Friday, April 30, 2010

Because Sometimes, the World Needs More Glue

In honor of this weekend's Kentucky Derby, let's take a moment to honor a few genre films with terrifying, tragic, or just plain neat references to the horrors hiding in every equine eye.

The First Power

A rather unnotable entry into the temporary possession subgenre of horror, and while any film that makes Shocker look good has its issues, this Lou Diamond Philips/Melanie Griffith's younger sister starring thriller does boast a rather terrifying death scene via loose horse stompage. That's gotta hurt! (Seriously; it kills the guy, so I'm sure it does.)

28 Days Later

No infected Mr. Eds here (thankfully, because I don't see any of us surviving that), but Danny Boyle's hard working survivors do take a surprisingly poignant moment to observe a pack of wild stallions peacefully making their way across the English countryside in the face of not-zombie mayhem. A quiet reminder that human problems are never the sole concern of the world they live in.


So the apocalypse has hit and you've been raised in a crowded quarantined zone for the last 30 years. Naturally, when sent over the wall to a Mad Max-meets-King Arthur's court anarchy, you'll easily be able to hop on a passing horse and race through Sherwood-y Forests better than Calamity Jane. The future is indeed a wonderful place.

The Cell

Dripping in Dali references and gooey imagery, Tarsem's 2000 thriller is a visual feast that may boast a helping or two of equine meat. From the opeinng desert ride with a dreamy J-Lo to a spliced but preserved colt decorating a corner inside the mind of serial killer Vincent D'Onofrio, The Cell includes several horse heavy references of, as the mayor of Emerald City might say, a different color. Ethereal or evil, natural or bat shit crazy, it's an intriguing ride for jockeys with vision.

Cannibal! The Musical

A story of love, lunchmeat, and a little lady named Liane (who just happens to be something of a nag).  Actually, rumor has it Trey Parker named his lead character's pet horse after a former fiancee caught with another man, so it's fitting that in the case of this Troma songfest set during the fateful Donnor Party's travels, the action kicks off with the faithless Liane galloping away from our hero to start a more exciting life with some vertically challenged trappers. She may be cruel, but at least Liane can graze happily knowing she inspired one of the film's musical highlights, "When I Was On Top of You."

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Not a horror movie you say? When was the last time you tested your endurance with a 24 hour (minus a few 10 minute naps) dance marathon in Depression era America? This 1969  Syndney Pollack film disturbs on a different level than something like The Ring, but it's hard to walk away from the no-exit squalor Jane Fonda sleepwalks inside without feeling as though your heart has been stomped on by a 1000+ pound thoroughbred. Oh, and while there are no actual horses in the film, the point--plus race aspect--coincides just fine with Kentucky Derby inspired nightmares.

The Neverending Story

Also not your typical genre film, but what child of the '80s wasn't permanently scarred watching Atreyu's loyal companion Artax drown a slow (and assumedly painful) death in a patch of surprise quicksand? An early reminder to a young audience that life can sometimes be unforgiving. They don't just shoot horses; they also pull them underground to suffocate while you sit back with tears in your eyes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Horrible Non-Horror! The Twilight Edition

I did it. 

It hurt. A lot.
Why you ask, would someone with such refined taste as myself (said as I dust off the cover to The Refrigerator) possibly embark on such an inevitably ill-fated journey into the realm of tween romance and Mormon metaphors growing like weeds in the Twilight saga? No, it wasn’t peer pressure stemming from the fact that several coworkers have prominent screensavers highlighting the cheekbones of starring minors. A more noble cause, I promise.
I don’t like to trash something I haven’t seen. For all I know, Maid of Honor is a charming romance, The Backup Plan should win J-Lo an Oscar, and Nicholas Sparks is this generation’s James Joyce. As much as I allow my eyeballs to make a full ecliptical roll when I hear these kinds of trailers, I try to stop myself from actively criticizing if I have yet to personally experience them. That’s part of why Saw has such a bad wrap and I simply don’t like it.

Neither does Costas.
And thus, with beer in the fridge, pizza in my belly, and dear friend Erica (and gleeKast cohostess-Episode 2 now available!) supplying the DVDs, I sat back and entered Forks, Washington, population: angst.

Quick Plot: 
You pretty much know it, but for the uninformed, here goes: Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves to a small town to live with her sheriff dad Chris. Despite the fact that her classmates seem to be very welcoming, Bella prefers to be miserable by stalking Edward Cullen, her pasty lab partner who spends about 65% of his life angrily walking away from people, 30% trying not to vomit, and the remaining 5% ensuring that the height of his hair puts Luke Perry’s circa Season 1 of 90210 to shame. They eventually fall in love (I guess; neither’s voice ever registers more than a sprinkle of emotion so it’s not easy to detect) and about 80 minutes in, experience CONFLICT.

Not in the form of Edward’s vampirism (remember, he’s a vegetarian who only eats animals...which-nevermind) but rather, a feuding tribe of glowering undead who really dig the scent of unpleasant 17 year old girls. And thus a hunt proceeds and the prom happens. Then there’s a Stabilizer-ish music video recapping the greats screen shots for end credits and I cry a little inside.

Onto New Moon, an amazing feat of utter boredom mixed with hilariously cashed in -on opportunities to display young men sans shirts. We catch up with Bella and Edward as their relationship has progressed to serious staring into each others’ eyes territory. Upon her 18th birthday, Miss Mopey gets a paper cut (in slo mo) and the Cullen clan realize her delectable potential puts her in danger of becoming soup. Edward and Co. exit town, leaving an even more sedated Bella to pout, her now miserable life only uplifted by the presence of yet another mysterious and handsome peer named Jacob’s Six Pack, the adrenaline rushes she gets trying to kill herself (and often tells us about, leading us to wonder if it paid for product placement) and the occasional Obi Won Kenobi-ish glimpses of floating Edward heads. Mostly though, Bella likes to moan about how there’s nothing to live for now that her former prom date is on the road.

Doesn’t this kid have SATs to prepare for? College applications? An afterschool job at the local diner? She has friends--admittedly rather obnoxious and chirpy, but nice enough--but Bella is, essentially, a feminist’s worst nightmare. A pretty young woman who cannot function without the support of a man, be it an emotionally abusive vampire or concerned werewolf with a crush. When Edward leaves, Bella’s as good as dead. When Jacob goes, she proceeds to cry again over Edward. “You can’t break up with me,” she pleads, even though nothing in their relationship ever suggested the fact that she and Six Pack were dating. Sure, he was willing to whip off his t-shirt to clean up a spot of blood on her head, but does Bella have to be the center of everyone’s universe? Especially when she has the personality and spark of a corn nut?

Finally, 90 minutes into the film, we get some news of something somewhat potentially interesting happening. Edward’s in Italy, about to sparkle under the Tuscan sun with the Volturi high council. I’ll confess that I dozed off a minute or two here, during which I assume I missed Bella googling visa protocol and finding a great flight deal on 

Anyway, Italy, stuff, Edward, windchime sound effects, Dakota Fanning in contacts, old men grumbling, slo-mo speed fights, and in the film’s only real saving grace, the great (and genre-supportive) Michael Sheen as Aro, head over-the-top vampire boss who seemed to learn a few lessons in spangles and stares from Sheen’s Underworld costar Bill Nighy. In case you can’t guess, it ends moodily happy with thinly veiled metaphors regarding chastity until marriage.

I accept that I am not the target audience for the Twilight saga. Perhaps 15 years ago, when my nose was permanently lodged into a V.C. Andrews saga, I would have been mildly interested in a mashup of young love and undead limitations but in as objective as a voice as I can muster, this is indeed a horrid, horrid world of offensive melodrama. As a young teenager, I enjoyed the adventures of Cathy Dollanger in Flowers in the Attic not because she was beautiful, loved, and the target of abuse, but because in the face of devastating events, she maintained a spirit in overcoming it to protect herself and family. 

The vampires and Bella are utterly selfish and despicable beings. Observe how they watch as an extended tour group--complete with children--marches into certain death via vampire festival right before the final scene in Italy. “Keep walking,” Edward instructs Bella who, of course, listens to everything he has to say and does. I don’t require my protagonists to be heroic, but these are, essentially, supermonsters who we as the audience are supposed to be enthralled by. Why oh why should we have ANY investment in their fate when they clearly care so little about anything but their own?
Bella, meanwhile, is defined entirely by the men who pass into and out of her life. Yes, many 17 year old girls prioritize relationships, but by 18, don’t you start to consider the direction of your life? Can’t suicide wait for graduation or the sequel to Face Punch?
There’s room for intriguing plot points. I like the idea of a barechested gang of young muscle men representing a certain analogy for homosexuality (sample quote “It’s not a lifestyle choice. I was born this way.”) but knowing Stephanie Meyers’ conservative Mormon leanings, I don’t imagine that’s the way this turns out.

Random Relish (not worthy of actually being High Points)
Can’t help but love the fact that in Italy, elevator music = operatic muzak
For awkward third wheel date night, Bella chooses the movie “Face Punch” and we get to hear a few bits of dialog. Also, I realize I would much rather be watching Face Punch.

In a movie filled with mumbling actors, one must turn on some subtitles, something that often brings out the best in scriptwriting. My favorite example refers to a motion of Edward which my screen read “Sighs Exasperatedly.” The best part is that there was about nine times more emotion in that line than there was in Pattinson’s actual delivery
Winning Lines
“Hold on tight, spider monkey.”
So many victories in this sentence. 1) It’s the dumbest pet name ever 2) It’s followed by a piggy back ride that recalls Luke’s training montage with Yoda wrapped around his shoulders and 3) It’s insanely ridiculous

“I wish I could explain but I literally can’t.”
Maybe if these kids spent more time paying attention in English class as opposed to bulking up, they would be able to explain. And understand the definition of ‘literally.’
“Is it possible that everything is true? The fairy tales and horror stories?Is it possible that there isn’t anything sane or normal at all?”

What does this even mean? The kid’s already witnessed her boyfriend sparkle and her friend morph into a CGI infused werewolf. Can’t she just accept that yes indeed, Santa completes his duties in one night and leprechauns like shoes?
Stake In the Heart
Dear Twilight: I’ll forgive some of your inanity, but do not, do not DARE to make any sort of reference, however passing it may be to Dawn of the Dead

Lessons Learned
You can google a lot of things, including the word “adrenaline rush” and how to find a book about a legend, where to purchase said book, and directions to take in reaching the place of purchase. Yes, we get a whole sequence devoted to Google Maps. 
In order to woo the pretty weird new girl, make sure you treat her like shit and constantly walk away while she’s talking. Chicks dig that.
The name ‘Bella’ is Italian

Ain’t no adults cooler than lingo-spouting Native American paraplegics!
As I stated before, I don’t approve of anybody mocking any movie until an actual watch. When it comes to something like the juggernaut of Twilight, you almost have try it in order to properly criticize the dreadful messages the saga sends. I wouldn’t feel so much anger towards a mere high school romance if I didn’t think this series is positively awful when it comes to portraying women, something particularly dangerous to the sensitive tween audience eating it up like Jelly Bellies. As I explained, it's worth catching ten minutes of to at least mount a solid defense against your cubicle neighbor, babysitter, or random subway rider you feel the need to educate. I take no real pleasure in announcing my opinion that Twilight and New Moon are painful experiences in both film and feminism. As a responsible masochist, I suffered through it and admit feeling a tad stronger as a result.

Even Tony Blair is proud of me!

Now let us never talk about this mess again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's baaaaaaaaaaack

A new episode of the gleeKast has been released! Subscribe on iTunes or go here and email us back (gleekast at by Wednesday night 

Also, lest you worry that this is a non-horror related post, here's a scene of brilliance from 1981's Fear No Evil:

Never say I don't love you.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Moronic Shall Inherit the Earth

When a film’s keywords include post apocalypse and cannibalism, it’s bound to be of interest to a certain fan constituent. Add the always entertaining Vinnie Jones, the always interestingly odd Michael Madsen, the always nerd king Robert Carradine, and the always welcome convenience of Netflix Instant Watch and you earn a quick viewing by me.

Unfortunately, Tooth and Nail--a 2007 thriller featured in the 8 Films To Die For After Dark Horrorfestl--never lives up to its promising presence, mostly because it contains characters devoid of even a peanut shell worth of common sense.

Quick Plot: Three years after the world’s supply of gasoline has run dry, scattered Foragers (the good guys, because they are pretty) and Rovers (villains who shop at Thunderdome) are all that’s left. Led by “The Professor” (Carradine), the Foragers hold up in a roomy hospital, occasionally roller skating, aimlessly, having fully clothed sex, and exchanging blank glances at one another seeped in quiet worry. Their biodome-esque existence gets shaken when a few of their scouts return with Neon (Rachel Miner) who, aside from being the stupidest named character in recent cinema, also brings unwelcome news that the Rovers are hot on her ponytail.

I often complain about IMDB message boards because typically, they remind me of a future first glimpsed at in Idiocracy. Following Tooth and Nail, I randomly popped by the forums and was surprised to find this thoughtful post by mysterious user pbohn1:

“I've seen this in other posts, so I thought I'd make it my own thread. I'm so sick of "Suspension of disbelief" being used as an excuse for lazy writing. Just because it's a movie doesn't mean that you can just decide to throw all logic and reason out the window and then simply say "It doesn't have to make sense or be logical. It's a movie." That's just some bogus justification for "We couldn't actually come up with a plausable (sic) end of world scenario that hasn't been done before." 

I forgive Dawn of the Dead for its female characters not cutting off their ponytails when being chased by grabby grabby zombies, just as I give a pass to Bryce Dallas Howard’s complimentary lip gloss in Terminator Salvation. There’s a certain point that I can sit back and enjoy a film, despite its inconsistencies or plot holes. When every character onscreen, however, seems incapable of doing a single thing right...sigh.

Surviving an apocalypse is tough stuff (I will probably not make it). You have to be brutal, strong, smart, and disciplined. In other words, if you know that a gang of murderers is heading to your home base at sundown, would you (or, for that matter, your mentally retarded turtle) wait until late dusk to scurry to a hiding spot? When one of your people is missing and a bucket of blood is all that’s left, do you “go looking for him” outside, sans weapons, with your hands in your pockets and a stupid smile on your face?

Tooth and Nail is filled with moments like these, dumb character choices that make you root for their deaths in the name of protecting the human race’s last scraps of intelligence. There are indeed some interesting things going on (despite a ripped-from Mad Max premise straight down to the frizzy haired mute child) but it’s hard to stay involved in a film when you just want to put its entire cast into special needs classes.

High Points
Though none of the cannibal raids quite live up to their potential, director Mark Young does demonstrate some skill at building a tense and-soon-the-darkness setup

I haven’t seen much of Michael Kelly since his surprisingly effective turn in Dawn of the Dead, and he’s a welcome--if underused--presence here

Low Points
Anybody else bothered by this line?
“Within three years more than two-thirds of the world's population had starved to death, frozen to death, or slaughtered each other. The American dream became the American nightmare.”
What is the logical connection between “the world’s population” and “The American dream”? It just feels like lazy writing, a narrative clump of cliches trying to make Big Statements that don’t even link.

Lessons Learned
When planning on annihilating a cannibal gang, always take the time to savage yourself out with tribal facepaint. It makes all the difference in your stab strength.

If your evening’s plans include eluding a band of violent cannibals indoors, you’re probably better off replacing clunky heels with soft-toed shoes
Keep a can of sulfuric acid nearby at all times. It’s way more effective than a rape whistle
Young actresses: never agree to a participate in a sex scene with Rider Strong. His porn-ready name not withstanding, these moments generally feel awkward on camera and lead to your inevitable onscreen death
I’m not necessarily discouraging a Tooth and Nail watch, providing it costs little to no money and you’re already an apocalyptic fan. It’s a messy, uneven film not really sure of itself but there is a neat (if fairly obvious) twist and some enjoyable giggling by a mowhawked Vinnie Jones along the way. If you can get by the fact that everybody onscreen is an idiot, you may be okay.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Space: The Jan Brady of Earth Day

Oh Earth Day huh? Guess what-I LIVE on the earth. Every day.

What about Mars? Jupiter? Naboo? Or those shiny high-tech ships floating in between? 

In honor of all those masses of matter not acknowledged by 24 hours in spring, I give you a few choice options for genre films not bound to the third planet from the...


Danny Boyle’s true masterpiece, a polarizing mashup of 2001 and Halloween, is a visual vacation that poses rich questions about science, faith, morality, and just how powerful a fantastic musical score can be. Straight sci-fi fans typically rip on the Event Horizon-ish final act, but it’s a natural extension of the sun-as-false-god themes that begin the opening scene. Then again, since the main plot surrounds saving a certain water-based planet, perhaps this film doesn’t belong on the list at all.

Starship Troopers

There aren't really enough words in the English language that properly express the joy that can be found in Paul Verhoeven's original 1997 satirical sci-fi thriller, so it's fitting that most of the film takes place in another galaxy (where I'm sure another mother tongue can add to the vocabulary). Based on this series (originally envisioned by controversial-lite Robert Heinlein) of great gore, 90210esque romance, and cutting satire, Earth may be a far prettier planet than what’s found in the outer ring, but it’s also filled with fascism, genocidal militarism, and Denise Richards. I’ll take the bug planet.

Jason X

Fans of the franchise are deeply divided over the tenth outing of Mr. Voorhess, set 450 years in the future and filmed on the cheap in Canada (not quite as exotic as space, but with better pancakes). Personally, I can't get enough of a face-dunk into liquid nitrogen, a David Cronenberg cameo, tight-in-all-the-wrong-places space uniforms (for the ladies only, natch) and the general spirit of low rent cheese dripping off every bargain priced reel. 


The grandfather (well, more appropriately, grandmother) of modern sci-fi horror, the first two films from this franchise make a fine case for moving off-planet, if only to experience better movies.

Event Horizon

This surprisingly atmospheric debut of Paul “Not Thomas” Anderson, Event Horizon mixed the cold space castaway mood of Alien with a good old fashioned Nightmare on Elm Street dreamy slasher batter. Infamously edited by a baffled studio, Event Horizon has survived twelve years as a mini-fan favorite, a bloody sci-fi that plays with wormholes, hell, and gravity. Memorable moments include Jack Noseworthy’s nose worthy nosebleed and glimpses of carnal orgies not quite touched upon in Apollo 13. Ever wonder why you didn’t get that Oscar, Ron Howard?


Much like Sunshine, Duncan Bowie’s 2009 film doesn’t really have a home base in any strict genre. As a scientific premise mixed with horrific possibilities and striking moral drama, Moon tells the tale of an astronaut (played insanely well by Sam Rockwell) living alone 239,592 miles from earth (who needs it). To say more borders on immediate spoiler territory, but for lunar cinema that disturbs on an intelligent (and very human) level, head to the Moon

Leprechaun 4: In Space

Somewhat inevitable and sadly disappointing, this fourth entry into the Leprechaun saga never quite finds its inner chest burster. Still, you can’t go totally wrong with the spirit of Warwick Davis being transferred through urine and er, other bodily fluids, especially when light sabers are involved.