Sunday, May 19, 2013


I believe this is the second movie called Alice I've reviewed for this blog. But while the other Alice was a coming of middle age Woody Allen dramedy, this Alice is a mostly stop motion Czech nightmarepiece.
The movie starts with Alice (who, apart from a few animals near the end of the movie, is the only live action character) in her playroom, tossing rocks into a cup of tea when suddenly her taxidermied rabbit comes to life, puts some clothes on, busts out of his glass case and jumps down a desk drawer.
Despite the rabbit being the most horrifying creature I have ever seen, (who also has a hole in his chest where he keeps his watch and is perpetually bleeding sawdust) Alice follows him down the desk drawer and into his realm of terrifying stop motion creatures and a similar series of events to Alice In Wonderland.
It occured to me about midway through the movie was a sort of cross between Alice In Wonderland and a haunted house movie. It centers around a wide eyed, expressionless little girl who is following a white rabbit through the rooms of a decrepit, abandoned house. There's one room full of sock monsters burrowing through the floor. When Alice grows too big to get out of the white rabbit's house, the taxidermied bunny has stop motion animal skeletons help him get her out. This is the only version of Alice In Wonderland I've ever seen that actually features beheadings, and the fact that they're performed on paper people doesn't make it less disturbing. When Alice shrinks she turns into a doll and in one scene she grows back to her normal size but remains in doll form and her human self has to tear its way out of its own doll body.
There were parts of Alice I really enjoyed, and the little girl in particular was a lot of fun to watch for some reason (I hated it when she turned into a doll). Overall I'd say it's a much more honest piece of work than Tim Burton's CGI heavy Alice In Wonderland, which felt more like a cynical attempt to bilk pseudogoth teenagers out of their money.
Alice is also one of the creepiest movies I have ever seen. It's not scary but it has an overlying blanket of heebie jeebies, which I think really works for it. It's a very interesting movie, dark without being bleak, and one of the most memorable Alice adaptations I've seen.
It did have one infuriating touch, however. Every time any character said anything, it cut to a closeup of Alice's mouth saying "Said the White Rabbit," or "Demanded the Queen Of Hearts," or whatever. Every single line of dialogue that wasn't said by Alice (and even a few that were) had that followup and that got very old very quickly.
Other than that, though, it's a fine movie indeed, but not one I think I'll ever watch again (unless I follow the suggestion someone on an IMDB message board posted and watch it while listening to Mr. Bungle's third album. That sounds like a lot more fun to me than Pink Floyd and The Wizard Of Oz).
That rabbit is going to give me nightmares.

End of line.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Gay Bed And Breakfast Of Terror

If the title doesn't tip you off in regards to what you're in for, the opening credits sequence of a go-go dancer singing a song called Watch Out For The Straights! probably will. And at that point you're either on board or the train's leaving without you.
There's an excessive number of characters for what this movie does; I feel like if they'd eliminated the older-dude-and-his-jailbait-gigolo-boyfriend subplot they could have shaved at least five minutes off of the movie without sacrificing any of the plot.
But it's really hard to fault The Gay Bed And Breakfast Of Terror for much of anything because all of its shortcomings work for it. The lousy over-the-top acting, the fact that the characters are stereotypes, the ridiculous and stupid twist endings all seem appropriate, if not deliberate. The whole movie has a large, campy sense of humor that really makes it critique-defying.
It's not a perfect movie. It may not even be a good movie. And I'm sure there are plenty of people who could verbally tear it to shreds if they were so inclined. But those people are spoilsports and no fun. The Gay Bed And Breakfast Of Terror is a lot of fun. It's fun to watch and I get the impression the actors had fun making it.
Will I watch it again? Probably not.
Did I like it better than Primer? Hell yes!

End of line.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Graham Chapman: Anatomy Of A Liar

Anatomy Of A Liar is sort of the movie I wished A Liar's Autobiography had been.
I'll be honest, A Liar's Autobiography made me feel a little ill. I don't know if it was because the animation was creeping me out or what but it just made my stomach hurt and it didn't really work for me.
And I felt that way again watching Anatomy Of A Liar when they showed clips from Liar's Autobiography. But Anatomy Of A Liar was also mostly just a straight up (albeit very short) documentary about Graham Chapman and that was all I wanted to see all along.
There are a few segments that talk specifically about the movie and the processes that went into animating various segments. One of those tangents was actually very interesting because they were talking to a guy who animated a serious part of the movie, a part that in particular gave me the heebie jeebies, but he explained the process of what he did and that was fascinating. It didn't make the art any less creepy but it did give me an appreciation for it.
Most of the detours into talking about the movie rather than about Graham, however, bored me. Maybe it was because I knew I didn't like the movie anyway. I actually watched Anatomy Of A Liar in the hopes that it would bring me an appreciation for Liar's Autobiography but it didn't do that. Instead it made me more certain that I'd have been far more interested in a plain old documentary about Graham Chapman. And at least half of Anatomy Of A Liar was that, and I did like it a great deal more than the animated film it was promoting.
But because it was made to promote A Liar's Autobiography, I wasn't all that into Anatomy Of A Liar, either.

End of line.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Lords Of Salem

I have been agonizing over how to write this review pretty much since the moment the movie started. I have a very hard time knowing what to say when I enjoy a movie. What can you possibly say? Usually if I love something, it's intangible; there's no "why." It doesn't matter if you're talking about a movie or a person or anything else, love shouldn't have to have a "why."
And I love Rob Zombie movies. I feel like he and I are on the same wavelength on what is aesthetically pleasing and I think he makes the kind of movies that I, without even knowing it, am craving at any given time.
The Lords Of Salem is basically about Satan-worshipping witches, which is a premise that would not have drawn me in if it weren't preceded by the phrase "A Rob Zombie Film" but nevertheless he did the opposite of what Stephen King always does: he came up with a concept that didn't sound interesting to me and did with it exactly everything I would have wanted to see.
The movie takes almost no time at all devolving into brain melting weirdness, with things like naked old witch ghosts, glowing crosses, a yeti looking thing, something my friend and I dubbed the Turkey Baby, fucked up dream sequences, pervy priests, devil chaos and the kind of music video visuals that I happen to love. Some of the weird things fall flat. Turkey Baby in particular kind of ruined a beautiful scene that, until it showed up, was giving me chills.
But that's just the thing; few movies give me chills anymore but I have yet to see a Rob Zombie movie that doesn't. There's something about his style that really gets to me and I'm always disheartened to hear that his movies almost invariably get terrible reviews. What am I seeing that everyone else is missing?
Apparently a lot of people are claiming Sheri Moon-Zombie can't carry a movie. She's appeared in every one of her husband's films but this is the first one where she plays the lead. And I honestly don't think she had a problem carrying the movie. Not exactly, anyway. You see, even though Heidi is the main character, she isn't given much to do beyond look pretty and quickly deteriorate into witchy madness. And, while I agree that she isn't the greatest actress to grace the screen, she's by no means bad. She's certainly better than I would be.
The problem is she's outshined by the supporting cast. Bruce Davison was so likeable I forgot that he's Senator Mutant Hater. Patricia Quinn was so on that she made me wish I didn't hate The Rocky Horror Picture Show; even when she was in the background, not doing anything, she drew my focus. And Jeff Daniel Phillips, who I'd never heard of before, was incredibly endearing as Heidi's sweet and concerned coworker who seems to be the only person who really notices she's in trouble.
It's not a perfect film. It has its faults. But it did exactly what I had hoped it would do: it got to me. I can feel myself teetering on the edge of obsession with it. It's disjointed and it's weird and it's visually stunning. There were parts of it I loved, there were parts of it I hated and I want very much to see it again.
Several times.
Yes, I tend to be a Rob Zombie cheerleader. I love his movies. But I have no interest in seeing The Devil's Rejects or Halloween or The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto again. Yes, I own them. Yes, I'll probably revisit them at some point. But Devil's Rejects is exhausting, Halloween is depressing (that scene with Danny Trejo breaks my heart) and El Superbeasto ... well, the Hard 'N Phirm songs are pretty much all that movie has going for it as far as I'm concerned.
The Lords Of Salem, on the other hand, I can picture watching several times trying to take it all in. I still don't love it as much as House Of 1000 Corpses (that movie just makes me happy) but I did leave the theater feeling giddy and overwhelmed and filled with the strong desire to turn right back around and go see it again.

End of line.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Eight job applicants (Black, White, Brown, Asian, Brunette, Blonde, Dark and Deaf (the movie chose those nicknames, not I)) have reached the final stage of a very top secret selection process for a high end position at somewhere. A man gives them cryptic instructions and eighty minutes, then leaves the room and lets them have at it.
I am an absolute sucker for "limited number of people stuck in a small space to solve a mystery / have their personalities ricochet off each other" type movies. It's a genre that's hard to stumble across (the only other ones I can think of right now are Saw, Cube and another one I watched a year or two ago but have forgotten the name of ... Breathing Room, maybe?) and it isn't always done well, but even when it's lousy, I still love it.
Luckily, Exam is done well, though the first half, which focuses more on the "solving a mystery," was far more interesting to me than the second, "ricocheting personalities" half.
Most of the problem was White. Fuck that asshole, I hope he dies in a fire. The movie tries to give him a faint hint of sympathy but by the time they introduce that little tidbit about him, you're already out for his goddamn blood, so it doesn't really work.
Sadly, even the likeable characters (of which there are few) have moments of absolute unlikeableness that kind of ruin them. I liked Black through most of the movie and at one point he full on socks White in the face, which makes you want to stand up and cheer, but then he does something (I don't remember what now) that kind of spoils him for me.
But not as much as Brown, who was kind of intriguing if a bit assholey, completely crosses the line and never wins back my favor. Which is fine because I'm not entirely sure why I was kind of rooting for him in the first place.
The other problem I had with the movie (and this is something that will only bother me) is in the beginning I felt like it could have been a companion piece to The Prisoner: this is how you get a job in The Village. But then they started explaining about the place where they were applying and made it very clear what kind of a company it was, and that dopey little fangirl fantasy of mine had to be put to rest.
Anyway, Exam was really entertaining but occasionally frustrating. I'm glad I finally saw it.

End of line.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Slumber Party Massacre

I read something once that talked about Slumber Party Massacre and how it had been given a lot of crap when it was released for being sexist, but how it isn't actually sexist because it was written and directed by women (yeah, because women are never sexist *eyeroll*) and that it's actually a feminist movie.
First of all, I could get into a whole big thing about how most slasher movie heroes are women and it could be argued that, therefore, all those movies are feminist parables.
But I'm not going to. Because that would be stupid. Looking for meaning and symbolism in slasher movies is like looking for Donald Duck at Disneyland. Sure, he might be there and if you're into that kind of thing it might even add to your enjoyment of your vacation. But some of us are just here for the rides.
So now we all know where I stand on that issue.
Slumber Party Massacre is about some girls who get massacred during a slumber party.
Okay, okay, there's more to it than that. We're told about thirty seconds in (thanks to a poorly worded newspaper headline) that a man who kills women with a drill has escaped from prison. A teenage girl is left home alone for the weekend and has friends over to hang out. Her next door neighbor (a middle aged guy) promises to check in on them and her other next door neighbor (one of her basketball teammates) is at home babysitting her sister who's probably supposed to be about thirteen but looks like she's about twenty four.
Driller Killer targets Teen Girls and the Teen Boys Who Play Pranks On Them (Probably In An Attempt To Get Laid), people get killed, screaming happens, blah blah blah.
There's no real surprises to Slumber Party Massacre, it's a by the numbers affair. I've been cursed with genre-savviness at this point; I know when it's just going to be a cat jumping out at you, I know when someone's dead when you're supposed to think they're alive. It's predictable.
It's also a fun and entertaining way to spend an hour and fifteen minutes. I've been on every ride at Disneyland but that doesn't mean I don't want to go back every chance I get.

End of line.