Category Archives: Lessons From Horror Movies
The poster pretty much tells the whole story. Anywho…
In Rings, the third movie in the series, people watch a cursed video and get timely visits from Samara. To add a little spice to the plot, our lady of the well has hidden brand new images in the old video. Can Julia, our hero, figure out what they mean before her time runs out?
This movie feels like two or three scripts spliced together. There’s the story of a professor who gets students to watch the video for an unethical/illegal research project. Then, there is the story of Julia – a girl who voluntarily watches the tape to save her boyfriend. The boyfriend is the bridge; he’s a student of the naughty professor.
The intermingling of the stories is very clunky. As a viewer, I had questions about the research project. How many students died on the 7th day? How many are being haunted at any one time? Are there variations in the terrorizing? One will never know. Instead of two parallel tales throughout the film, the professor angle ends abruptly and we are left with Julia’s story.
Unfortunately, the new clues lead to very familiar territory. Julia has interesting eyebrows though; they are trying to tell their own tale. My response to the big reveal at the end: “Oh.”
Tip: Your lover is going away to college and leaving you at home? Save yourself trouble and break up with them.
Gary met, fell in love with and married Samantha. In addition to being a loving husband, he’s signed up to be stepfather to young Lucas. Lucas doesn’t want a new daddy and does everything in his power to drive Gary away. It sounds like a typical family comedy – except Lucas is powered by Satan – his birth father.
With Gary and other forces vying to win Lucas’ affection (and soul), can this family be saved?
Little Evil is a horror comedy that is heavy on the comedy and “eh” on the horror. It feels like a bunch of friends got together over a weekend or two and had a really good time putting this movie together. Will the viewer have fun? This is mostly a parody of The Omen, so how much you enjoy this movie may depend on your memory of the 1976 classic.**
Samantha’s backstory is pretty interesting; I wish it was a bigger part of the movie. Besides ignoring most of the bad things her son does, she’s constantly encouraging Gary to try harder to “reach” Lucas. There’s not much else for this character to do.
Gary is okay. Bland, but okay. It’s everyone around him that puts the zing into his life. Thankfully, he joins a stepdad support group which contains some colorful characters. They are the ones that help him cope and will be there when it’s time for the ultimate showdown with evil.
Al, Gary’s coworker and fellow stepdad, is the one who introduces him to the group. Al is played by Bridget Everett and reminds me of a younger, less mature version of Dan Conner. Some articles reference Al as queer (butch lesbian, gender fluid, or a transman) and make a big deal about the character being fully accepted and respected by their male, (presumably) CIS gender peer group.
Except for a bit early on where Gary is trying to figure out which side of the “step” binary Al falls into, gender/orientation really isn’t brought up again. Is this revolutionary? Not to me but your mileage may vary.
If you are looking for a horror movie, look somewhere else. If you want a chuckle or two, Little Evil works.
*Before marrying the woman of your dreams, consider developing a relationship with your future step-demon.
*Take Your Demon-possessed Spawn To Work Day would be awesome.
*Satan is My Co-Parent is a book that would fly off of parenting/self-help shelves.
**I saw the 2006 remake of The Omen. Other than it’s release date – 06/06/06 – I can’t remember a thing about it.
Three Americans visiting Japan decide to find an ancient temple with a troubling history. Almost everyone they encounter tells them not to go. Guess what? They find it and trouble.
Our trio consists of Kate (the beautiful), James (the jealous, yet unfaithful) and Christopher (the troubled). Kate and James are a couple. She and Christopher have been plutonic friends since kindergarten. James and Christopher are meeting for the first time. While the men are passive-aggressively challenging each other, Kate smiles her way through.
Take this relationship drama and drop it in a dark forrest with a haunted temple and you get a thimbleful of potential and a bucket of disappointment.
The movie uses a familiar narrative frame: a person is being interviewed by police about the events of the past few days because something bad has happened. The survivor/suspect has bandages all over their face – which one of our three main characters can it be? I won’t spoil it, but the answer isn’t too hard to figure out.
For every attempt at misdirection, there”s a huge clue pointing squarely at the culprit.
The story is lacking in a few other ways. For example, Kate’s is supposed to be visiting various temples for a class/research but she doesn’t act like it. She shows up with no plan, no list of temples to visit and no Japanese language basics. How do they find out about the temple? By flipping through a book at a random store.
Once the action gets into full swing at the temple (if takes our friends a while to get there), we are suddenly presented with several supernatural baddies. We are on the cusp of excitement! Then, despite an unexpected turn of events, the ending falls flat.
How to explain the ending without giving it away…
Imagine watching a show featuring an inexperienced magician. He’s earnest and easy on the eyes, so you overlook the extra card falling out of his sleeve. You smile politely when he accidentally drops the wand. For the last trick, all he has to do is pull a rabbit out of a hat. You can tell something is wrong; he’s hesitating.
Suddenly, a fire alarm goes off and everyone starts running. On your way out the door, you look around and realize the magician is still on the stage. He is smiling, relieved. The hat has toppled over and no rabbit is inside.
This is what Temple is like – a magic act that substitutes an abrupt ending for a real finale.
Tip: Night time in the woods is not a good time to have a heart to heart with your boyfriend.
Have you ever had a day where every decision you make is a bad one? The shortest line in the grocery store turns out to have a cashier who is hungover and no longer sure how to work the register? Get bluffed out of a winning poker hand? Did you take a shortcut that made you 45 minutes late? This is the movie for you!.
Meet Shiro, a man who wants to be honorable but has a knack for making the wrong decision. The man attracts death; he puts Jessica Fletcher to shame.
Shiro has been courting Yukiko, the daughter of one of his teachers. Just as the professor is giving the couple his blessing to wed, evil asshole Tamura pops in to cast his nasty shadow on the event.
Tamura gives Shiro a ride home. Along the way they run over a man and flee the scene. To be fair, Shiro does want to stop but he’s not the driver, so… Once Shiro discovers the victim has died, he decides to go to the police with Yukiko and tell the truth. She wants to walk to the station; he insists on taking a taxi. The cab crashes, killing Yukiko.
Guilt ridden, Shiro visits his parents in a rundown nursing home. Meanwhile, the two deaths have also destroyed other lives. Loved ones of the dead seek out Shiro for their own purposes. Then, Tamura shows up. Lies, deception and anger swirl around propelling everyone into a living hell.
When Shiro dies, it is revealed that the torment he has suffered on Earth is only an appetizer.
The Buddhist version of Hell (aka Jigoku) is gory. Bodies get sawed in half, teeth get smashed in, etc. However, these are 1960 effects. Some may find this depiction visually disturbing, but it’s not vomit inducing torture-porn.
What’s worst than the physical torment? Characters who lied while alive are propelled to tell the truth.
Watch this movie and get your eternal life together.
-Your evil friends are not your friends. They will turn the poison on you eventually.
-Seriously, get your life together.
A group nature hike turns deadly when the animals turn into rage machines. Contending with the crazed beasts requires group unity, but ego and pride make that impossible.
This is a man-f*cked-up-the-environment-and-nature-strikes-back movie. It’s a warning for aerosol can spraying heathens to get their lives together:
This motion picture dramatizes what COULD happen
in the near future IF we continue to do nothing to
stop this damage to Nature’s protective shield
for life on this planet.
Here’s the film logic behind the disaster: thanks to the hole in the ozone layer, the levels of ultra violet radiation are rising and driving the animals mad. (I asked a scientist about this possibility and she’d never heard of such a thing.)
It’s also important to note that the animals don’t attack each other. Rather, different groups coordinate to attack the human intruders. This movie reminds me of The Warriors in a way – as the hikers try to make their way through the mountain, they encounter animal “gangs” – the wolves, the mountain lions, etc.
People in the valley are having a tough time too. There’s a rat attack that is sure to have your skin crawling.
The hiking group is diverse in a way that would please the director of diversity at Apple: a former NFL player referred to as “the cripple”, a Native American (who senses danger before the others), the ranger, an asshole business executive, a mother and her pre-teen son, a new couple, a bitter couple, a professor and a blonde news anchorwoman. Even without the extra radiation, the hiking trip sounds like a bad idea. The original plan was to spend two weeks hiking and camping with no weapons and limited food.
Paul, the business executive, is played by Leslie Neilson. Be warned: he’s not playing a comedic character. He’s the guy who immediately strikes up a conversation with the Native American and starts throwing “kemosabi” around. It’s all jokes until the animals start hunting them down.
Convinced he’s the smartest man around, Paul challenges the guide’s leadership. The group splits in two. Guess who becomes more vicious than the wolves? Once he is in charge, Paul gets to act out his Lord Of The Flies fantasies.
The other faction is much more cooperative. There are moments of bravery and self-sacrifice. The animals pick a few off from each group, but they don’t have to worry about a human villain.
Heavy drama mixed with savage animal attacks – this movie is a winner.
*The racist is a sexist, trust me on this.
*Dogs are just pretending to be goofy and lovable – they hate you. They really,
really hate you.
*House cats are indifferent to your existence no matter the UV levels.
My mom visited recently and took over the remote. She loves horror movies but between cable, Netflix and Hulu she kept getting “duds” – poorly acted films that had decent cover art. Even the movies that were good quality-wise bored her because the plots ran out of gas.
When the conversation turned to our faves, I asked what horror films she would recommend to folks. Here is her list:
1) The Hellraiser Series
Mom: The first three movies are the strongest; the rest of them are okay. Everything but the last one. That was trash.
2) The Woman In Black
Mom: This had it all: story, atmosphere, that harry potter boy. It’s not just a haunted house; it’s haunted people.
3) The Abominable Dr. Phibes & Dr. Phibes Rises Again
Mom: This is how you do “horror” comedy right. It’s a simple premise, a bad guy motivated by his undying love. Dr. Phibes is a sympathetic character-even when he does really nasty things. It feels good to root for him. Plus, it’s not the same type of murder over and over again.
So, like, there’s this kid – Clare – who has a really horrible life. She gets bullied all the time by the popular clique at school and her dad is like a junk man who crawls through others people garbage. And, OMG, he does it outside of her school! That’s so embarrassing. Clare is an artist – just like her mother was. That kinda scares her because she doesn’t want to follow in her mother footsteps into an early grave.
One day, Clare’s dad finds this weird oriental music box in the garbage and decides to give it to her as a gift. Clare takes Chinese and paid enough attention in class to understand most of what’s written on the box. However, she can’t figure out that fine print… Whatevs! The mean girls are being mean on social media and Clare wishes that her main antagonist would just rot. And she does! That unexplained death that occurs later can’t be related to the wish can it? Can it?
I had fun at Wish Upon. It is not and never pretended to be a gory, bloody thrill ride. The goriest thing about the movie is the poster. Clare is a kid – so it’s a given that she’s going to make some bad decisions. I’m just happy that most teens in current movies are smart enough not to hang out in cemeteries.
Also, the movie hinted a teeny bit at some ideas that I wish (ha!) they had explored fully. What if the box isn’t granting wishes, but transporting Clare to another part of the multiverse where the life she wants already exists? Or, what if, as the box is passed from person to person in a community it creates it’s own ground-hog day type of scenario? What if people are dying and un-dying over and over again depending on who gets the box or what they wish for?
Okay, I may be putting more thought into the movie than the folks who created it.
Anywho, here are some of my thoughts during the movie:
*Wait! Is that the heart-throb from Cruel Intentions and I Know What You Did Last Summer playing somebody’s uncool, dumpster diving dad? I’m getting old. 😦
*The cast has some color in it. Now, I’m going to be nervous for these characters. (crosses fingers whenever they appear on screen.)
*The fine print is written in ancient Chinese? In essence, it’s an ancient Chinese secret? (groan)
*Clare, you can’t beat this by yourself. You need a priest. Or a monk. Kid, find an adult!
*That song played over the end credits is catchy.
Tip #1: Read the fine print first.
Tip #2: If you are going to put your soul in jeopardy, might as well wish big!
A killer is terrorizing the sexually active students of Lamab High School. Toby, the last virgin in the land, is the only one concerned that fellow classmates are disappearing. Can she convince her friends of the danger and stay out of the clutches of the dude in goulashes?
Student Bodies (1981) is a horror parody; the grand daddy of films like Scary Movie. So, there’s traces of Carrie, Halloween, etc. Rather than a knife or an axe, ourkiller uses a garbage bag and whatever is near by (eggplant, eraser, whatever). The students and teachers all are quirky “types”. A couple of bits go on for too long but that’s the nature of these things. Everyone is a suspect – even Toby! – and the ending makes absolutely no sense. Then again, it’s not supposed to.
Though the film is awash in horny, dead teens – there’s absolutely no gore, no sex and no nudity. You see flesh, but not the nsfw kind. At one point, a man’s cheese is exposed. So how did this movie get an R rating? This scene explains it all:
I like this flick.
Tip #1: Sexual repression causes swine flu.
Tip #2: Homosexuality is the up and coming thing.
(Slightly spoilerish…but you’ve seen this already, right?)
After I saw the first trailer for Get Out, I had no intention of seeing it in the theater. I thought, “I’m not going to spend two hours watching a black guy being terrorized.” Then, it came out and the reviews made it clear that I had the wrong impression of the flick. It’s a horror satire with a few laughs here and there.
So, I finally made it out to the movies and it’s as great as all of the reviews made it out to be. For me, it was great to identify with the main character; that’s rare for me with horror movies. Having someone to root for is awesome.
Anywho, some thoughts:
1) I bet Chris didn’t bring Rose around any of his friends. She wouldn’t want that anyway–so no one could point a finger at her when she went missing. I wondered if he tried though.
2) Perhaps because Georgina-Grandma keeps admiring her new body, the real Georgina inside still catches glimpses of herself (even though she is in the sunken place). Maybe this is why real Georgina struggles to come to the surface even without the benefit of a camera flash. Real Georgina first tries to emerge when she spills the iced tea. She next struggles to come out when the tears stream down her face.
3) A think piece on class in Get Out could be interesting. (Working Class Rod and Creative Class Chris.)
4) The Armitages are the type of people who would be offended if you called them racist while they are violating you. (I imagine Rose all over twitter, alternating between anger and crying over the insult.)
And some lessons:
1) Don’t mistake desperation for love, forgive yourself/see about healing childhood trauma and always have your own ride. Always.
2) All of your skin folk definitely ain’t your kin folk.
3) Listen to your ancestors. (If you can’t hear them, that’s a whole different problem.)
I need to treat new horror movies like iOS updates – wait a week and see how it all shakes out. But, alas, I have wasted my money. Don’t waste yours.
Anyway, the lessons:
- Don’t go camping with strangers.
- Don’t go camping with people who make you feel uncomfortable.
- Don’t go into haunted woods were people have been murdered, have disappeared etc without some kind of plan for survival. Don’t treat it like you are spending the night at Jellystone. True, the plan probably won’t work, but at least have one.
- If you get hurt at the beginning of the trip, go back to town immediately. Don’t let people convince you to keep going. They aren’t your friends.
- LOUD NOISES ALONE DON’T MAKE A MOVIE SCARY!
- Don’t write sequels to movies and have new characters act as clueless/naive as previous characters.
- Don’t go camping. Play the Blair Witch Games instead.
- This is the 2nd movie I’ve seen this year with a sibling going into the woods to find a sister. I enjoyed The Forest more.
- In addition to Blair Witch, yesterday I also saw Iced (1988) and Island Claws (1980). The other two movies were more entertaining/fun.
- One character mentions the house at one time was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Blair Witch was “active” during the pre-civil war-maybe she was an accidental abolitionist? Whatevs.