Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #11 The Howling

OMG you guys - where has The Howling been all my life?  How can I not have watched it until now?  It has everything that I love: werewolves, practical effects/make-up, the 1980s (just barely) and it's only eighty minutes long!  A movie can scarcely get better than that, amirite?   Spoilers ahead!

It stars Dee Wallace (who would just a couple years later kick major ass in Cujo), as news anchor Karen, who is being stalked by a sketchy dude the press has nicknamed "Eddie the Mangler."  After a terrifying encounter with Eddie in a porn shop, Karen and hunky husband Bill head to a retreat called The Colony, operated by Karen's shrink.  There are all sorts of weirdos there at The Colony, plus some werewolves slinking around the place.  The trouble first starts with cattle mutilations, then escalates when Bill is bitten by a werewolf.  Things really kick into gear when Bill totally wolfs out whilst banging The Colony's resident hootchie-mama - herself a werewolf.  Karen freaks out and calls her producer/reporter/BFF Terry to come keep her company.  Terry is pretty quick on the uptake and starts putting things together and then everything just totally falls apart for poor Karen and her cohorts.

The werewolf transformations are outstanding, nearly on a par with American Werewolf in London's, only a bit grosser.  There are a couple of boob and butt shots, some hacking off of limbs and a reasonable amount of gore.  Super-awesome flick for those of us who love new classic monster movies with practical effects - I'll take a werewolf flick over a slasher any day!

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #10 Freddy vs Jason

I did some crowd-sourcing for movie suggestions and my friend Heidi B came up with 2003's Freddy vs Jason.  I am a big Nightmare on Elm Street fan and the earliest Friday the Thirteenth movies are not without their charms.  I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to bring Freddy Kreuger and Jason Voorhees together to duke it out but the results aren't half bad, especially for those of us who like the older movies.

As far as plot goes, no one remembers Freddy anymore so he doesn't have any power over people's dreams.  Somehow he is able to resurrect Jason and bring him back to Springwood (the town's name in the first Nightmare movies.  The plan is, when Jason starts killing, people will start talking about and being afraid of Freddy Kreuger again, thus giving him enough power to start killing himself.  Um, okay.  The trouble really starts when Jason won't stop killing people and Freddy is unable to control him. There's the usual bunch of teenagers who figure all this out and have to battle not only Freddy and Jason but also the adults in town, who are convinced that keeping their heads in the sand will keep them alive.  The action returns to Camp Crystal Lake for the third act and while there are a couple of survivors, it's tough to say who really wins in the FvJ cage match.

For a lot of this flick, they hewed to the slasher classics.  The Final Girl is a virgin with big boobs.  The first kid killed off is an asshole who Jason slices and dices right after the poor kid has sex.  There were clips of lots of the classic Nightmare dreams (Johnny Depp in a blender - still my favorite!).  The Final Girl lives in Nancy's house from the original Nightmare.  The parents are all in on it.  There's a sexually-active tomboy in a baseball hat (oh, wait, that's a Halloween and/or Carrie shoutout, isn't it?).  All of that is excellent.  But once things devolved into a slugfest between Freddy and Jason, I got bored.  Slashers are just - to me - less interesting when the bad guys are implacable, indefatigable and nigh indestructible, even when fighting each other.

Still, Freddy vs Jason is OODLES better than Zoombies, so there's that.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #9 Zoombies

I don't know what possessed me to pull Zoombies up on Netflix the other night.  My very first note reads: "There is NO WAY this is any good.  I predict lots of bad CGI."  And holy shit, was I right.  This may be the worst "movie" I have ever watched in my life.  The introduction feels like a TV movie from the 1990s.  The acting is terrible, especially by the one child actor.  The story, as it were, is this:  for some unknown reason, the animals at an endangered species sanctuary*/zoo become infected with a virus (maybe) that turns them all into zombies on the day before the zoo opens, and all the people working there - including some truly insipid "college students" there on internships - try to get out alive.  On the plus side, the virus is not transferable to humans; on the negative side, if it had been, this whole thing would have been over much faster.

Here's a list of the completely awful CGI Zoombies inflicts upon its viewers:

  • zombie capuchin monkeys
  • eyeballs getting plucked out of a veterinarian's face by said zombie capuchins
  • zombie giraffes (I actually kind of loved that)
  • non-zombie elephants (later possibly zombified but that wasn't clear)
  • zombie lions
  • humans riding on CGI non-zombie elephants
  • zombie gorilla (also sometimes an actual dude in a gorilla suit, so points for practical effects)
  • zombie lemurs
  • CGI skull-crushing/blood spurtings
  • zombie lions chasing the jeep
  • truly appalling CGI zip-lining by remaining humans
  • zombie macaws pecking their way through glass
  • zombie eagle on fire
Other items to be duly noted.  Most of the zombie attacks/killings happened off-screen - WTF is the point of that?  This apparently took place in Canada because a rescue helicopter had ONTARIO written on its side.  When something got infected, a zookeeper said, "I have some ointments" which were obviously just a giant tub of Vaseline.  Here's one of the really good lines some guy said: "I don't see any animals.  Then again, they could be in hiding."  OSCAR-WORTHY SCREENPLAY RIGHT THERE.

I could go on, I guess, but I won't.  Here, unequivocally;  DO NOT WATCH ZOOMBIES.  Unless you're planning a drinking game around it, in which case go nuts.  (I do kind of like the poster, though.)

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #8 Starry Eyes

Ooh!  Starry Eyes (2014) is fun and totally horror-y!  What a bleak, nifty Satanic flick about just how far some people will go to make it in Hollywood.

The plot is pretty straightforward: it follows Sarah, an aspiring actress, as she navigates her currently listless existence, waiting tables at a crappy Hooters knockoff and hanging out with vapid friends, most of whom are also trying to get their break into the movie business.  Sarah is relentless, however, and while she at first seems like a milquetoast, when she finally lands an audition, her madness starts to surface.  It's fun and also brutal to watch: Sarah is our protagonist but she is also a monster, helped along by this production company whose head tells her, "Dreams require sacrifice - and so do we."

A character study at first, the tension ratchets up as does the gory and body horror - all makeup and practical effects done quite well.  Starry Eyes is a grim look at Hollywood and what some people are willing to do to achieve their dreams there - according to this movie, some people are willing to do quite a lot.  (Other positive reviews here: at Final Girl and at Roger Ebert, no less!)

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #7 The Shrine

HERE BE SPOILERS.  The Shrine is a 2010 steamer.  This guy's review is spot-on - especially when he lists all the better movies this flick steals from and also A FENCE FOR CHRISSAKES - but he liked it better than I did.  Read it if you would like some coherence.

But here, this is what you get.  (1) Briefly sketched plot summary:  an American student goes missing whilst travelling in Poland; two female journalists and a male photographer go in search of the story; it ends badly for most involved.  And (2) to change it up here, I'm just going to give you the notes I jotted down as I watched:

  • Aaron Ashmore (Killjoys)!
  • Priests and a human sacrifice
  • Nobody gets out of the shower with hair that dry
  • Creepy old Polish village, mysterious fog
  • Aaron Ashmore is the only decent actor - dialogue is pretty stilted
  • So far, like a SyFy original
  • Do not follow the creepy little girl! Listen to Aaron Ashmore!
  • Do not open the coffins! Do not take the murder masks off the corpses!
  • These three are IDIOTS (only AA has any sense at all). I very much dislike Carmen and Sara = non-entity
  • Crossbow!
  • Is that really Polish they're speaking?
  • While the women are getting prepped for sacrifice, AA gets to dig his own grave
  • There goes Sara - oooooo the masks have spikes.  Meanwhile, AA still digging
  • Escape! Carmen is good at running barefoot through the forest
  • Carmen is hallucinating - must have been something in the fog
  • Demon wants her ... NOPE she's turning into a demon.
  • NEW THEORY: the fog infects people who go into it so the priests have to kill all the infected people before the demon is unleashed.  Priests = good guys!
  • Don't open the door, AA!
  • There goes Carmen (Exorcist-lite)
  • SO BAD
The poster is pretty cool, though:

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #6 V/H/S 2

A lot of people really hated the first of this anthology series, V/H/S - apparently I didn't but found it tiresome and a little shallow.  This second installment (V/H/S 2) was also tiresome and I'm going to shout here but WHO THE FUCK USES VHS TAPES IN 2013?  It is entirely possible to do actual stories with short movies so why can't these horror directors?  While there are some decent moments in these four shorts, the dialogue is largely terrible and the characters uninteresting.  Whee!

Framework story:  Tape 49. A couple of private investigators break into an apartment looking for a missing college student.  They find a bunch of televisions and hundreds of VHS tapes.  One investigator sits down to watch the tapes.

Phase I Clinical Trials.  An asshole gets an experimental prosthetic eye after losing his own in an accident.  There are side effects: the eye sees ghosts/malevolent spirits.  It ends badly.  My notes say: "Shit. Fake found footage films always make me queasy."

Framework.  The PIs are not alone in the apartment.  So they watch another tape.

A Ride in the Park.  A kid Go-Pros his ride on the BORINGEST mountainbike trail on the planet.  Seriously, until the zombies show up, who would ever want to watch that footage?  Oh.  Zombies show up, the MTBer gets bitten, he turns and bites other people, including the attendees at a child's birthday party - all of which is captured on the Go-Pro.  This one was pretty gory (intestines!) but also kind of fun.

Framework.  The PIs are not alone in the apartment and the girl one has a migraine and bloody nose.  So they watch another tape.

Safe Haven.  A clueless (and somewhat douchebaggy) documentary crew films a death/doomsday cult in Indonesia right at the end of days.  This one I actually liked for a while: it was very creepy with all the cult members.  Then things just went batshit crazy with lots of heads getting blown off by shotguns and skittering ceiling walkers and zombies and exploding cult leaders and demons bursting out of women's wombs.  There was a lot of yelling and squishy blood and the goat-demon is the awesomest low budget puppet ever.  So there's that.

Framework.  The girl PI is unconscious or dead so the other one watches another tape.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction.  The title of this short tells you EXACTLY what happens.  There's a dog-cam, all the teenagers are completely unlikable assholes and it's very loud.

Framework.  Everybody (or possibly nobody, it's tough to tell) dies.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #5 Lifeforce

Tobe Hooper's 1985 Lifeforce.  With a portentous voiceover to start, I was in love before the opening credits finished: with both naked space vampires and PATRICK STEWART, how could this movie not be amazing?  Lifeforce is ridiculous and waaaaaaaaaaaaay too long, but it takes itself seriously and is all kinds of mid-80s awesome.  For a horror movie about space vampires.

A joint British/American space mission on board the shuttle Churchill are exploring Halley's Comet.  They find a huge (150 miles long) alien craft that is possibly organic and of course think it's smart to send people inside to check it out.  They find a bunch of dried up space bat corpses and three beautiful naked humanoids encased in crystal boxes.  The mission commander Carlsen decides to bring the box set and one desiccated space bat back to the Churchill.  When the shuttle Columbia rendezvouses with the Churchill, there has been a fire: all the crew are dead, the escape pod is missing but the box set and the dead space bat are okay.  So the crew brings them back to London.  As it turns out, the three naked humanoids are not dead.  They wake up and go on a rampage (if one can call disappearing from the screen for long periods of time a "rampage") wherein the gorgeous Space Girl (who has really great boobs) sucks the lifeforce out of all the humans she meets.  In short time, London has devolved into a madhouse as the space vampires' victims become zombies (?).  Carlsen - who escaped the Churchill in the escape pod, did I forget to mention that? - and another dude chase the space vampires across London, including to a mental hospital where PATRICK STEWART is the head doctor.  There is a lot of fuzzy space/horror "science," vampiric victims exploding into dust, a corpse made entirely out of blood pulled from PATRICK STEWART's head and an ambiguous ending with a lot of blue lightning.

Lifeforce is much too long (PATRICK STEWART doesn't even show up until 1 hour 5 minutes and 22 seconds in (I wrote it down)) and is completely nutso.  But the animatronic desiccated victim effects are outstanding - I love that stuff.  And, really, if you can't embrace a 1980s movie about naked space vampires, you should probably just go watch Beaches again, because that's probably more your thing.

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #4 The Purge

The way this country is going, I thought it behooved me to watch a Purge movie or two, you know, for research, just in case.  I like to start at the beginning so I cued up the first one, which seems like it has been out forever but really just came out in 2013.  Filmed for only $3 million (!) and starring actual actors (!!) Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, The Purge is really more thriller than horror but does offer some social commentary.

In a dystopian near-future, the U.S. has "solved" its crime problem: one night a year, "Purge Night," any crime is allowed with no repercussions.  People get all that violence out of their systems during those twelve hours, thus behaving themselves for the rest of the year.  Of course, the wealthy are able to barricade themselves inside fortified houses, leaving the nation's poor to bear the brunt of the beatings and bloody murder.  Hawke and Headey are one such wealthy couple - Hawke sells Purge Night security systems - whose night does not go as planned when (a) their sulky teenaged daughter's sulky boyfriend, who has snuck into their house before lockdown, brings a gun to convince Hawke to let him date the sulky daughter and (b) their angsty/geeky son opens the barricade to provide sanctuary to a homeless vet.  Their house becomes beseiged by a group of mask-wearing entitled rich kids who are pissed off that their quarry (the homeless vet) has been taken from them and, as it turns out, Hawke's vaunted security system is a whole lot less secure than they might have hoped.

Hawke and Headey do a good job with what they're given but the teen actors are boring stereotypes at best.  The homeless vet is barely onscreen enough to become a character; the masked Purgers provide some over-the-top menace.  It's violent but not particularly gruesome or scary - from what I hear, the later movies kick it up a notch.  I guess I'll find out.

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #3 Creature from the Black Lagoon

I was too lazy to open up my computer to pull up Netflix (and we still haven't cut the cord on cable) so I thought I'd check out what free, on-demand horror movies were on offer.  I found a classic: 1954's Creature from the Black Lagoon.  An archaeologist in South America finds a webbed and clawed paw petrified in a river bank which is enough incentive to get a scientific expedition together to go up the Amazon.  A group of about eight, including white scientists and doctors, one woman, the ship's captain and some monster fodder, head upriver until the stream is too narrow to pass.  In their explorations, they manage to provoke the Creature - who had been living a peaceful existence in its lagoon until then.  The Creature picks them off one by one and carries off the lovely woman scientist until the remaining men rescue her, kill the poor Creature and head back downriver to civilization.  It's the classic King Kong scenario in which the humans are the true monsters.

This is a beautifully-shot, black and white B-movie.  At 87 minutes, it's still a little tedious: hang out on the boat; someone gets picked off by the monster; hang out on the boat; someone gets picked off by the monster; hang out on the boat; someone gets picked off by the monster.  But the underwater scenes are truly gorgeous, especially when the Creature is swimming around underneath the unsuspecting woman.  There is at least one jump scare that startled me and it's pretty well acted, all things considered.  The rubber suit of the monster, while obviously being a rubber suit, still manages to be at least a little convincing.  The whole movie is put together to elicit sympathy for the Creature who was just living its life before these dang people came and ruined everything.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Eighth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #2 XX

In addition to being a fan of foreign/sub-titled horror films, I am also a fan of horror anthologies.  I like the intense bursts that come from short films, much like I love Stephen King's short stories.  XX is funky in that it is a collection of four horror shorts all directed by women, bookended with gothic stop motion interludes that, while they don't quite fit with the themes of the movies, are very charming.

"The Box" is the first vignette, about the disintegration of a family when a young boy stops eating after a mysterious stranger on the subway shows him what's in a gift-wrapped box.  Nothing his parents do will convince him to eat and when he tells his big sister what he saw, things get even worse.  There is some great makeup work here but I was left wanting more with the story.  Creepy and horror-tinged but not at all scary.

The second installment is "The Birthday Party," which is more of a dark comedy starring Melanie Lynskey as a tightly-wound suburban housewife determined to hide her husband's dead body (heart attack or maybe a suicide) on the date of her daughter's birthday party.  It's very stylish and nervous, and Lynskey's antics entertaining as she drags the body from room to room, trying to hide in a house with interior glass walls, but you really do wonder why she wouldn't just call the cops/paramedics upon finding him.  Not horror in the slightest.

"Don't Fall" is the most classic horror of the four - and, oddly, the one I was bored with: four hipster/stoner/city types head to the desert for a weekend of RV camping.  They find some pictographs and manage to awaken a monster, which rips its way through the four friends.  I thought the monster was pretty great but I didn't connect at all with the annoying campers.

The last short is "Her Only Living Son," a Rosemary's Baby/The Omen riff.  When Cora's son turns 18, she is dismayed to find him turning angry and violent.  She is even more dismayed when the high school principal refuses to punish Cora's son after he rips off a classmate's fingernails (yikes!), instead brushing off the incident because he's a "special, special boy."  Again, horror-tinged but not scary.  And look, motherhood can be scary: see The Babadook.

Ultimately, XX is a great idea in concept - I would love to see more women directing horror - it just falls short in execution.

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