The age-old story of a young girl who dreams of being Spider-Man.
The horror mockumentary genre has some surprising legs. When Paranormal Activity came out, I thought it would be like Blair Witch--a popular, trendy movie that completely fades from pop culture within two years (and after at least one misbegotten sequel). Because let us face it: Blair Witch Project has aged about as well as old ham.
But cut to 2011, when two more Paranormal Activities have graced the screen and a minor flood of copycats have taken up shelf space at Blockbuster. Oh wait, we were talking about 2011. Scratch that Blockbuster part. And while most of the copycats have been awful (like Paranormal Entity, which is a real movie that I did not make up), there have been some gems, particularly Quarantine (the American remake) and The Last Exorcism, which takes the mockumentary format and runs with it.
It takes the mockumentary format up to 11, some might say.
The Last Exorcism follows an exorcist who is kind of a smarmy douche. He is out to disprove the idea of exorcisms. He says he wants to protect the children, but he always comes across as more self-serving than he thinks he is. And that character is really where the movie shines. I have a bad feeling about the recently announced sequel, because this character probably will not be in it (for reasons I would rather not say... Actually, screw it. He dies.) Because this guy is such a flawed, likeable, interested person, all the craziness around him really pops.
That is not to say that the other characters are lacking. The possessed girl and her creepy ginger brother are the kinds of people I have nightmares about when I travel through rural Arizona. And the crazy-religious father bounces back and forth between sympathetic and unsympathetic so many times that you dont know how to feel by the end of it.
I felt kinda like that.
And what an ending. I already spoiled one part of it, but everything about the last five minutes of this movie is totally bad-ass. There is no other way to say that. This isnt some masterpiece or anything, but it is so freaking cool and fun. Very rarely do I see a movie that is absolutely perfectly on my wavelength. It happened with Babe: Pig in the City. It happened with Batman Returns. And it happened with this movie. Check it out.
I am a huge fan of Disney Afternoon. This childrens programming block from the early 90s churned out some of the best television animation of the era. Ducktales. Darkwing Duck. Bonkers. Goof Troop. TaleSpin. Gummi Bears. And of course Chip N Dale: Rescue Rangers.
Chip N Dale was an adventure series that reimagined the titular rodents as members of an elite animal team that fought for justice rather than those awful creatures that tormented Donald Duck every Christmas season. The stories were simple, but they always moved at a fast clip and used a heavy dose of family-friendly humor. There is also a certain kick that comes from watching little creatures use everyday objects in clever new ways. Call it the Honey-I-Shrunk-the-Kids syndrome.
Today, we are talking about Pound of the Baskervilles, a Halloween episode that takes the basic idea of the Sherlock Holmes story and adds talking mice. (Yeah, yeah. I know Chip and Dale are chipmunks. I was talking about Gadget and Monterey Jack.)
This episode meant a lot to me growing up, because it was terrifying. And by terrifying, I mean there was a red-eyed ghost dog craving human flesh.
...And I was officially the worlds biggest coward. Rewatching this now, I finally realize that the real threat was not an imaginary ghost dog, but a conniving uncle out for his inheritance or something. It was this guy:
Remember that face. About half the
human extras in this film look exactly like him.
Looking back on it, the main mystery is extremely easy to solve. Much like your typical Scooby Doo episode, there is exactly one suspect and one red herring. In this case, the guy who did it was... THE SUSPECT! Oh my god!
Like all episodes of this show, justice wins and we end on a laugh.
But rewatching this so many years later is a lot of fun. Seeing what we thought was scary in a totally new light makes us realize how simple life was back that, and how even the most insurmountable problems are probably easier than we think. It is total comfort food, and even though I was certainly not scared, I am glad I sat through it.
You wanna see something really gay? How about the short-lived 80s comic series Unicorn Isle? I bought this issue for a dollar at my local Hastings bookstore. It’s full of hot male elves and fantasy gibberish. I didn’t quite follow the story, and the drawings were a tad too rococo and hard to follow. But whenever you stumble across something as awesomely gay as this, you have to celebrate it.
Starring Summer Glau, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Kevin Conroy, and Andre Braugher
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and a couple heroes I’ve never heard of team up to take down Darkseid and Granny Goodness (two more characters I’ve never heard of). There is a lot of fighting, and Apocalypse is some kind of planet, not a Biblical end of days. As such, there is a happy ending.
Granny Goodness. Now my third favorite grandmother character.
I think Ed Asner did her voice.
ISN’T THAT SPECIAL?
I’ve been riding high on DC animated movies lately. They’re all free on Netflix, and they’re all crazy violent. Also, it cracks me up how such all-American pop culture icons like Superman and Batman can be so freaking homoerotic and muscle-worshippy in their character designs.
Superman with eye liner.
SHIRTS AND SKINS:
As I said before, there are loads of hot guys (and girls) in a superhero movie. And while they might not show a lot of skin, their skin-tight costumes leave very little to the imagination.
Just a peek at the gun show.
BLOOD AND GUTS:
In addition, there isn’t exactly a shortage of violence in this film. And while a lot of it is cartoony and gee-whiz-comic-booky, there are genuine stakes involves. I’m talking blood and guts. Well, maybe not a lot of guts… But definitely blood.
Pictured: Superman holding a dead body.
I assume this does not happen a lot.
For those of you who enjoy a good Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, be prepared for some obvious parallels here. The women are all beautiful, quippy, and kick-ass. I got some major Buffy flashbacks when I saw Supergirl battling a bunch of men three times her size. This is a crowd-pleasing movie for anyone who likes emotionally complicated women kicking ass and taking names.
Also, all of DC's greatest heroes (except Aquaman) are in it too. And while they might not all have a LOT to do for most of the movie…
…it never gets old seeing them hang out together. I highly recommend this.
Born of Hope
Directed by Kate Madison
Written by J. R. R. Tolkien and fans
Born of Hope is a full movie that you can watch for free on Youtube. It is a fan-made prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The words fan and made sound particularly dirty in this context, but the movie is admirably legit. The effects are great. The action is well-staged and thumping. And the story itself is emotionally engaging.
I’m not the biggest fan of these types of movies. I understood about half of the dialogue, and all the names seemed like fancy fantasy gibberish (though Tolkien-approved). But the fact that this film was made by a dedicated group of super-fans is enough to wash over all the problems I would have with this film. There is a lot of magic on display, but none more powerful than the magic of making movies.
Directed by Todor Chapkanov
Written by Andy Briggs
Starring Billy Drago!
A group of idiots are stranded in a magical Old West that is haunted by cowboy spirits. Everyone splits up, because they’ve never seen Scooby Doo. They get killed a lot, because DUH, and then the survivors have to figure out how to stop the town’s curse so they can leave.
ISN’T THAT SPECIAL?
This movie was on Syfy Channel during Halloween weekend. I was visiting my parents at the time, and this was a film that my dad and I enjoyed together. We had a great time MST3King the entire thing, especially the obligatory barn sex death scene. It was a total bonding moment. And that is why horror movies are single-handedly bringing families back together.
SHIRTS AND SKINS:
Is there nudity? Yes, male and female, but it was edited for television, so none of it was awkward for my father and me to watch.
BLOOD AND GUTS:
Unlike the T and A quota, this film’s gore factor is particularly high. A lot of the blood spatter is CG, and the zombie faces are never as terrifying as Billy Drago’s actual face, but a few of the beheadings were effective. In particular, there was a scene ripping off The Hitcher that I quite enjoyed.
This article might be rose-tinted because of the fond memories I have watching it with my father, but I think my experience with this film is indicative of the unique awesomeness of these kinds of movies. People from any walk of life—gay or straight, old or young—can catch movies like this on television during a lazy Sunday afternoon and have a freaking great time. This movie isn’t good—at all—but it is a great unifier. Someone should start broadcasting this wonderful garbage in the Gaza Strip.
Directed by Jeffery Scott Lando
Written by Raul Inglis
Starring Gil Bellows (the brain tumor guy from Ally McBeal)
Goblin is a Syfy Channel movie, meaning it is chock-a-block full of slumming actors, simple plots, and bad CGI-effects. However, the CGI is never obtrusive and distracting—as it often is in movies like Sharktopus—because the titular monster is usually just a creepy figure in a cloak.
Close, but think smaller and cheaper.
Personally, I find this much more effective than seeing the goblin in the flesh, which you do during the film’s truncated climax. Call this the Poltergeist II trap. The entire movie uses a fairly effective villain for most of its run-time, but then turns him into a mass of computer-generated garbage for the last few minutes. It’s disappointing and ill-advised.
Look at this guy. Does he need computer effects?
That said, this film is a pretty effective tale of a small town ravaged by a baby-crazy fairy tale monster. Most of the townspeople act like Pumpkinhead-II-level idiots, but they get the job done. And they get killed a lot, so there’s always that.
Berserk has no gay characters, but it is camp in its purest form. This glorious, glorious film depicts a series of murders at a low-rent circus run by the makeup-caked, deathless corpse of late-career Joan Crawford. Who could be committing the murders? Could it be Joan herself, the ringmaster with drawn-on eyebrows that grow more suspicious-looking as the movie lurches forward? Could it be the angry dwarf with the weirdly inauthentic British accent? Or could it be any of the other sweaty, hammy actors slumming it as sweaty, hammy circus performers? The answer in revealed in the most sudden, jarring ending of any film I’ve ever seen.
But before we get to the ending, we have to sit through long stretches of actual circus performances. For example, there’s a five-minute-plus scene of dog tricks, peppered by audience reactions to illustrate how much more the film audience is enjoying this show than the real audience is. There are so many scenes of non-fatal circus performances, I felt like I had stumbled across a bad remake of the already-pretty-awful Greatest Show on Earth.
Those scenes are awful, but their needlessness in no way cancels out the apeshit insanity of the rest of the film, which is a long parade of huge performances, nonsensical drama, and circus-themed death scenes. This film is a spray can full of faux-cheese. Watch it if you want to fill up on empty calories.
so I decided to use the greatest poster ever made.
Werewolves: The Dark Survivors is the weirdly racist account of all the African American contestants on the CBS reality show Survivor. Actually, it is the equally ill-advised two-hour special on Animal Planet about the true story of werewolves. It’s a mockumentary, or at least it tries to be.
Basically, the special is a combination of fake interviews and werewolf reenactments from the channel’s stable of reenactment actors. Unfortunately, the kind of actors that are believable in five-minute intervals as snake victims and crocodile wrestlers don’t exactly emote well in two-hour stories about blood curses and family rivalries.
But the biggest problem with Werewolves, its fatal flaw, is that it doesn’t fully commit to the mockumentary format. The entire thing is narrated by one of the main characters, a werewolf who ends up dead by the end of the film. He’s meant to guide us through the angsty world of werewolf drama, but it’s not emotionally engaging enough to accomplish anything. This doesn’t work as a fake documentary, or a real fictional narrative. It’s meant to be able werewolves, but its format is closer to the miss-matched hide of a second-rate Frankenstein knock-off.
Werewolves: The Dark Survivors has turned into a sort of perennial Halloween time-filler on the channel, but it mercifully hasn’t spawned a series of narrative features for Animal Channel. Check it out if you’re a car-crash-rubber-necker. Otherwise, avoid it like a curse.
Two in the chest, one in the balls. That’s what I say.
Is that you Bennett? Shit. Come on mothefucker. I wanna make sure you keep that shitty little grin on your face. All the way to hell!
ISN’T THAT SPECIAL?
Zombies have sure become trendy lately. And why not? They are pretty much the all-purpose metaphor, and they’re freaking terrifying. The only reason I’m surprised by their recent resurrection in pop culture is the fact that most zombie movies have downer endings, and movies with downer endings are traditionally not as popular as happy ones.
Apparently, that’s not enough to scare away the hordes of undead fans, though, so now we have movies like this one. Gnarly little horror-comedies with puns in their titles and budgets that range in the hundreds.
Another reason I really wanted to see this film was because of this guy, the skeevy weirdo from The Mummy. I cannot tell you why this guy seems like a perfect fit for a zombie movie...
It might be his face. And everything else about him.
BLOOD AND GUTS:
People are killed and mauled in a variety of ways in this impossibly large airplane. Also, the gore effects are pretty top-notch, especially for a movie that couldn’t afford a real scriptwriter. Hey now!
This movie is exactly what you would expect. I mean, exactly what you wouldexpect. It could’ve added a few more jokes, but the tone stays goofy the entire time, and the pacing is pretty quick. This is a fun night of brain-deadery.
Starring Leighton Meester, Paul Wesley, Kaley Cuoco, Jason London, and Robert Buckley (basically anyone who has ever been on the WB or the CW)
A film crew gets picked off one-by-one by a masked killed with a pair of scissors. It’s a period drama.
WHAT YOU SAY?
Sadly, I was expecting this film to have a lot of one-liners. It doesn’t. But I did like the retarded final line: It’s a bullet-proof vest!
ISN’T THAT SPECIAL?
I grew up in the 90s, so I have a soft (some might say defective) part of my heart for teen slasher movies with a long list of red herrings and beautiful 30-something actors. This feels like a throw-back to the halcyon days of the late-90s when things like I Still Know What You Did Last Summer were green lit just because it had a snarky script, some deaths, and boobs.
SHIRTS AND SKINS:
This film has a lot of very good looking actors and actresses, but very little actual nudity. We do, however, see the long-awaited return of Al Santos, the oft-shirtless actor from the WB’s teen soap spoof Grosse Point. Even when he’s fully clothed, he’s still, you know, this guy…
We also have one of the London twins (I was too lazy to look up which one), who used to be the next big thing. I am glad they get steady work on movies like these.
BLOOD AND GUTS:
The killer mostly uses a pair of scissors, which is pretty unique, though not completely unprecedented. I also enjoyed his ingenuity, and the gore effects weren’t too shabby. A lot of severed heads flopping around. God bless them.
The final reveal (as well as the reality-TV-style testimonials) seemed to come from a completely different movie, one that viciously lampooned Hollywood. This movie has a glimmer here and there, but it certainly doesn’t take enough jabs at the industry to be funny or interesting. And as far as the testimonials, I’ve seen better.
OK. IS IT GAY?
Well, there’s a lesbian producer, but she’s pretty much living the bitchy, alpha-female stereotype. Like I said, this film isn’t much of a comedy. If it had played up its camp value just a little bit more, it would have definite appeal to the gay demo. Also, shirtlessness. There seemed to be a serious lack of any titillation for a slasher film. All I can say is this is a big case of missed opportunities. But it’s also fun and brainless, like one Mr. Al Santos.
Based on one of the most well-received Batman comics story arcs in a long time, this direct-to-DVD movie reunites Batman with his former (supposedly dead) Robin, who is now a morally ambiguous hero/villain named the Red Hood. Classic Batman baddies the Joker and Ra’s al Ghul are in it too, but this really is the Red Hood’s story. Batman has to grapple with moral dilemmas. He also fights robot ninja assassins. So, you know, it’s not too high-brow.
"Now, that was rude. The first boy blunder had some manners. I suppose I'm going to have to teach you a lesson so you can better follow in his footsteps. Nah, I'm just gonna keep beating you with this crowbar."
That Joker is a scene-stealer. Not gonna lie.
ISN’T THAT SPECIAL?
After witnessing the awesomeness of DC heroes Jonah Hex and The Spectre, I couldn’t get enough morally ambiguous antiheroes (and animated beefcake), so I busted out some good old Batman.
I said GOOD old Batman.
SHIRTS AND SKINS:
People watch Superman to ogle the muscles. People watch Batman to enter a dark and twisted world. The pecs and abs are just cherries on top.
Actually, I meant nipples. Nipples on top.
BLOOD AND GUTS:
This movie starts off with a painfully long scene of the Joker beating Robin with a crowbar. That pretty much sets the tone of the rest of the movie. There aren’t any POW and BAM fight scene sound effects in this movie. Instead, there is a real sense of danger. Also, people die.
The presence of hottie Jensen Ackles and real-life superhero Neil Patrick Harris is enough to draw in the gay crowds, but the real lure of this film is the wicked cool reimagining of the Batman/Robin dynamic. For years, their relationship has inspired a million offensive gay jokes, but this movie takes their father-son bond in a really interesting direction. Sure, this movie has a lot of action, but it’s also really thought-provoking. By the end, when we see one final flashback of our Robin in a simpler, happier time, I suddenly realized how emotionally invested I was in this film.