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Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





It's the second most wonderful time of the year!

I'm in for 13, with the goal of them all being new to me. I never plan these things out, so we'll see if I can keep to that goal.

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Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011






#1. The Curse of the Cat People (Shudder)

The young, friendless daughter of the heroes from the previous movie becomes friends with a reclusive, aging actress... and possibly the ghost of the cat lady from the last movie, as well.

This is barely a horror movie, only noted as such by the tangential connections to an earlier, better film; change a few names around and you'd pretty much never know. (I mean, it has a ghost, but she doesn't do anything spooky, so I don't know if that really counts as a point, either.) That said, while this is more of a straightforward melodrama than a horror movie, it does continue some of the original Cat People's psychodrama themes - namely the tendency of "normal" polite society members to jump to designating anyone different as mentally ill and the "white man's burden" style of trying to civilize them out of it.

Here, the film tends to lean more heavily on the interpretation that the child is correct than the original did, which makes everything that the father does seem to border on gaslighting at times. It can be a bit harder to watch because of that then I was expecting, and my attention was flagging sporadically throughout. Not having Val Lewton behind the camera hurts as well - the film is more languidly paced than the original, and there's nothing like the pool scene, nothing that capitalizes on light and shadow and makes you afraid of what's not shown. As it is, this film looks fine but is shot very flatly and there's no real spark to it... and hell, I'll give half the credit for how it looks to the fact that they were borrowing sets from Orson Welles and The Magnificent Ambersons than anything Curse of the Cat People did on its own merits.

/5


Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011






#2. Freaky (iTunes)

After a botched murder attempt by the Blissfield Butcher using an ancient ceremonial knife, an ostracized teen girl swaps bodies with the killer. Now stuck as a toweing 40 year old man, she only has until midnight on Friday the 13th to reverse the spell, or be stuck in that body forever... oh, and probably stop her classmates from getting killed, as well.

I was a little bit surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this - it was the most fun of the Blumhouse high concept slasher movies that I had seen (though I still have to see Happy Death Day 2U), mainly due to a very game cast and a handful of excessive gore scenes. They took their time to carefully build the world and characters, so that the "Freaky Friday but a slasher movie villain" conceit would work without seeming like a simple gimmick. The script is fun, even if the plotting is kinda scattershot at times, but those characters are what ends up elevating this.

/5


#3. Vampires vs. the Bronx (Netflix)

A trio of young friends trying to rally their neighborhood to push back against gentrification find out that the construction company buying up everything is a front for vampires.

This is another one where the world and characters end up elevating a scattershot script. I feel like there's an element of the thematic intent that gets muddled by that scripting, though - the (all white) vampire villains make a point of rubbing it in that the Bronx makes an ideal feeding ground because "who cares if anyone goes missing [there]?" If that's the case, though, why bother with gentrifying the neighborhood at all; it becomes counter-productive to force out a potential food supply based on raising rents and bringing in new storefronts. (Unless they never intended to do that, but the script is vague on whether the company is actually doing anything with the property that it acquires or not - they put up signs for new stores and living spaces coming soon, but outside of the one vampire nest being a supposed hotel it never touches on anything else.) It somewhat undercuts the other points that the film is making, which is a shame because this is otherwise a really fun little film; I just wish it was able to better articulate the themes that were in its head.

/5


Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx

Class3KillStorm fucked around with this message at 19:49 on May 3, 2021

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011






#4. Rawhead Rex (Shudder)

An ancient monster is awakened in the Irish countryside, and proceeds to go around killing and hypnotizing the locals. Only an American writer on a working vacation can figure out the ancient stained glass references to try and destroy the monster.

This is not a particularly good or well made movie, but I kind of ended up liking it in spite of itself? There's a lot to rip on in the film - the acting is just pants across the board, locations are pretty much limited to one okay church set and one half empty trailer park, the monster design is "eh" at best and sounds like he was "voiced" by recycled noises from the 1976 King Kong, the whole thing is weirdly flat and I don't remember any of the music being interesting. But there's a very mellow European sensibility to the whole thing that helps it coast along well enough, and it ends up getting darker and more urgent around the 2/3rds mark, when Rawhead goes and kills the lead's young son. It's not often that a film gets better when it starts killing children, but Rawhead Rex is a rare beast where that feels appropriate. There's also a fairly interesting pyrotechnics scene fairly late in the picture, where one of the hypnotized detectives sets like the entire town's police force ablaze, including himself, and then prostrates himself before Rawhead before dying.

I think the biggest sin is that there's a lack of urgency for a long time, and the main hero ends up being incredibly passive. The magic Macguffin that they use to defeat the monster is interesting, in that it's a fertility statue that can only be properly wielded by a woman to defeat the monster, so his wife has to up and do it. However, this ends up neutering our lead, since he cannot hope to overcome the monster with the magic stone - because of his gender - so he ends up being a passive observer at the end, while the wife is done no favors because she was never much of an established character to begin with. It feels like one of those things that should work better on paper, but ends up not really working on screen; the design of the monster, which strayed pretty far from writer Clive Barker's original design, ends up undercutting the intent of the whole thing. But the film was never much interested in dipping into Barker's thematic interests in the piece, just going for cheap thrills with an okay monster running around and biting on people, so the ending doesn't feel earned or in keeping with the rest of it.

I dunno - it worked well enough that I'd give it a soft recommendation if you're in the mood for low-ish budget monster movie fare, but it's as deep as a shallow puddle and about as interesting thematically. I know this had a bit of a romantic history as this "lost" Clive Barker film, but it's not like there was much here to lose.

Then again, it also does include a scene where a guy prostrates himself in front of the monster, only to end up getting pissed on, so maybe I'm wrong?

/5


Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Got my second COVID shot yesterday, so I wanted something that I hadn't seen, but was quick and easy and potentially didn't need my full attention on it.


#5. Tarantula (iTunes)

A scientist working on a "nutrient substitute" to combat hunger ends up creating a monster-sized tarantula, which ends wandering around in the Arizona desert and occasionally doing things of mild interest.

Of course, when I said "doesn't need my full attention on it," I still expected the movie to try and hold said attention. Tarantula(!) isn't really concerned with being a mid-budget sci-fi horror movie, so much as it is being a plodding, talky time-waster. There's a sub-plot about the Leo G. Carroll scientist who created the massive spider dying of giantism, because he had been experimenting on humans and one of them infected him as a form of revenge. So Carroll is dying and on a limited time window to try and reverse his condition, but good luck seeing that have any effect on the languid pace or his stiff, boring stuffy scientist performance. It's nonsensical that the things that happen don't affect the characters in the film, but if they're not going to be interested in the proceedings, why should I be?

I think the main takeaways from this experience are this: I was promised, on the poster and in the description, a giant spider causing mild, budget appropriate terror; I was lying on the couch, mildly sore and nauseous, doing the Milhouse "when are they going to get to the fireworks factory**?!" croak before the halfway mark because the picture just didn't want to focus on having a giant spider in its giant spider movie; and in the end, the drat spider never even makes it to any town to do anything interesting! It eats a couple of horses and ranch hands in the desert, chases the one car of named characters you give half a poo poo about, and then gets napalmed to death at the one-yard line by sophomore-effort Clint Eastwood. I mean, I know I wasn't expecting to be able to focus on the picture the whole way through, but I expected more out of it than what I got. I didn't hate this movie, but I was just so incredibly bored with the whole thing, and see no reason why anyone would need to revisit it anytime in the future.

/5

**spiderworks factory?
Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011






#6. In Search of Darkness: A Journey into Iconic '80s Horror (iTunes)

A documentary about 1980s horror movies, starring notable actors, directors and media critics.

I'd been watching this in bits and pieces while working out at home, and I don't think that's a terrible way to approach a film this long, especially one so regimented in its construction. After about the first 30 minutes, you should know how the overall approach is going to go: 10-20 minutes of year-by-year movie breakdowns, followed by a 10-20 minute "interlude" going into a specific topic, all cut together with clips from films and interview snippets from notable talking heads. The talking heads are fairly varied - you have notable directors of the era (John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Joe Dante, Larry Cohen, etc.), notable actors (Barbara Crampton, Jeffrey Combs, Caroline Williams, Kane Hodder, etc.), a few notable craftsman (Rick Baker, Greg Nicotero, etc.), some media critics (Joe Bob Briggs, the Angry Video Game Nerd, the dude from "Dead Meat", etc.) and some randos (did we need to hear from the dude from Slipknot here? What about the dude who runs the Fright Rags horror themed clothing store?). However, there's not a lot of them that go into any appreciable depth, and it seems like few of them had much or anything to say about a lot of the movies on hand; there's a couple of the movie breakdowns that only get one minute of one person talking about them at all. I can't tell if something with that little apparent interest or enthusiasm is a good thing to have on hand or not; I don't know if that minute talking about It's Alive III is wasted time or not, even if it's in a documentary ostensibly pitched at horror movie fans.

That's probably the bigger deal with this whole production: it's going for breadth, rather then depth, so it feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity to spend so much time doing 2 minute summaries about so many of the films of the 1980s, whether they were all that notable or not. They go by (I believe) release order year by year, so it feels like you're tapping your feet waiting for some of the bigger guns to appear in the back half while wasting time on junk like Full Moon High and Howling II. The interludes going into detail about different topics - things like the special effects work, the scores, franchising, the roles for women, sex and nudity, etc. - were more interesting, because it seemed to give some of the commentators a chance to either get technical and specific or to do analysis on what all of those films were talking about as an aggregate.

Still, it's not a bad way to spend that time, and it works well as background noise or something you can pay half attention to. It's breezy enough - since it's moving through so many topics and films it can't afford to linger on any of them very long - and there's plenty of snippets of famous or forgotten films to pique your interest. It's just not something that deserves your full attention for 4 full hours; it can't possibly live up to such lofty requirements.

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Weekend catch-up time.


#7. Ginger Snaps (rewatch) (Shudder)

A pair of death-obsessed teenagers, Ginger and Brigitte, are outcasts in their suburban community. On the night where Ginger finally starts menstruating, the two are attacked by a werewolf and Ginger is bitten. Now, her body is going through some... changes... and the big Halloween dance is 28 days away...

There's a lot that can be said about Ginger Snaps as a progressive, feminist horror film; I'm not the person to be able to make that case. I will note that one of the film's strengths that I'd forgotten about was how tight the scripting and plotting is - this film has an incredible energy to propel it from scene to scene, and everything is laid out beautifully to reinforce its conceits and themes. Which makes it also apparent that this is not really a film that benefits from the Joe Bob Briggs interludes on "The Last Drive-In"; his laconic interruptions are a welcome diversion in other films with more sedate pacing or off-kilter energy, but do a disservice here. If you're going to watch this one - and you should - it would be more beneficial to you to seek out the original version instead.

/5

Franchescanado posted:

10. Behind the Mask

Watch a documentary about a horror film.


#8. In Search of Darkness Part II (Shudder)

Another documentary about 1980s horror movies, starring notable actors, directors and media critics, this time with less of a focus on the biggest titles from the era.

Well, it's less a documentary about one horror film, and more a documentary about three dozen or so of them, but I guess this counts.

As before, I was watching this in batches while working out. It's not a bad way to spend time like that, but I noticed that there was a lot less of interest in this one; it seems to be mostly comprised of lesser known and appreciated films, and with most of the big films by the big directors involved in the first covered here, their presence is largely missing. They also end up following the same structure as before - 10-15 minutes of short blurbs on individual films, 10-15 minutes on a topic of interest - but they look to have less content to fill the individual topic sections, so they're more reliant on career retrospectives by some notable names and branching off into other topics. (Not sure what 1980s horror video games have to do with 1980s horror movies, but it's a fun digression. And I guess if you have the Angry Video Game Nerd there, you may as well use him, right?)

On the whole, it's not bad, just kinda blander than the original. I think it did bring up some films I hadn't really paid attention to in the past, though, so at least it might help me further flesh out my 80s watchlist.

/5

Franchescanado posted:

7. Mother's Day

Watch a film that emphasizes motherhood, themes of being a mother, or features a killer mom.


#9. Mother's Day (2010) (HBO Max)

A family of thieves and killers descend on their former house, which has since been sold in foreclosure. They torture the new owners and their friends, as secrets and lies emerge and both groups work to survive.

I didn't finish the original 1980s Mother's Day when it was shown on "The Last Drive-In" a few weeks ago; there's an infamous rape scene which turned me off of finishing the thing at this point, and I was already kinda tired of the grimy nature of it anyway. With this one, the slicker, more handsome production values and better acting across the board (Rebecca De Mornay is fantastic as the evil mother, and Jaime King, Shawn Ashmore and Frank Grillo are all solid here) helps this one come across as the "better" movie. That said, it has its own incredibly nasty streak, courtesy of director Darren Lynn Bousman, and seems to delight in torturing the main cast, both physically and mentally; the ending stinger is a particularly cruel twist, though not one you can't see coming.

I dunno; it's not the worst movie ever, but it seems to feel content to just wallow in pain and misery, similar to Bousman's Saw outings but without the benefit of franchise strength or inventive trap-based mayhem. If I'm going to wallow, I don't think that this is the place that I want to do it.

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7)

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Franchescanado posted:

9. Scream, Queen!

Watch Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street documentary if you haven't seen it yet


#10. Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (Shudder)

A documentary around the life and career of Mark Patton, the star of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2, and the issues that film caused him as a gay man in the 1980s and beyond.

I was born not long before A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 originally released, and for a long time I bought into the same "this move is so gay = this movie is so bad" early internet mentality. I've since semi-re-evaluated: It's not a good film, but its gayness is not the source of its issues. And while I don't believe that Mark Patton put in a terribly good performance in said film, he certainly did not deserve the bile that the internet foisted upon him for his performance, or that film, or his sexuality in general. So it's a wonderful thing to see him able to reclaim that film from the internet trolls, my previous self included, and to put his influence to good use. And it's upsetting to see how much he had to go through in his personal life, to be able to reach that position, both leaving behind his career and all of the losses that AIDS inflicted on him and the wider gay community in the 1980s.

Scream, Queen!, as a documentary, is fairly dry and simplistic, and I think it relies on Patton as a source of moment-to-moment interest maybe a bit too much. As an aggregate, his story and his place in that wider world of 1980s gay history is fascinating, and he can be an interesting storyteller when he is being open and honest. However, I noticed that, in his day-to-day life and in his interactions with people in public that were catalogued in the film, he's very aware of the camera and becomes more insular and quiet than he is in those interview sections. I think less focus on him outside of those controlled environments would have benefited the basic ebb and flow of the movie a lot better, and might have helped Patton come across as more authentic at times. Also, having come off of watching the two In Search of Darkness documentaries in the past week, I will note that some of the anecdotes from the other cast members are basically repeated, almost verbatim, from those earlier films, so that familiarity hurt this film a bit.

The wider story of the 1980s AIDS crisis and the world of Reaganomics is an interesting one, and one that I have little awareness of outside of dry general historical knowledge. I do want to investigate it a bit deeper, thanks in part to Patton and this film. I will note that there is an interesting tactic that the film takes, which is to not give power to those people and politicians who are attacking the gay community and using the specter of the AIDS crisis to their own ends. It's an undercurrent that bubbles up occasionally here; it's impossible to release a film like this in the Donald Trump era and not have his presence as the racist homophobic boogeyman be felt in some capacity. Still, I admire its restraint in avoiding him, and the people like him, as much as possible - this isn't their story, and they don't deserve to be mentioned anyway.

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9)

Franchescanado posted:

I didn't ignore this question, by the way. I've never seen Psycho 2 or 3, so I have no idea how much of Norman's mother looms in them. I asked in the discord and didn't get any answers. So, as of now, it's inconclusive! Sorry.

For what it's worth, I'd say that Psycho 2 does count, but also that the "evil mother" ('evil Mother"'?) aspect of it is fairly subdued compared to something like a Mother's Day or something of that ilk. It's a restrained movie, and while those elements are there, it's far more interested in being a psychodrama about Norman Bates being gaslit back into re-losing his sanity than it is about people being chopped up by an evil mother figure.

Class3KillStorm fucked around with this message at 15:14 on May 11, 2021

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Franchescanado posted:

2. Sometimes They Come Back

Watch a film that has had a remake. Either watch the original, or watch the remake. Whichever you watch, it must be new to you. No rewatches.


#11. House of Wax (1953) (YouTube TV via TCM)

A wax sculptor goes insane after nearly being burned to death for insurance fraud, and begins killing people and using their bodies in his new wax museum.

On the one hand, this is a decent enough showcase for Vincent Price, who is always a treat in these kinds of things. He's a lot of fun here - he's never better than when he gets to play artists and bon vivants, plus he gets to layer on the "tortured soul" pathos in the second half due to his burn scars. However, on the other hand, this is an adaptation of a film called The Mystery of the Wax Museum, but there's never any mystery to the fact that Price's character Jarrod is the weird disfigured proto-Darkman running around strangling people and stealing corpses, so the film is spinning its wheels trying to pad out the runtime. It's less than 90 minutes long and feels like it could still stand to lose almost a third of its runtime.

As one of the first 3D films, its way too reliant on gimmickry to sell the process; the paddle-ball playing promoter stands out like a sore thumb nowadays. Moreover, I don't know if this was a product of the time or the conversion to YouTube, but the film looks ugly and soft now, like things can't be properly focused on due to the technology. It makes the film harder to stay focused on then it needs to be, but coupled with how boring it is and I was just checking my watch constantly. Overly talky and not enough scary. Even Vincent Price doesn't save this thing, no matter how much he may try; that's the greatest tragedy of all.

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2)

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Spatulater bro! posted:

Fran Challenge #8 - Dead & Buried (RIP Barbara Shelley)

Dracula: Prince of Darkness
Terence Fisher, 1966

Was this streaming anywhere, or did you just happen to have a physical copy? I was thinking of watching it for that very Fran Challenge, but for the life of me I can't find it anywhere.

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Franchescanado posted:

8. Dead & Buried

Watch a film featuring a cast member who has passed away since October. It can be an actor, composer, director, producer, etc. Must be new-to-you.


#12. Vampire in Venice (Tubi)

A professor goes to Venice, to trace the path and disappearance of an infamous vampire during the plague, but gets caught up when the creature returns after centuries.

On paper, this sounds like it should be interesting - a spiritual sequel to the Werner Herzog/Klaus Kinski adaptation of Nosferatu, starring Kinski and also featuring Christopher Plummer (RIP) and Donald Pleasance. (The film's original title was "Nosferatu in Venice," and Kinski was supposed to re-use the makeup from the 1979 film, to really hammer it home. That ended up not happening, so the connections are tenuous at best and only add to the weird, off-kilter feeling of the film.) In practice, this thing is kind of a weird, shambling mess - equal parts dreamlike and incompetent. There are some moments, mostly centered around Kinski and his lonely journey back to Venice, that are suitably trance-like and ethereal - but then we cut back to the human protagonists and its all stilted, partially dubbed performances and bizarre, half-formed characterizations and mediocre dialogue.

On paper, Plummer sounds like an excellent "Peter Cushing as Van Helsing" stand-in; he has a similar look and can convey similar gravitas. In practice, while I think they wanted to go with a characterization of "cynical and melancholic," it comes across as stiff and bored. The film being somewhat loose in characterization and plotting also undermines his character arc in the end - I can't tell if he's supposed to commit suicide at the end, after being beaten, or allowing himself to be taken by Nosferatu. Similar ends, but the act would at least illustrate something about him. Between the normal weirdness of English-speaking actors on Italian and the messy production, I can see how he could lose his passion for the project. Similarly, Donald Pleasance has next to nothing of interest to do in the film, which is a rare thing to say. Only Kinski comes across as giving something like an actual performance - he toggles between feral rage and Romantic-era melancholy, and it can be fascinating to watch. He seems like the only thing animated on screen at times, so you want to zero in on him, but he also feels like he belongs in another film entirely.

NOTE: Normally I would probably rate this a 2/5, due to the weird pacing issues and generally sloppy storytelling. However, checking out the IMDB page about it after the fact, it is alleged that Kinski actually committed sexual assault against most of the younger female costars while making this film; thinking back on it, that definitely sounds plausible, as the nudity and sex in the film feels weird and gratuitous throughout. Because of that, I don't feel comfortable giving this a formal rating - it wasn't much worth your time anyway, but with that knowledge about it now, no one needs to bother seeking this out.

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8)

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011






#13. Possessor (Hulu)

In the future, assassins can take over the bodies of people and use them to complete their mission and dispose of people. Tasya Vos is a veteran of this practice, but on her latest mission, she finds herself losing control of the host body, and threatening to lose her family and her self identity in the process.

Wow. I knew that the Horror Thread had gone crazy for this film last year when it came out, but I didn't get a chance to catch up to it until now. And what a treat this was. Dare I say, director Brandon Cronenberg's film may actually be able stand toe-to-toe with the best films of his father David? I think I dare.

The film is a wonderful treatise on identity and self-control and loss and self-denial and yet it never feels unengaging or lecturing or like it's monologuing. It deftly moves and interweaves through its themes with a level of self-confidence you don't normally expect from someone's sophomore effort at feature films. Oh, and it can still be thrilling and shockingly violent and haunting. This one is going to stay with me for a while.

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor

Oh, hey, I reached my original goal. But I still have so many Fran Challenges (or - you guessed it - "Frallenges") left to complete, and so much more month left as well. Guess I'll just have to keep going...

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Shaman Tank Spec posted:

Fran Challenge Twofer: #7: Mother's Day and #11: Myths & Legends

This is your first time running through these, so it's not a huge deal, but Fran Challenges are all basically one-offs, and no doubling up is (normally) allowed. Also, I think the spirit of Challenge #11 is to go for something uniquely mythological, like a movie about dragons or wyverns or things like that, or about known famous cryptids, like Bigfoot or the Jersey Devil or Mothman or the like. Ghosts are probably straddling the line for "mythological", but I don't think they'd count. Unless there is something unique about Persian ghost myths that I'm unaware of that wasn't mentioned in your review.

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Shaman Tank Spec posted:

Points taken and I dropped down to just one Fran challenge, but I would argue that djinns are not ghosts. As far as I understand, they are mythological creatures from Persian folklore, and basically are traditionally wind spirits with their whole own deal, not the spirits of departed people.

I'm not going to try to lecture anyone about the specifics of djinns, though, because I'm not an expert!

You're right, but I'm also unaware of this film and I managed to miss the one line that refers to djinns specifically. I think I just saw the line before it about "evil spirits" and defaulted to "ghosts" in my head, and that colored the rest of my scan through read.

Also, I am not an expert on djinns in any way either - my familiarity with them starts and ends with Wishmaster. Which, if you haven't seen it, could stand to be added to your list purely as a schlock fun option.

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011






#14. Mandy (Shudder via Joe Bob Briggs)

After his girlfriend is kidnapped and killed by a group of crazed cenobite-styled bikers and a group of hippie New Age religious freaks, a lumberjack goes on a kill-crazy rampage.

It's a simple story, but what makes Mandy so interesting is the direction by Panos Cosmatos, all red and blue color washes like something from Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis and designs like H.R. Gieger or Clive Barker doing airbrushed van art. However, Cosmatos is also supremely uninterested in character or dialogue, so your not going to get anything in the way of deep performances from most of the cast. (Nicolas Cage is fine when he gets asked to emote, but it's a very inward performance most of the time. Linus Roache gets the most to do, in terms of character work, as the sociopathic former singer Jeremiah Sand, and he is great throughout, though.) This is all in service on extrapolating on a theme and on sustaining or riffing on a tone; I'm not a fan of calling films "tone poems," but I don't know what else to call something like Mandy, which is so simplistic in approach that it almost eschews basic expectations of narrative filmmaking. I don't know if that would be considered a positive here or not.

Now, I watching this last night with the Joe Bob Briggs insertions on The Last Drive-In, which, on paper, sounds like a terrible way to watch the film. But, full disclosure, this is my second attempt to get through Mandy and my only successful go at it. (The first time was definitely not helped by having my mom and aunt there, but I also don't think I was of the right mindset to get through the film. It's very much a "mindset movie", where if you're not in the right headspace to watch that film you're bound to be unable to finish it, or will be miserable by the end of it.) That said, there's very little intentional humor in Mandy and it can seem like its trying to sustain "vaguely ethereal misery" as its basic modus operandi for long, unbroken stretches, so having a character like Joe Bob Briggs interrupt to wax laconic about the film and its creations can help break up feelings of monotony. At least, that's how I was able to get through some of the worst stretches of the film. (I am not a fan of the long sustained section where Mandy and Jeremiah have their confrontation, since it was shot with a pervasive red wash and blue strobing ghosting effects on movement, and Roache's voice was digitally altered; it was offputting to the point of causing us to turn it off the last time I tried to watch it. Having Joe Bob interrupt shortly before and right after helped keep me better grounded.)

On the whole, I think Mandy ends up working well, mostly because of its direction but at times seemingly in spite of it. This isn't a movie that would seem to benefit from the idea of restraint, but I also don't think that it can sustain being cranked up to full-bore color wash untethered madness for its entire runtime on its own either. Having something to help alleviate being stuck in Cosmatos' psyche makes it more palatable, to me at least. The back section of mostly unbroken action is definitely worth it; the beginning sections are fine, though I think it will end up stepping on its own feet in service of trying to wring more style out of material that doesn't benefit from it. I just wish the 20 or so minutes between when they summon the 'Mad Max Bikers from Hell" nameless characterless side henchmen up until Bill Duke shows does were a little less grating to watch. Sometimes less is more; sometimes you need an unintentional assist to break up the monotony of Persistent Creative Vision.

/5 on its own
/5 with assistance

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Franchescanado posted:

1. Short Cuts

Watch 60+ minutes worth of horror short films and review them.

Geometria (06:31) - Guillermo del Toro (The Criterion Channel)

A great little horror short by del Toro. I loved the ridiculous squeaky voices that all of the characters had (that were obviously dubbed in later), I love the Mario Bava colored lighting scheme, I love the dumb payoff. I especially love how right after the death of the main character at the end is immediately followed with jaunty music, the perfect black humored send off. This was a great ton of fun.

5/5

The Big Shave (05:53) - Martin Scorsese (The Criterion Channel)

Simple but effective. There's something grotesquely beautiful about watching the white porcelain and shiny chrome of the sink get overtaken with first drips, then big glops, of red. It's a simple metaphor - the idea of being so committed to an action that you continue well past the point of self-harm/self-destruction - but while I know it was meant to be directly tied to Vietnam, it's open-ended enough to be applicable to most anything, even today. Haunting.

4/5

A Visit from the Incubus (26:31) - Anna Biller (The Criterion Channel)

At what point does faithful recreation end up undoing itself? Does being so committed to the big Technicolor aesthetic of the 1950s mean you need to replicate the dated acting styles of the time, as well? I haven't seen Anna Biller's full feature The Love Witch but I gather that's a common complaint - that her slavish recreations end up bringing along the worst elements of a period as well as the best. That, or she's just bad at directing actors, or only ends up getting non-actors and is not able to spin gold from straw.

This was supposed to be a big Western horror musical comedy about self-redemption and taking control of your own past and future, and it manages to come up short on literally all fronts. An overlong disappointment.

2/5


Motion Detected (07:12) - Vincent Dormani (YouTube)

I guess it's supposed to be a mash-up of the static security camera aesthetic of Paranormal Activity and the spooky ghost girl antics of The Ring, but it fails hard at being either of those. Or much of anything on its own. Also, I don't know if it's narcissism to name the central (barely functional) security system after yourself, or a black humored joke that didn't land well, but either way it made me side-eye the short hard when it was over. Not worth the time.

2/5


Mirror Gaze (09:42) - Josh Nadler (YouTube)

A grieving mother, not communicating well with her husband, turns to some New Age mysticism bull to try and contact her dead daughter, but ends up invoking something else instead. Then, because she hasn't learned to open up, she inadvertently leads the husband to summon it again himself. Short and snappy, and you can gather the depths of thematic relevance and character history with a minimum amount of screen-time or dialogue. An effective little thriller parable, even if it was shot a little flat and the spooky ghost was not at all interesting or threatening. Could be a good sign of better things to come from this director, if given better budgets (and more intersting monsters).

3/5

Damage Control (08:01) - Ryan Oksenberg (YouTube)

I guess there's a ghost and I guess there's a secret and I guess it all has to do with the abandoned, dilapidated structure The Man brings The Woman too, but nothing is explained. And not in that "well, sometimes things don't have explanations" open-ended way that needs a very sure hand to make work. This just feels like nothing is there under the hood, and that this could have stood another pass or two through the typewriter before they went out and shot it. Not impressed.

2/5

TRT of all of the shorts above: 63:53
TRT of the shorts I'd actually recommend watching: 22:09

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1)

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Franchescanado posted:

6. Playing With Power

Watch a horror film that has had a tie-in video game. OR Watch a horror film adaptation of a video game. (Note: While it's not mandatory, it would be really fun to provide pictures or footage from the video game.)


#16. Saw (rewatch) (HBO Max)

A pair of strangers wake up in an abandoned bathroom, chained to the walls, with only a handful of clues... and a pair of hacksaws... to get them out of the situation. They are part of the mysterious Jigsaw Killer's game, but who is he? And will the obsessed detective manage to find them in time?

Now that Spiral is out and I am able to start going back to theaters again, I figured it would be a good idea to revisit the original Saw movie, which I haven't seen in probably a decade or more, and at least re-familiarize myself with that whole universe. Going back to the original movie, it's easy to forget how much more humble the series was than what it has become; the original is basically a thriller with a couple of gnarly gross-out flashbacks with actors who are too good for the material. (Seriously, how did they land Danny Glover and Kerri Russel for their no-budget first film?) That that managed to balloon out to an expansive series of films with giant set-piece scare scenes is ridiculous and/or inspiring. Either/or.

It's difficult not to view the original through a franchise lens these days, and ironically that ends up undercutting a lot of the mystery the original presented. Not just the identity of Jigsaw and his part in the whole first game, but also the role that Ben Linus is playing - a nobody - and how the big ending twist gets telegraphed. Also, it makes you end up viewing things like Amanda's "confession" scene as insincere, which I think plays against what they were trying to do in this first movie. The whole world of Saw has gotten smaller and more insular over time, since the filmmakers can never seem to let fan favorite characters go, but the more people that come out of Jigsaw's traps as acolytes, the more it seems he only preys on damaged people susceptible to his bullshit rationales in the first place, which seems counterintuitive to how he's presented.

On the whole, the film largely succeeds at what it's trying to do, but there are some things holding it back. The acting is largely just serviceable across the board, with Leigh Whannell kinda sticking out like a sore thumb. Danny Glover's detective side story feels oddly disconnected from everything, and at times seems more like padding than anything that the film is actively trying to build on. (That said, I did like that the film played up like he was heroically going to stop Zep in the sewer, only to get accidentally shot and just shuffled aside; they managed to wring some tension out of that chase scene, but that might have been because it was so tied to the big trailer moment of Cary Elwes finally, desperately sawing his foot off.) And, like I said, the more of the franchise you're aware of, the smaller this original release feels. Still, it ends up working well enough on its own merits that it gets a recommendation.

/5

Oh, speaking of the Danny Glover detective stuff, his character - Detective Tapp - ends up becoming the main character of the (in)famous PS3/360 era Saw: The Video Game. (Not starring Glover, though... he was both too old and too sensible for this poo poo.)



I remember a friend hyping me enough about the game that I ended up going out and buying it new when it was in its first month of release, which turned out to be a mistake. The idea of a moody horror puzzle game set in the Saw world was admittedly intriguing; what I got was frustrating controls, murky graphics, ridiculous insta-death quicktime events strewn all around and bizarre puzzle solutions. It wasn't engaging enough to commit to, so I never did end up finishing it. Fortunately, in the days of YouTube Let's Plays, I don't have to... and neither do you, if you want to save your sanity. Here, you can watch The Completionist slowly drive himself and his friend crazy over time trying to finish this stupid game.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyUithcvB4Q

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1), Saw (rewatch) (FC #6)

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Franchescanado posted:

12. Cavalcade of Creepiness

Watch an anthology film that's new to you.


#17. Southbound (Shudder)

A group of stories, possibly interconnected, about strangers running into horrible situations on an unmarked stretch of highway in the desert.

Southbound, like pretty much all anthology films, lives and dies by its ability to do a lot with a short amount of screen time. Most of the stories end up being fine, with the group of directors leaning more on characters alluding to past events to suggest depth and history for these people; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. There's also a cyclical nature to the whole thing that only starts to become apparent in the back half - prior to that, I was really downrating the decision to start in medias res in the first story, which makes things seem more confusing then they need to be. I'm still not sure if the decision was the right one, but at least I can understand it better.

Might make the most sense to break this down by story real quick:

  1. The Way Out = The confusing start, coming in the middle of the story. A pair of beat up guys drive their truck into a forgotten town pursued by weird floating skeleton torso monsters. The weird cyclical stuff gets started, but feels more concerned with this story than the film as a whole, at least at this point. Ends with the main character trapped in a labyrinth of his own mind, chasing his little girl who is probably dead. Weird decision to start with this, even if the skeleton monsters look really cool. 2/5.
  2. Siren = A step up from the opening, but ends up collapsing under the weight of too many plot threads for a 20 minute short. A trio of girls in a rock band break down on the side of the road, and get taken to an odd couple's house to wait for help in the morning. Two of the three get indoctrinated into a weird 1950s-styled supernatural cult, and end up pursuing their friend into the night. Also, our main character is apparently also getting haunted by the ghost of the fourth band member who disappeared. Had they cut the dead friend ghost and left that as dialogue allusions only, this would probably have worked better. As it is, this feels like a 3/5.
  3. The Accident = Immediately following from the last story, as our heroine gets plastered by a car, and the guy who hit her becomes our new focus as he tries to save her. Mostly taking place in an abandoned hospital, this one has the weirdest setup, but the strongest payoff. Also has the creepiest moment in the whole film, when he gets talked into crushing the girl's lung and killing her, and the "helpful" voices on the phone just start giggling afterwards. The best story here, by virtue of being the most straightforward and the most complete. Seems odd to put your best stuff in the middle. 4/5.
  4. Jailbreak = I wanna say this is the weakest story here, even it seems like it's the one tasked with the being the thematic lynchpin of the whole thing, in that I guess there are demons and that means that this whole highway stretch is either Hell or Purgatory or a gateway to Hell or who knows anymore? Not sure if the filmmakers were able to piece together how this is all supposed to work, either. I feel like the story can't focus on who the main characters are, and doesn't know what the characters underlying motivations really mean, and how that ties into the place or the wider movie, so everything feels incredibly scattershot. I wanted this to gel, but it just never did. 1/5.
  5. The Way In = Now the cyclical stuff finally starts to make sense, as we find out how the guys from the first story get beaten up in the first place. That feels like they wanted it to be a surprise reveal, but it really never ends up feeling that way. It's fine enough as a The Strangers home invasion rip, but loses me when it starts getting weird. Its revealed that this is where the floating skeleton torso monsters came from, but it makes no sense as to why these random family members explode into floating skeleton torso monsters at the end. Karmic retribution (which the invader guys from the first story were apparently enacting, so it's a karmic retribution reversal)? Evil WASPy socialites that they just never revealed would burst into floating skeleton torso monsters, because why would that come up? Just a thing that happens cuz you're on the Southbound road into Hell, baby? I don't get it; not sure that there's anything here TO get. 2/5

I dunno guys - I wish that individual story mechanics were better thought through and explained. There's way more effort put into the Pulp Fiction interconnected-ness for the ending reveal than into making sure that the individual pieces worked on their own merits. I wasn't able to sit through the first person shaky cam nonsense of the first V/H/S, and I've been wary of going back to it. I know that the same group came together for this, and I was interested to see if this would work better, freed of the constraints of the POV format conceit. In some ways, these Southbound shorts are individually well shot and had good production elements, but I feel like making them more discrete, separated stories would have allowed for better individual story cohesion and a stronger overall throughline for the final film. Here, so much effort is spent trying to make sure one story leads into the next and we can all loop things around again, but for what? No one story benefits from this, save the middle one, and even that could have been largely unchanged had the person getting hit been some rando we don't know, just like story-specific main character Lucas, instead of the protagonist of the previous story, who gets reduced to a flopping corpse-to-be. As it is, I'm less impressed by the bow they think they're tying, when the whole package is so rough and badly wrapped together.

/5 for the entire thing

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1), Saw (rewatch) (FC #6), Southbound (FC #12)

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011






On the one hand, introducing Laurie as Michael's sister after the way Halloween was written and created was a dumb move that the sequel made, and one that would end up shaping all of the other (non-III) sequels down through the next decade or so.

On the other hand, if you build it in from the outset, as Rob Zombie did in his two remakes, it kinda ends up working? If you build the story around that relationship between the protagonist and antagonist, it can flow a lot better.

In other words, you can skip the normal Halloween 4-Resurrection sequels (don't skip III) and jump straight to the two Rob Zombie remake movies.

Or you could always skip all the way ahead to Halloween 2018 and check that out. They omit the "Laurie as sister" angle, and just have her and Michael remain fixated on each other, so it's still a little more organic than in the original sequel.

Just don't skip Season of the Witch.

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Basebf555 posted:

While the transformation in American Werewolf in London is all-time great, The Howling has the better actual werewolf. The werewolf from American Werewolf in London isn't particularly good.

And thus begins the great "biped vs. quadruped" werewolf wars...

poo poo, why do I want to write a spec script called Werewolf Wars now?

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Franchescanado posted:

The Halloween series is notorious for killing off Michael in definitive ways, and then bringing him back with ridiculous twists and retcons.

The one that comes to mind, besides the inexplicable return in Part 4, is Part 5's beginning where he is nursed back to health by a well-meaning stranger. I think he even floats down a river??

He falls into a mine shaft - I guess - that got exploded in Part 4, which dumps him out into a nearby river that doesn't appear to be connected by geography to the previous location. Then he gets nursed back to health by a random hobo living in a river shack nearby for a year, until Michael gets up the following Halloween, for no discernible reason other than his psychic connection to the holiday, and kills the poor guy. Which seems really ungrateful, when you think about it.

At least the pet parrot was fine.

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Franchescanado posted:

11. Myths & Legends

Watch a horror film heavily featuring mythical creatures (killer mermaids, killer minotaur, killer unicorn, etc.)


#18. Wendigo (Shudder)

A young family spending the weekend upstate strikes and kills a deer on the road. The father gets into a confrontation with the hunters, nearly coming to blows. Afterwards, strange things begin happening at the house, and their young son comes to believe it may be the influence of a Wendigo.

I'm torn on this one, in terms of rating this as the movie it could be vs. the movie that it is. On the one hand, this is something of a thematic gem, a sort of child's eye view of Straw Dogs, where the young protagonist is absorbing all of his father's neuroses and masculine shortcomings and the potential violent conflicts and not having the capacity to form a true understanding of any of it. So everything gets filtered through his imagination and the wendigo myth and you can never be quite sure what in the back half is potentially real or not. It's really interesting, and for long stretches feels more like one of those "families in conflict trapped in a single location" dramas than a true horror or thriller movie; I love the scene of the father and son, sitting side by side on an old sled in the middle of the woods, the dad talking about the concepts of grief and mourning and the son really not getting it all. (The actors are mostly all good, especially Patricia Clarkson and Jake Weber as the parents, but Erik Per Sullivan - still in the super-young looking "Malcolm in the Middle" phase - is kinda weak as the child lead.)

But then, on the other hand, when it comes time for the movie to be a horror-thriller it doesn't really work. The idea of a potential crazy redneck stalking them through the woods around their house over imagined slights should be tense and scary, but they're spaced out enough that it doesn't really ever come across that way. There are scenes where the son sees the wendigo chasing after him, but it is presented on screen as a bad CGI avalanche and some doofy looking EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVIL trees, with a bunch of tree limbs around the camera POV subbing in as wendigo hands, which only makes the idea of an evil tree monster running after you going "I'ma getcha! I'ma GETcha!" even goofier somehow[spoiler]. Better is a scene where the son sees [spoiler]a giant humanoid deer-man skeleton standing over his dad after he gets shot, but that only gets a few seconds of screen time and then is never referenced again. If there is a wendigo here, it is inconsistently shown every time it appears, so it plays into the myth of the wendigo being a shape shifter but never does make it seem like a coherent threat.

(Also, the final form for the wendigo is basically a deluxe Spirit Halloween werewolf body suit with a deer head, with sped up shots to try and make it look less ridiculous and only succeeding in making it look worse. But I can't be the only one disappointed that it didn't end up looking (and sounding) like the old Marvel comics villain, right?)



Anyway, I get that the wanted to play with the myth of a wendigo as more of a metaphor than anything here, but it seems improperly applied: Wikipedia says that a wendigo is a metaphorical creature of greed and consumption, but everything treated in this film are metaphors of self-negation and self-deprecation and the violent conflicts that arise out of wounded male egos, so the wendigo myth doesn't really feel like it applies. Maybe you could say it does for the scene where Otis the hunter kills the sheriff and tries to flee town, or the final shots of the son watching Otis being brought into the hospital, clutching the little wendigo totem so tight his hand bleeds, like now he's the wendigo because his anger summoned a monster to hurt Otis in revenge, but all of that feels like a stretch. Again, I think they're trying to play with all of this thematically and metaphorically, which is admirable, but its misapplied here and there and keeps the whole thing from ever gelling as well as I'd like. It feels nominally like a horror film, nominally a thriller, nominally a movie about a wendigo that may or may not exist. So this ends up being a movie I can only nominally recommend.

/5

P.S. The presentation of this thing on Shudder suuuuuucks. I get that this was probably only sourcable from a DVD master, so the video quality being meh is somewhat understandable and something I can deal with; it is ugly to look at in any dark scenes, though. The big issue is that the sound mix is all jacked up: dialogue is far too soft and muddled, the sound effects all have this weird doubling-effect on them so every step or creak or gunshot sounds warped and overloud, and the music ends up drowning all of that out anyway. I eventually adapted to it, but I had to do so by fighting with the audio settings every few minutes.

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1), Saw (rewatch) (FC #6), Southbound (FC #12), Wendigo (FC #11)

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Franchescanado posted:

3. Camp BLOOD

Watch a horror movie that takes place at a summer camp.


#19. Stage Fright (2014) (Hoopla)

A young girl's opera singer mother is killed on the opening night of "The Haunting of the Opera." 10 years later, at a summer camp for theater kids, her daughter joins their production of the same show... only for a new killer to start attacking all over again.

I had more fun with this than I had expected I would. The initial pitch - "Glee" meets "Scream" or something to that effect - was initially intriguing, but also a little worrying. I've known theater kids, and I expected a film that was designed to make it palatable, or even fun or desirable, to kill them off would do so by ratcheting up the worst stereotypes and by making them essentially non-personalities. There is some of that stereotyping in here, which is especially annoying that it is mostly applied to their sexuality - "all theater kids are gay" is like, the second lowest hanging fruit, behind only "all theater kids are weird and irritating."

Fortunately, there was a lot more work put into characters than I had been expecting, especially main character Camilla. Her desire to follow in her mother's footsteps into musical theater stardom is interesting and well explored, especially since the movie does not shy away from some of the darker aspects of that journey (like backstabbing alternates and directors using their stars' desires to take advantage of them, professionally and sexually). For long stretches you can forget that this is a horror movie at all, since all of those elements are largely relegated to the last third of the film. The cast is mostly good, and Meat Loaf should be in more horror movies, whether he gets to sing or not.

Once the whole "slasher villain attacking the show" aspect gets underway, the movie turns out to be an okay slasher film overall, but that's about it. Metal Ghost, the villain, is fun enough, but he's not really in the movie all that much, and his identity is pretty obvious well before the big unmasking is done at the end. He has one or two okay kills, but most of them are not super memorable or gory. By the time any of this starts happening, you've gotten to know most of the cast well enough, and outside of the one rear end in a top hat director you end up feeling bad about the others getting killed off. It's a fine line to walk, having a slasher film where characters are well-defined and likable but also getting the audience to enjoy the kill scenes. Stage Fright mostly succeeds at both, but by back-loading the slasher horror element it doesn't give it enough time to breathe or enough time to set up some really inventive moments that would help it stand out. It mostly seems to want to skate by on the strength of Metal Ghost as a character, but his 80s hair metal screech-quipping and guitar playing is only going to take you so far, even in his limited screen time.

On the whole I really enjoyed my time with this. I'm not enough of a musicals guy to tell you if the music is exceptionally good one way or the other, but I am enough of a horror guy to tell you that that aspect works well, once the movie finally gets around to it.

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1), Saw (rewatch) (FC #6), Southbound (FC #12), Wendigo (FC #11), Stage Fright (2014) (FC #3)

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Franchescanado posted:

5. Cinco

Watch a Mexican horror film. Must be new-to-you.


#20. Tigers Are Not Afraid (Shudder)

A young girl ends up with three wishes that come true, but come with horrifying results, in this magical realism story about children living on the streets after losing their families to cartel violence.

On the one hand, there's a certain lyricism to the way that a film like this is structured and operates, since it's basically a fairy tale in a way: young Estrella loses her home, finds a new one with new friends, and gains 3 wishes to improve her life and the lives of others. On the other hand, that structure also ends up diluting the potential for horror, which ends up being something intrusive rather than pervasive. Especially since the most prevalent ghostly figure in the film is Estrella's mother - you know that she that isn't going to present any kind of existential threat to her own daughter, and that her death is the most obvious candidate for a late film reveal, which automatically undercuts any tension or interest around it coming out. Even the cartel violence that ends up dominating the proceedings subsides a bit when the film allows for extended sequences where the kids get to let their guard down; when they get to hang out in an abandoned school, complete with ersatz koi ponds and improvised indoor soccer fields, the potential horrors of the world seem to fall away. Consequently, that lets the air out of the tires, since it feels like the film is losing focus, and thus my attention started to wander too.

As much as the contrast was necessary for the darker elements to work, such as the youngest child being killed by gang members or the immediate turnaround of the final wish, these kinds of "magical realism" fables have never been my thing. Few directors working within these structures have been able to hold my attention with this style; it's basically Guillermo del Toro sometimes and that's probably about it. I recognize that this is a me issue, not a universal one, and can even recognize that Tigers Are Not Afraid is a pretty good entry in that canon overall. I also recognize that it's not a film for me, or one that I'm likely to return to at any point in the future. But that's okay; I'm still glad I sought it out once.

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1), Saw (rewatch) (FC #6), Southbound (FC #12), Wendigo (FC #11), Stage Fright (2014) (FC #3), Tigers Are Not Afraid (FC #5)

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Weekend catch-up time.


#21. Psycho Goreman (Shudder)

A pair of kids dig up an alien crystal in their backyard, which ends up unleashing a bloodthirsty alien overlord with bizarre powers. However, as long as the little girl has the crystal, he is bound to her every whim.

That ended up being a lot of fun. I grew up on "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" in the early-ish 90s, and this was a wonderfully demented throwback to that era of elaborate monster costumes and ridiculous fight scenes. Psycho Goreman himself is a wonderful character, looking like a mash-up of Ivan Ooze and the Wishmaster, and throwing out nothing but goofy-sounding murder threats at any given opportunity. And watching his anti-Terminator 2 progression as he learns humanity from a terrible source is a delight. This is a film rich with character design and a lot of implied world building; I would love to see a sequel with a better budget that can delve into the alien worlds and things in more depth.

On the other hand, the human side was kinda one note. Mom and Dad are kind of nothing characters, and get more screen time than the jokes that they provide deserve. And Luke is kind of an annoying doormat the whole time, and never ends up growing a spine from the whole thing. Main character Mimi ends up staying juuuuuust on this side of "working" for me the whole movie, which is important since basically the whole movie revolves around her performance. That said, I could see how her presence ends up turning some viewers away; she ends up acting like a live-action Louise Belcher, but minus the comedic timing and the occasional moments of humanization. The big reconciliation moment late in the picture is supposed to be her apologizing to her brother through their shared song, I guess? But the lyrics and tone are still a self-congratulatory power anthem about saying "frick you" to authority and defining yourself as being explicitly anti-order and anti-rules. So she apologizes implicitly by explicitly saying "frick off" to the concept of apologizing for her myriad fricked-up actions... and her brother buys it? He's a bigger doormat than I had thought.

Still, like any good Godzilla movie or "Super Sentai" show, you're not here for the human drama, you're here for the goofy alien monster characters and their suitwork and stunts and action. And Psycho Goreman is able to deliver that in spades, all with a black-humored irony and obvious love for its original inspirations. I had a lot of fun with this one.

/5


#22. Spiral: From the Book of Saw (An actual factual movie theater)

A new Jigsaw Killer copycat is stalking the streets, putting crooked cops into new murder traps. Can embittered Detective Chris Rock solve the case in time to save more bad cops from getting someone's twisted sense of justice?

On the one hand, I'm not entirely sure that the movie itself works all that well as a whole. I can tell Chris Rock has a lot of love for the Saw franchise; I don't think he was the right person to anchor a dramatic horror-thriller picture, especially one that pitches itself explicitly a Se7en-style police procedural thriller. Being a police procedural also ends up feeling at times contrary to the idea of what a Saw movie is supposed to be these days; it feels like a throwback to the original movie and the Detective Tapp storyline, the one the series was quickest to move past. A lot of the script is workmanlike and not terribly interesting; a lot of the direction outside of the trap scenes is fairly flat and not terribly interesting. I'm also not sold on the new Jigsaw Killer's style and presentation; without Tobin Bell's voiceover being inserted in, I'm not sure if it's worth it. (If the Scream series can manage to keep the same Ghostface voice sequel in and sequel out, I don't know why this new film was reticent to avoid that connection.)

On the other hand, it's hard not to look at what the film itself is - a mid-budget film from a major studio in a notable franchise, spearheaded by a black man, that is explicitly anti-police, released in the United States in 2021, after all of the George Floyd news - and not be at least a little impressed. It's almost funny, in a way: Jigsaw had always had three semi-connected iconic "mascots" and symbols, in a way - Billy the puppet, the spiral design, and the pig mask. Spiral names itself after the second, but really centers itself around the pig imagery; you can say that's on the nose for a movie about punishing bad police, but for a massive middle finger thrown at cops to come from a studio franchise is kind of mind-boggling, especially with imagery and iconography so brazen. That ending especially - with Rock running out to try and stop the SWAT team and, as a black man, having to immediately drop to his knees and put his hands behind his head, while his father gets pulled up by puppet strings to stand and draw a fake gun on the cops - is both haunting and viscerally angry at the way the world is today. And, in a way, it could only work as an idea in a film that got released today; put the same ending in an earlier Saw movie and I don't know if that would have the same impact. I don't know if the film will have a long shelf life or be talked about much in the future (though I'd honestly welcome a similar sequel if they have ideas for a way to extend this further); I do have a feeling that ending will be discussed for quite a while, though.

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1), Saw (rewatch) (FC #6), Southbound (FC #12), Wendigo (FC #11), Stage Fright (2014) (FC #3), Tigers Are Not Afraid (FC #5), Psycho Goreman, Spiral

P.S. Would Spiral count for the "Horrible Holidays" Fran Challenge 13? The opening kill scene is set on July 4th, and a few of the police detective work scenes in the following 30 minutes make mention of it, but it doesn't really have a ton of bearing on the story itself (outside of a few passing Son of Sam-style "we're in a bad heat wave this summer" mentions that imply that the world is getting crazier but don't actually affect anything one way or another).

Class3KillStorm fucked around with this message at 14:34 on May 24, 2021

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Hollismason posted:

This takes place over Easter so it counts for one of the Fran Challenges. This is a good entry , also boobs in a PG 13 film. Overall the tone of this is a lot more humorous I felt than the first film. Its still basically a rip off of Gremlins . Its kind of a low budget affair but it makes up for it with the great puppetry and the Critters are really entertaining. Overall I can see why this is a cult classic its got a lot of thingss going for it. That not quite good performances of every actor , etc.. Anyway a good sequel to a movie that ripped off Gremlins.

Critters 2 is still the best thing Mick Garris has ever directed.

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Time to finish off the Fran Challenges.

Franchescanado posted:

4. Movie of the Month

Watch a horror movie that has been featured as a CineD Movie of the Month.


#23. Vampyr (The Criterion Channel)

A dreamer, obsessed with the supernatural, visits an old inn where a vampire appears to be stalking young women.

Carl Theodore Dryer knows how to compose a shot, I'll give him that. This film's story, if we're being charitable and calling it such, badly needed further refining. I know that this was Dryer's first sound picture, and you can tell no one is really comfortable with the technology yet. The film is put together like an old silent film, complete with multiple on-screen info dumps via the deus ex manuscript that got delivered in the first reel. Here, we get all of the old Germanic vampire lore we'd ever need, but none of it really applies here, as the vampire is a largely off-screen presence that occasionally threatens to do something of mild interest. Alas, nothing ever does happen.

There's stuff here to like, like some of the early mood setting with the roving shadows and an eerie extended sequence where our hero Allan Gray (the one character that seems to get a name I can both remember and attribute to the right person) imagines himself being buried in a coffin. That sequence, where our viewpoint is that of the dead person being borne out and to the grave, staring up through a glass window to watch the ceiling and sky pass by, is appropriately haunting and the standout of the whole thing. However, it comes so late in the film that I was well and truly bored before it showed up.

In the end, the dreamlike atmosphere and haunted manor house setting isn't really enough to overcome the fractured storytelling structure or the glacial pacing. I want to grade this on a curve, but even then I can't admit that I had a terribly good time with this one. A shame - I've liked other Dryer pictures I'd seen in the past, but this one just doesn't work for me.

/5

Franchescanado posted:

13. Horrible Holidays

Watch a horror film that heavily features any holiday. (The holiday does not need to be throughout the movie; a major holiday scene counts, as long as it's prominent. ie Easter in Critters 2.)


#24. Black Christmas (2019) (HBO Max)

After a group of sorority sisters pulls a prank on the elite fraternity on campus, they start disappearing and getting attacked by strangers in robes. Sometimes Christmas themed weapons are used, even.

I'm glad the Fran Challenge specified that the holiday theming didn't need to be throughout, as the Christmas element of this movie gets dropped pretty hard around the 2/3rds mark. Actually, I'm not even sure why this film ended up being a Christmas movie at all, outside of owning the rights to the name and cynically imagining that it might help the box office returns. (It didn't.) Or just using the holidays as an excuse for why these sorority houses all seem so underpopulated. Outside of the big Christmas party "prank" - which is actually using the structure of a Christmas song to call out a rapist to a crowd, so, uh, fun? - and a handful of kills using Christmas themed items, there's really nothing about this film that ties to the holiday in any way. It could be set whenever and have a different name, and it'd still be crap.

Like, I want to be on the movie's side, here. I can appreciate it's messaging about female empowerment and women not tearing each other down and its whole "smash the patriarchy" vibe. But it's just so sloppily put together and obviously chopped down to get a PG-13 rating, so none of the big horror moments land with any weight. They even try stealing the famous long-take jump scare set up of The Exorcist III, down to the camera zoom on the big shock moment, and it just drifts past like a fart in the wind. A moment of disgust and then it's passed, with only a lingering memory of mild revulsion to mark the occasion. A fitting metaphor for this movie, mayhaps?

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1), Saw (rewatch) (FC #6), Southbound (FC #12), Wendigo (FC #11), Stage Fright (2014) (FC #3), Tigers Are Not Afraid (FC #5), Psycho Goreman, Spiral, Vampyr (FC #4), Black Christmas (2019) (FC #13)

Class3KillStorm fucked around with this message at 18:00 on May 26, 2021

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011






#25. A Quiet Place (YouTube TV)

After blind aliens who hunt by sound devastate the world, a family who has learned to live in silence tries to survive.

This was fine, but there was a level of detachment that I felt toward the whole thing that I wasn't expecting going in, and I'm not quite sure if I can pinpoint what it was, exactly. Maybe it's the simple fact that there's only so many times you can see everyone freeze up with tense looks on their faces at any sound being made before you just get bored of the repetition? Maybe it's the goofy and clunky way that information is conveyed visually in this film? (These things lasted long enough for multiple weeks' worth of very loud newspaper printing presses to get word out about what's going on and the fact that these things are sound-based hunters, but somehow no one ever worked out their weaknesses before? To that point, who cared about printed media in 2018, when this movie was made, let alone the "in the near future" 2020 that it supposedly takes place in?) Maybe it's just the monster designs themselves? I don't care how quick or armored these Cloverfield-looking things are, I refuse to believe that no one had ever figured out that 1) if they're sound-based hunters that you could overwhelm them with high frequencies or 2) that creatures that have to open up their head armor to expose their fleshy auditory bits don't have an easily exploitable weakness that any army would have been able to figure out and use to fight back.

The film is dumb while imagining itself to be clever, and that always ends up being an off-putting feeling. It's saved from its worst tendencies by a very game cast, especially Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds as the mother-daughter pair. And I guess the nature cinematography is nice enough. I was put on the back foot by the dumb and overly mawkish child death in the beginning, but the film threatened at times to rally and maybe turn into something good. Alas, it never did quite get there.

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1), Saw (rewatch) (FC #6), Southbound (FC #12), Wendigo (FC #11), Stage Fright (2014) (FC #3), Tigers Are Not Afraid (FC #5), Psycho Goreman, Spiral, Vampyr (FC #4), Black Christmas (2019) (FC #13), A Quiet Place

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011






#26. Lifechanger (Showtime)

An aging shapeshifter drains the life essences of people to sustain his own, taking their forms and memories while leaving them dried husks. He does this in order to get closer to the woman he fell in love with using a previous body.

Did anyone see that romantic fantasy miniseries (? I thought it was a movie when I saw it advertised) The Beauty Inside, where everyday a character played by Topher Grace's voice wakes up in a different person's body for one day, but he's fallen in love with a woman and so these different faces keep trying to meet her again? This is basically the horror movie version of that - less "Quantum Leap into a person for a day," more "drain them until they're a husk, then use their stolen face to chop up and burn the remains so no one can catch on to what's happening." Andrew, the off-screen voice stand-in for a character we don't meet until the end, thinks of this all as pure survival, but there's a cold, dispassionate remove that permeates all of the various bodies that he inhabits throughout the movie; young, old, male, female, doesn't matter, everyone basically plays it as a serial killer outside of interacting with one woman, Julia, who Andrew claims to love but maybe is just fixated on.

That remove ends up being a double-edged sword. There's an undeniable creepiness to the ease with which Andrew lets himself into people's lives and ingratiates himself to others; the tensest scene in the whole film is one where he poses as an unhappily married dentist, obviously bored and disgusted with family dinner, the camera lingering on a knife with the young daughter out of focus in the near background. However, that remove also makes Andrew an obvious antihero at best, basically the antagonist of his own story, so it makes it near impossible to root for him to actually be happy or be able to confess the truth of what he is to Julia.

Also, I think the movie has at least two endings too many. It gets to a point that's obvious to call from the midpoint - he ends up accidentally consuming Julia and stealing her form, destroying the woman he thinks he loves, ruining his one chance at happiness, however fleeting, and dooming her body to the consuming rot that has been forcing him to exchange faces so frequently throughout the movie- but then it keeps going from there. You'd think that watching the rot finally consume Andrew, as a final act of self-destructive acceptance of his unhappiness and a way to stop this chain of action might be a tad excessive, but it would also make sense. But then the real Andrew emerges from some kind of biological cocoon as an old man to wax American Psycho-style philosophical about the emptiness of identity and then I have to kind of roll my eyes, because this was not as interesting a place to end as about 5 minutes ago.

I dunno - the film is put together well enough, and the cast of rotating faces is game to play one character stretched across 6 people. But there's not a lot of meat there for them to play with, and it makes the film's underlying doomed romance conceit feel hollow; the film asks you to root for Andrew like he's the Frank Langella Dracula, the tortured Romantic with a love he cannot truly have, not realizing that he's really Henry Lee Lucas, dispassionate psychopath occasionally making overtures towards love, as if it's something he feels he should pursue but doesn't really understand. That extended ending also really damages the film, in my opinion, as it drags the resolution out past the natural seeming end point to try and recontextualize the film in a way that it doesn't earn or even really benefit from. Chop down the last 5 minutes or so and you'd have an interesting treatise on identity that would be a great double-feature with something like Possessor; as it is, it's an interesting but flawed film that whiffs the landing badly enough to consume the whole thing. Which I guess could still be ironically appropriate.

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1), Saw (rewatch) (FC #6), Southbound (FC #12), Wendigo (FC #11), Stage Fright (2014) (FC #3), Tigers Are Not Afraid (FC #5), Psycho Goreman, Spiral, Vampyr (FC #4), Black Christmas (2019) (FC #13), A Quiet Place, Lifechanger

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011






#27. Saint Maud (Amazon Prime)

An intensely devout in-home caregiver becomes dangerously obsessed with saving the soul of an atheist former ballerina.

Wow. Saint Maud is a clever, small film that works its way under your skin by taking a long time to set up its world and protagonist and saving its most gut-wrenching punch for its final frames. It's structured and put together like a moody British drama character piece, but as it slowly unveils more and more about protagonist Maud's fragile mental state it allows elements of the supernatural to creep in more and more steadily. Like many films like it, that slow burn and slow incorporation leaves you wondering whether or not Maud is correct, and if God really is a presence in the story and is blessing her with his presence and some amount of divine protection. But then, the film ends first by showing you Maud's imagined reality, where she immolates herself and gets angel wings and a halo and all the beachgoers around her prostrate themselves before that image, converts now to a truth Maud has known all along... only to get a few frames of the horrible truth, that she's burning and screaming and then smash cut to the end credits. I was already thinking that this was a fantastic film; that final half-second pushes this over into legendary status.

That description of the ending might make you think that this is a cruel film, but it really isn't. It's curious about its lead, but not to a dispassionate remove like a Stanley Kubrick or David Cronenberg film. However, it is like a nature documentary in a way, because it feels like, however close the camera can get or however sympathetically it tries to frame Maud, it knows that she is, and has been by choice, isolated from the rest of humanity, and that her recent conversion is preventing her from seeking out more tangible connections or true help for her precarious mental state. It's a film that foresees the end that's coming and, while it doesn't delight in it or treat it as a black humored ending joke (thought I could see how you could read that ending as the latter), it also knows that it can't do anything to forestall or prevent it, either. Saint Maud is a film about the dangers of faith being taken to an extreme, but it also is a film about how precious human connections can be, and how we can't ignore or omit the tangible world around us in favor of the expectations of the one to come. Live for the moment here and now - the ending will get here eventually, in its own time.

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1), Saw (rewatch) (FC #6), Southbound (FC #12), Wendigo (FC #11), Stage Fright (2014) (FC #3), Tigers Are Not Afraid (FC #5), Psycho Goreman, Spiral, Vampyr (FC #4), Black Christmas (2019) (FC #13), A Quiet Place, Lifechanger, Saint Maud

Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011






#28. The Babysitter: Killer Queen (Netflix)

2 years after the events of the first film, a traumatized Cole is once again attacked by the Satanic blood cult from before... including the 4 stupid-but-dangeous members he killed before.

This was a lot of fun. The original Babysitter movie was a fun and inventive little thriller, anchored by a decent teenager performance by Judah Lewis but mainly carried by Samara Weaving as the titular babysitter. This one still has a mostly good turn by Lewis, but doesn't benefit by having Weaving on hand to keep things working for the most part. To compensate, they bring back the original group of antagonists and amp everything up to 11, so that the whole thing turns into an outlandish Gremlins 2-style live action cartoon.

I love the one musclehead jock character who spends the whole movie with his shirt off, but can't even be too made at main character Cole, even when he gets killed a second - or third - time. I also really like the goofy Dad character, who wants to be supportive of his son while also trying to avoid the heavier responsibilities of a possibly mentally ill son by regressing to playing games and smoking pot. It's a fine line to tread to keep a character like that sympathetic, and I think it mostly works. Character work is strong across the board - that's the film greatest strength. I will say it's bad at twists, though - I was mildly surprised that they went with the "best friend from the last movie was secretly evil and in on it all" angle, but the other two twists - the non-surprising return of Bea at the climax, which was undercut by the constant appearances of her as a temptress to the returning baddies, and the "we need the blood of a virgin, whoops he's not a virgin" reveal, which was undercut by the "tons of visual metaphors for sex" gag when he and the New Girl started making out.

I used to hate McG when he was making overblown, un-interesting action movies in the 2000s; I actually think I kinda like him, when he's directing horror-comedy movies 15+ years later. I guess with time and growth comes the courage to stop working in genres you're terrible at and try something different.

/5

Oh, hey, and speaking of someone working in genres that he's terrible at and needs to do something different...


#29. A Quiet Place Part II (Movie theater)

Picking up immediately from the ending of the first film, the Abbott family goes on a quest to find fellow survivors and maybe fight back against the monsters.

I'd say this film benefits by having less clunky visual exposition compared to A Quiet Place 1 - you don't have the head scratching "white board of obvious information" or the questionable "wall of newspaper clippings in a society that stopped caring about newspapers a decade ago, easily". However, there are still some baffling decisions in the film that end up dragging the whole thing down, and gigantic questions that I was left with upon exiting. The biggest one: Which was the bigger waste? The pointless John Krasinski intro thanking us for coming to the theater, or seeing a movie that is like 50% quiet incidental noises in a Dolby Atmos-enabled theater?

The weirdest feeling is that Krasinksi was heavily influenced by "The Last of Us" when writing and planning this film, since big chunks of it are set in non-descript open factory settings and dotted with occasional sound-activated monster action event. Weirdly, the story is also largely split in two again: the b-plot revolves around Superhero Mom Emily Blunt and the irritating little poo poo middle brother hanging out in a tube and watching their oxygen meters go down. (Okay, so maybe Krasinski worked in some play sessions with "Dead Space" and stole the one universally derided thing from that to graft in here, too.) For the most part, the film is Budget Joel and Deaf Ellie going on a rip-snorin' adventure to solve The Mystery of "How Were You Able to Run a loving Radio Station But Never Think to Send a Verbal Message to the Potential Survivors Listening, You Useless Lazy Shits?" Seriously, the major thrust of the film is Cillian "Trading Up from John Krasinski" Murphy and the Daughter From the First One decoding a braindead message from a repeating loop of "Beyond the Sea" - meaning they need to trace the signal to some nearby island that is completely self-sufficient and also has a working power grid to sustain a radio station - and wandering through medium peril of medium interest to investigate. Of course, when the heroes get cornered by a monster in the station in the end, it shows that the message was running by pointing a microphone at a record player - meaning none of these survivors, in the 480+ days that they've apparently been there, ever thought to go in and talk to the people, "John Connor in Terminator: Salvation"-style, and actually say anything like "hey, we're at this island, if you can hear us come find us" or "hey, these things don't swim, get to a boat and you'll be okay."

And that just raises FURTHER questions: like, I remember in the first one that it was shown that the monsters could swim, as one did so by slipping underwater to stalk Emily Blunt when the basement was flooding in the final act. When did that change? And then how did the monsters get to the island at the climax anyway - are they able to work boats now? Did that one just HAPPEN to drift to the island right after We Have Joel and Ellie At Home did? And what was that digression with Annoying lovely Middle Brother going wandering around the empty factory to be scared by a Psycho-style desiccated corpse upstairs... when we already knew Cillian Murphy's wife had died earlier and could surmise that he might not have buried her, since that takes time and energy and make sound? Was Krasinski just not able to figure out a cleaner way to shove everyone into that tube? Why are you trying to build thrills over people sitting around in a tube?!

God, this movie was a mess. I know I'm generally happy to be able to go back to the movie theaters these days, but this was such a waste of time and effort for me to do so. Don't make my mistakes - wait to see this at home. Or don't, that also would work.

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1), Saw (rewatch) (FC #6), Southbound (FC #12), Wendigo (FC #11), Stage Fright (2014) (FC #3), Tigers Are Not Afraid (FC #5), Psycho Goreman, Spiral, Vampyr (FC #4), Black Christmas (2019) (FC #13), A Quiet Place, Lifechanger, Saint Maud, The Babysitter: Killer Queen, A Quiet Place Part II

Class3KillStorm fucked around with this message at 21:56 on May 30, 2021

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Class3KillStorm
Feb 17, 2011





Time to finish things off, with a Memorial Day Monster Movie Mini Marathon.


#30. War of the Gargantuas (Criterion Channel)

After a green furry monster begins attacking the Japanese shoreline and eating people, the military begins operations to try and contain or destroy it. Turns out, a second, nicer monster shows up, and the two eventually end up duking it out.

I know that this is a sequel, of a kind, to an earlier Toho film called Frankenstein Conquers the World, which I haven't seen but understand the basic gist of. (In a nutshell: the Nazis brought the immortal heart of the Frankenstein Monster to Japan right before Hiroshima got nuked. After that, the heart grows a new giant sized human body, and the new Frankenstein ends up fighting a burrowing dinosaur named Baragon - yes, the same Baragon that became a C-lister Godzilla foe.) It's a good thing I had some tenuous grasp of that earlier film, because all of the human plotline is a mind-numbing mishmash of scientific gobbledygook about Frankenstein and his immortal cells and mutations and regeneration and on and on and on. It's so boring and borderline terrible. (Also, they apparently lost the main actors dub track the first time around, so you can tell he straight up doesn't care on the second version that had to go out. The dialogue would still be terrible, but that didn't help.)

You're not here for that, though; you're here to see a pair of super-sized Christmas colored Sasquatches beat the holy hell out of each other and some model cities, and the effects scenes are almost worth it. The suits are a lot more streamlined and flexible, and the masks allow for the performers' eyes to be visible for once, so there's a surprising amount of athleticism and pathos in the performances. If you can look past the fact that the designs are basically Spirit Halloween Bigfoot costumes dyed different colors, then it kinda works. Unfortunately, while there's some interest in the two monsters being diametrically opposed on the whole "should we eat humans" thing, and the fact that they are basically half-brothers, the film never has a good payoff to their conflict; they end up punching each other into the ocean, where they continue fighting until a convenient and never-alluded-to underwater volcano shows up to apparently roast them to death. Main actress is mildly saddened whatever who cares the end.

Sidenote: The presentation on the Criterion Channel is kinda poor. I'm surprised that they didn't make an effort to get the original Japanese audio for the film, or some kinda mix between the two languages, but the dub is mediocre at best, as alluded to above. The bigger issue is that there's this weird white line hit at the bottom of the frame that tends to appear on the effects shots right before that shot ends. It becomes really distracting when you have the quicker edited action scenes, as once you notice it you won't be able to stop seeing it, especially with how much of the second half is shot with murky day-for-night lighting to really make it stand out.

I guess it's worth it as a curiosity if you've already scoured all of the Godzilla and Gamera movies, but I don't think that the payoff is worth dealing with the human storyline here, or the crappy presentation. Maybe someone with more patience than I could get some more out of it, but I kinda doubt it.

/5


#31. Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (iTunes purchase)

After a strange new species of bat/bird monsters called Gyaos begin attacking Japanese islanders, Gamera, guardian of the universe, appears and tries to destroy them. While the Japanese military tries to repel Gamera, they allow the last of the Gyaos grows to massive size. Can Gamera fight off Gyaos and the human military at the same time?

Gamera's 30th anniversary film and big reintroduction after being on pause for like 15 years is fine, but it's also kinda playing things safe. Understandable to some degree, but when your hook is a giant saber-toothed turtle that can fly through space and shoot fireballs at a giant flat-headed bat pterosaur that eats people and can shoot sonic lasers, "safe" doesn't really apply all that much. The effects work is mostly competent, though there's also a seeming reticence to embrace battling in miniature cities, so there's a lot of scenes set in the ocean or on an island or up in the sky, so while the scenes they spent money on look great a lot more of it looks cheap overall.

The story is kinda meh, but I did enjoy the contrast to the Toho universe, where the military has a ridiculous budget for giant gently caress-off lighting guns and bombs and helicopters and tanks and no compunctions about shooting at the big beasties when they rear their heads. Here, there's a subplot about Japanese political approval for deploying the military against the monsters and a greedy politician trying to prioritize capturing the smaller Gyaos for study and publicity. Kinda basic stuff, and if it's meant to be a satire of 1990s Japanese politics it went over my head, but it was a lot better than whatever the hell was going on in Gargantuas, at least.

On the whole, things worked well enough, and I had fun with it, even if Gamera is generally a step down in all things from Godzilla, even when the Big G isn't at his best. I just wish that this film hadn't felt so much like a safe retread of the 1960s Gamera films I remembered from my youth; I understand that comes more in the sequels, so maybe those are what I should have been looking at instead?

/5

Watched so far: The Curse of the Cat People, Freaky, Vampires vs the Bronx, Rawhead Rex, Tarantula, In Search of Darkness, Ginger Snaps (rewatch), In Search of Darkness Part II (FC #10), Mother's Day (2010) (FC #7), Scream, Queen! (FC #9), House of Wax (1953) (FC #2), Vampire in Venice (FC #8), Possessor, Mandy, various shorts (FC #1), Saw (rewatch) (FC #6), Southbound (FC #12), Wendigo (FC #11), Stage Fright (2014) (FC #3), Tigers Are Not Afraid (FC #5), Psycho Goreman, Spiral, Vampyr (FC #4), Black Christmas (2019) (FC #13), A Quiet Place, Lifechanger, Saint Maud, The Babysitter: Killer Queen, A Quiet Place Part II, War of the Gargantuas, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe

That was fun. I ended up completing all 13 Fran Challenges, and smashing my original plan of 13 new-to-me watches (more than doubling that).

FWIW, the best movies I ended up watching this month were Possessor and Saint Maud, but I also ended up really enjoying Freaky, Stage Fright 2014, Psycho Goreman and The Babysitter: Killer Queen.

The only ones I ended up not enjoying were Tarantula, Vampire in Venice and A Quiet Place 2, and even then I didn't hate any of these*; I was just bored by them.

*Well, ViV made me hate Klaus Kinski for apparently sexually assaulting his costars during the making of the film.

Class3KillStorm fucked around with this message at 16:49 on Jun 1, 2021

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