HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BLOG: 1-YEAR RECAP STATS

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Nerds Only

Available Right Here, Right Now -Fresh As You Can Get It

Stats No One Not Writing This Blog Cares About

THE QUICK & DIRTY DEETS

  • 21 movies reviewed
  • 10 Bechdel Passes (Approx)
  • Introduction of Blackdel
  • No jump scares, CGI or gore!

THOTS

Well, it’s official – this little blog’s been chugging out posts intermittently for a full year, now. (Fine – almost.) In honor of this unanticipated occasion, here are some lists and some awards. Everyone likes awards, don’t they?

In preface: “Best Of” categories are divided into two. The “Recent” category is reserved for films released in 2016 only. “All Time” refers to movies released in 2015 or before.

Hooked On Horror: Official, Very-Official 1st Annual Best Of Film Winners: 2016 Edition

BEST ALL TIME MOVIE REVIEWED: Murder Party

BEST RECENT MOVIE REVIEWED: Holidays

runner up/close second: HUSH

WORST RECENT MOVIE: Don’t Breathe

BEST MOVIE I MEANT TO REVIEW ALL YEAR BUT NEVER DID: Session 9


Now Some Blog Stats

MOST VIEWS (DAILY): 14 – December 11th – Probably just me from a different IP

MOST VIEWS (MONTHLY): 30 – December 2016

runner up/second place: November

MOST POSTS/REVIEWS (MONTHLY): 4 (a mul-tie)


That’s all I got for ya, folks. I guess I could be a little more imaginative and churn out some more categories for you, but I have this super-long list to tack on to the end of this post, so I think it’ll plenty long enough as it is, or will be. First, a serious moment. What’s going to change here for 2017?

I’ve got three commitments I’m willing to make, Best Beloved. Hear me out.

First, I promise not to post any less frequently.

For the second, I have a sizable reading project on my plate for 2017 – to bring my reading up-to-date with Stephen King’s current catalog. I cut my teeth on King novels (no surprise, probably?) and at one point used to brag I’d read everything he’d even written, with a few categorical omissions for joint projects, so on. There is simply no stopping the man, however, and I’ve fallen behind. In 2017, I want to catch up. And what that means is I’m going to broaden the scope of this blog a little bit; I’ll be publishing intermittent reviews of other means of horror consumption, most prominently the novel. I refuse to establish any limits to this purview, for the time being

As my third, I’m going to introduce a new post format – side-by-side breakdowns of original films and their remakes. Again, this’ll be an occasional change, nothing more, but it is an idea I’ve wanted to pursue for some time.

On a related note, perhaps my 3(b), I’d like to one day be brave enough to share my honest opinions of the 1959 and 1999 House on Haunted Hill films. For now, let us say Ebert, IMDB, and Rotten Tomatoes have shamed my taste to silence.

I am looking forward to a bone-tingling 2017 with you, O Beloved. I wish you the best.


HORROR MOVIES I WASN’T TOO LAZY TO WATCH IN 2016 BUT WAS TOO LAZY TO REVIEW: A LIST (PARTIAL)

Session 9
The Darkness
Ghost Team
From Dusk til Dawn
The Legend of Hell House
AHS: Lady Gaga
The Taking of Deborah Logan
The Houses October Built
Stranger Things
Ava’s Possessions
Oculus
The Diabolical
The Haunting
Bates Motel: Creepy 3
Stonehearst Asylum
The Seasoning House
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
The Faculty
The Burbs
13 Ghosts
Jessabelle
Hocus Pocus
Hellraiser 1-3
The Reef
Splinter
The Mist
A Lonely Place to Die
Sun Choke
Behind The Mask
Perfect Host
American Mary
Tucker & Dale Vs Evil
Cabin In the Woods
Jugg Face
The Pact
Shutter
The Theatre Bizarre
Patrick
Stitches
Rest Stop

THE CONJURING 2

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Meeehhhhh-commend

Available on American Airlines Flights (I know, right? Super bougie)

Based on a true hoax story

THE QUICK & DIRTY DEETS

  • Mod-to-high jump scares
  • Haunted house/family genre
  • Dat Vera Farmiga

THOTS

I admit that maybe I’m approaching this franchise from the wrong end, having not actually seen either The Conjuring or Annabelle (look, they make horror movies about living dolls for a reason, they’re fucking creepy), but you know what? It wasn’t so painful coming up the ass. Sorry, am I being crude? I didn’t realize horror fans were so sensitive.

Taken as it was, I have to say, The Conjuring 2 offers a solid specimen from the “haunted house” genre, although I would honestly argue this fits more into the “haunted person” arena as opposed to an actual “haunted house.” It’s typical poltergeist sort of fare, based on a “true story” from when “true poltergeist stories” were all the fashion – the early ‘70s. Any movie that can claim to be based on a true story does elicit just that extra inch or so more of thrill.

If you’re a fan of Poltergeist or similar, The Conjuring 2 will appeal to you because that’s what the story really is, though the film’s justification for its events is about as thick as the first early December sheet of ice overlaying some given neighborhood’s decorative, man-made pond. That is to say, there is an explanation and it holds just so long as no one steps on it, or tries to challenge it with the throw of a few fist-sized rocks. The film gives its audience just enough rationale for why this haunting? now? that probably no one walked out of the theater complaining of plot holes. However, like an appetizer may stave off true hunger, it doesn’t fully satisfy. It just puts off, enough.

While we’re talking about small-to-moderate flaws, while there’s an extensive cast of characters, if the film passes Bechdel, it does so narrowly. Mom’s acting starts off poor and, ultimately, hits only uneven success. Several short scenes feel auxiliary and maybe needless in retrospective examination. If a director’s ability is truly demonstrated by unbroken shots, The Conjuring 2 doesn’t say anything favorable about its dude-behind-the-cameras-in-charge. But does it have to?

The Conjuring 2 is one of those films with good enough star power and decent funding which ultimately delivers exactly what it promises but not one whit past that. It won’t enrage you or leave you disappointed. Neither will it excite you or make you think. Sometimes, with horror movies (as with most things in life), even I admit – mindless entertainment can be all you want or need.

I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Official Red Flag

Available on Netflix (Netflix Original) 

The good news? Only idiots and invalids are susceptible to specters in this flick.

The bad news? Now you have to watch it. 

THE QUICK & DIRTY DEETS

  • Subgenre: Haunted House; Paranormal Activity
  • What the fuck era is this in? Some ancient one
  • Low on story, low on scares, low on everything
  • See In Real Life: Bechdel pass not actual indicator of quality

THOTS

Wow, I hated this movie. I hated this movie so much I turned it off halfway in and was going to “let it rot” (a phrase the film repeats over and over) forever.. Then, after a day and half’s worth of levelheaded thought I realized I hated PYT (as the movie shall be dismissively termed henceforth in this review) so much that a) I had an obligation to the public to save them, and b) I had a lot to say about it. Very heatedly. That, in itself, merited a review. On a side note, you should see my notes for this movie. They’re hilarious, or, at least, hilariously frustrated.

I’m disappointed. With its arsenal of wildly popular original productions, Netflix should be able to churn out at least an average horror movie. Instead, someone somewhere greenlit a script which features a protagonist who, at one point, is too scared to learn more about her slightly spooky living situations to read a book that would explain them. If that weren’t enraging enough, the fact is that the only character “development” the film exhibits, in any way, is the development of a living character into a dead one. I guess not everyone was paying attention in 6th grade Reading class when we learned about dynamic characters and story progression.

This is a film that focuses on two characters who are so alone that, when they die, it is weeks before anyone thinks to check on them. If no one in the movie cares about the two main characters, why in God’s name would the audience? PYT asks us to care but gives us nothing to care about.

To get real honest, right from the start there’s no reason for us, the audience, to hear the story PYT churns out. We open with a first-person monologue told by a woman who, it’s established, is too afraid to read a book; leave her job; leave the house, even; or do anything. Why would this frightened creature talk to us? Are we in her house? What’s prompting her to speak to an audience?

And even if PYT offered some frail explanation for all of this, which it doesn’t – why would we, the audience, decide to listen? There is nothing compelling on sale.

Not only is our main character boring, she is dumb. She is reportedly uneasy living in the house but she never tries to leave it. Books are so frightening she would rather be scared and ignorant in real life than attempt to learn more about her situation. She had paranormal visions but does not acknowledge them. Things happen around her and over and over again she does nothing.

Even if this might be realistic, in that there may be a person out there like this idiot, that does not make it interesting, and in order for a movie to succeed it is more important it be interesting than believable.

For the sake of my time wasted, please – don’t waste yours.


Everything I Love That PYT Ruins (Special Closing Feature):

– Haunted house genre

– Minimalist script (2 MCs, 3 characters total, limited setting)

– Feminist horror genre

HOLIDAYS

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Would Watch

Available on Netflix

Feature Thesis: Kids of single moms gone get fucked, some sort of way up

THE QUICK AND DIRTY DEETS

  • Horror short film anthology a la V/H/S, ABCs of Death, The Theater Bizarre
  • High on surrealism, magic, and fatal curses of womanhood
  • Enjoy: definite female focus; 63% Bechdel pass rate; quality and variety
  • Low CGI, Jump Scares, Freaky Shit, Under-Cover Hiding!

THOTS

Holidays showed up on Netflix one day with a high enough rating to attract my attention. I wasn’t in the mood for an anthology just then, but my interest was piqued. I knew several other worthwhile short horror film collections. In fact, I couldn’t think of one I’d seen which I’d considered mostly bad.

The record remains. Comprising 8 segments which each highlight a specific holiday, progressing in temporal order through the year (starting with Valentine’s and culminating at New Year’s), Holidays offers a surprisingly lady-loaded suite of concise horror. The featured holidays are as follows: Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s. Several limit their cast to two (or fewer) acting characters. Seven feature female leads. As for the eighth story, well that one actually managed to get Seth Green on board, who’s almost definitely the only actor you’d ever know by name from this collection. Horror writers and directors know what’s up. Any actor with any hint of a following, or who could even just maybe be recognized by a stranger on a street, is headed straight for primary character. It’d be a waste, frankly, to cast them anywhere else.

It’s interesting to observe what themes or similarities arise between these 8 stories. All and each of stories 1-6 play on various aspects of relationships between adults and children. Half explicitly focus on mothers. Definitely four, and possibly five or six, paint their main characters with a personal, well differentiated sub-species of that familiar friend we all know, by name: loneliness. That loneliness weakens these characters. Their pain and isolation is what lays them vulnerable to magic, danger, the plotline of a horror short.

Each piece achieves necessary differences, as well. Many broad similarities run through the group, but each specific story proves also memorable, and distinct. The eight differ across many vectors, from run time; complexity of topic horror-choice; to how our characters grow through the story; how each achieves, somehow, the goal that their short opened with. There are some that might regret their success in this department. These are horror stories, after all, and horror movie wishes should tend to monkey’s paws. But what I like about them all, and suspect may be a hallmark of a strong short story in whatever medium, is that each main character achieves, in the fourth act, the desire or drive that was revealed to us, off the bat, in the first.

These scripts and plots are crisp and economic. Certain themes weave threads through the collection, and stitch delicate parallels among stories. That justifies their collection.And each short justifies its own existence by the success with which it stands alone; delivers a story; satiates the audience with fulfilled and complete stories achieved in less , twenty minutes. This is an applaudable accomplishment – and Holidays hits it eight times over. Now that’s impressive.

Most horror movies go best with a specific season. A Nightmare Before Christmas is really appreciates best from October to December, for instance. Summer of Blood says it in the title. Black Christmas is similarly subtle; it, Krampus, Shymalan’s recent The Visit – all watch best when outside’s a layer of snow. Carrie’s Carrie comes into her powers when it’s spring for a reason, because spring is the time of blossoms, sexual maturity, of transition from juvenile to mature adult. My Bloody Valentine? I mean, come on.

As a collection of shorts, Holidays seizes the opportunity for relevance in any season, in any weather, on any day, at all. It seems a small feature, but I like it. I like it quite a lot. Holidays heard that song by the Byrds that everybody knows, and took it to heart.

A time for ghosts, a time for gore

A time to kill, a time to hide

A time for God, a time for demons

A time for houses to come back to life

To every scary story, there is a season

There is a film for any whim

(search, search, search)

DON’T BREATHE

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Official Red Flag

Currently in theaters

THE QUICK AND DIRTY DEETS

Don’t Breathe? More like Don’t Bother

Normally I like to watch movies at least twice before I review them, but in this case, you can bet your damn ass there’s no way in hell I’m paying to see Don’t Breathe again. And the first time was a matinee.

When I saw previews for Don’t Breathe, I thought, “Oh cool! Some producer saw Hush and decided to make another movie in the same vein. OK, the main character’s a dude, and instead of being deaf, he’s blind, but what a great idea!” I really enjoyed Hush and was excited to see the “sensory handicapped but kickass defender” plotline extrapolated to the next – well, sense.

I was profoundly disappointed.

First, Don’t Breathe attempts to humanize its main characters, who are the aggressors, with a pseudo-heart-wrenching backstory to justify their choice to live in crime. You know what? If you want to do that, in a movie set in Detroit, then let me honestly ask: why are they all white? Let’s be real here. If you’re an American, you know Detroit is shit. It’s full of vacant houses and the local economy has basically collapsed due to the car industry tanking, and consequently pulling out of the city. It’s also 83% black, which means that the people who are disenfranchised in Detroit are overwhelmingly people of color. Why is the only black person in Don’t Breathe a guy buying coffee in the airport at the end of the film? Serious question here. Please, serious answers. I will give that one of the 4 actors in the movie actually is Costa Rican, but he’s as white as any other. 

Anyway, here’s my point: the ends don’t justify the means, and this attempt to make them do so rings especially hollow in a movie where the “downtrodden aggressors” clearly belong to privileged classes.

Another one of my huge issues with Don’t Breathe is that it’s hugely, overwhelmingly gratuitous. Hush does get pretty violent by the end, cringe-worthily violent, even, but as a whole, I’d say the movie justifies the violence which occurs. After all, at some point in scenarios like these (home invasions; predator and prey), there’s no real way to avoid an eventual physical confrontation. However, Don’t Breathe skips promising opportunities to build psychological terror and therefore, a story that will stick in the audiences’ mind for more than sixty seconds after leaving the theater, and instead leaps to grotesque body shots. There’s simply no mental challenge in this movie whatsoever. I might as well watch a snuff film for what I got out of Don’t Breathe. I don’t know where to find a snuff film, but that’s because I don’t want to.

In sum, I felt as if a producer sat at a table of generic Hollywood movie folx and said “Hey! I’ve got this idea! Home invasion movie, but gone wrong. And here’s a twist! Blind guy.” Then all the people around the table, from behind their sunglasses and bored yawns, said “You know what? Great idea. We love it! But…with what you’ve brought here today…that’s only like, 30 minutes of a movie. How can we twist it to make it even better?” And they pounded their hands on the table and someone stood up and said, “I have an idea!” And they twisted it, gratuitously, for time. Then someone realized that even with that twist, the movie was still only an hour long, so they fuckin twisted it again. And it was finally long enough, and it was GTA-4 levels of gratuitous. None of these decisions served the movie in any way, whatsoever. 

Do not go watch Don’t Breathe. It isn’t worth your money, and it’s certainly not worth your time.

What does it say that I wasn’t surprised at all to see Sam Raimi was one of the producers?

Excuse me now, I have to go watch MURDER PARTY again so I can review it, and get this bad taste out of my mouth.

HUSH

2

SHOULD I? STATUS: Would Watch

Available on Netflix

THE QUICK AND DIRTY DEETS

Suggested Alternate Title: Queen Bitch Amazon

  • Girly Groove Rating: 8/10
  • Scares: 7/10
  • Moderate Body Horror, High Low Budget/Good Script/One Set,
  • Genre: Psychological Thriller (sprinkled with some Slasher)

THOTS

I watched Hush after it was heavily recommended by multiple members of a horror junkie group to which I belong, once I discovered it was on Netflix. Hush was released in 2015 and I’m pretty sure I was vaguely aware of its new-ness — I had originally thought it was only available in theaters or Redbox or something, and had kind of ignored comments the first time around under the assumption I wouldn’t be able to watch and review it anytime soon. It was a pleasant surprise to realize the film was already on Netflix. Hush was the first of two I watched that night, so if I keep on track, expect a review of The Lazarus Effect coming up sometime soon too.

My friends were on point.

Speaking on a “feminism” scale, if I must, Hush strikes a solid, subtle passing mark. The “Low Budget/Solid Script” law totally proves itself here: Hush has a cast of 4 confined to one set, a house. There is a pretty strict parallel between restrictions such as these and well-written scripts, you know, the kind that tells you a patient’s backstory in dialogue which actually feels natural, and not like an excuse for a cut to another scene which allows a lazy or bad script-writer to “tell” all sorts of things without actually trying to tell any of them (that’s the producer’s/director’s/scene setter’s job!) the way one has to for the story to be good. As script are, approximately, 90% dialogue, a scriptwriter who tries not to use it seems, at a minimum, lazy.Hush is not this case. It should also be mentioned here that it passes the Bechtel test relatively well, especially considering it’s a cast of 4, 50/50 sex split, and two characters are knocked out of play fairly quickly.

I liked Hush for a couple of reasons besides the solid script. Plotwise, it’s one of the most direct, logical, and believable stories I have watched in horror recently. I think this is also a result of scriptwriter limitation – this film clearly didn’t have the budget for anything CGI, anything pretending to be high-tech, anything even pretending to be expansive. It had to be short, tight, specific, and without any real handwaving. This really worked for Hush on pretty much every level. I encourage other screenwriters, who of course I do not honestly expect to read this blog, to practice similar limitations. It forces the story to work. There’s a point where the movie threatens to get disappointing and, instead, it doesn’t. The choices characters make absolutely follow, which is not only good in and of itself, but makes the movie relatable – maybe it couldn’t happen to you, but it could have happened to someone your friend knows.

I didn’t absolutely love Hush, but that has little to do with the movie, and more with me. It gets a bit gory for my tastes at points – but it’s effective and reasonable, not really gratuitous. While the movie is clever, it isn’t overly so.