Halloween Scene: Village Of The Damned (1995)

Almost immediately after finishing Prince of Darkness, which I didn’t focus on as much as I should have, I popped on Village of the Damned on the NetBox. I actually didn’t even realize that this was a John Carpenter movie (I’m woefully uneducated about his films, it turns out). I do however have pretty vivid of this remake movies when it came out. Besides just boasting generally creepy commercials and comic book ads, I actually knew a girl at this time who was like one step above albino and had white-ish blonde hair. Even though she didn’t REALLY look like on of the VOTD kids, the nickname came up and she was cool enough to own it and diffuse it. Even so, I still thought about her when those creepy kids showed up on screen.

If you’ve never seen the movie or the 1960 British film its based on (which I have not), an entire small town blacks out and wakes up with some of the women pregnant. They give birth to babies who have mind control powers and wind up being something out of this world (not in a good way). The adults in town include doctor Christopher Reeve in his last role before his accident, Mark Hamill as the local priest, Kirstie Alley as an out of town doctor who knows more about what’s happening than she lets on. There’s also, of course, the mothers, none of whom I actually recognized.

I’m not the biggest fan of the killer kid subgenre of horror. Before I was a dad, I used to think, “Just take those kids out, how hard can it be?” In this case, it’s pretty tough and one of the ways I thought of while watching to get rid of them was brought up by a crazy janitor. Anyway, now that I’m a dad, I certainly don’t want to see any children killed on screen, even jerky, evil ones. This movie also handles that well and in such a way that didn’t bother me too much.

What impressed me most about this movie is how complex it is without going into huge expository detail about what’s going on. This isn’t Gremlins and there aren’t rules explained for dealing with these kids or how they came about. Their origins are interesting and fun to think about. There’s also a lot that’s hinted at about how crazy this town is thanks to the introduction of these kids. A lot is the same and yet pretty much everyone has accepted the fact that this group of children was spontaneously created and later born. It’s like a longer and bigger version of that Twilight Zone episode where the family is terrified of their kid who can send them to a cornfield, but in a great way.

As a parent, I put myself in the place of someone like Reeve or the other adults in this story and really am not sure what I would have done in that situation. Like I said, everyone knows what’s going on and yet no one really does anything about it in a smart way. Whoever the invading things are, they’re smart enough to use humans’ built-in desire to protect and care for children in order to get their offspring to live. It’s also interesting to think about what it says about American society that the other places these things tried to do this took care of the problem pretty quickly and we didn’t. Like I said, there’s a lot to unpack in here.

Hey, I just had a weird thought, what if all the evil bad guy things in Carpenter’s horror movies were being sent from the same source all trying to destroy our dimension? You’ve got the kids from VOTD, Michael Myers, the thing, the green liquid from POD, those dumb pirate ghosts, a killer car, vampires, the They Live aliens and whatever the heck those things on Mars were. Show me the non-evidence.

Robo Rampage: Runaway (1984) & Surrogates (2009)

If you’re like me, then you’re a big fan of NBC’s Community (on Thursdays at 8:00 p.m.). As a big movie and TV fan I’ve come to love Abed and his string of pop culture references, most of which I’m proud to say I bet. In last week’s episode called “Romantic Expressionism” Abed and some of the gang got together to watch a crazy sci-fi action movie called Kick Puncher. Up next on their list was going to be Runaway, which I looked up immediately and realized I already had in my instant queue. So, of course, I bumped it up to the top and gave it a watch. The surprising thing is that it’s actually pretty good. Michael Crichton wrote and directed the movie starring Tom Selleck as a cop whose beat involves putting down/turning off rogue robots dubbed runaways and Gene Simmons who plays the villain. Kirstie Alley’s also in it, but doesn’t have a huge part (man, she used to be hot, even in that up tight bitchy sort of way).

The story takes place in the future and instead of having robots shaped like people, they’re boxier and just do regular household and other other duties to make life easier for humans. Until they go crazy. Sometimes its Westworld-style and sometimes it’s just a tractor-bot running its own course. Soon, a number of bots who shouldn’t be running away becme runaways and all signs point back to Simmons who is amazing at playing a villains (just think of that stare and give him a gun that can shoot around corners).

I don’t want to get too much into the details of the ending, but I liked it a lot because, not only does the hero face some potential physical scarring in the facial region (stars usually like to stay pretty), but the villain’s plan has a huge loophole that I picked up on right when I heard it and then turned out to be right. They also do a great job of making what could have been some silly robots look pretty creepy. I’m mainly thinking of those spider-looking ones and even the ones that can move as fast as cars and keep up with them. Overall, I’d give this one the thumbs up and recommend it to anyone. There’s enough to laugh at if that’s what you’re going for, but if not, it’s a pretty solid film all around. That Crichton guy sure knew how to tell a story.

First off, I have to say that I have not read the comics this movie is based on, so my opinion of it will be solely based on the film itself and not it compared to the source material. It is kind of cool to be in this position as I’ve either read most of the comics the comic-based movies I’ve seen are based on or I haven’t (like V For Vendetta which I recently got from Swap but haven’t started reading yet).

Anyway, I liked Surrogates. It had a somewhat similar to that of Gamer which I watched recently and loved in which real people were being controlled by other people for selfish purposes. Instead of real people though, Surrogates has people piloting life-like robots that they control from the safety of their own homes. Not everyone has one, of course, and some people are diametrically opposed to them. Bruce Willis plays a cop (hey, there’s another similarity between this one and Runaway) who’s using his surrogate to figure out who killed the son of the guy who created the surrogates in the first place. As you might expect the plot gets more complicated from there (though never too terribly hard to understand), with Willis abandoning his surrogate and getting out in to the real world on his own, which he hasn’t done in years.

Since this is a newer movie that I did like and do recommend, I don’t want to get too far into the details, but there are a few elements that I really liked and wanted to mention. The movie got me thinking a lot about the practicality of how this kind of society would work. It would be interesting because, at first, as people started using surrogate, the pilots would drive their surrogates in the same way they themselves would navigate their normal day. But, if you’re just using robots, wouldn’t you be able to start making smaller rooms for them to do their operations in? Also, wouldn’t it be possible to make some worker bots that would just follow commands to do shitty jobs? Or go to war (they show real people piloting G.I. Robots, these ones don’t have life-like faces because, what’s the point?). I’m not sure which aspects came from the comic or the film’s writers/director, but really liked how the surrogates moved. There’s a human/surrogate footchase which looks really cool because the human looks very normal and lifelike and Willis looks more stiff, but also way more powerful. There’s even a scene where actual Willis is walking down the street and all the surrogates are bumping into him or just barely missing him. At first they just seemed like jerks, but I realized it’s because they probably have some kind of sensors that keep them from hitting each other. It’s the little details like that that make this more than just your run of the mill, cop trying to figure out something bigger story.

Anyone read the comic and watch the movie? How did it stack up?

Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

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Just when I think my tolerance for mockumentaries has ended a movie like 1999’s Drop Dead Gorgeous drops into my lap (really DVD player) via Em’s friend from work. I remember when this movie came out, I don’t think it was out for too long, but a few of my friends went to see it when I was working or something and they reported back that it wasn’t very good. Sorry friends, you’re wrong.

DDG has a very Christopher Guest-like feel to it, but with a crispness that his films tend to lack. And you can thank writer Lona Williams (who also plays the third pageant judge) and director Michael Patrick Jann who directed a bunch of State and Reno 911 episodes. The story takes a documentary look at a small town beauty pageant that’s very clearly rigged. There also seems to be a high mortality and injury rate for any contestant who isn’t Denise Richards.

Our hero is Kristen Dunst who is just a sweet young lady. Too bad for her she’s competing against Denise Richards, whose mom (Kirstie Alley) won back in the day. She’s also married to one of the richest dudes in town, so they kind of run things.

A big part of the humor comes from the small town atmosphere, kind of like Napoleon Dynamite, but way less out there. There’s also a great amount of black humor as the slowish townsfolk don’t catch on to the incredibly obvious murder plot unfolding around them. Even the cops.

Another big source of fun for me was checking out all the stars in the flick. Aside from Kirsten and Denise, you’ve also got Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney, Brittany Murphy, Nora Dunn, Will Sasso, Thomas Lennon and ADAM WEST! The girl who played Bruce Willis’ daughter who also dated Ross on Friends is in there as well (yeah, I’m a closet Friends fan). Everyone really sold their roles and seemed to have fun doing this really funny movie.

I’ve never been a fan of Denise Richards, but even she’s pretty good in this and Dunst freaking shines. I’m a huge Bring It On fan and love her in that. And I checked out Virgin SuicidesVirgin Suicides earlier this year which she was amazing in and of course Interview With a Vampire. Man, what happened to her? Maybe my intense dislike of Spider-Man 2 and 3 has tainted my view of Ms. Dunst, which is really too bad because she’s awesome. I also really dug Brittany Murphy. Her roll was small, but she played the crazy local girl with awesome flair and abandon. She freaking steals the show every time she’s on screen.

It’s also satisfying as our hero eventually gets what’s coming to her as do the villains. But it doesn’t have a typical Hollywood ending, it’s actually pretty funny. All in all, this movie is definitely worth checking out. It’s funny and actually does the mockumentary genre justice unlike a lot of movies nowadays. If you’re into Reno 911, Christopher Guest movies or dig any of the above actresses, this is definitely the movie for you.