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 clichéd.  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 fiancé.  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.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mama - Haunted Little Girls

Movie: Mama
My Rating: 3 stars

This movie wasn’t as scary as I was expecting it to be.  But, I think I’m a little bit glad about that, because I had been dreading watching this.  The premise sounded so creepy!  And, I get scared pretty easily.  A pair of young sisters is abandoned in an isolated cabin by their suicidal father.  But, the wrathful ghost of a grieving mother who lost her own baby (Mama) steps in to take over their care.  So these girls spend a few years turning into these haunted, feral creatures, until their uncle finds them and takes them in.  But, Mama isn’t ready to give up these girls just yet.
But, despite this creepy story, the movie didn’t chill me to my bones.  Maybe it was the ghost.  She does writhe, and appear suddenly, and move her joints at unnatural angles the way a proper ghost should, but she just looked silly to me.  Although, that didn’t stop me from thinking about it all night in my warm bed, and having, fitful, tormented dreams.  However, I don’t think this movie will plague me long term.
This is a proper haunting story.  An unwitting family is the undeserving target of an angry ghost.  This Mama follows “her” little girls home after they go to live with their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – ya know, Jamie Lannister) and his rocker girlfriend (Jessica Chastain).  Mama watches over as psychologists attempt to get the girls to integrate into society again.  But, her hovering presence is hindering these girls’ progress.  As terrifying of a specter as she is, Mama was all these little girls had at one point, and they really grew to love her.  The older girl, Victoria, is doing a good job of becoming human again.  But, the littlest one, Lily, was so young when Mama began taking care of her that she really turned into something else—something unsavable.

This movie is a good, fun scare.  But, it won’t work you up into an unsleepable state.  (I’ve had my fair share of sleepless slumber parties—thank you The Shining).  This movie is no Ringu, or The Conjuring.  Those ones had me scared for weeks!  So, this film is perfect for some good Halloween chills without going too overboard.  It’s a good choice for a mixed crowed if you’re all in the mood for a light fright.  So, see this one, but be prepared not to take it too seriously.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Silent Night - You're on Santa's List

Movie: Silent Night
My Rating: 2 stars

This is about as classic of a slash-‘em-up as you can come by.  And, not only are the themes traditional, but so are the script and cinematography style.  It looks like an old-timey horror flick, with the cheap cinematography and low budget.   But, this is all intentional.  In fact, the director throws in a few classic shots as homage to the old scream queens of days past.  And, the result is a very representational specimen of the genre.  Unfortunately, I think I’m a little bit over straight interpretation of archetypal styles.  I want my directors to mix things up a bit—throw in a few new tricks while winking at the old pattern.  So, I didn’t enjoy this film as much as I could have.
Life in a small town is turned upside down as a killer dressed as Santa Claus is terrorizing the citizens, punishing those who have been “naughty” and sparing the “nice.”  People are terrified, because we could all do a little better in our lives, right?  We could all swear a little less, and be nicer to homeless people.  But, fortunately our vigilante murderer is going for the real baddies first—the pornographers, the grifters, and the rogue cops.
And, our killer is knocking off his targets in some spectacularly grisly (and festive) ways—electrocution with Christmas lights, bloody crèches, crucifixion, feeding a body into a wood chipper along with all the unsold Christmas trees.  It’s very blasphemous.  But, that’s horror movies for you!  And, true to the genre, there are a few good-eggs who are immune from this killer’s wrath because of their total innocence.  And, in this case, it’s a plucky new cop who just wants to do good and help people.  And, she can’t stand for all this illegal activity. (Murder is definitely against the law).   So, her virtue also necessarily compels her to find this maniac and shut him down for good.  But, the killer almost wants to get caught.  However, not until his righteous cleansing is done.
I don’t think you need to go out of your way to see this movie.  It’s fine, but this road is very well-worn, and this film isn’t bringing anything new to the table.  It almost feels like a well-executed film school exercise.  And, that’s enjoyable sometimes, but I think we’re all ready for something more.