Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Road to 500: The Spawning

Another update on this mega-challenge I placed upon myself, this time brought to you on behalf of my Art History class that gives me a giant chunk of time to write each week. Sometime in the next day or so, be on the lookout for some of the new features I'll be bringing to the blog. It's time this became a serious, well-rounded blog that should hold a lot more interest for visitors. And please, if you have any comments or suggestions for me feel free to leave them in the comments section. I'm committed to making this a more entertaining and respectable looking blog so any criticisms will help me out as I go about getting this thing going, bit by bit.

54. A Real Friend

Another film from Spain's Films to Keep You Awake, though this one goes for the opposite approach as I found myself nodding off more than a few times. A lonely girl obsessed with horror movies begins to become best friends with Spanish versions of Leatherface and Nosferatu which comes in handy when a real life monster comes to call. The movie drags too much to keep any real interest. Even at 70 minutes, it feels too long, and having the story be as muddled as it is doesn't help things. I know the filmmakers were trying to be clever in their little plot twists, but some clarification on a few things wouldn't have killed anyone. The ending picks up a little but by then it's too late to really care. The least interesting of the series.
Sights within:
-Leatherface trademark abuse.
-World's best Nosferatu makeup, sadly.
-Eww, a game of naked robber.
-Best performance by a school counselor.
-So was the mom a hooker or what? Guess it doesn't matter after that twist, though.
Grade: D+
(Getting tired of this one yet?)


55. A Christmas Tale

One of the highlights from the Six Films to Keep You Awake, this was directed by the co-director of Rec, so I had higher hopes for this one and I'm glad it paid off. A group of kids find a bank robber dressed as Santa stuck in a hole in the ground. Instead of helping her out, they blackmail her to get the money which doesn't exactly place them in her good graces. This one is steeped in '80's fanboy nostalgia. It's interesting to see that if this was filmed by an American, the opening fake movie would be some slasher homage; but with a Spanish filmmaker, it's an homage to films like those of Paul Naschy as they were more likely to grow up watching those instead. The kids feel authentic and each one has a great personality that stands out above your typical child role. There's a sense of humor that comes straight from the classic films of the '80's, like The Monster Squad, and seems to achieve it so effortlessly while other filmmakers are still trying to ripoff that tone. The ending occurs in an abandoned amusement park and lends a whole new character to the movie. There's just so much right in this movie that I didn't want it to end and is probably the best of this whole series. It's like catching an overlooked film from my childhood and makes buying the set worth it all by itself.
Sights within:
-World's most ragged Santa impersonation.
-Karate Kid worship.
-Tab abuse.
-World's most pain in the ass way to kill a zombie.
-Look, it's the Spanish Andrew Dice Clay.
-Best performance by a Santa Claus costume.
Grade: A-
(I'm not posting the same damn trailer again since I'm sure you got the point and there's no other videos for these online that I can find, so you're off the hook.)


56. Kidnapped

With the traditional Gothic horror film losing audience interest, Mario Bava took an uncharacteristic into the more dirty exploitative horror films that were popular at the time. This really doesn't fit in with his other films at all but it still holds up as a better example of the genre than others. A pack of fucked up criminals take a woman hostage as well as commandeering a man and his sick son as a chauffeur until they reach their escape route. Hilarity ensues. This film is filthy. Every frame is dirty and sweaty, which means it probably wasn't a good idea to watch on a sweltering night. By the time it was over, I felt like I needed a shower. One character in particular was so hairy and nasty looking, I started wishing we weren't watching it on the big screen plasma. I couldn't take looking at him anymore. While the film doesn't allow for Bava's trademark lighting and camerawork, it still retains his tight storytelling. The film is tense throughout most of its running time with every one of the characters stuck in the same car together for almost the whole time. It doesn't cut away to some news report or a cop on their tail, it's just the sickos and their victim bottled up like canned sardines. These types are films aren't really made anymore, and I can't say I'm not glad. They reveled in their nastiness and aren't typically fun to watch. They're interesting to watch every now and then but they're nothing that you feel like watching too often. I will say that this is one of the better films in the sub-genre. The only time it really stumbles is when it feels compelled to ripoff Craven's Last House on the Left, a film so odious to me that anything that reminds me of it sets me back. It's probably the lesser of Bava's catalog, but still worth watching at least once.
Sights within:
-World's sweatiest Italians.
-One mega-switchblade.
-Best performance by a comatose child.
-When the guy in the red shirt laughs, I feel like crying.
-It takes like thirty minutes of the film's running time for that guy to finally die.
-Piss abuse.
-One mean twist ending.
-There's actually another version on the disc entitled Rabid Dogs with footage shot by Bava's son, Lamberto, but I didn't watch that one yet. I'll probably do a separate write-up when I do and cite the differences.
Grade: B-


57. The Fog

Blah. Not only one of the worst of the remakes, but one of the worst films in the last ten years, easily. The story follows the same outline of the original: ghost lepers haunt the town that dismissed them. Where the original was focused on atmosphere (though I will admit right here that I've only seen the last half on TV about eight years ago, I have it on DVD and I'll be finally checking it out properly within the next few months), this one embraces every possible cliche imposed by a studio system. You don't even have to watch the film to know what the hell happens. Tom Welling has all the charisma of a broom and Maggie Grace induces thoughts of suicide. Honestly, the only reason I watched this one for a second time was because I downloaded the Drunken Dead Pit commentary, which you wouldn't believe what a crass, inebriated ripping of a film can do for its quality. From digs at Welling's sexual orientation to calling out every bullshit shot of the film, it made for a fun time.
Sights within:
-How dare they set this movie in Oregon.
-World's gayest sweater.
-Best performance by a green-screen.
-Just a complete masturbation of CGI. You'll be sickened by the end.
-Seaweed abuse.
-So there's random symbols of a scale all over the town and that's supposed to mean something? Maybe there's a Libra that likes graffiti? Ever think of that?
-Fog abuse.
-CGI abuse.
-Token black character abuse.
-Leper abuse.
-Audience abuse.
-Abuse upon the art of storytelling and acting perpetrated by everyone involved.
-I feel ashamed that I have a giant cardboard cutout of that poster design hanging on my wall that I got when I worked at Wal-Mart and they were junking the display. That image is really the only worthwhile thing to come out of the film.
Grade: F, Commentary: B


58. Shaun of the Dead

What can I say about this that others haven't? It's a British comedic take on a zombie infestation that pays homage to George Romero and came at just the right time to help bring zombies to the mainstream and inspiring countless unimaginative ripoffs for the better part of a decade now. When I got my first all-region DVD player, this was the first movie I ordered. It arrived two weeks before the American theatrical release and I was able to watch it probably five times in that week alone. There are times when you watch a movie and you know even as it's still playing, you're watching one of your favorite movies. The comedy is pitch perfect and sets so many jokes up effortlessly the whole time without ever having to dumb it down for the viewer. I caught yet another joke I missed this time out. It's one of the few comedies that genuinely has respect for its audience. At the same time, the zombies are serious business and when things gets dramatic, it hits home without the movie or the actors ever skipping a beat. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost create this generation's comedic tag-team (sorry Harold and Kumar) and you get the impression that the whole movie could have been about these two just playing video games on the couch and it would have been just entertaining. Their reputation, along with Edgar Wright's, were cemented a few years later the equally good Hot Fuzz, and that's without even mentioning the series Spaced which launched them all. One of the few films you can truthfully call a "modern classic."
Sights within:
-Sade abuse.
-I think you can spot those twin zombies about fifteen times in different shots.
-Best fanboy moment: Ed's use of "We're coming to get you, Barbara."
-World's best use of a cricket bat.
-Best performance by a dart.
-The matching of the pool cue scene and Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" is genius.
-Great nod to Capt. Rhodes's demise.
Grade: A+


59. The Cavern

Okay, so I'll come out and say I love 2005's The Cave. I almost decided to rewatch that instead but decided to do so later so that I could show it to my wife later on, so I decided to throw this on in the hopes that it would be another decent cheap yet fun monster flick. Nope. This movie was released at the same time with almost the same artwork in order to cash in on what would be a flop. Kind of like what The Asylum specializes except it was made by the exact same studio so I'm not sure what the logic there was. A bunch of...what are they called? Cavers? I'll go with that. Cavers go exploring in an undiscovered cave system (yet the entrance is huge and could be seen from a mile away) and are picked off one by one by something. This is what happens when not one aspect of filmmaking comes together. It's inept and worthless. The fact that I actually sat through the whole thing makes me sad, though it was hard. My finger was hovering over the fast-forward button the whole time. Rule #1 of making a movie: People have to see it. The whole thing, even before they get into the cave, is lit like a rhesus monkey was in charge. Not one light feels natural and to top things off, every shot looks like shit was smeared over the lens to make the film appear as a fluorescent grease-stain. Every character whines and grates your nerves until they're parmesan cheese, completely blocking any capacity of empathy one might have. I can tell that while writing it, they knew they had one point over here and another one over there that they had to get to but had no idea how to do so. It rambles, repeating the same shit for roughly 50 minutes, until it's horrid climax. Throughout the movie, you get the impression that the big threat in the cave could at least be a little spooky. When I finally saw what was really killing these twerps, I almost blew my brains out. It goes for the stupidest, most asinine ending to a movie I've seen since The Happening. Hey Cavern, go fuck yourself.
Sights within:
-World's most putrid color scheme.
-They willingly wore those tights?
-There's not one shot without a horribly visible matte on the screen.
-Drill bit abuse.
-World's most unwarranted guilt trip.
-The thing bothered to knock them out, undress them, and put them in Flintstones clothes?
-Best performance by a human on a spit.
Grade: F


60. Cabin Fever 2

This movie sat on a shelf for two years before finally being dumped as an advertising tool for the Blu-ray release of the first one. It suffered from last minute reshoots that caused the director to walk away, and I can see why. It picks up right after the original's ending, with the tainted water being bottled and shipped to the local high school just in time for the prom. The movie starts out good and for the first hour continues to pick up steam and I was right along with it, loving it. Then once the shit, or blood more fittingly, hits the fan, the last half hour loses its way and grinds on to a horribly out of place finale. Ti West has said that he was going for a John Waters vibe with the film, and I can see that through most of the movie. The characters are out of whack in the first place and the humor in the film is appropriately deranged and mean spirited. I really appreciated that it went for a different tone than the original rather than just aping it on a much lower budget which also helps it stand apart as its own movie. The disease works much faster in this one, going for the big gross-out every minutes compared to the slower buildup to the gags in the original. Towards the end, it brings in the military in yet another quarantine situation, which is boring enough, but then it jumps away before even that is wrapped satisfactorily. It doesn't even have anything to do with school at all, in fact, the setting for just about the entirety of the movie. Suddenly, it concerns some character we didn't give a shit about in the first place and had already forgotten in a scene that doesn't fit the tone of the rest of the movie. It's a common understanding that a movie is only as good as its ending as that's what leaves the last impression upon the viewer before its over. That's somewhat true as this ending is just frustrating when there's so much more that could have been done. It leaves a sour taste in your mouth when you look back upon it, but I still believe it's worth checking out for the first hour of the movie which is a truly demented good time.
Sights within:
-World's best bus splattering, that no one seems to think much of.
-Giuseppe Andrews, he's just great.
-Bathroom B.J.
-One bitter janitor.
-Prom night dumpster baby abuse.
-I knew they were going to play that fucking song from Prom Night six seconds before it began.
-Best performance by a leaky dick.
-An appearance by Mark Borchardt, who gets to kick some ass.
-When you get no budget, just throw in some crude animation.
-I really hope Marc Senter gets some real attention soon, instead of piddling the time with stuff like this and the pile of bile that is Wicked Lake. Check out The Lost for the reason why.
Grade: C


61. It! The Terror From Beyond Space

Ah, the good ol' days. When you could get away with half-baked science, some rocketship toys, and a guy in a suit and still make it cool. A crew picks up the last survivor of an excursion to Mars, believing him to be the one responsible for the deaths of the rest of his team and dismissing his stories of a monster, of which has also climbed on board. The story's relatively simple and doesn't have a lot to do outside of its setup, but it does a good job of staying taut and knows how to use tension well. It consists of the ship's crew keeping the monster at bay all the while working on new ways to kill it. Every one of the actors spit out their lines in typical 50's fashion, because everyone back in those days were barrel voiced leading men, while the women perform their daily duties of fetching coffee and making sandwiches. How's that for progression? the whole thing has a certain laughable quality but that's what makes these kinds of films fun. The monster design is great and works well for the story, back when actual imagination was utilized for such things, with the style of lighting used for black and white movies helping lend it an authentic air of menace. The movie itself isn't anything you haven't seen before (that is, if you're willing to watch anything over ten years old), but it does its job admirably and has fun doing it. Plus, you can try to count how many things were later stolen for Alien.
Sights within:
-World's most murderous shellfish.
-Yeah, using grenades on an airtight spaceship sounds like a great idea.
-Air duct abuse.
-Grenades and radiation poisoning doesn't bother it, yet a blowtorch scares the shit out of it?
-The only movie where a character patiently sits behind a pipe for roughly half the movie.
-Best performance by a metal hatch.
-Come on! They even blow it out the fucking airlock! How is that not obvious?
-The transfer on the Midnite Movies disc was surprisingly crisp.
Grade: B-


62. House of the Dead

This is probably one of the most derided and picked upon films of the last twenty years, and I'll admit it's horrible, but dammit, it's fun to watch. Premise is this: Teens go to island. Island has zombies. German smuggler gives them guns. Teens shoot guns at zombies. The End. I will never argue that it's a bad movie, but I will argue that it doesn't have its merits. The movie is constantly hilarious, from its setup and horrible execution to characters you have no idea who you're supposed to be following or caring about to ridiculous action scenes that have no footing in the real world, you are never left with anything to laugh about. It spends most of the time trying to copy other better movies, with some of them not even being horror films, even though it never tries to copy them well. There seems to be a perception out there that just because it's a bad movie, you shouldn't give it any credit. You'll hear countless people recount what happens in the film all the while laughing. Then they'll go on and say they hate it and they wish Uwe Boll would stop making movies. But what about that laughter it obviously instilled inside? You had to enjoy it on some level to achieve even some kind of laughter but there's not many that are willing to admit to any enjoyment out of this movie just because it's fashionable to hate it. It's an elitist, hypocritical viewpoint that I can't stand. It's a disaster of a film, but it manages to crawl along as pure, moronic entertainment that if you give it a chance, you might just find yourself having a good time.
Sights within:
-Sega abuse.
-That Asian lady in the Liberty outfit is like some horrid anime freak's wish fulfillment come to life.
-World's lamest "mega-rave."
-I don't care how stupid they are, I doubt anyone would be able to remove their top in the presence of Clint Howard.
-Oh, Jurgen Prochnow. What happened?
-White zombies can jump.
-Look, a bubbling marsh.
-I can only imagine cartoons and videogames are the reason every person on the planet knows martial arts and how to wield high-end weapons.
-Vancouver, CA abuse.
-Best performance by artificial film grain.
-The only zombie movie to end with a sword fight. Huh?
-Where's the fucking House?
Grade: B

Movies Watched: 6
-A Real Friend
-A Christmas Tale
-The Cavern
-Cabin Fever 2
-It! The Terror From Beyond Space
New Movies Bought: 0
Unseen DVDS: 3208
Unseen Blu-rays: 65
Unseen VHS: 120
Unseen DVD-R'S: 5

And their necks crane
As they turn to pray for rain

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