REVIEW: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)


All the Boys Love Mandy Lane: D


This movie is so fucking boring and unlikable, I can only write about it in short sentences, so let’s get this over with: It’s a slasher movie. There are teenagers who go to a secluded cabin that exists for them to abuse drugs and fornicate in. They are systematically killed. There are red herrings and an obvious conclusion.

Let’s talk aesthetics. The film comes off as wannabe 90s slasher flick meets wannabe grindhouse. It’s I Know What You Did Last Summer run through all your girlfriend’s gritty Instagram filters. There are long, agonizing montages of teens frolicking in meadows that remind me of Levis commercials. People who think the Texas Chainsaw reboots are the only horror movies ever made will call these scenes “stylish,” but they seemed like disjointed filler to me.

I seriously felt like an elderly curmudgeon wishing swift deaths on every character. Sometimes, horror movies will make the expendable teenagers especially unlikable/obnoxious so that you cheer when they get butchered. This movie went the other way with that strategy and it was infuriating: they tried to make the teens stylish and rebellious at the same time and they just came off as contrived advertisements.

Here’s what the film has going for it: The kills are sort of a mystery. I don’t mean in a “who done it” kind of way (I think my dog figured out the “twists” by the second act). I mean I couldn’t tell if the kills were satirizing horror movies or paying homage to them. I went back and forth trying to determine artistic intent, so I’ll give the movie props for some consistent ambiguity.

This is not really a compliment when you think about it. How do you think the director would feel if I told him that his movie’s greatest achievement is the detective work it put me through to understand what exactly he was fucking up? The kill scenes weren’t silly enough to be satire and too shitty to be actual tributes to other slasher flicks.

That was my experience with this film: trying to deduce the meaning/intent of every instance of violence with riotous teens frolicking in a pestilent Coca-cola commercial sepia lens-flare back-drop. No one wants to watch 90 minutes of Mandy and her friends Snapchatting each other in a rye field at dusk. GET A JOB.

The gore was alright. There is some crunchy skull mashing and some spraying wounds that were entertaining enough.

REVIEW: Transcendence (2014)



Transcendence: D-

I don’t know about you, but I love a sci-fi thriller with philosophical undertones. A movie that asks some deep, even terrifying questions about our future as a species. Transcendence asks its share of questions like: What if a sentient machine bent on world domination really illogically liked this one girl? Also: How about Morgan Freeman in a fisherman’s hat? What does that look like? And: How much money did Johnny Depp get paid to talk into a web cam for a whole movie and is he capable of feeling shame?

Doctor Johnny Depp makes a near-self aware AI which becomes fully self-aware once Depp uploads his stupid consciousness into a room full of stupid computer servers to fill in the gaps in the AI’s programming. The AI then manifests as Depp on a screen. Fucking Johnny Depp. 90% of his screen-time in the film is via-webcam as the personified rendering of the sinister AI. You KNOW he wasn’t wearing pants, either.

The AI Johnny Depp tries to take over the world, assimilating a few people, turning them into techno-organic zombies, manipulating humans like pawns and all that. Lots of scenes of stressed out people studying screens full of computer code (Imagine “Ah, ah ah! You didn’t say the magic word!” for 88 minutes). There are plot holes galore and insultingly fake Mummy Returns-esque CGI.

The movie is mechanical and anti-climactic. If this is what the singularity will be like, don’t worry; you’ll be able to sleep through it. It’ll actually make you WANT to watch Evolver.

Talk about devoid of originality. The movie plays out like it was written by an AI that writes movies about AI, but on a really bad day when the writer AI’s ideas about movies about AI just weren’t there. Maybe there was a deadline or the writer AI’s micromanaging boss won’t quit breathing down its neck, so at the last minute, it generated a god-awful shitty algorithm from which this movie was produced.

It’s one of those movies with invincible bad guys that can only be stopped by this one magic MacGuffiny computer virus. So Luke has to shoot one torpedo down this one special shaft in the Death Star. I mean Will Smith has to sneak onto the alien ship and upload a computer virus. I mean… you get the idea.

I’ve played more exciting games of The Oregon Trail. At least then, when someone got dysentery, it was sort of unexpected. During Transcendence, you’ll wish you contracted dysentery instead of a ticket for the film.


REVIEW: We Are What We Are (2013)


We Are What We Are: A

This is an engrossing story about a family of rural cannibals who, once a year, ritualistically eat someone from their small town. The family has been devouring folks for centuries, passing the cannibal-torch through the generations, ever since the 1700’s when Ma and Pa ate Uncle Cletus and then eventually ate Ma in a flashback scene that’s like the Donner Party meets House of 1,000 Corpses.

There is not a comfortable scene in the movie; the tension is excruciating. I originally turned it on in order to mock it with some friends, but within minutes, we were mesmerized, leaning toward the TV where we remained for the entire film.

The minimalism and subtly made the movie really special. You see some carnage but there is plenty off-screen that gives you chills. The stuff that doesn’t happen, and the things that this film isn’t are what make it uniquely fucked up. This isn’t your mother’s redneck cannibal clan. This isn’t the cannibal family from Texas Chainsaw. Dennis Hopper doesn’t attack them with chainsaws. It isn’t funny. At all.

The music is quiet and evil as fuck. The sound irked something inside of me, especially during a scene where they cook some lady into what looks like burnt Denison’s chili and sit around their candle-lit shack slurping and staring at each other.

After hundreds of years of smooth-operating, the family’s dirty laundry starts to stink up the town. Mom and Dad exhibit visible symptoms of a disease you get from eating human flesh. A flood inconveniently exhumes some skeletons belonging to past Dennison’s chili cook-off victims. The teenage daughters start to reevaluate the ethical consequences of their extreme Atkins Diet.

Fans of Southern Gothic like True Detective will love this movie. There’s no shortage of swampy shanties and creepy evangelists with beards. There’s a forensics cop and a deputy who start sniffing around. The mingling of murderous religious-cult fanatics, and the detective work that might destroy them, creates some consistent and gritty suspense that all kinds of horror fans can enjoy.

Warm yourself up a bowl of chili and scramble some runny eggs before pressing play on this one. Trust me…