Friday, August 7, 2009

Trailer Trash: "The Stepfather" remake

Let Penn Badgley do his laundry in peace!!!

One of my favorite eras in American horror movies is the late 80's. The booming home video market offered new distribution models for movies that would otherwise never see the light of day. And the traditional slasher mold had been shattered to bits by A Nightmare on Elm Street a few years before (and had reached the point of diminishing returns on its own around the same time) so horror filmmakers started getting creative and thinking outside the box, trying out new scenarios and taking the bloodshed out of the summer camps and school dances and into less expected situations.

And of course there were all those glorious shoulderpads.

One of my favorite examples of a horror flick that tried something new and pulled it off with aplomb is 1987's teen-angst serial killer thriller The Stepfather. An unexpected and effective mix of classic suspense, shocking violence and kitchen-sink melodrama, the movie starred a then-obscure Terry O'Quinn (now a huge star thanks to Lost) as a serial monogamist who went from town to town marrying different women until one plucky, gravel-voiced Shannen Doherty lookalike (Jill Schoelen) figured out his game.

Terry O'Quinn

The movie actually drew critical praise, especially for O'Quinn (who was a damn hot daddy), and the "phone in Shelley Hack's face" revelation scene is a certified classic. Now some asshat in Hollywood has decided to go and piss on the film's legacy by giving it what will likely be a half-assed and of course completely unneeded remake. (Again, if it ain't broke and was made after, oh, 1975 ... don't fuck with it, fellas.)

The remake stars Dylan Walsh (aka "The other guy from Nip/Tuck") as the titular schizo and Gossip Girl's Penn Badgley as Jill Schoelen. Yes, they've turned our final girl into a final boy, likely because Disturbia made bank at the box office and this remake clearly owes more to that movie than it does the original film that inspires it.

Anyway, here is the trailer for the remake. Aside from "copious shirtless Penn Badgley", can anyone tell me what the point of this might be?

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Trailer Fabulous: "Sorority Row"

Okay, so go ahead and kill me and dump me in a mineshaft but The House on Sorority Row isn't one of my favorites, despite featuring Kristin from Days of Our Lives as a white-hot Alpha Bitch. The Les Diabolique parallels were cute, sure, and the whole "twist" was interesting, but otherwise I've never really had much to say about it. (Except, of course, "Mrs. Slater", harder and more often.)

So don't kill me when I say that I'll totally go see this remake, which doesn't really appear to take much from the original other than the location and the idea of a prank-gone-wrong. Won't it be worth it to see that fish-faced idiot from The Hills get a tire-iron to the gut? I wonder if with her last breath she asks, "Isn't it funny how all this is happening while Lauren's away?"


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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Review: "Last House on the Left" is the last remake I thought they'd be able to actually pull off

If you've been a reader of this shambling mess of a website for any amount of time, you'll know that if there's one genre of horror I generally can't stomach, it's the "rape revenge" movie. And my overall distaste for this particular flavor of exploitation film likely stems from the fact that I was forced to watch Wes Craven's notorious video nasty Last House on the Left at a Little League barbecue ... when I was eight.

So when news came out that they were remaking the film as a glossy, studio-backed mall movie, I was pretty shocked. What's the point? Isn't the original's scuzziness and overall lack of polish (or even basic competency) its calling-card? Tossing $15 million and a bunch of TV actors at this premise would do rape and torture one worse by making it palatable to the mainstream. No, I thought: Let's leave this particular bit of ick to the grindhouses of days gone by.

So I was as surprised as anyone to find that The Last House on the Left is a pretty damn good horror movie.

First and foremost, the remake maintains an even, deliberate tone that from the first shot assures us that the filmmakers are not taking this project lightly. There are no blaring emo-rock transitions, no bitchy, disposable co-eds or killers with whom we're supposed to laugh as they carve their way through the idiot locals. This is not "B-movie exploitation" as Rob Zombie understands it, full of empty threats, bad acting, gratuitous nudity and unconvincing violence. This is legitimately disturbing, intense stuff, and the movie makes it clear from the onset that it isn't enjoying telling this story any more than you are watching it.

The film actually improves on some of the weaknesses of the original. The character of Mary (the daughter, well played by Sara Paxton) is vastly improved upon, and is given a much larger part in the overall story, which helps to connect the film's first and second acts. Gone is some of the icky debasement of the original's torture sequence (there's still a graphic rape, but it is handled as appropriately as that kind of thing can ever be handled, and with respect to the actors involved) but the forced lesbianism and other unnecessary exploitative elements have been dropped. The film also improves on the dynamic within the group of killers, with special emphasis being placed on Krug's son, Justin.

Oh, and it doesn't hurt that the actor cast as Krug (Garret Dillahunt) is hot as a fucking brushfire and runs around shirtless for half of the movie.

In a day when wide-release horror is in a state of diminishing returns, it's almost a shame that a well-rendered, carefully-considered like this one will no doubt be dismissed or unfairly compared to its source material (which, let's face it, is not all that great, sorry). If you're a fan of "home invasion" horror like Funny Games, The Strangers, Inside, Them and the like, this is a solid and worthy contribution to the subgenre that has mood, tension and gore to spare.

And as a side note, can I just say how laughable I find it that many of the mainstream reviews complain that the movie lacks the "gritty edge" of the original? First, they all apparently got the same memo that their journalistic integrity would be called into question if they didn't do so. And second, I doubt most have them have even SEEN the original, much less recently, or they might recall that the movie is considerably flawed. I was happy to take this remake at face-value, which I think it deserves.

And did I mention Krug's furry bitchtits? Yes? K. Guess I'm done then!

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Friday, February 13, 2009

"Friday the 13th": Jason goes to hell

Alright, I know I haven't been updating much (coughATALLcough!) lately, and I actually don't even have the time to be trying to address this topic with any degree of thoughtfulness, but I of course had to weigh in on the slick, CW-stuffed remake of Friday the 13th that is hacking its way into theaters tonight.

I caught the movie the other night with a heart full of anticipation and a head full of dreams of sugarplum fairies and sliced coeds and all sorts of other crap. See, you may remember that I actually LIKED the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake that these fellas churned out a few years back, so I figured that if anyone could manage a successful reboot of a beloved horror franchise, it would be they. (And not, say, Rob Zombie, who can forever suck my ass for his back-alley abortion of a Halloween.)

So it is with a heavy heart that I inform you that this remake kinda shits the bed.

It's not a disaster. I wouldn't go that far. But it misses the point of what really makes Friday Friday, and instead tries to turn it into Chainsaw 2: Leatherface Joins the Mighty Ducks.

First problem: Jason lives underground in a tunnel and keeps prisoners. Wha-wa-WHAAAAAT?! Oh please. Jason is far too busy to be bothered with houseguests, even if they do vaguely resemble his mother. Which brings me to the biggest gaping logic hole in this whole thing: If Jason was indeed alive and saw his mother beheaded in the woods (this reboot conveniently says that the tot wasn't dead, which takes care of the "aging dead kid" continuity issue that the originals had), then why was momma killing the counselers to begin with? This version makes a HUGE deal out of Jason's connection to his mom (who, sadly, is in the movie for all of 23 seconds), so why was the kid pretending to be dead and following his mom around while she killed everyone to begin with?

After a rather disturbing opening 15-minute sequence in which the filmmakers are probably hoping to confuse us, as they kill off the entire cast (saw that one coming from the trailers, thanks), the movie totally flatlines for the next hour. It's not as mean as the first segment (the sleeping bag barbecue in particular is NASTY!) so it doesn't maintain the kind of grueling intensity as Chainsaw, which is okay since it's a body-count movie, not a survival flick. But they also miss the mark by making the characters so humorless and loathsome and the murders so gruesome and unpleasant that it's hard to have fun watching the bodies pile up.

Case in point: Every female character who dies (save one) shows her tits. Even former pop princess Willa Ford has to first waterski topless - TOPLESS! - before getting a machete in her head with her ya-ya's out. The girls are uniformly piggish sluts, and the guys are no better. In fact, in this age of diverse casting, the filmmakers are actually so lazy as to basically say, "Well, if we cast a black guy and an Asian guy we really don't need to give them any other defining characteristics." Um, not exactly, guys.

Go ahead and rewatch the originals - while the characters were horny and ridiculous, they weren't total assholes. The couples actually enjoyed one another, where here all the sex is grudgefucking where the guys slap around the girls and the girls like it.

Body-count movies are supposed to have an element of fun to them. Otherwise the experience of watching over a dozen people die horrible deaths starts to become grating, or even unpleasant. If you look at this Friday remake versus the My Bloody Valentine remake from a month ago (which had its own faults, sure), the Valentine guys clearly "got it" in terms of how to gruesomely hack up dozens of people and make it into a good time, and these guys didn't. Hell, Valentine even managed to put a full 5-minute chase scene where the victim is fully nude and in 3-D, and it still didn't feel exploitative or tasteless like this one does.

But this brings me to the only real reason to sit through all of Friday to the end: The bodacious ta-tas of one Jared Padalecki. Like his Supernatural boyfriend - er, brother - Jensen Ackles, he's using a horror reboot to make his mark on the winter box office. And while Ackles' movie is a better one, Padalecki has clearly been hitting the gym to fill out his costume, and his perky nips may just be enough to guide you out of the woods once and for all.

So while not a total disaster, this wasn't the return to Camp Blood that I was hoping for. It's an unduly misogynistic and occasionally rather boring reimagining that downgrades one of our greatest masked men to being yet another retard in the woods with mommy issues and no sense for decorating. And if I wanted to see that, I'd rent Nell.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

"The Quarantining of Emily Rose" ... doesn't suck!

You may have heard that this weekend an honest-to-Blob horror movie opened in the theatres: Quarantine, the remake of Spanish hit REC. I haven't seen the original since I can't track down a bootleg that is actually subtitled and the only thing I can actually say in Spanish is "I think about cream cheese every day". (Which is true, btw.)

Anyway, I'm a fan of a good parlor trick (Quarantine employs the Cannibal Holocaust "found footage" trick that Cloverfield recently used to intense effect) and I also kinda dig Jennifer Carpenter from her rather piggish performance on Dexter (which is a compliment, believe it or not), so I thought I'd check it out.

And it ain't half bad! A few good scares, a simple but very clever trapped-with-the-infected setup (it's like Mulberry Drive with a budget) and an honest-to-God batshit breakdown by our Final Girl make for a solid 88 minutes of diverting horror moviegoing. There are some who will likely balk at Carpenter's character's unraveling in the third act (like the guys in my audience yelling at her to "Shut the fuck up!"), but I kind of loved that our tour guide through all the madness is utterly ill-equipped to handle any of the grislier developments of the night and basically throws in the towel.

And plus we get to see Carpenter retap into the role that put her on the map, that of a beleaguered teenage ghost motel in the otherwise completely unwatchable The Exorcism of Emily Rose. On the one hand I feel bad that her cutiepants boyfriend Michael C. Hall had to clean up her mess every night when she came home, but for the most part it was fun to see her shit her pants for about 30 minutes.

Anyone else catch it? What'dya think?

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mr. Magorium's Carnage Emporium

Here's the thing: I really don't have a problem either with David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) remaking Suspiria or with Natalie Portman starring in it. What I do have a problem with is the fact that the remake will likely never be dubbed into Italian quite as badly as this:


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Friday, February 1, 2008

Trailer (Not-So) Fabulous: April Fool's Day 2008

AKA: I Know What the Terror Train Did Last Prom Night in Laguna Beach.

Or: The Rage: My Super Fucking Atrocity Direct-to-Video Shitbag 16

I hope Clayton Rohner hunts down these assholes and kills them in even less imaginative ways than this movie has come up with, all the while screaming "Yeah, and I'm Cindy Lauper!"

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