Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sexual Savagery of Sea Creatures

Humanoids From the Deep.  If you watched horror movies in the '80s, you remember the title at the very least.  If you remember more than that, your memory probably begins and ends at the fact that these sea misfits raped women.  At least that's all I remember about the film.  I think I'd rather remember nothing because the film wasn't all that great -- another example of a concept that sounds much better on paper.

I first saw this at a friend's house with my friend's stepfather.  The entire visit was uncomfortable to say the least.  When the stepfather wasn't calling my friend an "asshole" and ordering to fetch a beer, he was making inappropriate comments.  I was probably twelve or so at the time, but I still didn't need to hear the casual way he referred to the sexual assaults on screen.  (Example:  As one of the humanoids swam up from the depths to attack a female swimmer, the stepfather waited until the humanoid neared her vagina to say, "I guess he's going to eat her more ways than one.")  The whole visit took on the air of a prologue to a snuff film, and Humanoids ... didn't help the situation one way or another.  To this day, my feelings on the film are clouded by that visit.

The film has its following, as most bad movies do, but the reality of this "monsters-want-to-mate-with-human-women-for-no-real-reason-other-than-to-give-viewers-glimpses-of-breasts" bomb is that is disjointed (that's what happens when you have two directors working against each other) and utter nonsense.  It does, however, contain the two ingredients that appeal to the base nature of teen boys of that era: gore and nudity.  Apparently, based on the leering and comments by my friend's stepfather, some people never seem to outgrow it or look at it in any other context than masturbatory fantasy material.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

One Night in Bangkok

For all the business The Hangover Part II has raked in, there are those who are less than enamored with the film.  (Felix Vasquez, Jr. of Cinema Crazed has one of the best reviews of the film, positive or negative, that I've read.)  The criticisms lodged at it range from the fact that it isn't funny to its level of depravity, and then there is the biggest, most damning criticism:  It's just like the first film.

I liked the first film.  I liked it a lot, actually.  I feel like it worked on many different levels, including the realm of the surreal absurd that I tend to be drawn to when I look to see a comedy.  The sequel is a clone of its father, so if you didn't like the original you aren't going to be swayed by this one.  (Of course, if you didn't like the original there is no reason to watch the sequel unless it were to torture yourself.)  My enjoyment of The Hangover is the exact reason why I liked the latest installment (and, truthfully, I hope it's the last) of this cultural juggernaut.

I wasn't expecting a bold, new direction.  I wasn't expecting a sophisticated comedy.  I was expecting it to be even more over the top and was hoping it would be even more surreal (it wasn't, but Alan, played by Zack Galifianakis, was up to par in his ability to tap into what makes Andy Kaufman so interesting to me).  If the film did a radical departure from what made the original so appealing it would only disappoint people.  Director Todd Phillips and the multiple writers had to do was make a choice.  Would they go back and make the same movie and please all the fans, or would they stray so far from the original that it could be another movie all together?  People like these characters.  (I actually like the characters more than the situations they find themselves in.)  People want to see them struggle with insanity.  It's why they liked the original, and it is why many sequels are essentially the same movie with different trappings.  (Sometimes not even that.)

The criticisms lodged at The Hangover Part II are fair and accurate for the most part.  They, like the inevitable sequels, are expected, however.  When dealing with something like this film, the only thing that really matters is: Did it set out to do what the cast and crew intended?  In the case here, the film's goal was to make the fans of the original laugh.  There was nothing there that said the film was trying to win over a new crowd.  When you are that successful the first time around there is really no need to try.  In that sense, it succeeded.  For those looking for something wildly original and different, well, there was no reason to see the film in the first place.  Nothing about it even indicated that it would be a departure.

Are the criticisms lobbed at the film as lazy as the film itself?  Yes and no.  No film is above criticism.  It's the critic's job to point out what he or she likes or dislikes about a film.  In this case, however, it was too easy.  It was just as easy, in fact, as it was for the filmmakers to come to the conclusion not to change a thing about the original film when going back to the mine.  It looks like everyone played the proper role here and didn't deviate from the script.  Isn't that what sequels are all about?

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.  I suggest reading Vasquez, Jr.'s piece, as it is quite good and he has a great site.  I did not get a press pass to review this film, and nor would I accept one.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Lost Coast Tapes

I got the word on Thursday night, a film crew was in town shooting a movie down the road from my house in a park.  Not much was known.  The crew was shooting by the pond, there were craft services set up for what appeared to be about "80 people."  A large prop log draped with vines was next to a set tent, and there were plenty of trailers nearby for the cast and crew.  I had seen the trailers earlier and had noticed an increase of traffic, but nothing made me think it was for a movie.  One person reported the film was a horror film about Bigfoot, something that has been seen in this neck of the woods quite a few times, and that the crew had been in Weaverville or Willow Creek the previous day.

On Friday I checked it out and saw a smaller craft services table, but a bunch of trailers and film types standing around.  That's about as far as I got as a family matter came up, but as I have learned by arcane sources like our local paper and the Internet, the film's working title is The Lost Coast Tapes and it is due out in 2012 starring Ashley Wood.

I figure it is a "found footage" (like The Blair Witch Project or Cannibal Holocaust) movie, which I tend to enjoy.  I also happen to enjoy Bigfoot, so I will probably see this one.

The pond they shot at has been in used in films before, notably the original television mini-series Salem's Lot, which was also filmed in nearby Ferndale (a town that hasn't changed much since David Soul was there).  None of this is really all that important, but it is pretty neat nonetheless.  Humboldt County has got some great film environments (see the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi) and has plenty of places (and drugs) to keep the cast and crew occupied in the down times.  I have no idea if The Lost Coast Tapes will be worth watching (I instantly thought of the SyFy network when seeing the trailers), but I'm sure plenty of people around here will be renting it/tuning in/going to the theatre.  We're no Hollywood up here, and some film experiences have let the locals with a bad taste in their mouth, but we also support whatever films are shot here ... though sometimes we wished we would've avoided them (The Majestic comes to mind).

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on the links may earn me a small commission, which I will use to go see this film when/if it comes out.