Monday, January 09, 2006

Toolbox Murders

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: Girl and boy move into new apartment complex. Apartment complex is piece of shit and filled with crazies. Murders take place. Stupid girl tries to figure out murders. Mysteries uncovered. Mysteries make no sense.

Scariness factor: *Fart* About as scary as a cheese cracker. This is made all the sadder by the fact that the lovely Tobe Hooper (of Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame) directed this lame excuse for a horror movie.

Gross-Out Factor: Fairly high for the squeamish. Though not vomit-in-your-seat disgusting.

Complaints: New pet peeve: movies that latch onto some "clever" horror movie idea (i.e. a murderer who kills each person with a different tool) and concoct same sorry, weak excuse for a plot around it just so they can exhibit "clever" horror movie idea (which really *isn't* so clever in the first place). This movie was one such example: the plot basically revolved around inventive ways of killing people with various tools. Yippee. And a mystery is built-up, but once it starts being unraveled, it makes little to no sense. I'd give spoilers here to bitch about them, but really, it seems moreso a waste of my and your time.

High Points: Nada nada limonada.

Overall: This movie bored me. Bored and failed to scare me. And it was ridiculous on top of it. It really made little logical sense once the murderer was revealed, and it completely failed to make me wanna CARE as to whom the murderer was. Rent the Texas Chain Saw Massacre instead.

Grade: D-


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Land of the Dead

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: Zombies have taken over the world, and the remaining human beings have formulated ways of dealing with them on a daily basis. Many have holed themselves up in a protected area of the city where the zombies are kept at bay. But for how long? These zombies have started to develop reasoning capabilities and are slowly figuring out how to get what they want without being destroyed.

Scariness factor: I don't think there was one moment in the movie where I found myself tense or scared for anyone. As I will discuss momentarily, this movie was way too seamless and slick, and it took away from the scary grittiness that it could've possibly had.

Gross-Out Factor: Fairly high, but in that zombie kind of way.

Complaints: The slickness of certain new movies is starting to take a toll on their scariness. Land of the Dead is one such movie. Not to say that a slick MTV-feel in a horror movie NECESSARILY means it will be bad--the remake of Dawn of the Dead is as slick as a lubed up jar of lotion in a pool of Jello (yes--worst simile ever) but it has a sense of humor about itself that makes this slickness a fun-filled success. Land of the Dead does not. It is too smooth and not gritty enough, especially for a zombie movie. The special fx are yawn-perfect. I never once squinched my eyes up out of disgust or squeamishness, and there's a lot of gore. But all of it was so slick that I kept being reminded that, yes, it was in fact a movie and not real. I also found the notion of zombies starting to acquire "emotions" (which is presumably what Romero was trying to imply when one zombie shot another zombie that was on fire, apparently to "put him out of his misery") to be a silly one--what's creepy about the idea of zombies is that they are emotionless automatons who function only to destroy and eat human flesh. If they start to acquire emotions, then really what distinguishes them from humans really (other than the whole cannibalism thang)? And finally, Romero has made some kick-ass zombie flicks: Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Both are fun and interesting zombie flicks. And both are interesting reflections and commentaries on the social climates of the time. The end of Night of the Living Dead is a horrifying twist, one that offers up a shocking look at the racial climate of the '60's. And Dawn of the Dead offers an entertaining look at American consumerism. Land of the Dead seemed to want to veer into some kind of social commentary as well--little remarks on terrorism, the downfalls of capitalism, etc. etc. But unlike the other two movies, it tries too hard to make something out of nothing, falling flat instead.

High Points: I like zombie movies, so that sheer fact makes a zombie flick entertaining to me. But more specifically to this movie, the notion of a long-term zombie epidemic is a fun one. Romero came up with a clever twist on the over-used zombie motif with this idea--I mean, what WOULD our daily life become like if we were confronted with an apocalyptic land where sheer survival was at the foreground of daily existence, where we could be torn apart at any wrong move? Granted, his exploration of this idea is not a very interesting one--for example, why does everyone always dress like silly renegades in apocalyptic movies? I mean, if I were in a land of zombies, I don't think my first concern would be to track down leather jackets and gritty army boots... The movie itself does not do the idea behind it justice--it could've been much bleaker and much more thoughtful. But at least the idea was an interesting one.

Overall: Eh. I could take or leave this movie. There are many better zombie flicks though, so if you're in the mood for one, I'd say to check out Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead or even the Dawn of the Dead remake. If you've seen all those, then yeah, Land of the Dead is an ok, if humdrum, last resort.

Grade: C/C-


Wolf Creek

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: A group of three friends decides to take a backpacking trip into the Australian outback. Upon their return from a hike into the Wolf Creek crater, they find that their car won't start. Things continue to get worse from there.

Scariness factor: This was one of the most realistic horror flicks I've seen in a while. It was gritty. The characters reacted to their bizarre situation in ways that seemed honest and convincing. Minus a couple stupid moments where the movie slipped into making mistakes that horror movies always tend to make (one of the main characters who is trying to desperately escape her captor takes a gratuitously long time to view not just ONE videocamera's footage but TWO), the movie really felt real. And it's this realism that made it horrifyingly scary at times--not jump in your seat scary, not slasher film scary, but scary in the sense that it effectively captures what it must feel like to be in the grips of an insanely scary person intent on torturing and killing you just for fun.

Gross-Out Factor: High high high. The crux of this movie rests on the brutal torture of three hikers, so there is much blood and much brutality, all of it horrifyingly realistic. Not for the squeamish.

Complaints: The movie did such a nice job capturing seemingly realistic responses to an extremely horrifying situation until, of course, the video camera scene. Why horror filmmakers insist on setting up stupid unconvincing situations just to fill us in on back-story is beyond me. My biggest biggest complaint, however, is the ending. I have never seen such a completely abrupt ending, particularly in a horror film. The end of Jeepers Creepers probably comes the closest, but I was far more disappointed with the end of Wolf Creek, mainly because it really kept me going and creeped me out up until this point. And then suddenly: *POOF* the end. It felt as though the filmmakers suddenly realized that they never wrote an end to the thing, and were trying to snap their fingers next to our heads so as to distract us from this fact. Damn them.

High Points: This movie has some surprisingly beautiful visual moments, of Australian landscape, of light playing against darkness. It was definitely a visually impressive movie, particularly for a horror film. The acting is also quite good, especially for a horror flick. All three main characters are very good at casually playing victims. And the villain was most impressive as well, his performance terrifying throughout. Its realism was also a definite high point. It is gritty and terrifying, despite having such a shitty ending.

Overall: I'd recommend seeing it simply because the majority of the movie is quite well-done. Just prepare yourself to be disappointed in the end.

Grade: C (taking the shitty ending into account)/A (up until the shitty ending)

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: A small-town doctor returns home to find that things in the town have gone awry--folks are acting strange, as though a mass hysteria of mental problems is sweeping through. Folks are accusing other folks of not actually BEING who they're supposed to be. Things start quickly unraveling as pods are discovered and duplicates of already-existing people are found as well.

Scariness factor: I love the notion of this movie--that we may not be who we think we are and that others may not be as well. But, well, it's a 1950's flick, and so is a bit lacking with regard to scare-factor.

Originality: I'm doing away with this category unless it's extremely pertinent, as it's starting to get on my nerves.

Gross-Out Factor: (New category) Given the fact that it was made in the 1950's, the gross-out factor is of course very very low. No gushing blood, no ripped off heads. Rest assured.

Complaints: The same old idiotic shit that people do in horror movies that puts them in more peril than they originally were in. Oh, and WHO WEARS FANCY DRESSES ALL DAY LONG? I mean, dude--the female love interest shows up spontaneously at the doctor's office in a strapless poofy dress to "just drop by." Maybe this is more of a women's lib complaint, but jesus christ am I happy that we don't dress like that any more. *Rebuttoning corset*

High Points: Moreso the premise than anything. The idea is a creepy one and calls into question metaphysical ideas about what makes us who we are and defines us as human beings and individuals.

Overall: 1950's horror flicks don't offer (me at least) the same kind of scares as those from the 60's and on, so watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers stemmed more from a desire to dip into the classics and expand my horror movie pool than anything else. But all in all, it was a fun watch--not too scary at all, offering no jumps or tense moments, but enjoyable.

Grade: B+