Sunday 30 October 2022

Which one is the ugly one?


 OCTOBER 24th - THE LAIR (2022) is a joint by Neil Marshall, and if all you've ever seen of his work is cult classic Dog Soldiers, you'll know what to expect in this military horror if you replace the werewolves with Venoms.  A fun movie despite being made by reputedly dreadful people.

OCTOBER 25th - SCREAM (2022) is funny in that, when series writer Kevin Williamson was a young man, the movies were about the truly frightening things that young people were worried about: Do my friends actually like me?  Can I trust them?  Do my university friends hold my baggage against me?  Is everyone looking at me?  Does my childhood trauma really have to define the rest of my life?  Will being stabbed hurt?  Now that Williamson is a cranky old man, the series is about how The Young Folk And Their Pesky Computers are all being turned into crazy psychopathic killers by social media - even though this is a movie series that's been going for a quarter of a century now, its central premise being that The Young Folks were doing bad things 25 years ago before everyone was even on social media.  Scream as a movie series has been about toxic fandoms right from the very start, so it's amusing to see Old Man Williamson put on his crank hat and blame social media for somehow pulling this kind of thing into existence.
Scream 2022 is also Not Very Good.
It rehashes a lot of the same story beats as before, the same killers, the same motivations, and even the same commentary about social media attention-seeking.  There is nothing new here, and no amount of the film copping to it by going on rants about soft reboots and requels can hide that.  It's well-made, but so were all the others, and the first three at least could pretend they had something to say, something new to bring to the horror/slasher genres.  It passed the time, I guess.

OCTOBER 26th - CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF has likely birthed more than a few reviews along the lines of "a movie in which Oliver Reed plays a man who goes drinking and turns into a monster?  LOL talk about typecasting etc", but it's actually an enjoyably camp monster romp that remains on my PS3 hard drive to this day, hence its inclusion here.
Oliver "I quite like screwing" Reed is actually pretty good as the perpetually-tortured wolfman cursed from birth to a life of tribulation because of the misfortune of his parents, or... something - it's actually pretty unclear why he's a werewolf, as the film goes to almost comedic lengths to pile on one bad omen after another, from his mute mother stabbing her abusive baron to death (which I'm not sure we're supposed to see as something entirely bad, as the old bastard absolutely has it coming) to his troubled birth described as "an offence against Heaven" to leering gargoyles reflected in a pool of holy water at his Christening as a thunderstorm rages outside the church.
This poor kid never gets a break to the point you're still kind of rooting for him when he goes on a murder rampage, a feeling probably helped along by the fact that young Reed is a bit of a snack, even as a foaming-at-the-mouth blood-drenched monster, to the point I can believe most of the audience at the original screenings were thinking "yeah some of this is bad optics but I could still fix him" even as he chewed on the throat of some random soak.
The brownface actors are probably a bit problematic these days, if only because some of the make up - especially Catherine Feller's bizarre sheen - looks weird on HD tvs, but the oversaturated colours are a big part of the sense of artificiality that lends this and other Hammer Horror productions their legendary garish charm.  Great fun while it lasts.

OCTOBER 27th - CRAWL is a horror that brings the experience of being a black person in New Orleans between 2004-2022 to America's white middle class, and follows the relatable misadventures of a pretty white girl who has to deal with insurance write-offs on her dad's mortgage, looters, and good and helpful cops just doing their job.  Oh, also there are some alligators who show up and tear people apart.  I liked this, even if it is, as mentioned in jest, very, very white.

OCTOBER 28th - THE RATS ARE COMING!  THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE! yes I watched it because of the title.  A cheap-ass horror that tries to keep you guessing what kind of monster is at the heart of things despite having the title that it does, as - SPOILER WARNING - the creepy family at each other's throats are not secretly rats.  I hate movies and tv shows that think they're keeping you guessing about an upcoming twist, so tv episodes or movies where I figure it out early or have it spoiled for me before it starts just feel like they're wasting my time, and I wasn't really in the mood for being strung along by this, either, but it's at least entertainingly horrible seeing these dreadful people making each other's lives miserable, even if this never looks less than super cheap.

OCTOBER 29th - MAGGIE... my mum died of liver cancer last year, and it's been weighing on me around this particular season because we just had her year's mind a week or so back, so a movie about someone dealing with a disease that slowly eats a loved one from within and makes them increasingly unrecogniseable over the course of the last few weeks of their life probably wasn't a good choice on my part for inclusion in a series of blog entries where I flippantly talk about meaningless ephemera that usually just sort of washes over me.  This one was difficult to process, especially given the limitations of Swarzeneggar as a leading man in an intimate character piece, though "guy who can't quite express himself in a satisfactory way, even with the clock ticking" was a concept that I personally thought he handled quite well.  I think it was the tiniest hints of denial here and there that really sold me.
I don't know that I can say I enjoyed this, but I appreciated what it tried to do.  I probably won't watch it again.

OCTOBER 30th - HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS - being the movie version of a gothic soap opera I have tried to watch a couple of times, but I gather this condenses the most popular/memorable arc from the series, which centered on the murderous vampire, Barnabus Collins.  Campily enjoyable, it seems like it's packing in a whole bunch of plot arcs and feels like a bit of a roller-coaster ride, with some of the characters feeling like they could be fleshed out a bit more - I didn't even realise that one character was the protagonist of the film, as another character who takes an early bath (literally as well as figuratively) feels like they have far development, though this also makes their being suddenly killed-off before the final reel feel like more of a shock.  I would have liked to have seen a bit more of some of the arcs, particularly the doomed vampiress who's tracked down and dispatched by suspiciously effective police officers, with help from a doctor of science who has a medical bag which contains - as standard - a medically-sterilised wooden stake and large mallet and seriously, I knew American health care was the worst in the Western hemisphere, but even so holy crap.

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