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  Belittling Horror Excessively: IT 02:23 PM -- Sun October 1, 2017  

Hey everybody! It's my favorite time of year! I get to spend this month watching a horror movie every day, and then discussing it in overwhelming, excruciating detail with my wife! Nothing could be more awesome. Well actually, we do limit ourselves for time, to avoid creating an unreadable novel of discussion. It would be more awesome to actually keep rambling and be able to cover every single little thing about every movie. But here in the real world, here is what we are able to discuss about each movie in forty-five minutes. Enjoy!

Oh, and as always, we will spoil all of these movies extensively during our reviews, so you should watch it first. In addition, we aren’t going to explain what we’re talking about, so that’s another reason you should probably watch it first. And then join the discussion in the comments below!

Okay, one last note: the last line of every review tells you what the movie for the next day is going to be. So if you don’t want to be spoiled on this movie, but do want to know what the next movie is so you can watch it first, read the last line!

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

It (2017)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.”
IMDB Rating: 8.1/10
Metacritic Rating: 70/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 86% critics, 89% audience
Solee: 4/5
Mikey: 5/5
We watched this in the theater.

Mikey: It’s 2017, and here we are again at my favorite time of year! It’s time to review movies!! YAY!

Solee: Yay! We spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to come up with a clever plan for this year’s reviews, and here we are … back to the basics. A Google Docs convo from two different rooms in the same house.

Mikey: I really wanted to do a podcast, but… yeah. Hard things are hard. Let’s start this month off with a bang by watching a brand new movie in the theater!!

Solee: DONE! We actually left the house to see IT on the first day it was available here. What were you expecting?

Mikey: First showing of the first day! Not for the review though, but because we are both big fans of the book and Stephen King. We got to “enjoy” the movie version of The Dark Tower a month or two earlier, and now IT has come for us.

Solee: [spoiler alert: DT was NOT good. *sadface*]

Mikey: I had higher expectations of this one. Just from the previews it looked pretty good. But how could they possibly take a 1200+ page novel and crush it into a 2 hour movie? There are a ton of characters, who do a ton of things (a big chunk of the book involves all the other townsfolk, not just the main kids). So I expected something like Dark Tower, but better - the ideas and images of the book, in an Easy Reader format.

Solee: IT is one of my favorite King books. I’ve read it at least 5 times. I did not have high hopes for the movie because the trailers made it look like it was going to be a straight up horror flick. The magic behind the book (and most of King’s work, if you ask me) is that he gets way into people’s heads. You get to know each character, even side characters, on a very intimate level. That’s just not possible in a movie format. And yet … I was extremely pleased with the movie.

Mikey: Yes, actually I should say the trailers made me expect it was a “clown as Freddy Krueger” movie (whereas in the book, the clown is not so central - It can appear in any form and just uses the clown a bunch of times), which we sorta did get, but it was much more true to the book than I expected. I was happy!

Solee: I was relieved when I realized, about half-way through, that they weren’t going to try to do the whole book. This was very clearly a movie with a sequel set-up. Which actually fits the book quite well, if you unshuffle all the past and present scenes.

Mikey: I got scared at the point you got relieved! I thought they were going to do only the kid half, sure, but I thought that was it. Just ignore half the point of the book. The sequel-bait made it better.

Solee: The REAL horror would have been if this movie didn’t do well enough and they scrapped the second half!

Mikey: I’m really glad that’s not the case. I’m burned by The Dark Tower.

Solee: And just about every other adaptation of Stephen King books!

Mikey: I guess I’m glad Dark Tower didn’t do well and spawn more sequel garbage, but we still need the 8 season TV series for it…

Solee: Yes, please. But this review is about IT. What did you think of the casting?

Mikey: That was really great actually… One thing about this movie is that it’s pretty much the Stranger Things movie. So similar all around. I guess 80’s nostalgia is all the rage today (especially since if they were being true to the book, it would’ve been in the 50’s). So just like Stranger Things, these actors (one of which is from Stranger Things) really made you feel the “nerds growing up in the 80’s” vibe that just makes it very real and moving.

Solee: Interesting rabbit trail … King wrote the book in ‘86. He was born in ‘47, so the 50s were his coming of age period. Those of us who read the book in the 80s are now about the same age he was when he wrote about his coming of age. So it makes perfect sense that all us 40ish folks are waxing nostalgic about the 80s. Apparently your 40s is when that happens.

Mikey: That just makes me question my accomplishments. Kind of like when you see 18 year old superstars, only not so bad since I’m just now at the age where I haven’t written IT. P.S. IT was the first book I remember reading. It obviously wasn’t the first book I read (imagine THAT) but I read it much younger than I should have, maybe at 12 or 13. I found it on my parents’ bookshelf and just chewed through 1200 pages in a couple weeks, and then started grabbing every Stephen King book I could find. It is very formative to me! I still say it’s my favorite book, but it’s been like 10 years since I read it (for the second or third time, obviously…).

Solee: King’s “Eyes of the Dragon” was the first horror book I remember reading, also at about age 12. I did the same as you; once I finished that, I devoured everything of his I could get my hands on.

Mikey: Definitely my favorite writer, by miles! So rabbit trails aside, this was a movie. Was it a scary movie?

Solee: I’m going to say yes. I thought Skarsgaard did a lovely job of being creepy and there were lots of subtle things throughout the movie that really ramped up the tension. For example: the folks who were about to be eaten up would have a moment when their eyes looked like the clown’s eyes. The director didn’t make a big deal out of it, but it happened often enough for me to think it was very intentional.

Mikey: You told me that after the movie and it was too late for me to check. I’ll have to see next time. The woes of seeing a movie in a theater! I thought it was kind of in the middle for scares… it wasn’t super creepy (had some adventure/fantasy/action elements), but it did have its share of scary moments. I think the giant Pennywise in the garage was the most shocking moment for me.

Solee: Hmm. I’m not sure I have a stand-out moment, but I remember jumping several times. I’m a big fan of the psychological horror, though, and IT has that in spades. The monster takes on the form of each person’s fear and these kids had plenty of crap to draw from in their lives.

Mikey: Yeah, I think Bev’s story was the most powerful. That could’ve been a movie of its own, just caught in that family life and tormented by a malevolent spirit. But we’ve seen those movies before, so I’m glad this one was different!

Solee: Was it THAT different though?

Mikey: Well, I mean it was about all the kids, and their quest to defeat It. That’s a lot different from “boo hoo, my life is horrible, the ghost is harassing me, AND I’M DEAD NOW.” which is all ghost movies.

Solee: I see. I’m wondering just how “unique” IT is. When I think about it … there are plenty of coming of age movies. And plenty of your-fear-manifested movies. Maybe not so many of the two combined? It doesn’t feel super original to me, but maybe that’s because 1) it’s a go-to story for King, and 2) I’ve read this exact story soooo often.

Mikey: I think it’s a unique movie. The combination, plus it’s just very rare that “horror” has any kind of quest, or any victory for our heroes, or really heroes for that matter (let’s just cheer for their deaths!). And it does impact the horror of it, it’s just not as scary when you know you have heroes in there. They’re sure to win in the end, and their very strength in facing the threat ruins the horror - it’s not scary if they’re not scared. Which brings me to my issues with the ending. That make sense though? It has real horror, mixed with real action/fantasy/adventure.

Solee: Quick comment on that … it’s a fine line to walk in horror storytelling, I think. If you make the characters relatable and strong, the audience isn’t truly afraid of their death (although that sets up some pretty devastating storylines, ie: Hoban Washburne) and if you make them expendable enough for people to wonder whether they will live or die, they tend to have less depth. I think this razor-wire is why so many horror movies are just terrible.

Mikey: Yeah, this movie leaned more on the side of making you care about characters, and I think that’s the better path, since you know, stories are about characters. I think most horror movies have that introduction phase at the beginning and you’re just rolling your eyes through it, going “when can we kill these people already?”

Solee: Indeed. Turns out there’s an art to writing good stories. Who knew?

Mikey: Stephen King! So I found an issue both times the characters confront Pennywise, and I think it’s a result of condensing a huge book. In the big book, there’s this dread built up over weeks of events and a very real fear to the confrontation, we know it’s dangerous because each of them has been personally attacked multiple times along the way. In the movie, each kid kind of gets one little jump-scare from Pennywise to let them see the threat, and then they face him. So then the actual fight seems weak… it also has to do with the very concept: because It feeds on fear, the only way they beat it is by overcoming their fear and being tougher than It. So in the end, it comes down to them beating a clown with a lead pipe. It’s… really appropriate, and a good concept, but it doesn’t work well in the movie. It’s just kids murdering a poor man.

Solee: YES! That scene disturbed me and I just now realized the logistics behind why. Because if they aren’t afraid of It, if they stop believing in its supernatural power, then they essentially believe it’s just a regular guy. A regular guy they can take turns attacking. I know that’s not the story … but that’s how it came across on screen and it was disconcerting.

Mikey: That’s a good point, just a dude. It reminds me of a negative review I saw on IMDB - the reviewer thought it was crazy how all the adults in the town were evil, and the bullies were so extremely horrible. He thought that on top of the kid-eating monster, that was absurd, but he didn’t know that all that was part of the kid-eating monster. I’m not sure if the movie failed to impart that, or if he just didn’t get it, because I read the book, so I understood it anyway.

Solee: I don’t think that was addressed well in the movie.

Mikey: I really liked how that came off in the movie, though I think it could’ve used some on-the-nose explication (the balloon in the backseat of the car was a clue…). Just seeing these people get really creepy smiles and be really inappropriate. I liked that angle, though it probably needed more clarity.

Solee: So, after all that, how would you rate this new version of IT?

Mikey: As a fan of the book (it’s my favorite!), and how well this interpreted it, about as well as you could in 2 hours, I don’t know if I can go lower than 5/5. I want to, because it’s not perfect, but we grade on a curve in October. This was surprisingly great.

Solee: I’m going to give it a 4/5. Which is surprising because I tend to rate higher than you. I did really enjoy this movie. But I don’t think the “horror” is what I enjoyed about it. It’s just a great movie. Compared to other horror movies, though … I know I’m going to see ones I like more for that specific element. Does that seem unfair? Sorry, Mr. King.

Mikey: Now I feel dumb for fiving it! Actually during the movie, I kept finding myself having to re-adjust my expectations, because it really is a mix of genres. I kept trying to force myself to just look at it as a story, context-free, and whether I enjoyed the storytelling or not. And trying not to judge it on the book. This was a hard movie to properly rate!

Solee: Yes. I think it’s fairly clear from this discussion that we failed to consider it “context-free”. I’m okay with that. Even though I only gave it a 4 for the purposes of BHE, I would go see it again and I am glad I saw it in the theater. So that says something.

Mikey: One more note from me! What I really appreciated about this movie was Stephen King coming to life - it was all about the characters. I can always go for more movies like that. That’s what Firefly is too. Doesn’t matter it’s space cowboys, or evil clowns, what matters is how fun the people are.

Solee: Agreed. So how fun are the people in our next movie??

Mikey: I’ll tell you tomorrow after we’ve seen Altar (2016)!
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  We're back! 09:17 PM -- Mon September 11, 2017  

I fixed the site! SO QUICKLY! I bet you didn't even notice it was down. We're now hosted at a new place, with a lot of fancy new server power under the hood (not that we needed it, but it's good to be up-to-date). Enjoy the forums once again, and let me know if you see things broken on the site. I'm not sure what all broke during the transition process.
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  Assembly Programming For Fun! 02:42 AM -- Sun May 28, 2017  

Yeah, I'm still alive! For a minute there last month it looked like I was going to get somewhere with the website. I had somebody all set up to help me do it, but when he looked through it, we discovered all manner of complex issues as to what exactly we wanted to do and how we wanted it to end up (the site as-is does not function anymore, so changes need to be made...). So we're kinda back to square one, and I've been super busy transitioning Growtopia to Ubisoft. But we're getting somewhere. It'll happen, someday.

Anyway, I wanted to chat a bit about the idea of programming games (not the act of programming games, but rather playing games that are about programming). That's a genre that is very niche, and there aren't a ton of games in it, but nevertheless I intend to go deeper yet and specifically focus on games about assembly-language programming! There are even fewer of them, but they're the ones that are really fun!

You see, assembly language itself is basically a logic puzzle. It's the most straightforward and simple type of programming, in that there are just a few different possible instructions (sometimes very few), and each instruction is incredibly simple - it can have one, or in some languages/situations, two values attached to it, and that's it. For example "MOV AX,7" (I don't even remember if that's accurate 6502 assembly, but it's something like that) is an assembly instruction. It means "put a 7 into the register AX". Of course in a game, it might be more verbose but it comes down to the same thing. Super simple individual lines, able to access only a select few registers (data storage spots), and yet Turing complete. So it's very easy to grasp, yet very very complicated to get it do something worthwhile, and it's that process of building up from simple blocks into vast structures that makes it so compelling. If you can make the little parts work, then put them together logically, you'll have a bigger working unit. Simple concepts combining into great complexity.

So I thought I had played a few of these games lately, but it turns out it was just two. I just finished Human Resource Machine today (though I cheated on the last puzzle, which was like an order of magnitude bigger and more complex than all the ones before it!), and other games I've played along these lines are TIS-100 (I failed to finish, it gets hard!), and Carnage Heart (but that's going waaayyy back to the 90's). I know there's also Shenzhen IO, which I haven't played. SpaceChem actually shares many traits though it'd be hard to call it assembly language programming. It's no coincidence that three of the five games I just named are all made by Zachtronics. I guess there aren't a lot of people in the assembly game arena! It's too bad, because it really is fun, and makes programming accessible to anyone who likes logic puzzles. A great learning tool as well as a fun puzzle.

Anyway, if you like puzzles, you might want to try this kind because it'll really worm into your brain, and as a bonus it'll teach you a lot about programming! Human Resource Machine is a really nice simple example. The early puzzles are fun and easy, though you'll really need some chops to get all the way to the end. TIS-100 is way more hardcore. I would not recommend starting there if you aren't a programmer yourself.

I would love to hear about any others you know of in the comments, but yeah... the site isn't working too hot right now, speaking of programming. It'll be back soonish(tm)!
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  Checking in! 03:14 PM -- Thu March 30, 2017  

It has only been a few months since my last entry here. It's still true that I beat Bloodborne though. Still pretty amazing, I hope you're impressed. On that note, I just started playing Dark Souls 3 yesterday, so yeah.

Anyway, lots of big stuff going on. The good news from a Hamumu.com perspective is that I am talking to somebody about working on getting the site back up and running, because I still don't have time to do so myself. Hopefully that will work. And by the way, I have had a new site design in hand for several years now, with no time to set it up, so hopefully we won't just be restoring the missing functionality - we'll have a full overhaul, totally new look!

In mildly interesting other news, we have sold Growtopia to Ubisoft! Yeah, that's kind of a big deal. Seth and I will still be working on it for a while, helping them learn how to run the game and what the secrets of our awesomeness are. I'm really looking forward to this... freedom and free time to create the things I want to make again, instead of being chained to Growtopia 24/7. My life has been very different for the last four years, and while I have had an outlet for creativity - the updates I've been doing for Growtopia are often as complex as entire games - I haven't been free to just do what I want, it's all been inside the framework of that game. So I am really looking forward to that freedom, especially just inside my head. My brain will be set free by not being tied to those little block-headed creatures all day. It's been very draining. And there's so much more to it than simply making the updates. Nobody who isn't involved in the process can understand what it takes out of you to be facing the onslaught of millions of players, all wanting their personal issue fixed (or sometimes just want to shout profanities at me), every day. Our tech support staff are truly amazing for fighting that tide.

So once everything is handled, and I can step back out of the limelight, I am going to take a BREAK. I've said I was going to take a year off, but those in the know have said I wouldn't be able to handle that. I don't really know what the future holds, I'm just glad to be free to find out. It's gonna be a break whether I take a break or not. Yay!
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  I BEAT BLOODBORNE! 04:12 PM -- Sat December 3, 2016  

That's an all-caps title! So this is a Hamumu Revumu. Bloodborne is a truly amazing game. It's by From Software, the infamous Dark Souls guys, and this is every bit a Dark Souls game except in a different universe. And that's part of what's so great - it's an infinitely better universe! While the lore/story/world of Dark Souls is all knights in heavy armor (even the weird mutant bosses are generally either dragons or giant knights in armor) and other boring medieval stuff, the world of Bloodborne is this amazing gothic steampunk Lovecraftian insanity. I can't remember the last time I was so deeply invested in a game's looks. Just wandering this realistic (well, hyper-real? All kinds of impossibly vast architecture going on) run-down 1800's city is a treat. The artwork is incredible. The views of cathedrals and spires, the gloomy atmosphere, every part of the style is just perfectly tuned to my brainwaves.

Inside that grim world are the most hideous and disturbing creatures of any game I've ever played. I love them and want to snuggle them. There's so many I could point out, but lemme just hit on two: First of all, the fat crows. Yep, fat crows. In a game filled with twisted demonic beings, these fat crows sitting on the ground should be perfectly fine. But they are actually the only enemy to cause a physical revulsion reaction in me. See, they're just crows, but they look like they're dead laying on the ground. If you get close, they come towards you, but not in a squawky fast way (not yet!), oh no, they sloooowly lurch along the ground like slugs. The model is nothing but a realistic crow, but with the animation and sound they managed to make it absolutely horrifying. And of course when it gets close, it does leap at your face.

Secondly, there are these massive creatures that cling to the sides of buildings, generally posing you no harm at all. They are definitely very disturbing in appearance, with insanely long limbs and a face full of tentacles. But the real trick is, you can't see them at all. As far as you know for about the first half of the game, they don't exist. You think you're just in a city full of werewolves, madmen, and ogres. But once you raise your Insight stat enough (it seems to represent your knowledge of the occult, and your ability to perceive it), suddenly they're just there. And you realize that this whole time you've been walking around beneath these towering monsters that could've squashed you at any moment. That's a nasty sight. There is at least one that can grab you before you're able to see them too, which is just a random death out of the blue if you lack the Insight to understand it. Here's a video, which also shows you the amazing style of the architecture and visuals a bit:

Come on, that's creepy. So I've written all these paragraphs, about a video game, and it's me writing it, and I haven't even mentioned the gameplay yet! Gameplay is officially all I care about in games! But this game, I'm telling you: the world, the story, the visuals, the sound (oh man, the sound is CRUNCHY and LOUD and upsetting all on its own), it all builds a masterpiece. I should also give a shout-out to the story: It's a good story, to the extent I understand it. Which is the point: the story is delivered in tiny cryptic tidbits you pick up as you play, rather than expository cutscenes. Everything is a clue, right down to "why does that type of monster or item show up in this area?" which would be throwaway in any other game. I don't entirely know what happened in the story, but I have my ideas, and from reading online, so does everybody else. It makes you think, and that's a good thing. There are a ton of elements I would've never even known about if it weren't for my massive FAQ-cheating at the game - entire sidequests that aren't explained, you just have to think for yourself "maybe that guy would like to come to the church instead of being eaten by monsters". You can miss so much of it all, but the clues are there to find.

So gameplay. It's super fun. In short, it's your typical action-RPG: you level up, you slash monsters with sharp things (cool sharp things that can transform between two modes), and you complete 'quests' (though there is no quest log and you may not even realize you're on a quest). Before this, I played Dark Souls (years after everyone else did). I didn't get super far in it. Steam says I've played 12 hours, most of which was probably grinding to get strong enough to beat the first 2 or 3 bosses. I was surprised how much I liked that game. I recommend it as well, and I feel like I should go back to it. Bloodborne is remarkably similar in almost every way. You can see all the same game systems in action, just slightly tweaked, and I don't doubt this is built from the same codebase. Bloodborne is better though. It's much more fast-paced. One nice trick is that when you get injured, most of the health you lose can be gained back by simply hitting enemies, but it becomes permanently lost after a few seconds. This means that when some enormous monstrosity pounds you into the ground, instead of going to hide behind a pillar, you are almost forced to charge back at it and start wailing away to recover what you lost. It's really satisfying to end up beating a guy with full health even though he hit you several times. There's also a huge emphasis on rolling around to dodge attacks. You don't get a shield in this game (well, there is one you can find at some point, but I never tried it, and I've heard it said that it was included as a joke), so it's either dodge or be hit.

And the badguys hit hard. Being from the makers of Dark Souls, this game is near-impossible in terms of difficulty. You can literally die in a single combo from an ordinary enemy even when you are fairly over-leveled for the area you're in. But you know, people talk about the infamous difficulty of these games a lot, and it really isn't that bad. Don't get me wrong, it's among the hardest games I've played, but there's a real difference in a game like this, where I can learn better strategies (or just level up), and something hard like VVVVVV or Super Meat Boy or Super Hexagon... those games I find so much harder because it's just brutal failure constantly and insane reflex testing. You can't really get that much better at them. In Bloodborne, nearly every boss killed me a few times, but even when they did, I always was left feeling like there was plenty of spare time and visible warnings of the danger, it's just that each mistake is punished severely. This is so much more forgiving in terms of timing than a game like Super Hexagon, where you have to be perfect every second. Here you can roll away, drink a potion, and try again. I am avoiding the age-old adage of "it's hard, but when you die it feels like your fault" - that's (usually) true, but it's more than that. It's that it's actually not that hard. It just requires you to learn through dying a few times (which is not penalized harshly at all).

A large part of the difficulty is like that - memorization can get you very far in this game. Once you've been through an area a few times, what felt like an insurmountable challenge is nearly child's play... as long as you don't make any mistakes. It's strange to praise this, but it's very fun that the world never changes. You can memorize every enemy's placement, and know exactly what to do. There's a real shift in the gameplay resulting from the lack of shift in the enemies: you start out exploring slowly and stealthily, and testing each enemy's reactions and abilities, then after a few deaths (or many), you're running through full-tilt chopping off heads as you go. Then you reach a new area and start all over. It's actually more dynamic than it would be if it were randomized - that'd just be repetitive. This way changes over time (not that every game should be so static, it just really works here). There are fairly long stretches of the game with no enemies at all, but you don't know that the first time through the area, so you inch along waiting for death to pop out around a corner...

I certainly wouldn't recommend this game to non-gamers in any way. It's the hardest of hardcore gaming. But it feels fair. Except maybe that stupid forest full of snakes... but even that I got through on my 3rd or 4th try. And each time I made good progress, I'd unlock a shortcut. The shortcuts are amazing. You'll make your way through a big convoluted area only to find you're right back where you started, and can open a door connecting it to where you began. Again, hard, but fair. You get through the hard part and then you don't have to do it again, the shortcut is there. I was stopped cold a few times with the game, saying to myself "Okay, guess I've gotten all I can out of this game, it's too hard for me." and set it aside for a week or two, but inevitably I was drawn back to give it another shot, until finally yesterday I actually won the game, months after I started. It was an immensely satisfying experience. I keep thinking about firing it up again to either work on a different character build or continue in New Game+ mode. I'm not sure why I would do that, but I certainly feel the call of the Great Ones in my corrupted blood.

Have I said enough? I've said too much. Bloodborne is great and comes highly recommended, as long as you are a hardcore gamer who likes scary stuff. There are things I would change for sure, but they're not even worth mentioning.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The 2016 Wrap-Up Part 3 03:59 PM -- Thu November 3, 2016  

And welcome to the final part of our wrap up! If you haven’t read them yet, you should start with Part 1 and Part 2.

TWISTS

Mikey: So in addition to a lack of teenagers chopped to bits, another big thing we missed this month was twists! I tagged two of our movies with the “Twist” tag: The Canal and The Uninvited (and I thought I was being generous with The Canal). My favorite thing in all of movie-dom is a huge plot twist that completely redefines everything you’ve seen beforehand. Did M. Night Shyamalan spoil me for twists just like I am spoiled for scares, or did we really see a lot of straightforward narratives? (Honorable mention: there were some twists in Holidays between all the various stories)

Solee: I feel like we saw a lot of very uninspiring plots this month. There were very few surprises and I pretty much knew how things would turn out based on the IMDB description most of the time.

Mikey: We did have that group of movies that were very surprising we mentioned before, but they weren’t “twists” where everything changes, just unexpected events along the way to an expected conclusion. I really appreciated those, but I do miss having my mind blown apart.

Solee: I think we’re more likely to get that mind-blowing twist from movies that are labeled “thriller” than from “horror” these days, especially since anything that strays from the standard “horror” fare gets panned by the critics.

Mikey: You’re right about that. Psychological Thriller November? Maybe later when we’ve had time to recover from this month of not getting anything real done.

Just to wrap up with a few random notes from the tags I made:
  • We saw 5 movies that took place during Christmas time. Popular for horror, I guess!
  • No fewer than 11 movies earned my “Driven” tag, which means they featured people being driven insane by ghosts. Very common idea.
  • We saw 7 movies which earned the Cheese tag.
  • Only 5 of our movies got a Gore tag, but I was pretty picky about that - they had to really focus on gore, not just have one really bloody thing.
  • 5 serial killers, 7 demons, 12 ghosts, 3 cults, 2 “monsters” (the Behemoth and the Shadow Puppets monster), only 2 zombies, and just one witch.
  • Only 4 found footage movies! Sad.
  • Four comedies (or attempted comedies).
  • Four Sci-Fi movies.
  • Surprisingly only 3 movies which featured a pregnant woman. Seems like I flipped past a hundred of those while searching for movies.
  • Even more surprising that we got two first-person view movies! The first two I’ve ever seen.
  • Four foreign movies: Irish, Spanish, Israeli, and British.
  • Only 3 movies earned the coveted Insane tag for being totally insane.
  • Unsurprisingly, only one courtroom drama!
Solee: To be accurate, there were only three movies with pregnant women, but one of those movies was Holidays, which had several different pregnancy related stories.

Mikey: Yes, well we also had a lot more than 2 zombies, but I’m just counting up how many movies featured them!

Solee: I have two questions before we bring this monster discussion to a close. First, do you think you chose different movies because I was participating with you?

Mikey: I think there was an influence. One thing I didn’t do was spend the entire afternoon flipping through movies to find just the perfect one, because that drives you insane!

Solee: Wait. You DIDN’T do that???

Mikey: It’s so much worse when you’re not looking. I think I also semi-consciously tried to find “good” movies (which worked!). On my own, I would plow through a lot more found footage garbage.

Solee: And weird mutant creature combinations?

Mikey: Nah, I don’t really go for those in the marathon (at least not in large numbers). That’s more for watching with my sister! Oh, I also avoided foreign movies more because subtitles can be difficult when somebody is half-blind from laser beams.

Solee: I am honestly disappointed by how much this stupid eye thing affected our movie watching. I would have enjoyed more foreign films. Next year!

Mikey: The gears are already turning...

ARTWORK

Solee: And my last question: What did you think of my drawings? Favorite? Least favorite?

Mikey: Oh the drawings!! My favorite thing about this month was having somebody else be the one spending all this time on arts and crafts instead of me! The drawings were awesome. Let’s see…
  • Best Picture 2016: Kill List, i-Lived, and The Pact

  • Oh there’s so many others… Amityville, Sympathy (yes, the doodle), The Invitation

  • Anyway, on to my least favorite even though I surely loved them all with all my heart: I think The Final Girls. It’s an ugly house regardless of how you draw it. It even looked weird in the movie!

Solee: Yes. I think that Final Girls was one of the first ones post-surgery. My heart definitely wasn’t in it. Ouija and Beacon 77 are pretty bad. And The Witch was a total cop-out. I’m disappointed that I went that the tracing route, even once.


Mikey: The Witch would be super impressive if I didn’t know you cheated. It’s a good way to learn, though!

Solee: I was quite proud of the wine glass from The Invitation because I traced it first and then drew it all over again on my own. Learning!

Mikey: Honorable mentions to [REC*] because of how fun it is and how much you hate it.


Solee: I do hate those stick figures. I think my overall favorite was the shotgun from i-LIVED. That turned out WAY better than I expected.

Mikey: That’s why it won Best Picture! So… anything else we need to know about this awesome month of awesome movies? And terrible ones?

Solee: I think that pretty much wraps it up. And it only took us… 2.5 hours and 11 pages! Special props to anyone who managed to read to this point.

Mikey: I don’t even care if anybody reads it, this was just all fun for me. I had the best time.

Solee: Ditto. Now… let’s have lunch. And maybe watch Cabin in the Woods because it’s the BEST Halloween movie ever! (Yes, it’s actually Oct 31 as we’re writing this…)

Mikey: It is Halloween tradition! I hope no kids show up so I can eat all the candy we got.

Solee: Except the mini Butterfingers. Those are mine.

Mikey: All the time (see I rhymed, right?).

Solee: Better than a leprechaun!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The 2016 Wrap-Up Part 2 03:57 PM -- Wed November 2, 2016  

Be sure to read Part 1 of this discussion before this, or it won't make any sense. It was just way too huge to make into a single post. There will be 3 parts. Enjoy!

Mikey: Back to the deep stuff you were saying, horror is very subjective. Even to the point of what is or isn’t horror. It’s a major reason The Witch made me mad (now there’s a movie that didn’t meet expectations, but I didn’t approve). We watched 2 movies this month that I tagged “Thriller” because I think they weren’t really horror movies (this happens every year to varying degrees): Sympathy, Said The Shark and Green Room. There was also one tagged Comedy without the accompanying Horror tag: The Final Girls. Some might argue that, but to me it is clearly a comedy movie about horror, not a horror-comedy, since it makes not even a moment’s effort to scare you.

Solee: One of the ways horror is similar to comedy is that context thing. We are a pretty jaded society at this point. We (well, most of us) have a pretty decent understanding of how our environment - weather, celestial beings, etc - work. We’ve traveled far enough into space and the depths of the ocean and the far corners of the earth for fewer of us to accept “Here Be Monsters” without evidence of some kind. We’ve also grown more accustomed to how movie magic is done. So horror movies have to work a lot harder to actually be scary. There were very few movies that truly SCARED me, and none that left me afraid to walk into a dark room at night.

Mikey: I’m worried about my level of jade in my bloodstream. I remember in earlier years of these reviews having some nights where I’d finish my movie and go out to feed the dogs and really have a lot of nervous thoughts as I wandered out into the dark. I think that is a question of becoming jaded moreso than the movies getting less scary, and that’s a sad thing to see. I wish I could still be so affected.

Solee: With age comes wisdom…

Mikey: Wisdom is laaaame pbblblblltltbbtltt.

SCARY STUFF

Solee: Accepted. I, personally, am always more terrified by the thriller/social commentary aspect of horror movies anyway. And we had some pretty horrific movies in that regard: Green Room, The Invitation, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, to name a few.

Mikey: Man, I think The Invitation might have been the most unsettling thing we watched this month. Is there a moment in the whole month that you remember as your biggest actual scare? What made you jump out of your seat?

Solee: I feel like I’m forgetting a more recent movie that made me jump… but the one I do remember is [*REC]. I definitely jumped - and possibly even squealed a little - near the end of that movie. What about you?

Mikey: I wanna give some shout-outs to a couple movies… first is my answer to this question: as far as I can remember, the time I most was shaken up was the one I commented on in The Pact - when the ghost loomed out of the black doorway and suddenly turned. That just got me.

But in honorable mentions, I feel like The Canal was a very effective horror movie. The latter half of that movie was full of some really creepy moments.


Solee: Yes. I agree that those were on the scarier side… also The Uninvited, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and JeruZalem had some unsettling moments.

Mikey: Ouija is another I wanted to award in that way. It’s sad now, looking back, to realize we didn’t watch a single Asian movie this month, which is something I think I’ve done in all previous years. I wonder if the reason these particular ones felt so creepy was their use of Asian-style ghosts, and as a result, the creepiness comes from unfamiliarity. It’s a chance to sneak around our jaded brains by showing us something we haven’t seen in 100 movies already.

Solee: Yes, we talked about that during our review of The Uninvited. When I think of the scariest movies I’ve seen in the past, I always think of Ringu (the inspiration for the American remake, The Ring) and the woman’s ghost corpse crawling out of the well. *shudder*

Mikey: I have reviewed many movies of that genetic line over the years and they are so very creepy. There was one I loved, Pulse, which was clearly very allegorical about life in Japan, where people would one by one vanish, fading into the wallpaper and leaving a black smudge behind, until eventually our hero was the only person left. There’s some disturbing stuff coming from across the sea!

THE CHARACTERS

Solee: So let’s talk about characters a little. Who was most annoying?

Mikey: The obvious answer is Zoe (your choice!), but that is misleading, because while we had double the Zoe annoyance, the entire cast of Hollows Grove was actually infinitely more obnoxious! At least the two guys who ran the SPIT show were. Awful human beings, and so grating to watch.

Solee: Most Annoying goes to the girls of #Horror for me.

Mikey: OH NO I had wiped them from my mind! AUUUUGHGHHHHH. Okay, while I recover from the memories, why don’t you tell me who you think was the smartest character we met this month?

Solee: Oh, that’s tough. So many horror characters are dumb as posts. I think Smartest goes jointly to Perry and JP of Intruders. They were the only “victims” to think logically about how to escape instead of just flailing around like Kermit.

Mikey: I think we saw more like that in other movies… the Green Room guys were planning things pretty well, the girl in The Pact was doing her thing (when she wasn’t in slow motion), and I feel like the people of Ouija didn’t get a lot of chance to show off their brains but didn’t make overtly terrible choices. Maybe. There was also a lot of fake-smart like Butch in Leprechaun In The Hood and the entire cast of Beacon 77 but I don’t count fake-smart. I guess… I’m going to be sneaky and rate the smartest as the psychotic girl in The Uninvited. She had a plan and she made it work, all the way.

Solee: Wow. I didn’t expect that. Huh. Okay… so who was the character you’d most want to hang out with?

Mikey: Hmm. I looked at our list and came up with two answers which are both horrible people who wouldn’t even be pleasant. But they’re … likeable? Gal from Kill List, and Captain Spaulding from House of 1000 Corpses. They are both really abrasive, but funny and friendly at the same time. And both murderers.

Solee: Oh, totally Captain Spaulding. He’d make me VERY uncomfortable at first… and then again when I found out he was a serial killer, but in between, he’d be great fun to talk to. I would also like to hang out with the kids of the Ain’t Rights, the punk band from Green Room.

Mikey: That floppy hand would freak me out. Oh wait, you know who was a cool guy? The sheriff from Needful Things. Okay, putting aside having to interact with them, which character did we see that was the most well-realized all month? Who was a real person up on screen?

Solee: Whoo… I have to think about this one for a minute… I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one. There were several who stand out to me as “real” people: Jerry from The Voices, Thomasin from The Witch, and Omar from JeruZalem. There were layers to them that made them feel authentic. I was pleased with the multi-faceted characters in The Amityville Horror and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, as well.

Mikey: Well with that big list, I just want to toss in a few other ones of note: Everybody but the lawyer and Conrad in Intruders was a real live human being. Everybody but possibly the cultists in The Invitation. Keeping that trend going, everybody but the cultists in Kill List. Kill List began with some amazing human stuff before it got weird. And Green Room, which was so real I spent the whole time thinking of the real people it reminded me of. Seems like we didn’t watch enough groups of teenagers get murdered in the woods this month, with so many good characters!

Solee: Not for lack of trying! But it does seem as though we landed on some very well-written characters. I’m sure that influenced my scores for the better. I like good characters. So let’s wrap up this segment with one last superlative pair: the Nicest and the Meanest characters of the month!

Mikey: Mmm… I think the nicest character is pretty easily Jerry from The Voices, I mean if you don’t mind getting killed. But the meanest, that can be tricky with horror movies. Oh wait, I group nominate all the girls from #Horror. A movie entirely about being mean.

Solee: I am completely with you on the #Horror gals being the meanest. They were just awful, and made even more awful by being around one another. For nicest, I think Jerry is a good choice, but I’m going to reach deep into the characters we met and pull out a side character! I nominate Emily Rose’s boyfriend. That guy not only stuck by his girlfriend when she lost her mind, but also stood by the priest on trial for killing her. He was a very patient fella.

Mikey: That’s some deep cuts! He was a good guy, that we only saw for about 2 minutes.

Solee: Well, you took my first answer! I guess I could also nominate Anna from Intruders, but she was so emotionally crippled it was hard to see whether she was really a good person under it all… or if she was really a serial killer like her brother.

Mikey: I’d be concerned that any kindness she showed was more weakness than kindness. She seems dangerous.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 3!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The 2016 Wrap-Up Part 1 02:59 PM -- Tue November 1, 2016  

And so, another year of reviewing movies draws to a close. I love doing it every year, and this was the most fun one we've done, thanks to my partner in terror. What follows is our discussion of how it all went down. It is a huge discussion, so I've broken it up into multiple parts to be posted over a few days. And even so there's still so much more we could say about all this!


PART I

Solee: It is November. We’re officially through the month of scary and into the month of food. I want to start by saying I’m super proud of us for sticking to the schedule so well. I think there was only one day that I didn’t get a post up, and that was because I forgot to automate it, not because it wasn’t written. We did very well. Go, us!

Mikey: It may be the first year I didn’t have any mishaps with the watching or posting, actually. Usually I’m either a movie or two short, or I go a few days into November. What a team.

Solee: Before we get into the analysis of the movies, I also want to say that I really enjoyed doing this with you. It was fun to have something entertaining, but also “required” to do together so we couldn’t end up just doing nothing. I am already looking forward to our plans for next year.

Mikey: I find having to do something that the “public” will see (all 3 of the people who read this!) really makes all the difference in staying motivated. But really this was just for us, to have some fun. I like doing these kinds of projects, but I will also say I am glad we’re done. It’s amazing how much of your day can be eaten up with watching a movie and writing a review of it (and posting the review). Not even counting extraneous time-wastage, that adds up to 3 hours and 15 minutes by itself, 7 days a week.

Solee: And when you add in drawing the picture…

THE STATISTICS

Mikey: I did forget about the drawing - that was on you this year, and it certainly took a long time each day too. I appreciated it! So enough of our woes as such put-upon laborers… let’s get to the movies!

I took the time to do my mostest favoritestest activity of all this month: creating a spreadsheet of the movies, with all kinds of statistics and even tagging each movie with specific tags like Cheese, Ghost, and Found Footage. It wouldn’t be a spreadsheet without calculations, so it also calculated averages of ratings and things, and added up how often each tag appeared. Just to quickly cover the most basic and useless stats:

On average, we watched movies from the year 2010.1 which were 93.81 minutes long.


Solee: According to my calculations, the median year of our movie selections was 2014. We watched 10 movies from 2015!

Mikey: Making that Pi A La Mode! Our movies altogether earned an average rating of 5.6/10 on IMDB.

On Metacritic, the average was 53/100, though 13 of the movies were not listed on Metacritic.

Rotten Tomatoes critics gave our movies a 57% average, except 9 movies they didn’t cover.

The much pickier Rotten Tomatoes audience had a 44% average, and the only movie they didn’t cover was Sympathy, Said The Shark. Guess that one was super indie! To be fair, the 8 movies they rated that critics didn’t were probably terrible, so that brings the average down.

Speaking of picky, on average I rated movies 3.05, and you rated them 3.21, so I guess I am the more picky audience (but still kinder than Rotten Tomatoes people!).


Solee: I’m surprised by that. I went into this thinking you would rate things much higher than me, but now that we’ve done it, I can see that you like to hate your horror. The worse it is, the more fun you have watching it.

Mikey: I’m not sure about that final conclusion, but I agree with the surprise. I thought I would be dragging you through movies you were going to loathe, but you had a good time all the way through. Was there a worst experience for you? I mean, I know which movie was the worst one, since it’s the only one we both gave a big fat ZERO rating (#Horror), but in terms of having to watch actual horror, was there another you wish you could have avoided?

Solee: I can honestly say, no. Each one, even the ones that I hated, had something interesting about them that I’d be sad to have missed. There are plenty of them I wouldn’t want to watch again, though! What about you?

Mikey: I agree with that. There are lots of movies in general I’m glad I watched that I don’t need to ever repeat. You know… other than the fact that it was fun to see James Marsters do something, I really didn’t need to ever see Shadow Puppets. I think that was the movie that felt the most like a waste of my time (even though we saw Behemoth!). But then again, there was the mean girl in there with the faces she made...

THE RATINGS

Solee: Yeah… we had very different opinions about Shadow Puppets. You gave it 1.5 and I gave it a 3. At this moment I can’t remember a single things about Behemoth… so maybe that is one I didn’t need to see.

Mikey: Oh come on, there was Zoe and her romance with the Cigarette-Smoking Man...

Solee: OOOHH. Right. I choose that one as my Didn’t Need To See. In fact, I’d recommend #Horror before it, if only because you can’t really understand that level of bad that #Horror is without actually experiencing it.

Mikey: Wow. That’s true, but it’s like saying you don’t know how bad waterboarding is until you try it. I’ll take other peoples’ word for it.

Solee: Obviously, I’m someone who sniffs the milk, gags at how sour it is, and then immediately hands it to whomever is standing near. “Smell this!” Misery loves company!

Mikey: I can verify that you are that person. Now what I found interesting is that Shadow Puppets isn’t our biggest rating discrepancy: The VVitch is, with my 2.5 to your 4.5. What happened there?

Solee: Whoa. I don’t know. After looking back at our review, I see that it was one of our earlier reviews where we did separate interviews, as was Shadow Puppets. I wonder if we influenced one another less through that format. Anyway, I gave it a lot of credit for being well done, beautiful to look at, and thought provoking. My main problem with The VVitch was that it had one more scene than I needed at the end. I wanted it to remain open ended. Do you remember why you rated it so low?

Mikey: I was definitely one of those True Horror Fans who felt betrayed and angry at the hype - the trailers make this movie look like the scariest thing in the world, and it is very very far from it, so failed expectations is a part of it. I also made note in my review of how un-fun it was to see. Despite my discussion earlier this month about how I enjoy grim, grey, slow movies (like The Sixth Sense), this movie was really nothing but a celebration of how awful the characters had it. Let’s just wallow in misery. I guess sometimes that’s the movie I want, but maybe only if a ghost is involved (or more importantly, a twist).

I do feel like the joint interviews gave us both a chance to reflect, and probably get influenced by the other. I really liked it though! I noticed many times where your ideas gave me a new appreciation for what I had seen.


Solee: I’m pretty awesome. Just kidding. I liked the joint interviews better, too. They provided for much deeper discussions I think. Going back to the idea of grim, grey movies, I think that’s something that generally appeals to critics and the folks who hand out awards. It’s almost as though they feel you deserve higher praise if your movies looks like it has suffered. And on the flip side of that coin, they tear you apart like savage dogs if you look like you had too much fun making your movie, as shown by the reception of House of 1000 Corpses within the critical world.

Mikey: Which perfectly brings me to my next statistic! I calculated the difference between the average of our ratings, and how the critics rated each movie… I can tell you that the movies we disagreed with the critics the most on were #Horror (we rated 41/100 lower than they did… but to be fair, most critics aren’t allowed a zero rating), and actually several others we rated much much higher than critics: No Tell Motel and House of 1000 Corpses were the biggest offenders where we averaged 63/100 higher than the critics. That makes sense to me.

Solee: Yep. House of 1000 Corpses was just amazing. It was Art with a capital A, and I think any critic that didn’t recognize that should have his or her credentials stripped. No Tell Motel had the SBIG bump to carry it. It was classically bad in a way that is SO fun to watch. (Sorry, TJ!)

Mikey: Critics never appreciate bad movies for some reason. Looking at my discrepancy ratings, it’s actually pretty amazing… there are only 5 movies we rated worse than the critics. All the rest, we rated higher than critics, many many of them by a huge margin. I think the biggest reason is that we were saying “5/5 is a perfect horror movie” where critics were saying it’s not this deep meaningful movie in general, even if it’s really good horror.

Solee: Right. I know I was using a very skewed scale to rate these movies. If we were rating on the Every Movie Ever Made scale, many of them would have been lower. I also know that my rating scale is very subjective. If I had fun watching the movie, it got a higher rating whether it was “good” or not.

Mikey: If I were having to rate these movies officially, for good, there would definitely be a lot fewer 5s. I’m happy to dish out the 5s during October, it’s all about asking the question “should other people see this movie?” If the answer is absolutely they should, that’s a 5. And I’m a pop-culture guy, not a high art guy. I don’t want to see boring German expressionism, I wanna see 1000 corpses, all in a house.

I ran a similar statistic - comparing our ratings to the Rotten Tomatoes audience ratings. I thought we’d be much more in line with them, since they’re our buddies, but it turns out it’s only slightly different than the critic situation. In this case, Intruders is the movie where we’re most off the norm - we rated that movie 72/100 higher than the general audience! That messes me up. People are dumb.


Solee: I had a moment of “Oh, geez, was I influenced by the fact that I knew someone involved was reading the review” when you said that… but NO. It was a damn good movie. I honestly can’t guess why people wouldn’t like it. So I continue to stand by my 5. People SHOULD watch that movie.

Mikey: Yes, they gave it 28/100. That’s crazy. I have more I want to say about that movie and a couple related others in a minute. But about these discrepancies, our #Horror rating fares much better against the audience - we were only 9/100 off on that. Humans knew to flee the theater on that one.

Solee: Sooooooooo bad.

Mikey: So, on the topic of Intruders, as well as House of 1000 Corpses and Green Room, the thing these movies had in common, which netted all of them 5s from both of us, is that they were something totally new. Each one of them completely failed to meet our expectations, time and again throughout the movie, so we were constantly surprised. They didn’t follow movie conventions and that made them fresh and inventive. It seems like the general audience doesn’t agree - they want to be spoonfed the same old pablum (though Green Room was pretty well appreciated across the board).

Solee: Ooh! Pablum! You’re breaking out the big vocabulary!
I agree, and it reminds me of something I was saying prior to starting this record of our discussion: Horror is much like comedy in its subjectivity and its reliance on context and timing. I’m not surprised that we don’t agree with the general public regarding which horror movies are worth watching. We are Firefly fans. We’re eternally doomed to falling in love with things that aren’t popular enough to continue to exist.

Mikey: We are Firefly fans! So I want to point out one more brief statistic: We had two movies with a Zoe in them (both obnoxious), one movie that had both a Malcolm and a Zoe, and one movie with a Firefly family. So that sums up the Firefly connections for the year.

Solee: We also came across several Leverage connections, and we ended up seeing quite a bit of Ryan Reynolds.

Mikey: And one case of Sir Patrick Stewart.

That's the end of PART I. Come back tomorrow to continue the tale of the movies we watched... hey, it's interesting to me at least!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Leprechaun In The Hood 01:51 PM -- Mon October 31, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Leprechaun In The Hood (2000)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 3.6/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: 33% critics, 32% audience
Mikey: 2/5
Solee: 1.5/5
We watched on Starz.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “When three rappers want to get even with a pimp, they accidentally unleash a leprechaun who goes on a killing rampage in the 'hood.”

Mikey: Hey, Coolio was in this movie. Did you know that? I think I know when it was - he shook the hands of the guys after their “successful” performance. I don’t think he spoke or faced the camera.

Solee: I’m not sure I’d know who Coolio was in real life, much less as a cameo. I recognize Ice-T, though! His acting skills are questionable, but I love him.

Mikey: I just like Ice-T. There’s a really good movie, Surviving The Game, starring him. He just seems like a good guy. You know, for an ex-pimp.

Solee: Yeah. He seems like he’d be interesting to talk to. I’ve been a fan of him on Law & Order for a very long time.

Mikey: Here’s my favorite Goof from this movie on IMDB: “If the Leprechaun was turned to stone in the 1970s and was not reverted to normal until present day, that would make the events of Leprechaun, Leprechaun 2 and Leprechaun 3 impossible, as the Leprechaun would still have been stone (this time line error does not affect the events depicted in Leprechaun 4: In Space, as that movie took place in the future).” - Somebody who’s very concerned with the lore.

Solee: That’s funny. And the kind of thing that would bother me, too. It’s a sign of sloppy writing.

Mikey: Well wait - the best thing about it is how it compares to this piece of Trivia from the movie (spoilers!): “Is the only film in the series where the Leprechaun doesn't die.” So clearly, it’s important whether the Leprechaun was stone or not...

Solee: Wait. It died in the other… 4 movies?

Mikey: That’s what IMDB says anyway!

Solee: Huh. Well, maybe they just thought he died. That little guy was tough to kill. He didn’t have much trouble killing, though. Just a flick of the wrist. Like driving with Anya.

Mikey: Yes, very similar. That was one of my major issues with this movie. It seems pretty clear the writers and/or director didn’t really care about the logic of events. This psychic leprechaun could kill anyone with a single gesture, but he had all kinds of difficulties achieving his goals.

Solee: Sometimes he forgets he has those powers. It’s a side-effect of dying all those times. And simultaneously spending 30 years stoned.

Mikey: I guess being dead, literally stoned, and colloquially stoned simultaneously does a pretty good number on your memory.

Solee: It messes up your ability to rhyme as well. Time and mine do NOT rhyme!!

Mikey: I KNOW!! For a guy who speaks almost exclusively in rhyme, he was horrible at it. Literally every time he started a rhyme, he’d say the first line of it, and in my head I finished it (because it seemed so obvious…), and then he’d say the end of it and my ending was a million times better than his.

Solee: To be fair, you probably spend more time creating rhymes than he does. It’s kind of your jam.

Mikey: It ought to be his jam, I would think. Why don’t you buy him a drink? See! Better than his! He’d do the kind of failed rhymes you hear as jokes sometimes like “I’ll shoot you in the head, and then you’ll… no longer live!” But not intentionally.

Solee: Hahaha. Now you’re just being mean to the poor Lep. So what did you think of our three “heroes”: Postmaster P, Stray Bullet, and the eternal virgin, Butch?

Mikey: The eternal virgin who apparently spends most of his time making sure everyone around him knows he’s a virgin. Kind of atypical.

Solee: He’s obviously spends too much time with his nose in books to get a girl. He was the “nerd” in the group.

Mikey: Yes, he was really clever to pick up a copy of Leprechauns For Dummies. I actually liked that, I admit. But I liked the three heroes pretty much… this movie was so weird. They actually seemed like good actors, who thought they were in a serious movie. There was pathos and whatnot.

Solee: Yes! I spend a lot of time during the course of horror movies rooting for the monster and waiting impatiently for the stupid, arrogant or otherwise annoying main characters to die. This was the first movie where I was legitimately sorry to see them get killed.

Mikey: I was really surprised that 66% of them got killed. They seemed destined to be the heroic champions of it all. But you know, that’s part of the strangeness with this movie: the basic core of the plot was super simple, of course - just take the Leprechaun’s gold and he hunts you down and kills you - but the way it actually played out was surprisingly complex, with Mack Daddy after them, and the church people, and all sorts of side issues. I’m not saying it was a good plot, due to the fact that it was terrible, but it’s like somebody put a lot of thought into this movie for some reason.

Solee: There was a lesson in this movie, too. A real one, not just the “Don’t wish on random lamps” or “always let the slutty girl go through the door first” kind of lessons most horror movies have. This one had a pretty strong message about attitude and selling out and the true cost of sacrificing your soul in pursuit of your dreams. It wasn’t an original message, but like the deaths hitting me, it seemed to be more meaningful than I expected.

Mikey: Wow, I didn’t even know those were lessons I was supposed to have learned. I’m gonna confine my wishing to specific lamps from now on! There was a big on-the-nose bit about Postmaster P bringing us positivity, and Mack Daddy demanding they drop that and rap about killing and drugs. I was truly, deeply, disappointed this movie didn’t end with them turning it around and going positive and making some ridiculous Disney rap about helping grandmas across the street as their big smash hit to become stars.

Solee: They totally could have used the golden flute to make the masses eat that up. But instead they just sank to Mack Daddy’s level. *sigh*

Mikey: The powers of that flute were pretty unclear to me. Mostly it just made people zone out, but sometimes it made them like your raps (I believe Zamfir has one of these). I could really use that (the second feature, not the first).

Solee: I feel like they were leaning pretty heavily on the assumption that we had watched all the previous Leprechaun movies and needed no further information. At the end I was thinking a magic flute would make Kanye West make a LOT more sense to me.

Mikey: Right, the aforementioned lore that this movie trashed with its stone leprechaun! Kanye is a mystery, alright.

Solee: This movie was full of silliness that I can see being very funny to certain people at certain points in their lives. Or under a certain amount of influence from the chronic. This makes me like it more than I would otherwise… not that it’s all that hard to be funny to stoners and teenagers, but still. It WAS a tiny bit funny.

Mikey: Ehhhh… I was really surprised at how dull this whole thing felt. Not that it was slow, but just so unfunny and uninteresting. The one scene that really stood out for me, and totally made me laugh, felt like it belonged in a different movie. It was when the three heroes were hiding, crouched down, and getting prepped to go do something. It went down the line of the three of them “You ready? Yeah, you ready? You?” Only it was four of them… the Leprechaun was sitting at the end of the row and just joined in. Then they all jumped up screaming after they realized he was there. It was a total cartoon slapstick move. The whole movie should’ve been that, but instead it had all kinds of almost-serious stuff, and semi-adult jokes that were just out of place in a movie about an evil leprechaun.

Solee: Yeah. It was dumb. But I laughed when they used douche and jelly on an electric heating pad to create a fire because those two water-based items are “so combustible” together.

Mikey: That was a good unintentional comedy bit… like MacGyver if the laws of physics didn’t apply.

Solee: You think it was really unintentional? Do you think the writers REALLY thought that would work?

Mikey: That’s a very good question… I was kinda going that way (more thinking they didn’t care, they just wanted to Macgyver together two ‘chemicals’), but it could very well have been a fun joke for scientists. In a movie that discusses the difference between triiodide solutions and methiodide (??? Whatever he said at the beginning), it makes sense.

Solee: And physical vs METAphysical interactions...

Mikey: That was something that made me laugh some too. I guess there were some jokes worth laughing at. But not too many. I just feel like it tried to bring in too many real issues instead of just having these guys Scooby Doo their way around a leprechaun.

Solee: It is straddling a fence it probably shouldn’t be trying to straddle. I was disappointed in some of the intentional jokes aimed at transgender people. The whole character of Miss Fontaine was extremely homophobic and transphobic.

Mikey: It was. That whole part was so weird, like why did they even have a trans character they visited? It must be that they thought that would be full of comedy, but it was more a bit disturbing. At first it seemed like they were being surprisingly tolerant for 2000 with these guys just being cool with Miss Fontaine, but it devolved pretty quickly.

Solee: Yes. It bothered me. As did some of the more stereotypical actions of the black characters. I’m not sure if this was a movie made ABOUT black guys or BY black guys. Either way, it often headed into territory that was outside my experience or understanding, leaving me unsure whether I should laugh or be offended.

Mikey: I know what you mean. It was so much more In The Hood than it was Leprechaun, I was surprised. It really focused on that kind of stuff you’d see in a movie about inner city life, the guns and gangs and drugs, rather than a goofy leprechaun attack. It was such a dichotomy of stereotypical stuff mixed with people who often seemed very real (mostly the three main guys).

Solee: You know what really bothered me about it? It is the kind of movie that Donald Trump would watch and totally believe to be The Truth about inner city life.

Mikey: Yes, his interchangeable use of the terms “African American” and “inner city”. A confluence that’s offensive in both directions.

Solee: Now that we’ve acknowledged that there are some serious and significant issues with this movie… can we talk about how awesome it was to try to beat the leprechaun with four-leaf-clover laced weed? That was a great idea and I was disappointed that it didn’t work better. I was expecting some real funny there and didn’t get it.

Mikey: Right, I think that was a fun idea that went nowhere at all. It seems that defines most of the movie. Anything that happened in the whole movie only had repercussions for a few seconds and then we move on to the next scenario starting from scratch (with maybe a few more dead humans).

Solee: Except the “Zombie Fly Girls”, who weren’t dead at all. They weren’t zombies! They were possessed. After a month of watching horror flicks, I’m actually pretty offended and irritated that they would make such a rookie mistake.

Mikey: Yeah, that was a pretty low blow. Speaking of which, earlier we did have an actual zombie fly girl - Jackie Cee (whoever she was… did we have any info about her ever?). That is an example of one of those scenes that just kinda happened. She looked zombie-ish, Jackie Dee looked upset about it, and then we moved on to the next scene, assuming he is dead now I guess.

Solee: I had/have no idea who Jackie Cee was before she appeared as a zombie, other than she was clearly someone Jackie Dee was into.

Mikey: I wish we had been able to meet Jackie Ayy and Jackie Bee too.

Solee: They are probably zombies, too. Safer to avoid all the Jackies.

Mikey: That’s the biggest lesson of the movie I think. That, and leprechauns are very flammable.

Solee: Haha. Indeed.

To be honest, I’m a little sad that we’re ending the month on such a flat note. We picked this movie so we could end on a crazy, silly film, but this just didn’t supply.

Mikey: I want to let our viewers (are we sure they’re viewers?) in on a little secret: there was a different final movie we watched first, which was far better. Hilarious. But, as we watched it, we realized we couldn’t cover it. It was pretty much pornography. I won’t name names, but it was funny!

Solee: Pornography without any actual sex. The same level of plot, acting, set design, and editing as a porno, and the occasional nudity, but nothing actually naughty. Unless you think marionette rabbits who tear people apart are naughty.

Mikey: I’d say that’s a fairly naughty rabbit. Yeah, we actually discovered through IMDB that the movie was made by and starred people involved in actual pornography. They were just trying something different! Anyway, that was another sad thing.

Solee: Yep. Very sad that we couldn’t review it in all it’s ridiculous glory. Oh well. Such is the nature of the Horror Movie Marathon… lots of disappointment with the occasional gem.

Mikey: Yes, and that’s the goal. To sift through the bloody corpses to find the occasional live one. And it’s totally worth it to me. I think tomorrow we will do a run-down of the hits and misses of the month, yes? One last discussion.

Solee: I was hoping we’d do our wrap-up as a discussion! Glad you suggested it. I think it will be interesting to look back at the month as a whole, especially to revisit some of the earlier movies in light of what came later.

Mikey: I look forward to it, and I have many notes already. I think it will be more fun than this movie, which leads me to ask… how do you rate it?

Solee: Oh, yeah. We have to rate! Um… I am going to give this a 1.5 out of 5. And that .5 is only because I appreciated the effort to have a deeper meaning and the main characters had arcs that made me sad when they died. Otherwise this movie didn’t have much going for it.

Mikey: Hmm, I feel much the same. I can’t go all the way down to 1 for this, but it’s definitely not So Bad It’s Good. I think I’ll give it a 2. I realized after we started discussing that even though I was bored during the movie, I was jam-packed with things I wanted to say about it. So I guess it was super duper deep. The Schindler’s List of Leprechaun movies.

Solee: Ooh. Ouch. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Hollows Grove 02:53 PM -- Sun October 30, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Hollows Grove (2014)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 4.9/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A% critics, 22% audience
Mikey: 1.5/5
Solee: 2/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “A young filmmaker documents his ghost-hunting, reality show friends as their routine investigation of an abandoned orphanage turns into a nightmare from which they can't escape.”

Mikey: I’m sad that this is our second-to-last movie, but it might be nice for me to actually have a little spare time in which to do work instead of just watching movies and writing reviews 24/7. When I look at the list of horror movies available on Netflix or Hulu, I just want to spend the rest of my life churning through them all. So many terrible low-budget things to enjoy.

Solee: I am also sorrowful that this is coming to an end. Although, having a daily movie/interview/picture schedule is a little challenging when real life rears its ugly head.

Mikey: I took a long time picking the movie for today, and I think I passed up some real winners before settling on… this.

Solee: Don’t spoil our review now!

Mikey: Warning: this review is CLASSIFIED. You should not be reading it. But if you are, please look through it to provide us any information you can about what happens in it.

Solee: I don’t think I’m a fan of the “movie within some other medium” format. Unless it’s Peter Falk reading the best love story of all time to Kevin from the Wonder Years.

Mikey: I enjoy that technique! However, the wrap-around of this movie, where some FBI guy tells us it’s classified, was just a… well, to quote a famous author, it was a pram full of bugbears.

Solee: Don’t reference your songs within your songs. It’s pretentious.

Mikey: Hey, you referenced a song! Cool. It was silly. And the “final shock” of the movie was even more silly. A box full of ghost? That was hilarious. It reminds me of when I visited Hawaii as a kid, and we drove up through the clouds on a volcano, and we held zip-lock bags outside the window to try to collect clouds for souvenirs. Works better with ghosts, I see.

Solee: That is an adorable story. What is NOT adorable is the acronym for this ridiculous ghost hunting team: SPIT (Spirit & Paranormal Investigation Team). And they weren’t even authentic ghost hunters. They were money grubbing scam artists!

Mikey: Hey, that’s still something I appreciate! The whole “fake guys meet the real thing” angle. Fun. Just like Ouija: Origin of Evil.

Solee: I liked it in Ouija. They were at least respectful of the idea and of the people who believed. The SPIT guys are just stupid.

Mikey: They were such horrible people. SPIT was a good acronym for them.

Solee: I couldn’t decide if it was really bad acting or if they were all written very poorly, but I didn’t like any of the main characters. This was one of those movies where very early on I made a note about how happy I was going to be when they all got their come-uppance at the hands of ghosts.

Mikey: The acting was horrendous. It was the girl I noticed most (which I feel bad for, since she was the most abused of them). She was soooo bad. It was reminiscent of The Ouija Experiment as opposed to Origin of Evil.

Solee: Speaking of the girl… she was most abused by the ghosts, but also by her co-workers. They were a bunch of super handsy, gropey guys.

Mikey: Oh yeah, I meant the guys. You’ll notice she joined the ghost’s team as soon as she got a chance! I think that was wise.

Solee: I’m not sure “joined the team” is what you call it when a ghost lifts you 6 feet into the air and then throws you to the ground.

Mikey: But then she immediately went nuts and murdered her friend. She was totally picking sides.

Solee: Ha. I guess. She did get murdery pretty fast.

I liked how the FBI guys left in plenty of visual and audio glitches so that as we were watching we wouldn’t forget that this was found footage.

Mikey: They couldn’t cut those out, maybe there were clues! Hey wait a second, I forgot my favorite note! After she murdered her friend, she becomes a power-walking demon. That was so hilarious.

Solee: She REALLY wanted to get up those stairs and apparently the floaty, flying aspect of possession doesn’t kick in for a bit. She looked like she had joined the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Mikey: Another fine moment: we’ve commented multiple times about how when somebody gets attacked by a cat in these movies, it always just looks like somebody threw a cat at them. This movie cuts out the middleman - someone literally threw a cat at these guys. Hard.

Solee: Shot a cat out of a cannon, maybe. Even the characters were like “Why did that cat just hit that wall at mach speed?”

Mikey: Poor kitty.

Solee: Shortly before the cat-cannon scene they were standing around getting ready to head out into the darkness in what was clearly an ad-libbed bit. It was like these actors had never spoken to other people before in their lives. I noted that they really should have had a director like Kevin Smith, who writes really great dialogue and then doesn’t allow his actors to stray from it.

Mikey: Somebody needed to rein these guys in. There was a great line near the end, where the last remaining guy hears his name being called from the darkness, and he says “Now somebody’s calling my name? What?” That doesn’t sound so bad written down, but I had to make a note of it because it was so not what a human being would do.

Solee: Unless he was trying to get out of an awkward situation. “Um… I think I hear someone calling me... “ Was he at a really uncomfortable dinner party?

Mikey: No, he was in a haunted hospital. I guess that’s something you want to get out of too. He was certainly trying to pry the door open.

Solee: Maybe he could tell this movie was going to be awful and was trying to get out of it. “I’d love to finish my scene here, but I think I hear a ghost calling me. I have to go get murdered now.”

Mikey: That’s pretty much how it went down, actually.

Solee: Did you notice that 99% of the movie was shot through the camera of Harold, but a couple of random times they jumped into a different camera? The first time, was for no apparent reason when they started showing the filming from the official “show” camera. Later it was more logical when it jumped into the camera of the main guy (Tim?) as he was being killed.

Mikey: Well, I will allow it - the FBI guy at the beginning said something about that, I forget what. But he indicated it would happen. On that note, I thought it was interesting that this guy who was documenting their production of the show was really basically just filming their show a second time, over their shoulders. He didn’t ask questions or anything, just filmed what they were filming.

Solee: He did ask questions a couple of times, and got SCREAMED at by Tim or whatever his name was. That dude had some emotion regulating issues. As a writer, the camera hopping happening as rarely as it did came across as poor writing. The author couldn’t figure out how to make that information fit into the POV he’d established, so he cheated and shifted POV to accomplish it. Poor form.

Mikey: Sounds about par for this course. Similar to the real director, the guys making the SPIT show-within-a-show put no effort into their show. They’d deliver a semi-correct line reading and just keep going. Close enough! One take.

Solee: OH! That reminds me that I totally heard one of the characters fumble half way through a line (not on camera for their show within a show!) and restart that line at the beginning again. It COULD have been written that way. I mean, sometimes that happens to people. BUT I am 110% convinced that either the director didn’t notice or they figured, “Eh… maybe they’ll think it was written that way.” and let it stand.

Mikey: As I was watching them film their SPIT show, I kept thinking “Is that really how these ghost hunting shows are done?” - from the way they’d hold the camera 2 inches from the guy’s face, to the super quick effortless bits of dialog and no coverage, to the totally unplanned approach. And in the end I kind of decided that the people making this movie, as movie-makers themselves, probably know more about making a show than I do, so maybe I’m learning something. But maybe you’re proving that that’s just how these guys make movies, and not actually how anybody with any talent does.

Solee: No idea. But I wouldn’t watch their show. And I don’t need to watch this movie again. Aside from the general terribleness of it, I didn’t make many notes. It was just NOT an interesting plot. I can kind of see where an interesting story is hidden in there… but it needed a lot more editing and rewriting to find it.

Mikey: Here’s the shocking twist of the movie: Lance Henriksen is in it. He’s a big movie star. I really wonder what that was about. Was his grandson the director? No idea. But he was certainly the best actor on display, for what little he did. And even he didn’t do that well.

Solee: Who was he?

Mikey: Bill.

Solee: Oh. Really? That guy was a Really Good Actor™ ? I wouldn’t have guessed that. Especially from the very poor line readings during his first scene. He was totally phoning it in.

Mikey: Nominated for 3 Golden Globes! He was definitely phoning it in. Weird.

Solee: The set was creepy. I would have been nervous walking around in the dark in there. Especially if some special effects guy had been in earlier to set up creepy happenings.

Mikey: I see you digging for silver linings!

Solee: Yes. I feel bad about how much I’m hating on this movie. But I really didn’t like it. It wasn’t good enough to be a good movie and it wasn’t bad enough to be a good bad movie. It’s just blah.

Mikey: Well, do you think you can encapsulate that dislike into a numerical format?

Solee: Ummm.. 2.5 out of 5? I am afraid that maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remember.

Mikey: WHOA. I did not see that coming. I wouldn’t even go that high and I have a deep abiding love for all found footage. I award this movie the coveted 1.5 out of 5, throwing in that extra 0.5 because there was a certain SBIG factor at play, especially with the shocking final twist.

Solee: Would it be inappropriate for me to drop my score to a 2 now?

Mikey: I can’t decide your rating for you! Believe in yourself!

Solee: I’m just not sure. Yes. I’m dropping it. 2 out of 5.

Mikey: Peer pressure.

Solee: Probably, but I’m okay with that. So, we’re down to our very last movie!! And we’ve saved something extra special for the grand finale, haven’t we?

Mikey: This is a total game-changer. I think we may have a problem with our scale being limited to only 5 stars when it comes to our opinions of the unimaginable wonder that is Leprechaun In The Hood.

Solee: I’m already wondering if you’ll let me get away with negative integers. Just from the title.

Mikey: I’ve seen snippets of Leprechaun movies on TV back in the days when we had cable. Or maybe back in the days when people rented VHS tapes at Blockbuster. I truly can’t wait for what is sure to be the most terrifying movie of the month.
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