Monthly Archives: May 2012

WYSHW: The Poughkeepsie Tapes

I’m sure many of you, or at least those who avidly scour the web (okay, so the majority of you), have come across this gif and discovered the source of this perplexing horror show.  For those who still have yet to see the film, may I introduce to you one of the most horrifying serial killers ever brought to the indie screen – for the sake of this installment, I will call him “Master.”  That’s right, he doesn’t even have an official name.

To be honest, I’ve never seen a horror film quite like The Poughkeepsie Tapes.  It’s confessions of a serial killer presented via third-party documentary.  And it’s downright freaky.  You know how when every other horror film comes out, the tagline or quote on the poster or DVD case is “don’t watch it alone?”  Clearly whoever has been putting that on there has never seen this movie.  Believe me, the fact that this is a fake documentary later came as comfort.  The saddest part is, the film had a limited release back in 2007, and according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, as of now a DVD release-date is still not available – on top of that it’s been removed from YouTube.

…And theatrical. He’s very theatrical.

I don’t know what’s up with this corporate foolishness, but this movie needs to be unleashed.

As mentioned, it’s a horror film unlike any other, with an original villain to boot.  Master is patient, methodical, and all those nasty things in between. I can’t even conjure a basis of comparison – the best I can do is the sadism of Hannibal Lector meets Jigsaw’s planning and coordination.

If you love a good horror film – one that makes double-check your doors and windows but still provides an intelligent story – The Poughkeepsie Tapes is an absolute must.

Next time on WYSHW, a zombie survival comedy that isn’t Shaun of the Dead.  In the meantime, I have to hit the matinee.  It’s been a while.

WYSHW: Suck

I came across this movie while at work last summer.  I passed it every day but it always grabbed my attention.  Was it the title?  Iggy and Alice on the cover?  Malcolm McDowell next to the phrase “cult classic?”  Whatever it was, I finally took it home, admittedly not really expecting much.  I’ll be frank, this movie blew my mind.

Suck follows The Winners, a struggling Canadian rock band with some deep-running personal issues.  After the band’s bassist, Jennifer (Jessica Paré), follows a creepy fella known as Queeny (Burning Brides’ Dimitri Coats) home, the band’s popularity skyrockets with the help of Jennifer’s…changes.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a vampire rock and roll musical.

This is Moby.

 

 

 

Suck combines the casualness of a road comedy, stunning visuals a là Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and some epic cameos and references sprinkled throughout.  What was even more impressive was the writing.  Not only was my faith in the vampire genre restored, but also the lines between vampirism and the music industry are blurred beautifully on all levels.  Just the little things, like the vampire hunter’s name being Eddie Van Helsing (McDowell), is awesome in it’s own right.

I’ll get down to brass tacks here: Suck is well written, well edited, damn funny and downright awesome.  I would say “this movie ROCKS,” but no.  Just no.  Overall, worth checking out.

“It’s not what it looks like.”

Next time on WYSHW, one of the best genuinely scary films no one saw.

WYSHW: The Libertine

For those of you who know me personally, you’ll know that I am admittedly an avid Johnny Depp fan.  However if you know me really well, you’ll know that I am able to cast my bias aside in order to produce a critical analysis.  This in mind, I want to state that I honestly don’t believe that The Libertine deserved the total critical massacre that it received.

I’ve noticed that the American period film greatly romanticizes whatever era it captures – step outside of the states and you’ll see a much grittier side of the story.  Though there are shared notions of aristocratic conflict, there are less women pining for suitors and more sex, drugs and rock and roll – or something as close as possible (in this case, sex, booze and bawdy plays).  The Libertine is one of those films: an adaptation of a play by British playwright Stephen Jeffreys, The Libertine is a bio-drama about John Wilmot (Depp), 2nd Earl of Rochester, and his faux pas in the court of King Charles II (John Malkovich).

Being that this film was based on a play, Jeffreys took some liberties and made it a little more theatrical.  For instance, the film opens with a charming prologue from Wilmot himself:

Trivia: The film was shot with all natural lighting.

He’s arrogant, snide, and downright nasty – and the man follows through wholeheartedly.  (Oddly enough you never see him naked despite how often he talks about shagging and such.  Shame.)  So if you didn’t to sit through a film about this sort of person, why even bother?  Even the trailer is pretty frank about what what’s going to happen.  This is where the criticism comes in: yes, he’s nasty and unsympathetic – why did you expect otherwise?  This is a portrait piece, nothing more.  And if you were expecting some sort of romanticized story, well the 17th century wasn’t exactly pretty (again, the difference between American and European period drama).

Wilmot with a prop for his play about Charles II.
The production also included a backdrop with a working vagina-door and background dancers with massive dildos.
They just don’t make satire like they used to.

What won me over about this film, other than a more, er, “nontraditional” story (which was honestly a relief for me – I paid for a debaucher, not an old school Mr. Darcy), was the performances.  Depp, Malkovich, and Samantha Morton all gave great performances, which I think honestly should have deserved more credit than they received.  Especially Johnny Depp – no seriously, I’m not being a fangirl here.  It is very difficult to rake in empathy for such an unsympathetic character, but he does it so subtly that by the end you just pity the guy as he dies a slow syphilitic death.  He was meant for another time and place, being that his work was legitimately ballsy (no pun intended) for the time.  I guess the same can be said about the movie: no one expected it to be as gritty and gross so they got caught up in the presentation and forgot about the substance.  It’s a possibility anyway.

I seriously think Depp does his best work when he’s hideous.

Next time on WYSHW, a rock and roll vampire flick I’ve been preaching about since I saw the thing.

The Avengers

The Avengers is undoubtedly the first great summer blockbuster of the season.  Seriously, everything you’ve heard has been correct.

I’m actually kind of speechless here, I mean what’s there to say?  It’s well written, well acted, and it wasn’t too overdone.  There was character development where there needed to be, and it finally took Joss Whedon himself to fix Bruce Banner/Hulk, played by the very talented Mark Ruffalo (a character who turned out to be my personal favorite).  The best part was I didn’t even see Thor or Captain America and I still understood what was going on.   Like I said, the rumors are true.  Check it out.

Final Grade: A

Now to wait for The Dark Knight Rises….

…I’ll just leave this here.

What You Should Have Watched: Super

Way back when in 2010 (hey, that rhymed), a small film was released with big names and an even bigger story.   It was a dark comedy about a guy who had been wronged too many times in his life and decides to stand up and do something about it.  This ordinary loser of a fellow had decided to be extraordinary and become a superhero.

No, I’m not talking about Kick-Ass, though released at the same time and arguably the same concept.  I’m talking about Super, the 2010 James Gunn film produced by IFC.  It’s a shame Super was swept under the rug – granted it had a more independent release, but it really deserves more attention.  At least, that’s my opinion.

Let’s see…”Shut Up. Kick Ass.” Okay…

…Oh god, they have the same tagline.

All you need to know about Super is in the first five minutes of the film: brutal, raw and weird.  And with an opening like this know you’re in for a funky ride.  The story follows Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson), a man forever destined to be a loser – whose only solace came from marrying Sarah (Liv Tyler), a recovering drug-addict.  When Sarah runs away with a sleazy dealer named Jacques (Kevin Bacon), Frank receives a message from God (with help of the Holy Avenger, played by Nathan Fillion) telling him to become the Crimson Bolt and stand up for what is right.

Remember when I said this film is brutal, raw and weird?  Such is Frank’s transformation to the Crimson Bolt.  Wielding nothing but a spray-painted pipe wrench, he happily cracks the skulls of anyone disobeying any common law – he gets the drug dealers and child molesters, but then he almost kills a man for butting in a line.  At first this is satisfying for anyone who has had this happen to them, but then the reality of the blood-spray hits you and then you just feel a little dirty.  What’s even more crazy is that there’s someone out there more psychotic than Frank.  That would be Libby (Ellen Page), a girl who works at a comic shop who convinces him to let her be his kid-sidekick, Bolty.

Bolty makes this thing brutal.

IT’S A TRAP

Sure she looks really cute and fun, but this girl is a hot slice of crazy ready to rip your face off and have sex with your entrails.  Libby is indeed a character to behold: she’s living her dream of vigilantism but enjoys it a little too much, so it’s kind of hard to sympathize for her.  That doesn’t mean she’s any less fun to watch.

So if you enjoyed the brutality of Kick-Ass, Super is something to definitely check out.  And believe me, it takes everything a step further.  In fact, using Kick-Ass as a basis of comparison is really just unfair, because they’re very different films.

Oh yeah, way far out there.

This has been my first crack at What You Should Have Watched (WYSHW), my new segment on movies that received little recognition, or that I thought were way better (sometimes both).  Next time I’m going with a dirty little period film no one saw.  See you there.

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows was originally a 1960s daytime soap which focused the cursed life of the Collins family and their everyday experience with vampires, witches, ghouls and various other paranormal entities.  Tim Burton had spoke of a film adaptation for years, finally getting the thing going come late 2010.  Numerous photos had leaked and expectations sky-rocketed, well at least for me anyway, being such a Burtonite and all.  As a member of Generation Y, I really knew little to nothing about the original series other than it existed, and really the last thing I wanted was to sit through a two-hour soap opera in ear-splitting surround sound.  So, how did it hold up?  Patience, dearies – time for synopsis:

Dark Shadows opens with Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a spoiled aristocratic playboy whose family founded the town of Collinsport, Maine.  After he breaks the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), a witch in every sense of the word, she turns him into a vampire and encases him in a coffin.  Barnabas is awoken two centuries later (in the wacky era of 1972) and discovers his entire bloodline has felt Angelique’s wrath, and teams up with the remaining Collins’ family, lead by reclusive matriarch Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), to restore the Collins name to its former glory.

Trivia: Keep your eyes peeled for a cameo by the late Jonathan Frid, the original Barnabas Collins.

Alright, just because a film is based off of a soap opera doesn’t mean it needs to be campy – even if it’s for the fans, it’s still not a good idea.  Unfortunately, Burton made the decision to do so, as most evident in scenes between Depp and Pfeiffer – which such a shame, because they both could have done so much better.

[Insert obligatory Twilight joke here.]

As if that wasn’t awkward enough, the ham trickled through to dear little Chloe Moretz, who must have had that sneer affixed to her face in makeup.  Again, this is another decent actor – her skills should have been taken advantage of.

It was decisions like this which made me find all of these characters to be very one-dimensional (so I don’t know why people are saying they’re sick of Burton and Depp working together – Collins really could have been played by anyone).  I honestly wasn’t sure of most of these peoples’ motivations, nor were we really given a chance to see them, or how most of the characters interact with each other.  By focusing more on the industry aspect, we lose what the film’s story initially set out to focus on – family.

However, this film does have a much different feel from other Burton films, which was quite refreshing.  I still can’t put my finger on what I mean by that statement, but for now I’ll say it was like watching Big Fish with a goth noir lens (now if only if it was as amazing).  It really wasn’t that bad of a flick: there were still some funny bits that weren’t in the trailers, and it was really quite a different sort of story.  All it needed was a bit of focus and perhaps some redirection.

Final Grade: B-