Posts Tagged ‘paranormal activity’

The Conjuring (2013) – James Wan (Dir.), Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lily Taylor, Ron Livingston, Joey King, the Children of the Corn: Female Edition, and a Creepy Fucking Doll

Worst. Santa. Ever.

Worst. Santa. Ever.

Um…guys…can you, um, switch on the lights? Please? Like…like…all of them?

Guys? Why isn’t the light switch working? *Click, click* Guys? This isn’t funny.

HOLY FUCKING SHIT. WHAT WAS THAT? Did that door open by itself? Guys, I’m being serious right now. Fucking stop it.

JESUS MARY JOSEPH AND THE OTHER ALL THE OTHER PLANETEERS, WHAT WAS THAT?

Oh. It was just a camera getting really close to my face. Get out of my way, camera. Why are you so close to me? Why are you focusing just behind my head and not on my face? And why is it so silent all of a sudden?

Wait…wait…should I look behind me? I’m gonna look…I’m gonna look behind me…right…now…

WHAT THE…?

…CONSTIPATION CURED.

(Commercial Voice) Talk to your doctor today about The Conjuring to help with your dyschezia. If you suffer from backed-up bowels The Conjuring might be for you. Side effects include: Mild Heart Failure, Spontaneous Urination, Close-Up Camera Fatigue, Acute 70s Nostalgia, Exorcist Deja Vu, and Bat-Shit Lily Tomlin Syndrome (BSLTS or BathSaLTS). If you or any loved ones suffer nychtophobia, insomnia, sciophobia, wiccaphobia, pediophobia or Vera-Farmigitis, please consult your physician before trying The Conjuring.

Oh the horror (genre). The horror…(genre). What a silly beast you are. My love for you is as undying as your supernatural antagonists and the rage you cause me is comparable to transforming me into a machete-weilding hockey-masked demon and slicing up my Netflix Account (side note: does anyone know a quick fix for “Machete in Your PS3”? I googled it, but there’s nothing helpful). It is a genre that has produced perhaps some of the greatest and certainly the most turd-ulent of cinematic terrors. On the one hand, we have The Shining. On the other…Paranormal Activity 4. In the ‘good’ category, there’s Rosemary’s Baby and in the bad there’s, well, everything else. Other than the annual Spielbergian Oscar grabs, there is no class of movies more emotionally manipulative or as formulaic. While, for the most part, the directors of these schlockfests usually depend upon cheap scares and the cinematic equivalent of ‘Gotcha’ Journalism, sometimes horror movies can be more effective than most at delving into deeper questions about the fabric and quality of humanity. While a soul-searching, uplifting drama of nauseating optimism might champion the strength of the human spirit, horror can venture equally far into the darkness. As they say, the brighter the sun, the darker the shadow. And if they don’t, they should (even though it makes no physical sense).

"WHO ATE ALL OF MY FUCKING COOKIES?" ~ Vera Farmiga, alpha.

“WHO ATE ALL OF MY FUCKING COOKIES?” ~ Vera Farmiga, alpha.

Mr. James Wan, the director of this quaint little ditty, is a fascinating fellow. His career, though short, is as storied and perhaps more grotesquely marred than Nick Nolte’s DUI record. His first film, Saw, the Rosa Parks of torture porn, if you will, transformed the terrorscape forever more, shifting mindless zero-budget BS from the hack-and-slashers of what I call the “80s Hangover”, towards the direction of the openly misogynistic (Hostel: Part II), the purely sadistic (The Human Centipede: Full Sequence) or the utterly pus-ridden and mind-melting (Saw III). Since then, he’s explored the failed career of Donnie Wahlberg as he fights dolls (Dead Silence), Kevin Bacon getting angry (Death Sentence) and the utterly bemusing and more-tonally-inconsistent-than-a-dubstep-appreciation-concert Insidious. It was that last film that clued me into a long lost talent, residing hidden below the surface of jump-scares and nonsensical scary mask design. The first act of Insidious is careful and tense, allowing shots to linger and the silence to infest. It employed Actors (with a capital A) such as stage veteran Patrick Wilson and so-deadpan-you-need-to-check-for-a-pulse Rose Byrne. There were shocks and genuinely disturbing imagery gradually seeping through each frame, growing to a throbbing and spine-tingling crescendo… And then the second half begins and subtlety is thrown to the wind, like a pair of panties captured after a Revenge of the Nerd-esque undergarment raid. We have mediums and ghostbusters and battles in the land of the spirits, not to mention an out-of-the-blue plot point that derails the story faster than you can say “Where the fuck did that creepy old lady come from?”

Now, we have the next stage of his horror opus, The Conjuring. This little ditty tells the tale of Ed and Lorraine Warren, two of the most famous real-life demonoligists this side of the River Styx, as they tackle a tormented house in the backwoods of Rhode Island (and, yes, Rhode Island has backwoods, no matter how small you think it is. Well, it’s more of a back ‘garden’, but you get the idea). Now, these two were the ones brought in to exorcise the Amityville Horror back in the day (though they couldn’t exorcise some fucking profit from the 2006 remake. BOOYAH!) and their work inspired the so-straight-forward-it-might-as-well-be-a-fucking-ruler titled A Haunting in Connecticut. You thought that stuff was scary? No? Well, neither did anyone else, BUT, and that’s a massive Kardashian-sized heiny, this is the scariest tale of them all. Or, at least, the Polanski-esque credits tell us so in the opening frames. Wilson, taking a second crack at a decent movie with Wan, is back as Ed and the delectable and inexplicably frilly-caped Vera Farmiga joins the crew as Lorraine. They hold the center of this tale, their chemistry unmistakable; and they offer a beating heart that is so often lacking in this sort of by-the-numbers ghost story nonsense. The family, on the other hand, does their best to exemplify the classic American Unit, though there’s so many of them (all female) that 1) it’s impossible to distinguish any of them, other than the one that was in White House Down and 2) they look like the Children of the Fucking Corn. I half expected them to transform into some kind of satanic Wicker Woman and cover Patrick Wilson in bees. The parental units are the targets, however. Lily Taylor, an actress who has already slogged through the supernatural sewer in 1999’s Owen-Wilson-gets-decapitated classic The Haunting, has once more drawn the short straw. Throughout the course of the film, along with Ms. Farmiga, she is dragged through metaphorical and literal hell. Meanwhile, Ron “That Guy Whose Career Stalled After Office Space Because He Only Speaks in Semi-Concerned Monotone” Livingston gets off almost scott-free as the kinda distant, mostly clueless father.

"What? Is it my hair? It's my hair isn't it. I look like a Ken doll, don't I? WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME HOW DUMB I LOOKED BEFORE WE LEFT THE HOUSE?!" ~ Patrick Wilson, oblivious.

“What? Is it my hair? It’s my hair isn’t it. I look like a Ken doll, don’t I? WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME HOW DUMB I LOOKED BEFORE WE LEFT THE HOUSE?!” ~ Patrick Wilson, oblivious.

Alright, what’s the plot? Fresh off the case of the Freakiest Demonic Doll You’ve Ever Fucking Seen, the Warrens are called in to investigate the Perron family. They’ve been plagued with night after night of knocks and claps and smashing things and closing doors and opening doors and odors of rotting meat. The Warrens show up and Farmiga immediately goes into “Pressurized Eyeballs Being Sucked From Skull” mode. Shit ain’t right. After about 10 minutes of research, they discover that a witch literally sacrificed her child to Satan and then hung herself on the property about a hundred years before. Since then, there have been suicides and murder-suicides in store for any family unlucky enough to file a mortgage on the place. At this point, Ed Warren literally says, “Well, that explains a lot.” No joke. Anyhoo, the hauntings become worse and Bathsheba (yep, actual name) possesses the poor and haggard Ms. Taylor, who then spends the latter half of the movie acting like hemophilic Beatles fan. The haunting escalates faster than a moving walkway on meth and soon they have no choice but to exorcise the spirit without the Vatican’s help.

"NO! DON'T TAKE ME BACK TO THE HAUNTING! I CAN'T TAKE ANYMORE LIAM NEESON! PLEEEEEASE!" Lily Taylor, damaged.

“NO! DON’T TAKE ME BACK TO THE HAUNTING! I CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE LIAM NEESON! PLEEEEEASE!” Lily Taylor, damaged.

To be clear, there is nothing, I mean nothing innovative about this movie. You will most likely walk from the theater muttering, “I’ve seen all that before.” But your knees are still shuddering and you still check behind every goddamn door in your darkened home before slipping into bed. It seems that this is James Wan’s attempt at pure quality rather than creative depth. Almost every frame is referential to every decent horror film for the last 30 years, most notably The Exorcist. But the references don’t plague the film. They’re subtle emotional cues that, for those that notice them, usually act as harbingers of anxiety. This movie is tense. Wan knows that he only has about three tricks in his shallow tool bag, but he knows how to use them. Where Kubrick employed color tone and long, static lingering shots, Wan keeps things close, dark and unbroken. So often he keeps the take going as long as humanly possible, no doubt orchestrating some kind of graceful choreography behind the scenes to catch us off guard at every moment. It would have been nice to see this story, set in the mid-70s, to have been filmed on actual film rather than HD digital. But, alas, such things are of the past for money-minded studios. Along with that, one of Wan’s most beloved fallbacks is his creature design. He can’t help tossing in a creepy doll here and an old-lady face there. The film is truly unnerving when the threat is only suggested, much as Spielberg discovered in Jaws. Luckily, Wan’s visual indiscretion doesn’t become apparent until closer to the end, when the witch begins popping into frame with increasingly pointless frequency, a pale imitation of a Sam Raimi prosthetic. Until you see it, though, the movie is tenser than Thanksgiving Dinner after Grandma Sally brings up ‘The Negroid Problem’.

"Quick! Get this woman a plastic surgeon!" Vera, helping.

“Quick! Get this woman a plastic surgeon!” Vera, helping.

James Wan, for all of his earlier career faults, is gradually growing into a solid delivery boy of scares. His talent may seem limited to a few predictable fall-backs, but he manages to keep his direction tight and focused. I held my hand over my eyes for a good many sections of the movie. I DON’T DO THAT. EVER. For me, most scary movies are about as unnerving as a fucking squirrel in a tutu. Usually all I do is laugh and then question the humanity of dressing up a rodent in a ballerina outfit. Wan’s skill increases dramatically with every feature, both figuratively and literally. While his next movie might be the seemingly tepid sequel to the bat-shit Insidious, the feature following is the seventh addition to the brain-explodingly brilliant Fast and Furious franchise. Perhaps there he will discover a new set of tricks, what with abs and biceps and carburetors flying about the frame, before returning to horror with a set of terror-inducing weaponry to truly create something magnificent.

Godspeed, sir. Godspeed.

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The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Daniel Myrick/Eduardo Sanchez (Dir.), Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams

Apparently 1994 was also a bad year for people other than OJ Simpson

We have reached it. Like Alice descending back into the madness that is Wonderland, we have come upon our own world through the looking glass. However, instead of demanding and size-altering cakes, Jesus allegories and caterpillars with severe opiate addictions, we have handheld cameras, horrible cinematography, worse acting, predictable plots and night vision, OH THE NIGHT VISION! Yes, my intrepid readers, after my years of waltzing around the desolate wasteland that is handheld-horror, witnessing the sagging and putrid corpses of The Last Exorcism, the maggot infested Paranormal Activity, the bloated remains of Paranormal Activity 2 and the unfortunately puss-spewing, self-defecated, smells-like-that-one-time-at-my-grandmother’s-place-that-we-don’t-like-to-talk-about-in-polite-company mess that was Quarantine, we have come to the epicenter of it all, the ground zero of crud, the patient zero of virulent cinematic laziness: The Blair Witch Project. Believe it or not, I had never taken the Kurtzian plunge into this ‘Found Footage’ Heart of Darkness. I remember when it was released back in the late 90’s, how it took the world by storm, how everyone naive enough to believe the epitaph at the beginning of Fargo thought that these three kids had been murdered in the woods, how this thing, which cost around $20K to make, ended up breaking the $240 million barrier. It was an event. An event to which I hadn’t been invited.

Now, like an aging and sagging Sylvester Stallone, I’ve been called into the field for one last mission (with the added bonus that I can actually form sentences instead of treating words as though my mouth is a verbal pulverizer). Yes, armed with an old fashioned in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other, my favorite lady-blogger at my side, we took the first, regrettable steps into the world of Burkittsville, Maryland. And oh, the horror…the horror… Well, actually, let’s be frank. It wasn’t that bad. Maybe I was drunk. Maybe I passed out. I’m not responsible for my actions. But in between snotty close-ups, constant screaming of the some permutation of ‘fucking man’, ‘man fucking’, ‘fuck man fuck’, ‘man, man fuck, fuck’ and the immortal, ‘fuckity man in the man with the fucking fucked fuck man fuck balls’, this thing has certainly earned its place on the shelf of classic horror. As a connoisseur of the ‘Found Footage’ horror genre (is ‘connoisseur’ the right word? Can one have a refined palate for the sewage run-off of an old-folks home intended for people with IBS?) I’ve seen pretty much everything they have to offer. From the in-part wonderfully crafted The Last Exorcism that ended with the filmmakers ejaculating acid into the eyes of their viewers in the final minutes, to the utterly useless and boring Paranormal Activity 2I’ve seen ‘Documentaries Gone Awry’, ‘Surveillance Cameras Seeing Weird Things’ and ‘Hot News Reporter Interrupts Her Oncoming Porno Featuring a Number of Well-Hung Firemen with a Zombie Outbreak’ but I’ve never observed the seed from which all things grew. Now, I have spent many, many an evening sitting through these things, shakier than a coin-operated bed, dumber than cat with its head stuck up its own ass, and jumpier than Marilyn Monroe at a ‘Butt-Squeezing’ convention and, honestly, I’ve never been scared. HEAR THAT, INTERNET? I’VE NEVER BEEN SCARED. Yes, Paranormal Activity, that poster-child of ‘new horror’ was duller than a paint drying competition. Oh no! It’s JUMPY! Fuck that. And Quarantine had about 3 legitimate nerve-wracking moments in its entire 90 minute runtime. Even The Last Exorcism (which is the cause of perhaps my longest and bluest-of-face rants) had a truly fascinating idea at its core, leaping back and forth over the line of creepy ambiguity…until the mutherfuckers pull a Rosemary’s Baby in the last 2 minutes of the film and murder EVERYONE. I was infuriated. What may have begun as an edgy and new take on a tired formula has become an industry norm, a crutch, the reality television of movie making. It requires no real cinematographer and a director with only the most basic visual sense. Even the plotting at this point has simply flittered out the window. And the question that fails each and every one of these fucking movies (let’s be clear, here is a list of ‘these fucking movies’: The Last Exorcism, Apollo 17, The Devil Inside, Cloverfield, Chronicle Quarantine, Rec, Rec 2, Paranormal Activity, Paranormal Activity 2, Paranormal Activity 3, Paranormal Activity 4, Paranormal If-The-Make-Another-One-I’m-Going-To-Burn-This-Place-To-The-Ground) is a simple one. Why is the camera there? Perhaps it makes sense and thematically fits during the first act, but by the time there’s screaming and running and dark spaces and people getting murdered…why doesn’t the camera man think to DROP THE CAMERA AND RUN? What is this? National Fucking Geographic? Are they looking for the Nobel Prize in Dumb Shit Nobody Cares About (I think Denise Richards won that once…OH WILD THINGS BURN!)? Movie after movie, the suspension of disbelief is drawn so taught, it might as well be Kirstie Alley’s thong. It’s a cheap art form. It’s an easy art form. And it’s a dumb art form.

“All aboard the Bongtown Express! Stopping at Weedsville, Stonerbridge, Tokestown and Holy-Fuck-Pink-Ffloyd-is-the-Best-berg”

So, like Dorothy approaching the man behind the curtain, I had some questions for this mother of movie mongoloids. The Blair Witch Project, if it didn’t begin the entire subgenre, it certainly made it more appealing than bacon to a, well, anyone. Because it’s bacon. If you don’t love it; you don’t have a soul. So, to the uninitiated, The Blair Witch Project was touted as raw footage found left behind by three students creating a documentary about the super spooky Blair Witch of Burkittsville, MD. What begins as an incredibly, annoying, amateurish series of murky shots sprinkled with the ass-juice of complete ineptitude, soon becomes, well, more of exactly that and continues for the length of these boring-ass 81 minutes. It felt like 3 hours. I believe that Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity needs a new caveat. Time dilates when you approach the speed of light or if you turn on this fucking movie. But, that said, I didn’t not-enjoy it. There are a number of reasons why this is remembered and why it was so ground-breaking at the time. Firstly, it plays with the concept of American Folklore. As a country, the US has borrowed from every culture on the planet, stealing whatever mythological past it can to fill its story-telling tradition with color. There are shockingly few legitimate American folk tales. Other than guys who sleep too long and oxen that ate too many blueberry Wonka bubblegum, there isn’t a whole lot of tales to tell the kiddly-winks. The initial pieces of the documentary where they aren’t in the woods does an excellent job of generating this collective oral history of this thing living in Burkittsville. You never really are offered a coherent version of the witch. Sometimes she’s hairy, sometimes she floats, sometimes she encourages people to murder other people…instead of crafting a fully-formed image of this never-seen malevolence, you’re only offered disparate coordinates of an unfinished mosaic. And so, as the events of the movie unfold, the unknowability of what is going to occur builds by the second. There are little stone piles here and there, shouts in the woods, KY jelly on backpacks and little straw dudes littering the trees. Then, when it’s all said and done, everyone dies. It’s cute.

Ah, the iconic shot of the movie. Your boogers shall be remembered, Headband Girl.

Here’s the question: is it scary? That requires an easy and emphatic: NO. Granted, it plays the game of less is more with the creepiness of the forest. They also do an incredible job of keeping the verite style in tact throughout the runtime. You never seen anything explicit, CGI-ed or false. These kids were literally lost in the woods and chased around by the directors, a sick Hunger Games-esque escapade ending with them trapped in a deserted house and running around using camera night-vision like idiots. The dialogue is painful. The characters are unlikeable, especially Head-Band Girl (I think her name was Heather, but her egregious practice of uncovering her forehead at all times required a different moniker). They’re all idiots. They’re all grating. And they all feel like real people. Though at first I wanted to push Head-Band Girl through a plate-glass window, it became abundantly clear throughout the film that this was the filmmaker’s intention. With the pretense of jumpy scares removed, the possibility of seeing creepy things practically nil, The Blair Witch Project endeavors to be about more than simply wetting some date-night panties (and not in the good way…unless you’re into that kind of thing) and about the nature of US folklore and filmmaking itself. Pretty much all of the uneasy stuff occurs at night without any visual aid…so all we’re offered is constant audio of people weeping and asking over and over, “What the fuck is that, man?” (If I hear someone call another person ‘man’ and his name isn’t ‘The Dude’ I will push their dangly bits into a sausage maker. ARGH). And nothing really happens. Ever. It’s like Waiting For Godot, with a lot more swearing, a lot less existentialism and 100% more terrible headbands. When asked why Head-Band girl constantly films everything that is occurring, one of her ill-fated comrades posits that perhaps she is constantly trying to keep the reality away using the camera as a barrier. While these terrifying and dangerous events unfold, she’s hiding and pretending it’s all a fantasy. We, as a country, secretly strive for more folklore, what with our men with hooks for hands and everything that was the basis for that turd-bucket of a Jared Leto vehicle that was Urban Legend, we want these scary tales to be true…but when they are, we’re not emotionally prepared to face the horror. We are no Theseus, charging against the minotaur…we’re one of those damn virgins who, let’s be honest, probably did the dirty Sanchez the first dude they could find before being tossed into the Labyrinth.

So, no, The Blair Witch Project, isn’t particularly good, or enjoyable, or watchable, or worthwhile…but it is a fascinating piece of filmmaking simply from a historical perspective. They did something new and, for their meager goals, they succeeded. Every imitator that has come since has failed to capitalize on the basic principles that made this what it is. Perhaps Paranormal Activity came close but, seriously, that movie was about as shocking as that time I thought I wasn’t wearing matching socks when, really, they were actually matching. It’s about a ‘2’ on the scare-o-meter. Give me The Shining or The Ring or The Thing any day. But Hollywood never learns. I mean, this is the place that made FOUR Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Paranormal Activity 4 hasn’t even finished its opening weekend and they’re already projecting movies and 6. It took Saw, a series where EVERY CHARACTER DIES IN EVERY INSTALLMENT, seven, that’s right, folks, seven mutherfucking films before it finally died. And guess what? They’ll probably reboot it in 2 years. They’re already rebooting the reboot of the sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So, carry on, you reckless fools, continue on your charge into the Tartarus of cinematic sludge. Bombard us with tale after tale of the purest mediocrity and banal boredom. Suck from that already drying teat as long as you can, until your gums bleed and your tongue is rougher than moldy sandpaper. Just as bullet-time eventually died out after The Matrix so will this infuriating Found Footage fad. Perhaps you can finally make some good horror movies. Assholes.

The team was nonplussed to discover that their missing friend had really only been looking for a private place to masturbate.

But until then, I’m sure you will hear my screams of fury from here to Timbuktu. Or…until my next article on Sinister.

Ugh. What am I doing with my life?

Now, my favorite section of summer film. And I use the term ‘film’ loosely. This is the intersection of terrible and so-terrible-you-can-joyously-yell-at-the-screen. These are the films destined for cult status. These are the films that, down the line, will clutter the bottom of Wal-Mart $5 bins, waiting for a perfectly inebriated pack of college sophomores searching for a good, cheap time. Greats have fallen into this category, year after year. Sometimes, I’m surprised…though I’m usually too far down drunky-lane to really understand that it’s an epiphany and not me just falling asleep. It doesn’t take a brain. Hell, it doesn’t even take a pulse. These are moving images of such camp and dumbness that you can just sit back, relax and laugh.

Yes, there are sometimes turds in the basket. In fact, by rational definition, pretty much everything on this list is almost entirely turdish. However, they shall be seen. Perhaps they will be glorious fun. Perhaps they will incite a rant of such saucy bluster that my friends will have to excuse my actions to the public wandering by. But I will see them with a fervor that I cannot explain. It is a passion that leaves those around me bewildered. Maybe it’s my latent British need to inflict constant self-pain. Maybe it’s spiritual karma to remind myself that, no matter how bad my own work, it will never be as bad as this…and look they’re making money! Maybe it’s just that see people try and fail with such spectacular terribleness is a not only a well-studied mental condition, but a spectator sport born from base primal needs. Maybe.

These, ladies and gentlemen, are the:

MOVIES I WILL SEE WHILE DRUNK

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Silly Lincoln. Your chair is outside. It should be inside. You’ll catch cold.

Read that title. Read it again. You are not high on ether (maybe you are…then I apologize) That is real. It, alone, is reason enough to sneak a fifth of Jack into the theater. Now, from what I gather, the book is a hilarious mash-up of horror cliches and tropes, mixed in with the tone of historical fiction. That is amusing to me. Seth Grahame-Smith found fame first and foremost with his absurd retelling of Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Again, hilarious. So, our greatest president against vampires, funny stuff right?

Well, “fuck you” says Timur “Say it Five Times Fast” Bekmambetov. “You want historical irony? NO. NO LAUGHS SHALL BE HAD!” Or, at least I imagine him saying that while petting a Siberian Tiger and sipping Lemur urine (because, with a last name like that, it’s pretty much assumed). So, taking time off from being a bond villain, Bekmammarytosspot has directed a few films. After getting the utterly nonsensical Nightwatch series under his belt, he penetrated Hollywood with his bullet-curving-anorexic-Angelina-exploding-mouse-James-McAvoy-shooting-a-guy-in-the-face-and-then-shooting-the-guys-behind-him-while-keeping-the-gun-in-the-guy’s-skull masterpiece Wanted. Did I say masterpiece? I meant a piece of…well, never mind. Needless to say, between the ‘Loom of Fate’ and fun times with physics, that movie was messier than a guy lost in Logan Square at 3am wondering what he’s doing with his life and convincing himself that maybe, maybe he’ll find love at the other 4am bar and…well, ahem. Moving on.

This film looks dumb. Not only does it look utterly moronic, but it looks super serious. Like, super-super-cereal. It has dark lighting and broody acting and Lincoln cutting logs and…a stampede into battle and…well…what? I have no idea what’s going on. This one could have easily landed on the ‘Movies I will See and Hate Myself’, but good old buddy old friend Jack D will shift this from Blade-fan-fiction into bona-fide vampiric insanity.

On the drunk-o-meter this gets: two old-fashioneds (keep it classy, boys) followed by a shot of bourbon. Sloshy enough to numb the pain, but not so far to impede the seizure of perfect ‘yell at the screen moments’.

Chernobyl Diaries

I like the the tagline is actually two lines. And tells you the plot of the entire film. This thing is just made of winning.

There’s this guy. His name is Oren Peli and he made a movie called Paranormal Activity. With its meteoric rise into the lexicon of classic horror, it swept across the nation, wetting pants and making bros cry a little before them telling their dates that ‘they were cutting onions, no big deal’. Inopportune movie cooking aside, this film scared a lot of people. I watched it. I switched it on, waiting for things to happen. My friends had all told me “Dude, it’s like…so scary, like…like so scary.” Well. Challenge accepted. I was prepared to jump. To get freaked out. However, when it turned out that this was just the tale of two filmmakers taking the American public for a fucking ride by pulling together a derivative, predictable, cheap-as-dirt movie and then selling it to everyone as ‘the next Exorcist’ I yawned. And then I shrugged. And then I went to bed. And I never thought of it again.

They made a second one. Which was like the first…in that it was the first…just more boring and less scary. If the first was about as frightening as a puppy with a Chucky mask (say that 3 times fast), this was the equivalent of a cat sitting on wrapping paper covered in pumpkins. In theory, it recalls something related to unnerving activity…but really it’s just lazy fucking cat that does nothing but lie in inopportune places every damn day and it can’t even feed itself and yet it expects you to work to his schedule, but seriously what schedule does he have? What essential things does he have to do? Scratch your legs? Stare into space? He’s a fucking CAT!

Well, Mr. Peli has created a beast. After Paranormal Activity, we had Apollo 18, The Last Exorcism, The Devil Inside, Porky’s 3D and Girls Gone Wild Mumbai 19. The last two might have been made up. Now, instead of taught, intense, well-made, well-shot, well-scripted horror (sorry, I just made myself laugh. When was the last time any of that shit ever happened?) we have these sorry excuses for the deleted scenes from an elaborate Paris Hilton sex tape. What’s almost the worst thing is that the endings of each of these is the fucking same. They all die. It’s like a Goosebumps novel except without my teenage-wet-panties being involved. Did I say teenage? I meant grade school. That’s what I meant, guys. Seriously. I was super young and not at all in 10th grade.

Now we have the one about Chernobyl. Yes, Chernobyl is fucking fascinating. Radiation is fascinating. Its effect on the human body is fascinating. A bunch of large-breasted, mentally deficient, testicularly-oversized American teenagers exploring these themes is not. From the opening shot of that one girl (pulling down her shirt so you get a go view of the milk twins, we all know why she was hired) saying something about radiation is about as convincing as Denise “Wild Things” Richards pretending to be a nuclear physicist named, I shit you not, Christmas Jones.

It has jumps. It has ‘scares’. It has crazy irradiated Russians, who are 34.2% more hilarious than irradiated hillbillies (that’s science. Look it up). It has Eastern Europeans being poor which, for some reason, always tickles my fancy. And it will be terrible. I mean it. Absolutely, positively, Whore-of-Babylon-ironically-riding-Ted-Nugent bad. I’ll be there at the midnight opening.

So, what does this terror-legend-to-be score on the gold-standard dunk-o-meter? I give it 5 PBRs and splash of scotch. Because, let’s be honest, after that much hipster shit gets into your system, you have to purge it with a little 50-year-old-man and a dousing of pungent aftershave. This will also preferably include hidden beverages in the movie theater to encourage drinking-game-generation on the fly. Drink every time they do something stupid.

You’d be dead in 20 minutes.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Total Recall

You’d think one of them might notice that their pants are on fire.

Well, what do we have here? Looks like the nonsensical sequel to a movie that nobody wanted and a remake of a 80s action movie so crazy, Nic Cage asked it to ‘dial it back’. Neither of these movies have any right to exist. A few years back, I had the singular, life-altering pleasure of witnessing G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, a film so bursting with not-giving-a-fuckness that it could not be contained by its series title alone. Director Stephen Sommers attempted to tame it to simply G.I. Joe, but the film, supplying the world with such pivotal performances as Joseph Gordon Levitt attempting career suicide and Channing Tatum attempting the English language, expanded into the wonderfully needless moniker: Rise of Cobra. Were they worried we’d mix this up with the other G.I. Joe films? Were they concerned that the world would watch the film and then demand “WILL THERE BE ANOTHER? PLEASE TELL ME NOW!!!” Well, G.I. Joe: Retaliation shudders its way into theaters this summer. Apparently, they decided to axe the entire original cast save for the Asian dude and the inexplicably British President of the United States. Now they have Dwayne “The Rock “Smiles Like A Cherub”” Johnson and Bruce “I Really Thought I’d Be Dead At This Point in My Career…Oh Well” Willis. Somehow Channing Tatum has a scar increasing his evil score to “Eh. He’s probably just German.” Joe Levitt is gone (my heart is broken) as is The Doctor  Christopher Eccelston and his metal fucking head. I’m going to miss that metal fucking head. It was one of my favorite parts of the first movie, that metal fucking head. Oh well. Maybe I should simply watch Man in the Iron Mask a dozen times and laugh at Leonardo Dicaprio because in real life he gets fat. Poetic justice.

The original film’s director (‘original’ is an incredibly loose term) is one of my personal heroes. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of Stephen Sommers, but he’s the auteur responsible for inflicting, nay, bequeathing such pieces of cinematic excellence as The MummyThe Mummy ReturnsVan Helsing and the criminally unseen Deep Rising. He has launched the careers of both Rachel Weisz (THANK YOU GOD ALMIGHTY) and Famke “Goldeneye” Janssen (legs…watch out for the legs!) as well as the continued existence of Treat “Who the Fuck is that?” Williams and Brendon “I Remember When He Was Famous…Kinda” Frasier. Sommers is basically Michael Bay with a sense of humor and without his penis constantly stuck in his ear. His movies don’t give a gleeful fuck. The one liners are so agonizing, you need anesthesia. His conflation of myths, legends, popular figures and currently existing intellectual properties is so perplexingly incorrect you can only admire his balls. Literally. He’s like if Roland Emmerich and Luc Besson had a gayby. Watch all of his movies immediately.

G.I. Joe: Returning Bullshit will be bad. And it’ll probably be boring. Only one of those things is egregious. When the first film in a series had Joe Levitt declaring “Call me COMMANDER” and walking around like he had taken his ‘stroke’ pills, there’s a lot to live up to. This one looks ‘gritty’ and ‘dark’, two words most appropriately applied to fungus. So, to survive, let’s play a game. Drink every time something batshit could have happened if it was an ACTUAL sequel to the first film. Just to be clear…you will be constantly drinking.

Hey Colin…is that dandruff or your existence flaking away? Because Head and Shoulders really works… Colin? Where did you go?

Next we have the admittedly gorgeous and yet entirely soulless remake of Total Recall. If you have not seen the Arnold Schwarzenegger original, directed by Paul “Starship Troopers, Showgirls, Robocop, Total Recall, Fuck With Me I Dare You” Verhooven, watch it right now. Like right now. I fucking mean it. Stop reading right the fuck now and witness that deplorable-violence-Sharon-Stone-Three-Tits-Michael-Ironside crazy fest that is that orgasmic work of ‘art’. It’s as though Verhooven said “I want to make a movie like Jackson Pollock makes paintings”. When someone returned, “you mean using a fascinating deconstruction of shape and form to explore emotion and expression itself?” he stared them in the face and slapped them. “No, because there will be blood EVERYWHERE.” Everyone gets shot. Main characters. Not main characters. Completely innocent bystanders. EVERYONE. It is one of the most hilarious examples of excess one could possibly have the please to witness.

And now there’s this one. Colin Farrell, a man who is about as artistically consistent as a waterbed on a cruise ship, and directed by Len Weisman, a gentleman whose greatest career achievement was banging Kate Beckinsale. Again, it will be boring. Again it’s ‘dark’ and ‘gritty’ like that thing I found under my toenail last week, which is really weird, because I didn’t stub it or anything, it was just there…but it didn’t seem like a growth because it wasn’t exactly attached…just some sort of anomalous interloper (if anyone has any thoughts about what it was, please share in the comments section below).

The issue with these movies isn’t that they are bad. Bad movies can be amazing. Have you seen The Room? (More on that later). The problem is that people substitute slick action scenes with decent graphics and a growly main character for ‘edge’, perhaps even ‘depth’. But, unfortunately, we know that these films have about as much ‘edge’ as a fucking peanut butter sandwich and about as much depth as another peanut butter sandwich (sorry, my metaphors are a little one note, I haven’t eaten much today.) Who cares if the movie can’t be good? Just make it insane! Stop trying to convince yourselves that you’re something you’re not. Don’t hide what’s really within. We can see you all acting butch, like you really do care about your muscles and your flash…when really you want to break out the tassels and that sequined thong that you’ve just been dying to wear out. Be yourself. Be crazy. Let it out. Because, seriously,  a massive boner party is only really palatable when thrown in conjunction with a sequined glitterfest.

How many drinks? G.I. Joe: Resident Evil: Retributaliexctinctelations will require a pitcher of Margaritas. Just enough tequila to get you wasted, just enough flavor without being a ‘girl’s drink’ (boys: manhood in tact). While Total Recall will require liquified Paul Verhooven (read: Four Loco) pumped directly into my blood stream with an IV. It’ll be one hell of a night.

Battleship

“I’m King of the Wor-…Um…did someone leave a Transformers knockoff in front of our boat?”

There is a movie out there, lost in the wilds of the great American film-scape, fighting for its relevance day-in and day-out, struggling to be remembered as one of the silliest comedies of all time. That movie is, of course, Clue. Not Clueless, the piece de resistance of Alicia Silverstone’s…I want to say ‘career’, is that what we call it? Clue. Based, that’s right ladies and gents, on a board game. I remember witnessing the words “Based on the Parker Board Game” for the first time, before the movie descended into Tim Curry-esque madness and a quagmire of such verbal punnery it would make Oscar Wilde facepalm in his grave, I threw back my head and uttered “We’ll never see that again!”

How wrong I was.

Battleship is ‘based on a board game’. In that, it has the same name as a board game. When was the last time you replaced your battleship pieces with flying fucking robots from outer space? So, alright, let’s call a spade a spade. What do we have here? Well it looks like Transformers 4: Liam Neeson Continues Career Suicide Battleship is attempting to cash in on every possible franchise it can. I believe this is the third in the trilogy of Tim Riggins Films, joining such classics as Tim Riggins in Space (John Carter…eesh) and Tim Riggins has a Mullet and Mutant Powers (X-Men Origins: Wolverine…okay, side note. When I saw the midnight showing of that film – yes, you read that correctly – it was in this amazingly shitty little one-screen movie theater in my college town. When Will.I.Am (sp?) enters the scene, an African-American gentleman in front of me bellowed the words “Oh look! It’s Will.I.Am! I love him!” And then Will.I.Am spoke two lines. A second later, the same gentleman declared “Oh shit. Will.I.Am can’t act.” True story. It was amazing.) Okay, back to Tim Riggins on a Boat. We’ve got a panoply of b-list actors, ranging from Erik from True Blood making dumb faces when glass blows up in his face, to Brooklyn “Double” Decker, to Rihanna. I refuse to make any jokes about her. That would be tasteless. Moving on swiftly…

This movie has Liam Neeson, supplementing his recent string of cinematic excellence beginning with kill-everybody Taken, then Bradley-Cooper-Shut-The-Fuck-Up-No-One-Thinks-You’re-Funny The A Team, to I-Was-Hoping-It-Was-Taken-But-With-Wolves-Instead-of-Human-Traffickers-I-Was-So-So-Wrong The Grey. And, of course, he’s going to die immediately, releasing him from this franchise forever. Lucky bastard. It has Taylor “Please let me be a movie star!” Kitsch. We might even be serenaded by Rihanna’s…um…talent? Let’s go with that.

It’s going to be awful. Like…if Transformers was somehow stupider. Who knows? Maybe it’ll surprise me and actually be a nuanced discussion of the US Navy’s brutality in war, the ethics of invading another culture for profitable gain and what it truly means to serve in a branch of…

Sorry. Couldn’t keep a straight face. This movie requires beer. Lots and lots of beer. Perhaps a few of those ‘craft’ beers that just turn out to be Blue Moon in a different bottle. Whatever you drink, it’s going to make you shit razorblades the next morning. I find that an apt metaphor for the viewing of this film.

Piranha 3DD

Classy as hell. You did it!

Alright, boys and girls. Strap in. It’s gonna be a boobalicious ride.

One might describe film as ‘high-art’. One might describe it as a ‘glimpse into our fleeting existence, a chance to view life uninterrupted’. One might describe it as ‘life-changing’. Every single one of those phrases left my mouth as I witnessed the film Piranha 3D. This was not because I believed any of them. It was because, over the course of that film, I ran out of expletives to scream at the screen and instead my mouth was filled with randomized phonemes. I think I might have bellowed the entirety of Moby Dick at one point. Some films understand what they are, yet subtly mask their sensibilities for public consumption. They understand they are smut, yet drench themselves in gore and dark lighting and tout it as ‘the new generation of horror’. Not Piranha 3D. It had tits. A lot of tits. It had Ving Rhames mutilate flesh-gobbling piranhas with a boat motor as they stripped his legs to the bone. It had tazered, exploding fish. It had Jerry O’Connell’s penis regurgitated in 3D. It had all this…and that dude from Parks and Recreation get bitten in half. It was like seeing god…if god had a really nice rack.

What do we have now? Double the terror? Ha. Nope. Double the gore? Maybe. That would be difficult. Double the D’s. Yep, pretty much. This is the only logical conclusion posited by the predicate of movie one. Lifeguard strippers? Sure. Why not? Piranhas that live inside you Alien-style? Points for hackneyed creativity, I suppose. David Hasselhoff? He’s gotta do something when he isn’t making millions in Germany. Gary Busey? Oh hells yes. As the Bible says “Crazy begets crazy.”

Just in watching the trailer to this film, I can feel the humanity leaking from my bones, trickling out in a mass of empathy that sizzles away its existence into nothingness. If this is just a modicum more insane than the first, I will be nothing but a steaming sack of flesh, pooled on the cinema floor. For we will have done it. We will have found the bottom of the abyss. As the Mayans predicted, it would come in 2012. The end-times of taste. The lowest of the brows. The chamberpot of artistic excrement. Congratulations, guys, you did it. And I will be drinking whiskey all the way down.

Here’s to the end, folks!