Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October Horror 2014: 7 - Silver Bullet

The Stephen King adaptation is a mainstay of any good October marathon.  This year's is the Werewolf-themed Silver Bullet.  This was the directorial debut of veteran TV director Daniel Attias and stars Gary Busey and Corey Haim.

What's going on here is that a small town in Maine is suddenly terrorized by a series of bizarre animal attacks.  A paraplegic boy becomes convinced that the attacks are made by the town's preacher, who is a werewolf.  He enlists the help of his sister and his alcoholic uncle Red to get proof and eventually kill the wolf.

The werewolf transformation is pretty cool, but a standout is a middle sequence where the Reverend begins hallucinating during a service because of his wolfyness.

Some of the acting is actually pretty nice, but then there's also Gary Busey.  Now he's not really bad so much as has a completely bizarre character.  Busey apparently acted each scene as scripted then did additional takes where he ad-libbed all his lines.  The producers liked many of the improvised scenes better, so the performance in the movie is mostly ad-libbed Busey.

The things that fall down the most are the bits Stephen King weirdness.  I don't really think that having the protagonist in a wheel chair was used to advantage at all.  Midway through the movie Red gives the kid a custom-built, motorized, wheelchair that they call the Silver Bullet so they can give the title a double-meaning.  But now he's basically rolling around on a motorcycle so when he has to run away, he's faster than a person on foot would be.  His only problem is running out of gas.

Regardless of any Stephen King-ness it was a pretty fun movie.  The werewolf design was a bit meh, but the transformation was good, the story was decent, and there were some good moments around the preacher's mental state.

Next up, Home Invasion week begins with Funny Games.

Monday, October 6, 2014

October Horror 2014: 6 - Werewolf Hunter: The Legend of Romasanta

Also known as Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt this 2004 thriller/historical fiction is based on the 1850's account of mass murderer Manuel Blanco Romasanta who claimed at his trial that he committed the murders because he was a werewolf.

It's a really interesting movie to watch, it does delve into the supernatural aspect a little bit.  I would've liked a bit more on that, mostly since a huge part of werewolf films is the transformation scene and this one was a little dull.

Another tenant of werewolf movies is the struggle against the animal nature of the wolf, but this character doesn't seem to have that.  He's a little sad about it, but doesn't really seem to struggle until the end when he's claiming the woman he was with helped him overcome it.  Which is doubly odd considering he seemed to be embracing his animal passions in their scenes, if you catch my drift.

Anyway, I'm writing this weeks after watching it so my recollection is getting foggy but here's the takeaway:  It's a decent movie.  Pretty well made with some good effects, though I wish it had more.  It mixes in a nice subtle amount of supernatural to play with the drama and make it a bit more "What-if".  Worth watching.

Next up: Silver Bullet

Sunday, October 5, 2014

October Horror 2014: 5 - Transylvania 6-5000

I first heard of this movie on a list from Obscurus Lupa of some of her favorite ridiculous genre movies, so when it also showed up on some site's list of werewolf movies I figured it'd be a good way to get something I'd been meaning to watch off the list and fill in one of the marathon's weeks.

I'm not really disappointed by this movie, but it's only barely got a werewolf in it.  It's an offbeat comedy about a town in Transylvania that is obsessed with shedding the reputation of "Spooky Transylvania" to become a modern tourist town.  To that end the Mayor has opened a lavish full-service hotel and is actively covering up any sightings of monsters.

However a Frankenstein's monster sighting gets out and a tape is sent to a state-side tabloid.  The magazine send the owner's son/toady and Jeff Goldblum to Transylvania to uncover the monster.  However, the Mayor views it as a sale's pitch for his new hotel.

A lot of the comedy is pretty awkward and strained.  Some of the jokes do land, but there's a lot of trying too hard.  It's also got a super cheesy everyone-is-happy heartwarming ending, but for the type of comedy it is, it sort of deserves it.  I don't particularly recall what was said about it, but it was an inoffensively bad horror/comedy.  Anyway,

next up? Werewolf Hunter: The Legend of Romasanta

Saturday, October 4, 2014

October Horror 2014: 4 - Skinwalkers

Skinwalkers is a movie I was originally interested in since during a round of IMDb surfing I found out it was co-written by James Roday, who plays Shawn Spencer on the show Psych.  As the show is really funny, in part due to the grasp of the character Roday had from his audition reel onward.  So I was curious to see if his writing chops matched up.

However at this point I hope he didn't have too much to do with the movie since it was kindof a mess.
As near as I can gather, the movie's about rival werewolf clans who fight over the realization of a prophecy.  There's a half-breed child born to a human mother with a werewolf father who will end the curse of all werewolves when he turns 13.  He's protected by one clan who keeps their nature secret from both him and his mother, and hunted by another clan who wants to kill them because they like being werewolves.  If that sounds like an interesting setup, it kindof is.  However the movie tries to make itself more interesting by never really being clear about what's going on, instead dropping the audience into the middle of things with no explanation of even the characters.  I still don't know some people's names.

About midway through after a lot of really confusing running around and some context-less character death, one of the characters drops a plot dump on the mother and the whole thing lurches into the final act.  Elias Koteas and Kim Coates are woefully underutilized because the movie would prefer to spend time with the "Prettier" characters, unfortunately Elias is the one with most of the plot information.  And I almost don't want to mention the perfunctory sacrificial Indian they included so they could make some sort of tangential connection between the modern werewolf curse and the original "Skinwalking" ability of the native tribes.  See what I did there?  Title drop.  Awww yeah.

It's just really a lazy and very thin story with a thin veneer of Werewolf draped over it that just doesn't work.

Next up: Transylvania 6-5000

Friday, October 3, 2014

October Horror 2014 - 3 - Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snaps was released in 2000 and has gained significant reputation among horror fans as a very creative Werewolf movie.  Also, as an obvious allegory for puberty and menstruation.

Ginger Snaps stars Katherine Isabelle and Emily Perkins as heavily emo sisters.  Obsessed with death and suicide, the sisters are constantly antagonized by more "normal" teens at school.  Ginger often defends her sister who is clearly far more awkward.

One night they sneak out of the house to steal another girl's dog as revenge for attacking them during gym class.  While out, they're attacked by a massive wolf-like creature and Ginger is badly injured.  Surprisingly she heals quickly and after a few comatose days is not in full health but is far more lively and social than she used to be.  This begins to drive a wedge between her and her sister who feels the new "popular" Ginger is a betrayal.  She begins to realize the changes aren't late-blooming puberty but is actually Ginger becoming a werewolf and enlists the help of the local *cough*herbalist to try to find a cure and save her sister.

All told, it's a good movie and definitely deserves its reputation as a very creative take on werewolves.  The sisterhood and puberty themes are simultaneously beyond over-the-top and understated, with the superficial aspects taking front and center but the more subtle character beats just being.  Also the creature effects are pretty damned good.

The movie has two sequels that came out in the same year as each other.  The leads both return, which is nice.  But given that Ginger Snaps 2 and Ginger Snaps Back came out within a few months of each other, I don't have much confidence in either of them being much good.

Next up: Skinwalkers

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October Horror 2014: 2 - Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood, re-imagined as tween girl supernatural romance.  Directed by the director of Twilight and starring Amanda Seyfried, Max Irons, and Gary Oldman.

Actually the cast here has a lot of recognizable faces.  Shiloh Fernandez makes an appearance, as do Billy Burke, Lukas Haas, Michael Hogan, and Michael Shanks.  And unfortunately, at least in the case of Hogan and Shanks, act way below their ability.  Max Irons seems drunk the whole time, too.  That's not to say the movie is bad, oddly.  The sets and are really good and for all its obligatory "supernatural teen romance" tropes the story is competently put together.  Even the mystery is decent.  Gary Oldman is entertaining and wonderfully hammy.

It really seems like it was a movie that had all the potential to be a good but unremarkable lazy day movie but got kneecapped by shoehorning in a bunch of romance tropes.  Ironically what held it back quality-wise probably made it infinitely more marketable.  Though spending so much on name actors and marketing probably reduced the effects budget to the point where the CGI wolf looks pretty asstastic, but the practical work was good.

All in all, it was alright.  Better than I was expecting.

Next up: Ginger Snaps

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Horror 2014: 1 - Dog Soldiers

Dog Soldiers is the 2002 feature debut of director Neil Marshall, starring Sean Pertwee and Kevin McKidd.  The film is about a military unit on exercises in the forest that gets attacked by werewolves.

Marshall has made a pretty big name for himself as an action director with titles like The Descent and Centurion, as well as two epic battle-centric episodes of Game of Thrones.  And you can see the beginnings of his style here since the action scenes are really fun.  There are rough bits that feel like 90's XTREME, but there's still a lot of great action.  And there's a lot of humor in the action which serves nicely to keep things going.

The movie seems built on references.  There are characters named Bruce Campbell and Harry G. Wells.  Also a "Witherspoon" character nicknamed "Spoon" that seemed to exist so that the line "There is no Spoon" could be used.  There is a character named Cooper who could be a reference to the Cooper character in Event Horizon, which also starred Sean Pertwee, though that's a bit of a stretch.

As a final note, the creature effects are pretty damned impressive, relying mostly on suited actors to play werewolves rather than CGI.  Towards the end when the faces are focused on more often it gets a little lame looking since the expressions are baked in, but on a whole they're great.

The story got a little weird to follow towards the end when they introduced some twists, but the action sequences were still great fun.

All in all, a damn fine action/horror and a nice chance to see a great action director starting out.

Next up: Red Riding Hood

Horror Pre-Season: The Octoberfest 2014 Plan.

Late again as usual, but the publishing date will show I was right on time, because I am a technologist...I reject your reality and substitute my own.

October Horror Season is once again upon us.  So here's the plan.

The week themes are: Werewolves, Home Invasions, Really Really Bad Movies, and Sequels.

For movies we have:

Werewolves week:
Dog Soldiers - Neil Marshall's feature debut! I'm excited!
Red Riding Hood (2011) - Ok, I'm not a tween girl, but we'll see.
Ginger Snaps - Cult classic.  And periods.  Let's do this.
Skinwalkers - I love Psych, and Jason X is hilarious.  So we've got a werewolf movie co-written by Shawn Spencer and directed by the director of Jason X.  Let's do this.  Too.  Again.
Werewolf Hunter: The Legend of Romasanta - No idea here.
Transylvania 6-5000 - Classic genre cheese with Jeff Goldblum.  I'm told it has werewolves.  We'll see.

Home Invasions week:
Funny Games
Silent House
When a Stranger Calls
The Strangers
Dream Home
The Collector Torment

Really really bad movies:
Gingerdead Man
Sleepaway Camp
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Troll 2
Halloween: Ressurection
Trick or Treat (1986) - Trick 'r Treat is actually a really good movie.

House of the Dead 2
Phantasm 2
Silence of the Lambs
The Devil's Rejects
Wolf Creek 2
Cube 2: Hypercube
The Collection

And that's the month.  Let's see how it shakes out.  Sporadic updates will follow.