Wednesday, April 27, 2011

BIQ Guide To Remakes: I Spit On Your Grave

Original: 1978
Remake: 2010
Best Version: Remake

Whilst I have serious problems with the last act of the remake it’s still a much more accomplished film than the infamous, but awful original. Read all about it here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

BIQ Guide To Remakes: The Last House On The Left

Original: 1972
Remake: 2009
Best Version: Tied

The original is raw and brutal, but hopelessly uneven in tone. The remake is a better production that's more even in tone, but it pulls its punches and has a fucking ludicrous ending. On balance, neither version really impressed me more than the other. Next!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Turdsday Movie Review: Skyline (2010)

In lieu of doing a full review of Skyline I've instead decided to post a transcript of a conversation between Colin and Greg Strause (the directors of Skyline), that occurred at the end of a Hy*drau*lx production meeting sometime in 2009. Enjoy...

Colin Strause: Hey Bro, I've been meaning to talk to you about something.
Greg Strause: What's that?
CS: I'm kind of tired of doing effects for other people's movies. I reckon we should make our own movie.
GS: Oh, not that old chestnut. We did make our own movie and everyone hated it.
CS: "Alien Versus Predator: Requiem" wasn't our movie it was fucking Fox's movie. I mean we should make our movie. Raise the cash ourselves. Make the movie we wanna make.
GS: Hmmm... what kind of movie did you have in mind?
CS: OK, sit down because I've been thinkin' about this and I reckon it could be awesome.
GS: Go on.
CS: An alien invasion movie set in LA.
GS: Cool. What’s the story?
CS: Aliens invade LA.
CG: And?
CS: Aliens in all different shapes and sizes invade LA. Some are huge. Some are small. Some walk. Some fly. Some have long tentacles. Some could be shaped like a big rock with a huge vagina shaped mouth...
GS: Awesome. So what happens?
CS: ...and some have big four way pincer claws, and some have a long scaly tongue like thing that can whip out and grab shit like a frogs' tongue and...
GS: Yeah, yeah, cool, I get that. Lots of different kinds of aliens, but what's the plot?
CS: OK, OK, so all the aliens have this blue light thing, right? Like on my blu-ray player. That's what they all have in common. That's what ties them together, so the audience doesn’t think it's just a bunch of random shit we made up. And their mother ships fire big blue lights that turn you into some sort of zombie if you look at it. We could use that cool visible veins effect on the humans that look at the blue light.
GS: Col, I understand the visuals. I like the concept. But what's the basic plot, dude?
CS: They attack people! The aliens! They attack people. People like us, I guess... in LA!
GS: Yeah, OK, but what actually happens? Give me the detail.
CS: Oh, yeah, right, well, they turn some people into zombies with the blue light and vaporise them. But some people get sucked up... like hundreds of people get sucked up... into the big mother ships like a giant freakin' vacuum. We can use that multiple human silhouette motion capture effect. Then some people could get grabbed by tentacles and sucked into these tube-like orifices. Then some people get crushed by big stomping aliens. Then, when the military attack them…
GS: The military attacks the aliens?
CS: Yeah.
GS: Awesome. Now we're talkin' plot. I like it. Go on.
CS: When the military attacks with helicopters the aliens take 'em down with those long scaly tongue like whips. And there's these crazy ass dog fights between air force stealth bombers and flying aliens.
GS: Oh man, that's cool.
CS: So we should do it right? We should make this movie?
GS: You're definitely onto something. This could be seriously awesome. But we need characters.
CS: Characters?
GS: People.
CS: Humans?
GS: Right. Main characters. I think they should be everyday people. People like you and me.
CS: Assholes living in LA?
GS: Touché. But I'm serious. Critics lap that character development shit up. OK, let me think. We should have... a pregnant chick. Yeah, a young couple... she's pregnant, but not too pregnant because she needs to be hot. Wait! I've got it! She's pregnant but the boyfriend doesn't know it. That's drama, dude. That's academy award shit.
CS: Maybe she could be impregnated by the aliens?
GS: Yeah, I dunno about that. Let's stick with them being regular folk with a human baby for now.
CS: OK, we could shoot the talky drama crap in our condo, that way we'll have more money to spend on effects.
GS: More effects, yeah, cool... no, wait, regular folk don’t live in condos.
CS: They don't?
GS: Dude, regular folk have to pay $20 for a cinema ticket and $30 for a new DVD, how the hell are they going to be able to afford living in a condo?
CS: Oh. OK. So, uhm... maybe... oh, I know, the regular dude and the pregnant-but-still-hot chick are from out of town, visiting friends who live in a condo.
GS: Perfect
CS: Yeah. Hot friends. Who have hot pool parties with lots of bikini chicks.
GS: Nice.
CS: So, they talk shit for a while, but not too long, and then the aliens attack...
GS: And the military attack back, with our characters getting caught up in it all.
CS: Aliens of all different shapes and sizes.
GS: Right, I think you said that already.
CS: Sorry.
GS: It's OK. You’re excited, I understand. So then how does it end?
CS: What?
GS: How does the movie end?
CS: Hmmm... good question.
GS: You don’t have an ending?
CS: Uhm...
GS: I think you need an ending. I mean, you've got a beginning and middle...
CS: Isn't that enough?
GS: Yeah, fuck it, let's do this thing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

BIQ Guide To Remakes: Black Christmas

Original: 1974
Remake: 2006
Best Version: Original

This is a hands down non contest. What made the original so scary was not knowing who was tormenting the sorority sisters, or why. So what did the film-makers in charge of the remake do? They decided to take the one element that made the original so suspenseful and completely screw it up by dedicating a large portion of their remake to explaining everything with a stupid new Rob-Zombie-ish back story. Ergh.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

BIQ Guide To Remakes: The Omen

Original: 1976
Remake: 2006
Best Version: Original

For reasons I’m unlikely to be able to distil, in the amount of space I allocate to these Remake Guides, religious hokum was scary thirty years ago but today just seems silly. Maybe that says more about me and my sacrilegious lack of faith as an adult than the quality of these films, but whatever the case, the original Omen scared the crap out of me as a youngster, whilst the remake was a bore that felt like it had been made thirty years too late.

Friday, April 15, 2011

BIQ Guide To Remakes: It's Alive

Original: 1974
Remake: 2008
Best Version: Remake

This is the only title where I’ve reviewed the original and the remake in full here at BIQ, so do yourself a favour and check out my old crap (1974 review, 2008 review) to gain a deeper understanding of why the remake is superior to the original. Alternatively you can just take my word for it that the remake is the least worst killer baby movie.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pretty Crazy In Pink: The Loved Ones (2009) Review

I think it's time for a new sub-genre label to describe movies like The Loved Ones. I propose "torture schlock". Torture schlock is essentially a derivative of torture porn, but with one significant difference. Torture schlock is set apart from torture porn by its grinning, giggling, maniacal, fruit-loop caricature antagonists. Torture schlock features an unholy combination of bloody gruesome violence and ridiculous cartoon villains that are impossible to take seriously. For other examples of this sub-genre, check out just about any film on Rob Zombie's CV. I guess the dichotomy of the extreme violence and the antagonist's dementedly cheery demeanour is supposed to be unsettling? But I just find it bemusing and, ultimately, ineffective as "horror".

Oddly, The Loved Ones starts like yet another depressing Aussie drama. Brent (Xavier Samuel) and his mother are a barely functioning family, struggling to cope with the aftermath of a serious car accident Brent and his father were involved in. The only shining light in Brent's miserable life is girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine) who not only tolerates the "emotional retard" (her jocular characterisation of Brent, not mine), but clearly loves him.

It turns out, however, that Holly isn't the only girl on campus with feelings for Brent. Prior to the school dance, the nerdishly cute Lola (Robin McLeavy) apprehensively approaches the melancholy Brent and nervously asks him to accompany her to the dance. He politely declines her invitation because he's already committed to taking Holly. Brent might have crap taste in music and be well overdue for a haircut, but at least his moral compass is working.

Now, up until this point in the movie, everything is played pretty straight. Yes, the characters are all emotionally damaged (this is an Australian film after all), but they are all "normal". The characterisations are serious, and everyone seems like a "real" person, including Lola. But then writer/director, Sean Byrne, switches on the infinite improbability drive...

Lola's father (John Brumpton) kidnaps Brent, on the night of the school dance, so that his precious Lola can have a fun evening torturing and tormenting him, at their secluded country cottage, as some sort of bizarre substitute for attending the dance with him.

Lola is... the Pretty In Pink, Prom Night, Diller Killer!

While Lola and her Daddy inflict cruel and unusual punishment on poor young Brent, The Love Ones occasionally checks in with Brent's mate, and his catatonic school dance date, smoking dope and listening to heavy metal in the school car park, completely oblivious to Brent's fate. It's an utterly pointless sub-plot that's only linked to the main story towards the very end of proceedings. The link doesn't really justify its inclusion, which really screws up the pace and tone of the movie. Maybe Byrne was going for comic relief with these scenes but they're not funny and, like the pickles in a McDonald's cheeseburger, it's difficult to understand why they are there.

Similar to Tomorrow When The War Began, I wanted to like The Loved Ones. Whilst it starts like another dreary Aussie drama, it's not long before the splatter starts and this film drives headlong into genre territory. I am, again, grateful that an Aussie film-maker is attempting an entertaining genre pic. And to be fair, it is a better example of its genre than Tomorrow When The War Began was of its genre. But, (and you knew the "but" was coming didn’t you), it's hopelessly uneven in tone, and finds itself in a sub-genre that I find rather unsatisfying.

Watching someone have their feet nailed to the floor is not suspenseful or scary. It's just plain gross. When the perpetrator is a melodramatic lunatic it goes from being gross to just plain silly. Perhaps there is scope here for very dark comedy, and maybe that's what Byrne was shooting for, but it's not funny enough (to me at least) to really work on that level.

OK, I did chuckle once, at Lola's theme song, but that probably had more to do with my disdain for Casey Chambers' whiny little ditty "Am I Pretty Enough" than any comedic genius associated with including it in The Loved Ones soundtrack.

All that said, The Loved Ones is certainly no worse than a lot of Hollywood horror movies. Thankfully, the days of Australian horror movies being sub-standard excrement well below the lowest standard set by Hollywood (I'm thinking Blood Moon, Houseboat Horror, and Body Melt, just to name a few) are well and truly behind us. Whilst The Loved Ones wasn't really to my taste, it is very well made, very well performed, and sure to please those torture schlock fans who do like to watch people have their feet nailed to the floor by a grinning nut-job.

Monday, April 11, 2011

BIQ Guide To Remakes: Prom Night

Original: 1980
Remake: 2008
Best Version: Original

Similar to The Amytiville Horror, neither the original nor the remake of Prom Night really lit my torch. The original is a pretty slow affair and featured way too much disco dancing. The remake is just complete sanitised blandness. I give the nod to the original because it was better for its time than the remake, but again, I wouldn’t really recommend either.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

BIQ Guide To Remakes: When A Stranger Calls

Original: 1979
Remake: 2006
Best Version: Tied

If the original When A Stranger Calls had been distributed by the Weinsteins it might well been cut up and released as to separate movies (like Kill Bill and Grindhouse). When A Stranger Calls: Part I (1979) would have contained the awesome “have you checked the children” sequence. When A Stranger Calls: Part II (1979) would have contained the dull detective story featuring Charles Durning lugging his fat ass all over town. In this alternate reality I would rate the original When A Stranger Calls: Part I (1979) better than the 2006 remake, which I would in turn rate better than the original When A Stranger Calls: Part II (1979). Do you see what I’m saying, or have I just made my point more complicated than it needed to be? The original has both moments of brilliance and tedium. The remake never reaches the spectacular heights of the original but it doesn’t stoop as low either. On balance, does that make them even? I guess so, but I’m happy to be convinced otherwise.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

BIQ Guide To Remakes: The Amityville Horror

Original: 1979
Remake: 2005
Best Version: Remake

Both versions of The Amityville Horror are pretty dull. The story of a bunch of people, who slowly become cranky with one another because the house they are living in has funny shaped windows, just isn’t that interesting. I guess the remake is more effective, but I wouldn’t really recommend either of these snore-fests.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

BIQ Guide To Remakes: Psycho

Original: 1960
Remake : 1998
Best Version: Original

What the fuck was Gus Van Sant thinking? Really! What?! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a guy who thinks that aimlessly following untrained actors around with a steady-cam can pass for filmed entertainment (I’m talking about his pretentious wank of a film Elephant, in case I’ve lost you), would also think that doing a scene-for-scene remake of arguably the best horror movie ever created was a good idea. It is, of course, not a good idea. It’s a fucking stupid idea. The Psycho remake is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most ill-conceived (and lazy) remake ever made.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Vampires Vs Frogs: Lost Boys: The Thirst [aka Lost Boys 3] (2010) Review

If Lost Boys: The Tribe (aka Lost Boys 2) had been called The Tribe: A Vampire Movie That Has Nothing To Do With "The Lost Boys" I might not have disliked it as much as I did (just to be clear, I disliked it quite a lot). It had virtually nothing in common with the seminal vampire movie it was purporting to be a sequel to. The story didn't relate. The tone was all wrong. Ergh... It might have been an OK movie in its own right but to use the Lost Boys name to sell it was an act of fraud.

Now we have a second Lost Boys direct-to-video sequel in the form of Lost Boys: The Thirst. This time around at least the film-makers have attempted to pay homage to the original classic (and it is a "classic" BTW, don't let no stinkin' Twilight fan tell you otherwise), but sadly it's all a bit half-baked and really only serves as another skid mark on the Lost Boys legacy.

The story, for what it's worth, revolves around some globe-trotting DJ, DJ X (Seb Castang), who is really a vampire infecting legions of ravers with "The Thirst" a thinly veiled party drug that's actually vampire blood. A woman, whose brother has been captured by DJ X to be sacrificed at his next rave, enlists the help of Edgar Frog (Corey Feldman) to take down DJ X when he arrives in some place that's not Santa Carla.

"This didn't seem quite so stupid when we were kids."

The logic holes here are boundless. If legions of ravers around the world are being turned into vampires how is it possible that no one seems to have noticed? And why would anyone want to do that anyway? If you're a vampire, wouldn't converting everyone else into vampires leave you with no shemps left to feed on. The story really makes no sense, and again, is out of step with the modest scope of the original Lost Boys film.

On the positive side of the ledger, the tone of the film is closer to the original than the previous sequel, with Feldman giving us a modestly humorous adult Edgar Frog as our principle reluctant hero. There are also plenty of references in the screen play to the original film. At one point Edgar even reels off just about everyone's name from original and explains to Alan Frog (Jamison Newlander), who is sadly underutilised as an even more relucant-er hero, why they are not in this movie. Yes, it's awfully clunky exposition but it was good to see these characters acknowledged, nonetheless.

Lost Boys: The Thirst really is pretty stupid, and not a patch on the original film, but it is an improvement of the previous sequel and there were just enough elements of homage to the original to make it all tolerable.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

BIQ Guide To Remakes: House Of Wax

Original: 1953
Remake: 2005
Best Version: Original

The original House of Wax was made before I was even born, but during the minor 3D resurgence of the 1980’s it was re-released in cinemas in a nice new polarised 3D version. I remember other people in the cinema scoffing and laughing at it, but I have to admit it creeped me out. What can I say, I was only young and Vincent Price is a scary dude. The only real redeeming features of the preposterous remake were Paris Hilton’s death scene and the delicious Elisha Cuthbert.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

BIQ Guide To Remakes: Dawn Of The Dad

Original: 1978
Remake: 2004
Best Version: Tied

I think George Romero gets all together way too much credit for the “satire” people read into in the original Dawn Of The Dead. I can’t help thinking that George’s thought processes really didn’t extend beyond “hey, wouldn’t it be cool to shoot a zombie flick in a shopping mall”. Both the original and the remake are basically fun shopping mall zombie movies and I don’t really rate either more highly than the other.

Friday, April 1, 2011

BIQ Guide To Remakes: April Fool's Day

Original: 1986
Remake: 2008
Best Version: Original

This one is really no contest. The original is a bona fide classic. The remake is direct-to-video excrement directed by a couple of bozos who like refer to themselves as The Butcher Brothers. No, they are not brothers, but yes, metaphorically speaking, I guess they are butchers. Even setting aside my love for the original, and my disdain for the idiocy of a couple of hacks referring to themselves as “The Butcher Brothers”, it’s easy to see that the April Fool’s Day story, or more specifically it’s “twist” ending, really doesn’t lend itself to remaking and just should not have been attempted in the first place.