27 October 2014

(THE) REEKER/2005

I am about to totally spoil this film, so if you hate spoilers stop reading. I hate to read spoilers myself, but I seem to have no qualms about employing them. Why? We are talking about formulaic horror films and for the most part and I figure out endings in the first ten or fifteen minutes anyway. Sometimes I try not to and still do. I did not figure out the ending to Reeker (or The Reeker) but it is only because I did not think it warranted much thought and the film was more than a bit bewildering as it went along anyway. It is hard to reason how a film might end when you not sure what the hell is even gone at the moment you're watching it. So, the deal here is that everybody, well almost everybody, in the film is dead. And you don’t find that out until the final few minutes of the film. Somehow that is supposed to suddenly have the film all fall into place and make sense. It doesn’t. And the reason I spoiled the film –other than neurotic compulsion- is that the ending simply does not work. In some films it does. The ending where the person is either dead or in some sort of coma and they are having an artificial reality fed to them somehow. Like the film Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise. Whether you like that film or not the way it is done works a bit. Not perfectly maybe, but suddenly you starting piecing things together. In the 2005 film Reeker that does not happen as there is not that much prior to the film’s ending that really has you wondering what is happening. Not in a positive way anyway. There is no reason that everybody has to be dead and nothing in the film would have you accept the ending as anything other than a cheap shot ending. And sure horror film’s are infamous for cheap shot endings but I hate it when a half way decent horror film is ruined by a pseudo-pretentious ending. I figured the ending might have something to do with the fact everybody is near Area 51 or that some of them are doing psychoactive drugs. But nothing of the sort. It has to be that they are all, in fact, dead. Running around doing stuff all on their own but they are all dead.

So there, I ruined it all. But I am not saying the film is not worth giving a single viewing. It seems to start off well and you get the sense something is going to really happen. There are creepy moments that sadly go nowhere and the realization at the end that they are in some nether world where anything can happen only makes you more frustrated because the situation is never really explored and/or exploited by the filmmakers. Typically films where it all winds up being someone on drugs, or dead or in a coma -or even where it all winds up being the worst of all possible endings, a friggin' dream!- filmmakers can go a bit overboard with the hallucinations and weirdness and effects. Does not happen here.

What does happen is a group of teens are headed for a rave or party out in the desert near Area 51. One of the kids, an annoying frat-boy, decides to steal thousands of dollars worth of psychoactive drugs from the sort of drug dealer you don’t even want to steal one extra pill from. The group has the asshole frat-boy’s more sensitive frat-boy buddy, two hot babes (one played by Arielle Kebbel) and the standard horror movie character you can never do without… the blind guy! Yea, there is a blind guy tagging along for some reason. When the full of herself gal from South Africa Gretchen decides she cannot tolerate too many drugs in her car –a few okay, but not too many- she decides to leave frat boy/asshole Trip out in the desert to fend for himself. The rest of the group insist she at least take the jerk back to the diner they had stopped at earlier and she decides that is not too unreasonable, since he would probably die of exposure out in the scorching wilderness, though it he probably deserves it. Upon getting back to the junction and diner/hotel they find it abandoned. 

PENNY DREADFUL/2006

There is another film out there with the title Penny Dreadful. This is the 2006 film and is not to be confused with the 2005 film with the exact some name which I have not seen. Kind of wish I had not seen this one really. I could tell it was a hitchhiker/slasher film set in the deep woods somewhere. I have seen plenty of those, can’t even remember all of them. Usually have a little fun with them. Don’t expect that much from this sort of film. Some gruesome torture and maybe a little flesh eating, nothing too extreme.  But after seeing too many I guess I am apt to expect something that at least brings the film up to the level of a middle of the road hitchhiker/slasher flick. No such luck here. In fact I was sort of hoping the title somehow was going to tie into the British horror story books that were called Penny Dreadfuls, but I could tell by the poster art that that was a long shot. In fact it was a no shot. The Penny of the title (in fact you could have just left the word Penny out of the title and you would have a good one word review of the film) is a whiny, nervous, neurotic teenage girl. She is so whiny and annoying that she makes Belle of the Twilight films look like Margaret Thatcher in her prime. The character is played by the cute to look at Rachel Miner, but looks aren’t everything. She is known mostly for her TV work and her acting skills, which are not that bad really, seem more appropriate for small screen work than for lead work in a motion picture. Well, unless the film itself is not really not worth watching and then it does not matter much. Penny suffers from some sort of fear of automobiles that finds it source in her witnessing both her parents die in a car wreck when she was a kid. She needs to get over this phobia so she can stop riding her bike all the time.

Well to the rescue comes best selling author and condescending, patronizing therapist Orianna Volks (!) played by Mimi Driver. The dialog between Penny and Orianna is the worst of the film. In fact it is the only dialog in the film really.  Orianna all but slaps the piss out of the pathetic Penny and we almost want her to, but I guess that would violate some professional ethics. She figures all Penny needs is a long ass road trip with her prickly personality, back to the scene of the accident that traumatized her for life and then she will be all okay and can get rid of that silly bicycle. Of course that is a really bad idea. When your gas is pumped by people like Michael Berryman –the actor from the original The Hills Have Eyes who suffers from a rare disease that leaves him without things like teeth, fingernails, sweat glands or hair on his body and a naturally creepy appearance - you know you should have maybe stayed home and rode your bike on Xanax instead.

Dumb ass doc Volks gives a lift to an obviously troubled hitchhiker for no better reason than that she almost killed him while bitching at Penny again. The scene of the three of them in the car together trying to get some small talk going is simply awful. Poor dialog and acting and directing and editing. May as well complain about the music too I guess. No tension is created whatsoever. When the guy pulls out a skewer of raw meat and offers the snack to the ladies it comes off as nothing more than a cheap shot gimmick. In fact everything in the film starts going downhill fast from here. Cardboard characters are introduced for no other reason than having them killed off later. The death scenes are weak. Not violent enough to make the long wait worth it all. There is even a naked boob shot. Totally cheap. Boobs were hip in the 70’s and for some of the 80’s and for Troma type films now, but it is just another cheap shot. Don’t get me wrong, I like boobs, but they are not going to help this film. And in the end the weakest aspect of this already weak entry into the hitchhiker/slasher oeuvre is the slasher himself (or herself? Seems to be some gender ambivalence going on here and the character is played by actress Liv Davies but I was never clear what was going on). Just not a scary slasher in any sense and when he/she laughs it is like one of those old scary movie TV hosts, complete with echo and reverb on the laugh as well. Most of the movie is spent watching goddamned Penny cry and shiver and squeeze her little rubber toy and control her breathing. Too much time is spent watching her alone in the car doing nothing but shaking and crying.  It was during this part that a really bad thing, in terms of my movie watching habits go, happened. I began fast forwarding the film and looking to see how much time was left. Honestly, nothing was happening. I did not know if I could take one more artsy ass close of her wide open eye from different angles. I expected the ending to be weak but it was worse than I thought. Who cares who the director was. Dreadful, just dreadful. 

26 October 2014

HIGH TENSION/2003

If anybody reads this blog and my other my site on a semi-regular basis you will know that I am in no way shy about dishing out spoilers. I am usually prone to, however, not give away the big scenes. The ones that “take your breath away” so to speak. Well, I am warning you now, if you have not seen this film I am going to trash the ending totally. So you are warned. The reason I will explain when the time draws nigh. I was preparing to review the film P2 by director Alexnadre Aja and while researching it I ran across this earlier effort by him, downloaded it and watched it on my iPad2 the other night. I will get to P2 but I decided to write about this one while it was still fresh in my mind. Of course P2 will only become more and more distant and blurry, but what I forget I will get back from reading the scene by scene synopsis on Wikipedia. That always refreshes one’s memory. I liked this film really. Not a great film by any stretch, but it was working fine for me until the utterly absurd and aforementioned ending. Again, we will deal with that shortly, but for now let me say what sort of worked for me about it, and what other things did not.

First off the ultra-violent effects, all  practical FX –meaning basically, for horror films, old school make-up, no CGI as far as I can tell- are superbly handled, by Giannetto De Rossi who did a lot of the gory work for Lucio Fulci.Heads are sheered off by book shelves, throats are slit by razors, chest are hacked with axes, faces are beaten with barbed wire covered fence poles and people are cut to pieces with a huge power saw. Oh, and severed female heads are used to as fellatio tools then discarded out of truck windows like an empty bag of McDonald’s lunch. Yea, it’s a little over the top and not really necessary to anything in the story later, but it was done well and had a pretty unsettling feel about it. That happened in the film’s first ten or so minutes. But the scene, like I said, was not necessary really except as an attempt on Aja’s part to be shocking and extreme, as much of the newer French horror seems to be trying to do. There is an even a term for this, the New French Extremity Movement. And I am okay with gore and violence, but there was something a little too much with that scene. The film, as just mentioned, is French. From what I understand there is, of course, a full French version with subs out there, and a fully dubbed and edited American version. I got an unedited version but the dialog is about 50/50 French and poorly dubbed English. And not only that, I did not have subtitles for the French parts, but I managed well enough and was able to follow the film’s “deep” storyline.

And while the storyline is nothing original by any stretch of the imagination it is handled, for the most part, well enough. School gal pals Marie (Cécile De France ) and Alexia (Maïwenn) go to Alexia’s parents place in the country for the weekend of relaxed study, to get away from the pressures of university life and prepare for some upcoming exams. Well we know what city kids traipsing off to the country for some relaxation means in horror films right? That’s right, some psycho-sexually twisted serial killer shows up later and ruins everything. The killer in this film –played by Philippe Nahon- is a pretty creepy and slimy, no doubt about that. He makes quick and gruesome work of Alexia’s family –even her  little brother the ‘cowboy’- and takes a bound and gagged Alexia off in his rusty, evil serial truck –that looks a lot like the serial killer truck in Jeepers Creepers- for some private fun and games. He does not know that Marie was in the house and is now hiding in the truck, waiting for the chance to free her understandably panicked friend. There are all the close calls and tense moments you expect there to be and quite honestly they are handled fairly well. Aja (Mirrors, The Hills Have Eyes remake) can handle tension and shock better than many these days I would have to say. During the scenes where Alexia and Maria are not talking the language shifts to French and sounds much better. I am not in any sense anti-dubbing as far as films go, but the English scenes sound horrible, like something from one of those poorly dubbed Giallo films form the 70’s. But those old dubbed films sometimes can be fun, but here I think the original language stands up much better. The film moves long just fine and one is waiting for the showdown between Marie and “Le Tueuer” the killer. We witness her character transforming from terrified and fragile to pissed off and ready to crack the bad guy’s head wide open. And eventually she does. The final conflict scenes are not that bad, though I felt let down when the serial killer pulled out a portable power saw and revved it up. It was obviously a poor substitute for a chainsaw and I just am so burned out with chainsaws and their poor substitutes. But it does lead to some run of the mill suspense and not so run of the mill graphic gore.

LOVE BITE/2012

Another British horror/comedy here. Love Bite, directed by TV director Andy De Emmony in one of only a couple ventures onto the big screen, is well made and well acted for a horror genre film and starts off well enough. The sex starved lads of sleepy Rainmouth are on a rainy summer holiday and all are hoping to lose their virginity this summer. On this point one poster compares the film to American Pie. Maybe since the filmmakers are British they can be forgiven, but that is probably not the best film to compare your work to. Three of the guys are hopeless dwebs but handsome and polite Jamie (Ed Speleers) would have no problems attracting the farer sex if he did not associate with his annoying mates all the time. And of course being the handsome and polite chap he is he is more the romantic and committed type, looking for lasting love and all that. Enter into the pie making community of Rainmouth two new characters: the sexy and worldly (and possibly lycanthropic) American Juliana (Jessica Szohr) and the werewolf hunting Sid (Timothy Spall) and the action in dreary Rainmouth soon gets going at a breakneck speed, right? Wrong. The movie gets stuck in its weird Porky’s world of the boys desperately wanting to get their cherry’s popped and repeated instances of that dry British humor that is funny in doses, but soon gets too, well, too dry and Britishy for my taste. The big problem, the big, big problem, is that the werewolf itself is not introduced into the film until about the last twenty minutes or so.  And then in that last stretch of film the makers try to shove a twist or two down your throat to spark things up but it is too late. The last scene in the diner (or whatever they are called in England) seems like it was stolen from The Howling as far as I am concerned. I had no issues with the revolting horny British young guy story line, but that is basically all the film is. It never really becomes a werewolf story. There are funny enough moments and it never gets as grossly over the top American Pie really but a film like this needs the monster in it before the half way mark really. You don’t want to show a monster too early but you don’t want to show it too late either. I lost interest and paused the movie and finished it the next day just to do this review about it. This definitely had potential but by the mid-point I was losing interest but held on in hopes of a bigger bang the makers were holding in store for the viewer who hung in there, but it never arrived. I can't even find any scary screen captures to liven the post up a bit. 

TORMENTED/2009

This “slipped under the radar” British horror film by Jon Wright hit me in the right places so well that I watched it twice in one week. Well, the first version I watched on a Chinese streaming site called PPTV had over 20 minutes of the film cut from it, including all the death scenes, and so I wanted to see what I may have missed, but that was not the only reason I rewatched it. The film is very well made on all fronts, including direction, editing, acting, and score. While not a perfect horror film in any sense, if there is really such a thing, the movie delivers all the goods using a pretty simple premise; bullied teenager returns from the dead to wreck havoc and revenge on his tormentors. It is never explained why he is able to return from the dead and there is no occult subplot (thank God) to muck up the storyline with. I have long felt too that British films in general deal with the whole social class issues better than their American counterparts, were the class struggle concerns are not as relevant or explored storylines. Seems a lot of films like this have come out in Britain since the late 50’s and the old b/w angry young man films of the 60’s are some of the best movies ever made. And there is some element of that class struggle in Tormented, though it is more amongst the members of some sort of elite prep school meaning most likely they all come from money. But here we have the more modern spin on things with the conflicts being between the upper preps and jocks, and the nerds and emos. But the film presents the conflict with elements of snooty British snobbery that you just do not find in American high school type dealing with the same themes. But to be clear, the movie is not really addressing any such issues on a deep level, anymore than it is addressing the problems with bullying. In fact that social issue things are not the reason I watch horror movies, not all. I watch horror movies for the tension and jolts, and to be quite frank, some blood and a bit of gore delivered in just the jut doses at just right time. And it is in that department that Tormented sits well with me. And as well as the horror and violence, it has some of that special dry British humor you either like or do not like, and which fortunately I like a lot when it is done right as it was in Shaun of the Dead. But Tormented is not meant as a spoof or parody of slasher or high school body count films, and while imbued with black humor and at times campiness the film over all takes itself pretty seriously. That can backfire on many horror films, but I do not think it does here despite a glitch or two every now and then.

Poor geeky fat kid Darren Mullet (Calvin Dean) is so bullied by the school’s popular crowd, led by pretty boy Bradley (Alex Pettyfer) that he is ultimately driven to commit suicide. He secretly holds a love for head girl Justin (played just right by Tuppence Middleton in her first role) and it is the last straw when she appears turns against him along with the gang of evil preppies. A party is help after Darrel’s funeral and Justine develops a quick romance with slightly nicer preppie dick head Alexis (Dimitri Leonidas) and soon Justine herself in with the popular crowd herself. There is basically one death and one deafening of an emo during the first half of the film, but the deaths start piling up quickly in the film’s second half, and they are a batch of grisly demises to say the least. The relationship between Justine and Alexis is actually handled rather well, and the role of asinine, spoiled Bradley is played to the hilt by Pettyfer. We do not see much of ghost/killer Darren or what happened with him and the bullies until later in the film, and as is often case you find yourself rooting for the bullied kid and hoping he gets all the bastards even if you have learned to like one or two of them. Does he get them all or not? I think you can check it out and find out for your self. It does have a twist of an ending, but not a ridiculous one that seems tacked on later in the editing room, the way many such slasher films end off these days. I saw another British bullying/suicide film recently as well called Truth or Dare and I want to review that one soon, maybe next, as there are some comparisons I want to make between this film and that one, and why I think this one worked better in the end, though truth or Dare verged on the edge of becoming a great horror/revenge movie. In closing I will say that I have not seen Tuppence Middleton (wow, I love that name) in anything else but and trying to find something. She was great in this one and was simply lovely to behold. The films listed for her on IMDB do not look at that great in a way and she certainly seems like a good actress able to do more than slasher material. I can recommend this film. If you are fan of slasher films with a bit of gore you will like it I think, and if you are not I doubt it will do much for you, but if you’re not why the hell are you reading this friggin’ blog in the first place?!

02 October 2014

MEN'S ACTION MAGS SANS THE BLURBS


Do you like those old men's action mags from the 60's? You know the type. Nazi's feeding white girls to baboons while our shirtless hero sneaks up from behind with a revolver and knife. Well, I recall thumbing through a few of them and the interiors were basically wanting in anything of substance, but those darn covers (and some of the inside illustrations) were simply awesome to behold. Okay, I mean they were pretty sick, and twisted and misogynistic and all, but over all I liked 'em. I put together an assortment of covers and interior artwork without all the distracting blurbs. Just the paintings and drawing themselves. In all their horrific, sexist, racist grandeur. Yea, they don't make 'em like this anymore.These may be mostly some sort of reproductions according to some little watermark on most of the pictures, perhaps using Photoshop, but they are still pretty cool.



MANIAC/2013

I am no stranger to the original Maniac film and reviewed it some time ago here at The Uranium Café. I will have to mention that film a bit more later on and be forced at times to make comparisons between the two films, but let me get on with my introductory babble and get it out of the way. I like to skim over the opening credits of films to see what I can catch and noticed that William Lustig also helped with producing this remake, and C.A. Rosenberg is listed as one of the screen writers on Wikipedia, this being noteworthy as he helped to pen the original script along with film star Joe Spinell. Film director Franck Khalfoun only has two other films under his belt, Wrong Turn at Tahoe, which I have not seen yet,  and the fairly decent thriller P2.  When all is said and done I have to say that while I did not dislike the film I am not going to rant about what a stylistic work of genius it is or that it is the best study of a serial killer ever made. On some levels the film worked well enough for me but not on all by any stretch. In fact I stopped watching the film initially as the whole extreme POV (Point Of View in hip film jargon) gimmick –and it was just an artsy-fartsy gimmick- got on my nerves. So lets explore that a bit since that is what most of the ranting –pro or con- is about with this film. (I will not be doing much of a synopsis on this film for two reasons: 1) I will assume most readers of this blog are sick enough that they have seen the original more than once, as I have, and 2) I am trying to explore some new ways to write about films that do not involve too much story retelling or spoiling scenes for people who have not seen the film yet.)

The original 1980 film Maniac was not the first thriller/horror film to have the story told from the killer’s point of view. It is not a long list of films however and off the top of my head I can only recall Michael Powell’s excellent film Peeping Tom as being focused on the killer as the main character. That is why the original Maniac, as well as the remake, are not really slasher/body count films in the strict sense of the term, where the focus is more on "developing the characters" and displaying their hooter before the masked, identityless killer begins knocking them off one by one. It can probably get a little weird to see into the world of a demented serial killer like Maniac’s Frank Zito. One does sort of wonder what do slashers and stalkers do when they are not hacking up women or teenagers. Well Frank likes to sit around and cuddle with mannequins adorned with the bloody scalps of his recent victims and cry as he remembers his mommy. In the original we get to see sleazy, oily Joe Spinell doing all of this, but in the remake what happens is the whole film –except, I think, for a couple brief scenes- is that the story is not only told from the POV of the killer –played by possibly miscast Elijah Wood in this case- but from inside his friggin’ eyeballs. This becomes either a stroke of brilliance or a goddamned nuisance, depending on your temperament as a film viewer. I tried to give it all the benefit of the doubt but in the end it just got boring and annoying for me. It certainly could have worked at times, but in the end I just wanted to see the actor playing the killer and earning his paycheck.

I also got a bit creeped out with all the victims staring at me and talking to me directly. I know, I know we can go on about how that was the director’s intent and how it gets you thinking and starts dialogs and all that crap, but in the end it just did not work for me as a story telling method. As one reviewer noted, it seems like one of those weird interactive video games, and in this case I am some sort of totally freaky serial killer scalping girls and impaling them repeatedly with my Rambo knife. It reeks more of gimmickry and film school experimentation than good narrative film making. And in the end why even have a name actor in the lead role? You get glimpses of Wood staring back at himself in mirrors –mirrors that are often cracked, you know, like representing a cracked tortured personality or something- for a few seconds and that is it. In some interviews he remarks how it was maybe the hardest role he has ever done. What? I don’t buy that for a second. The only acting he does for the most part is to stare back at himself with a confused, terrified expression. Okay, that can be hard I guess, looking terrified and confused. It is actually my normal expression so I think I could have done this role. And I certainly look more like a deranged serial killer than wimpy little Elijah Wood.But then I look more like a serial killer than most people I know do but that is nothing to be proud of I guess. Lets move on.

Okay, so what about the good points of the film. And it has some to be sure and I can recommend the film over all unless you're a total wuss. But the film has its good moments, and yet don't all psychotic, misogynistic slasher films? Some of the good points are actually also the same ones that annoy me above. I do like the “from inside the killer’s eyes” approach, but just not for 99% of the film. I also think I may have bought Wood as the killer more if I had actually seen him in some scenes. Wimpy guys want to stalk and terrorize vulnerable women too. I like Wood as an actor but I am not sure about this film being the right vehicle for him to shake off the good boy image he is saddled with. Although he was a serial killer in the Sin City film as well but that was an odd little role at best.  But his actual lack of physical presence made me forget all about him. Oh yea, that was probably one of the director’s intentions as well. Making me explore my own dark fantasies, and trying to blur the line between myself and Frank. Damn, so clever, got me there you damned geniuses.  The cinematography and editing are fine, as are the sets which in this film have moved from New York City to Los Angeles. I prefer a good old school New York twisted, serial killer film myself, but LA works okay here. However I must note that I think the music score is simply fantastic. Composer Rob created a fine 80’s synth type score with all those classic sounds and pulses, and haunting little simple piano runs. There does not appear to be a soundtrack available yet but I will be snatching it up when and if one comes out. I have read that there is one but it is not available in the US or France, the two countries that collaborated on making the damned film.  I also like how some of the story, which is hardly a scene by scene remake of the original film and that is good, moves the situations into modern times with cell phones and online dating services. In one scene Frank hooks up with a pretty, though overly tattooed, young lady who he meets online. Over drinks she says she is so happy he did not turn out to look like what she thought he would. And what would that be? Long hair, fat and with bad skin. An inside joke and reference I would imagine to Joe Spinell’s unkempt appearance in the original film, and to Joe Spinell’s unkempt appearance in real life as well.


THE PURGE/2013

The Purge is a home invasion movie that reminds me a lot of Sam Peckinpah’ Straw Dogs, Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers and David Fincher’s Panic Room. Of course there are plenty or other such films as well and the home invasion type story is a whole sub-genre in itself of the horror and/or action film. The basic idea is to have some reasonably decent people -a family for example- being terrorized and eventually invaded by evil, threatening forces from outside and inevitably from inside their sanctuary. Most zombie movies have this situation introduced at some point into the story. Almost all of these films rely heavily on the viewer being able to accept some degree of implausibility in order for the story to move along. Something has to happen to make the sanctuary less than impenetrable, like in Panic Room where Kirsten Stewart’s young character has diabetes and leaves her insulin outside the actual panic room, forcing mom Jodie Foster to have to go outside and retrieve it and in the process having to deal with a psychotic Dwight Yokem. If not for this they would never have to leave the panic room and there would be no film. The same sort of implausibility’s happen in The Purge, written and directed by the agenda laden James DeMonaco,  and I will address them in a moment, of course, but those little film gimmicks asking the viewer for a little suspension of disbelief are not the real problems with this film.

In the far distant future (like a whole nine years from now) America’s New Founding Fathers –white ultraconservatives who still believe in that nasty Christian God and like guns and hate unemployed people of color- have solved the nation’s problems with unemployment and crime by implementing the brilliant idea of a once a year purge night, where for twelve hours anything goes. You can rape kids, burn down houses, murder homeless people, or anybody for that matter, marry your gay lover,  stomp on hamsters and stand in your front yard and smoke weed and it is all totally legal from seven at night to seven the next morning. Almost anything goes but political leaders with certain status are protected from acts of violence, no doubt the God-fearing, gun-totting Founding Fathers themselves. There are restrictions on what types of weapons can be used and it is not made clear, but I would assume they mean no atomic bombs or anthrax.  I am really not a fan of political message movies and in particular when they are also horror films. I just don’t like them for the most part as they tend to sing to the choir , either the choir on the right or the one on the left and, like The Purge, beat their messages into your head with a ball-ping hammer. And that is where this film falls apart for me almost from the very beginning. More time and energy is spent trying to drive home DeMonaco’s anti-gun and anti-conservative values messages than is spent trying to make the actual invasion itself believable and exciting. So anyway,  who the hell  is getting invaded and by whom and why?

Security expert James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) has done well for himself and his little family selling home security and protection  supplies in order to protect the people who can afford all of that, decent rich white folk, from the dangers of Purge Night. He and his wife Mary (Lena Headey) give much lip service to being supporters of The Purge and of “releasing the beast” but you suspect their hearts are not 100% into the affair. While it is not stated explicitly one gets the sense that you do not really want to speak out against Purge Night and seem like you do not support the new "America reborn" agenda. There is still the voice of dissent from the left, maybe all residing in Seattle, who claim that the real purpose of the Purge is to cleanse society of its unwanted lower members; the poor, the unemployed, the sick, the homeless and all those other filthy sorts conservatives and God believers, as we all know, want eradicated. The Sandins have two horror movie stereotype children, their daughter the smart allecky but sexually ripe 16 year old Zoey (who spends the whole movie in her fetishy school girl uniform) and the geeky Charlie who makes remote controlled little robots out of burnt baby dolls that have night vision camera installed in them. Good thing he has this hobby as the robot, named Tim, becomes an important part of the film later.

Yes, the Sandins have done well for themselves, so well that the neighbors are envious and bitter about their success at having the largest “castle” in their little neighborhood of millionaires. The snide inferences about this mass jealousy of course needlessly telegraph the film’s plot in the second act and general ending. As Purge Night (I do not know if that is what it is called in the movie or not) begins things waste no time in going bad for the Sandins. First Zoey’s boyfriend shows up inside the house of the security genius after “lockdown” and wants to settle –as in “just talk”- to James about his relationship with his daughter. Well we’ll say this character ends up written out of the script pretty fast and I think it was a total waste of a character that could have been used later on. On top of that, at almost the same moment, Charlie sees a black man –yes, there is suddenly a poor, urban black man in the middle of this elite white community in a suburb of LA that no doubt requires a long commute in an SUV to get to from the city- who is bloodied and screaming for help. Charlie unlocks the house’s security system long enough to let him in and accelerate the plot. As James and Zoey's beau exchange a few words and many bullets the black fellow escapes into the recesses of the Sandin’s fortress like house.

And there you have the motive for the home invasion; a group of yuppie like white, twenty somethings show up in freaky masks –ala The Strangers- and want the Sandins to turn over the dirty, filthy homeless black guy and let them have their government sanctioned fun with him. If not, they will huff and puff and blow the house down and get him and exact violence on the Sandin family for not complying. The group is led by the smiling and trying way too hard to be evil ("I'm just going to have fun playing the villain in this one!") Australian actor Rhys Wakefield, who somehow manages to look creepier with his mask off than he does with it on.  That, in the proverbial nutshell, is the rest of the film basically; the Sandin’s crawling around in the dark with guns and flashlights looking for the homeless guy in their house, and the gang of masked yuppies waiting outside for the equipment to arrive so they can effortlessly pull the doors and windows off the Sandin’s secure castle, then getting in and then having the Sandin's crawl around with guns and flashlights  in the dark more looking for the invaders. In fact, I want to just say this, the ease with which the house is broken into and the intruders gain entry was just too much to accept. In truth, the film is never a film about keeping the invaders out since they all but waltz into the place.

And here is where things just get too hard to accept at times, even for me who employs beaucoup suspension of disbelief per film. 1) That the house would be that easy to break into just using chains and jeeps to remove the doors renders the whole security angle pointless. Wouldn’t this have been something Sandin’s company would have considered at some point? 2) That the gang of thugs would really waste all their time on Purge Night trying to get this one homeless guy when they could have let it go and killed off twenty or thirty more homeless people instead makes no sense. 3) That Sandin would not have planned better with contingencies like a panic room for example is too big a hole in his character's professional perfectionism. 4) That his neighbors of years would be so envious of his success that they would want to torture and kill him and his family in cold blood is stretching the whole "we are all potential killers" concept too far.  5) And that the Sandin’s would be able to fend off all the machine gun packing attackers in their house as everyone just ambles around the darkened hallways is unbelievable. What the director does is sort of his version of those kung fu movie fight scenes, where a guy fights 40 other kung fu masters, but only one or two at time while the rest hop around waiting their turns. Other wise they would kill the son of a bitch in a minute.  Same gimmick here really. Often gunfire and screaming erupts in one room while James fights off the attackers. It never seems to occur to the other invaders in the house to run to that room and see what is up, rather they decide to ignore the commotion and continue walking around in the hallways, “looking” for somebody to kill. Hey, maybe there is somebody to kill where all the gunfire is coming from and from where your partners are screaming in pain. Just a hunch.

07 September 2014

BOOKS/ OZZY OSBOURNE- I AM OZZY/KEITH RICHARDS - LIFE

I don’t really read lots of books anymore. I read books with information and seem to skim through them rather than read from cover to cover. Movie books and such mostly. But every now and then I like biographies of people I admire. I am finishing up a bio on Bobby Fischer but it is getting a bit depressing as the chess master slips more and more into some sort of madness. A bit on the lighter side were two auto-biographies (for the most part as both had some assistance in the writing area from professional writers) by two of my British rock heroes, Ozzy Osbourne and Keith Richards. These two guys are worlds apart in terms of the type of music they produced and the mark they left on rock history. I was a big super fan when I was a long haired hippie teenager of all the British rock/blues stuff. Still some of the best music ever made came from British lads of the mid 60's to mid 70's doing American blues and rock and roll better than the Americans were doing it. I was a Led Zeppelin nut and leaned more towards what they and Black Sabbath were doing back then than The Rolling Stones. And it is sad, as I saw Black Sabbath with Ozzy in concert, as well as Led Zeppelin, but when the Stones came to town I did not even try to get tickets. Back then if you were a Zeppelin fan you just did not dig the Stones too much, and it is the one big regret I have from my old concert going days. Now I probably like the Stones music more than either led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath’s. I would be in my late 20’s before I started to appreciate what they were doing. But, long before that I was into Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne did a rambling auto-biography with the help of Chris Ayers, supposedly because of Ozzy’s dyslexia.

So, I picked up the book I AM OZZY at the airport in Bangkok Thailand back in 2010 while I waited 24 hours in the airport wondering if I was going to Thai jail because of a mix up on my passport and a missing exit stamp dating back to a 30 minute border crossing visit from Laos back in 2008. Not the happiest day of my life, but I got out okay in the end and got this book, which I bought off a lady boy in the airport book store. I really liked Ozzy and Black Sabbath back in the day and saw them t0ur for the Technical Ecstasy tour in like 1977 or so. After he was booted form Black Sabbath (I always considered the break up of Black Sabbath myself) I liked his early solo stuff but soon lost interest in the guy and eventually came to just dislike him and his gibbering reality TV persona. About the book I will say it is a mixed little thing really. If you are a Black Sabbath fan you will like some of the early anecdotes of Ozzy working in a slaughter house and the band trying to land gigs. Ozzy clears something up many people do not know, and that is that bassist Geezer Butler was responsible for the lyric writing really. He was the wordsmith for all those great songs and Ozzy does not try to take credit away from him for that, and he never has really. Lots of praise for guitarist Tony Iommi, though the two were often at logger heads it seems. I always like reading about how bands formed back in those days, and especially the British bands that had to do all they could to break out playing clubs in Britain and get to America and make it big before time ran out.

There are lots of little getting the band off the ground stories provided and the first half of the book is a cool read, but it is over before you know it. He is out of the band and the rest of the book just did not interest me. Some of the stories around Randy Rhoads were insightful and I did not know the details of his death to this degree before. But after Randy Rhodes and the forming of his solo band the book shifts really from music to his life with Sharon and the MTV stuff and living in California and I just lost interest, though I finished the book as it was an easy read. Basically nothing about guitarist Jake E. Lee and why Ozzy fired him. Very little about Zakk Wylde and Ozzy claims he had to part ways with him because Zakk drank too much! Ozzy does not come off in the end as likable, and is for the most part dismissive of his drinking and drug problems and his abuse of his Sharon, which had him charged with attempted murder in England in one case. All he gets out of it is how people are prying into his private life. He seems to not had a good relationship with his parents and on her death bed she asks him if it is true that he is really a multi-millionaire. He tells her yea, he is. What a guy, right. Of course rock stars are often out of touch with the so called real world and the feelings of people around them. Ozzy is not much different from most others. I still like Black Sabbath (switched over to Black Sabbath Vol. 4 to write this section) and I do not have to like somebody to appreciate their creative output. In the end I just could not like the guy much. I used to really think he was great as a rock singer, but he is violent and dangerous really, and all fucked up. I read an old interview where he killed a bunch of cats he had at his house in England with a shot gun. He skipped over that story here. I don’t why, since he doesn’t skip the one about nearly killing Sharon, who helped him form his new band and mothered his kids. Well, he does confess “it is something I have to live with the rest of my life.” Alright Ozzy.

Keith Richards does admit to killing a noisy parakeet in his book Life. In fact he admits to a lot of things and talks about a lot of things in this much better written book (co-written with James Fox). It is a longer book, of course, and Richard's status as a mythic rock star is greater than that of Ozzy’s of course. Only a few British rockers from that time, very few, can be considered a truly mythic rock god of the status Keith Richards is. Jimmy Page. Robert Plant. John Lennon. Paul McCartney. Mick Jagger. A few more maybe. The list is a short one. While Richards certainly has had his issues and is by no means a saint he comes off as so much more interesting and even likable (most of the time) than bumbling Ozzy. Again, lots of fascinating focus on how the band formed and trying to get record deals, though they appear to have risen much faster than I originally thought. Details on the issue with Brian Jones and the falling out between him and the rest of the  band and his eventual death. My favorite section might be the coming of Mick Taylor and the recording of Exile on Main Street and the albums with him on them. I just love reading about old recording studio adventures, and Life is full of them, as well as lots of details of Keith’s private life and the women in it, like Anita Pallenberg and Patti Hansen. It is all told in an interesting and well written style, that even when the narrative meanders off track a bit it does not get stale or boring. He gets into his drug and booze issues, and the big arrests around. Here he sometimes loses touch with reality when he feels persecuted for getting busted with heroin at the Canadian border, saying if it was anyone else but him the issue would be dropped and forgotten. Keith, if it was anyone else but you with cooperate lawyers working to get your skinny ass off they may still be in prison somewhere.

And of course there is lots of stuff on the famous feuding between him and Mick Jagger, told from Keith’s possibly biased perspective of course. As time has gone on I come to sympathize more and more with Jagger regarding the days when the feuding began (and still continues to this day). In the press I feel Jagger is a built less harsh than Richards and one has to wonder why the more controlled drug using and drinking Mick was doing all those solo albums and MTV videos, when in fact Keith was out of control and facing jail time. Keith does come off at times as a spoiled prima donna rock star and his remarks about the small size of Mick’s dick is totally asinine and in poor taste, as are his remarks about Mick’s over all musical abilities and attitudes, and to me only makes Mick look like the bigger guy in the end. I really did not a story where he walks in the studio while recording one of their later albums (A Bigger Bang maybe – which I am listening to now, a really good album really) and sees Mick with a guitar and brutally insults him, telling him basically there is only room guitarist I the band and it ain’t him. Guess Ron wood may not have liked hearing that either. An argument breaks out and Keith dismisses it in his style (that is often rude and arrogant) and I think he comes off looking worse.

But Keith is Keith, and he is certainly an amazing guitarist and songwriter and survivor. In the end despite his flaws and insanity he is the more fascinating character of the two I wrote about here today. I am looking for the Johnny Depp produced and directed (?) bio movie that is in the works now. A really good read about a real rock and roll legend.