Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Brain Eaters

The Brain Eaters (1958)

Image Source
A mysterious cone is found outside of a sleepy Illinois town, prompting a UFO investigation by a senator (Jack Hill) and some type of scientist (Edwin Nelson). Meanwhile, small, fuzzy-looking parasites are attaching themselves to prominent people in the town, such as the mayor (Orville Sherman), the sheriff (Greigh Phillips), and the mayor's secretary (Joanna Lee).

I was concerned that, because this movie's run time is only 60 minutes, I wouldn't have enough to say about it for a full review, but its perplexing incompetence yields more than enough material. It was like they wanted to make a rip-off of Invasion of the Body Snatchers but they totally missed the point of that movie.

I'm pretty sure the filmmakers were trying to make, if not a good movie, at least an interesting movie because there are a couple scenes which looked like they were trying to do something different. For example, there's one scene where every single shot is a dutch angle which, while not at all aesthetically pleasing, is at least experimental? There's another scene that's shot from the point-of-view of one of the parasites, which again, isn't good per se but suggests that maybe the filmmakers thought that they were being artistic.

There's a couple of weird, shady looking dudes walking around with a big ol' Loc-Nar glowing orb through the middle of the movie that I guess that they're using to transport brain parasites to put on people. It doesn't seem like it belongs in this movie because it's actually pretty cool and creepy.  The only function they serve is to infect the sheriff and the secretary because they don't do anything else and their existence is never addressed (or even resolved) by the other characters.

The other thing that was cool was that towards the end of the movie it turns out that the parasites are not actually from space, as they appear to be, but from deep within the Earth, having lain dormant since the Carboniferous. That's different, I can dig that. Although they don't give an adequate explanation for why they're there, how they survived, what the giant metal cone that they used to access the surface is, or how the old professor guy figured out that the parasites are prehistoric.

Most of the movie is narrated, I think by the mayor's son (Alan Frost) although I also think one part is narrated by somebody else, which just screams incompetence. They clearly didn't film enough material to adequately explain who the characters were because a lot of the narration is just telling the viewer who people are, what they're doing, where they came from, and where they went. It's also apparent that the sound was bad or non-existent for a few scenes because the narration switches from providing background information to describing what is happening on screen and what the characters were saying to each other, making it feel somewhat like a children's program.

The narration is particularly heavy early in the movie, and the scenes that do have dialogue are weird and arbitrary. Like there's a shot where the senator guy tells somebody unseen to turn on a light. That was important enough to be in the movie and have dialogue. This strengthens my argument that they recorded shit audio for a lot of stuff and the scenes that did have decent audio ended up in the movie with audible dialogue for whatever reason.

Not only were the people on set useless, so were the people in charge of post-production. The editing is extremely sloppy - there's one jarring scene where the two angles of the same guy are obviously from two different rooms and haphazardly jammed together in a godless mockery of coherence. There's also the classic outdoor scene containing shots taken during the day and night, the twist in this movie is that they didn't even try to hide it whatsoever.

Basically vampire tribbles (Source)
The monsters (and I use that term very loosely in this context) are little spongey fuzzy pompoms with giant fangs on them. They're often referred to as being attached to their victims neck, controlling their central nervous system for reasons unknown, but are never shown doing so.I assume this has less to do with the artistic decision to leave them a mystery and more to do with either straight up forgetting to film close-ups, or having whatever happened to the sound happen to the footage on a few occasions.

So the movie was technically incompetent, but what about the writing and story? Was that any good? If you're in a hurry and want a short answer to that question, it's "no".

The dialogue crosses into the so-bad-it's-good territory. One of the scientist characters says "I don't know" in response to every question which I honestly feel like is the the motto of the whole movie. The science dude explains that the parasites are like snakes in that if you "cut a snake in half, the two pieces go off in different directions" which I am here to tell you is 100% not true, please do not do this.

The love interest character gets taken over by a brain slug while she is sleeping (unlike the male characters who get possessed at work so they get to be in uniform) so she fills the "zombified woman in filmy nightgown" cliche. This particular trope always amuses me because I place myself in these movies and like to imagine roaming around the countryside wearing the oversized Alpine Lager t-shirt and pair of men's boxers I wear to bed.  Anyway, the whole point of even including this cliche in a movie is so that the character can White Zombie around at night and look really creepy and cool, which doesn't happen in this movie so what the fuck was the point of it.

Towards the end of the movie, a guy just appears out of the metal cone somehow which never really gets explained. They then say that the cone is attached to a tunnel, despite explaining earlier that the interior tube was empty and a loop, and then there's a wizard down there? I'm not even joking, there is a dude in a robe with a long white beard who barely gives the characters any information and then promptly disappears never to be seen or mentioned again.

The characters routinely use 50s Movie Logic (e.g., firing a hand gun into a hole in the cone to demonstrate that there is a spiral tube on the inside), and jump to some major conclusions about what is happening in the movie to make the plot move forward. For example, the scientist guy explains that the things are parasites which can control their hosts central nervous system after being told that one of them had two appendages lodged in the mayor's neck, and one of the characters deduces that the cone is the fuel tank of a space craft that's still orbiting the planet for no reason other than it just occurred to him - which interestingly turns out to be wrong in a rare example of a hunch not being right in a shitty old sci-fi movie.

Despite the characters jumping ahead to provide crucial information that they have no right to have access to, it's difficult to tell what is happening, and why. The plot is not difficult to follow and I guess the movie goes out of its way to explain the minutiae of what is happening, but the why is the big issue. I didn't feel like there was ever a substantial reason why anything in the movie happened. Why did the brain slugs come out of the earth? Why did they make the movie?

Honestly, at a certain point I was just watching to see if the "Leonard Nemoy" listed in the credits was Leonard Nimoy. Spoiler: it was, but he's basically unrecognizable in wizard get-up. I only recognized him by voice because a) I watch Star Trek a lot and b) I was waiting for him.

Subtle (Source)
I think the most laughable thing about the movie is that when the parasites are attached to humans, they create a large, pulsating lump on their back under their clothes which ought to be really easy to detect and yet people keep getting surprised when other people turn out to be controlled by the brain slugs.

Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoyed watching this movie. It's got the same endearing quality that Ed Wood movies have. It's also, somehow, better than some other 50s sci-fi flicks I've subjected myself to (Invasion of the Saucer Men in particular comes to mind). This at least was short enough that it wasn't incredibly boring. The story progressed unevenly, but mercifully quickly.

All in all I wouldn't recommend it by any means and I probably wouldn't watch it again but I'm not upset that I watched it this time. It's an interesting tribute to human incompetence, and it's equally interesting that it has survived to be consumed by me sixty years after it was released. Ultimately though, the most interesting part of the movie is the poster.

- A surgeon sparks up a dart in a hospital waiting room (+1)
- Leonard Nimoy appears in the film (+1)
- Parasites come from the Carboniferous (+1)
- A dude gets punched in the dick (+1)
- 50s Movie Logic (+1)
Total: (+5)


- Dog slaughter (-1)
- Narration needed to explain the action (-3)
- Shitty editing (-2)
- Character leaves a Bunsen burner just on (-1)
- Shortcuts in storytelling make the movie seem longer than it is (-1)
- Possessed woman in white filmy negligee doesn't get to do anything (-1)
- People and things appear out of nowhere (-3)
- The movie gets resolved at the last minute for no reason (-1)
Total: ( -13)
Final Score: -8

Directed by: Bruno VeSota.  Written by: Gordon Urquhart. Starring: Edwin Nelson, Alan Frost, Jack Hill, Joanna Lee, Jody Fair, Greigh Phillips, Orville Sherman, Leonard Nimoy.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Self Defense

Self Defense (1983) (AKA Siege, AKA The Night Warriors)

Image Source
Set during the Halifax police strike of 1981, Self Defense is about a guy (Terry-David Despres) who escapes a massacre at a gay bar and has to hide in a nearby apartment from a fascist gang. The gang members lay siege to the apartment, and the residents end up having to creatively and violently defend themselves.

I had never heard of this movie until last week when my friend came up with it seemingly out of nowhere. I'm really glad that she did because this is definitely an underappreciated Canadian thriller, and still uncomfortably relevant now, thirty-five years after it was made.

It's very low budget, but the filmmakers obviously did the best they could with what was available to them. There's really only two complaints I have about the movie.

Complaint number one was the lighting quality. Sometimes the lighting was really cool, but most of the time it seemed altogether absent. Granted, I watched the movie on youtube so it's entirely possible that the transfer quality of that particular copy was really bad, but still, there were a few scenes that were incomprehensible due to not actually being able to see what was on the screen.

Complaint number two is that the two main characters (Tom Nardini and Brenda Bazinet) weren't that great. The secondary characters, including a weirdly well-armed greaser dude (Darel Haeny) and a legally blind dude with unusually good hearing (Jack Blum), were excellent and totally made the movie.

Everything else about the movie is great. It's really intense - there's an early scene where a bar full of people gets just fucking executed which, though minimalist, managed to be one of the most fucked up things I've seen in a movie recently. The pervasive sense of danger and uncertainty throughout the film broke through my usual apathy so that I was genuinely concerned about what was going to happen.

The setting was really clever, and I'm not just saying that because I have lived in Halifax for most of my life, although it was cool to see my home town in a movie, that doesn't happen very often. What's clever about it is that the police strike actually happened, it was a real thing, and the movie uses that as a backdrop to create tension and a sense of hopelessness. The reality of the setting makes the action much more immediate and believable - the characters have a legitimate reason to take things into their own hand because the police aren't going to come. This is something that legitimately could have happened.

The movie is reminiscent of a lot of siege/urban survival movies, like The Warriors, or Straw Dogs, or especially Assault on Precinct 13, having a lit, synthy, John Carpenter-esque soundtrack, it's different enough to be interesting in its own right and not feel derivative of those movies.

Furthermore, the ways that the protagonists defend themselves against the gang members are spectacularly inventive. They fashion a homemade rocket launcher at one point, which is just so fucking cool, they electrocute a guy, and set another guy on fire, there's a hunting bow involved. I'm a person who enjoys a certain amount of violence in movies and this was definitely satisfying on that front.

Normally I don't give a fuck about spoiling movies but I'm going to leave this one untold so you actually go watch this movie because the ending, holy shit, I have never been so shocked and devastated by a movie. The ending is perfectly appropriate for the movie but the fact that there weren't any objections to it, or if there were, not enough to get it cut from the film, boggles my mind.

It's fucking criminal that this movie isn't a Canadian cult classic, it has every right to be - according to my friend, it's getting a little bit of attention right now so hopefully it comes back and finally gets the recognition that it deserves.

It's up on youtube right now, although like I said, that quality isn't super. Apparently it can be bought on Amazon on VHS, which is something I will probably invest in whenever I get my VCR hooked up to something. 100% recommend for fans of home-defense thrillers, and low budget Canadian grease.

- Thematically dark (+1)
- Wicked soundtrack (+1)
- Actually thrilling (+1)
- Halifax! (+1)
- Reality! (+1)
- Fucking rocket launcher (+1)
- Good deaths (+2)
- The ending is seriously amazing (+1)

- Visually dark (-1)
- Did Halifax have a gun problem in the 1980s? (-1)

Directed by: Paul Donovan, Maura O'Connell. Written by: Paul Donovan. Starring: Tom Nardini, Brenda Bazinet, Darel Haeny, Doug Lennox, Jack Blum, Terry-David Despr├ęs, Keith Knight.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Hercules in the Centre of the Earth

Ercole al Centro Della Terra (AKA Hercules in the Haunted World AKA Hercules vs. the Vampires) (1961)

Image Source
Hercules' girlfriend/fiance (?) (Leonora Ruffo) is under a spell that effectively turns her into a zombie. In order to restore her, Hercules (Reg Park) and his sidekicks (George Ardisson, Franco Giacobini) must travel to the underworld to steal a crystal. Meanwhile, Hercules' slutty friend falls in love with Persephone (Ida Galli), and also Hercules' girlfriend's uncle (Christopher Lee) is a vampire and trying to do some vampire thing. There's a lot of shit going on in this movie and very little of it is important.

I'd never heard of this movie before but it cropped up in the same youtube list as Night of the Twisters thus I was expecting it to be pretty bad. Imagine my delight when Mario Bava and Christopher Lee turned up in the opening credits. This turned out to be not only the best Hercules movie I've seen, but also the best Hercules movie I could imagine.

It's got that old school, totally over the top '60s aesthetic, plus the hilarity of an Italian film dub, plus the lush visuals of Mario Bava. All of these aspects are perfectly suited to epic myth, which exists outside of any normal reality.

The sets are cheap and crappy looking but it's almost impossible to notice when they're bathed in Bava's psychedelic light shows. Honestly, I wrote down in my notes that the sets were beautiful, then skipped back through the movie and realized "no they're not". What's beautiful are the pools of electric green, red, and yellow, sumptuous purple and blue. I've said this before about Blood and Black Lace but I felt like Mario Bava was making sweet love to my eyeballs with Hercules.

Similarly, the costumes and wigs were pretty bad for the most part, but that added to the fun, low budget aesthetic of the movie.

I'm impressed with how well the horror and sword-and-sandal fantasy genres mixed together. I guess at a certain point with this type of fantasy anything goes. Super strong dude? Alright. Immortal gods? Sure. Rock monster? Good enough. Vampires? Why not. But seriously, this is a Hercules movie with vampires in it and if that's not just the best thing that's happened to me today, I don't know what is. I've seen some horror elements incorporated into epic fantasy before (Conan has some pretty weird shit going on), but never to this extent. I can't say too much because Mario Bava is a fucking god but I kind of wish he had done even more genre bending weirdness.

Whoever came up with this thing deserves the Coked Up Movie Award for 1961 (Image Source)
Oh yeah, speaking of rock monsters, there's a rock monster in this thing. It just fucking shows up and waves its arms around like a dick and goes on about how he's going to stretch buddy because his bed is too long and squish other buddy because his bed is too short like some kind of demented Goldilocks and is all around the weirdest and most delightful thing I've seen in a movie since Box in Logan's Run.

The movie made me wish slightly goofy mythology inspired epic fantasy movies would make a comeback. We've got Xena, and we've got Conan, but those were both over a decade ago, I want something now. To be fair, every year there's at least one big budget epic fantasy movie that comes out and I don't go see it because the trailer looks atrocious, so it's possible that they're slipping by me. The ones I've seen (Exodus: Gods and Kings and the Conan remake) were both really shitty and entirely too self important. I want a movie that knows it's ridiculous and doesn't care. It's not too much to ask.

Like there's this part towards the end where Hercules and his friend have a really catty bro-fight which is just so silly but so appropriate in the context of Greco-Roman inspired fantasy (side note, I read The Iliad recently and Achilles is the whiniest bitch so I was totally down with temperamental heroes).

To expand that side note into a complaint, I'm taking a class on Greek and Roman mythology right now so the misattribution of character names (specifically Theseus, Telemachus, Jocasta, Persephone, and Medea) really annoyed the pedantic nerd in me. Furthermore, I've always taken special umbrage to the depiction of the underworld as Greek Hell. Even as a child the Disney version of Hercules pissed me off coz it turned Hades into a bad guy when like... he's just the dude that runs the underworld, leave him alone.

Another complaint is that there ought to have been, yknow, more monsters. If I'm being honest that's probably the thing that disappointed me the most. When I watch a movie like this, I expect there to be a fuck ton of monster, not just, like, one rock monster and a vampire and some zombies for some reason.

My only other issue with the movie is that the last third or quarter or so was either really confusing or not interesting enough to hold my attention, I'm honestly not sure which it was. I kinda zoned out for a bit because there was just so much stuff going on that didn't seem to have any real bearing on the plot of the movie, as irrelevant as the plot actually was.

That being said, though, this movie is absolutely fucking great, 100% would watch again. You can watch it too, and I highly recommend that you do, because the whole thing is on youtube for your immense viewing pleasure. If you like vampire movies, or sword-and-sandal movies, or weirdly dubbed Italian movies, or joy, you will not regret watching this movie.

- Mario Bava (+1)
- 1960s Star Trek music (+1)
- Shitty English dub (+1)
- Christopher Lee (+1)
- Vampires (+1)
- Whoever did the lights for this movie (+1)
- Hercules' leather cold-shoulder minidress is to die for (+1)
- Fucking rock monster (+1)
- All the girls have giant hair (+1)
- Horror + epic fantasy = perfection (+2)
- Ida Galli (+1)
Total: (+12)

- Blatant disregard for actual mythology (-6)
- I can't tell any of the female characters apart (-1)
- Not enough monsters (-1)
Total: (-8)
Final Score: +4 points

Directed by: Mario Bava.  Written by: Mario Bava, Sandro Continenza, Franco Prosperi, Duccio Tessari.  Starring: Reg Park, George Ardisson, Christopher Lee, Leonara Ruffo, Ida Galli, Franco Giacobini.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Best and Worst of 2017

Since I installed an arbitrary ranking system for movies, I can actually do a best-through-worst of movies I reviewed in 2017, based on the rating I gave them at the time. Bear in mind that the ratings mean literally nothing and I don't care if you disagree with me.

House of the Devil
Ranking: +5.666
Consensus: A stylish homage to 1970s horror and tribute to the importance of pizza
Full review

Maniac Cop 2
Ranking: +5
Consensus: Better than Maniac Cop
Full review

The Old Dark House
Ranking: +5
Consensus: It is a god damn crime that I did not see this movie until last year
Full review

Curucu, Beast of the Amazon
Ranking: +4.667
Consensus: The casual racism made me really fucking uncomfortable, but that wildlife footage, tho
Full review

The Babadook
Ranking: +3
Consensus: This movie deserves more than a +3
Full review

The Innkeepers
Ranking: +2
Consensus: Fun movie, stupid ending
Full review

Ranking: +1
Consensus: I want to retroactively lower the ranking of this movie because of its sequels
Full review

Maniac Cop
Ranking: -2
Consensus: Had great potential for social commentary, squandered it
Full review

Split Second
Ranking: -4
Consensus: I have forgotten everything about this movie
Full review

Feast II: Sloppy Seconds
Ranking: -7
Consensus: Among the reasons I hate this movie is that now, when I watch Return of the Living Dead and see Clu Gulager, I will be reminded of this terrible, terrible series
Full review

The Visitor
Ranking: -8
Consensus: I didn't like The Omen and I liked this movie even less
Full review

Lost in Space
Ranking: -9.75
Consensus: This movie gave me diarrhea
Full review

Feast III: The Happy Finish
Ranking: -10
Consensus: This might not be the worst movie I've ever seen, but it's certainly among the worst movies I've ever seen
Full review

Night of the Twisters

Night of the Twisters (1996)

Image Source
This movie came up in a youtube playlist of cult science fiction movies, so naturally I assumed it was about sentient tornadoes or, possibly, a person making tornadoes and sending them after people. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out it was a Family Channel original loosely based on a young adult novel, which is a fictionalized account of real events, wherein a family lives in a town that tornadoes happen to. Okay, so the tornadoes behave unusually, and there's like, two or three tornadoes in a row but that's nothing in disaster movie world.

The movie was really obviously made for television, and replete with inoffensive cinematography, garbage music, terrible sound recording and editing (I get that it's supposed to be windy because tornadoes, but when the wind noise is louder than the dialogue during a normal scene, get a fucking wind sock), and tepid melodrama. It's even infused with morals and I felt like I learned valuable lessons both about the importance of responsibility, and the importance of family.

The writing is mediocre at best, with different characters using the same expressions - this is probably something that most people wouldn't notice unless they were really looking for it. I'm really looking for it because it really bothers me.

The whole plot of the movie is just people driving around trying to find other people who manage to leave where they're at right before their loved ones get there, which is pretty boring after an hour or so.

The only people the movie cares about at all are the small band of central characters which include the main kid (Devon Sawa), his parents (John Schneider and Lori Hallier), his aunt (Jhene Irwin), his best friend (Amos Crawley), and his best friend's sister (Laura Bertram). Twisters rip through trailer parks with no fucks given, a twister destroys the main kid's entire neighbourhood and the only people we even see emerging from the wreckage are the main characters. There's a thing where the best friend's parents went "to the lake" for the weekend, which sounds like a horrible fucking place to be when there's a bunch of twisters happening, but we never get any mention of whether they turned out to be okay or how the siblings were dealing with the trauma of experiencing back to back tornadoes without their parents because the only parents the movie cares about are the main kid's parents.

The unfortunate thing is that the best friend character is actually the more interesting of the two kids. He's really into tornadoes and weather patterns, he's from California so he doesn't know what the fuck to do during a tornado, and he's suddenly saddled with the responsibility of looking out for his sisters (which he does a fine job of, by the way). The actual main character is a whiny disappointment who's struggling with the fact that his dad is a jock and he's... not a jock (I may have missed it but I don't think the movie ever told us exactly what he is into), and coping very well with having a new baby brother. So the boring character is the focus and the actually good character is used primarily to remind us that chubby kids like to eat. I'm not even going to get into that beyond saying, fuck that movie trope.

The other character I liked was the super anxious meteorologist (David Ferry) who is tracking the storm and provides useful information to me, the viewer, about why this particular tornado event was so devastating. He became an important-ish part of the plot later but still, could've used more screen time, probably should've been the main character.

The third interesting character was the dad, who was kind of a fucking dick to his kid, but obviously cared about him, and then boom it turns out he's not the kid's dad, he's his step dad and maybe he's got this insecurity thing about the kid's relationship to his dead dad. What an interesting family dynamic that actually managed to make the movie more engaging.

The truly interesting thing about this movie is that it was released a full three months before Twister, and about a year before Dante's Peak, which is weird because it feels like a mashed up rip off of both of those movies. When I was watching it I assumed that it had been made to capitalize on the popularity of Twister, but nope, it came out first.

The other thing worth noting about Night of the Twisters is that, even though for the most part it's lame and dull, the parts where the tornadoes are happening are fucking intense.

When the first tornado hits, the mom is at work, the dad has gone to get grandma, and the kid and his friend are alone in the house. Twister starts twisting and the main kid goes upstairs to get the baby and like, the tornado rips the fucking wall off the nursery and you can see the funnel cloud through the hole and it's getting closer and closer and I'm sitting in the library at school getting goosebumps coz it was fucking great.

It took a long time for there to be another tornado and this one did not disappoint. The family has to outrun it in their car and there's this other car behind them and that person apparently isn't driving fast enough because you just see their headlights get sucked up into the funnel and if that wasn't the coolest fucking thing I've seen in a movie this year I don't know what is.

So, yeah, ultimately I have mixed feelings about this movie. It was mostly stupid and boring but also has some of the best storm scenes I've ever seen so I guess I'll call it a draw? The whole movie is available to watch on youtube here (the part with the car getting sucked into the twister is around 1:22:00).

- The tornadologist character (+1)
- Fucking great tornado action (+4), yes I am giving that many points the tornado stuff was that good
Total: (+5)

- Made for TV feel (-2)
- Denim everywhere (-1)
- Movie says "fuck you" to everybody who isn't the main character (-3)
- Lessons (-2)
- "Ha ha, fat people like to eat" (-1)
- Guy is pinned underneath pickup truck, probably for hours, and still cogent enough to hold a conversation (-1)
- The movie had an epilogue to tell me what happened to all the characters I don't give a fuck about a year later (-1)
- Too much chat not enough splat (-1)
- Set in Nebraska, shot in Ontario (-1)
Total: (-13)
Final Score: -8

Directed by: Timothy Bond.  Written by: Sam Graham and Chris Hubbell, based on the novel by Ivy Ruckman.  Starring: Devon Sawa, John Schneider, Lori Hallier, Amos Crawley, Laura Bertram, David Ferry, Jhene Irwin, Helen Hughes.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Independence Day 2

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Image Source
Set twenty years after Independence Day, a film which I only foggily remember and did not re-watch to prepare for this review, all the nations in the world have united and live in peace following the original alien attacks. But then the aliens come back and they're like way more powerful than they were in the first one and they wipe out Earth's defense systems and it's up to Will Smith's son (Jessie Usher), the former president (Bill Pullman), and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to figure out a way to stop them. And, like... they do. Hooray!

Like I said, I don't really remember that much about the first movie - most of my memories of it got replaced with Mars Attacks! and the first half of Starship Troopers. Thus I was kind of confused that a lot of the characters were introduced with the assumption that I know who they are. Sure, I remember Jeff Goldblum and Jeff Goldblum's dad, and I remember Bill Pullman, but I completely forgot that Bill Pullman had a daughter, Will Smith had a son, and Brent Spiner was in the movie. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure there were some characters dropped in that weren't in the first movie at all but still were presented as though I should know who they are. Given that it takes a full thirty-five minutes of preamble to get to the resurging, the utter lack of any character development is unacceptable.

I was fully prepared to hate this movie as soon as I started watching it so, in the interest of being fair, I did my very best to try to find thing about the movie that I enjoyed. I still ended up disliking the movie, but it had a few good elements and moments.

One of the things that I liked was that alien technology from the first movie was integrated into human technology in this movie. That gave the movie a cool, near-future sci-fi look to it which I found aesthetically pleasing.

The effects were good, so the destruction of major cities was satisfying. That being said, the only reason anybody watches these movies is to see shit getting exploded, so there definitely wasn't enough destruction. An awful lot of time was wasted on talking and emotional stuff (more on that later) that would have been better used showing buildings falling down and people screaming and stuff.

There's one really cool part where Will Smith's son, and Bill Pullman's daughter's boyfriend (Liam Hemsworth) for whatever reason fly on to the alien mothership and then get stranded and find out that the inside of the ship is a fully functioning ecosystem where the aliens live. They then have to evade the aliens on, effectively, their home turf, which is a super cool idea for a movie but, unfortunately, gets chopped down to a single part in this turd because, you know, they have to go back to Judd Hirsch driving a school bus full of kids around.

So... those are the good things. The rest of this review is just going to be a list of reasons why this movie is terrible.

Firstly, all of the characters, about which we are supposed to care, are so one-dimensional. I get it, there's like, nine million characters in this movie so it's really difficult to make any of them in any way realistic but there's a solution to that - don't have so many characters in your fucking movie. Make it about one person for fuck sakes. It's not that hard, most other movies manage to do that without too much difficulty.

Secondly, this movie seems to not understand that today's audiences are cynical as fuck. To be fair, maybe that's just me. I can't be the only person who felt nothing when Vivica Fox is trying to save a LADY who just had a BABY and the ALIENS ARE COMING  and THINGS ARE EXPLODING and she's rushing them to a HELICOPTER and she SAVES THEM but she SACRIFICES HERSELF while her SON WATCHES. Like, first of all, the baby-lady never shows up again in the movie so who gives a shit about her. Second of all, apart from a brief "nooooooo" from Jessie Usher, the emotional impact of watching his mother fall to her death is never addressed. Third of all, people aren't completely stupid, we know when a movie is going out of its way to be emotionally manipulative and we will not stand for it. In fact, the only thing more cynical than today's audiences is the people who wrote this movie and were like "yeah, put a chick with a baby in danger, that'll make people care".

My next problem is of a more scientific nature. It turns out that the reason the aliens have come to Earth both times is to drill down and extract the planet's liquid core to fuel their space ships and "advance their technology" (whatever the fuck that means). The question I pose to this movie is, why would that be at all efficient? It's a pretty good way to fuck up your enemies' planets, that I will grant, but if an alien race had space ships that ran on liquid iron-nickel alloy, would it not be easier to find uninhabited planets and asteroids and stuff that were made of iron and nickel and just... melt it? That would save all the trouble of drilling down through the rest of the planet, because that has got to take a phenomenal amount of energy to do. Also they can't possibly use a whole core all in one go, therefore they must be able to keep it at a high enough temperature and pressure that it will remain liquid for them to use so I ask again why couldn't they just melt chunks of iron and nickel? I know the whole thing is probably a metaphor for oil use or something but still, make your shit make sense, movie.

Supplemental to that point, our heroes manage to stop the aliens seconds before they reach the core with their drills, and there was much rejoicing. But, like, wouldn't there still be a gigantic hole drilled through the mantle? That has got to cause some problems. I'm talking massive - fucking massive - tsunamis and other sorts of geological unrest. They said that the hole being drilled was one mile in diameter, and the outer boundary of the Earth's liquid core is 1800 miles beneath the surface*, that's what, like 1400-ish cubic miles of material displaced? Where did that go?

The movie introduces another race of aliens and hints that there are many, many more, but tells us next to nothing about them. I want more aliens, damnit. Furthermore, the movie ends exactly when it's getting interesting, with Brent Spiner announcing that the friendly alien is going to help the Earthican people take the fight to the bad aliens, which just gives me such a huge lady-boner and guarantees that I'll watch the next turd this franchise craps out.

The worst problem with this movie is that it's actually really boring. Honestly, I didn't mention some of the other stuff that I couldn't make sense of because I wasn't paying attention to most of the movie and it's entirely possible that I missed some details. I can't even say that I hated it because that implies an emotional response and I didn't have one. This isn't a movie that you watch, this is a movie that just happens. I almost turned it off halfway through because I was so fucking bored but I made a commitment to you, gentle reader, to watch this boring excuse for a movie and tell you why it's bad.

- Jeff Goldblum appears in the film (+1)
- William Fichtner appears in the film (+1)
- Explosion! (+1)
Total: (+3)

- Too much chat, not enough splat (-1)
- Will Smith unceremoniously killed off screen (-1)
- Vivica Fox unceremoniously killed on screen (-1)
- Ann from Arrested Development got replaced (-1)
- Horny character with no game (-1)
- Wormholes. Were there wormholes in the first movie? Why was nobody making a bigger deal out of the wormholes? (-1)
- 25 minutes before any aliens show up (-1)
- 35 minutes before the main aliens show up (-1)
- Who the fuck are all these people (-1)
- Aerial battles are convoluted, and remind me of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, a movie I would rather forget (-1)
- Core-drillin reminded me of The Core, another movie I would rather forget (-1)
- Psychic bullshit (-1)
- Science problems (-2)
- All earth nations are united in peace but America is still in charge (-1)
- And yet Bill Pullman wasn't made supreme ruler of Earth at the end of the last movie (-1)
- I want to know more about the other aliens (-1)
Total: (-17)
Final Score: -14 points

Directed by: Fucking Roland Emmerich.  Written by: Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devil, Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt.  Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, Maika Monroe, Jessie Usher, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Deobia Oparei, Nicolas Wright, Travis Tope, Angelababy, Judd Hirsch, Vivica A. Fox

*I don't know why I'm using imperial measurements here but bear with me

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Babysitter

The Babysitter (2017)

Image Source
One of my favourite activities of late is what I like to call "plumbing the depths", and it is just watching random movies on Netflix. Today, I watched this movie. It's a Netflix original, and directed by somebody called "McG", and surprised me by not being absolutely terrible.

A nervous, sheltered boy (Judah Lewis) is left with a babysitter (Samara Weaving) for the weekend while his parents go on a trip. At the urging of his neighbour (Emily Alyn Lind), he spies on the sitter to find out if she's having sex with teenage boys after he goes to bed. Turns out she's the leader of a Satanic cult and murders a dude for a ritual. The kid must then defend himself and kill off the Satanists in his house.

Both of the main characters - the kid and the babysitter - are super likable, even though he's a whiny dork and she's a homicidal lunatic. The acting is reasonably good on both parts too - Judah Lewis is not the best or worst child actor I've ever seen, while Samara Weaving is lots of fun.

Her character is also probably the best babysitter in the world, holy shit. I didn't get babysat very often as a kid so I don't really have a whole lot of reference for this, but like, I'm pretty sure swimming, screening old movies on the side of a barn, pizza, and shooters are unusually awesome for a babysitting experience. Okay, yeah, so she steals his blood for their Satan thing at one point but, like... shit. What's a little blood, right?

Speaking of blood, this movie has plenty. It's like a grizzly Home Alone, which is definitely something the world needed because, real talk, Home Alone kind of sucks. Plus it has a few tense moments and hardly any jump scares. The movie leans more towards horror comedy than straight up thriller most of the time, which is unfortunate because the thrilling parts were way better executed than the "comedy", and I will get back to that soon.

The most interesting thing about the movie is its subversion of the horror movie babysitter trope. Typically in horror movies, the babysitter is the victim (see Halloween, When A Stranger Calls, House of the Devil, and others). In this movie, she's the antagonist. The members of the cult are all slasher victim archetypes (jock, goth, dumb cheerleader, nerd, blonde last girl, and black guy) and they die in the appropriate order, which is pretty clever. Sure, it's been done before, but it's still different than the norm.

The movie's main failing is that it is not actually as clever as it thinks it is. A whole lot of time is wasted trying to be "stylish", whatever that means. There's lots of rapid cuts (like an Edgar Wright movie), and titles which tell you the names of characters I don't care about (like Feast) and also I guess what the characters are thinking? Maybe? I don't get what the point of that was. All of this stuff is executed by a person who obviously is better suited to making, like, normal movies because instead of slick and sexy it comes off as frenetic and abrasive.

The writing suffers from the same problem. It's mired in pop culture references and "buffyspeak", which is great when utilized by a skilled writer, but in this case stuck out as trying to sound funnier than it was. The hip and sassy dialogue also clashed with the sappy overall tone of the movie. At its core, The Babysitter is a very earnest coming of age story about a boy getting over his unrealistic crush on his babysitter and falling for the girl next door, while becoming a man. Stuffing it in a glossy, snarky party dress doesn't change that.

The movie goes out of its way to set up everything that happens later. From the toy car sitting at the top of the stairs, to the kid overcoming his fear of driving, everything is staged early on. Some movies pull this off by setting stuff up in a subtle way (Near Dark and Satan's Little Helper are excellent examples of this) but The Babysitter painstakingly makes sure the viewer's attention is drawn to things that will be important later. Which makes it super predictable and annoying to jaded assholes like me who've spent way too many hours watching movies.

Another big issue is that I was never totally clear on what exactly the Satanist characters wanted. So they're doing this ritual that will grant them whatever they want. Later in the movie the jock mentions he just wants to kill people, the cheerleader says she wants to be a journalist, and the babysitter expresses a desire to be "confident" or some shit. But like, they're all obviously high functioning, attractive, and successful teens. The babysitter has a sweet job... babysitting, and the jock guy is a star quarterback. What could the Devil really grant them that they can't get on their own? Are North Americans so desperate that turning to black magic to get stuff is a perfectly logical thing to do and requires no further explanation? I don't know about you, but I've often considered dabbling in the dark arts and I've never come up with anything I want badly enough to make a deal with some demonic entity. Kids today, I swear to god.

Overall, this movie isn't great, but it's not bad either. It's a watchable post-slasher horror comedy, and in better hands, maybe the hands of somebody not named "McG", it could've been decent.

- Samara Weaver is delightful (+1)
- Lotsa blood (+1)
- Trope subversion (+2)
- Satanists are surprisingly nice people (+1)
Total: +5

- Just because one of the characters says "This ain't Home Alone!" doesn't make it not Home Alone (-1)
- The movie tries way too hard (-3)
- People keep running upstairs instead of out. The Open. Fucking. Front. Door (-1)
- There's no way that kid survived flipping a muscle car and crashing it into a house without wearing a goddamn seatbelt (-1)
Total: -6
Final Score: -1

Directed by: "McG".  Written by: Brian Duffield.  Starring: Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Emily Alyn Lind, Robbie Amell, Hana Mae Lee, Bella Thorne, Andrew Bachelor, Leslie Bibb, Ken Marino.