Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Before we all chuckle at the found-footage genre, let's take a moment and show respect for how fucking groundbreaking The Blair Witch Project was.  Since it's been nearly 15 years (!!!) and we've seen about a billion shaky-cam movies since then, it's easy to forget that Blair Witch was pretty goddamn shocking when it came out.  Remember when we thought these people were actually missing?!  Like before they did Oprah?  This movie truly inspired a cultural phenomenon.  The hunting season suffered, as tourists descended on the woods of Maryland looking for the Blair Witch.  The sign at the entrance to Burkittsville was stolen numerous times.  And of course, it launched the found-footage subgenre of horror, which continues to this day.  This movie was made in 8 days for $22,000 and grossed $241 million.

So in case you just fell out of the sky, The Blair Witch Project is about some 20-somethings making a documentary about a local legend in Maryland.  Apparently the producers convinced the actors that this story was real, even though it was completely fabricated for the movie.  They interview a bunch of townspeople, and then take off into the woods to find evidence of the Blair Witch.

Apparently a lot of the aggravation in the woods is real.  Not only did the crew torment the actors with pranks and scares, but also reduced their food rations in order to make them more irritable.  Also, we all can't forget that rumor -- "you can see the period blood on her jeans!  She didn't know they were going to be out there that long!"

As the hours wear on, they all seem to realize that they didn't plan this out well enough, and they're constantly lost.  While constantly consulting the map, they always blame each other for their situation.  Meanwhile, the weird occurrences escalate.  Strange rock formations outside their tent.  Things that go bump in the night.  One thing you can't disparage this movie for is the acting and emotion.  These people were scared as shit, and it showed.  When they see the same creek again, I got a little chill.  Yes, the up-close shot with the boogers and everything is a little overdone.  But I don't care what y'all say.  When they see those little hand prints on the wall and see dude standing in the corner -- come on, we ALL were scared.

It's easy to dismiss this movie since the found footage realm has just become so saturated.  But this was truly a pioneer and if we can put aside our jaded minds for a moment, we horror fans should all appreciate this movie for what it is.  Also, haters gonna hate, but I loveeeee Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

XGame (2010)

It's no secret that I have a hard time sitting still.  Whenever I'm watching and reviewing a movie, it's hard to keep myself from doing something else, like organizing, sewing, making a to-do list, etc.  When I really want to force myself to unplug and pay attention to a horror flick, I always queue up a foreign film, since I have to watch it in order to read the subtitles.  I have an insane instant queue at this point (about 310 movies) so I'm slowly chipping my way through it.

XGame is about bullies, and hails out of Japan.  I was kind of a nerd in school, so I remember being teased a bit, but I do not recall bullying in general being as bad as it is today.  In XGame people who were bullied when they were younger are finally getting their revenge.  There are other murders taking place involving bullies and payback, but this specific story is about Mariko, who was relentlessly tortured by her fellow classmates.  One person tried to help, but was always ignored, since one of the bullies' parents was prominent on the board of education.  First, the teacher, who let the abuse happen, is given his punishment, followed by the students who coldly participated.

The former students are brought into their own classroom and forced to pick from the X-Game box that they previously created.  Punishments include: thumbtacks, milk challenge, dirty rags, frizzy hair, and even a death penalty.  Of course, the punisher has created far more extreme tortures than were doled out in elementary school.  The thumbtacks are a chair full of sharp nails.  The clothespin is a giant clamp on your arm. And milk chugging?  School lunch?  Grosssss.  The animations depicting the upcoming punishments were 8-bit and seriously creepy.  At some point, they all get a hot iron in shape of an X.

The end of this movie has a few interesting little twists that link all of it together.  And some extra little creepy scenes.  Also, you know, a whole little conspiracy thing.  Apparently people have this movie confused with another called "Death Tube."  Well I guess it is not that movie.  This was very reminiscent of Saw but it also reminded me a little of Bloody Reunion for some reason.  Of course, it was a little long....all Asian horror movies tend to have a longer showtime than American horror.

Overall, this wasn't my favorite Japanese horror movie ever, but it definitely had some redeeming qualities.  If you like Saw-style movies, you would probably enjoy this one, but prepare yourself to settle in for the two hours.  Happy watching!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Under the Dome Episode 4 - "Outbreak"

God-DAMN this man is good looking.  At first, Jeff Fahey was the best thing about this show, but now that he has been cruelly ripped from my Monday night television, I must spend my hour lusting after Barbie, while Scream King whines, "ugh, there's no good looking girls on this showwwww."  When we left the residents of Chester's Mill last week, Julia was rifling through Barbie's stuff, Big Jim was serving up some vigilante justice, and the teenagers were having some more of those pesky seizures.  Oh, and you can't escape the dome by going underground.  But I think we all kinda knew that.

The theme of this week's episode is SHIT JUST GOT REAL.  Oh, did Angie try to fake seduce Junior and then slice him with scissors?  NO.  He will have none of that.  As people start to pile into the hospital, one half of the the two moms, who is a psychiatrist but apparently knows medicine, suspects meningitis.  Not only are there not many antibiotics left, but the Reverend is busy burning all of the drugs from the pharmacy.  Meanwhile, Julia takes off with the map and some information about the cabin where her husband was killed.  She arrives there to find some evidence that isn't clear to us.

Angie wakes up to a broken pipe and her little dungeon being flooded.  Barbie questions the DJ as to what information he told Julia.  Junior takes a stand against the townpeople, imploring them to stay in the clinic to avoid spreading meningitis to anyone else.  Joe and Nori videotape themselves having those weird seizures.  Joe creepily looks at the camera and makes a "ssshhh" gesture.  Ugh, that gave me the willies.

Barbie once again saves the day, rescuing a passed-out Julia from the cabin, where she discovered her husband's crippling debt.  Barbie comes a little clean and explains that he's a leg-breaker, paid to go after guys who owe their bookies.  Julia seems shocked, but Barbie explains that her husband probably just ran away from his debts....he's certainly not buried in the woods somewhere ;)

Woken from her meningitis haze, Linda mistakenly trusts Junior, making him a deputy.  The flooding of the basement has caused Angie's voice to carry, and Big Jim to discover her tucked away.  The Reverend declares himself "clean" of their business and hands over his profits to Big Jim.   Until next week!

Mama (2013)

One thing that's hard about reviewing horror movies in the midst of the information onslaught that is the internet is that I feel torn between what I do think about something and what I'm "supposed" to think about it.  But, despite mixed reviews, I absolutely freakin' loved Mama.  Not only do creepy kids scare the bejesus out of me, but the striking attention to eeriness and specific details just really solidified this flick for me.  The girls who played the young abandoned children were just so haunting and beautiful, and for a movie almost completely devoid of gore, this one found a way to really stick with you.

Jeffrey, father of Victoria and Lilly, has a nervous breakdown, and kills his partners at his firm, as well as his wife.  He takes his daughters on a drive, crashing the car and stranding them all in the woods.  They find a cabin, but Jeffrey, obviously in a bad mental state, prepares to shoot the children and then himself.  However, an unseen force pulls him from view, leaving the young children to fend for themselves, which they do for five years.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey's brother, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), never stops searching for his brother and nieces.  Tapped out of money, but determined to find them, he finally gets the call he's been looking for.  The girls are alive, but feral after living like animals for their formative years.  Lucas is eager to take them in, but his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) is not excited about assuming the responsibility.  They learn that in order to cope with their abandonment, the girls created a protector called "Mama," but is Mama made up after all?

While the backstory of the "Mama" character was slight contrived and not entirely well-explained, the transformation of Victoria and Lilly was incredible.  The children's acting was so on-point, and Jessica Chastain is absolutely unrecognizable as Annabel, although a bit annoying as a character.  And of course, one of the things I love most about this movie was the absolutely haunting little details, from Mama hiding under a blanket near the closet, to Lucas crawling across the floor with Victoria's glasses.

[I only wish I could find a photo of Victoria looking out the window of the cabin with her broken glasses.  Someone please send it to me.  My computer doesn't play BluRays so I can't do a screenshot!]

Overall, I thought Mama was incredible.  Did I love the ending?  No, not exactly, but I also can't think of a better one, so maybe that's the way it had to go.  I would definitely recommend this movie, and as the kids say, fuck tha haters ;)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Under the Dome Episode 3 - "Manhunt"

Lots of dramz going on under the dome in Chesters Mill.  A cop just went crazy and shot a gun at the dome which of course bounced off and killed another police officer.  Effective!  Barbie, the only person that seems to be able to control shit in this town, subdues the guy so they can lock him up.  But he stages some fake choking thing and escapes.  Poor Linda is getting held back by Big Jim, who thinks that the men need to handle the ensuing manhunt.

Meanwhile, Joe is the only kid in town whose parents are conveniently outside the dome, and he also has a generator.  Party time at Joe's!  He's a little wary at first, but he has a big crush on Norrie, who is hiding from her two moms.  Everyone is calmly charging their phones and reading too deeply into the Simpsons Movie, when some douche comes over and bogarts the electricity, causing the whole thing to blow.  Also, Norrie's parents finally find her, so the party is basically over.  Ooops, except they're going into one of those weird seizure things again with the stars falling and all of that.

Junior, who still has Angie locked up in the basement, goes in search of an escape from the dome through an underground tunnel in an abandoned factory,  Good idea, but he doesn't even bring a flashlight.  Julia is so excited about following him that she doesn't bring any supplies either.  Ooops.  Turns out the dome goes underground too, so that trip was all for naught.  Especially when they almost get lost and trapped down there.  Angie decides to seduce Junior a bit, all while hiding some scissors for when she can use them later.

Big Jim, Barbie and a couple senior citizens go looking for the rogue cop.  Although he has "military experience," they find him fairly easily, hanging out in an area of the woods he was known to frequent.  He comes out with guns blazing, but Linda becomes the hero of the day when she takes him the fuck out.  Big Jim tells a weird story about how he intentionally shattered a fellow football player's pelvis.  I do not trust this guy for a second and neither does Barbie.

Back at Julia's, she can't just take a second to revel in the beauty which is Barbie taking a shower two feet away from her.  Instead of asking to join, she rifles through his bag and finds a map.  Dun dun dun.  Until next week!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Probably not in the majority here, but I liked this movie.   Kind of like The Descent for the backpacking set. *SPOILERS AHEAD!*

Chris, Natalie, and Amanda are traveling across Europe, ending up in Kiev, Ukraine to visit Chris's brother, Paul.  The plan is to then continue onto Moscow, but Paul has a more exciting idea.  Why don't they go on an "extreme tourism" trip to the abandoned city outside of Chernobyl?  I'm fairly adventurous, but this is something I would never go for.  They meet up with their tour guide Uri, and a couple of other travelers, Michael and Zoe.

They all pile into this weird military van and head off to Pripyat, the town that was abandoned after the disaster.  They encounter a checkpoint, where the guards do not allow them to enter the area. Luckily, Uri knows another secret entrance to the area.  The group walks around, taking photos with the famous Pripyat amusement park, and viewing the power plant from the balcony of an apartment building.  The scenery in this part was really well done, and came across as very chilling.

After dodging a bear (?!?!), they make their way back to the van, only to find out that the starter has been damaged. It's at this part that we start experiencing some of the classic horror movie stupidity.  Scream King tells me that even with the lines to the starter cut, they could still manually start the car.  And instead of just walking the fuck out of there, they spend an inordinate amount of time investigating noises, inspecting an abandoned bus, and searching for wires to fix the starter, instead of just. fucking. walking.  Or running, I don't care.  Just move your stupid asses.

As the group tries to make their way out of the area, it becomes apparent that they are not alone in Pripyat.  Not only are there animals, but other "creatures" lurk in the ruins.  Who will make it out alive, if anyone?

Stupid people aside, I liked the pace and scares of this movie.  The radiation element added another silent killer, although I believe that the "mutants" could have been improved on.  This may have been a budget constraint, but they really were never shown up close.  Overall, I think this was a cool concept for a horror movie, and I enjoyed it overall. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Under the Dome Episode 2 - "The Fire"

Recap time!  Last week the people of Chester's Mill got sealed in and Jeff Fahey, who was already my favorite person on the show, is probably dead.  Thanks, CBS.  Also, Barbie killed Julia's husband over a deal gone wrong.  But she is under the impression that he's on his way back at any moment.  If I had this sexy piece of man sleeping in my house, and my husband six feet under, I'd be thinking how I want to spend the end of the world ;)

Julia is chucking a tennis ball at the dome, but the army people are under strict orders to ignore everyone inside.  Meanwhile, poor Angie is trying to get out of her basement prison.  Junior is having none of that.  In some sort of weird strategy to irritate him, she claims to have slept with Barbie and loved it.  Ummm, weird way to try and get out of the basement.

OMG WHY JEFF FAHEY WHY.  Big Jim takes off with "The Reverend" to go clean up their mess.  Meanwhile, a couple of the teenagers have banded together to do some trig and try to find out the dimensions of the dome.  The chick over at the radio station has done some electrical engineering and now she can hear the radio transmissions from outside.  Oooops, these people are now just realizing that it's a dome, and..."we're all gonna die in here."  DRAMZ.

The military is testing if water will go through the dome, and it does...a little.  Of course they don't stay looking at the kids long enough to find that out.  The Reverend needs to get to Duke's house before Linda does, since she is the new owner of said residence.  Barbie returns to the cabin to get his dogtags, but Junior follows him to confront him about the sex that never actually happened.  In an attempt to grab the incriminating evidence from Duke's house, the Reverend manages to start a fire.  Of course, this poses a problem since all the fire trucks are on the other side of the dome.  Also a problem is the fact that the Reverend is screaming for help in a burning house that doesn't belong to him.

The townspeople are trying to put out the fire by using a couple hoses and passing a bunch of buckets.  It's not going very well.  Until Big Jim shows up with a bulldozer and knocks the house down.  Junior returns to Angie, weaving a tale about how he killed Barbie, which of course is not true.  Big Jim is still acting like the town leader, even though he's doing something sketchy behind the scenes.  Paul the cop starts to go a little postal, brandishing a gun and screaming how they're all going to die.  Oh, and also shooting another cop.

Next week: The threat from within is still the biggest problem!  Not the threat from above.  People are mad!  People are banging on the dome.  And Scream Queen is looking forward to it!