Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fool's Views (4/26 – 5/2)

Amigos, Romanos, Countrymen...lend me your rears.

For my last big push before I headed off to Shanghai for a gig (which I then extended into a vacation/visit with my good friend Tony who resides there as a teacher), I watched only flicks released in the past few years with the exception of one featuring a certain hockey-masked killer and the other a classic from Rod Serling that I’ve been trying to viddy for years. Nothing that really set my world on fire and a few that nearly put the fire out (Dario, you rat bastard), but them’s the breaks…

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.


Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009)
(1st viewing) d. West, Ti
Not as disjointed as Eli Roth’s original (sorry, CF lovers), this sequel sets its black (and red) comic tone from the get-go. It’s an out-and-out gorefest, thoroughly un-PC, and its unapologetic resolve to be just that is what carries it over the rough spots, of which there are a few. Giuseppe Andrews’ “party man” deputy character, the only carry over from the original, actually works much better within this less realistic setting. Director West apparently sought to have his name taken off the project, but he needn’t have worried – this wasn’t going to change anyone’s world or career one way or t’other.

Giallo (2009) (1st viewing) d. Argento, Dario
Sigh. Argento serves up yet another lackluster thriller, further distancing himself from his glory days. While the title clearly is meant to connect the filmmaker to his most prevalent subgenre, its literal translation (the Italian word means “yellow”) is actually more fitting to the story. Adrien Brody stars as a stereotypically unconventional detective, and the Oscar-winner’s performance is nothing short of embarrassing. To quote a friend, “he’s acting like someone who expected his performance to be dubbed in later - like he was dubbing in his own Americanized version pre-emptively.”

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) (3rd and 4th viewings) d. Marcus, Adam
I was honored that the Horrorhound magazine folks asked me to participate in their upcoming Friday the 13th retrospective, with the ripe fruit of New Line’s first swing at the series my assignment. I’ll save the full review for the mag, but suffice to say, I think JGTH has its merits and is far from the bottom of the barrel status to which it’s often delegated (though for my money, it’s still but a lead-off batter for Jason X’s grand slam to come).

Nightmare on Elm Street, A (2010) (1st viewing) d. Bayer, Samuel
Falls squarely into Platinum Dunes patented style of “proficiently made, but soulless.” Even “New Freddy” Jackie Earle Haley, a solid actor, is doggedly one-note, despite a (small) opportunity to show range in flashback scenes. However, I couldn't understand what Bayer & co. were trying to do with the shot-for-shot references back to Wes Craven’s 1984 original. The t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e CGI stretching-out-of-wall sequence, the pointless bathtub scene, the little girls jumping rope... sigh. Furthermore, the one (mildly) intriguing plot twist that Krueger might have actually been innocent of his crimes is clumsily shoved out the window at the end? UM, WHAT WAS THE POINT??? And ye gods, could the aural jump scares have been more clumsily handled? I don't mind the idea of remakes, but there needs to be a reason other than crass commercialism behind it. Or even if it's purely financially motivated, at least employ some worthwhile artists to engineer the reboot. I mean, criminey, the meetings that must have transpired, the endless script revisions, the designers, the budget...and this is what they come up with? One big, non-scary yawnfest? How is that possible?

Wyvern (2009) (1st viewing) d. Monroe, Steven R.
This straight-outa-SyFy dragon flick suffers from showing too much of its titular beastie too soon (we get a full-body shot of the CGI monster within the first five minutes), especially since it’s none too impressive to begin with. That said, the acting isn’t too shabby, the characters engaging and refreshingly adult, and the Alaskan settings are shown off in the full glory. Too further heighten the kitsch factor, several of TV’s Northern Exposure ensemble members are on hand as flying reptile bait. It’s a mixed bag, to be sure, but might make for a decent beer n’ pizza flick with a less discerning crew.

Masters of Horror: Valerie on the Stairs (2006)
(1st viewing) d. Garris, Mick
Masters of Horror: The V-Word (2006) (1st viewing) d. Dickerson, Ernest R.
Masters of Horror: The Washingtonians (2007) (1st viewing) d. Medak, Peter
Thanks to Netflix’s “Instant Viewing” feature, I polished off my final remaining episodes of Showtime’s hit-and-often-miss horror series. These three were ones that I had heard little to no good about, so expectations were low – which was probably for the best. Medak, who most notable genre efforts are 1980’s The Changeling and (ahem) Species 2, fares the worst with his exorable helming of Bentley Little’s short story that claims the father of our country had a fancy for human flesh. Dickerson’s vampire-themed episode is slightly less offensive, primarily because of the well-captured relationship between teenage boys, but Michael Ironside’s bloodsucking turn amounts to little more than stunt (mis)casting. Finally, MoH creator Mick Garris’ Valerie has some genuinely interesting ideas (a writers group collectively creates a demon – played by Candyman’s Tony Todd – and the fantastic world wherein it lives), even if it stumbles badly in the execution.

Patterns (1956)
(1st viewing) d. Cook, Fielder
Rod Serling’s terrific teleplay about two businessmen – one going up (Van Heflin), the other down (Ed Begley) – is well supported by Cook’s solid direction and outstanding ensemble of players. Everett Sloane, as the ruthless CEO, is particularly memorable – as venerable a villain as It’s a Wonderful Life’s Mr. Potter.

2010 Totals to date: 106 films, 81 1st time views, 59 horrors, 10 cinema

1 comment:

  1. Here's a rundown of the films I saw during the same time frame. The ones marked with an asterisk for were first-time viewings.

    Black Dynamite* (Scott Sanders, 2009)
    I Was a Teenage Werewolf (Gene Fowler, Jr., 1957)
    The Hurt Locker* (Kathryn Bigelow, 2009)
    Incubus* (Leslie Stevens, 1965)
    The Brotherhood of Satan* (Bernard McEveety, 1971)
    The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman, 1975)
    Shock Treatment (Jim Sharman, 1981)
    Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!* (Pedro Almodóvar, 1990)

    There are quite a few Masters of Horror episodes that I skipped entirely and have no plans on tackling. For the most part I stuck with directors that were known quantities to me (Carpenter, Dante, Gordon, Hooper, Landis). Not all of their efforts were winners, but enough were that I felt like I had come out ahead and didn't want to push my luck too far.