30 June 2012

PENNY DREADFUL/2006

There is another film out there with the title Penny Dreadful. This is the 2006 film and is not to be confused with the 2005 film with the exact some name which I have not seen. Kind of wish I had not seen this one really. I could tell it was a hitchhiker/slasher film set in the deep woods somewhere. I have seen plenty of those, can’t even remember all of them. Usually have a little fun with them. Don’t expect that much from this sort of film. Some gruesome torture and maybe a little flesh eating, nothing too extreme.  But after seeing too many I guess I am apt to expect something that at least brings the film up to the level of a middle of the road hitchhiker/slasher flick. No such luck here. In fact I was sort of hoping the title somehow was going to tie into the British horror story books that were called Penny Dreadfuls, but I could tell by the poster art that that was a long shot. In fact it was a no shot. The Penny of the title (in fact you could have just left the word Penny out of the title and you would have a good one word review of the film) is a whiny, nervous, neurotic teenage girl. She is so whiny and annoying that she makes Belle of the Twilight films look like Margaret Thatcher in her prime. The character is played by the cute to look at Rachel Miner, but looks aren’t everything. She is known mostly for her TV work and her acting skills, which are not that bad really, seem more appropriate for small screen work than for lead work in a motion picture. Well, unless the film itself is not really not worth watching and then it does not matter much. Penny suffers from some sort of fear of automobiles that finds it source in her witnessing both her parents die in a car wreck when she was a kid. She needs to get over this phobia so she can stop riding her bike all the time.

Well to the rescue comes best selling author and condescending, patronizing therapist Orianna Volks (!) played by Mimi Driver. The dialog between Penny and Orianna is the worst of the film. In fact it is the only dialog in the film really.  Orianna all but slaps the piss out of the pathetic Penny and we almost want her to, but I guess that would violate some professional ethics. She figures all Penny needs is a long ass road trip with her prickly personality, back to the scene of the accident that traumatized her for life and then she will be all okay and can rid of that silly bicycle. Of course that is a really bad idea. When your gas is pumped by people like Michael Berryman –the actor from the original The Hills Have Eyes who suffers from a rare disease that leaves him without things like teeth, fingernails, sweat glands or hair on his body and a naturally creepy appearance, but the guy has a fine brain and kind personality- you know you should have maybe stayed home and rode your bike on Xanax instead.

Dumb ass doc Volks gives a lift to an obviously troubled hitchhiker for no better reason than that she almost killed him while bitching at Penny again. The scene of the three of them in the car together trying to get some small talk going is simply awful. Poor dialog and acting and directing and editing. May as well complain about the music too I guess. No tension is created whatsoever. When the guy pulls out a skewer of raw meat and offers the snack to the ladies it comes off as nothing more than a cheap shot gimmick. In fact everything in the film starts going downhill fast from here. Cardboard characters are introduced for no other reason than having them killed off later. The death scenes are weak. Not violent enough to make the long wait worth it all. There is even a naked boob shot. Totally cheap. Boobs were hip in the 70’s and for some of the 80’s and for Troma type films now, but it is just another cheap shot. Don’t get me wrong, I like boobs, but they are not going to help this film. And in the end the weakest aspect of this already weak entry into the hitchhiker/slasher oeuvre is the slasher himself (or herself? Seems to be some gender ambivalence going on here and the character is played by actress Liv Davies but I was never clear what was going on). Just not a scary slasher in any sense and when he/she laughs it is like one of those old scary movie TV hosts, complete with echo and reverb on the laugh as well. Most of the movie is spent watching goddamned Penny cry and shiver and squeeze her little rubber toy and control her breathing. Too much time is spent watching her alone in the car doing nothing but shaking and crying.  It was during this part that a really bad thing, in terms of my movie watching habits go, happened. I began fast forwarding the film and looking to see how much time was left. Honestly, nothing was happening. I did not know if I cold take one ore arty close of her wide open eye from different angles. I expected the ending to be weak but it was worse than I thought. Who cares who the director was. Dreadful, just dreadful. 

17 June 2012

(THE) REEKER/2005

I am about to totally spoil this film, so if you hate spoilers stop reading. I hate to read spoilers myself, but I seem to have no qualms about employing them. Why? We are talking about formulaic horror films and for the most part and I figure out endings in the first ten or fifteen minutes anyway. Sometimes I try not to and still do. I did not figure out the ending to Reeker (or The Reeker) but it is only because I did not think it warranted much thought and the film was more than a bit bewildering as it went along anyway. It is hard to reason how a film might end when you not sure what the hell is even gone at the moment you're watching it. So, the deal here is that everybody, well almost everybody, in the film is dead. And you don’t find that out until the final few minutes of the film. Somehow that is supposed to suddenly have the film all fall into place and make sense. It doesn’t. And the reason I spoiled the film –other than neurotic compulsion- is that the ending simply does not work. In some films it does. The ending where the person is either dead or in some sort of coma and they are having an artificial reality fed to them somehow. Like the film Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise. Whether you like that film or not the way it is done works a bit. Not perfectly maybe, but suddenly you starting piecing things together. In the 2005 film Reeker that does not happen as there is not that much prior to the film’s ending that really has you wondering what is happening. Not in a positive way anyway. There is no reason that everybody has to be dead and nothing in the film would have you accept the ending as anything other than a cheap shot ending. And sure horror film’s are infamous for cheap shot endings but I hate it when a half way decent horror film is ruined by a pseudo-pretentious ending. I figured the ending might have something to do with the fact everybody is near Area 51 or that some of them are doing psychoactive drugs. But nothing of the sort. It has to be that they are all, in fact, dead. Running around doing stuff all on their own but they are all dead.

So there, I ruined it all. But I am not saying the film is not worth giving a single viewing. It seems to start off well and you get the sense something is going really happen. There are creepy moments that sadly go nowhere and the realization at the end that they are in some nether world where anything can happen only makes you more frustrated because the situation is never really explored and/or exploited by the filmmakers. Typically films where it all winds up being someone on drugs, or dead or in a coma -or even where it all winds up being the worst of all possible endings, a friggin' dream!- filmmakers can go a bit overboard with the hallucinations and weirdness and effects. Does not happen here.

What does happen is a group of teens are headed for a rave or party out in the desert near Area 51. One of the kids, an annoying frat-boy, decides to steal thousands of dollars worth of psychoactive drugs from the sort of drug dealer you don’t even want to steal one extra pill from. The group has the asshole frat-boy’s more sensitive frat-boy buddy, two hot babes (one played by Arielle Kebbel) and the standard horror movie character you can never do without… the blind guy! Yea, there is a blind guy tagging along for some reason. When the full of herself gal from South Africa Gretchen decides she cannot tolerate too many drugs in her car –a few okay, but not too many- she decides to leave frat boy/asshole Trip out in the desert to fend for himself. The rest of the group insist she at least take the jerk back to the diner they had stopped at earlier and she decides that is not too unreasonable, since he would probably die of exposure out in the scorching wilderness, though it he probably deserves it. Upon getting back to the junction and diner/hotel they find it abandoned. 

09 June 2012

THE FINAL DESTINATIOM FILM SERIES

In this post I am not really to go into all that much detail about the five films here. For one reason it would make the post just too long and I do not really want to do five individual posts on the films. Another reason is that films are actually pretty well known and I am assuming that, unlike many of the films I choose to write about here, a lot of people out there have seen them all or seen some of them. In fact I had long put off seeing the films simply because they seemed too popular, or at least too well known. I just assumed I would not like them. I also thought, for some reason, that they were based on some sort of RPG. I don’t know why I thought that but typically I do not like movies based on computer games. I am just going to keep the post short and sort of sweet and then move on. I am not really in a mood to analyze the films that deeply as I am still fighting a bad cold and should I choose I can always return to the films later, though that is not likely to happen.

I was rather surprised with the Final Destination films. I watched them all back to back (except for FD 5 which I will check out tonight) and felt the first three films were fairly clever and entertaining. The fourth film was total crap really. I have read that the fifth film is pretty good and that the CGI effects are not as cheesy as they were in the fourth film. Oh, sometimes I use the term “cheezy” and also the term “cheesy”. Cheezy, to me, is good bad. Campy and fun. Cheesy is simply bad bad and no fun. Not that that is all that important, but I just want to clear that up in case one person out there ever noticed that.

The theme of the films is the same in each one. A group of people (usually made up of mostly high school students it seems) avoid being killed off in some sort catastrophic event when one of the group has a premonition and panics. People are killed off in truck loads in airplane crashes, roller coaster wrecks, traffic pile ups and stock car accidents. In the fifth film I understand a bridge collapses. The accidents all look pretty good and the deaths are violent and usually mix up CGI and practical effects with good results. I was not unhappy with the use of CGI in the first three films but they got pretty shoddy in the fourth. By the way, the fourth film wound up being the most financially successful of the franchise, perhaps due to the fact that it was shot in 3D. But 3D effects look pretty dumb for the most part without the 3D glasses (and even with them) and the image of things like a pair of floating scissors pointing at you is obviously just a cheap gimmick. But again, it is has made the most money of the five films so far. The worst does the best in this post Milli Vanilli world we live in. 

 What happens next is that Death, the entity whom we never see except as a passing shadow or wind, has to correct the balance of things as the people who were marked for death cheated him. Death manipulates elements in the survivor’s life in order to kill them off, in the order that were to have died in originally. Of there are some wild stretches here and one needs to turn on their suspension of disbelief to let the film move along smoothly, but the way it is done for the most part works out fine for the most part. The camera zooms in and out on common day objects and events that may or may not be part of the web events that will culminate in the eventual death of the marked survivor. Sometimes a survivor makes it and it seems the chain of events have been broken, but it is not the case really and Death return to collect his due eventually. There is a fatalistic tone to the film and it seems a drag you can beat the final outcome. By the fourth film I had resigned myself to the fact that one gets out alive. Even if they do in one film they will be killed off by the end of the next one. In the first three films anyway the deaths are graphic and well done. Lots of people getting squashed, impaled, eviscerated, and who knows what. By the fourth film the deaths had become mere gimmicks and a means to show off the 3D effects. I will finish the last film later tonight and have a sense it will be okay, at least from what I have read online.

The acting overall is not bad. The deaths are often violent and gory. The scenes where death begins to set things into motion are well done. The stories move along but of course there are problems. In the third film, for example, I just did not really like any of the teenagers except for the jock guy. At one point I was actually rooting for Death to have a rude, finger flipping girl killed off as she was being dragged by a horse and was really disappointed when she was saved by the jock at the last moment. When you are wanting the main characters to be killed off in a horrendous that is not a good thing. Sometimes things are just too over done really. You wonder why they can’t all be killed off by a heart attack or a brain aneurysm. Why does it always have something with a gas oven or a nail gun. But then that would be no fun now would it.