Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #22 Wolfcop

It is because of my abiding love for werewolf movies that we end this year's Scarelicious October Movie series with the truly ridiculous Canadian C-movie: Wolfcop.  It's pretty much all there, right in the title.

Deputy Lou Garou (see what they did there?  "Loup-garou" is French for werewolf) is a hard-drinking waste of space, a poor excuse for a cop in small town Woodhaven.  Not that the bar is set particularly high: the Woodhaven populace seems to consist of thugs, drunks, drug dealers and hunters.  When investigating a disturbance call one night, Lou is knocked unconscious and wakes up back in his own bed with heightened senses, a pentagram carved into his chest and facial hair that sprouts faster than he can shave it.  His initial transformation comes that night and since it happens while he's taking a leak in a bar bathroom, he transforms penis first, which is not anything I ever thought I'd see.  Soon enough he is making the rounds in wolf-guise, stopping liquor store robberies and busting up meth labs.  Lou is a better cop as a werewolf than he ever was as a regular guy.

This movie is not good.  It is pretty much incoherent and stupid; there's some "plot" about a sinister cabal turning people into werewolves and sacrificing them for "reasons," but the only - and I mean ONLY - reason to watch Wolfcop is for the practical effects.  While Wolf-Lou's fully-transformed facial make-up is not great, the transformations are pretty good, especially given the low, low, low, low budget.  The gory fight scenes are good too, with Wolf-Lou pulling off arms, legs and faces.

And there's a hot chick with big boobs having sex with a werewolf in a jail cell.  She lit candles.  It was something.

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That's all for this year, folks! Hope you found something here you want to see (not Wolfcop).  We'll do it again in 2019 for the Tenth one!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #21 Hush

Home invasion flicks are not really my thing but, as previously mentioned, good (for me) horror movie streaming options are limited, so why not try Hush?  And it's only 82 minutes so that's a plus.

Writer Maddie lives alone in a lovely house in the middle of the woods.  She is deaf and mute from a childhood illness but totally self-sufficient and her nice neighbors, Sarah and John, walk over now and again to check on her.  One night, as Maddie is cleaning up after dinner, she fails to notice a screaming, crying Sarah pounding on her door, trying to get away from a masked man who then guts her, right there on Maddie's porch.  After dispatching his prey, the killer is fascinated that Maddie has shown no sign of hearing him.  He can't stand not having her attention so he sneaks into her house, steals her cell phone and alerts her to his presence by sending her photos of herself while she is on her computer, struggling with the seven possible endings to her latest draft novel.  When he goes out of the house to cut her power and wifi and slash her car tires, she locks him out.  Then begins the cat and mouse game, as he stalks and torments her - both of them know he could break a window and get into the house at any time.  Plus, she can't make a run for it because he has a crossbow, giving him a range advantage.

Hush seems to unfold real-time once the killer makes himself known to Maddie.  Even so, 82 minutes seemed to drag a bit, although there isn't any lull in the action once it gets going.  The ending is seriously telegraphed right from the first act - so totally obvious that even I picked up on it, and I'm usually oblivious to such things.  This is a straightforward horror movie: a little suspenseful with no cheap jump scares (for which I was grateful), with brutal violence combated by some serious girl power (nevertheless, Maddie persisted).  It isn't really scary and the outcome is obvious but you could certainly do worse.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #20 Life After Beth

Life After Beth is a horror(ish)-comedy(ish) with a stacked cast: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Cheryl Hinds, Paul Reiser, Anna Kendrick, Adam Pally and "Jerry" from Park and Rec.  Granted, several of these folks are really only making cameos but still, impressive showing from this odd little film.

Zach (DeHaan) is bereft after his girlfriend Beth (Plaza) dies from snakebite during a solo hike in the California hillside.  His family are blithe idiots so he ends up finding some consolation with Beth's parents, smoking dope and playing chess with her dad Maury (O'Reilly) and going through Beth's things with her mom (Shannon).  One day, things get a little weird in the neighborhood, with a dude running scared down the middle of the street and a long-lost mailman showing up not really all there mentally.  Zach doesn't think too much of it until he gets to Beth's house: Maury won't let him in and then Zach catches a glimpse of Beth, alive(ish) and well(ish).  Her parents believe it was a miracle but Zach thinks she may be a zombie.

Of course Beth is a zombie, although it takes a little time for the zombification to really kick in.  At first she is forgetful and a little vague, but still basically herself, and Zach can't help but love being around her again.  Then she starts to deteriorate, with episodes of extreme rage, strength and panic, and a weird love of smooth jazz which comforts her.  Then she eats a neighbor.  The zombie apocalypse comes quickly, y'all.

Life After Beth is supposed to be a horror-comedy, ostensibly along the same lines of my beloved Shaun of the Dead because: zombies.  But it is not really scary or gory - any zombie kills happen off-screen - and it isn't as funny as SotD or, say, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.  It just doesn't go quite far enough in either direction.  That being said, the smooth jazz gag is hilarious and Aubrey Plaza must have had a blast with this character.  The reviews were not especially good but I thought it was okay.

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #19 The Ritual

For the record, Netflix has a crap selection of horror movies available for streaming.  Their DVD offerings are somewhat better but I have had a hell of a time coming up with decent movies in between DVD deliveries.  Which is how I ended up with The Ritual, available as a Netflix original.

After the death of one of their friends in a liquor store hold-up gone wrong, four British dudes embark on a hiking trip in northern Sweden.  This is something their dead friend wanted to do and they do it to honor him, holding a little ceremony at a mountaintop to remember him.  [Note: this is not the titular ritual, IMHO.]  Shortly thereafter, one of the dudes hurts his knee and then a storm moves in.  To try to limit the misery (the hurt dude is a wicked complainer), they decide to leave the established trail and take a "shortcut" through a forest.  [Note: don't do this if you are in a horror movie.]  With the weather deteriorating, they take refuge in an abandoned cabin which has a fucking freaky headless effigy with antlers for hands up in the attic.  They stay anyway and are all awoken in the middle of the night by bad dreams; in addition, one dude has claw marks on his chest and one is found naked in the attic, kneeling before that effigy. 

Things actually get worse: they start arguing and shouting amongst themselves, the complainer insists that they follow a path they find instead of keeping to the compass bearings and they are being stalked by a creature that is apparently fond of hanging disembowled elk in the trees.  Fun!  Things get even worse as people start getting picked off and/or kidnapped by Swedish hillbillies as sacrifices for their "old god," a Jotunn.

I won't go into any more details than that because The Ritual ... isn't terrible.  But it is much slighter than it should be.  Like The Descent, it has a bunch of friends out in the wilderness, dealing with supernatural forces the likes of which they could not conceive.  Unlike The Descent (a vastly superior movie in all ways), the four protagonists are unlikable and largely indistinguishable.  All they do is shout and swear at one another, make bad decisions and never actually talk about anything - and as a result, I really didn't care at all when the blood started flowing.

The monster is the best part: never seen completely clearly, it is a great design - like a giant gnu with an anthropomorphized spider crab where its head should be - and quite scary.  It had enough weight that I think it was mostly a practical effect too, which I love.

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #18 Scream 4

What is there to say about 2011's Scream 4 (or, Scre4m, if you must)?  It's bloodier and not nearly as clever as the very clever first installment, and is truly not at all scary.  There are jump scares here and there but at this point, entirely unoriginal and, to me, a let down from the dream team of Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven.  Maybe that's the point: all the characters are all in on the joke, big horror fans themselves who know that horror movie sequels continue with diminishing returns.  But what would have been wonderful would have been if yes, all the characters acknowledged that ... and then this fourth Scream movie turned out to be amazing, to put a lie to it all.

Scream 4, as the third sequel, is governed by the rules of modern horror remakes - per the meta-commentary of the movie's high school Cinema Club: patterned after the structure of the original but with more extreme kills, plus throwing the rules of the original out the window.  I guess they did that?  SPOILERS Certainly we had a female villain, and excellent Final Girl Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell, returning the role once again).  But it sure felt like more of the same, all over again.  Props to Hayden Panettiere who is pretty funny as horror movie fan Kirby.

Also, this is two horror movies in a row about fame-obsessed teenagers as slashers.  Fear for the future, my friends.

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Also?  LOL with Adam Brody up there on the poster: I don't think he even had three lines before getting offed.  Put Neve Campbell up front where she belongs!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #17 Tragedy Girls

I had high hopes for Tragedy Girls, despite not remembering hearing about it at all when it was released.

Two high school girls, Sadie (played by Brianna Hildebrand, more widely known as Negasonic Teenaged Warhead from the Deadpool movies) and McKayla, capture Lowell Orson Leemon, a serial killer (played by Kevin Durand) to help them up their social media profile.  "We're about to graduate and go to college and we still haven't started our first killing spree," they explain to their furious captive.  They need help too, because each murder they do gets reported as an accident or running away and isn't getting the high profile press they're desperate for.  Charismatic and narcissistic BFFs, the fame-hungry girls get their friendship tested when Sadie gets together with Jordan, the local sheriff's put-upon son who helps them edit videos for their website.  Sadie pulls away from McKayla, who takes it badly.  Being a little psycho (at least more overtly so than Sadie), McKayla teams up with Lowell Leemon and the shit hits the fan at prom, of course.

Tragedy Girls is a lightweight slasher-esque movie that badly wants to be satire, skewering both today's youth and their thirst for likes/re-tweets/mentions/etc., as well as the traditional girls' roles in horror movies.  Unfortunately, it just doesn't go far enough to truly be satire but I did find it entertaining enough.  Slightly gory, not scary.

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #16 Devour

In which I am led astray by my Jensen Ackles crush ... I solely picked Devour because he was in it - baby-faced too, at age 27.  I knew it was going to be bad - it had to be bad.  And it was, starting with the terrible music at the opening credits.

Young Jake (JA) is a nice young man/student/computer nerd who has been having waking nightmares for a while.  For his birthday, his friend Conrad signs him up for a secret video game where the game calls you and gives you tasks to do.  (Note: it's really not a video game, despite the EVIL VIDEO GAME!! promos; you sign up online and then get phone calls that mess with your head.  Not actually a video game.)  Conrad and Jake's one-time hook-up Dakota (Dominique Swain) sign up too and before you know it, (1) Conrad has shot two kids in his dorm and then killed himself, and (2) Dakota butchers a professor who won't stop coming on to her and then kills herself.  Jake starts investigating what's going on, hooks up with Shannyn Sossamon, nurse/Tarot afficionado, and soon enough he's tracking down devil-worshippers because WTF is going on with this movie. 

I dozed off for a moment and woke up a little lost but I don't think it matters because all of a sudden it turns out Jake is adopted (did we know this?) and SPOILER not only is he Shannyn Sossamon's character's lover but also her son because she is a demon.  And then Jake gets hauled off to jail for killing everyone.

My notes:  THAT WAS RIDICULOUS AND ALSO TERRIBLE.  I mean, a little gross but not scary and pretty incoherent.  And it's like the writers started doing an evil video game movie, then decided halfway through to switch to demonic possession but didn't bother to go back to fix the first bit.  Not at all recommended.  And WTF is with capitalizing the V in "devour?"  I'm not doing that.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #15 Cargo

Australia!  Zombies!

After an outbreak of who-knows-what, Andy (Martin Freeman, who really does commit to every role he's in), his wife Kay and infant Rosie take to a houseboat to avoid the diseased populace on shore.  They're running out of food, however, and when they moor near a wrecked sailboat, Andy sneaks over and scavenges the sailboat, bringing back a bunch of tinned foods and a bottle of red wine.  A closed closet door makes him nervous but he doesn't say anything to Kay back on the houseboat.  Later, while Andy snoozes, she sneaks back over to the sailboat, looking for a corkscrew to open that bottle of wine.  That closet door opens and she gets bitten. 

The whole run of Cargo, no one says "zombie" or "walker" or "living dead."  The outbreak is treated like a disease and everyone carries an emergency kit including medicine (ineffectual), tourniquets and a switchblade-like pick to put the infected down.  Also included in the kit is a Fitbit-like watch which counts down from 48: the infected have just that long before turning.  The little family goes ashore, looking for a hospital.  The clock is running out for Kay and when they have a car crash, Andy is knocked unconscious for hours and his wife has gone full-zombie by the time he comes to.  He manages to get himself and Rosie out of the car but not before Kay bites him.  Now Andy has 48 hours to get baby Rosie somewhere safe.

While all this is happening, there is a parallel story of an Aboriginal family who are dealing with infected family members of their own.  After Andy and Rosie head out on their own, their paths cross with Thoomi (Simone Landers, terrific), the twelve-year-old Aboriginal girl who is just trying to save her infected dad.  She and Andy are at odds at first but, as he is fighting his losing battle against the infection, their relationship changes.

I thought this was a novel take on an overworked genre, especially being given a peek into Aboriginal culture and spirituality.  There's not a ton of zombie action for a zombie movie but that's okay; as it often is with zombie flicks, the surviving humans are sometimes the real terrors.  Interestingly, Cargo started as a short (linked here) which is terrific.  It hits all the highlights of the movie, without any of the full-length film's sometimes draggy pace, although it has none of the Aboriginal focus.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series:#14 Tales of Halloween

Another October and I take another stab at a mediocre Halloween horror/comedy anthology series: 2015's Tales of Halloween.  Ten tales, connected by taking place in one town on one Halloween, where the kids starring in one segment show up as background trick-or-treaters in other segments.

The stories are: (1) "Sweet Tooth," a cautionary tale about sharing (or not sharing) your candy; (2) "The Night Billy Raised Hell," where in Billy and the actual Devil paint the town red; (3) "Trick" with murderous children collecting lives instead of candy - and a nice, dark, little twist at the end; (4) "The Weak and the Wicked," pretty weak itself as three bike-riding bullies get their comeuppance; (5) the "Grim Grinning Ghost," which seems to be a first-draft sort of thing; (6) "Ding Dong" has the Wicked Witch wishing for children of her own - very, very weird; (7) "This Means War" is the battle of the Halloween decorations; (8) "Friday the 31st," with a deformed slasher and an alien, which turns into some over-the-top crazy goriness a la Ash vs. the Evil Dead; (9) "The Ransom of Rusty Rex" wherein a kidnapping goes horribly wrong ... for the kidnappers; and (10) "Bad Seed" which is kind of Pumpkinhead, Jr.

The framework samples Adrienne Barbeau from the wonderful classic The Fog.  There's a decent cast, including Greg Grunberg, Clare Kramer, Barry Bostwick, Barbara Crampton, Pollyanna McIntosh, John Landis and Sam Witwer.  And some of the segments aren't terrible.  But I thought it averaged out to a sold meh, so you can take it or leave it, I guess.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #13 Raw

Does a smart, coming-of-age, cannibal horror movie sound good?  If the answer to that is a resounding YES, then have I got a movie for you!  Raw, meet everyone; everyone, meet Raw.  Some SPOILERS ahead.

Young Justine is a bit of a prodigy, getting into a top veterinary school at a young age.  It's clear that she's been sheltered by her parents to this point: en route to dropping her off, they stop for a meal and when Justine finds a bit of sausage in her mashed potatoes, her mom freaks out at the restaurant, saying that they're strict vegetarians.  At school, Justine is unprepared for the traditional first week of hazing.  With her new, gay roommate and only friend, Adrien, at her side, she - and the other first year students - are subjected to midnight raids, being doused with animal blood a la Carrie and hedonistic raves.  They are also forced to eat raw rabbit kidney and Justine is understandably dismayed when her older sister Alex, an ensconced vet student, doesn't stand up for her and, in fact, pushes the tidbit into her mouth. 

As the week progresses, Justine starts to experience some changes, but hers are not quite the same as most college-age students away from home for the first time.  She gets a horrible rash and then starts craving meat: first schwarma and kebabs with Adrien, then raw chicken out of the fridge, then - after an accident - her sister's finger.  She also finds that she is not alone in these cannibalistic cravings but she is not quite ready to give in to them entirely, seeking solace with her roommate and her sister, with various degrees of success.  I'm disinclined to say much more because Raw really should be seen.

This is a smart, feminist horror movie with themes of sexual awakening, complicated sisterly relationships and one's relationship with one's own body, parked right alongside Ginger Snaps.  For a cannibal flick that apparently caused some viewers to faint and/or vomit, it is not a gore fest - but there are some very squirm-inducing scenes, including a Brazilian wax that I had to look away from and an extended trichophagia bit that made me gag.  Raw is in French, with English subtitles, streaming on Netflix and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

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