Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Schlocktober Fest, 2018 Vol. VII

The end is nigh...

October 25, 2018
Halloween (2018)
viewed on: theatrical

Alright, saw the new sequel to Halloween that erases all the other sequels and it was pretty good.  It's also called, Halloween which is....weird.   In this one, Michael Myers is caught at the end of the first one and then spends 40 years in a state hospital where he wisely uses his time standing in the middle of a, heavily guarded, concrete field staring into space.  Until a couple of true-crime podcasters show up to get his side of the story.  They bring the mask.  It stirs something.  That night, there's a prisoner transfer.  It doesn't end well for anyone.

Anyway, like I said, pretty good.  A great cast led by Jamie Leigh Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode.  The twist I guess is that's she's not his sister in this one.  That was introduced in part II where Myers stalks her around an empty Haddonfield hospital as she recovers from her injuries that she got in the first one.  Also, twisty is that Myers doesn't really think about Laurie Strode that much while he's all she's thought about for the last 40 years.  So much so that her daughter was eventually taken away from her and she ended up living in a fortified house in the middle of the woods, armed to the gills.  Judy Greer is daughter Strode, now grown up and with a daughter of her own (I guess she's the traditional final girl but this picture mostly eschews tradition), and trying to reconnect (somewhat) with Laurie.

Halloween night, Michael's on the loose, there's a high school dance, some #metoo stuff, and some stalk and slashing which is really more along the lines of straight up slashing (Michael sees a victim, almost all chosen at random, and kills them within 30 seconds).  Like the first one, he walks out in the open and no one notices him because it's halloween.  Will Patton is the sheriff.  He's great, not that bright.  There's a teen that looks like Jack Black.  A couple lovable deputies (they compare lunches -- one deputy has a homemade brownie and a gob of peanut butter -- he's my hero).  This feels very much like a David Gordon Green movie.  We're introduced to characters briefly, they get to be funny, and real...and then they die horribly which, come to think of it, isn't really a David Gordon Green trope.  Well, there's some horrible death in Your Highness, I guess.  Watch Your Highness.  Also, of interest, asshole characters don't necessarily get their comeuppance.  This is very not a 1980s picture.  I liked almost all the characters that got slaughtered.

There's even a new Dr. Loomis, referred to once as "so you're the new Dr. Loomis".  He gets to be funny, then fucking weird, and then....I don't know?  Seriously, what was up with that guy? Hopefully in the sequel, he'll get to hear Michael speak (spoiler: I don't think he will).  I spent the first half of the picture thinking to myself "I like this, back to basics, thank god they're not trying to reinvent the wheel" until I started to think "god damn it, they went and tried to reinvent the wheel, didn't they?"   It's good!

October 26, 2018
Tarantula (1955)
viewed on: VOD

Here's a 1950s creature feature with Clint Eastwood in an uncredited role as an air force pilot (we hear his voice, don't see his face).  Like Island Claws (1980), a movie I wrote up earlier this month, this one concerns scientists experimenting with growth hormones on animals to cure world hunger.  You know, they grow guinea pigs and rabbits and stuff.  The intent was never to use it on a tarantula because who the fuck would want to eat that?  Anyway, it happens and we're all the better for it.

This one, unlike Island Claws, is set in the desert, probably also near some nuclear test sites which serves as a double whammy for the poor folks stranded in this isolated community.  We got a mutated biologist names Jacobs (think Elephant Man), fast talking reporter Joe Burch, hunky Dr. Matt Hastings and lady scientist Tiffany Clayton.  The picture is nothing if not progressive ("give women the right to vote and what do you get?  Lady scientists.").  Ahhh...the fucking 50s.

Anyway, the tarantula grows to the size of a mountain and, let me tell you, the special effects (scroll above) are wonderful.  Seriously, the use of perspective in this thing is masterful.  Jack Arnold wrote and directed.  He also did It Came From Outer Space and Creature from the Black Lagoon so I guess all I really need to know is why did it take me so long to see this thing?  If you like horses, you'll be horrified.  Typically abrupt 1950s monster movie ending but, seriously, are we really going to have scenes of characters "coming to terms" after that final shot?

October 27, 2018
What We Become (2016)
viewed on: Hulu

Here's another foreign language (Danish?) movie I watched this month.  The opening title gave me a seizure.  Basically, we got a pleasant little neighborhood that, not so eventually, becomes not so pleasant.  We got a teenager named Gustav and the girl across the street that he spies on with binoculars called Sonya.  Gustav has a young sister.  I forgot her name but she's always looking for her bunny (I think it was called Ninus, my notes are unclear).  Little sister loses a tooth.  This factors in later.  Anyway, things start happening; sirens escalate, old men die while watching television, then disappear, the newscasts become increasingly ominous (although that's nothing too alarming these days), guy gets hit by a car and is clearly dead but the ambulance keeps speeding by as bystanders flag it down, etc.  Also, there's a dead deer in here somewhere.

I loved all this set up.  A family trying to go about their day-to-day business as the world around them starts to crumble.  Military guys in hazmat suits show up.  The neighborhood gets quarantined.  People get sick and then they disappear.  The military might show up at your back patio door and ask to inspect your open mouth through the other side of glass.  Experts on the news refuse to comment on how many people have died.  Everything will be fine, just wash your hands the proper way, etc.  Shit, I forget...hot water?  Do I pat my hands or firmly rub them into the towel?  Fuck, hand dryers are right out these days, aren't they?  Where's the PURELL?

This was a good one, almost a great one, and then it became like that stuff in Twenty Eight Weeks Later when the military leaves and lets the people fend for themselves.  It became pretty standard shit is what I'm saying.  Well done standard shit but still standard shit.   A clear nod is given to Night of the Living Dead with the little girl (the one searching for her bunny -- am I misremembering this bunny stuff?) and then reconvening with her mother and father.  Then the end title flashed on the screen and it was, once again, seizure time.

October 28, 2018
Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
viewed on: VOD

I'm shocked to be writing this but this might be the best picture in this particular block.  Or, well...It's hard to say it's better than Vampyr (up next -- 1932, so it's a classic, right) or even Halloween (2018) but it fucked me up more than any of them.  First thing I did after watching this was put black tape over the camera on my laptop.  Those fuckers can deactivate the little green light, apparently.  They see everything, man.

This is the story of a young man (Matias) who "borrows" (he stole it) a laptop from the internet cafe that's supposedly been sitting in lost and found for weeks.  My guess, it was there for a day.  He logs in (this whole movie takes place on his screen) and immediately starts to replace the autofills on all the popular sites (Facebook, Spotify, Skype, YouPorn, etc).  He then connects with his deaf girlfriend (her name is Amaya) but she's annoyed because he hasn't been going to his ASL classes (his plan, apparently, was to get a faster computer so he could download some apps that would improve their communication -- he's lazy, I respect that).  While this "conversation" is going on, he skypes with the gang (we got Lex -- musician, I think, AJ -- liberal Alex Jones, Nari & Serena -- newly engaged couple, Damon -- British, so smart, and maybe etc...or, no, that's it).  It's game night.

So, they play Cards against Humanities or some shit, while Matias tries to reconcile with Amaya and then the laptop's owner messages Matias (he accidentally opened the Facebook with the wrong log-in) and things spiral out of control.  It's called Unfriended: Dark Web so if you guessed some silk road shit that involves an anonymous group of 1%ers bidding on girls, having them kidnapped and then, possibly (I won't spoil it fully) murdered for their enjoyment (and large sums of bitcoin) you'd be close to on the money.  I started out hating every character in this thing (again, we only see them on Matias' screen) and then a funny thing happened.  I started to fucking like them.  Even AJ.  So, what happens to them actually matters.  The tension building in this thing, while maybe not ingenious, is at least really fucking smart.  After it was over, I sat up, went to bed, and didn't even open my laptop which is like a fucking ritual over here.  Shit man, I don't even remember the first Unfriended.  In fact, I was thinking about it the other day and confused it with Friend Request, which is a complete piece of shit.  So, this movie?  Shockingly good.

October 29, 2018
Vampyr (1932)
viewed on: theatrical (Avon Cinema, Providence)

Almost home.  I never thought watching a movie a day would take this much of a toll on me.  It's the ultimate passive sport.  I haven't been to the gym in two weeks.   It's not even the watching and jotting down a couple notes.  I also have to cook dinner and I prefer to be in bed by 9.  I've been staying up until 11 or...gasp....11:30 this month.  Then there's a night where you decide to catch a screening at the Avon Cinema in Providence of a 1932 French-German coproduction of Vampyr (I can't imagine French and Germany having many coproductions in the years to come), put on by the good folks of Magic Lantern Cinema.  And, it was free.

First thought.  Shit, the Avon is incredible.  A throwback to a bygone era.  I've been searching for something to replace the Brattle since I moved because, let's be honest, the hour drive back to Cambridge is...a chore.  The Avon is a classic (beautifully curtained and lit) single screen theater, great for creature feature doubles (I need to contact the programmer).

I'll be honest here, for a moment.  Seeing a black and white, 1932, foreign language, plenty of text on the screen (damn it was almost silent) film on a Monday night at 9pm is not very conducive to my staying awake.  Thankfully, I only nodded out a couple time and was nudged awake by the kindly friend sitting next to me.  What we got here is something which, while somewhat tame now, must have felt revolutionary back in its time.  Allan Gray (he's the main guy) stumbles upon an isolated Inn looking for a bed.  What we don't got here is the gothic trappings usually associated with vampire pictures (and let's be honest, Tod Browning's Dracula came out a year earlier -- ok, ok, Nosferatu came out ten years earlier, but that shit ain't really gothic either -- but I don't think any influence can be found here).  This thing is near psychedelic.  There's certainly a vampire (an old woman) and some dastardly ministers of evil (an Einstein looking mother fucker and some guy with a peg leg).  There's a sickly bed ridden young woman (think Lucy) and there are stakes and coffins.  But, really, what the fuck?

Immediately upon arrival, Alan is wide-eyed at the sights.  There's the shadow of a soldier that he follows.  The shadow then arrives at a bench where he sits next to...a soldier....the very soldier the shadow is a shadow of.  I wasn't sure where they were going with this so I probably nodded out at this point.  If this movie were to be remade today it would probably resemble something like The Apostle (also watched this month) where Alan stumbles upon an isolated community, gets drawn into their shenanigans and then dies, gets placed into a coffin with a window (so he can see out, of course) and then gets carried around the town in what I'm pretty sure is an iconic moment (this movie has many iconic images, including the weird guy with the scythe down by the river).  Also, this is nothing like The Apostle.  There's a wonderful, and horrific, set piece that I saw evoked 50 years later (Witness) where a character gets buried by grains in a mill.  What I liked most about this film is the helping to establish vampire rules. Again, we got stakes.  We got coffins, but I don't think the vampire sleeps too much in them.  There's the whole blood thing.  And then there's the thing where characters get stuck between the dead and the living and sit next to themselves on benches, etc, get replicated, and triplicated before walking pretty girls to the relative safety that exists on the other side of a forest.  I'm not sure if that rule stuck.  Excellent film.

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