Saturday, July 4, 2015

How good is "It Follows?"

It Follows is so good I'm embarrassed I didn't get off my ass and see it sooner. Watching It Follows is like seeing Halloween for the first time. It Follows eases the pain of John Carpenter's retirement. Best of all, It Follows is terrifying because you never quite know what "It" is or why it follows. I'm trying to remember the last time a horror film this good came along and I'm drawing a blank.

That's how good It Follows is. It's the Fury Road of horror movies.

The main character is a nineteen year old woman who has consensual sex with a young man in his car. He then informs her he's just infected her with a sexually-transmitted curse. Before attempting to leave her life for good, he gives her some tips: Stay out of buildings that don't have multiple exits ("It's slow, but It's not stupid") and pass it on to someone else as soon as possible... because if and when it gets the next victim, it'll come back after her. And when it gets her, it'll come after him and go right down the line of every one else who's ever been cursed with it.

At this point, there's so much bullshit in which an average film would have gladly spun its tires: The "parents don't understand" angle. The "cops think you're lying" angle. The "my friends are concerned, but not very supportive because they think I'm going crazy" angle. We've seen that shit a million times, but It Follows spares us. It knows when to show us the monster. Knows when to leave it to our imagination, too... it's one of the rare films which understands both methods can be effective, instead of boring us with only one or the other.

I can't remember the last time a movie scared me. Silence of the Lambs maybe? Christ, that was over twenty years ago. Filmmakers have been fucking impotent ever since.

I remember watching a lot of horror films in which the teenagers were played by adults. When I actually became a teenager, nothing was more groan-inducing than watching out-of-touch adults try to write and deliver "teen dialogue." It still grates on me. The rule (curse?) doesn't only afflict horror—horror films probably got it right more than the other genres ever did. Even the kids on the Emmy-winning The Sopranos were horseshit. It's almost as if adults really don't understand.

The teenagers in It Follows behave like real teenagers. Not only are they actually played by real teenagers, writer/director David Robert Mitchell knows how to write them. (Remember that name. He's a miracle.) Adding to the realism is the fact the film isn't disillusioned by Hollywood's misinformed fantasy of suburban life. The titular "It" of the film stalks real American streets, pursuing the heroine across eerily familiar scenery. It's such a stripped and honest look at what passes as the American dream that you can't help but believe this is real life.

Forgive me if this review becomes flowery, but I'm in love—walking on clouds, heart swelling, music in my ears, all that shit. I cherished every second of this movie. There wasn't a single moment I took my eyes off the screen, not even to check the time. Jesus, this is everything I've wanted from a horror movie for a long time. It Follows gives us characters we actually give a shit about so we care when they're in danger.

So many movies like this fall apart completely by the third act, but the climax was the most terrifying, most entertaining part of the entire movie for me. Again, it draws strength because the teenagers' plan is exactly the kind of plan teenagers would attempt. And whereas so many other horror movies come up with bogus reasons for not bringing in the cops, "It" is such an enigma the characters simply can't call the cops. They really are in the situation alone.

Maybe it's safe to say 2015 is the year horror finally and triumphantly came out of its decade-long slump.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Best fireworks display ever

It's an oldie but a goody. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Shudder, the horror-only streaming video service, is sending out betas now

This is all you'll see after you sign up for Shudder:

So I'm not sure if you can still sign up for the beta or if that's just a mailing list at this point. All I can say for certain is: I really want to get into the beta. If early reviews of the service are true, looks like there'll eventually be more horror to choose from than Netflix's catalog.

If anyone from #Shudder is reading this, A) I don't normally use hashtags—I'm guessing they probably don't even work on blogs like this one—and B) I'm a perfect candidate for this service. 

What do I want from a genre-specific streaming video service? More definitive cuts of movies. I just watched Intruder on Hulu Plus, which I hate, because it promised to be the unrated cut. I just paid Shout Factory twenty bucks for seven extra minutes of Evilspeak; only the R-rated version is available on Netflix's DVD service, which is becoming less and less useful as time goes on. It really sucks to pay 20+ bucks for a few extra minutes, sometimes seconds, of a movie that would be otherwise available on a service to which I'm already subscribed. (See: to see just how unfairly the MPAA and other rating boards have cut some of your favorite movies.)

My dream VOD service would also add a bunch of obscure stuff. I still own a VCR because a lot of the crap I watch never quite made it to DVD or VOD. I'm guessing picking up the streaming rights to movies like that would cost pocket change. I know only older horror geeks will give a shit, but at the very least the service can pad out their catalog and promise "thousands of movies!" to potential customers.

I'm also reviewing thirty-one horror films this October. So come on, Shudder. Send me a beta invite already!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

23 days until Ernest Cline's Armada comes out... read the opening at io9

Here's the sample of Armada @ io9. The full book comes out on Tuesday, July 14.

Armada seems to be exactly the kind of story I want to read in the middle of the summer. I'm still debating whether I want to read the sample or wait until I have the actual book in hand. I probably will read the sample before the night's through, but I'm sure it'll make the wait feel even longer.

I had thought Clive Barker's The Scarlet Gospels was exactly what I wanted to read this season (to be fair, the first half of it is pretty damn entertaining—I read it nonstop until Barker concocts a very flimsy reason to send Harry D'Amour into hell), but it's just not what I expected from the guy who wrote the Books of Blood and The Hellbound Heart. I said some time ago I was going to properly review Gospels here, but I just don't have the energy for a full review.

I do want to say there's some really good stuff in Barker's latest book, but there's a lot of mediocre stuff, too. It feels like Barker is getting kind of sick of Pinhead, but that doesn't make sense as he's trying to reboot the Hellraiser films himself. What really surprised me is D'Amour and Pinhead don't seem like themselves (can't quite put my finger on it, but I suppose the movies could be influencing my opinion a bit). I'm also perplexed whenever Barker seems to bake elements from some of the lesser sequels into the definitive canon.

I'd be lying if I said the second half of the book wasn't a chore for me at points. If I came face to face with Pinhead, I'm not sure I would stand around so much, waiting for what happened next. And I'm entirely sure I wouldn't take my jacket off and attempt to use it as a weapon on the famous hell priest... yeah, that actually kind of happens in The Scarlet Gospels.

It's safe to say only hardcore Barker fans should attempt to read it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

So I saw the DOOM reveal...

What did I think? Well, it looks pretty great (maybe not as great as Wolfenstein: The New Order), but it's not what I expected. For the record, I'm not sure what I expected.

Remember the eyewitness reports coming out of the private QuakeCon viewing? I knew not to trust them, knew not to get my hopes up, but there were two things I kept hearing: one, that it was a lot brighter and more colorful and, two, it was a lot faster than a modern game. Those just seem like some pretty objective things people couldn't be wrong about, right?

What I saw Sunday was not the kind of colors I was looking for, nor was it "a lot faster." It's certainly brighter than DOOM 3, though, so it's got that going for it (keep in mind, I'm one of the people who loved part 3—it was and still is a beautiful game). The glimpse of hell we got, however, seems a lot less moody than the vision in earlier games. Where are the pentagrams and the mutilated bodies? I'm hoping all that classic stuff will show up when you get a little deeper into the underworld, but I'm not holding my breath.

To say I'm disappointed would be too strong a word. Even if it just DOOM 3 Part 2, I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this game. Like I said, I didn't trust what early viewers were saying about it (there's a certain amount of mass hysteria involved when you permit a group of enthusiastic people to a special screening), but I'd be interested to know how much the E3 footage differed from what they saw.

I have to say, the multiplayer looks cool. The guns look good enough. The chainsaw stuff was nothing short of awesome. I think the executions are going to be pretty bad ass, too, if they don't become repetitive.

What really surprised me about Bethesda's showcase, other than the fact it wasn't as hopelessly cheesy as most E3 events, was this: I'm more excited about Fallout 4 than I thought possible.