April 25, 2013

The Lords of Salem (2012)



"Heidi, a radio DJ, is sent a box containing a record - a 'gift from the Lords'. The sounds within the grooves trigger flashbacks of her town's violent past. Is Heidi going mad, or are the Lords back to take revenge on Salem, Massachusetts?"

There's no point beating around the bush like a lot of reviewers do, "The Lords of Salem" is just a load of disappointing, boring, faux arty-farty bullshit.

As much as I like Rob Zombie's "Halloween II" and fancy his wife in everything she does, "The Lords of Salem" put the kibosh on any of those warm fuzzies. If a film like this, which borrows from everywhere yet still fails to deliver its story in a comprehensible manner, is the way that Rob Zombie has chosen to go, horror isn't just dead, it's rotting too.

There's a lot of pretentious arty-farty crap in the world, and then there's crap which pretends to be pretentious and arty-farty like this. Rob Zombie has described his film as "If Ken Russell directed The Shining", but that's nothing to be proud of. The obvious homages with pacing as lethargic as "2001: A Space Odyssey" are, however, the least of this movie's problems.

As I mentioned, I think a lot of Sheri Moon Zombie. She seems like a nice enough woman in real life and she's undeniably hot. The problem is that she doesn't have enough charisma on screen to pull off a lead role. This, of course, is disastrous in "The Lords of Salem" where the focus is on her.

Men seldom make passes at girls who need a good wash.

Sheri has great legs and a pretty face. You can say what you like about her bottom and washboard chest, and beauty is subjective, but you still can't deny her legs. You get to see a lot of them here too. Unfortunately, with ugly librarian glasses, dirty-looking dreadlocks and a bunch of fake tattoos, she's been made to look like a female version of her husband which doesn't exactly make her Heidi character sympathetic.

To say that the ex-junkie Heidi looks like she smells of wet dog and needs several showers (not to mention lots of laser tattoo removal to get rid of all that vile self-harming) is an understatement. Gratuitously showing her ass cheeks a couple of times doesn't help in any way, shape or form either. She's just too alienating. When Heidi says that she's "super tired" around 20 minutes in, that's the end as far as dialogue goes too. The correct word is "very" or "really" not "super"! I hope this is just a one-off and that irritating West Coast half-grammar hasn't spread from YouTube to real movies.

It's not really worth mentioning any of the other actors or actresses in "The Lords of Salem" especially as the big name convention whores who everyone expected to see cameos from are only in "blink and you'll miss it" moments, and the others are just in the background, but I'm obliged to say something merely to be sociable. I think Jeff Daniel Phillips is supposed to be channelling Rob Zombie, and Bruce Davison (aka Willard) has an even more pointless role than Scatman Crothers in "The Shining".

When old Willard uses Google (relabelled "Lookup") on his Apple product placement laptop to search Heidi's real name, the Bumhole (I mean Blumhouse) Productions influence is painfully obvious. Seriously, he'd just been reading the diary by the leader of the Lords of Salem and got his wife to play a bar of music out of it, so how is finding out that Heidi's real surname is Hawthorne (or "Hawthroen" according to the misspelled website) some great surprise? The Family Tree search is a most unnecessary discovery contrivance since there can't be that many people named Hawthorne who are born in Salem. It's not like her surname is Smith!!!

Sorry, you're not coming in if you don't have any little cakes!

I'm sure that there will be Rob Zombie fanboys raving about the three old satchel-asses, i.e. Macbeth witches, so I might as well say something about them too. Yes, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace and Judy Geeson are the best part of the movie, but they deserved to have a movie devoted entirely to themselves without all the other rubbish going on. "The Witches of Eastwick" has already been made, but if anyone wanted to remake it as a real horror movie, I now know three actresses who would be good in it. As someone who usually can't stand Dee Wallace's acting, I'm still willing to give a compliment when I feel that she has actually earned it.

Giving it more benefit than it actually deserves, "The Lords of Salem" is really only "Rosemary's Baby" mixed with "Black Sunday", "The Shining", Lars Von Trier's "The Kingdom", "The Devils", "Crowhaven Farm", "The Ninth Gate", "Trick or Treat", "The Ring", "Pontypool", "The House of the Devil", and "Suckspiria". I could quite easily tick off another 20 or so movies (and short stories such as M.R. James' "Number 13") which it borrows from, but if I can do it, so can you.

There are so many places where parts of the story are set up just to fizzle out and be forgotten about that it's all a confusing mess which seems designed to be weird for the sake of being weird. Even Dario Argento's "Mother of Tears" is better than this shit and doesn't have anyone giving birth to a lobster in it. Oh, did I just ruin the ending? Too bad. Most people will either walk out or fall asleep before they get that far anyway. "The Lords of Salem" doesn't even have any spring-loaded cat scares in it!

Ultimately, the sad thing is that no matter how many bad reviews "The Lords of Salem" gets, the braindead "yukyukyuk" crowd will still pay to see it just to find out how bad it really is for themselves. Ker-ching! Once you're famous, it's a licence to make money from morons even if your product sucks possessed priests.

This, my friends, is why we can't have nice things.

April 10, 2013

Evil Dead (2013)



"Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival."

I have good news for you! In six months time, if you can't find the "Evil Dead" remake/sequel (requel?) in Wal-mart's bargain bin then you'll easily be able to pick up a copy from your local pawn shop. Trust me, there will be thousands of "Evil Dead" DVDs sitting proudly alongside all the "Saw" sequels, Platinum Dunes remakes, "Masters of Horror" episodes, the After Dark Horrorfest collection, and the budget Echo Bridge multipacks.

Even though there are many people in the "Uuuuh" generation who will buy "Evil Dead" on DVD and Blu-ray for the full price, you can be sure that the majority of them will kick it to the kerb just as quickly once they actually see it again. This "Evil Dead" isn't going to go into anyone's top 100 or even their top 1000 list unless they have something severely wrong with them.

"Has anyone seen my dentures?"

Starring another bunch of TV non-actors who you've probably never heard of (Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore), "Evil Dead" has brought horror full circle for the "hobby horror" brigade who claim Sam Raimi's original "The Evil Dead" as the inspiration for their own half-arsed handycam masterpieces. You have to laugh, you really do.

If the "Evil Dead" remake is the pinnacle of everything these so-called "indie" filmmakers would like to achieve, it makes me glad that I was born in a time when we had real horror movies instead of this slew of shit. It also makes me glad that I have less years ahead of me than behind me so that I won't have to suffer many more of them. RIP Roger Ebert, by the way. He was lucky to escape when he did.

Rather than write yet another boring review telling you all about the lack of characterisation, the plot holes, the poorly written and delivered dialogue, terrible acting, hard to see "quick cut" action scenes, the homages, tropes, and all the "excessive gore" which didn't even begin to redress the balance, I'm going to do something completely different this time. I'm going to repost my Twitter timeline from when I watched "Evil Dead" with a huge audience of only two other people in the movie theatre.

A SPOILERIFIC COMMENTARY WILL FOLLOW.
Do not read any further if you want to watch "Evil Dead" on your own.

He clearly loves tofu and drives a Prius.

Here are my Tweets in the correct chronological order. Timings are only approximate since I was trying to watch a shitty movie at the same time.

There's a little bit too much "vocal fry" in the new Evil Dead for my liking. #mushmouths #valleygirls #horrible #evildead

Jessica Lucas = vocal fry to the max
Jane Levy = mumble, mumble, mumble

No dialogue coach was available for Evil Dead obviously. #evildead

I wonder how long it will be until the characters start saying "super" instead of "very". Hating it already. #evildead

13 minutes into Evil Dead... BORED BORED BORED BORED BORED. #evildead

NO! Not dead cats hanging in the basement! I'm done here. :( #evildead

"youshudnttavetouchedanyfingfromdatbassment" - mumble, mumble, mumble #evildead

The Book of the Dead looks like a 5 year old made it... or if I drew the pictures... lol... This is crap. #evildead

20 minutes into Evil Dead... is this 90210? LOL The soap opera drama... #evildead

22 minutes in... "Evil Dead" POV through the trees and a big scary monster.... bored.

22 minutes into the Evil Dead. Why does this bitch makes so much noise? Grunt, gasp, grunt, gasp... SHUT UP! #evildead

23 minutes... and now she's shrieking too... cliché after cliché... :( #evildead

24 minutes into Evil Dead... TREE RAPE... pussified toned-down tree rape. I wanted to see it going in and out! Utter crap. #evildead

At least the black girl has stopped that vocal fry shit. She did enough to have her own chip shop earlier. #evildead

Couldn't they find any pretty actresses to be in this film? #evildead

Dead dog 29 minutes in. Good. I hate dogs. Still boring as shit. #evildead

"Everything's been getting worse every second"... Yup. This film is shit dipped in shit and sprinkled with shit croutons. #evildead

33 minutes in... Gayest shotgun blast ever! #evildead

"You're all going to die tonight." Try that again with some emotion, please. #evildead

Blood vomiting. Lame. #evildead

"I'm scared that what happened to Mia has something to do with the fucking witchcraft in the basement." Aw, scared little beardy puss.

R-rating achieved through swearing! #evildead

36 minutes in... exploding mirror trope... #evildead

37 minutes in... Olivia pisses her pants. She's the only one who will over this film. Sucks. #evildead

Converse product placement. Overpriced plimsoles. #evildead

The pacing is all out. No tension whatsoever. Bit like the original really. #evildead

40 minutes in... frenzied, quick cut stabbing scene, hard to see who is doing what to who. Horror is dead. #evildead

Beardie little pussy just grew some balls and killed Olivia with a broken bit of toilet... now he'll be all PTSD about it. #evildead

42 minutes in... duct tape on stab wounds doesn't actually work. Just so you know. You need superglue. #evildead

"I released something evil, Dave, I released something evil." Yeah, stutteryguts, keep repeating yourself some more. Dialogue. #evildead

If he says, "My mind is going, Dave, I can feel it!", I am walking out. #evildead

Natalie is kinda hot. Nice hair. #evildead

"I can smell your filthy soul." Yeah, right, there's no soul in this film at all. Soulless crap. #evildead

I don't care about any of the characters. At all. #evildead

Quick cut locking and chaining the cellar... oh my God... please end! #evildead

Did this movie only get an R rating for saying "Fuck" a lot? #evildead

Beardie weirdie is now William Shatner... "This book... iswrittenin... some... ancientalphabet..." #evildead

Don't waste your money on this film. I think there's something wrong with people who have been praising it.

48 minutes in... EXPOSITION... yeah, we know the story. This is the second remake and 4th Evil Dead film after all. #evildead

49 minutes. Nice blonde gash. LOL #evildead

Yeah, right. Blame the dead cat in the basement for all the problems with the evil dead. LOL #evildead

Cutting her arm off with an electric carving knife.... hmmm, "I Drink Your Blood" (1970) much? Rip-off! #evildead

LMFAO MOAR DUCT TAPE! #evildead

Yeah, nailguns don't actually fire nails like bullets. EPIC FAIL! 54 minutes in... #evildead

I'm glad that they are pulling the nails out. Those big six inch nails are too expensive to waste. #evildead

Beardie got beaten to death with a tire-iron/crate-opener thingy. Kewl... if you're 12. #evildead

57 minutes... "David, my face hurts..." Yeah, it's killing me too. Die already, you one-armed freak! #evildead

58 minutes... "I'm going to do what I'm going do... I'm going to do what I'm going to do...okay?" Do it! We heard you the 1st time. #evildead

I wonder what David's going to do...? I'm sure he's gonna do what he's gonna do though. Poor excuse for Ash. #evildead

Had to have a Zippo lighter, didn't he? Do you know how expensive those are? You don't throw them away like a Clipper! #evildead

I am watching "Evil Dead" the remake. 59 minutes in... please end... please end... please end this shit. #evildead

Is she singing a Justin Bieber song???? "Baby... baby..." NO!!!!! #evildead

"I can't do this... I can't do this...." Repeating every line twice is getting annoying. Repeating every line twice is... #evildead

60 minutes in... that's an hour... the ARISTEIA... arming scene for you plebs... Toolshed! Chainsaw! Groovy! NOT! #evildead

1:03 Water scene in cellar is watery. BORED. #evildead

Is Beardie dead now? Good. Dirty hippie. #evildead

1:06 Mumbling even worse with a plastic bag on her head. Mumble, mumble, mumble... bitch. #evildead

"Your mama sucks... " Wait! Haven't I heard all this before in "The Exorcist"? #evildead

"Stop it... I'm begging you." Who says that? Really? Really? And with no emotion or any act of begging to accompany it. LOL #evildead SUCKS

Adrenalin to the heart and de-fibrillation doesn't work on corpses, you know. FAIL #evildead

"You're at peace... you're at peace now." And you couldn't even say that in just one try? #evildead

Buried her... dug her up... buried her again... MAKE UP YOUR MIND! #evildead

1:11 Dirty hippie came back! Predictable. #evildead

"Go!" "I'm not going anywhere. I'm not going to go anywhere." GAH! Double-line padding AGAIN! #evildead

1:13 Did they really just turn Mia into a final girl? Are you fucking kidding me? #evildead

Bound to be a twist now she's found Linda's magnifying glass pendant thingy wotsit. #evildead

1:14 End of Carrie-style jump scare. Fell flat. #evildead

It's raining blood... Hallelujah... It's raining blood... #evildead

Hellraiser music? #evildead

1:15 Blair Witch shot from poster art. And they really have made her the final girl. :( #evildead

Yeah, right, girls know how to use chainsaws. LOL LOL LOL Would be more believable with a spoon. #evildead

1:16 Paul Daniels used to do the sabres in a box magic trick too. LOL #evildead

LOL Superhuman evil dead HULKS out, throws car! LOL #evildead

1:18 Okay, so cutting her own hand off was nice. She could've just waited for the Evil Dead demon to get closer though. Stupid. #evildead

"I'll... feast... on.. your... soul..." "Feast on this, motherfucker!" Samuel L. Jackson strikes again. #evildead

1:19 Chainsaw thing quite gory... BUT I've seen worse (or better as the case may be). OTT like Tarantino. :( #evildead

1:20 Please end... please end... please end... please end... please end... please end... please end... please end... please end... #evildead

1:22 THANK YOU, JESUS! it's over! Time for a piss. I couldn't care less about anything after the credits. Seen it all before. #evildead

Kilroy was here.

Yeah, I think my Tweets sum up everything I need to say about "Evil Dead". Unlike the actors in this movie, I'm not going to repeat myself. I'll never watch it again either.

"The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience", my arse! More like 17 million dollars spent on marketing minus $100,000 spent on an instantly forgettable movie without a single scare. I've seen out-of-date food rotting in my fridge that's more horrific.

The "Evil Dead" remake is the last ironically named six inch nail in the coffin of the horror genre.

Horror is dead. RIP horror.

April 5, 2013

Dark Skies (2013)



"As the Barrett family's peaceful suburban life is rocked by an escalating series of disturbing events, they come to learn that a terrifying and deadly force is after them."

While other people were getting all excited about the "Evil Dead" remake which, undoubtedly, will be reviewed on every horror blog this weekend until you are sick to death of reading about it, I chose to watch something different last night. There were no "Evil Dead" marathons for me because I don't even like the original anymore. Instead of getting caught up in the circus of Bruce Campbell grinning like a lunatic, chopping bits of himself off and waving a chainsaw about, I decided to watch something completely alien to me in more ways than one.

I endeavoured to find enjoyment in yet another Blumhouse Productions movie which has already been slammed by discerning horror critics from one side of the internet to the other. I heard that it had cats in it at one point, and really that's all a movie needs to keep me entertained nowadays. Well, that and a decent bit of storytelling, of course.

I'm not going to get into the finer details because I could easily sum up "Dark Skies" in a couple of choice expletives after it gave me another bout of "Juno Syndrome". For those of you who never read my blog regularly when I was more prolific, "Juno Syndrome" is my own term for when I enjoy a movie throughout its running time then realise 2 minutes after it ends that it was a load of contrived crap which doesn't stand up to any kind of critical deconstruction. "Dark Skies" has good production values, quite a few creepy moments, and I got fished into the Spielberg-esque suburban family problems, but almost as soon as the credits were over, I realised that I had been well and truly misled.

Already people will think, "Ah, but you're just a hater and don't like any PG-13 movies!" That's not entirely true. I didn't even know that "Dark Skies" was a PG-13. I also didn't know anything about the story beforehand other than it might have "extra terrestrials" in it. As long as a PG-13 movie doesn't intentionally have its punches pulled to earn that rating, I'm actually okay with it.

An anorexic teenager with a big head is behind you!

A lot of people also think that I'm totally against PG-13 rated horror just because horror shouldn't be PG-13. That's not actually true either as there are quite a few PG-13 horror and sci-fi movies which I've enjoyed over the years including "Poltergeist" (1982), "Signs" (2002), and even "The New Daughter" (2009). It's just as well really since "Dark Skies" is little more than a fusion of those three all over again. Unfortunately, with it being a Blumhouse Production, "Dark Skies" also shares the same plot construction as "Insidious", "Paranormal Activity" and "Sinister", and I really do hate those.

"Dark Skies" is "Poltergeist" with more discovery contrivances and the ghosts changed to evil grey aliens who look like "Slenderman". If you think you've seen it all before, you have. The only thing which stands out in a good way is the Apple product placement because I'm pretty sure that my next computer really will be an Apple after all the trouble I've had with Linux recently. It's refreshing to see the computers in use rather than being pawed by a certain immature blonde on YouTube.

No, I'm joking. The highlight of "Dark Skies" is actually the cat-owning "alien expert" Edwin Pollard, played by J.K. Simmons, whose exposition is up there with the best of them even if it borrows a lot from the scene between Roger Wayne (James Gammon) and John James (Kevin Costner) in "The New Daughter". I've seen J.K. Simmons in a lot of things. He's a great actor, but he'll still always be Vern Schillinger from "Oz" to me.

The rest of the acting is fairly decent too. I couldn't understand a single thing the little brother said, and the unnecessary close-ups of Keri Russell's upper lip mole distracted me, but it's fine otherwise. I can't abide kids in movies anyway, and Keri Russell is still fairly hot without any lipstick so I'm not going to condemn the cinematographer of "Dark Skies" for wanting to get near her. The characterisation is very good to the extent that the family and their lifestyle are more interesting in themselves than any of the alien abduction nonsense which comes along to ruin it.

The trouble is that aliens and alien abductions simply aren't real. It's total bullshit. If "Dark Skies" had been about a demonic house possession (which it really is anyway given so many "Poltergeist" homages) then it would be a worthy (albeit very generic) entry into the genre. Apart from an awesome (but borrowed) bird scene and one genuinely terrifying (also borrowed) moment near the end, "Dark Skies" is long on tension but disappointingly short on scares.

There's barely a trace of originality in "Dark Skies" other than the "twist" ending which should have quit while it was ahead. It seems to be a trademark of Blumhouse to deliver a great punchline and then ruin it all by adding too many anti-climactic minutes afterwards. It's not as if they care. Movies are just a pop product to them. As long as they make as much money as possible (as quickly as possible), to Hell with leaving the audience feeling satisfied.