I Know What You Did Last Summer; or Who We Did In On Our Holidays

o-i-know-what-you-did-last-summer-570Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Slasher Saturdays, where sexy teens need to watch out, there are killers on the loose! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they make a pact to never talk about what happened last Halloween again.

Today’s Film Offering: I Know What You Did Last Summer

Lilly: One of those films that slaps you in the face with a choker and some Spice Girls bubble gum, I Know What You Did Last Summer smacks of the nineties. Starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr, and the minimally-named-by-comparison Ryan Philippe, Last Summer is the tale of a July 4th that goes horribly wrong when a quartet of teens runs someone over and tries to cover it up. Turns out, they ran over the wrong someone, because one year later, cue the menacing and murder!

Andy: Which you might have deduced from the title, really. And the fact that this got taken off on The Simpsons pretty quickly. Not to mention everything else. In fact, along with Scream, I would put money on the fact that this is the other movie people remember from the late 90s teen horror revival, even if all they remember is the title.

Lilly: IKWYDLS covers some ground in the plot, from class differences to trust in the police to whether it gets cold enough in July in Maine to justify wearing large, black rain slicker. You’ve got poor Freddie Prinze Jr, struggling with the fact that he is poor (I think?) and doesn’t have family (that’s mentioned a few times) while the three others have rich families which is what is important, then there is Missy Egan, hanging out in her massive house ‘out in the sticks’ with no visitors. You could easily think ‘man, being poor sucks’ but then the film keeps going because being rich sucks, or so Sarah Michelle Gellar shows when her acting career doesn’t pan out and she ends up being home and working for her really bitter older sister. Basically, life just sucks in the IKWYDLS universe unless you are that creepy host of the beauty contest. He got away with oogling teenage girls on the regular with no comeuppance, sooo.

Andy: There is definitely a very interesting atmosphere hanging over the movie, from the opening onwards. There’s this wonderful sense of dark hopelessness hanging over the town, where fishing really does seem to be the only industry and getting out takes some real effort and willpower.

Lilly: Also, the whole ‘the police aren’t going to trust us, we are rich white kids’ thing doesn’t really translate to today’s climate. Like at all. And it’s awkward. But, it was those heady days in the 90s where everyone was afraid of the police thinking they murdered someone because they actually murdered someone, I guess.

So, as Andy says, this film is one of those films that you know even if you haven’t seen it. I hadn’t seen it until this year, but had the jist of it. Not the ins and outs, of course. Like if I got rang up by Ghostface from Scream and was asked who the killer was in this film, I’d definitely get killed because I had no idea–even when they thought they super know who it was, I was still accusing Freddie Prinze Jr. of being the killer since I’m classist, apparently. Poor kid so did it. And actually, the film was more batshit than I had originally thought it would be–but then, slashers do do that to you, I find. I admit I had a low opinion of slashers once, like it was all teens get killed by a killer, straightforward and all that. But it just isn’t straightforward. Even when it is clear who the killer is, there are still twists like one of the sexy teens are related to them or they are a ghost or something. Ooooo. You know? Which is why I was happy to do a Slashers Saturday this year. Give them a chance, is what I’m saying. They might surprise you, even if it is just with a delicious example of urban myths in action, where they all know a different story of ‘the hook’, or weird moments like a body being covered in crabs (the seafood kind, not the sexual ones).

Andy: Or the weirder moment where the body, and ALL OF THE CRABS vanish in like, 30 seconds. Or that was just dumb. Probably the latter.

Lilly: Or was it a third option, AWESOME? No. No, it was the dumb one. It was dumb. Though, come on, a killer running around with a body and a bag of crabs, unnoticed? Love it.

Andy: It was like something out of a Dario Argento movie. Seriously.

Lilly: So, the thing is, I Know What You Did Last Summer made me laugh. It had some moments that definitely would be scary if I was alone and watching it at night and maybe living in a fishing village at the time, but overall, it entertained me.

Andy: It isn’t what I would call good, and it takes itself far too seriously, which pushes it all the way through dark and gloomy to hilarious, and it’s been taken off too many times and it’s not very scary and the plot is nonsensical but also somehow predictable. It’s an artifact of its time, and won’t do you any harm, and is too silly to be offensive.

Kudos to one shot though – an overhead of a woman being menaced in an alleyway while feet away a parade marches past oblivious. Stopped clocks and all.

Lilly: Also kudos to the soundtrack, since alt 90s can get some. Anyway, go, watch, enjoy!

Oh, but if you want to google it, make sure you don’t just end up watching the music video for Shawn Mendes’ song of the same name. Especially because it has nothing to do with murder at all. Boo.

Andy: And it sucks deep-fried donkey ba…

[WE ARE EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. SEE YOU TOMORROW FOR ANOTHER REVIEW AND ABSOLUTELY NO OFFENSIVE COMMENTS ABOUT SHAWN MENDES SONGS.]

Beetlejuice; or Careful, That’s Already Once…

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Family Friendly Friday, where the films are meant to be enjoyed with your little boyles and ghouls! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they leaf through the pages of their handbook and try and make sense of this whole afterlife gig.

Today’s Film Offering: Beetlejuice (That’s twice!)

Lilly: Tim Burton is at his most Burton-y in this 1988 cult classic telling the story of a couple (played by young, hot Alec Baldwin and young, hot Geena Davis) who just want to haunt their house in peace when a family from New York shows up to ruin their afterlives.

Andy: Not to mention trash their house.

Lilly: Enter the titular ghost with the most, who wants to help by using his skills as a ‘bio exorcist’ to scare off the Deetz family (including young, hot Winona Ryder–we all had a crush on her back then, get over it). The film features some stop motion monsters that would later show to be a Burton thing in films like A Nightmare Before Christmas, and it had such excellent and creative character designs that it won an Academy Award for best makeup. It was such a hit, it spurned a cartoon that ran in the early nineties (and captured the attention of one little goth girl at the very least, hello), and there was talks of a sequel. Which never happened. Oh well.

A film that is actually a watered down version of the original script, what we have here is a PG film that features a teenage girl being forced to marry a demon, loads of perverted gropes and grabs, and the allusion to conception problems within the first ten minutes. Then there is the topic of suicide and the afterlife, and well, you definitely got yourself some interesting conversations to have with your kids after viewing if you haven’t yet approached all that. Coming from the angle of this being a family movie night choice, well–depending on how old your kids are, there is a lot to unpack. I actually don’t remember seeing this film for the first time as a kid, but by the time I did, I had seen the cartoon, so it was almost like something I liked was made more adult, and what kid doesn’t like that?

As an adult, though, there is something very appealing about this film. From the joke that those who commit suicide become civil servants in the afterlife to the actual depiction of the offices and existence of those who pass over, I just eat it all up with a spoon. It’s fun, it’s quirky, and it’s imaginative. Right down the Handbook for the Recently Deceased reading like a manual for a VCR–it’s the little thoughts and details that went into the creation of the world that really speak to me. Of course, if it isn’t already clear, I’m a lifelong fan of all this, so maybe my bias is showing. No maybe, actually. It is.

Andy: Hm. I’ve been keeping quiet so far because this is a film Lilly likes a lot more than I do, and I’ve never been able to unpack the reasons why. It’s good, and you should watch it for all the reasons Lilly said. I guess my problem is less with the movie, and more with Tim Burton.

Lilly: Whaaaaaaaaat.

Andy: He has a reputation as a dark director, but all of his movies are almost all gaudily colourful or monochrome (in the case of half of Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie). I don’t think I know of another director that has shown such a limited range in his catalogue.

So I guess I don’t dislike Beetl

Lilly: THE FILM THAT WON’T BE NAMED AGAIN, SHUSH.

Andy: …The film that won’t be named again, but I dislike the fact that Tim Burton has been essentially making the same film again and again and again since 1988. The only thing this one lacks is Johnny Depp. Having said that, it is fun. And I really, really like the depiction of the afterlife as a relentless bureaucracy.

Lilly: Now that Andy’s tossed himself to the wolves that are Tim Burton’s fans…As far as the family friendly aspect of this film goes, it’s really up to you, but as someone who has loved this film since she was a tiny, likely age-inappropriate viewer, I say go, watch, and enjoy!

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night; or shomâ fârsi sohbat mekunid?

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Blood Thirsty Thursdays, where hopefully only the vampires suck.  You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they settle in to watch their first Farsi-Vampire-Romance-Western.  

Today’s film offering: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Lilly: The first vampire film to be set in a Middle-Eastern setting (though filmed in California), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the story of the inhabitants of Bad City, a run down ghost town in Iran that is deader than the protagonist of the film, a vampire known only as ‘the girl’ in the credits. Shot in black and white and featuring subtitles (Persian is used for the dialogue, unsurprisingly), it stands out not just for its rarity but for its approach to the vampire on film, especially the female vampire.

Andy: Which are fairly rare anyway, at least alone. The only vampire film I can think of off the top of my head with all-female vampires is Brides of Dracula, and even they only exist in the title in relation to a male character – one that’s been dead since the last movie!

Lilly: Hey now, don’t forget Daughters of Darkness (Andy: Oh yeah!) . But you’re right, they are super rare, and if they are around, you are more likely to come across Vampira types than the variation you see in male vampires, from Nosferatu to that Cullen Boy. Instead of vampy fashion and stereo-typically sexy attire, this vampire wears a chādor and a striped shirt, eyes lined with black and lips a dark red (well, one guesses, as it is a black and white film) that seems more of a move to ‘fit in’ than to attract. The fourth most sexualized character in the film–I see you, Arash (the male lead), with your James Dean looks and tight trousers–she actually blends in while standing out. The only other female we see wearing a chādor is wearing a colourfully printed one, even.

Andy: Not to mention it actually makes a vampire threatening again. We’ve been over-exposed to both the Eastern European aristocrat and the waifish fop – now we’ve got someone in Middle Eastern attire lurking in shadows and attacking people – something that is somewhat coded as threatening in the modern Western world anyway. Who wants to ask themselves uncomfortable questions?

Lilly: While the depiction of the undead is shook up a bit, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night features some of the basic tropes of a vampire tale. However, while you usually get the point of view of the person who is falling in love with the vampire (who is usually female because chicks love fangs, amirite?), this film works between the two points of view of ‘The Girl’ and Arash, a put upon son of a junkie father who tries to work with what is dealt to him. ‘The Girl’ remains mysterious (who is she? How old is she? What does she want?) and almost mischievous at times while still, as Andy mentioned, bringing the threatening air at just the right moments.

Andy:Or to put it another way, she pootles around on a skateboard and then can appear RIGHT BEHIND YOU.

There is a plot to this movie, but it’s much more about tone and mood than anything that actually happens. There’s a slow, meditative quality to the whole thing, and many scenes are open to multiple interpretations. It’s, like, deep man. I mean, in a poverty-ridden city with oil derricks as far as the eye can see and a hell of a drug problem, is a vampire really the worst thing lurking in the streets?

Of course, if you’re more into shocks and thrills and violence, this probably isn’t for you. But if you want to watch something that truly defies genre, you should definitely check this out.

Lilly: There is a lot to be said for this film, and for once, I don’t desperately want to spoil it with details discussed. For this review, I think the simple fact that it is so different should be a reason you give it a chance. Go, watch, and enjoy!

Blair Witch; Or Getting Lost in the Woods. Again.

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Witchy Wednesdays! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they check their filming equipment to be sure it won’t cut out at the moment of highest tensio–

Today’s film offering: Blair Witch

Andy: We reviewed The Blair Witch Project for last year’s Hallowfest, and on reflection, I may have been a little harsh on it. Sure, it had lost a lot of its impact away from its marketing campaign, sure, the things that it did seemed unoriginal in the light of the found footage bohnanza it began, and sure, other films eventually did the same thing better, but it was a trailblazer, and for that it deserves some credit.

Blair Witch has no such excuse.

The plot, such as it is, involves a younger brother of one of the original film’s trio marching into the Maryland woods to try and discover the fate of his sister. A friend (girlfriend?) decides filming the whole thing for a class project is a brilliant idea (clearly never saw the original) and another couple who come along because the movie needs more people to vaguely threaten. Filling out the roster are a couple of local hicks – a guy who found some footage that may be relevant out near the woods, but may also be full of shit, and his waifish girlfriend.

Lilly: I know poking holes early on in a film is sort of a waste of time, but how about that age gap on the kid and his sister? She would have been in university, so let’s say 19, and he was 4. Was he a surprise? Was she? What is this. Why do I have so many questions not witch related already? How can his friend remember going out to look for the sister in the woods when she went missing? Is he older? How much older? How were they friends as kids if he was an appropriate age to go out searching? How old should your child be before you take them along to search for a possible corpse? Ten? Get a sitter! Or send your apologies because WHY ARE YOU TAKING YOUR KID TO SEARCH FOR A MISSING TEEN?

Sorry. You were summing up the plot. Continue.

Andy: So off they go on their camping trip, and exactly the same things that happened in the original film happen to them. Which tends towards the predictable, as you can imagine. For a film as startlingly different as the first was, to have the second follow the formula so closely that it essentially retreads it is not a point in its favour.

Lilly: It did sort of have a ‘Greatest Hits’ feeling to it, but then again, maybe the Blair Witch is a tired old hag that only has a few gags. A one trick pony of ghouls, if you will. Twig-people, rock piles, scary tree noises, etc.. That said, there were a few new additions, but in a sort of ‘bonus track’ way you get on some albums, you know, that the artist isn’t sure is all that great so they throw out some odd things like body horror and weird boney apparitions.

Andy: The other major problem of the film is that the found footage genre has evolved since The Blair Witch Project. The conceit that people are actually, physically carrying around cameras and filming stuff on the fly has become a lot more fluid since then – basically ever since most people’s reaction to Cloverfield was less horror and more motion sickness – and to go back to the land of shaky-cam, “is-this-thing-on-God-turn-it-off”, oh-no-something-bad-happened-and-now-there’s-static, is a little jarring to say the least.

I mean, in a more original film maybe this wouldn’t be such a problem, and would even be compelling in a back to basics kind of way, but here it’s nothing if not annoyingly persistent. The same scares come about in the same way with the same audio-visual range. Hmm.

Lilly: I definitely had issues with how many cuts there were. Whoever edited the footage found was clearly easily bored, because the focus kept moving from camera to camera, to the ear cams, to the camcorder, to the stationary cam and back again. If this was the film the film student girl put in for her project, I would hope she would fail it due to a lack of real visual fluidity. It was like watching a youtuber with all the sudden cuts. Why the cuts? Why.

Andy: Ultimately though, my fundamental criticism for this one remains the same as for the original – for all the jumpy scares, for all the creeping dread of whatever the ‘Blair Witch’ is, not enough happens in this film to establish the nature of the threat. Jaws is scary because everyone knows what a shark looks like. We only see it in glimpses, but the alien in Alien is very clearly large, humanoid and dangerous as hell. Here, what exactly are they being threatened by? What are its capabilities? Who knows. The threat is too vague to be truly disturbing, and with 17 years worth of sheen wiped off, maybe a return trip to the woods shouldn’t have been on the cards.

Lilly: I remember very clearly being disappointed by the fact that The Blair Witch Project didn’t actually feature a witch. Well, turns out, it wasn’t the only thing that I could find disappointing about a visit to those woods. This film features much more witching yet I still don’t really know much about the witch, or what the Hell her purpose is. Does she take sacrifices? Doesn’t that imply that someone else is involved, to be sacrificing these poor teens? And what are her capabilities? I mean, if she can only use her power at night, then she isn’t all that scary. And she’s only in those woods, so. Talk about limited. At least the shark from Jaws had an entire ocean to menace about it.

I wanted to give this film a chance, but it didn’t give me a chance to either see it as a sequel or as a reboot of a franchise. If it was a sequel, it had the same things happening in the same order and not in a fun way, but rather a ‘oh, here we go’ kind of way, like hearing your dad tell the same joke for the umpteenth time.  If it was a reboot, it was too much of the same old thing to really separate itself and fly free. It got predictable, and that is never good.

So is it a recommendation from us? Not really. If you liked The Blair Witch Project and want to see the tricks from it updated, then sure, why not, but if you are new to the whole world, well. Why not dig up the old one (it’s not all that old, considering, from 1999) and give it a try first? Go, watch (maybe), enjoy (possibly)!

The Haunting (1963) & The Haunting (1999) Double Bill; or Hill House Ain’t Having It

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Twofer Tuesday, where we offer up two films for the price of one, like it or not! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they take a leisurely drive in the countryside, only to stumble upon a house that doesn’t quite have the right angles, does it…

Today’s Film Offerings: The Haunting (1963) & The Haunting (1999)

Andy: It’s a strange situation that, despite the fact that everyone can draw a ghost from the age of five up, the best ghost stories hardly have any ghosts in them at all. The works of M. R. James, The Turn of the Screw, The Woman in Black, and of course, The Haunting of Hill House by the brilliant agoraphobe Shirley Jackson. The weird, bewitching tale of young Eleanor drawn into a house that at first seems welcoming, and yet malevolent has been adapted to film twice – once in 1963, and then again 1999.

Of the two, the 1963 one is more subtle and faithful to the source material. Directed by Robert Wise, bizarrely in between The Sound of Music and West Side Story, the tale concerns Eleanor Vance, a woman who has recently been, er, ‘liberated’ from the demands of caring for her invalid and deeply unpleasant mother. Striking out for the first time, she answers an advert for an experiment at an old house, specifically for those who have displayed some latent psychokinetic ability, which she did as a child.

Joining her is fellow subject Theodora, an exuberant and coded lesbian character, Luke, the prospective heir to Hill House, and Dr Markway, the kindly man running the experiment as a cover into investigating the paranormal.

The trouble is, of course, that when the paranormal does hit Hill House, it’s not obvious whether it is being orchestrated consciously or unconsciously by Eleanor herself. Because, as becomes apparent, years of mistreatment have rendered her a deeply emotionally damaged woman.

This is a great film, one that is best watched alone with the lights off to let it affect you. It has one of the best uses of sound in a movie (which makes sense, given Wise’s penchant for musicals) and offers no easy answers to the mysteries of the house. Awesome.

And there is the terrible beating heart of the movie. Is Eleanor doing this with her mind? Or has the House found the weakest member cracking and started worming its way into widen it? Thoughtful, shuddery stuff.

Lilly: Then there is 1999’s The Haunting.

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Screw your subtleties, stuff your ambiguity, Hill House is definitely haunted in this remake. In fact, forget the book’s claustrophobic build up, the doubt of your narrator, all of that, because 1999 was not a time for thinking, it was a time of doing and casting Owen Wilson while you were at it. The Haunting is an horror thriller, and the thriller part takes front seat as you are made to be terrified, damn it, so stop thinking about the implications of a house that picks at your own mental cracks and instead be afraid of a ruddy big statue coming to life, watch out!

This film is not a thinking man’s horror. It strips the basics of the story by Shirley Jackson and slips them into a heavy handed haunted house film. There are ghosts, you are in danger, and just help us, Eleanor, help us, this is not the story Jackson wrote at all.

That said, it’s fun!

So, do you hold a film tight to the material it is remaking or do you accept some oddities if you are over all entertained? Question for the ages right there. Because if we are talking about a film adaptation of Jackson’s novel, then this is awful. It misses the point of the tale while it  takes out the spookiness of not knowing whether it is the people or the house or both that are making the supernatural events occur. Ooooo is it Liam Nee–No, it’s not Liam Neeson, there is clearly a ghost. That bed just attacked them. It’s a ghost.

But. Again. It’s fun.

As someone who hates when people compare books to films (so naturally just did that, hypocrite), I guess I just have to go with comparing the two films. And hoo boy, are they different. But I’ll watch and enjoy them both.

You know why you should watch this film? Because a bed attacks someone. A statue attacks someone. There is a scene involving the fireplace that is magnificent. Hill House means business, and as haunted houses go, this is a heck of a ride. The backstory created about Hugh Crain is pulpy and deliciously evil, the effects are creepy, and Liam Neeson is in it. It’s one of those films you watch with friends and a big bowl of popcorn, and there is nothing wrong with that. So go, watch, don’t take too seriously, and enjoy!

Invasion of the Body Snatchers; or Pod People Are People, Too.

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Monster Monday, where we watch films that feature creatures! You join your reviewer, Andy, as he tries desperately to remain emotional.

Today’s film offering: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

There are a very small number of remakes which can be said to utterly surpass the original. The Thing is almost certainly better than The Thing From Another World, but then again they are very different adaptations of a novella. There is one, however, which so effortlessly bypasses the 1956 original that it almost, almost, validates the entire idea of remakes.

Let me tell you about Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The plot is relatively simple and sort of similar to something called the Capgras Delusion. Slowly, it seems like everyone around you is being replaced with a doppelganger, but one with no emotion, and they seem to want you to join them…

It stars an absolutely cracking cast, from Jeff Goldblum to Leonard Nimoy, to Veronica Cartwright, of all people, but the most valuable player here is definitely Donald Sutherland. Sporting the same curly hair moustache combo he rocked in Don’t Look Now, his unrequited love story mixed with heroic attempts to survive mean he is the emotional heart of the film. He is also responsible for one of the most iconic, horrifying and awesome movie endings ever put to film.

I watch a lot of horror, as you can imagine, and as far as a recommendation goes, this is mine –  This is one of a tiny handful of movies to give me honest-to-god nightmares. The original is good, don’t get me wrong, but it is mired in McCarthy-era red scare paranoia and therefore is something of a product of its time. This one goes so much deeper, connecting at a base level to what fundamentally makes us human and what losing that might mean. It’s terrifying.

I will stop there, at the risk of gushing, but this is absolutely essential viewing to any horror fan. If anybody asked me what horror movies from the seventies they should watch, this would be the one I suggested immediately after Alien. And if you know me, that is high praise indeed.

Jaws 2; or Why is Anyone Still Swimming in the Ocean?

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Sequel Sundays, where the story continues when sometimes, it ought to have ended! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they put on their water wings and wade out into the peaceful, blood-soaked waters of Amity Island.

Today’s film offering: Jaws 2

Lilly: Welcome back to Amity Island, Jaws lovers! Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water because you forgot the grisly shark deaths from a few years ago–nope, this island is a magnet for big murder sharks so just stop swimming at the beach already! Jaws 2 takes place a few years after the events of Jaws, and the Amity Island tourist bureau clearly had been working hard, because everyone seemed to have forgotten about the messy shark deaths, including that of a little boy. I mean, sure, there had never been deaths of that multitude at Amity beaches before, but whatever, stop being so ridiculous about it, Brody!

And oh yes, we are joined by Jaws survivor/final guy (though not really since Hooper makes it), Police Chief Martin Brody! After the traumatising events of the first film, the poor man stuck around to attempt once more to get that peace and quiet he had hoped for in this post in the middle of nowhere tourist country. Not that he enjoys the water any more than before, and in fact, seems to openly despise it. If Jaws was the story of a shark menacing an island of people, Jaws 2 is the story of the ghost of that shark tormenting one of the residents while a real shark gets up to murdery mischief, the town council thinking it all a case of the Brody who cried shark.

Andy: Except of course there is an actual shark running around out there, with the gimmick that this time it’s had half its face burned off due to an incident early in the film involving a woman basically setting herself on fire with a gas can. This is worth watching in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way – gone are the measured cadences of Spielberg’s attacks. Instead we have … this.

Lilly: The film is taken a step further when Brody’s son, now grown up into the teenage rebellion stage where we all went out into waters where a shark had attacked us and killed a man in front of us to spite our father, right? Parents just don’t understand! Mike decides to take some friends (and his little brother) out on boats to hang out, because why not! It’s not like there is a recent case of a murder shark around these parts, right? Wait. Opposite.

Andy: Yeah, there’s a definite skew towards the younger folks here. Gone are the three middle-aged men out re-enacting Moby Dick; instead we have a group of teenagers trapped on a sort-of floating raft of their boats. It seems kinda harsh to say the latter group is less well-characterised than the former – Quint, Hooper and Brody being three of the most fully realised characters in, well, anything – but they aren’t really characterised at all, so when some of them inevitably get sharked, it’s more like the shark is a slasher villain than the strange, existential threat of the first.

Lilly: Jaws 2 is a film which not only continues the story of Amity Island, but explores what happens to characters after the horror film is over. Another shark is introduced, but this shark seems so much worse due to not just the upped ante of a sequel but also because Brody’s clear PTSD ramps up the tension, so scenes where even the audience knows it isn’t a shark but in Brody’s imagination are proven to be scary because we see Brody suffering in a way that is almost too real. Brody is a very real character in this film.

Andy: He is. He’s probably the only one, though. Even returning characters, like his wife and sons or the town mayor (wait, how did he get re-elected?) don’t really move past their characterisations in the first movie.

Lilly: Then we also see the horror of a town that lives off tourism. What do you do in the position of the town council of Amity Island, where you’ve clearly got a shark problem but you also don’t want to drive away money that will help your people survive through a long winter? Well, in Jaws 2, maybe the council goes too far with their denial and treatment of the shark issue as nothing, but seriously, it’s a scary thought. How do you risk the town’s tourist money without definite proof that it will save lives? A blurry photo of a shark from a site of a known shark attack of the past doesn’t really cut it when livelihoods are at risk. Shark attack politics! I love it!

Andy: Despite what you might have heard it’s not horrible, but it’s not very good either. It’s not that it doesn’t measure up to the first one – almost nothing does – it’s like it’s on a completely different scale. And this is coming from the guy who defended Alien 3 at length a few weeks ago – if my love for that and my ambivalence for this is any kind of scale to judge whether you should see this by, then use it.

Lilly: I definitely recommend it if you like monster shark films–if you are watching Sharknado, you should definitely give this a try. While you get all the fun of a monster shark, attacking sexy teens and doing general menacing, you also get a little peek into the mind of someone who survived such a thing, and see how sometimes, no matter what you do to save your town, it still doesn’t beat out small town politics for levels of horror. Go, watch, enjoy!

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare;or Dream a little dream of OH GOD

nn2.jpgHello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Slasher Saturday, where queens scream and killers go bump in the night! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, who are chugging coffee and pinching each other–no, they aren’t trying to stay awake, that’s just date night for them!

Today’s film offering: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Andy: Out of all of the big three slasher villains –  Michael, Jason and Freddy – Mr Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame is somewhat unique. He’s the only one that is explicitly supernatural, he’s the only one that talks, he’s the only one associated with one actor (Robert Englund) and he’s probably the one with the most widespread fanbase. Everyone knows who he is, and there are toys that prove he’s even popular with thlittle tykes who should absolutely not watch his films.

Which is a shame, because he’s also possibly the most diluted of the three. Michael and Jason are still scary, no matter how many crappy sequels they turn up in, but somewhere between the wisecracks and the merchandise, something about Freddy was lost.

In 1993, Wes Craven decided to do something about that.

Lilly: Cue New Nightmare!

Andy: The story concerns young Heather Langenkamp, mother of a young son, wife of a loving husband, and occasional talk-show guest asked about that time she played Nancy on Nightmare on Elm Street. Wait, what? 

Lilly: No, seriously. What?

Andy: That’s right – many people return from the original movie, not as characters but as themselves, or at least fictionalised versions of themselves, including Robert Englund and Wes Craven himself. If this sounds a touch disorienting, it is, but in many ways, it’s an extension of the reality-bending of the first movie, just moved a layer up. After all, what are movies but the dreams of our combined subconscious? And of course, everything gets even more confused when it appears Freddy Krueger – the actual, vicious killer – begins stalking Heather, her son and those around her, manifesting himself in the ‘real’ world.

Lilly: This film kicks off quick–Freddy is menacing in the first scene, which is definitely disorienting for those of us who like a slow build in a horror film. Not this time! Want explanation? Shut up and go watch another film, you aren’t getting it here until mid-way through, when Wes Craven decides to stop being a dick and explain what the Hell is going on to poor Nancy. Wait, Heather. Wait.

Andy: The trope of nobody believing people in horror movies when they are being hunted by whatever is so old hat that pointing it out is itself a cliche. The trouble is here, Heather is in a double bind. When her son starts insisting that “Freddy” is coming for him, the response is always “You didn’t let him watch your movies, did you?” with a raised eyebrow. When Heather herself starts experiencing the same, it’s assumed she’s mentally ill – another cliche – but here with the obvious explanation that all those scary movies she was in got to her in some way.

Which is an interesting question in itself – do Scream Queens get a kind of PTSD?

Lilly: I’d love to ask Jamie Lee Curtis that. Someone set that up. Get on that.

Something unexpected and almost distracting in this film was actually representation of men and women–wait, what! I know! When Nancy heads to the hospital with her son, the hospital is literally crawling with women. The main doctor is a black woman (because contrary to the belief of airline stewardesses today, apparently, that can happen!), there was an Asian nurse, another black woman nurse, two blonde nurse ladies–the hospital was run by women and two security guys, and one grey haired man on the phone. Maybe he was lost. I don’t know, but it was spectacular. In fact, the people getting shit done in the film were all women, from Heather/Nancy to Julie the babysitter to the no-nonsense doctor who was really concerned about whether or not Heather let her son watch her films. I don’t know if that makes it a step forward or just a fun fluke, either way. Fancy that!

Andy: So yeah, women-ran hospital included, this movie is ambitious. But the key question is, does it work? Well, kinda. It’s nowhere near as successful at slasher meta-narrative than Scream, Craven’s other side glance at the genre he helped create, and it seems more of an interesting curio and companion piece to the original than a full-fledged movie in its own right.

However, it is a million times better than any of the other Elm Street sequels (way to set the bar high there, Andy), and if you enjoy the original it’s worth checking out.

Lilly: I found it to be a bit too much, too fast for a film that lasted over an hour and a half, myself. You were in the action by five minutes in, and while yes, that throws you off your feet like a dream could (I get it), it also had me thinking ‘What if the dreams are actually the boring bits where she is doing tv interviews and chats with producers?’ because how could I know what is going on so early in the film? I supposed they had a lot to get through, with all the meta-things, but it still felt a bit like it was ‘getting to the good part’ right away then sputtering in the middle for a bit then kicking off in the last twenty minutes again. It wasn’t consistent for me, which is a bummer when the idea is there. Then again, if the film is Heather’s life, and Heather’s life is the film, maybe just maybe that is the message. Sometimes life is fast and hard and then it slows for a bit before knocking you out. Huh. Deep.

Meanwhile, favourite part? Heather punching Freddy in the face and yelling ‘Fuck you!’ Fuck your pithy one liners, Heather ain’t got time for that.

So it’s a recommendation from me in a sort of ‘Hey, watch it, why not’ fashion. Best I can do!

Andy: Although if you really want a movie that covers this same ground far more successfully, I prescribe a dose of John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness before bed, and call me in the morning.

The Addams Family; or Try and Not Snap Snap Along

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Family Friendly Friday, where we talk about a film that’s good for the little boils and ghouls to watch with the groan-ups. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they get the family together for a mamushka under the moonlight.

Today’s film offering: The Addams Family

Lilly: The Addamses are the patron saints of the weird but welcoming. Originally mere illustrations on the page created by Charles Addams, the family burst onto screen in the mid sixties and they proceeded to be off and on it, whether it was live action or cartoon, until the present day, where talks of the musical heading to the UK are happening. You can’t keep a bad family down, so to speak, and the Addams have merrily proven that.

Andy: For many people though, this version may be the definitive one, in the same way that Jack Nicholson is the definitive Joker, no matter how far Heath Ledger or Jared Leto go or the fact that the character first appeared when Mr.Nicholson was three years old.

Lilly: 1991’s The Addams Family decided to take the story of the Addamses and shake it up a little. The film tells the story of a lost Addams brother, Fester, and that lack of Fester being taken advantage of by a conniving woman and her son who bears a passing resemblance to the lost relative. They attempt to infiltrate the family from the inside to get ahold of the fortune they know is kept in the Addams family vault. Not actually as easy as it sounds (not that it sounds easy at all to fool a man like Gomez who is clearly passionate about his familial connections), and it proves to be far more difficult than they could handle. Toss in the fact that maybe it isn’t so bad for the son, being an Addams, and you got yourself a fun family romp!

It is incredibly difficult to talk about this film with any sort of distance for me because the Addams Family are basically my heroes. They are weird, gothy, creepy folk who are happy to welcome you into your home! Who doesn’t aspire to that! I wish I could host like Morticia, be as enthusiastic as Gomez, or as hip as Cousin Itt. But. For the sake of Hallowfest, I’ll attempt to critique it.

Andy: There is something very appealing about them as a family unit. They are, in many ways, the ultimate outsiders – they clearly have money, but fashion means almost nothing to them in their embrace of gothic chic. Their family motto – “We Gladly Feast on Those Who Would Subdue Us.” – as well as being hilarious suggests the kind of screw-you mentality that many of us who grew up as outsiders strive for. And at the heart of it is a family that, although very weird, is also loving, kind, passionate and caring. They can foster a greater understanding of our values simply by rejecting some of them and fully embracing others; and they, ultimately, are just as human as we are; teaching us that perhaps our differences as humans are merely cosmetic and that our similarities are far deeper. Not bad for a family film!

Lilly: Exactly! Exactly. This. The Addamses send the very strong message that you can be a role model without having to be like everyone else. You can like dark decor and still have a bright outlook.

So onto the cast. This is a film that was made with a good chunk of history behind it–people had played the roles before, there were comparisons ready to be made. There had already been three Gomez Addamses prior to Raúl Juliá, and four Morticias prior to Angelica Huston! Yet, when I think of Gomez Addams, it’s Juliá I think of. He was Gomez! And Huston! Come on. Their chemistry was nuts (and g rated, even with the sexy S&M references because if your kid gets it, that’s up to you), and they were everything I wanted to be when I grew up. And they took the roles seriously, which can’t always be said for films that are adaptations of shows and cartoons.

Andy: And how nice is it to see a married couple where one character doesn’t look down on the other. There is never, ever any sense of one looking down or putting up with the other.

Lilly: Throw in Christopher Lloyd’s confused Fester, and Christina Ricci’s on point blank-faced Wednesday, and again, you forget these roles were played multiple times before. That’s pretty impressive.

If you are talking plot, The Addams Family pretty much gives what it says on the box. This is where it is evident that this film has had decades of audience tests and joke re-writes because it was a perfect feature length film introduction and embrace of the Addamses without coming off as shoving too much in or being too brief with the details. The film goes along at a clip because it knows it has a past and isn’t going to be bogged down by details. The Addamses aren’t about the details, anyway.

Andy: So, over all, is it a recommendation from us?

Lilly: Always. Like the song says, those Addamses really are a scream. Not to mention great role models, loving parents, and a warmly loving, functioning family unit. It’s just not as easy to write those parts into a theme song, I guess. So go, watch, enjoy!

Only Lovers Left Alive; or Carpe Noctem

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Blood Thirsty Thursday, where we review films featuring characters who suck…blood. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they sit around and reminisce about when humankind really went wrong.

Today’s film offering: Only Lovers Left Alive

Lilly: You all have no idea how long I’ve been trying to get Andy to watch this film. I’m not entirely sure I didn’t suggest the theme of vampires for Thursday just so I’d have an excuse. Ever since it was announced Tilda Swinton (yesss) and Tom Hiddleston (Hiddleyesss) were going to be in a vampire film, I was on board. But. I don’t have to convince him to watch it anymore, now it is you lot I have to work on, so! Here we go!

Andy: It’s worth starting out mentioning that this film is really, really good. Really good. I should have watched it some time ago. It may be my favourite new film I’ve seen this year. 

Lilly: Only Lovers Left Alive is the story of two vampires who have spent their immortal lives intertwined, living together and apart all while desperately, deeply in love. Their relationship is compared to Einstein’s “spukhafte Fernwirkung” or “spooky action at a distance” entanglement theory. These vampires are intellectual romantics and the film does not shy away from that. And while Adam reminds you of the melancholic vampires of Interview with the Vampire (see our review from last week!), the main difference is that he suffers depression not due to his love for humanity and his desire to grasp onto it, but rather the opposite. He detests humans (or ‘zombies’ as he refers to them) and doesn’t want to put up with them anymore. Yes, this is the story of a vampire who wants to end it all–and apparently not for the first time has this desire struck.

Andy: It’s actually a very good representation on film of depression. He doesn’t want to die because he’s sad; he wants to die because he feels nothing any more. Ennui and disaffection have seeped into his soul, and he’s stuck in a rut, to put it mildly.

Lilly: The mirror opposite and perfect fit for Adam is Eve (aha, get it?), a vampire who loves life, engages with her environment, and, while she acknowledges the world can be difficult, sees life as something to cherished. She can have that view and not be contradictory due to the fact that vampires in this world don’t need to feed off the blood of innocents and drain them dry–in fact, a small glass of blood, practically a shot, seems to do them well. She even comments at one point that draining a human dry and killing them is ‘13th century’ of a vampire to do. So not civilized. Love it.

Andy: Plus this is one of the very small number of films to show immortality being done right. If you had all the time in the world, of course you would speak a dozen languages, play a dozen different instruments and read The Temple of the Golden Pavilion in the original Kanji script. I mean, I would. What you do with your eternal lifespan is your business.

Lilly: So, if it’s not obvious, I really enjoyed this film. Unlike some vampire films that explore immortality (seelastweeksreview) with a sort of lazy ache about missing out on human experiences, this one seamlessly moves between the two viewpoints of the protagonists. Adam doesn’t want to be alive anymore because the zombies around him are so aggravating while Eve embraces life of all sorts and faces each night with a fresh new curiosity to explore. And either viewpoint seems valid, really, the optimism and pessimism of living forever perfectly explored.

Andy: Yes. It’s so, so good to see a movie that doesn’t conflate vampirism with nihilism. That’s one of the reasons myself and many vampire movies may not have got on. As the great philosopher Harvey Danger once said, if you’re bored, then you’re boring.

Lilly: And oh, the beauty of the film! Using shots that echo drug use scenes in Trainspotting for when they feed, the visual of what it is like to drink blood in this universe is captured in expressions of satisfaction and ecstasy. Long shots of beautifully chaotic rooms, Eve’s costume designs, suitcases full of books–Yes, yes, yes. If that is what being a vampire is, sign me up.

The mythology of the vampires is also intriguing. Their eyes are made to glow unnaturally, so they wear shades. They have hands cold as death, so they wear gloves. They do not have to be invited in, but it is considered ‘bad luck’ to cross a threshold uninvited. Wooden stakes are still a threat, and fast movement is a staple that isn’t left out. Then there is the very interesting use of dreams to ‘call out’ to other vampires, the appearance of Eve’s sister in not only her dreams, but Adam’s (plus their friend Kit’s, or rather, Christopher Marlowe, played by John Hurt) is a sign she is looking for them. Beautiful. I love it. They have lived forever, so name drop names like Tesla, Byron, Shakespeare. Of course! And why not! Throw in the drama about blood being more and more contaminated due to the environment humans are living in, so vampires have to seek out the ‘good stuff’ from specialised doctors, and well. Yes, please, thank you, please.

To sum up (because otherwise I would go on about this for ages), as said before, we both really enjoyed this movie, so go, find it, watch it, enjoy!