#352- The Hills Have Eyes

Quick recap: A loving family spends all of their time together hunting, cooking food and cracking jokes. Their world is turned upside down when a family full of jerks breaks down in their territory. Can this close-knit group fight to save what is rightfully theirs?

I don’t think you can find a closer relationship than these two. Whatever they are.

Fun (?) fact: Yup. That was a real dead dog director Wes Craven used.

happier times

 

My thoughts: Welcome back to Horrorfest, a month long celebration of (usually not) scary movies! This year I decided to kick off with a couple of classics. First up is The Hills Have Eyes, directed by horror legend Wes Craven. I reviewed Both Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street during previous Horrorfests and both movies were sufficiently scary for me. This one, however, was not.

I’ve never been big on gore but I hoped for at least a little inbred creepiness. There was a little of that as I wondered how all the clan was related but,except for the necklace teeth and pelts everywhere, they weren’t all that terrifying. If anything, the patriarch of the stranded family scared me more than the murderous cannibals did. He talked of being a recently retired cop, which I think is the best possible solution because this guy was awful. He verbally abused his wife, made sure that every sentence had an expletive and carelessly handled firearms. I guess I was a little bummed out that the clan burned him alive but only because it made his wife and children sad.

Mostly, I was confused by the clan more than any other emotion. They are described as inbred, low intelligent beings yet they refer to each other using the names of the planets. And their speech is at times prehistoric and other times eloquent as they made puns and talked.  And yes, what they did was horrific BUT if they were so hungry as Ruby claimed than what better find than a fat, juicy, baby? I’m not saying I would ever eat babies but I can’t judge an inbred family who lives out in the desert, which is housed in a nuclear testing site. Sometimes you do what you have to do.

 

Final review: 1/5. Not scary and I don’t know where to draw the line between ‘cult classic’ and ‘b-movie’

Up next: more Horrorfest

 

 

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#348- The Five Deadly Venoms

Quick recap: 5 former martial arts students have become experts on specific moves that match to animals: the centipede,snake, scorpion, lizard and toad. Their dying instructor believes some of them may be evil and orders his current student to take care of them, even though he has no chance of defeating them.

son, you’ve got a toad on your head

Fun (?) fact: Power Rangers Jungle Fury had a group of enemies called the Five Poison Fingers, an homage to this film.

Mondays got me like…

My thoughts: I’m not beating around the bush for this one: it was awesome and everyone should watch it. It’s currently streaming on Netflix as of August 2018 so what are you waiting for?

So, why is The Five Deadly Venoms so amazing?

  1. It’s dubbed! On the sub versus dub debate, I’m squarely in the sub camp, except when it comes to films like this. Most of the dialogue is people telling how they want to kill someone else so dubbing is the way to go.
  2.  There is good versus evil afoot but also it’s fun to figure out who is actually bad. Right away the audience knows Centipede and Snake are bad news but the rest (and their identities) are rolled out slowly. It added an extra layer of complexity I really enjoyed.
  3. The five venoms were so much fun to watch! I know nothing about kung-fu and seeing people get beaten up gets old after awhile, unless you attach cool animals (and a toad) to the moves. I loved watching each master and recognizing who he was. It was like a Buzzfeed quiz but in real life. Name the Five Venoms to Reveal Your Worst Personality Trait.
  4. It’s campy as hell! The blood looks like candle wax, the sound effects are hilarious and the acting is subpar with a lot of grimacing. On the other hand, the torture scenes were so creative. Did you know you can murder someone with just 5 sheets of paper towels?

This movie didn’t change any perspective I had and it didn’t make me sympathize with a group of people. It was just fun and exactly what I needed at this time.

 

Final review: 5/5

Up next: A Man Escaped

 

#344- Days of Heaven

Quick recap: Bill, a laborer, convinces his not-girlfriend to marry their hopefully-dying-soon rich boss. When he doesn’t kick the bucket as promised, it gets awkward quickly.

I’d have a difficult time choosing between Richard Gere and Sam Shepard, although I’m willing to bet neither of them smelled very good

Fun (?) fact: The locusts were really peanut shells (thank god). The film was then reversed to make it seem like they were ascending into the sky. I’m still traumatized.

 

My thoughts: Terrence Malick, during a discussion of an upcoming film: ‘You know what would really knock this film out of the park? poetry!’

Days of Heaven looks similar to other Malick films in that the words and symbolism can be confusing but the scenes are gorgeous so I don’t mind. In a Malick film, don’t ever take anything at face value. Not war, not criminals on the lam, and now, not migrant workers looking for some quick cash. Days of Heaven was a bit easier to digest than the other two I mention, I think because there was a lot of religious symbolism I recognized. The film doesn’t have much dialogue between characters, which my 1001 movie book deemed ‘silent movie-esque’. I tend to agree with that statement, although there is plenty of narration to explain the plot. Despite getting the theme of the movie rather quickly, I still had some lingering questions after it was over:

  1. Why couldn’t Bill and Abby pretend like they were married instead of brother and sister? Watching them make out would’ve made everyone much less uncomfortable
  2. How expensive was soap in the early 1900s? Because it seemed like no one bothered to use it and if that’s true, how could you attract anyone?
  3. Were locusts that big of a deal back then? What a nightmare.

Overall, though, I was entirely invested in the characters from the beginning. Bill was kind of a jerk but also really young and in charge of his sister. Then again, it was his idea to marry off the love of his life so I don’t really think he thought things through. I loved the tense showdown at the end between Bill and the The Farmer, even though I never could reconcile who should’ve ‘won’. Honestly, even if this movie had no build up or resolution, I still would’ve loved it because it is beautiful.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Blue

 

 

 

#330- Amarcord

Quick recap: stories of various residents in an Italian city in the 1930s

same, most days

Fun (?) fact: Amarcord is a phonetic translation from the Italian phrase ‘A m’arcord’, which means ‘I remember’.

The scene I’m mostly likely going to remember

My thoughts: Seeing as this is my 3rd Fellini film, Amarcord is make or break in regards to how I see him as a director. I was confused but amused by both Juliet of the Spirits and 8 1/2, which is as good a review I’m willing to give Italian cinema. I enjoyed Amarcord the most of the 3 and was proud that this time there was no confusion, except for reading trivia afterwards and learning that there are several scathing rebukes of fascism. Oops.

Without sounding too dramatic, I was completely in love with the movie from the very beginning. I always try to go into a film without knowing much so that I can make an unbiased judgement.Which, in turn, lead me to believe  ‘Amarcord’ was some woman. The first part of the movie starts with a bonfire to celebrate the start of spring and then there’s a scene at a religious school. I patiently waited for ‘Amarcord’ to show up and I grew more excited to see how all the characters would all connect. And then I eventually realized that this was more a vignette style of story rather than one centered on a handful of characters. Somehow this realization made the movie infinitely more interesting and I wish that I could go back and watch the beginning again so I can soak up everyone.

Growing up in a small town, I could connect to this Italian town somewhat. My tiny Texas town was decidedly less depraved than this one but there were ‘characters’ that stood out and tall tales that have been passed down for generations. And even though it’s become somewhat of a trope, I loved how Fellini used seasons to indicate the passage of time. Small towns live on traditions and this one is no different. Also, I totally wish mine had an endurance car race like the Mille Miglia or a boat expedition to see the new luxury cruise. We mainly just had parades and football games, although those came with their own set of problems for the locals to discuss again and again.

Even though there is a sad scene, the movie ends with a wedding, as the seasons drift right back toward spring. The whole experience was lovely and makes me wonder if I have been too harsh on Italian cinema recently.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: The King of Comedy