Monday, April 22, 2024

Water Nymph

Film: Nyad
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on Fire!

Of all of the Best Actress movies I have to watch for the last set of Oscars, Nyad is the one that I was probably the least interested in seeing. This has nothing to do with the subject matter; Diana Nyad is a certified badass and I won’t hear anything different. The main reason is that I’m generally less than enthused about Annette Bening. I don’t specifically dislike her, but I also don’t tend to choose much that has her in it. But Nyad is on the list, and so I figured it was worth watching.

Nyad is the story of Diana Nyad, arguably the greatest distance ocean swimmer in history and her shattering swim from Havana to Key West, more than 100 miles of open ocean. Naturally, she had a full team of people assisting her—coaches, navigators, pilots, crew whose job it was to keep sharks away from her, and more—but the rules of the actual swim were that no one could actually touch her and that she could have nothing like a shark cage around her. The swim itself was unassisted. Even feeding and water had to be given to her off the boat but without actual physical contact.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

HMS Dracula

Film: The Last Voyage of the Demeter
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on basement television.

When I heard that The Last Voyage of the Demeter was in the works, I was excited; it’s one of the major parts of the Dracula story that hasn’t gotten a great deal of treatment in the various movies based on Stoker’s original work. Nosferatu probably covers the time on the Demeter more than any of them, and it still feels like short shrift. It really is a great set up for a horror film. Dracula travels from Romania to England on a ship, which turns up in port completely abandoned and derelict. So what happened on the voyage?

The problem, of course, is the moment you start thinking about it, the answer becomes clear: the ship ends up derelict, which pretty much means that everybody on board serves as provisions for Dracula during the crossing. What that means is the film that we’re going to see is going to essentially be that—it’s a vampire-based slasher film, where we count down the crew and work under the assumption that the person who is the closest thing we have to a sympathetic main character will be the equivalent of our final girl.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Country House

Film: The Haunting of Bly Manor
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on various players.

Horror, in general, is a short-form genre. It’s hard to maintain fear for a long period of time in media. As long as we care a little bit about the characters and they are in danger, we’re going to have something at stake in the way the story plays out. There’s a reason, though, that the longest horror movies tend to be anthologies, and a lot of them are 90 minutes or shorter. That makes the idea of a horror miniseries (like American Horror Story) kind of anathema, and it’s one of the reasons I find AHS to be vastly overrated in general. Mike Flanagan seems to have found the formula, though, and The Haunting of Bly Manor is a solid entrant into the genre.

The biggest knock against The Haunting of Bly Manor is that he hasn’t ever matched the power and the horror that he managed from his first mainstream horror miniseries, The Haunting of Hill House. Flanagan also did Midnight Mass, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Midnight Club. I haven’t seen the latest two of those, but I almost certainly will. While Hill House is his best work (that I’ve seen) in this genre, it’s also the best work anyone has done (that I’ve seen) for a horror miniseries. That this is a step down is no insult; almost anything would be.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Down the Tubes

Film: Creep (2004); Death Line (Raw Meat)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

Sometimes, a horror movie is just a variation on a theme. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a horror movie that is about some sort of subterranean humanoid or critter that hunts humans for one reason or another. Creep from 2004 is yet another entrant into this particular category of horror movies. The location here is the London Underground and the creature is some form of mutated human. This is a pretty standard entry in this genre; if you’ve seen Death Line, you’ve seen this in large part.

We start with Arthur (Ken Campbell) and George (Vas Blackwood) working in the sewers under London. They find a tunnel in one of the walls and Arthur goes to explore it. George eventually follows him and discovers Arthur injured and in shock. Moments later, a woman appears, screaming for help, only to be dragged off into the darkness.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Unreliable Narrator

Film: Hypochondriac
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

I think it’s easier to be a hypochondriac today than it was a few decades ago. We have the internet now, and we have WebMD that tells us that every set of symptoms we type into it is indicative of cancer. Hypochondriac, from a couple of years ago, is honestly less about this sort of desperate fear of illness and belief of severe illness than it is about severe mental and emotional trauma. This is not a fun and cuddly horror film, but one that descends into those depths of mental illness unflinchingly.

It's also worth saying at the top that Hypochondriac is very much a gay movie. If you are going to watch this, you’re going to have to be very comfortable with not just gay characters but with full-frontal male nudity, and a baby step away from gay porn. I say this not in judgment, but as a sort of warning for people who are going to be upset by this. If that’s going to bother you, Hypochondriac is going to be a movie that you will not get through.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

What I've Caught Up With, March 2024

In terms of watching 400 movies by the end of the year, I dropped back a little in March, but I’m very much on pace to average a movie per day for the year. I also knocked out some of my Oscar list, including the longest film in the queue. Television-wise, I finished all 14 seasons of Archer and also managed the Wheel of Time series on Prime…and I might be done with that one. I genuinely don’t like the characters, even if the world building is spectacular.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

They Did the Mash

Film: The Monster Squad
Format: DVD from Bourbonnais Public Library through interlibrary loan on basement television.

There aren’t a lot of kid-friendly horror movies. There are a few that are rated so that kids can see them--The Haunting is rated G and Poltergeist is evidence that it’s possible to make a genuinely scary PG movie, but these are not movies I’d put in front of a sixth grade kid. Even ParaNorman and Monster House have some genuinely upsetting moments. This is where a film like The Monster Squad comes in, at least in theory. There’s a reason that this is very much a cult movie, though. The true market for the film is a pre-teen audience, and the film is rated PG-13.

This is admittedly a hard line to walk, which is why this didn’t hit the PG mark. There’s some swearing (including a five-year-old girl being called a bitch) and references to sex as well as the sort of violence that is necessary when dealing with creatures like Dracula and the werewolf. Honestly, there may not be a legitimate way to have done this and kept it PG. The fact that’s it’s PG-13 is due entirely to the fact that this was at least partially from the pen of Shane Black, who is always reliable.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Music, Man

Film: Maestro
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on Fire!

Bradley Cooper appears desperate for validation. The man has 12 Oscar nominations, five for acting, but no joy yet. One has to imagine that there’s a part of him that is struggling mightily to live down his early years in front of the camera in some desperate attempt for legitimacy, but it’s not like other actors haven’t had to do this. Tom Hanks won consecutive Oscars, and the guy did Bachelor Party and The Money Pit. Maestro is Cooper’s latest attempt for Oscar glory, and while I’ve liked some of his work in the past, I’m unimpressed in general with this one.

The biggest reason for this is a variation of the reason I was so disappointed in The Theory of Everything. If someone is going to do a biopic of Stephen Hawking, you’d think that the focus would be on the man’s work—on the incredible things he was able to accomplish and the jumps forward he made in theory, but the film focused on his marriage. In much the same way, the biopic of Leonard Bernstein (Cooper) should focus on the man’s music—he redefined the American musical in significant ways—and it instead focuses on the fact that despite his marriage and three children, he evidently couldn’t get over his craving for “the d.”

Monday, April 1, 2024

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?

Film: House of Whipcord
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!.

There was a time in the 1960s when a particular brand of movie fan wanting a thrill looked for a particular genre known as the “nudie cutie,” which is exactly what you think it was. Those who didn’t get enough of a thrill from basic titillation went for the similar but different subgenre known as “roughies,” which featured all of the nudity with a lot more violence. What we get in a film like House of Whipcord is essentially a roughie with a lot less nudity. The plot, though, is essentially a “beautiful women behind bars” story, but without the sex. After all, we still need to be mildly respectable for the British public.

House of Whipcord will be about the plight of Ann-Marie Di Verney (Penny Irving), a At a gallery showing, she is shocked to discover that her photographer boyfriend is displaying a photo of her being arrested for public nudity, a crime for which she had to pay a small fine. Embarrassed by this, she dumps her boyfriend, but then immediately finds herself attracted to another partygoer, a guy named Mark (Robert Tayman).