SHOCKtober 2012 – Day 6: Slither (2006)

There is a long tradition in horror films of things falling to Earth from space and unleashing monsters upon the populace. In Slither, it’s a meteor. The monster inside gets into a local who then proceeds to kill a bunch of small animals, impregnates a lady who isn’t his wife and moves up to killing livestock to keep her fed, all while slowly turning into a giant slug. The pregnant lady… um… gives birth, in a manner of speaking, and her little slug babies head into town to begin taking over hosts.

At this point, the movie becomes a sort of pseudo-zombie movie as the infected… infested people stumble around town trying to get everyone else, either to put a slug in them or to eat them. The town sheriff, played by Nathan Fillion, and a few survivors fight to save humanity.

Like all movies of this sort, it’s a fun romp and a little gross, but it’s not torture and it’s not happening to me. Besides, I like to imagine that I would be on the side of the survivors, not the slugs. I mean, nobody wants to be a slug, but in order for me to be a hero some of you are just going to have to be slugs. I’m sorry.

Is it wrong for me to say that I’ve seen enough movies that I feel like in real life if a friend or family member were to have, for example, just had a slug enter their mouth and now they are acting a little weird, I’m pretty sure there would be little to no hesitation from me in going on the offensive? I’ve tried to explain to people I know, “Hey, look, if the zombie apocalypse comes, you don’t have to worry that you’ll be shambling around for all eternity, because if you turn anywhere near me, I’ll put you down.” They seem to take it wrong, like I want to kill them or something, they get upset and say things like “But what if it’s curable?” And I’m like, “It’s never curable.” “But what if it was?” I’ll put a hand on their shoulder, give in a comforting squeeze and say, “Well, sometimes, some people just have to take one for the team, you know, just to be safe.”

I think I understand why it is that I don’t have more friends…

Be sure to keep an eye on Final Girl and the rest of SHOCKtober.

UPDATE: Check out other participants – Blog @ Rotten Cotton, Life Between Frames, Money and a Half, nijomu, Final Girl

SHOCKtober 2012 – Day 5: Nosferatu (1922)

I could be wrong, but Nosferatu may be the first depiction of a vampire on film. And despite whether or not you’ve seen it, you know it from its iconic imagery that echoes through the history of horror films (gallery below). When it was made, F.W. Murnau couldn’t obtain the rights to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, so he simply changed all the names of the characters to try to avoid the copyright. Later, Stoker’s widow would sue and win, with the court ordering all the copies of Nosferatu to be burned.

But vampires are notoriously hard to kill and copies survived. That’s right MPAA, movie piracy saved a piece of history that lawyers would have destroyed! I’m joking… piracy is bad, m’kay? Luckily for us, we no longer care and with this movie being made in 1922 it has passed into the realm of the public domain, which is why, if you want, you can watch the entire movie, for free, on YouTube.

The vast majority of the versions you’ll find today actually credit Bram Stoker and have the names (and all the text cards) altered to reflect Stoker’s original. Still, the story of Nosferatu differs from the book in a few significant ways, which I won’t spoil for you.

The real thing you want to watch out for when picking a copy of the film to watch is the soundtrack. Seeing as it’s a silent film, the music is important, but much of the original score – which was played by live musicians in the theater – has been lost. To that end, a number of versions are floating around, some better than others. It is apparently even a thing in some music circles for composers to craft their own soundtrack for this seminal work. Here are a few you can buy from Amazon. I might have to track down a few in the future once I research which are the ones worth listening to.

Immediately after watching Nosferatu, I felt I needed to watch Shadow of the Vampire, a horror film about the making of Nosferatu that supposes Murnau hired an actual vampire to play the role of Count Orlok in order to attain the level of realism he desired for his film. It is so good.

Be sure to keep an eye on Final Girl and the rest of SHOCKtober.

UPDATE: Check out other participants – Final Girl, Life Between Frames, It’s Dark in the Dark, Money and a Half, Blog @ Rotten Cotton, Creatures of Light and Darkness

SHOCKtober 2012 – Day 4: Audition (1999)

A man’s wife dies. Years later, his son says he should get re-married. The man is picky and has a list of desires for the perfect woman. His best friend concocts a plan where they will have a casting call for a movie and use it to find the man a wife.

If this were an American film from the late 1990s it would be a romantic comedy, probably starring Tom Hanks. If it was from the 1980s I’d probably be watching it on Cinemax after my parents had gone to sleep. Instead, this is a Japanese film from Takashi Miike called Audition, and it is most definitely not a rom-com or a skinemax flick.

That being the case, it isn’t surprising that the best friend immediately thinks something is wrong with the girl our hapless protagonist is attracted to. His friend warns him to stay away from her, and he does, for four days, during which time she sits waiting by the phone. He goes out with her a few times, they go away together, she admits to being abused as a child, he says he loves her and they make love. When he wakes, she’s gone.

Now he can’t find her. All the leads on her resume are dead ends and he hears from people about some crazy deaths. And then he finds her again… he’d have been better off if he hadn’t, because what had been a movie that was walking the tightrope of drama and thriller, but here is takes a wild left turn and plunges off the cliff deep into horror.

The things I have seen I cannot unsee.

I have known about this film for years, and I have avoided it. I like monster movies and slasher flicks and various kids of horror and terror, but there is something about these sorts of graphic torture films that unsettle me like nothing else. And more than the violence, more than the blood, what gets to me most is the glee with which she carries out the tasks. Even when the villain of these sorts of films gets it in the end, it never feels satisfying. There is no victory here. No winning.

I’m going to shower three times a day every day for a week. And I’m prescribing myself at least two hours a day of cat pictures on the Internet and daily visits to Cute Overload. These Brillo pads are useless as they are not scraping the images from my mind…

Be sure to keep an eye on Final Girl and the rest of SHOCKtober.

UPDATE: Check out other participants – Life Between Frames, Blog @ Rotten Cotton, Money and a Half, Final Girl, Thrill Me!

SHOCKtober 2012 – Day 3: The Haunting of Julia (1977)

It isn’t often that you find a movie willing to open with a mother killing her own daughter in a misguided effort to save the child, but The Haunting of Julia is that rare exception. As the little girl chokes on a piece of apple, I ask myself, “Um, ever heard of the Heimlich Maneuver?” Oh, maybe not. (If you didn’t follow that link, it seems the stomach thrusting reach-around we all know and love was only first written about in 1974, so by 1976 or 1977 when they were filming, Heimlich may not yet have become a household name.) So, perhaps the amateur emergency tracheotomy was the prudent course of action.

With her daughter dead and her wanting a divorce from her husband, she moves into a nice neighborhood populated mostly be people from the League of Nations. Nope, not kidding, that’s one of the key selling points for the sales agent. Immediately, atmosphere begins to build.

And atmosphere is pretty much all this movie has. I wish I could gush about it, but it was just… well… dull.

Mostly though, I want to focus on one thing. There is a guy, who dies, in the house, where Julia lives. His body is in the basement. And after he dies, the movie keeps going. It’s at least several days, maybe longer. No one finds the body. No one seems to even be looking for him. So apparently, not only is the house haunted, but it has a very cool basement that keeps bodies from rotting and smelling. I don’t understand why the sales agent didn’t mention it.

Oh, and before I forget… terrible sound track. I’m pretty sure it’s just a guy murdering a synthesizer. You know, like a lot of late 70s and early 80s films.

In the end, totally not scary.

Be sure to keep an eye on Final Girl and the rest of SHOCKtober.

UPDATE: Check out other participants – Life Between Frames, Blog @ Rotten Cotton, Money and a Half, Final Girl, Mermaid Heather, Thrill Me!

SHOCKtober 2012 – Day 2: Let the Right One In (2008)

Let the Right One In is the heartwarming tale about a vampire that teaches a young boy how to deal with bullies.

Okay, not really. But it totally is.

In my experience, there are two major types of horror movies. On one side you have the films that are aiming directly at you. They jump and they scare. They throw things as the camera or they toss the camera into things. People are stabbed and gashed and eaten. Blood spurts in slow motion. Then on the other side there are films that tell you a story, slowing revealing details and most of the time they are trying to lure you in to believing that everything is fine or that maybe the little bits of evil you are seeing are justifiable. And then they pull the rug out and show you the monster standing next to you.

This is the point where I say that you should probably stop reading if you are averse to spoilers, because I am about to spoil the shit out of this movie.

“Forewarned is forearmed.” -Peter Vincent

Oskar is just your average kid being beat up by bullies. Chances are you either were that kid, knew that kid, or you used to beat up that kid. He’s a little sad, and a little pathetic. Eli is a strange little girl who likes to hang out at the playground in the middle of the night and has the windows in her apartment boarded up. They meet, they talk, Oskar shows her his Rubik’s Cube (and that’s not a euphemism), and she tells him he needs to hit back when the bullies pick on him.

Oh, and Eli lives with a dude who isn’t her father, who we see killing a random guy on the street and stringing him up to drain him of blood. She might be a little odd, but he’s totally a secret serial killer or something. Only, it’s her who is upset that he didn’t get the blood.

Anyway, she remains being creepy, but she’s nice to Oskar, and we like Oskar, we root for Oskar, we want him to kick some bully ass! And then she kills a guy. But Oskar is totally becoming a stronger better person, so we’ll overlook that little transgression.

Bit by bit we, the audience, gets pulled along… her protector guy gets caught, pours acid on himself and then leaps out a hospital window after she drinks his blood. But, you know, Oskar! He hits the bully with a stick and he’s started working out to get muscles and confidence. Go Oskar! Eli accidentally turns a woman into a vampire, but she explodes in flames when a nurse opens the window to let the sun in… but before that the woman is attacked by a whole mess of cats in a scene right out of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers (written directly for the scream screen!). Anyway, Oskar finally finds out that she’s a vampire, they dance to music and then he takes a peek at her naked body while she’s getting changed.

Time out a second here… You see, I saw the remake, Let Me In, first. And it pretty much cloned the original almost shot for shot. Except for this scene, which is not in the remake at all. I’m not a perv, because my wife was totally in the room, but I had to watch that scene twice because I wasn’t sure what I saw. Earlier, in both versions, there is this scene where the vampire girl and the normal boy are hanging out in his bed and he asks her to go steady and she says, “I’m not a little girl”, which I totally took to mean “I’m a vampire” or “I’m a monster” but in this, the original… did I just get Crying Gamed? Is Eli actually a little boy who had his junk cut off? What the hell is going on here? And now I’m recalling the scene where Eli is puking after eating the candy, and she asks if he likes her and he says yeah and she asks “Would you like me if I was a boy?” and he says “Sure.” I totally just got Crying Gamed!

I just Googled it, the movie and the book. Mind. Blown. That’ll teach me to watch remakes!

Anyway… so Eli kills another guy, and this time Oskar watches. Eli leaves, like, for good. Then the bullies trick Oskar into coming back to the fitness program and they are in the process of possibly drowning him when Eli shows up and kills everyone. Cut to train, Oskar looks out the window, we hear a tapping and Oskar smiles. He taps out a reply on the large trunk that accompanies him.

So, back to where I started… two types of horror films, one where the monster leaps right out and one where the monster sneaks up on you. Let the Right One In is definitely the latter, and while I’d classify the movie as a horror film I wouldn’t call it a scary film. It’s practically a romance. Although, knowing what I know now, maybe it’s a bromance.

Peace out… I’m off to write some scorpion/frog slash-fic.

Be sure to keep an eye on Final Girl and the rest of SHOCKtober.

UPDATE: Check out other participants – Final Girl, Life Between Frames, Blog @ Rotten Cotton, Money and a Half, Thrill Me!

SHOCKtober 2012 – Day 1: Sunshine (2007)

I first saw Sunshine in 2008 after the DVD released in the United States. I really wanted to see it in the theater, but never quite found the opportunity to do it. I mean, it was a no brainer, right? I think the conversation should have gone something like this:

Marketing: From the director of 28 Days Later…
Me: Oh?
Marketing: …starring the guy from 28 Days Later…
Me: Sold.
Marketing: …comes Sunshine, a movie about
Me: Yeah, you can stop now. I’m in.
Marketing: You don’t want to know what it’s about?
Me: No, just tell me when I can see it.

However, somewhere between knowing that I was going to see this film and when it stopped showing in local theaters, I didn’t manage to find any other people who also wanted to go see it, and since going to the movies alone isn’t something I normally do (though I am not opposed to it) and so, I didn’t. Not until about a year later.

But that’s neither here nor there, nor on the surface of the sun. The basic plot is this: for some reason, which I don’t recall even after rewatching it, the Sun is going out and the world is going to freeze, but there is a plan – to fire a giant bomb into the Sun and reignite it. I looked up some stuff on wikipedia and saw there was apparently some back story about a Q-ball or something causing the Sun to expend energy faster than it should. Anyway, there was a previous mission which after passing into the dead zone – where they can communicate back to Earth because of the radiation interference of the Sun – it didn’t appear to complete its mission. So now we are on mission two, the final mission, because it took everything the Earth had to make these two bombs. And they fly toward the Sun, and they approach Mercury, and discover the first ship, hanging in orbit around the Sun.

Of course, they decide to investigate…

I think what I love most about this movie is that there is a lot of science in it, but a bunch of it is junk science – science that makes sense in its pieces and parts but not in the manner in which the movie lumps them together. And it’s got that whole race to save humanity element. But another strong element is that I think, at least emotionally and in some ways stylistically, it parallels another movie that I love: The Black Hole.

You got ships sitting on the brink of oblivion and men who have lost their sanity and an ending that leaves open a lot to interpretation because it goes for art rather than solid facts.

When I saw it then and now as I watched it again, I know this is supposed to be a horror film, but it doesn’t scare me at all until the boogeyman shows up. Until that point, the movie is just science, logic and hard but inevitable choices clouded with a little bit of human curiosity and compassion. Seriously, until the sun scarred former captain arrives and starts stomping around the ship killing people in the last act of the film all of the horror is based on preying on the primal fears of uncertainty and helplessness in the face of nature and science we don’t fully understand – which doesn’t scare me.

I also think the movie tried to do something it didn’t succeed at. It’s a brilliant idea, to tell a scary story that normally relies on shadows and darkness but do it in full light. And if this movie had done that, it would have been awesome, but when the captain shows up the first thing he does is kill the computer and turn off the lights. We are plunged back into darkness, the very familiar darkness. It also doesn’t help that Danny Boyle went with an artistic style when showing us the captain and his skewed perspective of his environment. He’s a shaky blur rather than a solid figure, and it robs him of some of the terror he might have caused. If they’d kept the lights on, gave us a clear view of the captain and had him speaking logically and passionately about how the mission had to be stopped while relentlessly hunting the crew – perhaps using things he’d learned in the last seven years trapped on his identical ship.

And yet, despite that, I do still love the movie. It helps, I guess, that the final act is so short. Once it’s over, we spend a beautiful moment with Cillian Murphy, experiencing the strangeness of the uncertain warpings of time and reality that occur in the heart of the Sun, standing before a wall of fire for an eternity even though from the outside he probably vanished in a flash of fire nearly instantaneously.

The sacrifice is made. The Sun reignited. The Earth is saved. Humanity lives on. And Sunshine ends.

Be sure to keep an eye on Final Girl and the rest of SHOCKtober.

UPDATE: Check out other participants – Final Girl, Life Between Frames, Blog @ Rotten Cotton, Money and a Half, Into the Mirror

SHOCKtober 2012: Prelude

So, there is this blog I read, Final Girl, that is all about horror films, and for the month of October she is doing a thing she calls SHOCKtober, which is basically a movie a day. The idea is to spur discussion and thought about horror films and I intend to participate. For the next 31 days, assuming I can get access to every movie through my collection, Netflix, Amazon, Redbox, and… more nefarious means, I will be posting something each day relating to the movie in question. Many of them will probably be reviews, but perhaps not all of them. We’ll have to see what each movie inspires.

In any event, I hope it is an enjoyable ride.

In the meantime, go check out Stacie Ponder’s Final Girl blog. Read back through the archives, there are quite a few gems in there well worth reading.

UPDATE: Adding links to this post.

  1. Sunshine (2007)
  2. Let the Right One In (2008)
  3. The Haunting of Julia (1977)
  4. Audition (1999)
  5. Nosferatu (1922) / (1979)
  6. Slither (2006)
  7. Cat People (1942)
  8. Tenebre (1982)
  9. Dead Alive (1992)
  10. Possession (1981)
  11. Pulse (2001)
  12. Shivers (1975)
  13. Left Bank (2008)
  14. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)
  15. A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4 (1988)
  16. Hour of the Wolf (1968)
  17. The Tenant (1976)
  18. Santa Sangre (1989)
  19. I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
  20. And Soon the Darkness (1970)
  21. Battle Royale (2000)
  22. Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)
  23. The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
  24. Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)
  25. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  26. Triangle (2009)
  27. Calvaire (2004)
  28. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
  29. The Horde (2009)
  30. Planet of the Vampires (1965)
  31. Martyrs (2008)

Dead Island: Riptide

From the people who brought you Dead Island, and more importantly the people who brought you the amazing trailer for Dead Island, I present to you, the trailer for Dead Island: Riptide.

I just want these people to make a CGI zombie movie or TV series. They could make a series of 5 to 10 minute vignettes and put them on YouTube and I would subscribe to their channel, and I would buy the DVD collection when it came out. In the words of Fry: Shut up and take my money.

Ruining It for the Rest of Us

Last night I attended a screening for the upcoming movie Dredd (very good, enjoyed it a lot, plenty of action, too violent for the youngsters, looking forward to some sequels) and ran into the latest round of backlash and silliness.

No Recording Devices

All Your Cameras Are Belong To Us!

I’ve been to many screenings, so I’m used to them saying that you have to turn off your phones or even saying you can’t bring them in. Sorry folks, they keep making better phones and with 720p HD video recording on your phone, it is getting easier for people to bootleg movies. And that’s really what they are looking for, recording devices.

First off, to all you people there who download shitty bootlegs recorded with camera phones: Stop. For one, there are better bootlegs out there. For another, THERE ARE BETTER BOOTLEGS OUT THERE. I’d say that again in bold and italics, but I figure CAPS should be enough.

Secondly, to the theaters: see the above paragraph. Very few people are downloading bootlegs made on iPhones. Mostly because almost no one is making bootlegs on iPhones. Most bootlegs are made in empty theaters by unscrupulous theater employees, or made as a digital copy right off the discs/camera/stream, however you are getting your digital copy of the movie. If the screening is months before release, then I further understand a desire for “security” to keep screen grabs from leaking onto the Internet, but when you are within a week of release and professional paid reviewers are already dropping bombs and spoiling your film, a kid who snaps a crappy photo of your movie is the last thing you should be worried about.

What really irked me though, was the insistence by security that not only were phones, cameras and such not allowed inside, but no iPods or Kindles or Nooks or any electronic device. That’s right, even devices that do not have cameras because they are not made with cameras, were not being allowed inside. Certainly this was because of lazy – it’s easier to ban everything than to actually know things and selectively exclude devices that are capable of recording. On top of that, though, is the fact that in all the screenings I’ve been to the only thing that ever needs to happen is for security to say, “Put all phones on silent or vibrate. If you use an electronic device during the movie, or a device you have makes noise, you will be removed from the theater.” and then stand in the back of the theater, watching and listening. When that happens, no one pulls out their phones to make calls or text or play games. Because, by and large, people don’t suck when given simple logical instructions.

To top that off, the movie was in 3D. You cannot, to my knowledge, record a 3D movie projected onto a screen with a handheld camera and preserve the 3D. At best, you slap one of the polarized lenses on the camera and record only the left or right eye image, capturing it in 2D – but it will be much worse quality than just capturing the film in straight 2D.

And further insult to injury, the security staff was willing to “bag and tag” phones, but they offered no insurance. One guy actually said, to the crowd, “If you lose your ticket or we lose your phone, you will not get a replacement. It’s just gone.” You know, there is a reason that I keep a photo of myself on my phone at all times, that way I can walk someone through unlocking the phone and opening the photo to prove it’s either mine or someone who knows me. But if that wasn’t enough, the parking garage at this particular theater is a typical parking garage, and thus on your parking ticket states “The management of this garage is not responsible for damage or theft of any vehicle or its contents.” So when the security guys were offering to let people out of line to go put their phones and Kindles and iPads in their cars, they were basically saying “You can’t take those in the theater, with you, where they are safe, you need to put them in your car, where the garage has specifically stated that they aren’t responsible for them.”

I guess people could just not bring their phones and things with them, but who goes around without a phone these days?

Anyway, I’m sure we got this terrible treatment by security because some schmuck somewhere tried to record a movie with his iPhone and then uploaded it to YouTube. If you are that guy, just know, you are ruining the movie going experience for everyone. Cut it out.

City of Fallen Heroes

In yesterday’s post I said that City of Heroes was “inspiring”. But what did I mean by that?

Obviously, as linked in that post, it drove me to create a character who wasn’t a hero, just a reporter who wrote about heroes: Calvin Meeks and the Front Page. But it also heralded my first serious foray into fan fiction.

Sure, I’d written things about my characters in EverQuest, but those were just short stories, a few pages. City of Heroes inspired me to actually write an entire outline of a book, a series of intertwining stories that culminated in a cohesive plot. Sadly, when I allowed myself to get dragged off into other games, I also allowed myself to abandon that work, entitled City of Fallen Heroes.

I dug through my office the other day and found most of the outline and a bunch of jotted mini plots for the chapters. I’m going to take a stab at finishing that, if I don’t get too depressed about the closing of the game.

In the meantime, you can read the first three chapters, which I did complete and placed online way back when.

To me, it was an interesting concept. Write a story set in the Rikti invasion, the event that happens just before the launch of the game, and write about all the heroes who don’t survive. I know from the start that none of my characters will make it. Some will die “on-screen” while others may survive to take the plunge with Hero 1 into the Rikti homeworld. Or maybe they won’t, because I have to say that I developed an unreasonable attachment to the main character of Chapter 2 and actually made changes to my outline at the time to account for it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it and I hope I can churn out more worth reading.