Get Out; or You Think Your In-Laws Are Bad?

Hello and Hallo-Welcome to our second #ThrowForwardThursday, where new horror gets the old Hallowfest treatment. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they watch with growing horror as casual racism builds to a crescendo of race-based violence and mistreatment in the world, leading to pain, sadness, and untimely deaths–and after they finish with the evening news, they put on a film.

Today’s Film Offering: Get Out

Lilly: Sometimes you watch a horror film from a decade or two ago and you get this feeling that you’re missing something, you know? Like you had to have been there, had to have felt the environment in which the work was created, to really get the horror of it and to get what the filmmaker was trying to say.

Andy: What Lilly is trying to say is that Get Out has 2017 written all over it.

We watch a lot of horror here at Hallowfest (you don’t say) and there are a couple of movies that we have to let sit for a couple of days before we decide if we’re going to recommend them. That’s not to say they’re bad, but sometimes movies hide their lights (or we’re tired and slow that day) and it takes us a while to catch on.

Get Out is not one of those movies. It is one of those rare exceptions that is so obviously good, from the first few frames to the credits, that I’m going to say straight up here that we wholeheartedly recommend this one. If you want to stop reading the review right here and take it as a given, we’d be OK with that.

Still here? OK.

get-out-2017-2-862x1366Lilly: Get Out is the story of young love. Well, it’s the story of young love being taken home to meet the parents. Well, it’s the story of young love being taken home to meet the parents when the daughter is white (Rose) and the boyfriend is black (Chris). Enter the Armitage family, by all accounts an open minded, liberal couple. Sure, they have a groundskeeper and a housekeeper who both happen to be black but that’s just because they used to work for their parents, and when they passed, they were practically part of the family and mumble mumble reasoning reasoning.

And if that isn’t awkward enough for you, the Armitage’s have a bit of a secret. They are batshit and just a bit evil. Surprise!

But they said they loved Obama! How could they?

To say anymore would be to spoil it, and this is one we really don’t want to do this with. It’s important you are surprised and pulled along with Chris as he gets to know the Armitage family–part of Get Out’s appeal is how it forces you past where empathy would naturally take you and into the position of doubting your imagination’s capabilities because you just keep getting gut punched.

Andy: It’s fantastic.

A side note, if I may be indulged. Some people may watch this and think that the politics is a little on the nose, especially in a Black Lives Matter era of America. Firstly, I would like to point you attention to our Night of the Living Dead review that we did earlier in the month, another film with explicit racial tensions from the middle of the civil rights era. Then I would like to direct your attention to literally any other horror movie. A movie can no more be apolitical than I can swim in a pool and not get wet, and horror movies are particularly susceptible to this due to reflecting many of the tensions and fears of the time in which they are made. Torture Porn, much derided, appeared in the aftermath of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Ronald Reagan’s Focus on the Family appeared at the same time that promiscuity in horror equalled death. Godzilla and Hiroshima are intimately linked. The list is endless and exhaustive.

So if you watch a movie like Get Out and feel challenged or uncomfortable, or feel it is overstepping its mark, it’s important to ask yourself why, instead of dismissing it as propaganda. Which is a shame anyway, because this, even stripped of any political context, is a cracking good movie. It’s witty, funny, tense and a joy to watch, but it is still a horror movie, through and through.

Lilly: A short review because we want you to experience it–but if you have any thoughts on it afterward, why not check out our facebook page, or find us on twitter (@hallowoctobfilm) and let us know what you think!

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Hellraiser; or The Music Video for Tainted Love is Way More Intense Than We Remember

Hello and Hallo-welcome to How Have We Not Reviewed This Wednesday, where we pick up our own slack and review those big name films we know you were dying to hear our opinions on all these many years of Hallowfest! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, two writers in the further regions of experience who are demons to some and angels to others.

Today’s Film Offering: Hellraiser

Lilly: Whoa.

Andy: You OK?

Lilly: Yeah just … give me a minute.

Andy: Get a glass of water or something. Or have a mint out of the box. NO NOT THAT BOah damn.

Cenobite: YOU RANG.

Andy: Yeah, sorry mate, we did the thing with the mints again.

Cenobite: YOU NEED TO STOP STORING INTERDIMENSIONAL PORTALS ON YOUR COFFEE TA-

Andy: Yeah, yeah I know.

51StiQZskKLAnyway. Hellraiser is one of the largest franchises we haven’t covered in any way, shape or form. Based on a novella by Clive Barker called The Hellbound Heart (way to spoil the ending, dude) there are no less than 9 movies in the series, with a 10th due sometime this year.

Lilly: Wait, what! I’m in. I’ve seen none of the other eight, will that be a problem? Whatever, I got time!

Cenobite: ACTUALLY THEY DECLINE IN QUALITY AFTER THE SECOND INSTALLMENT.

Lilly: That is surprisingly self-critical and meta of you, Cenobite.

Andy: WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?

It’s also fairly unusual as far as horror franchises go. It’s British, for a start, as is Barker, and he directed and wrote the screenplay for the first movie. It’s a long running horror franchise that ISN’T a slasher, and it also began in 1987, at a time when most other franchises were merrily beginning to plow themselves into the ground. The worst offender, Friday the 13th, was between Part VI and VII. In a market well past its late-70s prime, this is shockingly original.

The plot involves a man called Frank, a jaded man seeking new extremes of sensation. Purchasing a puzzle box in a Marrakech (or somewhere like it) he solves it – opening a portal to a dimension of ultimate pleasure and pain: indeed a place where the distinction between the two is essentially meaningless. And in the opening move of what promises to be a deeply unpleasant experience, he is torn apart by rusty hooks. Exit Frank.

Lilly: Oh, PS, this movie is super graphic.

Andy: Some time later (months? years?) his brother Larry moves into his house with his British (read: uptight) wife, Julia. As we here at Hallowfest know all too well, moving house is a pain in the ass; and in Larry’s case thanks to a rusty nail, the hand. A few drops of blood on the attic floor later, and Frank is back minus a few essentials. Like his skin.

Frank has some kind of hold over Julia through the power of boning, and convinces her to bring her more blood to help restore his body. Meanwhile, Kristy, Larry’s daughter, realises her stepmother is up to no good and investigates. And of course, the Cenobites, nightmarish denizens of the other realm, are not too happy about Frank escaping their clutches…

Lilly: So this film was a thing.

First things first–holy wow, this was an exploration of how far people go for pleasure. Hellraiser is at the core a nasty, gorey journey towards sexual fulfillment that sees pain as being part of the experience. Acceptable and consensual adult s&m relationships are turned up to eleven by Frank’s ever growing need for more dangerous stimuli. Unfortunately for him, the Cenobites go all the way up to twenty seven (see: rusty hooks). It does give a whole new meaning to ‘aftercare’, though.

I need to talk about the Cenobites. Seriously. I want to talk about them at length, and try and figure out what the heck I was seeing. I loved them. They were confusing ins-and-outs of orifices and piercings and oh all that leather–a symbol of extreme that transcends Heaven and Hell, clearly. I love how they were visibly walking the walk of their gospel. One of them is so hardcore, he doesn’t even have a face! I mean. That’s dedication. Or mutation? Who knows!

Cenobite: WE’RE NOT MUTATIONS. MORE MUTILATIONS.

Andy: Was that a PUN? NOBODY OUTPUNS ME IN MY OWN HOME I’LL KI-

Lilly: Whoa now! First off, don’t bother threatening him, he’ll just like it. Second off, I’m not cleaning up your bits they nail to a spinning display. I’m just not.

For creatures that have no basis in…anything? Any mythology known to my simple mind, the Cenobites march out on screen in the first few minutes of the film and take command of the space like true proud dom/mes. I wanted to see more, wanted to know more, and honestly am now pressuring poor Andy to watch more of the series so I can watch these loveable creeps in action.

The best part is that these terrifying beings aren’t even really evil. They operate on a whole different level than humanity, so it can appear as such, but they are just pushing the limits of what is pleasure and what we understand as pleasure to the extremes that the human flesh can withstand (and then just past that). They only appear when summoned, the ultimate submission needed. You need to request that they do what they do so well. Oh, and figure out a weird rubix cube for horny people. You have to do that, too.

Andy: There are very, very few works that get to the core ideas of H. P. Lovecraft as well as this. His elder gods are not evil, per se – they are simply vast, unknowable and operate without our concepts of what is right and fair. Ash’s “perfect organism” without “delusions of morality” in Alien is one, but it can’t talk. The Cenobites can, and every sentence out of their mouths is coherent, consistent, and utterly indifferent to the unfortunate mortals who stumble into their path.

Instead, the film asks us to consider who the real monsters are – the Cenobites, alien, unknowable and outside our own limited senses and perceptions? Or is it Julia and Frank, the sordid, down-to-earth, flawed humans who make terrible choices?

Lilly: Or is it the weird upside monster thing that defies gravity? Who knows!

Andy: Yeah, what is that thing?

Cenobite: NO IDEA.

Lilly: I really don’t find that comforting at all.

Hellraiser is the sort of film you hear about for years, followed by groans of remembrance of ‘that scene’ (which is different for everyone) and sniggers due to it being about sex. But it’s not just that. It’s about the morality of pleasure and the limits that can be stretched and, a bit troublingly, about how once you say yes to that world, there is no going back.

Andy: It’s also not perfect – Clive Barker is a writer first, and clearly a director a distant second, the result being that it’s shot like a really gory TV movie. But the ideas it has, the broader implications of its story, mean that I did not regret one bit jumping in on this franchise, er, 30 years late.

Lilly: So do we recommend this film? A hearty ‘yes please!’ from me.

Andy: And me!

Cenobite:

Andy: What now?

Cenobite: I PREFER CLIVE BARKER’S LORD OF ILLUSIONS.

Andy: …Trust us to get one from the Hipster Dimension. How do we close this box again?

The Texas Chainsaw Massacres; or That’s the Last Hitchhiker Hallowfest Picks Up

Hello and Hallo-welcome back to Twofer Tuesday, where we hang up two movies up on meathooks until they are nice and gamey! You join your amateur abbattoirists, Andy and Lilly, who ask the age old question – how many chainsaw kills count as a massacre?

Today’s film offerings: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) & The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Lilly: Hey Andy, are you ready for our next exciting double-bill? It involves chainsaws!

Andy: Ughhh. Give me a minute.

Lilly: You don’t look good.

Andy: I have a vicious headache from watching the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It’s good, but my goodness is it gratingly loud. Could you get me some tylenol or something?

Lilly: Nah.

Andy: What?

Lilly: Well, while you learned that the original gives you tinnitus and headaches, I learned from the remake that helping people is for suckers.

Andy: Oh, I guess that’s fai–wait, what?

Lilly: I give you tylenol, and next thing I know, I’m going to be tied to the ceiling, getting my ears chainsawed off or something. So I have to leave you to suffer. And kick you in the balls.

Andy: OW!

Lilly: There, now your head doesn’t hurt any more! Let’s start the review.

The_Texas_Chain_Saw_Massacre_(1974)_theatrical_posterAndy: FINE. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, very, very loosely based on Ed Gein, was first unleashed on audiences in 1974. Directed by Tobe Hooper, it is one of those awesome movies that you don’t so much watch as let happen to you. The plot is simple enough: five teenagers encounter a creepy hitchhiker, a creepy gas station attendant, and eventually wander off on their own to meet an exceptionally creepy man with a penchant for masks made of skin and power tools.

It’s remarkably straightforward. One of the teens doesn’t come back, and so another goes looking for him. Any notion of sticking together is almost entirely ignored; it’s like they’re allergic to each other.

Lilly: It does make you wonder how many of your friends have to go missing before you just, I don’t know, get new friends? Or is that just me and my new mantra of ‘help no one, survive this thing’?

Andy: Of course, the true measure of this movie isn’t the plot, so much as the utterly grimy and harrowing atmosphere it creates. Everything in this movie seems dirty and corrupted, and every noise grates and puts you on edge riiight up until the last half an hour where one of our protagonists literally will not. Stop. Screaming. Yeesh.

Lilly: Such a fuss when faced with all the murder!

The original is not only famous for its grimey, almost sweaty feeling atmosphere, but notorious for the production itself being hot and sticky, which shows in the performances, I think. Everyone was melting and going just about out of their minds, plus there were chickens and bones everywhere. The set design alone had me at ‘hell(o)’. As a creepy connoisseur of serial killers, some of the touches that did harken back to Gein were well used and placed.

Andy: There’s a possibly apocryphal story I heard from a video on VHS tapes on Youtube about this movie: when the BBFC came to cut it, they couldn’t, because there is no one moment in it that you can point to and say “that right there is the bad bit.” It’s almost bloodless, the violence is fast and brief, but the world that the movie creates is utterly depressing and horrible and impressive and amazing. It’s so successful at creating it’s own dreadful atmosphere – something that only a handful of very, very good horror movies do. Halloween is one, as is Alien – that’s the quality level we’re talking here.

It’s not exactly an enjoyable experience, and like I said, it gives me headaches with it’s relentless audial assault, but damn is it effective at what it sets out to do. It won’t make any top ten lists for me, but I have a very healthy respect for it and director Tobe Hooper, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

Lilly: Then comes 2003’s remake.MV5BZDg2NDJkOGYtMjM3My00Mzc2LWJiYjktODFlMzBjNmQwMTEyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_

Andy: I do not have a healthy respect for this one.

Lilly: First off, I did appreciate the police footage at the beginning, throwing me into the story visually pretty damn effectively, even if I was promptly ripped out by Jessica Biel–she will always be the eldest daughter on Seventh Heaven to me, I’m sorry, I cannot help it. The film also did what some do when they are ‘period’ pieces, in so much as desperately smacking me with references and cultural trappings of the seventies. I get it, I get it, it is the seventies, weed, hippies, van, Lynyrd Skynyrd, hitch hiking being sexy, check, got it.

Andy: Favorite post-film discovery: the movie is set in 1973, but they listen to Sweet Home Alabama, which apparently wasn’t released until 1974. No single fact sums this movie up better.

Lilly: Also, side track re: weed–one of the characters claims at one point that he got two pounds of weed in Mexico to help him and his girlfriend start a new life. That throwaway line (and frankly lie because bullshit) took me literally forever to get over. How much was two pounds going for back then? He got it with his two other friends, so split that fortune three ways, genius, and then what? You could afford a KFC value meal after that, maybe. A new life! Dump him, Jessica Biel. You deserve so much better.

Dumb teens aside, I got to say, I had some scenes I loved in this film. Leatherface sewing with his little peddle a-goin’? Priceless. An interesting shot that goes through a head wound and out a window? Well, you got my attention, film (though you lost it when you did it again–don’t push your luck). But then other times, I was bored since, unlike the original, this film continously went above and beyond the call of duty to make me feel like these teens were doomed. I came to that realization on my own with the original, with slow dawning horror that matched that of the poor teens, but the remake didn’t give me a chance to think for myself, every other moment being more grim and heart-sinking than the next, a constant assault to my teensy bit of hope left that maybe those crazy kids will make it and start their new life with their $2.50 of weed money. It felt like a movie that worked hard to weave a tapestry of horror that invoked that sense of hopelessness was remade into the equivalent of a t-shirt that said ‘Abandon Hope All Ye Who Whatever’ that you can buy in bulk that was then shot at you with a cannon. In the face.

Andy: I still don’t understand where this movie’s completely insane nihilistic viewpoint comes from, though. It’s as if–wait a second, “Producer: Michael Bay”.

Well, that’s that mystery solved.

Lilly: So, I guess the question is, would we recommend these cinematic…things?

Andy: Yes and no.

Lilly: Yes to the first, no to the second?

Andy: Yes.

Lilly: Ditto.

Living Dead at Manchester Morgue; or Agricultural Subsidies Can Bugger All the Way Off

Hello and Hallo-welcome to our second Sorry Mary! Monday, where we rip a film, blood gushing and flesh rotting, from the infamous Video Nasty list! You join your grisly bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they settle in for graphic imagery and adult situations to the extreme.

Today’s film offeri

Lilly: Wait, maybe we should actually explain who Mary is and what a video nasty is. We didn’t really cover that last week.

Andy: Probably a good idea. A deeply divisive figure of the last few decades in Britain was a lady by the name of Mary Whitehouse. She founded the National Viewers and Listeners Association – a socially conservative movement aimed at stopping the moral decline of the nation and the march of ‘permissive society’.

Lilly: She sounds like a bundle of laughs.

Andy: Yep. In addition, public prosecutors had been seizing and destroying unclassified video tapes from shops under obscenity laws, and in the end provided a list of 72 films that were liable to be seized in 1983 – the ‘video nasties’ list. Of course, banning these movies had the opposite of the desired effect: by banning them they only made teenagers and horror fans want to see them more…

Lilly: Ha! Sorry, Mary!

Andy: The movies on the list have now mostly been released under an ‘18’ Certificate in the UK, either cut or uncut. Probably the best known movies on it are Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, Dario Argento’s Inferno and Wes Craven’s first movie, Last House on the Left. And while this may smack of nanny-state censorship, it’s important to remember that before this point unclassified movies could be rented by anyone. You want a 10 year old watching The Evil Dead?

Lilly: Ooh no. Plus I’ve read the list and a lot of these movies don’t exactly sound like high cinema – Deep River Savages, SS Experiment Camp, Gestapo’s Last Orgy

Andy: There is a lot of senseless trash. Buuut there are also some quality horror movies, and we are going to be looking at some of the best, starting with probably the most underrated zombie movie ever: The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue. How good is that title?

LivingDead1.jpgLilly: It’s excellent, and great news! It isn’t the only title this film has! The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue is also lovingly known as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, translated from the Italian and Spanish titles (of which the direct translation is: Do Not Profane the Sleep of the Dead), and the highly confusing Don’t Open the Window. Confusing in so much as we have no idea what windows have to do with anything, save one particular scene where someone definitely should have opened the window–the title might be on the side of the zombies, actually.

TLDaMM tells the story of George, an antique/rare finds dealer who is heading out into the country to sell some odd looking stuff to a buyer when his motorbike is ran over at a gas station by our (not) intrepid female lead, Edna. This sets these two crazy kids up for not only the important plot point that Edna is a horrible driver but also why they are together in the first place when things get living deadly. The pair make a deal–George will drive Edna where she is going in her car, and he’ll then go on with it to his buyer, since his bike is out of commission.

The couple then start on a journey that takes them by a farm that is using a new, experimental technology to kill pests that drives their simple nervous systems insane to the point of killing each other. F U, nature, man has arrived, and he brought science! Some brief menacing happens, then we are brought into the third storyline of the film, Edna’s drug-addled sister.

These three storylines (jerk dealer George and his sidekick Edna, Science!, and the drug addict who hates her husband for trying to get her clean) converge into a fun-filled, terrifying romp when corpses brought back from the dead get rolled into the mix–because, you see, dead people, like insects, have simple nervous systems, so the—you know what, whatever, zombies be zombie-ing.

Andy: There’s just so much to love here. The most particular to me is that it’s so unusual to see a horror movie set in the UK, made by a foreign director and production company. There are a couple set in ‘London’, but this takes place in the area of, at first Manchester, and then the Lake District. Director Jorge Grau absolutely nails the dour, dirty feeling of industrial decline that infected the north in the 70s and 80s, especially in the opening credits. I have only ever come across one person who hit this same area with such an unerring eye: Liverpudlian and horror novelist Ramsey Campbell.

Likewise, his treatment of the Lake District is so, so good. One of the most beautiful, iconic and well-known tourist destinations in the country becomes utterly threatening: its gorgeous hills and valleys become hiding places for the lurking dead, its rambling country roads and trails become disorienting and deadly cul-de-sacs, and comforting peace and solitude becomes lethal isolation. Aspiring UK filmmakers in the genre, take note: THIS is how you make the English countryside TERRIFYING.

Lilly: Yeah, the rolling hills were what kept me awake after watching it. Spooky glens.

Seriously, the corpses are ridiculously scary in this film. They don’t call them zombies, so I suppose I won’t either, but they are totally zombies, people. They have blood red eyes, don’t die easy, and have super-human strength to kill you with prior to eating you–no joke, these dead ladies and gents are all about the strangle. And the noise they make.

Can we just talk about that?

It’s an inhale, then an exhale, but in between, it’s like someone is sucking out of a rusty straw and then wheezing out the dust that came forth due to their efforts. It’s terrifying. And that is all you hear when they appear–no violin shriek, no sudden cue to make you jump, it’s breathing but not breathing, a twist of what should be, like the corpses themselves.

Then there is what makes the corpses come to life. Agricultural science. Listen, we live down the road from a place that does work on science to do with farming, soooo. No. Too real. Can’t handle it. But it’s not just the sonic waves that make the corpses wake from death, so don’t worry, Lilly! Still a reason to be terrified! They can rise the dead even when the machine is turned off through a ritual of sorts. Great! TLDaMM makes a hybrid zombie that is part science, part supernatural, and all nope. And by nope, I mean well played, film! Even if I don’t believe in the supernatural bit, science does exist, so. Fab. Thanks. Thanks. I’ll never sleep again, I guess! Night terrors starring shamblin’, rusty-breathin’, flesh rippin’ corpses it is!

Andy: Between these and what I said above, I will literally eat both my shoes if this didn’t inspire Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. Even the eyes are similar!

Of course, as any zombie fan knows, the biggest threat in any zombie movie is other people, and here again Grau hits a very particular beat. If 1968s Night of the Living Dead flirted with the fallout of the Civil Rights movement and the later Dawn of the Dead satirized rampant consumerism, this one finds the UK’s generation gap and pitches a tent in it.

As Lilly said earlier, the core conflict revolves around our hero George, and an older Inspector Javert figure in the unnamed sergeant of the local police (Arthur Kennedy, probably the most recognizable actor in the movie), who believes that the murders and chaos around him are due to these degenerate young folks running around, instead of, y’know, zombies. I feel he and Mary Whitehouse would have got on.

A lesser movie would have made him the straight villain, to our put-upon hero (and heroine) but TLDaMM subtly brings in some shades of grey. George is, of course, in the right, but he’s such a belligerent asshole about it that it’s not surprising that the cops get a bit ‘hands-on’, especially after some of their own number are killed. It’s certainly implied that this kind of thing has never happened before and they are grasping for a rational explanation.

Lilly: Which is good, because who on Earth would be ready to accept ‘No, officer, I didn’t kill that man, it was the walking dead?’ without a momentary pause, right?

Andy: (Side note: Their talk late in the film about young people performing “black masses” and desecrating graveyards may seem silly to us now, but it was genuinely something believed at the time!)

George meanwhile steals evidence, breaks into crypts and ultimately steals a police car, all the while expressing his distrust towards the police. An ironic “Heil Hitler” is needlessly antagonistic and childish. His arrogance in decrying the agricultural equipment early on means they are less inclined to listen later when the dead start roaming around the countryside. The ambiguity here is delicious.

Lilly: It also does some awesome work with making me believe its mythos using newborns. I mean, I don’t think babies have nervous systems like insects, but I get you, movie. I get you and I am creeped out by homicidal infants, so touche.

Andy: Is there anything wrong with it? Well, the dubbing of this kind of European horror can be really weird and jarring if you’re not used to it, and it is a bit of a slow burn for the first 45 minutes or so. It’s gory, but no more so than Dawn of the Dead and certainly less than Day of the Dead. It’s also completely unlike modern horror movies. There are no jump scares, no sudden music shrieks and no pulse pounding action sequences. The horror here isn’t in surprise: it’s in a man, purposefully, slowly walking towards you and putting his hands around your neck…

It also does that Euro-Horror thing of prioritizing visuals over plot coherence, although it’s nowhere near the awesomely terrifying Inferno in that regard. Don’t think too hard about how zombies get from Point A to B too much. Just enjoy what they do when they get there, through your fingers.

Lilly: Also, there is a bit of violence towards a woman that is sort of sexualized that I didn’t care for–why those zombies always reaching for a lady’s chest and why skip all that lovely torso meat for where that hand went to rip from, ugh? No one was reaching right for the man’s south of the belt to see what was tasty down there, is all I’m saying–but that is modern standards and we can’t be too disappointed that a film from ‘74 doesn’t met them. Well. I can be disappointed, but there is nothing I can do.

So are we recommending this one?

Andy: This may be in my top 5 favourite zombie movies of all time. It’s inventive, socially interesting, scary as hell, beautifully shot and with a score to die for.

Lilly: …So that’s a yes?

Andy: …Yes.

 

Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge; or Freddy Wishes He Had Jesse’s Girl

Hello and Hallo-welcome to the second of our Sequel Sundays, where we sit down and sit through the second, third, and sometimes fourth go-rounds for horror franchises. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they question their sanity and wonder why they keep waking up, covered in blood.

Today’s Film Offering: Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.

maxresdefaultLilly: One, two, Freddy’s coming for you again, and this time, he’s not going to do all the dirty work himself! Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge tells the story of Jesse, who is the teenage son of the family who moved into a specific house on Elm Street that you might remember from the first film. Lots of hosing down must have happened prior to that open house, I’m just saying.

Andy: And I’m just saying I wanted to do Dream Warriors.

Lilly: Quiet, you.

Anyway, Jesse has issues not only with Freddy haunting him in his dreams, trying to convince him to take up the glove in his name and terrorize the neighbourhood, but the young man also faces the worst horror of all: unpacking his room. I’m here to tell you, readers, never have I related more to a horror film.

Jesse isn’t alone in his battle against the familiar boogeyman from the basement–he’s joined by his Meryl Streep look-a-like friend, Lisa, and his frenemy, Grady. Lisa pushes Jesse to try and get help for his sleep/murdering issues, and Grady wears no shirt and makes eyes at Jesse, which is also helpful, I’m sure. Frankly, for a film which tries to convince me Jesse and Lisa could be an item (including a scene at a pool party that is both poorly timed and ultimately creepy), I’m happy to ship Grady and Jesse any day, any time. They had more romantic chemistry–Lisa came off as Jesse’s nurse at times, making sure he was eating right and getting enough sleep. Meanwhile, Grady was getting shirtless all the time, sweating heavily, and drinking three cartons of milk at once to impress Jesse (I assume that is why he had so much milk, anyway, or was that a metaphor for how thirsty he was?)

Andy: Meanwhile Freddy … doesn’t actually do that much. He kills what, three people on screen? And there’s nothing anywhere near as spectacular as the first movie’s Depp Fountain – and when you take out spectacular deaths from a slasher movie, you’re left with characters, and these guys are not the most compelling bunch of cardboard cutouts.

Then again, it is fun to see them take a franchise completely in a new direction in only the second sequel, even if it doesn’t quite work. Freddy as a corrupting influence as opposed to a straight killer could work, even if it doesn’t here.

I mean they also take the franchise in another new direction. A really gay one.

Lilly: Suuuuuper gay. There was a leather bar with drag queens. Why? Who knows. I mean, I’m always pro leather bar with queens scenes, but why! Also, the deaths featured male nudity at varying levels. So, if we see Freddy as a metaphor for Jesse’s inner urges…well. The only step outside that box is during the aforementioned awkward pool party scene. And what does Jesse do when that weird sexuality flails its grey tongued head? Why, run to (shirtless) Grady’s house! To his bedroom! To stay the night! And there is nothing wrong with this strange, strange metaphor, but…why? It wasn’t something that carried on in the series (I’d love that, please and thank you) so it just seemed like a momentary glimpse into ‘What if…’ in the Freddy universe where Freddy wasn’t a monster but rather some sort of vessel for self exploration.

Andy: If you think we’re exaggerating, after running into Grady’s room he yells “He’s inside of me! He’s going to take me again!” It’s not even subtext at this point, it’s just text.

Lilly: And the tagline. Readers. Come on. The man of your dreams is back! So. Come on. Readers.

Andy: Anyway, I’m afraid I can’t recommend this one. As a horror movie it basically fails, being neither scary nor compelling, and as an exploration of a fairly serious issue at the time, it is just too funny. It’s so ridiculous that you can’t tell if it’s intentional or not.

Plus, you know a horror movie has misstepped badly when in a late scene a swimming pool begins to heat up and bubble, but slowly enough that everyone gets out safely. You’re a slasher movie from the 80s: BOIL THOSE KIDS ALIVE.

Man, I hope that doesn’t ever get taken out of context.

Lilly: I’m going to take it out of context all the damn time, now.

It really isn’t a great film, sorry, readers. It was boring or ridiculously hilarious–there is a scene where a bird goes homicidal and it is hysterical. And I am not sure if I mean funny or like it drives you to hysteria. I was disappointed, even with all the silly fashion moments (how big can Jesse’s shirts get before he is just wearing a tarp?) and OTP shipping between Grady and Jesse (seriously just make out already, gosh). Oh, and the pacing was weird–we didn’t really get the same sort of ‘Oh, he only comes when you are asleep!’ realization, just Jesse taking pep pills and drinking coke madly, or any sort of hint at Freddy’s background, just that he worked in a boiler room once. What’s happening? Why! Where! How! Watch out, bird!

So that’s a no from us. No, Nightmare on Elm Street 2. Just no.

The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari; or Somnambulist’s Day Out

Hello and Hallo-welcome to the first of our Silent Saturdays, where the films might be silent but our screams aren’t! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they get ready to attend a fair featuring a certain somnambulist they’ve heard is to die for.

Today’s film offering: The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari (1920)

Lilly: Not only silent, but German! German Expressionist, to be exact!

the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari-movie-poster-1919-1010491578The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari is a story within a story, where our narrator, Francis, opens the story up while sitting on a bench, apparently deciding to regale the man beside him with the tales of his woes. The old man (and the audience) then hear the story of murder, misery, and a sleepwalking monster.

A fair comes to Holstenwall, a town made up of harsh and jagged hand-painted scenery, and with it, Dr.Caligari. He has an act featuring one Cesare, a somnambulist (or sleepwalker) that can tell the future. He predicts the imminent death of Francis’ close friend, Alan, which naturally shakes up the poor guy. Wouldn’t you know it, that night, Alan is murdered by a shadowy figure and the mystery and tragedy of it drive Francis to figure out what exactly happened to his pal. Cue detective work, kidnapping of a damsel who is distressed, and all the peculiar angles and artistic interpretations of reality!

Andy: Yes indeedy. None of this movie is filmed outside of a studio, despite the fact a lot of it takes place outside, and the set design is a nightmarish landscape of spiky edges, disproportion and off-color. Silent movies can be hard to get into, and the style of this one is also really unnerving, but if you let it pull you in it actually gets under your skin.

Lilly: There is a lot to unpack with Caligari, from its style choices to the messages it contains about authority, post-war Germany, and conformity, and for once–brace yourself, dear readers–I might want to do all of that without spoiling it.

GASP! I know. A strange thing to do with a film that has been around for nearly 100 years, but as the film is considered a major influence on narrative techniques that flourish only without spoilers, you gotta respect that.

Andy: Yeah, we’re not going to spoil it, as it does have a genuinely surprising ending.

Lilly: So first off, let’s talk about the gorgeous set design. Nothing takes you more into the world of a man’s mind than a hand-drawn set, I figure. It makes you wonder if this is how our narrator sees the world, really–he must constantly feel out of sorts with all those slanty doors and weird corridors. Also, is the over the top acting also just in his head? Aaah I love it.

Andy: Hmm.

Lilly: What? It’s great! I mean, on top of the sets, the messages were sound, too! Like the whole adverse reactions to bureaucracy, and not to mention men in positions of power not being trustworthy, PLUS–

Andy: HMMM.

Lilly: OK, fine. What is it?

Andy: Well I’m not 100% sure I’d recommend it. It’s good, really good, and the set design is fantastic, buuut there are nearly 100 years between us and its release. There’s a whole unconscious language to film that was only just being discovered and codified in the 1920s, and it can feel very jarring to go back to a time where things like narrative and pacing were very, very different. You can watch it, sure, but it’s probably not going to be like you expect and you may find yourself like me.

Lilly: How did you find yourself?

Andy: I dunno. Unanchored, maybe? Having said that, the set design alone is engaging enough and for anyone into that on stage or screen, this is a must-watch.

Lilly: So, if you have some patience to decipher the wild flailing that means dismay and strange close ups of faces that aren’t actually doing anything on top of some light reading, go, watch, and see where all these scary movies we watch now come from! Back to the creepy roots, if you will!

The Howling; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Moon

Hello and Hallo-welcome to the first of our Furry Fridays, where we look at films that feature lycanthropy of all shapes and sizes! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, one of which is a hairy handed gent who ran amuck in Kent while the other has lately been overheard in Mayfair.

Today’s Film Offering: The Howling

220px-The_Howling_(1981_film)_posterLilly: Having a distinct lack of werewolf films in our repertoire, this year we’ve decided to dedicate a day to them! The films chosen to look at aren’t necessarily the best of the bunch by any means, but rather a random selection we picked out, only one of which we’d both seen.

Our first jump into the hairy pool of werepups was The Howling, a film chosen primarily because we both remembered seeing the cover for it in our local video rental places and yet never picking it up to watch.

Andy: It’s a pretty distinctive cover. And we’ve since learned that this franchise has approximately ninety million sequels, so there must be something in it, right? RIGHT?

Anyway, the plot follows a young lady being contacted by a serial killer, who refuses to speak to anyone but her. The story starts in medias res, as the latest HORRIBLY planned sting operation gets underway, and she ends up alone, in a dirty movie booth, with the killer. Who may or may not be a werewolf and is definitely played by Robert Picardo, the holographic doctor from Star Trek Voyager.

In fact, the entire cast is made up of “Hey it’s that guy!” faces, from the legendary John Steed from The Avengers (no, not that one, the BBC one that starred Emma Peel in a catsuit), the dude from the Twisted Sister videos, and even gosh-darn Slim Pickens, best known for riding the bomb in Dr. Strangelove.

Anyway, our heroine gets sent to a retreat to help her recover from the trauma of the bungling-cop/porn/werewolf trifecta, but instead finds herself menaced in the misty woods by howling creatures (geddit?) and everyone’s increasingly bizarre knitwear.

Lilly: Seriously, these sweaters combined horror and Dr.Huxtable-couture long before Bill Cosby–the most evil of sweater wearing creeps–did. One woman was even wearing a sweater on top of a sweater, and both were hideous! And the one person not wearing sweaters is Marsha, a sexwolf who is sexy in her sexy leather dress (sexsexsex). I would say it was a spoiler that she was a werewolf, but it isn’t, she is literally the most wolflike of all the people we come across, and that is counting fully transformed werewolves. She treats the newcomers with the disdain of an alpha predator meeting the latest weak links to the pack, and goes about her business, sniffing up the new male to see if he is worth her time. Which, gurl, he is not, but you do you, Marsha.

Andy: And if our lengthy detour into TV actors and sweaters didn’t tip you off, we didn’t really get this one. The supposedly good werewolf effects look like the demon offspring of a muppet and a dustbunny, the acting and plot are really badly paced and fall flat. It’s really only saved by two moments: the first, a cool effect involving a severed hand, and the second, an absolutely hilarious moment involving a filing cabinet and a teleporting werewolf.

Lilly: Though I did love how hard this film tried to get me to guess everyone was a werewolf once the unhappy couple left the city. It slaps you in the face over and over with hints. They love meat–GET IT? They love hunting–GET IT? They transform into wolves whenever they please–GET IT? It was like the whole film was that part in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Snape is trying to get the students to guess Lupin is a werewolf by studying how werewolves are spotted but less engaging. The acting was definitely not up to par, and if I don’t hear another what-I-assume-they-assume-werewolves-howling-sounds-like noise ever again, that’ll be too soon.

Andy: Man, though, I’m not sure we can recommend this one.

Lilly: Which means you know it is either awful or actually good and we have no taste. It’s hard to tell. If you enjoy watching werewolf transformations that take longer than all the Sailor Scouts combined to transform (Moon Power Make-up-style glitter dance transformations might have changed my mind on this one, actually) and sex scenes that involve a lot of teeth baring, then hey, give this one a go. If you have other things to do with your time, such as knitting an actually attractive sweater or listening to a podcast by some charming horror reviewers that will come out later this month, then maybe do that instead.

Not a great start for our Furry Fridays, readers, but we have high hopes for next week–what are some of your favourite films featuring furry fiends? Let us know on twitter, or find us on facebook!

IT; or Beep Beep, Richie!

Hello and Hallo-welcome to Throw Forward Thursday, where the films are new and the reviews even newer! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they face the reality of the terror of childhood fading away into memory, where what was once important and life-altering becomes nothing but a hazy idea of an experience had.

Today’s Film Offering: IT

Lilly: Before we get into this, there WILL be spoilers, and no, I’ve not read the book yet, and actually, I haven’t seen the television version either, sooo Andy will be your guide in any and all comparisons made–though hey, why don’t you just enjoy something for what it is, not what it was, readers? Why don’t you? Huh?

Andy: Exactly! So a few opening comparisons just to get everyone on the same page. This is based on Stephen King’s whopping 1,138 page epic of the same name from 1986 (only The Stand edges it out in terms of length), and in 1990 was adapted into a TV miniseries with Tim Curry in the title role. So in some ways, this is the third version of the story.

Two important changes have happened to the plot. The first is that the movie only really tells half of the story – a second, concurrent story following the characters 27 years later may be in a sequel but is entirely absent here, and the setting has been moved from 1958 to 1988. A cynical man could say that that’s because 80s nostalgia is more in fashion these days than 50s Americana (cough Stranger Things cough), but the result is a surprisingly tight and engaging narrative extracted from a book you could hollow out and live in, in a pinch.

Other than that, I’m going to try and leave the comparisons alone.

download.jpgLilly: IT is the story of a band of nerds and geeks known as The Losers Club, and one horrible year of their lives in 1988-89. The town they live in has a strange rash of missing children and an even stranger phenomenon of the townspeople just sort of accepting that it happens. Also, there is a clown wandering around, showing people their fears and eating kids, so. There’s that.

Andy: The movie essentially plays on your fears on two levels. First off is the obvious – the demon clown aiming to devour children. The second is subtler and somehow worse: these kids live in a world in which adults are not only passively useless but are somehow actively disengaged. One kid seems to be developing into a full-grown psychopath, and nobody in a position of authority seems to have noticed.

The kids who decide to confront it are heroic to be sure, but they’re also so terribly, terribly young. Bill’s bravery is a wafer thin front hiding unprocessed anger and grief his parents have just left him with. Richie’s vulgarity is endearing because of how juvenile it is. Eddie’s mother clearly projects all of her anxieties onto her tiny son, and the pharmacist indulges but also provides placebos which is surely the worst response in that situation.

In fact, the only adult who shows even a shred of moral fibre at all is Mike’s grandfather, who gives advice that actually turns out to be useful and relevant. It may be unintentional, but he’s also probably the character that lives furthest out of town, and furthest from IT’s influence.

As someone who was bullied as a kid, and witnessed first hand the uselessness and turpitude of some adults in that kind of situation, this struck a deep chord with me.

Lilly: The monstrous realities the children all seem to face are as if we are watching the Greatest Hits of Stressful and Awful Childhoods, from being the New Kid to the darkness of Bev’s homelife, and when you realize it is part of what life is in Derry, there is a moment of ‘shoot, what are the other kids dealing with?’ that makes the whole thing that much more chilling. Especially when you stop and think they think it is normal. No one questions it all–as Andy mentioned, everyone is complicit, so the fact the kids still fight when IT comes to town becomes all the more thrilling. You want them to win because finally, someone is doing something.

Now, let’s talk imagery!

First off, let’s get it out there: I loved Pennywise and his drooling. Loved it. He was terrifying with his bulging eyes and sharp grin, and I’m not afraid of clowns. However, he was also a bit fun–you got that Georgie would laugh when he was first talking with him because hey, he was funny. Sure, reach for that boat, what could go wrong! It was a fine line, but it was there, and I was delighted.

Meanwhile, can we talk about flute lady? Flute lady was Stan’s fear, and I died when I was informed that Flute Lady and the ghost of Mama from Mama were played by the same person because of course they were and nope. She was all misshapen and weird and who has a painting like that in his office! Rabbi, I got questions. That said, all the kids had amazing sequences where their fear was rubbed in their faces. Well, except for one.

Beep Beep, I wasn’t overly impressed with Richie’s. It was sort of too little, too late for me. His came relatively late in the game, and by then, we’d seen a lot of horrific stuff, so it was almost as if you were standing in a tornado and someone turned a fan on. Not much to add to the whirlwind, you know?

Andy: Overall, though, this is a really, really solid movie, and deserves some credit for being a straight up horror movie that also manage to be a summer blockbuster. I exaggerate, but that hasn’t happened since Jaws. We’d tell you to go see it, but if box office numbers are anything to go by, you probably already have – but if you haven’t, we’ll feel like most people will enjoy this one. Go see it! Now!

After all folks, you’ll float down here.

WE ALL FLOAT.

Night of the Living Dead; or Just Pick a Room and Barricade it, Guys

Hello and Hallo-welcome to How Have We Not Reviewed This Wednesdays, where we shamble slowly in the direction of classics we’ve somehow missed until now! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, who are definitely, definitely coming to get you, Barbara.

Today’s Film Offering: Night of the Living Dead

Andy: Occasionally, very occasionally, people ask us if there are any ‘core’ texts to horror movies; ones that you have to watch, to get under your belt so to speak. Personally, I would say that I don’t find people encouraging that kind of attitude to be helpful. If you’ve only seen Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives, that doesn’t make you less of a fan than someone who has seen every one of Lucio Fulci’s movies and then hung out with his composer. It’s an enthusiast genre, and if someone is gatekeeping rather than ramming their suggestions down your throat, something is wrong.

Lilly: Call Andy Sir Mix-A-Lot because it sounds like he likes big ‘but’(t)s…

Andy: Night of the Living Dead however–

Lilly: Called it.

Andy: Well, it may be as close to this idea as I will get. Due to copyright weirdness, it’s actually, legally free to watch online, but that’s not the only reason you should watch it. What we have here, from 1968, is the first truly modern horror movie.

I first saw this when I was far too young, staying up far too late, and laid awake for the rest of the night. Not because I was scared. Because I was disturbed.

Seriously. Go and watch anything made by Hammer or AIP from the same year, and then watch this. It’s on a completely different level. It’s a brutal movie, shot unflinchingly in a beautiful, bleak monochrome. It’s been remade, remixed, ripped off, referenced and revered more than perhaps any other horror movie, but it remains painfully, awesomely unique; both revolutionary and perfectly of its time.

Lilly: Feel like we could skip to the ‘do we recommend this?’ bit right now. Spoiler, we do!

Andy: Anyway, the plot is relatively straightforward. On a trip to the graveyard, Johnny teases his nervous sister Barbara about a man in the graveyard. He says he’s coming to get her.

Lilly: His teasing is easily one of the most quotable moments in the film, fyi. But do go on!

Andy: Trouble is, the man is coming to get them, and after a short struggle and a horrible run through the countryside, Barbara finds herself in an old farmhouse. Johnny, of course, doesn’t make it. Slowly others show themselves; brave, resourceful Ben, the Coopers, headed by bullying patriarch Harry, and a young couple, Tom and Judy.

Lilly: Their arrival is good news, seeing as for a brief and all-too-hilarious portion of the film, Ben is stuck with Barbara, who is in such a state that she is just fondling doolies on the couch and being generally unhelpful in his quick barricading of the farmhouse. Barbara’s got the doolies on lock down, so everyone relax, okay?

Andy: With the gathering of the living hiding from the dead, this is where the film becomes something special. The zombies, never referred to as such, don’t represent a major threat, at least at first. While Johnny’s killer hangs about outside, the true threat comes from the slow accumulation of his many, many friends. And of course, the people inside the house. Ben and Harry both have reasonably sensible ideas, but they are different and neither will back down, so neither happens.

Ben, essentially our protagonist as Barbara takes the rest of the movie off (see doilies above), at least until Johnny, er, ‘turns up’, tries to reason with Harry, but there’s this electric current throughout of Harry wanting to be ‘in charge’. Ben is also a black man, and there is a real sense that Harry thinks he’s getting above himself, bearing in mind that this is 1968.

Lilly: Romero does make an effort to shrug off his casting choice, saying they just knew the actor who played Ben and he was good, it wasn’t any kind of commentary meant, but it’s hard not to see it that way when, as Andy says, it is 1968. Though hey, it’s 2017 and that sort of narrative could still be played out (watch out for our Get Out review coming later in the month!) soooo great, we’ve come far.

Andy: The movie has one of the most gut-punching downer endings, and there’s a real sense that the zombies aren’t responsible. People will argue themselves into the grave, and won’t realise until it’s too late. It’s amazing.

Lilly: This I can definitely jump in and speak to–I saw this film when I was a teenager and it was in a bargain bin at Walmart on a DVD that also had the original House on Haunted Hill. Worth the $5, let me tell you. Anyway, I can actually still remember yelling at the television at the ending and getting actually upset, near crying. Now, I’m a film crier, I’ve said this before, but not usually during horror films (I’m too busy saying ‘nope!’ out of fear) so this is notable. I was driven hard into an emotional reaction by this film, and so surprise, don’t want to spoil it. It caught me off guard how invested I was in the film until Romero took the comforting rug of it out from under my feet and left me confused and with an emotionally sore behind. This isn’t a film that builds you up with piano swells and heroic gestures of self sacrifice and over the top declarations. This is a film that sucks you in because you could be that doilie fondling Barbara or that argumentative Harry or the quietly assessing Ben. For a film about the dead walking the Earth, it realistically captures what it is like to be in a crisis but also be a human with torn emotions, motives, and desires.

Andy: The gore effects are really effective too, consisting of chocolate syrup shot in black and white. Nearly 50 years later, there are certain scenes which are still stomach churning. I wholeheartedly, unreservedly recommend this one to absolutely anyone and everyone.

Lilly: So, and I’m dreading asking this question, is there anything wrong with it?

Andy: Anything wrong with it? HOW DARE YOU actually there are a couple of nitpicks. First is that the idea of night and day seems pretty fluid, with ‘live’ news reports shot in broad daylight while pitch black reigns outside. Also, the explanation for the zombies is pure Twilight Zone garbage nonsense that comes up once and never again in this movie or the series. Dawn’s simple “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.” is way, way better.

These are the minorest of minor flaws though, and this remains one of my all time favourite movies. Not horror movies. Movies. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Lilly: And, though I usually have a generally ‘no, no, please no’ approach to zombie films, this is a recommendation from me. It approaches the situation with the main monster of the film not being running, gnashing, flesh-dangling corpses but rather man and his ego, and I can dig that. I wouldn’t go as far as Andy and say it was one of my favourite movies (it’s hard to cross into that from horror for me, Jaws notably being my main interloper), but I definitely would say it was one of my favourite horror movies.

So go, watch, enjoy, and come back to talk that ending with us!

Resident Evil & Silent Hill; or Violent Video Games Movie Adaptations Make Us Violent

Hello and Hallo-welcome to Two-fer Tuesday, where you get a double dose of horror, as prescribed by that shady doctor who sounds suspiciously like Vincent Price. You join your bloggers, Lilly and Andy, as they try and discover why the Red Queen shut down and figure out where Sean Bean is–they were sure they could hear him in the other room, but upon looking, there is no one there, and what are those sirens about…

Today’s Film Offerings: Resident Evil & Silent Hill

Lilly: Well, we’re doing video game adaptations, which are always good, right? Right? Remember the Mario movie? Anyone? Or was that a weird fever dream I had? Anyone? Please?

Andy: Nope. Sadly, that exists.

Lilly: Right. Yes. So! Today we are doing two films, deciding that one video game world adventure wasn’t enough for us hardcore types. No, we doubled down, and here we are.

residentResident Evil is the story of a workplace health and safety nightmare in the secret underground facility known as The Hive underneath Raccoon City. One broken vial, and the whole thing goes to shit, an airborne virus leading The Hive’s A.I. (known as the Red Queen–Alice in Wonderland references happened in this film, BTW) to shut the whole place down and kill those inside. I thought that was pretty evident that that was what was happening, but then we spend a good portion of the film trying to figure out if the Red Queen is the baddie or not. Or, at least the film was doing that. I spent most of the film guessing who was the asshole who did this among the group we follow throughout the exploration of The Hive after lockdown.

Oh yeah, so there’s an issue I had from the top of the film–so the A.I. locks down the facility, and to figure out why that happened, people are sent inside it. Hold on. If a place shuts down, and one of the reasons could be an issue that is airborne and dangerous, why oh why would you go inside? Is A.I. developed enough to have a holographic image but not to be able to be remotely accessed in this scenario? I get that remote access could be a security risk, but so can research featuring zombie viruses and genetic mutations, sooo. Whatever.

Anyway, we follow Alice, a confused artfully nude Milla Jovovich, who apparently was guarding the mansion until lockdown, but doesn’t remember due to part of the protocol of the lockdown is releasing gas that knocks you out and can cause acute memory loss, so cue that old amnesia chestnut! And it wasn’t just her in the mansion, there was a sketchy seeming cop, and then they also stumble upon James Purefoy, Milla’s fake but maybe not husband. It’s a whole thing, readers. A whole. Thing.

So, Alice (get it?) and the crew of soldiers who appeared to see what’s up with the Red Queen all head for The Hive and cue adventure and mystery and oh GOD will someone just explain at least ONE THING going on right now?

Andy: Yeah, the whole plot is a really weird mix of vague under-explanation and then in-your-face hand-holding. It explains things poorly, but then has a crappy CGI 3D map pop up every time they go somewhere new so we can follow along. I normally hate narrations, but this was crying out for some Escape From New York style opening exposition.

It’s also worth pointing out that this movie is so divorced from the video game it heads into “why bother with the license” territory. None of the (extremely memorable) characters from the series appear, at least not in this one, the mansion from the first game is bright and airy and never revisited past the first ten minutes, and the zombies are, well, zombies. Dogs and The Licker, I guess, but OK.

The trouble is that many video game adaptations fail at capturing the feeling of games, as well as the setting. Resident Evil was always about artificial scarcity. Do you fight these zombies, or save the bullets for something nastier later? Having Michelle Rodriguez yell that she’s out is not a particularly good thematic link.

Lilly: Also, I warn you now, one of the scariest elements of the film is spectacularly undermined by the awful, awful CGI. Also, this film is full of tropes that I usually love–hyper violence, badass women, scary children, doggies–yet I just kept checking the time to see when it would get to the point. Every revelation made me impatient to know the full story, and not in a ‘I’m so impressed by these nuggets of information, I want MORE’ way but more in a ‘ugh, fine, move on’ sort of way. Not curious, just annoyed that they were taking so long.

Andy: And with that we’ll move on, from the glittering tower of corporate ineptitude to the far creepier environs of Silent Hill. And if I had a list for most underrated horror movie this one would be in my top ten.

Lilly: Welcome to Silent Hill, where you don’t have to be sleeping to have a nightmare!

In Silent_Hill_film_posterthis film, we follow Rose and her sleep-walking/screaming/doodling daughter, Sharon, to the town of Silent Hill, THE tourist destination for those of you with children who keep saying the name of it after a night terror. Rose goes against her husband’s wishes and takes their child to find out just why it is everyone’s got the name Silent Hill on their lips–or at least Sharon does.

Well, guess what, the place of the child’s nightmares ISN’T a nice place.

Silent Hill is a town that changes at the drop of a hat, or rather an air raid siren. Things are already bad (it’s raining ash) when Rose gets there, but bad turns to way worse when the siren goes off and the world shifts, letting the viewer know that holy heck, we aren’t in the real world anymore. Bloody walls, monster fire babies, and wait, is there a cult? Anyway, Silent Hill shifts back and forth as Rose (and a poor cop who was just trying to be sure Rose’s daughter was okay) tries to find Sharon, following clues that she assumes her daughter has left for reasons unknown to the viewer (or was that just me? Why would Sharon take her other on the creepiest scavenger hunt ever?)

Andy: And although this has one of the best backstories of any horror movie (or game for that matter), what this has in spades is atmosphere. Rose shifts between two worlds – the unsettling, silent, ash-world of a burnt out town, and the terrifying, industrial nightmare of a town that is still burning. It works both as a horror, and as a trip into a surreal world of nightmares – both worlds are very, very wrong on a fundamental level, and for once there is a satisfying explanation as to why.

The other thing that is remarkable is how completely female-dominated the cast is. It’s not quite ‘feminist’ in the way something like this year’s Wonder Woman was, but the protagonist is a mother looking for her daughter. Tagging along is a cop, who is both a badass and also a female. A disposable cult member is a woman, as are both of the antagonists. Holy hell! Even Pyramid Head, a symbol of powerful, dark, male urges in the second game in the series (ie. a giant rapist with a metal head), is reduced to an agent of female forces. Huh.

Lilly: I am definitely pro the lady power in this film–the men seem to only be there to serve the women, with the cult lackeys especially and the cop who first notes how he is looking for the police officer with Rose, then protects a nun from Sean Bean which is definitely under the job description for police. It did have that whole ‘Mother is God’ narrative going through it that sort of broke Rose down to one role, and then of course there was a certain scene featuring barbed wire that seemed unnecessary, but besides that, it was nice to just have women pushing along the story.

Andy: I only have two criticisms. The first is that Sean Bean and friend could and should be lifted cleanly out of this movie in an edit. They add nothing except stopping it completely dead and demonstrating details which should be obvious to us anyway and that Rose is not exactly in our universe any more. In case, you know, the constantly raining ash clouds and giant cliffs at the end of town didn’t tip you/her off.

Lilly: See, I disagree with this–not just because Sean Bean amuses me, but I liked how the men were painted as unable to help. This is a world created by a young woman and men had no place in making anything happen there. The only male that got things done was Pyramid Head, and even then, it was childish flailing and ripping akin to a murderous toddler throwing a bloody tantrum, making him more like something with no agenda than characters with driven, passionate desires like we see in Rose, Christabella, and Alessa.

Andy: The other is to do with the monsters. I love Pyramid Head in this movie, and it is very cool that he’s been degraded to lackey by Girl Power, buuut he loses some of what made him so interesting in the first place, namely his symbolic power, in the second game. Ditto with the creepy nurses in the basement. Their cleavage had a point originally, believe it or not. Why is it needed here?

Lilly: I literally ask that during every movie I watch, soooo.

Andy: Other than these minor quibbles though, I looove this movie. It’s fantastic, and easily the best video game adaptation movie ever made. Which is like saying it’s the least bad member of Nickelback, but it’s still worth checking out.

A quick word on the sequels. Resident Evil has several million at this point, but the second, Apocalypse, ramps up the stupid to such a goofy level that it is far, far more entertaining than the first. Is that an improvement? Is it the Empire Strikes Back of drivel? God knows, but I liked it.

Meanwhile, Silent Hill has one, the wretched Revelations 3D. It evaporated my goodwill and killed this series so fast that it’s kind of impressive, in the same way you would have a grudging awe towards the sinkhole that just ate your apartment block.

Lilly: So when are we watching that one?

Andy: Never.

So that’s one thumbs down and one thumbs up from us on this two-fer Tuesday pairing–definitely check out Silent Hill and maybe forget Resident Evil ever happened!