Thursday, September 29, 2011

HALLOWEENAGE #4: THE VAGRANT (1992)

I think I've mentioned before that my work involves an unsettling amount of interaction with the homeless.  Not the homeless that live in sentimental imaginations, struggling and waiting heroically for but one open slot in productive society, flinging tears to the wind as they hop trains into the sunset.  Nope, my homeless screech across the room about how they found a new Facebook game and they want fifteen more minutes to finish it and try to set the building on fire when they can't have it OR whip out their iPhones when it's raining and tell someone, "There are gonna be lots of people at the shelter tonight, so I'm just gonna get a room at the Marriott".  There are almost certainly some of the tragically homeless of emo lore out there, but I don't know any since all my homeless are homeless because they've alienated or abused all of their friends with homes and cash. 

Not since Russ Meyer has a sex scene been this ridiculous.
So this is a movie called THE VAGRANT, about a yuppie-ish white collar guy named Graham who's menaced by a monstrous bum.  "Menaced" is probably too strong a word, as initially the vagrant, apart from showing up IN Graham's new home, doesn't really do anything.  He sits in a vacant lot across the street, munching on rancid-looking dead things.  But Graham freaks out and overreacts, right, and lays out megabucks to install an absurdly complicated security system (it plays music when you're not home to fool people.  I mean, really.).  But soon bodies start piling up!  Sort of!  There is one body!  And Graham must effect an escape from the vagrant that may or may not be responsible.
This is not really a horror film, although it has horror elements.  It's much more akin to the black comedy films that briefly proliferated in the late 80s/early 90s (think THE 'BURBS and THE DARK BACKWARD).  The plot is pretty loosey-goosey, as Graham departs his swank new digs for trailer parks and life on the road, meeting all sorts of quirky characters along the way.  Thankfully, THE VAGRANT isn't annoying like modern quirkers of the JUNO stripe.  Director Chris (THE FLY II) Walas keeps it nice and dark, bustling with schadenfreude, and Bill Paxton as Graham, Michael Ironside as a cop named Barfuss(!), and Marshall "The Vagrant" Bell all acquit themselves mighty finely.  The minor players give their all, too, especially Patrika Darbo's lusty shut-in Doattie, purveyor of that cake up there, who makes the best upsetting squealing sounds.
Worth your time for sure, as I laughed out loud a couple of times and was pretty consistently amused.  Good luck finding it, though, as it's not on DVD anywhere in the world to my knowledge.  Check pawn shops for VHS or, failing that, you can buy the full movie on IMDB.  Or maybe dig in a dumpster for a copy.  Or harass people until they buy it FOR you!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

HALLOWEENAGE #3: THE VICTIM (2011)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1684564/

Another Scarefest scrapbook memory.  This is one instance in which watching the film in a banquet room AT A FEST boosted the experience b/c director Michael Biehn and starlets Danielle Harris and Jennifer Blanc were in attendance and like totally charming.  Biehn is hilarious and Harris and Blanc apparently need those impressive breasts to contain such large, sweet hearts.  


THE VICTIM is, as Biehn said, basically a grindhouse thriller.  Two strippers go on a fun double date with two cops and sample their cop-coke.  In the midst of Danielle Harris doing her best Asia Argento impersonation, something unfortunate happens and the remainder of the film is a chase scene, peppered with flashbacks.  Flashbacks aside, this is pretty straightforward and feels like genuine grindhouse.  Illogic is present and also gratuitous shrieking and lots of shots of driving.  The driving scenes would be symptomatic of my main complaint, the bone I pick with lots of movies, namely that this could use some paring down and editing.  Since this was shot super-quickly, I'm sure it was tempting to use most of what was shot, but I think a tighter VICTIM would be a stronger VICTIM.  


It's already a pretty strong VICTIM in a lot of ways, though.  You can really tell that this was produced and performed by professionals (especially when you watch it just before Kentucky's own BUNKER OF BLOOD!) and it really does capture a lot of what makes grindhouse worthwhile: sex, drugs, violence.  I don't think it's going to change the world and the current IMDB rating is insane in the membrane to say the least (sorry, this isn't better than BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and CREEPSHOW, are you guys on Rick Perry's salvia?).  But it is a good time and makes me eager to see more from the fabulously-named Blancbiehn Productions.

I love you, IMDB comment: "WTF people?! It's supposed to be bad, it's a fucking Grindhouse movie!....and it's got Danielle Harris in it!, and tons of violence and shit, so what more do you want?!"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

HALLOWEENAGE #2: THE SHADOW PEOPLE (2011)

Prologue: My friend and I had dinner at this Indian restaurant before seeing this film and his Bengali girlfriend harangued us via text about choosing "Indian food for shada [white] people".  Shada?  Shadow?  So there followed dreaming about how SHADOW PEOPLE might be an anti-Caucasian propaganda film, like a Bengali TRIUMPH OF THE WILL.  But it wasn't.  It was...something else.

I wish I could just play you the exchange of baffled reactions and laughter as we walked to the car.  I think the easiest approach is just a straight retelling with GIMP art because I can't get screenshots from a horror con movie.  So.

Movie begins with handheld shots that will remind you of PARANORMAL ACT, etc., but the acting here is pretty decent!  A van full of youngs encounter something that looks like a wendigo, then stop at a bonfire and are attacked by a bunch of shirtless men ("almost like a gathering!"), all sporting horrid triangle tattoos on their shirtless backs.  MAIN TITLE/CREDITS.  Now we switch to proper film.  The aspect ratio at the screening was all screwed, which made every automobile look like this—
—which made me laugh hard, every single time a car was on the screen.  Anyway, the girl who owned the camera was the sole survivor of the shirtless-man attack and emerged from a coma nine months later.  Turns out she's been SLEEPWALKING during her coma!  Or SLEPTWALKING, as the movie would have it.  After a montage of doctors being jerks (a nurse JOKES that she might go into another coma if she goes to sleep, LOLOLOLOL), Bethany, the girl, is released to the care of her grandpa, the former mayor.
That is a fair beard portrayal.  He tells Bethany that he's invited this kid James to live with them because his parents died and he's working at an antiques store and blah blah, et al.  You can check the art below, but, if you want a solid visual, just watch an episode of The Mighty Boosh and look for Vince Noir.  That's James!
Bethany dislikes him at first, until he takes her to his antique job, whence she is yelled at by some dolls and plates, then he takes her to lunch and keeps reminding her that she was in a coma.  Between the antiques screaming at her and the nightmares, Bethany's worried, so she visits the local gypsy named Yurim who lives in an attic.  Yurim informs Bethany that, according to the Book of Satan, she's set to be the mother of the Antichrist.  There are three ways to prevent this from occurring: the mom can die; she can get pregnant with a normal human baby first; or another way, which the movie never gets around to telling us about.

DOES THIS SOUND LIKE A LOT OF PLOT?  It isn't, really, when you consider that SHADOW PEOPLE is almost TWO AND ONE HALF HOURS LONG.

And now Bethany gets physically attacked, IN A COLLEGE BUILDING with class in session, by a man wearing a pillowcase and wielding a chain, in a chase scene that has to span at least 5 kilometers.  AND NO ONE IS AROUND!  The girl who has been in a coma for nine months has the cardiovascular endurance to sprint down every hall in the Psychology building!  Which are devoid of even one single student.  Words fail. 

I am starting to develop a brain tumor, but let me add that the tape Bethany used to document the shirtless man attack is found at a Catholic church by a policeman who happens to attend mass, SO that means that no one has attended mass during the nine months of her coma?  Who knows, but now we have to watch Bethany and her friends get kidnapped by kidnappers playing dubstep in a HEARSE, followed by an escape and 10K more of running!  And there's a Bethany monologue that sounds like a the Moby Dick of Hallmark cards and a conclusion that doesn't really resolve ANYTHING.  Perfecto.

This was oh so much fun.  It's flawed and overlong, obv, but, if a judicious editor put most of the running and the stair scenes on the cutting room floor, this would make a fine night of insanity for you and several friends.  IMDB says that it was filmed for $2000!!!, so that in itself is quite an achievement.  It was easily the crown jewel of the Saturday Scarefest screenings.  Beautiful insanity.

HALLOWEENAGE #1: DEVIL TIMES FIVE (1974)

*Full disclosure: I am starting this super-early this year and renaming (or "re-branding") it to keep it together, since I am going to be taking the plane of white wealth to Seattle mid-month, so that October will be more like Octseattletober.  Also, since I am so busy and important, there might be more or less than 31 of these.  This blog is going to festooned with suspense and viewable through screens crystal-cleared b/c bated breath.*

Children!  We all know and hate them.  So, theoretically, they should make amazing horror movie villains.  But there's a problem and its name is child actors and their stubby legs and weak muscles and often too-cutesy approach to the craft.  Although.  It seems unbelievable, but, if you ponder it, we are actually living in the golden age of killer-kid movies.  The ChildrenHome MovieOrphan.  All far better than the majority of their kiddie-horror predecessors, unfortunately including DEVIL TIMES FIVE.

This explains a lot.
Some seventies stuff was so amazing that it cast a glossy finish over the entire decade.  DEVIL TIMES FIVE (aka PEOPLETOYS aka THE HORRIBLE HOUSE ON THE HILL) is, if nothing else, a grim reminder that there was lots of blasé, tepid, TV-movie-like horror even during that decade we all love.  It's not like Kevin Williamson invented mediocre horror movies!  D*5 is tepid in a confused, awkward way, like the film version of an AM radio switching from piano-driven AM gold to dippy aimless psychedelia and back again.  Film begins with a hilarious van accident and five young'uns tumbling out of the wreckage.  One of them plays soldier THROUGH THE ENTIRE FILM, spouting dialogue like "Affirmative!" and "What time is chow?"  Is your adorableness sensor going off?  Does this sound like sitcom fare?  How about when the kids go to the horrible house of Papa Doc (really) and he says, "I was 14 when I first slopped a mop down in Copperhaven's cruddy halls!"?  How about now?  Are you vomiting now?
Big axe.

Little axe.
This movie.  Takes forever.  To kick into gear.  Kids arrive and recite the van-accident story, but none of the grown-ups bother calling the police.  They are too busy getting into incredibly athletic bathrobe catfights, drinking J&B, and sharing comedic antics with the comically-retarded manor slave Ralph.  The tempo and performances genuinely feel like TV movie fare, so much so that it's a shock when a breast or hideous unclothed male behind pops up.  Once the kills really start, some are okay (the bathtub is pretty fun and BEARTRAPS EVERYWHERE should really be in a better movie), but DEVIL fails to climb the mountain that confronts most kid movies: kids are small, not that bright, and also much weaker than adults.  This movie goes the extra mile to overcome it by using size-changing hatchets and elaborate swinging death machines, but still falls short.  Stick with our modern 2.0 entries if you need additional reasons to dislike children. 

MEH times five.