Night Six: Bubba Ho-Tep
“Damn straight! He comes in here tonight, I don’t want him slapping his lips on my asshole.”
As it turns out, Elvis Presley and JFK aren’t dead, but live in a rest home in Texas (or are they just crazy people?). Elvis (Bruce Campbell) switched places with an Elvis impersonator and went on to live a life of obscurity impersonating himself, while JFK (Ossie Davis) was shot, lobotomized to replace a portion of his brain with sand, and dyed all over his body to look like a black man so no one suspects he is who he is. When old people at their rest home start dying one by one, it is up to the former king and the former president to find out what sort of supernatural shenanigans might be taking place at Shady Rest Retirement Home.
Taking itself just seriously enough to add to the awesomeness, this movie is mostly absurd, is at times bizarre, and while it starts off a little hit or miss, it is really funny once it gets going. Although, to be fair, if a movie’s third act is full of vintage Bruce Campbell oneliners like, “Come and get it, you undead sack of shit,” and, “Your soul suckin’ days are over, amigo!,” I’m going to enjoy my time watching said movie.
There is even some good stuff in here about the indignity that can come with old age, and the importance of never losing our will to live life to the last drop.
Bonus Movie: Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein
Wilbur Grey: Well that’s gonna cost you overtime because I’m a union man and I work only sixteen hours a day.
McDougal: A union man only works eight hours a day.
Wilbur Grey: I belong to two unions.
Comedy as it is today wouldn’t exist without Abbott and Costello. “Who’s On First” is still probably the most famous bit in our nation’s comedic history.
Of their film work, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is the most critically acclaimed of the lot. It holds up pretty well, both between the 1940’s and now, and between the last time I saw it when I was in college and now.
Night Seven: Halloween
“Death has come to your little town, Sheriff. You can either ignore it, or you can help me to stop it.”
You probably can’t spoil a movie this iconic, or this straightforward in plot, but just in case, spoilers follow:
I didn’t really enjoy this film at all. I would say it is overrated, but only if I say that as something to be taken with a grain of salt. In my opinion, the tons of people who love it are seeing something I don’t see, and I think it would be really arrogant for me to just unilaterally claim that it sucks, and I’m right, and they are stupid for finding entertainment in it. That’s how most pop critics work, and I’m not sure where the value is in it. If you love Halloween, I would genuinely love to hear why, to try and understand. That is, as long as you can explain it with passion for the film, and not misplaced rage toward me for having the nerve to disagree with you.
Here is my take: I have no idea what is groundbreaking about this movie. It wasn’t the first slasher film, so it didn’t invent anything in that sense. I wonder if maybe it was just the one that found the commercial success necessary to spawn the huge rush of slasher films that followed in the 80’s. Some say it is responsible for the “morality plays” that some claim the slasher genre to be, in which all the teens who do naughty things are murdered. This seems like bullshit to me. The reason the teens do naughty things in these movies is rooted in sexual violence, because if the women are all having sexy parties when they die, then they are naked when the slasher murders them. This is troubling, and was remarkably obvious in Halloween. All three women murdered in this film were naked, or nearly naked. I don’t understand that, but it is pretty common, because uber-popular shows like all the CSI versions and Law and Order: SVU do the whole sexualized violence thing every week, so this isn’t a nerdboy thing, this is a human thing. That’s best left for an essay in another form.
I think the primary thing I didn’t like about Halloween is actually the fact that I didn’t believe a single moment of it, to any degree. I don’t mean things have to be realistic, I actually enjoyed Nightmare on Elm St. much more, and that is hugely fantastical. However, Halloween isn’t supernatural fantasy, and it isn’t asking for suspension of disbelief, it is dressing up in a clown costume and repeatedly stabbing suspension of disbelief over and over and over.
How does Michael escape to steal the car early in the film to begin with? Why, when a dangerous patient escaped a high security mental institution, is no one out looking for him? When he kills the guy driving the pickup, why doesn’t he start using that car instead? How does he drive around in a car with the mental institution logo on the side without anyone noticing? Why is a lone psychiatrist the only person interested in catching the escaped lunatic? How does a kitchen knife impaled in a cheap wall of faux-wood paneling hold up a grown male indefinitely? Why don’t the neighbors call the cops when a teenage girl is screaming and banging on their door? (Your average person might not open the door and let her in, but they would definitely call 911, if only to get her away from their house. We aren’t talking bystander apathy, that doesn’t come into play when someone is actively trying to break down your door.) Why does Jamie-Lee Curtis assume Michael is dead and drop a weapon within his reach TWO SEPARATE TIMES? Why isn’t Michael (a normal, human psychopath) at least somewhat physically impaired after being stabbed deeply in the neck by a knitting needle, stabbed in the chest by a knife, and then shot like a billion times before falling out a second story window? That’s just a list off the top of my head.
Also, with the exception of “death has come to your little town” line, the dialogue is really, really horrible. The acting is just as bad. And anything I’ve read people say was “innovative” was just taking things folks like Hitchcock invented and using it in exactly the same way. That’s not bad in itself, every filmmaker borrows and steals from those who came before. My issue is with it being praised as groundbreaking when it wasn’t. There is significance to putting the audience in the role of the killer, by using so many first person shots (especially in that impressive steadycam shot to open the film), as well as having us here Michael’s “fat guy breathing” during those shots. That doesn’t make Halloween the Citizen Kane of ‘lone killer’ movies, which many seem to believe is the case.
Night Eight: A Nightmare on Elm St.
“Tina, you either gotta cut your fingernails, or ya gotta stop that kind of dreaming. One or the other.”
I’m assuming that this film was meant to be funny and not just scary, and if that is the case, it is pretty hilarious, and my favorite of the three primary slasher films I watched for this year’s HMF. The scares don’t hold up, so if it was every supposed to be genuinely scary, that part is long gone. However, the laughs have only increased over time. The general premise is great, but the plot is flimsy and poorly executed, and the acting is so very bad. From the pacing, to the camera work, to the bad acting (I know I already mentioned that, but it really was so, so bad), A Nightmare on Elm St. is basically an after-school special from hell.
I think I enjoyed it more than the other two because the female lead was smart and tough, unlike Halloween, and since Freddy was pretty much all-powerful in these kids’ dreams, the murders didn’t require the victims to be massively stupid, unlike Friday the 13th. Also, the fact that it was funnier than the other two made it easier to find it entertaining.
Night Nine: The Innkeepers
“Never skimp on bread; you’ll always regret it.”
I had high hopes for this one, but was left really disappointed.
Ghost movies scare me the most. For whatever reason, they interact with my psyche in a way that just leaves a more lasting impression on me than other sorts of scary movies. I suppose that is in large part because they are based purely on fear of supernatural forces, so storywise, they have to rely on pure fear of the unseen. When I watch other sorts of scary movies, I might be tensely waiting for the next jump scene, which is fear I suppose, or squeamishly worried about what sort of gross death is about to happen… but once the movie is over, case closed. However, the creeped out feeling I get watching ghost movies, or even hearing ghost stories, really sticks with me. During a shower, I don’t check the other side of the curtain for zombies; however, I do check for fucking ghosts. Completely irrational, but still true. (Although, I do always check the back seat of the car for serial killers when I get in the car at night… but that’s just being practical). I have more to say about ghost stories, but being that this is just supposed to be a blurb about The Innkeepers, I should move on.
All that to say, a good ghost movie really messes with me. I wanted The Innkeepers to be one of those. It wasn’t. I was willing to look past a lot of things since the movie was made for like 35 bucks, but it wasn’t just the bad acting and a leading lady who is really irritating every time she is scared (not a good thing in a movie that requires her to be scared much of the time). This movie just didn’t offer anything that interested me or engaged me at all. A few cheap jump scenes, a pretty by-the-numbers ghost, and an unsatisfying ending left me underwhelmed.
Sad. I’ll have to find my ghost scares somewhere else. I wonder how Stir of Echoes holds up… that movie scared the bejeezus out of me when I was in high school.
Night Ten: Friday the 13th
“You see, Jason was my son, and today is his birthday.”
With A Nightmare on Elm St., I’m pretty sure that it was supposed to be funny a lot of the time. However, with Friday the 13th, I’m pretty sure all (or at least most) of the humor was unintended. I suppose I shouldn’t expect much from a film that was just trying to cash in on the success of Halloween, but still… c’mon guys!
Early on, it’s not terrible. Sure, the teenagers are remarkably annoying, but maybe that is just so that we are ready for someone to start killing them when the time comes. Once our primary cast starts dying, the film is fairly subdued, as the slasher quietly kills teens one by one. However, once the final act arrives, it just gets ridiculous. The whole time, the murderer is a lady at the end of her middle age, who lost her mind when her son drowned due to counselor neglect decades earlier. The fight scenes between Mama Voorhees and the final intended victim are hilarious. So bad.
It’s also amazing that Jason Voorhees, the franchise’s primary contribution to popular culture, he the supernaturally powerful killing machine, with his signature hockey mask, doesn’t even really show up in this film. By the way, there is no satisfying explanation for how Jason is a grown fucking man for the rest of the franchise. I’ve read various people trying to explain it, and maybe the franchise itself attempts to later on… but nothing makes sense.
I should have been high when watching some of these movies.