Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Movies That Should Have Been Great But Get Mucked Up

Playback aka Playback: Bloodline (2012)

This movie would have been a lot better than a meh if they hadn't tried a little too hard to squish too many ideas into the storyline - and if they didn't use the typical 20-something teenagers to star in it. And why the hell would Christian Slater play a bit part as a perverted police officer who likes to watch little girls? There's just too much going on that distracts from the central  story, which actually had some original ideas. It had a whole lot of 'seen it in tons of movies' moments too, but as a whole, not half bad.

In Michigan in the fall of 1994 a very disturbed young man named Harlan Diel kills his entire family, videotaping the whole thing. He is about to do something - weird with the baby (still alive) involving the baby being on camera and him touching the TV monitor he has in the basement (not quite explained) but police show up and he is killed before he can finish - whatever it was. The news is all over it and there is police evidence of all the videotapes, but nowhere is there a mention of the baby. And the town tries to forget.

Skip ahead to Julian (Johnny Pacar) who wants to make an amateur movie copying the events of the Diel case. He wants it to be real as possible so when he finds out the original house still stands (although his mother claimed it had been torn down) he wants to re-shoot the thing and make it even more 'real'. The best line in the movie? He is showing what footage he has to a friend who complains about it being shaky. He says handheld cameras 'bring energy' to a movie. The friend responds 'Is that what you filmmakers call it? We call it headache.' THANK YOU. I absolutely detest movies shot with handhelds - and yes, I always get a headache. So enter an acquaintance of his, stoner Quinn (Toby Hemingway) who works for a TV station. He is the one who has loaned Julian the equipment. Julian asks him to find the TV footage of the incident. He does but watches it first. He finds an unedited tape - and watches the tape (complete with flickering b&w images (explained later), when the dead body of Harlan suddenly sits up on the gurney and stares at him. Supposedly now Harlan has possessed Quinn. He immediately starts acting strange and he - changes. Kind of looks like he's rotting from the inside out.

First he kills his boss (shoved a bar through his head, decent gore) and then starts to 'control' Julian's friends but why and how is not explained either. Too much is getting pushed in here and the main story is starting to get lost. Like why is Christian Slater even in this as a small side story of a perverted cop paying Quinn to provide him with tapes of young girls undressing? Makes no sense and doesn't add to the story. And the history is puzzling at best.

Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince
It seems that Harlan was actually adopted from a family named Prince, one of his ancestors being the mysterious Louis Le Prince, the real inventor of the moving pictures, not Thomas Edison. And hey, what do you know, the man is actually real and so is the b&w footage they show of the very first motion picture, called Roundhay Garden Scene. He was a Frenchman but also worked in the UK and the motion picture was made in England. He was never able to perform a planned public demonstration in the United States because he mysteriously vanished from a train in 1890. His body and luggage were never found, but, over a century later, a police archive was found to contain a photograph of a drowned man who could have been him. Le Prince's disappearance allowed Thomas Edison to take the credit for the invention of motion pictures, but Louis has been heralded as 'The Father of Cinematography' since 1930. Take that Edison. But, not resisting mucking the whole thing up, they add the fake story that he believed in photos stealing the soul and figured moving pictures would allow him to steal the souls of everyone in them, saying that all who appeared in Roundhay Garden Scene died immediately afterward. Sigh. This could have been so interesting too.

So they muck around some more, Quinn/Harlan controlling Julian's friends resulting in their deaths. He kidnaps Julian's girlfriend to entrap Julian. Once he has them, he takes them back to his 'home' and setting up the cameras, prepares to take Julian's soul because - and this was a pretty obvious point early in the movie, only taking a while because no freaking way is Julian only 15, that he is actually the baby adopted by a female cop who was on the scene the night of the slaughter. Just as he prepares to do that 'touching the TV to take the soul' thing he tried on Julian as a baby, his battery goes dead and he has to hook up another. Julian's girlfriend takes this opportunity to free herself and rush up to Julian, freeing him and they escape. Quinn/Harlan grabs a gun he stole from the perverted cop (with which he murdered him) and goes after the two. In the meantime Julian's mother figures out something's wrong and gets a call from Quinn/Harlan on Julian's phone, saying 'he knows'.

So because they had to end this somehow and already have confused the hell out of everybody, Julian's mother shows up, calling for him. This draws him out of hiding so she won't get hurt, warning her of Quinn/Harlan having a gun. But she gets shot anyway. A fight ensues and of course Quinn/Harlan manages to knock out both teenagers. Then his video camera goes dead. No matter - he still has Julian's smart phone which takes video and starts the soul stealing - until he is shot mulitple times by the still-alive mother. The three of them wait for the ambulances and cops - not noticing that Quinn/Harlan is making a video with the smart phone (He's not dead yet?). Julian gets his phone back, and the last scene is of the three of them in the hospital, Julian and his girlfriend watching over his mother. As the girlfriend goes for something to eat, Julian gets a video message (I don't know how, I don't have a smart phone.) and watches it. It's from Quinn/Harlan - and the screen goes black.

 If they had left half of the extra crud out of this movie it would have been a pretty original idea. Having the movie flicker as if on a defective video tape was freaking annoying, and hurt my eyes - but as for watching it, it's not the worst thing I've seen by a long shot.