Halloween Scene: Planet Terror (2007)

In my post about the exceptionally disappointing Death Proof, I talked about how excited I was about Grindhouse, the combined efforts of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez to recreate the feeling of going to a 70s drive-in complete with double bill and even trailers for movies that didn’t–at the time–exist. What I forgot to mention was how inundated we were with Grindhouse stuff at the time for Wizard. I was working in the research department at the time, which meant it was my job to find images to go along with features and news stories. As you might expect, there was a good deal of Grindhouse coverage leading up to the movies, but not a lot of images released. While watching Planet Terror again last night I kept having these weird flashes when particular scenes came on. At first I thought I was just remembering the movie from the first time I watched it a few years ago, but then I realized that they were the stills we kept running over and over in the mag.

Anyway, I was flipping through my DVDs last night to see if there was anything I wanted to watch more than the intended night’s flick X2 and stopped as soon as I saw Planet Terror. I had completely forgotten that I had picked the movie up on one of my many trips through the sale racks of my nearby Blockbuster before it closed down. Bonus! Aside from the freeze frames I mentioned above, I didn’t remember much of the movie other than it had zombie-esque people attacking a girl with a gun leg and a guy who owns a barbecue joint.

Unlike Death Proof, I had a delightful time watching Planet Terror. I think the difference between those two movies is that Rodriguez had a much better understanding of what makes the kinds of movies he was paying homage to work than Tarantino did, which is strange because Quentin has made a whole career based on taking a genre and updating it while also making callbacks to other movies. As far as I’m concerned, Rodriguez completely nailed the zombie outbreak story. He dealt with elements we’ve seen since Night Of The Living Dead but also turned a lot of them on their ears (what happens to Dakota’s son, what happens to Naveen Andrew, etc.). He did a great job of presenting the characters and getting me interested in them–even if it is because of the very B-movie idea that they’re just cool looking so I want to know what happens to them–before getting into the zombie goodness.

And once we do get into the zombie goodness, it’s SOOO good. It looks like some of the blood might have been added with CGI, but for the most part it looks so real and good and gross and bloody that those little bits of computer generated saturation didn’t bother me. The gore is fantastic and something that I’ve missed a lot from most of the modern horror movies I’ve seen lately (maybe I’m just watching the wrong ones, but I felt like I hadn’t seen this kind of big budget feel in a gore-filled horror flick in a while). I also really loved the ending which didn’t just leave our heroes wondering what was happening with the rest of the world, but showing a bit of it. There was something very 70s feeling about it, which was the whole point.

While watching the movie, I came to the realization that Robert Rodriguez might be the most consistent of the directors I like. Quentin really faltered with Death Proof, but I also tried to watch Jackie Brown in the past year or two and was bored to tears. I like the rest of his movies, but those are two pretty big strikes. Meanwhile, Kevin Smith seems to have gone down in quality over the past few years, especially with Cop Out. However, I’m excited about Red State, so he’s in a little better shape in my book. Then you’ve got Rodriguez who has never disappointed me. I’ve watched El Mariachi, Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Faculty, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Sin City, Planet Terror and Machete and have never once been less than impressed. I’m actually excited about delving into his kid friendly flicks like the Spy Kids movies, Shorts and Shark Boy & Lava Girl because I bet they have as much fun with the tropes of those genres as he does with the ones he’s played with in his more grown up flicks.

Quick Movie Review: Southie (1998)

Southie’s another one of those movies that I’m not sure why I put it on my queue. But I did and today I watched it. It was alright. Donnie Wahlberg returns from being away from Southie (a rough Irish neighborhood in the Boston area) for a few years. He’s given up drinking and wants to get a legit job so he can take some of the stress off of his ailing mother, but, as these kinds of movies go, he’s given no other real option than to return to a life of crime. But it’s not what you think, instead of being muscle for a mob guy, Wahlberg teams up with Will Arnett who’s starting up an illegal gambling club and needs some investment money.

There’s also some back story with Wahlberg almost killing a dude who’s also involved int he gambling house. The plot’s pretty by-the-numbers, but the performances are pretty good. You’ve also got Rose McGowan, Lawrence Tierney, John Shea (who also directed) and Amanda Peet who doesn’t really do much but play the girl our hero used to be in love with. Actually, now that I think about it, the plot’s similar to the original My Bloody Valentine, but without the axes and twist ending.

The movie’s completely skipable unless you’re a huge fan of anyone included. I had the most fun watching Arnett, because I’ve never seen him in a serious role. He kind of wavers on the Boston accent, but doesn’t commit enough to it in the first place for his lack of one to be annoying. Aside from that there’s a few fights, a lot of talking, the death of an old person and that shotgun in the poster? It shows up exactly once. You’d be better off checking out Four Brothers if you’re looking for a movie like this, plus, it’s got Mark Wahlberg instead.

Halloween Scene: Scream (1996) & House Of Wax (1953)

Even amongst all this Christmas craziness, I still find some time to check out the occasional horror movie (though not as much as I would like). I made a double feature out of the mostly unrelated Scream and House of Wax on the NetBox the other night and had a good time with both.

I saw Scream back when it came out. I don’t think it was in the theaters, more likely at a friend’s house. At some point, I bought it on VHS andkept it secret from my parents. I wasn’t very well versed in horror at the time, but I liked it a lot, especially Matthew Lillard and Jamie Kennedy (what 13-year-old didn’t?) even though I got almost none of the horror references. I watched it again a few years back with Sam and Megan along with Hostel before heading down to Wizard World Philly the next day. We were all pretty freaked out and  I remember thinking that Scream held up pretty well. After watching it again with even more horror movies under my belt, I’m not sure if I like it as much. It was still enjoyable, but I didn’t buy into it as much this time around. I was left with a lot of head scratching “that doesn’t make sense” moments. For instance, how does Rose McGowan not open the door back into the house from the garage one moment and the killer does the next? Also, what kind of garage doesn’t have a side door? Also, upon further viewing, I don’t really buy Skeet Ulrich and Lillard’s explanation at the end of the movie for why they did it. I know it’s a joke throughout the movie that you don’t really need a motive anymore to be a killer, but why the hell does Lillard’s character do it? I can buy Ulrich’s motive, but Lillard literally says he’s doing it because he’s seen to many movies. Really? You’ve decided to plunge knives into your classmates because you’re seen too many movies? I’ve seen a butt load of horror movies and I don’t feel the need to kill anyone (that’s what video games are for).Plus, it’s funny to hear about how expensive cell phones are, with the cop yelling at Ulrich something like “How can a KID afford one of these?!”Hehe.

Those minor problems aside, it’s still a really enjoyable movie and changed the game for horror. Up until that time, horror was in pretty dire straights after a late-80s slump. Scream brought some heft to the table with a fairly solid story, a fun premise,”master” horror director Wes Craven, a script by the Dawson’s Creek guy, a stable of great actors (I think they all kill in this movie, except for Ulrich who’s channeling Johnny Depp a bit too much for my tastes), plenty of nods to horror fans and, of course, presenting us with “the rules.” Sure, older horror fans knew that you never screw, smoke, do drugs or say “I’ll be right back,” but those of us who were more impressionable at the time hadn’t figured it all out. I will say that, while I didn’t remember many of the scenes and movies referenced in Scream, I always remembered those rules. Heck, I actually wanted a few more. Maybe Craven, Williamson and Kennedy can get together and write a book/make a few YouTube videos. They’re making a fourth Scream right? I smell a potential tie-in! For some reason (and I hate when they do this), only the first Scream movie is available for instant watch on the NetBox, which is a bummer because I want to watch 2 and 3 again. It’s been a while since I’ve seen 2 again and I’ve only seen 3 one time (gotta love the Jay and Silent Bob cameos).

Up next was the original House of Wax movie, starring Vincent Price. I had seen the 2005 remake which is most well known for murdering Paris Hilton (for what it’s worth, I think she actually did a good job in the movie), but the two movies are completely different. The original stars Price as a man who runs a wax museum. His business partner burns it to the ground and Price is assumed dead, only to return with a much more macabre-oriented museum with wax figures that look suspiciously like people from the neighborhood. The remake revolves around a bunch of kids whose car breaks down in a town seemingly overrun with wax figures. Anyway, I’m a fan of anything Vincent Price is in, I’m still making my way through the MGM Vincent Price DVD box set I was given when I was still a lowly researcher at Wizard. We’re also fraternity brothers in Alpha Sigma Phi, so there’s that. I even included the man in one of those “What three people would you like to have dinner with?” essays that helped me get into college (Jimi Hendrix and Chicago columnist Mike Royko were the other two, for what it’s worth).

House of Wax continues my huge levels of enjoyment whenever seeing Price on screen. He plays his usual awesome self, you know, the seemingly normal guy who’s going a little bit crazy. This time around SPOILER WARNING, Price uses his thugs-turned-artists (one of which is Charles Bronson) and his own skills to kill people so he can cover them in wax and put them up in his brand new chamber of horrors (he doesn’t have good use of his hands since the fire). He killed the guy who tried to burn the place down and goes after his girlfriend. That’s where things get troublesome, because that woman’s roommate recognizes her dead friend in the museum. Eventually the cops catch on and there’s a manhunt. While watching it, I was continually struck by how similar this movie is to Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood (1959), though the characters’ motivations for turning corpses into art are completely different.

You might have noticed from the poster that the movie was originally filmed in 3D and much like my viewing of the My Bloody Valentine remake, I watched it without the aid of the third dimension. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the movie because it would have too many “whoa, look what’s flying at the camera NOW” moments, but those are few and far between. I actually forgot the movie was even originally in 3D until the opening of the new wax museum where there’s a dude smacking those paddleballs around at the audience. I bet that was pretty cool in 3D, but you’re not really missing much (not like, say Friday The 13th 3D, which is a bummer when not in 3D). Also, just check out how rad that poster is? This one’s definitly worth a look and makes me want to open a movie theater like The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin or The New Beverly in LA so I could show movies like this as they were originally intended. Anyone looking to hook that up in Orange County NY? I’ll be your manager, no probs.