Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fool's Views (2/14 – 2/20)

Ah, welcome back, my friends to the show that never ends. Come inside. Come inside. (Imagine Boris Karloff speaking those words in his inimitable dulcet tones… wouldn’t that have been a great spooky intro to something?)

It’s been another weird and wild week, balancing the real life horrors of the world outside with the spirits and spooks of the alternate universe existing within the flat screen. Not too outlandish a mix of flicks this time out, with Week #3 of the ongoing Tohofest hitting its sweet spot (my favorite period of the big G) sharing space nicely with a couple dandy haunted house films and a pair from 2010 (one great, one not so much).

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


Blair Witch Project, The (1999)
(6th viewing) d. Myrick, Daniel/Sanchez, Eduardo
Watched this listening to the directors’ commentary, and as if I wasn’t already a huge fan, I’m even more so now hearing how much craft when into shaping what was essentially a elaborate improvisation exercise. So many “happy accidents,” such as Heather’s closing monologue to the camera: Intended as a straight on medium shot, the actress ended up only getting the upper right hand quadrant of her face in close-up…what has now become an iconic horror image. Brilliant.

Black Swan (2010) (2nd viewing) d. Aronofsky, Darren
While Hollywood’s cognoscenti vehemently oppose their critical awards darlings being labeled as mere “horror” (Silence of the Lambs, anyone?), there’s little denying Darren Aronofsky’s technically exquisite, emotionally wrenching ballet thriller its rightful place at the table. Like Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Swan echoes its predecessor’s theme of spiraling insanity as seen through a beautiful, sexually repressed female character’s (Natalie Portman) increasingly unreliable POV, a vision which ultimately yielded some of 2010’s most discomfiting screen imagery: Portman’s cuticle pull, Winona Ryder’s hospital sequence, pretty much any scene with Barbara Hershey… and a WTF climax that is at once stunning and stupefying. Both intellectual and primal, this is horror of the highest breed, that which brands itself upon our gray matter and refuses to vacate the premises.

Hatchet II (2010) (1st viewing) d. Green, Adam
Adam Green delivers another splatterfest “for the fans.” Um, thanks? The misguided ideas multiply faster than rabbits on pregnancy hormones: From putting writer/director/never-gonna-be-an-actor Tom Holland in front of the camera to showcasing Danielle Harris’ bizarro eyebrow to goofy gore sequences that are neither shocking nor amusing… Dear god, let it stop!!!!

Changeling, The (1980)
(3rd viewing) d. Medak, Peter
Legend of Hell House, The (1973) (4th viewing) d. Hough, John
Kitley and I headed up to the wilds of Oshkosh, WI for a Share the Scare with the good folks of House of Heroes. First link details the adventure, second showcases the films themselves:



Godzilla's Revenge (1969)
(3rd viewing) d. Honda, Ishiro
Stock footage from Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster make up the majority of the monster action in this painfully juvenile fantasy about a misfit latchkey kid who teleports himself to Monster Island to play with Minya, now talking like Barney Rubble. Gaaaaaaaah. Even as a kid, I found this one painful.

Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (1971) (4th viewing) d. Banno, Yoshimitsu
The wildest, most anachronistic feature in the entire series, this was my intro to the Big G way back when. Where to begin? You’ve got hippie kids hallucinating, animated vignettes, a morphing pollution monster, and Godzilla flying (backwards, no less!). Wow, just wow. I love this movie even more as an adult, because it’s completely insane.

Godzilla vs. Gigan (aka Godzilla on Monster Island) (1972) (3rd viewing) d. Fukuda, Jun
This one features an amusement park called Monsterland, whose centerpiece is a giant statue of Godzilla. Right, because nothing says fun fun fun for the kiddies better than erecting a shrine to the giant radioactive monsters who lay waste to your capitol city every other year. Space cockroaches disguised as humans control the energetic monster mashing provided by Ghidorah, Gigan and Anguirus (who actually TALKS with Godzilla here. Oy vey.)

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) (7th viewing) d. Fukuda, Jun
Throwing physics and caution to the winds, this entertaining installment features the underwater race of “Seatopians” who unleash the giant cockroach-looking monster Megalon to destroy Tokyo. In response, Ultraman knockoff Jet Jaguar enlists the help of the Big G, whereupon Seatopians bring back Gigan from outer space, and the remainder of the movie is an oversized wrestling match for the ages. The dubbing is awful, the effects cheesy, the human characters inane, and logic entirely absent (Jet Jaguar’s inexplicable ability to increase from human to monster size is explained as “He must have programmed himself.” Whaaaat?). However, as a purely ribald roaring rumble, it delivers the goods, along with a couple good flying drop-kicks from our favorite rubber-suited hero.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
(3rd viewing) d. Fukuda, Jun
The menace from space returns, this time with space simians whipping up a cyborg Godzilla armed with finger missiles, toe missiles, eye lasers, force fields, the works, who then proceeds to kick the crap out of Anguirus, floppy dog/lion monster King Seesar and even puts Godzilla on the mat a couple times (complete with arterial sprays!) Luckily, our monster hero reaps the benefits of getting struck by lightning, turning him into a giant electromagnet when the need arises. Wild.

Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) (3rd viewing) d. Honda, Ishiro
The final chapter (#15) in the “Showa” series is a direct sequel to the previous installment, with the ape aliens back for another attempt at world domination, bringing Mechagodzilla back into the fray, as well as a new dinosaur-type monster, Titanosaurus. Godzilla has no ally this time, taking on both his foes with gusto – there’s an amazing shot where the big guy is running in slo-mo across a field of explosions so intense that the rubber suit actually catches on fire. There’s also the great dialogue snippet from the human storyline, “Even though you’re a cyborg, I still love you. It’s not your fault.”

Godzilla 1985 (1984) (2nd viewing) d. Hashimoto, Koji
Seriously, guys? You put Godzilla to bed for 10 years, and this is how you wake him up? This wet blanket is basically a sequel of the original 1954 classic, ignoring all previous chapters, although for its U.S. release, it’s really a remake of Godzilla, King of the Monsters, since there were new scenes featuring Raymond Burr shot as well. Released at the height of US/Soviet nuke paranoia, the film consists of little more than pontificating politicians padding out the oh-so-somber moments of monster mayhem. Such a drag.


UHF (1989)
(1st viewing) d. Levey, Jay
Weird Al Yankovic gets to run a radio station and program it with great shows like “Wheel of Fish” and music video mashups of “Money for Nothing/The Beverly Hillbillies.” Energetic dum-dum comedy enlivened by a great cast that includes Kevin McCarthy, Fran Drescher, Michael Richards, Victoria Jackson and Billy Barty.

Seeing Double #4: DON’T SHOOT, I’M JUST…
Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, The (1999)
(1st viewing) d. Besson, Luc
Voice-hearing Milla Jovovich leads her multi-ethnic band of French warriors (yes, you read that correctly) to victory over the English, then gets burned at the stake for her troubles. Besson wants to have his Braveheart cake and eat it too, but like that Oscar winner, the dazzling blood-soaked battles and melodramatic political intrigue make for an unwieldy blend, one that is ultimately overwhelmed by its own self-importance.

Messenger, The (2009) (1st viewing) d. Moverman, Oren
Ben Foster stars as an Iraqi war veteran assigned to Woody Harrelson’s U.S. Army Casualty Notification team. Director Moverman, who co-wrote the screenplay, tells the pair's story through a series of well connected, emotionally resonant vignettes. An ambitious yet restrained look at a behind-the-scenes occupation, in which no morals are offered and few overt political messages trumpeted.

2011 totals to date: 84 films, 47 1st time views, 43 horror, 5 cinema

Ugly Americans – 7 episodes


  1. I'm a bit shocked by your oozing love of "Black Swan"... I thought it was good, but you can hardly hold back the praise!

  2. What can I say? In a relatively blah horror year, it was the one that really rose to the occasion for me. And when a horror film is this good, I'm gonna praise it until the cows come home in the hopes that some civilian folks see it as well. Because this is the kind of crossover piece (like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) that resonates with non-horror folks as well.

  3. I enjoyed Black Sawn, I saw it twice in the theaters, my only gripe was what I considered an over use of shaky cam.. I understand its place.. just in the theater it makes me dizzy.. and takes me out of the film because I feel queasy... As for Hatchet 2.. I was really hoping for a gem here.. I really was, I love the first film.. that being said I'll explain.. I didn't actually care much for Victor Crowley.. not so much his story line but more his makeup effects.. i thought his story line was pretty dead on for 80's slasher homage.. as to why I liked the film.. I actually liked the cast of the film! (there's a novel idea for Hollywood creating a cast the audience cares about!) I enjoyed every last character.. there wasn't a single person in that film that I thought "jesus I hope that guy gets it either first or bloodiest." Fast forward to Hatchet 2.. Aside from a brief cameo from Lloyd Kaufman and a small poke at the film Behind The Mask.. the rest of the film is completely forgettable.. The kill scenes where in no was as cleverly executed as the original and the entire film felt rushed... boo all around.. just boo..
    Also a huge fan of The Blair Witch Project..w00t!


  4. Glad to see you're getting around to Ugly Americans. I found that to be a most pleasant surprise when it showed up on Comedy Central. My favorite episode by far was "An American Werewolf in America," but there's plenty of monster goodness to go around.

    As for your Godzilla movies this round, I'm surprised you didn't mention the most iconic scene from Smog Monster, at least as far I'm concerned. I'm talking, of course, about the part where Hedora overwhelms Godzilla and, while he's down for the count, covers him in that toxic sludge. Then, of course, there's the fact that Hedora's eyes were designed to look like, well, what they look like. According to the director, that was no accident.

  5. Goremonger - Was there a lot of shaky-cam in BS? Huh, I recall a lot of whirling camerawork, but nothing that jumped out at me as overly wobbly handheld. Interesting.

    While I must confess to not being a fan of the first HATCHET, I also confess that I had pretty elevated expectations and was a little disappointed in the final result. I'd be willing to go back and see it again, knowing what I was in for. This time, the overall acting was pretty bad (with the exception of Tony Todd, who I would only fault for enjoying his performance just a *little* too much) and the gore scenes were just silly. It's a wobbly line between horror and comedy, and either I don't share Adam Green's sense of humor or he's just not funny. One of the two.

  6. Craig - Yeah, I got clued into UA via good ol' HorrorHound, being that I rarely watch television at all. Sounded like a fun idea, and lo, it was.

    Honestly, SMOG MONSTER has so many great moments, I could write a full page worth of geek love for it. The sludge scene is a definite win, as are the kooky eyes/eggs/cojones that G pulls out of the poor bastard. Not to mention the rockin' "Save the Earth" song that kicks back in when he starts tearing into ol' Smoggie. Wow. If I hadn't just watched a month's worth of Godzilla, I might be tempted to pop that back in. I might float it as a possibility for a Share the Scare at some point, because I would love to see it with a crowd.

  7. I'm sure Smog Monster would kill with the right crowd.

  8. I may be confusing Shakey cam with whirley cam, I'm not an expert on camera techniques.. all I know is as much as I enjoyed the film (and I did, after I saw it I drug a buddy of mine to it the following evening) I found myself during several scenes having to look away because I was getting dizzy, I only seem to have this problem in theaters when it comes to fast camera work, at home I could watch shaky cam during an earthquake and it wouldn't bother me. As for Hatchet.. still have to say I loved it, as i did Spiral, but I just couldn't help but feeling extremem dissapoint ment when it came to Hatchet 2 and Frozen, its as if I went into the films wanting to like them.. and as much as I tried I just couldn't really do it.

    PS This is Chris from facebook by the way, Hope to see you at HH at the end of the month.

  9. Chris! Sorry, dude. Stupid internet. Yes, I will be at HH in 8, count 'em, 8 days! Can't wait to hang witcha.