Monday, November 1, 2010

Working for the other guy's cause



The three movies I brought home from the library for our Halloween weekend viewing "pleasure" were My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009, Patrick Lussier), The Haunting in Connecticut (2009, Peter Cornwell) and Waxwork (1988, Anthony Hickox). I put the word pleasure in quotation marks because none of them looked to be very good choices, and I knew it at the time. However, they rose to the top among an initial group of contenders that also featured the remake of The Stepfather, the remake of Last House on the Left, and the remake of Prom Night. Hey, the pickin's were slim.

My wife sort of laughed at the choices and appeared to have rejected them outright, especially since we now have access to a virtually unlimited supply of horror movies by streaming Netflix through our BluRay player. But when it came time to watch something on Devil's Night last night, it became clear that almost all the movies my wife had singled out ended up being Korean. I wouldn't have ordinarily minded because I've had very good experience with Korean films lately (see here), but we both kind of decided that we weren't in a subtitles mood last night. The only other horror films scattered around in our instant viewing queue were films that seemed as dismal as those I'd brought home from the library, like P2 (killer in a parking garage!) and Below (ghosts in a submarine!). Though just looking up Below now, I see that Darren Aronofsky co-scripted it, so we may have to prioritize that one.

"I'd watch The Haunting in Connecticut," my wife offered. This didn't entirely surprise me, since she watches the show Paranormal State, which involves a team of ghost hunters staking out supposedly haunted homes to try to find evidence of supernatural activity. The Haunting in Connecticut dovetailed with that pretty well ... even if the critic on my site had given it only one star.

So we threw in the disc but failed to skip directly ahead to the menu, exposing ourselves to the trailers instead. One of the first was a trailer for My Bloody Valentine 3D. And it actually looked pretty good. A slasher film to be sure, but with a potentially creepy, original villain -- a miner in a gas mask. (Not original, actually -- as we soon were reminded, this was also a remake.)

So I asked her if she'd rather watch that. "Maybe," she said, in a guilty way that suggests a kid who got caught with her hand in the cookie jar. So out came Connecticut and in went Valentine.

Wouldn't you know it, but My Bloody Valentine returned the favor by showing a trailer for The Haunting in Connecticut. Which we also saw by again uncharacteristically forgetting to jump forward directly to the DVD menu. And wouldn't you know it, The Haunting in Connecticut also looked pretty good. Not to mention that we then saw a trailer for a new remastering of the original My Bloody Valentine, and the scenes we saw from that made the remake we were about to watch seem less promising.

So was a switch back in order?

If you can read my Most Recently Watched section on the right, you'll know the answer was "no." We thought all the flip-flopping was a little ridiculous and decided to stick with our original flop. Leaving The Haunting in Connecticut as a possibility for actual Halloween night if we again feel subtitle-challenged.

I do think it was funny that both of the films had an advertisement for the other film on it. I mean, clearly it was just a coincidence -- there would be no way to expect a person to rent these two films in tandem, and to know that they would each inadvertently be trying to make the case for the other movie. But in this one particular circumstance it turned out quite funny indeed.

Now, I would have been really surprised if we'd thrown in Waxwork and seen a trailer for either or both of these other films.

Not having seen The Haunting in Connecticut yet, I have no idea if we chose incorrectly between the two. But let's just say that you could stack almost any movie up against My Bloody Valentine 3D, and the other film would always be the correct choice. My Bloody Valentine was tedious and uninspired, but to such a degree that we both said it was among the several dozen worst films we'd ever seen. We agreed it wasn't scary for a single moment, but it also wasn't the least bit clever. The film follows the tried-and-boring formula where a killer seems to reappear exactly ten years after his first series of killings, after which he was presumed dead. Is it the killer returned, or is it a copycat? No one knows, of course, because he's always wearing a miner's helmet, gas mask and heavy work outfit, which don't prevent him from being anywhere and everywhere at once, like Jason Voorhees before him. The reason it's not scary is that the killer always steps out into view long before he attacks anyone, and each kill is different from the one before only in terms of how the killer's pickaxe enters the victim's body.

Structurally, the film also gets off to a really weird start that completely threw my wife and me. It opens with a rather clever device, actually, in which a series of overlapping newspaper articles whose graphical elements are moving forward in the frame -- remember, 3D -- lays out the whole back story of a man who survives a mine collapse and then goes crazy, killing people. There's nothing at the time that indicates this is ten years before present day, so when the characters are introduced and the plot swings in to gear, it seems like it's just the regular movie starting. Which makes it all the more strange when, at the 14-minute mark, teenagers are being knocked off in a mineshaft like they would be in the middle of a movie that had been set up a lot better. It turns out that this is preparing us for the "TEN YEARS LATER" title card, but because such an unskillful job was done of setting this up as a flashback, it left us laughing and scratching our heads at the structural oddity for several minutes before we were finally oriented correctly. (Oh, and never mind that there's an opening scene where the killer leaves a path of carnage in a hospital that's just ridiculous -- how could anyone dismember so many people (removing their hearts in some cases) without someone intervening?)

My Bloody Valentine 3D would also have been a great film to discuss in my Friday post about the word "3D" being part of movie titles. This was precisely the type of future living room viewing of the movie I was talking about, in which the word "3D" makes no sense in the title. Actually, you could flip the DVD to the appropriate side and watch it in 3D, but naturally, we didn't have the correct equipment. Still, you could easily see the parts that were supposed to be 3D -- I suppose that's always the case -- and it quickly became clear to us that the only excuse for a movie like this is to see which clumps of gore they can flip at the camera, when. I guess the mission statement behind The Final Destination in 3D and Saw 3D wouldn't be much different.

Well, Happy Halloween, everyone. If you're watching something tonight, here's hoping you do better than My Bloody Valentine 3D.

Maybe we should have saved it for a themed viewing on Valentine's Day, rather than Halloween, for how scary it actually was.

2 comments:

Mike Lippert said...

Ya, Bloody Valentine is really bad, not to mention the cheap and lazy ending. Haunting is a little better but not by much. At least it's more interesting and grounded. Last night I watched the original Amityville Horror (Has another horror movie ever been so anti-climactic?), Child's Play (I'd forgotten just how good that one was) and Night of the Living Dead (seeing it for the first time restored and remastered in a DVD version I bought several years ago was like seeing a whole new movie).

If you want a really great recent horror flick, nothing beats House of the Devil.

As a side note, because I know I never got back to responding to your comment, I have no idea how to turn the word verification off (that's why it's on).

Vancetastic said...

Mike,

If you go to Settings-> Comments-> Show Word Verification for comments, you can switch it off there. Not a big deal for sure, but since you are moderating them anyway ...

Glad to hear about House of the Devil. It's on my radar for next Halloween or sooner.

Funny, I ended up liking The Haunting in Connecticut a LOT more than My Bloody Valentine. The site I wrote for gave it only a single star, though the review was better than that star rating would suggest (though not much better). I actually found that it gave me chills a number of times, and was shot well. One complaint I have about horror movies is that often times the bizarre images people see follow a fairly random design -- as though the effects guys chose randomly among what they considered to be spooky imagery, without worrying whether it fits into the theme of the movie. I thought this movie did better than that in trying to keep all the imagery relatively consistent. A thumbs up for me.

I love Night of the Living Dead and definitely need to see it again soon. A true classic of the genre. I don't know if there's been a better zombie movie since.