Sunday, May 31, 2009

The VOH Roundtable: Which Horror Fave Do You Think Is Terrible?

This week on the Vault of Horror Roundtable, BJ-C, RayRay and myself reached into our bag of contrarian tricks to come up with the horror films we specifically dislike that are genuinely loved and embraced by much of the horror community. Many of you should prepare to be pissed off--I know even I got a tad miffed reading one of this week's submissions... Ahem, anyway, without further ado, it's time to take a wizz on some horror favorites...

For months, I had read all the raves about Hatchet, seen the glowing praise heaped upon it at places like Ain't It Cool News and Bloody-Disgusting, as well as various message boards. "Old-school horror is back," seemed to be the general consensus.

Imagine how shocked I was then, to rent the damn thing and be confronted with one of the most amateurish, wrong-headed, derivative and falsely trumped-up pieces of horror cinema it's ever been my sad displeasure to endure? But I've got to hand it to the marketing gurus behind this one--they took a grade-A turd, polished it up real nice, sprinkled on some herbs and spices, and served it up as choice tenderloin.

Old-school horror? No offense, Adam Green, but old-school horror is Boris Karloff tossing little girls into lakes; Fredric March getting wasted on cheap wine and man-handling prostitutes; Max Schreck stalking the deck of the Demeter like a panther. Hatchet, on the other hand, is nothing more than a sad, masturbatory aping of a dated '80s subgenre that was never that great to begin with.

Ever the optimist, I somehow got it into my head that Hatchet might be an inventive, sinister new take on great exploitation horror like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Last House on the Left, like the best of Rob Zombie is. But what I got was a film literally devoid of imagination, with nothing fresh to say at all; rather, it's content to mimic all the worst cliches and stereotypes of '80s slasher movies, trying so hard to be like them that it only succeeds in resembling the very worst of them.

If that was your goal, Mr. Green, you succeeded. Congratulations. All the standard tropes endlessly churned out by the slasher purveyors are mindlessly followed, including most noticeably of all, those filmmakers' depressingly sociopathic disdain for their own protagonists.

Green raises the slasher movie, in its day viewed as the ultimate nadir of the horror genre, to the status of great movie-making, idealizing it to a ridiculous degree. Hey, everyone's allowed their guilty pleasures, and slashers definitely have a trashy-cinema appeal. A handful of exceptions, like the original Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, might even be damn fine flicks. I'm not saying there's no pleasure to be gotten from them. But I question any horror fan who limits himself to them, and considers them, without irony, to actually be quality pictures.

Hatchet is the filmic equivalent of "The Chris Farley Show". "Y-y-ya remember that Friday the 13th Part VII...when that bitchy camp counselor opened the door...and Jason was standing right there? A-a-and he smashed her in the face with the axe...?? That was awesome...." It's disappointing that Green would content himself to be a filmmaker with such limited ambition--much like guys such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, who can't get over their adolescent fascination with one hackneyed subgenre, and continue mindlessly paying tribute to it for the rest of their careers.

Oh, of course, it's not purely an '80s-style slasher flick, because you also have your requisite post-modern irony thrown in for good measure. Telegram for Mr. Green: That was already done more than a decade ago in a movie called Scream. Even that's old hat now.

The acting is terrible. The script is painfully bad, with dumb joke after dumb joke. At times, it feels like you're watching a Sci-Fi Channel original movie. "Ah," you may say, "But that's what it's all about, man. That's what those movies were like! Green nailed it!" Well, yes, I guess he did. Once again, congratulations. You succeeded in making a bad movie that's a tribute to bad movies. Only in the 21st century could this be considered a positive. See, the difference here is that back then, the people who made movies like Chopping Mall, Slaughterhouse and The Slumber Party Massacre made them because they weren't capable of making anything better.

Jesus wept. And so do most of my horror colleagues when I tell them how I hate Hellraiser. Now, I love Clive Barker, and most of his writings. However, I do not enjoy Hellraiser AT ALL. Now, before everyone starts whipping their special edition puzzle boxes at me (which by the way, aren't very cool since they aren't even actual puzzles) note that I never ever ever ever ever enjoyed Hellraiser. I've watched it numerous times in attempts to give it another shot, but there's just nothing about the film I like. Okay, I'll give credit that Cenobites are pretty cool characters and Pinhead is truly an icon. Clive, you got me there. However, you can have the best characters since Shakespeare, but if the script sucks, it doesn't matter.

First. I hate the characters that aren't cenobites. Frank only cares about himself. He's completely self-absorbed and has absolutely no problem fucking his brother's wife. Keeping it classy, I see. Julia is JUST LIKE HIM. She's a megaskank and has no cares in the world when she bones her husband's brother. Right there is a perfect example of lazy writing. If, say, Julia was some super sweet girl who got mixed up, you might feel for her, but instead, it's just another random hookup on today's Maury Show.

BUT THEN--Frank comes back to life. WHY? Why the fuck would you bring back such a shitty character? When he died, I praised the day and did a little dance, but then that fucker comes back. Ruins my day everytime.

But what really gets me is that stupid fucking puzzlebox. It is by far the most confusing object ever brought into the horror genre. So blood can bring Frank back to life, right? Right? Well, here's where it gets confusing. Pinhead not only killed Frank, but he also CLOSED THE BOX and took it with him, which then CLOSES THE GATE BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL. Frank died when the gate was hell, not Earth. When the box is closed, the gate is closed as well. Frank has already been ripped apart, Jesus wept, and the gate closed. Frank stays in hell and all is well here on Earth. THATS WHERE IT SHOULD HAVE ENDED.

But no, we can't just end it there. Let's throw in an M. Night Shamyahymen and go TWIST ENDING... Blood can bring Frank back through a closed gate! But Pinhead can't... Pinhead can't get back to earth unless the box is open. Even though the Cenobites have all the power of hell on their side. I'm pretty damn sure that creatures with all the power of hell could get through a damn gate. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Okay, so Frank escapes the Cenobites when Kirsty opens the box and Pinhead is pissed. Because for some reason or another, in order to get Frank back, the Cenobites need Kirsty's help. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? You're demonic thingamabobs from HELL. Use your weird demon magic or something! The Cenobites thus become officially the shittiest characters. You may look hard, but if you need the aid of a teenage girl to find're not as hard as you look.

This film is super overrated. Just because a guy is going to "tear your soul apart" and has a bunch of nails sticking out of him is no need to worry. I've seen plenty of homeless people on the sidewalks of Chicago with nails in their head blabbering about souls. The book does such a good job tying everything together, but the film....doesn't. I hate Hellraiser...HATE.

Since receiving this assignment from the exalted B-Sol, I have thought long and hard. There has to be some beloved horror movie I just cannot stand. Sure, maybe I am not the biggest Texas Chainsaw Massacre fan, and don't really appreciate Romero's seminal zombie flicks, but not as much as some. But can't stand? Sure. Beloved that I can't stand? That's tough.

So I am going to hedge and push the envelope of this assignment slightly. I am not going to talk about one film, but rather a franchise. And that franchise is Friday the 13th.

I will certainly be voted off the island, having become a heretic and an apostate all at once. But allow me to explain before casting me among the lepers. I think the original Friday the 13th was and is great. It was amongst the first in its genre, following on the coat tails of John Carpenter's Halloween, and was damn scary. Hell, it was scary even when it was edited for television.

And to tell you the truth, Part II wasn't a bad follow up. But it was the real beginning of what I consider a lousy franchise that exploited teens for their cash and really made a series of lousy movies that, in the end, became self parodying.

I wrote recently that I got sick of Jason Voorhees after he was killed by Corey Feldman. But in truth, that was being charitable. While the original was a good, scary movie about virile teenagers being silently stalked by a mysterious killer out for revenge, the continued serial returns ad nauseum of the wronged-little-boy-turned-relentless-zombie-murderer got old rapidly.

And they didn't end. Ever. Even when they said they would. Rather, while the original was released in 1980, Part II was in 1981, III in 1982, IV the Final Chapter in 1984, A New Beginning in '85, Jason Lives in '86, A New Blood in '87, Takes Manhattan in '89, the inaptly named Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday in '93, the exceedingly stupid Jason X in '01, Freddy v. Jason in 2003, and now Friday the 13th [part XII??] in '09.

This demonstrates the complete cynicism of the producers of these films, cashing in on Jason's hockey mask and machete wielding ways. And seriously, how many different ways can we, as an audience, watch Jason dispose of nubile young women? I have seen him stab, crush, twist, break, bend, and smash his myriad victims over the two-plus decades Jason has been in movies, and, in truth, it isn't really that entertaining.

I am sick, sick, sick of the silly, stupid and insulting manner that the writers of these crappy movies return Jason back to life, or at least to dry land. And, honestly, what the hell is Jason? I'll admit, not having watched the last 2 or 3 of these miscarriages of filmmaking, that maybe his origin was revealed or something.

Is he a ghost, a zombie, a vampire? All I know is that nothing kills him for long, and his bloodlust knows no bounds. And that's the end of the good news. Usually, when you have these qualities in a villain or monster, it is the beginning of a good horror story. But in this franchise that is where the creative process ended. After this, we are just served up imagination-free kill after kill, to the point that we look upon this violence as comedic. Now, if that isn't doing a disservice to the genre of horror, I don't know what is.

The series of Friday the 13th movies defined the horror genre for over a decade, with many spin offs and copycats. Even the original unstoppable masked killer, Michael Meyers, was returned to the silver screen in a wholly cynical attempt to cash in on the relative success of Jason's franchise, with the release of Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Meyers in 1988. Since then we have been treated to several more completely vapid returns of Michael Meyers, simply so some studio execs could cash in on teens with $10 in their pockets.

Jason was key in setting back the horror genre a full decade. Only recently has the genre, as a whole, begun to recover, in no small part thanks to the importing of the Japanese horror movies.

So before you get all up in RayRay's grill, ask yourself: are any of these good movies? The inescapable answer is no.

Skinner Show In San Francisco

Skinner will be launching a solo show at 111 Minna Gallery, in SF California. I love his tribal, colourful, scary monster-fest pictures. An artist with a bright future imho.


MSK Truck By Steel Lango

A wicked truck produced by STEEL & LANGO, MSK in San Francisco.

Graffiti Lampshades

More Info HERE.
Stolen from HYB.

Chaz Bojorquez And Retna Show

Calligraphic Kings, Chaz & Retna have a lovely looking show in Milan, Italy this month at the Don gallery. Including a big wall painting session plus gallery istallation...

Graff With Big Os




Saw on Ekosystem that the UK section has recently received submissions from 3 seperate artists all rocking the Big O-shapes at the ends of their pieces and they all use dotted outlines....just a lil something I noticed...


Earlier this year, over the Martin Luther King Day long weekend, PAUL BLART: MALL COP debuted in theatres to a gross of $39.2 million. It went on to remain the most popular film in North America for three straight weeks and finished by pulling in $146 million. You really liked this movie. When I first saw the trailer, I thought, now there was a January dumping ground film if I’ve seen one before. And then you all went to see it. Not only did you see it but you told other people to see, judging from the slim week-to-week declines. Now that Mr. Blart is finally available to rent, I have seen it and I can’t say I share your admiration for mall security humour.

I will give you this. The best thing by far about PAUL BLART: MALL COP is Mr. Blart himself, Kevin James. James nails Blart. This is a pretty sad sack and your heart goes out to him immediately because James plays him with immense respect and sympathy for his position. This guy is in his forties and lives at home with his mother and teenage daughter. His wife left him after she got her green card and he has been working in mall security for ten years because he failed the police academy finals due to some serious hypoglycemia. He goes to work every day and gets no respect from his co-workers or the people he is paid to protect. James just laughs it off but he isn’t fooling anyone. This guy’s seriously unhappy, lonely and has huge confidence issues. James makes the movie but he’s got his work cut out for him with everything else in this movie that makes it ridiculous.

I should have known better. Check director, Steve Carr’s resume … DR. DOLITTLE 2, DADDY DAY CARE and ARE WE DONE YET? Apparently, Carr is the go to guy for low budget, simplistically broad family fare and PAUL BLART: MALL COP is his masterpiece. (I would love to be quoted in some paper calling this movie a masterpiece now.) I think I lost hope in the film when the mall was taken over by a bunch of skate boarding ninja punks looking to steal a bunch of credit card codes so they can fly to the Cayman Islands. That said, it was still a lot more enjoyable than that other mall cop movie, OBSERVE AND REPORT.


People love to watch other people fail. It is especially more delicious when the one falling is finally doing it after a number of successes. And while the industry people around the world consistently admire and appreciate the Pixar pictures, they are all still waiting to watch them fall on their faces. The logic is that a streak of success ten pictures long is not sustainable but if there is one thing Pixar is good at (and realistically, there are a great number of things they are great at), it is making the impossible happen and proving everyone wrong.

The truth of it is that people may speculate when the first Pixar failure will come but these same people all LOVE the Pixar movies. UP! is no exception to any of this. It is universally adored by critics and audiences alike and now, it has overcome a vague advertising campaign to become Pixar’s biggest opening in years. As far as comparable summer Pixar releases go, UP! and its $68 million take is the biggest Pixar opening since FINDING NEMO pulled in $70 million in 2003. The fish movie went on to make close to $340 million in North America alone. WALL-E and RATATOUILLE both debuted to less ($63 million and $47 million respectively) and went on to make over $200 million each domestically so UP! is certainly off to a bold start. Now we just have to see where the wind carries it over time.

Universal’s attempt to counterprogram against UP! was only moderately successful. Sam Raimi’s return to the horror genre, DRAG ME TO HELL, only brought in about $16 million to narrowly beat out the second week of TERMINATOR SALVATION, which stumbled more than it should have (-62%). DRAG ME TO HELL is actually only slightly less praised than UP! is but audiences did not buy into the high concept approach to horror. That old lady in the movie couldn’t afford her mortgage payments and people couldn’t afford to pay to watch her not afford those payments. Or maybe they were just more interested in seeing the second frame of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN. The Ben Stiller McMovie dropped off a reasonable 52% considering it had intense competition from UP!.

Both EASY VIRTUE and THE BROTHERS BLOOM continued successful expansions this week. THE BROTHERS BLOOM nearly cracked the Top 10, coming in just behind OBSESSED with $652K on 148 screens. Perhaps by the time final figures come in tomorrow, it will have surpassed the Beyonce thriller. Though Black Sheep doesn’t believe Jessica Biel’s turn in EASY VIRTUE is that special, audiences are eating it up. The British farce added just 16 screens to its roster and saw its returns increase by nearly 70%. And although it has the third highest per screen average of any film playing, this year’s winner Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film, DEPARTURES, did not do the kind of business befitted to an Academy Award winning film. $72K on 9 screens is respectable but hardly memorable. An earlier release would have helped significantly.

NEXT WEEK: Laugh it up, folks. Will Ferrell goes head to head with his former OLD SCHOOL director next week as LAND OF THE LOST (3300 screens) opens against the much buzzed about, THE HANGOVER (3200 screens). Oh, and if you’re a woman and want to laugh, well then you’ll be happy to hear that Nia Vardalos is back in theatres with MY LIFE IN RUINS (1100 screens). Or maybe laughing at people is much more your style. Mariah Carey returns to theatres in TENNESSEE (14 screens); she plays a waitress who wants to sing. It’s a big stretch. And finally, if you like your laughter with a little heart, Sam Mendes goes indie with AWAY WE GO. That’s where I’ll be.

Source: Box Office Mojo

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Drag Me to Hell Took Me to Heaven

Thank you Sam Raimi, for saving us from sequels, remakes and adolescent garbage. Welcome back, sir. Hail to the king, baby.

In an age when so much unimaginative crap is being pumped out there for horror fans to deal with, Mr. Raimi has returned to the horror genre for the first time since the Evil Dead trilogy, and given us a truly fresh, original piece of horror cinema that is bound to become one of the all-time favorites of a great many fans--including this one.

Many reviewers are hesitant to come off so enthusiastically, but I'm going to simply come out and state that I have nothing negative whatsoever to say about Raimi's Drag Me to Hell. It is a rollicking, non-stop rollercoaster of terrifying fun from beginning to end, and I plan on revisiting it often. I have not thoroughly enjoyed the hell out of a horror flick this much in a long time. The unabashedly geeky glee that this film has inspired in me is truly formidable.

For one thing, Raimi has proven that provided you hold off on too much blood, you can pretty much get away with anything and still squeak under the PG-13 radar. This movie contains so much that is truly revolting (in a good way) and disturbing that it amazes me the MPAA did not slap it with an R--we're talking vomiting maggots, corpses spewing embalming fluid, rulers shoved down people's throats, eyelids stapled shut, and that's only what I can think of off the top of my head. If you think Raimi's gone soft with the rating, think again my friend.

Alison Lohman is wonderful as the heroine of the film, almost coming across as a more evocative and effective version of Kirsten Dunst's Mary-Jane Watson from Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. Her signature scene in the graveyard--don't even get me started. Pure, iconic Raimi, and the girl pulls it off beautifully.

If I could compare this flick to anything Raimi's done in the past, I'd say it most resembled Evil Dead II, meshing gut-wrenching horror and genuinely funny gallows humor in equal measure. I'll be honest--I didn't expect this to be as much of a comedy as it was, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Because as with all the great horror comedies, it is as frightening as it is funny. Much of the splatstick is pure Evil Dead, and there is a seance scene in particular which will have fans of Raimi's classic horror trilogy squealing with glee. Talk about throwing a bone to the diehard fans! Fantastic.

Much of Raimi's signature camera work and splatstick sensibility is in full effect, if a bit more polished than in his earlier work. Also, the strings-driven score of the picture will give fans Evil Dead flashbacks as well. But make no mistake--this is no slavish nostalgia piece. Drag Me to Hell is a voraciously original and inventive piece of filmmaking, which can be enjoyed even by those who wouldn't know their Ash from their elbow.

The sense of horror-driven fun that pervades this film is infectious. This is the kind of film-going experience we fans long to achieve, but so rarely ever seem to. Raimi hits joyously on every brand of terror--the easy jump scares, the deep genuine dread, and of course, the gratuitous gross-outs. It's all here in a veritable cornucopia of shocker goodness.

My friends, Drag Me to Hell embodies what makes being a fan of horror cinema such a joy. See it immediately, and often.

And for a completely different yet equally enthusiastic look at Raimi's latest, proceed directly to Day of the Woman, forthwith!

Drum N Bass/Breakbeat Drum Solo

A nice breakbeat/drum n bass drum solo. Note the zills on the hi-hat. Enjoy!

Concept Cars 50 Years Into The Future

Slick futuristic car design from Mazda, Nissan, Toyota & Honda. The brief was to imagine vehicle design 50 years into the future.

Mazda Motonari RX

"In Mazda’s vision of the late 2050s, advances in molecular engineering have rendered metal-based manufacturing obsolete. The rise of ubiquitous computing and artificial intelligence drastically accelerates the automotive production cycle. Cars are cheap, lightweight (around 200 lbs, or less than 100 kg), and equipped with intelligent crash avoidance systems that eliminate traffic accidents."

Toyota Biomobile Mecha

"Toyota’s Biomobile Mecha, a shape-shifting vehicle with nano-laser wheels, can read and adapt to changes in the environment and travel vertical pathways by means of biomimetic feet with powerful suction. In addition, the Biomobile Mecha is powered by pollution. A special skin derives energy from harmful substances in the air, so the vehicle never runs out of fuel (as long as the future skies remain polluted) and restores balance to the environment while it goes."

Nissan OneOne

"Billed as the ultimate pet, the Nissan OneOne (pronounced “wan-wan,” the Japanese sound for a barking dog) is a friendly, helpful member of the family of the future. Able to operate autonomously without a driver, the GPS-guided vehicle can help out by picking up the dry cleaning, fetching the groceries, and taking the kids to school. The vehicle can also assume various positions depending on the driving environment. It reclines to achieve greater speed, and it stands up to increase visibility and squeeze into tight spaces.

Honda 124
"The solar-hybrid powered Honda 124 (One to the Power of Four) is an energy-efficient, modular vehicle that can separate into four different fully functional units, each uniquely suited for specific driving conditions. A combination of robotics, artificial intelligence and molecular engineering (which enables the body panels to be reshaped according to use) allow each module to instinctively reconfigure itself and operate as a fully functional unit. Two of the modules are suitable for short-distance inner-city driving, while the other two are ideal for longer distances at higher speeds."

See more details and lots more pics from Pink Tentacle.