Giant Monstershow: Monsters

And so we’ve reached the end of the October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow. For the last month, we’ve seen giant apes, giant dinosaurs, giant insects, giant arachnids, giant men, giant lizards, giant gelatinous masses, giant leeches, giant rats, giant rabbits, giant birds, and even giant shrews. We’ve seen so many giant creatures of so many shapes and forms that the word ‘giant’ has become subject to semantic satiation. It’s become a mere shape in the text, devoid of all but intrinsic meaning. Still, we soldier on until the job is finished. Continue reading “Giant Monstershow: Monsters”

October Horrorshow: Birdemic: Shock and Terror

Films like Birdemic: Shock and Terror exist on a rare plain where traditional criticism and traditional standards of film quality no longer apply. There is no way possible that I could point out, any more effectively than the film itself, just how God-awful it is. This is, without a doubt, the single worst movie I have ever seen. There is nothing in it, at any point, that appears to be the result of a professional film production. It has a staggering amount of ineptness in everything — from pacing, plot, dialogue, cinematography, editing, sound, direction, acting, or anything else I can’t be bothered to name. Possibly the costumes were passable, but I’m not going back to double check. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Birdemic: Shock and Terror”

Stallone Month: The Expendables

Despite being a big star, Sylvester Stallone has always seemed to struggle with relevancy. The 2000s had a pair of ‘comeback’ films for Sly, with Rocky Balboa in 2006 and Rambo in 2008. It seemed like every success he had was forgotten. Perhaps that’s because these two films felt like a coda to beloved characters from decades past, whereas The Expendables, from 2010, was new-ish. Or maybe having a comeback film is just part of Sly’s brand in the 21st century. Either way, The Expendables is the throwback to 1980s action that no one knew we needed until it showed up in theaters and made money. Continue reading “Stallone Month: The Expendables”

October Horrorshow: Predators

PredatorsIt seems that, for this year’s Horrorshow, I can’t get enough of the Alien and Predator franchises. Maybe I should slow down. It’s not like these things grow on trees. Aliens and predators are a finite resource.

Predators, from 2010, is the first standalone Predator flick since Predator 2 in 1990. In between were the two Alien vs. Predator movies, but I have a hard time fathoming how the flagship title was dormant for so long. There weren’t even any straight to video entries or bad SyFy productions. The predators are excellent horror/sci-fi antagonists. In the right circumstances, they can even be the good guys.

The predators look mean, what with their large stature and menacing mask, and that’s before viewers see the horrible countenance hidden therein. The fact they are aliens who traveled here from the stars just to hunt us is unsettling. We’re supposed to be the top of the food chain. Check that. The predators aren’t here for food. They’re hunting us for sport. That’s an upsetting of the current order that is hard to contemplate outside the realm of fiction. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Predators”

October Horrorshow: Hatchet II

Hatchet III judge sequels and remakes a bit more harshly than other films. I cannot help but compare further entries in film series to their predecessors. It would be ideal if I could judge something like Aliens or Jaws 2 on their own merits, but I find that impossible if I have seen the earlier film. The associations in my brain are just too strong to ignore. That’s not a problem today. I have not seen Hatchet, the first of writer/director Adam Green’s ongoing story of murderous freak Victor Crowley, but I did just watch Hatchet II, and now I think it is time...

Ahem!

Ladies and gentlemen, my Loyal Seven readers, I present to you Hatchet II, the official film of the 2014 Missile Test October Horrorshow. This flick represents just about everything I love in a slasher flick. There’s loads of gore and buckets of fake blood; all the killing is done in the woods; in Danielle Harris, it stars a legitimate scream queen; and it looked like it had a budget of about a nickel and a half. Oh, and best of all? It’s 85 minutes long. We love reasonable run times here at Missile Test. There’s nothing more interminable in a film than bloated length, so when I catch a movie that doesn’t hold me prisoner past the start of the eleven o’clock news, I’m thrilled. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Hatchet II”

October Horrorshow: Stake Land

Stake LandA couple years back, I wanted to read Pet Sematary. These days, I prefer epubs to printed books. But believe it or not, the only epub edition I could find of that book, without torrenting a bootleg copy riddled with scanning errors, was in German. So, I had to go to a bookstore, something I hadn’t done in a long time. I found a mass-market paperback copy on the horror shelf of a Barnes & Noble near the World Trade Center. I could have been in and out of the store like a flash, but failure to browse in a bookstore is an intellectual misdemeanor, so I took a look around. When I think of a bookstore, the genres on the shelves tend to hold steady. Fiction and literature, horror, mystery, nonfiction, supernatural teen romance...huh?

That shelf caught me by surprise. I knew Twilight was a big thing, but until I walked into that bookstore, I had no idea that supernatural teen romance was a standalone genre, much less that it could command thirty feet of shelf space. That’s pretty damned impressive, but also makes soon-to-be middle-aged male me gag just a little bit. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Stake Land”

The Empty Balcony: The Yellow Sea

The Yellow SeaIf you can follow the plot of The Yellow Sea, the Korean film from 2010 written and directed by Na Hong-Jin, then you must be Korean, or at least speak the language fluently. Those are the only reasons I can think of why so many western viewers online, including myself, found this flick’s plot to be confusing, at best, and impenetrable, at worst. The good news is that doesn’t matter. Normally, when a movie has a plot that I can’t follow, that is a bad thing. Not so with The Yellow Sea. About halfway through, I gave up on trying to keep track of all the twists and turns, and just sat back and enjoyed one of the best action films that has hit cinemas in this decade.

Gu-nam (Ha Jung-woo) has a problem. He’s an ethnic Korean born and raised in northern China, which has its disadvantages, apparently. He is what is known as a Joseonjok, a blanket term for ethnic Koreans in the country. In order to finance a better life, Gu-nam goes into debt with some local coyotes to arrange transportation to South Korea for his wife. Because the standard of living in South Korea is so much higher than in China, she should be able to work and send back enough money to Gu-nam to pay off the debt to the coyotes and finance a trip down to the peninsula for both Gu-nam and the couple’s young child. But, something goes wrong. Gu-nam’s wife has been in Seoul for months, and nary a check has arrived. On top of that, the coyotes want their cash. In desperate straits, Gu-nam agrees to be smuggled in to South Korea on a fishing boat, to carry out a hit for a Joseonjok gangster, with the understanding that the debt will be paid. Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: The Yellow Sea”

October Horrorshow: Insidious

InsidiousAccording to the IMDb page for Insidious, Leigh Whannell kept a list of horror movie clichés handy while he was writing the screenplay. He didn’t want his project to slip into the same predictable traps that mar so much horror cinema. With that list staring him in the face day in and day out, presumably, Insidious would turn out to be a film that was totally fresh, one that even audience members with hundreds of hours invested in the genre would find enjoyable. That is a very laudable goal, and a bit of a risk. Just because a film is formulaic does not mean it is a bad film. In its most basic sense, it just means the film will feel familiar to many people watching it. And as we all know, people like the familiar. As much as we like to pretend humanity is a collection of adventurous people, the opposite is in fact true. That’s why tourists eat at the same restaurants they have back home. It’s why popular music at times can sound like the same song done over and over again by a hundred different groups. And that’s why sequels, remakes, and carbon copies of previous successes make money at the box office. It’s just the way things are. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Insidious”

The Empty Balcony: 13 Assassins

13 AssassinsThree historical periods in Japan are among the most interesting and compelling in the annals of human civilization. The Sengoku period, also known as the Warring States period, comprised the height of feudal conflict from the 15th century to the early 17th century, culminating in the unification of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603. The new era of peace which followed, the Edo period, lasted until the Shogunate collapsed in the wake of internal and external pressures for Japan to end its forced isolation and open its shores to the modern world in the 1860s. What followed was the Meiji period, when the emperor was restored to power, and Japan, through numerous fits and starts, became the empire that was finally defeated by the Allies in World War II.

The legacy of the past, particularly the rigid caste structure that used to exist in Japanese society, is still very much in the public consciousness there, owing to the mythologies surrounding the samurai. A privileged class of warriors, the samurai rose alongside the violent and prolonged wars that typified feudal Japan. One could not seem to exist without the other. Once the wars ended with unification, however, the samurai were without their core purpose, relegated either to roles as bureaucrats, or as restless vagabonds, the laws of the time barring the honored warrior classes from making a living in so-called menial positions as laborers, merchants, or artisans. Yet the samurai were never weaned properly off their warrior ethos. The erosion of the samurai’s self-worth was one of the driving factors behind the collapse of the Shogunate. Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: 13 Assassins”