Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ho, Ho, No!

Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever (2014)

It's almost like modern Christmas specials shouldn't exist. It's possible the 'out of touch' fibers which genetically strangle my DNA are continuing their strict regimen of de-evolution as I become more and more of a cultural bigot, but, most post-millennial specials seem insubstantial - with no genuine message beyond that which is uncomfortably chorfed through acidic flaps of indigestion - stale aftertastes of better and more thought-out times where the season would shine through every time and cast a spell on those eager to believe in the holiday.
Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever isn't as bad as it could be - for social media and internet culture to have ham-fisted this movie into existence on the worst possible medium (the Lifetime Network) is a deranged holiday miracle unto itself - which is something we should all be excited about (you know the sort of temporary excitement you feel when opening a new bag of Doritos).
There is some loose plot about an expensive dog being stolen by a duo of crooks (who in themselves are so much a parody's parody that they cease to exist as human beings and fade into something akin to white noise) and a little girl's Christmas wish which enables her to hear Grumpy Cat speaking (voiced by Aubrey Plaza, the monotonous funeral dirge of her exhumed face-sounds finally made relevant by the sour and disparaging look of the dwarf cat). The word loose is a credit in reality, as the entire airy spectacle is one enormous summary of the Grumpy Cat phenomenon itself - being that cats are those creatures which rule our subconscious by occupying the 2% of our free web-browsing time when we aren't looking at porn. Combine this infatuation with a cat that looks abnormal (on a scale of weird that leans more toward cute) and fill the remaining space with humanized catch phrases and sentiments and you have a whole lot of money being tossed about to a clueless animal and its handlers.
And it works! The movie was purchased by me! And gave me exactly what I wanted, to look at dopey animals around Christmas time.
It stands to reason that Worst Christmas Ever is a testament to our preoccupation with wallowing in the deep end of the low, reveling in it even - as we are made in the image of God Himself so we do honor the birth of his only son with radical and fanged indulgences of marketable and themed embarrassments and abandonment.
It is what it most certainly was intended to be - as good as an animal-centric movie can be with a sub-tier animal actor on meme-generated crutches who obliviously rests in the shadows of real animal actors like Roddy McDowall and that dog from K-9.

Friday, October 10, 2014

It doesn't get any grosser than this (Prt. 1)

Garbage Pail Kids (1987) Prt. 1

Pry back the panel of the mind and you will find a bundle of superficial and impulsive thoughts. Begin to untangle that bundle and soon you will reveal the circuitry of deep thoughts. Questions which hinder us on our climb up the daunting scale of spiritual enlightenment. These are the concepts which keep our eyes open and staring at the ceiling when we're trying to sleep – the ever-inching inconsistencies we feel with what we've been told all our lives about why things are.
Eventually, either through science or discovery, most things which exist have an origin that can be deduced and defined conclusively, but the further back we look, the more often we hear ourselves ask the question:
“What came before that?”
It has been said that landscape of the mind is infinite – and that its powerful calculative skills can dwarf those of any artificially thinking machine (or something, its been a minute since I've watched Donald in Mathmagic Land), but I believe differently. I will agree that our existential theories have come a long way and that we have developed a great many theories as to why we are here why we've made the things we've made. However, I believe there is a limit to what we can derive from our current rung on the cosmic ladder, and, at some point, whether or not we and our collective works are all just complex curls of smoke and flame still flashing out in pre-determined chaos from the mouthpiece of some great and ancient cosmic explosion, we have to accept the possibility of things without origin - or at least, beginnings so shrouded in spacial uncertainty that we lack the facilities to give them dimension. In short – we have to accept for now, that some things just are.
And this, in my opinion, is how the Garbage Pail Kids movie came to be.

In 1987 there was a live action Garbage Pail Kids movie. I won't spend much time explaining where GPK originated. Chances are, if you're reading this, the trading cards were 90% of your pre-teenage life at one point and you had doubles and triples stuck all over everything you owned. You were talking up your parents for another pack through your bloody, war-scarred begging-hole, which you mutilated on a semi-daily basis by eating those sheets of pink, powdery, quarry pit slate which came included.
Oh I ate the stuff too – and who can say why? Perhaps it was that in our childhood minds we saw it as our first extraordinary challenge – a wild terrain for us to tame, subvert, and conquer by chewing it to pulp and then spitting it out not two minutes later – already eager for another slab to prove our toughness, our greatness.
I never knew a kid who didn't eat the gum. It was part of the process, and like the movie came to be, it just was.

The GPK movie is exactly what you don't expect it to be – that being said – I personally had no preconceived notion of what it was supposed to be before seeing it for the first time. Even as a kid I remember sensing a disconnect with it, I almost resented it in the way I resented Masters of the Universe (even though MotU did have the luxury of an original story premise to ignore where GPK did not).
They (the Kids) were just these horrible little characters with no purpose other than to parody other things and commit the full compliment of all childhood taboos our parents were at war with and sometimes even gruesome acts of self mutilation, earmarks of healthy boyhood wonderment and therefore very marketable, and very collectible.
They were another multifaceted tool in the arsenal used against our fathers, our mothers, those who loved us and wanted nothing more than for us to be calm and non-disruptive. In the end the movie reflected few of these noble concepts and became a parody of the parodies themselves.
I love this movie... now. Its easily in my top 100 (somewhere near the middle). As an adult I have embraced it as an outstanding example of the kind of malarkey they could get away with in the cinematic 80s. I also feel like its criminally underplayed, shoved underneath other weird-ass quirky films from the same era. Too often when talking with fellow fans of awful things I hear them restate my comment with a question mark.
“There was a Garbage Pail Kids movie?”
To which I always respond “Oh yeah, and a cartoon.”
But that will come later.

How old are those kids anyway?
Dodger is a troubled youth – much like the projected target audience of the movie he just can't seem to fit in without rubbing against the grain of society. Also, much like his only slightly more popular parallel, Bastion, from the Never Ending Story – he is consistently assaulted and shaken down by a particular group of bullies who seem to specifically target him (though Bastion's bullies seemed at least to be in his same age group).

Great hair - Shaking down children must really pay off.
Dodger's group of bullies chase him down and corner him as the film opens. The thugs are managed by a dude named Juice who, as you can see, is just about as cool as his name.
There's also Wally and Blythe, a surly, handsome woman who steals her scenes with a sensuous sort of primitive doughiness.

The real villain however, is a nemesis of the heart, Tangerine – the manipulative girlfriend to Juice who begins to bend Dodger's heart, tempered by his love her, to serve her own agenda – more on this later.

After the robbery – Dodger makes his way to the Curio shop in which he finds refuge from his attackers. Run around the corner to a magical book shop and you find yourself immersed in a fantastic journey on the back of a Luck Dragon - take a wrong turn however into a thrift store filled with bizarre antiques and you end up with a garbage can packed with eugenically perverted midgets who wet themselves and vomit uncontrollably. That's what they like to call “the other side of the coin”. The shop owner, an out of work magician named Manzini, has hired Dodger to do something... Though by the look of it it is neither to clean or organize. As such the slime encrusted pail which sits directly in the way of just about everything becomes a point of interest. Dodger is naturally curious and Manzini warns him never to touch it (then put it up fucker).
Manzini has a lot of great dialogue which really dwarfs what everyone else has to say in the rest of the film. I love that. There's always these high-caliber actors who hit the curb on these movies but refuse to compromise their personal integrity.

 “Losing is relative my dear boy, what matters is conceding with grace.”

Manzini intensifies his ominous warning by comparing the trash can to Pandora's box – furthering Dodger's infatuation with it.
Not long after, when Tangerine stops by the Curio – Dodger uses the opportunity to awkwardly reveal his teenage crush for her by luring her in with the promise of helping her with her “Creations”. After making sure no one will see, she agrees to step inside. It is at this point that we begin to see her dualistic malignity – as she begins to play one side against the other – dating Juice for the obligatory social value pressed onto her by her peers while leaning on Dodger to supplement her selfish endeavors.

This statue is as cold as my soul.

Tangerine's “Creations” are outfits and fashion accessories that she labels as funky and off-beat - 100% of which resemble that shirt Denise made for Theo in that one episode of the Cosby Show.

Her indifference is crushing. Dodger tries to entice her with buttons, pins, beads and repeatedly she rebuffs. Just as his abasement is reaching a boil, Juice and his jackbooted thugs return to give him another lamming.
But Dodger is now in his element, and they are on his turf. Using the objects in the store he proceeds to evade the thugs with Globetrotter levels of improvised, environmental precision. The scuffle ends up tipping the pail – disaster!
Slime begins to ooze onto the floor as the bar is raised.
Juice throws Dodger into the outside manhole and opens a valve of raw sewage onto him. The Kids, now loose from their tin prison come to the rescue – and we're given our first raw exposure to the deranged cast. 'Kids' is a relative term at this point, after seeing what they have to offer. Only some of them resemble actual children.
The appearance of the Kids is a traumatizing event. As none of their apparent characteristics are ever given any sort of development prior to or during the meat of the plot – their lack of a unified theme (other than the fact they're all about about the same height) is fairly abrasive. The result is a stubby-legged mass of nonsensical dialogue and unappealing parts and textures which shambles through the movie, more like a single, multi-limbed biologic monstrosity than seven individual characters.

In fact, only two of the Kids ever show any sort of individuality beyond the others, who essentially remain as walking fart jokes.
Greaser Greg, a parody of a subculture from the 50s, and Ali Gator, both diligently assert their would-be alpha status within the pack through aggressive and confrontational displays of leadership. For instance: Greg is the only Kid who is seen brandishing a weapon – while Gator is constantly alluding to his taste for human flesh. The other Kids are obviously a pass-out to purists – “book to film” nerds who would undoubtedly question the adaptation's relevance to its original source material – an issue already standing on weak legs considering the exclusion of Adam Bomb and Jay Decay.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Some quick thoughts on Willow Creek.

Bobcat Goldthwait's
Willow Creek (2014)

~spoiler free~

Found footage. Like there's just all this footage lying around everywhere. Found footage films have become somewhat of a chore for me. A trend which has somehow outlasted the generation that originally appreciated it and lapsed into a new generation of horror fans who think it's something new. I normally avoid these movies since having watched the adversarial boner-killer that is V/H/S, nothing but a baited hook to oldsters like me, but it's fucking hard because there are so many being made. However, having said that, I remember fondly the somewhat limited resurgence of it when Cloverfield came out and I found myself wondering 'Well what makes me like Cloverfield, when I really can't stand this sort of thing?'.
It has something to do with subject matter. Hell, who doesn't like giant monsters – and suddenly the found footage aspect of it was somehow newer, edgier and more engaging. I found myself for a time seeking them out again. Movies like REC were fairly thrilling to me, while others, like Paranormal Activity, I found to be just as insipid and dull as the Blair Witch series ever was.
While the sub-genre made good progress in the capable hands of those who were willing to try something new – it fell on its ass when directors and producers relied on nothing but jump scares and loud noises. The popularity of the found footage movie did well within the mainstream either way and suddenly the horror movie was getting another shot at the big screen.
So yeah, in short it was a thing and now its just kind of a thing, limping along behind its recently panned-out success with straight-to-video releases and cash-ins, pandering its way down the line of bored people who want to recapture the realistic horror of found footage.
Often I see a movie that snags my interest and often when it ends up being a FF movie I kind of pout for a while and then forget all about it.
But in this case – my willingness to buy anything Bigfoot won out and I decided to watch Willow Creek.
Promising me 'the monster movie of the summer', with its visceral red jacket and bitching cover art it tickled the buying bone just under the wad of blackened organic tar that is my congealed lust for simian destruction.
I went into it skeptical as always – skepticism being a strange taste in my mouth because as a horror fan with no recognizable standards – the dignity of being a snob about these movies is an opportunity I've long since passed up (I will never once ask you to put any faith into anything I say about anything ever, good luck!). Found footage, to me, often translates into a method of delivery which increasingly rouses suspense from the viewer, even though there's nothing really happening but the mundane self-indulgent posturing of whoever it is that has the hand-cam. This could also be translated into being lazy. The viewer knows something is supposed to happen at some point so they're always on edge – paranoid about that inevitable moment when something is bound to bother them. This is the primary source for those annoying back-of-the-DVD quotes:
I was on the edge of my seat! (waiting for something to happen)
A jarring experiment in suspense! (because the movie is called 'All These People Eventually Die' and they just keep drinking and cursing like frat boys)
And I'll admit that initially Willow Creek did seem lazy to me. In fact, if I didn't have the infatuation with Bigfeets that I do I would have found it unwatchable – as the first hour or so of the movie is nothing but a Sasquatch enthusiast and his reluctant girlfriend out on a trip to the original Patterson film site. It was shot on location so it was interesting to me in the way a documentary about the Patterson film would be, so I kept with it.
However the movie does has a turning point. During the first night of their trip into the woods to reach the site, they are awoken by vocalizations in the distance. This is a nearly 30 minute, single shot scene where the couple sits frozen in their tent, afraid to move an inch, only whispering to one another frantically as the noises of clacking wood and ape-like wailing grow closer. If you end up loving or hating this movie, this is the scene you should at least give a nod to.
The entire shot is very organic and very real – mirroring that painfully human moment we've all had – sitting up from our beds, remaining as still as we can – even willing our hearts to beat softer – persuading our lungs to expand more shallowly – straining to hear, what we thought we heard, somewhere not so far off in the darkness. Moments pass without it, the sound of some thing in the shadows which is aware of you, and you ease up a little, your muscles relax, only to have it come in again out of sequence – freezing its hold on you now with more emphasis, causing more deliberation, because it has become louder, closer.
Its a brilliant scene because we've all been there. That moment where rationality shifts out of existence and you think to yourself “This is it. There is something out there that maybe isn't quite explainable and I can't handle that”.
The movie is worth watching for that feeling alone – and after it – the remainder is almost inconsequential.

I've always thought of fear as something that bothers the soul of you, your mind and your heart – not just some cheap shock popping in off angle to yell in your face. To me there's a difference between being startled, and being afraid, and it takes a real talent to project that difference on screen. I wasn't overly impressed with Willow Creek but for that scene, and if you, like me, like to remind yourself from time to time just how irrational we can be – I suggest you watch it.