Sunday, May 26, 2013

Netflix Viewing: The Horror!

So I've managed to knock some movies off my Netflix Instant Queue.

Remember all those trailers that I've posted in the past when I felt like being lazy and decided to share some movies I wanted to see?

No? Well go back and look here, here, here, here, here, and here!

And what did I watch? Surprisingly, not a ton of the movies featured in those posts, but some. Please. Let me tell you about the Horror movies I've been watching on Netflix.

1. Dead-Heads

Dead-Heads tells the story of Mike, a young man who wakes up one evening and discovers he is a zombie. He's a part of an entire en masse zombie infestation, in fact. What's really interesting is that unlike the other zombies, he is still able to think, feel, and communicate the way a normal human would. He soon meets up with Brent, a zombie in a similar condition, and they decide to team up and track down Mike's fiance.

It's dark comedy all the way, and it moves along at a brisk pace. The supporting cast really does a great job, including a human ally, a zombie "pet" they adopt along the way (of the less intelligent variety), and a handful of enemies hot on their trail. The events surrounding Mike's shady death, and the fact that he's not your typical zombie are important to the plot, but not important to your viewing pleasure... which is my way of saying it's the journey not the destination with this one.

I thought this movie was on the better end of good, but not amazing. It was a fun buddy-movie-road-trip-zom-rom-com... but the pacing was weird in places, and the dialogue felt like it was really forced in others. Mike as the suffering straight-man to Brent's free-wheelin' force of nature felt a little tired, even with the zombie angle mixed in. More than almost anyone, I loved "Cheese" the brainless zombie side-kick played by Markus Taylor. Cliff, the aging human ally they hitch a ride with, played by Harry Burkey was also a favorite, but in this case, the Cheese truly stands alone.


It's the kind of story that you just know can't end on a happy note... but they did their best with it regardless. I do recommend this film to fans of movies like Shaun of the Dead or Dead Snow who enjoy a good zombie film with its tongue planted firmly in (and sometimes completely through) its cheek.

Absentia (2011) Poster

2. Absentia

Absentia is a movie that very clearly wears it's low budget on its sleeve. BUT Even though at times it feels like a navel-gazing, talking-head indie movie about relationships... there are these sharp left turns that the film takes into supernatural territory that work very well. The whole thing is so tragic and atmospheric that it does actually function less as a horror film and more as a drama with monster parts mixed in.

Without spoiling too much I will say that it delves into the idea of troll bridges, and the "reality" behind what makes stories of people-snatching-bogey-men-who-hide-in-dark-places so prevalent in all cultures. There is a heavy focus on dealing with and trading with supernatural beings, and all the dangers involved. There is also a heavy theme of people trying to find rational (or even irrational) explanations for people simply disappearing from their lives. The mourning process is examined in detail. Even stronger than the supernatural elements of the film are the all too human elements explored in the form of how we cope with abandonment. Absentia is a real character piece that makes you think, while also including some genuine skin-crawling chills here and there.

This is the first of two zombie movies on this list I couldn't finish. 

I was excited to see what these film-makers could do with a civil-war era zombie movie... and that turned out to be not very much. Exit Humanity is incredibly boring in parts, and all the money-shots, where we want to see zombie carnage as the protagonist takes to the road... are told in animated sequences. There... are cartoons in this zombie movie where there ought to be some of the fight scenes. I don't have any problem with animated horror. But when I'm watching a live action zombie movie, I want the zombie fight scenes to be... live action. 

Also I don't want the rest of the movie and characters to be mind-numbingly boring. There's a post-apocalyptic vampire movie later on in this list that is more of a zombie western than this turned out to be. And unlike the other zombie film on this list that I just couldn't finish, there is not a chance in hell that I will be going back to finish this one. 

4. Dolls

I've been meaning to watch this 80's flick forever. It's one of those movies where I remember seeing the box at the video store when I was a kid, and being terrified of just the concept that dolls might be dangerous.

What a load of fun this movie was! It's really a series of horrific gag/gimmick-style kills sewn together in sequence, masquerading as a movie, much as a film like Killer Klowns from Outer-Space was. We see all the potential threats that dolls might pose to human beings under the right circumstances.

There is an opening sequence involving a Teddy Bear that happens before the movie is even in full swing that will forever go down in my favorite movie moments of all time. That is not a joke. I do not mean it ironically. There is no other moment in this movie in fact that actually tops the Teddy Bear scene, but I kept hoping there would be.

The stop-motion animation used for the dolls is fake-looking but also off-putting in its own macabre way, and it makes you feel like they really took great advantage of the limitations of the medium... planned or not. Credit should also be given to the design and production teams due to their eye for truly creepy looking dolls from all time-periods included in the doll army.

Dolls is an 80's movie with stock characters who are so bitchy they have to die, or so earnest and innocent they just have to make it through. It's a tale of murderers with an interesting M.O. and a skewed sense of right and wrong, of justice, and extreme punishments for petty crimes. In other words... it's a campy 80's classic.

5. The Innkeepers

What an insane amount of pot-boiling! But so worth it! This film spends the first 2-thirds on subtle atmosphere and character study... with an insane dash in the final act that leads us down, down, down to crazy town. It leaves the movie feeling a little unbalanced, but I felt pretty satisfied with how the whole thing wraps up.

The story concerns the last season at an old tourist-trappy inn that has it's share of old ghost stories and macabre history. The cast is a lean one, comprised of the two clerks manning the desk for the final salvo, an old actress-turned-amateur-medium, an older gentleman come back to the hotel to relive old memories, and a few other brief appearances. This leaves the film feeling pretty desolate of life in most parts. This desolation is a big eerie part of the film, and used to great effect. The two desk-clerks begin poking their noses around the inn trying their hand at amateur ghost-hunting, and this... does not end well.

There is a palpable feeling of dread and claustrophobia that steadily builds throughout, with little sparks of humor and feel-good interactions that punctuate the moments of genuine horror to come later in the film. It's pretty clear that parts of the film pull from its predecessors like The Shining and The Blair Witch Project. That's by no means a bad thing though, because it's all in what Ti West does with the atmosphere that makes The Innkeepers stand out from what has come before.

Watch it, please. If for nothing else but the last half-hour or so. Sooo good.

6. Re-Animator

I almost hate to confess that I had never seen this film until just over a week ago. I have seen and loved Jeffrey Combs in various TV appearances, cartoon voice overs, and films such as The Frighteners, Dr. Mordrid (yes, I have seen AND enjoy that film), and The House on Haunted Hill (not to mention his voice work in the movie Motivational Growth, which I talk about elsewhere on this blog)... but as for what may arguably be his largest claim to fame? Nope. Hadn't seen it yet.

Combs plays Herbert West in a loosely adapted H.P. Lovecraft story about a young man who unlocks the secrets of life and death and... re-animation. Herbert is an excellent character, and not one I would immediately characterize as a villain by any means. He is an insensitive, ambitious asshole beyond compare, and his motives are almost completely selfish... but even if he doesn't necessarily see the potential evil of his own methods, he does see the potential for his work to be abused and misused by others and tries to prevent it. He is a perfect fit for the definition of anti-hero.

I saw that Re-Animator was on Netflix, added it to my queue, and one late night viewing I decided to finally dive in and watch. I was NOT disappointed. It was everything I had dreamed. The camp was campy, the schlock was schlocky, the gore was gory, and the black humor was black humor-y.  It is in essence a cheesy 80's horror film to the nth degree... but with the minor exception that it seems hilariously aware of its own short-comings and plays to the inherent humor of them, while still feeling strong and genuinely creepy in others. If it's possible for one movie to be self-aware of its own budget  constraints and even of how dated it would look decades later, and completely wink at the audience about it, Re-Animator is that movie. Over all it was a great late-night watch, and I will be tracking down this film on DVD sometime soon.

7. Vamp

So Vamp was way less cool, funny, or good in any real way than I had remembered. I was pretty much disappointed at every turn when the movie would attempt to be clever, funny, scary, or even just a coherent movie with things like plot, dialogue, or characters.

It's a blatantly 80's film starring a group of wannabe frat-boys that attempt to get a stripper for a party. They go to the wrong club in the wrong town... and things get vampy. Parts of the movie look like a bad episode of the anthology TV show Monsters. Grace Jones does the least erotic erotic dance I have EVER seen in my life. People act terribly. They say and do things that make no sense. Not even in a funny way. People try to be scary and come off as boring. People try to be funny and come off as boring. Grace Jones seemed to be trying to be weird for the sake of being weird but it also just came off as boring.

I watched the whole thing though, mostly for the nostalgia factor. I saw this movie as a younger lad and wanted to see what I remembered of it. It was probably better off left in the shadowy recesses of my memory, because this movie wasn't really even so-bad-it's-good. I don't have a lot more to say about it. .. because there's not a lot more to say.

This one was even more disappointing. So much so that I didn't even finish it. I think I might go back and try to watch the rest later, but everything on this one seemed to just fall flat. It's a shame because it felt like some of the sequences should have been more fun than they actually were... like there were seeds of interesting ideas there under the surface that just weren't sprouting up into anything. My night-time viewing time is extremely limited and valuable to me, so anything not making me happy after the first half hour or so gets dropped. 

But... I find it very hard to leave movies, especially horror movies, unfinished in most cases. So unlike Exit Humanity, I'll probably finish this one at some point. 

9. [REC]3: Genesis

I don't mind foreign films with subtitles. I do get a little stressed out when I'm watching a horror film and I have to read stuff at the bottom of the screen.

But it didn't detract from [REC]3 one bit. I loved this film! I've never seen the first two movies in the series, but from what I understood before going into this one is that this is a stand-alone story simply set in the same universe, which is an idea I really love, and think more movie franchises in general could benefit from.

Koldo and Clara are getting married. They are the film's two main heroes. The entire events of the film take place pretty much during and after their wedding reception, and the action is all confined to the estate they have rented out for this purpose. There's a heavy romantic element that drives much of the plot, with the two main protagonists trying desperately to get to one another at all costs.

I found the wedding theme of the movie to be a lot of fun, with many wedding movie tropes being literally torn to shreds by slavering zombies. They started off the film in a found-footage format (hence the REC title) but actually dropped this pretense as soon as the real action kicked into gear, which was a relief. The main characters are likeable and root-for-able and are capable of just the right amount of kick-ass when the occasion calls for it.

Over all this movie was action-packed and fun, and had me genuinely biting my nails through parts of it. Can't recommend it enough.

10. Stake Land

This movie was completely unknown to me until I pressed play on Netflix. It had the interesting premise of being not a post-apocalyptic ZOMBIE film but a post-apocalyptic VAMPIRE film... in which the vampires pretty much behave like mindless, ferocious, fast-moving zombies with a few minor exceptions, like how they are killed.

Stake Land is at it's heart a zombie film that doesn't want to be just another zombie film, much like the 2009 films, "Mutants" and "Doghouse" (both awesome, and both seen on Netflix as well... but both in serious denial about what kind of movies they actually are). What's nice about it is that all the vampire elements do actually make the film feel fresh because the characters have to undergo a bit more training in order to fight their supernatural foes. Even though it's a zombie film deep down... it's not a typical zombie film (plus it's way more of a western than Exit to Humanity ever dreamed of being... and it's not even set in the west (I don't think)... or the past.)

As with all post-apocalyptic stories, the true enemies are other horrible human beings. This is another important element of the film as we watch the protagonist, Mister and the boy he has taken under his wing, Martin, make their way north to a possible vampire-free zone.

What really makes Stake Land shine is the cast. Mister and Martin build a group of allies and travelling companions around them that changes and fluctuates throughout the film. Each character brings with them a different lesson for young Martin. This is as much a coming-of age tale as it is anything else, and the road north is as much a metaphor for Martin's road into adulthood as it is a literal goal in the story.

It's a dark, serious film, and one that might be seen by some as kind of  a downer... but I got a ton of entertainment from almost everyone in this film. I highly recommend it.

So that's it for tonight's post! I just really wanted to talk about some of the films I've recently caught up on. But I'll be back soon with more Geeky Goodwill Goodies! Until then, Happy Hunting!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like we're watching at least some of the same movies. I agree about InnKeepers. It's great. If you like that one, you might check out House of the Devil.

    It's by the same guy, in a similar style. I did a review of it a while back:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...