Thursday, January 17, 2013

American Horror Story, S2, E12 - (2013)


Creators:  Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk
Producers:  20th Century Fox
Channel:  FX
Starring:  Evan Peters, Sara Paulson, Jessica Lange, Lizzie Brocheré, Britne Oldford; ft. Naomi Grossman, Dylan McDermott, Frances Conroy
TV Rating:  MA SLV
Genre:  television, horror, psychological thriller, drama, insane asylum, serial killer
Scare score:  B
Rating:  A

Plot overview:  In the penultimate episode of Season 2, we are given a glimpse into various characters' lives a few years after the original plot.  While trying to maintain a normal life, balancing two wives (Oldford and Brocheré) and two children, Kit (Peters) watches his modern family fall apart due to the pressures of readjusting to life after alien abduction as well as sharing one man.  Lana (Paulson) is steadily reaching her dreams of fame after successfully publishing a book about her ordeal with Bloody Face.  At the same time, however, she faces the truths of the stories she bent, the people she left out of her past, and the promises she has broken.  Lastly, Sister Jude (Lange), now called Betty Drake, slips further from reality as time passes her by in Briarcliff.

Frankly, this episode was excellent.  It did a healthy job of continuing with the rapid changes we were given in the past two installments.  While we were thrown around in time a bit - which caught me off guard more than once - it was interesting to see what life is like for our two released/ escaped protagonists Kit and Lana.  As is custom at this point for American Horror Story, even life outside of the principal evil of this season - Briarcliff - is no fairy tale.  The horror lives not only in the decaying mental institution, but it lingers as well in the homes and bookstores of our everyday lives.  While most of us will never have to worry about ending up in a place like Briarcliff, balancing a polygamous relationship with an axe murderer, or having a psychopathic son, we will deal with the stressors of family life and the temptations of success and fortune.  Isn't this a twisted version of the American Dream?

That being said, excellent acting across the board.  Along with the plot, this made the episode simply fluid- I couldn't believe 43 minutes had passed once it ended.  We had a really nice balance of plots, shuffling between Kit and his family, Kit and Lana, Lana, Jude and her troubles, and Johnny.  There was a subtle terror throughout the episode, highlighted by moments of gore and suspense, particularly featuring an axe and a very unhappy former foster child.  The costumes and props were beautiful, and they helped us understand what careful detail the creators and designers put into this show.  I wasn't alive in the late '60s, but this is how I imagine they looked.  Special shout outs go to Lange who is showing us yet another side of her acting ability, Grossman in the role of Pepper (who has been rather spunky since the aliens granted her speech and collectedness), and Conroy, who was a fun female inmate, with a new accent graced by cigarette smoke.  Great twist in the plot there as well, especially when she blew that kiss.


I don't remember how I felt last time around, but I can't believe that in less than a week Season 2 will be over.  There are quite a few loose ends to tie up, and while we know how certain plots will end (Johnny has to be alive to be Bloody Face in 2012, still roaming B-Cliff), there are still many possibilities remaining (am I stupid at this point to hope for a happy ending for Lana, or a non-suicide route for Kit with the heart of gold?)  What about poor Jude, once the austere figure of brutal authority at Briarcliff, and now perhaps one of its most lost and distant patients?  What will this season teach us about salvation and forgiveness?  I want to think happy thoughts, but after 1.9 seasons of American Horror Story, I am forced to think otherwise.  Either way, we are sure to be in for a treat.

Two things I thought were a bit bizarre.  (1) The sudden promotion and exit of Monsignor - I mean, Cardinal - Howard (Joseph Fiennes).  Obviously we had been set up for that all season, but so soon?  For a second I thought the devil was inside of him following Mary Eunice's death, but he seemed way too sincere saying goodbye to Jude.  Hmm.  (2) Alma?  Really?  I didn't think the sweetheart had it in her to suddenly grab an axe and out the axe murderess.  Looks like Kit does look for something common in his women.  Anyhow, her dead body looked pretty interesting with all that green and yellow.  "Her heart just stopped" - sounds like the aliens might have had something to do with this.

Final critique:  One week left until Murphy and Falchuk have to wrap up another baby.  That means within a few months we'll start getting hints about Season 3!  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  We still have the guilty-yet-pure-hearted Jude lost in a timeless, seemingly hopeless insane asylum, Lana who has a promise to fulfill, Kit with his own conscience, and Johnny with a thirst for his mother's blood.  Will the season go out with a bloody bang?  I think it'll be great, as long as they don't kill off everybody like they did in Season 1.  After all, Briarcliff - and the anthology's - fates are at risk in the final episode of AHS.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Braindead / Dead Alive (1992)

Director:  Peter Jackson
Studios:  WingNut Films
Starring:  Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkin
Tagline:  Some Things Won't Stay Down... Even After they Die; You'll Laugh Yourself Sick
MPAA Rating:  Unrated
Genre:  foreign film, horror, thriller, action, zombie, comedy, gore
Scare score:  B
Rating: A-

Plot overview:  Set in New Zealand, the young, persevering Spaniard Paquita María Sánchez (Peñalver) is ready to do whatever she has to to meet her true love after her superstitious mother draws her tarot cards.  As the fates would have it, her true love is destined to be the clumsy and neurotic - but good-hearted - Lionel (Balme) who still lives with (and under the constant oppression of) his mother.  When a virus carried by the rare Sumatran rat-monkey turns Lionel's mum (Moody) into a flesh-craving zombie, the good son still tries his hardest to protect her, even by going to extreme (and ridiculous) measures.  As the virus spreads, however, the increasingly violent zombies become too much to handle, and Lionel and Paquita will have to fight an extremely gory battle for their own lives.

I have to admit I enjoyed this film.  Plain and simply, it was funny, and I found myself both laughing and cringing at its famous gore.  Yes, this film is obviously a cult classic due to its gore - and in my book, the charming New Zealand accents only helped.  Who would expect such a silly - and at times disturbing - movie from Peter Jackson?  That is, Sir Peter Jackson of The Lord of the Rings trilogy?  That is, a respected and honored, prize-winning director, the brains behind this film of silly costumes, bright colors, a corny script, and ridiculous blood and gore?  Wowsas.

The acting was very enjoyable.  I think constantly bracing myself for the gore helped the story itself somehow become a lot more real and the acting much more believable.  I was especially impressed by Balme who does a great job of playing the timid, frightened product of an overbearing (to say the least) mother, only to later switch to slightly crazed yet valiant and rather charming hero.  Peñalver was also a breath of fresh, foreign air with an extremely accurately written part, featuring a particularly enjoyable Spanish diss to the perverted Uncle Les (Watkin).  The zombies, though ultimately I thought they were a bit overkill (I really, really didn't mean that pun), were funny and I appreciated their individuality.

What I most want to know is what is was like to film this movie.  I am mainly referencing the final 'battle' scene when it is the several party guests - headed by Uncle Les, Lionel, and Paquita - against what seems like an endless barrage of bloody, variously dismembered zombies.  When at least 20 people are turned into puree, the entire set looks like the final result of la tomatina, a giant tomato fight. Our protagonists are physically covered in dripping something in various scenes, and Horror Buff just wishes he could speak to them to ask how uncomfortable that was.  I just read that 300 liters of fake blood was used in this final scene alone - that's about 80 gallons, possibly making this the bloodiest film of all time.

Luckily for squeamish viewers - well, I guess I'd still advise for you to stay away - but this isn't gore like we see in Hostel.  Instead, we are treated to a colorful array of '90s gore - like skulls with skin ripped off, entire rib cages removed, and even living intestines who care about their appearance in the mirror.  Once we get past the initial shock of all the gore, it really becomes a rather silly, enjoyable, and action-packed movie, almost reminiscent of Evil Dead from a decade before.  The cheesy script honestly had some great lines, and there was a sort of modest, true comedy lying beneath all the blood and guts.  You can tell Peter Jackson, among others, had fun doing this film, which is always a nice thing to watch.

Fun fact:  In Spanish, the movie title translates to "Your Mother Ate My Dog," which is a line delivered by Paquita after... well I won't spoil it.  Anywho, today someone said to me "Your Mother Ate My Dog," and after a moment of silent confusion we established that they were talking about a movie with a lot of gore.  I kid you not when I tell you my mind went immediately to Dead Alive, which I had only ever read about (the "rebirth" scene, specifically).  Hence why I went home and found it online pretty much immediately.

Final critique:  This film isn't for everyone.  If you can toughen up a bit, and maybe keep a paper bag handy (in case of accidents - the worst for me was probably the early stages of of Mum's sickness and seepage), you will be in for a funny, silly treat of a cult classic.  There is a funny, decent script here, and the final product gives us some acting which, considering the general plot and plausibility of the film, is not bad.  You won't look at pureed tomatoes, kitchen appliances, or lawn mowers the same way again.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

American Horror Story, S2, E10 and E11 - (2013)

"The Name Game" and "Spilt Milk"

Frightening friends!  Please accept my apology for having parted from The Horror Blog for such a long time.  Horror Buff did a lot of traveling over the holidays, which made updating pretty difficult.

Well we're into a new year (some people are refusing to write only -13 or /13 because 13 is an unlucky number... it's a year for spooks indeed), which means more horror awaits us.  I realize this has been turning more into an American Horror Story blog as of late, so my New Year's Resolution will be to watch more actual movies.  Starting this weekend.  For now, more AHS.

Creators:  Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk
Producers:  20th Century Fox
Channel:  FX
Starring:  Joseph Fiennes, Sara Paulson, Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, James Cromwell, Zachary Quinto, Lizzie Brocheré; ft. Naomi Grossman, Dylan McDermott, Barbara Tarbuck
TV Rating:  MA SLV
Genre:  television, horror, psychological thriller, drama, insane asylum, serial killer, aliens
Scare score:  C-
Rating:  A

Plot overview:  Many changes begin to take place at Briarcliff as both Judy Martin (Lange) and the Angel of Death (Conroy) urge Monsignor Howard (Fiennes) to remove the possessed Sister Mary Eunice (Rabe) from the picture, which he seems to accomplish successfully.  Grace (Brocheré) returns from death and alien possession in a very pregnant state with only Pepper (Grossman) to take care of her, despite vicious attempts made by both Dr. Arden (Cromwell) and Dr. Thredson (Quinto).  After weeks of waiting, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for both Kit (Peters) and Lana (Paulson) who find their justice and are freed from Briarcliff.

WOW!  All I can say is wow, and it was really nice to be able to watch these two episodes back to back.  At first I found myself getting frustrated because I kept expecting bad things to happen to the main characters who we are rooting for (namely Kit, Lana, and Judy aka Sister Jude) - as is the way of AHS.  Luckily for me, these two episodes really drifted from the show's usual terror and focused on some pretty positive changes.

I'm going to keep this brief.  Some shout outs, however, are in store for various actors of the show's talented ensemble.  Specifically Lange, Paulson, Peters, Fiennes, and even McDermott in his short sequences really drove home the acting for me.  Lange exhibits yet another realm of acting which she is capable of in these installments, namely that of an incapacitated mental patient.  McDermott's scenes are so eerie and disturbing - I can just picture him reading the script beforehand and getting so into the sickness of his character.  Also, I really enjoyed the fun and energetic performance of that random prostitute (actress Jill Marie Jones) - she was so likable!  And lastly, I suppose it was finally nice to hear something intelligible out of Naomi Grossman after having to simply act like a weirdo "freak" until now in the season.  She acts, too!  And pretty well.

Now call me crazy, but I loved the musical sequence in eponymous scene of "The Name Game."  Maybe this is, in part, due to the fact that as a child my family always sang that song to me.  On the other hand, the actors looked like they were having so much fun!  Lange was really great, and even Evan Peters surprised me with his dancing.  Who could of thought such a risky, cheesy move could have ended so well?  Horror Buff bo Borror Buff banana fana fo Forror Fuff fee fi mo Morror Muff - Horror Buff! (Had to).

Anyway- I really couldn't believe how much change took place in this episode.  So many positive, relieving things happened that I just can't help but feel terrible things are to follow.  After the jump...


Let's just talk about Monsignor.  He was so great, so innocent and endearing at the beginning of the episodes... I just can't help but think he's the possessed one now.  Something isn't the same anymore and he is becoming a bigger jerk just like he used to be.  I sincerely liked him when he was repenting, but now something feels awry, and since it seems all other antagonism has disappeared, it would make sense.  *Church criticism* ... *original*.... not.  Still, there is some adventure up ahead.

Dr. Arden?  Like kthxbye?  That was quick yet poetic in multiple ways, both with his lost 'love' and the murderous past he lived.  Either way, if this is truly the end of him, I think he acted it both well and appropriately.

Let's talk briefly about all the babies.  Usually, you know, babies are fun, cute, and overall positive things.  Not on AHS.  We know how Lana's baby is going to turn out (if that really is him and not just some deranged man), so there's not hope there.  How do we feel about an undead/ redead Grace and little Thomas?  There are already so many questions.

Final critique:  American Horror Story is back with a bang or several.  A lot of these major changes felt rather rushed, so we will have to say where this is headed.  Otherwise, I wasn't a fan of the new use of camera angles (a sort of first-person, handheld camera look) - it was too sudden for the season and used too much.  Otherwise I did enjoy the fresh breath of positivity... which is almost certainly soon to be crushed by the negative but entertaining force that is American Horror Story.

Happy New Year, horror fans.