Goodnight Mommy

Occasionally, a foreign film, such as Austrian Goodnight Mommy, winds up in my queue and I get, to be honest, a little bit excited. American horror is excellent, but sometimes things are a little bit scarier when coming from a new perspective.

In this case, it’s a film that delivers right up until the very end with little or no downtime. It starts out when a set of young twins, Lukas and Elias, begin to suspect their mother of well, not being their mother, after she returns home from having apparent cosmetic surgery. Unlike the mother they had before, this other mother is one that is cold and angry, full of violent rages that lead to vicious abuse on the boys. Utterly isolated by farm country, the boys have no one else to turn to in their search for the truth.

The film’s opening scene reminds me of the otherness felt in Children of the Corn. The twins play with a joyful freedom in a giant cornfield and in the woods surrounding their home. The carefree banter ends though when they return home to find their mother shrouded in bandages. They seem to be unprepared for this encounter, which makes the unsettling nature of this confrontation all the more unnerving.

Mother (who’s name is never revealed) lays down the rules in a vicious, cold manner that is only accentuated by the language barrier and the visual imagery of the film. In fact, one of the film’s greatest accomplishments is the tactile, hyper realness of everything being too much, too stifling, too intense. It leads the viewer to feel closed in and swept up, locked in dread with the boys. There are other brilliant touches with the aesthetics of the film, including the artwork hanging on the walls and the cold, near empty rooms.

Unfortunately, the plot begins to slide into mediocrity somewhere towards the middle of the film. Like other movies that started off with a brilliant, gorgeous feeling (Jeepers Creepers, for one), this one sort of unravels as it moves along. There are genuinely disturbing scenes and images, such as a dead cat and a fishtank full of hissing cockroaches, but ultimately the plot fails to drive this into something truly spectacular.

American Zombie

With Zombies beating down the door on almost every possible thing nowdays, it’s kind of hard to get excited about a bunch of brain eaters. The movie industry is so over saturated with zombies that the genre can actually be subdivided into various subgenres: zombie comedy, fast zombies, viral zombies, doomsday zombies and classic zombies, among others.

Some of my favorite zombie movies are older, low budget films. However, I have to admit that some of the larger budget, newer versions of zombies are also quite fun! American Zombie is, in fact, one of these movies. Shot in a campy, documentary style, this movie is a  bitingly clever look at modern society under the guise of something that makes light of darkness. It is easy to mistake this particular film as a mockumentary in the vein of Spinal Tap, but it is, in fact, commentary on many social injustices such as ageisim, sexim, feminism and bigotry, the feeling of loneliness in modern relationships in both work and romance. It also touches on the stigma that someone who has an infectious, life altering disease lives under. Replace the zombie virus with HIV and suddenly, the entire situation is not so funny.

In this particular version of earth, one does not become a zombie until you die a horrible death after being infected. There are no symptoms of infection, so you never know if you are going to be one of the chosen ones. Life after death is filled with many new situations, like finding housing and work that is acceptable for the newly dead, who must live in a sort of limbo between life and death, society and outcast. During our screening, my good friend Larry commented that if they’d been here, in Oklahoma, they’d like be forced to live in a storm shelter in someone’s back yard as they’d not be allowed to live elsewhere.

The four main characters play archetypes who have been written with such cleverness that they feel fresh and new, but lack the edge that would really push them into brilliant characters. Perhaps it is the blandness of undeath that makes them feel already faded.

For me, it’s the film crew that really ties the film together. Their casual stereotyping of zombies echoes the casual racism and homophobia that pervades the real world. It’s a brilliant joke: truth wrapped up in just enough humor that it makes it easy to swallow.

All in all, I love this film. Could it have been better? Absolutely. However, I think that the imperfection and unpolished nature of the film help to bring the entire thing together.

Recreator   

One of my personal favorite horror genres is that of the Mad Scientist. It’s true, I am something of a sucker for movies in this vein, but I will temper myself with the greatest of my ability to accurately review this vile, boring film.

In Recreator, Gregory Orr has our mad scientist creating clones from a human cesspool. Yes, the ick factor of the evil  monster perculating in a giant vat of shit is, in fact, disgustingly awesome, but that may be as far as this movie goes into the creepy, crazy world of creating life from death. In fact, according to my good friend Larry, this movie has taught him that anyone who has access to a toilet can drop a double decker, attach a lightning rod and clone themselves, complete with all body parts correctly attached and ready to tear humans apart.

He was not impressed.

Quite frankly, neither was I. After watching the trailer, I was rather excited to see the film. That is, until I realized that I’d already seen the entire first 3 minutes of the film in the trailer. A group of teenagers head out of the cliché weekend camping and, for some ridiculously lazy writer’s reason, one of the teens insists on breaking into a fancy house to poo rather than use the woods for a toilet. Perhaps, his backstory as a sad little rich boy who had never seen nature up close and personal was never fully explored.

A sudden, terrible thunderstorm traps the trio in the gigantic vacation home when suddenly, the owners-who happened to be made of fecal matter clones themselves-suddenly barge back into their own home and-oh the horrors-get a little bit pissed that someone has broken in.  I can’t imagine why they’d be angry, of course. Think of those poor, unprepared campers who didn’t check the weather report and just couldn’t handle having to do the business in the woods… like Goldilocks, but with poo rather than porridge.

Now, in case you hadn’t had the pleasure of having the credibility stretched yet, what with the shitty set up and crappy Goldilocks and the Three Campers scenario, the movie begins to slide slowly downhill into a festering glob of crap from this point on.

During the ridiculously bad CGI thunderstorm, electricity somehow made it’s way into the cesspool beneath (in? Around?) the house, creating clones of the hapless campers. These clones, of course save the day. Somehow, though, none of the original trio seems the slightest bit startled that they’ve given birth to identical turd-beings.

The entire movie is built on this idea of crap-people, yet no explanation of how they came into being-or how the previous dueces came into being, either-is ever really made. Some mention of a secret, burned out lab, and an army of twisted twin clones is made, but nothing ever really comes of it. You’d think, with the strange obsession with clones and twins and fecal matter in a weird science lab, that there would have been some twisted Nazi at the helm, but no. No, that never happens.

Despite the weak writing and the atrocious acting, the film is simply a big pile of steaming shit. It can’t even be made into a deliciously bad B-flick.

One star.

Don’t Open Till Christmas

Don’t Open Till Christmas should be as happily stupid and ridiculous. It should, in fact, be an instant cult classic with campy, chilly gortastic fun. While it’s certainly absurd and occasionally throws out  B-rated baddass moments with poorly written and badly acted characters, it never really pushes past boring.

Producers Dirck Randall and Steve Minasian were riding high after the modest success of Pieces when they decided to reuse the same slasher formula, but with a fun holiday twist. Granted, the market is flooded with killer santas. Sadly for this film, most of them do it better.

At first glance, the movie seems to take off in the right direction with an excellent, insane scene that rolls out just before the credits, and like many other great low budget flims, the film starts off with a glorious display of stupidity. When the first couple os killed, the man dressed as Santa dies a ridiculously short death after getting stabbed in the stomach. Unfortunately, his paramour is equally stupid as she waits rather patiently in the back of a dark alley next to a door that may or may not be locked to be stabbed. Was the door locked? We will never know. She never tries it.

Other points of interest in the terrible screenwriting include a victim in a wax museum who seems oblivious by the danger surrounding him and an incompetent police captain who spends most of his time sitting behind a desk, staring at a map.

Although this was better than watching Home Alone 3, I am still going to have to go with my gut and give this two out of five stars.