Year of Monsters: The Invisible Man

I’ve never considered myself a science person, partially because I have no natural aptitude for it, partially because the science you learn in high school isn’t the kind of shit that interests me. (Well, mostly. We did get to learn forensics my freshman year, and I do remember enjoying it, even if I couldn’t tell a single fucking fingerprint apart.) But I am a science-fiction person, one who’s generally drawn to pro-science stories. We’ve talked about a couple of these already during our Year of Monsters: Creature from the Black Lagoon, for instance, and It Came From Outer Space.

Alas, we’re now heading back to the 1930’s, where science is generally not our path to enlightenment but to our downfall and destruction. Science is the method we foolishly use to try and control what mankind was never meant to master. Clearly, this is a pretty familiar theme: if Frankenstein is about trying to master death, then Jurassic Park is about trying to control life, and Deep Blue Sea is about trying to defeat dementia. Or sharks. The point is, progress for the sake of progress must be discouraged.

Enter . . . The Invisible Man.

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Triple Spooky Scoop Reviews: Suspiria, Us, and Jason X

It’s the end of an era, folks! Okay, fine, it’s just the end of our first annual Horror Bingo–which, yes, should have been finished well over a month ago, but life! Holidays! Disney Plus! The point is, I got it done by Christmas, and that’s just gonna have to be good enough.

More importantly . . .

That’s right, I WON! Honestly, this was a lot of fun, and I’m already looking forward to Round 2 next year. Before I get into conclusions, though, we have three more movies to discuss: our final two Horror Bingo films and, of course, our reward movie: Jason X.

Suspiria (2018)

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Absolutely
Grade: Strawberry

Well. That was a movie.

I was hopeful for this one. I do really enjoy the original film. (Gore! Maggots! Technicolor!) But also, I was kinda excited to see a different take on Ballet Witch Academy cause there are a lot of ways to go with that concept. (Not gonna lie, folks: if Ballet Witch Academy was a show on CW, I’d watch the hell out of it.) Add in Tilda Swinton and a score by Thom Yorke, and I was fucking sold. And credit where credit’s due: I do really enjoy that score. Listening to it now, as a matter of fact, and let me tell you: “The Hooks” is a particularly disturbing song when you’re listening to it by yourself at midnight. Also, the Susie/Olga dance scene is nothing short of horrific: grotesque, intense, and masterfully shot. There are certain plot developments I like, too, at least conceptually: the reveal that Susie is Mother Suspiriorum, for instance, is certainly intriguing. And that whole line about how the witches won’t suffer any retaliation for their votes? HA! I didn’t buy that bit of bullshit for one second, so the violent payoff at the end works well for me.

Overall, though, I just really didn’t enjoy this movie. I didn’t like the opening scene at all, like, Chloe Grace Moretz seems to be going for Crazy, Oh So Crazy, and it feels both atonal AF and, yeah, just kinda ick. At 2 1/2 hours, I think the film is far too long. I’m not saying you can’t have long horror films, but I am saying they’re hard to do well. (It: Chapter Two also failed at this.) We spend way more time on the psychiatrist than I think is warranted, and I don’t love that he’s played by Tilda Swinton; the performance is fine (I mean, it’s Tilda Swinton), but I find the choice itself unnecessarily distracting. I like the idea of Susie’s twist, but not the build or execution of it, and I don’t think the film does a very good job developing her and Madam Blanc’s relationship, either. Sure, they stare at each other a lot, and I suspect I’m supposed to get mad lesbian chemistry or maybe, IDK, incestuous mother/daughter vibes? Mostly, though, I feel like Suspiria relies way too heavily on its artsy mood and funky editing in an attempt to overcompensate for a lackluster script. I’m not particularly convinced the political backstory is working in the film’s favor, either. There were a few moments of interesting horror here, but primarily, I found myself bored, frustrated, or both.

Us

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: All of them. Watch the film first, please.
Grade: Chocolate

Oh, this is difficult. There’s an awful lot I do like about this movie. The acting is great. Lupita Nyong’o is fantastic, Winston Duke is hilarious (he plays Such A Dad), and I really enjoyed Shahadi Wright Joseph quite a bit, too. I’d forgotten Elisabeth Moss was in this movie, and though it’s a small role, my God, if she doesn’t make the most out of it. There are so many wonderful scenes and moments here: the death of Pluto, basically everything that happens at the Tyler’s house, Adelaide and Red’s final fight/dance, etc. The soundtrack is phenomenal (I’ve now switched over to “Anthem,” naturally), and I liked a lot of the humor. I’m a huge sucker for family dynamics in horror, and I was definitely invested in these characters as we watched the film.

But I have criticisms, too, and unfortunately, they’re not minor ones. Like, when Red gives her monologue near the end of the movie about how the Tethered were kept underground as part of a government experiment and how she banded them together and such, it felt . . . messy. Interesting, certainly, but messy, like there’s enough story and metaphor in these five minutes alone to make a whole other movie, but instead of really doing something with it, it’s just sorta . . . thrown out there, slapdash as hell. I can’t quite decide if we’re given too much information here or not nearly enough, but either way, I think the writing is a bit weak in the third act. Still, I was willing to forgive it because, messy or not, Us is weird and fascinating, and I was having a pretty fun time watching it. And then we get Adelaide’s Big Reveal, and I just . . .

Look. We were roughly five minutes into this movie before I thought, “Oh, shit, maybe this is an evil changeling story! Maybe Adelaide isn’t traumatized; she’s just not Adelaide.” And you know, there is evidence to support that, particularly whenever Adelaide kills one of the Tethered. But the more Red talked, the more I realized I wouldn’t buy that twist anymore. Part of that’s dialogue: would she really have a whole speech about the humans Above, specifically calling them “your people,” without ever mentioning they were once her people, that the sky was once her sky? Would she say “we’re humans too, you know” to someone who, of course, does know? Would she use intentionally ambiguous (and slightly more awkward) phrasing like “how you could’ve taken me with you” instead of “you could’ve come with me” or “we could’ve both lived Above?”

But it’s not just dialogue. It’s also that the logic and mechanics of this place feel murky as hell: Little Adelaide starts behaving like a shadow while trapped Below, but . . . I don’t really know how or why: she isn’t mindless like the others, after all. So much here feels vague and inconsistent, and while horror doesn’t always have to be logical or explained in full to be successful, that doesn’t fly so well when you need to support a Big Twist. And it doesn’t help that I just don’t think this particular Big Twist adds much to the story, emotionally or thematically; mostly, it just strikes me as an unnecessary cheat, and considering Cheat Unreliable Narrators are one of my biggest storytelling pet peeves? It’s a really unfortunate note to end this otherwise very enjoyable film on.

Jason X

First Watch or Rewatch: Rewatch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other: Personal Collection DVD
Spoilers: Very much so
Grade: Vanilla

Oh, Jason X. This gloriously silly movie. This loving parody of its own franchise. You can come at me with your “Michael Myers is the best masked killer” until you’re blue in the face, but has Michael Myers ever been cryogenically frozen for 400 years? Has he ever cut off a dude’s arm purely by falling over? Was he resurrected and reconstructed into Uber Michael by futuristic nano ants? Yeah, I rest my case.

Jason X knows exactly what kind of movie it is. The puns are over the top, the kills are as violent as they are ridiculous, the fashion is hilarious (sometimes even intentionally!), and and everyone just seems like they’re having a really good time. The whole movie is a string of meta in-jokes punctuated by absurd violence. (See: the gratuitous nudity holograms and the nod to everyone’s favorite sleeping bag death from Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood.) Hell, the whole plot structure is basically one giant homage to Aliens. Also, holy shit, David Cronenberg has a cameo in this! I don’t think I even realized that the first time I watched this movie.

I will say it’s a little disappointing that a) both black characters on the ship die, and b) they die sacrificing themselves for white people, which is certainly a shitty trope prevalent in horror. That being said, if you’re gonna go out in a heroic blaze of glory, you’ve gotta do it like Peter Mensah, whose character impossibly zooms in from out of nowhere, tackles Jason in space, and steers their bodies towards Earth 2, where they continue to fight even as they burn up in the atmosphere. It is exceptional. It is a thing of beauty.

THE GREAT HORROR BINGO WRAP-UP:

Of the horror films I’d never seen before, my favorites were probably Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Babadook, It Follows, and The Wailing. Meanwhile, my least favorites were Suspiria (2018), Ghost Story, Insidious, and The Witch.

Of the horror films I have seen before, I think The Legend of Hell House remains my favorite, whereas my appreciation for Hostel has considerably dipped.

Movies I’m most disappointed we didn’t get to on this go-around: Deep Red, Overlord, and Phantasm.

Movies I’ll probably add to next year’s Horror Bingo, if I don’t watch them before then: Tigers Are Not Afraid, Happy Death Day, and Hausu.

Lil Spooky Reviews: The Haunting, Thir13en Ghosts, Most Likely to Die, and Terror Train

The Haunting (1963)

First Watch or Re-Watch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Nah

In our continuing mission to watch classic horror movies from the 60’s (and then the shlocky remakes that came 30-40 years later), Mek and I rented The Haunting, which was . . . interesting. Visually, I loved it. The use of black and white, the strange angles, the set design, the practical effects–it’s all technically brilliant and eerie as shit. I especially loved the weird bending door, the loud knocking sounds, and basically every shot that takes place at the spiral staircase.

That all being said, the script could use some work. Nobody’s reactions make sense scene to scene, least of all Eleanor’s, who I realize is annoying in every iteration of this story, but I’m convinced doesn’t have to be quite this bad. Her constant VO’s are generally unnecessary and her shrieky meltdowns are extremely grating. The whole story ends up feeling a bit incoherent, but not, like, in a deliberate way? All in all, I can’t help but feel that the story might be told more effectively if you just muted it and watched with some creepy, atmospheric music playing in the background. You know, like The Wizard of Oz set to Pink Floyd. Make this movie one long, creepy music video.

Also Luke (Russ Tamblyn) is okay, I guess, but the second he announced he wanted to rip up the library and turn it into the nightclub, I was like, “Nope. You need to die now.”

Thir13en Ghosts (2001)

First Watch or Re-Watch: Re-Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix (DVD)
Spoilers: ABSOLUTELY

Oh, man. This might be it. This might be the pinnacle of the Mid 90’s-Mid 2000’s Bad Horror Nostalgia Watch. It is such a product of its time, I mean, that goddamn title alone. Fuck you, Se7en, this is all YOUR fault. And the creepy mansion made up of weird glass rooms is far more reminiscent of Cube than it is of the original 13 Ghosts. The glass walls even slice poor JR Bourne* in half (and let him fall apart very, very slowly), which was definitely The Kill to Do during that time period (Cube, Resident Evil, Slither, etc.) Surprisingly, the soundtrack is not as in-your-face as I expected, with the notable exception of “Excess,” a decent enough song which has absolutely no business being in this movie. (“Excess” was also used in 2002’s Queen of the Damned, a terrible horror film notable for its fun but extremely intrusive soundtrack. Then again, I did own said soundtrack when I was 16, so. Can’t say it didn’t work to sell shit.)

The remake also decided to make some other, ah, interesting changes. They killed off the wife, for instance, so that Tragic Dead Wife could be one of the ghosts. (It’s about as boring as you’d expect.) There are also multiple new characters or at least very loosely interpreted ones. Matthew Lillard is woefully miscast as an anxious psychic on a quasi-redemptive arc. (Some of his lines are genuinely funny, but overall his performance is cartoonish and overacted.) Embeth Davitz plays a passionate crusader for ghost rights who suddenly transforms into this vaguely new-age-y badass–with a trademark Badass Black Leather Vest, natch–who’s then revealed to be the Big Bad’s accomplice and is thus quickly smushed to death by said Big Bad. (It’s all very silly, but it’s also Miss Honey in a Badass Black Leather Vest, so. I’m okay with it.) And then we have housekeeper Maggie (Rah Digga), AKA Sassy Black Female, who’s mostly around for comic relief but turns out to be surprisingly interesting because a) SHE LIVES and b) she’s really the hero of the story, like, the movie tries to pretend it’s Arthur (Tony Shalhoub) and his whole big, dramatic, death-defying leap towards his kids, but there’s actually no reason to make that leap, and it’s Maggie who turns off the Big Ghost Machine and saves the day, so. Yeah. Fuck you, Arthur.

This isn’t a good movie, but I did have a pretty fun time watching it. What’s more, I actually do think there’s some workable stuff in here. I find it hilarious that I can imagine an updated remake of the original 13 Ghosts and also a remake of this Thir13en Ghosts, but those remakes would be two wildly different films.

*No one really feels sorry for JR Bourne’s character, mind you, because he’s playing the quintessential slimy lawyer doomed to die badly. Still, my adoration of him on Teen Wolf means I’m happy to find him whenever I can.

Most Likely to Die

First Watch or Re-Watch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix
Spoilers: Some, yes

This year’s Splatterfest Movie was Most Likely to Die, a truly awful horror film about a group of old friends getting together the night before their 10-year high school reunion. One by one, they’re killed off by a dude wearing–I shit you not–a graduation cap and gown with the word DIE written on his mask. He also likes to play “Pomp and Circumstance” before the slaughter and poses his victims in manners befitting their “Most Likely To” superlatives. Obviously, the guy “Most Likely to Eat Anything” didn’t make out so hot.

Basically everything about this movie is awful. Both distance and time are relative concepts here, ruled not by any known laws of nature but Laws of What the Script Demands. The budget, presumably, was primarily spent on getting Jake Busey to drop by and be creepy for five minutes. Valiantly, the script does attempt to build character by giving our protagonists opportunities to discuss their lives and regrets; unfortunately, they keep doing this at times when it makes absolutely NO SENSE. Like, I know when I find a murdered girl–and she’s been super murdered, people, like she’s posed with electrical lights and everything–my instinct is to a) stick around instead of getting help because it “feels wrong to leave her here,” b) turn off the generator for decency’s sake, both fucking with the crime scene and, you know, simultaneously shutting off the main house’s power, and c) take this time to have a heart-to-heart about poor life choices with an old friend, as if a very dead girl isn’t five feet away and, oh yeah, a murderer isn’t running loose. Our heroine (Heather from Glee) is particularly insufferable; she’s a jaded and failed professional poker player who “proves” that her ex-boyfriend is a selfish, greedy bastard by pointing out how he kept raising the bet during a hand of Texas Hold ‘Em, even though the pot was already large and he knew he had an unbeatable hand. You know, THE WAY YOU FUCKING PLAY THE GAME, BY TRYING TO WIN ALL THE MONEY. Every poker metaphor in this movie physically hurt me.

The best thing I can say about Most Likely to Die is that, kinda shockingly, the gay comic relief (Perez Hilton) who actually freaks out about dead bodies– you know, like you might–lives. (The lesbian still dies, though. Still, I have to admit, I was pretty surprised I actually found a horror movie with two separate queer characters.) Oh, and Angsty Ray has a surprising and hilarious moment of awesome. Sadly, you have to wait through the whole movie to see it. I wouldn’t advise such an endeavor.

Terror Train

First Watch or Re-Watch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix (DVD)
Spoilers: Yes, basically all of them

After the friends went home, Mek and I watched Terror Train, an 80’s horror film starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Ellis from Die Hard, and, uh, Sexy David Copperfield? There are aspects of the movie I like; Sexy David Copperfield definitely isn’t one of them. (Seriously, between his awful late 70’s hair and the supposedly seductive dance moves, Copperfield might be the scariest thing in this movie.) I’m definitely a sucker for people getting killed off one-by-one on a train, though. I genuinely enjoy how the killer keeps adopting the costumes of his last victims, like, sure, that seems unnecessarily time-consuming but it’s also just fun, right? And while it’s very short-lived, I enjoyed it when Alana (Curtis) and Doc (Hart Bochner, AKA Ellis) are the last people standing from the original prank, mostly because they absolutely hate one another and there’s absolutely no UST between them. It’s an interesting dynamic that I definitely would’ve enjoyed seeing more of.

Still, this movie’s got problems. While I actually like that the Big Bad is the Magician’s Assistant, not the Magician, I don’t like that Kenny (our prank victim) is secretly dressed in drag as said assistant the whole time. It’d be different if he just killed the assistant sometime during the movie and dressed up as her like everyone else; this, unfortunately, feels much more transphobic. Also, the movie takes too long to really get going, the absence of a radio is preposterously contrived, the acting overall leaves something to be desired, and certain character reactions make no sense at all, say, the conductor who immediately assumes the murder was done by “some kid messed up on dope,” like, WHAT? Also, Doc successfully uses a gynecology rotation pickup line on some girl, which is easily the creepiest and least believable thing in the whole movie. It’s even creepier than David Copperfield’s dance moves, and that’s saying something.

Between 1978 and 1980, Jamie Lee Curtis was in four horror movies: Halloween, The Fog, Prom Night, and Terror Train. TT is the only one that hasn’t been remade yet, and–despite the terrible remakes of all those other films–is probably the one most begging for an update. Hollywood, get on that.

Genderbent Wednesdays Presents BLACK CHRISTMAS

When I began Genderbent Wednesdays at the beginning of the year, I wondered if I could keep to a monthly schedule. The answer was a quick and resounding no. So, I adjusted my expectations: I’d post a new column every other month. That, I figured, was perfectly doable.

It’s been roughly (checks calendar) six months since my last confession column.

Okay, so I failed that goal, too. Still, I’ve known since March that I wanted to tackle a classic slasher film, and what better month for that than October, right? Obviously, this wasn’t bad planning; this was DESTINY. As for that slasher film, well, I had a few options. I did consider Halloween for quite some time, being the quintessential horror film and all. But–as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago when I put all my blasphemy cards on the table–despite its obvious film significance, solid third act, and wonderfully creepy score, I’ve never managed to work up much passion for Halloween. Besides, I really liked the idea of examining a sorority movie for this particular column. It’s not that frat boys don’t die in horror films, of course, but they’re not usually terrorized in the same way: not stalked, not watched in their sleep. The calls don’t come from inside the house.

And so I chose one of my favorite horror movies, the slasher that actually predates Michael Myers and his babysitter-killing ways: Black Christmas.

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“What Does God Need With A Starship?”

Okay, here’s the thing: when Star Trek Into Darkness came out, fans were pretty critical across the board. I do know a few people who liked it. I know more who thought it was pretty terrible, and others who consider it the worst Star Trek film of all time. And I had problems with Into Darkness myself, mostly because the script was lazy as shit, but for anyone who thinks it’s the absolute worst Trek movie in all existence . . . I’m sorry, but have you seen Star Trek V: The Final Frontier?

great barrier1

Because, as of last week, I have. And right now I’m calling winner for Worst Trek Film EVER.

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“Well, OBVIOUSLY, Participation is No Longer Voluntary.”

Happy Valentine’s Day, people. Please put your candy and/or sweetheart aside and come along with me on our continued snarky journey through bad horror movies. Today we’ll be concluding Bloody Hearts with our review of Would You Rather.

electric iris

It is an uncomfortable movie with a surprising amount of actual potential. Unfortunately, the finished product is just not very good.

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