Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Taking of Deborah Logan: Your Inspiration is Showing

I'm not 100% certain, but I think that there's been a lot of talk about The Taking of Deborah Logan. Probably good talk but then again I find it difficult to keep up with these things while trying to remain vigilant about watching Teen Mom 2 so who knows. What I do know is what I think about it and what I think is well.....I don't know--- let's talk it out.

The Taking of Deborah Logan is essentially a student film about an Alzheimer's patient named Deborah Logan. When we first meet Deborah and her daughter Sarah, things haven't gone completely south yet.

Soon, her condition worsens and eventually we come to the conclusion that this is probably more than just Alzheimer's. It's probably the devil.

OK, Deborah Logan gets major points for not just being an exorcism movie. Instead of relying on the expected exorcism tropes it does take the movie to several new and unexplored places....well places that haven't all been combined into one film at least. What I mean by that is that The Taking of Deborah Logan seems to make a list of all the films that have scared us over the past few decades or so and then used the high points of said films to its advantage. Let's do a quick recap of 'inspirations'

The Exorcist III 
--The concept of mentally ill elderly people being possessed was never more fantastic than it was in the Exorcist III. Old ladies crawling on the ceiling is something we as horror viewers will never forget--but also the concept of the elderly and more importantly the elderly suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer's being sound passageways for demons and their shenanigans is brilliant. So although I applaud Deborah Logan for recognizing that--I don't find the film's overall concept too groundbreaking. Also not enough old ladies walking on ceilings.

Paranormal Activity
When I first began watching, I was pleased to see that the video taping was A. explained and B. not accented by loud amplified sounds and lame night vision cameras. However, then the cameraman begins installing motion capture cameras in the house which immediately made my excitement fizzle. These cameras are installed way before there's any inkling that something nefarious is afoot, so their early presence makes you question their necessity. Also, it immediately brings us back to the Paranormal Activity hey-day of night vision scenes and replaying moments that we already saw so that we can hear the characters in the film discuss how crazy it is that it happened. Hey, at least Micah Sloat was not in this.

The Blair Witch Project
Old town legends, creepy old cabins/mines in the woods, disappearing wouldn't immediately think of Deborah Logan having all these tropes (especially because it's supposed to be a documentary about Alzheimer's. But lo and behold, there they are. And then it's not too long before we see  our main characters running in the woods while holding their camera and being scared or people's backs being used at ultimate moments of terror.

The Descent
When I saw Sarah start crawling through the claustrophobic mine opening, I had a feeling we'd be seeing some Descent nods.. And here we do---quick startling glimpses not of cave dwellers but of Deborah Logan looking very scary is enough for me to remember how great The Descent is.

Sure, there are probably more I'm missing, but these stuck out to me the most. It's not that I feel like Deborah Logan stole these scare tactics but more of a feeling that I wish it would have made some scare tactics on its own. The film tries to bring some of its own special brand of scares but by the time we get to that point--it has all suddenly become too ridiculous to swallow. Pun intended....mwahaha.

Look---it has its strong points but unfortunately all those strong points owe their strengths to better, more well done movies. Also, I wish it hadn't relied on the jump scares noises...! I was so excited that we'd be missing those, since it's you know....a documentary and everything but nope, there they were. I felt actually a lot like I did when I saw Paranormal Activity---that the real 'scares' are the noises and that those noises really only work if blasted into your ears at the movie theater. Yes, there are some gross moments of skin trauma, some fun spewing of earthworms, and some naked switchboard action but overall I think the film suffers from just wanting to do and BE too many things.

Oh and serious serious bonus points for casting Anne Ramsay aka Helen Haley ('Has anyone seen my new red hat? Oh, piss on your hat) from A League of Their Own. She is fantastic.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Creep: Indecision 2015

I'm not good at making decisions. When faced with a menu of several delicious things, I experience an inner turmoil that typically ends in tears. I once sat staring at my TV for 20 minutes trying to decide whether to watch a show on Hulu or Netflix (in the end I ate a piece of cake instead and fell asleep). Which brings me now to my latest indecision. Creep: Yea or Nay?


On the one hand--Creep has some fairly good things going for it. 

1. Mark Duplass--- funny guy also very creepy
2. Simple plot/vehicle = minimal story shenanigans
3. Well placed jump scares
4. Well placed creepiness

on the other hand.

1. Is Mark Duplass just creepy all the time? Probably. 
2. Simple plot= boring
3. Well placed jump scares= predictable
4. Creepiness turns into silliness?

This is my struggle. Mark Duplass is so funny in this other roles that this felt like a continuation of his funny character which therefore made me take the entirety of the movie less seriously. I know it's supposed to be a dark comedy but ultimately I feel like the comedy far outweighed the darkness. Also---every time he was being 'creepy' I mostly got 'funny' so I didn't feel nearly as creeped out as I should have.

The jump scares were very unkind to my heart, but does that warrant a gold star in fear factor? Probably not. I will say even after you notice when those jumps are coming they still get you every time which I suppose does say something however much my nerves of steel don't want to admit.
And sure---some of it was very creepy but nothing felt very unexpected to me. You have to know going in that the guy's 'story' seems weird right? And that his enthusiasm about hugging and willingness to share 'tubby time' with a stranger does not mean good things ahead. 

So when we do get that.... dun dun dun realization, we're not pulling out our hair in anguish or anything. We're more like... ummmm yeah? 

So then I guess my question is. What is left? What else do we have here that instills this film as something you should be watching? I don't know. Creepy wolf masks? 

Good ending special effect? I guess I turned my indecision into a decision after all.

Creep: Meh. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Last Shift: Bring Extra Underwear

Well. And then that happened.

That's what I've managed to come up with after staring at my computer screen for 20 minutes after Last Shift ended. It's not that I'm in awe by what I just saw but more like ummm what the fuck just happened? Also I need to change my underwear. Also seriously what just happened? Oh right THAT.

Hot tip: If you're not into shitting your pants every 5 seconds, maybe stay away from this one.

Last Shift is about a rookie cop whose very first assignment is to sit in a vacated police station all night and wait for some hazmat guys to arrive--who in typical fashion give a time window of soon-never. Pretty soon, she starts realizing that her first assignment pretty much sucks. A lot.

Alright so let's start by saying that half of this movie is pretty brilliant. It's set up in a way that really makes you (or at least me) appreciate the intelligence of the story choice. The key to making a great scary movie on a low budget is the concept. Abandoned police station means that you can basically just use an empty office building and boom you have your creepy atmosphere. Who needs props, when everything is supposed to be gone? See? genius. Secondly, it truly again utilizes the less is more tactic by injecting some very decent scares pretty early on. Simple things that we see time and time again somehow come off feeling like new. How did they do it? I'm not sure. But then again I'm still not really sure how airplanes work so maybe I'm not the best person to ask.

The point is---there is a lot of good happening in least for a long while. Creepy phone calls, haywire lights, suspicious shoeless homeless men (also the name of my new band), and inklings of some Manson like clan people whose souls haven't been put to rest. What more can one ask for? The whole first half of the movie is infact both a lot of fun and insanely terrifying. There are a lot of dark doorways that have the ability to make one very uneasy.

And sure--music cues provide jump scares now and again, but it's done fairly smartly and doesn't use up all its cliches at once which I respect.

Now I would liken this movie to a pot of boiling milk. In the beginning, the heat is fairly low yet constant. The heat is good and we need it. Then you look away for a minute and all of a sudden the milk is out of control and boiling all over your stove probably causing a fire. All this seems to happen when there is about 30 minutes left in the movie. It's like the volume gets turned up to 1,000 and there's all these like bloody faced people in your face, and some guy's got pointy devil teeth and he just keeps popping up and yelling at you...dead Dad's are phoning you and then there's all these hooligans running around and you're like what the fuck is happeninggggg my head ahhhhh. It feels like you're in a really really mean haunted house--where your heart just never gets to recover. But also it's not very fun because you're like...OK I GET IT YOU ARE SCARY JESUS CHRIST I JUST WANT TO DRINK MY HOT APPLE CIDER IN PEACE YOU ASSHOLE. You know?

I guess ultimately this movie is still fun. If you want to have some fun with your friends and scream and then laugh then yes watch this right away. I did maybe mute the sound at a couple points throughout and I'm probably going to suffer the unfortunate consequence of punching anyone who decides to whisper around me anytime soon but hey that's life. There are enough good things happening to mostly remove that last part--and keep in mind that could just be me. Maybe I've got it all wrong and the last half of the movie IS awesome and genius--I currently own about 5 different kinds of slipper socks in the pattern of various animals so I'm really the wrong person to be asking. Watch it for yourself and decide. Don't forget to bring an extra change of underwear along just in case.