Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Year: 1973
Director: Brian De Palma
Writer: Brian De Palma, Louisa Rose
Genre: Horror: Mystery, Black Comedy

Coming into Sisters I had no idea of what to expect other than, well, sisters. What I ended up seeing was a wholly enjoyably odd feature. However, try and tell me to peg exactly what about it was so good and it might be hard to say.

At the start of the film you see people competing in a simple gameshow. Two of the people featured in the game show decide to come home together and from that slightly unusual introduction things get much weirder. On the next day, the man wakes up to hear the gal from the show arguing with another woman. Although he wants to sneakily leave, the woman then finds him and begs him to stay, so he does. Unfortunately, he ends up being murdered by the creepy other girl. This kicks the whole film off.

What I enjoyed so much about the film was that it was hard to get a clear idea about what was even going on. Was the woman who witnesses the murder making this whole scene up or did it really happen? Are there really two girls or is there only one? Who is the other girl - is she the sister as the title suggests? Is it actually someone else who is pulling the strings? I loved being in a weird sense of reality and never being sure of what was what. Despite this description though, it was a fairly straightforward film. It wasn't all trippy or reality-shifting like some.

Perhaps the most unexpected thing about Sisters is how funny it is. There's no doubt that the desire when making this film was to have a lot of amusing stuff along a seriously messed up mystery. I consider it black comedy since it shouldn't really be as funny as it is that there was what was at one point called a  "racially-charged murder". Despite a lot of things that aren't at all funny about the movie the characters managed to be big jokes sometimes. I really enjoyed the dichotomy.

Sisters is a movie I'd happily recommend. After seeing it I now want to watch a lot more of Brian De Palma's work. Beyond this, I've only seen Carrie, Phantom of the Paradise, and Scarface.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Year: 1984
Director: W.D. Richter
Writer: Earl Mac Rauch
Genre: Sci-Fi: Comedy

With a massive name like The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension how can you possibly go wrong? The film seems to really divide the film community and unfortunately I was not someone who will now be singing its praises. I didn't think it was awful by any means, but it just never managed to hook me in to the weird narrative.

Honestly, I'm not sure what was even going on. Despite that I still was able to enjoy the characters, costumes, and aliens. The film centers around Buckaroo Banzai (and his crew) as they fight against some alien menace. Apparently not all the aliens are bad though, as they are helped by a "Blackleckloid". I have no idea if that's the real name but that's what it sounded like they said.

So you've got some weirdly dressed men fighting against aliens who lust for some Earth technology and somehow it plays out as entirely normal. It's not really surprising that in this place that a musical star (which Buckaroo is) would be helping the government with its alien issues. Why not?

Although I wasn't grabbed by the strangeness of the whole thing I was interested in how many famous faces were a part of the film. The most surprising to me were Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd. It took me a while to even recognize Lloyd as he spent half the film in an alien mask and the other half in... human face.

I'd say it's worth watching Buckaroo Banzai because it is such an odd little film. However, it may very well be something you can't stand. On the other hand, you might be someone who will be singing its praises and quoting its goofy lines for a long time.

PS: The credits are wonderful for both the song and accompanying video. Don't watch if you don't want the purely 80s goodness spoiled!

Monday, July 23, 2012


Year: 2010
Director: James Wan
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Genre: Horror: Possession

Insidious is exactly the kind of movie I steer clear from. First, it's modern, which always throws me into an angry fervor just because I've felt especially let down by films that everyone says are so great when they're out in theaters. It's the typical reaction for me... Don't believe the hype, in fact, don't even listen to the hype because if you do it's deadly. Even though I don't remember Insidious having a massive wave of interest when it came out, it still is a modern film so it got lumped in with all the rest. Against everything I was telling myself, I decided to watch it anyway.

With all that said I did actually enjoy the film, and much more than I expected. For about half the movie I was paralyzed on my couch. I just sat there staring with a knot in my stomach. The tension was built up quickly, but mostly free from "BOO" scares. I couldn't stand how well the film was put together and it kept me on edge completely. The people who worked on this movie most definitely have a sense of how to string viewers along without giving them relief.

You might have noticed I said for "half the movie". At some point, the film shifts in tone and it's for the worse.  Insidious is about a family who moves into a new home and feels a little bit odd about the whole place. Then, one of the children goes into a coma and things get amped up from there. It was initially a very tight work which didn't focus on showing you shocking things as much as it was about what you didn't see - it made you wonder. This was great.

Then the film starts to show you. It shows you things which are going on and explains reasons why this all is going on. Sure, it's got an otherworldly edge to the explanations, but it's still an explanation. IT's not always bad as it could have been played off as still entirely creepy but something else happened... They filmmakers started to show off what I assume they thought were their big guns and just went crazy with slamming things at the audience.

They weren't simple scares but they were just showing far too much. It felt like the movie completely shifted gears into a different, and far less subtle/frightening tone. It ruined the film for me in a way because it was just so persistent I lost all sense of fear. Scary things were going on, sure, but they weren't viewed as scary by me anymore. They were just ham-fisted and trying to get a rise out of a more typical Hollywood audience.

Perhaps they couldn't figure out how to bring the film to climax in any other way. However, I'm sure with the skill they exhibited earlier on they could have certainly done something better. Instead, they went with the easy route to shock moviegoers. I'm sure many people enjoyed it overall, but I'm left displeased. If you haven't seen the film, check it out and see how you feel. See if you sense the "shift" too or if I'm just being silly.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Toolbox Murders

Year: 1978
Director: Dennis Donnelly
Writer: Neva Friedenn, Robert Easter
Genre: Horror: Slasher

Here's one of those early slasher classics that I've avoided watching seriously for a while. It must have something to do with he name... Toolboxes aren't all that interesting and the name is pretty uninspiring. As I watched the first twenty minutes or so it totally seemed that my fears were founded in something tangible too. When you start watching The Toolbox Murders you feel like it's something very dull and that you've probably seen a million times before.

For the first few minutes you're party to watching woman after woman getting herself killed by a murderer who uses tools from his toolbox to kill them. If you turned it off right after the second or third murder I wouldn't blame you. However, it's worth watching past the supremely slow introduction as the film snaps out of it.

After the big murders have been committed then people must work to figure out what's going on. Detectives and friends/family of the victims are all trying to discern what is going on and why. Things get weird, the murder isn't just some faceless unhuman being, and overall the movie is pretty neat. It doesn't do much incredible but for the time period it was at least distinctive.

I'd recommend the film to those who care about slashers but have also avoided it. I found myself pleasantly surprised and hope that others will too. It might also be fun to watch with some friends because there are some strange segments which could definitely get people joking about.
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