Monthly Archives: April 2007


Sometimes my ability to fall behind on reviews can be ascribed to laziness, sometimes to being excessively busy. This time, though? Sheer exhaustion. Well, and being excessively busy. Since I saw Vacancy, I’ve had one day of weekend followed by three more days of being at work. And I didn’t really get enough sleep on Sunday, much less the other days. On top of which, Monday and Tuesday were as busy as any days at work I’ve had here, with the added virtue of occurring back-to-back and did I mention on not enough sleep? My fake vacation cannot occur quickly enough. (Literally. If the place weren’t so understaffed with other people on vacation right now, I’d go ahead and take off tomorrow, lost money be damned.)

Speaking of bring trapped in a Sartreian room that has a snuff film running on loop in the corner[1], estranged married couple Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale set out to re-demonstrate a lesson we’ve all long since learned: don’t take a shortcut unless you want something bad to happen to your car in the middle of nowhere, don’t expect the stranger in the tiny town a mile or two from the middle of nowhere to actually have your best interests in mind, and don’t stay in hotels where the proprietor is funny-looking and you are the only guests. But it’s okay; these lessons are clichéd for a reason.

Because once they get into that vacant room, they start to realize just how much trouble they’re in. I mean, watching people in your room getting murdered on video has a way of putting those petty little snipes and dislikes and even deep-seated angers with one another into perspective. (Which is the difference between this and actual Sartre; his characters would have finished the conversation first, then worried about how to escape imminent bloody death on videotape. In a way, I’m the mildest bit disappointed now and wish I hadn’t though of the comparison to start with.) From there, it’s all cat-and-mouse tension that is never relieved for any longer than what is required for the audience to remember to breathe. At least one scene is genuinely disturbing, and another is pretty terrifying in a laudably subtle way. And one scene, well, simply doesn’t fit the movie. But as that’s my only complaint, I say good on them. It’s not like it’s the best movie you’ll see this year, or even this month, but it might well be the best dramatic thriller you’ll see this year. Unless that one with Halle Berry and Bruce Willis is good? I think I heard not, though. So, yeah, this one, then.

[1] I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. I could probably complain to someone and get the channel changed. But the alternative is this weird propaganda loop, and after a while the screams provide their own cold, inhuman comfort. …sorry, got distracted there for a second.

Grindhouse (2007)

So, a cool thing happened to me. While contemplating my upcoming trip to see Grindhouse last weekend, I figured out why this feature seems like it painted a giant target on my forehead right before the previews for it came out. (Or, put less like the way I would put something, it was totally aimed right at me.) See, there’s this place that I have mentioned from time to time called the Alamo Drafthouse. In addition to what is gradually becoming a standard practice of combining slightly overpriced food and alcohol into the movie-watching experience, they have made themselves into a movie-geek’s wet dream by gathering up all kinds of old forgotten reels from the 60s and 70s, throwing TV watching parties week after week for free admission, sing-along parties with themes as diverse as old school TV themes, Michael Jackson, boy bands, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and showing movies outdoors in appropriate settings. (Piranha at Aquarena Springs in San Marcos, Texas, where the climactic scene was filmed? Serenity in an old West ghost town? Chainsaw at the original Chainsaw house? Tell me that’s not just super-awesome. You will be wrong when you choose to do so.) Anyway, that’s a place in Austin, the Drafthouse. And it gathers together on a multi-weekly basis exactly the kind of person who would be thrilled by mocked-up grindhouse style movies such as Planet Terror (zombie invasion!) and Deathproof (carsploitation, with girls!) and gives them leave to laugh a lot and make fun and be rowdy and have a generally good time.

But then I remembered that Robert Rodriguez is from Austin and still lives there, and that Quentin Tarantino hangs out there constantly, and both of them will from time to time (at least once a year) host a film festival or a particular movie at the Drafthouse, with presentations, Q&A, the whole works. (Which is another awesome for film-geeks thing that the Drafthouse does, getting together actors and directors and stuff for a wide swathe of the movies they show. Such as the time I got to sit about 20 feet from Jewel Staite and just bask.) And so, of course (my theory goes) they see these people year after year, maybe drop in for shows just because without fanfare, and it must have occurred to them as they watched theater after theater be sold out that there might be a Thing here. So when people speculate that this movie was aimed right at me, well, my point is I kind of think it actually was. (And the opening shot of Deathproof being a driveby of the original theater on 4th Street cemented that opinion pretty firmly.)

Having mentioned the zombies and the carsploitation, there’s not a lot to add. You already know from reading this if you’re That Person like I am or not. But I will point out that there were multiple instance of spot-on comedic timing related to the way that movie theaters and reels actually worked at that kind of theater in those days, that each and every one of the mocked up trailers for fake grindhouse style movies is something that I would pay to see and am sad that I’ll never get a chance to, and that Quentin Tarantino kind of crossed a carsploitation flick with a Quentin Tarantino flick. There’s nothing wrong with how much the man loves to listen to other people recite his dialogue, but there were a couple of times when it felt out of place. On the bright side, it is really good dialogue on average, so out of place doesn’t automatically map onto a bad time.

Anyway, I know what I just said about the trailers being fake, but please, oh please, will someone make Werewolf Women of the SS? Please?

Dead Silence

The immediate reactionary part of me will claim that I liked Dead Silence. It had a good creepy atmosphere, some really cool sound effects, disturbing-looking evil dolls, and a gruesomely vengeful spirit. But the other part of me that has been staring for hours now at the empty screen where this review will eventually be typed up seems to disagree. Because not being able to come up with something to say about a movie? Never a good sign.

So this guy has a wife, and while he’s down to the chinese place for take-out, she is murdered by means of her tongue being ripped out and her jaw being nearly removed. Although he immediately associates this event with the mysterious appearance of a ventriloquist’s dummy at his doorstep minutes before the murder and an old rhyme about an angry ghost from their hometown, detective Donnie Wahlberg is not convinced. And so the guy (whose name I’ve forgotten entirely) has to gradually unravel the mystery with the help of the local undertaker and his wife as well as the guy’s estranged father and his new stepmother, all while avoiding both the constant death being thrown at him by spirit and dolls and being taken into custody by detective Donnie, whose character I’m pretty sure has no relation to Bob Lee Swagger. Maybe if I remembered his name either (or really anyone’s besides the vengeful spirit chick, Mary Shaw), I could speak with more authority on this point.

But seriously, it was pretty cool, mostly due to the atmosphere, which was never chintzed upon. Why have a cemetary when you can have an overgrown cemetary that does not appear to have been cared for in decades? Why have a spooky abandoned theater when you can have a spooky abandoned theater that’s twice as large as it reasonably should be, and why build it on the ground when you can build it on a lake, and why have it be some generic lake when you can make sure to name it Lost Lake? And yet, none of this felt like a step too far (well, except for the name of the lake), because it looked so damn good. Plus, evil dolls? Completely terrifying as long as you don’t camp them up. Well, not completely terrifying, because that would be an evil doll made up to look like an evil clown.

See? Pretty cool.


As winter ebbs into spring, so too do a young man’s fancies turn from horror movies to action movies. (Okay, that’s just not true, I could watch a new horror movie every day and, save for the effort of reviewing everything, not get tired of it. But that is kind of the cycle that Hollywood thrusts upon us on average, and so here we are.) Anyway, the first action movie of the season that I’ve noticed is Shooter, in which Mark Wahlberg [SPOILER ALERT!!!] shoots people. See? Totally an action movie.

Of course, I was nearly derailed right at the beginning, when our hero’s military partner was named Donnie. But I recovered from that bit of amusement (luckily, there were no Dirks) and settled into a pretty engrossing action drama. See, this sniper guy has retired from the military because of a difference of opinion between him and a commanding officer about whether he should have been left behind without support during an illegal incursion into another country. (He was against it, you see.) So now that he’s living the quiet isolationist mountain lifestyle with a lot of guns and a dog and no human contact, Danny Glover decides that he actually has gotten too old for this shit, and it’s time to contract out saving the President’s life to someone else. See, some other awesome sniper is about to assassinate our gunnery seargent’s estranged commander in chief, and only an equally awesome sniper can figure out how he’ll do it, so they can stop him. Except, Danny was always lying about that age thing, and is instead a bad guy setting up someone to take the fall after the assassination. Luckily, Marky Mark somehow manages to survive the first fifteen minutes and then enlists the help of a hot red-headed chick and an idealistic FBI agent to trace down the conspiracy and get his life back.

Except, he finds out that it goes All The Way To The Top! (No, not really. The President is not targetting himself. I promise.) Anyway, there’s lots of fugitive-y stuff, a fair amount of wargames and shooting, the occasional sniping, a helicopter explosion worthy of having been accomplished by James Bond, and also cool conspiracy elements like I mentioned previously. My only complaint is that I liked the dark ambiguous ending to the film that occurred about seven minutes before the actual ending better than the one that preceded the credits. But the explosion and the hot redhead make up for that, so.