More Horror Film Blues
posted by Mike on 11/20/03
I know this one is pretty damned late, but it's okay. I kicked out at two and three quarters.
When I was a kid, around the age of ten or so, my neighbor Donnis (a hot little number who was three years older than I and consistently denied me the pussy up until I moved away... though she did paint my dick with fingernail polish when I was but 3... my mom thought I'd had a penile hemorage) and I began an annual tradition. After all the houses had been visited twice and stripped of candy (we wore two layers of costumes so as to double our take) we'd retire to her house and and take in the horror films on TV until we fell asleep. A couple years later, with our respective families having finally decided to join the VCR movement, we upgraded to renting the flicks we wanted to watch as opposed to watching the pre-chosen, hack n' slash edited shit they showed on straight cable (I didn't get HBO until I moved into my own place.)
One of our best Halloweens' movie lists included A Nightmare On Elm Street, An American Werewolf in London, Friday the 13: The Final Chapter, The Evil Dead, Demons, The Exorcist, and Dawn Of The Dead. We watched movies until 10 AM the next morning, still wired on Coca-Cola and bellies full of Smarties, Sweet Tarts, and other various goodies. Then we drove to EastGate mall and and watched a horror flick at the theater... I think it was Poltergeist 2, but don't quote me on it.
Point being, We had a fun time watching some of the (arguably) best horror films out at that time. She had a blast screaming at every "comin' at you!" moment, and my barely teenage eyes had a blast watching her tits bounce with each consecutive scare.
Now I'm screaming towards 29 years old (December 6th... I like PS2 games and cheesy DVDs... show the love.) I couldn't get away with Trick Or Treating if my life depended on it. Shit, I don't even get carded for beer anymore. The only Halloween-themed activities I get to take part in are lame-ass costume contests at work (a guy dressed as a cross-dresser won...go figure), pumpkin carving contests (also at work... the winner was a pumpkin decorated as Cinderella's carriage...it was covered in so much silver krylon that at first I thought it was Destro's severed head... leave it to me to toss in some G.I. Joe humor...), Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (I'll be writing about it another time), and of course, horror movie night.
Well, I work 50+ hours a week now, and go to school fulltime. I have a wife and kid at home. I don't really get to watch a bagload of movies like I once did. So regretably, I had to narrow this year's
haul down to two. I chose my films based on buzz from the forum, which I guess was my first mistake. After having read all the sugar-coated ass kissing on the net concerning these two films, I expected nothing less than horror perfection from the both of them. As you might imagine by now, my expectations were far from met (are they ever?)
The two films I chose were House Of A Thousand Corpses, and 28 Days Later. Allow me to share with you my thoughts on these cinematic turd-burglars.
House Of 1000 Prior Screenplays
God, the shit flinging over this flick was enormous. Every time I went to CHUD or Aintitcoolnews, there was some new peice of filler about how daring this film was. How original it was. How shocking it was. What's shocking is that it ever made it on the big screen in the first place, as it has direct-to-video written all over it with a hardened camel choate.
Written, directed, and produced by Rob Zombie, House of 1000 corpses was turned down by several film studios before Lion's Gate finally released it. I recall the hype spin-doctoring vividly.
Zombie proclaimed to the world that "My movie is too WILD for the mainstream studios. It's too VIOLENT. It's too EXTREME!" Basically, he was Paul Heyman, which is rarely a good thing. The truth was that the film sucked, and Hollywood knew it. Bob Dole knew it. The American People knew it. Chad didn't know it, but he was high on Red Dawns, so all's forgiven.
So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. After about two years or so, the film has finally come home to the Wal-Mart shelves where it should have gone in the first place, and I was stupid enough to believe the shit. Christ do I feel duped.
Basically, House of 1000 Corpses is a rip-off of an inferior sequel to a great horror flick. It steals so much from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 that they even hired Bill "Choptop" Mosely to play
one of the lead roles. There are scenes taken beat for beat from Tobe Hooper's 2nd Leatherface opus, so much so that I felt a distinct sense of deja vu, particularly in the "dirt tunnel" scene, which was even lit the same way and shot from the same camera angles.
Basically, you have a group of youngsters traveling the country doing research for a book on roadside attractions. They stop at a gas station to fill up, and come across Captain Spalding, the only redeeming aspect of the movie. Spalding fills the part of "smart-ass redneck villain" as well as the old redneck in Chainsaw 2 did, dishing out one-liners and menacing looks with great relish. I'd pay to watch a Captain Spalding movie. Unfortunately, he's only in the film for perhaps fifteen minutes. And tell me, when was the last time you paid 20.00 to watch fifteen minutes? Did you bring
lots of quarters and Kleenex? Yup. Thought so.
...I swear, that fuckin' chainsaw was THIS...LONG...
So Spalding has a home made house of horrors ride that includes a scene depicting "Dr. Satan," a local nut who performed experimental surgeries on mental patients and was never captured. The story grabs the attention of our heroic Gen X'ers, who decide to investigate for themselves. Spalding is all-too-happy to draw them a map that will lead them to where it all went down.
Well of course, they're driving at night in the rain, and they stop to pick up a hitch hiker, (who introduces herself as Baby) and then proceed to blow a flat tire. Or so they think. In all actuality, it was shot out by a redneck hiding in the bushes. Baby assures them that everything's fine, that her brother (who shot out the tire) has a tow truck and will come get them. Soon, they're all sitting at the table having dinner with a cast of nutballs, in a scene ripped directly from both the first, second, and third Chainsaw films. The only positive aspect was Moseley's performance as the family patriarch, and even it is highly derivative of Chop Top... but hey, the old crazy woman is played by Stifler's Mom, so that's a good thing... right?
...And thus spaketh the Lord... LICK MY PLATE, YOU DOG DICK!
From there, just stop the film, and put in Chainsaw 2, as you won't miss a thing. Same running through underground tunnels. Same genetic oddities. Same dumb cops. Same inbred redneck antics. Same "shocker" ending. How the fuck was this movie considered original and groundbreaking? Was the actual film left on the cutting room floor and what made it to the screen is just a remake experiment like the redo of Psycho from a few years back? Even the special features sucked. One of them was so mind-numbingly stupid that I wondered if it was accidentally put in... In this "special feature," Spalding, Mosely, and Baby
are standing in front of a green screen cracking jokes, and all the jokes, no matter how non-correllative, have the same punch line: "Tiny fucked a stump." You can practically smell the weed.
The Government's experiments in cross-breeding Oompa-Loompas with the Sasquatch didn't go exactly as planned...
There's just no damned imagination here. Throughout the film, Zombie randomly splices in vague distorted "dream scenes" that are so brief and badly filmed that you can't easily discern what the jumpin' Jiminy fuck you're looking at. There are ZERO scares in this film, and very little gore. Oh, and there's a fishman whose mouth looks like a herniated asshole.
Romero's spinning in his grave... the fucker's not even dead yet...
When I watched Trainspotting, I never once said to myself, "Now this guy would make one hell of a horror film director." And after having seen the film that summer audiences seemed so wrapped up in, I stand by the fact that I never said that, as this is a horror film that is so poorly directed, shot, and conceived that it has the feel of an 80's era made-for-TV film.
There are no major stars, so I'll get down to the plot. Some Animal Rights activists break into a science lab to free the chimps kept there. A scientist warns them that the chimps are infected with "rage," and not to touch them. But just like any other activists drunk on their own self-righteousness, they disregard the warning and set one of the animals loose, who quickly chomps into the first activist he can lay his hands on. Twenty seconds later, her eyes turn a strange shade of red and yellow, and she attacks one of her companions. The screen goes
Leave it to the British to pioneer the Gay Zombie Porn genre...
Twenty eight days later, a man wakes up from a coma in an abandoned hospital. He finds some clothes, and heads out onto the streets of London. They're empty. Cars lies wrecked across the roadways. Trash lies about everywhere. There's no electricity, no hustle, no bustle, no life. Just a seemingly empty city. When he's barely rescued from a pack of blood-thirsty loonies by two other survivors, he learns the horrible truth: a virus has wiped out
almost the entire human population or turned them into insane relentless killng machines. The virus is in the blood. If one bites you, or if their blood enters your body in any way, you're infected, and become one of them within twenty seconds.
What follows is basically a road film where the protagonists search for fellow survivors, and the elusive hope of a cure. And much like House Of 1000 Corpses lies in the shadow of Chainsaw 2, so does this film lie in the shadow of George Romero's Dead series.
True, the villains of this film do not exactly fit the mold of the traditional horror film zombie. They are not dead, as zombies are. They can be killed with a well placed bullet, where as zombies must be utterly dismembered. They don't crave brains, but kill simply for the sake of killing. And they are not slow, ungainly creatures, but move quickly, and in packs, like wolves.
Still, the film draws heavily from Romero's work, particularly Dawn Of The Dead (which has zombies over-running a shopping mall) and Day Of The Dead (zombies over-taking a military base.) It was filmed entirely with digital cameras (thanks a fucking lot Lucas) so the entire experience has an overly-sharp, harsh look to it, a look that brings to mind one of a hundred cheaply-made documentaries, which I suppose is the look they were going for, but it doesn't really cut it for this genre. We had our fill of that one-trick pony with the Blair Witch, thanks so fucking much.
They were hoping, I guess, that it would make the film seem gritty and realistic. But as the credits rolled, all I felt was that it looked really cheap, like a film student's work project. It has little-to-no effects, and the action is filmed in jerky, scatter-shot snibets that leave you wondering what the hell just happened. Thankfully, the film rarely neglects to show the outcome to the camera, so we can marvel at the carnage... only... there's not that much carnage to marvel at.
Meatloaf as Leopold on the set of the new film Amadeus 2: The Next Generation.
Zombie films have always been about gore. But there's hardly any gore in this film. You often see the infected attacking various helpless humans, but rarely do you see the amount of damage that occurs. I can't speak for you, but I for one want to see entrails, blood, and brains in my zombie films. I yearn for the skull cracking. I want to see the undead naked punk chick with a mouthful of colon, goddamit! Not this artsy-fartsy British attempt
at horror! Give it up, go back to making thoughtful introspective films with guys like Ewan McGreggor and Hugh Grant, and get your lame duck zombie film off my goddamned TV!
So then they try to get repeat business during the summer by announcing a "shocking second ending!!!" (extra exclamation points added by me, as I'm a cynical sarcastic asshole.) So what's the second ending that was so revelatory that fans unloaded another 7.50 a pop to see it? Well, I won't drop any major spoilers here. We'll just say that one of the characters who survives in the original ending, doesn't in the second.
The DVD has a few deleted scenes, a documentary, and a third ending that's done completely with storyboard drawings acted out by the director and the producer that would've been a FAR better ending than either of the two that were actually filmed. Overall though, a rather shallow package for the 20 bucks. Especially when you can get Dawn Of The Dead and Day of The Dead in a two pack for the same price. Either of those films are superior to this film, which was touted as a rejuvination of the zombie film, even though there aren't any bloody zombies in it.
Billy Bob liked his women like he liked his KFC: Greasy, with small breasts
So what does this say for the horror genre? What does it say when the only major horror release for the Halloween season
was a remake of the original Chainsaw film (anyone seen this? Is it any good? E-mail me, yo...) and was quickly out grossed by a horror parody (Scary Movie 3), which in itself is a rip-off of its own series, as it's essentially a Wayans Brothers movie that has no Wayans Brothers in it, or involved in it in any way. Is this the best that we can hope to expect from now on? Has everyone in Hollywood forgotten The Haunting of Hill House, or the Exorcist, or Halloween? I rather think they have, when instead of funding some decent horror projects, they instead choose to fund a sequel to Freddy Vs Jason and are heating up production of a Harry Potter parody entitled, I shit you not, "Henry Bates and The Sorceror's Balls." I swear, if I had the chance, I'd eat Katzenberg's brain.