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I like the classics, I like total schlock, and some of the stuff in between.
Check out my ratings list for a better idea of what I like as well as my collection list. Both are growing all the time.
The Visit (2015)
The Twist You Never Expected
The real twist here is that for more than a decade M. Night Shyamalan has built up a beautiful fecal mountain of great terrible movies, then marketed The Visit as possibly the holy apex of said ****-mountain, and somehow the movie turned out to be his non-ironic best since the days his name wasn't considered a joke. I feel like every movie he's released since Signs has been a piece of performance art leading to this ultimate mind bending twist ending where the movie with the worst trailers possibly ever turned out to be decent.
Bravo, Mr. Shyamalan.
The real key here is that Shyamalan has finally shed the comically serious attitude all his movies have had to this point. The Village, The Happening, Devil; they were all ironic comedy gems because the tone was so serious but what you saw on screen was an absolute joke. This movie incorporates a lot of intentional comedy that has you laughing WITH the characters rather than at them. The dialogue is Shyamalan's best probably ever. So you bond with the characters and enjoy yourself. Then when the suspenseful moments come, you are surprised that you actually care about the characters and the suspense is working. The twist was obvious and you could forecast it a mile out, but with Shyamalan you can't really avoid that.
Overall, it's no masterpiece of course, but as an ironic Shyamalan lover over the past 10 or so years, I can confirm that I actually agree with his non ironic fans who are calling this his return to form. The trailers are extremely misleading and the movie is nowhere near as ridiculous as the "Get in the oven" trailers would have you believe. Solid 7/10.
New Year's Evil (1980)
I just finished watching this movie and it wildly exceeded my expectations. I have a lot to say about it, but to make this review useful for the greatest amount of people possible, I'll summarize first: This movie is awesome for anyone looking for a fun, campy horror flick with crazy elements at every turn that keep it fresh and interesting. The most perfect example I can think of of riding the line between believable and over the top. For well-versed fans of horror history and genre tropes, simply a must see.
What makes this movie so great for me is a combination of two things. The first thing is obvious talent and knowledge on the part of the filmmakers who put so much thought into this film. I went into this movie thinking it was going to be pure trash; a slasher film with a gimmick to cash in on the trend gaining steam during this time. But it's so much more. The people behind this film didn't just see "Friday the 13th" and think, "Psh, I can do that," and pump out a piece of crap like many movies from this era. The film is full of homage to its inspirations, some of my favorites being the black leather gloves of Italian Giallo films, a direct reference to what has to have been a huge inspiration to the filmmakers, Hershall Gordon Lewis' "Blood Feast," and even pretty much straight lifting the "Jason's near" sound effects from Friday the 13th. For a rabid horror fan with solid knowledge of certain motifs, this film has something for you in every scene.
The other thing that will make this film enjoyable even to those who aren't necessarily horror enthusiasts is the perfectly executed comedy. I feel no shame calling it comedy because if these guys loved "Blood Feast" enough to literally name drop it in this movie, they knew exactly what they were making and how funny it was. The movie is actually completely played straight, to the point where you could reasonably believe everyone was serious throughout the filmmaking process. That's what I mean about it perfectly riding the line between believable and absurd: its not plain goofy to where you know its a big joke, but everything that occurs on screen is absolutely wild. The characters are ABSURD. Every one of them is strange and funny in some way. The situations they are put in are almost even better. Our killer will don quite a variety of disguises in his quest to get the perfect midnight kill, and the hijinks that ensue are practically fit for a straight comedy film. I can't think of one scene that I didn't find entertaining. The camp is just oh so perfect.
Besides these specific areas in which the film excelled, there are plenty of more general compliments to give it. For one, I really enjoyed the pacing throughout. Many of the more obscure slasher flicks I've seen rely so hard on just one gimmick, it can get really dull really fast, but this one stays fresh with plenty of things that mix up the circumstances throughout. The pacing is also helped by the fact that the killer actually has a goal. He's specifically after just one person, and each other person is just a step towards his endgame, creating anticipation and tension. He's not picking off kids one by one for no reason. Rising action is good for plots. Other horror writers of the time should have taken note.
That's ultimately one of the big ideas I'm left with after watching this film. Why didn't this film have more of an impact than it did? Why is it so obscure? Why is it not a major cult classic? The only answer I can think of is that too many people had the same expectations as I did before seeing this film. Everything about the way it looks on the outside makes it seem like it's just another gimmicky cash-in slasher of the time; nothing special. Maybe if it wasn't advertised so strongly on the New Years gimmick it would have a larger cult following. Whatever the case, you absolutely have to trust the old cliché in this case and do not judge this film just by the cover. It's a hidden gem.
Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
Some flair, but weighed down by many problems
Kiss Me Deadly is often regarded as a total classic; one of the ultimates in great film-noir. The word "influential" is one that you are going to read in every positive review of this movie you see, and I'm not going to dispute that specific claim about the film. What I will say is... I just don't find this film, standing on its own, to be very impressive.
To be fair, I'll start with the things about this film that are good. The cinematography, for example, is interesting throughout and several shots were done very well. The cinematography easily stands out as the best part of this film. There are some shots here and there that I do not care for, but these are negligible compared to the amount of good ones.
There are also some aspects of the story that I feel were interesting. The beginning of the film sets things up to have a lot of potential, opening very strongly. Sadly, it goes downhill from there. The writing, especially in regards to exposition, is just plain awful at some points.
The worst example of this comes just after the excellent opening finishes, in which the main character is set up for an interrogation. What this turns out to be is three cops directly telling the viewer his life story, without having him answer a single question. When he finally asks if there is an actual reason for him being there, even the cops have no response and just let him go. This is one of the worst ways I've ever seen first act exposition done. It's cheap and silly.
A close second for worst moment of exposition comes towards the end of the film, when the contents of the box are to be revealed. Now, never showing exactly what something is in order to let the viewer use their own imagination is a completely valid technique in film, but it only works when the viewer gets interesting hints and clues with which to base their explanation on. What the writer in this film gives us is a ludicrously silly word association game. Instead of cleverly weaving hints into the story, there is a moment where a character literally just lists a few spooky phrases like "Manhattan Project" and tells everyone to draw their own image up from the words. I can't believe more people aren't pointing scenes like this out when they are supposedly analyzing the intricacy of the story.
Finally, I just found the entire second act of the story dull. You can have a great opening and a surprising finish like this movie does, but if the second act can't keep you interested, the whole story falls apart. The middle section mostly consists of the main character going to a place, talking to a person who refuses to cooperate, conveniently finding another bit of information anyway, and then going to the next person to repeat the cycle, of course being captured and escaping a few times along the way. It's a cookie cutter detective story at its most bland. I can't help but recall movies with a nearly identical structure, such as Fritz Lang's masterpiece "The Big Heat," in which the process is the same, but with so much more tension driving the story as it goes along. Big Heat admittedly doesn't even start out as strong as this film does, but its compelling second act makes the beginning and (already great) ending even better, which is just what Kiss Me Deadly fails to do.
Overall, Kiss Me Deadly is not a bad film. It's entertaining to watch, and definitely very different from pretty much any noir you'll see with its unique third act. But there are just so many flaws with the story and storytelling that I can't see why this is held up by many as being one of the greatest of all time, even THE greatest to some.
It's worth watching at least once, but if you're looking for a masterfully crafted work of art in the noir genre, I would personally say your time would be better spent on movies such as Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil," Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity," and of course, the aforementioned "The Big Heat."
Birdemic 2: The Resurrection (2013)
Beyond My Expectations
In my opinion, out of any type of movie to make a sequel for, making a sequel to an outstanding "bad" movie is the hardest. It has to do with the fact that the magic that's captured in a perfect bad movie can be entirely unintentional. I had this in mind when the sequel to the outstanding "Birdemic: Shock and Terror" was announced and was quite nervous for how the result would turn out. After having attended the Chicago premiere of the film tonight, I can say with complete honesty that this movie was outstanding.
The genius of this sequel comes straight from Nguyen himself, who has honestly demonstrated a great amount of skill in the way he created this movie. Instead of taking the good parts from the first film and recycling them in an over the top manner, James instead was able to retain all the charm of everything that was good in the first film while also improving in a few areas over the original.
One really noticeable difference is a new element of intentional comedy in this sequel that wasn't found in the original. This was what most worried me about the movie before seeing it, because the entire reason the first movie was so great is that the comedy was UNintentional. I'm glad to say that the intentional humor was not used in this movie to take the place of the unintentional humor that made the first so great. The jokes are funny and the fact that they are used helps to give the rest of the film a really genuine feeling; you never feel like Nguyen is trying to imitate the "bad" things from the first Birdemic to exploit them for laughs. This is a major plus and in my opinion the greatest success of this movie.
So here I was in the early hours of the morning browsing IMDb, looking for a quality outrageous horror flick. Stumbling upon this film, my jaw practically dropped at the sheer perfection of my find. HORROR FLICK RATED LESS THAN 4/10 STARRING SNOOP? This was too good to be true. But oh, it was true. Just having finished watching "Bones," I can fully say it lived up to my expectations and even went beyond.
I won't waste your time giving you details of the plot, as it isn't necessary. I'll just highlight some of the great things about this movie that made it so enjoyable for me, and that I'm sure would be enjoyable to any fan of wonderful, campy horror flicks.
Obviously the big attention grabber was Snoop's face on the cover of the film. How did he deliver? Perfectly. Snoop's acting is just ridiculous enough to smile at while still being coherent enough to be passable. There are some absolutely CHOICE bits of dialogue in this film and Snoop does not fail to entertain for a single second of his screen time.
I was also impressed by the story. Going in with absolutely no expectations for a coherent story, I was actually pleasantly surprised by how plot driven this film was. The first half of the film is actually entirely based on establishing Snoop's character Jimmy, while the second half let loose with the outrageous effects and violence. I was engaged by the plot the entire time and Jimmy is actually a much more interesting character than you might figure. Obviously no masterpiece, but definitely not a mindless story and certainly entertaining.
Along with an impressive story, the film also had great atmosphere. There are really three distinct settings in the film, though technically all three are in the same place! The first we're introduced to is the ghetto, run down neighborhood that is the basis of the story. A very interesting setting for a horror film, and quite frankly, a great idea as well! We've seen the haunted houses, asylums and summer camps a million times but throwing in a setting that's scary in REAL life and ACTUALLY exists works wonders. Next we have Jimmy's old house, a Gothic-style building that plays out like a haunted house. While it doesn't really seem to fit in with the urban ghetto setting, who cares, right? Dusty, dilapidated, and actually pretty creepy at some times; if you watch this alone in the dark you'll have a fun time with the spooky atmosphere in the house. Well-done! Finally we have the oddest setting, the neighborhood during the 70s! The filters they used on these scenes really give it that "groovy" feel so common in blacksploitation flicks, and seeing all of the actors from the modern setting done up with afros is good fun. The silliest parts no doubt, these scenes were an interesting cutaway from the dark atmosphere of the rest of the film.
And finally, what it all comes down to for a lot of horror flicks: the gore and sleaze! First off, the sleaze is very limited here. There is exactly one scene, a few seconds long, that features nudity. Depending on your tastes, that's good or bad; I'm pretty indifferent. What there is plenty of, on the other hand, is blood! The brutal gore is limited, but there is quite a lot of blood here, and its bright red, ridiculous color makes it even better in my opinion. It's amazing to me that they could use the amount of CGI they did in this film and STILL make the blood absolutely unconvincing, but it's definitely not something I saw in a negative way, rather just adding to the fun!
Overall, what you've got here is a surprisingly serious - but still full of fun and laughs - horror flick. The story held me the whole way through, Snoop was excellent, and there were plenty of laughs to be had at some of the sillier moments. I had a smile on my face the whole time and was definitely very satisfied when the credits began to roll. I would highly recommend this to any real horror fan out there who knows what mindset to be in when putting on a movie like this to watch.
Julie and Jack (2003)
It All Depends On What You Expect Going Into It...
I had high expectations going into this movie. Now, I don't mean that I was expecting a masterpiece work with an enthralling story or superb acting, but I love bad films. About a week ago, I had the privilege of viewing the masterpiece work "Birdemic: Shock and Terror" and I absolutely loved every minute of it. It was one of the best so-bad-it's-good movies I have ever seen, and I've seen quite a few. It left me begging for more, and so I looked up the man behind it all, James Nguyen, on IMDb and it was there that I discovered "Julie and Jack." This movie was pretty obscure and difficult to get my hand on, but I eventually got the DVD and watched it last night. When I popped the DVD in, I was expecting horrifying editing, hilariously bad acting and dialog, and a completely ridiculous story based on what I had previously seen from Nguyen's "Birdemic." I went in with very high expectations for entertainment and very low expectations for production value, and what this movie delivered was somewhere in the middle.
The movie began and even from the opening scenes I could tell that the editing and acting were a step above my expectations. Not a very huge step, mind you, but definitely a noticeable one. The editing was more amateur than it was awful, and the delivery of lines was actually quite decent at some points. These elements gave the film more of an "extremely low budget" feel than an "oh my god what were these people thinking" feel. It almost felt like watching an amateur short film on the internet rather than an actual film. These elements of the film aren't really "so bad it's funny" or "so bad it's bad," you just know that the acting, editing, and overall production isn't very good and most of the time you can just ignore it, or at least get a few small laughs at certain points.
So basically after a few scenes I was able to grasp that it was just a mediocre production and I probably wasn't going to be getting most of my entertainment from the overall bad production, so I tried to concentrate on the actual story. The thing about this story is that it's not great, and it's not awful; it's not enthralling, nor is it so bad that you can laugh at it. In terms of just the story and nothing else, I would probably place this movie more on the good end of the spectrum than the bad. It's actually kind of an interesting take on the standard romance story. It starts off pretty standard, but a small ways in you're presented with a small twist that gets the main conflict of the story going, and in one final twist you get the resolution. During that second part and the main conflict of the film, I actually found myself interested. Without giving too much away, Julie obviously has some big secret and I actually found myself pretty interested in finding out what the secret was. They eventually do reveal it, and it is a tad bit cliché, but I was satisfied enough and at least it made sense. Julie's own explanation is one of the weirder, more sci-fi parts of the movie, and it's a bit strange, but nothing worth praising or complaining about.
Overall, it really just comes down to what you're expecting to get out of the movie. If you're expecting a spectacular, tear-jerking love story, you'll be disappointed. If you're expecting a masterpiece work of awful film similar to Birdemic, you'll be disappointed. I was the latter of the two, but instead of becoming disappointed I adapted how I was looking at it to meet somewhere in the middle of those two options, and I was left with a watchable film. If you see any of the interviews Nguyen has done, you can tell that he's just a man who's passionate about making movies. He works a day job five days a week to fund his filmmaking on the weekends. He's pretty much just an average guy, and this film was just the result of an average guy doing his best to make a decent flick. In my opinion, that's pretty respectable, and the movie itself is definitely watchable. With how rare it is, I guess it's not worth jumping through a ton of hoops to try to get to see it, but if you're ever given the opportunity, this movie might be worth checking out. With all of the acclaim that Birdemic is getting, and with Birdemic 2 on the way, maybe enough interest will get generated in Nguyen to give this movie a bigger release. If that happens, I think any open minded movie fan could enjoy this film at least a little bit.