2467 - 05/01/2011 - Devil
- John Erick Dowdle
Seeing two horror movies in the theater reminded me of how I had meant to see this movie in the theater when it was out. So I just downloaded it instead. The characters start out overwhelmingly obnoxious, but that ends, thank God. Though I mean mostly it ends because they start dying but uh hrm yeah. And there were a few points where I thought that it was going to end up some weird morality play and BELIEVE IN GOD AND TRUST HIM was going to be the 'moral of the story' or something but luckily that was avoided to. I mention these things because they specifically would have impeded my pleasure in viewing the film. I would have had a 'hard time.'
But really, this ends up being fantastic. I like horror movies that involve elevators as pivotal plot points (yeah weird huh), and I am also prone to enjoying movies with small, enclosed casts. Also the actor who plays the detective, Chris Messina, is always kind of cute and fun to watch, even though he's basically boring and bland (which jesus christ Vicky Christna Barcelona sure highlights), but he's good and cute here.
Suitably creepy, I think, and I really like how effective the scene where the fact of the devil is caught on the security tape (and it seems like the director has a fetish for video being involved in the creation of horror, which is cool with me). Works pretty well, and also seems really kind of fucked-up violent for only being PG-13, but whatever it's not like ratings are relevant or reflective of anything ever.
2468 - 05/02/2011 - Virgin of Nuremberg
- Antonio Margheriti
I am catching up on all of the movies that I haven't yet seen from that 100 European Horror Movies book that I've had for three years and not read. I'm still not going to read it, I plan on selling it, but I noted the titles I hadn't seem to keep as a list for when I'm in the mood for European horror that I haven't seen before and can't think of anything off the top of my head. This is pretty par for the course in terms of early Italian horror, but it's not bad. It's basically vapid and pretty and not really intense or creepy but nicely sexual and really just pleasant to watch.
2469 - 05/05/2011 - Playing with Fire
- Alain Robbe-Grillet [sort of rewatch]
Another "sort of" rewatch as I'd seen it before sans subtitles. It, of course, works better when you can understand the dialogue. However, I was at least a little disappointed because, really, this is basically an exercise in Robbe-Grillet being clever (which I'm sure critics could argue is most of his career, but I disagree). It lacks any sort of context to operate within. The best scenes are the scenes of Carolina wandering the brothel and peaking into rooms. It's weird to consider, because the scenes themselves have no utile function in the film, so I imagine it'd be hard to defend against misogyny outside of the fact that within the context of the entire film, it's very clearly constructed as artifice.
Which, the more that I think about it, is a really weak defense. I struggle to articulate a defense for misogyny in these movies most of the time because I fail to read them as misogynistic, and this is with an awareness of the male gaze and how it functions. I wonder if it's just I enjoy these scenes that are often construed as misogynistic aesthetically that I become lazy, or passive, or something. I'm thinking about this here because it seems to be shit that Robbe-Grillet specifically gets a lot. This might also be the most 'suspect' of his films too, in the sense that, as I mentioned, the scenes that are the most interesting are the scenes in which our female protagonist wanders a bordello and simply becomes privvy to varying 'outrageous' scenes of sexuality (and in all cases except for one, it is women being subjugated to the laws of the paying Male customer). This is only, arguably, problematic because like I said, there is no real reason for the scenes other than the fact that they elaborate the nature of the bordello (which has little bearing on the narrative). I don't find this inherently problematic, but if I were asked to 'defend' the 'misogynistic' implications of these scenes I don't know if I would be able to, and that in itself is inherently problematic?
As much as I want to be on the side of the marginal here (the marginal, of course, being the woman in comparison to the ironclad rule of Man in cinema's history), I think the reason I even have a hard time having a problem with these scenes is the following reason:
1 - the scenes are highly aestheticized to the point where the artificiality is undeniable. it's this aestheticization that makes them interesting to me. a scene in which a woman gets burned alive is accomplished with an overlay--there is no attempt to mask this fact.
2 - most of the scenes are shot from a medium angle, with very few lingering close-ups of the body. this, i think, arguably denies the fetishization of the body, instead favoring the aesthetic inference of the scene as a whole (which makes it less about objectifying & more about beauty).
I don't know. Is this all bullshit? Is this stuff I need to be thinking about? I like being accountable. I mean overall this movie is only so-so. Even Trintignant is looking kind of old & bloated. The cleverness of the post-meta narrative detective story is actually kind of dumb & not funny and reminds me of what I don't like about American post-modernism.
2470 - 05/06/2011 - The Poughkeepsie Tapes
- John Erick Dowdle
Check this out I'm writing my notes on a movie a mere 2 hours after I finished watching it. The is mostly unprecedented. Anyway. So, the guy who directed Devil directed this, and when I was looking him up I was like "oh hey I remember watching the trailer for that movie years ago it seemed vaguely interesting" and then of course I completely forgot about it but hey now it's available so I grabbed it and then today on my (very extended) lunch break, I watched it. & you know what? It was seriously about 100 times better than I was expecting. Devil, as I mention, was fine, but this is definitely creepy & evil, which are two things that I appreciate in a horror movie. Of course, because I am apparently an idiot masochist, I went to the IMDb and started reading reviews, and turns out every retarded horror fan in the world that's seen the movie thinks it has "TOTALLY UNBELIEVABLE ACTING" or that it's "not scary at all" or whatever dumb fucking shit these testosterone-bursting seventeen year olds need to do god I fucking hate horror fanboys they are the reason most horror movies are insufferable they are also the reason that Tarantino & Roth have money which is clearly not a good thing. Anyways, sorry for that little diversion there. I think I'll talk about what works here, in list form, because that worked out well above.
1 - the 'found vhs footage' is actually framed extensively within a 'documentary,' as opposed to the way the trailer seems to push the idea that this is something similar to August Underground. This is much more interesting than AU & its sequels. The AU movies are sort of interesting in concept, but let's face it, no matter how well you can pull-off special effects and how easy it is to act like a spazzy serial killer, that shit gets really boring unless you're actually a sadist. I need narrative, and the framing of this footage within a documentary serves to both fill in a narrative & thrusts a power upon the footage, due to the mythologizing of the serial killer.
2 - the construction of what seems to amount to the 'uber-serial killer' here is really interesting. like, holy crap, this dude is like leaps and bounds above every other documented serial killer, to the point where he frames an ex-cop & gets the cop executed on death row? that shit is insane. it's also a really nice touch that the revelation that whoops the cop was innocent gets over shadowed by 9/11? in the construction of an apocryphal document, the filmmakers do a really good job.
3 - the 'found footage' itself is actually rather brief & mostly obscured-- the audience is denied the pleasure of the 'snuff' gore, which means we can be terrified without having to be implicated as 'just as guilty,' which really ends up heightening the terror because it's more, let's say, pure, instead of tainted by complicity & guilt. the found footage is also aesthetically interesting-- like i understand that the idea is towards some sort of realism, like, "these tapes are fucked up, deal with it," but anybody who deals with video tape knows that even after 100s of rewatches, video doesn't degrade in the fashion that these tapes do. With something like 2400 hours of footage, there's no way the tapes had been degraded enough to achieve what amounts to a mostly consistent aesthetic. This is fine with me. Because I don't care about realism I don't care when these sort of freedoms are taken: in fact, I'd argue that this makes it more interesting, the aestheticization of the footage. It takes it further away from the banality of reality and further into the realm of the unreal, which is where our terror needs to develop
4 - the most exciting & simultaneously 'creepy' moment in the film is also the, arguably, most abject, the most aestheticized, the most performative moment of 'found footage.' it leads to an idea that the footage is really more of a performance, 'art', than just a 'memento' as is often posited by the talking heads in the 'documentary' diegesis (and part of me questions whether or not the filmmakers recognized this element of their movie)-- it's a ridiculously creepy scene where a kidnapped woman's head is framed in the right third of the screen, her mouth taped shut, her eyes screaming in despair and terror, and the serial killer, on all fours, sort of shuffles through the room in the background, a mask on his head (literally the top of his head) which presents an angled visage that doesn't make sense, but a face that stares at the camera. the serial killer then arrives at his victim, rises to reveal his second mask (which is similar to a mask from Bergman's Hour of the Wolf), and he sticks two needles, attached to his fingers, into the woman's neck. Blood spills into the tape that covers her mouth, the tape ends.
5 - the masks in this movie are awesome and creepy. They are not dumb and obvious. like, geez, thank fucking god somebody had some taste.
6 - really? definitely the most, er, engaging serial killer movie i've seen in a while. possible the best/creepiest serial killer movie that's been made since Seven, which, whatever, the fetishistic attention to detail there makes me appreciate it's construction (the plea for empathy is annoying but doesn't affect how it works). really, this movie just manages to pull off a lot of things effectively that most independent horror movies fail at. the score is fantastic (it's also not dumb aggro nu-metal which certainly helps).
2471 - 05/09/2011 - The Door with Seven Locks
- Alfred Vohrer
There's a book called 100 European Horror Films that I bought like 4 years ago, proceeded to read about 20 or 30 pages of, and then promptly put the book back on the shelf and forgot about it (it was basically and the end of the first Esotika wave, at the point where I couldn't really deal with reading or writing about film, and I was rarely watching movies). Since I'm moving in a couple months, I've been trying to get rid of as much shit as possible. I sold the book. But, first, I made a list of all the titles in the book that I hadn't seen yet, because I figured it'd be a nice reference point for when I wanted to watch some euro-horror I hadn't seen before and couldn't think of anything off the top of my head.
So I decided to watch this because A) Klaus Kinski is in it and basically the rule is if Klaus Kinski is in a movie the movie is going to be at least watchable and B) I'd never seen a German Krimi film before, which I guess is historically the predecessor to Giallo, or whatever. It's OK. Kinski dies in like the first ten minutes. The plot is vaguely interesting, but too early historically (i.e. before sleaze was really "in vogue") to be really interesting, I guess. It felt very Sherlock Holmesian, with the protagonist Inspector reacting very banally to death, simply looking for a clues, pulling a big reveal at the end.
The one really awesome part is that there's a man in a monkey costume for like... no reason, and for like a really brief period of time, which is pretty exciting? I don't know it was kind of funny at least.
2472 - 05/10/2011 - Conceptual Paradise
- Stefan Romer
The last year has lead to me having a realization that conceptual art, land art, and arte povera are basically the 3 realms of art that I maintain a heavy interest in. There are exceptions, but mostly the roots of what interest me in art come from these three 'movements' or 'groups' or whatever you want to call them. But the point is that this was fun to watch and I got to actually see some of these artists and listen to them speak and learn how to pronounce their names, hah. It's a pretty good documentary, and it even briefly addresses the ideas of modernism/conceptualisms in the non-Western world.
2473 - 05/18/2011 - Beyond the Door
- Ovidio Assonitis
The first hour of this is completely amazing. There's an exchange between precocious daughter, father, and son near the beginning that might be the best 45 seconds of dialog ever committed to celluloid. I will rip the scene and upload it to YouTube or something soon, it's so totally worth it. The last hour of this totally lags (this movie is also like... 3 times longer than it needs to be for some reason), and is where the Exorcist ripoff scenes occur, but eventually, near the end, things get better again as it gets batshit crazy and there is a scene in which the female protagonist is simultaneously possessed by satan & pregnant with satan in baby form, and she's floating in the air, while a man, who is actually dead, thus a ghost, is instructed, in his own voice, via the floating satan/satan's mother to deliver the baby by 'reaching inside of' the woman, and then she gives birth to a dead baby with no mouth and mourns by donning black and going out on a yacht. The end.
2474 - 05/21/2011 - A Nightmare on Elm Street
- Samuel Bayer
I "live tweeted" my experience watching this, so I guess i'll just put that shit here. Also, everybody in this movie is ugly or bland or both, what the hell.
i am watching the 2010 NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET should i live tweet it // heterosexual college males in contemporary horror films are ALWAYS macho controlling assholes and it's REALLY ANNOYING // the freddy makeup in this movie is weird. like, it seems to be aiming more for 'realism' or something, but really kind of looks hilarious. // like, honestly, there are more macho douchebags in horror movies than like any other genre ever & it's SO annoying // boy, they sure spell out what the conflict is here. "I CAN'T GO TO SLEEP OR I'LL DIE!" thanks we get that // new freddy voice is definitely retarded though, and (so far at least) it seems like a lot of the creativity of dreamland is gone. // seems like we might be replacing 'sins of the father' with some sort of 'childhood trauma', seems weird, victimizing maybe? // oh jesus they literalize the "1-2 Freddy's coming for you" song into pre-demon Freddy Krueger playing hide & seek with children? // hahahahaha holy shit. "THIS IS FOR MY SOOONNNNNN!" (throws flaming gasoline can into building) // the dialogue in this movie is ridiculously blunt. "un-nuanced" perhaps is the better word. it's just like, so incredibly obvious? // the things they're taking from other NoES movies and recontextualizing into the new plot is weird. // like i normally don't give a shit about things like dialogue, but jeez this is poor. // the thing i've always found interesting about the NoES movies (and i've seen all of them a million times) is that they never even attempt to // sort of demonstrate to the adults that don't believe them what's going on. seems like it wouldn't be that hard, really? // the potentiality that freddy krueger was not actually an evil bastard son of a million perverts & criminals, etc is kind of weird. // or i mean, maybe he still is, guess i'll find out in the next 20 minutes. i like the idea of him being innocent though. // oh look stack of pedo polaroids // and now MELODRAMA and SENTIMENTALITY jeez // what is this telescoping blur shit thing wtf // they literally use a heartbeat as the building for a jump-scare and then fail to execute it in any sort of successful manner. // hallway of blood is neat, but lacks the intense strangeness of quicksand stairs in the original // wait, seriously, you are going to burn freddy krueger again, that seems fucked, seems like OH HEY THAT DIDN'T WORK THE FIRST TIME EITHER // well the movie is over. ultimately that was pretty dumb.
2475 - 05/22/2011 - The Cave
- Bruce Hunt [rewatch]
I like movies that take place in caves, and, honestly, from what I remember this is a lot more fun to watch than The Descent, which I think is also actually completely retarded but in a totally different way than this. This is more fun + features hot manly nature dudes. Creatures are probably not as awesome, but there is less bickering and more bad-ass shit. Is this an entire subgenre that I've somehow not explored? Or are the only movies of the subgenre this & The Descent?
2475 - 05/23/2011 - Special Effects
- Larry Cohen
Zoe Lund is kind of amazing in this movie, because she somehow is so good at not being herself that she manages to actually act like she's a terrible actor because it fits the diegesis of the film, and then she plays another character who is an actress playing the first character she played and it's really hella meta. Also the sleazy director is like basically kind of an avatar for Jamie Gillis it seems like to me, and his apartment is mega lovely. Larry Cohen movies are pretty cool.
2476 - 05/25/2011 - Colour from the Dark
- Ivan Zuccon
Kind of completely didn't care what was happening, but the Italian father dude was way hot in a really weird way mostly because he had giant arms, and there were some kind of gross things that were fairly effectively pulled of? The tone to this reminded me a bit of the tone of the films of Dante Tomaselli (whatever happened to him?), but not quite as interesting/insane. There are some dream sequences that are interesting, but there's a bit too much... I don't know how to articulate it. Like, it kind of seems like the actors are trying to hard, or something. It's ok though. I am vaguely interested in seeing more Zuccon films, mostly so I can continue to objectify the hot Italian dude who I guess is in all his movies.
2477 - 05/25/2011 - Taxi Driver
- Martin Scorsese
I finally got around to watching this, mostly because I saw a production photo that made me realize just how dang hot Bobby De Niro is in this movie (especially when one considers that he is not even remotely attractive now). But, in this, in terms of younger dudes, he is totally 100% my type, derpy and everything. Also I love Jodie Foster so why hadn't I seen this? I don't know. The film is kind of really beautiful, the grime of the film itself immediately had me really excited, and I'd hate to use the word "gritty" but there's a real texture to this film that contemporary cinema completely lacks. The narrative itself is somewhat, hrm, naive I guess, I'm not sure if that's exactly what I mean. I mean it's kind of simplistic. Moral ambiguity is nice, but there seems to be far more weight placed on it in here than is necessary. Still really good though. I think I might just really like Paul Schrader as a script-writer, 'cos I really liked American Gigolo too. I should see the DePalma film he scripted.
2478 - 05/25/2011 - Paranormal Activity 2
- Tod Williams
[notes towards a larger essay: the movie as an interactive experience, not within the film itself, but the 'multi-media' experience of the film; PA1 + 3x "alternate" endings, only one of them compatible with the continuing narrative found here- the choose your own adventure without any forethought.] I thought this worked a lot better than the first one, and I'm always interested in 'sequels' that sort of intertextually link with what they're following instead of like specifically carrying on with a narrative thread or whatever. Also the characters are less obnoxious here. The ending is also a lot better, and really interesting, possibly still because of the intertextual nature, but more-so because, what, like 6 months pass between the climax and the actual ending? That's awesome. Nicolas Rombes also wrote an article about how PA2 can be read as an experimental film which is actually what lead to me renting the film in the first place: http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/news/2011/05/six-asides-on-paranormal-activity-2/
I think he's right, to a degree, in the sense that techniques from the avant-garde are adopted to a narrative end which, as I have pointed out in fuller reviews/articles before, is something I fully support.