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oh, this movie came so--SO--close to being something really, really special. as it was, hush (2016) was pretty darn good, and were it not for a poorly conceived fifteen minute stretch preceding the finale, it might have been a classic.
this spare and intelligently put together slasher movie pits maddie, a deaf writer struggling to end her current novel, against a killer with no motive and an eternally built in element of surprise. maddie is a great character, plucky and resourceful, who never gives up despite what must be paralyzing fear, being so vulnerable. kate siegal plays her wonderfully; she also co-wrote the script! extra cool. the killer is way more menacing behind his mask, which he sheds much too quickly. and then he talks way too much. nonetheless, he and maddie engage in a very entertaining game of cat-and-mouse.
everything is humming, just moving along with entertaining crackle, great dialogue, lovely camera (filmed in good ole alabama), and a great synth score from the newton brothers, until the movie runs off the road for a piece. suddenly, all the characters make a series of rash decisions that defy credulity, and which snapped me out of hush's stark hold for a stretch. to their credit, director mike flanagan and scripter siegal wrestle the car out of its' ditch and deliver an exciting--and satisfying--conclusion.
one of my hopes was that the filmmakers would be clever about how they used sound, and they did not let me down. at times, we are drowned in suffocating silence, which reminds us how desperate maddie's situation is: literally, he could crash through a window or even a wall, and she would be none the wiser. she's mute which smartly removes a classic horror movie trope--screaming female victim. it restores some of her power lost by not hearing anything, depriving him of the pleasure of hearing her suffer. and then the volume gets turned up here and there, reinforcing to us how much maddie is missing: if only she could hear that, this would be all over! hush is a smart and feisty movie that presents us with a uniquely powerful final girl. the movie is filmed gorgeously, and definitely shows us what flanagan might do with a new halloween flick (which obviously had some influence on this one). i hope siegal remains with him as writing partner. there are far too few women in horror, and a writer who is also a talented actor would be a valuable talent in our genre. a siege movie, home invasion, cabin in the woods, slasher, hush is a great little flick, gently affecting, and perfect at 80 some-odd-minutes.
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Just watched this again for the first time in three or four years. my god, what a gloriously twisted, anarchistic romp of a film. everything's so nuts from the opening moment, it's surreal. everything works, the visual style, the cast, the constant, loving horror references, it's a thing of beauty.
each member of the firefly family is wonderfully crafted (if not, on occasion, a touch too broadly), and brings a gleeful sadism to their roles. i really like Sheri a lot. She makes the most of her talents, embodying the slinky nut case that is baby firefly. lip syncing Betty boop, asking jerry who her favorite actor is ("if you get it right, you can go. If not, you're F#$%#@!"), buying liquor from goober, she just seems to be having a great time. Bill Mosley seems similarly liberated, pontificating on individuality and conformity whilst terrorizing a gaggle of cheerleaders , and proclaiming bill (I love that rain Wilson takes roles like this) an inspiration to his artists block. He brings intelligence and thoughtfulness to his riff-Raff-looking hillbilly. Sid haig is ever dependable, coarse, sarcastic, and bombastic. And let's not forget Karen black, who is clearly having a grand old time.
I also really loved the scene when the firefly family ambushes the cops, doing so to the ironic strains of some oldies-sounding country tune while the young cop falls apart emotionally. I wouldn't bother surrendering to these folks, deputy.
Zombie acquits himself beautifully in his directorial debut, and this movie just doesn't let up. We progress constantly and confidently, towards a wild ending in the catacombs of the firefly compound. Rob makes the most of these scenes, following our Alice-in-horrland protagonist as she navigates tunnels of skeletons and beautiful, cob-webby mine shafts. There is a great close-up shot of her, her eye moving to the right, as the terrifying, gas mask-wearing red skull looking guy is approaching. The set design is typical zombie, dense and interesting, and filled with drawing, paintings, and other props from rob's fevered mind. The presence of teevees everywhere showing classic universal films and the Munsters is a welcome sight to this horror homer.
And special mention goes to Wayne toth, make-up supervisor, and, IMHO, master of body horror gore. I'm glad rob has hitched his wagon to this talented, under appreciated fx artist.
House of a thousand corpses is a love letter to insanity, and I was happy to receive the mail. Disturbing, entertaining, sadistic, and unapologetic, this is a movie that delights in reminding us that we are meaningless, nihilism at its' very finest. Zombie is a provocateur, and one who enjoys his work. I feel shaken and stirred. Bravo.
My Soul to Take (2010)
i loved it!
i'm sure that this will atomize any critical cred that i might still possess (i mean, you know, after my fervent defense and love of rob zombie, especially h2), but i loved this movie. yes, it was pretty derivative of nightmare on elm street, scream, and most interestingly, shocker, but, for me, it totally worked. i liked the notions of collective souls acting on things, and i liked the the riverton seven, found them engaging, did not want them to die. and once again, as wes hacks em up, he allows the survivors to linger on and feel what they have lost. i especially liked bug. he was the perfect manic mix of being crazy enough to kill, or is he crazy, eccentric, to keep the viewer guessing about the identity of the riverton ripper. i also thought the movie was just filmed beautifully. the woods, the river, the amount of action that took place in the daylight, it just really worked for me. bug and alex's California condor presentation was wonderful and inspired, along the lines of nancy's dreamy hamlet moment in elm street. wes tied the California condor's place and plight--to indigenous people they are the keeper of souls; nature's cleanser that makes way for more life; and an animal that tenaciously fought back from the brink of extinction (with a little help from decent, compassionate people)--directly into the movie. i found the condor vibe inseparable from the story, and an appropriate symbol (totem) to represent bug. i even liked the scene where we see a turkey vulture (this raised my cynicism for moment, cus i assumed, as movies often do, that they were gonna mis-identify the bird; and the story took place in massachussetts, where there are no condors) appears, and bug very matter-of-factly tells alex, no it isn't a condor, idiot, it's a turkey vulture.i also loved the way the souls of some of the deceased visited bug, and the way he began to accept that their souls were with him. the reveal that fang was his sister was great, and really tied up the opening sequence. the bird totems were groovy, too, and they cement wes craven's delightful hippie-ness. i was really pleasantly surprised.