Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Cronos (1993)

Cronos, the Guillermo del Toro movie, is beautiful and different from anything else I've ever seen. That DVD cover poster right above these words is no indicative of the film itself either, mostly because that right there never actually happens in the movie.


I like del Toro's movies as a rule. I can't think of a single movie of his that I haven't liked. This one was no different. To me it's much better than Pan's Labyrinth, although not quite as good as The Devil's Backbone, which is his best work that I've seen, and I've seen all of his stuff besides Mimic. Cronos is a beautiful take on the vampire genre, making it into something different, alchemical rather than natural or based in evil. The whole movie is a retelling or re-imagining of vampires and how they might work in real life.


The story is actually quite good, starring Federico Luppi as Jesús Gris, an antique dealer who finds a hollow angel statue in his shop that had something strange hidden inside of it. This strange thing, called Cronos, is a device with an insect implanted within it that basically gives the user eternal life and a younger quality to their features.It also gives them an unnatural bloodlust. Vampire film! YES!


A very young Ron Perlman plays the nephew of a dying business man, Claudio Brook, and although his performance is campy and ridiculous, he plays the part so well that it's hard not to like him. He and Claudio Brook play the de la Guardias, who are looking for Cronos so that the elder de la Guardia will not die from his debilitating diseases.


This all comes down to an ultimate and beautifully done conclusion, that is both gruesome and amazing to watch. Absolutely sublime really when it comes down to it.


Cronos was a fantastic film. I really enjoyed it. I can't really think of a better vampire film off the top of my head.  I will say that the English speakers (all two of them) were not as great at acting as the Spanish speakers, but I enjoyed watching both of them regardless of their non-Shakespearean acting skills. 


I thought the music choice in some of it was pretty odd, and some of the stuff going on seemed a little convenient at times, but the story on the whole was really very good. I liked it for being an origin story of vampires, and I thought some of the grittier (or bloodier) scenes were absolutely fantastic. They were lovely to watch as well as being horrifying.

The Devil's Backbone is better in my own mind. Cronos didn't quite reach that level for me, but it was better than Pan's Labyrinth to me, not much better, but better. I think it was because the structure of the story was more coherent and less kind of meaningless. One of the reasons Pan's Labyrinth isn't one of my favorite films is because of the fantasy parts which I feel are pretty much useless and don't fit. I feel like this film fit together much better even if the acting was worse in every scene.



This movie is also very 1990s. It basically reminded me of other great 1990s horror films like... um... Jacob's Ladder for example. The cinematography was remarkably similar in some areas. The horror tropes found within the movie itself are beautifully done, a mix of old vampires myths and stories, and its own new kind of scientific vampire approach. A lot of the horror comes off as a bit campy though, and a little over the top at other times, but I don't think that the bloody or gory scenes were meant to scare. I think the scenes of Gris drinking blood are probably the most gutwrenching and terrifying, because you are seeing what he is becoming and you get the idea that a man can become a vampire without selling his soul, but to survive as a vampire, to have the eternal life of a vampire, the soul must be sold. Drinking human blood tends to make one a monster, and it's absolutely fascinating to watch as Gris makes his ultimate decision.


Anyway, this movie is ridiculously good and needs to be both watched and enjoyed by the masses. I can see why it may not be as well known as other del Toro movie, but this one is really well done and needs to be seen. It's very well done.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Movie Appraisal: The Mist (2007)

Well, here's another Stephen King horror movie, this time brought to us by Frank Darabont, who had previously directed such great Stephen King prison films like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. This is not a prison film. This is not set in the past. This is a film that is completely against Frank Darabont's strengths... and it shows.

Now, that doesn't mean that I hate this film. I actually like it a decent amount. It's an interesting film with quite a few decent set-pieces to it. I also love the source material of "The Mist", the novella that Stephen King wrote, and this movie is a fairly good adaptation of that novella, although it does make the entire story feel more like a social experiment... and... well, the ending isn't painful to watch in the novella.

Altogether, this is Lovecraftian horror at its finest. With nameless abominations and an all-consuming mist, permeating the world that is in the movie, it is a story about despair and unreasonable things. The social interactions show a lot about human nature, from religion to bravery to cowardice. Survival in the main instinct shown and everybody in the film is vying for it for themselves. There are sacrifices and unbelievers, but the main goal is always survival, maybe not for a single person, maybe for the human race... or maybe just for one. It may depend on the selfishness of the character.

The Mist is not the best film in the world. In fact, it's fairly rough in general. The acting is never really there. It never gets to a level that one can brag about. It's always close to the mark, but never really hits it. The CGI, at times, can be brilliant, and at other times, especially in the store room of the grocery store early in the film, it can be painful to watch. It has such a rough cut to it, and looks so obviously fake, and well... it's hard to justify that. The practical effects look much better on the whole, but the pterodactyl monsters and the  big daddy at the end of the film are done really well with CGI, and happen to be some of my favorite parts of the film.

It is an atmospheric film for the most part, but undermines itself constantly with needless dialogue, insipid and sometimes stereotypical characters, and with a plot that is barely existent. In some ways this is the first movie in the vein of a survival horror video game that wasn't based on a survival horror video game. Instead the original story gave rise to many of them, being the partial inspiration to video games like Silent Hill and Half-Life, both fantastic games that capture the feeling of the story itself with having some of the worst parts of this movie.

Is this movie good? Not really... but I can't call it horrible either. While it's never scary and the ending is horrible and should be avoided at all costs, the movie itself is fairly solid, having decent acting performances by many relatively unknown actors, and a decent plot to fall back upon. The creatures, the mist itself, and the social ramifications of the two really make this movie, but they made the story itself better. Imagination is often much more horrifying than CGI, and the point is proven in this movie.

I wouldn't recommend it, but I wouldn't say avoid it at all costs either. It's a decent way to waste time if you have time to waste, but I wouldn't go out of my way to ever watch it again. Fun, but forgettable.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Dagon (2001)

H. P. Lovecraft stories have had quite a few problems over the years. They are known for having racial overtones, strange gods, emotionless writing, and are carefully crafted cosmic horror stories. There are good things and bad things to every single one of H. P. Lovecraft's stories or novellas and the pros and cons come out the best in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth". You may be asking why I'm talking about that story and not "Dagon". I am because this film is actually based upon "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" instead of "Dagon".

"The Shadow Over Innsmouth" is one of H. P. Lovecraft's best known and most terrifying novels, mixing the unknown with genuine fear and adrenaline pumping horror. It involves the fleeing sort of horror, running from destiny, from death, and from an awful town full of strange folk. The racially charged overtones can be seen everywhere in it, as well as the ideas of strange religions and folk unlike ourselves.

I personally like Lovecraft and the types of stories he wrote. They come off as genuine even if the writing is not perfect or crazy emotional like most horror is today. He wrote the strange as if they were normal. Insanity was simply a side-effect of seeing something incomprehensible and suicide an easy out for the insane. The gods were deadly, evil things, and there was a rhythm to the stories and the plots. The characters were cookie-cut out of the same mold, but the situations were wholly new and beautifully done.

That being said, Dagon is... in a word... a mess. I'm not certain it knows what it wants to be or even should be. It'snot a horror movie, not really, although it has enough gore to suffice on that mark. But the out of place comedy does not work for horror or... well... really anything. I have found again and again that Lovecraftian stories, except by John Carpenter, tend to be overdone or cheesy, hardly worth the time or effort. This movie is no different. It feels hammy in all the wrong ways, but seems to want to be taken seriously, which I simply cannot do. The gore tells me that this movie does take itself seriously. The make-up effects are good for this kind of movie, and without the dialogue, characters, or sounds, this movie could have been wonderful, but ham and cheese acting, characters without any obvious motivations, and a plot that seems to convoluted to be fun to watch, this movie is an all around mess.

I can't say that I hate this movie. I just can't say that. I'm fond enough of Lovecraft and the story that I don't hate it, but I won't ever watch it again. I can't recommend it because it really is just that bad. Some scenes are better than others, but none are really all that good. None of the actors, except possibly the Spanish actors, are really good enough to pull this one off, and it comes as a disappointment. It could have been better, but ended up very hard to watch, with set-pieces instead of actual plot, and no characters to relate to.

Avoid this one. the stories are better and much more worth your time. Hell, even the video game Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is better and should be played over watching this.

This brings me to my last point: Why are Lovecraft films so unfilmable? I don't get it. They should be easy to make, but no... they are all universally terrible. It saddens me. I guess I'll stick with John Carpenter for my Lovecraftian fix. Into the Mouth of Madness and The Thing are genuinely amazing movies. Watch those instead of this ambitious failure.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Pandorum (2009)

I don't know what it is about critics, but I rarely agree with them about horror films, except possibly the more beautiful and artistic "horror" films like Jacob's Ladder, I suppose. After watching this film, I decided to see exactly what the critics thought of it, and I was unsurprised to find that they mostly hated it. This kind of film simply is not something a film critic could ever like. I say this knowing that a lot of films I like critics seem to hate. I almost get the feeling that these critics don't like psychological horror, science fiction, action-intensive, character-driven, beautiful films... and those are the very things that drive me to fall in love with any given film.

I think very obvious comparisons can be drawn to Event Horizon. Both films enjoy very similar ideas of a spacecraft dying on a mission. Paul W. S. Anderson was also attached to both films. He directed Event Horizon and he was a producer of Pandorum. The psychological horror aspects of both films are also very obvious and, to me, very well done. As a lover of the psychological horror genre, it was no hard for me to predict everything of this movie from nearly the first moment I knew what the plot was, but it was riveting, playing with twists and turns like a crazy road leading to a creepy castle. I think I prefer Event Horizon though. I think Sam Neill really made that movie into something amazing. Dennis Quaid does a good job in his role, but I feel that he never really does enough to have this be an outstanding performance. Most of the psychological horror involves his character and he never really leaves the room he starts out in. What I'm saying is that if you want a film involving space madness and you want a good actor to be the crazy dude, I'd choose Sam Neill over Dennis Quaid every time.

The plot is basic at best, but a basic plot is still interesting. I find this film to pretty much be something like Event Horizon mixed with Mad Max (1979) and maybe having a little bit of some kind of creepy alien or monster movie in there for good measure. It's a good film with a simple premise. The actors are decent although there were times I had trouble figuring out what they were trying to say or do. I felt some of the characters motivations were spotty at best sometimes, and some of the solutions to plot points seems a little forced at times.

Any movie that deals with amnesia is always a tough one to sell. I thought this one did a good job though... kind of in the same way I thought Unknown (2006) did a decent job with the same kind of plot point. I did have to question a few things at the end, but a character actually questioned a plot hole for me, and really received no good answer. So,what I'm going to believe is that the filmmakers saw the plot hole, put the line in, and then just figured it was all cool. All right. I have no real complaints. It had bothered me before it was questioned, but having the question out there, even if the plot hole remains, makes me feel better.

I guess I have a thing for movies about dead ships, be they actual boats or spaceships. I never knew I actually had a thing for movies like that, but it really seems as though I do. I really did enjoy this film. It captivated me from start to finish. If you've ever seen Event Horizon and you liked it, you'll like this film because it's more of the same kind of thing. If you hated Event Horizon or Ghost Ship or hate the whole premise of these kinds of movies, then you're going to hate this film, guaranteed. I really liked this film. It was fun to watch and I'm glad I did get to see it.

I do have one other complaint and that's the monster/alien/mutant... things. I liked them, but I liked seeing less of them. I like the less is more style of filmmaking, and I feel that showing us these things all over the place in the second half of the film wasn't as interesting as not really seeing them and not knowing what they are like in the first half. I think that's just a personal preference though. They did look pretty damn creepy and I thought they worked well as primary antagonists, although I think that I would have rather had more explained about them or less... it felt like the filmmakers took a very middle ground and it kind of ended up with me being kind of confused and wondering exactly what was going on.

Anyway, I did like this film. I thought it was fun. It may not be the best film ever, but some of the scenes are incredibly memorable. One in particular occurs during the end with the main character, Corporal Bower (played by Ben Foster), doing some shenanigans very near a bunch of the creatures. I liked that scene a lot, thought it was very tense, very fun to watch... and I guess that's really all I can say about this film. It's a nice science fiction, psychological horror film that's fun to watch. It's never going to be the best film ever, but it works as a fun little horror flick to make one happy in these interesting days.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Dreamland (2007)

Okay... okay...

Okay.

Hmmm.

Well, this is certainly a movie that was made and it has characters in it. I'm relatively certain about those things. Everything else though... Well, those things are up in the air. The title of this movie is appropriate. Most of the movie is very dreamlike and incredibly weird. Dreamland is directed by James P. Lay, written by James P. Lay, Kenny Saylors, and Kyle Saylors, and stars Jackie Kreisler, Shane Elliot, and Jonathan Breck.

I had actually first seen this movie not long after it came out three or four years ago when I was binging on every type of horror movie I could find. I watched this, cocked my head to one side, narrowed my eyes, and proceeded to not understand. The movie certainly stayed with me, probably because of its more nonsensical nature compared to many other movies that I watched at the same time. Sure, some of the movies were strange, Reeker stands out, as does a Japanese film that I can't remember the name of that revolves around the apocalypse or a quarantine or something... but this film was one of the last ones that I watched during that binge and I did not understand much of it. Honestly I even forgot its name entirely in the ensuing years, having it only come back to me when I actively sought to find this movie and stumbled upon a description that read, "This movie has Hitler propaganda playing on the radio and also Hitler... and it's a modern day horror film involving Area 51." I'm paraphrasing, but not by much. I instantly said to myself, "Yes, that is the film I have been hunting for these last two years!" Then I proceeded to find it and watch it again, for this blog, and for the people, you people, you crazy, creepy, weird, and somehow incredibly awesome people, who somehow, through no fault of my own, found this blog and have either read simply this one article or many others. I went and did this for you, and I feel that everybody should be grateful for this.

I've heard and seen a lot of people get to this blog by searching what particular movies mean, or their interpretations, and maybe I haven't done as much interpreting as I should have been. I may even go back and interpret and reassess some of the denser or harder to understand movies that I have watched. The Objective stands out as a weird one that nobody really seems to understand. Well, call this an experiment. In addition to reviewing this movie, I will also attempt, to the best of my ability, to interpret meanings out of it. I do this for my literate audience, as well as for myself, because this review will not be possible for me to do without heavy interpretation on my side. There is this caveat that I will put out here though: This is all purely subjective on my part. I have no idea what the filmmaker and the writers intended for this movie. I am only going by what I've taken in through this film medium. If you disagree, I will heartily listen to what you think even if it does not change my opinion. If you have seen the movie and agree, let me know. So, this is an experiment, but, I believe, one that is with merit. I will try my damnedest to parse this movie, even if that means that I have to rip it apart and put it back together again.

So, here goes nothing.

So, the first scene starts out dreamlike. The clown doll's eyes move. Music sounds almost like an organ, church music? It's Nevada, 1973. Snowglobe in the man's hand, light from a UFO or simply a flashlight? Yells “get down!”? it seems, but the snowglobe doesn't break when it falls from his hand. Music is pretty decent to start off with. Intro sequence is reminiscent of a very science fiction type of media. Hyperspace from Star Wars or the whole thing that Doctor Who does.

Then a girl wakes up after dreaming about the title sequence. She seems a little freaked out. I would be too if I were traveling around hyperspace with names floating through the ether (or lack thereof). Her boyfriend is foaming at the mouth (Literally). He's having a seizure. It's now Present Day. 

“You didn't touch me, right?” “Of course not.” I guess you're not supposed to touch people having seizures? The lamp is on the floor from the seizure. Girl is younger and certainly not terrible looking. She's in sleep clothes. Takes some pills. More than one kind. And then she smokes. She's not supposed to smoke. Hiding it from her boyfriend. They have to drive to her family's house (Foster Family). The sound effects of the rain are pretty decent and where I'm watching this right now, the power seems to be twitchy, so it's making the movie even more effective. Sweet little scene as they cuddle.

They're driving across the desert. Girl wakes up suddenly again with a gasp. Dylan=the boyfriend. Nevada. Megan=the girl. Plot device and bad acting of talking about the car not being in great condition. Government auction to buy "forty year old piece of shit car." She bought it. He's a dick. Girl in white behind a tree in the desert. Not her parents they're visiting but her foster parents. He wants to gamble because he's a dick. “We're FUCKing broke!” Why are they together when they seem to hate one another? Ah, he's a funny jerk who also seems to be a narcissist by calling himself extremely attractive. Well, at least she laughs and lightens up a bit.

They're still driving. She makes an ugly face for some reason and falls asleep. She dreams of some very obvious sci-fi imagery and a girl in white. And a face. Gasps awake again. “Are you okay?” Look, dude she's not... Oh, she's hungry. Suddenly it goes from the middle of the day to nighttime. Nevada isn't that big, no way that it should... well, maybe, I guess. I don't freaking live in Nevada, but I've driven out west before. Eight hours or so across the whole of Nebraska, longways. I don't think Nevada is wider at any point than Nebraska is at its widest. It's weird is what I'm saying.

The cinematography is good here though, at least. I like how the cool old black car blends into the darkness with only its lights showing. Why does old black car have electric windows? Or is there something about old, black cars that I don't understand? Did cars 40 years ago have power windows? I should ask that of somebody who knows cars. 

Okay... I just looked it up with my limited knowledge of automobiles... it looks like they did exist. I'm... kind of impressed actually. The first ones started to become decently prominent in the 1940s or so.

Dog with alien headband. Little AleInn. Bar full of dudes staring at Megan. All of them look fairly rural in nature. Younger and working class. Hat that says BEER in red letters. I can appreciate that. Nice older music, a 1950s styled bar, I assume. Uh...with aliens. OR ALEINNS. Bartender or... uh... the dude who runs the food... cafe... drinkin' and eatin' place! He seems nice enough. Yelling into the back, kind of awesome. Time warp theory? I'm interested since I hate time travel and abhor any mention of it in fiction because I think it is improperly handled constantly, but sure, nice bartender man, I would love to hear your very obviously intelligent theory on time warps. (Let's do the Time Warp!) You must know everything, being a tobacco eating bartender... oh no... wait, I'M JUDGING BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS! Groom Lake=Area 51. Roswell, NM 1947- UFO crash. 

The Grays Dylan makes a hideous joke. Dylan's a jerk. “The day it crashed, the papers reported it as a flying saucer.” “I love beer.” (Thank you, BEER hat man. I love you. You deserve all the Oscars.) Crashed Weather balloon. NO WEATHER BALLON, y'hear? Anti-matter proportion bullshit. Time Warp theory. (Let's do the Time Warp again!) 

Fantastic. Papoose Lake- get people to travel back and forth in time. Blake=bartender. Glen=BEER. Dylan=Jerk. Glen calls Megan "Topheavy" (I can see it.) and makes a fairly sexual innuendo. Dylan is not happy about this development. Megan throws some amber liquid in Glen's face. I... uh... think it's... BEER? But I have no idea why he's wincing in pain. Blake stops them before they get into a fight. Locals don't like visitors and Glen is going to do something to their car. Thunderstorm over the mountains. He's about to slash their tire when he gets abducted by a bright white light of thunder. (Let's do the Time Warp!)

DIS? Blake finds Glen's knife and a rapidly running away bunch of clouds and... seems unsurprised? Truck pulls up. Department of Internal Security. Blake gets weird around Megan for some reason. NO clue why. He was just talking to her fine then suddenly he's Bashy McBashful. Blake talks about the DIS as people step out of the truck onto cigarette. Ominous much?

They walk out of restaurant. Government agents? A flash that Megan points out. Blake talks to the Government agents, but it makes little to no sense. “Pretty dead.” “Funny.” “Have you seen 'em?” These seem relevant, but I can't see how right now. Music is odd in the entire scene. It doesn't quite fit. It's a little too silly. This scene never makes any sense and I have no idea why it's in the film at all.

Driving scene. I like how they start filming it. The dark road at night is reminiscent of Lost Highway. I like that. They don't have much chemistry, these two. Their very flat towards one another, like they barely know each other. Dylan's still a jerk. Megan has rage issues. REAL BAD RAGE ISSUES. Dylan's just a jerk. I guess I can't blame her. He doesn't care. You're a jerk, Dylan. Oh no, they're screaming at each other and he just pointed out her rage issues. Well, she is constantly yelling at her jerk of a boyfriend. Starts playing music, but the radio sucks and it hits weird static and then Hitler's speech to the 1936 Olympic games. Why do both characters act so dumb?

OH NO. Car dies. Does this girl get angry about everything? She's a... I'm not even going to say. THIS BLOG IS PG RATED. Dylan is an idiot and a jerk. Wonderful... I think Megan is supposed to be the smarter of the two, but... uh... she kind of sounds like a ditz. It's hard to take her seriously, and the acting is not... well, it's not pleasant to watch. The yelling is pretty well done though. Dylan gets pissed and Megan gets all naggy... and then... a sound comes from behind the car. I like some of the shots here. It's kind of suspenseful. And then somebody bangs on the car and they run and scream. Not terrible. They run and Dylan faints and has a seizure. Car turns on as Megan tries to help Dylan. Tries to run them down. Car door opens as Hitler plays in the background. Backs up as Megan runs away leaving Dylan behind.

A voice calls out her name as “Crazy” by Patsy Cline plays in the background. The shots are really strange, changing perspectives as something says and calls out her name. Little girl calls out her name and then she sees the girl in the white dress. (Little girls are not scary.) Dylan wakes up to find car over him. Door opens as undead Hitler (YES YES YES YES YES THIS IS WHAT I NEED MORE OF IN MY LIFE) says his speech and drives the car after the fleeing Dylan, who flees right into the desert.

Megan at abandoned construction site? Why is she yelling for Dylan? She left him behind to die, remember? I remember. She doesn't seem to remember. Stop being stupid, Megan! Oh no, it's the husk of a building and blood from Glen AND his rockin' BEER hat. RIP BEER hat. Stuff starts shaking after she sees Glen's body above her, dripping blood. Crazy bespectacled older dude is watching her kind of obviously. What's he doing watching her? She runs.

Guy is near a truck talking in a weird whispering kind of voice, calling for a medic for help. His leg is gone. He looks kind of like he's made of lights and tubes and from a television. It's hard to explain. It's similar to the transmission people from the 1408 movie. He sees Megan and asks for her help, but she freaks out and gets out of there. Another shadow, unseen, comes up to army man. Rachel is the little white dress girl. She confronts Megan and asks her name. Megan doesn't believe it's real, then meets up with Hitler calling out her name. “Megan, you are not who you are.” I think that's the line. Dylan's a jerk even when looking for his girlfriend. Dude, you're not getting any sympathy from me.

AREA 51. That is all.

Rachel appears again scaring Megan and the clouds come for Dylan. Bad, bad special effects. Like The Objective bad. Flashlight still flashes, but Dylan just got vaporized. He's now anti-Dylan or A-Dylan. You can tell because he looks more serious and less like he's going to call her a raging witch constantly. His voice has weird inflections. Like an alien. He's phonebooking it. AND then he glows... oh, boy... this is a hard movie to get through... It's not exactly pleasant to watch... plus, at this point the whole thing is kind of straightforward so far. Yes, there are some weird and kooky things, but there's nothing happening that we have an obvious explanation for yet except for the "Time Shenanigans!" response.

Oh, now he's not glowing anymore. He must have pushed the off switch. This isn't Dylan; he's not being the biggest jerk! Can't you see that, woman? She starts freaking out like a crazy person where he is perfectly calm. I have no idea which character I'm supposed to be on the side of. Am I supposed to be thinking that she is the protagonist? Or Anti-Dylan? She gets in the car. Then he drives the car away and does some crazy time shenanigans. Wait, I thought he knew nothing about cars... Why would she believe that he could fix anything? Especially in a car that was turned on by something inexplicable. 

No... Megan's just stupid.

The radio makes some weird noises and Megan looks like she's about to freak out again. Her previously jerkish boyfriend tries to calm her down. Elvis is on the radio? Moving through time? She doesn't know that Elvis is dead. But Elvis isn't on the radio. It's that same song from before. They pull up to the diner again, but it's locked and closed. Megan's twitchy like a drug addict. Blake answers.

Megan has meds because of strange dreams. A-Dylan is supposed to be evil the way he stares at Blake. Ah, Rachel, Nevada is represented by the little girl in the white dress named Rachel. Or she's named after it... or it after her? I have no idea. I think the former. 

Dream sequence. And now she realizes that Dylan is an idiot who doesn't know how to work on cars. She takes a cigarette. Hat on top of an alien plushie is called “Blake” and Megan starts freaking out again. She then sees a donation bucket for the Rachel's eighth birthday and an article with the little girl named Rachel that she saw. Rachel is Blake's sister and she's “been gone a long time.” She then sees his apron which says “Dreamland” on it after quickly speaking about her issues or lack thereof, and she asks Blake about Dreamland and the lights go out. A-Dylan's gone. Blake goes to check on the circuit breaker. Megan runs off. She hides in the truck of the government men, while Blake fixes the circuit breaker. Somebody pulls on the truck door that Megan's hiding in and then scares her with a fake alien mask. It's a kid messing with tourists.

Seriously? Movie, you just pulled that? I can't even take you seriously after that BS.

Blake drinks and the radio changes. Same song as twice before. A-Dylan is behind Blake suddenly asking where Megan is. A-Dylan is no longer behind Blake as he turns around. Kind of creepy. She's hiding and A-Dylan finds her. She's... uh... not good at hiding... at all. They drive away again. A-Dylan is jerk-lite. I kind of like him more than regular Dylan. He even has a sweet moment with her as he says "You know I love you, right?", but she doesn't answer him. 

Oh no, he's lying to her because he said with hyperbole that they could make it to Maine on one tank of gas! He's obviously an imposter and up to no good... even though he's arguably a better person who is no longer an absolute jerk to her. She hasn't even raised her voice once to him. But no, the car is on full and he's a transparent liar and EVIL EVIL EVIL. Obviously.

And she catches him with his not hating cigarettes like Dylan does. Yes, now that he allows you to do what you want, he must obviously be the worst person in existence. No key in the ignition either. This guy is magic, so much better than the real Dylan, and you're complaining? What the hell is he going to do? He hasn't done anything wrong! He hasn't even tried to hurt you! If anything, he's been a perfect gentleman who seriously loves you. What is wrong with you, Megan?

Well, she attacks him (EVIL EVIL), he turns glowy and stops her and she screams. A glowy-eyed man steps out into the road. A-Dylan stops the car and Megan runs into the desert yet again. Glowy-eyed man looks into car, but sees no A-Dylan.

Hitler talks to Megan again, telling her that he knows who she is. She meets the army man again. Her flashlight goes out. And she sees Rachel again who tells her to follow her. She finds a house and some articles. Dreamland, government experimenting with time travel. Parallel universes. Eye color changes. Missing persons, government agents. Disappeared people. The astrophysicist's house. He took a picture of her and Dylan. She's hiding from him as he comes into his own house. She runs out and her phone rings with no service. It's Rachel calling to tell her A-Dylan's behind her. 

“There's nothing out there for you except a dream you can't wake up from.” "There's no such thing as time.” “There's no such thing as this place.” “There's no such thing as you.” “Megan's a figment of her own imagination.” These are all delivered by A-Dylan and they are the best of the movie. It's probably the best scene in the entire movie. Creepy and mostly well done.

Blake and A-Dylan stare off at one another as Blake inexplicably shows up where Megan and A-Dylan are... somehow... A-Dylan disappears like he first appeared and Blake asks Megan to come with him. She follows. They end up at a badly CGIed place... kind of like a plane with some kind of symbol on it. She says that she's scared and Blake leaves telling her that she'll be okay. Then she's called Rachel by the astrophysicist, who was at the beginning of the movie. He walks to her. “I loved you.” Okay? I guess he doesn't love her anymore? 

Montage of her being hinted at being a different person. RACHEL. SHE's RACHEL. That was so obvious that it sickens me.

Then the flashback from the beginning of the movie plays with the lights through the window being government men. Then Dr. Niedlander disappears. And Dylan is a government man who finds the baby Megan/Rachel. “I know who you are.”

I... I don't even... I don't even know where to begin. Without the ending this could be a simple parallel universes/time travel movie, but the ending literally confuses me to no end. I assume she (Rachel/Megan) goes back in time and instead of disappearing she stays with her family? Or is it that the baby Rachel dreamed everything up, including her being with Dylan? Is that why there is no sexual content, because babies don't know what sex is? Maybe that's why she sleeps so much too? Or is she remembering everything about her childhood and baby-life (You can't remember that far back. It's scientifically impossible to have those memories.) and remembering them as she meets her father? I mean, I assume at this point that people taken in the light either cease to exist, are replaced by a parallel universe counterpart, or exist later on as just figments of character's imaginations or some such thing. Why Dylan appears to the baby Rachel at the end of the movie is incredibly confusing for me. I have no idea why that happens. Was he brought back in time by the light and clouds time warp (Let's do the Time Warp Again!) and replaces one of the agents? Does that change history because he knows that Rachel and Megan are the same person? Does he know that?

Okay, here are the facts: time travel and time warps are involved. Megan and Rachel are the same person. Blake is her brother and Dr. Niedlander is her father. Dylan may or may not be Megan's boyfriend. Since the movie ends with Dr. Niedlander's disappearance and Rachel doesn't disappear until she's eight, does that mean that history will repeat itself? Blake told A-Dylan "Not this time." or something like that in regards to repeating stuff. Does that mean that somehow Blake or Megan/Rachel prevented everything? Does Megan still exist or is she officially the baby now?

Part of the problem with this film is that we as the audience are not given enough information to even start bringing out credible theories, never mind hair-brained ones. This movie is never good enough, put together well enough, shot well enough, or written well enough to make sense on anything but the most cursory of levels. Thinking about the film and trying to put it together is incredibly difficult if not impossible because important puzzle pieces are missing to this already very short film.

My interpretation isn't exactly bold or even right at all. I think the film either showed an alternate timeline/universe with Megan in it being fostered and having Dylan as a boyfriend... for some reason... but it explains so little. Why does he have seizures? Why does she have flashbacks to Dylan's face from when she's a baby if he didn't exist back then at all? And if he did exist back then, then what the hell is he going out with her for? He doesn't seem to remember stuff and he freaks out and acts normal like she does. I'm nitpicking now instead of interpreting.

The only explanation that makes sense is that the entire movie is from the baby Rachel's point of view... somehow from that five minute ending clip. She takes all that information and extrapolates a story onto it. It's a dumb theory, but it's literally the one that fits Occam's Razor the best. It is the simplest explanation that takes the least amount of thought or words to describe. Yes, I could go on a rant about time travel and parallel universes, but... we know of so little about that stuff that we can't extrapolate a plot from that... and maybe that's the real explanation here.

Maybe this movie is supposed to be convoluted and impossible to understand to mirror that time travel itself is infinitely complex and impossible for us to comprehend. Maybe this movie is just playing off of what we expect. Maybe it literally is the most complex explanation imaginable and we're meant to not have the information to explain it. That would be both ballsy and awesome on the filmmakers' parts. I would respect that. I doubt it's the case because the writing in here isn't that good by any means, but if that explanation is the real one, my liking of this movie grew exponentially.

Oh, or the story could be all about a troubled young woman who starts seeing things and getting paranoid and then running off into the desert and dying. I guess that's an explanation too... especially with all of the references to her dreams, her medications, and her very obvious issues. I guess it's an alternate explanation... if you don't like my others.

So, a tiny wrap-up here: this is not a movie I would recommend to anybody. It mostly isn't very good. It isn't scary. It doesn't use any science. It feels like scenes, especially running in the desert scenes are recycled and revisited time and time again, and frankly for a movie that is only a little more than an hour long, it feels incredibly long. Nothing really happens. The character's are underdeveloped and with little to actually like about them except BEER hat man (and only for his BEER hat) and Blake, who seems like a decent sort of fellow. The main two characters never feel real. They never felt like they should have even been together. The pacing is all off. The plot is literally incomprehensible. And besides a few jump scares and suspenseful moments (and undead Hitler), the movie doesn't even offer any really great atmospheric moments.

Altogether, I have no idea why this film was made. I have no idea what its purpose is or was supposed to be, and in the end it all falls very flat. I guess if my play-by-play descriptions of the movie aren't enough for you then you should check it out, but they should be. Be warned about this movie. It's not bad, but I guarantee you'll have a bad taste in your mouth by its ending.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Video Game Assessment: Eversion (2010)

Eversion is a freeware video game (a video game that can be downloaded and played for free) with puzzle and platformer elements to it. It also happens to be a damn good cup of video game.

For the most part I've played a ton of platforming games in my time. Super Metroid, which I reviewed not long ago, is a platform styled game, in which the main character jumps from one floating impossible platform to another. It makes no real logical sense, but it does make for some excellent gameplay. Most of the platforming games I used to play (and still play sometimes) were for the SNES video game console. I used to love me my Donkey Kong games, or some freaking hardcore Mario action. They were fun games with a fair amount of challenge to them. One thing about the video game industry today, and one thing I'll complain about, is that most video games aren't hard. Oh, some are, and a few, like Dragon Age: Origins, and Silent Hill: Homecoming have sequences that are so difficult that they make me want to pull out my hair in frustration. I like difficulty in video games, but not difficulty that feels nearly impossible for the way I play a video game. Any video game should be able to be mastered with enough time and practice. If one can't master a game using those two solutions, then the game is needlessly difficult and should be shot out to space. Thus, I complain about the difficulty.

But as you can also see, I play a lot of video games when I have a chance, and with most video games I don't even have to mention the difficulty because I never notice it. It is a rare video game that I will die in. Sure, I die sometimes in particularly difficult sequences or if I'm being an idiot and run into a room with a billion guards or whatever, but for the most part,I can usually prevent dying by paying attention and being good at video games.

My point is, Eversion is difficult. Not mind-spinningly difficult, not so difficult that I wanted to throw my computer against a wall or anything, just tough. This is a game that you will die in and die often. Certain levels are sure-fire death pits if I had to call them anything at all.

The gameplay is fun, just like any platformer is. Really, the only thing I had a problem with was that the buttons that were originally mapped for certain movements and jumps did not work out for my fingers, so I changed them around to actually work for me. I haven't really played a ton of platformers in my recent history, so I did find the game particularly tough when I first started playing, although the difficulty did go down in subsequent playthroughs. One level in particular did remain difficult, and if you've played the game, you already know which level that is.

There are also some unique elements to this game. One is the item collection, which is very puzzle based, especially in later levels, and the other is the "Evert Button".

I'm not going to explain what the "Evert Button" does, but it is suitably awesome. It is a great mechanic. Sure, I've seen it in other video games before, but I don't think I've seen in quite done in the same way before. It really comes off as very well done.

This game is awesome. It's fun despite the difficulty. The story, although scant, is interesting, especially once the "ending" is reached. I found myself thoroughly enjoying the game. I actually had a tough time putting it down. It was really very enjoyable and I'd recommend it to casual and hardcore gamers alike. Right now I could beat the entire game in under fifteen minutes, but for a first time playthrough, I'd say it will take a few hours. The difficulty of this game is pretty astounding if you don't know what's coming.

The music is very catchy to this game as well. I need to point that out because I noticed it and it really is pretty fantastic.

Anyway, I'm going to link where to download the game, since I do think it is a game worth checking out.

As for anything else I have to say, I'm going to leave you with two last things. The first is an H. P. Lovecraft quotation and the second is a warning.

"Sounds- possibly musical- heard in the night from other worlds or realms of being."

"NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN OR THOSE OF A NERVOUS DISPOSITION."
Have fun...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Evaluation: Ghost Story (1979) by Peter Straub

What? No picture!? This is blasphemy, I say! Blasphemy!

I'm just kidding here. I'm supposed to be talking about Ghost Story, one of the most appropriately titled works there ever was. It is about, you guessed it, a ghost story. Well, technically it is about multiple ghost stories, some absolutely fictitious, and some... well, less so.

The novel revolves around four members of a group called the Chowder Society, who have, for fifty years, been telling ghost stories to one another. The whole tagline of this book should be something like: This is where ghost stories... come true... because that's exactly what happens. There was once a fifth member of their group who died suddenly and unexpectedly at a party to celebrate a visiting actress years ago. It had looked like he had been frightened to death.

Oh, spooky! Now, I jest, of course, but ghost stories tend to not interest me in the slightest. It makes no difference whether I believe in ghosts or not, ghosts do not seem to really have the power to carry an entire novel. Most of the great ghost stories are, in fact, short stories or novellas at most. This is because ghost stories need that vague attitude about them to usually be effective. They need to take place at an indeterminate time and in a place that has old history to it. Well, that's usually what ghost stories are like, but this one is different. This novel is much less a ghost story and much more something else entirely.

Eventually, the Chowder Society seems to be seeing some fairly mysterious stuff and call on a member's nephew, Donald, who has written on the occult, to take a look. Donald is a man who has his own emotion issues, mostly with a woman named Alma Mobley. She was a grad student that he worked with and fell in love with in his time at Berkeley. He became enamored with her and then almost obsessed, all the while she acted like something unreal. She would frequently lie to him, unbeknownst to him, and eventually she left without a trace as he debated doing something drastic. Afterwards he investigated their time together and found all lies, nothing but lies surrounding her... then suddenly, one day his brother, dead in the present part of the novel, becomes engaged to one Alma Mobley. Well, that might have been fine, but soon after David, Donald's brother, was dead, and Alma gone again.

When one of the members of the Chowder Society dies, the rest decide to tell Donald the horrible truth of Eva Galli, the woman that they kind of killed and tried to hide the body of. Well, they attempted to because the body simply wasn't there in their trunk when they went to bury it. A lynx was near the car instead, glaring at them. And they believed that she was Eva Galli, a manitou, or shape-shifter who lives much longer than humans. Making the connections, they also believe that this thing was Alma Mobley as well.

Eventually as others die, they are joined by a man named Peter, and learn of a woman named Florence de Peyser, who seems to have control over the undead people and the manitou herself. Eventually, they track Eva/Alma down and defeat her, but she escapes before they can finish the job. Donald vows to go and find her and leaves soon afterward. He finds a young girl whom he believes to be the next form of Eva. The novel starts off with this and ends with this eerie young girl. Eventually she turns into a wasp and Donald kills her, then makes the promise to go after de Peyser in California.

The story is only part of Ghost Story. The plot, although important, only plays a small role to why this novel is so good. And it is very good, beautiful and brilliant in idea and execution, despite being a ghost story in name only. There are no ghosts here. Supernatural elements, certainly, but no ghosts. Ghosts are spirits of the dead, or even demons if you're being generous. Ghosts are not shape-shifters or creatures that can take the form of people. These are instead old Native American spirits of good and ill.

The idea of the story within a story, the little ghost stories inside of the large narrative are brilliantly handled as well, amazing set pieces to make the novel absolutely memorable. A memorable book does not make a good book, but a good book makes a memorable one. The ending, Eva and Alma, and the atmosphere of the novel stuck with me for so long after reading this novel for the first time years ago. It made me understand what horror could be if executed correctly.

Now, I have to talk about Peter Straub because, in my opinion, he is a terribly underrated novelist. The guy exudes atmosphere from every sentence. He's a better writer than almost any other horror writer I can think about, even Stephen King. The way he writes is brilliant, even in his less interesting novels, because he paces superbly, and every tangent has a reason to it, everything feels real, even when it obviously isn't real. And the atmosphere of his novels is basically the best set pieces to the novels since Lovecraft wrote some of his best works. In mentioning Ghost Story, I have to mention Shadowlands, which is also by him, and in someways is the more superior novel out of the two just because of how intricate the plot actually is.

Peter Straub is such a fantastic writer of horror-fiction and this novel shows it time and time again. Reading it is like going through the old horror novelists in turn... Algernon Blackwood, H. P. Lovecraft, Henry James, and M. R. James... he represents all fo them here, all of the old ghost stories that aren't that frightening to us today because of language, word use, or pure boring imaginations on our parts, are again made horrific here in the modern setting of Peter Straub's world. Here is one of the best ghosts stories of all time, paced  and written like a ghost story around the turn of the last century, but involving no real ghosts at all. In many ways this is the last great ghost story, the one that tops all of the rest... and of course the master of horror that Peter Straub is would be the one to write it.

I recommend this novel with every fiber of my being. It needs to be read. Go, find it, and read it. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Novella Investigation: "The Little Sisters of Eluria" (1998) by Stephen King

"The Little Sisters of Eluria" is a fantastic novella prequel to The Dark Tower series of novels by Stephen King. It was published in 1998, and then republished in Stephen King's Everything's Eventual collection of short stories and this novella in 2002. It introduces so much of what that series does so well, with Roland ever moving towards his Dark Tower, ready and able to take care of himself, even in the face of the most terrible of things. And what are the terrible things that Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger from Gilead, has to face? Doctors and nurses.

That sounds silly, but in this post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, fantasy, Western, and dark-styled setting, nothing is what it seems. There is no real medicine, at least not of the type that we know of in our world. So, the "doctors" are much less the doctors that we know of, and much more ominous. And the nurses are not exactly nurses as much as terrible creatures that feast on flesh and blood, semen and fear. And that is what this novella is primarily about: fear.

We are introduced to the Slow Mutants, which feature heavily in the first novel of The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger. They can be seen in the bottom left-hand quarter of the poster that starts this review off. They are green and one wears a bowler hat. That about all you need to know.

Okay, that isn't. They are leftovers from a bygone age. They are mutants because sometime long ago in the history of Roland's world, atomic war occurred and it destroyed so much. Mutants were the leftovers. They are vicious semi-intelligent things, more like animals than people, but some do have intelligence, and that is actually how Roland ended up in his predicament in this novella. he was attacked by an especially intelligent group of these mutants.

Eventually, over the course of the novella, which runs more like something out of psychological horror than a Western, Roland befriends and perhaps falls in love with one of the vampire-nurses, Sister Jenna, who is not well-liked by the others because she is much more pure than they are, and also much younger. Their relationship intensifies over the course of a novella full of bitter dreams, bad memories, and a hospital that Roland cannot move from.

Everything comes together in the story, from beginning to end. Everything builds upon everything else. The dog that Roland sees in the earlier parts comes back to help take out the evil sisters of Eluria, all while Sister Jenna uses the doctors against them. It's a good ending to a weird and oft-times creepy story. The problem is that we already know, or those of us who had read the first Dark Tower novel know, that Sister Jenna isn't going to go far with Roland. He is alone when his journey begins on the edge of the desert seeking the man in black, and so the ending of this novella is bittersweet. Roland finds himself falling in love with a girl for the second time, and for the second time it ends painfully for him, in heartache and heartbreak, as the first night that they are together, she slips away in the darkness, most probably because of what she truly is. And Roland, again, has to continue on alone, his never-ending journey to the center of existence, seemingly never coming closer to a finish.

I like this novella quite a bit. It's a fun read, fairly short, and really expands upon The Dark Tower  universe of which I am a gigantic fan. I love all of the novels. It is easily my favorite series of all time, book, movie, video game, or otherwise, and I'm glad I can finally start some reviews of the material.

Anyway, I suggest checking the novella out. It's a fun read, and probably a good place to start The Dark Tower series, and also to try it out and see if you could like it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cthulhu

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.
"In his house in R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming." -And with that line, a legend was born. H. P. Lovecraft was a genius when it came to thinking of great things lying in wait. Cthulhu is probably one of the best known eldritch horrors known now. He is some kind of god, something to be worshiped by the people of Earth. I know I'm not all correct here. I am not in fact an expert on Lovecraftian gods, but it has always seemed to me that Lovecraft himself didn't like to categorize things such as this, relying instead upon the fear generated by these indescribable entities rather than some simple categorization to keep them straight. Lovecraft was a lot of things, and, it seems to me like he was all about the horror and much less about the whole, let's put these things in nice little packages and put definite names and personalities on them. No, Lovecraft was perfectly happy to inspire dread rather than pure academic interest, and that is the success of his writing.


Cthulhu is incredibly well known today, being both used as a cultural meme and as a sign of some unknown and elder thing that resides, fearfully, in a place that we as humans cannot find him. He is a mysterious figure, and one that cannot be explained. He was thought of by a man, given life by a story, and he resides in culture as something that could almost be the truth. He is not worshiped as far as I know (mostly because he is quite fictional) but there are entire websites and societies dedicated to him. There are countless homages giving praise to this god of fiction. Songs have been written about him, authors have used his likeness in works by themselves. Stephen King pays homage to Cthulhu in his seventh Dark Tower novel as Roland and Susannah rush through the bottom of a broken castle pursued by something that had come through Todash space (the space between worlds). Neil Gaiman has used the character in his story "I, Cthulhu". Even the video game Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corner of the Earth is a reference to this incredible entity.


He has survived for nearly a century as something old and fantastic. And the whole idea of Cthulhu speaks strongly of our cultural identity of wanting something more from life and something interesting. We have religions and holy books and Gods (monotheistic and polytheistic varieties), but none seem to have the fictional hold that Cthulhu does. He doesn't even appear in that many of Lovecraft's works, but that doesn't matter. It's the interest that holds us captive. We want to believe in something that isn't quite an evil God, but rather something that only cares about worship, only cares about consuming, only cares about its own power. It is a twisted version of our own God(s), the Creator(s) of existence, the Force that surrounds us. Cthulhu is a negative force, one bent in destruction and based in darkness. And there is something primal and wrong about that, but also something that feels like it is incredibly right. It makes sense. And we want it to exist because it lends some mystery to the world, something that is rarely present anymore.


Maybe I'm reading too much into the whole thing. Maybe it's simply that Cthulhu has a nice name and was in some good stories, but I have to believe that it's more than that. It hits something in us and makes us nervous in turn, allowing us to wonder if something with that face of an octopus, something wholly, or nearly wholly, alien, could have created us, could have brought us to worship it, and could make us destroy ourselves. It's a fascinating thing to think about, and one that requires a good amount of thought to bring the right theories across.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Location Analysis: Salem, Massachusetts

Salem, Massachusetts is easily one of the most recognizable cities in the United Stated of America, and it is also known as one of the spookiest locations as well. It was given its reputation after the mass executions (19) of people accused of witchcraft by the extremely religious Puritans of Salem. The story, trial, and tragedy were made famous by the historic setting of the incident and The Crucible by Arthur Miller. The location became the center of the Wiccan movement as well as Pagan religions and all types of travel based on the horrific event. Yes, there is much more to Salem than witch trials and horror, but it's an interesting archetype for an entire city to propagate through a fairly long period of time. Danvers, MA, the place where the executions were actually held, was once a part of Salem, but changed its name so that it would not have to be associated with the terrible injustices.

So, anyway, today I walked the streets of Salem, taking in everything about it. There's no real horror there anymore, unless you count some of the prices and the traffic this close to Halloween, but there still is a spooky flavor to everything. Huh... I feel like I'm writing a travel guide. "Witch" shops line the streets. People dress in costumes. There are haunted houses galore, each reporting itself as the scariest one. T-Shirts speak of surviving Salem or of famous eerie people, like Elizabeth Bathory, Vlad Tepes, and Aleister Crowley.

It's all kind of kitchy, but amazingly unique. It is a city that has embraced its darker side, giving credence to ghosts and spirits and the weird. And that's awesome. Sometimes a town should just be spooky. The old brick buildings that line the streets give off an air of age that few other places do. The uneven sidewalks talk of the many others who have walked those paths before you, and places like the cemetery are just awesome to walk through, seeing the last resting places of people who lived once, long ago. It's history, but the morbid sort. And I like it. It's a city that every person should visit once in their lives, especially if they enjoy spooky things. Obviously Halloween is the time to go or sometime in October at the very least.

I recommend it. It is unique and wonderful to people who enjoy something different, based on tragedy or horror or morbid history at least.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Ghost Ship (2002)

Now, here's an interesting movie to discuss. Is this a good movie, a bad one, or only a simple failure as a film? Some, no, most of the reviews for this film peg it as a pretty bad film. Hell, the scores of this film give it so low a score that it's practically in the same league of film as Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, which I think must be some kind of awful insult. My point is that this film is almost universally panned by critics, and I'm not entirely sure why, but I'm here to tell you what I think.


Ghost Ship is a ghost film, first and foremost, something that is fairly rare as a film genre today. I'm not ready to speak about the film's quality yet as both a movie and as a ghost film, but I can say that it does, at the very least, try very hard to be a ghost film. But in another way this film is much more than a ghost film. It's a film that has a very interesting story, reminiscent of 1408 and The Shining at the very least. It has a very psychological horror aspect to it without actually having any psychological horror. It's a ghost movie that uses the psychology of the characters within it to actually have the audience as well as the characters see things that either are not there, or are just in their respective minds. I feel that comparing this film to The Shining and 1408 is apt. The films all share very similar themes and ideas, except that I will admit that not only are both of those other films better than this one, but also that this film is much more of a downer movie compared to either of the others.

See, a ghost film, in this case, is not necessarily a horror film, even if it does try to be. This film is not scary at all. I do mean that. I would find it difficult to find one scene that I can definitively say is supposed to be scary. It simply was not a scary film, and yet it is listed as a horror film. I think that's wrong. This is a ghost film, which is not necessarily horror film. I'll show you what I mean.

Ghost Ship has some very strange ideas and scenes, and some very psychological moments, but that does not mean that it ever really finds its way to scary. I don't know if this movie is trying to be scary either, which is kind of the problem I'm having in reviewing it. If it was trying to be scary, it failed completely. If it was trying to be a ghost story, it succeeded even though it isn't scary. In my mind a ghost story doesn't have to be scary to be good, and that's kind of what I'm feeling at this point. I feel that this was not a bad film in any sense of the word. It certainly was not as bad as The Reaping, which I still hate even after all this time. I actually will even go and say that I liked this film. It wasn't the best film I've ever seen, but I thought it had a lot of great ideas and worked them all out really well. In my mind the film itself isn't the highpoint of this film, but rather the ideas and implications raised by the film. Again it's very reminiscent of 1408 in that way, except that 1408 was very good within the film as well.

Like 1408 though, I feel that this film has a heavy disconnect between the genre it is and the genre it's trying to be. This film is a ghost story, but has far too many elements of straight horror and comedy. Those things don't work in this film. If the filmmakers had decided to try and make a good film they would have focused more on the psychological implications and made this a psychological horror ghost film, but that wasn't the case. I feel that this film may be one of the more controversial reviews I might do, simply because I strongly disagree with the consensus, in much the same way I disagreed with the consensus about Blair Witch 2.

Does it work as a movie? I don't know. I found it enjoyable to watch. I liked it. To me it was memorable. I wouldn't have thought it would have been memorable, and at first I really did think this film wasn't fantastic, even if it was enjoyable to watch. But in seeing the ending and thinking about it, the movie really does appeal to me at a visceral level. I like the ideas of the movie probably much more than the movie itself, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In watching this movie, you must be able to keep an opened mind and try and see what's going on and think about it rather than just dismissing the whole thing as completely stupid. The movie holds up much better that way. Is this ever going to be one of my favorite movies? No, but I do think it is one that should be watched for the sheer ideas of the story.

The story is pretty good, involving a salvage crew being told by a pilot that a big damn luxury ship is sitting out in the Bering Strait just ready to be salvaged. The crew comes aboard the ship and starts experiencing very strange things, eventually coming to a end with a confrontation with something that is beyond the living. I love how it was done. I love how the acting was surprisingly good even from the smaller parts. I do tend to like Karl Urban and Gabriel Byrne, and they were both very good in this film, although it could never be considered their best roles. Desmond Harrington, playing Jack Ferriman (Now, that's a name to run away from if I've ever heard one.), really brings out his acting pants. At first I thought this guy was easily the worst actor I have ever seen, but as the movie progressed I could see exactly what he was going for and it was unsettling. I was unsettled, not scared, but very nervous about his role in everything. Hell, he's one of the reasons I liked this film as much as I did. His performance was really very well done, and I'm glad I had the chance to watch it.

As for the cinematography, and I do feel I have to mention it, even quickly, it was not amazing, but also not terrible. I thought that some of the shots and CGI were incredibly well done and other parts of it, such as the shots of the characters, were not as well done. I like the scenery of this film as well. I especially like it for the kind of film I do believe this film was trying to be. Some of the ruined environments look really good, and realistic even, which is always a plus in a movie like this. Also as a point, why do movies like this have this idea of showing a topless woman against the backdrop of a ruined place? I mention that because it was something I was hanging my head about as I was watching the film. it always seems that in some stanky, nasty, dank, and dark environment some chick needs to be getting her top off. I know it show a contrast between ruin and beauty... or whatever... but I think it's a little sick. It doesn't matter that the chick who was doing it was a ghost... well, I guess it kind of does actually... but my point is that some filmmaker was probably getting off on it and that kind of makes me uncomfortable for so many reasons.

Anyway, I did like this film. I felt that although it was not as good as 1408 or The Shining, Ghost Ship can draw some pretty  heavy and serious comparisons to those films. If you enjoyed either of those films or their original stories, go and check out Ghost Ship. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Autopsy (2008)

Generic horror movie, how many ways can you be seen? Set in a remote place, having bland character archetypes, inane and insufferable dialogue, and flashy moving pictures full of blood, blood, and more blood how can you be anything but a generic horror movie? Yes, you have a set-piece in a creepy hospital, but how many other, better, movies, can say the same?

This... this is the kind of movie I abhor. One with gimmicky visuals and not much else. The plot is... uh... plot? It seems to be set in a fantasy world wholly unlike our own, where things like hitting a dude with a car doesn't matter and entities like the police do not work like the police should. How does an ambulance respond within moments of an accident? And how do these people not notice they've hit a dude? That's nonsensical, weird, and not true to life.

This movie also shows me that the character archetype that I most like is the douchebag stoner type. That should not be the case. I am not a stoner and my douchebag qualities are debatable. So, there's that. What? What is this movie supposed to be telling me? What is it supposed to be saying? Why did I watch this? Why? Why? Why?

I guess I'm not quite sure why this movie was made. It's derivative at absolute best. It's not scary, not really well-paced or plotted. It seems to actively make fun of itself at points which is absolutely freaking hilarious... not. There were WAAAAAAAY too many moments of me going "What. What? WHAT? WHAT!?" I don't think I'm ever supposed to say that many "whats" in a single thought-process. Science does not work the way this movie presents science as working.

I need a break. I need to stop ranting. This movie is so... so... so... full of nothing. Why would anybody like it? Who's the audience of a movie like this? Hardcore horror fans? Gore-fest freaks? I guess. I can't imagine anybody else being fond of it. The plot is too convoluted. the characters are too one-dimensional. Nobody is real here. Now, I know, I'm not asking for Hamlet here or even The Lord of the Rings. I'm simply asking for good science and character's that seem like they could be real and not just convenient for a slasher film. I only want a horror movie to have horror in it. That's seriously all I really want. I want to be scared of a film that calls itself a horror film. If it isn't going to scare me or at the very least unnerve me, it can't be a horror film.

This is a gore-fest and it's kind of dumb. Yes, this movie is stupid. But I will admit it does have its moments of sheer ballsy entertainment. As hard as it was to suspend my disbelief, I found some of the dialogue sort of witty in a way at times and Robert Patrick was pretty freaking awesome. The guy can certainly act I'll give him that much. Some of my reactions to the actual movie amused me so much more than the actual movie. This is basically the perfect movie to watch with a bunch of friends and make fun of the whole damn thing.

I will admit that it does have two of the best "Oh crap..." moments I have ever seen though, which I think is worth something even though both seemed more deus ex machina moments that were convenient to the plot rather than intelligent and well-construed occurrences.

I have learned from this movie to never mess with a 100 pound woman who has no formal training in anything. 'Cause according to this movie they will ruin everything in search of bland boyfriends and revenge. I guess what I have an issue with here is that 100 pound women are not scary. They do not bring the deepest of all dreads out of my heart. They do not make me scream in terror when they approach. And I think that's an issue when the single most terrifying character in this film is not the ex-cons, the insane doctor, or the creepy nurse, but rather a 100 pound young woman who seems to single-handedly ruin everybody.

The visuals are all right, I guess, but they seem to rely way to much on the dusky corridors and red lighting, or dim lighting at times. Makes me think they were trying a little too hard to show, "Oh, look, we're in Hell!" I wasn't fond of it.

The movie as a whole was mediocre, but not terrible. I could complain all day and all night and nitpick and everything else. The movie was mostly bad, but it did have its moments and they actually did seem to work kind of decently at points. The problem was the problem in so much horror today. All of the focus was on getting out of the hospital or getting away from the situation or trying to find a person and all it really seemed like to me was two hours of corridor wandering and getting caught a bunch of times by the same four evil characters. It became boring half-way through and a horror movie should be many things, but it should never be boring.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Carnival of Souls (1962)

This movie is interesting in so many ways and it makes me very confused. Now, I don't feel that way because the movie has an odd storyline or because it doesn't always make sense. I love movies that are odd and complicated. But this movie starts off the trend of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" types of stories, which is a good thing, I have to say. Ideas and stories like that are few and far between and I feel that they are some of the best storylines in existence if done thoughtfully. So, you can start to see my dilemma. I wanted to like this film... nay... I wanted to LOVE this film. It influenced some of my favorite films of all time: Jacob's Ladder, Stay, and many others, and yet this film doesn't hold a candle to any of them.

At first I thought it was the style of filmography, which is a bit strange. The way the film is cut and the directing style leaves the viewer feeling both confused and a little bit like the viewer has just been punched in the nose by a very angry gorilla. The acting is just awful, full of actors whom the director seems to have just chosen off of the street. The performances are painful to both watch and listen to, resulting in a film that quickly seems impossible to enjoy. The story cuts in and out quickly and becomes hard to follow as the movie proceeds, which I am by no means against. It only becomes a problem in my mind because the acting is just so awful and the filmography is just so painful to watch that the story actually suffers because of it despite being interesting. If the acting or filmography had been decent, this might have turned out to be a decent film, but instead I feel that this film actually set back psychological horror films for decades rather than giving those films a solid base to jump off of.

All of my criticisms aside (and I do have many), this film had some beautiful ideas that were executed quite well, along with excellent ideas executed so painfully as to be unwatchable by any person who isn't a masochist. When the main character, Mary Henry (played by Candace Hilligoss), experiences times when she cannot hear anybody and she does not exist to them, I was in awe. A scene like that is so rarely tried and it was done so beautifully that I was incredibly impressed. The idea of that scene, as well as the execution, was so well done that I had to mention it. Candace Hilligoss's acting really shines in those scenes to the point where it overshadows the more ordinary points in the movie. The movie seems off in so many scenes, giving a creepy ambiance to almost every frame, but doing it in the worst way possible. Instead of subtlety, it relies on a heavy-handed approach... instead of letting the plot flow, it relies on cheap tricks and questionable story decisions. This movie was one of the first of its kind, so I can forgive a lot, but at the same time, I wish that the director (Herk Harvey) or screenwriter (John Clifford) had taken time to look at the movie and say something to the effect of, "Yes, maybe there should be a little more symbolism. Maybe instead of forcing the plot, we can instead just let dream-like things happen and see where it all goes."

Now, as you can tell I've spoken mostly about technical aspects of the movie rather than the story itself. I've done this because the story barely exists. It is as simple as can be. A bunch of girls drag race a bunch of guys. The girls' car flips into the water as their car careens off of a bridge, and only one girl, Mary Henry, survives. The story turns to her and how she is holding up after every single one of her friends were killed in the accident. She moves out of her hometown to become an organist at a Catholic church, which goes fine for a while, except that she acts so weird at points that the priest is forced to fire her after she seems to be possessed by some un-Godly evil. During this whole time a very creepy man, Mary's neighbor, hits on her constantly while she pretty much acts like a cold chick who has no interest in him. The man seems to have no redeeming qualities. Well, none of the characters do, but the way the guy looks, you kind of want to like him, but he's a jerk, a cad, a womanizer who has no right to be a womanizer, and a gigantic stalker-creep on top of all of that. Mary acts crazy towards him and eventually even drives him away. She drives her own stalker away by being crazy at him for a little while. Jeez, I wish people in the real world could drive stalkers away by just being creepier and crazier than the stalker is... Anyway, the whole "Carnival of Souls" thing comes in the very end of the movie when Mary ends up at an abandoned carnival inhabited by zombies, watches them dance, and then is ripped to shreds by them. The end of the movie shows that she had never gotten out of the car in the beginning of the movie, and had drowned with all of her friends, meaning that the entire movie was something like a death-dream by her.

As I've mentioned, I should have liked this movie much more than I did, but I really didn't. I hated it. Maybe it was the terrible acting, or the lack of original and good ideas, but the movie was painful to watch throughout except for a few shining scenes like the ones where Mary was isolated from everybody else. I wish this movie had been good. I wish it had started the trend of psychological horror movie long before they became big with movies like Jacob's Ladder and such.

If you want to see one of the earliest attempts at psychological horror, you can watch this now public domain movie at http://www.imdb.com/video/hulu/vi3178627097/. It's worth watching if you like these kinds of movies, but don't expect a gem or anything beyond some of the better more recent films of this type, but watch it with the impression that it was one of the earliest attempts at a new genre and it was very well done for its day, even though it doesn't hold up to today's standards.

The film, to me, only passes an absolute failing mark for its age, its attempts at creating a new genre, and its intelligent ideas, but it is bogged down by too many terribly executed everythings for me to recommend it to anybody but the staunchest movie or horror fan.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Evaluation: The Tomb (1984)

The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson is a book of multiple series. It is the second book of a series called The Adversary Cycle and the first book of the Repairman Jack books.

Now, if you have never heard of F. Paul Wilson, The Adversary Cycle, or the Repairman Jack books, you are certainly not alone. I only found out about the author and his books completely accidentally. The story is worth telling because I think it goes a long way to the actual review. I was in Cheyenne, Wyoming a few years ago and went into a used book store. While there I found three books by F. Paul Wilson. They happened to be the first three books of his Repairman Jack series. I didn't read them while I was there and once I got home, I put them on my shelf and there they stayed for the better part of two or three years. Last year I was bored and wanted to read something... anything... and I saw this book entitled The Tomb. I looked at the cover and read the back of the book and it seemed interesting. So, I started reading it.

As I read the book it spoke to me. Its writing wasn't anything special, and I'm pretty sure stories like this one have been done before... the overarching series story even eventually comes out as sounding like a plausible Batman series of novels, which I'm not saying is bad, but this first book came off as entirely plausible... well, except for the supernatural elements...

Anyway, the plot is incredibly interesting, delving into Indian mythology and British history all at the same time. The Rakoshi are surprisingly tense and well-done antagonist characters, and the whole plot has an air of mystery and supernatural thrills to it that not many other novels that I have read have at all. It is wholly different from anything else out there and so incredibly well done that I'm surprised and awed that it is better known. I loved the novel, the story, the characters, and the settings. The boat scene at the end was one of the best written things I've read in years. And Jack's relationship with Gia is both heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time, eventually culminating in something wonderful for both characters... a beautiful kind of soul-mate love, which I approve of in general.

The main character, Repairman Jack, although usually he just goes by Jack, no last name, seems to be a genuine antihero. He sometimes does very bad things, but usually for what he deems to be some greater good. At the beginning of the novel he's living his job, which is something like an urban mercenary who also happens to be living without any government notice at all. He has no Social Security Number, no solid last name, uses a ton of aliases. He has cars and apartments in other peoples' names, most not even in existence. he also has very few "friends"... with most of the people he knows being acquaintances of some sort or another... most of whom Jack doesn't like very much.

The other characters in the novel are Abe Grossman, an obese Jewish black-market weapons salesman, Julio, a tough bartender, and Gia, Jack's ex-girlfriend, who wants nothing to do with him ever since she figured out what he is... and what he is is a highly trained killer.

The novel has many instances of pop-culture as well... that may sound random, but Jack is a aficionado of old movies, mostly terrible ones. This goes a long way when Jack finally starts seeing some of the supernatural stuff that's happening and wondering if it's all real... and comparing them to old movies and such.

It's an intelligent, cultured, and enjoyable novel the whole way through. The rest of the series varies in quality, but this first book is absolutely fantastic and worth reading if you happen to be a fan of horror, the supernatural, detective stories, adventure stories, or anything like any of those things.

Anyway, I love this novel. It is in my top favorites of all time. I suggest that everybody take a look at it because it is so worth reading.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Video Game Assessment: Deadly Premonition (2010)

Deadly Premonition is a fantastic survival horror video game, easily one of the best I've ever seen, seemingly heavily inspired by such great works as Silent Hill for the atmosphere, Twin Peaks for the setting and most of the characters, and Resident Evil 4 for its gameplay. It takes a lot from each and every one of those other horror-related media, but it stands on its own for its content, its plot, and its amazing way of telling its story from beginning to end. It gave me a reason to believe in video games and it gave me a reason to see that there can be quality in anything if given the chance.
This game is a cult classic, and don't mistake it for anything else. It has horror, suspense, unforgettable characters, and a plot that is like nothing else out there.

The game starts off with a murder of a young woman and an FBI agent named Francis York Morgan goes to Greenvale, Washington to investigate her murder. It sounds similar to Twin Peaks already, with a kooky FBI agent and a small town in the Northwestern United States... but that's when the game takes a turn for the weird. The FBI agent crashes his car into the woods and proceeds on a nightmarish journey through the woods to civilization. The player is left wondering if the nightmarish world actually happened or if it was all in York's mind.

Eventually after coming out of the forest, York meets up with some of the townsfolk, a gruff sheriff with the name of George, and his beauty of a deputy, Emily. After they all get acquainted, the investigation starts and more of the nightmarish sequences follow as York tries to understand how the young lady was murdered and who it could be that murdered her. As he delves into the case, he finds a quirky town full of very odd inhabitants each with ties to the case or each other, and a horror underlining everything in the town and its history.

The game starts out as a very different one than it ends up being. I could compare it to titles like Indigo Prophecy and Silent Hill because of the similarity in tones and settings, but really this game stands all by itself with its unique ideas, dialogues, characters, and settings. It has an open-ended world in which the player can do many things, go on many adventures, and chat with people who may or may not have anything to do with the case, all while trying to solve the case in turn.

Trying to figure out who the killer is and why the killer did it is the real point of the game. There are several early clues as to who is the murderer and who York can trust and who he should not. Trying to solve the case faster than York does becomes something of a challenge, and a challenge that I actually failed at. The game went a long way to pointing many possibilities for the murderer and tries to confuse both York and the player until neither are quite sure what is reality and what is fiction. And the murderer, the killer, in the end it is such a surprise, and a heart-wrenching surprise at that. SWERY made a beautifully unforgettable game that is both horrific and wonderful in almost every way.
Agent York, please stop smiling, you're terrifying the children.

The blend of a realistic world and a psychotic nightmare world where York kills demonic evil citizens and outruns the ominous Raincoat Killer is the best part of this game, becoming a very unique experience. Neither the player nor York are quite sure what's really going on until the very end and even then, the player is still left a little dazed and confused, wondering how much was real and how much was in York's head all along.

The ending was both disturbing and heart-wrenching. The story itself feels real, with situations so distressing that sometimes the player just doesn't want to look at the screen even when the game forces one to look lest the player misses something. The characters are both funny and lively, but also serious when they need to be. They feel like real people and act like real people, sometimes even to an alarming degree.

The music and sounds are surprisingly good. The vocal work is much better than I would have ever expected from such an inexpensive game, although none of the characters are fully voiced, which was a tad disappointing. The music makes the game though. At first it seems WAAAAAY out of place and you might be left wondering why the hell a happy song is playing right after some gruesome murder, but it works weirdly enough... and the tone is set. There is a dissonance in the game that can be quite jarring, and you really start to wonder after a while if you're going insane or if the game is just that peculiar and different.

I would say that I did not like the enemy sections though. Although the nightmare world was pretty awesome, fighting the same five or six enemies (not including bosses) throughout the entire game became tiring after a while, especially when it took so long to actually take them down... and the freaking things that come out of the ducts in the walls are by far the most irritating enemies... usually taking five minutes to take out and being a very popular enemy in the second third of the game or so. I dreaded those things showing up. They were incredibly easy to take out sure, but they were also just so annoying and time-consuming... and they made you waste an incredible amount of ammo on them... just an annoying enemy all around. Despite this though, the enemy sections (although annoying) had a certain amount of dread attached to them. The enemies did get progressively harder and sometimes they would just keep spawning forever... and you know once you get into a room that has the enemies just keep spawning that all you want to do is run away screaming like a scared, crying child. So, these sections really were quite effective at using scares, annoyances, and guile to move you to keep continuing the actual storyline.

I can't stress how good this game really was despite some of its flaws. It doesn't have the marketing of some games and thus is not as well known and will probably never be popular. Some of the gameplay is actually pretty terrible as well, and things like the driving mechanics (which make you feel like you're a drunk driver all the time) and the shooting mechanics (which are incredible tough to control in the beginning) can be very frustrating to a person who has never played a survival horror game. To me though, the survival horror fan that I am, the gameplay feels like a lot of the older survival horror games, some of which I dare to say are some of the best video games of all time. The whole game feels like a throwback to the pinnacle of the days of survival horror games with a twist of its own all the same. Also, this game... let me start a new paragraph because this will start a rant.

Well, I can easily compare this game to another game, A PSYCHOLOGICAL ACTION THRILLER game to be be precise. Yes, yes. Alan Wake. I hate you, Alan Wake. I revile you. I think you are a piece of filth that should be forced into the nether regions of Hell for all eternity, but Deadly Premonition was what Alan Wake should have been. It was exactly what I was expecting from that game. And if you tell me that Alan Wake with all of its resources, with its stellar graphics and lackluster everything else... if you tell me that that piece of excrement even compares to a gem, a diamond, a ruby like Deadly Premonition, then you are wrong, and also probably deranged and should be locked up for copious mental deficiencies. Where that game defeated me, hurt me, tore me apart, Deadly Premonition succeeded, becoming one of my favorite video games of all time in the process.

I can't help recommending this game to anybody who likes fun, survival horror, and intelligent games full of questions that you need to answer yourself. Check it out if you have the gonads for it... and it is best played whilst alone... at midnight... in the dark... on a stormy night... then you'll really understand just how much this game can mess you up. Check it out. I recommend it highly in these October Nights.