Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Five Short Movie Reviews
Some disks I got from Netflix last week

Die, Monster, Die! / The Dunwich Horror
These flicks came on one double-sided disk. They came from the same production company, and they're both based on short stories by H.P. Lovecraft.

Die, Monster, Die! feels less Lovecraftian of the two. An American goes to Arkham, England (see? in the stories, it's Arkham, Massachusetts; strike one) to hook up with a pretty blond girl he met in college. When he gets to town and asks about her house, peole shun him. They refuse to give him a ride to the house, which is outside town, or even to rent him a bicycle. So much for quaint English hospitality. Well, they're all convinced that the pretty blonde girl's family is crazy and evil, so you can't blame them too much. Instead of asking, "Hey, howcome you folks go all wiggy when I ask about this house?" Mr. American just huffs a bit and walks to the house.

Of course, this girl's family really is crazy and evil. Or at least her dad is. He's got a meteorite that's highly radioactive. It makes plants grow huge, but it also makes people get sick and eventually turn into dust. Mr. American discovers this, rescues the girl, yadda yadda.

I didn't like how they focused on a scientific explanation for the weirdness.

The Dunwich Horror feels more like Lovecraft stories I've read. No meteorites or scientific explanations here. It's all otherworldly elder horrors seeking to wreck their malific vengeance on mankind.

Specifically, it's Al from Quantum Leap who's trying to sacrifice Sandra Dee in a ritual that will bring the Old Ones back to Earth so they can kill everybody. Why Al wants this isn't clear, but you can tell he's crazy from that freakazoid stare he has going on for the entire movie.

Apparently Sandra Dee is a little freaky herself, because she's turned on by Al's unsettling stare. So much so that she lets herself get clumsily manipulated into spending the weekend at Al's old house on the outskirts of Dunwich, MA. Al continues to casually brainwash her over the weekend, to the point that she sort of sleepwalks out to this weird alter setup and politely lies on it to become a vessel for the Old Ones. Why do the sweet girls always fall for the bad boys?

Well, luckily for Sandra, an old professor back at Arkham University gets wise to what's going on. Luckily for mankind, he just happens to know the magic words that will counter Al's evil incantations and block the return of the darned Old Ones. He didn't give any indication before the climactic scene that he knew that stuff, but it turns out he did. You'd think, if he knew that much, he'd be more careful with the unholy Necronomicon and not leave it displayed in the middle of the college library where any old unbalanced occultist can steal it.

This movie stars that guy from The Transporter. It's not as good as The Transporter.

Mr. Transporter plays an assassin in this one. Some rivals inject him with a drug that will kill him in an hour. So, he calls his sleazy doctor, Dwight Yoakum. Dwight tells him that it's "some Chinese shit" and it really will kill him in an hour unless he keeps his adrenaline way up. Dwight is flying back from overseas, and he'll try to do a blood transfer or something when he gets into town.

So, Mr. Transporter spends the whole movie running around like a madman. He does crazy stunts, he does cocaine, he steals synthetic adrenaline, he has sex with Amy Smart in public, all to keep up his adrenaline and keep the poison at bay.

Here's the problem. All that crazy stuff, one insane thing after another, cut together with highly hectic editing, just wears on you after awhile. It's not fun to watch. It's too much.

This is Mike Judge's second live action movie. Judge is the guy who brought us Beavis & Butthead, Office Space, and King of the Hill. Idiocracy isn't as good as any of those.

There's potential in there, but it never comes to be. Here's the best illustration of that. In one scene, the narrator of the film describes how the English language has devolved along with every other part of society. He says that it has become a mixture of hillbilly, hip hop, advertising, etc. It's a very evocative description, but we never get to hear people actually speaking that way. What we get instead is more like David Letterman's "Dumb Guy" schtick. People say things like "I like money" and "you sound queer." There could have been some good laughs from mixing together the elements mentioned in the narrator's description, but there aren't.

I can't help thinking that Judge didn't go deep enough into his premise. He just stays at the surface. Everyone is dumb, and sort of zombie-like. It could have been funnier if the dumb people thought they were actually smart, as is the case with so many truly dangerously dumb people. Five hundred years into the future might be a bit too far, too. Obviously a premise like this is designed to comment on today's society, not extrapolate what might really happen in the future. Setting this story a hundred, or even fifty years into the future, where the crassness and stupidity of modern society has simply overwhelmed the better parts, rather than grossly outbreeding them, could have kept the social commentary closer to home.

I thought this would be a fun B movie with giant bugs. It wasn't. It had some giant bugs, but it wasn't fun. I really only watched about fifteen minutes of it.