High Tension and The Changeling

This week’s search for Halloween merriment had me watching two very different horror films (or 2.5 different films, you’ll see what I mean). Here is the part where I review both High Tension and The Changeling.

HIGH TENSION

Wow.  Where to begin?  I’d call this an ugly movie, but it seems like such an insult to all the ugly movies out there.  This is a French movie from a few years ago.  The director went on to helm the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, which I can only assume is just as brutal as this.

I’d describe the plot to you, but there isn’t one, just a series of things that… happen.  The film begins with a two friends, Marie and Alexia (I had to look those up, by the way), who are going to visit Alexia’s family.  Little do they know that a psychopath who drives a scary truck and likes to fuck severed heads is in in the area, as well.  The rest of the movie goes like this…

Marie masturbates…
Truck driver kills people…
Horrible plot twist…
The End.

Seriously.  That’s what happens.

I should discuss the plot twist.  A lot of people thought the twist in The Village was crap, but this tops it without even trying.  Why?  Because it completely invalidates the previous hour and fifteen minutes of the movie.  Here, I’ll throw in a spoiler warning.

SPOI–Marie has multiple personalities and is the killer!!!!–NING

Maybe they thought it was edgy or something.  It creates a few problems in the movie, however, such as…

How on Earth did Marie arrive with Alexia, then drive up a truck full of killing implements?
How did Marie have a car chase with herself?
In two different cars?
How did the gas station attendant seem to not know Marie, but know her other personality who walked into the store two minutes later while Marie ran and hid in the back of the store?!

Run away from this movie.  For the sake of all that is Holy and Good, run the fuck away!

THE CHANGELING

Released in 1980, The Changeling stars George C Scott as a widowed composer who takes a teaching job in a new location.  He ends up renting a mansion from the historical society, finds it to be haunted, then slowly learns that something nasty, something reaching all the way into the upper branches of business and government, happened there.

This is really two movies in one, with the first being a haunted house story, and the latter half being a mystery/conspiracy flick.  The horror aspect is great, probably one of the best ghost stories ever filmed.  The house and its foibles are downright terrifying.  The mystery half is a little weaker, mostly because Scott seems to decide he can ignore the obviously haunted house because, dammit, there’s a mystery to be solved.  He’s kind of like an older version of Fred from the Scooby Gang.

I would actually label Scott’s acting one of the film’s weaknesses.  The man simply refuses to act frightened.  When he spies a dead child in a bathtub that’s somehow managed to fill itself, he literally takes three steps backward and cocks an eyebrow.  You almost want to dub a Keanu “Whoa!” over it just to get some pathos.  Later, when a seance is held (one of the films scarier moments), Scott just sits there like a statue.  He does the same thing when he plays back a tape of the seance and hears a ghostly voice, or when the ball he just threw in the river comes bouncing down the stairs.  You half-expect him to suddenly say “Jesus Christ, I’m stoned!”  At least that would explain his behavior.

All in all, though, The Chageling is a fine film, one of the best horror/thrillers from the 80’s.  Check it out at once!

The Studio 60 Problem

Well, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip lost just shy of another half-million viewers this week.  Not terribly surprising, I’m afraid.  I doubt we’ll see a full pick-up on this show.  Not entirely sure we’ll see more than the initial order.  Wonder how big that was…

I was discussing Studio 60 with Shawna last night, and I really think she hit the nail on the head with her summation of why the show’s audience is all but running away.  With a simple shrug, she said “The show’s not about anything.”

And she’s right.

Studio 60 truly is incredibly written.  It might be the best writing on television today.  The only problem is that there’s no plot, no throughline.  There’s just a bunch of great dialogue zipping around.  I enjoy the hell out of it because I’m a writer (Shawna clued me in on this one, too), but I can’t see why the general viewing audience would.  Hell, even stand-up comics tell stories.  This is why I still can’t figure out how Seinfeld gained an audience.  They couldn’t figure it out, either, so they made it part of their charm.

But Studio 60 is pretending to have a plot, or at least trying to trick others into thinking there is one.  Last night, they shoved the episode inciting incident roughly forty minutes into the show, and while I enjoyed the those first forty minutes (Hey! It’s Lucy Davis!), I can’t see how most others would.

If I were to sum up, I guess I’d have to say that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, though very well written, just isn’t a very good show.

The October Solution

Odds are, I’ve already documented my love of October.  I guess most of my love comes from Halloween, whic was always my favorite holiday.  A lot of it just comes from the season, though, the way the world darkens and grows the slightest bit creepy and strange.

Every year, I celebrate October by watching horror movies, at least one a week, culminating in the Halloween night double feature of April Fool’s Day and Dawn of the Dead.  I thought it would be fun to share with you a list of the movies I’ve already viewed, and those I plan to view in the coming weeks.

ALREADY VIEWED

Hard Candy (Incredible!)
The Howling (Cheesy Fun)

UPCOMING

The Devil’s Backbone
Halloween I & II
The Thing (Carpenter’s)
Night of the Living Dead (may pick up the Savini version and watch both!)
The Ring (American, which I like better because I suck)
Burnt Offerings
The Changeling
The Evil Dead

So, there you have it.  Enjoy your October!

Kibbles and News Bits, and Time for a Change

Waiting for a contract on something I’m pretty excited about.  Should arrive sometime this week.  Once it’s signed and such, you’ll be hearing more.  This is a fun one.

My short story “The House on Toledo Street” will be reprinted tomorrow on Horror-Web.com as part of their October festivities.  If you missed this one when it was in Wicked Karnival, check it out now for the low, low price of zero!

There’s something coming in the mail, something I can’t wait to show you all.

And now, a most important announcement…

I need to make a few changes.  I know this.  I’ve been realizing it for some time.  I’m a few months shy of thirty.  And no, this isn’t a midlife crisis or anything like that.  No, it just so happens that I’m also thirty pounds overweight.  It also happens that I can’t remember the last time I went thirty days without getting utterly hammered.  Hell, I can’t remember the last time I went five days.  A few years ago, I used to buy a liter of Knob Creek or Maker’s Mark, and it would last me a few weeks.  Now, I buy a $6 liter of Skol vodka, and it lasts me a little more than a day.  Damn, that’s pathetic.  This really needs to change.  And it’s going to.  I’m not stupid enough to live the rest of my life like this, a doughy, drunken asshole.

Sorry to air this in public, but I deserve it.