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

TURNING OFF THE IDIOT SCREEN FOR A MOMENT

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Going Beyond the Bechdel Test

Early in the history of this blog I read an analysis of female vs. male representation in movies, wholesale and across-the-board. Someone interested party took the scripts for every movie they could find and parsed them for number of lines per character/per gender/per vectors that eventually yielded those results. This Hollywood breakdown provided a quick, approximate-but-really-close-enough, picture of gender representation in film as a whole. The population of analyzed scripts is not limited by any vector like production company, genre, film release, and etc, so the data provides a comprehensive image of the film industry whole. In a “this sucks” sort of way, the analysis is interesting and cool, so for the third time I’ll drop you the link: click. 

As a female person, I generally believe I care a lot about the issues of being a female person. This includes fair gender representation in all areas. However, I wasn’t woke regarding the film industry until I read that analysis. After that, I began to track gender representation in the movies I watched. I looked for Bechdel passes. Most importantly, I shared what I saw in my reviews on this blog. To me, that data is important. I mean –

that data is important.

Past the Bechdel: We Can Call it the Blackdel Test!

After some lightning-bolt realizations last night, I decided Bechdel isn’t all I want to track anymore. While I’ve mentioned race representation in a review here or there, going forward, just as I do with female representation and the Bechdel test, I will figure race representation and treatment into every god-damn review I post.

Here are my 3 Blackdel parameters:

  • Does the movie have at least one black character?
  • Does the character have a name?
  • Does he or she speak any lines?

It is a sad truth of the film industry at the minute that if I set my first parameter to require two black characters, I could get rid of the following 2 and the industry pass percentage would be a fraction of a percent. Blackdel is technically a looser standard than Bechdel. I bet it gets met far less. Tell you what: in a year, I’ll parse my reviews and report back.

Again, a film can pass Bechdel and suck. It can pass and be sexist. Bechdel, and now Blackdel, test for a minimum standard of inclusion. As an example, see the end of this post for a short list of horror films which contain one token black character who functions, to the utmost woke cringe-rating, as a stereotypical, one-dimensional representation of “the whole black race.” Each of them registers a Blackdel pass.

So I’ll be tracking for that as well; when there is a black character, are they a “token black?” Is there character development, growth, are there reasons for the character behaving and acting as they do beyond their blackness? Beyond “because that’s how black people act!”

I’m adding these observations into my future posts because I just want to see more black lawyer extras in movies instead of black janitors. I want to see more three-dimensional black characters with real desires at stake instead of sassy black nannies and security guards or warehouse workers.

In my heart I think the film industry is so far from representing both race and gender equally that it’s foolish to hope the disparity will resolve in my lifetime. There are people out there who this post would make angry. People who would fume or ask “Why do we need more black people in films?” or “If they’re good enough, they’ll be cast! This isn’t about race! It’s about talent!”

From my perspective, diversity and equal representation is not a question of whether there should be more black folx in our movies. That isn’t a question: it’s a fact. If you happen to agree with me, and you want to get woke to films, too — all you have to do is pay a little attention. Don’t accept the face a movie presents. Instead, ask.

Why isn’t that character black?

Why aren’t any of the other characters in this movie black?

Why is it the black character that [insert action – is full of sass; hits on/checks out every woman he encounters/turns immediately to violence/beats his child/dropped out/Solves The Problem With Ethnic Magic/etc]

Ask why isn’t every character in this movie black? That is the right perspective.

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)

THE SILENCED

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Would Watch

Available from Netflix

THE QUICK AND DIRTY DEETS

  • Girly Groove Rating: 8/10
  • Scares: 7/10
  • Subgenre: Psychological horror; sci-fi
  • High on Asian Schoolgirls; Low on Unnecessary Sexualization; Low CGI; Low Jump Scares

THOTS

I’d never have expected the horror movie about Korean schoolgirls to pass the Bechdel test, but then, there you have it. This surprising psychological thriller holds up to the genuine fear other Asian horror films, like The Ring, The Grudge, Audition, and Shutter, have so famously offered audiences in the past – while avoiding overt supernatural elements almost completely. The end is both surprising and extremely satisfying. And The Silenced is about as admirably cohesive in its plot as you could hope to get, a trait which is becoming a personal pre-requisite to term any movie a “success.”

Another element of the movie which, it proves, I like best, is actually a surprise to me. That’s the fact that, if you wanted, you could quite accurately term the movie science-fiction, a genre which is frequently lumped together with “horror” in movie stories and streaming services. It’s my long-standing opinion that this lumped categorization is a failure to the horror genre made by the MPAA and movie distributors, dilettantes seeking to simplify such categories, not elucidate. The ugly combination of “science fiction” and “horror” into one so-called genre results in movies such as “The Martian” (with Matt Damon) and “Independence Day” (yes, the one with Will Smith and Bill Pullman) appearing on the same list as titles like “Dark Floors” and “The Last Will and Testament of Rosamund Leigh.” It’s simply unfriendly to the viewer.

In this case, horror and science fiction wed beautifully. I’d argue the transition between the two is seamless.

There’s not much else I can say about The Silenced without beginning to feel as if I’ll spoil things, so I won’t. But what I will do, once more, this Halloween season, is recommend that you should watch it.

HUSH

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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.

THE LORDS OF SALEM

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Would Watch

Watched this on DVD at a girl’s house – doesn’t appear to be available on any conventional pay-to-stream service or Amazon Prime/add-on, but you can get your hands on a copy of it a few ways, so long as you know you want it.

THE QUICK AND DIRTY DEETS

Rob Zombie goes faux-retro in this female-centric psycho-thriller. Also, Rob Zombie’s got a hot wife. 

  • Girly Groove Rating: 9/10
  • Scares: 6/10
  • EXTREMELY NOTABLE: A+ in Category “Cohesive Plot”
  • High Psychological Thriller, Moderate-High Portrayal of Hipster Existence 30 Years Before We Called Them Hipsters, High Creepy Historic Witches And Shit,
  • Low  Unnecessary Machismo, Gore, Jump Scares

THOTS

Ever since Witching and Bitching and The Descent I’ve kept an eye out for other feminist horror films I could talk about here. My girl J recently introduced me to The Lords of Salem, and it fit the bill perfectly (something which also thrills me, because I like women and I like horror and I love it when horror actually manages to mix in some equality with the scares).

I really enjoyed this movie. It is not very scary in a traditional, “brawny” sort of way: the horror here doesn’t really get in your face that much, it doesn’t breathe on you and make you jump, or cringe back in sympathetic pain, or need to close your eyes or hide under the blanket or look away.  The script and setting skillfully employ a cinematic technique I particularly enjoy, which is close to “show, don’t tell,” but with a specific angle – I’m speaking here of movies/scripts which manage to successfully establish their temporal setting within a distinctive era, but without having to drop what year it is in the script or through subtitling or even pin down what, really, that year is. The Lords of Salem feels like it’s possibly in the 1970s, through it could be as recent as the 1990s, through and through. The specific year of a setting often isn’t important, but the feeling of its believability is, and we believe the setting of a movie when, as in films like this, every shot or scene consistently, yet subtly, matches to it.

Another of The Lords of Salem‘s greatest strengths is its plot, which is not something I can often say about horror movies. I love scary movies, but (I think) because they are so visceral, and often very immediately, writers seem to have trouble backing up the creep with a solid plot. In other words, I’ve found that horror movies, even really great-seeming ones, typically fall apart at the end. Pontypool does thisLast Will and Testament of Rosamund Leigh does this, to name some examples. Even Creep (future review) suffers from a clear weakening of plot in its last 30 minutes or so. The Lords of Salem completely escapes this pitfall. While the movie does seem to bend to a more extreme angle in its final scenes, they are completely consistent with the logic, pattern, and action of the movie from its very start. The conclusion makes sense. Each character’s motivations and actions as a result remain as believable at the end as they were at the start, and when a character’s mood or attitude shifts, it’s cogently as a reaction to the events in the movie. What I’m trying to say is that outside of the supernatural element, The Lords of Salem makes sense. It is so good to have a movie that actually makes sense from start to finish. You should watch The Lords of Salem just for the satisfaction of that.

I guess I should drop some hints about the plot. Let’s see: vaguely eye-roll-y ultra-alt radio DJ in Salem, MASS hosts some unusual guests over a few nights, gets a weird record, and also begins to maybe see? weird stuff in her apartment. We aren’t sure if it’s mostly all in her head or is really happening until around mid-movie, but that’s okay because she isn’t sure either. It turns out someone is trying to rassle up some trouble from ancient, witch-burning Salem, where it turns out the witches actually were witches in this reality, although that doesn’t seem like it’s common knowledge to the general public. Creepy hijinks ensue and our main character, Heidi, isn’t safe even when she’s alone at home. In fact, she might be safer almost anywhere else.

Go take your next dim rainy day, and watch this movie on it. I’m doing you a favor. Trust that it’s worth it.