Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Terrible Moments in Taglining


"Putting the tea back in terror."

If this movie is putting the tea back, that would suggest there was a time when tea was ubiquitous in horror movies, as some kind of fixture or genre trope. Then filmmakers turned away from tea, perhaps dabbling in coffee or even pop. But now these guys are going back to horror's roots, and infusing their nazi zombie movie with a strong peppermint.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Terrible Moments in Taglining


"Evil is only skin deep."

So we've got nothing to worry about from this guy.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Morbid

Not pictured: What actually happens in the movie.

There is a penis at the end of this review.

Fellow horror blogger Chuck Conry made a movie. Good for him! And this is where the praise ends because Morbid is a badly written and poorly paced slasher throwback that fails to pay hommage to the genre.

The movie opens with two dudes engaging in a heated debate about the horror canon. It would be fun if it weren't a tired cliche. Moreover, the rest of Morbid isn't nearly as post-modern as this scene would have you believe. An attempt to invert the male gaze is undermined by the film's lack of shower scene nudity, and the interminable pacing of the kills--not to mention the action and blocking--suggests that Conry is better off behind a keyboard than a camera.

That having been said, Morbid's script is thin on plot. And pages. Clocking in at 72 minutes, Morbid is little more than a series of kills strung together and intercut with too-long scenes of people talking about teen melodrama. The story, such as it is, revolves around a post-game house party and a love triangle. The cops want to shut the party down and, well...that's about it. If you're wondering how a masked killer fits in, so am I. Only two victims have been found, and no one at the party either knows or cares about the double homicide, nor do they (or the cops) even realize the killer's still out and about. At no point do the party-goers know they're in danger, meaning there's no tension whatsoever.

The thing about the slashers of yor is that the killer had some connection, no matter how tenuous, to his victims, and that at some point the over-sexed teens realize (too late) their numbers are dwindling. This is what ratchets up the tension, when the suspense, which has been boiling under, boils over and all hell breaks loose. Conry, however, seems to have fixated solely on the gore, forgoing story and plot for body count.

And he's not the only one. The genre is chock full of no/low movies inspired by the slasher classics of yesteryear made by horror lovers who display more passion than talent. As good/bad as the inspirational source material may be, it still had some semblance of story--some reason why the movie is happening. This simple fact, this basic tenet of storytelling, seems to have escaped Conry.

Other things that escaped Conry include camera angles and perspective.

Unless, of course, I'm wrong. The possibility exists that Conry is a genius and I'm too dumb, too self-absorbed, or too elitist to see it. Maybe Morbid's total lack of story is a comment on the state of the genre today. The disparate and disassociative nature of Morbid's narrative is a direct criticism of story's diminished position among an audience that only cares for incident. That the town's Sheriff is more concerned about a kegger than a brutal killer is a wry dig at morality and a keen observation on slasher tropes.

Morbid is a horror comedy that isn't funny. None of the jokes land, with one exception, and it's more outrageous than hilarious. I also got a big kick out of what might be the worst rap ever, only because it was so bad as to be funny. I'm not sure if that was the intent. When I did laugh, I was laughing at Morbid, not with it, and that's a problem for a movie that's supposed to be funny on purpose.

Perhaps most annoying is the promise of an ending (I'm paraphrasing here) "as shocking as Sleepaway Camp." Granted, this part isn't Conry's fault; the DVD box suggests a surprising twist end I'll never see coming. So while I was fidgeting my way through the longest 72 minutes of my life, I was also trying to figure out the twist, trying to guess who's the killer. What I didn't realize is that Rue Morgue, who made the comparison to Sleepaway Camp, meant it literally. Meaning, there is a penis at the end of the movie.

A big one.

And much like the flaccid phallus that punctuates the film, Morbid lacks substance. Like all other no/low horror, it was a good effort, but this one falls way short of the mark. The film's technical problems not withstanding (matching, re-shoots, editing, not leaving the tripod in the shot when you're going handheld), Morbid's complete lack of narrative arc meant the project was doomed from the start. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Map It! Haunted Places and Ley Lines

Ever wonder what the relationship is between ley lines and hauntings? Of course you have. Everyone has. Well, I've taken it upon myself to map that relationship to prove that it doesn't exist.


Now, I'm not saying ghosts don't exist, nor am I claiming that ley lines are bs, but there are more sites on this map that don't really coincide with ley lines than those that do.

Where did I get my data? From the Internet of course! The thirty sites listed above are the "most haunted" or appear the most often on haunted house websites. The ley line data is, admittedly slightly less authoritative. The above map was redrawn from this one, chosen because it appears on more than one site, was at the right scale, and because it was the "cleanest."

Saturday, 16 April 2016

4got10


4got10 is a curiously terrible movie. There is no good reason why it's as bad as it is. That having been said, there are a number of bad ones.

Bad Reason #1: The Script

To say the script for 4got10 is underdeveloped assumes a complete story to begin with. And assuming so makes an ass out of you. Not me, though. Because I know this story didn't get much past the idea stage before it was committed to videotape.

Brian wakes up shot and surrounded by bodies, with no clear idea of what's happened. The cops roll up and he pretends to be dead, eavesdropping on the Sheriff's plan to steal all the cash and blow on hand. Shortly after this scene plays out, Brian himself takes off in the van and drives...somewhere. He's following a route dictated to him by the van's satnav. When he get gets to his destination--which is some guy's house--he takes the guy and his wife hostage then sits down for a good think.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff is packing to leave town. He's in the shit after his foiled attempt to steal the van and is planning to get the hell out of Dodge. This plan is also foiled when Danny Trejo shows up at his house demanding to know who shot his son. Danny strikes a deal with the Sheriff: if the Sheriff deliver's his son's murderer and the stolen van with money and drugs intact, Danny will let him have some of the cash.

Meanwhile, Dolf Lundgren is a DEA agent investigating the shoot-out.

Meanwhile Brian has sex with the woman he's take hostage. Tuns out she knows him. Brian, of course, has no idea who she is.

It all comes to a head when the Sheriff arrives at the house where Brian's holed up. Shortly after he gets there, Trejo and his boys show up. A gun battle ensues. Brian survives, as does the broad. She takes off with a set of keys, keys that will open a locker at the bus station. It's where Brian hid the money before driving to the house.

Brian's too late to the bus station--the money's gone. But Dolf Lundgren isn't. He's in a parking garage, waiting for Brian. And now, finally, all the pieces fall into place. Or they would were this a better movie. Brian shoots Lundgren in the head and we're let in on the backstory.

Brian's an undercover DEA agent who brokered a deal with Trejo's lawyer's wife, aka the broad, to have her husband sent away. When Brian's in the middle of the big drug sale, Lundgren manipulates him into sparking the shoot-out. Lundgren shoots Brian with an aim to steal the money himself once everybody's dead.

If you're wondering what the lawyer has to do with any of this, you're not the only one. How and/or why the Sheriff and Danny Trejo show up at the lawyer's house is equally confusing. And at no point does Brian tell the broad where he stashed the cash--she just knows to go to the bus station. As does Dolf Lundgren.

4got10 wants to be this great twisted caper, with all these different characters and threads weaving an intricate web of deceit. But writing something like that requires time and patience, if not talent. 4got10's writer came up with the basic idea but stopped short of planning it out. So what should have been something along the lines of Lock Stock meets Get Shorty meets Once Upon a Time in Mexico, feels more like bad True Romance fan fic.

Bad Reason #2: The Cameos

Normally a cameo is a good thing. Or at least a surprising thing. 4got10 has three "big" "cameo" performances. In addition to Dolf Lundgren and Danny Trejo, Vivica Fox is in this movie, and only one of them has anything to contribute to the plot, such as it is. While Danny Trejo's drug lord character has a reason to be in the movie, Vivica Fox's DEA chief doesn't. Excise her from the script and you've freed up ten minutes that could be put to better use. That's not to suggest that Vivica Fox isn't good at her job, she just has nothing to do.

Most troubling of all is Dolf Lundgren. Clearly, he was only available for a couple of days but his character is more important to the plot and he should have more of a presence in the movie. If the script were better, it's likely Lundgren's DEA agent would do more, make more of an impact, but then he might not have been able to accept the role because he'd have to have been on set longer than a couple of days.

Bad Reason #3: The Spelling


Bad Reason #4: The Continuity

See that white van?


Here. I've pointed it out.


Now, take a look at this next photo and see if you can see it.


You can't because it's not there. Instead of a white panel van, there's a dark minivan parked in its place.


Note here the "braud"'s tattoo changes from one moment to the next.



And see how Danny Trejo is right-handed while his stand-in is a leftie.



Reason #5: The Budget

Normally I wouldn't hold a movie's budget against it. Unless we're talking about a billion dollar movie that looks like crap. Then yeah, it's a problem. But with low budget films, looking cheap isn't necessarily a strike against.

4got10 is low budget, and it looks pretty good, so that's a real accomplishment. But all that goodwill is undone by this one embarrassing prop:


How can a movie that can afford custom search engines and email graphics produce something so cheap as the evidence board seen here? There is no acceptable reason, no good excuse as to why this thing exists.

Like all the other terrible mistakes that found their way into this film, this awful bit of set dressing sums up all that's wrong with 4got10. It showcases a certain laziness on the part of the filmmakers, a lack of attention to detail and an inability to prioritize that completely undermines their efforts. 

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Map It! Unsolved Murders in the US

More murder data means more maps!


This map shows unsolved serial and mass murders in the US. Users and scroll, zoom, and click on the red circles for details. By no means an exhaustive study of unsolved crime, this map is more a sample, showing twenty-four murder mysteries. Each location has a link to click for more information, if you're into that kind of thing.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Map It! Murder by State

I like data and I like maps, so I thought it might be fun to map some data I've collected.


Note: The data have not been normalized. This map shows raw count data reported to the FBI, and represents a portion of all murders in each state for the years 2014 and 2015.