yendi: (Jason)
House of the Dead. 2003. Written by Mark Altman and Dave Parker (with a story credit to Dan Bates). Directed by Uwe Boll.

Uwe Boll takes a lot of heat for his craptastic movies. In most cases, it's well-deserved. But House of the Dead is a fucking masterpiece. This is the epitome of a movie that's so bad, it's good. There's nothing intentionally worthwhile here, but if you don't have a good time while watching this movie, you're just not going in with the right attitude. Any movie that features a zombie slaughter at a rave, Clint Howard wearing a hook for a hand, and a cigar-chomping, gun-smuggling, crusty old sea captain named Captain Kirk is one that I'll gladly watch.

Well, as long as I have enough beer.

This film begins with bad techno music, a sure sign of doom. We then segue into the most overwrought narration ever, as Jonathan Cherry -- best known as the junkie who gets trisected by a flying barbed-wire fence in Final Destination 2 -- tells us, "It was a nightmare. so many dead people. So many victims. It all started a few days ago, when I came here for a rave. And now all that remains is the rotten smell of death."

So, in case you're lazy and wondering who survives, now you know. But we don't actually meet Cherry's character (named Rudy, presumably because he can't fail) just yet. He's just here to narrate the next few scenes, because otherwise we'd have no way to figure out that this is an island and that there are zombies on it.

I kid. Rudy narrates the very important next scene, in which he explains who these crazy kids trying to come to the island. See, there's Greg, who's got no personality because he's played by perennial Boll castmember Will Sanderson. There's Greg's girlfriend, whose name I can't remember because she dies first. There's Simon, who's a goofball and played by the guy from Wonderfalls, who's way better than his material here. There's Karma*, who has a crush on Simon. And there's Alicia, Rudy's ex.

They missed the boat to get to this super-special rave on an island**, and now they're desperate. And what do desperate ravers do? They find the first disreputable-looking sea captain they come across (our buddy Kirk), and pay him lots of money to take them to the island! Kirk's mate isn't Spock, but the hook-handed Salish, who is creepy in a way that only Clint Howard can be. There's about twenty minutes worth of these kids getting on the boat, outrunning a Coast Guard inspector, throwing up, and other fun stuff, but none of it's worth spending time on.

Let's see what's happening on the island. Oh, hey! It's Erica Durance, TV's Lois Lane! She demonstrates that cell phones don't work on the island, then she and her boyfriend go off to cuddle while the ravers keep raving. Oh, did I mention that this rave is in the middle of the afternoon? No glowsticks, either.

Anyway, Erica and her boytoy head off to a secluded beach, where she promptly strips naked*** while her boyfriend, for reasons that make no sense, decides to wimp out and lie on the beach. Erica goes swimming, and Boll, with his usual subtle hand, gives us about ten minutes of Stalkercam, with the inevitable result being that the Gaze aimed at naked Erica is actually just the cameraman, and the real danger is aimed at the boyfriend! When Erica surfaces from yet another dive, her boyfriend is gone.

Naturally, she decides to search the woods, where she finds a house****. She looks inside, and sure enough, there's her boyfriend. With a zombie's hand stuck through him! Oh noes! Erica tries to run, but she gets surrounded by zombies and chomped*****.

And her is where the movie shifts from "meh" to brilliant."

You see, House of the Dead is based on a rather famous rail shooter of the same name. So when Boll licensed the rights, he decided that half-second clips from the game were the best way to segue from scene to scene. Really. After Erica gets killed, we get a flash of animated zombie, and pretty much every scene shift from this point forward features one. It's either proof of Boll's genius or his insanity, but either way, it's wonderful.

The next fifteen minutes are a prime example of how to stretch out some slow scenes. We see another couple making out on the sand, we see the teens land on the beach, we see the couple making out some more, we see the teens start to walk, etc. Suddenly, and without warning, there's a total eclipse of the sun!

Oh, wait. Sorry. It's just that the walk from the beach to the rave took so long that it's now completely dark. Since the sun was high in the sky when they landed, figure they had to walk a good twelve miles or so. Fortunately, they're not tired. Unfortunately, the rave appears to be deserted. Greg and his soon-to-be-dead girlfriend decide to drink free beer and make sweet love while the others, slightly smarter and aware that the rave probably shouldn't be deserted, head off in search of other folks.

While his soon-to-be-dead girlfriend waits in a tent, Greg goes to take a leak. Just as he enters the port-o-potty, we (and the soon-to-be-dead girlfriend) see silhouettes of shambling folks outside the tent******, and as we cut away to yet another clip from the video game, she becomes Greg's now-dead girlfriend.

Back on the beach, Salish is unloading boxes, and gets attacked by a wild videocamera (or possibly a zombie using a videocamera). Have I mentioned that Boll does whatever he can to scrimp the f/x? Why waste time showing someone die, when they can die offscreen?

Anyway, let's get back to Simon, Alvin, and Theodore Alicia, and Karma. They find the same house, but instead of containing zombies, it now houses Our Narrator, as well as a guy with a videocamera whose sole purpose is to provide some exposition before dying, and Kira Clavell in a low-cut America flag jumpsuit. "Kira Clavell in a low-cut jumpsuit" was, in all likelihood, what got this movie funded.

Anyway, the videocamera guy shows them the Cannes-winning documentary he was working on, called "look, lots of women at a rave showing their breasts." Eventually, we get a couple of clips of people running around as if they're being attacked, and we're told that it was like "a Romero movie*******." Also, we learn that the boat they arrived on is mysteriously missing, presumably off somewhere cavorting with the screenplay, special f/x, and acting talent the movie's also sorely lacking.

The kids head back to the scene of the rave, and find that Greg has been trapped in a port-o-potty that was knocked over, thus proving that Boll's zombies aren't afraid to swipe ideas from Beavis and Butthead. As the kids talk, the zombified corpse of Greg's now-dead girlfriend arrives and snaps the neck of the videocamera guy (who, having provided exposition and a Romero reference, has nothing left to do but die). Just as she's about to attack the rest of the group, the animator dies of a heart attack the female Coast Guard officer who was chasing Kirk about thirty scenes ago appears and -- in slow motion -- blasts her with a shotgun.

I do want to take a moment to note that the Coast Guard officer is played by Ellie Cornell, who is best known as Rachel Caruthers in Halloweens 4 and 5. I'd love to say that she's way too good to be in this movie, but sadly, she hams it up as poorly as anyone else here.

The officer's name is Casper, and she initiates one of those awful exchanges of dialogue that you just know the writers thought was brilliant when they were penning it:

Casper: What the hell was that thing?
Karma: Our best friend.
Casper: Not anymore.

Seriously. You know it took screenwriters Mark Altman and Dan Bates hours to come up with that sequence, and when they did, they were probably ecstatic to the point of masturbating.

Anyway, Casper gathers up the kids and they head for the boat.

Meanwhile, at the boat, Captain Kirk is fully aware of the fact that Things Are Not Right, and has prepared by lighting up a stogie and getting out his trusty handgun. When the zombies swim out and start climbing onto the boat, he calmly shoots them, but eventually more and more of them board, and by the time the others gets to the shoreline (after a lengthy and silly chase scene through the woods), the boat's overrun with zombies.

But wait! Kirk survived, and is on the shore. After a silly, stupid, convoluted fight scene in which Liberty and Simon jump in the water and attempt to take back the boat, the group regroups on the island. Simon, for reasons that don't really make sense, starts kicking a zombie, who turns out not to be dead, and who sprays Simon in the face with acid. He's not dead, but he is hurt (as are Kirk, who got bitten in the hand, and Greg, who took a nail through his hand back during the chase through the woods).

Speaking of things that don't make sense, Casper and Greg decide that the right thing to do is to split up the party, so they head off in search of "help" (and Casper's fellow Coast Guard members) while the rest of them get exposition from Kirk. See, way back in the day, there was a ship hauling an evil priest named Castillo who was experimenting with Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. And that prisoner, by an amazing coincidence, was the strange zombie-like creature who we've seen wandering around the woods. In the flashback, he strangles the ship's captain, and we then learn that he murdered the crew, enslaved the natives, and settled on this island.

Meanwhile, Casper and Greg fail to find help, but they do find zombies. They get split up, and Greg gets surrounded by zombies as the screen fades to red.

Casper heads back to the rest of the group, and they decide to hole up in the house. Kirk reveals that he's actually been smuggling guns, and they break open a cache. And we now get a wonderfully awful semi-montage as each survivor grabs eight or nine guns, lots of ammo, and a few grenades and sticks of dynamite. As they check them out, Kirk provides commentary: "Ah the Mossberg! Good Choice! Ah, the Desert Eagle! Good Choice! Ah, the Tiny Penis Overcompensator 9000! Good choice!"

But now, folks, comes the money shot. The following moments are actually the best eight minutes of filmmaking ever. Really. I can't find a clip on Youtube, and I don't have any DVD ripping software, but if you get a copy of this, fast forward to 50:56 and watch the next eight minutes

Rumor has it that after this scene was filmed, dozens of fight choreographers retired rather than work in a world that allowed a scene like this to be made. Others use it as their inspiration, the fight choreography equivalent of the Goofus to the more proper Gallant that good fight choreographers aspire to.

As the heroes cross the fifty feet from the forest to the house, they start to walk in a Tombstone-esque straight line in slow motion. Zombies gather around them, but never once think to take the chance to rush in and attack someone from behind, merely waiting their turn to be shot. Each member of the group gets a close up, after which the camera freezes on them, then rotates as the techno music blares. With each of them, we get a few shots of them using their weapons of choice, even as the zombies mill about, doing nothing. Boll intercuts nearly fifty scenes from the videogame during this time, too.

After each cast member has gotten his or her spotlight action sequence, we get a few secondary ones, like Karma shooting through three zombies with a shotgun - filmed with a grey smoke streak behind it, so we get a full view of what happened. Liberty does a Matrix-esque backwards bend to dodge a zombie attack, and Alicia starts using the hand grenades. And I can't even begin to comprehend the scene in which a zombie throws an axe, Karma jumps in the air, shoots, and we see the shotgun pellets break up, miss the axe, and penetrate the zombie, even as the axe, for no good reason, just falls to the ground like it's just discovered gravity.

Really, I can't put how wonderful this scene is into words. I haven't even mentioned the crawling zombie without legs, or the way the zombies form a circle around folks and wait to rush in one at a time, or the kung fu Liberty practices, or the sudden appearance of Casper's fellow now-zombified Coast Guard buddy. Not to mention how the entire group of heroes scatters, pays no attention to each other, shoots guns and launches grenades, and never suffers a single casualty from friendly fire. And I haven't even mentioned the way wisps of smoke are artfully frozen during each of the freeze-and-scan shots. Or the blank look on Jonathan Cherry's non-emotive face.

Just watch this scene. No words can do it justice.

And then, just to top things off, Liberty finally gets killed when a group of zombies jump her. Rudy sees this, and then has a flashback in which we get every single scene from the movie fast-forwarded, like the flashback Bayliss has at the end of Homicide. Because, you know, it's not like we didn't just suffer through those scenes for the last hour anyway, right? After that, we get the obligatory video-game scene in which the camera rotates around Liberty and the screen goes red, just like the deaths in the original videogame.

Finally, Rudy and Casper get to a window on the side of the house, and he breaks in, but poor Casper gets her legs ripped off before she can make it. He gets to the front door and lets the others in, although Captain Kirk is wounded. While he lies and recovers, the other search the house and find two things: a lab that verifies their suspicion that Castillo has perfected a way to to extend life and animate the dead, and small courtyard with huge barrels of gunpowder. Also, we get the immortal line, "Check out this book. It looks pretty old, maybe it'll help us." If this line had been uttered by, say, Xander on an episode of Buffy, it would have been funny, and gotten a snarky response from Giles. Here, it's actually treated as a really good idea.

(That said, the book just confirms that Bad Shit is Happening, and doesn't actually help beat the bad guys.)

We also get a wonderfully emo scene in which Simon bemoans the fact that his face is scarred from the acid, and shouts, "Don't look at me -- I'm the fuckin' elephant man." However, Karma makes it clear that she still wants him, and we almost get some Inappropriately Timed Sex before they remember that there are more important things to do********.

Back in idiotville (aka the main room of the house, featuring Captain Kirk), he hears Salish whistling outside, and even though everyone knows that Salish has to be a zombie now, he goes outside to investigate. He shoots his zombified partner, but quickly gets surrounded by zombies. So, what does he do? He stands right in front of the door, lights a stick of dynamite with his cigar (because he's just that kind of guy), and blows himself up, promptly blowing down the door and sending a stream of zombies into the house.

The four surviving kids hole up in the courtyard, but the zombies soon break in, and they overwhelm Simon. Fortunately, the other three discover a trap door, and head into the tunnels just as Simon, in a moment no one could possibly have seen coming, shoots the barrels of gunpowder and nobly sacrifices himself to save his buddies. Naturally, the three survivors dive in slow motion as the explosion goes off behind them.

In the tunnels, Boll decides to remind us that House of the Dead, the video game, was a rail shooter, and spends the next few minutes having the characters imitate this, with a first person perspective only showing the gun as Rudy and Karma shoot down zombies, intercut with the exact same shots from the game itself. The saving grace is that it's about half the length of the similar scene in Doom, which makes it about half as annoying.

Finally, they get overwhelmed, and Karma, no longer having anything to live for now that Simon is dead, sacrifices herself so that the other two can go on. Just as they think they'll never get out of there, who should come along but Greg! In a cowl that covers most of his face. Carrying a sword. Not saying anything. And a foot taller than when we last saw him. But Rudy and Alicia don't question any of this, and they follow Greg into a secret room filled with dead bodies. Rudy finally looks at a skinned body hanging upside down, and realizes that it's the real Greg, and that the person who guided them into this room was actually Castillo, wearing Greg's face! What a shocking twist!

While Rudy and Alicia are stunned at the sheer stupidity of the movie they're stuck in, Castillo and his zombie minions capture them. We get a brief Villainous Gloating speech in which Castillo rambles about how he'll use their body parts to extend his own life. And then, because he's just That Kind of Villain, he tells Alicia, "I just want your flesh," as he sticks out his tongue and licks her cheek. It's like watching Malkovich at his finest.

Eventually the kids break free, grab a grenade, and lob it behind them as then escape through a door leading out of the tunnels. And just as naturally, the explosion doesn't kill Castillo. He chases after the kids, and after an awful sword fight, stabs Alicia through the chest before Rudy decapitates him with an axe. But decapitation won't keep an evil Spanish priest down! Castillo's headless body starts to strangle Rudy, but Alicia gets up and squishes Castillo's head, uttering an Arnie-esque, "game over, fucker," before falling back to the ground.

As Rudy hovers over his once and future love, we fade to black, and then into the sight of helicopters landing on the island. Two special agents do absolutely nothing to help Rudy and Alicia (hobbling and leaning on Rudy for support), but we do get two ZOMG Twists!

First, they ask Rudy his name, and it turns out to be Rudolph Curien! Roy Curien, of course, is the mad scientist in the first HotD arcade game. Wow! What a shocking twist! That no one will care about!

But that's nothing. As the movie fades to black one more time, we get more of Rudy's emotionless narration. After bemoaning the loss of his friends, he talks about Alicia: "Whatever she is now. Whatever I've created." Yes, he's turned his girlfriend into a zombie! Holy necrophilia, Batman!

This is, to date, the only Uwe Boll film I've watched more than once. It's gloriously, fantastically wretched. Sure, it's got the bad acting and awful screenplay, but it's also got that amazing mid-movie action sequence, one of those rare times when Boll clearly stamps a film with his unique artistic vision. It deserves to be taught in film school as a shining example of what not to do, but it also deserves a full MST3K treatment (or Cinematic Titanic/RiffTrax, as it were), as well as late-night screenings at sci-fi conventions. With lots of alcohol.









*Who might or might not deserve what's going to happen to her.

**It's actually called "Isla del morte." And no one thinks there's anything wrong with hosting a rave there.

***Yes, you get to see Erica's durances, if you know what I mean. And by "durances," I mean breasts, and not what the word actually means.

****Of the Dead.

*****By "chomped," I certainly don't want to imply that there's arterial blood spray or gore. For a zombie movie, this is about as gore-free as you get, as Boll's budget clearly had limits.

******As you probably figured out from the previous footnote, almost every zombie scene in this movie is filmed with the sole intent of saving money. Silhouettes are cheaper than actors in makeup, of course.

*******And indeed, if we assume he means "Cesar," this movie is every bit as believable and scary as Skidoo.

********Although there really aren't. I mean, both of them will be dead before the next ten minutes are up. And they die un-nookied. It's kind of tragic.
yendi: (Jason)
Today's film is the remake of Friday the 13th. I'll be reverting back to the formula I used when I first reviewed the series years ago.

Concept: Essentially a remake of Part 3, but with weaker acting, poorer treatment of minorities, and less 3D. That last one is a plus. The others aren't. After an extended opening sequence, a bunch of kids come to Crystal Lake to party, and hunky Clay comes to town looking for his sister, Whitney.

Killer: Human Jason. Well, actually it's Tiny Leatherface pretending to be Jason. Because instead of just being a killing machine, he's a country boy who sets traps, does long, slow kills, and has all sorts of family issues. Also, he's just tiny. I expected the twist ending to feature Jason ripping off his mask to reveal Warwick Davis, thus setting up the inevitable Jason vs. Leprechaun.

It's not just the size, though. Go watch the opening scene of Jason X, when Kane Hodder, strapped to a pole and (theoretically) helpless, exudes menace in a closeup of his face with merely one eye. There not one scene in the new movie -- even when Jason's in full attack mode -- in which he exudes even a tenth as much menace. I don't know whether the problem is Derek Mears -- who certainly looks pretty scary in the still shots on his IMDB page -- or with director Marcus Nispel, whose remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre conveyed a sense of "place as menace," but never actually gave us any menacing characters, either.

As far as Jason's outfit goes, for the first six kills, he's Old School Sack Over the Head Jason, and after that, he's Classic Hockey-Mask Jason.

Bonus feature: Jason may also be Weed-Smoking Jason, as the early batch of kills revolves around a group of kids who stumble across Jason's magic weed patch, and the townie that Jason kills for no other good reason (since it's established that he doesn't kill townies*) has also apparently found the weed.

Oh, and considering his network of tunnels (more on that later), he might actually be Groundhog Jason.

Kills: Jason kills thirteen folks on-screen (whoa! What an incredibly random number to end up with) with a bit of wiggle-room for the iffy ending. We also see Mrs. Voorhees bite it, and there are references to off-screen kills by both Jason and his mama.

Bad kills: You don't get much dumber than the killing of Nolan. While driving a motorboat at full speed, he gets an arrow shot into the back of his head by Jason, firing a compound bow at a 35 degree angle. From the shore. With only one eye. Ollie Fucking Queen couldn't make that shot (although he'd sure try; Nolan's easily the most annoying character in the entire movie).

Then there's Trent. He's on the run from Jason, and makes it to the road. A pickup truck nearly runs him over, and the driver stops and doesn't say anything. Trent, thinking that the driver might be Jason, just freezes there, not approaching the driver, but not running. Sure enough, Jason eventually makes it out of the woods and throws Trent onto some conveniently-placed spikes sticking out of the back of the truck. And then the driver just casually drives off! Because shit like this happens all the time at Crystal Lake!

Those are the only truly bad kills, but there are others that simply don't feel like Jason killings. Amanda, for example, is dragged out of her tent inside a sleeping bag, a clear tribute to Jason's best kill ever, the murder of Judy in Part VII**. But then he finds some rope, hauls the sleeping bag up over a tree branch, and dangles it over the campfire, roasting her to death. Then her boyfriend Richie comes back to the tent, hears her screams, and runs out to rescue her, only to get his foot caught in a bear trap, where he lies for a good ten minutes until Jason, having been killing folks elsewhere, finally puts him out of his misery. It's complicated, over-the-top, and has a sense of torture and cruelty that just doesn't make sense. It's not that Jason is a nice guy, but he's about brutality and efficiency. Torture is the Texas Chainsaw way***.

Really good kills: The four deaths preceding Trent's are the best of the lot. Chewie, trapped by Jason in a shed, does his best to fight back, and is killed when Jason takes his wrist and slowly bends it, forcing the screwdriver Chewie found into his own throat. Lawrence, sent to look for Chewie, sees the body and runs, but Jason throws a double-sided axe into him (and yes, I know that this isn't realistic either, but Jason usually gets one solid thrown-item death a film, and this one was nicely done). As Lawrence lies in pain with an axe on his back, Jason slowly walks up to him, lifts his body into the air, and throws in onto the ground, forcing the axe out through his torso. This is a perfect example of how to have Jason commit a murder that's both prolonged and stylish without making it seem out of character.

Stereotypical resident teen slut Bree dies next; while searching the upstairs room for a gun to use against Jason, she notices that the window is open, and sure enough, Jason has snuck into the bedroom. In one of those rare "telegraphed but still fun" murders, he lifts her off the ground and impales her head on the deer antlers mounted on the wall****.

Finally, the local cop***** shows up, and as he's knocking on the door of the cabin, Jason leaps down behind him and sticks him through the head (and the solid door) with a fireplace poker. It's a stylish and brute-force kill, and pulled off quite nicely.

Notable celebrities: Mrs. Voorhees is played by none other than Nana Visitor, for the DS9 fans.

The rest of the cast consists of no-names and the sort of pseudo-celbrities that populate The CW and Maxim magazine. Nolan is played by Ryan Hansen, who basically played the same character on Veronica Mars and in Superhero Movie. If you're the sort of person who considers Willa Ford anyone of consequence, then you'll enjoy knowing that she plays Chelsea, and manages to go topless before getting killed. Jenna is played by the delightful Danielle Panabaker, who stole so many scenes in Sky High. Whitney is played by Amanda Righetti, who was the "hot actress" on Reunion -- AKA the one of the three female characters with no real personality. And our lead, Clay, is played by Jared Padalecki, of Supernatural and Gilmore Girls fame. He was also in House of Wax, so this movie will not be the worst horror remake he'll have on his resume.

Denouement: Jenna and Clay make it Jason's Super Secret Underground Lair of Tunnels, and find Clay's sister Whitney. Jason's been keeping her hostage because she looks like a young Pamela Voorhees. Seriously. They find an opening, and Clay and Whitney escape, even as Jenna gets a machete through the chest. Then we get the usual fight, and Whitney uses her Magical Pamela Doppleganger Powers to distract Jason while Clay stabs him with a machete.

But wait, there's more! For reasons that wouldn't make sense to a crackhead with a case of paranoid schizophrenia, the two crazy kids decide to not immediately get the hell out of Dodge, but to instead wait until Dawn, then take Jason's body and throw it in the lake, giving it the burial at sea that the US Serial Killer's Code demands. Naturally, as they walk away, Jason bursts through the dock, and we fade to black.

Miscellany: As mentioned above, director Nispel also gave us equally lifeless Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, which is sadly superseded by its own sequel. So that offers hope for future Friday the 13th films, assuming they turn over directorial duties to someone else.

Writers Mark Swift and Damian Shannon co-wrote Jason V. Freddy. At their current rate of improvement, expect a good movie out of them slightly after your great-great-grandchildren have died of old age.

Overall: God, what a piece of crap. In fairness, this movie probably has the most talented cast of any F13 movie. But with a screenplay this awful, there's simply not much that the cast can do.

I can't ignore the handling of the minority characters here. There are three of them. Amanda gets treated no worse than the others -- like Chelsea and Bree, she follows the horror movie tradition of getting naked then getting killed. But the Korean -American Chewie and the African-American Lawrence are the only characters in the main part of the movie with no social skills or connection to the other characters, both of them tossed into the mix purely for comic relief and drug humor. There's little more pathetic than the scene featuring Lawrence smoking pot, reading porn, and deciding to masturbate in the middle of the cabin's living room. Well, except maybe for Chewie's klutzy beer pong game. Even in a movie filled with annoying and worthless characters, these roles were low.

That's far from the only sour note this movie strikes, though. I don't think I've ever seen less of an attempt to give personalities to the cast in any Friday the 13th film. Once you account for Jenna and Clay, the rest of the characters are practically interchangeable victims, all driven by the same need for sex and drugs. Yes, there's a lot of that in the other movies, but even in Part VII******, the characters had distinct personalities.

And then there's Jason and his ludicrous network of tunnels, with exits all over town, cages for prisoners, and bells to alert him when new victims come walking by. Between the underground lair, the mask, and the kidnapping of the ingenue, it's almost like some rural version of Phantom of the Opera. Although nothing as horrifying as an Andrew Lloyd Weber song (or even worse, a song sung by Sarah Brightman) appears in this movie.

But as stated above, what's really wrong here is the complete lack of any sense of menace from Jason. Part of this is the fault of the actor, f/x folks, cinematographer, etc. The other part is the result of the writing and directing; here, unlike every iteration of Jason other than Jason X (who didn't really have time to do so), Jason doesn't stalk his victims. This means no time for character development, no time for any sense of false menace (something essential to any good slasher movie), and no sense of patience. Jason has always come across as a methodical killer; yes, he's all about the bloodlust, but he watches his prey, waits for them to split up, and tries to pick them off in such a way that they're not aware there's a killer out there until it's too late. Here, he just says, "fuck it," and leaps into the fray.

So, given that the original set of picks was a countdown, ranking the Friday the 13th movies from worst to best, where would this have stood? Probably on Day 2.5. It's certainly better than Freddy vs Jason and Jason Takes Manhattan. But it doesn't match the maturity or brutality of Jason Goes to Hell, or the sheer zaniness of the murders (and victims) in A New Beginning. Strong recommendation to avoid unless you're a Friday the 13th completist (like me).









*Another possibility is that he's "you kids get off my lawn" Jason.

**Of course, we've already seen a very good tribute to this kill in Jason X.

***Also, when I think of laying down traps and luring folks into them, I think of the Assassin in Diablo 2, not of Jason.

****Thus fulfilling the age-old adage, "if you see a pair of deer antlers mounted on the wall in Act 1, you must kill someone with them in Act 3."

*****Who appears to be the only cop around, and who has about eight zillion unsolved murders and disappearances on his record.

******AKA "Jason's on a Motherfucking Boat."
yendi: (Jason)
(Apologies for any typos; I've been working on a keyboard that has issues.)

Return to Sleepaway Camp. 2008. Written and directed by Robert Hiltzik. Distributed by Magnolia Home Entertainment.

As I noted in my review two years ago, Sleepaway Camp is the most accurate portrayal of summer camp (killings aside) on the big screen. It captures the bullying, the weird staff/camper dynamics, and the actual schedule of a camp better than any other movie I've seen.

Return to Sleepaway Camp does a decent job of capturing the feel. That's probably one of the better things I can say about it.

No, wait. The best thing I can say is this: It's the first, and likely only, movie that has made me shout, "Jesus Fucking Christ, will you just rip his dick off already?"

But that scene comes later. Let's start at the beginning:

A little background first: The first Sleepaway Camp, of course, ended with the infamous (and horribly-done, f/x-wise) scene in which, ZOMG, Angela's Got a Penis! There were two sequels (reviewed here and here) which were basically killfests and ways to display Splat Johnson's f/x talents. In those movies, Angela had undergone surgery, and was fully post-op when on her sprees. None of the other survivors from the first movie are featured in those films. Return to Sleepaway Camp, written and directed by original Sleepaway Camp writer/director Robert Hiltzik, ignores those sequels.

So, here's the sitch: Twenty or so years after the murders at Ararak, a new camp has opened up in upstate NY, and one of the owners (and the head counselor) is Ronnie, the counselor from the first movie (once again played by Paul DeAngelo, although not wearing the ubiquitous short-shorts from the first film).

The other owner is Frankie, played by Vincent "Big Pussy" Pastore. Frankie does not like kids nearly as much as Ronnie does. When we first see him, he attempts to get them to listen to Sheriff Jerry, the Local Bumbling Law Enforcement. Jerry has had his larynx removed thanks to smoking (cigarettes are bad, mmmkay?), and the kids make fun of the computer voice microphone he uses, causing Frankie to blow up at them, and establishing that Kids Today Just Don't Respect Their Elders.

But the real star of this movie is Alan, a young teen who manages to be both a bully and the bullied. He's fat, sick (having suffered from rheumatic fever), and not all that bright. He gets wedgied, ganged up on in paintball, tricked into smoking cow dung, dumped in the lake, and (in one memorably horrifying scene) stripped to his underwear and displayed on stage in front of everyone. But he also beats up smaller kids, doesn't change his clothes, and yells at and disrespects counselors (his catchphrase is, "your ass stinks!"). It's not Todd Solondz, but it does the trick.

Other characters worth knowing about: Michael, Alan's stepbrother, who hates him as much as anyone; T.C., the camp bully; Bella*, the other camp bully; Randy, Alan's bullying counselor; and Karen, the Nice Girl who actually treats Alan kindly. Both Alan and Michael have crushes on Karen. Oh, and near the middle of the movie, we finally see Angela's cousin Ricky, who now works construction an has absolutely nothing to offer this movie other than some continuity with the first film.

Anyway, just as with Angela in the first movie, people who do Bad Things to Alan find that Bad Things happen to them, in turn. And as in the first movie, the initial victim is the camp's assistant chef**. After abusing Alan by yelling and throwing things at him, he goes to make himself a burger and fries. But he ignores the seventeenth rule of horror movies: Never stand on a chair over a deep fryer where someone can sneak up behind you and dunk your head into the fryer***. Needless to say, soon enough his body is thrown in the dumpster (never to be seen again),

Our next prank features a pair of potheads who get Alan to smoke cow dung. When the head pothead (named "Weed"****) is out late that night, lying on a lawn chair and smoking some dope, he gets tied to his chair, force fed an entire can of gasoline, and given a lit cigarette.

Wait, you say. Now that a camper has just gone and exploded, surely folks will figure out that something's up, right?

Nope. Sure, Ronnie remembers the series of "accidents" that plagued the camp before, and thinks something is up, but everyone else just assumes that the explosion was the result of drugs. Yes, smoking weed can lead to explosions!

We get more pranks on Alan (including a sequence in which Michael tricks Karen into thinking that Alan tortures and skins small animals), and finally he snaps and runs off into the woods. And naturally, this is the night when things really start to go wrong.

It starts with Frankie, who gets knocked upside the head, and while he's unconscious, a birdcage gets placed over his head. This gets all sorts of points, as only the best-prepared killers come with custom-designed birdages with holes in the bottom so that they can be placed over someone's head. This is the sort of advanced preparation normally only practiced by Dr. Giggles and that wanker from the Saw films. And once Frankie wakes up, the killer opens the door to the cage and inserts a couple of rats. Despite all their rage, they still are just rats in the cage, so they do what comes natural and start eating Frankie's face.

Yeah. Nasty. Sure, it's essentially an update of the bee murder from the first flick, but this is one of the rare slasher murders that just plain squicks me.

Anyway, our killer isn't done yet. Randy and a female counselor (Linda) drive out to the middle of nowhere to go have sex. While she unpacks the car, he takes a leak, and the killer sneaks up on him and ties him to the tree. Really. But wait -- it gets better. Randy is the only male alive who, when taking a leak in the woods, stands with his back to a tree and fertilizes a patch of open ground. So, as he's standing there, tied to the tree, the killer lowers a noose made of fishing wire over Randy's penis.

Now, things get interesting. And by "interesting," I mean, "silly." And by "silly," I mean "stupid."

First, the ropes around Randy's neck, torso, and feet are insanely loose. Anyone could slip out of them, if they were okay with a few scrapes from a tree branch. And given a choice between finding that Mr. Happy is missing or a few scrapes, the latter seems like the way to go.

But then we see the fishing wire get extended and attached to Linda's car, a length of easily 100 feet, without snagging in any way that causes Randy to lose his junk. Or for Linda to notice.

Better yet, when Linda finally heads back into the woods, she sees that Randy has been tied up, and instead of helping him, she quickly deduces that there must be a killer out there, and screams (in a Razzie-worthy performance), "oh shit, he's coming after me!" She then runs to the Jeep. Yes, the killer's plan relies entirely on Linda being a moron.

But we're not done. Naturally, the car won't start at first. And then, as Linda drives, the wire plays out. And out. We're at about 400 feet of wire now. Just as we think Randy's finally going to die, the car stalls in some sand. She spends well over thirty seconds attempting to get it moving again. It was at this point that I screamed the line I mention near the beginning of this review.

Finally, Linda manages to get the car going, and Randy loses one of his favorite limbs.

Oh, and while all this was happening, the killer also stole a batch of barbed wire from where Randy and Linda were, and set it up down the road. Something that's real easy to do in just five minutes. So as Linda drives away, she finally speeds right into a length of barbed wire that had been set up between two trees. She has time to scream a sentence or two, but not time to duck. No, we don't get a nice decapitation; instead, the wire wraps around her head, and she crashes into the tree.

But we're not done yet! We cut to a cabin, where the bully T.C. has been grounded. As he tries to read some porn, a sharp stick is poked through a hole in the floor, impaling the magazine. T.C., in a move that almost defies description in its complete and utter stupidity, then gets on his knees and looks into the hole! But the killer doesn't take advantage of him, and all T.C. sees is the stick on the ground*****. Another boy comes in, so T.C. has him look in the hole. They trade off looking at the stick, until the director, finally remembering that this is a horror movie and not a summer-camp version of Waiting for Godot, gets back to the story and has the killer stick T.C. right in the eye. He screams in pain for a few minutes, then runs right into a wall, driving the stick through his head. Nice gore, dumb setup.

Wait, did I say, "dumb setup." Oh, you ain't seen nothing yet. See, earlier, Bella and her bunkmates went to the canteen. Now Bella -- and no one else -- returns. She lies down on her bunk, and looks up to realize that the top bunk above her now has a bunch of spikes. Before she can say, "hey, how the hell did the killer have time to kill three other people and quickly perform some carpentry work in the bunk, and also how did the killer know that I'd come back to the bunk by myself, and hey, it's not like those spikes can harm me anyway," the killer, who had -- and I swear I'm not making this up -- been lurking in the rafters of the cabin, jumps onto the top bunk, causing it to crash down, impaling Bella.

Seriously.

After that bout of stupidity, we enter the endgame. Karen is almost killed when she sees two of the bodies, then sees the killer, faints, and wakes up to find a noose around her neck and the automatic basketball net being raised off the ground. Michael saves her, then decides that Alan is the killer and goes to find him in the woods. Even as Michael beats Alan with a croquet mallet, the real killer sneaks up behind him.

Time for the endgame. Even as Ricky, Ronnie, and a third counselor find Alan, we hear the voice of the sheriff, but as "he" talks, we see the fake beard and the cap getting tossed to the ground, and the voicebox being removed, and ZOMG it's Angela! And by "ZOMG," I mean, yeah, it's Angela. Big fucking surprise. Even as they discover Michael skinned alive (in two minutes?), Angela cackles maniacally, and we fade to black.

But wait, there's more! After the credits, we get a flashback of Angela with a broken-down car. The town sheriff comes along to fix it, and as he looks at it, Angela gives the jack a kick, and poof! Dead Sheriff!

Yes, the entire plot relies on there being only one cop in town, and on no one knowing who he is.

Yeah, this was a disappointing piece of crap. It lacks the charm of the first movie, and the fun of the second and third. The plot makes no sense, the killings are ludicrous, and there's simply nothing much to like here.

Even if you're a huge fan of the series (as I am), this is probably worth a rental at best..

Bonus fact: According to the DVD extras, the murderer here is actually the "real" Angela (supposedly dead years ago), and her transgendered brother is still locked away******. I'm not sure how that's supposed to make more sense things better, since it contradicts the first movie. Then again, there's really nothing that could make this one better, other than maybe a better writer/director and a stronger cast.

Bonus Fact #2: The credits feature a gratuitous apostrophe (you've got to squint a bit to see it).










* No, she does not sparkle. Or fuck anything that sparkles.

**The head chef, by the way, is played by Isaac Hayes. Yes, this was his last role before dying. Sad, ain't it? He only has one scene, though. Casting him as the chef is a double joke. Aside from the obvious South Park reference, he's also meant to remind us of the late Robert Earl Jones, who played the head chef in the first film. I suspect that Jones would have been in this part if they'd started this film when he was still alive.

*** This comes up slightly less frequently than Rule 16 (Never, ever make any statement containing the phrase 'I wish.'), but more often than Rule 18 (No matter how hot Mathilda May looks, do not bring her to Earth).

****Go originality! We never discover who the sexpot campers are, but let's assume they're named "sex" and "screwing". Also, for those who care, Weed is played by Adam Wylie, of Picket Fences fame (better known to me from his stints on Gilmore Girls and Legion of Super-Heroes).

*****In spite of the fact that it's nighttime and this is a hole under a cabin, the stick is still brightly lit and very visible.

******Remember the graphic novel Kingdom Come? There's be bits where we'd see a character for one panel in the background, but in interviews and on the trading cards and the websites, Mark Waid would tell us that this character was actually The Red Wonder, the child of Wonder Woman and Ray Palmer, conceived when the latter, in one of his periodic fits of insanity, shrunk down to microscopic size and masturbated in WW"s uterus. And the fans would rave about how this was the best shit ever, because of all the backstory that Waid had developed. And I hated it, because the actual, you know, story in KC just plain sucked. That's what this sort of DVD extra reminds me of. There's deep reading, but then there's stuff you don't get told at all. The latter sucks.
yendi: (Jason)
Habitat. 1997. Written and directed by Rene Daalder. Distributed by A-Pix.

Russ Meyer protege Rene Daalder is one of those writer-directors whose vision far outstrips his talent. Massacre at Central High isn’t quite the brilliant film that its cult following would have you believe, but it’s got some nice touches that hold up well and sow the seeds for future movies. Alas, Habitat, his mid-’90s post-global-warming horror flick, is burdened by the fact that Daalder writes awful, awful dialogue, and insists on putting said dialogue in the mouths of actors who are mediocre at best. Also, there are those pesky issues of plot and characterization.

This one begins with a Scrolling Screen of Exposition. Yeah. Because movies, after all, are a really shitty medium in which to practice, “show, don’t tell.”* Anyway, we learn that in the not too distant future, the ozone layer has been destroyed, the world’s coming apart at the seams, and cats and dogs are living together.

We cut away to the police no-knock raiding a house. After three men burst through the door, a bad actor comes to the scene and chews out the officer who sent his men in. Right on cue, the three cops stumble out of the house, choking and dying and kind of yellow. The bad actor (who later turns out the be a CDC employee) examines the bodies and explains that the men are covered in pollen. Yes, three men have been plant-spooged to death!

We cut to the desert, where the former residents of the house are driving off to start a new life. In one truck, we’ve got Hank (played by Tchéky Karyo, the poor man’s Jean Reno) and his ponytailed friend/brother/lover/assistant, who probably has a name, but it never sinks in, so we’ll call him Ponytail.

In the other one, we have Alice Krige! You might know her as The Borg Queen or as Bathsheba to Richard Gere’s King David,** but here she’s playing something really creepy: Clarissa, Hank’s wife and the mother of Balthazar Getty! Getty, playing a teen named Andreas, is doing his best Charlie Sheen impression, moping about having to leave the fun of the city for the crappiness of the desert.

During the move-in scene — in which we learn that Ponytail Guy is actually a former college buddy of Hank and Clarissa’s who works for the CDC but sympathizes with Hank’s goals — we get necessary exposition. See, Hank is a Mad Scientist who has stolen equipment and broken numerous laws, including ones involving molds that can eat through steel. Also, they may cause mutations. Do not taunt happy fun mold.

Mother and son wander into town to the local cactus shop***, where they meet three women playing cards. While Clarissa tries to explain it all why she needs sprinkler systems, Andreas wanders around and meets a cute blonde named Deborah. She’s the daughter of the town’s gym teacher, but he hits on her anyway, using the old, “I can see that this plant still has a spark of life” trick as a way to hold her hand. Works every time.

Meanwhile, back at the house, Hank monologues about the fools in the establishment who never listened to him, and then proceeds to chop into the wall looking for worms. Alas, he was too much of a fool to make sure he wasn’t chopping into a water pipe, and faster than you can say, “in my science courses, I learned proper lab safety techniques,” water bursts into the room, knocking over Hank, the electrical equipment, the molds, and anything else that’s in the lab. He gets covered in mold and water, and would presumably be dead of either electrocution or drowning if we didn’t know this was a horror movie.

Meanwhile, Andreas meets the neighbor’s teen son, who shows him the town. They run into Deborah again, sitting in a car with her boyfriend Blaine, who is — and I realize that this might come as a shock to you, as this never happens in films in which The Girl already has a boyfriend — a bully and an ass. So is her gym coach dad****, who in one of those moments that shows that he’s a Classy Dad, tells Blaine, “keep an eye on that new kid. I don’t want him sniffing around my little girl.”

As Andreas wanders around, Clarissa arrives home, and although she can tell something’s up, due to the slime on the stairs and the stench in the house, Hank himself appears to her, looking perfectly normal! They make love, with Hank tossing out biobabble as a form of foreplay in some form of unintentional tribute to Kevin Kline’s seduction of Jamie Leigh Curtis using foreign words in A Fish Called Wanda.

Post-coitus, Hank starts to show the effects of his earlier dunking, as slime appears on his back, a cloud of CGI-based pollen***** springs from his mouth, and his eyes glow green before he finally vanishes in a puff of illogic.

Clarissa is strangely not that disturbed, and when Andreas gets home, she explains to him that Hank was working on “accelerated evolution,” and that this was the result. Within days, the entire house has turned into a greenhouse, with strange plants appearing everywhere.

Meanwhile, we get back to the Teen Comedy plotline. After their Meet Cute at the cactus shop, Deborah and Andreas make eyes at each other when they can, but stupid Blaine keeps getting in the way. We get the usual set of confrontations and challenges. Eventually, when Andreas and his one friend are hanging out at The Bronze a local bar/pool hall that happens to allow minors to visit, a confrontation between the alpha males leads to Deborah and Andreas making out.

Naturally, Blaine has had enough, so he challenges Andreas to fight in gym class (which, being run by Asshole Coach, is really just a series of boxing matches). But Blaine, being a Generic Teen Bully, naturally doesn’t play by the rules. In fact, he and his gang grab Andreas and tie him up outside. You see, the lack of ozone means that Andreas will eventually burn up, getting third-degree burns after a few hours. And inside, everyone will just assume that Andreas chickened out, and that Blaine won the fight.

If you’re thinking, “hey, that’s not very logical,” well, you’re probably right. I mean, aside from the fact that it’s murder, there’s also the fact that someone would likely see something (in fact, if it’s that dangerous to go out in daylight, someone likely would be monitoring school doors), and the fact that it takes one hell of a hight degree of psychosis to kill someone like that.

But it doesn’t matter because A) Deborah figures out that something happened, and goes outside to rescue Andreas, and B) Andreas didn’t even get any first degree burns! He’s a freak!

He’s also an idiot. After confronting Blaine (and having his complaint dismissed by Coach, who appears to be the only authority figure at the entire school), he heads to the locker room, where once again, Blaine and the Blainettes attack him, this time scrubbing his tummy with a wire brush.

When Andreas gets home to his indoor forest, his mom sees that he’s hurt, and all of a sudden, Tinkerbell the CGI swarm that used to be his dad engulfs him and heals his wounds! Andreas now learns that his parents actually created him as a science experiment, to see if they could get humanity to start to evolve.

Meanwhile, Coach learns about his daughter’s kiss and confronts her about it. They get into a fight, and she runs out to mope. Naturally, she ends up moping at the same spot Andreas uses, and after some brief discussion, they decide to steal Coach’s convertible and drive to the nearest waterfall to go skinny dipping. It makes perfect sense to them, at least.
While they drive out to skinny-dip — a drive that takes all night — Coach confronts Clarissa, and immediately suffers allergy attacks on entering her house. He makes a bunch of threats to her even as they trade innuendo (he says the house is “hot and wet,” she counters by saying that she’d prefer “warm and moist”), and eventually starts throwing up due to all the pollen in the house. As he runs to leave, a vine attempts to strangle him, but he escapes, and as soon as he gets home, calls the CDC.

While Coach waits for the CDC, he tells Blaine and his buddy to “make sure no one leaves that house,” which they assume means they should grab a can of gasoline, go inside the house, and attempt to burn it down. Naturally, Things Go Wrong, as Blaine’s friend gets drowned when a chunk of the house falls on him and knocks him to the basement.

Oh, and while all this is happening, Deborah and Andreas are skinny dipping. Lots of making out under the waterfall as the sun rises. Alas, their fun ends when Deborah gets a nasty sunburn, because she is “just a normal girl. I’m not special.” Andreas notes that he loves her, which makes her special, and we have our brief John Hughes moment before they head back to town.

In one of those perfect bursts of timing, the pesticide-toting CDC folks — including Ponytail and Bad Actor, whose name turns out to be Strickland — get to town and enter the house around the same time that Deborah and Andreas do******. Coach also steals a Hazmat suit and enters the house. Naturally, as folks get split up, the generic CDC workers start to get killed off.

Coach, for reasons that make no sense to me after two viewings, smashes the facemask of one guy, who then gets eaten by the carnivorous earthworms who naturally abound in this house. The sentient vines rip another guy’s helmet off and zombify him the way plants always have since the dawn of time, and a worker with a flame thrower, in a panic, roasts the zombie guy and his oxygen tank. Oops.

Eventually, Coach finds Clarissa and, after shouting, “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” shoots her. Then, in a twist that I’m sure no one saw coming*******, she turns into another one of the pollen/bug/CGI swarms! Coach is unfazed, and pulls an Arnie-lite, uttering, “I always knew, deep down, you were a pest,” as he sprays her with the pesticide gunk.

Alas, even as Strickland is getting killed downstairs by the evil vines, Coach gets stripped of all his clothing by Hank, and then tossed in the basement to die. Elsewhere in the basement, Deborah get swarmed, and Andreas is afraid that he’s lost the love of his life, but Hank was only swarming her to cure her sunburn! Then Hank and Clarissa appear to wish Those Two Crazy Kids good luck with their life, and to repopulate the earth with mutants the next stage in man’s evolution. They then fly off, like tinkerbells in the night, and the world is a better place.

Of course, Blaine doesn’t die, even though he’s an attempted murderer. In fact, his only punishment is losing the girl. An a handful of innocent CDC agents and cops did die as the result of Hank’s meddling with Mother Nature. Which would be fine if this were a well-crafted movie with lots of intriguing moral gray areas. And it feels like that’s what Daalder wants it to be. But the acting is so uniformly terrible, and the dialogue so clunky, that the entire process never feels like anything other than a Sci-Fi channel flick with better f/x. Worth a rental, maybe, but not much more.

Bonus Fact #1: Krige and Laura Harris (who plays Deborah, and who had good roles in The Faculty and on Dead Like Me) would go on to star in an even worse horror flick, The Calling.
Bonus Fact #2: Getty would go on to star in two better horror flicks, The Tripper and Feast.
Bonus Fact #3: Dave McKean is thanked in the credits.
Bonus dialogue: “I am so sick of eating what you scrape off the walls and find under the couch. . . Most people don’t mow their carpets twice a week. “








*And yes, Star Wars gets away with it. But that’s like bringing up The Beatles and The Rolling Stones when attempting to refute Wyatt Frame’s claims that the most successful bands all have “and” in their names.

**Or possibly from Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers, which on any given day is a contender for the title of “Worst Horror Movie of All Time.”

***Really.

****Yes, this one’s a cliche, too, but I’m willing to let it slide. I still remember Coach Voelkel from high school, who could easily have been the model for the coach in this movie.

*****Or possibly bugs. It’s really hard to tell with the CGI. It’s basically a cloud of moving yellow dots. It’s entirely possible that Hank has actually turned into Tinkerbell.

******Well, the latter are distracted briefly by a brief fight with Blaine, which ends when the neighbor’s kid, sick of Blaine’s bullying, hits the latter with a 2X4. That scene, like the one in which Blaine’s best friend enters the house and is hit on by Clarissa, or the two stupid boxing matches at school, or the scene in which Ponytail enters the house ahead of the CDC folks to try to talk sense into them, seems to be there to make sure the film doesn’t end up with a runtime of sixty-eight minutes.

*******By “no one,” I mean “Daalder’s mom,” of course.
yendi: (Jason)
Zombie Strippers. 2008. Written and Directed by Jay Lee. Distributed by Stage 6 Films and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Mark my words: In ten years, Jay Lee will successfully bring Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy to the big screen.

Don’t believe me?

The last person to create a zombie movie this brilliant was Peter Jackson, with Dead Alive. And ten years later, he was bringing the “unfilmable” classic trilogy to life. So with a movie like Zombie Strippers under his belt, Lee is clearly on a course to bring the other major genre trilogy to the big screen.

But let’s not talk about where he’s going. Let’s talk about where he is now. And he’s directing a movie starring Jenna Jameson, who used to be a porn star and whose last horror effort (Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain) was appalling, and Robert Englund, who used to act until he realized he could just shout and giggle. And that’s the talented part of the cast.

Any thoughts that this movie might be subtle* go out the window in the opening scene. In classic zombie movie fashion, we get news reports detailing George Bush’s fourth term in office, while the standard newscrawl informs us that “Brangelina” has adopted Ethiopia. Naturally, we soon hear a story about a strange toxin that the government is working on to allow dead soldiers to fight in the assorted wars we’re involved in**.

Okay, so it’s another zombie comedy. Ho hum.

Did I mention the existentialism and French literature? How about the fact that the plot is essentially lifted from Ionesco (Robert Englund, in fact, plays a character named Ian Essko)? Oh, hell, there are characters named Camus, Genet, and Lt. Ryker (although I’m not sure the last one really has the same literary roots as the others), and the action takes place in the town of Sartre, Nebraska.

All that, and strippers. It’s possibly the least subtle movie of all time.

We do not, in spite of what you may think, pick up the action in a strip-club. This is art, folks, and we need exposition. We start in a Secret Government Lab, where scientists realize that their Experiment Has Run Amok. They seal up the lab and call in the World’s Lamest Space Marines.

Okay, they’re not space marines. But the Aliens (and Predator) influence can’t be understated here. We’ve got the female hard-ass, the psychopath, the communications officer, the scared newb, and the tough-as-nails black sergeant. Only the inexplicably hot and slutty marine isn’t swiped from an earlier movie.

But I digress. The scientists fill us in on the Important Plot Details:

Zombies can be killed by destroying the brain. They can also be put down with a strong electromagnetic pulse. Oh, and when the highly-trained military units meant to get the virus pass it on to a woman, she generally retains most of her knowledge, personality, and skills, but in men, the virus degenerates quickly into standard “bite and kill everyone” zombiedom.

Back to the action. The marines go in armed with the knowledge that the zombies can be killed by destroying the brain (of course) or put down by an EMP. They go in, shoot a bunch of zombies, and then use EMP guns to take down the final batch. However, it turns out that the EMPs barely stun the zombies, and our “heroes” are almost overrun.

Fortunately, they have classic Action Movie Guns that never run out of bullets, so they massacre the hordes of undead. But wait! The scared newb — named Byrdflough — has gotten bitten, and instead of telling his buds so that he can be put to death, he runs away and hides in a strip club, where he’ll die and spread a disease, as his name implies.

And the strip club, of course, is where the real action happens. Our strippers are led by Kat, the Nietzsche-reading star of the club, and the cast includes a Goth, a New Girl, a Jealous #2 Stripper, and other fun stereotypes. And after no fewer than three dance numbers***, Byrdflough finally croaks****, zombifies, and shreds Kat’s throat in front of the whole crowd.

As the club owners and staff — the avaricious Essco, an aging Russian stripper named Madame Blavatski, snarky DJ Cole, and the ludicrously stereotyped Mexican janitor named Paco***** — ponder what to do, seeing as the strip club is illegal, Kat sits up, walks straight onto the dance floor, and does an amazing dance, wowing the entire crowd even as blood continues to leak from her neck. She then drags some “lucky” soul off for a lapdance in the back; needless to say, her hunger overwhelms her, and he becomes lunch.

Now we finally get to the absurdism. As the strippers (starting with goth chick Lillith, of course), start to get Kat to turn them, and the male audience members willingly let themselves be taken to the back, only a few of the girls still question whether they should remain human, or let themselves become rhinoceroses zombies. Even fewer of the men (only the staff, in fact) question their need to conform.

Since this is a current theatrical release, I’ll stop with the overt spoilers, but stuff to look forward to includes:

- Two cheap jokes from Paco based on the most famous line from Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

- Undead pole dancing.

- Ripped throats, spurting blood, and skin shredded from bones.

- Gratuitous burro.

- Guns. Lots of guns.

- Many, many people questioning the meaning of life, the need to conform, and the desire to be different.

- Eighty pounds of scenery, all chewed by Robert Englund.

- References to any number of sex acts, including the Frothy Chewbacca. Which I don’t think is a real sex act (at least, not per Google), but who knows what kids these days get up to?

- A most unusual twist on the "ping-pong balls shooting from the vagina" trick.

- Much, much more.

Like Dead Alive, this is far from a perfect movie. In fact, both movies have a lot in common: an amateurish cast, a miniscule budget, gag scenes, zombies attacking crotches, and other fun stuff. Both not-so-subtly examine the works of famous thinkers (Dead Alive being perhaps the most Oedipal movie ever made, of course, and Zombie Strippers swiping much of its structure from Rhinoceros). Both films also occasionally get silly or too clever for their own good, but that’s forgivable in light of the sense of fun the movies bring.

The big surprise, for me, is how good Jenna Jameson is here. Mind you, she won’t be winning any awards, but she actually gets some good bits of physical comedy in, and dives into the zombie role with relish. Englund chews scenery, but his role here is meant to be over the top, so it’s okay. The rest of the cast is generally one or two notches above what you’d expect in a typical porn or horror movie, which is more than enough for this flick.

Director/writer Jay Lee, previously best known for the uninspired Slaughter, really does a solid job here, showing some deft touches mixed in with the over-the-top political and social satire. Gore fans might be a litter underwhelmed, as nothing here compares to what Jackson or Romero has put on the big screen, but this movie (like Fido before it) isn’t about the gore; it’s about what it means to be human, with the zombies being used as a tool to examine ourselves.

I’ll need to watch this movie another time or two before I can tell if it holds up to repeat viewings, but if it does, it’s a modern camp horror classic.

Note: Yeah, Lee's not likely to really bring Foundation to the big screen, but I wanted something analogous to Peter Jackson, and suggesting that Lee will produce an overlong and overwrought remake of a monster movie didn’t seem to cut it.








*Um, really, if you actually had those thoughts, go look at the title again.

**Which include Iraq, Iran, Mexico, Syria, Canada, and Alaska.

***To make sure that anyone in the audience who only saw the second half of the title comes away entertained.

****What? How could I not say it?

*****Played by comedian Joey Medina, probably the third biggest name in the movie.
yendi: (Jason)
Reeker. 2005. Written and directed by David Payne. Released by Primal Pictures and Showtime Entertainment.

Let's get the obvious question out of the way: What the hell were the writer-director, distributors, and producers thinking when they named Reeker? I mean, you're already releasing a film directly to video, and the biggest names in the cast are Michael Ironside and Eric Mabius* in supporting roles. Throw in the fact that you're covering the same ground as at least two spellbindingly awful films that recently got wide theatrical releases, and you're just begging for a bunch of "this film reeks" reviews.

What's amazing, however, is that Reeker actually fails to live up (down?) to its name. It's certainly not a masterpiece, but as films in the "hey, all the characters are already dead or dying, and this is all in their heads" sub-sub-genre goes, it's a good sight better than Dead End or Soul Survivors**.

We get a hell of a good teaser before the story itself begins. A family is driving along a road in the Southwest when suddenly, and without warning, there is a deer in the middle of the road***. They smack into it, and it turns out to be one of those trick balloon deers filled entirely with blood****, covering the windshield completely and forcing the family to pull over. The dad wanders off into the tall grass chasing down the family dog while the son waits in the car. Soon, we see the father come backing out, and his son's happy face at seeing has dad again quickly turns to horror; the mother, who has found the dog injured, turns around to see that half her husband’s face is missing! As she screams, we see something pull dad’s body under the car, and we fade to the actual movie.

We start, as these things sometimes do, with a drug dealer and a moron. The drug dealer is played by Mabius, the moron by that annoying guy who played Chris on City Guys*****. In case you weren't sure if we're supposed to hate the idiot, his name is (wait for it) Trip. Yes, the drug user is named Trip. While the dealer leaves the room, Trip steals an entire bag full of Ecstasy. Because, you know, there's no way that the drug dealer will ever figure out what happened, right?

Trip meets up with four other college students, all of whom met online and agreed to rideshare their way to a rave (as sure a way to die as any in horror flicks, as fans of Freddy vs Jason or Return of the Living Dead 5 would tell you, if either movie had any fans). Since most of them don’t know each other, this is a great opportunity for them to introduce themselves and, coincidentally, let us know which stereotypes they match. We get the "hot but slutty blonde chick"; the obnoxious guy who will end up banging that girl before the end of the first reel; the cute and tough Final Girl named Gretchen; and Jack, the blind guy. Okay, that last one (played by My So Called Life's Devon Gummersall) is a little different, and the first sign that we're not dealing with a completely typical horror flick.

The next few scenes are filled with the expected stuff. The five kids find that they argue more than they get along. They have nothing in common. The drug thief gets a phone call from the dealer, who explains this nifty new technology called webcams that allows him to see what happens when he leaves a room. Threats are made. Eventually, the others find out about the drugs, and more threats are made. Then, after passing through an area in which no one can get any cell phone coverage, things get really weird.

The group ends up at an abandoned motel, where they randomly encounter Michael Ironside (driving an old RV) and Eric Mabius again, and find things like half-dead bodies in Dumpsters, dead deers in lobbies, and cryptic messages in nightstands. It’s pretty much the same stuff you’ll find at some of the skeevier Motel 6 locations, but with better special effects. Also, the dead bodies and blood at least occasionally disappear, even though haunted inns usually have fewer folks on staff than a Motel 6.

Along with the weirdness, we get the titular villain, a towering, hooded creature who A) is really, really fast; B) smells to high heaven; and C) has a pair of Black and Decker Combo Killing Kits for hands. Each one offers a variety of weapons, including jagged pieces of metal, spinning pieces of metal, and the gynecological tools from Dead Ringers, any of which can be snapped in at a moment’s notice to allow the monster easy access to whatever killing method he chooses. The killer dispatches Ironside (by inducing a heart attack) the slutty blonde chick (by offing her on the toilet)*******, and the obnoxious guy (by chasing him through a window, where the victim slices his throat open) before the others realize how much trouble they’re in.

The three survivors confront the villain, with Trip losing his arm in the first confrontation and his life in the second. Eventually, Jack and Gretchen hold off the Reeker in the RV, using Jack’s superior sense of smell******** to detect the monster before it speeds into range. As dawn approaches, the heroes look to be in the clear (although Jack has been slightly lobotomized in the process), butall of a sudden and completely unexpectedly (unless you’ve been paying at least a wee bit of attention for the first hour and a half), we cut to daylight. See, in the real world, Michael Ironside's character had a heart attack while driving his RV, and it plowed into the car with the kids in it. All of them then spent time in limbo, with all sorts of convenient clues (like a Bible that has “this is not real” scrawled in it, or a motel called the Halfway Motel) tipping off the audience that something was amiss. Each victim, of course, ended up taking the same damage from the Reeker that they took in real life. The only survivors of the accident, of course, turn out to be Gretchen and Jack.

On paper, Reeker certainly doesn’t sound any better than the other films that have covered the well-worn “everyone’s already dead” path. There are certainly plot holes throughout, and there's nothing new in terms of the twist itself. But writer/director David Payne — whose previous works, like Alien Terminator, Alien Avengers II, and Addams Family Reunion, certainly showed no indication of much talent — somehow pulls things together nicely, pacing things slowly enough to let the characters (unlikable as most of them are) dominate the first half of the movie, and leaking enough clues throughout that the ending is less a predictable and cliched twist than a necessary conclusion. The cast — which also includes Dean's annoying wife from Gilmore Girls as the bimbo and the guy who played Josh in Hostel as the obnoxious guy — is solid, never camping things up and generally remaining believable. We get some surprisingly funny bits (including a gag revolving around a flare gun), and some decent suspense, which is more than I'd expected when I sat down to watch this movie.

Reeker doesn’t bring anything completely new to the table, but like Dead Mary, it’s a recent direct-to-video DVD that’s far more enjoyable than the majority of the horror films getting released in theatres.







*And since this was filmed before Ugly Betty, he was hardly a big name, in spite of how much fun he was in Resident Evil or how awful he was as Yet Another Fucking Crow.

**Then again, five monkeys flinging poo for ninety minutes is better than Soul Survivors. It’s also how Soul Survivors was written.

***Right after the boy, playing “I Spy,” says that he spies something beginning with the letter D. If he’s spied something beginning with “Q,” they might have run over Q-Bert.

****That, or the f/x guys have no idea how vehicular trauma works.

*****Really, who the fuck thought that TNBC****** was a good idea?

******For those who don’t remember, TNBC was NBC’s attempt at a live-action Saturday morning block of shows in the ‘90s. Highlights included Saved by the Bell: The New Class, reality show Sk8, and basketball sitcom Hang Time, the reason that K-Ville isn’t the worst TV show Anthony Anderson’s been involved with. If you've never heard of any of these shows, it's because you were watching Animaniacs at the time. Good for you.

*******Which means that she joins that Katt Shea Ruben in Psycho 3, the younger of the bounties in Unforgiven, Ada Wong in Deep Rising, that bum in Street Trash, and the lawyer in Jurassic Park in that least dignified of on-screen deaths.

********You just know that the producers want to cash in on a “Daredevil versus Reeker” spin-off. Hell, for all I know, one of the unintended consequences of One More Day is that the Reeker is now a part of the Marvel Universe.
yendi: (Jason)
The Graveyard. 2006. Directed by Michael Feifer. Written by Michael Hurst. Released by Lion's Gate.

Any movie in which the sheriff is played by an actor named Sam Bologna* is worth watching. Or so I used to think. Then again, how many movies are written by Michael Hurst, the genius who penned Mansquito and directed House of the Dead 2 (not to be confused with the guy who played Iolaus on Hercules, who is almost certainly a better writer)? Director Michael Feifer, according to his clearly unbiased IMDB bio, "is known as someone who always makes a film on-time, on-budget yet with a production quality that studio executives can't believe." I share the same disbelief as the studio execs. This movie is a clusterfuck.

The Graveyard opens in, of all places, a graveyard. A bunch of teenagers -- played by assorted late-twenty-somethings -- decide to play hide-and-seek in the local graveyard, because that's what kids do for fun nowadays when they're not smoking dope or posting on The MySpace. But wait! It's all a practical joke setup, as one of them dresses as a killer and pretends to stalk the guy who is "it." And, as happens every time a practical joke gets played in a horror movie, it goes horribly wrong, as the scared kid (Eric) runs straight into a sharpened piece of a broken gate. Remember kids -- practical jokes and graveyards don't mix!

Five years later, the characters are all twenty-somethings, meaning the poor cast isn't forced to stretch their collective acting "talent" nearly as much. Hooray! Also, Bobby, the guy who dressed as the killer during that prank, has served five years for manslaughter, and still blames himself. He does make parole, and his friends decide that they'll help him get over things by bringing him back to the old camp near the titular graveyard where they used to hang out. Surely, nothing bad can come of this, right?

On the drive up, Michelle, the only friend who actually came to the parole hearing, gives "updates" on the lives of the characters, which serve as exposition. We've got a serial dater who's bringing his latest girlfriend to the camp; a former ho who now teachers pre-school**; an internet billionaire; and Michelle, the Nice Girl (along with a couple of other folks, like groundskeeper Peter, who is also a twenty-something, and flirts with Michelle).

In case you fell asleep during Michelle's speech, we get one-by-one intros for each of the characters as Michelle and Bobby enter the camp. Shockingly, almost everyone is an asshole (Michelle and Bobby excluded), leading the typical reader to assume that, well, most of this cast is probably going to die.

At the camp, the folks just hang out (how going here is going to make Bobby better is never explained), while we see some guy we've never seen before covered in blood and tied to a chair. A masked man comes up and chops him with an axe a few times.

Naturally, we have to cut to a sex scene, featuring the ladies' man and his latest girlfriend, Veronica. If you only watch these movies for the gratuitous nudity, fake breasts, and boring sex, here it is. We also see the groundskeeper flirting with Michelle again, interspersed with more scenes of the lovers (who loudly finish way too soon for the taste of the female partner, and way too late for anyone watching the film).

This is followed by more "character development," in the form of exposition (Eric's family is all dead of a housefire) and moping, with brief respites as the ladies' man continues to act like an asshole. While the friends are all arguing and moping and cracking jokes about Jason lurking in the woods (because if you acknowledge what you're ripping off, it's okay, right?), we get more gratuitous nudity, as Veronica hits the showers. After lots and lots of shots of her breasts***, the killer finally remembers that this is a slasher movie, not a porn flick, so after the traditional post-Halloween moment in which she assumes the masked guy is her boyfriend playing a joke, he suffocates her with a shower curtain****.

At the same time, Michelle and Sarah (the largely nondescript girl) wander to the graveyard, find Eric's desecrated grave, and immediately run back to camp to find that Veronica is missing. This leads to an intense and emotional scene in which Bobby notes that none of his "friends" called, wrote, or visited him while he was in prison, and they let him shoulder all of the blame. Also, a body was found in the woods a couple of days ago, and one character only just now decided to tell everyone else.

If, at this point, you're wondering how the scenes and dialogue segue, the answer is that they really don't. People just say whatever line the director thinks is important for the plot.

We get a search through the woods, which leads the revelation that Sarah is a lesbian, and her stalky ex-lover, Zoe, surprises them in the woods and threatens to kill them all before being kicked out. Holy Lesbian Red Herrings, Batman! Especially since Zoe, walking back through thew woods, gets killed in the next scene, when the killer jumps from a tree and slits her throat*****.

We get a bad false scare (in which Bobby pretends to stab Jack -- the ladies' man/asshole -- a joke that the others somehow don't appreciate), and then everyone returns to camp to find that their cars have been disabled (slashed tires, parts removed from the engine, etc.).

Since the entire cast was in the woods, naturally, a logical assumption here is that the killer is not really One of Them, and must be someone else. That logic might also apply to the fact that most of the killings have occurred when the other characters were seen together. So surely, this is just a Jason/MIchael-style External Killer flick, instead of a Scream/Happy Birthday to Me "the killer was one of the potential victims" movie. Right?

Hah!

Anyway, none of the cell phones are working******, so Bobby runs for help into the woods, armed with a knife. Great idea for a paroled felon.

Internet Billionaire Guy decides that he can hack a stronger signal with his laptop and some pliers, but he insists on being alone when he does so, making him a potential suspect or victim. Meanwhile, the ex-ho and Jack start getting it on, but Ex-Ho hears a noise and naturally decides to go investigate. She comes back to find that Jack has been decapitated, even as Bobby, in the woods, sees Zoe's dead body.

Ex-Ho runs up some stairs, only to get mildly hamstrung*******. For reasons that make no sense unless the director was trying to pad the running time of the movie, the killer vanishes, and the Ex-Ho is allowed to run again. She makes it to an open road, where she stands there screaming for help until the killer wanders by again and decides to slit her throat. Really. She stands still screaming for a good two minutes. You could almost imagine the killer thinking, "Hey, I gave you a chance to get away, and you're just screaming into the night for help. And I've got sensitive ears, so I'm just going to have to kill you now."

Meanwhile, back at the camp, everyone has discovered the remains of Jack, who was hacked into about thirty pieces in the short time the killer had with him.

Back in the woods, Bobby runs into the road and flags down the sheriff (played by the aforementioned Sam Bologna, every bit as talented an actor as his name implies). Alas, Bobby hadn't considered that flagging down the sheriff while holding a knife and covered in (Zoe's) blood might give the wrong idea, especially since the sheriff is the classic backwoods cop who utters lines like, "enjoy the view, Bobby-Boy. The sheriff's got you now."

(Incidentally, "enjoy the view, Bobby-Boy. The sheriff's got you now," would also make a good line in a porn movie.)

Back at the camp, the survivors have huddled together, but they suspect that Internet Billionaire Charlie, alone in his cabin attempting to hack together a radio, might be the killer. When he heads off to work on the generator, Michelle and Peter break into the cabin while Sarah follows Charlie to keep an eye on him. She utters the line, "nothing good ever comes of girls going into dark basements," to show how Edgy and Meta this movie is, and then follows him into the basement of one of the camp buildings. In the cabin, Michelle and Peter discover that Charlie's computer is filled with pictures of Sarah, with words like "die" written across each one! Oh noes!

Downstairs, Charlie and Sarah get into an argument, as he blames her and the others for the death of their friend in the opening scene. In the process of arguing, Charlie flips the switch on the generator, frying Sarah. He's the killer!

Only wait -- even as Michelle and Peter discover the body, Charlie heads back to his cabin, distraught over what he's done, and talking to himself about how it was an accident. When he gets there, his laptop has an open Word file saying "look under the bed." Even as he stares at it, the Word document automatically opens a new message saying, "seriously, look under the bed." Naturally, he does, and waiting under the bed is a rattlesnake, who bites him in the face.

Really. He got caught by the old "script a Word file to open on his PC, then hide a rattlesnake under the bed" trick. Fucking brilliant.

Peter and Michelle, of course, do what any two survivors of a massacre in which the killer is still on the loose do, and start making out.

Back at the police cabin********, the Sheriff gets confirmation that Bobby was still in prison when the body was found in the woods and releases him, but he still refuses to believe that there's any danger up at the camp, and leaves Bobby alone at the cabin as he heads out to investigate a break-in. Naturally, Bobby is the only one around to see the fax that comes in identifying the body in the woods as belonging to "Peter Bishop," the name of their so-called caretaker. Oh noes!

Of course, I should pause to note that, if "Peter" is really the killer, then A) he apparently killed the real Peter Bishop in that scene with the axe while Bobby was most definitely already out of prison (and thus still a viable suspect), B) he gave the name of a man soon to be found dead, instead of making up a story that would have bought him time ("Peter was called away on an emergency, and I'm covering for him"), and C) he managed to teleport in order to kill Veronica, Zoe and Ex Ho, as well as to leave the snake and Magical MS Word Document for Charlie. Seriously. He's actually shown looking at Jack's body while also killing Ex-Ho on a road half a mile away. The only way this could make sense is if there's either a second killer (a la Scream) or he's using the Time Turners from the Harry Potter series.

Anyway, as Bobby races on a stolen motorcycle to the camp, Michelle and "Peter" continue to make out, until she reaches under his shirt and feels his burn scar, and figures out that he's the little brother of Eric (remember that housefire comment?). We get the obligatory "psycho explains himself," as Adam (the real name of our psychopath) tells Michelle that he was so upset at how his parents took the loss of their older son, he dug up Eric's body, put it in his bed, burned the house down, and faked his own death in the process. Really. And now, he's also drugged the whiskey he gave Michelle a shot of, and as she faints, he carts her off.

Adam has decided that instead of directly killing Michelle as he did with everyone else, he's going to chase her down in a mad game at the titular graveyard, which would make sense if Michelle was more directly involved in Eric's death. Or was Eric's girlfriend (she wasn't -- turns out it was Sarah). Actually, there's no good reason other than the need for a Final Girl chase, as well as the classic scene in which the killer changes his pattern to allow the heroes a chance to stop him.

Somehow, Bobby runs from the camp (where he pulls in shortly after nightfall) into the graveyard and finds Michelle before Adam does. So does the sheriff, after Bobby again because of the stolen motorcycle. Naturally, as the sheriff points his gun at the two kids, Adam walks up behind him waves his knife, and the sheriff falls down. We discover later that he wasn't killed, but there's no sign of a punch or anything. It's like the director just forgot what he was doing.

As Bobby and Adam get into a fight, Michelle runs away and hides in a tomb. Adam overpowers Bobby and ties him to the graveyard fence, then follows Michelle into the tomb and chases her through the graveyard. As they run, Bobby, somehow untied, checks Adam into an open grave. When Adam attempts to climb out, they shoot him with the sheriff's gun, and we cut to the epilogue, with Bobby and Michelle waiting in the sheriff's car. The sheriff is talking to the coroners, and asks if they've found the body yet. Yes, the body that was shot point-blank and landed in an open grave has disappeared, and guess who actually enters the police cruiser where the survivors are sitting? Oh noes!

The saving grace of this movie is that it's not very F/X oriented, so it never gets the chance to be as bad as, say, a Uwe Boll production. But as slashers go, The Graveyard is down there with Valentine and Splatter University as an utter mess of a movie, with a awful, clunky dialogue, a mess of a cast who are blissfully unaware of how bad the script is, and a director with no sense of time or pacing. If you have the misfortune of encountering anyone who was involved with the making of this movie, slap them. Twice*********. No one associated with this movie has anything to be proud of.






*A name that rivals only character actor Ron Canada in my book.

**In fairness, there's no reason a person can't teach pre-school and still be a ho, but Michelle seems to think that these are mutually exclusive.

***If the actress -- Eva Derrek -- got paid per breast shot, she could have pulled in Julia Roberts rates for this flick.

****Yes, really. He stalked across the camp and didn't bring a weapon, instead relying on a lucky-to-still-be-there piece of plastic that, likely as not, killed her because of the accumulated mold buildup instead of suffocating her.

*****Thanks to the magic of Tivo and slo-mo, it turns out that her throat was already bleeding before the knife gets brought to it, so she might really have died of a rare blood disorder. Or bad directing.

******Cell phone coverage in horror movies is always either ubiquitous -- the Scream movies -- or unavailable at all.

*******The killer slashes her thigh enough to make her fall down, but she's able to run with no problem seconds later.

********Really. It's a log cabin that serves as a sheriff's office and jail. At least, it's a log cabin on the outside. Looks like the same jail set that was used on Veronica Mars on the inside.

*********Except for Sam Bologna. How can you hit a guy with a name like that?
yendi: (Brain)
1. Books Read: I got derailed here by side-project involving some reviews. I'm still going to try to compile a list of all books finished during 2007 (not counting side-project ones, as there are things I can't disclose there), but since I suck at logging them, I'm afraid I might have skipped some.

2. Ongoing short fiction, etc. I don't tend to update much about these, but I'm actually working on a few pieces which might get submitted somewhere.

3. 261 Days of Horror. Yeah, that collapsed like a motherfucker*. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but that was when I had a week of free time, no sense of how busy work would get, and no concerns about writing income. As [livejournal.com profile] curt_holman (I think) commented when I apologized for some early lateness, "what aren't we paying you for?"

My overall goal is to try to focus on getting paid for my writing. And I'm doing that, although in some venues that don't offer bylines (which may sound like a crappy trade-off, but bylines are not redeemable for cat food, field trip expenses, or coffee; money is). I'd like to find more, though, which is why #2, above, exists.

That said, I also like writing horror reviews. It's fun. And a lot of you have given me encouragement and asked if I'll get back to it. I intend to (possibly as early as today). It's just that writing them daily is the sort of insanity that can burn one out, especially once the three hours (minimum) needed per day are added to all the other obligations (including sleep).

So, here's what I'm doing, in terms of movie reviews, for 2008: I'll post reviews periodically, but with no set deadline. If I write twenty, I'll post twenty. If I write 365 (ha!), I'll post 365. Realistically, figure that the final number will be between 50 and 150. I also might very well expand beyond horror, although I'll likely stick to genre flicks, as they tend to be prime targets for snark (see my thoughts on Highlander: The Source, for example).

I will also be adding a Paypal button to these reviews. I know it seems crass, but you don't have to pay me a bloody cent if you don't want to. My wife's Wind Tunnel Dreams project has shown that people will pay for fiction; I don't expect the same level of donations for non-fiction, but I'd be a fool not to at least provide an outlet for anyone who felt like making a donation. I'll still write even if I don't get paid (some movies just require venting). I'll just likely write more if I do.

Since I don't see a realistic market for publishing these in a compilation (I know that some of you have suggested this, am disinclined towards self-publishing (although I know that MaryAnn Johanson had at least some success with LuLu), and don't see many opportunities for dead-tree reprints (I'm not Roger Ebert), I'm looking at donations as the primary source of whatever revenue I might take in.

I don't expect to get a lot from this, and what little we get will go towards things like groceries. If this somehow turns into a windfall, I'll look into funneling excess money into silly things like a separate domain name, a standalone site, etc.

As incentive, each $25 donation earns you the right to request a review, with the understanding that, if I don't have it on DVD or have the option of getting it on Tivo, you'll either need to make an alternate request, or get me a copy of that movie (I don't subscribe to Netflix or have a decent video store nearby). All sponsors, of course, will be thanked publicly unless otherwise requested.

Oh, as far as a name goes, I'll be tagging these with the unnumbered tag "Days of Horror" for now, with a possible name change if/when I expand far beyond the horror genre.

And yes, expect a review later this afternoon or tomorrow.








*Okay, I have no idea how motherfuckers collapse. The project might have collapsed like a house of cards, or the last days of a dying pocket universe, or something else entirely. But "motherfucker" is a good, strong epithet, and I'm sure that at least one of them has collapsed at some point.

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