Tag Archives: Body Horror

Goodnight Mommy (2014)

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***Warning- This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk,*** Ugh. I had such high hopes for this movie. The theatrical trailer promised creepiness, atmosphere, and a chilling amount of well-thought-out psychological horror. Well, it arguably has some of these things, except maybe the well-thought-out part. Disclaimer- Goodnight Mommy is visually beautiful and atmospheric, set in the scenic location of rural Austria. But as good as it looks, a movie like this needs a satisfying payoff. And that, my friends, is where the film seriously disappoints.

Beware, potential viewers, this is when I get into big spoiler territory- to comment on how Goodnight Mommy fails as a narrative and a horror film. The movie has a deliciously spooky premise, as two nine-year-old twin brothers Lukas and Elias (Played by Lukas and Elias Schwartz) wait for their mother (Suzanne Wuest) in their isolated house, only to have her return covered in bandages and not the same loving woman as she was before her operation.

Whether she’s literally not the same woman or just has suffered a drastic change psychologically is anyone’s guess. This woman-creature, however, is about as far from ‘motherly’ as it is possible to be, slapping her sons around, sleeping with the shades drawn all day, and gobbling cockroaches. Understandably perturbed, the boys decide to investigate.

Initially, we are treated to a visually sumptuous, intriguing build-up, with the boys simply occupying the exclusive,  enthralling, and slightly spooky and sinister world they share together. They wander into caves, run through cornfields, and and at one point enter a underground room which is inexplicably littered with human bones to retrieve a yowling stray cat. Mom’s not well, so they pretty much do their own thing, and this childhood drama laced with the uncanny and outright horror is weirdly compelling.

However, when mom starts addressing one boy and acting as if the other doesn’t exist, I had one fervent plea to ask of the script- ‘please don’t let one twin be dead and the other hallucinating him.’ That’s like, the biggest cop-out twist that it’s possible to incorporate in a movie like this. Well, the film devolves near the end into virtual torture porn, where the little boys brutalize their mother for information. She says she’s their real mama, but they don’t believe it. The long, lingering violence perpetrated by two little kids is unnerving, but not necessary or  crucial to the narrative either, like a sick joke with a pitch-black punchline.

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I sat through it, albeit in relative discomfort, hoping for a kick-ass twist that would exceed my expectations. But no, they insisted on going down that road. The road with the dead kid and his grief-stricken twin too traumatized, or too bat crap- crazy, to acknowledge his loss. Didn’t The Other by Thomas Tryon already do this to better effect? (the book, which was outstanding, not the movie, which is arguably worse than this one.)

There are a handful of creepy moments to be had here (just seeing the mother swathed in bandages is enough to give me the willies.) Mostly it is an overlong (even at 99 minutes) movie which stretches out it’s screen time by featuring unnecessary visits from unnecessary additions to a paper thin script. That would be okay if the twist was worth half a turd squirt. It isn’t. Many small horror films with ultimately little to say can achieve a near-perfect balancing act from their chilling sense of suspense and mounting dread.

Take the movie Honeymoon. it’s a small, modest, low-budget horror. It works at holding our rapt attention. The Living and the Dead has a tiny plot (a woman with cancer imprisoned in her house by her irrational son) and could certainly be cut down ten minutes or so but somehow it earns our grief and sympathy. Goodnight Mommy has a spectacularly Gothic atmosphere (despite being set in a modern-style pad) and is even chilling at times, but ultimately lets us down with it’s distinct lack of anything new, innovative, or original to offer.

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The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2010)

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I’m going to completely pull all the stops here and argue that this film is not total crap. That’s not to say that it’s good, and the redeeming value is tricky; you have to sift through piles of soullessness and shit to find it, but it’s there, in this reviewer’s humble opinion. This story of a mad German doctor who sews three people mouth to rectum, therefore creating a ‘Siamese triplet,’ is also touching at times (no really.) Teamwork, people!

I broke the rules and watched “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)” first. It was mediocre but saved by a virtuoso performance (well, surprisingly awesome for this kind of movie) by Laurence R. Harvey as the vile ‘Martin.’ I am honored to have Laurence as a friendly acquaintance via Twitter. He is a truly talented man. I didn’t expect much from the first movie (same old experience of watching people get abducted and centipeded, no Laurence R. Harvey to back it up.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not recommending this movie. It is (unsurprisingly) vile, disgusting, and not very good. But I heard from everyone prior to seeing THC that the movie was complete trash. Well, it’s not. Not completely. Deiter Laser actually does a good job as the maniacal villain, and the actresses playing the two terrorized tourists are decent despite paper-thin characterization. The Japanese guy (Akihiro Kitamure) who makes up the front end of the centipede wasn’t the greatest, frankly, but he wasn’t all that bad either, and his character was the 2nd most interesting (after Heiter.)

The plot (since I’ve been a little sketchy on that until now)- two American girls (Ashlynn Yennie and Ashley K. Williams) who are taking a tour of Europe break down in the wrong place at the wrong time- to be specific, Dr. Heiter’s pad. Now old Heiter wants his Siamese Triplet experiment to come to fruitation, but the trio of Rottweilers he tried it on died in the process (does it prove I’m a psycho when I say hearing about the surgery being applied to dogs was the only thing about this film that really bothered me?)

Now he wants to connect these two girls to a third (very unwilling) participant. What follows is disgusting, disturbing, and sad, a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. For the most part, this movie is unnecessary and artless, but director Tom Six does manage to build a atmosphere of tension and terror in certain scenes. I think “The Human Centipede (First Sequence)” was much longer than it needed to be, sporting scenes devoted to humiliation and pain rather than building the plot or being frightening.

Some people (you know who you are) will probably watch this movie just to show you can. And that’s fine. I’m not going to try to stop you. Just realize there are much better ways you could be spending a Saturday night. I will end this review by giving a list of horror movies that are more entertaining, compelling, and yes, frightening, than “The Human Centipede II.”

Horror Movies You’d Much Rather Watch Than “The Human Centipede” Movies-

1. Let the Right One In, and it’s remake Let Me In

2. Halloween (1978)

3. Carrie (1976)

4. An American Werewolf in London

5. The Others

6. Nosferatu

7. The Devil’s Backbone (1973)

8. Martyrs

9. Ginger Snaps

10. The Lost Boys

11. The Shining

12. The Wicker Man

13. Alien

14. Tony

15. Kill List

16. The Sacrament

17. Shaun Of the Dead

18. Dawn Of the Dead

19. Attack the Block

20. The Silence of the Lambs

21. Antibodies

22. Citadel

23. Henry- Portrait of a Serial Killer

24. Zombieland

25. Fido

To sum this unusually long review up, I thought Tom Six’s film was okay (not terrible,) but not worth the hype. I think it would be hard to really enjoy as anything other than a geek show (in the words of Roger Ebert, R.I.P.,) but a lot of people will watch it (as I did) simply for the hell of it. I will try to avoid the upcoming third film in the franchise because, I said it myself, there are much better films I could be watching, and Tom Six is making a career off of cheap shock value.

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Excision (2012)

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What starts out as an alternately eerie and cartoonish look at teenage Suburban Hell eventually morphs into full-blown body horror in “Excision,” a devilishly entertaining horror movie that nevertheless fails to really utilize it supporting cast. Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord,) a misfit aspiring surgeon with a number of unnerving sexual fantasies, lives with her passive, well-meaning father (Roger Bart,) Her smothering religious-fanatic mother (Traci Lords, yes, THAT Traci Lords,) and her sweet terminally ill sister Grace (Ariel Winter of “Modern Family,”) a Cystic Fibrosis sufferer with a heart of gold.

Pauline is a total outcast at school, partially because she is gawky and homely, and due in a large part to the fact that she is aggressively off-putting and creepy, intentionally vomiting on others and dissecting dead animals. She’s not understood, but the brilliance of geniuses rarely is in their own time. Is Pauline a genius? Not really, but you’d rather she attempt surgery on you than, say, Martin of “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence.)”

“Excision” is a little bit Lucky McKee’s “May,” a little bit Brian De Palma’s “Carrie,” a little bit Tom Six’s “…Pede” movies but enough originality to stand on it’s own merit. It has a lot of famous faces and cult actors, including ‘king of filth’ John Waters as a priest (!), Malcolm McDowell as a teacher unsympathetic to Pauline’s deranged antics, and Marlee Matlin as a member of school staff. The movie works because it is over-the-top but remains just believable enough to suspend disbelief. The characters tend to be a little one-dimensional but still find ways to surprise you.

The gore element is mostly thrown at you at the end but also is utilized through Pauline’s bloody fetishistic dreams, which awaken forbidden desires within her. “Excision” is a bit of slow burner which becomes increasingly better after you get accustomed to the tone, which is relentlessly odd but consistent. There’s a gallows humor that made me chuckle throughout. The acting is competent (even from former porn star Traci Lords!) and each player portrays their characters well.

I was wary about watching this because so much indie horror is total shite (“Escape From Tomorrow,” particularly, was a recent disappointment) but I found myself pleasantly surprised at this quirky little horror picture, which refused to take itself too seriously while not stooping to gory slapstick or ridiculousness. I found myself having mixed feelings about the character of Pauline. She’s a total deviant and oddball, but sometimes she does something, or says something in one of her confessions to God that makes you like her- just a little bit, and just for a little while. For those with strong stomachs and open minds, I recommend “Excision” as a surprisingly good horror debut.

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The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011)

Is it nuts to expect more from a movie like “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)? With a premise and set-up like this, what can you expect, except for a few good scares and a whole lotta gore? But with an intriguing killer like Martin, I was actually hopeful, and disappointed by the never-ending, and I suppose inevitable, stream of torture that followed.

I guess I would have liked to have seen more Martin, less of the centipede. More scathing black humor, less of the gore? Crazy? Maybe. But my love of all things fuck-upedly psychological led me to wish for an entirely different movie.

I’ll be honest and straight-up and admit that I haven’t seen Tom Six’s controversial original (and at this point I don’t think I’ll bother.) But to those uninitiated few, I’ll describe the original premise to the best of my abilities. Sensitive readers, stop right here. It only goes downhill from here.

In the original “Human Centipede,” two pretty American tourists’ car breaks down while traveling in Germany (of course, the car), and they seek help at the home of an incredibly creepy German doctor, who proceeds to serve them a drugged drink and reveal his master plan (you’ve never seen that one before, right?)

The doctor intends to make a Siamese triplet out of the frightened girls and a third party. Okay, this is where it gets real messy. Using the magic of surgical precision, the the good doc will sew them together mouth to anus, therefore creating one entity. I guess you’re starting to understand the controversy behind these films, eh?

So. “The Human Centipede II.” Listen, now, because the premise is actually pretty creative. Martin, a short, creepy, obese security guard (Laurence R. Harvey) who lives with his abusive mother (Mommy issues- where have I heard that one before…? Okay I’ll stop now) is INSPIRED by the original “Human Centipede” and sets out to make one of his own, but suffers from poor health and limited resources.

Martin, whose father sexually abused him, and whose mother blames Martin for sending hubby to jail (I call it “Precious” syndrome. but it definitely happens), has led an agonizing life full of brutality and misery, and, as it so happens, has a sexual fetish for “The Human Centipede.” On top of that he has a psychiatrist (Bill Hutchins) who wants to have sex with him (ew.)

SO what can Martin do except to make the people around him suffer? And so he does, in a spectacularly brutal manner. And may I just say, Laurence R. Harvey is a FABULOUS actor. Not only does he cope with the fact that Martin doesn’t say a single word throughout the movie, he makes it an asset.

Harvey also makes you feel sorry for Martin, at moments, throughout the movie. And I think that’s where he really excels, making you feel sympathy for such a beastly character. Unfortunately, Laurence R. Harvey (and Martin) are stuck in a movie that doesn’t deserve them, and Vivian Bridsen (who plays Martin’s mother) is as incompetent as Harvey is adept.

The first half of this film is pretty good. It’s deliberately illogical at times (Martin hits his victims full-force with a crow bar and still manages to only knock them out), but the film has a devilish, nightmarish feel, and makes good use of black & white photography. The dialogue is often bizarre and implausible, but this only reinforces the fact that we are living in a nightmare.

After the first half, though, we are thrown into forty minutes of torture which is not only gross, it’s also boring. How do you make torture boring? For dragging it on forty minutes, that’s how. I know, I know, I’m watching “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence),” not “My Dinner With Andre.” Dialogue isn’t the film’s strong point. But is it too much to hope for a little… more of it?

If there’s one thing I got out of this movie, it was Laurence R. Harvey’s performance. I really, really hope this guy makes it. Otherwise, skip this weakly plotted torture fest. Next!

 

American Mary (2012)

Moral depravity, sexual deviation, and extreme body modification are  all on gut-churning display here in “American Mary,” a surprisingly polished indie horror film with a impressive performance by Katherine Isabelle.

As someone who found “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)” too strident, I can say I found that “American Mary” had a well-needed (and unnerving) realism that adds a kick to the violent scenes, of which there are many. Oh, boy, you have no idea.

Mary Mason (Isabelle) is a seemingly normal, attractive aspiring surgeon who is introduced to the world of Extreme Body Modifications. Want laces sewn through your back? ‘Need’ horns applied to  your head for a more demonic look? Mary is on the job.


But when Mary is attacked at a party, her surgical skills come to good use as she deals with the attacker in the harshest way possible. My first reaction is shock that this ‘body modification’ thing actually exists. My second reaction is actual pity for Mary’s victimizer. No THING, no matter how dastardly, deserves that.

The cinematography in “American Mary” is very prim and professional, and the make-up and gore effects challenge the assumption that ‘indie’ is synonymous with ‘amateur.’ I was nearly convinced that the face of the actress who played emotionally damaged plastic surgery freak Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg) was the real deal but I soon discovered that Lindberg was a perfectly lovely blonde.

The mask-like face of modifier Beatriss (Tristan Risk) is equally frightening, though less believably so. The performances were altogether good, and I think Katherine Isabelle has what it takes to become a modern scream queen. Her transformation from everyday college student to morally bankrupt ‘underground’ surgeon to sadistic, levelheaded, confident killer is compelling and adept.

Directors and sisters Sylvia and Jen Soska (who also appear in the movie as the ‘Demon Twins from Berlin’ have created a frightening vision of the moral abyss of the surgical world, and the freaks and refuse that exist within it. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the people who would put themselves through surgical Hell in order to deal with deep-seated issues that would be better confronted in the shrink’s office.

Ruby Realgirl’s bodily obsession was sickening, and you just wanted to tell her to TALK TO SOMEONE- that will help. The movie was really a tragedy in some ways, especially the end. The title “‘American’ Mary” makes you think after the movie is  over about the price of beauty, the price of wealth, and how we define being ‘happy’ or ‘wanted.’ It’s a bitter pill, but one well worth your time.