The Neon Demon

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{cross-posted to Three Imaginary Girls} 

“I know how I look. What’s wrong with that?”

Last night I finally go to see Nicolas Winding Refn’s epic shock porn horror art piece, The Neon Demon, which many of the people at Cannes deemed as “trash,” and walked out of. A few people in the theater with me last night for the preview screening also walked out — however, thought Refn’s film was pretty brilliant both visually and in its hilarious skewering of a problematic industry I’ve never been able to understand or embrace.

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Room 237

Room237 poster{Cross-posted to Three Imaginary Girls}

“This is not “The Making of The Shining.” This is not a biography of Stanley Kubrick. This is: After the film has left the filmmaker’s hands, how does the audience grapple with it and make sense of it?” ~ Director Rodney Ascher from an interview with Vulture

After viewing a film (in particular, viewing a film over and over and … over) some fans latch onto the tiniest details, stringing them into clues that they then weave into a larger meaning that is personally important to them—and then convince themselves that the Director obviously meant that ONE THING.

In Room 237, the film in question in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and those “one” things include The Holocaust, the massacre and betrayal of the Native Americans, something-something about a Minotaur and the maze, an analysis of impossibly constructed rooms and hallways, a look at the interesting imagery created when it’s played backwards and forwards at the same time, and awestruck respect at how the whole thing is inlaid with hidden meanings. (more…)

The Pact

{Cross-posted to Three Imaginary Girls

While I think overall The Pact is a solid thriller, it’s also one of those movies that’s way better if you don’t know too much about it.

Sisters Nichole and Annie don’t exactly agree on how to handle their mother’s death—but when Nichole goes missing, Annie (Caity Lotz – who had a memorable role in Mad Men as Anna Draper’s niece, Stephanie) returns to their childhood home to find out what happened. After a few spooky encounters, a local detective (holycrap. that. is. Casper Van Dien.) starts looking for the truth. And that’s when shit gets all kinds of crazy. (more…)

Splinter

Man oh man. I finally caught Splinter the other day due to my friend Carl’s recommendation and HOLYCRAP WAS IT AWESOME.

It’s about a couple who gets kidnapped by an ex-con – only to end up trapped inside a gas station by the craziest parasite ever put on film. I mean, this thing is BRUTAL. Spiky, and brutal. I can’t really say anything else without ruining what happens, but this thing has some of the best special F/X and bloody gore I’ve ever seen. Just a really fantastic little horror film.

Definitely recommended! Check it out.

The Shape wishes you a Happy Halloween

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

For my “trick” today, I got to experience catastrophic hard drive failure, and have spent all day trying to restore and back-up files. So uh, yeah. I’m behind on my 31 Days of Horror postings – and there’s no chance of catching up tonight.

It’s cool to just pretend November is still October, right?

Hope everyone is enjoying their day with rad costumes, gory films, and lots of sugary sweets! I’m off to squeeze in a viewing of Carpenter’s classic – and then do some more work before I turn in.

Demons, Italian Style

Continuing with my Italian horror theme – Demoni And Demoni 2 are two more films I was obsessed with in my teen years. Shortly after discovering Argento, I did some research (which in those pre-internet days meant visiting a lot of video stores and talking to people FACE TO FACE. Shocking, I know) that he produced both of these Lamberto Bava-directed films. They still suffer from bad dubbing and seriously dated settings, but the Demon makeup is awesome enough that you honestly won’t care.

Demoni (Demons) was filmed in 1985 and takes place almost entirely in a theater. After one of the theater goers accidentally scratches her face on a creepy mask in the lobby, she becomes a demon that bites her friend, who also turns into a demon, and so and so on and so on. The Demons in this movie – and the sequel – operate much like Zombies. Puss-filled, falling apart, pointy-teethed zombies.

What I think is pretty cool about this one is that even though it’s one location, there are enough surprises and gory attacks that you’re distracted enough not to get bored. I still think the transformation where the chick busts right through the movie screen looks really awesome. Plus, the soundtrack is full of songs by Billy Idol, Motley Cure, Rick Springfield, and Go West. RADICAL. 

Demoni 2 (Demons 2) was filmed in 1986 and takes place in a fancy high-rise building called “The Tower”. This one doesn’t make one damn bit of sense, but you gotta roll with it for the pay-offs (of which there are many). There’s a film-within-a-film thing happening here, wherein a bunch of teens are exploring the ruins of the theater from the first film and wake up one of the demon corpses they stumble over. Sally, who’s having her 16th birthday party, has an emotional breakdown after learning that her punk ex-boyfriend is on the way over, and retreats to her room to pout and watch the teens on her TV.

Wait. What? It turns out several people in the high rise (including Asia Argento in one of her first film roles) are watching this group on film, even though there doesn’t seem to be a guy with a camera filming them, but uh, whatever. Sally happens to be watching at the unfortunate resurrection moment, so she becomes possessed by the demon, and then starts slaughtering party-goers left and right – who turn into more Demons and start terrorizing and infecting everyone in the complex, including a pregnant woman, a band of bodybuilders and aerobicizers (!!?), and a high class hooker.

If this sounds over-the-top crazy, it is. They even turn a child into a demon, which morphs into the stupidest looking puppet ever. But even with its flaws, this one is totally (laughably) great. AND the soundtrack is more new wave: featuring The Smiths, The Cult, Dead Can Dance, and Art of Noise. Oh….right. That’s why I loved this movie so much in the 80s!

These are both filled with so many ridiculous moments that I’d definitely recommended settling in with a group of friends and some booze for a marathon with lots of commentary…but hold off on any food. The demony goodness includes enough puss and blackish vomit to kill pretty much anyone’s appetite.

Argento’s Le tre madri

I’ve been a huge Argento fan ever since I rented Suspiria in my teens, and at some point in the late 80s/early 90s, Argento, Bava, and Fulci films were the only horror movies I would watch. To play a little bit of catch-up on 31 Horror Films in 31 Days – I decided to re-review Le tre madri – his Three Mothers Triology.

Suspiria (1977) 
Arguably the most beloved of the trilogy, Suspiria is a trippy, blood-soaked Giallo masterpiece. American ballet student Suzy Bannion arrives at a famous German dance school to be trained by the best, and the murderin’ starts right away. Turns out the school is run by a fierce coven of old-lady witches who worship Mater Suspirorum (The Mother of Sighs), and by worship – I mean, constantly kill girls in interesting ways so the mother can have their blood? Or something. It’s not really clear, but the technicolor sets on this movie, combined with the buckets of bright orange-y red splatter, are fantastic. 

Inferno (1980) 
While the second film in the trilogy has some really great moments, by and large it’s sadly, pretty boring. In this one, the action jumps back-and-forth between a sister in NYC and her brother in Rome, trying to unveil the mystery of The Three Mothers. Rose, in New York, thinks she might be living in the home of Mater Tenebrarum (The Mother o Darkness), so naturally she decides to explore the flooded basement in the pitch black to find out more – which is the scariest part of the movie!) There’s a decent amount of stabbing and of course, fire, but it would behoove you to liberally use the fast-forward button on this one. It’s just…missing the tenseness that Suspiria has.

La terza madre (2007) 
The Mother of Tears, which took almost 30 years to come to fruition (what!) is the ultimate “I’m gonna torture my daughter mercilessly” Argento film, starring his drop-dead-gorgeous daughter, Asia, as an art restoration student who accidentally opens a box, releasing the spirit of Mater Lachrymarum, which basically starts a chain reaction of some of the crazy shit I’ve ever seen on film. Dying babies, insane torture instruments, bands of witches that look like they stepped out of a Goth club in the 80s, orgies, corpses, and naked women everywhere. It’s cheesy as hell, but the gore is almost non-stop, so it’s totally great, and a nice capper to the trilogy.

For those that haven’t seen Argento’s work before – note that all these releases are dubbed, and really badly, so that definitely ads a kitschy factor to it. Despite their faults, though, these are still some incredible pieces of art. No one knows how to do a kill scene quite like this guy.

I highly recommend you check these out (in order, of course) for a different take on the horror genre.

The Thing (redux)

Got a chance to see the new version of The Thing today, and while it’s technically a prequel (showing us what happened to the Norwegian station from the first film), it’s really more like “premake”…or a “requel”.

That is to say, there was really no reason for this movie to be made, at all, because you can watch John Carpenter’s The Thing and be just as entertained. Actually, even more entertained.

It’s set in the same year (1982), in the same place (Antartica), with the same monster. The only thing different is the cast of characters – and even then, they’re not really all that different. Sure, they tried to vary a few things, but what you have here is almost exactly the same formula and plot. And I could swear they used the same sets…those buildings looked awfully familiar.

There are some pretty killer special F/X, and I appreciate that the alien had consistency in its form and function (re: the 80s film), but honestly, you guys. I’m just not even sure it’s worth your money.

Recommended only if you’re intensely curious. Otherwise, spend your dollars buying Carpenter’s on blu-Ray instead.

Ginger Snaps 2

31 Horror Movies in 31 Days Two-for-1!
Well, more like two in one day, since I missed yesterday’s post. 

I know I’ve talked about my love for Ginger Snaps before, but I feel like it needs even more appreciation, along with its sequel: Ginger Snaps: Unleashed.

Ginger Snaps is a fantastic little horror film, blending humor, teenage girl angst, and bloody horror into a very enjoyable ride. Katherine Isabelle is perfect as Ginger, delivering each sarcastic line with deadpan joy, and acting the crap out of the terror of becoming a werewolf. Emily Perkins as Brigitte also totally kills it as her awkward younger sister.

Ginger Snaps 2  lets Perkins really shine by making Brigitte the main character, and also introduces Tatiana Maslany as Ghost, who is so amazing in this film it’s almost unreal. This is one of those rare instances where the sequel is as good as the original — and it also has a very different, much darker tone. I don’t want to give away anything, but at the end of this one, my mouth was hanging open in disbelief.

Two different directors managed to turn out a couple of great werewolf films that are just begging for a double-feature night. Rent ‘em both for bloody, gory goodness!

Just skip the third installment – a prequel that’s weak and uninteresting.

Hatchet II

I thoroughly enjoyed Adam Green’s Hatchet, and I was really looking forward to seeing the sequel – especially because of all the “banned from theaters” controversy – but also because, HELLO: Tony Todd rules.

Unfortunately, Hatchet II didn’t quite live up to the hype.

[SPOILERS] It started out really strong, picking up right where the first movie ended with Danielle Harris’s character, Marybeth, struggling to free herself from the grasp of deformed murderer Victor Crowley. Director Green moved right into the gross-out horror, which involved a guy being dragged across the floor by his own entrails, and Green’s trademark buckets of bloody splatter. I laughed, I cried. It was perfect…

Enter Tony Todd, reprising his role as Reverend Zombie – and then it’s about 50 minutes of exposition, planning, and well, frankly, boring, boring, boring until we get to some more death. Sorry, but that is just too damn long to keep me hanging in a movie that’s made with a tongue-in-cheek plot.

I think it’s pretty easy to pinpoint the exact scene where the MPAA said “Ohhhhh NO. No way, you are not releasing that.” Which is pretty silly, really, because (like in the first film) the gore is so ridiculously over-the-top that there’s no way any of it looks real. But hey, they made Clive Barker trim the knife-to-the-rat scene in Hellraiser, but left the hooked face-off maneuver intact, so we all know they’re cracked anyway.

I’m not saying the F/X aren’t hilarious and great, because they are (I love the excessive amounts of blood spray!) – the last scene, in particular, is pretty damn fantastic – they just took an awful long time to get there. The first film clicked things along at a pace that made sense, so the gory pay-off was even more awesome.

Still worth a watch just because I appreciate Green’s work (which reminds me that I need to address Spiral sometime). Just don’t be afraid to use that FF button…

Oh, and Tony Todd still rules. Of course.