Archive for the ‘1 star’ Category

Twixt (2011)

Posted: December 30, 2013 in 1 star, Twixt
Tags: , ,

I’m just going to admit this up front: I love Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula.  I love it deeply, abidingly, and unironically.  I love the cinematography, I love the costumes, I love the sets, and not even the occasional dubious casting decision can shake my devotion.  So when I saw that Coppola had written and directed a film billed as gothic horror, I was pretty pleased.

Then I saw that Val Kilmer stars in it, and I made a sort of “Eeeeennnnngh” sound. 

Let’s face it: Val Kilmer was never that amazing an actor to begin with, and now he makes his money as a sort of paid mourner at the mausoleum of his own career – his job is to show up every so often, remind us that he was in some pretty good movies back in the ’80s, collect his paycheck, and go home.  Nonetheless, I queued up the film in Netflix anyway, hoping for a movie that, if it couldn’t wrest the thick red blood of a good performance out of the turnip that is Kilmer’s acting skills, was at least good enough to carry him instead of the other way around.

Looking at IMDB, I do not see that this movie had any US release outside of the San Francisco International Film Festival.  I am sorry, Coppola, but that is because it sucks out loud.

There isn’t much of a plot.  Kilmer plays a washed-up writer named Hall Baltimore, a name that miraculously will become even stupider as the movie wears on.  He’s at a book signing in Rural Bumfuckistan, where nobody buys any books; his agent is mad at him, and his wife is threatening to sell his first edition of Leaves of Grass if he doesn’t man up and get an advance on a book.  So he’s under the gun and needs to come up with a story fast.

So the faintly creepy sheriff takes him to the morgue, where there’s a body with a stake through its heart.  He says it’s the work of a serial killer.  Kilmer is weirdly uninterested, until he goes back to his motel, falls asleep, and starts dreaming about a strange little girl (Elle Fanning).

And Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin).  No, I’m not joking.  Poe is the ostentatiously pallid Virgil to Kilmer’s Dante, serving as the font of all exposition for what frankly silly plot there is.

See, there’s a group of Goth Caricatures living across the lake.  They’re vampires.  There’s also a creepy priest who for some reason ran some sort of orphanage or something, and killed all the kids because he didn’t want them to become vampires.  He almost killed Elle Fanning too, but she ran off and became a vampire.  And… well, that’s pretty much it.  Nothing gets resolved.  The ghost kids are, I assume, still ghost kids.  Elle Fanning is still a vampire.  Kilmer gets his book advance.  I can’t figure out if he’s supposed to be a vampire or not, since in the scene before Elle Fanning was gnawing on his carotid artery.   Seriously, the movie ends like somebody realized at the eleventh hour that you can’t tie up plot threads when there’s pretty much no plot except “Val Kilmer keeps falling asleep.”

So what’s the verdict?  It hurts me, but one star.  There is no plot.  There is no acting.  The special effects look like somebody did them in Microsoft Paint at three in the morning.  This movie avoided the coveted zero-star rating only because Coppola has earned the right to produce the occasional stinker, but I don’t recommend watching it anyway.  It’s so bad that its badness is actually confusing, like it’s secretly a brilliant parody and I’m just not getting the joke.

Dear Francis Ford Coppola: if this is really supposed to be funny then I take it all back.  Except that it wasn’t actually funny either.  So until someone explains to me where the brilliance is hiding, this is a one-star movie.

 

Advertisements

The Innkeepers (2011)

Posted: October 6, 2012 in 1 star, Reviews
Tags: ,

I can’t help feeling like The Inkeepers, like The Haunting of Molly Hartley, isn’t actually a ghost story; it’s a movie about hipsters a la Clerks that uses the trappings of ghost stories to showcase its Quirky Twentysomething Characters (TM).  Which would have been fine, I guess, except that the Quirky Twentysomething Characters (TM), while admittedly slightly more entertaining than the bog-standard horror-movie redshirts, were neither what I’d come to see nor interesting enough to warrant watching the movie.  And that’s a pretty damn big drawback in a haunted-house story where nothing even remotely supernatural happens until 45 minutes into the film.

I almost turned it off halfway through when I found out that it was directed by Ti West, who cursed the human race with the staggeringly boring House of the Devil.  Then the second scare – well, “scare” – happened, and I began to legitimately worry that there would be no scares in this movie that weren’t stolen directly from the Haunted House at Disneyland.  Then I started wondering if this was really supposed to be parody, a la Saturday the 14th, and it just… wasn’t actually funny.  Maybe, I said to myself, it’s supposed to be hip, self-referential humor, like the movie had aspirations toward being the ghost story equivalent of Scream.

 
Then I decided, no, it’s basically Clerks with ghosts, if Clerks was really boring and no one ever said anything clever.

The story, basically, is this.  A historic inn is closing down.  It’s down to two skeleton staff, Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healey), and a couple of random guests.  Claire and Luke are vaguely obsessed with proving that the hotel is haunted, so they do things like carrying a recorder around in the hopes of finding EVP.  I’d give you more plot, but that’s basically all it is.  Aside from the aforementioned two scares, the movie doesn’t actually become a ghost story until the last half hour, and doesn’t become remotely scary until the last ten or fifteen minutes.  Until then, the movie contains only two types of scenes: scenes where Claire mugs and flails like a hyperactive eight-year-old trying to play Lady Macbeth, and scenes where Luke shows off the acting ability of his hair and hipster glasses frames.

While Luke is nothing but a stock hipster stereotype, I feel like Claire might have actually made a good main character if she hadn’t been directed with such a heavy and unsubtle hand.  Also, I really wish Carrie Fisher or Jamie Lee Curtis had been tapped for the role of the former TV star turned cranky medium, because that would have been fucking glorious.  And while I’m wishing for horses, they could have been given a better script.  In a better-paced movie.  With an ending that didn’t fall quite so flat.  That was directed by someone who doesn’t seem to believe that true horror is when great spans of time go by and nothing the slightest bit diverting happens.

So what’s the verdict?  One star. There was only one really disturbing thing about this movie, and that was the discovery that, while Tom Cruise apparently has a portrait of himself hidden in the attic, Kelly McGillis at some point became a bona fide senior citizen.  Now that was scary.

I feel like there’s some really deep hook to YellowBrickRoad such that if you get it, the movie is amazing and brilliant.  On the other hand, it could be an awful lot like the annoying pompous drunk at the bar who goes on and on about some really esoteric topic like, I don’t know, the influence of Kierkegaard’s philosophy on the shaping of the modern Federal Reserve, where you can’t help suspecting that if you knew anything at all about Kierkegaard or the Federal Reserve yourself it would be clear to you that the guy has no idea what he’s talking about.

As I say, there may be some hook in the movie that you really have to get.  I did not get that hook.

YellowBrickRoad is, to be quite honest, a movie about a bunch of pointless people dying pointlessly in the service of what might have been a really interesting plot if it hadn’t been largely abandoned halfway through in favor of pointless  deaths. Pointless and badly filmed; at one point there’s a very graphic dismemberment scene that looks for all the world like the guy’s dismembering a muppet.

The basic story is this: in 1940, the entire population of a small New Hampshire town got up from the metaphorical dinner table and walked down a path in the woods known as the Yellow Brick Road.  Most of them were never seen again, except for the couple hundred who were left to litter the path with their mutilated cadavers.  A team of academics in some field or other, intending to write a book on the subject, walk up the path themselves.  Soon big band music is blaring at them non-stop out of nowhere, which would be enough to send anyone into a homicidal frenzy, and the team starts randomly offing each other and themselves.

There’s not even any joy to be found in watching their sanity degenerate, because there’s really nothing more to the characterizations than “Random people sent into the woods to die.”  Right to the end I had no idea who half the people on the team even were.  I have heard that the ending made sense in the filmmakers’ heads, but hell if it seems to have made sense in anyone else’s; it’s more like a non-ending that fits with the rest of the non-film but certainly isn’t any more satisfying for all that.

So what’s the verdict?  One star.  I will say this for it: the opening sequence is amazing.  If the whole movie had been like that, instead of descending into nonsensical indie pretentiousness, it would have gotten a lot more stars.  In that sense it’s a lot like Ghost Ship, and no movie should ever put itself in the position of being compared to Ghost Ship in any way.  You can get to the end of YellowBrickRoad, but there’s pretty much nothing there when you do and no good scenery along the way.

The Graveyard (2006)

Posted: March 10, 2012 in 1 star, Reviews
Tags: ,

I’ll say this for The Graveyard – it knows what you’re there for.  It knows you want dudebros and criminally dumb chicks having sex and then getting slaughtered, and it loses no time in giving it to you.  Other, lesser movies may spend valuable screen time screwing around with piddly things like plot, character development, dialogue not written by drunken chimpanzees, suspense as to who the killer is, and realistic portrayal of the passage of time; but not The Graveyard.  It even goes so far as to introduce random characters for thirty seconds for no other reason than to kill them off.

In the setup, Dudebros 1-4 and Dumb Chicks 1-4 (this is an estimate; I couldn’t keep them straight to count them) go to a graveyard to play hide and seek.  No, they’re adults at this point.  Dudebro #4, being It, goes to look for the others and is suddenly!  chased by a knife-wielding man in a mask!  This causes him to trip and land on a rusty gate, impaling himself.

A few years later – after Dudebro #2, who took the rap, has gotten out of prison – they all meet back at a convenient sleepaway camp by the graveyard for “closure.”  And, well, things proceed from there, without a single unpredictable moment – and, sadly, not much in the way of imaginative or entertaining kills.

Well, toward the end of the movie the killer actually utters the words “I’ll take my revenge!”  And not once, no.  That would be insufficient for a movie of this caliber.  He says it no less than four times.  In a row.  Then there are a couple of  “Oh look!  The killer’s not dead!” scares foiled only by the fact that the killer was painfully obviously not actually dead to begin with.

The end holds great promise that everyone involved will die, though.  And since the whole idea behind movies like this is seeing extraordinarily unlikeable people get theirs, I guess that’s something.

So what’s the verdict?  On one hand, I kind of want to give this movie one star because Dudebro #2 was vaguely hot in that horrifying Dudebro way.  On the other hand, “one guy was sort of hot if you ignored his entire personality” is not really a point in a movie’s favor, and God knows this one didn’t have any others.  On the third hand, I feel like the 0-star rating should be reserved for movies so offensively awful that their mere existence makes me despair of the human race, and The Graveyard isn’t that bad.  It’s just, I don’t know, the movie equivalent of those awful orange and black toffee Halloween candies.  So one star it is, I guess.

I spent a lot of time looking at this movie in genuine bewilderment and saying, out loud, “Are you serious right now?”  I never got an answer.  I suspect the answer was no.  That suspicion is in fact the only thing saving this movie from the coveted zero-star rating; that and the conviction that everyone involved in the movie had a lot more fun making it than I had watching it. In fact, I was left with many more questions than answers.  Deep, philosophical questions such as:

  • Why does Ghostbuster Dude recite all his lines as if he were being badly dubbed over a kung fu movie from 1978?
  • Wait.  Why does that ghost know what they’re looking for?
  • Is that supposed to be a puppet?  An alien puppet?
  • Does Tuberculosis Guy think that boxes become different boxes if you turn them sideways?
  • What does any of this have to do with people who were killed by Winchester rifles?
  • Why are there teenagers in roles that appear to be written for six-year-olds?
  • Does that woman seriously think a cop with a knife through her throat is going to answer questions about where her kid is?
  • This looks like someone thinks it’s going to be a twist.  Is it supposed to be a twist?
  • Okay, I got the “twist.”  Can you stop explaining it to me now, please?
  • How is that greenscreen so bad?  This movie has the worst effects I have seen in I don’t know how long.
  • What is that woman even doing right now?  What are they supposed to do, wander around there forever?
  • And finally but most pertinently: what in blue hell were the filmmakers trying to do with this?

I fear none of these questions will ever be answered.  That’s okay.  I’m not all that interested in the answers, to tell the truth.

So what’s the verdict?  One star, but I honestly feel a little bad about it.  The goofiness level in this movie is so high that I can’t imagine anyone involved with it took it seriously.  It didn’t even insult my intelligence; it just sort of… refused to engage with my intelligence. It’s like this movie exists in a happy little world where intelligence does not exist, nor things like coherent plots and well-done CGI, and the worst thing ghosts ever do is wander around in bad rubber masks going “RARR!” half-heartedly at you from across the room.  I feel sort of bad for introducing criticism into that good-natured, inoffensive place.

On the other hand, this is a really damn terrible movie.  If you’re in the mood for something like this, dig up that old Disney movie, Child of Glass.  I loved that shit when I was a kid.

I remember when House of the Devil first came out.  It seemed like every horror blogger in existence went nuts over it.

“Watch it!  You’ll love it!” they said.

“Scariest movie that was ever scary!” they said.

You guys.  I did not love House of the Devil.  Also, I am pretty sure that at some point in my life I have seen scarier Kleenex commercials.

I mean, for about the first ten minutes it has a certain retro charm.  (“OMG, she’s using a phone booth!  How quaint!”)  But even quaint needs a good lead character as a hook to hang from, and Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is just.  Boring.  Wow, is she boring.  I couldn’t even concentrate on her long enough to dislike her.

Even if you can get past that, you run into the second problem: the movie is a tribute to 80s movies, and it’s a little too good at it.  Some people see that as a plus.  I myself do not see it as a plus unless you’re willing to not only suspend disbelief but also pretend that you’ve never seen another horror movie in your entire life.

The problem is that the movie just contains too many elements that it’s impossible to view unironically in a post-Scream world.  The characters are not only dazzlingly stupid, they’re dazzlingly stupid in exactly the ways that have been lampooned so many times and so effectively that now they’re just tedious, like a joke that was funny every time you heard it until you heard someone explain it in excruciating detail.  House of the Devil really requires you to completely suspend your sense of irony for 95 minutes, but it never gives you a reason to other than “Hey, let’s watch an 80s-style horror movie unironically!”  If I wanted to do that, I’d watch an honest to God 80s horror movie.  I’m sure there are some I haven’t seen, and a lot of them are probably even good ones.

And speaking of 95 minutes, Judas priest.  This was the longest 95 minutes I have ever sat through, including my college graduation and that time I gave birth.  Of those 95 minutes, I swear at least 50 are devoted to Samantha wandering aimlessly around the house where she’s supposed to be babysitting (where, of course, there actually is no baby and Strange and Evil Things are going on instead).  No, I’m serious.  I got so bored watching her wander around the house that I got up and started wandering around my own doing chores.

I went in the kitchen, loaded up the dishwasher, started it running, and came back.  She was still wandering around the house.

I shifted a load of clothes from the washer to the dryer, started another load of clothes, and came back.  She was still wandering around the house.  Oh, wait, now there’s going to be a Tom-Cruise-in-Risky-Business montage where she bops around the house to bad 80s music.  Okay, at least I wasn’t bored during the thirty seconds where I was cringing in horrible embarrassment for everyone involved with this movie, but at a terrible price.

I grabbed the clothes from the dryer, folded them, put them away, and came back.  Samantha was still wandering around the house I am not even joking right now.

Now, it’s possible that while I was off doing more entertaining things like laundry, things happened that – had I been present for them – would have contributed to a growing atmosphere of creepiness and dread.  It’s possible.  It’s possible that if you pay very close attention to a wall full of drying paint, every now and then messages from Elvis in the beyond will fade briefly into being and then vanish.  I don’t know; I’ve never met anyone who had the patience to actually watch paint dry.  I can’t believe in my heart of hearts that anyone has ever had the patience to sit and watch House of the Devil all the way through, either.

The end at least has a faster pace, in that there’s a fair amount of blood and a flurry of activity that would probably be more memorable had I actually had even a modicum of interest in anyone involved, and if I hadn’t already been paralyzed from boredom and Downy inhalation.  If I recall correctly, it has one of those ambiguous 80s endings that worked very well in genuinely good movies like Halloween or Friday the 13th, but here just adds to the annoyance.

So what’s the verdict?  One star.  Yes, I gave House of the Devil the same rating as The Haunting of Molly Hartley.  In fact, it should probably have gotten a lower one, because Molly Hartley at least had enough oomph to make me actively want to beat every character in the movie with a claw hammer; but that would have put it at the same rating as Frayed, and no horror movie I have yet borne witness to is as bad as Frayed, or if it is then I’ve repressed the memory.

House of the Devil is an endurance test, the Marathon des Sables of boredom tolerance, surpassing even the tedious Paranormal Activity in the sheer depth of its need to be edited down to a five-minute short like the Pixar lamp cartoon.  If you watch it, which I can’t recommend, be sure you’re stocked up with knitting, good books, and Angry Birds on your phone.

Sometimes there are these fleeting moments, so brief and subtle that I always wonder if I’ve imagined them afterward, when I suspect that buried deep in Jensen Ackles’ psyche is a modicum of acting ability that sometimes gets away from him and manifests onscreen for a split second before he stamps it ruthlessly back down.

No, I know how that sounds.  I didn’t say it was a rational suspicion.  It’s like that thing where sometimes when you’re drifting off to sleep on Christmas Eve you have that weird moment where you’re like “Hey, but what real reason is there, honestly, why Santa can’t exist?  HUH?”  Then you wake up in the morning and realize that by God there’d better not be some fur-wearing fat guy sneaking down your chimney in the middle of the night, and also that Ackles’ sole discernable talent is for reciting some of his lines louder than others and managing to look like an American Apparel model while his character is supposedly sleeping in his car.  In short, he’s an utterly bland presence (Ackles, I mean, not Santa), and when your movie is already laboring under a brain-sludgingly dull script, poor pacing, and astoundingly unappealing characters, by God you better suck it up and pay Steve Buscemi to stand out in front of that shit diverting people’s attention.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the original My Bloody Valentine (1981).  I love it.  It’s a triumph of the schlocky filmmaker’s art, full of glee and ridiculousness and people getting shot in the forehead with nail guns,  with some genuinely scary moments thrown in for good measure.  In the original, a mining town has declared a moratorium on Valentine’s Day dances, because back in the 60s there was a mine cave-in on Valentine’s Day that resulted in the sole survivor, Harry Warden, cracking under the strain of his enforced diet of Soylent Green.  Warden decrees that there will be No More Dances Ever, because that’s what the townspeople were doing when the mine exploded and he’s a little miffed.  Twenty years later a group of middle-aged teenagers decide to hold an illicit rave in the mine on Valentine’s Day, with predictable and gory results.

Well, the 2009 My Bloody Valentine is sort of like that.  Except without the dances.  Or any real tie-in to Valentine’s Day.  Or any explicable reason for the original Harry Warden to go off the deep end and cause hospital carnage so improbable that in order to make sense of it you have to pretend the movie is a crossover with Predator.  There’s a mine explosion, okay.  In this case it’s caused by Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles), the owner’s whiny son, forgetting to do something technical I can’t even care about long enough to describe it.  Hanniger disappears for a few years and comes back to sell the mine.

Unwisely, the creators of the remake chose to make the grindingly tedious selling-the-mine aspect the main plot of the movie.  Even more unwisely, they spend what feels like ten thousand hours trying to get us to care about it.  This involves endless, astonishingly boring conversations between Hanniger and his unwashed ex-girlfriend (Jaime King), who is now married to the town sherriff (Kerr Smith).  Eventually, of course, people start dying, but without the whole arc with the Valentine’s Day dances they’re basically dying for no other reason than to give the movie a body count, which brings a certain sense of anticlimax to the whole thing.

The movie itself is unrelentingly glum and humorless.  It’s filmed under constantly cloudy skies.  Everyone is dressed like the only fashion game in town is the clearance rack at K-Mart.  Lines like “I lost my way!” are uttered with apparent seriousness.  Ackles plays Hanniger like an even flatter and less nuanced Dean Winchester, and it’s not like Dean Winchester has nuances to spare; while he did achieve brief shining moments of creepiness in Devour, he misses it by a mile here and winds up looking like the crazy eye-rolling opera diva in an Abbott and Costello movie.  The killings are pro forma, uninspired, and mostly require everyone involved to behave like absolute morons.  The 3D, which so rarely adds anything to a movie, adds nothing to this one either.

Was anything good about it?  Well… Irene (Betsy Rue).  Irene was fucking awesome.  This movie needed way more people with enough panache to charge out naked into a parking lot and wave a gun in some skeevy trucker’s face.  Aside from Irene, the only watchable element was Kerr Smith, who trudges grimly through the movie all but wearing a t-shirt that says “I don’t care how many varieties of shit this movie is, I’m going to goddamn act so I can look myself in the face in the morning.”

So what’s the verdict? One star.  The only way to make watching this movie entertaining is to pretend it’s some sort of arthouse Fellini-tribute commentary on the grinding poverty of the decaying American infrastructure, and everything is all symbolic and stylized and you have to figure out what it all Really Means and how it relates to Derrida.  And even if you do, you’re just going to wind up feeling like you’re watching two hours of people smoking at each other in black and white with flies landing portentously on ice cubes, and all you know is you’re bored to tears but you have a paper due on this shit in thirty-six hours and you want to shoot yourself for ever thinking “Metaphor in Cinema” would be a good elective to take.  Watch the original instead.

The Morgue (2008)

Posted: January 2, 2011 in 1 star, Reviews, The Morgue
Tags: , ,

See, this is an example of an effective movie poster.  It’s effective because I actually want to see the movie it’s advertising.  Which, strangely enough, does not seem to be the one I just watched.

Despite its title, The Morgue does not actually take place in a morgue.  It takes place in an improbably large and ornate funeral home.  It also does not feature Heather Donahue (The Blair Witch Project) in enough screen time to warrant first billing, which is a matter of not looking gift horses in the mouth because Heather Donahue is an unconvincing actress whose sole talent is for unobjectionable blandness.

The setup is fairly obvious from the beginning, intentionally.  Margo (Lisa Crilley, the sole watchable element in the movie), is a night janitor at the funeral home who suddenly finds herself saddled with an out-of-gas family of three and two random blood-smeared guys.  It’s obvious from the outset that, somehow or other, they’re all dead.

This adds a certain lead-balloon element to the fact that no sooner are they all assembled than Random Old Guy (Michael Raye), who was once a worker at the funeral home until he offed himself in the bathroom for no explicable or relevant reason, starts stalking and killing them one by one.  Well, “killing.”  I mean, honestly, they’re already dead.  Is he making them deader?  (The answer, apparently, is yes.  No, we don’t know why.)

There’s a big “OH NOES WE ARE DEAD” scene rendered marginally effective by Brady Matthews as Margo’s cop ex-boyfriend, who has a minor breakdown over finding her body at the scene of the mass accident that killed the lot of them to begin with.  Mostly, though, the movie is unsuspenseful (They’re ALREADY DEAD), has a thoroughly unscary killer (I have no problem with the geriatric population, honest to god, I just don’t think they make effective slashers), and ends on a moderately clever though somewhat pointless note.

So what’s the verdict? One star.  The performances are just good enough that I’m not judging the moral character of everyone involved, but it’s a bland movie, not anywhere close to good but not full enough of bad-movie energy to be fun.  Don’t pass up something better on your Netflix queue to watch it, and by “better” I mean “up to and including that 80s slasher that appears to star Vanna White, what in the actual fuck.”

 

Visit the American Gothica store on amazon.com

I approached The Haunting of Molly Hartley as a sort of challenge – the challenge being whether I could find a way to view the movie that would make it anything other than an eye-sporking waste of nine million hours of my life.

Yeah, I know.  You already know how this is going to come out.  So did I, and yet.

The thing is, The Haunting of Molly Hartley isn’t a real horror movie.  It’s a kids’ movie, a big-screen episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? No functioning adult is going to be scared by this movie unless you live your life in such a hamster-like state of terror that you have to keep smelling salts on hand for when your toast pops up out of the toaster.

Granted, by the time I was the age of this movie’s target audience I’d already cut my horror teeth on films like Halloween and Phantasm.  Middle-school me would have chewed this movie into a quivering red mass, horked it back up, and spit on its grave.  The point is, it’s not a horror movie, and it’s not made for horror fans.  It’s made for girls in their early teens who don’t care what it’s about as long as some hot Mouseketeer flashes his hipbones at the camera, and the soccer moms who have to be persuaded to pay for said teenage girls’ movie tickets.

In short, I went into this movie with really, really low expectations.  All I was hoping for was that it would be as entertainingly awful as its second cousin, The Covenant.  And I wanted to see if it would work as the horror-movie equivalent of a YA novel.

Molly Hartley starts out with a flashback in which an stunningly badly dressed teenager is killed by her father, who goes off the deep end yelling things like “You’re going to be 18 next week!  I won’t let them take you!”  Which, given the eventual context, I don’t really understand, but whatever.  My kid could be the Antichrist and as long as she was well and happy I’d just be like, “Have a good day ruling the world, sweetheart!  If you need me to stab any religious fanatics for you, just call!”

Cut to the present day, where Molly (Haley Bennet, who manages an impressive zero-to-strangleworthy time of thirty screen seconds flat) is starting a new school.  Immediately she attracts the attention of the resident Hipbones Guy, Joseph (Chace Crawford), earning her the ire of Joseph’s girlfriend (AnnaLynne McCord), whose hair must be seen to be believed.  Also, the girl assigned to show her around is the resident Jesus freak, Alexis (Shanna Collins, the only effective part of the movie).  At this point Molly has nearly racked up enough FML points to warrant that perpetual surly pout, but not quite.  She still needs a house to fall on her sister or something.

Well, he doesn’t sparkle.  Be grateful for small favors.

It turns out that hearing the name of the Lord gives Molly migraines.  (This is the point where Dean Winchester should show up with the holy water and dispatch her back to Hell, but sadly he does not.)  Also, her mother tried to stab her to death and is now locked up in an asylum.  And Molly gets nosebleeds and hears voices.  A sinus tumor nearly changes the genre from horror to disease-of-the-week without missing a beat, but sadly, not permanently.

That’s quite a case of buyer’s remorse, there.

In between endless scenes of high school drama featuring Molly’s Difficult Friend Choices and the Epic Love Triangle of Molly, Hipbones Guy, and Mall Hair Chick, we find out that Molly was stillborn or something, and her mother made a deal with the devil such that Molly would live but then become Satan’s at age 18.  Really you ought to adopt if you object to that sort of thing, but people always seem to be selling their kids to Satan and then wishing they hadn’t afterward.  And now, of course, the entire cast is in a vast conspiracy to help Molly fulfill her demonic potential.

So does Molly Hartley work as a Lifetime-style YA movie?  Sadly enough, the answer is probably yes, for a certain type of teenage girl.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie hit the “I am so special and unique and no one understands my paaaaaaiiiin except That One Hot Guy Who Finds Me Irresistible so I am totally justified in being as sullen and intolerable a pain in the ass as I want” message so hard and so relentlessly.  (No, I haven’t seen Twilight.)  That’s probably at least part of why it got such awful reviews – I challenge any adult over legal drinking age to make it through this movie without wanting to beat Molly with a tire iron.

So what’s the verdict? I’m grudgingly giving it one one star, because I think it does a reasonable job of accomplishing what it sets out to do, which is two hours of wish-fulfillment for bitchy teenage girls.  I’m just sorry the writers chose horror as the genre of choice for accomplishing it.

Does that mean it’s not a bad movie?  Hell, no.  It’s an awful movie.  It’s not even as entertainingly awful as The Covenant – it’s just irritating and tedious. For god’s sake, do not see this movie if you’re over fifteen years old.  Do not even let your kids bully you into sitting in the same room with it.

By the way, there are 16  jump scares in this movie, including the ghost-in-the-mirror and killer-coming-back-to-life scares.  I counted.  You’re welcome.

Visit the American Gothica store on amazon.com

Bookmark and Share

I first watched Ghost Ship when a friend came up to visit me and my daughter.  Knowing my love of terrible horror movies and also Karl Urban, she brought the DVD with her.  Armed with a Bloody Mary apiece and a solid supply of Diet Coke for my daughter, we sat down to watch.

GHOST SHIP:  “BRRRRRZIP*SPLOOSH*!

US:  :O

GHOST SHIP: *drip drip drip*

US:  :O

GHOST SHIP:  “Pretty cool, huh?”

US:  “JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL, I GUESS THAT HAPPENED.”

I’m really not much of a gorehound, and even I had to concede that Ghost Ship started out with a pretty darn effective bang.  I think we might actually have paused the DVD to stare at the TV for a minute, and also to make our Bloody Marys a bit stiffer.  Unfortunately, we didn’t really need to bother.

I wanted this movie to be good.  I really did.  For one thing, Karl Urban.  For another thing, a haunted luxury ocean liner ought to be just about the coolest thing there is.  Salt-crusted chandeliers!  Mysteriously abandoned staterooms!  Eerie big-band music coming from nowhere!  Pools of creepily reflecting water!  For God’s sake, how can you go wrong?  Well, like this, apparently.

Not many things annoy me more than an awesome setting being utterly squandered.

Watching Ghost Ship is like watching a little gem of a five-minute short tacked onto the front of an Uwe Boll movie.  It’s like the opening scene was done by a completely different director and crew who then – feeling that they’d made a pretty good showing for themselves – walked off and left the set there to be cannibalized by someone far less competent.  The plot setup starts out reasonably enough – a marine salvage crew gets hired by a guy named Ferriman (did you catch that subtle hint?  Huh?  Did you?  DID YOU?) to loot an abandoned cruise ship called the Antonia Graza.  The crew – headed by Gabriel Byrne (oh, Gabriel, dude) and Julianna Margulies – find any number of strange things, including the ghost of a little girl, a bunch of gold, and the ghost of a torch singer who lures Isaiah Washington to a gruesome death.  (He’s supposed to be engaged but apparently figures that a bit of ghost nookie won’t count against him at the altar.  Don’t be That Guy, Isaiah.)

Anyway, their own ship blows up, leaving them stranded on the ocean liner.  Ferriman (Desmond Harrington) continues to be creepy.  Karl Urban falls afoul of some sort of machinery and gets turned into a cheap, folded-up Karl Urban Halloween costume complete with the shabby plastic mask with the elastic string that breaks as soon as you look at it.  In between, the ghost kid shows Margulies a bunch of flashbacks that come together into a really improbable plot that involves the crew killing every one of the passengers so they can steal the gold (because apparently there was no easier way to do that), then turning on each other and killing each other off.  Finally only the torch singer is left alive; and Ferriman, who is revealed to be some sort of demon or something (INORITE WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED) kills her off by swinging her from a meat hook.  So all these souls are trapped in the ship, because apparently Ferriman has some sort of trapped-souls quota to meet, and it’s up to Margulies to free them by blowing up the ship.

Of course, it turns out in the end that all she manages to do is annoy Ferriman, who now has to start over with only the spirits of her crew, but whatever.  It’s not like the movie wasn’t sort of pointless anyway.

Screwing the dead chick is not ever going to be a good idea.  You’d think that would be pretty obvious, but apparently it isn’t.

So what’s the verdict? Ghost Ship is bad.  There’s just no sugar-coating it.  This is a bad, bad movie.  The plot is ridiculous, the acting is sort of awful even from ordinarily unobjectionable actors, and the action is tedious, formulaic, and predictable. (You named the character Ferriman? Really?  Did you think no one would notice or something?  Also, thanks for earworming me with that asinine “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” song.  Really.  The ’80s just were not bad enough the first time around.)  The first scene gets three stars, the rest of the movie gets zero stars, and on weighted balance it’s a one-star movie overall.

Visit the American Gothica store on amazon.com