Friday, November 11, 2016

Detention - rewatch and spoilers

If you're looking for something less spoiler filled, please jump out of here and over to my original review of the film found here: 


I recently re-watched 2011s wild and wacky gem DETENTION Directed by Joseph Kahn and I still love the film to death. I was trying to sort out why and I believe the reason is obvious on my second viewing - it's the movie I would have loved to make. Horror, comedy, strange goings on, trippy meta plot twists. It's the Malcolm movie that was never made.

Kahn and Mark Palermo wrote the film and I bet they had a blast doing so. Packing comedy, horror, science fiction, and so many references to books, music, and decades of style and fashion into one film makes this a kinetic and ultra-fast paced wonderland of...stuff. However, maybe that's what turns people away from it?

Let the spoiling begin!

I love how the film starts out with a basic concept that we've seen time and time again - most recently in films like MOST LIKELY TO DIE. A strange looking killer dressed in ((insert kitschy costume here)) starts killing off people in interesting ways. We've seen it. Over and over. However even that execution is unique in Detention. Sweet camera moves, zippy writing, and interesting graphics whip through the movie scape like mad. The roller coaster ride concludes with an ultra-violent attack and a big finish that catapults us up and out to meet our main character, then zooming along to the credit sequence - a thing of beauty that makes me so happy. :)

The IMDB blurb for the film is incredibly boring and does NOT do justice to the plot:
As a copycat killer named after movie villain Cinderhella stalks the student body at Grizzly Lake High School, a group of co-eds band together to survive while serving detention.

Sure, that's in the film, but it leaves out UFO sightings, human test subjects, body and mind swapping, time travel, and more. I said in my original review for the film that this was a film for "smart people", but I didn't mean it in a swarmy or pretentious way. Not at all.

I was merely saying that there are folks who want the film described by IMDB. They want people to be shoved into a situation and killed off in creative ways as they watch on, eat their popcorn, and cheer on the violence. And, those films have their place for sure. People love them - that's why we have...what? 47 SAW films right now? They even stopped trying to craft a story with them now. They just drop people into a space and start strapping iron masks and four power strips worth of gadgets onto them before slipping them into something that compresses them after shooting fire into their butts....or whatever.

Detention has some of this basic, killer on the loose for sure. There are some comical killings in here that are really...out there. But, the addition of all the other elements makes this - again - more along the lines of REPO MAN from back in the day. A film cherished and viewed over...and over...and over again by my friends and I. Strangeness pours from Repo Man like water from a fountain and Detention has the same, wondrous sense of play and fun.

Time machine? Sure!
Mind swapping through time to win a talent show? YES!

The film presents a playground for the viewer to wander through. A place where anything can and will happen. I loved that.

The actors make the witty writing and shotgun deliveries work.

Shanley Caswell is gold, working the misunderstood, angry Riley lead role wonderfully as she clumps through her life on her bum leg - at odds with everyone and everything. She went on to be in the Conjuring in 2013.

Josh Hutcherson's cool, beloved Clapton Davis character only works because he seems to be that guy. The cool, good looking guy that everyone knows and likes. It seems his acting and good looks paid off - I see he's in all three of the HUNGER GAMES movies.

And Dane Cook is a fantastic "secret sauce" as he manages to rope it back a bit as the school Principal tossing angry, fruck my life quips at students here and there until the films titular detention wrap up.

Every character in the film - from the strange, outspoken Canadian GORD to the "Hipster Thief" - rocks their screen time no matter how long or short it is.

And lastly, the fucking style of the film makes me insanely jealous of the filmmaker's craft. It's just amazing. The cuts and camera angles are grand. The overall pace keeps rolling and rolling along and we only pause long enough for the occasional title card introducing another bizarre aspect of the story and it's characters.

Big props to Christopher Probst, the director of photography, as well. Fantastic work!

I was surprised to TOTALLY makes sense, but....Joseph Kahn Directed the Taylor Swift BAD BLOOD video! HA!

It looks like he has another film due out in 2017 as well. A film called BODIED that IMDB has down as:  a progressive graduate student finds success and sparks outrage when his interest in battle rap as a thesis subject becomes a competitive obsession.


The reviews for this make me sad, really. It's METACRITIC score is a mere 45 and IMDB has it at 5.8 out of 10. I'd easily give this a 9 out of 10 stars. No question.

Did you like HEATHERS,  REPO MAN, DEAD ALIVE (BRAINDEAD), TUCKER AND DALE v EVIL,  or JOHN DIES AT THE END? Then you need to track down DETENTION at once. It's currently on SHUDDER (US) and is also available on Amazon for streaming as well.

Seen it? Loved it? Hated it? Let me know! 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

I made time to watch I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House and I'm glad I did. Let me start off by saying a BUNCH of people are going to HATE this film. It's been my experience that when a film is a slow, slow burn people detest it. When it takes it's time and drifts around a bit with no jump scares or super loud music ques to pop them away from time to time, they moan and grumble about it being boring like a petulant three year old in line at the grocery store.

However I love these films. I sink in and snuggle in to them like I'm huddled in a warm blanket. Films like The Innkeepers and other Ti West fair and lovely, novel-like dreams like The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh make me incredibly happy in their quiet, calm pace. It really is a little like reading a good book to me. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is just that in spades.

The film tells the tale of Lily (Ruth Wilson), a nurse taking care of an elderly writer named Iris Blum (the wondrous Paula Prentiss). The house was built ages ago and has a secret. Standard stuff here, of course, but the cast of six makes it interesting. It's a gothic haunted house tale, but the delivery is what makes it something I found to be all at once creepy and beautiful. Prose opens the story and should act like a weeding out process. If the glacier-like pace of the intro bothers you, just wrap it up and stop watching because the whole of the film is the same way really.

Lily putters around the house and takes care of Iris, but slowly comes to realize that there's something other than the two of them present in the home. A small mystery for Lily to look into while she tries to keep herself busy, things rapidly escalate and twist into something surprisingly effective.

And....thank you Oz Perkins for your grand story and simple direction. We're allowed to roam through the old house with Lily - sweeping along bright hallways and empty rooms, but are never smacked around with bombastic scores, audio assaults to underline horror elements, or hyper-kinetic camera moves to emphasize distress. We're just shown what we are meant to see. And that in and of itself is very creepy, brooding, and gloomy in a wondrous, gothic way. Netflix knocks out another fantastic original offering!

I was locked onto the screen the whole time - my phone face down and away so I would not miss a frame. It looks like five out of the eight reviews on METACRITIC (at the time of me writing this) agree that the film is well worth a watch with the other three seeming to be in the camp of the three year old I discussed in the opening paragraph. :::grin::: 

If you want a great story in the vein of classic haunted house stories of the past - along the lines of the fantastic works of M. R. James, please give I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House a watch and let me know what you think.  Currently available on NETFLIX.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me

I usually do a spoiler free review, but I do plan on having a spoiler section in this review at the bottom of the page because it's warranted.

Now as I've said before, I'm a child of the 80s and grew up watching all the grand 80s horror on VHS back in the day. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME was one of the nuggets from the era. It's been ages since I've watched it, so I tossed it on today as background viewing while doing some basic production work. I have to say that I had forgotten just how good it was - both story wise and just as a film in general.

Happy Birthday to Me came out in 1981 - a huge year for horror, really. We had AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, THE HOWLING, THE BURNING, THE BEYOND, FRIDAY THE 13th Part II, THE PROWLER, BURIAL GROUND, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, and GHOST STORY to name a few. I believe this was a time of moving away from monsters and into the world of the slasher, but also trying to keep things smart and interesting. The early 70s had a series of "mean" and violent films. Items like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, TEXAS CHAINSAW, and BLACK CHRISTMAS that really let the violence fly. However, there was another element that made it's way into the genre as well. A giallo element where the Who Done It aspects were played up. FRIDAY THE 13TH, ALICE, SWEET ALICE, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, and the aforementioned BLACK CHRISTMAS played with the giallo who done it style is glorious ways. By the 80s, the trend was in full swing and movie after movie tried to outdo the twists and turns. Happy Birthday to Me follows in the wake wondrously.

The story is simple on the surface. A group of beautiful, well off college seniors gallivant around being the beautiful people they are. They live in beautiful homes and live beautiful lives and are all looking forward to their beautiful futures. However, someone is picking them off ten little Indians style and we're lead down a rabbit hole as we try to sort out just who the killer is as the lead, Virginia (Ginny) , starts to feel herself unraveling and remembering horrors from her past.

Now, I'm saving my spoilers for later. If you have not seen the film, DO NOT do a search for it or it will be ruined for sure. Of course, the film came out in 1981, so you most likely have either seen the film already or have seen some spoiler out in the world. The film offers something other than the end, however. The acting is rather good for one, with the likes of Melissa Sue Anderson (Little House on the Prairie)  and Glenn Ford working along side other staples of the 80s acting world and with a script that is strong and dialogue that never brings groans or laughs.  And the film does have a series of creative kills, but doesn't linger on the gore for long. It chooses to show a bit of splatter, but cuts away instead of reveling in the goo. I think that upped the level for me - taking it from "splatter flick" to more of a giallo mystery. It's definitely playing the giallo card in many ways! 

Check it out if you have not seen it. Like I said, on re-watch I remembered just how much I enjoyed what HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME brought to the table in the genre. 

Now, listen to the FANTASTIC Happy Birthday to Me theme. It still haunts me to this day. It's one of those iconic themes that is sprinkled throughout the film in a fun way and as the credits roll and it comes up....whew....

•••• Spoilers are below. Read on if you want to deep dive into the end of the film.  •••••

WOW! I had forgotten how the film ended! What a wondrous treat for me!!!!  Here I was, half watching while doing some low level production tasks and the end of the film comes looming up. I had remembered the very end scene with Virginia standing by all her dead friends, mother, and father with the sad little theme rolling and dusty party fading to black. However, I had forgotten the multiple twists - including the fantastic, Scooby Doo mask reveal! heheheheh 

So, watching...then Virginia uttering her little, "Now it's your turn you bitch..." line and I had to pay attention because I thought this might go into a final girl moment with someone who escaped death. But, NO! It's Virginia?!?!?! WHAT?!  So, being a horror fan, I switch gears into, "WAIT WHAAAAAAT?! Oh, it's not a final girl thing. It's an evil twin thing. COOL! I forgot!" More drama about the precious birthday, but I still didn't remember the full twists. We have our little knife skirmish, then BOOM! the Scooby Doo mask reveal! Again, I burst out with a comment - so happy about the way things were going in this marvelous third act.

We get a major update through exposition and flashback, but I thought it was done rather well. Quick and easy - wrapped up for us neatly. Then, ole nutsy Ann goes in for the kill, but is taken out by Virginia RIGHT before the cop investigating the disappearances stumbles in and utters, "What have you DONE?!" with Ginny finally over the edge and completely lost to the world due to what she's suffered through. Then...fade to black on Ginny - hands dripping with blood and murder weapon in hand - and in with the theme which is even more sad knowing that Ginny will probably spend the rest of her days in a padded cell.

WOW! Frucking DARK, man! hehehehe   I was blown away. It's really a fucked up little ending. hehehe  And, it explained things nicely. No, Ginny wasn't some bi-polar nutter. She was chloroformed repeatedly and Ann slipped in to kill. I loved that aspect. It explained a lot.

Was it a little WTF at the end? A bit. But, they really wrapped up a few things in a great way. We see Virginia's mother - drunk and angry hanging off the gate of the party her daughter wasn't invited to and we get to hear that she has a nasty bit of baggage in her past, but we don't know what it is at the time. The reveal and exposition at the end puts a lovely bow on that for us as Ann reveals that she and Virginia are half sisters.

Hell, I loved the whole of it!

What did you think? Are you a fan of this 80s classic? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Do You Like Hitchcock?

I gave DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? a re-watch and still enjoyed it. Sure, it's a little slow and character driven instead of action or violence driven, but I really dug it.

It's an odd little film about...well...Hitchcockian goings on, really. A man live across from a beautiful woman and finds himself snooping in on her life Rear Window style. When her mother ends up dead, he starts thinking that....just maybe...there's a Hitchcock plot happening right there in front of him. It's quirky. There are a bunch of strange "Argentoisms" in here that had me scratching my head. Some of the dialogue is just...wonky. Some of the pacing is slow. However, it has a sort of charm and likeability that is missing for me in films like The Card Player and Mother of Tears.

Now, this isn't standard Dario Argento stuff here. Sure, there's a killer and a mystery, but the killings are rather light - given up for more plot, character interaction and mystery. There are some grand tension bits in here and would have made old Hitch smile, I'm sure. Dario really made an effort to get some of the Hitchcock feel into the film and it shows.

Is it good? Yes. Yes, I believe it is. Especially if you're going for more character interaction and plot than gore. Dario gore fans will be sad and disappointed. The film is a nice little thriller with some great moments of tension. Don't b fooled by the giallo-riffic cover, either! This isn't all giallo slasher. It really is more like a Hitchcock film than a classic Argento film.

That's about it. Check it out!