Monday, October 29, 2012

The Third Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #5: Rubber

Believe me when I tell you that Rubber is one of the weirdest movies I've seen, probably ever.  It is so strange that the main premise - a psychokinetic car tire who rolls into town and blows up people's heads - is not the weirdest part about it.

The main storyline: somewhere out in the California desert, a junk tire comes to life, pulling itself out of the sand. As it rolls towards civilization, it displays a certain amount of belligerence, crushing crushable things in its path like plastic water bottles and scorpions.  When it comes up against something it can't crush (a glass bottle), it becomes enraged and manifests a psychokinetic power, breaking the bottle with its will.  It escalates from there (tin can, bunny-rabbit, crow, redneck truck driver's head), exploding everyone who tries to thwart its desires.

The extra weirdness: there is a framing story around the tire's story, sort of.  A group of volunteers are brought out to the desert and given binoculars so they can watch the tire, like a movie.  The cop investigating the tire's rampage is in on the joke, that the tire's story is a movie, until it isn't any more and he has to investigate the tire for real.  Then the guy running the focus group starves the people watching the tire, and then kills them with a poison-laced turkey carcass.

It just gets more absurd from there, breaking the fourth wall with abandon and usually providing the characters with little or no motivation for the things they do.  And yet, most bizarrely of all, I enjoyed the movie enough to see it through to its run-of-the-mill conclusion - which is much more mainstream than the craziness that precedes it.  I think it would have worked better as a short film (only 85 minutes as it is) because the conceit gets a little tiresome, but if you're in the mood for something completely weird, Rubber has your number.  Plus the exploding heads are pretty good.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Third Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #4: Bubba Ho-tep

All right, that's it - I am officially terrible at picking this year's scary movies.  Next year, for the FAFMSSOMS, someone else should pick the movies.  I'll take requests.  Cripes, I clearly can't do it for myself.

On paper, though, Bubba Ho-tep should have worked:  a 90 minute long campfest whereby Elvis and JFK, who are not dead but who are, in fact, ensconced in an East Texas old folks' home, battle against an ancient Egyptian mummy who is feeding on the old folks ... and Bruce Campbell - mothereffing Bruce Campbell!!! - plays Elvis.  How could it lose?  It should have been campy and just a touch funny and all kinds of funny.  (Did I mention Bruce Campbell in the lead?)  Wrong.  It's awfully slow, hardly scary at all and just not that funny.  Ossie Davis plays JFK and it's largely due to him that the flick is at all entertaining: he says that after he got shot in Dallas, the gov'mint took him back to the lab, removed a chunk of his brain and replaced it with a bag of sand, and then dyed his skin black so no one would know it was him.  When Elvis presses him about how Marilyn was in the sack, Jack says that information is top secret, "But between you and me, ... wowwwww!" - and he stretches that "wow" into about six syllables with the most gleeful expression.  But other than that, not so much with the glee (I may have dozed off for a couple moments).

Unless you're a Bruce Campbell completist, you can skip this one.  After this and the Dead Meat debacle, it is with much ambivalence that I'm eyeing the DVD of Rubber that awaits us next.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E2 "Sick" (10/21/12)

Remember how last week it was pretty much all action and no talking?  Yeah, it's not quite so much like that this time, although it's not as draggy as most of last season.  And to whom do you think the episode title is referring?  I think it's Rick: he looks BAD, physically ill, half-starved, but almost emotionally and psychically sick: trying to get a grip on this world he was flung unconscious into, forced into a position of leadership he never really wanted, trying to keep everyone alive and, by doing so, segueing from a man of law to a ruthless killer of both the living and the dead ... it'd take a toll on any of us.

While the others try desperately to stem the bleeding from Herschel's stump, Darryl has the prisoners come out from the kitchen, carefully covering them with his crossbow.  There are five of them and although we don't get all their names in this episode, I looked them up online because otherwise it's a pain in the ass: there's Tomas, the belligerent leader who has a pistol; Andrew, a squirrelly young guy who sticks close to Tomas; Big Tiny, who's, you know, a really big guy; Axel, the older, quieter guy who's in for prescription drug abuse; and Oscar, who is "really bad at B&E."  The prisoners look at Rick's crew and note, "You don't look like much of a rescue team."  Rick's crew load Herschel up on a dolly and run back through the corridors towards Cellblock C.  The prisoners trade puzzled looks and then follow after them.  Rick's crew gets back to their cellblock and locks the gate behind them, Darryl remaining out front with his bow to intercept the prisoners.  They bundle Herschel into his bunk and work to stop the bleeding.  Rick tells Glen that if Herschel dies, Glen's going to have to take care of it when he comes back as a zombie.  Glen pauses, then says he can do it.

When the prisoners catch up, Darryl sneers that today they've been pardoned by the great state of Georgia - you're all free.  The prisoners have no idea what's happened in the world outside - they've been barricaded in the cafeteria for going on ten months - and Rick, Darryl and T-Dogg bring them up to speed:  no power, no police, no government, no hospitals, no phones, hardly any people.  "For real?" asks Axel.  The prisoners are stunned, disbelieving, so Rick et al. bring them out into the prison yard where they goggle at all the dead bodies and eye the living dead clustered at the fences suspiciously.  Big Tiny asks if it's a disease and Rick tells them yes, sort of, and they're - "we're" - all infected.

Tomas and Andrew decide to get territorial and want Rick and his crew out of the prison but Rick makes it clear that he and his people aren't going anywhere.  He cuts a deal with the prisoners: half of the remaining food in the cafeteria for assistance in clearing out another cellblock where the prisoners can live.  The prisoners agree, saying that there isn't much food left.  When Rick et al. see all the food still in the pantry, it's clear that "not much food" means very different things to these two groups of people.  Darryl snarls that the prisoners certainly haven't been starving themselves over the last ten months.

Back in Cellblock C, Herschel's bleeding has slowed.  Maggie is despondent and Glen tries to keep her spirits up.  Note: Everyone's hands are still bloody to the elbows - ick - you'd think they'd find some way to wash up a little.  When Rick et al. come back with the food, Lori asks Rick what he thinks about sharing the prisoner with the incarcerees.  He tells her that they'll try to live side by side but if he has to, he'll kill them.  He looks uncomfortable when he says that and she reassures him that he's a good man and should do whatever it takes, with a clear conscience, to keep the group safe.  Also, Maggie sits by Herschel's side and cries a lot.  Also, Carl takes it upon himself while everyone is distracted with Herschel to sneak out and find the infirmary, bringing back all the supplies he could find - and only having to kill two walkers to do it.  When his mother freaks out about him taking that kind of risk, he snaps at her to get off his back.

Next is a zombie killing lesson.  Tomas thinks that all he needs is his gun but Darryl explains that they have to go hand-to-hand because gunshots attract the walkers, plus it's brain shots only.  The prisoners sneer: You don't gotta tell us how to kill a man.  T-Dogg rolls his eyes: "These things ain't men."  They get in formation and move out into the corridors.  At the first group of zombies they see, the prisoners rush out, hollering.  They beat and stab the zombies like they were living, to no effect.  Rick, Darryl and T-Dogg just watch for a while, snickering, before moving in and putting the zombies down efficiently.  The prisoners do better with the next batch, methodically taking the walkers out, until Big Tiny gets nervous and breaks formation.  He gets bitten on the shoulder.  Everyone stands around and debates for a while: the prisoners think Big Tiny can be saved like Herschel was saved; Rick et al. point out that they can't really hack off Big Tiny's shoulder like they did Herschel's leg.  Big Tiny is all, I feel fine, and then Tomas cuts through all the bullshit by bashing the big guy's head in.  Repeatedly, with much gusto.  Rick and Darryl look sick at the display of enthusiasm.

Back on Cellblock C, Carol tells Glen she needs help with something.  He doesn't want to leave, in case Herschel needs to be put down, but she is insistent.  She is worried that if Herschel doesn't make it, she'll have to be the one who helps Lori deliver her baby (Herschel has taught Carol some triage; Lori had Carl by C-section and it could happen again).  Carol wants to practice on a walker before she has to cut into a living woman.  She and Glen go out to the yard, separate a female walker from a small group and dispatch it, then bring it inside the fences.  Glen goes back inside and Carol, with some trepidation, pulls up the walker's skirt and starts dissecting.  From the woods beyond the fences, however, someone unseen is watching her.

Rick, Tomas and their respective crews have moved into a laundry room, heading towards another cellblock.  They hear a bunch of walkers moaning on the other side of the closed door.  Tomas yanks the door open and the zombies pour into the laundry, outnumbering the guys.  Even worse, Tomas slashes at Rick with his crowbar ("Sorry, man") and then throws a zombie at him in the melee.  After the zombies are all put down. Rick and Tomas have a stare-down, Tomas sneering that "shit happens" ... until Rick buries his machete in Tomas's head.  Yeesh.  Andrew freaks out and runs for it, Rick chasing after him; Darryl and T-Dogg point their weapons at Axel and Oscar and force them onto their knees.  A panicked Andrew races through the hallways until he finds himself in an outside courtyard full of zombies.  Rick comes up behind him, quickly assesses the situation and closes the door in the prisoner's face, telling him that he better run.  As a grim-faced Rick walks back to the laundry, he can hear Andrew's dying shrieks behind him.

Back in Cellblock C, Herschel stops breathing.  His daughters freak out but Lori steps in and starts mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions, heedless of the fact that if Herschel dies and comes back, her face is right up against his.  Suddenly Herschel gasps and lurches.  Lori staggers back, terrified, and Carl draws his gun.  It's okay: Herschel is breathing again.

Axel and Oscar's lives are spared and Rick leaves them in a safe cellblock that's full of dead - but not living dead - bodies.  Looking around at the bodies, Axel is shaken, saying he knew these guys, they were good men.  Oscar tells Rick that this is sick, leaving them here in this place.  Darryl: "You think this is sick?  You don't want to know what's outside."  He pauses, then adds that he's sorry about their friends.  As T-Dogg leaves, he recommends that they drag the bodies outside and burn them before they try to settle in.  Our guys close the cellblock door behind them when they leave.  Oscar and Axel just look at each other.

When Rick, Darryl and T-Dogg return to Cellblock C, everyone stands around and watches Herschel, who finally, once everyone (except Carol) is assembled, opens his eyes.  His daughters are in tears as he reaches out his hand and grabs hold of Rick's, wordlessly thanking him for saving his life.  Rick is speechless, tears in his eyes, thankful that something has gone right just this once.

The episode ends with Lori standing on a catwalk outside.  Rick goes to find her and she tries to reach out to him - blah blah blah - tries to see if he's willing to put their relationship back together.  After a long pause, where it looks like he's moving towards forgiving her, Rick puts his hand on her shoulder and tells her that "we're grateful for what you did."  Not "I'm grateful."  He scurries off, such a damaged man, and Lori watches him go, rubbing her shoulder and absolutely devastated.  Well, she's supposed to be devastated but the actress can't quite pull it off.  Enough so that we get the picture though.

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

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dead Meat = DOA

Dead Meat would have been a perfect horror movie - 80 minutes long, set in Ireland, all about a zombie plague set off by a really bad mad cow disease infection - except that I hated it so much that I turned it off after fifteen minutes.  Maybe I missed out on something because quite a few viewer reviews have given it high marks, maybe I just wasn't in the mood for what little I saw.  The acting was bad.  It was poorly edited (I'm pretty sure we didn't need to see the whole of Whatshername's walk from the car to the creepy cottage).  Production values were way low and not in a good way, like the first Paranormal Activity or the first Blair Witch Project or even American Zombie.  The zombies started chomping on characters almost right away before I could even tell if I was going to like them or not, although I was pretty sure I wasn't.  I don't mind if the action starts right away but give me some reason to care.  I didn't care and so I turned it off.

Instead I watched Coraline, the wonderful, creepy, scary stop-motion animated movie version of Neil Gaiman's wonderful, creepy, scary book.  I just loved the book and I really liked the movie, which is voiced by a fantastic cast:  Dakota Fanning (Coraline), Teri Hatcher (Coraline's mother/Other Mother), Jennifer Saunders (Miss Spink), Dawn French (Miss Forcible), Ian McShane (Mr. Bobinsky), John Hodgman (Coraline's father/Other Father), Keith David (the Cat).   The movie is pretty scary and not for little kids (I don't quite recall but apparently the book is even scarier - I don't remember the thing in the basement that was so horrible but it doesn't make an appearance in the movie); it's got an extra-twisted Alice in Wonderland by way of Pan's Labyrinth feel to it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Enter the asylum

This is the lamest FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series we've had yet, and I am very sorry about that.  I totally blame because NOW, due to some unspecified "delay," they are not sending me my movies at all. I'm more than a little annoyed and am considering making the switch to Netflix ... except that I really don't want to have to re-enter 700+ DVDs into a new queue.  I did receive Dead Meat finally and I'll be watching that tomorrow; even at just 80 minutes long, it's still too late for it tonight.

One brighter horror spot on the week: American Horror Story Asylum started up.  Did you see it?  I think it's a much stronger start than S1 last year, despite no Connie Britton.  In the first episode alone we got aliens, crazy people, people being persecuted for being lesbians and/or in an interracial marriage (what with being the 1960s and all), not-crazy people involuntarily committed, mad scientists, mad nuns, strange flesh-eating woods-dwelling creatures and blowjobs whilst one's arm is getting ripped off.  That's a great start!  Honestly, even with all the craziness, it's still more coherent than the series's first episode.  I have hopes for this show this season - not high ones, but still hopes.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E1 "Seed" (10/14/12)

Interesting aside:  Frank Darabont's The Mist was playing on Syfy Sunday night and I realized that the actors who play Andrea, Carol and Dale on TWD were all in The Mist.  Nice to see Darabont taking care of his people.  And now, let the zombie carnage begin!

Rick and his small band of survivors, all that's left after the debacle at Herchel's farm, have been on the move for the last eight months, moving house to house, town to town, scavenging what they can and learning to kill walkers pretty efficiently.  They've got silencers for the pistols and go hand-to-hand when they can, trying to keep quiet and conserve ammunition.  Even Carl and Carol have become decent shots.  They're also on the verge of starvation all the time - despite this, Rick won't let them eat cans of dog food when they find it.  (What's wrong with that?  It was good enough for Mad Max.) - and Lori is just weeks away from giving birth.  Which will be a relief because then we won't have to watch her lug around that obviously fake pregnancy belly.

Everyone is wrung out, physically and mentally, and they can't keep up this panicked, nomadic existence for much longer.  They've been keeping track of the zombie herds on a map: apparently the groups of walkers are getting larger, flocking together and getting exponentially more dangerous.  They need someplace secure to hunker down and stay put for a while.  Fortuitously, while out hunting for game, Rick and Darryl find the prison, dozens of walkers lurching around the fenced-in yard.  If they can clean the place out, Rick thinks, it'll be perfect.

The prison is surrounded by two chainlink fences, with about fifteen feet between the two.  They cut the first fence, then stitch it back up with wire.  Now everyone is safe in that no-zombie zone between the outside world and inside the prison.  Darryl, Carol, Herschel and Carl go up into the guard towers to shoot walkers. Glen, Maggie, Beth and Lori try to distract the zombies, and poke them in the brains with sharp objects whenever they can, while Rick runs across the yard to an open gate that is letting zombies wander into the grassy yard from the prison's courtyard.  He closes the gate, making finite the number of zombies in the yard, and then climbs up another guard tower.  The sun shines brightly in the gorgeous blue sky and it's a perfect day for shooting zombies.  The shooters methodically pick the walkers off, one by one, until they're all dead.

The group is elated, thrilled with having so much open, safe space.  Around the campfire, they make plans to secure a safe water supply and maybe look into planting a garden.  Rick paces the fence, around and around, looking for weak spots.  Finding none, he rejoins the group and tells them that they'll need to make one more big push: they need to get into the prison because inside there should be food in the cafeteria, medicine in the infirmary, and more weapons.  Everyone looks sad at the prospect but no one complains or refuses.  Lori takes Rick aside and asks him to give everyone a break for a couple of days but he isn't interested in anything she has to say.  It seems that in the eight months since we last saw this show, Lori has gotten over her husband killing her lover and Rick doesn't want to have anything to do with his wife.  "I haven't left you yet, have I?" he snarls at her.

After the commercial break, we're in another town with the katana-wielding hooded figure: she's a slight, strong, dreadlocked woman - name of Michonne, since I've read the first 49 comics - and she's a total bad ass with her calm demeanor, her sword and her two armless, jawless pack-zombies on leashes.  She's also still with Andrea (whom she rescued in the season finale), who seems pretty sick.  Michonne tells Andrea that they can stay put for a couple of days but she's lying because the walkers are accumulating.  Andrea tells Michonne to go on without her but the other woman refuses.  Andrea then says she'll be dead if they stay here for a couple days.  So they head out into the woods, leashed zombies stumbling along behind.

Back at the prison, Rick, Glen, Maggie, Darryl and T-Dog make their way into the prison courtyard, protecting themselves in a loose phalanx so no walkers can come up behind them.  They put zombies down hand-to-hand only and, I must admit, they're all pretty friggin' good at it.  But there are a LOT of zombies and when they meet up with some dead guards still wearing their riot gear, the humans are momentarily stymied.  It's Maggie who figures out that you can grab the zombie guards' helmets, yanks their heads back and stick your machete into their brains from under their chins.  "See that?!?!" she exclaims almost joyfully.  There is some very excellent zombie carnage and the grossest bit is when Rick pulls a gas mask off a zombie and the skin of its face comes off with the mask.  It is squishy and completely disgusting and Rick looks like he might vomit.

They make their way into the mostly deserted Cellblock C with no problems, only a couple of zombies locked in their cells to clean out.  They find a couple of sets of keys on the non-animated corpses of dead guards.  Relieved to have a secure location, they bring the rest of the gang inside.  Everyone picks out a cell to sleep in, except Darryl who doesn't want to be caged and instead puts a mattress down up on the guards' catwalk, and Rick, who just slumps to the floor against a wall.  Another thing of slight note: Carl has a bit of a crush on Beth.

In the morning, Lori tells Herschel that she hasn't felt the baby move for ages and she fears it's dead, maybe zombified and ready to tear its way out of her.  Herschel calms her down but she makes him promise to kill her if she dies in childbirth or the baby if it's born dead too.  Blah blah blah - I really don't care about Lori's feelings.

Rick, T-Dog, Glen, Darryl, Maggie and Herschel load up with flashlights and weapons, supplemented with the guards' gear, and head out to look for the cafeteria.  The deeper they go into the prison, the darker and scarier it gets, lit only by their flashlight beams.  Glen has a can of spray paint and he marks each intersection so they'll know how to get back to Cellblock C.  At first all is quiet but then all hell breaks loose in those dark, narrow corridors, and zombies are everywhere.  They run, ignoring Glen's signs in their panic, just trying to get away.  Glen and Maggie get separated for a while and when Herschel goes back to look for them, he carelessly steps over a zombie, assuming it's dead.  It isn't and it takes a big bite out of his Achilles tendon (eewww!).  Maggie and Herschel are screaming, everyone comes running and Rick shoots the zombie before it can chow down further.  They grab up Herschel and run from the hordes of approaching zombies, finally barricading themselves in the cafeteria.

While Darryl and T-Dog hold the cafeteria doors closed, Rick frantically screams that there's only one way to keep Herschel alive.  He grabs an ax and starts chopping away at poor Herschel's leg.  It's brutal.  Mercifully, Herschel passes out almost immediately.  When the leg is finally off - and it takes a long time for Rick to get it off - they scramble to keep the old man from bleeding out.  Darryl is shaken, on his hands and knees.  He looks up towards the kitchen and sees a bunch of faces staring at them through the window.  He picks up his crossbow and flashlight and walks towards them.  But the watching group aren't zombies: they're human, prisoners who have managed to survive here.  "Holy shit," says one of them.

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

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thematically similar, I suppose

Whilst we're waiting for to send me my next DVDs, here are short synopses of two books I read recently:

Horns by Joe Hill.  I recently discovered Joe Hill, enjoying his short story collection quite a lot.  Horns is his most recent novel.  Ig Parrish has problems.  The love of his life was raped and murdered a year ago and Ig was the only suspect, although nothing could be proven against him; the residents of the small New England town he lives in believe him guilty.  Now, after a raging bender he can't remember, Ig has woken up with devil horns sprouting from his forehead.  He's also developed the ability to cause people to tell the truth, things they would rather keep hidden, things Ig would rather they keep hidden - and he realizes that perhaps he can solve his girlfriend's murder and get some peace at last.

The apple has not fallen far from the tree in the case of Joe Hill and his beyond-famous dad: Horns is a great tale, well-plotted, easily readable, clever and unstinting in the brutal details.  While Hill may not quite have the touch with dialogue King has, he also doesn't have diarrhea of the word processor - there's nothing extra here in these manageable 368 hardcover pages.  Fun stuff.  I now have to track down Hill's first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, because that's supposed to be quite good.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  In this grim, bleak, unrelenting novel, there is a man and a boy, his son.  They walk the road in a post-apocalyptic America, thirsty, starving, scared.  All they have is each other - they don't even have hope anymore.  And that's all there is in The Road.  There's no plot per se: the man and the boy walk, try not to freeze to death, scavenge what meager food they can, strain their water, hide from the violent gangs of cannibals that roam the country.  McCarthy never says exactly what brought down Armageddon onto the U.S., but it seems like it must have been some sort of nuclear catastrophe because the sun is all but blocked out and everything is coated with grey ash.  We never even learn the names of the man and the boy.  We just follow them as they try to survive and try to remember why they want to survive.  Grim, wonderful stuff.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Third Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #3: Thirst

Damn - nearly halfway done with the month and I'm only on move #3?  That's pathetic.  I blame for moving my distribution center so far away.  I could watch more movies if they showed up quicker.  Anyway, I hadn't seen any Asian horror for ages and I was really looking forward to Korean (English subtitles) Thirst.  The plot:  Sang-hyeon, a young Catholic priest who is frustrated by all his flock (patients at a hospital) dying, decides to volunteer for a highly risky (like, no one has survived yet) medical experiment, trying to find a cure for a nasty disease.  He gets really, really sick (boils and pustules all over, puking up blood) but is amazingly cured after a transfusion.  Cured, except that he blisters and burns in the sunlight and if he doesn't drink blood on a regular basis, the nasty disease comes back.  Being a priest, he doesn't want to kill anybody for their blood so he sips from coma patients' IV lines - no one ever knows.

Everyone thinks he's a miracle for surviving the experiment and they want him to heal them.  A pushy lady convinces him to visit her cancer-ridden son Kang-woo, who, it turns out, knew Sang-hyeon when they were boys. Kang-woo gets better (it's never really clear if he actually had cancer and is in remission or if he's just a hypochondriac) and Sang-hyeon is invited home with them, to play mah jongg with their little clique of grotesques.  Creepy, idiotic Kang-woo is married to Tae-ju, who was an indentured servant in the home when she was a little girl.  Now she is pretty, repressed and somewhat feral, hating her idiot husband.  She and Sang-hyeon begin an affair - he reluctantly at first, finding it difficult to cast off his long-held priestly beliefs - and she sees him as a way out of her dreary life, even after he confesses to being a vampire.  She gets prettier and more confident as the affair continues, but she also turns on the crazy, cutting herself and telling Sang-hyeon that Kang-woo did it, so her lover will kill her husband.

After they kill Kang-woo  it gets weirder - they are both haunted by visions of the dead man - and they are unhappy and stressed.  In a fit of passion, Sang-hyeon snaps Tae-ju's neck ... and then feeds her his blood to save her life.  Now that she's a vampire herself, the crazy really kicks into high gear (and she has no compunction about killing her feeds) and Sang-hyeon is forced to deal with what they've become.

Thirst is a lovely, visually-interesting film but it's about a half hour too long, is pretty weird and is not really very scary at all.  Sure, there are some bloody moments but they're fairly artful.  It's actually more of a twisted love story than a horror movie - not at all what I was expecting.  I liked it but didn't love it, and really wished it was shorter (never a good sign).

Next up:  was supposed to be The Hunger with Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie, but that seems like it might be too languorous and affected.  So I'll have to shuffle things around.  It'll be a surprise!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Third Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #2: American Zombie

American Zombie is one of those movies that I like better after the fact, the more I think about it.  I think it's because I like the concept more than the execution.  The extremely low-budget - but not at all campy; it plays it straight - AZ plays as the making-of a documentary about the population of zombies residing in greater Los Angeles.  In this universe, humans and zombies are co-existing side by side.  High-functioning zombies retain most of their brain function and hold jobs like customer service reps and Quik-E-Mart clerks; low-functioning zombies can hold factory jobs or collect shopping carts; "feral" zombies are difficult to differentiate from really bad-off homeless folks.  Zombies come into being when a dormant virus is activated in humans as a result of a violent death; some zombies are also pushed by the virus's need to procreate but there are few reported instances of zombie bites - in fact, the ZAG, Zombie Action Group, led by high-functioning zombie Joel, is offended by the thought that zombies eat people.

The documentary crew, led by directors Grace and John, follow four high-functioning zombies around their daily lives: activist Joel, convenience store clerk Ivan, CSR Judy, florist Lisa.  Interestingly, zombies mostly seem to have four-letter names, have varying degrees of physical issues (Lisa goes to an alternative medicine woman for treatment of her maggot-infested gut wound) and are so very lonely which manifests in the need to connect with people (hence Joel's activism and Judy's telephone job) and create art: Ivan makes a 'zine, Ivan's roommate Glen is a charcoal artist, Judy scrapbooks everything and Lisa makes string art.

Once a year, the zombie community gets together for an undead-only Burning Man-esque fest called Live Dead.  The documentarians have to get special permission to film here: Grace is looking to capture all facets of the culture while John thinks something fishy is going on out there.  The first couple of days and nights are simply counter-culture revelry with art installations, singalongs, BBQs and midnight raves.  But things get darker on the last night: what the organizers and participants insist is performance art, the filmmakers are convinced is a live human sacrifice.  I won't give away the entire ending, but we are left with serious behavior changes on the part of the documentary subjects and Joel's ominous promise that one day the zombies will rise up and reclaim this world.

See, it all sounds good on paper; there's just not much too it onscreen.  The little details are nice: Ivan trying to eat food with as many preservatives as possible to keep his body from deteriorating; Suzy eating an all-vegan diet and collecting cat figurines because she can't have real cats ... because she's allergic; the cow brains at the Live Dead zombie cookout.  But just nothing much happens, it's not at all scary and there's very little zombie gore or violence - very little payoff at the end, whereas I had thought we were building to a big finish.  It's uncommonly subtle for a zombie movie which is kind of fun, I guess, but if you're in the mood for living dead carnage, you just won't find it here in American Zombie.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mini movie review: The Long Good Friday

Here's a non-Third Annual Friend Mouse Speaks Scarelicious October Movie Series movie for you, one of Mr. Mouse's requests: The Long Good Friday.  For the record: he decided he wanted to watch it after seeing Helen Mirren on a rerun of the BBC's Top Gear.  It's a British gangster flick circa 1980, starring Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Brick Top and Hatchet Harry from Guy Ritchie's British gangster flicks, plus an incredibly young-looking Pierce Brosnan, and while the music, clothing and decor are extremely dated, it's a good movie (if a little hard to follow).

Bob Hoskins is Harold, the head of the London gangsters, looking to legitimize himself with a real estate deal.  He's got cops and local politicians on his payroll, helping him secure his deal; he's lining up the American Mafia to help with cash flow.  The IRA gets involved, however, and starts chipping away at his organization: stabbing a confidante, blowing up his mother's car while she's at church, setting off bombs in restaurants.  Harold has to figure out who's after him - and stop them - before the Americans get cold feet and pull out of the deal.

There is a lot going on in this movie and it took some post-viewing internet research before Mr. Mouse and I figured out exactly what happened (and we're still not clear on one point).  The violence and language is incredibly tame for a British gangster movie by today's standards.  This was Hoskins's breakout role and he's quite good; Helen Mirren is his smart and gorgeous girlfriend Victoria, and she works just as hard as he does to try to resolve the conflict swirling around them.  I'd be hard-pressed to give The Long Good Friday a grade, though, because while I enjoyed it and found it held my attention, I was frustrated by so often not knowing who the players were and just what they were doing.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Third Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #1: Teeth

The first movie of the Third Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series is Teeth!

In the shadow of the nuclear power plant, a young family enjoys the beautiful day on their front lawn, recently married adults sitting on lawn chairs, sipping cocktails, young children splashing in a wading pool.  Little Brad, at most 5 years old, fumbles around and says to his baby step-sister Dawn, "Now let's see yours."  A moment later, Brad is squalling bloody murder: the tip of his index finger has nearly been bitten off.  Fifteen or so years later, Brad is a surly, tattooed and pierced young man, still living at home, listening to death metal and treating his goth girlfriend very, very badly.  Dawn, on the other hand, has grown up to be a sweet, pretty girl.  She is thoughtful around her mother, who is now sick with cancer; she's polite and kind of a dork, the enthusiastic spokesperson for the chastity-pledge club, of which she and her besties are ring-bearing members.

Things change for Dawn when new kid Toby transfers to school.  Toby is also in the chastity club but he and Dawn find each other irresistible.  Making out, they are confused about what they're feeling: "This doesn't feel wrong."  But a pent-up Toby can't control himself: he and Dawn struggle; she gets hit on the head; while she is woozy and uncomplaining, Toby forces himself inside.  She wakes up screaming ... and soon Toby is screaming too, his disco-stick bitten off to a stub.  He runs, hollering and bleeding profusely.  Poor Dawn doesn't understand what's going on - their sex ed class textbook has been edited so that she's never even seen a diagram of what women's private parts look like - and later, she can't find Toby when she looks for him.  Well, she finds a little piece of him, but that's it.  It just gets worse for Dawn as she tries to comprehend what's happening to her body.  A skeezy gynecologist doesn't help matters - and pays the price - but gives Dawn a name for her condition.  As the movie goes on (only 96 minutes), Dawn starts to take control of her body and of her awakening sexuality.

I'm not sure I'd call Teeth a horror flick: Dawn is no monster, but nearly all the men in her life are so you're rooting for her.  It's not even that scary (perhaps for the menfolk it might be, I suppose) because after the initial Toby-experience, you know exactly what to expect.  The concept is based in an old, cross-cultural myth, ostensibly begun by men who feared women's sexuality.  Sex makes you vulnerable and the VD myth underlines that.  What I liked the best about this weird little movie is that it was played straight, no camp, no winking at the camera.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Third Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series is nearly upon us!

That's right, everyone: it's October and that means it's time for the Third Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series!  The first movie is one for all the fellas: Teeth, a modern riff on the vagina dentata myth.  I'm watching it tonight so look for a post in the next day or so.

Mr. Mouse's parents are coming to visit in a couple of days so we may be getting off to a slow start for the TAFMSSOMS (I'm fairly certain that my in-laws are not big horror movie fans) but I'll crank 'em out as fast as I can.  Also, my DVD distribution center has moved from SLC to Denver which means that the DVD delivery is a little slower than I'd like.  Yes, I still rent DVDs.  No, I don't stream Netflix.  Yes, I'm a Luddite - I even still read books with paper pages.

Speaking of books with paper pages, I just finished 20th Century Ghosts, a collection of horror short stories by Joe Hill, also known as Stephen King's son.  I really enjoyed them: Hill is a good writer, intelligent but accessible, not overtelling things, with a voice that is reminiscent of his father's but still his own.  I have always loved Stephen King's short stories; I was pleased to discover that it runs in the family.  The collection is not just straight horror tales but also some dark fantasy, a sweet baseball story, some dreamy stuff, some creepy stuff, some nightmares.  My favorites were "Pop Art" and "Voluntary Committal."  Read them and figure out which ones you like best.