Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ready or not

Monsters (2010) is a quiet film with few monsters.  Directed by Gareth Edwards, the film covers the travels of two post-alien invasion humans who have a very human story to tell.  They must travel trough an infected zone in Mexico to the "safety" of the United States.  While this alone is a great allegory on immigration and foreign relations- the film I feel, prides itself on its characters.  Whitney Able plays Samantha, the daughter of a big wig media guy who hires Andrew (Scoot McNairy) to escort her to the U.S.  This seems simple expect for the fact that Andrew appears madly in love with Samantha.  We see him protect her, lead her through Mexico, but more times than not, fail.  He makes mistakes.  Together, they make mistakes, loose things and trust the wrong people.  Monsters doesn't show us nearly enough monsters, but ultimately, that okay.

Monsters allows us to see that life after crisis will still be human.  Instead of focusing on battles with the aliens (insert zombies, vampires, infected, etc), Monsters seems more real.  In a real crisis government would most likely not fail.  Instead it would segregate.  It would quarantine.  It would pick and choose the people who lived with the insurgence and those that were able to live in ignorance.  Daddy's little girl would get an escort back to daddy.  Your average human, or in Monsters case, Aladdin-Esq street dude, would be left to make mistakes.

The really cool thing about Monsters is the opportunistic nature of the films direction.  Apparently the two actors were placed in scene and given basic outlines of how the scene should go.  For there, they were able to interact freely.  The other actors and extras in the movie were real people who agreed to follow along.  This premise provided for the great human qualities of the film.  No one seemed to be acting.  The mistakes and story were compelling.  Ultimately, when the invasion, crisis, zombie apocalypse comes- we will all make mistakes.  Great film.  Rent it.   7.5/10

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Adam Green: with anticipation

Right now I'm struggling.  Last night (a Saturday night mind you) I found myself at the grocery store.  At 8:00PM.  With my family, whom I love, but at the grocery store none the less.  So, being that I am at the grocery store and most fun loving adults in the Cincinnati area are drinking pints of wonderful beer at Oktoberfest- I decide to rent some horror.  The least I can give myself is a night of horror glee.  I got my caffeine free diet Coke, my BB-Q chips and the freedom to go rent what I'd like. So I go to my local Family video, with it's crap selection of movies.  I paid part of my late fees, since I never can return movies on time and I rented three horror films. 

Wait, not three horror films, three pieces of crap.  Two of the After Dark Horror Fest selections, Dark Ride and Mulberry St.  Both crap.  Dark Ride I probably couldn't access fairly since I literally shut it off 45 minutes in.  I was wasting my time.  Also, The Cottage, whose cover looked cool, but we all know we can't judge a horror film by it's box art.  That was crap too. 

Rather than waste time reviewing the bad horror- I want to talk about upcoming horror.  Adam Green's Frozen and Adam Green's Hatchet 2.  At times I feel like I am passing time until these films get released.  Frozen i know is coming out on DVD Sep 24th.  Hatchet 2 will have limited theater release, closest to Cincy is a Columbus metroplex.  These two, and a few others are all that I long for.

Adam Green is a great breath of fresh air to the horror genre.  Hatchet was a slasher gem that lived up to its moniker of "old school American horror."  That it was.  I expect more of the same from Hatchet 2.  Frozen on the other hand looks tremendous.  i try not to watch too many previews, but i did here a interview with Adam Green on the horror show  On it, Adam admits that Frozen is his best yet.  I will wait to judge until I can actually view and review the film- but i strongly believe a fresh voice like Adam Green's will be a welcome harbinger to the Fall season.   

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Exam: What would Sartre do?

Way back in 1995 I was required by my beloved high school English teacher to read Jean-Paul Sartre's play "no Exit."  This French play intrigued me, taught me about existentialism and at the time connected directly to my love of horror films.  While Sartre's play is not specifically horror, the scenario of situations that happen behind closed doors is.  The family barricaded in their house by zombies.  The rag-tag group of misfits holed up in a gas station, fending off the virus, the plague, each other.  Take any group or cross section of society, trap them in an environment and let the audience rattle their brains on who the sole survivor will be.  Sartre's play has been used as a basis for several films and the scenario makes for a great horror setting.  Some bad like Saw III-VI.  Some great, like Cube.  A recent film that uses this scenario is Stuart Hazeldine's Exam.

i caught Exam the other night on IFC On Demand.  Had to pay the ghastly premium price of 5.99.   But my wife was willing to watch a film, borderline horror and this looked like it might suit us.  The film plays with similar situations, people trapped in a room.  The cross section of society.  The riddles they must solve.  The movie was good, not great, but good.  With a second watching I might pick up on more.  What I enjoyed was that it seemed a little more realistic than Cube.  i love Cube.  Will admit I even am a sucker for the sequels.  When i mentioned in trying to justify the 5.99 price tag, i said to my wife that Exam looks like it might be similar to Cube.  She reminded me that I liked Cube, while she on the other hand didn't see the reality in it.  Exam is more likely to happen. 

My real question here is the No Exit scenario and in what real life settings could it happen.  I see the upcoming film Devil uses the people trapped in an elevator scenario...and one of them guessed it.  But what of these scenarios might happen in real life.  Maybe war, soldiers captured.  Hostage situations, bank hold ups, that sort of thing.  Maybe people are in a real life No Exit, in their cubicle, their semi-truck, their life.  The writer Sartre perhaps explains horror's use of his source material best in the quote from No Exit: "We are in hell, my dear, there is never a mistake and people are not damned for nothing."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Crazies: horror's public relations

I will admit, I don't do a good job of supporting horror in the theaters.  Not that I don't want to.  Every time I see a good horror film come out I wish to see it on the big screen.  With my popcorn and my Cherry Coke.  Maybe I am a victim of the laundry list of things that keep me out of the theatre: the fact they are now over ten bucks to go during the day...even more at night when horror is meant to be scene, the fact I have a blue ray player, the fact that a blue ray or DVD costs about the same as a theatre visit, the fact that my kids are five and still a few years away from joining me in wanting to see Freddy slice and dice.  All of these reasons seem valid.   I still feel like I do a good job supporting horror with the amount of money I spend buying films on DVD and blue ray.  That is how I watched Breck Eisner's (2010) remake The Crazies.  In glorious blue ray.  With my 59 cent fountain pop from Circle K and my bag of Orvil Redenbocker all to myself.

This is not so much a review of the Crazies- as much as it is a questioning of horror marketing.  The Crazies was a great film.  One I will probably purchase to add to my collection.   A film worthy of multiple viewings and one in which I feel will stand the test of time.  In the remake category, I would rank it right up the with the Aja's Hills Have Eyes remake.  It's that good.

But, like I said, this is not so much of a review.  How this movie was marketed confuses me a bit. My wife, mind you, is admittedly not a huge horror fan, when she likes a horror film I see her as more of the conscious of America.  How the typical moviegoer might view a film.  I might be a little biased and find even a Saturday afternoon syfy channel movie good.  But if the wife likes it...

She pointed out how awful the movie was marketed as it was in theaters.  The Crazies did not fare that well in theaters.  I realize many movies have a great life on DVD and blue ray and can be good without doing well at the box office.  But, the Crazies is an example of poor marketing.  if you saw previews for the comes across as being yet another zombie flick.  Not a whole lot of brains to it besides the ones the ghouls are feasting on.  But, there is much more to the Crazies.  It is a well rounded, spooky, well made, well acted film.  The marketing for some horror films, especially horror films in the Winter/ Spring is terrible.  Saw 7 will be marketed out the wazoo this October and more teenie-boppers will see that then probably saw the Crazies.  And, most horror hounds will agree, we would rather the teens give there parents money to a film like the Crazies then to Saw 7.  If not, we will just get Saw 8, 9 and 10.  If we go with the notion that better horror films should do better in the box office, then they needs to be marketed better.  And hypocriteslike me need to actually go to the theater to see them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Deadgirl: Stand by Her

Today I will begin going through some recent films that have kept me up.  I qualify some films as "films to fall asleep to."  This does not mean they are boring in any way.  Simply, these are the films I've seen a number of times, maybe even watched the directors commentary a few times.  In this sense, even a great film, like Nightmare On Elm Street 4 would be considered a "film to fall asleep to."  Like a great bedtime story.

Other films, mostly for me- new films, are films that "keep me up."  Sometimes because they are scary, sometimes they are just interesting.  Sometimes they are wreckage.  One example of this kind of  artful horror car wreck is Marcel Sarmiento's (2008) Deadgirl.

Now I am not normally one for torture horror.  Violence for violence sake is not cool.  Deadgirl is not that kind of film anyway.  It is a shocker. There is a deadgirl (duh) buts she's more of a zombie.  Take a couple bored slacker teenagers and you can imagine what ensues.  But really the story takes off on one of the boys grapple with his true love and the dark paths his friends are taking.  Shiloh Fernandez and Noah Segan play the boys.  Noah is the sick one who makes it a circus sideshow to come and fool around with the girl.  Shiloh is conflicted.  He turns in a great performance as Rickie.  He is the main showcase of conflict in the story as he struggles to overcome some of the darkness in his life.  A girl that does not like him back, a drunk stepfather, and a friend who is busy screwing a deadgirl.

Here we have a film that people will A: get freaked out by due to the content.  B: get over that and focus on the story of Rickie.

When you focus on the story of Rickie you have yourself a unique independent horror film.  The kind of which they should make more of these days.  Not a remake, but an original take on the "Friends in transition" theme.  So ultimately, I did enjoy Deadgirl, be it for reason B.  The car wreck nature of the film might serve to bring some viewers into the fold or may turn some away.  Either way, we cannot deny good fresh storytelling and independent horror.  Next up...a review of the complete first season of the short lived (thankfully) Mick Garris project "Fear Itself."

Friday, July 9, 2010

How (Ti) West Has Won

  While I haven't updated the Cuts Happening blog in some time, I certainly have watched plenty of horror.  Horror is still the worn out teddy bear I snuggle up with every night.  Some folks read.  I watch horror films.  On a small portable DVD player with headphones.  Most of the films are just my own strange lullaby's.  Episodes of Tales from the Crypt.  Masters of Horror episodes.  Random favorites with director commentaries caring me towards slumber.  Some of the films still scare me.  Or at least, they fascinate me enough to write about them.   I will spend tonight's entry discussing a genre favorite of mine; director Ti West.

My first Ti West film was The Roost.   

This film was a refreshing new approach to the ol' barnyard spook.  Since my only other experience with "bat horror" was the campy Lou Diamond Phillips' Bats, I experienced The Roost as an original work.  The film is framed by some excellent narration by horror great and recent Fangoria Hall of Fame inductee Tom Noonan.  Here, Noonan's voice over just gives the film a certain edge.  A film that you might find stumble upon on late - late night T.V. 

The Roost was Ti West first showing us that he was an original voice.  There was a certain style in The Roost.  At first it seemed low-budget, but after a few viewings, one sees that the film just works on building tension.  Spaces of silence.  Not a whole lot of music video cuts or slam bang horror soundtrack stuff.  Highly recommend this film, late at night, lights out.

The film of Ti West's that really proved to me that he is emerging as one of the best young horror directors is the recent House of the Devil.

Tom Noonan returns, this time in a lead role of a creep-tastic dude looking for a last minute babysitter.   No one could have played this role more perfectly that Noonan.  At times the viewer may wonder what he is up to.  Is he a pedophile?  A killer?  A decent guy that is leading us away from something else that might come out and scare us?  Either way, the first 45 minutes of House of the Devil pushes the viewer into guesswork.  What's gonna scare me here?  What's gonna come out and get me?  Eventually, I found myself looking around my own house, wondering where the spoke was going to come from.  It's this type of build up and tension I enjoy.  Ti West is a master of tension.  The real horror certainly comes out in the third act of House of the Devil, but the build up is intense. 

The film also boasts a terrific look.  Being a child of the eighties myself, I really got lost in the look of the film.  The young babysitter, with he stone washed jeans, hiked up past her belly button.  The gum snapping girlfriend who would rather smoke cigarettes than warn her friend that she's crazy for baby-sitting some creeper's kid.  The film sports an excellent making of feature that even explains where they found some of the old school set pieces.  Right down to the Coke cups they found on EBay.  Ti West just seems to get it.  He goes the extra mile to include the detail.  to spend time setting you up.  So when the chills do come, it does not have to be the blood and guts you are scared of.  It is mostly the anticipation and the aftershocks.  When you find yourself looking at your neighbors differently, or lurching into bed from a few feet away, so that creepy hand does not get you.  I recommend House of the Devil.  It's spooky.  I will also, try and post more reviews.  Like I said, I watch a lot of horror and will always love the genre.  More to follow!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pontypool (indeed) changes everything

Writing and words, specifically poetry has been my passion long before I fell in love with horror films. Yet, writing has always been a private passion. Poems on napkins kinds of stuff. Volumes of poems that will never see the light of day. My poems. Some I'm sure good enough for publication, as some of them have been. For me writing has never been something I need others to read.

This brings me back to the blog. Back to cuts happening. Millions of people blog now, for reasons all their own. My wife blogs and has plenty of friends and followers who look forward to her updates everyday. This blog has been left to dust like a poem. I write and walk away for long periods of time, always promising not to. Recently I have come back to the blog when being awaken by a great film, or book. This blog was started shortly after being mesmerized by Donnie Darko. I felt as if horror films and poetry had a stronger connection than I realized. That these two passions of mine were not coincidental. I could not possibly ignore what vices poetry and horror have become for me. I should do what modern people are about it. I have, sporadically for the last year, but like most poems....I rarely see the need to share my view. Or, rarely do I find a view I feel compelled to share with others.

But Pontypool changes everything. After reading an article here in my childhood's favorite magazine Fangoria I kept the film in the back of my mind as one to watch. Last night I found it On Demand. I casually watched it. I was slowly overtaken. Nothing in the film scared me, but after the film I felt spooked. The kind of deep fear that is not obtainable through monsters jumping out from behind doors. I was affected. I was confused, scared, curious, and deeply happy. I had not had this sensation since watching Donnie Darko. Like Pontypool...I stumbled upon Donnie....watched it with no expectations and very little information. This is the recipe for the deep spook. The check under the bed before you sleep spook. Like Donnie, after watching Pontypool I instantly felt compelled to watch it again. More info on the film can be found here

What made the experience even betters to see at the end of the film that it was adapted from the novel Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess. I was again compelled to search for this book. Unable to find it in stores....I was forced to order it on-line and will be waiting patiently for two to three weeks for it to arrive. Amazon seemed to have the best price here. I am never proud to say I saw the movie before reading the book. However, if the movie was this good....

I strongly recommend Pontypool. I will be reading the book soon and will be sure and write about it. For now I am just enjoying the feeling of being trust back into my blog. I thank Pontypool. Sometimes a film like a poem or a single word...can change everything.