Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Still Know What I Did This Summer...

...I still continued watching this series' drastic decline into complete disinterest. The faint acclaim for the first entry has vanished into ghostly whispers only Jennifer Love Hewitt's cleavage could decipher.

Things I Still Know
(and will always know) from
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer:

(Warning: Contains SPOILERS of a film already riddled with cliche.)

1) Alternate title: "I Know What Your First Movie Did at the Box Office Last Summer."

2) "Two summers ago we lied to the authorities. We hit Ben Willis with our car and then threw his body into the water to cover it up. Only he didn't die. He killed Barry and Helen last July 4th. And I swear to god, I thought Ray and I had killed him, but we didn't," sums up survivor Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt), saving me that pesky recap.

3) Misty bloodsoaked memories as Julie mourns the deaths of friends Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Barry (Ryan Phillippe) over bedside production stills, taken on the same day as their untimely deaths.

4) If there's one place you never expect to see a killer fisherman, it's a Catholic confessional... Or a trendy night club... Or a high-priced resort hotel... Or a karaoke bar...

Props to the writers for trying to concoct new places for their killer to cause chaos. Pity to the writers for everything they eventually came up with.

5) The oddball inciting incident stems entirely from our lead characters' blank spot regarding world geography. The diabolically daft plot begins when Julie and new replacement friend Karla (Brandy's feature debut) win all-expense-paid tickets to a posh resort in the Bahamas through a suspicious radio DJ. All they have to do is answer the question, "What is the capital of Brazil?" Stumped and squealing, the two teens look to their only connection to South America... Coffee grinds. Good old reliable coffee packaging will tell you it's Rio de Janeiro. A map would tell you it's Brasilia. Julie's excuse is that her guilt has left her sleep-deprived and unable to focus or study. The writers excuse is perhaps much the same.

6) Needless Fodder Celebrity Cameos!

Left: John Hawkes once floundering.
(A wisely) Blazed Jack Black.

7) As Karla calls it, "One single with extra cheese." Julie sings karaoke to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," for all the easy irony and a chance to further promote Jennifer Love Hewitt's short-lived singing career. (Her debut single "How Do I Deal?" is featured on the film's soundtrack, for less easy irony.) The killer also took the time to specially program the karaoke system to cruelly taunt Julie, making her look crazy, and very possibly fucking up her vocals.

8) Their only hopes for survival outside of Gloria Gaynor? Toothbrush voodoo! Thanks, menacing islander! He'll protect your spirit and your smile.

9) The killer turns out to be trusty friend Will Benson (with the aid of fisherman father, Ben Willis) who takes his time earning Julie's good will under a weirdly literal pseudonym. Will is Ben Willis's son, hence the name Will Benson. They take years of planning for everything else and that's the best they could come up with?

Where there's a Will, there's a way! Will enrolls in Julie's college, follows her class schedule, devotedly works his way into her core group of friends, books an expensive resort stay for the clique (plus airfare), just so he can reveal his motives and work in some murder after dipping in the private jacuzzi. Will (Matthew Settle) also somehow convinced the Tower Bay tourism board to let them stay completely solo during their (confusingly week long) storm season. Tower Bay Resort of the Bahamas promotes sun, sand, and elaborately nonsensical murder sprees! It's like Clue... if nobody had one. Or Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, if she'd put hook to paper instead of pen.

10) For all that elaborate production and pre-planning, Will and Ben then try to quickly off Julie by snap-tying her into a tanning bed. Julie does finally get free, but not before her friends' profound struggle with the concept of a snap-tie. The killers will eventually see to their vengeance though -- in Julie's imminent skin damage twenty years from now.

11) Ben Willis (Muse Watson) and brood apparently took to the islands because he was once employed by the remote resort, and there's even talk of an illicit affair that caused him to snap into murderous psychosis. Still nice to know that Tower Bay welcomes him with open arms. He prepares for Julie a marked grave, now less legible given that he's been missing a limb since the first film.

Stumbling upon it, Julie asks, "What's today's date?," already having known and grieved the entire film that it was July 4th, the anniversary of the sole event that destroyed her life.

12) Will's exclamation/reveal -- "Come on, Julie, what's your favorite radio station?!" -- has less echoes of menace than of Jim Carrey as Fire Marshall Bill.

13) A ravaged Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr. reprising as Julie's brooding boyfriend) flees to the Bahamas to rescue Julie and arrives just in the nick of time, during an intense tropical storm, in the exact location of her near gutting by Ben's hook. Held at gunpoint, even Ben takes to poking fun at Freddie Prinze Jr., "What're you gonna do, boy? Call us names?"

14) Ben accidentally butchers his own boy before Julie puts their harsh two-year history to rest. Final rest... Or at least until the cheap tag that closes the film wherein Ben just appears beneath Julie's bed, rendering the rest of the finale completely pointless. But not before Julie shares final words with Ben and the sentiments of the audience...


Up Next: I'll Always Know...
why this sequel went directly to DVD.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Know What I Did This Summer...

...I re-watched I Know What You Did Last Summer and its admirably embarrassing sequels. Then I mocked them, took too many screencaps, and dumped the corpse into the blogosphere, never to be heard from again.

Kevin Williamson, hot off the success of Scream and Dawson's Creek, took to fully forming his trend of late 90's slashers featuring hyper-verbose hotties and self-referential slaughter. But over a decade later, this oft-maligned entry seems almost perilously pure. A simple murder mystery that contains all the bait-and-tackle of an 80's revenge flick in the vein of Prom Night, Terror Train and My Bloody Valentine -- albeit with a snark and sheen that is unmistakably of the WB-era. July 4th, one of the few untouched holidays of the horror genre, serves as setting for this anniversary based less in patriotism than physical trauma.

It's a glossy twist on a classic campfire story. Four friends preface their night of vehicular manslaughter with spooky stories of American folklore. They each retell variations of an essential urban legend: the creepy, cliched tale of lovers run afoul of a killer with a hook for a hand. "It's a fictional story created to warn young girls about the dangers of having premarital sex," says Final Girl Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt), moments before handing her V-card to hunky/hollow Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze Jr.) on the shores of Dawson's Beach (Dawson Leery's clearly a wealthy land baron in Williamson's mind). Taking a twist similar to Scream's Sidney Prescott, Julie actually survives her lack of celibacy, but hardly comes away unpunished.

Lois Duncan's young adult novel about teen morality is ironically and immorally adapted into this old school stalk-and-slash. Duncan reportedly hated the drastic alterations, but to be fair, slasher movies are always dosing morality with THE most punishing of punctuation. Just as our characters realize whilst dumping a stranger's corpse into the sea, bright futures aren't brought on by a body count. Drunk driving, premarital sex, and taking responsibility for last year's hit-and-run... I Know What You Did Last Summer is basically a lecture class with more ample cleavage and carnage.

Random Things I Know
(still know, and will always know)
I Know What You Did Last Summer:

1) Don't murder the innocent and run off to college.

2) You can have a hook for a hand and still maintain lovely penmanship.

3) Catch of the Day: Half-naked Ryan Phillippe!

4) I like to think Sarah Michelle Gellar wooed future husband Freddie Prinze Jr. with their single, dismissive dialogue exchange: "Yeah... I don't think so, Ray."

5) Freddie Prinze Jr. is a graduate from the Keanu Reeves school of acting. First Lesson: Internalize the monologue, "I'm cute but this... confuses me."

6) Proven by Julie's sassy (and completely extraneous) dorm mate, it's possible to demean someone in the most supportive way possible.

"Move your tired ugly ass girl!"

"Julie, you're going home for the summer.
And you're going to get a tan on that
pasty-pale tail of yours!"

"Julie, get your white as death,
chalky corpse in the car. Now!"

The sleepy North Carolina fishing town nets more red herrings than anything else. Johnny Galecki (post-David from Roseanne) and Anne Heche (pre-wandering highways and calling herself Celestia) both play suspicious on the sidelines.

Heche actually turns in a surprisingly sweet and standout performance, considering she's really playing just another stereotyped hick from the sticks. She brings honest warmth to her ramshackle, Leatherface-inspired abode.

8) While it's extremely unsettling to see a powerless Buffy Summers, Sarah Michelle Gellar still stakes out the film's most memorable bits. And she dealt with a shoddy wig long before Buffy Season Six...

Anyone crowned "Croaker Queen" in a horror film should probably expect to croak at any moment, and Helen Shivers (Gellar) does so with gusto. Her flee from police cruiser to family store is a tightly-wound suspense sequence -- a stellar setpiece for the film and 90's slashers in general.

Gellar's lungs are certainly up to the challenge, and clearly she can conquer victimhood with the same punch reserved for female empowerment on TV. The spree across the town square, stare down with suspicious mannequins, near escape and eventual slashing in a back alley... Helen's showdown provides maximum vulnerability and well-timed tension. What begins as a classy homage to the classic chase from Halloween, makes for a truly taut bit of filmmaking despite its cliches. Credit to director Jim Gillespie, composer John Debney, and the faint sexiness of Hooverphonic's 2Wicky playing over the store sound system (for being a hateful bitch, Helen's sister sure knows a good soundtrack).

9) That brings us to the somewhat underwhelming reveal...

Wait. Fingered the wrong guy. So much menacing rain gear...

That's better, but still somewhat underwhelming. Admirably Benjamin Willis, fan of the local attire and turning teens into fish sticks, does have an interesting method to his madness.

Rather than go directly for the kill, Ben taunts his victims with elaborate and ominous threats (self-addressed and personally delivered) while holding out for homicide until the actual holiday hits. A particularly odd choice on his part: Turning Julie's car into a crabshack coffin for Max (Johnny Galecki), then returning to the scene to vaccuum clean it just to make her look crazy. That's some absurd follow through.

But what's to follow that makes Benjamin's humble beginnings seem almost monstrously well-plotted...

Up Next:
An idyllic island getaway and a hideously cast Jack Black!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Debbie Does Retro Posters!

What's in a name?

When Women Played Ding Dong

"A new name for an old game..."

Like Jenga with genitals!

A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine

"There is an expression for girls like her...
You see it scrawled on walls...!"

Although admittedly hard to read
under all that brine...


...Her parents also considered the name Beth.


"In the not too distant future sex will be illegal.
But there with be Rollerbabies."

Consolation for your space age celibacy?

Feelin' Screwy

"Fun... Romance... Rap... Reality!"

Oh no he didn't...

Kung Fu Halloween

The Night HE Came Home...
to do an impressive roundhouse kick.

I Need a Man... Any Man!

"She created her own world of utter sensuous ecstasy,
and drew her friends in with her erotic cry...
'I need a man... Any man!'"

Whorish desperation at its most erotic!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Something Rank (#6-5)

4 Beasts, 36 Bloodbaths,
Bottomless Blog Posts

Previous Entries:
(#36-33) (#32-29) (#28-25)
(#24-21) (#20-17) (#16-15)
(#14-13) (#12-11) (#10-9)

Halloween II (1981)

Love is... never having to say you're sorry for shooting your brother's eyes out at point blank range (upon your first time meeting). Laurie Strode's first bout with her Boogeyman kin began on the back streets of Haddonfield, Illinois in 1978 and ended in the dank, sanitary halls of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, that same fateful night in 1981. Jamie Lee Curtis's wig is as untended as the hospital patients once the nurses take to steamy hot tubs and doctors get piss drunk. Lucky for Laurie she seems to be about the only patient. Mental case Michael Myers takes to the halls to administer his own treatments, leading to all sorts of medical malpractice.

John Carpenter and Debra Hill reluctantly took to writing a sequel to a film without intricate story. Forced to add new elements, they wisely chose to extend the first film's night of horrors, but also a new plot element or two. The key device -- familiar to fans of daytime television -- makes Michael's motivations clear in his attempted murder of that innocent babysitter also being his estranged baby sister. Needless exposition perhaps but it's also become essential part of the series legacy. The sacrificial solstice of Samhain becomes Michael's tie to the source holiday, and it all acts as precursor to Michael's eventual dabbling in Druid lore throughout the series' eventual slog.

Director Rick Rosenthal, who would go on to see Michael's Resurrection and simultaneous demise, actually does a strong job at keeping Halloween's essential atmosphere even in a mostly new setting. Much thanks to DP Dean Cundy's reprisal as well, Rosenthal's film (with additional aid from John Carpenter) still manages the high suspense and considerably restrained slaughter -- although distinctly less elegant this time around. There's even a nice nod to the classic Deep Red (Profondo Rosso) as a nurse gets a facial in a boiling hot tub, and generally Halloween II manages to be eerie while ushering in the slaughter-heavy staples of the 80's slasher. The body count rises, the blood flows, and the singular soundtrack gets a pulsing, synthesized reinvention. Michael, too, still maintains sufficient menace - now half-charred and riddled with bullet wounds. One of the longest nights in horror history goes out with an explosive bang, leaving Laurie Strode to still beg Mr. Sandman to bring her a dream man that isn't prone to stabbing, and ideally isn't her own brother.

The Face of Fear:

Killer Looks:

1) Michael Audrey Myers:
Brother to Laurie and Judith.
At least until he kills them.

2) A tearful reunion.

My Thoughts Exactly...

(#5) Friday the 13th (1980)

Just singing "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" gets the counselors of Camp Crystal Lake all hot and bothered (also possibly giving that song sordid new meaning). What the campground lacks in childcare and smores, it more than makes up for in softcore lust. Sean S. Cunningham's horror cash cow learns all the right lessons about slasher delights while dosing some punishing morality tales. In hopes of reopening the campgrounds, our teen ensemble (see: generic fodder and Kevin Bacon) gather to dust-off the dooming legacy of "Camp Blood," and makes sure there's no blood left on the bunks before the fresh-faced tots arrive.

Little Jason Voorhees drowned in Crystal Lake while his counselors took to toking and poking in the nearby cabins. His death must be avenged, gruesomely and on the unluckiest night of the year. Jason's psychotic and scorned mother, Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), picks up the axe (as well as machetes, spears, bows and arrows) and teaches the local teens about prioritizing strip poker with tending to the handicapped kids. Pamela's maternal madness remains one of the series' sole motivations - losing her mind and her head to protect the legacy of Jason's lakeside demise. If Jason Voorhees is the official face of the Friday films, he owes it all to his mother's undying love and support.

Unlike many of the franchise classics, Friday the 13th barely has the content or class to rank as high in regard, but enough crucial elements to build a suspenseful, oddly satisfying brand of slaughter. Our Final Girl Alice (Adrienne King) is more efficient than empowered, while her rowdy friends are more or less placeholders for sharp objects. Nevertheless, the tried-and-true slasher era unfolds. Key to this classic's success though is the iconic lakeside setting offset by a settling storm, Harry Manfredini's stirring stalker anthem, and Kevin Bacon getting stuck like a pig. Mood, perhaps accidentally, still permeates most of the mayhem, making it a go-to for gorehounds and fans of atmospheric horror as well. Jason does do Pamela proud eventually, but his mom's place in horror history still provides a more somber, stylish scare. Like a truly loving mother, Pamela gave her son a solid life and legacy to build upon. She's the reason he's the man/beast he is today.

The Face of Fear:

Killer Looks:

1) Proud Pamela:
Devoted, thick-sweatered mother.

2) Jumping Baby Jason

My Thoughts Exactly...

Up Next: #4-3

Meeting Freddy to Meta Freddy