Welcome back guys, we got a hell of a week for you. And by we, I of course mean the royal we. This was all me guys, I work on my own. I’m a lone wolf. No big deal. But yeah, back to business. I watched some wild stuff this week, as big a gap in type of movie and quality. I see an amazing high while suffering through some mind numbing lows. It’s a hell of a list when I look at it. So give it a look and enjoy on this glorious Football Sunday (or whenever the fuck you read it, it’s the internet, this shit don’t die). Thanks.
Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (September 13th, 2015)
Director: Terence Fisher
Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Frances Matthews, and Andrew Keir
Even in todays day and age of massive quantities of information at our fingertips, it’s quite nice to know I can just wander aimlessly into a movie without really digging into the history of the franchise it was apart of. Much like the old days of watching a movie and not knowing where it fit, if it did, into a franchise, I accidentally watched what I assumed was the first but was actually the second movie of the Dracula flicks made by Hammer Horror and starring Christopher Lee. But really it doesn’t matter. This isn’t some heavily serialized affair. Yes, Dracula is still dead at the beginning of this movie after the events of the prior one. But that’s about it to tie it to the last. It’s set 10 years later and a group of hoity toity British dolts decide to not heed the warning of the badass, gun toting priest to not fucks with that castle nobody else will acknowledge exists. Of course it’s Dracula’s old digs, and his creepy little man bitch uses the blood of one of these dumb shits to resurrect the vamp. That’s a good chunk of the movie, with the last 40 minutes or so becoming Dracula hunting the rest down. The most surprising thing about this movie? Lee has no lines. He’s barely in it to begin with, and when he shows up it’s all presence and hisses. And for a movie about Dracula, shit doesn’t get bloody until a good deal into the movie. And then when it does it moves too quickly and cleanly to the ending, with Dracula be felled by his weakness to running water (da fuck?). It’s a bit slow but for me, it has a charm to the affair. That Hammer aesthetic of bright colors and the gothic production design mixed with a sort of humorous tone to the thing. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is having fun without cutting the danger out from under the story. Even without lines, Lee is just a great presence. The others are alright, serving their purpose. Keir is awesome as the badass priest, hitting all the buttons I like with a supporting part. On a nice rainy night or an October movie night, this is a fun little movie. A good chance to go back in time for a bit to the days of drive ins and old VHS tapes.
Deadly Friend (September 15th, 2015)
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Kristy Swanson, Matthew Laborteaux, Michael Sharrett, and Anne Ramsey
If you’re reading this, you already know that I love Wes Craven and think he is an immense presence in cinema history. That has to be said because this is a movie that is so bad I can’t believe anyone allowed him to make a movie afterwards, because I sure as hell wouldn’t have. He follows up the massive success of A Nightmare On Elm Street with this movie that just fails on every fundamental level. It’s almost incomprehensible someone as talented as him could make something this inept. Even having just seen The Hills Have Eyes 2 recently, this is a different kind of bad. Hills Have Eyes 2 was stupid and a movie that missed what made the first successful, it still had a stupid 80s charm to it. Deadly Friend is just absolutely misguided. Even knowing the story of how Warner Brothers just wrecked this movie in the post process with next level shortbus ideas, the movie doesn’t have any redeeming qualities at all. There is no scene that can be seen as a standout from the earlier version of the movie that even made that seem good. It’s all bad, from the earlier PG love movie to the aggressively stupid R rated schlock horror movie. It’s an ugly movie, looking like a massive step back from Elm Street. And all I heard about the movie was that it was a killer robot movie, but that was kinda wrong. It’s a movie that is a little bit Short Circuit, Frankenstein and Re-Animator. And despite the bug nuts insanity of that combination, this is just a chore. No energy, the cast is garbage and the story is an incoherent mess. I can’t even spend more time on this, as it’s such an abhorrent mess. Nothing about it works and it’s the only time in my Wes postmortem that I’ve felt the urge to just stop in my tracks and walk away. Almost enough to make me forget about his highs. It makes Cursed and Vampire In Brooklyn seem like classics. Steer clear.
Frenzy (September 16th, 2015)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Jon Finch, Alec McCowen, Barry Foster, and Anna Massey
Hitchcock only made two movies in the 70s. His old age probably had something to do with that limited work load. Not to mention he was a fat bastard, so his energy probably wasn’t too high. But for my money, the reason he didn’t work so much was that cinema had left him behind and he couldn’t change with the times. He couldn’t have known this, but the very same year as this movie, The Last House On The Left was released. And while it didn’t get much critical love, it was a landmark that helped changed the world of cinema. That movie was mean and dirty and cheap, using it’s cheapness to shock and awe. Frenzy was a movie stuck in the old days of slow pacing and a sort of prudishness. It tries to make a move forward for Hitch by having nudity and a rape scene with some more violence and salty language that normal. But it all feels hilariously fake, the work of a man who is so repressed and uptight that he stages one of the most hilariously inept rape scenes. It’s crazy how bad it is. Now I’m not saying we need to be titilated with the scene, but a little attempt to make the scene look like a rape would be ideal if you go to the lengths to show it. What he gives us is a guy putting his crotch near a womans legs, not moving, and moaning until he stops. We wouldn’t know this was a rape scene if we weren’t told that the killer of the movie/scene raped women before killing them. My mind couldn’t comprehend what it was seeing. And not only does it fail to hit in that moment, it doesn’t help later. If it hurt as we watched it and the horror of the moment was properly conveyed, a scene later on of a poor, unsuspecting woman being led into his apartment would be even nastier than it is. That scene as is works just from the base knowledge of the plot, but it could have worked a lot better if the rape was more Last House than friend zoned anime fan idea of sex. The movie also has more issues than that, but it really hobbled the movie in a more serious way than the similarly tame but more successful Psycho. Mainly the structure of the movie is fucked. We spend way too much time with a police officer investigating the crimes, who’s only purpose is to relay information we’ve already seen. It makes the movie slow and repetitive as hell. Not to mention his scenes are tinged with comedic beats that just don’t really land. His scenes could have been cut out completely and the movie could have worked better. Another issue is that the main guy (Finch) isn’t very interesting. It’s another Hitchcockian character, a normal schlub who gets caught up in a big mess he didn’t aim to be involved in. But the guy at play is such an annoying turd I couldn’t really care what happened to him. Maybe if the plan was to make it ambiguous if he did the crimes or not, that could work. But we find out almost immediately he isn’t and he stays just as stupid as he was before he got framed. The main success of the movie is in the killer subplot, played by Foster. He’s very charming but cold and devious, a really solid piece of shit villain. Seeing him coldly ruin the life of a purported friend is great, as is the aforementioned scene of him snaring up the unsuspecting woman. The highlight of this being a long, tense but blackly comic scene of him in the back of a truck with a dead body trying to retrieve some evidence. It’s amazing and makes me really wish I liked the movie more. It’s funny finding out that Hitch offered the role to Michael Caine at first, who decline. It’s funny because Foster looks so much like Caine as to almost be distracting, and because Caine would go on to be in the sleazy Hitch homage Dressed To Kill. That movie is a much better attempt at a sleazier Hitchcock thriller. I’m surprised at having written this much already, since I didn’t love it. But it’s a movie that could have been great and had the moments to be. But a failure to make the horror really hit thanks to a failed attempt at being dirty and a fractured screenplay really hinder it, as well as some goofy as shit faces made on some of the corpses. I think it works well enough to be watchable, but is highly flawed. So if you wanna see Hitch try to move into a new era of cinema but kind fail, give it a go. If not, you could live without it.
Cooties (September 18th, 2015)
Directors: Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion
Starring: Elijah Wood, Allison Pill, Rainn Wilson, and Leigh Whannell
In a year seemingly devoid of any worthwhile horror films, it was nice to see something that really worked for me. This is more of a horror comedy than straight up horror, but it still has all the violence and genre elements to fall completely into the genre. The basic story is about a substitute teacher (Wood) having to come back to his old elementary school for a job during the summer. He runs into an old crush (Pill) and meets all the new teachers. But a deadly virus breaks out, turning prepubescent kids into zombies. What follows is blood soaked hilarity. Right off the bat, the cast is on point. Wood does good work as a wannabe writer who doesn’t have the work ethic or even the skill to make it. Pill is really chipper and cute, making it easy for Wood to fall for her. Wilson, who I’ve never liked much, is amazing as that douchey gym teacher we’ve all had. Jack MacBrayer does some good work too, slightly different than the usual MacBrayer material we see. Jorge Garcia shows up for a brief little subplot as a stoner crossing guard who ends up trapped in his van on shrooms when the outbreak hits. But the absolute star of the movie is Leigh Whannell, the writer of the flick and co creator of the massive Saw franchise. He starred in that franchise’s first installment and his lack of acting experience showed clearly. Having done some more work since then he’s grown exponentially and is fucking hilarious in this movie as the guy who has some smarts but is too god damn weird for social interaction. It’s an amazing performance of an amazing character. And while the movie is funny, it isn’t afraid to show off some really bloody kills when the shit goes down, getting in it’s bonafides to make the threat greater. The fact that the movie is funny too without lessening the threat or the situation if great too, everything spinning out from the reactions to the situations based on character. It doesn’t hobble itself. You can tell the movie is incredibly low budget, with a pretty standard visual style and an aggressively small scale. And the ending just kinda ends, leaving things still in a shit hole. It felt like they just needed an ending quick before the budget fell out. It doesn’t kill the movie though because it’s still funny, but it coulda crossed the finish line with a little more pizazz. Now, zombie media is a dime a dozen these days. Hell, we all know some douche bro who plays Call of Duty’s zombie mode. It’s not niche anymore and has become the worlds entry way to horror. But what this movie has is a cool take on the genre, making it only susceptible to kids. It adds a nice little generational war subtext to the proceedings. And it also has the taboo thrills of seeing teachers lay waste to little kids. Even with years of boundary breaking, the horror genre is like all else in that they usually don’t kill kids. So when they do it sticks out. And this movie does it but manages to not overdo it and water it down so it always hits. It’s these little unique additions to the genre and the on point humor that makes this stand out. A must see.
Director: Stephen King
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington, and Frankie Faizon
If you ever wanted to see a visual manifestation of the total cocaine mania that Stephen King was entrenched in in the 80’s, this movie is that. His fall into coke was so complete that he doesn’t even remember making this movie. Think about that. A movie takes a long time to make, and none of it registers in his mind. Further proof that his mind was completely demolished during this time period? This is an adaptation of a short story he himself wrote before and he completely misses the point of it. Want more proof? Because of his mind being ravages of that drug, he insisted on a stunt that he was told would be too dangerous and cost a stuntman his eye. Yeah, and he doesn’t remember that. I guess in the end though it’s good that he doesn’t remember this movie as it is a massive piece of shit that was so clearly made by someone who had no grasp on performance or tone, luckily having a DP that had some semblance of talent to make it at least semi decent to look at. The cast is made up of some decent performers trying to make this shit work, like Estevez and Hingle. But none of them are that good to make this drug fueled nightmare work. It also doesn’t help that it plays like a parody of a King book since the story if about machines coming to life and trying to kill. That’s it. And in the story it just happens with no reason and is a bleak story about how we built our own demise. This manages to tack on an opening text that explains it and takes away any fear, while adding an ending text that just muddies up the nonsensical plot it had just dealt and becomes even more ridiculous. And to show how little King was in control of even his most basic facilities, he completely mangles the tone of the piece by essentially scoring the movie with AC/DC songs. So none of the scenes that are trying to play as scary play that way, but come off like goofy action scenes that aren’t thrilling at all. It’s almost beyond comprehension how misguided that decision is. And for a man well known for writing totally human characters that feel lived in just mangled the characters in this. No one acts like real life people and just come off like cardboard cut outs that only exist when they’re on screen. And for all the shit this movie just gets wrong and for how total a failure it is on a filmic level, it is so bad it is immensely watchable. I only watched it because I knew the podcast How Did This Get Made was doing an episode about it and I wanted to see it anyway, so that gave me an excuse. But make no mistakes. It’s an aggressively bad movie that will test most peoples patience. But for me, it was so bad in such a specific way that it tickled my guilty pleasure bone.
Sicario (September 19th, 2015)
Director: Dennis Villeneuve
Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, and Jon Bernthal
For an in depth look at my glowing opinion on this movie, click here.