Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil

Year: 1992
Director: Clay Borris
Writer: Richard Beattie
Genre: Horror: Thriller

I don't know what happened to Prom Night IV. While Prom Night 2 did sort of start up a new story, III at least continued it on. IV though reset itself once again and has only the slightest connection to any prom. In the first five minutes we see teens being teens at the prom. Two end up in the parking lot where a young priest stalks and kills them both before torching the car. So, we've got a crazed fanatic who killed people in a flashback - now said priest is locked up in some church somewhere.

It's of course as the film takes off that this long-dormant murder wakes up and stalks a new generation of young adults. The group appears to be college students though so there's no prom for them to visit ever. Why is this madman pursuing them then? I guess it really had nothing to do with a prom at all. So then why call this film PROM Night IV? Eh, we'll never know.

Just judging the film as a specific entity it doesn't do much new or different. It feels like a simple thriller. The characters are at least semi-interesting but there's very little to make this movie stand out against others. I'd suggest avoiding it, even if you're a fan of the previous movies. The correlation is extremely tiny at best, and at worst it's a completely different and dull little flick.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Prom Night III: The Last Kiss

Best cover ever? 
Year: 1990
Director: Ron Oliver, Peter R. Simpson
Writer: Ron Oliver
Genre: Horror: Comedy

Prom Night is one of my favorite 80s horror films. Even the sequel was a pretty fun film, although it wasn't really correlated much to the first. Prom Night III takes off at some point after 2 and brings back the Mary Lou Maloney character. Since she was one of my favorite things about the 2nd film this just made III even more entertaining.

In this film for some reason Mary Lou's spirit is disturbed. She awakens and finds herself smitten with a rather homely young teenager at her old school. She reveals herself to him and becomes a sort of succubus. She wishes to help this young man with all his high school problems, but in the process ends up killing a handful of people.

Prom Night III is one hundred percent a horror comedy. Normally, being confronted with the corpse of one of your teachers you might really freak out. But nope, instead of that Mary Lou just gets a verbal lashing. In a way, this film is almost completely a 80s comedy just with the addition of murders going on, and Mary Lou's creepy spirit.

While watching the film it felt so very much like a teenage dream - with a hint of nightmare. Because of this I really enjoyed it. The only way I've ever seen this film on DVD is in a double pack with Prom Night 4. Unfortunately the final Prom Night isn't nearly as goofball as this...

Friday, March 23, 2012


Year: 1982
Director: Joe Giannone
Writer: Joe Giannone
Genre: Horror: Slasher

I'm not sure what drew me to Madman but if you haven't seen it yet maybe you should put it on your list. Really, it depends how much of an interest in random serial killer movies you've got.

In the film you're taken to yet another summer camp. For some reason, it seems summer camps really draw in the killers. Anyway, the summer counselors are all having a great time around the campfire telling spooky stories. Someone shares a story about "Madman Marz", who, apparently will stalk everyone down if they shout his name. So of course one of the teens does exactly that.

From here everything progresses rather predictably. One by one the group is picked off by Marz because he was angered by their call. What I found most entertaining about the film is that it is so over the top at times. The acting can become super hammy and it almost feels like a parody of the slasher genre. However, in 1982 I doubt they were thinking "parody" so much as "let's make this really scary". I think the blissful stupidity of the film really works in its favor.

There are some interesting death scenes and a lot of goofy acting. If you're interested in either, but especially the latter, then totally give this movie a watch. If you're more interested in sophisticated slashers though then stay far away.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever

Year: 2009
Director: Ti West
Writer: Joshua Malkin, Randy Pearlstein
Genre: Horror: Body horror

Cabin Fever was a movie I ignored time and time again. The "cabin" portion of it made me jump instantly to summer camp cabins and I wrote it off as a dull slasher. Of course, when I finally watched it realized what a fool I'd been. It is an excellent film and plenty disgusting too. Until recently I had no clue that there was a sequel. Practically as soon as this was discovered I got a hold of it and watched.

First off, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever might imply it's a sequel but it really isn't. Well, only in the vaguest of senses. It starts off where the last film left off... which is that the water is highly infected. The water continues down and gets sucked up and brought into town because nobody realizes they're pawning off contaminated water to people. Making contact with the water spreads the infection. From there, simple skin to skin contact will transmit it further.

So what makes this movie different? It isn't focused around a bunch of campers. Instead it is based in and around a high school. The way the characters interact and the things they go through are quite different from the characters of the first film. I'm not sure if I liked it more or less, but it was still a pretty great experience. It definitely retained the gross-out scares that we'd expect, even without Eli Roth at the helm.

If you give this a watch be ready for some seriously unexpected gross out moments. One in particularly completely caught me off guard. It's something I was anticipating throughout the film, but when it finally occurred... wow!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Burning

Year: 1981
Director: Tony Maylam
Writer: Harvey Weinstein, Tony Maylam
Genre: Horror: Slasher

I've been avoiding watching The Burning for at least a year but probably several. I seem to have this problem a lot when it comes to slashers. I just expect that nothing can top the many great ones I've seen already. Especially if it is an 80s slasher I feel like it's all going to be too samey, as that's when the slasher genre had it's biggest popularity. Despite those reservations I sat down and gave it a watch.

I'm really pleased with The Burning. Perhaps it was due to my low expectations but it was a pretty fantastic little trip. Sure, it takes place in a summer camp like many others, but it works out better. The camp counselors are a pretty realistic bunch of people and all young at that. There's a fair bit of playing between them, but not loads of unnecessary sexual encounters.

The tale of the murderer is pretty interesting too. I don't often like modern films which try to inject reason into the killer, but it worked out well here. The characters were enjoyable and it was very interesting wondering if perhaps some of them were in on the joke. Although we know who the murder is from the start pretty much it's nice that the film still left things up in the air at times. I liked not knowing when someone would be caught next.

Also, I can't help but feel like the murderer's choice of weapon of large gardening shears inspired the creators of the Clock Tower games. In that game, it is a giant pair of scissors which is used to kill people. "Giant scissors" are pretty goofy and I'm not sure I've ever seen real giant ones, just play scissors. It makes more sense that it may have been a play off The Burning's shears.

This is a lovely little film and I suggest all slasher buffs check it out. I know not all of us have seen it since I'd been holding out on it for years. Surely at least one other person has missed out too.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Year: 2009
Director: Giorgos Lanthimos
Writer: Giorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Genre: Black comedy

I've got to admit that Dogtooth really had me confused for a while. It wasn't hard to get into the world of the film but it was a bit hard to comprehend. It felt like the supposed hilarity of the film was passing right over my head. Usually I do well with black comedies but I was worried this might be just too far flung from my usual intake.

For a large portion of the film it was exactly that. However, in the final 3rd of the film I finally felt like I "got" the joke. I can't remember now what exactly the tipping point was but it was some scene. It switched my brain into a different mode and suddenly I couldn't stop chuckling at how ridiculous the whole thing was. I guess it took a while to grasp fully.

Anyway, once that switch occured I was much happier with the film. If I watched it again I'm sure I could see the whole thing in that new light and have much more fun. With the never-ending list of movies on my watchlist though I probably won't get to it for a while. By then I'll probably have lost that alternate mindset too!

I especially liked the end as it seemed the most hilarious and dark way to go. In games there is a phenomenon that is often called a "bad end". There probably is for movies too but I'm not as involved in the film world. Either way, a "bad end" is usually the ending you get in a game if you've made all the wrong choices (although you don't know you made them necessarily). In the film the ending was perfect. If you weren't thinking with the mindset of the movie you might not even know what it meant. I got it though, and laughed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Year: 2011
Director: Stephen Daldry
Writer: Eric Roth, Jonathan Safran Foer
Genre: Drama

I never read the book which the film is adapted from. I've wanted to for years but just have never gotten around to it. I've heard from people who read the book that this film really destroys the powerful narrative of the novel. Because I've not read it I was at least able to view the film without a bias. However, that didn't make me like it.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close had the chance to be something quite special. Instead, it imploded on itself due to the highly unlikable main character. I understand that the boy Oscar is supposed to have Aspergers and that explains a bunch of his behavior. As I went in without knowing that though I could assume something was meant to be up, but that he was just a precious little ball of nerdiness. There's nothing wrong with that though, as I love nerds. In a way the main boy in Hugo was also a nerd because of his scientific and technical mind. But Oscar was not cute or lovable or wonderful. He was annoying.

All children have the ability to be annoying, not just ones with Aspergers. Tons of them are just madness and in a lot of ways these days when a child "acts out" or is "different" it seems they get medicated for something which may be nothing other than their personality. Anyway, that's obviously not the point here. I don't know much of anything about Oscar's condition so I can't pretend to tell whether he really showed all the signs. Probably so. Either way, my point is you can be a wild little child with highly unusual and interesting thoughts and be likeable and wonderful. I just didn't feel that way toward him whatsoever.

In the film it felt like he didn't have enough of a character. There were things ABOUT him that seemed to mean to make us care. Like his tambourine which he would shake to calm himself down. That's a lovely trait but it just felt globbed onto the character, not something actually special or wonderful about him. There were a lot of things that felt like they were simply placed around him to try to make a character.

Anyway, with the narrative very tightly focused on this child's attempting to deal with the trauma of 9/11 I was forced to endure his not-at-all charming antics. I couldn't stand him. It made the whole movie feel overplayed and trite, like a cornball TV movie. Also, I am not sure this child could really act. He was good at memorizing lines I guess and good at YELLING but that doesn't make someone a good actor. Oh well, he's young and had the guts to take a huge role. Props to him.

So yeah, there are some movies with detestable characters but stories that still wrap you right up into it all. I could never get past that point with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close because the narrative just wasn't my cup of tea.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Midnight in Paris

Year: 2011
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Genre: Comedy, Romance

Midnight in Paris is a nice film but I don't see how it managed to garner acclaim with mainstream audiences. As a thinly-veiled love letter to Paris, you'd think typical moviegoers would be a little put off. Who cares about all this romantic junk that this guy is spouting about the city? It's just a city! Well, whatever, it turns out the movie is a nice one although it doesn't delve far enough for me.

If you know nothing about the film then you should probably skip this review because the main part of the plot is a nice surprise. So, you've got this American writer named Gil who is completely enamored with Paris. Fine, whatever, aren't we all. He's gone there with his fiance and ends up discovering a way to travel back in time to when Paris was brimming with famous artist types. He meets up with Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald, and a great deal of other people.

Once he's in this land of the past he finds himself swept away by everyone and everything. This time just seems so much better than his own, at least for a while. But every day he comes back to the modern age and sees his life just isn't turning out the way he'd hoped it would.

Personally I don't think it went far enough. It has a hint of magical realism with the time travel, but nothing further. Why is this all there is? I guess that's not a bad thing though, just rubbed me as a little bit silly. Secondly, here's yet another case of romanticizing cheating. At least for this movie we are able to see the disingenuous nature of Gil's engagement first hand instead of having to blindly assume it.

Overall the biggest turn off for me was that this film feels like a big love letter to Paris and its people. That is fine, but a movie lauding the place does nothing for me. It seems the film only exists to say "wow, look at all these cool people! I'm interacting with them - this is so cool!" and that seems the biggest point that the plot serves. It also seems odd to me that the film discusses our constant longing for a "golden age" - an age which truly doesn't exist. And yet, in the end, Gil basically finds his golden place, so to speak, in Paris. Wasn't the point of the film to show that nothing is perfect? The grass will always be greener on the other side? Oh well, apparently there is a truly golden place and age because Gil gets to bask in it at the end.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Descendants

Year: 2011
Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon
Genre: Comedy, Drama

Why didn't this film win more awards? Simply put, it is far from an astonishing film. It is a good movie, but not even great. I'm not sure how it even managed to be up for Best Picture. Of course, I'm not quite sure how half the movies selected managed to make it up there (War Horse). That's not to say The Descendants is bad, because that's not the case either. Average is more like it.

I enjoyed watching The Descendants for one reason. I loved the two daughters. They were very real characters and their banter was wonderfully crude. Somehow even Clooney was outshined by these young actresses. It seems odd considering, but maybe the character he portrayed just wasn't lively enough. Maybe hen's not meant to be the important one. It's hard to tell sometimes.

The reason I think this film was nominated was for its plot. In it, annoyed, unconnected, and uncaring husband Matt suddenly is forced to re-evaluate his marriage when his wife is in a life-threatening accident. As a result, she ends up stuck in a coma from which she will never wake and the husband is forced to mull over the tough decision of whether or not she should be kept this way or let free to die. All this is played alongside Matt also having to decide who to give his massive share of Hawaiian land to because for some reason he is a descendant of some powerful people.

This is all some serious stuff but the movie plays everything off in a rather amusing fashion. The approach is certainly valid but to me at least it left things feeling less important. It's just a happy go lucky film with some dipping points. It is a very modern film with very modern jokes too and for that it feels weaker. Maybe that's just me though because I am more used to films which don't try so hard to plant themselves firmly in the moment.

Check the film out and see how it works for you. I enjoyed it I just don't see it being Oscar-worthy. Perhaps you'll view it differently.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Artist

Year: 2011
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writer: Michel Hazanavicius
Genre: Comedy, Romance

The Artist walked out of the Oscars with a boat load of awards, and with good reason. It's a wonderfully solid and fun film. It brings us back to a cinematic experience that is purely joyful to experience and not bogged down by excessively complex plots of multi-million dollar effects. If you haven't had the pleasure of watching it yet then that's highly suggested, although all the praise its received may dampen your own perception of it a bit.

For me, it was a solid picture. However, I wish it had done something more creative or daring. You might say that releasing a silent film in this age is daring, and it is in a way. However it certainly isn't the only modern silent film out there. Many other indie films have employed the same effect and many others will continue to do so in the future. They just don't happen to garner so much acclaim with the general public.

Now, what is it about this film that I don't exactly appreciate? Well, I don't know, maybe it's better to go over what was good first. The acting was solid and in a way it definitely out does the old silent films. It manages to tell a story and get dialogue across without forcing characters to overact too far. It mostly falls within the realms of modern acting, just with a little extra to make sure the viewer understands. The story is cute too: A silent film star finds himself unwilling and unable to compete with the new-fangled talking movies.

What I didn't enjoy was the fact that this movie plays it so entirely safe. Yes, it's a silent film but you don't have to place a silent film in the set of the era where they were popular. It would be much more impressive to me to see a movie taking place in our "current world" done silently. There's no reason that you have to stick it in one specific era just because that's where it originated. I also don't really appreciate the romanticizing of cheating, but of course that's common for many films. It just seemed a bit more out of place here because, to me, initially the interactions between the husband and wife seemed to be relatively happy ones.

So that's my two cents about The Artist. It's great fun and will probably make a lot of average film fans feel cultured. Hopefully it ushers other filmmakers to try their hands at something different.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Help

Year: 2011
Director: Tate Taylor
Writer: Tate Taylor, Kathryn Stockett
Genre: Drama

I liked The Help. As a mostly comedy with dramatic asides, it has some strong characters and a lovely narrative. There is also a lot wrong with this film, in my eyes. Despite that though it still manages to be a wholly enthralling narrative that kept my attention all the way through. Also, I loved the character of Celia. Yes, I loved her enough to state that in my first paragraph.

Basically in the film you've got a young woman who seems to rebel against every norm in her world. She's not really interested in getting a man - she's getting a job! She's also not taken aback by the idea of African Americans being equal to everyone else. Whatever she drank really should have gotten into the bodies of the other gals, but of course, if it did then we wouldn't have a movie.

Anyway, it's a film about this journalist who wants to get the true stories from "the help", or maids. So she goes for it and slowly gains the trust of the women she wants to interview. It's quite entertaining most of the time, so I'm not sure why exactly it's tagged as a "drama" on IMDB.

There's nothing wrong with a movie having fun, even for a semi-period piece. It just feels kind of bad to watch because of how it seems to push aside the harsh realities of the time. It might have been the 60s but damn if that wasn't practically a world away from where we are now. It was an extremely turbulent period for civil rights and nearly completely glossing over that was a huge failing, in my opinion. Yes, there's are a handful of moments in the film which attempt to bring this reality home. It never quite reaches though. There's a point where a young black woman is beaten by an officer, but then the fear of the moment is quickly dissipated by a new scene filled with patented sass.

The points the film seem to make are filled with good intentions, but that doesn't mean the film itself is pure. To me the things it teaches are that African American maids really were living a mostly fine life. Oh sure, they couldn't even use the same toilets but other than that they just had so much fun gabbing with their friends and making fun of white ladies behind their back. Oh sure, their friends were getting beaten by those who are supposed to protect the town, but what does it really matter when you can bake a pie with poop in it and serve it to your old employer?

Despite the failings that I felt exist because of how it downplayed the reality of the situation, I still found myself captivated by the silly narrative. I laughed at many jokes and liked the ending. I felt the end was actually focused on a maid character, not the journalist, like many have said. It's a great film that you can watch as long as you turn off the analytical part of your brain.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Year: 2011
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: John Logan, Brian Selznick
Genre: Adventure

I'm not usually one for family films. I'm also not usually interested in 3D films. However, this one was both and I was stuck in a theater watching it. As it turned out though, it ended up being really nice. I must say though that the 3D effect seemed lost on me. That, or it was just so masterfully done that I didn't even notice it. Well, what I'm used to is hokey 3D where things are jutting out at you. I don't recall any of that. This is a plus.

The film was very beautiful. This is the first thing I noticed, and probably the first thing my theater compatriots also saw. You'd never expect dust floating around to look marvelous but this movie managed it. Everything seemed just a bit too bright and pretty to be real. It all added to the playful atmosphere and that was great. Even though the story itself wasn't award caliber, the visuals sure were.

In Hugo you're greeted with a young boy who has lost his father. The poor child is stuck tending to the clockwork in a train station and hopes to never get caught (orphans get sent off). He's also trying to fix a broken mechanical person which his father had attempted to fix before his untimely demise. It's a sweet little tale that gets slightly convoluted, but mostly nice. It's also got a big focus on the love of film. I'm surprised that two films this season were feelin' the love in that way (The Artist being the other).

I don't think that this movie is incredible. The story is cute but not much more than that. What makes it worth a watch is the excellent visuals. Or, if you have a child they'd probably get a lot more out of it then I did.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Best Picture Showcase

So, last weekend I went to AMC's Best Picture Showcase. This is something that goes on every year for the past few years. Basically, it's an event where you go to a participating theater and watch all the Academy Award best picture nominees for that year. A few special theaters show them all in one big marathon. That's what I went to.

I fell asleep for most of Moneyball as well as War Horse. Beyond that though there were some nice little films. I didn't like these nominees as much as last year's but they can't always be great big winners. Anyway, for the next few days I intend to write posts for a few of the films. Not all of them, but some. Unfortunately none are horror but what can you do?
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