Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New Review: Deliver Us From Evil

Oh, you thought I meant here. No, the review is up on From Midnight with Love. Please check it on out.

Also, forgive me for slacking on the Uwe Boll-fest, there have been personal matters. Next up is Seed, then probably Stoic. To tide you over, here's some papier mache jack-o-lanterns I made last Halloween.

Jasognome - One of my horror-themed garden gnomes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reconsidering Uwe Boll: Part One - Rampage (2009)

“How can you not have heard of this movie?”
My soon-to-be brother-in-law explained that Rampage was exactly my kind of movie. A dude makes his own body armor and goes on an epic shooting spree. First he bombs the police station so the town’s first line of defense is in tatters, then he stalks the streets, going from building to building to take out everyone hiding inside. The few remaining police arrive and open fire, but it's useless. He mows them down and continues the massacre, specifically targeting people who had pissed him off, but also taking out any and everybody along the way. My kind of movie indeed. It sounded nearly identical to a short story I'd conceived of years ago, but never got around to writing. I was intrigued. How had this one sneaked past me?

He pulled the movie up on his laptop as I giddily waited for the mayhem to begin. Ominous music plays over production company credits, then an abstract out-of-focus shot of some trees. A shitty car pulls into a turnout in the woods. More credits. White text on a black screen punctuated by bits of movie. A young man gets out of the car and takes off his black shirt. Dang, I know that actor, but from where? More credits. Now he's throwing his clothes into a metal barrel and dousing them with gasoline. It's nearly one minute into the movie and I'm far too excited about what is to come. The ominous music continues to slowly swell... and then the horror begins. Another credit suddenly appears, staring me in the face with a sinister smirk. That most dreaded of credits: An Uwe Boll Film.

My expectations plummeted. One minute I'm anticipating a hitherto unknown masterpiece; the next I'm preparing for a joyless slog through an incompetent, exploitative mess of a film that I'd have to pretend to like. That or tell my future family member he has deplorable taste in movies.

Totally understandable if you assumed Uwe Boll's Rampage was a live-action adaptation of this.

Then the miracle. Despite everything I thought I knew about Uwe Boll, the crowdsource-crowned Worst Living Filmmaker and modern-day Ed Wood, I fucking loved it! This new Rampaging Boll is utterly unrecognizable from the hack who churned out tax-shelter video game adaptations for the better part of the aughties. This was the single most hated director of our age. His reviled name is synonymous with the worst kind of schlocky movies, not the kind that are so bad they're good, but the kind that are so bad that they make you angry for having wasted your time. Just what was going on here?

I'm still not sure what to think. Has Boll been unfairly judged all along? Did he actually improve as a filmmaker but nobody noticed because they were too busy hating on him? Or was this just some weird fluke and he made a decent film on accident? Let's examine some of the evidence, find out what exactly made Rampage so good, and see if we can surmise some answers.

The Cast

All the performances (aside from the inappropriately calm barista) are uniformly good, from Matt Frewer’s well-meaning, but over-bearing father to Shaun Sipos’s YouTube-ranting, all-talk, coffeeshop revolutionary. But the true standout is Brendan Fletcher as the shooter, Bill Williamson. I remember him giving a solid, awkwardly creepy performance as a mentally-challenged person in Terry Gilliam’s Tideland, but mostly he’s one of those where-have-I-seen-him-before character actors you vaguely recognize but can’t quite place. Not anymore. Watch Rampage and you’ll start recognizing him left and right. Pop in Freddy vs. Jason and you’ll be like, “Oh shit, Brendan Fletcher’s in this? Oh yeah, he was my favorite character in this movie, why didn’t I remember him?”

As Bill Williamson, Fletcher has an awkward charm. When he's passing as normal, he's polite and reasonable, though the cracks start to show when he gets confrontational. He's also a classic wiseass with a comeback for everybody. Even in the middle of the bloodbath he'll crack an ironic, deadpan joke. But he’s also a ticking time-bomb of rage, furiously pumping iron while listening to a barrage of alarmist news stories and AM radio doomsayers. And woe be unto him who screws up his Macchiato. In the excerpts of his YouTube manifesto, Fletcher's reptilian eyes are off-the-scales creepy, and his unfazed demeanor during the shootings is chillingly real.

The Style

The dialogue in Rampage is mostly improvised, giving the film a naturalistic feel and ensuring the actors aren’t just rattling off stilted script-filler that could risk turning them into cardboard placeholders rather than fully-realized characters. The camerawork is handheld, which will be off-putting for those bothered by the technique, but I thought it was fittingly chaotic. The first 3rd of the film is all character and dialogue-driven preamble to the massacre, which will be boring for those looking only for a quick fix of blood and guts, but this is important stuff. When something like this happens in the real world, that’s the first question everybody asks, “How could anyone do this? What drove them to commit these atrocities?” A film like this attempts, at least partially, to answer this question. Then it walks you, in graphic detail, through the Hell that ensues.

Is it exploitation? 

A resounding Hells-Yes! But is that all it is? All horror movies are, by definition, exploitation films because they exploit our fears. They use violence, or possession, hauntings, disease that deforms our bodies, or even muthafuckin snakes on a muthafuckin plane to simulate the fear we would experience in those situations. In a way, all movies are exploitative, as they manipulate our emotions, from love to sadness to anger. There may be an element of “Too soon,” distastefulness to Rampage, and the cynics among us might chalk it up to a cheap attempt to cash in on real-world tragedies. But fuck that noise. This is horror at its most potent. In the 80s, it was all slashers, all that time, and why not? This was the era of Richard Ramirez and John Wayne Gacy. There was a very real fear that some psycho could chop you up and store you in their basement freezer. But ever since Columbine, our national fear has shifted to mass murder in crowded places. The closer to reality a horror film gets, the more potent it is, and honestly, the more important it is as art.

The Meaning

Why does Bill Williamson do it? He has his reasons, which he states explicitly in the end, but Boll shows us not only the killer's words, but his world. He is constantly disrespected by his parents, his boss, his goddamned barista, and even the waitress at the chicken restaurant. He fills his hours in the echo chamber of negative sensationalist media coverage, warping his perspective. But to be fair, there’s a lot of truth in that same media coverage. So much inhumanity and indifference. A pervasive cultural malaise that can actually infect a susceptible person and prey on their violent tendencies. This ain’t no House of the Dead. This is genuine cultural commentary. It’s actually surprising how few movies have been made about mass shootings, given their pervasiveness in American life. And true to form, no one dares show it as unflinchingly as Uwe Boll.

Favorite scenes

To be perfectly honest, as much praise as I’ve heaped on this movie, much of the titular rampage comes off as rather clinical. There’s so much violence it becomes numbing. It is only in those moments where the killing-spree slows down and focuses on the victims as individuals that we really feel the gravity of the murders. As such, here’s a rundown of my favorite moments (Minor Spoilers ahead):

Bill has machine-gunned down dozens of people in the streets and they have finally scattered and found shelter. One unfortunate woman is boxed in with nowhere to hide. As Bill is reloading, he spots her and says congenially, “Oh, hi. Scary shit, huh?” Then as he’s popping in a fresh clip, “Here we go,” and guns her down from ten feet away. It’s brutal.

The Beauty Salon
The streets are empty and everyone’s in hiding, so Bill’s got to go looking for them. He enters a Beauty Salon, herds the employees and patrons into a corner and has himself a little breather. He takes off his helmet and has a drink of water while the terrified women plead for their lives. He responds by mocking them with, “Chirp chirp chirp chirp,” effectively saying they’re merely a bunch a pretty little birds and nothing they can say will get through to him. You can guess how the scene ends.

The BINGO Parlour
Skip this section if you haven’t seen the movie. I really don’t want to spoil it.
Bill hits the jackpot with his next stop, A crowded BINGO parlour where the docile retirees could triple his body count in two minutes. But there’s no screaming, no panic. No one bats an eye at him. He briefly terrorizes the clerk at the snack counter, then goes on to snatch a BINGO ball and calls out the numbers, ensuring that everyone finally notices him. But still, no fear, hardly a change in their facial expressions. Then he just quietly leaves, muttering, “You guys don’t need my help at all.” Classic.

Is this a fluke?

That’s what I had to wonder as soon as the credits rolled on Rampage. Maybe the quality of the film had less to do with Uwe Boll than it did the acting chops of the cast. Brendan Fletcher served as co-producer, so his contribution is unquestionable. The one and a half Boll movies I’d seen before this (I turned off House of the Dead halfway through, and thought Bloodrayne was a goofy-but-enjoyable guilty pleasure) suggested I shouldn’t give too much credit in the direction department. Then I watched Seed, a film Boll had made two years earlier. Seed is deeply, perhaps even fatally flawed, but absolutely powerful in its nihilism. In short, a movie that sticks with you for quite awhile. So I have to conclude that no, Rampage was not a fluke, and the trajectory of these four films suggests a Uwe Boll that has vastly improved as a director, and is no longer worthy of the internet’s ceaseless ridicule. But I want more evidence. I’ve got to figure out this enigma. I must immerse myself in this man’s filmography and try to separate that gr-Uwe from the Boll-shit.* Won’t you join me?

*Okay, this joke only works if you know the man’s name is pronounced “Ooh-vay Bull,” if then.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

And the Winners is... MMM Awards 2013 Winners

Welcome, Whores of Salem, to the First Annual Montana Mancave Massacre Excellence in Horror Awards!

I know all 22 of my readers have been waiting, huddled 'round their monitors for the suspense to be over. Fear not Cavecrawlers! The winners of the first annual MMMies are assembled below and just a'waitin' to receive their prizes. What prizes, you may ask? Each winner will receive, upon written request, a framed printout (from my very own shitty Kodak printer) of the MMMie statuette pictured above. But wait, that's not all. Additionally, each winner will also receive a no-expenses-paid trip to Helena, MT, where they can spend a magical evening watching a hand-picked selection of horror films with yours truly, in the legendary Mancave. That's right, imagine, if you will, the glamour of sitting on my paint-stained hand-me-down sofa and swilling micros from the Blackfoot River Brewery straight from the growler while screening Dawn of the Mummy on my 24-inch VHS/DVD combo TV. I can feel your genitals tingling just thinking about it. So without further to-do... The Winners!


The Best Actress Winner is...



Meg Foster for The Lords of Salem

Go ahead, call it a comeback. I was just too jazzed about Meg Foster's triumphant return to the silver screen that I couldn't help but give her the prize. She owns Lords of Salem. While on set, she had a daily habit of putting Rob Zombie into a headlock and demanding, "Who owns Lords of Salem?" When Rob would concede with a whimpered, "You do," she would only squeeze harder and say, "I do what?" Not until he answered with the appropriate, "You own Lords of Salem Ms. Foster," could that day's shooting begin. But don't feel sorry for the distinguished Mr. Zombie. He loved every minute of it.

The Best Novelization Winner is...



The Lords of Salem by Rob Zombie and B.K. Evenson

Another reason not to feel sorry for the distinguished Mr. Zombie. He's been awarded an MMMie in a category that wasn't even announced. There was literally no competition in this category, because while there were some novels adapted for the screen this year, I'm pretty sure this was the only honest-to-gods novelization of a horror movie in 2013. It's a pretty fun read too. It was written by Brian Evenson based on Rob Zombie's original screenplay, meaning that it is Zombie's vision for the film before budget constraints and other realities of filmmaking came into play. There are a few scenes I really wish would have made it into the film.  For instance, when they first play the Lords record over the air, their phones start ringing off the hook with women begging for them to play it again, and men who violently hate the song. After each time they play it, a woman in Salem murders her husband or boyfriend in grisly, ritualistic fashion. But for every scene I wished had made it were about 3 things I'm glad he changed in the film. So, if you're obsessed with Lords of Salem like I am, pick this one up for sure.

The Best Actor Winner is...



Toby Jones for Berberian Sound Studio


When I first conceived these awards, I was convinced that Best Actor was going to A.J. Bowen for You're Next! Bowen is awesome in everything, and the subtle choices he makes in it add up to perfect, especially on the second viewing. But the more I thought about it, I became convinced that no other horror movie this year was as completely dependent on its lead's performance than Berberian Sound Studio. And honestly, I was a little disappointed with the film. But I was absolutely impressed with Mr. Jones, who finally gets to be the star of a movie after a career's worth of fantastic character acting.

The Year's Most Pleasant Surprise was...



Would You Rather?


I wasn't expecting much from this one. I love Jeffrey Combs, but his presence doesn't guarantee a movie won't suck. Other than him, the big names were Sasha Grey, who you might know from porn, and Britanny Snow, who starred in the infuriatingly bad Prom Night remake. Well, Ms. Snow completely redeems herself here, turning in a convincing and powerful performance. While there's darker places a movie with this premise could have gone, there was some pretty shocking violence and a banquet full of tension. This one came out under the IFC Midnight imprint, which should have been a tip-off that

The Best Screenplay Winner is...


Don Coscarelli for John Dies at the End

There was some stiff competition in this category, but Coscarelli gets the MMMie simply for writing the coolest dialogue since Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While Simon Barrett and the Brothers Hayes get major points for their mastery of structure, John Dies at the End is a labyrinth of weird. Around every corner is a scene even stranger, funnier, and more imaginative than the last. And yes, David Wong gets major credit for penning the source material, but Coscarelli took that divine madness and turned it into a funhouse of a movie every bit as addictive as Soy Sauce.


The Year's Biggest Disappointment was...


Pretty much my expression during the whole movie.


The Last Exorcism Part II


Now I love a good slow-burn horror movie, but this one was more of a no-burn. And I'll admit I didn't make it to the end. The Last Exorcism Part 2 bears the distinction of being the only film that's ever made me walk out of the theater. So, I guess there's a chance it got really good in the last 15 minutes, but I can't imagine sitting through the first dismal 75 again just to get there.

The Best Director Winner is...


James Wan for The Conjuring

I'm just uber-impressed with how far James Wan has come as a filmmaker, and since this may be the last opportunity I'll have to give him an MMMie, I took it. Who knows, he might delve back into horror again someday, but I expect it will be a good long while. Cheers, Mr. Wan, I'm looking forward to subjecting you to Shriek of the Mutilated when you finally make it 'round to the old mancave to collect on your prize.

Special Achievement in Gore Award goes to...



If a picture's worth a thousand words, an animated gif is worth, like... more.

Evil Dead


While it didn't make the cut for my top 5 best horror films, I really enjoyed Fede Alvarez's gruesome remake of Evil Dead. I suppose the film was just too light on character to push it to the top of my list, but the special effects kicked every other film's proverbial ass. This one's really fun, and I'm glad most of the initial naysayers came around.

But now, it's the moment a couple of you might have been waiting for...

And Winner of the First Annual MMM Excellence in Horror Award for Best Picture is...


You're Next!

I've been firmly aboard the Adam Wingard bandwagon since I saw A Horrible Way to Die, and many of the same things I love about that film are the very reasons I'm so enamored of this one. The characters and dialogue are very natural, very believable. While I don't always like them, I always relate at some level, or at least recognize them in people I know (okay, except for the psychos). I think the newly-dubbed mumblegore subgenre does everything that found footage movies are trying and mostly failing to do: adding that level of realism that makes the film all the more frightening. At times, particularly during the dinner scene, if feels like it could be a documentary of a real family, and it does it without having to explain why one of the characters never puts the camera down. Khalfoun's Maniac also achieves this, and is certainly more disturbing than You're Next! In fact, it was originally going to win the Best Picture MMMie, but after rewatching them both, You're Next! had the edge. Maniac is a great horror film that's easier to appreciate than to love, but You're Next! is a perfumed love letter sealed with a big, wet smootch to horror nerds everywhere.

Bonus List: Top 5 Kills of 2013 
As the credits roll on the first annual MMMies, here's a list I wrote that originally appeared on the If We Made It Podcast. It's way better when you hear those guys read it aloud, but in case you prefer the written word, here 'tis:

Marvin the Macabre’s Top Five Movie Kills of 2013:

#5 – The Blender Kill from You’re Next

So, You’re Next is going balls-out, blowing everyone’s tiny minds with homicide after brutal homicide, and the next thing you know, it turns full-on ridiculous when Australia's sweetheart Sharni Vinson jams a broken blender into a dude’s skull and plugs it in. Now, I know the homeowner is a former defense contractor and can probably afford a top of the line blender, but the human skull is somewhat thick. I’m calling bullshit.

So why does it make my top kills list?  Because it’s the set-up to the year’s second greatest line of dialogue:

A.J. Bowen: “Where’s Felix?”

Sharni Vinson: “I stuck a blender in his head and killed him.”

It doesn’t look like much on paper, but it’s all in the delivery. (The year’s best line, by the way, is “That door cannot be opened!” Again, it doesn’t really work out of context.)

#4 – X is for XXL from The ABCs of Death

The ABCs of Death is a wildly uneven compilation of shorts that range from dumb to boring to hilarious to truly disturbing. The cumulative effect of 26 batshit horror stories delivered rapid-fire was to make me honest-to-god sick to my stomach. A lot of that had to do with Xavier Gens’s third-to-last segment, X is for XXL. In it, an obese girl who gets picked on for her weight takes matters into her own hands by carving herself into her ideal shape. It takes some effort not to gag during this one.

#3 – Opening Kill from The Thompsons

So there’s this couple about to get it on in the woods, then they stop because they see someone watching them. Then they start hearing these weird sing-songy chants coming from different directions. They decide to get the fuck out of there, but too late--they're already being chased by two masked men. The masks turn out to be severed human faces. When the murderers catch up to the couple, they force them to continue the show, making them strip down and have sex in front of them. Then, mid-coitus, one of the psychos starts stabbing the dude in the face. Blood pours out onto the screaming girl as her boyfriend’s face is removed. It’s times like these I really have trouble justifying my taste in movies.

#2 – RedLucie86 from Maniac

It was difficult choosing just one kill from the incredibly violent, incredibly awesome Maniac. But RedLucie’s death really packs a punch because as an audience, we experience the whole thing, from the intial online chat to the date, followed by the seduction and finally the murder, through the eyes of her killer. I don’t know about you, but I was charmed by her during the date, and I was seduced by her afterward. And there’s no surprise that she’s going to die—we knew that from the beginning. There’s just this growing dread as the date goes on, and the more we start to like Lucie, the greater the dread becomes.

The murder itself is a simple strangling, but the pain on Lucie’s face is almost unbearable. And to top the whole thing off, we are treated to a graphic scalping that I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to get through without looking away. That’s right, for a hardcore horror geek, I’m kinda squeamish.

#1 – Jane Levy Chainsaws her Deadite Doppelganger in Evil Dead

For pure, unadulterated, gleefully-rendered gore, 2013 saw no film that came close to Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead. This one turned the violence and viscera up to 11 within the first half hour, so how do you top that? With a climax that literally rains blood and features the most over-the-top kill in recent memory. Our heroine faces off with the deadite version of herself, and chainsaws her in half from the guts straight through to the top of her head. The cherry on top comes when we see the vanquished deadite on the ground, splayed out in two halves with her eyes still twitching. Just magnificent.

Honorable Mention: Marconi Meets the Meat Monster from John Dies at the End

I couldn’t let this list go without paying respect to the badassness that is Clancy Brown as Marconi. He manages to make a demonic manifestation explode with a phone call, proving that Clancy Brown is God’s favorite human and reminding us that he will always be cooler than us, even when he’s just phoning it in.

Friday, February 28, 2014

MMM Awards 2013 - Best Director/Best Picture Nominees

You know how the winner of the Best Director Oscar almost always goes to the director of the movie that ends up winning Best Picture? This is unsurprising, given that the director is the person most directly responsible for the (artistic) success of a film. While I tried to be all contrarian and nominate Rob Zombie for best director, but not Lords of Salem for Best Picture, ultimately I decided to make the nominations the same. The awards, however, will remain separate categories. So without further ado... Noms, Beeotches!


Don Coscarelli / John Dies at the End

Among the horror luminaries of the late seventies, who is currently making the best films of their career? If you answered Dario Argento, that’s funny, smartass. If you answered, “None of them,” then you obviously haven’t been keeping up with Don Coscarelli. While Coscarelli is more known for delivering truly strange cinematic experiences than gonad-shrinking horror films, I think we can all agree he plays to his strengths and that it serves him well. More comedy than horror, John Dies at the End is probably the single-most rewatchable film of the year. Coscarelli keeps the pace fast and the one-liners in steady supply. Tonally, the film has more in common with the comedy classics of the eighties (I’m thinking Ghostbusters, Better Off Dead, Weird Science, etc.) than the current Apatovian generation of comedy. It’s not afraid to dip into the absurd, veering into the unexpected at every turn. I also love how Coscarelli has concentrated on creating unique visuals, making this movie his most iconic since the original Phantasm. Hopefully “This Movie is Full of Spiders” is in the works.


Neil Jordan / Byzantium

I didn’t see this one in time to nominate either of the two leads in the best actress category, however, please consider both Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan retroactively nominated (swelling the nominees to a heaping 12). Every frame of Byzantium is visually stunning, the performances are impeccable, and the storytelling the work of a veteran filmmaker still in his prime. Like most modern vampire films, Byzantium isn't out to scare anyone. It's a character study that examines human mortality through the lens of mythical immortal beings. As for its vampire lore, it bucks convention in several ways, most noticeably the absence of fangs. These vamps have a retractable thumb claw they use to pierce jugulars. While it seems like a small detail, the effect it has is to make the killings look like murders rather than sexual encounters. And these vampires, while impervious to sunlight, aren't super-powered creatures. They are as vulnerable as the humans they hunt and must rely on wits and surprise to earn their meals. Not only is Byzantium one of the best horror films of the year, it's one of the best vampire films period.

Vampire Gemma turns some dude into a drinking fountain.

Franck Khalfoun / Maniac

Maniac is easily the most horrifying film of 2013. From the shocking opening murder and scalping to the quickly-deteriorating would-be romance that goes terribly awry, this movie feels real, and reality feels gross. What this remake gets right is that Frank Zito can’t go straight from the most out-of-control homicidal freak in the western hemisphere to a super-suave ladies man from one scene to the next, which was the downfall of the original (also, imagining a beautiful, successful photographer would have any interest in a dude looking like Joe Spinell is too much disbelief to suspend). This version of Frank makes much more sense because he’s attractive in Elijah Wood’s non-threatening, boyish way, he’s mostly capable of blending into society, and he shares a very specific niche passion with his love interest, lending the attraction some credibility. Khalfoun’s decision to shoot the movie almost entirely from Frank’s point of view was a risk that ultimately paid off in spades. There’s a side of Frank that clearly doesn’t want to be doing what he does, but he’s powerless to stop. Shooting POV-style with the audience as the killer puts us in exactly this position. We don’t want him to kill all those women, but we’re forced to bear witness. Oh hell, who am I kidding, we’re horror fans, obviously we want him to kill those women, and we even manage to enjoy it, excruciating a viewing experience as it is.


James Wan / The Conjuring

Sorry James, my parents told me how babies are made when I was eight.

The Conjuring is the only film on this list that I actually reviewed, so I don’t feel the need to write about it at length (Here’s the review, if you’re interested). I’d just like to note that, for me, half the fun of the movie was seeing how themes and elements from James Wan’s previous films came together so effectively. Prior to The Conjuring, I knew James Wan as a director who made good-but-not-great horror films. I always find plenty to like in his movies, but I’ve never felt like he was getting everything right. However, The Conjuring is the work of a man who has finally mastered his craft. And while we’re losing the man to big-budget action films, I get the sense that he’s not leaving horror with contempt for the genre, but rather a fond, "My work here is complete."


Adam Wingard / You’re Next!

Did you know that up until You’re Next!, every wide-release horror film to come out in 2013 was the number one release for its respective weekend (with the exception of World War Z, which was #2, but it made more money than most of the #1’s). It seemed like Adam Wingard’s year to hit the big time, and the box office forecasts agreed, predicting it too would open at number one. It was one of my most anticipated movies for two years running; I was desperate to see it and I figured everyone else would be too. And then it debuted at number a miserable #6. This was all the more surprising because it was so freaking good! I figured word of mouth would get out and make it a sleeper hit, but ticket sales dried up quickly and it soon disappeared from theaters. Despite this disappointment, the movie is still a hit, considering it grossed, like, 18 times its budget. But still, I thought it would be this generation’s Scream.

Box office aside, the movie is fast, fun, and rewatchable as hell. It’s not so much a game-changer as it is a sign that the filmmakers doing horror today take their craft seriously and are elevating the genre by injecting it with actual characterization and attention to storytelling. I love Jason Voorhees as much as the next guy, but honestly, even at the time those slashers were seen as throwaway cinematic junk food. And while You’re Next! is a piece of entertainment that doesn’t pretend to have loftier goals, it is a cleverly-conceived, expertly-executed gem of the genre, and a horror fan’s wet, bloody dream.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

MMM Awards 2013 - Best Screenplay Nominations

Simon Barrett - You're Next!

Here's a trick for you. How do you write a slasher/home invasion flick that's both effectively horrifying and truly funny without descending into self-parody? And how do you write a movie that's funny, yet contains no real jokes? Also, how do you write this movie in such a way that if the horror elements were removed, it would still be an engaging family drama? Ask Simon Barrett.  Not only are the characters and dialogue genuine, but the tightly crafted plot unwinds expertly, with each reveal perfectly timed. While I was watching it, the first big reveal seemed to come too soon in the movie. I felt like, I'm not supposed to know that yet, but Barrett knows what he's doing. This information sets up some truly Hitchcockian tension later on. This guy knows his horror, and plays with audience expectations like a true veteran. Here's to a long, productive career, Mr. Barrett.
Best line: "I stuck a blender in his head and killed him."

Moira Buffini - Byzantium


Adapting her own stage play: A Vampire Story, Moira Buffini penned some of the most eloquent dialogue even spoken in a genre film. The story itself is relatively simple, yet the way Buffini structures it endows the film with enough mystery to keep it compelling while keeping the central focus on her characters. The device of having Eleanor tell bits of her story to various people keeps the narrative non-linear and allows Buffini to time her reveals with surgical precision. Eleanor and Clara are two very different women with wildly different experiences in their formative years, yet who have been together for two centuries. The fun of Byzatium is that we see these women at a specific point in their lives, get to know their wildly different personalities, and bit by bit, get pieces of insight about what made them the people (okay, vampires) they’ve become. A compelling story, beautifully told.

Don Coscarelli - John Dies at the End

I'm not sure how much of it is Don Coscarelli and how much is David Wong, but I will be quoting dialogue from John Dies at the End on my deathbed. From what I understand, adapting a book as insane and expansive as this took some doing. People who've read it complain that Coscarelli used only about a third of the book, picking and choosing scenes he wanted to include and leaving out major events. To me, this only proves his skill as a screenwriter. Instead of trying to jam everything in, he created something distinctly different, yet in the same spirit as the novel. It's also encouraging to see that someone who's been in the horror game as long as Coscarelli is only getting better while his contemporaries fade from the spotlight.
Best dialogue (aside from "That door cannot be opened."):
David: "Are you familiar with the old human saying, 'I want to shoot you so bad my dick's hard'?"
Roger North: "I don't believe I do."
David: "Well maybe you'll hear it again in the next 24 hours if you don't fuck with me."


Chad and Carey Hayes - The Conjuring

The Conjuring is one slick, tightly-crafted thrill ride of a movie. Make no mistake, this is mainstream Hollywood stuff, but it's not the cynical, just-out-to-make-a-buck piece of Michael Bay-produced shit. This is quality horror, lovingly created by people who actually give a shit about making an awesome movie. And while director James Wan gets the lion's share of the credit for the film's mood and pacing, he was building on a rock solid foundation laid down by the Brothers Hayes. They deserve major props just for the decision to not only open with a pee-your-pants-scary possessed doll sequence, but to spring that little bitch on us again in the third act.


Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, and Amy Jump - Sightseers


Written and conceived by the films two stars, Sightseers is the anti-Natural Born Killers. It portrays perhaps the most low-key killing spree ever committed to film. Tina is a reserved, homebody barely able to stand up to her overbearing mother, while her new boyfried Chris is an avid sightseer with interests as fascinating as tram museums and injection-molded plastics. He also happens to be completely unhinged when it comes to things like littering. Lowe and Oram perfectly capture the mundane details of life as an ordinary, boring couple on holiday, yet infuse the film with violence and gore that leaves you mildly shocked despite your laughter. While it is a comedy with a fairly absurb premise, the characters are fully realized, and half the fun is watching Tina bloom from a mousy little victim into someone in charge of her own destiny. Not to spoil anything, but the last moments of the film are completely unexpected, yet make perfect sense in terms of the characters and their motivations. Sightseers barely qualifies as horror, because it doesn’t even try to scare you, but it should satisfy horror fans who prefer to take their comedy black.