Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Serial Mom

Year: 1994
Director: John Waters
Writer: John Waters
Genre: Slasher, Comedy

I adore John Waters but have since having only seen one film of his. Over time, I have slowly worked through his filmography. Serial Mom is one that has continually evaded my watching pleasure, but I'm glad to have finally given it a watch.

The basest assessment of the film would peg it as a slasher, and it is. People are killed time and time again and it's routinely bloody. However, the film is not about fearing the killer or even being led on as to who it is. We all know who the serial killer is just by looking at the title of the film. The overly-peppy, restrained mother makes the perfect killer as you can't help but laugh at the strangeness of it all.

The piece seems to primarily speak of Western society and its full blown obsession with fame. Even when everyone knows that the mother is a psychopath she is given the star treatment. Everyone idolizes her as someone better than Freddy or Jason because she's an actual being. People are caught up with their obsessions and are unable to hate such a lovely, charismatic woman.

This is one of those Waters' films that seems tailor made to appeal to a wider audience. Perhaps not so much as Hairspray, but it is still pretty close. There's nothing wrong with that but it always interests me to see Waters create films beyond his original style. Definitely a fun watch for fans of horror comedy.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Belle de Jour

Year: 1967
Director: Luis Bunuel
Writer: Luis Bunuel, Joseph Kessel
Genre: Drama

My life has found itself full of work lately. I'm not complaining, but in the periods of exhaustion in between, there is little room for films. Watching surrealistic or feminist fare is too stimulating for a tired mind, although "typical" slashers also have been lacking in appear. Upon realizing I've seen barely anything this year, I blindly chose to watch Belle de Jour. The title had been on my list for a while, but had no clue of what to expect. As it turned out, this was the perfect decision on my part. I am completely enamored with the film.

As the story starts we are immediately drawn into a weird dual-reality. The lead character is a young woman married to her husband. Their chaste relationship draws on both of them in different ways, but we see only how she handles herself. All throughout the film, it is hard to determine what is real or imagined as she takes up a job in a brothel. Is she really even there or is this another elaborate fantasy? Are the fantasies real?

None of these questions are ever answered and that is part of the beauty of things. There are symbols, such as bells, which imply that those are her periods of dream, but who can be certain? I felt I could peg what was meant to be fantasy until later on when things became even harder to parse. The film is certainly not stodgy or overly complex though, just something very intriguing.

It's a rare film that makes me continue to look up information and interpretations of it after watching. Belle de Jour has done that for me and I would love to continue to read critical essays about it, or even eventually submit my own. This is an incredible film.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October Horror Movie Challenge: Day 13

Alien. I finally saw Alien today. Of all the movies I have ever meant to see, this is probably one that's been there the longest. Despite hearing good things about it though throughout the years I was still able to totally appreciate it without the desire to view it critically. It was a fun experience and kept me compelled throughout. If for some reason you haven't watched it then it's worth looking into (even if you're not a sci-fi person).

One thing I will say though is that one point jumped out at me as being ridiculous. I am of course speaking about the one character being revealed as a robot. Yes, I understand this is a different, futuristic existence but that still just seemed incredibly hilarious to me. I don't see why he couldn't have just been a scientist incredibly focused on his mission, or that maybe he had some sort of alternate memory chip implanted into his brain. Whatever, I just didn't see the need to make him a full on robot.

With one great movie down I followed it up with HellBent. This film isn't one that I've heard talked about more than once, but it seems to be a modern slasher with a different take on the genre. It's not due to any incredibly creative killer or anything, but the fact that the lead characters in the film are all gay men. I was curious as to a horror film focused on exploiting men instead of women, so I gave it a shot.

It turned out to be a very nice slasher overall and with different jokes going on than a typical one. Sure, there are still things like goofballs getting killed in the woods, stalking, and everything else, but done with a different dressing. I enjoyed the characters and their banter and was curious about why some characters did die and why others didn't. These points were explained, although not explicitly, and were reasonable enough. If you feel like watching a fun horror film then HellBent is one worth looking into.

The final film of the day was StageFright: Aquarius. With a name like that, I was curious as to how exactly the film would be presented. Would it be some sort of artistic journey? Although I wasn't quite right, the film still turned out to be a winner. As StageFright implies, it is about people working on a stage production. The production itself seems fairly odd, but quite cool too. I was a big fan of shots of the practice as well as the accompanying music.

The rest of the plot isn't exactly creative, but it resolves in an entertaining fashion. Basically, there is a psychotic killer locked away in a nearby hospital. He gets out somehow and stalks one of the dancers back to the theater. From there, he gets himself into the theater and goes around killing people until everyone finally realizes. If it weren't for the characters and style, the movie would be much less notable. Since these things are all great though it helps create a neat little experience. I could see this being a movie I watch a few times over.

Friday, October 12, 2012

October Horror Movie Challenge: Day 12

Deciding I had watched too many "good" films, I dug way down in the dumps of Netflix to find Cannibal Suburbia. As I expected, it turned out to be a pretty useless anthology film. The first story had no point at all and frankly amazed me at how truly useless it was. An older woman calls up a young drug dealer for some stuff, and then heads out to pick it up. Another group of people are having a party and then a boyfriend kills his girlfriend. The drug dealers happen to be nearby when someone calls the cops for the dead woman. Scared that the cops are coming for them, they hurriedly drive off, hitting the old woman by accident as they leave. The end. Was there any point? Were any characters notable? No. It's just random circumstances that were neither horrific or dramatic.

After that, the other two stories have a little more going on but really how could they be worse than the first? The acting wasn't entirely bad, but overall the film is without merit. Maybe the people making the film had fun with it but it was only a waste of time for me.

Next I watched Return to Horror High. This film fared better mostly because anything would after Cannibal Suburbia, but also because it's just plain fun. The horror comedy takes place in a high school where some kids were murdered. A film crew is there now, hoping to film a movie adaptation of the deaths. However, as you might expect, someone is in the school with them and ready to kill.

I liked how funny the film was, as well as self aware. There was an interesting segment where one of the lead actresses gets mad over the exploitation of women in films. She then delivers a speech about the significance of this and then storms off the set. Everyone recognizes she is right but then the director pushes in a different but equally exploitative scene.

It was an entertaining film and kind of weird at points, but that just makes it better. I suspect it would make for a fun watch with friends.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October Horror Movie Challenge: Day 11

Waxwork II was how I decided to start my morning off. Watching the original film sometime back was a fairly fun experience, although not as incredible as some might lead others to believe. It was focused around a "waxworks" (which I have never heard of used as a term before or since). Basically, it's a wax museum filled with famous people and scenes all done up in wax. When a group of dim-witted teens entered it late one night, they were thrown into the scenes where they had to play them out. It was fun.

The sequel, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, changes up the formula a bit. Instead of going into a creepy wax museum, there really is no defined set of events to occur. It feels a lot more like the teens are running through various literary or movie scenarios. This definitely seems to have been done to make it a crowd-pleasing film. It also seems like it was an expensive process. Most of the segments don't appear expensive on their own, but the whole aliens in space section probably cost quite a bit for all the effects.

It all starts out with a general horror film tone, despite a lot of goofing off, and then becomes much more of a typical Hollywood action film about halfway through. This isn't a bad thing, but it did change my emotions while watching. I liked the movie and would recommend it, but it's definitely not something to be considered horror or horror comedy. Waxwork II mostly stands as a parody piece.

Then I gave Cat's Eye a watch which was also a good time. I'm a big fan of anthology films and that's exactly what this one is, although it has a bit better way at tying the stories together. Instead of just having people tell things, the title cat happens to be around when each scenario takes place. At the end, the cat even becomes an integral part of the narrative instead of simply a watchful eye.

I really liked this movie as each of the sub stories was a blast. The last story was the weakest, I felt, but still a totally watchable thing. It was also entertaining to see a young Drew Barrymore being an excellent child actor. If you've enjoyed Creepshow or even Vault of Terror then definitely give Cat's Eye a look. The stories aren't quite as outlandish, but they still end up being strange and likable.

For the movie to cap off my night I went with The Woman. Boy did I not expect this to be what it turned out to be. With such a simple name and image I was assuming it would be some goofy little film that was trying to be scary. However, what it ended up being was completely horrific although not in the typical horror genre ways.

The film revolves around a family of a husband and wife and their three children (two girls and one boy). We're introduced to the father first as he is out hunting and discovers a "feral" woman. Although no sane person would interact with such a person, he captures her and sets her up in the shed. From there, he introduces her to the family and says he wants to teach her so she may become a normal person eventually.

Though she is very violent, the real terror comes from within the family and has nothing to do with the animalistic woman. I really appreciate where the film went in terms of plot although it was quite hard to  watch. The film wasn't incredibly gory or anything, but it was full of uncomfortable human circumstances. I'd definitely recommend it but only if you're in the mood for something more serious.

October Horror Movie Challenge: Day 10

Again, only got one movie squeezed into the day. It was Black Sunday. Although feeling like watching it for a while (thanks the cover) I just forced myself into it last night. It wasn't anything incredible, but it was a decent way to spend some time. I thought the effects were pretty neat, especially for the time. There was a shot where there were worms twitching around inside a hollow eye socket and it just looked incredibly sick.I also liked the effect of the woman changing to look youthful to like wrinkled and old/dying.

Overall, it's not a movie that I'm going to remember, but it was at least something watchable. As usual, I fear movies older than a certain timeframe, thinking they'll be dull. This was not dull, but did feel like a different kind of film from what I'm used to. Timing and all that stuff were slightly different; you were allowed to wander and explore without fearing the audience would be bored in an instant.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October Horror Movie Challenge: Day 9

Today was a busy day so I was unfortunately only able to watch one film. It was one that just came in from Netflix today as well, so, oops about the theme nights... Regardless, it is something I thought would be an easy watch, and it was. The film in question is Ice Cream Man.

No, not Mr. Ice Cream Man or even We All Scream for Ice Cream. I don't know why the ice cream man is an apparently iconic thing to make into horror but it's been done a few times. This one certainly tries to take a strange edge, by having an old ice cream man gunned down by the mob (why?) and then having his son attempt to get revenge... or maybe the son just went insane.

Either way, the guy kidnaps kids and turns them into ice cream. This makes about as much sense as it sounds like. So basically, suspension of disbelief is pretty high here. Despite the goofy idea and all, it seems to have decent production values. If nothing else, the effects people were on the ball. Decapitated heads looked good and gory. In particular, one scene where the ice cream man serves the head of a man on a waffle cone to his lover just looks incredible (and is downright hilarious). Check it out if you're interested in something weird and goofy.
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