Preservation (2014)

preservation02Two brothers are driving a pickup truck out to the woods.  The camera shows us a rifles, jumper cables and flares (a huge disappointment since I thought they were dynamite until they finally came into play).  They sing The Bear Went Over the Mountain.  I’m already questioning if these guys are just brothers.  Maybe the jumper cables were nipple clamps.  I don’t even want to speculate on the flares.

What the hell, there’s a girl in the backseat.  She is married to one of the men, Mike (Ken Cosgrove from Mad Men), who is inexplicably wearing a tie to go camping.  They stop at a convenience store, and while his brother Sean and wife Wit are buying supplies, he just can’t get off the phone to work.  One of the supplies is a pregnancy test. Really, she didn’t of that before they left?

The park is closed, but they go in anyway.  Mike reveals to Wit that his brother was discharged from the army for reasons unknown.  This is the standard “Veteran = PTSD psychopath” Hollywood shorthand so he will be suspect #1 in case of any shenanigans.

preservation03When Mike and Wit wake up the next morning, they are still in their sleeping bags, but the tent, all their supplies and Sean are gone.  Also, they have X’s on their foreheads. The crazy vet Sean is the immediate suspect.  His creepy ability to move stealthily, showcased earlier, further implicates him in this unlikely theft.  Then Sean appears with the same X on his forehead.  He has been surveying the area for evidence and assessing the threat level — what a maniac!

He leads the couple halfway back towards the car which he says he can hot-wire, then turns back to rescue his dog.  Mike still suspects Sean is behind this, not some group of “constitutional extremists.”  Yeah, it was prob’ly those crazy Tea Partiers.

preservation04Sean finds one of the people who killed his dog and goes all Rambo on him; if Rambo had been 5 minutes long.  After rifle butting the guy in the head several times, he turns his back on him.  He’s not a crazy vet, but he is a stupid one.

So the rest of the film is set up with beta-male Mike and wife against the bad guys. Unfortunately, Mike is no more Rambo than his brother.  While he lacks Sean’s military training, he follows exactly the same strategy — beat your opponent senseless, then turn your back when he has a weapon within reach.

preservation05So we are down to Wit.  She finally gets a good look at these killers and they are three punk kids on bicycles.  They tracked her with the GPS beacon that Mike had given her, so she tears it off.  She gets back to the truck, but the hooligans have disabled it.  Now she is in Eden Lake mode, which has a lot of potential.

Holy crap, now this is Rambo — she sews up a wound on her head.  She takes the only weapons she has, a tire iron, jumper cables, and flares and sets out in pursuit.  I really wish it had been dynamite.  While she is more badass than the men, she ends up making exactly the same mistake of turning her back on one of them while he has a weapon within reach.

Other than that one recurring bit of stupidity, it is an enjoyable ride in the survival sub-genre.  It is no Eden Lake, but that’s a pretty high bra to reach.  Er, bar — anyone who saw Eden Lake knows what I mean.


  • The other bit of stupidity is using a pair of jumper cable as a weapon in a non-electrical fashion.  C’mon, from her position even a medium sized rock would have been better.
  • They make room for one last “message” in the final scene which has a child in a shopping cart pointing a plastic toy gun at her.  But what is it?  Guns are bad?  Boys are bad?  Non-bio-degradable plastic is bad?  They got a threefer on that one.
  • While the two dudes were OK, to be honest, I just wasn’t crazy about Wit.  I did like the character, though.  And the end, after her ordeal, she looks awful.  I don’t mean beaten and black-eyed; I mean she really looks like she’s been through hell.  So kudos for that.


It Follows (2014)

itfollows0120 minutes of previews?

First, we are treated to the wholly unnecessary remake of Poltergeist, a movie that was almost perfect in its original incarnation.  We see several of the same exact same beats — the houses built over the cemetery, the clown, the ghostbuster, the hands on the TV, the killer tree.  I can’t see this through the eyes of an 18 year old, but to anyone who saw the original back in the day, this preview pales on almost every point; and pales literally, since it is so dark.

Much of the success of the original was that it was constructed on sunny days, a new neighborhood, clean streets,and with a happy family with 2.5 kids — it was the Stephen King / Richard Matheson horror-in-our-own-neighborhood concept.  Everything in this trailer goes for the cliched dark motif. The “harmless” toy clown is now sports an evil smirk, the new home is described as a fixer-upper, even the absolutely radiant blonde original Carol Anne is now a brunette.

And JoBeth Williams might have been the first MILF, even before there was an acronym for the phenomena.  No one who enjoyed the original can be looking forward to this.

Insidious was fun.  Insidious 2 was fun, but got a little too busy in the final act.  Insidious 3 does not look like fun.  Like the Poltergeist remake, all of the scares in the trailer are cheap jump-scares.  And, for the love of God, can we have one movie that Lin Shaye is not in?  OK, she’s not in Poltergeist, but she has 10 movies in 2015 so far in IMDb.  Give someone else a chance.

On the other hand, Unfriended is not a sequel, looks like a low-budget joint and I didn’t recognize a single person in it.  Yet, miraculously, I actually got several real chills from its preview, and not a single goose-bump from the other two.  Maybe it will be crap, but it is the only one I could care less about seeing.

Each of these trailers was not 6+ minutes long, so there must have been others, but they were so uninteresting that I have forgotten them a few hours later.

And, hey Regal Cinema — no one cares about your nagging, product-placement-loaded roller coaster.  Yes, texters should be killed — I think we can all agree on that — but you’re just delaying the movie another minute.

And now our feature presentation . . .

itfollows02After seeing the film, I read many interpretations of It Follows.  I don’t know that I really subscribe to any of them.  Is it a metaphor for adolescence?  For a budding young love affair?  For an STD?  Does the water represent innocence?  Don’t know, don’t care.

We are thrust into the narrative immediately as we see a girl run from her house in a snappy lingerie set and spiked heels.  How this ensemble was put put together is not explained, but is worthy of later reflection by the viewer.  Her father comes after her, but she runs back into the house, presumably to get car keys as Victoria’s Secret still refuses to put pockets in their panties.  She ends up at the beach, dead with a leg bent at the knee — the wrong way.

After having the sex with Jay in the backseat of a car, Hugh chloroforms her and ties her to a chair. He explains to her and to us that he has passed along a curse (although that word is never used, so thank God no one is trotting out the menstruation metaphor again).  A thing is now going to follow her, but must never be allowed to catch her.  Only she and previous owners of the curse can see this thing which can take the form of anyone.  It is not clear why he ties her to a chair to make his point, as he does untie her and take her home (i.e. dumps her in the street) when the thing arrives.

The bulk of the movie is the very slow Michael Myers / Walking Dead speed pursuit of Jay (who is a teenage girl, BTW), sometimes across many miles of country.  The relentlessness of the pursuit provides an over-arching suspense, and periodic battles with the thing provide some good scares and action.  Like the Terminator, it absolutely will not stop until Jay is dead; or passes the curse to someone else via sex.  And once Jay is dead, it will go back up the food-chain and kill Hugh.

The thing always shows up in the form of a person and only visible to Jay.  On the first sighting, it is a completely naked woman.  Other times, the thing takes the form of other women and men, some of which Jay recognizes.  Kind of like er . . . The Thing.  So the suspense is heightened — as in Paranormal Activity — by the viewer constantly being on the lookout for anyone in the background who could become a threat.

The viewer is also subtly kept off-balance by the indeterminate time of the film.  Like the hatch in Lost which had an eclectic mixture of new appliances and 1970s stereo, there are conflicting signals.  The cars all seen to be old family trucksters, but one girl seems to be reading from a clam-shell Kindle.  Or maybe it is a cell-phone — if it is, it is the only cell-phone in the movie and is never used as one.

All of this keeps the viewer constantly on edge, and makes for a great experience. There is some wailing and moaning about a couple of scenes or unanswered questioned, but are you going to obsess over details, or have a good time?

Highly recommended.


  • Despite all the references to other titles above, I never once felt like this was unoriginal.
  • For some reason I can’t figure out, the thing frequently shows up totally or partially naked.  This is not as good as it sounds as it rarely takes the form of anyone you want to see naked.  Especially the naked guy standing on the roof — to be fair, he does thankfully appear to be wearing a Speedo, or is maybe is in desperate need of some manscaping.
  • I took an immediate dislike to the score other than in the set-pieces.  It seems to be praised everywhere else, though, so I am willing to chalk that up to a tin ear.

Proxy (2013)

proxy001Esther Woodhouse is at the doctors’s office with some sort of enormous tumor; no wait, she’s pregnant. The doctor is running an ultrasound, and everything looks good.  Of course, they told Rosemary Woodhouse the same thing.  On the way to the bus stop, she is conked on the head by someone in a red hoodie who then repeatedly bashes her baby bump with a brick and robs her.

Fortunately, it seems that an ambulance is very quick on the scene.  Not so fortunately for her or me, she regains consciousness just in time to see the bloody corpse of her dead baby being cut out of her.

A detective comes to her hospital room.  Not much is learned except that the father was from a sperm bank.  Next she gets a visit from Mary Wilkins, a social worker at the hospital.  Esther doesn’t have any friends or co-workers to contact.  By the time she gets home, even her goldfish is dead.

Esther goes to a support group.  She is befriended by Melanie who lost her husband and son when they were hit by a drunk driver.

She returns aimlessly wandering in the hospital where she was treated, does jigsaw puzzles, applies for a job at a department store.  While there, she sees Melanie and stalks her for a while.  Melanie seems to be searching for her dead son as if he were merely lost in the store.  She makes a scene, crying, calling over the store manager.  She says she is going to look outside, then calmly walks to her car.  She gets a little boy out of her car and takes him into the store.

proxy014Esther and Melanie get together again for coffee in the park.  Melanie says she used to bring her son here.

Later that day, someone in a red hoodie breaks into Esther’s house and rapes her.  It turns out to be her lesbian lover Anika.  The first attack was a ruse that Esther dreamed up.  Lot’s of lying going on here.

Melanie calls late at night for another coffee klatch.  Esther tells Melanie that she was nine months into a healthy pregnancy and loved the way people treated her.  Not being much of a looker, she was unused to this attention.  But she never wanted to be a mother.  She tells Melanie she is the only one who understands and kisses her on the lips.

Melanie gets up to leave and Esther tells her she saw her with her son at the mall.  Melanie slaps her and tells her not to call again.

I could go on and on, and actually did — damn you Chromebook for not having a backspace key!  But there are so many interesting scenes and twists that that they have to be seen to be appreciated.  I was wary of the 2 hour running time, but the film fills the time.  It is slowly paced, but there is always something happening and your mind is constantly working to stay up with it or out-guess it.

Director Zack Parker has a few amazing scenes which are Hitchcockian in their twists and in the great use of Bernard Herrmann style scoring.  Really great stuff.

proxy026Anything else would be giving away too much.  For most posts, I spoil freely because it just ain’t that big a deal (and, really, who am I spoiling?  Searchbots?).  This should be seen with fresh eyes.


  • Alexa Havins — wow!

Crawl or Die (2014)

crawlordie00OK, I have no problem with shaky-cams, but combine them with strobing light and quick-cut editing, and this film is in a deep hole even before it goes into a deep hole.

A group of soldiers seems to be in a firefight trying to rescue some civilians on white jumpsuits.  They discover a hatch in the forest and send a woman down to investigate.  It seems to be their only option, so they all go down and seal the hatch behind them.

Oh great, the movie is a flashback.

A military commander is showing his troops a picture of the last fertile, virus-free woman in the wold.  The troops are to snag this woman, board The Oklahoma and take a month month journey to Earth-2.

OK, not a flashback movie, we’re back to the future.

They find the underground chamber leads to a series of hatches and tunnels.  They’re going to have to do a titular CRAWL (which is helpfully splashed on the screen).  They enter a long circular tunnel about three feet in diameter.  They whole time we hear the grunts of the reptilian creatures which are pursuing them.  So creatures and a virus — OK, I’m down with that.

crawlordie55As they debate taking a break so The Package (their code name for fertile Myrtle) can get some doctor prescribed sleep, one of the soldiers is pulled into a side tunnel by an alien.  And I mean, pulled the hard way, bending him backwards at the waist.  As the alien chows down on him, the others manage to get away.  I wasn’t under the impression that the aliens weren’t after them as a food source, but we’re not given much to go on.

As they reach another resting point, the leader Tank strips off her pants and gives them to the doctor to make bandages.  Having already dispensed with her jacket, she is now down to a sports bra and spandex panties.  She climbs 30 feet down another tubular tunnel and places lights every few feet so she will have a clear, lighted, unobstructed shot at the alien as it comes down the tunnel.  Unless, you know, she falls asleep.

Which she does.  She wakes up at the last possible second and begins blasting the creature.  Not sure if it is only mostly dead, she leaves Doc to keep at eye on it.  Big mistake.  We get our first good look at the alien and it is pretty similar to . . . er, an alien — the H.R. Giger kind, with the long head and maybe even a smaller set of choppers in its mouth.

crawlordie18So now we are down to Tank and The Package with half the movie left to go.  After coming to the end of the tunnel, they have no option but to climb through an even small hole which seems to have been burrowed through the earth.  This one is maybe two feet in diameter.  I must admit, this did get me squirming.  Every time you think she might have reached the surface or a chamber, its just more tiny tunnel with no way to back up.

Improbably, one of the aliens has squeezed his giant noggin into the hole and is right behind them.  And speaking of behinds, this movie has the most extraordinary number of butt-shots in history.  Not that that’s a bad thing — Tank has clearly been spending time at the gym.  Sadly, the alien catches up to The Package and kills her.

Tank cuts the rope and continues down the hole.  She makes it through the earthen tunnel to another piece of tube.  This one is so small, she can barely manage the leverage to wriggle through.  And yet that alien is still chasing her with that giant melon.

crawlordie54After dropping through a slot to another lower level, she finds the ony way out is a horizontal slit which is just comical at this point.  A C cup wouldn’t have made it.  The only way things could get worse is if the tunnel was full of dirt.  So it is, and she has to start digging her way through.

With 5 minutes to go, there were a few directions this could go.  The ending was a little bit of a cheat, but after the intensity of the past hour, I was fine with it.

Complete lack of characterization: I was fine with it.  After a few minutes I even had to turn on Closed Captions to see what anyone’s name was.

Lighting: This was a mess from the first jittery scenes all the way through the tunnels. Maybe it worked using the the flashlights to light the scene rather than real camera equipment. No problem.

Sound: I loved the relentless clawing, roaring, chomping and scraping in the background as a constant reminder of Tank’s predicament.

The only real disappointment is in the dialogue, of which there is thankfully very little — especially in the last scene which is stunningly lame.

Also, maybe I’m an old-fashioned guy, but I don’t want my heroine to be named Tank. Who would have bought Tank: Tomb Raider?  Although maybe it would have helped the dreadful movies.  A last name only like Ripley, I’m OK with.

Having a female protagonist named Tank is like having a cat name Frank — it just ain’t something I want to cuddle with.

I never expected to see a film more claustrophobic than Buried, but this is it.


This is just about the only decent shot we get of Tank.



Outer Limits – Trial by Fire (S2E9)

oltrialbyfire41A little out of order here as Hulu has suddenly decided to put Season 2 behind the pay-wall.  The Canadian-release DVD set is on order — that is how much I hate Hulu.  You can’t have commercials and charge a fee — pick one.

Luckily, this episode is on YouTube.  Even more luckily, this is one of the few episodes of Outer Limits that I recall seeing, and it is one of the best episodes of any TV series that I have ever seen.

On the night of his inauguration, President Halsey and his wife are diverted from the standard parties with fat-cat executives, slimy lobbyists and sycophantic journalists.  His limo ducks into a building which has a bunker for just such a “situation.”

NORAD has detected an object entering the solar system at about half the speed of light heading toward Earth.  It is not known what the object is, but it will be here in 30 minutes.

oltrialbyfire49Halsey assumes command, but is clearly out of his element.  This doesn’t stop him from being smug and condescending to the limited crew on hand.  If they speak in technical terms, he snaps at them to “speak English.” If they speak in simple terms, he snaps, “don’t patronize me.”  Further confirming his dickishness, he says pat-ronize rather than pate-ronize.

On hand to help is scientist Janet Preston, who looks amazingly like Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island.  She says it is not a comet because it is moving too fast.  The president, accurately portrayed with a politician’s arrogance says “I’d rather know what it is than what it isn’t.”

The president berates the staff for not knowing where the object will hit, but they explain that it doesn’t matter — this is pretty much lights-out for the world.

In the first of several intelligent twists, the object hits the moon rather than the Earth.  But then it is determined that the object was merely launched from a larger ship.  Was this a demonstration of power?  Hillary, er Mrs. Halsey, the insufferable new First Lady, gives her precisely $.02 worth, then the ideas and conjectures start flowing.  And there are real ideas.  Aside from Preston tritely commenting that “this is a damn testosterone festival,” this isn’t like anything you usually see on TV.

oltrialbyfire55There is constant reassessment of the threat as new information comes in.  There is the dilemma of whether to use nuclear weapons (naturally the president and his wife are horrified that we possess the weapons that might save us).  There are the reactions of the Russians and Chinese to both our weapons and to the alien threat to consider.

All the while, there is Hillary inserting herself into the planning, and the president who came into this situation as a dove, but is learning that sometimes force is necessary.

The pace is speedy, the cast is uniformly excellent.  There is a lot going on here, and it all works.