Author Archives: Chris

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

The Babysitter: Killer Queen

It took me so long to watch The Babysitter after I stuck it in my Netflix queue that they made a sequel! And it came out only like three months later. Go timing?

Things I liked about The Babysitter: Killer Queen, a short list:

  1. Claiming all the evidence of the murderous satanic cult was erased and everyone thinks Cole[1] made the whole story up? Bold! There’s definitely a sense that they might be right, and maybe he’s just a little bit crazy, and that sense lingers beyond the recap intro mood-setting scenes at the beginning.
  2. Still funny, in a goofy over-the-top way that I don’t see enough outside of movies templated like Scott Pilgrim vs. Whoever, which take their goofiness way too seriously. This does not do that. Once again, my compliments to the letterer.
  3. It finds the humor in way way too much gore that does not exist in the right amount of gore. You can’t really be in this movie without getting a faceful of blood spray, which is at this point the fart joke of horror movies, except way funnier than farts, because someone just died.
  4. Okay, that last thing doesn’t exactly make sense, but here we are.

Thing I didn’t like about it, a shorter list:

  1. The title, which has exactly zero semantic meaning. It’s cool that they used the song, but no, not a good enough excuse. If you don’t have an actually clever title, just call it The Babysitter 2 and get over yourself.
  2. The moral of the movie scene, not because it had a “moral”, but because they thought they earned the payoff the moral describes, and I’m really not convinced they did. Same thing as above, don’t forcefeed me a moral. If you earn it, cool, but if not, you’re a damn horror movie. Don’t have a moral. That’s okay here more than literally anywhere else!

If you liked the first one, check it out. If you didn’t, you won’t, and if you are in the supermajority of people who have no opinion here, this movie isn’t enough to tilt the balance one way or another.

[1] Cole is the kid from the first movie who was babysat.

Mulan (2020)

I am growing ever more cynical, a fact of which I am not fond. Especially in a world where I have offspring. (Which this one seems to be.)

The thing about Mulan is, it’s a good movie. It’s got a good heart, a lot of fantasy Chinese combat[1], a cast full of characters worth empathy on virtually all sides of the conflict, and a message worth embracing. I never saw the original animated version, nor do I know if it is based on any actual legend? But there’s a girl, and a war, and a conscription. One male from every family to join the Emperor’s army and save China from, y’know, the Bad Guys. Except in the case of the girl’s family, the only male is her father, still crippled by the last war. So, rather than let him go to a certain death, she takes his place!

Plot twist! (or not), it turns out the Chinese warriors in the age of the Middle Kingdom[2] aren’t cool with the idea of womenfolk fighting, and they will almost certainly kill her if they find out her secret. This is the heart of the movie, and it is also where my cynicism springs to the fore.

The problem is this: as much as I liked the movie, and wanted to like the movie, I couldn’t bring myself to believe in the outcome. This is what 2020 has done to me, I guess. Ugh.

It’s good, though, and it’s okay to be heartwarmed instead of cynical, if you can swing it. I mean, it’s not like it’s only heartwarming, for that matter. Every beat in the movie is earned, even if I didn’t believe it. The failure is in me, and my willingness to be open to the magic of people watching reality play out in real time and change their opinions as a result.

[1] for which there is a term but I forget what it is. I thought it was wuxia, but that does not imply fantastical elements, only the martial arts themselves.
[2] This is a term I have plausibly heard, or possibly made up, and which in any case could have nothing whatsoever to do with the time period in which the movie is actually set. I just want to sound informed without doing any work. The truly sad part is, in the time it took me to type this, I could have just looked it up instead.

The Next Karate Kid

Cobra Kai arrived on Netflix a few weeks ago, and now that I’m back at work (a future month of paternity leave yet remains to me, which I will use later, hooray) I have a lot more time to watch TV[1]. Which means I watched all four of the Pat Morita Karate Kid movies this week, three of which I had previously seen. (And all three of which I would recommend refamiliarizing with prior to Cobra Kai, which I also recommend. It pays off, is all I’m saying.)

Then there’s The Next Karate Kid, in which Pat Morita is hanging out in Boston with the wife of a deceased WWII buddy after a big 50th anniversary of their war heroism ceremony, and then for reasons that do not bear looking at too closely, he’s left in charge of her high school granddaughter for a few months. If you guessed that what she really needs is the kind of discipline and confidence that karate can provide, well, that has pretty much covered every salient point of the movie.

That said, Mr. Miyagi is a hell of a character, and the monk interludes are worth the price of admission, even if plot points such as “why was this a good idea, conceptually, to leave a Okinawan stranger in charge of a teenaged girl” and “how could any school possibly allow a random military guy to put his own private student army in charge of the other students” are truly inexplicable.

I’m not saying go watch it, but there’s good stuff in there if you did. I miss Miyagi all over again, thanks to this big giant rewatch fest.

[1] Unless it has subtitles. I actually am working, and you can’t watch the screen nearly enough to keep up with a subtitled show or film. That’s just math.

Palm Springs (2020)

Palm Springs is a “the less you know about it the better” comedy in which Andy Samberg (one of The Lonely Island, or, if you’re not me, the lead in Brooklyn Nine-Nine) interacts with a destination wedding and the bridesmaids thereof, over the course of an interminable wedding day. (I mean, it’s only like an hour and a half or two hours, because, movie.)

The problem I have now is how to fill at least enough space to match the poster. Um. It’s funny! It’s also philosophical and has characters that change and grow. Which is three things that a lot of comedies don’t have, even though almost all of them should have at least two of those things.

Plus, it’s on Hulu, and apparently they made it. Which I think means it’s technically free unless they changed their online viewing policies, which, how would I know? But man, I hope it doesn’t have commercial interruptions. Anyway, check it out!

Deep Murder

Deep Murder is a porn parody, but not the way you’re thinking. See, I thought it was a by-the-numbers slasher in which people on the set of a softcore movie are getting gradually murdered, and yes, I will absolutely watch that movie. But this is so much better than what I thought it was.

It is instead a decidedly not by any numbers I’ve ever seen[1] softcore porn in which the characters are getting gradually murdered. And the only way to survive is to overcome all of their in character instincts and start treating what they’re living as a murder mystery cum horror movie[2] instead of the porno that is all they’ve ever known.

I approximately never stopped laughing. As far as I can tell, this was the best comedy of 2019, and I recommend it to basically anyone, although if you ever watched something in the wee hours of the night on Cinemax, you might have a leg up. For the record, there is [approximately] no nudity. It’s not that kind of movie in any way other than that it specifically is that kind of movie or it wouldn’t work, if you take my meaning.

[1] The closest thing I can think of is Zombie Strippers, and there are only a couple of tangential similarities.
[2] *smirk emoji*

Victor Crowley

Breaking my rules today. I will review a movie I watched with Joe Bob Briggs’ commentary segments and, in this case, most of the cast and crew in attendance as well. It seems only fair after having done the first three in a row, though.

Victor Crowley is, for some reason, not named Hatchet IV. You would think, with the writer-director in attendance, I would have found out why not. But: nope! I can speculate, though. See, this movie does not pick up immediately after the last one ended, for a fourth night in a row of brutal mayhem. It seems that they actually [spoilers for previous movies in the Hatchet series, avoid if you prefer, last chance, here they are!] succeeded in lifting his curse, and he’s been truly dead for the past ten years. Who would have thought. (Also, this movie was made ten years after the original, so, nice.) These reasons seem valid for switching up the title scheme, right? Sort of? Maybe?

Anyway, there’s a survivor who people hate for making money off all those deaths and also maybe they think he did the murders, since who’s going to believe a ghost story with no ghost left? (I found the first part of that really annoying, since he’s not just profiting off death and misery, it really was his story to tell. But whatever.) And there are people hoping to make a movie about the legend, and there’s a crappy talk show subplot, but eventually the two things you really care about do happen:

  1. Everyone winds up in that cursed swamp again.
  2. Somebody makes a rookie horror movie mistake about saying curses out loud.

And then we’re once more off to the races. I have been all but promised a Hatchet V, and you just know it’s going to pick up immediately where this one left off, and I am there for it. I mean, if you can go to movie theaters without dying by then.

Hatchet III

Later, they made Hatchet III.

I really respect where this is going. The movie starts on the morning after Hatchet II, which is to say two mornings after Hatchet. This is still one continuous narrative, even if one character has changed actors and one actor continues to show up as new characters. But then, that latter is part of the joke.

Another thing I appreciate is that they got the urge for overwhelming gore out of their system last time, so this one could be funny again. And it was. Possibly made even more funny by catharsis based on recent events, but watching Victor Crowley versus a Sheriff’s Department and also a SWAT team? I may well have found myself fascinated for twice as long, if he’d just kept killing people in new and inventive ways. (Just like in real life, I was sad for the one to possibly three of them who didn’t deserve what they got.)

Basically, if you like slasher movies enough to find them inherently funny, and want to watch modern films by someone who loves the genre just as much, and is in on the joke right along with you, this is a can’t miss series. Each entry adds just enough new material to not feel like a retread, while otherwise entirely being a retread, just as God and John Carpenter intended.

Unlike last time, though, I’m actually not sure how there’s room for another sequel. That actually felt like the end?