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It should never take that long to get you on your knees.
What happened to movies that asked original questions? They were replaced by laughable pseudo-"dark physiology" films like Session 9. They were replaced by unoriginal Kubrick rip-offs like Irreversible. They were replaced by kindergarten-shallow surrealist attempts like The Fountain. They were replaced by generic by-the-numbers "thought provoking" Hollywood blockbusters like District 9. They were replaced by emo films about sex-deprived middle-aged men like Watchmen. They were replaced by boring, shallow Oscar bait like There Will Be Blood. They were replaced by shock films made by little boys that couldn't get a girlfriend, got a couple years older, and made a movie about it like Deadgirl. And if this website didn't limit the amount of words in this review, I'd list at least 50 more movies in this paragraph. I'm no pretentious prick or anything, but, folks, seriously: Either, (1) humanity is made up consecutively of second-grade English class idiots, (2), I'm a super genius, or, (3), most movies are pathetic excuses of cinema and storytelling. (In case you're one of the idiots I'm talking about, #3 was the correct answer, by the way.) But, it's our lucky day: Antichrist is far from shallow. In fact, it's pretty much loaded. It's a smart movie. But that's about it. As a story, it's pretty generic and formulaic. The brains: Antichrist asks the questions: "What if Satan, not God, created the earth?" And, "If that is so, what would that entail for the human race?" You don't have to be religious to ponder questions like this. The film often substitutes "God" and "Satan" for morality and immorality; for normalcy and chaos; for purpose and nihilism; for normalcy (Freud) and anti-normalcy (the subconscious). Personally, it's nice to see a film take psychology out of the middle-school philology class level that most movies use, and bring it into the real world, showcased through realistic characters. This is less a movie about people trying to find God (or Satan), and more a movie about two people trying to understand the nature of pain and grief and cruelty on an epic level. It's not another cliché "Human nature is EVIL!!!" film. It's a film that asks WHY human nature is evil. The brain that WOULD NOT DIE: As smart as Antichrist really is, it's, sadly, also pretty retarded. The overall story is just the basic beginning: hook/middle: plot/end: climax that they taught you back in middle school. The ending scene before the Epilogue is so cliché, it was basically copy/passed from The Shining, High Tension, Saw II, and every other humanistic horror movie ever. It makes me wonder how a writer/director like Lars von Trier can be smart enough to make a movie that's . . . well, actually smart, but still make that same movie that is this . . . well, childish. Also, I should note a couple other things. The movie tries to say something about sex and sexuality, but that entire subplot becomes a cliché quick. There are thousands of movies that deal with sexuality, and anyone who generally thinks they have something original to say on the subject should be pointed and laughed at. The movie literally opens up with shots of a middle-aged man's butt, graphically constricting and flapping in a close-up sex scene. His ball sack flaps into frame next. How's that for cinematic maturity? I don't know about you, but artistic gay porn without any reason whatsoever just isn't my thing. In American Pie, whatever. In a horror-drama about the evil of human nature, it's hard not to just dismiss Lars von Trier as a horny 13-year-old boy that can't get a girlfriend. Stephen King explored many of the same EXACT sexual scenes in his book Gerald's Game, which came out decades before this movie. But where Antichrist uses sex for purposeless filler, Gerald's Game uses sex to explain real honest events that happen every day. That'd the difference between a hack and a storyteller. The violence is average. Much less than you've seen in any of the recent Saw or Hostel movies. I don't even know why Lars von Trier made such a pathetic attempt to add such cheesy shock-violence that wasn't shocking into this movie anyway. He defended himself in one interview by calling it "artistic honesty". As if people really get bolted through the ankle every day in real life. Yeah, honesty. Right. Uh-huh. The cinematography, which everyone is raving about for some stupid reason, is . . . pretty typical. Yeah, yeahyou have your black-and-white slow-mo scene (Sin City) and your choppy scenes (Saw) and your wide shot scenes (A Clockwork Orange) and your blurry scenes (umm, every cheesy horror movie ever) and so on. There's nothing new about this directing whatsoever. It's just a mash-up of everyone else. What's the big deal? And my final thoughts on the overall movie, I'll repeat that: What's the big deal? 6/10 Postscript: Okay. Okay. I liked it. I liked it a lot. But you didn't really expect me to admit that in a review, did you?
Like the main character, I just don't care.
If a middle-aged man were to walk outside his house right now in a chicken suit and started attacking small children, a lot of people would say he lacks maturity. Or, perhaps, that he's a pervert. If he sustained his attack long enough, he'd be on the news, and the police would come, handcuff him, and laugh in the guy's face. Lack of maturity is something that is obviously negative in out society. What I find interesting, though, is: what is labeled as immaturity in real life is labeled as sublime quirkiness on the movie screen. Sometimes. Other times, in case of shows like The Wiggles, immaturity is labeled as stupid. Other times, in case of comedies, immaturity is labeled as hilarious. Other times, in case of books like Naked Lunch, immaturity is labeled as offensive. Other times, in case of movies like Trainspotting, immaturity is just generic, boring, and I've seen this so many times I know exactly what's going to happen in five minutes, oh look! I was right.
I'll just get right to my point. Trainspotting is one of the most unoriginal movies I've ever seen in my life. From the opening surrealist toilet scene (which was used in everything from video games to books to artwork to cartoons long before Trainspotting was even an idea in the writer's head) to the childish DRUGS ARE REALLY, REALLY BAD!!! ending and everything between those two points.
The nihilistic characters are trite and safe, copy/pasted from some MTV reality show that contains 2% reality and 98% what looks cool. Their generic nihilistic actions are so safe, most eight-year-old boys would think they're lame, but, for some reason, the middle-aged crowd calls them "intelligent". The entire drug-addiction plot line plays out exactly like it did in that DRUGS ARE REALLY, REALLY BAD!!! video you had to watch in high school health class.
My point? It takes a lot more to shock people than a couple kids playing around in a toilet. There is absolutely nothing disturbing here whatsoever. Why? Because this is the pansy crap we see every single anti-drug movie ever made. It's so unabashedly unoriginal, I fail to see how anyone can even call it art, being that the definition of art is "an original body or work" . . .
The cinematography is generic, and is only even slightly inspired when it rips-off Kubrick. The acting is generic, being that I don't think it's hard for a young twenty-something to act as a young twenty-something. I don't even know why they even bothered giving the characters names, because they completely lack any sort of identity that real people have. The only identity they have is that, they're boring, flat, copy/paste characters who are addicted to heroin . . . and they do heroin . . . yeah. And even if people say this lack of identity originality is the point of the moviewhich it's notthen I'll say back, Brent Easton Ellis' novel Less Than Zero did that exact thing ten years before this movie came out and seven years before Welsh's book came out, and it did it infinitely better and more realistically than either one.
If you liked Trainspotting, I pity you.
Memento for adults. (Oopswell, that only describes the first half hour.)
When you ask most people the one major aspect that encompasses most children's fiction, most will tell you: "A simplistic story; be it in black-and-white morality, or in an A to B plot structure." Ironically, this definition also describes what critics and viewers both hail as one of the most disturbing movies ever made: Irreversibleand that's why I find the film lacking.
If you know the film's title, then you also know it's one of the (handful) of movies that tells the story backwards. Though there were several lesser known films to do this long before the turn of the century, the one popular example is Memento. The one major difference here is, Memento was essentially just Happy Candy Land Rainforest Rainbow Ride, filled with trite, clean characters, and trite, safe, generic conflicts. When I first started viewing Irreversible, my only thought was: "Dude, this is Memento for adults! Thank God SOMEONE used the telling-the-story-backwards idea with an actually good story." And that's partly true . . .
Irreversible does have some of the rawest, unexplained perverse human behavior every filmedthat is, in the first half hour. Because the movie is reversed, the characters brutal actions aren't explained until the midpoint of the movie, and, until that point, it's downright awesome. You're led to believe the characters are nihilists, causing this mayhem for no reason at all. The gritty environment (Rectum, the hotel, the tunnel) is genuinely grittynot that cheap gangster shoot-'em-up atmosphere you see in generic crime movies. Then the bad storytelling ax falls and I felt cheated.
After the over-hyped rape scene, the entire movie falls into predictable slasher-revenge-angst plot line; or just downright boring horror. The actions are explained as being revenge for rape (ala The Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, Straw Dogs, etc., etc.) and the awesomeness of nihilism ends and the cliché storytelling begins. Point blank: the original body of work we're led to believe the movies is, now is revealed as an unoriginal slasher flick. It's like ordering an expensive gourmet Italian pizza, eating a couple bites, and finding out it's really just frozen Save-A-Lot pizza from the local dollar store. And don't even get me started on the so-cliché-I-laughed-out-loud pregnancy test ending . . .
Speaking of the rape scene: it's pretty generic. According to a quick IMDb.com search, there are more than 2,206 movies with a rape plot line, and if I were to do a more advanced search, that number would likely triple. Yes, kids, rape is a disturbing and terrible thing in real life, and I am in no means patronizing the real life event. But, folks, WE'VE SEEN IT IN MOVIES THOUSANDS OF TIMES. What's the big deal? You act as if Irreversible invented the scene or something. It's not any more disturbing or graphic or more weighted than any other rape scene ever filmed.
The cinematography is cute. Spinning cameras, 2001: A Space Odyssey rip-off stylizing and music. I'm sure on a pretentious level this has a deep meaning (time and space and human insightoh my!as if we haven't heard that before!), but I'll just take it for face value and call it what it is. Cute cinematography that is both innovative and neat. But calling it "deep" is beyond melodramatic.
Is Irreversible an enjoyable movie? Sure. I guess. It's okay. Watch it on Friday night, go to bed, and, unless you're a pretentious prick, I guarantee you won't remember when you wake up Saturday morning . . . but it killed some time, right?
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Mulholland Dr.: The Tale of the Blurry Dildo
Here is the only point I want to get across in this entire review: Watching Mulholland Dr. made me feel like an adult forced to see a children's film.
For every 1 parent that takes their toddler to see an adult (aka, violent or sexual) film, there are 10 parents that silently that scream foul. Perhaps, in the social safety of their own home, on their computer, they'll type up a bitter "Middle-Age Angst Comment" on their message board of choice. Perhaps, if they're pseudo-intellectual, they'll type of a cute little review of the film and self-publish it on all the websites like the one I'm using right now. Either way, their predictable message is always the same: "Movies ruin kids' innocence! (Even if I saw A Clockwork Orange when I was 3, and it didn't affect me one bit, they will HURT your children!)" I'm not here to debate this (unintentionally hilarious) group of parents, but, rather, I want to use their argument to help illustrate my point about Mulholland Dr.
Mulholland Dr. made me feel like an adult forced to see a children's film. Instead of destroying my innocence and adding complexity to my thinking (as the loss of innocence always does), I feel like it made me just a little bit dumber.
First of all, do not assume I'm one of the thousands of people who didn't understand this film. I got it. I understood it. Before attempting to write this review, I even read official sites and threads dedicated to understanding it, just to make sure I wasn't missing any of the "brilliance". I didn't.
Like all surrealist films, Mulholland Dr. is childish in concept. At root value, it uses the exact same plot as The Wizard of Oz, but adds some sex to make it seem more "mature". The only thing that makes the film hard to understand is the stupid scenes where David Lynch uses cheap camera/storytelling tricks to force confusion. Or, to force weirdness, if you prefer that word.
Think of the entire film way. Someone tells you that they hid a dildo in a box, somewhere in the United States. Then they tell you to find it. They give you a couple vague clues hidden in a film, and you're off.
Two problems: (1) Why should you even care? It's a dildo. That's exactly how I felt about this film. Why should I even care about these characters? They're just flat characters presented in a way that will eventually shock the viewer with David Lynch's oh-so-horrifying portrayal of a sexual topic that is about as common and accepted in the real word as "Racism is BAD!" There's nothing to care about here. It's sex. How many times have I seen cliché sex scenes in a movie? Thousands, millions. I just don't care. (2) This method of mystery is childish. In Mulholland Dr., Lynch does not create a complex story whatsoever; he just creates a story that is visually hard to follow. If you showed me a picture of a walrus zoomed up close, I wouldn't know what it was. If you create a typical Wizard of Oz rip-off, place the camera just off-center, obscuring the important bits, I don't know what it is. That doesn't mean it's complex. It means it's childish. It's just a child that steals another child's lunch money and plays Keep Away with it.
This is why Mulholland Dr. offers absolutely nothing original. It's a story that has been done before; it is just filmed a little out of focus. This kind of pseudo-originality is even less complex than Tarantino, who is a director who I only bring up because he seems to be hated a lot by Lynch fans, for whatever reason. Tarantino takes unoriginal concepts and pumps them up with original scenes and ideas and stories. Lynch just takes unoriginal stories and makes them a little blurry.
Regardless of the predicable story, the film is pathetic, even on a visual level. The acting is hokey, which is something that I think Lynch intends, but it only adds to the children's film concept. Hokey doesn't equal weird; it just equals: "Dude, seriously, when are you going to grow up . . . ?" Also, it's boring as hell. I can be patient if the story is original, but when you know everything that is going to happen, and have seen every scene before, I just don't care. Because of this, Mulholland Dr. was one of the most boring films I've ever seen. Not to mention that Lynch takes his blessed time by having characters stare at each other stupidly, like they're auditioning for a bad parody of Napoleon Dynamite.
In conclusion, let me say this: I can't tell the difference between directors anymore. I watch audio commentaries every time they're available on a DVD, whether I liked the movie or not. There may be a few exceptions, but 99% of directors say the same things. They look the same. They wear the same glasses. They have the same ideas on what is good. They all appear to have an understanding of what is "cliché", but there is always a plethora of clichés in their films. They all have the nonconformist attitude, but they all make the same unoriginal movies.
David Lynch is supposedly one of the most brilliant and weird directors in history. Maybe the popular opinion backs up that statement. Maybe the critics back up that opinion. But, really, folks, David Lynch is just a face in the crowd of surrealist directors. With Mulholland Dr., he adds absolutely nothing new to the table. Because of his popularity, all he does is sit a little higher at the table than the no-name directors that did what he did, long before he did, much better than he did.
How can we still get home?
Lore: Two scared little girls, desperate, trying to find their way back home after being lost. Literature: The concept of catharsis; the emotional scarring of the observer. Artistry: Expression, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful. Then, somehow . . .
Reality: Genuine emotion. Realistic events. Something so far removed from a fictional environment, it strikes you on a level beyond something happening on a screen, and feels as if it's a memory. An experience.
Of all the qualities of perfection in storytelling that Martyrs has, it's that last quality that sets it apart from the crowd. While hundreds, maybe thousands, of films before it reached a level of art house perfection in both storytelling and aesthetic, I can count the films that achieve both those AND are still a genuine portrayal of reality on one hand.
The story of Martyrs, point blank, is the most original horror stories in decades. In the second opening sequence alone, you're hit over the head with so much original plotting, it will throw you into a state of disbelief. I won't ruin the opening twist, but I will say this. I'm someone who sits in a movie and literally counts the number of clichés, because I'm so bored of the predictable story. I watch over 800 movies a year, read over 250 books a year, write negative reviews on nearly everything I just mentioned, and simply put: I have never once in my life seen the unpredictable directions the Martyrs plot takes. Things that would be major plot twists in any other movie are just scene transitions here, because the story is so unpredictable and original.
Taking that last paragraph further, I'd like to also add this. The reason the Martyrs story is as original as it is, is because it's fully grounded in reality. It doesn't play off literary clichés (also called literary "rules"). The story follows the same narrative that real life would. The characters do the same things real people would. There is no beginning, middle, and an end. There is no defended good-bad conflict. There is no foreshadowing, no doomsday atmosphere, no perfectly contrasted shock value. Martyrs is too real and too honest to form-fit to the clichéd storytelling methods they teach in middle school. And that is why it's so emotionally powerful.
But as pretentious as all this may sound, it's not. Martyrs is one of the few movies where they could literally not cut out of a minute of runtime without affecting the story. The pacing is fast, and something interesting happens every minute of that pace. I'm personally sick of the recent outbreak of slow-burn "boring = good" horror movies, because, while they sometimes are good, they seem to be the only thing anyone makes anymore. With the exception of Saw and Inside, I can't remember a recent horror movie's pacing being this satisfyingly relentless. While I'd be hard pressed to call this movie "entertaining" in the traditional sense, it never once lost my interest, even for a few seconds, yet it retained more intelligence and quality than any slow-burn film I've ever seen.
The on-screen gore, contrary to anything you've heard, is minimal. If you're a squeamish middle-aged woman with a background in a violent home, then, yes, this will be unbearable to watch. But if you're just an average seasoned horror fan, I doubt you'll even notice the gore level. I'm shocked to see so many horror sites being so squeamish as to say this is actually a gory film. It isn't. The on-screen gore never once reaches the level of the average Saw film, not even close. And, honestly, the brutality isn't anything to brag to your friends about, either. I see reviews saying this is harder to watch than Inside, and that's purely ludicrous. Inside has to be one of the absolute bloodiest movies of all time; Martyrs just has a couple spurts of it here and there. But that isn't criticism in any way. Martyrs doesn't need to be gory to have the emotional impact that it does. It shows true black-and-white desperation to a degree no film before it has ever accomplished, and I find that more significant than bloodshed when telling this story.
Some people complain about the second half of the film, and I can somewhat understand why. When I first finished Martyrs, at 3am two days ago, I couldn't contemplate what I had just seen. My initial reaction was the entire movie was absolute stupid, because the ending went in a direction I wasn't expecting. As you can see by my positive score, 48 hours and a second viewing later, I've given enough thought into the ending to fully grasp the intelligence behind it.*SPOILERS* The film is not saying that humans can see the "other world" through extensive pain. It's simply saying that there are a group of people, the cult portrayed in the film, that believe that. The last line of dialogue"keep doubting"heavily implies that Anna saw nothing on the "other side", and that her suffering, and the cult's purpose, was utterly meaningless. *END SPOILERS* When viewing the ending this way, it's far from cheesy or pseudo-intellectual.
Martyrs redefines what the horror genre, and cinema in general, can accomplish. It goes beyond literary rules and shows honest reality at its most menacing. It's a far cry from the unrealistic "persevere, try your best, and you'll reach your goals" message that we all tell our kids, but never really believe ourselves. It shows strong people who, despite their absolute greatest efforts, became victims. And then goes even further, with a truly original story. What all of this amounts to is an emotional journey that some people, such as myself, and hopefully you, will never forget. What more is there to ask for from cinema?
Peur(s) du noir (2007)
Dora the Explorer for the horror buff.
I grew up on horror anthologies. Be it a book of horror short stories, or be it TV series like The Twilight ZoneI loved, and still love, good horror anthologies. When I heard about Fear(s) of the Dark, I'm not going to lie, I wasn't very intrigued. Mainly because horror anthologies, lately, have been totally worthless. Where originality and truly weirdly captivating ideas used to be, now horror anthologies are just filled with genre clichés. But I gave Fear(s) of the Dark a try anyway. As negative as I am about the entertainment industry, I still have a blind faith that someone, anyone other than myself and a select few of my favorite authors/directors, can come up with an original and captivating story. And I had my faith crushed.
Fear(s) of the Dark starts out fine. Not great, but fine. The first segment, which entails a semi-unique story of a man and his bug problems, isn't amazing by any means, but it's by far the best you get from Fear(s) of the Dark. After that decent segment, there is absolutely nothing else worth watching. The other five stories are all either painfully clichéd, or they're done in such a way that they're so utterly boring, they're nearly impossible to watch. Some of them, such as the one about the alligator, are just pointless. They're equivalent of someone verbally telling you the plot outline of a Dora the Explorer episode: yes, technically, they're defined as a story, but in reality they're not. There's no significance.
Speaking of Dora the Explorer, another major problem with this anthology is the unabashed lack of maturity. Just like in every cliché horror movie, there's severed heads and boobs in Fear(s) of the Dark, but there is NOTHING mature about the stories behind the "mature" images. Everything about the stories are simplistic and juvenile. It's become a pop fad with generic "dark" fantasy authors/directors like Neil Gaiman and Guillermo del Toro to take a child's fairy tale and reimaging them for grown-ups. But what these writersand I am in no way limiting this statement to the two I mentioned abovefail to realize is, adding violence and some heavy themes done not make a child's story mature. The best example of this is the new film Watchmen, which reminded me of an episode of The Wiggles with a few spurts of generic blood-spray. I honestly felt like I was watching a little kid's movie. Heavy themes and "graphic" images don't make something mature. What makes something mature is the nature in which the story is told. If you were to cut someone's arm off in real life, the nature is brutal and sick. If you cut someone's arm off in a movie, the nature is generally taken as fun PG-13 gore. The motives are what makes something mature. And fantasy writers don't understand that. The writers of Fear(s) of the Dark understand it even less. And it shows.
The art is pretty decent, I guess. I didn't see anything too amazing about it, but it certainly wasn't bad. It's no better or worse than you'd see in your average graphic novel. I'm sure these artists could do better, but I'm not going to complain about it. What I am going to complain about, though, is the subtitles. The version I got had yellow subtitles, and I could read every word fine, but there's the problem: reading takes away from the movie A LOT. I love a lot of foreign films, so using subtitles is my second nature, and I've never once complained about subtitles in any of the foreign films I've seen. But with Fear(s) of the Dark, the movie forces you to be reading when you should be concentrating on the artwork. At least five times, I had to rewind and re-watch a scene because I was reading the subtitles and a major plot point happened on screen, and I missed it totally. This becomes very annoying very fast. A few times, I thought I might as well just turn the movie off because the effort it took to concentrate on the art and on the subtitles at the same time was not nearly worth the payoff. Another problem with the execution of the film is the pathetic starving-artist monologues between each segment. Well, let me take that back: Another problem with the execution of the film is the pathetic execution in general, highlighted by the pathetic starving-artist monologues between each segment.
And finally, we get to the blatant lack of entertainment value. This is by far THE least interesting animated film I have ever watched in my life. I fell asleep and had to rewind nearly ten times. It came to the point where I literally had to stand up and walk around just to stay awake for the ending of the film. There is no excuse for a movie, any movie, to be this utterly boring. The reasons it's boring is because, (1), the lack of originality, thus the lack of captivation, and, (2), because the artists focus so much on their average artwork, that the storytelling is oftentimes put on second burner, or just forgotten about completely.
I could be frilly and come up with a creative way to end this review, but I'm not going to. I'm going to put as much effort in this concussion as the artists put into this film: Fear(s) of the Dark is bad. Don't watch it.
(Do I sound like a kindergartener when I put my final opinion in that shallow of a statement? So do the artists when they put their art in this shallow of a movie.) 2/10
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
There are many different kinds of cheese. And in this case, mold isn't a good thing.
Ever since I was a little kid, I was obsessed with reading pulp horror. I've read more from the genre than anyone I personally know. Being a soon-to-be-published author myself, I've learned more about the genre by constantly reading than by any writing seminar I've ever been to. For those who don't read, by simple definition, pulp horror is: a story that is genuinely terrifying and thrilling, but purposely lacks any forced literary moral. Stephen King is pretty much the poster-child of this style of writing. With all of that said, when The Silence of the Lambs, the novel, was released and received mass critical acclaim for being the "perfect" horror-thriller, even being the major genre-whore that I am, I could really care less. Why? Simple because I'd read so many books EXACTLY like it, I had no interest. A few years later, when the movie was released, I felt the exact same way. This is why I've waited so long to view this "impossible-to-miss!" film. Because I knew it was just more of the same. When I finally decided to force myself to watch it, I found my gut instinct was underestimating. The Silence of the Lambs is not only just more of the same unoriginal story that we've all heard so many times that it's second nature to us, it's also cheesy, immature, over-glamorized, and, in the end, completely laughable. And here is why . . .
First and foremost: The Silence of the Lambs is, unarguably, 100% unoriginal. There is not a single originalor even creativeconcept in the entire runtime of the film. This paragraph of my review is not my opinion. The way I view the world has no bearing on what has or hasn't been done in storytelling before. Saying that it's my opinion that The Silence of the Lambs is unoriginal is equivalent to saying that it's my opinion that the sky is blue. And just as childish. With that said, I can literally point you, scene-by-scene, to where every single idea in The Silence of the Lambs has been written and filmed in the past. Dressed to Kill, for a major example. From the formula, to the characters, to the situations, to the set-up: it's all, unarguably, one giant genre cliché. And, as I said, I can point to every movie, every book that has used the EXACT scenes in the past. This isn't just a coincidence; it's an unabashed lack of creativity and intelligence from the writer. Just more of the same cliché Hollywood and pulp fiction conventions we've seen all our lives. All the standard clichés are here, folks: romantic subplot, tension at the agency, troubled childhoods, etc., etc., etc.
Hannibal Lector himself is, admittedly by the author, nothing but a mash-up of various fictional and real-life serial killers. The two most obvious fictional killers he unabashedly rips-off are Leatherface (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, 1974) and Mark Lewis (Peeping Tom, 1960). Leatherface's actions (cannibal, wears victim's faces) + Lewis's mind (pretentious, psychiatrist, study's human behavior, kills people to study reactions, gives long speeches about serial killers, has a supposed vast knowledge of the human mind) = Hannibal Lector. There is not a single character trait that Lector has that wasn't done nearly 40 years before he was written. Again, a kindergarten lack of creativity. I honestly don't even know how his character got past copyright laws.
Not to mention Hannibal's cheesy persona. He pronounces "liver" with slurping sounds at the end. So did 3-year-olds, but I don't cower in fear of them. He never actually DOES anything on-screen, except talk. And talk. And when he does talk, he talks with the pseudo-intelligence of a high-school dropout who took a semester of psychology. Why? Because his psychological knowledge is laughably limited, and sometimes incorrect all together. He's supposed to be this oh-so-evil genius, but all he ever does is quote cliché phrases from dumbed-down Freud. He knows NOTHING about psychology. The pathetic writers just wrote enough cliché psychobabble between his laugh-out-loud cheesy slurping sounds to make it seem like he knew at least as much about the human mind as the average middle-school student. And then, just like all over-glamorized Hollywood, every time Hannibal is on the screen they point the camera up at his face with light shining behind his head as he stares at the ceiling without blinking. That's not good acting. That's made-for-TV directing they use in low-budget Jesus movies. Hannibal Lector is nothing but an awkward middle-aged man who is obsessed with talking and breaking copyright laws. How is that unnerving? If I met him, I'd laugh in his face and tell him to grow up.
So, at root value, I'm just trying to ask: What is so great about this movie? It's a generic crime thriller. It opens up with a generic cop-meets-killer scene, and ends with a generic cheesy-killer-in-the-house scene. Everything in between is exactly what you'd expect from an over-glamorized generic Hollywood thriller. It has NO significance whatsoever when it comes to originality. And as far as entertainment value goes, I don't see what's so entertaining in watching a middle-age man talk for an hour on end. If that entertains you, I pity you.
Oh my God! This movie TERRIFIED me! Why? Because an awkward middle-aged man pronounced "liver" like a 3-year-old.
I'll say the same thing to those of you who gave this movie a high score as I'd say to Hannibal Lector: GROW UP.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Fun for the whole desensitized family.
When I think of horror, truly genuine horror, not the cheap stuff that teenage girls scream-giggle-giggle at, it's almost always something hyper-realistic. Do not misunderstand me. I'm not contradicting H.P. Lovecraft when he stated that "horror and fantasy are only separated by a stream of black water", but I am saying it's a narrow-minded view. Fantasy worlds that we do not understand will always scare some of us, but there will also always be a group of people who find all unrealistic horror completely laughable. In the exact opposite sense, I've never once heard a person say that the premises behind truly realistic horror films were laughable. Ironically, realistic horror is scarce. Perhaps it's because we live in a time where modern directors saw The Omen when they were 2-years-old, their underdeveloped minds mistook cheese for terror, and now they live and breathe to pump the horror genre full of crappy, unoriginal movies like The Unborn or A Tale of Two Sisters. Thus, whenever I see a truly realistic horror film, regardless of its quality, I can't help but take it at least twice as seriously as I would yet another "Oh there's a cheesy demon! Let's get naked then do some insanely stupid thing and get killed!" film. In other words: Cannibal Holocaust is far from a great film in terms of quality, but the fact it's actually realistic gives it weight, and makes it worth watching.
The first time I attempted to watch Cannibal Holocaust, I'll admit I was bored to the point of tears. It just seemed like a toned-down, less entertaining version of The Temple of Doom. I turned it off 15 minutes in. The next day came, and I reluctantly decided to force myself to sit through the other 70 minutes of the film. This time, it caught my attention immediately. The boring faux-documentary set-up blended into an infinitely more interesting study of human nature.
While most films that "study" human nature really just end up repeating elementary facts that we knew before we were old enough to get into PG-rated movies, there is quite a bit more intelligence here. Instead of typically displaying the entire modern society (or just the American society) as evil, Cannibal Holocaust accurately depicts the mental breakdown of the young live-for-the-moment mind. In 2009, that's something I've rarely seen. In 1980, I'm pretty sure it was an original concept to display on film. Also, what makes Cannibal Holocaust infinitely more realistic to Battle Royale or Lord of the Flies is that it NEVER uses extremes. While the former two works that I listed lump the entire human race together into a single idealistic gobbledygook character type, Cannibal Holocaust does the opposite and presents good, bad, AND everything in between through diverse, realistic character traits. This is why Cannibal Holocaust is so intelligent in presenting the whole cliché "human nature is to kill" concept.
As for the quality . . . Well, people have accurately said that the acting (from the older people) isn't great. The four (young) central characters all act realistically, and are portrayed realistically. However, I didn't find the acting bad enough to be distracting at any point in the film. Some of the gore effects are outdated, but, again, I didn't feel it took away from the story unless you allow it to.
The gore is minimal at best. Some would go as far as to say it isn't there at all. There are a few generic, non-graphic Hollywood rape scenes, a few infamous animal killings, and a few human lacerations, but that's about it. It's nothing you haven't seen hundreds of times before. A lot like A Clockwork Orange and Natural Born Killers, I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how this film was labeled as insanely violent, much less violent/gory at all. The small amount of gore that was there was simply generic, and done in a non-graphic way. I'm someone who is very sensitive to graphic gore, and I found everything in this movie below the level of violence in the average R-rated movie. Compared to any given Saw film, Cannibal Holocaust just looks bloodless. I am not complaining about this, however. Just stating the fact. The movie did not need more gore for any reason, and I blame the lack of it only on the silly infamous hype.
Overall, I found Cannibal Holocaust a very entertaining and thought-provoking experience. I watched it with low expectations and had an absolute blast. One of the most fun movies I've ever watched alone. Regardless of my tastes, however, it is impossible to deny the territory and importance of this film on the horror genre. It forces you out of your face fantasy world and rubs your face in the filth of the real world . . . even if that filth isn't really that disturbing.
A little pretentiousness goes a long way.
Hypocrites. You know what the term means. The modest Christian girl that gave you the you're-a-piece-of-ungodly-filth look whenever you slyly grab a feel of your girlfriend's breast, then you found out a few weeks later that the oh-so-modest Christian girl is pregnant (. . . for the third time). Whether it's mature or not, these sort of simple character contradictions make us angry. If someone judges us, then contradicts their own standard, it's nearly impossible for us not to slap their flaw in their face. It's human nature. In a way, that's how I feel reviewing Baghead. Part of me wants to forgive the films faults and admit that I deep-down somewhat enjoyed it, then the other part of me wants to beat its face bloody for its blatant hypocrisy.
From the opening scene alone, the Duplass brothers make it clear that this is a parody of pretentious indie films. They laugh at the idea that everything low-budget is automatically a work of art. They buddy-slap each other on the arm and chuckle at how many pretentious indie films, labeled as art, just downright suck. For this, I cheered. Finally, I thought, someone has the balls to head-on assault the fine-cinema-whores. This feeling of satisfaction lasted until about 30 minutes into the film.
And then I found out that Baghead was pregnant for the third time. And I was mad.
Most of the dialogue in Baghead is improved. I have nothing against this, and for the most part, it worked decently. It certainly added freshness to the stale paint-by-the-numbers horror dialogue we could all recite in a coma if we had to. But then again, the dialogue is far anything special. This isn't Quentin Tarantino, by a long shot. I don't even remember a single line from Baghead, much less praise it for coming up with godly improvised dialogue. In reality, anyone and their half-drunk friends could say the things these characters say. It's a little fresh, but it's nothing special. That's where the first strike of hypocrisy comes in. It's impossible to overlook that the Duplass brothers, who just parodied the pretentiousness of indie films 30-minutes before, now expect to be praised for coming up with some average dialogue that they seem to think is the height of creativity.
Likewise, the plot is . . . well, okay, there isn't any real plot, and that's the point. Again, the idea of someone running around with a bag on their head and trying to scare you is fresh, but it's far from special or original or even creative. The movie has a very loose non-plot structure, but when you look at it overall, you see Baghead just treads the same exact cliché ground horror movies have treaded for years. All the predictable clichés are here. Topless girls, romantic subplots, lost friends, phone line cuts, car dismantling . . . need I go on, or can you fill in the rest on your own? As with the dialogue, the story structure is presented in a semi-fresh way, but it's still exactly the same thing you've seen thousands of times. If a 12-year-old were to write this story in an English paper, it would get a C- for lack of creativity. So, then, why do we praise this movie made by grown men? The Duplass brothers could think of a much more original story, but they don't. They, just like Hollywood, don't feel like putting out the effort to think of something we haven't heard a thousand times. Or even a hundred times.
I read a comment on one site that said this film was infinitely funnier than the big-budget Hollywood production Tropic Thunder. First, the falsity of that comment made me laugh harder than Baghead did. Second, based on comments like those, it seems the audience that liked Baghead simply liked it because it was low-budget. Close-minded, immature, childish thinking at its most extreme level: If it's indie, it's art; if it's Hollywood, it's crapno exceptions. I put that statement on the same level of intelligence as I put: If I eat an apple a day, I won't get cancer; if I eat a muffin a day, I'll die of AIDSno exception. Neither statement reflects reality.
What I'm trying to get across is this. Baghead is fresher and slightly more fun than most big-budget horror productions anymore, but that doesn't mean it's good. And that certainly doesn't make it art. When a 12-year-old kid writes this, it's lack of creativity. When two pretentious indie film makers write this, it's art. Uh-huh. If that's true, I might as well take some crayons, draw a few squiggles on a piece of white paper, put on my suit and tie, and, by God, I'm an artist. Pay me. I put as much effort into that crayon drawing as the Duplass brothers put into this story. So pay me, indie art fans. Pay me. I'm an artist. I swear I'm an artist.
Night of the Creeps (1986)
A night like every other.
With about 70% of older horror films, it's honestly hard for me to tell what "horror" films were meant to be comedy, and which were meant to scare me. Because the 70s were loaded with laugh-out-loud unintentional cheese films like Phantasm and The Omen, it's certainly not hard to see the natural evolution of horror films in the 80s. The 80s shifted from horror films intending to scare to horror films intending to make people laugh. Instead of trying to scare people with clichés, 80s horror took clichés and made people laugh at their predictability. Sadly, after you've seen this laugh-at-the-thing-that-would-have-scared-you-in-the-70s formula repeated over and over again, it stopped being funny really quickly, not to mention became as predictable as the movies it parodied. I've literally seen hundreds of 80s horror-comedies, and of them all, I can only pick out one or two that was genuinely funny or entertaining. The Evil Dead, for example, understood how to be genuinely comedic and still retain the horror elements. Night of the Creeps, however, is just . . . the same thing.
If you've seen any 80s horror comedy, you've seen Night of the Creeps. Yes, it has a few comedic moments that set it apart from the crowd for a few seconds, but they're few and far between. The Star Wars parody in the opening was pretty clever, but after that Night of the Creeps just becomes like all the other 80s horror-comedies. It repeats the same lines, same pseudo-scares, same jokes, same clichés, same plot, same EVERYTHING.
The main character is romantically challengedreally, who would have guessed? Have you ever seen an 80s horror-comedy where the main character is anything BUT a romantically/sexually challenged male? Over 90% of the movie is absolutely nothing but this cliché kid trying to figure out his pathetic relationship problems. It isn't funny, it's boring. I've seen the plot before in everything from 60s sitcoms to Dear Abby columns in the local newspaper. I can really care less.
When the action starts, it's just a bunch of generic head-shots, then the movie goes right back to the boring, cliché dork drama. The "gore" is all done in PG-style cut-off scenes, so don't even expect any on-screen blood to make the movie more enjoyable. It starts out as a painfully forgettable movie, then quickly turns into a movie that I literally could not force myself to watch again.
What else is there to say? If you grew up in the 80s, I can understand how this film may be nostalgic to you. I won't rain on your parade. If you watched this with youthful innocence as a kid, I'm not going to rain on your starry-eyed nostalgic parade. However, if you didn't grown up in the 80s, you'll have seen this material literally thousands of times in other 80s films and in the countless return-to-fun-horror films of the 2000s. By today's standards, Night of the Creeps is little more than a TV-PG-rated Disney Channel movie.