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Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Pride + Prejudice + Zombies

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

tn_ppzWhen I first heard about PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES – the book where Seth Grahame-Smith inserted the undead into Jane Austen’s original text – it sounded like a clever public domain art project, something I could respect without wanting to actually read it. When I heard that they were making it into a movie it sounded like kind of a bad idea, but since David O. Russell was doing it I thought maybe it would be interesting. By the time Russell left and it was finally made by 17 AGAIN director Burr Steers I had written it off.

But then I saw the trailer, where the absurd premise was done with a straight face, and that was all I needed to get on board. I should’ve known better, too, because this is actually a repeat of what happened with Grahame-Smith’s second book, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. The wackiness of the title made me groan, but then I enjoyed the deadpan movie version. To this day it makes me smile to think that that actor had to master both delivering the Gettysburg Address and spinning an ax.

So I should learn to trust this Grahame-Smith guy. He also wrote Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS, which I enjoyed. But more importantly he has a corner on this rare, ballsy type of movie: lavish, earnest productions of intentionally ridiculous historical drama/horror-action combos. Steers has the unlikely discipline to treat Austen’s story of courtship among the rich with utter respect even though he’s moved it to a post-zombie apocalypse London surrounded by a moat and wall and at war with the undead hordes. I actually found myself invested in Austen’s original love story regardless of any zombie business. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Night Flier

Monday, August 1st, 2016

tn_nightflierTHE NIGHT FLIER has a premise that could only really come from a Stephen King short story: a vampire (Michael H. Moss, ROBOCOP 3) – old school, with a Dracula cape and everything – pilots a small plane, and goes around to different small airports drinking people’s blood.

The protagonist is Richard Dees (Miguel Ferrer, ROBOCOP) the star asshole at a shitty tabloid that seems to be a cross between The Weekly World News, TMZ and A Current Affair with a more sick and bloodthirsty edge, as well as an apparent belief in the tall tales they’re selling. He’s introduced checking the new issue, seeing it doesn’t have the photo he wanted, and yelling “WHERE’S MY GOD DAMN DEAD BABY!?” So he’s a purist about his scumbaggery. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Neon Demon

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

tn_neondemonNicolas Winding Refn had been around for years before he draped Ryan Gosling in that silver scorpion jacket and became such a name among the movie savvy that he can get a John Hyams remake of MANIAC COP funded and put his initials on the beginning and end of his movies like they’re monogrammed towels. He’d had international acclaim for the PUSHER trilogy and VALHALLA RISING, but DRIVE was such a perfect balance of effective crime drama, zeitgeisty nostalgia and style, and arthouse indulgence that it became a bonafide cultural moment. And he’s been trying to punish us for it ever since.

I like that he lets his freak flag fly, and while most of my friends couldn’t hang with his follow-up ONLY GOD FORGIVES, it really spoke to me with its odd mix of revenge story deconstruction, broken martial arts movie structure and feverish surrealism. His latest, NEON DEMON, swerves even further off the road of logic and coherence in its exploration of the world of young models in L.A.

Elle Fanning (MALEFICENT, SUPER 8, THE NUTCRACKER IN 3D, SOMEWHERE), somehow looking five years younger and more naive than in whatever movie I saw her in last, plays Jesse, a newcomer to town trying to find gigs. Makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone, INHERENT VICE, SUCKER PUNCH) latches onto her after a shoot and introduces her to Gigi (Bella Heathcote, DARK SHADOWS) and Sarah (Abbey Lee, the Dag from FURY ROAD, also in GODS OF EGYPT), more experienced models who respond with jealousy and cruelty when the gatekeepers start treating her as something special. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Ghostwatch

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

tn_ghostwatchsummer2016originsGHOSTWATCH is a famous 1992 BBC Halloween special which, like THE CONJURING 2, is based on the alleged ghosting incident known as “The Enfield Poltergeist.” A mom and her two young daughters claimed to have a ghost they could hear knocking on the walls and bending their spoons and stuff. And there really was no way to disprove that this was a ghost, other than that they caught the kids faking it. Still, other than that, 100% for sure it was real ghosts and worthy of multiple true story movies and books.

While THE CONJURING goes through the motions of pretending to be based on a true story, GHOSTWATCH goes the extra mile and pretends to be a documentary. It takes the form of a live broadcast with an in-studio host (Michael Parkinson as himself), on a corny set decorated with skulls and crystal balls, interviewing a doctor (Gillian Bevan) who’s supposed to have investigated the case. They have a bunch of screens to go via satellite to the house, where a reporter (Sarah Greene as herself) and camera crew are with the family talking about their story and hoping to document ghost activity. Also Red Dwarf‘s Craig Charles (playing himself) is the wacky comic relief reporter on the scene outside the house. And in the studio they also have a phone bank and take calls about people’s ghost stories and stuff. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Witch (and the great horror divide)

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

tn_witcha.k.a. “The VVitch: A New England Folk Tale,” as it said on the actual movie

Our beliefs on horror movies are very dear and personal to us. We were indoctrinated into them as children, performing rituals both in groups and in private. Though horror fans often think of themselves as one big group, different factions draw from different traditions. Some are strictly isolationist, while many draw from the Italians, or the Japanese, or even the French. Some have an Amish-like devotion to a specific bygone era, for example the Orthodox ’80s Slashists not only refuse to acknowledge the reformations of the SCREAM era, they don’t even believe in Blu-Ray.

There are many dogmas to adhere to or ignore. Some oppose jump scares, others welcome them to the flock. Many exalt franchise horror, but some consider sequeling a sin. Most oppose new remakes, but who doesn’t at least like THE THING? There is a wide spectrum, from those who seek the gore and transgression of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and GUINEA PIG to those who believe the best scares are always left to the imagination (of the viewer, not the filmmaker). In the middle are many who spent a few years fretting about “torture porn” and its hold on the genre. Or PG-13 teen horror. Or studio horror with big name actors. Or whatever.

Since the ’80s, horror has been both a highly specialized world for fangorian aficionados and a go-to market for squeezing quick bucks out of undiscerning young people. Therefore it should be no surprise that movies like THE WITCH that take a mood-heavy, narrative-light arthouse type of approach can be praised to the sky by critics and horror media, then called “the worst movie ever” by normal people who expect something different when they go to a horror movie. That they will get mad at the people who said it was good, and accuse them of thinking they’re stupid, which will then make them think they’re stupid. Lots of finger pointing. We could be moving toward burning and drowning. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Almost Human

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

tn_almosthumanALMOST HUMAN is a very simple low budget movie from first-time-director Joe Begos. (He has since become a second-time-director with THE MIND’S EYE, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to enthusiastic reviews, and recently got picked up for distribution.) The story begins with the protagonist Seth (Graham Skipper, TALES OF HALLOWEEN) running to his friend Mark (Josh Ethier, also the producer and sound designer and an editor on many other movies)’s house in terror from some lights he saw and can’t seem to explain. Against Seth’s pleas, Mark goes outside to investigate, and he disappears.

The majority of the movie takes place 2 years later according to the text on screen, “almost 2 years” later according to Seth. He’s a mess now, his boss at the hardware store thinking he’s on coke, Mark’s girlfriend Jen (Vanessa Leigh, veteran of around 20 obscure indie movies just in the few years before this came out) not wanting to talk to him when he shows up at her work warning that he thinks something is happening again. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Carrie

Friday, April 15th, 2016

tn_carrie13carryoncarrieLike THE RAGE, the 2013 remake of CARRIE is directed by a woman. This one comes courtesy of Kimberly Peirce of BOYS DON’T CRY and STOP-LOSS fame. The screenplay is credited to two men, Lawrence D. Cohen (GHOST STORY) and Robert Aguirre-Sacasa (THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN remake). The weird thing is that Cohen wrote the DePalma version, and this is his first credit in 9 years, so I don’t know if that means they started from an old-screenplay base. It kinda seems like it. It doesn’t do its own thing as much as I’d like. It’s not DePalma, but it’s not a drastically different take either, so I’m not sure how much the female perspective was able/allowed to add in this instance.

Part of the fun of a remake or re-adaptation is seeing who they have playing the different roles. There are some familiar actors in the leads here. Chloe Grace Moretz (TODAY YOU DIE) plays Carrie, and she’s the first actual teenager to ever play the character on screen. At 15 I believe she’s actually younger than Carrie was in the book, and there’s something to be said for authentic youthfulness in this role. Julianne Moore (ASSASSINS) is Margaret White, because of course she is. It would have to be her. Judy Greer, known for thankless roles in every major movie of the last few summers, actually gets things to do in the Betty Buckley role as the sympathetic gym teacher.

I was not familiar with the young actors playing the do-gooder couple of Sue and Tommy. Sue is Gabriella Wilde, a tall blond model who was in the Paul W.S. Anderson THREE MUSKETEERS, and Tommy is boyish Ansel Elgort, a rookie actor who has since been in the DIVERGENT series of trailers that seem to come out every few months, was the boy lead in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and reportedly on the short list to play Young Han Solo in I HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS: THE ADVENTURES OF ALL NEW HAN SOLO. Both actors won me over after initial skepticism. Meanie blood-dumper Chris Hargensen is played by Portia Doubleday, who I know from looking like Amanda Sieyfried on that tv show Mr. Robot. (She was also the surrogate date in HER, and her older sister Kaitlin plays Rhonda, the only major white character on Empire.) Chris’s bad boy boyfriend Billy Nolan (Travolta’s character) is Alex Russell, who I guess was in CHRONICLE and later Angelina Jolie’s UNBROKEN. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Carrie

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

tn_carrie02carryoncarrieSome years back I got an inkling to watch the 2002 TV version of CARRIE directed by David Carson (STAR TREK: GENERATIONS). I was thinking that of course it was gonna pale in comparison to DePalma’s version, but I liked Angela Bettis, who plays Carrie, in that movie MAY, and it might be cool to see another take on a classic story.

Then I put it on and the cheesy early 2000s TV aesthetic and laughable portrayal of high school turned me off so thoroughly I don’t think I even made it 10 minutes. Even Bettis seemed silly. I read that she was 27 at the time (2 years older than even Spacek was) but my math says 29. And we have to accept that she’s having her first period. If we even get to that scene, that is, which I didn’t the first time.

But now that I’ve read the book it’s interesting to watch different versions and compare and contrast the choices in adaptation, so I made it through and got what I wanted the first time. I even appreciated some aspects. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Rage: Carrie 2

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

tn_carrie2carryoncarrieOkay, I agree. They shouldn’t have made a sequel to CARRIE. But what if I were to tell you that it’s not bad? That’s what I would tell you if the subject came up, because that’s what I believe. If you have it in you to be a Sue Snell and try to give CARRIE 2 a chance you might be able to see the nice, pretty girl underneath.

It’s a movie of the ’90s so the protagonist, Rachel (newcomer Emily Bergl, now a veteran of TV shows including Desperate Housewives, Southland, The Knick and Shameless), is a different type of outcast than Carrie White. She’s not raised in seclusion, she just had her mother taken away to an asylum when she was young, and she lives with shitty foster parents. She’s not socially stunted. She’s just a girl who likes to wear black and no makeup and has a Marilyn Manson poster and a cheesy matching tattoo with her best friend Lisa (Mena Suvari right before AMERICAN PIE and AMERICAN BEAUTY). It is not specified, but in my opinion she owns THE CRAFT on VHS or at the very least PUMP UP THE VOLUME.

Rachel can stand up for herself but does have some vulnerabilities. Her other best friend is her basset hound Walter, and she’s embarrassed when it comes up that she’s a virgin. Although she gives lip service to the band Garbage, we hear her listening to Billie Holliday more than once. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Jennifer

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

tn_jennifercarryoncarrieBefore we address the other adaptations of CARRIE, let’s look at one of the movies its success made possible.

A few years after CARRIE was a hit, producer Steve Krantz whipped up this totally different movie called JENNIFER. Instead of just living in a decrepit house, Jennifer (Lisa Pelikan [LIONHEART, the TV version of TRUE GRIT with Warren Oates]) lives in a decrepit house that’s also a pet store. Instead of being raised by a single mother it’s a single father (Jeff Corey [SURVIVING THE GAME, the movie version of TRUE GRIT with John Wayne]) and instead of thinking her powers are the Devil’s work he thinks it’s Jesus. Instead of whatever form of Christianity Margaret White practiced, Jennifer’s father raises her as a snake handler. Instead of a sympathetic gym teacher there’s a dreamy science teacher (Bert Convy, host and producer of Win Lose or Draw) who is real cool and asks her to call him Jeff. Instead of a public high school where she doesn’t know how to fit in it’s a boarding school where everyone treats her like shit because they’re spoiled rich kids and she’s a poor kid on a scholarship. Instead of killing a pig and pouring its blood on her they hang her favorite kitten in her locker, and then say she did it and use it as an excuse to kidnap her.

Totally different. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.