Monday, December 19, 2011

A Christmas GIF(t) for You

Dear Readers,

I know you haven't been feeling the warm glow of my affection for most of the month. Forgive me. I've been busy spreading the spirit of the season in person, and figured my boob post would tide you over. As a token of my love, I'm bestowing upon you this Christmas GIF as a reminder that you're always in my heart at this most joyeaux time of year.

Two Turtledoves if you can identify this movie...

Friday, December 2, 2011

P2 - How Rachel Nichols's Boobs Almost Ruined a Feature Film

I said "almost," okay?

But before I reveal myself as a complete sexist pig, let's discuss the non-Rachel-Nichols's-Boobs aspects of the film.

P2 is a 2008 horror film written and produced by one of my favorite new(ish) filmmakers, Alexandre Aja and his partner in crime, Gregory Levassuer. Aja handed over directing duties to Franck Khalfoun on this one, but it still bears Aja's trademark suspense (or should I say haute tension?). The film takes place after hours on Christmas Eve in an all-but-abandoned parking garage. Angela (Nichols) has been working long hours and is already way late for a Christmas get-together at her sister's house when her car (surprise) won't start. The friendly and helpful security guard, Thomas (Wes Bentley), comes to her aid shortly before drugging her and chaining her to a table for a nice Christmas Eve dinner.

With a set-up like this, you can expect a relatively low body count, a lot of psychological tension, and a heaping helping of Wes Bentley-brand Crazy Eyes!

Wes Bentley's Crazy EyesTM

"Thanks for ruining Christmas, ASSHOLE!"

I don't know what it is about Wes Bentley, but I get really excited whenever he shows up in a movie.  I've liked him ever since I first saw him in American Beauty, but if I'm being honest, he hasn't shown me much else to recommend him. In fact, in Ghost Rider he was spectacularly awful. In P2, he swings wildly back and forth from a charming, personable guy to a complete raving nutbag, but he does it well. When he's putting on the charm, he's genuinely likable, and when he loses it, he comes completely unhinged.


Like him or hate him as an actor, in P2 he's never boring, and he owns the screen every second he's on it. Except, of course, when he has to share it with Rachel Nichols's boobs.

I came here to SPOIL THIS MOVIE for you, and to chew bubble gum. And I'm all out of bubble gum.

Alright, here's why I lay the blame for nearly ruining this movie on Ms. Nichols's otherwise perfect breasts: Early on in the film, Thomas drugs Angela and puts her in a lovely white dress for Christmas dinner. Here's what she looks like in the dress:

Spectacular, yes? Just about makes your eyes pop out of your head, right? Exactly. That's the problem. All the effort Khalfoun puts into building tension is undercut by the cut of her dress. Oh, there's a big freakin' Rottweiler she's got to sneak past? Terrifyi... huh, huh, boobies.

Damn! She's trapped in the trunk of a car! She's going to miss her only chance to alert the cops who are just about to leave unless she can... My God would you look at those things!

Oh Hell, she's trapped in an elevator that is rapidly filling with water! Do I even care? All I can think about is that she's wearing a white dress that is about to get very, very wet.

I don't mean to sound so fixated, but Ms. Nichols, your breasts are downright distracting. A neckline a mere 3 inches higher would have heightened the tension of the movie by a power of ten. There are, however, some effective scenes in which her chest is not in frame. For instance, there's the incredibly gory, incredibly disturbing vehicular homicide scene.

The intestines aren't actually the worst part of this scene. The way the body slides down the wall just kills me.

Then there's Rachel Nichols stabbing a dog in the neck with a tire iron. Hey, you know, when you're actually looking at her face, she's a pretty good actress.

And of course, there's Wes Bentley getting his Elvis-karaoke on to Blue Christmas, giving Rachel ample time to locate an axe.

...but I'll have a bloo, bloo, bloo, bloo Christmas...

I suppose that leaves the question of whether the movie was any good. Some good performances and a stunning kill sequence aside, P2 is nothing special. I enjoyed it, and I'll probably watch it again, but I can't heartily recommend it to anyone but fans of Wes Bentley... or boobs.

Wes Bentley, or Boobs?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday: The Movie

I just saw that a woman in LA pepper sprayed 20 people at a Walmart to keep them away from the electronics deals she was after. As sinister as "Black Friday" sounds, and as it is becoming, I believe it's high time someone wrote a horror film capitalizing on the "holiday."

So why not us?

I hereby propose that Marvin the Macabre and the readers of The Montana Mancave Massacre collaborate on a crowd-sourced film script for "Black Friday." Here's how it will work (assuming anyone is interested):

Let's start with a simple concept, say, there's a must-have toy for the 2012 Christmas season that creates such intense desire that it turns consumers into blood-thirsty, primal berzerkers who are willing to maim and kill for the opportunity to possess it. Now, everyone who wants to participate can send me ideas for plot points, scenes, characters, locations, situations, basically whatever ideas you want to contribute. Probably the easiest way to do this would be to submit ideas via the Montana Mancave Massacre Facebook page, but for those who avoid Facebooking at all costs, you can contribute via the comments section, or by emailing me at

We'll all get an opportunity to comment on and discuss the submitted ideas, then I'll act as editor, making the final decision on what goes into the script. Once we've got a viable concept, we'll figure out how to divide up writing duties.

Sound interesting to anyone?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mad Black People Bout to Cut Someone

I believe I mentioned previously the awesome person who found my site using the search term "bat junk." Well this week, someone got to the Mancave using the term "mad black people bout to cut someone." While "Bat Junk!" was the actual title of my post, I have no idea why this other person got directed to me.

However, I think "Mad black people bout to cut someone" would be a kick-ass theme for a post. Trouble is, I'm having trouble coming up with horror-related scenes that fit this theme. Okay, Candyman, obviously, but what else?

Thus I task you, my faithful readers with helping me compile a list of "Mad Black People 'Bout to Cut Someone" in horror. Lay it on me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fear of a Red State

Kevin Smith announced his retirement from directing right around the same time that Red State premiered. Which is to say, just when he was starting to look promising again. It’s been a rough several years for Kevin Smith fans, watching him rehash old characters, direct other people’s scripts, and generally failing to deliver anything fresh. Then, just as the world had written him off as a one-trick pony, he goes and makes a film that is such a departure from his oeuvre, that doesn’t center entirely around witty banter, that feels genuinely cinematic, and that is such a departure from the rest of his oeuvre that you’d think he’d experienced a personal career renaissance. It feels like the work of a man with a renewed passion for his craft, not someone so fed up with filmmaking that he’s talking retirement in his thirties.

From the get-go, Red State does not feel like a Kevin Smith film. The grainy, grimy, low-budget feel of the film seems like an artistic choice rather than a byproduct of its admittedly low budget. Okay, that’s faint praise, I know, but Smith himself has said in interviews that he doesn’t much care what his films look like.
The dialogue, for the most part, doesn’t sound like your typical Kevin Smith rapid-fire back and forth between a couple of wittier-than-thou fanboys. The teenagers who are lured to the Five Point Church may shoot off a couple of good one-liners now and again, but it doesn’t sound blatantly scripted. A lot of their dialogue suggests lame attempts to sound cool to each other rather than Smith’s attempt to sound cool to his audience. Tucker, of the If We Made It Podcast, points out that this is the first time Smith has actually written characters rather than mouthpieces for himself. That about sums it up perfectly. Once the government siege starts, there’s a bit of conspicuous, too-clever-for-its-own-good Kevin Smith dialogue, but by that point you’ve already been treated to Michael Parks’s riveting 15 minute sermon, and if you’re not won over by that, just turn the movie off.

Michael Parks has never been better than he is here, with a menacingly understated performance full of creepy charm. You watch him preach and can instantly understand why followers would flock to him, hanging on his every repulsive, honey-coated word. As long as the sermon scene went on, I didn’t want it to end. But it ends with a blast, literally. The murder at the end of the sermon was truly an original one, and a brilliant little piece of indie-ingenuity. The church has got a homosexual wrapped from neck to toe in plastic wrap, before the murder, they wrap up the rest of his head, then shoot straight down into the top of his skull. The plastic wrap fills with blood, but it is contained for easy clean-up. Given the budget he was working with, I’m sure the plastic wrap bit was something of a necessity. Not having to show his face meant not needing an expensive prosthetic or digital effects. But the end result is an truly original death scene that turns your stomach without being overly gory.
Another aspect of the film that impressed me was the direction of the action sequences. Action is hard to shoot effectively, and for someone not too experienced with this type of film, Smith pulls it off admirably. My favorite sequence (aside from Parks’s monologue) is the scene where one of the teenagers has freed himself, found an assault rifle, and needs to find a way out. He runs through these tight hallways that amplify his footfalls and really give you a sense of the physical space. It feels chaotic and claustrophobic even before they zealots spot him and give chase. Once the chase is on, this same feeling is ratcheted up about ten notches until the teenager finally gets out into the open and is suddenly shot by the government agents that the audience didn’t even know was there. Smith works in several jaw-dropping shocks like this, leaving me to wonder why he’s been so focused on comedy all these years.
It’s also worth mentioning that the sound design is pretty much perfect in this film. Those booming footfalls in the corridors are really what drive that scene, and during the firefight between the church members and the feds, the gunshots are so powerful and feel so close that it really puts you on edge. It feels incredibly dangerous, more so than in your typical action movie. At the end of the film, these incredibly powerful horn blasts come out of nowhere, signaling to the church members that the rapture is at hand. Ever through my crappy speakers, the sound of those blasts rattled the floor and added a truly jarring element at just the right time in the film. I was very much in awe at this point.
…Which brings me to the film’s basic structural flaw that robs the audience of its climax and pretty much neuters the film. After the trumpet blasts ring out, the true believers put down their weapons and emerge from the compound in triumph, not to surrender, but to declare victory. They confront the feds, and John Goodman’s character, who is leading the raid, believes on some level that the trumpets are a sign not to slaughter the church membership as per his orders. The film goes right to the tipping point, and you’re not sure if the feds are going to open fire, or if brimstone will shower down from the sky, and then…
…then you’re in a government conference room during John Goodman’s debriefing. He explains what exactly happened (the trumpet sounds were a conveniently-timed practical joke by some hippy neighbors). Then he relays a not entirely applicable anecdote about dogs fighting over a turkey leg, makes a ham-fisted point about the dangerous of dogmatic beliefs, and leaves.
This isn’t the first time that Kevin Smith has given me false hope that the end of the world is nigh. One of his first shots at writing comics was a Daredevil story where all kinds of weird happenings were pointing to the endtimes. Of course, in the end it was all just a hoax perpetrated an obscure villain orchestrated solely to show off Smith’s knowledge of obscure comic book villains. I wanted Red State to end with the MUTHERFUCKING WRATH OF GOD!  I wanted the sky to open up and give the mass murderers on both sides of the spectrum a hot brimstone shower with a nice exfoliating plague of locusts on top. I mean, at this point, the audience is abundantly clear about the film’s message. The last thing we need is a dead horse-beating exposition scene.
The very last scene is pretty good though. We see Michael Parks’s good reverend in prison singing hymns to himself and demonstrating that his faith is unshaken. It goes on for some time before the distant shout of a fellow prisoner tells him to “Shut the fuck up!” Roll credits. Writing it down like this makes it sound stupid, but the humor (and poignancy) come from the juxtaposition of this scene with the sermon scene in which his followers hang on his every word and encourage him with exclamations of “Preach it!” and the like. The final scene highlights how far he’s fallen, and gives us a bit of satisfaction that the inmates aren’t likely to fall for his self-righteous sermonizing.
Way to over-explain it, Marvin.
As his “auctioning” of the film’s distribution rights suggests, Red State is a movie by a filmmaker who has given up trying to please people. Remember the last time Smith tried something new? He took a more serious dramatic turn with Jersey Girl, and when his core fanbase criticized it, he piled on too, apologizing and admitting it sucked (hey, no more than Dogma). Then he immediately went back to his tried and true characters with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. His entire career since then has been about pleasing the fans, until now. Ironically, trying to cater to his fans has led to losing many of them. If he’d just continue in the direction he started with Red State and try to grow as a filmmaker, he’d probably win them all back and then some.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Montana Mancave Massacre: The Facebook Page

If you'll kindly look to the right-hand sidebar, you may see one of those new-fangled Facebook badge gadgets. Please consider "Liking" the page, as it's certain to get updated more often than this blog.  In fact, I hereby challenge myself to drop in at least once a day, since I know your universe hinges upon hearing my opinions regularly.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What's So Scary About Chromeskull? Socioeconomic Horror

Regular readers may know that I'm a huge fan of the original Laid to Rest, which I gave a huge, slobbery anus-kiss of a review that you can read here. I was so excited about this franchise that I decided to buy the sequel brand new, sight-unseen, for full price. Coming from someone who almost never pays more than $3 for a DVD, this is no small thing. Thing is, I buy virtually all of my movies used, so when I come across a really good indie horror film, I get somewhat guilty that the creators never saw a dime of my money. To show my support for Robert Hall, I paid ten times what I did for the original Laid to Rest.  As you can see, going into Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2, I was doubly invested: emotionally and financially. This is a recipe for sky-high expectations of the sort that can lead to the most seething hatred. So here's my review: I didn't hate it.

As you've probably guessed, I didn't love it either. In fact, I've spent the last several weeks trying to sort out exactly how I feel about the film. It seems to be a series of contradictions. For instance, the story is much more complex than the original, but the movie still seems little more than a showcase for brutal kills. There's more characterization than in the original, yet by and large, the characters were less interesting. It is a much bigger movie than the first Laid to Rest, with a huge body count and spectacular kill sequences, yet the movie seems cramped compared to the original, most of it taking place in Chromeskull’s customized “playspace.” And those spectacular kills seem both more and less brutal than those of the original, going too far over the top and making them cringe-worthy for all the wrong reasons.

The beauty of the original Laid to Rest was its simplicity. It was a pretty straightforward chase movie with a masked slasher pursuing a beautiful girl. There were hints that much more was going on behind the scenes, but it never got in the way of the pure adrenaline rush of the pursuit. It's scariness came from the unknown quality of the killer. In that way, it is more like John Carpenter's Halloween, while Chromeskull L2R2 is like Rob Zombie's.

Chromeskull is scary for an entirely different reason, and one that is much less immediate than it's predecessor. While the original taps into our most primal fears of pain and death at the hands of a predator, the sequel taps into our growing collective fear of the power of the elite few. It can be read as the reflection of our anxieties in the Occupy Wall Street era.

No, I'm serious.

In this installment, we find that Chromeskull is far from a solitary madman with a couple of shiny hunting knives. He is, in fact, backed by an army of assistants who clean up after him, make sure he never gets caught, and even bring him back from the brink of death with a team of top-notch physicians. Talk about health insurance. He also has craftsmen who design him custom weapons and "playspaces" in which to hunt. In the original, there was a glimmer of hope. If you can just survive long enough to make him melt his own face off, you can beat Mr. Shiny-Noggin. In the sequel, there's no escape. You elude Chromeskull, his people will find you eventually. That's the kind of power only money can buy.

All this behind-the-scenes stuff undermines the immediate terror by giving you too much information about Chromeskull and essentially killing the unknown aspect of the character. But isn't this always the case with horror sequels? Thankfully, Robert Hall knows not to give everything away and doesn't offer up much in the way of a backstory. In the most effective scene of the movie, Chromeskull's assistant (Brian Austin Green) taunts his boss's latest victim by saying, "You know what kind of sick shit he's going to do to you?" Then he leans in close and whispers the answer in her ear, leaving it to our imagination. Robert Hall knows what a fine line he's walking with this one, and thankfully, he understands the importance of the unknown.

Did I mention that Brian Austin Green is awesome in this movie?
Don't let the goofy animated gif fool you.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Macabre Family Haunted Tomb 2010

Hey ya'll,

Sorry for the silence, but October is truly the maddest month at Casa Macabre. I've spent the bulk of my free time fashioning giant papier mache spiders for our haunted dungeon (while watching horror movies, of course), and haven't had much time for blogging.

Our dungeon isn't quite photogenic yet, so I thought I'd drop in with some pics from last year's Halloween party/haunted house. My son wanted an Egyptian-themed party, so we did what we could with our limited resources and came up with a haunted tomb that kept he and his friends occupied for days. Enjoy the highlight pics.

Descent into the tomb.

The tunnel between the basement stairs and the concrete wall featured glowing heiroglyphics, a flapping bat, and this bad boy.

Here's the view when you turned the corner. Nothing but fog and glowing red eyes. Do you dare get closer?

Owner of aforementioned eyes.

"I'm having my doubts about being a God."

The Pharoah himself. We told the kids their goal was to steal a treasure from the mummy's tomb. As soon as they did, the statue of Anubis (which was actually me in costume) stood up and chased them up the stairs. One kid tried to fight me.

I can't believe I let them smash my awesome spider pinata.

Worm-infested brains

Haunted Living Room

The Return of Haunted Living Room

Monday, October 3, 2011

Marvin the Macabre's First Annual Halloween Mixtape Recipe Exchange

The temptation for horror bloggers to declare October "Quit-my-job-and-watch-horror-movies-all-month" Month is damned-nigh overwhelming. But as packed as my schedule is going to be, it looks like I'm going to have to settle for a more modest way to mark the best holiday ever invented. Enter the First Annual MMM Recipe Exchange.

But hold on to your Eyeball Soup and Seamonster Sandwich recipes, that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm after is recipes for your ultimate Halloween mixtape. I don't know about you, but every year I seek out my favorite spooky songs, compile them on a CD (yup, old school), and put that shit on repeat in my car. Problem is, it's getting hard to find new Halloween-themed songs year after year. That's where the recipe exchange comes in. I'm calling on all readers to submit a list of ten to twenty songs that would go on their ultimate Halloween mixtape. This way I get to share some of my favorites while getting hip to what I've been missing. Sound fun? Well then, let's start this off:

1. Spiderbaby - Fantomas
2. Halloween Theme - John Carpenter
3. Creature from the Black Leather Lagoon - The Cramps
4. Pet Sematary - The Ramones
5. Gingerbread Coffin - Rasputina
6. Black Wings - Tom Waits
7. Candyman Theme - Phillip Glass
8. Night of the Vampire - Roky Erickson
9. Dracula's Wedding - Outkast
10. Witch Queen of New Orleans - Redbone
11. Theme from Scream - Marco Beltrami
12. Red Right Hand - Nick Cave
13. Astro Zombies - The Misfits
14. This is Halloween - Danny Elfman
15. Werewolf Baby - Louis King
16. Cry Little Sister (Theme from The Lost Boys) - Gerard Mcmann
17. Beware of the Blob - The Five Blobs
18. I'm Your Boogie Man - Rob Zombie
19. A Nightmare on Elm Street Theme - Charles Bernstein
20. Zombie A Go Go - Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures

Holy Crap, I can't believe how fast I rattled that off and how many I had to leave out. Now it's your turn to get your list on. I can't wait to see what you come up with.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

European Horror Month Part 6: Valerie and her Week of Wonders

Okay, so this is a late entry, but let's just pretend September has 31 days and get over it.  The final film in my less-than-prolific European Horror Fest is a 1970 Czech film directed by Jaromil Jiles and entitled: Valerie and her Week of Wonders. Although I'm not sure if this one is normally classified as a horror film, it has enough creepy, supernatural elements for me to classify it as one. It is also a fairy tale, a trippy piece of avant-garde psychedelia, and a vampire film. Above all, it is deeply, wonderfully weird and often unintentionally hilarious.

Valerie and her Week of Wonders is a coming of age story about a 13-year old girl living with her grandmother and trying to come to terms with her sexuality in the face of a lecherous clergyman and a white-faced missionary/former bishop/vampire named The Weasel who needs her blood to restore his youth. The Weasel is also a former lover of her grandmother, who desires to live with him eternally as a vampire, and is willing to sacrifice Valerie to make it happen.

I won't even try to pretend to understand what's going on in this film. The first time I watched it, I was three or more sheets to the wind, and figured that was why I wasn't following the film's logic. But no, I truly makes no sense, which I suppose is intentional and makes the film more like a dream or fairy tale. The less I try to understand it, the more I like it.

The film has a confident, clever young heroine, a creepy villains, and an atmosphere that seamlessly veers from a gorgeous pastoral painting to a gloomy gothic underworld. The color palette is a stark, symbolic black and white, on which Valerie's red hair makes her the focus of every scene.

As I see it, Valerie and her Week of Wonders is all about the difficult journey into adulthood, and the conflicting emotions we have as our sexual nature is awakened. That said, it is difficult to descipher what the film is trying to say about it. Early on, Valerie watches as a group of four women frolic in a stream, kissing each other and slipping fishes down the front of their gowns. Seriously.

Slippery little suckers, aint' they?

A little later, she watches as one of these women gets it on with a strapping local man and a line of missionaries and nuns pass by, clearly offended by (and trying not to stare at) the sight. In the films most shocking, and yet profoundly hilarious sequences, Valerie narrowly escape being raped by a priest.

The Weasel is one of these missionaries, who gathers all the town's virgins for a sermon, the whole of which goes like this:

Sermon for Virgins: "I, a servant of God, a missionary, have come to give you, dear maidens, my support and a lesson for life. Do you know what you are, oh virgin? You are the touch of an alabaster hand. An unhalved garnet apple. A boat full of leaves, an unfurling rose. The coarse hand that touches your breast will leave an ineffaceable mark upon it. But I am here with you. In place of your guardian angel. I bless your lips, your breast, your lap. Amen."

And just think about the main villain's name. The Weasel. If there's a more phallic mammal, I don't know what it is. And add to that this choice bit of dialogue: "The weasel has violated your lips." Creepy.

It seems pretty clear that the film is an indictment of the sexual hypocrisy of religious instituions, and it is, yet the message gets convoluted by scenes like the one is which Valerie shares a bed with a recently deflowered woman who has just married a man much older than her and regards it as the end of all her hopes and dreams. Upon waking, she and Valerie start kissing, and you get the sense that the missionaries aren't the only lecherous old men who have an eye for young flesh. The director seems to be getting off on shooting erotic, and yes, nude scenes featuring a 13-year-old girl.

Jaromil Jires, you lecherous old perv!
Usually, you can discern a film's message by its ending. But not here. What you get instead is a bizarre montage of the characters frolicking in nature and striking weird poses. It's as if the director had no idea how to tie up the story and said, "Fuck it, let's just make it confusing so it will seem deep and no one will admit that they didn't get it." Even as I type this, I have to wonder whether I'm being dismissive and maybe a few dozen repeat viewings will open up a dimension of the film I never realized was there. That's what art films are all about, right?

For all that, Valerie and her Week of Wonders is a beautiful, if creepy, piece of work. It is steeped in symbolism, some of it heavy-handed like the constant use of black and white to represent virginity and purity vs. corruption. It is thought-provoking, not always in ways the director intended, I'm sure, but certainly worth a watch, if only to see the paedophile priest expose his hairy chest and tooth necklace.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

European Horror Month Part 5: Lucio Fulci's Zombie

Episode 5: In which Marvin the Macabre finally fills a gaping hole in his horror viewership.

That's right folks, embarrassed as I am to admit it, I've never seen Fulci's legendary Zombie. What's worse, as far as I know, I've never seen a Lucio Fulci film. I aim to correct this tonight as I do a lo-fi version of live-blogging, one in which I blog as I watch (unfortunately I'm not tech savvy enough to let y'all read along in real time). I decided to do it this way because I realized I've only got three days left in September, and my total European Horror Month posts equal a pitiful foursome.

Let the games begin:

First thing's first: the title menu is rad!  Worms slithering from a badly decomposed zombie's eye-socket.

Next thing's next: had to turn on a light because I'm too lame to type in the dark.

I knew there were a lot of Italians in New York but damn, You'd think the police would at least speak English on duty. (Oops, I had the Italian dubbing on, my bad).

Some pretty inventive gore here. Can you imagine if the twisted mind of Fulci had gotten to works with some next-level FX wizards like Berger and Nicotero?

Wow, the sync is so bad they might as well be speaking Italian.

James the coroner's assistant should kick the coroner's patronizing ass.

(13:31) - Wow, they had techno in 1979?  It must have sounded space-age back then. Too bad they continued to rehash that same damned song for three more decades.

(17:00) - Pace is beginning to slow. Right now, the biggest threat is the reporter and daughter of the boat-owner being caught snooping around the crime scene after dark. Hopefully this will end in dismemberment.

(18:00) - A cunning ruse. Lots of couples break into boats being actively guarded as a crime scene by the police. There's no more convenient place to make out.

(26:00) - Note to Dr. Maynard's wife: If you're trying to get off an island while being dominated by your mad scientist husband, maybe you shouldn't threaten to tell the world his secrets. You can still blab once you get back to civilization, but while you're powerless, maybe use more guile. Just a thought.

(27:00) - First mention of "zombies." I'm glad this film incorporates voodoo, making the creatures proper zombies. Romero's version were "the living dead."  There are similarities, but despite popular usage of the term "zombie," they're not the same thing. Not that I'm really peeved about the broadened definition of "zombie"--it's just nice to see the original zombie myth now and again.

(34:00) - Not to sound like a pig or anything, but... SHARK and BOOBIES in the same shot!!!

(36:00) - OMG! Underwater Zombie vs. Underwater Boobies!

(37:00) - That zombie-playing dude is actually (mock-)biting that shark. This is truly impressive. I've heard about the famous shark vs. zombie sequence, and I'm digging it. It's not the most exciting piece of cinema ever, and these days they'd undoubtedly go with a CGI shark to enhance the action, but back in the day they didn't have a choice. While it kind of takes your mind out of the film and into the "making of" featurette, this is quite an accomplishment.

(40:00) - The treatment of the villagers (and any non-white, really) by whiteys in this movie is pretty atrocious. Look at the shame in this man's face as Dr. Maynard accuses him of being (rightfully) afraid. Then again, who turns out to be right? Can't say that Fulci's a racist just because his idiotic white characters are.

(46:00) - The infamous eyeball gouging scene. I was not disappointed. Although it doesn't look totally realistic, it doesn't diminish the horror of the scene (much). Who doesn't dread eyeball trauma? Not to mention that it was the best-looking girl in the film and the one I really wanted to see survive her captivity.

(1:02:00) - Zombanquet - The way this scene is edited, it gives the impression that they see Mrs. Maynard's body first, and don't notice the four zombies gnawing on it until a few seconds later. I know it's just to surprise the audience, but it makes the scene play kind of weird. Also, they're using real entrails, you can tell. My friend Shannon once chewed real deer entrails for a film. Don't think I could stomach it. Very revolting scene.

(1:02:33) - While shambling zombies can be just as scary as running zombies, they need to at least be shambling with purpose. Just look at these two shamefully lazy zombies. They're not even looking at the four juicy morsels before them. I don't know, maybe they're full.

(1:09:00) - The middle of a zombie attack is the perfect time to lay down in an old graveyard and start a little romancin'.  If either of these dipshits survive, I'm going to feel ripped off.

(1:10:38) - Now that's some whip-ass zombie make-up. Of course, the film suggests that this is supposed to be the 400-year-old remains of a conquistador, which I believe would be reduced to a skeleton by now. His clothes are still in pretty good shape too, considering he was buried directly in the ground rather than encased in a coffin. So, it took the worms 400 years to discover his eye socket? But who am I to argue with whip-ass zombie make-up?

(1:20:56) - I've got to wonder just how hard it would be to bite a big chunk out of someone. In zombie movies, the meat always just tears away like a piece of pork roast that's been slow-cooking in the crock pot overnight. This zombie just ripped out a piece of arm flesh like an inch deep, and I'm thinking it wouldn't be as easy as he made it look.  Kind of like how in most vampire films, the vampire apparently don't have rib cages, just loose flesh covering the heart that can be easily pierced with any convenient wooden implement, sharpened or not.

(1:23:00) - The world's shittiest Molotov cocktails. They make a big fireball, but then go out immediately.

(1:30:43) - Clever ending. Hopeless and wonderful.

Well that was a cool little zombie flick. The gore was well-done, the zombies looked great, I loved the island location, and it really had a Dawn of the Dead vibe to it. The acting was subpar pretty much all around, the characters had no depth whatsoever, and it wasn't the least bit scary, but as a showcase for bodily destruction and mayhem, it served its purpose admirably.

At this point, I'm kind of zombied-out. The market is saturated with zombie films of every budget, and it's hard to find a zombie film that has anything new to add. But I did enjoy this one quite a bit, even if I have seen it all before. There's just something about the tone and atmosphere of Zombie that makes it feel like one of the definitive zombie films, and I suppose it is.

P.S. - I'm going to try to get in one more post before European Horror Month is over. I really wanted to get more films watched, but my damned life got in the way. Stupid life. Doesn't it know that movies are better? 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

European Horror Month Part 4: Frontiere(s)

Nazi Dinner Party

I'm getting jaded, I'll admit. When I first become a father, I laid off of horror movies for a long while-the better part of a decade, in fact. After years of worshipping Stephen King and Clive Barker, and witnessing all manner of deviant violence and terror, there was something about having a tiny life to protect that made screen violence too disturbing. Now that I often want to kill my children myself, with my bare hands, I've returned to horror in a big way. I've been thrilled with the direction horror has taken, and through a bunch of awesome horror bloggers, I have been introduced to the finest films the genre has to offer. Upon my initial return to horror, I watched so many great, genuinely scary movies that I kind of forgot that there are, and have always been, so many bad or just plain forgettable horror flicks out there. While I end up liking most of the horror movies I watch, it's becoming rare to find one that makes me so much as cringe.

Of course, all of this is to say that Xavier Gens's Frontiere(s) is something pretty special. This was my second viewing of the film, and I found that it didn't lose any of its potency the second time around. In fact, I liked it better and found myself cringing, shouting, groaning, and laughing in the face of extreme violence every couple of minutes. Despite the film's serious tone, it is a bloody good time.
 I should offer the disclaimer that Frontiere(s) isn't a particularly original film. Instead it wears its influences on its proverbial sleeve. You've got dashes of Hostel and The Descent sprinkled atop a huge platter of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. What makes this movie work is the way all the influences are synthesized into a cohesive and compelling whole.

The plot centers around 5 twenty-somethings from the Paris slums who take advantage of a riot sparked by the election of an extreme right government, pulling off some offscreen heist and fleeing town. As can be expected with any trip into the boonies, they encounter a family of weirdos who put them up for the night, then begin to kill them one by one. Pretty standard stuff, but standard stuff done extremely well.

Being hoodlums, most of the characters aren't immediately likable. There's Yasmine, who is the narrator and main character. She is 3 months pregnant with a baby she doesn't plan to keep. When we meet her, she is fleeing the crime scene with her brother, Sami, who has been shot and will die within the first ten minutes of the film. We sympathize with Yasmine because she's a pretty girl, she's pregnant, and she's just lost a brother. Other than that, we never learn much about her.

Another forced haircut. Must be a French thing.
 The other sympathetic character is Farid, a soft-spoken Muslim who plans to give up his life of crime and be a responsible adult for his mother's sake. He also refuses sex with local whores out of love for his girlfriend. He seems a little too nice to be caught up with this crew, but then, I can understand his wanting to rebel against society. He's lives in the slums and is Muslim, who are basically treated like shit in France (not claiming the U.S. is any better, BTW).  

Farid realizes he left his wallet in El Segundo.
The other two hoodlums are Alex and Tom. When we first meet Alex, he is stopped by a cop at gunpoint, but doesn't back down. He takes the cop's gun and beats him with it. He's a total badass, but you have to question his sanity, because you can tell he really wanted to kill that cop. He's also Yasmine's ex and the one who knocked her up. And while he's half-crazy and comes off as pretty heartless, he's a confident, take-charge kind of guy, and he's good-looking and charismatic guy, so you have to like him a little bit. By the end of the movie, he's actually pretty sympathetic.

Alex in Chains
Tom is a douche. No getting around it. But again, he's good-looking and charismatic so you end up liking him just a little bit, and may even feel a bit of sympathy when he's paralyzed with claustrophobia or being tortured by deranged remnant Nazis.

Tom Auditioning for The Descent 3
The thing about Frontiere(s) that makes me giggle with delight is its stomach-turning violence. While it might not be enough to impress the hardcore gore-hounds, it is certainly too much for the squeamish, and just about right for me. While you've got your Hostel-style Achilles tendon-cutting, you've also got stuff I haven't seen before, like a major character getting steamed to death. Anyone who's suffered a steam burn will squirm through this scene.

The steam room, but not the relaxing kind.
The other impressive accomplishment of the film is that in addition to being a showcase for gore, there is an emotional core to the film. Imagine if The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a character who wasn't completely bat-shit insane on account of having been adopted. They have been raised in an insane environment and taken part in casual slaughter, but become aware that their actions are wrong when they identify with one of the potential victims. That is basically the character of Eva in Frontier(s).

God, my family is so embarrassing!
Beyond that, there is a complex relationship between Yasmine and Alex, and when the shit starts raining down from heaven, they discover their true feelings for one another. Yeah, it sounds cheesy, but it works in this film.

 Frontiere(s) is certainly the best film put out under the After Dark Horrorfest brand, and if I were writing my Top Ten Horror Movies of the Past Ten Years today, I'd probably bump something to make room.

Hey, I think I see what your foot is caught on.