Thursday, October 30, 2014

Repo! The Genetic Opera - A Sexy, Disgusting, Rock Opera

Movie: Repo! The Genetic Opera
My Rating: 4 stars

Now this movie is a rare beast.  It’s not of very often that you get to combine the genres of rock-opera with sexy-horror-comedy.  Have there been any others since Rocky Horror Picture Show?  None are springing to my mind.  And, I do love both genres.  Who could say no to a bunch of pale-faced monsters, prancing around in lingerie, singing, and ripping internal organs out of people’s chests?
This story is set in a dystopic future.  The world is poisoned.  And, humans have become sickly and frail, and subject to organ failure.  Citizens are dying left and right, until the evil corporation GeneCo introduces the idea of financing organ transplants.  With their easy payment plans, individuals can enjoy their healthy new livers and kidneys without worrying about depleting their savings.  It’s a new lease on life!  Of course, this leads to abuse.  People just can’t seem to save this extra cash in their pockets to pay their medical bills.
People are now recreationally drinking their way through multiple livers.  And, they are burning through fashionable new noses and boob jobs as often as normal people change haircuts.  But, then the bill comes.  When people can’t pay for their extravagant new lifestyles, well that’s a job for the Repo Man.  He seizes these unpaid-for hearts and skin grafts by force, singing about it all the while.  It’s a brutal job, but someone’s got to do it.  But, this Repo Man is living a double life.  He has a daughter—a very sick, housebound girl, Shiloh—and he doesn’t want her to know the kind of grisly work he does for a living.
This is a very goofy film.  Director Darren Lynn Bousman was clearly having the time of his life, making this raunchy, silly, gory, songfest.  At least it was a break from the dead-serious Saw movies that he normally does.  You’d need a little palette cleanser after wallowing in that stuff for too long.  The casting alone is pretty wild.  Anthony Stewart Head plays Repo, and Alexa Vega is his ailing daughter.  Sarah Brightman is the blind, celebrity songstress in this world.  Paul Sorvino plays the evil (and operatic) head of GeneCo, and Paris Hilton does a spot-on (and unwitting?) job as his spoiled, useless, heiress daughter.  It’s pretty funny.

Of course, this movie is also really gross.  We see people being dismembered from almost the first frame.  The violence is all pretty cartoonish, but there’s still blood and guts everywhere.  So, steer clear of this one if you can’t really stomach that kind of thing.  But, this is definitely a winner from the past.  It’s silly and gross, and has a sense of humor about itself.  Check it out if you haven’t already.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Woman in Black - A Classic Haunting

Movie: The Woman in Black
My Rating: 4 stars

Oooo.  This is a really spooky one.  I’ve been watching a lot of horror this month, but this is my first, good, old-fashioned, Victorian, haunted house movie of the season.  And, these things are terrifying.  Mama was a classic ghost story, but with these haunting movies, it’s really more about the house than the ghosts.  All that dark wall-paper and old wood, the dusty chandeliers, and dimly lit foyers in these old-fashioned homes.  You’d imagine ghosts hiding in every nook and cranny, even if the house wasn’t known for being haunted.  Just add a shrieking, Victorian ghost, with a reputation for killing little children to the mix, and you’ve got some serious chills.
This is the ghost of a heartbroken mother.  Her son was taken from her by meddling family members who deemed her incompetent, and then he was left to die from neglect.  (There’s always a kid involved!).  So, this real mother took her own life, and vowed to haunt the grounds of the family estate, taking children from the townspeople who could have helped her while she was alive.  Daniel Radcliffe plays the young lawyer who is in charge of distributing the estate and selling the house after this family tragedy.  He’s also a melancholy soul, because his beloved wife died a few years prior during childbirth.  His little son is an adorable, little English lad, though, with that serious, little accent.  It’s so cute!  But, it’s not enough to warm his father’s heart.  And, then Radcliff is sent by his law firm to settle affairs at that cursed old house.  Nothing good can come of that.
Director James Watkins creates an absolutely terrifying haunting.  The house is dark, dusty, and creaky.  Doors open and close, lock and unlock without warning.  Ghost children come knock on the front door all night.  Rocking chairs rock violently.  The dark woman in black lingers in every mirror, keyhole, and window reflection.  But, the worst part is all the mechanical, taxidermied, musical toys that litter the house, and that turn on and off whenever Radcliffe inspects old family secrets that he shouldn’t be disturbing.  It’s horrifying—little (real) stuffed monkeys with cymbals and chomping teeth, rabbits with spinning heads, china dolls whose eyes stare into your soul.  It’s ghastly.  I imagine these toys were supposed to be very charming to a little Victorian child.  And, they were probably quite costly.  But, they are pure horror to me.

This is a very scary movie.  I was fooled into thinking it wouldn’t be that bad by the old-timey look of the thing, but this movie was far more terrifying than any of the others I’ve seen this month.  It’s the kind of film that will have you just sitting, staring wide-eyed at the TV, holding your breath, waiting for the next startle.  And, the haunting does not let up for a second.  You won’t want to watch this film too close to bedtime, because it’ll really mess with your dreams.  (Or, at least leave you staring at the ceiling, going over all the terrible scenes in your mind for hours).  So, what I’m saying is that I recommend this movie if you’re looking to really scare yourself.  This one is brutal.

Friday, October 24, 2014

You're Next - A Classic Slasher

Movie: You’re Next
My Rating: 4 stars

Now, this is actually a pretty exciting horror film.  I was surprised, because I’ve seen so many of these slasher flicks at this point that I’ve become a little bit desensitized to them.  This kind of movie tends to be pretty formulaic to begin with, so if you watch too many of them, they lose the ability to startle you.  So, it’s always fun to let myself get a little bit scared again.  I’m not sure whether I intentionally took a break from this genre, or if I just got distracted by a few trashy dance movies.  But, the hiatus definitely did the trick.  
This movie also has one other advantage over your classic slash-‘em-up flick, and that’s a sense of humor.  This isn’t a horror-comedy.  I’d still classify it as a pure slasher.  In fact, you’d be hard pressed to point to any outright “jokes.”  (And really, a lot of horror-comedies films are ruined when the jokes are laid on a little too thick).  But, there’s an underlying sense of black humor in this script that keeps the film from being cheesy or clichĂ©d.  It really works, and it made a noticeable difference for me.
This is your classic “family is tormented by a band of murderers while staying at their isolated vacation home” story.  It’s a well-worn plot device.  But, this movie really only uses it as the framework for the story, and doesn’t let it serve as an autopilot.  Erin is meeting her boyfriend’s family for the first time on this weekend getaway.  It’s pretty unnerving—spending a whole weekend in the same house, under the intense scrutiny of your partner’s parents.  That sure doesn’t sound like something I’d like to do.  But, she doesn’t have to put up with that for long, because the killing begins pretty soon after their arrival.  And, the bandits seem to be making pretty quick work of this uptight, WASPy  family.  But, this kind of attacker usually expects their victims to cower in corners.  They aren’t counting on their targets actually fighting back.  So, when Erin does, the killers are thrown off guard.  But, which side is ultimately going to be better at their job?

I really enjoyed this movie.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had the pleasure of sitting on the edge of my seat like this.  The story is tight.  The tone feels right with that added element of a sense of humor.  And, the production value looks really great.  So, I definitely recommend this one to you if you like horror films.  The script even manages kill off their victims in some pretty horrifying, imaginative, new ways.  Scary!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hell Baby - Raunchy Horror Spoof

Movie: Hell Baby
My Rating: 4 stars

This movie is actually pretty funny.  It’s making fun of the whole Rosemary’s Baby “demon spawn” horror movie genre (with a little bit of The Exorcist and The Shining thrown in for good measure).  It’s got it all—a possessed pregnant lady, a wildly haunted house, neighbors who keep turning up dead, Italian priests who show up conveniently to undo the whole mess.  But, the whole thing is tongue-in cheek, and it throws in enough raunchy jokes to make the whole thing a big, fun spoof.
A young couple moves into a rundown house in a poor neighborhood in New Orleans.  They’re expecting their first babies (twins!), and they don’t have much money, so they’re hoping to make this “fixer upper” into more of a home for themselves.  But, they soon learn that this house is more than just a little dilapidated.  The house is known in conversation around the neighborhood as the “Maison du Sang”—the “Blood House.”  And, it’s quite haunted.  Plus there are a fair amount of neighbors who love to just pop in unexpectedly.  It’s a very unsettling situation.  And, to make matters worse, the mother-to-be has started behaving rather peculiarly—pounding booze, sleeping for 36 hours straight, mumbling in Latin in a deep voice in her sleep.
I should have known I’d like this movie.  It stars tons of my favorite comedians—Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Paul Scheer, Riki Lindhome, Kumail Nanjiani, Keegan-Michael Key, Tom Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Rob Huebel.  This list goes on.  But, for some reason I didn’t know this going in.  I think I must have heard this movie suggested on one of the thousand podcasts I listen to, and just added it to my queue blindly.  But, I’m glad I did, because this movie was good, Halloween fun.   There’s tons of blood and guts, and demon dogs lurking.  And, like any respectable horror flick, it features a liberal dose of tits and booze.  Yee haw!  But, for all those horrific elements, this is definitely more of a comedy.

This movie is definitely rude fun.  I had a really good time watching it.  There’s plenty of nudity, and sex jokes, and drugs, and alcohol consumption.  Your gram-gram probably wouldn’t approve of the filth.  And, your little niece Cindy will probably be too scared by the ghosts and guts.  So, don’t sit down to watch this one with your family.  But then, you already knew better than to watch this kind of movie with people like that.  But, it’s definitely worth checking out if you have the house to yourself over the holidays.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I Saw the Devil - Rewatching a Brutal Classic

Movie: I Saw the Devil
My Rating: 5 stars

I wrote about this movie a few years back, right when it came out.  But, I had been wanting to rewatch it for some time now.  It’s the kind of movie that gets in your head.  And, I figured that now would be the perfect time, since I’m on this horror movie kick for the month of October.  Actually, I was really spurred to rewatch this one after I heard an awful rumor (on the AVClub) that some American directors were planning on butchering yet another, practically perfect, Korean thriller with an English-language remake.  It’s pretty scandalous that people aren’t making a bigger stink about this practice.  I pretty much see it as racism.  Because, it’s not like these American directors are improving on the originals.  In fact, in the case of Oldboy, the newer version was much worse.  I think they’re just stealing good ideas from elsewhere and pandering to the type of close-minded, xenophobic audiences who would never watch “foreigners” act on screen.
There.  I’ve said my piece, so now we can move on to the story.  I had actually forgotten a lot about the plot since seeing this movie three years ago.  I had remembered that a young cop, Kim Soo-hyeon, is going rogue to hunt down the serial killer who murdered his fiancĂ©.  And, I think I remembered that he was successful.  But, I had forgotten almost all the details—like how Soo-hyeon keeps tormenting Kyung-chul, to drive home the point, or just how irredeemably bad Kyung-chul actually was.  Although, I did remember about how grisly this movie is to watch.  There is so much gore and dismemberment.  And, the director (Kin Jee-woon) is pretty good at showing us almost every bit of the violence.  We see hammers hit skulls, knives cutting through tendons, and body parts hacked off. But, I was still surprised by some of the more brutal blows.  This movie doesn’t shy away from violence.  But then, this is a movie about a serial killer, and the man who is trying to make his life hell.  It’d be silly not to show that stuff.
But, this movie is really more about character development than anything else.  Kyung-chul is bad, and he stays bad.  In fact, the director does us a favor by showing us how incurable this guy is early on.  That way we can focus our attention on the evolution of the grieving Soo-hyeon.  He’s the interesting one.  We get to watch his nightmare descent into near-madness.  The plot has plenty of holes.  I noticed more of them upon this second viewing.  And, I initially thought it would ruin it for me.  But, then I forgot just how complex the story was.  There are many different layers, and they all weave together to create a very satisfying plot and ending.

This is a good movie, and I definitely recommend it to fans of thriller/horror movies.  Steer clear if you have a weak stomach.  It’s brutal.  But, it’s an interesting story, and has a very satisfying ending.  And, it has all your favorite Korean actors.  Lee Byung-hun is a heartthrob, and Choi Min-sik is terrifying as always.  But, definitely see this one before the American abomination comes out.