Scary and badass!

Just some more movie reviews this week, for a couple scary flicks and some badass ones. Got book reviews in the works for next week, if I can catch up on some reading.

First, speaking of badass, this may be the mostest-badass pwnage video I've ever seen. It's very short and definitely worth your time, because it's also hilarious. No matter how many times I see it, I keep getting cracked up. She destroys his argument in half a second with zero effort and still manages to be a sweetheart about it. Genius! I am an instant CompletelyLovely fan.

Anyway, let's talk movies.

Baby's Room, The (C, 2006) aka Films To Keep You Awake: The Baby's Room, Peliculas Para No Dormir: La Habitacion del Nino. Made for Spanish TV (which apparently allows nudity, gore, and profanity, so that's not hindering anything) horror in which a young couple fixing up a house learns there's someone else living with them. They first hear a scary voice in their baby's room through the baby monitor. After buying a video monitor the husband sees a dark figure sitting by the baby's crib. The husband (understandably) freaks out, but his behavior alarms his wife and she leaves with the baby. Left alone in the house, the husband starts experimenting with the monitors and discovers a bizarre situation that's apparently connected to Schrodinger's paradox about the cat in the box. The twist ending isn't completely unexpected but still works, and there are plenty of creepy moments that make this one worth seeking out. In fact, I haven't watched the other five films in the DVD set, but even if they all suck, this one made it worth my money.

Cop (C, 1987) Engrossing adaptation of James Elroy’s Blood on the Moon, with James Woods as lowlife, problem-ridden, shady (yet effective) scumbag detective sergeant Lloyd Hopkins, who’s determined to bring in the killer who committed a particularly grisly murder. He cusses out his bosses while trying to demand extra help on the case, alienates his wife by telling their daughter a lot of crime stories (because he’s determined that she won’t grow up innocent like so many of the victims he has to see), doesn’t hesitate to use violence or violate civil liberties, and doesn’t mind manipulating vulnerable citizens if it’ll give him an edge in tracking down the killer. Lloyd Hopkins was Elroy’s attempt to out-dirty Dirty Harry (which he didn’t like much because he doesn’t seem to admire much of anything that he didn’t write, unless it pre-dates him), and as usual Elroy’s ego goes a bit past his skill... but just because it’s not quite as good as Elroy thinks it is doesn’t mean it’s not still great stuff. Woods is always good, and this is a fitting role for his intensity; Woods always comes across as a little crazy, and that fits perfectly for Hopkins. Strong plot and some powerful action scenes, and the ending is one of the most badass in cinema history. An overlooked and underrated crime film/character study.

Faster (C, 2010) The Rock returns to action movies with a vengeance, literally, in this old-school neo-noir revenge drama, done the way they did 'em back in the 70's. After serving ten years in prison (after surviving a gunshot to the head) Duane Johnson (known only as Driver) gets out with nothing on his mind but avenging his brother's death. Hard and cold as a coffin nail, he gets in a 70's Chevelle SuperSport and ruthlessly hunts down everyone involved and murders them one by one. A burned-out, drug-addicted cop (Billy Bob Thornton) is after him, and so is a professional hit man (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who's an overachiever at his job. Even though Driver is as straight-line about his mission as a Terminator, the ways of vengeance are a much more tangled web than he anticipated. There are a few implausibles here and there but the whole thing's so badass you just won't care. My only quibble is that the director's not very good at car chase scenes (you hold shots longer in car chases - let's see them run! The cars moving make the action, not a strobe of a lot of fast cuts. Bullitt - buy it and study it!) but his good taste in cars makes me inclined to forgive that. The original ending (included on the DVD) is much more ridiculous and it was wise to go with something else. It's not perfect, but I'm so happy to see a film like this still getting made that I can overlook a lot. Hard-boiled action with no fucking around.

Perfume of the Lady in Black
(C, 1974) aka Il Profumo Della Signora in Nero. Brilliant, surreal Italian horror that applies a giallo style to a story that's a combination of aspects of Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby. Mimsy Farmer is Sylvia, a young woman who's going mad when she should perhaps be becoming paranoid instead. Haunted by a father fixation and guilt involving the fate of her faithless mother, and perhaps badly influenced by reading Alice In Wonderland, Sylvia starts losing her hold on reality and begins seeing some truly creepy visions of her dead mother putting on perfume, her mother's lover trying to rape her, and a schizoid split when her childhood self starts showing up. Admidst her mental deterioration, there's also something going on with her weirdo neighbors and other people who keep showing up. There's a lot of strange psychology going on here (you can easily spot recurring motifs) as Sylvia goes crazier to the point that she becomes a murderer (perhaps - since much of the film takes her point of view and she's insane you can't always trust what you see). There are some nightmarish images (the first appearance of Sylvia's mother is as flesh-crawly as the appearances of the little girl in Kill Baby Kill), and there's some pretty extreme gore, saved for the end so it's a shocking contrast to everything that came before it, most of which relied on atmosphere. A strange, well-directed film that's not strictly a giallo but is a must-see for giallo fans.

Seeding of a Ghost (C, 1983) aka Zhong Gui. Completely crazy Shaw Brothers sickfest that ends up like a ten-car pileup of gruesomeness, morbidity, and gore. A woman who's having an affair with a married man gets raped and killed by a couple of young thugs, possibly as the result of a run of bad luck her taxi driver husband is having because he helped a black magician escape from an angry crowd. The husband turns to the magician for help in avenging his wife's death, and they raise and reanimate her desiccated, skeletal corpse in an elaborate rite. The resurrected woman decides not only to target the guys who killed her, but her lover’s wife as well, and the movie becomes a nonstop splatterfest that’s played completely straight but gets so over the top that it becomes a little silly. People vomit up worms, eat brain matter, and their toilets spew filth. There’s sex with badly-decomposed corpses, attacks of leprosy-like skin conditions, and a pregnant woman’s belly explodes and gushes out a thing that looks a lot like one of the monsters in The Deadly Spawn, which starts biting off people’s limbs. Buddhist exorcists try to combat the evil, but the mayhem proves hard to stop as spines split backs open, ghosts copulate with floating corpses, and fireballs fly around and explode. Basically it looks like some twistedly-imaginative people sat around thinking of whatever crazy special effects scenario they could come up with and then force-fit it into the exorcism plot. And you’ve gotta love any movie that takes that approach.

Thief (C, 1981) Gritty and hardassed crime film stars James Caan as an expert safecracker who has his whole life worked out so it’ll fit on a postcard. All he needs is one more big score and Tuesday Weld to make it perfect. He’s so close to his dream that he gets a little impatient and makes a deal with some organized criminals, but their way of doing things is a lot more complicated than Caan’s, and he’s not happy with them for long. He starts losing everything on his card and the guys who think they’re his new bosses are sadly mistaken when they believe he’ll just take it; Caan learned some dangerous philosophical tricks during a stretch in prison, and that makes him the wrong person to try to push around. Director Michael Mann, pre-Miami Vice, details the workings of criminal activity (it looks like it requires more skills and is harder work than most legitimate careers) and doesn’t balk when it comes to violence. Great, well-handled crime drama that just keeps getting better and better the more you think about it. Caan is at his best, and there are good roles for Jim Belushi and Willie Nelson (Caan’s father figure, dying in prison).

This is the ending so don't watch it if you plan to seek out the movie. But if you don't, go ahead, 'cuz it's kick-ass.

Oh yeah, here's the obligatory plug for my Twitter stuff. Join now before the great Lisa Lampinelli figures out I suck and unfollows me! This may be as famous as I ever get. ;)

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