Green Inferno (A delayed reaction…)

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the-green-inferno

Green Inferno (2014)

Director: Eli Roth

Writer: Eli Roth, Guillermo Amoedo

Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns

Damsel Bruja and I decided to watch Eli Roth’s much talked about film, Green Inferno (2014) together. It was on Cinemax. It was a Saturday and we were bored just sitting there on our respective couches, so we decided to text each other throughout the movie. The exchange below is the result.

What can I say about this film that hasn’t already been said ad nauseam? Well, it’s moronic. I mean. People are killed by CGI ants and marinated in marijuana before being eaten. If I had to grade this movie, I’d give it a C+. It wasn’t the worst I’ve seen but it certainly wasn’t the best. I expected more. The political hullabaloo surrounding the release added to the hype. It was fun viewing, if only because there was NOTHING ELSE on TV.

Was it offensive? I can see why others would think so, but I was too busy laughing at poop and dislodged eyeballs to take this half-baked splatter fest seriously.

There is swearing. There is spoilers. We weren’t being politically correct. You have been warned.

 

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“The Babadook” A Mother’s Guide to Insanity

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Written/Directed: Jennifer Kent

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West

Holy Fuck this movie freaked me out!

Long story short: Amelia(Essie Davis) is a single mother who is at her wits end with her son, Samuel(Noah Wiseman). He sees monsters everywhere and his behavior gets worse when they discover a book called The Babadook. Samuel believes that the Babadook is real but Amelia doesn’t. So what happens with all the things in the book start to happen for real? Is she crazy or is the Babadook genuinely terrorizing her?

I’ll say it again…Holy Fuck this movie freaked me out! I love when a movie focuses more on the suspense and no visual of the big bad wolf. It really made you question whether the Babadook was real or if Amelia was having a mental breakdown. Throughout the movie you see this poor woman trying balance her miserable existence with a job she hates, a child she can’t control, a sister who a snobbish jerk, and the loss of her husband. Granted, her husband died seven years prior to this but I guess people grieve differently.

Anyway, her descent into madness is really hard to watch. I mean she gets really short with her son, she starts having hallucinations of cockroaches everywhere, the freaking book keeps popping up even after she destroys it, she crashes her car, kills her dog, etc. Shit just keeps happening to this poor woman. I couldn’t help but think that this situation kind of fits the criteria for demonic possession. There are three steps, you know. Infestation, Oppression, and Possession. But I’m rambling…..

Really in the end it felt like a mix between The Exorcist, Poltergeist, and a hint of The Conjuring! It was creepy and fun to watch!

That ending, though…I guess you’ll just have to watch so you’ll see what I mean…

I give it an A+

Breaking the fourth wall with “Resolution (2012)”

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Resolution (2012)

Writers/Directors: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

Starring: Peter Cilellaand, Vinny Curran, Zahn McClarnon, Bill Obserst Jr.

After the first viewing, I wasn’t sure how to rate it. It was meta upon meta upon meta. The characters broke the fourth wall and Resolution (2012) ended in a way that left me going “huh?” Not because I didn’t understand the conclusion, but because I just couldn’t believe the direction the writers/directors took an otherwise coherent plot line. The horror writer in me was irritated. “Clever,” I thought, “But why waste a perfectly good story by inserting this ludicrous twist? Are the filmmakers trying to be cute?” I appreciated the story’s constant misdirection, its irony, and brilliant performances by the two leading actors, Peter Cilellaand and Vinny Curran. The movie was great. But still I fumed.

And then I decided to watch Resolution (2012) a second time. Just like the first, the film challenged and forced me to see beyond the characters, beyond the narrative to the private joke played on my expense. But instead of fuming, I decided to play along, which is, I think, the point of this movie. This is a film that demands audience participation, not passivity. The ending is up to us, which even the characters realize and attempt to react to before audience expectations “kill” them.

It’s…literary. Experimental. And interesting. If you’ve seen Rubber (2010) it’s a bit like that…but without the absurdity.

What is Resolution about? Quite simply; it’s about a man who handcuffs a junkie to his remote cabin. The rest is…well…up for debate. Anymore will take all the fun out of watching a film like this. So just watch it. You’ll either love it or hate it. It’ll fly over some people’s heads, but if you read this blog, I’m assuming you’re into weird, thought-provoking shit. I’m giving it an A+ and will definitely check out Justin Benson’s and Aaron Moorhead’s new film, Spring (2015). They’re the same guys behind “V/H/S: Viral.” Definitely two filmmakers to watch. Adding Resolution into my personal collection.

Killer viruses in “King of Thorn (2009)”

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While I love manga/anime with a medical-thriller vibe (think Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster”) this killer virus flick, “King of Thorn” totally escaped my radar. In fact, I hadn’t heard of this anime or the manga until last night while dicking around on YouTube for something to review. If you’re familiar with the anime series, “Big O” (an adolescent favorite: mecha meets Batman) then you’ve already seen Kazuyoshi Katayama’s directorial style. That alone convinced me to give this movie a try. Although I sorta wished I hadn’t.

King of Thorn (2009)

Director and screenwriter: Kazuyoshi Katayama 

Original writer: Yuji Iwahara (Manga) 

Voice actors (Japanese — English dubs generally SUCK donkey balls) Kana Hanazawa, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Misaki Kuno, Akiko Yajima

The first one-third of the movie was what I expected (in a good way). To survive a pandemic virus, humankind’s last hope is to freeze a selected few for 100yrs until a cure is found. While asleep, mutant creatures attack the dreaming facility and those lucky not to have died while asleep, fight off crazy scientists, mutants, and other odd creatures through gory, pulptastic, action sequences. The animation isn’t terrible and I liked all the crazy characters. Even Kasumi. I wish the movie had stuck with its simple survival horror plot instead of veering left and getting lost in its metaphorical “Sleeping Beauty” message.

I thought the virus was a virus, but apparently the whole thing is just a dream, but the main character is also a figment of that dream, who is a clone of her twin and…yeah…what? Why couldn’t this just be a shoot’em up monster movie as advertised? “King of Thorn” tried way way way too hard to be philosophical and just sorta fell flat by the second-third of the movie. It’s so convoluted I can’t really tell you what the ending even means.

All in all, I’d give it a “C.” I’ll try to review other anime horror movies in the future. This one was just OK.

Sleep Paralysis in “The Nightmare” (2015)

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The Nightmare (2015)

Director: Rodney Ascher

Starring: Yatoya Toy, Siegfried Peters, Steven Yvette, Age Wilson, Elise Robson, Nicole Bosworth

Guys. I  have a lot of thoughts about this documentary, but I’ll keep this review short. As someone who battled sleep paralysis daily for 19 years, I had high hopes and expected The Nightmare (2015) to shed new information about the misunderstood sleep condition. Instead, I got weak re-enactments of the documentary subjects’ hallucinations and zero scientific clarification about sleep paralysis. There’s literally one sentence in the opening credits explaining what sleep paralysis is, and then discordant montages of “alien abductions,” “demonic possessions,” “Shadowman,” and other paranoid conspiracy theories linking sleep paralysis with the paranormal.

To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. So let me break it down for you without scare tactics.

What is sleep paralysis? In a nutshell, it’s a physiological disorder that happens during the REM sleep cycle when the sufferer awakens while the body is still immobilized from sleep. The dream continues to play outside their mind while they are paralyzed and aware. This can be a very frightening experience and can sometimes leads to panic attacks, hallucinations, and anxiety. Every person with sleep paralysis experiences their own unique cocktail of symptoms, but ones most people share are:

1. Full-body paralysis–unable to open or close eyes, sit up, or open mouth to call for help

2. Buzzing, banging, and other auditory hallucinations (some people hear screams or disembodied voices)

3. Heavy feeling weighing down the chest (can feel like being smothered or forcibly restrained)

4. Sensing an outside “presence” hovering above or near the body

If you’re like me, you also get crazy, intense hallucinations and temporary amnesia. I used to wake up each morning not even remembering what my name was. Panic attacks and night terrors haunted me almost every night, and as a child I slept in bathtubs at sleepovers, hid inside kitchen sink cabinets, and laid awake for hours, to the point of exhaustion, just to avoid falling asleep. I found no relief until starting relaxation therapy with a professional therapist.

It is tempting to link sleep paralysis with demons, alien abductions, and other paranormal phenomena, but I assure you, sleep paralysis is a medical condition and can and SHOULD be treated. I only wish the filmmakers had taken a scientific approach instead of misleading people.

If I were to judge this documentary for its entertainment value, it’d still get a lackluster grade. I’m afraid I can’t recommend The Nightmare (2015) to anyone who actually has sleep paralysis. It is triggering. Make time to “cool down” after watching the film (if you choose to watch it at all!) For everyone else, meh, if you like cheesy re-enactments with unconvincing graphics, this documentary is chocked full of them. Giving this one a “D.”

Gorgo (1961) A Kaiju classic…from ENGLAND???

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Yes, that is Big Ben in the poster. Totally rips off Gamera, Godzilla, and other kaiju films from Japan. But Gorgo is a British classic and capitalized on the “dino craze” before Jurassic Park. So there.

Underwhelmed by Jurassic World’s blockbuster success, I found myself hungering for a true blue, n0-frills kinda Kaiju movie. From England. Because…why not? (Wasn’t in the mood for subtitles, if I’m being entirely honest)

Enter Gorgo (1961) or Britain’s rather lame equivalent to the Gamera franchise.

Director: Eugene Lorie

Writers: Robert L. Richards and Daniel James

Starring: Bill Travers, William Sylvester, and Vincent Winter

The story starts on an Irish island where two British treasure hunters, Sam (Sylvester) and Joe (Travers), discover a baby monster that killed two divers. While they strategize to capture the beast, they meet an incomprehensible Irish orphan named Sean (Winter), who, I shit you not, speaks gibberish for the entire film. Maybe that’s my Stupid American™ showing, but I thought I DIDN’T need subtitles for this film. Like Kenny in Gamera, Sean tries to set Gorgo free and generally gets in the military’s way and is forced to be rescued many annoying times.

Every Kaiju movie needs a monster-obsessed kid who puts everyone’s lives in danger by freeing the kaiju at the last second!

Once Sam and Joe make it to England , they sell the creature, who Sean calls “Gorgo,” to a London circus. And surprise, surprise, discover the creature’s mother has destroyed Ireland while they were away. What follows next is an incredibly long montage of bombers, tanks, guns, explosions, and mass hysteria as British forces fight Gorgo’s mother. She somehow makes it all the way to London, destroying the city and mostly everyone in it. These scenes were enjoyable for their kitsch factor, alone. The movie was done in 1961 and had no real special effects to speak of, save for cheesy puppets and model scales, but I thought they were well done.

The circus people lock Gorgo in an electric fenced cage but Gorgo’s mother breaks through and both escape back to the sea. The End.

What baffled me most was how easily Gorgo was caught. He’s impervious to bullets, fire, and other human weapons, but is somehow defenseless against rope nets. He allows himself (without aid of tranquilizers) to be ferreted across the sea to London and does not try to kill Sean when the kid gets close to him. Gorgo is a typical kaiju monster flick with a lot of action scenes.

Giving it a “B.”

The Devil’s Carnival (2012)

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The Devil’s Carnival (2012)

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Writer: Terrance Zdunich

Starrring: Sean Patrick Flanery, Briana Evigan, Jessica Lowndes

If you’re familiar with “Repo! The Genetic Opera” then “The Devil’s Carnival” is a bit like it’s obscure, younger cousin. Comparing the two musicals side-by-side, I think I like Devil’s Carnival better. The singing is better, it’s just the right length (run time is just under an hour) and it doesn’t try as hard as Repo! did to be a feature film. Repo! lost steam somewhere around the middle for me but Devil’s Carnival kept its zany momentum and was fun to watch all the way through.

Trailer:

Devil’s Carnival is a MUSICAL. The story follows a thief, a suicidal father, and abused girl through purgatory; a radioactive-colored carnival populated by crazy clowns, living dolls (as played by the incomparable Emilie Autumn), and burlesque dancers. As Lucifer reads Aesop’s Fables, the doomed trio act out the mistakes that led them to Hell in the first place. It’s an entertaining romp with gorgeous special effect makeup and creative sets, which is all you’re going to get when you watch this film, too. If you like musicals with a morbid twist, Devil’s Carnival is for you. If you’re expecting a feature film that can stand on its own without performance art, look elsewhere.

My favorite song/scene was the climax when the suicidal father acts out the five stages of grief and finally goes to heaven. It’s an emotional scene and one of the few moments in the film when the devil, Terrance Zdunich sings.

Second favorite scene is the tale of the scorpion and the frog, when the abused girl is “stung” for foolishly trusting a man she shouldn’t.

I’ll give “Devil’s Carnival” a B+. 

The “Teeth” in her vagina should bite harder!

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[Trigger Warning: Rape]

Writer/Director: Mitchell Lichtenstein

Starring: Jess Weixler, Hale Appleman, John Hensley 

It took me four years to watch Teeth (2007). My husband refused to watch it. In fact he didn’t even want to be in the same room if it was on, which left a very small window for me to sit down and enjoy the film in its entirety without interruption. The movie has a lot of concepts that I really like (ahem, like the cave sex scene that freaked out my husband) but ultimately fails to push beyond its severed penis gags to discuss rape and violence against women with any seriousness. But I admit to cheering with misandrist glee after each killing. This movie seems to strike a nerve with male viewers and its easy to see why. Trailer below.

[!!!!] This post will talk frankly about rape–if you’re sensitive to that please tune out now [!!!!]

The story follows Dawn, a high school girl, who loves Jesus and wants to maintain her virginity until marriage. She meets another boy from her high school abstinence club, however when they go on their first date he ignores her wishes to wait and rapes her. Dawn discovers her vagina can bite off men’s penises. And so the reverse-gendered horror and hilarity begins.

Dawn is raped/molested a lot in this movie. Like…a lot. She’s raped by every major male character, including her stepbrother. Even the “hero” drugs her, waits until she’s unconscious, and proceeds to have sex  while she is unable to consent. But Dawn is able to defend herself by biting off her rapists’ penises. The moral of the movie (I think?) is not to rape women. Is it scary? No. But it does challenge views about sex and women’s roles in horror films.

Let’s face it. Most horror movies are marketed towards men and their sexual frustrations. The monster/killer/bad guy is almost always male, violent, and harbors a special bloodlust for female victims. The female character always has the bloodiest death, usually after just engaging in sex or equally provocative act. Erotica and horror are a potent, powerful mix, which is why it so happens to be my favorite sub-genre of horror.

Horror movies are a safe way sexual people can vicariously relieve ourselves. I get it. You get it. We all like the violence in horror movies. But that’s precisely why Teeth is so great! For once the female character isn’t tripping over her own breasts or waiting to be rescued. Dawn rescues herself.

What peeeved me most about Teeth is that it didn’t go far enough. It’s hard to call Dawn an “empowered” character when she is raped and molested throughout the entire film. Not once is she in control of her sexual choices, her rapist is.

Teeth is still a movie for and by men, but I think women might enjoy this movie for its attempt to reverse gender politics. Four years was worth the wait. Giving this one an A and also adding it to my collection.

Laugh til you pee with Dead Snow 2

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Dead Snow 2 released Oct. 2014 in Norway but is now available (in English) on Netflix

Director: Tommy Wirkola Writers: Tommy, Wirkola, Stig Frode Henriksen, and Vegar Hoel

Starring: Vegar Hoel, Orjan Gamst, and Martin Starr

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014) is a gut busting horror comedy film from Norway. Nazi zombies (and a tank) battle Soviet zombies, nerds, a gay guy, and a one-armed Norwegian dude (from the first movie, apparently) in the snow. Thankfully this smart, hilarious new take on the zombie genre is on Netflix for we, Americans, to wet our pants over.

I’ve seen so many zombie movies I’ve kinda burned myself out, but Dead Snow 2 is a revelation. It’s original, fast-paced, and unapologetically campy. I can’t remember when I’ve laughed so hard. Damsel Bruja and I watched this film together on a weeknight and loved it. This is definitely a movie to watch with your friends piled high on a couch with an open box of pizza and cold beers. Definitely watch this movie with beer. The drunker you are the funnier it gets. True story.

A+ for Dead Snow 2. Trashy entertainment at its finest!

Danger World (zombie short)

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This little zombie flick won “Best Narrative Short” at both Pan African Film Festival and Bronzelens Film Festival. For a running time just under 20min, the movie packs quite a punch and features a both a diverse cast and a female director! *happy dance* I never know what to expect when I watch a short indie film (Damsel Bruja and I suffered through some terrible ones at Austin Comic Con last year) and so I’m happy to say I really enjoyed this one.

Directed by Luchina Fisher (female horror director, hurray!) 

Starring: Frankie Faison and Saorise Scott

Written by  Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, based on their novel “Devil’s Wake.”

Little Soldier and Grandpa survive the zombie-infested woods by sticking close (they drive past a pregnant woman and her wailing children) and fleeing for cover when the going gets tough. However Little Soldier still doesn’t see the zombies as “monsters” and has a hard time shooting her rifle. Her childlike naivety exasperates Grandpa. He snaps at Little Soldier to pick up her gun after she throws a tantrum and flings it to the grass. The tension between the characters came through right away. Little Soldier does not agree with Grandpa’s ruthless decision to leave the pregnant woman by the side of the road. She doesn’t want to face reality and kill to survive. However Grandpa remains firm and warns her that he won’t always be there to protect her. She’ll have to “learn not to be small.” And predictably just that happens. I’m not going to spoil the story for you, minions, but the ending is well-handled. There’s a few “gotcha” moments, as far as horror is concerned. This movie relies more on story and voice than special effects, makeup, or gore. Don’t go into it expecting to see buckets of blood.

Overall I recommend you check it out. It’s a simple story, but well-told. Worth the 20 minutes.