Popcorn Movie of the Moment: Skyline

I thought I was going to hate co-director's Colin and Greg Strause's Skyline.  It seemed to break every rule I have about what makes a movie worthless.  In the first fifteen minutes several rock or rap songs are used to pad  scenes, a cringe worthy homophobic moment happens where some spying party guests discover two men engaged in oral sex (the sex isn't cringe worthy, but the reactions from the guests are), a majorly underdeveloped love triangle that is only used for some nonsensical plot complications happens, and of course a lot of that A.D.H.D. / herky jerky camera movements abound that makes me want to kick in my television screen...

But then, something interesting happened.  Once the movie's action began, I found myself being seduced by this clever little alien invasion flick.

Cobalt blue streams of light descend from the sky onto night time Los Angeles, and instantly things begin getting wacky.  People who gaze into the blue light first find themselves mesmerized by it, and then seem to start to transform, their skin revealing black web-like clusters, and their eyes glazing over.  If they continue staring, they eventually find themselves pulled into the light until they seemingly vanish.  Later on it is revealed that people are being sucked up en masse into monolithic ships that float silently above the city of angels, "Just like the rapture", as one of the film's character's says.

Indeed, one of the pleasures of Skyline is the way the story sort of takes the mythos of biblical end-times and adds a science fiction slant to them (bodies ascending into the heavens, brilliant rays of light from above, celestial-like-creatures floating through the sky).  Even more entertaining is the way Skyline incorporates the feel of several other science fiction films including Cloverfield (humongous monster on a rampage), War of The Worlds (obviously) and dozens of those 1950's b-film / sci-fi epics. 

What sets Skyline apart from the others, is its rather bleak theme.  It seems that the aliens have come to harvest humans brains, literally, using our grey matter (which, by the time the aliens have finished with it, is glowing blue) as a source of nourishment and energy.   That bleak theme, continues to the bitter end.  Yes, there is an oddly, somewhat possibly, optimistic coda to the film, but all in all, Skyline leaves us facing a dead, decimated planet with no hope of redemption.

In spite of all of this, Skyline works as an entertaining popcorn style movie.  Just keep reaching in and enjoying each crunchy, salty bite, and you'll find yourself hankering for more.

Finally, I was impressed to discover that this film's budget was something like ten million dollars (a mere pittance in Hollywood these days), and yet, it was a hell of a lot more entertaining than most of the crap being churned out by the studios.  Give it a look-see for your self, you might be pleasantly surprised.


Funny Games with George and Martha - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

In memory of the passing of the incomparable Elizabeth Taylor, one from the vaults:

You can sit around with the gin running out of your mouth; you can humiliate me; you can tear me to pieces all night, that's perfectly okay, that's all right.

So you think you've seen horror films, huh?  You think you've had your nerves shattered by Freddy, Norman, Michael and Jason?  You think you've been taken to the edge watching movies like Saw and Hostel?

Ha!  That's all kid stuff when you stack it up against one of the most gut wrenching, nerve racking, unapologetic kick to the balls that is Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.   Go ahead, strap yourself in and see if you can really stand being dragged to hell.

Based on a play by Edward Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.tells the tale of George and Martha; he's an alcoholic, impotent college professor - she's his  blowzy, boozy wife... and she's also the daughter of the college's Dean.

One night George and Martha invite a young couple (Nick and his wife, Honey) over to their home after a dinner party, and that's when the fun begins.  Mind games are on the menu tonight, and these games put anything  Jigsaw ever dreamed of to shame - oh sure, you won't see any blood or guts, but that's besides the point, these games go deeper and they rip open and trample the heart, the soul and the psyche.   You see, George and Martha are well versed in verbal and psychological abuse, and they'll make their way into the deepest recess of your being to where your  insecurities lie, and expose them to the booze soaked light of reality.

Worried about your man hood?  Martha's got your number.  Think your wife might have made sexual advances to your son?  George has got you covered.

But innocent bystanders fall by the wayside when the collegiate creeps turn the dark rays on each other...it's no holds bared when you can so fuck with each others heads that you can create and kill a child that has never really existed!

For the young folk out there, keep in mind that Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.is a long, talky, drama - these were the kind of movies people used to pay good money to see before our collective brains went all ADHD thanks to television and video games- also, most of the film is set in a cluttered living room, there are no special effects to speak of ...well except one:  Elizabeth Taylor (who plays Martha) was considered one of the most beautiful women of her time (Think Angelina Jolie,  but with talent) - in order for her to become believable as a hateful, gin soaked harpy, she gained 35 pounds, and went through a make over that went something like this:
The rest of the cast is equally phenomenal.  Richard Burton (Taylor's husband at the time) is a slimy, scary creation - he's so believable, you can almost smell him (I imagine cheap cologne, gin, cigarette smoke and something musty). 
As for the young couple:  George Segal is a handsome if innocuous young professor, but Sandy Dennis steals the show as his dippy, naive wife.
All in all, Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf separates the men from the boys.  You can talk a big game about how you might have watched Cannibal Holocaust, but if you really want to earn your merit badge in the world of cinematic mind fucks, try and sit through this one and see if you don't come away battered and beaten down.

I'd love for my fellow horror bloggers to give this one a chance, if you do watch the film, or if you've seen it, let me know what you think.  As for the rest of you: what are you waiting for?  George and Martha are waiting, bottles in hand, ice in glasses, and games ready to be played - dare you join them?


Wes Craven's New Cocktail: My Soul to Take

Add 1/2 oz A Nightmare on Elm Street's teens in peril thanks, in part, to a family secret.
*stir in 1/3 oz Scream's nerdy boys bromance.
*add 1/5 oz Shocker's psychopathic killer's soul on a rampage.
*stir in 1/4 oz Scream, Scream II and Scream III's who is this masked killer amongst us? dilemma.
*toss in a hint of The Last House on the Left's revenge theme.

Blend on high speed until everything is mixed to a bloody, ridiculous pulp and serve with a grain of salt.


Help Save Japan For the Price of a DVD!

Dear Horror Fans, Fellow Bloggers, and Anyone Who Might Have Stumbled Upon This page:

As you are aware, Japan was recently devastated by  an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and a catastrophic tsunami, as well as several jarring aftershocks.  In the wake of this, there is also a very good chance of several of Japan's nuclear power plants  going into melt down mode. 

Thousands are dead, and hundreds of thousands are injured, homeless and in dire need of help. 

And that's where you come in, gentle reader.

Today, I am asking you, horror movie fans, to make a small sacrifice.  Today, I am asking you to lay out what you might pay for a DVD - nine dollars and ninety nine cents - and make a donation to the Red Cross.

Simply click on Godzilla above and you will be taken to the Red Cross page for Japan.  From there, you can make your pledge and know that you've done something decent.   

And, hey, if you don't have 9.99 - send what you can!  Or if you are feeling extremely benevolent, send more!  It's all up to you. 

Thanks so much,

Pax Romano


The Subtle Beauty of The Legend of Hell House

Having recently re-watched John Hough's classic,  The Legend of Hell House, I was struck by what a gorgeous film it really is.  Putting the somewhat convoluted plot aside, the movie is filled with such subtle beauty and such outrageous (albeit brief) sexual shenanigans,  that I found myself rewinding just to watch certain scenes over again.  Here are few captures , and if you have not seen this movie from 1973, get on over to Netflix and do so now! 

Emeric Belasco commands it! 


Flat Tire : RUBBER

Somewhere in Quentin Dupieux's Rubber, there is a decent short horror/comedy film to be found.   Unfortunately that film is lost amongst some kind of French-New Wave-Existential-Grindhouse-mash up that left this viewer feeling deflated.

Rubber tells the tale of "Robert", a tire that seemingly comes to life in the Southern California desert, and then goes on a killing spree.  It seems that our steel-belted antihero possesses the power to cause small animals to explode, cars to break down, and people's heads to blow up.  Sounds like fun, and it is, up to a point.

Not satisfied with this quirky tale of a killer Michelin, Dupieux includes a subplot concerning a group of people who have come to the desert to watch the goings on.  This "audience" is supplied with binoculars and serve as a sort of Greek Chorus.  Furthermore there is an unnamed man (Jack Plotnick) who seems to be something of a corporate flunky whose only job is to keep the audience from asking questions, and eventually to silence them for good via a poisoned roasted turkey.
There is also a police officer (Stephen Spinella) who offers a confounding preface to the goings on at the start of the film, and later tries to convince everyone that the deaths are not really happening, and that everything is just special effects - of course, he's proved to be wrong; with that in mind, we now seem to stumble into Théâtre de l'Absurde territory , nothing makes sense, there is no rhyme or reason, god is dead, and Nietzsche was right about everything.

Despite all of the philosophical mumbo-jumbo, the actual story of the psychopathic telekinetic tire is very clever.  Sometimes we see "Robert" watching TV, other times he's spying on a woman in the shower, and at one point, he goes for a swim!  The deaths that he cause are increasingly gory, and when he witnesses a group of men burning old tires at a dump, well, we sort of feel for him.  Of course he want's revenge - poor guy was once an essential part of a car, but when he was worn out, he was tossed a-side and forgotten. 

Rubber's saving grace is its last few minutes;  when "Robert" is destroyed, his malevolent soul is transposed into a child's tricycle and soon that squeaky, creepy toy is tooling through the wasteland, joined by more tires until eventually they reach their destination, and we see what they truly want...
Honestly, I did not know what to make of Rubber. Yes, it has its moments - several of them - but for the most part, it seemed so self aware,  so cognizant of its edgy post-modern feel that I sort of wanted to smack everyone involved in the making of it.  

In the end, it will be up to you to judge.  By all means this one is worth a curious glance, but in my humble opinion, it goes on much too long and would have been better were it just a short feature.  Instead, the whole affair just comes off like so much cinematic/philosophical  masturbation.