When I originally told my roommate I was going to be watching Paperhouse, his reaction was, “That’s only barely a horror movie. It’s a very sad movie. I don’t think you’d like it.” I replied, “I like sad things.” To which he said, “But you don’t like nice things.” It’s true. I don’t like touchy feely shit, but I do very much like sad children’s movies (A Boy Named Charlie Brown is one of my favorite movies ever).
Well, I did like Paperhouse. It is a sweet movie about a sad childhood. And I love its ambiguity. A young girl discovers that whatever she draws, she visits each night. She then comes to learn that the boy she becomes friends with in her dreams is a real boy who is deathly ill. She tries to help him with her crude drawings, but unfortunately, she evokes a demon-like version of her alcoholic father. There are supernatural elements aplenty here – or not. The movie even manages to create an ambiguous ending. Myself being a cynical bastard, I choose to believe the worst. I’m sure others have walked away from this movie with a different interpretation.
As far as whether or not this is a horror movie, there is only one sequence that can really be qualified as horror, but it’s strong enough that I didn’t hesitate to include the movie here. In it, her dream father – who is blind as a result of her crossing out his angry expression in her drawing. It’s a frightening sequence that utilizes and subverts the beautifully crafted art direction that movie has set up. The score, the cinematography, the performances – especially the children’s – are all top notch. This director (Bernard Rose) would go on to make Candyman, a much more frightening movie. But this movie has a real pathos. It manages to be a sad children’s horror movie – which I find to be wonderful.
Body count: I guess it depends on how you take the ending. Most people want to believe the best, I think, and say zero. So, 1.
A fantasy-heavy horror movies directed by Michael Mann and starring Ian McKellan, Gabriel Byrne, Scott Glenn, and Jurgen Prochnow. Nazi take over a citadel during WWII, and two particularly greedy Nazis inadvertently unleash a Jewish-friendly demon who proceeds to kill everything not-Jewish in its attempt to gain power. At times, the movie is a little too fantasy-based for my taste. And there were a few times I got completely lost. But it still won me over. Ian McKellan’s character, in particular, is fascinating in its desperation – only marginally acknowledging the history the movie is set in.
It reminded me a bit of Lost in how it depicts two supernatural forces pairing off against each other. And in how one demon cures a character (the awakened demon cures Ian McKellan’s character of an illness that has aged him prematurely – indebting him to the demon) in order to cement his faith in it. The cinematography creates a blanket of supernatural darkness. The demon is a practical suit with glowing eyes and a unnerving voice. Oh, how I miss practical movie effects . . .which leads me to the final battle which is a firework display of optical lights and magic which may have been a bit too over-the-top for me. But it’s Michael Mann. I would never have been able to tell you it was Mann directing if I didn’t already know it. It’s not his style at all, although it does pit two powerful forces against each other in the classic Mann theme. While it’s not really creepy or thrilling, it is entertaining and bizarre.
Body count: Well, dozens, It was impossible to count. I’m going to split hairs and say 30.
This movie is fucked up. Directed by the exceedingly prolific Takashi Miike. This movie a dark, dark, disturbing comedy about a stranger who clobbers a man over the head with a rock – twice – and then gets invited to stay with the victim’s family for an indefinite amount of time. And this family is fucked up. Some scenes include a ludicrous sexual encounter in which the mother squirts so much milk out her breasts, the visitor has to use an umbrella. The son regularly beats his prostitute mother, and is then bullied by other kids while videotaped by his creepy father. The father then kills a prostitute and while has sex with the dead body, who defecates on him and tightens on his penis when rigor mortis sets in – forcing the father the shoot up with heroin in order to get soft enough to pull out. And that’s just a few of the fucked up scenes. This movie is absurd and ludicrous in its desperation to shock. And while you can’t help but laugh at the depravity on display, it is never really funny. While watching this, my roommate brought up Guinea Pig – unaware that I had watched it the night before. And another friend brought up Ma Mere, another notoriously disturbing movie. It seems that this movie is designed to be something you can tell your friends about (“listen to how fucked up this movie is!”) and compare harrowing movie-watching experiences. Ultimately, this movie is more absurd than disturbing. Audition by Miike is a dozen times more disturbing, coherent, and effective.
Update: It has been pointed out to me that I forgot about a few killings. The actual body count should be: 4.
Basket Case 2
The insane sequel to the very fun original. Apparently, this movie was a highly anticipated event in my apartment. Everyone had been excited about watching it since we saw the first film a few weeks earlier. And we all loved it.
The movie begins where the last film ended. The lead actor – still terrible – escapes with his brother (now a more advanced puppet with moving hands and teeth) from the hospital where they were taken after the end of the first movie. They are picked up by freak sympathizers who run a commune of bizarre looking freaks with overly elaborate prosthetics. This movie has a sharp, twisted sense of humor with a hilariously vile and dark ending.
It’s not as gritty and lacks the low budget charm of the first movie, but it’s still sweetly incompetent. The lead character in inexplicably evil this time around. Or at least more complacent in his brother’s evil deeds than he was in the first movie. And the advances in the puppet are a little disappointing at first. Teeth? Movable parts, but it still has the creepy, glowing eyes, and is in general a disgusting thing to look at. It doesn’t scream much as it did in the first movie. Oh, god that scream. Instead, it grunts and mumbles. Not as creepy by far, but still an absolute blast.
The third movie is not ready available except on Youtube. We are all determined to find it.
Body count: 6.
I wasn’t sure what to expect really, going into this movie. Kevin Smith is known for directing dialogue-heavy-but-lazily-directed comedies about people making sexual jokes. There are very few movies from him that I like. The trailer for Red State made it look like something completely foreign to his sensibilities, so it could have been a magnificent break from his usual schtick or it could have been a total disaster. Well, for me, it leaned more towards a break from his usual thing, but still not all that inspired.
The plot is simple: three guys set up a sexual encounter with some chick online. She’s going to have sex with all three of them at once. Only it’s a trap set up by a wildly homophobic church based on the real like Wetsboro Church. They drug the three kids and then deliver their own brand of God sanctioned justice. As far as its similarities to its real life counterpart: it’s way over the top. The Westboro Church is a disgusting hateful organization that makes even other religious homophobic morons cringe. But they operate within the law – lest they deem themselves martyrs. The church is Smith’s movie veers into well stocked showdown cult territory. Regardless, the ugly sickening hate on display in this movie is right in line, if not weirdly muted, with the real thing.
I thought Smith’s direction was excellent. It’s visceral, frightening, heartbreaking. It’s legitimately well done and has a real point to make. Unfortunately, the point he makes is still made through his characteristically didactic dialogue. All the way down to his cynical Raiders of the Lost Ark ending and the smug title. Smith, like most half reasonable human being, is frustrating – nay, furious – with this organization, and he has channeled it into something more than a simple tirade. Unfortunately, most of the characters are never given much of a chance to get developed. And the dark cynicism undercuts his intentions, making the whole endeavor of existing feel downright useless. I liked the movie. It’s too straightforward and still dialogue heavy, but the dialogue has a dramatic irony to it. It may end up being his best movie.
Body count: I know there are more, but I can only remember 7 specific deaths off the top of my head.
Total body count: 457.