Friday, March 2, 2012

Snowbound in Hell: The Last of February

This post ain’t about the weather—it’s about the MOVIES!

Let’s recap:
The first batch of February Flicks is HERE;
& the second batch of reviews of the second month’s movies, HERE.

Now let’s start with the conclusion of our Feb-Revs, with 2011’s
The Thing, directed by Matthijs Van Heijningen.

Goshes! That remake/prequel/sequel/whatevs really could’ve been so much better!
Not that they didn’t try, shucks no! They obviously worked hard on this movie.
And I hold up lead Mary Elizabeth Winstead for special praise for bringing serious and genuine acting chops to an endeavor that not many others would have.

But the new The Thing is only enjoyable if I blank out of my mind the fact that there’s this movie from 1982 also called The Thing; it’s directed by John Carpenter, and that it’s one of my all-time favorites.

Once I can forget about one of the greatest movies ever made,
THEN, I can watch 2011’s The Thing and think of it as a pretty decent Outer Limits-type movie—a spooky contemporary sci-fi flick, like Altered, They Live, Apollo 18 or Moon, that really would have been PERFECT if it had only been one-hour in length (or, if you want to be exact-ish, around 47 minutes long, the length of a TV show without commercials).

Universal Studios, who produced and released both Carpenter and Van Heijningen’s versions really should have removed all references to Carpenter’s earlier later-in-the-story and given the new flick a new name. Since I call this subgenre of horror
“Snowbound in Hell,” let’s use that.
(FYI: It’s the subgenre where folks are stuck in a cold and awful situation—various The Things, A Cold Night’s Death, The Shining, Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings,
The X-Files’ “Ice,” the underrated Frozen, etc.)

Then the blogoverse would have reacted to Snowbound in Hell differently; sure, they’d call it a rip-off of Carpenter’s movie, but expectations would not have been as high.
Also, with a title change, folks would have looked at the flick for what it is, and what it is is pretty decent as far as “alien absorption at Antarctic Station” rip-offs go.

However, the new The Thing is very tame compared to 1982’s, with few (if any) genuine images of mind-blowing horror (like the gloriously insane freakout of the entire Norris sequence, from heart attack all the way up to “spiderhead”)—
And since there were women in the 2011 film, there should have been an alien seduction scene (what pheromones that galaxy-hopping horror would have collected!), where someone is schlupped-up mid-coitus. Have them fuck until they’re a big oozing puddle.
Then go all gender-bender!
Then animalistic!

Since it’s an exploitation flick, exploit! Pump up the madness, gore, sick humor, paranoia, all of it! Go beyond From Beyond!

Also I would retrofit the whole flick so that at the end we can have a “Narrator Realizes He’s Tyler Durden” moment, where we see certain scenes again, but from different angles, showing us that cute Dr. Kate is actually sexy and nefarious:
We see that cute and spunky Dr. Kate was actually one of the first infected, and that being “Ripley” was her way to camouflage herself.

Yeah, yeah, I know it would mean rewriting the whole thing—heh—but why not? For one thing—snicker—I wouldn’t ditch the video footage of the Norwegians blasting the ice—and the saucer (said footage being Carpenter’s tribute to the saucer discovery moment in 1951’s The Thing, that for some WTF reason was left out of 2011’s The Thing
which was supposed to be super-duper-total-cellular-structure-reproduction leading up to John Carpenter’s primary text in the first place! Oy…).

SO you still have cute Dr. Kate as our hero—and since she is an alien, she knows its tricks—and can survive any attacks better—we’ll try and answer the inevitable torrent of plot questions after Universal greenlights this…

And then you can end with cute Dr. Kate at the burned-up Norwegian base—she’s already blown up the big scary weird-and-pissed-off something from out there—and she’s outside in the snow.
She’s looking over a map—Outpost 31 is only yadda-yadda miles away—she lets the map go, the wind takes it, but it catches on one of the mutated fingers of the stretch-face crispy-critter in the ditch—
Pan back to where cute Dr. Kate has been standing, except all her clothes are lying there empty—and a certain familiar husky is loping off into the distance…

Then we see the forgotten but surviving Lars crawling out of the wreckage—a la Childs—he finds the map, sees the husky—which has paused to notice the familiar brown NORGE chopper that’s just flown in, then the husky splits, running like mad
—smash cut to black!

Otherwise, the new The Thing is kind of forgettable. But dang, Mary Elizabeth Winstead sure is cute!

Other films I watched in The Last Days of the Leap Year Month:

The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (2009; Mladen Djordjevic) The feature film Richard Kern never got around to making. Strong stuff, not for everyone: It’s bleak, grim and unhappy. Eastern European pacing isn’t for everyone either. But then, how many films have a crossdresser kissing a horse’s giant shlong?
That said, it’s an often very subtle film, using the “video diary/found footage” template often to good effect, with good use of the frame. (True, but several times the “video diary” becomes simply hand-held footage—and then, who’s holding the camera? That’s annoying.)
One thing that sticks in my mind is this: Throughout the film we’ve been getting titles telling us the date and the time. One scene begins, and “September 11, 2001” comes up—and y’know what?
That never comes up. This travelling porno-theater-circus-snuff-movie-gang is so out of it—as is perhaps all of post-war Serbia—
that the biggest blah-blah-blah for the US means nothing to them.
But what do people who’ve had uranium-tipped bullets—among other things—dropped on them regularly care about our crisis? Besides, making snuff movies pays good money—and that gets better drugs.

However, I do think that a “Joe Sixpack”-type of person—with their more routine exposure to porn and gore—
would be less shocked or offended by this flick than a member of the so-called intelligentsia.
But I would recommend The Life and Death of a Porno Gang to fans of Nagisa Oshima, Dušan Makavejev or Greg Dark, as well.

Devil Times Five (1974; Sean MacGregor) Heard about this for years, and it's rightly a cult fave—but one that had been hyped a bit much for my tastes: I often found the flick dull, with hideous amounts of padding, including several murder scenes that are made super slllllllllllowwwwww-motion, dragging them out about three times their “normal” rate.
But lots of sick moments that made me glad to see it, nonetheless. (I’ll let you discover those yourself…)

Viridiana (1961; Luis Bunuel) A dose of Grand Master Luis every once in a while is a good thing, and this is one of his films I hadn’t seen before.
Enjoyable and sacrilegious, the flick now seems more about cloistered do-gooder liberals and their naïveté than the Catholic Church.

Senna (2010; Asif Kapadia) Incredible racetrack footage intensifies a very good documentary about Brazil’s first Formula One champion.

Portions of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)—because after seeing the remake/prequel, I needed to see the real deal.

Gambit (1966; Ronald Neame) An exceedingly dopey movie that’s shamelessly stupid. And not entertaining or fun at all. A caper flick without any caper—or tension. And there really isn’t any chemistry between Caine & MacLaine. A dreadful bore, dahling, simply dreadful.

The Take (2009; David Drury; mini-series) Tom Hardy can play Limey thug/gangsters in his sleep; some interesting moments, but not worth it, really, not if you’ve seen The Wire or The Shield, or Hardy in Bronson, or Brian Cox (who’s also in this mini-series, as an imprisoned crime boss) in Manhunter.

Narita: The Peasants of the Second Fortress (1971; Shinsuke Ogawa, documentary) To build Narita Airport outside of Tokyo, the Japanese Government pulled the old “eminent domain” trick on the peasant farmers who had been living and working in the area for decades.
The farmers refused to leave, and built forts and tunnels to strengthen their positions against the bulldozers, firehoses and billyclubs of the riot cops.
Filmmaker Ogawa lived with the peasants as he filmed their struggle; making three films in the process, The Peasants of the Second Fortress being the second of the trilogy.
Ogawa lets the camera linger often, and usually for a long time, a frustrating habit because we know there’s absolutely more interesting footage. That said, this is some intense shizznit, very relevant to today, especially in Brooklyn with the construction of the Nightmare Stadium.
And scenes of farmers getting clobbered—and fighting back—are stirring.
Of course, having flown to Tokyo, I know how this story turns out….

Portions of The Landlord (1970; Hal Ashby) Only watched because my friend played the chain-smoking pre-adolescent wiseacre in the flick, and for the great footage of Park Slope WAY before gentrification. Otherwise, it’s a heavy-handed criticism of white liberal guilt that lays it on too thick with the Black People Are So Cool tropes as well.

Trailer Park Boys: Season One (2001; Mike Clattenburg, director & creator) Sick, funny madness. Drunken white trash Canuck fun. Looking forward to watching more; the Comedy of Aggression always appeals to me.

The rest of February’s films were:
Movies Listed in Order Screened—
Sweetgrass (2009; Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor (uncredited))
Star Crash (1978; Luigi Cozzi)
Death Kappa (2010; Tomo’o Haraguchi)
Deathsport (1978; Henry Suso & Allan Arkush; produced by Roger Corman)
Battletruck (1982; Harley Cokliss)
Portions of Mad Max (1979) and The Road Warrior (1981; both directed by George Miller)
Valhalla Rising (2009; Nicholas Winding Refn)
Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010; Mark Harley)
Kill List (2011; Ben Wheatley)
Beginning of the End (1957; Bert I. Gordon)
Quatermass and the Pit (1958; Rudolph Cartier; written by the great Nigel Kneale)
Final Destination 5 (2011; Steven Quale)
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957; Nathan Juran; effects by Ray Harryhausen)
Song of the South (1946; Harve Foster & Wilfred Jackson, with the shadow of Walt Disney over the whole operation)
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2010; Göran Hugo Olsson)
Portions of The Fury (1978; Brian De Palma)
Day of the Triffids (1962; Steve Sekely, and Freddie Francis, uncredited)
The Pit (1981; Lew Lehman)
South Pacific (1958; Joshua Logan)
Shut Up, Little Man: An Audio Misadventure (2011; Matthew Bate) Thinking about it, Shut Up, Little Man: An Audio Misadventure might be one of the best of the year…
Masters of Horror: Dario Argento: Jenifer (2006; Dario Argento)
The Naked City (1948; Jules Dassin)
Freakonomics (2010; Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Rachel Grady, Eugene Jarecki, Morgan Spurlock)
The Land That Time Forgot (1975; Kevin Conner)

Recommended Shorts of February—

The Messenger
Roughly a minute, so just watch it. And pay attention! It’s sick.

Claymation Eraserhead

Zombie Zombie (GI Joe Vs. The Thing)

Ricky’s Battle Shock
A soldier is having a hard time.

Cute Chick With a Nice Pussy
Is it porn when it’s claymation? Is it claymation when it’s porn? Is this a bait-&-switch? Just watch it!

Spider (2007; Nash Edgerton) Not funny until someone loses an eye…

Cost of Living (2011; Bendavid Grabinski) The mundane conversations of the characters of a shoot-em-up game who don’t know they’re in a video game: “I want a transfer to Nebraska; there are no zombies in Nebraska.” Funny stuff that will be ruined when it is inevitably turned into a feature film.

Fishing Under Water (2011; Juuso Mettälä) Upside-down treasure hunting—under the ice! Beautiful stuff...


  1. THE SHINIING becomes a 'snowbound in hell' movie.