The Screaming Minis: Exists

the blair sasquatch project

the blair sasquatch project

Exists
Director: Eduardo Sánchez
Released:
2014
Starring: Samuel Davis, Dora Madison Burge, Roger Edwards
Running time: 86 minutes
Genre: Horror

I got a chance this past weekend to see a sneak pre-release showing of the new found footage Bigfoot flick by Eduardo ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ Sánchez. It was another one of those mystery showings, like last year, when I caught The Bay as part of a local event, but oh my god, was it so much more satisfying. Sánchez has a pretty good handle on this found footage stuff, unsurprisingly, him being a big part of why the sub-genre(?!–if that’s even what you’d call it) is as big as it is now. He uses a lot of GoPro footage in Exists, very similar to the way he used GoPros in the “A Ride in the Park” segment of V/H/S2 and while that’s probably my least favorite part of V/H/S2 that has more to do with it being a rehash of a zombie-outbreak type story, and zombie stories, as much as I love ’em, are currently in a state of heavy over-saturation. But Sasquatch … ! That’s a whole ‘nother story. And I love ‘squatches! That isn’t in my About Me, but it really should be. I’ve been a crypto-fiend since I was a tyke watching In Search Of… way back when. And I’ve already talked on here about being a big fan of found footage, so  I was all in with this flick.

Simple set-up: a group of five adventure seekers head out into the woods to visit the old cabin their uncle owns and has mysteriously decided he never wants to use again. On the way up there, driving late at night on a road in the middle of nowhere, they hit something with their car. They didn’t get a good look at what it was, but assumed it was some animal based on a little fur stuck on the car and went on their way. Spoiler: it was not a deer or a raccoon they hit and now something in the woods is feeling really, really pissy.

Now,  to get out of the way my one–well, not complaint, but I guess the one thing I can’t praise the film for–the protagonists in this movie, while not entirely unbelievable (except for a few really stupid decisions) or unlikeable, are mostly meh. They’re a couple of mostly generic pretty girls with little to do other than be pretty and be afraid, a pair of extreme dudes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Mountain Dew commercial, and one stoner than insists on filming everything for Youtube views. You may not passionately hate these people, but I doubt anyone is going to love them either.

That antagonist though! Look, in a Bigfoot flick, the character that really matters most is the critter himself and that’s where Exists really delivers.

I once saw a gorilla at the zoo get angry at and jealous of another gorilla being given Kool-Aid sips on the other side of the habitat. He launched himself from his sitting spot so fast that he kicked up a giant cloud of dirt behind him Roadrunner-style, traveled the whole length of the enclosure–maybe 60 to100 feet or more (I’m terrible at judging distances)–in a split second, and two-hand fist-smashed the other gorilla on the back so hard that you could feel the vibrations from the impact in the ground. That hit rocked the whole area. The Bigfoot in Exists reminds me of that gorilla. This is not the Bigfoot of Harry and the Hendersons. Boggy Creek, this ain’t. It isn’t even Night of the Demon. This thing is terrifying. It is not a slow, lumbering, idiot beast. It is fast, powerful, smart, and scary enough to make Jane Goodall pull a Cartman. “Screw you guys, I’m going home.” This monster makes you think of early man interacting with other apes and wonder how he ever managed to survive long enough for there to be an us now. Exists is like Orca in the woods with a Bigfoot (now that would be a bitchin’ game of Clue,) because killer whales are useless in forests. Even if you hate the kids in the movie, you will still feel for them when this angry creature comes running out of the woods at them, whooping and hollering, because you can’t see that thing charging toward the camera and not be aware of how you would just involuntarily flood the Earth with poo if it was coming after you.

Exists, as I’m posting this, has just been made available On Demand and in select theaters. You should be able to find info about screenings and where to find it On Demand over on the Exists Facebook page. If you’re only going to watch one Bigfoot movie this Halloween, this is the one that will make you plotz. Also, you’re a slacker. Really? Just one Bigfoot movie? I am scorning you so hard right now.

Oh, and there’s a very objectionable scene with a Burning of the Beard. It is not even cool. Not. Even. Cool. I’d have killed everyone before the ‘squatch ever could. Beard-o-philes, you will cringe. They need a trigger warning on the poster.

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The Screaming Minis: V/H/S

The Screaming Minis is an experiment in short (well, shorter) individual reviews, as way for us to talk a little more about the other movies of note we’re watching but without the involved, in-depth discussion delivered as a duo. The name comes from The Screaming Mimi, the 1949 pulp novel by Frederic Brown that inspired Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

do not adjust the tracking

V/H/S
Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Chad Villella & Justin Martinez)
Released:
2012
Starring: Lane Hughes, Adam Wingard, Hannah Fierman, Joe Swanberg, Kate Lyn Sheil, Jason Yachanin, John Walcutt, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Chad Villella
Running time: 116 minutes
Genre: Horror

As a fan of found footage, anthologies, and Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) and Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead) I’d been looking forward to this movie. With its recent release to VOD and a few other outlets, I had to check it out.

A group of hipster thugs that spend most of their time doing crimes, being dicks, and making a buck with sharking videos are hired to steal a VHS tape. They burgle their way into the home of the man in possession of the tape, only to find him dead in front of a mass of screens and a mountain of cassettes. As they split up to search the rest of the house, one member of the group begins reviewing the tapes. In the first, some brosephs try to pick up some drunk girls and secretly record their own personal porn. They’re moderately successful, but probably wish they hadn’t been. The second tape is a travelogue of a young couple second-honeymooning in the American Southwest who picked precisely the wrong motel to stay in. In the third segment, a girl takes a group of new friends on a camping trip. Always a bad idea. Tape number four contains the webcam conversations of a man and his troubled friend who believes her house is haunted. And the final tape shows a group of guys heading out to a Halloween party. They may’ve gotten the address wrong.

I wasn’t sure whether I liked V/H/S or not after first watching it. I knew there were scenes I enjoyed and I liked the overall concept, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about its execution as a whole. It’s flawed: Some of the tapes work better than others. The third segment, “Tuesday the 17th,”  isn’t quite as good as the rest, though it does have its moments. Some of the characters (especially the dudes in the framing sequence and the first tape, “Succubus”) are EXTREMELY annoying. I think “10/31/98” went a little too crazy toward the end. It features a haunted house and with hauntings, subtle is usually better. Think The Haunting (1963) versus The Haunting (1999).  And the second and fourth tapes don’t provide much of explanation and can be a little disorienting.

The day after seeing it, I tried to describe the movie to, shockingly, someone who wasn’t Fisty. (I still feel guilty.) I found that there was a lot that I wanted to mention. There are plenty of freaky little details as well as big payoffs from each segment. That’s when I started to feel that there was more about the movie that affected me than I was immediately aware. Just hearing about the stories from the movie secondhand had that someone interested. She wasn’t just listening to the scenes I was describing, she was reacting.

Fulci said his film The Beyond was “[An] absolute film, with all the horrors of our world. It’s a plotless film: a house, people, and dead men coming from The Beyond. There’s no logic to it, just a succession of images.” I think V/H/S works in the same way. (Not as well as The Beyond. Don’t think I’m praising it THAT highly.) It’s a collection of nightmare clips not designed to flesh out every detail, make perfect sense, or just go from story point A to story point B, but rather to tap into our fears and freakouts. It’s a handful of video equivalencies of the urban legend about the mad man under the bed, pretending to be the family dog, licking the little girl’s hand. This is why just hearing my spoken account of the movie could affect someone. That’s the level V/H/S works on, that Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark level. It does it well and that’s why I’m still thinking about the movie days after watching it. It affected me. It was freaky. It was scary. Bravo.

Also, there was A LOT of nudity … male and female!

V/H/S, while not being great, is still a good found footage anthology whose successes outnumber my nitpicks. Shockingly violent, disturbing, scary, and bizarre, it revels in its own freakiness and the disreputable nature of the genre.

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th, Part VI

NOT IN 3D

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th, Part VI
Director: Tom McLoughlin
Released: 1986
Starring: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen
Running time: 86 minutes
Genre: horror, slasher

Maybe “lives” isn’t really the best word. There is only one thing that Tommy Jarvis fears … Jason. Tommy convinces his Sweat Hog friend Hawes from the group home (he’s still there?) that he has to face that fear, Maury-style. They road trip to Jason’s burial site in the small, rural community of Forest Green (formerly Crystal Lake). Tommy, however, plans on doing more than just confronting his fear: He plans to murder it by torching Jason’s corpse. After digging up the grave, seeing Jason in the casket triggers one of Tommy’s violent episodes and he repeatedly stabs the body with an iron rod, reliving his boyhood trauma of killing Jason. After the cathartic stabby-stabby, he leaves the rod in Jason’s chest and goes for the can of gas, but a sudden blast of lightning strikes the iron pole, Number-5ing Jason back to a semblance of life. Hawes becomes the first of J’s post-life victims, but Tommy escapes, heading into town to warn the people of Crystal Lake Forest Green that Jason is back and more dangerous than ever!

Naturally, when the survivor of two previous mass murders in the area with a common MO bursts into the Crystal Lake Forest Green police station, screaming at the cops about a killer on the loose, back up is called and they investigate immediately. NOT! Sheriff Garris and his deputy (probably Holocaust deniers) dismiss Tommy as a nut, informing him that they changed the name of the town to put all that Jason crap behind them, and then they lock him up for the night. Meanwhile, Jason is killing the shit out of random people on his way back to the camp, which is just about to open for the season.

The next morning Megan Garris shows up at the station with her friends Sissy, Paula, and Cort to ask her dad to look for a couple counselors (dead, d-e-d dead) that never showed up when they were supposed to. Tommy, still in the cell, not being a complete idiot like the CLFGPD, connects the dots and tries to warn them about Jason.  Megan takes notice of how cute the psycho in the cell is, but her dad shoos her and her crew away. He and Deputy Cologne escort Tommy out of town and send him on his  way, warning him not to come back. But Jason is out there and the body count isgrowing. Kids are showing up at the camp. Megan’s friends (and a bunch of other people) are dying. Only Tommy believes. And only Tommy can stop Jason and save those lives, but the authorities are sure that Tommy himself is the killer and none of his books on the occult will help him if he’s locked in a cell or shot full of holes. “He picked the right day to pull this shit. Happy Friday the 13th.”

never a good idea

number 5’s alive!

this should be a tip off for what to expect

Some folks have a strange idea of entertainment. A crowning moment in the series, IV is arguably one of the very best Friday the 13ths. Production values are high, there’s talent on screen and off, and a charming self-awareness. Presaging the meta stylings of New Nightmare and Scream by nearly a decade, Jason Lives reinvigorated a series ailing from slasher ennui and the vitriolic reactions to A New Beginning. It also classes up the joint, sadly being the first Friday the 13th to not suffer cuts due to an X rating, and also being totally lacking in boobs. You win some, you lose some.

Bill: I wonder if any of the post-A New Beginning movies actually happened or if they’re just the increasingly bizarre nightmares of an insane Tommy Jarvis. That would actually explain a lot. The facts in Jason Lives aren’t consistent with the previous movies in the series. Jason is said to have killed Tommy’s mother and friends, but the people that Jason killed in The Final Chapter could hardly be called Tommy’s friends and there is no mention at all of his sister. Oddly, there’s no Mention of Roy-Jason either when Tommy’s history comes up.

Fisty: It basically retcons the end of ANB, dropping the idea that Tommy could be the new killer. And Tommy kind of implies that Jason really did drown way back in the long long ago and has always been supernatural, and not a baghead feral mountain man-child. Plus, they claimed Jason had been cremated in ANB.

Bill: The timing doesn’t add up either. Tommy has aged at least ten years, but Jason’s corpse doesn’t seem to have been in the ground for nearly that long. And, though the age difference between Tommy and Megan and her friends isn’t that great–handful of years, maybe–Megan acts as if the children of Crystal Lake Forest Green were raised believing that Jason was just a legend, despite the presence of an actual grave with a headstone marked “Jason Voorhees,” and the previous films showing TV coverage and newspaper stories about his killing spree(s). Jason Lives fits so poorly with what we know came before that Fisty was wondering whether Jason Livescould be classified as a reboot of the series. But I’m going with dream, not reboot.

lightning is striking again and again and again and again

do i offend?

trailer or carbonite?

Jason Lives starts out with what is essentially a fleshed out rehash of Tommy’s dream of Jason’s resurrection from ANB. What brings Jason back? Lightning. Does that make any sense? Not really. Does it matter? Not really. It was good enough for Frankenstein and Short Circuit, so it’s good enough for Friday the 13th. Undead Jason then starts doing some really amazing things, like punching his fist through torsos and tearing arms off, folding people in half backwards. I guess he was always strong, what with his being able to smoosh people’s heads (he does some more of that in this one, too) and pop their eyeballs out and whatnot, so maybe that isn’t that unusual for him. Dropping down out of the trees like a hockey ninja, however, is definitely new and very un-Jason-like. Oh, and that one kill that always bugs me: Jason smashes someone’s face into the wall of a motor home and, rather than nose breaking, lips pulping, teeth shattering inward, the victims face makes a perfectly intact face-shaped indentation in the metal of the vehicle. (Lightning resurrection? I’m all in, but my suspension of disbelief stops at face-molds.) But if this is all in Tommy’s head as he sits around in a straightjacket somewhere, drooling, then the non-smooshy face-smoosh doesn’t bother me so much.

Fisty: Okay, I’ll give you the Tommy’s Dream theory, which goes a long way toward explaining the rest of the franchise. Despite the presence of the supernatural, this is the last of the “natural” Friday the 13ths, and it very neatly nails shut the coffin of the Tommy Jarvis Trilogy as well as the Wild Child Jason Hexalogy, while opening the door to the Killing Machine Super Jason as Myth Pentalogy … though if we agree with Horace (“Five acts a play must have, nor more nor less.”) then the franchise is off-kilter. Most fans would blame A New Beginning due to it’s Jason-less status, but I would argue that F13 is rather two pentalogies linked by a standalone episode, that being Jason Lives. “What the fuck are you on, Fisty,” you ask? Hormones and classics, my friends. But really, taking a step back and examining this installment and the franchise as a whole from a distance provides some clarity.

F13P1 through P5 chart the development of Jason, and later Tommy Jarvis. It’s the story of how a lovable little mongo kid drowned, his mother took revenge by murdering those she held responsible, and when she in turn was killed, her wild child takes his turn at vengeance, only to be brought down by an intended victim, little Tommy Jarvis, who then himself suffers the consequences of violence and takes refuge in insanity, even possibly becoming a killer himself and continuing the cycle. Again, this is all very classical, with Jason’s saga recalling The Oresteia (I was always kind of pissed that SPOILER Orestes got away with it; Clytemnestra is a much more sympathetic character to my mind).

stroke for bloody stroke

a mask tells us more than a face

going mano a mano

Bill: Whoosh! Right over my head! I get what you’re saying about the linked pentalogies, but I don’t think you can really break the series down that way. For one, you can’t really consider Jason Lives a standalone movie. It would have to be part of the Killing Machine Super Jason cycle and that would throw off your numbers. Plus, wtf? You’re counting Jason X and Freddy Versus Jason? You can’t count those. Neither of them are by title Friday the 13th movies. Jason X is still great and sure the X can mean ten, but it’s still more of a spin off movie than truly part of the F13 series, a Laverne and Shirley to the Happy Days of F13. And lets just ignore FvJ. Seriously, Jason’s afraid of water now? Fuck that movie. That leaves us with nine movies. Traditionally,  they’re broken down into two bookend standalone flicks, Mother at one end and Parasite at the other, with three overlapping trilogies between them, being comprised of One Weekend (2-4), Tommy Jarvis (4-6), and Zombie Jason (6-8). That works, but, if you really wanted to simplify it, I think it makes more sense to break the franchise down into two tetralogies, an ascending tetralogy and a descending tetralogy linked by ANB as the apex movie.

Now, I don’t pick ANB as the standalone because it’s not really Jason, but because it comes between Jason’s death and rebirth, when he existed purely as legend, as a boogeyman to be mimicked, as a sort of Candyman to refer back to one of the captions from our review of ANB. The Ascending Cycle begins in a pre-Jason era with Pamela, has Jason taking the murder-reins from her, moving out into a wider world away from the lake in P3 (IN 3D!!!) and the beginning of The Final Chapter, then returning  to die and become true legend. Then, after A New Beginning, the series begins to move in reverse back to the beginning, although in a more exaggerated way. Jason returns to life, after a movie or so in the immediate area of the lake, goes back out into the world, returns to a child state, then a practically fetal state, and eventually passing into non-existence/Hell and leaving a Jason-less world. And Jason Lives, as the first movie of the Descending Cycle, perfectly signifies this switch into reverse, as it’s basically all of the previous movies played backwards: Tommy comes back to CLFG from Pinehurst, Jason starts off dead and unmasked, returns to life, remasks himself at the beginning of the movie, (Fisty: Notice also that he starts out by killing random folks, then moves on to counselors), the camp opens and Jason ends up in the lake. And, from what I read about what was removed from the script but left in the novelization, Jason’s parent, his father this time, would’ve appeared at the end of the movie.

Fisty: Sooo, Jason is Orpheus? (Bill: No, but he was an Argonaut! *ba-dum-tish*) And wait a minute, they don’t overlap as trilogies, only as tetralogies. Not by my reckoning of the franchise timeline. And even then it doesn’t come out even because you’re jettisoning Jason X. I count what I count! PLUS, FIVE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER. Damn it, math is hard. I have to move on because all these numbers are blowing my mind.

One thing that’s a bit puzzling is the presence of the Jason as Myth in Crystal Lake Forest Green. After all, 2 through 4 went down what, ten years ago? That’s a pretty short timespan for culling a murderous episode from a town’s history (how very NoES) to the point that no one believes it ever happened. How is it that all of the kids were raised on the Jason as Myth and Camp Blood Legend, yet don’t remember any of the news reports of that era? And how do they not even remember that the town was called Crystal Lake only a decade previous? I guess that could be more support for the Telekinetic Tommy Jarvis Dream Theory, since dreams have their own logic and that logic only needs to meet minimum requirements to keep the story rolling. Like how Jason’s grave is different in both ANB and Jason Lives–though I will grant you the former as clearly being a dream gravesite–and especially how Jason in Jason Lives is granted a plot in a fancypants cemetery, while Pamela Voorhees is relegated to a plot on the side of the road in The Final Chapter. Dream logic! Or gaping holes in continuity! You decide!

say, what?

he is risen

this book reads like stereo instructions

Bill: What? Of course the trilogies overlap. But don’t yell at me about them! That’s not my idea! I just mentioned them as  that’s how I’ve seen the series broken down by other people. I like my Ascending/Apex/Descending idea better, mostly because it gives ANB more of the respect and importance that it deserves in the franchise. Five is the magic number, as in PART 5!

I touched on the timing of that Jason as Myth thing a bit before.  It really doesn’t add up.

Fisty: No, it doesn’t. Let me put it to you like this: Jason as Myth is not the same as the Telekinetic Tommy Jarvis Dream Theory (or TTJDT), but is the STORY of Jason that emerges following the events of The Final Chapter, after Jason the Feral Murderous Man-Child is killed by Tommy Jarvis the Civilized Murderous Man-Child (Wait–is Jason Enkidu? Can we really afford another digression?). Once he”s dead, whether it’s his legend being used by Roy or his reanimated bad self slaughtering the innocents, it is Jason-as-Myth, the Jason of legend and folklore, from the mouths of babes. Ten years is not adequate time for Jason the Fact to be erased and replaced by the legend.

Bill: So, if I go by your Jason as Myth theory, does that mean everything from A New Beginning on are just Jason’s legend, stories told around the campfire? Are the further sequels just the increasingly exaggerated re-tellings of Paul’s campfire story from The Final Chapter from after the real Wild-Child Jason’s death? (Hey, whatever happened to Paul?) Wow. That’s like Frank Miller framing 300 as an oral, fireside tale so he can trick out the history however he chooses. And I think it works even better than my TTJDT (Telekinetic Tommy Jarvis Dream Theory).

Honestly, I don’t really think it was a dream or anything like that, just bad continuity. The series has always been pretty shitty at keeping the story straight. That doesn’t really bother me. This movie is probably the worst of the bunch in that regard and it’s full of silliness, like the face smoosh I mentioned earlier. I don’t care. I still adore it. It’s a good thing we spent so long talking about the franchise as a whole because really, I could never review Jason Lives with any kind of objectivity. My attachment to it is even greater than my attachment to The Final Chapter. This movie started getting heavy rotation on cable at just around the time I moved beyond needing someone to watch a scary movie with me. I had seen all the other movies in the series, but I’d watched them with my sisters or my mom or my brothers. I was finally old enough to sit and watch them by myself and BAM! Jason Lives is on every other night. So I watched it every other night. And it’s so damn fun. And so funny! This was also about the time I started buying Gorezone and Fangoria, a very special time in my life.

he’s everywhere you want to be

darling, it’s better down where it’s wetter

rising up to the challenge of his rivals

Fisty: I would love to take this all the way back to Paul. (What happened to him!?) But why do you keep shooting down your own crackpot theories?!

Bill: Because I keep having new ones! Just wait until I suss out my ideas on this new Crystal Lake as a Static Pool in the River of Time/Jason as Nexus of All Realities theory I’m developing.

Fisty: Well, I care not for other crackpot theories on the F13 timeline, and before we spend the entire review arguing over it (seriously, you cannot separate 1 from 2! CANNOT!), we need to move on.

Jason Lives is fun because it’s so self-aware. McLoughlin knows he’s making a movie for horror fans, and that they have certain expectations, so he lives up to them while playing with them. From nods to Universal horror, to breaking the fourth wall, to metareferences like Lizabeth’s “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly,” the film is peppered with meta. Everyone–except perhaps the principals of Tommy, Megan, the Sheriff, and perhaps Jason–is aware of being in a slasher.

McLoughlin takes the humor over the top, bringing the film into parodic territory. The silly face smoosh you mentioned is just one of those ridiculous moments, like the smiley face kill. Personally, they take it a little too far; I don’t think kills have to be silly in order to be funny, and these are points against Jason Lives in my book. But McLoughlin recovers with the other jokes; I was especially fond of the campers themselves (is this the only F13 to actually feature kids at camp?). The comics and Sartre and No Future boys are probably my favorites. “What did you want to be when you grew up?” They’re no Reggies, but they’re cool little dudes.

we could’ve gone to camp north star, but no

reading material for the cool

reading material for the uncool

Bill: “I think we’re dead meat.” I love those two! And that comic the one sleeping kid has is actually an issue of Heroes for Hire featuring Power Man and Iron Fist, two of the coolest superheroes ever, inspired by Blaxploitation and Kung-Fu movies, respectively. The kids in this (and I think they are the first kids we’ve seen since the first movie) have better taste in reading material than the counselors do. Sissy is reading some lame Men at Play magazine? That’s not nearly as cool as Debbie and her issue of Fango from Part 3. Still, I like Sissy. I liked all of Megan’s group. Cort, especially, got some laughs out of me. Oh, and Nikki … there may not be any noodz in Jason Lives, not even during the sex scene, but a quick google titty search of Darcy DeMoss will be very rewarding. Sadly there’s nothing out there for Jennifer Cooke or Renée Jones. And I liked Farthead Martin, too, even if he isn’t quite as cool as Crazy Ralph.

I didn’t mind the smiley face kill. So the guy’s face just happened to land on a smiley face. So what? At least it didn’t leave a face-shaped impression in the tree. Stupid RV death, ugh. Besides, while there are a few silly kills, you do get some good ones, like the back-crack and a full-on, Zito-style window smash. (Two windows broken and two people defenestrated in Jason Lives, and one exploded door. Perhaps it should be titled Zito Lives?) And Lizabeth’s death (that’s the girl with the VW) is, I think, one of the most upsetting in the franchise. The way she futilely offers Jason her money and credit cards to spare her just makes me really sad. I did miss Jason’s creative body arrangements from the previous films. He did have the presence of mind to stick one head in a parked car, but that’s nothing compared to his old pop-up corpse shenanigans. Though, I suppose, in this movie, no body he left behind could be as gross and gnarly as his own. Ugh, there’s a scene in this sequel that might be, to me, the grossest thing in the franchise. Jason himself gets hit with a boat propeller and the result is that the water looks like bloody, chunky, rotten Jason stew and it always skeeves me out. I’m getting sick just thinking about it and I don’t get sick easily. Maybe I’m weird. Fisty, is that as gross to you? Anyway, I guess that makes up for the lack of gouged eyes and stacked bodies.

have a nice day

don’t leave home without it

does she or doesn’t she?

Fisty: All lakes are gross to me; I just don’t trust water that doesn’t flow. It’s the island girl in me, I guess.

I can’t believe you didn’t mention “The Man Behind the Mask,” though! For what, the first time ever a Friday the 13th movie has a decent soundtrack!? And it’s ALICE COOPER!? Hells to the yeah!

Jason Lives is one of the last hurrahs of the slasher genre before its final, inevitable decline. Though the peak was past, films like Jason Lives  and the same year’s April Fool’s Day played with the audience’s familiarity with the genre. Though its parodic elements may turn off some fans, its reputation as a fan favorite stems from the humor just as much as it does the slick direction and photography, and a talented cast, things that also made it one of the slashers most accessible to non-fans. The climax of an ailing franchise, Jason Lives effectively (though briefly) rejuvenated a dying genre. And it’s just plain fun. 

AfterDark HorrorFest Recaps, Part II: Slaughter, Wicked Little Things, Hood of Horror, and The Reeds

In celebration of After Dark’s annual HorrorFest and their 8 Films to Die For, we’re pounding out a couple of shortie omnibus reviews of eight releases from HorrorFests past.

should be called euthanasia

Slaughter

Fleeing an abusive stalker ex-boyfriend, Faith relocates to a dingy apartment in the big city to find herself and like, do art. While out one night at a club, she meets-cute/creepy sassy Lola, a country girl with a twang this thick and bad luck with men. Lola lives outside the city on an apparently idyllic farm, complete with horses, pond, and slaughterhouse. The latter is operated by Lola’s father and brother, largely shadowy figures who lurk, sneer, and growl at Faith when she comes visiting. After her ex tracks her down, Faith decides to move out to the farm and room with Lola, but she starts to wonder about her new pal when she notices all the dates and sexing Lola has with random men who never show up again, leaving behind valuable personal effects. Faith begins wondering whether pigs are the only things being slaughtered on the farm, but her suspicions lead her to uncover a monster.

Fisty: Slaughter sucks. It just suck, suck, sucks. It’s tedious and totally lacking in the suspense that should be increasing during the painfully looooooong build up. The first forty-fiveish minutes are supposed to develop the characters of Lola and Faith, but it’s so poorly done that I could not have cared less about them. But it just keeps on chugging along to an incredibly anti-climactic climax, never building any sense of urgency or tension. Oh, and it relies on the absolutely lowest common denominator for a cheap end “twist”: child murder. Not for any real reason except they had nothing left to give and wanted to beef it up a bit, leave viewers with something more memorable than the turgid snorefest they’d sat through. Hopewell et alia attempt to deepen their shallow little flick with Statements about Women and Abuse, Women and Friendship, Women and Sexuality, blah blah blah, but it never comes off as more than broseph posturing in WS 101. And to add insult to injury, there’s an almost total lack of gore; the serial killings are all offstage and never more than incidental, and the finale deaths are pretty ephemeral. And the music is TERRIBLE! Don’t bother.

Bill: The first few minutes of Slaughter are constantly going in and out of focus and the camera jerks and jitters around. This is meant, I suppose, to be disorienting, to make the viewer feel like the poor girl being victimized. Maybe it even did make me feel like her, if she was just really, really annoyed at being killed. This is followed by boring driving/moving in scenes with dialog that sounds like it was read from a cue card and written by a 50 year old that wanted to sound hip and a boring club scene that appeared to have been shot in a smoky basement with one strobe light. Then the torture begins! Not in the movie, on my couch, as I realize how much time is left in this flick. (“Eighty five more minutes!?!!”) There’s plenty more to be annoyed by as well. Faith decides to stage an intervention for that sex-addicted slut Lola after seeing her have sex one time with one guy. Ugh. Repression ain’t just a river in Egypt, is it Faith? The establishing shots never quite fit right with the interior shots they switch to, making many of the transitions feel disjointed. Lola’s male family members, who are supposed to be threatening, never seem particularly menacing at all. Neither does Faith’s boyfriend, who should have been a real terror to have made her move to another city to avoid him. The scenes that are meant to be tense just aren’t. You only know that they were supposed to have been tense, because the music indicates that they would have been, had they have been scenes in some other movie. I have recurring nightmares about losing my teeth, so the tooth extraction scenes should have squicked me out, but they didn’t. It was all much too boring. The “disturbing” ending just made me happy. I was elated the whole thing was finally over. There is one thing about Slaughter that is well done and effective: It uses some tricky time distortion effects to make the whole movie seem like it’s occurring in real time. I mean, it’s 96 minutes long, but you will feel like you’ve been watching for days, even weeks!

I am actually angry at Fisty for making me watch this. She knew what is was like and she still let me watch it!

your eastern bloc roots are showing

Wicked Little Things

Superdramatic Old Timey Time! In a mine! Child labor! Tragedy! Flash-forward to the present, where recently widowed Karen Tunny is relocating herself and her daughters Sarah and Emma to her husband’s family’s old homestead deep in Pennsylvania mining country. Despite creepy warnings from a halfwitted hick storekeeper and the complete lack of livability of the house itself, the ladies move in. While Karen pores through scrapbooks and old photos, Sarah kicks it with local teens who mention the “zombies” in the hills, and Emma amuses herself with a new playmate Mary, who just might be dead. Warned to stay in at night by the creepy locals who don’t seem to mind the numerous disappearances int he area, Karne has some gnarly dreams about killer Old Timey children, and a helpful neighbor Mr Hanks paint their door with blood. It turns out the the ghosts of the miner children who died in a collapse haunt the hills as bloodthirsty zombies (!), preying upon any whose blood they don’t share. Karen is in danger because she’s an outsider, but the girls ought to be safe. That is until the presence of William Carlton, last descendant of the rapacious mine owner who caused the collapse riles them kids up. Emma disappears, people get eaten, and it’s all Karen, Sarah, and Mr Hanks can do to try to stay alive.

Bill: Hit Girl! Chloe Moretz makes a pre Kick-Ass and Let Me In appearance here and even says asshole. Seeing as how her calling a few guys cunts in the trailer for Kick-Ass contributed to that film’s success, “Chloe Moretz cursing,” should’ve been the tagline for Wicked Little Things. Another good one would have been, “Scooby Doo without the meddling kids and their dumb dog.” This movie has almost everything an episode of Scooby would need: scary local legend; weird caretaker-type character marking doors with blood; greedy land developer; eerie abandoned mine; revenge-seeking, zombie children standing in the fog with miner’s tools, looking scary… Though, thankfully, the supernatural in WLT is very, very real. The use of all these standard spook story elements are precisely what make the flick work. It has the feel of a real local legend or maybe a good campfire tale. In the beginning of the film, Sarah says that the woods remind her of Sleepy Hollow and she is so right. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow or John Carpenter’s The Fog is exactly what WLT resembles. This would be a fun one to watch around Halloween. My favorite bit of dialog: Hanks, after he’d been asked if he was responsible for the smeared blood on the door, “You don’t have to thank me.”

Fisty: Dude, I totally laughed at that, too. Though it’s cliché after cliché loaded upon cliché, WLT is a pretty neat little flick. It takes bunches of longstanding horror conventions (creepy abandoned house, family relocating after trauma, superstitious locals, etc) and strings them together into a fairly tight package–and what’s more, an enjoyable movie. There’s not a whole lot going on, the script often stumbles (the deathless dialog occasionally approaches the transcendentally inane: “Are you coming?” “Yeah. I mean, sure.”), and there are numerous holes, but it is pretty to look at in terms of scenery (both human and natural), and it keeps moving at a good clip for the most part. The flesh-eating ghosts/zombie things–whatever you would call them–are an interesting touch, not common in Western tradition, and are more than a little disturbing. Overall, a worthwhile genre flick that does what it sets out to do.

bitch IS a movie

Hood of Horror

An animated opening segmizzle, a la Creepshow 2, tiz-ells the stizzle of Devon, a young gangsta who accidentally capped his sister with a stray bullet during a vehicular gun battle. When an emissary from Hiz-ell confronts him with his culpability in her death, Devon exchanges his life and service for that of his lil’ sista. Tasked with gathering souls for Tha Devil, Devon is branded with an HoH, marking him as the Hound of Hell. Switching to live action, the new Hound (played, of course, by the S to the N, double O to the P to the D, O, double G) narrates three ‘hood tales of greed, gore, murder, madness and supernatural mayhem: Crossed Out, featuring Danny Trejo and Billy Dee Williams, in which a young graffiti artist is granted the power to smoke some taggin’ ass fools by simply crossing out their tags; The Scumlord, with Ernie Hudson, Sydney Tamiia Poitier and Brande Roderick, which is a Three Stooges-like story about a privileged, racist, Texan busta who must live with his father’s old ‘Nam unit, all black men, for one year before he can come into his inheritance; And Rhapsody Askew, featuring Method Man, Diamond Dallas Page and Jason Alexander, about a young rapper, SOD, who blows up after meeting a fellow MC named Quan and lets the bitches and bank go to his head.

Bill: I love hood horror, so, naturally, I was excited to watch Snoop’s Hood of Horror and, now, I’m even happier to say that I loved it. The stories are predictable hood fables and there’s no real horror in the movie, at least not any effective horror. If this flick scares you, you really are a mark-ass busta. The production values seem to vary between segments, the script is silly, the whole thing suffers from a shot-on-video feel, and some of the acting is amateurish, if you’re describing it kindly. None of that matters, however, because the movie is still damn fun. If any of the following scenes appeal to you, you will like Hood of Horror: Snoop exploding an annoying chihuahua; a person having caviar forcibly pumped into them until their abdomen explodes; a pint-sized demon vomiting into a punch bowl; a human aerosol can; a gangsta slipping in the beer he just poured for his dead homey, faceplanting his own forty; or Winston Zeddemore pretending to be the lovechild of John Rambo and Jigsaw. Hudson is kind of slumming it with a flick like this, but it’s great fun to watch him. This movie is worth watching just for the awesome cast. None of them give the best or even coolest performances of their lives and they mostly have small parts, but it’s still wonderful to see them all together in one flick. Truly a boon for Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon fans. Snoop has once again proven he deserves his spot as one of my personal heroes by giving me a movie where he delivers the line, “Pretty as a picture. In fact, bitch is a picture.” Fer shizzle.

Fisty: I was kinda disappointed by HoH. It capped the ass of our Hoodrat Horror mini-fest when I was sick last week, and I liked it the least out of the three movies we watched (other entries being Leprechaun in the Hood and Tales from the Hood)–but just barely. I love me a good anthology movie, and I love me some Snoop (because I am the whitest of white girls), but it wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be. Which isn’t to say I didn’t like it. The gore was good, very cartoony and gruesomely fun, but it could have gone further. The humor was the same way, though I thought Snoop nicely channeled The Cryptkeeper. And there were NO TITTIES. There was like a half a side boob that we stared at, trying desperately to discern a nipple, but that was it. How is that even possible in a film with Snoop’s name on it? HoH really needed to be OTT–yeah, you know me. BUT! It had some very strong direction, and surprisingly high production values–and though the stories were somewhat mundane revenge plots, they also weren’t preachy, which was something TftH fell into at the end. Out of all Snoop’s forays into horror, Bones is still best, The Wash is still the most horrific, and Hood of Horrors is just fine.

donna appears nowhere in this film

The Reeds

Late twenty-something couples Mel & Joe and Helen & Chris set up their friend Laura on a blind date with Nick for a weekend boating trip in the Norfolk Broads. Though the expedition gets off to a rocky start when their reserved boat is unavailable, Joe and Chris persuade the crotchety boatman to rent them a different vessel, the Corsair Star. When they arrive at the all but abandoned boatyard that houses the Corsair Star, they find some hooligan/hoodlums hanging about all over the boat. Silent, but for a barking dog, they stare dully yet menacingly at the prospective boaters. Only after Laura chides a lovely redhead for running out in front of her car do they respond, following the redhead’s signal to leave the boat, still as silent as ever. Shrugging off that bit of weirdness, the group set sail, enjoying an afternoon of golden sunshine, wine, and silly antics. As the day progresses, however, they discover their map is woefully out of date, forcing them into uncharted territory. Spying another boat, they head into the reeds after it, but darkness falls and there is still no one else in sight. When a terrible accident grievously injures one member of the party and strands their vessel in the water, they are left vulnerable to the terrors lurking in the reeds.

Fisty: At risk of spoilering The Reeds (and getting a vicious beatdown from Bill), I want to defend The Reeds from detractors who claim it’s a rehash of Triangle. Now, I wasn’t Triangle‘s biggest fan–it was okay, but superobvious–but I don’t see the two as being particularly similar. There are two entirely different sets of circumstances going on in the two movies, and while Triangle approaches the concept from a very psychologically driven, post-modern angle (ha), The Reeds takes an approach that fits in much better with traditional folklore. And the twist ending isn’t all that twisty; too many people misinterpret it, which also leads to the erroneous comparison. Plus, it makes sense and is a conclusion viewers can easily draw from watching the movie. Is that too much? Other than that, The Reeds starts out very pretty and sunshiney, without too much of a sense of impending doom, which I think sometimes movies harp on a bit. The characters are pretty well developed rather than hateable interchangeable ciphers; even the token unpleasant chap isn’t that bad. It’s quietly compelling, and though it does falter here and there, has enough occasional eeriness and energy to keep a viewer’s attention.

Bill: Ponderous, man, really ponderous. The Reeds keeps you engaged. It’s not clear early on what is happening and things are muddied further as the movie progresses and yet more mysterious elements are added to the story. There’s something or some things stalking through the reeds, caged corpses sunken into the water, possible ghosts, untrustworthy locals and even stranger things still. there were a few times that I leaned forward and stroked my beard in thought, trying to figure out how it all fit together. It does, too.  All fit together, I mean. It doesn’t spoon-feed you explanations of how what happens is happening (or happened) but you do see why and when and how each event circles back to affect others. I do think the end is more open to interpretation than Fisty likes to present it. Unlike a lot of whiny bitches on the internet, however, I think this is a good thing. I want to watch the movie again just to see what clues I can spot about the meaning of the ending now that I know what’s going on. That’s not a bad thing, to watch a movie and still have enough interest in it and curiosity about it to want to watch again. Performances and atmosphere, as well as some gore gags, that transcend the film’s low budget, will keep things exciting as you take on the clue-sniffing second viewing.

That pretty much wraps it up for our reviews of Horrorfest movies past, but we’ll be sure to cover a few more next year. Check out this year’s offerings on DVD March 23rd.