Alright gang, I know it’s almost February of 2020, but I still have a Best of 2019 post or two I want to get out before moving on! I’ve already covered old and new horror films, but I saw a lot of other flicks this year that I at least want to say a few words about. So, I’m going to do exactly that and run down a whole slew of movies and just say a few sentences about what I dug! LET’S. GET. INTO IT!
It’s vampire week here on UnitedMonkee! Let’s kick things off with one of their all-time biggest enemies, Buffy The Vampire Slayer! Like most of the internet, I loved the series (yes, even the first season). Even so, when Dark Horse first announced they were continuing the show’s adventures with Season 8, I was a bit skeptical, even though series creator Joss Whedon was acting as executive producer of the whole thing. See, back in the day, I bought a ton of Buffy comics from Dark Horse until I realized that they were just kind of filling in holes and playing with the mostly un-chronicled summers. Later on I picked up the Buffy Omnibus volumes and read in the intro that that was part of the whole deal because they didn’t want the comics to step on the toes of the show. As a reader, though, I got a bit bored reading about Season Three characters when Season Four was in full swing, but that’s old water under an old, far more crankier bridge.
The timing thing was obviously no longer an issue with the show being off the air. And, adding to the “good” column, Whedon would have an unlimited budget to work with and some of the best names in comics, TV and film like Brian K. Vaughan, Brad Meltzer, Georges Jeanty, Drew Goddard, Jane Espenson and Karl Moline.
Really, there was no chance I wasn’t going to start reading this book because I was working at Wizard at the time and free comics were everywhere. Like my fellow Buffy fans in the office, we got to reading and really enjoyed it. I might have been a little taken aback by the whole idea of this army of Slayers working around the world S.H.I.E.L.D.-style, but once I got used to it, I was all in. Continue reading Buffy Season 8 Trade Post: Volumes 1 Through 8 & Fray
Every now and then a horror flick comes along where the story behind the movie is almost as good as the movie itself. Usually there’s a lot of studio interference delaying the release of the movie like in the case of the wonderful Trick R Treat and sometimes its big names have a surprising time getting a movie distributed. In the case of Cabin In The Woods, it’s a little bit of both. The film was written by Drew Goddard and a guy named Joss Whedon of Cloverfield and Buffy The Vampire Slayer fame respectively with Goddard directing. You’ll also remember that Whedon went on to direct a little film called Avengers and both films happen to star a guy named Chris Hemsworth. Of course, that was all well after CITW had finished shooting. Even so, you’d think that a pair of beloved genre guys could get a movie out to the public. Well, Lionsgate shuttered it for whatever reason and then finally decided to release the thing last year to critical acclaim.
All of which brings me to watching the movie, which I honestly had pretty high expectations for. The trailers hinted pretty heavily that the Evil Dead-type set-up they were showing off was just the conceit and that there was a kind of Truman Show thing going on where people were monitoring these probably soon-to-be-dead teenagers. As it turned out, for me at least, this movie turned out to be more about finding out exactly what was going on and not so much the horror or teen character stuff.
It’s nearly impossible to talk about this flick without getting into SPOILER TERRITORY, so let’s do just that for a few paragraphs. We’re instantly introduced to characters played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford who clearly work for some kind of organization that manipulates college kids into some pretty horrific situations in a cabin, but we’re not exactly sure why. Here’s the deal (remember that SPOILER WARNING), the kids represent specific archetypes (the athlete, the fool, the whore, the scholar and the virgin) who need to be sacrificed in a certain order to appease old gods living beneath the surface of the world. We’re not told when this somewhat high-tech organization was put into place to fulfill these duties, but we do know that several other projects like this one exist all over the world.
To achieve their goal, the organization manipulates the quintet to the location and, using a series of drugs and other elements to mess with their heads, get them down to a crowded basement where they inadvertently chose the form of their destroyer. There’s apparently an entire Cube-like set-up of potential supernatural and mythical murderers to chose from (everything from redneck pain-loving zombies to regular zombies and killer unicorns to mermen). Two of our characters screw up the order, find their way into the facility and wind up unleashing every single monster before actively allowing the world to (seemingly) be destroyed by the old gods.
So, yeah, there’s a lot going on. I admit, I really like the story. Like I figured from the previous, it pays homage to the films that came before it, but also takes those tropes and actually does something new with them, which I really appreciate on a creative level. However I had some problems. First off, the stoner kid was just way too over the top. He was like every single stoner from every 90s movie all rolled into one, thrown into a bong and distilled into this annoying, Shaggy like kid who was pretty difficult to like for me. While the other characters’ weirdness was explained to an extent, his wasn’t and I found myself taken out of the movie by his cartoonishness. I was also as disappointed by the shoddy looking CGI as I was by keeping scenes that needed the heavy CGI in the film when they could have been changed to not even need CGI. My wife and I have been watching Once Upon A Time on Netflix and it’s a pretty good show, but the effects there can be pretty bad. Some of the CITW monsters looked almost as cheap and that really takes me out of a movie, especially one like this is that is doing a lot well. And it’s too bad because the redneck zombies looked amazing while the dragon or whatever looked silly. Cut the dragon out and use more costume effects and I think you’d have a much scarier experience here.
END SPOILERS. However, overall, I’d say I did really enjoy this movie. It goes places you won’t expect, does things that will surprise even the most jaded horror fan and has a certain amount of fun while doing so. At the end of the day, that passion is what I like to see on screen, even if it means some subpar special effects.
I’m sure after my previous two posts that it comes as a shock to find out how much I enjoyed the fourth season of Alias and I can firmly give credit to two sources. One, a clearly higher budget (a dude shatters and there’s a giant floating red ball over a city among other SFX) and the other, Mr. Drew Goddard who came into write towards the end of Buffy, moved to Angel, then wrote and produced Alias and went on to write Cloverfield. He only wrote 5 episodes according to IMDb, but every time I noticed his name, I enjoyed the episode, but I also enjoyed all the episodes on a much higher level. Maybe it’s because I knew what to expect, but what could have come off as cheesy and over-the-top to others, just felt awesome to me. Even the twists, many of which Em and I called, were fun to watch. And the season finale with the family kicking ass and taking names was awesome. They were like a real life super hero team and I love that kind of stuff. I was also thrown by the last few minutes and am psyched to get the first disc of Season 5.
I’ve also got to call out an episode called “The Road Home” which guest starred Jason Segel of Freaks & Geeks, Knocked Up, How I Met Your Mother, I Love You Man and Forgetting Sarah Marshall fame. He plays a guy in another country (can’t remember which one) who gets caught up in one of Jennifer Garner’s ops. It’s a great little fish out of water story with an actor I love. Overall, the famous guest roles were way down this season, but one guy returned that I love and haven’t mentioned yet, and that is Angus Scrimm. He played the crazy old guy who interrogated everyone in the first season or two but has disappeared thanks to the plot twists. He’s back in this and I love seeing the Tall Man in anything. Fantastic casting, by the way. Damn, he’s creepy.