Things I Noticed Last Week – 3.30.2015

This week seemed quieter or maybe I was just busier, but I certainly didn’t notice as many things as I did last week. I do however, have more long winded thoughts on some of things I did notice. So here we go!

1. A couple of weeks ago I was determined to write something about the state of American horror films. I had just watched the film Housebound, a New Zealand horror-comedy. It was quirky, yet a really fun little film. I tried, with little success, to come up with recent American efforts providing anything remotely worthwhile. Hollywood has seemingly been obsessed with what can be done with special effects and makeup, rather than a well crafted suspenseful feature like the all time greats. It took me a while, but a film like Ti West’s The House of the Devil came to mind. (I’m still ashamed however, with how long it took me to come up with this title.)

I will never try to discredit the work of the makeup artists and special effects gurus in mainstream cinema. The simple fact these magicians (which is what they are and they’re some of the best in the world) can take a living, breathing human being and make you believe they are mutilating them right in front of your eyes, is perhaps one of the most impressive things to happen to cinema. The fact of the matter is however, this is not scary, just disgusting. It’s impressive to see once, but ultimately without plot and suspense, it simply falls flat. Unfortunately, this is seemingly where we, as a society, have chosen to pause (hopefully briefly), with gore being a necessary and central plot device in the horror genre.

So where does this leave us? I for one, have been heading overseas for horror. Some films that come immediately to mind The Babadook (Australia), 28 Days Later (England), Let The Right One In (Sweden), and [Rec] (Spain). Sure this is a very small list and I’m neglecting numerous gems, but the point is, everyone else seems to be innovating within the genre while we are content with inducing vomiting.

So just as I was preparing to write this column weeks ago, I saw the trailer for It Follows. As you may recall from last week’s column, I mentioned my reaction from seeing the trailer. I was genuinely excited at the prospect of an American horror film providing some level of respect to the wasteland the genre has become. After seeing the film, it did that and then some.

The new film from David Robert Mitchell is a modern day masterpiece; I assure you this is not an overstatement. Mitchell certainly must have spent hours studying the masters, namely John Carpenter. The film from the very beginning sets the tone with an incredible score, building suspense with an unsettling feeling that doesn’t ever leave through the slightly more than an hour and a half of running time. Blood and gore is kept to a minimum, while pure terror runs rampant. It Follows felt so much like Halloween (I say this as a compliment to the overall unnerving nature of the film, not as a commentary on plot similarities.) I kept waiting for Michael Meyers to appear.

If you are unfamiliar with the storyline of It Follows, a teenage girl gets stalked by a shape shifting spirit after a sexual encounter and her only choice is to pass it on in the same way she received it before it kills her. Although it sounds like a standard horror film trope, the spin Mitchell puts on it is anything but traditional. It never feels as if Mitchell is trying to punish the act of sex, rather using it as a vessel to pass spirits along like any other movie curse. (It might however, make you want to reconsider abstinence, if for no other reason than as a precaution.)

I’m not sure if I liked the film even more based on my intense desire for something to break from the ranks of the standard bearers like Hostel, Saw, and The Devil’s Rejects, but either way, this is truly something haunting and a legitimate must see.

2. The X-Files is returning and I don’t know if I should be excited or simply pass on this one. I know the show was a force when it originally aired and it has a cult-like fandom, but I just couldn’t ever get into it. I get beyond bored with monster of the week shows and after the first couple of seasons I felt like I had seen all I needed to. Maybe I’m just jaded by the Netflix inspired, binge watching culture I have come to know and love, but if every episode is not going to follow a direct and consistent storyline with those prior, I’m simply not interested. For those of you who are big fans, please tell me why I’m wrong. I would love to be able to get excited for this, but it just isn’t happening.

3. Speaking of things I’m not excited about, Broken Lizard Industries is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo to make Super Troopers 2. I had been living almost the last 15 years feeling like I was the only person on earth who did not enjoy Super Troopers. It was one of those films I felt you probably needed to be stoned to fully enjoy and as I stated previously, I was the straight edge punk rock kid, so I probably don’t understand many “stoner films.” As it turns out however, the major studios agreed with me. As it states in their Indiegogo page, the studios agreed to produce and distribute the film, but they would have to fund raise for it on their own. Now I’m sure all of you have already stopped reading, you have clicked on the Indiegogo link providing the guys at Broken Lizard with your credit card number, begging them to take whatever they need to make this happen, but I can sleep at night knowing I have the same sensibilities as the corporate big shots who refused to finance the film. I need a shower now.

4. Jennifer Lawrence announced she will be leaving the X-Men franchise following the upcoming film X-Men: Apocalypse.

“Stunned!” said no one.

The greatest curse the fad of super hero cinematic universes has ever had is the fact these real people have no desire to do the same thing for their entirety of of their career. A star like Lawrence will become hugely popular (often after becoming part of these series) and other offers start rolling in. You have to assume they have to make the decision of pursuing Oscars and acting greatness, or dressing up in a costume for the rest of their life.

There is no solution to this however. You can choose someone who is a lesser known commodity (i.e. Lawrence at the time) and they become a household name. Or you can choose a has-been (i.e. Robert Downey Jr.) and people realize they still have the chops to do big things. Either way you lose and the lifespan for these franchises becomes dependent solely on the gigantic sum of money that can be offered up to make these stars an offer they simply cannot refuse, and yet often they still do.

As much as I love the X-Men (one of my very favorite comic universes), I’d rather see Lawrence in Oscar winning dramas because let’s face it, no one watches super hero films for the tremendous acting performances anyway.

And as a side note, Tye Sheridan has been cast as Scott Summers (aka Cyclops). So get ready for a quick exodus from this character as well. Sheridan is the best young actor in the business and will be winning Oscars for years to come. If you don’t believe me watch Mud and Joe. He will be a household name before Apocalypse even releases.

5. Lastly, there is a new season of Trailer Park Boys available now on Netflix. All is right with the world!

Thanks for reading and see you next week