Monday, September 1, 2014

From Out Of The Darkness The Zombie Did Call…

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Love him or hate him, Rob Zombie is a strong presence in Horrorland. I was on the fence about discussing him here because I don’t want to alienate any of you, my precious little victims who maybe prefer Gwar, but I also don’t want to ignore one of the driving forces in our world. And more than anything I, myself, needed to understand the man behind the schlockmeister and why he does the things he does. I went into this research with an air of disappointment. I’ve thrown a small fortune his way to hear his music, see his films, and see his performances. The man has a rumored net worth of $40 million, and yet he has recently turned to us, the notoriously dirt poor Horrorland Heathens to fund his latest film, 31. What fresh hell is this? I absolutely despise the trend of already rich people using crowdfunding as basically a way to get their shit made without being held accountable financially. But as I delved deeper into the Past, Present, & Future of this contemporary icon of fright, what I found was an avid fan of the genre who busted ass to create his vision and become a brand in and of himself. Hear me out…

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Robert Bartleh Cummings or as we know him, Rob Zombie, was the son of two carnival workers along with little brother Michael David Cummings or as we know him, Spider One. When riots broke out at the carnival, the tents were burned, and little Zombie witnessed real violence, Robert and Louise Cummings packed up and left the carnie life behind. Rob can’t even tell you when horror entered his life. It has been part of him for a lifetime. Not a genre, but a lifestyle, and he has a deep love and respect for the genesis of horror. So before you point at his impressive collection of props and other oddities from horror’s past and say “sell that to fund your movie,” keep in mind… you’d kill for some of it, yourself.

RZOMBIE (9) At 18, Rob moved to New York to attend Parsons School of Design where he met then-girlfriend, Sean Yseult. Together, they founded the heavy metal rock band, White Zombie, named after (you guessed it) the 1932 film of the same name. While White Zombie formed sometime in the mid-1980s, they didn’t catapult to fame until the early 90s. Fun fact: Beavis and Butt-head had a big hand in introducing White Zombie to the grunge generation when the duo did their patented commentary to Thunderkiss ‘65. Zombie later thanked the boys by animating a kick-ass segment of the film Beavis and Butt-head Do America.

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By 1996, Rob legally changed his name to “Rob Zombie.” Sean and Rob called it quits on the relationship after seven years, but continued to work together as the only steadfast members of White Zombie until the band amicably parted ways in 1998. That’s when Rob went solo with Hellbilly Deluxe: 13 Tales of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside the Spookshow International, followed by a remix album, American Made Music To Strip By. I’m not going to bore you with statistics and facts about what charts he topped. Frankly, who gives a shit? I heard rock with an industrial edge and a saw the scary looking dude from White Zombie yelling into a microphone. I could get behind that.

Now, before you start in on how he’s a sub-par musician, let’s be honest here: You loved it and you know it. You loved White Zombie and you got a serious kick out of Rob Zombie. Music is a highly collaborative effort, even for a solo artist. A lot can be said for who you work with. Rob has an impressive list of collaborators: Charlie Clouser (formerly of Nine Inch Nails and composer of the Saw film score), Ozzy Osbourne (of Black Sabbath… duh), Kerry King (of Slayer), Marilyn Manson (the one who recently threatened to kick Zombie’s ass), John 5 (formerly a member of Manson’s crew) and his hero Alice Cooper (if you don’t know who that is, what are you doing here?), the list goes on and will continue to do so. His shit was fun and it was good enough to bang your head to and blast at Halloween parties, so keep the snobbery to a minimum.

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Alright, let’s talk Zombie and film. The elephant in the room. Originally, Zombie’s first foray into horror films was supposed to be The Crow: 2037, which he had already penned and was ready to direct. But politics happened and Zombie is sure of himself if he’s anything, and he was fired from the production which eventually became The Crow: Salvation. I’m okay with that 1) Because I rather liked Salvation as it was; and 2) Because the following treat was one of my more orgasmic experiences as a horror fan…

In 2001, Zombie dropped his second album, The Sinister Urge, and set out on the Demon Speeding Tour. The final track on that album was titled, House of 1,000 Corpses and it was unlike anything you’d really heard him do before. There were rumblings of a film, but nothing carved in stone. Rob had finished his film in 2000, but still continued to fight the MPAA and Universal who were both squeamish about releasing this apparent violence-ridden gore-fest. Well shit, that just made us want it more. So when the trailer for House of 1,000 Corpses debuted at the concert that night, I’m pretty sure a thousand pairs of panties flew across the stadium. Not mine, I wasn’t wearing any. Nonetheless, it was exciting. So the news not long after, that Universal was shelving the film indefinitely was devastating. It was a loss in the horror community. Any time you have a horror movie made by a horror icon for the horror fans, the studio system and MPAA become enemy # 1 and come on, people… we’re crazy. Just give us our lollipop so we don’t eat you, okay? We are legion. There are as many horror bloggers as there are mommy bloggers. Both dangerous in their own right.

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Before House of 1,000 Corpses, Sheri Moon remained in the background of Rob Zombie’s endeavors, whether it be film, comics, music videos, or tours. It was hard to deny that Zombie was proud of his new girl. She first appeared in White Zombie’s Feed the Gods music video in 1994, and took center stage as the psychotic Baby Firefly in 2000, remaining in the spotlight ever since, despite her obvious preference to remain a rather private person. They eloped on Halloween, 2002, and Rob was feeling no pain. He bit the bullet and bought the rights to House of 1,000 Corpses back from Universal, and it eventually ended up in the very capable hands of Lionsgate, finally receiving a release date in April of 2003. It did not disappoint and has cultivated a cult following that was only further intensified with the gritty follow-up, The Devil’s Rejects in 2005.

My point here is this: That is a coup for any artist struggling to do it “their way.” (And don’t we all wish it were our way?) We should all be so lucky to establish ourselves enough to have the resources to snatch what is ours out of the hands of others who only care about the bottom line. Regardless of the quality of Zombie’s films or the countless opposing opinions about his prowess as a horror filmmaker, I applaud anyone who works to create a brand and establish a level of power and control over their vision. It’s a perfect example of the old adage: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

Moving on now to the release of my favorite of his albums, Educated Horses, and the franchise reboot that seems to be at the crux of everyone’s grudge against Zombie… Halloween. Rob Zombie’s remake of John Carpenter’s masterpiece ended up being the highest grossing film of the series, inflation aside. This can only be contributed to the fact that y’all actually liked his previous work and just had to sate that curious voice inside. He did exactly what I expected he would do. His head would grow about a million times too large for his shoulders and we would hear a lot of talk about how it would be a total departure from the original, but Zombie is a horror fan if he’s anything, so the original premise remained in tact. Put simple, whether you love it or hate it most likely lies in your affinity to the original and your tolerance for Rob’s signature ultraviolent touch.

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The success of the remake inevitably led to plans for a sequel, which Zombie honestly wasn’t interested in doing. He had a chance to take a classic and make it his own, he appreciated the opportunity, enjoyed the success, but really didn’t want to continue with the franchise. (He actually isn’t a big fan of loose ends that guarantee sequels.) Okay, now listen, take some knowledge: The studio system of Hollywood is going to do what they want to do with or without yours or Rob Zombie’s approval. They were going ahead with a sequel because they figured they had a cash cow on their hands (they still do) and Rob (and his ego) figured, he didn’t want to do it, but he didn’t want anyone else to do it and fuck up what he already accomplished. So he phoned it in. I’m not going to go into great detail about Halloween II in this post, I’ll dedicate some time to that later because I love to hear your opinions and share mine. But back to the situation at hand… With the release of Halloween II and its lukewarm reception came some serious hate toward Rob, and especially Sheri. Now, I don’t give a rat’s ass if you’re the top horror blogger on earth, shut up with your Sheri Moon Zombie hate. You can’t applaud Scream Queens like Linnea Quigley and put them on pedestals as queens of the genre in all of their bare-breasted B-movie glory and then turn around and slap Sheri down. So what if Rob puts her in all of his movies?! Adam Sandler does it with all of his buddies in the comedy genre. Darren Lynn Bousman has done it with his circle of friends. Sheri deserves as much respect as any Scream Queen if not only for giving us the gift that is Baby Firefly. Film is nothing but collaboration, and you do your best work with your best people. Period. She’s great. Piss off.

Continuing to grow his brand, Rob was faced with another pivotal decision when it became apparent that his label, Geffen, was taking a direction that didn’t exactly suit his endeavors. Rob left the label for Roadrunner Records and released Hellbilly Deluxe 2: Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls, and the Systematic Dehumanization of Cool in 2010, and the trailer for his most avant garde contribution to the genre, The Lords of Salem debuted at his concert on May 11th, 2012. In the shortest lapse between albums, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor was released in 2013 coinciding with the limited release of Lords. My initial reaction to the film was negative. I need to give it another go before I decide if it’s just not my cup of tea. Rob’s other possible film ventures are a remake of The Blob, which he backed out of for reasons that are unclear; and another of his own brainchildren, Tyrannosaurus Rex, which is still on the back burner where it was shoved to accommodate Halloween II. In between all the violence and gore was a fun little animated feature based on his comic, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.

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His place in horror history continues to be solidified with every new project of the admittedly multi-talented Rob Zombie. The musician, singer-songwriter, screenwriter, director, producer, manager, programmer, artist, and former production assistant on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (yeah, you read that right) has contributed soundtracks for the Twisted Metal III, IV, and Gran Turismo 2 video games, a mock trailer of Werewolf Women of the SS for the Tarantino/Rodriguez joint effort, Grindhouse, runs Zombie A Go Go Records - a sub-label under Geffen, and most recently entered the professional haunted attraction industry with The Great American Nightmare.

And now to address that worrisome topic that almost made me lose some respect for the man – his latest film 31. Why would a man who has literally built an empire need to crowdfund his movie? Well, let’s just throw some numbers around for the sake of clarification, but bear in mind, this is still just speculation on my part. I’m not his fucking accountant. When you are a CEO or a “brand” as I have been referring to him, you don’t just get all the profit from your endeavors. You pay yourself just like any employee, and you usually do it after you’ve settled all other debts and unless you’re a piece of shit, you invest the majority of the business right back into the business. That gets pretty costly. It’s true that you have to spend money to make money. That said, Zombie has definitely set the bar high in terms of what he’s putting out. Lords, as fucking off-kilter as it was, was not a cheap film if you think about it. And he has a reputation for wanting to do things his way. He wants to make a film for you. Studios hate that. So let’s hear him out, and regardless of whether you contribute, it might just end up being another great addition to the genre.

So while I might not love everything he does, I can respect the effort and reasoning behind it. The Horror Community is a magnificent bitch on wheels. We can be your biggest supporter… Or we’ll tie you up and scalp you. Or both. Either way, you’re going to want more.

Gimme an M – Gimme an A – Gimme an L – Gimme an I – Gimme a C – Gimme an E
What’s that spell?

WHAT’S THAT SPELL??!!

The next brand in horror.
You’re damn right,

Malice

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sweets For The Sweet

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Candyman is a classy guy. A real gentleman. This brutal killer doesn’t get enough credit. It just goes to show that women really do prefer bad boys.
 

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Candyman (1992) was adapted from a short story called “The Forbidden” by horror master Clive Barker. Barker himself, and Director Bernard Rose brought the terrifying story of The Candyman to audiences with no intention of allowing him to fall victim to the tropes of horror films from decades past. There is very little about this film that can be considered exploitative, especially of women. That doesn’t mean he’s any less seductive, playing with Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) like a puppet before dragging her into an eternity of damnation. Candyman is a decidedly cerebral horror film, playing on themes of poverty, fate, the caste system, hate crimes, psychosis, and revenge. And the legendary Tony Todd as the man behind the hook can’t be described as anything other than epic.

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Candyman was Daniel Robitaille, the son of a slave who fell in love with a white woman and impregnated her. As punishment, her father and the townspeople cut off his hand and slathered him with honey from a beehive chanting, “Candyman,” as the bees swarmed over him. He was stung and bled to death. Now, if you stand before a mirror and call his name 5 times, The Candyman will appear and murder you with his hook for a hand in an eternal state of vengeance for the crime committed against him.

Helen Lyle is doing her thesis on urban legends and focuses on the story of The Candyman, perpetuated in the Cabrini-Green housing development in Chicago. More stupid than brave, she and her friend enter the Cabrini to ask questions and investigate the apartment of suspected Candyman victim, Ruthie Jean.

Now, here’s where I get to toy with your emotions, my little Horrorland heathens…
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The Cabrini-Green is real, and its body count is higher than all of your favorite slashers combined. That spot of land has a higher murder rate per square inch than the entire country. Is it supernatural? Is it The Candyman? Or were the people living in the squalor of the housing development that Chicago forgot, justifying the horror of their daily lives? Exterior and hallway scenes for Candyman were actually filmed on location at Cabrini-Green (finally demolished in 2010). Rose and Barker had to work out a deal with lead gang members, putting some of them in the film, to insure the safety of the cast and crew. This might be one of the reasons first choices for Candyman and Helen, Eddie Murphy and Sandra Bullock, passed. Pussies. It’s just as well. On the final day of filming, a sniper shot one of the production vans, essentially as a nice reminder never to come back. Point taken.

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Further contributing to that heavy feeling in your stomach right now, let me share with you, the story of Ruthie Mae McCoy. Ruthie was an older woman in her fifties, looking forward to finally being able to escape the Cabrini and live in nicer digs. But someone came in through the bathroom cabinet and murdered her. Police were called, but did not break the door down until two days later. Exactly why is unclear. They may have had no legitimate reason to. They may have been following orders. They may have been acutely aware that they were outnumbered in the Cabrini-Green. What was interesting about the murder was the method of entry. You see, old buildings like that one tended to have “pipe chases.” Intended for easy access to the pipes in the wall between adjacent apartment’s bathrooms, you could pop the medicine cabinets off and move between the two apartments and sometimes even go up or down to others. I don’t think they realized that as the Chicago Housing Authority thought they had bigger fish to fry, the Cabrini sank deep into the thralls of poverty and crime, forcing the unfortunate tenants to raise children in an essentially “animalistic” environment. You worried about those who were bigger and stronger and paid no mind to the weak. It was every man and woman for themselves.

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The answer is yes, you remember correctly. Two characters in Candyman share a name with Ruthie Mae McCoy: Ruthie Jean, the murder victim whose medicine cabinet Helen crawls through to investigate the stomping grounds of The Candyman urban legend; and Anne-Marie McCoy (played by Vanessa Williams of Melrose Place fame) whose child and guard dog fall victim to Candyman’s twisted game of cat and mouse with Helen. Don’t believe me? An eerily similar article to the one featured as Helen’s research in the film can be found here. And another interesting read on the subject can be found riiiiight here. Got the chills yet? Well, knock it off. Take your dress off and end your little tea party. That’s real horror. That’s when your world and ours intertwine and trust me, you don’t want to be there when it happens. People actually lived in those places never knowing if they’d make it out. And I have no doubt in my mind that such a terrifying existence still exists to this day in every major city around the world. You just don’t hear about it.

Is The Candyman a myth perpetrated by the people who live in such horror so that man’s inhumanity to man could be explained by a supernatural force of evil much greater than any man? Or was it a way of minimizing the evil of man himself? A way to cope with the egregious horror outside one’s door… by imagining a fate worse than anything seen on the nightly news (or in most of these cases, omitted from the nightly news)?

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Candyman feeds off of that belief. So when Helen’s research/stupidity leads her to a bathroom that resembles one you might encounter in a Topeka Texaco, she’s brutally attacked by a gang member increasing his street cred by calling himself Candyman. She’s lucky. She lives to identify her attacker in a lineup, further adding to her skepticism and feeding her ability to completely discredit the urban legend of The Candyman in her thesis. Big mistake, honey.
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Now you have to answer to the real thing. But Candyman is no savage. Rather than slice and dice the skeptic to revive his legend, he seduces her. And my least favorite trick of the light in film noir is so overused when this happens that my eyes got sore from rolling so much. A dreamlike swoon comes over the actress as a slit in a non-existent blind highlights only her eyes. Ugh. Deliver me from Dick Tracy. Is this Body of Evidence or what? But I digress…

I’m willing to overlook the cheesy noir in light of the integrity that Candyman offers the horror genre by ascending the clichés and exploitation in favor of subtle seduction and thought provoking themes; all while delivering all the fright and gore a horror hound desires. Candyman is a film with an air of oddity surrounding its genesis and filming, guaranteed to give you a sense of dread not only from viewing it, but if you dare to delve a little deeper into it. That’s the kind of horror that stays with you.
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It’s not about sex, it’s about connection. It’s not a rape fantasy, but it is no less violating. Candyman uses Helen. He destroys her from the inside out to where even if she can escape, there will be no rest for her. And no future. Candyman manipulates the world in which he does not exist; a quiet, refined ghost haunting the tortured souls of the living. Tony Todd is one of the most underrated actors in existence and it’s a shame that the two sequels spawned from the original Candyman were not handled with the same intelligence because he is the only reason to give them the smallest modicum of your attention. Perhaps that is the only good thing about the resurgence of remakes, prequels, and sequels that give no matter to the origins… maybe Candyman will continue. Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary. And I declare that it would be downright blasphemy for anyone other than Todd to don the hook.

As a teenager, before I fell further down the rabbit hole, Candyman was my least favorite slasher. It made me so uncomfortable and after feasting my eyes on all the greats like Freddy, Jason, and Ghostface, The Candyman bored me. However, as I’ve grown into my big girl machete, I’ve made a point to revisit a few of those “snooze-fests.” This one, especially, makes me oh so proud.


 

Sinister sweets to you,

Malice

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Grave Mistake

Hey there, Horrorland Honeys!

You know what I love more than gore? Fear. Mmmmm… Oh, there’s nothing like it in the universe. You love it, too. You know you do. You wouldn’t be alive without it. It’s part of your survival instinct. Embrace it. Use it. Get a kick out of it. Read a ghost story or watch footage of ghosts on YouTube before bed. I dare you. It’s a thrill.

I also love to see those small, low-budget and/or independent horror films-that-could utilizing this most primal of emotions become box office hits and cult favorites. And they do it without all the fan fare of big studio budgets and egotistical stars. If that doesn’t illustrate the power of fear, well I don’t know what does.

In the vein of The Blair Witch Project, I present to you Grave Encounters (2011).

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Blair Witch awakened a trend in the genre that is still going strong. The reason is most likely because horror is most effective when the line between fact and fiction is blurred. Yes, I’m sure you there in Wonderland are perfectly capable of deciphering that the spectral figures in a perpetual state of “O face” of Grave Encounters are pure smoke and mirrors. But a writer and filmmaker’s greatest asset is the ability to pull you in, even if only for the moment. It’s definitely a test of your imagination’s limits.

I got a serious kick out of Grave Encounters. No, it’s nothing new. It is recycled and hopelessly derivative of millennial horror. But the imagery and atmosphere as you follow a reality TV crew into an abandoned insane asylum is highly effective.GRAVEENCOUNTERS (3)
If you’ve ever seen an episode of Ghost Hunters, you know how watching 10 hours of footage of a deserted hallway can be more tense than the climactic scene of any Stallone action flick, hands down. How even the slightest sign of something awry can send your imagination into a tailspin and your heart straight up to your throat.

Slightly more visual than Blair Witch, Grave Encounters actually produces some creatures of the night for you to feast your eyes on, coupled with a healthy amount of jump scares. The acting is decent. The story is simple, but solid. I might not have even noticed if the acting sucked because I was too busy looking behind them into the dark corners of the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital for something that was inevitably going to cause incontinence in the audience members at any moment. By the way, the location, characters, and reality TV show depicted in the film are entirely fictional. Remember that little tidbit, we’re gonna laugh about how it was all skewed for the sake of a sub-par twist later.

First, let’s familiarize ourselves with the men behind the O Face Ghosts: The Vicious Brothers. These guys are making some big promises to me simply by using that moniker. They are Colin Minihan and Stuart Oritz; Canadian-born filmmakers who, thus far, only have three films to their credit: Grave Encounters (2011), Grave Encounters 2 (2012), and Extraterrestrial (2014). I have not seen the latter, but I will. I’m skeptical. Grave Encounters 2 and their haircuts make it difficult to take them seriously.

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But I digress… I can’t find much on these guys right now, so we’ll reserve judgment as they continue to make contributions to Horrorland. The Vicious Brothers wrote and directed Grave Encounters which opened at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22nd, 2011 to mixed reviews. This makes perfect sense to me. This is one of those movies that, if it were one of the first of its kind, would have been met with accolades. Its shortcomings (to me) is the fact that it is something like the 100th found footage horror movie to come out since the late 90s and doesn’t have the budget or star power to muscle its way through the masses. Also, I’m sorry, it’s the writing that is holding it back. The dialogue is trite and it, of course, had to have the required “get the camera out of my face, I’m so stressed out right now” fights. Laced with “omg, so-and-so is dead I can’t believe you’re still filming” moments. Of course, the best way to avoid these clichés is to avoid the found-footage premise in the first place. But for the sake of enjoyment for our beloved genre, let’s look at it this way: I’ve wanted to see a flick about ghost hunters on a hunt gone wrong for years and this delivered. Period. I could sit here and pick it apart technically, but what fun would that be? No, I just snuffed out all the lights, sat back in my throne and prepared to be made extremely uncomfortable in my own land.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? Even for you there, in Wonderland. Why do you watch scary movies if not to go where few dare to tread? The magic of haunting films is in the imagery. Even a disbeliever can’t take their eyes off of a creepy and unsettling image of a little girl brushing her hair on the bed of an abandoned asylum. That’s the stuff that sticks with you when it’s time to turn the lights off at night.

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So it’s unfortunate that the cult success of Grave Encounters led to the overblown Grave Encounters 2 (2012). This was your one grave mistake, guys. I don’t know if they were trying to ride the coat tails of the king of twists, Leigh Whannell, or if they were merely trying to follow the rules of the sequel stated by Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) in Scream 2, but this was just an absolute fail. And needless, at that. However, it is not always the creators of these decent genre pieces that want to build a franchise, but rather the studio heads who just smell profit. The theme of the heartless studio exec was indeed the key to the premise behind the second encounter.

With the cult success of the first film, the second begins with a smattering of YouTube horror junkies and their reviews of the first film. The final one being Alex, an aspiring filmmaker looking to uncover the conspiracy behind the first film. Here is where they take the solid story of the first film and try to convince you that the actors have gone missing for ten years. The actors. Not the characters in the first film. The actors. Okay, so if the whole thing was real, then how did you get the footage because that place swallowed those people whole? And how did no one find the soul survivor  that our new group of documentary filmmakers just happen to stumble upon? This is asinine. And it’s forced. You just poked a thousand holes in your halfway decent foray into the genre. See now look what you’ve done? You’ve gone and made Malice of Horrorland question your worth. And we were off to such a good start. Tragic.

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The only reason to spend a couple hours of your time watching the follow up to the original Grave Encounters is, again, the imagery. This one also, in true sequel fashion, offers up more blood and more gore. It won’t challenge your imagination, by any stretch, but it will challenge your critical thinking skills as you try to make sense of why they thought this would be a worthy successor.

In the meantime, I’ve put The Vicious Brothers on my list of horror hounds not to trust and only time will tell if they will live up to their handle.

 

Yours Gravely,

Malice

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Evil Cannot Be Purged

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The Purge is one of the most interesting, limitless, and thought-provoking concepts I’ve seen in American horror, as of late. So, is it really necessary to slather on the anti-American rhetoric? No. It really isn’t.

Horror always has been and always will be a genre of social commentary. Every movie, especially horror, is a product of the times in which it is created. This is a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes in the form of escapism and discussion. The curse comes in the form of filmmakers using it as a platform to spoon-feed their political beliefs to the masses. Upon viewing the first Purge film, I threw a tantrum of epic proportions that could very well have ended up on YouTube if my colleagues had their camera phones on hand at the time.

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I felt so unbelievably cheated. I mean let’s face it, horror is in the middle of a dry spell as far as the mainstream goes right now. And for someone like myself, who loves sitting alone in a dark theatre getting scared out of my wits, The Purge marketed itself as sweet release. But what it delivered was not even plausible deniability. *SPOILER ALERT* I’m sorry, but if you came into our house, killed my father, and held guns to mine and my little brother’s heads, my mother would END you. And she’s a hippie. She is a straight-up, liberal, peace-loving child of the sixties, and you would not be having tea and waiting out the night without any further violence if it were up to her at that point. You blew it. Now, I could get nit-picky about the first film and start pointing out every little hole in the plot and every extremely obvious plot device (Why does that kid feel the need to build creepy baby machines and measure his heart rate? Well, because we’re going to need the baby machine to scope shit out later and then we’re going to need to listen while dad’s heart stops beating, of course.), but if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a “hater.” Nor am I a critic, okay, I’m Malice of Horrorland, bitch. I LOVE this shit good or bad. Instead, I’d like to point out one very important aspect of great horror filmmaking:

Subtlety.

Yes, I know, “subtlety” isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when thinking of the horror genre. Allow me to elaborate…

night-of-the-living-dead-meathook George Romero, the Godfather of the Dead, made his name in the genre by pointing out the error in our ways, but doing so by telling a story without being preachy. Night of the Living Dead (1968) depicted the tragedy and hysteria of the Viet Nam generation. Not only that, but he put a black man in the lead (gasp!) and that man fought tooth and nail to survive the night, only to be shot in the head, dragged by meat hooks out into a pile of zombies, and burned by a lynch-mob/rescue team of red necks and government officials. WTF, right?

Dawn of the Dead (1978) is set in the capital of modern consumerism – the mall. Our survivors think they’ll have everything they’ll ever need and will defend their palace of materialism to the death, until it becomes clear that they are prisoners anyway. And the hordes of zombies overtaking the mall are none other than us doing what we do best… consuming.

Day of the Dead depicted the Military Industrial Complex, the fear that the government will stop at no end to control the uncontrollable. Domesticate us. Even when we become flesh-eating zombies.

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Land of the Dead (2005) was a clear statement on class war and the motives of the rich vs. the poor while making a very good case as to why fireworks should be legal.

Diary of the Dead (2007) shows the difficulty of taking a good “selfie” and maintaining your Facebook during the zombie apocalypse whilst daring to ask the question, Is the internet a blessing or a curse in the event of the zombie apocalypse? I don’t know, but the only legitimate reason I can think of to start a FourSquare account is the minute possibility that it can be used by my friends and family to locate my ass when shit goes down. Other than that, it’s just really a mystery to me why you think I’d give two shits where you had lunch.

Survival of the Dead (2009) tackles the same subject matter as the second season of The Walking Dead where survivors argue the humanity of the dead and whether they should be kept “alive” in case of cure. Hope vs. Despair. A very potent concept, and one that leaves me slightly confused as to why Romero called TWD a zombie “soap opera” considering the similarity of the subject matter. But I digress…

When comparing the level of social commentary of the Dead films to that of James DeMonaco’s The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy, I can’t help but say, “Hey man, slow your roll. I’m not an idiot. I see what you’re saying. I think you’re wrong. But I see what you’re saying.” A little goes a long way, but Mr. DeMonaco seems to lace almost every single line in every single scene with political sermon and anti-“conservative” viewpoints.

Ugh.

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God, this is such a great concept for a horror movie. For a franchise, even. The possibilities are endless. The situations that characters could potentially find themselves in, the violence, the gore, the pure, unadulterated evil and triumph that potentially lies at the core of the human spirit in this situation. LAWD, this is the kind of idea that horror writers kick themselves for not thinking of first. These movies are undeniably a product of the times. Wonderland is beginning to resemble Horrorland more and more these days. It’s a scary world out there. In America, alone, you literally can’t even go see a movie in a multiplex without wondering of some psychopath is going to come in, guns blazing. The times, they are a-changin’. However, the blame for a modern society completely incapable of having productive conversations without coming to blows and name-calling cannot be laid solely on any one political party, weapon, state, race, sexuality, amendment, or person. I’m sorry, it just can’t. You’re all experiencing what we here in Horrorland feed off of, and that is hysteria. All logical thought is ceased and information is measured only by how it serves the individual’s agenda. You’re sitting ducks.

So it’s not entirely unheard of for someone to raise the question: What if one night a year, all of America were to participate in a PURGE? All crime, including murder, is legal for 12 hours so that people can just get that toxic shit out of their systems if they so desire. The films present the possibility of the American utopia that “liberals” often lament of at the price of one night of debauchery.

The films are set in the not-so-distant future – the  first in 2022, and Anarchy the following year, 2023.

Unemployment is at 1%. Crime is at an all-time low. Violence barely exists. With one exception…

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In The Purge, Ethan Hawke is James Sandin, a dealer of expensive security systems designed to keep well-to-do families safe and sound during the annual Purge. As he, his wife, and their two children hunker down to prepare for what I imagine must be the longest night of the year, they see a few of their neighbors preparing weapons and getting ready to cleanse their souls of evil for the year ahead. Or so that seems to be the propaganda that is being set forth by the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA). Now, here’s where we take a nice obvious jab at the NRA and its mostly conservative members.

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Yes, because being patriotic clearly means you lust for blood all day every day. Alright, it’s whatever. Moving on, and making a long story short, the family featured in this film have a strong set of values that makes it difficult for them to understand why anyone would feel the need to participate in such a barbaric act of animalistic rage as the annual Purge. This right here… these characters and their difficult, yet normal, if not slightly sheltered lives provide the perfect yin to the Purge’s yang. Honestly, I feel like the storyline involving the government could and should remain in the peripheral for this adventure, but that’s just me.

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The family finds themselves the target of a sadistic group of clean-cut, ivy league psychopaths when James's young son disables their impressive security system to let in a pleading man with nowhere to hide. And now we all have to wonder; can this man be trusted… and should they throw him to the wolves to save themselves?

Fantastic!

This is the stuff of good horror.  

And besides that, it’s rare that a home-invasion film has such a complex and interesting concept behind it. It’s usually the opposite (The Strangers, 2008, “because you were home”; You’re Next, 2011, bored rich kids).

The horror community’s biggest complaint regarding the first film was that it was set in a single family home on a night when America in its entirety becomes a war zone. Yeah, I was extremely curious, myself. Visions of death and destruction on an astronomical level danced in my head. This concept is a writer’s wet dream.

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Enter The Purge: Anarchy.

For this year’s annual Purge, we’ll be joining a foursome of innocent folk just trying to survive the night and their guardian angel, a nameless police sergeant whose original plan was to exact revenge on the man who killed his son in a drunk driving accident.

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This is a very solid, well-done film in the style of Mad Max or perhaps, Escape From New York. Calm your tits, fright fans, I’m not putting it in the same category of cult fame, but I see where some of the production crew was getting their inspiration and it served them well. The film, like its predecessor, starts with no violence. Just a looming sense of dread and morbid curiosity. It isn’t until the lovely young couple’s car craps out and the Purge commences that we are met with some truly terrifying imagery. Terrifying because it could have been ripped from the pages of your morning newspaper.

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However, despite the solid story and interesting characters facing some very serious shit, the focus is still on spoon-feeding the writer/director James DeMonaco’s political platform. I have no problem with a violent movie that has an unmistakable anti-violence message. That’s like, half my collection. But it became so in-your-face preachy that I actually hurt my eyes from rolling them so far back into my head a couple of times.

The second installment of The Purge brings forth the agenda of the NFFA (the government) to use the Purge to target and murder the poor. Now, I see what you did there, you created a big bad for these two films to now become a franchise. I don’t buy it. You could have done that without the “government and guns are evil” storyline. I get it, okay? I don’t need the huge semi trucks and swat teams to see what you’re getting at.

Now, every good villain needs an equally strong hero, right? Why are you thinking about the Sergeant? No, forget about him. He and the other Purge cast-outs are merely pawns in the director’s game of Risk. No, we have to add a group of radicals screaming for the blood of the government officials behind this to be spilled on this night. Because what they’re doing is wrong… So kill them. Are you still with me? Are your eyes stuck in the back of your head yet?

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Well, there’s more…

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The 1% is purchasing poor people so that they can participate in the Purge without getting their designer duds dirty.

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Okay, now you’re just copying Hostel. Can we get back to the good stuff?

The good news is, we do finally get back to our core group of survivors and this is what makes the whole thing worth it. I’m not going to spoil it because I want you to see this film. However redundant the political commentary, I love a good thought-provoking film.

I do want to leave you with one sure thing, and don’t let anyone lie to you about this:

Evil is an ever-present part of your life. It cannot be “purged.” Utopia would not even be possible without the presence of Dystopia. Keep a healthy perspective when debating others. They might not be as peaceful as you are…


Love and Screams,

Malice of Horrorland

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