Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Candyman's Friday the 13th on Elm Street: Hatchet (2006) Review

When watching Bad Taste at Melbourne's Valhalla Cinema in the late 80's (how's that for cool retro name dropping?) I got the impression I was watching something more than just low budget schlock. I'm not going to claim that I predicted Peter Jackson's subsequently meteoric rise, but Bad Taste had a certain flair that made me think Jackson was capable of bigger and better things. After recently catching up with Hatchet I have to say that I had a similar feeling about its creator Adam Green...

In a prelude set in the Louisiana bayou, Hatchet starts with a couple of rednecks (Robert Englund and Joshua Ainsley) out at night huntin' for gators. Before you can say, "is it just me or is Robert Englund actually not that good an actor" the two rednecks meet a bloody gruesome end at the hands of someone or something far more more brutal than those harmless little 'ole gators.

After Englund collects his pay cheque, we catch up with Ben (Joel David Moore) and Marcus (Deon Richmond) partying at the nearby Mardi Gras. In what is the first sign that Adam Green doesn't have a lot of money, all the Mardi Gras shots are in close up, trying to fool the audience that a dozen or so extras are actually hundreds of revellers. It doesn't work but it hardly matters.

Ben and Marcus are quickly separated from the crowd, because Ben isn't in the mood for partying. He's recently split with his girlfriend and would rather go on a ghost tour of the local wetlands than get mixed up in the drunken debauchery of Mardi Gras. Marcus, quite rightly, tries to convince Ben that beer and women are better than swamps and ghosts. But, for reasons that are impossible for a mere mortal like me to comprehend, he fails.

When Ben and Marcus knock on the door of, ghost tour operator, Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd (are you seeing a pattern with the casting of the minor roles yet?)) instead of getting a warm welcome and a tour ticket they get an ominous warning about how unsafe it is to tour the bayou at night, and a refusal to take them there. At Ben's insistence the Reverend reluctantly recommends another tour operator. Again Marcus wants out of swamps and ghosts and in to beer and women, but Ben is hell bent of doing something more in tune with his current depressed mood.

Our two bantering, bickering, bosom buddies finally catch up with the one and only tour operator (Parry Shen) still taking people out into the wetlands at night and join a motley group of characters also taking the tour. We have just enough time to get to know these characters before the tour goes pear shaped. The group starts getting picked off and brutally carrved up, one by one, by someone resembling local legend Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder (surely you can see the casting pattern now?)), who we learn all about via an expository monologue delivered by the tour passenger Ben becomes keen on, Mary-Beth (Tamara Feldmen).

"...if you look to your left you'll see the heritage listed Crowley mansion, and immediately to your right a bloody bludgeoned corpse. Moving right along, just up ahead you'll notice..."

For the first two acts Hatchet actually plays more like a comedy than a horror, which is fine by me because it's actually funny. I've seen plenty of comedies that aren't as funny as Hatchet. Tony Todd is hilarious as Reverend Zombie, and Perry Shen is good value as the replacement tour guide. The banter between Ben And Marcus also had me laughing out loud on several occasions during the first two acts of the movie. If you're looking for a comedy and can stomach the over-the-top gore that's delivered in the prelude and last act, you could do a lot worse than Hatchet.

I guess for hard-core horror purists, however, the lack of scares on offer might be a disappointment. Ironically, when the movie sobers up and flies straight in the last act it actually become less entertaining. Writer/director Adam Green falls into the trap of having his protagonists doing inexplicably dumb things in order to confine the action to one place and allow his antagonist easy pickings. At one point, for instance, they all agree that fleeing is hopeless and they need to stay and fight. Uhm, OK. But after taking the fight to Crowley and temporarily knocking him down they then all agree that they need to flee, without finishing him off. What the?

Hatchet is not a great horror movie, but Green shows a lot of promise as a film-maker working with limited resources, and has a definite flair for comedy. Unlike when I saw Peter Jackson's first low budget shocker, I do have the benefit of some hind-sight in this instance. I've already seen Green's follow-up Frozen, which is in all respects a superior movie, and confirmation that Green is a genuine talent. Still, I had a good time with Hatchet which, despite its flaws, is a surprisingly enjoyable horror/comedy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

You're Entitled To My Opinion: Documentary Vs Mockumentary

It probably comes as no surprise that, given I'm such a light-weight in the world of horror/exploitation movie blogging, I actually watch a lot of movies that are not horror and/or exploitation.

Catfish, for example, is a movie I was eagerly anticipating despite it being a movie I wouldn't normally discuss here at the BIQ. But, after having watched it recently it got me thinking about how the proliferation of faux documentaries (and fake internet viral videos) has made it almost impossible to watch a "documentary" without continually searching for clues of fakery, rather than just enjoying the story. Given that the horror genre is disproportionally represented in the faux documentary (aka mockumentary) category I figured it was an appropriate subject for discussion here.

Regardless of whether a film like Catfish is fact or fiction it's becoming obvious, from other examples, that film-makers who set out to make a fake documentary are going to greater lengths to fool their audience. Whilst it was fairly easy to find out that The Blair Witch Project was a work of fiction, the film-makers responsible for more recent movies like I’m Still Here and Exit Through The Gift Shop have gone to far greater lengths to fool audiences.

Even with my highly tuned bullshit detector, I'm struggling to decide if Catfish is fact or fiction. If it's fact, then all the fakes that have preceded it have clearly destroyed my ability to trust "documentary" film-makers. If it's fake (and history has taught me that if there's any doubt then it usually is fake) then it is the most convincing one yet.

Whenever a film like I'm Still Here or Exit Through The Gift Shop is released there is the inevitable debate in public forums about whether it's fact or fiction. But, more interestingly (to me at least), is the fact that some people simply don't care; "It's a good movie. I don't care if it's real or not." I admire people who can rest with that thought. I can't. Not knowing drives me nuts.

So, why does not knowing if a "documentary" is fact or fiction bug me so much? I've never really thought about it in any great detail, because prior to Exit Through The Gift Shop I'd never encountered a movie where the answer to the question, of whether it was fact or fiction, was not immediately obvious to me. But the burning question of Catfish’s authenticity has made me evaluate why it bothers me. Why I need to know. Here's my theory...

Whenever I get asked about my love of horror movies I calmly explain that it's escapism. It's about experiencing danger in a safe environment. It's like riding an amusement park ride. It's about getting a visceral thrill, but knowing that ultimately you can walk away unscathed. It doesn't matter how far a horror movie pushes the boundaries there is one universal safety net: it's not real.

Understanding the difference between reality and fantasy is crucial when moderating our behaviour. A character in a horror movie can get away with virtually anything. Real life doesn't work that way. When delusional nut-jobs loose a grip on reality they start doing stuff that's just not socially acceptable. So, whilst I've never really thought about it in these terms, I now realise that it's very important for me to know the difference between reality and fantasy because not knowing puts you in a position of not being able to reliably moderate your behaviour.

Megan Faccio (aka Aimee Gonzales (aka Women With Tenuous Link To Story Gratuitously Added to Blog Post Because She's Gorgeous))

Of course, I'm not going to lose my grip on reality and go on a wild murderous shooting spree, or start exposing myself to strangers, simply because I can't tell if Catfish is real or not. It's just the very thin edge of a much larger wedge. Being unable to tell the difference clearly sends my brain into a spin. Sub-consciously, I guess, I really need to know if something is real or not to keep me sane.

So, what's your take on this? Are faux documentaries eroding the trust you have in real documentaries? Does it matter to you whether a movie like Catfish is real or not? Discuss...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bloody Rosemary: Rosemary's Killer [aka The Prowler] (1981) Review

I feel like I've been writing a lot of negative reviews in recent times, and whenever I get into one of these "every movie I've seen lately is crap" ruts I start to question my faith. My faith in filmed entertainment, that is. Will no movie ever please me ever again? Have I finally outgrown the allure of moving pictures? Thankfully, my faith is usually restored by a movie that eventually comes along and shines brightly amongst the pile of excrement I've been wading through. A movie that winks at me a says, "you're not the problem BIQ, they were the problem." It's all the more satisfying when this movie is such an undiscovered gem like Rosemary's Killer...

In a prelude set in 1945 (but looking suspiciously like a 40's themed party taking place in the 80's), Rosemary attends the graduation dance with her civy boyfriend, Roy, after having dispensed with her, WWII serving, soldier boyfriend via a "Dear John" letter. Things are going swimmingly at the dance until Rose and Roy step outside for some extramarital shenanigans. Before you can say "well, didn't she turn out to be a floosy" an unidentified person armed with an identified pitch fork shows up and... well... pitch forks the hanky-pankying couple to death.

The movie then skips ahead to the "present day" (which happens to be 1981 at the time this movie was made) and a group of hot young hipsters are preparing for the first graduation dance to be held since the pitch-forky events of 1945. Now, you're never gonna guess what happens next... Rosemary's killer, who was never identified or caught in 1945, makes a triumphant return and starts carving up those damn teens on the night of the graduation dance.

I bet you never saw that coming.

"I honestly don't think this is the way to the dance."

Yeah, OK, Rosemary's Killer is not exactly ground breaking cinema. It follows the conventions of the genre pretty faithfully and never really surprises. Fans of the more well-known My Bloody Valentine will probably also complain about the striking similarity of its plot. But here's the thing; whilst Rosemary's Killer does nothing new it does what it does better than most of its contemporaries, including My Bloody Valentine.

The performances are all way above par for an 80's slasher, the score is wonderfully effective, and Tom Savini's visual effects are gruesomely convincing. The titular killer gets around in army fatigues and some sort of desert storm face covering. Whilst this is not as iconic as the kit that other 80's slasher antagonists got around in, it's still an effective way to keep the killer's identity hidden until the movie's finale, which is more effective (and makes more sense) than most other slashers of the era.

Rosemary's Killer goes by the name of The Prowler in other territories, but a "rose by any other name would smell just as sweet". Ahem. In truth, neither title serves the film particularly well. "The Prowler" is too generic, too forgettable, and just plain lame. "Rosemary’s Killer" is a better title but it's hard to look at it and not think "don't you mean Rosemary's Baby?".

Whether it was the multiple uninspiring titles that led to the film's relative obscurity, or whether it's just not as good as I’m giving it credit for, Rosemary's Killer is still an undiscovered gem in my metaphorical books. So, if you're in the mood for some 80's slasher goodness I say you could easily do a lot worse than Rosemary's Killer (aka The Prowler).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Quick BIQ Review: The Locals (2003)

Australia gave the world Houseboat Horror, so New Zealand finally retaliated with The Locals. That comparison may be a bit harsh, but I’m struggling to find anything nice to say about this poorly scripted, over-acted, ineffective little Kiwi "horror" flick.

Apart from beging poorly scripted, over-acted, and generally ineffective, the thing that is most notably wrong with the film is the lighting. The film takes place mostly at night in the New Zealand country side. So in theory it should be dark, right? Wrong. Every scene is lit with 50 gazillion mega watt spot lights just out of frame, making the whole thing look like Friday Night Football. It’s distracting and distinctly unscary.

I guess at the heart of this film is a good story idea, but the execution is real amateur hour stuff.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chrome Dome: Laid To Rest (2009) Review

After seeing Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull I thought to myself, "that skull will probably never work again." But his hard working agent has proven me wrong by getting him a gig as the chrome plated face mask of the brutal bald antagonist in the low budget slasher Laid To Rest.

Laid To Rest starts with an unnamed girl (Bobbi Sue Luther) waking up in a funeral home coffin. She rocks around until she finally knocks her coffin off its perch, breaking it open and allowing her to escape. But, once free, she then faces the problem of not knowing who she is, where she is, or how she got there. We the audience are also left to ponder how a woman, with such an enormous chest, fit in the coffin to start with.

Before too long our principle antagonist, Chromeskull (Nick Principe) shows up wearing a... well, you know... chrome skull, and brutally dispatches the funeral home curator, before turning his attention to the unnamed girl. But Little Miss Big Boobs makes a miraculous escape and manages to hitch a ride with passer-by Tucker (Kevin Gage) who drives her to the relative safety of his home that he shares with his wife Cindy (Lena Headey).

Cindy is, of course, displeased with the arrival because as we all know; women automatically despise other women with larger breasts. But after a lot of dull dialogue she finally agrees with Tucker to shelter Miss Twin Peaks for the night. After some more yawn-inducing chit-chat between our threesome, Chromeskull finally (and thankfully) show ups and dishes out some more seriously brutal slasher action.

"A brutal killer is on the loose? That's nice honey. *Yawn*"

I don't know for sure but I'm guessing writer/director Robert Hall's background is probably in visual effects, because the visual effects on offer here are truly amazing for a production of this scale, but everything else is disappointingly sub-par.

I really thought that I was now pretty much immune to the impact of blood and gore in movies but Laid To Rest gave me a real jolt when Chromeskull started carving people up. Thanks to the brilliant brutality of the kill scenes and Chromeskull's silent motivation-less demeanour the movie works well when he's on screen. Even though the camcorder he has mounted on his shoulder to film his victims is a little too reminiscent of a stuffed parrot one might expect to find accompanying a cheesy pirate costume.

But, when Chromeskull is absent the movie is a chore to watch. The protagonists sit around lamenting the lack of gas in one car, the speed limiter on another car, the lack of phones, the slow boot time of a computer, the distance to reach police, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...

Hall feels the need to explain absolutely everything. So instead of simply having our protagonists desperately fleeing, with Chromeskull in pursuit, they instead sit around calmly explaining to one another in an inordinate amount of detail why they are going nowhere. It totally kills the pace of the movie. You're left wondering; what the hell is Chromeskull is doing during these lengthy stagnant scenes? Is he polishing his face? Shopping for a new HD video camera? Why the hell isn't he taking care of business and attacking these tiresome half-wits with those big shiny knives of his?

Another annoyance is the fact that the unnamed girl, who the other protagonists eventually nickname "Princess" (disappointingly, not a euphemism for a large breasted woman), talks in some pseudo "amnesia dialogue" that Hall has cooked up. You see she has forgotten the nouns for certain things so instead refers to them with words or phrases that sound like a really bad foreign language translation. She refers to the coffin from which she escapes as a "dead box", for example. Ergh. Why does she remember the noun "box" but not "coffin"? It’s unconvincing, unnecessary, and becomes really irritating after a while.

"Princess" (Bobbi Sue Luther) and her two "front side round fleshy protrusions".

Raid To Rest is one of many low budget horror movies that just appears on the shelf of my local video library with absolutely no fanfare. After being emotionally scarred by such turds as Jeckle + Hyde and Catacombs I tend to avoid these DTV movies unless a credible source recommends them. It was Marvin over at The Montana Mancave Massacre who gave a qualified recommendation of Laid To Rest, which is why I gave it a go.

The kill scenes are indeed brutally impressive and make the movie worth watching for them alone. It's just a crying shame that when Chromeskull goes AWOL, which happens far too often in the first two acts of the movie, the whole thing grinds to a dull talky halt.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Quick BIQ Review: Zero Day (2003)

Zero Day is a POV movie that presents us with the video diary of two teenage boys who plot, plan, and ultimately carry out a High School massacre.

It's sombre stuff that, done badly, could come off as insulting exploitation. Thankfully, realistic performances and dialogue combined with the director's wise choice not to contrive things in a manner that would lead you to any particular conclusion about the boys, all make Zero Day an interesting look at why good teenagers turn bad. Very bad.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

True Horror: My Eden Lake (Day 5)

This is the continuing story of My Eden Lake, be sure to read all about Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.

Thursday - Day 5

All of Dipstick & Numbnut's adventures had, up until this point in time, taken place outside of school hours. But on Day 5 they decided to mix it up a little by harrassing us at 1:30pm in the afternoon.

Why weren't they in school? I can't say for sure, but somehow I don't think getting a good education is high on their priorities. At least, it's not as high as dressing up like a pirate, with Tourette syndrome, and swinging by my place of work to dish out some more abuse. This time, just for laughs, they added indecent exposure to their repertoire.

Of course, the early hour of the day meant that all of my collegues, who had not witnessed Dipstick and Numbnut's antics first hand previously, now understood what I'd been dealing with. A plus, of sorts.

You know, they say a picture tells a thousand words so I'm just going to let the photos I took of these assballs on Day 5 tell the story. All of these photos were taken from inside our office. Click on the images for a better view...

Day 5 Thoughts


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

True Horror: My Eden Lake (Day 4)

This is the continuing story of My Eden Lake, be sure to read all about Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.

Wednesday - Day 4

They're Baaaaack!

Lurking behind trees on the front of the property, that is my place of work (yes, still a manuacturing facility still manufacturing nothing), Dipstick & Numbnut yell abuse at me from a safe distance as I leave work alone.

At this point, I can't lie to you, I'm getting tired of these dickheads. I pull out my trusty digital camera in order to collect even more evidence that these fucktards simply won't go away, and low and behold the sight of my camera sends them running faster than a pensioner at Thursday opening time at Aldi.

Dipstick & Numbnut flee into the night...
intimidated by the mighty power of my Canon Ixus!

Day 4 Thoughts

The Canon is mightier than the sword.

Also, I have to admit to being somewhat amused (or is it bemused?) by that fact that Dipstick & Numbnut don't seem to notice the irony of calling me a "fucking gutless pussy" whilst fleeing like seaguls at the sight of a compact digital camera.