Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Cleanup

When I began this blog, I made a pact to myself to write about every movie I see, even if I've seen it before and no matter how old or random it was. The thing is though, sometimes it's hard to keep up. When I hang out with Henri or Cassidy, we'll usually watch two or three movies at a time and writing one review takes me about two hours with research, pictures, formatting, writing, and distribution. Did I mention I have a job?

So while I've done an admirable job (if I do say so myself) of matching review output with movie input, there are a couple films that slipped through the cracks. In an attempt to catch up with myself, I'm gonna throw down some mini-reviews.

Chopping Mall

Year: 1986
Director: Jim Wynorski
Cast: Kelli Maroney, Tony O'Dell, Russell Todd
Run Time: 1 hour 17 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

My notes on Chopping Mall are just as scattershot and hallucinatory as the film itself.
"flare in boob/spiders and snakes/can't imagine life/if all movies were good"
Produced by Roger Corman('s wife), Chopping Mall very clearly wants you to think it is a slasher movie, but it is so much more than that.

Park Plaza Mall has just installed a new security system in the form of robots that shoot lasers. This is awesome. And while the movie does follow a slasher recipe for a while - a group of teens has a late night party in the mall and begin to get mowed down one by one by the malfunctioning robots - by the third act it has transformed into an explosive 80's cheesy action extravaganza.

Full of Terrible Horror Movie Decision Making, weird sci-fi/action setpieces, and chipper robots telling their still-smoking victims to "have a nice day," Chopping Mall is one of those B movies that will forever have a devoted following.

Champion Dialogue: "Waitress, more butter!"

Rating: 6/10

The Truman Show

Year: 1998
Director: Peter Weir
Cast: Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney
Run Time: 1 hour 43 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG

Although I already talked about this film in Sunday's installment of the Movie ABC's, it is worth pointing out that the world building in The Truman Show is unmatched in most 90's comedies. To carry out a high concept like "man's life is unwittingly broadcast worldwide" involves a lot of examinations of the repercussions of this format which are explored somewhat in the film - enough to hint at a much larger world around Truman that is clearly well thought out but not detracting from the major storyline of the film.

Rating: 8/10

The Kids Are All Right

Year: 2010
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Cast: Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo
Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

I had been pressed on all sides to see The Kids Are All Right. Sergio wanted me to see it because he loved the film. My mom wanted me to see it because she didn't care for it. Naturally, I resisted. My childish impulse was to shy away from the film that other people so clearly wanted me to watch, but I finally bit the bullet and popped in the DVD.

It turns out I fall just about exactly in between. The Kids Are All Right is a very human depiction of a particularly strong upheaval in the lives of a family headed by two lesbian partners. When Laser (Josh Hutcherson) convinces his sister (Mia Wasikowska) to contact their birth father Paul (Ruffalo), a wrench in thrown into their "idyllic" family life.

The control freak Nic (Bening) and her partner, the free-spirited Jules (Moore) find themselves on opposite sides when Jules embraces Paul's presence and begins work redesigning his back garden. The tensions that had previously existed between the two (Nic is too focused on her work; Jules doesn't understand the consequences of her actions) flare up brighter than ever in the presence of this new catalyst.

With an ensemble cast that breathes life into a pretty routine story, The Kids Are All Right is a pleasant but meandering exploration of the relationship between a long-standing couple that has taken their mutual love for granted. The most important element, the fact that a central couple is a pair of lesbians, is not treated as a novelty or a gimmick, which is the factor that led most to my enjoyment of a film that I typically wouldn't consider to be in my wheelhouse.

Rating: 7/10
Word Count: 756

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Keepin' It Cool

Year: 2008
Director: Mats Stenberg
Cast: Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik, Kim Wifladt
Run Time: 1 hour 26 minutes
MPAA Rating: N/A

After watching the extremely underwhelming The Descent Part 2 (which I think I've bashed for three straight reviews now), I had somewhat low hopes for Cold Prey 2 (Fritt Vilt II), but our friends in Norway prove once again that they are not to be outdone and this scrappy sequel was a breath of (chilled) fresh air.

Cold Prey 2 is still immensely derivative of American slasher films (in fact, it's basically Halloween II in the mountains), but just like Cold Prey it provides a shot in the arm to the genre. Cinematically, the film is very steady on its feet, and some camera shots were so inspired or off-kilter that I had to pause the film and sit back to let their effects sink in fully. One in particular - a shot of a rescue worker's side mirror as he sees the bruised and beaten woman in the road behind him then opens the door and runs to her - is one of those "I wish I could have thought of that" moments that prove that cinema is much more than just pointing a camera at things and calling it a day.

The movie is full of moments like this, but simply listing them all would take the fun out of watching the film and reading this review.

And looking at this picture of dead Eirik.

Jannicke (Berdal), the sole* survivor of the bloodbath in the first movie, is taken to a sleepy mountain hospital to recover (and await investigation by the police - she's covered in somebody else's blood). The hospital has fallen on hard times and is about to close down, so there's only a skeleton crew (pun 100% intended) on hand to help out when the bodies of her friends (and a gargantuan mountain man with a bloody pickaxe wound) are recovered from the bottom of a massive crevasse in the glacier.

The hospital's backup crew will arrive Tomorrow Morning.

The police chief sends two of his officers off to investigate Jannicke's claims about the Hotel du Murder up on the slopes and leaves one officer behind to guard her room while he checks some files at the station.

The force is short staffed but their reserve forces will arrive Tomorrow Morning.

Can you guess what happens next?

Did you guess that the mountain man is not quite dead and returns to his pickaxin' ways? A+ for you.

What follows is an extremely satisfying, if not totally groundbreaking slasher flick, much in the vein of the original. Now, because the Cold Prey movies have a reputation for being rote slashers with surprisingly high quality and emotional resonance, this isn't all by a long shot.

The characters, while less fleshed out than Número Uno, still manage to capture our hearts. There's Camilla (Rovik), the scrappy and headstrong nurse who'd be our best bet for Final Girl if Jannicke wasn't still hanging around. There's Ole (Wifladt), her boyfriend who's upset that her new job is in the far-off town of Smkyxlqberg; Audhild (Johanna Mørck), the pleasant and dedicated blonde nurse; Daniel (Vetle Qvenild Werring), a little boy with a broken arm who befriends the skittish Jannicke; various policemen and a senile patient who has trouble finding the bathroom; and Sverre (Mats Eldøen), who has a crush on Audhild and unfortunately not me. 

He knows he looks cute in that baseball cap.

Cold Prey II manages to-

Hey! Don't interrupt m- OK, it's fine.

Like I was saying, Cold -

This is getting adorable. I mean annoying.

Prey 2 -

Awwww... Wait, what's that in the mirror? Sh!t.

manages to avoid most of the major flaws of being a slasher sequel. Apparently, when the Norwegians were hitting up American movies for ideas, they also took notes on their mistakes.

Remember the deplorable Mirror Scare used in every movie where the character bends down to spit in the sink/wash their face/pray to the faucet gods and when they look up, something is behind them in the mirror? Cold Prey 2 makes great use of mirrors (see the blurry screenshot above) without ever once resorting to such cheap thrills. Car mirrors, medicine cabinets, those mirrors used to see around corners - all are cleverly used to enhance the thrills of the film and it is a wondrous sight to see.

Which brings me seamlessly to my next point - that the aura of the first film is not violated but isn't ripped off. There's still plenty of heavy steel doors and narrow, ill-lit hallway action in this alpine hospital and even though we already know the main antagonist, there's still a slow burn so we can settle in with the old characters and meet the new before the horror begins in earnest.

And, like most sequels, this one concerns itself more with the backstory of the killer as a way to deepen the universe of the franchise. Somehow, this film hit the lucky balance with providing us enough backstory to keep us interested and crank up our fear of the villain (he's basically unkillable) without bogging us down with unnecessary mythology (for that, please see Cold Prey III, which was never supposed to happen).

Run! Run from the tidal wave of mythology overspill from the set of Paranormal Activity V!

Not that this film is perfect. My theory is that the cinematographer had an astigmatism, which is why he decided to keep the beginning of every important shot blurry for five seconds longer than it needed to be. And we are unfortunately not totally free from Stupid Horror Movie Character Decision Making when Jannicke fails to murder the heck out of the felled killer, leading to an admittedly cool but totally unnecessary climax at the snowy hotel.

All in all, this is a great followup to a great slasher film and I'm not complaining one bit.

TL;DR: Cold Prey 2 is a surprisingly solid return to form for the Norwegian slasher franchise.
Rating: 7/10
Should I Spend Money On This DVD? Actually, yeah. It's one of the best slasher sequels I've ever seen. And it's foreign so it has cachet.
Word Count: 1051
Reviews In This Series
Cold Prey / Fritt Vilt (Uthaug, 2006)
Cold Prey 2 / Fritt Vilt II (Stenberg, 2008)

Monday, July 29, 2013

CinemaBeach: I Watched the Tape

V/H/S 2

Year: 2013
Director: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Gareth Huw Evans, Timo Tjahjanto, Jason Eisener
Cast: Lawrence Michael Levine, Kelsy Abbott, Adam Wingard
Run Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
MPAA Rating: UR

Electronic crackles and pops fill the air. The screen goes fuzzy until… a burst of blue and the word “PLAY” appears in block letters in the upper right hand corner. You’re not watching a home video. You’re at the beginning of indie horror’s new installment of the found footage anthology series V/H/S.
While the original film made a splash with its exploration of how people actually find “found” footage films and segments directed by big indie stars, it was a mediocre effort – haphazardly done and unnecessarily misogynistic.V/H/S 2 follows more or less the exact same structure – a series of found footage short films by a variety of prominent indie directors linked by a not very coherent story that takes place in a supposedly abandoned apartment. Yet somehow this one works just so much better.
Note: For clarity’s sake, I’ve split my review into five parts – one for each segment of the film.
“Tape 49″ (dir. Simon Barrett)
Simon Barrett produced both films and co-wrote several segments, so it only makes sense that his story should be the one to provide the overarching narrative. Larry (Lawrence Michael Levine) is an unscrupulous private detective who was hired by a woman to break into the abandoned apartment and discover what happened to her son. He drags along his girlfriend and accomplice, Ayesha (Kelsy Abbott). They come across an abandoned set of VCRs and a pile of unmarked VHS tapes, and Ayesha sits down to watch some of them to see if they contain any evidence while Larry investigates the rest of the dwelling.
This story largely follows the same beats of the previous movie and although it is somewhat chilling as it is (the couple is most definitely not alone), its only real purpose is to glue the other segments together and we don’t get to spend a lot of time with these two.
The biggest flaw is one that is prevalent throughout the segments – there are far too many different recording devices being used. Larry has a button camera and a professional looking handheld with a lamp. Ayesha has a little still photo/handheld hybrid, and a webcam also records her every move. The segment cuts between shots from all four sources, which practically destroys the core concept of “found footage” from the get go. It is far too heavily edited to seem like something that somebody just discovered in an abandoned camera. This is forgivable, but for the keenest of observers it can tread a little too far into Hollywood unreality.
“Phase 1 Clinical Trials” (dir. Adam Wingard)
The You’re Next director also stars in this short as Herman, a man who lost his eye in a tragic car accident. The doctors fit him with a bionic eye, but this technology is only in its early stages, so they are taping everything he sees as a test run for the beta system. The eye works maybe too well, and when he gets home he begins to see things that shouldn’t be there, like a dead man with blood smeared on his face standing in the bedroom. A fellow patient (whose bionic gift restored her hearing) named Clarissa (Hannah Hughes) barges into his home uninvited. Clarissa explains it all, and Herman learns that if he interacts with these beings, they will only get stronger.
Wingard has already proved that he can flawlessly marry laugh-out-loud with whiplash-inducing shocks in his previous film so the humor is at a low ebb in this segment, but he can’t resist throwing in the odd silly line reading or self aware joke. This short is mostly a straight horror piece, but the light tone is just about the only pleasantness we’ll get for the rest of the film and the segment’s crash and burn ending is a portent the dark world we are about to enter.
There’s another conceptual issue here – there is a slight musical score that, although subtle, absolutely does not belong in a found footage movie.
A Ride in the Park (dir. Edúardo Sanchez & Gregg Hale)
The director and producer of the now-classic The Blair Witch Project return to found footage with this clever twist on the genre craze they helped to ignite. A biker (Jay Saunders) puts a camera in his helmet so he can film his wild ride through the local park’s twisting paths. With little preamble, he finds himself smack dab in the middle of a zombie outbreak. He doesn’t last long, but the tape doesn’t end there. The camera is still attached to his head as he rises up, just another member of the undead horde.
That’s right, this is a first-person zombie movie, something I don’t think has ever been attempted before. It is a fascinating and wholly original angle that makes do with a criminally low effects budget. Perhaps less scary than its companions, it more than makes up for that with its incredibly clever premise.
Leave it to the Blair Witch guys to completely turn the concepts of two genres on their heads simultaneously.
Safe Haven (dir. Gareth Huw Evans & Timo Tjahjanto)
This segment centers around a documentary crew’s efforts to interview a notorious cult leader in his compound. Evans, the director of the Indonesian action superhit The Raid: Redemption teams up with another Indonesian director for a segment that is shot mostly in – you guessed it – Indonesian. These two are given the largest slot in the anthology and have more time to thoroughly explore their premise and crank up the slow burn.
Eschewing the jump scares of the other entries for horrific body horror, this segment is a clear standout in a crush of amazing horror short films. I’d rather not say much about this one for fear of spoiling the atmosphere of dread it creates.
Slumber Party Alien Abduction (dir. Jason Eisener)
Birthed from the mind of the director of Hobo With a Shotgun and directly based on his childhood nightmares, this short is relentless and adrenaline-pumping. A group of preteen boys at a slumber party are left at home alone in the care of a big sister (Samantha Gracie). Naturally, the second her parents leave, her boyfriend (Rylan Logan) pulls up for a little playtime of his own.
The kids pull a prank on the couple in the middle of a particularly steamy session and record the whole thing. The boyfriend threatens to kill them, but the enormous foundation-rumbling screech that comes from outside proves he might not get there first. Filmed mostly from the perspective of a dog with a camera tied to his back, the group panics and attempts to escape what turns out to be a group of highly committed alien abductors.
Despite the heavy subject matter, this segment is easily the most fun because it is filmed with a sort of childish glee by Eisener, who makes great use of his parents’ property in Nova Scotia. In a setting he is intimately familiar with, he has free reign to have as much fun as he wants and it clearly shows through the shocks and the screaming.
V/H/S 2 pulls so far ahead from V/H/S that it’s almost not fair to compare the two films. Alas, they are inextricably connected, but this film does a mighty job of steering the franchise onto the right path. Although it is susceptible to the flaws of most low budget found footage films (namely, some mighty poor acting and a couple less than convincing make-up effects) and has some struggles with the overall concept (how on Earth did the recordings of a bionic eye end up on a VHS tape?), the flick was so frightening that I sometimes wondered why I was doing this to myself.
It’s really quite astonishing how much better it is than its ancestor in terms of pacing, horror, creativity, and, well, everything. The gross misogynist undertones are abandoned and the terror levels are ramped up to 11. And though a few make-up effects left something to be desired, there is a particularly gruesome and lovely first-person shot of a severed carotid artery and the best throat-slitting ever committed to celluloid.
If you read that last sentence and were disgusted, this movie is not for you. If you were intrigued and want to see the keenest horror film out today (and second only to [REC] as the best found footage film I’ve ever seen), take a look atV/H/S 2.
TL;DR: Featuring a cadre of prominent indie horror directors, V/H/S 2 is miles ahead of its predecessor and makes the most of its premise.
Rating: 8/10
Should I Spend Money On This? It was hardcore - I regretted bringing Sergio to it. So only if you're really committed, but I loved it.
Word Count: 1512

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Now I Know My ABC's

Movie ABC's: Part 4
For letters A-F click here.
For letters G-M click here.
For letters N-S click here.

Best: The Truman Show (1998)

Some of Jim Carrey's best work, and an all-around superb comedy movie. I recently rewatched this with Henri after being mortified by The Descent and it's just so rare to see such a stellar concept played out with so much surety and detail. The overall themes are even more relevant in today's world of social networking and reality television, and it's one of my must-see 90's comedies.

Worst: Troll 2 (1990)

Another easy pick. Tied with The Room as my favorite bad movie (because, let's face it, Rocky Horror is secretly kinda good), Troll 2 is chock full of terrible/hilarious moments. Written and directed by Italians who refused to let the American actors change the lines to sound more natural, this film features a kid peeing on his dining room table, a dead grandpa who just shows up from time to time, a woman seducing a teen using a corncob, vegetarian monsters defeated by eating a bologna sandwich, and most importantly, no trolls.

Best: Up (2009)

Equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking, Up is the last Pixar original film that is unquestionably gold standard (Toy Story 3, a sequel, was also great, but recently Pixar's output has been good although not up to their usual standards).

Worst: Uncle Sam (1996)

A boy in Smalltown, USA learns the true meaning of the Fourth of July when his literal Uncle Sam is killed in the war and comes back as a zombie to murder unpatriotic Americans, tax evaders, and crooked politicians. As far as I can tell, this is the only Independence Day themed slasher flick (I watched it last July with Cassidy and Cheyda), and it's terrible. Thankfully, it is played straight even though it came out the same year as Scream. If you're not a good director, your film will be much funnier if you try to make it serious.

Best: V/H/S 2 (2013)

The incredible followup to the lackluster V/H/S, this sequel features anthology shorts directed by Adam Wingard (You're Next), Edúardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project), and Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption). With clever premises and a plethora of jump scares, body horror, and found footage mayhem, this is one of the best horror films of 2013.

Worst: Vampires Suck (2010)

A Twilight parody that came out after only three out of five of the movies had been released (Eclipse came out only a month before). This is essentially a parody of the first movie, with some New Moon thrown in and while the set dressers did a good job recreating the aesthetic of the original, this is just another vapid movie in line with the godawful Scary Movie franchise. And out of all of them, this is my personal least favorite, which is saying something.

Best: Were the World Mine (2008)

Supreme. A teen musical based on A Midsummer Night's Dream in which a bullied gay teen finds a magic flower that can turn his homophobic schoolmates gay. With astounding songs using only lines by Shakespeare, a beautiful design, and a tender story about love, friendship, and acceptance, Were the World Mine is my #5 favorite movie of all time, and my #1 favorite musical.

Worst: When a Stranger Calls (2006)

There have been two iterations of When a Stranger Calls and they both sucked in their own way. This one makes the good choice of setting the entire film within the first 20 minutes of the original (the babysitter being stalked by a madman on the phone) but makes the bad choice of... everything else.

Best: X2 (2003)

As a kid, I had a long period where I was obsessed with everything X-Men (ie. Shawn Ashmore) and this film proved me right. The filmic equivalent of playing my awesome X-Men Legends PS2 game with my sister and using Jean Grey's superpowers to throw her off of cliffs.

Good times.

Worst: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Another not totally awful movie caught in the crosswinds of a category with very few entries. 'X'? C'mon, what else is there?

But still. This movie sucked.

Best: You're Next (2013)

You can read my incoherent review for You're Next here in which I try to keep it together and ramble about how great it is without giving anything away. Harder than it sounds.

Worst: You Don't Mess With the Zohan (2008)

The only movie that has ever caused me physical pain to watch. My father and I watched this film together one night and stuck through it because we both thought the other was enjoying it. We weren't. We learned a lesson about communication that night that could have spared us an hour or so of torment.

Best: Zombieland (2009)

Another letter with not many options to choose from, but Zombieland is a tight, funny zombie movie that pales in comparison to Shaun of the Dead but is similar in that, while it is a good comedy, it does something to further the zombie mythology rather than detract from it.

Worst: Zombie Diaries 2 (2011)

Yet another found footage zombie film. Even though it's from the UK, it is possibly the most tortuous film I have yet to experience, and I've seen Psycho Santa. This is the only movie in which I've fast-forwarded through a section because it was so awful. Namely, a seven minute rape scene that is brutal and pointless and that we're obviously meant to enjoy. 

I'm not saying rape shouldn't be in movies. I enjoyed A Clockwork Orange and The Last House on the Left. But those movies display rape in a way where it is meant to be shocking and horrifying and it shows you something about the characters and their predicaments and fits in with an overall theme or meditation on the nature of crime. This scene is just unnecessary, cruel, and hateful. Skip it. Skip the whole film.
Word Count: 1003

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Goodbye, Studio D

As some of you may know, I am moving out of my current apartment. I'll be living at home for a couple weeks then moving in with a very gracious coworker before school starts. Today is the first step of that process, where I return triumphantly to my hometown of Anaheim Hills.

But if horror movies have taught me everything, it's that moving so many times is just an invitation for trouble (not to mention that my school is built on a Native American burial ground). It's time for

The 10 Least Successful Moves

Warning: If you wish to avoid spoilers, skip the entry for what you haven't seen.

10. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)

Jesse Walsh gets more than he bargained for when his family moves into 1428 Elm Street, five years after dream demon Freddy Krueger attacked the children of his lynch mob. Freddy wants more and will stop at nothing to control Jesse's body and kill again, no matter how many homoerotic undertones are produced. Although he and his female "love interest" survive, Freddy massacres the guests at a pool party as well as Jesse's gym teacher/leather daddy and best friend/illicit crush.

9. The Ring Two (2005)

Seattle reporter Rachel Keller and her son Aidan moved to the sleepy town of Astoria, Washington after their run-in with the murderous Samara Morgan, who attacks her victims seven days after watching a cursed videotape. Unfortunately, Samara's not finished yet and Rachel and Aidan are trapped in a supremely awful movie with no hope of escape. Simon Baker is caught in the crossfire and is colorfully murdered when Samara possess Aidan's body.

8. Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)

Laurie Strode has had a tough time of it. Being pursued relentlessly by the Shatner-masked Michael Myers twice on Halloween night in 1978 left some deep emotional scars (and a major drinking problem). Things only got worse when she had a daughter and died in a car crash. 

Then the producers learned that Jamie Lee Curtis was willing to be in another movie and Laurie mysteriously came back to life, and her young daughter vanished - replaced by a teenage son. To escape her past she changed her name and moved across the country from Haddonfield, Illinois to a boarding school in California, only to find herself (and her students) at the wrong end of Myers' butcher knife yet again.

7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 - 2003)

After vampires attacked her prom in Los Angeles (yes, the Kristy Swanson film is technically canon), Buffy and her mother decided to seek a better life in Sunnydale, California. Little do they know that the town is built on top of a Hellmouth (a literal entrance into the Underworld) and is a hotbed for demonic activity. Seven seasons and 144 adventures later, the town implodes, destroying Buffy's hopes of ever having a normal life.

6. The Devil's Backbone (2001) / Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

The Little Brother: In El espinazo del diablo, Carlos is taken to a halfway home for orphans in the middle of nowhere during the Spanish Civil War. An undetonated bomb is permanently stuck in the dirt courtyard during an air strike, bringing with it a strange ghostly entity. The school also acts as a hiding place for a small fortune in rebel gold, and some people are prepared to perform any wicked deed to get it.

The Little Sister: In El laberinto del fauno, Ofelia is taken in by her cruel stepfather - a general in the Spanish Civil War. As she attempts to help her ailing pregnant mother she is sent on a series of magical quests by an untrustworthy faun to both help her baby brother and prove that she is the princess of a magical underground kingdom. Unfortunately this journey will end in the death of both Ofelia and her mother. But hey, at least it's beautiful.

5. Scream 3 (2000)

After surviving two senseless bloodbaths, Sidney Prescott has changed her name and retreated to a secluded mountain home, working as a telephone crisis counselor. When Ghostface strikes again on the set of the horror film Stab 3, invoking the name of Sidney's murdered mother, she is drawn once again into the center of a murder spree as the entire cast and crew is threatened with brutal death (Well, in theory. The MPAA wasn't too keen on this one).

4. The Grudge (2004)

When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage... a curse is born. The curse gathers in that place of death. Those who encounter it will be consumed by its fury.

Kayako Saeki and her son Toshio are slaughtered by her husband shortly before he commits suicide. Unfortunately, the realtor did not inform Jennifer and Matthew Williams that their new house in Japan is where this terrible event took place. The couple, their invalid mother, several more acuaintances, and Buffy - their social worker -are subsequently haunted and dispatched one by one by the Burping Ghost and creepy little Toshio. (Buffy does survive until the sequel, but is quickly pitched of the roof of a hospital.)

3. The Conjuring (2013)

Carolyn and Roger Perron are ready to begin life anew, leaving their trials and tribulation behind and moving into a beautiful farmhouse in Rhode Island with their five daughters. They're haunted by a cavalcade of ghosts led by a witch who once cursed the property before hanging herself. As Ed and Lorraine Warren- the paranormal investigators - try to get to the bottom of the haunting, Carolyn is slowly broken down and possessed to attempt to kill her daughter. Although the exorcism is successful the sequel tag shows us all is not well with for the Warrens and their young daughter. Maybe they shouldn't keep a room full of cursed artifacts in their home.

2. The Stepford Wives (1975)

Joanna and Walter Eberhart move from the hustle and bustle of New York to the sleepy town of Stepford, Connecticut. Joanna, an aspiring photographer, is not impressed by the town's idyllic women, who are content to be perfect housewives doing nothing more than cooking, cleaning, and taking care of their husbands. She and her friend Bobbie (also a new neighbor) attempt to start a Women's Lib movement to no avail.

Soon she discovers the town's dark secret as her friend Bobbie becomes a brainwashed perfect wife like the rest of them. The dark and imposing Men's Club that rules the town murders the women and replaces them with animatronic wives programmed to serve. Joanna is no match for the inhumanly strong false women and soon succumbs to the curse of Stepford.

1. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Just like The Stepford Wives, Rosemary's Baby is based on a novel by Ira Levin. Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move into the Bramford - a grand apartment building in upstate New York. Her neighbors turn out to be a coven of witches and she is raped by Satan, giving birth to the antichrist.

Yeah, that's not what you want. As if the stress of moving in wasn't enough.
Word Count: 1184

Friday, July 26, 2013

A B C (1 2) 3

Movie ABC's: Part 3
For letters A-F click here.
For letters G-M click here.
For letters T-Z click here.

Best: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

In 1984, Wes Craven did the unthinkable - he made a scary slasher movie. By the time it came out, the slasher was on its way out. Freddy had to wade through the corpses of a thousand cheap rip-offs to inject new life into the genre. The most thoroughly European slasher film of the 80's, Nightmare features kill scenes that are ludicrously beautiful. Also Johnny Depp gets eaten by a bed and converted into a metric ton of blood.

Worst: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

Freddy's decline from prominence happened swifter than the average reality TV star's. By 1988's The Dream Master, the murderous dream killer had already been reduced to an impotent clown, but this film is an absolute travesty with chaotic directing and the most truly insipid and cheesily rendered kill sequences in the entire series.

Best: Once (2006)

An Irish indie musical made for pocket change, Once is beautiful shot and tells a not-quite-love story that reminds me most of Lost in Translation, and I do not make that comparison lightly. 

Worst: One Day (2011)

Although it has a pretty fun high concept (visiting the same day every year in the progression of a couple's lives), this movie is so thin and forgettable that I still have yet to convince my mom that we saw it in the theater together. And the ending is both predictable and idiotic.

Best: Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) (2006)

Guillermo del Toro took the ball from The Devil's Backbone and ran with it - straight into the forest and clear into the fantastic world of Ofelia, stuffed to the gills (literally, in some cases) with some of the most beautiful and disturbing creatures ever put to film.

Worst: Psycho Santa (2003)

You can read my review for Psycho Santa here and understand why it's the only film I have (to date) given a 0/10 rating to.

Best: Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011)

OK, it's not like I had a lot to choose from. It was this, the bland Quantum of Solace, or my arch-nemesis, this film's predecessor (more on that later). Quarantine 2: Terminal is surprisingly good, especially for a direct-to-DVD cash-in sequel. This was the first film in the series I saw, and it was good enough to launch me straight into my favorite movie of all time (more on that later).

Worst: Quarantine (2008)

Hateful, hateful film. How could the English language shot-for-shot remake of my favorite film be so horrible? Let's start with the unnecessary additional ten minutes and move straight on into the complete tonal shift and the use of the final frame as the cornerstone of the advertising campaign. It wasn't as bad as all that, but I will never respect this film. [REC] forever, all the way across the sky.

Best: [REC] (2007)

I never meant for this post to be a Quarantine parade, but there you go. [REC] is hands-down the best found footage film ever made and my official favorite movie. I watched it about a year ago with Cassidy and I've seen it every single month since then. We went into it going, "oh, it's just the movie Quarantine is based on. It's Spanish, it'll be cool to see." We came out of it visibly shuddering. In broad daylight.

Worst: The Room (2003)

Wow, that was a cinch. The Room is only the most well-know bad movie behind The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Troll 2. So consistently awful that it's rendered consistently hilarious, this is the most across the board unintentionally funny movie ever released. I've been to a midnight showing of this film and it's second only to Rocky Horror in pure cinematic fun.

Best: The Sixth Sense (1999)

This is the horror film that got me into horror. While Scream is the film that directly made me into the person I am today, The Sixth Sense is what started it all. M. Night Shyamalan's only out and out masterpiece (and arguably his only good film), this film is not only an effective horror (My mom cried in terror in the theater watching this film) but a strong family drama (It's hard for me not to cry when Cole and his mom are talking about his grandmother in the final scene).

Worst: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)

NO. NO. NO. Sgt. Pepper's was the Beatles jukebox musical before Across the Universe and it is a cinematic abortion. Featuring Peter Frampton and the Beegees as the titular band, the producers knew the acting would be horrible. Their solution? No dialogue. This film is essentially a silent film with an acid-fueled plotline and a character literally named Strawberry Fields. Featuring career-worst performances from George Burns, Donald Pleasance, Steve Martin, Alice Cooper, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Only Aerosmith did any good with their material, but that is no reason to even consider watching this movie.
Word Count: 837