Monday, November 28, 2005

The Devil's Rejects

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: The police track down the Firefly family at their residence and decide to take vigilante justice against them for the 1,000+ (*fart*) murders that they've committed over the years. Three of them manage to escape and go on a cross-country rampage as they attempt to outrun the sheriff, leaving more dead bodies in their wake--imagine that.

Scariness factor: Gah. I really hate to say it because I know Rob Zombie's supposed to be a big ol' horror movie nerd and stuff, but I'll be damned if his movies aren't scary at all. They're not even really DISTURBING because the characters are so ridiculous and the deaths are so ridiculous that it's hard to really be DISTURBED by them. Especially his hot, hot wife who is just irritating as a murderer. He may LIKE horror movies, but a scary horror movie he has yet to make. Gory ones, yes. Foul-mouthed, titty-bumping ones, yes. But scary ones, hell no.

Originality: Wow--a group of murderers taking the lives of folks in a gritty, back-woods kinda way. Has THAT been done before? Nah. *COUTexasChainsawMassacreGH*

Complaints: The lack of scariness in this movie was yet again disappointing. Zombie seems to favor vulgarity, swearing, and titties over any substantial scariness. This was particularly disappointing seeing as the previews made it seem like it was very old-school and gritty, like a new Texas Chainsaw Massacre or something. But instead it was mostly just tiresome and overdone. Nothing was surprising about it. As in House of 1,000 Corpses (which I must pause and comment on--1,000 corpses?? Really? I mean, wouldn't that be KINDA hard to tackle without SOMEONE catching on quickly, especially when you live in a backwoods fricking area where there aren't a whole heckuva lot of possible other culprits around??), the gore and violence is so over the top that it somehow becomes ho-hum. And the characters are never really threatening--in House of 1,000 Corpses there were moments were I got a bit nervous and tense, but in The Devil's Rejects I can't remember this happening once. Zombie seems to have good intentions, and he seems to catch a moment or two of actual gritty good-horror-movie bliss, but they are way too few and far between.

High Points: I definitely liked this movie a lot better than its predecessor. It was much more believable, and it made a lot more logical sense. It also doesn't seem like it was a gratuitous gross-out fest of bloody images with a plot loosely stringing it together--still violent, but it at least had some sort of driving force to it. And I definitely liked the sequence that's put together over the opening credits--Zombie takes an overplayed and cheerier '70's Allman Bros. radio song and fuses it with really disparate and bloody images in a quite cool kinda way. This was the part I most liked about the movie. Actually, he takes some really good songs and fuses them with really bizarre events/images throughout the whole movie in a way that I found fun most of the time (though a bit annoying once or twice). I enjoyed this most. That and it was fun trying to pick up on his little nods to other movies (horror and both) including such stuff as Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which was actually a bizarrely funny but disturbing moment in the movie) and Thelma and Louise among others.

Overall: Again, kinda like with The Village, I just feel ho-hum about this movie. I was disappointed with it since it wasn't as gritty and cool as the previews made it look. But it's not terrible, nor is it fantastic. It just deserves a big EH and a couple proddings to Rob Zombie to keep working his ass off so that he finally MAKES something scary.

Grade: C


The Village

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: The folks living in a small isolated village are forced to confront outside forces (horrifying beings from the surrounding forests) that are keeping them trapped there and have started to wreak havoc on their quiet community.

Scariness factor: The first half had a good, subtle creepiness going. Nothing "edge-of-your-seat" scary, but definitely eerie. Second half, not so much.

Originality: Can I just say--twist endings start to get tiresome and unoriginal when EVERY MOVIE YOU FILM has a twist ending. You hear that, Mr. M. Night? Yeah. I'm talking to you. Other than that, the idea of the movie was kinda fun and intriguing, but the end of the movie splatted that into oblivion.

Complaints: The second half of this movie is dumb. The twist ending, also dumb. PS. Who in their right mind sends their BLIND DAUGHTER to travel through a forest with two numbskull boys who are scared out of their wits? If I were her fricking father, I woulda been holding her hand the whole damn way. I mean, really. Also, how does a blind girl FIND her way through a goddamn forest with no markers, no ability to check what direction she's walking in by checking the sun and shadows and whatnot? This is a bit mind-boggling. *SPOILER ALERT: And finally, why in god's motherf-ing name would a mentally challenged character decide to don a cape and weird-creature suit and how would he track down aforementioned blind girl in the forest? I mean, really? Other than to further plot... /END SPOILER This is my big complaint in most of M. Night's movies--the way the logic of them very quickly begins to collapse in on itself.

High Points: As mentioned earlier, the beginning of the movie was nice and subtly creepy, kind of old-fashioned feeling. The acting was pretty decent as well, and I was intrigued by the mystery of what was happening, why, etc. I was even a bit suckered into the whole love-story dimension that opened up. But the ending/revelation of the mystery is super anti-climactic which ruined it for me.

Overall: It's by no means painful to watch. At worst it's slow and a bit contrived towards the end. Not a waste of an evening, but definitely not something that should be allowed into the Horror Movie Bible.

Grade: C


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Wolf Creek

I've sorely slacked-off in my horror movie viewing now that Halloween's slipped past, *BUT* I do have a couple films still on hold at the library, so you should be seeing reviews of those in the upcoming weeks.

Until then, I will instead post about a horror flick I'm looking forward to seeing-- Wolf Creek:

"A chilling, factually-based, story of three road-trippers in remote Australia who are plunged into danger when they accept help from a friendly local."

  • Official website

  • Trailer

  • --Courtesy of Lindy Loo

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Odishon (Audition)

    --Reviewed by Lindy Loo

    Plotline: Seven years after Shigeharu lost his wife, he decides it is time to remarry. He and his friend concoct a scheme of setting up fake movie "auditions" in the hopes of finding him a potential mate. He sees the resume of one woman and is immediately smitten. But delicate lovely Japanese women are not always what they seem to be.

    Scariness factor: Audition made it to slot #11 on Bravo's List of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments, a slight point of contention with me. Audition isn't so much SCARY as it is DISTURBING. Yes, there is a fine line between the two, but I think the line that is drawn is the line of universality. The events of Audition are moreso disturbing than scary because they are isolated events that happen to one individual in a way that is never threatening to me as viewer. For once, the female is not the victim. And since I'm not a middle-aged man who has either a) tortured women, or b) had the luck of setting himself up with a crazy woman (nor am I a MAN period, for that matter), I of course don't end up feeling quite as threatened as when the main victim is a female (or is at least depicted as more of a "universal" character that everyone can relate to). So it lacks a bit of universality in the way that, say, The Exorcist does not because the threat is from something that is unstoppable and can strike at anyone. But despite my qualms about it being a "scary" movie rather than merely a "disturbing" one, I must say, both the main female character (Asami) and the bag freaked the shit out of me. Never in a movie has a bag been so fucking scary. I think the moment its contents are revealed will be etched in my brain forever. No doubt. Contradictory, you ask? No--because both are isolated entities within the movie, and neither one fails to make the movie as a whole scary to me.

    Originality: Hmmm. Dating fling turns into horrific stalker/madness episodes--let us turn to Fatal Attraction and a handful of other movies to help us out here. Audition is nothing new on this front--however, the insane female character will chill you to your core in a way that Glenn Close never even came CLOSE to.

    Complaints: Something about the way this movie is filmed makes it feel like it's made-for-tv more often than not. And when Takashi Miike tries for hand-held moments of terror, these moments look silly and even MORE made-for-tv-ish, killing the moments of suspense rather than heightening them. My other big complaint is that it took the movie at least 45 minutes to get rolling. I'm all about character-development and understand that this is essential in this movie so that we see that the main male character is not remotely a bad guy. But the first 45 minutes were RIDICULOUSLY slow. I saw the Bravo clip where they talked about why it made it to #11 on the list of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments, and everyone discussed how this slow crescendo is undoubtedly what made this film so terrifying. And yes, I can see the argument for that. But nonetheless, the first 45 minutes were really really slow. And this did not please me too much. Also, a new pet peeve of mine is the torture and killing of animals in horror films to emphasize the horrificness and unfeelingness of the villains. This is overused and a cheap shot, in my opinion. Of course everyone's heart is gonna drop when they see a dog that's been tortured--the challenge is getting the same effect in a DIFFERENT and less cheap and easy kind of way. And finally, *POTENTIAL SPOILERS* the last 20 minutes or so of this film are some of the most gruesome torture scenes I've seen in a long while. This definitely made the movie creepier than it otherwise would've been, but my feelings on the scenes were mixed. The Asami character is out and out terrifying in these scenes--chanting all cutesy and giggling with glee while she tortures the main character. It offers up some disturbing images. But I left wondering if these images were just empty ones. /END SPOILER

    High Points: That damn bag. It will leave you intrigued and horrified. Especially when its contents are revealed. The shots of Asami and the bag are some of the scariest film-moments I've seen in a while. And Eihi Shiina who plays Asami is mind-blowingly terrifying once her sweet-girl mask is taken off. I doubt that I've seen a female villain quite so terrifyingly insane. Which leads to probably my favorite aspect of the movie: the weird gender-politics in the movie. The movie (and main character?) conflate all women into one during the final scenes of the movie in a haunting kind of way. And the villain conflates all males into one as well. This certainly is a bizarre and unsettling case of gender equality as stereotypes go, and fucked up gender equality at that. Audition offers up some intriguing moments though, moments perhaps worth exploring more by some feminist theorists or some fellow movie geeks.

    Overall: I haven't quite settled on whether or not I like this movie enough to recommend it. I most definitely have no interest in watching it again. But I am glad that I saw it as it is an interesting flick and offers up some madly haunting images that will stick with me for a long time. As I write this and work through my own thoughts on the film, I am left thinking that, yes, I would recommend it. Don't expect anything fast-paced because this movie is one slow (but carefully) moving bugger. But the pay-off in the end is terrifying and will perhaps make it worth while. And if nothing else, you can say that you saw the #11 scariest movie moment ever.

    Grade: B (?)

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    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    I'ma Theory Yo' Ass

    Here be a good and interesting feminist essay on women in horror films:

    The Final Girl: A Few Thoughts on Feminism and Horror

    "While most theorists label the horror film as a male-driven/male-centered genre, Clover points out that in most horror films, especially the slasher film, the audience, male and female, is structurally 'forced' to identify with the resourceful young female (the Final Girl) who survives the serial attacker and usually ends the threat (until the sequel anyway). So while the narratively dominant killer's subjective point of view may be male within the narrative, the male viewer is still rooting for the Final Girl to overcome the killer."

    Also offers an interesting look at the huge differences between women in American horror films vs. women in Euro horror...

    Read it.

    The Exorcist

    --Reviewed by Lindy Loo

    Again, this seems almost silly to review. If I had to pick the scariest movie of all time, this would be it. But, of course, read on! Read on!

    Plotline: A young and sweet girl named Regan starts to deteriorate into a foul-mouthed psychotic child and no psychiatrists can figure out why. Her mother must turn to a priest in the hopes of getting her daughter an exorcism.

    Scariness factor: As I've said, this is the SCARIEST movie I've had the pleasure of seeing. Last night was probably at least the sixth time I've seen it, and it still scares the crap out of me. It has fantastically creepy special fx, the demon voices will rattle you to your core, and the sheer simplicity of a young and sweet girl calling people cunts and motherfuckers is enough to leave you unsettled.

    Originality: This has originality out the ass. At the time it came out in the theaters, it was such a new and scary concept to push this kind of horror so over the top that people literally would be sick in the theater, pass out, run out, etc. That *ROCKS*. And the fact that the movie focuses on an exorcism was also new and original at the time, and scared people into believing again.

    Complaints: Absolutely none. I could probably make a preferential case for the original over the new "version you've never seen," but even that is not worth my time and energy. This is a GOOD movie.

    High Points: Every damn second of this movie. The acting is fantastic, especially from the young Linda Blair and the two priests. The special fx are HORRIFIC--puke explosions, Regan's flesh rotting away, her levitating off the bed. The movie is so scary because it's so damn convincing and realistic--this is what shocked people's socks off when it came out. And it's actually maintained its scariness over the thirty-two years it's been out--I still know people who refuse to watch it because it scares the crap out of them, and for a movie to transcend time like that (and not lose its scariness decades later) is an impressive impressive feat.

    Random Cool Movie Trivia: HERE

    Overall: You must see this movie if you haven't.

    Grade: A+

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    Sleepy Hollow

    --Reviewed by Lindy Loo

    Plotline: Icabod Crane is sent to a remote village to investigate the beheadings of a handful of victims. In his attempts to uncover the mystery behind the Headless Horseman and figure out why he has returned from the dead, he falls in love, battles with townsfolk and imposter Headless Horsemen, and faints too many times to count.

    Scariness factor: The first time I saw this movie, I was not impressed. In fact, I was kinda bored. I think I am one of the rare few who is not totally blown away by every single one of Tim Burton's films. And maybe I just wasn't into it that night. But watching it this time around, I was impressed that it offered up such a good variety of spooky moments. Christopher Walken has the creepiest teeth ever. Thankfully he never speaks, so he maintains his freakiness throughout the whole film. It probably won't knock your socks off in that gut-punching way that The Exorcist or something does. But it is a good ride--the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the idea of the Headless Horseman is a creepy one, and Burton definitely does it justice. (See creepy teeth below)

    Originality: It is an adaptation of the Washing Irving story, and it HAS been done before. So while not original in its efforts perhaps, the tale itself is an original and classically spooky one, and the high-quality moments of classic horror from the book are nicely dealt with here.

    Complaints: I think there were some moments of crappy logic that plagued me while I was watching the film, but they were not disastrous enough for me to even remember now while I write this. So I can't really think of anything too major to complain about here.

    High Points: Johnny Depp cracks me up in this movie. His portrayal of Icabod Crane is a delight (if I can take a moment to sound old ladyish). I was smitten with him back in his 21 Jump Street days, and I must say--I'm proud of my taste, even as far back as primary school, because Depp has done good with himself. He never turns down a weird character and has been favored by some damn good directors, appearing often in their films (Jim Jarmusch, Tim Burton, etc.). And he keeps up this trend in Sleepy Hollow as well. This movie is also fantastic visually. There were hordes of times that I found myself thinking it looked like an old painting--both the characters and the scenery. I actually think this might be one of my visually favorite Tim Burton movies simply because he does such a nice job capturing the atmosphere and time period of the tale.

    Overall: This was an enjoyable movie. Perhaps it won't scare you to your core, but it *will* give you the creeps, in that classic horror kind of way. Check it out.

    Grade: A-


    Ginger Snaps

    --Reviewed by Lindy Loo

    This is in my list of Top 5 Favorite Horror Movies, so you probably don't even need to read any further to guess at my opinion of the movie. But in case you've never even heard of it and wanna be in the horror movie loop, read on...

    Plotline: Dogs start turning up dead in the suburban neighborhood of Ginger and Brigette, two teenage sisters. What has been attacking them soon ends up attacking Ginger as well. The movie chronicles the transformation of Ginger into a werewolf (and sexualized teenager) as her younger sister struggles to find a remedy for her "curse."

    Scariness factor: This movie is damn creepy and has some very good special fx--it has one of the few werewolves that has actually looked creepy and impressive, even in a close-up. There are many scenes that will make you jump, and if not, it will at least get under your skin.

    Originality: I don't know the history of female werewolves in horror cinema, but I think the pickings are slim. And that is precisely what makes this movie interesting--the interweaving of the werewolf transformation with pubery/sexuality with strange fairy-tale like moments make it a really interesting trip. It is also a fantastic film to examine with a feminist eye, for precisely all the reasons just listed--in the movie, sexuality and puberty take the symbolic form of "lycanthropy." How cool and mind-blowing is that?

    Complaints: I am hard-pressed to really think of any. The acting is bad from extraneous characters at times, but that is really just me trying to pick at something in order to fill up this space.

    High Points: Mainly what I love about this film is how fiercely interesting it is on a feminist level. I would love to write a paper on the damn thing--one day. But if you could give or take feminist theory and "all that crap," the movie still has a lot to offer: decent acting (esp. from Emily Perkins who plays the main character), damn creepy special fx (Ginger's transformation into a werewolf, complete with a fleshy tale that she must tape to her leg and patches of unexplained "hair" which her guidance counselor tells her "is typical for girls her age," is excellent), and a really wickedly dark sense of humor. It also has a nice insightfulness into high school life, one quite similar to Carrie, providing a grittier and more realistic account of the the joyous cliques and ostracization of being a high school student rather than just offering up the typical horror movie stereotypes.

    Overall: I heart this movie. It blew my mind the first time I saw it--it definitely has not gotten the media attention it deserves. I am amazed that it looks so shitty from the cover of the movie and (as far as I know) never made it to the big screen. This is a fantastically *INTERESTING* and creepy movie, and, as a horror movie fan, you *MUST* see this at some point otherwise, well, I suppose I'll just have to hunt you down and tear you apart with my teeth.

    Grade: A