9.29.2010

5 Reasons to see Hatchet 2





Hatchet 2 hits AMC theatres unrated on October 1st! Will you be there to show your support? Here's five reasons why you should be out there watching Victor Crowley power up the ol' gas-powered belt sander this Friday.

1) If you're a fan of the first Hatchet, then things look promising. All the gore and camp that made the original so fun are said to be doubled in the sequel. I can't tell you how many times I've re-watched the various death scenes in Hatchet, showing them to friends who were almost in tears from laughter. Now, that's a good time! On top of Kane Hodder and Tony Todd, throw longtime genre favorite Danielle Harris and new genre star AJ Bowen into the mix and you have yourself a formula for success.

2) Are you in the camp that finds Hatchet overrated? Get off any high horse you might be riding and consider this: it was Adam Green's first real feature! (His first was Coffee & Donuts shot for $400, so that hardly counts). Green has been improving with each film he has made. He himself has admitted that he learned a lot since Hatchet, which is something I've heard just about every director say about his or her first few films. Let's see what a new and improved Hatchet looks like this weekend.

3) Support this exciting UNRATED theatrical release! As horror fans, we constantly complain about pseudo censorship from the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and NATO (National Association of Theatre Owners). Commercial viability is the key to any change. Now, we have a chance to show that we will fill the seats, regardless of a MPAA rating. Find out which AMC is playing Hatchet 2 near you!

4) How are you going to welcome in the month of October? Go see an ORIGINAL, INDEPENDENT horror film instead of yet another mass-marketed remake. I'm not categorically against remakes (even if I think remaking a boring Swedish film made only two years ago sounds like a bad idea), but if I have the opportunity to show filmmakers, studios, and distributors that I want to see original horror, I'm going to to do it.

5) Give Adam Green a shot. Even if you don't like Hatchet, or Spiral or Frozen (hey, what's wrong with you?), you gotta' love Green. He's a true lover of the genre and does a lot for his fans. Check out Ariescope pictures if you don't believe me. He's always working on something because he loves what he does. Whether it's a feature film or the hilarious Halloween shorts that he does every year ("Jack Chop" is the best!), Green is someone who deserves a chance to get a real wide release someday.

And don't forget to wear your Hatchet Army shirt. I'll be sporting mine!

9.27.2010

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997): Back to my adolescence


There’s something special about late 90’s horror films. Maybe it’s the alternative rock soundtrack. Or perhaps it’s the unflattering jeans on beautiful girls. Whatever it is, the post-Scream slasher era is a fun one. I’ve always been jealous that I wasn’t alive when some of my favorite slashers hit the cinemas. I like to imagine that my nostalgic feeling when revisiting IKWYDLS is similar to the warm, cozy feeling others get when re-watching Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter or April Fool’s Day. Just like those films, IKWYDLS treads familiar territory, but nevertheless provides interest to the jaded slasher fan.

Featuring the best-looking teenagers to ever grace a small North California…err Carolina town, IKWYDLS is the ideal snapshot of 1997. With Jennifer Love Hewitt as the smart final girl who dresses like a librarian and Sarah Michelle Gellar as the blonde bombshell best friend, male audiences will find a pleasant sight in nearly every frame of the film. And for the teenage girls, good ol’ Freddy Prince Jr. as the humble fisherman boyfriend and Ryan Phillippe as the jock bad boy round out the principle cast. You all know the drill: four friends accidentally run over a dude wearing fishing boots and dump the body. One year later, some dude in a slicker is chasing after them with a hook in hand. But remember, this was penned by the great Kevin Williamson of Scream fame (and don’t forget Dawson’s Creek-blarg!). The plot may be recycled, but the details are carried out surprisingly well, as IKWYDLS takes itself seriously and so does the audience.

"Never tell anyone about Ghost Whisperer, ok?"

The dialogue is well written, the characters are kind of interesting, and the story is infused with some good twists. Williamson’s words bring the occasional chuckle. My personal favorite being a response to Helen’s hair being chopped off in the night--“Why did he make coleslaw on Helen’s head?” Of course, Williamson is also good at making us feel for the characters, even when they’ve done some bad things. Some of my favorite moments are when Julie returns home after a year to discover that everyone’s high school dreams have fallen apart. Not only is this a depressing portrait of a common reality, but it’s also a subtle way to demonstrate the toll that the “accident” had on all the characters. Unlike similar prank-gone-wrong/accident slashers, guilt over the mistake is more deeply felt. Particularly revealing is the scene in which Julie and Helen visit David’s (the guy they think they killed) sister and she talks about how things haven’t been the same since he died. With decent actors (hey—Anne Heche!) and good writing, scenes like this make IKWYDLS a solid film.

The stars of the show...

When it comes to the actual horror elements of IKWYDLS, the film is a little weak. Things are suspenseful, sure, but never scary.  IKWYDLS is about as generic as they come in terms of chase sequences and death scenes. There is very little gore, but that’s not an entirely bad thing. The off-screen deaths and non-direct angles actually work at times, especially Helen’s death at the parade. If not for language and a few seconds of additional gore, this movie could have easily secured a PG-13 rating. It’s actually surprising that this incredibly bankable movie ended up with an R. If it was made today, it probably would be trimmed down for wider audiences.

All in all, IKWYDLS isn’t a fantastic movie, but it’s not bad at all. For every great moment, there are about five superficial, uninteresting ones. Still, it’s a fun one to revisit every now and then. I’m glad I did. Now time to go watch Urban Legend.

9.19.2010

New sci-fi/horror comic: UXB


Colin Lorimer, more well-known as Lubbert-Das to the horror blogosphere, has just launched an online comic by the name of UXB. UXB is a horror/science-fiction story about....well I don't know yet. I just started reading. All I know is that the artwork is incredible and the characters are shaping up to be interesting, including the protagonist,  Das Bombast, penned as the future Lord of London. Written with self-referential humor and dark personality, I think a lot of you will really enjoy it.

Check out UXB here. And while you're at it, check out Colin's blog, Lubbert-Das. I've been following it for a while, as he chronicles various artistic adventures. Colin is also a reader of The Horror Effect and many other fellow horror blogs, so show your support and head on over to his new kick-ass site!
  

9.12.2010

Machete (2010): The Legend is just a legend


We’ve all been anticipating Machete since way back in 2007 when Robert Rodriguez brought us the most kick-ass faux trailer we’d ever seen through Grindhouse. With the weathered ex-con Danny Trejo as the lead, we were promised an action-packed exploitation extravaganza of revenge. However, as word spread that Machete would become a legitimate feature film, the news started getting stranger and stranger. Boasting a smorgasbord of Hollywood stars and genre actors, Machete began to look a lot less like the original exploitation saga it once resembled.  

Machete was a mixed bag for me. I did enjoy watching longtime favorite Danny Trejo slice and dice his way through a leading role. Still, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. As a fan of Rodriguez and a lover of action films, there was a lot of expectation going into this one. The gore was over-the-top and fun, despite a severe lack of practical effects. The action was absurd with off-the-wall characters.  The score by Rodriguez’ band Chingon was pitch perfect. The comedic relief was almost always hilarious. However, that’s about as much praise as I can unfortunately sing.
Setup and double-crossed.

For every glimmer of Machete’s machete that we catch, we are also treated to loads of political banter on hot button immigration issues. Many exploitation films of the yesteryear were rife with sociopolitical commentary. Machete doesn’t appear to be mimicking these films, rather it appears to preach a half thought-out message. The politics are never subtle, but they are never balls-out like you might expect from an exploitation film. Thus, we get something in between. It’s not racy enough to be exploitive, but not tame enough to simply be an undercurrent. The immigration issue is the central thrust of the plot and it just doesn’t work.

I don’t know about you, but I was expecting a revenge movie. Machete doesn’t simply go around taking out those who betrayed him from the top down, which is what I wanted. Instead, he is on the run from those who wronged him thoughout most of the film. The vengeance component isn’t really felt.
I wish he got around to using more of those cutting utensils.

Technically, the film is kind of a mess. It’s the sloppiest and most unpolished film I’ve seen from Rodriguez. And yes, I get it. It’s a grindhouse film, so a certain degree of “unpolished” is expected. However, Planet Terror managed to capture the aged film print feel without sacrificing craft. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that Rodriguez did not do the cinematography this time, and he co-edited with his daughter. The film is shot poorly and edited sloppily. Maybe the fact that Rodriguez co-directed with Ethan Maniquis also explains some things. In fact, I suspect that Rodriguez may have primarily directed the footage from the original faux trailer and left the rest for Maniquis to fill in. The co-direction is obvious, as the film is totally confused tonally and visually.
I guess Machete mania didn't sweep the entire nation.

The best parts about Machete were the moments that we had already experienced in the original faux trailer. And in some cases, the legend was better left to the imagination. Now, I guess I’m being pretty harsh about Machete and it’s probably a little unfair. I hold Rodriguez’ work up to a high standard, since Planet Terror is probably in my top 10 favorite movies of all time and From Dusk Till Dawn is definitely in the top 25. All personal paradigms aside, Machete is still a good time, but certainly won’t have any lasting impact. 

9.03.2010

House (Hausu) (1977): WTF?!?!


Officially the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen. That’s right. More trippy than The Holy Mountain. More fantastical than Videodrome. More confusing than Lost Highway. It’s HAUSU!!!!
Based on an idea from his seven-year-old daughter, director Nobuhiko Obayashi (I’ve never had to double-check my spelling so many times) forces an insane story upon us: a group of Japanese schoolgirls travel to a mysterious mansion only to be consumed by the home’s owner. 

Just to give you some hint of the fundamental weirdness, the girls’ names are Gorgeous (the pretty one), Fantasy (the imaginative one), Prof (the smart one), Kung-Fu (the athletic one), Mac (the chubby one), Melody (the one who plays piano), and Sweet (the one who cleans everything? Figure that out). Prior to seeing this movie, I was worried that I would be a bit bored before the main events occurred. I was wrong, however. There is not a single drab moment in Hausu, as every frame is packed with psychedelic, experimental craziness.

The fakest backgrounds ever are thrown behind the actors and they just go with it, sometimes calling attention to the “beautiful sunset” or “foreign land.” And the sound design must be heard to believe. I knew I was in for a treat when even a simple wind sound was so cartoony that it could have been manufactured by the director exaggeratedly blowing into a microphone. And let’s talk about the dialogue for a moment. Well, firstly it makes no sense. Secondly, it’s just amazing. Here’s a little sample: “Old cats can open doors, but only ghost cats can close them again.”

With all the bizarre visual elements, it is interesting that the film was made in 1977. The experimental technology feels like it’s just slightly ahead of its time. Not a single shot is normal, so I can only imagine that it must have been very time consuming to create Hausu in the format it is presented in. The fact that this was made before most digital technologies further reinstates that only an insane person would create such a movie.

This isn’t so much a review as a statement of confusion. How am I supposed to review a movie where a girl is literally eaten by a piano? Or a film that features a cat that meows to the music? Or a dancing skeleton? Hausu just has to be seen. There is no way to describe or critique it. If you ever get the chance to see Hausu, do it! You won’t regret it. It’s being released this October on DVD and Blu-Ray on…wait for it… The Criterion Collection! Watch the trailer if I haven’t been very convincing.



P.S. Obayashi is also known for directing those super awesome “Mandom” commercials with Charles Bronson. Do yourself a favor and watch this. You'll love it. I guarantee it.
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