Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Open Letter




 Dear [Rec] 2,

I just want to say that I really, really love you. And no, I don't care what anyone else thinks. My love for you is pure and I just wanted you to know it.

My faith was dwindling in the horror genre and you've reignited my passion. It's the little things you do. It's the way each character matters and the way you effectively use POV shooting and the way you answer questions through plot. Hell, every camera used was shot in a style that made sense to the character using it. It's like you thought about it for more than two minutes when you were shooting the film.

Too many other films redo the formula that kind of worked in the original film. You, like Paranormal Activity 2, use the same (ish) time line to open up the themes explored in the first. So simple yet rarely done. I love the way you used the same location (opening it up only a little bit) to continue the story. The claustrophobia in [Rec] is nothing compared to what you guys do.

I used to never be scared of zombies. I used to never want to watch zombie movies because I found them monotonous but you subverted a genre and made them not zombies but still zombie-esque. You made them awesome because you never showed their faces for too long and made their movements epically creepy. For that I will always love you.

After I watched you I was nervous, my heart was pounding and I slept with the light on. You. Complete. Me.

Love,

Alex

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Whole New Monster

Hey all! In the midst of moving I've asked my friend Tom McGee to pitch hit (that's a thing, right?) for me. Here's his take on Danny Boyle's theatre production of Frankenstein which was broadcast live in North America. Enjoy!

Frankenstein directed by the 28 Days Later guy, starring the bad guy from the latest season of Dexter (and Dracula 2000!), and BBC’s Sherlock Holmes trading roles every night?  Sounds like a winning combo.  Like Frankenstein’s experiment, Boyle’s production of Frankenstein being broadcast from the National Theatre works, but it isn’t exactly successful.  An interesting mess, like the monster itself.
           
A couple weeks after seeing it, I still don’t know how I feel about the show; there is some incredible stuff going on in it –the portrayal of the Monster is the best I’ve ever seen and truly heart-wrenching and the scene between Frankenstein, The Monster, and the Monster’s Bride is extremely powerful- but the play is fairly choppy, and the human characters are boring and unsympathetic.  You’re actually glad when the Monster starts knocking them off.  Ultimately, it’s worth seeing as the portrayal of the Monster will, in all likelihood, alter how you think of the character forever; just don’t expect the play surrounding it to be great.

The basic premise of the piece is to give the Monster a voice, which is accomplished spectacularly: the Monster is the perfect counterpoint to the iconic, lumbering Karloff creature that has long since eclipsed Shelley’s capital R Romantic storyteller.  As part of a generation of horror fans who only ascribe the line “Putting on the Ritz” to the creature, it was confusing and frustrating encountering Shelley’s for the first time; but this Monster finds a surprisingly touching mid-ground.  The actors studied The actors studied stroke and accident victims in rehab, learning to regain the ability to move and apply it to devastating effect.  The Monster’s struggle and gradual success in both movement and speech will invariably remind you of someone you know or have seen and it changes the Monster from a patchwork resurrected corpse into a person battling a handicap.  It’s crazy how different this approach makes the Monster.  By watching his step-by-step development we watch the victim become the murderer, rather than the other way round and it takes sexual violence to make the creature as evil as the people abusing it (done rather shockingly in the Monster’s revenge scene against Frankenstein’s wife).  It’s a fantastic take on the character and one that I found made me completely rethink the story.
This new take ultimately reminded me that Shelley beat modern zombie writers to the punch by a long shot: the new trend across horror seems to be to romanticise and humanize monsters, such as Twilight’s castration of vampire and werewolves, to the romantic zombie genre, where the inner thoughts, feelings, and conflicts of the zombie psyche are explored.  I remember first stumbling across this in Breathers, a book about sentient zombies, thinking it quite novel.  But really, the resurrected corpse learning to become a monster has been around for a really long time, but it took this uneven film/play to remind me how beautifully it had been done waaaaaaay back in the day.

So what’s the problem?

Humans.  Bloody boring humans.  Frankenstein himself has a grand entrance run-by cameo in the first scene where he appears, randomly yells at the Monster and then runs away.  His voice was strained and kind of painful to listen to.  I was really excited to see Miller play the Doctor, but I suspect he put all his work into the Monster, as he seemed to be constantly hiding twitchy hand gestures and limped occasionally like the Monster was.  Not exactly riveting (with the exception of the scene with the Bride of the Monster, which was perfectly executed).  The Doctor is a big part of the second act and kills the momentum established in the first (there’s no intermission, but the perspective shifts after the Monster kills Frankenstein’s kid brother.)  The support cast fares no better, aside from a fantastic maid and Cato from HBO’s ROME as the Blind Man who teaches the Monster to speak.  Frankenstein’s father is particularly terrible, declaring that his son is dead with all the concern of one who has grabbed take-out and realizes they forgot the cutlery.  I was pretty happy when the creature showed up and started killing them.  And the play ultimately limps off stage, after a final great moment with the Monster and Frankenstein, cheapened by a walk-off into the light. 
It’s almost like watching two shows: a brilliant one about the Monster and a generic, flat one about a reclusive jerk and his annoying family.  It’s the opposite of other recent productions, such as Catalyst Theatre’s haunting production which dies when the dull Monster shows up and bitches about life for half an hour straight, but that sadly doesn’t make it better...only different.
But nevertheless, I can’t bring myself to hate the show.   Benedict Cumberbatch’s Monster is entirely worth the price of admission, and has completely re-shaped my idea of an iconic horror character, which is a rare and awesome thing.  I can only assume Johnny Lee Miller’s Monster is also great, although I have a suspicion that Cumberbatch’s Frankenstein will probably be just as good; he’s a brilliant and surprising actor and worth seeing.  It’s frustrating, uneven, and kind of unsatisfying, but still somehow worth it.  If you have any interest in the character, be it Karloff’s or –God help us, Van Helsing’s- you must see this show.
It also answers the burning question of what happened to James Franco’s arm after 127 Hours.  Frankenstein was the original recycler.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Antichrist: Come On and Feel the Symbolism

Oh, Lars Von Trier. I think most people hear more about his films before seeing them than any other filmmaker's. And people often don't like them. Von Trier is a genius in that he can take a deeply symbolic film and present it as a straight forward movie. Which is part of the problem and genius of them. By subverting our ideas of an experimental film and making it watchable we as an audience are duped in some sense by letting our guard down and engaging more than we might normally



I find his movies surprisingly watchable. I'd held off on watching Anitchrist (2009) because of what I had heard. The explicit sex and deeply intense violence against the female body in particular . It's not that I didn't want to see it, but I like Charlotte Gainsbourg, clit intact. None the less, it felt like a movie that needed to be seen. I needed to have an opinion on it. (you can see from my past entries I felt similarly about Martyrs)

Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg retreat to their country home after their young son dies while they are having sex. In my mind, the country home functions as their Eden with Gainsbourg desperately trying to reconcile her masculinzed sexuality. She attempts to literally desexualize them both therefore reclaiming their innocence. And if you look back to Genesis (as I do everyday (...ok not really)) when Adam and Eve are cast out of Eden that is the beginning of Satan having some kind of presence and influence on Earth which is how I read this film. You can Google "Anitchrist meaning" and come up with endless different interpretations. And similarly to Martrys what you take away from this movie says more about you than the movie. Which can often cause panic and distress in the viewer. It is a rare thing for a film to put us on the spot and ask us to participate in some way.

Much has been made of the depiction of men and women in this film. I can't take offense to this because these characters are not broadly drawn, they are painted with a fine brush. There are too many specific for me to feel that I have to identify with Gainsbourg's character any more than I feel I should identify with Willem Dafoe.



Now, the movie is shocking and graphic. But the genius comes in when you realize most of the violence is in your head. Von Trier, ever the master of the camera, uses multiple trick shots and fast cut-aways to place the violence in your head. Then, when he makes you feel like it's safe to look, he'll show you what he was hinting at for the last hour.

Now, the all important question: is it a Horror movie? Well, sure. Why not. I'm saying that because I like the movie and would like to put it in the horror cannon. But I can't rightfully put it in the horror canon. It uses many tropes though. when the couple cross a bridge to get to the country house well, shoot, it's straight out of Evil Dead. And for one of the few times in the  film I got all warm and fuzzy inside.

To sum up, because I could talk about this movie forever, Antichrist winds up being a reflection of you if you let it. You have to engage and I think us horror fans are in a better position to do it than any other kinds of film lovers because we are used to gore and intense scenes.

Whether you love him or hate him, I have a very clear image of Mr. Von Trier sitting in Denmark doing whatever it is they do in Denmark and laughing his head off at all of us trying to make sense of a movie that was never intended for a collective understanding. .

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In The Woods (2010) A Review For Another Website

More horror writing in more places!!!

This time it's for one of my favourite sites FanGirlTastic.

I managed to check out a couple films at this year's Female Eye Film Festival. In the Woods was one of them.

Between you and me, it was crazy. The movie was so bad I was guffawing and covering it up with coughing. Now I'm no stranger to being a vulnerable artist. But there's learning your craft and just being inept. In the Woods was definitely the latter. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ludlow: A Thought-ening

I've been wanting to see Ludlow (2010) for a loooooong time. It's no secret that I'm a fan of Stacie Ponder's Final Girl and Ludlow is the beloved blogger's first almost-feature-length-film. For someone with enough smarts and wit to put most of the horror community to shame I had high expectations for it. Luckily Ponder delivers, for the most part.



The plot of Ludlow is a simple one. Krista (Shannon Lark) makes a daring escape from an abusive boyfriend and holes up in a motel in Ludlow waiting for her sister Maddy to join her. In the ensuing days Krista begins to lose her grip on reality. Her only connection to the outside world is a permanently refilling bottle of vodka, a tv forever on the blink and a cell phone which alternates between receiving phone calls from her ex and from her sister. The phone functions as the film's deus ex machina offering her comfort, support and fear all at the same time. It is the only thing that truly helps the viewer distinguish between days, helps move the plot forward and reveals the true nature of Krista's mental state.

The film works on many, many levels. Ponder has been able to distill some powerful moments of filmmaking. There are some incredibly effective jump scares (all the more impressive because a good jump-scare is like trying to re-inventing the wheel, but scarier) and builds the dread that is inherently present in the situation. Ponder is able to do this because she focuses on character. Without giving too much away, Ponder builds the audiences sympathies to Krista by employing experimental film techniques to let the audience understand her and her plight.Well played, non?

There is an interesting problem in films of this nature. Namely its pacing. I know several other bloggers including Ponder herself have listed a litany of influences for this film. For my money, I could not get away from Roman Polanski's Repulsion.  Between the dependent sister relationship to the isolation within a small living space it seemed to ring the most true to me. I mention this only because they suffer from the same problems. It is difficult at the best of times to make a film with your main character suffering from a psychotic break. it is even harder when that character is confined to a small space. The film plays out in chapters that all feel startlingly similar. The day starts normally. Krista undergoes a traumatic event, usually involving blood, freaks out then realizes it was all in her mind. Blackout. The next day begins. There is a definite build in tension during these days but the formula becomes the same. Watching it at a film festival last night I could feel the audience around me getting increasingly restless as the pattern repeated.

Ludlow suffers from another problem, an extremely rare one at that. It has multiple endings. All of them good. But I went to put on my coat three times. That was the point the film really began to drag for me. We'd hit an ending I thought was incredibly satisfying then it would continue. It felt like reading a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel and reading all the endings to see what you were in for. While this is a criticism of the movie I think it's a credit to Ponder's writing abilities. And the boundaries you can push within the medium of film.

All this to say, it's not an easy viewing. It forces you to engage rather than passively sitting in front of it. It is, however, worth the effort.

Check the Ludlow Facebook page for upcoming screenings near you or view the trailer and order from Final Girl

And Now For Something Completely Different

Where would we be without experiments? Either in a Utopian paradise or some horrific zombie ridden near-future. It's a For the Win or What the Fuck kind of situation.



Which is exactly what my colleague Tom McGee and myself have set out to do. In this experiment Tom and I will be watching a movie that neither of us have seen and is both loved and reviled by its audience. We're recording our commentary so that it may serve as a document of what viewing the movie is like so that you may either choose to watch along with us or just listen to our Dickensian level of descriptor use.

For our first episode we settled on The Wolfman. I mentioned it recently in this blog as it won the Academy Award for Make Up and has found its defenders in the horror community. 



We will be storing the episode online and it can be found here:
http://www.archive.org/details/ScareTactic-FtwOrWtfEpisode01TheWolfman

Listen, enjoy and, as always, tell us what you think.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Werewolves Get Angsty and Acquire Dodgy Accents: The Live Blogging!

Sooooooo we're back and I've had several adult beverages.

Go-go Gadget Live Blogging!

12:16am OMG there is the most boring scene where comic book guy explains to Vivienne what werewolves are. Is this irony? If so it's retarded.

12:18am So Comic Book Guy and Vivienne are on a date and she takes him to the "best view of the city" which, apparently, is a sound stage.

12:20am They mac on each other then suddenly it's daylight. Happens alllllllllllllllllllll the time.

12:21am There was just a shot of her dancing in the rain which came from nowhere I might be drunker than I think. No... No... it's the children that are wrong

12:22am Oh SNAP! The werewolves are on to them! There must not be much to do when you're a werewolf. Seriously. This date-montage is bo-ring.

12:29am The dude with the hair jumps out of the shadows. Ruins the boring date and is all like, "she's taken! And she got her parents killed!" Then jumps in an SUV and drives off. This movie is nothing but consistency.

12:36am The leader of the werewolves who wants to get it in with Vivienne tells them to get rid of comic book guy. I don't get it. This guy is a nerd who's never been in a fight. Why do they need to send an entire pack of werewolves after him?

12:45am Lame Romeo and Juliet-esque montage. FYI - This is the 5th montage in this movie.

12:47am Holy crap. Comic Book Guy just quasi beat up Bad Hair guy. This is literally the lamest fight ever.

12:49am Best. Dialogue. Ever.
Comic Book Guy: I swear, I'll get on the train.
Bad Hair Guy: I AM the train.

12:52am Comic Book Guy kills Bad Hair Guy with a necklace and some bad CGI.

12:56am Comic Book Guy is all mad that Vivienne never told him she was a werewolf but he literally stalks her from the beginning. Yes, Comic Book Guy, it's her fault she's a werewolf and her fault she told you NOT to get involved with her. Manipulative douche, much?

1:00am These people are soooooo whiny. Yeesh. Lighten up.

1:02am This was made in 2007. Why is she wearing flares???????

1:06am I'm pretty sure this movie was made for $37 and someone's uncle wrote the script for free.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Werewolves Get Angsty and Acquire Dodgy Accents

"Would you be at church at 2 in the morning if you had a boyfriend?" And that my friends is one of the lines said with utter conviction in the pre-Twilight movie Blood and Chocolate. The movie functions as the bastard child of Chocolat, Eatern Promises and An American Werewolf in London. Three things which should never ever be put together.



Basic plot is Vivienne is a werewolf in Romania. But she's American. She's 19 and is in with the secret society of werewolves which is super secret and they use their secret influence to run a chocolate store.  Did I mention that they're secret? Because they spend most of the movie talking in raised voices about how they're soooooo secret. And the head of the pack keeps talking about some prophecy that she might be a part of. Which is also a secret. Also, he wants to bone her.

Then she meets this nice and stalkerific guy named Aiden who also wants to bone her. But he says shit like, "I want to hear what you dream about." (seriously) And he's a graphic novelist/artist. So he's non-threatening and therefore the better choice.

The great thing about this movie is that Vivienne sulks around the whole time with the most epic sour-puss face which consists of a too large forehead that's really bugging me. Also, when they turn into werewolves there's a flash of light then they're a literal wolf. Boringest. Werewolf. EVAR. 

And because I'm halfway through and have to head out for a bit I thought I'd do an old fashion live blog. Whoot!

I mean, there are so many questions. Which guy will get it in first? Will there still be secrets? And will this character:
Yet another werewolf douche who wants to bang

fix his hair trauma?

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 11, 2011

5 Horror Movies Worth Watching When You're Sick

So, I'm sick. Not enough that I can stay home for a few days but enough so I feel like crap and can only pitifully whine about it. Also, it's raining outside.



On days like today I'd rather be at home under a blanket, in front of the TV with a stack of DVDs to get through. I'm pretty particular about the movies I watch when I'm sick. I should have seen them before because I'll most likely pass out during it. A lot of this is down to taste, these are films I really like, are highly watchable and it doesn't matter if I only watch the first five then the last 10 minutes......

5. The Ring

Why? Why would I subject myself to one of my all time scariest movies? Because it's so damn watchable. Director Gore Verbinski keeps the action coming. Seriously, that shit gets trippy when you're doped out of your head on Cold & Flu stuff. Last time I watched it when I was sick I spent a great deal of time wondering why hotties like Naomi Watts and and Hot-Absent-Dad-Guy didn't have an equally hot child. It skips a generation I guess...

4. Carrie

This is like the best Lifetime movie there ever was. Though heavily steeped in 1970s culture, Carrie still plays out the nostalgia card while still being relevant. Trust me, teenage girls don't change that much - they just gain more technology to hate on you.

3. I Know Who Killed Me

LiLo!!!!! Oh God, this is an epic cluster-fuck of a movie. But with a delirious fever you'll be prone to fits of giggle and if you reach a true level of sickness while watching the film you may finally understand the secret meaning in it. Just like that chick in Martyrs.


2. Quarantine

Yes, I know REC is better. I'm not debating that. BUT if you need to shut your eyes for a bit or you don't really want to focus the subtitles will drive you crazy. And Quarantine is still decent, it may even prompt you to re-watch REC when you're better. I watched this when I was sick and spent the whole time wondering how you can play someone's sister on TV and then be married to them in real life. But they divorced. Guess that didn't work out. Stupid actors.

1. The Stepford Wives

The orginal. Though if you feel like punishing yourself by all means watch the Nicole Kidman one. That one always ends with me yelling at the TV screen "BETTE MIDLER BURNT HER HAND IN THE MOVIE. WHY IS IT NOT BANDAGED IN THE LAST SCENE???? FASKUGJI LEFU;HOWNKLGIUOFABKGKLJAHIUBBN"

But I digress.

The original is hella crazy. And, like The Ring, surprisingly watchable though much more dated than Carrie. The best part is how dark the whole movie gets. Worth watching anytime, but surprisingly comforting in the pay off at the end.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Horror Genres: Literary Monsters

Granted, this one could fall under the heading of Creature Feature but I have a big-ass soft spot for literary monsters. I mean, I do have a minor in English Lit. JEALOUS??

Literature feeds a lot of horror movie themes, most of them stemming from Victorian Era novels.  Indeed Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde all stem from this period. Ghost stories were also of great interest as the Victorians developed an interest in seances and resurrections just see The Turn of The Screw by Henry James which still scares the the bejesus out of me.

But if you look even further back you'll find an entirely other history to deal with. These often become apparent as it will give storytellers something to either absorb or deny in order to tell their story. Some carefully select pieces to create their own folklore. Some movies just outright ignore everything ever. (Underworld series, I'm looking at you.) So without further ado lets look at some monsters.



Frankenstein is pretty damn cool because he was fully a creation of the mind of Mary Shelly. The lore goes that Shelly dreamed the basis for the novel while staying at Lord Byron's estate (there where no houses in England at the time, only estates. Like what Madonna owns) Anyhoozle. It's technically Frankenstein's Monster as Victor Frankenstein is the creator behind the Monster. The entire book questions the control a man should have over life and while it is still referenced and studied widely, it makes for one hell of a gruesome read.



Frankenstein also functions as a form of zombie story.  While the origins of zombie stories are based in Voodoo Frankenstein introduced the idea that reanimating a corpse could be scientific rather than purely mystical. HP Lovecraft and WB Seabrook also wrote stories that dealt with zombies though never calling them that. Romero really did define the modern zombie but there's definitely some love owed to the literary tradition.



Dracula, Dracula, Dracula. I've mentioned this sucker (geddit?) so many times on this blog that I don't really want to go into it again. But I will. So Bram Stoker made this guy famous. But of course the story stems from folk lore. The main difference in Stoker's version is that Dracula was nobility which was a very contrary idea in the Victorian era. Vampirism is technically a disease so the idea of a nobleman suffering from a disease was quite a challenging one. Looking at today's pop culture take on Vampires is like looking at at a who's who of the upper class.



One of my favourite parts of Van Helsing was when Kate Beckinsale drolls in some God awful Romanian accent "There is nothink faster than Transylvanian horses. Not even verevolves." It's so bad, yet so very, very good. Kind of like how I feel about werewolves themselves, though forever in my head I hear Kate's "verevolves" (that's right, we're on a first name basis). Werewolves can be traced back to Greek mythology. Lycaon was the son of a Greek God who pissed off Zeus enough times that Zeus changed him into a wolf. Hence we can also use the term "lycathrope" to mean werewolf. The term makes appearances all through our culture though my personal favourite is Webster's The Duchess of Malfi. People without a Minor in English Lit say what?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Friends - Where Are They Now.... In Horror!


I used to loooooooooooove Friends. When you're ten it's a pretty great show for you and your friends to watch because you can so play the "you're such a Phoebe" game. Which is waaaaay cooler than the "you're such a Miranda" game.

I caught a couple episodes of Friends recently and it just doesn't work for me anymore. It's nice in an isn't it nostalgic kind of way because I know all the lines. (yes, I was the nerd that used to record new episodes, on VHS no less)

So let's play the where are they now game. Admittedly, I'm going to cheat with this one and use pre-Friends credits for this. I hear your cries of "but that's not how you do the Where Are They Now game, Alex!!!!! And to you I say : deal. These hurt-bags made so much money off of Friends they never have to work again. And except for a few embarrassing attempts at movie-stardom, they haven't.

Let's start with the bottom where we have:

Chandler!

That's right. He's at the bottom because he was in a TV movie called Deadly Relations in 1993 where he had some screen time with Gwyneth Paltrow.

And this is the only thing about the movie I could find image-wise
Which is the smallest picture of anything I have ever found. But, it's in the name of research so get out you magnifying glass.

Here is the summary I found of it on IMDB: Leonard Fagot has four daughters and loves them so much, that he usurps his control over them. He lets them know how he feels about the men they date. And if he disapproves of them, he probably will have them killed to get them out of his daughters' life.

So it's a thriller and the main family has an interesting last name. As a writer I wouldn't have picked it out myself. But maybe that's why none of my made-for-tv movies have been produced. I assume Chandler's trying to date one of the daughters and he probably meets an untimely end. His character's name is: George Westerfield. Something about that name just screams gardening shears to me....

Next up is ....

Joey!

Sweet, sweet Joey. I bet you didn't know he was in a little movie called The Killing Box aka Grey Knight aka zombie confederate voodoo. That's right. AND Corbin Bernsen AND Martin Sheen AND Billy Bob Thorton AND AJ Langer are all in it.

It's actually kind of a beautiful story because while the Americans were fighting each other, zombies teach us that we can all be eaten, therefore - we're all interconnected. aaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwww

Now Ross is above these guys because a deranged fan took the time to take screen grabs of his performance in 1994's Wolf where he seems to get all up in Nicholson's face.
BAM! Suck it most acclaimed actor of his generation! You just got Ross'd in a shitty movie that Jack would probably like to forget about.

Did you know Lisa Kudrow was in The Unborn? I bet you didn't.

Well, she was in the 1991 version. Which I figure is kind of the same thing. Let's talk about the Unborn for a second. What a godawful movie. Seriously. Not even Gary Oldman could make it better and he makes EVERYTHING better. It wasn't scary and it didn't make sense. I like that they tried to explain why they had to have a Jewish exorcism but that lead girl, Odette something was awful. Her mouth is open in every scene. For real. I'd tell you to watch it understand my pain... but then you'd have to watch it.

The only thing I like about Jennifer Aniston is that she's in Leprechaun.
  No that, my friends, is some pretty epic baby-fat.

And our winner is: GALE WEATHERS!
I mean Monica.
She was pretty badass in the first Scream... then the other Screams happened. And I hated them.

Scream 4 is soon, isn't it? I know I'll be seeing it. And I'm pretty sure I'll be leaving disappointed. Damn you, Hollywood Marketing!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Horror Genre: Creature Features

Every so often I'll set myself a huuuuuuge task, then wonder why I did it. This Horror Genre Breakdown is going to be my War & Peace. But like Nike and Charlie Sheen keep telling us, "just do it." So here we go. Right now. This very second. Wait, I'm going to go get some water first.

...

Ok. I'm back.

So where were we? Ah yes, Creature Features. This is one of the bigger genres mainly due to its history and
variance in meaning. The original creature features were Universal movies from the 1930s such as Frankenstein and King Kong. They eventually shifted to nuclear and futuristic themed movies such as Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and It Came From Outer Space. Films like these would be broadcast on a Friday or Saturday night and were a mainstay of American culture for quite a while. Films were in your home. You no longer had to go out and search for them. It could also become a private experience if you chose.

What I find particularly interesting about these movies is their throwback quality. They are deeply embedded in the psyche and paranoia of the post-WWII, the Cold War the race to the moon. Looking back now you could say they were a precursor to the horror genre we know and love today. You might never meet the people who are also watching all these movies but through the internet we have a way of making connection we might never have made were it not for blogs. It's all very Back to the Future/ Mobius Strip... but still. Creature Features and the way they were marketed and viewed created some of the foundations for the contemporary horror community.


This is a genre that seems to have died out. The Creature Features of old are fun, yet dated and appeal to a very specific group of people, I think, for their throw-back quality. The more recent Creature features I can think of such as Cloverfield, The Wolfman and Splice fall prey to filmmakers trying to make too much sense of them. By injecting them with too much science they lose what initially drew fans to them. The fantastical and the-over-the-top quality of them does not necessitate realism.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Nic Cage Justifies "the way of God to Men" with an emphasis on Jusitfy

Drive Angry is so Grindhouse it hurts. I feel like I should have been watching it in some slummy Times Square cinema in the 1970s with Travis Bickle sitting behind me.

I know some people may not believe me but it's a damn good movie. It's funny, schlocky and full of escapism. And at this gray time of year, it was exactly what I needed.

Explaining the movie is as pointless as trying to make sense of it, but hey, let's give it a shot. Cage is John Milton. I think they're trying to pass it off as just a name but for kicks let's pretend it's actually the dude that wrote Paradise Lost. Milton has broken free from Hell and is on a mission to avenge his daughter's death at the hand of a cult leader (who's incidentally trying to bring about Hell on earth) and reclaim his granddaughter before she is sacrificed. Along the way he meets Piper (Amber Heard) a butt-kicking, straight shooting Southern broad who helps him along his way.

The movie gets increasingly crazy with a version of Death showing up to collect Milton and bring him back to hell, the cult leader who seems to have escaped from an Anne Rice novel and the already infamous scene where Milton takes on 10+ guys while having sex. That scene isn't all that shocking, it's just impressive. If you enjoy these kinds of movies it's hard not to get caught up in the giddiness of the whole thing.

Cage gives his now standard dry-witted performance. Its what we all now know and love. The audience I saw it with was cheering for him every time he stuck a one liner. There are a lot of great smaller parts as well but I really want to give some props to Amber Heard. She's frickin' fantastic. It's not a love story between her and Cage. It's a partnership. She's fiesty, hawt and incredibly alive onscreen. I've heard rumblings about her for a while now and she's worth all the fuss.

Drive Angry is one of the best ways to kill two hours. If you're down for some illogical, over-the-top insanity make sure you check it out.

It should also be required viewing for anyone in Religious Studies.

Horror Movie Coolie: Rick Baker in everything

If you haven't surmised this already, I'm a huge movie geek. I love them all. But, of course, like horror movies best. Similar to the way Charlie Sheen views his goddesses.

Looking back on this year's ridiculously boring Oscars, there was one truly exciting moment, Rick Baker won an Oscar!!!!!!! For The Wolfman!!!!! ... um, I'm less excited about the last part but I thought it would be a great opportunity to look back on one of the living legends in the industry.



His first professional job was on The Exorcist as an assistant. How cool is that? Even looking through Exorcist photos they still creep me out.
An American Werewolf In London followed for which he won the inaugural Academy Award for Best Make-Up.
His career continued working on major studio films but he still worked on smaller films such as The Frighteners. 

He classes up his big studio work, such as The Ring and Hellboy, with his singular style
Rick Baker rules. You probably have your own favourites of his work, these are mine. He blends surrealist style with the real, which has helped create some of the most memorable and enduring images in cinema history.