Monday, April 21, 2014

The Thing: First Impressions

I'm embarrassed to admit I've never seen The Thing. It's an all-time classic that I've somehow never got around to watching. I've read that the best experience that you can have with a horror movie is that first experience. I don't know if this one will affect me as much at almost 30 years old, but we shall see. Needless to say, there will probably be some spoilers ahead, so if you don't want the movie ruined, you should've watched it in the last 30 years its been out.

Thankfully, unlike some of the other movies I've reviewed, I didn't know a whole lot about what happens in this film. I knew the basic premise, and some of the plot (kill it with fire, etc.), but other than that, it was all pretty new to me. The film is filled with legendary creature effects from Roy Arbogast (Return of the Jedi) and Stan Winston (Aliens, Terminator, etc.), most notably the outstanding scene where a man's chest opens up and bites the arms off of a man performing CPR, shortly before his head tears itself off of its body, sprouting spider arms and crawling away. I watched an interview with one of the SFX guys, and he said that basically they took an insane storyboard to director John Carpenter, and Carpenter basically told them to use their imagination, and that whatever they could do, they'd put in the movie. And this was one of the cool-ass things they came up with.

I'm a huge Carpenter fan, and Halloween is my all-time favorite horror movie, probably in my top 5-10 favorite movies altogether. To me, Carpenter stole the show, even over the special effects. He somehow managed to make an enormous frozen wasteland feel claustrophobic. And the ending... wow. It's the culmination of the feeling of dread that overtakes the crew about halfway through the movie. When Kurt Russell tells the rest of the crew that none of them are going to make it out of this alive, but they need to take the creature with them, it amazed me how all of them stood up and got to work. I damn sure wouldn't have done that. I'd have freaked the hell out.

Can you imagine what you would do in that situation? You're literally at the point that you know without a shadow of a doubt that you're dead, and that if this thing gets through you, humanity is too. Would you be able to fight it off, or would you be cowering in the corner? Kurt Russell is the shit, though, so he of course takes a stand. When the dust settles, the two survivors are left knowing that they're dead, but guard each other to make sure that neither of them are The Thing. It's dark, but also realistic. In that situation, that's the only way it could really end. It's a happy ending in that humanity is saved, but everyone that we've seen in the movie ends up dead. Not many films try to go that route, it was an interesting touch.

Kurt Russell plays the standard hero character, the manly helicopter pilot amongst the crew of scientists, and he takes charge of every situation. I can't say he was particularly good in this movie simply because he was so stereotypical. He was passable, though, and fairly believable. Wilford Brimley, good ole Diabeetus himself, plays the doctor, and is the final human form of The Thing. He's a far cry from the elderly mustachioed gentlemen that we all know and love from his commercials, and he plays crazy pretty well. Believe it or not, they use him for a little jump scare near the end of the movie. Pretty cool for a guy whose next biggest credit is Walker, Texas Ranger.

All in all, I dug the movie. It was decently scary, incredibly well-directed, and it was believable for being about an unbelievable subject. The monster effects were outstanding, and I believe really raised the bar in the body-horror genre that would later give birth to movies like Videodrome and Society. It was also one of the better science fiction-based horror movies that I've seen. It's completely different from Halloween, and its hard to believe that these two films came from the same guy.

Bottom Line: Great movie, instant classic. Not just a great horror movie, but a great movie. A must must must watch for any fan of cinema in general, and especially horror fans. Don't wait as long as I did to watch it. It's awesome. Not up there with Halloween for the best horror movie ever to me, but stellar nonetheless.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Braindead: Unintelligent Gross Out

I haven't written here for a while, for 12 days to be exact. My birthday was yesterday (hold your applause until the end), so needless to say things have been a bit crazy around here. My wife bought me an hour and a half massage for my birthday. I've always had a bad back, so going and letting some woman rub me all down sounded like a great idea to me.

Holy God massages hurt. I thought the point was to relax, not to have every single muscle in your body cry out in pain. Also, the only appropriate name that I can think of for the woman who did my massage was "Bertha." No other name I can imagine would be more appropriate. Must've worked though; I bought a membership.

I thought, while I'm feeling good, I should get back into the swing of things here with the few GoreHounds and HorrorHeads that read my blog, and to really kick things off, I figured I'd take on one of the kings of the genre: Peter Jackson's Braindead, or Dead Alive, depending on your nationality. I had heard that it was a ridiculously ridiculous take on the classic zombie tale, with a few low budget twists thrown in, and buckets of blood to boot. I also heard it was an amazingly fun watch. And I gotta say, I agree with all of that.

Braindead is a completely unintelligent watch. It's stupid, ridiculous, and has burned itself into the memory of many a horror fan, myself included, as the grossest and goriest movie ever made. But goddamn is it a lot of fun. It's funny, it's supremely gross, and it really really should be watched by everyone, or at least everyone who can stomach it. I, personally, had never seen it. I knew it had to go on my list of movies I would watch and review, but other than some standard synopses I'd seen online, I really didn't know that much about it. Sure, I knew about the lawn-mower scene, and I knew that it was supposed to be disgusting, but I had no idea the ride that I was in for when I sat down to watch it.

Our movie's hero: The original Lawnmower Man
From the karate-fighting, trash-talking priest, to the scene where the food leaks out of the severed neck of one of the zombies, Braindead was incredibly enjoyable and vomit-inducing. There was literally nothing about this movie I didn't like. It was terrible acting, but it was SUPPOSED to be terribly acted. It was low budget schlock, but it was SUPPOSED to be low budget schlock. It appealed to everything a good horror movie should be: it had the "handsome" lead, the damsel in distress, the guy everyone hates that gets his in the end, and a zombie baby that looked like something my neighbor would put on his porch for Halloween. It also had some truly awesome kill scenes.

Reach out and touch Faith.
The only thing I didn't like about Braindead was that it took me so long to find and watch it. I looked for it in every movie store I could think of, and nobody had it. I could've bought it off Amazon, but I'm cheap and like instant gratification, so I just moved it to the top of my Netflix queue and had it watched the next day. Boy I'm glad I did. It's on almost everyone's list of the best ever, and now I can honestly say I can add it to mine. Truly impressive, especially for what it was.

What got me the most about Braindead is the fact that it is the first film of Australian director Peter Jackson (I think he's from New Zealand, but other than Kiwis, I don't know what to call people from there, so fuck it). He would eventually go on to helm the incredibly high-budget Lord of the Rings Trilogy, as well as a less-well-received remake of King Kong. Lord of the Rings were incredibly high-grossing, and they were even Oscar-winning. They made back more than their ridiculous budget, and catapulted Jackson into the realm of heralded directors like Lucas, Coppola, and some would even say Spielberg. Can you imagine that? The guy that made this film that would make most of the members of the Academy vomit and leave the theater in disgust is now one of the biggest grossing directors in the world? It's insane. It would be like if David Lynch had made all of his catalogue up to now, and then had been pegged to direct the live-action remake of Finding Nemo or something.

I highly encourage any horror buff who hasn't watched this movie to seek it out and watch it immediately. You won't be disappointed, and you'll just regret never having seen it before like I did. Just take some Pepto before you sit down for it, and make the kids leave the room. You're not going to want to answer the questions this movie will give them. And for the love of God... don't eat any custard.

Bottom Line: Must watch. Not for the faint of heart. No really, don't watch it if you have a queasy stomach. You will vomit. A lot. Other than that, enjoy!