Sunday, June 20, 2010

House of 1000 Corpses

If you’ve read much of this blog or know me, you know I’m not a big fan of Rob Zombie’s movies. While he’s clearly a big fan of the horror genre, like me, his movies tend to be pretty shallow, relying way too much on gore and easy scares to make them memorable. Ironically, it took me viewing his first film to become a fan. I guess in a way it makes sense. I mean, has Tobe Hooper made anything good in a long while? Has he made anything even remotely as good as his first, Texas Chainsaw Massacre? I don’t think so. Well, Zombie may not have made a good flick since, House of 1000 Corpses is a great flick if you’re into horror like me.

The movie tells the story of two couples who are traveling around 1977 Texas doing research for a coffee table-esque book about odd roadside attractions. They stop in a small town for gas and see a roadside attraction called Captain Spauldings House of Monsters. They have to see this, which leads them down a very dark road they soon regret. This movie is the classic tale of city-folk who travel into a small country town at night only to find themselves trapped in a world of terror. Think the aforementioned Texas Chansaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes or Motel Hell and so on and so on.

This movie was clearly a labor of love for Zombie, who obviously loves studying the dark as much as I do. The house used in the film is the same from The Best Little Whorhouse in Texas. There are actual recordings featured of Aleister Crowley reading his dark magick poem The Poet. There are references to the very evil Albert Fish. And many more. There are also many movie references, both visually and in terms of the character names, like how most of the main characters are named after characters from Marx Brothers movies. It’s not like it’s a perfect movie with a great script, but if you’re a fan of the genre, this movie was made exactly for you. It’s creepy and exudes a rotten, dark, organic feel. The visual style is very interesting and I absolutely love to see Sid Haig totally owning his role, and man does he own it. I mean, who doesn’t love Sid Haig, the dude was in Coffy and Foxy Brown for crying out loud. Long story short, if you’re a horror and movie geek, you will like this movie. If not, well, you should probably skip it.


Man on Wire

So you know how I was just saying that the mark of a good documentarian is his or her ability to edit? To take hours of footage and turn it into something engaging? Well, where the last flick failed, this one succeeds. Man on Wire tells about the planning for and execution of Phillipe Patek’s time walking a wire between the twin towers in the 1970’s. Patek was a French high wire walker who had grown sick of the circus life and decided to take a decidedly more ethereal and spiritual approach to his craft. He left the circus and began performing for the public in impromptu public appearances. He’d take a team of three or so, who would rig and film while he did his beautiful, fearless thing. They’d string rope between lightpoles on busy Parisian streets. They’d rig a wire across a lake in a park. He then decided to kick it up a notch and walked a wire between the two bell towers of the Notre Dame. This caused quite a stir and became the stuff of legend in France. Moved by the public response and the experience it gave him, he decided to up the ante again. This time he walked between two of the arches of the Sydney harbor bridge. Not only was this much more dangerous, it also caused an even bigger public response. He wanted more.

While at the dentist’s office he saw a magazine article about an architects proposal for the 7 buildings of the New York World Trade Center, two of which are the twin towers. He was immediately determined and crushingly obsessed. He dedicated his life to this feat, he called Le Coup. Then he learned the towers were accepted and going to be built. He now had a mission. Man on Wire gives the viewer an in-depth inside look at the years that followed. The years of planning, constant imagining and re-imagining, the several failed attempts to get to the top of the towers and the ultimate successful high wire walk between them. It’s an almost unthinkable accomplishment. He was on a tiny wire nearly half a mile above the earth, with no safety harness and certainly no net. To make it even more amazing, this wasn’t some highly orchestrated stunt organized by highly trained professionals.

No, this was some street performer from France with little more than a dream and a group of half stoned volunteers that he’d found just a few days before. And there he was, out on that wire, calm as a deep sea, loving every second of the 45 minutes he decided to stay out there on the wire. That’s right, he refused to come off and was up there for nearly an hour. He loved it and vowed to never do such a thing again, believing he’d never top it. This movie is great and gives you a wonderful look inside a once-in-a-lifetime event in New York history. It’s always a good thing when people spend their life pursuing what they believe is pure and beautiful and by the end of this movie, you’re gonna feel the same way.


Don't You Forget About Me

When I heard that a group of Canadian screenwriters were making a documentary about John Hughes and his impact on the world I was excited and couldn’t wait to see what they came up with. Then when I heard part of this doc was a roadtrip to meet the man and that he died after filming but before release, well, I knew this flick had the chance to be something great. This is all the more reason why I was so very disappointed. The mark of a great documentarian is knowing how to edit tons of footage of the otherwise mundane into something riveting and, hopefully, psychologically and emotionally engaging. The greats like Errol Morris and Werner Herzog will provide you with numerous examples of this craft done well. A documentarian, by the nature of their work, collects much film of people and scenes that are not all that exciting, but what distinguishes between what you see on public access and what wins Oscars and changes lives is editing. This was the biggest flaw of Don’t You Forget About Me.

They decided to tell the story of Hughes by interviews, interviewing kids who still love his pictures and consider them great and cast members from some of his greatest films. The problem is, they allow this stuff to go on for way too long. There’s only so much reflection on an actor’s memories of a person one can watch and stay engaged. The filmmakers needed to intersperse this with some history, some biography of Hughes. They don’t. They just have actors and children speaking straight to camera talking about their opinions of Hughes. Interesting, for about 20 minutes.

The only break from this is footage of the roadtrip, which, again, would have been interesint if edited well. Instead, it’s way too much footage of a bunch of small time filmmakers talking about their opinions of Hughes, in other words, the same stuff as the interviews. They spent years on this picture but decided it would be best to ambush Hughes at his home with the schtick of acting like pizza delivery and, instead, delivering to him the documentary they’d made. This was their plan for meeting a guy who made some of the greatest movies of the 1980’s and early 90’s and decided to leave it all for some peace and quiet with his family in Illinois. This was their plan for the guy who hasn’t done an interview or had his picture taken in over 12 years. I’m not giving anything away when I say the dude is uninterested and doesn’t even come outside. I would have done the same, who trusts people who randomly knock at their door? When someone from the LDS church comes over unannounced, how many of you say, sure I’m interested, come on in? Not many. I love Hughes and I’d have loved to see an in depth look into his life, work and colleagues. This movie provided none of this. If it had been edited down into a 30-minute episode of TV, it might have been worth a watch, but at just over an hour and a half, it’s not worth your time.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Warlock is a 19889 horror flick by director Steve Miner, the man who introduced the world to the version of Jason we know now, with the whole hockey goalie mask thing (which he didn’t have in the first film) and who went on to make several other high grossing horror ventures like the 2008 remake of Day of the Dead. Well, ole Steve may have had a ton of success in his career with big-budget movies, but this was certainly not one of them. Then again, since the movie is produced by perhaps the most famous trash flick producer this side of Ed Wood, Roger Corman, and was paired up with writer David Twohy, who brought the world such gems as Critters 2 and Waterworld, it’s not like he was aiming for the art house cinemas.

Warlock is about a warlock from 17th century Boston who is traveling through time finding pieces of a book that, all together, reveal the true name of god, which is apparently a huge thing to know and bestows great power onto those who know it. Which I suppose is why the pages were not only hidden in different locations, but also different time periods. It’s also why there’s a mystic who is following the warlock trying to stop him. For some reason a moderately cute piece of ditzy eye candy from the present needed to be drug around on the chase as well. Imagine Highlander but with much worse acting, writing and production and you have Warlock. That’s right, I said much worse and I didn’t even like Highlander.

The performances are the worst part of it all, and that’s saying quite a bit considering the terrible special effects. And by far the worst performance is that of Lori Singer (the aforementioned eye candy) and I was thusly shocked to learn that she’s a Julliard trained cellist and was a protégé of Leonard Rose. Well, I suppose being talented in one art doesn’t make you talented in another. There really isn’t much good to say about this movie and I suggest you skip it and move on to better Corman camp like Dementia 13 or Death Race 2000, now those are some glorious examples of cinematic junk food. Warlock, on the other hand, is just junk.


Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Killer Klowns is a goofy 1988 horror flick about a group of, well, killer clowns, who come to earth so they can harvest fauna as, I guess, snacks for the road. They’re apparently on their way somewhere in space and stop off on earth like it’s a 7-11. They gather up people, dogs, whatever they can find, wrap them in cotton candy and, when they have a hankering, drink a little of their innards.

This movie is fun if you like trash and horror flicks like I do, but it’s little more than a bit of fun. As a movie, it really fails. It’s supposed to be funny, but never really is. It’s supposed to be scary, but there’s not a single frame of this picture that is remotely scary. The story seems coincidental and the acting is, of course, quite awful. Sometimes I wonder with movies like this, if the production team decided after the fact to make it a spoof. Obviously from the title and premise, it’s not supposed to be a serious horror endeavor, but it’s not making any particular statement on the industry or genre to make me believe it’s really a spoof either. It’s also not funny enough and has too much gore to really be considered a comedy either; thus, it goes down with movies like Motel Hell and Rock n’ Roll Nightmare as movies that are difficult to decipher as to whether or not they’re being bad movies on purpose or are just bad movies. Either way, if you’re a fan of kitsch and crap, you’ll at least get a kick out of this movie that somehow miraculously got funded and made. Long live the days of animatronic puppets!