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.

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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.

Friday Night Flix: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

tuckeranddale4Welcome 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.

Welcome to October! Oh hot damn I love this month. I won’t be doing my 31-movie marathon this year because I am very busy, very important person you see. I will however use this space exclusively for horror for the next four weeks. Lucky you!

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To kick things off, we have Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Netflix, Amazon). I actually reviewed this movie in 2011. I liked but didn’t love it then. It felt worth revisiting here because it’s grown in my memory into something more endearing.

Tucker and Dale are basically the reverse redneck horror cliche. They seem like they’re crazed killers, but they’re not. People just assume the worst and then when the worst starts happening, T&D get the blame. It’s a cute idea.

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As far as streamable horror comedy goes, you’re not likely to do much better than T&DvE. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine are both so damn loveable, even if they’re not used entirely up to their potential.

Also, there’s this:

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Here’s what I had to say in 2011:

Despite its many flaws, the movie has a fair amount of genuinely decent laughs as Tudyk and Labine ad lib their way through what could have been extremely tedious relationship building. And for my money, Labine’s understated performance as a well-intentioned, insecure country oaf is by itself worth the price of admission.

Friday Night Flix: Frankenstein’s Army

fa6Welcome 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.

I hate when people call found footage a genre.

Say you criticize a found footage movie for making no logical sense, e.g., “How can the camera guy fight off a monster and record it at the same time?” Misguided defenders of such nonsense respond, “You just don’t like the genre, therefore you are bias.” (Don’t get me started on people who use bias as an adjective.)

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Found footage is not a genre. It’s not even a sub-genre. A sub-genre is a type within a type, like romantic comedy or supernatural thriller. Found footage is just a recording method, like shooting in black and white, or digital, or 3D. You don’t hear anyone saying black and white is a genre, or that black and white horror is a sub-genre. No one would argue that people who don’t like Eraserhead are biased against black and white. (See, people? THAT’s how you allege bias.)

Horror filmmakers tend to resort to found footage under the pretext of adding immediacy. More often that not though, the technique is actually used because it’s a cost saver. It requires less equipment, crew, time and, often, skill. So they use it, even if it’s not artistically ideal. I can live with that.

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Frankenstein’s Army (Netflix, $2.99 Amazon) has no such excuse. Despite being a non-theatrical, it likely had a seven figure budget. It features elaborate set dressing, loads of location shots, and dozens of unique creature designs. Granted, the creatures are somewhat hokey. Mostly they’re extras in Nazi garb with auto parts lashed to their arms, or refurbished appliances with legs. Still, such a huge volume of that stuff doesn’t come cheap. The found footage thing is therefore an artistic choice, and an insane one at that.

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Frankenstein’s Army is set at the end of World War II, around 1945. At that time the best film cameras in the world produced fuzzy monochrome and weighed approximately one metric ton. Yet these dubiously accented Russian soldiers march into the field with not one but two tiny handheld cameras that not only record in color (and native 16:9), they also capture audio. I’m sure there’s some tenuous basis in reality for that but it feels more bullshitty than Apollo 18, which was already pretty far-fetched.

The movie itself is kinda fun, so it’s a bummer they go with found footage. It has plenty of super gross practical effects and it feels more authentic that many period horror pieces. It also has a sense of humor, with some legitimately funny beats. Like when our intrepid scout regiment is introduced, parading heroically past the camera’s field of view, one of them is in the background taking a shit.

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Added Bonus: A soldier’s helmet gets stuck on his head as a result of being caught in the bear trap/iron maiden head of one of the monsters. His comrades don’t know how to remove it without hurting him, so they leave it on. A German civilian — who they were awesomely planning to simply execute — tells them she’s a trained nurse. She brings all her medical experience to bear, digging her fingers in under the helmet and just yanking as hard as she can. This complicated medical procedure dislodges the man’s skull and tears out his brain. Perhaps Germany lost WWII because of poor battlefield triage.

Horror of Babylon, Part 1

Do you like horror movies? I like horror movies. Everyone should like horror movies. I’m sad it will be many years before I can introduce my daughter to them, but exposure too early in life might result in a Dexter-style origin story. After lengthy internal debate, I am more or less convinced that would be a bad thing.

I recently tallied my score on Bloody Disgusting’s Ultimate Horror Challenge (a surprisingly poor 51 out of 61) and decided I needed a pulpit from which I might babble about my own top X horror movies of all time, X being a positive integer of a value equal to or slightly greater than the number of movies about which I have clever shit to say. So it is with all thanks and praise to the Rex that I present my top however-many must see, can’t miss, lightly sweetened horror moves of all time. We kick things off with the best movies for the genre novice. These are the big release, oft-imitated but never surpassed titans of the industry. If you’ve seen all or most of them, congratulations, you’ve earned your white belt in Cleave Sick Sigma and are invited to join me for Part 2: Electric Boogaloo just as soon as I get around to it. The list:

  1. Psycho Rosemary’s Shining Halloween Exorcist

See what I did there? Each is a fantastic film worth watching over and over but they’re not given individual treatment here because they’re universally beloved by film school professors and comic-con attendees alike. (Shut up, ghost of Pauline Kael, you hated Star Wars. ) These are the safe bets, the mega-classics. If you’re having an intelligent conversation about horror movies and someone chimes in with one of these, tell him you’ve heard good things about an up-and-comer named Alfred Hitchcock while delivering a crushing elbow smash to his sternum. Then steal his collection of coffee table books.

See the rest after the jump…

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