The Culture Cast with Zack and Nick

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

‘Dracula’s Daughter’ – A Forgotten Classic

I absolutely love the classic Universal Monster movies specifically those from the 1930s and ‘40s.  Beyond just the pop-culture aspect of it, I just love the atmosphere and creative early filmmaking techniques.  You just don’t get movies like these anymore.  Of course, everyone knows Frankenstein (and its sequels), The Wolf Man, and Dracula, but I think my favorite of the bunch is a largely forgotten film, 1936’s Dracula’s Daughter.

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Picking up from the Bela Lugosi original, Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden), the titular daughter, steals Dracula’s body and burns it.  Her theory is that now that Dracula is dead, she will be released from her own vampire curse.  Of course that doesn’t quiet happen, so she enlists the aid of a psychiatrist, Dr. Garth (Otto Kruger), to help cure her (of course, Garth doesn’t know about the vampirism).

This film just blew me away the first time I saw it in 2009.  Beyond taking a completely different narrative route than the 1931 original (how easy would it have been to retrace the same steps), but the themes it deals with (inadvertently or not) are completely a head of its time.

For starters, you have this whole idea that vampirism is nothing more than a mental affliction that can be cured with therapy.  It is this unique blend of science and folklore that I’ve never really seen done before or since.  Part of the reason I was taken with this has to do with the fact that I was in the midst of my graduate studies in counseling at the time.  I was pretty much eating, drinking, and sleeping counseling theories and practices at the time.  The film is pretty much on spot with Garth’s practices – which is interesting given how many movies/TV shows fail miserably with how counseling works.

But, beyond that, Dracula’s Daughter has a lot more going on.  Zaleska is so desperate to rid herself of her vampirism (in spite of her darkly humorous sidekick Sandor), but keeps coming up short.  Her cravings need attention and when she is let loose on London, a whole other can of worms opens up.

While she goes after pretty much anyone, the film pays closer attention to her seduction and subsequent attacks on women.  One particular scene has Zaleska encountering a young woman and convincing her to undress to pose as a model for a painting.  This, of course, leads to an attack, but I think the implication the film begins to make here is clear.

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Dracula’s Daughter can be seen as an allegory for lesbianism.  Maybe that wasn’t the exact focus, but the implications cannot be ignored.  This, then brings the entire film into a whole new light, particularly with her desire to “cure” her of her condition (much like therapists tried to do with homosexuality decades ago).

Zaleska eventually gives up fighting it and fully embraces her vampire destiny (and is eventually killed).  Granted, probably not the best way to end a possible homosexual allegory.  However, the fact that all of this was even put in a film from the 1930s makes Dracula’s Daughter incredibly progressive.  You didn’t get black and white mainstream films dealing with this kind of subject manner.

This is really the reason why I love Dracula’s Daughter so much.  It really is unlike anything else that came out from around that time.  Unfortunately, you can’t get the film individually, and it can only be obtained through Dracula collections (sometimes is shows up on Svengoolie).  But if you have the chance this Halloween weekend, I would highly recommend Dracula’s Daughter for monster viewing.

Happy Halloween!

‘Gone Girl’ is Pretty Amazing

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Gone Girl is acclaimed director David Fincher’s (The Social Network) latest film, and it is an incredibly gripping and intense mystery/thriller.  The funny thing about this movie is that the internet, in a shocking move, has been pretty restrained when it comes to spoiling this movie.  There are several twists and turns (some incredibly shocking), but there seems to be a collective move to keep things quiet as to not ruin the surprise for audiences.  Not sure why Gone Girl was honored with that, but in an effort to follow suit, I will keep this review fairly spoiler free by discussing the movie from only things that can be picked up from the trailers.

In Gone Girl, Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a husband whose wife (Rosamund Pike) mysteriously disappears.  The following investigation uncovers several clues that lead viewers to believe Nick is responsible.  However, not all is as it seems which leads movie goers to determine the truth between the different narratives that are presented.

I love a good mystery and Gone Girl provides that in spades.  The mystery comes short of perfect as some of it really doesn’t quite work (especially in the third act), but here is where Fincher really succeeds as a director.  Everything that is going on is so engaging that, as a viewer, I never really questioned anything that was happening on screen.  After I left the theater, I started to notice some of the holes, but if you can’t notice them while you are watching the film, that’s the work of an artist.

While the mystery is great, the thing that I really, really loved about the movie was how it completely skewers main stream media on how they can sensationalize a tragedy to the point where an entire nation can completely side with or be against an individual with half-truths and implications.  Granted, this sort of storytelling has been used in the past, but Fincher doesn’t hit you over the head with it by keeping it subtle and in the background, but enough to where you would likely hate every news personality in the movie.

There is a lot more I would like to go into with Gone Girl such as its themes concerning gender, societal privilege, and the problems that stem from both, but I would have to veer into spoiler territory to do so.  Since I rather not do that, I’ll just conclude that Gone Girl is an incredibly well-made film that keeps you engaged.  It is a solid thriller (with a darkly humorous third act) which I highly recommend.  Avoid spoilers and go in blank.  You’ll thank me for that.

~N

I saw John Wick

I guess it was only a matter of time before Keanu Reeves got his own Taken clone – not that I mind that whatsoever. In fact, John Wick out-Takens Taken in many ways, and itss hard-R rating allows it to be even more violent and over-the-top in its action sequences. Directed by David Leitch (a stuntman who cut his teeth on action movies and previously worked with Reeves on The Matrix trilogy) and partner Chad Stahelski and released by who else but Lionsgate/Summit, John Wick is an extremely stylish revenge/thriller/action film that is surprisingly good and a great return-to-form for star Keanu Reeves.

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Keanu Reeves stars as John Wick, a retired mafia hitman known among the criminal underground as “The Boogeyman” for his fierce killing skills and cold, calculating nature. When Wick’s wife dies suddenly of a terminal illness, Wick spends his days in mourning, driving his cherished ’69 Mustang and eventually finding some semblance of peace after bonding with a beagle puppy named Daisy. Wick’s newfound peace doesn’t last long, however, when the son of a Russian mobster injures Wick, kills his dog, and steals his car. Now he’s back in the game and out for revenge.

There’s quite a bit of world building in John Wick that often makes it seem as if the film was adapted from a book or graphic novel series. In addition to hitman Wick, there’s a whole bevy of cool characters that seem to have fallen out of a comic book. Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones) plays the sniveling Russian spoiled son of Michael Nyqvist’s Russian mobster. Willem Dafoe plays a rival hitman/friend to Wick. The Wire’s Clark Peters is another hitman and friend of Wick. Dean Winters, Lance Reddick (who appeared on Oz which starred Dean Winters), John Leguizamo, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan and the always excellent Ian McShane round out the surprisingly deep cast.

Though John Wick is a simple revenge film, it is loaded with well-directed action set pieces and great stunts. The film doesn’t rely heavily on CGI, opting instead for practical effects whenever it can. The hand-to-hand combat is surprisingly visceral and thrilling, and reminiscent of the kung fu fun from The Matrix crossed with the stylish Shanghai sequences of Skyfall. The film doesn’t contain any of the annoying jump-cuts popular among 00s action films either. The fact that it is coherently shot and staged is a big compliment considering I imagine it had about a quarter of the budget of a big summer tentpole picture.

The film does take a bit of time to get going, but that gives us a chance to understand the inner workings of Wick himself, and though Reeves has always been a limited performer, he is great in roles like this. The film’s action set pieces are coherently framed and shot, but the story itself drags a bit in places. I love the idea of the assassin’s code the film brings up, and this idea is something that can readily be explored in sequels, but it unfortunately doesn’t amount to much in this film. I can easily look past that, however, as John Wick’s ambition plenty outweighs its failings. It is a stylish and slick action film with a ton of great characters, competent direction, visceral violence, and a solid Reeves performance. Wick is a total winner.

-Z-

Speed Reading! – The Flash #35

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“Out of Time”

In the latest edition of The Flash, the much-more intense, blue-costumed Future Flash catches up to the present day to fix the Speed Force.  His plan?  Kill his younger self, of course!  The issue focuses on the battle between our hero and his corrupt future self with another speedster stepping in to help save the day.  Or does he?

It is a fairly simple issue which sort of rehashes what has been going on with the Future Flash for the past few months.  Normally, that could be an irritating thing to hear what is going on again and again, but in this case, it sort of works considering that what is happening with the Speed Force and the Future Flash’s motivations has been incredibly muddled.  Maybe that was by design, but I know that I was growing frustrated with the lengthiness of it.

The Future Flash abducts his present-day version and takes him to where the Speed Force ruptured.  Apparently, the death of the present-day Flash combined will release enough energy to fix tear.  Or something.  It is one of those things in comics that you just have to go with.

I have to give credit to writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen in directly connecting this Speed Force tear to the events during Manapul and Buccellato’s run (specifically when Dr. Elias’s monorail crashed).  It feels like a natural continuation instead of something that just happened.  In the past, I have noticed when a new creative team comes on to a comic, they will junk everything the previous team did to establish their own stamp.  Here, it feels like a continuing story, and I really like that they did that.

Before Future Flash can kill Barry (why he doesn’t sacrifice himself is never explained – arrogance on his part, perhaps?), Future Wally appears and battles Future Flash.  They duke it out, but in an ironic move, Future Flash accidently kills Future Wally (who was shielding Barry).  Wally takes Barry’s energy, dies, and heals the wound in a big explosion.  This leaves Wally dead, Barry stuck in the past, and Future Flash still standing.

Sort of a rushed ending and, again, I wish Future Wally would be sticking around.  Not only is he a lot of fun to read, but artist Brett Booth killed it with Wally’s costume.  I really like that silver and red motif.  Hopefully, that design will make some sort of return down the line.

Overall, not bad.  It was the likely conclusion and it delivered on its promise of a showdown.  I do wish there was a bit more substance to the issue.  Again, it was another boss fight.  There was more at play this time around than in issue 34, but I just feel like I want a bit more out of it.  That said, I am looking forward to the Future Flash in the present day.  Will he try to completely take over Barry’s life (even though he is 20 years older)?  I guess we’ll find out next month.

Next: The Flash – – All-New, All-Murderous!

Kick-Ass 3 – Unsuspectingly Deep?

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The Kick-Ass franchise and I go back a ways.  I first became aware of it in 2009 when I met author Mark Millar at a Wizard World comic convention.  He was peddling his book in addition to the movie adaptation then in production.  I was in awe of the little I learned, so I eagerly awaited for the collected edition of Kick-Ass to come out.  I loved it then, and it still holds up now.

Then Kick-Ass 2 was released in 2012 and it was an incredible let down.  I liked the general idea of it, but the execution was way too over-the-top and violence too extreme to be legitimately entertaining.  In a surprising move, the movie version pretty much fixed everything that was wrong with the comic and is actually a better product in my mind.

Finally, in 2013, Hit-Girl, an interquel, came out and regained what was so good about Kick-Ass in the first place.  For me, it redeemed the series.  As such, I was pumped and ready for this final chapter in which Millar promised some definite conclusions.

And that’s what happens.  Mostly.  Kick-Ass 3 picks up some time after the second installment.  Dave is out of high school and, despite his best efforts, is beginning to question his role as a superhero.  Mindy is locked-up in prison and sort of screwing with the minds of the guards and psychologists there.  Meanwhile, the final Genovese mob boss brother comes to New York to re-establish his family’s control over the criminal enterprises Dave and Mindy disrupted over the past three series.

There is a lot of good here and a lot of middling efforts as well.  Kick-Ass 2 is definitely better than its predecessor, but it falls short of the original series.  I think one of the problems is that the first half of the book is boring.  Nothing really happens.  You get some interesting character work (which I’ll discuss below), but there is a real lack of momentum.  Things just sort of happen with little impact, and characters (like Red Mist) pop up briefly before disappearing for issues on end.

I have no problems with a slow burn, but it really felt like Millar was spinning his wheels for a good while.  About midway through, the plot really starts to kick in, but during the second half of the book, things just speed along at an almost too brisk of a pace.

What also didn’t work for me is that Mindy/Hit-Girl was just too much to handle.  I know that I need to take her character with some suspension of disbelief, but what she is capable of doing throughout the story is completely illogical and eye-rollingly stupid.  The book just tried too hard to make her look cool when it didn’t need to.

But, as I hinted at earlier, what really works in Kick-Ass 3 is Dave’s character arc.  He’s older now and is at that stage in his life where he wants more out of life and isn’t sure the superhero thing is really it.  He begins to seriously see someone and begins to get something that resembles a normal lifestyle.  And he likes it.  There is a maturity at play that really, really works well.

As I was reading, I couldn’t help but wonder if Millar was trying to make some sort of statement with what Dave is going through as if Dave’s journey was a loose allegory for the comic book reader.  As a kid you like comic books for the goofy stories and fun pictures.  As one gets older, they get really into it and reach intense fanboy levels (as seen on any internet message boards on any given day).  But then, as you enter your twenties and you develop new interests and new perspectives on things, you sort of leave comics behind, or at least your intense love for them greatly diminishes.

And this is what really stood out for me with Kick-Ass 3.  I really could relate to this as I went through a similar thing in my younger days (though, I don’t think I was ever a fanboy – but that’s not up for me to determine).  I still like comics, of course.  But at the end of the day, who cares?

If this is what Millar was saying, then I really need to give him credit as it is a completely bold thing to run with in the sense that the most vocal of today’s comic readers are people who are older and should be beyond an intense irrational love for comics.

If that is really the legacy behind the Kick-Ass series, then it really paints everything in a different light.  And I love that idea.  I really, really do.  It makes it feel so much more personal with a deeper meaning.  Kick-Ass 3 ends the series with a, far-from perfect, but satisfying conclusion.

~N

I saw ‘The Judge’ (probably the only one who did so)

The Judge, starring Robert Downey, Jr and Robert Duvall, is a completely forgettable film in an otherwise impressive filmography of its two main stars. I caught this film last week when a local cinema had its Five-Dollar Night. The girlfriend was interested in it when we both caught a trailer for it the week prior on TV. I, too, was curious about the film that put these two stars together, so we decided to check it out. I wouldn’t call it a mistake, but by the end of its needlessly long 2.5 hour runtime, we both came out of the theatre with a collective “eh”. There was nothing inherently bad about the film, but nothing remarkable either.

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One of the central issues is that this film tries to do way too much and, thereby, doesn’t fully commit to many of its subplots (and, trust me, there are lots). Duvall (a reserved, small town judge) and Downey, Jr (a smooth talking criminal defense lawyer) play a father and son who are estranged (of course they are). The father is accused of murder, so the son must return to the small town he abandoned years ago where his big city ways don’t mesh well with his father’s small town (and, as the movie would have us believe, better) mindset.

This, in itself, would have been enough for the film to focus on (even if it is beyond a cliché). But The Judge doesn’t stop there. There are several extraneous subplots (including a very bizarre one where Downey, Jr thinks he might have made out with his 20-year-old daughter) that just make the movie almost seem like a complete mess. It, surprisingly, holds it together, but barely.

The glue that keeps all of this together are the performances by Downey, Jr, Duvall, and a supporting cast of character actors. They are all lively, and it seems like the actors are having fun. But, even though this helped keep my interest in the film, even then, it pushes the limit on how melodramatic a film is allowed to get. The father and son go back and forth from hating each other to loving each other too many times for it to be palatable.

Perhaps that is the biggest issue with The Judge – it is too overly-melodramatic. Perhaps director David Dobkin wanted to run an experiment on how clichéd and melodramatic can a film be before breaking. If that’s what he did, then brilliant. He found that limit. It doesn’t shatter, but it comes perilously close.

The film bombed at the box office, and it is likely already forgotten (assuming people knew about it already – there was near-zero marketing for it).  The Judge just isn’t worth the time to see. Rotten Tomatoes consensus predicts that this film will likely end up on basic cable. I can really see that happen. This is the type of not-bad-but-not-good film that one would channel surf through on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

~N

Ezra Miller is The Flash

It is really hard to be a fan of comic books and superheroes sometimes.  It really is.  Oh, not because its nerdy or that other people will look down on it.  It is because of other, more intense comic book fans and how ridiculously over-the-top they act in regards to their hobby.  It is really embarrassing.  Today, we had another such example of the fanbase embarrassing itself.

Warner Bros. released a full slate of movies based on various DC Comics properties.  One such project is The Flash scheduled for release in 2018.  While that wasn’t an unexpected announcement, what was surprising was that WB already cast the titular hero.  In four years’ time, Ezra Miller (of Perks of Being a Wallflower fame) will be taking on the mantle of the Scarlet Speedster.

And then the internet fucking broke, and butthurt prevailed.

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Now, I’ll admit that I found the casting of Miller to be a surprising move for many reasons.  For starters, it seems strange to cast a relative unknown actor as the lead in a movie four years away from being released with no director or writer currently attached.  Then again, I suspect he’ll probably make some sort of appearance in either the Batman v. Superman or Justice League prompting an early casting.

More unusual is that, while Miller is a solid actor, I never imagined him as a superhero, let alone The Flash.  But, as been shown in the past, outside-the-box casting can pay off especially if it fits a particular vision (Heath Ledger’s Joker being the prime example).  I am sure that Miller will be fine in the role.  The truth is, very much is unknown about The Flash and what this movie will ultimately be about (and why should we get all the answers right away anyway?  Are we so entitled?).  We should take in the news and then play a wait and see game to find out what is going to happen next.

Of course this is the Internet we are talking about and that will never ever happen.  Within hours of this announcement, the angry fanboys have come out of the woodwork to declare their anger against a movie they know nothing about.  I’ve seen rage that WB isn’t using Grant Gustin (star of the new Flash TV show) as the character in the upcoming movie because he is a perfect Barry Allen.  This is, of course, hilarious since people were completely raging against his casting a year ago.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

There have also been complaints that Miller is too young for the role and that he looks too effeminate.  What are they going off of with that.  Many of his past roles has had him as a quirky, off-beat character who has been typically young (and why not – he’s only 22 at the moment).  His head shot on IMDB is from 2008 when he was 16!  And the movie won’t come out for another four years.  That’s a completely unfair argument for people to use against his casting, but I’ve already seen it today.

For example, Speed Force, a Flash blog, is run by Kelson Vibber, one of the most level-headed comic book fans I have ever encountered online, and he had an article up earlier today going over The Flash movie announcement.  He goes out of his way to explain Miller’s young appearance is unintentionally deceiving in his IMDB head shot.  Yet, that did not stop a good portion of the comment section to completely ignore this and predict nothing but doom and gloom about the upcoming movie.

I just don’t get it.  Nothing is known about this movie.  If it was revealed that The Flash was going to be about an overweight would-be runner who decides to fight crime using a couple of oozies to take out space aliens who decided to invade his favorite mini-mart, then, yes, I can understand the why people would question that.

But in this case, nothing is known enough to get upset about.  We don’t even know which version of the Flash Miller will be portraying (despite online rumoring).  Based on the past roles he’s had, I can easily see him as Wally West.  Honestly, that might be a smart way to go so it wouldn’t step on the toes of the new TV show (featuring the Barry Allen Flash) or be redundant.

Point is, we don’t know what is happening with this movie other than a title, a date, and an actor.  There is absolutely no need to get so up-in-arms over it.  Honestly, I have to applaud WB for their casting of Ezra Miller.  They are putting together what they hope will turn into a series of superhero action films and one section of it will be headlined by an actor who openly identifies himself as “queer”.  You just don’t see studios doing that for big, blockbuster films unless the actor is already established and well-respected.

So, as I did with the reaction to Grant Gustin, I humbly request that the internet chill the fuck out or at least take a wait and see approach.

Oh, who am I kidding?  That’s not going to happen.

Getting Back to My Roots: Appleseed

Why is Masamune Shirow’s 1980s cyber-punk manga and eventual anime adaptation titled Appleseed? I have no idea. It doesn’t play into the story whatsoever and makes absolutely no sense as the title of a dystopian story about cyborg terrorists vs. human and robot police officers. But if that short summary sounds a lot like Ghost in the Shell, that’s because Shirow is also responsible for the Ghost in the Shell manga. Like Appleseed, however, the GitS film series has little in common with its manga counterpart, and the film version is more widely known as Mamoru Oshii’s baby. Unlike the GitS film series, the 1988 Appleseed OAV isn’t particularly good (the 2000s-era CGI animated ones are somehow worse, and don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise).

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In 1988, Bandai Visual and Gainax collaborated on an OAV based on the Appleseed manga. The OAV bears little in common with the manga outside of the general story, characters, and setting, but that’s really ok because I’ve never actually read the manga and currently have no plans to ever read it. Though I first watched Appleseed in 1999, I had no clue it was animated by Gainax until I looked it up on Wikipedia five minutes before starting this article (it was released stateside by Manga Entertainment, naturally). I have to imagine it was either a low-budget production or animated by Gainax’s B-team, because it doesn’t look nearly as good as a lot of other 1980s stuff, particularly Venus Wars, covered in this feature a few months back.

Anyway, far off in the future there was some kind of devastating nuclear war (commonly referred to as World War 3). The war crippled most of humanity, leaving few non-cyborgs left. Thus, the last remnants of humanity and their cyborg brothers have gathered into a mega-city, Judge Dredd-style, known as Olympus. Olympus is controlled by a benevolent AI system called Gaia, but not everything is as it seems, obviously. Though most of the Olympus populace is blissfully unaware they’re being thought-controlled or something, resentment begins to creep in and terrorism soon begins to chip away at the city’s core.

Cybernetic terrorist Sebastian eventually begins to plan an all out assault on Gaia through secret collaboration with a turncoat police officer, and it is up to two police officers to stop Sebastian before he destroys the city. Briareos is a mostly cybernetic cop with an artificial head and two large, rabbit-like ears. He’s been enhanced with superior strength and stamina and his robot eyes allow him to see around corners without exposing his position. His counterpart (and love interest), Deunan, is one of the last human beings in the city (it is said that non-cyborgs only total around 15% of the population). Deunan is brash, rude, easily angered, and petulant, but also a good cop.

Other characters include Charon (sometimes translated as Calon), a disenchanted police officer upset with Gaia and the city of Olympus after the tragic death of his wife, city administrator Athena, and Hitomi, who is also somehow involved in the plot in ways I cannot remember because her character is dumb. Charon actually has decent characterization solely due to the fact that he is personally motivated and acts in ways he feels are right and just. He’s one of the few characters outside of bad guy Sebastian to have an actual adult opinion about society. Athena is a typical no-nonsense administrator and acts as a foil to Deunan and Briareos even though she is ostensibly their ally.

Appleseed thinks it is an incredibly poignant take on society (a lot of dreck that came out in this time period has that same problem). It thinks it has important things to say about the nature of technology and its impact on the social structure of mankind and what not. I can assure you, dear reader, it has none of these things. Appleseed is just plain dumb. That’s not entirely a bad thing. There is some fun to be had. I like the mech race at the end between Charon, Deunan, and Briareos. I love the spider-tank thing at the end. I like the casual relationship between Briareos and Deunan, who are obviously attracted to each other but too bullheaded to say anything (this kind of relationship is much more tolerant in a 75 minute OAV than it would be in an 88-episode romantic comedy series). I even like elements of the story, setting, and tertiary characters, particularly Charon.

But holy crap the writing in this is so bad, and the dub is absolutely atrocious. Though it doesn’t take fifteening to the extreme like, say, Angel Cop or Mad Bull or the infamous Violence Jack, there are certainly instances of fifteening in Appleseed, and they are pretty funny in their badness. I imagine Appleseed was likely dubbed by the same infamous British studio that dubbed those masterpieces of the genre as well. In addition to the poor script and the poor dubbing, the animation is also laughable, especially considering this was a production of the 1980s, a time when budgets were normally higher and movies tended to look amazing (Appleseed came out around the same time as both Akira and Wings of Honneamise – not to say it had the budget of either of thus, but man oh man it looks awful by comparison).

As I noted earlier, I first caught Appleseed in about 1999. I believe I purchased it on VHS from either Coconuts or Suncoast Motion Picture Company, the latter of which I miss dearly. Hey, even if they charged exorbitant prices in some cases, you couldn’t find some of their stuff anywhere else. I tended to only buy those VHS tapes when I either had a coupon or the store had a sale. I still remember buying a bunch of anime VHS tapes 50% off from Coconuts in downtown Chicago in July 1999 and thinking I had hit the jackpot. Back in the 90s, I really liked Appleseed a lot (hey, I even liked Angel Cop back then). Watching it with adult eyes, however, it’s kind of hard to even see what I liked about it in the first place. It’s not actively bad and it’s not remotely good and it isn’t even so-horrible-it’s-hilarious either. It just kind of exists as this mostly forgotten, badly animated 1980s OAV.

-Z-

I Saw You’re Next

I’ve been on an unusual horror kick lately. I don’t say unusual because I’m watching particularly strange horror movies. I say it instead because it is totally out of the ordinary for me to watch horror movies at all. I very rarely watch anything in the genre unless it’s either a true classic (like, say, The Exorcist or Evil Dead 2) or unless I consider it to be a classic (Hellraiser, Candyman) even if it probably isn’t. But, it being October and all, I decided that maybe I should catch a few horror films and try to get into the spirit of it all.

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One such horror film I caught courtesy of Amazon’s instant watch service, You’re Next, is a home-invasion thriller filmed on a microscopic budget and actually completed in 2011, where it was screened at several film festivals. You’re Next was released in the midst of a kind of horror renaissance last year, where several horror films (including The Conjuring and Insidious 2) made big bucks. Though You’re Next left little impact at the domestic box office, it was greeted with fairly strong reviews for the genre (74% aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes), which was enough to intrigue me.

I went into the film expecting something on the level of Saw or Hostel, that is to say I expected it to be much more torture-porny than it turned out to be. I was pleasantly surprised to see that You’re Next was not a gross torture porn flick, but instead a home-invasion thriller similar to The Purge or The Strangers. Though these films are highly illogical (I can’t imagine all these conversations, secrets, and murders going on in one house without people catching on more quickly), they are usually entertaining and fun to watch. Such was the case with You’re Next – it’s a whole lot of fun to watch unfold.

Make no mistake, You’re Next is a totally dumb film. The plot is barebones and stupid and characters make decisions no rational, real life person would ever make. But there are also moments of sheer genius in the film’s utter stupidity that made me crack a smile. Too often horror films contain absolutely horrible characters with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. When these characters are eventually dispatched, we the audience feel nothing for them. You’re Next doesn’t fall into this trope because it barely gives us the chance to get to know its characters, let alone hate them. Believe me – this is a good thing.

Because the characters are so paper thin, there’s no real reason to discuss anyone in depth. Thankfully so, because the most backstory anyone gets is either given out in terrible dialogue or in lengthy doses of useless exposition. You’re Next is all about the nitty gritty of the killing and not the depth of the characters, which is totally fine for a movie of this variety. There’s some real atmosphere to be found in the film, which is more than what could be said of the first Purge film (though You’re Next is nowhere near as good as The Purge: Anarchy, it should be noted).

You’re Next isn’t a good film by any means, but it foregoes most of the unwatchable trappings of the horror genre. It is a violent and bloody affair but never really devolves into the insidious torture porn genre. It has some pretty cool kills and features the best use of kitchen appliances in a horror movie since the 2009 Last House of the Left remake. I wouldn’t recommend anyone go out and spend their hard earned money to see this movie, but it is absolutely worth checking out on a streaming service. It certainly helped me get into the Halloween spirit, and I’ll most likely be checking out a few other horror films as the season progresses.

-Z-

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