Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quick BIQ Review: Nothing (2003)

Nothing tells the story of a couple of losers who run afoul of just about everyone they've ever met in their life. Just when it looks like their house is about to be demolished and both of them carted off to jail for crimes they didn't commit, their collective will power somehow makes the entire world outside their apartment disappear.

It's an interesting concept and, visually, it's well realised: that's the good news. The bad news is that neither of these two losers are terribly likable or sympathetic, and the film just doesn’t know whether to play it for laughs, scares, or drama. Ultimately Nothing fails to really work on any level. The performances end up being way over the top and the film's ultimate conclusion reminded me of one of those stupid old Rodney Rude jokes.

Monday, May 30, 2011

True Horror: My Eden Lake (Day 3)

This is the continuing story of My Eden Lake, be sure to read all about Day 1 and Day 2.

Monday - Day 3

In between day 2 and 3 I enjoyed a relaxing weekend (yes, quietly enoying a few German lagers while watching Australian football), only to return to work the following Monday to be greeted by this...

I wonder who could possibly have done this?

I have a hunch, which my physio is working on (c'mon, that joke never gets old), but I reckon I might also know who left these gracious messages on the front entrance windows. Of course, because no one actually witnessed this misdemeanour, it's all a bit too much hassle for the Police to bother investigating.

Day 3 Thoughts

Tegan Lane was dead for 15 years before some dedicated social workers and a really smart prosecution lawyer finally put her mother behind bars. Why? Because the Police never investigated her disappearance properly in the first place.

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the Police are not interested in the comparitively minor misdemeanours of Dipstick & Numbnut. It's just disappointing, to me, given the evidence we have against them; a photo of Dipstick (click this link to see it, but click gently, he's only a minor), one of their darts, and half a dozen witnesses to their day 1 and 2 activities. They are clearly locals and could easily be found and charged (or at least given a warning).

The other problem is that this lack of interest from local law enforcement has clearly emboldened Dipstick & Numbnut, and you start to worry about what other crap they are going to pull if they think they can keep getting away with it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Blair Rec Paranormal Broadcast Exorcism: The Last Exorcism (2010) Review

I think I speak for a lot of punters when I say that the best way to approach a movie is to know as little about it as possible. When freed from preconceptions and expectations you can just enjoy a movie for what it is. So, I was pretty pleased with myself that I'd managed to avoid all the publicity and opinion of The Last Exorcism before sitting down to watch it. I literally had no idea what to expect. But a few frames in it soon became obvious I was watching another "found footage" movie. Ergh. It was really too soon after Paranormal Activity 2 to do this dance again, and for once (in fairness to both me and the film-makers) it would have actually been better to know what I was in for so I could have given The Last Exorcism some more breathing space after Paranormal Activity 2. Oh, well...

Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) has been an evangelical preacher his whole life. We meet him via the lens of two documentary film-makers as he describes to them his life as a preacher specialising in exorcisms. He reveals, bluntly, that exorcisms are fake (shocking, I know), but explains that for years he thought he was doing a good thing because of the placebo effect it had on the deluded people he performed them on.

Frankly, if people are stupid enough to believe in demonic possession, I say let the devil eat their soul... nom, nom, nom.

But, the ill health of Cotton's own young son has left him questioning his faith, and the emerging reports of exorcisms going horribly wrong, at the hands of other preachers, has inspired him to expose exorcisms for the fakery they are.

'Please, God, no... not another "found footage" movie!'

This basic set-up takes quite a while, and leaves you wondering what the movie is really about for too long. That said, once Cotton finally explains that he's going to conduct his last exorcism and wants a documentary film crew to film it and expose to the world what fakery exorcisms really are, you can predict the trajectory of the rest of the movie in an instant.

As a horror movie, it's just not that effective. The scares are too little too late, and the conclusion is as silly as it is predictable.

But, the strange thing is that The Last Exorcism actually (kind of) works as religious satire. At least it did for me. Patrick Fabian's Cotton is a funny, engaging character. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy his story. I'm just a little surprised the film-maker's didn't realise, when they were editing their movie, that perhaps what they had on their hands was a movie that would work better as pure satire rather than the half-baked horror movie they ultimately cut together. I reckon, with major re-editing and minimal reshooting, The Last Exorcism, could have been a movie more akin to Four Lions than The Blair Witch Project, and would have been better for it.

If you're looking for "found footage" thrills to rival The Blair Witch Project, Rec, or Paranormal Activity then you're in for a big disappointment with The Last Exorcism. It's just too predictable and delivers it's weak scares too late. But if you have a healthy disrespect for religious hokum, you might get something out this movie that, for a good percentage of its run time, does a pretty good job of taking the piss out of such hokum.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

True Horror: My Eden Lake (Day 2)

This is the continuing story of My Eden Lake, be sure to read all about Day 1.

Thursday - Day 2

Dipstick & Numbnut returned to my place of work (yes, the manufacturing facility that doesn't manufacture anything) to egg my car.

It's at this point I started to feel less threatened and more bemused by these losers. You see, they hit the car of a colleague (who had parked where I parked the previous day) instead of my car. My car was safely parked out of sight because I had a feeling they might return and do something like this. But, apparently these morons didn't notice that the car they egged was a completely different make and model to mine. Or maybe, they just didn't care.

Either way, I have to admit, this was actually a bit of a win for me. Firstly, my car didn't get egged. Secondly, they were pissing off more people from my office, so if this kid ever turns up dead somewhere, I won't be the only suspect.

Again, Police were notified. Again, interest in our situation was from them was, like, you know, whatever.

Day 2 Thoughts

It occurs to me now that Dipstick & Numbnut are probably well versed in how to piss people off without actually crossing a line that would make them of any interest to the Police. So I don't think they are actually dangerous, they are just a fucking nuisance.

I can can only hope that one day, when they are old enough, they'll do 65 in a 60 zone, or possibly work in a donut shop. Let's see how well they evade Police attention then.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

True Horror: My Eden Lake (Day 1)

I'm not in the habit of posting personal crap here. Frankly, my life just isn't that interesting, and I struggle to understand the point of blogs where people, who have similarly uneventful lives, chronicle them in an inordinate amount of detail for public consumption.

I mean, you don't wanna read that I drank too much Weihenstephan one Friday night and woke up with a headache the following Saturday morning, do you? I didn't get in a bar fight. I didn't puke in public. I didn't shag a complete stranger. Hell, I didn't even leave home. I'm no Tucker Max. I just sat on the couch quietly getting pissed (I sort of forgot that the Weihenstephan stubbies were 500ml not 330ml), while I watched the footy on my big TV. The only reason to mention it is to make the point of how un-mention-worthy it is.

But a couple of weeks ago something eventful did happen. Well, it was eventful by my standards. I have to admit that the local constabulary categorised it as a "low priority". So, you see, even the exciting crap in my life is kinda lame in the overall scheme of things.

Wednesday - Day 1

I work at a manufacturing facility that no longer manufactures anything (which is a whole other story). In our heyday about 350 people worked here. Now there are 7. There's another small company who rent space from us who employ another 40 people or so, but their office space is quite separate from ours and we don't have much to do with them.

On this day, we had a couple of kids loitering around the facility. Let's call them Dipstick and Numbnut. They were approximately 12 and 14 years old respectively. They tampered with our mail bag. They were throwing darts near our front entrance. They refused to leave the premises after being asked to do so, on multiple occasions, by several different staff members. They were what people of my parent’s generation would describe as "trouble makers".

After the kind pregnant customer service rep asked them to leave, they refused. After the gently spoken churchy accountant asked them to leave, they refused. So, yours truly decided to have a go. Seeing as "asking nicely" wasn't working I instead used fairly strong language to indicate my displeasure at them tampering with our mail, throwing darts and refusing to leave. I photographed them and confiscated one of their darts, before they took off yelling abuse at me as they did.

Exciting so far, no?

About 20 minutes later I went to leave for the day. I was the only person left from my company. Yep, alone in the dark. When I stepped outside Dipstick and Numbnut were back. Dipstick had re-collected all his darts and was now screaming abuse at me "you fucking pussy, come here and fucking finish what you started!"

Now, as tempting as that proposal was, I had the good sense to know that if I reduced this kid's head to a crimson stain on the front path, the cleaning lady would not be happy, and I would probably end up in jail. So, I went back inside and called the police.

Police procedure is such an awesome thing. They will not come out unless you stay exactly where you are (you know, where the threat is), and they won’t give you an ETA.

"You're being threatened by 2 kids with darts? OK here's what you do... stay right there and don't move or you'll make it hard for the kids to aim properly. The more injured you are the more likely it is that we'll get the Sarg's permission to escalate your complaint from low to medium. Excuse me for a moment... hey Frank, can you take the speed camera out to the straight, we snared a shit load when Pete took it out there on Chewsdy... Sorry about that, where was I? Oh yeah, stay right where you are indefinitely and we might come out eventually."

I waited for the Police for a while but it was getting late and I was growing tired of listening to Dipstick screaming "come out, you fucking gutless pussy!" I mean, how retarded does a kid have to be to mistake me for a cat? And how on earth does he think any cat could possibly live without an intestinal system anyway? What a moron.

So, I called the police back and told them that, as fun as it was being subjected to Dipstick's verbal tirade, I really had to leave and go collect my own children from supervised care. The irony, of having to depart for that particular reason, seemed to be lost on the disinterested constable I spoke to.

When I left I got more verbal abuse and Dipstick actually chased my car screaming abuse at my tail gate as I drove out of the car park. As he chased me, the reverse gear in my car starting speaking to me, "use me, use me, use me," it whispered. But, once again, the practicality of removing the DNA of a dead kid off my rear bumper was something I wasn't really prepared to contend with late on a school night, so I drove away.

LOST DOG - Please call owner on:
2727-727368 (CRAP-PARENT)

I later found out that these charming characters had remained on site after my departure and dished out more abuse to some staff from the other company that operates on our large site.

Day 1 Thoughts

My run-in with these little fucktards bought home to me why Eden Lake is such an effective movie. I'm not going to suggest that my little stoush with these little turds was anything like what happened in that movie. If it was, it should be obvious to those who have seen the movie, that I would not be blogging about it now. But, it did highlight to me how young boys, who want to threaten or hurt you, are incredibly difficult to deal with. When you're confronted you feel helpless because you know that they are a protected species. You just can't touch them, and they know it. But they have the physical capability to harm you just like another adult. To me, that's scary shit. You just can't protect yourself until, well... probably until it's too late.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quick BIQ Review: Dracula 2001 (2000)

Apart from "crap", I'm not sure what to call this film.

On the (Australian) DVD cover the film's title is Dracula 2000. On the disc I shoved in my DVD player the film's title is Dracula 2000, but when the film starts the opening credits boldly declare "Wes Craven presents Dracula 2001". For a moment I thought I must have accidentally picked up the sequel to Dracula 2000. I hadn’t. I later learned that this film was released as Dracula 2000 in the US, but then re-titled Dracula 2001 for its UK release. Obviously the distributors of the (Australian) DVD simply didn't care enough about this little turd to make sure the DVD cover art matched the film's titles.

OK, so apart from the film's identity crisis, what's wrong with it? Pretty much everything. It looks nice, but the script is so uninspired it feels like you're watching a regurgitated composite of every other vampire movie ever made. If you're going to make yet another vampire movie I think you need to bring something new to the table, and Dracula 2001 categorically fails to do so.

After the similarly disastrous Vampire In Brooklyn I'm surprised Wes Craven was so willing to lend his name to another dud vampire movie.

Whatever this film is called in your country, avoid it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Diminshing Returns: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) Review

There is a pretty simple rule of diminishing returns when it comes to sequels. In theory, an original film has the potential to appeal to everyone. A sequel, however, usually only has the potential to appeal to the select group of people who liked the original. As each sequel is created the potential audience continues to get smaller and smaller, until you end up with a franchise full stop like I Will Always Know What You Did Last Summer; a movie that no one cares about and only bears a passing resemblance to the original movie that spawned it. Paranormal Activity 2 is, like so many other sequels, the first step towards making the "Paranormal Activity" name something that no one cares about and has little to do with the impressive original.

Paranormal Activity 2 is a prequel, of sorts, commencing its story approximately six months prior to the events depicted in the original movie. This time around the focus is on Katie's sister, Kristi (Sprague Grayden), and her family. One evening they come home to find their home completely trashed. So, in a knee jerk reaction, Dad (Brian Boland) decides to get a security company to come in and install security cameras all throughout the house. Whilst this is clearly a contrivance designed to free the movie's writer from having to have his characters constantly filming everything themselves, I have to concede that it’s a clever idea, by sequel standards, and helps make Paranormal Activity 2 one of those rare sequels that manage to do something a little different but are still respectful of the original.

What ensues, of course, are a series of bump-in-the-night scares similar to what we got in the original, as the paranormal entity increasingly makes its presence felt. Again, all revealed in the "found footage". The movie eventually catches up to the time of the original movie and passes it providing a brief glimpse of what happened after the events of the original.

"Seriously, like, Auntie Katie is, like, totally, a total spaz."

Whilst I was impressed by the inventiveness of the story and the way it was told, Paranormal Activity 2 didn't have me on the edge of my seat quite like the original. The same "Day X" subtitles are used to chronicle the events in a linear fashion but, unlike the original, Paranormal Activity 2 often chronicles days were literally nothing happens. There can be a fine line between building suspense and boring your audience and, in my frequently ignored opinion, this movie leaves the audience waiting too long too often for it to be really effective.

The other thing that bugged me a little was the way in which the security camera footage was edited together. Whenever the paranormal entity made a bump in the night we would see or, more accurately, hear it from the point of view of a security camera that was not in the room that the activity occurred in. The editor would then cut to the security camera in the room where the activity had just occurred giving us a glimpse of the spooky aftermath. So, the question has to be asked; why didn't the editor just include the footage from the room that the activity occurred in? All the cameras are running all the time, after all. The answer, of course, is because the editor is making a horror movie, not really presenting us with raw "found footage". If the movie had been more effective I’d be more forgiving of this particular contrivance, but after watching long periods of nothing I found this conceit (of featuring the wrong camera at the wrong time) taking me out of the moment on a number occasions.

Paranormal Activity 2 has a surprisingly solid story and some effective moments, making it an above average sequel. But, fans of the original approaching this movie in dark coloured underwear, hoping to have the crap scared out of them again, are likely to be somewhat disappointed by its comparative lack of intensity. Of course, that disappointment is unlikely to stop Paramount continuing to trot out sequels until every last fan of the original has lost interest.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Harper’s Bizarre: Suspiria (1977) Review

When it comes to my love of horror movies I feel like an outcast living in a no-man's-land between the real world, where regular folk think I have an unhealthy level of interest in the genre, and the world of seasoned horror genre aficionados where I'm a comparative light weight with very little authority on the genre.

Ask your average Joe what they think of Suspiria and they'll likely have no idea what you're talking about and ask you in return when did you suddenly develop a lisp. Ask an internet horror blogger about Suspiria and you'll think they just popped an eccy as you witness the love for this movie pour from every... uhm... pore of their body. Now, if you'd asked me last week I would have said, "It's one of many Dario Argento movies I haven't seen". Ask me this week, and my response is yet another affirmation of my horror movie purgatory between the real world and the world of hard-core horror genre enthusiasts.

Suzy (Jessica Harper) is an American ballet dancer who travels to Germany to train at an exclusive dance school. When she arrives she is accompanied by dramatic gusts of wind blowing through the airport terminal, a frenetic music score, wild stormy weather, and flashing red lights in the back of her cab. It is, without a doubt, the most dramatic airport transfer ever committed to film.

In the 1970's German taxi drivers were often known to place flashing red lights on their rear parcel shelf in a bid to fool other drivers into thinking that they were an emergency services vehicle, ensuring them clear passage through Germany's notoriously congested traffic.

When Suzy arrives at the dance school she sees an overacting woman with poorly looped dialogue fleeing the school in a state of over-baked distress. When Suzy tries to check-in at the dance school a voice on the intercom refuses her entry and tells her to go away. Suzy pleads her case with the voice on the intercom, that she's a new student who is expected, but it is to no avail. She eventually gives up, gets back in her cab, and goes... well, I don't know where... because the movie then disorientating jumps to a set piece where two women are murdered... somewhere.

After the two women are murdered, writer/director Dario Argento cuts to the following day. Suzy heads back to the dance school after spending the night at... well, who knows... and this time, in the calm light of day, she receives a warm welcome from the women who run the school. We soon learn, via the poorly looped, expository, dialogue that the woman Suzy saw fleeing the school the previous night was one of the two women murdered... somewhere.

What ensues are a series of equally illogical and disorientating death scenes all centred around the dance school, a wholly unconvincing scene of exposition where Suzy learns from a couple of quacks what the source of the menace at the school is, and finally an anti-climactic stab-stab-stab-burn ending. The cherry on top of this half-baked pie is the first line of the final credits: "You have been watching Suspira". Thanks for the reminder Dario, for a while there I thought I was watching How Not To Decorate.

Argento creates atmosphere with red light.

Even the most enthusiastic admirers of Suspiria don't deny the story telling is flawed. To be honest, from what I'd read about Suspiria prior to watching it, I was expecting it to be more esoteric and impenetrable than it actually is. It turns out that the basic story is actually fairly conventional and does, very loosely, make sense. It's just really poorly told, with Argento clearly more interested in mood and atmosphere than a coherent narrative.

It's the film's visual splendour and frenetic soundtrack that that admirers love to shovel praise on. For me, impressive visuals are no substitute for character and story. Even if they were, I just wasn't as impressed with the film's visuals as so many others are. All locations are soaked, to the point of oozing, in garish primary colours. Scenes are illuminated by coloured party lights with a very strong emphasis on red, because, you know, red is the colour of bloooooooooooood!!! Ahem.

Argento creates even more atmosphere with even more red light.

Unidentified Suspiria actress goes perilously close to drowning in atmosphere.

I can only assume that hard-core fans who drool over Agrento's technicolor yawn have never been inside a sex shop, because these establishments are all decorated and lit pretty much the same way as the Suspiria sets. Garish solid colours adorn the walls whilst halls and entrances are bathed in red light. If you've ever been into one of these seedy establishments Argento's production design suddenly looks more like a derivative of the d├ęcor at Penelope's Porn Palace than the visual masterpiece it's often touted as.

I wanted to like Suspiria. I really did. And during the opening scenes I thought maybe I was going to. Maybe I was finally going to fit with the hard-core horror crowd. But, sadly, the muddled storytelling and porn shop visuals soon had me on the verge of falling asleep, dreaming about my destiny to forever languish in nightmare purgatory between the real world and the world of true horror fandom.

You have been reading a review of Suspiria.