Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Blind Eye

Come with me readers on a journey. It starts in 1099…I’m just kidding it starts in 1971 when for whatever reason Amando De Ossorio took Spain’s fear of the Knight’s templar and turned it into a horror film which became the only Spanish horror film of any repute until Guillermo Del Toro let Spain ride his coattails. It wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but it was original enough and spawned three sequels, don’t ask how. Meanwhile in 2007 I somehow sat through all of these movies and now, in the comfort of my living room, with the lights dimmed just how I like it, with two pieces of toast and a superior movie on my television, I shall share this experience so you never have to do it yourself, not that I discourage curiousity in the face of a horror film.

Tombs Of The Blind Dead
by Amando de Ossorio

We are given the back-story on the “knights from the east” about how they had their eyes pecked out by crows after raping women in the name of the lord in a flashback we have not seen the last of. And then the ‘plot’ starts up. An ugly Spanish couple are lounging poolside when they meet the girl’s old roommate who another flashback tells us did some of that experimenting guys are always wishing more girls did on their own. Well their reunited friend starts hitting on the guy and it makes the first girl feel like a third wheel. Instead of confronting her problem she jumps off the train and runs off to a nearby abandoned ruin and decides to make a life for herself there. But that gets tabled when really cheesy looking skeletons in tattered costumes awake from, well, the dead I guess and kill her. The scene is moody and spooky and the fact that seemingly endless numbers of the things seem to come from nowhere is at least mildly scary, but the skeletal fiends are just too damned goofy looking to be all that scary. Anyway, the girl is found with bite marks all over her and then she comes back to life in the morgue and attacks her old job only to burn to death, for a second time. So then the girl’s friends and a greasy bandit and his uniformly greasy girlfriend go back to spend the night at the villa and they’re killed in the same slow way except the first girl’s friend who makes it to a train which starts to move again just as it’s boarded and it’s occupants massacred. The train makes it town, leaving room for a sequel, which is exactly what director Amando de Ossorio did not do. Oh there was a sequel, but the only thing it had in common with Tombs was the fact that they have the same villain. This movie is lumbering, ugly and mean. People are killed, slowly, stupidly. The villains are implacable and though not invincible, endless. There is no way for this movie to end but bleakly, and the fact that the people we have to sympathize with are disgusting, piggish, vain and petty doesn’t help this film any.
The Return of the Evil Dead
by Amando de Ossorio

The second car in this train wreck The Return is meaner and approaches legitimate scare value occasionally. This time the love triangle is actually a quadrangle consisting of the Mayor of a town that shares its name with the villa from the previous film, the Mayor’s bodyguard, the Mayor’s secretary and a fireworks expert who the secretary once had a fling with named Jack Marlowe. The fireworks guy and the secretary lead the small party of survivors into a large church after the knights come back to life during a celebration occurring on the same night that they were originally blinded, though, this time it was with a torch, not by crows. Anyway, the dead are brought back by a blood sacrifice provided by one of the most disgusting caricatures of a retarded person I’ve ever encountered in a horror film named Murdo. Murdo, the Mayor, his bodyguard and secretary, a young single woman, an expendable guy, his wife and child all take refuge in a church a la George Romero and are slowly whittled down. The demise of the Knights at the end is unexplained, probably for the better and we are forced to see a retarded guy get his head cut off. Go Spain!

The Ghost Galleon
by Amando de Ossorio

Movie number three has even less to do with the knights templar than either of the first two combined and the fact that its called The Ghost Galleon ought to have been my first clue. I thought they might have tried explaining it somehow, but I guess the idea is that the Knights are something like Spain’s Godzilla, just out there somewhere, waiting to attack whatever be-make-upped 30 something that should cross their path. Anyway, some models are performing the worst thought out publicity stunt in history by pretending to be stranded on a dingy awaiting rescue. This plan is being thought out in a dungeon somewhere where the model’s only friend is raped by one of the men behind the scheme, but she seems ok with it, all in all. Anyway, the girls encounter some kind of Ghost Galleon and are killed. The rape victim and three of the heartless ugly Spaniards behind the publicity stunt go looking for them, find the ship and are also killed. Notice the one guy, he's played by Jack Taylor (That sweater! THAT MOUSTACHE! GODS!) What are the bodies of the knights templar doing on a boat? Why does it become dark whenever one boards the titular galleon? Why is there treasure on the ship? What causes the professor’s heart attack? Anyway, this film has one thing that works and one thing only and that is the obviously soundstaged boat exteriors. The boat looks like it’s in the middle of a forest but it is actually creepy, unlike everything else about this piece.
Night Of The Seagulls
by Amando de Ossorio

Ok, film number 4 is actually my favorite and not just because it has a slightly more favorable view of retarded people. The prologue to Night of the Seagulls has some foreboding but is completely irrelevant, both to story and the templar mythology. A man and his buxom bride stop to knock on the door of a house for help of some kind, we’ll never learn why. The help they receive is actually from some horseback riding gentlemen with crosses on their white robes. These guys provide as much help as the blouse the girl sports, which is soon ripped off to give us the film’s first in a long line of forcibly topless women. In the present, a doctor and his wife move into a seaside town where they are most certainly not welcome. The first night in town the doctor’s wife is visited by the town’s retarded man, named Teddy. In Spain. His name is Teddy. Yeah. Anyway, that night the couple hear seagulls and a strange chanting, neither of which make sense given the late hour (someone’s been reading real books). They go to the beach to investigate the noises and witness the first half of a ritualistic murder but leave before the end. Some of the town’s folk try ignoring them completely except for a young brunette named Lucy who offers to be their maid. The doctor tries to get to the bottom of the weirdness when a girl comes to their door seeking refuge and is taken away by the black hooded procession from last night’s beach party. They do the same thing as last night with this new girl, except they outfit her in a see-through silk nightee. Anyway, they try to kill both Teddy and Lucy, but the doctor stops them from being killed initially and bring ‘em home for some Night of the Living Dead and then they both get killed anyway. The doctor and his wife escape on the blind dead’s horses who don’t obey their orders and then they discover their weakness is the giant stone idol in their seaside castle. This is the one movie that could actually work as it’s own film were it not for some much needed exposition. If they had added some other explanation for a town-wide agreement to sacrifice virgins, instead de Ossorio expects people to rely on the evil already set-up in his first three films. Happened once, why not again? But this has a coherence the others do not. Easily the strongest of the series in that some of the images are pretty cool and frightening and the film feels a lot less mean and a lot more tactful. But to say any film is tactful because it doesn't feature explicit rape, children murdered and a scheming retarded person isn't saying anything.

The internet might have just about everything you want but what it lacks is a statement from the late de Ossorio explaining how he arrived at the conclusion that prompted him to make these movies, because I for one have some questions. The series as a whole: FUCKING TERRIBLE. Why make such a big fucking deal about the fact that these guys can only hear you if everybody screams and whimpers like a puppy being hit with a baseball bat. Gimmicks are supposed to mean something. Then there’s the everyone dies thing. What a mean-spirited bully this guy is. Also, the knights templar never change from film to film, but their stories do. How do they get there? And the knight zombies are NOT SCARY! Their hands most glaringly so. They are frail little plasticy things that never bend in any way as if to accentuate the falsehood. Then there’s the pacing; slow as the day is long these movies are. This stems from the impossible slow speed the knights themselves move at. All of this makes for four screamingly awful films, and that’s not even bringing in the atrocious day-for-night photography that accompanies every attack not done on a studio lot. And why is every sound echoed whenever the knights attack? For scare value? Cause all it does is make the film feel like an endless chasm of boredom and like the movie itself will never die, even with fire.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Extra Credit

Beccah turned this report in to me during the winter, before christmas, even. so, i thought it only right to give credit where credit is due and put it up for the world to see. If any of you had done the same, this class might have turned out a little better in the end. Nice Job, Beccah.

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things

Director: Bob Clark

Starring: Alan Ormsby (Alan); Jeff Gillen (Jeff); Paul Cronin (Paul); Anya Ormsby (Anya); Jane Dally (Terry); Velerie Mamches (Val)

Plot: a ridiculously pretentious/ fucked up company of actors go to a cursed island, which is ¾ cemetery. There, their seriously demented/ enragingly pretentious and arrogant douche-bag of a leader plans to awaken the dead with Satanic rituals just for kicks. When obnoxious Alan’s spell fails miserably, they take a dead body back to the rat-infested abandoned cottage in which they’re staying, and proceed to have a grand old time disrespecting the dead—until they actually come alive and start eating the members of the troupe.
Fun facts:
• 1st North American zombie film inspired by George Romero
• Budget was between $40,000 and $70, 000

• Obviously extremely low budget (all I can say is wow regarding the “special effects”)
• The plot moves at a snail’s pace—the zombies don’t even come alive until 10 minutes before the end of the movie, and the acting really isn’t good enough to carry the plot
• The opening scene is pretty great though—it sufficiently confuses you, and sets you up to be tricked by Alan’s joke later. Plus, live burial is always a disturbing topic (having the view from the inside of the coffin is a nice touch)
• The zombies do make a genuinely creepy entrance into the film (extremely late in the game, but whatever). The whole protruding limbs/ rotten-looking flesh is pretty effective when popping out of the dirt (eerie green fog helps too)
• It’s less a zombie movie, and more a commentary on pretentious artists. As the latter, it’s pretty effective (and funny), but it kind of falls short as the former.
• The zombies steal the (now dead) company’s boat at the end…presumably to head toward civilization for a night on the town
• Alan throwing Anya to the zombies, then locking himself in the room where Orville is patiently sitting on the mattress waiting to exact revenge on his ass (probably the best part of the whole movie)
• This movie is hilarious, and the bastards get it in the end

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sequel Season Begins Again

Well, I finally got over myself and saw this, the sequel to my favorite horror film in the last ten years (Save for The Devil’s Backbone (The Ring and Dawn of the Dead are remakes, so they don’t count)). Anyway, here’s what the sequel was up against. 28 Days Later was the first horror film of it’s kind in many ways: Digital video; grainy footage; it was the first fast-running zombie film in 20 years; principles were all unknowns; spookiest opening in years; incredible soundtrack; stunning visuals; believable characters; new cause for zombification; taut plot; riveting ending; average-Joe hero; and the list goes on. Anyway, the odds weren’t just stacked against a sequel, they were dumped and incased in concrete and then turned into a memorial to Danny Boyle. So, I took a hard look at the pros and then saw it. It was directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who’s directed three other horror films, one of them, Intacto sounds like a creepy Spanish version of The Cooler with Max Von Sydow. 

28 Weeks Later
by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
The film starts with six people in a dark, eerie farmhouse of indeterminate size and location, four of who are married. The first couple is Don (Trainspotting’s Robert Carlyle) and Alice (Shadow of the Vampire’s Catherine McCormack) whose children were sent on a school trip which puts their minds at ease, kinda. The others are the old couple who own the house, an angry loner named Jacob and a blonde girl whose boyfriend ran out on them days ago. They’re all sitting down to eat when a knock on the door and the screams of a young child give them all a heart attack. Don reluctantly lets the voice in, it belongs to a young boy who eats with his hands and tells them he was chased by a whole shit ton of zombies, who show themselves about 8 seconds later. The music from the ending of the first movie starts up, which can only mean bad news. The infected make short work of the blonde girl and the old couple while Jacob flees, and Alice and the young boy get trapped in a bedroom. Don goes after them and the infected quickly fill the room, giving Don one hell of an ultimatum, which cowardice makes a lot easier. He leaves his wife and the young boy and runs away, his tail between his legs. He watches helplessly from the road as his wife is overtaken by the infected and runs through a field, dozens of the things behind him. Then, as if things weren’t bad enough a bunch more come from over an adjacent hill. He runs to a lake where Jacob is trying to start a boat and jumps in while Jacob falls off the dock and is bitten and then begins attacking the boat as more and more of the infected make it into the lake. The boat motor cuts up some of the buggers in the water, turning the water red and Don gets away. Ok, so...guy from Intacto knows his shit.

The plot is simple after that: The american military has set up a quarantine in Britain where some incredibly lewd snipers are stationed. The most sympathetic of them Doyle (Jeffrey Dahmer himself, Jeremy Renner) and Flynn (The Matrix Sequels’ Harold Perrineau) are friends who seem to be of some importance. Don and Alice’s children Andy and Tammy are sent back to their dad to London, which has recently been reopened after the events of the first movie. Don lies to his children about how their mother bought it and then they go back to London to find a picture of her at their old house. They sneak past the surprisingly inept guards and make it to their house where they find not just pictures of their mother, but mum herself. The soldier’s quarantine her and the most irritating military scientist in the world finds out Alice has something in her blood that makes her immune to the infection. Scarlet (Wicker Park’s Rose Byrne) wants to do tests (ah, what’s a science fiction movie without a protesting scientist who wants to run tests) because they discovered that though she is infected, she still has all her motor skills. The military just needs to hear that she can still spread the disease through her blood and saliva and they want to kill her. Anyway, Don sneaks in to Alice’s room and she spreads her saliva around and Don goes berserk and kills her terribly and escapes, causing a code red, which means everyone has to be killed. It starts with shooting and ends with firebombing. It’s during this time that Doyle’s conscience gets to him and he leaves his post and helps Scarlett, Andy, Tammy and some expendable meat escape. Scarlet believes that the immunity gene lies in one of the children and puts their escape high on their list of priorities.

Ok, what made this film worth the price of admission. First of all, I really like Robert Carlyle and his thick Scottish accent, so any chance to see him act like a regular guy is always rewarding. Second, the visuals were amazing. Fresnadillo knows how to show you something beautiful in the midst of something heinous. I couldn’t believe some of these images; the scenes of the city at night were unbelievable and the scenes of the small party escaping the city at dawn and running away from the firebombing and whenever they found themselves in field (I have a weak-spot for fields). Also Andy’s eyes are a really great image; they are two different colors. Anyway, the fact that the movie was just beautiful made it much easier to sit through this bleak nightmare.

Ok, the major downside: the Americans. Except for Flynn, who escapes this fate because Harold Perrineau is a real actor who doesn’t need direction to act like a human being, all of the Americans are wooden stereotypes. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo might know how to film a cityscape but he can’t direct people worth a damn. Rose Byrne as concerned, caring scientist Scarlet is so fucking aggravating; any scene with her in it reminded me of a Disney film, that is until zombie Don beats her to death with the butt of a rifle. Renner seemed to think he was in a WB program because he acts like a dude for most of the film. For whatever it’s worth I was sad to see him burned alive, so I guess he wasn’t a total wash. Neither of these two sound as if they have a day's experience doing their jobs. The whole film just gets bleaker and bleaker and more disgusting as it goes. And I'll admit I was a little miffed when they tried that helicopter blade through a field of zombies trick. Nightmare City started it, Planet Terror ended it, 28 Weeks should have left it the hell alone. This is not supposed to be an Italian homage, so stop pretending it is. The fewer reminders that Nightmare City ever existed the better and this one provided a few, not the least of which was running zombies. And then there was the heavy-handed military talk. The military seemed to exist to remind the world that Americans are twats and they have really misguided military operations (No Shit!). Watching a colonel give the order to kill everyone in sight, I guess was supposed to represent the idea that you don’t know the difference between a terrorist and a regular person, or an infected and a not…whatever. It was more than the film needed. We know the military sucks and if English was Fresnadillo’s first language the military stuff might have been more poignant.

Entertaining, scary, tense, gory, bleak, beautiful. All in all it could have been much worse, however, I fear for this franchise so Hollywood take heed. NO MORE SEQUELS. If I see Roger Corman’s 28 Minutes Later, I will be very, very upset. Zombies might rise from the dead to tell producers what they think of a third movie. I’ll watch Intacto and see if I couldn’t have seen this coming.