The Frighteners

 

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I love introducing the kids to my favorite horror films. I love introducing the kids to my favorite directors. The Frighteners is a horror film by one of my favorite directors – Peter Jackson. What’s not to love?

I’m fairly certain that I saw The Frighteners in the theater. Or maybe I didn’t? I’ve seen it so many times since then though, it’s kind of blurry. At the time though, the special effects were cutting edge. Unlike lots of 90s films, the effects still hold up. Bless you, Peter Jackson.

There’s so much to love about The Frighteners. Michael J. Fox in his last major film role. Jeffrey Combs being creepy as fuck. Jake Busey, also being creepy as fuck. John Astin, father of the future Hobbit. R. Lee Ermey as…R. Lee Ermey. My daughter was excited about Dee Wallace Stone, who is apparently starring in some Disney Chanbel Show she watches. Whatever happened to Trini Alvarado, AKA young Andi McDowell?

I also think that this film continued my obsession with ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper.’ For sure, it started with the miniseries of The Stand, but then this film ended with it…and wasn’t it in Scream? And then ‘More Cowbell’ and then Six Feet Under…that song can do no wrong.

I love the contours of Peter Jackson’s career. From his start with Feebles, through the camp horror of Bad Taste and Dead Alive and then the ethereal beauty of Heavenly Creatures, Jackson makes a pit stop here in big budget horror before his forays into the Tolkien universe. I’m really intrigued by his newest project, a 3D documentary of WWI.

Friday the 13th Part 2

 

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So my DVR is doing this weird thing, where shows disappear and reappear at random. I had recorded this for the us to watch on the last Friday the 13th, but it had disappeared. Lily was devastated…and then – I shit you not – it reappeared on Saturday the 14th. I don’t even fucking know…sometimes I think the DVR is fucking with us on purpose.

ANYWAY…the first sequel to the most prolific horror franchise (so far) starts right where the last one left off. The first five minutes is a brief recap of how the first film ended and the PTSD that the final girl is still experiencing…and then she gets a knife in the head. Well, who could’ve done that? She beheaded Mrs. Voorhees in the first film…oh, it’s her son, Jason. He wants revenge for the death of his mom, who died seeking revenge for the death of her son…seems like a bit of circular logic, huh?

I totally forgot that Jason wore a bag on his head in this one…the hockey mask doesn’t become part of his outfit until the third film!

A few interesting kills, but fairly boring, as far as slasher flicks go. The best part is the “mommy shrine” – I hope my kids build one for me when I die!

Victor Crowley

 

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My husband records the weirdest movies.

At first I thought it was a typical slasher movie, but then it went all meta, a survivor writing about a massacre ten years ago and then a group of kids making a film about the events…what events?

Turns out Victor Crowley is the fourth film in a series. I’ve never even heard of the Hatchet series, but apparently, there were three of them before this one. How have I never heard of them???

Was that Jonah Ray in the cold open? IMDb says yes. Look for Felissa Rose (Angela in Sleepaway Camp!) as Andrew’s publicist. Q from Impractical Jokers also has a starring role. Tony Todd was there – blink and you’ll miss it.

Pretty funny for a slasher film. Equal opportunity when it comes to nudity – there were tits and a weener. Victor Crowley also perpetrated some of the most awesomely brutal death gags I’ve seen in a long time – like TROMA level gags. Have you ever seen a killer rip someone’s arm off, shove it up their cooter so hard, that their cell phone comes out their mouth? Me neither! Now I need to check out the first three…

The Silence of the Lambs

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I am now entering the third phase of my children’s film education. Phase 1 was the off-the-wall kid stuff, like the 60s Batman and Howard the Duck. Phase 2 was the slightly more PG-13 and adultish stuff – everything from Army of Darkness to Zoolander. Phase 3 is the hard R stuff, like Friday the 13th and Silence of the Lambs. There IS a super-secret fourth phase…but I am not quite sure how old I’ll have to be to sit through Pink Flamingos with my son. Probably at least 75 or so.

My son has been wanting to watch Silence of the Lambs FORever. Not because of all the Oscars, or because he is into sewing…but I’m guessing it’s solely because of how often I say, “It puts the lotion on it’s skin, or else it gets the hose again!” Or some variation thereof – it never gets old! Oh, AND he had to listen to his grandmother and I endlessly dissect the wonderful TV version, Hannibal, a few years ago.

The plot was harder for my son to follow at 13. I vaguely remember difficulty and I must have been 16 or so when I watched it. I’m envious of his innocence – honey, that wasn’t saliva Miggs threw at Agent Starling. Even though there were several points I had to pause the film and explain, he really seemed to enjoy it. At least I didn’t have to explain the tucking part.

Believe it or not, the film holds up. The tension is palpable in the last 20 minutes – even though I’ve seen it a gazillion times, I still get jumpy around, “Oh yeah, was she a great big fat person?” So few films these days are able to build this kind of tension, sheerly through the narrative and creative editing. Buffalo Bill stands up as a villain, even the horrors of the last 25+ years haven’t made him any less freaky. Hannibal, on the other hand, is virtually a pop culture hero. He’s become this superhero-like entity…eat the rude. I’m actually considering that for a tattoo…along with a Death’s-head Hawkmoth tramp stamp, if only to make my children cringe at the waterpark!

I know I’m a goober, but I always forget about Chris Isaak in the SWAT Team and squeal at the TV, “Oh look! Chris Isaak!” My son was like, who dat? I explain that he sang our wedding song, again, a blank look from my son – why is he is the movie, if he is a singer? I don’t know dammit!

I’ve got Red Dragon on DVR, I somehow managed to miss seeing that one – so I think I’ll hold off on Hannibal and watch this one next. Now, if I can only get my child to read the books…

Split

I haven’t watched an M. Night film since…Signs – holy shit, that was 16 years ago! But my son watched Split and said it was pretty good, so I decided to give it a spin.

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Split was amazing from beginning to end. The story, as simple as it was, was riveting in its unspoken horror. I was most impressed that the mental illness was not “gimmicky”, but just a part of the weaving of the story. I remember watching Sybil in college and just laughing my ass off, her personalities were so ridiculous and didn’t it turn out that the real Sybil was a fake? (Fun Fact: our first pet goat was named Sybil, because she was kind of nuts.)

Hands down, the best scene was the Kanye West dance-off. McAvoy should’ve won an Oscar based on that scene alone. (I’m only slightly kidding.) I’ve been hard on McAvoy in the past, but his performances in Split amazed me in their depth and variation. I want to go back across his past films and start watching – I’ve literally only seen him as either Xavier or garden gnome. (The work he’s done on his body certainly doesnt hurt, either.) I need to start with Wanted and Atomic Blonde, but I’m open to other suggestions.

I don’t know where Anya Taylor-Joy came from, but I’m looking forward to seeing more of her. She’ll be in The New Mutants!

So, the “twist” – M. Night is known for his twists. It wasn’t ridiculous or overly convoluted. Actually, the biggest “twist” is that now I have to go watch Unbreakable.

Texas Killing Fields

Based on a True Story…I LOVE “Based on a True Story.” I love bullshit and nothing is more bullshit than “Based on a True Story.” (Technically, the film opened with “this story is inspired by true events” – but that’s pretty much the same thing.)

Being a local, I’m more than a little familiar with the REAL Texas Killing Fields off I-45. For decades, someone – or more likely, several someones have been killing young girls and dumping the bodies in the marshes between Houston and Galveston. The film fictionalizes two Texas City detectives who become obsessed with the murders and follows their hunt for “the killer.” The film is built like an episode of CSI – every male in town is creepy enough to be a suspect, with most being red herrings. Worst of all, there’s a clear resolution to the “killings,” whereas the families of the real victims haven’t gotten a resolution at all. Pure Hollywood. Fuck Hollywood.

Look on Down from the Bridge by Mazzy Star Plays over a montage near the beginning. I LOVE Mazzy Star – it’s sitting in a bubble bath and crying music. In fact, the whole soundtrack and score is lachrymose. I like lachrymose in small doses.

Chloe Grace Moretz is Ann, the “star” victim. If she can keep a good head on her shoulders, she may end up being the next Scarlett Johansson. They even look quite similar. Laura Palmer Plays Chloe Grace Moretz’s skanky mom. She’s aged well, much better than Sherilyn Fenn or Lara Flynn Boyle.

This film was as confusing as fuck, but not in a Lynchian way. It was confusing because the film focused on interactions that later proved to be insignificant. Even with several marquee stars – Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jessica Chastain – this movie isn’t worth paying for, but not bad enough to deride too much. It would have been better suited as an episode of CSI or NCIS, where everything is supposed to be wrapped up neatly in one or two episodes. It’s a disservice to the real victims to show such a clear resolution to 40+ years of unsolved crimes in the real Texas Killing Fields.

 

Texas Frightmare Massacre

How does Parrish Randall know what dog vagina tastes like?

I guess there are just some questions that I’ll never know the answer to…although, I bet I could ask my 3 year old, because she won’t stop letting the dog lick her open mouth, no matter how much I scream at her. I guess I could try screaming at the dog, I don’t know what is more futile – screaming at a three year old human or a three year old dog.

Speaking of possibly unanswerable questions, was this DVD worth $20? Of course, it wasn’t MY $20, but my friend, Amy, did shell out $20 at Texas Frightmare Weekend, perhaps persuaded by the promise of a free Beavis & Butthead DVD from the goody box. The Director, Joe Francis, was in attendance and quite persuasive as well. We actually stood around and chatted with, um…harassed him and the other stars for about 30 minutes, while we were figuring out if we were going to actually wait in line to see Robert Englund (we didn’t). They were tolerant of what we thought there should be more of in Horror Films…sex with clowns and ass-birthing of midgets, which we may or may not have offered to participate in. This was a fucking funny group of guys, so that played into the purchase, at least a little bit.

This fucking funny group of guys actually made a fucking funny movie. Yeah, it’s a horror film, too – but mostly, it’s a comedy. I prefer comedy horror to straight horror these days…why am I saying ‘these days’? I’ve ALWAYS preferred comedy horror, whether it’s intentional (TROMA or Cannibal! or Chucky or even the Leprechaun) or unintentional (whether they involve Dinocrocs, Chupacabras or Mongolian Death Worms, I’m not picky) – I want to laugh, goddamit! And laugh we did…although it’s quite possible that we had a little help while watching.

The film actually takes place and was filmed at Texas Frightmare Weekend. Having just attended for the first time, we got a kick out of the festival footage. The story focuses on a nerdy fanboy attending the convention and a couple of newly trained security guards trying to track down a serial killer that’s preying on attendees and celebrities alike. The first big laugh is the infomercial on becoming a Security Guard. (I wonder if that’s how my dad got into the security business? I don’t know if he was into blowjobs from dudes, but he DID have a killer fucking mustache.)

The Security Guards’ boss was the funniest character in the film. He was a wimpy looking guy, but the voice that came out of his mouth was pure Drill Instructor. In fact, I was waiting for him to die in a blaze of glory, ala Full Metal Jacket, but Lyle the Security Guard had other plans…Horsey? (What the fuck was that about, anyway?) My husband intended to go to bed early and not have to sit through our giggling shits, but the Drill Instructor Security Boss sucked him in. He sat and watched until the Security Boss got murdered, then crawled in bed. He thought that Amy got her money’s worth just for the Security Boss. When I went to bed, he actually asked me what happened – shocking!

I didn’t quite expect so much nudity. Seriously, where did they find this girl, willing to spend most of her screen time butt ass nekkid in a small independent film? Did she do it for free? Will she get residuals from the DVD sales? If not, she should totally get a check for $1 from the proceeds of Amy buying this DVD! I demand that she be compensated for letting squirrelly assholes hump her on film! I am also pretty sure I saw some cock. Not a rooster, a penis.

The horsehead mask reminded me of the Horse Head Bookends Killer.

Remember when I said that I fucking hate happy endings? I totally DO fucking love happy endings in horror movies. However, I am pretty sure that my definition of a happy ending is warped…I’m not even talking about hand jobs this time. I’m not gonna give away the ending this time, I promise!

So, did we get our money’s worth? Was this DVD worth $20 of Amy’s hard-earned money? The Beavis & Butthead DVD was worth at least $5. Another $1 is earmarked for the butt ass nekkid girl. $3.50 for breakfast that tastes like dog pussy. $4.20 for the Security Guard Infomercial. $1 for seeing a gameboy fall out of the fanboy’s backpack. $2 for the Security Boss’ crazy shit-talking. $3.99 for The Todd to go to Supercuts and fix his stupid shaved head with sideburns. Let me add this up…$20.69! Fuck! We owe Joe Francis 69 cents…I wonder if he’ll take an IOU?

Grindhouse

It took almost a year, but I finally got around to watching the other half of Grindhouse…Death Proof. I’d watched Planet Terror almost a year ago, during my maternity leave movie marathon, but I had never gotten around to Death Proof until now.

I’ll start off with Planet Terror. Rose McGowan stars as Cherry Darling, the stereotypical Go-Go Dancer with a heart of gold. Now you all know that I’m the #1 Rose McGowan apologist, but come on – this role was made for her. She was perfect as Cherry, besides the only way that Freddy Rodriguez would work as the hero would be to cast someone tinier than him as his girl. Even so, Rose almost towers over him in heels. It’s a shame that her relationship with director, Robert Rodriguez overshadows her role. He seems quite a cad for leaving his wife of over 15 years and mother of 5 bizarrely named children for Rose. They haven’t managed to turn it into quite the soulmate story that Brad and Angelina have…if there’s a side to this story that makes him not a dick, I haven’t heard it.

Quentin Tarantino must really enjoy playing nasty, sexually deviant characters. I thought that that Richie Gecko was the bottom of the barrel until I saw his character in Planet Terror. Do I need to revive Junk Trauma?

The scene with Dakota Block’s son is simply the most chilling sequence I’ve ever seen in a film. It beats Saw, it beats Se7en. The pit fell out of my stomach and I thought I was going to have turn the film off. Maybe I was more sensitive because I had just given birth a week before…How did Rodriguez film that using his very own child?

My only complaint was that Fergie did not die quickly enough or graphically enough.

Planet Terror was thrill a minute – the action never stopped and I didn’t want it to end – I wish I could say the same about Death Proof. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Admittedly, I was turned off as soon as I saw the Alamo Drafthouse at the beginning of the film. I knew that the setting was Austin before I even saw the subtitle. Let’s just say that I’m not the biggest Austin fan in the world. Hippies and potheads and tree huggers and longhorns and traffic and bad music. For a town that brags about its non-conformity, how come everyone who lives there is the same? Austin is my idea of HELL. Anyway…the film begins in Austin, slowly following the exploits of three party girls as they veer towards a fateful run-in with Stuntman Mike.

Jungle Julia was annoying. Arlene was only slightly less annoying. (I guess Vanessa Ferlito thought she was going to make it big after this, so she quit CSI: NY. Where is she now?) I liked Jordan Ladd – did you know that she almost had Rose McGowan’s career? Speaking of Rose, she had a small role in Death Proof as well. She dons a hideous blond wig and tries to hitch a ride with Stuntman Mike – bad idea.

I know what Tarantino was doing. I know all about suspense and the slow build. You’re just sitting there, waiting for something, anything violent to happen. These girls are so vapid that you WANT something bad to happen to them. I admit, it’s pretty awesome when Stuntman Mike finally makes his move, but I was really unhappy for the 45 minutes it took to get there.

Once we got to Lebanon, Tennessee, the film was able to keep me interesting. I’m not a big Rosario Dawson fan, but she fit the role and was funny. Zoë Bell, though obviously not an actress, was likable and fun to watch – a real stuntwoman to battle against Stuntman Mike. The second group of girls was so much less annoying that the first – was it because they obviously had jobs and weren’t drunk and high? Was it because they weren’t from Austin? All of the above? Am I insinuating that the first group deserved to die solely because they were in Austin? Well, maybe. But maybe they had to die because hedonists ALWAYS die in these movies, but girls with jobs and guns usually win.

Watching a film made by a film buff should be fun, right? All the references to the classics, the superior technique, auteur theory…Tarantino seems to feel that he’s the brilliant professor and you’re the ignorant freshman. If you know even half as much about film as he does, you just start rolling your eyes and think of how the mighty have fallen…

Interestingly, my sister had the exact opposite opinion on the two films. She liked Death Proof, but she thought that Planet Terror was just dumb. It makes sense, because although we mostly have similar taste in films, she usually gravitates more towards action and kung fu flicks and I lean towards camp and horror.

I give Planet Terror 4 BOBs and Death Proof gets 2 BOBs, so Grindhouse gets the average score – 3 BOBs.

Hot Fuzz

Edgar Wright does for Policemen what Edgar Wright did for zombies.

Simon Pegg does a complete 180 from his role in Shaun of the Dead in Hot Fuzz as Nick Angel. He’s a lean, mean law-enforcing machine. In fact, he’s such a good cop that he makes the rest of the department look bad – so he’s shipped off to a sleepy little village in the English countryside as a “reward.” Little does he know that the village is not as sleepy as it seems. Townspeople have been dropping like flies in bizarre accidents and Nick Angel WILL get to the bottom of it!

I found myself thinking about the film Straw Dogs several times while watching Hot Fuzz. It may have been the picturesque setting, but I kept referring back to the underlying theme of townspeople as a unit, acting as one for a common goal. Then again, it was probably just because one of the townspeople mentioned playing an extra in the film.

The most puzzling thing to me is Danny’s worship of Point Break and Bad Boys II. I can marginally understand Point Break – Cops and Robbers and Surfers – you can’t go wrong. But Bad Boys II? As I not familiar with the Bad Boys oeuvre, is there a compelling reason that Danny prefers the sequel to the original? Is it widely held to be a better film? Someone out there on the interweb, drop me a line and let me know…

Is Hot Fuzz better than Shaun of the Dead? No. It’s nearly as good though – not a disappointment by any means. You’ll laugh and laugh and laugh, then laugh some more.

 

Saw II

Any film that involves the psychological torture of a member of New Kids on the Block is ACES in my book. Add to that the fact that one of the little bitches from 7th Heaven is being slowly poisoned and coughing up blood…you’ve got a horror film guaranteed to satisfy.

Saw II has the definite distinction of being one of the few horror sequels that does not suffer from a sharp decline in quality from the first one. I’d almost even say that it was better than the first one…it was clever, but didn’t feel tacked on – it was almost like a natural progression of the first film’s plot. I wish I would have seen it before the third one came out, because knowing a bit about the third one made the twist in this one obvious – but you know what? Knowing about Amanda didn’t take anything away from the film – it almost made it better.

They’re making Saw IV right now…this could go on a while, huh? Won’t they run out of gross-outs? I don’t think they could go farther than the Needle Pit.

Having just finished reviewing Elmo in Grouchland, I would love to see a Muppet version of Saw…what made me think of Muppet Saw? At Target yesterday, I came upon an abomination of a product – Elmo brand Cherry flavored Applesauce. This stuff was the brightest red looking food product I have ever seen. It was like mashed Maraschino cherries, but also the exact color of Elmo’s fur? I contemplated buying it and serving it up to my son as “Mashed Elmo.” Of course my husband was abhorred and thought that it would damage him for life, but I’m not so sure. I think he would realize that Mommy is just being silly and happily eat his Maraschino cherry flavored ElmoSauce. But what if it DID fuck him up? What if he started dismembering his Elmo doll and putting it into sadistic torture situations? What if he carved puzzle pieces out of Elmo’s hide? I didn’t buy the ElmoSauce.