Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Trailer Park Tuesdays: Detective Downs

Hello, welcome to Trailer Park Tuesdays.  Just park your bike over by the dumpster.

Here at TPT, every week I will be sharing and talking about a movie trailer for an upcoming release, something you might not have heard of or something that I find interesting or am excited about.  Got it?  Good.

Fantastic Fest is going on this week down in Austin, TX (Sept.19-26th) and as usual it is lining up a whole slate of films that I am excited to see and check out in the coming months/year (seriously, the next few TPTs might just be trailers from FFest movies).  The Fest brings in movies from around the world, usually focusing on horror, sci-fi, action, fantasy and cult films and, in general, it seems like one of the best and most interesting American Film Festivals running (to my eyes at least).

Today's trailer is for a Norwegian film that doesn't fit any of those categories, except for maybe that of "cult film," but even that label seems problematic and not suitable.  This is a detective movie, one filled with humor, a semi-complicated mystery, and a protagonist unlike any detective that has been seen before.  Robert Bogerud (Svein André Hofsø Myhre) has the trademark trench coat, hat, and cigarette that most onscreen detectives have.  Making him a little different from other detectives is that he uses his immense empathy to help in his casework.

Another thing that makes Robert a little different?  He has Down Syndrome.

I know what you're thinking:  A movie starring a person with Downs in the lead role is going to lead to some "you're laughing at him, not with him" type of situations.  How could this not be exploitative?  Well apparently, based on the early reviews, this is not the case (if it was, I wouldn't be talking about it and interested in seeing it) and the movie seems to avoid becoming straight up exploitation, treating Robert like an adult, making him a well rounded character, and never becoming condescending towards him.  There is humor in the film, for sure, but the real thrust of the movie is the emotional complexity of Robert and the immense heart with which this film operates.

Myhre looks like he'll be amazing in this (early reviews state as much), as he seems quite charming and capable.  Also, apparently he has a dance sequence that just kills.

If someone you know has Down Syndrome, I implore you to check this movie out.  The film has yet to get an offical release date yet, most likely it won't see proper distribution here in the States until sometime next year, hopefully early, so keep it on your radar.  It's on mine.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Trailer Park Tuesdays: Escape from Tomorrow

Hello there all.  Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Squealing Tires on Dirt, TRAILER PARK TUESDAYS.

I don't (or at this point, have yet to) really do reviews for new releases here at STOD, instead preferring to check my rearview on cinema happening that have since past (i.e.: I talk about old movies).  Well, here at Trailer Park Tuesdays, each week I'm going to select a movie trailer for an upcoming release to share and talk about, probably something that is flying under people's radars or whatever has piqued my interest as of late (*note: my interests are wide and varied).  Sound cool?  Good.  Now let's check out the first installment, and folks, have I got a good one for you. . . .

If you haven't heard about Escape from Tomorrow (2013) then let me be the one to fill you in:  The movie is about a man who, while on the last day of his family's vacation, starts to have increasingly disturbing experiences and visions. Sounds about right. . .

But here's the kicker:  the family is on vacation at the most magical place on Earth, Walt Disney World, and the movie was mostly filmed on location at the theme park (and at Disneyland) without the knowledge, permission, or participation of the Disney Corporation.

Yes.  Somebody made a feature length fantasy-horror art film at the happiest place on Earth without Mickey Mouse & Co. knowing about it.  As you could imagine, the film made a splash when it debuted at Sundance back in January and also later when it was shown at Roger Ebert's film festival, Ebertfest, in Champaign, Illinois (whaddup to my peeps in Champaign!!) as a hand-selected film by Ebert himself, right before his passing earlier this year.

The sheer audacity and implausibility that writer/director Randy Moore and cohorts could shoot a movie at Disney theme parks without them knowing about it is, in and of itself, mind boggling.  The fact that this subversive piece of art is actually going to see proper release (apparently, Disney is NOT going to sue) is almost just as bonkers.

Anyway, enough hype, check out the trailer below:

Escape from Tomorrow will see a limited theatrical run in select cities starting in New York on October 11th and it will also be available on VOD and On Demand formats on the same date.  I can't wait.

Oh yeah, and check out the theatrical poster.  The balls of these filmmakers cannot be underestimated:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday the 13th - Part 2

Hey.  It's still Friday the 13th.

Here's some random thoughts on Friday the 13th - Part 2 (1981).

First off, I love the opening title shot where the Friday the 13th logo explodes and is replaced by the Part 2.  Exploding credits are awesome.

Also, I know not everyone is a fan, but I love the baghead-Jason look.  The scene where he is first revealed is one of the best, it's creepy and believable, which makes it more creepy.  The baghead look is obviously indebted to The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976), which in turn is based on a true story.  Long story short:  bagheads are creepy.

After the massive success of the first film, this sequel was rushed into production and released a little less than a year after the original.  The budget was twice as big and directing now was Steve Miner, from a script by Ron Kurz.

There's some nice handheld tracking and stalker shots, especially during the pre-credits opening with Annie, the Final Girl from the first film.  This is Miner's directorial debut and he does a good job building tension and scares and I would say that overall this is a more polished looking movie than the first one.

Also in comparing it to the original, there is only one offscreen kill in Part 2, which is an improvement, but the kills are mostly only pretty okay, with the special effects being serviceable if maybe unremarkable.  The best effects are the machete to the face of Mark the wheelchair guy and the double kill with the spear that directly follows that.  Both kills were liberally borrowed from Mario Bava's A Bay of Blood (1971), a film that Sean S. Cunningham was inspired by while making the original film.

The special effects this go-around were done by Carl Fullerton, as Tom Savini decided to skip this installment and do The Burning (1981) instead, later returning to the Friday series for the 4th installment.  Fullerton would go on to work on Goodfellas (1990) and Silence of the Lambs (1991).

The timeline of this Part 2 is weird to me, and the origin of Jason seems to be slightly convoluted, which might be putting it lightly.  Supposedly he drowned as a young boy in the lake back in 1957, resulting in his mother Pamela Voorhees killing a couple of kids in 1958, plus setting some fires and poisoning the water supply in the interval 21 years, before in 1979 (on June 13th, a Friday, Jason's birthday) killing all the people in the first Friday the 13th movie, before getting decapitated herself.

The legend goes that Jason saw his mother killed and is now stalking the woods around the old Camp Crystal Lake...  Buuuuut, if he was alive living in the woods, why didn't Pamela know this?  She had gone mad after the death of her mongoloid child, and it turns out that, oh yeah, he wasn't even dead and was hiding in the woods for 20+ years, teaching himself survival skills and building a fort... what a crappy son.

To make the timeline a little more fun, this movie takes place "5 years after the events of Camp Crystal Lake," which would mean this 1981 movie takes place in 1984.  It's a future movie.

Ginny (Amy Steel) is a strong, smart, and capable Final Girl.  Admittedly she does pee herself while hiding under a bed when a rat runs by her face, but in the very next moment she's using a chainsaw against Jason and smashes a chair over his back, wrestling-style.  Like I said, strong and capable.  She is without a doubt one of the better Final Girls in the Friday series, and may even be able to lay claim to being the best.  Let's be honest, Ginny rocks!
Another great shocker ending (and man, the Friday movies sure do love their slow-motion don't they?) and it's awesome, even though the final Jason makeup has a half mullet, which is weird...

Trailer time, more counting fun:

Other stuff:

Crazy Ralph the doomsayer pops up again in this one, but he's less of a red herring and more of a special guest star.

Harry Manfredini provides the score again, and this one is less inspired by Herrmann's Psycho (1960) while still having a classic feel to it.  The "ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma" effect is still what makes it a Friday the 13th movie.

The 2nd protagonist is Paul (John Furey), who proves himself to be the ineffectual type against Jason, getting his ass handed to him two times.
The guy on the left fights Jason twice and lives to tell about it while the guy on the right gets really drunk and stays in town and avoids the slaughter.  You wouldn't think that by looking at either of them.
The practical joker character shows up again in this one, embodied by the gangly and goofy Ted (Stu Charno), but the movie does a disservice by not killing him.  He's a rare instance of a featured character in a Friday film that manages to avoid the carnage.  In fact, the front half of the movie is loaded with counselors (they're attending a "counselor training" session that Paul and Ginny are giving) but right before the storm hits, about a dozen of them head to town to drink at the local bar.

Most of them aren't seen again in the movie, and not in a "they were never seen again" ominous kind of way, just in a, "your presence isn't needed for this movie" kind of way.  I think Friday Part 2 misses the boat by not having a higher body count than the first film (they both have 10) and waylaying this group of counselors-in-training.
Check out Jason's thumb here.  Looks like he smashed it in a car door.  Ouch!

Normally I would go deep into production history and cast bios of these movies, but instead I'm going to refer you to two books for all your Friday the 13th needs:  Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th by Peter M. Bracke, published by Titan Books, which is chock full of interviews, and Making Friday the 13th: The Legend of Camp Blood by David Grove from the fine folks over at FAB Press.  I'm reading Grove's book right now, it is fantastic.  Both books are excellent are contain a wealth of information and interviews, pretty much everything you need to know in regards to the Friday the 13th movies.  Check 'em out.

Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th.  So naturally I watched a couple of the Friday the 13th movies.

Here are some notes on the first one.
First things first:  what a GREAT poster!

While watching this movie for this first time in almost 5 years, two things struck me:

1)  There are better slasher movies than Friday the 13th.

2)  There are better Friday the 13th-movies than Friday the 13th.

I guess when I say "better" what I mean is "better, or more preferable, to me personally."

I could probably name 10 slasher films that I personally like better than the original Friday, and at least one of them would be a Friday sequel.  If I'm being totally honest, the OG Friday might only be my third favorite film of the series.

It sounds like I'm starting to diss Friday the 13th.  Well, let me reverse that.  I like the movie.  It's fun, it's got some good scares, great gags, and some goofy bits I like.  The movie is very economical in the way it was made, very straightforward, non-fancy.

This is the only Friday the 13th movie that has any sort of mystery element, and I appreciate that.  In the subsequent movies (except for the weird 5th entry), you always know who the killer is (SPOILER: It's Jason).  Also, you cannot disavow OG Friday's importance to the slasher genre (and modern horror films in general) or its iconicism and influence.  Props got to be gived.

The filmmakers behind Friday the 13th (director Sean S. Cunningham and screenwriter Victor Miller, with an uncredited assist from Ron Kurz) took the formula established by Halloween (1978) and Black Christmas (1974), filtered it for simplicity, and finished the recipe by adding some of its own ingredients, most of which would become staples of slasher films to come, such as:

The isolated setting that would become more common than not in most slasher films, with a few even directly cribbing the summercamp locale (Sleepaway Camp, Madman, The Burning, etc).  Cunningham admits to being inspired by Mario Bava, and the influence of A Bay of Blood (1971) can be seen on the setting in this picture (as well as in some of the kills in Part 2, but we'll get to that..).

There's the doomsayer character, in this case Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney), who warns the kids about the "death curse" that haunts Camp Crystal Lake.  Doomsayers would pop up occasionally in other slasher films.  In addition to being creepy, they usually also provide a red herring for the movie.
Crazy Ralph doing his crazy thing. . .
There's also the 2nd protagonist, the person (usually a guy) who almost makes it to the end, but dies suddenly or shockingly.  In this case, that would be poor Bill (Harry Crosby; and yes, he's Bing Crosby's son).  The 2nd protagonist doesn't always have to die, but if they don't they're proven ineffectual when compared to the Final Girl.

And of course, there is the practical joker character (goofball Ned, played by Mark Nelson), a character-type who seemed to show up in almost every single slasher movie post-Friday, and to take it another step, practical jokes would become important plot devises in some slasher movies and the source of a few killer's origins, like in The Burning (1981) and Slaughter High (1986).

Speaking of Ned, I feel sorry for the guy.  He seems to be forgotten about by his friends after he disappears around the middle of the movie.  Later, when Alice and Bill are looking for everybody, they're all "Where's Jack?  Where's Brenda?  When is Steve coming back?"  They never once say anything about or go looking for Ned.  Poor doofus. . .

For a movie that was censored by the MPAA and considered to be a wild blood-fest when it was released, there are a surprising amount of offscreen kills in Friday the 13th.  Like I said, Ned just disappears, but the reveal of his throat slashed body ties into the best kill in the movie, the arrow scene with Jack (Kevin Bacon), so I'll allow it.  Also, Bill dies offscreen, but when his body is found it is an awful bloody mess (still not sure how he's stuck to that door, though), so it's also allowable.

The one I have the biggest problem with is Brenda.  She is perfectly set up for an onscreen kill down at the rainy archery range all lit up with floodlights, but all you get is an offscreen scream, and since you know she's dead it is not as big a surprise as it should be when her body comes crashing through the window later, freaking Annie out.  The other offscreen kills make sense to me, Brenda's does not.

As for the kills that DO happen onscreen (provided by legend-in-the-making Tom Savini), well like I said, the arrow scene with Kevin Bacon is the standout, but you also got to give it up for the decapitation scene at the end.  Good job there, guys.

And of course, there's the shock ending with Jason popping up. . . massively effective and a perfect way to end the movie.  It totally works.  Friday the 13th didn't introduce the shock ending to the horror film (that would be Carrie in 1976), but it definitely popularized it.  The most important thing this ending did though, was open the door for sequels. . .

Check out the original theatrical trailer.
It's number counting fun!

Gotta mention the score by Harry Manfredini, with its iconic "ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma" sounds, as another in a long line of horror scores that are indebted to Bernard Herrmann's classic work on Psycho (1960).

Other things:

Give it up for Steve Christy and his yellow raincoat!  I also love his no shirt/jean shorts/red neckerchief outfit he has earlier in the movie.  Steve Christy!

As you've heard, Kevin Bacon is in this movie.  Here's a shot of Kevin's bacon.
Whoa jeez!

Officer Dorf!
And finally, you got to give it up for the original Friday Final Girl, Annie, played by Adrienne King.  GO ANNIE!