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Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer Movies 2013 part 1

Summer Movies - We are having our second good stretch of warm weather here in New England marking the start of summer. Of course we all know that the Summer movie releases start out in May, trying to get a jump on the competition, each hoping to be that next great blockbuster. So which one do you give your money to. How much does the trailer affect weather you see the film? Is the actress or the actor the reason you plop down your $12 (or so)? With so much hype with many of these films can they ever live up to the lofty expectation they themselves set so high? I generally avoid the summer glut of big budget high action films but I have to say this year I have already been dragged into several. Here are some thoughts on the ones I have seen.
Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)- I really resisted this film after having long talks with friends about the difference between an actor playing a role and an actor playing a portrayal of another actor. Star Trek falls into this later category with several characters being beloved and expectations being high and the current actors mimicking the characters played by the other people in the original series. It a tricky game being played by the film makers here.You have some guys playing a role like Chris Pine as Kirk, or Zoe Saldana as Uhura you can't accuse them of mimicry because his playing of Kirk is so different from William Shatner that he can be said to be playing Kirk as he Chris Pine sees the character. On the other hand Spock and Bones played by Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban are merely acting the way they have seen Leonard Nemoy and DeForest Kelley did the roles in the past. Is it honest acting like an existing character? I found it bothered me more this time than in the first film where it was sort of novel. Also because this is the route they took the actors are stuck playing those roles that way if the franchise continues. Then there is Simon Pegg as Scotty who has been written into the films as comic relief. He is just a caricature of the Scotty character from the original series played by James Doohan. So with trepidation my daughter and I went in to see the latest installment. They are relaunching a universe with a rabid fan base so in some ways need to keep many of the Star Trek elements in place. While at the same time they are taking the storyline in a completely different direction. They want to use the history created by the original series while at the same time rewriting it. In the end I think they win because they are making money. This film is a giant action film and it is pulling in the money, as of  June 23rd $216,611,000 (USA). The story brings back a classic Star Trek character to play the bad guy but in doing so completely trashes the history of the television series. On one hand selling this film on the shoulders of the series but then saying we should ignore the history that took place on that series. So we have our bad guy. Then there are several real problems in the film. One is that it was incredibly predictable the trail of clues needed to make the film flow were too obvious and thus there really was no big turn in the film. The question posed by the film is when a person conducts an act of terror and destruction, one in which loved ones were lost, is it at that point acceptable to go find and kill the perpetrator of that crime? Of course that question was answered well before the final sequences of the film, really by the end of the second act. Then the third act ends up creating more problems for the future of the series instead of just solving the problems of the film. Primarily is the frozen people with the magical blood which saves Kirk but leave a whole lot of questions that I won't go into here. When the film was done and the lights went up in the theater, my daughter looks over to me and says "Well that sort of sucked." I am not going to say that myself, to an extent I was entertained. I was annoyed at times with the characters and the strange dialog where characters argue during the most life threatening times, and really pissed at the comic relief of the film. It really is one of my biggest pet peeves about action movies since the 80s, it seems every one of them feels the need to relieve tension with some sort of comedy bit. At least for me it just takes all the edge of your seat tension and throws it away, taking me out of the film. I hate that and wish it would stop. Star Trek: Into Darkness works as a Summer film but it certainly has its flaws.
This is the End (2013) - My family almost never agrees on a movie to see as a group, with my wife Elisa preferring uplifting films or heart felt romantic comedies. My daughter on the other hand likes more teen oriented fair with some action and horror on occasion. I usually stick to horror but love science Fiction and also see an action film when I am in the mood. So when we all bent a bit and agreed to see this silly comedy it was a rare event. The story centers around the relationship between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel who were both on Freaks and Greeks together at the turn of the century. In fact several of the players were on that show including James Franco and Jason Segel but the story centers on the gap in the friendship between Rogen and Baruchel since Rogen became more famous and moved to Los Angeles. They all end up at a party at James Franco's house and comedy ensues. Then there is the whole fact that the world is ending and its the book of revelation end of the world. The supporting cast is excellent including Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, and Emma Watson the comedy is funny and rude. As with all comedy there are bits that hit and ones that miss. There really is no predicting, will the audience find the cumming all over the house argument funny? How about Michael Cera as coke head? What about the uncomfortable relationships between Jay and the "new " friends Rogen has? We all laughed at parts of this film and I think the consensus was that it was pretty funny most of the time. Taken for what it is, a funny relationship, end of the world movie with some commentary on the shallow nature of Hollywood relationships and how success changes existing friendships.
World War Z (2013) - I just saw this yesterday so of all the films here this is the one where my thoughts are most raw. This is a Brad Pitt vehicle all the way, most of the actors are far less known than him and the story focuses strictly on him and the red shirts that happen to be with him in each sequence. This is an end of the world scenario where a virus immediately infects people bitten by an infected person. We start the film with Gerry Lane (Pitt) and his family, wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and daughters Constance (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) as they experience the outbreak in Philadelphia. The action pieces in the beginning of the film are worth the price of admission as the family first flees Philly and then is rescued at the last second from the roof of an apartment building in Newark NJ.  Gerry a field investigator for the UN is needed to try to figure out the origin of the virus that is quickly decimating the major cities of the world and beyond. The secondary story is that of Gerry not wanting to leave his family at the end of the world but also knowing the best way to keep them safe is to figure this thing out. So off he goes on a world wind tour of Korea, Israel, and Great Britain before finally having some resolution. Now each place has its action scenes with the Korean one making no sense to me, the Israel one pissing me off and the WHO facility in Great Britain being inevitable. My primary problem comes with the Korean one where they fly in looking for patient zero, the entire sequence takes place at night in the rain and even with the time constraints placed by the virus it seem really poor decision making to me to not wait until daylight to do their business. Instead they risk the entire operation and lose there primary virus doctor, Andrew Fassbach (Elyes Gabel) in an incredibly unintentially funny way. On top of that they introduce a decent character Capt Speke (James Badge Dale) give him a bit of personality, just to kill him off, bastards. 
  Gerry is the luckiest person on the planet, getting his family out of two major cities during the outbreak, Surviving the silly night time maneuver in Korea, surviving the crazy CGI filled swarming of Israel, living through an outbreak on a plane and then recovering from injuries when the planes crashed to make it to the WHO facility, then avoiding 80 zombies and figuring out how to fight back against the plague using himself as the Guinea pig. Over the course of the film he still finds time to check in with his family. What a guy! Now don't get me wrong this is not a bad movie director Marc Forster seems to know how to do action and it is pretty compelling throughout. He is a competent director with impressive credits including Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner and Quantum of Solace. I will certainly give this film another viewing when it comes out on DVD.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lisa and the Devil (1974) Horror Devil

Lisa and the Devil (1974) -"Lisa e il diavolo"
Having seen this film and the other cut of it The House of Exorcism I was excited to here that the fine folks at's The World Famous Splattercast were going to cover it. So excited in fact that I re-watched both version and listened to the audio commentary while doing so. Of course I had to avoid hearing the podcast until I finished this writing which for me is a task. I really wanted to listed but like to have formed my own opinions before being influence by the the fine commentary provided by the crew at deadLantern.  Lisa and the Devil had excellent commentary by Tim Lucas who wrote the book Mario Bava : All the Colors of the Dark as well as other genre books. Probably one of the more expensive coffee table books I have seen, and will not own. Again you want to watch the film prior to watching it with the commentary.  When sharing that commentary in this write up I will make the text whether quote or paraphrasing I will put the text in italics instead of making a separate citation each time. There was so much interesting commentary in this film that I would recommend you take a listen. Whether sharing the origins of the fresco that Lisa (Elke Sommer) looks at at the beginning of the film or the musical piece accompanying the music box or giving background on the actors, Lucas is knowledgeable and detailed adding to the depth of the film.
  Lisa is a tourist visiting an unnamed town, the first stop off the bus is a fresco of the devil carrying away souls. Bava had the fresco made for the film with the likeness of Telly Savalas who plays Leandro in this film as the devil character. It was also common for Bava to use the idea of an image of someone becoming real in his films. She is about to take a journey on the strange side and does not know it. Drawn by music in the distance she walks off on her own, finding her way to a small shop where the music,  Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto Dara Weiss is playing. It's a turning point as she is seen by Leandro (Telly Savalas) as he who she sees in flash to be the spitting image of the devil from the fresco. Frightened she hurriedly leaves the store and we can hear Leandro saying "How strange, how strange,  you'd think she'd seen the devil."
 Espartaco Santoni) and in a neat bit of editing he appears to be real. Again this calls back the image of the fresco with the devil carrying away the dead. Lisa is ready to be out of this scary situation and takes the directions from Leandro that should get her out of the back allies. Would you trust his directions? She seems a bit ensnared at this point. Coming up some stairs there is at least a view of the city but in front of her is a man coming her way. She sees it is Carlo the spitting image of the dummy Leandro was carrying. He thinks she is a woman called Elena and this makes her even more panicked. Bava has both a sister and a daughter named Elena and important name to him. When he touches her like he knows her her reaction is to push him away with dire consequences. Really this is a transition in the film where Lisa leave one world and enters another. She is a pawn in the devils diabolical plans and just does not know it yet. She is still looking for a way out but the possibly dead man at the bottom of the stairs means she is stuck. We see her shout for help and in the next instant she is still wandering in the dark. Has a lot of time passed so the sun has gone down, or is it a supernatural darkness? It really is never explained but can be an indication that she is in some kind of other worldly situation. There is a time shift that starts at the fall of carlo probably signified by the shot of his watch with its broken hands across each other. Have two time crossed and now we are in a dream world where normal rules do not apply?  Are the lights she sees her salvation or will they bring her more trouble?
   This is the beginning of a strange journey for Lisa, a surreal journey into darkness where reality seems warped. Outside the store it takes the form of a maze like city, of winding streets. She searches for the way back to the fresco but can't find it. She seeks help but can't find any. Her anxiety increases when she runs into Leandro again in a back ally square. He is carrying a dummy of Carlo (
  Here I go again writing a summary of the film instead of a review of it. It is so easy to be caught up in the details and there are so many details. I will try to be better, really I will. This first part of the film is a way of showing that the devil has ensnared Lisa. If I were to pick out reasons why it works I would say the sense of confusion that Lisa experiences is well relayed through the scenes of her wandering the narrow allies of the town and her fear captured with low angled camera shot. What I think does not work so well here is that there is really no reason for her to be caught up in the story. If you pay attention in the shop where she sees the music box you will see that the characters on the box are driven around in a circle by death. So much of this film is about death, so if we take the box as symbolic then maybe the film itself is a circle that repeats, but I am getting ahead of the film here.
When she runs into Carlo on the stairs and he recognizes her as someone else we can surmise that maybe at the beginning of the devil's cycle with these characters she does not remember who she is? Is she actually Elena? Is this Elena's private hell where she is transported into this place to feel the confusion of being lost? At any rate Lisa is a very underdeveloped character, we really don't know anything about her or the woman Elena she was mistaken for. A weakness of the film has to be that she never becomes a fully developed character and it is left for interpretation whether she actually is Elena. It may be that because Lisa is not real, she could never have depth, she is a shell that Elena is using to try to escape the devil's influence. Never does she do anything to improve or hinder her situation, she just has these events happen to her. Much like the dummy's of the characters in the film Lisa is a mannequin of the film itself she is moved place to place but it really is never of her own doing.
The second act has Lisa getting a ride in a car owned by a couple Frances (Eduardo Fajardo) and Sophia Lehar (Sylva Koscina). It is a cool scene where we see from the stares between the people in the car that Sophia is having an affair with the chauffeur George (Gabriele Tinti) and that Mr. Lehar knows of it. It is an added dynamic to what is going on in their world. The car is having problems with its hoses and sputtering and overheating. The four of them are forced to stop at a local villa so repairs can be made. This sets up the primary story of ghosts and love lost and death and rebirth. The house is owned by the blind Countess (Alida Valli) and she lives there with her son Max (Alessio Orano) with butler Leandro. Naturally they are offered the hospitality of the house and here is the rub. Lisa seeing Leandro, tries to hide in the background but is seen.  He presses her about whether she recognizes him. A telling statement of Very Little escapes me if you know what I mean." lends to the idea that he is the devil. So if all the players are in a hell world the story of the house is the horror they must relive. The story in the house is of Carlo is the husband of the Countess. Elena is engaged to Max and then has an affair with Carlo. Max being a psycho kills both Elena and Carlo for their act of betrayal. They are brought back together into this house to rediscover the horrors of their sins by the devil again and again. The betrayal of infidelity is represented not only in the back story of the occupants but in the relationship between George and the Lehers. Each time the outcome will be murder.  Another symbol of this manipulation could be the music box, a circular disc spins the six figures watched over by the death character, The Queen, King, Bride, Groom, Male outside and death representing the Countess, Max, Lehers George and Leandro they are driven in circles. There is actually a point in the movie where the group is being lead by Leandro through the grounds in the same order as the figures on the music box.
  Primarily it is Max who is seen as the psychopath of the film but he is not the only sinner here. When it all plays out we think Lisa finds a way to escape and comes out of what is now a ruined house. Years of decay showing the rubble signifying she is back in the real world. Little kids playing there call her a ghost and say that everyone knows the ruins are haunted. Lisa thinking that she has survived heads out of town, a second chance? The plane she is on seems deserted and the music lets us know that the ending will not be good for her. When she finds the rest of the cast, dead looking in the plane and runs for the cockpit we see that very little actually does escape Leandro as he turns the pilot of the plain. Ultimately the story is about the power of the spirit world to control the fate of us humans. We are the pawns in the games run by Gods or monsters and our actions condemn us but we in the end have little power in changing a fate that has been casts. Lisa when she falls against the plane wall appears to be another body dummy to be played with by the devil. As he said, very little escapes him.
  No there are a lot of things to like about this film, some interesting camera shots, like the POV of the car pulling up to the villa. Not from the point of view of the driver though but from Lisa in the passengers seat. The already mentioned low angle shots in the town. There are a number of reflection shots in a spilled bottle of wine or in any other reflective glass where the focus changes fore to background or visa versa.. On top of the camerawork by cinematographer Cecilio Paniagua is the just excellent soundtrack by Carlo Savina. Overall the pacing was relaxed but being a child of the seventies I have to say really not too slow. Its no Phase IV or Vanishing Point. Still for a younger audience the first part of this film will seem slow. Bava is one of my favorite directors and I was pleased to be able to see what he wanted to be his defining work, Still there are others I love more , The Girl Who Knew Too Much and the classic Black Sunday to name a couple. Having watched it I can listen to @rachiepants on the Splattercast podcast and see what she thought. I was equally displeased with the strange disjointed money grab this film became in the form of The House of Exorcism, a horrible trashing of this film for the sake of money.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hatchet 2 (2010) Horror Slasher Ghost

Hatchet II (2010) - So lets do this again but up the gore and fill out the story a bit, and see what Hachet II is all about. The film again is as advertised but unfortunately not quite up to the quality of the first film. It starts immediately where the first film ends except final girl Marybeth has a different actress, instead of Tamara Feldman we have Danielle Harris. Harris at this point is a veteran horror actress started as a chjild in the genre in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) & Halloween 5 (1989), then later appearing in the remakes, Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009), and also Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet (2009) and after this film playing Belle in the under the radar but very good vampire flick Stake Land (2010). Hatchet II promises to up the gore factor and indeed it does, but unfortunately it is not a better movie than the original. There is something missing, it may be that the bringing back of the classic slasher was unique in 2006, than it was in 2010, but something is missing in this film that the original had. Harris for her part was a not as angry as the Marybeth portrayed by Feldman, instead she sort of come across as whiny. Then there is the long setup before finally getting out into the swamp. I am sure writer / director Adam Green felt he owned us some more back story but it seems to this writer that he over did it. So we end up with an elaborate set up and lots of back story before we finally get what we are promised, inventive kills and lots of fake blood. Are the kills worth the wait, well I think they are but the viewer definitely won't come away from this film with that same happy feeling they got from the first one.
   The story after getting away from Victor Crowley, with the help of the urine drinking swamp man Jack Cracker (John Carl Buechler) we learn a bit more about Marybeth's family. Her father it seems was one of the three boys who threw the firecrackers that set Crowley's house ablaze all those years before. He with his brother and another boy Trent are the reason Victor was killed accidentally by his father in the rescue attempt. So you could surmise that revenge on them could break the haunting of the swamp. Through flashback though we learn even m,ore unnecessary back story about the boy who would become the ghost Victor Crowley. It sort of explains why he was born deformed in the first place and why a horrible end was inevitable for he and his father. Doesn't really need to be explained but we get a good section of flashback devoted to it. I guess Green was trying to add some real depth to the character but really all it does in delay the anticipated bloodbath.
  Marybeth at Jack's suggestion goes to see Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) and when he learns who she is hatches a plan to end the curse and thus open the swamp back up for his tour business. Now there is no way to know what ultimately will stop Victor Crowley from appearing every night for murder and mayhem and the movie even states that. Still Zombie figures if he can get the remaining two men responsible for Crowley's death out into the swamp, Victor will kill them and the curse will be lifted. So on top of the already over complicated plot he creates another scheme where he lies to Marybeth so she will bring her uncle and the town's hunters so he can attract Trent. He presents a ghost hunt saying to the group that he will give each hunter $500 to behead the ghost of Victor Crowley, again paper thin this excuse works and we have a group of hunters all heading into the swamp to kill Crowley. Marybeth for her part just wants to retrieve the bodies of her Father and Brother but we all know how that is going to work out.
  It's all a bit tiring to get all this back story where the first film seemed to relish the journey without trying to create depth, this story is trying to create a myth that will last but it really takes away from the pacing. When the hunting party is fully formed things get movie and we get the action promised but it is only after the long setup. Again the gore is excellent fun with buckets of fake blood thrown against trees and walls and lots more including:
  • An intestine pulled out and used as rope to strangle the person (and pop the head off).
  • A bloody birth scene with ridiculous scared to death face.
  • Gruesome mouth mutilation
  • Propeller and face meeting
  • Beheading and totally inappropriate hatchet in the privates
  • Super long chainsaw up through the privates
  • Axe kill with belt sander chaser.
  • Beheading using table complete with blinking eyes
  • Person pulled in half and top half manually skinned while still alive
The players are adequate with Kane Hodder returning as Victor Crowley, and Parry Shen returns this time playing his own twin brother Justin. The hunting party consists of Bob (Tom Holland), Trent (R.A. Mihailoff), Layton (AJ Bowen), Avery (Alexis Peters), Cleatus (Ed Ackerman), Chad (David Foy), Vernon (Colton Dunn) and John (Rick McCallum). 
When the film is done nothing is really resolved, there is a twist but no resolution so the third movie will have plenty of room to finish up the story. If I was going to recommend one of the two films it would be the first. Don't get me wrong this film is watchable just missing something the first had in spades.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hatchet (2006) Horror Slasher Ghost

Hatchet (2006) -  You have to love when a movie knows what it is and approaches it with vigor. Hatchet is just that movie, a excessively gore filled horror romp that pulls no punches and wastes no time. Watching the unrated directors cut I was hoping to get absolutely the most gore possible and I believe that is what I got. This hour and a half film has some stunning blood spurting limb ripping scenes that can only be enjoyed on a large TV or in a theater. The film is a horror romp based on the Legend of... killer variety with Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) a deformed ghost monster seeking his father after a fiery death. He haunts the swamps outside New Orleans stuck in the painful angry state he was in on the night of his death. Legend has it if anyone comes too close to his house they will hear him moaning for his Daddy and then he will come and kill them. This is exactly what happens and writer / director Adam Green makes the film self aware enough that the ridiculous amounts of blood, and poor character decision making create a film that is campy fun instead of well executed cliche. In fact the gore is so over the top that if the movie tried to take it self any more seriously it would have been ruined. It didn't though and instead we have a fun ensemble horror flick for gore fiends to feast upon. The variety of  "kill bits" in this film include, between the buckets of blood being thrown against trees and walls include:
  • Body ripped apart, piece by piece and tossed (not a dwarf).
  • Alligator leg chomp.
  • Hidious hatchet hacking.
  • Skull ripped open at the jaw.
  • Shovel splitting head and an impaling. 
  • Beheading, burning alive, more ripped off lives and buckets of blood as noted before. 
There is some really shitty dialog too but so much of it feels camp that I really did not mind it. The one bit where the group is deciding who will check out the movement in the bushes is not very good but overall it felt like this movie was playing off the genre not trying to execute it.
  In the film we have a strange collection of people out on a illegal (only the guide Shawn (Parry Shen) knows its illegal) haunted boat ride in the swamp when things go horribly wrong for them. Shen does his own comedy bit switching from a Louisianan southern drawl, to an Asian accent to dropping the accent altogether. hmm... I wonder if that last switch was intentional? On for the ride and into the slaughter are Ben (Joel David Moore) and his friend Marcus (Deon Richmond) who are visiting Mardi Gras as a way to help Ben get over a breakup with his girlfriend. Doug Shapiro a businessman pretending to be an adult film maker so he can expand his porn collection with the lovely forms of Misty (Mercedes McNab) and Jenna (Joleigh Fioravanti), Midwest tourist couple Jim (Richard Riehle) and Shannon Permatteo (Patrika Darbo) and Marybeth (Tamara Feldman), a local out looking for he missing brother and father. When the tour boat gets stuck and then starts to sink this Hodge-podge of people have to fend for themselves in the haunted swamp of Victor Crowley.
  Crowley's story is told through exposition at various times between kills. A deformed child made fun of in town,  who was accidentally burned to death by three local kids setting off fire cracker and worst maimed by his father who was trying to break through the door to save him. He reawakens in the makeup heavy form of actor Kane Hodder, who played Jason in many Friday the 13th movies, and in the night and calls for his father, stuck in the pain and anger of the night he died. He is a ghost, who remarkable can be hurt but not killed, raising each time he is put down with renewed angry. This story and the strange disappearances in this part of the swamp are why the authorities closed it. So when Shawn illegally brings this group to the area and the boat sinking traps them it is but a short time before the carnage begins.
  Now this is not a great movie, at best it is a so-so movie with bonus points for the great gore effects. The effects are reminiscent of many Asian cinema action films, with limbs removed cleanly with extensive blood spurts and sprays. Its really over to top but brought into a camp American style horror film.  The style and irony of the writing are real positives even if the content is less than original. Add in a couple of key cameos by well known horror actors Robert Englund (Freddie Kruger in A Nightmare on Elm St series) and Tony Todd (The Candyman) and you end up with a very enjoyable time. So if you go into this film with expectations in check, really enjoy crazy gore and remember this is all for fun, you too will enjoy this movie. Certainly it would be great fun in a group watching jsut to see some reactions from the less strong willed.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Resident (2011) - Horror Stalker

The Resident (2011) - SEE THE FILM BEFORE READING OR IT WILL BE SPOILED! This is going to be a "Spoiler filled blogpost" because honestly I just feel the need to talk about this one. Not in my normal taste in horror films The Resident although passable is that sicko psycho character thing that frankly gives me the heebie jeebies. I grew up in the city of Boston and living in tight quarters is tough enough. Hearing your neighbors fight or have sex is not endearing but part of the environment. Looking out your window and catching a flash of the girl next store as she walks across the window in her undies happens sometimes, it may be momentarily exciting but you should not be camping out there waiting for another chance. Secretly manipulating people to move into your building full of secret passages with peep holes may just be going too far. No it is going too far and if that is the line then drugging and playing with his/her past out body is just plain criminal and repulsive. In exploitation films often the horror is having a conscious victim who knows you are going to do terrible things to him or her. Tension is created by seeing the reaction to the threatened abuse, in this film it is all about the reveal that while you were sleeping horrible things were being done to you. 
 This film is all about that reveal and the turn is better than expected, but there is a wierd flaw I will discuss later. It starts as a film about Dr. Juliet Devereau (Hilary Swank) and her need to find a new place to live after leaving her cheating boyfriend. She is a doctor working hard in Brooklyn and not finding the best places in a city where living in a closet is expensive. Responding to a call back from Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) owner of a place right on the bridge and next to the park Juliet runs in daily she finds he has this great spacious apartment for $3800 a month. Worth every penny in fact a steal and if there is one thing we have learned through horror movies of the past, if the apartment is too good to be true, its probably sitting on a gate to hell. In this case she feels no is not an answer she can give and moves in pronto. We then get to see some creepiness and a whole lot of  the good doctor's body. The idea is to show how relaxed we are in our own spaces, stripping our clothes off, masturbating in the bath, rubbing lotion on our body anywhere in our own space. In a way it was an advertisement for the fact that Hilary Swank has a pretty smoking body. Its saying please directors you can still cast me as the young (enough) hottie, I don't have to be in the Mom role yet. Really though it is for the first reveal, the reveal that her landlord is a peeping tom behind the walls watching her.
At the same time we have been watching the two Juliet and Max connect a bit. She being on the rebound finds his attention enjoyable and he is polite and seems kind. Just when things seem to be getting hot and heavy between the two, Juliet has second thoughts and puts a stop to the relationship. She rejects him in bed and then is quick to start moving him into the friend zone. This is when the film does a really strange thing. This movie which has been about a professional woman rebounding from a cheating boyfriend shifts to a completely different story. There is a literal rewind where we see the last couple months through the eyes of Max. We quickly see the interactions and chance meetings between the two as orchestrated manipulations. How Max lured her into seeing the apartment, and made it to good to pass up. It is a weird shift taking the focus off who we thought the main character was and placing it on Max. So instead of a story about Juliet we start to see her as a victim of the strange obsessions of this man. I have to say that I was not expecting this rewind and for a second thought something was wrong with my PlayStation.
So now the second act become all about Max and his increasingly irrational behavior towards Juliet. The writers Antti Jokinen and Robert Orr wanted us to see behind the innocent mask that Max puts in front of Juliet and start to delve into the sick psyche, and escalating behavior he has when she is not with him. The film does a very good job as slowly revealing his sickness. We see him at first in the peepholes, watching Juliet prancing around in the candlelight of her apartment. She always seems to light candles instead of use electricity which makes the setting more creepy. Then there is the coming in the house and watching her sleep, a bit more wierd but not quite at the sick level to come. When we learn that Juliet is having trouble waking up on time we get the reveal about Max and his date rape drug that he is doing her with. Creep fact jumps! When we see him beat off in her tub we have seen enough but this film is not done with us yet. As Max learns that Juliet is getting back together with her ex boyfriend Jack (Lee Pace) his behavior gets even more erratic and weird. We see him drugging her, kissing her as she lay out cold in her bed, then he is under her bed licking her fingers as she sleeps. All though is now focused on Max and to be honest I don't really want to see his behavior escalate.
  The tird act shifts back to being about Juliet and how everything that has been going on is revealed. She eventual brings this all to the final sequence by doing two things, first she has blood work done on herself to try to figure out why she is sleeping so soundly, and second she has security cameras installed in her house so she can try to get rid of that feeling that someone else is there. The ex boyfriend being back has put Max into the dangerous psycho realm and now we have to have Juliet learn the full nature of the goings on so we can come to a finale. She learns she is being drugged and calls Jack to warn him away from the apartment. Always too late for those calls though in these kinds of movies so off she goes  to save him. When she gets to the apartment and sees the video of Max in her place she and we the audience get the great reveal of just how fucking sick Max is. We have seen him doing some weird shit but the video the tear filled Juliet sees shows that she is being drugged and raped by Max. Its an powerful scene before the final fight for survival which will inevitably come after such a reveal.
  The final scenes of running and hiding and fighting and dying are pretty standard fare and luckily for our main character she has the camera tapes to prove her case to the police, although that will happen after the film ends. I think I liked the way the film revealed things slowly. I do have to say though I really suspected after learning that the drugging was happening that Max was raping her in the nights. Still they had his behavior slowly escalating so the view could think he was working his way there and had not yet crossed that line. I loved the smaller role of Lee Pace as the boyfriend Jack since I have such fond memories of him from the short lived series "Pushing Daisies". Also anytime I still get to see Christopher Lee in a film I consider it a gift. He played the ill fated grandfather of Max and his death in the film was the turning point for his grandson who at that point was a killer instead of just a creeper.
  In closing there are no great apartments left in NYC so just stop moving there, its the only sound thing to do. Don't trust your landlord and by all means if you are sleeping late get some blood work done. Of course if your new place is nice and the landlord does not end up being sinister, your new place, as I said earlier, is sitting on a gate to hell so things won't be good for you anyway. Of course in horror moving to the country won't be the answer either so anyway you cut it you are fucked.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Mama (2013) - Horror Ghost

Mama (2013) - When my daughter Joy was little my wife Elisa and I were probably overly cautious in keeping her safe. Can you be overly protective? We were always very aware of our surrounding of possible dangers. We researched whether there were sex offenders were living nearby. We always visited her friends houses and met parents of her friends and got to know them before she could go over to play. When she was small we were protective it seemed the right approach. The same care and alertness was extended when her friends came to our house also. We took care of  her friends as we took care of her, guarding their safety while they were with us. Are we instinctively protective of children? Hard to say, as a kid I pretty much grew up without any supervision at all. My Mom worked multiple jobs to pay the bills which meant we from the time we went to school until the evening watched ourselves. Sure the older kids were responsible for the younger ones but really we grew up without adult supervision. So why was I the opposite in raising my own daughter. Is there some deep down feeling I had as a kid which makes me uncomfortable to this day allowing the same thing for my girl? Probably to an extent it was not always comfortable being a kid and left alone with just the neighbors checking in on you. Maybe it is the new media world we live in, one in which we hear every horrible happening in the world as it happens. We see the twitter amber alert, we get live coverage 24/7 and it fills us with dread. Maybe ignorance was a bit of bliss in the old days? Maybe all those disappearing friends had more to do with bad people and less to do with CHUDs.
 Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse) as they are caught up in a failing family. Their father Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is estranged from his wife and we pick up the story after he has snapped and killed a couple coworkers and then at home his wife also. We see him as he collects his kids and heads off ahead of the law driving too fast through snowy mountain roads. The film does a good job at capturing the Jeffrey's desperation as he struggles with the emotions of what he has done. It also allows us to see it through the children, Victoria at five years old is nervous, she can tell her father is upset but does not grasp the full picture of his crimes. When he drives off the road his escape, for what it was, is over and he takes the kids and heads into the woods. Finding an abandon cabin he struggles with his conscience to the point where it is obvious to the audience that he is going to end his life and the lives of his children. It is a gripping opening ten minutes and although the story has not really started we are to the point where it starts. As Jeffrey raises the gun to little Victoria's head he is stopped by someone who comes out of the darkness. She is Mama and she has chosen influenced by her own back story to look out for these two little children and to protect them as her own. Its not a secret after this first ten minute, what the nature of the Mama character is so I will not really be spoiling anything to say she is a ghost. In fact her first appearance is very cool and you can't really dislike the spirit who saved two children from death at their father's hands. All this before the credits and then during the credits the director does one of those nice time transitions where through the drawings by the children on the house walls we see  they have been living there and protected by Mama. Damn according to the pictures on the walls that ghost saved them from being eaten by wolves.
In the film Mama we are thrown into a story where bad things are happening and then the protective mothering instinct changes the lives of two small children, Victoria (
  The story picks up 5 years later and a lot of the momentum of the first ten minutes is lost with after the girls are found in the cabin by a couple searchers hired by the Jeffrey's brother Lucas (played by the same actor as Jefferey). Good thing they were found too since he has run out of money and searching on his own two feet is out of the question. The clunkiness of the setup to get the girls living with him can't be overstated here. He is a broke artist, living with a rocker girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain) who wants nothing to do with children. Still though Lucas is their uncle and never gave up on finding them. What are they to do? Where will they live? How will these to thirty something free spirits afford to settle down and raise children who have gone wild (in the wilderness sense) for the last five years. The Grandmother (Jane Moffet) on the mother's side would also like custody of them and has the means to provide for them. Since they portray her as an unloving bitch the writer are pretty clear we should cheer for the unfocused artists in the case. Step in the ever contrived Doctor Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) who wants to study the girls. Since he does not know about the ghost feeding and protecting them he sees them as unique having survived in the woods alone for all those years. Since Grammy will not let him see the girls, he makes a behind closed doors deal with Lucas to have the couple and the girls live in a house nearby and provide the basics so he can have easy access. Dreyfuss being the person doing the recommending in the custody case chooses the inadequate couple over the grandmother thus setting up the rest of the story. I found this set up to really be weak sauce. A doctor driven by a case that can make his career and a couple really not suited to be parents get the crazy wild kids with the emotionally attached ghost. Still it does make for some fun spookiness in the second act.
  That's the thing about this film for all of the awkwardness of the setup, there are some really cool scary moments. We know about Mama the whole time and can feel the thrill as she closes in on the couple. Now Edith Brennen, the woman who would become Mama in death had her own deal which is revealed as the story goes on, is really attached to the girls. She is not haunting them but instead is treating them as her own. So injecting live parents into the mix has some pretty serious consequences for the unsuspecting couple. Mama is a jealous ghost who wants to keep the girls and not allow them to integrate into a new family. This is the drama of the film and with it comes some very cool scares. Annabel is the primary focus with the girls, a competing mother, but a reluctant one. Not willing to give up on her boyfriend she joins the family and ends up a real target of Mama's wrath. Because of strange choice by the writers Neil Cross, Andres Muschietti  and Babara Muschietti the character Lucas is out of the story all through the middle of the film. Annabel has to carry the film and deal with the crazy scary to come on her own.
  At this point it would be a smart thing to be clear that I sort of enjoyed this movie. Even with its flaws it was a decent little ghost story. The little girls were great in it and I felt that there was enough creepy ghost playing with girls stuff to keep it interesting. Slowly the story is revealed and we get to what is an overly melodramatic ending, that closes the circles on what it means to be a family. Now how the couple is going to explain the aftermath of the final scenes is beyond me, and the film since all we get there is credits. Director Andres Muschietti delivers the scares so Mama seems worthy to me for the scares even with its flaws.