Month: October 2014

October 7, 2014

Yet Another 31 Nights of Halloween: Re-Animator

HEAD

Re-Animator – Head

One of the oldest, and most cliched tropes in horror are zombies. Zombies, zombies, and zombies. You simply can’t get away from zombies. Well, to be fair, vampires took the lead a little bit, but with “The Walking Dead” and numerous video games, you can’t get away from zombies. But, there was a time when zombies were cool, not running jokes (double pun). This brings me to the 1985 cult classic from Stuart Gordon, “Re-Animator.” While it’s not a zombie movie per say, maybe more of a modern day take on Frankenstein, there is still plenty of zombie-like behavior throughout the film.

Our tale starts at the University of Zurich, where Dr. Herbert West is found with his “dead” professor, Hans Gruber, and after the incident, West flees the University to come to Miskatonic University in Massachusetts to continue his studies. He meets Dan Cain after answering an ad for a room to rent in Cain’s home. Dan is engaged to be married to the Dean of the University’s daughter, Megan, which is being kept a secret.

After an altercation with the University’s head brain researcher, Dr. Carl Hill, West continues his research and brings Dan’s dead cat, Rufus, back to life. While Dan is horrified, he is also intrigued by West’s research and helps him sneak into the University’s morgue to continue testing his “reagent” on fresh corpses. This is met with mixed results as the test corpse is re-animted, but uncontrollably, killing Megan’s father, Alan Halsey. West, after dispatching his creation, seizes the opportunity with an even fresher corpse, and injects Alan with his reagent. While not a wild as the previous experiment, Alan is merely a zombie of his former self.

After contacting the authorities, Dr. Hill remands Halsey in his private padded room and lobotomizes him with his latest creation, a laser knife, to make him more docile. Hill goes to visit West after the procedure and plans to blackmail him if West does not turn over his research for his serum. Distracting Hill, West is able to dispatch the doctor with a shovel, removing his head from his body. Sensing a breakthrough with an even fresher specimen, West injects Hill’s head and body with his serum, resurrecting both. However, while not paying attention, Hill’s body knocks out West, stealing his notes, research, and serum, and returns to the morgue at Miskatonic’s Hospital to begin his own research with the reagent.

Meanwhile, Dan and Megan find West in his research basement, discovering that all of his research has been stolen, but before they can react, Megan’s father, Alan, attacks, knocking out Dan and taking Megan back to Hill. Needless to say, Hill’s plan is to use his laser knife and West’s serum to resurrect the dead and lobotomize them to create an undead army under his command and it’s up to West and Cain to stop him and save Megan.

“Re-Animator” is a classic in the splatter/body horror genre, and I could only imagine what it would have looked like if it was directed by David Cronenberg, even though Stuart Gordon does an admirable job directing. The film takes classic tropes of zombies, Frankenstein, and other elements of the horror genre, and marries it in a perfectly cheesy 80s way. While the plot is ridiculous, and some of the gore effects over-the-top, that doesn’t take away from the truly sleazy masterpiece this film is.

Now let’s get down to it, “Re-Animator” is what it is today with the help of one key set-piece; it’s the ironically hilarious, albeit extremely exploitative, “head” scene. Upon seeing this scene again, and remember it from when I first saw this film, while the scene is graphic, there really isn’t much there. This scene has popped up on so many lists of the most memorable horror scene, or sickest scenes in cinema, but it’s more the insinuation than anything and the way the shot is composed is simply a sick pun (head giving head). I’m sure some people see this as misogynistic, sick, twisted, and plain gross, but you could get away with stuff like this in the 1980s.

There are also a few nice odes in the film as well, including the opening title score, performed by Richard Band, which is an obvious ode to Bernard Herrmann’s “Psycho” theme. And the Talking Heads poster that is above Daniel’s bed, which would allude to Dr. Hill’s “talking head” later in the film. While not the most subtle or ingenious ode, it’s still very fun to see.

All in all, “Re-Animator” is still a lot of a fun, and holds up very well nearly 30 years later. The gore effects and the animatronics rival anything practical being done today, if you can still find reasonable effective practical gore, and it’s just cheesy and exploitative enough to be a lot of fun. Also, unlike other Lovecraft fare, this story is actually reasonably easy to follow. Most of his Cthulhu Mythos can get a little confusing and in depth, but “Re-Animator” is an easy to follow story about a man trying to play God, and wrestle with naked corpses.

Fun Fact: “Herbert West-Reanimator” was first published in October 1921 in the magazine, Home Brew.

October 4, 2014

Gone Girl (Slight Spoilers)

PIKE

Let’s get something straight before you guys tear my head off, okay?  I love David Fincher.  He is one of the five best directors working today.  There is maybe…maybe…one or two other directors alive that possess the same skill, vision, patience, and attention to detail he does.  His scenes are practically Kubrickian.  No shot in a Fincher film is pointless or a happy accident.  His films seem to always have the texture and feel of a well crafted graphic novel.  That being said…Gone Girl isn’t really about him.  In fact, Gone Girl isn’t exactly an amazing masterpiece.  Hell, it might be my least favorite of his films.  Gone Girl is, at best, a solid mystery turned thriller that doesn’t quite stick the landing.  Now, that is not because of Fincher in my opinion.  Yes, he is still at his directorial best here.  The detail, the delivery, the decision making, all still there and all still top notch.  As I watched the film, however, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Gone Girl’s story was just a bit beneath him.  It’s a story that we have seen done a thousand times before, either on Lifetime, NBC, or over ten years ago in theaters with actress Ashley Judd.  The film even takes the time to make a Law & Order joke to point out how familiar of a story it is.  It’s a story that Fincher could direct in his sleep.  Short of an amazingly shot sequence involving a sex scene gone wrong, Fincher doesn’t really get to flex his directing muscles as much as they have been in any of his other films.  No, if you really want a reason to see Gone Girl…if you really want to know what the brightest light shining from this film is, I’ll tell you.  It’s the Gone Girl herself, Rosamund PIKE.

Gone Girl tells the story of Nick and Amy Dunne.  A seemingly happy couple suddenly torn apart by the disappearance and possible murder of Amy Dunne.  To be fair, I am coming to you as someone who has not read the novel by Gillian Flynn.  So, whatever liberties Fincher has taken with the material, I am not aware of.  I wanted to just watch this film in a vacuum and glean what I could from the overall message.  A message, which might be either the biggest “F%#k You!” to marriage I’ve seen in a film since The War Of The Roses, a commentary that the secrets we keep from those we love will inevitable imprison or kill us, or a warning to be careful of those you love because they could actually be capable of unspeakable things.  In any case, these are not new topics or even a different way to look at these topics.  What stands out to me is the way this story is delivered to us by its stars.

Ben Affleck is solid as the almost too perfect husband with a secret, but admittedly, he plays the part almost the same as the one he had in American remake of State Of Play a few years back.  The exchanges between Affleck’s character Nick and his sister Margo, played exceptionally well by actress Carrie Coon, are the only times where Ben seems to show us something new.  Neil Patrick Harris and Kim Dickens are a little bit on the nose with their showings, but are still entertaining.  Tyler Perry’s role as the Johnny Cochrane-esque defense attorney Tanner Bolt was even well done and fitting. (Perry actually has my favorite line of the film.)  But at the end of the day, the reason anyone will remember Gone Girl is Rosamund PIKE’s performance.

Happy Wife, Happy Life Indeed

It is not just the fact that she out acts each person she’s in a scene with, which she does.  It’s the manner in how PIKE does it.  It is never over the top or cliche.  It’s acting without “acting”.  It’s the wheels turning behind her eyes, the growing coldness and subtle craftiness in her narration, the calm command in which she confronts her marriage and the direction her life takes.  The way she emotes her anguish, fear, and anger through a glance or a smile or a gesture.  Rosamund Pike delivers something here that truly should be seen and hopefully will be honored.  Much like Affleck’s character, I didn’t see it coming.

I am going to keep this review short to avoid spoiling Gone Girl any more than I already have.  The one thing that I hope I get across is that it is not a bad film, but not a groundbreaking masterpiece as some might lead you to believe.  The situation that happens near the end of the film is the most interesting direction the story takes in my opinion, but we only get about 10 minutes of it.  I have no doubt that once you see Gone Girl, the brilliance of Rosamund PIKE’s performance will be the main thing that will stick with you.  Fincher’s always terrific, yet, somewhat untested direction in it will be second.  The story itself will be a distant third.  Wipe that sugar off your lip…don’t leave your Mountain Dew unattended…know your spouse’s bloodtype….watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

October 3, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine – Twin Dragons

DOUBLE LACKING

Well, well, well we meet again. I take it that two Jean-Claude Van Dammes wasn’t too much for you. After all he does happen to speak with an accent…if you haven’t noticed. This can be confusing for some… apparently. All aboard the Action Movie Time Machine!
The year is 1992. Yeah, we’re back in the early 90s… again. Not much has changed since that last time we visited. TWA declares bankruptcy. Mike Tyson plays his own game of Punch-Out with a woman he is convicted of raping, and there were plenty of toy related movies to watch. Ironically enough, both “Toys” starring Robin Williams is released as well as the direct to video “Demonic Toys”, for those of you who thought “Toys“ wasn‘t creepy enough. All this and Jackie Chan discovers that he has a long lost twin brother in “Twin Dragons“.
THE SKINNY
The film begins in black and white during the mid-60s. A woman has just given birth to a pair of beautiful baby boys. Meanwhile, police are wheeling in a wounded man who made an attempt to escape capture. However, this man still has some fight left in him. He regains consciousness, swipes a cops gun and starts to shoot his way out of the hospital. He is cut off from the exit and makes his way to the very same room the mother is in with her sons. Using one of the boys as a human shield, he leaps through a window and makes his escape. The human shield is soon discarded and later discovered by a drunken slut.
Now modern day, we learn that one brother, John, has been raised by his loving parents and at a young age became a piano prodigy. As an adult John is a world renowned conductor. On the other side of the coin we have Boomer, who practically raised himself and is now a hard fucking, shit talking stock car racer/mechanic.
 
This story gets interesting when we see John travel to Hong Kong for a piano concert, and during this concert, Boomer, who happens to be repairing a car, suddenly can’t control the movements of his fingers. The twins are somehow psychically connected when they are near each other.
Soon we see Boomer and his friend Tyson, another racer, making their escape. As it turns out the duo owe a local mob boss a considerable amount of money. Boomer and Tyson hustled them into a race, thinking they could win…they didn’t. Now the mob wants them to pay up.
A boat chase ensues that lands Tyson in a body cast. The hospital Tyson is staying in happens to pay protection money to the mob, so for the time being he belongs to the mob and is their prisoner. To guarantee Tyson’s safety, Boomer gets roped into taking care of the mob’s dirty work. Driving mostly. In fact there is a plot to sprint another, higher ranking mob boss.
 
This gets complicated when John arrives in Hong Kong to conduct a concert. Soon the two are thrust into a constantly evolving case of mistaken identity that involves the mob, an angry Iron Maiden fan, kung-fu conducting and the love interests of both men which results in fast paced slapstick fight scenes. At one point, both brothers share a bath with one of the women — one brother pretending to be a mirror so they don’t get found out like it was some sort of Marx Brothers gag.
As far as their love interests are concerned, each brother has a female acquaintance who the other brother falls for. This is an obvious set up for hijinx that will later result in some sticky situations, a romantic ending and even an opportunity for them to be taken hostage. The later never happens. I guess the mob figures that Tyson is good enough.
 
Anyhow, once John and Boomer have understood that they are twins, they decide that they are in this together and hatch a plan to rescue Tyson.
The brothers head to the mob’s hideout near the docks. The next twenty minutes of the film are one big fight sequence that moves form the docks and into a Mitsubishi car factory. First the showroom, then the crash test area and later the assembly line.
For a brief time Boomer is trapped in some sort of cage and John, a man who know music not fighting, must defend himself. With his wonder twin powers, Boomer throws punches and kicks that force John’s arms and legs to move. Boomer controls his brother this way. Lol He moves him like a puppet and ends up saving his life.
 
The brothers rescue Tyson and send the mob boss, Boss Wind, rocketing into a wall inside one of the crash test cars.
The film ends with the two brothers marrying their women in a twin wedding. I told you there would be romance in the end.
THE VERDICT
Much like “Double Impact“, this action film stands out from others because it features twin brothers. Unlike “Double Impact”, this film features the fast paced and often humorous fight choreography that is often found in Jackie Chan films. “Twin Dragons” also tries to build upon the supposed supernatural connection that twins are said to possess. If you hadn’t thought of it yet yourself, “Twin Dragons” has a lot like in common with Cheech & Chong’s “Corsican Brothers”. Of course in that film each brother feels the physical pain of the other and in this film the brother’s physical movements are caused by the other when they are in close quarters.
While the action in this film is pretty good, my only complaints focus on the plot and how it unfolds. I feel that too much of the film focuses on the humorous hijinx the brothers experience during their travels, which is entertaining, but this makes the story seem watered down and even vacant in parts. The mob boss doesn’t even have a clear criminal plot. They have Tyson as a hostage and that’s about it. I wish there was a plot mechanism that forced both brothers to work together to fight the mob. Instead they decide to work together because… they look alike? Maybe because they are together each time the mob assigns them to the next task, i.e. deliver a brief case, drive a getaway car, ect…
The thing that’s strange about this “separated at birth” story is that the two brothers never discover that they are brothers. Not until the very end anyhow. This whole movie they  think it’s strange that they are doppelgangers and even say that they would make good brothers.
I think some of this poor story telling has to do with the English dub. While it sounds good and doesn’t come off as odd as many dubs do. I feel like something has been lost in translation. The character names for instance are John, Boomer and Tyson, but according to IMDB the original names were Ma Yau, Die Hard and Tarzan. Weird and wild stuff.
 
In the end “Twin Dragons” isn’t the best twin related action movie. It isn’t even that great of a regular action movie as it feels more like a comedy. But it will hold your attention and might be worth checking out if you are a fan of Jackie Chan.
I’m Cory Carr and this concludes our ride on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi!
For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!
October 3, 2014

Yet Another 31 Nights of Halloween: Halloween (1978) Redux

MAGIC

 Halloween – Magic

Kicking off this year’s edition of the “31 Nights of Halloween” I only felt it appropriate to re-review a film that we reviewed a long time ago, and really needs no introduction. It’s the 1978 touchstone for horror; John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” This will also mark the first in a series of reviews all about the “Halloween” franchise, even the abysmal “Halloween: Resurrection.” So away we go from Smith’s Grove to Haddonfield.

“Halloween” starts with the murder of a young girl named Judith Myers by her 6-year old brother, Michael. After being institutionalized for 15 years under the watchful eye of Dr. Samuel Loomis, Michael is able to escape the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium and Loomis knows there is only one place where he can be headed; the scene of his original crime in Haddonfield, Illinois.

Meanwhile we meet Laurie Strode and her friends Annie and Linda, just three girls looking to hook-up, smoke weed, and have a good time on Halloween, well, at least Annie and Linda are. Laurie is more the straight arrow type, looking forward to babysitting Tommy Doyle, watching “The Thing” and carving jack-o-lanterns. However, a dark presence has invaded the small town of Haddonfield and is looking to kill horny, weed smoking, babysitting teens.

As day turns into night, Dr. Loomis warns the local Sheriff, Leigh Brackett, that evil is coming to his little town and officers need to be on alert looking for Myers. Ever the skeptic, Brackett agrees to Loomis’ demands, but tells him he’s got until tonight to track down Myers.

Needless to say, Myers murder spree goes off without a hitch, victims including Annie and Linda, not to mention a dog, a horny boyfriend, and some stranger while on the road to Haddonfield. With only Laurie remaining, she is able to fight him off with a knitting needle, a wire hanger, and finally Michael’s own knife. But you can’t keep a good “unstoppable force” down as Michael moves in to finish off Laurie. However, putting the pieces together with the help of some screaming kids, Dr. Loomis comes to the rescue and empties his revolver into the chest of Michael and the nightmare is finally over as Myers falls over the balcony to his death.

As Loomis comforts Laurie and tells her that Michael was the boogeyman, the doctor leans over the balcony to observe his kill, but is shocked to see that Myers is gone, nowhere to be found.

There isn’t much to say about “Halloween” that hasn’t been said before; it’s one of the best proto-slasher films ever made, outside of possibly “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” The different between Michael Myers and Leatherface, however, is where Leatherface is a hulking caricature of serial killers like Ed Gein, Myers is simply the silent force that cannot be stopped and there is no rhyme or reason. That makes the film so much scarier; you can’t rationalize with something that you can’t understand.

What makes “Halloween” stand apart from the rest of the crop of slasher fare that exploded in the 1980s was the sense of dread and the play on the fear of Halloween itself. This is more apparent in “Halloween 2” but you can still see how Halloween affects the town. The streets are empty, people lock themselves in the house, they don’t open doors, and it’s way easier to scare people, as Loomis does to a group of kids playing around the old Myers house. It’s interesting to see moments of levity in a horror film. It’s also interesting to look back at “Halloween” after seeing it the numerous sequels, that perhaps Haddonfield has always been that type of town that has harbored the terrible secret of the Myers murders and it’s legacy. Despite the fact that “Halloween” and “Halloween 2” are supposed to be standalone films and the Myers arc is supposed to end, it makes a little more sense why the streets are empty in Haddonfield after dark and people are reluctant to open the doors to screams of terror, or at least that is the way that I look at it.

Getting away from the subtext of “Halloween” and more into the actual substance, there are numerous things that I simply love about this film. The biggest, and most long-lasting effect “Halloween” has made on the public, is the music, which for my money is nearly as recognizable as the “Star Wars” theme, “Jaws” theme, or any other soundtrack theme ever. It still can raise the hair on the back of your neck, and just hearing the opening piano notes, people will automatically say “Oh, Michael Myers.” And while “Halloween” is a great film on it’s own, it wouldn’t be half the film it is without John Carpenter’s score.

The characters and actors are top notch as well. I’m not a child of the 70s, shoot, I’m barely a child of the 80s, but if I was to venture a guess, I would assume that Annie, Laurie, and Linda, are pretty typical kids of the 1970s. The talk about guys, do drugs, and get into trouble. My one gripe would be the overuse of the word “Totally” by Linda. If my count is correct, I heard “Totally” 13 times; probably close to the amount of screen time Linda gets, so you get a “Totally” a minute. There is also a lot of name dropping in this film, which I guess is a thing. The most famous of them all is Ben Tramer, who has a pseudo-important role in the sequel. These, again, are just minor quibbles.

The last thing that really stands up is the actual creation and depiction of Michael Myers. Pure and simple, there is no rhyme or reason behind Myers, he just is. In later sequels it’s explained, sort of, that he worships Samhain and his reason for killing is that he is the curse of his family name, so he mist kill all members of his family? That stuff is just weird, but if you just take the first film into account, the fact that there really isn’t a reason for the murder of his sister and the senseless murder of everyone else, is pretty scary. Even in our daily lives, we constantly search for the what if’s and why’s when something awful happens. From mass shootings, to serial killings, to everything in-between, we want to know why. In the case of Michael Myers, there is no why, the only explanation is that he is pure evil, which when you think about a doctor saying that (Loomis) is pretty silly, but it’s also understandable. Sometimes there is no reason for bad things that happen, which is both frustrating, and terribly frightening.

For a film being close to 40 years old, “Halloween” has aged very well. The scares are timeless, the music adds to the never-ending sense of dread, and the characters are still pretty relatable. You can go into the film deeper and talk about how it either exploits women, empowers women, or is a morality tale that punishes the evil people who do drugs and have sex out of wedlock, but that’s for another review, and I’m looking at this from a pure horror film aspect, and the film still plays very well. While there might be scarier films out there, “Halloween” for my money, can still scare someone who hasn’t seen it and is a milestone for not only horror, but film in general.

Fun Fact: It took John Carpenter four days to complete the score for “Halloween.”

October 2, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 31) October 2014

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

As fall descends across the land, the Simplistic Reviews Podcast is the funk of 40,000 years. In this month’s edition, the boys spring forward and fall back to poking fun at Shia LeBeouf’s childhood proclivities, Urban Dictionary’s more interesting entries, and Jeremy Renner’s lackadaisical attitude toward his career. All while still having time to pay a little John Singleton penance.

As you might remember, Justin and Matt were unlucky enough to lose a game of Simply Quotable a couple of month’s back and had to watch the 2001 hood classic, Baby Boy. To make a long story short, there is dick sniffing, Snoop Dogg shooting, and men-inside-giant-wombs talk.

The boys also tackle the news Bob Barker style in a new segment called Simplistic Showcase. There is big money, big prizes, and a variety of obscenities.

All of this, plus our take on Fox’s Gotham, how Boardwalk Empire is doing so far, and soooooooo much more, on this month’s Simplistic Reviews Podcast for October.

Show Notes:
Blumpkin
Tetris Movie
Charlie Countryman
Baby Boy got the sniffles
Inherent Vice
DJ’s Hidden Princess Bride Reference
Matt’s Hidden Big Lebowski Reference
Slaughter Film Action Movie Time Machine

Music Notes:
Birds & Brass By Sort Of Soul
Lawyers, Guns, And Money By Warren Zevon
Game of Thrones Theme Remix
White Lines By Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel
My Flows is Tight By Lord Digga
Pure Imagination By Gene Wilder

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