Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fool's Views (3/21 – 4/3)


In looking back over the past two weeks’ Views, by sheer coincidence all of the flickers managed to come from the last decade, with a single exception from both sides of the fence. For the horror flicks, the picks were even fresher than usual: two had just been released to theaters, and two others were screened prior to release at HorrorHound Weekend. And the good ol’ Chicago Public Library fates were looking out for me, providing free rentals of a few interesting flicks I missed over the past couple years (and one Chuck Heston epic).

In the interest of speed and alacrity, I’m going to keep these reviews short and sweet. As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.



House (aka Hausu) (1977)
(1st viewing) d. Obayashi, Nobuhiko
Seriously, this Japanese haunted house thriller seems to cry out to be viewed while on some hallucinogenic drug. Then again, if you were to be so inclined, I’m afraid you might never come down again. However, trippy doesn’t always equal entertaining, and in spite of its undeniable originality, I was done with it before it was done with me. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood.

Insidious (2010) (1st viewing) d. Wan, James
The Saw creators’ new haunted house film succeeds by fits and starts, with a Darth Maul-like spectre antagonizing Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne’s young son. There are some legitimate scares, but Wan loses the confidence of his convictions by shoring up each fright with an ear-shattering aural jump scare. I don’t know how this would hold up under repeat viewings, but at the very least, it gives Lin Shaye a well-deserved meaty role that the veteran character actress tucks under her arm and scores big time.

I Saw the Devil (2010) (1st viewing) d. Kim, Jee-woon
An ever escalating battle of revenge, wits and pain between a deranged (but not stupid) serial killer played by Oldboy’s Min-sik Choi and a special government agent seeking retribution for the murder of his fiancée. Terrifically violent and bloody, the two stars are well supported by a great ensemble and some of the stunts and bloodletting are shout out loud impressive.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010) (1st viewing) d. Craig, Eli
An joyously funny and inspired riff on the “hellbilly” survival subgenre, pitting two unwitting backwoods good ol’ boys (Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) against a fun-loving bunch of co-eds who mistakenly interpret circumstances and appearances, leading to a number of incredibly splattery and hysterical vignettes. There’s not much not to love about this feature debut by sometime actor Elijah Craig…except for the fact that it hasn’t found a US distributor yet. C’mon, people!!!


Frankenstein Syndrome, The (2010)
(1st viewing) d. Tretta, Sean
Night of the Demons (2009) (1st viewing) d. Gierasch, Adam
Well, first off, Ms. Shepis keeps her clothes on in both of these features, so there’s that to consider. However, at least in the Demons remake, there’s plenty of nudity provided by Bobbi Sue Luther and Diora Baird to settle that side of the scales. On the other hand, Edward Furlong looks so horrible and puffy that it may kill any prurient inclinations at all. Overall, I enjoyed this about the same as the 1988 original – it sets out to have a cheap, goofy good time and for the most part delivers. Sure, there’s some wah-wah CG and there’s more backstory than needed, but I was feeling generous, despite the fact that Shepis is gone halfway through the picture. On the other hand, TFS tries hard to bring something new to the table, but the effort is felt and it would have probably been a better idea to let the viewers enjoy a higher ratcheted thrill ride than try to deliver a “thinking man’s horror film” when thinking is the last thing that someone should do while watching Tretta’s flick, for fear of falling through one of the many logistical plot holes that spring up.


Bobby (2006)
(1st viewing) d. Estevez, Emilio
Enormous star-studded ensemble piece depicting the final hours of Robert F. Kennedy that fateful night of the California Democratic primary election at the Amabassador Hotel. Not bad, but somehow fails to truly resonate.

Disappearance of Alice Creed, The (2009) (1st viewing) d. Blakeson, J.
Terrific British kidnapping thriller, with sharp plotting and three superb performances (the only three onscreen characters in the entire film). Well worth checking out.

El Cid (1961) (1st viewing) d. Mann, Anthony
Awesome battle scenes and spectacle, but be prepared to strap yourself in for a 3 hour buffet of full-on epicness. Apparently stars Chuck Heston and Sophia Loren did not like each other one bit, but you’d never know it. Oh, and that ending? Really goofy.

Gentlemen Broncos (2009) (1st viewing) d. Hess, Jared
An even wackier, more offbeat comedy from the writer/director of Napoleon Dynamite, following the travails of an aspiring young writer whose story idea is pilfered by an established snobby fantasy literary icon. Bizarro in the best way, with another winning cast of loopy sideline characters.

Last King of Scotland, The (2006) (1st viewing) d. MacDonald, Kevin
Forest Whitaker rants and raves his way to an Oscar as the Ugandan dicatator, but personally I was bummed that we never got to see him chowing down on some human flesh.

Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (2007) (1st viewing) d. Landis, John
Funny and adoring documentary of the venerable comedian, with a myriad of celebrities and compatriots commenting on his early abrasive days to his abrasive film roles to his current standing as an abrasive elder statesman.

Thank You for Smoking (2005) (1st viewing) d. Reitman, Jason
Aaron Eckhart, in full-on sleazy charmer mode, headlines as a superstar tobacco lobbyist juggling his family life, investigations, affairs and an upcoming judicial hearing. Political comedy that works most of the time, only becoming less funny when one realizes that this is probably the way the world really works. With Rob Lowe, William H. Macy, Katie Holmes and Maria Bello.

2011 totals to date: 142 films, 89 1st time views, 74 horror, 12 cinema

Walking Dead, The – 6 episodes
Midnight Madness: The History of Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films – 4 episodes


  1. Hey, all first-time viewings as well!

    I saw House a few years back (long before it was even a twinkling in Criterion's eye) and enjoyed it well enough, but I can understand why it can seem to wear out its welcome.

    Frankly, I'd forgotten that Insidious was even out. I may end up waiting for DVD on that one. I'd also like to see Tucker & Dale again in its completed form before I do a full-fledged review of it.

  2. Wow, I didn't even notice that it was all FTV's - that doesn't happen very often either!

    As I said, I may just not have been in the mood for HAUSU or didn't know what to expect, perhaps a bit of both. Not sure when I'll feel obliged to see it again, but I expect it will go down easier the second time around.

    With INSIDIOUS on the cover of Fango, it was hard to avoid. Plus, I got free passes to a sneak preview (one of three, oddly enough). It's not bad, but you could probably wait for DVD - I expect it will end up on quite a few "best of" lists for simply not sucking. And yes, please, fingers crossed we won't have to wait too long for the full TUCKER N' DALE.

  3. I'd say the one thing I don't like about Tucker & Dale is the title, which seems like it's missing a few words. Also, I realize this is probably a minor issue for some, but "Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil" just doesn't describe the story all that accurately.