Saturday, October 21, 2023

Hallo-Watch: Ghost Ship (2002)

Watched:  10/20/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Steve Beck

So, I remembered this movie being better than I expected when I watched it back in the mid-00's.  Watching it in 2023, it is as bad as I first suspected when the trailers hit.

It has a few highlights - the opening is a banger if you can tolerate some gorey gore.  There's some interesting set design, and the overall concept of a haunted ship (on sea or in space) is a good one.  I like haunted house movies, and what is a cruise liner if not a floating resort?

But the movie is essentially a cliche-fest, borrowing from better films and engaging in the goofiest of 1990's ragtag, blue-collar, post-Abyss team dynamics that just absolutely throttled movies by the 00's from Deep Blue Sea to Name-Your-Film.  We get bits of The Shining, we get bits of just general ghosty-stuff you're like to see in any spook movie new or old, but now with CG!  Which was all producers thought we cared about in 2002 (spoiler: it absolutely was not).  

What's weird about this movie is that it's never scary.  Beyond that, I'm not sure there's really ever any tension.  It's so by-the-numbers that you'd literally have to be a kid who hasn't seen anything to get anything novel out of it.  So then you're left with execution.  And - it's...  again, by-the-numbers in a way that at the time we were told was being done for sale to foreign markets.  Which.... (a) cool for them, but I am also your audience, and (b) I don't know if you've ever seen an Asian film or a European film, but "complicated" is not something they have any trouble wrangling, so why these movies get reduced to people shouting last names at each other and commenting on "tiddies" is beyond me.

The cast on this movie was kind of no-joke at the time.  Gabriel Byrne, an up-and-coming Julianna Marguiles (her magnificent hair reduced here for blue-collar action heroism).  We have a rising Isaiah Washington, Karl Urban and Ron Eldard.  Less well known, Alex Dimitriades, Desmond Harrington and our token ghost-girl, Katie, played by Emily Browning.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention torch singer Francesca Rettondini, who plays a ghostly chanteuse.  While noteworthy for general foxiness, Rettondini would, in 2012, go on to become a television host, and in that capacity would be aboard the Costa Concordia when it ran into rocks, capsizing to become one of the larger scale boat disasters in Europe on this century.  No, Rettondini does not find the irony amusing.  

A few items of note:  Apparently these people all believed they were in a very different movie about people trapped on a ship who slowly go mad thanks to ghosts, but when they showed up, they found out that the script had been re-written to make it what we see on screen.  Which absolutely feels like a second draft generated by a Script-o-Tron 2000 running on Windows 98.  

Also - the movie was directed by a gentleman who had directed just one prior film, and this would be his final bow as a director of features before heading into commercials, which has apparently treated him well.  But it does make you wonder how much the very big name producers (Joel Silver, Zemeckis, etc...) decided to just push this guy around as a young gun-for-hire, which was a standard power move in the 90's.  

Anyway, the movie decides that in the third act it needs to have a plot, and that plot is clunky, dumb and even a little confusing.  We are forced to learn that there was some heist of gold?  A second boat?  Armed bandits?  a quadruple cross?  I don't know and I don't care.  It's dumb and unnecessary.  Ghost stories don't need concrete origin stories.  Especially when they get tossed out in favor of "actually, demon magic" immediately after.  

Horror is hard, y'all.  It really is.  And I know people love this movie, and I gave it a pass for something like 17 years since I last saw it, but.  Nope.  It's just a product of the time in so many ways, and really has nothing new to offer that doesn't happen in the first five minutes.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

PodCast 256: "The Blob" (1988) - Halloween 2023 w/ SimonUK and Ryan

Watched:  10/06/2023
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Third or Fourth
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Charles Russell

SimonUK and Ryan stop thinking in rigid terms and consume a movie, absorbing it before oozing their way to the next. It's a conversation on a remake of a classic - that may be a classic in its own right! Join us for an all-consuming chat on this 80's film that's out of this world.



The Blob (1988) - Michael Hoenig 
The Blob (1958) - The Five Blobs (Bacharach wrote this!)

Halloween 2023

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Hallo-Watch: The Invisible Man Returns (1940)

Watched:  10/17/2023
Format:  Peacock
Viewing:  First
Director:  Joe May

Well, I've seen The Invisible Man a few times and am a fan.  What I had not done is watch any of the sequels.  I thought now was maybe the time to watch another one in the series - especially as it stars a very early career Vincent Price, before he was even associated with horror.

So... this is not considered a great movie by film history.  It's... fine.  Vincent Price is clearly having a good time and is carrying most of the movie here.  

It's an excuse to try out out new Invisible Man techniques, which are mostly pretty effective, some of which is pretty great as they make good on the "what if he's seen in a fog or in the rain?" questions from the first film.  I wasn't sure how well that would work in 1940, and the answer is: surprisingly well.  Bonus:  you also get a silhouette of Vincent Price in what was likely a unitard.  

The plot is about a guy framing Price for murder, and he uses the chemicals from the first movie to get invisible, knowing madness is coming so he has to solve the crime, and he's tasked Jack Griffin's younger brother with finding an antidote while he does so.  

If the first one had any scares as well as camp, this one knows how to keep it interesting, but the fear of what a madman would do is kept to a minimum.  The film takes off - and predicts Price at his best in the coming decades - when he's given room to rant and rave as the drugs kick in, so to speak.  He's just making a meal out of his scenes and everyone else is keeping up.  

Anyway, as a Universal Horror fan, it's probably territory to check out, but won't deliver as well as other sequels.  For Vincent Price fans, it's a good look at early Price as he's also being cast as an erudite cad over in noir films.  

Monday, October 16, 2023

Hallo-Watch: Village of the Damned (1995)

Watched:  10/13/2023
Format:  Criterion, I think
Viewing:  Second
Director:  John Carpenter

So, Friday night I was wrestling with the two vaccines I'd had injected earlier in the day and wanted to watch something I'd already seen so it wouldn't really matter.  Plus, I wanted something Halloween-ish.  A quick scroll landed me on the John Carpenter directed 1995 remake of Village of the Damned.  

Now, here in 2023, I still have not seen the original.  But in the mid-90's, I kind of saw everything, and this starred Christopher Reeve and was directed by Carpenter, so I was curious.

What I remembered from the movie:  
  • Kirstie Alley looking smashing and chain smoking to great effect
  • Christopher Reeve giving it his all despite the fact this is nonsense
  • Mark Hamill as a pastor?
  • Creepy kids who just won't listen
And these things were all accurate.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Hallo-Watch: The Exorcist III (1990)

Watched:  10/15/2023
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  William Peter Blatty

Way, way back in the 1980's my brother and I went on a spree of renting "movies you should watch" that included Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and The Exorcist.  It was... a lot for my 14-year-old self, and it was quite the impactful set of viewings as we watched the movies in pairs but over just 2 weekends.  

I can't remember which I watched with The Exorcist.  What I do remember is that there was a lightning storm while we watched it, and at some key point in the film I pushed back the curtain in the living room to look at the weather, and lightning hit nearby, making me see my own reflection in the glass, and I about wet myself.

The movie worked.  I won't say The Exorcist is my favorite horror film, I've only seen it twice.  But I get why it's held in such high regard and in no way do I dispute those arguments.  

Following that viewing, I was told "nah, the sequels are bad, and don't watch them", so I did not.  But this last month with the release of Exorcist: The Believer, aficionados popped out of the woodwork to discuss the franchise, and it seemed that folks were in agreement that The Exorcist III, based on the novel Legion by Exorcist novelist and screenwriter William Peter Blatty - and written and directed by same, was a slam dunk.

Again, I'm hard pressed to disagree.

Piper Laurie Merges With The Infinite

Star or movies and television, Piper Laurie, has passed.  

We know Laurie primarily from Twin Peaks, Carrie and The Hustler.  

Laurie was a Civil Rights advocate and involved in numerous causes.

Hallo-Watch: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Watched:  10/12/2023
Format:  Max
Viewing:  First
Director:  Tobe Hooper

I was in no rush to watch the sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but JAL informed me that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 takes place during Texas/ OU Weekend, and, well, that's a thing around these parts.  

When I started college in the 1990's, my family did not pay any attention to UT football or tradition, and so I was unaware of what was then called The Red River Shootout, when the University of Texas and Oklahoma University football teams meet half-way in Dallas for their annual, early October game at the Cotton Bowl.  So I was very confused when, half-way through my first semester, campus emptied out as folks went to Dallas or otherwise disappeared during the day on a game day.*

Anyway - none of that is relevant except that the film starts on the Thursday or Friday night prior to the game as two dumb-ass frat guys, headed from Austin to Dallas for a weekend of debauchery, run afoul of Leatherface and family on the road (the scene is filmed in scenic Bastrop, using what is now a pedestrian bridge).   

I feel for Tobe Hooper.  He was never really wired to work within the studio-system, but that he did in order to get this movie made.  A glance at Wikipedia tells me that the studio did the thing of hiring the guy who made Texas Chainsaw Massacre, saw the glossless, raw movie that it was, and said "yes, but what if we didn't do that".  Hooper's response seems to have been "well, but what if we did, though?" and he took the dark comedy elements of the first film and made them wackier.  I mean, at the end of the day, this is a horror comedy, which was something I didn't really grok a month ago.

Moving from a farm house in the sticks to an abandoned roadside attraction made from dilapidated Quonset huts that's somehow subterranean? and a radio station, this one replays some of the greatest hits and amps things up for comedic effect.   We learn that maybe Leatherface is just a lonely heart, and Dennis Hopper is in this movie, but they had to have only had him for about a week.  Man, Hopper would sign up for *anything*.  

The star of the movie is Caroline Williams, playing Vanita "Stretch" Brock, a radio DJ who takes the call from the two frat-dudes as they get chain-sawed.  She gets involved in the investigation, agreeing to play bait as she replays the tape, which draws the family out of hiding.  

As I've commented elsewhere, I have come to appreciate that horror fans will embrace an actor and give them a whole career if that person wins them over in a role, and you will not be surprised to learn that Caroline Williams has been working steadily since this film in and out of horror.

Anyway, the shock was not that of the first film, but it's not a throw-away sequel.  It's a solid follow-up, even if the tone is wildly different.  Who knew you could do that with a movie about a family that has really figured out a solid chili recipe?

*it is a reasonable assumption that Univ. of Texas' main rival is Texas A&M University, but it's arguable that UT thinks of OU as our main rival and Texas A&M as the annoying relation who lives down the road.  Texas Tech *thinks* they're UT's rival, but we don't think about them much at all.