Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Video Nasty #41 : Don't Go In The Woods

Synopsis: Two teenage couples are hiking through a beautiful wooded mountain range whilst, unbeknownst to them, everyone within a five mile radius are being killed in horrible and contrived ways by a grizzly survivalist. When the mad man finally catches up with our heros they must fight for their lives.

If I was pushed to say something positive about Dont' Go In The Woods, it's this backhanded compliment - like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, it's proof that you can't boil a genre down to its basic components, repeat them ad-nauseum and expect to make a good film. The director of DGITW decided that as long as a slasher flick had as many ludicrous and violent deaths as possible it was a guaranteed hit. This film has 13 deaths, all evenly spread across a short running time of 82 minutes (that's one death every 7 minutes, maths fans). And yet, like Michael Bay's literally action-packed Transformers movie, it's just a shallow, boring mess. It has taken me a 4 weeks to get through this movie. And during that time I had a week off work.

Not that the deaths aren't fun, in isolation. The Crazy Frog was mildly amusing the first time you heard it, right? Bear Traps are an underused if slightly preposterous weapon (the exception being Andy Nyman's brilliant amputation in Severance), and nothing is more preposterous than seeing a bear trap very slowly swinging from a tree towards a redshirt so terrified he can do nothing but keep his head perfectly still and aligned with the oncoming jaws. Whilst our killer isn't setting up ridiculous traps he keeps himself busy, be it rolling an inhabited VW campervan down a hill (which inexplicably explodes), hanging an inhabited tent from a tree and beating it like a blood filled Piñata, throwing an elderly lady off a cliff, or in my favourite scene, decapitating a man who's sitting in a wheel chair admiring the sunset. The fact that we've previously watched this victim struggle to ascend the hill against all odds only adds to the tragic humour.

What are ostensibly the main characters are lost in the murder mélange; it's difficult to connect with any character when most are slaughtered mere minutes after their introduction. Once i'd figured out who the main characters were (i.e. the ones that weren't dead yet), it was really hard to care, especially as they were particularly dumb. Running away from a ruthless serial killer with super-human strength? Why not light a big fire and have a kip or, even better, take shelter in the murderer's corpse filled nutty room. The killer himself is similarly underwritten. Normally the monster being ruthless without an explanation or motive can make them even more terrifying, but when some beardy local suddenly starts killing sort of explanation would be useful. Instead, all we get is a a man wailing his way around a forest looking like a klingon obsessive who finally flipped because he didn't get in line early enough to see the Star Trek panel at Comicon.

The final word on the film should really go to film2000, the movie's UK distributor. I'm not saying they haven't watched the film, but it's telling that the back-cover has the synopsis and endorsements for a completely different film ('Creepier than the Blair Witch Project'). The annoying thing is, that mis-googled film, In the Woods, actually sounds far more entertaining than this cack.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

2010 Memory Dump

This is my annual memory dump to free up more space for film trivia and remembering all the special moves in Dead Rising 2.

Last year I made two new years resolutions. The first was to revisit my nemesis after a ten year absence.

I didn't get on with my dentist when I was growing up. I had countless fillings and a lot of teeth pulled to make way for braces. The bastard even tried to fit head work at one point, something my parent's thankfully decided wasn't worth the years of abuse and difficultly getting past airport security. It was, of course, all my fault. Like most kids i'd only really brush my teeth properly the morning before a check-up, vainly hoping a ten minute brush would somehow restore the enamel i'd steadily destroyed with chomps and ice poles. If i'd had a pressure washer then, I probably would of tried it on my teeth before an appointment. So, despite the empty nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach I booked a checkup and vainly hoped for some masochistic epiphany, like the Bill Murray character in Little Shop of Horrors.

The day came and ... everything was fine. No teeth to pull, no fillings to fill and more importantly, no me channeling my 10 year old self, quivering and trying to make sad eyes at the dentist to convince him that my rotten teeth really will be fine if we just leave it be and I brush extra hard that night. Walking out of the dentist that morning was the most elated i'd felt that year. When I was a kid I always prayed to some higher power that if my upcoming dentist appointment was fine, i'd start brushing properly. I didn't pray this time and everything worked fine, once again proving that if god does exist, he/she is a sadistic jerk.

The second resolution was my public commitment to watch and review every one of the so-called video nasties. Watching 72 films in a year seemed like a reasonable commitment, after all that's only 140 hours worth. To put it in to more understandable terms, that's the same as watching 56 weeks of Hollyoaks every weeknight, which i've shamefully achieved many years previous. What I didn't count on was how long it would take to review each film, after all there's only so many ways one can elegantly discuss another shitty cannibal film. Furthermore, I spent a few months of spring using my spare time to prepare for a new job, something which seemed slightly more important. Nethertheless, I think my writing is improving as a consequence, and my ultimate aim of watching all 72 will have to be a resolution roll-over.

The activity has led to some nice off-the-list discoveries, which I guess was always the intention. The best film I saw this year, Dario Argent's Susperia, was due to watching its listed sequel Inferno and a half-remembered quote from Juno. I aso dragged Jen along to Day of the Undead, a zombie film festival at Leicester's brilliant Phoenix Square cinema. Watching The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue in a packed screening was my favourite cinematic experience of the year (soon followed by an all-time low, paying to watch a Danny Dyer zombie flick).

We discovered the newly built Phoenix Square as it was the venue for BUG, a music video showcase presented by Adam Buxton earlier in the year (here I discovered one of my favourite songs of the year, Ready Able by Grizzly Bear. As usual, I was late to the party as the song was released in 2009). There weren't many other gigs. We saw Midlake at the tiny Musician in Leicester, a band who really deserve to be on a bigger stage, despite their new album being a slight retreat from the mainstream promise of Vanoccupanther. LCD Sound System were hypnotic under the giant disco ball at Birmingham's O2 Academy, regardless of the disappointing new album. Flight of the Conchords were better than expected at the NIA, despite being just two guys with guitars in what Damon Albarn referred to as a 'giant cow shed'. Gig of the year was Gorillaz at the same crappy venue, the huge eclectic revolving (not literally) band proving that Albarn really is a bit of a genius. The only comedy we saw was Dan Antapowlski in less than desirable circumstances, one of an audience of 15 in a 200 seater venue. Somehow I was the only one he didn't talk to. Must be my permanent scowl. The best (and only) theatre production I saw this year was the initial run of Ghost Stories at Shepards Bush Lyric Theatre, a tense fingernails-in-the-legs production that's the closest i'll ever come to seeing a live horror film.

Music has been a bit odd this year, thanks to the brilliance of Spotify and its endless supply of randomness. Stand out albums i've stumbled upon have to be Becoming a Jackal by Villagers (should of won the mercury), Odd Blood by Yeasayer (mainly for the singles), the aforementioned Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear, the eponymous album by The Invisible (little heard, what I'd imagine a good prince album sounds like), Plastic Beach by Gorillaz (as interesting and cohesive as Demon Days), Man Alive by Everything Everything, Forgiveness Rock Record by Broken Social Scene (The first 'side' is amazing), Tones of Town by Field Music and  everything by Laura Marling, Laura Veirs and The National, especially Boxer.

The summer weather was great, and to make the most of it I spent five weeks procrastinating the construction of a white pebbly path in the garden. It looks nice, but I didn't realise i'd have to spend twenty minutes every week cleaning it by hand due to a solitary ant making the brilliant white stone look messy. Pipe dreams of sustainability didn't progress much from the non-stop courgette supply of last year, except we managed to grow 10 strawberries and due to bad planning a 3 month supply of lettuce was ready to eat in one week.

There were two weddings this summer, first my sister Kim married Sam, which I blogged about here. Later in the summer Ben, my three year flatmate at university, married Hayley. Ben's wedding was the closest i'll ever come to inhabiting a Richard Curtis version of England. And I mean that in a good way, i'm not saying there was an overwhelming amount of smug self-indulgent overlong schmaltz. Instead, it was truly picturesque and evoked all that is beautiful about England; be it the church next to the rolling cornish sea, the speechs at Morwenstow's 13th century tearooms or the garden party in Ben's parents' village (above).

Our main holiday this year was to Madrid, which for reasons that weren't Mardrid's fault, was a bit of a nightmare. Never have I been that close to booking a plane home early. I won't forget why, so no need to write it here. Madrid itself is an understated city that really comes to life at night. Unfortunately I think i'm past the days of staying up till the sun rises with tapas and the mint floating around in Mojitos my only sustenance. The Mojitos were brilliant though. We also took some random weekend breaks, one to a beautiful cottage in Dorset and another to Cardiff, mainly because we'd never been to Wales before.

And as the year starts, so it ends - complete travel chaos caused by the white fluffy stuff. In January the snow and my weak bladder was a good excuse for causing a minor car accident. Unfortunately I had no such excuse when I had a minor collision with a Motorbike in November. This year was the first white Christmas in memory, and yet this mythical event was just the sweet icing on an spoilt christmas cake - Jen was ill from Christmas Eve to New Years day, and on Christmas Day my Grandfather passed away. Yet despite this, there was still much to be thankful for. Jen and I are as happy as ever, I got some awesome presents, and on Boxing Day we had some quality time with my Brother, psuedo Brother, Sister, Mum, Dad and Nan. Which after years of tense Christmases, was joy.