Monday, February 20, 2012

Slumber Party Massacre: Oh How Times Have Changed

Slumber Party Massacre holds the great honor of being one of the VHS covers at the video store that scared the living crap out of me.

Not only did it show a madman about to kill some girls with what I assumed at the time was a telephone wire but it also made me nervous about what slumber parties would be like when I got to high school. Somehow, the idea of spending the night with fellow girls clad in lacy and sexy bras and underwear, plus also maybe forming a pig pile of terror didn't appeal to me. I think I was still afraid of naked people (which is a fear I was relieved from after I started going to the gym last month) (Side note: I'm still afraid of older women who walk up to me naked and ask me if I'm using the lotion....eeeeeek).

Ultimately Slumber Party Massacre challenged my happy thoughts about sleepovers. Seeing this VHS cover back in the days of elementary and middle school, firmly made me question the importance of such future rituals. Basically if slumber parties in high school did not include falling asleep while leaving the N'Sync CD on repeat and chocolate milk in sippy cups--I wanted no part. If only I knew then what I know now, I would realize that Slumber Party Massacre is just a movie!

By the way, Slumber Party Massacre is exactly what it sounds like. A massacre at a slumber party! An escaped mad man is on the loose and he just happens to hit the jackpot by finagling his way into a house where a slumber party is happening. Bloodiness and boobies ensue.

Although made in 1982, the slumber party in Slumber Party Massacre is I'm assuming wildly different from anyone's idea of a slumber party that is not a 55 year old male living in their mother's basement. Then again, if Slumber Party Massacre tells us anything, it's that the world was vastly different in good old 1982. For instance, who knew that in 1982, Kool-aid wasn't sweet enough on it's own? Clearly it had to be made sweeter by pouring in a bag of pure sugar!

(Side note: IS that how you make Kool-aid? By adding the powder to water AND then mixing sugar in? Nobody tells me anything important anymore...hmmph!)

Due to this evidence I am drawing the conclusion that slumber parties in 1982 were exactly like they were Slumber Party Massacre and not only that but LIFE is exactly the same as well.

This means that towels at the high school were about half the size they are now.

And the showers resemble prison showers. Also, the high school is probably an old abandoned prison that does not get money fed to it by taxpayers based on the fact that all the walls are decorated in gang graffiti unable to be removed. I guess going to high school in 1982 was not a very fun time--which is why girls needed to have slumber parties.

I'll be honest with you. There's something I find incredibly endearing about Slumber Party Massacre. I think it's because I expected it to be a worthless piece of garbage with tons of boobs and a tiny bit of blood. But no, Slumber Party Massacre is actually a fun piece of garbage with tons of boobs and a fair amount of blood. I was way off!

I was actually surprised at how brutal much of the film is. There isn't a whole lot of lolly gagging throughout this. Sure there are cats jumping out of closets but there are also some fairly sad and unnerving death scenes. Take for instance the early on kill of a telephone repair woman. Our dopey male character hits on the woman who smiles to herself as they walk away. Then she is unceremoniously pulled into her OWN telephone repair van and we see her flailing arms and hopeless poundings on the window, trying to alert the clueless boys now walking away.

It's one of those scenes that would definitely have scarred me for life, had I seen it when I was younger.

Also, the man man's weapon of choice--a cork screw drill is unexpected and very bad ass. Plus it's loud which makes his ability to kill people in the garage without causing alarm very impressive. Although we never get to see actual blood and guts due to the corkscrew drill, we do often get to see the aftermath which is in many ways something that I prefer.

For some reason it's something that affects me more than blood and guts all up in your face. Maybe because it lessen the silly entertainment factor that many people receive from watching blood and guts all up in their face?

Fun fact! Slumber Party Massacre was written and directed by women! I had to go back and edit a bit of this review because originally I was all like pffft yeah whose fantasy of a slumber party is this---MALE FILMMAKERS. Whoops. Upon further reflection though, if this was made by men I have a feeling the slumber party would include some experimental lesbian sex, booby grabbing and silly talk about the male anatomy that no girl would ever actually say. Then again...I'm still confused about the edition of a Playgirl magazine being used as some form of tantalizing print material. I'm pretty sure Playgirl ultimately failed as magazine because no one wants to look at some guys junk. Or maybe I'm alone because secretly, I still fear naked people!

Anyways, Slumber Party Massacre surprised me in more than one way. It showed restraint while still being a tad bit unnerving. It created seemingly likable female characters and threw in creepy next door neighbors to boot. It's entertaining for what it is, and it's a refreshing take on the slasher genre that doesn't leave me with feelings of bitterness and hostility (COUGH Friday the 13th). Hooray!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Innkeepers: The Return of the Slow Burn

Well don't worry I'm still alive. Instead of laziness however this time I'll cry THE X-FILES and the outrageous truth that I joined a gym last week. I know what you're thinking and the answer is yes---there is now a Fox Mulder poster in my bedroom. But seriously, the gym? There is a small part of me that feels like I may just be a pod person. Of course being a pod person wouldn't be so bad if we all had hair like Donald Sutherland, but who can really be that lucky?

Anyways. I'm not watching as many horror movies because I've been too busy watching trashy TV while doing the elliptical. Then when I come home I watch the X-files, go to sleep and have crazy ass dreams. I blame the duel combination of exercise and trashy TV. Or is the triple combination of exercise, trashy TV and the X-files? While we're on the subject---STOP KEEPING SCULLY AND MULDER APART THEY'RE A TEAM DAMN IT.

Today I finally pried myself away from watching the X-files and pretending to be healthy, and enjoyed the spoils of a horror movie that I had been craving to see for a while. The Innkeepers is another film made by The House of the Devil's Ti West---the penultimate king of the slow burner (second only to maybe Roman Polanski....MAYBE). Needless to say, I was more than anxious to see Ti's latest installment of terror.

Ghost stories if you are not aware, happen to be my favorite kind of horror movie. Owed mostly to the fact that I'm insanely terrified of the concept of ghosts and suspicious noises that happen in the nighttime. The Innkeepers follows the sad last days of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, a historical inn going out of business due to the fact that no one wants to stay there (I blame the towels, they look pretty musty).

Claire and Luke are both Pedlar employees who are on a mission to record any sign of paranormal activity they can before the inn shuts down once and for all.

There's part of me that feels like I would have not liked this as much if I had not been familiar with The House of the Devil. Technically in some ways I didn't love The Innkeepers but I did appreciate it when all was said and done. The best part about Ti West is that he is great at flipping conventions and predictability on their heads. He has this whole thing about not falling prey to cliches or what is to be expected, and he does it artfully. I'm not just talking out of my butt, there is some great, great stuff going on in this.

Most noticeably, the subdued color palette that almost amplifies the sad state of the inn, and my favorite part, the lurking camera work.

Ti seems to borrow this technique from The Shining and it works so fantastically. If you notice while watching, the camera at many times seems to be a character all on its own. It seeks out and finds the characters rather than the other way around. It works because it suggests this watchfulness that the inn or the ghost appears to have. It is this kind of thing that makes appreciate a solid ghost film.

Many I think will not like The Innkeepers because it's almost too slow. Yes that's Ti's style but here I felt like it could have used a bit of oomph. There are technically no real scares for a long time---I want to say maybe like an hour? The thing about that is, that although there is no actual scare, that doesn't mean that tension and feelings of being scared are absent. On the contrary, another thing that Ti West is great at is building up tension that never seems to go anywhere.

Some might call this a great fault of the film but I like to think of it as kind of genius. Built up tension that never releases causes even higher levels of unease. This means that The Innkeepers should scare you without actually scaring you, if you catch my drift. And we're not necessarily talking fake outs here---I mean more of the sense that our characters could be walking around in the dark with a flashlight and our hearts could be pounding BUT no ghostly figure ever pops up out of nowhere and screams. It's all about keeping you on your toes, and it does that well.

Sure, there are some pop ups and excuse me for being brutally honest when I say they are pretty fucking scary. That ghost under the sheet? Not cool! But all in all, the tension is kept at a nice high level of unease. The other great thing about The Innkeepers is that our two main characters are hilarious and a pleasure to spend an hour and 40 minutes with.

They feel real and more importantly they act like real people. Probably my favorite part that proves this is when Claire is trying to haul the big trash bag into the dumpster. Man. If that isn't me on a Sunday morning after cleaning the cat boxes than I don't know what is. Whoops, I let my cat lady show again.

Point is. The Innkeepers is a great film. Sure it's slow and nothing really scary happens for a long, long time but that doesn't mean things aren't happening. Plus, the ending scene or two is pretty outrageously awesome if you ask me.

Very.....The Sentinel and not just because it utilizes naked old men wandering around to its advantage. While there are many that find the ending less than thrilling and maybe even disappointing---I think it's admirable because it's not some stupid twist ending of flashbacks and soft core porn. It's bleak, and it's confusing but it works. It works especially when you go back and think about everything the actress said about there being 3 ghosts and deja vu and all that. Yes, I think that the longer I ruminate, the more I come away liking The Innkeepers. Yes there could have perhaps been more story behind the ghosts and just straight up more ghosts, but isn't that life? We want to be able to say we've had a ghost encounter but usually we just end up walking around with a flashlight and getting scared by an errant bird. Such is life my friends. Such is life.

It's no House of the Devil of course, but it still stands in my mind as the kind of ghost story that can be appreciated by the right people. The ghost stories where less is more and where more realistic scares trump insanely stupid ones.