Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Blind Movie Reviews: Horrorfest, Part 1

I stumbled across this website a while back, and it inspired me to do something somewhat unusual: review movies I have yet to see. For the sake of space, I'm going to do five today and five at some point in the near future. Hopefully next Tuesday, but we'll see. These reviews are going to be based on the synopses, pictures, and trailers that the website so generously provides, and my own knowledge of horror movies. Although the horror genre does produce some real gems from time to time, most horror movies are purely cheesy gore-fests, the only purpose of the existence of which is to be made fun of, and that is the attitude with which I am going to be reviewing these movies. Ready? Go.

Medical school gets off to a really bad start for Alison Blanchard when she blacks out at her first exposure to a real live cadaver. She claims that she felt a dark presence from the corpse. Her professor claims that she just has first year jitters. Someone dies. The police claim that it is natural causes. She claims the corpse caused it. The professor claims that it is just more firs year jitters. She starts getting visions of the spirit of a murderous prostitute who stalks and kills her friends. Her professor claims that it's just first year jitters. Alison is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery before the prostitute murders her as well. Her professor thinks there's no way she's going to get through medical school if she believes every corpse she sees is out to kill her.

There are some things that the preview leaves to the imagination, though. For instance, if this girl is the only person who can figure out why the spirit is in a state of unrest and perhaps do something about it, why does the spirit want to kill her? Destroying your allies is generally not the most effective use of your resources. However, if this spirit had a good amount of critical thinking skills, maybe she wouldn't have chosen homicidal prostitute as her cardinal profession. Also, if your girlfriend is raving about an undead prostitute murdering all of her friends with a fervor that borders psychosis, and she screams at you repeatedly not to open the door, and blood is pooling out from behind the door, chances are it might be a good idea to not open the door. Sorry, Alison, your boyfriend is a dumbass; you're probably better off without him. Your cadaver witch simply did you a favor so you could blame it for his death instead of having to face the heartache, years later, when he inevitably dies an even more absurd death, like walking head first into a running chainsaw to impress his drinking buddies.

A misguided avenging spirit set loose in the inherent creepiness of a morgue. The evil spirit gets angry when a bunch of ignorant young college students somehow desecrate the body and it begins exacting its vengeance. One person feels the presence of the spirit and everyone else thinks she's crazy. The woman has to figure out what the spirit wants so she can end its murderous spree. None of that's ever been done before! I'm not to say that this movie might be bad. It might be good if somewhat uninspired, but somehow I just don't find myself caring quite enough about the characters who are transparent enough to be given one-sentence, clichéd descriptions on the movie's website. Although it might pack a fair amount of gore and shock value, I don't think this promises to be the twisted mindfuck I most appreciate in a good horror movie. This is something I might take an interest in if I saw it late one night on the USA network, but to actually spend money on such a generic film? Pass.

Penny Dreadful
Let me start out by gloating about how much I expect this movie to be a glorious and wonderful pass. This may not be the Holy Grail of movies I have absolutely no intention of ever watching, but it comes in close. In fact, this movie comes in dead third out of ten, which is no small feat if I do say so myself. Who am I to judge, you ask? I watched
Puppet Master versus Demonic Toys ON PURPOSE. So I think I have a pretty good understanding of what constitutes a really bad horror movie.

Probably the funniest thing that happens in this movie is that, on a trip to try to help Penny overcome her fear of automobile accidents, her psychiatrist hits a hitchhiker with her car. Way to go. Also, if the snippets from the trailer are any indication, at some point throughout the movie, she apparently meets a hot young guy who just happened to be traipsing through the woods and has time to have sex while a psychopath is wandering around trying to kill her. Another plot point that I find a bit absurd is the amount of protection it's assumed that a car would actually offer in a situation like this. Couldn't the killer just break the windows? Is he a really stupid serial killer, or just really apathetic?

Overall, if this movie includes Gary Numan's song "Cars" as the ending credits begin to roll, it might be ironic enough to warrant it a star or two. Otherwise, I suspect the reason why you don't see too many movies titled with the word "dreadful" is because there's a good chance it will end up as more of a description of the movie itself and not so much anything that actually happens in it . . .

The Gravedancers
This movie slightly piques my interests simply because, despite the stupid plot contrivances, it looks like it might have enough disturbing imagery to effectively imbed itself in one's subconscious. Unlike
some movies, where the computer generated special effects render the ghosts more cartoonishly sappy than actually scary, like some sort of Disney / Pixar version of a horror movie for young children, this movie appears to deliver twisted, gnarly monstrosities which may not make you wince away from the screen, but may return to haunt your imagination later. The creators of this movie seem to realize the effectiveness of ghoulishly disfigured facial features over mindless gore unmotivated violence. The one thing I liked about the movie White Noise was how well they used the computer animation to render the three evil spirits at the end. That movie made me cautious of television static, which is probably an indication that I'm mildly retarded.

That's not to say that the plot seems at least somewhat lame. Who thinks it's a good idea to go to a graveyard and dance on the graves of the city's most psychotic killers? No matter how unsuperstitious they may be, most people have at least heard myths of cursed grave desecration. I guess this is just one more example of alcohol influencing people to make stupid and ultimately reckless decisions.

Just for fun, I've discovered that watching the trailer without sound while playing Vanessa Carlton's "White Houses" over it makes the it far more entertaining.

The Hamiltons
Does anyone else just think this is just a perverse, mirror universe version of Party of Five where everyone is a homicidal maniac? Yeah, me too. The intent of the movie is said to reveal what might really go on behind the closed doors of seemingly normal, suburban families, but if your neighbors are all parentless siblings with a monster in their basement, it might behoove you to sound the alarm when people in the neighborhood start disappearing and you see them with blood on their shirts. Just a thought.

Still, it might be worth watching, as long as I didn't have to pay for it, if only to see how far "the twins" actually take the relationship that's hinted in the trailer. However, as far as horror movies go, this one looks rather bland. I'm talking Silent Night, Deadly Night bland.

Reincarnation (Rinne)
Japan has given us many great horror films, for instance two Ring movies that didn't suck outright and one Grudge that stands above its American remake, plus a sequel that cannot even be compared to the American version, primarily because the American version hasn't been made yet. According to IMDb, there's not even so much as an announcement for an American remake of Grudge 2, which some could argue as a testament to how badly the West screwed up the first Grudge. (EDIT: Apparently, the IMDb search engine blows.) In case you're wondering why I keep referencing Grudge, it's because this movie was created by the same guy who created the Japanese Grudge.

Acknowledging that everything Japan does seems to be superior to its American counterparts, from animation to automobiles to Transformers, typically because the Japanese appeal to art and logic whereas Americans appeal to the power of the brainless herd mentality, I just can't fully get into Japanese films. I blame this on the Japenese for speaking a strange and intimidating language that I don't understand. I could take strides to try to learn their language, but I'm lazy, and most people tell me that if an American attempts to learn Japanese anytime after they're ten, their brains will melt into puddles of calligraphic goo.

In other words, for a Japanese movie or show to be effective to me, it must be dubbed in English, so I can understand what's going on. You might argue that I could just read the subtitles, but I am a slow and deliberate reader, so by the time I get halfway through one subtitle, for isntance, "No," another one will be flashing across the screen. Either I will watch the action and not know what the Christ is going on, or I will concentrate so intently on reading the subtitles that the visual effects will be lost on me. Plus, it's hard for me to read things when people are talking in the background. This multiplies exponentially when the people in the background are talking in a language that I don't understand because my brain tries to decipher the moonspeak. While I'm trying to read English. Anime is the worst for this, because at least with normal Japanese movies the voices are normal, but in Anime they're always squeeky, exaggerated sounds that should never find their way out of a human voicebox. If normal talking is distracting to reading, imagine if Alvin and the Chipmunks sucked down some helium and shouted at you while you were trying to read.

Still, subtitles or not, this might be the best movie out of the lot, considering the director's previous track record. How it found its way into this dud parade is beyond me. That it didn't even garner enough votes to win a theatrical run might actually not bode well, or it might be telling of Americans' tastes in entertainment. Many are far more prejudiced against foreign films still dubbed in their native tongues than even I revealed to be. At least I can appreciate the artistic merits of a film, even if I don't catch everything that's happening. These are the types of people who still approve of George W. Bush's presidency and attend Larry the Cable Guy concerts . . .

Okay, if you were paying attention, I've made scant few recommendations for this set of movies that I haven't seen yet, and those were rather dispassionate. Reincarnation might be good once you break the language barrier. Gravedancers might have some effectively creepy special effects despite its insipid plot. And if you've ever watched Party of Five and longed for them to have sex with each other and eat people, The Hamiltons might appeal to you. Tune in next week for the last five offerings, which promise to be even more ludicrous than the first five.


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