Party Hard Die Young

There are two kinds of slasher movies. The first kind is a gradually building sequence of events and accompanying tension in which targeted characters first learn that murder is on the menu and then over the remainder of the film try desperately to stay alive long enough to find out who is behind the murders, in the hopes of saving themselves; this of course does not work for virtually any of them, but that’s the tenor of the semi-genre. Examples: Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (aka part 5), the majority of one-off slasher films.

The other kind is almost always a member of a longer series, and everyone knows who the killer is because he’s[1] an unstoppable supernatural force. The trying to stay alive part is the same, as is the success rate, just without the false hope that figuring out what’s going on would help. Examples: any movie set on Elm Street, the remainder of the F13 franchise.

Party Hard, Die Young is a literal-minded (or, more to the point, -titled) example of the first kind of slasher movie, about a small group of graduating German high school seniors, or whatever they might be called instead in Germany, who were all in the same home room, or however German classes are divided up. Eight or ten of them, anyway? I lost track of that sentence. Let me start over. It’s about a group of German teens off to a summer EDM[2] festival on an island in the Adriatic, to party hard before going off to college, but then most of them die young instead.

Get it?

The description on Shudder and in IMDb makes reference to how slick and stylish and post-Scream it is, and, man, I just can’t tell what they’re talking about. Like, it has a modern feel to it, both the film quality and of course the lighting and soundtrack; it’s definitely not an ’80s slasher movie. That’s fine, but if you say post-Scream to mean everything looks and sounds better, instead of grainy 35mm film stock and spooky sound editing, man did you miss what made Scream ground-breaking.

In summation, this was a pretty good albeit by the numbers slasher mystery, and mainly it made me hungry for someone to make the same movie, but the setting is Burning Man.

[1] Where, I ask you, are the female-led supernatural slasher serieses? Get it together, not-Hollywood!
[2] Electronic Dance Music, boomer

Guns Akimbo

I have heard of Guns Akimbo before, so the Amazon Prime rule does not apply.

So, remember BumFights, where people would pay bums to, y’know, fight each other, and record it on their phones, and then upload those videos and charge people to watch them, and voilà, instant albeit troubling profit[1]? Imagine that world advanced by technology and the decline and fall of civilized society, and you have Skizm, a website where people pay to watch random folk hunt and murder each other.

Now imagine that Harry Potter hadn’t been a wizard, so he ended up as a mobile game software developer with a way too cool girlfriend who came to her senses and dumped him, and now he’s got nothing going for him, so he trolls the Skizm website insulting its viewership one at a time. Until he insults the wrong person, and ends up home-invaded, knocked out, and wakes up with a pair of guns literally bolted to his hands, because he has become the latest contestant, with 24 hours to kill or be killed by his opponent.

Sure, the plot is a little deeper than that, but you know everything you need to know. Either that’s hilarious and you want to watch it, or you’re a better person than I am.

[1] I did a modicum of research and determined that it was too long ago for phone recordings, was released on DVD, and also maybe what I’m remembering was more backlash hype that reality. But that’s not important to the metaphor.

The Love Witch

Movies in the ’60s were weird. Because they had all these eye-popping colors, and would film people in sharp focus while driving and the background looked like completely different film stock, even though I think it was actually real instead of matted, and everyone’s performance was very earnest and serious, like the fate of the world depended on finding a new boyfriend or solving that mysterious murder or discussing whether feminism is worthwhile in the modern world. No naturalism to speak of in really any aspect of a ’60s movie, is I think my point.

The Love Witch was made just a handful of years ago, but you’d believe the filmstock was kept in an airtight container for the past 50+ years, if not for the occasional modern vehicle in street shots, because every other aspect is pitch perfect. Elaine, per her interior monologue, recently lost her husband and became a witch, and now she needs to find love again, which she plans to do by finding a man, giving him everything he could possibly want[1], and also a love potion she mixed up on top of that. That premise established, all that remains is to find out whether she actually knows what she wants, as well as how far she will go to get it. Plus a bunch of random burlesque dancing, naked coven ceremonies, creepy MRA-disguised-as-ultra-feminist warlocks, largely gratuitous tarot, and the most random, tiny renfaire you ever did see.

And a theme song that must be heard to be believed, “Love Is a Magikal Thing”.

[1] Free access to sex and sandwiches? I’m only barely clear on what else she had in mind, if anything.

Humanoids from the Deep

I cannot justify any claim that Monster (Humanoids from the Deep) is a good movie. First of all, were coastal fishing towns in California ever even a thing? I have the sense that every inch of usable beach is for being beachfront for zillionaires, not for fishing boats that compete with each other and sometimes blow up and also there’s a cannery being built that will save the town, unless it will violate a treaty with the local tribe and they decide to sue about it and ruin the town. It’s like, what even was the point of manifest destiny?

None of that has anything to do with any humanoids from the deep, but then again neither does a guy in a tent seducing chicks with a ventriloquist dummy (and the same ventriloquism jokes you hear every time that concept is raised), and yet here we are. My point, if I am somehow failing to make it, is that this movie doesn’t make a lick of sense, and is also generally offensive in that 1980 second card on the late night double feature kind of way.

But that’s okay! It revels in being nonsensical, since really everything that happens is a vehicle for ladies to get naked so they can be chased (and as you can clearly see on the poster, be mated with) by fishmen (not to be confused with the fishermen, although clearly this also happens from time to time; the difference is the fishermen understand consent) who have evolved for… some reason? The scientist who was clearly an inspiration for the scientist lady in Deep Murder explained it at some point, but I didn’t really follow.

Roger Corman was probably not a good man? But he knew how to produce a B-movie, is all I’m really trying to say here. Another thing I suppose I cannot justify is how to square being a modern liberal with loving this kind of trash. Mostly I don’t try, though. It’s just who I am?

Far Cry

You know the rule about movies that you can’t make a good adaptation of a video game? It’s not 100% true, but it sure mostly is. I’m pretty sure I played the video game Far Cry since the inception of this blog, a fact which will be confirmed or denied by the link or lack of link just above, at the reference point.

Anyway, I have come here mostly to say that Far Cry (the film) lives down to those expectations. Its sins include: giving away way too much of the plot way too soon – the game was so great about the slow reveal; cartoonishly evil characters – like, at some point, when you’re a mercenary army and someone outside your hierarchy is disciplining your members by shooting them in the head, and you’re all armed and outnumber that person by 20 to 1, you just take the person out and blame it on the insurgent guy who everyone already knows is running around the island; extraneous and unfunny sidekicks; unnecessary to the plot sex scenes; even worse, unnecessary to the plot sex scenes where you skip the actual sex part of the scene.

There are probably more sins than these, but I was working and not being very distracted by the movie from working (which is both good and disappointing at the same time), so I reckon I had plenty of time to miss some. I didn’t even know they made this movie, to be honest, and finding it on Amazon Prime Video definitely feeds my theory about the contents of that service!

Busanhaeng

It’s no secret that I love a good zombie movie, which I define as one in which the zombies act as a setting upon which the truth of the characters is revealed. I freely acknowledge that this setting is, in the vernacular, “played out”. I should clarify, as I think that usage mostly means, ugh, zombie makeup and biting people, whereas what I mean is that there may not be anything new to say about the truths of characters in that apocalyptic situation.

That said, I still do love a good zombie movie, even if it’s one I’ve seen before (metaphorically or literally, although this time definitely the metaphorical version is at issue). Train to Busan tells the story of a hedge fund manager and his nearly-estranged young daughter, off to visit her mother (his ex-wife) on the occasion of her (7th? 8th? 6th? …let’s say 7th) birthday. The high speed bullet train is full of characters: elderly sisters, a C-level business executive, a high school baseball team and its cheerleader, a pregnant couple, some homeless guy who’s already seen too much on a day that most of the passengers don’t even know is unusual, oh, and a lady with a bite on her leg who just barely made it on before the doors closed.

Over the course of their trip to Busan[1], these people (especially the hedge fund manager, you understand) will learn a lot about each other, themselves, and what’s really important. Also, most of them (especially the ones I didn’t paint a picture of above) will die. Because that’s what happens in a good zombie movie. Both parts, I mean. My point is, this one was indeed a good one, and “seen it before” or not, I approve.

[1] Do I want to play a heavily-skinned remake of Tokaido based on this movie? Maybe!

The Furies (2019)

Man I’m watching a lot of movies lately. Probably the one I watched last night should have been time spent reading instead? I have a great excuse for reading less while I’m working[1], but not much excuse for reading less while my wife is on the phone with her mother for a couple of hours.

On the bright side, I rather liked The Furies. The trick is, you have to give it fifteen or twenty minutes, because it starts off pretending to be a different movie than it ultimately is. See, there are a bunch of girls in boxes in a creepy eucalyptus (probably) forest, and once they get out of the boxes they’re being hunted by hulking brutes in creepy[2] masks. Which is to say, generic torture-adjacent but full-on misogyny horror. And it’s okay to not want to get past the first fifteen or twenty minutes based on that opening, because believe me, I get it.

But if you did, it quickly turns into a weird puzzlebox mystery with enough answers for both a satisfying conclusion and hooks for a very different, revenge-oriented sequel. Which I doubt will get made, but I’d probably watch if it did. Because I actually want to know more about what was going on.

[1] Although I’m writing this while I’m working, so arguably right now my excuses are sub par.
[2] Not as creepy as the last creepy masks movie, for calibration purposes

Strip Club Massacre

Amazon Prime Video is where bad movies go to die, I have concluded. I mean, it has good movies as well, there are definitely movies there you’ve heard of that are fine. But when you’ve never heard of a movie on Netflix, it still might turn out well. When you’ve never heard of a movie on Shudder, the odds are nevertheless stacked heavily in its favor. When you’ve never heard of a movie on Amazon, you end up watching Night Club Massacre.

It’s not that it was badly shot, although it was. It’s not that the sound editing was abysmal, which it also was. (Actually, the sound editing might have been the worst part after all, but I’ll pretend like it isn’t to get to the next sentence.) It’s that it didn’t know what it wanted to be. From what odds and ends of the dialogue I could actually hear, it started as the story of a twenty-something woman fallen on economic and relationship hard times who finds herself a cocktail waitress at a strip club, watching the dancers make all the money she wants to be making. Then in the middle third it pivots to terrible people doing terrible things for no discernible reason except to show how terrible they are, even though in any rational world they wouldn’t get away with the terrible things they had done. Then, there’s like 20 minutes of events justifying revenge, followed by revenge.

I like a good revenge flick! I just wish they hadn’t taken so long to decide that’s what it was. (Well, and the part where I like a good revenge flick might still have been an issue.)

The good news here is, it’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen.

Haunt (2019)

Sometimes horror movies are thoughtful and disturbing explorations of the darkness our collective psyche can contain; other times they’re gory morality tales about the dangers of behaving like a teenager. But also sometimes, they’re nothing more than a skeleton-thin premise around which to hang 90 minutes of growing discomfort and torture for no reason whatsoever.

Haunt is Hostel, except if the people who like to torture and eventually murder continent- and bar-hopping college student types decided that kidnapping them first was too much trouble, so they set up a haunted house experience instead. Sure, the upfront work is maybe a lot, but at least the victims walk in the front door and pay you for the privilege.

Pros: slow burn on the tension meter, with things not really going pear-shaped until the last third of the movie. Very creepy masks. Zero indication of why the bad guys are doing what they’re doing. (You can say that doesn’t go in the pro column, but I like the elemental force of nature killers that just happen to other people more, on average, than I like the ones with a real backstory.)

Cons: Torture porn is torture porn, dress it up how you will. Also, they spent a little too much effort on the mysterious past of the Final Girl, with no particular payoff to show for it. That would shave an extra ten minutes off the flick right there. Oh, and too many spiders.

Mulan (1998)

Upon request, I have also watched OD[1] Mulan, and I have thoughts. Sort of.

One thing I think is that I’m missing a lot of context. Not only did I just watch the live-action remake, but I also live in a post-Frozen world, where Disney is going out of their way to be empowering, or at least egalitarian, in their gender politics. So Mulan marching off to war to [spoilers upcoming for a 20+ year old movie] become a war hero who at no point needs anyone to rescue her is pretty groundbreaking for a Disney who started off with main character “princesses” who never even took actions, much less actions to improve their own lives. My point is, context matters and this was probably a bigger deal of a movie in 1998 than it seems to me now. Which is good! I would be much less happy if it felt groundbreaking today.

Another thing I thing is, man, Disney musicals are hit or miss. And this one, musically? Mostly missed for me. Some of the songs were really bad, and almost none of them made any lasting impact on me. The two that rose above that included one that was also cringeworthy. I mean, it was supposed to be, but that didn’t really help? Oh well. That said, the further into the story I got, the fewer songs there were. So that part was helpful!

Lastly, I have comparative thoughts, which are these: I’m really grateful to this movie for existing, because the remake took every good thing about the original, processed and refined it into something that was purely better. The problems I had with the live-action version were directly a result of the movie feeling like a real historical document, as opposed to the animated Disney version of a folk legend. In folk legends, you can believe in people doing the right thing, just because it’s right. It’s harder in real life, and my point is, the remake felt real. I’m not sure Disney could have pulled that off without their own template to pull from. It’s not just “What if one of our old movies, but live action?” that Beauty and the Beast was. It really is its own new thing.

As for this? It’s alright, you know? And I like it when Ming-Na Wen is a badass, even if I can only hear her.

[1] Original Disney