Friday, October 23, 2009

Skeleton Crew

According to backstory, in the 1970s a doctor at a European mental institution tortured and killed his patients. He filmed all of it. Now, in the 2000s, a film crew is in that same, now abandoned institution, filming a movie about the atrocities that happened in the '70s.
Of course, the crew happens to find a secret room with all the doctor's films in it and the movie director becomes obsessed. He decides to finish the doctor's work.
Skeleton Crew is badly acted and barely makes sense and, somehow, that works in the movie's favor. I don't know why but, much like Pep Squad, this movie would have sucked in the hands of capable actors.
There are plot holes (the most obnoxious one: there's a crew member (the actor playing the Boyfriend) who disappears after the first sequence; there's no explanation for it, he doesn't get killed, he's just gone), unexplained supernatural type stuff and a lot of dumb references to "We're in a horror movie, we have to follow the rules."
That was actually what bugged me most about the movie. After Scream came out, a large portion of slasher movies decided they were film savvy, too, and decided to have their characters talk about "the rules." It was a gimmick in Scream, a pathetic gimmick in Screams 2 and 3, and in every non-Scream movie it sounds even stupider. Skeleton Crew loses extra points because they don't make an attempt to explain what the rules are. One character actually ends the "following the rules" line with "Let's go to the basement." ...I'm sorry, what?! Be it a rule or just some advice, going into the basement is always a bad idea. Anyone in any other movie where they yammer about the stupid rules could tell you that!
In spite of that, I actually really liked Skeleton Crew. It was very stupid. It was also a lot of fun. And I get the impression nobody was taking the movie too seriously. I like that.
I imagine the writer didn't write a script so much as he wrote the following checklist:
- girls in underwear
- blood
- pun-spouting villain
- lesbians
- funny accents (they claim to be an American crew, but I counted entirely two people with American accents)
- incomprehensible twist
- incomprehensible stinger
Everything got thrown into a pot and we ended up with a pretty good soup.
Too bad the writer didn't bother to add "explanations" to the checklist. 'Cause I liked the incomprehensible twist but then they didn't actually do anything with it. If they took out the incomprehensible twist, the only thing the movie would have lost would have been that nonsense about following the rules. Which, honestly, would have improved it.
What they should have done was give their incomprehensible twist to a movie that would have worked with it.

End of line.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Paranormal Activity

Mild spoilers ahead. Ye be warned.

At best, Paranormal Activity is a shaggy dog story: way too much setup for a mediocre punchline.
Raving Bitch and her boyfriend Useless Asshole are trying to investigate a ghost or demon or somesuch that has been obsessed with Raving Bitch since she was eight. The whole thing is shown in home movies that the couple made.
It was The Blair Witch Project all over again. And I'm not saying "It was the same style." I'm saying someone said "Let's remake Blair Witch but have it all take place in one house."
It starts with the couple happy and enthusiastic. Then they start hearing loud noises in the night and spend the rest of the movie screaming at each other 'cause they're out of cigarettes and he kicked the map into the river. No, wait, I mean because there was a picture in the attic and he brought a Ouija board into the house. Whatever.
The only way it differs from Blair Witch is we actually get to see some stuff. Emphasis on the "some." In other words, you see a shadow twice and some footprints. Oooh, spooky.
Oh, no, wait...
I was pretty excited going in to Paranormal Activity. I knew absolutely nothing about it going in other than everyone was raving about how terrifying it was. I'd only ever seen one preview and that was mostly just shots of the audience screaming. I almost never get to go to movies that I know nothing about, so I was all for it.
This is a movie that would have been terrifying a few decades ago, back when it hadn't been done before. If it had come out in the sixties, nobody would have made such a huge deal when Blair Witch came out in the nineties and would have saved us a lot of trouble. "Oh. It's Paranormal Activity, but in the woods. Let's go see Mystery Men instead."
Maybe Paranormal Activity was actually scary and I'm just jaded. I did have a good time watching it, but for all the wrong reasons. Lauren and I had a lot of fun insulting the characters under our breath. I know I complain about unlikable characters a lot, but jeesh! There's a reason I call them Raving Bitch and Useless Asshole. And I'd like to point out that we were not the only ones laughing.
The "terrifying noises" mostly just sounded like "the demon bought a drum kit." For most of the movie he seemed less like a threat and more like an annoying roommate.
I will say this: I admired the way the demon's actions were built up. It went from playing the drums to dragging people down the hall (one of two cool parts).
And I loved the last scene. Loved it, thought it was awesome. However, even though the movie was only about an hour and a half long, it felt like it took days to get to there.
I don't know if I think that last scene is worth the overly long, overly annoying build up. But I feel like it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying if there was no buildup at all. And it was only just satisfying enough (because, like I said, unlike Blair Witch, they actually gave us something at the end).
It really is just a shaggy dog story.

End of line.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book Of Blood

In spite of the early "girl gets her face ripped off" scene, Book Of Blood takes a while to get going. For a while there I was wishing it would hurry up and end.
Eventually that feeling passed and I found myself completely drawn in to a pretty damn interesting ghost story.
An author who writes and teaches a class about paranormal activity holes up in a supposedly haunted house with her friend-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-equipment and one of her students, who has psychic visions. Crazy shit starts happening.
I've discovered the hardest thing in the world for me to do is review things that I enjoyed. I can never think of anything to say about them.
I liked Book Of Blood. I really did. That's all I've got.
That and an effective ending was marred by a framing device. Most of the movie is a story that the main character is telling. So after a very effective ending, a second and kind of pointless ending is tacked on for bad measure.
It doesn't ruin the movie, though.

End of line.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Wizard Of Gore

"Sit down, bitch. You die tonight."
It's probably better to watch remakes before the originals. That way I can be confused by them on their own merits.
The most I can say about the plot of Wizard Of Gore is this: Montag The Magnificent (Crispin Glover) performs magic shows wherein he mutilates and kills people (most of them are naked chicks, but we do get a clothed chick and a dude in his underwear, too). The people are fine at the end of the show, but the next day they're found dead anyway. Edmund Bigelow (Kip Pardue), his girlfriend Maggie (Bijou Philips) and their friend Jinky (Joshua Miller) try to crack the case.
There's the "back of the DVD" summary for you.
It took me more than an hour to realize that The Wizard Of Gore is a Se7en style film noir suspense movie. I rented it expecting a gorefest but, all things considered, it wasn't that bloody. All the magic tricks were performed behind a smokescreen and were the victims of cutaways and discretion shots. I'm not going to run out and, for instance, recommend this movie to my mom (for several reasons), but if you're really into gore, don't get your hopes up for a lot of it.
Anyway, once I got over the hurdle of figuring out exactly what kind of movie it is, I managed to enjoy it more. I just had to relax and let the plot twists take over.
'Cause, really, that's all this movie is: a series of plot twists. I think the majority of movies like to throw one or two really big plot twists at the audience in order to keep them on their toes. This one threw in several, to the point where not only do I think I didn't understand the movie, but I don't understand what I didn't understand about it.
Which, considering some of Montag The Magnificent's speeches, may have been the point in the first place. Either that, or we can include "what the hell he was going on about" to the list of things I didn't understand.
I think I would have really liked The Wizard Of Gore if it weren't for the protagonist. Edmund Bigelow has no redeeming qualities. In fact, he pretty much lacks a personality completely. The only stand out characteristic he has is that everything he owns is from the 1950s. To the point where it stops being cool and starts being pretentious. When your main character is bland and unlikable it really decreases the power of some of the plot twists.
Then there's Maggie. She lacks personality, too. So I guess she and Edmund are perfect for each other. At least Maggie owns a laptop computer, so she's bland and useless without being pretentious about it. Except she does spend a lot of time bitching and moaning about how the magic show is misogynistic. Which doesn't stop her from going a second, third and fourth time with Edmund. Inconsistency, thy name is Maggie.
I've got no beef with Jinky. He was the one likeable person in this mess.
It's really too bad that this movie is littered with these characters, really. I had no problem with the movie itself. It was confusing, certainly, but sometimes I like to be confused. I feel a bit like I did after I watched Saw IV. I'm a little pissed off right now 'cause I don't get it, but when it dawns on me I'm going to be very impressed.
A rewatch is out of the question, though, because I can't sit through another hour and a half of Edmund Bigelow and his stupid vintage suits.
You know you're a useless character when I hate your vintage suit.

End of line.