Friday, June 28, 2024

Original Sin

Film: Drag Me to Hell
Format: DVD from personal collection on basement television.

Sam Raimi wants you to know that he’s not playing and Drag Me to Hell is serious. It’s not easy to make a genuinely scary horror movie with a rating lower than R, but Raimi pulls out as many of the stops as he can to give genuine scares in a PG-13 movie. In the first couple of minutes, we meet a young boy who feels as if he is being pursued by a dangerous entity. It turns out that he stole a necklace from a Romani cart. Moments later, we see the young boy literally dragged to Hell—this is a kid, maybe about 10, being dragged down to eternal, unending torture for that crime.

Jump to the film’s present, and we’re introduced to Christine Brown (Alison Lohman, in one of her last major roles before she effectively retired from acting), a loan officer at a bank. Christine is in competition with coworker Stu Rubin (Reggie Lee) for an assistant manager position, and Stu seems to be in the lead, thanks in large part to his ruthlessness. Wanting that promotion and everything that comes with it, Christine decides to be more aggressive herself, and denies an extension to Sylvia Ganush (Lorna Raver), an old Romani woman who has fallen behind on her loan payments. Offended by this and humiliated, the old woman attacks Christine, something that is repeated much more violently in the parking lot at the end of the day. The upshot of this is that Christine finds herself the subject of a curse placed on her. After three days of torment, a spirit called Lamia will drag her down to Hell.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Calling Sam Raimi

Film: Evil Dead Trap (Shiryo no Wana)
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

Sometimes, horror movies are just about the thrills and not at all about the plot. That’s certainly the case with Evil Dead Trap (or Shiryo no Wana if you prefer). As the name implies, this is a film that is influenced by Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films. One of Raimi’s signatures in his films is the first-person monster camera swooping through the woods, and we’re going to get a lot of that here.

There’s also going to be a lot of influence of Italian horror. There’s a sense in Evil Dead Trap of set pieces that have been created first and then the rest of the movie built around them. A lot of the music use seems to come from Argento, and the penchant for eyes feels straight out of Fulci’s playbook. What all of this means is that Evil Dead Trap is going to feature a lot of gore and not a lot of plot. The gore, more or less, is the point. You watch Evil Dead Trap because there are topless Japanese women getting killed in various ways.

Monday, June 24, 2024

My Pafology

Film: American Fiction
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on rockin’ flatscreen.

There are times with a directorial debut comes as a surprise. I was shocked that Get Out was Jordan Peele’s first movie, and still have trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that the Coen Brothers’ first movie was Blood Simple. There are other times when you can see the clear talent in the director but it’s equally evident that they are coming in unseasoned and undisciplined. Boots Riley lost track of the narrative in the third act of Sorry to Bother You, for instance. This is exactly the feeling I got with Cord Jefferson and American Fiction. Jefferson has talent, but right now doesn’t seem to have full control over the storytelling aspect of the film.

I haven’t read the book on which the film is based, so I don’t know how much of this comes from the actual story being told and how much of this is the lack of experience of Jefferson. American Fiction wants to do something very different with the story that it is telling, but the ending dives hard into levels and levels of meta that it can’t quite sustain as well as it wants to. Because of this, the last 15 minutes or so feel flat and a bit of a letdown after the bulk of the movie.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Religion is Cancer

Film: Four Daughters
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on basement television.

My position on religion has not been a secret on this blog. I mention it when it’s relevant, because my opinions are always going to come from a position of someone who is not merely irreligious but who is anti-religious. Movies that glorify religion are going to naturally be viewed by me in a particular way. This is also going to be true of movies that are critical of religion. Such is the case with Four Daughters (also called Les Filles d’Olfa), a movie that is very much centered in the damage that religion can cause.

It’s worth saying that when it comes to religious belief, I am an equal opportunity heretic. I a, probably more concerned on a day-to-day basis with Christian nonsense than any other religion, but that’s because I live in the U.S. where Christian nationalism is a genuine threat and a genuine existential threat. But on a worldwide scope, Islam is almost certainly a much more serious problem. Four Daughers is concerned with Islamic extremism, and specifically with ISIS, which makes it a difficult topic. No one, or almost no one, is going to go into this film completely unbiased.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024


Film: Past Lives
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television.

My default genres are science fiction and horror more than anything else. This blog is testament to the fact that I don’t shy away from much and definitely don’t from any specific genre, but most of my comfort movies are in those genres. Because of that, I don’t spend a lot of time watching what amounts to a fairly melodramatic Korean drama like Past Lives. Still, this was nominated for two Oscars that I care about, so I knew I would be getting to it sooner or later. I found it at a local library and I’m right on the edge of some off-time, so I figured now was a good time to give it a watch.

This is not a complicated movie. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a good one, but it’s worth saying that it is a very simple story, one that is easy to follow and understand, and importantly, one that is very easy to relate to. Anyone who has any level of introspection in their life at all has lived through some level of plot, even if only mentally and emotionally.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Best Offense is to Be Offensive

Film: Terror Firmer
Format: Streaming video from Plex on Fire!

I’m not necessarily a highbrow guy. Oh, I like an art film now and then, and two of my favorite movies aren’t in English, but this blog has long held the opinion that everyone’s taste in movies is very much their own and not something to ridicule. I’m not a “so bad it’s good” person and I don’t have “guilty pleasures”; the movies I like I like because there’s something about them I enjoy. So when I tell you that Terror Firmer is dangerously offensive, I’m not doing so with my nose in the air.

Terror Firmer is a Troma film, the same film studio that gave us such hits as The Toxic Avenger and Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.. It’s also the place where James Gunn got his start, so I’m not knocking them. Terror Firmer, though, goes places for its comedy to places that are potentially triggering for a number of people. I’ve never put a trigger warning on a discussion of film—I didn’t do it with Salo or Martyrs or L’Interieur, but I’m doing it here. This is not because of the subject matter specifically, but because the film goes to these places in the name of comedy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

All Cops are Bodies

Film: Dead Heat
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

Horror movies are great for genre mash-ups. Science fiction is a common choice, and a lot of science fiction movies have horror elements in them. There are plenty of horror-comedies as well. That said, there aren’t a lot of horror comedies that work really well; they either play too hard into the comedy or lean too hard into the horror. The right blend is difficult to find. Dead Heat opts for more than just horror-comedy, though. This is, and I struggle with the fact that I’m actually typing these words, a horror-comedy/police procedural action movie. It’s also a movie that stars Saturday Night Live alum-turned bodybuilder-turned political nutjob Joe Piscopo, for whatever that’s worth.

Cops Roger Mortis (Treat Williams) and his partner Doug Bigelow (Piscopo) respond to the robbery of a jewelry store. The two perps seem to be shrugging off the bullets they are being hit with, and are eventually stopped by a combination of hand grenade and being rammed by a car. They discover that the perpetrators were bullet resistant for a good reason—they were already dead. In fact, the coroner (Clare Kirkconnell) performed autopsies on them in the past.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Die Historic

Film: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga
Format: Sycamore Theater, Theater 2

There’s a huge problem with prequels, and nowhere is that more evident than in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (which I’m going to call Furiosa from this point forward). Actually, there are multiple sets of problems with prequels, and Furiosa exemplifies exactly one set of such problems nearly perfectly. One type of sequel has the problem of technology. We see Prometheus and the technology is amazing. Alien, the film it leads into, has technology from the late 1970s. It looks off, and no one seems to have figured out that if you’re going to make a prequel like this after huge real-world technology upgrades, it would be better to make the prequel a lot more retro to fit the universe.

No, Furiosa is the epitome of the other set of prequel problems—the audience knows the story. We know going in that this is going to be the backstory for Charlize Theron’s Furiosa character from Mad Max: Fury Road, and because of that, we know a lot going into the story. Because of this, and because this is something that needs to be talked about in detail, you can consider the rest of this mildly spoiler-y for both of the recent Mad Max-iverse films.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

What I've Caught Up With, May 2023 Part 2

I watched a lot of television in May, but didn't actually get through an entire show. I've seen virtually all of The Boys, just in time for Season 4 to drop. I've also made it into the 8th season of Red Dwarf. My new workout show is Farscape, which I watch on the treadmill--it's one episode/day, so that one is going to take a long time to get through. Finally, I've managed to complete the second Peter Capaldi season of Doctor Who.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

What I've Caught Up With, May 2024 Part 1

For the first time in awhile, I watched more movies than there were days in the month, although not by much. Essentially, in terms of watching 400 movies for the year, I basically broke even; didn't lose ground, didn't catch up. In terms of the gigantic list of to-watch movies, I got through enough that I can't fit them all in a single post, so that feels good. The biggest movie event for me in May was the update of the They Shoot Zombies list, something that took up a couple of days of my time to readjust all of the lists, and all for just a handful of new movies to watch.