Tag Archives: horror

The Walking Dead: Call to Arms

81cmq5zqi-lDespite myself, I’m continuing to like the way things are going with The Walking Dead. Choices of questionable morality are resulting in the fragile peace tumbling out of control, but of course the counter question is whether the peace was ever worth having in the first place. And, for that matter, would it have lasted?

Y’know, human drama. Call to Arms contains basically no zombies, which is as things should be by now. The apocalypse was always the point, and how people dealt with it. The flavor of apocalypse is just what’s in vogue these days. Myself, I could do with a nice asteroid story again, I’ve only ever seen one of those that didn’t end in “yay, we got rid of the asteroid!” Or maybe one with dinosaurs?

Ahem. Sidetracked. But that’s because the person I’m most interested in these last couple of books, I’m not even really allowed to admit is still in the story. Thanks, TV show being like three or four years behind! Then again, considering the alternative there, I suppose I’m happy to have to bite my tongue. But seriously, I love the way <spoiler elided> is trying to make amends. It’s the very best kind of train wreck, and I actively look forward to the next book or two worth of fallout, because it promises to be hilarious.

Blair Witch

mv5bmji0nteymja3nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwodk5otu4ote-_v1_sy1000_cr006481000_al_Did you know that The Blair Witch Project came out seventeen years ago? That is a long time! And yet, here we are with a sequel[1]. And, uh… that’s kind of all I have? Which is bad. But the thing is, you saw the first one, right? Blair Witch is that movie, seventeen years later. Is there a documentary? Yep. Do they go into the woods? You betcha! Are there weird stick figures and creepy little piles of rocks? I think you know.

I mean, this is how you make a horror movie sequel. Same people[2], same plot. (This, I maintain, is why people didn’t like the other sequel. Different people, different plot. Also: Halloween 3.) But then they did the other thing that good horror movie sequels manage, which is to bring in more information and make things make more sense than they did before. So, long story short: if you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. If you hated the first one (which I know a lot of people did, especially people who get motion sickness), you will still hate this one. So, y’know. Check in with the 1999 version of you and see what’s up.

[1] Technically, there was also a sequel sixteen years ago, but a) a lot of people incorrectly dislike it and b) more relevantly, this sequel ignores the one from 2000, so I will too.
[2] Okay, it’s Heather’s younger brother, who always wanted to know what happened to her, but same family basically counts as same people.

I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

mv5bmja4nzaxodi2of5bml5banbnxkftztcwnzqzmjq0mw-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Many and more years ago, I saw a screening of the original I Spit on Your Grave at the Alamo Drafthouse, hosted by my personal movie review hero, Joe Bob Briggs. It was one of the original 35mm prints that got passed from town to town because there wasn’t a budget to make enough for simultaneous wide release of most movies, in those days, and especially for drive-in features such as this. One historical artifact of this distribution method is that individual localities would decide to censor the print at various points of which they did not approve; I remember that his live commentary was thrown for a loop when an entire scene he intended to dissect was missing.

The problem, of course, is that I thought I had this as a review, but apparently it was from earlier days, and maybe exists on Livejournal or even Opendiary instead; in any event, it is to be considered unfindable for my sad purposes, and that is a pity because I intended my review of the 2010 remake to be largely comparative, instead of needing to stand on its own. Nevertheless, here we are, and I must persevere.

In short, then, a young woman on her own in a rural town (this time: to write a book; I don’t remember why in the original) is stalked by a group of men on the flimsiest of pretexts[1], raped repeatedly, and here the stories diverge: a) in 1978, left senseless in the woods, b) in 2010 accidentally escaped into a river before the men could kill her, criminal science (and not incidentally, rape prosecutions in general) having improved in the intervening 30 years. Then, after a little time has passed, she enacts her bloody revenge.

I’m not sure what the problem with the remake actually is. Maybe simply that it’s a remake, and this is a thing I’ve seen before? Maybe something fundamental was missing instead, I don’t know. The impetus for her revenge felt no less horrific, but the revenge itself was hollow and meaningless in a way I did not feel about the original movie: visceral and gut-wrenching, but also entirely earned and effective. This time, like I said, it felt like she was just going through the motions, doing what was expected of her. So maybe it’s just the remake part after all. Especially because the last 10 minutes, involving a new character with a family to fear for that did not exist in the original[2] became immediately gripping and tense again.

In the unlikely event that you want to watch this movie, the first one is better, I guess is most of what I’m trying to say.

[1] Not to imply that a pretext is required; quite the opposite, in fact, and one thing I appreciate about the whole thing is how intentionally senseless it is.
[2] Original: four townies, one of them mentally deficient and almost sympathetic as a result; remake: ditto, plus an older man smart enough to leave fewer things to chance than the original four.


MV5BMTIyMDEyMjY3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTg3NDEzMQ@@._V1_A thing I had never gotten around to watching is the Japanese movie that inspired The Ring. I was pretty much saving it, maybe for a marathon? I don’t know. See, I’ve got this box filled with horror movies on DVD that I collected over the course of the Oughts, and for a good chunk of that time it sat in my car so I’d have it with me when I went places. Mostly the only person who would put up with the kinds of movies that went into the box was my oldest friend, Jeff. So, occasionally movies would be watched (Mulva: Zombie Ass-Kicker, anyone?) and removed from the box, only to be replaced by others. And then I managed to lose the box for most of a decade, as a consequence of a move in late 2006. (Or I lost it later than that in my garage of doom, because of all the other boxes that really did languish there for most of said decade? Either way.)

But I found it during last year’s move, hooray! Only, most of the time since then, Jeff was in and out of hospital rooms until, y’know, he stopped being in and out of hospitals, so the box has languished in a storage closet once again, Ringu and its many sequels (not to mention dozens of other, mostly worse movies) still unwatched. But for some reason, I thought of it after we watched As Above, So Below last weekend, and we made a double feature of it.

Anyway, it was pretty much exactly the same as my memory of The Ring, so there’s not a lot to say in terms of review. In case you don’t know, there’s a VHS tape that, when you watch it, you die seven days later. And nobody knows why! I could digress on the laughability of VHS being applicable to modern life, but a) I’ve done this before, b) the movie is nearly 20 years old, and mostly c) my heart’s just not in it. Too busy being sad about how full the horror movie box is, and how long it sat there, thinking it had all the time in the world.

As Above, So Below

MV5BMTQzNzg0NDI2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzgxNzY2MTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,631,1000_AL_Perhaps it’s because I’ve been playing Rise of the Tomb Raider[1], but As Above, So Below struck me as only barely a horror movie, despite that being the most obvious genre it contains. See, there’s this self-funded multiple-PhD, multiple-language archaeologist who saw her father commit suicide and is now trying to prove he wasn’t crazy after all, by finding a certain stone once owned by noted philosopher Nicholas Flamel. I trust the parallels are mostly obvious?

Anyway, pretty much the rest of the movie is spoiler towne, except the first sliver of premise, which is that she has decided the place to look for said stone is in the catacombs beneath Paris. If you were to guess that not everything goes according to plan… well, like I said, that way spoiler towne lies. But seriously: it’s a solid thinky movie with yes, some scares and yes, some blood, but it’s a lot more thinky and adventure archaeology than it is horror. You might just dig it be into it!

Oh, also, found footage subgenre.

[1] Review forthcoming, but not for a good long while

Would You Rather

MV5BODE3OTY0MzAtYWQzMy00MDdiLTlkOTItNzY1NWNjY2ZkNjBhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjQwMjk0NjI@._V1_SY1000_SX679_AL_The difference between rich people and poor people, in a nutshell, is this: if you are rich, you can spend your money any way you want to. You can hire personal painters or musicians under the patronage system, or you can make bums fight on camera, or you can throw elaborate annual dinner parties for groups of strangers, where eventually they will play a high-stakes children’s game for your amusement. If you are poor, you can hope you find the rich person who wants to improve the atmosphere of the world to be your patron, but most likely you’ll only find the other rich people instead. Good luck!

Would You Rather capitalizes on a grimly plausible premise and a consistently recognizable cast, to maybe rise above what could have been a by-the-numbers entry into the gross-out subgenre of horror. I mean, it’s pretty by the numbers; they establish a heroine early on, and her impossible situation is of course very sympathetic, but the will she / they or won’t she / they is played out to good effect, the whole movie long. (Even the people who obviously will are characters that I found fascinating rather than mono-dimensional cardboard.)

That said… it’s still a cheap horror movie of functionally no social or historical value.

State of Emergency (2011)

MV5BMjE5OTI5ODY5OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDM3MjUzNw@@._V1_Last night was random Netflixing night. Well, semi-random; I was choosing from my pretty long queue list, but still. The result was the fairly disappointing State of Emergency. See, a county somewhere in the southern tobacco belt has been quarantined after an explosion and people going crazy with rabies-like symptoms. (You know, zombies.) From there, we focus in on one man’s travails while trying to survive.

The problems were manifold. Random failures for irrelevant plot points to make any sense whatsoever[1]; undeserved character development, just for the sake of having some; acting that occasionally rises to the level of professional; briefly highlighting the zombie menace as some kind of mystery to be solved[2] and then failing to in any way go about solving it… the list goes on.

Long story short: don’t watch this. There are much better options if you need a dose of zombiepocalypse.

[1] Example: news broadcast in which an audio feed of an embedded reporter with soldiers is overlaid by random images of helicopters flying around, soldiers standing around, or an ominous explosion cloud pluming into the sky. This is all fine, but suddenly due to predictable circumstances the audio feed cuts out. That’s accompanied by the stock, looped footage that had nothing to do with the audio feed also cutting out, to a generic test pattern and “feed lost” on top of it. This has no bearing on anything at all, but the lack of attention to making the least bit of sense was repeated again and again, and it’s hard to really take a movie seriously when they’re getting little details so very wrong.
[2] As opposed to the correct way to deal with zombies in most movies, which is to treat them purely as a setting choice, no different from “at the Arctic circle” or “1940s Europe”.

Hack/Slash: Final

71itNyUBO5LAnd thus comes to an end (at the auspicious and (let’s be honest) inevitable volume 13, no less) the adventures of psycho killer killer of psychos Cassandra Hack and her longtime partner Vlad. Looking back, this is definitely a series that would have benefitted from binging, in that it started out episodic but then turned out to have a guiding arc that I didn’t spot until far too late to pay the proper amount of attention. Like, as of Final[1] I have pretty much wrapped my head around most of what’s going on, why I care about it, and what it means for the characters. But there were two or three previous books where I was definitely floundering, which is a pity, because the series ends very strongly indeed, which maybe means that it was strong back when it felt like it was a slog, too.

So yeah. If you like snarky, cheesecakey horror comics that will probably never win any feminism awards despite frequently passing the Bechdel Test, this series is probably the only example of that. Enjoy!

[1] It is important to note that there are two new volumes that have been published since the so-called final one. Not loving that, especially because it ended so cleanly.

The Walking Dead: No Turning Back

517KPsoOcxLFor a wonder, the latest Walking Dead has a title that isn’t trite and a storyline to match. No Turning Back chronicles the aftermath of Rick Grimes’ meeting with the latest, direst threat to his community. See, everyone is scared and reactionary, because of the spoilers at the end of the last book. Now Rick has to decide how far he will go to hold it all together.

Which, y’know. Yet another big threat, I’ve seen all that before. Rick struggling to decide whether his soul or his community’s safety is more expendable, that’s the kind of human drama I can still get behind. I’d be annoyed that the question isn’t resolved in this volume, but if it had been, it would definitively be in favor of him not taking some action that crosses The Line, so uncertainty is the best I could have hoped for.

Downside: still more books coming.

The Witch (2015)

MV5BMTY4MTU2NjMyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzUwMDk4NzE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_For reasons not known to me, The Witch was brought back into broad release this weekend, and I finally managed to find company to see it on Monday night (extremely late, but that’s what 5 hours of energy in a tiny bottle are for). It’s a thin movie, lacking quite a bit in plot and premise, but extremely meaty on execution. All of the actors were solid and believable, even when their motivations or reactions to what was happening around them bewildered me, and the young twins were just incredibly creepy.

In case you don’t know anything at all, this is a moody 17th century piece about an isolated family dealing with a number of severe setbacks all at once, as the last dregs of harvest season threaten to give way to winter. They may or may not (but definitely will) suspect deviltry and witchcraft is behind the string of ill fortune, and then… but, like I said, it’s a thin movie, so any “and then” I could follow this up with pretty much completes the film.

Between the lingering shots of the small farm and the forbidding forest beyond it, the total isolation, and the spare, screeching soundtrack, it feels like horror by way of the ’70s art film scene, or maybe Kubrick if he’d ever made a movie where every single shot failed to contain an onion’s worth of hidden meanings. Other than an ending that outstayed its welcome, I have basically nothing bad to say about this self-described New England folktale. Mood, acting, and cinematography can carry a thin plot a long way.