Is it just me or have pickings for horror movies been slim lately? Last spring we got SPLICE, which was one part horror, two parts sci-fi with just the dashiest dash of rape at the finale. Before that we were subjected to Platinum Dunes’ spring collection sodomy baby, THE NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake, when I chose to stand out in front of my local cineplex and set fire to a ten dollar bill just so I could fully enjoy that experience without wasting the hour and a half. And for the record, TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE is not a horror movie. It was a travesty that the Academy let those pot-addled mannequins introduce the Tribute to Horror at the Oscars and if you even so much as think about contradicting me, I will find you. I will find you and I will cut you.
The theater system disappoints, but luckily there’s a new hunting ground for horror and the popcorn there is much cheaper. It’s Video-On-Demand and if you don’t have it yourself, don’t despair: you have a friend who does. Some marketing genius at your cable company figured out that there’s a critical mass of horror films out there, all of which Fangoria and Rue Morgue have whipped the fans into a lather over, some of which are actually viewable and none of which will ever see a theatrical release on more than eight screens worldwide. VOD was made for these sleepers and you can see them months before Netflix offers them and, critically, months before the other slackjaws in your WOW guild even know they’re out. How much are bragging rights like that worth? $6.99? $9.99? More? A lady never tells. But I will say that I’ve dipped my wick into VOD a few times now and while the results have been mixed, I’m already jonesing for more.
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE) is a Dutch morsel that trotted out onto VOD in April and, on the surface, looked to be Europe’s next unrelenting horror rabbit-punch to the larynx along the lines of Sweden’s LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and France’s INSIDE. A reclusive surgeon, world-renowned for separating conjoined twins, designs a little do-it-yourself project for his downtime; surgically joining three kidnapped tourists, piehole to poohole, into the least arousing ménage á trois ever. Ghastly! I don’t even like joining the conga line at a wedding reception so I found this premise alone to be utterly revolting – and more than enough to get me clicking BUY on my TV screen. The movie opens as two attractive college girls, far from home and looking to party, get stranded when their car breaks down in a dark and rainy forest, miles from anywhere except the crazy surgeon’s house…. aaaaaaaand I’m already bored. Gawdammit. I don’t care if Martin Scorsese is directing a screenplay written by the ghost of Shakespeare – there’s no way to pull out of that nosedive after opening your movie with a threadbare cliché like that. THC is no exception. Dieter Hauser’s chilling but ultimately monotonous portrayal of the icey, sociopathic surgeon is fairly solid, and THC’s finale is as bleak as any Hot Topic employee could ever wish for. Overall, THC is predictable and disappointingly goreless, with nothing in the film as scary as what your own imagination dreams up about the premise.
Then I saw that George A. Romero’s SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD was available. Now, credit where credit is due, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is an undisputed classic. DAWN OF THE DEAD is a disputed one. DAY OF THE DEAD is a guilty pleasure. LAND OF THE DEAD is a fun, popcorn flick and DIARY OF THE DEAD is Romero’s way of saying that, much like the ghouls in his films, he’s going keep on doing what he does long after he’s started to stink. SURVIVAL is definitely several cuts above DIARY, but it’s just plain sad to see the franchise rot away to nothing like this.
(At the end of SURVIVAL, the undead broaden their menu and consume a horse. Romero wrote and directed this latest DEAD installment: there’s no way that a dead horse in his finale was accidental. Thank you. We get it. Apology accepted.)
Let’s take ‘zombie movies that have no zombies in them’ for $400 now. How many of you have seen [REC]? Spanish movie? Came out about three years ago? Combined the savage cannibals of 28 DAYS LATER with the claustrophobia of JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING through the documentary lens of GOOD DAY, OREGON? Terrifying. And fantastic, definitely ranking with the other Euro-horror neo-classics I mentioned earlier. It had subtitles, though, so at least a third of you probably waited for the American remake, [REC] With The Chick From Dexter. Even that didn’t suck completely. Probably because it was virtually a shot-per-shot remake of [REC] itself. (Take notes, Michael Bay. It is possible to remake a movie without bending it over a dumpster and leaving it hung over and sticky for the hobos to find.)
Well, guess what, campers? [REC]2 has hit VOD and if the universe has any justice, it will be trickling into art house theaters as well. THIS is the one you spend your hard fought and won American dollars to go see, boys and girls. Not talking toys. Not sparkling vampires. This.
…but only if you’ve seen [REC] first. Set about 15 minutes after the anchorwoman gets killed (or does she? bum bum BUMMMMMM!) , [REC]2 begins, introduces new characters and BAM!!! you’re slapped between two slices of chewy gore in a rabid super-zombie sandwich. No lines. No waiting. That’s good movie!
[REC]2 wastes no time answering the nagging questions left by its predecessor. What’s all that religious stuff doing in that creepy penthouse science lab? Was that a kid in the attic crawlspace? And at the end, how did the director talk Jessica Tandy into going topless?
In order to avoid an outright spoiler, here are three ways that [REC]2 maybe could possibly have resolved itself. Only one is correct, so you still have a 66% chance of finishing this article and still not knowing how the movie ends. Those are good odds.
A SWAT team joins up with a government doctor and enters the quarantined apartment building. It turns out that the apartment building can travel through time and everyone that’s inside has been brought there to prove their worth as a force for good to balance some great evil. After years of nothing happening, the fat guy gets chosen to play backgammon with the smoke monster for all eternity.
A SWAT team joins up with a government doctor and enters the quarantined apartment building. After fighting off the zombie attack for an hour and change, the anchorwoman wakes up in her bedroom and sees Patrick Duffy in the shower. Roll credits.
A SWAT team joins up with a government doctor and enters the quarantined apartment building. When the doctor successfully stops a “zombie” with a crucifix, the SWAT guys get the notion that somebody might have left a crucial detail or two out of their mission briefing. It turns out that the government doctor isn’t with the government at all. He’s with the Vatican. The lab upstairs wasn’t for experimenting on a strain of super-rabies: it was for coming up with a vaccine against demonic possession. And that horrible, saggy troll with the wicked right hook that you can only see through a night-vision lens? Yeeeeah, guys, about her – she’s pretty much the demon Legion and I’m gonna need you to capture her alive so that we can harvest her blood for more demon vaccine, m’kay? Greeeeeeeat.
[REC]2 succeeds at what few horror sequels even attempt. It maintains all the grit and tension while undermining everything you think you learned from the original. You are, literally and figuratively, watching the same movie through a different lens. It’s cohesive and doesn’t insult your intelligence. And the finale punches you in the face with the promise of [REC]3.
I’m in. Hit me again.