Sunday, May 22, 2016

Haunted House Update

I haven't posted an update of my house's paranormal activity for quite some time simply because there has been nothing to report.  Yeah, well, that's changed.  Why?  I got a new roommate.  And within days of his moving in, he began to experience all manner of crazy shit.  The interesting part is that it doesn't start until after I leave the house for work.  Even more interesting is that it's the same stuff I dealt with when I first moved in.  

He informed me that after I'm gone, it sounds like someone is trying to break in.  The front and back door knobs rattle, the screen doors bang, but there is no one there.  He checks every time.  He also hears someone with heavy footsteps walking around upstairs and then hears those footsteps trudge down the stairs.  Again, no one.  At first, he thought I'd come home from work early.  I had not.  He also hears people talking, random banging, and closed doors opening on their own.  Then there's the tiny attic access door upstairs.  It's in my bedroom.  During the tour when he first moved in, I showed it to him, had him peek at the crawlspace behind it (I think it's cool).  He did not think it was cool.  In fact, being near that door gives him a major case of the freaks.  He now avoids my room as if it were a TB ward.  

There's activity every day.  I gave him the digital voice recorder so he can try to document some of these sounds.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Horror Film Review

Maggie (2015):  Schwarzenegger battling zombies...what could possibly beat that?  Unfortunately, quite a lot.  That's not to say this is a crap movie, far from it.  It's just not wise-cracking, arsenal-toting Arnie in full on, kill fucking everything mode.  Think more Atticus Finch or Charles Ingalls than the Terminator.  And surprisingly, that's not a bad thing.  If you like gobs of soul-wrenching pathos, that is.

A viral outbreak has ravaged the nation.  Those infected sicken and eventually turn over a period of weeks.  New laws dictate that once the final symptoms appear, the afflicted must be taken to quarantine, a draconian setting in which excruciating euthanasia is the final solution.  Wade (Arnold), a poor farmer, travels to the big city (I think Kansas City) to retrieve his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) after a two week search.  Why was she there?  We're not told.  Unfortunately, she's been bitten and infected and therefore fucked.  He takes her home for her remaining days, which aren't many.  When a neighboring farmer breaks the law by keeping her turned family members locked up, Wade is forced to kill them after they escape.  The local cops then take the opportunity to remind Wade he can't do that with Maggie.  The family doctor advises Wade that the humane course of action is to put a bullet in her head.  This is not a Disney movie, folks.

Maggie gets worse, Wade agonizes, but in the end, she takes the decision regarding her fate out of his hands.  From the first act, we know she'll die.  Despite this non-spoiler, the final scene is still bursting with tension and dread.  You (or maybe just me) always think a they'll suddenly find a cure or some kind of miracle will prevent the inevitable.  That hope never once entered my mind.  I'm still not quite sure how I feel about that.

The Skinny

Acting:  Arguably Schwarzenegger's best performance...ever.  Seriously, the big guy is very, very good.  Breslin, as usual, knocks it out of the park.
Story:  The most personal zombie story I've even seen.  It's got the feel of the most heartbreaking Walking Dead script.
Direction:  This is not an action flick so some will bitch about the pacing.  To these people I say, shut up.
Production Values:  The budget was less than $10 million, ridiculously cheap given the star power involved.  Not one aspect of the production was cheap, though.
Gore/FX:  Folks in the final throes of the disease are pretty gross.  Not much blood.  No CGI to speak of.
Scares:  Yes, but not what you'd expect.
Ending:  What you'd expect.  Couldn't end any other way.
Verdict:  Should you see Maggie?  You should.  It's worth it for Arnold's portrayal of Wade alone.

Rating:  4 out of 5

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Horror Film Review

Attack of the Herbals (2011):  Scotland is a groovy country.  The highlands, William Wallace, haggis, Craig Ferguson...  Unfortunately, this grooviness does not extend to horror comedies.  The movie poster says "Hot Fuzz meets Shaun of the Dead."  As far as lies go, this one ranks up there with the Greeks saying, "Hey, let's be friends.  And here's a giant wooden horse to show how much we care."  The only similarity between this film and those two is that they were all made in the U.K.  As for the tag line, "Putting the 'tea' back in terror," that just makes no fucking sense at all.  Perhaps by now you've puzzled out that I'm not exactly a fan.  I shall explain why.

 It starts with Nazi doctors experimenting on a number of unwilling participants by force feeding them some kind of tea.  As the Allies close in, the remaining tea is packed into a huge crate and heaved off the end of a pier.  Flash forward to the present to big city failure Jackson (Calum Booth) grudgingly returning to his home village of Lobster Cove where no one except his grandparents and former mate Russell (Steve Worsley) are pleased to see him.  Needing quick cash to prevent greedy asshole Bennett (Liam Matheson) from taking over his grandparents' shop, Jackson and Russell decide to sell packets of herbal tea they found in a wooden crate that's washed ashore.  It's a splendid plan that works beautifully.  Except, that is, until the villagers begin to act a tiny bit strange.  By tiny, I mean a hell of a lot and by strange I mean psychotic and homicidal.  They discover too late the "tea" was the Nazis' failed attempt to create a super-soldier.  Oops.  So the town is a bloodbath with some creative and occasionally humorous killings.  The end, of course, involves a showdown between Jackson and Bennett.  By this time, I'd stopped caring and hoped they'd all die.

A great many problems this film has.  First of all, this "tea" looks like dog food or maybe twigs.  It's not leaves or a powder or anything I've ever seen before.  But Jackson and Russell automatically assume it should be brewed and drunk?  Sure.  Why not.  Another annoyance are the actions of Jackson's old Lobster Cove employer Danny (Lee Hutcheon) who didn't drink the tea and therefore is not batshit crazy.  Instead of simply waiting for the homicidal villagers to kill each other off (which they do with gusto), Danny wades into the melee with guns blazing.  It's pointless and silly.  Another irk is the suspiciously convenient presence of the local vicar, a silver-haired German named Adolf (Alan Fraser).  No, he's not meant to be Hitler.  He's just there to present the Nazi backstory and tell Jackson and Russell how stupid they are.  An unnecessary contrivance that falls flat.

One bright spot that actually made me laugh out loud involved the disabled town drunk in his wheelchair being chased by a psycho on one of those mobility scooters.  I can't explain why it's funny, though.  Probably better that way.

The Skinny

Acting:  Herein lies my biggest beef.  Worsley is the best of the lot as Russell but even he's not what you'd call stellar.  Surprisingly, the worst actor was cast in the leading role (Booth).  He must have owed the director money or something.
Story:  I admit the idea is unique.  The problem came when attempting to translate the idea into a workable script.
Direction:  Too much time is spent on Jackson's homecoming woes.  When the action finally gets cranking, it's oddly lethargic.
Production Values:  Shot for a little over twenty grand on the weekends with the actors all working for free.  Filming in Scottish villages lends it authenticity.  The sound and lighting don't suck.
Gore/FX:  The blood and gore, what there is of it, is cartoonish.  CGI fire and blood splatters may have been created on an Apple IIe.
Scares:  About as scary as a kitten sleeping on a pillow full of dandelions.
Ending:  Got on a boat and rowed away.
Verdict:  Should you see Attack of the Herbals?  Should the Trojans have pulled that giant wooden horse into their camp?  I'll say it again:  not like Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead.  Hell, it's not even a zombie flick.  More like The Crazies...but bad.  If given a choice between watching this and eating haggis, go for the sheep's stomach.

Rating:  1 out of 5

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Horror Film Review

Grave Mistake (2008):  Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain, but  never in my entire movie-going years have I witnessed such an irredeemable dumpster fire of a film.  Sadly, it's not one of those it's so bad it's good endeavors.  This hot mess isn't even in the same solar system as good.  It makes Plan 9 from Outer Space seem Oscar worthy.  Yet I found myself watching until the final credits rolled.  Why?  Morbid curiosity (or temporary insanity) is the only possible explanation.  OK...let's make this quick.

A drunken moron named Karl (Stephen W. Eckles) dumps a cocktail of noxious chemicals on a grave.  Why?  Who the hell knows.  Said Karl is a fat, racist fuckwit who enjoys beating on his teenage step-son Alex (Seth Darling).  Alex is friends with Phil (David Lionbarger), an assistant mechanic of questionable mental capacity.  Phil's boss Mike (James Blackburn) is an ex-SEAL who's sweet on Monica (Wendy Andrews) whose teenage son Woody (Keola Melhorn) is a moody asshole.  They're all gathered in Mike's shop when the town is suddenly (the suddenness is inexplicable, by the way) filled to the rafters with zombies.  The overly excited Phil, expert on all things undead, is killed immediately, of course.  The rest decide to try for the national guard armory.  And that's about it, really.  Naturally, most of them die in the attempt.  None of them makes it to the armory, in fact.  Lone survivor Alex instead rushes to find his mom.  Unfortunately, he finds her.  And then blows her head off.  Right...and there's a zombie dog, too.  And a knight with a sword who saves Alex from the zombie dog.  It's all really quite ludicrous...not to mention dumb as a barrel of bean bags.

If I chose to air every grievance I had with Grave Mistake, this blog entry would eclipse Tolstoy's entire body of work.  Perhaps you think I'm exaggerating.  Doubt me at your own risk, folks.

The Skinny

Acting:  I checked.  There wasn't any.  The "performance" that came the closest to real acting was Darling's.  Everyone's first time in my life where I both cringed and winced whenever someone spoke their lines, Eckles being the worst offender.
Story:  I checked.  There wasn't one.
Direction:  Confused and always a step behind.  The "action" sequences couldn't possibly have been blocked prior to filming.  Besides disorganized, it's like they're in slow motion.  Doesn't help that zombies fall down from the lightest tap.  And whoever edited this thing shouldn't be allowed within ten miles of an editing room.
Production Values:  I checked.  There is no value.  Seriously.  Out of focus on bad film stock with poor lighting and muffled sound.  Not to mention the cheap sets (except for the hardware which I'm pretty sure was a real hardware store).
Gore/FX:  The usual...too-fake blood and stretchy latex skin.  The serious gore was CGI and bad CGI at that.
Scares:  ???
Ending:  Well, now, if I'm honest, it could've been worse.  Alex and the knight doing a Butch and Sundance routine.  I'm fairly certain the outcome was roughly the same.
Verdict:  Should you ignore my dire warnings and your own common sense and watch Grave Mistake?  Might as well ask if you should shove your arm in a wood chipper to see if it will hurt.  In both cases, I guarantee it will hurt.  A lot.

Rating:  0 out of 5

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Horror Film Review

Goodnight Mommy (2014):  This movie pissed me off.  Critics raved and praised like they did with The Witch, and as with that overrated film, this one tries to convince us it's unique and assumes we'll simply gush over the originality.  But because I've watched more than a dozen horror flicks in my life and am not a moron, gushing shall not be forthcoming.  What will be forthcoming are an ass-load of spoilers.

The mother of pre-teen twins Elias and Lukas returns home after what appears to be some rather extensive cosmetic surgery.  Her head's wrapped up like she's the invisible man.  The boys are wary, the mother seemingly awkward and nervous.  We're ten minutes in and I'm already annoyed.  Why are the boys alone in the house?  Why's the mom acting squirrelly?  Where's the dad?  I know there is one because he's briefly mentioned.  Anyway, the mom gets even more squirrelly, the boys almost immediately conclude she's not their mom, and there's a 50-gallon fish tank full of fucking cockroaches for no reason whatsoever.  I suppose one could make the case for a Kafka influence, but it won't be me.  Elias defies mom, wants proof she's his mom, which sends her nearly over the edge.  He gets smacked around, locked in his room, and forced to repeat ten times that she is his mother.  But what about Lukas, you ask?  Now that's the primary reason I'm pissed.  Any horror nerd with half a brain will immediately spot it.  Elias' twin isn't really there.  Either a ghost or a hallucination.  It's around this time that the boys decide something must be done with the person passing herself off as their mother.  And that's when this movie shifts gears and suddenly becomes Misery.  Instead of Kathy Bates we have two 10 year-old boys.  We start to notice that Lukas sure whispers in his brother's ear a lot.  What possible agenda could a dead boy have?  Like I said, not a moron, seen tons of horror flicks.  We eventually piece together that there was an accident (no details), Lukas died (no details) and Elias still sees him (duh), and mom and dad separated (no details).  Does Lukas drive Elias to start the fire that kills him and their mom?  (Oh, right.  Yes, she is their mom.)  Of course he did.  He wanted them all to be together.  Is any of this original?  No.  Is it gush-worthy?  Hell no.

A few additional and random annoyances.  Early on, the mom walks into the woods at night, naked, and does one of those supernatural full body spasms where they shake like a can of paint on the mixer.  Why?  A red herring.  While she sleeps, the boys nudge a huge cockroach into climbing into her mouth.  She doesn't wake or even twitch.  Why?  Another red herring.  Really early on, the boys stumble upon a cave full of human bones.  For this one, I got nothing.  Then there's the thing with the cat suspended in formaldehyde in the re-tasked fish tank...  OK.  That was original.

The Skinny

Acting:  The acting wasn't the problem.
Story:  This was the problem.
Direction:  And this.
Production Values:  Not a problem.
Gore/FX:  Problem.  Too little of both.
Scares:  Bigger problem.  There weren't any.
Ending:  Problematic in that you see it coming but hope to God you're wrong.  You're not.
Verdict:  Should you see Goodnight Mommy?  I can't imagine why you'd want to.  The boys aren't cruel enough and the mom isn't enigmatic enough to make it work.  Go watch Children of the Corn and Misery instead.

Rating:  2 out of 5