to forcibly sedate her, to push the transmutation back into remission.  But Marie has had enough.  Her nature is to wolf out and she's not going to deny it any longer.

I've read some reviews comparing When Animals Dream to the original Let the Right One In (Scandinavian vampire movie with a sympathetic female lead) and the Ginger Snaps movies (Canadian werewolf movies with sympathetic female leads), and it definitely has some similarities.  When Animals Dream is much quieter than those movies however, barely springing into any action or violence, showing utmost restraint with the gnashing and rending and bleeding.  I liked it because it felt like a smarter movie than much of what I've seen recently, and it definitely falls into the Under the Skin category of atmospheric, barely-horrific horror movies.
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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #7: Bloodsucking Bastards

Shaun of the Dead plus Office Space plus BtVS = Bloodsucking Bastards.  You could do much, much worse - and I have.

Evan Sanders (Fran Kranz, Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods) is having a rough time of it.  He is the acting sales manager at a telesales company, with an apathetic sales team comprised of bros and weirdos.  His girlfriend just dumped him and she works in the same office so he sees her all the time.  Just when he thinks he's going to be promoted to sales manager, his boss hires someone from outside: Max (Pedro Pascal, the Viper from Game of Thrones), Evan's douchey nemesis from college.  And just to rub salt in the wounds: Max is a vampire and he's on a recruitment tear.

Bloodsucking Bastards is a lightweight horror comedy.  It's pretty funny and has buckets of blood but is never actually scary.  It's clearly lower budget than Shaun of the Dead or Slither, and yet has its own charms.  The characters are actually well-developed and the way they act makes sense for who they are and the universe they inhabit.  I'm not sure it's ever found much of an audience but I'm glad I found it: its cheerfully bloody tone has encouraged me to press on with scary (or, "scary") movies for the second half of October.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #6: Bad Milo!

I am really scraping the bottom of the barrel here.  I have got to find something that is both scary and good, or at least not awful.  Bad Milo had some promise:  a Duplass Brothers production, this horror comedy has a great cast, including Ken Marino (who looks really good here), Gillian Jacobs, Patrick Warburton, Mary Kay Place, Stephen Root and Peter Stormare.

Duncan (Marino) is a very nice guy who is under a lot of stress.  His boss (Warburton) is making him do the round of layoffs and also has just stolen everybody's money.  His wife Sara (Jacobs) wants to have a baby.  His mom (Place) has a sexed-up boytoy second husband who wants Duncan to call him "dad."  A fertility doctor, hired by his mom, is convinced Duncan has ED.  And his dad (Root) abandoned him and his mom when Duncan was just little and is living off the grid somewhere, smoking a lot of dope.  All of this stress and anxiety has manifested itself as ... a giant, sentient, detachable butt polyp with shark teeth and a penchant for popping out of Duncan's butt to eviscerate his enemies.

Now, normally I love monster movies, especially ones with practical effect monsters.  But I just cannot get behind [pun intended] a rectal polyp monster.  This is a middling sort of movie, not committing to being really funny or really gory or really making fun of anything.  The cast is strong and game, given the potty humor they're given, but Bad Milo! is just unnecessary.  It's not terrible enough to be offensive but it's pretty pointless.

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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #5: Pod

My notes, before the movie starts:  Well, at the worst it's only 1 hour and 18 minutes.

In Pod, there are three siblings: Martin, Ed and Lila.  Martin is a vet, struggling with PTSD and living "in the middle of nowhere" which is actually the coast of Maine.  Ed is a doctor and Lila is a millennial with a bit of a drinking problem.  This is all the characterization you will get for these three.  After receiving a disturbing voicemail from Martin, Ed and Lila drive up to make sure their brother is okay.  He isn't: he has covered the interior of the tidy little coastal cottage with foil, is paranoid, ranting and raving, has pulled out some of his own teeth and shaved his head, and claims to have been experimented on when he was in the army.  Oh, and he says he's got a "pod" locked in the basement, which creature killed his dog and scratched him up something fierce, infecting him.  Obviously his brother and sister think he's nuts.  But later, after [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS], Ed investigates the cellar - which is a pretty typical Maine cellar, all ledge-y and full of water seepage - and, gosh, he shouldn't have done that.

My notes, during the movie:  How many shots in a rifle like that?

As mentioned above, the characters are thin and underdeveloped. I did squirm a little when the tension rose a little: I was expecting jump scares that didn't come, so that made me nervous.  There's not much blood/gore and it really isn't scary.  The plot is nothing if not unoriginal, but at least what happened made sense in the movie's universe and was interesting.

My notes, at the end:  Well, it's not GOOD but it's better than Final Girl.

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