Spooktober 2021 Wrap-Up: Ghoulishly Good

Greetings ghouls and goblins. We’ve just wrapped up another lovely year of our friendly little movie festival (details here) and it’s time to share some notes. At the least, future me appreciates the reminders!

We watched 28 movies (officially), totaling 48 hours, spanning 7 countries and stretching across 5 decades.

The top rated movie, on average, was unsurprisingly Stanley Kubrick’s masterful The Shining (1980), garnering 8.3 stars (out of 10).

Family time!

In last place, and well deserved, came Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive (1986), with an outstanding 3 stars (still out of 10). A famous anecdote tells us that when asked why he never directed another movie, King replied, “Did you see Maximum Overdrive?!”

All of us were ready to gouge our eyes out halfway through the first act…and it kept getting worse.

Overall, the highest ranked theme was “based on comic books” and the lowest ranked was “based on video games”. It appears to be quite difficult to adapt a very imaginative, animated video game to a live action film in particular. However, personally I was both impressed and pleasantly surprised by Doom (2005).

I can’t be the only person who assumed The Rock would end up becoming Doom Guy, right?

With an excellent cast, steady pacing, and good visual effects, it did justice to one of my favorite video game franchises. I suspect that my own familiarity with the games helped me gloss over some under-developed plot points, but, as my best friend and I often proclaim, “there’s nothing wrong with fan service!” At the least, it’s gratuitously awesome first person shooter-inspired scene greatly outdid the other movie on our list to try that: House of the Dead (2003). Not constrained by live action, the Japanese Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008) succeeded with plenty of the conspiracy and monsters that Resident Evil fans know and love.

At least Uwe Boll movies have a bit of production value…and boobs.

The other notable movie we all agreed was excellent: Candyman (2021). More of a sequel to the original 1992 film than a remake, it delivered a slick, complex expansion of the story that leaves me hoping we’ll get some more entries in the series soon.

Ultimately, why do we watch horror? The answer is personal, unique to each person. Maybe it lets you dip into the darker side of your emotions in a safe, controlled way. Maybe you savor the effects, and enjoy comparing and contrasting zombie makeup from over the years. Some people have a fond memory of a loved one who introduced them to their first slasher; others use it to help process pain inflicted by those in similar close proximity.

Personally, upon my own reflection, I decided that horror is the “other” genre. Stories and characters that don’t quite fit anywhere else find a loving home in this genre that stretches from belly laugh-inducing comedy to deeply unsettling existential examinations that stay with you for months afterwards. This “otherness” attracts the viewers who themselves lack a clear genre, classification, home.

I’m deeply honored to have made it through one more year of our little marathon with my closest genre-less friends. A special shout-out is due to Emm, master of trivia and burgeoning designer. Also, Linh, who watched most of the movies with me at home while we were locked down made the experience 100x better as we both laughed and cried and gasped at the same moments.

🎃 Until next year 🎃,

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Endings: Nekromantik (1987)

Jörg Buttgereit created this film as a statement about censorship in Germany. When viewed through that lens it doesn’t disappoint, but just about any other perspective will leave you wanting. Plot? Shakey. Character development? Sorta.

To briefly summarize, the film centers on a young street cleaner whose business seems to primarily focus on cleaning up after gruesome car accidents. Luckily for him and his necromaniacal girlfriend this provides access to plenty of corpses. Typically stealing an eyeball here, a heart there, he amasses a collection of body parts in jars in his humble apartment. These play a delightful role in his sex life, but the real prize is a full corpse he manages to sneak back.

Sadly, after a brief period of triad bliss (boy, girl, and corpse, ooh la la) the gal makes a decision and absconds with the mummified fellow. Sorry dude, but how could you possibly compare to the rusty length of pipe installed between Sir. Always Up’s dried out legs?

Naturally this makes our street cleaner upset. Eventually this angst drives him to find another corpse to sport fuck, albeit one that starts his date alive. Once he’s finished there he returns home and we’re left with a wonderful final scene of him masturbating to completion and then some, as he cums buckets of semen and blood from a penis that gives new meaning to “wood”.

The real surprises here come from the subject material, but then in hindsight the escalation of events seems only natural. The twist occurs just a few minutes in as we realize how serious the movie’s title was, and the rest follows suit somewhat predictably. Sooo…low points for offering a surprising ending.

Similarly, we don’t find out what happened with the girlfriend and Sir Always Up. And does our humble street cleaner face any consequences for his murder/rape? Does his job ever notice the missing organs? All of these loose ends detract from the general sense of satisfaction, but on the other hand, cumming blood?! Maybe the sequel (which I haven’t watched yet) will handle the rest. Okay, some points are added back.

Which leaves us with…

Twists: 3
Execution: 2
Satisfaction: 7

Bottom line: Give it a pass unless you’re a big fan of the gore genres, anti-censorship, or, uh, you find corpses sexy.

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Endings: House M.D.

Warning: Here be spoilers! Read on only if you a) don’t care about spoilers or b) are well familiar with the ending of House.

I’ve had an idea. I want to record my thoughts and feelings on different pieces of artwork/media, but I didn’t want to just do normal reviews. I was re-watching House for the second time and as the final season concluded my existence was punctuated by that special bittersweet melancholy that pervades in moments of finality. Whether it’s a great book series, an epic movie trilogy, or a silly procedural drama centered around a fake (albeit excellent) American accent, you can find that special feeling as you credits roll or last pages are turned.

So, let’s try this out.

House M.D., hereafter just “House”, is one of the shows I grew up on. Spanning 8 seasons from 2004 – 2012 I remember enjoying the paradox of a misanthropic healer immensely when I’d manage to catch an episode. I didn’t follow religiously though, and in a pre-streaming era it wasn’t as easy as it is now to make up a missed episode here and there.

As a result of this uneven exposure in my younger days I returned to it years later to watch from beginning to end. Most recently I finished a complete re-watch for the second time. There are not many shows that I could tolerate twice, but there’s something about an extremely predictable procedural that hits a sweet spot for something to watch when you don’t want to think. Folding laundry has no better accompaniment.

At the conclusion of the series we see a few arcs tied up neatly.

Taub’s family of twins is seen united and happy complete with two mothers, a happy ending to a story of man who shirked relationship responsibility for many years of his life.

Chase inherits the diagnostics department, a few episodes after leaving the hospital with a sense of graduation. He’s cast as the son House never had, the longest serving staff member under House. We watched him grow and discover himself and what he wanted across the series. From a hot, surfing womanizer to a man with a few more wrinkles and a lot more depth, Chase exemplifies the idea that House’s improper methods can yield tremendous results if you can just learn when, exactly, to ignore him.

The major arc, starting towards the last 1/4 of the season centers around Wilson and his diagnosis with cancer. After a good college effort he finds out the cancer is terminal, and he has only five months left. House takes the news predictably horribly, and a fight ensues lasting a full episode between House (“don’t give up and keep taking horrible chemo so you get a few more months” and Wilson (“I’ve seen the end results of that too often to want it for myself”). The irony of a oncologist turning down treatments he’s prescribed countless times to others is ever present.

Eventually, House capitulates just as Wilson does. They both come to terms with things outside their control, and we reach the final episode with House having turned the spotlight of mind internal as he knows the real issue was never Wilson, but his own fears. The patient of the week is a heroin addict, and although the details are a little sparse eventually House ends up in a veritable crack den with this patient, high as a kite on some sweet, sweet opiates. What happens when House is particularly high? We’ve seen it time and time again: hallucinations, whee! House sees a steady stream of his biggest hits, starting with those who killed themselves over the course of the show, and leading up to Dr. Allison Cameron. A fire is seen burning in the background as they talk to him, and it grows steadily. Eventually Cameron’s bit of reverse psychology seems to do the trick, and he makes an effort to escape the burning building.

Meanwhile, alarms have been raised. House has been missing, sight unseen, for 2 days, and this just after he’s been told he has to return to prison. Naturally, the remainder of his prison sentence (6 months) is just enough to ensure he’d never see his best friend again. People assume the worst, knowing that House hasn’t always gone for the happiest of coping methods.

We come to the climax of the show as Wilson and Foreman show up outside the crack den. Wilson sees a figure emerge from the smoke through the glass of the front door, but before House (now clearly visible) can reach the door a beam seems to fall on top of him and the fire consumes everything within our (and Wilson’s and Foreman’s) view.

Cut to the funeral, and the greatest hits of House’s (still ambulatory) acquaintances say saccharine things about him. Wilson closes out the eulogies with nice comments…then pauses and starts to say true things about House: He was an ass!

It’s all sad, and poignant, and a bit funny watching Wilson disparage House, and then a cell phone buzzes. Surprise, surprise, Wilson sees a text with an acerbic message that could only have come from a very particular medicine man.

Cut to Wilson seeing House outside his apartment, and pointing out that House is in huge trouble for letting his death be assumed. House shrugs it off, and asks Wilson what’s next, looking ahead to five months of being the best best friend he’s ever been. Wilson smiles in a huge way and we come to our final scenes, flashing through the aforementioned narratives of secondary characters we had to wrap up.

In addition to Taub and Chase, Foreman is seen stumbling across House’s name badge in an auspicious location in his office. He pauses to think, confused, and smile grows across his face. “The madman actually did it.” Foreman, perhaps the smartest person House worked with understands what’s happened and is happy that House is alive, all their difficult history aside.

I think Foreman’s reaction is what I was feeling as well when we get to the final scene, a typical “into the sunset” affair with Wilson and House seen clad in leather atop classic chromed-out hogs. Wilson starts to make a request to House regarding his end of days but House cuts him off. They’ll deal with that when it comes, but today we’re living out our dreams as best friends. Someone who has spent years finding reasons to be unhappy in the moment has shifted his focus 180° to instead highlight the joys of life. He’s truly selfless, and even though maybe it’s just a short-term act to make Wilson’s final months happier, I felt that it indicated a truly changed person.

In the end isn’t it change that we want to see? A view from the peak is made more enjoyable when you can just barely make out the starting point below you. Similarly, in this show we see every character end up happier, stronger, and better off for having House in their life (that is, every character that hasn’t killed themselves). Is it realistic? Not at all. Should we even allow a story of a generally horrible human being end so happily? Maybe not–we don’t want people to think that saving lives, or any other positive thing justifies being an ass. However, if you had made it 8 seasons with House, you’ve given up on reality a long time ago, and if you’re going to enjoy a fantasy, why not make it end happily?

In the end, I think I took a few lessons or thoughts away from this series. One, everybody lies, but that doesn’t make them bad, only human. Two, that we can choose to let the world tear us down and make us angry, or to resist negativity and find happiness. And third, that this happiness is always going to be based on the people in our lives; our relationships define our lived experience perhaps more than any other thing.

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