WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
First of all, let it be stated for the record that I was given a screener copy of this movie for review, but that doesn’t mean that I have to say nice things about it. Let me also say that I’m not the biggest fan of found footage movies, purely because they can either turn out spectacularly (eg. the original Blair Witch Project) or as a horrible mess (eg. Cloverfield). Skew manages to pull off the genre quite well, mainly through blending in a number of other genres to keep the storyline going. On the whole it’s a good movie and worth a watch, but it does have a few problems. While it does deliver on the scares they are, at times, a bit few and far between and you have to sit through a lot of mundane dialogue before the next thing happens. The acting tends to come in waves, going from outstanding one minute to nightmarishly amateur the next (and there are only 3 people in the movie, so this is quite something). The main thing that actually does this movie in is not what it was so much as what it could have been: with all that was built up there was SO much more that could have been done with it. Anyways, enough of all that, let’s get on with the story!
Simon, Eva and Richard have been friends for ages and, as good friends do for other good friends, they’re getting ready to go on a little road trip to a friend’s wedding. Simon’s been having issues with his girlfriend Laura so she’s decided not to tag along (you will be reminded of this many times during the movie). Simon’s also a bit of an amateur film maker so he’s decided to record absolutely everything that happens on the road for reasons relating to a damaged childhood that you don’t really want to know about here. The trip starts out nice enough and everyone seems relatively alright with having a camera shoved in their faces for the greater part of the day, but things soon start to become a little weird for our little trio of travelling besties. First they run over a coyote (something that Eva seems to think should be reported to the highest echelons of power in the land), then the desk clerk at the motel they’re staying at is killed. To distract themselves from the terror Richard and Eva take turns filming their very private conversations that Simon mustn’t hear on Simon’s camera.
The trip becomes even stranger as we move on from coyotes to entire bus loads of people, shop owners and policemen dying wherever our little group ventures. To top that crazy, the camera also has this weird way of distorting people’s faces while recording and it has a tendency to show the viewer angry ghosts everywhere. Simon’s starting to get a little freaked out but feels mysteriously drawn to the camera and compelled to continue filming everything. Eva’s beginning to feel uncomfortable with his odd obsession and Richard, as the big strong boyfriend, won’t have someone unsettling his lady, so he starts going off on random angry outbursts that amount to nothing. The fact that they amount to nothing may have something to do with the fact that this guy can’t really pull off a facial expression other than loveable douche, but that’s beside the point.
The group must now make their to the wedding party in the face of Simon’s growing paranoia, a camera that may or may not be a portal to hell and an odd love triangle that doesn’t really go anywhere but serves to help heighten the “tension”.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Speedometers are just one of the many modern pieces of technology Jeeps come equipped with.
- Nobody appreciates how hard it is to pee and film at the same time.
- Woman’s intuition gives females the right to interfere in everyone’s business.
- Being 100% sure of something and knowing something are not the same thing.
- Roadkill should be left on the side of the road as carrion. It’s nature’s way.
- In the event of running down a coyote alcoholism can be used as a means of getting over the trauma.
- People should buy video cameras as a way of getting back at their parents for not being amazing photographers.
- Camera smashing is uncalled for and unfair.
- As an exception to the rule atheists are permitted to worship one deity / totem of their choice.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Few things in life are certain but we all know that Death, at some point, will come and take us away. What this movie teaches us, however, is that Death is very fickle and contractually bound to 101 different laws, making it somewhat easier to escape Death. I have also learned that there is no such thing as a painless death; when the Grim Reaper comes to collect your soul every death is brutally and dismemberingly violent. With all that in mind it must be said that this was a very fun movie to watch, if only for how truly daft it is. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh pick this one out of the nearest bargain bin you can find.
As with so many other tales involving the Grim Reaper ours begins in a strip club. Rachel is a hard-working girl putting in her hours to try and make a better life for her and her boyfriend Liam. Liam’s studying to become a doctor and is about to start his residency. With student loans being what they are Rachel’s gonna strip the bills away, something that Liam isn’t incredibly happy with. When she leaves work on this fateful night she was innocently standing in a back alley waiting for a taxi to come and take her home. Sadly the taxi showed up and plowed into her, leaving her at Death’s door. When the taxi driver gets out and collapses Rachel tries to run to him but a mysterious stranger tells her to stay in the light. The two are rushed to hospital to have their injuries seen to. Once there Rachel starts to see strange things but nobody’s quite ready to believe that Death himself is wandering the corridors and brutally slaying the souls of patients.
The only logical thing to do in this kind of situation is to send Rachel off to the nut house without informing anyone where she is. Now, St Joseph’s in one of the more bottom of the barrel mental asylums. It has 6 patients, all of whom claim that the Grim Reaper is stalking them, 1 doctor who keeps having mild heart attacks, no electricity and food left over from the Apollo 7 space mission. No one knows why they’ve been put in here but the doctor is more than willing to taser the hell out of anyone who questions his methods. Everything’s going as well as can be expected in such an environment until one night when the Reaper shows up to collect the souls of these 6 people. The question is, why is he after them and how are they going to escape from this dreary hell hole?
The reason Death is after this unfortunate bunch is actually quite simple. When Rachel was hit by the taxi she was actually meant to die and, likewise, everyone else in the asylum has met with some unfortunate incident that was meant to kill them. By not dying Fate has been cheated and the Grim Reaper is now pissed off and coming to collect the souls that he feels are owed to him (*cough* Final Destination *cough cough*). It turns out that the doctor was also meant to have died a long time ago. Being a chain smoker he’s developed lung cancer that has spread throughout his body but, Death being what it is, the good doctor managed to strike a deal whereby he’ll bring all those people Death wants to the asylum so they’re easier to catch in exchange for him being allowed to live. With Liam desperately trying to find Rachel the group must devise a way to once again change their fate and send Death on his merry little way before he manages to slice them into wafer thin little pieces.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Strippers take their work very seriously and don’t like people making them feel guilty about it.
- The wives of prominent doctors often started out as strippers.
- Strippers have no need for a pulse or functioning major organs.
- Nurses can just walk up to anyone and sedate them against their will.
- Insane asylums don’t need staff or electricity to run smoothly.
- A mild tasering will make a remarkably agreeable person out of anyone.
- It’s never a good idea to let a blind girl run off on her own.
- You can’t electrocute Death.
- Death subcontracts part of his reaping out to cowardly mortals.
- Medical students are trained to shout people back from the dead.
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
There have been times in the past where I have accused directors of forgetting to have things happen in their movies. As some form of karmic retribution for that comment I was subjected to Road Train (a.k.a. Road Kill), a movie where there’s just far too much going on. We have angry couples, cheating couples, a haunted truck, madmen with guns, road trips, the Australian outback, Cerberus and what I believe to be an unintentional homoerotic subtext. With so much going on the movie never really has time to explain anything properly, and a truck really isn’t as menacing a killer as the director was probably hoping it would be. It’s an interesting idea, but one that isn’t properly developed and one that doesn’t really have the effect you can feel the movie was going for.
I’m always a bit concerned when a movie opens with a sex scene. It gives you the sense that this isn’t a very confident movie because it’s not saving the nudity for later when the plot might be taking a little dip and it needs to keep the audience’s attention. Since this isn’t Dead Boyz Don’t Scream I was also a little perplexed as to why we saw more naked man than woman, since this is very uncommon in the horror world. The sexing twosome are Nina and Craig, and a little bit off from their tent is the non-sexing couple Liz and Marcus. Craig, Liz and Marcus have been friends for donkey’s years and they go on little camping excursions into the outback every year and Nina’s just tagged along for the ride. There’s also a very strong Brokeback feeling going on between Marcus and Craig. Whether it’s meant to be there or not I’m not sure, but something’s just odd between them. Anyways, having sexed themselves out and had coffee the group heads on to find even more nothing in the great outback for them to enjoy and camp in.
Whilst driving and looking for more nothing the group spots a road train coming up the road. A road train is a really enormous truck and the kids are pretty excited because apparently being overtaken by one is the ultimate road trip high. Things take a little turn for the worse when, instead of overtaking them, the truck plows into the back of them. After trying a few evasive manoeuvres the truck eventually rams into them again, forcing their car off the road and sending it flying. The car ends up being completely wrecked and Craig has a little bit of bone sticking out of his arm, but other than that the group is left reasonably unharmed. Marcus and Liz notice that the truck has stopped just off in the distance, so they decide to go and have a little chat with the driver while Nina tries to calm Craig down about the excruciating agony he’s in.
The rest of the movie is just a mix and match of ideas that desperately try to hold onto one another. When Marcus and Liz get to the truck they find that there’s no driver to be found anywhere. When Craig and Nina join them a madman appears out of nowhere and starts shooting at them, so the four jump in the truck and drive it off. The truck then puts them all to sleep and drives them into a dead-end where it starts pitting them all against one another. Nina also discovers that the truck has no fuel, and judging by the smell of its fuel tanks it never has, so how it actually manages to drive is another story that no one gives much thought to. Cerberus also seems to be locked in one of the trailers at the very back and lures Craig in there and possesses him. Everyone’s fighting with one another, the madman at one point passes the torch onto Marcus, there’s a cult of sorts in an abandoned house, who’s been cheating on who comes out and leads to more arguments, water runs out, heads are placed under tyres and so on and so on and so forth. By the end you don’t actually care what’s happening, you’re just begging for it all to end.
Road Train was clearly made on a decent budget but its whole premise was just poorly executed. Without all the bickering and the inclusion of Cerberus (which really doesn’t make sense and is never explained) it may have worked, but this was really painful to sit through.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Women who hear other people having sex instantly want to have sex themselves.
- Being part of an enormous accident where the car flies off the road and flips will only result in mild bruising.
- Even with absolutely no experience it’s dead easy to drive an enormous truck.
- Independent women are often threatened with becoming dingo food by Australian men.
- Women think you can flag down a commercial plane and ask them for help.
- When your best friend sleeps with your girlfriend a homoerotic bromance is bound to break out.
- Women are oblivious to things like miraculous healing, a blood-stained muscular torso and Satanic possession.
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
There’s nothing quite like a movie made to capitalise on the general populace’s fear in the face of a worldwide swine flu pandemic. There’s also nothing quite like a movie made to capitalise on the general populace’s fear in the face of a worldwide swine flu pandemic that fails miserably at its objective. A note to the director: in order to make this kind of movie, where the fate of humanity itself hangs in the balance and our future rests in the hands of a few brave scientists, there needs to be an atmosphere of tension. We need to care that humanity might be wiped out. We shouldn’t be bored to the point where the swine flu seems like the easier option than sitting through the remaining bit of the movie. Just a thought – use it, don’t use it.
It’s a well-known fact that women with enormous mansions, wild ambition and a bank balance greater than that of some third world countries often dream about world domination as a means of further increasing their social profile. Danita Herrington is no different, and she has one doozy of a plan up her sleeve. She’s hired Dr Gravamen, one of those dark and brooding doctors, and is paying him exorbitant amounts of money to develop a particularly strong strain of the H1N1 virus that she can release on the world. As the infection takes hold and people begin to panic she’ll miraculously come up with the cure and be hailed as a hero to all mankind whilst making a tidy little profit on the side. Not that she has delusions of grandeur or anything.
Danita’s not exactly thrilled with the good doctor’s work, however. With test subjects only dying in a period of 26 days or so she’s pushing him to come up with a much faster and crippling strain. To help shift the project along he hires Malcolm Burr, a blonde and studly doctor with a peculiar looking face. A brilliant man with a lot of field experience, Burr thinks he’s being brought on board to help develop vaccines against swine flu. His field experience exposed him to people dying deaths that look more like they contracted the Ebola virus than swine flu and he’s determined to do his best so that no one else should ever have to suffer a death like those he’s seen. He’s also the only person to question the good doctor’s methods of deliberately mutating H1N1 samples to create particularly virulent strains of the virus without concocting antidotes for them, something that the rest of the staff find nothing strange with.
Of course this whole plan falls to shit when one of the human guinea pigs decides to make a break for it. As a hooker she’s experienced in taking on groups of men and easily overpowers the hired goons and the good doctor’s creepy assistant with the synthesized voice. After climbing through one of the air ducts and into the main lab where the staff are relaxing she’s shot in the head by the creepy assistant. As jets of blood shoot all over the room the various members of staff are exposed to the latest H1N1 strain, forcing the good doctor (who’s been watching everything through the lab’s hidden camera system) to put the facility on lockdown to prevent anyone with the virus from escaping. As the crew become more and more sick and the doctor uses this as one great opportunity to test of the strength of the new strain our poor, trapped Dr Burr must do what he can to either cure himself and his fellow captives or find a way to break the lockdown and escape.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- There’s nothing like a nice bubble bath with champagne, strawberries, soft music and live video stream to a tortured human guinea pig to wind down after a long day.
- Doctors must do what they are paid to do, even if it violently breaks the Hippocratic Oath.
- The best way to stop aggressive viral mutations is to beat nature to it and mutate the virus yourself.
- A single door really isn’t enough security to keep a prisoner with a deadly virus safely contained.
- There’s no real rush to make vaccines for the horrible viral mutations you produce.
- The ‘ladies first’ rule can only be ignored when climbing through air ducts.
- It is necessary for every doctor to have a very creepy, white-haired lackey.
- Doctors and their creepy, white-haired lackeys should always have a strongly homoerotic relationship.
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Welcome to the second instalment of You Broke It: 3 Trilogies That Went Awry. Today we’ll be looking at the third movie in the Urban Legends franchise, Bloody Mary. I chose this movie because it fit many of the same criteria as I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer in that, while the first two Urban Legends movies were not directly linked, this movie takes the story down a completely different track and completely abandons its predecessors’ slasher elements in favour of being a ghost story. I would also like to state from the get-go that, despite the title, the Bloody Mary myth is used very loosely and only as a means of justifying adding this movie to the franchise.
To begin our story we need to go back in time to the summer of ’69, albeit a far more tragic version than the one Bryan Adams has been describing for all these years. It’s the local high school’s homecoming celebration (admittedly, living in South Africa, I have no clue how homecoming works or what it’s for) and Mary Banner just feels like the most important girl in the whole school. The alpha jock has decided to dump his bitch of a girlfriend Dawn and asks Mary to the dance, proving that every now and then the plain girl can get the guy. He even manages to hook Mary’s 2 best friends Gina and Grace up with two of his buddies so that they can all be a matching set. If only good things like this did happen to the plain girl. Seems like the boys and Dawn aren’t happy about the fact that Mary and Co. don’t worship the ground the walk on so they decide to drug the three girls and play a little prank on them. Mary, not having any of it, runs away and tries to find help. Unfortunately for her she lands up cornered in the basement and, while trying to escape, she trips and knocks her head on the table, killing her. Not wanting to go to jail the alpha jock takes her body and hides it in a trunk, where it has stayed ever since.
Flash forward to 2005 and history’s busy repeating itself, just this time it has the use of modern technology. Samantha works for the school newspaper and recently published an article debating whether footballers should be given good grades simply because they know how to run around a field and throw a ball to one another. The article is accompanied by a very unflattering photograph of three jocks in particular. When homecoming rolls round Sam and her two friends decide that they don’t want to go and instead stage a slumber party. The boys, upset at how their vast levels of intelligence have been insulted by Sam’s article, rock up in the middle of the night, give the girls some chloroform and stick them in a room in the old abandoned paper mill. Unlike the events of the summer of ’69, however, all of the girls make it out alive and, the scare aside, seem none the worse for wear and continue on with their lives. This is when things start to get a little bit strange.
Having shouted out the words ‘Bloody Mary’ three times during the slumber party (although not into a mirror or anything even mildly reflective) Sam and her friends have somehow managed to invoke the spirit of Mary Banner, and she’s pissed. Seeing this turn of events and Sam’s similar situation Mary decides that now is the time to take her revenge and kill those people involved in Sam’s kidnapping. It starts off with a simple homage to Aerobicide where one of the jocks is fried to a crisp in a sun tanning bed but gradually the attacks become more sinister and Mary’s ghost becomes angrier and angrier. What Sam and her twin brother David need to find out is why Mary has come back and why she has chosen this as her method of seeking revenge. With the help of Grace they will seek to uncover the truth about what happened all those years ago, but they will not seek to find out how Grace, a heavy stoner who hasn’t been outside her house in years, manages to get groceries and daily copies of the newspaper.
Some final thoughts on the matter. Like I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer this isn’t a terrible movie and, had it been released as a stand-alone film, would probably have been reasonably entertaining. It suffers from the fact that it tries to force the urban legend angle where it really doesn’t fit into the plot. The reference to Bloody Mary herself is only used so that the movie can in some way try to fit in with its predecessors and the murders using urban legends is in no way justified or explained. The use of newspaper clippings referring to the second Urban Legends movie, as well as a few recycled scenes, also fail to make this in any way a part of a continuous narrative. Whoever’s idea this was should hang their head in shame (just a little bit) for trying to sell a ghost story by piggy backing on two slasher films and hoping that nobody would notice. Because we did.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- To spike a hippie chick’s drink you need A LOT of rohypnol.
- Girls who assert their independence and opinions are doomed to a lonely, single life.
- Pillow fights are a great way for friends to sort out their issues.
- Some people just don’t see the funny side of being drugged and locked in a room.
- Alpha jocks can convince lesser jocks to do anything.
- Anyone who uses dial-up internet is high on crack.
- Ghosts always start out with a plan but God help you they devise a new one later on.
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