No one involved with THE THING 2011 understands what the words imitate or replicate mean. There’s a moment where Mary Elizabeth Winstead, supposedly a pre-eminent paleontologist/grad student, and Eric Christian Olsen are staring down a microscope at a part-human, part-alien blood sample. In it they see two objects; a normal, circular blood platelet and what looks like a poorly rendered, undulating ball of spikes. The spike ball cell then approaches one of the platelets, attacks it, wraps itself around it and then changes its spikey shape to look like what it just ate. Meanwhile, these two academics stare at it in disbelief while stammering about how they just watched an alien cell imitate another cell. But that’s not what we the audience just saw happen. There was no copy made. The original was consumed entirely and then replaced.
This may sound like arguing semantics about a fleeting scene, but it’s not just a discrepancy in word choice. This moment is indicative of how glazed over the entire film is. The whole thing reeks of being a studio horror movie that only exists so it can bilk a few bucks out of horror fans who rightfully put John Carpenter’s THE THING on a pedestal. And it’s not because 2011′s THE THING used the word imitate when it meant consumed and replica when it meant replaced, it’s because no one took twenty seconds to say, “Hey, wait a second, shouldn’t it be…”? Not one of the film’s five producers made a note about it. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer obviously wasn’t bothered by it. Winstead and Olsen didn’t turn to the script supervisor and ask if the line made sense. The effects team responsible for rendering the blood cells didn’t bother to actually animate a sequence that showed a cell being copied instead of devoured.
Somehow this easily-fixed piece of poor word choice made it into the final film. Now just think about how inadequately conceived the rest of the film must be if something that minor, something that could have been corrected by a two-sentence conversation, made it into the final cut AND I was withdrawn enough from the movie to notice it.
Written and directed by Tom Six, 2011
When watching David Fincher’s SEVEN for the first time, did you see the fat man lying dead in a bowl of soup and think to yourself, “Screw the guy with the interesting motive that killed him, I want to see a movie about that worthless, walking tub of human lard!”? If so, IFC Midnight has a movie for you.
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 (FULL SEQUENCE) is an unwinnable film. It’s Tom Six’ response to all of the claims that his first controversial film about a mad scientist who sews people ass-to-mouth was in fact not controversial enough. So he sought to make as ugly a film as possible to silence all of the critics that felt the FIRST SEQUENCE was too tame. And he does a very efficient job of doing that. If you thought the first was a pale execution of a batshit insane premise, then Six is going to show you what you cried was missing. You’ll see knee-joint tendons pulled out of their natural home and sliced with a grimy pair of scissors. You’ll see it several times, in fact. You’ll see considerably larger volumes of shit going into mouths. And you’ll even see some new nonsense that Six has cooked up involving other genital parts.
But the problem with the first HUMAN CENTIPEDE wasn’t that it walked on eggshells, it was that it was a dull movie where you were more interested in the mad scientist than each segment of his medical abomination. So instead of making a more well-rounded film with an interesting story and actual character development, Six has opted to make a movie that is boring and directionless from beginning to end. There’s nothing redeemable here. Nothing provocative or challenging. It’s just a depressing attempt at creating a modern-day freak show, the freak being not the 12-person human centipede, but Martin, the miserable man at the center of this braindead story about a man who is obsessed with the film THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE and is compelled to recreate it in real life.
SHARK NIGHT 3D is a brilliant movie. I’m not being ironic and I’m not trolling you when I say that. SHARK NIGHT 3D is next level stuff; the most sentient horror movie since SCREAM. This is the STARSHIP TROOPERS of killer shark movies– and if you know me, you know I do not mess around when it comes to comparing things to STARSHIP TROOPERS. In fact, this may be the first time I’ve ever even dared to do it, but that’s just how strongly I feel that what director David R. Ellis and screenwriters Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg created here will be completely misunderstood and wrongfully dismissed as just a bad movie filled with pretty people ripped apart by sharp teeth.
This is not a bad movie. It’s a movie with an agenda, and that agenda is to take killer shark and cabin-on-the-lake horror movies, dissect them, examine their bits and then reassemble a new movie out of its favorite parts. That abomination then climbed off of the operating table and screamed “SHARRRRRK NIIIIIIIGHTT!!!” while lightning crashed and the guy who made SNAKES ON A PLANE stood in front of a stained glass window, maniacal muttering, “Finally, they’ll see. I’ll make them all see.”
Sadly a beautiful monster like this won’t be popular in a world where people mistake its on-the-nose dialogue and batshit insane plot for bad screenwriting. The reality is it’s not bad screenwriting at all (how can it be if it has you laughing and cheering at every point it wants you to?), it’s just that it operates with a heightened sense of self-awareness that a lot of people aren’t ready for. They think they’ve got the movie figured out. They think if they laugh at a super cheesy line of dialogue or a ridiculous action piece, they’ve somehow beaten the movie. But what people don’t realize is that this movie was onto you first. This is the velociraptor of killer shark movies. Stare it right in the eyes and then the attack comes from the sides.
FINAL DESTINATION 5 is the best film in the franchise since FINAL DESTINATION 2. This is not a compliment, it is a statistic. Yes, Steven Quale’s film is better than the nigh unwatchable fourth entry and the barely competent third film, but improvement is not the same thing as accomplishment, it just means they fucked up less.
Let’s get the good out of the way first. The opening death opus is fantastic. This time the unseen grim reaper conducts his glorious opera on an under-construction bridge our core group, a handful of attractive paper company employees (here’s looking at you, David Koechner), must drive over to get to their team building retreat. The winds kick up, the shit hit the fans and then buckets of digital blood hit the screen as people are impaled, crushed by cars, splattered by suspension cables, boiled alive by tar and cut in half by sheets of metal. You know the score.
It’s not nearly as HOLY SHIT as the highway car crash disaster in FD2, but it is indeed a remarkable sequence that shows off some impressive special effects work all in the service of making bodies go squish that will have you wondering if this ailing franchise has finally figured out how to be interesting again. And by the time the first survivor starts, um, un-surviving, you might even be convinced it has indeed rediscovered the magic of the first two films. It’s simply an exceedingly well made sequence that ratchets ups the tension in palpable, edge-of-your-seat ways.
This list of the best movie stalkers around was originally supposed to be written for Cinematical two weeks ago when Hammer Films’ THE RESIDENT hit DVD and Blu-ray. In the time between committing to the idea and the deadline, I actually quit Cinematical. I haven’t stopped thinking about Jeffrey Dean Morgan watching Hillary Swank take baths (which happens approximately every 12 minutes in THE RESIDENT) or movie stalkers, however, and so blam-o!, my first post at HND in months is borne.
Now I haven’t stopped thinking about THE RESIDENT because it’s such an amazing film (it does have some strong elements, they just happen to be spread too thin over its runtime), but because I do dig me some quality creepers. I’m not talking about your standard SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, FEAR, FATAL ATTRACTION or CAPE FEAR, I’m talking more esoteric, deceptive obsessors; the kind that invade your life like a wasp laying its eggs inside a caterpillar.
Oh, and as much as I’d love to include MISERY on a list of esoteric obsessors, she’s really not a stalker since her trophy does fall into her lap. Anyways, onto the list!
The hardest part of making a Best-of-the-Year list is establishing the parameter of the year, so I’m just going to make this simple and do two horror lists. The first is exclusively films that had either a theatrical, DVD or VOD release in the US of A. The second will simply be the unreleased films I saw in 2010, be they via film festival, import disc or screener, that did not receive Stateside distribution.
You wouldn’t be able to tell it just looking at how often HND is updated these days, but I swear I do still love horror movies. The reason the site is so infrequently updated is simple, really: No one pays me to do it. I started this site over four years ago as a hobby. It was a means for me to hone my writing craft while also serving as my own personal film school. And things were going good until about a year-and-a-half ago. That’s when I quit my old job, moved to Austin, TX and tried to see if I could sucker people into paying me to write about movies full time. Much to my own astonishment, it worked and I now write about movies for a living.
And while I’m unbelievably fortunate to be able to make a decent income off of doing this, the unfortunate side effect of getting paid to write about movies is that, if no one is paying me to do it, I’m not all that motivated to, well, do it. It sucks, I know, but the truth is that writing is exhausting– and now that writing is my day job, I’m too tired to do it for my night job too, which is what HND has always been for me.
Earlier this year I was accepted into the Austin Film Critics Association, an organization that I am incredibly proud to be a part of. Yesterday the AFCA released our Best of 2010 Awards, and while I stand behind what we collectively ended up awarding best-of-the-year, I definitely didn’t side with the rest of the group on nearly all of the winners. So, I wanted to share my nominations for each category as well as my Top 10 list for the year. Just keep in mind that this is A) not horror-exclusive and B) films that had a US theatrical release in 2010 (except for The Loved Ones, which I love too much not to vote for).
And yes, I will be doing my own horror-exclusive version of these awards in the next week or two.