What I'm Watching: Random Movie Time!
Happy November! Unlike previous years, I am NOT taking November off for Nanowrimo, for various reasons, one of which is to focus on this site. Part of which means I have lots of time to watch bad movies, and then write about them.
First up, confession time. I...I had never seen the 1980s version of The Thing. At least, not until publishing my review of the 1950s version, and then I watched Carpenter's, before going to see the newest iteration that very weekend. I basically watched all three takes in a single week. I could seriously write an entire post on just these movies alone. Rather than do that, I'll skip over Carpenter's and just state what everyone else already knew. HOLYcrap that was amazing. I have a new movie in my top ten. Amazingly done, with great pacing, tension, and effects. I have nothing to add to all the other praise to the movie.
Ahh, but that brings us to 2011. I am gonna say...I liked The Third Thing. Is it as good as the one from 30 years ago? Hahahaha...no. Not even close. But did anyone think it would be going in? I don't think so. I certainly didn't. And maybe that's why I was pleasently surprised. The acting was good, it took what we knew before, was true to the spirit of the 1980s version, and gave every single nod to set up that movie that I wanted to see. It was a pretty perfect prequel. But it was never going to be good as the original, as I am going to call the 1980s version. My two biggest complaints is that it just did not have that 1980s feel to it. The first one did, simply by the merit of being made then, and limited to what we had. This movie never quite felt like it was made back then, and the verisimilitude of the universe never quite clicked. Also, it relied a bit too much on well-lit CGI. The setting just didn't have that claustrophobic feeling to it being so well lit, and the effects were less real. Which isn't to say they weren't good, I actually liked them, I just got too good of a look at them. Still, a very well done prequel, and delivered pretty much what I wanted, and avoided a lot of my concerns.
On the opposite side of the spectrum was Babylon A.D. What a major turd of a movie that was. Drawn out, boring, and with a dippy, convoluted plot that was so up its own ass, its breath smelled of colon. I can't even summarise the plot very well, beyond a total bad-ass being randomly picked to safeguard a genetically created messiah, and wackiness ensues. I seriously don't have a good thing to say about the movie. About all I can muster is that it was pretty, but not in any sort of interesting way, or grungy Blade Runner type future. The acting was blah, just...it takes a lot for a movie to annoy me, and this movie did the trick. I would rather watch most any movie reviewed on this site before seeing this one ever again.
A slight improvement was The Strangers, which I finally got around to seeing. The basic idea here was a couple in a summer home, in the middle of the woods, getting terrorised by the titular strangers. It's a very basic idea, and done well enough, but it's also a very quiet movie, and maybe too basic. And don't get me wrong, there is plenty of screaming, it's just very light on dialogue. Which can work, and does ok here. Liv Tyler and her character's husband do a good job, and I *really* like that we NEVER see the faces of the strangers. That is so simple, and so perfect. I applaud that whole-heartedly. I liked this movie, but it's no great shakes. Maybe because after it was done, I looked around and realised I was inside a quiet, dark house, in the middle of the woods. At night. It was great at getting across that, "this could happen to you!" feeling. But it's almost too simple of a story. Couple shows up, get terrorised, end of movie. I do like their coda of "Why are you doing this to us??" "Because you were here" ethos. That is...just SO SO terrifying, even if it's not as good as some other ideas along the same lines. Mostly good, if straightforward to a fault. Worth a look.
Speaking of dark houses, we know I love quirky little movies. And that's exactly what Dark House is. A Walt Disney like showman, for the haunted house set, buys a murder house and turns it into his latest attraction. He hires an acting class to staff the place, not realising one of them is a survivor of the massacre, and that's when the evil ghosts come to life and start offing people. How could I not watch this? It was SO cheesy, but in all the right ways. And a fave of mine, Jeffrey Combs, puts in an amazingly over the top performance as Walston Ray. And even before he said his name, I had immediately thought he felt exactly like Ray Walston's character from Popcorn, so that helped my love of this movie. If this came out just ten years ago, it would SO be reviewed fully on this site. I am still tempted! My biggest complaint here is the ending. Ugh. Some horror movies just don't know when enough is enough. It is a crazy ending that the two Ripper movies I reviewed would be proud of. Oh yes, that kind of ending. I was so with the movie until those last few moments, and then I wanted to fling my remote at the tv.
Finally, I naturally saw Paranormal Activity 3, replacing my yearly viewing of the Saw movies in theatres, I guess. I was getting a little dubious that they could keep this up, but PA3 proved me wrong. I was a little suspicious of how good the supposedly VHS recorded video looked, and the 16:9 from the same. I would love loved to see it looking crappier, and with some bad hacking of 4:3 footage to fit a widescreen format, just to totally sell the look, but those are minor complaints. This was a good chapter in the series, but far from necessary. We knew most of these events already, and this only fills in the details, much like The Thing 2011, but not quite as sucessfully. But wow, the girls were amazing little actresses, the scares were great, and they found new and inventive ways to get the cameras involved in the movies. The scares in PA3 were much more plentiful, much more in your face and prominent, and spread more throughout the movie. The ending fizzled a little bit for me, but it's not a deal breaker. I went in with some concerns, and came out wanting a PA4. But we can't keep going back. Let's get back to the present, and the fate of Katie and friends.
I actually have plenty more to say, but will save that for a later post, since this is already wicked long. See you in a week for our full classic review!