Week 3: Month of monsters

By Chris Withers
Week 3: No real theme week
So yeah, after the exhaustive Saw theme week I’m going back to random crap. The films this week will be obscure and off-the-wall. For those who have forgotten since last time we will also be counting down the Best Overall, Worst Overall, Scariest, Least Entertaining, and finally Most Entertaining.
The Final: A group of bullied kids decide to get back at their tormentors by torturing them at a Halloween party.
Ah yes, the torture-porn genre. A genre that many despise, for good reason, and yet that never goes away. The low budget and cast of actual high school students lends the film a certain level of authenticity that permeates its darker moments. Said moments are actually relatively bloodless, leaving most of the film’s torture scenes up to the viewer. One thing that struck me as oddest about The Final was it’s complete lack of a central protagonist until the second act. The main ‘hero’ of the film doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time; he’s just the protagonist because he’s nice. The film is attempting to stay away from “wish fulfillment”*, and cliches, while painfully being so. The actual torture scenes are good; again the lack of blood is a welcome change. The only problem that I have here is the torturers themselves. Their characters are undeveloped and the overall behavior of them through the torture scenes make it hard to take them seriously.
Dead Snow: Nazi Zombies. This film is about Nazi Zombies.
So why is Dead Snow so boring? The premise of this film is Nazi Zombies. This shouldn’t be hard to do; you make a bunch of people fight a bunch of Nazi Zombies. Part of the issue is the tone and the atmosphere. While it is clear that the filmmakers wanted to make a horror comedy in the style of Shaun of the Dead or Dead Alive, they fail to understand what made those films funny or scary. In both of the above-mentioned films the line between joke scene, and horror scene was well established. You knew when a scene was supposed to be funny by the way it was shot and the music. You knew when you were supposed to take things seriously because again the music and the cinematography and the direction would be consistent. This movie doesn’t have any of that. The scenes that are supposed to be funny don’t make any sense, possibly because of bad translation (this film is dubbed English over German). All of the money shots in the movie are lifted straight from other movies too, one of them stolen from Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever of all bloody places.
Sinister: A drunken crime-novelist moves into the house of the family whose deaths he’s investigating. After discovering a box of home movies that contain footage of their murders, he desperately tries to piece together the reason behind the murders, while slowly losing his sanity in the process.
I loved Sinister, a lot. I don’t enjoy a lot of modern horror because a lot of it is steeped in uninspired jump-scares, buckets of gore, and found-footage garbage. Funnily enough two of these things mentioned (jump-scares and found-footage garbage) happen in Sinister but good direction and an old-school (but still tight) script hold it together. The acting in the film is pretty good, albeit some of the actors can get a little hammy during the talky scenes but once the lights go out they’re all business. One thing that surprised me a lot was the almost complete lack of blood in the movie. The direction here is top-notch, the film was clearly a labor of love by its director. He has a little trouble directing slow scenes but when it comes time for balls-to-the-wall scares he’s great. Some of the directing choices are highly unconventional and really do entertain. One scene in particular in the middle of the film with all of the murder victims is particularly terrifying and incredibly well put together.
Die: Six strangers, with a possible connection to one another are kidnapped. They find themselves at the will of the die as a man forces them to harm one another by rolling a dice.
This is a movie that really believes that it’s a lot cleverer than it actually is. Die works a lot like a post-modern version of Memento. What I mean by this is the fact that this movie is extremely presumptuous, making the audience believe they know what’s going on from the very beginning. Only then to pull a switcheroo and pull out from a twist near the end. While some other movie might be able to make that clever, it really doesn’t work here due to the timing of the kills and the finding of the bodies. In addition to this the way that the film is edited and the number of days they keep bringing up in the film doesn’t work without the twist ending. Aside from that the film is mediocre, the direction is pretty good but the acting is sub-par. The weirdest thing about the film is the way that the kill scenes are staged. Rather than giving the back story of the trapped characters and allow for the kill scenes to have some tension, we get them afterwards, so the audience couldn’t possibly care. You know what? This movie sucks.
Cry_Wolf: A group of incredibly stupid teenagers get together and decide to prank their high school by making it look like a recent murder was actually part of a serial killing. Yes, these douchebags really are that stupid.
If it isn’t clear enough from my description of the plot, I don’t like this movie very much. Much like Die, the film Cry_Wolf is centered around a gimmicky plot twist. Unlike Die however, the plot twist in Wolf isn’t just stupid, it requires the main characters to have the ability to predict the insane, beyond illogical actions of all of the other characters in order for its twist to work. While I could discuss the acting or the directing none of it matters as much as the idiocy that the characters pass off as logic and the stupid twist ending.
Thankskilling: A group of teens are caught in the path of a zombie/summoned, spirit/vengeful thing turkey/vulture. Hilarity doesn’t ensue.
So this is another one of those movies that you really can’t believe that they couldn’t pull off. Fun fact however is that this is technically the second horror movie based on Thanksgiving that was announced, but the first to make it to audiences. However, Thankskilling sucks.
Funny Games: A family goes to their summer home for a vacation only to be confronted by two brothers who hurt and torture them for no real reason.
This is a terrible movie, and it’s terrible for one stupid reason. The movie is trying to tell a message, a terrible, badly told message. The film uses the two brothers, the “remote brothers”, as a metaphor for violence in the media. There is a scene towards the middle of the film where the mother manages to get a hold of a shotgun and kills one of the “remote boys”. The other one however grabs a normal TV remote and, I’m not joking, rewinds the movie to save his brother. The metaphor in this scene is supposed to be that violence in the media will never truly die. The reason that the film’s message is terrible is because the film is clearly condemning violence, and yet revels in it. The film never shies away from the violence its characters inflict, never let’s you just imagine the suffering of its heroine, it makes you watch from beginning to end. Funny Games tries to attract you to the film with promises of violence, and then once you’re there it rubs your nose in it and tries to make you feel bad for enjoying it. Screw you, movie.
Awards for week 3
Best Overall: Sinister: An old-school horror movie with new-school trappings. Mostly devoid of gore, the film manages to scare its audience without having to rely on most of the worst clichés of the genre. A labor of love by its director, writer, and producer, Scott Derikkson, you can see the effort that went into every frame of the movie right up there on screen.
Worst Overall: Thankskilling: I still have a hard time believing that this is a real movie. I still can’t believe that I haven’t just been punk’d, and somewhere someone is watching MTV and laughing. I’ve seen low budget films, Jack Frost, Hobgoblins, hell I’ve seen Manos: The hands of Fate (unriffed, not the MST3K version).
Scariest: Sinister: See above
Least Entertaining: Funny Games: The only thing worse than a terrible, stupid, and insulting movie like Thankskilling. The only thing worse than a boring and predictable movie like Die. The only thing worse than a movie whose characters you want to bludgeon to death like Cry_Wolf. The only thing worse than all of the above, is a movie that insults you, berates you, and talks down to you, just for watching it.
Most Entertaining: Sinister: Yep Sinister sweeps all of the good awards for this week. While The Final was an entertaining sit because of the overacting of the villains and the film struggling against it’s low budget, it doesn’t quite reach the good levels that Sinister hits. I guess that I also enjoyed Die to a certain extent if we’re comparing it to the last three films I watched. But Sinister really was good, I suggest that you go see it while its still in theaters. You may not agree with me that its awesome but you will probably get a few scares out of it.
Preview of one of next week’s films
“They’re eating her. And then they’re going to eat me! OH MY GODDDDDDDDDDDDD!”
See ya next week.