Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hostel 2 reconsidered

If I remember correctly the majority of horrorphiles really, really disliked Hostel 2.  I have to say I disagree.  I found it really quite charming. As a woman I found Beth's (Lauren German) journey of self discovery and personal realization insightful and honest.  Upon my recent second viewing I realized that Hostel 2 is not just about Beth's transition into womanhood, but it is also sisterhood, and the bonds of friendship.  Much like Stand by Me, Hostel 2 is about the experiences and people that shape our lives.  Like Wil Wheaton in Rob Reiner's nostalgic classic, Beth will never have better friends than the ones she had on this incredible adventure. 

Really, she won't.  Because they are all dead.

I kid.  Hostel 2 is nothing but misogynistic torture porn disguised as female empowerment.  The women are all stereotypes (the nerd, the slut, the deceiver) and the only one to get out alive is the one rich enough to buy her way out.  Yet, I kind of like this movie. I am not ashamed to admit it.  Eli Roth is a pretty damn good Director.  He keeps the tension high, the gore inventive, and he infuses it with just enough humor so you don't take it seriously.  I also loved how he set up Stuart (Roger Bart) as a somewhat sympathetic character who seems to be having second thoughts about torturing and killing pretty, rich Beth.  Then he turns complete asshole and gets what he deserves.

Dare I say I like Hostel 2 better than the original? I do.  Some say it was just a cheap cash in and basically the same film with chicks instead of dudes.  True.  But the chicks, even though they are stereotypes worthy of The Breakfast Club, are likable.  I was actually rooting for every single one of them.  The guys in the first film are douchbags.  Total, complete douchbags.  I even cheered when Paxton (douch name), played by Jay Hernandez, gets butchered in the opening minutes.  I am looking forward to
Roth's next film, be it Thanksgiving or some other ridiculous bullshit. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After

What hath Quirk Books wrought?  In 2009 they published Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith.  The Jane Austin meets brain munching Zombies mash-up was a huge success and gave birth to a whole slew of Literary/Horror re imaginings such as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Android Karenina.  A prequel named Dawn of the Dreadfuls was released in 2010.  Written by Steve Hockensmith, DotD explained how the Bennet family became fierce Zombie hunters.  Yes, in this alternative Regency-era English universe, Zombies have virtually taken over England, and even elite society is forced to battle "the Dreadfuls." 

I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and found it quite enjoyable.  Of course, I find that the addition of Zombies makes just about anything better and this was a close as I have ever come to reading a Jane Austin novel.  Now Quirk Books presents us with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, the finale of this monster mash-up trilogy.  Set shortly after the events of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, this sequel opens with our heroes, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy happily, married and living in the countryside.  The "Zed" problem had not been completely eradicated, but it seem well enough under control.  As a married woman in a fine family, Elizabeth is no longer allowed to battle.  It is obvious that she misses the Warrior's life, but she accepts the position to which she has been elevated by marriage.  The Darcy's idyllic life comes to a swift end when Fitzwilliam is bitten.  Elizabeth can't bring herself to behead Darcy, which as a former Warrior she knows is her duty.  Instead she reaches out to her arch enemy, Darcy's formidable Aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  Once a fierce Zombie hunter herself, Lady Catherine harbors a deep hatred for Elizabeth and a cadre of well-trained Ninjas to do her bidding.  Lady Catherine announces that she knows of a cure, but to procure it Elizabeth will have to once again sacrifice her own pride and the safety of her beloved family. 

 Kitty and Mary Bennet join Elizabeth and their Father on this dangerous mission.  Charged with infiltrating London high society and getting close to Sir Angus MacFarquhar, the Bedlam Doctor who may have the cure, the Bennet's are aided by Lady Catherine's deadly Ninjas, including Nezu, an English speaking Warrior out to avenge the death of his Father.  Unmentionables are not the only thing standing in Elizabeth's way. Lady Catherine's ulterior motive is to destroy Elizabeth, cure Darcy, and marry him off to her sickly, sullen daughter Anne.  What follows is a tale of forbidden love, betrayal, double-crosses, and scheming that is worthy of an episode of Gossip Girl.  An episode of Gossip Girl overrun by Zombies.  Zombies DO make everything better!

I really enjoyed Dreadfully Ever After, even more than I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  A wholly original story set in a familiar universe, Dreadfully is a real page turner that appealed to both the Zombie/gore/monster lover in me as well as the girly girl who reads romances on the sly.  Hockensmith is great at writing bloody battle scenes as well a tender love scenes, which is quite the talent.  Another thing he does which I really like is describing things from the Zombies perspective.  Whether it is Darcy dreaming of ripping out and eating someones liver or a young Zombie delighted to be munching on the brains of a Royal, you, the reader, are right there.  It is a nice break from all the good manners and Ninjas. If you liked the original (Zombie version) you will like this one!  Now, off to write my Undead/Gossip Girl fan fiction.

Wondercon 2011

They have just announced the schedule for WonderCon 2011 in San Francisco.  For Bay Area Horror Fans, Friday is the day to go, with Robert Kirkman and Max Brooks in attendance as well as a panel on Monsterverse comics.  And if you are interested in that sort of thing, the new "Superman" Henry Cavill will be there Saturday hawking The Immortals.  Sadly, I will have to miss Ryan Reynolds promoting The Green Lantern on Friday because he is on at the same time as Robert Kirkman, and I think Robert Kirkman is way hotter.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

RIP Michael Gough

Michael Gough:  23 November 1916 – 17 March 2011
Michael Gough was in so many great movies it is nuts.  I was introduced to him in the Batman films, and when I became a horror nerd I was pleased to see him in so many great Hammer productions!  RIP Mr. Gough: thank you for all the great work!

Friday, March 11, 2011

I spit on your Grave 2010

I am not a big fan of remakes but there have been a few good ones such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, and yes, even Last House on the Left, which I hated until Stephen King and repeated "there is nothing else on" viewings on HBO convinced me otherwise.  Now I can add I Spit On Your Grave to this illustrious list.  Now, I only recently saw the original for the first time (I may have seen it as a child sneaking peaks into the living room during horror movie night but I have tried to block that from memory.)  I found the original brutal yet utterly fascinating.  I am loathe to say that I "enjoyed" it, but I found it thrilling and exhilarating when Jennifer takes her bloody revenge.  I had this same feeling watching the 2010 remake.

The story is essentially the same.  A young woman, Jennifer Mills (played by Sarah Butler, who looks like a mix of Kristin Stewart and Hillary Swank but about 1000 times less annoying that either of them) rents a cabin in the woods to finish her second novel.  Being a woman after my own heart she takes plenty of booze and weed up there with her, because hey, writing is hard.  At a service station she runs into three locals, Johnny, Andy, and Stanley.  Johnny, who looks like a male supermodel, makes a pass at her which she quickly shoots down, embarrassing him in front of his yokel friends.  Later, at the cabin when she has a problem with the plumbing, she meets Matthew, a mentally challenged young man who must be a savant with pipes.  She kisses him in gratitude and he runs out, embarrassed.  Later, he tells his "friends" (the service station guys) about it and they decide to pay her a visit.  Joined by the Sheriff (a character not in the original) the boys humiliate and rape Jennifer.  They plan on killing her but she gets away by jumping off a bridge.

These scenes are brutal and hard to watch, as you would expect.  As a woman, I found them particularly horrifying.  It may be my imagination, and definitely my opinion, but the rape in the remake is not as harrowing as the one in the original.  The rape in the original seems to go on and on and on.  But that does not mean that the 2010 version is not ferocious. It is god-awful and hard to watch.

Jennifer lives, and thanks to earlier explorations, she hides out in an abandoned cabin and survives on rats, fish, and bugs.  This I can accept.  But where does she get her clothes?  The guys, after giving up the search for her body, go back to the cabin and burn all of her clothes and gear.  Yet, when Jennifer shows up to reap revenge she is wearing perfectly fitting jeans and cute tank tops!  Did she find these in abandoned cabin?  Did the previous tenants of the abandoned cabin happen to be size 2 supermodels?  

Back to the story.  Jennifer, instead of going to the police (who can't be trusted anyway) exacts bloody revenge on each man. What was clever is that she tortures the men the way each individual tortured her.  The guy who choked her gets choked, the guy who videotaped the whole thing gets his eyes pecked out by crows.  Yes, these are elaborate revenge scenarios.  Thank goodness Jennifer also ran across a warehouse filled with weapons and lye before her rape. 

I Spit on Your Grave is a simple rape/revenge film.  I am not going to psychoanalyze it or politicize it.  It is not a feminist manifesto nor an examination or country mouse vs. city mouse morals.  It is a "those bastards are going to get what is coming to them" film.  It is torture porn.  In many ways it reminded me of the Hostel films.  You see our heroes go through absolute Hell and then you get to see them get revenge.  It is certainly a lot better than seeing some hybrid create rape her mother and kill her father.  Please see last review.  

One thing really bothered me throughout this entire film.  The yokel Stanley looked so god damn familiar it was driving me crazy.  I woke up a 3am with the answer to where I had seen him before.  He was Damien in Mean Girls.  You are welcome.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Splice (no sequel required)

I dislike Splice with the same intensity that I disliked Grace.  Maybe I have some Mommy issues, I don't know.  Splice was just no fun for me.  Therefore, it has taken me a few weeks to write about it.  Not because the film was so profound that I couldn't get my head wrapped around it, but because it took that long for my stomach to quit turning.  Splice is not gory or horrifying, nor is it particularly entertaining.  It is like a V.C. Andrews novel gone horribly, horribly wrong.  And if you have ever read V.C. Andrews you know that is quite the achievement.  Splice is "icky."  That is my professional opinion. 

On the surface Splice has a lot going for it, not the least of which is Sarah Polley, one of my favorite horror chicks, in the lead.  No, she is not "Splice."  She is "Splice's Mommy." Let's backtrack.  The film Splice pays homage to Frankenstein, both the novel and the many films.  Two Scientists, in this case "Genetic Engineers," create a creature from scratch.  Of course they have the best intentions, but really they have an overwhelming "God Complex."  Basically, they are assholes.  Anyway, our Scientists are named Clive and Elsa (after Colin Clive, my old-timey movie boyfriend, and Elsa Lanchester, the original Doc and Bride). 

Clive and Elsa are brilliant but totally un-interesting nerds.  Even their sex scene is a snooze-fest.  So already, we don't give a shit what happens to either of them.  But they create this "creature" with the hope of solving all of humankind's health problems.  They "Splice" human female DNA (spoiler: it's Elsa's DNA.  That is not really a spoiler: you could see it coming from a mile a way.) with animal DNA.  We are never told what animal but taking into consideration what this thing turns out to be, it must have been bird/lizard/cat/ostrich/lemur monkey/scorpion DNA.  Any why wouldn't you mix all of things together?  Really.  There may have been a bit of Dinosaur DNA in there as well.  Why not?

So this creature, whom Clive and Elsa name Dren (Nerd spelled backwards) is bald and hot and has wings.  Of course Clive wants to fuck her.  This is where the movie gets weird.  I have always been a bit wary of Adrien Brody (Clive) so I can totally believe that he would want to have sex with a human/bird/cat/ostrich/lemur monkey/ scorpion hybrid.  He looks like that kind of guy.  Jesus, he made "Stella" commercials.  But would *Spoiler Alert* Sarah Polley want to keep her "I got raped by my daughter who changed sex all of a sudden and grew a penis" baby?  I think not!!  I should have known this was all going to turn to shit when I saw it was a "Canadian-French Sci-Fi Horror Film" NOT directed by Cronenberg. 

Don't make a fucking sequel.  Really, we can live without.  If you want to see this done better, check out ANY version of Frankenstein, including Warhol's version and the one playing on Cinemax at 11:30 PM.