Two kids find an omnicidal alien warlord and turn him into their playmate.
Siblings Mimi and Luke (Nita-Josee Hanna and Owen Myre) discover a gem in their backyard after digging a large hole. That night, an alien (Matthew Ninaber; voice Steven Vlahos) crawls out of the hole and massacres a local group of thieves. The next day, the two children follow a trail left by the alien, who identifies himself as the “arch-duke of nightmares,” a nameless creature who has been imprisoned on Earth after trying to destroy the galaxy. He tries to murder the children, only for Mimi to order him to stop with the gem. It turns out that whoever has the gem can command him. Dubbing him “Psycho Goreman,” or PG for short, Mimi uses the gem to force him to become her friend, much to his frustration. The Planetary Alliance discovers that PG is alive and sends Pandora (Kristen MacCulloch), one of their agents, to kill him. Meanwhile, PG just wants to be free. Free to massacre at will.
I love this movie. I love everything about it. It’s basically the idea of “What if E.T. had been an actual monster but the kids still loved him?” The whole film is a combination of great monster designs, horrifying gorefest, and hilarious juxtaposition with the kids. Every time that Psycho Goreman speaks, he tries to turn it into some grand exposition about his backstory or a tale of a planet he destroyed or a torture he’s performed, but the kids keep interrupting and saying he’s boring or something like that. They don’t do it enough times for the novelty to wear off, so it stays fairly funny. This movie is constantly pushing the boundaries of crazy while still following many of the basic plot elements of the “kid befriends strange creature” films that inspired it. I particularly love that PG straight-up murders a guy for mocking him during the “fun time” montage.
I would watch a documentary just about all of the creature designs in this film. Some of them are unbelievably elaborate and creative even while still looking like a person in a costume. There was a villain who appeared to just be a sentient bucket of body parts and I wanted to know exactly how that works. I can’t imagine how much time and effort must have gone into all of these, so I really have to respect the production for going the extra mile on characters that often die within a few minutes.
I also like that a big sub-plot of the movie is the conflict between Mimi and Luke’s parents, because their mom (Alexis Hancey) is a hard-working type-A personality while their father (Adam Brooks) is a lazy slob who avoids doing anything. It gets even funnier when they become embroiled in the conflict between the Planetary Alliance and Psycho Goreman, because they each pick opposite sides. It’s so unbelievably ridiculous that it somehow works.
Overall, I’ll admit that this is a niche film. You really have to love cheesy monster movies and have a lot of nostalgia for things like E.T. or Dragonworld (10 points if you remember that one), but if you do like both of those things, this is your movie.
A teenage girl starts to find her body going through changes.
Brigette and Ginger Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle) are sisters who have long had an obsession with death. They even have a death pact which is supposed to be enacted when the two turn 16 if they haven’t left the suburbs. Despite the fact that Ginger, the older sister, is almost 16, she has yet to hit puberty. One night, while on their way to take vengeance on a bully, Ginger gets her first period. The blood attracts a creature which has been behind a number of dog killings in the area and Ginger is attacked and bitten before the creature gets run over by a car belonging to a local drug dealer named Sam (Kris Lemche).
Soon, Ginger starts to undergo a number of strange transformations. She starts to become aggressive, her wounds heal fast, grows hair in strange places, has heavy menstrual flow, and finds a tail coming out of her backside. Naturally, she’s told that it’s all part of becoming a woman. However, Brigette realizes that there is truly something wrong with her sister. She and Sam have to try and stop Ginger from really letting her wild side run free… or eat anyone.
If you’ve read this blog before, you’re aware that my favorite horror films are ones which use the medium as a way to address actual issues. This film is at the pinnacle of horror metaphor films, being a satire about how society treats women, particularly women’s health. The film can somewhat be represented by the scene in which Ginger and Brigitte explain Ginger’s symptoms, but all of them are dismissed by the school nurse as being parts of “becoming a woman.” In fact, any time that a person who doesn’t believe in the supernatural is told of Ginger’s condition, they assume it’s just part of puberty.
Ginger’s bloodlust from her lycanthropy is mirrored by her awakening sexuality. Carnivorous and carnal are constantly intertwined. As she grows more lupine at times, she also grows more confident and feminine at others. It’s made even more blatant when it’s revealed that the two ways to infect people with the disease are through biting or through sex. As her body and behavior change without her having any conscious desire for it, she becomes both more interesting and more repulsive. I swear that werewolves were created just for this metaphor.
John Fawcett, the director and co-writer, wanted to make a female-led horror movie and approached screenwriter Karen Walton about it. She essentially only agreed on the condition that this film treated women in the opposite way that the genre usually does. I think it would be hard for someone to say that the movie didn’t live up to that promise. Ginger and Brigette are both well-crafted characters who have way more personality than almost any main characters get in a horror movie, let alone female characters. They’re oddballs, but they’re believable. Their relationship is the core of the movie because they’re extremely close and it shows even when their friendship becomes progressively more strained. Focusing more on this than much of the traditional horror is one of the strong points of the movie. It depends heavily on the performances of the leads and they nail it so hard they got two sequels (well, a sequel and prequel).
Overall, this is just a fabulous movie and I really recommend it to everyone. It’s not as scary as many horror films, but it will change your perspective more.
I take a look at a work of absolute low-budget genius.
A small group is trying to film a low-budget zombie movie called One Cut of the Dead at an abandoned water filtration plant. After failing to get a shot on the 42nd take, Director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) calls for a break. The leads, Ko (Kazuaki Nagaya) and Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama), take a break and speak with the make-up artist Nao (Harumi Shuhama), who informs them that the water filtration plant was actually abandoned due to experiments by the Japanese government in trying to raise the dead. They soon discover that there is an actual zombie outbreak happening outside. Moreover, they find out that the director is the one who caused it so that he could film the perfect zombie film. The three are soon on the run from the undead and the director, while the cameraman never stops rolling. Eventually, Chinatsu ends up killing the director and an infected Ko… at which time the director yells cut.
We’re then taken back a month to see how exactly this happened. It turns out that this show was intended to be a live broadcast to promote the new Zombie Channel. The gimmick pitched to Director Higurashi was that the movie will be about a director who goes crazy while trying to film a zombie movie and summons real zombies and that it will all be done in one single take. We then see the casting of the movie and how the director is trying to deal with the insane task of shooting a live single-camera zombie movie. The actor playing Ko is a celebrity who has difficulty taking orders, another is a drunk, and another has a sensitive stomach. On the day of the actual shoot, the actors set to play the director and the make-up artist get into a car wreck, forcing the director and his wife to step into their roles. Unfortunately, everything starts to fall apart, with a drunk zombie, a knocked-out cameraman, broken props, and an actress who goes crazy and forgets that she’s acting. Ultimately, the director manages to pull off the impossible, with a little help from his aspiring director daughter, Mao (Mao).
I have to start this off with a funny story. I thought I’d seen this movie. Really, I did. I had watched it all the way through once and I had turned it off at the credits. At the time I thought it was really short, only like 40 minutes, but it had been one single take, so I was super impressed anyway. Well, as it turns out, I had literally only watched the first act of the movie. When I signed up for a free week of Shudder in order to watch this movie, I noticed that the runtime was like 90 minutes, so I kept watching through the first credits sequence and finally saw the rest of the movie play out, and it was amazing.
The prompt for this entry was a “Great Low-Budget Film.” Even having only seen the first third of this movie, I was impressed with it, because, again, it is a single take film that ends up being pretty funny even if it’s cheap. Apparently this movie was made for about $25,000 and has grossed over 1000 times its budget in addition to receiving a heavy dose of critical acclaim. While the movie does look cheap and the acting often looks ridiculous, the movie’s script, and its very nature, makes that appropriate. The fact that it’s a cheap movie within a cheap movie within a cheap movie makes almost anything that seems “off” work on one of the levels. Then, add in the multiple levels of meta humor and even the things that don’t work end up working. Bad acting? It’s improv during a live show. Weird moments? It’s someone dealing with a drunk or a crazy co-star. What’s funnier is that, even though I’ve only been in a handful of productions, most of the stuff that happens in this movie has happened to me (minus the axe-wielding).
It’s really the third act where we watch the behind-the-scenes of the first act and we see how hard everyone was working to keep it going and how much it was going off of the rails. Since the movie is ostensibly about a production going awry because of a director, it’s balanced in the end by the directors being the heroes who keep solving the problems. Moreover, it drives home exactly how insane an accomplishment the first act is, even if it wasn’t really a live production. Apparently the 37 minute long-take actually took six tries to pull off, but actually doing it as a single take when, like Birdman, you could probably have used editing to make it look like one is an amount of dedication that’s hard to ignore. Making this movie probably looked a lot like the making of the movie found within the movie: A bunch of people working their asses off.
I will say that the big difference between the movie and reality is that in the film, the director is given this task by someone else and is basically told to make it work, whereas Shin’ichirô Ueda, the actual director of this movie, brought it all upon himself. I wonder if he actually enjoyed putting the blame on someone else for this difficult task within his fictional construct.
Overall, this movie is a combination of a pretty fun zombie film with a really fun, almost zany, comedy. It’s worth signing up for a free week at Shudder to watch it. And no, they’re not paying me, I just like the movie and the service. If they would like to give me a free subscription in order to review their films, though, I wouldn’t say no (hint hint).
A young woman named Annie (Bailey Spry) is killed on a beach after running from an invisible force. Later, Oakland University student Jay (Maika Monroe) sleeps with a boy she’s been dating named Hugh (Jake Weary), but Hugh promptly drugs her. She awakens tied to a chair in an abandoned factory where Hugh informs her that by sleeping with him she’ll now be attacked by a creature that is invisible to everyone but her and can look like anyone. If it catches Jay, it will kill her, then kill Hugh, then so on up the chain of sexual partners. Jay can give it to someone else by sleeping with them. Jay doesn’t believe him until she sees a naked woman walking slowly towards them. Just as the creature gets near Jay, Hugh pulls them both away and drives her home. The next day, the police cannot locate Hugh.
Jay soon discovers she’s being followed by people that only she can see. Jay’s sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and her friends Paul and Yara (Keir Gilchrist and Olivia Luccardi) try to help Jay. That night, someone breaks a window upstairs. Paul doesn’t see anyone, but a giant man comes into the girls’ room and attacks Jay. With a neighbor’s help they find Hugh, whose mother resembles the naked woman in the abandoned building. Hugh, real name Jeff, explains that he had a one-night stand and found the monster following him. Jeff advises Jay to pass the curse on to someone else by sleeping with them.
Greg (Daniel Zovatto), Jay’s neighbor, takes the group to his lake house, only for the entity to attack Jay while in the form of Yara. Jay shoots it in the head, but it recovers and attacks her again. She steals Greg’s car and drives off, but crashes and wakes up with a broken arm. Greg has sex with Jay in the hospital, but still denies the monster exists. A few days later, Jay sees the entity break into Greg’s house. She follows it inside, but sees a half-naked version of Greg’s mother (Leisa Pulido) attack Greg and have sex with his corpse. Jay flees by car and approaches three young men on a boat.
Paul asks Jay to pass it on to him, but she refuses. Paul comes up with a plan to kill the entity by luring it into a pool and electrocuting it. This quickly fails when the entity just starts throwing objects at Jay while she’s in the pool. Paul, who can’t see the entity, accidentally shoots Yara but finally shoots the entity multiple times, causing it to visibly fill the pool with blood. Paul and Jay have sex, then Paul drives by a number of prostitutes. Later, Paul and Jay walk down the street holding hands with a figure walking slowly behind them.
I saw this movie when it first came out, before I read anything that the critics had written. I knew, vaguely, that it was being promoted as one of the scariest movies of the decade, but nothing else. I think it was about 30 minutes in that I started to recognize that I wasn’t particularly scared. It was 60 minutes in that I realized that not only was I not scared, I really wasn’t enjoying the movie. At 70 minutes I, along with several people I was seeing it with, started to openly mock the film. So when I found out that this movie, which I not only didn’t love but actually disliked, was listed among the best horror films ever, I was shocked. I watched it again to try and figure out if it had just been the crowd, but nope, still didn’t like it. However, when I got the prompt “Critically Acclaimed Film that I Hate,” I knew this was going to be the one.
What’s amazing is that I should absolutely love this movie. It does SO MUCH right that it does genuinely merit some appreciation.
First, the cinematography in this film is great. So many of the shots, right from the start, are a great blend of style and substance, often hiding the monster from the viewer when we’re supposed to be an impartial observer. The first shot in the movie is an almost 2-minute long-cut which does a gradual 360 degree rotation without ever really showing us anything except for a scared woman running. As a huge fan of long-cuts, I have to say, this was amazing and definitely heightened the tension right off the bat. However, it does it with smooth, slow camera movements that resemble the slow, constant pace of the entity throughout the movie. Moreover, by keeping the monster out of frame at times or invisible at others, we, the audience, never know when it’s coming. Most of the movie frames the shots from between the entity and the target, so we never quite see them both at the same time, making us constantly uncertain. It’s a great technique that seems to take its cues from classic horror like the original Halloween, where we didn’t often see the victim and the killer in the same shot, even when they’re in the same room, until the actual attack. Similar to Halloween, too, there are sometimes wide and rotating shots that don’t reveal any imminent danger, only some potential background threat.
The score in this also does an excellent job of heightening the tension, frequently having discordant sounds and rising tones at times to suggest that danger is present. Since the monster is often invisible, this constantly keeps the viewer on edge.
The creature itself is a pretty cool idea in some ways, the unstoppable force constantly coming for you, slowly moving towards you no matter what you do. In fact, Ducktales did a great job with the concept in one episode with the “Bombie,” who just slowly chases a target ceaselessly. It can be taken as a metaphor for many things, but I think most people would agree it pretty well represents the reality of death. We first become aware of it through maturity, which is often connected with sex, or the “little death” that comes with it. It will catch everyone eventually, but we can delay it by connecting with others and finding love (or just banging). As someone who constantly expresses their love for horror movies that use the monsters as metaphors, this should work great for me.
So, why don’t I like the movie? Well, because at no point at this movie could I ever stop thinking that the main characters are among the dumbest humans alive. Even by horror movie standards, these kids are dumb. They are dealing with what has to be the most easily thwarted monster since the aliens from Signs that somehow were allergic to water. This creature, while it is ceaseless, follows at a pace that is slightly slower than the average walker. Additionally, while it can break into places through windows, the closest thing we see to any “supernatural” strength is when it knocks a hole in a wooden door after hitting it multiple times. So, it’s a slow creature that could be contained in, say, a bank vault or a big pit in the ground or any number of other situations for potentially decades. Yet, no one considers that, nor the idea of passing it to someone who is headed for another country or the idea of passing it to someone that flies a lot or any other of a dozen potential solutions. Instead, they try to kill it after it was already shot in the head without dying, which is possibly the worst idea one could have. So, throughout the entire movie, even though the film itself was so well done, I couldn’t stop thinking about how easy it should be to “solve” this problem and I started to resent the stupidity of the leads. It doesn’t help that the STDemon concept already comes off as a little regressive, punishing people just for having sex.
Overall, while I get what the big deal was with the movie, I still can’t stand this movie.
We get another solid social allegory film involving zombies and it’s awesome.
Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) is the chief of police on the fictional Red Crow reserve of the Mi’kmaq, a real Northeastern First Nations people. On a morning in 1981, his badass veteran father, Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman), catches a bunch of fish that don’t die, even when gutted. At the same time, Traylor’s ex-wife Joss (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) informs him that his sons Lysol (Kiowa Gordon) and Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) are both in jail… with a man who is vomiting blood. Attacks start to happen all around the reservation where people suddenly find themselves turned into vicious, bloodthirsty zombies. However, it turns out that the people of the Mi’kmaq are immune to the virus. Soon, the Red Crow reserve is seeing an influx of people seeking shelter, and they must decide whether or not they should allow outsiders onto their land.
Zombies have been an excellent source of social commentary ever since George Romero first started really bringing the genre to life, so to speak. This film is a prime example of how you can use something like zombies as a way to hold up a mirror to society’s failures. In this case, after the initial outbreak, we get a picture of how society has changed since, with most places aside from Red Crow having fallen. Red Crow reserve is on an island with only one bridge in and out, so the reserve puts in place what has got to be one of the greatest mass anti-zombie devices ever: a series of walls that funnel the zombies into a massive soil tiller. *Edit* Apparently it’s a Snowblower. I’m from rural Florida. Don’t have much experience with snowblowers. *Edit* It grinds them into nothing in only a few seconds, saving on bullets, and dumps the remains into the river. I’ve seen other movies do similar things, but this movie actually explains that it was done to save on resources, which is awesome.
Early on in the film, we get a pretty clear picture of what the allegory is going to be for this story when we first see the deluge of white people showing up to the reservation begging for help and believing that the Red Crow people can somehow “cure” zombification. Two of the members of the tribe start talking about what to do with an infected girl in their own language, only for the man to angrily and repeatedly shout “Speak English.” Because even in a time of crisis, he feels entitled enough to demand that other people, on their own land, speaking their own language, who he is asking for help, accommodate him. One of the Mi’kmaq even refers to the girl as “Karen” by accident. That’s basically what this film is, trying to examine the effects of colonialism, all over again, in the modern day. We have a group of First Nation people who are stuck having to decide if they should risk their safety for the sake of helping outsiders.
The title of the movie, Blood Quantum, relates to the blood quantum laws, a series of laws that determined who qualified as a member of a Native American tribe. Obviously, this idea becomes important in this film, since only members of the Mi’kmaq are shown to be immune to the zombification. The question is how far that immunity extends, something that impacts Joseph’s pregnant girlfriend and their future baby. This movie was written and directed by Jeff Barnaby, who is himself a member of the Mi’kmaq, so I’m sure he’s seen the actual impact of these laws in the past.
As far as Zombie movies go, the action in this is pretty great. There’s a lot of solid zombie effects and the zombies themselves are extremely threatening, being faster than most zombies and able to tear people apart with ease. Most of the members of Red Crow are badasses when the time comes to fight some waves of undead, particularly Gisigu, who uses a katana because “you don’t have to reload a sword.”
Overall, seriously, just a great movie. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who likes Zombie films. Also, it works pretty well for anyone who likes historical allegory films or just is interested in getting stories focused on another culture.