Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dracula (1992)

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: Jonathan Harker is a lawyer sent to Europe to take over the job of a previous lawyer who has gone mad. Upon arriving in Europe, he quickly finds out why. He is imprisoned by Dracula, the man whose services he is under. Dracula in turn realizes that Harker's wife is his own lost-love returned and begins to take steps to get her back.

Scariness factor: It has its spooky moments.

Gross-Out Factor: Chopped off heads. Many of them.

Complaints: I *adored* this movie in high school. I was a bit smitten with the whole vampire-mystique, and I still find it tremendously sexy. However, watching this again, it seems so very DATED to me. Perhaps this is because Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder are in it, and it makes me feel like I'm back in the days of Bill & Ted and Reality Bites, but I'm not quite sure. Nonetheless, it just seemed a bit silly to me at points. Presumably Francis Ford Coppola was trying to capture some of the mood of older Dracula/vampire movies with silly things like eyes in the sky or shadows moving around unaccompanied by their masters. But it just felt SILLY most of the time. Which was disappointing to me. Plus: seriously: Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves are just SO not good in this movie. Watching Keanu Reeves is like watching a cardboard cut-out of himself PLAYING himself. And Winona Ryder is like watching every other character she's played, but this time wearing big floofy dresses and talking with a weird accent. I *will* say that I may be a bit harder on this movie than I normally would be, simply because I held this movie so close to my heart in high school and it just didn't live up to what I remember, so take that as you will. (I still suspect I will have some of you yell at me for rating it so low.)

High Points: Gary Oldman. Bless his heart. I adore the man, and with good reason. He is one of the only actors in this movie that makes it believable. He is sexy. And creepy. And hideous. And he's actually able to pull off the "aging face-makeup" that they used on him to make him look ancient. (On the other hand, they thought, for some reason, that just putting some wholly artificial gray in Keanu Reeves' hair would age him--instead it just makes him look like an even BIGGER jack-ass.) Oldman also manages to pull off a fake Transylvanian accent, which kept making me think, "Yeah, I buy it." He is the only thing in this movie that feels like it's aged well and hasn't become representative of the '90s. Oh, and there ARE some sexy vampiric moments, so that was nice. But I don't know if it made up for Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder.

Overall: Watch it. Don't watch it. Do as you will.

Grade: C+


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Horror Movie Night at Visible Voice Books...

This past weekend, Visible Voice Books, the bookstore down the street from me, showed a bug-related horror-movie double-feature in their screening room, and I went to check it out. They ended up with a little over half a dozen people and, thankfully, the perfect crowd: folks who like to make snide comments throughout the film but thankfully were FUNNY. (I've run into some viewings where the folks making comments weren't funny. At all. And that can really make or break a campy movie.)

For more information about the movies we watched, read on...


--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: When a "city-slicker" comes to town to visit his girl, he finds out he may have bitten off more than he can chew. He immediately makes enemies with the sheriff, only to find out that, even worse, all the worms in town have become electrified and are now killing people, and he and his girl have no one to turn to for help.

Scariness factor: Glorious glorious campy scariness.

Gross-Out Factor: Worms. Burrowing into flesh. That's about the extent of it.

Complaints: None.

High Points: This was the most glorious, campy horror-movie gem I've seen in quite sometime. The main characters are terrible actors. The characters themselves are ridiculously silly but awesome. Every tense worm-related attack-scene involves stock footage of close-ups of worms, accompanied by shrill screaming noises. The movie makes little to no sense (just like most gloriously wonderful campy films). The special fx are SO ridiculous. The scenes with mass-quantities of attacking worms will have you laughing out loud. And since worms are like the LEAST threatening thing that could possibly attack a person, you KNOW it's got to be a good film.

Overall: If you can find it, rent it with a group of friends, and laugh your asses off.

Grade: A (camp)

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Kingdom of the Spiders

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: Livestock starts turning up dead in a small town, with no indication of what's killing them. After some scientific investigations, it's concluded that spider venom is the cause of their deaths. As Shatner and his goons look further into the puzzling source, they stumble across hundreds of enormous spider-hills. Shortly after, the spiders begin to attack humans. Shatner must save them all.

Scariness factor: *snark*

Gross-Out Factor: You DO get to see a hand blown off with a gun which was pretty sweet. But other than that, fairly low-key.

Complaints: Even campy movies can be bad. In this case, Kingdom of the Spiders was a bit too slow for its own good. Even if the point of watching the movie is to make fun of it, you still want it to move quickly. This film did not. Also a bit disconcerting about this movie was the fact that I think it may have been filmed before animal-protection laws, so I think a lot of the spiders (which appeared to be tarantulas) were actually getting smashed. All of us watching it were a bit appalled by that fact.

High Points: It had William Shatner as the lead, so I of course expected some juicy campy goodness. And Shatner thankfully lived up to his name, swaggering around the screen and making passes at lady doctors. The movie also had lots of pretty damn funny moments, from a woman shooting off her hand to get a spider off her, to Shatner being attacked by hundreds of spiders. Good stuff. It also was COMPLETELY devoid of any sort of logic, which was enjoyable as well. And Shatner's a total slut. But again: unfortunately it was kind of slow-moving, otherwise this would've been another gem.

Overall: If you like to make fun of Shatner, definitely check it out. Otherwise, you could take it or leave it.

Grade: C (camp)

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--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: Joshua is a little boy who just doesn't fit in with the rest of the kids. When his mom has a new baby, Joshua's habits seem to get stranger. And then the baby won't stop crying, and Joshua's mom becomes a bit unraveled. What will happen to the family?

Scariness factor: It's definitely not jump-in-your-seat scary, but it leaves you in a constant state of uneasiness, wondering what's going to happen next.

Gross-Out Factor: Nil.

Complaints: Honestly, I really quite liked this movie except for the very final scene (which was probably the last three minutes of the movie). The final scene I thought kind of took the punch out of the crescendo of the rest of the movie. Like I wanted something MORE, or something DIFFERENT, or SOMETHING. I was sort of just left wondering what the hell.

High Points: As I mentioned, I really enjoyed this movie quite a bit (thanks, Bijoux, for recommending it). I was a bit concerned because immediately, when it's a movie about a little dark-haired child, it's hard not to think The Omen (which is a lot to live up to), but the movie set my mind at ease about that--it doesn't feel like it's trying to cling to the same sort of themes that are in the other film. What was so chilling about this movie was how understated everything is. And how you're never quite sure what's happening. I didn't read anything about the movie before seeing it, so I was never quite sure what direction it was about to head off in: "Is the mom insane?" "Is there something wrong with Joshua?" Etc. And when things finally start to fall apart, even THAT becomes chilling because you're NEVER QUITE SURE until the very end. And the second to last scene is AWESOME and HARROWING and CHILLING, again, all in a strange and understated sort of way: you don't know whether to be horrified by Joshua or horrified by his dad. (Sam Rockwell plays the dad, btw, and he's awesome in it--but I tend to like him anything--which makes the movie feel that much more believable.) I mean seriously, all in all, if it weren't for the last three minutes of the movie, I think I would've been rather impressed. But unfortunately the last three minutes exist, but what can you do?

Overall: Boo the ending, but rent it for the rest of the film. Just don't expect high-paced action or scares. It's very quiet and understated, but that's what's so chilling about it.

Grade: B+


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

We All Scream for Ice Cream

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: A man returns to his home-town with his family, only to find that the town (and his childhood gang of friends) are being haunted by a creepy-clown ice-cream man that they'd done wrong to. If the child of one of the aforementioned men bites into the "special ice cream" that the creepy clown ice-cream man is selling, their father melts into a puddle of ice cream.

Scariness factor: Not so much. I just kept thinking, seriously: that little ice cream jingle? Moreso irritating than scary.

Gross-Out Factor: The people die by melting into ice cream, so for the most part, not too gross. Though there IS one inexplicable slow-melting-of-flesh scene that could make one a bit squeamish.

Complaints: The movie wasn't terrible, it just wasn't anything amazingly impressive. The acting is fairly cardboard. The plot-line is a little bit weird and farfetched: Did the boys never get punished for killing somebody? Why does no one else seem to notice the ice cream truck that comes in the night accompanied by billowing clouds of smoke? And it just really wasn't that spooky. I tend to think that if YOU as the viewer wouldn't be threatened by the situation if placed in the movie (which, in this case, we wouldn't, since we weren't a member of the boy-gang that killed the ice cream man), it's hard to feel quite so threatened by the events taking place. The worst part, however, of the whole movie was the stupid repetition of the trying-to-be-creepy "I scream, You scream, We all scream for ice cream" jingle.

High Points: The first scene where you realize that the people die by melting into a pool of ice cream was pretty damn sweet--I dug the special fx in it. There were also a few decent campy moments, though pretty few and far between.

Overall: It's a short flick--only 60 minutes--so if you're intrigued by the notion of death-by-ice-cream, then you should check it out. Otherwise, if you don't ever end up seeing it, it won't be too big a loss.

Grade: C


Black Sheep (2006)

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: A young man with a sheep-phobia returns to New Zealand to sell-out his half of the family farm to his brother. However, while he's home, something strange goes wrong with the country sheep and they begin to brutally attack and kill people.

Scariness factor: Impressively tense at moments--who'da thunk that sheep could be so damn creepy?

Gross-Out Factor: Pretty violent in parts, but sometimes a bit campily so.

Complaints: Nil.

High Points: I actually really enjoyed this movie much more than I was expecting. Not only did it somehow manage to make sheep really damn spooky, it also managed to balance this spookiness with a really damn enjoyable sense of humor. Even just the picture below makes me laugh out loud remembering the scene from which it's been cut. Little jabs at environmentalism and vegetarianism also popped up occasionally and actually had me laughing out loud because of the timing. And the sight of hundreds of killer sheeps barrelling down a hill towards unsuspecting victims also had me cracking up because it was so absurd and funny-looking and yet somehow rather terrifying. The special fx were also BRILLIANT and old-school which really impressed me quite a bit. There was probably some CGI snuck in there, but if there was, it was very skilled CGI because I wasn't able to pick any moments of it out. Otherwise, the transformation scenes of people into sheep as well as the attack scenes were awesomely old-school and VERY masterfully done. Think of some of the classic werewolf-transformation scenes, and you've got Black Sheep, except this time with sheep instead of werewolf shape-shifting. The acting was also the exact perfect combination of good and yet slightly over-the-top.

Overall: I really thought this movie rocked. It was both scary and yet had me laughing really hard at the absurdity of the sheep-plot as well as at the fact that they somehow managed to do such a good job at making sheep scary. If you can get your hands on it, do so. One of the better horror flicks I've seen in a while.

Grade: A