Thursday, October 1, 2009

Drag Me to Hell ****

You know, I feel bad for Alison Lohman. She gets put through hell (pun intended) in this movie and all because she wanted to better her life with a promotion.

Lohman plays a loan officer who has to deal with a tough call: either give an old lady an extension on her loan and risk losing her promotion or kick the lady to the curb and get the promotion. No prizes on who guessed the latter.

Lohman denies the old lady the extension. The woman gets down on her knees and begs, but Lohman doesn't let up. That night the old lady attacks Lohman in the parking garage and curses her. This is where I would have given up and just given the lady her extension, but then we wouldn't have a movie called Drag Me to Hell, would we?

The rest of the movie is about Lohman being tormented by, well, everything. She has nightmares and visions. Her boyfriend takes her to a Shaman who tells her that if she doesn't pass the curse off to someone else then she will, everyone, be dragged to hell.

This is the movie that sees the return to form for director Sam Raimi. Raimi started his carrer making horror movies, but in the last decade he has been making Spider-Man movies. Fans have been waiting for Raimi to return to horror and they won't be disappointed.

The Spider-Man movies never really felt like Sam Raimi movies. Well, Spider-Man 2 had some scenes that were pure Raimi, but the other ones definately didn't feel like Raimi movies. Now we have Drag Me to Hell and for this movie Raimi has pulled out all the stops. This is what a Sam Raimi movie should look and feel like.

Being a Sam Raimi movie, you would come to expect things to be a little off center. Well, with this movie everything is off center. Nothing is as it seems. Scares that should come at the right moment come a few seconds afterwards, just to keep you off guard. I loved this because I never knew what was coming next, especially the seance scene. That one you will have to discover for yourself.

Drag Me to Hell is one of the best movies of 2009. I know that isn't saying much, as this year has been pretty bad for movies, but if this movie had been released any other year it still would have been in the top ten. This movie is filled with jumps, scares, and anything else you can find in a good horror movie. Oh yeah, there's a talking goat in the movie as well. I rest my case.

Chopping Mall ** 1/2

Even though this movie is incredibly stupid, it's got that 80s cheesy fun. The movie takes place at a mall where they have introduced robot guards that will keep intruders or what will you out of the mall. They are made to stop these people simply by keeping them there until the police arrive. Well, as usual, teenagers want to stay at the mall at night and have sex. Why not? Anyway, the robots come up to these people but unlike how it was described at the beginning of the movie, the robots do not recognize the employees, but they start killing the people. So it's a survival story at it's best.

This movie is just a fun movie to watch. I do believe that the director (who is famous in the soft core porn business) knew very well what he was doing and deliberately made it cheesy. There are some funny lines that delivered seriously like "I'm just not used to being chased by killer robots in a mall at night". There is a classic head explosion in the movie, that I believe was shown in the trailer. The effect is just very well done, especially for a low budget 80s horror movie.

The ending is a bit odd, only because I don't know why none of the other characters figured something like that out. Barbara Crampton, from "Re-Animator" fame, is in this movie. My question is how did she get so ugly in one year? She was so cute and adorable in "Re-Animator" in 1985, and this came out in 1986 and she was terribly ugly in this movie. I didn't even know it was her until maybe the 3rd of 4th viewing of this movie because I looked it up on IMDb.

Honestly, this movie is a good time. Just watch it to have a good time, it's not by any means a good movie, but it's an enjoyable movie for what it is.

Big Man Japan ***1/2

Big Man Japan has put me at a roadblock. Here is a movie that is almost unexplainable, meaning that if I were to explain to you what this movie is about all the fun you would have had will go out the window. This is a movie that has to be seen to be believed.

But as a reviewer, it is my duty to tell you, only whether I liked the movie or not, but to give you some idea of what the movie is. I have chosen to give you my thoughts and leave the rest up to you.

Big Man Japan is a spoof on giant monster movies. But it is not exactly the type of spoof that you are used to. Yes, there are a lot of gags, but the movie works up to them. It doesn't take the cheap road and throw fifty gags at you, hoping that one or two of them stick. It takes one gag and nurtures it until it is really funny and then moves on to the next one.

That's not to say that this movie doesn't have cheap gags. There are plenty of cheap gags, but the truly funny ones are the ones that are earned, not given away.

This is why I find Big Man Japan so hard to review. I could give away a few gags, but the fun is discovering them for yourself. I can tell, though, that I really liked Big Man Japan. It is a very funny movie and if you give it it's due then I think that you'll like it too


Saturday, September 26, 2009

April Fool's Day (2008) ZERO STARS

It’s so great seeing a remake of I Know What You Did Last Summer...wait, this was a remake of April Fool’s Day? Well you could have fooled me (pun intended). The reason I say this is because this movie is not anywhere close to being a remake of April Fool’s Day. Most remakes are close to being a remake, in fact most remakes actually follow the plot of the original, hence the term “remake”. But in 2008, the film studios decided to can that idea and simply use the title and just make up some random storyline, simply to cash in on the titles. The other film in 2008 that chose this path was the remake of Prom Night. My questioning behind this is why do this? Why not just make a sequel if you’re not going to follow the original plot. I loved the original April Fool’s Day, but this movie was a piece of shit and it is simple as that.
What follows is the weak, made up storyline of the 2008 “remake” of April Fool’s Day. Basically, a party is going on and a group of friends decide to embarrass their friend Milan (Aldridge), by giving her a date rape pill (yeah, that sounds like fun), they videotape her making out with someone, but she loses her balance and somehow falls off a balcony, killing her. We then go into some pointless news show talking about the death and trial that follows. On this show they actually show the real footage of the girl’s death, which I’m pretty sure they would not allow that to be shown on national T.V., I think it would be considered evidence. So a year later, all the people who were involved in this girl’s death are being stalked and killed by “Milan”. Desiree (Cole), is the main person here playing detective trying to figure out what is going on.
I am going to reveal the ending to you, so stop reading if you don't want to know it. Basically, it turns out to be an April fool’s joke again, this time by no surprise. However, the surprise here is that the group that supposedly died, is actually after Desiree, trying to coax a confession out of her. Her confession to killing Milan. She finally confesses. The dumbest ending follows. As they explain what they did and why they did it, Desiree is accidentally killed by Torrance (Taylor-Compton). She is showing her that the gun she used had blanks in it, she puts the gun to Desiree’s head, and kills her.
Overall this movie sucked big time. Not just for the fact that it doesn’t follow the original plot, but because the new plot is lame. As stated above it feels like a very cheap remake of I Know What You Did Last Summer or even a bad remake of Prom Night, this was more of a remake of Prom Night than the actual remake of Prom Night was. The acting is okay, the direction is also okay. The writing is stupid. The characters are flat and at no time do you feel sorry for any of these people in the movie. And when the “shock” ending comes along, you aren’t surprised at all. Throwing in that accidental killing seemed like a cheap way to shock the audience. It didn’t work, as soon as it happened I knew that whoever wrote this was probably all out of their dumbass ideas to even come up with a decent ending. And what the fuck is up with “The Butcher Brothers”? And how is this movie based on an original idea from them? And why is this movie credited as being based on an idea by Danilo Bach? Yes, Bach wrote the original film, but since this movie doesn’t follow one idea from the original, there is no reason to give him credit. All this movie does is tack on the title so people think it’s a remake when in actuality it is a lame, direct to video horror movie that tries too hard. In short, this movie is a piece of garbage!


The Blair Witch Project ***

In 1994 three student filmmakers went into the woods of Burkittsville to film a documentary on the Blair Witch, they were never seen again. One year later their footage was found. That is basically how The Blair Witch Project begins. This film was released during the summer of 1999, during a time when slasher sequels had risen again and were tearing up the teenage audiences (both metaphorically and literally, in the movie sense). When first glancing at The Blair Witch Project you may be turned off by how it was made. The entire movie is shot like a documentary. And before I go on anymore, we know now that the movie was just that, a movie. There were no student filmmakers making a documentary on anything, and that’s what made this movie “scary as hell” as Rolling Stone put it in their review of the movie.
We follow these filmmakers, Heather, Mike and Josh as they venture to Burkittsville, Maryland, formerly known as Blair, as they try to understand the legend of the Blair Witch. In the beginning they interview townspeople, and about 15 minutes into the movie they make their final and apparently fatal venture into the woods. While there they uncover more of the legend, but as it moves along we soon discover that the three filmmakers are lost and have no map to get back. What follows is some of the scariest filmmaking I’ve ever seen in my life. Looking back at it now, it seems funny because there have been so many parodies of this movie, most notably in the Wayans brothers movie Scary Movie which came out only one year after this film did. You never actually see anything. That may not sound very scary, but believe me it is. I can’t remember the last movie that actually was able to scare an audience by showing nothing and just leaving it up to the imagination. Movies used to do this all the time, but that time has come and gone. So see a movie like this, it literally scares you.
Now, there are people out there that call this movie stupid and boring, and I can see where they are coming from. This is not by any means a movie to watch over and over again, but it is indeed a movie that you need to see at least once. Granted this movie is not original by any means. In fact in bears a strong resemblance to Cannibal Holocaust from 1980. The main difference between the two are that in this movie you see nothing, in Cannibal Holocaust it’s the exact opposite, you see everything. In Cannibal Holocaust only the last half of the movie is the footage the filmmakers made, with lots of cutting between present time and the footage itself. In The Blair Witch Project the entire movie is the footage.
The marketing for this movie was some of the most ingenious marketing I’ve ever seen. Basically posters had the above mentioned tag of the film about the footage being found. The filmmakers even went as far as putting out missing photos of the three people and launching a website with all these facts on what happened to the three filmmakers. On the Internet Movie Database, the three actors were listed as “Missing”. This was a very big marketing technique, so well done, that people actually started to believe it. Which is probably why the movie did so well.
The Blair Witch Project became the highest grossing independent horror movie since Halloween some twenty odd years before. The movie cost only $60,000 to make and made over $140 million domestically and over $245 million worldwide. This went onto spawn numerous mockumentaries and even a terrible sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 the following year. I think the coolest of these offshoots was that of the mockumentary on the DVD of The Blair Witch Project titled Curse of the Blair Witch, which gave out all the “facts” of the Blair Witch. A very interesting little piece. Nothing has come along since this movie to live up to its fear and ingenious marketing.

Urban Legends: Final Cut *

I gave this movie a one star rating when I was first writing everything out for this book. I hadn’t seen the movie in about 7 or 8 years when I gave it that rating. I just recently viewed the movie again in order to give it a proper review and I whole heartedly stand by my one star rating. The whole idea of the film was actually very intelligent and interesting. Basically the turned the cameras around on what was going on in the first film. This movie follows a group of student filmmakers, Amy (our final girl) is the little genius who comes up with an idea of a serial killer who kills on his victims based on urban legends (well actually it was Loretta Devine, reprising her role of Reese from the first film, but she was simply talking about the events of the first film). That’s an interesting idea, what followed after that was the sad attempt to make this a good movie, and the abortion of the result.
When you make a movie about someone killing people based on urban legends, it’s probably a good idea to have the killings be based on urban legends. The first film did this very well, this time around it seems like the writers forgot it was a movie about urban legends and just starting killing people off randomly. The first person to die in the movie was killed in a urban legend scenario. The classic, waking up in a tub full of ice and your kidney is gone. That’s not how she is killed, but at least it has to do with an urban legend. Every other death that follows was just random slasher film killings. One girl is attacked and has her neck cut out, a man is killed when beaten with a camera lens. None of these are or will ever be urban legends.
Then comes the stupid stuff in the movie. When the girl wakes up in the ice bath and calls 911 on her cell phone, she says “I just woke up in a tub of ice”, as the 911 operator replies “And let me guess, your kidney is missing? I have Princess Di on the other line” and quickly hangs up on her. This is the director’s / writer’s / producer’s sad attempt at humor in a horror movie, something Scream had accomplished so well 4 years prior. I really don’t think a 911 operator would just cut someone off like that if that call had actually happened. Also, what’s with the Princess Diana joke? That joke makes no sense, are they trying to attempt a rumor that she is still alive? I don’t ever remember hearing that she might still be alive, like everyone thinks Elvis Presley is still alive. And this joke feels slightly in bad taste, seeing how Princess Diana had died only 3 years before this movie came out.
Another dumb thing that happens in the movie is a character (who plays a bad actress, or is she even acting?) forgets her keys when leaving the set and she is all alone. First off, why is the lead actress the last one to be leaving the studio? So she heads back to the studio, looking in drawers and desks on the set. Why would she have put her keys anywhere on the set? She then goes into the bathroom, where everything is set up for a dog to be hanging from the shower. She immediately begins to look through the fake guts on the floor. WHY? Why would anyone put their car keys into the bloody fake guts on the floor of the set? And what do you know, the keys are in the guts!
It’s these reasons why the slasher film has pretty much died down again. Scream kick started the slasher genre again in 1996, but as it happened in the 1980s it happened again in the 1990s and beyond, half hearted sequels that come out almost immediately just to cash in on the original. Had they spent more time on this film, and actually worked out the kinks this could have been a great sequel.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Midnight Meat Train ***1/2

Clive Barker has had a tough time in Hollywood. His first movie Hellraiser was a hit, but never found the success that Hellraiser found. His second and third movies, Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions, never really found an audience in theaters. The same goes for Midnight Meat Train.

Barker only produced Midnight Meat Train, but he had to go through the same problems that he did on his other movies. Lionsgate, the studio that released Midnight Meat Train, decided to dump the movie in about 1,000 theaters across the country, mostly dollar shows, with no promotion whatsoever. This pissed Barker and fans off big time.

So, is the movie any good? Yes it is. The movie is very good. Not just because Barker is involved with the movie, but also because the movie was directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, the man who gave us Versus and Godzilla: Final Wars. Kitamura has an eye for the weird and unusual, so he compliments Barker very well.

The movie is about a photographer (Bradley Cooper) who is always looking for the dark side of life. While out looking for said dark life he witnesses a brutal murder at the hands of Mahogany (Vinnie Jones). Cooper becomes obsessed with Mahogany, following him to work (Mahogany works at a meat processing plant) and then to the subway where Mahogany kills people who take the subway really late at night.

Obsession plays a big part in Barker's work. In the Hellraiser movies everyone was obsessed with a box that hold unspeakable horrors. In Nightbreed, Boone is obsessed with fitting in so much so that he goes to a place called Midian. And in this movie, obsession leads to the break-up of a relationship so that Cooper can get the dark material he so badly desires.

Midnight Meat Train is not a movie for everyone. Some people will find the pacing of the movie to be slow as the first murder doesn't happen until the 20 min mark. But if audiences stick around they will find themselves seeing things that we have never seen before. I liked Midnight Meat Train for what was there on the surface and what was below the surface. This is a real made movie.