Monday, April 23, 2012

Creature (2011)

Genre:  Creature Feature
Director:  Fred M. Andrews
Country:  USA
Availability:  DVD

Any movie that starts off with skinny dipping in the swamp has got to be good. Am I right? And Creature IS good, if you like backwater hicks, local legends, ridiculous creatures, weird cults and lots of boobies. But you also have to like movies that are gratuitous, empty shells of entertainment. And I do like those things. All of those things. So it's no big mystery why I had a ton of fun watching Creature (I'm sure the wine helped).

Like any self-respecting horror movie, we start off (after the skinny dipping in the swamp) with sexy teens on a road trip. We're all nice and paired off in the car, joking and cuddling and being lewd, and then dun dun dun... creeeeepy gas station stop for a pee break. It's here we're introduced to the ever-entertaining Sid Haig, playing yet another skeevy hick, and David Jensen - who has been in everything, ever. These two actors give a little credibility to this otherwise random creature feature.

Also in Creature is True Blood's Eggs - Mehcad Brooks. The man is as fine as ever and even if this movie sucked I'd watch it again just for him, all covered in mud and with an animalistic fury that will make your toes curl.

I guess since this movie is called Creature, and it's about a creature, maybe I should mention the creature? Yeah, he's kinda absurd. Supposedly half man, half crocodile, he resembles neither and ends up looking more like a demon snake man or something. Is he scary? Not really. Only in the respect that he's practically invincible and super strong. But his story is a sad one so I felt a sympathy for the creature which automatically makes him less menacing. Honestly, they could have done better.

And then there's the weird, out of left field sex scenes. We've got lesbianism, voyuer masturbation and incest. Surprised? So was I. But it immediately threw this, so far bland, horror movie into another bracket and I found myself intrigued by the sudden little twist, and wondered, where is it was going now? I will leave the answer to that question for you to find out on your own.

If you do decide to give Creature a go, don't take it too seriously. It's a silly creature feature so have fun with it. I know I did.

3 out of 5 stars

Tourist Trap (1979)

Genre:  Slasher
Director:  David Schmoeller
Country:  USA
Availability:  DVD; Amazon On Demand

"God help those who get caught, in the Tourist Trap!"

The Tourist Trap was an obscure, strange little horror movie that slipped under the radar when it was first released in '79. It wasn't until frequent showings on cable in the '80s that it gained any notoriety. Now, more than 30 years later, it's regarded as a classic. And rightly so. The score alone, written by Italian composer Pino Donaggio - the man who wrote the score for Carrie and Piranha, and has worked with Dario Argento - is enough to put this one on the map. Its eccentric opening features whistles and wooden blocks and breathy female whispers. It's the kind of song that would be right at home in a twisted carnival. But I suppose Tourist Trap is a bit of a twisted carnival. There are unbelievable tricks to mystify the mind and creepy mannequins that seem to come to life. It's a ride that you don't want to take and that you might not come back from.

The art direction and props in this movie is fantastic. I mean, we're not looking at Oscar performances here. Nor is the script very creative or the characters very interesting. So the rest of the movie has to work for all of the parts its lacking. Luckily, Robert A. Burns, the same man who did art direction in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (brilliant art direction), came to the rescue. The mannequins used here, tricked out with a ventriloquist-style hinged jaw and breathy cries, are enough to give you nightmares for the week. Not to mention death by face plastic. Ouch.

Tourist Trap is one of those movies that reminds you of a dozen movies and yet it's still uniquely its own. Here we have elements of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (hulking man wearing creepy humanesque faces), Carrie (weird elements of telekinesis), House of Wax (wax museum setup and crazy brother element), and every slasher movie you've ever seen with sexy teens going on a road trip.

But like I said, Tourist Trap is its own beast. A completely bizarre horror movie that skimps on the gore but deals you other terrors in spades.

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Genre:  Slasher

Director:  Drew Goddard
Country:  USA
Availability:  Theaters

I'm actually not going to post a trailer for this one. When the trailer hit online a few months ago I watched about half of it, until shit started looking peculiar and intriguing, then I was afraid of learning too much and I shut it off. After seeing Cabin last night and watching the whole trailer today I'm thankful that I never watched the whole thing prior to the movie. It gives away too many of the surprising twists that, while may not be meaningful without context, you still go in expecting to see those scenes.I think the less you know about The Cabin in the Woods, the better. Which is why this review will be very short. And no spoilers, I promise!

The Cabin in the Woods is probably the best horror movie I've seen in a very long time. It's well written, for starters. Its smart and funny dialog does not hide the fact that Cabin was co-written by Joss Whedon. It's got great characters that we actually don't want to die. It's got Thor. THOR! That man IS a god. It's got one of my favorite horror movie elements - beautiful teens pile into a vehicle and go on a road trip! And then suddenly their cell phones don't work! And there's a creepy gas station they have to stop at! It's also got gore galore. It's insanely creative. And the end... well, I was like a kid in a candy store. SO MUCH FUCKING FUN! (And it's getting 92% on Rotten Tomatoes!)

Of course what makes this movie really unique is the commentary that it makes on horror movies. In the beginning it gives us the cliches in spades but it's not without purpose. We're forced to examine the exploitation that horror lovers expect and want to see. And then it all turns itself on its head and you start wondering about the genre as a whole. Is it a fuck you to the horror genre, or what it's become? Perhaps. But it's the finest middle finger I've ever seen.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that even if you don't like horror movies, you should see THIS movie. It's spectacular. It's phenomenal. It's... wait. Am I building the hype too much? Now you're going to be disappointed, aren't you? Well, I take it all back. This movie blows. It's overrated. It's abysmal. But go see it anyways. If you like things that suck, you'll probably like this.

5 out of 5 stars (omg! it was so awesome!)

The Loved Ones (2009)

Genre:  Slasher
Director:  Sean Byrne
Country:  Australia
Availability:  Currently N/A in the US

Sometimes, through a friend of a friend, I am able to see certain horror movies before they're actually released. Such was the case with The Loved Ones, so I apologize that I am about to review a movie that has no current US release date.

If ever a twisted tale was told about an awkward young girl going to desperate measures for a prom date, this would be it. Girlfriend is diabolical. Sure, we know from the get go she's going to kidnap her crush and have some wacky torture party prom at her house. We see that in the trailer. But what added the creepy to the crazy was the relationship she has with her father. This behavior is clearly a lifestyle that has been going on for many years. It's exciting to watch all the creative ways crazy girl and her daddy torture her prom date, but the fun stuff comes in the small details like, what's happening with her mother, and the glimpses we get of her photo album, and then the basement... oh god, the basement!

There's a lot of horror movies out there that phone in the fun. They try to convince us that we're having fun because the characters are having fun. A car full of teenagers all sexy and drinking and making out and laughing - they're going on an adventure! Yay! (yeah, I actually love those dumb movies) But movies like The Loved Ones are rare. They're like cotton candy laced with razor blades. It's like going to the circus where all the clowns are actually serial killers. There's this evil bubblegum appeal here that is unique and intoxicating. They don't have to convince us we're having fun because we're having it, bloody good fun. Just don't forget the corsage, or else!

4 out of 5 stars

The Divide (2011)

Genre:  Apocalyptic
Director:  Xavier Gens
Country:  USA
Availability:  DVD

The opening scene of The Divide gave me chills. We see the world catching fire and falling down all in the reflection of a woman's eye, tears falling, while she stares out of the window of her apartment building, one hand on the glass as if she could stop it all if only the world would abide her. On September 11, 2001 I stood on the 14th floor of my office building in downtown Manhattan about 15 blocks or so from the Twin Towers. The wall that I looked out from was made of glass, my view - two burning, smoking buildings. I stood there, watching them burn, watching them fall, with tears streaming down my face and one hand on the glass, as though I could stop it all if only the world would abide me. It's rare that I ever identify with a horror movie. It made my blood run cold and my heart beat faster. Yeah, I was hooked.

After this gorgeous opening scene that, in my opinion, doesn't last nearly as long as it should, we're thrust into the chaos of an evacuation. An entire apartment building in the middle of a city, flushing its bowels onto the streets and into the basement when the shit hits the fan. Those who chose to run to the basement are now locked in with about 10 other residents. And it is here we are faced with your typical man vs. man scenario. We've got the man in charge, the men who threaten his authority because they're dicks, the whimpering scared woman, the tough chick, the wimpy dude and a few other fillers that will no doubt not last long.

We face the standard threats and concerns given the circumstances and each one is met with hostility and argument from our key players. This is not a fun movie to watch. It's all about being shut in a basement while the world is falling down above you. You're trapped with people you don't like and don't trust. You're trapped with little to eat, little to drink, and an unknown threat of radiation or war or god knows what. And then things go from bad to worse. After a while, the crazy starts to show.

The Divide could have been a mediocre movie at best, and a terrible movie at worst. But it's done so phenomenally well that instead it was translated into this sad, heavy, barren piece of cinema that just, takes all of the air out of your lungs. Aside from the terrific casting, the movie had two strong elements going for it 1.) the score - it's beautiful and haunting and hangs in the air like the poisonous dust they're trying so desperately to avoid. 2.) the art direction - every scene of The Divide is a dark, twisted piece of art. The devil is in the details, indeed.

I read in an interview with the writer/director that much of the dialog was improvised by the actors. That essentially every day the actors would go to him and present him with new ideas for their character, new lines to say, new directions to go. And that he did them all, he rarely said no to them. Old ideas and dialog were thrown out, people's lines were cut, new focus was drawn to what may have once been a minor character. This contest and popularity atmosphere caused a lot of hostility among the actors, which translated well into the movie.

To say this movie is bleak is an understatement. If you need for things to work out in the end, steer clear. But if you like your horror movies to kick you in the balls and slap you around a few times, The Divide may just be your cup of tea. It's intense and gory with great actors and a fucked up plot. And it doesn't play it safe. Which is just what this seasoned horror movie lover admires.

5 out of 5 stars