Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hell Baby

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Hell Baby (2013)

A husband and extremely pregnant wife (Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb) move into a dilapidated house in New Orleans, and strange things start happening immediately. Boxes move around, they get repeatedly startled by their friendly neighbour who apparently lives in their crawlspace (Keegan-Michael Key), there's an oversexed senile old lady in there, and there's a scary Rottweiler which might be a ghost, and also the house is haunted, and also the wife is possessed, and also one of their unborn twin babies might be a demon.

Meanwhile, a couple of priests from the Vatican (Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant) arrive to assist local police officers (Paul Scheer and Ron Huebel) deal with all the above ghostly doings.

The movie is a parody of The Exorcist, The Shining, Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, and all the others. As far as horror parodies go, this is a step or two up from the seemingly endless Scary Movie franchise, although it is approximately as crass and puerile.

The characters are fairly engaging and self-aware, allowing them to mock the standard horror movie tropes. Like one of the running jokes in the movie is that there's a jump scare pretty much every time Keegan-Michael Key shows up. Rob Corddry's character reacts to things exactly as a real person would which is nice. The acting is pretty solid, and there are some amusing lines of dialogue, like "the Devil is real, and he's a dick".

It's intentionally silly, but at times it feels like it's trying way too hard. This is especially true of anything involving the priest characters. Like, okay, they're Catholic priests but they smoke and swear and like to go to strip clubs. Hilarious. There's also a big long scene relating the backstory of the priests which is totally irrelevant to the plot and not funny enough to be excused. I get that a lot of scenes probably seemed really funny during writing but the material could have been tightened up a lot more.

Leslie Bibb's character goes from normal to full tilt possessed in about ten minutes which skips over some character development I would have liked to see. The whole movie could have benefited from focusing more exclusively on the husband-wife situation rather than half-assedly jumping over to the priests and cops every now and then.

The final scene where they do the Exorcist thing and Leslie Bibb finally gives birth to the twins, one of which is normal and one of which is the titular Hell Baby, followed by the characters playing baby catch like something out of a Peter Jackson feels like it goes on for about twenty minutes. I didn't think that it was possible to make a scene with grown men beating up a newborn drag like a motherfucker, but they did. Which is disappointing, you know, coz like the whole movie was leading up to that, despite the multitude of unrelated side plots, that should have been the crude crescendo of the movie but instead it just felt tiresome. Probably because of all the unrelated side plots.

Ultimately, and this is a personal taste thing, I prefer horror comedies to be just funny horror stories rather than parodies of a handful of other movies. I think it's because it's hard, if not impossible, to make a movie with a cohesive plot out of lampooned scenes from other movies. Instead you just get a string of tenuously related events where you can go "oh I get the reference in that, ha ha" without the satisfaction of any of the events having any impact.

That's why the end of the movie seemed so tedious, because even though the movie was leading up to that, it wasn't really leading up to that, it was just slapping more or less unrelated jokes together.

But hey, maybe I'm wrong. If this style of comedy wasn't popular then they wouldn't keep making them so fuck me right. If lowbrow horror parodies are you're thing, you'll probably get a kick out of this movie because to be fair, it isn't terrible. Some of the jokes were a little weak and overall this style of movie isn't to my taste, but if that's what you like, knock yourself out.

Written and Directed by: Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon.  Starring: Rob Coddry, Leslie Bibb, Keegan-Michael Key, Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, Riki Lindhome.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


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Hostile (2014)

I decided that I'm going to try to learn French again and what better way to learn French than watching some French horror movies? I'm sure there are a lot of better ways. It should be noted that I've tried to learn French about as many times as I've tried to quit smoking (twice) so I'm not really an expert on this matter.

Anyway, the movie is about two sisters (Luna Belan and Julie Venturelli) who get adopted by a woman with a fantastic house and apparently no job (Shelley Ward). Everything is fine until the girls and their mum start seeing a man in a johnny shirt walking around telling the girls to kill and stuff. The mother summons a reporter and cameraman (Anatolia Allieis and Morgan Hec, respecitively) from a reality show about adoption troubles and then apparently leaves. The TV crew hang around for a bit, some weird stuff happens, and then take the girls to a husband and wife team (Julien Croquet and Magali Gouyon) who are apparently psychologists but also perform exorcisms.

When looking up this movie after watching it I found out that its main claim to fame was that Nathan Ambrosioni, who wrote and directed the movie, was fourteen years old at the time. Good for him. It's actually pretty good considering that it was made by a fourteen year old kid, I will give it that. The stuff I was making when I was fourteen was probably about this good, I don't know. I started this blog when I was fifteen, that's pretty embarrassing. That being said, because this movie was on Shudder and available for all to watch, and because I spent an hour and a half of my life watching it, I'm going to judge it as though it were made by an adult.

One thing I thought was neat in the movie was a few shots where you could see something weird for a moment in the background but the characters didn't notice it, there was no music or nothing, it was just strange and creepy. That was a nice effect. And also literally the only thing I thought was any good about the movie.

It hits all the notes of things that are supposed to be scary - creepy little girls, doors closing on their own, faces appearing in mirrors, lights going out, and so on - but without any suspense or focal character to worry about.

The characters and setting change about three times which makes it sort of hard to stay grounded with the story. I guess that the younger of the two sisters is supposed to be the central character but we get so much more time with the various people who are charged with caring for her, none of whom is actually developed into a character I want to care about. We start out with the mom, then she disappears so she doesn't matter apparently, then we switch to the reporter for roughly half the movie, then she dumps the girls on this exorpsychologist and disappears so she doesn't matter either (we find out later from the mom, who comes back for no reason, that the reporter and the camera man died off screen at some point, no word on whether it was connected to the other events of the movie). There's an extended flashback of another kid (played by Nathan Ambrosioni) that they performed an exorcism on, no word on whether he turned out okay or not. Then there's a reeeeealllly loooooong part with the husband and wife trying to get approval from the Vatican to do more exorcisms and also buy a new camera (riveting shit, right?), oh and the girls are being creepy and stuff. Then there's another extended flashback of a different girl who also killed a bunch of people. Then back to the exorpsychologist for the obviously thrilling conclusion.

Also, the characters all seem to be kind of stupid and behave in a totally irrational way. The worst offender is the TV reporter. Right after the mother disappears, the camera guy has to leave and he's gone for a while (he's randomly back ten minutes later, though, so there was not really any reason for him to leave). While he's gone, the reporter is getting more and more freaked out by the girls and the weird sounds of what might be a ghost in the house, so to relax she suggests a nice game of hide and seek, the creepiest game there is. Seriously, why not backgammon or something? Much more relaxing. The next worst offenders are the girls themselves. There's one point where the camera crew leaves them with a babysitter (Sarah Robert). The girls drug the babysitter's wine, then wait for her to wake up and start running around the house before they corner her and tie her up and kill her and whatever. Why? Why go through all the trouble of drugging her? And on her side, they're fourteen year old kids, fight back. I wouldn't go out of my way to beat up children but I think that if two teenage girls were going to kill me I could take them.

But there are so many scenes like that. Transition scenes where somebody does something that doesn't really matter at all and doesn't do anything to further the plot along or develop any of the characters. On the other hand there are a bunch of scene changes that just jump from one place to another with little to no explanation of how they got there, they're just there. A little more than half way through another ghost shows up? And that's like the main ghost apparently? Or maybe Satan? And he's already convinced another girl to kill her family? What?

The way the movie is filmed is almost incomprehensible. It's done half first person and half third person (you can read all about how much I hate that in my review of Pandemic, I'm not going over it again), so you've got the TV crew in the first part and in the second part the exorpsychologists have a camera and film just about everything they do. The stuff the TV camera man is filming in the first half of the movie, though, it's hard to believe it could possibly be edited into anything resembling a coherent show because a lot of it is just shots of nothing.

The acting wasn't just bad it was totally lifeless. This actually worked for the two girls, I will give this movie that, but for the other characters who only managed to convey two moods (unconvincingly scared, and possibly asleep) it only served to bore me further. The only thing that actually kept me from falling asleep was that there was a jump scare, the lowest common denominator of scares, approximately every ten minutes acting like a pacemaker for the wakeful part of my brain.

And thank god I stayed awake so I could get to the absolutely foolish reveal and conclusion. Are you ready to come with me into the spoiler zone? Let's go then.

It turns out that the ghost in the hospital gown isn't a ghost at all but the girls' father who is an escaped mental patient. The girls were not possessed, they were actually being shot up with ketamine by their family doctor, who is also the plague doctor ghost Satan guy. I'm not sure when he would have had time to sneak in and give them ketamine every night but apparently he did. Don't question it. Anyway, this doctor is trying to summon Satan I guess and needs some sacrifices but the girls were just bait to lure and kill the exorpsychologists. They were going to use the TV crew but they were too easy or something. Another thing that I will grant to this movie, I had no idea where it was going at any point. It took so many twists and turns it was sort of unpredictable which is cool.

I guess at the end they do summon Satan who inhabits the body of the younger sister, who I think is the one we're supposed to like because she was hesitant to kill people earlier. I think that's what happened. She ends up killing her sister and the mom, later on? I think? I think that's what this movie was telling me? She also might have died, I don't fucking know.

Overall this movie was a boring fucking mess. Avoid.

Written and Directed by: Nathan Ambrosioni.  Starring: Luna Belan, Julie Venturelli, Magali Gouyon, Julien Croquet, Anatolia Allieis, Shelley Ward, Sarah Robert, Didier Beaumont, Lucille Donier, Nathan Ambrosioni.

Monday, April 10, 2017


Haxan (1922)

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The only film I've managed to watch so far for the History of Horror Challenge because I'm a lazy sack of shit, this movie is a really fascinating silent era documentary about witchcraft and the treatment of mental illness throughout history.

The first few minutes of the movie seem like they're going to be really boring coz it's basically just a history lecture power point with lots of text and pictures and nothing really going on on the screen, but after that it gets into dramatic reenactments of witch stuff and then it really gets going.

The movie is divided into four parts. The first part is the power point where they explain what people in the middle ages though the solar system looked like and a bunch of other bullshit. The second part is a bunch of loosely connected scenes about Satan himself luring women into his service with promises of wealth and other prizes. The third part is a story about an old woman who gets accused of witchcraft and horrifically tortured. The final part is about how what was considered to be witchcraft in the middle ages was probably just mental illness, and gets into a little bit how that is treated.

I watched this movie on youtube and really wish that I hadn't because the picture quality was garbage and it deserved crispness. There was so much detail in the sets an costumes that would have benefited from a higher quality version.

The witches in the second part are legit, like straight up Satan worshiping, no-nonsense witches, which is something I always like to see. The Satan costume was also decent and fun - again, this is Satan at his most over the top, tongue flapping, butter churning fun. Pretty much any time His Unholiness (played by the director, Benjamin Christensen) shows up he's pumping away on a butter churn and flapping his tongue around, just really making sure the viewer grasps the sexual tone. Oh yeah, also, there are breasts at one point.

The special effects for the time are great, with stop motion segments, and things vanishing and reappearing, making it basically the Avatar of 1922, only more fun to watch.

There's a pretty serious torture scene in there also - it's not really graphic, but it captures the spirit of the absolutely horrific things that were done to people accused of consorting with the Devil back in the day, as well as the sheer ignorance of the whole thing. In the third part, after the old woman gets tortured in order to extract the names of her co-conspirators, she names one of the women who initially accused her of witchcraft, Her accusation is backed up by a monk who had a sexy fantasy about that woman, claiming that she had bewitched him. It's so ridiculous but it rings so true - like, it seems like something that absolutely would have happened. It didn't really do a whole lot for my general pessimism about humanity, mind you.

There are a few parts that are kind of hard to follow coz it's just a bunch of really chaotic shit happening on the screen, but even that is fun to watch because the sets and costumes and props and everything is so nice to look at.

Finally, there's some heavy duty social commentary about how people treat other people, especially towards the end. Comparisons are made between a couple of women who suffer mental illness and the witches from earlier, and commends the improvement in understanding and treatment of psychopathology. Mind you, some of the treatments that get depicted as vastly modern and humane are outright barbaric by today's standards, but I guess it's a step up from the middle ages.

All in all this was a very entertaining and informative movie. Ten out of ten, would recommend.

Written and Directed by: Benjamin Christensen.  Starring: Benjamin Christensen, Clara Pontopiddan, Oscar Stribolt, Astrid Holm, Maren Pedersen.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Jurassic World

Jurassic World (2015)

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Two kids (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) are on vacation at Jurassic World - a theme park featuring cloned dinosaurs, you know, the thing they were trying to make in Jurassic Park but ended up abandoning coz the dinosaurs escaped their pens and a bunch of people got killed - which is managed by their frigid, career-motivated aunt (Bryce Dallas Howard). Everything seems like it's going great but then, in a totally unforseeable event, the dinosaurs escape and a bunch of people get killed. Seriously, nobody thought that that could happen.

One of the things I liked about this movie is that it presented a world in which dinosaur cloning was no longer novel - the park attendees (and the audience, duh) have already seen the most ferocious and impressive dinosaurs brought to life, so the scientists in-movie turned to making genetically modified, novel dinosaurs. The main dinosaur, Indominus rex, is one such dinosaur, and it looks pretty cool. It has a show down with the good old-fashioned T. rex at the end of the movie which I'm sure is symbolic of something.

The other cool thing is that B.D. Wong, who was one of the scientists in the first movie, comes back as the same character in this movie. That was a nice touch.

And those are all the nice things I have to say about this movie.

Jurassic World (the park and the movie) took Jurassic Park and turned it into a bloated tourist nightmare. The Jurassic Park theme blares early on in the movie as we get a loving aerial shot of all of the stores and non-dinosaur attractions of Jurassic World, letting us know that at the end of the day, merchandising is the most important part of the franchise. Which is, of course, true, but the fact that this movie grossed a shitload of money and that it seems likely that it will spawn a fresh slew of franchise entries makes whatever edgy statement the filmmakers were trying to make about consumerism sound painfully full of shit.

The biggest issue at the core of this movie is that the characters are all super unlikable. Granted, the characters weren't really the strong point in any of the Jurassic Park movies - the kids in the first one were okay, Dr. Sattler was underveloped, the attempt at making Dr. Malcolm into a human being in Lost World was awkward and weird, really the only characters I liked in any of the movies were Dr. Grant (sort of) and John Hammond because he was batshit insane - but the characters in this movie are so unpleasant that it felt like the writers were trying to punish me for watching it.

In no particular order, we've got the two kids. The oldest one is just super horny, the other one is just super concerned that their parents are going to get a divorce. That's it, those are their characters. You've got Chris Pratt playing the cocky Velociraptor trainer who is charming because he's Chris Pratt but his whole character revolves around to being a dick to his ex-lover, Bryce Dallas Howard. Her character is by far the worst offender. She is literally the physical manifestation of fears about women in management. She's rude, she callous, she wears impractical shoes, she's out of touch with her employees, she's aggressively stupid, and, worst of all, she is more interested in her career than rearing children. How. Fucking. Dare she. Throughout the movie, of course, her repeated brushes with death correct her of this behaviour, thank god.

Vincent D'Onofrio plays the Wayne Knight character in this movie although he doesn't actually orchestrate the downfall of the park (that happens because again, business-aunt is a fucking idiot), he takes advantage of the chaos to steal I. rex embryos and sell them to the highest bidder. Like Wayne Knight's character in the first movie, he's so recognizably slimy from the first moment he appears on screen its impossible to take him seriously throughout the movie.

The only likable character in the whole movie was Irrfan Khan as the dude who actually owns Jurassic World, he's the only person in the whole movie who seems to have any kind of sense, and he seemed like a decent guy, but he gets killed pretty early on so we're left with a bunch of assholes and fuckwits.

Did I mention how stupid the characters in this movie are? There's one scene in particular that's going to bug me if I don't talk about it. So, they've got this super dinosaur all up in its pen, and it's really dangerous and scary, and then one day, they can't see it in its pen. Bryce Dallas Howard sends Chris Pratt into the pen to go see if he can find the dinosaur, and then drives away to alert the control centre that this thing probably escaped. TURNS OUT the dinosaur was INSIDE THE GODDAMN PEN THE WHOLE TIME but it was hiding, so now that Chris Pratt has the door open it can just stroll right out and kill everybody.

There's so much wrong with that scene. Like... first and foremost, from a safety and practical perspective, why isn't there a man-door for the pen? You know, a human sized door that humans can get in and out of but dinosaurs can't? Which would be really handy for, say, cleaning the enclosure, or, I dunno, checking to make sure the dinosaur is still in there. Secondly, and here's where the glaring stupidity of the two main characters comes into play, if you've got an enclosure housing a super smart, super dangerous dinosaur (or any animal, actually), and you think that maybe its escaped, you want to make damn well fucking sure that it's not in there before you just wander into its cage and start looking around. Seriously, who the fuck would think that was a good idea? People who have no idea what their talking about, that's who.

Okay, enough about that. On to other topics. Why did this whole movie feel like a sneaky indictment of the GMO industry? Yeah, the rest of the series had the whole "this is what happens when you try to play God" thing, a staple of the science-fiction/horror genre, but this one went particularly above and beyond to hammer home the "don't put genes from one thing in another thing" message. Why, you ask? Because we don't know what could happen. Well, fuck. If you don't understand how genes work, maybe molecular biology is not for you.

Also, there's a pterosaur with the head of a T. rex*. I am willing to accept that filmmakers are not going to spend a whole lot of time researching genetic modification in order to make a movie about dinosaurs eating people. I'm willing to accept that they ignored all of the new discoveries about dinosaurs that have happened in the last 22 years in order to maintain the aesthetic established in the first movie (although I don't have to be happy about it). But a pterosaur with the head of a T. rex. WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT. You just went from genetic tampering to just fuckin Dr. Moreau-ing things together. If it had been consistent throughout the movie, then I might have considered it, like if there was a Triceratops with the tail of an Ankylosaurus, or a Deinonychus with the eyes of a man, but nope, just this one fucking thing. Nothing else in this movie pissed me off as much as that. That's the first thing that I mention to people when talking about this movie. "Oh, yeah, Jurassic World, don't fuck with that movie, there's a pterosaur with the head of a T. rex" and guess what, they laugh with me. Get your shit together, Hollywood.

*UPDATE: my dude Rob, who knows his dinosaurs, informed me that this is actually a Dimorphodon, which is a totally legit dinosaur. Somebody did not do their research and that somebody was me. Ultimately though I still think that this movie is a stinky turd.

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow.  Written by: Derek Conolly, Colin Trevorrow, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver.  Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Vincent D'Onofrio, B.D. Wong, Irrfan Khan, Katie McGrath.