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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Veronica (2017) Horror Possession Ouija

Veronica (2017) - Director Paco Plaza made a big splash in 2007 with the film [Rec] it really hit big. Its tight quarters and excellent use of the found footage technique made it a favorite in the horror community. He followed it with some would contest an even better sequel [Rec] 2 (2009) which really established him as a creator to watch for. Even though the third in the series [Rec] 3 : Genesis (2012) was accepted with less enthusiasm Plaza was on the radar of many a horror fan. Veronica is the first feature since and I have to say when my daughter sent me a link to the trailer I was excited to see it. Now with the film streaming on Netflix I am more than happy to watch it and write down a few thoughts. It is impossible for me not to spoil movies in some way. In this case Plaza is a really good director and so I want to write about the shot choices he makes. Sometimes this adds way too much story context to the review so be warned SPOILERS may abound.
 Ouija: Origins of Evil (2016) what will the market be for another film based around that game just a year later? Chances are that work on Veronica started well before "Ouija" was released but as is often the case similar subjects in film often pop up around the same time. This sometimes make for unfair comparisons which is something I will avoid here, but can hurt the popularity of the later film. Or if the first film bombs that fact turning viewers off from seeing that subject mater again so soon. There is a flip side that someone wants more also but it's hard not to make comparisons. I promise to speak no more of that other film.
There is a risk this film may be finding an audience that appreciates its subtlety. With the success of
  This is a film with starts with a mystery, a call to the police where the person on the phone is frantic about someone being in her house. We see the police heading to the apartment building while listening to the frightened person on the phone. They arrive and find there way inside, dark halls greet them as they make there way into the apartment flashlights and guns in hand. A cross on the floor is rehung by the detective. They enter a room and all we get is some strange squishy sounds a shot of the horrified faces of the police. It's a decent start that shows us nothing of whats to come but indicates that it won't be nice. I better see what the cops see by the end of the movie or I will be disappointed.
  We cut to three days earlier we see Veronica (Sandra Escacena) getting up to start the morning routine. She is maybe 14. She wakes her three young siblings, Lucia (Bruna González), Irene (Claudia Placer) and Antonito (Iván Chavero) and gets them ready for school. She makes a point to keep them quiet while her mother who works late hours sleeps. Before leaving the house she picks up and resets the crucifix that has come off the wall, letting us all know that this is the apartment the police entered in the opening. Off to school a caring older sister with too much responsibility. Veronica is a 14 year old thrown into a caregiver role after her Father's death. Her Mother now runs the family pub by herself and is stretched to thin to take care of her children besides earning the money needed by the family. It is also a driving force for the plot that brings the scares. She misses her Dad and it motivates her to bring in a Ouija board and to study how to talk to the dead with it. This simple need the girl has escalates into the crisis that is the plot of the film.
  At School the subject matter is the coming eclipse and how the ancient peoples of the world believed they were evil and would often do human sacrifice when one occurred to appease their Gods. A significant setup for Veronica who has her Ouija board so she and her friends, Diana (Carla Campra) and Rosa (Ánglela Fabián) can play at it while everyone in the school is on the roof looking at the eclipse. The three girls head to the basement to talk to her father through it. We cut between the two scenes, the school on the roof watching the eclipse and the girls using the board in the basement. It is just wonderfully creepy when the other two girls need to take their hands off the glass because it grew too hot, while Veronica does not feel the heat of it at all. She is the chosen and it happened at the evil time of the solar eclipse. The girls get scared and supernaturally things happen that let us know spirits are about. It goes sort of wrong with Veronica the focus so much so the other girls are scared. The editing between the roof and the girls is great and with the earlier classroom talk make a really firm connection between the eclipse and the girl's experience. The foreshadowing with the blind nun is well done also, Plaza sets things up by showing us without having to tell us and as viewers we should appreciate that.
  Veronica now has to deal with what she encountered. There is quite a bit of Christian religious symbolism here with crucifixes , nuns and the such that add the the eerie feel of the setup. Plaza has some nice shots from over head or from low looking up at the schools blind nun who one of the kids calls "Sister Death" (who is good for some exposition later on) and we know from the previous scenes that something supernatural did happen to Veronica, so we are ready for the slow revealing of the consequences of what the three girls did. Is this a possession? Strange things start happening and Veronica knows they are. The Ouija board moving from it's hiding place, her incident with the television, the marks on her shoulder all point towards something coming for her. It is when her little brother gets burned by bath water that we see that she is not the only one at risk.
The script does a really good job reminding us that she is a kid herself. Her older friends Diana and Rosa are ostracizing her having been freaked out by the  Ouija session. Still Veronica even though she is younger confronts this. She can make it up by going to a party Diana is throwing. She can get back into this click. Unfortunately the realty that she cares for her siblings is never far from sight.  From dealing with complaints from the lady downstairs to getting the kids clothed and fed each day she is the adult. Instead of support from a peer group she is left to try to figure out her situation on her own. When the things she try don't work she realizes that the threat is really not just for her but for the whole family. An incident leads to a chance to get help from her Mother but that help is not there for her either. She is isolated and will have to deal with this herself.
  It's an interesting thing that all the decisions she makes as the adult in the family seem so right. She loves her siblings and shows it to them throughout the film. It is the decision she made as her 14 year old girl self that has the real negative consequences. Then when she believes that the spirit, the consequence of her actions is real her Mother is incredulous believing she is acting like a child, and expresses she needs her to be the reliable adult. Netflix is selling this film as one of the scariest of all time and that certainly is not fair. Good horror is not necessarily the scariest. In fact the best horror allows the viewer to care about the characters making real for the viewer the horror the characters are experiencing. This film does that we are voyeur of the family and we care about the kids and Veronica as people. So when Veronica has her really disturbing dreams they are not just frightening to her but we are frightened for her.  They second dream coming after the talk with her mother and being the on the cusp of her first period plays well into the real family drama that we are experiencing through her. ( A side note the camera shot of her laying in bed and the getting up is really well done.) She realizes that the children she cares for are at risk and instead of relying on adults she seeks the answers she needs to end the haunting. Again the blind nun is used for exposition and it leads Veronica to the place where she has to fix her mistake in the Ouija ritual, fixing a child's mistake to solve the problem of the spirit following her and allow her to continue to be the adult.
  Can she do it alone and without her school friends who are over the incident and do not want to revisit it. A telling information is shared by Rosa about what Veronica whispered when she was under the influence of the Ouija board. She is spiraling as we head to the climax, with no help from friends or family and the dread that comes with knowing what she whispered, torn by her mother's inability to notice her stress enough to intercede. She ends up alone with her siblings trying to fix her mistake but with her little sisters and brother in the know. The climax has important little details so pay attention.
  Knowing the opening scene we have a general idea how things go. The climax has a mix of setup, the kids and Veronica setting up another session with the Ouija board. Kids don't make good stand ins and this as we say in the horror world is where go horribly wrong. The climax is wonderfully seeded and it is so dread filled for those poor little kids, Veronica included. Some great shots by Plaza as he builds the anticipation of the shit hitting the fan. This one strikes particularly close to home for me because as a child I was in a few terrifying situations and understand the mania a group of children can have at a time of crisis. As the final scenes unfold we are reminded about the connection between the coming of adolescence and mental instability. Like in the film The Witch (2015) we see a young woman hitting puberty and the effects of the events on her life in the most horrifying way. Still The structure is set in the beginning where we know this is seen by the police, but in the moment it is about a spirit not leaving Veronica and we were promised a final shot.  The lead up  to the final scene the one promised in the beginning is some really fine work by the director and cinematographer using mirror projections very effectively.
  I really loved this film. The family characters, the dynamic of the teen and the supernatural were so well meshed that it hit all the rights spots as far as depth of character within a story. You cared for Veronica and her siblings and even though the outcome was not the happiest. Set in 1991 I appreciate the music when Veronica was listening to her head phones, Heroes del silencio, I think. Camera work was exceptional with interesting shots that added to the mood of the film. I am not sure we needed the true story aspect of the film with the police bookends but it was not too intrusive. I hope there is no backlash over being called the "scariest film of the year". What it is is a wonderfully executed horror drama where you can care about the characters. Plaza and cinematographer Pablo Rosso for the great look and movement of this film. It is very good and should be seen by as many people as possible.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Temple (2017) Horror Demon

Temple (2017) - On the heels of The Ritual (2017) let me dig into Temple these two with my entry last year, The Shrine (2010) should make a nice trio of films on the subject of gods and monsters. I was excited to see that this film was written by Simon Barrett, The Guest (2014), Blair Witch (2016), You're Next (2011). A great writer but something about the story having credits from three producers made me worry. Not that producers don't also come up with great story ideas but how did this writing job come about for Barrett? Seems a strange thing but whatever, if a producer thinks they have a good story idea, Barrett would not be a bad guy to have write the screenplay. Unfortunately I think the film suffered from a bit too much convoluted storytelling.
 Opening is Japanese cops searching for someone and then making a gruesome discovery. Credit include newspapers saying that six children went missing and showing the Temple we will later see. The monk of the temple was suspected and ominous rumor spread.
  There is a storytelling structure where we see a scene in a hospital, a man in a wheelchair sort of covered like a bubble, an detective asks the patient questions. This is going to be one of the characters we follow but his identity is hidden.  They show him a video, it starts with Kate (Natalia Warner) and her camera. Her boyfriend James (Brandon Sklenar) is flying in from San Francisco to join her and her childhood friend Chris (Logan Huffman). Chris is  a damaged friend coming on the trip because he speaks Japanese but he still struggling with his brothers death. Kate is studying how religion influences myth and vice versa and wants to photograph Japanese shrines. You think that since the cops questioning the injured person is a repeated setting it is key to the story, but really it is just a framing device for telling the tale. You eventually learn who the character is but there is a weird not very satisfying ending to this device. It leaves the watcher not knowing what was real and what was imagined as the movie plays out. On one hand it definitely does imply the survivor killed the other two, but circumstances at the site leaves the viewer thinking that it would be impossible.
  The stage is set with scenes of the three out on the town and Chris envious that James gets the girl?
Chris is not at all what the boyfriend imagined. He seems fine but his voice and face is betraying him. He can't believe Chris is not attracted to Kate. She sort of likes he may be a bit jealous of this long time friend. Awkward travel conversation on the train creating a dynamic between the two men. Maybe the point here is to paint Chris as an unstable person and a relationship triangle to keep tension between the characters and to reduce trust. Chris and he telling her he feels like a third wheel but also obviously digs Kate. (Talk about over doing the triangle dynamic and how in the end it is not serving the story) Finding a folktale book in a second hand store they see an old temple in it in a myth about a shape-shifter. The woman running the store does not want to sell it.
  Later at the club reinforce the Chris dynamic as he watches the couple dance. He is having no luck with the locals so leaves the bar and goes back to the shop, sees the book and buys it off the little kid that is watching the shop. He finally gets to look at it in more detail at a quiet roadside bar the bartender knows where the temple is. Chris gets a warning from the the other customer in the bar that the temple will make you sick, crazy some of this is lost in translation. Now Chris know where the place is and you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be the first place they go. Chris is spooked in an alley [suddenly film's the music and visuals are darkening] but he makes it back to the house and leaves the book for Kate. Director Michael Barrett includes flashes of scary scenes to let us know that the horror is coming.
It seems that the relationship triangle is building as a trigger when things go horribly wrong. It really did not turnout that way though. Seems that all the build up of rivalry between the men is for not. Sure Kate has shared a secret with Chris that she did not share with her boyfriend but it really didn't really matter because as soon as the audience learns this, Kate tells James so there is no consequence to the James / Chris relationship. These men competing though is so odd going as far as when they are all bunked in one room, Chris watches with camera as Kate and James get it on. Why would James and girl be screwing around when they are all sharing the room? Fucking alfa dog shit right there.
They head off to find the temple the next day. They are dropped at the village below the temple. We see the kid from the bookstore, in flashes we see a long clawed hand. So maybe the women who refused to sell the book acted to protect them from the creature. The shape-shifter, who may be the kid that sold the book, was the creature seen in its true form in the flash and then he reappears at the village and says "When I was a kid I played in the temple. I can show it to you."  The kid did not talk when the old woman poked in her head, pretty sure just Chris is the only one seeing him. They find the statue from the book, the Shape-shifter statue. Musical queue when the little boy looks at it so we know something will be up with that later, or the director felt like raising a bit of audience anticipation. When they reach the temple Chris says goodbye to the kid, he warns them with a another musical queue to get back before dark. James does not want to stay long there is a bit of tension between the couple. Photos as they look about by Kate and Chris but they both get spooked separately. Kate is so spooked she wants to leave immediately thinking there is someone watching them.
  In the temple a hand pulls Chris through the floorboards. He is unconscious for a second. He is hurt enough that they have to spend the night split up his leg and starts a fire. James and Kate are a bit at odds because of the secret and James does not even know about that yet. Kate never told James about the fact that she aborted James baby. James come back and thinks the thing she has not told him is that she is going to break up or something. Tension fills the air at this point. Kate told Chris but not James about the pregnancy. So James and Kate wander off together to have it out. I guess she told him because his ass is out of there. When she comes back and James has stormed off, she is doing the I'm upset but rebounding on the guy that is there, of course Chris is like quietly accepting her attention. She lays with him after caressing his hair and wants to be held. Animal like breathing and growling outside.
 Now is about the time where the editors went into overdrive, cutting from one character to another. I am not sure it really works so instead I will try to explain what happens to each character without cutting back and forth. So the scary climax comes on in the night which is dark and full of terrors. We cut to James trying to hike out in the dark. He finds himself confronting a shape-shifter statue in the dark. He sees it come to life.
  Kate hears the Screams and heads out to find him. "He needs me" James running being pursued by the statue come to life falls in the dark. Kate follows the sounds towards James. James in the meantime is caught by the creature? Kate follows some whimpering sounds into the mines, this may not turn out well for her.  Kate really far into the mines, she so is never going to find her way out. Kate finds James but he looks all mangled, could be the creature? She runs blindly now. Animal growling and shrieking as she runs shouting for help. She finds a dead end, and breaks down crying. Deep in the mines as we see Kate whispering as the creature finds might have found her.
   Chris is left at the temple with he hurt leg, tries to follow Kate but falls because of his leg. He sees a visage of the monk sitting by a fire, struggles to get back in the temple before the being reaches him.  He pulls himself in and I guess feels more secure with the wall between he and the monk visage.
From the hole he was pulled through Chris sees the boy and other children crawl from the hole in the temple floor. Then all the children and they have sharp teeth and attack Chris.Chris being finished off. Question whether Chris imagined the children and mangled himself? Is he imagining everything? He can't be the responsible for the other's deaths since he is injured. Then the hospital interview seems to shit on that? A bit confusing.
  I was not pleased with how this film was worked out. If as the cops say Chris was an unstable dude who killed his friends why add the supernatural elements. Sure it make his story and that of the monk accused years earlier parallel but then why the imaginary friend and the scary creature sounds? All three did not seem to be having hallucinations. Why also the scenes that establish the shape-shifter coming from the book? If it was supernatural why have the last stabbing scene? This film just did not come together for me. Maybe I missed something but it just did not make a lot of sense to me. Then there was the general classic gray blue tinge and that most of the film was dark. It did not particularly look good. I would probably pass if I knew all these things ahead of time.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Ritual (2017) Horror Myth

The Ritual (2017) - THIS IS QUITE SPOILERY SO DON"T BOTHER UNTIL YOU SEE THIS FINE FILM! This film had a fair amount of Twitter hype, people I follow at least, seem to rate it highly so I must be following the right people. Director David Bruckner has done some notable things in the horror genre, The Signal (2007), V/H/S/ (2012) and Southbound (2015) as well as being the writer of Siren (2016). The films easy availability on Netflix made it was a no-brainer that it would be my first film of the year, in what has been this very neglected blog.
 At its heart it is a very male story about masculinity and the struggle with fear in dangerous situations. It's about how men have to confront those fears and the costs to our ego and relationship when we do or don't. Centered in the relationships of four men we get a good dose of how men interact when there is an incident that changes their lives. On a smaller scale we journey with Luke (Rafe Spall) as he confronts the guilt of not being brave when he possibly needed to be.
  The setup is quick but a real powerhouse scene, the writer (Joe Barton) get's it right out there in the first few pages. That is how you get a script read have an early banging scene. Five friends are talking about a hiking trip to Sweden for their annual men's trip. Before that can happen one of the mates Robert (Paul Reid) dies in a tragic way leaving the other four to carry through with the hike in memorial. It is the kind of setup to give just enough character information to get us into the lives of these men. Also very clever making the scene Luke's dream which allows the viewer to join the hike in progress with enough development to get into the main story.
  None of the men are experienced hikers and so when something goes wrong the decision making goes a bit skewed towards poor. Being someone who has hiked for over thirty years and has lead dozens of groups of backpackers I can tell you I totally anticipated the bad decision making. I was resolved to the fact it was going to happen to drive the plot along. Bad Hiking Decision #1: Dom (Sam Troughton) twists a knee, okay, if he can not walk on it you give food and water to last the number of days it will takes to get help. Then two hike out on the known route, leaving one guy behind to keep the hurt companion company. If the guy can walk some he can continue forward with his companion while the other two travel the established route at a faster pace to get help.What you don't do is go off trail into a forest thinking you are going to save time and get help sooner. What do you think happens in this film? Sure enough they whip out a compass and attempt to more all four people through the forest. That is really the setup then as in all horror films, things go horribly wrong.
 The music changes we get shots of the forest dark and deep and the hikers wishing the trip was over as they make there way through the woods. A bear strung up and gutted in the forest is the first sign that these guys are not alone and that there are things more dangerous afoot. Bad Hiking Decision #2: As the light fades they trudge on making another horrible mistake traveling through the night. Not that you can't navigate in the dark with a compass and map but beginners should really tent up for the night. Finding a cabin in the woods all boarded up and they break in. In exploring the house Hutch (Robert James-Collier) find what looks like an effigy of a straw man with antler hands and hooves. That is ominous to say the least. Luke hears sounds in the forest or is this just his guilt talking to him? Now he could be psychologically damaged from the incident that lead to Roberts death, when he hid behind store shelves instead of taking some kind of action. Director Bruckner does a nice job with the repeated dream sequences where Luke ends up back in the store. They happen through out the film and the way the current forest blends in to the store more and more as the plot progresses was nicely done. They discuss the possible origins of the figure and what other strange beliefs the Swedes might have. Bad Hiking Decision 3: The hiking decision that put them in this situation is questioned, leaving the trail that is. It still possible for the group to start backtracking to the original path but this idea discarded for heading on a course that can not be predicted. The people pushing this ill fated course of action rationalize now how it was the best choice. It is so necessary for the plot but so damn frustrating for me.
  A night in a creepy cabin means that we have another dream for Luke. When he wakes to a light outside the cabin, its blinding but no one else wakes, he opens the door to be back in the liqueur store. As we see he has not worked through those feelings we know at least it is a dream. He wakes to find himself in daylight outside the cabin with cuts on his chest in a circular pattern. Did something run away as he woke. Hutch is screaming with a nightmare inside the cabin. He pissed himself it was so scary. Dom also having a nightmare and Luke wakes him.  Upstairs Phil (Arsher Ali) is by the effigy asleep and praying to it, really out of sorts. This is tight tense and really brings the dread of the story to a whole new level. All four men are really shaken, and when they step outside ready to leave, they see runes carved in the trees around the house and the smart choice at this point would be top go back the way they came and get on the original trail. Bad Hiking Decision 4: This is squashed by the frustrated Dom who sees the path that leads to the cabin and insists they follow it since it must come from somewhere where there are people. Let's just follow some random path that does not even go in the correct direction? Really? Already they should have arrived the village they saw from the original path but because of weather they can blame it for not reaching it yet.
  They begin rationalizes the experience in the cabin as they walked, but you know Hutch really doesn't want to talk about since he pissed himself. Dom says his knee hurts too bad and then sort of quits on them. They are traveling the wrong direction for hours because of his rage decision and now he has had enough. Luke heads up the ridge hoping to see something but is frustrated by the density of the forest. He hears something up there and maybe we see a real like version of the effigy and of course when he gets back to his mates they did not hear or see anything. So some are skeptical of his story. He shows them his circular pattern cuts on his chest and then Don cuts him down as not trustworthy while still railing against their situation. Some of the feelings about his past cowardliness now comes out between them. Rob would be dead if he had stood up, thrown a bottle or something. These feeling pent up and  now the group is falling apart. Hutch can't really back up Luke he prefers they don't confront it. The script here could have given us a bit more earlier on to define the Hutch and Phil characters a bit more distinctly. Maybe it is just that Phil is not particularly well drawn?
  We get some possible dubious history about hiking through these woods. They find a tent with belongings from a family, the credit card in the wallet is from from 1984 as seen on the. Rationalization for Bad Hiking Decision 4: We registered with the lodge. They are going to see that we did not turn up and a rescue party will be sent. Well all well and good but you left not only thee original path but change direction part way from your shortcut and now are wandering a path from the cabin and finding the remains of families that disappeared her decades before.This is the half way point in the film. Hutch, spooked enough decides to give Luke the compass in the morning and send him southwest (the original shortcut route) The night is dark and filled with terrors. Luke awake in his tent hears sounds of heavy breathing and snapping branches and then unzipping and looking out he see the liqueur stop seen that breaks into the creature in the woods. The shift really happens here where it goes from maybe Luke is imagining to being a full blown crisis. Luke wakes from his dream and finds Phil screaming about shadows, Hutch's tent is ripped open and the small amount of blood is all that is left of their friend. All had dreams again and not the three remaining men hear Hutch yell from the midnight dark forest. Bad Hiking Decision 5: They hear the sounds of the creature but go after him anyway. They are worried about getting lost in the dark but it is a crisis and often that leads to impulsive decision making. When morning breaks they have not found the tents or Hutch. Don't wander off into the woods at night.
 They find Hutch in a tree like the bear with his guts ripped open. Luke keeps himself in together enough to get the compass and knife from the body. But these guys are screwed no gear and no shelter. Phil is loosing his mind a bit and they are now all accepting that they are in deep shit. Footprints in the sand by a stream and now there are people to contend with. They choose to go a different way up the hill which is much harder for Don. There is this great visual of the creature moving in the background without them seeing it. Really nicely done. Phil can't get the thought of the thing from his head. It is dire straights and the worse is yet to come. When the creature takes Phil and then there were two. The story is written so much from Luke's point of view you know he will be the last man standing. Dom though got some decent development so you have hope he will also make it.
  Dom and Luke are left and as they flee the creature they come to light from a village. Pursued they rush to a cabin and are met with villagers that knock them unconscious. Dom is sacrificed to the god and since Luke is the on with the circular cut marks on his chest he is not. Luke is left the sole survivor still a captive of the village folk. When one comes to feed him, the one who speaks English explains that they worship it. It is a God born from Loki and wishes all to bow to it. It keeps them in the forest but there is no more pain and no more death, eternal life in return for sacrifices. Your Ritual begins tonight you will kneel before the god she says. So he will be the one to join the group? He is left with this and he attempts his escape, to be brave, overcome his fear. The upstairs room is a roomful of old dried corpses, that are animated enough to make the raspy screaming sounds he has been hearing. He burns the room and goes for the guns he saw then all hell breaks loose.
The villagers kneel to the god but Luke has upset the order of things. Shit gets real as he makes his way out, sees the God and gets scared and runs. He pisses it off by shooting it and flees to the woods. One last delusion of the liqueur store. It knocks him over. He is grabbed by it and then it drops him into a bowed position. When he tries to rise it pushes him back down. He tries again defying the God and slashing it with an ax. He makes another run for it. Into a field outside the woods. It stops at the boundary and he screams at it roaring like it roared at him.The sun comes up as he walks back up a field seeing a road off in the distance.
  I really enjoyed this film even with the absolutely horrible backpacking decisions these characters made. (Have to drive plot I suppose.) Some of the characterization could have been deeper but they all served a purpose. I thought Hutch and Phil sort of were a bit underdeveloped could have been interchangable, while Dom was one toned. In the end it all works since it is Luke's story. I am not sure Luke ever really got brave but I think he made some progress. Now of course there are no more friends left to look down on him for being a coward. I suppose he will think he got past it but three more finds losses to deal with. I don't know if he will make it. His back was truly against the wall in the village. Let's pretend for a second that all four friends are in the village. If Luke got a chance to cut and run do you think he would?  I lean maybe. The film was honest though about how men treat loss and feeling they may have about it towards others. On the Monster movie side I think Bruckner pull it off really well. I enjoyed the early teasing of the monster and I think the design really worked when it was finally shown in full. It is not easy to do this and I think it was done well here. Check this one out on Netflix right now.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2017 BOOKS! What I read last year.

 2017 initially I thought was going to be a slow year for reading but it steadily built all year until late in the year I was devouring the GOT books one after another.  I had a real mix this year with politics filling my mind the beginning of the year  but soon I was branching out to different interests , travel, movies etc. until by the end of the year I think I have a well rounded list of finished books. This is not a review page more of a sharing of what struck my reading nerve this year. Feel free to write to me and tell me what you have read, I am always looking for new ideas.

Life at the Top: Weather, Wonder and High Cuisine from the Mount Washington Observatory by Eric Pinder - A slightly corny look at life at the top of the New England part of the world. Geared so even kids can enjoy it does not delve too deeply into the science but instead tells tales and shares recipes in a more light hearted way.
Twitter: @EricPinder 

Our Revolution by Bernie Sanders - Sanders tells stories about his failed Presidential campaign and then lays out a strategy to transform America into a country that works for all its citizens and not just the well connected or extremely wealthy. I really needed such a hopeful book after the horrible elections where a lying misogynist bigot was elected with the sole agenda to rape wealth from the middle class to benefit the wealthy. (too strong?)
Twitter: @SenSanders

The Argento Syndrome by Derek Botelho - A fan of Dario Argento who has met and spent time with the Italian director is a wonderful examination of his filmography interspersed with interview with the actor who worked with him and Botelho's own recollections. A very appropriate book for any Argento fan.
Twitter: @DerekBotelho

The Modern Presidency by James P. Pfiffner - After the disastrous election cycle in 2016 I needed to do something to ground myself in the working of our sometimes fine democracy. This book somewhat fairly works through the machinations of how the modern presidency is constructed and operates giving examples through many modern presidents. More of a book for college Students it hit the spot just right as far as giving information.

Utopia for Realists and How we Get There. by Rutger Bregman - Read a review of it by Matt Tiabbi over at Rolling Stone and decided to give  it a read. Entertaining and informative with quite a nice bit of humor, it presents many progressive ideas that could have been and more that still could be. Again railing from the fall out of the elections I really needed to focus in on some more positive information.
Twitter: @rcbregman

A Short History of Italy by Henry Dwight Sedgwick  - A really well written more ancient history of Italy, coming all the way up to into renaissance and all the way to the start of the 20th century. The writing is crisp and clear a really enjoyable book. Even though it was written quite a while ago it is still a really good read. I often need some sort of history fix during the year and this book was a great way to get it.

Dream Nation: Puerto Rico Culture and Fictions of Independence by Maria Acosta Cruz - Before the horrible hurricane my wife and I spend a short getaway in Puerto Rico and I wanted to know more about this island territory of the United States. This book explores the parallel drives of  Puerto Rico people on one hand voting repeatedly against becoming an independent country while on the other having a cultural and pop cultural drive through words and music that embrace the idea of independence. Thoroughly researched and meticulously argued it made me wish I spoke better Spanish so I could explore some of the source material.
Twitter: @macostacruz

A Game of Thrones: A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin - I started powering through these books since I watched and enjoyed the television show, the fisrt is early story and the show followed its plot pretty closely.
Twitter: @GRRMspeaking

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin - As the different factions vie for the Iron Throne the second book also has a mirror for the most part in the show.

A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin - Here is where the plot changes in some ways but still close with a few exceptions. At this point I still enjoy the books although Martin spends in inordinate amount of time describing food.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Resolution (2012) - Horror, Drama

Resolution (2012) - Resolution is the story of two men, torn apart by drug use, brought together for an intervention in one friends desire to mend the damage done. A series of strange occurrences turns this drama about a broken friendship into a surreal journey of addiction, guilt, life anxiety, and forgiveness. Written by Justin Benson and directed by Benson and partner Aaron Moorhead, it is a film that leaves the viewer with some resolution but maybe also opens windows to places that are not fully explored or satisfactorily connected. A piece of film making art that in some ways is an unfinished canvass.The story is about two friends who went to high school together, Mike Danube (Peter Cilella) and  Chris Daniels (Vinny Curren) who have drifted apart in adulthood because Chris has a sustained addiction to crack cocaine. After receiving a video of Chris acting erratically and seemingly dangerously, Mike leaves his pregnant wife Jennifer to seek out Chris, following a map that Chris included with the video, a seeming cry for help. We think he is going to offer treatment but instead takes a more drastic approach. 
  Stunning his friend with a tazor Mike handcuffs him to a pipe in the rundown house and then informs him the two of them will be there for seven days, long enough for the drugs to leave his system. Naturally this does not sit well with Chris who very quickly goes through many of the stages of not only withdrawal but also grief. Chris tries many approaches to get himself freed such as Pleading, lashing out in anger, and negotiation. The guy wants to smoke crack and that is a serious addiction so really trying anything is okay. The premise of two men brought together in this situation is the physical structure of the film, it is the place this film lives but it is not the only place.
  The early movie establishes the characters well enough with Mike the calm successful one and Chris the delusional crack head. the addition of a few more characters in a couple other crackheads, and  Charles, the Native American owner of the house that Chris has been squatting in, all add some depth to the area and situation. One thing we notice early on is the lack of any interaction between Chris and anyone else alive, a directorial decision leaving open the idea that this could be a story about Mike's mental health. Sure the crack heads that come looking for a fix are there to see Chris but the directors skillfully make it that the only one we actually see Chris interact with is Mike.
  Mike also has other troubling issues that lead one to think that Mike's sanity is not necessarily as firmly packed as we originally think. First there is the initiating video the film opens with. Filmed as if someone is following Chris around it is a collection of extreme behavior and emotion that supposedly Chris sent to Mike. However, once the two men are together Chris denies creating it. Is Chris a reliable reporter? Well he is a crack head so probably not. Mike, in his wanderings around the neighborhood over the seven days at the house, starts finding strange pieces of media, an old record and a record player, a VHS tape and player, a reel of super eight movie and a projector. Each seems to be telling him a story that Chris chained to a pipe does not seem to connect to. Mike develops the idea that these finds are a story looking for an ending, and until he and his friend can give that ending the cycle of  finding will continue. When he finds media that include he and Chris, and the possible tragic ending to their situation, they look for a solution. Though this idea is never fully understood by the characters or the audience it is the driving force to the climax of the film.
  Through the increase in intensity of the story idea Mike and Chris are able to reconcile many of the issues that have not been resolved in their relationship. When the film climax is reached on the seventh day. Mike releases Chris and they are in a frenzy to find an ending that does not end badly for either of them. A surprising amount of tension is created with the side characters in this stretch. Always on the clock the film passes its timer and still has a situation where there are real stakes. The last scene is a bit disappointing, intentionally open ended and unclear it feels more like a unformed idea than an ending. It could be that the media, "We (Chris and Mike) are in the story" idea was not fleshed out clearly enough that makes the last scene lack impact. It could be that the writer, Justin Benson, and Directors, Benson and Moorhead are being obtuse.
  Ultimately I don't think they are, I try not to read about the films before watching and reviewing them so there are probably plenty of interviews I will see after this that will fill answer my questions. This is a solid film, grounded in character that explores an interesting idea. I would definitely recommend this film for anyone looking for a unique take on the horror genre.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Psychos in Love (1987) - Horror, Comedy, Psycho

Psychos in Love (1987) - This movie starts with black and white interview footage of a serial killer Joe (Carmine Capobianco) relaying information about the women he has dated cut with scenes of the women being murdered by him. When it settles down on the fourth girl Dianne who our killer also fell for love at first sight. The deal was sealed when she expresses a hate for grapes as strong as his. After they meet we also get interviews from Dianne (Angela Nicholas) and we see she is a similar deranged killer.  She then also is seen in scenes where she murders her dates. Played for humor with light music the film does not take itself too seriously. The interview parts are like a post career retrospective and the interspersed scenes are to fill out the love story. There is also this breaking of the fourth wall where the color scenes are interrupted by Joe or Dianne noticing the camera. The film is a ridiculous comedy, crazy plot, loonie characters and gory fun. According to Wikipedia, "Carmine Capobianco said of the script, "We decided to do something that was totally off the wall, totally fun"."
 On the first date when they admit there psycho tendencies to each other their bond grows immediately strong. They almost immediately do a tandem murder well after they had sex that is. The after sex talk about what you do with the bodies after murdering them adds to the light comic approach the movie takes. Filmed exclusively with a male eye the film although about a male and female killer is all about the men. The scenes of Joe killing we see attractive women (probably too hot for the character) the camera lingers in closeup tight on the body parts sexualizing the victims. Nudity abounds in these murders while it is Dianne is sexualized in her murder scenes. She is enticing the men to let their guards down and always fatally for them. Last there are continued cutbacks to Joe's bar where he has a woman Nikki dancing bare breasted.
  Then we cut to the plumber Herman who clears a clog for a woman and then hits her over the head with a wrench. He proceeds to ripher cloths open and acts goofy in delight as he cuts her up and cooks parts of her in a pan of searing vegetables. His routine is to then dress and eat the victim as a luxury meal. So now we have three psycho killers and all appear above the law.
  Dianne has a problem with a victim where he turns the tables on her and rapes her, but with the help of a nearby rock she eventually wins the skirmish and desposes of him. Beside the Dianne one liner "That was no fun at all."  it does not seem to have a purpose.
  The plumber makes his way to Joe's bar and shows his total lack of game with the ladies. Joe on the other hand although heavy and balding seems to have no problem with the ladies at all. Yet he is in love and even is less interested in killing and more into spending time with lovely Dianne. The scenes of their lives together come with a song sung between the two main characters about the same characters "Psychos in Love" The movie never loses its sense of humor even if the humor is all one note.They don't stop trying with the jokes though and the death scene where they can't seem to kill Nikki enough leads to the two deciding to get married.
  Wow what a shit show of ridiculous bits from losing interest in killing and then having their first marital problems. They are determined to just be happy with each other and maybe not have kill kill kill. Dragging on to when they marathon the five Friday the 13th movies and all three Halloween movies. To more scenes of the bar and it makes one wonder if the ideas, although cute would ever lead to anything. I mean what happened to that plumber, doesn't he have to come back into the film. Of course it happens that they meet over a clogged sink.
  Coming to an agreement where Joe and Dianne will give the plumber is going well until he mentions eating with grape sauce. Things go south with the negotiating and we have another big gory gag. at this point this film could end because it has gone no where. Finally it ends in an argument between the couple.
  So what can you make of this film? It certainly has a personality but lacks the cohesion that shows any real plotting that matters. So in the end it is just a collection of gags based around a couple serial killers falling in love with each other. Hard to watch all the way through because the character arcs do not have enough range. I am sure I can not recommend this film even though it tries. It is cute for a bit, funny at times but ultimately does not get anywhere we hope.

Psychos in Love song

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

City of the Living Dead (1980) Horror Gates of Hell

City of the Living Dead (1980) Spoilers! All through this review! I have watched a shit ton of movies in my life and have extensively explored the Italian horror genre but somehow I failed to ever see this film. So I was pleasantly surprised when I put this DVD in and saw something new to me. I thought that I had seen it but watching it was a new experience. Part of a three film Blu Ray set called "Gates of Hell Trilogy" put out by the Australian company Cinema Cult it also contains the other two Lucio Fulci Gates films The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery. Whether a problem with the DVD or my player I could not get the special features to play which is a bit disappointing. The film is a wonderful piece of cinema with a great score by Fabio Frizzi and Fulci directing it tells the story of a Gate of Hell being opened by a priest killing himself near it and how the lead characters try to shut it. Dunwich is a small New England town supposedly built on the ruins of Salem where the witch trials took place. A sick looking priest, Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine) walks in a cemetery. There is some strange cutting in this film going between the cemetery and a seance in New York City Mary a psychic see Father Thomas hang himself, followed by the sounds of howling and we see the dead rise from a nearby grave. Mary (Catriona MacColl) goes into convulsions seeing this and appears to die. On a gravestone in the cemetery is a saying. "The soul that pines for eternity shall out span death. You Dweller of the twilight void come Dunwich."  While the cops investigate Mary's death, we get some exposition about the book of Enoch a four thousand year old book that tells of the gate or some such thing. There Interrupted by the crying out fireball that appeared out of no where to ad some proof of the supernatural. Teresa (Adelaide Aste) predicts that horrible things are happening in a distant town.  Peter Bell (Christopher George) a reporter shows up in NYC looking for a story. He and Mary end up going to Dunwich to attempt to close the gate to Hell before All Saints Day. Confused that the dead Mary is involved well with Fulci things take turns and her turn is amazing.
   A couple grave diggers having lunch at a cemetery, reporter comes by and they chase him off. Grave of  Mary Woodhouse, Peter is still investigating her death. He watches as she is buried with these great in the coffin shots. She wails in the coffin. Peter hears her but a plane going over head blocks the noise, tension as we wait to see if he is going to go back yo the grave he does but her struggle finally saving her as she screams. The scene is great with cool shots of Mary in the coffin struggle to claw her way out cut with shots of Peter thinking he is hearing her but not sure. After the rescue book of Enoch explanation is a bit much but the shots done in Giallo style close ups of the eyes Mary explains that the Monday the night is the All Saints day and if the gates of hell that have been opened in Dunwich are not closed before then the dead will walk the earth. Peter is prophesied to be the one to do it oh that book just is quite magical. Mary and Peter start the road trip to Dunwich where they will eventual meet the locals there and bring this story to an end.
  Back to Dunwich and an eerie fog is blowing in on a howling wind. A Bob (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) in an abandoned house finds a blow up doll and what looks like a child worm covered rotting corpse. Junie's Lounge in Dunwich when the mirror just breaks all by itself, the two patrons and the bar tender examine it . Ever since Father Thomas hanged himself things have been strange. Then the wall cracks open and they hear sounds, the two patrons run off leaving the bar tender alone. They are the local spice for the town. The main characters are introduced. Sandra (Janet Agren) talking with her psychiatrist, Gerry (Carlo De Mejo), Emily (Antonella Interlenghi) comes in to see Gerry and we get some exposition about the Dunwich group, Salem witch burners are the ancestors of the town people.
With the creepy starting to happen in the town we start getting scenes that are goreliscious. Emily looking for Bob at the abandoned house, snarling sound scare him and he runs away leaving the poor girl alone.  The priest finds her and smears worm goo flesh all over her. She dies of fright her Father Mr. Robins shares that while talking to Gerry. The best set piece of gooey goodness has a couple locals, Tommy and his girl making out in their jeep. She is scared so he turns on the headlights to see the hanging priest in front of them. He appears next to the car the girls eyes start bleeding and her mouth foaming. Tommy goes from frantically trying to start the car to seeing his girls insides spill out of her mouth. Then the priest appears in the jeep and rips out Tommy's skull from behind.
  Hanging himself opened the gates of hell. Funeral for the Robin's. Ghoulish mortician is getting her ready. Mrs Holden died of fear also and we learn that Rose Calvin and Tommy Fisher from the jeep, town folk are blaming Bob who may be a pervert.

  Ghoul mortician tries to steal from the dead and has his hand mangled by the dead old lady. Emily's brother in his bedroom but something is outside the windows. He hears the moaning and the great music build the tension as he nears the shades to see his rotten corpse sister outside.
 Sandra has a gun smartest one out of the bunch apparently. The old lady from the mortuary is on Sandra's kitchen floor, Mrs Holden They are puzzled. Some social commentary about women having neurosis. More sound and the couple search around the house, when they return to the kitchen the body is gone. Panic sets in for Sandra knows dead Mrs. Holden is in the house. Logical Gerry calms her and she says " I will do whatever you say" Old lady was behind the painting but they don't see her. After the search the lights go out and a window blows in.(Did I mention the wind storm?) The glass blows into the painting and they see blood seeping out.
  There is also one death not caused by the dead, One of the locals finds Bob and thinking he is behind the deaths pushes his head into a industrial drill through the temple all the way through. It is quite the scene and we get great practical effects.
   Things start coming together once Mary and Peter arrive in Dunwich but the film doesn't really have clear main characters. Who are the hero's it seems they are Mary and Peter but we spend so much time away from them learning what's happening in the town that Gerry ans Sandra seem also to be emerging.  Gerry and Sandra arrive at a house the mortuary but no answer. Peter and Mary arrive at the graveyard, they have to find the priests grave and uncover him. Music tells us the tension should be rising and the fog. Gerry also arrives at the cemetery Mr. Logic meets the psychic. Now the four, Peter, Gerry, Sandra and Mary are assaulted by maggots blown in on the wind. Sandra Vomits as the floor is covered by them. It's a pretty amazing scene that ends with a call on the phone from little John-John,  Emily corpse killed her parents and John calls Gerry to tell him. The foursome drives over in the worst of wind storms and the girls look after John while the guys see the butchering of his parents. You don't see anything though this is an off camera murder, and we just get the reactions of the guys when they come out. It's a bit strange considering how much gore has already been in the movie
Plan is the funeral  parlor and then the cemetery to uncover he priest, Sandra takes John to Gerry's office while the other three enter the mortuary. Emily is waiting for Sandra and John-John and rips our the brains out of Sandra. This method is used repeatedly in the film, it like a hair pull but the back of the skull comes off. Pretty cool effect.  Kid runs, Kid in crisis running the dead are after him. Makes his way but the dead keep finding him. Gerry is suddenly there and confronts dead Emily by shutting his eyes. She vanishes and the crisis ends weird.
 Finally heading to the graveyard the three, Gerry, Mary and Peter arrive at night just a short time from midnight, they fail! The film sort of falls apart here a bit. Since they were supposed to close the gate before midnight but don't seem to do so the consequences for the world is the dead would rise. This is not the case though. They enter the family tomb and open his sarcophagus to find its broken out from the other side. They crawl through to check the other side. Dead Sandra is down there and they see her but suddenly she is behind Peter and rips out his brain. They killed Peter WTF! She then stares as Mary until her eyes bleed. Gerry rams a pipe through her and she dies a second time. Mary is okay now but what the fuck are they doing? Great visuals in the tomb of skeletal remains as the now pair move further towards the gates of hell,
They see the gates as the dead start to rise all around them.  The dead are coming for them! Priest guy appears and they are trapped his stare causes her eyes to bleed again. Jerry runs a cross through the priest who promptly burns and the dead are returned to the grave. Now we can call it City of the burning the dead catch magical fire. Wonderful Shame Peter didn't survive. Why the scream when the kid runs towards her to end the film? Must be from the first few scenes? I went back and watched the opening scenes but there is nothing there, So it is a mystery maybe the special features can solve. The music and gore are great in this film and even though it has some flaws this was a great film to finally watch. That last shot will bother me until I know the story behind it. This film is a bit problematic where women are screamy and emotional and the men are the calm ones telling them to get it together. The character Gerry in particular is a bit of a cad. Still the film is great and I definitely recommend this film to you all.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Carnival of Souls (1962) Horror Ghost

Carnival of Souls (1962) - Well not much has been happening with this blog. The business of my work is overwhelming the time I have for it. It's a shame because every now and again I have the time to watch a horror film and would like to talk about it. I decided to watch one of my favorite small low budget horror movies for the first entry of the year. I got the Criterian Collectoin Blu-Ray for Christmas so a nice version I was guaranteed. Carnival of Souls was made by Herk Harvey for a mere $33,000 and with the incredibly eerie organ score by Gene Moore the film builds a wonderfully creepy mood. Written by John Clifford this tightly well constructed story stars Candice Hilligoss as Mary a passenger in a car accident who miraculously survives being submerged in a river for three hours it is a meditation of life and death. She lives in a purgatory unannounced to the audience upon first viewing and the surprise ending is just a great turn. Emerging covered in mud she is a miracle but the story only lingers on that. She quickly recovers and heads to Utah where she has been hired as an organist at a church. She finds herself drawn to an old carnival pavilion she passes on the way. After taking a room she begins to have hallucinatory experience and seeing ghoulish faces, ever more drawn to the carnival. When all is said and done the twist occurs and we see that she has been living in a kind of purgatory being ever drawn back to death.
   Since this film is so old and such a cult classic most horror aficionados already know the twist and gist of the film. So I will NOT do a spoiler free review here.  In fact the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray  has a wonderful essay on the film by Keir-La Janisse the author of "House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films" If you buy and read that you can certainly skip my novice retelling of the plot. The essay included in the Blu-ray is excellent and far superior to anything I will do here. Instead lets look at the larger themes in it and how they relate to the plot. It supposes that there is a space between life and death. Mary crawls from a river after the car crashed three hours before with no explanation of how she survived in the fast running muddy river. She also crawls out right at the sight of the crash and not downstream as one would imagine. She is seen by the gathered crowd on the bridge and is touched by the officer putting a coat on her shoulder. This implies she is solid in form and not a ghost. She does not remember how she survived and little time is spent with anyone who can explain it.. She is sort of reborn from the river, she has a second chance at life. The next time we see her she is visiting the sight of the crash looking and reflecting on what has happened. This before starting a new life far away. The audience stays with Mary not hearing from anyone else bout what happened. We don't know if she is seen as a miracle or not. We don't see the grieving families of the other girls in the car crash.
  A small scene where we see her play the organ is interesting in that it sort of establishes her as not particularly religious. When the man (Tom McGinnis) who got her the gig in Utah asks her about it, she says that "It's just a job, that she is not becoming part of the church but instead is just playing music. When he asks if she is going to visit her parents before leaving she tightens up and says not she is just going to "drive straight through". Maybe again enforcing her rebirth into a different life. Does the possibility she is less religious indicate that she could not pass on the afterlife? The organ factory boss says she should put her soul into this new job. Does this also play to that theme? She states emphatically that she is never coming back and has to once again travel over the same bridge before getting to Utah.
  Once in the state she can only get eerie organ music on the radio and then she sees the pavilion, and then the face of a man in the passenger side window. This is a passage from her former life into a new realm. I love that Mary is not the easiest person to get along with. After the awkward conversation with the boss of the organ factory she has an equally off beat interaction with her new landlady in the Utah boarding house. After an awkward silence when seeing the room she is less than polite with her comment that the room is certainly what she expected, instead of saying it was nice like a polite person would do. Then again when the Minister (Art Ellison) at the church asks her if she would like to have a welcoming reception with the congregation, she says "Couldn't we just skip that." She is uncomfortable around people. It could be that she is just an anxious person but it could also be that she is not quite able to connect with the living?
  The strange encounters build while she is trying to settle in as the organist for the church. She and the Minister has another prescient interaction with the minister when he takes her to the abandoned pavilion. There is a barrier fence falling down to keep people out but Mary wants very much to go out into the place.The minister explains it isn't safe, but she ask him  "Could you take me out there." he says no because you know laws about trespassing but she says she would very much like to go out to the place. She keeps seeing that strange man with the white pastie face and is disturbed by it.  Also bothered by the other roomer in the house, a fast talking somewhat aggressive warehouse worker. Her wants to see more of her but she only consents when the strangeness of the town and her weird experiences make her too scared to be alone. Awkward with the living but seemingly drawn to the dead her life gets stranger and stranger.
She gets scared after having audio (or lack of) hallucinations where she can not hear anything except her own voice. She tries to interact with people around her but they do not see or hear her. Mary is beginning to cross over out of this world with each experience being more intense than the one before it. This latest one gets her some help from a local doctor (Stan Levitt) who sees her scared in the park. As they talk through her recent traumas he suggest she is having guilt of being the sole survivor of the car crash. She expresses how she does not need the company of others (the living) and resolves that her seeing the pastie face man is her imagination that she is going to face her fear by going out to the pavilion. She does it and it seems to calm her seeing that it is an abandoned park. Sure a couple thing happen to startle her but the big thing is something the audience sees that Mary doesn't. The pastie faced man laying in a pool of water.
  Where this could be a turning point for the better it really isn't. Mary afraid of the night coming agrees to have a date with the slimy roomer John Lindon (Sidney Berger). From the beginning he has been presented an a sleaze obviously looking to get her dress off. Played a bit over the top he is a lower class guy just looking to get with a woman normally out of his reach. Mary has an awful night, at organ practice at the church she is possessed by (?) the spirit of the dead and plays the strange creepy organ music that we have heard throughout the film.While in this playing trance she sees the abandoned park and the dead rising to dance in the dance hall, around and around at unnatural speed to her playing. Only coming out of it as the pastie faced man come towards he hand reaching for her. Interrupted by the Minister she is fired on the spot for playing blasphemous music. After a horrible date with all hand John where she again sees the pastie faced man Mary chases off John and has a frantic night barricading herself in her room, she decides to leave town.
  Of course she is inevitably going to be drawn back to that pavilion and the pastie faced people that inhabit the place. After another hallucination while waiting in her car for a mechanic she is impelled to go back to the but this time as the sun sets. Daylight has been her refuge and now her fate will be met in the dark. Seeing the dead rise once more to dance in the ballroom. She now is one of them in the dance and as dead as they are. We learn the woman vanished into this air, the doctor and the police wondering out loud what could have happened.
  Back in Kansas they have finally found the car, with surprise all three girls dead inside of it. Closing poor Mary's time in purgatory and ending the film. I love this film even with all its pushy men roles, the lecherous John Lindon in the rooming house, the pushy Minister who wants to save Mary's soul, and the boss at the organ factory, none really recognizes her as a person with her own drives but instead try to influence her into their ideas about what is good for her. She is a complex character played well by Hilligoss. A character that is disconnected to those around her and most probably still in shock from her trauma but one with a mind of her own. As someone who gets tired of religion infiltrating everything in our world it is refreshing to see a film where the main character limits that effect in her thinking. I still marvel that this script was written in just a month and produced for so little money and I am truly glad it exists.

Friday, December 30, 2016

End of Year movies binge!

  Finally have a bit of time to catch up on some movie watching. Christmas holidays have me getting a few days to kick back and relax. That means I have been checking out some of the films I have missed while I was so busy all year long. Binging means I will not give full reviews but at least here you can see what caught my fancy.
  For Christmas the family and I watched Gremlins (1984) a classic romp of Christmas disaster. The film sits in the eighties in its approach to the world but is timeless in its setting of small town America. This film is so much fun and really a dark little treat for the holiday season.
Train to Busan (2016) is an exceptional film. Set in an epidemic of zombie like behavior, the fast kind, it is really the story of a little girl wanting the attention of her Father. Mixed into the high speed train ride where passengers are struggling to survive is some nifty social commentary on work and its effects on society. Wonderfully executed with characters to cheer for, heroes and cowards it is a survival story built on people. Excellent action and thrills and the dread of being infected make this an great watch. Director Sang-ho Yeon really bring a tight and self written script to life in possible the best horror film I saw this year.   The Eyes of My Mother (2016) is a terrifying exploration of how untreated trauma can grow into a sick obsession and a whole lot of crazy. Spanning years in the life of Francisca a girl traumatized but the murder of her Mother and the subsequent strange behavior  by her father in the matter. She is spirals out of control and her need for someone anyone to have an emotional connection to has lasting consequences to those unfortunate few to cross paths with her. As a first film for by Nicolas Pesce is a driven mood peace with style and raw character driven edge.The lead Kika Magalhaes is great at capturing the insanity of the character.

Green Room (2015) This was an evil little movie of a punk band really being in the wrong  place at the wrong time. Heroin and Nazis are the factors in them not getting out alive but you know kids can be resilient. It is a tense edge of your seat struggle for the whole 80 or so minutes. Very satisfying in it's execution by Director Jeremy Saulnier. even the cleverly written way the survivors turn the tables.
  The Wailing (2016) - The comedic beginning of this film certainly makes it a strange gem of a film. For 40 minutes I was thinking this was a light comedy of errors with quite a bit of gore. Then there was a shift to a strange and scary ghost / demon story that was gruesome and compelling and the film gets deadly serious. Running more than two and a half hours it will challenge those with short attention spans but from where I sit it is worth the effort. The last forty minutes are great and knowing who is good and bad gets blurred all the way to the end of the film. Director Hong-jin Na did another great film Chaser (2008) which also delivered in suspense. I will continue to watch to see what he has coming out.
31 (2016)  I question why I watch Rob Zombie movies, I really don't connect with them at all. Again I gave it a go with yet another mean spirited piece of sleaze. This film is again is the basic Zombie theme, that there are wolves and there are sheep in the world and the sheep are there for slaughtering. I suppose the attempted twist should be given a bit of credit. Renown for mean unlikable characters he starts with introducing us to them, a group of lowlife carnies. Then in a twist they are not the lowlife murderers, instead they are the victims. There is also some statement in there about the wealthy using the poor for entertainment but that is lost in the survival game the poor carnies are put through. It's called 31 and they just have to survive 31 hours to win the game all the while being hunted by psychos with better weapons. You can guess how it goes, and know in the end that same mean spirited brain that thought up the plot thought up the ending.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) This was a wonderfully surprising film that goes from small town procedural to bat shit crazy horror in a mere hour and a half. Excellent acting by Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox as a father / son coroner team attempting to find out the cause of death for Jane Doe (Olwen Catherine Kelly), a body found at a mass murder that did not fit with the deaths in that incident. As this autopsy starts to be interrupted by unexplained seeming supernatural events the two find themselves facing more serious threats as they attempt to find Jane Doe's secret.
They're Watching (2016)  Possibly the strangest film I watched in that tonally it was not really consistent. A story of a television show crew "International Home Hunters" that is doing a follow up segment in Moldova at the home of potter who bought a house there on an earlier episode of the show. It seems it is going to be about ugly American and their real disrespect for foreign cultures, sticking their cameras where they don't belong and getting a local mad at them. Somewhere though it shifts from the menacing locals to a real life witch wanting her story of death and destruction told. The insane final sequence is both weirdly entertaining and comically out of character with the rest of the film. Maybe if the crew was more likable this would be more recommended but the cliche loud disrespectful American is just so used up at this point. Depth in those characters instead would have made this better.
Demon (2016) - Wow what a sad film. Piotr (Itay Tiran) is a groom coming to Poland to marry the girl he fell in love with in London. While working alone on her ancestral home he accidentally uncovers an unmarked grave. Later on a rainy night he falls into the grave, its the eve of his wedding and so most of the film is about a Polish Wedding. Lots of drinking and dancing and singing. As the wedding night goes on something is not right with and slowly it is revealed Piotr is possessed by the spirit of the woman in the grave. Mixed in is lost of commentary on Polish defeatism and burying the past for the sake of the present. Ending in the saddest possible way this film pulls the heart strings and leaves the watcher in silence.
  I feel like I have made a good effort to catch up on what I missed sure there are some others out there but really this is just finally having some viewing time. To me it seems like a pretty good year particularly for small independent horror films. So many people out there have lists this time of year ranking the films so I will avoid that here. Happy New Year to all my readers. Leave comment if you wish they are always welcome.  --Eddie