Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Conjuring

   I was really excited about The Conjuring.  I'd heard crazy things: it was rated R just because of how freaking scary it is (true, it was rated R for "sequences of disturbing violence and terror"); it's based on a true story.  I just wasn't that impressed.  I'd previously seen Insidious, which was also directed by James Wan (Saw, Dead Silence) and was an awesome movie that I will eventually get around to reviewing.
   The Perron family moves into a big creepy house.  This is an old concept, and The Conjuring doesn't do anything spectacular to make it new again.  Insidious had all kinds of creepiness.  The audience was offered a sample platter of scares, so many, they could pick and choose what was scariest.  Was it the murder sisters with the huge, white grins? the creepy old lady with the candle in the window?  Pick your poison.  The Conjuring had the creeps, it just didn't have the scares.
   The five daughters of the Perron family like to play a game called Hide-and-Clap, which is just about the creepiest game in the entire world, without a haunted house to make it even fucking creepier.  Basically, you willingly tie on a blindfold, let your abusers friends spin you around a few times, then go looking for them.  You can ask them to clap three times in order to facilitate finding them, since you are blindfolded and no one wants to hide in the closet for three hours.
   Anyway, while playing this God-awful travesty of a children's game, they accidentally discover a boarded up entrance to a cellar.  Usually when an entrance to someplace creepy is boarded up, it's a good indication that there's something pretty creepy going on in that creepy place.  So they go down there and they find all sorts of creepy shit.  Surprise.
   Mysterious hands grab at the daughters' feet at night.  All these girls sleep with their feet uncovered, which personally I think is just asking for a ghost to grab your ankles and pull you out of bed to be eaten, but that's just me.  The matriarch keeps waking up with mysterious bruises, birds keep flying into the sides of the house, and something killed their dog.
   Apparently all this trouble is caused by Bathsheba, an ACCUSED witch who ALLEGEDLY sacrificed her own infant before running out to the ole creepy tree and, after cursing the land and proclaiming her love for Satan, hung herself from the creepiest possible branch*.
   So the Perrons call in Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are THE authorities on ghoulies and ghosties.  Seriously, they investigated the Amityville Horror**, that haunting in Connecticut***, and apparently a case involving werewolves.  Ed died in 2006, but Lorraine is still alive and kicking evil's ass.  She's like the Chuck Norris of the paranormal.
   So the movie wasn't great.  It wasn't bad, but I'd also say it wasn't that good.  It certainly wasn't the pants-shitting terror that I was hoping for.  I'll give The Conjuring two and a half out of five possessed porcelain dolls.

*She was cleared of the charge of witchcraft and infanticide.  She actually died of natural causes, rather than hanging herself.
**Pretty well debunked, between conflicting witness testimonies, to the dates given in the now-famous book.  Other people who have owned the now-famous house have stated that nothing weird ever happened, aside from sight-seers.
***Save yourself the trouble, don't watch this movie.  Also, apparently Ed Warren was aware that the family was crazy as all hell.  He just wanted to make a buck (no disrespect to the dead, I fully appreciate the need to make cash from the ignorance/delusions of others.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The ABCs of Death

It's not educational.
   Okay, I'm still sort of tripping out from that last short film from The ABCs of Death.  That was crazy.  This is an anthology of twenty-six short films.  Each director was given a different letter of the alphabet and told to come up with a word that starts with that letter.  Then they made short films about those words which strongly feature death.
   I wasn't impressed with a lot of them.  Over half of them were just weird and all fuckered up.The films from Japan were pretty screwy.  One largly featured farting, another featured really messed up sexuality, and the last film of the anthology, "Z is for Zetsumetsu (Extinction)" was so messed up that I don't even have words to describe it.  The notes that I typed up as I watched said things like,

  • i can't, i just can;t, this is too weird
  • awiafo;nasfsaijo;adfa,;8jioewfiohfawnhjiofwohiawfwhjiwfeohifaiwgogougraohigroigrapjifewpjaewfivfnlvzifewigrwlngrorgaoigraio, 
  • oh my god i'm crying
So that one was, you know, probably the weirdest of the twenty-six.
   Really, the anthology doesn't even start getting good until around "R Is for Removed."  This surrealist film began by showing a bloody, raw man laying in a hospital bed.  A doctor flays the man alive and somehow develops his flesh into film.  He is then placed in a cage, covered from head to toe in clothing.  Rabid fans rush up to him and swarm around the cage, fans of the movies pulled from the mutilated man's skin.  In the end, the skinned man's revenge is gruesome and goretastic.  This was when my opinion of the whole anthology began to change.

  "S Is for Speed" was a short film centered around a metaphor.  Absolutely loved it, from the grindhouse-style vibe to the muscle car and flame thrower.  Two pin-up-looking girls are fighting with each other as they are being chased by a hooded figure in the desert.  The hotter of the two throws the other girl in the trunk of a bitchin' muscle car and takes off.  The hooded figure catches her, however, when that bitchin' muscle car runs out of gas.  The twist is glorious and unexpected.  I was able to find a Youtube video of it if you want to watch it.
   "U Is for Unearthed" was a vampire movie like none I've ever seen before.  It was told entirely in the POV of the vampire as he fights the torch-wielding villagers.  Very cool.  Gruesome, too, when they pull the fangs out of the monster, the pulling, tearing sound made me squirm.
   Another really good one is "X Is for XXL," it was a truly gruesome examination of the price of beauty in an increasingly weight-conscious world.  A homely, obese woman is harassed all the way home, from the subway, all along the walk home, and when she arrives there the TV begins to blare a weight-loss commercial featuring a skinny, beautiful brunette.  The woman then proceeds to take her frustration out on her own body, in GOREY, GOREY ways.  Spoiler: The pose she strikes just before she drops dead from blood loss is probably the freakiest image in the entire movie.
   Bear with this one through all the weird, bad films (pretty much "B Is for Bigfoot" through "Q Is for Quack"), if only for the four truly cool films towards the end.  Even if you just skip to 1:14:30.  As a whole, I'd give The ABCs of Death three out of five blocks.  From 1:14:30 until end credits, I'd give it at least four.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


   Jiao zi (Dumplings) is a 2004 Chinese film about a woman named Mrs. Li, an aging ex-television actress who is trying to regain her youth because Mr. Li is having an affair with a twenty-something hotel masseuse.  She seeks out a woman named Aunt Mei, who makes dumplings which are famous for their rejuvenating ingredients.  Aunt Mei happens to be over sixty years old, but looks thirty, tops.  When Mrs. Li tries her first dumpling, she immediately spits it on the floor.  Aunt Mei doesn't act offended at all that Mrs. Li didn't like her food, nor that she spat partly masticated food on her floor, she just scoops up the unwanted dumpling and buries it in her potted plant.
   Eventually the dumplings begin to grow on Mrs. Li, and she eats a lot of them in a montage of gross squishing noises and close-ups of her chewing mouth.  However, even having eaten a few dozen of Aunt Mei's dumplings, she still hasn't noticed a change in her looks.  She demands that Aunt Mei give her more potent dumplings.
   Meanwhile, a mother and her teenage daughter appear at Aunt Mei's door.  The daughter is pregnant by her father.  Taking pity on the poor girl, Aunt Mei agrees to abort the child.  It's a long, arduous process, and when it's done, Aunt Mei sticks the fetus in a casserole dish and puts it in her fridge for later.  Yes, seriously.
   Aunt Mei prepares this fetus and serves it to Mrs. Li as dumplings.  Mrs. Li is horrified when she realizes what she's been eating, but proceeds to eat the fetus dumplings anyway.  Finally, the rejuvenating ingredient starts having its effect.  Mr. Li finds her attractive again.
   During a dinner party, Mrs. Li starts to notice that her skin is giving off a strange smell.  She calls Aunt Mei and they argue, but Mei isn't horribly sympathetic.  Eavesdropping, Mr. Li discovers that his wife is a cannibal and goes to confront Aunt Mei.  Rather than acting contrite, Aunt Mei feeds Mr. Li some of the biscuits, and then he screws her on her kitchen table.  Soon, Aunt Mei won't serve Mrs. Li anymore dumplings.  She tracks her down, which probably wasn't too difficult, considering that Aunt Mei wears some of the most ridiculous outfits I have ever seen, but Aunt Mei blows her off.  Growing more desperate, she decides to go out and get some rejuvenating ingredients of her own.
   Okay, this movie is just weird.  It's slow, it's plodding, and it all seems so unnecessary.  I know foreign movies tend to be slower than Hollywood films, but oh, my, God, Dumplings took forever to get to the point.  This movie was actually originally a short movie part of a trilogy called 3 Extremes, and I would actually watch it again in that form.  However, the full length movie was only worth two out of five aborted fetuses.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Serial Killers in Movies

10. Leslie Vernon
   Leslie Vernon is a budding serial killer.  Somehow he finds a documentary film crew willing to follow him through the process of his first massacre.  Well done for a low-budget film.  A darkly funny parody of the slasher films of the 1980's.
Body Count: 10

9. God Bless America
   Written and directed by Bobcat, this dark comedy is just as depressing as it is funny.  Frank has given up on life when he decides to take a few choice people out with him, including reality TV stars, a political commentator and some religious extremists who like to picket funerals.  Almost cathartic for us cynics, really.
Body Count: 40
Roxy: 8
Frank: 32

8. Sweeney Todd
   Todd and his landlord are a bit desperate when they decide that they best money-making scheme is to murder people and sell them in pies.  It's Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, so you know it's directed by Tim Burton.  They don't whistle while they work, either.  No, they sing show tunes.
Body Count: 10+

7. Paul and Peter
   Even the audience is helpless against these two, from the German film, Funny Games.  They break the fourth wall and address the audience.  One of them pauses the film from inside it and has a do-over.  They're polite and charming, and just want to play some games.
Body Count: 3

6. Henry

   Henry, of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is smart.  He knows how to avoid being caught and he is very, very good at what he does.  You can see his pleasure at the horrors he's perpetrated on the screen.  Maybe less twisted than his partner-in-crime, Otis, but Henry takes care of the problem of Otis before the end of the movie.  Based on real-life serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas.
Body Count: 11?

5. Mick Taylor
   Mick Taylor, the psychotic redneck from Wolf Creek (Are they called rednecks in Australia?  No, they're called "bogans."  The more you know...) is based on Australia's very own serial killer, Ivan Milat, the Backpacker Murderer.  So called probably because, you know, he targeted backpackers.  So Mick basically invites some random kids back to his murder shack and from there it gets scary.  One of the two girls is raped, the other is stabbed in the back to make her a "head on a stick."  Her spine is broken, paralyzing her, but she is still conscious and aware of what follows (the audience is not shown what follows, which is probably a good thing.
Body Count: 2 (Way more implied)

4. Firefly Family
   This is an entire family of people who gleefully murder strangers.  This family genuinely loves what it does for a living and seems to kill as many people as they can get their hands on.  Some seriously twisted characters from the mind of Rob Zombie, whose wife plays Baby.
Body Count: 12
House of 1000 Corpses: 7
Devil's Rejects: 5

3. John Doe
   John Doe, the antagonist from Se7En shows up on this list for one very important reason: creativity.  All the other villains are out there stabbing or strangling and John Doe, played by an emotionless Kevin Spacey, decided to force a morbidly obese man to feed himself to death.  All his kills are specifically targeted to punish the seven deadly sins.
Body Count: 8
Gluttony- A morbidly obese man is forced to feed himself to death.
Greed- A defense attorney must pay for his sin of greed with a pound of flesh or be killed.  He fails and     bleeds to death
Sloth- A pedophile is tied to his own bed, kept barely alive for one year.  By the end of that year "his brain is mush.
Lust- A prostitute is raped to death with a bladed dildo.
Pride- With her face brutally mutilated, a young model is forced to choose between killing herself or being disfigured for life.
Spoiler: John Doe kills Mills' wife, Tracy, then allows himself to be shot multiple times by Mills to atone for his sin of envy.

2. Michael Myers
   Certainly the most prolific serial killer on the list with more than one hundred direct kills, Michael Meyers of the Halloween series missed out on number one on this countdown for one reason: lack of personality.  It's part of what makes him so scary.  There's nothing behind the mask.
Body Count: 111
Halloween- 5
Halloween 2- 9
Halloween 3- 0
Halloween 4- 17
Halloween 5- 12
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers- 16
Halloween H20- 6
Halloween Resurrection- 10
Halloween (2007)- 18
Halloween 2 (2009)- 17
Halloween: 10 Years Later- 1

1. Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter
   Three men have played Hannibal Lecter, Brian Cox, Anthony Hopkins, and Gaspard Ulliel.  Anthony Hopkins is perfect for this role.  Charming, suave, and highly intelligent, Lecter is the perfect predator, attractive yet deadly.  His modus operandi involves killing obnoxious people (he calls it the "free range rude"), and making gourmet dishes from their body parts.  Based on a character created by Thomas Harris, I liked the character before Harris gave Lecter a reason for his insanity in the disappointing prequel, Hannibal Rising.
Body Count: 12
Hannibal Rising- 6
Manhunter- 0
Red Dragon- 0
Silence of the Lambs- 3
Hannibal- 3

Honorable Mention: I didn't put Patrick Bateman on this list simply because I already addressed American Psycho in this post.


I've been doing a lot of reading, you know? Like, online about, like, just evolution and natural selection and how like there's this thing, right? It's called the apex predator, right? And basically what this is, is the strongest animal in the ecosystem, right? And as human beings, we're considered the apex predator but only because smaller animals can't feed on us because of weapons and stuff, right? A lion does not feel guilty when it kills a gazelle, right? You do not feel guilty when you squash a fly... and I think that means something. I just think that really means something.

   There is a time and a place for found footage films.  That time and place is horror movies, circa 2008.  The Blair Witch Project was groundbreaking.  [REC] perfected it.  Now it's dead, and we don't need anymore of them.  I'll give credit where credit is due: Chronicle was less shaky than the new Superman movie.  Go home, Hollywood, you're drunk.
   Basically, three high school kids find a cave filled with a giant, glowy thing inside.  Of course they touch it, because they're morons.  Next thing we now they're moving cars and flying around.  Steve is the super popular aspiring politician, charming and somehow nice to everyone.  Matt is the philosopher, and a pretentious douche bag.  If you don't think he's a pretentious douche bag, you might be a pretentious douche bag yourself.  Andrew is hostile, the victim of his father's abuse and seems to only care for his dying mother.  He's also the most powerful and dangerous of the three.
   As Matt tries to create rules to control their new-found telekinesis, but Andrew is having none of that.  He shoves a stranger's car off the road into a pond, crushes cars in a junkyard, and eventually he may or may not kill Steve.  I couldn't tell for sure.  With Steve out of the picture, we're left only with Matt, who becomes mildly less annoying through the course of the movie, and Andrew.  By the time Andrew splays a spider and tears it apart with only his mind, you can tell he's really not all there anymore.
   Anyway, unlike other found footage movies, Chronicle actually uses more than one camera.  It cuts to footage from other cameras, camera phones, police video, and surveillance video.  In terms of a fictional movie, that is pretty neat.  Relevant, too.  Everyone is an amateur photographer nowadays, and I have no doubt that if some sixteen-year-old threw a bitch fit and started creating a natural disaster with his mind, bystanders would be more concerned with filming it than running away.
   All in all, Chronicle was okay.  Neither terribly good nor terribly bad.  Forgettable, but enjoyable.  I'll give Chronicle three crushed cars out of five and probably never think about it again.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Haunted Buildings

10. East Corinth, Orange County, Vermont, just off Highway 25 near the New Hampshire border- Beetle Juice
A beautiful, newly renovated three story house in New England for sale!  Unfinished attic featuring a door to the afterlife.  Minor structural damage.

9. 540 Eastwood, Main Street, Roosevelt Island- Dark Water

Ninth floor, two-bedroom apartment available for rent.  Working elevator.  On-site laundry.  Some water damage and electrical problems such as flickering lights.  No noisy neighbors on the floor above, the tenth floor is completely abandoned!

8. Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel-1408

Looking for a romantic night in a luxury hotel?  Try the historical Dolphin Hotel.  Instead of a mini bar, we have a full bar!  Some fire and water damage.  Featured in Mike Enslin's book on haunted hotels, the Dolphin Hotel has been around for almost one hundred years and you'll want to stay for one hundred more.

7. High Hopes- Amityville Horror

Charming Dutch Colonial home on Amityville Island, New York.  Three stories.  With six bedrooms, there's plenty of room for the whole family!  Features a boathouse in the back.  Some insulation issues, no problem with cooling.  Recent price drop from $120,000 to $80,000.

6. Henry Treat Rogers Mansion- The Changeling
Are you looking for a new home to recover from the trauma of the death of your entire family?  Isolated, Victorian-era mansion located in Canada.  Not wheelchair accessible.

5. Eel Marsh House- Woman in Black
Fully furnished, huge mansion located on sprawling land for sale.  Quiet British village.  Very motivated Realtor.  Some rooms may require a key to enter.  Small graveyard located in the garden.  Some vandalism in an upstairs bedroom.

4. PartarrĂ­u Manor- The Orphanage
Large mansion in the beautiful Spanish countryside.  Features a hidden basement and a coal shed.  Located near the sea, the land surrounding PartarrĂ­u Manor features beaches, cliffs, and a forest.  Lots of room for the little ones to play.

3. Poltergeist
An almost brand-new, family home located in Cuesta Verde, California.  Garage, in-ground swimming pool, and lots of trees.  Totally not built on a desecrated cemetery.  TONS of closet space.

2. Los Hornillos Palace- The Others
A gorgeous pre-war mansion located near a forest.  Lots of windows allow in natural sunlight.  Comes with its own loyal, dedicated staff.

1.The Overlook Hotel - The Shining (The Kubrick version, not that mini-series.  I know Stephen King liked it, but he has done A LOT of drugs).
Get away from it all at the Overlook Hotel.  Isolated to the extreme, located in the Colorado Rockies.  Large, industrial style kitchen.  Lots of room for work or play.  Features a hedge maze.  Once you visit you'll never want to leave!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pet Sematary

Sometimes dead is better.

   Based on a novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary the movie was released in 1989.  It's the story of Louis and Rachel Creed, who move with their two small children to a beautiful house very close to a main thoroughfare for semi trucks.  They must have gotten a really good deal because their house is way too close.  It has to have effected the property value.
   Anyway, even after their only son is almost run down in the street within ten minutes of their arrival, the Creeds neglect to put up a fence between their children's home and the obviously deadly street.  Fred Gwynne, who played Herman Munster, plays their kindly widower neighbor, Jud Crandall.  Jud proves himself to be incredibly unhelpful as he befriends the Creeds.
   Louis is a doctor, and wouldn't you know it, on his very first day of work some dumb college kid gets run down by a car.  He's obviously a lost cause, but somehow, even with brain matter exposed, he manages to hold a conversation with Louis with his final breaths.  Victor Pascow warns Louis about "sour ground" and how men's hearts are stonier.  Not really knowing what that means, and assuming it is just the demented ramblings of someone whose brains are no longer contained in his skull, Louis shakes it off.  Pascow continues to reappear to the whole family, warning them about sour ground.
   Eventually, because they barely even tried to prevent it, the Creeds' cat, Church, is plowed down in the road while Rachel and the kids are out of town.  Jud, being the friendly neighborhood idiot that he so obviously is, takes Louis to an Indian burial ground in the hills behind the Pet Sematary.  "Each buries his own," he tells Louis, and smokes a cigarette while he watches him to all the work.  He won't tell Louis exactly what is going to happen, which seems rude, but Louis finds out when his cat reappears, muddy and smelling awful.  Jud knew all along that things buried up in that burial ground don't come back quite right, but doesn't bother to warn Louis until after the cat's already come back.  With glowing eyes and the ability to walk through locked doors, Church proves himself to be a downright dead kitty asshole.  Rachel and the children return from Chicago, and the only indication they give that they suspect something is up with the family cat is that he smells a little funny.
   After their laundry lady commits suicide, Rachel reveals that death really effects her because her sister died when she was eight.  Zelda was completely insane by the time she succumbed to spinal meningitis, twisted up and trapped in the back bedroom.  Zelda's played by a dude, and she is completely messed up.
   Shortly after, Rachel and Louis's small son toddles into the road again because even after their cat died it's like they really don't know about fences.  This time they're not so lucky and they have to bury their three-year-old in a tiny coffin (and let's be honest, there is nothing sadder than a tiny coffin).  Stephen King presides over the funeral, because he's Stephen King, that's why.  Louis spots an opportunity to repair his crumbling family and attempts to use cursed ground to make up for their parental negligence.  He buries Gage in the Indian burial ground, with disastrous results.
   Really, the villain here, however unwittingly, is Jud.  He introduces Louis to the Indian burial ground, neglects to warn him about the effects of burying anything there, lies when asked if anyone's buried a human there, and is just generally really unhelpful.  To the point of being malicious.
   Almost as long-winded as one of Stephen King's novels (he wrote the screenplay), Pet Sematary is scary... eventually.  It takes forever to get there.  It's probably easy to write a five-hundred page novel in a week and a half on speed.  Honestly, King's novels went downhill after he got clean.  Anyway, Pet Sematary gets three out of five scalpels.