Monday, June 26, 2017

Day 238: Bubba Ho-Tep

This horror comedy is as much a love letter to Elvis as it is a tale of a mummy attacking a nursing home. This is one of those I heard about for awhile before I got to see it.

Set in an East Texas nursing home, Bubba Ho Tep follows Elvis Presley and his sidekick, JFK, as they battle a cowboy mummy. A lot of the movie is taken up getting our pieces in place as we learn how Elvis came to be still alive in a nursing home, how JFK is now an elderly black man and how an ancient Egyptian mummy came to terrorize Texas. All of this silliness is fun on its own before the mummy starts eating the souls of the old folks who live with Elvis and JFK.

Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis have a lot of fun with their geriatric horror hero roles here. Neither is very mobile and they sell just how frustrating it is to be stuck in a slowed down body. The goofiness of the premise doesn't prevent some real moments of pathos to shine through. It won't warm your heart but it will entertain you for an evening. Warning: there are some gross jokes about a growth on Elvis' dick.

By no means on par with Evil Dead but worth a watch for the novelty alone.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Day 237: The Blair Witch Project

I saw this one in the theaters several times. It came out while I was in college and I remember it being immediately divisive.

The Blair Witch Project follows three film students as they journey into the wilderness of Maryland to film a documentary about a local legend called the Blair Witch. They begin easily enough, with footage of locals giving all the colorful exposition about the various child murders and witchcraft that took place in the area. When they venture out into the woods alone, things start going wrong. Their maps are meaningless, their compass seems to lead them in circles and someone is leaving little stick figure markers outside their tents as they sleep. As paranoia and fear ratchet up, the little group turns on each other and their tattered wills are finally put to the ultimate test when one of them vanishes.

This was not the first found footage movie, however it was the found footage movie that kicked off a generation of lesser found footage movies. The simplicity of the execution is pretty genius. This movie made the audience aware of how limited the information was they were getting from a first person perspective. You scan every inch of every frame looking for monsters or you stare into the black spaces on screen waiting for something to emerge. This is a movie that helps you scare the crap out of yourself. I feel like the people who don't like it (besides the poor motion sickness afflicted) are those who have a hard time putting themselves into the story.

The ending, which I won't spoil, is kind of at the heart of the argument against the movie but I think, if you were paying attention the whole time and get invested in the backstory of the movie, there is nothing scarier we could have seen at the end.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Day 236: Plus One

This is a sci-fi chiller that I caught thanks to Ain't It Cool News and Netflix.

David has just made a major mistake when going to visit his girlfriend and is hoping to reconcile with her at a big party being thrown that night. Thanks to a mysterious meteor crash, duplicates of every one at the party are appearing, but lagged ten minutes behind the originals. As the dupes disappear and reappear, each time closer in time to the originals, the party becomes a fight for survival against the dupes. Will David make up with Jill before the night is through? Will he or any of his friends survive?

I have to give this movie points for originality. The premise is somewhere between Can't Hardly Wait and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. When it seems like time is looping, things start to go dark quickly but, until then, you have a normal teenagers at a big party story. By the end, the action gets pretty intense and not all the storylines turn out with happy endings.

This is a fun little movie that won't blow your mind but will entertain you. Enjoy!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Day 235: The Blackcoat's Daughter

This is available on Amazon Prime for no added cost, which is nice. This is the first movie from Oz Perkins, son of Tony "Psycho" Perkins but the second to be released (Netflix beat it with I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House).

This movie opens with a young girl at a boarding school having a nightmare about her parents getting in a car accident. It is the last day of class before a winter break and Katherine knows her parents won't be there to pick her up. Two matronly caretakers and Rose, an older student who believes she is pregnant, are the only three other people at the school. As we follow the events at the school, another young lady named Joan (Emma Roberts) has shown up at the bus station not far from the school and is picked up by a nice couple (James Remar and Lauren Holly). Something evil is happening to young Kat and how all this plays out is dark fun of the movie.

Really, the plot is secondary to the mood of the movie. Elvis Perkins provides an ambient, ominous score that puts you off immediately. The space between lines lingers just a little too long to be comfortable and all the negative space in the shots is certainly disturbing. The editing plays a big part, too, in that events are skipped and doubled back to see later. Little flashes give clues to character motivations and help make sense of the chronology. This is a pretty well-constructed movie even if one climactic line did make me unintentionally giggle.

The ending is surprisingly emotional as you figure out what the whole movie is about in the last five minutes. What else can you do when you miss your loved ones?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Day 234: The Exorcist

Another classic of American horror, I know. I don't think I ever saw it all the way through until the theatrical release of "The Version You've Never Seen"- which in my case was literal.

The Exorcist, for those who don't know, is about a little girl named Regan who gets possessed by a demonic entity. After scientists fail to find a problem with her, a young priest in the midst of his own crisis of faith and an older priest who has dealt with the demon before must team up to save the little girl. The story is fairly straight forward but the horror comes from little touches.

In the "Version I had Never Seen" or whatever, they superimposed demonic faces in negative spaces on screen before the possession to show the coming of the evil. Like the subliminal Brad Pitts showing up in Fight Club, the demonic stalking of the mother and daughter made some good scares downright disturbing. Besides the subliminal faces, there is plenty in plain sight to freak you out. The dinner party scene where little Regan tells an astronaut, "You're going to die up there" is freaky. Seeing the poor girl get a spinal tap for no reason is horrific. And once the demon shows up, the girl starts doing and saying the most perverse things to shake the faith of the exorcists.

Sure, there is lots of green pea soup vomit, but it looks pretty fake. Worse is when it is dried and crusted on the people in the room. Besides bodily fluids like pee and blood, there is not a lot of gore in the movie. One scene with a crucifix being used in a rough manner is kind of hard to watch. But really, this is a movie of unsettling actions and disturbing words coming from the face of innocence.

Expertly directed and filled with good scares, this is a classic for a reason.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day 233: The Collection

Again, out of order with these reviews but that's the way the God of Random decrees.

The Collector movies have tricked me into watching them twice with premises I can't say no to. For the first movie it was a Master Thief gets stuck in a house with a Serial Killer and the two go after each other. I was not a fan of the first one. The second one is all about A Team of Highly Trained Mercenaries invading the lair of a Serial Killer. How can I say "no" to that?

This movie starts with a blood bath on a dance floor as an illicit rave has been booby trapped by the Collector (the killer of the series). After murdering all but one teenager, he captures the survivor and puts her in his collection. Her parents aren't having any of this so when the master thief from the first movie escapes the collection, they hire him to lead a team back into the Collector's base to free their daughter. Of course, the Collector's home base is filled with deadly ensues.

And this actually was a better movie than the first one. The house of horrors idea is not played out yet. Also, the tables get turned on the Collector repeatedly, making this not so much a one-sided horror stories like most modern movies portray. There is even a kind of spooky, satisfying ending to the whole thing even after you think the movie should be over.

Is this a good movie? No, not really. It is entertaining for a couple of hours but doesn't add anything new to the genre. It does live up to its premise, which is rare.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Day 232: Paranormal Activity 3

Doing this out of order again, but that's what I get for having random topics.

Paranormal Activity 1 and 2 dealt with a modern family (two sisters) dealing with some form of demonic entity possessing one of the sisters and stealing the baby of the other. The third movie takes us back to when both sisters were little and living with their mom and her boyfriend in California. When one of the girls gets an imaginary friend named Toby, weird things start happening around the house. This prompts the boyfriend to set up cameras all over the house and see if he can find anything strange. The paranormal activity of the title starts to ramp up and the family looks for answers from the grandparents. Bad things happen.

This is the first narrative movie by the makers of the documentary Catfish. By placing the movie in the late 80s, there is a limit to the camera action they can have. This leads to some creative setups like a camera being set on an oscillating fan base so that it scans the kitchen. The slow, steady rhythm of the scene when something happens in the kitchen is probably my favorite moment from the whole series. You get a little bit of the Die Hard problem here (how does the same family keep thinking to document all this weird shit but do nothing about it) but it mostly works due to some strong performances.

I wouldn't start with this one but I almost would say you can end with it. Although it leaves earlier plotlines unresolved, they don't get resolved any better in the next few movies. This probably should have stopped as a trilogy.