Saturday, October 10, 2015

What I Watched in September

I caught the recent found footage horror film THE GALLOWS at the second run theater last month and was mildly surprised to enjoy it. For a lot of people the found footage sub-genre has long since lost its fascination (if it ever had any) and I can understand the knee-jerk dislike. As a conceit the idea has lost its ability to bring fresh scares to me simply by playing up the first person nature of the events being shown. So, much like any other story, these movies need to actually bring something clever to the table to rise from the level of disposable and forgettable. For me this film was hovering on the line between 'OK' and 'Not Worth It' until the final ten minutes when the denouncement proved the filmmakers had thought their creepy little premise through to completion. I almost stood and slow clapped in the theater as the credits played. THE GALLOWS is not a great horror movie but it is short, it smartly plays with its scenario and finishes with a flourish. Nice.

When it comes to horror films I am a masochist. Even when I'm fairly sure that the pedigree of a particular horror effort condemns it to be crap, I will - if given the chance - check it out. I love the genre too much to pass up the opportunity to be surprised by an unexpected gem hiding behind a name I've learned to distrust. So, even though Eli Roth has never made a film I've enjoyed I ventured out to see THE GREEN INFERNO and once again Mr. Roth proves that no amount of rubbing up against Tarantino can give him the ability to write believable dialog. That is always the first thing I notice about an Eli Roth film - the dialog is hideous! Roughly ten percent of what come out of character's mouths in this or any other of his sad efforts feels like something that a human being might actually say to another human being. If an alien came to Earth and tried to infiltrate society by blending into the film industry I suspect that alien MIGHT write dialog as pathetically stilted as the crap these actors have to speak. The full flow of faux-cool hipster-bro babble is almost mesmerizing as it oozes from the screen putting me in mind of a purposefully off-kilter performance added to a film to warn the audience that its all a dream. But no. We're supposed to believe that these are real people speaking these hacky lines as they attempt to live their oh so complicated lives. I rolled my eyes so often in the first half hour of this film I started to get eyestrain.

The general 2015 public might see this movie as a boundary pushing cannibal film filled with high level gore and violence but as a long time fan of the movies that Roth is aping here I just see a frat boy making bad jokes and having a good laugh with his buddies about his panty-sniffing cleverness. This is a movie made by a preening hack pleased with himself for being 'edgy' and funny when his biggest addition to the genre is an idiotic post credit moment fashioned to set up a sequel. THE GREEN INFERNO would be unintentionally funny if it wasn't so pointless and mean-spirited but Roth doesn't even understand the ideas he is fumbling around with here. He wedges in fart and shit jokes, a masturbation scene and in one of the dumbest sequences in cinema pot smoke history posits that a bag of cannabis smaller than my hand could make an entire tribe of forty to fifty natives so high as to become insensible. Of course, the entire pot smoke scene is there so that a 'They've got the munchies' joke can be made about the hungry cannibals afterward. My god, this is crap.

I will continue to see horror films by people in whom I have little trust but it is efforts like this that make it difficult. I don't mind gore, violence and all manner of unpleasant things done in service of a good scary movie but Eli Roth is just a terrible filmmaker with no idea of how poorly he understands the genre he purports to love. He is a terrible storyteller and that is the thing a director has to be above all. 

The List 
ENDER'S GAME (2013)- 5 (incredibly 'meh')
SASKATCHEWAN (1954) - 6 (OK RMCP adventure)
FREEBIE AND THE BEAN (1974)- 6 (far too over-the-top on all fronts but the actors make it entertaining)
CURSE OF THE UNDEAD (1959)- 6 (rewatch) (vampire western)
THE SWARM (1978)- 3 (Wow! Epic badness!)
LAST OF THE RENEGADES (1964) - 7 (the second Winnetou westerns)
HOUSE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1974) - 5 (odd gothic with too little story)
THE THING THAT COULDN'T DIE (1958)- 4 (rewatch)
THE BOOK OF LIFE (2014)- 9 (wonderful animated film)
THE GALLOWS (2015)- 6 (pretty good found footage horror)
KONGO (1932)- 7 (excellent pre-code drama)
THE GLORY STOMPERS (1967)- 7 (well done biker flick)
BUCK AND THE PREACHER (1972) - 7 (good black-cast western)
GODZILLA: FINAL WARS (2004) -7 (rewatch)
THE BROOD (1979)- 8 (rewatch)
FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 (1988)- 7 (rewatch)
8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE (1986) - 5 (rewatch) (Lawrence Block adaptation that is too flatly shot and indulgent of its actors)
THE MUMMY'S SHROUD (1967) - 7 (rewatch)
24 HOURS TO KILL (1965)- 6 (interesting Beirut-set crime drama with Mickey Rooney and Lex Barker)
DIARY OF A MADMAN (1963)- 6 (rewatch)
TRIPLE CROSS (1966)- 7 (British WWII spy tale based on fact)
NIGHTFALL (1957) - 8 (excellent film noir)
THE BABADOOK (2013)- 8


Nick Rentz said...

I hate Eli Roth to. His worst attribute is his writing. What QT sees in him I'll never know. Horror Rises from the Tomb is a vast improvement over The Thing That Couldn't Die. What are other movies that have good ideas, but failed to deliver would you like to see remade? I will throw out Time Walker, Plan 9, Bride of the Monster and The Alpha Incident

Steven Millan said...

Ironic how THE GREEN INFERNO got a year long delay,only to be barely promoted by both Blumhouse Productions and Universal,as well as Eli Roth's new Keanu Reeves starring thriller KNOCK KNOCK getting dumped onto both VOD and limited theatrical release(in both L.A. and New York),considering that Reeves' previous film JOHN WICK was a monstrous box office success: could both of Eli Roth's new films be that extremely terrible(to be given these warranted fates) ?

Rod Barnett said...

Steven - I think the perception of Roth's films is that they have a limited audience so throwing more money into theatrical promotion is a good way to cut into the slim profit potential. That they always suck just adds to that perception, I think.

Nick - Roth is one of the worst writers in Hollywood and when you consider how many people have been involved in the works of Michael Bay that is a large pool of hacks. I'm sure QT loves having a rich yes man around just as much as anyone else would. And I never thought about how close the plotlines of The Thing That Wouldn't Die and Horror Rises From the Tomb really are. Insane! Of course, Naschy's film is better if for no other reason - Helga Line!