Movie Review- Horns (2014)

I enjoyed this movie thoroughly, more than I was prepared to, in fact. The trailers had looked amusing, but it’s short theatrical release and mixed reviews prevented me from giving this one a fair shake. It turned out to be a bizarre, twisted whodunit. Very stylish, sort of Brick meets “Supernatural”.

Iggy Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) is suspected of murder after the love of his life is found murdered. The town and even his own family turn against him. He loses faith in God, and after a drunken bender that sets him pissing on religious artifacts, he sprouts horns. Far from just head gear, those around him start confessing to their deepest -and sometimes darkest- thoughts to him, and caving into their desires at his mere suggestion. Ig uses this to his advantage to punish those who seek to exploit Merrin’s death, and to seek out her true killer.

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This film is based on a novel by Joe Hill who wrote the graphic novel series “Locke and Key” and enough short stories to rival his father, Stephen King.

The characters themselves are wonderful, the truth is revealed in bits and pieces. But as always in media, certain tropes are prevalent. The male characters exist in many shades of gray. Radcliffe’s Ig is a mess following the death of his one true love Merrin (Juno Temple), he’s drunk and dirty and hanging by a thread. All understandable, but even in flashbacks, we see that he was never the most capable of his friends -Lee fixes Merrin’s cross necklace that Ig then returns for he appreciation, he nearly drowns on a dare. As an adult, he doesn’t seem to have much going on outside of Merrin. Ig’s brother, Terry (Joe Anderson) is a drug addicted musician, he lies to his brother and he didn’t even try to save Ig when he nearly drowned as a kid. Terry is somewhat of a coward. Lee was always the good friend, the attorney who vows to protect Ig, the friend who saved him from drowning, who stayed friends even after Ig gave him a defective cherry bomb that disfigured his hand. But Lee always coveted Merrin.

The women, however, fit another pattern all together. Glenna is promiscuous and viewed by the town as “trash” -she’s also the only person who truly reaches out to Ig, but this is somewhat overlooked. She could have played a more central role, but instead, Iggy encourages her to but the town in her rearviews and start over. Veronica (Heather Graham) lies about seeing Iggy chasing down Merrin and threatening her on the night she was killed so that she can get attention and see herself on magazine covers. She’s vain and vile. A liar. She has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. But Merrin? Merrin is pure, Merrin flirts via morse code and always wears a cross, she’s shown in beautiful dresses, sunlight radiating off her skin. Even in flashback, Lee points out that “Merrin is different from other girls” and he mentions how trashy Glenna is, and that the older boys only keep Glenna around because she’ll give them handjobs. And like all “perfect” women? Merrin dies. And worse? She dies for it.

And that’s why the whole town is angry, why Ig’s mother wishes he wasn’t her son, why his father thinks that Merrin was the best thing about Iggy. Because she was so pure.

Merrin, the mythical “perfect” woman is missed by everyone in a way that causes unending venom to be spewed at Iggy Perrish while Glenna does a Courtney Love impersonation and vain Veronica has seemingly no morals whatsoever.

But after all that, this is a very good flick.

Iggy brings out the worst in people. They delvolve, their deepest, darkest thoughts are acted upon before his eyes once he turns his back on God and grows horns. But he’s not a personification of evil. That’s hard to understand at first. He claims his innocence while turning into a devil. But he’s presented as a fallen angel and Merrin as an angel. Once he realizes how “persuasive” he is, he starts following leads and interrogating townspeople to find the truth. While the audience discovers that Merrin had a secret of her own. And Iggy must decide who is to blame and if his humanity can be saved.

Great effects, solid plot, consistent rules, unique storyline.

twothumbs

 

Penny Dreadful- Episode 5

“Closer Than Sisters”

The pace slowed down considerably with this episode. 

The entirety of the episode takes place in flashbacks to Vanessa’s childhood. The ENTIRETY. For a show with as large a main cast as Penny Dreadful has this is quite bizarre. No monsters. No vampires, no werewolves. No love triangles. No Dorian Gray.

Which means that I have to wait and see what happens with Dorian and Ethan. This show has sucked my in. As soon as I watch; I want more. This show is typically intense with multiple plotlines and motivations intermingling.

So this Vanessa-centric, nostalgic exposition was… different.

Vanessa and Mina were neighbors who grew up separated by only an open gate and a hedge maze. We see them first as children imagining who they will marry, frolicking on the coastline and brushing each other’s hair. Vanessa’s crush on Peter. Until one fateful night. The young Vanessa was out in the hedge maze and she caught her mother having sex with Mina’s father, Sir Malcolm. This breech of her innocence causes her to act out in other ways, stealing and other instances of “girlish mischief.” 

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As they grow older Mina meets the kind of man that they dreamed of growing up while Vanessa’s budding relationship never blooms. He tells Vanessa he is going off to Africa. Vanessa knows he’s too weak, but she loves him for his weakness. Peter pushes her away. Just before Mina and her officer with the grand mustache are to be married, Vanessa encounters him in the halls and they flirt over taxidermy. Then they have sex. Mina finds the pair while her soon to be husband is pounding away at her BFF and she casts both of them out of her life. 

Vanessa confronts her mother about her infidelity with Sir Malcolm but when Vanessa gets to Mina’s yard she is faced with Sir Malcolm. He doesn’t let her pass and slams the gate. Vanessa collapses.

She treated first for what appears to be epilepsy and then she is taken in for psychiatric treatment for psychosexual fits. Treatments like ice baths and heavy narcotics… but nothing seems to work. The possession continues. Her mother finds her humping the air (Vanessa envisions Sir Malcolm) and faints. Peter comes to visit just before a trip to Africa and Vanessa predicts his death. 

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Years later, Vanessa is visited by Mina on a beach. Mina says that she forgives Vanessa saying that her suffering has been penance enough. Mina tells Vanessa about her new husband, Jonathan Harker. But once she lets it slip that Vanessa saw her father being unfaithful, Mina reveals that the Master has told her a lot. And then Vanessa visits Sir malcolm and tells him what Mina has revealed to her.

So let’s talk about it: Women’s sexuality demonized. Literally.

The loss of Vanessa’s innocence leads to her morality spiraling down the drain. Which isn’t supernatural mumbo jumbo. The young Vanessa sees that the adults around her are hypocritical in their religious and pious appearance, that they are sinning and she youthfully acts out. But then as an adult she is jealous of her friend and so she seduces her fiance. This act leaves her open for demonic possession. 

Slut shaming at it’s finest that Vanessa’s betrayal leaves her the property of Satan.

Other than that? 

I’m glad I have incorrectly assumed that Sir Malcolm raped Mina. It appears as though at the seance it was a young Mina’s essence who inhabited Vanessa (or possibly still Peter) but that the “her” was Vanessa’s mother. I hope. Possession is very confusing. 

This episode was comparatively slower to all the other episodes thus far, but it was so bizarre and captivating that it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of it. Eva Green can easily carry a scene and I have to give her props for some of the insane things that she pulled off there. 

I am concerned.

What I am concerned about is this:

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Now, I wouldn’t be bothered if Vanessa’s love for Mina is romantic more than platonic. But I will be bothered if Vanessa had sex with Mina’s fiance not because Vanessa was jealous of Mina for having what she envisioned but that she was jealous because she wanted Mina. I don’t need a “conniving lesbian homewrecker” plot. It’s preposterous.Hopefully I am just being paranoid. Tropes make me suspicious. Also, I hate to say it -because I don’t mind a “strong female character would do anything for true love” plot, which this would be if Vanessa had an interest in Mina that was romantic, but can girls just be down for their friends sometimes? I hope.

31 Horrifying Days: Day 15- Rapture-Palooza (2013)

The rapture has happened and Lindsey (Anna Kendrick, Into the Woods), her boyfriend Ben (John Francis Daley, “Freaks and Geeks”), and their families have been left behind, doomed to endure torture on Earth. A former politician named Earl Gundy (Craig Robinson, This is the End), now known as The Beast, is the Anti-Christ. But when The Beast decides he wants to take Lindsey as his wife, Lindsey and Ben must come up with a plan to defeat the Anti-Christ. 

…Lindsey and Ben are supposed to be teens… but they’re a full decade into adulthood, both actors have played iconic teens AND adults. While it’s played cute and Kendrick’s nasally voice and good skin makes it almost believable and Dalet channels his Sam Weir persona.. it’s still weird.

They think about starting their own sandwich cart because “people appreciate a good sandwich, even when the world is ending.”

The remaining earthlings make due without a lot of resources, with locusts biting their ankles, blood rain and fiery meteor storms. When one of those fiery meteors lands on their sandwich cart, Ben’s dad gets them a job working for the Beast. He lays eyes on Lindsey and lays the mack on her. Ben is not amused but his Dad tries to get him to be cautious. “I’m not going to let the Anti-Christ steal my girlfriend, dad.” he says, “I Don’t care, I’m punching that guy in the face.” But Ben’s dad ices him with a shovel, and upon finding out that Lindsey is a virgin, the Beast is more enamored. He decides to marry her, if she declines: he’ll kill her family and Ben.

So Ben and Lindsey decide to lock him in a kennel for 1000 years.

Good plan.

Except they have no choice but to involve their zombie neighbor, wraith security guards and Lindsey’s pothead brother as well in their convoluted plan involving sleeping pills and a ride on mower.

They get caught up in a murder plot… and accidently kill Jesus. 

Craig Robinson is hilarious. Everyone clobbers each other with shovels (before it was cool).

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If you’re in the mood for some funny with horror/supernatural elements check this one out.

4/5

 

31 Horrifying Days- Day 6: Dead Before Dawn (2013)

A bunch of college kids accidentally unleash an evil curse that causes people to kill themselves and turn into Zombie Demons, aka ZEMONS! (Or dombies, Cassie Hack knows)

So, essentially the plot is somewhat Evil Dead: people driven crazy enough by a curse to eat their own hands or play with a hornet’s nest or set themselves on fire. The characters are Breakfast Club style archetypes, something that plenty of horror flicks: from Cabin in the Woods to Detention of the Dead has tried with more or less success. It also adds slapstick humor to horror elements in a way that’s very reminiscent of “Todd and the Book of Pure Evil”.

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The main character, Casper Galloway (Devon Bostick, Art of the Steal) has been afraid of his grandfather’s occult shop since his father died there when he was a child. He agrees to watch the store and when his crush, Charlotte comes in he tries to show off by showing her this cursed urn. Which breaks. The group unknowingly concocts the world’s most inane curse: Anyone they make eye contact with kill themselves and become zombie demons who will try to kill them with hickies and if they French kiss them the zemons will be their slaves, and if they don’t break the curse before dawn they’ll be cursed forever.

With a plot that includes death by zemon hickies, it’s obvious that there are laughs to be had. Some of those come from Casper’s grandfather played by the legendary Christopher Lloyd, who even drops a “Great Scott!” in for good measure.

The group splits up initially with only Casper concerned about the curse they created. But when night falls and the town starts turning demonic, they quickly realize their peril. 4 group members Charlotte, cheerleader BFF Lucy and football players Dazzler and Patrick end up turning both teams. Seth Munday works at a convenience store and runs into a large portion of the town. Becky turns her blind date while Casper accidentally causes his mother’s death. With pandemonium ensuing they are in a race against time to stop the curse. There’s also a couple love connections. 

This film is mostly fluff. The characters act younger then they should and there’s no real uncharted territory being pioneered here. Still, it is enjoyable.

There are some interesting running jokes (hot dog mug, for example). And the plot is simple but cohesive from start to finish. Low on gore, but there’s bucket of blood and creative ways to die.

But is it scary? Nope. Not by a long shot. The set up is amazing. I adore the concept of the characters creating their own curse. But even with the copious amounts of blood, it’s too cartoony to fear.  

The characters aren’t more than tokens. One black character, action chick with bow and arrow, quirky beta male, crush, rival, “slutty” cheerleader, stoner dude… it’s been done. There’s not much depth. Well.. there’s not really any depth. 

2.75/5

Male Objectification Monday- Jensen Ackles

“Grrl, are you posting Man Candy Monday on a Tuesday?!”

Who cares, Jensen Ackles’s abs are here. 

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I know, Jensen, I am so clever and funny. 

Anyway, Jensen has been keeping fans entertained as Dean Winchester on the CW’s Supernatural for the past 9 years. The demon hunting Winchester brothers fall under the category of whiny white misunderstood male protagonists and the plot is accelerated by the fridging of female after female for more angst and has gotten more and more predictable (come on, which one is ending up in which version of the afterlife this time? Probably Dean, Dean’s gotta save Sam, something about Castiel’s wonky powers. Something something King of Hell. Time travel. Our dad lied to us. Blah) and dialogue is laden with homophobic gay jokes. 

But you don’t care what they’re saying, do you?

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Nope.

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His TV brother is pretty good, too.

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Sadly, this show has too many shirts

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and towels

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But he looks pretty good in clothes, too.

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Other roles include voice acting role of the Red Hood in 2010’s Batman: Under the Red Hood. 2009’s My Bloody Valentine and way back in 2001, he played Jessica Alba’s bio engineered brother on Dark Angel (which was a very clever show and should have had the longevity that Supernatural has).

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From Dusk Til Dawn: the series Episodes 3, 4 + 5

There 3rd episode takes place nearly entirely in room 106 of the Dew Drop Inn. The 4th in room 207. And the fifth follows the Gecko brothers and hostages as they try to make it into Mexico and ultimately reach Titty Twisters.

Episode 3- Monica is still hostage. Seth goes out to Kahuna Burger and leaves Richie alone with Monica. For a while they hit it off. But the Richie starts calling her “Gordita” and she opens up about role playing with her husband. Richie tells her how he can see things and he snuggles up with her. Which is still creepy. But he starts hallucinating and Monica pulls the gun that Seth left Richie with. A bold move. But it turns out that the gun wasn’t loaded (which speaks volumes about what Seth really thinks of Richie)

While out at Kahuna Burger: Seth meets up with his ex-wife. He tells her that they’re taking off for Mexico and tried to pay her off with 4 million dollars for her to just go start a new life. She tells him plainly that she waited for him. Not for his money, for him. We also get some details, she helped him plan the bank job… and she is very suspicious of Richie. She even covertly had a psychiatrist profile Richie while Seth was in jail. Seth doesn’t take this well and he sends her away. She comes back with a vengeance and starts smashing up the camaro he’s driving. He tells her off, she leaves again and then when he goes to pay for his food he drops a pocket full of bullets on the counter and attracts the attention of a police officer.

Seth’s wife takes the officer hostage and clears out the burger joint. Seth heads back to the motel and finds Monica dead. Not just killed, but carved up with her eyes removed. He grabs Richie and yells “This is not who we are. This is not who you are.” But clearly it is who Richie is. And Richie actually saw things about Monica, so this is getting more supernatural elements.

The Fullers’ Winnebago acts up and Jacob ends up in a bar… and in a bottle. Kate finds evidence that her father was culpable in the death of her mother. Marshall Freddie also gets some tips that Richie is responsible for a string of murders.

Episode 4- We flash back to Freddies first assignment as a Texas Ranger. He and Earl bust in on two bad dudes and a young woman. Earl shoots one of the men in the neck and blood spurts out everywhere. Freddie starts screaming and ends up throwing up and questioning becoming a Ranger. He is subsequently haunted ab “bleeding neck man” for the rest of the episode,

The fallout from Monica’s death and being spotted at Kahuna Burger means the Gecko brothers have to get out of town faster. They spot the Fullers and decide that they can hide in the RV. They take the family hostage. Richie goes to get Katie from  the pool, she’s been reading up on the car accident that killed her mother. She finds that her father wasn’t drunk, but that there was no issue with the breaks as he originally stated. There are flashbacks showing him “healing” their mother. Richie envisions her bleeding out into the pool. He i kind to Katie and says that he knows that she’s hurting. He tells her that he sees things. Growing up very religious, Katie believes that he is he is touched by God. But inevitably, he creeps her out.

Freddie Gonzales arrives on scene at Kahuna Burger and shows Seth’s wife photos of murder victims. He plays up that Richie is dangerous, maybe even for Seth. So she tells him that they stopped at a local motel and that he’s driving a smashed up black Camaro. Freddie arrives at the Dew Drop in and goes looking for the Geckos, met with snarky attitudes from the employees. Once he does find Seth, the ensuing melee results in the death of two cops.

Episode 5- Jacob Fuller, is remembering his wife’s death. She grabbed the wheel and ran them off of the road. What he has healing her from is pretty mysterious, but it appears to be some sort of possession. Richie starts imagining that Jacob is a lizard man and that Scott has a lizard tail. Katie seems left out of any of these hallucinations.I’m not sure exactly why. 

They end up at Boarder Patrol and things go from bad to worse. Scott pulls a gun on Richie, the ensuing argument leads Jacob to bumping into the car in front of him and leading to him knocking out the hipster driver and taking him hostage. Richie’s hallucinations involving Santanico Pandemonium get more intense. 

Carlos and Seth have been at odds after all the commotion and attention. Carlos infiltrates the Boarder Patrol barracks and feeds on an officer, taking on his form. This was done through a series of time and perspective shifts and it was very interesting. I was wondering why he was telling Freddie to holster his weapon. After that intervention they make it to Titty Twisters. 

What did I think? The additional details are thus far making the story more confusing than clear.from Jacob exorcising his wife, Richie seeing Scott with a lizard tail, the Marshalls thinking that Richie is a hitman for the blood cult/cartel… it’s a lot.Women still seemingly have no motivations of their own. The men do all the stuff while the women dote …or die. Jacob knocking out the other driver and Seth nodding “Old Testament.” was awesome. That was probably my favorite moment. There’s a lot here that’s being done more tamely than in the movie. It’s not a complaint but I am wondering why Rodriguez decided to do that. Carlos being out in broad daylight flies in the face of “How Vampires Work 101”

Anime Review- Legend of the Legendary Heroes

This incredibly enjoyable series begins with the adventurers oh an unlikely duo, Ferris Eris and Ryner Lute. They are sent to collect Hero Artifacts by Sion, the King of Roland. The leaders of a neighboring country called Estabul are also on the hunt for artifacts. Ryner is cursed with “magic eyes” demonic powers that come forth in the form of red pentagrams through his eyes. Through their early missions they are confronted by magical knights from the neighboring territory ..and Milk Calloud, part of the taboo breaker squad who works for King Sion, but doesn’t know about the mission. Milk is the captain of her squad, she’s also got a big time crush on Ryner and thinks that ferris must be enticing him to break the rules. Milk is giddy and girlie. She is very capable, but has childish ways of getting herself out of trouble (usually yelling that she has to use the bathroom). From the beginning Ferris is fierce, great with a sword, constantly teasing Ryner and obsessed with food.

Particularly tea and dango

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Ferris is a really fun and interesting character. She’s not above violence, but she disdains killing, she’s a loyal warrior. Although she constantly picks at Ryner -calling him a pervert who corrupts virgins and their mothers with a wolfish grin although this is completely untrue- she teases him for his laziness and incompetence, but she is a true friend.

Ryner is incredibly lazy, in the beginning episodes we see him lounging his way through military school, even when tasked with the important mission retrieving artifacts he is unmotivated and unimpressed. He constantly takes naps and complains about any work to be done. He laments at the end of each episode about how everything sucks. It’s whiny and annoying. He’s “cursed” but as someone who consumes a lot of fantasy genre media, it’s heard demi-god power defined as a curse before. I’m not buying. However, as we get deeper into his history, learning that part of his memories are missing, that he was raised in an orphanage that his childhood friends were killed right in front of him (which was the first time the Alpha Stigma was truly unleashed). He killed many people and sees himself as a monster. Most Alpha Stigmas never reach their full potential because they go crazy young. This all reaches a head in episode 10, when he and Ferris meet up with two pink haired travellers who have already claimed 4 Hero Artifacts that are working for Sion’s enemy Gastark. They fight, Ferris is thrown by the smaller female wielding an ice scythe leaving Ryner to abandon his fight to catch her, she remarks, “Is my beauty so distracting to you?” and he says, “What the hell is your problem?” The male of the antagonist duo calls forth Ryner’s Alpha Stigma, the demon voice attempts to convince him that he should burn everything, that destruction would be more enjoyable than trying to fit in and play hero with humans who don’t accept him. He nearly loses himself and attacks Ferris. Ferris hurls insults at him and then tells him that there’s no way he could be a monster, she doesn’t believe he’s really trying to kill her. She overcomes his magic and he collapses in a heap in front of her. He thinks that now that she’s seen him for what he is that she’ll leave. He tells her he’s too dangerous. Ferris plainly says that there will be no telling her where to go and that besides that they had a date for tea. He starts to cry and she doesn’t coddle him, but makes it clear she won’t leave him. I’m a total sucker for scenes like that and to be honest I have no idea what to do with someone over the age of 12 who is crying, hugging and making sarcastic comments is likely. So I found Ferris’s actions endearing. But by now the audience understands that Ryner isn’t a lazy goofball, he’s clinically depressed and nothing seems worthwhile.

For the most part, nothing much changes in their relationship, although they both internally reflect back on that day. One act of acceptance does not cure Ryner of his depression. It’s a handful of episodes more before we get more backstory on Ferris who is nobility and well trained to be a warrior from a young age, her parents considered her a failure and decided she was only useful as a vessel to carry on her family’s bloodline so her father attacks her, her father is then killed by her very powerful and protective brother. The showing is brief and isn’t very graphic. It provides insight as to why she is so protective of her younger sister and why she sees Ryner as a pervert. It’s likely she sees all men as perverts. Her snarky attitude is cover for her sadness the way that Ryner’s laziness is cover for his.

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Throughout the series they encounter new enemies, either trying to beat them to the Hero Artifacts or just enemies set on vanquishing Alpha Stigma monsters. Ryner makes it his goal to save any Alpha Stigma kids before they kill and become corrupted. The story also follows Milk, and another love interest of Ryner’s, Kiefer, who belongs to Gastark’s kingdom. King Sion is a complex character himself, he abhors violence, believing that all life matters and people all have a place in this world but with those in his kingdom afraid of those bearing the Alpha Stigma he is forced to take precaution against Ryner. He’s also collecting artifacts that carry god-like powers which seems akin to political tactics like “peacekeeping through superior firepower”. He’s also harboring some big secrets. Towards the end Ryner meets others “cursed” like him and he sees that they are not all monstrous killing machines.. secret origins get revealed.. There’s a lot going on here.

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An amazing story, great animation, masterfully executed, humorous, full of action and high fantasy. It’s lush and gorgeous. It’s funny and sweet and exciting. 

Based on light novels by Takaya Kagami originally illustrated by Saori Toyota.