Saturday Horror Movies :: Haunter (2013) and Bad Milo! (2013)
The only real “theme” or “connection” between this week’s selections would be the year of release, both films released this year. Beyond that, though, these films could not be more different. Both films I knew very little about before viewing, and only ended up streaming their trailers right before we watched.
The first film, a startling, sad story of a girl who seems stuck repeating the same day in the early eighties, the day before her sixteenth birthday. Abigail Breslin, who is best known as plucky Olive in Little Miss Sunshine, is brilliant in this film, carrying the majority of scenes herself, and spanning a myriad emotions as she uncovers the secrets to her situation. Stories that involve time, whether alternate time, time travel, or convoluted time, are always a fascination for me, as are plots that turn the expected upside down, which this film pulled off quite well.
The second film is a very strange mix of Kafka’s Metamorphosis and another horror film from 2013 that we have featured on “Saturday Horror Movies“, Hell Baby. A dark comedy with a heavier than expected commentary on absentee Fathers and taking responsibility for your own emotions in life. I expected shocking and silly, and ended up surprised by the delivered message (though it was still graphically shocking, but not all that silly). Though, perhaps the biggest shocker was that a film about a man who gives birth anally to a demon could have a message at all.
Pour yourself a tall glass of something that warms you and I will do my best not to spoil you, as these are both such recent movies. I would love to hear your feedback and reactions if you have seen either film, as well as your suggestions for upcoming Saturday Horror Nights. We are up for anything in the horror genre, and from any era, as well, so please give us some recommendations and requests, either in the comments, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Directed by Vincenzo Natali and written by Matthew Brian King
At first glimpse of Lisa’s (Abigail Breslin) posters in her room I was immediately reminded of my own adolescent bedroom, what with Siouxsie Sioux, The Cure, Depeche Mode and The Smiths’ Meat Is Murder, along with a eye-catching album cover of David Bowie’s Low. This is how we meet Lisa, a sullen, angsty teenage girl on the eve of her sixteenth birthday in the eighties. But, this is no John Hughes tale, and her family isn’t about to forget her sweet sixteen, no, instead they will never reach it, as we are quick to see, the eve of Lisa’s birthday is the day and night that she and her family seemed destined to live out, in near exact detail, over and over again.
Lisa is the only one aware of the time and day duplication, and though she tries to challenge her parents and little brother to see if they will “see” the repeats to, it is seemingly to no avail. Is this a nightmare that Lisa is stuck in? Is it some kind of purgatory? Is she a ghost, or are her family ghosts, or is there something else all-together going on? And, what of her brother’s imaginary friend Edgar, is he the stuff of a typical young child’s imagination, or does he have something to do with all of it, too? Who and what are being haunted, and who is the “haunter“?
The onus of the film lies on Lisa, and as I previously mentioned, Abigail Breslin does a fantastic job of playing out all her actions and reactions. Performance-wise I am reminded of John Cusack’s Mike Enslin, in 1408, who plays out most of the movie with just him in a room at a haunted hotel. Story-wise, I am also reminded of parts of Twin Peaks, not so much in look and feel, but in the way death comes-a-calling. There are similarities to the film The Lovely Bones, as well, though since I have not seen that film, nor read the book, I can only repeat what my husband and oldest daughter said of the comparison.
Stephen McHattie does a good job at playing a “big bad”, though I have to admit for most of the film my husband and I thought he was Lance Henriksen, as the actors do share a strong resemblance. McHattie was a great “big bad” in the SyFy series Haven, as well, when he portrayed Reverend Ed Driscoll, though he looked enough different (and enough like Henriksen here) that it was not until I looked the movie up that I made the connection. His role, though effectively creepy and challenging, was the one missing piece in the film, to me. I found myself wanting more character motivation and more of a clear-cut, meaningful backstory, then we are presented in the film. I would go on, but as I mentioned before, I do not want to spoil.
The ending has a bit of a soft, feel good, happy ever after feel to it, which to some may sit funny since this is a horror film, but to me, I was rooting for a good outcome, so I was glad for it. The inclusion of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ The Killing Jar as the screen faded to black, and the credits began to roll, was a stellar choice, fitting perfectly with the time, and a nice nod to Lisa’s Siouxsie tee shirt she wears for most of the film. To me, the music, the bedroom posters, and Lisa’s brother’s Atari system PacMan game were enough to time stamp the start of the film, without needing the eye-roll inducing Rubik’s Cube. I have a major pet peeve when anything that is set in the 80’s includes a Rubik’s Cube in plain sight. Listen, I was a teenager in the 80’s, and let me tell you, there were not that many Rubik’s Cubes just lying around.
Beyond that, though, the film captured the time and place, even when such things shifted, in a very evocative way. The cinematography was notable and well-crafted, adding eerie feelings and stunning steps back in time to a well-told tale. My favorite visuals taking place when we see the earliest inhabitants of Lisa’s family house, done in a way that recalled 1920’s film strips.
Though this is not a film filled with “jump scares” or gore, it had spooky moments, and psychological twists and turns that had me riveted, and interested, all the way through the unfolding of Lisa’s story. This was a good time, and an interesting take on the “haunted house” story (a favorite horror genre of mine).
The Killing Jar :: Siouxsie and the Banshees
Bad Milo! (2013)
Directed by Jacob Vaughan and written by Benjamin Hayes and Jacob Vaughan
Oh boy, where do I start with this one? How does one begin to write about a movie about a man who has a demon that lives in his butt which when he is stressed he births and said butt-demon runs off and feeds off the perceived source of the stress (i.e. the man’s boss, co-worker who loses his presentation, in appropriate infertility doctor, and possibly his pregnant wife)? Is it possible to watch a movie like this and take it seriously, or is it just a out to shock horror-comedy taking “potty humor” to a new, low level?
Surprisingly, the movie, though full of a lot of shock value moments (especially the scene in the alley), had heart and an actual message to it. Milo is a genetically inherited “issue” that causes the men in the family to manifest all stress and fear into a demon inside of them. These men swallow their fears, worries and anxieties until they cannot hold them inside any longer, and then the terrible stomach problems come, and they persist and worsen, until they are birthed into a bad, bad thing. Milo is Duncan’s (played by Ken Marino, best known from The State and Veronica Mars) anxiety manifested demon. Milo is sharp-toothed and feral, a demented cross between E.T., a gremlin and something that really looks like what might picture a polyp looking like, if it had big eyes and fangs.
Milo just wants to be loved, comforted and allowed to live inside a calmer, more peaceful and happy Duncan. But Duncan is a mess of stress and abandonment issues, which have been ignited by his wife Sarah’s (played by Community’s Gillian Jacobs) desire to have a baby. This parental need expressed has unleashed Duncan’s abandonment issues caused by his own Father leaving for “his own good” when he was very young. He fears that he is not good enough, that his horrible job won’t last and that with the presence of Milo, perhaps his own child would be better off without him, and maybe he should leave, just like his Father, for his child’s “own good“, as well.
Duncan has to make peace with his “demons“, find a way to deal with his anger and anxiety and fears, in order to be not only a parent, and husband, and employee, but to also put to rest “Bad Milo”. These are not the subjects usually of gross-out, shock humor, are they? Bad Milo! is definitely a unique take on the tale of parental abandonment, a plot that has been around since Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and well before. Is the moral of the story to watch your stress, or watch your ass? I will let you judge for yourself, if you dare.
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