Sunday, February 21, 2016

Children Really Really Shouldn't Play with Dead Things

I often have times when I am talking with a co-worker, friend or even a random person and a movie I have seen in the past comes up. I often say “Maaaan I need to see that again it has been forever.” But in my mind I start going through the catalog in my brain of movies I have not seen, many that I own. It is almost like they are screaming titles in my head like the sounds of all the citizens that screamed out to Obi Wan. 

So usually I think to myself ok maybe when I have some vacation I can cycle in a second viewing. I hate hearing and using the excuse of I don’t have any time to but I honestly feel it and say (trying not to). To my surprise I am about to combine two worlds, or at least I hope to if I can stay awake for more than twenty minutes once I stop moving and sit down. 
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Recently I was awarded a day off, so I felt the pressure of trying to get several films in. So in an homage to the back of the DVD of my selection “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things” I will format this writing (I kind of hate the term review much like I hate when people call others fans how about listeners or viewers you audacious pricks and prickettes?)

The SET-UP: I kept my request for Friday to be a day off for myself. I often watch movies on my work laptop and it never fails someone gets on the Instant Chat and says “hey what are you doing online?’ What drives me nuts is I never know who is on and who is off, I could give a shit and even when I am in the office I don’t know if someone is there until I uh need to contact them, buncha nosey Parkers.
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I had planned on heading to the home of Grandaddy, Modesto to catch a few or a lot of the 8 Films to Die For that was making a comeback after several years. I read the descriptions and a few sounded ok and the stills looked good. I normally try to stay away from trailers as I like to go in as fresh and innocent as possible. Obviously, I do some research and I would say I have a 90ish percentage of going to see movies that I enjoy. Well, I am glad I viewed the trailers as I would have shot my excellent enjoyment percentage all to hell. I still support what they are doing and am thrilled that these films did make it into actual theaters but I just couldn’t imagine enjoying them. 

So I thought this would be a good day then to get in a few films in the ole’ home video store. Problem is I usually have to watch when the house is vacant or on my laptop and I had already experienced the IM chat and was starting to worry that they would suddenly put into play an office version of “If you’ve got time to lean then you have time to clean.” And I would be damned if I was going to pitch in to help on a day off. 
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So I decided a few days ago what movie I would view when I got the shot and I decided on Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things. When I was younger I could tell you the back story of almost every toy purchase I ever made and I still have that with movie purchases.
I picked up this disk at Rasputin’s in San Lorenzo on my hellish commute home one day. This Rasputin’s is not in the best neighborhood and I always have a pang of white guilt run over me when I double check my car doors and make sure my back pack is covered on the floor boards. I told a co-worker about a visit there and their eyes widened and they said uh you know that is a bad area for you to be in right? I guess I kind of knew but I had been using the philosophy of just act natural and like you are supposed to be there and you will be fine. And hell, this location has hands down the most kick ass and affordable horror section around, so lock the doors and let’s roll!
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I first read about Children in I think Stephen Thrower’s amazing book Nightmare USA. After viewing I went back to the index and it only has three mentions but it is on the viewing checklist in the back of the book, so maybe just the title stuck with me or something.
I have created and Excel spread sheet full of suggestions from various books but my favorite films to pursue and check off usually come from the Nightmare USA book. So I was thrilled when I came across this in the 3 for 10 DVD section. On a Friday in October I fired this bad boy up after a cheat day on the diet of Subway and a cookie. 

I knew going in a little what to expect. Nightmare USA (now one of my top ten possessions) described it as “a tale about grave robbing that starts out like a student film lark but turns surprisingly creepy”. I was a little worried about the lighting on the film as the start of it was super super dark. Granted it is tough watching a day movie in this dang sunny state but it did get better. The movie begins with Alan who is some sort of director and his actors sailing to an island, I thought they were going to be shooting a movie or even location scouting but there are no cameras and without giving too much away Alan enjoys fucking with others and holding his assumed power over the troupe. 
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The set is creepy and Alan resembles Peter Dinklage if he was of average male height and to boot he is wearing a very bold early Pink Floyd kind of outfit. Alan’s actors go back and forth from busting his balls to taking his threats seriously and wanting to avoid being fired. There are quite a few one liners and most of them are at Alan’s expense. One was a true laugh out loud moment for me and I rewound the scene several times (no spoilers, fingers crossed).
Each cast member was unique and interesting and often they would stand up to Alan only to ultimately back down. At times they go along with his plans (no matter how disgusting they are)usually different members at different times. 
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Per the back of the box it is implied that this night is a big joke Alan is playing on the others and after the reveal they will party the night away on this creepy island. This plays to the idea that on some level Alan is disturbed and has odd ideas of fun. But again without giving too much at some point it feels like he crosses a path and goes into a personal space that only makes sense to him. It is a well done slow decent into personal madness that is not ham- fisted. 

I appreciate the fact that once the shit does hit the fan there are moments of is this really happening and the one liners and quips stop. It is refreshing as well to see a story unfold and to not have any characters safe. The majority of the programs we watch we usually go into it knowing that maybe one of our heroes will perish but ultimately some factor of good goes on to tell the tale and survive to life after the event. 
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The sounds and dark lighting add to the tension and there are several scenes that really catch you off guard and the living dead have a fantastic look to them in the old sense of zombie. Sure it is amazing what they can do now with rot makeup and CGI but I like the ratty powder hair look for some reason and these look great. You care about the characters but not in a total over the top way. They are likeable enough (except Alan) and they would probably be the kind of friends you would have in your mid 20s but they would have no staying power and eventually you would all go your own ways. But once the ball gets rolling you know they are doomed and you start calculating who is getting out.
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NOTE: I am still following the back cover of this DVD format and this is how it closes, it gives the fact that this is a Bob Clark film. Clark went on to do Porky’s, Black Christmas and A Christmas Story. All movies that are a big part of my past, I am glad that I came across this early work of his and I love the feel of a comedy going off the rails into darkness where you almost forget the previous lightness. 

I was glad to have a Friday to just leave for a little bit, granted it says something about me that I wanted to leave sunny California in October to be transported to a dark, desolate island where the dark arts conjures the foul dead to rise but hey takes all kinds takes all kinds. 

After finishing this enjoyable 87 minutes I looked for extras, not many on this disk. I looked at the stills and read the bios and began wishing the real world could be held back a little more. There were groceries to bought, dinner to cook and work to prepare for. But I felt pepped up and inspired after watching this film and wanted to share my enthusiasm with someone…anyone? It is not often times I put a second showing right back into my massive movie to watch queue but Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is going right back for a second viewing near the top. 
*Note: Blu-Ray is being released Feb. 23, come on birthday gift cards!

Monday, February 15, 2016

The year of 2016 in Personal Cinema So Far...

I am probably not on the same pace as i was last year when it comes to movies. Often at work i am getting tips of binge watching TV etc. Uhhh i think i would rather watch one of the many movies on deck. Everyday life gets hectic and i have no idea how some people who watch films (and not for a living) get so many in. But i have to say there is a sense of personal pride that i have a pretty good variety of films. From classics to bat shit crazy i have covered some ground already in 2016. I am listing my So Far list with maybe a few blurbs...

The Hateful Eight: Ehh, loved some aspects of it. Made me want to see a western romance between Michael Madsen and Zoe Bell.
Ahi viene el Chupacabras: Low grade Mexican comedy that had one of my new favorite silly scenes- Alien/ Chupacabra in a strip club watching lady jiggle to Spirit in the Sky.
Z for Zacharia: A thing of beauty, quiet and low key. 
Deathgasm: Silly popcorn fun with lots of squishy gore, a great Friday end of the week viewer.
The Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher: Odd film that i do want to re watch with no sound as Ray Dennis Steckler suggested.
Sonny Boy*: Probably easily the 7th time i have seen this classic, now on Blu-Ray
A Most Dangerous Man: Beautifully shot, slow burn that made me really realize how good Phillip Seymour Hoffman was.
Bone Tomahawk: Believe the hype, characters that you care about and fall in love with. 
The Executioner Part 2: A hot mess and i imagine a lot of injuries were racked up on this one.
Ghost Gunfighter AKA Last Chance: Mid 90s film that has lots of potential, good ideas but a doughy awkward leading man. Fun meta film, not good but fun.
Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll: Spanish Giallo, really suspenseful and lots of red herrings. And i happened to pick it up for $5 and Ebay says now $35. Sorry bonus score!
Son of Frankenstein: Ygor's movie really, a revenge film. May be my favorite of Frank films. 
Alleluia: Like getting hit in the back with a fastball, it will stick with you. Love is a complicated and awful thing at time.