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Tonight on Jerry Springer: Michael Myers!
Just got back from seeing the "re-imagining" (barf) of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN. It doesn't even begin to compare to the original, but you knew that. But...if one attempts to take it on its own terms, as Rob Zombie seems to want the audience to do, is it worthwhile? The question is, regardless of the original, has Rob Zombie made a good movie? Well, the answer is YES, but it was called THE DEVIL'S REJECTS.
What we have here is noisy, distasteful, pointless, and sloppy. Everyone speaks leftover dialogue from THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, and what worked for those characters fails miserably for these. Every character in this film speaks as though they are 10 seconds away from throwing the first chair on Jerry Springer. Scenes aren't allowed to build, they jerk and sputter. The best moments come early, between young Michael and his mother (both played very well)...but even those scenes are constantly undermined by bad, choppy editing and surrounding characters (particularly the father) who are horribly written and seem to be played for laughs.
The middle scenes in the hospital are interesting, but ultimately rendered pointless once the final (and worst) third of the film kicks in. Laurie, Annie, and Lynda are feckless foul-mouthed twits this time around, generating zero sympathy. Apparently in keeping with Zombie's theme from HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, the villain is the hero here, and this time it doesn't work. Since the only sympathetic characters are the supporting players who get pointlessly offed after barely a minute of screen time, the only one to root for is Michael. Is that really what Zombie had in mind?
Judging from the reaction of the audience I saw this film with, it's what he accomplishes. People were laughing when characters were killed. Brutal, calculatedly cruel scenes are featured of nurses stabbed in the neck with forks, children beat to death with poles, teenagers stabbed to death multiple times, animals tortured (offscreen), and slutty topless girls strangled and beaten to death. The audience didn't scream, they laughed. It isn't because the film is funny...it's not. It isn't because the film is so bad it's good...it's not. I've never believed the theory of audience de-sensitizing due to TV, movie, and game violence. Until I witnessed this film.
I've seen movies more violent, more disturbing, more exploitive. But never so pointless, all the while pretending to be about something...anything.
Zombie's creation is a movie about morons, intended for morons. He is a talented and intelligent filmmaker who has made a movie driven by so many distasteful obsessions it practically throbs on the screen. But unlike his previous work, there's no point, not even for sheer trashy exploitation. Characters exist only to be killed. Women disrobe, everyone's vocabulary consists of nothing but four letter words, and the movie hisses and bangs and screams its way to a final, protracted, unexciting chase between an irresponsible babysitter we care nothing about and a 7 foot tall slasher with a Halloween mask fetish and an obsession with a sister he barely knew.
By the time the film screeched to the credits and the lights came up, I had already fought with the four women in front of me (the dumb-ass mother had brought her three daughters, the dumb-assettes, who managed to giggle and snort and talk through a good portion of the movie). The argument continued after the movie was over, complete with name-calling. The entire theatre stared as they silently shuffled out.
This is the reason I despise seeing movies in the theatre anymore. But I realized at least this nasty confrontation had given me something the movie had not: an element of excitement. These four girls had no consideration for anyone around them. They were rude, obnoxious, unreasonable and stupid.
And as my friend and I vacated the theatre, it finally hit me...THEY were the audience this film was intended for.
Black Christmas (2006)
A Yuletide Dud
With the recent glut of remakes being vomited up by Hollyworthless, horror fans over the age of 25 don't have much original to look forward to, and for every good remake like THE HILLS HAVE EYES there are three duds (the atrocious THE FOG, the worthless AMITYVILLE HORROR, the juvenile WHEN A STRANGER CALLS). Sadly, BLACK Christmas, while not as bad as any of those remakes, must fall into the same category. Hopefully Bob Clark was well-paid.
Horror fans who haven't seen the original (and if you are a horror fan and haven't, shame on you) will probably enjoy this a little more than those familiar with the 1974 classic, but most will agree it's nothing more than an episodic mess of clichés and missed-opportunities. The situations are preposterous, the murders are gory but repetitive and unexciting, and director Morgan tries to keep the pace so rapid he doesn't develop any sense of dread or suspense until the last 20 minutes or so, and by then it's too late. A very well done set-piece involving a girl stuck behind a wall manages to escalate quite well, showing that Morgan, who did so well with the original FINAL DESTINATION and the underrated WILLARD, can still film a payoff.
But that's the heart of the problem with this film, it's all pay-off and no build-up. The actresses are all completely interchangeable: pretty, vapid, bitchy, and unable to deliver the acerbic dialogue with even the slightest hint of believability. One actress (doesn't matter which one, I couldn't tell them apart) delivers a speech about the true origin of Christmas that is supposed to be a witty and shocking centerpiece to the film, but spurts it out with such precision it's as if she memorized it word for word using flash cards just hours before. Even gifted comedian Andrea Martin, who played one of the main girls in the original and here takes over the role of house-mother, seems to be sleepwalking, which is just as well, since a role that was so juicy in the first film is underwritten into obscurity here.
There are moments when the film springs to life. I liked some of the attention to detail in the beginning, I loved how they updated the obscene phone calls to incorporate cell phones, the Christmas atmosphere is well-photographed, and Billy's back story is surprisingly well-handled. But everything plugs along at a can't-hardly-wait pace, killing the mood and suspense. The director also uses funky angles, fish-eye lenses, and dangling cameras to try and create a feeling of unease. But this backfires, since there is no narrative drive to connect with, and no time to care. I felt more sympathy for Billy in the early scenes than anyone else in the film.
BLACK Christmas can at least be credited for one thing: Many groups have attacked the film for being in spectacularly bad taste (all the Christmas bashing, child abuse, even incest), and for once they are correct. It IS in bad taste, and that's one of its few charms, and one of the few things that work. It's often unpleasant, sure, but it goes for it and doesn't shy away...this is pitch black humor with no tongue-in-cheek.
But finally in the end it's just a below average slasher film with big studio production values. Someone somewhere in those big studios is still convinced you have to have a killing, a jump, or a loud noise at least once every five minutes to keep an audience's attention.
I'll bet it won't even take that long to forget the entire film.
Saw II (2005)
At last a horror film not meant for teenage girls
If you liked the original, you will like this one. Like the terrific HIGH TENSION, this is a horror movie for people over 13. And it is making a lot of money. Do you hear that Dimension? Do you hear that Sony? AN R RATED HORROR MOVIE THAT'S MAKING MONEY...not because it's got Buffy Bippy Love Candy Hewitt Welling in it, and lots of support from a WB "actress," and not because anything objectionable has been scissored away to make sure your little niece isn't too scared when someone from a Gap commercial gets murdered, and not because the lead guy had great abs, or the lead girl a killer rack, and not because the soundtrack featured the latest bland rock ballad now playing on radio WSUK. It's scary, intense, nicely acted, and clever. You remember...everything the audience PAID to see.
The Amityville Horror (2005)
90 minutes of filler built to showcase Ryan's abs
Ryan Reynolds has great abs. Boy he sure is sexy in those pajamas. He sure does look hot shirtless in 70 percent of his scenes. Ain't he hot with the chiseled features and permanent five o clock shadow? Remember back in the 70s (when this movie is supposed to take place) when all the guys looked just like Abercrombie models and had perfectly cut bodies? Oh I think this is a remake or based on some book or something, I'm not sure. It could maybe have been The Ring or Hellraiser but with the names switched. Since apparently the filmmakers assumed most of their audience has the memory span of a fruit fly, heck, it might even be a couple of body spray commercials and a clip from The Haunting. Or was it the Others? What was the one with Paris Hilton? Or was that the one that wasn't PG13 so my mom wouldn't let me see it? And who is that hot guy that the director obviously adores, since every camera angle is perfectly situated to show off just the perfect amount of hair on the happy trail? I need to finish this review...wait I have a text message...it's my friend Carly...I can't wait to tell her how hot Ashton Kutcher was in this movie...I think it was a true story...
The Fog (2005)
Might scare your 11 year old sister, if she's behind a few grades
Possibly the worst remake since 1998's PSYCHO (and yes I've seen the new AMITYVILLE HORROR); any kind of attempt at reviewing this stinker seems to start turning into a list. How many things can you POSSIBLY get wrong in a horror movie that obviously had some money to spare and great source material? (The original 1980 version, even though 25 years younger than this film, is better acted, written, directed, scored, shot...heck, even the effects were better). To start...Tom Welling might be passable as Superman on a made for cable TV series (think about that), but a small town island fisherman? Maybe on Abercrombie Island, where all you need are shaved pecs. And Maggie Grace? True her character makes no sense, but even a mildly competent actress could have at least made the character Likable. At least Selma Blair tries, though her character is so underwritten she barely registers.
There are so many blunders in this film it's impossible to count. Why set a character in a perfect horror movie spot like a lighthouse and then never use it? And why does one character wander aimlessly on a dark road in the middle of the night after traveling from New York? No cabs? No friends? And why do the ghosts look like the Disney Haunted Mansion ghosts? And why is the fog so thick in some shots, but when we need to see the action, is it nowhere to be found anywhere around? And why are more people not offended when viewing the 800th movie where the black character is relegated to stereotype comic relief? And where are all the townspeople when all this is going on downtown? And why do windshields shatter in one scene to make the audience jump, but appear fine in the very next scene? And why introduce a subplot about a love triangle, then never mention it again? And...and...and...
Great atmosphere overcomes bad casting
A nice surprise actually. The set up is pretty weak, and the story and situations borrow from so many other movies that it starts to feel like the garage sale of horror films...but thankfully the director and cinematographer know how to stage several effective jolts. Impressive lighting, lots of jumps, and lots of individual creepy moments will make this worthwhile for open-minded horror enthusiasts and those just looking for a good late night scare. Be warned, however, that aside from the great Dee Wallace Stone in an extended cameo, the cast is mostly awful, particularly the boyfriend/girlfriend leads, with the jerk boyfriend feeling like an extra from Queer as Folk, and the lead dingbat unable to display a single emotion other than slightly annoyed. If you can get past the wretched casting (which is unfortunately all-too-common in most horror films since SCREAM), you will have a lot of fun.
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Sadly, Michael should have stayed headless
I suppose the explanation for how Michael could have survived his beheading in H20 is passable, and the final showdown of Jamie Lee Curtis and her homicidal brother that opens the new film is indeed quite strong, shocking, and oddly moving. Unfortunately, once the new story gets underway 20 minutes into the film, director Rick Rosenthal can't build suspense thanks to the choppy, annoying "reality TV" approach that owes more to Blair Witch 2 than Halloween. Worse, aside from Jamie Lee Curtis, the film is poorly cast, with Busta Rhymes giving an embarrassingly unfunny and stereotypical performance as the ringleader that brings all of his scenes to a screaming halt. The rest of the cast isn't really bad, just knife-fodder, though admittedly they haven't been given characters to play.
Though Rosenthal can't build much suspense and proves, as he did in Halloween II, that he doesn't know how to time his shocks, he does create some creepy atmosphere and a couple of scenes toward the end do build some excitement. The film is admittedly clever in spots, and mostly entertaining, though it never comes close to topping the opening sequence with Jamie Lee, and even as films in this genre go, it's mostly just unnecessary.
It isn't the worst of the series (that honor goes to Curse of Michael), and I wouldn't say it was a really bad film (I WAS entertained)...but it's not much of a compliment when the first thing you can think of as the end credits are rolling is, well, at least it was better than Jason X.