Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Slow, Silent, Ominous Walk Or What Did The Shotgun Say To The Face? BLAM!

Because I saw the end of it on HDNet Movies, I decided that I should just watch Donnie Darko last night.
I saw the movie on Showtime or something quite some time ago – back when I still lived in Ashburn, I think – and had bought the DVD because I found the Director’s Cut cheap at Wal-Mart and thought, “Why not?”
I’d never actually watched it after buying the DVD, though, and since it’s been years since I’d last seen it, I’d forgotten several things about the movie:

1. It’s set in the 1980s (1988, to be exact).
2. Patrick Swayze is in it.
3. Just how absolutely fucking creepy Frank the Bunny is.

Yeah, watching this movie just before going to bed was a great idea.

I also learned that there was something I didn’t notice at the time when I first watched it: Seth Rogen has a bit part in it. Of course, at the time I first watched it I probably didn’t know who he was.
I didn’t do a whole lot today beyond the usual, which is to say I went to the comic shop, gassed up the car, and went grocery shopping.
I also looked for a new pair of shoes for work, as I recently discovered that there’s a hole in the heel of one of them that goes all of the way through the insole, which explains how my heel always gets wet when I walk through the rain-flooded parking lot at work.
I didn’t actually manage to find a pair that I wanted, as the only shoes that Target had that I liked weren’t available in my size. Honestly, why is the style of shoe different for every size? Wouldn’t you think that you could find multiple sizes of one style of shoe? I guess that’s crazy talk; every size hast to be a totally different style.
So I may head out to Wal-Mart or the mall or something tomorrow to look some more, but I didn’t feel like bothering with it today.
Back when it was in theaters, the commercials for the movie The Strangers actually made it look pretty damn spooky, to the point that, even though I’m not really into horror movies, I thought about going to see it.
I never did, but yesterday when I was checking out what was on HBO and Cinemax during the free preview, I saw that it was on, so I set it to record.
I didn’t watch it while it was on because it would have been dark before the movie was over, and I spook pretty easily(see Frank the Bunny above), so I decided to watch it today while it was light out.
I needn’t have bothered waiting for the light, and indeed shouldn’t have bothered watching it at all.
Major spoilers follow, so if you haven’t suffered through this piece of crap already and are determined to do so at some point, consider yourself warned.
The plot of the movie is pretty simple: young couple in some remote location terrorized by three masked psychos.
One of the things about the ads that made it seem especially spooky in the ads was a bit when the female victim asks her tormentors “Why are you doing this to us?” and one of the masked tormentors, a girl, responds, in a matter-of-fact, slightly stoned sounding tone “Because you were home.”
I thought, “Hmm, dark, nihilistic movie featuring casually cruel villains engaging in truly senseless acts of brutality that seem to be motivated by nothing more than simple boredom. Could be interesting.”
That scene, it turns out, was pretty much the only genuinely scary moment in the entire cliché-ridden movie.
The movie starts out with the statement that it was “inspired by true events,” then throws out a statistic about violent crime, which leads me to conclude that the only inspiration for it was that, in real life, sometimes people get killed by other people.
The movie then tells us that in 2005 a young couple left a wedding reception and went to a summer home and were murdered and that no one really knows what happened that night. We’re then treated to the audio of a 911 call in which someone reports finding dead bodies in a house and that there’s blood everywhere.
We then get an opening montage of houses.
Seriously. It’s like you’re looking out the window of a moving car and engaging in really long blinks between houses.
This goes on for way too long.
We then find ourselves in a car, waiting at a stoplight, with a very unhappy-looking couple (Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler). The woman has clearly been crying.
They drive along in silence for quite some time, until the man stops at a mailbox on a rural road, and gets out to check the mail. The woman, meanwhile, lights a cigarette.
Next we find ourselves at their home. The man is inside standing around doing not much of anything, and the woman is standing outside smoking her cigarette.
No one has said anything this whole time.
Eventually they start to talk, and we find out, in an achingly slow manner, what the hell is going on.
It turns out that while they were at the wedding reception the man proposed and the woman said no.
So now they’re at the former summer home of the man’s parents’, where earlier in the day he and some friends had set to work on laying out candles and rose petals and champagne to turn the place into a romantic retreat, operating on the assumption that she’d say yes.
The woman – Kristin – takes a pointless bath (I say it’s pointless because, despite the fact that this in an R-rated movie we don’t get any gratuitous nudity; I don’t necessarily care, simply because it’s Liv Tyler, but if you’re going to make an R-rated movie, throw in some T&A, or at the very least, skip the bathing/undressing scenes if you’re not going to show us anything), and the man engages in standard movie shorthand for “I’m really depressed” by eating some ice cream directly out of the container.
The man – James – then leaves a voicemail for a friend asking him to come up to the house to pick him up in the morning whenever he wakes/sobers up.
Kristin finishes her bath and comes out to talk to James some more about what happened and they try to figure out where they go from here. He tells her that he called his friend to come and pick him up and that he’ll leave the car for her, and to keep the ring because he can’t bring himself to keep it and can’t bring it back, and then they decide that just because they’re not getting married that doesn’t mean that they can’t engage in some pre-marital sex.
This is interrupted by a knock at the door.
They comment on the fact that it’s the middle of the night, and then proceed to open the door, where a young woman, who can’t be seen clearly because the porch light is out, and who sounds slightly stoned, is standing and asks if someone (I think she said Tamara) is home. They tell her that there’s no one there by that name, she asks if they’re sure, they say yes, and she leaves.
James and Kristin discuss the weirdness of this rather than going back to bumping uglies, and Kristin mentions that she’s out of cigarettes. Despite her protest that she could just go to bed because she’s tired, James offers to go out to get her some, as he could stand to go out for a drive anyway.
While he’s gone, the girl comes back and knocks on the door again.
Many times.
Kristin tries to call James, but her cell phone battery is dead, so after putting that charging she calls James from the landline, which – surprise! – goes dead.
There are assorted moments of additional door-knocking – at varying intensities – and other noises, Kristin looks out the window at one point and is startled by the sight of a man in a mask, and of course there are the inevitable discoveries, such as the now-missing cell phone, that point to the fact that someone has been inside the house.
While hiding in the bedroom in terror, Kristin hears the sound of someone moving around in the house and coming towards the bedroom.
Coming as a surprise to no one except Kristin, it turns out that it’s James, and not the masked man, because, knowing that she’s already spooked, naturally he wouldn’t bother to give her any warning by saying, “Kristin, it’s me,” or, “Hey, it’s James and not the killer,” and instead choosing to make his way to the bedroom in a slow, ominous manner.
Then again, bitch did turn him down after he went through a lot of trouble, so I guess I can understand that.
I suppose that’s also why he initially refuses to believe her story about weird noises and masked men and the missing cell phone.
Still, he does humor her by going around the house to verify that there’s no one inside, though he does get a little freaked when Kristin points out that the girl is back and is standing in the yard staring at the house.
Naturally he’d left his cell phone in the car, so he has to go out there to get it in order to call the police.
He becomes fully-converted to Kristin’s way of thinking when the finds that the car has been smashed up and the tires have been slashed, and he freaks the fuck out – and rightly so – when one of the masked tormentors sneaks up behind him, touches him gently on the neck, then takes off before he can even turn around.
Once he’s back in the house James finds his cell phone – broken – indicating that, once again, someone has been inside the house.
James and Kristin then try to make a break for it in the disabled car, but before they can a pick-up truck appears from out of nowhere and rear-ends them.
At that point, the couple begins to behave fairly sensibly, running back into the house, finding a shotgun and an assload of shells, and holing themselves up in a defensible position.
The tormentors then take the opportunity to terrifyingly put a Merle Haggard song playing on the record player.
Our POV changes, and we find that James’ friend has arrived at the house and is calling James’ cell to let him know that he’s arrived early.
A rock then comes flying through his windshield, so naturally he gets out and heads towards the house to investigate.
Despite seeing the smashed up car in the yard, hearing the loud music playing, and seeing that the door has been chopped at with an axe – why the tormentors had to hack at the door with an axe when they’ve clearly demonstrated that they can get in and out of the house whenever they want is beyond me – and shot at with a shotgun, the friend walks in to the house slowly and silently.
While we’re provided with some “misdirection” in the form of the masked man, with an axe, slowly sneaking up on the best friend, he might as well be wearing a sandwich board saying, “I’m going to startle my friends and get a face full of buckshot for my troubles.”
That is, of course, what happens.
Despite the fact that this tragedy clearly demonstrates the efficacy of holing up in a defensible position with a shotgun, James decides that rather than staying put and surviving the night and dealing with the fallout of having accidentally blown off his best friend’s face after they get out of this alive, he will leave Kristin alone and defenseless while he tries to sneak out to the barn to try to call for help on an old shortwave radio.
And that’s pretty much where the story ends. James gets caught and unarmed, and Kristin spends a half an hour running around breathing heavy, until she trips and hurts herself, at which point she starts crawling and hobbling around breathing heavy (at least when she remembers that she’s injured herself and isn’t able to move around easily).
Eventually we get the anticlimax of seeing James and Kristin tied up in chairs, and we’re treated to the “Because you were home” line from the ads, James notices that Kristin is wearing the ring (she’d tried it on after he’d left to buy her some smokes and never got around to taking it off), and the tormentors each take off their masks (though we never get a clear view of their faces), and take turns stabbing James and Kristin.
We cut to a scene of two boys walking their bikes along the road (it was morning by the time they finally got around to stabbing James and Kristin) and see the pick-up truck approaching them. The truck stops, the stoned-sounding girl gets out and walks up to the boys, points to the religious pamphlets in their hands, and asks if she can have one.
The boy asks if she’s a sinner. The girl engages in an inhumanly long pause, and finally says, “Sometimes.” The boy gives her a pamphlet, she gets back into the truck with the other two killers, and one of them says, “Next time it’ll be easier,” and they drive off.
The boys then find the grisly scene inside the house, which we caught some snippets of at the beginning of the movie, and one of them evidently decides that finding a dead chick is the ideal opportunity to cop a feel, and reaches slowly towards Kristin, at which point, in a cheesy “made you jump” move, Kristin opens her eyes, grabs the boys arm, and screams.
The end.
So, yeah. It was pretty boring and predictable, which is made kind of frustrating by the fact that, even with such a simple premise, it could have been a much better – and much scarier – movie.
I mean, some of the cat and mouse stuff was genuinely spooky – like the bit with the chick touching James’ neck while he was in the car – but for the most part, meh.
Beyond the general stupidity of the characters – which is pretty much a staple of horror movies – the thing that bothered me the most, was the seemingly supernatural ability the “Strangers” had to move around silently and to appear and disappear at will.
Again, another staple of horror movies, but in a movie that seemed to be shooting for some verisimilitude and creating horror in the viewers’ minds by essentially saying “this could really happen and similar things have happened and continue to happen,” it just stood out really glaringly.
In any case, I was bored by the movie and thought I’d share the boredom with you.
You’re welcome.

1 comment:

Merlin T Wizard said...

This is why I don't watch slasher flicks, even when they're rated PG-13. There's no imagination. They rely on cheap suspense tricks and shock tactics to scare you. Make it funny with someone like Freddy Kruger and you've got me, otherwise, screw it.

Now, take me to something supernaturally creepy like The Exorcism of Emily Rose where the unexplainable happens and you can see me freak the frak out. I kinda want to see Drag Me to Hell for that.