Since the release and warm reception of both V/H/S and The ABCs of Death in 2012, there have been a proliferation* of anthology-style horror films, more than a few of them sequels to the aforementioned titles. Despite an almost overabundance in those 5 short years, there’s been no real lack of creativity when it comes to theme for these films: the V/H/S series focused on our favorite nostalgic medium, ABCs were alphabetical bursts of horror, and from there Tales of Halloween took place on the spookiest of nights, Southbound dealt with a hellish highway, and Holidays bloodied up some of the most recognizable calendar dates. Continue reading “XX” (2017) REVIEW
This review is entirely spoiler-free.
The month-old trailer for The Invitation is one of a rare breed. Cryptic, creepy, and alluring, it’s an anomaly among today’s trailers which seem to want to show as much as they possibly can in their 90 second runtimes. Even though nothing is revealed – except for the movie taking place during a dinner party – it’s very clear that something isn’t right at this dinner party. But trailers can oftentimes be deceiving. Is the movie able to deliver on the ominous, mysterious tone in the preview? Continue reading “The Invitation” (2016) REVIEW
On his way home from work, Christian bumps into an old friend, Wyatt, who he hasn’t seen in awhile. They do the small talk bit: Christian’s life is going well and he doesn’t hesitate to make it known; Wyatt’s life, not so much, so he does the whole “Oh, me? Oh, yeah, everything’s great. I’m GREAT. Why am I holding these two suitcases? Oh, well…” thing. Before you can say this never happens in real life, Wyatt is up in Christian’s apartment making himself cozy, but, y’know, not too cozy – he continually insists “Hey man, I’ll just grab my stuff and go…” (more)
There’s no denying it: horror anthologies are hot right now. The format has always been a popular go-to for the horror genre, but by the late-’90s it sort of fizzled out. Enter Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘R Treat in 2007 – a Halloween anthology, naturally – and boom, the sub-genre was revitalized. Since then there’s been Chillerama (utilizing horror’s goofiest gorehound directors), the V/H/S and The ABCs of Death franchises, and even a few T.V. shows like Darknet and Black Mirror. More recently there’s been Tales of Halloween, and soon the upcoming Holidays. There’s also been a slew of lesser watched stuff that I didn’t mention, but trust me when I say: anthology-style horror is hot. (more)
As 2015 comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to look back and share what I thought were the standout films of the year. The criteria for making the list was simple — I had to give it 3.5 stars or more on my Letterboxd account. Oh by the way: I have a Letterboxd account where I keep track of every movie I watch; there were many films I watched in 2015 that didn’t make the list, and you can find them (and all the others) over on my Letterboxd account. Did I mention I have a Letterboxd account yet? Continue reading My Obligatory “Best of 2015” List!
I’m just gonna say it: I didn’t love Turbo Kid.
I know I risk the wrath of many with that bold proclamation, but what can I do? I liked it. It was fine. Some of it was really fun. But overall I was left with a very indifferent, blasé feeling. It’s a feeling I’ve experienced with many of these ‘modern homages’, but more on that later.
For those unaware, Turbo Kid is based on a fan-made 5 minute short that was submitted to be included in the original ABC’s of Death anthology, entitled T is for Turbo. It didn’t end up winning the coveted position (that went to the equally awesome claymation T is for Toilet), but its online presence did garner enough buzz for the makers of Turbo to consider perhaps adapted it into a full length feature.
Enter Jason Eisener, director of Hobo with a Shotgun. Eisener was himself in a similar situation in 2007: he entered a short 2 minute trailer into Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse trailer competition. The trailer won the competition, became a huge hit on Youtube, and eventually Eisener was given $3M to flesh out a full length idea. The resultant film (also titled Hobo with a Shotgun), was a brilliant homage to late-70s and mid-80s exploitation sleaze. And when I say homage, I mean it in the purest sense: the film felt like it was from that era; it didn’t just blatantly lift imagery and ideas from those movies and repurpose them.
So it only makes sense that Eisener is a producer (plus a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo) of Turbo Kid. In a way, Tubro Kid feels like a spiritual successor to Hobo. Like, Hobo with a Shotgun 2099, or Teenager with a Powerglove.
But there are problems with Turbo Kid, problems Hobo didn’t suffer from. And these problems are what most of these modern homages are suffering from.
First: a consideration has to be made. Can we turn a 5 minute idea into a 90 minute movie? Better yet, do we need to? The original short is incredible. I know when I saw it, and then heard they were making a full length movie, I was giddy. Imagine the awesomeness of that 5 minutes, only 90 minutes worth. How cool would that be! But that’s not how it works; rarely does it work like that. (Hobo was pretty much a fluke, an anomaly. It shouldn’t have worked.) You can’t have an hour and a half of go!go!go! Full length films have character arcs to develop, peaks and valleys. And sometimes what works in a short format won’t work any other way. This is the exact reason Kung Fury worked so well for me. They debuted a 2 minute trailer, raised some money, and released a 30 minute short film. It’s packed to the brim with insanity. It says all it needs to say, doesn’t drag its feet, and leaves before it becomes tiresome.
Then there’s the ‘star power’ aspect. Eisener was lucky with Hobo: he had Rutger F-in’ Hauer as his lead. We’re talkin’ the most revered badass dude from iconic 80s cinema (Blade Runner, The Hitcher, and sure what the hell, Blind Fury.) I would watch Rutger Hauer read his email for 2 minutes or 2 hours. Turbo Kid is lucky to have genre legend Michael Ironside as its villain, but he’s not the star. And while the two young leads are just fine, I’m not compelled the way I would be if I were watching some titanic 80s character actor lead the movie.
Next: making a movie inspired by bad cinema doesn’t give you a pass to make a bad film. I get that you’re taking straight-to-video trash, taking the best parts of it, and Frankensteining it into a new movie. But that doesn’t mean anything if the end product is just as shoulder-shrugging as its source material. The z-grade action movies of the 80s were desperate beasts. Your homage should elevate the source material. If they couldn’t do it right the first time around, here’s your chance.
And lastly: misappropriating pop culture. Look, I’m over it. No one should look at a hilariously ironic button or t-shirt and think “this same concept would work as a 90 minute movie!” This is why the Internet exists. Because we can ingest it in small doses, move on to something else for a palate cleanse, and then come back if we want more. Incremental bursts of nostalgia, 30-second clicks to remind us of the past. The endless sea of blogs with 500 word blurbs on childhood memories get the job done. I don’t want to sit down to watch a movie and just have it be 90 minutes of “hey, look, we remember the 80s and 90s, too!” The Nintendo mania, the Power Glove idolization, the View-Master, the dayglow clothing, the comic book obsession. It’s taking the place of the actual story. It’s fashion over function. Look, I get it. I have an Ecto-Cooler scented candle sitting on my living room table right now. But I don’t sit there and worship it. I light the sumbitch every now and then, make the apartment smell like a tangerine, and then blow it out.
Maybe I’m just put off because I don’t know who Turbo Kid is meant for. It’s a movie where 30-year-old actors play 14-year-old kids who dress in thrift store chic and obsess over outdated technology in a modern wasteland. Maybe it makes me feel icky because it hits a little too close to home. Look, watch Turbo Kid. But also watch the low-budget — but original — movies that inspired it, like BMX Bandits, Motorama, and Dead-End Drive In. It’s only fair.
Eisener’s tribute to underground bygone cinema was the first. And slowly but surely, other imitators began trickling in. And while it’s not a full blown flood at this point, I’d say our shoes are still ruined.