Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Cinemasochists Second Look At Wes Craven - The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1984)

A Cinemasochists Second Look At Wes Craven
Part 4: 
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1984)


Wes Craven's career has been to hell and back. He's made game changing films, but has also fumbled enough times to make a lesser director retire. We all know Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream, but what about Deadly Friend or Music of The Heart? Do THOSE hold up? I'm going to cherry pick some of the lesser known Wes Craven films and, in typical Cinemasochists form, see if they're worth your time or as bad as they've been made out to be.


8 years after the deadly attack on the vacationing Carter family in the southwest desert, our favorite post-nuclear cannibal inbreds are back, but this time it's personal… This is what I imagined the pitch meeting for this film sounding like. Unfortunately, it was agreed upon that this film SHOULD be made and that Wes Craven was the one to do it. In need of money at the time, Wes Craven did oblige and this is what we got….

Bobby Carter, one of the survivors from the first film, is still dealing with what had happened 8 years prior. He and Rachel (Janus Blythe, who was named Ruby in the first film) have since started a motorcycle/motocross team as well as invented a super fuel for motorbikes. Why? Because it's the 80's, that's why. They find out that their next race is scheduled to be near the same South Western desert where the first film took place. Bobby, took shook up to go, declines so Rachel ends up taking the team instead. The team consists of Harry, Hulk, Foster, Sue, Jane as well Roy and his blind girlfriend Cass (Don't worry… She is not a biker…) 
As they approach their destination, their bus breaks down right in the heart of the original nuclear site from part 1. Why? Because its an 80's horror movie, that's why! Pluto (Michael Berryman) the bald ne'er do well cannibal from the first film shows up unannounced and starts offing the characters one by one with the help of "The Reaper" who happens to be Papa Jupiter's (Matriarch from original film) older brother.  What follows is a typical, clunky 80's slasher movie with each character dying a bloody, and in this case, very boring and dark death. The lighting in the night scenes are so bad, you can barely make out what's happening, if you decided to care enough by that point. It's clear this is not a film made out of passion. 

Shot before, but released after A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is the only film in the Wes Craven oevure that he has officially disowned and with good reason. Supposedly, half way through production, the money ran out and the film was unfinished and shelved for over year. After A Nightmare On Elm Street became a success, the studio decided to release the film, but in order to make it a reasonable running time, they incorporated many minutes from the original film to fill the time. You can tell by watching it that this was just a cheap storytelling device to fill up what is essentially a non movie.
The original was a scary, raw and visceral look at the post-nuclear breakdown of the American family, very much like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was released only a couple years before in 1974. This sequel is far from it. It's more of a rip-off of Texas Chainsaw (check out the pre-credit disclaimer) and of course Friday The 13th. Unless you're a Wes Craven completist, this really is not worth your time.

Cinemasochists Score: -8
(0 being tolerable and -10 being the worst) 

You can stream on Netflix or rent on any VOD outlet. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Cinemasochists Second Look at Wes Craven - The People Under The Stairs (1991)

A Cinemasochists Second Look At Wes Craven
Part 3: 
The People Under The Stairs (1991)

Wes Craven's career has been to hell and back. He's made game changing films, but has also fumbled enough times to make a lesser director retire. We all know Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream, but what about Deadly Friend or Music of The Heart? Do THOSE hold up? I'm going to cherry pick some of the lesser known Wes Craven films and, in typical Cinemasochists form, see if they're worth your time or as bad as they've been made out to be.



When Wes Craven writes his own films, there tends to be a social subtext that generally gets lost in the grim, macabre, and sometimes darkly funny situations he puts his characters in. For example, Last House On The Left is about the death of innocence and the death of peace and love, but it's hard to think of any social relevance because all you can see is a horrible, brutal rape and the over the top carnage that follows. With People Under The Stairs, which Craven also wrote, he creates a post-Reagan, post-Nuclear world where classes are as divided as ever and suburban secrets are far darker than you could imagine.

A 13 year old boy from the ghetto, nicknamed Fool, (played confidently by Brandon Adams from The Mighty Ducks/Sandlot/Moonwalker) is in desperate need to help his cancer ridden mother and hooker sister pay the rent so he and his family won't get evicted. A family friend (Ving Rhames) aids Fool in breaking into their landlords creepy old house, where there is some gold allegedly hidden. We come to find out that the landlords (played by Wendy Robie and Everett McGill, respectively) are a pair of insane, racist maniacs who hide stolen children in their basement. What comes next is a cat and mouse game as Fool and their daughter Alice (AJ Langer) with help from the people under the stairs, try to escape the trap filled house and hopefully claim the hidden money so Fool and his family can pay the rent.

Craven claims this story was inspired by a newspaper article he read in which a house gets burglarized and when the authorities arrived, they discovered children hidden in various rooms without any escape. This breakdown of class and of white suburban life has been a theme Craven comes back to, and this film, arriving just one year before the LA Riots, seems quite poignant. However, these themes tend to disappear because the film is basically scene after scene of brutal and brutally funny set pieces that tend to take away from the point. It ends up coming off more insanely, almost David Lynch-y funny than it does scary and unfortunately, the "people under the stairs" have very little screen time. However, the performances by Mommy and Daddy are so over the top you can't help but to laugh with them as they mercilessly chase Fool and their daughter through the halls while dancing around in leather bondage and a totting a shotgun. It's too strange to NOT laugh. In fact, Craven cast both McGill and Robie after having seen them playing similarly twisted characters on Twin Peaks a year earlier.

People Under The Stairs was released in the fall of 1991 to mixed reviews and better than expected box office. As strange as it is, the film has become a sort of cult classic and one of the more celebrated Wes Craven films. After watching it again, I really do think it holds up. There were basically no special effects, the humor is more broad than topical and it's ambitions are more internal than external, which helps in making it live past a normal movie shelf life.
Even though Craven's intentions ended up lost in the gore and mayhem, the film is perhaps as fitting to watch now as it ever was.

Cinemasochists Score: -3 
(0 being tolerable and -10 being the worst) 

You can rent the DVD on Netflix or rent on any VOD outlet, including Amazon or Vudu.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Cinemasochists Second Look at Wes Craven - Vampire In Brooklyn (1995)

A Cinemasochists Second Look At Wes Craven
Part 2: 
Vampire In Brooklyn (1995)


Wes Craven's career has been to hell and back. He's made game changing films, but has also fumbled enough times to make a lesser director retire. We all know Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream, but what about Deadly Friend or Music of The Heart? Do THOSE hold up? I'm going to cherry pick some of the lesser known Wes Craven films and, in typical Cinemasochists form, see if they're worth your time or as bad as they've been made out to be.




In our previous post we saw Wes Craven take on the werewolf genre in an attempt to modernize and poke fun at it's most obvious conventions. 10 years before that he tried to do the same with the vampire genre. In the 1990's, vampires were big business. Bram Stoker's Dracula and Interview With The Vampire brought vampires back onto the fore front of popular culture. Eventually, vampires wore out their welcome and by 1995 there was not one, but TWO vampire spoofs on the market. There was Mel Brooks' Dracula: Dead and Loving It, which was a more straightforward spoof of the Bram Stoker novel and there was Wes Craven's Vampire In Brooklyn.  Both films did not fare well at the box office and both were more or less forgotten mentions in the careers of both famous directors.

After an abandoned vessel with over a dozen dead bodies crashes into a dock in Brooklyn, we're introduced to Maximilian, (Eddie Murphy) a vampire from the Caribbean who after decades of searching, ends up in Brooklyn to find and feed on the daughter of a vampire in order to live past the next moon cycle. Said daughter, Rita, is played by Angela Bassett, who also happens to be a member of the NYPD investigating the murders on the ship alongside here partner, Justice (Allen Payne.) After having strange visions during the investigation, she and Justice decide to visit Dr. Zeko, a supposed vampire expert. While there, she meets Maximilian who spends the next third of the film trying to seduce her, but tends to fall short as we find out that Justice is also in love with Rita. With the help of Julius (Kadeem Hardison) his ghoul slave, Maximilian succeeds in getting Rita alone and bites her, slowly turning her into the undead. Justice turns to Zeko for help and finds out that Rita's father was a vampire and had bit her mother while she was doing research in the Caribbean. In order for Rita to stay fully human, she must not drink the blood of the living, which is exactly what Maximilian is trying to persuade her to do, so he can continue to live eternally.

The plot is a bit thick and there are other points to be made here, but why bother? This uneven story was written by Eddie Murphy, his brother Charlie and Vernon Lynch. With this sort of gothic plot and direction by one of the "Masters Of Horror" you'd think this would be scary, but the film falls more into comedy category rather than horror. The scares are few and far between and when they come, you barely notice because you don't really care. There are a handful of funny bits sprinkled about thanks to Kadeem Hardison's Julius and Johnny Withserspoon's Silas, who seem to be improvising the whole time. Overall though, most jokes, like the scares, fall flat and are uninspired.

The film was released with very negative reviews and barely enough box-office to break even. It certainly wasn't bad enough to hurt careers of Craven or Murphy however. The following year Scream and The Nutty Professor were released and renewed public and critical faith in both men.

I have a feeling this will fall in the very bottom of the Craven cannon. Proceed with caution. It's just about as bad as they say.

Cinemasochists Score: -7 
(0 being tolerable and -10 being the worst) 

You can stream on Netflix or rent on any VOD outlet. 


Friday, March 20, 2015

A Cinemasochists Second Look at Wes Craven - Cursed (2005)

A Cinemasochists Second Look At Wes Craven
Part 1: 
Cursed (2005)

Horror directors, more than any other directors, have the highest highs and the lowest lows. They can change film history with one film and then with another, completely tarnish it. Why is this? Most tend to argue that it's studio interference and some say it's just plain luck. One such horror 'auteur' has been through this time and time again. He's made two generations worth of classic teen horror, he's made films that were banned, he jumped from horror and came crawling back and he's also made some of the most flawed and quickly forgotten horror films of all time. He is Wes Craven.

I am going to randomly go through his back catalog and cherry pick some of his lesser known and perhaps forgotten films. His bombs. His embarrassments. Whatever you want to call them, I'll be giving them a second look (or in some cases, my first look) and see if they're as bad as everyone remembers.
After all, that's Cinemasochists thing, isn't it?




The first Wes Craven joint I picked is Cursed from 2005. Made 9 years after Wes Craven's second coming with Scream and it's subsequent sequels, Cursed had everything going for it. Kevin Williasom (Scream) wrote the screenplay and the cast was impressive for the time, with Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, Joshua Jackson, Judy Greer, Shannon Elizabeth, and Portia DeRossi It was supposed to be a no brainer hit, but unfortunately ended up a disappointment on all ends.

Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg play siblings who, after hitting an animal in the Hollywood hills, get into a car wreck with another woman played by Shannon Elizabeth. As they try to help save the woman, they are attacked by a werewolf who tears the other woman apart and claws at both Jimmy and Ellie (Eisenberg and Ricci, respectively) in their arms. The next morning both Jimmy and Ellie start to exhibit weird behaviors like a voracious appetite for meat and a newfound sexual confidence. Jimmy, believing it was a real werewolf, goes on the internet to investigate while Ellie heads to work for the Craig Kilborn show. (Side note: By the time this film was released, the Craig Kilborn show was off the air and handed over to Craig Ferguson)
Along the way we meet Jake (Joshua Jackson) who is Ellie's boyfriend and right out of the gate, it's obvious that there's something not right about this guy. We also meet Ellie's co-worker and typical movie bitch, Joanie (Judy Greer) as well a high school bully turned bad gay joke, Bo (Milo Ventimigilia)
Jimmy and Ellie realize they are literally turning into werewolves and as the next full moon approaches, they surprisingly discover some people in their lives are not who they seem, but to us the audience its as clear as day.

Cursed plays on werewolf move cliches like Scream did for slasher cliches. However, the final product isn't as particularly funny, scary or ironic as Scream and comes across like a straight teen horror film with a bit of an identity crisis. There are scenes that play homages to movies like Teen Wolf (Jimmy goofily shows his new masculinity by beating the whole wrestling team in front of his crush) and set ups that could've been used more to their advantage; (a party hosted by PETA in one scene is particularly hardy-har funny)
Wes Craven is good at making briskly paced, entertaining horror films and at this point he can do it with his hands tied behind his back. Which is most likely what happened here. Supposedly the script was re-written so many times, that an entire cast was shot (including Corey Feldman, Skeet Ulrich, Omar Epps and Heather Langenkamp) and then later completely cut out. Cursed is an example of a movie that COULD HAVE been and unfortunately, the title is way too poignant. It's messy and it's clear that the studio wanted a PG-13 cut down (which they got upon theatrical release) versus a Scream like R rating (which I assume the original script was) and because of that, it's confusing at times.
All of that being said, it's still a fun and entertaining film. Luckily it was made before Twilight ruined teenagers perceptions of werewolves and we still got a nice dose of Werewolf FX and gore compliments of Rick Baker.
Of all of the Wes Craven films I've seen so far, this falls in the middle. It's not very inspired, but it's also an easy watch.

Cinemasochists Score: -3 

You can stream the "unrated version" of Cursed on Netflix or rent on any VOD outlet. 



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cinemasochists Review: The One I Love


The One I Love (2014) 

As I just recently wrote in my review for Honeymoon, it can seem almost impossible to keep a marriage together. Some say that humans are not supposed to be monogamous, but I tend to disagree. As long as you find someone you can share every experience with and someone you can grow with once the freshness and excitement expire, then it's not impossible. Sure, it's a steep climb, but it's also necessary for you and your significant others evolution. 
The One I Love (directed by first timer Charlie McDowell) confronts this very idea head on. It's a meta, funny, strange and compelling film. Mark Duplass (Ethan) and Elizabeth Moss (Sophie) play a married couple in desperate need of a spark in their marriage. They attempt to recreate a past moment in which they discovered they love each other, but in doing so, they are unsuccessful and things become even more dire. As they explain this to their shrink, (played by Ted Danson) he offers up a solution to go to a specific hideaway destination for the weekend. He thinks it will reignite the fire, as it has for others in the past he explains. Desperate to try anything, they oblige. What happens next is hard to really explain without going into heavy spoilers

(IF YOU HAVENT SEEN THE ONE I LOVE, WATCH IT THEN READ ON) 

After a nice evening alone, Sophie and Ethan discover something strange in the back house of their little getaway home. Themselves. Literally. Doppelgängers inhabit the guest house and they aren't just look a-likes or in their head. They're real and they are in essence, more attractive, more understanding, idealized versions of themselves. Perhaps these are the people Ethan and Sophie used to be, which is why they continue going back to explore why these doppelgängers exist and what they have to offer. Because this reveal happens so early in the film, it really gives the idea time to gestate and grow. As it goes on, the couple turn it into a trust game and as things start to unravel and paranoia and jealousy kick in, their open sore gets worse and worse, even though the intention is that it should be getting better. 
This film is not as serious as it could be and that is to it's advantage. It's at times silly (as the music suggests) because ideas presented like, that you can be jealous of yourself, seem far reaching and ridiculous. The Twilight Zone premise stretches itself all the way to the end and as head scratching as it can and wants to be, it still grounds itself in reality because being in love, staying in love and the fear of losing that love is as scary and real as any doppelgänger. 

You can stream it on Netflix, or rent from any VOD outlet

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cinemasochists Review: Honeymoon (2014)




Honeymoon (2014)

Establishing a relationship is hard. Keeping it is even harder. Getting married and committing to said relationship can seem almost impossible. This concept is essentially the basis for Honeymoon, a 2014 horror film by first time film maker Leigh Janiak.
A newlywed couple retreat to a cabin in the woods for some much needed post wedding relaxation and of course, sex. The pair of actors (Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway) are convincing in their total attention and love to one another, as the first 15 minutes are mostly them making or trying to make love and not in your typical horror exploitive kind of way. There's a warmth and comfortability with each other that really helps the set up. On the second night, Paul (Treadaway) discovers Bea (Leslie) sleepwalking in the woods and as the next few days go on, both her health and Paul's sanity slowly start to unravel.
I won't say what happens, but I will say that it is satisfying, terrifying and sometimes a bit disgusting. What I appreciated the most is that the subtext has a very simple idea planted into the viewers head that is harder to shake off than what actually happens in the film. The fear of not knowing the person you love. The fear that, after committal, things can go awry. Should you have asked this? Should you have done that? Questions going through your head over and over as your 'better half' starts to 'turn' into something he or she is not. In the film, the situation is from the male's POV, but this theme can carry into either sex, as paranoia and confusion is something everyone in a relationship, especially a new one, goes through.
A good horror movie takes it's scares from real situations and covers it up nicely with an out of this world set up. Honeymoon does just that. The (mostly) fun reveal is not entirely what Honeymoon is about. It's about the REAL fear of not knowing the person you claim to know the best. This is simple, micro budget horror story telling at it's best.

You can stream it Netflix, or rent on any VOD outlet.



- Sean 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

OSCARS 2015: IF YOU LIKED THAT BEST PICTURE NOMINEE, THEN TRY THIS….

Hey there fellow cinemasochists. Nothing says cinemasochism like sitting through ALL EIGHT of the Oscar Best Picture Nominations. Generally, Oscar movies tend to be forgettable but year after year, bets are made, critics complain and no matter what, no one is happy.
This year I decided to pick an accompanying film for each Best Picture Nomination. Whether you liked or even saw the nominated picks, I think you'll enjoy these sister picks. If not, please leave your complaints or suggestions in the comments section. Enjoy and Happy Oscar Sunday!


If you liked Selma, check out:
Get On The Bus (1996)
Selma is an elegant and beautiful civil rights film. Get On The Bus is a Spike Lee joint from 1996 about 12 disparate black man taking a bus across the country for the Million Man March. It's a well written, and an entertaining trip.




If you liked Foxcatcher, check out:
Behind The Candelabra (2013) 
Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher was an unsettling, slow boil of a film about a strange billionaire (Steve Carrell) taking an Olympic wrestler (Channing Tautm) under his wing and training in the years leading up to the 1988 Olympics. It's dark, unique and has one too many fake noses. Steven Soderburghs Behind The Candelabra deals in sort of the same creepy faux father figure relationship between a damaged rich man (Liberace played perfectly by Michael  Douglas) with parent issues and the young man (Matt Damon) who falls into his money and cocaine filled spell. Behind The Candelabra, as you would guess, has more flair and pizazz due to the nature of it's subject. It's fabulous!



If you like The Imitation Game, check out:
I'm gonna cheat with this one and pick a TV show… Manhattan (TV/2014) 
Imitation Game is about Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) cracking Nazi codes in England during WWII.  Manhattan is a TV show about the creation of the atomic bomb, which is what America was doing during WWII.




If you like American Sniper, check out:
The Hurt Locker (2008)
I've seen American Sniper before. I saw it 6 years ago. It was raw, intense, exciting, poignant and it was called The Hurt Locker.




If you like Birdman, check out:
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) 
Michael Keaton's Riggan Thomson thinks he has it bad as an aged ex super hero actor trying to find relevance, but what if you were haunted in your dreams by a fictitious dream monster from a movie you made 10 years before you realize said monster came to life and is after you and your family? Sorry, Riggan, dream demon Freddy Krueger is much scarier than your personal demons.




If you like Boyhood, check out:
Dazed & Confused (1993) 
Boyhood is a coming of age movie spanning 12 years. Dazed & Confused conveys the same feeling in 12 hours after high school graduation. It also has one of the best soundtracks ever compiled...




If you like The Grand Budapest Hotel, check out:
Four Rooms (1995) 
More hotel shenanigans abound in this goofy comedy starring Tim Roth as a bell boy trying to make sense of his hotels guests requests and essentiality trying to get through his shift in one piece.




If you like Theory Of Everything, check out:
Regarding Henry (1991) 
Directed by Mike Nichols, written by JJ Abrams (weird, right?) and stars Harrison Ford as a lawyer who gets shot, almost dies, and has to spend the rest of the movie doing an "Oscar" act. The plot unfolds in the opposite direction as Theory of Everything. We watch the rehabilitation and not the debilitation. Either way, you're forced to cry…




If you like Whiplash, check out:
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (2010)
When you're a teenager, you tend to focus on one thing. You either want to be the best at something or you want to impress a girl/boy. Whether you're being pushed to the edge by a teacher or you're being pushed to the edge by your own insecurity, you will stop at nothing to achieve one or the other. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World shows the same agony Whiplash does, but with a cartoonish, video game flair.



Posted by: Sean