Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Midnight Movie

Today’s movie was originally going to be Tangled, before my plans to see that fell through (maybe later this week, maybe just when it comes out on DVD. I am not optimistic). I was then planning on doing Atlantis: The Lost Empire as an alternate, despite feeling foolish after spending the entire movie wondering why the film was making me think of Hellboy and B.P.R.D. before realizing at the end of the film that Mike Mignola was responsible for the art style of the film. However, after giving it some thought, I realized that what really gives me proper Christmas cheer are bloody horror movies, and so that’s what I bring to you on this joyous season.

The film opens with some old man rocking back and forth in his cell at an asylum, watching some old horror movie he had filmed that a doctor unwisely though might help his rehabilitation to see. One doctor vehemently opposes allowing him to watch it, but as he needs to be out of town on business, he’s been overruled. Of course, something goes horribly awry, and when he returns there’s blood everywhere and no bodies to be found. We then cut ahead five years to the present day, where a movie theater is hosting a midnight screening of the madman’s film for the first time since the massacre at the hospital, and in addition to the regular tiny midnight crowd, the two aging cops assigned to the case have turned up in the hopes that he will turn up and they can close the case. Unfortunately for them all, five years ago he managed to transport himself into the film, and now that it’s being screened again it is once more time for him to kill…

It’s a fairly generic, overused story, which gives us the benefit of examining how well it stacks up to its immediate competitors. I’ll start with what may be my biggest pet peeve in these kinds of movies, and that is how in almost all movies like this, there’s got to be one major horror buff that’s constantly talking about other horror movies and driving everyone else (and the audience) completely crazy. One could theorize that it’s to make the character intentionally annoying so we get excited when they die, but I’d personally rather have a bunch of likable characters so I actually don’t want them dead and off my screen already. That’s why I’m so happy that there’s nobody like that in this movie. The main group of guys sit there laughing and joking through the early parts of the movie and annoying their dates, and while they’re exactly the kind of people you don’t want to get caught at the movies with, at least they stop their nonsense pretty early on once it becomes clear that Something’s Wrong. The rest of the cast is also rather nice: there’s a biker and his girl that you’d expect to be the stereotypical “villainous non-villains”, but all he is is pissed off at the guys for constantly talking during the movie, as anyone else would have been. He’s actually a pretty decent guy, as is his girlfriend. The cops themselves are pretty fun too, as they make sure to let everyone in on the problem pretty quickly, so we can spend most of the film with them trying to escape the killer rather than staying oblivious for most of the movie and just wandering off one by one. Then after serving that vital purpose, they both get killed off because fuck the police, coming straight from the underground.

So now that we know there’s interesting characters and a bland story, what about the killer? Well, he’s got a pretty decent look, kind of a retarded mutant version of Crossbones from Marvel Comics. He’s huge, has a club foot, and his face is half covered by a skull mask, and in every way looks absolutely nothing at all like the old mental patient at the beginning of the film that we’re supposed to believe he is. The only major downside to him -- well, aside from all the mystical crap that’s more distracting than interesting -- is that he only has one weapon, a hand-held drill thing that he plunges into people. It leaves most of the kills looking fairly generic, to the point where even the killer seems to realize this about two thirds of the way through, when he kills one guy by grabbing him and then plunging the drill into an electrical outlet so he can electrocute him instead. I appreciate the effort, guy, but maybe for the sequel you can grab a couple extra weapons? Just a thought?

Don’t get me wrong, this is hardly a bad film at all. It’s a perfectly enjoyable modern slasher, certainly better than the over-directed mess that was Laid to Rest or the turgid efforts that one frequently finds in the After Dark collections (think Dark Ride or Lake Dead). It’s not one of the best recent efforts for the genre (for those you’d be better off trying Hatchet or Wrong Turn 2), but one could certainly do a lot worse with their slasher choices for the holidays.

Rating: ***

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