Monthly Archives: July 2024

Virgin Witch

My horror movie podcasts’s next movie [that I had not already seen] was meant to be a grind house movie about a witch. My instant internal response was, does that even exist?? Turns out, there’s at least one! (And I’m betting not many more than that.)

Here’s how I knew this was a grind house movie: during the opening credits, every image was a still of a topless actress in some situation we would eventually see during the film. It was perhaps as brazen a series of movie credits as I’ve ever seen, but it definitely said “Buckle up, we’re not fucking around.”

Virgin Witch is a movie about two country mice sheltered sisters who have decided to run away from home and go be models in London. And look, I just cannot talk about this movie interestingly without spoilers, as there’s just too much. So if you want to watch it, (and it’s… it’s not precisely worth watching as a movie, but it might be worth watching as a spectacle. Train wrecks, after all, spectacular.) If you want to watch it, I was saying, stop here.

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Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

What you have to remember is, Beverly Hills Cop was not an exploitation movie. The ’80s were just like that. What is the relevance of this opening non-sequitor, you ask? It’s this: although Axel F may be the fourth movie in a series, it is mostly a sequel to the first one. Because, you know, that’s the one people remember.

And it follows most of the rules of a good sequel. All the same characters? Yep. Sort of a whodunnit for the first 20 minutes, but mostly a how does he beat them once he immediately figures out who? Yep. Lots of secret identity chicanery that allows Murphy to mug for the camera? Absolutely. Gunplay and explosions galore? Check. I said “rules of a good sequel”, and what I meant was, “same movie all over again”. This is for sure a Beverly Hills Cop movie, and what else would anyone who turned it on have been looking for?

Except, of course, less exploitative. It no longer makes sense to have a scene in a strip club, just because. Murphy no longer lives in the world after Dr. King and Blazing Saddles when we thought we’d fixed racism and he could just be a black cop in a Detroit Lions jacket without that raising eyebrows in Beverly Hills, back before Rodney King showed us that not only were we wrong, but the police were maybe not so cool after all. And this movie could not just ignore that new reality, nor does it. Which is obviously good, but it makes it harder to believe in the purity of Axel Foley as a character, the way we could back then,

But most of all, this is a movie designed to make anyone who watches it feels old. Paul Reiser’s Jeffrey is fat and ready to retire and could not possibly be the same guy who suddenly realized that this is not his locker. Taggert looks just a little worse than the star of Weekend at Bernie’s, and Rosewood looks worse than that, because you expect Judge Reinhold to be young. Even Eddie Murphy himself is looking worn around the edges, and the scene where he starts to scam himself into a hotel room, then says, you know what, nevermind, I’m too tired for this? He speaks for the movie as a whole and anyone who was around to watch the originals in the theater.

It’s not that this is a sad movie that they should never have made, what were they thinking. It actually works for what it is[1]! It’s just that, as nostalgia mines go, this one at least has the courage to be honest about the state of the miners. I know they volunteered to show up and get paid, I do, but the underlying sadness of it all really seems to say, shame on you for letting us.

[1] A throwback action comedy with a bitchin’ soundtrack.

Still Wakes the Deep

Sometime after I learned that there’s a game about Lovecraftian horrors on an oil rig, I learned that there’s a TV show about strange goings on in the all consuming mist (which may or may not be Lovecraftian or for that matter Kingy[1]; I wouldn’t know, as I have tried to avoid spoilers for The Rig since it seems cool enough to look into), and I have no point other than that’s a weird coincidence. Like, even if they aren’t both Lovecraftian, what are the odds that two media regarding oil rigs would both come across my radar at the same time, much less of both tweaking my interest?

None of that is I suppose especially important to Still Wakes the Deep, a game named after a particularly evocative phrase from a Scottish poem and set on Christmas Day 1975 on an oil rig in the North Sea. This is how I learned that oil rigs are not just built in relatively shallow water, but that rather they float. It is horrifying in its own right to be floating on the surface of the ocean, connected to the surface below not by four legs, but just by the drill with which you are penetrating the earth’s sunken crust. Imagine how much more horrifying, then, were the pocket you opened to contain not oil, but instead colors out of space, growing tentacles, and madness.

Caz McLeary is a man on the verge of losing everything, and his new job as electrician on an oil rig is partly effect, partly cause of this imminent loss. At least, that’s what he seems to believe and what all the evidence in the early game shows us, as he reads an angry letter from his wife, and then faces a somehow even angrier boss waving an arrest warrant in his face. But moments after that scene plays out, we and he learn that in fact he was nowhere close to losing everything, at least not then. It’s all a matter of properly defining “everything”. …and for that matter, “lose”.

I wasn’t expecting this to be a walking sim. That did not make it a bad game, but I sometimes wished for a little more control over events. Just a little, you know? Actually, as I think about it, the most proper audience for my plaintive request for more control over the events of December 25, 1975 is one Cameron “Caz”[2] McCleary, innit?

Is it apparent I liked this game? Well, I did. It was both mostly likable and immensely affective. Definitely worth a look.

[1] Why don’t we have a proper adjective for the way King writes? Probably because he doesn’t mostly write in a specific way, other than when it’s about the human horror of small towns. But it still feels like he deserves one, is all.
[2] British (in the imperial sense) people are really bad at name-shortening. Cameron = Caz? Jeremy = Jez? Come on, chaps, get it together.