Don’t look so appalled! Yes, while most of my horror blogging has been about classic horror (see here) , I do watch lots of contemporary horror for pleasure, and tend to choose that genre when reviewing contemporary films (say, at festivals) because I can bring a fresher, less jaded eye to it (than I’m liable to with a comedy, for example). Here are some recent contemporary horror reviews I did for the Villager and Travalanche.
The Bleeding House (2011)
Grave Encounters (2011)
In general, I prefer ghosts over guts, but there’s no such thing as a bad genre, just bad (or good) movies.
So over the weekend I watched the newly released Kids Get Dead 2: The Kids Deader and its predecessor Kids Go the Woods: Kids Get Dead (2009). And it’s a good thing I watched them both, and in order, because the sequel is so much better than the original (by, like, an order of magnitude), that I don’t know but that I have anything but positive things to say about it. Both films purport to be parodies of the 80’s slasher genre, but simultaneously function as actual horror films. Its villain, an enormous man in a gas mask, is an equal-opportunity Grim Reaper in the tradition of Freddie Krueger, Michael Meyers, Jason, Chucky and Leatherface. (Except Chucky is a doll). In the first film he seems to be enacting the events of a horror paperback which the obligatory nerd character (Andrew Waffenschmidt) is reading. Yet despite the framing device of a campy horror hostess (Carly Goodspeed) I was hard-pressed to distinguish it from an actual bad horror movie. A bunch of horny teenagers speak bad dialogue and get killed. The end.
This is far from the case in the sequel. Directed, like the first by Michael Hall, and co-written by Hall and Robert J. Huntley, the sequel is vastly smarter, slicker, consistently surprising and clever. Gone are countless lapses that in the original made you constantly wonder if they were intentional or not (e.g., it looks like it’s shot on a cell phone, keeps breaking the 180 degree rule, there’s bird plop all over the car windows, almost no one can act, and the set that’s supposed to be a “cabin the woods” is just some suburban house.). Instead, in Kids Get Dead 2 the level of competency is so much greater in just about every aspect that the tone is much clearer and we know what we’re watching. Again we have an assembly of drunken partying teenagers — ones who can act better, and have better lines to say. Leah Rudick as Casey (the obligatory sole surviving girl from the last film) returns for the sequel, but with an added twist: she learns that the paperback that mirrors the evening’s horrible events is not just a roadmap for the killer, but some sort of existential, Pirandellian window into their real time condition. In other words, she becomes aware of her identity as a character in the story.
If that’s too heady for you, you can just surf along with the main plot. While Casey tries to outrun the sadistic author of the book, a house full of nerds and stoners (and unfortunate neighbors) get bumped off one by one across town. The gore and the gags are realistic, but more importantly:they are witty. Almost all of the killings have some interesting or amusing or diabolically ingenious angle. Nobody just dies, they all die in notably heinous or ironic ways. A girl’s skull is cloven in twain while she delivers fellatio, resulting in ancillary castration before her unfortunate boyfriend too is mercifully dispatched. A husband is garroted with his own intestines. Two inseparable stoners named Dave and Dave have their throats slit simultaneously in stereo. A college kid with a bad case of logorrhea is drowned in a toilet. A girl who is being taken from behind mistakes her boyfriend’s spurting blood for spoodge; her subsequent decapitation prevents her from ever learning the truth. A pesky next-door-neighbor gets his face run over by a lawnmower; pieces of his flesh are thrown against the garage wall with the splat-splat-splat of finality. And then…an almost quaint nod to the master, a tribute to the shower knifing in Psycho.
The double plot allows the film-maker to commit some unspeakable genre heresies at the end, all made good by two or three twists, which I won’t spoil for you, as I know this review is making you want to see it.
I was glad I didn’t have to watch my friend Kathy Biehl die in any of these unspeakable ways. As Doris the waitress she gets to utter the hilariously ironic line “There ain’t nothin’ in this world a slice of pie won’t fix”, which is especially chucklesome given that there are some things going on ‘cross town that NO amount of pie can ever compensate for. As a quotable slasher movie utterance, it is up there with my favorite piece of cornfed horror wisdom, “It takes a lot of critters to make Farmer Vincent Fritters.”
To get your hands around the neck of both the Kids Get Dead movies go to http://www.kidsgetdead.com/