Friday, February 19, 2016

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Genre: Period Piece, Zombies, Based on a Book
Director: Burr Steers
Availability: In Theaters

This review will surprise no one but me. After all, even though I work in a bookstore and have a sign under Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that reads, "Soon to be a major motion picture! Read it before you see it!" alas, I did not read it before I saw it. I honestly have very little interest in reading a butchering of an author whom I adore. I don't need zombies in my Jane Austin books. Zombies in my Jane Austin movies, however, well that appeals to me greatly. Period piece settings, bad ass women, awesome dresses, zombies, lots of fighting, explosions - what could go wrong?

Well, I suppose if I'd read the book I would have known but, how was I to anticipate that the zombies would. fucking. talk.?

Talking zombies are the worst.

So, you take a classic love story and throw in zombies? I'm down with that. But, you take a classic love story and throw in talking zombies, a class war, and hypersexualized beloved characters? I'm less down with that. I mean, Elizabeth Bennet's heaving breasts were practically a character themselves. (She really did heave quite a lot.) Not to mention the casting of Darcy being off, Elizabeth being absolutely gorgeous yet still being referred to as somewhat plain, the zombie special effects looking obviously CGI, and the fact that they fought each other more than they fought the zombies. There was a little too much P&P and a little too little Z. Frankly, I think the story they wanted to tell here would've worked better with vampires. No one is surprised that vampires can talk. And Darcy already thought he was Blade with that black trench coat that he never took off, not even at his wedding.

What a douche.

While not terribly realistic, I certainly enjoyed the imagery of the movie, it's very sleek with a beautiful cast, sexy outfits, and lots of elegant fighting scenes. It's too bad the plot was so sloppy and the talking zombies - well, they just ruin everything.

2 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Nina Forever (2016)

Genre:  Supernatural, Arthouse
Director: Ben Blaine, Chris Blaine
Availability: VOD

Open your mind really, really big. Your new boyfriend, who you're pretty psyched about, has a dead girlfriend who is resurrected in any bed or place where the two of you have sex. She's super broken and bloody and throws insults and insightful jabs at you, is totally, awkwardly, in your lovemaking bubble, and then disappears just as abruptly as she arrived. But it's okay, really, you'll cope. And somehow your new, fragile relationship will withstand this super fucked up situation because even though you two just met you're already in love.

Wait. That sounded snarky. And maybe it is a little bit but, honestly, Nina Forever is quite good. It's just a hard to relate to kind of good. Not that horror movies are easy to relate to but this one is especially difficult. I think it tries to mask itself as a horror comedy in an effort to somewhat ease the absolute insanity of the plot, but its heart isn't in it and so it can't eliminate the melancholy despair that every person in this film is experiencing, including Nina herself.

"I don't want this."
"Neither do I."

Nina Forever was a horror festival darling and I'd been reading rave reviews about it for over a year before it was publicly available. My expectations were high, my excitement, squeely, and I'm not saying that I was disappointed but it certainly wasn't what I was expecting. It's a rather sexy movie, in the way horror movies can be, covered in blood, visceral, and base. And it's not funny per se, though it tries not to take itself too seriously, how successful it is with that it's hard to say. I suppose if you wanted to take a closer look at the subtext of the movie one could say that Nina is a symbolic figure representing the presence of The Ex that is always looming and intimidating in new relationships. Sometimes The Ex gets in your head and you wonder, did he do this with her? Did she sit here? How am I special? How was she? This invisible force of The Ex can drive a wedge between a new couple. And in Nina's case, quite literally.

Aside from the performances, which were terrific, I'd say the strongest quality this movie has going for it is its imagery. Certain scenes are artistically crafted in such a way that it feels like a photo shoot. Stage - shoot - print. And those scenes are perfection. They will be what carries this movie through time, affectionately revisiting them in my mind like the work of a favorite artist.

Nina... forever.

4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Martyrs (2016)

Genre: Torture, Remake
Director: Kevin Goetz, Michael Goetz
Availability: VOD

In 2009 I read a review for some French horror movie called Martyrs that everyone was freaking out about. The reviewer said, "The only bad thing about Martyrs is that you can only watch it for the first time, once." A few days later, without ever having seen a trailer, I watched it with my best friend. We were quite literally on the edge of our seats. We had to pause the movie twice so that we could catch our breath. My friend started pacing as she watched. We had never seen anything like it. Was it torture porn? Was it some kind of existential art house horror? Was it supernatural? What the hell were we watching? After the movie was over we made plans to show it to our partners. They had the same reaction. It's brutal, sure. It's hard to watch, yes. It's scary, absolutely. But it's also smart. It's layered. The second act is different from the first, the third different from the second. It changes and evolves and endures and becomes something more than itself. Simply, it's a brilliant movie.

So of course America wanted to remake it. And I'm cool with that. There are many remakes that have become some of my favorite horror movies - Dawn of the Dead; The Blob; Evil Dead; Fright Night; Maniac; Texas Chainsaw Massacre (don't judge, Jessica Biel is divine). In the right hands a remake can turn into something wonderful. An homage to the original and yet uniquely its own. But in the wrong hands...

Kevin Goetz: Here’s the thing—The original Martyrs is so brutal, and such an experience on its own; we were not hired to make that experience. I think they took a look at Scenic Route, our first film with Josh Duhamel, and said, “These guys know how to tell a story. We’re gonna take Martyrs’s story that we really like from the original, and we’re gonna give it to these guys to tell a story that is, frankly, watchable compared to the one that’s been banned in several countries, and most people have to walk out of and blah blah blah.” I mean, even I have a hard time watching it.

Huh. That explains SO MUCH. They were hired, and frankly wanted to, make a watered-down version of the original. Something "watchable". Well, I hate to break it to you Goetz but this softcore, whiny drivel of a horror movie is hardly watchable. You destroyed complex, strong characters and made them timid and predictable. You took a unique and layered plot that kept the audience guessing and made it simple, installing common horror movie tropes where there were none before. You minimalized a complicated female friendship, making it seem tenuous. Those hard to watch moments in the original movie weren't there just to make its audience squirm. They had value. How are you to understand and believe what makes this woman a martyr without those significant moments? It's like in a romcom when the two characters meet and after 20 minutes of witty dialog and wackiness, they're in love. A few electrocutions later and hey we've got ourselves a martyr ladies and gentlemen. Hallelujah!

Was I prepared to enjoy the Martyrs remake? Absolutely. But the attitude that went into making this "re-imagining", and the apparent disinterest in creating anything of value just pisses me off. I wasn't expecting the remake to be the same kind of monster as the original, I mean, the French have horror movie skills that are pretty hard to match. But I was hoping that the remake would still challenge its audience in some fantastic, surprising way that didn't involve making it easier to watch. I think the thousands of other horror movies out there have that certain quality covered.

Martyrs 2016 - banned in Dollface's house - oh noooes! Critics say it's unwatchable! "My cat just couldn't handle it's utter predictability. He was like, Meow, and totally left the room."

2 out of 5 stars

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Freddy's Nightmares: No More Mr. Nice Guy (1988)

I was just lamenting the other day that I miss renting my horror on VHS because of all the great trailers that played before the feature film. I used to have a pen and paper handy to write down new titles to check out when I returned the movie to the video store.

Lucky for us Portlanders we still have a few video stores around that offer VHS rentals of the rare movie that hasn't yet been converted to another format - like Freddy's Nightmares: No More Mr. Nice Guy.

Being that I was such a big Freddy fan when I was a kid it's a little surprising that I never watched or even really knew of the Freddy hosted television show about the good people of Springwood and their untimely deaths. But my husband had watched a few episodes on cable when he was a kid so he was eager to revisit the first episode, which also happens to be the origin story of Freddy. Though I suspected it would be pretty terrible I was totally game. I mean, I like terrible. Terrible can be fun.  Freddy's Nightmares: No More Mr. Nice Guy, turns out, not fun, just terrible.

School play kind of terrible. Public Access kind of terrible. The kind of terrible that becomes fascinating when you start to realize that HUNDREDS of people were involved in making and distributing the terribleness and yet it still, somehow, against all odds, made it to television. And. AND! It was directed by Tobe Hooper! I mean, I know that Tobe also directed Eaten Alive and Funhouse (actually a personal favorite though not good) I still have high expectations of him because, well, Texas Chainsaw Massacre was just THAT GOOD. (We won't talk about Poltergeist. You wouldn't like me if we talked about Poltergeist.)

The only positive thing that has come from this experience, aside from the pure visual pleasure of watching anything from 1988 (that hair! those outfits!) is that I can now say that I've seen the first episode of Freddy's Nightmares. Now the only thing left to do is to make some friends who would actually be impressed or even know what the hell I'm talking about.

2 out of 5 Stars