Three weeks in, one more to go! Just to recap, the goal is to watch 40 horror movies this month and I'm accepting pledges per movie watched, raising money for both Planned Parenthood and Reach Counseling Services in Neenah, WI. If you'd like to pledge or know more about the Scare-A-Thon, shoot me an email at john.marcus.pata (at) gmail.com.
Check out week one's viewings and what I put my eyes on for week two.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS (2014) - First Time Viewing
Seems fitting to pop in Love after Sleepwalkers, as this one is quite bizarre, as well. Deep in the woods lays a good ole fashioned tourist trap - a cabin resort run by a Croatian dude named Uncle Slavko that's focused around Bigfoot. It's a real family friendly place, that is, until a group of Sasquatch-clad employees (including genre mainstay Kane Hodder) fall into a toxic virus-ridden swamp, turning them into zombie Sasquatch-clad employees. As one would expect, all hell breaks loose around the resort.
I am completely smitten with the movie Love wants to be. It's absurd, over-the-top, filled with quirky characters and one-liners, and completely ridiculous - all the makings to produce a very solid and fun-filled horror comedy. Sadly, the script - primarily the dialogue - just isn't as smart as it wants to be, making the film inferior to what it's strives for. As a whole, the script felt like a first draft, never getting polished, fleshed out, or reworked. If someone told me this was written in 2005, I would totally buy it. A good portion of the humor/jokes feel dated, never getting beefed up like they should have. Once shit gets chaotic, our characters are jumping all over the place, speaking and behaving in a way that would make you believe they've been in survival mode for months, but in reality, it's only been minutes. I know we're talking about a very outlandish idea here, but the script lacked a lot of common sense and rational. There's also some unforgivably bad CGI that really killed certain moments for me.
However, even though there was a lot I found lacking, there is still plenty to enjoy. A lot of humor missed the mark for me, but there were still laugh-worthy moments. Doug Jones has a bit part as an Abe Lincoln performer who also happens to be a doctor, and his time on screen were hilarious. Hugo Armstrong's character of Chester, the obligatory backwoods hunter determined to track and kill Bigfoot even if it's one of the staff dressed up as the monster, was so successful, it almost felt like he was written by someone else (in comparison to all the other characters). And, one should mention the bloodshed is rather fantastic. When used, the practical effects were very satisfying for gorehounds.
A group viewing would be ideal, but on your own, it's not a waste by any stretch of the imagination. I just wish the script would have been workshopped more.
22. THE STRANGER (2015) - First Time Viewing
A stranger, Martin, strolls into a remote town looking for his estranged wife. Some of the locals aren't too keen on him, including the police, creating a plot that almost resembles First Blood. Martin isn't a war vet like John Rambo, though. He's a vampire.
Channelling the strong sense of isolation and romanticism of Near Dark and 30 Days of Night, The Stranger presents a very compelling and intriguing narrative. It's a simplistic film that has substance and a powerful visual presence, partnered with a tragic, gritty tone and brutality. In other words, The Stranger embodies many qualities I marvel at in vampire films. But - you knew there was a but coming - the acting caused me so much frustration and annoyance, everything I adored was hindered by the performances. Most of the cast is so wooden, devoid of the emotional context the script strives for, while the others overact the fuck out of the material. Luis Gnecco as Lt. De Luca exhibits one delivery the entire film, dialing it in at 11 every chance he gets. Considering he's essentially the main antagonist, he gets plenty of screen time, and it's unbelievably cringe-worthy and distracting. While Cristobal Tapia Montt (Martin) has physical acting chops, his line delivery is underwhelming, withholding the ability to relate to the character.
I cannot express how close The Stranger was to being a favorite vampire film of mine. There was so much catered to my interests, but it just couldn't fully sink its teeth, leaving me feeling frustrated and disappointed.
23. DETENTION (2011)
Have you ever seen a horror/teen comedy/coming-of-age/time travel film before? If you answered no, Detention is just for you! Dare I describe Detention as a mix of Scream of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World? Yes, I think I do dare. A copycat killer from the faux movie Cinderhella slices and dices the students of Grizzly Lake High School. Meanwhile, all the archetypes of your typical teen comedy/drama are in place, and executed perfectly, and there's also time travel.
Detention knows exactly what it is and what it's striving for. It's a hyper-stylized piece for Millennials. The pace is fast, the edits are even faster, and the dialogue flies off the tongues and screen. It's as much satirical as it is a love letter to the genres, and it's unforgiving in how obnoxious it is.
To put it bluntly, Detention is random, chaotic, and schizophrenic - exactly why I'm fond of it. It might be too smart for its own good, to be honest, and it never surprises me when people say they hate it. I can completely understand why this isn't for some. That said, there's so much I enjoy I have no problem spending the afternoon in Detention.
Okay, no more bad puns.
24. THE EXORCIST (1973)
Everything that could be said about this film has been said time and time again, by many people smarter than myself, too. So, we'll keep it short and sweet.
Jason Miller as Father Karras is so fucking good. Obviously, Linda Blair gets most of the attention for playing Regan, to which I understand why. But the film wouldn't be half as great it is without Miller.
The sound design also goes under-appreciated. There is so much going on, not just in the scenes themselves, but the way sound is used in the edit. Yes, they won the Oscar for Sound, and rightfully so! I just feel like the soundscape gets left out of the conversations between fans.
My absolute favorite moment is so small, but is also the most horrific moment to me. When Father Dyer kneels next Karras' body, grabbing his hand, and asking him for his last confession, the way Karras' mangled fingers slowly try to squeeze Dyer's hand is just incredible. That, to me, is truly haunting. I supposed I should have given a spoiler warning, but seriously. If you're reading this and haven't seen The Exorcist, there's something wrong.
25. COME BACK TO ME (2014) - First Time Viewing
Sarah and Josh have quite the lovely life. Sarah is getting her grad degree and doesn't work, while Josh is a blackjack dealer at the casino, and the two of them live in a super nice house. Yeah, that didn't really make much sense to me, but moving on. Sarah starts waking up in a sweat, not remembering going to bed. Sometimes even in other rooms with questionable surroundings. Her friend passes them off as night terrors, but the terror grows stronger and stronger.
I went into Come Back To Me rather blind, not knowing much more, and that greatly played to my benefit (which will lead me to not saying much now). The mysterious aspect is what made this watch compelling, and writer/director Paul Leyden did a nice job unfolding the enigma, the mediocre at best acting didn't prevent me from losing interest. Not to mention the opening scene was pretty intense, I had to know what the hell was going on. Without giving much away, the balls this film has to end the way it did alone deserves respect and admiration.
If you like your horror a suspense-filled riddle, I would certainly give Come Back To Me a shot. It's worth your time.
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983)
I have not seen this since I was a young little lad. On top of that, I cannot even tell you the last time I watched a Disney movie. It has to be at least five, eight, maybe even ten years??? I'm really not sure.
A mysterious traveling carnival comes to small town Illinois during the middle of the night, and by morning, the party has begun. The locals flock to the carnival, Mr. Dark's Pandemonium Carnival to be exact, and start to notice their dreams coming true. That Mr. Dark sure is questionable, though, and so are many of the carnies. In fact, once you look past the dreams coming true and other glamour (like our lead and his best friend do), you start to realize the whole damn carnival is shady. Something is just not right.
Make no mistake about it, this is a well-made film. It looks nice as hell, the acting is very strong (especially with child actors, mind you), the sets, locations and wardrobes are impressive, yet nothing truly grabbed me. I just couldn't latch onto anything or anyone to have any sort of connection to the events on screen. Which, in a way, bums me out seeing that I do like Ray Bradbury (who wrote the script based on his book) quite a bit. Yes, a younger audience is clearly the demographic, I fully understand that, the film was just a little tame for my tastes.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to see Pam Grier and some of the visual effects and camera tricks held up quite well. So while it wasn't a horrible watch, there was plenty to appreciate, it just wasn't for me.
THE FINAL GIRLS (2015) - First Time Viewing
Don't you just hate it when the theater you're in starts on fire and you escape by cutting the screen, headed for the exit behind it and wind up in the movie itself? Worst date ever.
That's how The Final Girls plays out, a group of kids find themselves stuck inside the film's version of Friday The 13th, Camp Bloodbath. While inside the movie within a movie, the characters hear the voice overs, the text on screen is three-dimensional, and are limited to the geographical boundaries of the celluloid. Needless to say, this flick is meta as fuck.
Oh, and the main girl (from present day) gets to reunite with her mother who recently died in a car crash, as the mom was one of the actresses in Camp Bloodbath.
This is a very slick film that is sharp and witty, poking fun at the slasher genre and all of its archetypes and cliches. All of the expected notes are hit, mostly in a clever and fairly interesting manner. There are subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, hints to '80s slasher movies, as The Final Girls is certainly a most parody-like love letter.
Much to my surprise, and slight confusion, the film is rated PG-13. Now, I'm not one who insists all horror be rated R, but when you're aping the beloved '80s slasher genre - known for gratuitous violence, gore, and sex - it feels like a huge cop out to cut corners for a rating. While there are a few drops of blood here and there, the kills are tame and kept either off screen or shown at a great distance. The film doesn't greatly suffer without the traditional bloodshed, it feels like slasher light. Their one and only use of "fuck" was pretty good, but seriously, get fucking real and make an R-rated slasher. The tone of this film is all over the god damn place, as well, which was so much more annoying than not having the red stuff. In the first few minutes, we go from over-the-top slasher throwback humor to a touching mom and daughter scene, to tragedy, to teen romance, and straight into dick jokes. Throughout the film, the humor and absurdity ramps up to a fun level, and two seconds later they're trying to tug on your heartstrings. The constant enormous contrast did not work for me, as it felt very unclear what they wanted to be. Did you want to be clever? Did you want to be generic? Did you want to be a slapstick comedy? Did you want to be a slasher film? Or did you just want to attempt to be an edgy Lifetime movie? Because you're pretty much all of these.
If you know and loved the masked killer flicks of yesteryear, it's definitely worth your time. There's enough nods and fun moments to appease the fans, and the novelty makes for a unique experience. I would say Behind The Mask is much more successful, but The Final Girls puts up an alright fight.
MY LITTLE EYE (2002) - First Time Viewing
Would you be able to live in an old house in the middle of the woods with four strangers for six months? Would you consider doing so for $1million? Told through web cameras, five strangers attempt to coast through their own version of Big Brother/The Real World. With one week remaining, secrets and surprises creep in causing a shift in the tide.
For being a small film with one location, My Little Eye succeeds due to acceptable performances (for the most part) and a finely crafted mystery. An injection of tension could have helped, but the whole film was not entirely void of suspense. It was just slightly lacking. Some moments were questionable, some were predictable, yet there were enough surprises to keep my attention. Speaking of surprises, a young Bradley Cooper shows up for a few minutes and a few thrusts.
Co-writer James Watkins penned and directed Eden Lake, one of the most intense films of the last ten years, and while My Little Eye is nowhere near the excellence of Eden Lake, it does work for what it is and rounded out with a satisfying conclusion.
Total Films Watched: 28 (of 40)
First Time Viewings: 19