Thursday, January 29, 2015

Binge and Purge 2015 - Part 2: Lake Dead, Dead Mary, and Doghouse

Lake Dead
(2007 – dir. George Bessudo)

I must give Lake Dead my absolute highest recommendation… as an Al-Qaeda recruitment tool designed to instill a deep and adibing hatred for western culture. One screening of this steaming pile nearly had me ready to go all Jihad against the entire cast and crew. Just tell the disenfranchised Islamic youth that this is what all Americans are like, and watch them line up for suicide bomber duty.

Every character in the film is completely unlikable, either because they're despicable or despicably whiny. Yet despite this, none of them really had an individual personality. In my mind, they all sort of meld into one giant fratrority dude(tte) that has nothing interesting to say and no redeeming qualities. Here's a breakdown of characters:

Whiny Sister - The obvious final girl from frame one. (Her confrontation with her father made me laugh audibly and I spent the next ten minutes imitating the overblown whine of her delivery.)

Bitchy Sister - Every line she speaks seethes with unprovoked hostility.

Boring Sister - The most unnecessary character in the film.

Boring Boyfriend - At times douchey, at times heroic, always devoid of personality.

Douchey Guy - Everything that comes out of his mouth is insipid, and usually offensive.

Jealous Girlfriend - Dating Douchey Guy for no fathomable reason.

Slutty Friend - Boring Sister brings her along because she's the only one willing to show her tits.

Here’s a typical example of their witter banter:
Slutty Friend: “You mind if we smoke in your RV?”
Douchey Guy: “Does a dog lick its own ballsack?”
Slutty Friend giggles like this is remotely clever, and the audience is treated to a weed smoking montage that in no way serves the story. Either he's just checking off slasher trope boxes or he's trying to win cool points with the viewer, suggesting that he is probably someone who behaves and talks exactly like his characters. To be fair, equal blame should be laid on writer Daniel P. Coughlin.

Anyway, the story involves three sisters inheriting a lakeside hotel from their estranged grandfather. But who cares? There's a few spots of decent gore, and one honestly kick-ass moment where Boring Boyfriend takes out his inbred caveman captor while still tied to his chair. Of course, The Avengers did it better.

Verdict: PURGE!!!!

Dead Mary
(2006 – dir. Robert Wilson)

After Lake Dead, I was in the mood to watch another fiercely shitty movie, if only to even out my purge/keep piles. I scanned my shelves for the dumbest looking piece of crap I could find. Dead Mary treads the well-worn territory of the "Bloody Mary/Candyman" urban legend in which one lights a candle in a darkened room and speaks the name 3 to 5 times and gets dead. I threw it in while folding laundry, fully expecting to turn it back off when the chore was done.

But the truth is, Dead Mary is way better than it has any right to be.

For one thing, the characters aren't a bunch of vapid teenage stereotypes, but actual developed characters with individual motivations and personalities. There's a young married couple struggling with the husband's infidelity, a bachelor introducing his new, much younger girlfriend to his long-time friends, a pair of exes who just broke up on the drive out to the lake house, and the bitchy girl. Okay, so they're not all fully-realized characters, but I just got done watching Lake Dead, so...

I'll admit, with this crew of twenty-somethings coming to terms with their newfound adulthood, the premise of the film is even sillier, but it is handled fairly well. The subject of Dead Mary comes up during a drunken late-night conversation about the weirdest thing that ever happened to each of them. Three of the girls claimed that Dead Mary actually appeared to them in the mirror when they were 16. So obviously, they repeat their teenage folly.

The cool thing is, Dead Mary never actually appears. Instead they awaken something in the woods. What follows is an unapologetic attempt to emulate The Evil Dead. Some people will despise the attempt, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As the evil entity takes possession of the friends, it begins exposing secrets and turning them against each other. Since the film spends so much time establishing its characters, it is refreshing to see their relationships become an essential part of the horror that follows.

On the downside, there are plenty of clunky bits that simply don't work or make sense within the context of the film, but good characters, solid performances, and a well-constructed plot make Dead Mary very watchable.

Verdict: It's a Keeper.

(2010 – dir. Jake West)

Oh boy, feminist film critics are going to be digging this one out of their teeth for years to come. And deservedly so. The plot involves seven blokes going on holiday to help their friend through an ugly divorce. They take a chartered tour bus to a dead-end town outside of London that is completely populated with zombified women with an all-encompassing hatred for men.

The opening involves each of them pissing off their significant others by taking the weekend off. To be fair, even as Doghouse makes the wives and girlfriends (and even one boyfriend) out to be ball-busting shrews, it also makes most of the guys out to be selfish, insensitive pricks.

The whole affair is non-PC, often offensive, and completely hilarious. I recommend turning off your inner feminist for the first viewing and just have fun with it. It is openly misogynist, but in a winking, knowing way that doesn't just let men off the hook. If you don't have an inner feminist, you'll probably love Doghouse.

Verdict: Keeper. I'll probably make my wife watch it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Great Mancave Binge and Purge 2015

I am a deeply foolish mortal. In preparation for The Great Mancave Binge and Purge, I set aside all the horror DVDs that I've purchased but haven't go t around to watching, and lo, there's a shit-ton. I was planning to list them all here and let readers decide which to review next, but god-to-the-damn there's a lot of them. I'm not even counting the multi-film sets you get from Walmart, and I've got a stack of 154 movies.

So, no way I'm getting through all of them. But to make things a little easier on myself, I give myself permission to turn off the truly horrible ones at any point and cast them into the "sell" pile.

Going through my collection, I've made a few observations.

1) I don't have much Asian horror, but most of the Asian horror I do have is unwatched. Why is this? I'm almost always disappointed in Asian horror films. When the rash of American remakes came out in the early double-oughts, I liked most of them and would track down the originals for comparison. Guess what? 9 times out of 10, I preferred the remake. My guess is something is often lost in translation for me.

2) Tons of movies I fell asleep during. I generally hate going back to finish a movie that put me to sleep. If it was any good, it would have kept me awake, right? But there's always those few films that I've come back to finish and loved them. The most recent of these was Housebound. So, I've got to give them another shot.

3) Lots and lots of titles I'm not looking forward to at all. All kinds of low-budget garbage that I now have no idea what I was thinking when I bought them. Here's to hoping some of them prove me wrong. At the very least, here's to hoping this project makes me more careful about the movies I buy.

I kind of unofficially started this project a few weeks ago when I started going through my back catalogue, so here's a paragraph on each just to get us started:

Sleeper's Wake
(2013 - dir. Barry Berk)

This was a very well-acted, well-written, and well-constructed film that only straddles a toe over into horror territory. Thriller describes it better. But don't be put off by the non-horrorness of it all. It works as a character study and a super-tense drama. Set in South Africa (I think), the story follows a widowed writer who befriends another recently widowed man whose daughter is constantly trying to seduce him (the writer, not her dad, ick). Bad things follow. There's also some wicked cool baboon action. Okay, it looks totally fake, but baboons!

A Warning to the Curious
(2013 - dir. Aji Djarar)

I can't necessarily recommend this movie to anyone, especially those suffering chronic found footage fatigue. However, I kind of liked it. This is a no-budget feature that dodges the number one downfall of no-budget flicks by having a cast that was fairly talented and mostly likable, After a disappointing ghost hunting venture into an abandoned hospital that turns up zilch, the Mystery Inc. gang gets a hot tip about a house in the woods that supposedly sprung up out of nowhere. I know, I know. Abandoned hospital, house in the woods, ghost hunters, can we throw another cliche in there?  Thing is, it goes places your typical found footage flick doesn't. The plot ends up being pretty original. While the film is marred by some bad special effects, it's a surprisingly solid piece of work.

Make-Out with Violence
(2010 - dir. The Deagol Brothers)

Another low-budget indie movie, but a hell of a great one. The photography is stunning, the characters are quirky, but fully fleshed out and compelling, and the performances are really good. It's also a zombie movie, but not that kind of zombie movie. This is no post-zombie apocalypse survival tale or an outbreak movie filled with snarling, sprinting flesheaters. In fact, there's only one zombie in the whole movie, and she's really little more than a plot device to explore the relationships between other characters. It's no dry, stale drama either. It's a clever, often hilarious coming of age story that suggests The Deagol Brothers are some filmmakers to keep an eye on. Be warned though, the ending is abrupt and not completely satisfying. But it's still worth a watch, And probably a re-watch.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Advent of Atrocities: The Postmortem

The cool thing about being a dismal failure is that no one expects shit from you. Or, they do expect what you do to be shit. Or something. Looking over my pageviews, my failure to deliver this yuletide season upset exactly 3 people, 2 of which are me and the little boy who lives in my mouth. Yet, if there's anyone who's interested, here's the reason behind my flameout.

In mid-December, my family had a bit of a cancer scare. It turned out not to be cancer, but for 2 excruciating weeks we didn't know and I really didn't feel like watching or thinking about horror. I was too busy trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do if the worst came true.

It was a shame, because I was really having fun with the blog again, and I had so many more movies I wanted to shout about from the mountaintop. I may still get to the rest of my list yet, but for now I've got another project in mind, one even more ambitious and thus even more doomed to failure.

I've got a wall of horror movies in my mancave, about one third of which I've bought but never seen. Problem is, I'm running out of shelf space and need to Purge the chaff from my collection. So this next challenge I've concocted involves watching all my horror movies that I haven't seen yet, and writing at least one paragraph about each. At the end of each review I will decide whether to hang on to the movie in question, or kick that shit to the curb (sell it to the pawn shop).

I'll warn you now that most of these are probably going to be pretty awful, but if there's a gem or two among them, it should all be worth it. I'm not setting an insane timeline for myself like with the Advent of Atrocities. I will post a minimum of once a week until they are complete. It should take me the better part of the year to finish. There's no way in hell I'll finish, because my will is weak. But here's to Quixotic challenges, and here's to undiscovered horror treasures!