Sunday, May 13, 2012

B-Movie Monsters (2012)

Once upon a time, there was a man named Max. He loved horror films. Day after day, week after week, he watched film after film. Until one day, he finally watched the wrong film.

Does this thing have Photoshop? Wait hold on, here we go:

Hello, all! I'm your guest reviewer for this evening. Well, I say "this evening," what I mean is "for the rest of poor Max's life." Which probably won't be long. I mean, I'm already decaying. I've been in his little body since he picked up that box of goodies and flipped through them.

In any case, I'm here to review. Not a movie, no sir, but a life. Specifically, Max's life. Which, I cannot stress enough, will soon be over. I mean, what kind of fellow reviews horror films on the internet? For free?

No, Max has no life, as far as I can see. He's a young man, like so many protagonists of those sweet little Horma films. You know, even I don't know where and when those things were made. Of course, I don't really care either.

Max has two parents and a sister. Now, you may be thinking "Don't kill his family, Mister Dying Man!" And I would reply, "What do you think I am, some sort of monster?" And then you might reply to my reply, "Well, yes." And I might reply to your reply of my reply, "Oh, okay," and kill you.

What was I saying? Oh right: Max's family. I've decided to leave them alone for now. Don't want anything to spoil the feeling of this moment. The moment when you finally break free of the mind and can exert your control. It smells like victory.

I'm doing him a favor, really. His room is filled with books and posters and oh my god so many movies. This isn't a life, it's an imitation of a life. What's his schedule like? Wake up, go to work, come home, watch movies, go on the internet, go to bed, start over again. The same thing, day after day. So boring.

Well, I'm not going to let life pass me by. I'm taking life by the horns and then slit life's throat and then cut off life's head and leave it in some poor soul's bed and this metaphor has really got off track hasn't it? Whatever.

Poor Max was always put off by the endings to those Horma films. "No resolution," he said. Well, my good friend, life has no resolution. It just keeps going and going until everyone dies.

I guess that's my cue. You see, poor Max won't live to see tomorrow. He's already fading. But since I learned that little trick of transferring myself into video, well, I can sort of transfer myself into other things.

Like a website. Or a blog.

I'll be spreading myself a bit thin, I know. But how often does one have the chance to infect everyone who reads something? A little bit of me in you.

See you soon.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Art of Dying (19??)

Okay, I thought I had seen weird. Really, I had seen enough Horma films to not be surprised anymore. Or so I thought...

Hey, kids! Do you want to see an instructional video made by a madman? You don't? Well, too bad! This is The Art of Dying.

Unlike the others, this is made in a mockumentary format. I think they were trying to imitate films like Cannibal Holocaust, which I guess makes this Horma's version of an exploitation film. It's...very, very weird.

Okay, first the main character. Unlike the other Horma films I've seen, the main protagonist is explicitly a bad guy. A very, very bad guy. His calls himself Grey, but others in the movie have called him "Judas," "Hart," "Tinker," "Chameleon," "the liar," and "evil motherfucker."

He's basically a serial killer. Only he has super serial killer powers, like the power to jump bodies. That's right: he jumps into other people's bodies. The only problem here is that it looks like he's sort of perpetually sick and whenever he switches bodies, his new body also becomes sick. Each body becomes sickly and pale as time goes on. But he never switches off the camera as he gruesomely murders whole families.

That's sort of the whole movie: him killing people, switching bodies, and killing more people.

And then, at the very end, he finally, finally gets his comeuppance. One of the relatives of his victims traps him in an isolated farmhouse, mortally wounds him, and then kills himself so he doesn't have a body to jump to (I know, very Fallen-esque, right?). In any case, just as we're expecting him to die, Grey picks up the camera and says, "One more trick up my sleeve. Let's hope my deal with Woody goes as planned. See you soon."

And then he dies. The end.

This one just sort of disgusted me. With the other films, they at least had some form of point, some artistic merit. This one just felt like torture porn to me. Even though it wasn't very explicit, it didn't feel like any of it meant anything. Grey killed people and...then died. Even his last words didn't make any sense.

Fuck, I'm tired. I don't know why I'm so tired these days. I took out the DVD from the player and my arms just felt so heavy. I'm going to bed. I don't know if I'm going to do another Horma marathon. This movie kind of killed any enthusiasm I had for them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Murder of Crows (19??)

Okay, first The Seventh Seal, then Cujo. And now? Now it's The Birds. I don't even think they are trying to hide it.

This is A Murder of Crows. Nope, not the 1998 film starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Tom Berenger. No, that would be too horrific. This one starts I don't know and was released I don't know when. (Damn you, Horma and your lack of credits.)

In any case, the main characters here are the siblings Andrew and Anya. They start seeing strange birds around their school and weird things start happening. Yes, I know "weird things start happening" is practically the Horma motto. What kinds of weird things? Men and women with scars start showing up at the school, some of them as janitors, some as substitute teachers. All of them have prominent scars over their body.

Then there is a lightning storm during the day. No rain, just lightning. All the scarred teachers unexpectedly stop during the lightning storm and gaze out into it. It's sort of similar to Invasion of the Body Snatchers - except we haven't seen these people before.

Andrew and Anya are super creeped out, so they follow some of the scarred teachers back to a meeting...where they cut open their scars and release birds from inside their bodies. I don't know how Horma did it, but those special effects looked damn good. Really realistic.

Andrew and Anya freak out and end up getting chased by a huge flock of birds back to their home. They hurry inside, while the birds silently wait outside. Andrew and Anya argue over what to do now, over what they can do, when one of the scarred teachers knocks on the door. He offers to let them live - he offers to make them like them, a "nest of the bright ones."

And Andrew accepts. Completely. Anya, however, decides to run for it and the movie ends with Andrew surrounded by birds and Anya on the run.

On the whole, I'd say this was better than some Horma films, but not as good as others. It had a good plot and good characters, but the resolution seemed rushed. And like they really wanted to make a sequel. I wonder if they did?

Time for the next and last one for tonight.

Howl (19??)

Okay, you know how the last movie was kind of like The Seventh Seal? This one is kind of like Cujo.

As you can see, the poster on the cover of the VHS tape looks much more modern than the others. Nonetheless, the actual film looks like it was shot in the seventies. Let's go:

Our main character is, as usual, a young man named Carraway. Carraway is a college student, living a normal life. But, as we soon learn, he has a secret. What is his secret? I don't know. It's never revealed. Which I think is kind of neat, actually - a secret that's actually a secret from the audience as well.

I mean, we got some flashbacks to his childhood and to his abusive mother, but it doesn't really give much away. When killings on campus start, I was thinking that perhaps Carraway was the killer, considering how much hinting the movie had done, but no. Just a red herring.

In typical Horma fashion, the killer is actually a dog. A huge, black dog. That, for some reason, kills those with secrets. So Carraway is next on the agenda.

Carraway, instead of getting the heck out of dodge, instead decides to research into this hound from hell, so he goes to the library. At the library, he encounters a young woman called only "Learner." And Learner, apparently, works for the dog (how that works, I don't know), pointing and choosing those that the dog goes after.

Carraway, of course, tries to convince her to call the dog off, but she can't. The dog already has his scent and it will kill him...unless he reveals his big secret. So he tells her - we can't hear what it is, we just see him talking, as drums beat on the soundtrack. Finally, she thanks him and writes the secret in her book. Then Carraway leaves and runs smack into the dog. And, true to Learner's word, it doesn't kill him. It just looks at him. And then it turns away and Carraway follows it.

Another ambiguous ending (I get the feeling that Horma loves those), but this one I liked more. There was more of a build up, it didn't feel abrupt. And it left us with lots of questions - did Carraway become like Learner, pointing out potential victims to the dog?

In any case, time to move onto the next film.

The Year of the Plague (19??)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Horma's first historical horror film.

Very avant-garde.

Okay, so The Year of the Plague (still no credits and no date of release) is about a young physician in the city of London during the year of 1666. Yes, it's the Great Plague of London and our young doctor, Doctor Beakman, is in the middle of it all, trying to help as many patients as he can.

Unfortunately, for our young doc, all of his patients keep dying on him. Probably because they are infected with the Black Death. He becomes troubled, knowing that he can do nothing to help these people, and goes into something of an existential crisis.

And then Horma brings out it's normal weirdness: the Doc starts hearing a rumor that the plague was caused, not by rats or fleas, but by a man walking the streets of London. A man dressed as a plague doctor, robe and beak mask and everything. The rumor goes that this man chooses who is infected and who is not and the people living on the streets gain his favor by carving a straight line and a squiggly line into their bodies.

Our heroic doctor then goes out to discover this spreading of disease, first to disprove it and then when he actually sees this other plague doctor, to stop him.

And then the weird gets weirder. Beakman follows the other plague doctor back to the ruins of some castle and then we see Beakman go into the castle and then, after a few minutes where we hear nothing, he exits looking completely insane. We never see or know what happens to him.

After he escapes the castle, he runs through the streets of London, diseased people surrounding him, and finally reaches his house. When he goes inside, however, he finds the other plague doctor waiting for him.

And that's where it ends. No resolution whatsoever. I know it's supposed to be kind of a rip-off of The Seventh Seal (and believe me, it looks like it sometimes), but even that had an ending with a point. This one just...ends. No credits, just blackness.

Oh well, at least it was creepy. Moving on.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

More Marathoning

Sorry, I had to pause the marathon. I was getting so tired, I could barely keep my eyes open as I was writing that last review. I don't know why, I've marathoned horror films before - but I guess it's because these films are so different.

But that doesn't mean I'm giving up. No sirree. Tomorrow, a brand new marathon: four Horma films, chosen at random from the box.

Get ready.

It's about to go down.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Night Whispers (19??)

Well, this one was good and creepy. I liked it.

Night Whispers (again, no credits, no date listed) starts with our main character, James Hunter, dying. Like a classic noir film, he then narrates how he got to this moment in time and what happened:

In the beginning, James met a young lady and proceeded to court her. This part is mainly backstory and exposition until the point in time when he finds the young lady dead, with red gashes on her arm. He refuses to believe that she killed herself and instead tries to figure out who killed her. Up until this point, it looks like it's going to be a classic revenge tale.

And then James wakes up one night and looks outside and sees some...thing. It's not a man, not a dog. It's completely white, with long knife-like claws, and it just looks at him with these completely black eyes. And he knows that this is the thing that killed his girlfriend. And it freaks him the hell out.

He soon gets over it and starts preparing to find and kill the thing. He even buys a shotgun. Yeah, this isn't a normal horror protagonist - he comes prepared.

He starts following the trail of "suicides" that the thing leaves. Finally, he meets a survivor of the thing, another young woman who tells James that the thing doesn't actually kill its victims - instead, it "whispers" to them, driving them to the brink of insanity until they kill themselves. So James's girlfriend really did kill herself.

James is still determined to find and kill this thing, so he sets a trap for it. He puts himself to sleep and then gets the young woman to call him at a specific time to wake him up. When he does wake up, there is the thing sitting at the edge of his bed, just waiting for him. It opens its mouth and starts whispering - at which point, unfortunately, the movie spazzes out and just becomes static.

When the static goes away, James is shooting the thing with the shotgun. He keeps pumping lead into it until it stops moving. James, finally free of the thing, starts walking outside, but collapses. It turns out that the whispers did affect him and he has stabbed himself and is now bleeding out.

As the movie ends, James says that he knows he is going to die, but is glad that he finally killed the thing before it caused more deaths. As James's breath slows down and his eyesight blurs, however, the thing moves past him - it's still alive. It smiles at James as he dies and then leaves.

I liked this one more than the past two. It was bleak, yes, but that was the point. And whatever that thing was, it looked so creepy.

And now onto the next. Onward!

Escape: Aqua Terror (19??)

Okay, this one has just a really silly title. I don't even know what to make of it. Still no credits or even a date of release.

Okay. Escape: Aqua Terror is...weird. Weirder than the other Horma films, I mean. On the surface, it would seem to be an alien invasion story a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In fact, the main, well, "villain" does take over people with, as the movie poster states, "a single drop of water." But it much weirder.

Alright, here goes: it starts in some sort of government facility that's listed as the "Topography Genera Center." The Topography Genera Center has been doing all sorts of sundry experiments and one of them has to do with the titular "aqua terror," which is called, bear with me, Fossil-Type EVOLUTIONARY ADVERSE TRIGGER. According to the scientists at the Center, it causes "acute obsession followed by absorption into a hive mind."

And then there's an accident and the Evolutionary Adverse Trigger is let loose on the world. Yeah. It's implied that some of the scientists are actually infected with it and let it loose intentionally, but it's never confirmed.

The movie then shows the spread of the Trigger. It basically replaces water with itself, so it eats up ponds and rivers and lakes and eventually spreads to the ocean. Which is when humanity becomes fucked. We see various scenes of people drinking water and then becoming obsessed over various things. And then we see them drowning themselves and rising up and becoming a part of the "hive mind."

Occasionally, the movie will cut back to the Topography Genera Center where the scientists are tracking the "spread of the infection." Oh, I should mention that there aren't any characters that we really follow through the movie. Well, except for the Trigger itself. That sort of...evolves. In the beginning, it's just this hive mind thing that takes people over. And then it starts doing these weird things, like causing everyone in a certain area to dance or have sex (well, I assume they had sex - since there were still censors, it only showed people start removing their clothes before it cut away). It experiments with people.

The end of the film...oh boy. Okay, at the end of the film, the entire world has been taken over by the Trigger. Even the scientists at the Topography Genera Center have been taken over -- we see them dancing with each other, all of them moving in the same motions over and over again. And then suddenly everyone stops. And they all turn to the camera. And they just...look at the camera.

This was certainly very different from all the other Horma films I've seen. Sort of a cross between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and a David Lynch film. Again, the only thing I didn't like was the end. If they had ended it with everyone dancing, that would have been fine - but the head turn to look at the camera? What was that about?

Fine. Next!

The Boy Who Was Cold (19??)

Okay, these films not only don't have any credits, they don't even have the dates when they were released. Perhaps they were never released theatrically? Too bad the internet doesn't have any information (oh internet, you have finally failed me).

Alright, the first movie on this list is what looks, at first glance, to be an Omen / Bad Seed knockoff. Let's take a look, shall we?

The Boy Who Was Cold starts off with a little kid and his brother are playing on a frozen lake. We can already guess what's going to happen from the title: the frozen lake cracks, one of the boys falls in and dies.

Cut to: fifteen years later. The boy's brother, whose name is Tav, is now an adult. He is haunted by what happened fifteen years prior, but is determined to go to college and live his life. 

From here on, it goes like a standard horror film: various creepy happenings, Tav catches glimpses of a frozen little boy, thinks it's the ghost of his brother, et cetera. Tav starts investigating and even gets his own Girl Friday in Agnes, a feisty fellow student. Various other characters are found frozen to death, blah blah, standard horror tropes.

And then something strange happens. Tav tries to discuss what happened with his mother, but his mother insists that he never had a brother. It was Tav himself who fell into the frozen lake and was almost dead when he was pulled out. His mother says that he went out on the frozen lake because he was "looking for the cold boy."

Tav suddenly remembers what actually happened: there was another kid, but it wasn't his brother. It was some...thing that looked like a child and pulled him under the ice. This is the thing that has been showing up and killing people. Tav believes that this is just a manifestation of his loneliness and once he confronts it, it will go away.

He goes to confront the "cold boy," but all we see is him opening a door and walking into a world of snow and ice. The movie ends with his walking forward and shivering. It's...very surreal.

I actually like the twist on this one. The opening scene is actually from Tav's memories, so we are treated to a true unreliable narrator. Even at the end, we don't know how much of what Tav has told the audience is true or not. The ending, however, left a lot to be desired. There's no confrontation with the "cold boy," just Tav walking through the cold and lonely streets.

Oh well. Onto the next film!

Friday, May 4, 2012


Okay, so I have a bunch of time this upcoming weekend, so I'm going to marathon the Horma movies and post my reviews after I see each one. Let's hope that they aren't duds, right?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bad News

The place where I get cheap DVDs -- a used bookstore -- is actually going out of business. Next week, they will be closed and I will have to either order DVDs through the internet or get them through, ahem, less then legal means.

This kind of sucks. I mean, not just because of the DVD thing, but because I genuinely liked that used bookstore. The owner was nice to me and I always picked up a few paperbacks as well as a DVD.

He did show me his collection of all the "Horma Studios" films and gave me a really good offer on them. I asked where he had bought them since I couldn't even find them on the internet and he sheepishly said that he had mistakenly ordered them from an infomercial. Apparently, while intoxicated one night, he had flipped through channels and become entranced by an infomercial selling the "complete Horma collection on DVD" and he had called the number and bought them. He couldn't remember what channel it was or what faded actor or actress was in the infomercial, but he admitted that he had also never watched any of the DVDs (he's not a big horror fan).

So I accepted his offer and bought them. I'm sad that the store's closing, but at least I have plenty of new material to review for this blog.

Let's hope it's actually good, shall we?