Friday, October 25, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 10: Army of Darkness, Asylum, The Blair Witch Project

Week 10: Tim's Choice

Army of Darkness

Ash is in 1300 AD now (at the end of Evil Dead 2 he is transported there, which is handy as he doesn't have any disembodied heads trying to nom him). He has to find the Necronomicon, which is presumably a book about a recipe convention for disembodied-head chefs. Basically, this movie is vaguely entertaining if you remind yourself it's not a good horror movie, or a horror movie, or a good movie. There's a WTF value that sustains it for a bit, and towards the end some fun and recognisably stylish stop-motion skeletons, but if you've only got a few minutes you'd be better off watching this. The creepiest thing about watching this movie was that at almost exactly the same start day and time, I saw that Karen and her husband started watching the same film.


A young psychiatrist chap applies for a job at an asylum, but his job interview probably hasn't been approved by HR: if he can pick the inmate who used to run the asylum (before he went bonkers), then he gets the job. The film then follows the episodic stories of of several inmates, which are neat little set pieces (including an hilarious severed head that breathes through its brown waxed paper wrapping), before it goes COMPLETELY NUTS and we have tiny jerky automaton replicas stalking people very very slowly with scalpels. Ok, it's not scary, but it's pretty hilarious, which is a lot better than boring.

The Blair Witch Project

TBWP (to those in the know) is presented as a found-footage film, where a bunch of college students go on a camping trip to make a documentary about the notorious Blair Witch that supposedly haunts the area of Black Hills, Maryland. The Blair Witch isn't very fond of college students, and there's a lot of shouting and beanies and snotty crying. Flippancy aside, I love this movie. The mostly improvised acting works extremely well: the relations between the characters slide from being politely overenthusiastic to annoying the crap out of each other in a very convincing fashion. They're extremely human, and combined with a wise decision to never show 'he who walks behind the rows' (thanks for that, Children of Corn sequels), this stands up as a very effective horror movie. Really, if you walked out of a tent and found little cairns of rocks, and stick-men hanging from the trees around you: you'd proverbial your pants.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 9: Suicide Club, The Loved Ones, Who Can Kill A Child?

Week 9: My Choice

Suicide Club

There's a 'fad' for mass suicides spreading through Japan, and no one knows why but there's a weird website that keeps totalling up the numbers of the dead (and the totals increase just before the suicides happen). This movie has one of the best starts to a horror flick that I've seen in a while - 54 cute Japanese schoolgirls linking hands at a train station and chanting "One - two - three!" as they jump under the speeding train. There's some neat (if rather black) satire in presenting the cheerful suicides as the new trend that all the kids are getting into, equating their deaths with poppish fannism (further emphasised by the fact that everyone is easily distracted from the growing death toll as soon as tweeny J-pop band Dessert comes on tv.)
The movie loses track of itself after a while (what the hell is the bowling alley bit about?) and doesn't really resolve satisfactorily - it's heavy on style and WTF, but very enjoyable nonetheless. A slick, weird Rocky Horror Horror Show.

The Loved Ones

Brent turns down Lola's invitation to the school dance, so she and her dad kidnap him and strap him to a chair, then torture him as they host their own "school dance" in their rural-Australian-drab lounge room. The Loved Ones is for the most part a torture movie, but like the first Saw film and unlike the dreadful Hostel, it's not completely mindless. The characters do have genuine motivations, there's a back story, and the performances are good: Lola especially is an enjoyably high-pitched psycho who actually has a personality (often in slasher flicks the antagonist is inhuman and blank-faced: think of Jason's hockey mask, Michael Myer's rubber one, and Leatherface's...leather face). There's quite a few deliberate nods to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which made me smile, and the climax winds up with genuine tension. I think it's actually quite hard to make a watchable slasher film, and The Loved Ones definitely lives up to its reputation. Probably the best Australian horror movie since Wolf Creek (although it certainly doesn't take itself as seriously as that film). 98% of rotten tomatoes can't be wrong!

Who Can Kill A Child?

A young English couple go to stay on a remote Spanish island and discover the children have killed all the adults, which is a bit of a bummer for said young English couple. The start of this movie is actually quite hard-going: extended real historical footage of atrocities perpetrated against children through wars and famines. This gives a little idea of the metaphor or 'spirit' behind the supernatural murderousness of the children in the following film, but most of it is left ominously vague (as, as Tim said, in The Birds). The children are excellently creepy, and the violence eventually (and really, unavoidably) inflicted on them is still quite shocking.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 8: Kill List, Evil Dead 2, The Innkeepers

Tunnels: always a good idea.
Week 8: Tim's Choice

If September is universally known as the month of my birthday (shut up, it totally is), then October is the month of Halloween (and Tim's birthday). Also known as the month where Tim and I have an excuse to exclusively watch horror flicks. We like horror flicks - do you? We don't know many other people who do (though I think each of our favourite horror themes differ). I like horror movies as I find them completely involving (I'll often watch horror movies when I can't concentrate on anything else). I watched them at sleepovers with my friends as a teenager, I watch them on my own, but I especially love watching them as part of a full audience where you all gasp/laugh/scream/groan together - it's a huge joy. I like being pretend-scared while actually being safe, and I never have nightmares about them. I like best movies that involve traps, cults, serial killers or evil children. I'm not quite so drawn to supernatural/monster films. I like the ones that make me laugh as well as jump. I'm interested in the fact that the movies I think will be the most scary are usually the ones that are scary in my mind, but in reality are lame/boring (eg. Human Centipede - the scariest thing is the arse-to-mouth munty diagram). I also like the Saw movies, though I won't inflict them on Tim. Nor Human Centipede. Any sequence.

Kill List

Soldiers-turned-hitmen Jay and Gal take a job, but things go skewed when Jay overdoes things unnecessarily, and his victims weirdly start thanking him just before they die.This is the earlier film by the guy who made Sightseers (so crunchy violence expected), and it is equally excellent in terms of suburban white noise; conversations and visual tone that are by turns mundane and menacing; plus WHOA violent. I accidentally spoiled myself for this film while looking up the director, but really the 1+1=dead isn't really important. We understand what we see, but the weight of the implied further story hangs heavy and unknown at the end. Who will play the king?

Evil Dead 2

I've just remembered I used to refer to this film as "Devilled Egg 2". I can't for the life of me remember why, because I hadn't even seen it. Which is appropriate really - you don't need to ask what this film does, and if you do, read what it says on the box. It's funny, fast-paced scary, plus lots of body-clenching anticipation. Which body you choose to clench is up to you.

The Innkeepers

Curious whippersnappers Claire and Luke trade front-desk shifts at soon-to-be-closed Yankee Pedlar Inn, and there's probably a ghost. They're trying to get footage of her (ghost) before they're kicked off the site, but - you know ghosts, they're not always going to behave in the way you'd like. This movie is great, because for a long time you feel like you're watching Hotel Babylon without the sex and without the nostalgic presence of Dexter Fletcher (for Press Gang fans). Sorry, I've gone off track. The pace is fairly slow - it's charmingly scary, but still scary. Sometimes these sorts of films can be quite memorable, just because you can feel the everyday nature of events just before things get scary. The boring yellow lighting of your workplace, the crumpled sheets in your bed. You've got a crappy tedious job, you yawn, you turn around -

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 7: The Sound of My Voice, The Giants, La Haine

Being in a cult means using a lot of Napisan.
Week 7: My Choice

The Sound of My Voice

Two journalists go undercover to make a documentary on a cult headed by Maggie (Brit Marling, who could well be my new Julie Delpy in terms of writer/actor awesomeness), who claims to be from the future. I loved the latest Batman-and-Brit film The East, so was looking forward to this one because cults! And while the film certainly is intriguing and Marling's performance suitably intense, it ends up being frustratingly fizzly overall. Many factors aren't fleshed out enough to really make the intended ambiguity "work" (especially the journalists' reasons for investigating the cult in the first place, and the connection between Maggie and the girl she claims is her mother). It's unusual for me to say this, but it needed to be longer! Still, Brit Marling: one to watch.

The Giants

Three kids, for all intents and purposes abandoned by their mother, hook up with drug dealers to raise some cash. This is totally going to go well. I was obviously drawn to this one because abandoned children in the countryside, and there's quite a lot of Huck Finn goodness into the deal. While it's not going to set your world on fire, The Giants is enjoyable in a leisurely kind of way, and the boys are very realistically drawn in their naive posturing and domestic incompetence. While the ending is oddly unresolved in narrative terms, it does make a conclusive emotional point.

La Haine (Hate)

Three rough-cut  dudes (Jewish Vinz, African Hubert and Arabic Said) spend their dead-end days wandering around aimlessly in a low-rent Parisian suburb (a friendship interestingly based on class rather than race). In the aftermath of a riot between other disaffected youths and police, they learn that one of their friends has been put in hospital by the event, and Vinz vows to get revenge on the cops if he eventually dies. I chose this to watch as I saw someone on Facebook talking about how the film introduced them to French rap music (which I am very fond of), and there is indeed some excellent toons in La Haine. Also an unexpected extended dance sequence! Excellent. While it wears its anti-violence/racism message on its very 1990s sleeve, the characters are sympathetic and individual enough to make La Haine much more than a cliched "a Jew, an Arab and a black guy walk into a bar/riot" kind of tale.