November 17, 2014

The Dog Farm Descends From The Mount With The Ten Commandments Of Watching Horror Movies At Home

     This is a post originally published on Carl Boehm's website The Info Zombie on 10/10/14 after Carl and I agreed to swap posts for our Pre'Ween celebration.  My anal retentive nature demands the post ultimately find a place in my own archive, as well, so here it is...

     I panicked when Carl first proposed a Pre'Ween article swap between our sites.  After all, The Info Zombie boldly asserts that it feeds one's hunger for brainy stuff.  Movies At Dog Farm is mostly just my own personal internet drool cup.  What brain-tickling wisdom could I possibly have to impart?


     Since you couldn't know this, let me tell you that I just stared blankly at an empty laptop screen for twenty minutes.  I know movies, though.   By extension, I know how to watch movies.  Now before you take offense at the implication that you don't, you should know I often have to consciously remind myself of several of these commandments, as well.

     We know, but like children, we forget.  Anytime I don't enjoy a movie, I have to ask myself if I really gave it a fair shake.  If I broke two or three of these commandments while watching, I probably didn't.

     Roll with me, folks.  This is all I've got...

  1)  Dim The Lights


     I probably break this commandment more than any other.  It's imperative, though.  We all know that spectating cavemen blew out their torches before watching the mastadon show on a lit cave wall.  That urge is deeply ingrained and primal.  Ignore that urge at your own peril.

     The lights go down in the "auditorium" when the movie starts, and they stay down until it's over.  Unless you live in an underground bunker - or perhaps your mom's basement - you shouldn't watch horror movies in the daytime.

  2)  Sit Up Straight


     A prone position plus a darkened room equals nap time.  No matter how good a movie may be, you won't absorb that fact by osmosis when you fall asleep.


  3)  Turn On The Air 


     There's a reason theaters used to advertise air conditioning.  You should be cool when watching, but not cold.  It keeps you alert.  Also, your home theater being too warm and toasty is another one of those things that heralds nap time.  The only exception here is if you're watching drive-in movies and trying to recreate a balmy summer evening.  Honestly, though - if that's the circumstance, you're probably going to put yourself to sleep with that twelfth beer anyway.

  4)  Don't Use Cellphones, Tablets, Or Laptops


     In short, don't try to multitask while watching a movie.  Multitasking is a lie.  No-one can multitask.  Some people may be better able to quickly switch focus from one task to another, but no-one can really do more than one thing at a time.  Multitask, and your viewing experience is compromised.


  5)  Don't Watch The Movie Alone - But Don't Talk, Either 


     Part of the fun of watching a good scary movie is watching others get scared.  It may not be practical to recreate the communal experience of the theater at home, but you should always arrange for at least one other viewer to join you.  Remember, though, that you're only focusing on one task now, so no conversation.  That other viewer is only there so you can feed on their fear in the dark.

  6)  Don't Pause The Movie For Bathroom Breaks


     A decision has no significance if it has no consequence.  If you go to the bathroom, you're going to miss some of the movie.  Now weigh just how badly you need to pee against how much you don't want to miss some of the movie.  Choose wisely.

  7)  Put Down The Remote


     Any fiddling with audio and video should happen before the movie begins, and we've already established that you won't be pausing the movie for bathroom breaks.  Drop the remote and step away.  You're going to lunge for it the first time the volume spikes, but you must resist the urge to change the volume once the movie begins.  If the movie is really, really quiet and then it gets really, really loud, trust that was the filmmaker's intent.


  8)  Watch The Trailers


     Allow yourself these few minutes to revel in the anticipation of the main event.  The trailers are your movie watching foreplay.  They give you time to acclimate yourself to a movie watching mindset.  

     If the movie doesn't have any trailers attached to it (VOD), then find a couple to watch beforehand.  Vudu makes it easy.  You are hereby granted authority to pick up that remote for a moment if you have to navigate to the trailers.  You're only granted temporary immunity from number seven for that, though.  Drop that remote like it's hot again afterwards.


 9)  Eat Only  Movie Appropriate  Concessions


     In other words, eat only quiet concessions like popcorn, soda, and hot dogs.  Raisinets are allowable as long as you don't jiggle the box incessantly.  Nothing is louder - or more distracting - than someone trying to quietly open a bag of potato chips in a dark room.

10)  Watch Only One Movie A Night


      I'm expecting some resistance to this one.  What about the grand old tradition of the double feature, you may ask?  When double features were still in vogue, movies were generally shorter than they are now.  They were shorter because it was understood that they'd be playing on a double bill with another movie.  

     If you want to watch The Giant Gila Monster (1959) and The Killer Shrews (1959) together, fine.  Don't watch The Exorcist (1973) and Rosemary's Baby (1968) together, though.  You'll grow fatigued during the second feature, and your appreciation of it - no matter how good a movie it is - will be compromised.


     Try adhering to these commandments for your next movie night this Pre'Ween, and I can almost guarantee that your horror movie experience will be improved.  If not, please feel free to blame The Info Zombie for trying to get me to write something brainy.  He should have known better.


November 7, 2014

Le Fear II: Le Sequel (2015) - Because I'm Not Afraid To Review The Sequel To An Original That I Haven't Seen

actor Kyri Saphiris in Le Fear II: Le Sequel (2015)
Carlos Revalos (Kyri Saphiris) contemplates where it all went wrong in Le Fear II: Le Sequel (2015)

Le Fear II: Le Sequel (2015)
Not Yet Available, currently in post production
Director: Jason Croot
Stars: Andrew Tiernan, Kyri Saphiris, Seye Adelekan, Aiko Horiuchi, Victoria Hopkins

     After the disaster of Le Fear, director Carlos Revalos decides to make a sequel with a bigger budget. What could go wrong? Simply everything.

         When I watch a movie that depicts the making of a movie I find it surprising that any project - good, bad, or indifferent - ever actually gets made.  It seems as though trying to get dozens of individuals pulling in the same direction at the same time must be like trying to get a bunch of children with attention deficit disorder to bake a cake.  Chaos reigns supreme.  It's a miracle any movie shoot results in a coherent finished product, much less a good finished product.  Of course Le Fear II: Le Sequel is (I hope) exaggerating that filmmaking chaos for comedic effect.  Even so, I'm sure Le Fear II wasn't created in a vacuum.  One has to assume writer/producer/director Jason Croot knows whereof he speaks.

     Le Fear II: Le Sequel is a mockumentary about fictional film director Carlos Revalos (Kyri Saphiris) trying desperately to mount his biggest production yet, a horror movie called - you guessed it - Le Fear II: Le Sequel.  Having contributed $500,000 of his own money to secure a promised $10 million dollar budget from producer Dirk Heinz (Andrew Tiernan), Revalos sees his best efforts thwarted every step of the way by an ineffectual production staff from Nigeria led by the incompetent Efi Womonbongo (Seye Adelekan).  Location mishaps, interpersonal turmoil, and absurdly  substandard special effects ensue, threatening to derail Le Fear II long before it ever sees the light of a projector.

     First off: yes, there actually is a beginning to this franchise-in-the-making called Le Fear (2010), and no I haven't seen it.   From what I've read about Le Fear, it seems as though Le Fear II is a quasi-remake/sequel along the lines of something like Evil Dead II (1987).  Apparently, the original is somewhat difficult to find.  The Le Fear II Facebook fan page had posted a link to Le Fear on Vimeo, but the link is now dead.  That being the case, I'm forced to talk out of my ass and make assumptions.  So what else is new, right?  Maybe if I'm mistaken someone associated with the movie will be kind enough to correct me in the Comments section.  I do, however, know thanks to IMDB that both Le Fear III: Le Cannes and Le Fear IIII: Who Killed Carlos Revalos have already been announced, and I love the fact that a low-budget independent director like Croot appears to be indulging in a bit of the "universe building" that's all the rage with the big studios now.

     So is the Le Fear brand worthy of further installments?  Based upon my reaction to Le Fear II, I'd have to say yes.  Make no mistake - Le Fear II is clearly a low budget production lacking the polish of the big boys.  Fortunately, though, the nature of the story - an earnest but naive director struggling to make a decent low budget horror movie with limited resources - insures that the budgetary restraints on the movie itself only add an air of verisimilitude that might otherwise be absent.

     The performances are uniformly solid, as well.  Kyri Saphiris nails the hang-dog perseverance of a director trying desperately to soar like an eagle while surrounded by turkeys, but it's all those turkeys that are ultimately the movie's strongest asset.  A meta-movie like Le Fear II lives or dies by the authenticity of its performances, and I almost never felt as though I was watching anything other than a spy's eye view of an actual film production falling to ruin.  Seve Adelekan's inept and disingenuous producer Efi seems particularly plausible, as does Victoria Hopkins' fuck-anything-that-moves make-up artist Queenie.

      Of course, not everything about Le Fear II works as well as it might.  A number of scenes are marred by questionable music cues that seem incongruous to the on-screen action.  Additionally, transitions are mostly poor or absent, with many transitions from one scene to the next being nothing more than a simple graphic bearing the movie's name.  Consequently, it's often difficult to gauge the progression of time, and the story is almost entirely lacking in any sense of urgency.  I'd argue that something as simple as including some manner of looming deadline into the narrative - perhaps a pre-sold release date that has to be met - would help tremendously.  Those poor transitions could be replaced with interstitials showing dates and times, a ticking clock if you will.  That one relatively easy fix would smooth those rocky transitions, add a sense of urgency to the proceedings, and raise the stakes for the struggling director and his crew.

     A more concerted effort to contextualize some of the filming gags would help, too.  We never really know what Le Fear II (the production in the movie, that is) is actually supposed to be about since the director and crew only ever refer to the particulars of the story in broad, non-specific terms.  For example, I assume from everyone's response to his appearance that there isn't really supposed to be a witch doctor in the movie, but since the movie being made also involves aliens and vampires, who knows?  Efi ultimately explains the presence of the witch doctor, but the initial gag involving his seemingly arbitrary appearance during shooting would be funnier if we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he isn't supposed to be there.

     Finally, I would like to have seen the movie's resolution play out a bit differently, so here's the spoiler alert.  Director Revalos understandably believes he has presented his backers with an unsalable piece of garbage.  Somewhat inexplicably, producer Dirk Heinz loves it - presumably because he believes Revalos has delivered a horror movie product he can sell.  What if Heinz loved it for all of the wrong reasons?

     Revalos believes he has made a terrible horror movie that doesn't work, and he has.  But in making that terrible horror movie, he has inadvertently made a very effective spoof of the kind of horror movie he thought he was making.  Such a resolution would be a tip of the hat to those moments of unplanned Indy-shoots-the-swordsman style movie magic that happen by accident during filming.  Also, horror has a long history of directors who only made that first horror movie to get a foot in the door and then feel trapped in the horror ghetto for the rest of their careers.  As a horror fan, I would have enjoyed the delicious irony of a would-be horror director instead ending up being pigeonholed as a comedy director.

     Nitpicks aside, though, Jason Croot has made a broadly funny low budget flick highlighted by some well-realized performances that belie the movie's humble origins.  It's worth noting, too, that Le Fear II is apparently still in post-production, so it's entirely possible that some of the elements that didn't work for me may well end up rejiggered before the planned UK release date of April 11, 2015.  I'm at least impressed enough to look forward to the next entry in the Le Fear franchise, and how often can you honestly say that about a micro-budget independent?

Le Fear II: Le Sequel (2015) poster

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