Monday, July 18, 2016

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

Score Technician: Sean McConnell

The Internet has long argued that A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge is the gayest horror movie ever made, which is why Nightmare 2 has been on our bucket list for quite some time. But, rather than letting the Internet tell us what to think, we decided to run Jack Sholder's cult classic through the nanobots to get their thoughts. So, without further ado, we're just going to plop the movie into the machine like this and see what happens...

(click-ity, clacking)

(Some science-y sounds from the machines. A flashing yellow light.)

Whoops! This is interesting...

Apparently the nanobots have issued a Denotation Paradox Trigger Warning for this movie. Look it's all very technical and, quite honestly, buried so deep in the user manual that we still haven't processed what exactly all those settings mean, but the gist of it is that Nightmare 2 has inverted the subtext paradigm present in most films, which is a fancy way of saying that basically this film is so loaded with subtext that the subtext collapses in on itself--think "subtext event horizon"--until interpretative meaning is reformed within the machine into a Denotation Paradox Trigger, which is a complicated computer engineering way of saying that all subtext in a film is so abundant and close to the surface that it's become the actual text itself. So, for the purposes of scoring, none of the scores can be calculated based on the era of the film in comparison to the current progressive era. There is only the score. In short, this film's era is now. Again, it's all very technical.

Let's just get to the scores, shall we?
  • Our calculations show that the Denotation Paradox Trigger was first triggered by the tagline in the movie poster. = +5pts (Man of our dreams, indeed...)
  • Showing up to school in a yellow school bus that looks more like a decommissioned prison transport vehicle with a fresh coat of paint. = +3pts
  • Robert England pulling an Alfred Hitchcock in the opening scene as the unassuming bus driver. = +5pts
  • Nothing said high school in the '80s quite like a group of late 20-somethings with bad hair talking about "parties" and "gym class." = +2pts
  • Living at the last stop on the school bus line, the eternal sign of high school loserdom. = -3pts
  • You know your protagonist is dealing with a lot of internal shit, when the idea of being alone on a bus with two blonde girls causes him to clutch his stomach in nausea and reach for the window for some fresh air. = +5pts
  • We don’t want to say that Mad Max: Fury Road was inspired by the opening sequence of this movie, but we can say that it made the nanobots think about it. = +3pts
  • Imperator Freddieosa.= +6pts
  • Teens, no doubt having been raised on Richard Donner’s Superman, appropriately panic when presented with fault lines opening in the earth. = +2pts
  • Freddy scrapping his nails on anything. = +4pts
  • Nothing says, “I’m still figuring out myself as a man,” quite like using two blonde girls as body shields. = -2pts
  • Having this reaction to your son's morning bloodcurdling scream. = -2pts
"To think, back in my day we just bit down on a wooden spoon while finishing into a sock. Kids today."
  • Push button ignition?! In 1985?! = +3pts (And people thought Back to the Future II was the 80s movie that most accurately depicted the future.)
  • Using a dirty white t-shirt to replace your shitty car upholstery. = +1pt
  • Jessie's voyage of self-discovery hits its first roadblock as his beard's best friend rolls her eyes at the fact that her friend still can’t seem to “get any” from our male lead. = -2pts
  • Getting hit in the head with a softball because you’re too focused on the the batter’s short red shorts...piercing blue eyes…and sweaty (but gorgeously maintained) mullet moving ever so slightly in the breeze. = +3pts (Wooden spoons for everybody!)
  • A friendly rundown devolves into a pantsing and a wrestling scene so epic, Sons and Lovers scholars can only fan themselves in awe. = +5pts
 "I'm telling you, dude, this is how you play softball..."

 "They wanted genuine intimacy, but they could not get even normally near to anyone, because they scorned to take the first steps, they scorned the triviality which forms common human intercourse." - D.H. Lawrence
  • You know your emerging sexuality is hitting a few snags when your crush object calls your coach a sadistic asshole because he likes to hang-out at the “queer S&M joints downtown.” That or he takes his life lessons from The Police Academy. = -8pts (Because both are terrible ideas.)
  • Nothing screams, “I like vagina,” quite like getting defensive at the question of whether or not you are putting your peen into a willing one.= -2pts
  • Sleeping in pajamas that look like nursing scrubs. = -1pts
  • Going into the basement to check on the mysterious man who seems to be fishing garbage/evidence out of your incinerator.= -2pts
  • When you're this closeted in the '80s, this is how you might have found yourself reacting to a touchy-feely stranger you found in your basement. = +5pts
"I know this is wrong. But, why does it feel so...right."
  • Trading in your looks of longing for a scream only after the stranger in your basement compliments your body, talks about how much he wants it, right before peeling back his scalp to expose his rotting brain, thus encapsulating how tough it is to be single on Elm St. in 1985. = -3pts
  • Making fart sounds when your science teacher says the word colon. = +5pts
  • Taking a real python out of the class zoo (you had one of those too, right?) and wrapping it around a sleeping student's neck, all without interrupting the teacher's lecture or being seen by classmates. = +4pts (What are you, bullies? Spawns of Copperfield?)
  • Nano-notation: You will never convince us that Meryl Streep was not in this movie.
"Hello. Creative Arts, receptionist? It's Meryl. Tell them I've gone deep method again. Send a car. Quickly."
  • Jessie calling his beard to hang out and then giving in way too easily to his father’s insistence on returning to his room to unpack. But unpack what exactly? His life? The complicated and dimly lit corridors of his budding sexual awakening? His favorite John Cafferty cassette single? Aren’t these the questions of life itself? = +10pts (Because the nanobots are not convinced that "Werner Herzog" isn't German for "Jack Sholder.")
  • Is there anything more straight than a guy listening to a soul diva sing some disco infused dance jams while organizing his clothes, trying on different sunglasses (like these...)
    "I've found me!"
     ...or using your rump to perform basic household chores?
    "Hands are for lames!"
    We didn't think so. = +50pts
  • Is there anything more embarrassing as a teenager than your mother and beard walking into your room while in the middle trying out gay? = +5pts (Absolutely, he could have been masturbating.)
"This could have been my dick, mom! Knock next time!" 
  • More general points for the gift that is this entire sequence. = +10pts
  • Your beard ironically tossing you a can of jock itch. = +8pts
  • Plucking a pair of murder gloves/evidence out of the furnace you’ve been having nightmares about and not calling the police first thing. = -4pts
  • “I got your invitation to the party this weekend.” A popular phrase in film that has never had a bad thing associated with it ever. = +2pts
  • Scoffing at your beard’s sad peck on the cheek in front of her best friend. = -3pts (Because your soul searching is hard enough on her already.)
  • Filming a sequence in a movie in which your audience is supposed to be afraid of a homicidal parakeet...  = -4pts
  • …and then exploding it. = +8pts
  • Blaming your son's "attitude" for the family’s parakeet going homicidal and not doing well in gym class. = -4pts
  • Deciding that the best way to clear your mind after a horrible nightmare is to walk into a gay club after midnight with no shirt on and covered in sweat. = +7pts (Freddy's clearly sucks at this whole “scared straight” thing.)
  • Making a student run laps after midnight because he found you at the local gay club. = -10pts
  • Agreeing to run after midnight laps for any authority figure who is not a military superior officer. = -5pts
  • Filming a scene in which the first attempt at killing an openly gay character is via "balls to the face." = +4pts (Because balls to the face is always the best way to go. Gay or straight.)
  • Becoming aroused at the sight of your gay gym teacher being spanked to death with a wet towel. = 0pts (Score under review until consulting with our therapist.)
  • Dad handling his son’s “problems” about as well as he handles his own. = -3pts
  • Not moving your family out of the house after your toaster, which isn’t plugged in, catches on fire. = -3pts
  • Waking up your sister in the middle of the night shirtless and dripping with sweat. = -10pts
  • Wait, why does literally every other scene take place around the family table at breakfast? Is this a horror movie or a sitcom? DON'T ANSWER THAT QUESTION! = No score. Just an existential musing.
  • Hey ladies! Afraid your relationship with your physically reticent boyfriend might be dying? Just do what Lisa Webber does and wait till he’s at his most vulnerable (I.E., contemplating the murder of his younger sister), and then trap him in a pool cabana so that you can finally get some of that sweet, sweet D you've been dying for. = -2pts
  • Waiting for your parents to fall asleep so that you can finally throw that Budweiser commercial you’ve always wanted to throw. = +2pts
  • Like most closeted gay men, Jessie is strictly a boob man... = +2pts
  • ...And asking him to go any further south results in a serious case of Freddy tongue. = +4pts
  • Running away from a shot at oral sex with a woman and into the bedroom of the guy who took off your pants in front of the entire school and seems to kind of hate you for some reason neither of you can talk about. = -3pts (Oh, poor, sweet, clueless, Lisa. We feel for you. We really do...)
 "Hi! I need your help! My dreams are trying to kill me! Also, is it weird that I grabbed your junk to wake you? It just felt right, so I went with it..."
  • Ultimate '80s douchebag bedroom checklist: Stray Cat poster, Mondrian patterned sheets and wallpaper, fire engine red metal bed frame, telescope, tighty-whitey's. = +4pts (Because you can't argue with the classics.)
  • “Something is trying to get inside my body.” The most profound utterance of pathology in film since Norma Desmond powdered her face one last time. = +12pts
  • A blinking eyeball at the end of somebody's throat.= +3pts
  • Not killing your rival after watching him slice Freddy Krueger out of his stomach. = +10pts (Thus preserving one of the best Freddy entrances of all time.)
  • Freddy killing someone with nary a quip in sight. = +8pts
  • Not calling the cops when your boyfriend shows up at your doorstep covered in his lover's—we mean, friend's!—blood. = -2pts (Doing so doesn't make you homophobic. Just sane.)
  • Taking a man covered in blood to your couch so that you can read him the diary of a high school girl. = -3pts
  • Watching Freddy Kruger get taken down by a lampshade. = -3pts (For ruining a part of our childhood forever.)
  • Nothing says eternal nightmare demon with an insatiable bloodlust quite like smashing one of those collectable plates you can order from late night a infomercials for just $19.99. = -3pts (Is Freddy a murderer, or just the most intense interior decorator of all-time?)
  • Freddy is looking particularly oily this movie. = +7pts (And it's appropriately gross and creepy.)
  • Freddy Krueger: Professional Party Crasher. = +5pts
  • Dogs wearing baby faces. = -2pts
  • Watching a rat get eaten by an even bigger rat. = +3pts
  • Burning Freddy alive once, shame on you. Burning him alive for the unmpeeth time? Well, that’s just how you do it. = +2pts
  • Waking up in the crispy desiccated skin of a child murder… = -4pts
  • …only to be confronted with the traumatized tears of your beard and the stark realization that you’re still you. = -5pts
Total Score +124pts
First, let's talk about what worked as a Freddy movie:
  • Freddy is not in this movie as much as you may have thought he was. This is a good thing.
  • This film has two feet firmly planted in the "Freddy doesn't joke around" version of the character, which, with his particularly oily facial burns, is still scary as hell. More movies featuring Freddy should limit the jokes.
  • That pool scene massacre is all kinds of right for a classic horror movie, even if it doesn't make sense. Which brings us to...
What doesn't work as a Freddy movie:
  • The movie logic of this world is all out of whack. Freddy can only haunt one guy's dreams, while at the same time, he's able to walk around in the waking world for everybody to see? It's almost like reading those old Superman comics where they seemed to invent a new weirdly specific power every month just to keep things interesting.
  • No truly terrifying dream sequences. This movie is all about the body horror. Which brings us to...
Everything else about this movie:

Huzzah!, The Internet got something right for once! Confirmed by the nanobots and everything!

Look, sometimes a film becomes something nobody making it ever intended. We're sure the filmmakers never planned to make one of the better 80s films about being in the closet, but hey, some of the greatest inventions of all-time happened by accident. But what happened that makes this movie more interesting than it ever intended to be? Let's look at (just some of) the evidence behind how this happened:
  • That bedroom scene. It alone will be parsed and discussed in film classes for years.
  • An openly gay gym teacher? In 1985?! Come on. Sure, the portrayal of a gay bar as S&M club is a damaging (but popular) '80s trope that deserves to be criticized and then buried. But the actual club itself features a wider mix of gay culture that most people were used to seeing at the time. Not everyone is wearing S&M gear, not to mention that there appears to be several regularly dressed lesbians present as well, so yay feminism!
  • Not only is this movie one of the better movies about being closeted in the 80s, it's also a pretty great movie about a young high school girl who just wants to love/bang the attractive, well-dressed, and sensitive guy in her class who isn't into her vag. Kim Meyer's struggle as Jessie's beard is nearly as epic as Jessie's struggle with his own sexuality. Kim goes through a lot to help Jessie figure his shit out and Lisa Webber's performance isn't naive and clueless, but empathetic and nurturing, which works really well. We've known too many women who's experiences loving closeted men played out almost exactly like this movie. Only, you know, without all the murder...
  • No women died or were mutilated on-camera during this movie. Let me repeat that: NO WOMEN DIED OR WERE MUTILATED ON-CAMERA DURING THIS MOVIE. (Slight Disclaimer: A bunch of kids get cooked in the pool, but that's more about who's still dumb enough to swim in the fucking pool after it's started to boil.) All of the characters who are killed in the showpiece execution scenes are men. In particular, men who make Jessie uncomfortable about himself. Who make him squirm in his own skin. Jessie wants to be about what the other (straight) kids are about, but he can't seem to shake his obsession with the attractive guy who wants to "give him a hard time" (We all remember what our mothers told us about these boys on the playground, don't we?), and his coach who seems to be living in open defiance of acceptable social norms of the time and who is routinely demonized by Jessie's peers for doing so. 
  • While the gym teacher isn't exactly a nice guy, he's not really a sadist. Making kids hold the sweat position because they're fighting, or calling other teachers names, is a pretty tame punishment given how big a tool these kids are. While his death is traumatic for Jessie, the eroticism that informs his execution is a chilling expression of our main character's struggles against his urges. Which brings us to...
How to fix Freddy movies:
  • Ditch the quips. Unlike Jason/Michael Myers, Freddy can talk. Use this, but use it better. One or two puns a movie can go a long way, but stay away from the pun spewing vomit bag of later Elm St. movies. Rather than having a guy who's supposed to be cracking himself up while killing people, have him use his words to crack his victims open. The guy has access to your subconscious. He should use that way more than he does. Stop making it about Freddy. It may have worked for the kids and turned him into a merchandising giant, but it also resulted in movies that were less and less scary, which is a sad thing for such a great creation.
  • Ditch the whole Elm St. setting. Okay, we get it, the parents killed him. Next. He's a nightmare demon. His scope should be bigger.
  • Have more characters like Nancy or Jessie in future Nightmare movies. Make them the stars, not Freddy. Give them some issues to deal with. Some deep trauma cultural/personal/family issue that is slowly eating away at them, so that the appearance of a nightmare demon who can see into the deepest recesses of their mind hits a lot harder. Freddy is at his best when he's slowly flaying his victims' minds as much as their bodies. Do more of that in these movies.
In conclusion, A Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy's Revenge might not be the scariest one of the bunch (1 or 3? We'll, let the Internet fight it out.), but it has every opportunity to be one of the most important ones, which is weird thing to say about a movie that exploded a parakeet.

Monday, July 11, 2016

5 Years After the Fall

Score Technician: TJ Geise

5 Years After the Fall is set (you guessed it) five years deep in a post-apocalyptic future where affluent society exists only behind the highly fortified walls of secure cities while the plebs starve in the wasteland that was once Western Civilization.

The film centers around Jacob, an upper crust activist whose life gets flip-turned upside down after he is forced to fend for himself outside the walls, and Grace, a survivor taken captive by a wasteland kingpin. Together they fight to survive an onslaught of cannibals looking for long pork and teenagers forced to do the kingpin’s bidding. Contrary to the descriptions, it’s not a comedy.
  • The grammar gremlin piloting each nanobot is having a sulk over the film’s title not spelling out the word “five at the start of the title.” = -5pts 
  • The opening soundtrack and the washed-out colors make the opening feel like a late ‘90s trance video. = +2pts 
  • Hillbillies and cholos working together in harmony to chase down and disembowel a terrified man. = +5pts 
  • Holding up the line by loudly talking to the holograph of your girlfriend. = -4pts 
  • This future’s still hasn’t found a way to synthesize a human voice that sounds more elegant than Vicki the Robot from Small Wonder. = -6pts 
  • Who cares about the rights of the hungry and dispossessed masses when your girlfriend is cheating on you!? = -6pts 
  • Explaining the nuances of your activist group to a patronizing cynic. = -5pts (for having to listen to it) 
  • Derailing a heated political conversation with a literal derailment. = +3pts 
  • Putting political beliefs aside to save your verbal opponent’s life by sacrificing your own. = +7pts 
  • Forcibly fellating a buck knife. = -10pts 
  • Moving on from your old girlfriend to the new girlfriend you found under a table. = +4pts 
  • Being saved by your new girlfriend after she stabs your attacker in the neck with a screwdriver. = +8pts 
  • Of all the houses to run and hide in, it’s one with guns, C4, and blow. = +3pts 
  • Not understanding until it’s too late that calling for help into the CB radio owned by the wasteland warlord whose home you broke into will only bring the opposite of help. = -7pts 
  • The self-revulsion that accompanies the thrill of murdering a teenage girl for the first time. = -3pts 
  • Being excited about candies, turkey, and pies. = +4pts 
  • Hand-feeding candy to your captive in exchange for exposition. = +3pts 
  • Giving cannibals the cute nickname of “skinnies.” = -2pts 
  • Chasing away cannibals by headshotting their children with an assault rifle. = +12pts 
  • Silently judging your rich kid boyfriend’s, “Where was I during the apocalypse?” story. = +3pts
  • Punching the sohrries out of a Canadian. = +5pts 
  • At what points does murdering teenagers become less about survival and more about funsies? = +3pts 
  • Reflecting on your life choices as you stare into the lifeless eyes of the teenager your boyfriend killed to “survive.” = -6pts 
  • Fulfilling every adult Call of Duty player’s dream of bashing a teenager’s head in with a baseball bat after he ambushed you with a flashbang. = +10pts 
  • Following the sound of dripping blood to a secret garage. = +4pts 
  • Giving your new girlfriend the secret code to her freedom to live in a fortified mansion-land and then being shocked when she garottes you with a belt. = +13pts 
  • Watching your friend try to use her feminine wiles in exchange for a can of beans but instead getting her throat slashed and thinking, “That seems like a pretty good idea. I should do that too.” = -10pts 
  • Watching your friends try to use their feminine wiles in exchange for a can of beans but instead getting their throats slashed and thinking, “I’m gonna kill the motherfuckers who did this.” = +15pts
  • Taking out home intruders with all of Kevin McCallister’s guile but none of his slapstick. = +10pts 
  • Sawing off the head of your sworn enemy and using it as leverage to start a revolution. = +15pts 
  • Being able to tell your friends, without context, that your role in a film was as “Meat Camp Skinny #3.” = +3pts 
  • Putting zombies on the cover of a cannibal apocalypse film (which features zero zombies) to deceive Prime/Netflix/Crackle patrons to increase streaming hits. = -25pts 
Total Score: +46pts
Available on: Amazon Prime and in Joe’s mailbox.

5 Years After the Fall has some sharp, brutal writing hidden beneath the low budget effects and cringeworthy violence. The protagonist switch followed by the flashbacks of Grace’s rise to badassery broke this movie out the “Guy saves girl” trope it had found itself splashing around in.

Despite the heavy “Eat the rich” political overtones, the film is rarely boring and is paced well. Its low budget and inexperienced crew are painfully obvious at times, and there are a few moments that make suspending the disbelief hard (seriously, both of Grace’s friends are killed trying to exchange a handski for a hot meal).

Shortcomings aside, the movie isn’t as run-of-the-mill as the film’s title and synopsis would have you believe. Just don’t expect zombies – not all that eats the flesh of the living is undead.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Accidental Exorcist

Score Technician: Sean McConnell

You'd be forgiven if, when watching a movie titled the Accidental Exorcist, you were expecting an intense scene featuring William Hurt slipping on pea soup while watching some poor possessed sap masturbate with a religious implement and him saying something along the lines of, "But I'm not even an expert in exorcisms! I'm just a (insert something here that William Hurt would be believable doing)!" You would also be really old, because nobody under 30 knows who the hell William Hurt is. Which is why we've turned over Sector 5's latest to the nanobots because they don't give a damn about William Hurt, or whatever emojis millennials have invented to further eradicate the written word. Nanobots don't have feelings, they are just a highly complex algorithm uniquely calibrated for withering progressive judgment. Which means it's time to sit back and let the sweet science of specialized robot intelligence do their thing.
  • Starting your Exorcist movie with a quote from Einstein that we can only assume is tangentially connected to Exorcisms of the oopsie kind. = +5pts
  • Nothing says I’m ready to fight Satan quite like walking down a shadowy hallway the way Rocky did to fight Apollo. = +2pts
  • Not sure whether this “witch doctor” is fighting demons or a heroin addiction. = +2pts (Because fighting both are total bummers, man.)
  • Is there anything better than a brassy older broad who doesn’t have time for anyone and wears low-cut tops, smokes swisher sweets, and pounds scotch when hosting random heroin dealers—sorry, witch doctors—while bitching about how her daughter (who’s sitting right by her like a broken crab) “babbles” perverted shit? = -10pts (The short answer? Likely.)
  • Moving your mouth as if you’re avoiding kissing someone with Herpes Simplex-2 as a way to communicate deep and conflicted thought. = -3pts
  • Playing footsie with your witch doctor before he’s even begun to diagnose your daughter’s weirdly expressive stomach noises. = +2pts
  • Crying on the other side of the door after the witch doctor asks you to leave, thus leaving us unsure if you're crying about what’s about to happen to your daughter or that you failed to seduce the local heroin dealer—sorry, witch doctor—dammit! = -1pt
  • Mom didn’t say shit about the bruises on the face. Kind of makes you question whether or not this guy is an exorcist or a social worker. = +2pts (The bags under his eyes only confuse us more…)
  • Demon vomit in an exorcism movie. = -3pts
  • Commenting on how it smells like a kind of Campbell's soup. = -6pts
  • Tapping the forehead of the possessed. The Catholic equivalent of the demon bitch slap. = +4pts
  • I cleansed this girl’s soul and all I got was this lousy stigmata. = +2pts
  • Having a shitty landlord who happens to stop by and complain about how late the rent is, as well as every other group/ethnicity/sexual orientation, just to let us know where we stand on the plot and within society as a whole. = -2pts
  • Not counting your money before you do a job. = -3pts
  • Making sure you stop under a street lamp before your next client’s house so that everyone gets the Exorcist reference. = -3pts
  • Nothing says "go investigate this scene alone" quite like a cowering black child holding a bloody knife under a table who can’t speak. = +2pts
  • Giving mouth to mouth to a woman who appears to have drowned in the bloody bathtub her husband is sitting in. = +4pts (Because witch doctors don’t give a fuck!)
  • Remember kids, just say no…to the handsy (but thankfully only just possessed) reverend. -2pts
  • Shooting a scene in which a bunch of Trump supporters (we assume) say asshole things to the lone woman sitting at the bar. This will pay off eventually, right? These motherfuckers are gonna die bloody, right? Right?! TRUMP CAN'T POSSIBLY WIN, RIGHT!? RIGHT!? = -5pts
  • Having your lead pile on just because the lady doesn’t get your shitty Jaws reference. = -10pts
  • Possessing a body so that you can gnash your teeth only to shut them when you poor mom tries to feed you your favorite cake. = +5pts
  • At this point we’re pretty sure that the only qualification to be an exorcist is watching a lot of Steven Spielberg movies and having an incredibly deep knowledge of pop culture. = +25pts (Because…HOLY SHIT OUR TECHNICIANS ARE NOW QUALIFIED EXORCISTS!! Sweet, where’s the heroin! Seriously... Heroin. Now.)
  • Tossing a spoonful of mashed potatoes into the face of a possessed person who’s channeling your mother. = +10pts
  • Then sharing a meal with them. = +5pts
  • Shasta product placement. = +3pts
  • Arizona Tea product placement. = -3pts
  • Tossing a cream pie into the face of a demon and not even getting a wisp of icing/pie-filling on them. = -7pts
  • It’s like that old saying, “At some point we’re going to have to talk about the shadowy gimp in the room…” = +3pts
  • Sending a client out for a grocery run before you exorcise his brother. = +2pts
  • Now you see me, now you… see me slowly rolling—I mean, floating—out of the way of your demon tap. = +5pts
  • You know that other saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it?” Well, our witch doctor doesn’t. We assume this is why improv exorcists are not a real thing. = -2pts
  • James Wan may not have directed this movie, but he definitely gets a shout-out on many occasions. = +5pts (As he should.)
  • Possessed brother comes out of the fog and acts up a storm. = +3pts (Get this guy an agent, stat.)
  • Letting your corporate overlords have a piece of your mind after they’ve tricked you into a two-for-one deal. = +6pts
  • Speaking into a mirror as a way of building pathos. = -5pts
  • Insulting a Burger King bathroom. = -2pts (I mean, have you even been to an Arby’s?)
  • Movies have plots, right? = No score, just a legitimate question at this point.
  • Trading your exorcism movie in for your version of Office Space. = +5pts
  • Coming back to your original movie in the next scene. = -5pts (Being a temp is lame.)
  • The puppet-room. = +10pts
  • The best way to make puppets less scary is to talk about how unscary they are, thus reminding us that being scared of puppets is, like, super lame. = -5pts
  • Starting every exorcism with a personal anecdote as a way to deliver small chunks of exposition. = +3pts (For the first time…)
  • Starting every exorcism with a personal anecdote as a way to deliver small chunks of exposition. = -6pts (…for every time after.)
  • Realizing too late that much of that exposition wasn't actually exposition, because exposition supports plots. And, at this point, a plot is kind of beside the point. = -10pts (Because that should never be the case in a genre movie. Otherwise why make a genre movie?)
  • Saving your liquor bottles after you’ve finished drinking from them. = -3pts  (During college +5pts; Post college -10pts)
  • Explaining what’s painfully obvious to the Goth girl who wandered into your redneck bar. = -2pts
  • Beating the shit out of a hipster who gives you crap for the beer you’re ordering. = +10pts
  • Non-conning a drunken Exorcist. = -10pts
  • Vomiting up black bile on a goth chick mid-bang… = -3pts
  • …while also blurkeling out your Johnson… = -3pts
  • …during a massive smash-up of your room… =+3pts
  • ...that culminates with your burning up all your demon selfies. = +3pts (Or as we like to call it: Florida.)
Total Score: +22pts

First things first, the production crew of this movie should get a lot of credit for what they brought to this movie. There's a really great low-budget horror movie waiting to emerge from the people who provided the make-up, sets pieces, and generally creepy cinematography. Those moments when our saggy lead walks into the rooms of the possessed are generally unsettling. The one in the bathroom is particularly chilling, as it provides a solid jump scare that slowly unpacks as your eyes adjust to what you are seeing. Those moments are top notch. But sadly, by the end of the movie you feel like you've just visited the furniture store of horror movies. A film full of Pottery Barn themed rooms removed from whatever imaginary house of horrors you've built in your mind. The results is a film that's more about the set pieces than the engine of plot, which is great in a Terrence Malick movie, but can be excruciating in a genre movie, especially a horror one.

The lead actor/director (by choice or by budget) is forced to carry too much of the movie. While there are things he does well, the utter lack real secondary characters proves to be a bit too much weight to put on one man's shoulders. He could have used some help. A real person to talk to would have been great.

All of this is somewhat tragic because, with such a great title, you're first thought rushes to, "How?" (Because the use of "accidental" is very intriguing when paired with exorcisms and surely must be important and not a pop culture pun in a movie that seems to make one too many references to pop culture, both in word and in visuals.) How is a great question. An important one. It leads us to the "Why?" question, which is the engine of most plot and character development. If you expect more how's and why's from your horror movies, then perhaps this movie isn't your cup of tea. But if you're interested in what low-budget horror means in the age of digital filmmaking, then there are a few lessons to be learned by watching this one, both good and bad.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

2 Jennifer

Score Technician: Joe Hemmerling

Back in 1999, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez rocked the film world with The Blair Witch Project. For less than the cost of a new car in today-bucks, Artisan films wound up raking in $240.5 million at the box office. The film was characterized by its minimal production values, hand-held camera work, and naturalistic performances that never broke the found-footage framing device. So, naturally, when the time came to make a sequel, the studio did away with every single thing that made the original interesting or unique in order to make a movie about...um ghost tourism, maybe (Come on, you don't think we actually sat through Book of Shadows, do you? There are some things even the nanobots can't endure)?

Kudos, then, to 2 Jennifer, the sequel to James Cullen Bressack's 2013 homophonically named, straight-to-video feature, for doing its best to maintain both the themes and production values that set apart the original film. The movie centers around a couple of estranged friends, Spencer and Mack, as they attempt to make a sequel to To Jennifer. It soon becomes apparent, however that one of them is harboring an unsettling ulterior motive. Like the first installment, 2 Jennifer was shot entirely on an iPhone, offering an interesting new take on the done-to-death found-footage genre. But is this gimmick enough to appease the ever-ravenous nanobots? Read on, loyal Scorehards, and find out...
  • It's a ballsy move to start your sequel with fan testimonies to how great the original movie was. = -2pts 
  • But, hey, one of the girls singing To Jennifer's praises is wearing a Misfits shirt. The nanobots can forgive a lot for that. = +2pts 
  • So far, we're guessing that director Spencer's obsession with Jennifer stems from his longing for someone with whom to watch Sex and the City reruns. = -6pts 
  • Take heed, Mack, when James Cullen Bressack demands that you put his movie into production tomorrow, you don't let little things like “stable employment” and “making rent” stand in your way. = +3pts (Do you know the kind of weight that guy pulls in Hollywood?) 
  • “You're not going to regret this, dude”: Right up there with “I'll be right back” as the least-true words spoken in a horror movie. = +1pt 
  • Scene of Spencer driving around singing along to his car stereo makes us think of this. = +10pts 
  • “You know, I'm actually going out [to Los Angeles] to make a movie” is probably the most redundant statement ever made. +2pts 
  • Street Harassment: The Movie. = -7pts 
  • “We have to cast a Jennifer to play Jennifer or it's not going to make any sense.” - Spencer, demonstrating a lack of basic understanding for how “acting” works. = +8pts 
  • For your reading pleasure, a spoken line of dialog stripped of all context: “Dude, I'll be your Sweet D.” = +11pts 
  • Pictured: The state of California given human form. = +5pts
  • Accusing your producer of “overthinking” things when he asks questions about how you guys are going to go about producing your movie. = -3pts 
  • That moment when Spencer heads into the kitchen and the camera lingers a beat too long on the knife. = +13pts 
  • Scene after scene of Spencer being a dick to all the auditioning Jennifers will likely be the scariest part of this movie for any working actors in the audience. = +9pts 
  • “I'm the fucking Valtrax Herpes Girl.” = +18pts 
  • Saturday nights be like... = +22pts
  • “As long as I don't have to get naked, or anything.” - Jennifer, who has never seen a direct-to-video horror movie. = +9pts 
  • Some good old-fashioned John Carpenter-esque Stalker-Vision. = +7pts 
  • “You got fucking weird since high school,” Mack, showing off his submission for the understatement of the year award. = +4pts 
  • Letting the guy who got so drunk he cut his own hand open drive you to James Cullen Bressack's party. = -6pts 
  • The scene of Mack and Spencer showing up to a party where no one knows them will likely be the scariest part of this movie for any introverts in the audience. = +28pts 
  • Mack, laid low by the old formaldehyde rag over the mouth bit. = +2pts 
  • We're not saying that every sequel needs to include a scene where the director of the original gets stabbed in the neck, but it definitely would have enhanced our enjoyment of Batman v. Superman. = +14pts 
  • Maybe Jennifer would have had more luck fending Spencer off with the kitchen knife if she wasn't also filming the altercation. = -10pts 
  • So Spencer wants to kill Jennifer because he... also wants to be Jennifer? Sure, we guess. = -30pts (For 11th-hour detours into transmisogyny.) 
  • Mack's idea to roll up on his psychotic friend without a plan, a weapon, or police backup plays out about how you'd expect. = +6pts 
  • It feels weird to use the word “anticlimactic” to describe an ending where the main character disembowels a girl and then cuts his own dick off, but here we are. = -11pts 
  • Where does this leave us with the prospects of 3 Jennifer? = -3pts
Total Score = +96pts
Available on: Home video, the iPhone of your creepy friend from high school that you haven't hung out with in a decade

The nanobots are intrigued. Writer/actor/director Hunter Johnson does a great job illustrating the uneasy comradery between Mack and Spencer, while at the same time maintaining an atmosphere of slow-burning dread beneath the surface. He does such a good job, in fact that inevitable bloodbath waiting for us at the end of the movie can't help but seem underwhelming. This is, perhaps, the one area where the film's hand-held camera work underserves it, as a more traditional set-up might have given Johnson room to let the scene's complex emotions breathe. The choice to have Spencer don Jennifer's dress and makeup at the end was also a questionable one at best, as the killer queen trope would have been a politically dicey one, even if more had been done to set it up. Nonetheless, 2 Jennifer is a surprisingly effective exercise in low-budget horror, and a disturbing portrait of a mind in pieces.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bio-Cop: Thank You Card


The PCS has been on a bit of a hiatus of late, but leave it to the creative savants behind Bio-Cop to be the ones to drag us out of our winter sabbatical. In case you are unfamiliar with the aforementioned cop made of bio, take a moment to watch the video. It's cool. We'll wait...

Now, that you've educated yourself, the only thing left to do is let the nanobots have a go at it so that they can see exactly where this thank you falls on the progressive film spectrum.
  • Mentioning The PCS in any context, even as a thank you for contributing to an Indiegogo. = +25pts
  • Opening credit sequence montage of your main character that features both an attempted suicide AND double finger-guns. = +10pts
  • Casting Nobu for your bio terror horror movie. = +4pts
  • Bio-Cop realizing he wants nothing to do with that ninja action. = +2pts (He's nothing if not practical.)
  • The nanobots hearing their name in lights. = 0pts (They are nanobots not people, and are unmoved by bribery and thanks.)
  • Letting a ninja cut off your head. = -3pts
  • The realization that you can grow back your head with a fresh set of astonished eyes, weighted with the sadness of knowing that you are still Bio-Cop and not dead. = +6pts
  • Playing hide the regurgitating head with a ninja. = +10pts
  • Shrugging apologetically after surviving multiple ninja stars to the face. = +6pts (It's good to know there is at least one cop out there with a sense of shame.)
  • Committing Seppuku for being unable to kill a Bio-Cop. = -5pts
  • Giving Bio-Cop the idea of attempting Seppuku in his ongoing effort to kill himself... = +5pts
  • ...only to realize that doing so results in another mini-Bio-Cop head that we're sure also seeks the sweet release of death. = +3pts
  • Giving your kid a gun for his birthday... = -10pts
  • ...possibly in an effort to try out some secret bloodright, thus granting you the eternal slumber you so desire. = +5pts
  • Finding out that patricide for Christmas is like new underwear for Bio-Cop. = -2pts (Hey, we have feelings.)
  • Taking the gun you gave your son for Christmas and trying to use it on yourself because he's too much a of brat. = +3pts
  • Bio-Cop's lament. = +5pts (Don't say that the nanobots don't appreciate hilarious irony.)
Total Score: +64pts

Not a bad score for three-minutes of B-Movie tribute. Quite possibly the greatest scene from a fake movie (n)ever made. He may be part cop, part nightmare, but he's 100% a gentleman. You're welcome, Bio-Cop. You're welcome.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Yandy's Sexy Halloween Costumes: 2015 Edition

Score Technician: Joe Hemmerling

So, we know things have been a little quiet around the PCS lately, but come on, you didn't think we'd forget, did you? It's Halloween, and if that means anything, it means that it's time for us to wander on over to Yandy.com to peruse their 2015 Halloween costume selection.

This year, the good people at Yandy must have gotten Halloween mixed up with Christmas, because they bequeathed to us the world's greatest gift in the form of this amazing music video (Go ahead and watch that and see how long you can go before you can feel yourself start to cringe on a cellular level.):


But enough horsing around. Let's take a look at what they're peddling.

Topical Costumes


  •  Can you imagine trying to have a conversation with a person who would wear this? She would definitely show up to the party with a guy dressed as a breathalyzer. = -7pts
  • The extra weird thing is that this isn't even the only pot nurse costume available this year. = -2pts

  • This slinky little two-toned number will have everyone at the party going, "Oh, yeah, I remember that, I think." = -3pts
  • Hey, guys, your pizza rat costume was a bit too subtle, so we took the liberty of doctoring it a little:
  •  PM us so we can send you our banking information and collect our royalties. = -25pts



  •  This right here is the sexiness singularity. When women want to dress up as Donald Trump and look hot while they're doing it, well, then the very idea of "sexy" itself has come to mean everything and nothing all at once. = -100pts
  • But, hey, at least they aren't carrying a Caitlyn Jenner costume. That shit's not cool, guys = +15pts
Barely Trying
  •  So, obviously this is a mermaid costume. What, you couldn't tell just by looking at it? = -8pts
  • On a similar note, hey, costume designers, if the only way people can tell what your customer is wearing is by sewing a picture of the thing they're supposed to be onto the middle of it, then you've done bad job. = -4pts
  •  Does it count as a "costume" when it's the outfit you wear to work as a gun show booth girl? = -9pts
  •  There's honestly nothing wrong with this Sexy Executioner costume. We just wanted to point out that the manufacturers blew a perfect opportunity to call it "The Sexicutioner," though. = -1pt
WTF?!?

  •  For everyone who looked at the adorable mogwai from Gremlins and thought, "I would hit that." = -11pts
  • A shield that tiny is going to be useless in battle. = -3pts
  •  Hey, you know what's totally appropriate? A sexy costume based on cartoon pre-schooler. Yeah, nothing at all creepy about that. = -200pts
 Total Score = -358pts
Available on: Yandy.com

Another year, another perplexing batch of sexy Halloween costumes from Yandy.com. We hope this has been a helpful guide for making good sartorial choices this Halloween. If you forget everything else, please just remember this: stay away from any pre-school aged characters. Otherwise, we'll have to call the cops on you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

L.A. Noire


Score Technician: Alex Pearlstein

L.A. Noire sat in the bargain bin at GameStop, wearing a torn cover and a smudged price sticker. “Pre-Owned,” it said. We knew how it felt. In fact, we’d met before, in a different incarnation, four years ago: the game, wrapped up in a shiny new package; us, naïve young PC owners. The game wouldn’t load, and when it did, the frame rate was excruciatingly slow. We couldn’t perform. It happens. We snapped out of our reverie and glanced around the store. “Yes,” we heard our wife saying to the clerk, “I will take this Xbox One and a copy of Witcher 3.” We knew then that she wouldn’t be needing us for a while. We looked back at the game. “We’ll take you,” we whispered. “We’ll meet back at our old Xbox 360. It’s not pretty, but it generates a lot of heat. This time, we’ll make it all the way through. This time will be different.”
  • Part One: Patrol/Traffic Desk, or The Game Walks In. The game simmered like a house squatter’s  can of Chef Boyardee on the hot plate of the city. We burned our fingers a few times rotating the can and feeling around its edges: learning to drive, trying to aim, and getting socked in the kisser. Yeah, we thought, lighting a cigarette on the city’s reddening coils, this metaphor is going nowhere. = -2pts
  • The map: probably the geekiest thrill of the game. Being able to explore L.A. as it was in ’47? Forget the gameplay – turn this map into a mobile app and let us use it in real life to roam the city for days on end. = +20pts
  • Being able to “requisition” any vintage auto you see and immediately wreck it. = +9pts
  • Scaring the shit out of your partner by crashing into things in the middle of his dialogue. = +9pts
  • Stout Scarab. What. The Hell. Is this thing. = -3pts
  • Could be called “Ellroy Noire.” Watching or reading about all the brutal racial/sexual discrimination of the ‘40s in L.A. Confidential is one thing, but when you’re forced to engage in it during gameplay, no amount of showering will cleanse your conscience. This gross feeling will manifest itself as soon as you begin the case where you badger a teenage sexual assault victim in her hospital bed. = -17pts
  • Part Two: Homicide Desk, or The Big Gulp of Murder. The game burned on from simmering to bubbling hot. It foamed over the sides of the city, like so much civic pasta. We got the hang of driving through the noodly streets, ladling out meatballs of justice.  ‘Damn,’ we thought, ‘that sentence was terrible.’ = -2pts
  • Cole’s reactions while you discover items like a baseball bat and a switch blade in almost every bush surrounding a murder scene: “This isn’t going to help much.”; “Seems irrelevant.” = +3pts
  • Hmmm, I could use these intuition points for clues, or I could Google “L.A. Noire walkthrough.” = -5pts
  • Not being able to save the crazy guy with a pan on his head. = - 2pts
  • Getting in and out of a car multiple times in a row, just to annoy your partner. = +7pts
  • Watching NPCs on the street randomly knock each other down and run away in a panic. = +3pts
  • “Whoo sister, I was so tight, I couldn’t even walk,” is either a ‘40s radio catch phrase we’re unfamiliar with, or you’re constantly walking by one woman in L.A. with a serious alcohol problem. = -5pts
  • Guy who answers the door, shouting gibberish, wearing a goblin mask, says, “Sorry, I was playing with my kids,” then leaves mask on during ENTIRE INTERVIEW. = +13pts
  • Creepy Taraldsen kids. Back. Away. Slowly. = +6pts
  • Seems to be a theme shaping up here about how it wasn’t good to be a drunk woman, alone at night, in ‘40s L.A. Or, well, a woman, basically. = -15pts
  • Is every street crime supposed to end with us shooting someone? Is this game supposed to have such disturbing contemporary relevance? = -3pts
  • Start car, wait till partner opens door to try to get in, drive away. Repeat, ad nauseum. = +7pts
  • Being able to drive down the L.A. River. = +5pts
  • Not being able to figure out how to get out of the L.A. River. = -5pts
  • Cole’s interrogation style: SHOUT EVERYTHING. = -2pts
  • Not being able to “requisition” a street car. = -4pts
  • As an officer of the peace, you scale the chandelier in the Hall of Records, send it crashing to the floor, then scram nonchalantly: “Let’s get out of here.” = +15pts
  • Getting the chance to drown in the La Brea tar pits. = +7pts
  • Getting to pull a Chinatown, as one of the perps you shoot in a street crime slumps forward on the horn of a car. = +8pts
  • Part Three: Vice Desk, or The Long Drool. Our promotion has been rapid, but we feel hollow inside, like a disappointing piñata. Surely the men we arrested were guilty? Are we being shunted off to the vice squad to avoid uncovering the truth? It’s very possible. We find ourselves seeking more street crimes that end in shoot-outs. Anything to avoid facing the hard facts, or the immediate need to relieve our bladders. Is there an empty soda bottle within reaching distance? = -6pts
  • “Morphine – it might not be filling, but I’m sure it’s satisfying.” = +5pts
  • Who enjoys the sequences where you have to tail a suspect on foot? Who? Perhaps you would also enjoy this DLC where you get to file paperwork? = -7pts
  • Getting to have a shoot-out in the Egyptian Theatre. = +6pts
  • Getting to interrogate Mickey Cohen. = +6pts
  • So far, driving off a cliff at the end of the “Paper Sack Robbery” and still catching the suspects wins the prize for most satisfying ending to a car chase. = +10pts
  • Part Four: Arson Desk, or, Another Big Hot Long Thing. Busted for adultery. Demoted. At some point, when we weren’t watching the pot, the game stopped boiling and became tepid. We scuffle through burned out husks of houses, wondering why someone would be put on Arson with no experience in the area of fire, other than being a flash in the pan. Again with the cookware imagery. We stop looking at every clue on the ground.  We even start playing a different character, an insurance investigator, lowest on the list of desired video game avatars. Are we played out, like an…outdoor piano?  **score technician shoots self** = -4pts
  • Ok, thanks for the verisimilitude, but phone calls in this video game don’t actually have to take as long to connect as they did in 1946. = -3pts
  • Chasing Chapman and his stolen streetcar: awesome. = +14pts
  • Jack Kelso: Insurance Investigator: the Video Game! = -2pts
  • Ok, the Ford H-Boy makes up for the Stout Scarab. = +8pts
  • Exploring old Keystone Film Studio/using movie camera. = +7pts
  • Constantly destroying the Hall of Records. = +12pts
  • Kelso, shooting Leland in the leg: “That’s my opening negotiating position!” = +9pts
  • Well game, we made it. It was touch and go there for a bit, but we pulled through, this time. You know, there's something about this that was like, well it was like you're expecting a letter that you're just crazy to get, and you're hanging around the front door for fear you might not hear him ring. You never realize that he always rings twice... = +47pts
Total Score: +149pts
Available on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Often for free (Seriously, Rockstar REALLY wants you to play it.)

The major appeal of L.A. Noire is the environment. Getting to explore over eight miles of faithfully recreated post-war era L.A. is fantastic, and if you’re not familiar with L.A., then as long as you’re into 1940s style, the world is just as fulfilling. If that style is not your thing, then you might be happier playing Grand Theft Auto, and if solving mysteries is your bag, then you’ll probably enjoy any of the fine Nancy Drew titles more. Seriously. In the Nancy Drew games, you’re trying to work your way through a series of logic puzzles and clues, whereas in L.A. Noire, you’re clearly arresting the wrong people half the time, and the goals are more about driving/fighting missions and completing investigations using coercive interrogation techniques. So, yeah, if you like logic, then Nancy Drew; especially the one, where you go to an old hotel and try to get information from the innkeeper, but she’s all like, I’ll tell you, but first you have to help me serve fifty breakfasts, and you’re like, really? And then hours later you finally finish breakfast and you call Bess for a hint, and she…well, we digress. Despite our not at all embarrassing penchant for Nancy Drew, we found L.A. Noire to be quite entertaining.