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Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



I'm in for minimum 13. Almost everything's gonna be random/spur-of-the-moment except for The New York Ripper, which I committed to in the main horror thread as being my first for the challenge because it's a Fulci film I haven't seen and I'm excited to have finally got it recently

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Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



1. The New York Ripper

Tubi, Shudder, Kanopy

Serial killer Donald Duck terrorizes the incompetent NYPD. A million different red herrings made it easier than usual to keep interest, the music's great, some of the kills are instantly memorable/feel iconic including the one in the bridge car, I really appreciated the restoration, and the Donald Duck voice over the phone gets even creepier each time you hear it

As is, I still love Zombie, Don't Torture A Duckling, and The Beyond more: Zombie and The Beyond are gorier, have less infuriatingly-abrupt endings and no extended-foot-rape scenes; Don't Torture A Duckling is still probably my fav Fulci film even above them though, I'll never forget my first time seeing that (which I think I saw in the first place because of it being recommended in the main horror thread!), and in comparison it also feels like a more complete story and a more effective/compelling mystery

I've only seen two other Fulci films I haven't mentioned yet: City of the Living Dead, but it's been a while so I don't know if it's quite fair to say I liked Ripper more than that. Might have to do a second-chance double feature of both later in the year. And Touch of Death, which was silly fun, but I would say I liked Ripper more

I usually grade stuff in star format and out of five stars, and I try not to give half stars in favor of a simpler approach: 0 stars I despised and would never watch again, * I hated and wouldn't watch again, ** I didn't like and probably wouldn't watch again, *** I liked and probably would watch again, **** I really liked and would watch again, ***** I loved and will watch again. Of the six Fulci films I've seen, this is the most unsure I've been of sticking to that format and not going halfway. There was little I didn't like, but with what I didn't like, especially the ending, I hated it and it actively brought down what I was feeling about the film before those points, so it feels like it'd affect a rewatch even more as I'd have lowered expectations going in than I did this time

That last paragraph was just put in as a way of my justifying saying I give this **** but it's a light four and could have easily been 3.5

2. Gwen (2018)

Shudder

Gwen takes the look of The Witch and adds the slow-paced atmospheric un-relentingness of Hagazussa, and avoids the easy way out of being a knockoff of either to instead tell a story of a poor family trying to preserve what it has left: for two daughters it's their mom (no matter how bad she's been abruptly treating them lately), and for their mom it's their farm and home (the last pieces of her husband she has to remember him after watching him off to fight a pointless war he wouldn't come back from). Preservation that's harder to come by when the richest man around, sensing a location opportunity now that there's no more head of the house, swoops in like a vulture with an offer that he won't let be refused

Giving in and selling would be easy short-term. They don't make enough to get the resources they need (and need increasingly more of as the mom starts having seizures and is unable to help as best she once could), they could start fresh elsewhere with the reward, and they might not have to deal with the rich again. But long-term, the memories of who you once were, how you once were, and who you once were with would inevitably fade with nothing else left to remember it all via. And is any amount of money worth that pain?

I loved this story, I loved how it was told (including the sub-90 minute runtime), I loved the depressing-on-the-surface ending (I say on the surface because there is some hope to be found in Gwen and her sister escaping and Gwen lying to her sister about hope in dad still being alive; it gives them purpose to continue living themselves, it gives them reason to walk on and away from the arson of their old home, and it gives them something new to focus on preserving: each other), and I Loved Eleanor Worthington-Cox's portrayal of Gwen throughout. "Scared" doesn't have to mean "not resilient". Always thoughtful, selfless, and determined, Gwen doesn't give up trying to make sure something better is possible for her and her family, even as the current size of her family shrinks before the end credits

This almost certainly benefited a Lot from me reading nothing about this film before clicking Play. And also from me loving atmospheric horror even more than I regularly love horror. And despite all this praise I have to give for a film I'd never heard of before I saw it on sale, I still didn't find it perfect: there were silly jump scares that just weren't needed at all, and an early tease at this being a possibly-supernatural film that not only went nowhere, I'd have been upset if it had went down that path. And it's certainly no The Witch or Hagazussa. But I found enough in this particular story to love and appreciate immediately enough, and that I hadn't seen often enough, that, while being the first time I've watched Gwen (2018), I don't intend on it being the last time

****

2/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen)

Chris James 2 fucked around with this message at 02:42 on May 2, 2021

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



3. Sleepless Beauty

Tubi, Prime Video

A Russian lite-Martyrs homage, Sleepless Beauty is about a terrorist organization determined to assassinate a diplomat via a method that still requires some testing: breaking down a person's mental capacity (over however many days it takes to do so) and cognition/sense of awareness of who's around them, by torturing them and keeping them awake nonstop through it all, and letting them loose on whoever comes near when they crack

To complete this testing and get a better estimate of how much time this will take, they abduct random teacher Mila on her way home from fish shopping. The psychological torture starts from almost the moment she wakes up in an undisclosed location, the main room of which looks reminiscent of the bathroom in the first Saw, to the sound of a woman's voice informing her she's been made welcome to Recreation and sleep is forbidden, and doesn't stop as a masked man physically and emotionally (but never verbally) abuses her for over a week

The aspect of introducing the dark web chatroom of users watching and commenting on the livefeed stream of the room, sporadically used throughout the film, was a bit distracting. And "How long can you endure torture before you change as a person?" is not the most unique premise in a post-Martyrs and -Saw world; while being a Russian effort makes Sleepless Beauty feel on the surface a nice change of pace, it's still no Martyrs or Saw and the homages just made me consider watching those instead

That said, there are a few nightmarish animated sequences that are legit impressive when they come, to the point I wish they'd been used more often. And though you have to wait for them the wait isn't long; at 79 minutes before end credits roll, this film thankfully doesn't waste a lot of time trying to tell its story. A big part of why I didn't hate Sleepless Beauty, I didn't have the time to feel like I was being bored by it. Even if some of what I was seeing was something I had seen already elsewhere and better

***

3/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty)

I liked seeing Debbie Does Dagon's post include services with the logged films available, so I added US streaming service availability (which I found via JustWatch) and edited my prior post to include it too. Doesn't necessarily reflect how I viewed these films, at least for the three I've logged I have digital copies of all of them (Sleepless Beauty - Amazon, Gwen - Vudu, and New York Ripper - Google Play), but it's useful for people with streaming services if they're interested in any of what I watch and it's on something they might have. I know I wouldn't have seen half of Fulci's films I've seen so far if it weren't for the horror thread's recommendations and finding out they're more available than I expected

And also it's useful for people who have access to streaming services and may not even know it. Like if you have a library card, many libraries in the country have access to Kanopy which has a large stupidly-good catalog of films you can stream freely, including The New York Ripper, my first-viewed film for this challenge!

Chris James 2 fucked around with this message at 02:52 on May 2, 2021

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



4. The Head Hunter

Shudder

A warrior who collects head trophies of the beasts he slays pursues the ultimate beast: the one who killed his daughter. A very low budget effort that occasionally works to its advantage, like choosing to show none of the kills or battles until just about time for the climactic fight (which then extinguishes the cathartic relief with a gut-punch ending I'm still shaking my head at). Mileage will vary, but it's only 68 minutes long before end credits roll; I've wasted a lot more time I regret this weekend than I did with The Head Hunter. A more interesting video game film than actual video games get from their film adaptations

***

4/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



5. 13: Game of Death aka 13 Beloved

Vudu

A 2006 Thai horror film (with occasional spurts of comedy) about an average guy who has a rotten string of luck and then comes along to a way of changing it...with a catch

Phuchit has his sale stolen from under him by a funnier hotter more beloved coworker, loses his job due to it, while in the midst of being in incredible debt and having it only get worse by not being able to say no to his mom's request for money. His car gets repo'd and his girlfriend dumped him. His luck couldn't be worse

And then he gets a call from a mysterious voice informing him they want him to participate in a series of 13 games, for which he'll be increasingly compensated as long as he 1) doesn't give up, and 2) asks no questions of who's doing this or why. The games begin with him being asked to kill and then eat a fly, and get far more morally questionable the closer he gets to #13

Being 2021, this doesn't sound like that unique of a premise, internationally or not. Which is why it's a credit to former pop singer Krissada Sukosol Clapp, who does a solid job balancing the average-Joeness of Phuchit at first to becoming more unhinged as he realizes he's in too deep to realistically get out, to becoming comically desperate at times (like when he's asked to KO someone with a chair and is completely incompetent at doing so, at one point begging the guy to just stay down already)

The effects and look are noticeably dated, at 105 minutes before end credits 13: Game of Death (aka 13 Beloved) certainly feels stretched out longer than it should be, there's one death scene I Hate Hated and when you know I'm an animal lover you'll understand why, and there's really only one other character worth remembering due to their acting performance (for my money that'd be Tong, played at times effectively/emotionally by Achita Sikamana). But there's enough here to like to justify at least one watch, between the aforementioned lead performance by Clapp, the nice occasional balance between tense and funny, the surprising twist ending, and the plot feeling uneasily prescient for 2005/06 (a combination of "what would you do for enough money" and "a bunch of people will willingly watch you do it for entertainment purposes" is Particularly on the nose at a time when reality TV and social media have never been more widespread, and capitalism, while deservedly called out as evil and predatory by a lot more people than in the past, has its hooks in us so deep the prospect of getting out of debt is enough to convince many of us to still take chances we otherwise wouldn't)

I didn't expect to have this many words to say about a film where a guy eats poo poo for fifty grand, but hey, that's cinema for you

***

5/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



6. Deerskin

HBO Max

"You don't look like you work in real film."

Georges gets a 100% deerskin jacket he likes. The sheer insanity he descends into after this moment, encompassing the rest of the seventy minutes pre-end credits, is hard to explain, yet also easy to comprehend if you're familiar with director Quentin Dupieux's more well-known film and another classic, Rubber

Like Rubber, Deerskin has moments of meta commentary, like when Georges is pretending to be a filmmaker but doesn't really know what he's doing, isn't helped by reading up on how to do it better, and is informed by amateur editor Denise (played by Adele Haenel; during the second half she only adds to the surreality by seeming like she's on the verge of getting what's actually happening...and reacts by loving it and wanting to be around Georges more) that it's more or less okay, none of us really know what we're doing either, why should they? It's all bullshit, we're all alone in what we're trying, but maybe we can be alone together in trying it

Like with Rubber (the film about a killer tire, but not really, but really, but maybe), Deerskin is something I recommend you just watch. Don't read anything about it that gets beyond the stars, the director, and the first actual plot development (he buys a jacket). I try not to be the "spoilers Always hurt" type, mostly because hearing about things beyond just the basic synopsis have actually helped me watch stuff I otherwise wouldn't have been interested in at all. Reading about the last half hour of mother! on opening day got me out to the theater for that when even the trailers hadn't convinced me. Hearing about the twist in Audition didn't just make me watch that, it made me start watching Takashi Miike films; he's now one of my fav directors and I've seen almost 20! of his films (to be fair I think Everyone's been spoiled about Audition so maybe that's not the best example here, but still). They've also helped warn me in advance to brace myself for disappointment on stuff I was getting hyped about, Rise of Skywalker and the leaks for the final season of Game of Thrones immediately come to mind. But I'm starting to get the feeling Dupieux's work just needs that element of surprise for the best possible experience. Like Rubber, that worked best for me with Deerskin

Go in without knowing what to expect. And don't wear a jacket when you do

*****

6/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin)

Chris James 2 fucked around with this message at 13:55 on May 7, 2021

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



7. Curve

Tubi

"Besides, you seem nice." "You don't know me well enough." "I'll take my chances"

The exchange between strangers you expect right before a horror film starts. In this one, Curve, Julianne Hough learns not to be kind to hitchhikers who help her when her vehicle malfunctions. She makes it up to him by offering him a ride, and Teddy Sears (in a surprisingly-creepy performance that made him the real star in my opinion, and kept my interest even when this was feeling otherwise pretty basic) responds by being charming just enough until she drives past the point of knowing where either of them really are on a map, then turns up the Creep dial significantly and on a whim, offending and then threatening her until she feels the only choice is to drive offroad. Predictably, Hough's the only one actually hosed over by this decision, and must find her way out of the wreckage without losing her leg in the process, as Sears comes by every now and then to taunt her

The 75% of this film where it's just them going back and forth at each other has its moments, even if you've seen them before and done better. Already mentioned praise for Sears, but Hough is a compelling Final Girl and never once gives off the feeling of being miscast or too weak to not only stand up to, but also defeat, Sears. And it gets easily ignored once the following forty-five minutes are spent in or around a stranded destroyed car, but some of the location shots and camerawork around the first ten minutes looked shockingly beautiful, capturing my attention immediately. The only other Iain Softley film I'd seen (and it was a long long time ago so I'll need to rewatch eventually) was The Skeleton Key, and I remember being similarly impressed with the cinematography there



There's flaws during those times, but only in the last third does Curve feel like it really misses out on the potential it had, including but not limited to introducing more characters who are noticeably less intelligent and creative survivors than these two (that rain scene with the cop really does stand out for the wrong reasons), beyond-belief creative decisions, and having an abrupt ending that certainly could have been more

Overall, if you're in the US you can watch Curve for free on Tubi (without ads if you have the right browser+blocker) in under eighty minutes before end credits. I don't know if I'd recommend seeing every second, but I feel there's potential in that first half, especially with how compelling of a scumbag Teddy Sears plays

***

7/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



I loved the original Town That Dreaded Sundown and would also recommend the 2014 one

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



8. The Incredible Melting Man

Prime Video, Epix

Bad acting? Poor editing? Nonsensical plot? Sorry, can't hear you over the fact this is called The Incredible Melting Man and has a man melting incredibly

William Sachs' finest work (even if it wasn't for every reason he intended), Alex Rebar may be credited first, but this is Rick Baker's film through and through. 44 years later and the climax still endures in memorable horror moments history for good reason

****

8/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



9. Starry Eyes

Tubi, Vudu Free, Prime Video

"I am not a million other girls."

Pursuing your dreams shouldn't have to come at the expense of your pride, your dignity, and your friends, and in a not-hosed-up world it wouldn't

Looking at this world aside, we can certainly agree the world of Starry Eyes (directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, who also made the okay 2019 Pet Sematary remake) Is hosed up. In an incredible performance, Alex Essoe as Sarah tortures herself emotionally and physically hoping for that big break in Hollywood...that still requires something more. And then something more after that. By the time it's too late to really stop and there's only one last option for what to really sacrifice for the opportunity, her friends finally notice there might be a problem. They don't pay attention at first of course because they're pursuing their own, similar dreams in their own way which requires far less bad jobs they hate, far more drug-doing, worse self-imposed living situations, and occasionally just as much sexual favors

A pre-#metoo film that acknowledges the sexual harassment culture in Hollywood #metoo was designed to call out, the message isn't the only thing that holds up. The soundtrack is brilliant. Essoe's at-times terrifying depictions of a woman self-destructing already even before outside individuals push her over the edge is star-making, to the point the performance is The reason I heard about this film for years. The effects of her body deteriorating as the pressure physically and emotionally becomes too much to bear reminded me of Contracted, but in a better film than that. And when poo poo finally hits the fan for good and doesn't let up, some of the chaos is brutal, particularly a weight scene that startles from the second the scene begins until its merciful end

Starry Eyes was on my must-watch list for years. Doing a halfway-to-Halloween horror challenge for this month with friends, at the same time the film's freely available on Tubi, was all the motivation I needed to finally give this a watch. Not only do I not regret it, it might be among my favorite indie horror efforts of the 2010s. Worth the wait

*****

9/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



10. Eyes Without a Face

HBO Max, Criterion Channel

"The future is something we should have started on long ago"

A beautiful woman whose life, and image, is forever changed by an accident. A doctor that keeps asking for trust when he doesn't even have it for himself. A lab assistant/accomplice/former patient/possible girlfriend (never elaborated on just how far her role goes, and frankly it's not necessary, as it's established there's no limit to what she'll do for continued success in face transplants)

Good dogs locked up for no purpose. Cops that don't really do cop stuff, making them among the best film cops I've seen in a while. A grieving fiance who doesn't really have time to grieve, doesn't have real reason to, and is too busy working for the man keeping the secret (and his bride-to-be)

A powerful first reveal of the star facing the camera. Disturbing for the time, and for now, face-removal sequence. Amazing soundtrack and cinematography. A gorgeous and memorable final scene. A well-deserved spot in the Criterion Collection

The "good for her" cinematic universe continues to be the best

*****

10/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



11. In the Earth


“Photography is like magic. But then, so's all technology when you don't know how it works”

In the 4.5 months of 2021 so far, there surprisingly hasn't really been a lot of great horror in my opinion. I can only think of a handful I've really loved: Saint Maud, Violation, Psycho Goreman, and Son, and the most recent of those was still released over a month ago. Luckily, there's a new Ben Wheatley film to change that and add to the list

A scientist and a park ranger, continuing to work during a pandemic (because of course), try to re-establish contact with a former colleague who went into the woods for further cure research months ago and hasn't been seen or heard from since. A lot proceeds to happen, some of which could be explained in spoilers, some of which couldn't be

As someone who adored A Field in England, In the Earth felt comfortably at home. People tripping out amid nature, atmospheric as hell, hallucinations and flashing lights and psychedelic imagery, insanity ruling the day, the uncertainty that one can ever be the same, and the questioning of if one Should ever be the same for meddling with things they shouldn't be involved with. Let nature take its course and put trust in her; she deserves it more than we've been proven worthy of it

A Field in England and In the Earth are the only Ben Wheatley feature films I've seen (I keep meaning to give Kill List and Free Fire a try, but only saw half of Kill List at a friend's the one chance I actually had to view any of it, and I bought Free Fire very recently but wanted to see this first), and it's enough to have me hooked and wanting more. He keeps up this sense of dread past the point of feeling sustainable, and then when the release valve comes you're just left questioning what the gently caress. Sometimes there's nothing more to say. I loved A Field in England, and I love In the Earth. Give me more

*****

11/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



12. Macabre (1958)

Tubi

“I don't wanna be a wife, and I won't be a mom. I just wanna be what I've been all my life: nothing”

Things start with a small town, the richest man there losing his daughter (both his kids now buried in a short timespan), and the doctor who could have saved her being told in no uncertain terms to leave town but refusing, swearing he's not at fault. Evidently someone doesn't think so, as his own daughter is soon kidnapped and buried alive, with a short timespan to save her and a town full of, if not necessarily suspects, people that have still heard the stories and don't trust him (and can't be trusted) enough to help. Evidently things aren't that simple, as around half an hour in, flashback after flashback occurs, painting a more clear picture of the story

Hey, it's a William Castle film, you should have expected a few twists along the way. And gimmicks. Including a narrator begging you at the end to not spoil the film, like it wouldn't take half an hour just to try. And the same narrator at the beginning imploring you to help call paramedics if anyone you're with has a heart attack and comes close to death from watching the film. Apparently there was a gimmick at the theaters where you got a certificate for a life insurance policy with your ticket. Gotta love Castle. Credit where it's due, the big scare near the end kinda holds up upon first sight, would have been fun to see that part on a big screen in the fifties and heard the panic

Jim Backus, the rich guy on Gilligan's Island, plays Tyroe the hardass cop who makes it clear to the doctor he's gotta go while it's his own option to. I'm not as familiar with star William Prince, the aforementioned doctor, because he's in a bunch of stuff that's been on my watchlist forever like Spontaneous Combustion. They both do good jobs with the material. I also enjoyed some of Jacqueline Scott's performance as Polly, the doctor's assistant; and Christine White is great for the short time you get to see Nancy (she had a longer, more memorable role in the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet episode of Twilight Zone)

This is my long way of saying the cast was pretty fine, all things considered. But as is, Macabre just tried to do a bit too much in such a short time, and it didn't feel like it really worked out as well as it could have. It's rare I think a film would benefit from having More time, but the last fifteen minutes felt particularly rushed. The flashbacks decision, while interesting in theory, felt jarring in execution, grinding scenes to a halt and resulting in the same dialogue you heard before they started being repeated after they ended; this was just a bit annoying the first time, but especially so when it became a style Castle went back to multiple times throughout the film

Definitely not William Castle's best or close to it. But I appreciated the cast, I enjoyed the cinematography, the big scare looked good, and I did like that this was a serious Castle film that wasn't a western and didn't have spooky scary skeletons. Also I loved the end credits style where a funeral was held with moving cartoon versions of the characters. So I think I'll give this another shot someday eventually, late at night, maybe when I need something on in the background

Viewing this on Tubi was an experience as for some reason they don't have an English-audio version? Obviously didn't affect my enjoyment negatively to have subtitles, just thought it odd for a William Castle film. I know they have optional versions available alongside the English version for House on Haunted Hill but they still have the English-audio original one available too

***

12/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958)

STAC Goat posted:

I honestly find all the Tremors sequels kind of harmless fun. Not worth going out of your way for, but perfectly fine matinee favor. And they actually kind of hold continuity and tell some character stories, which is kind of nice. The most recent one actually kind of was surprisingly above their average.

I'm in this boat too. The first one is still the best and none of the rest are really necessary, but I think if you're gonna watch any of them after, the most recent one (Shrieker Island) is the best of the sequels and a good closing chapter if they decide it should be the final one

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



13. Macabre (1980)

Tubi, Vudu Free, Prime Video

I thought I was done for at least today, possibly until the weekend (I currently plan on making my first trip to a theater in over a year! for Spiral, the new Saw film!) but couldn't pass up the opportunity to do a double feature of Macabres once I discovered there was more than one horror film with that title on Tubi! While William Castle's Macabre ultimately felt more well-paced, even if it underwhelmed a bit with where that ended up, I enjoyed Lamberto Bava's Macabre more

I'm not as familiar with Lamberto's work as his dad Mario's, his only other film I've seen is Demons, which I obviously loved. With this I can already tell I'm going to have to give a rewatch soon, because I wasn't prepared for the directions it'd take or how tense it felt while getting there. Veronica Zinny did a fantastic job of being an evil rear end in a top hat kid who just really, really never stops being an evil rear end in a top hat, even among a group of people where being an rear end in a top hat kinda blends you in. Stanko Molnar plays Robert Duval, a blind man who makes every scene more tense by his actions feeling like a man who both knows more than he's letting on at the moment, and is getting more and more prepared to act on it if necessary. And while it takes a bit longer than for those two, toward the end Bernice Stegers as Jane comes together as somehow the one with less a grip on reality than either of them combined

To think it all starts with Jane losing her son and the man she's having an affair with in two tragedies in an hour. What follows is a very slow burn that feels like it'd fit right in in an R-rated soap opera, as Jane struggles to keep it together by day but appears and sounds rejuvenated at night, making Robert suspicious and jealous, and the rear end in a top hat kid even more of an rear end in a top hat craving attention not even being the only kid left in the family could grant her

By the end credits of Macabre it all comes together leaving you gross as gently caress and wanting a shower. It's the best horror film named Macabre I watched today. I think I should give more Lamberto Bava works a watch soon!

****

13/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



14. Oxygen (2021)

Netflix

Alexandre Aja made a new scifi/thriller for Netflix! It's not as good as Crawl, but I liked it more than High Tension and the dumb twists in this one don't cripple my interest in rewatching it like that one did!

A woman (Melanie Laurent, who you'll remember from Enemy if you saw Enemy; if you haven't, Watch Enemy!) wakes up in a cryogenic chamber. She has no clue who she is, or how she got there, or who put her there, or why. Really all she knows, from the helpful AI robot voice the chamber provides named MILO, is that her oxygen level is rapidly deteriorating

Pretty basic plot, Buried but maybe not underground and not starring Ryan Reynolds. And like I said, there's some twists along the way, and some of them are dumb! Also there's one jump scare that I hate to say got me >:[ very rude, even Crawl didn't pull that off

But Laurent does a great job for what's essentially a one-person show. The twists actually do an effective job of not making you feel the full hundred minutes of runtime; it would have been easy to get bored with a tale like this, but enough is provided to keep interest. Constant maze references and imagery were slickly done. And there's some surprisingly beautiful camera sequences: the big one that immediately comes to mind being when Laurent makes a call, and from the moment the call is accepted to a few seconds after the signal's lost, the camera inch-by-inch steps back. What you saw at the beginning never changes basically, it's Laurent in the chamber, but the further back we go the smaller that becomes on the screen, a pretty good claustrophobic feeling building up in you even right before MILO informs the oxygen level has again decreased

For better or worse Aja's been on horror viewers' minds since High Tension. I still don't really know what to think of him? Oxygen is definitely a step down from Crawl, but might be my second- or third-fav film of his that I've seen (I need to give Horns a rewatch eventually to determine whether it should be that high or low). My big takeaway is being interested in what Laurent does next

14/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980, Oxygen 2021)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



15. The Djinn (2021)


A mute kid finds a book in his new home that tells the tale of the djinn and how your greatest desire can be made manifest via wish, With A Price To Pay. The kid being a kid, he sees only what he wants to see and not the full details. When his dad leaves for the night, the kid wishes for a voice, feeling like being mute stopped him from preventing his mom's suicide. The djinn is summoned. And the nightmare begins

A 76-minute cat-and-mouse tale without much dialogue, but benefiting from tension and good camerawork and occasional longshots during the suspenseful waiting for the djinn's appearance post-summoning. Ezra Dewey put in a very good performance as the kid, who puts up a hell of a fight throughout the night. The music ruled. But the ending was a bit of a predictable letdown, and ultimately aside from the mute kid protagonist, The Djinn didn't offer anything else I'd say you couldn't find available, and better, in the Wishmaster franchise

***

15/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980, Oxygen 2021, The Djinn 2021)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



16. Wer

Tubi

“You ask how a human could do that, and I think the answer's simple: he's not human”

Good werewolf story hindered by frequent shaky cam gimmickry, which I'll basically always hate because of the original Cloverfield. Brian Scott O'Connor (bassist for Eagles of Death Metal) is compelling/at times terrifying in what is thus far his only film appearance as Talan Gwynek, the man arrested accused of a vicious attack on tourists that signs continue to point to being not exactly the work of a human

Still way better than the Boy films, The Devil Inside and Stay Alive though

****

17. Spiral: From the Book of Saw


I said at the end of Saw 3 that they should stop making Saws because they wouldn't get better than that trilogy (I stand by that last part six films later, for the record)
I said at the end of Saw 3D The Final Chapter that they should stop making Saws (having had Two good endings to the story by that point and yet continuing to go on)
I begged at the end of Jigsaw for them to stop making Saws (still my least-favorite in the franchise, I think?)

Now my most controversial take yet on the franchise: Chris Rock kinda rejuvenated my interest in wanting to see more Saws?

Spiral is the most explicitly ACAB Saw yet in ways I at times found almost endearing to see. Throughout the franchise you'd had crooked cops, incompetent cops, and cops that wound up being accomplices with the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell, who for the first time in the franchise is actually really not in this one. You get a picture of him shown, that's it. Not even a voiceover this time. It took Six full films after his character's death for them to finally move on), but it was usually either filler scenes or the final twist ending, one last gotcha before you're on your way out the theater

In Spiral, it's just about inescapable: a whole department, mostly white, who have members ranging from incompetent to ignorant to racist, all acting like they're doing what they can and need to to get by, while people who need their help suffer on the sidelines. At times intentionally ignoring, at others actively malicious, planting evidence, shooting first and asking questions later. None of it's new to hear about, of course. But it all takes its toll on Zeke Banks (Chris Rock), a detective who's spiraling further into a state of shock and depression as he realizes what he worked with good intentions in his heart his whole life to do, to be, may not be the place for him. May not be a system he's capable of fixing. He's running low on friends, on people he can trust, and on time to stop a killer taking out the few ones he had left

This all sounds very intriguing for a Saw film! Which is part of the problem: it's not just the new killer's voice, very little of this feels like an average Saw film. It simultaneously amounts to the most refreshing the franchise has felt in a long time, but the most confusing in tone as well. It's a detective drama more than anything else, but also the kills when they occur are still as brutal as any Saw horror film, but also Chris Rock gets in some punchlines and has some scenes that would fit in in any one of his comedies

Ultimately the main problem I have with Spiral: From the Book of Saw, the one that keeps it from being great, is it tries to do too much. Which, considering the franchise's history, is a great problem to have. I look forward to the next one. I haven't said that in a long long time

****

17/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980, Oxygen 2021, The Djinn 2021, Wer, Spiral: From the Book of Saw)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



18. Moonstalker

Tubi, Vudu Free

“I thought we agreed there was gonna be no soap operas”

Silly 80s slasher at a winter camp in Nevada. Pop unleashes his deranged, straitjacketed and chained-up son Bernie on a group of people vacationing, then dies before he's able to calm Bernie back down/restrain him again, allowing the body count to continue to increase

It's a winter camp, there's ridiculous accents, and Bernie looks like a unique killer when he's in the sack mask and straitjacket, so it's not like this is a Completely average slasher. But then halfway in Bernie changes his look, and you still haven't actually seen an onscreen death (just the tension building up to it), and you get a Final Girl, so it's not like there weren't Attempts Made at making this just an average slasher

If it weren't for the last fifteen minutes I'd say this is skippable even for free, but after seeing that (including one memorable scene in particular with a campfire song) I do think this is worth one watch. I've certainly seen worse things that cost more money to make and to see

***

18/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980, Oxygen 2021, The Djinn 2021, Wer, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, Moonstalker)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



19. Army of the Dead 2021

Netflix

Stick to zombie films, Zack. 3 films I don't hate and 2/2 are the zombies

Post-apocalyptic Vegas is going to be nuked in an attempt to stop the further spread of zombies. A casino owner wants Dave Batista to assemble a squad, possibly of the suicide variety, to go and break into his vault and get the $200mil so it's not destroyed. Infighting and zombie fighting both follow, along with (among other things) family issues, betrayals, pregnancies and zombie tigers

Batista is a great actor. Tig Notaro's CG scenes made me laugh. Opening credits scene was phenomenal. Enjoyed the homages, including (as my fav critic Walter Chaw pointed out in a less-favorable review) the whole film basically being Aliens. Probably shouldn't have been 2.5 hours but I paused and left midway through to get a haircut, so I didn't really get to feel it as a singular experience which may have contributed to my loving it so much. I still love Dawn of the Dead 2004 more

Might be rating this too high but gently caress it, I had fun and it's literally the third film of his I'd actually a) give higher than a 1 and b) willingly rewatch. That's gotta count for something

*****

19/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980, Oxygen 2021, The Djinn 2021, Wer, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, Moonstalker, Army of the Dead 2021)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



I always worry I write too much, seeing other lengthy posts makes me happy tbh

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



20. The Retreat 2021


Renee and Valerie fight off homophobes and strengthen their relationship during a stay at a retreat

I'll now proceed with my spoilery part of the review because I need to gush about this film for a second and can't do that without spoiling: an openly-queer You're Next written and directed by a gay and starring lesbians portraying lesbians, where there's no queer death depicted onscreen, the straights/killers get their asses thoroughly kicked, the lesbians triumph, And the "bury your gays" trope gets told explicitly to gently caress off? gently caress yeah. I'll forgive occasionally-bad acting and unoriginality in twists (the straights hijacked the retreat location and turned it into a livestream session for sickos like themselves on the dark web? Could have been interesting if I'd never seen the Unfriended sequel, which I'd also say is worth a watch) along the way. Completely. In a heartbeat! I do not for a minute care. I have wanted this poo poo since i was a kid! Very biased five star

*****

20/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980, Oxygen 2021, The Djinn 2021, Wer, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, Moonstalker, Army of the Dead 2021, The Retreat 2021)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



21. Held (2021)


A husband and wife whose marriage is on the rocks are forced to acknowledge and fix their problems when a Voice traps them inside their vacation rental. For being star Jill Awbrey's first feature-length performance I was impressed, the best among the few there were. The story itself had me feeling so-so until the twist at the start of the third act that straight men will do Anything to strengthen their marriage that almost makes me want to rewatch this again with that in mind and see if the actions of one of the characters makes more sense. As is, decent 90 minute indie watch, I've definitely seen worse

***

21/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980, Oxygen 2021, The Djinn 2021, Wer, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, Moonstalker, Army of the Dead 2021, The Retreat 2021, Held 2021)

Chris James 2 fucked around with this message at 20:34 on May 23, 2021

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



22. Tooth Fairy: The Last Extraction

Briefly on Youtube

Tooth Fairy: The Last Extraction (aka Tooth Fairy 3) is the third part in a super low-budget horror series I haven't seen the first two parts of about the Tooth Fairy being real and also an unstoppable killer monster. Some but certainly not all of the "Highlights":

This being the only part I've seen, and having seen it purely because despite having a planned for-purchase release date 4 months from now, its distributor accidentally randomly put it up on their Youtube page for free and I was able to view it there before they realized the error and it was taken down
Me forgetting about it for a full week despite almost always logging or taking notes of stuff right after viewing because aside from kinda-liking the look of the monster/Tooth Fairy, there was nothing content-wise worth even immediately remembering
Multiple fight scenes consist of someone being shoved down and it incapacitating them almost completely to the point of near-death, I guess that's something?
Also multiple near-middle-age actors playing teenagers. Really wanted to forget that
"The Last" being in the title, and having frequent flashbacks from the prior two films, yet having multiple scenes in the last ten minutes heavily implying this in fact may not be the last in the series. At least when Friday the 13th had two films with "The Final" in their title, one of them was actually originally planned to be the final one

A star because the monster doesn't look bad compared to everything else. I can see why they'd try to get a couple films' use from that design. Also it has this great line: “There's a killer out there they haven't been able to catch for decades. All I'm gonna say is I believe it's the goddamn tooth fairy”. Also I'm glad I was able to see at least one bad horror film this month, it just wouldn't have felt natural otherwise

*

22/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980, Oxygen 2021, The Djinn 2021, Wer, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, Moonstalker, Army of the Dead 2021, The Retreat 2021, Held 2021, Tooth Fairy: The Last Extraction)

Also I thought Spiral would be my only theater experience for the challenge this month But I'm evidently seeing A Quiet Place 2 with friends this weekend, so I'll have one more. Excited

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



23. The Unholy (2021)


"When God builds a church, the Devil makes a chapel next door"

In Evan Spiliotopoulos' directorial debut (he previously wrote the screenplays for The Huntsman: Winter's War and the 2017 Beauty and the Beast, among other things), based on a James Herbert book, Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a disgraced journalist who previously faked stories to get attention, now at the forefront of a story almost too good to be believed: a young deaf-mute girl he finds kneeling in front of a tree and speaking clearly. Eventually she proclaims the person who healed her keeps talking to her and calls herself Mary. As the town is amazed by this and a few other apparent miracles, believing this to be the Virgin Mary, some things don't add up. Especially when horrific visions occur, and when someone dies. Can JDM discover the truth while the town can still be saved from whatever's coming?

That's a lot of words to say "this is Religious Horror 101 with a first-time director, produced by Sam Raimi, and starring the bat guy from the Walking Dead". In complete fairness, this still feels like better creative work to have than the flatlining Walking Dead, even if I wouldn't call it Good

There's nothing you haven't seen here before and better elsewhere. And if you just want jump scares, The Nun had better ones And more deaths/excitement (if I have one major negative to say about The Unholy 2021, it's how surprisingly boring it was despite the concept), and was atmospheric. I didn't even like The Nun that much! It even has a scene of creepy contortionist walking like Sadako or *insert any of half of Javier Botet's characters here*

Not to say that this didn't have potential at all: Cricket Brown's performance as Alice, the aforementioned young girl, is legitimately the highlight and kept my interest in every scene as she desperately tries to keep increasing faith in this person she hears from, unknowing all the while if the intentions are good or not. The scene where she successfully heals another kid in a wheelchair is captured surprisingly beautifully in a rare emotional moment for the film. Cary Elwes is even also randomly here as a bishop whose personality is "doesn't trust Jeffrey Dean Morgan", which, fair

But yeah, that's just not enough for 100 minutes and at least $20 (whether you see it in theaters or buy it on VOD, where it's now available everywhere as of today) of commitment in my opinion. When you can essentially throw a dart at an aisle labeled Religious Horror and more often than not find at least one older film that either has better or creepier scares, or more deaths, or more blood, or better tension, or a more compelling story, why would you take that much of a chance to pass it up and go for The Unholy (2021) instead?

**

23/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980, Oxygen 2021, The Djinn 2021, Wer, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, Moonstalker, Army of the Dead 2021, The Retreat 2021, Held 2021, Tooth Fairy: The Last Extraction, The Unholy 2021)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



Hollismason posted:

There's also a The Unholy (1988) starring Ben Cross which is loving wild as poo poo finale.

Yeah, I heard good things. It's on Tubi, I might watch it tomorrow or later in the week

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



Chris James 2 posted:

Yeah, I heard good things. It's on Tubi, I might watch it tomorrow or later in the week

Done

24. The Unholy (1988)

Tubi, Vudu Free, Plex, Roku Channel, Hoopla

A priest disbelieving in the devil hears of and witnesses increasingly-strange occurrences that lack any other possible explanation. An entrancing good vs evil climactic battle complete with a memorable nightmare sequence is the standout and justifies the watch. Just wish it didn't feel a bit slow to get there. For the first half the freakiest thing I saw was Alan from Boy Meets World with bleached hair

Also gotta give a quick thanks to whoever was responsible for the bargain-bin-budget affordable DVD boxset this is on along with Waxwork, Chopping Mall, Slaughter High, Class of 99, CHUD 2, Ghoulies 3 and 976EVIL2. The Unholy (1988) was the last one I hadn't watched and I'm glad I finally got around to it

***

24/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980, Oxygen 2021, The Djinn 2021, Wer, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, Moonstalker, Army of the Dead 2021, The Retreat 2021, Held 2021, Tooth Fairy: The Last Extraction, The Unholy 2021, The Unholy 1988)

Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



25. Skull: The Mask

Shudder

“It's a mask, not the devil. I'd like it to be, I trained a lot for this, but it's not”

Skull: The Mask is a super gory Brazilian horror film that begins by showing you some past history of the Mask, an artifact containing the spirit of Anhanga (a liege subject compelled to commit sacrifices to resurrect his god Tahawantinsupay). Regardless of whoever summons/awakens the Mask, if you wear it, you're possessed by Anhanga, and each kill you make is more blood added to the pile bringing Tahawantinsupay back to life

A lesbian couple end up in possession of the Mask in the present day, one a museum assistant assigned to bring it back from the Amazon, the other a goth who knows partially about the Mask, enough to know the spell to summon it and mischievous enough to think it'd be a good idea. This goes exactly how you'd expect unfortunately

The Mask eventually works its way to finding and possessing a person cleaning up the crime scene named Skull, played by real-life Brazilian pro wrestler Rurik Jr. What follows would make Jason Voorhees proud. Hearts get ripped out of chests, sleazy men get choked with intestines, a priest has a swordfight after keeping his sword hidden inside the arm of a Jesus statue, and there's just So Much Blood. Ultimately the only ones who may be able to get enough safe distance to figure out what to do next are a dirty cop who can't escape her past, an ex-priest who lost his way, and the museum's boss who may know more than he's willing to admit. Will any of them be able to stop Skull in time before the god comes back?

You're either in on this completely or you wish it'd gone further. Skull: The Mask takes its psychotic gore man more seriously/with much less jokes than Psycho Goreman, and goes in harder on the "blood and guts and looking almost artistic while doing it" than Mandy. But the plot's a lot even if you're paying attention, and the final 12 minutes feel a bit more underwhelming than what at least I thought the previous 77 were building to. And as I've mentioned before, I'm sick of the frequent bury your gays trope, even in Brazilian horror films about possessed masks; if you're going to have two, don't immediately kill them off

If you're fun and bloody enough, I can look the other way on most of that stuff though. Skull: The Mask is definitely fun and bloody. And Rurik Jr was a pretty intimidating villain

****

25/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980, Oxygen 2021, The Djinn 2021, Wer, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, Moonstalker, Army of the Dead 2021, The Retreat 2021, Held 2021, Tooth Fairy: The Last Extraction, The Unholy 2021, The Unholy 1988, Skull: The Mask)

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Chris James 2
Aug 9, 2012



26. Fried Barry

Shudder

If Under The Skin felt even more surreal but also far less violent and more...downright compassionate at times? A couple scenes where I almost teared up. A prick gets abducted by aliens, ends up inhabited by one, and adjusts to life where he doesn't really know how to speak, what to speak when he does, or how to run. Eventually he learns to love (in more ways than one), and he just doesn't really stop even when confronted by people who were pricks just like his ordinary-original-human self

Gary Green's debut feature role is incredibly done and he definitely has potential in the genre if he wants to make more films

*****

27. The McPherson Tape

Shudder

The McPherson family gathers for a birthday party celebrating Michelle McPherson turning 5 years old. Eventually the dopey men (one of whom is commemorating the occasion by recording all the proceedings with his new camcorder) head outside for a walk and accidentally see alien visitors, and their presence gets noticed

I appreciate the history of this being one of the first, if not the first, found footage horror films. That said, I still hate the genre and the instant the shakycam started, my interest was fading faster than it ever did hearing that annoying grandma overreact to everything

**

28. A Quiet Place Part 2


I didn't believe my friends who tried watching the first A Quiet Place and their main takeaway was "these characters were pretty dumb". 1) I liked it despite that, and 2) I'm a horror fan, I liked to think characters being dumb is something I'm used to and it can't sincerely detract from a film or cause disinterest

I liked to think that

Every character in Part 2 is astonishingly dumb (in general and in comparison to that film). Nearly every scene, nearly every action. The two scenes where I didn't feel that was currently the case were the first ten minutes (which was still partially spoiled for me by one of the trailers), and the final three minutes (which was still an even more abrupt ending than the first film had)

If you wanted jump scares, they're there, and if you wanted to see more of the Cloverfield monsters from the first one, they're there, frequently and up close

I think I'm done. Didn't want to end the month/challenge on a bad note, but definitely didn't expect this to be my least favorite theater-film of the month either

Happy I decided to double feature this and a rewatch of Cruella, and my showing of Cruella is starting shortly. I get to wash the taste of this out pretty quick

*

28/13 (The New York Ripper, Gwen, Sleepless Beauty, The Head Hunter, 13: Game of Death, Deerskin, Curve, The Incredible Melting Man, Starry Eyes, Eyes Without a Face, In the Earth, Macabre 1958, Macabre 1980, Oxygen 2021, The Djinn 2021, Wer, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, Moonstalker, Army of the Dead 2021, The Retreat 2021, Held 2021, Tooth Fairy: The Last Extraction, The Unholy 2021, The Unholy 1988, Skull: The Mask, Fried Barry, The McPherson Tape, A Quiet Place Part 2)

Chris James 2 fucked around with this message at 00:20 on May 31, 2021

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