12 October 2012

triple feature.

Since I am currently trying to brainwash my new cat Herbert into loving me the way I deserve to be loved (goddamnit!)—and to that end I'm lavishing so much attention on him that he will surely be ruined for all time and unable to bear the anguish of even short intervals of  solitude—I have a lot of time to watch horror movies whilst scratching his fuzzy white tum-tum or taunting him with some feathers attached to a stick that I paid eight bucks for. Last night, I watched three, in fact—and I discovered how much more bearable bad horror movies can be if you're not paying too much attention to them. Let's face it. Most of these films are strategically crafted for drooling idiots to watch and enjoy, so you don't exactly have to pore over every frame as if you're watching Last Year at Marienbad

20. The Premature Burial (1962)

The Premature Burial was one of schlockmeister Roger Corman's eight films that were loosely adapted from the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. (In this case the adaptation is as loose as Mariah Carey's vagina around a Doric column.) Poor Ray Milland, star of Billy Wilder's 1945 classic The Lost Weekend, is reduced to playing a nutjob named Guy who is obsessed with the idea that he will someday be buried alive because (supposedly) his father suffered a cataleptic episode, was taken for dead, and then entombed in a vault. (In point of fact, catalepsy produces a trance-like state accompanied by muscular rigidity. The sufferer is still breathing and has a pulse, of course—so it seems a little precipitous to rush out and bury someone without even casually checking their vital signs first. But maybe I'm too medically scrupulous.) To preclude this fate, Guy builds an elaborate vault in his backyard—whicht is larger than most Manhattan apartments—outfitted with numerous means of escape. And if all of these (idiotic) escape routes are somehow barred, he has also included a silver chalice filled with poison so he won't have to die a slow, agonizing death. (He can die a fast, agonizing death instead.) 

There are lots of unintentionally funny things in this movie. For example, the vault that Guy builds is an elaborate stone structure with a lot of architectural anomalies. It would probably take a very experienced designer and a crew of trained construction workers quite a while to build it—and yet Guy (a medical student) somehow possesses the knowledge, ability, materials, and time to construct this thing all on his own. The fucking vault even has furniture and books and knick-knacks in it, for Chrissake! His wife, troubled by Guy's obsession, walks out into her own yard one day as if she's surprised by the extent of it—like maybe Guy built the whole damn thing overnight. 

But really, that's only one petty criticism of a film in which Corman takes a huge, molten dump on the strictures of logic and good storytelling. There's a 'twist' at the end—which I won't give away here—that I don't even really understand. I mean, I understand what happens, but I don't understand why. The motivations of the characters aren't really made clear, so in the end it's as if they behave arbitrarily. But I guess it's just another stupid Corman movie—so you can't legitimately say you're too disappointed—because you have absolutely no right to expect anything more than what The Premature Burial actually is: a colorful, stagey, horror-melodrama that teeters on the precipice of kitsch without quite falling over the edge.

21. Psycho (1998)

I just want to emphasize that year up there. I am talking about the 1998 Gus Van Sant remake of Psycho, not the legendary Hitchcock original. I had never seen this remake before—because I'd heard that it was nearly a shot-for-shot regurgitation of the original, but set in the 1990s—and incorporating all of the changes that the passage of forty years requires. Shot-for-shot remakes are a curious thing. Why are they made at all? If it were a lesser director than Gus Van Sant, I would be inclined to say that this retread was just an attempt to cash in—since a younger audience, in many cases, won't see an old or black-and-white movie. But something tells me that there was more than just that motivating the director of challenging films like Gerry and Elephant. Is this some kind of Baudrillardian exploration of the simulacrum? Or maybe it's a Warholian gloss on the reproduction of pop cultural artifacts? Or maybe he just thought it would be fun to do?

This Psycho isn't especially bad on its own. Since it mimics many of the shots and edits exactly and keeps most of the dialogue intact, it's still very much a Hitchcock film. (In fact, I almost wonder if Alfred Hitchcock doesn't deserve a co-directing credit...?) Van Sant's Psycho only really suffers when it's compared to the original, which is creepier and better-looking, on the whole. This may sound blasphemous to Psycho purists, but I genuinely believe Anne Heche's Marion Crane improves upon Janet Leigh's original. This opinion isn't so much a validation of Heche's abilities as it is a denigration of Leigh's. Janet Leigh really was an abysmal actress. She is so suspicious and wildly unnatural during the first half of Psycho that it's as if she's trying to telegraph her motivations and internal conflicts to the other side of the planet. A little subtlety goes a long way, Janet. These aren't silent pictures anymore.

The cruelest comparisons between this Psycho and that Psycho will obviously zero in on the Norman Bates role. It's fair to say that almost any actor who attempts to recreate an iconic film role is doomed to failure. His take may be original, compelling, and even more complex, but the audience doesn't want anybody taking a piss on their memories. But unfortunately Vince Vaughn doesn't even have a compelling performance going for him. His Norman Bates is kind of a ridiculous dolt, who doesn't satisfactorily mine the creepy puritanical mama's boy angle. He's just another bland serial killer here, without much to distinguish him from the countless bland serial killers who've served as the raison d'être for countless bland horror films over the years. 

22. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

You know, I really didn't think any horror movie could surpass the Finnish film Sint and steal the title of Worst Film of the Halloween Film Fest, but it just goes to show you—never say never. First of all, I'm just going to tell you up front that two of the stars of this final film in the original Halloween franchise are Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes. I could stop my commentary right there and you'd already understand how bad this movie is. But this is more than just a bad movie, friends. This is the Jar-Jar Binks of the Halloween series. It's as if a bunch of craven, mustache-twirling Hollywood execs called Michael Myers into their office, laid him out on a glossy cherry wood conference table, and each of them took turns raping him, shitting on his face, kicking him in the temple, vomiting into his mouth, and fucking him up the ass with his own dismembered limbs. Then, after they were done with that, they took him down to the lot, put a choker leash around his neck, attached it the back of one of their Bentleys, and dragged him at high speeds through a pile of coarse gravel, nails, and razor blades and then sawed off his head to use it as a cum receptacle—before finally tossing all the remnants into a large sewage tank. 

Now some of you are going to be tempted to watch Halloween: Resurrection just because you want to see Tyra Banks die. I understand. We all want to see Tyra Banks die. But in this case, it's just not worth it. Maybe she'll be in a Saw reboot someday that better satisfies the needs of anti-Tyraists in the audience, but Halloween: Resurrection is a mousetrap, my friends. Tyra Banks' death is the cheese, but an hour-and-a-half of bad acting, a bad storyline, and poor production values is the trap that snaps shut around your neck. 

You want me to really make you sick? The plot of this movie is that some MTV-like conglomerate (represented by Tyra and Mr. Rhymes) is filming a reality television show in Michael Myers' childhood home. That's right. They get a handful of excruciatingly annoying Gen-Yers and stick them in a boarded-up house with cameras rigged to their heads. (Is that enough pandering for you? Too bad the film wasn't made this year. They could have had Michael Myers doing those 'Gangnam Style' dance moves while he slits people's throats.) 

What's even more infuriating is that Jamie Lee Curtis agreed to appear in the brief prologue to this colossal cinematic queef, during which she is (finally) killed by Michael Myers—but not before kissing his mask on the lips and saying, 'See you in hell!' Ugh. Did that really happen? Was the paycheck really worth it, Jamie Lee? Weren't those commercials for the yogurt that gives you the trots enough to keep you flush [pun intended] through retirement?

To add insult to injury, this final Halloween installment looks like it was filmed on someone's iPhone camera with a $3,000 budget.  (I guess all the money was frittered away on paychecks for Jamie Lee, Tyra, and Busta.)  It has that cheap digital quality that makes everything look depressing and amateur. Even Michael Myers' mask isn't right. Instead of William Shatner, it could almost be Seth Green.


  1. I am so happy for Jamie Lee Curtis and her healthy bowels!

  2. The only thing I know/remember about Anne Heche is that the national tizzy over whether she's gay or not was the big news on Sept 10, 2001, which got knocked off the front pages by 9/11.