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Down The Rabbit Hole

Sometimes I Post Stuff, Sometimes People Read It

The Dog Days…I Mean, Films..Of Summer


Inspired by Willow from Twitter. In no order:

Friday the 13th series

Dazed and Confused

The Sandlot

Jaws

George Washington

Heavyweights

Wet Hot American Summer

Terminator 2: Judgement Day 

Bottle Rocket

Do The Right Thing 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 

The Graduate

Alt-Right? Yeah, right….


Hey look ma! Racists without the hoods!

Sunday I woke up to find that in Charlottesville VA a group of white people, among them infamous alt-right leader Richard Spencer, had gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Looking at the photos of a group bearing torches and marching at night, I couldn’t help but think two things: “The KKK rises again, and wow they are Nazis.” I mean the crowd chanted “blood and soil,” a famous Nazi chant, along with “Russia is our friend.” Having lived in Iowa my whole life and thus being aware that even up north the KKK still exists, I should not be completely shocked. Yet it is rather dismal that so many people would think that removing a symbol of the racist Confederacy should be controversial. I don’t think it is preventing anyone from knowing history, but rather it is the mayor of Charlottesville taking necessary action.

Oh and funny enough, according to the AOL.com article I am currently reading:

 “A group suing Charlottesville over the Lee statue removal says it had no involvement in the Saturday events. “It has come to our attention that several out-of-town groups associated with white supremacy and (identitarian) beliefs conducted events and protests in both Lee and Jackson Parks today,” a rep wrote on Facebook. “Neither Save the Robert E. Lee Statue nor The Monument Fund were in any way involved in these events and only learned of them though media reports.” (https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/05/14/protestors-nazi-charlottesville-jackson-lee-white-supremacist-rally/22085869/)

Image result for snl alt right is why grandpa lives in argentina now
Saturday Night Live on point, as usual…

Which means that even those who want the statue to remain are even distancing themselves from a mob that felt the need to speak for the actual town. Go figure. However I think the other problem is that over the years, we have misused the term “Nazi,” and thus need to go back to only using it in serious moments. How can I take it seriously when someone labels someone a “Grammar Nazi” (by the way proper grammar is a good thing, something I even fail to practice)? These days we need to reserve the term for actual Nazis. The ones who think that racism no longer exists, who think that white supremacy should be a thing. You know, the people that our ancestors thought they defeated in World War II. It does not help that the US government throughout the Cold War decided to prop up fascist right wing governments simply because of fears of “Communism” or “Socialism.” I also fail to understand why people can be okay with a group that thinks Russia is our friend, but that is another lengthy article for another day. I also have to remember that the KKK, alt-right and white supremacists have wised up, taken off the hoods, and popped up in areas trying to sway folks, all under the guise of supposedly “Peaceful protests.” From my understanding, if you need torches and you are attempting to get a rise out of people, there is nothing peaceful about your protest.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Bad Milo (2015, Jacob Vaughan)


If you cannot stand ass jokes, or gross out moments, or extreme gore in a film where a literal monster emerges from a guy’s butt and goes on a murderous rampage, this film is not for you. But if you think this sounds funny and entertaining, well then you, like myself, are a prime candidate to enjoy Bad Milo. Despite having some limitations story wise I still found this to be an awesome and quite memorable experience. I also cannot recall the last movie I saw with this type of premise, although I am sure there are many other body type horror films like this out there. I hope they are just as remarkable as this entry from Jacob Vaughan, who recognizes that comedy and horror can be great bedfellows if done just right. Oh and I think all of us one way or another can empathize with the down on his luck main character.

Veteran character actor Ken Marino gets a chance to shine as Duncan, a middle class fellow with a loving wife in Sarah (the always great Gillian Jacobs) who is beyond stressed out, by well, everything. His job is driving him nuts (Patrick Warburton is hilariously deadpan as his jerk of a boss), Sarah is pregnant, which scares him, and he has serious gastric problems. All which manifests itself in the nasty little bugger of a creature he comes to name Milo, a problem that he uncovers thanks to visiting a highly unusual therapist, played by Peter Stormare. The creature effects in this film are surprisingly well done, which I did not fully expect. Most of the jokes in this film range from witty to flat out potty humor, and I rather liked the film’s outrageous last act. Even if this isn’t high art I still like Milo, and I look forward to whatever Jacob Vaughan does next.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: The House on Sorority Row (1983, Mark Rosman)


Having viewed numerous 1980s slasher films it was only a matter of time before I saw one that, despite receiving praise from others, is a film I did not enjoy. The House On Sorority Row has some good moments and does not lack in tension, however I found the characters to be mostly bland and the movie’s kills to not be particularly memorable. In fact I had to revisit the film’s synopsis just so I could review it months later, something that I rarely have to do when covering movies I like. I viewed this film on Hulu with sizable expectations based on the quality trailer and good word of month, so perhaps that affected my viewing a little. That said, despite not caring for “Sorority Row” I did note that the film created and embellished upon several notable cliches of the slasher genre.

Most famous being a group of people covering up a deadly accident with awful repercussions that they never could have imagined. These college girls end up being the target of an unseen and unknown killer, all while being more worried about whether or not their secret will be revealed. In fact they seem to be in denial about themselves being in danger until its too late. I wanted to really like this film considering its solid mostly female cast and myself enjoying some of the film’s murderous scenes. Yet I was left unsatisfied by the film’s conclusion, which is now a horror film cliche in itself (but relatively fresh by 1983 standards), and the film lacking enough suspense for my liking. It tries too hard to be a mystery film instead of a slasher movie, and I think the movie would have benefited from having an established veteran in the group.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: The Traveler (2010, Michael Oblowitz)


Despite being a fan of one Val Kilmer, this is clearly one of his worst films and probably the first movie I’ve seen from him where I actually wanted him to be silent. This movie is the type that the MSTK crew would mock if it had been made years ago, and I realize that serial killer movies don’t work if they fail to meet two important criteria. One is that they be entertaining if they fall into a more campy style, and the other is that if they are meant to be scary, well they need to be terrifying or creepy. The Travler has some initial promise and throws all that away midway through the film. The hardest movies to get through are not the truly awful ones or even the mediocre films, but rather a movie like this, where any good elements are buried. Even the flashback scenes manage to be shot in a manner that wouldn’t even pass muster for a cheesy monster film or a low budget slasher. Whatever this film cost, it was too high and the money was squandered.

Skip this movie and watch Twixt instead, which is also on Netflix. Oh by the way there is a twist, and its stupid and I hated it. Even the kills are blah, half measure efforts that fail to be really shocking or interesting. The last act takes the movie into even sillier territory, and I can’t believe I finished the movie without the aid of beer. I don’t even recall any of the other actors because they failed to make an impression upon me, and I don’t really care to look them up, either. I can abide bad comedies since some of them still make me laugh, yet a bad horror film is the equivalent of a poor meal. Throw this movie in the trash.

31 Films 31 Years: A Favorites List


Favorite Films From Every Year I’ve Existed:

1986: Big Trouble In Little China

1987: Wings of Desire

1988: The Great Outdoors

1989: Field of Dreams

1990: Wild At Heart

1991: The Fisher King

1992: Hard Boiled

1993: Jurassic Park

1994: Cemetery Man

1995: Fallen Angels

1996:  Scream

1997: L.A. Confidential

1998: The Big Lebowski

1999: Three Kings

2000: American Psycho

2001: Memento

2002: Gangs of New York

2003: Finding Nemo

2004: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

2005: Brick

2006: A Scanner Darkly

2007: Hot Fuzz

2008: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

2009: Watchmen

2010: Monsters

2011: Drive

2012: Skyfall

2013: The Place Beyond the Pines

2014: The Guest

2015: The Hateful Eight

2016: The Nice Guys

2017: John Wick: Chapter 2

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: The Fury (1978, Brian De Palma)


All hail Kirk Douglas, one of the finest actors of his time. Brian De Palma, fresh off of making Carrie decided to craft his own film about kids with psychic powers, giving birth to a film that is equal parts horror, science fiction, action, thriller and drama. Some elements don’t quite work, yet what results is a great and exciting movie that always manages to be entertaining while also featuring one hell of a last act. I love how De Palma’s movies seem to be campy and yet work regardless, as he is a talented director capable of executing his visions through his work. It doesn’t hurt that this film has a great cast, with Douglas facing off against  John Cassavetes while trying to save his son, played in creepy fashion by Andrew Stevens. Frequent De Palma actor Amy Irving also shows up as the girl who can maybe help Douglas in his quest, all while trying to remain one step ahead of the governmental agency he used to work for before they tried to kill him. Plus the film also has Charles Durning, who appeared in the De Palma classic Sisters, this time as a doctor instead of a private investigator.

Many set pieces work incredibly well, ranging from the action packed opener to a car chases that is funny and well executed. The film has plenty of slow motion, and yet none of the slow motion comes off as dumb; one scene its used for is full of violence and inspires horror and despair. Cassavetes is a great villain, manipulative and sleazy, while Douglas embodies Peter with the stoic drive to get his son back that never comes off as sappy. The psychic scenes are also never goofy and add to film’s overall chill factor, while the conclusion is truly shocking and unexpected. I came in not expecting much and left feeling that this is one of De Palma’s best films, and its too bad that he hasn’t made more than a few other horror films during his career. He seems to have a knack for them, understanding that people can be scarier than any monster.  Oh and the score by John Williams is fantastic, which comes as no surprise-I never comment on music in horror movies enough, it seems.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Genocide (1967, Kazui Nihonmats)


I tried not to compare Genocide to other 1960s monster movies, and yet I came away disappointed even though the film has some notable characteristics. There is some interesting thoughts on the nature of man and how destructive we can be, yet the film lacks the dramatic strengths necessary to overcome its weak monster. You have a monster movie without an actual cool looking beast, as in this film there are insects instead, although some appear as huge thanks to radiation. In one part of the film the insects act as a huge cloud that consumes a military plane carrying a nuclear weapon, a scene that is kind of suspenseful and then is followed by a love story I did not have any interest in.

Perhaps the other films in the Shochiku horror collection available on Criterion are better or at least not as slow as this one. Yes this film has an apocalyptic finality that works okay, however it comes far too late in the film. Also the poor acting, which I can excuse in a movie with better directing or truly strong themes hurts this film considerably. Not every Japanese monster movie had to be a Ishirō Honda style film, yet after seeing Genocide I think more praise should be directed his way for crafting something remarkable out of silly man in suits fighting each other films.

2016 Horrorfest Presents: Puppet Master (1989, David Schmoeller)


Every franchise has its humble origins somewhere, and in this case Puppet Master was born out of a studio’s need to make a low budget direct to video success. These days movies are even released on Netflix and other streaming services instead of in the studio, but in the 1980s direct to video was emerging as another way for horror filmmakers to get their movies out to the general public. Schmoller’s iconic cult film spawned 12 sequels and is a fairly solid, nasty and entertaining piece of work in its own right. I have no idea if I want to view the rest of the series, however I am endlessly amused by Hollywood’s desire to make endless franchises out of just about anything that makes money. Andre’ Toulon is shown in this one, however its only in a flashback that illustrating his ability to give puppets life. If you, like myself, find puppets to be creepy then this is a terrifying possibility, and the film eagerly builds upon the fear that many people have of wooden dolls scurrying around.

Years after poor Andre’ offs himself to prevent Nazis from gaining his ancient secret, a group of psychics show up at an old hotel. They’ve been brought together by the suicide of a colleague who they suspect discovered Toulon’s puppet formula. Unfortunately for them, Toulon’s old puppets are still wandering around, and everyone there is in grave danger. I rather liked the design of all of the puppets, each of them unique in their own ways. Blade is probably the most famous of the group, and is the puppet group’s leader. Despite being low budget the movie has some gory kills and a finale that is equal parts suspenseful and rather violent. I also liked the main character, Alex (Paul Le Mat), who is prone to nightmarish visions which are also some of the film’s creepy highlights. Even though the movie isn’t well shot I still liked this film, and am glad that Hulu had it at the time, and its design and conception reminds me more of 1990s horror films in that the genre was beginning to go more underground.

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