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Cry Wolf (2005)
PG-13? Hey, it makes sense for once!
A surprisingly intelligent suspense/horror film. Notice the dual title I gave to it? Yeah, that's because it takes elements from both to make a much better movie. I'm really surprised they canceled the critics' screenings for this because I honestly think it would get good reviews from quite a few critics. Maybe I'm wrong.
Either way, it starts off in post-Scream slasher mode before kicking things into gear. It quickly takes on the trappings of the urban legend/parable/whatever that the title is derived from, with a group of spoiled rich kids deciding to trick their private school into thinking there's a killer on campus. Trouble is...there actually might be.
The two leads, Julian Morris and Lindy Booth are both actually very good. Booth, who did almost nothing in the Dawn of the Dead remake, shines brightest, mixing girl-next-door charm with a lying, manipulative alter-ego. And it makes sense because her character uses the former so she can accomplish the latter.
Another surprising stand-out is...Jon Bon Jovi? Yeah, the guy can actually act. He skirts the line a few times but he's definitely believable as an English teacher. His story arc is also kind of funny when you consider his career, and what that likely entailed during the '80s. So once again, not a stretch.
The only flaw I could see with the movie is that it seems a little calculating. At points, it seems like it's intentionally trying to avoid teen horror clichés. For example, a victim is being chased and instead of running out a door, he tries to trick the killer into thinking he has. Smart. Probably too smart for a high school student, but at least it's a change from the same run, scream, hide, run again, knife to the throat routine.
Speaking of that tired old routine and the rating it usually causes, this is probably the first time in years where I actually felt a PG-13 rating was warranted. Making this an R horror movie would've killed any semblance of logic. Here the violence isn't necessarily what's supposed to frighten you. Human nature is. Their lies are what bring about the conclusion, which is infinitely darker than anything Jason Vorhees has ever done.
Authenticity Meet Corruption
When you think about what happened up in the Pacific Northwest during the late '80s and early '90s, you kind of realize that this "scene" was always destined to fail. There's no way a secluded, out-of-the-way region like Washington state could have produced a long-lasting cash cow. It did in a backhanded kind of way since people are still leeching off the scene to create a much more dumbed-down version (Seether, anyone?). That's not to say everything that came from Seattle was intelligent. No one would accuse Seaweed or Gas Huffer for being the most brilliant bands ever. But there was an authenticity that came from those bands and many others that were created in Seattle that scene-hoppers like Candlebox couldn't replicate.
And the movie Hype perfectly illustrates this point. It shows the juxtaposition created by commercial success and authenticity. Occasionally the two can coexist, but more often then not they're mutually exclusive. So to see bands like the Screaming Trees on the cusp of fame, only to shy away from it (even if unintentionally), you kind of get the idea what a lot of the Seattle bands were about. Most never expected to amount to anything more than the guy who serves you your coffee at Starbucks. The goal for a lot of people was just to make music they personally enjoyed, and then play a few shows. If they got lucky, they expected maybe to tour up-and-down the West Coast. And then that's it But MTV came calling and then that was it. Authenticity is replaced by photogenic front men.
Don't get me wrong. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains were all greats band, but they got a lot of their attention because they were lucky enough to be fronted by sensitive, good-looking guys that girls would go crazy for. They had great music, but their looks coupled with the down-and-dirty attire that they wore made them into the guys-next-door. The movie Singles helped to solidify that image, and then grunge became a household word. Meanwhile Tad were stuck out in the cold, stormy weather of Seattle, playing music that was equally compelling.
If anything, don't watch Hype for the big bands that came out of the scene. Watch it for the obscure bands you've never heard of. Bands like the Fastbacks, the Gits, Some Velvet Sidewalk, and Love Battery. Is Eddie Vedder a good listen? Well, yeah. But does he make much sense? Nope.
Another big highlight of this movie are the producers, the writers of fanzines, the current (and former) employees of Sub-Pop, generally everyone that lived in Seattle but wasn't in a band. They all have great stories that really go back to illustrating the authenticity of the music, and eventually also pointing out its corruption.
This along with the more recent Brian Jonestown Massacre/Dandy Warhols-documentary Dig should be required viewing for any self-respecting music fan. They both brilliantly show the highs and lows of success in the music business, and everything those two polarities entail.
Skinned Deep (2004)
Old people, gore, and a midget throwing dinner plates.
There's no real plot to the movie. It's just a loose collection of ideas strung together in something resembling a plot. That ultimately makes it one bizarre movie. This rivals a Blood Diner or Ichi the Killer for just sheer strangeness. It's not necessarily good but it isn't bad either. I can't really score it as that would imply this is an actual movie and not some bizarre experiment in performance art gone horribly awry.
The only real gripe to have with the movie outside of the fact that it looks like it was shot on video, is the aforementioned story. Really, it plays like three different movies. The first third is typical slasher sleaze, the middle is some bizarre form of social commentary, and the last third is a survival film. Really I would've tightened the script up and put it more on a Nightbreed route with the daughter eventually accepting the freaks and finish it out in a finale of bikers vs. freaks in an all-out war. But really I'm guessing that wouldn't have worked as it looked like their budget was already being stretched thin.
Consider it one really bizarre movie that was too ambitious for its own good/budget.
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Die, Frat Boy, Die
Fun, over-the-top '80s cheese.
Easily one of the best B movies ever made, and it proudly attempts to achieve that status. Starting off with an alien sequence that's so goofy it's enjoyable, and ending with a massacre that involves blowing off the heads of frat boys' with a shotgun, this is one cool movie. Marvel at all the in-references to horror directors littered throughout the movie.
If you're looking for serious, thought-provoking horror...go look somewhere else. This is one stupidly awesome time. And it's obviously proud of that fact. Fred Dekker's the man.