Sunday, October 18, 2015

It Follows...

It Follows

Human sexuality is terrifying.

There are awkward years where you’re not certain about how you feel, where you’re afraid to express those emotions, where physical contact could mean anything and where we fumble around, get confused, and then there’s the possibility of so many ramifications; Pregnancy, Venereal disease, past relationships, and just flat out being used or being a user. “It Follows” is the result of a sexual encounter gone awry- an allegory for facing the consequences of sex and all the little horrors that could result. Only this film makes the “horror” for more personal.

Jay has a sexual encounter with a boy she’s only starting to get to know- only to find out that he’s really only using her to “pass on” the curse of a murderous entity that will stalk, follow, and eventually murder her unless she passes the curse to another. But even if she does pass the curse, the entity will return once it has done its business with the new carrier- a cycle that will continue indefinitely unless she and her friends can find some way to stop the creature.

There was a lot of hype around this movie when I finally sat down to give it a go- which may have played as a bit of a detriment for me as a viewer. I was so primed for the film that the slow methodical pacing had me clawing at my chair for something to happen- and when it happens, the movie absolutely delivers! We see the creature just out of the peripheral of the camera’s focus- a figure who takes on various forms as it slowly approaches our lead from behind. There are some weird angles being used here to show all of the characters in a given scene, yet it rarely focuses on more than one or two throughout the story. The acting is very good and there are some truly sympathetic characters to be found, even as Jay struggles with her decisions on whether to pass the curse on down or just face the creature on her own.

That’s all I’m going to say about the movie, detail-wise. And, honestly, the less you know about the film going in, I think the better your viewing experience is going to be. I think it’s a fun little ride and definitely a worthy entry into the horror genre- but my honest opinion is that it may be one of the ten best movies I’ve seen this past year, but it’s not at the top of the list.

4 out of 5; a strong rental

Pro-Wrestlers vs. Zombies

We already know what this is. The title says it all. We have zombies and a couple of low grade professional wrestling “celebrities” getting down and dirty in a bloody gruesome mess of a film that tries very hard. And I honestly wanted to love the film for the pure cheese and love that was obviously on display, but the film never really managed to rise above its many flaws. And, perhaps the biggest flaw, falls on the shoulders of professional wrestlers unwilling to really engage and commit to the project at hand. And that’s a real shame when it comes down to it.

Shane Douglas stars as “himself”, a wrestling villain who manages to snap the neck of an opponent in the ring and send him to his maker. The wrestler’s brother comes for revenge and sells his soul in order to raise the dead and lay a trap for Douglas and a small roster of mixed legends and Independent wrestling stars. And this is where the film finds its primary problem- Shane Douglas, as himself, is really just a parody of the Franchise character he used to bring ECW to prominence in the 90’s. But while he is good at playing the “character” in the ring, he never uses the film’s material to lend any depth to the villain he’s played for so long. He is largely a one note character and he is supposed to be one of the three primary stars of the film- it’s Shane that the zombies are targeting, it’s Shane who committed a murder in the middle of a ring, and it’s Shane whose family are used as Zombies (including a brother named “Troy”, which is ironic since Douglas real name is “Troy Martin”). But he never commits to the film, only to the character of The Franchise- and it hurts the film on the whole.

Matt Hardy and his girlfriend, Reby Sky, also step into the film as the “couple” who are always looking to hook up. And while they may have had a real life romance off the side, Hardy is atrocious on the screen and is not just an unlikeable character but he comes off as totally clueless when it comes to delivering lines. It was as though someone fed him the lines as the movie filmed with a constant look of nervous panic every time the camera would swing in his direction. Other “indie” wrestlers appear to focus on their gimmicks and ultimately get swarmed by zombies in order to pad out numbers. But with such a focus on gimmicks, they’re failing to live up to the potential of having wrestlers defend themselves against zombies.

Kurt Angle stops in for a cup of coffee and leads me to believe that he was doing someone a favor for a single afternoon. No big deal with that, but as one of the top names billed in the film I would have expected to at least see some sort of an arc for the man.

But where Shane Douglas and others fail, Roddy Piper succeeds- he’s been friends with Shane for years and he’s a true road Veteran who has seen it all and done it all. He knows that his buddy is a jerk but he attributes it to the gimmick and is a constant apologist for the other man’s behavior. Piper brings a full commitment to the film and plays it straight- You actually believe he’s present in the moment and that his friends are being slaughtered around him. He comes across as a protective father-figure and a man who wants to do good by the people in his life. There’s an emotional moment between him and fellow legend, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, that actually made me feel bad. Both men delivered what they needed to and had the film found a focus with them, rather than Douglas, I believe the movie could have worked so much better.

There are a few editing hiccups, the video quality isn’t the best, and the “jock rock” soundtrack runs a little against the mood at times. But the film doesn’t totally fail to accomplish the task at hand and a little more experience behind the camera may give the director a little more traction in years to come. And as one of Roddy Piper’s final performances, fans will honestly be moved by his character arc and quality he brings to a project as silly as this.

Truth be told, there are worse ways to spend an evening and love for wrestling is an absolute “must” in order to pick up on a number of references throughout the film.

2.5 out of 5. Weak Rental.

Lost After Dark

Billed as a “throwback” to the 1980’s slasher genre, “Lost at Dark” plays with the usual tropes and delivers a few interesting turns along the way. It is, at its core, a play on the Tarantino/Rodriguez-inspired “Grindhouse” double feature from a few years ago. With damaged footage, cut scenes, and the usual wear and tear seen throughout- the film pays homage to the horror flicks of the 80’s and strives to capture the look and feel throughout its’ runtime.

A group of High School friends decide to ditch the dance and drive out to a cabin in the woods, but never actually make it that far. They are pursued by their Gung-ho Vietnam Veteran vice-principle, played by Robert Patrick. The teens break down en route and try to find help from an old manor house they come across- there they come face to face with a cannibal wild man who brutally murders a number of the teens. The deaths are gory, there are some truly brutal scenes, and some tropes are played with in order to assault the audience expectations. Few moments are actually played for comedy, however- as the film does remain grounded in its sense of horror, though several moments do seem to have an ironic sense of humor to them. Robert Patrick, especially, is good in an “over the top” performance.

3.5, the film is better than I expected it to be and fairly enjoyable, but not a definite “must see” on the scale. If you’re a fan of slasher films and you enjoyed the lesser known backwood-killer movies, this is pretty much on par.

Furious 7

In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t seen all of the Fast & Furious films to date. But the truth of the matter is that you can’t be a cinephile without at least hearing about the series and I have seen the first and second films in the action series. And, much like a great many other people, I was honestly moved by the stories of Paul Walker and how the film would address his very real death that took place shortly after principle photography wrapped and required use of a double and CGI for a number of shots that would feature the Fast and Furious star.

Furious 7 picks up right where the previous film left off- which is to say, I have no idea where I’m starting out except that some guy I don’t remember was killed by a character played by Jason Statham and that makes Dom (Vin Diesel) an unhappy camper. He and his “family”- this includes Paul Walker’s ex-cop character, Dom’s sister (now married to the ex-cop), Ludicris, and others I’m honestly too tired to remember all jamming into some cars and driving around to do stuff and miraculously survive. Somewhere along the way the Rock winds up in the hospital with a broken arm, Kurt Russell comes traipsing on in, and I’m fairly certain we’re about to have a visit from the cast of The Expendables at some point in time because that would actually make a lot of sense. There’s a computer program that tracks people, a hacker, some more cars, and a bunch of stuff that blows up along the way. And Dom doesn’t have friends, he’s got “Family”… so that’s what we’ve got developing here.

Look, I love stupid action films and this is really as stupid an action film as you are ever likely to get- The cast is fun, the dialogue is corny, and the stunts are all amazing. No one is surviving this stuff and Jason Statham is over the top as an egregious villain looking to kill Dom for having killed his brother in what I assume was a previous movie. And if there was ever a movie you didn’t want to know anything about, this is the one. I’m sure there are some great storyline purposes being driven home here, but the less I knew the more outlandish and ridiculous the movie seemed and that made it so much more worthwhile. I’m going to go back and watch them in reverse order just to see if the same experience could be had in successive numbers.

4.5 out of 5.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Green Inferno. A gory good time.

A word of warning: This movie is not for everyone. It's especially not for the faint of heart or the easily disturbed. Social Justice Warrior slacktivists beware! You will be mocked throughout this film and you will be indicted for the lazy-ass "occupy" "Kony" "spread the meme" bullshit that currently permeates this pathetic excuse for a society we currently live in. So if you are an easily offended little punk fuck-nugget who can't help but feel offended for the slightest perception of an insult, you may want to the avoid this film like the plague.

Eli Roth is back after a ten year hiatus from the Director's chair and returns with a cannibal jungle film that doesn't pull any punches on the gore. Green Inferno takes it's influence from Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, and other Italian shock films- so while there's nothing new here in the initial premise, the honest truth is that it's like nothing we are currently seeing in the horror genre these days. Every blood curdling moment is caught in daylight and played at for squeamish delight. 

The central plot of the film is that a bunch of college students make their way to Peru in order to organize a protest and protect the indigenous tribe threatened by greedy industrialists. The problem is that these kids are essentially idealistically driven fools driven by ill-conceived notions of saving the world. Justine (Lorenzo Izzo) joins the group after having been traumatized in a lecture about female genital mutilation and it just so happens that her father works for the U.N. and his answers fail to satisfy her desire to "do something". To make a long story short, their plane crashes in the middle of the Rain Forest and the teens encounter the very tribe they've come to help.

The film is going to draw a lot of criticism with the way Roth has chosen to portray the Natives- the tribe are cannibal head hunters who have no contact with the outside world. They're uncivilized, alien, and savage- a stereotype that's often been set in contrast with the Great White Hunter. Roth, however, sets another contrast here- The Great White Fool. The Tribe is brutal and unaware of the world around them, while the protesters are shown to be selfish, naive, and too "aware" and judgmental of the world they don't understand. And in that way, this horror film works as gory satire.

Regarding the violence:  KNB and Greg Nicotero have a gory great time with the blood, the mutilation, and the horror- but that's really only part of it. The truth is that the actors are very good and the first major death scene is downright haunting as the character's screams and crying increase, intensify, vary in pitch, and drag through a rough scene that ends another character commenting on the smell of the roasting flesh. This is a cruel film. But if you can take it, then I highly recommend it for the horror fans out there. But with one note- blood changes color as it dries and some characters are streaked with blood from the plane crash several hours later, and it looks as fresh as the moment of their crash. A little oversight, perhaps... or a creative choice. But worth noting.

4 out of 5.