Trick ‘r Treat, (2007) G.O.A.T.

It’s time.

This is it folks, the most wonderful time of the year, the reason for the season, the greatest 24 hours on this god-forsaken rock hurling through space: it’s Halloween! For my final review, I’ve saved my all-time favorite Halloween movie for you:

On the last day of Halloween, the coolest horror anthology gave to me: Trick ‘r Treat,(Michael Dougherty, 2007)

Trick ‘r Treat is all about getting in the spirit of Halloween…even if by force. Tied together by the tiny hellish harbinger of Halloween, Trick ‘r Treat is a compilation of 5 stories: Each s a fun-sized morsel of Halloween goodness, all set in the same town of Warren Valley, Ohio on Halloween night.

Like I did with V/H/S 2, I’m going to go through each plotline individually, for your sanity and mine. Each of the stories weave in and out of each other and are not necessarily discrete in the film itself, but let’s just make this easier, shall we?

Opening

The first story is a brief little tale depicting the dangers of breaking tradition: married couple Emma (Leslie Bibb) and Henry (Tahmoh Penikett) return from a night of merrymaking, only to have Emma declare that she’s taking all of the decorations down. Henry warns her that it’s against tradition to take your decorations down before the end of the night, but the exasperated Emma refuses to listen. Fear not: a certain pumpkin-headed terror reminds her of how things are supposed to be done, in a very convincing manner.

This story is the shortest of the five, and basically serves to set the tone for the movie: don’t break the rules, and you’ll be just fine. It’s a fun little opening, but becomes forgettable in the face of the other four.

Surprise Party

This is my favorite story. There is a pretty solid “twist” to this one, so I’ll leave it spoilers under a cut.

Shy, sweet Laurie (Anna Paquin) is bullied into going out with her older girlfriends, who are intending to score big time with the men of sleepy Warren Valley. These beautiful twenty-somethings from out-of-town are on the prowl, but not for sex. Laurie struggles to find a date to bring to her friends’ party, but ultimately ends up being just in time for the festivities.

 

 

—-Spoilers—-

 

 

The whole set-up is as though Laurie is supposed to be having sex for the first time, coached out of her shell by her more experienced older sisters. But the “date” she’s supposed to be finding isn’t for making sexytimes with: it’s her mealbecause all of the beautiful women are a massive pack of werewolves.

THIS IS THE GREATEST MOMENT IN CINEMA HISTORY.  I cheer like a sports fan every time I watch it.

I mean, let’s talk male gaze: the pack’s women are all traditionally beautiful and dressed super provocatively . The final scene shows them feelin’ on themselves and stripping onscreen to some good ole Marilyn Manson in front of the luminous glow of a bonfire. Typical male fantasy stuff, right? Well it all goes to hell in a handbasket as they start to rip their skin off to reveal fur.

Talk about a strip show.

A werewolf sisterhood is literally what my dreams are made of, and I will be eternally grateful that it was filmed.

 

 

—-Spoilers gone—-

 

The Principal

Charlie (Brett Kelly) is the worst kid on Halloween: he’s an older boy who smashes pumpkins, refuses to wear a costume, and steals candy. He’s everything that Halloween isn’t, and local principal Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker) intends to rectify that.

This plotline is pretty dark, and focuses on violence against a child.

 

 

—-SPoilerZ—

 

 

Principal Wilkins is a child murderer. He kills Charlie for his disrespect, and helps pass on his serial killing ways to his tiny son, Billy. While very dark, the contrast between Steven’s domesticity and violence is darkly humorous. He’s a father who balks when his son swears, yet has been happily murdering children for years.

 

—-boos begone—

 

 

The Bus Massacre Revisited

A bunch of middle schoolers go around collecting jack-o-lanterns to bring to a quarry where several children were rumored to have been killed by a bus driver. Intending to trick the “weird” girl  Rhonda (Samm Todd), ringleader Macy (Britt McKillip) leads her buddies down to the quarry. The first part of Macy’s prank goes off without a hitch: but as Halloween progresses, it becomes clear that the kids aren’t the only ones in the quarry.

Full disclosure: this short is about a school bus full of special needs children who are killed by their bus driver, who has been paid by the parents of the children to essentially “get rid” of the students. While the kids are painted as being initially innocent, they’re still totally treated as boogeymen and a threat.

Listen, I get this is a scary movie and bad things have to happen in order to make it “horror”, but this is a shitty plot. Disabled and/or neurodivergent  kids/teens/adults already face enough social stigma and isolation; plotlines like this reinforce the fear and disdain said folks already experience. They are not burdens or fodder for scares. It’s the one point in Trick ‘r Treat that I don’t like, and as always, will not defend.

At any rate, this segment is basically Carrie for middleschoolers. Cute, popular kids play a nasty trick on the awkward loner, and it all backfires horribly for the perps. You feel positively awful for Rhonda, who is absolutely terrorized by these kids. It’s a tale of childhood cruelty that takes a dangerous turn, with bloody justice delivered.

Meet Sam

Grumpy old Halloween scrooge Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox) is adamant in his attempts to avoid celebrating Halloween in any way, shape, or form. Unfortunately for him, a deadly, pint-sized bit of “Halloween spirit” is headed his way.

This is the goriest of the stories, and has the overtone of a home-invasion thriller. There’s a box cutter slicing into an achilles tendon, broken glass in hands- some viscerally upsetting stuff. It’s also got a deep vein of dark comedy, so you’ll giggle as well as grimace.

…It also has a brief clip of Scooby Doo on Zombie Island.

So we began, and so we end.

Childlike magic coupled with a very adult set of themes

As always, some warnings: Some nasty gore, lots of vomiting, violence against children. Sex things. Brief violence against a dog. This is not a family movie, folks.

That aside, Trick ‘r Treat has the Hocus Pocus storybook aesthetic coupled with gory, spooky stories. It’s a brilliant combination that makes for a scary but fun movie, that is the perfect mood-setter for a Halloween evening.

That’s all, folks

And with that, tonight concludes my 31 Days of Halloween! To all those who have stuck with me, thank you! While I will be back on soon with some new reviews, I will be taking a brief break to enjoy the season.

I wish you all the happiest of Halloweens!

 

5/5

 

—-Further reading/Sources—-

Featured image source: http://collider.com/trick-r-treat-halloween-movie/

Young Frankenstein, (1974) G.O.A.T.

The second to last review! How quickly the season has flown.

On the thirtieth day of Halloween, the inimitable, irreplaceable, and greatly missed Gene Wilder game to me: Young Frankenstein ( Mel Brooks, 1974)

This movie isn’t scary, so let’s get that out of the way. But this movie is a classic for any season, and the fact that it’s about Frankenstein is just the icing on the cake. Young Frankenstein is about as goofy as they come, and features some of the best writing, physical comedy, and actors film has ever seen. This movie is a ridiculous romp, replete with sex jokes, horse noises, and absolutely no dignity. But this isn’t some sophomoric gross-out spectacle, but rather a playful, well-constructed comedy that will leave even modern viewers giggling.

Plot:

The infamous Baron von Frankenstein has died, and his estate needs to be passed to his only living heir: his grandson, a doctor named Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), who wants to distance himself from the dramatic reputation of his family. Convinced to at least see his grandfather’s estate, Frankenstein travels to Transylvania, where he is met by Igor (Marty Feldman), and his beautiful new lab assistant, Inga (Terri Farr).  Invited into his grandfather’s gloomy castle by the bizarre caretaker Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman), Frankenstein begins to unravel his family’s secrets, in a way that only Mel Brooks could have written.

HE VAS MY BOYFRIEND

This movie is so goddamn funny. Though it was made in 1974, Young Frankenstein is filmed like an old-school horror movie of the 30s: it’s in black and white, with weird wipes and over-dramatic sound effects. Mel Brooks is at his prime here, and between him and his cast, this movie oozes talent.

In fact, I want to focus on a few performances here, because they’re amazing.

There wolf….There castle.

Marty Feldman (Igor) is the comedic relief in a movie that is primarily funny: if that’s not a rousing endorsement of this man’s humorous talents, I don’t know what is. Feldman is a weird-looking dude- but he owns it, and has some of the greatest fourth-wall breaking lines in the film. He also has a Cockney accent, because why not.

THROW THE SWITCH!

Young Frankenstein himself. What is there to be said? Wilder was a giant. He plays the younger Frankenstein with a certain gravity- because he is a Scientist and doing Important Things- but also with his classic physical comedy and deadpan delivery.

Shtay close too de candles. De shtairvays kan be….treacherous.

Frau Blucher is my favorite part of this film. The horse gag is my favorite joke in cinema history, simply because it’s so damn simple. Cloris Leachman gives lends an absolutely ridiculous sternness to the role that is positively endearing.

The movie literally shows a train going from New York to Transylvania without missing a beat

If you haven’t seen Young Frankenstein, get a copy. It’s a good break from some of the heavier fare that rolls around Halloween time, and is a fantastic time no matter which way you slice it. It’s a good watch year-round, and this year’s viewing was particularly poignant, for obvious reasons.

Gene Wilder, you crafty bastard. You are missed.

 

5/5

 

 

—-Further reading/Sources—-

Featured image source: https://www.nytimes.com/store/young-frankenstein-original-movie-poster-1974.html

The Mummy, (1999) G.O.A.T.

On the twenty-ninth day of Halloween, my first dream woman gave to me: The Mummy (Stephen Sommers, 1999)

Today’s Halloween G.O.A.T. is part of a Halloween tradition in my household. Every Halloween night for the past two decades, my parents have set up shop in either the living room or front porch of my house to pass out candy. And every year, my family sets up a little TV set and watches Halloween-themed movies in between trick-or-treaters. While the selection of films has rotated over the years, we’ve decided on two movies to watch this year : The Mummy and Young Frankenstein.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that The Mummy is a piece of cinematic art, because it’s not. It’s not a deeply emotional movie, and you won’t walk away feeling like your cinematic experience has been transformed or anything. In some respects, The Mummy just a fluffy action blockbuster with little-to-no substance, but a high production value. Nothing to write home about.

But despite the fact that this movie should be sort of forgettable, I almost cried when I saw that it got put on Netflix this spring. I was in the middle of my last semester of college and struggling with all of the “last semester ever” emotions, when BAM: like manna sent from heaven, I was gifted a throwback from my childhood. This movie is a perfect blend of my favorite things: spooky things, comedy, historic settings, silly action, and Rachel Weisz.  I watched it three times that week, and reveled in its brief stint online. I now own it on DVD I also have it on VHS but our player broke, where it will no longer be subject to Netflix’s whims.

The plot, if you will:

Shy librarian and Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) and her brother Jonathan (John Hannah) enlist the aid of the roguish Rick O’Connell in an attempt to locate Hamunaptra, the fabled Egyptian city of the dead. Despite the odds, this unlikely crew manages to locate the mythical city: and its vengeful ancient inhabitant, Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo). As the former High Priest arises to reclaim his lover, the group must figure out how to stop him, and send him back to the world of the dead.

First things first

While I wouldn’t classify The Mummy as a horror movie per say, I think it works well as a “Halloween” movie. It’s got enough scary stuff in it to keep it creepy, but is funny and “action-y” enough that it can appeal to a wide audience.  To be fair, there is still some pretty nasty stuff shoehorned into this “family film”: living corpses, not-so-willing organ donors, and the ever popular bugs that crawl under your skin. It’s Spooky Lite ©, but sometimes that hits the spot.

I….I am a librarian!

The Mummy is more of an action-adventure movie than anything else, and a pretty standard one at that. The fight scenes in The Mummy are practically ripped out of an Indiana Jones movie, with secret doorways, bubbling pits of doom, and conveniently placed ropes to swing on. Nothing groundbreaking to see here.

And to be fair, I’m normally not super into action movies to begin with.  That said, I am always down to watch action movies that don’t take themselves seriously. The Mummy is one of the above, and manages to combine moments of gravity with an incredibly goofy cast. The repartee between the characters is delightful, and Evelyn is a wonderfully stubborn-but-clumsy gal who’s intent on blazing her own path. While the romance between she and Rick is incredibly cut-and-paste predictable, it’s sweet nonetheless.

this movie showed me the glory of both Rachel Weisz and Oded Fehr, okay

This movie is like comfort food: it’s simple and probably not that great for you, but is satisfying every time. There’s one review of The Mummy that strangely nails how I feel about this movie:

“There is hardly a thing I can say in its favor, except that I was cheered by nearly every minute of it. I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting or even the mummy, but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased. “

-Roger Ebert.

He could always say it best.

“Unreasonably pleased,” is about the best description of my love for this movie. It’s predictable and trite and basically just a pile of fluff, but The Mummy  hits all of the right notes for me in a way that defies reason. This movie is a weird little slice of magic for me, and maybe it’ll be the same for you.

At any rate, the next movie on the chopping block – Young Frankenstein– is a movie that needs little defending, and is a particularly poignant watch this Halloween season.

Two reviews left, friends!

 

5/5

 

 

 

—-Further reading/Sources—-

Ebert’s review: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-mummy-1999

Featured Image Source: http://www.impawards.com/1999/mummy_ver2.html

The Thing, (1982) G.O.A.T.

On the twenty-eighth day of Halloween, the 80s gave to me: The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)

In retrospect,there should have been a lot more 80s horror on this list. So many classic works in both sci-fi and horror came out of fashion’s worst era, and  yet this is the first one I’m mentioning. Luckily, the cool thing about holidays is that they come once a year, so I’ll have a lot to dig into next go round.

At any rate, I’ll probably end up doing a series later in the year centered around John Carpenter, because so many of his films ended up being formative for me as a kid. In fact, The Thing was originally on my list in my first series of reviews, which focused on my earliest horror movies. I ended up saving it for later, because The Thing is a heavy hitter and deserved a better spot on the list.

And so here it is, as a part of my list of G.O.A.Ts. This movie is simultaneously my wildest dream and my worst nightmare. On the one hand, it’s an incredibly tense, stomach churning gore-fest. On the other hand, it makes me think about whether or not I’d kill a dog to save myself. And it’s a really cute dog.

Plot:

A remote American scientific outpost in Antarctica is suddenly attacked by a Norwegian scientist, who appears to be trying to kill a dog. The Americans kill the Norwegian out of self-defense, but realize that something might be wrong at  the Norwegian base. Intending to offer aid, Doc (Richard Dysart) and MacReady (Kurt Russell) fly to the base, where they discover a scene of absolute carnage : the base is destroyed, and every team member is dead. Retrieving a mangled, irregular looking body from the wreckage, they bring it back to their base for examination, unsure of what to do. Placing the dog the Norwegian was apparently pursuing with the rest of the base’s dogs, things quickly go to hell. The “dog” sprouts tentacles and sheds it skin, and that’s not a breed characteristic I’ve ever heard of.  The crew quickly realizes that it’s what’s in the dog that is the danger, and that they might not be able to stop it.

I’M CALLING SHENANIGANS

What’s causing this nonsense?

aliens.jpg

Seriously. This is a brilliant alien film, one that has a blood-borne, shape-shifting organism at its heart. Not only is this creature grody, it’s wicked fucking smart. It’s a horrifying concept, full stop.

Also, let’s think about the physical location of the action: you are unconditionally and irrevocably fucked in the arctic. There is nowhere to go and no one coming to save you. The only way to keep yourself safe from this creature is to isolate yourself, and yet the only way to survive in the arctic is to band together. Yikes.

Carpenter builds up tension in The Thing with brilliant foreshadowing, from MacReady dramatically losing to the chess machine in a “checkmate,” to Nauls (T.K. Carter) loudly listening to “Superstitious” by Stevie Wonder.  The contrast between the deep blue of the cold and the bright red of the fire is beautiful, but coded for capital-D Danger.

While I’ll give The Thing’s gore its own subsection, one of the things I love about this movie is that it doesn’t necessarily rely on the gore. The Thing is primarily a tale about human drama: once the crew realizes how the organism travels, all bets are off as suspicion mounts and accusations fly. Trust is in short supply in The Thing, and it leads to a total social breakdown that has everyone looking over their backs. That’s what makes this movie a nail-biter; the gore is just the cherry on top. This organism is either gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames. There is no way out of The Thing, and it makes for one hell of a ride.

Let’s talk about gore ba-by / Let’s talk about thisdude’schest cavi-ty

I swear to god nothing turns my stomach more than the unrealistic, hyper-gory body horror of the 80s. I don’t know why, but for some reason this specific subset of special effects makes me want to actually vomit more than any other. Rob Bottin’s shit is next-level fucked up : those who’ve seen The Thing know exactly what I’m talking about. Dismembered heads sprout legs. Teeth are just everywhere. Tentacles for days. Spider legs on things that aren’t spiders. The cherry-red blood and shiny viscera.

There’s nothing like it in the world.

Warnings: nasty-ass body horror gore. Also violence against dogs. Laugh all you want at that warning, but tears well up in my eyes anytime I see a dog being hurt. Even if they are evil.

Kurt Russell’s ridiculous flying hat: a love story

This move is the perfect blend of FUBAR’d gore and genuine tension,  which is a rare achievement. I can’t vouch for the 1951 original or the 2011 “prequel”, but the 80s did good by this version. This movie is creepy and awful in the most wonderful of ways. Carpenter is the man, and The Thing is one of his greatest films.

Don’t watch this movie if you’ve got a weak stomach or are not fan of shall we say, creative gore. But if you’ve got a night to kill and want to feel claustrophobic and never want to be near another human again see a kick-ass film, get your hands on a copy of The Thing.

 

Just have a lighter on you.

 

 

5/5

 

 

—-Further Reading/Sources—-

Featured image source: http://tthk-18.tumblr.com/post/129351627158/film-posters-of-the-thing-directed-by-john

“Aliens” source : http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35mlvr

You’re Next, (2011) G.O.A.T.

On the twenty-seventh day of Halloween, my wildest fantasies gave to me: You’re Next  (Adam Wingard,2011)

I’ve saved the best for last, folks, and just for you. These last few movies on the list are my all-time favorite Halloween movies, all of which get my G.O.A.T. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, G.O.A.T. refers to “greatest of all time.” I’ve already reviewed one G.O.A.T on my 31 Days list ([REC]), but the next 5 reviews are going to be all G.O.A.T.s. These are the movies I can watch on repeat and never get bored, and I offer them to you with the highest of recommendations.

So get your shitkickers on , because my G.O.A.T reviews tend to be on the long side.

This movie came to me in a very special moment

Studying film in college comes with a lot of perks. You get to watch a lot of cool movies for homework, for instance. You also get to be that cool kid who knows who Truffaut is, and can answer lots of bar trivia night questions about him (even though-let’s be honest- you’ve only seen like, one and a half of his films). You get to experience things like thrill of watching some of the first films ever made, and connect with people long dead. Oh, you also get the crippling anxiety post-grad when you realize a film studies minor gets you cool points on Tinder, but not on job apps! But in all seriousness, studying film for me was soul food. This is the medium of my imagination, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

However, along with my degree and job search struggles, studying film also gave me the coveted title of “film fanatic,” (read: film asshole). This means my good friends would politely listen to my rants about the latest movie I was obsessed with, while my best friends would tell me to shut up and take another shot.

As such, there are a few movies that I am automatically and permanently associated with in the minds of my friends, because not even strong liquor can hold back these feelings, bruh. Whenever these movies come up in casual conversation, my friends send a pointed look my way as if to say “do a trick or something, IDK what film minors do.” However, because my friends are incredibly gracious, if they see a piece merch or a stray meme pertaining to one of these films, they’ll lovingly send it my way, thinking of me. To the distantly acquainted facebook friend looking at my wall, it would appear as though I really like dinosaurs, cute dogs, and murder. Which, in retrospect, is pretty accurate.

As you can probably guess, the films I get lumped in onto are some of my G.O.A.T.s, and today’s entry is no different. I first saw You’re Next in the summer of 2013 with one of my best friends in college, who also happened to be a film kid. We were the only ones in the theater that night, and it was single-handedly the most magical movie viewing experience I’ve ever had.

I became obsessed with this movie: I bought the Fangoria issue for it. I entered a bunch of contests to try and win merch. I had the DVD pre-ordered so it would arrive the day it came out. I then proceeded to watch it twice in the first 24 hours in which I possessed it. I went hard for this movie, and I still do. I then continued to puppy-eye my housemates/sisters (I was living in a small offshoot of my sorority’s house) to watch it with me in our tiny, shitty living room. They were very indulgent and watched it, but luckily genuinely enjoyed it. Or at least they pretended to, for fear of hurting my child-like enthusiasm for this movie. I then of course went home for some break and then made my parents watch it, and they liked it too.

This is to date the only movie I have ever seriously insisted another human watch. I have luckily moved past my true Film Asshole ©days, where I would act positively insulted if I found out someone hadn’t seen like, Star Wars or something. As a rational, mostly-functioning adult, I realize that not everyone A) likes movies all that much and/or B) likes the genres of movies I like. However, You’re Next is a movie I genuinely thought my friends would enjoy, and I knew their backgrounds and tastes well enough to suggest it. To be fair, they then collectively made me watch Pitch Perfect in exchange, a movie I would have never picked in a thousand years. Guess what: I fucking loved it. Turns out they knew that I have a soft spot for Anna Kendrick but like who doesn’t??? .

Anyway, back on course. I am really enthusiastic about You’re Next , and think it has something to offer for almost any viewer. And so without any further ado, here’s why You’re Next gets my G.O.A.T.

holy shit this movie is a rollercoaster

Before I get into any specifics, I want to introduce You’re Next, as it might not be familiar to some readers. You’re Next was an indie film made in 2011 that did the film festival circuit, before finally being picked up and released into mainstream theatres in 2013. It did decently well financially, and garnered generally positive reviews.

Here’s a quick and dirty of the plot:

Quiet, reserved Erin (Sharni Vinson) accompanies her former professor-now-boyfriend Crispian (A.J. Bowen) to his “family weekend” up in the mountains, where she is forced to deal with the ever-lovely familial squabbles and tension. Oh, and deadly assassins. Halfway through a very awkward dinner, mysterious assailants start picking off members of the family, turning the beautiful country house into a war zone. Without spoiling too much, shy bird Erin turns out to be far tougher than she appears, and starts to give the assassins some hell.

You’re Next is the beautiful three-way spawn of a slasher, dark comedy, and home invasion thriller. The premise is simple: masked assassins are coming after a family. It’s fight or die, and it doesn’t get more straightforward than that. I usually am not one for house-invasion or slasher movies: I prefer monsters or ghosts, something more fantasy based. It’s fun to be scared of zombies, because that’s a situation I will most likely never ,ever end up in. But someone harming me in my house? That’s a real-life scenario that has played out again and again in the real world that I’d actively like to avoid. So needless to say, I’m not the first to dive into these types of films.

But lord this movie is different. It’s aggressively different. Erin is everything that should get her killed in a movie: she’s the student who shacked up with her teacher, young and beautiful. And yet,she is the heroine of this movie, unapologetically violent and tough.

straight for the throat… and my heart

Is the fact that Erin has extensive survivalist training a cheap explanation for her badassery? Yes, absolutely. It’s awkwardly shoehorned in and given no context. Do I care at all? Not one bit. My cold dead heart was soaring in that theater three years ago. I was seeing a lady dominate a slasher movie, and not because she was a virgin, or “dumb,” or lucky. This was my first experience with the Final Girl, which -although a problematic trope- fueled my soul. I realized that I never questioned when a dude-character somehow knew how to fight/survive despite no previous experience being alluded to, so why should I care about Erin? Take your Mary-Sue accusations and shove it, assholes.

I legitimately cannot put into words how incredible watching You’re Next  for the first time was for me. My friend and I left the theater positively bubbling with energy and excitement. When we sat down to discuss it in the fro-yo place next door, we got into the gender politics of not only the film, but our reaction to it. Like, is that how guys feel like coming out of dude-driven (read: almost all) action films? We were exhilarated. This movie is one big “fuck yeah!!” for me, and I wondered if this is what I had been missing. If anyone wants to talk gender, horror, and violence with me, please hit me up because this movie is a goldmine for discussion.

tl, dr;  Erin is my favorite and is coming for your whole life.

family reunions: the actual horror

Visually You’re Next is very indie feeling, which makes sense. It’s got a sparse aesthetic and a dull palette, and the entire film feels like a tree in the last throes of autumn. All of the light is warm, but not the “invitingly cozy” warm, but rather “this is an old lightbulb and the only source of light” warm.  It’s beautiful, but always vaguely threatening.

The camerawork is subtle, but brilliant: while never allied to a specific point of view, the camera moves almost like a hand-held camera, inviting the audience closer to the action. There are also several shots from outside of the house looking in, which is a surefire way to create tension.

The music in You’re Next is also great : it’s dark and synth-y, and Erin’s theme is amazing. I’ve been trying to find a digital copy of the soundtrack for forever, and this year they finally released it!

…on fucking vinyl, the hipster bastards. it’s on youtube, I’m being dramatic

I had been looking for the score for ages, and they go and do this to me. Well, at least I can listen to The Dwight Twilley Band’s Looking For the Magic on repeat in my cabin instead. Or one of the two other versions they used in the film.

If you’ve never heard Looking for the Magic, it’s a peppy rock jam that gets stuck in your head in a flash. You’ll also never look at it the same way again after watching this movie, so enjoy it while you can.

While this is in some respects a very basic slasher film, the script is not. Simon Barrett assembles the worst family on the face of the planet, and manages to work a vein of dark comedy into an otherwise all-out slash fest.

I mean, I hate family reunions as much as the next human, but the family in You’re Next  are some next-level type of awful. This family is horrendously dysfunctional: The siblings are constantly in a struggle to impress their parents, each trying to out-yuppie the next. Aimee (Amy Seimetz) is an image-obsessed airhead with a hipster filmmaker boyfriend (Ti West), Drake (Joe Swanberg) and Kelly (Margaret Laney) are pill-popping narcissists, Felix (Nicholas Tucci) is a sketchy bastard, and Mom (Barbara Crampton!!) and Dad (Rob Moran) are well-intentioned but useless. They all bicker at the worst times, and Erin is legitimately the only useful one there.

But for realsies

This movie is brutal. While a fair amount of the kills are delivered with traditional weapons, this movie qualifies damn near everything as a weapon: boards, nails, screwdrivers, meat tenderizers, wire, knives, blenders. There’s one kill in You’re Next that had me up out of my seat in the theater the first time I saw it. Erin is one helluva deadly dame.

 

 

—-Spoiler for the coolest kills EVER and a delightful ending—

 

 

SHE USES A BLENDER TO KILL SOMEONE THIS IS NOT A DRILL

SHE ALSO PULLS THE KNIFE OUT OF HER OWN BACK TO CUT A BITCH

Also, the big “twist” at the end is that the assassins were hired by Felix and Crispian in an attempt to get their inheritance a little early. Going back and watching You’re Next is brilliant, because you watch as Felix and the rest of the family who’s “in” on the action slowly start to lose their shit as they realize that Erin is a goddamn menace. It’s like poetry in motion, people.

 

 

—-spoilers away—-

Some of these names should look familiar….

Adam Wingard? Simon Barrett? Ti West?

These guys are all well known horror writers and or directors. Wingard directed and starred in the first short of V/H/S 2, working alongside Simon Barett. Joe Swanberg is another “mumblegore” actor and director, as well as part time double for Adam Devine. Ti West is famous for movies like House of the Devil and Sacrament. These guys all know and work with each other, and it makes for a lot of fun little Easter Eggs in You’re Next.

Barbara Compton is also a decently well-known horror actress, so there’s that too.

….Also: The lead female, Sharni Vinson, got her big break in Step Up 3-D , the dance franchise. Not only can this lady maim trained assassins with random household objects, girl has groove. She’s all I want to be, basically.

This movie will literally always brighten my mood

If I were to describe the feeling this movie evoked in me with an image, it would be a picture of Sharni Vinson flipping double birds while riding in a hot-red convertible down a highway into the sunset, all to the tune of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell.

There is something magic about this movie to me, and I will always be down to watch it. You’re Next is a darkly funny trope-bending masterpiece that I cannot recommend highly enough. It also has infinite replay value, because once you know the “twist” at the end, the movie is full of so many little subtleties that make the movie SO GOOD. You’re Next is 94 minutes of pure joy for me.  While I’m going to say this about literally every other film on my list after this, just like….trust me on this one.

 

Or not, you do you.

 

Happy Almost-Halloween!

 

 

—-Further reading/Sources—-

Featured image source: http://www.destroythebrain.com/movies/movie-news/three-new-youre-next-posters-are-at-your-door

 

 

[REC], (2007) G.O.A.T

On the eighteenth day of Halloween, some hellishly long takes gave to me: [REC] (Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza, 2007)

To round up my zombie-themed series of reviews, I’ve chosen one of my favorite horror movies of all time. Not only is this an entry in my 31 Days of Halloween list, but also a G.O.A.T. For those who are unfamiliar, G.O.A.T stands for “Greatest of all time,” and is how I designate my favorite films without committing to ranking them because I have a lot of favorites.

I first stumbled onto [REC] when I was working on a film paper in high school. This was the same paper that I got to interview one of the directors of The Blair Witch Project for, and the requirements of the paper were such that I had to include foreign films alongside American films. [REC] fell into the foreign category: filmed in Spain, this Spanish-language found-footage horror film was popular enough to be remade into the English-language Quarantine. I decided to use the original version to meet the requirements of my project, and holy shit I am so glad I did.

[REC] is pure magic for me: the pants-shittingly-horrifying sort of magic. While I’ve watched this movie so many times that it doesn’t hold quite the same scare factor (I show this movie to damn near everyone who has the misfortune of being friends with me) I still consider it a G.O.A.T.

This movie combines two of my favorite things: found footage and zombies. Here’s a summary:

Nighttime news reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) is stuck filimng the nighttime crew of a firefighting station for her fluff segment, While You Were Sleeping. Hoping to capture some action, Angela is relieved when the station finally receives a call, and follows two firefighters Alex (David Vert) and Manu (Ferran Terraza) into the apartment that sent out the call. As the firefighters investigate, strange things begin to happen: when the building is mysteriously quarantined, Angela realizes she’s going to get more action than she ever bargained for.

                                                                                 PABLOOOOOOOOOOOOO

[REC] is so beautifully simple. Reporter goes into building. Building gets locked down. Zombies.Fin.

It’s a basic concept that is executed with supreme terror. Much like in The Blair Witch Project, directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza withheld information from their actors, and placed them in situations that would evoke real fear. For instance, a great deal of this film is shot in in the dark, with either a single source of light or in night vision. That means that Balaguero and Plaza’s actors were actually shooting in the dark, and were thus reacting to things as they happened.

Many of the takes in [REC] are also ridiculously long  and full of a great deal of improv. From a filmmaker’s perspective, long takes are hell because so many things have to go right in order for the shot to work.  [REC] pulls off several long takes with great success: they flow so well that if often doesn’t feel like a lengthy shot.

There is no music in [REC], which means no aural cues to tell us that something is about to happen. We are instead greeted by silence, which is in my opinion far more terrifying. The sound mixing is excellent, the engineers boosting certain dietetic sounds instead to create a sense of tension (pay attention to the sound of helicopters) in lieu of music.

In addition, the choice to set the action in a small, locked-off apartment block is also brilliant: it bottles up the action, and amps up the sense of tension throughout the whole film. It also provides an easy explanation for the cast of characters that assemble- they’re tenants. No further explanation needed. The tenants are a predictably varied bunch of folks, and keep things interesting until more pressing concerns nibble their way onscreen.

Zombaes

Speaking of the “pressing concerns” in [REC] , let’s talk zombies. In some respect, the walking dead in [REC] are pretty normal for modern zombies: they bite, have weird eyes, are aggressive. That said, these guys are particularly ferocious , I gotta say. There’s a lot of roaring and snarling, all of which echoes delightfully in the apartment building’s stairwell.

The most unique aspect of [REC]’s zombies is their origin: it’s part biology, part demonology. The source of the “zombie” disease was a young possessed girl, whom the Vatican has been keeping tabs on. One of their priests was working in the penthouse of the apartment block,  which is the source of the outbreak. While I don’t want to describe the ending (I watched it in broad daylight and still almost lost my shit), the last ten minutes of [REC] are probably some of the most sphincter-tightening, bone-chilling, “whatthefuckwhatthefuckwhatthefuck” I’ve seen in a horror movie. I cannot give enough praise to Javier Botet for his work in [REC].

I’d also like to thank the parents of every member of the FX makeup team, because they do a number on this cast, particularly towards the end. It’s beautifully terrifying stuff, and I cannot give them enough praise.

The only “heads-up” I have for [REC] (besides gore) is the depiction of violence against a child. Because again, zombie children are apparently legally required to make an appearance in every zombie movie ever.

 [REC]’s brother and estranged cousins

It’s worth mentioning that [REC] has three sequels. [REC]2 is the strongest of the sequels, and  it can basically function as a direct Part 2 to the first one, if you watched them in a row. [REC] 3, on the other hand, is a fluffier film not shot in the found footage style. It’s low-key cheesy, but you could definitely watch far worse. [REC] 4 picks back up on the action of [REC] and [REC] 2, but just isn’t as engaging. Still not awful though, and could probably serve as a solid “night-in” movie.

I’m basically advising you to watch them all, because they all rank at the Solidly Good level, but then vary from there. So go ahead, marathon that shit.

As for the remake, I’m personally not a big fan of Quarantine, but to each their own.

This movie is so good. So Good.

[REC] has an energy to it that few other films do. This movie says “fuck you!” to the concept of a slow-burn, and barrels down the highway at 100 miles an hour while flipping the bird to the Slow Burn cops. [REC] goes for the throat. It’s such a simple premise, but one that is carried out with such gusto that the simplicity becomes an advantage rather than a drag. It’s gory, it’s incredibly intense, it’s primal: all things I like in my horror films. [REC] has been a G.O.A.T in my pasture for a long time, and I cannot recommend it enough.

So what are you waiting for? Go get REC’d.

 

—-Further reading/Sources—-

Featured image source: http://www.movie-poster-artwork-finder.com/rec-poster-artwork-manuela-velasco-ferran-terraza-jorge-serrano/

Jurassic Park (1993), G.O.A.T

Clever girl

Generally speaking, most movie kids would rather swallow a gallon of nails than pick one movie to crown their “favorite.” And that’s a totally healthy response, because there are a lot of fantastic movies out there, all of which can be perfect for different phases of your life and have special meaning at particular moments.

For a while, I too refused to name a “Favorite Movie.” I once had to put together a top-ten-list of my favorite movies as the first assignment for my high school film class, and I spent hours agonizing over which to choose. I wanted to give due honor to the movies that had been formative in my childhood, but also show off my budding film conossuiership, but also not seem like a Movie Asshole ©, but also impress the cute boy who sat next to me in class. (I was like, 16. Give me a break.) As you can probably imagine, the final list was a rather eclectic one.

All list-induced drama aside, I did truly love all of the movies I put on that list, and most of them would still be considered a part of my nebulous list of G.O.A.Ts. However, I flat-out refused to rank them, because my heart was pulled in so many directions. Think of The Bachelorette, but instead of vaguely-similar-looking buff dudes vying for my attention, it’s a house full of movies, all trying to be The One. And instead of sexy cocktail parties and scintillating outings to foreign beaches, it’s just 16-year-old Caroline alone in her basement.

It’s probably useful to note that I was also in the beginnings of my Film Asshole © phase, so I thought that movies had to be artfully complex and thought-provoking and French to be Good, and thus worthy of the list. The concept of simply enjoying a movie as a basis for truly liking it seemed…plebian. It was only in college, when I realized that being a film asshole was much more fun than being a Film Asshole ©, that I realized that I did in fact, have a favorite movie- and it was low-key obvious.

You’ve probably guessed what my favorite movie is

In awkward icebreakers at social events or what-have-you, one of the routine questions is “if you’d have to bring only three things to a deserted island, what would you bring?” If I’m trying to look cool for my audience, I’ll say something vague about a fire-starting kit or tent and throw in something spicy like “my makeup bag, haha!” Normal, sensible things.  However,  If I’m two drinks in and want these people to know I mean business, I tell them that I would bring Jurassic Park I, II, and a portable DVD player. As I am only allowed three items I’d have to leave III and Jurassic World to the wayside (sorry, Chris Pratt), and would then of course need a device to play them on. TBH, I’ve seen these movies so many times that I could probably stare at the disks themselves and imagine the movies, but the sight of an almost- shirtless Jeff Goldblum glistening on a table is an image that is best witnessed first-hand, my friends.

I love the Jurassic Park series, flaws and strange gymnastic subplots all. But Jurassic Park I is undoubtedly the best of the bunch, and it is singlehandedly my favorite movie ever. To be clear, I do not think this movie is the “best movie ever made,” because it’s not.

But it does have dinosaurs in it, which makes it a hell of a better than a lot of other movies. How much better would Mamma Mia! been if there had been dinosaurs in it? Just throwing that out there.

But back on track: I owned the first three Jurassic Park movies on VHS. And then I got the DVD set, which I kept enshrined in my dorm room. And then I put them all on my laptop in digital formats, just in case, you know. And now they’re all on Netflix, which means that I am unstoppable. I think I watched the whole series twice in a row in the first week or so they were on Netflix, and I watched Jurassic Park an extra time solo just because.

I adore Jurassic Park and its bastard children on a level that is borderline weird. Story time: My family once had a little combined VHS/TV doohickey that they would bring on long car rides to try and keep us little hell-spawn occupied. As DVD began to take over as the medium of the era, the TV retired to my room. At that point, my family had over 300 VHS tapes, all of which were easily accessible and ready to be watched. Did I take this chance to explore the world of film, without parental supervision? Watch any R-rated film I wanted? Watch the live-action Mario movie that to this day I do not understand why my parents own?

Fuck no. My ass popped in the Jurassic Park II VHS and watched it three times in one day. It got to the point where I would just leave one of the movies on in the background, like people do with music. I’d gleefully clean my room to the sounds of the raptors devouring some human, which must have really pleased my mom.

These movies have infinite replay value for me, particularly Jurassic Park. It’s like everything about this movie was calibrated for Caroline’s Maximum Enjoyment. It also happened to come out a year to the day before my first birthday, so I’d also like to think it was fate. But seriously, this movie has aged with me, and the ways in which I interact with it have only shifted and evolved. I’d like to think it went something like this:

Age 8, or whatever, the first time I watched it: Holy fuck, dinosaurs!!!!

Age 14, budding teen Caroline: Holy fuck, dinosaurs???? Sam Neill is kinda cute, but idk, he’s old, yuck…

Age 16, Film Asshole © Caroline: Holy fuck, DINOSAURS? Sam Neill can get it, while also paying for my college and providing for my future. Also, genetic power? Philosophical ramifications of unbridled scientific progress?

Today, film asshole Caroline: M O T H E R F U C K I N ‘  D I N O S A U R S !  S A M   N E I L L . J E F F  G O L D B L U M.  L A U R A  D E R N.  G    E    N    E     T    I    C   S !!!11!1!!!

As you can see, the dinosaurs have remained pretty constant as a source of entertainment. This was supplanted by my blossoming attraction to Dr. Alan Grant, which was only rivaled to my equally confusing blossoming attraction to Rachel Weisz in The Mummy (surprise, kid!!!). Of course, as I became more scientifically literate, the premise behind the film became more compelling and horrifying, which in turn made Jurassic Park a more nuanced watch.

At any rate, the simple fact is that Jurassic Park has been a staple in my life that I have enjoyed in every weird phase I’ve gone through. I can watch it on a loop, and can essentially recite the dialogue line for line. Visiting the “park” in Orlando FL was like visiting a holy site, and I sat and ate the shitty food in the shitty Jurassic Park cafeteria and almost cried. I’ve told my parents that I will only accept Jurassic Park china for my wedding registry because I KNOW what my aesthetic is, thank you very much.

Jurassic Park is my favorite movie of all time, and thus of course gets my G.O.A.T. And here’s why.

Life, uh, finds a way

While the philosophical aspects of this movie only dawned on me as an adult, the message and nuances of Jurassic Park seem eternally relevant. To be fair, this is a movie mostly about dinosaurs and avoiding being eaten by said dinosaurs, but also is an angry, gory meditation of scientific power.

The story behind this -as written by Michael Crichton- is eternally relevant in the age of genetic power. This isn’t to say that the premise of this movie is good science, because it is not. (Yes, I did look it up, because despite having seen the movie, I still wanted to dinosaurs to be real.) The type of “science” they do in Jurassic Park is superficially plausible for the vaguely scientifically literate viewer (ie: me) so it doesn’t seem horribly outlandish (ie: we’ve smashed a shark and an octopus together really hard and made a sharktopus or something).  Shit, the name of the damn movie isn’t even right: most of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are actually from the Cretaceous Period (the T-Rex, velociraptors, Gallimimus, Brachiosaurs, etc.). It’s essentially like doing a period film about Italian Renaissance painters and titling it something like “The Pilgrims Ride the Mayflower.” The “science” behind JP basically serves to be plausible enough to let you enjoy the movie on a rational level, so long as you don’t think too hard.

For context, this movie came out in ’93, only a few years after the Human Genome Project began, as scientists started to fully explore genetics and all of the power inherent. The concept of direct genetic tinkering was (and is) a deeply powerful one- particularly in the 90s, when even less was understood about genetics. While the premise of “WE MADE FUCKING DINOSAURS” was absurd, the concept of genetic power in misguided hands served as a scientific boogeyman to the public and is the quiet horror of this movie.

Jurassic Park is very much about dinosaurs and their ability to eat people, but also about science, morality, and man’s belief that nature can be subjugated. I’m not a scientist, but I’ve read enough science-y shit and listened to enough of my genius scientist friends to know that life is fucking weird. “Life finds a way,” can come off as a vague catchall to cover for the miraculous sex-altering dinosaurs, but strange, unbelievable shit like that happens in nature more frequently than one would believe. Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) simplistic belief that because they created these “dinosaurs” that they control them is incredibly naïve: he pumps money into this endeavor, thinking he can play god with creatures that are incredibly dangerous. Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is portrayed as the flaky pseudo-scientist, but his critique of Hammond and his enterprise is wholly damning, and is the sort of “MESSAGE!” moment.

Here’s the scene if you want to watch it for yourself:

Malcolm slams Hammond for his unbridled use of technology for profit, as he rightly sees that Hammond doesn’t quite understand that the creatures he has brought into existence are living. He sees them as attractions and as moneymakers, with no respect for their power. Hammond believes he is in power: he is their father, he is their God. He “made” (or rather paid other people money who made) these creatures, much like he would contract out the construction of a ride. Hammond doesn’t see them as they are: dangerous, thinking creatures who were not made for this era.

I think what makes this moment so effective is that Hammond is not a bad man: he is never characterized as money-grubbing or miserly. He’s a jolly, family-minded man who has a vision and business acumen. He isn’t a villain: he merely has no understanding or respect for what he has done. He sees only profit, not long-term consequence. In Malcolm’s words:

“Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” 

I think this is one of the reasons this movie ages so well: genetic science only continues to advance as this movie grows older. The type of science Jurassic Park poses isn’t entirely ludicrous anymore. The power to alter a living being is both amazing and horrifying, and always will be.

And to be sure, a lot of this “horror” comes from fearing what we don’t understand: genetic science is powerful, but not simple. I consider myself vaguely scientifically literate, but my understanding of genetics is still basic, at best. I understand the theoretical possibilities for genetic tinkering, but only vaguely. To be clear: this isn’t some moralistic diatribe against scientific progress, as the situation as presented in Jurassic Park is an extreme one that is incredibly unique. Trying to bring back a fucking T-Rex for an amusement park is vastly different from trying to identify or alter the genes that play into cancer or depression. But in the light of unbridled possibility, caution is important, I think as a general rule.

tl; dr : Jurassic Park is about dinosaurs, yes, but also science and man’s notion that they’re king of the hill. Until they get eaten.

Get to the fucking dinosaurs, lady

Okay okay okay let’s get to the Good Shit:

Dinosaurs, man.

I was a dinosaur kid. My parents like to tell people about the time I corrected a waitress who handed me a plastic dinosaur to play with, as she called it “the flying one,” when it was obviously a pterodactyl. I was three at the time, and already a raging asshole. So clearly, Jurassic Park was going to fall on receptive ears. (yes, I am aware that technically Pterodactyls aren’t dinosaurs)

I first watched Jurassic Park when I was 8 or so, in a dark room in the middle of a thunderstorm, so there was a certain amount of ambience working in the movie’s favor. I still remember the jeep scene with the T-Rex vividly, and that awe and fear has stuck with me. The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are still some of the best animatronic creations I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of ‘em. Confession: I have never been one for digital creatures. I deeply appreciate the technical artistry that goes into making digital art, but it never manages to truly feel tangible to me, and thus not scary.

That said, Jurassic Park manages to use digital dinos to incredible effect. The digital sequences merge perfectly with the physical sequences, and you generally would have to be paying attention to decipher the difference. There are some scenes that are obviously all digital (the introduction of the brachiosaurs, the gallimimuses running, etc) but as a whole, the FX blends in well. In certain scenes, it took me a long-ass time to realize that what a lot of what I was seeing was computer generated, so 100 points to the digital FX team.

But one of the aspects of Jurassic Park that captured my imagination as a child was that the majority of the on-screen dinosaurs are animatronics or –get this- people in suits. No, seriously: some of the velociraptor shots were actually a guy named John Rosengrant in a really tricked-out suit, which meant that the velociraptor’s movements were far more fluid than they might have been if a robot was trying to do it. Stan Winston was the man behind the studio that created these magnificent dinos, and his team’s work is breathtaking and far surpasses many more modern efforts in practical monster FX.

I am constantly astounded by the artistry that went into these creatures – the pupils dilate and retract, the breathing, the fluidity of motion, the skin’s texture- every detail was planned and executed flawlessly. These machines and props were works of art, but they read so realistically. To a wide-eyed 8 year-old clutching a blanket in the dark, dinosaurs came alive. Jurassic Park pulled out all the stops and combined digital FX, practical FX, and the good old “man-in-a-rubber-suit” to create living, breathing, monsters.

Okay, so we’ve got really, really, ridiculously good-looking dinosaurs. But as one film scholar wrote, sound is half of the picture. We’ve got “realistic” dinos on the set, but had they been paired with weak or basic roars, they would have fallen flat on their foam asses.

The sound mixing for these dinosaurs is just as beautiful as their construction, and the sound engineers for JP deserve a million awards (they rightfully won quite a few). These artists had nothing to go on: no one that I know of has heard a live T-Rex roar. If you or someone you know has, please contact the Smithsonian Institute ASAP. The T-Rex roar could have been so generic and throwaway, but even today it is still so distinct: it’s a tiger, elephant, and an alligator, all mixed into one. I’ve posted an article about the creation of the T-Rex roar in the source section if you’re curious about the specifics. While you’re at it, look up alligators and infrasound/water dance. It’s wicked cool. The velociraptor cry is similarly unique and eerie (it’s also my text tone, in case you were wondering.) All in all, the sounds were on par with visuals for the dinos, and they turned them bloodcurdlingly real.

OBJECTS MAY APPEAR LARGER

In some respects, Jurassic Park is like Jaws, but older and sexier. Both are simple monster stories based off of books which use robot creatures to threaten humans in a man-v-nature hoedown-throwdown directed by Steven Spielberg, all set to music by John Williams. And like Jaws , it had a series of sequels that just missed the mark.

Jaws is another one of my GOATS, so you can look up my piece on it if you’re curious as to what other rambling diatribes I could possibly spew forth about monster movies. Simply put, Jaws succeeds because it tells a simple story really well. And Jurassic Park is no different, really. Man makes dinosaurs. Man puts dinosaurs in a cage. Dinosaurs escape cage. Dinosaurs eat Man. Of course, Jurassic Park is rife with philosophical undertones and scientific warnings and so on, which take it a step above Jaws for complexity. Also, this time Spielberg wasn’t fighting a rusty bunch of shitty shark animatronics, and had Stan Winston’s genius and skill at his disposal with regards to FX. However, the visual panache with which Spielberg tells Jurassic Park is right in line with Jaws. Spielberg is good with stories, and is really good at conveying certain things without dialogue or comment. Sometimes it’s with music, other times with clever framing. In Jaws this was often because the star (the robot shark) wasn’t working so they had to get clever. Jurassic Park, on the other hand, had functioning, great-looking monsters. And still, Jurassic Park is full of singularly evocative moments. Spielberg is a fucking master of telling simple story well, and uses the camera like a painter’s brush. Every time I watch Jurassic Park I fall in love with them all over again: here are just a few.

As this is a monster movie, a lot of them are incredible “Oh shit,” moments:

Raptor Dinner Time

When hitting the high points of this movie, I often forgot this scene. It was only on my last few viewings that I realized just how powerful it was: the conjunction of the dialogue, paired with the sparse visuals, is bone-chilling. We don’t see the raptors in whole for a very long time, and in this scene we see nothing of them- no claws, no suggestive flash of an eye, nada. The cow gets lowered into the pen, and then nothing comes back up. The sound guys do another fantastic job of creating a unique frenzy of ferocity, which does more than any dialogue could. The branches in the pen thrash violently amidst snarls, and the mangled, broken cow harness emerges. The power and viciousness of these creatures is so crystal-clear in this moment, and we don’t even know what they look like yet.

Water Glass

This scene is the equivalent of the first slow dun-duns in the main theme from Jaws. And it’s literally just a glass of water shaking. The implication of the soft thuds and the fact that they’re shaking the car speaks more than any dialogue could. The quiet dread that suddenly seeps into the scene is so perfect. We don’t even see the T-Rex and we’re already terrified.

Claw on the “electric fence” (Starts at 00:57)

I honestly don’t think there was a better way visually introduce the T-Rex. The claws slowly dragging along the wire next to the prominent “ELECTRIC FENCE” hazard sign is brilliant. Again, nothing needs to be said but HOLY SHIT THE FENCES ARE DOWN

Velociraptors can open doors?

Yikes.

Some of them are “Hahaha, Oh Shit,” moments:

Objects in Mirror

objectsinmirror.jpg

This is a wonderful “I’m-laughing-but-also-terrified” moment.

And some of them are “Oh shit, MESSAGE,” moments:

Velociraptor with DNA scrolling over it

raptordna.png

(please pardon the shitty screencap)

Fun fact- I didn’t catch the detail of the DNA code until I saw Jurassic Park on the big screen, when it was re-released in 3-D. It’s such a brilliant, subtle moment: these creatures were just code to the scientists, but this is what they truly are.

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (Starts at 00:47)

I fucking lose my shit every time this stinkin’ banner falls and the T-Rex roars and the music starts. It’s such a triumphant “fuck you!” to humans, and I enjoy it very much.

You bet your ass the melodica cover is in here

I figure a brief section should go to the music here. John Williams basically wrote the soundtrack to my childhood. Jaws, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Jurassic Park- all of these scores have strong nostalgia attached to them for me, but the Jurassic Park music is by far my favorite. And there’s really only one memorable song from it, which is the theme. But man oh man- no other song captures wonder and awe so perfectly for me. It’s quiet, it’s sweeping, it’s grand, it’s magic. This is a total personal opinion and I have literally nothing to back up this affection other than I like to sing it when I’m drunk.

Also in reference to the subsection title, enjoy:

 

That neck bandana tho

Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) is legitimately my ideal man. That’s all. This isn’t any argument for why this movie is great.

But it is important.

(in other news: Jeff Goldblum has aged like a fine wine and I am here to drink it, friends.)

Bring this post together, for god’s sake

Jurassic Park is my favorite movie of all time. It’s a movie I loved in my childhood that has withstood the tests of time, and manages to delight me every time I watch it. The script is witty, the music is great, the visuals are punchy. It’s a movie that has layers if you look for them, but it’s also just a really fuckin’ entertaining movie.

This movie has nostalgic value, but is also brilliantly constructed. I have watched this movie more than any other film in my life, and the T-Rex in the Jeep scene is still fucking horrifying. Shit, I watch horror movies all the time, and  the scene I still have trouble watching all the way through is the kitchen scene. Maybe it’s because I’m an older sister to a younger brother, but that scene is one of the most tense sequences I’ve ever seen.  This movie has guts, and the technical finesse to back them up. I’m generally not a big fan of Spielberg’s other movies, but fuuuuuuuuuuuck does this guy do a monster movie right. This movie has it all, folks: a classic score, good looking protagonists, and best of all- dinosaurs.

6/5

Sources/Further Reading

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/the-animals-hiding-in-a-t-rexs-roar/

https://youtu.be/gTNeNUXR6qw (alligator mating call)

https://www.stanwinstonschool.com/blog/jurassic-park-evolution-of-a-raptor-sui

Image Sources

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/T-rex2.jpg

Featured image source:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107290/mediaviewer/rm3913805824

 

 

 

Jaws, (1975) G.O.A.T.

What in god’s name is a G.O.A.T?

To get this party started, I figured I’d do a couple pieces on the G.O.A.T. movies of my life. While it would be impressive if these were in fact a series of posts on different goat-themed movies, I hate to disappoint: it is not. G.O.A.T. is instead a clever -if not misleading- acronym for “Greatest Of All Time.” When brainstorming ideas for this blog, I thought about doing a traditional “Top Ten” list. However, the thought of trying to assign a rank to each of my favorite movies made me break out in hives, so I decided to go for the trendier, non-committal grouping of “G.O.A.T.” I also have more than ten favorite movies (a few Scooby-Doo movies would take up a good percentage of the top ten, if that gives you any sense of the special breed of asshole that I am) and so voila- a G.O.A.T. list was born.

Disclaimer: this is by no means a definitive list, nor do I expect you to necessarily agree with my opinions on G.O.A.T.s, which is cool. At any rate, I hope you enjoy the read nonetheless.

Now, onto the first G.O.A.T. in my cinematic pasture: Jaws.

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(For reference, I tried to find a picture of a goat in a shark costume, to no avail.)

Jaws, 1975.

I first saw this movie as an 11-or 12-year-old about to embark on her family vacation to Nantucket for the summer. For those who are unfamiliar with Jaws, it’s set on Amity Island, a sort of stand-in for real life locations like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. If you’re reading this review, I’m assuming you understand the basic premise of Jaws, which is about a giant fuckin’ man-eating shark that terrorizes WASPy beach-goers on said island, including kids.  Putting two and two together as an adult, my dad’s decision to show me (a WASPy kid) a movie about a (WASPy kid-eating) shark set in a proxy for the very location we were headed to seems questionable at best. At worst, it was a recipe for tears and a burning desire to never set foot in water above 3 inches again.

Luckily, I was one of those weird-ass kids who was obsessed with things like sharks and mummies when they were young, so I wasn’t terribly phased. While that was the summer we happened to actually see a real goddamn shark in the water, I managed to escape my viewing experience and subsequent vacation unafraid of the water, and instead ignited a deep love of the film itself. Jaws, directed by Steve Spielberg and released in 1975, is one of the few honest-to-god monster movies on the AFI Top 100 list, currently sitting at #56, after being bumped down from #48 in the 2007 revision. Despite the fact that Jaws got scooched down the bench in 2007, this movie will always get my GOAT.

To begin: I’ve watched a lot of monster movies. “Creature features” are always a good time in my book, and even awful rubber-suit flicks entertain me. But few manage to actually be genuinely scary, even with all the benefits of modern FX and technological advances.  In this light, Jaws should be outrageously dated and cheesy to the modern viewer by this point in time, having been filmed in the early 70s. The simple fact that Jaws uses a giant fucking robotic shark should be its death sentence to a modern viewer.  Shit, Sharknado has more going for it in the FX department than Jaws and all of its sequels combined. But despite all of this, Jaws still manages to deliver big in the scare department, and for a lot of reasons.

Bruce, The Swimming Metal Catastrophe With Teeth

The FX in Jaws is primitive by modern standards. The animatronic sharks they built for Jaws, which were collectively named Bruce-supposedly after one of Spielberg’s lawyers- look not-so-great when they’re out of the water. I think that even the most diehard Jaws fans (read: me) would admit that Bruce looks rather sad flailing about on the sinking hull of the Orca at the very end of the film. But when Bruce is filmed in the water, Bruce looked great. That is of course, if what you’re seeing on filmed actually is the animatronic. Bruce was notorious finicky (read: a mechanical piece of shit), and so Spielberg and his crew were forced to get creative with how they visually told the story, seeing as their headlining star was being a primadonna.

And this is where Spielberg and his cinematographers take a tough situation and fucking fly. How do you make a movie about a giant fucking man-eating shark without a giant fucking man-eating shark? You get ballsy and film real goddamn giant fucking man-eating sharks. Spielberg got underwater cinematographers/shark experts/brave, beautiful, bastards Ron and Valerie Taylor to get real footage of Great White sharks. This footage was then brilliantly woven into the film, and avoids looking fake because it wasn’t.  Even modern monster movies still can’t figure out how to subtly weave in creature b-roll (I’m looking at you, Sharknado), and those who manage to do so unnoticeably still often don’t use the footage with such grace and to such effect.

Okay, they filmed honest-to-god sharks, whatever. Why was it scary and not simply a dramatic National Geographic special? Spielberg is a master of suspense in this movie, both due to design as well as practical realities. Bruce wasn’t cooperating, so footage of the animatronic in the water was dubious. Extended footage of a real  Great White underwater is cool, but also kind of boring. Spielberg’s editors and cinematographers are wily bastards, and said “fuck you!” to that, and attacked this footage with a Hitchcock-ian joie de vivre. Instead of giving the audience the whole proverbial chalupa and just showing us the shark in its entirety, Spielberg teases us with terrifying glimpses of the creature, and allows the human mind to fill in the rest. I mean, few images are more evocative than that of a fin silently gliding up out of the water. Or a dark mass in otherwise clear water.  Bloody foam. Empty barrels being viciously tugged around the Orca. All of these tasty little nuggets serve to ratchet up the suspense, using well-edited footage of real sharks and snippets of Bruce to paint a picture of a massive, horrifying beast- all without ever having to really show us the damn thing.

Of course as I mentioned before, you do see Bruce in all of his awkward glory at the very end of the film, but only briefly. I personally find that while it is very clearly not a real shark trying to nibble upon the crew of the Orca, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the film or break any of the tension. And that’s why Jaws still manages to (mostly) hold up to more modern monster movies FX-wise: Jaws uses FX, but does not rely on it. Spielberg instead utilizes the camera and editing to scare the shit out of us.

Well, that and the occasional well-timed loose head rolling out of a sunken boat hull.

Simply Scary

But beyond the shark itself, Jaws is also a GOAT because of its simplicity: it tells a simple story and does it damn well. Now this isn’t some anti-intellectual jab at thematically/linearly complex movies at all, so let’s make that clear. Some of my other G.O.A.T.s are wickedly twisted. But in this case, simplicity makes Jaws a G.O.A.T. Spielberg is an excellent director, and that’s because Spielberg is an excellent storyteller. And sometimes the best stories are simplest. His movies succeed not because they’re twisted or complex or full of surprises, but because he creates a complete world in his films, sticks characters who the audience are invested in into this world, and then throws us in along for the ride.

Amity Island is a simple place to understand: small, close-knit, lives on seasonal tourism. Brody (Roy Scheider) is the likeable underdog, an awkward outsider lawman just trying to do the right thing. The conflict is clear: true danger knocks on the door of economic struggles and tradition, and chaos ensues. I can literally sum up the entire movie in a sentence without missing any major plot points: A hangry shark comes to an island that lives off of summer tourism, and keeps eating those tasty tourists until the local lawman is forced to take matters into his own hands and kill the beast himself. Wham, bam, thank-you-ma’am. Jaws’ story is easy to follow and even easier to choose sides in, and is emotionally compelling.

Brief tangent: the script is also fucking genius. “That’s some bad hat Harry.” “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Jaws is rife with dry one-liners that are now some of the most-quoted in film history. Also, can we take a moment to discuss the scene on the Orca where Quint (Robert Shaw) gives one of the greatest movie monologues of all time? His story about his harrowing experience on the U.S.S Indianapolis (which, by the way, is a true goddamn story, though embellished in the film) and is one of the most tense scenes in the film, and it’s all dialogue. Shaw may have been a bear to work with on set, but he delivers big time in this scene.

I would talk about the music, but I think it goes without saying that John William’s score both was and still is iconic and essential to Jaws and the creation of suspense within the film.  And don’t worry: I have lots of feelings about Mr. Williams, and this will not be his last appearance on this blog.

Real People are Assholes, But Scientists are Cool

From a historical perspective (bear with me) the impact of this film is another of its G.O.A.T.-y aspects. Cinematically, the shark movies that were sweatily conceived and messily birthed in the aftermath of the first Jaws film are a direct result of the film’s immense popularity. While the original je ne sais quoi of the original has yet to be truly repeated, many of these resultant films are fun nonetheless (once again, here’s to lookin’ at you, Sharknado).

Unfortunately, the G.O.A.T.-liness of Jaws’ impact extended far beyond the world of film, and is a prime example of how art does not exist in a vacuum. Before Jaws, sharks were …..sharks. They were scary if you saw one I guess, but they weren’t necessarily considered a public threat. Jaws changed that. The movie struck fear into so many viewers that shark hunting and killing shot up massively after the movie’s release, as viewers now saw these creatures as direct threats.

Peter Benchley-the author of the novel that spawned Jaws and co-writer of the screenplay- spent the rest of his life trying to undo the damage his killer shark had caused. He wrote non-fiction books on sharks and sponsored multiple conservation efforts, such as the Benchley Ocean Awards, all in the name of promoting education over baseless fear.

Bottom line: this movie was so effective as a thriller, that real people took real measures to kill real sharks, who were probably just doing shark things and minding their own goddamn business. On a more positive note, the increased fear of Great White Sharks also translated into increased curiosity. This curiosity lead to an upsurge of academic interest into the creatures, about whom we really knew jack about at that point. I can’t make this shit up.

God, will this post ever end?

So I’ve now managed to take up more of your time than I originally intended, all while rambling about Jaws’ G.O.A.T.iness with no real direction. So here it is folks, a quick summary of why Jaws is one of my G.O.A.T.s:

Jaws is a monster movie created with an artist’s touch, using film as a medium and not just a method. And it is a monster movie, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Time and Spielberg’s touch have put this movie on an artistic pedestal (where it should be), but let’s be real, this movie is about a fucking shark that eats people. And that is why this movie is a GOAT. It delivers thrills that aren’t cheap, and is a monster tale told with a meticulous hand. It’s the best of both worlds, ladies and gents.

Oh, and they like, you know, blow up a fucking shark at the end.

But that’s whatever I guess.

5/5

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Further Reading/Sources

http://www.hitfix.com/news/jaws-turns-40-10-times-the-production-was-scarier-than-the-movie

http://www.pajiba.com/seriously_random_lists/mindhole-blowers-20-facts-about-jaws-that-might-make-you-want-to-scream-shaaark.php

http://peterbenchleyoceanawards.org/blog/2016-peter-benchley-ocean-awards

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-worst-shark-attack-in-history-25715092/?no-ist

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0615_050615_jawssharks.html

Featured Image source : https://www.movieposter.com/q/jaws_posters.html

Corgi in Shark Costume Image source: http://www.costumemodels.com/best-shark-costumes/a-dog-wearing-a-shark-costume