Practical effects hold a very special place in my heart. Among my first horror movie experiences were John Carpenter’s The Thing, the 80’s remake of The Fly (mmmm, Jeff Goldblum), and The Evil Dead, and their outstanding effects work have eaten their way into my brain and have never left. I’m a firm believer that when practical and make-up effects are done right, they surpass anything you can do with a computer and a green screen.
The Void is a Canadian (woo!) body horror/ cosmic horror/ throwback horror flick from Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, who are responsible for the purposefully-bad movies Manborg and Father’s Day. They know their way around ’80s schlock and are adept at creating throwbacks and homages to the movies and scenes they love.
This movie takes place in an unnamed small rural town, where local cop Daniel comes across a bloody man stumbling through the country roads while on patrol. After bringing him to the local, semi-defunct hospital, Daniel’s problems start multiplying like deranged rabbits. A pregnant teenager coming to the end of her term in the waiting room. Two manic men brandishing guns storm into the hospital looking to kill the man Daniel just brought in, spewing nonsense about monsters and occult magic. Multiple hooded figures, possibly cultists, begin surrounding the hospital en masse, clearly waiting for something. Pretty soon, one of the hospital’s nurses begins acting completely deranged, killing a bedridden patient and then clipping her skin face off before erupting into the bubbling bulbous monstrosity of flesh, appendages, and orifices.
And then things get bad.
Aaaaaaaaand we’re back to your regular programming. For those out of the loop on my self-imposed suffering: Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992), Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996), Hellraiser V: Inferno (2000).
Hellraiser IV: Hellseeker is the sixth and worst installment (so far) in the Hellraiser franchise. It follows Trevor, a total douche who is married to Kirsty Cotton from the first two Hellraiser films. While driving, they almost get in to an accident and swerve off the road into a river. Trevor is able to escape the car, but Kirsty ends up drowning to her death in the sinking car. He eventually wakes up in the hospital, and then a bunch of stupid bullshit hallucinations start happening, and Trevor is unable to discern what is real and what isn’t.
As he tumbles further down in his own mind, he begins to see visions including the Lament Configuration, the puzzle box that calls Pinhead and the Cenobites into our world and some strange, disfigured people that are lurking around in the corners of his eyes. It slowly becomes apparent that Trevor is a suspect in the investigation surrounding his deceased wife.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a Canadian boy, born and raised. Bagged milk is a staple in my fridge, I measure distance in time, and I constantly shit on the Imperial system despite using it almost as much as I do the Metric system. Even despite being a huge nerd who doesn’t go
oatside outside and hates sports, my eyes can’t help but gravitate towards any hockey game that shows up in my field of vision. I couldn’t tell you anything about hockey history or this season’s stats, but it’s instinctive for me as a Canadian to watch hockey if it’s put in front of me.
Goon is a hockey/ comedy movie about a man named Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott), a lovable oaf who doesn’t really have much going for him and constantly lives under the shadow of his prestigious and snooty family of doctors. Doug is really good at one thing, though: fighting. After defending his loudmouthed friend (Jay Baruchel) at a local hockey game, a coach sees his potential to become an enforcer, a hockey player who is only put on the ice to beat the ever loving shit out of people on the other team.
Doug begins moving up the ranks and eventually makes it to a the Halifax Highlanders, a minor league team where he’s tasked with helping defend Laflamme, a hot shot kid (Marc-André Grondin) who used to put away pucks like nobody’s business. Unfortunately, a recent on-ice incident with Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber), the league’s most brutal enforcer has Laflamme paranoid and off his game. With Rhea returning to the league before retirement, Doug has to make sure Laflamme is in top shape by the time his and Rhea’s inevitable confrontation starts staining the ice red with blood.
We’re just burning through Criterion movies here like the entry-level-hipster-self-proclaimed-film-buffs we are! Out of all of the films that sit on the Criterion shelf at movie stores, The one I’ve looked at more than any other has got to be The Complete Lady Snowblood. The simple elegance of the title alone was enough to hook me, and once I found out that Meiko Kaji starred as the titular assassin, I was sold. She was the best part of Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and I was really interested to see what she could do in a less sleazy film. For those of you who read this blog just for the bad movies, I promise I’ll get back to Hellraiser soon.
Lady Snowblood (Shurayuki-hime) follows Yuki, a young woman raised from birth to be an assassin and carry out a vendetta against the leaders of a small gang in 1800s Japan. These ne’er-do-wells are responsible for killing Yuki’s father and raping her mother before her birth. When Yuki’s mother attempts to get her own revenge, she is imprisoned for life and decides to have a baby that can grow up to exact her revenge.
Now 20-something years old, Yuki prowls the countryside piecing together whatever information she can to track down those responsible for devastating her family, using her umbrella sheathed katana to doll out bloody justice whenever she sees fit.
As I continue to burn through my newest pile of DVDs, I decide to watch a film I bought on two principles. The first being that it was a movie inducted into the Criteron Collection, and the second being that I found a pre-Criterion edition of it on sale for under two dollars (Canadian, meaning it was roughly four American cents).
The Squid and the Whale is an independent dramatized autobiographical comedy-drama written and directed by Noah Baumbach and produced by Wes Anderson. Don’t worry, it’s not entirely as pretentious as I made it sound there.
The Squid and the Whale follows the Berkmans, a family of four in 1986 being torn apart by an incredibly messy divorce between Bernard (Jeff Daniels) and Joan (Laura Linney). Their two sons Frank (Owen Kline) and Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) immediately take sides, with Frank siding with his mother and Walt his father. While it isn’t apparent why Bernard and Joan are separating in the first place, information begins coming to light, further dividing everyone in the family and cementing which sides they have chosen in this petty battle of favors.
Let’s take a break from the Hellraiser series. No matter how much I might like some of those movies, most of them aren’t great. Barring the first, they aren’t really achievements in cinema. I’ve recently picked up a bunch of DVDs and Blu-Rays on clearance (rest in peace, HMV) and I really feel like I need to start working my way through them. So, I decided to start with one of the most highly praised films of all time.
City of God (Cidade de Deus in Brazilian Portugese) is a Brazilian (duh) crime drama set in the titular favela (rough slang for a lower class district or slum) of Rio de Janeiro that follows a large ensemble cast of characters across multiple decades of their lives. While they all grow up impoverished, their lives take different turns as they navigate the gang, drug, and violence filled City of God, a place where children are killed in the streets and you rarely make it past the age of 30 without being riddled full of bullet holes first.
While City of God follows the stories of over five main characters, the protagonist and antagonist that draw a through-line from one end of the story to the other are Rocket and Li’l Zé. Both starting the story as young kids who see the “glamorous” life of local low level street thugs, one develops a creative passion and becomes enamored with photography and journalism while the other indulges a thirst for power and blood that only violent crime can provide him. (more…)