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Down The Rabbit Hole

Sometimes I Post Stuff, Sometimes People Read It

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015, Christopher B. Landon)


Ah the Scouting life. I am an Eagle Scout, something that depending on the people you talk to is either something cool, or something really dorky. I enjoyed my time in the Scouts fully, and I made some good friends along the way. Despite this movie being cheesy, way too focused on gore at times, and rather outrageous, I still liked its spirit and its heart. Also this film centered on a trio of friends, and these three guys help add to the film’s strong comedy elements, which outweigh most of its horror elements. I am also very heavily biased towards the zombie genre, and therefore am prone to liking many of the ones I watch every year. Ben, Augie, and Carter are a bunch of goofy Scout members who have been Scouting for years. Naturally two of them are thinking quitting (not really hard to figure out which ones), and they cannot bring themselves to tell the one who is very happy with the status quo. Having been young once upon a time its easy to identify with all three teenagers, and so even without the zombies this film has plenty on its plate already.

Oh and having David Koechner as their Scout leader is a great touch, especially since he kind of reminds me of past Scout leaders. What happens to him is both crazy and funny in a horrible sort of a way, and this humorous part along with the cause of the zombie outbreak sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Tye Sheridan as Ben proves to be a solid leading man for the film, and I actually liked that the young people in this movie, save for a few, actually look like they are in high school. Well that and also the main problem in many zombie movies: the military showing up, freaking out, and deciding that bombing the area is the solution. Also that having Scouts to defend you is a good thing, since they know how to build weapons and other things. This could be a new favorite of mine, and is recommended as a fun time at the movies. Sometimes fun is a good thing.

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Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Spoorloos (1988, George Sluizer)


In the USA, it is known as The Vanishing, which is a rather simplistic title for such a film. This is a very intelligent film, well crafted, an exercise in mortality, good vs evil labels, the nature of people. Even though the ending was given away online long ago, I always knew that such knowledge does not matter, and actually the ending is hinted at early in the film, anyways. I love that use of foreshadowing, giving the audience clues, filing us in while leaving the characters in the dark. At times this can be frustrating on both ends, yet in George Sluizer’s modern classic he is more concerned with the bigger picture than details or giving the audience closure. I hate that it is supposed to be a European or foreign in general style of film making, especially when someone such as Christopher Nolan or other American directors have used such techniques. This all depends on the audience, and in the horror genre audiences can be rather fickle, as I learned after going to see It Comes At Night last week. And no I have not viewed the remake of this film, which I imagine was a disappointment because it either copied the original, or it decided to forego anything that makes Sluizer’s film a remarkable experience.

Imagine that you went on vacation and your beloved disappeared after making a pit stop. Even worse despite not being under suspicion for her vanishing, you spend the next couple of years desperately searching for her, never knowing her fate, only being able to guess at what happened. In many countries people randomly or purposely disappear; there is a Wikipedia page devoted to such cases, and it is rather creepy. Sluizer embodies his main character, Rex, with both devotion to his beloved, Saskia, and the obsessive need to find her, to know what happened, even as his dreams give him a darker realization he chooses to ignore. Raymond, the other man in the film, is one focusing on his own nature, choosing to embark on a horrible path that his philosophical musings have lead him to-its as if both men are bound by destiny. I love that the film even features this discussion, especially in an intense moment between Raymond and Rex (interesting names for the two, both start with R and are masculine in nature) where both men struggle physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. You can properly label Raymond a monster and yet Sluizer refuses to give us this easy out, showing him as a family man with a capacity to love.

In fact, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu as Raymond gives one of the finest performances ever in a horror drama film. He is both creepy and sympathetic, and unlike Rex, who seems to at times doubt who he is Raymond never once denies what he is doing or his very nature. Raymond’s monologue about his boyhood past is equal parts chilling and sad, a part of the film that is very important to understanding what he has become over the years. I love the film’s ending because it as much about the banality of evil, of making us realize how monsters do not exist save for in fiction. People commit acts of evil, yet that does not make them any less human. Rex perhaps deserves what happens to him, for he cannot turn away and move forward, his past love trapping him. Gene Bervoets also deserves proper credit in this film, as he is also great, and Johanna ter Steege as Saskia shows why Rex cannot let her go, casting her spell over the film even after she exits. When it comes to horror films that leave an impact, Spoorloos is in that rare class of horror that is quite unforgettable, and is a great example of a horror movie that has added more to both world cinema and horror in general.

Last Year at Marienbad (1961, Alain Resnais)


Not every movie has to make sense, or be an obvious traditional narrative. This French New Wave classic gets away with being rather mysterious and confusing, since that’s the whole point. Existing as a dream, or a bizarre nightmare, you have two people struggling with their own memories, and haunted by past events that may or may not have happened. Shot in glorious black and white, with expert cinematography, it is a depiction of a house forgotten by time, yet populated with people when the scene or moment apparently calls for it.

The rather creepy and weird score only underlines scenes that can be best described as pieces of a mythical puzzle-one that is less Rubik’s cube, but instead a twisted 10,000 pieces from a box puzzle that takes forever to finish. Part of the film’s allure is that there are no easy answers, no attempts at understanding what is really going on. Just as dreams and past fragments of memory, having drifted away and become obscured, end up lacking consensus, even if they still have some meaning. There does not seem to be any rhythm or reason in what is happening, which reflects many dreams randomly composed of elements floating around in our heads.

Overlooked in this analysis is how obsessive the main male character is, as he is 100% convinced that he’s right despite the protests of the woman he so eagerly follows. His persistence is a mix of stalker behavior and his desire for a woman who has cold grace and beauty. Her response ranges from rejection and suspicion, which then gives way to wondering if he is indeed correct about their previous affairs between one another. This then gives way to her saying no again, resulting the entire cycle beginning anew.

Romance is often presented in movies as way too wonderful, or being many bitter moments in time. What Resnais’ does is present love as neither of those things, yet at the same time does not bother with realism when it suits his movie. The choices made by the final lingering shot could very well lead to another lifetime of regret and longing; one such character suffers such a fate, and becomes lost in a endless cycle of longing, left to their devices in the comfy corridors of an ancient monument to the past. 96

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Grizzly (1976, William Girdler)


Finally, a decent Jaws knockoff that manages to be fun, cheesy and actually thrilling. Grizzly may be unrealistic, yet I was still entertained by the travels of a gigantic bear that terrorizes a national forest. One of the scenes where the grizzly horribly murders two campers is gruesome and shocking, which I did not expect from this film at all. In fact despite being a low budget film this movie has a solid pace, and wisely uses the fear of the monster as well as showcasing its violent attacks. Even though I do not recognize any of the cast, I still liked all of them, primarily the film’s hero, Michael Kelly, played stoically by Christopher George. Much like Jaws the film centers around three men hunting the creature, the other two in this case being a helicopter pilot, Don, and a naturalist, Arthur. I also like that the film used an actual live bear for the attack scenes, which makes them less silly and more powerful.

That said, the film does engage in some silly moments, mainly the unintentionally hilarious part where the bear manages to bring down a fire lookout tower, killing the ranger hiding up above. Also the film’s ending involves, well, the use of something unexpected. With that in mind I still like William Girdler’s film, and it manages to be not a bad knockoff of a more famous and better horror film. Even though I am not particularly scare of grizzly bears, even though I wouldn’t want to encounter one in the wild. Especially one that is 15 feet tall and likes to maul people to death.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Wyrmwood (2014, Kiah Roache-Turner)


Every time I think zombie films have run their course, that I am tired of my favorite horror sub genre, someone goes along and makes one that restores my interest. Wyrmwood (also known as “Road of the Dead”) is a ridiculous, gory, visceral horror experience that covers a zombie outbreak caused by, well, no one is quite sure, although the air is hinted at as being the cause. I don’t really care how zombies happen, all that matters is that the zombie film have engaging characters and be at least entertaining. Kiah Roache-Turner’s film checks all of those boxes and offers more than I expected, which is a nice bonus. Poor Barry has a bad weekend in the Austrian Outback, and things spiral from there, as he is forced to band together with others to survive a zombie attack.

One thing I really dug about this film is the zombie killing violence, which is heavy throughout the entire movie. Roache-Turner decides to make a fairly simple and energetic horror film, and it shows throughout. I really liked the character of Benny, who has plenty of wisecracks and a fairly wiry take on the entire situation. Oh and don’t forget the mad scientist elements, which reminded me of Day of the Dead (1985). Plus hey zombie blood is flammable, so you can use it for fuel. Finally they’re useful! I cannot reveal more about this film without compromising the last, intense final act, yet I will not forget what I have seen anytime soon. I like to call this movie a great cousin of the Evil Dead series, and I wonder what Roache-Tuner will do next for an encore.

Get Out (2017, Peele)


WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR GET OUT:

Also this essay is a work in progress and was penned while drinking at my favorite local bar after I saw the movie months ago:

From the very beginning when a black man is afraid to walk the suburbs to the gory and exciting last act, Jordan Peele’s Get Out is an exercise in pure fear. Every once in a while there is a horror film that scares the crap out of me, and 2017 delivers one that should be seen on the big screen. I laughed and then got quiet as a poor black man was knocked out and stuffed into the back of a trunk, while weird southern music played in the background. Cue opening credits. Thanks to Halloween (both versions) and Scream I am terrified of the suburbs. Only this time it’s not one psychopath wearing a mask.

Also don’t forget the liberal racism of white people, although I doubt most of the guests at the dinner party Rose’s creepy white parents throw during the weekend that Chris, her boyfriend, and her decide to visit fit leftist ideals. Upon arriving we get two black servants and a house straight out of any upstanding horror film. This movie has so many references I lost track, although several came to mind: Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, Burnt Offerings and even Funny Games and You’re Next. I think there may even be a little Texas Chainsaw Massacre in that instead of poor redneck cannibals it’s a rich family using black people to keep on living forever, obtaining their strengths. One thing I got out of the dinner party is how secretly cruel and awful elderly people set in racism can be, and that even the one who isn’t apparently racist is in fact just as bad as the rest of them.

Oh and Chris’ buddy, Rod is hilarous yet also makes sense through out the entire film. When he goes to the police it doesn’t matter that they’re minorities, either: his story is dismissed, partly for being crazy but also because cops are worthless in any horror movie. They never believe what is happening, even if presented with evidence. When Chris gets carded by the police and responds with a tired expected compliance, it’s very telling. As is when a cop car pops up later and Chris assumes the hands up position that I’m sure all too many people of color know quite well.

Peele couldn’t have picked a better pair of people to play Rose’s parents. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are a perfect embodiment of white privilege and attempts to convince people they aren’t racist. Although I wonder if they would take anyone who fits their ideal of strength and proper genetics, according to them anyways. Get Out also features their kids carrying on their parent’s heritage of racism, this proving that hoping the younger generation overcomes their parents brand of hate is a foolish notion. If anything the film almost suggests that eliminating white racists is the answer, although I don’t want to read too much into a movie where a man kills someone with deer antlers.

I love the little details in this movie. Someone on Twitter pointed out how Rose refuses to mix her colored cereal with her milk. Her brother sits and pulls a Deliverance, playing some type of guitar while Rose and Chris reenter the mansion shortly before things completely explode. If there is critiques of this movie then it is that I saw the twists coming, although they are fairly telegraphed in the film. I really hope that Jordan Peele makes another film and has a successful career as a director. He has style, ideas and has given the world another great film, not just a horror film but a movie. Might as well cut back on the titles anyways.

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.

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