October 7th, 2012

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V/H/S

It feels like it's been a long time since I went to the Kendall. I know it's at least 3 1/2 weeks because I managed to avoid hobbling over on crutches. (Sidebar: my knee is "completely trashed", but I can at least ditch the crutches while waiting for the procedure to be scheduled). Something about seeing a movie scheduled as 1 week only (even though the last couple I raced to stayed open for longer) really makes me hafta go see it. This time it was V/H/S. Yeah I've really been going all out with the October horror fest this year.

I've been thinking a lot about how the genre has changed over time. You've gone from spooky monsters to slasher films to torture porn. Right now the trend seems to be disturbing, messed up, and bloody as hell. Plus there's the whole found footage thing. V/H/S definitely is keeping up with the times. A bit more amateur, but a lot of potential. The fun with this flick is that it's a bit of an anthology.

I really liked the anthology idea, which is prolly what most intrigued me, even if the unifying story is a bit flawed. You've got a group of ne'er-do-wells who are hired to steal a tape from an old guy's house. Problem is when they get there they find a whole bunch of tapes and hafta watch thru 'em all in order to find the one they're looking for. Oh and they get there to discover the old guy is dead. His body occupies the La-Z-Boy in the screening room. I'll leave the plot of the shorts secret, since that was half of the fun, but they did seem to cover a pretty good range of the horror spectrum.

What was cool was that these were all supposedly on tapes. That meant the team behind each story (including the main storyline) could play with a lot of low tech "side effects": bits of previously recorded occurrences coming thru, tracking issues, etc. Each short was completely different, with the same underlying setup of unsuspecting victim(s) being thrown into a scary situation. Some were better than others. My fave overall was prolly the fourth story. It found the right balance of set up and action. The way this one was filmed (or at least the set up for it) had much steadier cameras than the others, which I very much appreciated. If we're just focusing on the storyline, then I think I liked the first short best. It's flaw was that it took a really long time to set up, and our leading players missed some \m/ huge red flags that led to their doom.

While I was rather spooked (the more horror I watch, the jumpier I've been getting), I wasn't necessarily enthralled. The problem with 6 different stories (including the set up story) is that you need to go thru exposition 6 times. It can get frustrating if each segment takes its sweet time doing that. Five films within a film is prolly about the right number, esp for the length they were, but I'd been expecting more, shorter ones. The intro had a bunch of overlapping small scenes, which was more along the lines of what I was expecting. That's probably what also made the longer stories feel like they were dragging. Next, I like the idea behind found footage, and it works well for horror to add some believability and as a way of hiding some of the action (I'm a firm believer that the scariest scenes are the ones that show you the least of what's going on). But as someone who wants to know what's going on, I tend to find that frustrating.

Again, a lot of potential, just not quite there. I feel like the teams behind each film have a good grip on horror. They just have to work on their story skills a bit.

V/H/S - \m/ \m/ \n
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Eli Roth: The Last American Virgin

When I wrote up Death Proof the other day, I was thinking of it just in terms of Eli Roth, which means I wasn't thinking of it in terms of Quentin Tarantino, which means it totally slipped my mind that this was part of Grindhouse. Roth is responsible for one of the fake trailers that played at the double feature, Thanksgiving. He claims to have finally solved the problem that was blocking the screenplay from getting written, so maybe Thanksgiving will soon go the way of Machete, the way where the fake trailers turns out to no longer be fake. Here's hoping.

On this day of Rothtober, we're going back to Five Favorite Films with Eli Roth. Current feature: The Last American Virgin. Roth says that he loves this movie partly because of the fat guy/nerd/cool guy combo, which he claims is more effective than any John Hughes click. He also says that he loves how dark and subversive the film really is, even though on the surface it's a teen sex comedy. I definitely agree with the dark.

For me, when I think of teen sex comedy, American Pie is the ultimate example. At first they did kinda seem like very similar movies, but Roth is right. Virgin takes some much darker turns. Pie's humor comes mostly from sex jokes, but the film is fun and has a lot of heart. I once saw it edited for tv, and when you took out all of the obscenity you were left with a cutsey teen rom com. Virgin has some situational humor, but the sexual situations are what drive the plot not the funny. I feel like some of the events are things that the Pie franchise would never dare touch, but yet here it is 15 years prior.

The film is also so deliciously 80s in every way possible. My favorite part about it was the absolutely cheesey soundtrack. Yes, I'd kinda roll my eyes at certain songs (Journey again? really) but each selection fit the story at that point perfectly. A rather overlooked bit of brilliance.

I certainly appreciate dark, but something was just a bit too boring. Maybe I was expecting funnier or more clever. Still, interesting how many boundaries this was willing to push 30 years ago.