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Sick Girl (Masters of Horror) – Review

Sick Girl (Masters of Horror) – Review

Oct 8, 2012

reviewed by Skot
directed by Lucky McKee, 2006
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Sick Girl is the name of an episode of the generally strong Masters of Horror television series from the Showtime cable network.  It aired originally on January 13, 2006. Sick Girl is another bizarre contribution from the creative teamwork of Lucky McKee and Angela Bettis.  Bettis is the star.  McKee is the writer and director.  Their previous two projects, the feature films May and Roman, are twisted stories of loneliness and alienation, themes found here as well.  Roman is extremely brutal emotionally with very little lightness to it, but May reveals their capacity for dark humor as well.  Sick Girl definitely plays for the humor.

Bettis plays Ida Teeter, an entomologist who has a habit of taking her work home with her.  Having an apartment filled with six-legged zoological specimens has a dampening effect on her love life.  Max Grubb, her fellow scientist, tells her that her job is the reason that she keep faltering romantically.  Ida likes girls and she has trouble because the dates she brings home are creeped out by the “bug thing.”  She has to choose between the babes or the bugs according to Max.

Another source of tension in the story is Ida’s boarding house landlady, Lana Beasley, who objects to Ida keeping live specimens in the house.  She’s afraid for the health and safety of her granddaughter, Betty, who continuously wears a ladybug costume.  Ida tries to assuage Lana’s fears.  “I promise you,” she says.  “My pets will never cause any trouble.”  Famous last words.

One day, Ida receives a mysterious package in the mail from Brazil that contains a huge unidentified insect. Shortly after its arrival, the mystery bug manages to escape from its container.  Later, Ida receives an anonymous letter warning her that the insect she received is dangerous, presumably from the same person who sent the critter in the first place.  The claims the letter makes about the insect’s habits are most extraordinary.  Max just laughs it off.

Meanwhile, lovelorn Ida is attracted to a hippie girl whom she sees drawing pictures of fairies on a sketchpad in the lobby of the building where she works.  After building up the courage to talk to the hippie girl, Ida learns that her name is Misty Falls.  Ida is instantly smitten.  “She’s the bee’s knees,” she tells Max.

When Ida brings Misty home for an evening of amore’, she hides all her pets in her bedroom because she’s worried about how Misty will react.  After an awkward evening, the two begin to become intimate on the living room couch, during which time the escaped exotic bug bites Misty in the ear.  As we know, this critter has unusual properties.  Misty starts immediately to feel unwell, a fact she tries to keep from Ida.  Misty begins to experience some kind of transformation.  You’ll have to see what happens for yourself.

The Masters of Horror episodes are hit-or-miss.  Most of them are pretty strong, just as you’d expect given the talented directors they draw from.  McKee and Bettis have a knack for bringing out the humor in horror without forgetting that the point of a horror picture is to scare and repulse.  This short film is a nice relief from the weightier works we’ve seen from them before, while incorporating the familiar themes of solitude and lovesickness they handle so well.  McKee, as a writer, definitely likes to explore boundary transgressions of the human body in his artwork.  The monstrous reveal at the end has hints of Cronenberg’s The Fly. Angela Bettis has the weird lonely girl role down pat.  I’m not usually a big fan of horror humor but this piece has enough weirdness to keep my interest.

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Pro-Life – Review

Pro-Life – Review

Jul 1, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by John Carpenter, 2006
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Pro-Life is the second effort from famed horror director John Carpenter for the incredibly wonderful Master’s of Horror television series created by Showtime.  The story depicts an ultra-conservative father named Dwayne Burcell (Ron Perlman) who becomes irate when he learns his pregnant, underage daughter is being treated inside an abortion clinic against his wishes.  Come to find out, this clinic already has a restraining order against Burcell for previous threatening behavior, but the stakes are much higher now that his daughter is inside.  All we know about the daughter, Angelique, is that she was running from someone or something at the beginning of the film and was picked up along the road by two doctors – two doctors who just so happened to work at the aforementioned clinic.  Thinking he heard a voice directly from God to “protect the baby”, Dwayne and his three sons storm the clinic, killing anyone who gets in their way.

As we learn more about Burcell and his determination to “free” his daughter, we also learn more about how she become pregnant.  She tells the shocking story of how a demon dragged her below the surface of the earth and raped her.  She is convinced that the baby inside her is of the devil and wants it destroyed immediately.  Unfortunately, demon babies apparently develop much faster than human babies, because instead of the normal 9 months for gestation, this demon baby caused Angelique to go into labor in a matter of days.  When she arrived at the clinic, she looked only a couple of months pregnant.  A few hours later, she was delivering.  Meanwhile, Burcell is busy giving the head doctor of the clinic a dose of his own medicine.  In a disturbing scene, Burcell and his son use a suction device on the lead doctor to show him what “sucking the life” out of a human is all about.  Pretty rough.

Finally, Angelique delivers the baby and sure enough, it is a whacked out demon looking creature not unlike the creature we see burst from Norris’ chest in Carpenter’s classic 1982 film The Thing.   At this point, the film adds another ingredient to the mix.  The demon father, who looks exactly like what you figure a demon might look like, shows up at the hospital to claim his baby.  Before the demon makes his way to the delivery room, he comes face to face with Burcell.  The climatic point of the movie occurs at this moment when the demon speaks to Burcell and says, “protect the baby.”  Yep, it was the voice of a demon, not God, that Burcell was hearing the entire time, making his rampage a demonic act rather than a holy one.  Sensing that she only has a few more minutes, Angelique takes a gun and shoots the baby in the head just as the demon father comes in the room.  Grieving over the death of his baby, the demon picks up his child, ignoring Angelique, and carries him sadly back to hell.  The film ends.

The title alone of this film along with above synopsis would lead one to believe that Carpenter is attempting to make a huge social and political statement.  Amazingly, it just isn’t the case.  I have given Pro-Life a good deal of thought in the last couple of days since viewing it and I am convinced that Carpenter used a hot-bed issue not to provide social commentary of his own, but simply as a way to create a powerful backdrop to the story he really wanted to tell – parents and their relationship with children.  In some ways, Carpenter paints a very sympathetic picture of Burcell.  It is a man who, misguided he may be by his solution, is convinced that abortion is murder and does not want his daughter engaging in that kind of activity.  Add to that the pious, religious angle and I suppose some would write off Burcell as just a fundamental religious zealot with no intellect or sense of right and wrong.  I don’t see that here.  Yes, he is out of control and heavily misinterpreting the messages he receives, but the love of family is what drives him more than anything else.  The same is true for the demon.  Both Burcell and the demon are trying to save their own flesh and blood and Carpenter reminds us of the strong bind between parent and child, a bond that creates the ultimate kind of pain when a child is taken away.

Pro-Life is not a great film, but it has redeeming moments and from frame one is an exciting, non-stop action horror movie.  Due to the 60 minute time constraint, character development is difficult to achieve, but this is off-set by the incredible performance from Ron Perlman who has made a career of dominating every scene he is in.  Some of the demon scenes come across a bit cheesy, but they quickly give way to the serious undertones of the film and do provide a few genuine scares.  John Carpenter is a legendary director who has had a poor run the last several years with his box-office attempts.  It is nice to see that he still “has it.”  This movie is not as effective as Carpenter’s other Masters of Horror attempt Cigarette Burns, but it is still worth the hour of your life to watch it.

Click Here to purchase Pro-Life

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The Damned Thing – Review

The Damned Thing – Review

Apr 29, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Tobe Hooper, 2006
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Don’t mess with Texas.  Especially the oil in Texas which is apparently sick and tired of being taken for granted and used by ungrateful humans.  The Damned Thing is the first episode in the second season of Showtime’s Masters of Horror and is directed by one of the all time horror greats, Tobe Hopper.  It is roughly based on the short story of the same title by Ambrose Bierce.

In 1981, a young Kevin Reddle watches as his loving father suddenly flips out and shoots down his mom in cold blood and then turns to kill Kevin.  Running and hiding in the field outside, Kevin watches as his father is brutally killed by an unseen force.  Twenty-four years later, Kevin is the sheriff in the same town of Cloverdale and similar kinds of phenomenon begin happening; the town folk begin suffering extreme bouts of anger, turning on one another for no real reason.  Kevin recognizes what is happening, but remains silent about the potential chaos that will ensue.  Sure enough, his estranged wife turns on their son and would have killed him if Kevin had not intervened.  But unfortunately, Kevin is not immune from the force and is overwhelmed himself, eventually turning on his wife and son.  At the end of the film, the ground opens up and a huge “oil monster” swallows up Kevin.  His wife and kid escape in the car, only to run out of gas about a mile down the road.  They are attacked by the monster and the film ends.

Apart from a dizzying experience with the camera in the opening shot of the film, Tobe Hooper’s classic touch is all over this movie and it delivers a pleasurable viewing experience.  The opening scene is somewhat shocking, especially if you have not read the plot or spoilers of the movie.  There are not many true “scares” throughout the 60 minute production, but this movie is based on a message that is more concerned with a moral tale than it is visceral scares.  Essentially, that message is that human beings do not have the right attitude with mother nature and that we take for granted, perhaps even abuse, that which is so valuable to us.  Thankfully, Hooper does not go overboard on the political message that could have turned this film into another Al Gore special.  In fact, if not for the short story to help us along, fans might be scratching their heads as to why a big monster made of oil is wreaking havoc on a simple little Texas town.

Ted Raimi wonderfully portrays the town’s strange Catholic priest and Sean Patrick Flanery does an excellent job with the character of Kevin Reddle, demonstrating a man who still deeply loves his family but is forever lost in the shadow of his 1981 experience.  One of the more disturbing scenes of the film is when a man becomes outraged while hammering a nail into a piece of wood and begins hammering himself in the face until he bleeds to death.  That is “a tough way to commit suicide” remarks Sheriff Reddle, acknowledging his own refusal to publically announce what is really happening.

This is yet another a satisfactory effort from the Masters of Horror folks and Tobe Hooper.  Not great, but worth the time.

Click Here to purchase The Damned Thing

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