Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Schlocktober Fest, 2019: Volume II

OCTOBER 4, 2019

Incident in a Ghostland (2018)
Movie # 4
Director:  Pascal Laugier
Length:  91 minutes

Platform:  Shudder

Look at that beautifully cropped image.  Dear god, I'm getting worse.  Anyway, "Incident in a GhostLand" (or GhostLand) is a near return to form for Pascal Laugier who fucked a lot of people up when he dropped "Martyrs" on the world back in 2008.  "Martyrs" was a part of that french wave of horror that includes things like "High Tension" and "Inside" and all of those films were known for high..ahem...tension levels as well as some extreme gore (seriously, if you're thinking about getting pregnant, maybe hold off on watching "Inside" for a while).  Anyway, since then Laugier also made the decent picture "The Tall Man" starring Jessica Biel which, unfortunately, did not feature an oversized mortician running around exclaiming "boyyyyyyyy...." to everyone in sight.  

So, "Incident..." is more akin to "Martyrs" then it is to "The Tall Man" for Laugier, at least at the beginning.  We've got a Lovecraftian tale (ok, this tale is not Lovecraftian at all -- besides the fact that Lovecraft appears in a dream sequence and the use of the word "Incident" in the title, there's very little of Lovecraft to be found here) about a mother and her two daughters (Beth -- the Lovecraft fan -- and Vera) driving deep in the country where they will live from now on in, dead, Aunt Clarice's house.  The mom is very french and smokes often.  On the road to their new home they're passed by a rickety old ice cream truck.  Vera gives them the finger as they pass.  Probably a mistake.  Later, they stop at a convenience store and Beth takes note of one particularly ominous newspaper headline:  "Family Killer Strikes A Fifth Time!"   Alright, I see where this is heading.

So, yeah...first night...home invasion.  Ice cream truck again.  Brutal attacks.  Mom fights valiantly.  Big ogre-ish guy enjoys playing with dolls, etc, etc, etc.  And...then...flash forward.  Years forward.  Beth is now living in the big city, a wildly successful horror writer.  She goes on the interview circuit, makes love with her husband, enjoys high-end literary parties (this must take place during the salad days of book publishing) until one day she receives a frantic call from her sister, Vera (still alive) begging her to come home.  So...she does.  

This is a solid one but I gotta say, too much story, a little too much ambition (sometimes, ambition and horror don't mesh).   I won't say anything more other than, upon arriving home, her mother (also still alive) looks amazing for being a chain smoker into, what must be her late 50s, and Vera smudges makeup all over her face and keeps herself locked in a basement room, for some reason.  You'll find out.  Great atmosphere, good performances, a haphazard story, and a decent length make this one...pretty solid.

In The Tall Grass (2019)
Movie # 5
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Length:  101 minutes
Platform:  Netflix

Here's another one with (also, too much?) ambition.  Based on the Stephen King / Joe Hill (You know, despite the last name, this is actually his son) novella (I hear it's more of a short story, I don't know haven't read it) of the same name.  I'm honestly not sure how this could be a "novella".  The story in this thing seems like it would take up ten pages, tops.  It's a bit reminiscent of Children of the Corn in that some outsiders get lost in a field (instead of stalks of corn, we got tall grass).  Of course, there aren't really any children (there's one child...and an unborn baby... I don't know, maybe combined they count as children). 

Anyway, a pregnant woman (Becky) and her, way too clingy (in a possibly taboo-ish way), brother (forget his name) are driving cross country to San Diego or San Jose or San Dimas or wherever to start anew.   Along the way, they stop by a wide open field of tall grass where they hear the voice of a child yelling for help.  He's lost. Can't find his family.  They can't see him but they decide to go in after him.  Before long, they're separated and...also lost.  Eventually, the brother meets up with the boy and then Becky meets up with Patrick Wilson (the boy's father).  Then things get weird.  

What we have here is a Twilight Zone episode stretched out to feature length.  Time has no meaning within this maze of tall grass and that becomes much clearer when they meet up with Becky's old boyfriend (and father of her unborn child -- he looks to be about twelve, himself) who came searching for them after they disappeared months ago.  There's some ominous shit happening here.  We got a giant space rock in the middle of the field, we got cell phone calls from the future and maybe even the past.  This is not a normal field I guess is my point.  Also, Patrick Wilson's character is a real piece of shit...a bad dad, even.  

Vincenzo Natali, being the terrific director that he is (he also made "Cube" and "Splice"), imbues all of the shit with a great sense of eeriness and dread.  Also, I didn't think there were too many ways you could film a field of tall grass and make it look more terrifying with each subsequent shot but he found a way.  Also, there's a whole lotta mud.  In addition to being a pretty good grass picture, this is also a pretty good mud picture.

OCTOBER 5, 2019

Itsy Bitsy (2019)
Movie #6
Director: Micah Gallo (sounds totally made up)
Length:  94 minutes
Platform:  VOD

Check out that image above.  Can't make it out?  It's a picture of a large spider crawling into a bed.  Perhaps it's your bed.  

"Itsy Bitsy" is a neat little horror picture from the guy that made "Massacre Lake" (unfamiliar).  Currently looking up this Micah Gallo fellow and realizing he's probably best known for providing visual effects work for Adam Green ("Hatchet", "Frozen", etc).  Anyway, it makes sense since this picture has some terrific effects work (spidery stuff mostly)  Basically, we got a large spider wreaking havoc in an isolated country home.   Like a lot of these monster pictures (also see "Bad Moon") the story begins in an other-y part of the world where natives worship giant spiders because that's exactly the kind of shit jungle natives get into according to these pictures.   So, an idol is taken from the natives and transported back to the "real" world where it's sold to ailing collector, Bruce Davision (some of the X-men films).  

The post set-up, set-up:  Kara and her two kids (boy and girl) have been priced out of the big city.  Kara accepts a live-in nursing job with a certain ailing artifact collector.  Her and her kids can live in the guest house.  In the main house, lives the artifact guy (Davision) who is mostly bedridden.  That's ok, Kara provides him with a baby monitor so she can come running if he falls, poops himself, etc.  Also, what's with the giant spider that crawls out of the artifact while no one's watching.  I wonder what's going to happen with that shit?  Probably just make his way to a cozy spot in the house and not bother anyone is what I'm guessing.  

This is a pretty enjoyable one, lots of X-files type camera work, moodiness, and music.  I blind bought it on demand because it was the same price to rent as it was to buy ($4.99).  It was sort of worth it.  I gotta say though.  Kara and her kids don't bring much to the table, acting wise.  The woman that played Kara was fine.  She's had some trauma in her life.  She steals drugs from Davison.  He finally catches her.  That's an interesting subplot to put in a 90 minute movie.  The kids, however, are god awful at this acting thing.  I hate to say it since they're kids.  Maybe they'll grow into it.  The daughter (the youngest of the two) gets put in the more precarious situations.  At one point, I was pretty sure the spider bit clean through her hand, but nope...wishful thinking I guess.  At another point, she did some Carol Anne type acting when she was trying to sleep and a tree (?) was banging on her window.  Also, when the spider does finally bite you (and it will) you'll know it.  The wound festers and your eye color changes, rapidly.  I figured the movie was going for some sort of transformation type deal but no one ever really lives long enough to find out.  Possibly a missed opportunity.  Also, Denise Crosby plays the sheriff in an interesting bit of casting.  Some may remember Crosby as Tasha Yar (Star Trek the Next Generation's first season -- and the only season I really watched) but to me she'll always be the mom from "Pet Semetary".  Oh, and "Miracle Mile".  Fuck she was awesome in "Miracle Mile".  Everyone see "Miracle Mile".  

Oh yeah, "Itsy Bitsy", despite the cute-sy name, was pretty good too.

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