Sunday, June 25, 2017

Lost in Space

Lost in Space (1998)

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In the future, global warming has rendered the planet nearly unlivable. In order to prevent the extinction of human life, some people made some kind of thing (I think there's like a drive in space ships, and also a star gate or something? I don't fucking know) that will allow quick space travel between Earth but they're only sending a scientist (William Hurt) and his family through so they can like pave the way or whatever. But there's this faction that wants to stop that for some stupid reason and they send another scientist or doctor (Gary Oldman) to sabotage the mission but they betray him and he gets stuck on the ship and then something something and everybody's lost in space/the future.

Honest to god this movie had about six hours of clunky exposition and I still have no fucking idea what in the sweet name of jesus was going on. But that's not important. What's important is that after a long ass amount of set up the family, and their cocky, horny pilot (Matt LeBlanc), and Gary Oldman are lost in space. And time. They're also lost in time. That's really important.

I'm just going to quickly run through the two or three things that I actually liked about this steaming pile of shit before I talk about what a piece of shit it is.

The youngest daughter of the family (Lacey Chabert) has a vlog that she updates sporadically. It's sort of annoying, because her character is annoying, and doesn't do anything whatsoever for the movie, but it's a neat device to inject some character development, albeit for a pointless character.

The main (ish?) monsters are these goo-spider things which were okay. I'm always down for goo spiders. Also, one of the goo spiders scratches or bites Gary Oldman and then later when they get lost in time, Gary Oldman has turned into a gigantic half-man half-spider for some reason which had a really cool design. Unfortunately, the CGI looks like absolute shit, and the Gary Oldman/spider is given next to nothing to do and gets unceremoniously kicked into some kind of space-time vortex. Also, while the design of the monster is cool, the idea of the monster is stupid. That's the best compliment I can give this movie.

This exemplifies the term "it looked better on paper" (Image Source)
On a neutral note, I kind of feel bad for Matt LeBlanc. He's not bad as the gung-ho action badass pilot guy, but I could not take him seriously as not-Joey from Friends. Which is unfortunate because like I said, he's not that bad in the role, and it's not his fault that this movie is fucking terrible.

This movie has two major problems. The dialogue, and the plot. Both of which are pretty important things to nail down before you start, you know, shooting a movie.

The dialogue is particularly offensive, even for a stupid action movie. Like, Gary Oldman speaks in alliterations fully half the time I swear to god. I get that this movie is based on a TV show from nineteen-sixty-fuck, so his dialogue is probably based on that but that doesn't make it any less fucking annoying.

A lot of the characters narrate whatever they're doing, except the girl doing her vlogs which is the only time it would be appropriate. Despite constantly explaining what's going on and why, the movie still doesn't make any fucking sense. How does that even happen.

Also, they have the stupidest fucking lines like "I love you, wife", and "I'll wait later". What the fuck does that even mean? At that point you're just fucking waiting to wait. It's stupid, is what I'm saying.

You know what else is stupid? Everything else in this movie. The emotional crux of the movie is William Hurt and his wife (Mimi Rogers) dealing with their marital issues and William Hurt not being such a shitty dad to his kids. Which, on its own, is a solid core, but all of the "family discord" scenes feel so forced, and they ultimately fall to the wayside of the random adventures the group has throughout the movie.

The action scenes and the main plot are so inane and incomprehensible that there is absolutely no tension whatsoever in the movie. Also the main plot points seem really tangential to each other, giving the plot a fractured, episodic quality. This may have been intentional on the part of the filmmakers, trying to emulate the feeling of watching a season of a TV show, but that doesn't make it okay because movies are not TV shows.

This asshole. (Image Source)
Everything just seemed so pointless. Furthermore, literally the only thing I know about the show Lost in Space is that it's a sci-fi version of Swiss Family Robinson, and there's that robot asshole that waves his arms around and yells "Danger, Will Robinson!" and one time fought the robot from Forbidden Planet. I really like that guy, he's the best. He basically doesn't show up until the last act of the movie and he hardly says "Danger, Will Robinson" at all. In fact, he's so inconsequential to the plot that I said "Danger, Will Robinson" a fraction of the number of times I said "How you doin'?" while watching this movie. That makes me sad.

There's also some internal logic problems that really bugged me. Specifically, what they had a pilot for. When they first launch the ship, Joey sets a course and then goes into hypersleep like everybody else. Why couldn't a computer do that? I get that he becomes useful later on, after everything that's not supposed to happen does, but that's no excuse. Maybe they were preparing for every eventuality. But if that were the case, why not bring a second family so that if everything did go wrong and they crash landed on some alien planet that they would have to colonize, they'd be able to stave of inbreeding for a generation? Huh? Explain that one, movie.

You know, for kids! (Image Source)
The absolute worst offense in this movie though is the fucking CG monkey thing they pick up on another ship that does nothing. It does nothing. Say what you want about how fucking ridiculous and stupid Jar Jar Binks is (which is very), how he was only created to sell toys or whatever, at least he was involved in the plot of the Star Wars prequels in some way. His presence was justified. This fucking abortion over here, though, doesn't affect the plot in any way and is only there to blink its eyes and mewl grotesquely. And it's name is Blarp. Fuck that.

Merits
- Lacey Chabert played Gretchen in Mean Girls and made me think of how much I love Mean Girls (+1)
- Robbie the Robot (+1)
- Cool monster (+0.25) [points removed for crappy CGI and overall pointlessness of monster]
- Gary Oldman is in the movie (+1)
Total: (+3.25)

Demerits
- Too much exposition and doesn't actually explain anything (-2)
- How you doin'? (-1)
- Alliteration amplifies Andrea's anger (-1)
- ^Irony (-(-1))
- The dialogue in this movie physically hurt me (-3)
- It takes them for fucking ever to become Lost in Space (-1)
- Gary Oldman is not playing Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in this movie (-1)
- Blarp the... fuckin... alien... monkey thing (-5)
Total: (-13)
Final Score: -9.75 Stars

Directed by: Stephen Hopkins.  Written by: Akiva Goldsman.  Starring: William Hurt, Matt LeBlanc, Gary Oldman, Mimi Rogers, Jack Johnson, Lacey Chabert, Heather Graham, Jared Harris, Dick Tufeld.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Split Second

Split Second (1992)

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Shout out to Jack from the Rogue Riffers Podcast for sending me this movie.

Split Second is about a weary police officer (Rutger Hauer) trying to solve a mysterious string of murders in a post-global warming sci-fi nightmare.

This follows the sci-fi noir aesthetic a la Bladerunner, complete with pollution causing it to be always nighttime, and throws in some spikey leather clad BDSM strippers for good measure. The look is sort of inconsistent, though, with the majority of the characters dressing like regular people and nothing really special about the set design.

The first half of the movie feels a lot like the Ian Rankin novel I read one time - there are some spectacularly grizzly murders that have some connection to Rutger Hauer's past, and there's some half assed hinting that maybe he is the murderer that doesn't actually go anywhere. There's a little bit of sci-fi stuff thrown in there, like there's always water on the streets, and there's big ass rats running around everywhere, but that could also describe Halifax on a particularly rainy day.

According to Rutger Hauer's new partner (Neil Duncan), the murders are connected to astrology, the lunar cycle, and the Chinese zodiac, thus the killer believes themself to be some kind of supernatural being is eating their victims hearts to gain their souls or whatever.

The movie tries to be a buddy cop movie for a little bit, but Rutger Hauer's character is a narcissistic assbag, and Neil Duncan's character is an unapologetic weiner so I didn't really care if either one of them lived or died or got along or didn't so who gives a fuck.

Furthermore, Rutger Hauer has zero chemistry with Neil Duncan. Or with Kim Cattrall, who's supposed to be his love interest, to the point that scenes between the two of them are borderline gross. Or with me, the viewer. That really upped the don't-give-a-fuck factor.

The movie also tries to be funny at times but between American-style humour and British-style humour not getting along, and the painful, cardboard performances, it just falls flat on its ass. Like, Rutger Hauer is a fucking good actor. I watched this movie mostly because I had a crush on the guy (which is cured now, thank you very much), and he's done some truly great performances. In this movie, his line delivery is so fucking bad it makes me wonder if a) he didn't give a sweet fuck about this movie, or b) he's actually not a good actor, he just had good direction in other movies. That's how bad it was.

It also tries to be a science fiction movie, but there isn't really any point for setting it after the global ice caps have melted except maaaaybe to hop on the eco-horror bandwagon. Except they didn't really draw any stronger of a connection between the monster and global warming than they did to the monster and the signs of the zodiac. And really, would the monster have any idea what the zodiac is? It lives in a sewer. I feel like that's the product of sloppy rewrites to change this from a slow ass murder mystery to a horror movie. Like, actually more than anything this movie reminds me of an only marginally better Shocking Dark.

Ultimately, this movie tries to be like four different kinds of movie (sci-fi mystery, buddy-cop, action-comedy, and eco-horror) and fails miserably at all of them.

About half way through it starts to get mildly interesting (and almost justifies its sci-fi setting) by announcing that the killer has recombinant DNA containing fragments from rats, Rutger Hauer, and their other victims. At this point I'm like "hell yeah, weird mutant sewer monster" but it takes like another half an hour for anything to come of that revelation and by that point it's kind of a let down.

So, we've got this monster, right, and it lives in the sewers and eats peoples hearts so it can assimilate their DNA because of astrology somehow, and also it's drawing maps on its victims to guide Rutger Hauer into the sewer, and also using Kim Cattrall as bait for some fucking reason, because it killed his partner and it really wants to kill him but anytime it has the chance it kills somebody else. At what point did the writers realize they had no fucking idea what this monster was? I guarantee it was a long time before I did. I mean, I said "what the fuck am I watching" at least six times during this movie but that was because of the unfocused plot and genre-hopping, not because of the lame, unfocused monster.

And when we finally do get to the final battle with the monster, it's literally just Alien but not as cool. It even says on the cover for this movie "Bladerunner meets Alien" just to hammer home that it's a blatant rip-off of two better movies that I would much rather be watching.

Merits
- Rutger Hauer's leather pants (+1)
- Sexy BDSM future (+1)
- Pete Postlethwaite! (+1)
- Chocolate (+1)
- Spectacularly grizzly murders (+1)
Total: (+5)

Demerits
- I was tricked into watching a murder mystery (-1)
- Astrology (-3)
- The main character's name is Harley Stone. That's the worst sci-fi protagonist name since fucking Hell Tanner (-1)
- And - and - he has Harley Davidson decals in his fucking bathroom like a fucking weirdo what the fuck who does that (-1)
- Don't-give-a-fuck Factor (-1)
- "I'm bored" Factor (-1)
- Monster is a shameless Alien rip-off (-1)
Total: (-9)
Final Score: -4 stars

Directed by: Tony Maylam.  Written by: Gary Scott Thompson.  Starring: Rutger Hauer, Neil Duncan, Kim Cattrall, Michael J. Pollard, Pete Postlethwaite, Alun Armstrong, Ian Dury.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Maniac Cop 2

Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

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Apparently sent immediately after the events of Maniac Cop, it turns out that maniac cop (Robert Z'Dar) didn't die when he got impaled and cast into the river at the end of the first movie and is still thirsty for vengeance. But I mean, he was already dead in the first movie, right? Or was he just disfigured and brain damaged? I don't know how this movie works.

Anyway, the first thing he does with his re-life is go and kill Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon, presumably because they were contractually obliged to be in this movie but not happy about it. They are replaced by two other cops who have no discernible personality traits except one is grumpy and the other is not grumpy (Robert Davi and Claudia Christian, respectively) He then teams up with a Charles Manson looking mother fucker (Leo Rossi) who gets his jollies by killing strippers. I don't know why he teams up with that guy or really what else happens in this movie because I wasn't paying attention.

This one manages to have an even more arbitrary and uninteresting plot than the first movie, but there was a lot more violence so it seemed more exciting.

Pretty much the same things happen in this movie as did in the first, as far as I can tell. Maniac cop kills a couple of civilians for no really good reason, maniac cop takes out a police station (this time, though, he goes around smashing through glass doors like a fucking mad man), maniac cop has some beef with somebody.

His kills were more brutal in this movie though. There's one particularly inspired scene where he impales a guy on the hook of a tow truck and then drive away like a fucking asshole. He also gets set on fire at the end of the movie and still runs around killing the guys that killed him in jail.

I have mad respect for whoever did the stunts for this movie coz there's a couple pretty damn long shots where buddy is on fire and just fucking going like a champ. That shit's dangerous. You go, sir. Also, whoever was walking through those glass doors I mentioned earlier, that was probably a bitch to do too.

Still, I don't really understand this movie. Like, what did maniac cop need a murder friend for? I will admit I was not paying attention for large swaths of movie, but I feel like a movie should command my attention, and if it can't do that, it should make character's motivations simple enough for my easily-distracted brain to grasp. The script was all over the place too and there was a lot of unnecessary information that ended up with me just tuning everything out.

But yeah, he doesn't just have a murder friend that he hangs out and does murders with. I could understand maybe if I liked to murder people on the regular, maybe I would like to have a friend who shared that interest. That makes sense to me. I didn't get why he went to the bother of busting him out of jail, and then taking him to the prison with him to get revenge on the guys who killed and/or disfigured him, and then killing him along with those guys. So there was probably a more complicated reason for it. Or maybe not? Maybe it was just for lols, I don't know.

Also, what the fuck is the deal with maniac cop? Is he dead? Is he not dead? Was he alive in the last movie and dead now? In the last movie he just had some Joker scars going on but in this one he's pretty fucked up looking. Like he's missing an ear and a lot of skin and shit. And I'm pretty sure taking a steel beam through the chest isn't survivable without serious medical attention which maniac cop would not have had time to get, so, okay, he's definitely undead in this one. But what about the last one? Why doesn't the movie tell me? That's not mysterious in a movie like this, it's lazy, and the fact that, even though I "supposedly" don't care, I've spent two reviews asking this same question is really bothering me.

Despite the fact that this series (so far, fingers crossed for Maniac Cop 3) makes no fucking sense whatsoever, this one was action packed and ridiculous enough that I didn't care so much about it's shortcomings.

Merits
- Bruce Campbell, Danny Trejo, and Sam Raimi are in this movie (+3)
- Chainsaw stopping action (+1)
- Window smashing action (+1)
- Car towing action (+1)
- Fiery action (+1)
- Titties! (+1)
Total: (+8)

Demerits
- Bruce Campbell makes it, like, ten minutes (-1)
- Is maniac cop a zombie? What the fuck (-1)
- Why (-1)
Total: (-3)
Final Score: 5 Stars

Directed by: William Lustig.  Written by: Larry Cohen.  Starring: Claudia Christian, Robert Davi, Robert Z'Dar, Leo Rossi, Laurene Landon, Bruce Campbell, Michael Lerner, Clarence Williams III.

Maniac Cop

Maniac Cop (1988)

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A police officer (Robert Z'Dar) starts murdering innocent people seemingly at random. Another cop (Bruce Campbell) becomes the prime suspect when he is framed for murdering his wife (Victoria Catlin). With the help of the officer with whom he was having an affair (Laurene Landon), and some other cop (Tom Atkins) - I think he was their superior or something but I have no idea how police rank works - he finds out that the mysterious maniac cop was once a regular cop who went to jail for copping too hard and got murdered by fellow inmates... but did he really? He did. But... did he really?

This has a little bit more substance than the average slasher flick - half the movie is basically a mystery concerning the identity of the maniac cop, the other half involves like a conspiracy or some shit to do with how maniac cop got sent to prison in the first place. That's not necessarily a good thing.

I spent most of this movie trying to figure out what exactly the point of it was, then I realized I didn't care and just sat back and enjoyed Bruce Campbell.

I understand why this movie is a cult hit. It's got Bruce Campbell in it, and though his performance is pretty half assed, fuck, it's still Bruce Campbell. Plus the maniac cop himself is pretty savage. Basically, he's Jason Voorhees with a badge. But overall, man, the whole thing seemed kind of daft.

I got the feeling throughout that the filmmakers didn't really know what they wanted to do with it. Like, it was really serious which was not what I was expecting. Not that the subject matter doesn't necessarily warrant a serious treatment, but it also seemed like they were really lazy about making a serious movie. It was like they wanted to make a movie that made a statement, but they didn't care enough about actually making a statement.

They had the perfect opportunity to say something about the weird relationship between police and civilians and, I mean, they do. The best part of the movie is when the story of the maniac cop is leaked to the media, causing everybody in New York to get scared and hostile towards the police, culminating in an officer getting killed by a woman he pulled over for running a light or something stupid. That caught my attention because it's a really good premise and I wanted to see the results of a fall out between the people and law enforcement while the maniac cops stalks and murders both parties. It's a great idea for the movie.

It also has some interesting things to say about the limitations of the police force, with regards to the use of excessive violence towards innocent people versus equally violent people. Which is a really interesting dilemma, but this movie doesn't dwell on it.

Instead, this movie shoots off in another direction, focusing on Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon's struggles - i.e., being on the run from the law despite being cops - and the confusion over whether or not maniac cop is actually alive or not. Like, okay, he died after getting the shit stabbed out of him, but he was resuscitated, but the prison doctor didn't tell anybody and sent him to his wife, but he was basically a vegetable, but he got better, but he can get shot a lot of times with no ill effects, like what the fuck, I don't care. It's almost as frustrating as trying to figure out whether Jason was undead throughout the Friday the 13th series or whether he was fully alive at some point.

I keep drawing comparisons between this movie and Friday the 13th because it rips that movie off pretty good. Particularly in the relationship between maniac cop and his maniac wife or girlfriend or whatever (Sheree North), also a cop, who helps him with framing Bruce Campbell for the murders. The idea that this woman would continue to help her partner despite him killing all kinds of people is sort of interesting, but then she just gets unceremoniously killed while he's ripping through the rest of the police department, so there goes that.

Furthermore by the end of the movie we find out that the maniac cop is out for revenge against some guy, I forget if he was the mayor or the police commissioner or what, but he was behind maniac cop getting sent to jail. So if his motive was to kill the people responsible for him going to jail, why the fuck was he just going around killing innocent people? Why not just go kill the people he wants to kill? Because this movie doesn't know what the fuck it's about, that's why.

Anyway, I just didn't really care about anything that happened in this movie and it wasn't schlocky enough to hold my attention in that way. That being said, I think the idea definitely has all kind of potential and it's something that could benefit from a remake, especially since the tension between police and civilians hasn't dissipated in the last thirty years.

Merits
- Bruce Campbell is in this movie (+1)
- Jason Voorhees as a cop (+1)
- Music was occasionally groovy (+1)
Total: (+3)

Demerits
- Most ineffective cops ever (-1)
- Way too serious (-1)
- I don't give a shit about any of the characters in this movie (-1)
- The plot makes no sense (-1)
- Maniac cop makes no sense (-1)
Total: (-5)
Final Score: -2 Stars

Directed by: William Lustig.  Written by: Larry Cohen.  Starring: Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Tom Atkins, Sheree North, Robert Z'Dar, Richard Roundtree, William Smith, Nina Arveson, Victoria Caitlin.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Innkeepers

The Innkeepers (2011)


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In the final weekend before an old hotel is closed and demolished, the last two employees standing (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) and a weird spiritual former actress (Kelly McGillis) investigate the possibility of a ghost on the premises. They are not disappointed.

It took me almost half the movie to realize that I actually watched this with my roommates on Netflix several years ago. I was pretty drunk at the time so I didn't remember the movie so much but I remembered that I didn't like it a whole lot on that viewing. Which, in retrospect, was unfair because I enjoyed it a lot this time around.

I think the main issue that I had the first time around was that I was expecting a horror movie, and this isn't really a horror movie. It's also not not-a-horror movie. It's a dry workplace comedy that slowly morphs into a horror movie. It's a little unfocused, but hey, I like dry comedy, and I like horror, put those things together and I like this movie.

The first half of the movie is all about the ins and outs of shitty, low pay customer service jobs. The characters have to deal with such challenges as an obnoxious guest with an obnoxious kid, employees of neighbouring business, taking out the garbage, and workplace bromance. The actors are good and the characters are totally real and relatable - they're bored shitless and amusing themselves by investigating occasional spooky doings at the hotel. Honestly, I wouldn't have minded a whole movie of this.

Suspense builds as the ghost or ghosts get progressively more involved and frightening. Since I had already emotionally bonded with Sara Paxton's character, her fear gave me fear. This is exactly what I want from a horror movie.

I liked the hippy dippy actress character too, who serves the role of medium in the ghost plot, and the catalyst for Sara Paxton to start questioning her life trajectory in the workplace comedy plot. She offers a variation on the seance which I have not seen done in movies, using a crystal pendulum to detect the presence of spirits, which is cool, different, and modern given the recent resurgence in popularity of crystals. The movie also features some more high-tech ghost hunting equipment which I know literally nothing about but was probably very well researched given writer/director Ti West's track record.

The comedy part of the movie is really funny. For the most part it's dry as fuck, which is my jam, with a few laugh out loud zingers. And the horror part is really scary, similarly relying mostly on the possibility of something happening, with a few jumps scares, and scary lookin' ghosts. The middle bit manages to be both funny and scary without feeling like a horror comedy. It's more like a comedy with scary bits, or horror with funny bits. Or both, the tone is on an almost perfect gradient from comedy to horror.

Then I got to the last act of the movie and I remembered the other reason I didn't like it the last time I watched it. The ending is fucking garbage. The main character, who up until that point had been very realistic and behaved like a smart human being starts acting like a goddamn idiot for no real reason except that the plot needs her to. Sure, there's a scene at the end where Kelly McGillis tells Pat Healy that nobody could have done anything to help her. Fuck that bullshit. I'm not adverse to the idea of predestined outcomes but not when those outcomes are derived from people completely changing their behaviour.

Like, Sara Paxton and Kelly McGillis go down into the basement, where the ghosts are, to do stuff with the crystal, and Kelly McGillis is like "aw shit, bad shit is gonna happen if we stay in this hotel" so they go to leave and then Sara Paxton gets distracted by the other remaining guest having killed himself then she's like "oh where's Kelly McGillis at, I guess I'll go look in the basement". Why would you think that. Oh, you heard a noise, whoopty fucking ding, the ghosts have been making noises all movie. If you yell "so-and-so, is that you?" and you don't hear, "yeah bro it's me just shuffling my feet on the floor" it's probably a fucking ghost.

Secondly, Sara Paxton gets trapped in a part of the basement with one of the ghosts and then dies, and it's implied that she died of like asthma or whatever because she dropped her inhaler on her way down the basement stairs. Seriously? What the fuck is that shit? It reminded me of I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives In, On, or Adjacent to the House where the girl just drops dead of a heart attack, although to be fair, in this movie Sara Paxton was shown using her inhaler all the time so it wasn't out of the blue. So it wasn't really like that movie at all, and not actually a problem. Fuck me.

Anyway, I liked most of this movie but I dunno who I would recommend it to because it doesn't fully commit to being a horror movie or a comedy, but it is well written and scary so... I guess if you like those things then you will maybe like this movie.

Merits
- Shitty service jobs are shitty (+1)
- Scary ghosts are scary (+1)
- Dry humour is funny (+1)
- I, personally, related to the main character (+1)
Total: (+4)

Demerits
- Stupid ending is stupid (-1)
- Asthma cliche is cliched (-1)
Total: (-2)
Final Score: 2 stars

Written and Directed by: Ti West.  Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

House of the Devil

The House of the Devil (2009)


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So a few months ago Zack (@Lightisfading on twitter) lent me a stack of Ti West movies to watch. So far I watched In a Valley of Violence like a month ago, and I watched this movie today. House of the Devil is about a college student (Jocelin Donahue) who takes a babysitting job from an eccentric older couple (Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov) and ends up being a human sacrifice in a Satanic ritual.

It's set sometime in the 1980s, which normally would bug the shit out of me - one of my biggest pet peeves about modern horror is how trendy it is to set things back then. There's no specific reason why this irks me so except that, you know, things are happening now so why not dig into that. However, this movie actually makes a point for being set during that time by mentioning that in the '70s a lot of people were really worried about Satanic cults. Nowadays the thought of Satan-worshipers being even remotely frightening is laughable, but this movie manages to dispel my dislike of new retro horror and modern Satanism in one sweep of historical context.

The other thing about this movie's setting is that it doesn't just say "okay this movie is set in nineteen-eighty-whatever", it goes all the way to make a movie that looks and feels like it was made in nineteen-eighty-whatever. From the grainy film quality, to the title sequence, to the way the shots are set up, to the score, it all feels like a movie that my dad had on the top shelf of his VHS wall. The main actress, Jocelin Donahue, looks like she wouldn't have been out of place in a Dario Argento movie or one of the Friday the 13th sequels, and even the way that the plot is structured feels like a film of that era.

Thus, regardless of whatever I think of the movie as a movie, it's impressive as a well-researched history project and noteworthy for that merit alone.

It's also impressive that they managed to dredge Tom Noonan (i.e., the Toothfairy from Manhunter, which we reviewed on the podcast here) and Mary Woronov (who was in, like, all the Roger Corman movies but I remember her best from Death Race 2000) up out of the pre-grave for this movie, both of whom gave great performances. Tom Noonan goes for a creepy yet strangely charming vibe, while Mary Woronov is weird and terrifying. Both are highlights of the movie despite only being in it for a combined twenty minutes tops.

The movie is set up to follow all the beats of a classic horror flick, lulling me into a false sense of security and then taking sudden detours from the formula which are refreshingly startling. For example (this whole next paragraph is a spoiler so skip if you wish), the main character's friend (Greta Gerwig) seems like she's probably going to be a pretty important character but instead gets an unexpected murderin'. Since a lot of horror movies these days are just entrail-festooned murder orgies that have me almost completely desensitized to any sort of human-on-human violence, the fact that an onscreen death in a horror movie was actually shocking to me is worth mentioning.

Furthermore, the characters have the common sense to use fucking guns. I don't know how many movies I've watched where I thought "jesus christ, why don't these fucking murder jockeys just have guns and shoot their victims". Well in this movie they do, and the plot still functions. No more excuses, other movies.

When the movie does finally get to the Satanic stuff (which takes over an hour to get to), it's pretty fucking weird so props there. They've got some weird ass witch fuckin demon thing, which I guess was the mother that the girl was supposed to be looking after, and a goat skull and shit, so that was legit. Even for a person such as me, who thinks that Satan worship is fucking stupid, it was weird enough that it was unsettling.

This fuckin thing. What the fuck is this fuckin thing? Image source.

I have two qualms with this movie. The first is that it takes for-fucking-ever for anything to happen. I'm not joking, there's twenty minutes of set up to establish that the main character needs money before she even really gets to talk to Tom Noonan over the phone. And like, okay, the character is likable, and I get that this movie is only ninety-five minutes long so they had to pad it out a bit, but still. It makes the movie seem less like it was made to tell a story and more like it was made to say they made a movie in the same style as an old movie, which totally took me out of the mood.

The second qualm is really going out on a limb but bear with me while I explain this shit. So, there's a big long stretch of the movie where the only thing that really happens is the character calls and orders a pizza. The number for the pizza place, and money to buy the pizza, was given to her by Tom Noonan before he left for the evening. So she calls the pizza place and the guy on the phone says "it'll be 30 minutes". It then takes thirty minutes of real time (not time in the movie, actual time) for the pizza to get there which really built a lot of tension. I was sitting there thinking, when the fuck is this pizza going to get here? Did they forget about her? Did something happen to the delivery guy? Did something happen to the pizza?!

Anyway, the pizza finally gets delivered by the creepy couple's adult son (A.J. Bowen) and comes with a serving of roofies, eventually causing the main character to pass out so the movie can get into high gear.

Because ordering a pizza was the only thing that happened for a pretty long chunk of film, it made me really pay attention to that one thing, coz obviously the movie was telling me that that was important. And it is, actually, it is important. Coz like, suppose Tom Noonan had been like "here's some pizza money" and Jocelin Donahue was like "thanks" but then later it turned out she was on a diet and brought her own chicken and rice with her and didn't order the pizza, then the Satan family's entire plan is fucked. What was their back up plan if she just didn't order a pizza? Or if she did order a pizza but too late so the roofies wearing off didn't coincide with the lunar eclipse (which gets mentioned like three times but is somehow not as important as this pizza).

So, okay, let's say she doesn't order the pizza, that seems a little implausible if somebody is offering you free pizza, but she also had pizza for lunch so fuck maybe she was pizza-ed out. Would that mean the Satanists would have to just come back and overpower her the old fashioned way? I mean, there were four of them and one of her so it probably wouldn't be difficult. If they could do that why go to the trouble of leaving the son's phone number and money under the assumption that she would probably order a pizza, then when she did order a pizza, the son would have to go to an actual pizza place, buy a pizza, drug it, and then bring it to the house. That just seems like so much fucking work, and leaving a shitload up to chance.

I really feel like it would have made a lot more sense for those people to just wait for her friend to leave, then come back and grab her. Like, they know she doesn't have a car too, so it's not like she can really get away. Or is it really important to Satan that his victims be terrorized and fed pizza for an hour and a half before being offered up as an unholy vessel? Since that was never mentioned in this movie, or anywhere else, I'm going to assume no and that the reason was that they needed to make the movie ninety five minutes.

All in all, though, my weird nitpicking aside, this movie is a very well crafted horror flick that goes beyond just an homage to horror greats. Sure, if you're really into film history you'll probably get a lot out of this, but even if you just like horror movies that are more atmosphere than gore, then this is a movie for you. Even though the weird logic gaps really stood out to me, this is still the kind of horror movie I would like to see a whole lot more of.

Merits:
- Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, and Dee Wallace appear in this film (+3)
- A gun is used, three times (+3)
- The house is gorgeous oh my god I want to live in it (+1)
- Weird-ass ritual (+1)
- Eye pokin' action (+1)
Total: (+9)

Demerits:
- Movie is set in the '80s. Penalty reduced because of sound reasoning, and commitment to aesthetic (-0.334)
- Lunar eclipse mentioned three times by three different characters just to make sure you know it's important, but ends up being less important than the pizza (-3)
Total: (-3.334)
Final Score: 5.666 stars

Written and Directed by: Ti West.  Starring: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, A.J. Bowen, Greta Gerwig.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Visitor

The Visitor (1979)

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An eight year old girl (Paige Connor) is the descendant of an evil extraterrestrial force called Sateen, granting her all kinds of weird psychic powers. A cabal of guys in suits is trying to get her mom (Joanne Nail) knocked up so there can be another super powered evil kid. The Visitor (John Huston) comes from another planet to contain the girl and stop the evil stuff from happening.

I was disappointed by this movie mostly because I was expecting a trippy 70s sci-fi catastrophe - I mean, just fucking look at the poster - but instead I got The Omen from space. The movie looks nice for the most part, it's got a Brian de Palma thing going on, and there are a couple scenes at the beginning and the end with beautiful fantasy light shows, but the majority of the movie is just regular city stuff, making the sci-fi aspect by and large irrelevant.

There's one scene in particular where the mother gets abducted in the back of a transport truck that looks like a space craft in the dark (reminding me that, oh yeah, this movie is about space stuff). Generally, the use of lighting was really cool.

The actress playing the evil kid, Paige Connor, is pretty good for a child actor which goes a long way in making this movie actually watchable. She's reasonably creepy as the female Damian, or an updated Bad Seed, whatever you want to call it.

The movie has like at least three big long scenes early on to clumsily explain what is going on. The first involves a guy who is Jesus I guess (Franco Nero) telling a bunch of space kids this story about how Sateen was this ancient space evil. Fortunately, he was captured by Yaweh. Unfortunately, he escaped to Earth. Fortunately, they sent a bunch of birds to kill him. Unfortunately, he changed form into an eagle and defeated the birds. Fortunately, some of the birds survived and mortally wounded him. Unfortunately he had already mated with a bunch of Earth women, so his evil descendants would live on. So we've got that.

Next we've got a scene of a basketball game which goes on for fucking ever and is basically just an excuse to have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the movie. This explains to us that this little girl has Satanic - sorry Sateenic - powers that she uses to help her mom's boyfriend's basketball team win games for some stupid reason.

Then we've got one more scene of the mom explaining to her boyfriend (Lance Henriksen) that she thinks her daughter is weird and she is divorced and doesn't want to get remarried or have any more kids despite his pressuring her to do both of those things. Which, you know, you think would have been things that would have come up at any other point in their relationship.

There are also some really bizarre logic problems with the movie. The one that irked me the most was that John Huston is this interplanetary traveler, but he arrives in the United States on a plane and has to go through immigration or whatever. Why? Furthermore, he brings a bunch of monks and space bullshit with him which apparently did not cause an issue at customs. So, like, what the fuck. And he doesn't even leave on a plane at the end, he just space travels back to where he came from, so what was the point of him going through airport security. Why.

Secondly, there's this whole thing about how these guys in suits want the mom to have another baby, they need there to be another baby, coz they're really evil and stuff, and Lance Henriksen works for them obviously, so he's trying to get her to marry him. Is that necessary? Couldn't he just, like, sabotage her birth control? Eventually the suit guys get tired of this and go for a more direct approach. Which you would think would be rape, I guess? Nope, they wait for her car to break down on the highway and then come in a transport truck with an operating room in the trailer and surgically impregnate her? Luckily for her, her ex-husband (played by Sam fucking Peckinpah for fuck sakes) is a doctor and gives her an abortion. So there was another totally irrelevant piece to this movie.

And another thing, there's, like, one murder in this movie. Granted it's pretty boss, the girl's pet hawk flies in a buddy's window and pecks his eyes out while he's driving, causing him to drive off the road and get trapped in his burning car. But it's also stupid because he doesn't, like, pull over when this bird is pecking his eyes out, he keeps driving, so really, he killed himself.

Finally, the end scene involves the evil kid getting attacked by a shitload of space pigeons which, like, okay, I get the bird motif throughout the movie, but... man, a flock of birds killing somebody actually looks really bad on screen, I'm sorry.

Overall, this movie had its head more or less in the same place, but it was just really boring. Like, there should have been more weird sci-fi stuff, and more murder. Coz ultimately, this kid didn't really seem to be that much of a threat to humanity. I recommend instead watching Xtro which is similar, but weirder and grosser.

And now, introducing a completely arbitrary ranking system because I feel like it.

Merits
- Pretty colours (+1)
- Lance Henriksen is in this film (+1)
- Actually good child actress (+1)
- Main characters' house is amazing (+1)
- Eye pecking action (+1)
- Pong (+1)
Total: (+6)

Demerits
- Christian theology as space drama is stupid (-1)
- Astrology (-1)
- Too much exposition (-5)
- Too much sports, including basketball, gymnastics, and ice skating (-5)
- Music was way too dramatic for what was going on on screen (-1)
- Murder birds. Birderers? (-1)
Total: (-14)

Final Score: -8 stars

Directed by: Michael J. Paradise.  Written by: Luciano Comici, Robert Mundi.  Starring: John Huston, Joanne Nail, Paige Connor, Lance Henriksen, Mel Ferrer, Shelley Winters, Glenn Ford, Sam Peckinpah, Franco Nero, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.