Sunday, February 5, 2017

SANTA CLARITA DIET
(January 2017)


"... On the other hand, maybe nothin’s impossible. Who would have ever thought an octopus and a kitten could fall in love?
"It’s on YouTube. You gotta see it. It’ll give you hope.”

There’s a select group of actors who, because of a Single Fantabulous Film (or TV Show) that they helped shepherd into reality, have got a lifetime Pass from me; they can choose to come out in whatever kind of film or series they want, and I will have no right to look at them askance or criticize them, because I’m eternally grateful for that Single Fantabulous Film (or TV Show).
Nicolas Cage immediately comes to mind. Because he produced E. Elias Merhige’s Shadow of the Vampire, I can forgive him for a lot, even (gulp) The Wicker Man remake.
There’s also Drew Barrymore, who now has two lifetime Passes from me: the first, for Donnie Darko (executive producer), and the second, for Santa Clarita Diet (again, executive producer). And she backed both up with her star power by appearing in the cast.
Thanx, Gertie!

“No. Don’t do anything, okay? Just relax.
“I’m dead. It can wait until tomorrow.”

Barrymore and co-star (and co-executive producer) Timothy Olyphant are husband and wife realtors, Sheila and Joel Hammond, doing their best to cope with Sheila’s new titular diet, which is (gasp!) human flesh.
Seriously, I haven’t had this much fun with anything zombie since Shaun of the Dead.
Which is why I’m talking about it here, outside of the ¡Q horror! rundown, since this isn’t really a horror show, so much as it is a comedy with some horror elements.


“Maybe we should just keep driving. Go home, get some clothes, and just never come back.”
“Well, that’s crazy! We can’t just run away. Where would we go?! Oh, we have so much equity in our house!”
“Ah! I didn’t think about the equity! I’m a monster.”

The beauty of the show though is, as much as it’s about the hijinx that result from Sheila’s zombiefication, it’s just as much about the way a family deals with seismic upheavals, about finding family wherever you can, and embracing the reality that, even if something’s changed, that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.
And not only do we have Barrymore as the newly confident and energetic Sheila, and Olyphant as the weed-smoking, occasionally manic Joel, but there’s an excellent supporting cast here too, starting with Liv Hewson (as their headstrong daughter Abby) and Skyler Gisondo (as lovable creeper next door, Eric), and stretching out to the two cops who live on either side of the Hammonds (uh-oh), Richard T. Jones and Ricardo Chavira (who also happens to be the jerkface stepfather to the aforementioned lovable creeper Eric).
Oh! And a 2-episode appearance by Grace Zabriskie! So awesome, ‘cause we all know there is No Such Thing As Too Much Grace Zabriskie!
And for another dose of awesome, Portia de Rossi shows up at the tail end of the season (in a role that was apparently written specifically for her).


“Hello.”
“I’m sorry. I’m not in the mood.”
“Just saying ‘Hello.’”
“I know your ‘Hello’s, honey, and that one was pouring me a glass of wine.”

If you’ve frequented the Iguana in the past, you’ll know that we’re pretty big here on atypical titles of bone-tired genres, and most everything zombie these days is so SO tired. So I wasn’t going to pass up the chance of trumpeting Santa Clarita Diet just because it wasn’t full-on horror. (Here’s hoping Netflix renews it for a second season.)
I dubbed I Am a Hero “the perfect antidote for those all-too-relentlessly grim soap opera zombie titles.”
I was wrong.
Santa Clarita Diet is the perfect antidote for those all-too-relentlessly grim soap opera zombie titles.
Boom.

“I really don’t think I bit him.”
“But what if you did? And what if that makes him turn, and then he bites someone, and they bite someone and pretty soon, we’re like the biggest a$$holes ever!”

(Santa Clarita Diet OS’ courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com & impawards.com.)

Saturday, January 28, 2017


¡QUÉ HORROR2017
Candidate #10

THE MONSTER
(October 2016)


Right out of the gate, writer/director Bryan Bertino carved out a slot for himself on the 2008 ¡Q horror! rundown with his feature debut, The Strangers.
Though circumstances have thus far prevented me from checking out his 2014 follow-up, Mockingbird, he is back ‘round these parts with The Monster.

As with The Strangers, Bertino balances character with the tense thrills produced by a horrific set-up; in this case, it’s a mother and daughter stranded on a lonely road, at night, in the rain, with the titular (and savagely hungry) beast lurking in the woods.

There are strong performances here from Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine, and Chief Tyrol himself, BSG’s Aaron Douglas, also shows up for the fun.
If you’re in the mood for some suspenseful and moving horror, then hunt down The Monster.

(The Monster OS courtesy of screenanarchy.com.)

Saturday, January 7, 2017


¡QUÉ HORROR2017
Candidate #9

I AM A HERO
(October 2015)


And here's another zombie film that takes an interesting and atypical approach to its narrative.

Based on the manga by Hanazawa Kengo, Sato Shinsuke’s I Am a Hero follows struggling mangaka’s assistant Hideo (Ôizumi Yô), still waiting for his big break, much to the increasing annoyance of his girlfriend, Tekko (Katase Nana).
Will our, ahem, hero finally get his own work published and serialized, and get the girl?
Then again, it probably doesn’t matter, ‘cause, you know… zombie apocalypse.
As we well know, zombie apocalypses tend to muck up the small, trivial things the human race has usually got going on, things like plans and life…

There are dollops of thrills and black comedy and pathos here amidst the gore and the grue--and there’s a whole lotta that, so be warned--as well as a tip of the zombie hat to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.
I Am a Hero is the perfect antidote for those all-too-relentlessly grim soap opera zombie titles out there…

(I Am a Hero OS courtesy of wwwatch.in.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


¡QUÉ HORROR2017
Candidate #8

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS
(August 2016)


Now here's a zombie film that very consciously takes some relatively unfamiliar routes in its narrative, and that kind of zombie film is definitely worthy of some ¡Q horror! love.

Mike Carey--yes, that Mike Carey--adapts his own novel, The Girl with All the Gifts, and helps (heh) gift us with a title that should settle in nicely in the annals of zombie cinema.

Now, in lieu of getting all spoiler-y, let’s take a look at some of the film’s other personnel:

Director Colm McCarthy first landed in ¡Q horror! territory in the 2011 rundown, with his feature debut, Outcast. Now he’s back in the running with his sophomore feature.
(He’s apparently been keeping busy on the telly front. And speaking of, he’s set to direct the Krypton Pilot for SyFy--yes, that Krypton--so that should be something!)

Composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer, who positively killed on the score for the late and very much lamented Utopia, slays once again here.
(He also worked on the first series of Humans, though sadly, he didn’t score the second.)

And that cast!
Not only do we have Paddy Considine and Gemma Arterton, we’ve also got Glenn Close!
Glenn! Close!
And the feature debut of Sennia Nanua isn’t too shabby neither!

So, if you feel like supporting atypical zombie fare (and you really really should!), then by all means, pay The Girl with All the Gifts a visit!


Parting Shot:
While Carey is possibly better known in the comics world for his work on Lucifer or Hellblazer, as far as I’m concerned, his magnum opus in graphic literature is definitely The Unwritten.

(The Girl with All the Gifts UK quad courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com; novel blurb OS courtesy of orbitbooks.net.)

Friday, December 23, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2017
Candidate #7

THE EXORCIST Season 1
(September 2016)


After the terribly disappointing Damien--the A&E TV take on The Omen--I honestly didn’t have high hopes for Fox’s The Exorcist.

Let’s face it, The Exorcist is a much more towering presence in horror cinema than The Omen, so it stood to reason that a television version of it would have a much higher degree of difficulty.
But wouldn’t you know it, Jeremy Slater (who developed The Exorcist for the small screen) actually pulled an infernally feisty rabbit out of this particular hat, and gave us another notable reason to celebrate TV horror.

Not much more I can say without getting all spoiler-y, except maybe this: there are a whole bunch of callbacks to the original film peppered throughout the first season’s 10 episodes (you’ll know them when you see them), and there’s one apparently incredulous Mulder Moment courtesy of Geena Davis’ Angela Rance in the Pilot, my suggestion for which is, “Just roll with it.”

So, yeah.
If you’re in the mood for some excellent TV horror, then the power of Christ compels you to check this out!


(The Exorcist OS’ courtesy of impawards.com and dreadcentral.com.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2017
Candidate #6

BUSANHAENG
(TRAIN TO BUSAN)
(May 2016)


I'll say it right up front: if you watch a lot of zombie cinema, then you’ve seen this movie before.

Yes, they’re speaking in Korean, and sure, we’re on a speeding train, but you’ve got the Sudden Outbreak, the Initially Unlikely Hero, the Somewhat Obnoxious Guy Who May or May Not Prove to Be Heroic After All, the Characters Who Will Need Extra Protection (in this case, we have a Child and an Expectant Mother), and yes, of course we have the A$$hole.
And believe you me, the specimen we have here, played by Kim Eui-sung is like, Lord Emperor A$$hole.

Despite the familiarity of the character types and the beats though--there are a number of Sacrifices here, both of the Voluntary, and definitely Not Voluntary type, as well as Moments of Pathos, where the music swells and we’re moved to reach for a box of tissues--it cannot be denied that Yeon Sang-ho’s Busanhaeng is an effective entry in zombie cinema, and as such, worthy of some ¡Q horror! love.
(Unless of course, you’re a Slow Zombie loyalist, in which case, do not apply; Busanhaeng sports adrenalized, occasionally contortionist zombies.)

Thus, given where the film positions itself on the narrative spectrum, there is also no significant Romero sociopolitical subtext here, the biggest takeaway perhaps being this tried and tested law in zombie cinema: no matter how bad things get, there’s always going to be an a$$hole who’ll make things even worse…

(Busanhaeng quad courtesy of twitter.com.)

Monday, December 12, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2017
Candidate #5

I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE
(September 2016)


"I have heard myself say that a house with a death in it can never again be bought or sold by the living.
"It can only be borrowed from the ghosts that have stayed behind.”

After carving out an entire slot for himself in the ¡Q horror! 2016 rundown--for co-writing the screenplay of The Girl in the Photographs, and for his feature debut, The Blackcoat’s Daughter--Osgood Perkins is back, with his sophomore effort, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House.

Here, we see 28-year-old hospice nurse Lily Saylor (Ruth Wilson), move in with the elderly Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss), a writer of horror novels (“… [t]he kinds of thick, frightening books that people buy at airports and supermarkets,” Lily observes).
Novels with titles like The Dark Moon Flower, Underwater Housewife, She Wore Her Hair Around Her Neck, and--of particular interest to the film’s plot--The Lady in the Walls.
True to ¡Q horror! form, things do not go well.
At all.

Nothing more need be said, save that I Am the Pretty Thing… is the kind of horror film that advances with a languid, stealthy tread, trailing its horror behind it in a train of rotting lace.
If you enjoy the exquisite, lingering dread of slow burn horror, then you definitely need to check this one out…

“… [b]ut left alone, with only your own eyes looking back at you… and even the prettiest things rot.
“You fall apart like flowers…”

Parting Shot 1:
It’s interesting to note that there’s another prominent ghost in this film: Osgood’s father, the one and only Anthony Perkins.
From the prominent use of “You Keep Coming Back Like A Song” (by Tony Perkins with Urbie Green and His Orchestra, contained in From My Heart from 1958), to a scene from 1956’s Friendly Persuasion (for which Perkins was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), to the film’s dedication (“for A.P.” which I can only assume stands for “Anthony Perkins”), the late Perkins’ presence is very much felt in I Am the Pretty Thing

Parting Shot 2:
There also another Perkins with a prominent role here as well, Osgood’s brother, Elvis, who provides the film’s soundtrack, as he did on The Blackcoat’s Daughter.

(I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House OS courtesy of werstreamt.es.)