Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fun With Google 5

casual torture porn

It's like regular torture porn, but you can wear jeans.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fun With Google 4

"snake swallows" movie

I have no idea where this came from.

"the manos the hands of fate of"

What the what fuck the fuck?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

On Fandom, Redux

Horror film fandom can be a pain in the ass, as I covered here in some detail. Short version: Fans can be insufficiently discriminating in terms of artistic quality (in some cases even repudiating it outright) and overly protective of perceived canonicity in cases where old stories are revisited. All of this typically overlaid with an oily sheen of entitlement that confuses purchase with patronage.

When a director says they're making a movie "for the fans", odds are that it's not going to be a good movie.

(Note: This isn't anything unique to horror film fandom. This is pretty much the case for anything from sports to music to television to whatever.)

I think a lot of this comes from combined senses of loyalty and protectiveness. Fans identify with their chosen interest, as well as the community surrounding that interest (the fandom itself). The interest is precious (hence the protectiveness), and the community is social support (hence the loyalty).

One byproduct of all of this is a weird defensiveness, as if fandom is responsible for protecting their interest from those who would criticize it. And that leads to some petty-ass bullshit.

Case in point: A brief news item on horror website Bloody Disgusting, titled "Rooney Mara Spits On Her 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' Role."

The upshot is that actor Rooney Mara said in some interview that she didn't especially want her role in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, but she did well enough in the audition to get it, and was all "holy shit, I nailed that." Which, okay, maybe a little goofy as far as stuff to talk about in an interview, but the writer treats it like she burned the flag or something.  An excerpt:
Still, she doesn't have to piss all over a film that she clearly used as a career stepping stone; treat it like a battle wound and wear it like a badge of honor. There's nothing I hate more than excuses...
Battle wound? Badge of honor? I mean, come on.  Like it or not, not everyone looks at a role in a horror movie (let alone a remake of a horror movie) as something to which they aspire. But it's work, and if you want to be a working actor, you have to work. Even if it's not great art, which this particular movie was probably not going to be. Why pretend otherwise? It's not some kind of blow against horror film, it's just one actors' opinion about one movie (which received mediocre reviews and did mediocre box office, and  received a 2/5 rating on the very site that published this). It's not news, and it's certainly not worth publishing. Who cares?

Fandom cares. Because it's all personal. Her slight on a movie nobody especially loved is a slight against them and everything they stand for. And that's not the sort of mindset - especially among a very vocal demographic - that is conducive to making good films.

Well, Howdy (2012 Edition: The Howdening).

Just taking this opportunity to say hello to all of the new folks who've come to check this thing out from Trial By Ordeal - come for the horror commentary, stay for the impenetrably obtuse attempts at cultural examination!

But seriously, just a few things...

American Horror Story was good. Damn good. I'm glad it got renewed. My attempts to recap it episode by episode during my busiest time at work? Not so good. I plan on tackling the show as a whole in a Reconsidered post soon.


So awhile back I was all mad that this movie The Devil Inside - a found-footage take on demonic possession - was being referred to as a "micro-budget franchise-starter,"mostly for reasons I outline here. Well, it finally came out, and early responses are pointing out that it, well, it doesn't really have an ending. Apparently, just as shit is getting real, there's a smash cut to black, a title card with language to the effect that "the case remains unsolved", and a URL for the movie website, where moviegoers can go to "find out the rest of the story."

Oh, sweet Christ on a bike.

I can't even call it the worst cop-out possible, because it's so wrongheaded top to bottom that it defies expectation. "Possible" implies that this is an option that would come up when thinking of various optimal and non-optimal outcomes. Who thinks it's a good idea to deny moviegoers a conclusion to the story in which they've invested themselves for 90 minutes or so in favor of a website that's really not much more than a bunch of YouTube clips?

Now, I'm no marketing guru or anything, but I'm pretty sure you use the viral website to build hype for a movie, not the other way around.

The worst part (I mean, come on, shitty movies get made every day) is that it got a huge marketing push, so enough butts got put in seats to give the movie the strong opening weekend it needed. It's already made enough money that it's pretty much a lock that this is indeed a "franchise-starter", even if the word of mouth on the terrible ending kills any momentum it has.

I'm not especially interested in the money side of the film industry, but this is how shit continues to get made, shit that continues to clog theaters and pretty much serve as the public face of scary movies. And people wonder why horror isn't taken seriously as a genre often enough?


No matter how many episodes of Holmes on Homes or Holmes Inspection I watch, Mike Holmes never runs across a crawlspace filled with buried corpses or a bricked-over room with a stained altar to a forgotten god, covered with awful eldritch writing. A man can dream, though. A man can dream.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wake in Fright: The (Real) Hangover

First, I want to put in a plug for the documentary Not Quite Hollywood. It's a history of exploitation film in Australia, and it's a gold mine for anyone into the gamut of genre film. Thanks to this documentary, I've been introduced to Turkey Shoot, a grimy, postapocalyptic take on The Most Dangerous Game; Stone, which is pretty much the Manos: The Hands of Fate of biker movies; and if I could find copies of the horror movies Patrick and Next of Kin, I'd be a happy man.

It also covers a harsh, oppressive character study called Wake in Fright.

Wake in Fright (a/k/a Outback) is the story of John Grant, a schoolteacher in the remote Outback community of Tiboonda. Well, "community" might be a bit of a stretch - Tiboonda appears to consist of a schoolhouse, a train stop, and a combination bar/boardinghouse. It's the last day before Christmas break, and everyone sits at their desks in complete silence as Grant, unsmiling, ticks away the last few minutes. He doesn't get a break, so nobody else does either. He's a bonded teacher - when he took his position, he had to post a $1000 bond to ensure completion of his teaching contract. This is presumably why he's teaching in Tiboonda and why he seems so angry about it. Every inch of him strains against his obligation.

But, it's Christmas break, and Grant is headed to Sydney to spend the break with his girlfriend. He takes the train from Tiboonda to the mining town of Bundanyabba, where he'll stay the night before catching a flight to Sydney in the morning. "The 'Yabba" is a friendly town - always someone willing to stand you to a drink, always some gambling to do. Grant just wants to have a drink in peace before heading to Sydney, but in the 'Yabba, there's not a whole lot to do, and a whole lot of people to do it with. And before it's all over, schoolteacher John Grant will be alone, broke, filthy, sitting on the floor of a shack with the barrel of a rifle in his mouth.

I watched Wake in Fright while recovering from minor surgery, so I was drifting in and out of consciousness for a few days, groggy, medicated and in diffuse discomfort. Normally not the best state in which to watch most movies, but perfect for watching this. The whole movie feels like a druggy bad dream - abrupt cuts, blasts of rapid-fire imagery, blown-out, harsh lighting, and characters who can barely communicate, stuck in emotional arrest. The quality of the print I saw was poor, so the washed-out look is especially bad - it's got that raw 1970s exploitation film look, and on top of that, pretty much any daytime scene is oppressively white, with the characters drifting in and out of visibility. 

And this is what John Grant's story is - fragmentary, half-remembered moments drifting in and out of  clarity, interrupted by ugly, squalid eruptions of violence and shame. It's not a horror movie, per se, but Grant's fate seems inescapable and the hospitality of the town is almost predatory (every grin is a baring of teeth). Ultimately, Grant wanders the streets, filthy and insensate, a zombie among the living.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kill List: The Banality of Evil

This is sort of frustrating.

I want to tell you why I think Kill List is a really great movie, but at the same time, the less you know about it going in, the better. Normally I try to at least outline the premise to give you an idea of what kind of story this is, but seriously, half of what makes this movie so good is the way our understanding of the situation unfolds over almost the entire course of the movie like the blooming of some awful, poisonous flower.

Seriously, I think the brief blurb on IMDB gives away too much.

Jay is a family man, with a wife, son, house in the suburbs, and a jacuzzi for an old back injury. But money is tight - he hasn't worked for 8 months, and seems reluctant to go back. It's a tense household, sketched with an acid pen during a dinner party that is as excruciating as anything from Neil LaBute's early work. In the wake of the inevitable blow-up in front of guests, Jay's friend Gal mentions that he has work for the two of them. It's unclear what they do exactly - they served in the military and then private security together, but that's about it. Jay's reluctant to get back up on the horse - apparently things went badly the last time they worked together - but he needs the money, the work is local, and it shouldn't take him away from his family for too long.

Yeah, I don't want to say anything past that. But, you know, it's a horror movie, so you know things aren't going to go well.

Where Kill List excels is in creating a mood that can best be described as sinister. The awful and the everyday coexist comfortably in almost every scene of this film. Violence erupts, ending as abruptly as it began. Even the quiet moments are thick with dread and unease. Adding to the sense of disorientation and wrongness is a narrative told in fragments, as if the lives of the characters are isolated moments, strung together in sequence with little sense of moving from one state to another. Sometimes we can fill in the gaps, sometimes we can't. The characters talk around things until they eventually become clear. Weird little bits of savagery lie side by side next to quiet domestic interludes, and little by little, things begin to add up, for Jay and Gal as well as the audience. We might have a little bit of a head start on the protagonists in the Something Is Not Right Here sweepstakes, but Jay and Gal aren't stupid - just out of their depth.

This is ultimately a movie that you feel, rather than think through. Very little, if anything, is explained outright - there are no exposition dumps or flashbacks there to tell us what it all means, so we're left with the unsettling feeling that as bad as what we're seeing is, there is something much worse lurking just out of sight. We spend most of the movie privy to one small part of one small nightmare, but in the back of our heads, we know something else is happening, and it reveals itself quietly, the monster that was there the entire time.

Release information on IMDB