Monthly Archives: October 2011

Late to the Scary Movies! A review of Videodrome

Prologue by LarryvilleLife:

We won’t bother starting our intro by asking “How in the world have you never seen David Cronenberg‘s Videodrome?”  It’s not particularly odd to have never seen Videodrome.  In fact, MOST people have probably never seen Videodrome.  But we’re pleased to find that it popped up, a bit oddly, on the Late to the Scary Movies’s list, even though it’s probably less obviously a horror film than almost anything else on there.

Which is not to say that it isn’t scary, what with all the oooey-gooey, early-Cronenberg special effects and scenes of James Wood naked (not to mention its prophetic vision of humanity– literally– fusing with technology). We noticed recently that Late to the Movies wasn’t fond of Cronenberg’s The Fly, so we’re curious to read a reaction to his earlier work.  In our opinion, it’s still his best film (or at least the perfect summation of his themes). “Long Live the New Flesh!”  (Is this a famous film quote?  Probably not.  But it SHOULD be!).


LTTM review:

I am just now putting two and two together and realizing that David Cronenberg also directed Crash, which is not a movie I have seen but definitely have heard of. Interesting.

This movie is definitely bizarre and surreal, and isn’t shy about that from the start. James Woods plays a skeezy television producer who becomes interested in a pirated snuff film porn channel that one of his pirate satellite operators finds. He decides to try to pirate it and air it on his television channel because he believes this is the “future of television,” and in the meantime he shows it to his lady friend (Debbie Harry) who is very sexually aroused by it. She goes to Pittsburgh (the location of the channel’s signal) to audition for it and doesn’t return, yadda yadda, hallucinations, yadda yadda, FLESH GUN.

Okay, there’s a lot more in the middle there. There are some really deep themes here about technology and consuming media, a lot of good acting by James Woods and a lot of bad acting by Debbie Harry (but she’s pretty!). And I’m understanding now why the visuals and special effects were so central to The Fly– that’s Cronenberg’s thing. I still don’t like The Fly and I felt like the special effects enhanced the plot more in this case (AND there was no tearing off of any fingernails) but at least I understand the movie more. My previous experience with Cronenberg was with A History of Violence and I had been very disappointed by that movie since I felt it failed at recreating the graphic novel (which I loved).

I liked the movie but I think there were a few things I missed (because there’s a lot going on). I definitely appreciated the incredible special effects and I plan to watch this again several more times.

Face palm moment: N/A

Favorite part: Many of the hallucinations are really incredible. I think my favorite had to be anytime Woods’s stomach became a gaping hole/VCR, or the entire end scene with the television explosion and…flesh gun.

The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment: This photo.

…Que?

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): Maybe 7/10? I guess understanding a director makes more sense sometimes when you watch in the order the movies have been directed. I wish I had seen this before watching The Fly. I’m definitely planning to watch Crash in the next month or two.

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Late to the Scary Movies! A review of Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Matthew Bennell: Officer, I’d like to report four bodies in my backyard.
Telephone Operator: Wait right there Mr. Bennell.
Matthew Bennell: How do you know my name?

Another movie with Donald Sutherland? Oh joyous day!

Yes, that’s right. I ended up watching the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers rather than the 1956 version. I had intended to see the first and ended up starting to watch the wrong one, but honestly I had to continue after I saw that my Donald was in this movie as well.

This version of the movie has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, and I’ll have to agree with that rating. I definitely think that this movie was made with the assumption that viewers would have seen the original first, so there were a few things like a few callouts to the old movie and storylines like “why you can’t fall asleep” that were a bit difficult to figure out without that context (of course, after seeing Nightmare on Elm Street I guess I should just always assume that something bad happens if you fall asleep). I think that Philip Kaufman plays up the paranoia really well and the actors (including Leonard Nimoy!) are really great in this film. How scary would it be to be that helpless? How scary would it be to see your own alien body double? And how scary would it be to be under that much stress and unable to get Jeff Goldblum to stop talking? I can’t imagine.

You can definitely feel the tension in this movie. I love it. I also love the fact that just when I thought I had figured out the ending…there was more! I just wish I had seen the original first.

Face palm moment: I recognized Veronica Cartwright from Alien, but there was something about her face that seemed more familiar than that. After a little Google search, I remembered where I first saw that crying face– she was little Kathy in The Birds! Ah, yes. I remember thinking she was semi-annoying while crying with birds pecking at her head. She’s still semi-annoying in this movie, but this time instead of birds she has to deal with alien body double pod creatures. Fun.

Favorite part: I liked the scenes where the main characters go back to some of the people who had complained about their spouses changing and being taken over by someone else, and these people now had obviously changed as well. “No, no, she’s all right. She’s better now. Much better now.” Creeeeeeeeepy

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): 6/10. I regret more now that I hadn’t (and still haven’t) seen the original. That will be necessary for next year’s October marathon.

Late to the Scary Movies! A review of [REC]

Angela: We have to get everything, Pablo. Every goddamn thing.

The bad thing about procrastinating is that you have to compromise sometimes, and it sucks. Well, I waited until the last minute to finish up all of the movies I planned to watch for Scary Movie October. Unfortunately I’ve run into a few snafus because I’m a terrible planner. I’ve been trying to watch Videodrome on Netflix Instant all day and –shocking– it doesn’t work. So I decided to watch [REC] instead since it’s ALSO on my list.

This led to a MAJOR problem. The iTunes versions and Amazon Instant Video versions are both dubbed over in English, and I couldn’t find a sneaky Internet download that was subtitled in English. Shoot.  So… long story short, I watched the dubbed version. And yeah, I think the movie may have lost its effectiveness because it was driving me nuts that her mouth was not moving along with the words. Moreover, the English voices were just terrible and very awkward. Parts of the movie felt a little like something out of Mystery Science Theatre for a minute or so.

I still thought this movie was pretty scary. It’s another movie in the “Lost Footage” genre. I’m not the biggest fan of those movies (I fell asleep while watching Paranormal Activity in the theatres) but this one definitely made me jump in my seat a few times. There’s a particular scene towards the end that made me scream, and I’m really not the type to react that way to a movie. I can usually sense a cheap scare coming a mile away and I still managed to have some very dramatic reactions to this movie.

It’s only 78 minutes long so you don’t have to invest a ton of time into it, and I think it’s fun to keep so nervous and freaked out that you suddenly find yourself squirming and biting your nails. However, there are a few caveats to this movie I want to mention.

  1. You’ve definitely seen this plot before. It’s nothing new, and if anything they begin to explain why (what happens in the movie) is occurring but don’t explain it all the way. I tend to hate half-assed explanations. Just explain it all the way or leave it as a complete mystery.
  2. This is not a GOOD film. If you are looking for a creative plot or some incredible acting or cinematography, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a cheap scare and want to feel tense or nervous through most of the movie (rather than the very ending, like Paranormal Activity), this is the movie for you.
  3. Keep in mind, if you got sick watching Blair Witch Project DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE. It is twenty times shakier (particularly at the beginning) and unclear as to what is going on on the screen. I think this tended to keep things really dramatic and add to the terror in the movie, but someone like my dad who gets extreme motion sickness would not last five minutes while trying to watch this.
  4. Perhaps you should try to find the original with English subtitles. I think that watching this without the goofy voices would have made this go over better with me.

Late to the Scary Movies! A review of Don’t Look Now

Heather: Fetch him back! Let him not go! 

It’s always good to have good friends with good taste who really understand you. My friend Steve (who has known me for eight years) recommended that I watch Don’t Look Now. Although I don’t think he ever told me why he thought I might like it, I suspect it’s for the following reasons:

  1. Donald Sutherland is in it, and I’m on record as saying that I believe Donald Sutherland is a super attractive young/old man.
  2. Don’t Look Now is adapted from the short story by Daphne du Maurier. She also had a novel and a short story adapted into films that were both directed by Hitchcock— “The Birds” and “Rebecca.”
  3. There are a lot of Hitchcockian techniques in this movie. Mistaken identity, an accused innocent man, the chase scene at the end, the common thread of a color (red, in this instance) and one of my favorite things Hitchcock does– a scream transitioning into another noise (in this instance, Julie Christie‘s scream cuts into a noise from a drill).
  4. I love a GOOD horror movie that is incredibly suspenseful. That’s why I love Hitchcock movies. Movies like Amityville Horror where the suspense is not that gripping (seriously, goo coming out of a wall doesn’t really freak me out) fail to capture my admiration.

He probably didn’t know this either, but Julie Christie was Lara in Dr. Zhivago, one of my favorite old movies. This was another plus for this film.

The plot reminded me a lot of Antichrist (but, you know, a lot better and without any genital mutilation), focusing on a couple and their grief after their child dies. Laura and her husband John are in Venice after their daughter Christine’s death and Laura meets two sisters there, one of which is blind and psychic (Heather). Heather has contact with Christine and relays that Christine insists that John is in danger. In the meantime, John is haunted by his daughter as he keeps seeing things that remind him of her and her death, like a small child in a red coat (like the one Christine was wearing when she died) running through the streets of Venice.

EXCEPT NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS! MAHAHAHA.

The movie starts out to be a little confusing, but everything is answered by the end. Don’t Look Now is a horror movie but in a different sense than what you would expect from, say, Halloween or The Exorcist. I would absolutely recommend this movie to anyone interested in mystery, suspense or a plot with a supernatural focus, and I’d particularly recommend it to someone looking for a film which is a work of art in itself.

And yes, I know that I sound like a pretentious jerk there. Just believe me and try it out, please.

Face palm moment: None really, but I did spend a lot of time after this movie wondering if the ending of Blair Witch Project and several themes in “Twin Peaks” weren’t somewhat inspired by this movie.

Favorite part: My favorite “part” is more about the use of strong themes in this movie. You see a lot of red and a lot of water (and eventually different things being pulled out of the water) and I liked how that continued throughout the movie.

The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment: When Steve mentioned this movie, the name seemed familiar and I was trying to think of how I had heard of it. WELL, it has THAT sex scene where it looked so real that there’s still a lot of debate as to whether it was simulated or for real. And Donald Sutherland was involved. Uh huh.

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): 9/10. It’s a movie that I’ll definitely watch again.

Late to the Scary Movies! A review of Fright Night

Jerry Dandrige: What’s the matter Charley? Afraid I’d never come over without being invited first? 

Every scary movie has some sort of lesson. Don’t live in houses where murders have taken place. Always abide by quarantine rules. Don’t trust transgendered campers. Don’t sleep with anyone, ever. Don’t bury your dead kid in an indian burial ground.

Fright Night‘s lesson? Seriously, if you’re going to spy on your neighbor you need to be sneakier about it. Or if you do and you aren’t sneaky, at least don’t be a tattletale or your neighbor will make your life a living hell.

Hmm. This is probably the train of thought that allows serial killers to operate for years without being bothered by their neighbors. Yeah.

I *LOVED* this movie. It remains behind Alien but might even surpass The Thing in my ranking of movies I’ve watched so far this month. I’m surprised by how much I like it. But it has exactly what I wanted– a decent plot, fairly good acting, some humor, terrible special effects and a Gremlin-like vampire bat.

I’m racking my brain to think of any vampire movies I’ve ever seen and I think this is the first. And let me tell you something– Chris Sarandon is really sexy in this movie, and that’s not a word I use a lot. I guess that’s the ‘thing’ about vampires, that they are supposed to be super suave and hot. It definitely worked here.

There’s not much that I didn’t like about this movie. Evil Ed might be one of the most irritating characters in film of all time and I think that made me enjoy his demise (which I probably was supposed to be sad about, but wasn’t). I loved William Ragsdale as Charlie Brewster and Roddy MacDowall as the vampire killer Peter Vincent (shout out to Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, I presume?). I think the best death in this movie had to be when the vampire’s assistant was killed because he ends up turning into this bright green Nickelodeon slime and bones. I had a lot of fun watching this movie and it’ll definitely make a reappearance every October.

A final thought– I absolutely think that, if vampires are real, they should consider abiding by the bro code that you shouldn’t just steal a dude’s girlfriend and turn her into a vampire without checking with him first. Rude.

Face palm moment: Totally recognized Chris Sarandon’s beautiful face because he’s played a lawyer in a few Law & Order episodes.

[Editor’s Note: A friend just told me that the female lead is played by Marcie from the best show on television, Married With Children. So this movie has that going for it too.]

Favorite part: Already mentioned this, but definitely the assistant’s death on the stairs.

The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment: I can’t think of anything, but I’m a little curious to see the new Fright Night with Colin Farrell. Has anyone seen it? Thoughts?

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): 8/10. Really loved this one, so thanks to everyone who suggested or voted for it.