Shocktober: Day 31

The Human Centipede: First Sequence (2009)

Gross. Before I write this let me take a minute to throw up (violently throws up). Okay, jeez what an experience. I’ll give it that, Human Centipede: First Sequence isn’t like anything else I’ve ever seen. It’s not that it’s really even the visual aspect, rather the psychological aspect. Sure, you can see three people sewn together butt-to-mouth with one intestinal tract but that’s not the scary part. The scary part is hearing about the entire procedure before it’s performed and then imagining yourself in that situation. In that area, Human Centipede succeeds. Still, there’s a fine line between scary and just sadistic.

Human Centpede is about a German surgeon, Dr. Joseph Heiter (Dieter Laser), with dreams too big to fail. A former surgeon with a background in removing siamese twins, Heiter spends most of his day looking at people’s butts. He does this so that he can find three-people of equal build (and butt shape) to turn into a Human Centipede. A human centipede in this case being three people, sewn together, one intestinal tract and with severed knee ligaments so they cannot stand. I’ll give it to Dutch writer/director Tom Six, that’s the scariest premise to a movie I’ve ever heard. Eventually, Dr. Heiter captures two ditzy American tourists (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) and a Japanese man (Akihiro Kitamura) and makes his dreams come true!

I won’t spoil the ending so I’ll jump to my overall opinion. I don’t usually like to say that a movie goes too far but I’m doing it here. I don’t care if it makes me seem like a prude. Horror movies can be sadistic and have unhappy endings, most do. Though in a movie like this there has to be a point where the audiences gets some kind of catharsis. The characters in this film are put through so much and the fact that nothing really works out for anyone is really frustrating. Tom Six treats his characters and the audience like a angry child who likes to torture bugs. The whole thing makes me uncomfortable. I do think the film has some redeeming qualities in its originality and over-arching terror but it’s not for me. If you wanna watch this just make sure you bring a bag for barfing instead of a bag for popcorn.

Sit Ubu, Sit.

Shocktober: R.I.P.D.


A couple times now I’ve taken Halloween as an opportunity to review something truly horrorble, namely the second and third Transformers movies. But while Michael Bay is busy fending off air conditioner-wielding attackers, it looks like it’ll be one more year until I have to suffer through one of those again. And sure, Pain and Gain is a thing I could have watched, but I really don’t want to, ever. Plus since we’re both in the supernatural season and the era of the comic book adaptation, I thought one of this summer’s bigger flops, R.I.P.D., would be worth a shot.

R.I.P.D. stands for the Rhode Island Police Department. It also stands for Rest in Peace Department, which makes more sense in the context of this movie. What you might not realize, however, is that “Rest in Peace Department” is itself an acronym for “Rewrite Entire Script Tomorrow. It’s Not Pleasant, Enjoyable, Action Comedy Entertainment. Delete Everything Please. All Reasonable Theatergoers Must Evade Nearest Theater.” But nobody got that memo. Except for audiences, zing!

So hey, did you like Men in Black? Ghostbusters? How about Beetlejuice? R.I.P.D. is really banking on you enjoying those movies (which, yeah, I do) because all it does it take elements from them, mix them together, and then filter them through the incalculable blandness of Ryan Reynolds. Seriously, this is a movie about a secret police organization that hunts ghosts and is full of the bureaucracy of the afterlife and the goofiness of bodily possession. Here, let me tell you what’s up.

Ryan Reynolds is… Uh… Nick? Something like that. He’s a good cop, but before the movie even began he took some gold from a crime scene, along with his partner, Kevin Bacon. We don’t see that, what we do see is Reynolds getting it on with his wife nice and early, which I bring up because that was a tradition in the Transformers sequels too. Remember, even though he’s going to spend the rest of the movie almost entirely with men, he’s not gay. Definitely not gay.

Anyway, Ryan Reynolds goes to work and tells Kevin Bacon he feels bad for being a dirty cop, and Kevin Bacon’s like, “yeah, you’re right.” Oh, and they stop by some weird medal Reynolds has in the station, I wasn’t sure what was going on with that. Way to go, dude, I guess. Anyway, then a fat naked guy in the shower tells them they found a meth dealer and they should go arrest him. Cue a massive strike force full of cops and SWAT teams storming a warehouse full of explosions and slow motion. That was fast.

Ryan Reynolds chases the meth dealer up a bunch of stairs, but can’t find him. Instead, Kevin Bacon appears from out of nowhere and says he can’t risk Ryan Reynolds turning him in, so he shoots him a bunch with what looks like an AK-47, so, you know, not a cop gun. Ryan Reynolds falls all the way to the warehouse floor, then gets up and sees time frozen around him. He walks outside and gets sucked up into the sky. A lot of the CGI in this movie is bad but this part looked kinda cool.

Before Ryan Reynolds can face his final judgement, he gets sucked into a small office room, where he sits across from Mary-Louise Parker, because this is a movie directed by the guy who made RED. Actually she’s one of the better performances in the movie, she seems like she’s having fun, at least. She tells Reynolds that she runs the R.I.P.D, a bunch of ghost cops who arrest escaped souls who make it back to earth. Also, souls transform into monsters because people did bad things in their lifetime. Anyway, she says she knows Reynolds did some bad shit, and if he joins the force, he can help himself in the eyes of God, I guess, although the movie never explicitly alludes to any religion.

So of course he joins up and immediately meets his new partner, Rooster Cogburn – I mean Roy, a 19th Century lawman. Jeff Bridges is here Academy Award-winning performance again, although this time he’s the comic relief. See, it’s not exactly like M.I.B! In this movie, the old guy is the fun one and the young guy is white and just the worst. They go on a mission to learn the ropes, and boy is Ryan Reynolds in for a surprise!

The first thing they do is go to Ryan Reynolds funeral, where we see Kevin Bacon putting the moves on Reynold’s widow and also learn that R.I.P.D. officers can’t reveal their real identities. In fact, to everyone else (including Kevin Bacon, this is important, remember this) Ryan Reynolds appears to be James Hong and Jeff Bridges looks like a super model. All right, you’re probably thinking, this is an opportunity for some funny jokes. Nope! Instead, what we get is a lot of sexism, a little racism, and a couple half-hearted moments when Jeff Bridges acts indignant because guys hit on him. Oh, and I swear every shot of his lady form has “Let’s Get It On” playing in the background.

As they go on their first case, Jeff Bridges shows Ryan Reynolds the ropes, particularly that Deados reveal their true monstrous selves when exposed to cumin for reason even the movie just shrugs its shoulders at. This leads to their first arrest, which turns into their first kill and Reynolds finding gold that resembles the chunks he and Kevin Bacon stole. So, with the help of informant Red Sox fan Mike O’Malley, leads to some more CGI fights and the realization that the gold chunks are actually fragments of the Staff of Jericho (Caine, I presume) and the key to letting evil souls invade earth.

You fucking guessed it. They just had to god damn do it, didn’t they? It’s another fucking movie with a magical pillar that shoots a beam of light into the sky to let an invading force fly to earth. Fuck this trope! So stupid. ARGH. HATE. HATE. HATE. No more. Never again.

Anyway, at this part, Mary-Louise Parker says, “You guys were reckless, I’m gonna have to take your badges.” Because, again, no original ideas. But Bridges and Reynolds go down to earth again and basically start following the case anyway, almost totally unhindered. They arrest Kevin Bacon, bring him in, and find out that was his plan all along (F#!@R) and he assembles the Staff of Jericho, escapes, and starts summoning a bunch of Deados to earth.

Our heroes goes after him, killing a bunch of Deados along the way, until the get up to the tower where the dumb thing is happening. There, Kevin Bacon stabs Ryan Reynolds’ wife, because he needs a human sacrifice and wanted to be a dick about it. Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds kill everybody, Bridges destroys the staff, and Reynolds kills Bacon. As the world is saved, Reynolds comforts his dying wife, who can finally see him again. They get closure, but then Mary-Louise Parker intervenes and lets the wife wake up in the hospital. Then Parker says you guys are going to be partners for a long time. Hooray! They get in the car, and Bridges says, by the way, he got Reynolds a new human form. It’s a little girl with headgear. Hilarious!

If it was the first movie you ever saw in your entire life, I bet you’d find R.I.P.D. a littler overwhelming, but a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we live in a society where popular culture and entertainment are widely and easily consumed, so for pretty much everyone, that won’t be the case. No, for us, we’ll see this as the lifting of elements from other, better films without the addition of anything meaningful to make it worthwhile. It’s exactly the kind of movie you probably wouldn’t walk out of the theater for, but certainly will have forgotten its existence in no time.

Yeah, Jeff Bridges is fun, if you can get past the weirdness of him doing True Grit as a comedy within a whole other movie. But holy shit, who cares? Especially when Ryan Reynolds both is given nothing and brings nothing to the starring role. There are enough juicy ideas in R.I.P.D. that I understand how it got made, but it’s almost entirely a waste. At one part Ryan Reynolds throws Jeff Bridges into a bus. That’s kind of funny.

James Hong doesn't know what he's doing in this either.

James Hong doesn’t know what he’s doing in this either.

Pitching Tents 02: Halloween Special

I certainly hope everyone is having a spooktacular Halloween! I know we were, because up until the last minute, I had no idea what to pitch. It’s so hard coming up with a new idea for a horror movie, there are just so many of them! Basically anyone you can possibly think of has tried to kill people in a movie at this point. Even yourself, as seen in movies where the killer has split personalities (which I won’t spoil here) or even more abstractly, like in Mirrors (I think). Ooh, what if the monsters were the heroes and the villagers were the villains? Congratulations, me, I’ve just come up with Bride of Frankenstein.

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Shocktober: Day 30

The House of the Devil (2009)

If you summed it up in one sentence, The House of the Devil wouldn’t seem like much. A college student, Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) takes an unusual babysitting job under a mysterious client. Yet, writer/director Ti West’s breakout cult favorite has enough style and scares to make it worth watching. The music and overall feel gel perfectly with the film’s clever 1980s setting. The cast including; Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Dee Wallace and Greta Gerwig are a step above your average horror movie cast and the results feel like a breath of fresh air from a young burgeoning talent.

The client is the eerily calm Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan) and his wife (Mary Woronov) who have plans to attend a lunar eclipse event. The baby? Isn’t a baby at all but an old woman upstairs… Or is it? Once Samantha is left alone she is left to stew in a mess of intrigue and sounds going bump in the night. Just look at the film’s title and maybe you can start making some guesses.

Before this, West directed several overlooked films to varying degrees of success and then the straight-to-DVD “Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever”. It would have been easy for West to get sucked into making crappy, director-for-hire, bargain big DVD gigs for the rest of the career but instead he made what he actually wanted to make. There’s not much else I can say without spoiling anything but this film is superb, old-school, horror fun.

She’s a little bit Frances Ha and a little bit Farrah Fawcett.

Make Us Blind So We Can Never Look Back

CHVRCHΞS – The Bones of What You Believe

First Haim, now Chvrches, it’s like I don’t know what the hell to believe anymore. There are these super pleasant, catchy, fun albums buoyed by actual talent that all the websites I go to for music review love …And I just can’t be all about them. I want to be, I mean, I really loved this year’s Tegan and Sara album. How is this different? I can’t really tell you. That’s annoying. I’ve been putting off writing about Chvrches for like a month now because I can’t really tell you why I like it, but I don’t love it.

Who are Chvrches, you ask? What do they sound like? Why is their name spelled so stupidly? I can answer two of those three questions. Chvrches are are a Scottish synthpop trio, led by singer Lauren Mayberry. They make music that just drenched in catchy synth hooks, but it’s Mayberry’s voice that has made the band the talk of town for going on a year now. There is literally nothing in the world I’m less qualified to write about than the strengths and weaknesses of someone’s singing – so, uh, she sounds good? She definitely stands out, and when you get to “Under the Tide,” which is sung by bandmate Martin Doherty (who’s not bad), you’ll be confused and angry that the lady’s pretty voice is stuck in back.

There’s also a bit of a bite to these songs. Lyrically and musically, Chvrches isn’t afraid to go dark. I think that’s what helps differentiate it in my mind from popular dance music, which, as far as I can tell, is entirely about getting slizzard and fucking. Of course that’s not the only thing thing that separates The Bones of What You Believe from Rhianna, or whoever is popular now. This music sounds like humans wrote it, for one. I get kind of a M83 vibe on some tracks, maybe a bit of New Order on others. These are favorable comparisons.

But I dunno, man. Everyone talks about “The Mother We Share,” which is a great song. I actually think the song that follows it, “We Sink,” is the best on the album. I think I really like The Bones of What You Believe, but it just doesn’t stick with me like my favorite albums do. Oh, maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I should stop trying to look for my new favorite album every year. Huh. That’s a dour note to end on… Candy for breakfast!

Favorite Tracks: “The Mother We Share,” “We Sink,” “Night Sky”

Obsessong: “Monster Mash”

I love Halloween. Something about the idea of ghouls and ghosts being embraced on a national level just sends shivers down my prickly spine. Which is why I’ve always wondered why there aren’t more Halloween songs? There’s got to be dozens of classic Christmas songs. It’s not like there’s not a great wealth of material to draw from; vampires, jack-o-lanterns, candy, the possibilities are endless. Then again, does the world need anymore when you already have the spooky classic that is “Monster Mash”?

Song: “Monster “Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers
Album: Is The Original Monster Mash
Year: 1962
Written By: Bobby Pickett and Leonard L. Capizzi
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