Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Bloody Valentine Review

Happy Heart Day Humans. 

I gotta admit…I have been dreading writing this review.  I know how much of you love this movie, but for years every time I sat down to watch it I liked it a little less.  The pacing in the first half is slow, the killer isn’t that frightening or interesting looking (I mean, seriously, he is a miner in a gas mask) and the characters are unforgivably stupid.  But before you pull out your torches and pitchforks, let me just say that I recently popped in the legendary uncut version and it’s actually much better.  The special effects are awesome!  In a time where the innovation of making the innards of humans look real thrived, it confuses me how for almost three decades, the literal “meat” of this movie was buried under a pile of celluloid and the dreams of a begrudged director.   

The backwater mining town of Valentine Bluffs is under the murderous siege of Harry Warden, a gas masked pickaxe wielding heart ripping murderer who hates Valentine’s Day.  You see, back in the early 60’s, Harry and his fellow mining crew were killed in a methane gas explosion caused by the incompetence of the crew’s foreman.  This was because the town was holding its annual Valentines Day dance and he was in a rush to get to the party, leaving his post unattended.  Harry managed to stay alive down there for six weeks, eating the flesh of his co-workers.  But consuming your friends while rotting tens of feet below the ground makes humans go crazy apparently, and Harry was committed to a mental institution.  On the one year anniversary of Harry’s tragedy, he escaped and ripped out the heart of the reckless foreman responsible for the accident.  So the legend goes, he stalks the town on Valentines Day, ready to continue his horrible murder spree if anyone ever holds another Valentines celebration.  But now, twenty years later, the town of Valentine Bluffs is finally ready to try pissing on the electric fence and decide to hold another Valentine’s Day dance.  Predictably, the bodies pile up and the Mayor tries to cancel the dance.  But the local horny teenagers reject this reality and substitute it for their own by holding their own party, unbeknownst to the Mayor or the Chief of police, who work to capture the elusive Harry Warden.  All the while, a love triangle between a young girl named Sarah and her two potential lovers, T.J. Hanniger and Axel Palmer commences throughout the film. 

Before I get into what I don’t like, I want to emphasize the idea of a crazy killer whose motivation is to murder those who wish to openly celebrate Valentines Day is highly entertaining.  My initial dislike of this movie comes from a general exasperation I feel for the slasher genre.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good gore brigade as much as the next blood thirsty lusus naturae.  But too often, I find many of these movies are based around the stereotype of a masked, heavy breathing barbarian hacking up a bunch of sex crazed over medicated frat kids.  We’ve seen it before and we still do, constantly.  It’s difficult not to think of a million examples of the still living and breathing slasher genre.  Off the top of my head, I know of a few films currently in production, like the remake of the cult classic Maniac, as well as a couple new movies, (Hack/Slash, Chained and a 100 Bloody Acres).  A good slasher film generally incorporates a combination of an unsettling killer and atmosphere, a cleaver twist, the inclusion of likeable and annoying characters, and impressive special effects.  

First off, I don’t find gas masks scary.  This is because they tend to make me think of army/navy surplus stores.  When I think of a cleaver slasher mask, I think of the William Shatner white face worn by Michael Myers in Halloween.  The mask was eerie because it looked too synthetic to be human but still had the basic shape of a human face.  This was emphasized by the fact that it was painted pure white, taking away even more subtle nuances of a human face.  The end result was a face that looked vague and neutral.  When you saw Myers, you knew there was no discussion with this guy; he had his mind set on what he was going to do to you. I get why Harry Warden wore a gas mask, he was dressed in his old miner’s outfit.  It works, especially given the fact that the characters are all miners, making it ambiguous as to whether it really was Harry who was killing everyone.  But it always came off to me as a cheap alternative to creating an original face of fear.  Not bad, but it screams for a touch up. 

Despite this, the atmosphere in the movie is actually pretty good.  The mine is impressive and that has a lot to do with the fact that it was shot on location.  Also, the ending twist wasn’t bad at all.  It actually reminded me of the twist in Friday the 13th, but I’ll leave that for you guys to decide for yourselves.  I am very happy to give these aspects a pass.  However, the behavior of the protagonist’s was so fucking stupid, I was unable to care what happened to the majority of them.  They get upset about the cancelation of the Valentine’s Day dance and they know about the threat of Harry Warden.  Still they decide to hold a party anyway, despite the warnings of the police chief Jake Newby.  To make matters worse, to impress their girlfriends, a bunch of the miners decide to take their girls down into the mine for a tour all the while drinking like a bunch of bloated grannies at a family reunion.  I enjoy a few chuckle headed idiots in my slasher films.  After all, it’s fun to generate that desire to see them kick the bucket.  But if all the characters behave like a bunch of dumb shits, the movie becomes predictable and I no longer care about their ensuing shenanigans.  This is really what bogs this movie down so much.  That, and the lack of special effects.

At least that is how I felt before watching the unrated version, released in the 2009 Lionsgate distributed DVD.  For those who don’t know, over 9 minutes of the film was cut out of it’s original version, leaving out a great deal of the gore and violence.  But without it, all that was left was a bunch of sloppy teenage drunks lining up on the slaughter house conveyor belt.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a purist more often than not and believe that once a movie is released, it should probably stay that way.  After all, what is a final cut if not the final version of a movie?  But now that this footage has been put back into the film the way the director initially intended, I can see how much better this was supposed to be in the first place.  Some of these special effects were so fantastic, it begs an explanation from the MPAA.  My favorite effect was the cadaver in the washing machine.  The differences between the theatrical and unrated versions are minimal, mostly a few extra close ups of the manikin.  But the body is so rotten and waterlogged, as if it had been shoved inside the machine the night before and put through a flesh melting spin cycle.  Those extra little touches really make all the difference when watching a film meant to show off the gore.  All I have to say is, awesome!

The censorship of this film was nothing more than pure unadulterated defamation to what could have been (and in 2009 hopefully did become) a staple of the genre for mainstream audiences.  Luckily, the film gained a strong cult following during its initial release.  Without the huge outcry of its fans we never would have the movie in its entirety like this.  Also the fact that the remake came out that year helped a lot to push this re-release, but we will chat about that movie later.  If you love a good slasher this is definitely a classic worth watching, but stick to the unrated version or else you are missing out.  There are some pretty grizzly moments to be had here.  Even I can get over my prejudices for the average slasher film while watching it, factoring in of course that My Bloody Valentine was one of the early ones, and therefore the learning curve the genre was going through make the flaws even more acceptable.  So long as you keep this in mind, you are in for an awesome ride.  So grab your box of chalk flavored sweet hearts, dim the lights and get your hands on a copy of My Bloody Valentine.  You won’t be disappointed.

By the way, I know you people will hate me if I don’t compliment this guy’s mustache…It is a fine mustache indeed.  And yes, he is the most sympathetic character in the movie.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bongcheon Dong and Ok-Su Station Ghost Stories A.K.A. The 2011 Mystery Shorts

I hope you don’t plan on going to sleep anytime soon.  That is my job after all; to frighten you all into the piss puddle induced state of a creepy wo/man baby.  But tonight’s horror doesn’t come from yours truly.  Actually, this frightmare of a double feature is a series of pieces made by an artist from the Orient.

The Bongcheon-Dong and Ok-Su Station Ghost Stories are original comic strips written and animated by Studio Horang, a Korean writer/director/blogger who has managed to keep a pretty low profile on the internet circuit in the English speaking countries of the world.  Very little is known about the artist.  Many fellow internet creepers (like myself) have stated the artist’s name is Jong-Ho Choi, but they are all citing the blogger named Robot 6 as their main source (you can check out his stuff here).  As I write this, there is currently only one video on Horang’s youtube page, and it is a 46 second music video for the Korean band C-Kret (the opening of an anime maybe?  I don’t know.  I don’t watch a lot of that stuff...here is the link anyway http://www.youtube.com/user/StudioHORANG/videos).  Much like Horang, I was unable to find very much about C-Kret (however, you can find the vocalist, Gaya’s website at http://www.aragaya.net/ check it out.  That is, if you happen to know how to read Kanji).  Despite Horang’s incredible obscurity, he has made a huge splash in the digital cesspool that is the internet with his incredibly short and sweet horror series, the 2011 Mystery Shorts, consisting of the two horrifying ghost stories I am sharing with you tonight. 

These two horror stories, short as they are, are jam packed with Lovecraftian elements.  Specifically, they instigate the fear of a supernatural influence over an urban setting.  Bongcheon Dong is a housing division in Seul, South Korea and Oksu Station is an actual train line in the same city as Bongcheon Dong (probably the home town of Horang himself).  Not only that, but they introduce characters that are completely out of control of their current ghostly situation and unable to comprehend the horrors that await them until it is too late.  

As I stated before, I hope you were not planning on getting much sleep, because I guarantee that at least one of these two horrifying web comics will keep your eye lids glued to the tip of your scalp.  I am reluctant to give away too much information on these pieces other than they are very eerie and claim to be based on “true events”.  Horang manages to put the reader directly into the setting of the pieces within their first panels, as well as develop a very frightening mood, seemingly without an ounce of effort.
I mean, look at this.  Even out of context, this image is bound to haunt anyone’s nightmares. 
I fear that any more commentary I may be able to add would only detract from the experience of these nightmare inducing stories.  So without further ado, I present to you Studio Horang’s 2011 Mystery Shorts.  Read them and judge for yourselves just what makes these damn things so haunting.  I recommend beginning with the Bongcheon-Dong Ghost Story first.  Normally, I’d say save the best for last, but the Bongcheon-Dong Ghost Story really enhances the reading experience of the Ok-Su Station Ghost Story; forcing you to wonder what is going to happen in each on coming panel. 

You can read the Bongcheon-Dong Ghost Story with an english translation here:

And, of course, the Ok-Su Station Ghost Story with an english translation here:

I for one hope to see more from Horang, and anxiously look forward to the opportunity of sharing many more narcoleptic nights with his horrifying work.  I hope you feel the same as I do about these creepy fucking stories.  And as a very sexy woman once said while waving goodbye on the show Movie Macabre, until next time, "unpleasant dreams".

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Shockfest: The Complete Application Collection

Hello Meat!

A couple of months ago, I posted a video application for the position of host for Shockfest film festival.  I am sure some of you got a chance to watch it, but in fact, there were actually four videos in total, two of which never went viral.  So, I wanted to share with you all the complete collection of video applications.  The process to get the job was very tedious and took a lot out of me.  After all, I killed a cat, raised the dead, and summoned a demon inside of an orphan all in one month.  The wonderful people at Shockfest did eventually get back to me.  The end result?  They shared a wonderful long weekend with me as their host of 2011.  Thank you all for the absolutely frightful experience.  So, without further ado, here they are.  I hope you enjoy them.


*I would also love to add a special thanks to the following people for making these video applications possible.

Dustin Gardner
Keith Wyrick
Joe Bou
Mai Mai
Nique Rose
Pat Jankiewicz
Edward and Victoria Plumb
Guil and Alesha Claveria, and all the good people of Shockfest Film Festival

May you all rest in a horrific slumber.

Solicitation #1

Solicitation #2

Solicitation #3

Solicitation #4