Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

13 June 2008

Hack!, dir. Matt Flynn (2007)

NIKKI says:
How is a film like this even allowed? It's mind-bogglingly stupid, puerile, lame, and boring. What the HELL is Winnie Cooper DOING? I can understand Adrienne Frantz -- post B&B careers are rarely that great. And Sean Kanan -- same as above, and he's only done one thing worth remembering, and if you forgot what that was, he'll remind you in this movie, only I'm probably the only one in the world to fully get it ("You're next LaRusso! I own you!"). And Gabrielle Richens isn't even an actor.

But WINNIE COOPER? Come on -- she doesn't need the paycheck from what I can ascertain. Winnie, I have lost all respect for you. And I had lots.

This is just a piece of shit, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It tries to be all cool with its movie references, but they're the kinds of references any jerkhole can make. Here's a Hack!-like movie reference:

Character A: So, Jaws was a movie.

And that's it.



STEVE says:
I said as soon as this one started, "This is going to hurt." And it did.

Jesus, it did.

I kept thinking maybe it was meant to be a satire, but I couldn't entirely convince myself that it was true. Let's assume for a moment that it was, though: It even failed at that. Hack! used brute force to make you see how clever it was (the boat that carries the students to the island is called the Orca), then pushes your face in it and stands on your neck (the captain reveals that his favorite movie is Jaws). When it's done with such shameless bravado, the satirical element gets lost in the mix. (And what's the point of making Jaws references in a slasher movie, anyway?)

But Hack! wasn't clever, it wasn't funny, and it wasn't even so-bad-it's-good. It just made me want to swallow broken glass.


An American Crime, dir. Tommy O'Haver (2007)

NIKKI says:
This one sparked my interest because of its subject matter, and it was about a case I'd not previously heard of. The little bit I read about it, I wanted more and more to see it. Gertrude Baniszewski sounded, to me like particularly fascinating character. The case itself is horrifying, and yet Gertrude appeared to be unaware she was doing something so depraved. So, too, did the local kids (including her own kids) who assisted in torturing Sylvia Likens -- the girl Gertrude held captive in her basement for the purposes of "teaching her a lesson". That Catherine Keener and Ellen Page were the leads, I expected something really good -- introspective, scary, educational.

Instead, I got a brutal TV-ish movie, which takes the viewer through the atrocities of the crime, step by ghastly step, without ever offering any real insight into just why Gertrude acted the way she did. The film offers standard answers to the question -- it was the time, the situation (Sylvia's carny parents left Sylvia and her sister with Gertrude while they worked the carnival scene), she was wrapped up in God, she was without money, she was desperate to ensure her daughters remained pure. But how did she come to beat and abuse poor Sylvia? Why Sylvia and not her sister? Why not both? How did it come to be that Gertrude's kids abused Sylvia, too? And the neighbour kids? Who are these kids that they find nothing so bad about burning a teenager with cigarettes and whipping her? How did this go undetected for so long?

The film exists not to instruct about these things, but to show us what happened according to court transcripts. The horror of the thing is this film's main point. Or it seems to be, at least. Nothing is offered beyond a fact by fact re-enactment. And what, really, is the point of that? It could have been a 20/20 episode, for all that. The answers required here are tragically beyond this filmmaker.

I was happy to finally see Ellen Page in a different sort of role from her smarmy-teen norm. I thought she was very good here, reserved, and true to her character. It's just a pity she wasn't able to do more than scream and cry, which is all I wanted to do after watching this. If a movie is going to be this harsh, it needs some sort of balance. it needs release. This just hit us over the head with the crime and then punished the criminals. I'm not sure the real story of these two women is just so black and white.


All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, dir. Jonathan Levine (2006)

NIKKI says:
Friday the 13th... you've got to watch a horror movie. This looked like the perfect kind of movie to celebrate the date: A teen slasher with a great title, that looked like it could actually be somewhat okay. That's the best you can hope for, I reckon, with horror movies these days: Please be somewhat okay. You're so shocked when that happen, you're all: Wow, it was somewhat okay! I'm giving it five stars!

This was... somewhat okay. The script was beat-perfect. Kills and scares all coming exactly when they needed to. So, we knew whoever was behind the movie had some sense of what they were doing. The kills were good, the effects were well done. The ending was interesting. The actors weren't bad. The only thing that let them down was poor writing -- they were all sex-obsessed, pot-smoking jerks. And while that might be a staple of these kinds of films, there's a way of writing characters like that so that they're likable. That was not the case here, and really let the film down.

Still, because the script was put together so well, I walked away respecting it. I was disappointed, though, that the final twist did not have ample set up. I can understand why certain characters acted the way they did, but I think a line here and there preceding the reveal would have helped to strengthen that aspect of the movie. I think the writers might have been so afraid of showing their hands, that they refused to give off any hints of what was going on. It worked on some levels and not on others -- which is to say, the final reveal is sensational, but we'd guessed it back at the 20-minute mark.

I'm giving this one the benefit of the doubt, though. In the sludge of offensive horror knock-offs, this one stands above as a movie that knows the rules, does its best to subvert them, and the genuinely shocks and thrills. If only its kids weren't so stupid -- I so wanted to care more when underwear girl was running from the car near the end. Still -- nice effort.


STEVE says:
Grading on a curve, as we have to these days, Mandy Lane was better than most slasher flicks. It was well-plotted and necessarily bloody without going overboard, and that scores it extra points. But looking at it in a vacuum, away from its progenitors and the rest of the copy-cats, it's really nothing special.

Mandy Lane plays with the conventions of the slasher genre, but doesn't do anything particularly interesting with them. I called the killer in the first scene, and Nikki called the twist - which was good, but not particularly surprising - about halfway through. The cast is pretty much the same group of reprehensible dickhead teens you've seen in a thousand other movies of this type (the stoner, the jock, the token black), and - as in those - you either want to see them dead, or couldn't care less, so there's no one to empathize with but the killer, who we can't really empathize with because we're not given a motive until the end.

Interesting but unexceptional, I thought Mandy Lane was going to raise the bar. As it is, it just cleared it.