Saturday, February 28, 2009

Titans of Slash

The 'slasher' genre has many different psycho killers that have left an impression on us. Psycho, for example, practically started the whole shebang. But although quite a few people have heard of Psycho, not that many know anything about it other than it's a horror film. I want to quickly touch on those titans that everyone has heard of and almost everyone has some idea of what they are.

Particularly because of recent and upcoming remakes, we should get to know these unstoppable freaky crazies. They rose to power during the late 70s and early 80s, and they are Michael Myers (of the Halloween series), Jason Voorhees (of Friday the 13th), and Freddy Krueger (of A Nightmare on Elm Street).

Let's start our horra history lesson!

Now, the guy who really got Slasher movies going was Michael Myers (not to be mistaken with Mike Myers; don't worry, it happens). Big scary dude, wears an gray expressionless mask, matching overalls, and can't seem to be killed by anything. He goes around killing people, particularly those around any of his surviving relatives (P.S. He's trying to kill his entire family). The series had 8 movies with a plot becoming more and more complex as it went along (though Halloween III was a bit of a sidewinder and had nothing to do with the rest). The first was extremely popular, and the second was not far behind. 'Three' was okay, but everyone wanted Michael Myers, not some other crap. Fans still liked 4, 5 and 6, but favour (and flavour) was on the decline. By Halloween H20 (number 7) , people were getting tired of it all. They watched it, but they weren't satisfied by it.

Up until this point, my opinion was pretty parallel to the opinion of the 'they' I keep talking about. Everyone else; the fan base. But then came Halloween Resurrection (craaazy eights!). This was another that many fans thought of as 'not satisfying'. I thought of it as pure garbage. The series plot ends at the beginning of the movie, then the rest is a bunch of sad acting from a bunch teens just waiting to be killed. Most of the time I was wondering "where did these clowns come from?" and couldn't care for their fates like I could for the characters in every single other movie in the set. Basically it was a movie saying "oh lookee! we can have Psyko Miko kill more teens," but it had no good reason to exist.

Later, the series was graced with Rob Zombie's remake of the original, which I personally thought did credit to the whole. Well developed characters along with a more human look at Michael Myers and his insanity was a very interesting change.

As much as people know the name and theme music of Michael Myers, they easily recognize the mask of Jason Voorhees (which actually didn't show up until the third movie). Again, this killer seems indestructible and kills people mostly because they stray into his 'territory'; he has less direction than Myers. He (well, the series) is also distinguished by the creepy "ki... ki... ki... ma... ma... ma..." sound that often signals his presence. Inspired by the Halloween series, Friday the 13th was supposed to be faster-paced and more violent. This series, however, managed to pull off 11 movies and one remake. In this case, the first three were the most popular, tailed by a decent fourth (which supposedly ended the series). The next five movies were not as good, though followed by the loyal fans. They were basically a constant repeat of the past with Jason being resurrected over and over, somehow, to kill again. Once more, things supposedly came to an end with Jason dying and this time going to Hell.

No such luck.

Jason X, the tenth installment, was a joke. Jason goes to the future! He gets frozen, picked up by a spaceship, rebuilt and future-a-fied by some nanobots or something, and gets to killing the passengers (I said the acting in Halloween Resurrection was bad; this was worse). I mean, they try to distract him with a hologram of two naked chicks. It was utterly ridiculous and might have done better if it was actually trying to be a comedy, but it wasn't. It was just a messy attempt to bring a new twist to the series.
(Rawr! It's Jason Trek! The Jasonator!... or something...)

Freddy vs. Jason, the eleventh movie in this series, joined Jason's story with that of Freddy Krueger (making it also the eighth movie in the Freddy series). This was another that fans would generally enjoy but still wish it could have been better. It apparently takes place some time before Jason X since he's not all futury and stuff. And last but not least, a few weeks ago the Friday the 13th remake was released... and I'm not saying anything about it! Haha, no I'll be doing a full (albeit late) review on that some time tomorrow night.

And we arrive at Freddy, who sliced up teens in a whole new way: in their dreams. Also known as "that guy with the claws on his hand" by those who are unfamiliar with A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy Krueger is known for wearing a snazzy hat, striped shirt, and being completely covered in horrible burns. He's particularly nasty because he kills people in their dreams, causing them to die in real life. His series of nightmarish drug-trips had eight movies (including Freddy vs Jason) and some spin-offs. As usual, the first was the most popular, but the rest actually well recieved (by fans; 5 and 6 didn't go over too well with the critics). I know it looks like I'm hurrying through this one, but I haven't seen much of it yet. I need to get on that soon! Oh, and we can expect a remake for this series as well (all the cool kids are doing it), sometime around 2010. That's how they've got it scheduled anyhow.

A quick mention for one of the newer guys around the block who made a big impression on the Slasher world. The Scream trilogy, featuring a murderer with a ghost mask killing teens, has been extremely popular. It's known for showing signs of being a 'typical slasher', then turning them on their heads while still being a respectible bunch of horror films. After a long wait, they're planning to make a part 4 which is also scheduled for 2010.

I hope that helps put some of the big boys in context. We need everyone to be aware of them because they're important influences on horror, particularly slasher! Halloween gave the genre the boost into popularity, Friday the 13th kept it up, Nightmare on Elm Street made it more supernatural, and after a slow spell Scream started a new wave. Then we got to the gore-slasher movies (popularized by Saw) and now we're on to a crudload of remakes (which really got going with the Texas Chansaw Massacre remake). I won't go into details about this stuff, not today, because they're off subject! Besides, this is getting longer than I'd hoped.

See you next time with Friday the 13th!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Enjoying Horror 101

Ladies, gents, welcome to the class of Enjoying Horror! Today we’re going to consider how to enjoy a horror movie and why they’re so very disliked. Are you ready? Ok! Let’s get started.

To like them, we first need to understand why they’re hated. Well, first of all, many horror movies aren’t ‘good’ movies. What? It’s true, and I’ll admit that. A lot of ‘em are sub-par. But isn’t that also true of any type of movie? Maybe, but the difference is that people seem to hold it against horror more than they would against any comedy or action flick. The average movie-goer (myself included) will watch the stupidest comedy in their lives, and still laugh their butts off. They’ll watch a generic, same-old same-old, action movie but still get a rush from it. Why isn’t it like this for horror?

It’s partly because it just can’t cover up its faults as easily as other types. Bad acting, bad plot, bad setting can be covered up with tides of action, comedy, morals, or emotion. But if you throw too many scares at watchers, they’ll quickly become resistant to it: part of what makes it scary is unexpectedness. So all the necessary slow parts let any defects seep through. The viewers then get so caught up in the bad that they block out and forget the good.

What’s the moral of this story? Try to stay objective! That means be fair and aware of both the pros and cons, enjoying the good and destroying the bad. This way if you watch a mediocre horror movie, instead of saying “That was crap!” you might say “That was alright.” Better yet, instead of calling an actual factual good one ‘alright’ you might very well find yourself giving it a thumbs-up!

But for the average movie-goer, that’s not even the main issue. The primary problem is empathy. Let’s stray off topic for a sec. Why do guys generally dislike chick-flicks and emotional movies? Because it would be ever so un-manly of them to share in those mushy-mush feelings, of course. Then, give them an action movie and they can allow themselves to relate to that: car chases, explosions, yeah, ROCK ON! The same problem exists, to a lesser degree, with the girly-girls who don’t want to feel the un-ladylike adrenaline rush of action flicks, or the mature propah people who cannot allow themselves to relate with senseless immature comedy.

The point of all that? You need to empathize with a movie to enjoy it. You need to want to feel the emotions that the film stirs up. And what’s the emotion that almost everybody doesn’t like feeling? Fear. So they’ll do whatever they can to avoid it. That means avoiding horror and talking it down. The funniest part is: many people keep watching horror movies and keep saying they hate them. Isn’t that hilarious? I mean, what’s the point? Ah, but the answer is in the fact. People keep watching them so that they can keep calling them stupid! They’ll go watch a horror movie and try hard not to get scared because they don’t want to look like wimps. Not in front of family. Not in front of friends. Not in front of themselves. Again this is particularly true for guys, who need to keep up their “I AM MAN” reputations. In fact, people will even get help to resist the fear. They’ll watch the film with friends and talk as it goes and/or forcefully joke and laugh about it. At home, they might watch it in daylight for extra support.

How do we fix this? Step one, the hardest, is to try to be scared. You have to want it. That means defying your instincts that try to protect you from fear. Step two: don’t talk during the movie. Let yourself drift into the atmosphere. That can also include not thinking too much about the movie as you watch it. This way you’ll spend more time feeling emotion instead of analyzing it.

Now you might ask, “Why the hell would I want to be afraid?” That’s the easiest! The same reason you watch action movies, the same reason you go on roller-coasters, the same reason you drive fast: for the rush. Being afraid is just another kind of stimulation. It gets your heart racing, adrenaline pumping, and that feels good (sorta). It can take your breath away. I might sound like a loony idiot for saying this, but why would you not want to be afraid? It can be damn good fun!

So, everybody, now you can go out and watch horror movies. And if you follow my instructions, you might just enjoy them more than you used to. It’s worth a try! Leave your skepticism at the door and have a good time. If you’d like to discuss or debate any of this further, you’re welcome to come see me 'after class' (in other words, you’re welcome to continue the conversation in the comments ^_^ ).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"The Uninvited" Can Stop By My Place Any Time

While The Uninvited may suffer in some areas, it's a great thriller. And, it even brought me to the edge of my seat.

Yes, I said it!

"But who knows, I could be way off."

How true that turned out to be! The trailer did the movie no justice. I was in for quite a surprise: I actually enjoyed it from the start. But that's not to say it wasn't flawed. Because it's true that it was made up of things that have already been done, but it was an entertaining blend.

I'll tackle the fear-factor right from the start. Like any horror or thriller, this one has a couple jump-out-at-cha scares, but not that many. It depends more on setting up nightmarish moments where the terror slithers into you. It's not sudden, it's not loud; you see it coming at you... and you are helpless to stop it. Ever feel helpless in a terrifying dream you couldn't wake up from? That's how our main character felt. I'd say there are about four or five lengthly enough scenes that do this, which is a fair amount. Especially since straight-out terror isn't the only thing this film uses against you. I'll say this though: I never want to see a trash bag again. Evar!
(Crap, did that thing just move?!)

You know what? I'm glad the commercial sucked. Yeah, I'll be blunt about it this time. Because luckily, for that reason, it didn't give anything away! Not too great for marketing (if I wasn't doing this blog, I'd probably have skipped this one until it was available to rent), sure, but I'm grateful now. All the best parts were waiting to catch me off-guard.

The second thing used to get you tense is a good ole psychological attack. The paranoia of the girls is infectious! You aren't just watching them worry about the evil step-mom-to-be. You're actually involved, wondering what she'll do next, and if something goes wrong, deep down you're thinking "Noooo, she's at it again!" instead of just "Yup, she done it."
(Ugg, that is going to stain...)

I have other good things to say, but let's throw some balance in the mix and talk about where the movie stumbles. The plot had no holes, but sadly it was often predictable. It's full of twists and turns, but you know many of them are going to happen. I found myself calling some things a good ten minutes ahead of time. Not to mention that, as I've said before, many of the themes have been done: "I don't trust that person and nobody believes me" and "we're ghosts, we're trying to warn you by scaring you."
(Nice to meet-- that's not how you shake hands!)

However, I'm now going to deconstruct all of what I just said. :P

Maybe the movie was supposed to be that way. Because even when you see parts of the plot coming, it affects you like the scares do: "Nonono, don't do that, not that!" You're like a fortune-teller who can see upcoming doom and can't change it, which tears at you making you pray it won't come to pass. But it does. As for the "it's all been done" problem... let's just say that though they were obviously inspired by at least three common plots, the way they put them together disarms and distracts you enough to make you think you know where they're going with it when you don't. Certain aspects of the film made me think the makers were smart enough to do something like that. I really liked their contrasting use of "Welcome Home". After seeing what some other people thought, I can see that they agree. Everything that looks plain or like a plot-hole has an excuse. You'll see. ;)

The acting was perfectly fine. Nothing Oscar-worthy, but not at all lacking either. The characters felt very genuine, including their attatchments to one-another. I'm particularly thinking of the relationship between the two sisters. They disagree at times, but when it matters they stick together and stand up for each other. As for the others, well, the father looked like a guy who didn't know how to handle his teen daughters, and the woman he's in love with looked like a manipulator who fakes her kindness just enough to trick him but not the children.

There isn't much to say about the critics. The main thing they whined about was the predictability. They also focused on the few "typical" scares the movie did have. Basically they were being closed-minded. But a fair amount cheered the movie on for its bountiful good qualities and I cheer them back.

Funny story: something happened after watching the movie. I got in my car, turned on my MP3 player, and headed home. As I pulled into the driveway, the clock struck midnight. I looked down at my MP3 to turn it off, and what song was just starting to play? "Welcome Home" by Coheed and Cambria. What the eff! Not only is there the coincidence of the title and the fact that I'd just gotten home, but emotion of the song resonates a bit with some emotion of the movie.

So, that made my night complete. :0

Overall: A good movie that may just be a great movie in disguise. It depends on how deep you can look into it after its over. One thing's for sure: it knew how to create an effective atmosphere.