Housebound, but Not Genre-Bound

Housebound

Housebound is brilliant in that it’s never what you’re expecting it to be. A quick glance at the gloomy box art invokes thoughts of the used and abused haunted house genre, yet a closer look reveals that things aren’t thematically absolute. Brutal acts of violence and jump scares are preceded by satirical snippets of humor, making you wonder whether you should laugh or wet your pants. Complimented by an atypical (and wonderful) absence of the “damsel in distress” trope, Housebound’s composition is immaculate; by the end of the film, you’ll feel as if you’ve actually watched a different kind of horror movie.

HouseboundKylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is nothing but trouble. She’s chasing purple dragons, blowing up ATM machines with homemade explosives for some quick cash, and is generally unapproachable owing to her punkish attitude. Bad luck strikes when one of her robbery attempts falls flat on its ass and she winds up arrested, convicted, and sentenced to a supposedly lenient eight months of home detention, complete with an ankle monitor and a irritatingly chatty mother. The judge hoped to impose some stability on her chaotic life, but as one would expect, Kylie isn’t happy to be home, and she ensures that EVERYONE in the house is aware of this sentiment.

One uneventful evening (and there are many, presumably), Kylie hears her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) on the radio, talking about how her house is haunted. Years back, she witnessed a shadowy figure down in the basement, and the memory spooks her to this day. Kylie initially ridicules her mother for being superstitious, but then begins to experience the symptoms of the haunting firsthand. Funny enough, her corrections officer Amos (Glen-Paul Waru) happens to be a real paranormal enthusiast, and proceeds to give her a hand scoping the place for any unruly spirits. It isn’t long before they discover that they’re digging up something worse than a few spooky ghosts.

HouseboundI won’t spoil the twists and turns for you, but I will tell you that there are a solid few. Twists that involve sociopathic behavior, the revelation of deeply buried secrets, and the possibility of murder. Who knows which order those’re in, eh? You’ll have to find out yourself.

Mike D’Angelo believes that Kylie’s house arrest needed to be a much more pivotal point of the film, but I’m inclined to think that the genius is more evenly dispersed. The spunky, aggressive protagonist and interspersed satirical humor are reason enough to like Housebound; the layered plot and slow-but-steady revelation of the real antagonist is reason to love it. Still, my sense of humor might not be in line with everyone else’s, so you should check out the A.V. Club review right through here.

ComplainerMan’s Top Five Crime Movies

Crime movies: Because everybody loves a good cinematic heist. The top five crime movies I’ll be throwing at you don’t all have heists, but they certainly do have crime, available in all shapes and sizes. You can consider this countdown your crime-fitting. What kind of illegal activity captures your attention best?

 

#5 – Blood Diamond
Blood Diamond

I love this one because it depicts the transition from average joe to hero. Solomon Vandy’s (Djimon Hounsou) son is stolen from him and brainwashed by a revolutionary front, and he himself is forced into slavery, panning diamonds. Throughout the film, he undertakes a series of increasingly risky tasks to rescue his kid and bring order back to his tattered life; a story of personal strength and sacrifice.

 

 

#4 – Se7en

Se7en

Everyone loves making their own interpretation of the seven deadly sins, right? This one’s about a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) that patterns his homicide after the septet of Biblical vices. Detectives David Mills (Brad Pitt) and William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) have to track him down before he finishes his gruesome masterpiece. As far as crime thrillers go, the twist is what makes Se7en great. What twist, you ask? Let me answer that with another question: What’s in the box?

 

 

#3 – Changeling
Changeling

Based off the tale of Christine Collins, Changeling gives you a nice cinematic peek into the late 20s Los Angeles police, and all the corruption that comes with it. See a determined single mother fight valiantly to find her son while battling the seemingly unstoppable abomination that is the LAPD! It’s great: gets you involved, makes you want the antagonists to pay for their crimes, and- well, I can’t tell you if they do, but I can say I absolutely love the climax. Satisfying and bittersweet.

 

 

#2 – Snatch
Snatch

I had to watch this a few times to follow just what was going on, but each subsequent watch was better than the last. This character-centric heisty thriller manages to stuff a web of intrigue worthy of a book into a 102 minute movie. It’s a little different than the other four, mainly because it’s bloody hilarious. Sure, people are being shot and burned and stabbed and fed to pigs, but you’re too busy chuckling to notice.

 

 

 

#1 – Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction

This Tarantino flick ranked first because it’s a perfect blend of personal and professional, character and plot, slow and fast. John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Ving Rhames; golden cast for a golden crime classic. As far as Tarantino films go, this one sets the standard for non-linear plot and characterization. Best of both worlds! You get the full story of each crook and contender without even realizing it.

Sinister and Mister Boogie

Sinister

Sinister is a once-off horror movie. That’s kind of the issue with jump-startle heavy movies. You enjoy the ride the first time around, but after that, you know what to expect and when to expect it. It’s a damn shame, too. Sinister had a lot going for it. It had an overall eerie tone that built up the jump scares, the visuals were simple but effective, and the acting was pretty darn good. Had some good characters in there.

Ellison Oswalt is a writer of true-crime books, and for his most recent project, he has moved his family into a home close to a crime scene. Rather, four murders and a kidnapping took place in the backyard. He makes a point to avoid telling his wife and two children this, however, as he thought it would disturb them. It does more than that, to say the least.

Ellison discovers a box in his attic containing a projector and several super 8 film reels. These morbid home movies contain footage of families being executed in terrible ways, from being hung from a tree to being tied to a lawn chair and drowned. According to the dates on the reels, these films all happened in a sequence of what appears to be related murders. In all cases, a single child was found to be missing.

SinisterAfter converting the films to digital files, he begins to notice a strange, recurring symbol, and finds a strange-looking person in the water of the murder pool. He prints several pictures, which leads the audience to discover that creepy-face is going to be the antagonist.

The startle-fest begins before that, though. Their son, Trevor, has night terrors, so he’ll get you first. After Ellison chats with the occult criminologist about Bughuul, it all goes downhill from there. Startle-wise, I mean. The projector starts turning on in the middle of the night, and Elly-baby starts seeing some freaky shit. Eventually, things get so bad that he decides to drop his new project entirely. He burns the reels and projector, then moves his family back to their old home.

Bughuul follows and provides their attic with extended cuts from the morbid morbid movies. The criminologist guy mentioned that Bugpool liked to possess children and lure them into his dimension through captured images. Ellison asked him if getting rid of the images would stop Boggle from coming, and received no legitimate answer. As it turns out, the answer was no. That basically spoils the ending, but you’re in it for the startles, not the plot.

SinisterAnd that’s about all there is to say about Sinister. A 110 minute jump-fest with some snazzy special effects and far too many late-night exploration gimmicks. I have two issues with Sinister, however. The first is that the use of musical cues makes the scares too obvious. It sets them up well, to say the least, but it also gives them away. This leads into my second issue, which is the use of noise to amplify the startles. When a jump-scare happens, the music will get ten times as loud.

I almost feel inclined to provide you with a jump timeline. I’m not gonna do that, though. As I mentioned, Sinister is only good for one watch. Once you know when the scares are going to pop up and the music is going to go DUNNN, then you have nothing to fear from this flick. It’s a great movie, don’t get me wrong, but now it’s out of theatres. If anything, rent it or check it out on Netflix.

John Campea of TheMovieBlog thinks Sinister ruined itself by showing one of the tension builders in the trailer, and I’m partially inclined to agree. I only say partially because Sinister is creepy from the get-go. They start off by showing the hanging of a family, and the creepy projector comes soon after. Regardless of what the trailer shows, a shocking spree it be. If you sit down and watch, you won’t care about the ending. You’ll be more concerned about the musical score’s elevated tempo. In fact, by the end, you won’t even want to watch it again. Probably. Here’s the review link: http://themovieblog.com/2012/review-sinister/


RoboCop, Big Bad Business


RoboCop
RoboCop is a classic of sci-fi corporate/criminal warfare. With a greater plot and cluster of subplots to direct the audience’s attention, the odds are you’ll have a lot to catch up with if you miss a part. Mixing stop-motion, spiffy makeup and badass outfits, RoboCop is as much about the flash and flair of the cybernetic age as it is about the complex sequence of events that lead up to the death of the a member of Omni Consumer Products.

Dick Jones presents to the chairman of OCP a new line of mechanical law enforcers, the ED-209. During its exhibition, it murders an executive attempting to perform a disarming procedure. Thus, Bob Morton steps in and offers up RoboCop, the revolutionary cyborg police officer. Since nobody is quite willing to sacrifice their body for the sake of this project, Bob turns to the Detroit police. He keeps tabs on high-risk operations, eventually nabbing Alex Murphy as his candidate.

Murphy has a bad run when trying to take down notorious crime lord Clarence Boddicker at an abandoned warehouse, and is shot to death. Bob’s crew claims the corpse and builds it into RoboCop! Crime gradually begins to taper off with this big guy on duty. Only, despite his memory wipe, he’s starting to flash back to his past, little by little.

RoboCopOff on the side, Bob makes some unpleasant remarks about Dick, which earns him an assassination by none other than Clarence himself. Apparently, Dick is in deep with several crime families, and he’s looking to lead the company after the old CEO dies. Ruling with an iron fist, likely enough. Unfortunately for Dick, Murphy’s memories lead RoboCop back to Clarence, which could expose the entire operation.

When RoboCop tries to reveal the video he recorded that documented Clarence’s admission of working with Dick, the secret fourth protocol disables him. Dick then activates ED-209 in an attempt to destroy RoboCop, which fails miserably. But with this protocol in place, how can RoboCop arrest the man who set all the loopholes in place?

That about covers the almost non-spoiler synopsis, anyway. As for the quality of the actors, props, effects… It’s about on-par with what you’d expect from a late 80’s sci-fi movie. Stop-motion, borderline silly lines from the robo-cop, criminals with enough spunk to do stand-up comedy. You get the concept. In this particular movie, however, these things blend and flow; no sudden stops to realize how stupid something is. It’s a classic for a reason, kay?

RoboCopThe final bit of commentary I have for RoboCop is: Doin’ it right. If you don’t know how to go about making a cyborg, do it in as vague a way as possible. That way people can’t say you did it wrong. How clever, says this observer.

For those who are more aware of corporate and political matters, James Berardinelli’s review is the one for you. He describes the movie as a “biting satire of big business practices.” Looking back after having viewed RoboCop again, I certainly do agree. But that hardly matters, since I’m about as aware of business crap as I am of how Mark Wahlberg keeps getting acting jobs. Non sequitur zing! Here’s the link, before I get too distracted: http://www.reelviews.net/php_review_template.php?identifier=1716

The Silence of the Lambs: Collect ‘er for Lecter

The Silence of the LambsSo what makes a movie? Excellent question. Let me list the superfluous things first, just to get them out of the way: Nudity, extreme gore and violence (providing it isn’t thematic), flash 3D, overdone special effects. You’re following me, right? Because my point is, The Silence of the Lambs didn’t need any of that. It’s a 1991 murder mystery thriller and all it had was complex, memorable characters, a successfully suspenseful and easy-to-follow plot, and no slow transitions. Point being, this movie is a classic. Quite lovely.

Let’s talk plot. Clarice Starling is a student with a major interest in the FBI. Her father was a police officer, and out of respect and love for him she followed his footsteps into law enforcement. Her superior, Jack Crawford, wants her to interview the serial killer Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter in order to gather information on the infamous murderer, Buffalo Bill, who is currently at large. This so called “interview” with Hannibal Lecter results in a strange sort of friendship/partnership between him and Clarice due to the fact that she treats him notably more kindly than his captors and the rest of the FBI do.

The Silence of the LambsAs time progresses, we discover that Buffalo Bill has kidnapped the daughter of a senator, which draws much more attention to the case and more prestige to those who are working to solve it. Hannibal Lecter, at one point, begins trading information about Buffalo Bill for recollections of Clarice’s past. He discovers that she grew up on a ranch after her single father was killed by criminals who surprised him coming out the back of a convenience store. One night on the ranch, she woke up to the sound of lambs screaming as they were being slaughtered. She tried to save one as she ran away, but was picked up by the police and brought home. This memory still haunts her, and Lecter suggests that saving the senator’s daughter might make the “lambs stop screaming,” as Lecter puts it.

Buffalo Bill himself is a very interesting character. From Lecter, Clarice learns that he believes himself to be a transsexual because he hates his own identity. His first two murders consisted of a homeless woman, who Buffalo Bill skinned, and Bill’s old boyfriend, who he beheaded. Throughout the course of the movie, little snip-its of Billy’s home life are revealed to explain his character, though they mostly serve to weird the audience out a bit. As it turns out, and as Clarice Starling discovers much later into the movie, he is murdering various “plus size” girls in order to make himself a suit of human skin. While this seems mostly irrelevant to the case itself, a minor detail in the autopsy of one of the murdered girls correlates to another bit of discovered information in Bill’s hometown, drawing closer the suspenseful conclusion. That’s a secret, though, for obvious reasons.

The Silence of the LambsPersonally, I commend Silence of the Lambs for having some of the most realistic, down-to-Earth main characters I’ve seen in a police-ish movie. From my perspective, a lot of these types of characters tend to be overly dramatic or self-righteous to the point of blind conviction. Either that or they’re crooked, right? Clarice Starling is a legitimately admirable character for her motivations and decisions. Kudos to Jodie Foster for such a wonderful performance, wouldn’t you say? And while we’re naming actors, Anthony Hopkins, who plays Hannibal Lecter, may be a little more dramatic with his portrayal, but that only serves to better draw in his audience. If anything, I would highly recommend seeing this movie simply because of the relationship between these two characters. Or you could watch it for the plot. Whichever you prefer.

Changeling: Fact Over Fiction

ChangelingNormally, I don’t care too much for Angelina Jolie. Most of the time, I don’t care too much about historical movies. Almost never do I find myself enjoying a “based off a true story” movie. Changeling? The ultimate exception, and I’ll tell you why. It’s all the emotion packed in there. Love and loss, fear, justice, desire for power and control, frustration; it’s more emotionally dynamic than a soap opera. Well, I’ve heard they can be rather emotional. I don’t watch them. They come off as rather boring and petty. But I digress.

The Hollywood interpretation of the story of Christine and Walter Collins was, to my great surprise, not far from the real events. Minimal Hollywood polishing! I know it’s not directly related to the quality of the movie, but the idea of a movie portraying events exactly as they are is unheard of. It deserved mention and a bit of respect, I believe.

ChangelingThis sad, desolate, yet hopeful little tale takes place in the 1920’s, revolving around the aforementioned mother and child, Christine and Walter Collins. One day after staying late at work, Christine comes home to find her son gone. Her neighbors are clueless, and the police are about as concerned as a dead guy. They give her twenty four hours before they start searching, but manage to find him in five months.

Mr. J.J. Jones gladly returns the boy to her, only to discover that, uh oh, it’s the wrong kid. But he’s in the big league, working for the (painfully corrupt) LAPD, and he’s not looking to be embarrassed. Following her denial of the kid being her son and her agreement to take him home on a trial basis, things really start to escalate.

After witnessing that “Walter” was circumcised, something that her son was not, and discovering that the imposter is three inches shorter, she approached Jones again. Jones was less than receptive to her troubles. His “help” this time around is offering to send a doctor over to review “Walter’s” condition. Under Jones’s orders, the doc explains that the drifter “Walter” was found with may have circumcised him for whatever reason, and that the trauma from the whole incident may have caused his spine to shrink. Hahah. No really. That’s what they said. Amazing what you could get away with back then.

ChangelingThe battle between Christine Collins and the LAPD rages on, while a seemingly unrelated deportation operation lands a detective headfirst into one of the most brutal crimes in the history of Las Angeles. The mystery of Walter’s disappearance begins to grow clearer and clearer as the detective pieces together one related event after another. … That was… kind of like reading the back of the DVD box of a mystery thriller. But don’t worry, it’s related. I can’t really say more, considering it’s sort of plot-essential and most definitely a spoiler.

You can’t go wrong with Changeling, really. It’s a lovely bit of nostalgic cinematic gold, offering satisfaction at the dissolution of the lies of the LAPD. As a movie with a gloomy tone, the end provides a powerful feel-good sense brought about by justice. And the smaller feel-good bit for wise-asses who realize the irony in the justice being brought to the justice system. You can ignore that last bit if you want. My final statement about this somber movie is that it is definitely worth seeing. Might be unpleasant due to the drawn-out injustice against Christine Collins, but worth it in the end. Go see it, get mad, get happy. Freak out. It’s awesome.

Pulp Fiction is Magnificent

Pulp FictionExcuse me if I gush, but this is my favorite movie. With an all-star cast, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, and Bruce freakin’ Willis, Pulp Fiction is undoubtedly Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. In his usual fashion, he introduces the plot as a linear, disconnected yet well-developed web of events. Each segment feels like its own micro-movie, yet has all the character development and content of a feature length film. The plot itself focuses primarily on the characters Butch Coolidge, played by Bruce Willis, and Jules Winnfield, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Funny enough, their paths only barely cross once throughout the course of the entire movie.

Butch is a boxer who makes a deal with the crimelord Marsellus Wallace: He purposely loses a match, he gets a lot of money. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan, and Butch is forced to deal with Marsellus Wallace’s “discontentment” with his actions. Discontentment in this case means hitman Vincent Vega, and ultimately Marsellus himself, who stumbles upon the fleeing Butch after going out to buy donuts. To reveal a bit without spoiling anything, the next segment includes abduction by a strange shopkeeper and his friend, a chainsaw, and a katana, none of which seem out of place in the movie. A real Tarantino blend of epic and unusual, if you will.

The trials of Jules are of a much more philosophical nature. Whenever Jules speaks, there’s always a greater sense of reason, despite his status as one of Marsellus Wallace’s thugs. One particular incident, in which both he and Vince nearly face death by a revolver the size of a cannon, causes him to start to see things differently. So differently, in fact, that his entire view on life is dramatically altered. Vincent doesn’t take too kindly to the change, as his character is one of compulsory skepticism, but to a man of faith like Jules Winnfield, such opinions matter little.
Pulp Fiction

All in all, the movie provides an astute delve into the criminal underworld while presenting complex and likeable characters whose clashing personalities blend perfectly in the orderly chaotic tone of this wonderful piece of cinematic art. That’s definitely me gushing, but I guarantee that by the end of the first segment with Jules and Vince, you’ll be hooked until the end, whether you’re a Tarantino fan or not.