Friday, February 26, 2010

Feast (2005).

Feast saved me from my periodic genre-grump by being a perfect balance of guts and guffaws.

It's 83mins of fine horror comedy, involving but not limited to: nasty monsters, limb dismemberment, geysers of blood.

And slime.

Oh, and Henry Rollins.

Occasionally wearing pink sweat pants.

This is another to add to the number of films I've been watching lately which are set in one location. Or, "submarine films" as director John Gulager describes them. It's a favourite tactic for film makers with a smaller budget as it keeps costs down, and I'm something of a fan of such flicks, I'm starting to realise.

A one-location deal tends to intensify. Without the bells and whistles distraction of a regular change of locale, more attention has to be paid to everything else. As ridiculous as it may sound, it takes the film one step closer to theatre.

Let's not get too serious, though. We are still talking about a film whose sequels are called Sloppy Seconds and The Happy Finish.

So the set-up here, as I'm sure you can guess: a motley group of employees and customers are trapped in a bar in the middle of nowhere - which just so happens to be under a nighttime assault from freakish monsters.

Feast decides to opt out of giving us any explanation for what these things are, or how they came to be there. With a film like this, this is more often than not the way to go. Back story, what's that? Let's just chop some heads off and throw blood in a girl's face.

The characters are introduced in the opening sequence by way of freeze frame sepia-tinted profiles. A bit like top trumps. This sounds overdone and a little groan-inducing, but it works in prompting the first of many laughs and instantly cluing the audience into who's who...

Trivia: this is the director's father.

Quite some time is spent establishing these character profiles... before roughly half of the cast get immediately wiped out in the initial monster attack. "Did that just happen?!" moments are one of my favourite things about the horror genre, and Feast hands them out unabashedly. It's nice and disconcerting not to be able to instantly guess who'll be dragging themselves over the ridiculously gore soaked finish line.

This is a film of simple pleasures of the Evil Dead variety. Practical effects and gross comedy are both out in force, often at the same time. Behold: a character peeks out of the shutters into the night, declaring: "I can't see a thing..." and then proceeds to get his eyeball torn out. While the optical nerve is being ripped from his head, he screams "Gimme my eye back!". This small scene encapsulates the spirit of the film. You as the viewer wince, laugh, feel a little nauseous. Perfecto.

"We build a doll and throw it through a window!"
Just about everyone involved in Feast was obsessed with gettin' as messy as possible and they say as much in the making-of documentary. The 'creature and makeup effects designer' Gary J. Tunnicliffe brought the gore using what one of the actors calls "80s retro" methods; delightful practical stuff which sees blood, latex, bone and hair being tossed around from the get-go. It takes some vision, apparently, to act with what looks like a stuffed animal as your co-star - but the results are so glorious!

The featurette also tells of this film's unconventional birth, through a reality TV show named Project Greenlight. Gulager (who was directing wedding videos prior to getting this gig) comes across as an enthusiastic filmmaker and I'm interested to see what, if anything, he works on in the future. I've seen about ten minutes of Feast II: Sloppy Seconds and that was quite enough... Here's hoping he's wiser or luckier with his next pick.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

please bury me in this dress, thanks.

The opening credit sequence of Ginger Snaps blew my mind the first time I saw it.

I wasn't expecting anything so brutal - not so soon into the film, anyway. It remains one of my favourite film intros.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Haunting in Connecticut (2009).

Whilst on the hunt for a new house, you happen across one that is perfect. However, when asked what the catch is, the guy renting it says:
"Well, it's got a bit of a history..."
And it's at this point you run, right? You don't shake his hand, you don't sign anything and you sure as shit don't move in.

So why Sara Campbell (the wonderful Virginia Madsen), upon learning this place used to be a funeral home - complete with handy morgue area in the basement - decides to do just that, it's hard to say.

What's that? The Haunting In Connecticut would never have happened if she hadn't? Well, that's kind of my point.

Times are tough for the Campbells family, to be fair. Their eldest son Matt is undergoing intensive cancer treatment; while the father of the clan is an ex heavy drinker, currently residing on a trembling wagon.

Their house move comes about in order to be closer to Matt's hospital. But it isn't long before the words of their doctor - "Basically we're waging war inside Matt's body" - start ringing more true than any of the family thought possible.

In short, some bad stuff went down in their new place. Far worse than just funeral arrangements. We're talking necromancy. We're talking... CGI ectoplasm.

I really love the word ectoplasm.

To cut right to the meat: this film is not scary in the least. It overdoes the jump scares in the first act, too, so even cheap shots such as those become old very quickly.

There's no suspense, and when we are shown anything horrible, the scene usually ends with one of those fucking annoying sped up intense zoom-ins that have become rampant in the genre over the past few years.

One brave move and about the only moment my facial expression changed from one of blank indifference, was when they showed an eyelid being cut off.

I kept thinking 'They're going to cut away from this any time now, surely?'. But they didn't. Owwww.

Aside from that, the haunting in question can be summed up in the following caps:

Matt-specific visions of ghastliness.

And crabs...?!

Bottom of the bed shadowy figures.

On the bed, well-lit lidless desecrated corpses.

Ho-ly shit. Mouldy food.

This movie doesn't teach us much about what makes a good horror film, however what we can take away from it is that getting a surveyor in before committing to a property is of the utmost importance. For it transpires in this tale, that the walls of the basement are lined with grave-robbed corpses. Literally piled atop one another.

Yeah, well that would certainly bring a few bad vibes to a place.

It doesn't take much more than a nudge from an axe wielded by a dying boy to uncover them, either. How the hell were these dusty stiffs missed for so many years of the house being occupied and people (presumably) terrorised?

While I am asking questions:
  • Why does the DVD cover feature a boy in a crucifiction pose? Nothing like that happens in the film.
  • Why does the film open and close with Sara talking to a video camera, but never explains the reasons behind this? Could they not think of another way to introduce and conclude the story?
I could go on.

As may have become clear by now, The Haunting In Connecticut is sadly neither good nor bad enough to warrant my recommendation. It's just... mediocre. Something no horror film should ever be!

To quote Madsen's last line of dialogue in the film: "Consider yourself warned."

Buffy the resurrected.

I've been off sick from work the past couple of days, so naturally a lot of comfort TV has been watched, including the ol' faithful Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It just never gets old.

Having just polished off season 5 and started season 6 (for... the third time now?) I was reminded of one of my favourite ever Buffy moments.

That first part, where her face 'rebuilds' and her eyes roll into place. So simple, harrowing and perfect.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

baby's first freebie.

I got the horror special issue of SFX Magazine in the post today!

When I'm done just staring at it, and rubbing my face cat-like on it...

Then and only then, will I read it.

I'll keep you posted how good it is, but it looks superb.