Friday Night Flix: Nightbreed (The Director’s Cut)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 9.26.33 PMWelcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. When the mood strikes, I’ll use this space to recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

Nightbreed! (Netflix) FINALLY.

Can you believe I’ve never seen Nightbreed? I’m not the biggest Clive Barker fan but I never would have missed a movie of Nightbreed’s cult cachet were it not for the fact that it has been damn near impossible to find for the past 15 years.

It came out in 1990 and did less box office than it’s meager (though enormous by Barker’s standards at the time) budget of $11 million. Barker’s original edit was like two and a half hours long. The studio hacked it down to around 100 minutes before pushing it out to theaters with a tepid marketing campaign that made it look like a slasher movie, rather than the elaborate, crazy ass horror fantasy it was.

A guy who did a few of my tattoos was so obsessed with Nightbreed he had each of the main characters’ faces inked on his legs over the course of a very painful week. I won’t say I liked it that much, but there’s a lot of really cool shit going on here.

First off, Barker is a nutcase. His Books of Blood novels have spawned as many coherent films as they have batshit insane ones. This leans more toward the latter, which is a good thing in my book. The best part is it’s totally original. For this movie (well, the novella he wrote first) Barker created a detailed, totally fresh mythology rooted in snippets from the Old Testament. He populated it with zillions of unique creatures, gave them a bunch of ornate sets to play on, and then presumably made everyone eat their weight in acid while filming.

The plot goes from rock n roll love story to a serial killer movie to a mad monster party to full-on Armageddon in no time at all. That’s a lot to squeeze in so naturally there are hits and misses. Barker’s biggest mistake is directing this shit himself. He has no sense of spatial relations or exposition, so a lot of the time you’re left wondering who the fuck is doing what the fuck and why.

The monsters live in a place called Midian, a mythical world hidden beneath a forgotten graveyard in the middle of nowhere. Except it’s not hidden or mythical, or even a world at first. It’s just an ordinary mausoleum with a back room. For the first half of the movie, all we see of this “world” is two tiny cement rooms. Then, out of nowhere — Oops! — it’s a whole cave system with hundreds of residents. It’s a shame he decided to cast David Cronenberg in the movie instead of asking him direct the damn thing.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 9.27.37 PM

The sloppiness of Nightbreed has always been laid on dumbass studio meddling. That’s probably true but even in this version — supposedly the definitive cut — a lot of things make little sense. The rules of Night Club (I funny!) tend to change radically from moment to moment. An invincible Nightbreed can casually decimate a police station full of armed cops, yet later he’ll get his head chopped off in a fight with one knife-wielding middle aged dude.

Characters do things that make no sense, like the drunken priest who’s released from jail to act as some kind of spiritual guide for a lynch mob. At some point he decides the monsters aren’t evil and tries to stop an attack on them. A few minutes later, he decides he needs to kill them all himself. Um, what?

Enjoy this movie for its loco, off the wall ideas and visuals. Try not to get to caught up in the details. If nothing else, you owe it to yourself to see this edit. According to Barker it’s truer to what he intended than any version so far, including the 7,000 minute “Cabal Cut” that made the festival rounds a few years back. Shout Factory used that version’s buzz to build an audience for this one. By all accounts fans are finally getting what they wanted. We live in heady times.

Added Bonus: Why is one of the monsters just a shirtless white dude with a nipple clamp and a Boston terrier? Who knows!

Advertisements

Friday Night Flix: Beneath

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 7.59.21 AMWelcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. When the mood strikes, I’ll use this space recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

What is it with bargain bin horror and generic titles? How on earth can your movie gain any traction when no one can remember its name? Today’s selection is Beneath (Netflix), which is a perfectly relevant title since it takes place primarily in a coal mine. That would put our characters beneath tons of rock. So, sure, appropriate. But ten minutes after I saw it I forgot what the exact title was. I’ve seen a dozen movies with similar titles and I’m sure in a week I won’t be able to tell you which one of them was Beneath. Beneath, Below, Behind, Betwixt, Be-BORING.

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 7.56.40 AMI’m a stickler for titles, and this one could have had a million better ones. But that’s admittedly a minor (Ha! Miner!) issue. Beneath has bigger problems. Like the central conceit. A coal miner’s daughter (not kidding) comes back to her home town to celebrate her pop’s retirement. The party occurs the night BEFORE his last day at work, which makes exactly zero sense. A few drinks, some bold talk from manly miner types, and suddenly our heroine decides she’ll show these tough guys what’s what by volunteering to spend a day working in the mine. No one has a problem with this. For real? Like it wouldn’t be a huge insurance risk to take an untrained dilettante down into a mine shaft on a bet?

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 7.57.34 AMGetting past the silliness of that setup, you have to admire what the writers do here. They clearly did their homework on mining lingo and culture. It gives the movie a ring of authenticity that many low budget horror movies lack. Even if it all kind of spirals into a thoughtless, throwaway ending it’s a pretty tense ride. It even has a brief but terrifying claustrophobia sequence that reminded me of The Descent. 

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 7.58.39 AM

Added bonus: This movie is not Canadian! Usually when you see an unheralded English language horror movie with exactly one known actor (in this case, Jeff Fahey) surrounded by a troupe of nobodies, it’s because it was made in Canada. There are huge financial incentives for shooting in Canada as long as you use a certain number of Canadian actors. Production companies just pay one American “star” to come out and work for a week or two so their movie can pass as a Hollywood feature. I assumed that’s what this was but apparently it’s not. That’s right, your added bonus is me admitting I was wrong. Don’t get used to it.

Friday Night Flix Double Feature: The Taking of Deborah Logan and Mine Games

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 7.53.48 AMWelcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

HAPPY MOTHERFUCKING HALLOWEEN!!!! RRRAAAARRRRGH!

Dude I love this holiday. Love it. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more: Halloween is a unique, wonderful day. All the other holidays are family holidays. This one is a community holiday. Rather than staying home with family, eating and drinking ourselves into a coma, on this day we go to our strange ass neighbors’ houses with our dolled up kiddies and fucking commune. It’s rare. It’s annoying and takes way to much preparation but we don’t do it any other day of the year. In honor of this, my most favoritest of holidays, I’m bringing you not one but TWO watchable horror features. You’re welcome, America.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 7.53.26 AM

First we have The Taking of Deborah Logan (Netflix). Yes, it’s a found footage/mockumentary type deal but it’s not nearly as annoying some of the other crap I’ve covered. It’s a lot like The Last Exorcism, classy and smart and not overly reliant on absurd camera tricks. It veers a little too far into the obviously paranormal for my taste but for the first hour it’s ridiculously plausible and unsettling.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 7.53.01 AM

You know what’s really scary? It’s not ghosts or demons or serial killers. It’s the human brain, turning on itself. That’s what dementia is: the ultimate horror story. For a good hour, this movie walks the line between “Is something supernatural going on?” and “Is this just a sad, disturbing tale of an extreme case of Alzheimer’s?” That’s when it’s at its best, when you’re not sure if something spectral is at work or not. I’m glad the movie plants its flag and picks a direction eventually but I wish it was left a little bit more vague. Vaguer? Sure. Nevertheless it’s fun as shit and features a tour de force performance by a woman who is what Patricia Clarkson wishes she could be.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 7.54.25 AM

I don’t know who Jill Larson is but she is incredible. She’s apparently some soap opera star. She’s only 67 and has the physicality of a much younger woman, yet she’s so lithe and slender she’s able to play much older in this role. One moment she looks like she’s on her deathbed, the next she’s vaulting across a room to choke some unsuspecting priest. She elevates the whole movie and is perhaps the biggest reason why this is better than the otherwise excellent Last Exorcism. In that movie the possessee was an overacting weirdo. Jill Larson is the shit.


The second movie is possibly a bit better even though it’s a rehash of circular thought experiments like Time Crimes and Triangle. It’s a circular horror puzzle by the name of Mine Games (Netflix). Silly pun name notwithstanding, this is a super slick thriller featuring a gang of not-that-annoying 20-somethings doing the typical weekend excursion turned bad. As expected none of them are particularly engaging or discernible, yet they play their parts well and carry out their parts of the narrative without too much whining. That may not sound like high praise but think of how many times you’ve watched a horror movie and spent most of your time despising the pretty, angsty young people that populated it.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 7.49.23 AM

There are no real surprises here and nothing especially novel, yet it’s smooth and well-paced. It positively races to the finish with very little wasted energy. If you haven’t seen Time Crimes or Triangle, the cycle of death thing might actually blow your mind a little. For psychological/supernatural horror you could do a lot worse.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 7.51.38 AM

Added Bonus: This is going to be my last regular FNF for a while. I’ll still drop by on occasion but work and work and other work are taking precedence right now. It’s a shame and I’m sure my 2.3 readers per week will be positively devastated. Try not to cry. You can still catch me talking over Joe like it’s my job on the ModernBorecast, and you can read some of my ramblings at IGN.com. Heck, you can even follow me on Twitter at @adamdileo if you’re that sort of person. I don’t judge.

Happy Halloween!

Friday Night Flix: Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi

wb1Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

Notice how I didn’t put the English translation of this week’s movie up there in the title? I usually include the translation because I am not (generally) a pretentious purist snob. I didn’t this time because that perfectly reasonable if straightforward title Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi translates to The Witches of Zugarramurdi. But what did they call it when they ported it over to the U.S.? Witching and Bitching (Netflix). I smell a rant coming on.

wb3

It’s perhaps fitting that whoever bought the U.S. rights to this thing chose that title. The movie is built on disturbingly pervasive misogyny, which of course the word bitch is as well. You may not think of it this way, but bitch is about one micron less offensive than the dreaded N word. (Perhaps that one micron accounts for why I can bring myself to type one and not the other.)

wb2

But the truth remains: bitch is to woman (a traditionally oppressed, marginalized and victimized subset of humanity) as the N word is to black people. By using it we are denigrating whatever we’re talking about – a nasty person, too much complaining, a victim of prison rape – by comparing it to women. To our mothers, wives, daughters and sisters. How horrible is that? That we do not think of it as terribly offensive on the larger spectrum of curse words just shows how far we have to go before gender equality is anywhere close to real. So stop saying bitch, okay?

And the movie? It’s okay. It’s got some funny parts (see, e.g., gold painted Jesus leaning out of a car window blasting a shotgun at the cops) and some cool atmosphere. It’s well shot and acted, even if it skews a tad goofier than I’d like. It’s biggest sin (other than the fact that ALL the male characters’ wives and mothers are painted as hideous shrews) is that it fails to explore the relatable side of its cannibalistic witch cult.

wb4

See when our bandits flee to this witch village (for the real life Zugarramundi is the Spainish equivalent of our own Salem) the witches don’t attack them outright. There’s some vague prophecy aspect (the kid is the Chosen One or some such) but the ladies are overall pretty nice until these chump thieves piss them off. They get some comeuppance I guess so maybe that’s part of the message? Who knows.

Added bonus: Next Friday is Halloween! Holy poop!

Friday Night Flix: The Believers

Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

The Believers (Netflix) is not a move about Justin Bieber. It is an 80s horror/procedural thing starring Martin Sheen(!) as an I guess hearthrobby psychologist working with the NYPD. It’s a total product of its time what with the novelty of “Santaria” and “voodoo” and whatnot. It’s immensely fun.

If you haven’t seen it, definitely check this one out. Sheen is terrific even though the material is sorely dated. From the opening scene you know you’re not in a modern movie, the editing alone makes it feel totally goofy even though the events being depicted are totally tragic and horrifying.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 9.30.13 AM

If you’re wondering if Sheen just so happens to have a Santaria practitioner as a maid, the answer is yes. This movie follows the religious horror playbook page by page and it is awesome.

Added bonus: Casual child abuse! At one point Sheen’s kid throws a fit and runs into traffic. How does President Bartlett explain the severity of the kid’s bonehead maneuver? He tans his hide in the middle of the street. It was a simpler time.

New York Comic Con 2014 Part 1: Cosplay Edition

Adam & I both blew off work this past Thursday, which to you squares was just another day to while away but for us in the know it was the First Day of New York Comic Con 2014! Here are the cosplayers that caught our eyes on Day 1:
IMG_5359IMG_5293IMG_5343IMG_3693IMG_3685IMG_5334

So much more after the jump!!  Continue reading

Friday Night Flix: Big Ass Spider

bas1Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

Today was supposed to be all about Ti West’s latest movie, The Sacrement. I was already a huge fan of the director’s work from The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, both of which I thought were subtle and smart. I expected more of the same from The Sacrament. For at least the first hour, I was convinced I was getting it. I even texted a friend to be all, “Ti West finally broke out of his comfort zone and did a different kind of movie, and it’s good!” But then I realized the whole movie boils down to one of the sloppiest, most haphazard mashups of found footage and mockumentary I’ve ever seen. The story has literally nothing to say that every movie about religious cults hasn’t already said in every way possible. So fuck that movie.

bas3

Instead, why not have some fun with Big Ass Spider? (Netflix) Is it a perfect movie? Of course not. There are seams. You can tell it’s stretching its modest budget pretty thin, what with the 60′ spider crushing downtown Los Angeles and all. I listened to an interview with the director of this movie, Mike Mendez. He explained that they were able to get such high quality CG (perhaps not quite studio quality but way better than Syfy Channel shit) on the cheap by farming it out to a company in India. And now you know that.

bas2

Greg Grunberg (the chubby cop from Heroes) is really charming and he could totally still have a movie career if he lands the right opportunity. I love that he’s the lead in Big Ass Spider instead of some chiseled Casper Van Dien knockoff. Sure, we all love protagonists who can barely speak in full sentences but have rock hard abs. Alls I’m saying is it’s refreshing to see an ordinary schlub like the rest of us kill the spider and get the girl.

bas5Added bonus: Ray Wise is in this movie, and he is of course super classy in everything he does. (I do not watch The Young and the Restless, which he apparently still appears on despite being a sought after Hollywood actor. I assume his work is totally tasteful.) But for my money the best performance in the movie is Lombardo Boyar as Grunberg’s sidekick Jose. Yeah, he plays a little (a lot) to Mexican stereotypes but he’s really funny and keeps things light, just as a movie called Big Ass Spider should be.

bas4