horror

Officially a Fannibal

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Four years ago I was flipping channels in bed on a Friday night. I jolted out of my seat and did a quick double take. Did I really see what I just saw? I did. It was season one of Hannibal, and I had just stumbled on the “human cello” episode. My mouth dropped. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on network television. It was gruesome, creative, and oddly beautiful. I needed more.

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But, because I was 26 and going out nearly every weekend, and because NBC was stupid to show Hannibal on Friday nights, I missed out on watching the show when it was airing (I was too cheap to pay for DVR service).

One year later I couldn’t stop thinking about that scene. I was bummed to discover that the series wasn’t available On Demand, and I couldn’t find it on any of the streaming services. It was 2014 and I was bummed over the lack of availability of a network tv show. These were simpler times.

Flash forward to the end of 2016! Not only did I turn 30, I got to mooch off of my amazing boyfriend’s Amazon Prime account. FINALLY! I was able to watch every episode of Hannibal. I am now proud to say that I’m a bona fide Fannibal.

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Not really my design. If I knew who designed this “this is my design” image, I’d say that it was their design. Because I credit people and don’t steal. Stealing sucks.

 

Brian Fuller’s Hannibal is the best horror TV show of this decade. It’s better than The Walking Dead. It’s better than American Horror Story. And as far as how much I’ve enjoyed watching a series, it’s on par with some of the G.O.A.T.s like Breaking Bad and The Wire – really!

Season one – at its most basic – is a classic crime drama with a grisly edge. We meet the curious Will Graham and steadfast Special Agent Jack Crawford of the FBI. We learn that Will has an empathy disorder that allows him to understand the reasons behind why the most demented murderers kill. It’s all very CSI or NCIS at the beginning with more interesting characters and way better gore. Because we’re horror fans, we know who we’re dealing with when Dr. Hannibal Lecter is introduced to the show. But we’re not quite sure who he is at this point and how he fits into everything – until we see him cooking human lungs. Same ol’ Hannibal.

Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter is better than Sir Anthony Hopkins’ performance in the film trilogy. Sorry, Hops. I love ya but it’s true. Watching Mikkelsen befriend and manipulate Hugh Dancy’s Graham throughout season one is a treat for viewers. It also sets up an incredible story line for season two where Will toes the line between repairing his psyche and submitting to much darker urges.

Hannibal’s second season is possibly my favorite season of any show – ever. Bold claim, I know. I could not get enough of Will’s struggle to rebuild himself when nobody believed him and Hannibal’s arrogance that ultimately led others to discover his true identity. I told you there would be spoilers, and here’s one of them: the episode where Beverly’s body has been perfectly sliced – vertically – into even sections and then meticulously encased solidified my opinion that Hannibal Lecter is the most interesting and complex character in the history of horror. Another highlight of this season for me is when – spoiler again – Mason Verger uses a knife to slice off pieces of his face and then feeds them to Will’s dog. Holy crap. Seriously, this was on NBC? If you want to talk the finale of season two, hit me up. I could go on for hours.

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How stunningly rich and decadent is season three? Bedelia and Hannibal seem like a power couple I would want to know. They are beautiful together, entertaining, classy, and intelligent. Everything you want in a dinner party guest or host, except no, you do NOT want to be a guest at any of their dinner parties. Bedelia’s internal conflict of being a “participant” or an “observer” is quite an interesting character study. As her story unfolds, we learn why her final dinner scene makes perfect sense. Also – Zachary Quinto is amazing and I wish I would’ve gotten to know his character as Bedelia’s ill-fated patient a bit more.

Of course, the real “meat” of season three is Hannibal and Will’s lost bromance. The cat and mouse game of season two may have ended in violence, but in season three its clear that Will and Hannibal can’t quit each other. Will goes to great lengths to find Hannibal in Europe and even with all that has happened between them, he still very much feels a deep sense of loyalty to and connection with Hannibal. Will realizes he can’t lead a normal life and cannot return to his wife and stepson. Too much has happened between Hannibal and Will. They have saved each other and they have tried to kill each other. Will knows that he cannot kill Hannibal, so he hopes that Francis Dolarhyde, aka The Red Dragon, will do it for him. Well, things don’t quite turn out that way. Will and Hannibal take on the Red Dragon together, and the rest is history… or hopefully a fourth season.

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The visuals in Hannibal deserve every accolade they’ve received. I can’t possibly write anything more clever than what’s already been written about them. They’re simply stunning. The cinematography, lighting, sound, and set design are all intentional and convey exactly the type of feeling that the moment intends.

In fact, here’s an entire list of examples that prove how visually breathtaking the show really is. Yes, I know you’re not supposed to end a sentence with the word “is”. Dammit, I did it again. Anyway, my personal favorite example of imagery in the show is when Hannibal discovers the creator of the Human Color Wheel and peers into the silo and casually states,”Love your work”. Delicious. God like. Genius.

Beyond Will and Hannibal, the other main characters are so alive and vivid that I feel that I know them. Jack Crawford spends all of his time trying to prevent deaths – including his own wife’s. Dr. Alana Bloom begins her journey on the show as a just psychiatrist who values fairness for all and sees the best in people. It is so damn interesting and fun to watch her transform into a lesbian hitwoman vying to get revenge on Hannibal. The scenes with Margot, Alana, and Hannibal while they’re working together to defeat Mason are delectable. Speaking of Margot, lets talk about how wonderful Katharine Isabelle is. She is and forever will be my modern scream queen. Even Dr. Chilton and Freddy Lounds are characters I couldn’t stop watching.

There is so much subtext, content, and symbolism in Brian Fuller’s Hannibal that I know I will need to watch the series one or two more times before I fully grasp the weight of the body of work I’ve witnessed. It’s a show that I cannot stop thinking about even months after finishing the series. I truly hope we are treated to more from Fuller and his team!

In the mean time, though, I think it’s safe to say that I am officially a “Fannibal”.  Hope the rest of the community will welcome me with open arms and a freshly roasted leg.

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horror, Horror Fans Rule

In Defense of Blair Witch (2016)

Horror fans, I have a request for you. I know it will be difficult, but all I’m asking is that you try. It’s time that we chill the flip out – just slightly.

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Horror fans are indisputably the most dedicated fans of any film genre. Just check out the message boards for the “Genre Zone” on IMDB.com. At the time of this posting, comedy has 769 posts dedicated to discussing the genre. Drama has 325 posts. People really seem to enjoy film noir, which has over 1,500 posts.

Horror? Horror has 34,697 posts. We are nerds, but dammit we are committed to the genre.  There’s no denying this. But we need to relax just a little bit. Our expectations as horror fans are through the skyscraper roof. It’s unlikely that any movie will scare you as much as that one legendary film that scared the living daylights out of you when you were a kid. We’re looking for that high. That thrill. That same spine-tingling sensation. It’s just not going to happen because we’re too desensitized and we’re really good at predicting the killer’s next move or the victims’ next dumb choice. We’ve watched a ton of movies, okay?

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I am not saying that we need to give a participation trophy to every fuckwit that wants to make a horror movie. We need to demand quality and innovation because otherwise this genre will not survive. We need to stay hungry for fresh talent and interesting points of view (or is it point of views?) We need to celebrate good storytelling and gnarly make-up effects.

But please – just give some of the stuff you considered “complete trash” a second look and give credit where credit’s due. My main gripe right now is with the fan response to the new Blair Witch. Yes, there are a lot of flaws. They should’ve used the drone more effectively, or at all. Why the fuck did that chick climb a tree? And what was that shit that got into her leg and what did it have to do with the story? And seriously, time warps?!

That being said, there’s some interesting film work happening here. Adam Wingard, our valiant mumblegore prince, manages to include some pretty intense and frightening stuff. There’s some great body horror visuals when Talia dies and when we finally get a glimpse of The Witch. If you’re the least bit claustrophobic, the tunnel scene works quite effectively. There’s also a lot of atmosphere going on here, folks. Lots of rain. Lots of darkness. Lots of screaming. When you take a deep breath and consider these efforts objectively, they are pretty good. Certainly not “Awful, abhorrent and wholly embarrassing for everyone involved” as one IMDB user stated.

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This is a stretch, but it’s not a dumpster fire.

As this post in the A.V. Club explains, Wingard wanted this to be a straightforward, jump-scare type horror movie. “It’s a movie that’s meant to be watched with a crowd,” he says. And I agree. In fact – and I know I may be in the minority here – watching horror films in a packed theater is one of my favorite things. This movie is exactly for that scenario.

There’s a lot to refute here, I know, because my writing style is lazy at best. But please, maybe ease up on the mainstream horror movies and try to focus on what’s working and where we can improve, not just complaining about what you think is utter crap.

Or maybe I should shut up and just let horror fans be horror fans. We are the dedicated-yet-salty curmudgeons of movie fans, after all. And proudly so.

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Your Average Horror Fan

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horror, Seasonal Horror, Uncategorized

Yuletide Terrors Volume Two: A Christmas Horror Story

Anthology films. You love them as much as I do, right? For five years in a row I have culminated my annual 31 Nights of Horror with Trick ‘r Treat because I think anthology movies are the bees knees. You get multiple stories in one! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

That’s why I’m elated to review a modern holiday horror anthology, A Christmas Horror Story.

First, a pro tip: when you see a horror movie on Netflix that has higher than a two-star rating you need to pay attention. That means that many REAL people who aren’t amazing horror weirdos like us gave it a good review. This one currently has three stars. Well done.

A Christmas Horror Story features four blustery tales of wintry dismay that will give the whole family a reason to believe in holiday magic. With everything that happens, it seems you’re likely to have a shitty Christmas if you’re a resident of a town called Bailey Downs. Ghosts, changelings, zombies, and Krampus are indeed the reasons for the season.

The film is well made and entertaining, and the twist to one of the main four stories is pretty good. Some of the scenes are cheesy and laughable, but they are a wonderful homage to ridiculous horror premises and the Christmas horror trope in general. As Peter Sobczynski wrote for Rogerebert.com, “Once you’ve seen one homicidal elf, you’ve seen them all”. That’s why we love this genre, though, because anything and everything goes. But the biggest scene stealer of all is William Shatner looking like an adorable grandpa in a Christmas sweater as a radio DJ who gets increasingly hammered and presides over the stories.

This is a great movie to watch over Christmas weekend or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, during your Christmas vacation. It’s an easy watch and a great holiday tradition to start. I give it two Krampus thumbs up.

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horror, scary movies

Every Woman Should See The Purge: Election Year

*****THIS REVIEW HAS SPOILERS*****

I live in Richmond, VA and it is HOT today. It’s not just a little bit hot. It feels insufferable outside. I woke up around 9:30 am and made some Kroger ‘Private Selection’ coffee in the Keurig, which is actually pretty good and a decent deal at $7.19 for a pack of 18 K-cups. Please, spare me the lecture about how k-cups are ruining the planet and better coffee can be made for much cheaper in a drip machine. I know this. It’s just what we have right now and dammit, there’s nothing finer than a weekend morning spent with a cup of coffee.

Before I went into the kitchen, I grabbed my copy of Stephen King’s “The Stand” from my night stand. My boyfriend bought me the complete and uncut edition from a BAD ASS used book store in Richmond called Chop Suey Books, which is located in Carytown. You should go there if you’re ever in Richmond. I took my book out onto our balcony and figured I could get through a couple chapters in the shady spot before the sun really got to me. I was wrong. It was before noon, and it was already well above 90 degrees outside. Phew! It is scorching.

After my boyfriend woke up, we made breakfast. I made him some pretty superb scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast, and I made myself a grilled cheese with said bacon and a little guacamole. Nom, nom, nom. I asked him if he wanted to see a matinee at the theater up the street, and he agreed. We had just re-watched The Purge: Anarchy on the Fourth of July and felt it was time we gave the third installment a go.

Once we made our decision to see a movie, we did what every good American does before they see any of the Purge movies. We got drunk. I downed a Miller Lite and an Amstel Light within 20 minutes. Because we were in a rush, we took two tequila shots before heading out the door. It just seemed wrong to see The Purge on an empty stomach.

We got to the theater, which is about 1 mile from our apartment, and settled into our seats. I gotta say they were pretty good seats for getting there about 10 minutes before the movie started on a Saturday where everyone else decided it was a good idea to get out of the heat too. We grabbed beers and awaited our chance to ‘Purge and Purify’ with the New Founding Fathers.

Let me comment quickly on the previews. I didn’t see all of them because I stood in line for a beer. I saw the preview for Lights Out and I think, unfortunately, it will not live up to the amazing short film that it’s based on. But I’ll definitely see it and hopefully I’ll be wrong.

Finally, the Purging began. Side note: I felt a little uneasy when the theater attendant lingered suspiciously near the exit. It would be just my luck to see a movie about purging your internal evil by murdering people where some whacko decided he needed to make that plot a reality. This is the America we live in. This is why The Purge is relevant and important.

My reactions and feelings about the movie first, and then a full synopsis with bonus commentary.

GUT REACTION (spoiler free): This. movie. RULES. There are gratuitous action scenes to satisfy people who maybe don’t like horror so much. Then there are scares that are obviously Blumhouse style. The BEST part of The Purge, though, is the representation of women. EVERY FUCKING WOMAN IN THIS MOVIE IS A BAD ASS. THE MAIN WOMEN ARE BAD ASS. THE VILLAIN WOMEN ARE BAD ASS. I couldn’t be more proud to say that a horror film is so INTENSELY feminist. It. is. awesome. Dudes won’t even notice because there’s enough gore and bad ass action going on – which I loved, too. The Purge is a franchise that is somehow ONLY GETTING BETTER. The first one sucked. The second one is what we wanted to see happening in the streets. This third film – it’s something else. It’s so good. I can’t wait for the next round. I WILL say that the hokie dialogue of the film’s black characters are definitely cheesy and unfortunate, and there for cheap laughs.

Okay, here’s the synopsis with a little commentary and a lot of spoilers:

The film begins with a doozy of a scene, and a pretty great soundtrack too. This is really different from the first two movies. We know what we’re in for, so there’s no use for formalities and explanations. There is a frantic, almost sexiness to the first 2 minutes that makes you excited to be a horror fan (you know, if you’re a sane person and can separate yourself from fiction). Then the scene becomes really horrific.

We jump 18 years into the future. It is now 25 years since the New Founding Fathers implemented the annual purge in order to save America from economic ruin. Is it really that crazy of an idea given our current state of the country? Yes – yes it is. But I found myself drawing a lot of parallels to the state of affairs today throughout the entire film.

We find out that one of the women from the opening scene is now a U.S. Senator who is running for president (you go, girl!). Her name is Charlie Roan, and she is one of those gorgeous yet smart looking white women in their 40s a la Kirsten Cohen in The OC or Lily Van Der Woodsen in Gossip Girl. Is there, like, a club for these women? Also – it’s OKAY to be a hard core horror fan and also watch The O.C. and Gossip Girl. But I digress. OH! She is Juliette from Lost! That just came to me. Raise your hand if you also write in streams-of-consciousness.

Charlie’s platform is based solely on ending the annual purge and its exploitation of low-income and minority Americans. As you can imagine, this doesn’t really make the New Founding Fathers all that happy. And she’s CLOSE to winning. Like, Donald Trump-could-potentially-be-our-next-president close. They are that scared. She claims that the New Founding Fathers, as well as insurance companies and all of the other usual evil suspects, are profiting heavily from the onslaught of violence every year. Is it really that hard to believe?

During a debate between the New Founding Fathers candidate (a white guy and also a Minister) and our anti-Purge candidate, we meet our hero from The Purge: Anarchy once again. This time, Leo Barnes is part of the Secret Service style protection crew for the U.S. Senator. If you saw the last movie, you understand his motives. He likes her politics, if you will. He’s no longer a big fan of purging after what went down in the last movie. I wasn’t quite sure if this year’s purge takes place one year after the last movie, but then again I WAS a little drunk.

Meanwhile, we meet Joe, Laney, and Marcos (and pussy and waffle loving Irish Ike). Joe is the owner of a local deli in D.C. and Marcos works for him. Laney and Ike seem to just hang around. Laney’s been coming there since she was a kid. They discuss The Purge and lament that nothing will ever change. Marcos really believes in Senator Roan and her chance to win. The others – not so much. Joe learns that his “Purge insurance” rate has conveniently gone up by thousands of dollars on the night before the Purge. Can’t you just imagine AIG or some shit calling you and being like “Sorry, but you gonna have to pay up in order not to lose everything you’ve worked for.” I can.

Somewhere while this is all happening (before or after – I can’t remember), there are a couple of “Georgetown Visitation Prep” looking private school girls who try to steal a Snickers bar from Joe. He ain’t having it. But these girls WANT their candy. They look a little crazy. Joe isn’t having any luck, but then Laney steps in to take care of business. These girls RECOGNIZE and RESPECT her. She is known to them as “La Pequeña Muerte” or “the small death”. And she ain’t having it either. They give back the candy and leave, but are disappointed that Laney isn’t into her murderous ways anymore. They wish they could’ve met her “back in the day”. FORESHADOWING?!

Finally, it’s Purge night. Joe decides that he has to defend his store by himself because he can’t risk it without having insurance. Marcos joins him. Laney and a friend commence their annual “volunteer work” by providing a triage type service out of a van during the Purge. Their first customer of the night just shot her husband because “she couldn’t look at his face anymore”. Scary.

In another part of town, Senator Roan decides to stay in her own house during purge night because she feels that voters would lose respect for her if she barricaded herself in some bunker like the rich, white woman she is. The New Founding Fathers have ended the rule that states that high ranking government officials are exempt from the purge. It’s anyone’s game now.

At the deli, the Georgetown Prep type girls who wanted the snickers bar are back in style and I INSTANTLY know what this year’s Halloween costume will be (soooo excited). Marcos and Joe fight them off, but they promise they’ll be back later.

Back with the Senator, all is going to plan for Leo and his crew, until someone betrays them and a gang of Neo-Nazi mother fuckers raid the whole damn house in an attempt to assassinate her (on behalf of the NFF, of course). Luckily, Leo has some tricks up his sleeve and they escape into the streets. We get an awesome glimpse of what’s going down in this year’s purge and it ain’t pretty. There’s GUILLOTINES and shit this year, y’all. Also – I forgot to mention the murder tourism. This would totally be a thing. People from other countries travel to America for one day in order to kill people. Fucking humans.

Senator Roan and Leo end up in the streets and fight off some clowns? Then they get caught up in a gang of murder tourists and it seems like all is going to shit. But Joe and Marcos save the day in bad ass form! They take shelter at Joe’s deli.

The Snickers bar girls come back. They are so fucking cool looking (again, kids, please separate reality from fiction). They’ve got friends this time and they’re going to get in the deli with chainsaws. BUT! LANEY WHO IS A FUCKING BADASS COMES DOWN AND MOWS THEM OVER WITH HER VAN AND THEN TAKES A SAWED OFF SHOT GUN AND SHOOTS A TEDDY BEAR HOLY SHIT IT WAS AWESOME AND I’M SO HAPPY THAT THIS AWESOME, WOMAN OF COLOR IS NOW AN ACTION HERO OF MINE. OMG. SHE RULES.

More glimpes of what’s going down in the street (including a great scene where a couple of white supremacists are taken out) and we get to an underground bunker where they’ve set up a mini hospital. It’s also where the leaders of the purge resistance are headquartered. This time, the leader’s name is “Dante Bishop”. It is not Omar from The Wire, unfortunately. What happened to him – Carmelo Johns – at the end of the last movie? I can’t remember. Lemme Google that for you, Katie. We learn that Dante’s crew are trying to assassinate Senator Roan’s opponent, much to her chagrin. She tries to stop them, but they’re done with the purge and it’s moving forward.

However, Senator Roan gets kidnapped by the neo-nazis and is taken to a cathedral where her opponent is hosting his annual “Purge Midnight Mass” THIS midnight mass isn’t where you show up once a year on Christmas Eve and sing Christmas carols to make your mom happy. This midnight mass is for rich people and members of the New Founding Fathers to sacrifice others and do their own purging. An unfortunate drug-addict named Lawrence is stabbed by a creepy looking “Lurch” type guy named Harmon. We love you, Lawrence. Harmon needs some chap stick. Then, they roll in Senator Roan for the next sacrifice to many applause of old, rich, white people. Old, rich white people are the worst.

But, the assassination attempt is already in motion, and the resistance team is storming the scene. Leo tells them this is no longer an assassination attempt, but a rescue mission and they invade. Oh man, it was great. This movie is full of righteous action scenes.

By the end of the movie, we learn that Senator Roan has won the presidency. She ends the purge by executive action. But supporters from the New Founding Fathers are rioting. What will happen next? I can’t wait to find out!

 

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31 Nights of Horror, body-horror, david lynch, eraserhead, halloween, horror, jack nance, scary movies

Night 30, Eraserhead

31 Nights of Horror, Night 30: Eraserhead

Three sentence review:

This was my first time watching David Lynch’s first full-length, body-horror feature, Eraserhead, and it was every bit as bizarre and anxious as I wanted it to be (I felt puzzled, awe-struck, nervous, and fascinated while watching.) Jack Nance’s “Henry” experiences powerful hallucinations about the girl that lives in his radiator and his neighbor while taking care of his grossly deformed infant. I spent a solid hour after the credits rolled trying to decipher what I had just watched, but It’s not that difficult to comprehend once you realize that Lynch is telling us that human conception is FREAKY and nerve wrecking and beautiful all at once.

 

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