Jason: "A Serbian Film" is one of those movies people talk about in hushed tones. Only certain people are aware of its existence, and if you try to bring it to the mainstream, you'll be easily arrested for crimes against humanity. I'm pretty sure the writer and director set out to make a fucked up movie but I don't think even he was prepared for how people were gonna react to this film.
As I throw to Nick to give his opening thoughts, I have to say I have no idea how he'll react to this film as he gave me the pleasure to be the first one to watch it. When I suggested "Visitor Q" to him, saying how fucked up it is, he watched it and laughed it off. If he can laugh off necrophilia and weird lactating mothers, I'm not sure how he'll react to "A Serbian Film."
Nick: Well, Jason... I'm so glad you asked. It turns out my initial reaction was something akin to "I don't mind never seeing this film again. Ever." Now, I talk a lot a little film called Salo. In fact, when Serbian was first in the news, a lot of other people said it was the Salo of our day. I can see that. I felt almost equally ill after finishing this one as I did with that one. But there are at least one or two major differences that set those two films apart, and I think that's what I really want to explore here. But first, let's look at the story itself.
Jason: At the start of the film we're treated to a skanky chick in an alley. We meet Milos, who comes into the alley, and basically rips her panties off and starts fucking her on a motorcycle. This all turns out to be a porn film Milos was in. Milos is a retired porn star with several titles under his cock.
And not only is this from a porn film, but the person watching said porn film is Petar, Milos son. That might not seem like a big deal but Petar is only like 8 or so. So yeah. Milos and his wife Maria walk in on this and turn it off. Milos doesn't think it's a big deal but Maria thinks the porn watching should wait until he's a bit older. Like 10 or so.
Now that Milos is retired, he doesn't really have another job. Maria has a job as some sort of interpreter but it's not enough to pay the bills. So they need some sort of other income. Ok, I have a question: can male porn stars REALLY retire? I mean there are people who are into all kinds of weird stuff (as we'll find out in a bit here) so really couldn't an old guy still be banging away at hot chicks, as long as he's still "equipped"? Milos here still is because that's all everyone says in this movie how Milos can still get it up and keep it hard for a long time.
Nick: Well... there is Ron Jeremy. But that's beside the point. Anyway, an old acquaintance of Milos (a female porn star who has apparently turned to bestiality films to make some cash) has returned to tell him about an underground director who will shell out some big bucks (like, retire and never work a day in your life again kind of big bucks) if he participates in his next porn film. The only catch is... the dude refuses to tell him what the porno is about or what he has to do outside of have sex. After talking it over with his wife, Milos reluctantly agrees.
The first day of shooting has them at an old building for abandoned and orphaned children. So... off to a good start, then, huh? For whatever reason, Milos doesn't turn and run immediately, but instead gets a little earpiece so that the director can tell him what to do. Mainly, he walks around and watches as some females get slapped and dragged around. Then he gets a blowjob while having to watch two videos of an underage girl eating a popsicle and the same girl putting on makeup.
But then the next day (I believe) happens... and he's taken to a room in the building where he's forced to rape a woman. And if that wasn't enough, he has to do it while a young, underage girl from earlier scenes sits and watches. Needless to say, he's a bit weirded out by the whole thing. We're about an hour into the film at this point... it's actually been relatively boring and quite tame in comparison to other films. However, he goes to talk to the director about the movie and what's going on and... this is when the movie gets... well, where it starts to earn its reputation. I'll let my associate briefly describe what you're missing.
Jason: Milos is creeped out and wants out of the project, despite getting a gazillion dollars. The director (whom I'll call Lars Von Trier cause I forgot his name already) convinces Milos to stay cause all he's really doing is just fucking. I don't think that's the real problem, Lars. But Milos stays on...until he's forced to hit a woman. Now that's the last straw.
Milos confronts Lars Von Trier and wants to know what kind of movie this is. Lars says he makes artsy films that involve sex of all kinds. Then he shows him a scene from the movie. I hesitate to even mention this cause really it involves two words that NEVER should be put together, and I'm sure there are people out there who Google such things and I don't want them coming to my site. (I'm sure Nick doesn't want them on his site either.)
Nick: Not particularly.
Jason: Basically, we get a scene of a pregnant lady who produces a new human being, and then we get a guy (who is the guy that's been driving Milos around town) grabbing this new human being and having adult relations with it. Yeah. You wanna know the fucked up part? I KNEW this was going to happen but I DIDN'T know we would actually see the act. Sure the new human being looks fake as hell, but still. That's an image that sticks with you, man.
Jason: Milos is grossed out, and he runs out of the house. He totally doesn't want anything to do with this movie anymore. But Lars says "fuck that" and drugs his drink, which causes him to pass out. Oh, Lars Von Trier.
Milos wakes up and it's like two or three days later. He's all bloodied and bruised and doesn't remember anything. Ladies and gentlemen, "A Serbian Hangover"! He can't find Maria or Petar so he drives back to Von Trier's house, finds it empty, but finds some tapes lying around. Milos snags them, finds a quiet spot in the forest, and watches a lovely Disney movie.
Ok, not really. It shows all the fucked up shit Milos did when he was blacked out. He fucked a chick, then cut her head off while doing it (Nick: Don't forget the part where he continues to bang her despite the headlessness of the situation). Then there's a part where Milos was passed out so some other dude comes in and fucks him. Nice.
Milos slowly remembers everything, including not wanting to do a scene where he fucks the 12-year-old girl from earlier in the movie (yeah, I'm OK with those grouping of words but not "new human sex") so he escapes from the scene. But Lars Von Trier is a tricky motherfucker! He finds Milos in the street and drags him back to some warehouse. This is where the real fun is.
Nick: You mean we weren't having fun yet? To be perfectly honest, I do think the blacking out and having the majority of the rest of the film be him discovering things through the tapes to be an actual good idea. Too bad the things on the tapes were... well, what they were. Anyway...
Jason: So Milos and some masked guy are presented with two unconscience bodies. They're both covered up except for their asses and one of them is smaller than the other. Both Milos and the masked guy start fucking the bodies, with Milos fucking the smaller one. The masked guy takes his mask off and it's...Milos' brother! And the two bodies they are fucking?
Umm...if you haven't figured it out by now...
Family is missing... Milos was doing the smaller one... yeah... I hope you figured it out.
Nick: Poor Peter Dinklage...
Jason: Armed with this knowledge, Milos just goes fucking nuts and punches and kills dudes left and right. The best part? The "new human fucker" only had one eye so Milos starts FUCKING THE BAD EYE TO DEATH!! After so much fucked up shit, this was such a breath of fresh air. God... did I just say that?
Nick: No, I will back Jason up on this. Everything prior to this point had been so insane and ridiculously awful that by the time Milos fights back and very literally and graphically skull fucks this dude, it's pretty much the most awesome thing you've ever seen in your life. I know that sounds crazy, but trust us... or at least don't call the police.
Jason: Let's end this review.
Nick: I concur.
Jason: Milos kills everyone, including the brother, and takes his family back home. The family is freaked out (naturally) and don't know how to cope with what just happened. They all agree the best way is to just kill themselves. So in the cheeriest of all endings, Milos kills himself, Maria, and Petar with one bullet. And then...some weird guy is at the house, telling some other guy to fuck the dead corpses. THE END!!
Nick: Is the movie totally messed up? To put it lightly, yes. But it's not without purpose. I'm not trying to defend the film, but at the very least, it's not being disturbing for the sake of being disturbing. Outside of the final 30 seconds (which I think is like "OK, that's too much now"), the film does have a purpose and a reason for being what it is. Did it need to be made and done the way it was to give us that purpose? That's a whole other discussion.
Also, on a technical level, it's actually a well made film. It has a decent lead character, a truly evil and despicable villain, a finely paced story, good use of the camera, and even a pretty good soundtrack. Of course, none of that makes up for what is actually involved in the film, and you probably won't find me jammin' out to my brand new Serbian Film soundtrack CD. But I'm just saying that outside of the terrible, evil things that happen in the film, it's rather competently made.
As for how it stacks up to Salo... I'm not sure it does. To be perfectly honest, I found Salo to be more disturbing and vile. While A Serbian Film made me nauseated and upset, I was fine after a few hours--and then forgot most of the movie within the week. Salo, on the other hand, stuck with me for days, and I still can't get some of that imagery out of my head. But there is one major thing, as I stated earlier, that makes Salo more evil and harder to watch--Salo is from the perspective of the evil-doers, and the events are shown in a cheerful, positive light; Serbian Film, on the other hand, is from the perspective of the victims, so it's really not different than a highly disturbing horror film. Milos is just as disturbed and affected by the events as we are. I'm not using this comparison to advocate watching either one of them. But as the two have been compared, and as the newer of the two is often stated as being the most disturbing film ever made, I'm going to have to disagree.
Jason: Holy fuck, what do I say about a movie like this? Ok, if you ignore all the REAL fucked up parts, and just look at it as a film, it is shot brilliantly, the acting is very well done, and the story (again minus the fucked up parts) is good. What would one do to keep food on the table? Would any human really go through these lengths? And supposedly, this is supposed to be a symbolic film about the country of Serbia. I don't live in Serbia so I can't speak for that but if that's true, they should get out.
Nick: Specifically, I think it has to do with being a social commentary regarding censorship in Serbia. But regardless how you look at it, it's a messed up movie. I mean, yeah, if you look past all that stuff, it is very well done all around, but I'm not quite sure that makes up for the actual content of the film (specifically the last 45 minutes or so). I said it earlier, and I'll say it again. I don't mind never seeing this again. Ever.
It's been many years since I've seen the full film, but I've always not only loved this song, but been amazingly impressed with it. It's a fantastic number lyrically alone. There's not much more to say than that. Interestingly, I actually prefer this stage rendition than the film rendition, so I'm going to link to that instead. But don't worry--It's the same guy who does it in both versions. Check it out! It's insane.
10) Dead Alive/Planet Terror
Connection: Gory, gross-out horror with mutant pseudo-zombies.
Thoughts: Dead Alive is one of the goriest films I've ever seen, but done in such an over-the-top, gross-out way. Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse flick took a page from the same book, even keeping in the insanity of the violence--just exchanging a lawn mower for a gun-leg. Both are campy and bizarre with regular monsters and even a "final boss"-type climax. Good stuff.
9) Evil Dead II/Army of Darkness
Connection: Part of the same series.
Thoughts: There's no denying the campy fun of either of these movies, from the gore and violence to the batty craziness and awesome one-liners, these two films take the seriousness of the original film and completely go the other direction... but you can't deny it worked out quite well.
8) Snakes on a Plane/Flight of the Living Dead
Connection: Creatures on a plane.
Thoughts: Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherf*ckin snakes/zombies on this motherf*ckin plane! You can't deny the fun factor of Snakes, but it also spawned a great little Asylum flick. The Asylum makes a lot of terrible knock-off films, but Flight manages to actually be a great one. Why? Because you can tell how passionate the filmmakers were. Just listening to the audio commentary is enough to know how much fun they had making it, which translated into how fun the final product turned out.
7) Idle Hands/Beetlejuice
Connection: Ghosts and wacky possessions.
Thoughts: This is the biggest stretch double feature, I know. In the first, Devon Sawa's hand gets possessed by the devil and goes on a killing spree. Meanwhile, his two best friends come back from the dead to help defeat the evil and get back to normal. Beetlejuice, on the other hand, is about a couple that comes back from the dead and tries to kick out the tacky new owners of their home and get back to normal. They take the help of the titular bio-exorcist, but that just causes more harm than good. Both are a little too underrated and would work well together, I think.
6) Ghostbusters/Ghostbusters 2
Thoughts: 'Nuff said.
Connection: Breaks genre rules while paying homage to said genres.
Thoughts: Feast breaks all the rules, making it a truly unexpected ride. First time through, you honestly will not be able to figure out what happens next. Not to mention it's totally fun and has some dark comedy. Hatchet, on the other hand, pays homage to 80s slashers (even going so far as to have cameos by some of the big names of those times). And, like the former film, you probably won't be able to figure out who will live and who will die.
4) Tremors/Tremors 2
Connection: Original and Sequel.
Thoughts: I know a lot of people don't like any after the first film, and while I agree with the third and fourth... the second one is still awesome to me. It might not have Kevin Bacon, but Fred Ward returns, as does Michael Gross. And how can you not love Burt? It amps up the thrills, the comedy, and everything else that would typically make people like a sequel... so both are awesome in my book.
3) Tucker and Dale vs. Evil/Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Connection: Turns the slasher genre on its head by giving an unexpected look at the killers and victims.
Thoughts: I've only seen both of these once, but they're both new favorites, easily. Tucker and Dale looks at slashers by making the apparent villains the good guys and the victims more villainous. Leslie Vernon, on the other hand, takes a much more meta approach by explaining the intricacies and minute details of slashers. Both are fantastic takes on the genre and I can't wait to check them out again.
2) Shaun of the Dead/Zombieland
Thoughts: Similar to my #1 spot, there was probably no doubt in anybody's mind that Shaun was going to end up in at least the Top 2 or 3. The former is one of the best horror/comedies ever made, as well as one of the best zombie movies ever made. And Zombieland is often considered its American equivalent. Not to mention the latter is already mixing in with popular culture with its survival rules. You can't tell me you didn't watch the last episode of The Walking Dead (Season 2, episode 2) and not think "Cardio!"
1) Little Shop of Horrors/Repo! The Genetic Opera
Connection: Bloody Musicals
Thoughts: There was probably no doubt this (or something similar) was going to end up in the number 1 spot. We all know my undying adoration for Little Shop, as well as my unexplainable love for Repo. They go together quite nicely, and I don't think anything else would have hit this top spot.
Runner-Up: Hide and Creep/Undead. Low-budget indie flicks with zombies... and aliens. No further explanation needed.
10) The Evil Dead
Unlike the other films in the trilogy, this one is a straight-up horror flick. And it works its atmosphere like a mofo. Sure, the effects might be cheesy, but it's a fantastic little film with some truly creepy scenes. It's like if old school horror were done with the 70s and early 80s shock value. Great stuff.
9) The Hills Have Eyes (Remake)
Alexandre Aja's remake is pretty damn good. Not only is it hella creepy and disturbing, but it's incredibly intense. The last 20 minutes with Aaron Stanford going hardcore badass is probably one of my favorite parts of any horror film. Oh, and the rest of the movie is pretty good, too.
8) The Mothman Prophecies
I might get some flak for this one, but I think this is one of the freakin' scariest movies out there. A lot of people find it dull or just a flat-out snooze-fest. But this movie terrifies me for some reason. I can't watch this and then drive at night for at least a week. The telephone call scene in the motel room, the car wreck... a lot of it is just totally freaky to me.
7) Trick R Treat
Out of all the movies on this list, this is the one I've seen the least. I watched it for the second time just the other day. It's on Instant Streaming, but I also now own it on Blu-Ray. It's a fantastic mix of style and cleverness. It has a comic book feel, but it's also an anthology feature. But unlike most anthology collections, these are intertwined and play out in a non-linear fashion... and I do love it when storytellers take this kind of approach. It's a new holiday staple for this time of the year.
6) Final Destination
The first one is the best one (though the fifth wasn't all the bad, either). From the second on, the series tried to be too goofy. The first one is more serious, though, and it's quite an original premise. Not to mention it has a fantastic cameo by Tony Todd that carried over into (most of) the rest of the films.
5) Dawn of the Dead (Remake)
I'll be honest. I love and respect George Romero. Night and Dawn are fantastic bits of horror history (I can take or leave Day). And while his original Dawn of the Dead might be responsible for almost everything we know and love about zombies today (I'd argue even moreso than Night)... I find it to be kind of a boring flick overall (Night, on the other hand, holds up much better). That being said, Snyder's remake is a fantastic one. Sure, it introduces a thousand more characters and loses a little of the intimacy of the original for the sake of a body count, but it gives us some really memorable characters and moments. Hell, even Andy, the gun store owner across the street whose voice you maybe only hear for 30 seconds of the film... is a compelling character. Oh yeah, and the first 10-15 minutes is one of the best segments in a zombie movie.
4) Pitch Black
OK, I know I'm going to get some arguments here. You probably think this is more sci-fi than horror. Sure, it does have some heavy sci-fi elements, but they're being stalked and killed by freaky aliens... so I count it. Not to mention Riddick is a murderer. Speaking of, Richard B. Riddick is one of my favorite antiheroes ever and would easily be in my Top 5 favorite sci-fi characters. And I personally can't wait for the Chronicles sequel that is supposed to be more like this film than that other... thing.
I've seen and own all three of these films, but none of the match up to the original. It's insanely smart and makes me love Vincenzo Natali more and more every time I see it. And I hate a certain death at the end of the film every time I see it. And it hurts just as much the hundredth time as it did the first. And... I could keep going, but you should just go out and see this if you haven't already.
It's been said a thousand times (most of those times by me). The first film is unfairly lumped in and given a bad rep due to its sequels, which it is almost nothing like. I'll admit--I'm a fan of the entire series. Think whatever you want about the gore or what have you, but this series has some of the best continuity, hands down, of any film series in history. It's pretty outstanding. Regardless, the first is the best and will always be the best. And I'll never forget when I saw this in theater, thought I had it figured out, and then proceeded to sit with an open mouth throughout the credits. And the main theme (Hello Zepp) is awesome.
1) 28 Days/Weeks Later...
Yeah, yeah, call it a cheat. I couldn't choose one, so I lumped both together. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. The first one is all about the characters and their relationships with each other. The sequel is all about the tension and suspense. And Jeremy Renner is in it (and he's also gone on record saying that he, along with the director and Danny Boyle, do not see these films as zombie movies, no matter what others say)... no, I'm not letting that go! Anyway... not to mention that both films have fantastically brilliant openings. The first one is more drawn out in confusion of the main character, while the second is more in the quiet opening that turns into a chaotic escape. And the main theme is awesome.
I know some people don't like runners-up because they feel it makes the idea of having a cut-off to the top list moot... but there are some that barely missed this list... whether for reasons that I haven't seen them enough times to yet become favorites (I Saw the Devil, The Shining); them being more atmospheric than scary or iconic (1408, Stir of Echoes, The Orphanage); them having a great atmosphere and scares, but with a controversial ending that could make or break it (Silent Hill, The Mist); or them being favorites I just couldn't fit in (Misery, Pontypool, The Faculty).
For those unawares, this film was infamously adapted from Bram Stoker's Dracula, changing a few things here and there to avoid copyright... which they were unable to avoid still as Stoker's widow sued and had them burn every copy and negative. Fortunately, some had been distributed around the world by this point and the film survived. So we get Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim), who is hired by Knock (Alexander Granach), to travel to Transylvania to meet with Count Orlok (Max Schrek). The Count wants to buy a house in their village, and they're going to set him up with an abandoned building across the way from Hutter's own place. Unfortunately, Hutter quickly discovers that Orlok is actually the deadly vampire, Nosferatu.
If you don't count a big chunk of The Great Dictator, this would be my first silent film. This is also the oldest film I've ever seen (with M in 1931 having taken the previous spot, with Freaks in 32 before that). And all of that worried me. However, practically neither of those things were my issues with this movie. Well, I suppose it could be attributed to it in a round-about way, but... let me explain.
The first half of the film bothered me more than the second half for technical reasons. I think the film might have been more effective in black and white than with the weird color hues throughout. I know they were used to determine day from night and whatnot, but it was still mildly bothersome. Also, while overall the music was quite excellent, the music of the first half of the film sometimes didn't seem to match up with the apparent mood it wanted you to take from the scene. For instance, there could be dramatic or eerie music, but the actors were being goofy (I'll get to that in a minute)... or there was more light-hearted music, and the scene appeared to be more serious.
Then there's the acting. For the most part, it was alright. Max Schrek in particular was creepy and menacing as the title character. However, the character of Hutter was... freakin' whack or something (to borrow a teen phrase of the day). I've seen arguments where perhaps he was supposed to be off his rocker. I've seen others that state the opposite and that the actor was just doing a poor job--though that undermines an otherwise competent director. But no matter how you look at it, the guy played the character to an annoying and bizarre level. His over-the-top reactions to things were... almost always out of place and unfitting of the moment. Sure you might argue it was the acting of the times or of expressionist film-making, but really none of the other actors were acting that way. I'm sorry, but it was a huge detriment to the film for me.
Then you have the narrative cards. In silent films such as this, these are the main things to help you with the flow of the story. And I know it's due to the time period and style, but man were a lot of the lines and wording super cheesy. It adds a certain charm to the film, yeah, but still... worth mentioning. Also worth mentioning is the fact that the majority of the time, the narrative cards that I could read quickly were on the screen forever, to the point I could read them numerous times; however, the longer cards were up for half the time, and sometimes I couldn't even finish reading them. It could be quite annoying.
So I mentioned at the beginning the shadow/bed stuff being the only thing I knew about the film visually. That scene is in the last 4 or so minutes of the film, and by golly is that a fantastic 4 minutes. There's a reason that's probably the most famous part of the film. The entire climax of the movie is outstanding. Everything works together--the music, the tension, the visuals. The shadow up the stairs followed by the shadow of the hand sliding over her chest and then closing over her heart... amazing. If you're going to watch this film for anything, do it for the last 4-5 minutes. Oh, and in a kinda-spoiler way, did you know that this movie was what introduced "vampires are killed by sunlight" into vampire lore? I thought that was a neat fun fact.
Overall, in these types of films, you only have 3 main things to work off of: The actors' expressions, the music, and the narrative cards. It's unfortunate that I found fault in the use of all 3 of these things. Now don't get me wrong. For 1922, I can see how this movie (especially Orlok himself) are freakin' terrifying. I find his looks scary even today. And for its time, I suppose it's rather well done. But looking back on it now, from somebody who doesn't typically watch this style of film (and I don't mean horror), it's merely OK... but with one hell of a climax (oh, and that rising from the coffin bit was awesome, too).
We made it! We're in the Top 10!
Now, I've only seen this movie, well... once. And I'll be honest: I didn't really care for the overall film. However, it's also one I think I need to revisit, as well. That aside, I feel this song is not only the film's highlight (it did win an Oscar), but I think it's one of the most beautiful songs ever written. And that's why it ended up in my Top 10.
The trick with this one, however, is that it takes place in 1988, so video recording in the way this series is set up is a bit trickier. For instance, they have to film with video tapes instead of digital... which brings us to plot hole number one. Dennis (the male lead in this one) even states that he can only record no more than 6 hours at a time before having to change the tape. That means to see some of the stuff we see, he's having to constantly switch the tapes every 6 hours. Now, I'm no mathematician, but if the couple goes to bed around 10 (and the girls prior to that), that means the recording would stop about 4 AM at the latest--and that's assuming he changes the tape(s) at 10. But lo and behold, there are at least 2-3 events that occur after 4 AM. I know this is nit-picky, but it bugged me. And not just the 4 AM thing, but the logistics of changing the tapes every 6 hours for nearly 2 and a half weeks.
Besides the tape switching, they actually do use the cameras to good effect. There's one rigging in particular (the kitchen/dining room rigging) that I thought was ingenious and used quite well in the film. It took the scares from "what's in the closet?" to "what's around the corner?" That does build tension very well.
Unfortunately, the movie is mostly all tension and no pay-off. You're waiting and waiting for things to happen. Sometimes they do. Oftentimes they don't. You know in the first two films when you reach those middle nights? The ones where things become noticeable, but not to the point it's gotten physical (moving people and whatnot). That's where the majority of the film stays. And any jump scares can be seen a mile away, particularly those at the beginning. There are some really good moments, though. In particular, the Bloody Mary scene is great, as is most of the next 5-10 minutes after that. And the "sheet" scene is good, too. The ending, however, is a bit lame. It lost a lot of the tension and build-up and replaces it with "Um... what's going on?" Then it just dissolves into practically the same exact ending as the other two films.
One major difference that I think people might appreciate is that our male lead is actually quite likeable... and he stays that way for the entire film. A lot of people couldn't stand Micah (or Katie, really) in the first film. There were a few similar complains for the second. But I found Dennis (and his friend/co-worker Randy) to be really good and fun.
You're also left with more questions than answers. The whole time I'm waiting to see the house fire that the first two films talk about so much, but it never happens. Then there's something that the demon wants Kristi to do, but you never find out what (I might have a thought, but it's nothing more than that). I won't even get into the whole climax and what was going on there. All I know is that I didn't leave the theater scared, nor did it have any moment that really scared the hell out of me like, say, the second one did. And everybody around me left saying how unscary the movie was. Not a particularly good sign. Overall, it wasn't bad. It had some really interesting ideas and moments. But on the whole, it was just the exact same formula and didn't give us a whole lot new.
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4) Scott - 97 Points
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You can listen to this episode on the player below or by subscribing through iTunes.
That being said, enjoy! Thanks goes out to Kevin MacLeod's Incompetech website for great, royalty-free music. And thanks to Google for helping me find a website that will give me free video game audio samples.
Also for those unaware, this was actually directed by none other than Peter Jackson (I did know that one). So the film does have some chops behind it. Strangely, however, I felt the visual style was reminiscent of Sam Raimi (or possibly early Tim Burton at times). It had a very Raimi feel to it, though, with the gore and gross-out factor.
And holy crap is this movie heavy on the gross and gore. Granted, it's done in a cheesy, insanely over-the-top way... but that doesn't stop it from being the goriest movie ever made (a title which I still believe it holds). I knew it had a lot of blood and gross things, but I honestly didn't expect what I got. It's really not for those with a weak stomach, as even I thought I was going to get queasy once or twice.
There are also some fantastic moments in this film. The climax in and of itself is masterful, and you can tell how it's a classic bit. But even some lines throughout are hilarious in their absurdity. My favorites in particular are "I kick ass for the Lord!" and "Your mother ate my dog!" It's not all blood and guts, though. There's a sweet romance at the core of the film, and you really want Lionel and Piquita to end up together.
Overall, if you like horror/comedies or you're a gore-hound... you've most likely already seen this. But in the off chance you haven't, definitely check it out. It's fantastically cheesy, gross, disgusting, and awesome all at the same time. I know I didn't say anything too deep about this film, but there's not all that much you can say. It's one of those films you'll either really dig or really won't... and for very simple reasons. But me? I dug it... quite a bit.
Sometimes some of the greatest lines in film are improvised. The Drill Sergeant's speech in Full Metal Jacket. "Here's Johnny." "I'm walkin' here!" "You talkin' to me?" "You're gonna need a bigger boat." But none of these can match the sheer brilliance of the line that made this movie famous, the line improvised by John Barrowman after a hard day's work. Standing, relaxing, and talking to the female lead, he decided to utter these fateful words: "I'm a little wired... what do you say I take you home and eat your pussy?"
And thus we have Shark Attack 3. I'm relatively certain this is the only Straight-to-DVD film on this entire list, but it deserved to be here. It's in what I consider to be the Unholy Trinity: The Room, Troll 2, and Shark Attack 3. We're introduced to Ben (John Barrowman), who I'm pretty sure is some kind of coast guard in Mexico. He finds a giant shark tooth and posts it online as he can't identify it (and he takes the picture by holding it in his hand with his desk in the background, as it shows up on his screen with a white background and as if he weren't holding it). He's contacted by Cataline (Jenny McShane), a young marine researcher who says the tooth belongs to the Megalodon, a rare and ancient shark. But now they must start protecting people after a corporation draws the shark near with an underwater telecommunications wire.
There's absolutely no doubt that everything about this movie is horrible. It's a total mix of writing, acting, and directing. With such profound lines as "sharks are always biting things" or how characters react to situations (for instance, Cataline is standing in a dark room, and she screams when she appears out of nowhere when the night guard turns his flashlight in her direction). Don't even get me started on the scene where Ben grabs a miniature wooden bat and starts beating the shark on its side screaming "Die! Die! Die!" Anyway, the delivery of lines is off throughout, there's random nudity, and it's just... yeah, it's not good.
The editing is painful, as well. Every time the shark bites, you have these cheesy biting effects over the screen/camera. The attacks are choppily put together. And the film sometimes uses totally random stock footage that's not even the same visual/camera style. I also doesn't help that the shark looks smaller in the water, but ends up much larger when it attacks. Then there's the CGI in the third act... wow.
And the film has quite a few moments, particularly at the end that really, well... (yeah)... jump the shark. Really, the entire third act when you realize something rather... big. The movie just turns WTF awful from there. But in spite of this, it's all freakin' hilarious. Basically, from the aforementioned line (at the beginning of this review) onward, the movie takes a sharp turn and gets so bat-shit crazy you can't help but enjoy the ride.
That's the fun of Shark Attack 3. Like the other two films in the Unholy Trinity, it's painfully awful, but it's simultaneously buckets of fun. The first hour is unfortunately a bit slow (albeit still entertaining), but the last 30 minutes more than makes up for the rest of the film. If you're a fan of so-bad-they're good, and you haven't checked this one out, do so as soon as possible. You won't be sorry.
Well... it was inevitable, right? Little Shop of Horrors was going to show up on this list. (And no, this isn't the only song that will appear.) What's probably most shocking is that this is only #11. What could possibly be in my Top 10? Anyway, we all know my unending adoration for this film and everything that goes with it. This song in particular is super catchy and lets you get to know not only the lead male and female, but also the setting (which in and of itself is pretty much a character). And I just love how uber-dramatic this song gets, even with its more upbeat music. It's "Skid Row" from Little Shop of Horrors!
Besides the hype, I think the one disadvantage going into the film was that I'd seen dozens of ghost films... and all the tropes are the same. It might have been more original in 1980, but I literally knew every little thing that was going to happen (scare wise). Because of this, the film really wasn't scary whatsoever. It was just too predictable. There was one big that freaked me out, though. Despite seeing it coming a mile away (no pun intended), the moment following getting rid of his daughter's bouncy ball made me jump and gave me chills. I think it was more for the sound play than the event, though.
Speaking of, they probably could have played more with the fact he lost his wife and daughter. Besides the aforementioned scene, the only purpose it plays is a catalyst for his move and is never truly utilized within the plot. The story almost entirely focused on the current mystery.
All of that aside, it reminded me of a mixture of The Orphanage and Stir of Echoes (but grander in scale in conspiracy). It also felt strangely of J-Horror. I can see a lot of influences--or at the very least similarities--in modern Asian ghost stories from this film. The story itself was more intricate with the ghost itself wanting vengeance for what happened. Not to mention the ending was totally bizarre and rather metaphysical.
Another more unique turn of events for this film is how it paces itself. By the end of the first hour, you learn the Who, What, When, Where, and How. After another 10 minutes, you learn the Why (and another Who). I wondered what could possibly be left to do. But the last 35 minutes take an interesting direction and show us how the characters deal with the information they've learned. Whereas in most ghost stories, once you learn the mystery, it's fixed in minutes and that's about it. Here, you learn the mystery and still have a whole other third of the film left for them to try and find a solution.
Overall, the movie was slow paced at times (particularly in the first 30-40 minutes). The first hour (the true ghost story aspect) was quite predictable, but only predictable because I've seen all the films that have followed since. With the exception of maybe one moment, it wasn't very scary--it was more creepy and atmospheric. But it was still quite a solidly made film, especially for its time, and I especially recommend it if you're one who loves ghost stories and/or gets scared a little more easily than I do. It does have some unique takes on the genre, even by today's standards--the Title issue being the most unique. I recommend it.
If you've been following along with this project, you know I've had an interesting track record with Stanley Kubrick, who seems to have had more movies on this list than any other director not named Hitchcock. Project-wise, the only one I've really liked is A Clockwork Orange. All the others have been between "eh" to "Oh God, Dear God, Kill Me Now." So which end of the spectrum did this one fall under?
Based on the Stephen King novel, The Shining tells us the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a writer who takes up the job as caretaker of a hotel during its off season. Along with him is his meek wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd). Danny learns from the cook, Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), that he has what he called the shining, a psychic ability. And this ability gives him deadly visions of both the hotel's past and its future. Meanwhile, Jack starts going crazy, as the evils of the hotel begin taking over his sanity.
Visually, the movie reminded me very much of A Clockwork Orange. There were numerous colors at work, making it a very visually pleasing film. But juxtaposed against that were purposeful uncomfortable camera angles, tight corridors, and long takes. It was such a fascinating camera style that I didn't often want to take my eyes off the screen, just due to the fact I wanted to know what Kubrick was going to do next with the camera and the colors. The soundtrack worked well hand-in-hand with the visuals to add to the creepy and uncomfortable style.
Of the four primary roles, 2 of them were excellent, and 2 were somewhat questionable. Nicholson was having a ball with the role, and this is probably one of my favorite performances of his. My favorite in the movie, though, had to be Scatman Crothers. First of all, that's one of the coolest names ever. Second, his character was fun and interesting to watch, and I loved when he was on screen. Then there's the boy, who I can't make up my mind if he was good or bad. I look at scenes halfway in where he goes back and forth between himself and Tony and see excellence. But then I look at his reactions to freaky stuff and have to try not to laugh. The faces he makes are ridiculous and unintentionally funny. Finally, we have Shelley Duvall, and I'm left wondering about the character and her casting. For the way the character was written in the film, Duvall was a great choice... despite seeming out of place either way. I just had trouble going along with her character and her in the movie in general, but I'm not sure if that was more her fault of the script.
So speaking of writing, let's start with the wife. From what I've read up on with the differences between the novel and the film (as I haven't read the novel, but heard it's much different), all the things I questioned or had issue with in the movie turned out to be some kind of major change from the book version. Wendy, for instance, is a much stronger female character in the book, but her film version is just meek and never really pulls past that. She becomes protective and fighting for survival at the end, but always stays in a scared defensive rather than moving into a tough offensive. I think the fate of Scatman Crothers' (I do love that name) reminded me a bit too much of a similar character in Misery. I honestly had no major problem with all the weirdness and ambiguity, but there was one thing that bugged me--and again, I've heard it's done better in the novel. Jack's transition to crazy just kind of... happens in the movie. It's not gradual. It's just one minute he's sane and the next he's kinda dropped off the deep end. Don't get me wrong... his evolution of insanity is gradual. He moves from a 1 to a 10 on the crazy scale. But if you were to take that same scale and put sane as 1 and minimally insane as 10, he jumps from like a 4 to a 10 with no middle ground.
I didn't pick up on this while watching, but I read something after-the-fact stating something along the lines of how Jack is talking about violence being OK because it was on TV, early on in the movie... but at the end, after he gets hit in the head, he speaks in almost nothing by TV quotes. I thought that was rather clever and made me like it even more.
There's a lot to love in this movie... so I do. Despite all the negative I've stated, none of it really bothered me too much. I greatly enjoyed the film and do feel that, as of right now, it's edged past A Clockwork Orange into my favorite spot from the man. I don't think it's an absolutely perfect movie, but it's an incredibly well made one and a thoroughly entertaining and creepy one. I think the visual style mixed with the soundtrack is what hooked me the most (similar with Orange). So don't worry all of you who worried about what I'd think of this one. I think it's safe to say I quite enjoyed it.
Some people love this movie. Some people hate it. Me? I love it. And while this particular song might not be my favorite in the movie (that'll be later on the list), I still love it, mostly because it is what it's titled--a medley. A bunch of love songs strung together into the ultimate love song... all coming to this epic crescendo with "I Will Always Love You."
This is probably one of our favorite episodes as we're joined by Dan Heaton of Public Transportation Snob to discuss TV-To-Film Adaptations. First we take on a good translation with Serenity... but, of course, we have to tackle a bad one, as well. And boy do we really go all out... on The Last Airbender. It's a conversation that goes on for quite a while, but we have a ton to say (it's a great show ruined by a terrible film!). And, yes... don't worry for all of you keeping tabs out there. We do talk about penis again.
But then we move on in to The Tower, and Dan plays what will be one heck of a memorable game. But will it be for positive or negative reasons? Does he slip up at the end? Or does he even make it that far? Listen to find out!
Current Tower Leaderboard
1) Steve - 133 Points
2) Tom - 105 Points
3) Scott - 97 Points
Current/Previous Battle Royale Champions
(BR2) Dylan Fields - 114 Points
(BR1) Rachel Thuro - 171 Points
You can listen to this episode on the player below or by subscribing through iTunes.
That being said, enjoy! Thanks goes out to Kevin MacLeod's Incompetech website for great, royalty-free music. And thanks to Google for helping me find a website that will give me free video game audio samples.
Starring: Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Dianne Wiest, and Edward Herrmann.
My Reaction: This movie was just plain fun. It's not the most fantastic film ever, but it's really enjoyable. There's so much WTF and coolness to it. I mean, the shirtless, hardcore saxaphone player? How can you watch that and not laugh at it's strange, hilarious awesomeness (especially the fact that Corey Haim is more interested in watching him than hot females). It's totally not a perfect film, and it has its flaws. For instance, I don't think they could have said "Michael" or any variation thereof any more. Click here if you don't believe me. It's a cheesy 80s "horror" film. It's not great, but it's fun. And click here for the best scene in the whole movie.
(P.S. You'll notice this was out of the original order. Dead Alive was to go here, but literally the day I was going to watch it was the day it left Instant Streaming, so I had to switch these two to give myself a little extra time.)
We are introduced to a young boy by the name of Joshua (Michael Stephenson) as his grandfather, Seth (Robert Ormsby), tells him a bedtime legend of the ever-frightening goblins. We soon learn that, in actuality, Seth has been dead for months, and young Joshua has been fighting with a deep psychological trauma, envisioning his once caregiver by his side, much like a guardian angel (more on that later). We are also soon introduced to Joshua's parents, Michael (George Hardy) and Diana (Margo Prey), as well as his older sister Holly (Connie Young). We learn that this hardworking, blue-collar, strong American family is about to take a much-earned vacation to the tried and true heart of America--the farming countryside--to get back to the basics and become one with themselves and with true human nature. Also tagging along is Holly's boyfriend, Elliott (Jason Wright), as well as Elliott's best friends: Arnold (Darren Ewing), Drew (Jason Steadman), and Brent (David McConnell). They make their way to the quaint town of Nilbog to do a house-switch with another family... only they soon discover that not everything is quite as it seems.
This is a movie with many heavy themes and allusions. Of note, there are three primary: Religion and the battle of Good vs. Evil (particularly those of demons and witchcraft); allusions to Greek myth and tragedy (and the implied struggle of homosexuality as it pertains to it); and the nature of duality and role reversal (of which there are many a symbolism).
To start, we have the theme of Religion and the battle of Good vs. Evil. As I stated before, there is a strong idea of demons and witchcraft--the devil's power. First and foremost, let us begin with the most obvious: the characters' names. Our main character is Joshua, clearly named after the Hebrew figure who led the Israelite tribes after the death of Moses. In this case, Joshua must lead and protect his family after the death of his Grandpa Seth. And like people of the exodus from Egypt, they complain when their leaders--in this case Seth and Joshua--don't allow proper foods, with Joshua continually stopping them from eating, forcing them to fast. Not only is Seth a Moses figure, but the name Seth also has biblical ties of its own. He was the son of Adam and Eve, perchance given to the couple to replace Abel after his slaying from Cain. In most religions, Seth is seen as the proper genealogical tie to mankind as it is today. And as Seth in the film is the grandfather figure, it is quite fitting that he is seen as the originator of this family. It's also fitting that the paternal figure of the family is named Michael, as that is also the name of God's primary Archangel, the one who will help lead to a world of goodness at the end of days.
Besides the names, we do, late in the film, learn that Seth is not a figment of young Joshua's imagination, or even of the trauma that he's faced, but an actual angel of sorts. He's been sent down to, essentially, help his family face off against the goblins--or demons--that are tormenting them. It is especially clear near the climax that there is an even longer and more mysterious battle going on between the two factions based on the actions and reactions of Seth and the goblins. It is a film where the family (and family friends) are faced with a crisis in faith, wherein they must--in multiple instances--beg The Lord, their God, to help them. At one point, Diana (the mother) exclaims "Oh God, help us," while Elliott's friend Arnold cries out "Oh my God!" knowing there is but one Being that could help save his doomed soul. Of course, the crisis of faith comes to a head at the climax, where the family must use their power of goodness and love to destroy the evil beings at the very portal to Hell.
Along with the demons, the family must fight a demonic figure--a witch who controls the goblins. And as we're taught through religion, witchcraft comes from the powers of Lucifer himself. Now there was an interesting line that caught my ear. During a town meeting, one character proclaims the name "Harry Potter." As I'm aware, Harry Potter was the name of the main character in the first Troll movie. However, being that this film is famous for having absolutely no connection to its predecessor, I can only conclude that it was a precognitive discussion of the Boy Wizard himself (or, if we're to assume the events of the Potter books are factual and/or in line with the timeline of this film, it works even better. Potter was actually born in 1980, while his parents were murdered in 1981, and his first year of Hogwarts took place in 1991, merely one year after the setting of this film. How fitting a discussion from dark creatures about the soon-to-be re-emergence of The Boy Who Lived? Not to mention the fact he had to face off against what his first year? Yeah, that's right... a troll (I know these are goblins, but the point remains). However, I believe I'm getting off topic now).
Let's move on to the allusions of Greek myth and tragedy. Besides the religious connections, there are many ties to other stories of yore. I'll hardly bother even getting into the mother's name, Diana (the Roman variation of Artemis), being the goddess of women, virginity, and the hunt. Besides that, it's very obvious that young Joshua has an Oedipal nature. He might not have an incestuous yearning for his mother, but there is a connection. He constantly battles against his own father over the right to be with the father of his mother, Seth. And if you know anything about ancient Greek culture, it was commonplace for the wise older man to have a homoerotic relationship with a young boy, typically one he took in as a pupil--similar to the bond between Seth and Joshua. Now, I'm not advocating that there was anything sexual going on between the two relatives, but merely that there was a strong Freudian-type bond between the two. But while we are discussing homosexuality in this film, I would like to bring up the group of friends--Elliott, Arnold, Drew, and Brent. There is a very strong undertone that these young men are sexually active with one another, particularly a scene where two of them wake up in a bed together, with one's arm around the other. And it's quite deep of the film to explore Elliott's struggle with his homosexuality and how it destroys his life and potential romance with Holly (Note: just look at the pain on his face in the picture to the side at being so close to his girlfriend).
Also of note are the tales of The Odyssey and Pygmalion. At the center of this story is a witch and her followers who trap a group of travelers in her home and force them to eat delicious food which transforms them. It takes an outside force (Seth--also taking the role of messenger god Hermes) to warn Joshua and allow him to save his family. This is, quite simply, the tale of Circe. As for Pygmalion, this is actually a role reversal in the form of Arnold. Whereas Ovid's original tale of Pygmalion is about a man who falls in love with a sculpture that turns to life, Arnold is a living person who is turned into a plant, causing the witch to become enamored with him.
While on the subject, let us look at the themes of duality and role reversals in this film. This isn't as deep of a discussion, but merely a few observations. At the forefront is the town itself. Nilbog, as we discover in the film, is merely goblin spelled backwards. There is the switching of families and lifestyles, which is what brings our "heroes" to Nilbog to begin with. (And along with this switch is a sub-theme of Modern Societal Views vs. Old-Time Mentality, such as eating vegetables over meats, having clean air over smog, and the importance of being peasants and farmers and getting your hands dirty. But that's for another article.) There are numerous instances where mirrors come into play, as well. Joshua discovers the Nilbog switch through a mirror. Grandpa Seth has conversations through mirrors. The witch and other goblins travel through mirrors near the end of the film. All of this clearly symbolizes the importance of role reversals and duality--the duality in oneself and in others, the good and evil both in yourself and others. It's a yin and yang theory.
In essence, Troll 2 is a very deep and meaningful film. A lot of intellect and thought went into not only its writing, but also its production. It has entered the pantheon of "must see" cinema for a reason, and it's safe to say that that reason has been greatly justified. While it might not always be totally solid in its ideas and presentation, and could be slightly stronger in its execution, Troll 2 is utterly enjoyable and emphatically detailed, though--as with its theme of duality--equally nuanced. If you have not seen it, I must recommend it. It is an experience you will not soon forget.
(P.S. This "review" is dedicated to those who have complained that I need to take a more critical view of these films, particularly due to the fact most are beyond pure review--and I found such is definitely the case with this one. So here you are.)