Goodbye vampires, hello to the rest of HMF. It’s been fun bloodsuckers, but it’s time to move on to all the other tricks and treats Halloween has to offer.
First, one of my very favorite HMF films of all time: Pontypool. I wasn’t sure I would watch it this year, but Emily had never seen it and was finally willing to give it a go, and there was no chance I was going to let that opportunity pass by.
I’m not entirely sure what else to say about this one that I haven’t said the other times it was included in previous Halloween Movie Fests. Like here, and here.
With genre and sub-genre, it’s so exciting to see someone do a good job of taking old tropes and conventions and shift them in unexpected ways. Pontypool is the epitome of that for me. In every respect, this film works better than you’d expect it to if I just laid out the concept for you.
If I made a HMF canon, this would be an automatic entry. Also, that’s a great idea. I need to canonize my favorite HMF films of all time.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Again, and again, and again.
The second third of this year’s HMF was a mixed bag. A few underwhelming films, two favorites I was revisiting, a trendsetting classic in the horror genre, and a film that will become that in time. Let’s just get right to the films:
Night Seven: It Follows
“It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.”
It Follows is a really great movie. It is also one of those movies that may be impossible to talk about with folks who have never seen it before. For one, the film is pretty spoiler-friendly. If I explain anything about the premise to someone who hasn’t seen it, then I will ruin the early build of tension and strangeness. And two, the film doesn’t have a clear narrative point. It has a lot to say, but not in simple allegory. It Follows engages many ideas concerning sex, death, relationship, family, absentee parenting, and coming of age. Yet it doesn’t engage any of those ideas in a way that offers answers or morals, but instead insinuates mercurial questions and open-ended thoughts.
David Robert Mitchell has created a film that is moody, atmospheric, and wonderfully creepy. Also, Maika Monroe is fantastic as the terrorized lead, Jay.
This is a film that will be a genre classic, and I expect to see this referenced, honored, parodied, and copied in coming years.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Yes. This feels like the sort of movie that can be watched again and again with varying takeaways and reactions every time.
Night Eight: Pan’s Labyrinth
“Me? I’ve had so many names. Old names that only the wind and the trees can pronounce. I am the mountain, the forest and the earth. I am… I am a faun. Your most humble servant, Your Highness.”
This was my third time watching Pan’s Labyrinth, but the first time in quite a while. The computer effects are certainly more dated now, but the film is still as darkly beautiful and moving as I remember it to be. This is Guillermo del Toro’s rendering of how story and imagination can sometimes be our only salve in a violent, often ugly world.
Escapism can get a bad rap when it comes to stories and art, but Pan’s Labyrinth illustrates the reality that sometimes escape into story is our only hope.
As Tolkien said about the scorn escapism faces: “Evidently, we are faced by a misuse of words, and also by a confusion of thought. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”
The escape story offers can function in two possible ways. In some instances, it can actually help us escape from our prejudices, small-mindedness, fear, anxiety, etc. In others, we are powerless to change our circumstances, like Ofelia. Then, story and fantasy might be the most sane way to respond and keep hope burning in a hopeless situation. Story might not always save us, but it may be the only thing that makes the impending darkness bearable. Pan’s Labyrinth remains one of my two or three favorite artifacts of this idea.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Obviously. Del Toro’s work is the sort that reminds me of the power of storytelling.
Night Nine: The Devil’s Backbone
“What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.”
Revisiting another del Toro film. I saw this for the first time during a previous HMF, which I wrote about here. The Devil’s Backbone is the lens through which I see del Toro’s work, as it’s an early film for him, it took him 16 years to develop, and he described it afterward as the first time he was fully satisfied with the final product of a film (which is in itself an amazing thing to say when your first feature length movie was fucking Cronos).
There are so many similarities between Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, and I believe it is because they are the closest to the DNA of del Toro’s heart and his storytelling sensibilities. In both, we see the themes of violence, cruelty, power, innocence, gender, and humanity’s capacity for both monstrosity and beauty. In both we have scary supernatural elements that pale in comparison to the terror of what people are capable of doing to each other.
This time, rewatching both del Toro films, a primary thing that struck me was that each had a villain who was truly horrible, but complicated. Even though it doesn’t go into detail, each film’s villain had a rich subtext, the implication that a deep wound was the source of their ability to do evil things. It didn’t act as an apology or justification for their actions, but it made the characters richer and more satisfying. It made the fairly binary separation between good and evil in the films easier to buy into. The human ability to do monstrous things is so often rooted in our own fear and brokenness.
Whenever I rewatch things I previously loved I’m worried I’ll see new cracks or weaknesses that will ruin it for me, but I was happy to see that The Devil’s Backbone stands up as a beautifully crafted story and film.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? See above.
Night Ten: Witching and Bitching
“What’s she doing with the broom?”
“Not sweeping up, that’s for sure.”
Witching and Bitching is a crazy film from Spain that I wish I liked more than I did. After a jewelry heist, some robbers and hostages are on the lam when they run afoul of some evil cannibal witches.
It’s really weird and original. It has a lot of enjoyable energy. At times it’s hard to tell if the film is sexist, or challenging sexism, which I think is actually a strength.
In the end the storytelling just gets a little too cartoony for me to keep enjoying it. For example, two characters fall in love because they need to for the filmmakers to make certain jokes and points, even though those characters had previously only been in the same room for maybe twenty minutes, none of which involved believable emotional connection.
Witching and Bitching felt to me like they ran with the kernel of a good idea with abandon, when they should have spent more time solidifying things early on. The energy and craziness were good, but without the needed foundation and structure that makes films like Shaun of the Dead or the original Dead Snow work so well.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? No, but I didn’t feel like once was a waste of time.
Night Eleven: The Wicker Man 
“Come. It is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man.”
The Wicker Man has been referred to as the Citizen Kane of horror films. Mostly, this is simply a hyperbolic way of praising it by comparing it to one of the few films that is always on the shortlist as greatest film of all time. However, there are ways this comparison is actually accurate. Citizen Kane set a new standard for visual storytelling, and The Wicker Man was a new way of making a horror film. Robin Hardy abandoned the horror sensibility of the time. Gone were the broad strokes and gaudy make-up and melodramatic overacting, replacing them with creepy subtlety and weirdness. The perfect microcosm of this is horror star Christopher Lee’s appearance as your friendly neighborhood cult leader.
The movie is definitely weird, for example it has a nude musical number by one character. It needs to be weird to throw the audience off balance along with the protagonist.
The plot definitely has a few major holes in it, and the main character is so hard to like that the stakes and danger never felt real to me. Yet, for the most part the film is still compellingly well-crafted in terms of visuals and atmosphere. From the slow burn of the film’s opening act to the impressive final shot, The Wicker Man is a solid movie that deserves its place in the cult film canon.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Eventually. This will be a good one to revisit for film and genre study.
Night Twelve: Dead Snow 2
“The operation was a success. We managed to put your arm right back on.”
Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead is so over the top and insane that it’s hard to fault it for being so empty and nonsensical. As a movie to watch with some friends to laugh at its ongoing self-aware absurdity it is worth the price of admission. However, it pales in comparison to Dead Snow and other similar films.
The movie revels in its over the top gore and cartoonish violence as much as the original, but it lacks all the internal logic and structure that made the first one so satisfying. The first film was full of fairly interesting characters, ultimately ill-fated but tough enough to be competent in a zombie fight, in part thanks to their film knowledge. The second film had mostly annoying characters who didn’t make much sense.
This was fun while it lasted, in the right context, but lacks all the craft of the first film.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? I’ll watch Dead Snow again, repeatedly. I imagine this will be my only viewing of Red vs. Dead.
And so it came to pass that the first six nights of Halloween Movie Fest 2015 were completed.
And it was good.
Far more than I’d expected or hoped, adding this structure back to my movie viewing habits has reminded me how much I love film. It’s hard to describe how one can forget that, especially someone like me, with a long track record of a passion for movies. I was genuinely wondering if I would ever get that old passion back. This last week, I’m remembering how life-giving film can be for me. The films themselves, along with going back through old iterations of Another Day, Another Movie, have stirred those embers, and it turns out there is still enough heat left to make fire.
I’m waking up, and HMF is playing no small part in that!
On with the movies:
1. Night One: The House of the Devil
“After tonight, everything will be complete.”
The first film of this year’s HMF is Ti West’s 2009 homage to vintage horror movies. It succeeds by being such a perfect recreation of creepy, atmospheric devil worship films of the 70’s and 80’s. Yet, it doesn’t offer anything new or have anything interesting to say.
West’s joy at celebrating and recreating the styles, editing, cinematography, and stilted acting of late 70’s/early 80’s horror is contagious, but also instantly forgettable.
The House of the Devil is a slow build of menacing tension. Taking its cues from films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, we find a story where the devil is real, and people do terrible things to follow his will.
I liked this film enough that it was worth a viewing, but it never becomes anything special. I wish that West would have done something different with the genre. In a world where films like Shaun of the Dead and Cabin in the Woods exist, a skillful homage to a beloved genre or sub-genre isn’t compelling without distinct style or the infusion of something new. West recreated the film styles he is celebrating perfectly, but never adds a voice of his own. The story also never gets particularly interesting, but is more paint by numbers devil worship yarn.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? I can’t imagine I will. There are just too many amazing films to revisit to waste time on the decent ones.
2. Night Two: Dawn of the Dead 
“Don’t do it until you’re sure I am coming back.
I’m gonna try not to… I’m gonna try not to come back.”
This is the one that really started it all. Sure, Romero created the genre in Night of the Living Dead in 1968, with flesh-eating corpses (Romero never called them zombies) rising from the grave in hordes to terrorize the world. Before that we had all the voodoo zombie films and Ed Wood’s 1959 “worst movie of all time,” Plan 9 From Outer Space, featuring corpses revived by aliens to take over the world (although they didn’t eat flesh). But it is this one, 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, that is responsible for the zombie DNA we know and love today.
I wrote about this one for HMF ’10, and I’m still just as impressed that Romero got so much right here that folks are still recreating scenes and moments from this film almost 40 years later.
It’s dated. The blood is all bright red. The acting is clunky and ham-fisted. The zombie make-up is pretty silly much of the time. The soundtrack bizarrely tips over into an episode of the A-Team once or twice. Still, with all that, Dawn of the Dead remains compelling and relevant. This is one of the cultural artifacts portraying the rotting underbelly of nineteenth and twentieth century American life.
I do wish I could see it with the ending as it was originally written though. **Spoiler Alert** — Where Peter actually shoots himself and Francine puts her head in the helicopter blade in despair, then the film’s credits roll over the helicopter blades as the gasoline runs out and the blades stop rotating, showing they wouldn’t have made it anywhere if they’d tried. It’s a dark, fitting end to the story, even though they decided against it.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Absolutely, yes. This one is in the canon.
3. Night Three: Day of the Dead
“Take me man, take me! I don’t want to be like one of them!”
This was my first time watching the third film in the Dead series. Romero says it’s his favorite of those first three films.
Of the original trilogy, it is the angriest and the goriest (the makeup and gore effects age far better from this installment). The final act has some of the most intense, grotesque zombie mayhem in movie history. The horror of being overwhelmed by a zombie horde was fully realized and depicted.
Day of the Dead also features the worst acting of any of the three films… seriously bad acting. Oh man, so very bad.
I haven’t seen Land of the Dead yet, so I can’t speak to the human journey in that one, but in the first three there is a really satisfying movement of the human characters in general. This is true even though there are no recurring characters in any of the films. Night of the Living Dead is a siege film, it captures the panic and confusion of the initial outbreak. Dawn of the Dead is depression and despair, humanity is realizing that things aren’t going to get better, they are trying to adapt in various ways to the new world. Day of the Dead is rage and madness, the human characters have long since been pushed beyond their breaking point and left to live in that no-man’s land indefinitely.
The human on human violence in Dawn of the Dead contains a certain amount of perverse joy, people reveling and pillaging in the destruction of the old boundaries and rules that kept us civilized. But in Day of the Dead, the human violence is all frenzied despair. Characters might whoop and laugh, but it is an empty playacting, a hollow shell to cover their blind rage and hopelessness. We see more and more Romero’s assertion that there has only ever been a thin veneer that separates the living from the living dead.
Obviously, the films also do far more than that in terms of satire and commentary, but that was a huge takeaway for me after my first viewing of Day.
I do still need some time to decide if I’m on board with the whole ‘learning zombies’ thing. For me it might stretch the internal credulity of this world’s logic a bit too much. In time I might continue to warm to it though.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Definitely.
4. Night Four: The Haunting
“An evil old house, the kind some people call haunted, is like an undiscovered country waiting to be explored. Hill House has stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more. Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there… walked alone.”
THIS is the sort film that reminds me why I fell in love with doing various versions of Another Day, Another Movie. The Haunting is really, really good.
It’s hard to call a movie that Martin Scorsese listed as the scariest movie of all time underrated, but I think this one is. This should be on more lists of historically great films.
An adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel, The Haunting on Hill House, The Haunting is one of those films that could be enjoyed without volume. That’s not to say anything negative about the dialogue or music, it’s just that this film is so visually captivating, the cinematography so well-crafted, that the story would come across without audio. Every frame in this movie is beautiful, but not an empty beauty, each frame is also meaningful. Freeze and capture any frame and you’ll still be able to sense the anxiety, the madness, the terror, and the tension in each scene. Robert Wise, in-between directing West Side Story and The Sound of Music, used lighting effects, shot framing, contrast, and blocking beautifully. This is a great director delighting in a change of pace.
Some plot holes aside, The Haunting was a joy to watch, and unnerved me far than I expected.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Oh my god, yes. This joins films like Peeping Tomas one of the most delightful surprises I’ve come across in my time doing HMF. This is a new favorite.
5. Night Five: Kairo
“Help… help…. help… help.”
Kairo is a 2001 Japanese horror film written and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Ghosts have crossed over into the world of the living and are using our technology against us.
The writing is uneven, at times the allegory of how our technology isolates us instead of bringing us together is too on the nose. Other times, the story gets convoluted and confused. As is always the case when subtitles are involved, there is the possibility that things were lost in translation. I have a suspicion that was at play for Kairo.
Yet, even with the writing issues, Kairo succeeds because of how effectively unnerving it is. When they’re on their game, and hell, even most times when they’re not, J-Horror directors craft atmospheres and visuals which are creepy as fuck! Kurosawa is really good in this regard. All the terror in this film is from nuance and details. No gore, no cheap jump scares created with manipulative music and lazy lunging villains. Every scene is imbued with dread and menace because of the way the camera moves to reveal something which has appeared in the frame but wasn’t there a moment before. Even the scenes that would be horrifying anyway are made all the more creepy by framing and movement.
This won’t be in the running for my favorite ‘new-to-me’ film from the HMF ’15, but it was definitely an enjoyably creepy way to spend two hours.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Perhaps. First I need to see more of the J-Horror films I’m missing, as it’s a sub-genre I’m underexposed to.
6. Night Six: Byzantium
“I had eyes that cut through lies, I had lungs that breathed eternity. I felt I’d lived my whole wretched life just to prepare me for that moment.”
I really enjoyed this one. A small gothic horror tale of mother and daughter vampires. Like House of the Devil, this doesn’t really do anything to offer a new twist. Nothing is added to vampire lore. The difference is that Neil Jordan has a distinct visual voice on display here. The story is compelling, the film is stylish and beautiful to look at, the actors all offer absolutely wonderful performances, and the writing feels like a good novel, it’s warm and inviting and made me want to curl up and keep watching these dark, violent characters well past the film’s runtime.
I love well crafted, dark, romantic stories (in the 18th century Romanticism sense, not the romance novel sense) about the nature of life and death and terror and awe. Byzantium was very much one of those stories.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? I’d love to. For a long time I’ve wondered what possible genre or sub-genre I could pick to do another original ‘Another Day, Another Movie’ series. I think I just realized it needs to be a week or two of beautiful gothic horror and related films. Crimson Peak is coming up soon in that same vein!
As promised a very long time ago now, here is the first post where I explore the reasons I revisit something over and over again. As was also promised, first up is the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, aka the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy.
For the uninformed, the Three Flavours trilogy is comprised of the three films directed by Edgar Wright, written by Wright and Simon Pegg, and starring Pegg and Nick Frost: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. Each film represents another flavor of the delicious Cornetto ice cream treats. Shaun of the Dead is Red (strawberry): blood, gore, horror. Hot Fuzzis Blue (original/plain): cops. The World’s Endis Green (mint, my favorite flavor of Cornetto): apparently science fiction was also referred to as green fiction at one point. Each film actually features the delicious ice cream treats, altough in the World’s End it doesn’t happen until the very end, and even then it’s only the wrapper (I was actually consciously starting to worry as the film was clearly winding down that there wouldn’t be an Cornetto reference).
The third film came out just last year, so obviously I don’t have years of revisitation for that one, but the first two films are the sort I come back to over and over. On average, I watch them a little more than once a year, and while there are times I worry I’ll get sick of them, it just never seems to happen.
This is why, as I was rewatching The World’s End recently, I couldn’t help but start wondering what it is that brings me back to these movies specifically, and to my favorite movies, shows, and books in general.
As I said in the last post introducing this idea, the reasons we love the things we love are too numerous and complex to flesh out with any certainty or finality. We can say things about this topic that are true, but that truth is never exhaustive. So, here are some true things about why I just can’t quit Edgar and Simon and Nick, at least when all three are together.
I don’t have to look very hard to see what first drew me to these films. Right on the surface, these are beautifully made movies. For all their levity and silliness, there is a technical skill at play that makes it easy to watch them again and again. Their combination of creativity/innovation and homages to the great films Wright and Pegg love is unparalleled. Here is Tony Zhou singing Wright’s virtues:
It’s so fun to watch someone do something they’re really good at. These guys are really good at making movies, and they are even better at displaying their love for the medium of film in general. It started with Spaced and has just kept on going. In this case, as with Tarantino, there is also such a deep, wide well of movies being referenced visually that as I continue to widen my exposure to the history of film I’ll catch even more of those references with each viewing.
Another reason I return to this films, as I mentioned in the intro post, is that these movies function like security blankets or comfort food. These films are familiar and comfortable. Yet, they still have the power to move me and inspire me. All the jokes still make me laugh, even though I quote them constantly in daily life. The sweetness and lovability imbued into all the characters by Wright and Pegg’s writing, as well as the acting, makes it feel like having dinner with old friends. And just like old friends, they feel safe, but still have the ability to surprise me.
These films are also nostalgic for me. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz each connect to moments outside the film entirely. So many memories are associated with these films. Brian, one time (and maybe future?) RtM writer, and I could probably communicate fairly effectively with each other using only lines from these movies. And I don’t just mean barebones communication either. We can communicate humor, frustration, distress, sadness, and most importantly affection fairly well using Cornetto dialogue, combined with the decade of layers that added on since we started watching these movies together. Fortunately we don’t have to, because we have a massive catalogue of dialogue from other movies and shows that we use in addition to those from the trilogy.
Technical skill and artistry, beloved material, and nostalgic connection to my past: just one of those would be a good enough reason to rewatch. Yet, I think the biggest reason I rewatch them, or at least the reason I am rewatching them right now, is the way they engage life in general, and my life in particular.
These movies are about zombies, or weird secret murderous cults obsessed with having the ideal village, or alien invasions, but more than that they are about growing up. Not coming of age in the traditional sense, where young folks learn about love or death or friendship or loss for the first time. These coming of age stories are about growing up in the current millennium, where a great deal of our growing up happens in our 30’s and beyond. It’s the sort of growing up that feels close to my own story, or more accurately, my own insecurities and frustrations.
Shaun of the Dead is about zombies, but it is also about moving deeper into your 30’s and still having nothing in your life figured out. It’s about fear and lethargy and how too often we live life by default instead of making choices.
Hot Fuzz is about murderous village conspiracies, but it is also about having trouble being close to people, and how an overactive brain can make connection and intimacy difficult.
The World’s End is about a robotic insurgency created by aliens, but it is also about how hard it is to be an adult who never lived up to the potential everyone thought you had when you were young, to feel like all your friends have passed you by and you are the pathetic one, the embarrassment. It’s about the need to take responsibility for ourselves.
In other words, these movies are about me, which is the amazing thing about stories, because obviously they aren’t about me at all. Wright and Pegg have never met me before, which means these connections I see to myself are a result of something else. Partly, these connections appear by coincidence, or because of ideas and feelings common to our culture and times as well as those more specific subcultures I’m a part of. More importantly however, these connections are there because of the human tendency to read ourselves into stories, and to read stories into ourselves.
This is one of the amazing abilities story has, and a huge reason why we rewatch and reread and relisten. When I revisit the Cornetto Trilogy, I feel less alone. I see I’m not the only one wondering who the hell I am, and how on earth I can become a better version of myself for me and the world and the people I care about. I find reassurance and comfort, which leaves me with at least two potential options: I can sink into that comfort and continue living the version of my life I’m disappointed with, allowing continual visits to Cornettoland to keep me pacified, or I can use that comfort and sense of connection to help me be less afraid and paralyzed, to take a new step forward and grow up a little. As I said, rewatching the Cornetto Trilogy is a bit like dinner with old friends, and just like old friends they can either shackle us to who we used to be, or inspire us to always be moving onto better things.
Oh, what a ridiculous movie. So over the top gory, but in the most cartoonish way imaginable… like a Loony Tunes short from hell. This isn’t just the bloodiest movie I’ve ever seen, based on the amount of movie blood used, it is actually the bloodiest movie of all time. Although, since blood is all CGI now, that stat means less and less.
There is no doubt whatsoever that this film is played for laughs. Jackson & Co. are trying to get you to either bust a gut or empty your guts… or both. This movie is insane. I actually kind of liked a lot of it.
Highly influential on zombie films since. The lawnmower scene is essential viewing for the cinematic history of zombie carnage.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? This falls into the “high, and with a group of people” category.
Night Seven: Citadel
“If you don’t wanna get dead, hold my hand.”
At times it transcends its small budget, decent tension occasionally, strong performance by the leading man. Otherwise, underwhelming. There are a few legitimately creepy moments I enjoyed, but they never coalesce into anything satisfying. I think this needed a few more treatments before it was ready.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Probably not.
Night Eight: The Awakening
“It’s never darker than when we close our eyes, and yet we keep them shut.”
Mediocre, with a cheap twist, but the film was worth my time because there are some winning moments, some genuinely eerie tension at times, and a few wonderfully creepy scenes (like the second dollhouse scene).
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Nope, but I don’t regret watching it once.
Night Nine: Mama
“Daddy, look! There’s a woman outside the window. And she’s not touching the floor.”
Even after watching a few more HMF13 films in November, this will stand as the biggest disappointment for me from this year’s list. I looked forward to it for so many reasons: I love good ghost stories, Guillermo del Toro produced it, Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are in it. Alas, my hopes were dashed.
For one, the film isn’t scary or creepy like a good ghost film should be. The titular entity was CGI and looked downright silly instead of scary, absurd more than anything else. She was kind of like the silly (awesome) ghosts from The Frighteners, but played straight, that doesn’t work.
Much of the film was insensible, with that common problem horror films run into where people do stupid shit for no reason other than that it creates scarier atmosphere. Why is some guy investigating a house out in the woods in the middle of the night when he could easily have gone in the afternoon? Even if he didn’t believe a ghost haunted it, it’s stupid from a sheer practicality standpoint, but they wanted to create an underwhelming photo flash set piece for a ghost encounter, and alas, inexplicable decisions are made.
The end was also infuriating, but that could just be me.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Absolutely not.
Night Ten: Pontypool
“For your safety, please avoid contact with close family members, and refrain from the following: all terms of endearment, such as ‘honey’ or ‘sweetheart’; baby talk with young children; and rhetorical discourse. For greater safety, please avoid the English language.
Do not translate this message.”
And on Halloween night, I finally reached #10. The Halloween tradition for the last five years is to watch a movie that we already know and love, instead of trying a new one.
What else can I say about Pontypool that I haven’t already said here, and here? I’ve been telling you to watch this movie, and you probably still haven’t. Your loss… loser.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? I’ve seen it four times now, I will watch it at least four more.
It’s been like 47 billion years since the last time I posted on Roused. Or two months. Although, if time isn’t linear, that may be the same thing. I digress.
I should be sleeping right now, yet, here I am. Every time I quit Roused, it pulls me back in.
This time I am back because I just don’t want to live through an October without a Halloween Movie Fest. After all these years, it just feels wrong. I could do it without sharing it on the internets, but that just doesn’t feel the same. Thus, here we are. I’m doing this, and I am sharing it, just in case you’re interested.
This year’s fest will be two weeks long. As always, I am bringing back a few favorites (i.e. Pontypool, 28 Days Later) and watching a whole bunch of new ones, some classics, some new, all in the hopes of expanding my understanding of the genre. Yep, I’m a nerd.
14 films in 14 days. Here is the list:
28 Days Later
Let The Right One In (original) / or / The Shining (haven’t decided yet what I want to fill that last favorite slot with.)
That’s all for now. More to come. You’ve been warned.
A full ‘Zombies, Run!’ post has been a long time in coming. The time is now, and this is the perfect week for one, because they’ve just released ‘Zombies, Run! 2’. So far, the second version appears to be a massive upgrade for an already outstanding app.
‘Zombies, Run!’ is a smartphone app available for iPhone and Droid in which your jogs are accompanied by a fictional zombie apocalypse that adds just enough extra fun and motivation that it could just be what gives you that extra push you need to get off of your ass and run.
I started using the app when I realized just how fat I was getting, combined with the fact that all research shows that regular exercise is really good for helping with depression. This was last May, and since then I’ve run around 370 miles (it would have been even more if not losing two months to illness), and lost over 20 pounds! I can’t overstate just how out of shape I was when I started.
When I bought the app, I was hesitant to spend the $7.99 it was going to cost me. That’s a lot for an app! In hindsight, based on how helpful the app has been, I would have paid $40 or $50 happily. I’m not exaggerating. The app has been that important in helping me keep going out there consistently, helping me build the habit that now can sustain itself without the app’s help. FYI, right now the app is on sale for $3.99!
The app includes all of the features a normal running app features. It keeps track of distance and time, maps your run, syncs with a website you can use to track your progress on your computer, etc.
What ‘Zombies, Run!’ offers that other running apps don’t is extra gamification that turns boring runs into mini-adventures. With a solid voice cast, the folks who created this game have written an episodic story surrounding Abel Township, a small group of survivors trying not to succumb to the zombie plague. You are Runner 5, a newcomer to Abel who has to prove yourself and earn your keep, running outside the town gates to collect resources, lead zombies away from town, and complete other various missions, all with your trusty guide Sam Yao speaking into your headset from the communications tower.
The game also includes an interval training feature called ‘Zombie Chases’. When turned on during a run, there will be random moments when you are alerted that zombies have been detected in the area. You then need to pick up your pace to get away from the horde. If you speed up enough for the right duration of time, you escape the zombies. If not, then you need to drop supplies to distract them, which isn’t something you want to do.
You need those supplies, which you will “pick up” randomly as you run, as they are used to keep improving Abel Township. The base building feature on the new version of the app is so much more fun than the original, and it appears they’ve got some tricks up their sleeve that will create enhanced importance for how your base will impact your runs.
Season One of the episodic story had 23 episodes, and Season Two promises to feature more than double that when you include new side missions. The new season will include some free episodes, and some that require purchase, and all will be released over time in truly episodic fashion. I bought access to the entire second season as it becomes available for five bucks, but that is half price, and will go up after this week. Definitely worth it to me.
Even if you aren’t into zombies, you should consider getting this app. It’s not scary, just fun, and is largely responsible for for me being in wildly better shape than I was this time last year, with even more improvement on the horizon!
As always, here is a list of the movies I’m most excited for this year. It was helpful last year to split the year in half and do another list in June, so I’ll follow suit this year. Even so, I’ll still wind up hating some of these movies, and totally miss a few that will be among my favorites.
Side note: I’m also really excited about Möbius, but there is no US release date yet, so perhaps it will come out during this six month span.
And the movies I’m most excited for in the first half of 2013 are:
1. Gangster Squad – January 11th
As the poster above states, the film was originally set for release last September, but there was a scene that featured open gunfire on people at a movie theater, so they shut it down to reshoot after the events in Colorado.
2. Mama – January 18th
After seeing a two minute short film, Guillermo del Toro decided he needed to produce a feature length film based on it. Del Toro’s sensibilities, Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and a trailer that makes it seem like the movie will be scary as shit in the best possible ways has me thinking it just may be worth my time.
3. Warm Bodies – February 1st
A friend of a friend wrote the book, so for the sake of an author who seems like a genuinely good guy I hope it is enormously successful. For my own sake, I hope that they don’t Twilight it up too much. Since my “To Read” shelf is like 50 books long right now, I need to wait a while until I can buy the novel, but I’ve heard it is really smart, layered, clever, and offers some real heart.
4. A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III – Feb 8th
Like you, I hate Charlie Sheen. Yet there is just so much awesome here with Murray, Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, and Roman Coppola involved. I’m as surprised as you that I’m saying this about a Charlie Sheen movie, but I’m in.
5. No – February 15th
This looks great in every way. Just the trailer juices up my mind grapes.
6. Dead Man Down – March 8th
I hope this is as strong as it has the potential to be.
7. Oz the Great and Powerful – March 8th
James Franco playing a serious role has me worried sometimes. I’m holding onto hope though, because if done well, this movie could be really beautiful.
8. The Place Beyond the Pines – March 8th
I love well crafted crime dramas, I love Ryan Gosling, and I really want to see Bradley Cooper in the breakout dramatic role I know he is capable of producing. This one is pretty high on my priority list this year.
9. Upstream Color – April 5th
It’s been so long since Shane Carruth wrote, directed, and starred in Primer, the indie, mind-bending, quietly thrilling time travel movie from 2004. Finally, he is back with Upstream Color, a mysterious film that figures to be just as unnerving and impressive as Primer was.
And what’s happening in this trailer anyway? Why do they keep repeating each other?
10. 42 – April 12th
When my friend Amanda saw this trailer the other day, she wondered aloud how it has taken so long for this story to be told. It defies reason. Often underrated as an athlete, and with a character whose decency and courage it seems impossible to overstate, and neither can it be overstated how important these men were in the ongoing quest for equality. This should make for some inspiring cinema.
11. Oblivion – April 12th
I’m often the only person I know who stands up for Cruise’s abilities as an actor, but films like Magnolia and Collateral shouldn’t be ignored. I know, I know, it appears he’s as crazy as they come, but what does that have to do with the quality of his films? If you think you only see movies made by sane people, I think you might be seriously overestimating the mental health of your favorite stars and directors.
Sure, this could be terrible, because when sci-fi goes bad, it goes really bad. However, percentage wise, Cruise still has a really great career track record. It just gets easy to forget said track record when he is jumping on couches and believing in a religion invented by a mediocre science fiction writer who hated psychology and psychoanalysis.
12. Iron Man 3 – May 3rd
It’s going to be so fascinating to see how the transition from the epic scope and success of The Avengers back to a smaller and more personal single hero story goes. If nothing else, the reunion of RDJ and Shane Black is a great excuse to revisit the wildly underrappreciated Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
13. The Great Gatsby – May 10th
At the moment, this has been a popular movie to hate on. I, for one, am completely sold and if possible I’ll see it opening night.
14. Star Trek: Into Darkness – May 17th
Is this title supposed to have a colon? It feels like it should, but no one else seems to be adding one. If not, does that mean that the title is supposed to be a single sentence? A star trek into darkness? If so, that is the worst title… ever.
Either way, as far as why one should be excited about this film, nothing needs to be said… at all. Time to watch #1 again. Yay!!
16. Much Ado About Nothing – June 7th
Joss Whedon goes from the massive Avengers film to a small, contemporary Shakespeare production. And when I say small, I mean small. Whedon secretly invited a bunch of awesome people to his house and shot the entire film there. I really wish I had Whedon’s life. Someday, I hope I can call up Nathon Fillion and say, “Hey, wanna come over and shoot an adaptation of For Whom the Bell Tolls in the woods near my house?” Ah, pipe dreams. Mmmmm.
Whedon’s explanation for why he and his wife made this is awesome:
“I fixated on this notion that our ideas of romantic love are created for us by the society around us, and then escape from that is grown-up love, is marriage, is mature love, to escape the ideals of love that we’re supposed to follow.”
He is a wise man.
Now he just needs to give us a fricking trailer!!
17. Now You See Me – June 7th
Part of me still worries this will be terrible. I just really, really want it to be awesome.
18. Man of Steel – June 14th
Everyone who knows even a little bit about me probably knows how much I love Batman, and Batman and Superman are often placed at odds for fans, like the Yankees and the Red Sox or Ben Roethlisberger and human decency. For a long time, I actually hated Superman. Yet, I’ve read some really great writing in Superman comics that managed to help me appreciate how great of a character he can be. I hope this film is strong enough that it can help many of my Superman hating friends gain a new understanding of the hero who started it all.
19. This is the End – June 14th
The intro for the trailer is mostly stupid, as are some parts of the trailer. Maybe this will be really bad. I just think that with this massive group of funny people involved, all playing themselves reacting to the end of the world, it will at least have its moments.
20. Monsters University – June 21st
If they let me down again, Pixar will lose their automatic space on my ‘most excited’ lists (it’s not that I didn’t like Brave, it just wasn’t Pixar good). For now, I’m holding out hope this film is a return to past glories.
Here’s a viral ad for MU.
21. Kick-Ass 2 – June 28th
Hopefully it will be as fun as last time. This time, with Jim Carrey and Donald Faison.
Honorable Mention, Movies I’m Mildly Excited About, and Movies I’m Almost Excited About But Need More Info To Seal the Deal: Quartet, Movie 43, Admission, Identity Thief, Side Effects, A Good Day to Die Hard, Disconnect, The Company You Keep, Pain and Gain, After Earth, The Internship, White House Down.
Movies I Wish I Was Excited About, But Am Not Looking Forward To: All Superheroes Must Die (I saw a brief trailer and was seriously underwhelmed), The Hangover III (the first one was so good, the second one was equally bad), World War Z (The trailer makes it appear that they took the wonderfully clever book, which was small and grounded for a movie about life post-Z-Day, and turned it into a silly and untethered action movie. The CG zombie hordes in the trailers look really stupid).
No one ever answers these questions, but: What did I miss?!? What movies are you most excited for?
Here is my year in film. I’m hoping this isn’t the only list this year, but there is a good chance it will be. Boo.
Just like last year, I broke it down by month to make it easier to read, and to see illustrate just how much this year was a feast or famine affair, perhaps more than ever.
The key is mostly the same as always:
(#) Movie I saw in the theater.
[#] Movie I saw for the first time.
E# Movies I watched with Emily. Favorites (These underlined films cannot be movies I saw this year for the first time, or movies I have only seen once, they have to be movies that have been able to stand up viewing after viewing, and still keep me coming back for more.)
*Best movies I’d never seen before. (It doesn’t matter when these movies came out, I saw them for the first time this year, and they were awesome. I was probably too liberal with my asterisks, I just couldn’t help myself.) Noir Movie Fest. Halloween Movie Fest.
1. Kung Fu Panda 2  E1
2. Battle Royale 
*3. The Secret of Kells  E2
4. Bellflower 
*5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes 
*6. The Guard  E3
7. Moneyball  E4 February
8. Labyrinth – E5
*9. Midnight in Paris  E6
10. The Hangover: Part II  E7
*11. 50/50  E8
*12. Take Shelter 
13. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark 
14. Drive – E9
15. Tangled – E10
16. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
*17. Win Win  E11
18. Trollhunter 
19. Being Elmo  E12 March
*20. The Secret World of Arrietty  (1) E13
*21. Of Gods and Men  E14
*22. 21 Jump Street  (2) E15
23. Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame 
24. The Promotion  E16
*25. The Hunger Games  (3) E17
26. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop  E18
*27. The Trip  E19
28. London Boulevard  E20 April
*29. Certified Copy 
*30. Martha Marcy May Marlene 
31. Bringing Out the Dead 
32. Submarine 
33. Animal Kingdom 
34. OSS 117: Rio ne répond plus 
35. A Dangerous Method 
*36. Cabin in the Woods  (4)
37. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil 
38. Hesher 
39. Ocean’s Eleven
40. Shaolin Soccer 
*41. Sukiyaki Western Django 
*42. The Descendants  E21
43. The Five-Year Engagement  (5) E22
44.Down By Law  May
45. Cold Weather 
46. Blow-Up 
47. Haywire  E23
*48. The Avengers  (6) E24
*49. The Avengers (7) E25
50. Iron Man – E26
*51. Rebecca 
52. Rosemary’s Baby 
53. Captain America – E27
54. Chronicle 
*55. Shame 
56. Videodrome 
57. South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut 
58. The Great Dictator 
*59. The Tree of Life 
60. Cul-de-Sac 
61. The Woman in Black  June
62. Ultimate Avengers: The Movie 
63. The Thin Red Line 
64. Harold and Maude 
65. Sherlock Jr. 
66. Heathers 
67. Prometheus  (8)
68. Laura 
69. The Pianist  E28
70. Carnage  E29
*71. Moonrise Kingdom  (9)
*72. In the Mood for Love 
73. Adam’s Rib  E30
74. Le Samourai 
75. My Week with Marilyn  E31
76. Witness for the Prosecution 
77. The Battleship Potemkin 
*78. Paths of Glory 
79. Brave  (10) E32 80. High Sierra  July *81. Notorious  82. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  83. Night and the City  84. Sunset Boulevard 85. The Big Sleep *86. The Amazing Spider-Man  (11) E33 87. Pickup on South Street  *88. Ace in the Hole 
*89. The Big Heat  90. Kiss Me Deadly  *91. Gilda  92. Leave Her To Heaven  93. Gun Crazy  94. Shadow of a Doubt  E34 *95. The Killers (1946)  96. The Maltese Falcon 97. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)  *98. In a Lonely Place  *99. The Lost Weekend  100. Double Indemnity
101. The Dark Knight Rises  (12) 102. White Heat  *103. The Sweet Smell of Success 
104. Scarlet Street  *105. Touch of Evil  *106. Mildred Pierce  107. The Asphalt Jungle  *108. Out of the Past  *109. The Lady from Shanghai  110. The Naked City  111. The Night of the Hunter  112. Strangers on a Train  113. The Killing 
*114. Batman: Year One  August
115. The Shop Around the Corner  E35
*116. The Long Goodbye 
117. Lilo & Stitch  E36
118. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 
*119. Beasts of the Southern Wild  (13) E37
124. Batman: Under the Red Hood
*125. Anatomy of a Murder 
*126. Rififi 
127. Sleeper  September
128. The Campaign  (14) E39
129. John Carter 
130. Blackthorn 
131. All-Star Superman 
132. Spy Game – E40
133. The Raid: Redemption 
134. Jiro Dreams of Sushi  E41
135. The Man from Earth 
136. Badlands 
137. Sucker Punch  October
138. Our Hospitality 
139. A Hard Day’s Night 
140. Goon 
141. Witness 
*142. Looper (15)  E42
*143. 2046 
144. Shaun of the Dead – E43 145. Frankenstein 
146. From Russia with Love 147. Bride of Frankenstein  *148. Cabin in the Woods 149. Les yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face)  150. Bubba Ho-Tep  151. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein 152. Halloween  153. A Nightmare on Elm St.  154. The Innkeepers  155. Friday the 13th  156. Eraserhead 157. The Invisible Man  158. Ringu  *159. The Exorcist 
160. Arthur 
*161. Indie Game 
162. The Fog  163. Zombieland 164. Pontypool November
165. An Affair To Remember  E44
166. Goldfinger 
*167. In America  E45
168. Sound of Noise 
*169. Skyfall  (16) E46
170. Roxanne 
171. Wreck-It Ralph  (17) E47
*172. In the Heat of the Night 
173. Being There 
174. Amores Perros 
175. The Promise: The Making of The Darkness on the Edge of Town 
176. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) 
177. Mansome  December
*178. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part One 
179. The Dirty Dozen 
180. Marathon Man 
*181. Seven Psychopaths  (18)
182. The Meaning of Life 
183. Midnight Run 
184. The Watch 
185. L.A. Story 
186. Bernie 
187. Sleepwalk with Me 
*188. Sound of My Voice 
189. Young Adult 
190. Sexy Beast 
191. Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap 
*192. Magic Mike  E48
193. The Nightmare Before Christmas
194. Christmas Vacation
195. Love Actually – E49
196. Gunfight at the O.K. Corral 
197. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey  (19) E50
198. Medicine for Melancholy 
*199. ParaNorman  E51
“Power, I said! Power to walk into the gold vaults of the nations, into the secrets of kings, into the Holy of Holies; power to make multitudes run squealing in terror at the touch of my little invisible finger. Even the moon’s frightened of me, frightened to death!”
This was a good one. Dated, but more than worth 71 minutes. Claude Rains was awesome, even though you never see his face while he is delivering lines. The special effects were crazy impressive for a movie from 1933. All-in-all it was just a solid way to spend a little over an hour, catching up on some movie history from the early days of “talkies.”
Night Twelve: Ringu
“It’s not of this world. It’s Sadako’s fury. And she’s put a curse on us.”
Having only seen the American remake, I was looking forward to checking out this cult classic. It’s a hugely celebrated film internationally. Sadly, I only thought it was ok. Part of that was because there were no surprises, and the low budget scares in Ringu just weren’t as jarring as the big budget ones in The Ring (at least in college when I last saw The Ring). That may be blasphemous, but I can’t control what scares me and what doesn’t.
I didn’t dislike the movie, I just didn’t fall in love with it the way so many have. It was a decent story, told fairly well, with strong acting throughout.
And of course, it can’t be all bad. Hiroyuki Sanada is in it, and if I was a woman I would totally be willing to have his babies. Which makes me want to watch the rest of his movies I’ve seen again.
Night Thirteen: The Exorcist
Father Damien Karras: Where is Regan?
Demon: In here. With us.
I’ve finally seen The Exorcist. I’d put it off for so long, even though it is by far one of the most celebrated horror movies of all time. For so long, I was scared to watch it, or at least part of me was. Alas, I finally saw it, and it wasn’t even that scary, what with the aging process and all.
However, while it isn’t that scary anymore in 2012, it is still a really great movie. I think people miss so much beauty and great filmmaking because they are caught up on whether or not it should be called the scariest movie of all time. Sure, they could have fleshed some stuff out a little better, engaged a few topics with more skill, but it was still really good. The story of Father Karras, a brilliant psychiatrist who has lost his faith, was genuinely compelling to me. I wasn’t engaged by the movie because of the scary demon moments, I was engaged because of the relationships, because of the quiet way William Friedkin told the story in between the shocking demon outbursts.
**Spoiler, in case you plan to watch it eventually
I know it was a bit melodramatic, but I really loved the scene when Father Karras is downstairs because the demon had been pretending to be his dead mother, and he was too shaken to continue. Then Regan’s mother, Chris, walks in and asks if it’s over, he says no. Then she asks if Regan is going to die, and in that moment we see his resolve stiffen, and he remembers the innocent life at stake, and he looks back at Chris and firmly says, “No.” Then he decisively walks back upstairs to face all the forces of hell, eventually sacrificing his own life to save the young girl’s.
Night Fourteen: The Fog
“Nick, his wounds are covered with algae, his lungs are full, and there’s silt in his fingernails. I tell ya, I saw Dick Baxter three days ago in Salinas. Now he’s lying there on the table looking like he’s been underwater for a month.”
I was supposed to watch The Descent, but a barely discernibly crack on the disc made the Blu-ray start part way through the movie on one player, and made it so the PS3 wouldn’t even acknowledge there was a disc in it. Thus, the night’s film became John Carpenter’s The Fog instead.
Holy shit balls was this movie stupid. Every single moment of it. From the ridiculous and farfetched story at its core, to the complete failure to build tension or deliver a single moment of entertainment. There is always the chance it was just my mood last night, since we always ignore that far too much when engaging any sort of art. Still, I think I would have hated this one no matter what.
The fact that this movie is on two lists on iCheckMovies and Pontypool is on zero is proof life isn’t fair.
Night Fifteen: Zombieland
“You are like a giant cock-blocking robot, like, developed in a secret fucking government lab.”
Finishing with two of my favorites, in a zombie movie mini-marathon, on Halloween night.
Zombieland is a cocktail of just the right parts funny, sweet, and gross. I’ve seen it four or five times now, and I am sure it will be a part of many Halloween Movie Fests to come.
Night Sixteen: Pontypool
“The whole world can hear you breathing. It’s fine, you’re breathing. That’s your top news story.”
Hot damn, this movie is so good. I love it. This was my third time seeing it, and it is still just as good. It is a wildly original riff on the zombie sub-genre, based on Tony Burgess’s book Pontypool Changes Everything. It doesn’t get the respect and attention it deserves, perhaps because it is from Canada and all, but that’s just not fair.
The Rotten Tomatoes synopsis states that Pontypool is: “Witty and restrained but still taut and funny, this Pontypool is a different breed of low-budget zombie film.” I think that is actually a pretty great synopsis based on my experience of the film.
Some folks might bitch about the liberties taken with the zombie genre, like folks did after 28 Days Later, but that’s how genres and sub-genres are supposed to work. That’s what happens when a genre is healthy and vibrant. People take the rules and tropes of a genre, and they move things around and imagine new ways of seeing things. A genre is supposed to be a conversation, allowing different themes and ideas to be explored within a certain framework, like jazz… it isn’t supposed to be sheet music that everyone has to play note for note over and over and over.
Also, some folks associated with Pontypool have said, “Oh, this isn’t a zombie movie. We call them ‘conversationalists.'” Still, it clearly is a riff on the zombie genre, whatever they want to say. You don’t have a cameo appearance by one of the most famous zombie actors in history, Boyd Banks, if you aren’t trying to draw comparisons.
The film is tense and troubling more than it is scary, and most of the violence happens off-screen.
You should watch this movie. I’ll watch it with you. I’ll even hold your hand if that makes you feel better.