Wednesday, November 23, 2016

3+1 Short Paragraphs: Jason Bourne

2016, Paul Greengrass (Green Zone) -- download

Built like a brick shit house. It was something my family used to say, either my mother or my father, but really neither of them were ever so crude. The one time I got my father to scream "fuck!" at me, I had frustrated & angered him so much, he chased me around the house with a shoe. I am sure whomever would have inspired that idiom, would have deserved it.

Jason Bourne begins the latest Bourne movie built like a brick shit house. Seriously, after the skinnied down kid from The Martian he is absolutely gigantic. His troubled past has left him lost, angry and taking the pain out on others in the back alley street fights of Istanbul; or was it Greece? He knocks people down, takes money and moves on. Jason can never really escape what he was, nor what discovering made him end up doing. There is a lot of blood on his hands, and not of those who can get up again. Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) knows this, and is trying to help him find out who made him who he is, who he was. You thought we already knew? Nope; another enigmatic weirdly named program has emerged and with it, the names of others have as well -- including Jason's (David Webb actually) own father. Jason has some more digging to do.

The problem with this movie is that it is do deeply steeped in the format of the others. A woman with only his best intentions at heart has to die. There has to be a sniping in a crowded pubic place. There has to be a chase in an exotic locale, there has to be a car chase in a western locale. And there has to be another old white man at the centre of all of it. This time, the more-moral-than-old-white-guys female character is Alicia Vikander, but at least she gets to play a bit more nuanced than Joan Allen. I just wished her terrible America accent didn't come with such nasal intonations. But she doesn't save this movie from the humdrum cookie cutter acts, which even so, I have to admit, are still rather thrilling to watch. Which is why more get made. Hell, I am the guy still likes the Taken movies, so who am I to talk.

One aspect of the plot had me pondering creative intentions. The Bourne movies always stood up to the recent American ideals that it was alright to do "whatever it takes to keep America safe". Jason Bourne, the assassin, was a product of that. But the man at his centre thought they had taken it too far. Along comes Heather Lee (Vikander) who says Jason is still a patriot, still a good tool for America as long as he is convinced to come back into the fold. So, is the movie setting a new tone for future entries in the franchise where the next program is more morally aligned with America of today? One where America will still use assets (assassins) but only in certain context? The fact that her duplicity derails her intentions may be the poignant statement, that there is no context where killing to further American agenda fits in.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Revenant

2015, Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman) -- Netflix

Holy crap, he fights a bear and almost dies!

That is the primary take away from the Internet hype machine. But no, much like other Iñárritu movies, the real focus is surviving only to come out the other side changed. So, yes he survives a bear attack, but that's only the beginning.

1823; trappers in the mountains of Louisiana -- almost the entirety of the western frontier was called Louisiana back then, a massive untamed wilderness still populated by Indian tribes and rife with furs. The trappers are attacked an incredible, wonderful scene with long shots and wide swings of the camera taking it in from all angles. For a moment, I thought I was watching a Cuarón movie. The survivors escape into the wilderness, pursued, among them is Hugh Glass (Leonardo Dicaprio) and his rival John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Hardy is in his element wearing thick skins and an even thicker hillbilly accent, a man tortured by having survived a scalping and annoyed at Glass's connection to the land. Dicaprio is Dicaprio, intense and focused and a little messed up. Enter lots of solemn, hazy remembrances.

Despite the sweeping epic of that opening scene, what struck me the most was the dialogue -- these are not men speaking in period accents, but seemed to be just a bunch of rural men speaking in rural tones, from all over the country, i.e. your classic redneck dialects. Even Domhnall Gleeson, playing the lone officer in charge of these wild men, carries off a decent aged American accent.

And then the fateful bear fight. It is simple enough, Glass bumps into the bear cubs and knows he is in trouble, spinning just in time to see the upset mama. Silly man thinks he can take it down with a one shot musket. After a big of rag dolling, and a bit of desperate stabbing, she does actually go down. Poor cubs.

The others find Glass, barely alive, torn up three ways to Sunday, and have to decide what to do next. They are still being pursued by the Indians, they still have the heavy load of whatever furs they escaped with and its not likely Glass with survive long. The deal ends with Fitzgerald, Glass's son and a young trapper staying behind with Glass, to be with him until his dying breath. Fitz, of course and who didn't see this coming, decides to just do away with Glass and his son, and head back to civilization for the furs, the pay day and the extra for having stayed with Glass.

And thus starts the real movie.

Glass survives, through sheer stubborn will and a desire for revenge. It drives him to drag his broken body across the ground, to gain strength from berries and twigs, to ride a river to safety, to take refuge with a friendly native, to just keep on going and going and going. The transformation comes with the typical spirituality you expect of these movies, but at the heart, it is human. To catch the man who killed his son, who left him to die, is all that Glass wants. He has nothing left in life.

Does he learn anything after having caught up with Glass? A little, but really, this movie is about seeing through what you set out to do, not a moral challenge for or against revenge. Once Glass has caught Fitz, the drive seems to fizzle out, and for the first time in weeks he seems to deflate, to relax. Unfortunately, now he has the rest of his life to face.

In case you were wondering, a revenant is an undead spirit, one that comes back from the grave to seek revenge on those who did him wrong.

Monday, October 31, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: In the Mouth of Madness

1994, John Carpenter (The Thing) -- download

OK, let's finish this thing off. The season was not entirely filled, a few days here and there missed and some TV entries added in to fill it out. But the last few days were derailed by bad downloads, a lack of Netflix and life. Still, we got this one in, one of our few ReWatch entries.

This movie is very Stephen King / Dean R Koontz meta as a very popular horror writer gets so sucked into the worlds he is creating, he may actually end up summoning Cthulhu. But the movie is not about the writer, but about John Trent, an insurance investigator for the publisher. The movie begins with Trent in dragged into an asylum after which he later recounts the story to the interviewing psychologist. He alludes to something happening out there.  It sounds rather apocalyptic.

Sutter Cane, the author in question, has gone missing... with the only manuscript to his latest book. Trent's a good investigator, and the Publisher, who has some connection to Trent's company, wants him to find Cane. Not sure why an insurance investigator would do such things, but sure, let's go along. Along with Trent, they send Cane's editor because, that makes sense.

Cane's book are a phenomena. They are said to actually drive the readers bonkers. In fact, there is a spate of madness going on right now, as his fans attack others and even one went after Trent with an axe. And Trent discovers that arranging the book covers creates a map to Cane's supposed fictional New England town, Hobb's End. At this point, I would have talked to the art department but they just decide to drive there.

And they drive into the not fictional at all little picturesque town that already starts up with some oooooo spooky encounters. From there, things get worse and weirder. Cane is there. So is his book. And its words are a summoning ritual which will summon Cthuluhian Dark Ones from The Void. For things to really take off, Trent must return with the manuscript, have it published and then all the spooky stuff will come true. Not sure why it took all the investigating and bizarre choices, but I suspect it was because Cane was a terrible writer and was plotting out all these occurrences from habit.

This is pure Carpenter, deeply seated in B movie land, fun to watch but oh so very dated. The late 80s / early 90s are so very prevalent in this movie, from  the fashion choices to the kinds of scares but somehow it all still works. You could almost make a tie to nostalgia contributing to the madness inducing plot. I think the movie is due for a post-apocalyptic sequel.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Paranormal Activity 3

2011, Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman (Catfish) -- download

Somewhere in our hunt for horror movies, Marmy found posts that stated this was the best movie of the series, maybe the best horror movie of that year. Yeah, they were wrong. Very wrong.

Sorry, but i don't remember the original supposedly ground-breaking found-footage horror movie, that started the whole "nice suburban haunted house" idea. I do remember it was all jump scares, and the only thing that lent any actual scariness to it, was that the direction made the family, and the footage, very authentic. Once you really establish the mundanity of a situation, even the most benign scare can have weight.

And that is the only bank these movies have.

This one takes place in the 80s, when one of the girls from the first one was just a kid. Younger daughter Kristi has an imaginary friend who lives in the toy closet upstairs. Things start to get weird when the invisible "friend" starts asking weird things of Kristi, things not even she is sure she wants to do.

Meanwhile mom's BF and his brother are setting up cameras around the houses because they think it would be cool to catch whatever is going on. What they do catch is completely unsettling and the brother just runs away. Mom is upset, but never actually watches the footage. She is entirely dismissive of the whole thing, despite the evidence something fucking weird is going on. Y'know classic Sceptical Character trope.

The best scare of the movie is the floating blanket ghost child thing. It works well when see through the eyes of not-so-hidden camera, but from the ghost's point of view. Who was he scaring? If he never allows anyone to actually see him being clever, what is the point? Until he gets to messing around in the kitchen, the baby sitter is not even scared. I get it, it is a staple of horror movies, where we see things that scare us but the affected character is oblivious. But, this was just annoying.

Speaking of annoying. After filling out two thirds of the movie with the idea of an imaginary ghost friend demon thing and its connection to the youngest daughter, the movie spills headlong into some sort of ancient, family witch connection. This is where a tolerable jump-scare movie just got 70s silly. But it was probably tying together connections hinted at in the other movies.

Meh.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Lights Out

2016, David F. Sandberg (lots of shorts) -- download

Wow, they actually gave Sandberg directorial control over the feature of his own fucking scary short. Yes, the original short (found here) is one of those popular jump-scares on the Internet. But the guy does a pretty good job of adapting the mysterious, no real reason required, creepiness into a weird ghost story full length film.

The lights on, nothing there, lights out, figure hunched in the shadows motif is one of those lizard brain horror concepts that I am incredibly surprised took this long to make it to the screen.  Well, as the focus of a movie. It, as it is an extension of the monster just out of the corner of your eye trope, has been around forever in one form or another. But this is the idea distilled. Click click click click. SHRIEK.

The initial idea (click click shriek) is introduced immediately with Moustache Dad (*ahem* an oblique reference to what Riff Tracks called Billy Burke in their dialogue for Twilight) being haunted and killed by said creepy monster. I like that; the movie banks on the probably-already-well-known aspect of its monster and puts it immediately to the forefront. The rest of the movie is why.

Now that screenwriter Eric Heisserer will be all over the Internet, for he also wrote the critically acclaimed (and incredibly challenging) screenplay for Arrival, I am sure we can get some insight as to why he and David chose to throw the monster in our faces right away.

Anywayz, flash forward to his family dealing with Moustache Dad's death. Mom, Maria Bello, was already dealing with trauma -- barely medicated depression and anxiety. Daughter Rebecca (surprisingly skinny Teresa Palmer) left years ago when her dad disappeared, but is now worried even more for her little half-brother who is left alone with Mom and Mom's imaginary, but still dangerous, friend Diana. The monster, Diana, is very protective of Mom and prefers her unmedicated.

The explanation of what Diana is pretty sketchy, but the movie has a fun time revealing just enough. And it doesn't hold back on whom Diana takes out. She's a monster, and does monstrous things even if you just happen to be in her way. Of course, the movie has to lead to her release, her destruction at the hands of a loving family. Sequel? Of course, we all know monsters can never really be killed, just dispelled until the next family comes along to draw up their power.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: We Are Still Here

2015, Ted Geoghegan -- download

OK, I am officially over this whole look-like-its-the-70s stylistic choice for horror movies. Set in the 70s is fine, but grabbing all the stylistic choices from that era are no long fun-because-its-weird. I pretty much despised the look & feel of the 70s in pop culture, even when I was living through it, and I still do now. And I recall always hating the tone of those 70s horror movies, the long drawn out tensions, the drab skies, the depressing lives.

This movie is one of those kinds where the reviews are almost entirely positive and the Likes are firmly in the "meh" range. So, I guess that solidifies the fact I am not "reviewing" movies, and by no means a critic (shaddup, you readers from the Red Dawn remake post) because I slide over to the meh camp. I can, no matter what the bulk of the reviewers say, see the stylish choices here. This movie seems to fluctuate between painfully dull and boringly atmospheric. We get it, its cold and they are isolated in an old host that has weird things going bump.

But is not that scary of a house. It is quite nice, in fact, but I never see the real reason they moved out here in the middle of nowhere. The couple is still dealing with the accidental death of their son, but I cannot see why isolation in the middle of February can be therapeutic. And once you add the weird weird welcoming committee and the injured electrician (burned by a ghost) I would have been packing up the idea as a bad one.

On top of the ghosts the movie keeps on referring to The House requiring sacrificial bodies. The townsfolk have to feed a family to the house, or a darkness from under the house will eat them. But they keep on creeping the family out. If they wanted the couple to stay, and get eaten by the house, then why all  the fucking boogey man stories about the family who did some horrible murdering in the house? Especially since its a lie, and said family was in fact murdered themselves and is haunting the house. And that. If the burn-y ghost family is angry, shouldn't it be directed at the townsfolk? But no, they burn, attack and bump the couple and their friends & family. Shouldn't the ghost family want to interrupt the sacrifice that took their lives, allowing the Thing Under the House to eat the townsfolk?

This movie must be only attractive to the horror hard cores and the never-watch-em-ever crowd, who just find something different because I didn't find anything appealing.

Good poster though.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Green Room

2015, Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin) -- download

HOLEY FREAKING CRAP !

This is definitely not a straight up horror movie in the thinnest attempts of stretching the idea, but I haven't been so stressed out about a movie situation in decades. This movie had me jumping from one edge of the sofa to the next, just on edge, my nerves on fire. If you want to feel really uneasy, see this movie.

There is something about supernatural horror or even psychological horror that allows you to remain separated from it. Its not real and you know that, and you can observe it from afar. But this is a movie about real evil, not the abstract kind but the very real kind you can encounter in the street. The monster at the centre of this movie is the white supremacist -- a word, I just learned how to spell/pronounce properly today.

A low key, nobody punk band on the west coast is having a rather unsuccessful tour. They steal food, they siphon gas, they sofa surf and they sleep in their van. When they are offered a small, short gig at a "boots n braces" event, for guaranteed money, they don't say no. They can do punk even if they don't like the audience. And they do, pulling off a short show in the woods in a compound which immediately screams "know your exits !!" But then one goes back to grab his phone and sees a murder.

This starts a tense, nail biting roller coaster of survival. They know they are fucked, but are just not sure how to move forward. The supremacists have them locked in the green room, negotiating with them in bad faith through the door. "Just give us the gun and you can go, " says Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in an utterly chilling roll as the leader, the guy who sees this as being as much about the crime business they run as the movement he leads. He has no intention on letting them go; they know it, he knows it but the charade has to be played out. Afterall, they're not monsters, right? Fucking right they are monsters -- very real, very tangible monsters whose whole belief system is at odds with the kids.

Like my mother was most disturbed by religious horror movies, because of her faith, I am entirely disturbed by fanatics, American fanatics. All you have to do is pay attention to the behaviour going on in the US right now as the election progresses (despite the date, the Americans are voting today) to know that evil is very real. And very scary. And can have an impact on your life. It doesn't matter if you are the subject of their hatred, they are just bad people and will do bad things to you if you get in their way.

The movie does not end well. Some of the kids survive but it is not a happy ending. It is depressing and disheartening, even to the point of leaving some of the more moderate skinheads completely drained by what has happened. Some people hate, some people fear but not even all of them are comfortable with utter evil. And I do believe that kind of hate is utterly evil.

P.S. This is going to be one of the last movies I will see Anton Yelchin in, and I honestly will miss him. I like him in his varied, differing roles. He was proving to be someone who was going to have a very interesting career ahead of him.  Fuck you death.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Mulberry St

OK, the Internet is back and has been stable for more than 24 hours. Going with out the Internet was astoundingly life interrupting. It has become a utility so much more than TV was, when I cut the cable. Not only couldn't we continue with our downloading of the last few flicks, but we had to cut 'I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House'. Via my phone I gave myself minimal Net access to update FB and the photoblog, but long form like this blog had to be left to the wayside.

P.S. Fuck Bell.

2006, Jim Mickle (Stake Land) -- download

I think this movie was in the leftover pile from Halloween seasons past. We just started watching media via Plex, which gives you posters/covers & synopses, while via the folder-based PS3 Media Centre, I found myself often asking, "Which one is that again?" And often there was no answer except IMDB. I saw Nick Damici's name and said, "Oh that one, let's watch it !"

I loved Jim's Stake Land which was seriously indie but incredibly sincere. That is my catch word for indie movies, that despite limited budgets and maybe a limited sense of experience (entire crew all around) make a well rounded movie. Too much of the indie crowd is lazy, making just enough of a movie to satisfy the film festival circuit and the genre movie blogs. I blame Asylum, who made doing good enough movies a sought after endeavour. Even there, bad movie as intent is fine; bad movie as laziness is unforgivable. And of course, some indie directors just don't know how bad they are. It's like student  & fan films, kids who are so enamoured with the process of making a movie, they cannot see how bad they are at it. But Mickle has skill and lots of fervour.

Mulberry St is also a sincere indie movie. Mickle spends a good amount of time building the world in which this movie is set. An apartment complex on Mulberry St in NYC, a falling down structure is filled with old tenants and a community of those who protect each other. Nick Damici is back (well, not back as this was done before Stake Land), as Clutch, unemployed ex-boxer. His daughter is returning from overseas war, her best friend is a transitioning young man with a crush on Clutch, the immigrant woman upstairs sees Clutch as a good catch. And so on. The building is a loose family.

And then the weird, indie, low budget horror movie emerges -- rat people infection. Yep, rat virus as an analog for zombies. In fact, they do the whole break down of NYC and quarantine of the city while our small group of people just trying to survive the night beat down as many rat people as they can. Its funny but its also deadly serious. But its also so very very low budget, which unfortunately takes something away from it all. I applauded his attempt, but couldn't buy into it entirely. Those rat people were just... goofy.

Friday, October 21, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Savaged

2013, Michael S. Ojeda (Deadliest Warrior TV show) -- download

This movie is now called Avenged. I guess they decided that the racially insensitive play on words was not in their best interest considering the current controversy in the sports world. But I don't think this movie has any qualms with controversy, and likely the name change was asked by distributors. Considering the movie is a rape revenge story, the idea of sensitivity was not considered. We live in a time where creative are finally realizing that the ultimate brutality does not have to be visited upon the fiction's victim. The societal baggage that comes with that is just not worth it.

So, plot summary -- deaf mute woman is raped & murdered. She comes back from the grave possessed by the spirit of a Apache chief who was betrayed and murdered a hundred years ago. She takes revenge on the racist redneck assholes who killed her.

This is a horror movie for the film festival circuit. Its low budget, but somewhat skillfully done. The director knows how to frame a shot and all the technical details are there, including the limited special effects. The unknown actors all do a serviceable job, including the lead Amanda Adrienne Smith who apparently answered a Craig's List ad. But the script. The script left a lot to be desired. People just don't talk that way. It is the classic fault of something that looks good on paper, but just wouldn't come out of a person's mouth that way. The main villain and the Magic Indian character have long streams of dialogue that obviously come from the writer's mind, not theirs.

As for the rest, the movie has a The Crow like quality to it, without the stylish pathos. Zoe the possessed is very aware she is dead, and won't be coming back to her boyfriend, so despite her having her hearing returned by the angry spirit inside her, she is not happy. That touch is nice, tragic and lifts the rest of the "chop the bad guys up with a tomahawk" story from the dirt.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: The Shallows

2016, Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan) -- download

OK, by this point, I have to admit that we have let Thriller leak into our viewing stream for this season. While there may be combo horror-thriller, many of the choices we have viewed have been pure thriller, without any thinly attempts at being a horror movie. Yes, the thin line between the two often ends up focused on the tone of the movie. Both have shocks and scares and intense moments, and it boils down to how the movie handles the characters, antagonist and protagonist. Usually a horror movie will focus only on the protagonist, where the antagonist is a mystery, an unknown.
Hush was definitely horror thriller, as it had lots of dark shadows, a mystery killer and was about the survival of the protagonist. The Ones Below was eerie with tense moments, a rather mysterious antagonist but was always in the open, very in your face as to why we were tense.

One could argue that The Shallows is a monster movie, just like Jaws was. In Jaws, there is no way we can accept that is a normal shark, as it seems to have malice, intent and incredible focus -- it is not just an eating machine. The shark that is harassing Nancy (Blake Lively) is of the same temperament. As a pair of his victims shout, "There are no sharks here!" so this guy is already out of his domain. And yet, there is no horror feel to this movie. This is pure thriller survival.

Maybe you cannot have horror on a bright, sunny surf?

It was good. But as you know, I like Small Movies.

Nancy is in med school, so the bite she gets can be taken care of. Still, she's bleeding and getting weak and is sitting on a rock for days without food & water. She's got a buddy, an injured seagull who hangs out on the same rock. She called him Stephen (#snicker) but I was referring to him as SharkBait. At least he wasn't a soccer ball.

When things really get going, this shark is just downright a monster! Seriously, he chomps and bites and rips apart everything without really wanting to eat it. The cast is small, so the body count is as well, but this is not about eating. Hell, he has a big stinky whale nearby so... why? Maybe I should re-think and sub-categorize this under Jaws. But no, this movie is not about replacing Roy Scheider with Blake Lively's bikini'd bum. This movie is it's own, more comparable to 127 Hours than anything.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: The Ones Below

2015, David Farr -- download

Family horror; specifically child rearing horror. At least with religious based horror, I have a Catholic background that can contribute to understanding it. But, much to my mother's chagrin, I am not having kids and don't really connect to the whole "we are having a baby, it's so beautiful" mindset. I get it, I am not against having kids, I just don't have the emotional connection and this movie was one of those that almost immediately drew upon it. Kate (Clémence Poésy) and Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) live in London, and are having a baby. Jon (the Governor himself, David Morrissey) and Theresa (Laura Birn) move into the flat below them. They are also having a baby.

Societal comments are my favourite details of horror movies. If the family in The Conjuring 2 couldn't leave their London home because they were poor, the families here have no such issues. These flats are incredible, and Jon & Theresa begin their connection to the story by renovating and landscaping the charming residence into something immediately creepy pastel. Seriously, the manicured lawn and precise angles at which they place the sunbathing chair in the back yard are something out vector-based advertising art -- think isometric art. Meanwhile, Kate & Justin are typically overworked, schlubby but look comfortable and charming. You can guess who I side with, who are meant to side with. And immediately judging happens between the two couples.

The horror begins almost immediately with a clash of the lifestyles, which unfortunately culminates in Theresa losing the baby. Jon's nightmarish reaction only solidifies our opinion of him; but can you blame him? Months later, Kate has had her little Peter and the downstairs couple return from their recovery to make amends and recover the friendship.

At this point you know where the movie is going to go. All the clues are there. It's now just the journey. Tension. Suspicion. It is meant to elicit the greatest horror from those who recently had children or are about to. But still, the movie is handled skillfully enough so that even I could feel the chill as to what was coming.

What, you may ask? I spoil everything else almost immediately? You should guess by now -- one couple - the creepy couple - lost their baby, and one couple - the ones we like - are happy with their new son. It's a thriller / horror. But at least Peter will grow up happy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: The Conjuring 2

2016, James Wan (Saw) -- download

Weird how James Wan, who did Insidious and the first Conjuring, also gets to do both sequels. We did both originals in years past, but the latter outside the season, which means we heard enough about it to see it as standalone movies instead of it them up for this time of year. As we did with the sequels. Sequels to these kinds of movies are often a rinse & repeat of the scares that made the first movie popular. We also have not seen the spiritual successor to The Conjuring, called Annabelle. Maybe next year.

OK, recap. The Warrens are paranormal investigators, a couple made famous by the Amityville house (yes, that one) and kind of haunted by it's popularity and infamy. They do the talk show circuit but are as often reviled as charlatans as they are celebrated for their abilities and successes. But the movie takes the seat that they, and we the audience, know what they do is very real.

This case takes them to London, England where a famous haunted house is all over the media and has reached the ears of the Church . Even the police have seen the activity. The poltergeist is so strong, that he even follows the haunted little girl across the street. When the Warrens show up, the house has already been trashed and the family is in a state of post-trauma having lived mostly sleeplessly for weeks, if not months, bearing the wounds and fright because they really have nowhere else to go.

The spirit is an old man, former resident of the house, one that is very malevolent and very angry. but there is something else going on, something that seems to betray the way the Warrens usually do these things. Is it a hoax perpetuated by a poor family who want a better way of life? Why is this old man, so angry so powerful?

There is something very Top 40 about the way these recent haunting movies are done, and as you know well, sometimes a Top 40 tune can get you humming even if its rather banal. The scares are all the requisite ones, but they are well done. You are not getting anything original here, but you are getting a good, solid haunting. A good not-solid haunting?

Monday, October 17, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Before I Wake

2016, Mike Flanagan (Oculus) -- download

"I am sure we will add his next piece to our next series."

OK, so I guess we are seeing Mike's next one a lot quicker than I expected. Delays and releases in different countries contributed to him having two movies premiere in basically the same year. Good for us!

Damn, that was good, playing into what I like in much the way Absentia did -- a mythology, a building of the world around the source of the scares. Where the other movie developed an actual other world, where creatures were creeping out of, this establishes a child who something other than you and I. Spoiler? No, not really. Almost immediately they reveal that Cody's sleep cycle is tied to the very real, very tangible things that appear. Butterflies, lost family members and something very very evil is the centre of this particular conjuring.

Mark (Thomas Jane) and Jessie (Kate Bosworth) are adopting Cody. Cody's been through the system and his last family literally abandoned him, leaving him alone in their apartment for over a month before he was found. Cody doesn't like to sleep; he drinks colas, he pops pills and has lots of sugar before bed. At first only he knows why, but after his stash is taken away, Mark and Jessie find out why. When he sleeps, his dreams take form. Butterflies made of Christmas bulbs and the child the couple lost, appear when Cody nods off. Jessie wants Cody to sleep as much as he can, because then she gets a moving, talking reminder of her drowned little boy. But then the other aspect of Cody's dreams appears -- The Canker Man, a terrifying, alien creature that is full malevolence.

It wouldn't be a horror movie without an antagonist, but I felt the movie wanted to be more about the wonder of Cody's powers. Obviously, a simple twist in the genre could have him being visited by Professor Xavier for inclusion in a certain school in upstate New York. But the Canker Man is there, and he is deadly. And fucking scary. Once Jessie realizes she is abusing Cody's power for something that is not real, she works hard to heal Cody, to deal with the Canker Man.  Both Cody and Jessie are left with consequences of her actions, but a new life to live out.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: The Hallow

2015, Corin Hardy -- download

As a D&D player, sometimes you see a monster in a movie and ponder, "That thing is a pretty low level, why so dangerous?"  OK, maybe just me. But seriously, any Fighter worth their level could have taken out the Ghoulies or even zombies. But if average people in movies are zero-level, then maybe you can accept them being torn to bits by 1/4 CR monsters. Now turn the tables, and take a rather innocuous monster from a D&D game, say evil Fey, and toss them against a government official and his wife. Instant horror movie.

OK, maybe not that silly.

But The Hallow (not the Hollow) is basically that, as creatures that would go well into any D&D game become the monsters in our world. Adam is the conservationist hired by the Irish government to identify regions of the ancient Irish forests that will be opened up for logging. I guess they imagine a conservationist will control it well enough, so it doesn't end up looking like British Columbia. But the locals don't buy it, and one even gets rather violent over it. But his concern is not exactly with the forest, but with what lives in the forest.

Adam find the horror staple -- black goo -- but with some quick study finds it to be a fungus with qualities like the cordyceps fungus, i.e. it takes over what it infests. And he finds signs of it in his house. Things between him and the violent local escalate, but Adam doesn't guess that the people messing with him and his wife are not quite human. And then they escalate their attacks, assaulting him in his car and his house, stabbing him in the eye in the process, a thin needle grown from that black fungus. It is very clear they are being attacked by something not human. Adam is infected and the creepy little Fey monsters (or are they just people & animals converted by the fungus?) steal his child. It takes him too long to remember that cold iron can help defend against the nasty things.

I loved the connections to old faeries tales and Irish dark mythology. The forests once covered Ireland until we burned and cut them down. The Fey were driven deeper and deeper into the wood. We essentially burned out the fungus. But why do they need a human child? What driving biological force needs a small human? Myth and biology blur in the terror and Adam is just in desperate need to protect his family before he turns.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Don't Breathe

2016, Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) -- download

Jane Levy, she of Suburgatory redhead fame, returns in Alvarez's next movie. This movie is not quite a horror, but it acts like a horror. With a different score, lighting and attitude it would just be a new Panic Room thriller. But it really latches onto the fear the characters feel which made it a good choice for this season.

Rocky, Money and Alex are low rent burglars breaking into the houses of Detroit's wealthy, stealing a bunch of junk and hocking it. Alex's dad is a security specialist and the kids' trick is to get in via stolen alarm codes, carefully take what they want, and then trigger the alarm after they leave. They are doing OK, but Money wants more money and Rocky needs more money, to escape an abusive mother & boyfriend combo. Alex is just tagging along because he's in love with Rocky. And along comes Money with the "perfect plan".

There is a single house on one of those now classic abandoned streets in Detroit. The owner won a ton of money in a wrongful death suit and has socked it away somewhere inside the house. And the owner is blind. Easy job, right? Of course not, for just as the writing about these kinds of movies is eerily familiar, so is the idea that it will never just be easy. Things have to go wrong.

The fear starts when Money gets caught. And it continues as the kids have to try and escape this house, a house where the Trumpish ideas of protecting property are in play -- he will kill them and not blink a blind eye about it. Just because he is blind, doesn't mean this ex-soldier is at a disadvantage. The fear gets set to 11 when they find someone in the basement that they shouldn't have.

This is a well done, stylishly built horror as thriller; thriller as horror? The monster is a solid brick of a man with a very amoral agenda. The kids are getting killed off, sans the promiscuity. And there is a Final Girl. There is even the haunted house motif, though it is really only haunted with danger.

Friday, October 14, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: The Loved Ones

2009, Sean Byrne (The Devil's Candy) -- download

From the get go, we said, "no torture porn." Yes, we are beating a dead horse (but not torturing him!) but I have come to realize its how the creator takes the torturish path that helps decide whether its is porn or not. At the heart of it, if the movie revels in the pain the victims are feeling, that we are as much rooting for the villain as we are "enjoying" the scenes of torture, then it fits into the sub-genre we enjoy.

But then you see something like The Love Ones where the core of the movie is all about torture, and yet it doesn't quickly fall into that categorization. Unless you are one sick fuck, I don't expect you will be rooting for Lola Stone and her twisted daddy. They are depraved people.

Brent is a high school kid who lost his dad not long ago. He's a tortured kid, who tests the limits of his own strength & endurance, and drags razors across his arm. He believes his mother blames him for his father's death. It's school dance season and he politely turns down Lola. Big mistake. Her dad drugs Brent, kills his dog and drags Brent back to their place so Lola can have her own dance night. With injected bleach and amateur trepanation.

The movie alternates between the scenes of Lola and her "family", the anguish everyone is feeling at Brent's disappearance, Brent's best friends rather messed up date to the dance and the very personal trials of the cop trying to find Brent. The rather lovely and brilliant focus of this movie is not (just) on the torture of Brent, which is horrific and graphic, but all the loved ones affected by what this family is doing, and has done numerous times in the past.

Brent is a kid who questions if he deserves to live, after his driving accident killed his father. This experience answers the question for him, and damn does he ever want to live. His response takes all the energy that has built up inside him over the past six months and explodes it outward against the Stones. Yes, he wants to live. YES !

And he does.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Falling Water & Channel Zero

Falling Water, 2016, USA Network -- download

This show comes out of nowhere, not really trying to connect itself to existing popularities. It is not horror but it is creepy enough to lend itself to this season. It is mysterious enough but I don't think it is going to jump down the Lost rabbit hole of mystery within mystery. I think they are going to run with the 'dreams connect us all' premise and expand.

Tess is a trend spotter, something I once thought I could have been good at, a person who wanders New York seeking out what things are emerging in the collective urban psyche, so her clients can popularize and exploit them. But she is a little disturbed, completely convinced she has had a child that no one knows about and she doesn't recall how she lost him. Burton is a company fixer and security specialist, who is obsessed with a lost lover, one who may or may not really exist. Taka is a cop investigating a suspicious death while being rather distracted by his vegetative mother. All three are experiencing waking dreams, dreams we are cued into by the visual of water flowing upstream, dreams that are somehow connected to each others.

While the show is eerie and stylish, I think it is leading to a Matrix style reveal. I think it wants a world where the reality these people know is not the base-reality, but something overlaid and in need of reveal. I think they are going to focus on the horror based tropes of fearful dreams, confusing dreams and shocks until it gets into full swing. I am just not sure if it will connect with its viewers long enough to reach that point.

Channel Zero: Candle Cove, 2016, SyFy -- download

Creepypasta is a digital age phenomena, something that only exists because of the sharing aspects of the Internet. Think spontaneously generated folklore written on the Internet, instead of being told person to person. When I was a kid, we told stories of a crazy man who escaped from "the butterscotch palace" who kidnapped children and did unspeakable things to them. If I had been born into this generation, I might have related the story on Reddit or other forums.

The most popular of them, the ones that ring true enough or resonate enough with the readers, grow a life of their own. Many people believe The Slender Man is a real urban legend, one that comes from out there and may or may not be true. But really, he was generated in a photoshop battle and the mythology came afterwards. Or did he really just emerge out of the collective psyche with Photoshop and the Internet as the entry media?

Candle Cove is one such creepypasta, that emerged as a series of fictional recollections on Reddit about a 70s TV show that the adults barely remember. The more they talk about it, the more it sounds like it didn't really exist but that a handful of young people who collectively hallucinated the show while watching the snow on a non-existent TV channel, i.e. channel zero. SyFy takes that premise and builds a show around it.

In episode one we meet Mike, a child therapist who had his own incredibly traumatic event as a child. A large number of children, including his twin brother, were abducted and murdered. He was the lone survivor. But there was more. Everyone knew the children were found missing all their teeth, but Mike knows what took the teeth. He just cannot come to terms with it. And he also knew there was some connection to an unsettling TV show he and his friends, and brother, were watching -- Candle Cove.

Mike is drawn back to his hometown where events are starting to spin up again. Children are watching the show. Things are happening in the woods. Everything is getting very very fucked up again.

I admit to drifting off while watching, being a little burned out, but I found the story telling to be very unsettling and disturbing, as it should be. I will have to rewatch ep 1 again and will definitely be tuning in for more. As long as I don't start seeing a puppet show on a channel that I didn't previously have before.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Last Girl Standing

2015, Benjamin R. Moody -- download

Themes. They seem to be the theme of the season.

The Final Girl, the Last Girl -- the socio-sexual comment on who deserves to survive an attack by a psychopath. She is usually the nice girl, the chaste girl, the one everyone roots for. Where all her (probably promiscuous) friends will die under the blade, she will go face to face with the killer and escape and/or kill him. Camryn is that girl; The Hunter was that killer.

This indie movie opens with promise, a classic camping weekend gone deadly wrong. Camryn survives, springing one of The Hunter's traps on himself. And then we get a fast forward of the years following: medications, hospitalization, a rising cult, people fascinated with The Hunter and disputes over his gravesite. Camryn emerges working a lonely, solitary job at a (Austin?) laundromat where she quietly washes and folds clothes, a routine that brings her home every night and avoids everyone. Until the new guy starts, and she starts seeing The Hunter again. Things are unraveling.

Is the cult active? Is she going nuts? Is the new guy in on it; are his friends? Is she being manipulated, toyed with? Do they have an end goal? Even with all these questions, I found myself very pissed off at whomever was fucking with Camryn. In your typical toned down indie way, the movie doesn't really make any character completely likable but nobody is really a bad guy, nobody is really exempt from possibly being Camryn's tormentor.

** spoilers **

And then the turn, the crescendo of the climax and it all falls apart. I was not particularly happy with the path it chose, to reverse fortunes and have Camryn become the legacy of The Hunter. She has finally cracked, finally succumbed to the pressures of her experience and sees disciples of The Hunter in everyone. And she kills everyone.

I felt ripped off. I get it, they want a twist, a reversal. But so much had been about Camryn recovering. And they tear that away from us and her. But there is another lone survivor...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Hollows Grove & Detention

Some movies are not even worth watching all the way through. And some are just those so straight forward, I just get up and do other stuff while it is going on. Until I lose all interest. We had to watch two just to feel like we were getting something.

Hollows Grove, 2014, Craig Efros -- download

OK, the premise caught me. I have already said how much I hate the actual ghost hunting TV shows (are they still on the air?) but Marmy likes them, so we have seen a few movies with them as the centre. But each movie version has always been from the point of view that they are legit, that they consider themselves real ghost hunters and are still seeking true evidence. But this one took a tact I liked, that they were just a TV show and were just at another location with a rep, building enough material from which to fake the episode with. And a friend is making a short doc on their show, so he is the camera watching the camera folk. That he would catch them faking their show seems against their best interest seems beside the point, but whatever, small budget movie -- script editing is last.

Mundane. Some good scares, some decent effects but mundane yawn boring. Ghosts, possessions, poltergeisting, etc. And the dumbest wrapper I have seen in years, with some droll FBI agent going on about how his team found the footage. Can't do a found footage movie without explaining how the footage was found. And they have other evidence, which is just an excuse for a final jump scare.

NEXT !

Detention, 2011, Joseph Kahn (Torque) -- Netflix

W... T... F... is this movie? Its like one giant gimmick gone awry. Its a slasher movie, its a teen comedy, its a gonzo scifi movie, its a .... forget it, I am going to bed.

Detention is that movie on Netflix with the weird Deathnote-ish poster which stars John Hutcherson, the "popular" love interest for the main character, you know, the guy known only for his role as Katniss's other love interest. His name is Clapton Davis, which should have been my first cue to turn this trash off. But it has a time travelling magnetic stuffed bear connected to aliens. And it also has a time travelling body-swap between a girl and her mother, in the 90s. Yes, the 90s are now the distant past. I am so old. And it has a stylistic opening credit sequence that gets boring after credit entry three. And it has a movie based slasher killer who is trying to kill the high school kids. Either this movie is actually actually (two intended) popular with the "Twitter generation" or it is an old man's (Kahn's only 44) idea of what would be popular with today's low attention span, multi media, mashup culture. I don't know, too old went to bed.


Monday, October 10, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Hush

2016, Mike Flanagan (Absenstia) -- Netflix

Mike did one of my favourite and long thought about movies of the last few years, Absentia. Its nice to know that this push to find movies to watch lets us setup some directors we enjoy. His followup Oculus which I didn't enjoy as much as J did, was in the same vein as the previous, but this time round we get a rather creative entry into the "stranger at your door" genre of horror.

Maddie is deaf and lives in the country in a nice, cozy new house where she is attempting to write her second crime novel. Insert scene of empty page/screen. She has a friendly, nice neighbour Sarah who is a fan of the book and attempting to learn American Sign. All nice nice. Until Sarah comes banging at the door screaming in fear. Maddie has her back to the door and this is the time when a doorbell with flashing lights would have been handy. She doesn't hear a thing as Sarah is gutted by a stranger in a mask, that classic mask all these movies have had of late. He almost immediately makes himself known to Maddie and he pulls off the mask; he has other ways to fill her with fear as he attempts to break into her surprisingly well built little house.

This movie is clever, with making both Maddie and The Man (played by The Newsroom's John Gallagher) capable combatants. They are both thoughtful, cautious but driven by the emotions of the situation. He has cut her off from the outside world and she is trying to bide her time, until she can escape or seriously injure him. The tension is palpable.

This was a departure from Flanagan's previous supernatural pieces but proves he is good at tension and interesting situations. I am sure we will add his next piece to our next series.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Krampus

2015, Michael Dougherty (Trick 'r Treat) -- download

We saw Dougherty's first go at a feature back in 2011. This one did what the previous movie (Tales of Halloween) tried to, but much better. This time he joins the collective (un)consciousness and the emergence of Krampus fascination. Krampus, that evil Christmas spirit from Eastern Europe, who looks like a Victorian version of a GWAR band member, crept into our Western minds a few years ago just begging to be made into a movie. I think the best movie is probably Rare Exports which ties him and Santa closer together, and BTW which we also saw back in 2011, but as part of the Xmas run. Dougherty's movie is one of the two of late, as well as a handful of Straight To flicks.

The Horrible Family Xmas is the heart of this movie, which is billed as horror comedy, but really is not very funny. Toni Collete and Adam Scott are the well-to-do side of the family and her sister's redneck family are the unfortunate seasonal visitors. Little Max just wants a perfect family Xmas, but the gun toting, humvee driving bumpkins drive him to angry recriminations and the destruction of his beloved Letter to Santa. So, instead, Krampus and his crew of evil unseelie Fey show up.

In an incredibly out of place but lovely animated bit, Grandma explains how Krampus shows up to destroy families where sacrifice and giving are forgotten at this time of the year. He must only come to those who have some connection to him, as she did, for I can imagine half of North America being laid waste (ed note: sounds like a great PoAp movie!) but instead only their neighbourhood is attacked. And devastated. Krampus arrives at the onset of a massive blizzard and cold spell that knocks the power & phones offline. He makes himself known almost immediately and the family have to pull together to fight off his evil minions: gingerbread men, nasty toys and a very alien jack-in-the-box that eats kids. They are not always successful. And the rest of the neighbourhood seems to be entirely lost as collateral damage.

This is a fun movie, not entirely serious but never done as straight comedy. The toys and elves are creepy as fuck, and the movie design team really had their heart in it. Krampus himself is not really at the centre of the movie, but he is so well designed, a sort of demon wearing the twisted guise of Santa. Its like an Ogre decided to get in the toy sack business. The movie ran well, with us expecting a "its only a dream" or "kid sacrifices himself to save his family" ending, but we got something rather unexpected. And unfortunately, not very satisfying from my side.