Sunday, March 29, 2015

It Follows – review

Modern horror often runs the risk of being stale and formulaic. It Follows is not only well-made but it is nightmarish to watch. It is not scary in the most typical sense. There are jump scares here and there but the fear comes from the lingering unease that is almost primal and set up artistically in this film.

College student Jay, played by Maika Monroe, goes on a date with a boy she has been seeing. After having sex, she is chloroformed and wakes up tied to a chair. Her date informs her that he has just passed a curse onto her. An entity will begin to follow her and will kill her if it comes into contact with her. She must have sex with someone else to pass along the curse or keep on the run from this entity.

This movie is beautifully shot. There are creative uses of panoramic lens and 360 degree shots that are astounding.  The music is also really unnerving; it creates a sense of unease and dread throughout the entire movie.  There are style choices in the costumes that make the movie feel retro and like a throwback to the 80s. At the same time there are futuristic fictional devices that don’t exist currently that could imply that this is the near future.

The acting is incredibly believable. Maika Monroe shines as Jay. Her character transforms from a young woman in her sexual prime to one that is broken, terrified, and bordering insanity. It Follows is certainly a creepy movie but it is not the scariest movie of all time. It is a cerebral movie that will have you talking about it long after the final reel.

The Director/Writer has spoken about how the nature of this entity is more about being in a nightmare you can’t escape. The nightmare aspect can easily be seen in the thematic elements that can easily be worked into the discussion. Things like: STDs, absentee parents, bad boy attraction etc. It Follows is certainly worth watching if you are into more cerebral thrills. Just don’t expect a lot of answers to be given to you. You will need to interpret a lot for yourself. It feels like it took the basic idea of Drag Me To Hell and made it artistic, less gory, and less obvious.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Top Ten Most Memorable Movie Meals

Movies can be incredibly memorable experiences.  Even things as simple as meal times can often be memorable. Some are funny, some are terrifying, and others are simply visually appealing. When it comes to the most extraordinary meal scenes, often it is not even a matter of eating.

10. The Dark Crystal – Skeksis Dinner: The bizarre and evil looking Skeksis are in control of the Dark Crystal. As they gather, they eat a bizarre meal with utensils that would otherwise be alien to a human. Still, the fantastic creatures, developed by Henson studios, have their own mannerisms that are fascinating to watch. At times they move with deliberate ease and others with animalistic ferocity chasing little creatures across the table. 

9. Pulp Fiction – Five-dollar shake: Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace go to Jack Rabbit Slim’s for dinner. While ordering their 50s themed food from a Buddy Holly impersonator, Mia orders a five-dollar shake. This leads to a humorous back and forth about the shake and how good it must be to be worth five-dollars. It is a great sample of Tarantino dialogue.

8. Inglorious Basterds – Wait for cream: Yet another Tarantino film, this meal doesn’t build on humor but rather on tension. Jewish French cinema owner, Shosanna is seated next to Nazi Jew hunter, Col. Hans Landa. Shosanna knows that Col. Landa is the Nazi that killed her family the whole time we watch them eat their meal the audience must wonder if Col. Landa recognizes Shosanna.  The tension is high and it is seen on the actor’s face the entire scene.

7. Animal House – Food fight: John Belushi as Bluto comes into the dining hall of Faber college. He sits next to some rival fraternity members. After putting some mashed potatoes in his mouth he does his impression of a zit. This causes chaos to ensue ending with a massive food fight in the dining hall. It is spirited and fun in a way that only Belushi can bring to the table.

6. Oldboy – Live octopus: After being released from a cell, Dae-su Oh goes into a sushi restaurant. Looking for hints as to why he was imprisoned for 15 years. He orders a live octopus. As the sushi chef watches, he violently tears into the octopus and devours it.  It is a brutal scene that is memorable and disturbing.

5. Hannibal – Brains tartare: This movie is silly and this scene is no less funny. Hannibal Lecter has knocked out F.B.I. agents Paul Krendler and Clarice Starling. Hannibal numbs Paul with a mass of painkillers and then he cuts his skull off and proceeds to cook, eat, and feed Paul his own brains. It is made funnier by the acting of Ray Liotta as Paul, who acts like he is an obnoxious drunk.

4. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – Cultural differences: While investigating a Thuggee cult at a young Maharajah’s palace, Indiana Jones, Short Round and Willie Scott take part in a banquet. The food is filled with things like, snake surprise, giant beetles, and chilled monkey brains. It is a disgusting but memorable moment that probably set back Indian culture quite a bit.

3. Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom – Coprophagia: Salo is not a movie for the faint of heart. A group of Italian Fascists kidnap several young men and women and subject them to rape, torture, and depraved sex acts that would not even be allowed in Nevada. What makes this memorable is when the Fascists serve their victims plates of human feces to eat. The whole movie is a depressing movie that is unsettling to a unique degree.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Sadistic family dinner: While traveling in rural Texas, Sally is captured by an insane, cannibalistic family. She is tied to a chair and forced to watch as the crazed family eats around her. Her screams are met with mocking laughter and her pleas are met with apathy.  It is a scene that has be imitated many times but still holds up for how distressing the dinner feels.

1. Alien – Breakfast surprise: After an alien creature attaches to crewmember Kane’s face it is a mystery what will happen. The alien seems to die and fall off him leaving Kane able to wake up and start taking to his fellow crewmates. They all partake of a meal when suddenly Kane begins to suffer seizures. Suddenly, a young alien bursts out of Kane’s chest. It screeches then runs away leaving a trail of gore. This scene has permanently become the scene that has tattooed itself as the most memorable meal moment.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lazarus Effect – review

If you were too scared or interested in Pet Sematary or the film The Re-Animator this movie would be right up your alley. The acting is good but isn’t enough to save an otherwise dull movie that is heavy on jump scares and light on story.  The effects are laughable and the death scenes are forgettable.

A group of medical scientists led by Frank, played by Mark Duplass, and Zoe, played by Olivia Wilde, are attempting to bring animals back to life using a serum called Lazarus. Zoe accidentally dies in a lab experiment so Frank and his team inject her with the serum bringing her back to life. Soon she is showing all sorts of signs of new psychic powers.

Let’s start with the fact that much like Lucy this movie spreads the myth that humans only use 10% of their brains at a time.  When injected with the serum creatures all of a sudden have access to all their brain and are psychic powerhouses. There is very little time developing the characters and even less showing us how Zoe goes from good to evil. She just flips her evil switch and then starts a kill spree.

The best aspect of this movie is that the actors are great at their roles. They are entertaining and charming, for the most part. The problem is that they are not given good material to work with. Even the best carpenter can’t make a great house if he is supplied with only balsa wood. The death scenes seem lazy and not scary in the slightest. There are four deaths in total and two of them are necks breaking.

The movie is too boring to be scary. This is the sort of movie that makes me never want to go see a PG-13 horror movie.  It might be passable as an HBO movie that you catch during a channel surfing session.  It is disappointing that such a trite movie got green lit in the first place. As Jud Crandall said in Pet Sematary “Sometimes dead is better.”