/slash 2016 – Day 3: Spring Break Zombie Massacre

spring-break-zombie-massacreSpring Break Zombie Massacre
USA 2016
Written by Sam Suchmann & Mattie Zufelt
Directed by Robert Carnevale
Watched on 25.09.2016

It is really difficult for me to write about this movie, since there’s such a strong disparity between what I think about the idea behind it, and the result. I absolutely love the fact that these two guys with Down’s syndrome wrote and starred in this movie, and thus got the opportunity to live their dream, both behind and in front of the camera. I very much hope they’ll be able to continue to do so, and that this experience helped them feel more like a part of a society that unfortunately so often marginalizes them. Unfortunately, the fact that I loved the story behind the movie doesn’t necessarily mean that I also enjoyed the movie in its own right.

“Spring Break Zombie Massacre” goes on for just 45 minutes, and weirdly enough, it felt both too long and too short. Too long because after a while, the whole zombie, demons and devil-business got a little tiresome, and too short because we’re thrown into the proceedings without hardly getting to know any of the characters. There are also a couple of really weird choices, like having this zombie apocalypse take place over the course of many months, with life seemingly mostly uninterrupted. That was very strange. And of course, the way how Sam and Mattie portray woman is not ok – even though it’s very telling of the kind of society we live in. As much as I can understand their desire to be desired, I found that to be rather sad and tragic. Also, the movie is a little uneven, and also quite erratic at times. And the showdown was a little too weird for my taste. However, given the fact how much I appreciate that those two had a chance to make this movie – put in plain terms: They have just as much right to make bad movies with sexist undertones as the next guy – I have a hard time slamming it completely, even though I personally didn’t have much use for it. Thus, even though for me, it’s more of an oddity than a successful experiment in its own right, I very much recommend you watching it, even though it’s more to support the idea behind the movie, than the movie itself.


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/slash 2016 – Day 3: Hentai Kamen – The Abnormal Crisis

hentai-kamen-the-abnormal-crisisHentai Kamen: The Abnormal Crisis
Japan 2016
Written by Yûichi Fukuda
Directed by Yûichi Fukuda
Watched on 24.09.2016

In my review of the first one, I stated my hope that they will come up with some fresh ideas for the sequel, since I already felt the first one a little lacking in that department, with the same gags repeated over and over again, making it a little stale after a while. Fortunately, that is exactly what they did, which is why overall, I had even more fun with “The Abnormal Crisis” than with the first one.

Like with its predecessor, as a huge fan of superhero movies, my favorite parts where the ones where they straight-out parodied “Spider-Man 2”. Take the credits sequence, for example, that features drawings of the first one that, together with Kyosuke’s narration, recount the events of the first one. Sounds familiar? There are many more allusions to Sam Raimi’s second Spider-Man film, however, I really don’t want to give any of them away. Let’s just say, if you recall said movie really well, quite a few scenes should feel familiar. Those parodistic elements, for me, get even better by the fact how absurd and far out the “Hentai Kamen”-movies are. The Spider-Man films are as mainstream, inoffensive and family friendly as they can get, while this is… not (even though I guess that depends on the family). Which, to me, made it all the more hilarious. But even apart from that, there again is a lot to enjoy about “The Abnormal Crisis”. The basic idea works quite well even the second time around, which is mostly due to the fact that they really came up with a lot of new ideas, new movies for Hentai Kamen, new opponents, et cetera, which made this one a lot more rich in variety, and thus entertaining. Also, the plot twist this time around worked way better than in the first one. I also enjoyed that, unlike the first one, Aiko gets a little bit to do, instead of just being a simple damsel in distress. And once again, there were many truly hilarious scenes. My only complaint is the prolonged stay with the hermit. While, of course, an essential part of many superhero journeys (which is also the one part of the movie where this feels less like “Spider-Man 2” and more like “Batman Begins”, which was quite an interesting combination), and again with a couple of nice ideas and funny moments, it brought the movie to a complete stop, and went on a little bit too long for my taste. All in all, though, “The Abnormal Crisis” was even more funny and entertaining than the first one. Thus, I’ll gladly watch Hentai Kamen hand out justice for as long as they keep making them.


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/slash 2016 – Day 3: Headshot

Indonesia 2016
Written by Timo Tjahjanto
Directed by Timo Tjahjanto & Kimo Stamboel
Watched on 24.09.2016

I’m sorry to say that I was a little disappointed by “Headshot”. Then again, it bears repeating that I’m one of those very few people on this planet who weren’t completely blown away by “The Raid”, and actually prefer the (story-wise way more epic and interesting) second one. So if it’s the other way around with you, you might enjoy this return to narrative simplicity.

It’s not that the action isn’t spectacular; it is. The action choreography is awesome, and there are a couple of truly stunning camera moves (like the fall out of the bus of the window). The directors, Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, also make a good job capturing the action on camera and letting the choreography play out in front of our eyes, instead of zooming and cutting too much. That was very much appreciated. However, in time, the action started to become a little stale. While the change of locations help to mix things up a little bit, as well as the fact the more the movie progresses, Ishmael fights against people whom he has a personal connection with (which gives those scenes some essential emotional heft), ultimately, the fights are mostly the same, which makes it get old after a while. I also missed some sort of escalation. There’s no typical structure like the action getting bigger and more spectacular with each passing fight. Rather, it’s almost always the same, and especially the showdown was nothing special. If I’d have to choose my two favorite fights, it would be the one in the bus as well as the one at the police station. Everything that came afterwards, for me, paled in comparison. Which I think is a problem with a movie like this. The action could also have been a little more varied (take, for example, the car chase that’s thrown in for good measure in “The Raid 2”. As it is, it got a little stale, and even tiresome. Which might also explain my feeling that “Headshot” went on for too long. Overall, I think it would have benefited from dropping one of the fights (the one against Besi felt rather redundant to me), and also shortening the action scenes themselves. I also wouldn’t have minded a slightly more elaborate story (even though with action movies, that’s arguably not a must), and would have preferred it if the emotional showdown with Ailin, where Ishmael is redeemed, would have followed the fight with the main bad guy, instead of preceding it.

Overall, though, it was ok. The action was quite spectacular, and occasionally breathtaking, and Iko Uwais was as impressive as ever. Fans of “The Raid”-films should definitely get their money’s worth. But I for one would have preferred the action scenes to be a little shorter, more varied, and with a clearer sense of escalation.


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/slash 2016 – Day 3: Raiders! – The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

USA 2015
Written by Tim Skousen & Jeremy Coon
Directed by Tim Skousen & Jeremy Coon
Watched on 24.09.2016

It was really interesting to see this documentary right after I’ve watched the Adaptation (which in turn I saw right after the original, which really turned out to be a great triple feature), since it gave me an even greater appreciation of the work done by the kids back then in the 80s. However, as much as “Raiders!” celebrates their achievement, and rightly so, it also doesn’t shy away of showing the down sides, and paints a surprisingly candid and ambivalent picture of the main trio.

My favorite part of this documentary was everything that dealt with the filming that took place back then in the 80s. How the project came to be, some behind the scenes-material from the shoot, as well as the insights into the solutions they came up with, and how they dealt with the problems and challenges that arose. I also loved everything about the late recognition that they got. How Eli Roth found the tape and showed it to Harry Knowles (of “Ain’t It Cool News”-fame), who then let it play during a break at his annual “Butt-Numb-A-Thon”-24-hour-movie-marathon. Some of those scenes, especially from the special screening that arose from that, really gave me goosebumps. “Raiders!” also serves as a celebration of fandoms and fan films in general, something that I also very much appreciated. It’s a testament of art in all forms, and how sometimes we can be deeply touched and influenced by something, as well as the lengths that some fans are ready to go to celebrate that which is important to them. However, another big part of the documentary was the filming of that one scene that they couldn’t get back then, and which they only finished almost 30 years later: The airplane sequence. Said scenes were quite interesting too, and they featured one of the truly standout moments of the film that really gave me pause (the explosion). But overall, I would have preferred it they would have trimmed down that part, and concentrated more on the making of the Adaptation back in the 80s. How the project got to be, how they found their team, et cetera. Also, the constant shift of focus between then and now was a little jarring. Nevertheless, “Raiders!” is a great examination of fans, fandoms and fan films that proved to be a great double bill with their actual Adaptation, giving a lot of background information, and through that, even further enhancing my appreciation of their work.


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/slash 2016 – Day 3: Raiders of the Lost Ark – The Adaptation

raiders-of-the-lost-ark-the-adaptationRaiders of the Lost Ark – The Adaptation
USA 1988
Written by George Lucas, Philip Kaufman & Lawrence Kasdan
Directed by Eric Zala
Watched on 24.09.2016

“Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adapation” is an incredibly charming tribute to one of the greatest films of all time, made with a lot of ingenuity, love, as well as blood, sweat and tears. That a couple of kids did this over the course of seven years during their vacations, is just stunning.

What I loved most about it are the often ingenious solutions that they came up with for those scenes that they weren’t able to copy par for par. I am not going to give anything away (and would really advise you to not watch the documentary beforehand, in order to not spoil the surprise), but I’d like to point out that I thought their solutions for the map-scenes, the seaplane at the beginning as well as the monkey especially brilliant. Those, as well as many other ideas that they came up with, really had me laugh, clap and cheer frequently. The entire movie in general is almost as gripping as the real one. Not so much because of the story – which, of course, is well known – but because you’re constantly wondering how they are going to pull of the next scene, which really makes this quite exciting. And even though it did throw off a couple of people (whereas I was prepared, since I knew about it; I actually contributed to said Kickstarter-campaign), I loved the plane sequence, which, as you may know, was that one scene that they never could figure out back then, and which was shot 30 years later. And instead of trying to retain visual continuity with what they shot back then, they – like they did in the 80s – they used the best technology available to them. Thus, you suddenly have this scene that might very well be right out of a modern blockbuster thrown into the mix – and I loved it, because a) it shook things up, and b) it’s a testament to the technological advances of the last 30 years, and how much easier it is nowadays to shoot high-quality fan films. Now, of course, what they did back then was, in parts, highly irresponsible, and there will be certain moments (where the fire-scenes, or the truck-chase) that gave me pause. You really can’t let yourself think about what could have happened to them. And as funny and entertaining the rest of the movie is, the dialogue scenes are somewhat of a chore to sit through, since they are the least interesting moments from a “how did they pull this off?”-point of view. And, obviously, those kids aren’t exactly the best actors (even though I have to say that I was quite surprised at the level of acting talent Eric Zala showed in his scenes as Belloq; and Rodriguez was quite good as Marian too). But the next moment of ingenuity and dedication is never too far away, and overall, I can only raise my Fedora to everyone involved.


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/slash 2016 – Day 3: Raiders of the Lost Ark

raiders-of-the-lost-arkRaiders of the Lost Ark
USA 1981
Written by George Lucas, Philip Kaufman & Lawrence Kasdan
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Watched on 24.09.2016

For me, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” ranks right up there with the best movies of all time. It’s the perfect blockbuster: Highly entertaining from start to finish, with great, varied action, many memorable moments, lots and lots of ingenuity, one of the best scores of all time, a great sense of fun and adventure, as well as one of the most iconic heroes in cinematic history.

Even though George Lucas was initially reluctant to cast him, because of his role as Han Solo in the “Star Wars”-movies, Harrison Ford proves to be the perfect choice for the lead. His laconic manner, dry sense of humor and exceptional charm fit the character well, and make him very likeable. Plus, despite the fact that he’s fiendishly good looking, he’s believable enough as average man-type of hero– which is one of the things that sets him apart from supermen like Schwarzenegger and Stallone, who reigned through much of the 80s. Indy, however, is just a normal guy, who bleeds, struggles, and gets outwitted. However, he’s also dedicated, persistent, resourceful, and quick on his feet. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” sometimes gets criticized for the fact that in the end, Indiana Jones had no influence on the proceedings. You take him out, and everything ends in exactly the same way. I don’t see that as a flaw, though, not least because of the reason why he ultimately doesn’t succeed: It’s not because he’s incompetent, but because he’s human. He had the chance to destroy the Ark, but ultimately, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Failing, ultimately, is his choice, and not something that just happened to him because he wasn’t equal to the challenge.

I could go on and on about the things that I love about this movie. The great way we’re introduced to Indiana Jones. The Bond-like opening sequence. John Williams’ unforgettable music. The nice setup of an archaeologist fighting against Nazis. The great costume and iconic choice of weapon/tool, the whip. The great characters, especially Marion (who definitely isn’t your typical damsel-in-distress), as well as the wonderful performances from all the actresses and actors involved. The varied and imaginative action scenes. So many great ideas (like the slow dissolve of the Paramount logo to an actual mountain, to name just one tiny example) that show how much deliberation and diligence went into the movie. The sheer amount of memorable moments, like the bowl, or Indy simply shooting the swashbuckler. Steven Spielberg’s great direction, as well as the exceptional camera work by Douglas Slocombe, who give us some beautiful images (like Indy’s shadow on the wall at Marion’s bar, or the sunset-shot at the dig). The big, lavish sets and art direction. The great location work and the impressive amount of extras. And, most of all, the sense of fun and adventure that the entire movie exudes from start to finish. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a cinematic treasure that, even 35 years on, has lost nothing of its sparkle.


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/slash 2016 – Day 2: Hangman

UK 2016
Written by Simon Boyes & Adam Mason
Directed by Adam Mason
Watched on 23.09.2016

Before I start with my – quite critical – analysis of the movie, it’s only fair to note that as someone who’s very critical of this “found footage” (if you can even call it that) style of movies, who hardly ever work for me (“The Blair Witch Project”, “Cloverfield” and “Willow Creek” are the main exceptions that come to mind), I went into “Hangman” with a heavy dose of skepticism. And at least in my case, I’m sorry to say that it failed to prove me wrong.

Let’s start with what I liked: The fact that the gun in the house didn’t make them any safer. The daughter got 2-3 nice lines (“You’re such a racist!” and her Minority Report-reference come to mind). And yeah, that’s about it. My main beef with “Hangman” is that I found it to be incredibly boring. Because of the setup of the film, you just know that not much of significance will happen for most of its running time. For example, the family will not find the intruder, and on the other hand, you know exactly that mostly, he’s going to leave them alone. Otherwise, things would escalate too quickly, and the movie would be over too soon. Which made the scenes with him standing around or when he’s about to get caught completely devoid of any tension. And actually, instead of scary me or at least making me feel uneasy, I found many of the scenes where he walks around the house, eating a sandwich etc. unintentionally funny (am I the only one who had to think of the fairy tale “The Story of the Tree Bears”? “Who ate from my plate? Who slept in my bed?”).

Another big problem of the movie is that instead of making us guess what it is that he wants, what he’s up to, and where this ultimately is going to lead – which would have inserted some much-needed intrigue which might have made the long stretch until the showdown slightly more bearable and entertaining – we see right away how he kills the previous family. After that, you just wait for it to happen here, and actually, sooner rather than later, I begged that he would finally get around to it, so that the movie would be over at last. Which, I’m pretty sure, isn’t what Adam Mason intended. Also, the intruder depended on quite a lot of luck – and stupidity – in order to not get caught way sooner. For example, why isn’t the police searching the attic? Wouldn’t Beth notice a big fat box (or whatever it was the intruder was hiding behind) which is standing there suddenly? Why the fuck is no one ever turning on the lights? And don’t even get me started on their son seemingly not being able to tell dream from reality (he was far too old for me to find that even remotely credible). Usually, one of my major beefs with such movies is that the footage obviously has been edited, something that consistently drives me mad. That this – while noticeable here too – was the least of its problems, already tells you everything you need to know about “Hangman”. I seldom, if ever, have been that bored by a movie in my entire life. Do yourself a favor and watch the thematically similar – and vastly superior – “One Hour Photo” or “Sleep Tight” instead.


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