Monthly Archives: May 2012

Absentia

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Absentia

I had a million of them. You know, he was an NSA agent, couldn’t tell me his living to keep me safe. But then his cover got blown and so he had to go underground…

Absentia is a low budget horror movie. Yeah, the effects weren’t great and the camera work was a bit shaky sometimes, but all in all, I enjoyed it.

Tricia is 7 months pregnant and her husband Daniel has been missing for 7 years. She lives in the same house, situated near a pedestrian tunnel. There are an awful lot of missing pet and people posters around her neighbourhood, something you notice peripherally. Her wild younger sister, Callie, comes to stay with her while Tricia is getting the paperwork finalized to have Daniel declared legally dead in absentia. Tricia begins to have some creepy hallucinations of Daniel. And I mean creepy.  There is the first scene when Daniel appears, Tricia wakes up randomly in the night and follows a disheveled looking man down the stairs to the living room. His back is to her. She reaches out to touch him, and looks up at his face. It’s Daniel, a zombie looking Daniel. She screams and backs away, only to be grabbed from behind by dead Daniel. Tricia wakes up. She begins to see what looks like a dead Daniel randomly, sometimes even just his head. He seems to be screaming silently at her or whispering things I can’t quite make out, but sound like ‘I won’t let you have this baby’ or ‘You’re going to die today.’ Once, in what she thinks is a dream, he holds her down in bed and thrusts in arm through her stomach. Tricia’s therapist thinks that she feels guilty for declaring him legally dead, and, subconsciously, she’s having trouble letting go of Daniel, so she’ s conjuring up lucid dreams of him. The movie never outright names the father of Tricia’s baby (clearly NOT Daniel), but it’s heavily implied to be the detective, Ryan, assigned to Daniel’s missing persons case.

While Tricia is having her mental problems, Callie turns out to be a maybe reformed drug addict. Callie goes jogging through the pedestrian tunnel when she encounters an emaciated and ragged man lying on the ground in the tunnel (Doug Jones cameo, he’s awesome!). He whispers ‘You can see me!’ and something about ‘it’ sleeping and other garbled nonsense. As a former junkie, Callie feels sorry for him and promises to come back with food. He yells at her that his name is Walter, and to please tell his son Jamie… But Callie runs off before she can hear the message. That night, Callie brings some food to the tunnel for Walter, but he’s not there. She leaves the food at the entrance and leaves. The next day, Callie finds a bunch of assorted keys and metal things on her doorstep. She gathers them up and places them at the pedestrian tunnel entrance. A strange looking man comes by and tells her not to leave those there. He himself deposits a black garbage at the entrance and leaves. That night, Callie finds the metal things in her bed.

Meanwhile, having finally received the death certificate for Daniel, Tricia, with Callie’s full support, decides to move on with her life. She finds a new apartment and asks Ryan out on a date.

But that night, Daniel returns. The flesh and blood Daniel. The recently declared dead Daniel staggers up to his house from the direction of the tunnel, still wearing the same clothes as when he disappeared and even with his wallet in his pocket. The police try to interrogate him but Daniel is confused and nonsensical. He’s been deprived of sunlight for a while and had recently been fed as there are animal bones in his stomach, but the police, Ryan in particular, are highly suspicious. When the sisters take Daniel back to the house, he gets out of the car and notices the tunnel. He immediately wets himself in fear. Ryan calls Tricia and asks to talk to her that night. Tricia goes out to his car to talk to him, and leaves Daniel and Callie together in the house. Callie has taken some sort of drugs (secretly) and is high. When she sort of comes to, she sees Daniel sitting on her bed, reading the Three Billy Goats Gruff. He looks terrified and whispers ‘That’s not what it looks like though…’ and something about ‘them’ being more insect like and scaly. He can also hear them in the bedroom wall. Suddenly, they hear a strange crackly noise and a black something with lots of legs scuttles past the bedroom door.

Like I said, it’s an enjoyable movie. Short, at about an hour and a half, but it ended when it should have. Start was a bit slow, but not too noticeable. I really liked the interactions between the sisters. The slightly awkward atmosphere at the beginning was perfect, exactly what would happen between 2 siblings that haven’t seen each other in a while and are not sure what to talk about or which giant elephant in the room to confront first (Tricia’s pregnancy or Callie’s supposed clean slate). They play off each other very well and I think the actors were good and believable. Perhaps the detective Ryan could have been a bit more, I don’t know, INVOLVED, but everyone was good. There are also some good jump scenes with zombie Daniel. I really liked the scenes where the characters are musing about ‘what could have happeneds.’ Like when Tricia is musing about what really happened to Daniel (secret NSA agent, amnesia, etc) and there’s quick cut outs to the possible scenario. The ones at the end are really good, an attempt by people to rationalize and fit into reality what seems impossible. It didn’t happen often, but sometimes the camera shakes or sort of slides inexplicably off to the side before righting itself. And there’s something about the lighting that just feels off.

Spoilers: yeah, the zombie Daniel was all in Tricia’s mind. But what she didn’t know, and Callie figures out, is that there is some kind of parallel underworld dimension under their feet where insectoid beings kidnap humans for labour and spit them out in the tunnel when the slaves are used up. There appear to be big insects and little insects. The big ones get to go grab people while the little ones are the slave masters. If you listen carefully and are permitted by the insects, you can hear the screams of their slaves in the tunnel. I think the guy with the black bags was attempting to keep his father (insect slave) fed and maybe work his way up to a trade. They definitely work on a barter system. Callie’s attempt to sacrifice herself in trade for the kidnapped Tricia is heartbreaking, because she knows what she’s in for and has no idea if it’ll work, but she tries anyways. And she doesn’t get what she expected in return, but the creatures still want the bargain to be upheld. Even insect beings need everything spelled out in explicit detail in a bargain. Also, I think what happens is that they take it back when she tries to bolt.

Good overall and I wish it got more coverage than it did. I only stumbled upon it through a trailer for something else on YouTube. I kinda want to see the insect underworld, but that definitely wasn’t in their budget. And I knew I hated underground pedestrian bridges for a reason.

3 toffee squares out of 5.

Outpost: Black Sun

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Outpost: Black Sun

Hey! Shoot him and you’ll never know!

That’s a fair point… Hall, take one of HER eyes. Heart is fine.

This is a sequel to one of my absolute favourite horror movies of all time, Outpost. Having said that, Outpost: Black Sun is completely different from its predecessor.

YES, the Nazi zombie ghosts are back in this one. But, it’s different. While the first was a pure horror film, with the most lovely tense and terrifying scenes, filled with actors who, to me, felt like the real deal, this is not. It doesn’t have the same feel, and I suppose I will explain that in some long winded way. I believe this is set immediately after the first movie.

It starts out in what looks like a retirement residence. There, a smiling young woman introduces herself to an older gentleman as his niece. He smiles, takes her hand and she proceeds to break his fingers. Lena is continuing her father’s hunt for Nazis who escaped justice, specifically the ones who destroyed his family. The old man is one of the ones Lena is looking for. She is looking for others, such as one man with a birthmark that she calls Klausener, but the old man dies before he can give up any locations. Before he dies, he does the typical mocking of ‘you don’t know, do you?’I suppose that is supposed to be ominous. Lena goes through his papers and steals an interesting ring. The signet ring opens up and is clearly some kind of key. Also, this is one bad actress. She seems to be unable to exude menace, which she was trying to do while attempting to intimidate the Nazi. Staring at someone with your lips pursed does not make you scary. You just look like a kid throwing a tantrum.

Then the movie cuts to an old house with a very old man, implied to be the one Lena is looking for (he has the same birthmark as the one in picture she has of Nazis on her list). He and his team and watching a live feed. Some soldiers are going into a house. The house is covered in blood inside and there don’t appear to be any survivors, when one of the Nazi zombie ghosts pops up out of nowhere and starts a-stabbing. Then we’re back to the boring Lena, now somewhere in Eastern Europe. She ends up at the exact bar the first mercenaries were recruited from. She’s looking for the scientist the mercenaries were with since she thinks he can lead her to the Nazi with the birthmark, Klausener. There’s a guy, Wallace, that she knows there. He happens to have a video of the feed Klausener and his team had been watching. The Nazi leader from the first movie is clearly visible. Wallace also has some pictures to prove it’s the same Nazi and that he’s a Nazi zombie ghost. Lena does not seem shocked, surprised, ANYTHING that most people would be when confronted with visible proof of zombies or ghosts. She’s just goes ‘okay, cool, now how about that guy I’m after?’ Wallace shows her some maps. Turns out, the machine that made Nazi zombie ghosts (damn, I love that term!) didn’t get shut off after the first movie. In fact, the field is expanding beyond its original borders and beginning to encroach on villages and towns, hence the house in the live feed. The field is growing exponentially and has created an electromagnetic field, an electricity dead zone. Lena, STILL, just wants to find the last Nazi on her list and insists on going with Wallace into the dead zone.

The army is trying to evacuate civilians in the zone, ostensibly due to ‘illegal chemical weapons.’ Wallace and Lena go off together since he has some contacts within the field who can take them to the original bunker and hopefully he can shut off the machine. They find his contacts, who are in the middle of a losing fight with the NAZI ZOMBIE GHOSTS. Wallace and Lena make it out alive and discover a small team of dead soldiers nearby with a portable EMP. He thinks that the army is trying to get close to the bunker and use EMP generators to fry the machine.

The two hide out in a house, likely the one in the live feed, where a Nazi zombie ghost comes after Lena. The two run out and are saved by a small group of soldiers. The soldiers had to sacrifice their own portable EMP generator to save the two and some of the soldiers were killed. The EMP disables the Nazi zombie ghosts for a short time and stops their invulnerability. The soldiers are angry at the two because now their mission to destroy the machine is over. No EMP, no way to stop the machine. They discover Wallace is an expert of sorts in the types of energy the machine produces, so they force him to come along, leaving Lena behind.  So of course, after the seeing the Nazi zombie ghosts first hand, witnessing them get shot without any kind of consequences, does she run? Oh no, she follows Wallace and the soldiers.

She does manage to save the group when they’re in a school by pointing out the Nazi zombie ghosts they didn’t see. She witnesses the Nazi zombie ghosts injecting a local man with some kind of black gunk in a needle. The man spews black liquid from his eyes, nose and mouth before convulsing and dying. The Nazi zombie ghost leader hits the dead man in disgust and he leaves with his monsters. The audience also finds out that if the soldier groups do not disable the machine by a specified time, then HQ is going to nuke the bunker site. The group makes it to the bunker. The machine is gone. But this is definitely ground zero, so where the heck is it?

That’s the first hour. The next 40 minutes are trying to find the machine and figuring it out. This is more of an action movie than the first one. I had to watch it a couple of times to try to divorce it from the first one in my mind. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I loved Outpost so much and the actors in it were so damn believable, that this one just falls short and the actors in this seem pretty terrible. They are just not as convincing. I mean, come ON! Show some believable emotion! You just found out that zombie ghosts exist, they’re chasing you, there’s a machine that makes them, that machine has disappeared, you’re in ground zero and all you can worry about is the old Nazi you’re looking for?? Stop harping about Klausener. YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER. This is NOT the time to worry about him. If you make it through this, yeah, by all means, kill that bastard slowly, but first, YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT THROUGH THIS.

There’s also a weird female Nazi zombie ghost who is introduced relatively late. She walks around with a couple of monster escorts, has an unpleasant high pitched shrieking laugh, and carries around a black gunk filled needle, ready to inject any hapless people. She is annoying and I don’t really know why she’s there. She wasn’t in the first movie for which I’m glad, because she’s annoying and may be an attempt at some kind of humour.

Spoilers: turns out the scientist in the first movie didn’t die. The Nazi zombie ghosts forced him to expand the machine’s power and rigged him up to it somehow. I’m terribly confused by this, because he also seems to be able to randomly shoot lighting from his body that can disable the Nazi zombie ghosts or just because he likes the pretty lights. He also enjoys talking in the third person. The movie also never really explains the black gunk. Lena and the others do find another room filled with bodies (like the shower room in the first one), but some are alive (for real this time) and they are all local people of this time. I think the injection is the one the Nazis received originally that transformed them. But, not everyone survives the process (hence the disgust when the local man in the school dies). Anyone who does survive the gunk, gets carted back to the bunker to bask in the machine’s field and hopefully come back zombie ghostified, although why they would be loyal to the Nazi zombie ghosts who did this to them is something I don’t get.

I’m just not feeling it. It’s a not too bad action/thriller movie. It’s just rather forgettable. I don’t think it’s a horror movie, just mainly an action/thriller type with some horror elements. The acting is subpar except for some of the soldiers. Sure, there’s lots of blood and action and guns, but I don’t know. I just think I expected something more. I don’t know what that is exactly, but this movie just felt like it was missing something. The end sets up a third movie, so maybe if I don’t watch the first movie for a while I can attempt to enjoy the second and third one on their own merit.

2.5 tiramisu slices out of 5

The Cabin in the Woods

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The Cabin in the Woods

But, but, I’m not a virgin…
…We work with what we’ve got.

Wow. If you haven’t seen this movie, then don’t keep reading. This is definitely one of those movies where it’s way better to not know anything about it other than 5 seemingly typical college kids go for a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods…

It reminds me of the Cube mixed up with the Evil Dead.

Now, STOP READING if you haven’t seen it yet. Spoilers galore ahead!

SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!

So yes, there are 5 college kids heading out to a cabin. They are Dana (the sweet girl), Curt (Chris Hemsworth, he looks so young!), the newly blonde Jules (Curt’s girlfriend and best friend of Dana), Marty the stoner (Seriously awesome) and Holden (friend of Curt, brought along to matchmake with Dana).

But the movie doesn’t begin with them. It begins in what looks like an office building. There Richard and Steve, two guys in ubiquitous office worker gear (white button up, black tie and pants), are talking innocuous office talk. A woman talks to them, she’s worried about their operation failing when others around the world have. The men reassure her that everything will be fine and that Japan is also beginning their operation as well and they have a perfect success rate.

This is when it cuts to the students, preparing for their trip. They arrive at a backwoods gas station where the creepy owner insults them. The owner seems to be working for the office guys. He is later involved in a hilarious speaker phone exchange with the office guys. Very awesome scene, one of the funniest.

The kids’ RV goes into a tunnel, set into the side of huge rock cliffs with a deep gorge below. You see a bird of prey flying past the tunnel entrance and suddenly hit an invisible force field. The kids arrive at the cabin and suddenly the office workers come alive and begin their operation. It’s at this point that it’s quite obvious the office people are up to something involving the kids and the cabin. When Dana and Holden trade rooms, the office ‘changes scenarios.’ The office people, of which there are many, suddenly begin taking bets. What they are betting on isn’t revealed right away. When the kids are drinking in front of the cabin fireplace, a trap door swings up suddenly, revealing a cellar. The cellar is filled with a bunch of crap and the office workers, watching everything happening on huge TV screens, hush.

The kids look at the stuff, and you feel suddenly tense. Something is up. Jules picks up a beautiful necklace and starts to put it on. Holden plays with a ballerina in a jewel box. Curt, almost blows on a conch shell, but to Steve’s consternation, he puts it down and picks up what looks like a Faberge egg with metal discs sticking out. Marty is wandering off, looking at film reels. Everyone puts their respective items down when Dana calls out that she’s found a diary and is reading it. It details a murderous family. She runs into a Latin inscription, and despite Marty urging her not to read it, she does. The office workers groan, except for 2 groups (maintenance and the Intern) who have won the bet. The winner? Zombie Redneck Torture Family. The office workers are running the ‘show’ and were taking bets on who would kill the students.

It is revealed through casual office talk that they have been manipulating the students all along. Something has been put into Jules’ hair dye, lowering her inhibitions. When Jules and Curt (acting oddly ‘Alpha Male’ in Marty’s words) go outside to have sex, the office workers release pheromone gases and manipulate lighting in the forest. Marty speculates that there is something strange going on, and that the couple are not acting like themselves and he thinks they are all puppets. He has also been high the entire movie so far, so he’s not taken seriously. The Redneck Family dig their way out of the ground: they are zombies. They attack Jules and Curt, killing Jules. In the complex, the office workers pray to the old gods (!) and pull a lever. The lever reveals some kind of chalice being filled with blood and a stone outline of a woman, with the outline grooves also filling with blood.

Curt runs back to the cabin and the zombies toss Jules’ head into the house. The kids barricade the doors and decide NOT to split up because that would be bad. As they head in a tight group to the bedrooms, the office workers release gas into the hallway. Curt suddenly decides it IS good idea to split up because they can get more done that way. The group agrees and as the zombies break in, the kids run into separate rooms. The office workers lock the doors behind them. Marty discovers a hidden camera in a lamp and realizes that he’s on a ‘reality show’ and someone has been pulling strings. He is dragged out by a zombie and the two fall into a hole. Another lever, and an outline of a dancing man filling with blood.

The three left (Dana, Curt and Holden) manage to get out of the house and make it to the RV. They drive towards the tunnel. The office workers realize that the tunnel was supposed to have collapsed, but didn’t due to a glitch. The kids are almost through the tunnel when the office fixes the glitch and the tunnel entrance explodes in front of the kids, forcing them to go back. Holden judges the distance of the gorge to be beatable, and Curt on a dirt bike (I think that’s what it is) attempts to make the jump, promising to bring back help. He probably would have made it, but he hits the invisible force field and falls down into the gorge. An outline of a man with a spear fills with blood. Dana realizes that Marty was right: someone is controlling events and they can’t leave. Holden, in a desperate attempt to escape, drives the RV down towards the cabin’s lake, hoping to leave through the woods. A zombie hiding in the RV kills him and the RV plunges into the lake. An outline of another man is shown, the grooves filling with blood. Dana manages to get out of the sinking RV and swims to a dock. Suddenly the office complex breaks out in celebration. Champagne, music, beer, food for all! The ritual is complete!

The cameras are still rolling though, and the TVs show Dana being brutally beaten by a zombie as the office workers celebrate. Someone asks why Dana is still alive. They are told that it doesn’t matter if the virgin lives or dies, as long as she suffers. Her death is a bonus. Also, since the Japanese ritual failed (really, how hard is it to kill some 9 year olds?), the US ritual had to succeed.

A phone ringing cuts through the happy noise. It is The Director. The ritual is NOT complete. Someone else is alive…

And I’m not going to tell you what happens next. You should have seen the movie by now! Suffice to say, the whole ‘operation’ is going down because ritual sacrifices need to happen to keep the old gods from returning and destroying everything. The beginning credits had lots of human sacrifice imagery and it makes sense as the movie goes on. I was disappointed I didn’t get to see Cthulhu, but a friend pointed out that he was probably the Japanese old god.

I liked it. As I said, it was a combination of the Cube series and the Evil Dead. There are some awesome cameos (The Director!) and, as a Buffy fan, I loved seeing familiar Buffy faces. I really like the explanation, to me, of why so many horror movies are so generic. There is someone behind the scenes, pulling the strings, making people act out of character. And the scenes in the complex are pretty damn awesome and cool. I loved seeing all the monsters, especially the enormous snake and what looked like a evil boy band. I also absolutely loved the curio cabinet of horrors. Definitely going to see it again, I’m sure there are some things I missed, especially since it’s a Joss Whedon work! This is worth the hype and I’m sorry it didn’t come out sooner so I could have the DVD already!

5 strawberry custard tarts of out 5.