Sunday, August 27, 2017


Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956)

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This is the second film I've gone out of my way to watch for the History of Horror Challenge, giving me a whopping 6/51 films in the year long challenge. I'll get through 'er, it's alright.

Anyway, this film was supposed to fill out the "Universal Monsters" requirement for the challenge. I picked it because I had seen pretty much all of the standard Universal Monster flicks so I had to drag the bottom of the barrel.

Curucu is about a bushwhacking adventure dude (John Bromfield) who is bushwhacking his way through the jungle to get to the bottom of a mystery involving a giant bird monster killing people. There's also a lady doctor (Beverly Garland) with him trying to find an herb that the indigenous people use to make shrunken heads.

This movie isn't especially well preserved, which, combined with the fact that I had never fucking heard of it, lead me to worry about what I was getting myself into. The picture and audio quality were pretty bad at times so it was difficult to tell what was going on when the plot was supposed to be set up, although once they got into the jungle it was okay.

Like I said, that's mostly a preservation issue. The budget of the movie, according to wikipedia, was $155,000 (which is like $1.3 million in 1956 money). That's not an extremely massive budget but it's still pretty decent, and the whole thing was shot on location in the Amazon. I had the misfortune of watching the black and white version of this movie that's on youtube, rather than the original colour version which I probably would have enjoyed a lot more.

There is tons of footage of South American wildlife including, but not limited to, crocodiles, anacondas, iguanas, water buffalo, a coati, a marmoset, a margay, a leopard, and a capybara. I seriously had to pause the movie every couple of minutes to get a look at the animals. Sometimes they're interacting with the cast, a lot of the time they're not, once they used a pitiful green screen effect to put the actors in the path of a herd of water buffalo. Doesn't matter, it still delighted the fuck out of me.

The movie also has some things to say about the conflict between indigenous culture, and European culture. It comes up over and over again and is, really, the main theme of the movie. Whether it's the main character literally assaulting a guy for telling locals they should leave the plantations and go back to the jungle, or a confrontation between a Catholic priest and a local spiritual leader over whether or not Curucu is real, indigenous-European relations are at the forefront of the movie.

And I would have gotten away with it, too... (Source)
Just scrolling through other reviews of this movie, one of the main complaints seems to be that the advertising of the film was misleading. It's advertised as a monster movie, and it really isn't. It's an adventure film and the really shitty looking monster is shitty looking because it's actually the local guide (Tom Payne) wearing a costume in an attempt to discourage white people from going further into the jungle and causing harm to his people. So it's basically Scooby Doo with a social message.

I have no idea whether or not the point of this movie was to make us sympathetic towards Tom Payne's character - maybe he was supposed to be viewed as a deranged madman, but when he does his speech about "maybe if you two disappear, they'll leave us alone" seems surprisingly rational for a '50s movie villain. Of course, killing people is not the answer, it's merely an answer, but it still made for interesting moral conflict for a modern viewer.

The issue with that whole thing is that in order to maintain the hero as the hero, he has to defeat the villain and winds up basically burning down the whole village where this group of people lives. The hero was unlikable enough as it was, being a racist, womanizing asshole, so his "triumph" over the "Indians" didn't exactly fill me with joy.

The other problem in general is that after the two leads escape the indigenous village, the movie ought to be over but it's not. They bushwhack their way back through the jungle, now without a guide, and encounter some more animals, and get attack by a snake and also the remaining people from the tribe they just doomed to extinction, except now there's not really any mystery, they're just going back where they came from and trying not to get killed by things. The movie is only an hour-fifteen but the last fifteen minutes drag like a motherfucker, which is unfortunate.

All in all, though, this is a fun adventure movie with lots of footage of wild animals. If you're expecting a Universal Monster movie you're going to be severely disappointed, but if you're ready to relax and look at some exotic wildlife, you're going to have a good time.

- the main female character's name is the same as my name (+1)
- South American wildlife (+11)
- the plight of the local people (+1)
Total: (+13)

- horrible green screen (-1)
- curucu looks stupid (-0.333 penalty reduced because it's not an actual monster, and because curucu stands for social justice)
- the main dude is a douchenozzle also his name is "Rock" (-3)
- there is a dance number (-1)
- casual 1950s racism (-1)
- kiss rape (-1)
- ending is a drag (-1)
Total: (-8.333)
Final Score: 4.667

Written and Directed by: Curt Siodmak.  Starring: John Bromfield, Beverly Garland, Tom Payne.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Feast 3

Feast III: The Happy Finish (2009)

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The third installment in the Feast series follows the survivors of Feast 2 continuing to survive by fleeing the monsters through the town's sewer. This series has a serious downhill trajectory and I have nothing whatsoever nice to say about this one so I'll just pick up my bat and get to bashing this fucking sad excuse for a movie.

Sometimes, in life, there are good movies, and sometimes there are bad movies. Some bad movies can be fun, because they are seriously trying to be good movies and it's funny to watch them fail. This is not one of those movies. This is a movie that goes out of its way to be bad. It's like a Troma movie, but without the indescribable entertainment factor.

Feast 3 introduces more, and new "badass" characters who seem like they have the solution to everybody's problems and then get killed, which was surprising in the first movie but is now just a worn out gimmick.

It's established early on that the monster attack is now nationwide but that is never elaborated on, making the once interesting ambiguity frustrating and pointless.

There's even more puerile humour with close-ups of monster balls, and a scene where the waitress from the last two movies (Jenny Wade) gets decapitated, her head gets eaten by a monster, and then immediately shit out. Which, like... that doesn't even make sense. I get that there's not a lot of scientific accuracy to these movies, and I've been avoiding pointing that out because I don't want to draw too much attention to how much of a fucking dork I am, but what kind of digestive system allows for that?

Oh, also, there's a new monster power introduced in this movie. That's right, in addition to the vomiting that makes people go crazy (that's used like, a couple of times in the previous movies, which is stupid coz why wouldn't you use that if you could), the monsters now can fuck people and turn them into monsters or something. I have two questions - what the fuck is the point of that, and why hasn't this been addressed until now? Because fuck the viewer, I guess, that's why.

I was kind of expecting the two survivors from the first movie to make a return at some point in this series, but they obviously had better things to do with their lives. Balthazar Getty, for example, was on Twin Peaks I guess and Krista Allan was in one of the Final Destination movies which is important.

Not only is the story stupid, but the quality of film making has also dropped, and the action scenes are completely incomprehensibly, with shaky camera work and rapid editing. It baffles my mind that the same writers and director worked on all three movies coz, like, Feast, while not great, was certainly interesting. Feast 2 was kind of blah, and this movie is a fucking piece of shit.

There's one scene where the main characters end up in a confrontation with puke-infected people that could have been scary because the puke-girl is pretty freaky looking and there's a disembowelment, but the lighting and editing is too flashy and seizure-inducing to actually tell what's going on. This was probably to hide the effects budget (or lack thereof), but it comes off as shitty and wasteful.

Also, while I'm talking about lighting, a great deal of this movie is just dark. I don't know if that's because it's supposed to be scary, or if they could fucking afford lights, but there it is.

There's one bit that's actually sort of funny. The latest kickass character shows up and he's like really good at martial arts or whatever, and he ends up losing both of his arms. Now, putting aside the fact that, without treatment, he likely would have died of shock, there's a point where the other characters have climbed up a ladder and Clu Gulager says to the guy, "take my hand!", and buddy just looks at his arm stumps. I didn't actually laugh because my sense of humour had been totally eviscerated by this series at that point, but if I was drunk I probably would have.

But yeah, if you're not an utter asshole like me, you're not even going to get that out of this movie.

This is a movie that actively hates it's audience. I'm going to spoil the ending of the series for you because seriously, do not bother watching this movie. In the end, Clu Gulager and the adulterous wife from the second movie (Hanna Putnam) make it out, and Clu Gulager, totally out of character, is like "we have to repopulate the earth" and starts whipping his clothes off, and then a giant robot comes out of nowhere and smooshes the girl as if to say "ha ha, fuck you for watching my movie". I'm not even joking, that is what happens. Don't believe me? I don't blame you. Here's the scene all up on the youtube.

To that I say, "fuck you" back, and demand a refund of my time.

- Seriously, fuck this movie (-1)
Total: (-1)

- Yet more pooping/diarrhea (-2)
- "Surprising" deaths no longer surprising (-1)
- Monsters still humping stuff (-1)
- Monster ballz (-1)
- New monster powers (-1)
- Farts (-1)
- There's a wizard? I guess? (-1)
- Lighting/editing is stupid (-2)
Total: (-9)
Final Score: -10

Directed by: John Gulager. Written by: Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton.  Starring: Clu Gulager, Diane Ayala Goldner, Hanna Putnam, Juan Longoria Garcia, Josh Blue, Craig Henningson, Tom Gulager, Chelsea Richards, Carl Anthony Payne, Jenny Wade, William Prael, John Allen Nelson.

Feast 2

Feast II: Sloppy Seconds

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Feast 2 picks up immediately following the end of Feast - the leader of a bike gang (Diane Ayala Goldner) finds out that her sister (also played by Goldner) had been killed during the events of the first movie and teams up with the bartender (Clu Gulager) who somehow survived the first movie. They head to the next town and find it overrun with monsters. Along with a few surviving locals, they must try to not get eaten by things.

This movie keeps up the highly stylized vibe of the first movie, doing interview-style character introductions to keep it fresh and, also, to minimize time spent on character development.

There's as much, if not more, blood, and definitely more guts, with intestines spilling out of people left, right, and centre, although there was obviously less money and/or time spent on the effects because they looked a lot shittier this trip.

It also continues with the situation style humour, and has a few genuinely funny moments, including one particularly tasteless and infamous scene where an attempt to rescue a baby goes south (you can watch it here, bearing in mind that, like I said, it is in extremely poor taste. Still funny tho).

Mostly, though, it seems like the filmmakers sat down and asked themselves, "what was good about Feast?", then came to the conclusion that it was not the breaking with genre expectations but, in fact, the gross-out humour, coz this movie has that in spades.

Where the last movie had dick and fucking jokes, this one throws in extra farting, shitting, and vomiting for good measure. You know, because it's fun. There's a scene where one of the characters decides to dissect a dead monsters to discover that inside the body there is a gigantic eye and a mouth. This is not important. What is important is that he makes it fart, puke, piss, and shit on the other characters. Because comedy?

What's more, there's no real rhyme or reason given for the sudden increase in monster numbers. In the first one, there were four, which I guess I could buy, but in this one there's monsters all over the place. Where did they come from? What are they? Sometimes, less is more. In the first movie, that worked. The monsters were there because they were there, it didn't matter why. In this one it feels lazy. It's gone from a bizarre freak event to something major and there's not even any slight attempt at rationalization.

Another big issue with the movie is that the characters are all fucking garbage. There is not one person in the movie that I could identify or sympathize with. They're all a bunch of jackasses for whom I have no patience. Sure, they're zany. But adding wrestlers with dwarfism or a guy with a mustache to your movie doesn't actually make it any more compelling.

In the first movie, the characters were all assholes, but at least by the end of the movie the two unlikely heroes had grown enough that I was rooting for them. In this one, the only person I was rooting for was the waitress (Jenny Wade) because even though she backstabbed everybody in the first movie, by god, she had some will to live.

Even the monsters were less cool in this one. In the first one they had weird skull masks and cloaks and looked all freaky and weird. In this one they were just running around naked for some reason. Why? Who the fuck knows.

The other thing that pissed me the fuck off about this movie is that it just ends mid scene. Some of the characters are trying to get into a building, and that doesn't work, and then monsters break in to the place where the other people are, and then the credits role. So they obviously couldn't think of a good ending for the movie, and didn't want to have everybody die so that they had room for a sequel, which is presumptuous as fuck.

This movie basically hits all the same stops as the first one without any of the wit or punch, but isn't actually bad enough to be entertaining. Avoid, if possible.

- Stylish (+1)
- Occasionally funny (+1)
- Girl bikers are aesthetically pleasing (+1)
- Baby Toss scene (+1)
Total: (+4)

- Farting, shitting, pissing, and puking (-5)
- Dog slaughter (-1)
- Monsters more plentiful, and easier to kill (-2)
- Trash characters (-1)
- Cat rape (-1)
- Ending sucks (-1)
Total: (-11)
Final Score: -7

Directed by: John Gulager.  Written by: Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton.  Starring: Diane Ayala Goldner, Clu Gulager, Hanna Putnam, Tom Gulager, Martin Klebba, Juan Longoria Garcia, Carl Anthony Payne, Jenny Wade, William Prael.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Feast (2005)

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So if you follow me on Twitter you'll know that I spent my Sunday evening watching the Feast trilogy and, like... tweeting about it. If you don't follow me, then I'm going to boil down my thoughts on these three movies for your reading pleasure. I'm going to cover the first one tonight, and post reviews of the second two next week to keep you on the edge of your seats (also because I am tired).

Feast is about a back road bar full of quirky characters besieged by a family of gross, hairy monsters intent on eating everybody inside. The people, almost all of whom are total assholes, must band together in order to survive the attack. Most of them die.

The movie conveniently skips any character development by giving a quick profile on each of the numerous characters, which is fun and stylish and allows the movie to get to the action almost immediately. We're given a rough idea of who each person is, what horror tropes they embody, and their life expectancy, doing away with needless chit-chat.

For the most part, the movie is pretty cool, utilizing the kind of editing tricks you would see in one of those sexy crime films, making it look all slick and modern. That wears off about halfway through the movie, though, so the style is uneven throughout.

It's not intense or scary in any capacity, but there's lots of blood and gore (and I mean lots) to keep me interested. I mean, it's not Evil Dead level, but it's certainly plentiful. Limbs get severed, heads burst, eyes get pulled out of skulls, and the effects are pretty decent.

What's most interesting about the movie is that it goes out of its way to subvert the horror tropes that it establishes, making for great situational irony. The character (Eric Dane) who seems like the standard "kick-ass hero" (his name is even given as "Hero") gets killed almost immediately upon his arrival. The cute waitress (Jenny Wade) who's set up to either get murdered, become the love interest for one of the male characters, or morph into a gun toting badass does exactly none of those things. And just about any time somebody makes a definitive statement (e.g., "they won't notice me here") the opposite thing happens (e.g., they get eaten right after uttering those words). It makes for a clever, self aware monster movie that never goes where I expected it to. Be that as it may, the black guy still died early on, I'm just sayin'.

Not pictured: monster dick
While the monsters aren't especially fear-inducing, they are pretty cool looking. They've got heads like cow skulls and big old horns and look like something out of The Dark Crystal or an equally terrifying children's film.

They're also shown to be incredibly smart (although not smart enough to, say, set traps or anything like that) and capable of lightning fast reproduction, which makes the human character's situation all the more dire.

 Later on in the movie, the skulls are revealed to be a sort of mask and the monsters underneath are your standard hairy, toothy movie monster, albeit with way more attention given to their cocks than I've ever seen in a monster movie.

This brings me to one of the biggest downsides of the movie. Feast is a horror comedy but, instead of relying on irony (the highest form of comedy), it throws in a lot of Scary Movie grade body humour. Now, before you think I'm some sort of prude, I am not averse to a well executed dick joke. This movie just goes overboard into teenage boy territory. For example, in addition to wanting to eat just about everything, the monsters really like to fuck the shit out of everything, and three scenes - three - are devoted to them humping people, inanimate objects, or each other. Because... that's funny, I guess? NOT TO ME IT'S NOT. Once, I could live with. Three times, not so much. Basically, that sent me from "oh hell yeah" to "oh fuck no" in record time.

The other issue that I had was that there were, like, a fuckton of characters, most of whom were fodder for the first half hour. I understand why that is. You need to show that the monsters are really bad and can kill and eat a whole bunch of people, but I quickly lost track of how many people there were, how many survived, and where exactly all of them were. This left me wistfully confused as I would occasionally remember some character from the beginning and wonder where the hell they went.

Ultimately, this movie is decent. It takes a pretty generic premise and makes it interesting by defying expectations. It would have been pretty good if it hadn't leaned so heavily on juvenile humour, but it definitely shows promise. Boy howdy, I bet the sequels are some good. Tune in next week to find out.

- Character profiles, including life expectancy (+1)
- So much blood (+1)
- Stereotype subversion (+1)
- Situational irony (+1)
- Clu Gulager (+1)
- Cool looking monsters (+1)
Total: (+6)

- Monsters humping stuff (-3)
- Too many characters (-1)
- Henry Rollins (-1)
Total: (-5)
Final Score: +1

Directed by: John Gulager.  Written by: Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton.  Starring: Balthazar Getty, Krista Allen, Clu Gulager, Navi Rawat, Jenny Wade, Henry Rollins, Josh Zuckerman, Duane Whitaker, Judah Friedlander, Eileen Ryan, Diane Ayala Goldner, Eric Dane.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Babadook

The Babadook (2014)

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Now that I'm out of Ti West movies, I'm progressing on to other, non-West films that Zack (found on twitter here) lent me. I was reticent to watch this movie when it came out because, much like with The Bye Bye Man, I thought the title was stupid and therefore the movie would be stupid. Turns out it's actually great. Maybe I should go watch The Bye Bye Man now, fuck, I don't know.

The movie is about a frazzled widow (Essie Davis) trying to raise her weird kid (Noah Wiseman) and generally having a hard time with her life. It gets a whole lot harder when she reads a kid's book called Mister Babadook that releases some kind of horrible demon thing into her life.

Or does it? Up until the last chunk of the movie I wasn't totally sure whether there actually was a Babadook, or if the main character was just hugely sleep deprived and finally asserting herself with her weird, misbehaving, demanding kid. It works as both a horror movie about a supernatural entity, and a drama about the non-supernatural horror of being a single mother, which says a lot about how solid the story is.

The relationship between the mom and the kid is also really interesting and probably realistic, I don't know. It's worth noting that I am a person who hates children so I probably got something entirely different out of this than a regular person. Both the mom and kid seem to have some pretty serious issues - the mom's suffering from chronic depression and probably PTSD from witnessing the sudden death of her husband and the son is just really poorly behaved - but they're both weirdly likable. They seem like actual people and the actions that they take never seem forced or out of character.

For example, the movie sort of falls into the "children are fucking freaky" subgenre, but it doesn't go out of the way to make it so. The little boy doesn't speak backwards, or act way too mature for his age, or see dead people, he just acts like a kid would act which is alarming enough because children actually are fucking freaky.

That makes the mother's reactions to him throughout the movie, and her eventual realization that she legit loves him, more potent. She's not just dealing with weird monsters and supernatural shit, she's chronically exhausted from dealing with the regular day-to-day shit, the weird monsters and supernatural shit are what push her over the edge.

The horror of the movie is thus really tangible. It doesn't come from jump scares or gratuitous violence, it comes from real, accessible, believable people being put into an extreme situation. It's scary in the way that The Exorcist is scary. Sure, we all remember the power puking and the head spinning and the bloody vagina, but what really freaked me out about The Exorcist was not the body horror stuff, it was the idea that your life can be torn apart by forces you cannot comprehend, control, or stop.

Also, it's creepy as fuck.

The use of the monster is minimal, instead we get to be scared by peoples reactions to the monster, and anticipation about seeing the monster. And when it is on screen, it's pretty fucking horrifying. You never get a full blown look at it, but it's very reminiscent of Nosferatu, which the filmmakers even point out by showing us clips from Nosferatu. Again, this adds to the idea that the woman might actually be just losing her shit. She watches Nosferatu on TV, she visualizes a monster that looks like Count Orlock, why not.

Lookit them fingers
The movie never feels gratuitous at any point. There isn't a whole lot of violence and there's very little blood - there's one scene where the mom vomits a whole shit load of blood but it's done as tastefully as I've ever seen blood vomited which... I mean, that's impressive, right?

The two lead actors are really good - a child actor can fucking make or break a film, and Noah Wiseman is 100% convincing as a six year old kid. His character is both well acted and well written so he never feels cloying or unlike a child. Essie Davis is fucking great - she's not as good in the second half of the movie when she starts Jack Torrence-ing all over the place, but she more than makes up for it in the first half.

The movie looks beautiful, and, unlike a lot of movies with really pretty cinematography and no substance, it's really visually interesting. It's definitely very arty, but not in an obnoxious way. By that I mean, the artfulness of the photography and editing doesn't detract from the functionality of the film as entertainment. But there was stuff for my eyes to do while my brain was processing what was happening. Also, there's all kinds of visual cues to tell you what's happening, like the change in the colour palette of the mother's wardrobe - shit like that just makes it interesting to watch.

I don't say this often because it's something that you don't notice unless it's really bad or really good, but the music and sound editing was really good. I don't actually know how to articulate how good it was, so I'm just going to leave you with that.

I haven't even started to unpack the themes and symbolism of the movie yet, and I'm not going to because you could (and people probably already have) write an essay about what the fuck is going on in this movie. You can make an argument that the Babadook itself represents whatever you want it to, the most obvious things being the woman's grief over her husband's death, her love for her son, and LGBTQ+ issues (I took some time to try to find out why exactly the Babadook has been lauded as an LGBTQ+ icon, some very good point were made). You can actually make any movie be about anything you want it to be, who gives a shit, but this movie in particular really lends itself to interpretation.

Because the Babadook is this unstoppable thing that never goes away, and changes the main character's lives rather dramatically, and, spoiler ahead, ends up semi-peacefully cohabiting with the family instead of being destroyed, it is very easy to put ones own struggles in place of the monster (for example, my struggle is depression, the Babadook could totally represent depression). And that's okay. I'm not a philosopher but I am here to tell you that you can imagine any movie meaning anything as long as it doesn't hurt anybody.

Hell, if all you want it to represent is a scary ass fucking monster from a kid's book that like comes to life and possesses people and makes them kill their kids, that's totally okay too. This movie works as a monster movie too.

All in all, this really is an excellent piece of filmmaking and it blows my fucking mind that it was Jennifer Kent's feature debut. Good for her, my god.

- Looks good (+1)
- Australian accents (+1)
- Good acting (+1)
- Dog is adorable (+1)
- Realistic female masturbation (+1)
- Sound design (+1)
- Good drama (+1)
- Tasteful (+1)
Total: +8

- Dog Slaughter (-5)
Total: -5
Final Score: +3

Written and Directed by: Jennifer Kent, based on her short film "Monster".  Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Hershall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, Tim Purcell, Hachi.