Friday, July 24, 2009

Can You Survive A Horror Movie?

An interesting proposition, isn't it? I know that we all watch horror movies and think to ourselves, "If that were me, I would totally __________. I would definitely survive this." I can't blame anyone for thinking that, mostly because I do that all the time. The fact of the matter is that most of us probably wouldn't survive if we were being stalked by an unkillable murderer with super strength. We would do the same things as all horror victims: run up the stairs instead of out the door, try to hide instead of running away, or fall down as we run away (the last one is relevant to me as I am 6'3" and uncoordinated at best). Luckily for me, I have read something that will help me survive:

I got this book from Amazon a bit ago and read it cover to cover a couple of times (it's a pretty fun and simple read). I have to give it to Seth Grahame-Smith, he knows his stuff on how to survive a horror movie. The book breaks it down on how to survive each sub-genre and how to keep yourself in one piece. It gives advice on how to dress (sexy clothes = bad, parkas = good), how to convince a cop to believe you (a bloody limb is best), and even on how to defeat the mildly inbred killer that's stalking you (shiny things and moonshine). Although with that last entry, I think the most effective way of killing them would be Henry Rollins, a bow and arrow, and explosives, but hey, that's just me.

The book does a good job of introducing you to the "terrorverse", or the universe that horror movies exist in. In this universe, it's night time about 20 hours a day and you have very little chance of survival. Things are seen through blue filters at night as you walk through abandoned neighborhoods inhabited by the undead. In the terrorverse, everything is working against you except for this book. It's an interesting concept and the screenwriter is your God in this universe. You had better be aware of cliches and warnings in your world or you will not survive!

Overall the book is a great little read. While I didn't entirely agree with him on some of the points, Grahame-Smith does a pretty damn good job of outlining how to survive. And if you are reading this right now with some creepy background noise and things moving outside of your window, maybe you should order a copy now. It might just save your life!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane Review

I recently watched the much hyped All The Boys Love Mandy Lane slasher. I took a little time to digest the movie and decided to write a review about what I thought. So, let's hear what the hype is all about, shall we?

The movie opens with a scene at a party where Mandy Lane and her male friend are hanging out with people that are far more popular than they are. The male friend is made fun of to no end, but Mandy is hot, so she just gets a bunch of attention from all the jocks at the party. One of them starts arguing with the male friend on a roof and the friend convinces the jock to jump off the roof into the pool below to impress Mandy. Of course, he doesn't make it, dies, and the male friend is thusly ostracized for the rest of high school.

Fast forward a couple of years and we find Mandy is still hot and still the desire of all the boys (as the title would suggest). Mandy goes with some friends to a ranch in the middle of nowhere to have some fun. The ranch hand is there to watch over them, and everything seems to go well. Nothing bad could ever happen from a group of teens drinking in the middle of nowhere, especially when death is already established as a big part of their lives. Well, except for a killer stalking them and killing them off one by one. That could happen, I guess.

And happen it does. The kids are stalked by none other than the male friend from the beginning (trust me, it's not a secret in the movie, so I didn't just give anything away) and they are killed in fairly gruesome ways. And then, in a great finale, something twist-like happens that you will never see coming (or maybe you will like I did)!

Cinematography: I have to hand it to the movie, Mandy Lane is well shot. It's got some good camerawork and interesting shot angles. The color palette is intriguing, mostly skewing towards the yellows and browns, giving it a very washed out look. It's an artistic looking movie, and that makes it pretty easy to watch. However, it isn't anything I haven't seen before or been done better recently. It was fun to watch, but it wasn't revolutionary. However, it was pretty exceptionally well shot for a horror movie, so it gets 4 out of 5 for Cinematography.

Execution: It's a slasher film. That involves teens doing drugs/alcohol and getting picked off by a stalking killer. We're not breaking new ground here. It was a good slasher though, and it held some conventions pretty well. The characters are pretty cookie cutter high school stereotypes (jocks that only want girls, girls that only want sex from popular boys, one druggie friend that doesn't really fit), but you are supposed to dislike them. It succeeds in making you root for the right people, that's for sure. The acting is ample, but not exactly Oscar-worthy. However, they aren't reading Shakespeare, so it works for the material at hand. It was kind of a bland offering at times, engaging in others, so Mandy Lane gets 3 out of 5 for Execution.

Sub-Genre Comparison: It's pretty well documented that I am not a huge slasher fan, so I wasn't entirely excited to watch this movie. I did make it through, though I would rather have watched Cold Prey or The Cottage. Mandy Lane is better than most standard slasher fare and it's not a remake, so it has that leg up on most of the competition. As far as recent slashers, it's a good entry. As far as comparing it to Halloween or Friday the 13th (originals), it can't compare. The filmmakers did a good job, but it was not a movie that I am going to be striving to watch over and over like Carpenter's Halloween. All things considered, it was better than most, so Mandy Lane gets 3 out 5 for Sub-Genre Comparison.

Production Value: This movie looks much better than most and you can't tell the budget by looking at it. The sets are great and the ranch is an interesting setting to say the least. The blood/gore was quite well done and not over the top. The kills weren't anything to write home about, but they looked good and so did the aftermath. It didn't look too CGI or anything like that, so logically it should hold up pretty well in the future. The movie looks more like a big budget movie than a low budget movie, so it succeeds in that respect. Overall, it earns a respectable 3 out of 5 for Production Value.

Scares: As far as slashers go, they are about as scary as girl scout troops to me. I mean, a good one can get some tension out there and make some great scares, but rarely does a slasher do that for me. Mandy Lane manages a bit of tension in parts, but overall is pretty stale on the scare front. The characters have a bit of a feeling of isolation, but really, it's hard to keep up when the characters could just run away from the ranch at any moment (and do at one point). Sure, they are in the middle of nowhere, but they never really feel that alone. The ranch hand manages to save the day a few times, so you don't get the sense of dread that you would normally in a movie like this. It wasn't without it's good scenes though, so I can give it 3 out of 5 for Scares.

And the final tally chalks Mandy Lane up to 16 out of 25. Basically, it didn't make me want to stop the movie, but it didn't make me want to buy it. It was a pretty respectable entry for slashers, but isn't worth the hype of it not being released for such a long time (it has been notoriously held from release for quite a while now). All The Boys Love Mandy Lane was a good movie to watch, but I don't really want to watch it again. I can't stand most twist endings, but this one was okay. It wasn't like The Sixth Sense, but it wasn't bad enough to do a Pointless Twist Endings entry on it. I would say if you like slashers to see it, but you can wait for it to be legal to obtain.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Evil Things Reminder!

The screening is tonight! See this movie! For the information, see my post a couple below this one!

Hollywood Horror

As any movie person will tell you, horror has become a much more prevalent genre in the last 10 years, largely due to the success of the Scream movies (and a few others). However, for some reason, this has not really improved the number of quality horror movies that have come out in the years since. Well, at least not the horror movies that Hollywood releases. The majority of major American horror movie releases are pretty terrible, usually very watered down and bland (and often times painfully un-scary). With a few notable exceptions (Cloverfield, Quarantine, The Ring, Dawn of the Dead, Drag Me To Hell), most of Hollywood's horror movie entries have fallen very flat.

And the worst part is that I keep going to see them, thinking that they might actually be good. And I am often very disappointed. There's the upcoming release Orphan that I will undoubtedly see, but I have a feeling I will be disappointed. But it's the same principle I take with the straight to DVD horror that I pick up and watch unknowingly: I will gladly wade through several godawful Hollywood pictures to find the one that is actually worth watching. So, on that note, I will give you a few recent duds and some alternatives to watch instead. Hopefully this helps you in your quest for good horror!

*I tried to stay away from remakes, but it's harder than I thought*

Hollywood Dud: The Unborn
Problem with it: Aside from the fact that Odette Yustman is quite attractive, this movie has very little going for it. Sure, Gary Oldman is in it, but he can't stop this trainwreck. It's extraordinarily predictable and not scary in the least. It takes a nice premise and squanders it with shots of Yustman jogging (how do you squander something with that?). It basically stumbles through a story that you don't care about and ends poorly.
What you should watch instead: If you are into freaky kids and evil spirits, there's always Dead Birds or The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Or if you are in a classic mood, try The Omen for a creepy kid overdose (the original movie, not the travesty of a remake).

Hollywood Dud: Skinwalkers
Problem with it: Yes, I actually watched it. I can't even begin to tell you how poorly acted and blase this movie was. Skinwalkers was like watching a high school werewolf play with a big budget. It was an interesting story idea, but it was an uninteresting movie.
What you should watch instead: Dog Soldiers and Black Sheep are both much better were-animal movies than this one was. Weird how they are both foreign...

Hollywood Dud: Pulse
Problem with it: Another bland Japanese re-make with a cast from the CW network (Veronica Mars, Reaper), the movie sucked the life out of the original. There was no chemistry with the cast and the effects were needlessly apparent. They could have made much scarier ghosts with simpler effects. Most of the time, simpler is better for ghosts. Every once in a while an elaborate ghost does well (The Devil's Backbone), but in general, simple effects make things seem more real.
What you should watch instead: The Signal. Same basic principle (electric devices make shit go crazy), but it's well acted, funny at parts, and all around a blast to watch.

Hollywood Dud: Prom Night
Problem with it: Stop with the remakes. It was another poorly acted/written affair with characters you didn't care about. It's a formulaic slasher with pretty uninteresting deaths in it. Just don't see it.
What you should watch instead: The Midnight Meat Train is one of my favorite slasher flicks of all time. Wildly inventive and crazily artistic, just see it.

Hollywood Dud: Mirrors
Problem with it: Alexandre Aja, a great director, made this crap unfortunately. It was watching Jack Bauer yell at inanimate objects for an hour and a half. The jaw ripping scene was pretty intense and well done, but other than that nothing was memorable. I am hoping Aja does well with his upcoming Piranha 3-D.
What you should watch instead: Looking for a spooky ghost tale? Wind Chill or even The Messengers should serve your purpose quite well.

There you go. I just don't get why everyone of the Hollywood movies feels the need to be shot through a blue filter to make everything seem, well, bluer. It makes no sense to me. Any thoughts?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Minority Retort

So, aside from wanting to use the clever pun in the title, I do actually have a plan for this post. I've been watching a lot of horror lately (as always), and I got to thinking about the amount of minorities that die in horror movies. They really don't last that long, especially the black people. And why is that? Is it because of good old fashioned racism?

Pictured above: Racism.

Well, it probably is racism that drives it. Or it was, and now it's just become the thing to do. But there have been many movies that have shed that racism. Take for instance the original Night of the Living Dead that I have pictured above. In that movie the Ben lives until the end. And then gets shot. By racist rednecks.

Okay, bad example.

But NOTLD did bring race to the front with a powerful message. A message that rang so true, today minorities are still getting killed off in horror. Damn, did we learn anything?

Now, I'm not trying to solve any of the race problems in horror movies, nor am I going to try to pinpoint exactly where they came from and why they persist, but I am going to say that I love seeing a minority live through a horror movie. It's nice to see that some movies eschew the tradition. Examples:

Who survived?: The Jewish guy.
How big of a step forward?: Ehhh, he's not really a super stereotype, but definitely Jewish. It's not a huge step forward, but at least we see the minority live.

Deep Blue Sea
Who survived?: Ladies Love Cool James (or LL Cool J to those not in the know)
How big of a step forward?: Initially, I would say a huge step forward because he is a pretty big stereotype. But the same movie also killed Samuel L. Jackson and Stellan Skarsgard earlier. But 1 out of 3 is a lot better than most movies.

The Grudge
Who survived?: Actually, this time, Sarah Michelle Gellar dies. Bear with me on this...
How big of a step forward?: So this time, we get to see Gellar as the minority white person in Japan, therefore it's pretty huge because the white person dies instead of the Japanese (well some of them too). But in our aryan eyes, she's the norm. It's a big step forward to feature the white person in an American horror as the minority. However, she still dies, so not a really big step forward.

Who survived?: Paxton, played by Jay Hernandez
How big of a step forward?: While he is pretty Americanized, he's still latino looking, so that's a huge plus. And to top it off, he not only survives, but gets back at a bad guy. Of course, he's killed off right away in Hostel II, but that's not the movie I'm talking about! It is a continuation of the same story though, and I guess that means he dies. Hmmm, methinks I need a different movie.

Tales from the Hood
Who survived?: A lot of black people
How big of a step forward?: Black people survive this movie in droves. On the other hand, black people make up most of the cast. And we see some white cops get killed. And some other white people. So in reality, the black people are the majority and the whites are the minority. And a lot of whites die. So while black people survive, they aren't the minority. This is getting harder and harder...

Really, I can't come up with any movies that have thrown off the stats of minorities dying in horror. There are glimpses, but most of them are either very white acting minorities or a movie nearly entirely populated with minorities (in which case they cease to be minorities). I guess the one thing that can give solace to the minorities in horror out there is that there are a lot of white people dying in all of these movies as well. While minorities have a lower percentage of survival, the sheer number or white people that are killed outweigh the minorities by approximately tenfold. Can anyone come up with a movie that effectively throws the notion of being a minority is a death sentence?