Monday, March 29, 2010

An American Werewolf in London (or Why Backpacking Across Europe is a Bad Idea)

Spoiled Flesh Alert
Before Watching
After a gross fiasco that was Dead Alive I thought that I would lay off on the horror movies. But unfortunately Netflix decided give there only copy of The Big Lebowski to some random jerk and decided to give me An American Werewolf in London. This shlock was directed by John Landis, the man who directed The Blues Brothers and Animal House. That should be a clue that its either gonna be a Shaun of the Dead type of satire or a Spring Time for Hitler flop. Well, since his Dudeness is not gonna be knocking at my door any time soon, might as well watch this.

After Watching
John Landis, I apologize for being so hissy, its just that after seeing Dead Alive I was sick of horror, I got behind on homework, the gimp needed to be cleaned, I just needed something fun to watch. But thank God that I didn't mail it back because underneath the crazy $!%* it's really clever. The plot is classic horror, two friends who are from America (shock) backpacking through England (double shock) and get mixed up with werewolves (holy @#$%). But it is the contemporary delivery of such bare bones material that makes it so original.

You see in the 30's before the Slasher and Torture genre became popular, horror movies were based on fantasy/supernatural concepts and had remarkable looking monsters. The problem was that strict censorship, along with actors and directors being use to Broadway theatrics, so what is scary then is now just plain campy. What John Landis has done is take one of those classic stories (guess which one), removes the theatrics and tells it with a straight face, sort of.

Since werewolf movies can be a real downer, John Landis was smart in creating some humorous moments. Like when it begins, you see dark landscape (what else is in England) but instead of hearing the typical evil organ music, its Blue Moon. There is a waitress who always says "No," a serious conversation in porn theater, there is even streaking. Aside from these pie-in-face moments, the horror is still the heart of the movie.

While most horror movies would show a CGI creature and spray as much blood as possible, this relies on ghostly nature of the werewolf by barely showing it and letting it pounce. And when it pounces it could be gone in a second, could be like a lion taking down a gazelle or even worse, both. It also has these indescribable dream sequences that Luis Bunuel would be proud of. But the highlight has to be Richard Baker's makeup effects. From the grotesque scars to the some nasty looking zombies he manages create very real and disturbing creatures without needing CGI (suck it James Cameron). He even has the skills to create the most painful looking werewolf transformation in plain sight, bright lights and long takes.

Like Shaun of the Dead and Scream it plays the audience with bouts of dark humor and clean horror. While people who aren't familiar with werewolves might complain about the ending, it is still one of the most approachable horror movies of all-time. I give it 5 outta 5. Now I'm gonna watch a comedy before all these horror flicks make me eat a squirrel.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dead Alive (or Braindead if you're not American)

Warning: Spoilers

Before Watching
Peter Jackson is a director/producer from New Zealand who is famous for creating Lord of the Rings trilogy, a remake of King Kong, and produced Neill Blomkamp's District 9. Basically, he can crap out a masterpiece with a wave of his nerdy hand. Of course everyone starts out somewhere so why not review his third feature, Dead Alive? Sure, it looks a little rough but it can't be all that bad.

(It looks... kinda subtle)

After Watching
Oh good god, what the @#$% is wrong with Peter Jackson?! This is quite possibly the goriest film in the history of filmmaking. It's basically the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan, times 10, for 90 #$%^ing minutes. The violent acts that nearly drove me to committing suicide include lawnmower mutilation, a strangulation by intestines, incomplete decapitations, weapon-through- mouth penetration and various scenes of genital violence. Even George A Romero wouldn't push the boundary this far and he invented the modern zombie movie.

What really is the only selling point that this film really has is its warped sense of humor. While this is clearly a horror it is unbelievably self aware of it's ridiculous premise and throws realism out the window and replace it with Loon Tunes style slapstick. There is a living anus that farts, zombies flirting with zombies, hell there is even a Catholic priest that knows. Unfortunately, the plot is so poorly written that the jokes come off as bad acting than.

The script, oh God the script. There are films with good scripts like Pulp Fiction and bad ones like in Avatar, then there is Dead Alive. Not only does the script have some unbelievably bad dialogue, but when a dramatic event happens the characters do not react properly. For example, there is a scene where the token hot girl's dog gets swallowed whole by the lead's mother, she even says "Your mother ate my dog!!!" Do they kill the zombie? No. They assume that she is sick and call a doctor. Hell the token girl is shown trying to find the old lady's toothbrush, because if your mom swallows an entire full grown German Shepherd, cavities are the biggest problem. It's dumb character choices like this that make you wonder if the gore was to make people of it as the grossest and not the sloppiest horror ever made.

The gore... yeah everything seems to lead back to the gore. Its not even that scary, just unbelievably disgusting. Sure, blood and gore effects are useful tools when creating a horror film. But unless the film takes place in Eli Roth's mind or basement, then 150 gallons of blood and 50 fake limbs is a beyond excessive. If there was more than just two likable characters and a better script then there might be something. Anyway, if you like Hostel or Saw, then you might like this, but everyone else will need a bucket and therapy. 2 out of 5.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lost Season 1 (or What the Hell?)

Spoiler Alert
If you don't know what "Lost" is then WHY are you... never mind thats an old joke. Anyway, Lost is a TV show about an airplane that crash-lands on an island, and the surviving passengers must work together until they are rescued. A common episode situation involves food rationing, fixing radios and killing polar bears. Also there are other people live on the island and there is a giant monster that can throw people a mile away if they don't taste good.
Nothing on television has been this wierd or confusing and still be a entertaining show. While the "Call of Cthulhu" meets "Lord of the Flies" story is very fun, it's the character that are really interesting. Okay so the 10-14 characters could be found in every sci-fi film of the last twenty years. Seriously, there is the level-headed leader that everyone likes, a drug addicted rock star, two spoiled brats, father and son who hate each other, the lovable fat guy, the strict Korean couple, the con artist, and my favorite the old badass.

( Shown above: an old badass in his natural habitat)

Thankfully each actor go past their character's cliche and express deep and often troubling personalities. It also helps that each episode has shows one character's backstory through flashbacks. For example, the con artist is quite possibly the biggest dick on the entire island, and polar bears eat people. But when you realize that his parents died in front of him when he was eight, you'd be surprised that he hasn't eaten someone's heart and burn the rest.
I could go on about how the great this is but it feels kind of redundant to continue. I mean come on, the first season is five @#$%ing years old. Like an iPod, if you even heard of it then you probably already decided if your going to get it or not. So how about this, rent it from any store for a low price, don't like the first few episode then at least you didn't waste thirty bucks on a box set. Anyway, I give it a 4 out of 5.