Short, Gory, and Totally Worth It!

Some years ago, when I was first realizing that there was an absolute boat-ton of zombie material available, a friend mentioned a British mini-series to me. Called Dead Set, it features a fake Big Brother TV show which is in full swing when the zombie apocalypse hits. The kicker? None of the contestants know what’s going on.

The show starts on the night of an Eviction, where a cast member is chosen to leave the show. There is a crowd outside the studio, waiting to see a live interview with the cast member who is evicted. There is a big stage and a dolled-up host. In the meantime, another crew member was sent to get a previous Big Brother contestant’s mother because there is also a reunion party going for previous Big Brother participants. Needless to say there are tons of living people at the studio when the first zombie shows up.

Inside the Big Brother house, the screaming doesn’t sound unusual. They mistake the screams of agony for the fan frenzy of eviction night. The next morning though, things seem to have changed but they can’t figure out why. They just know that the cameras aren’t recording, Big Brother isn’t reminding them to put on their mics, and things seem a bit quiet. Dead, almost.

Life in the fishbowl changes abruptly when Kelly, one of the behind-the-scenes workers at the show, comes in bloody and carrying a huge pair of blood-dripping scissors. She tries in vain to explain to the cast what happened, and that not only is there no TV show anymore, but there may not even be a world at all. They don’t believe her, until one of the cast members opens a fire door, accidentally letting a zombie inside. The zombie is fast, ravenous, and bloody as hell. Before anyone can do anything, another cast member is bitten on the leg. Kelly dispatches the zombie in a very gory sequence featuring a fire extinguisher and some really realistic special effects.

From there on, it’s a tooth-and-nail battle for the contestants of Big Brother and the few crew members left. They must stay alive against all odds, which includes ravenous, rabid, fast-moving zombies. As if that weren’t enough, some of the cast members themselves become obstacles to survival.

I’m not big on Big Brother type shows, but this is phenomenal. The characters vary from funny to downright insipid. The non-zombie protagonists are downright terrifying. Dead Set doesn’t hesitate to delve deeply into the horrors that humans are capable of both in times of stress, and in times of relative quiet.

I highly recommend this show, especially if you have the roughly two and a half to three hours to run it from start to finish. The storyline is compelling, the effects are super impressive, and the death scenes are inventive. While there are many tropes of the zombie genre present, Dead Set definitely sets the bar higher for movies and TV shows that follow.

 

The ‘Burbs Just Got Stranger…

Facebook has been buzzing about a new show called Santa Clarita Diet. Truth be told, up until last night, I didn’t know anything about it except that it starred Drew Barrymore. In many ways, I’m tapped out on horror-themed shows. They’re starting to run together for me, which is why I’ve detoured into Rick and Morty recently, which is satirical and funny and dark enough to get me through watching it. (Which, by the way, I will definitely recommend watching, though not with your kids. Unless you like answering questions about subjects not for polite company. If you do, well, your funeral. You know?)

Anyway, my friend Suzanne recommended I start watching it sooner rather than later. I’ve been working on an afghan for one of mom’s friends, and since it’s just a granny square pattern, it’s not very complicated. That means I can start new shows or movies while working, otherwise I’d have to pay too much attention to the pattern. In any event, I figured last night was the right time to start something new. I went to Netflix, found Santa Clarita Diet, and immediately squealed with delight when I realized Timothy Olyphant played Drew Barrymore’s husband! I absolutely love his movies, and am always up for anything that has him as part of the cast.

In any event, the show started normal enough. Barrymore and Olyphant live in suburbia with their daughter (played to perfection by Liv Hewson). They live in between two cops, pardon me, a cop and a sheriff’s office employee, as the characters make a point of saying. Again, pretty normal suburban comedy set-up. Barrymore and Olyphant are a husband-wife realty team, and they’re pretty bad at it. While showing a house, Barrymore suddenly gets violently ill, throwing up what can only be considered the modern equivalent of the pea soup scene in the Exorcist. On steroids. In a color I guarantee you’ve never seen before.

From there, the show goes flying off the rails immediately. The audience has an inkling that Barrymore is a zombie, but it’s not until the neighbor boy (played by Skyler Gisondo) confirms it without a doubt. However, this isn’t the usual zombie show by any means. Barrymore doesn’t look dead. Aside from her penchant for screaming-rare meat, she doesn’t look or act like the regular zombie. Again, our nerdy-but-lovable neighbor explains that in becoming a zombie, Barrymore’s id has more or less just taken control over her. Which doesn’t seem bad at first. She’s more sexually free, and becomes a realty badass. But Olyphant quickly learns that there are some dark sides to her less uptight attitude.

The supporting cast is fantastic. Fan favorite Nathan Fillion is a rival realtor, and Patricia Belcher (of Bones fame) shows up as a bitchy ER nurse. From what I’ve seen, Belcher is only in on episode, and only for a little bit, but rest assured that she steals the scene. Character actor Patton Oswalt makes an appearance as a skeptical doctor at a local college. Fantastic!

Beware, the first episode is rocky. It feels overacted, and until you get used to the style of humor, expect some surprises. By surprises, I mean I watched the whole thing with my jaw dangling. By the second episode, I was irrevocably attached. Friday, there will be a marathon. Srsly. My only recommendation is to eat dinner BEFORE you sit down to watch this show. The first episode was killer, in terms of both vomit, and Barrymore trying to come to terms with her new lifestyle.

Even if I were to prattle on for hours, I couldn’t begin to scratch the surface of how awesome this show is. The acting. The writing. The actors. The gags. What’s possibly strangest of all, is how a show with such a wildly improbably premise can radiate such feel-good energy. The cast looks like they’re having a blast, and as the audience, you just can’t help but be hooked.

Continuing Traditions

I’ve been working with Dipper and Tkout to show Phoebe iconic movies since this summer. I’m starting to run out of titles that are largely free of major objectionable material, so I’m branching to classics in general. Before venturing further, I should probably clarify, since Texas Chainsaw Massacre, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Alien, and JAWS have all been shown. (If you’re curious as to the criteria that selects these movies for a 9 year old, check out this post.)

When I was a kid, I loved Indiana Jones films. They had action, scares, excitement, and my first Asian crush, Short Round. When I found
out that Phoebe had never seen any, I almost fell off the couch. I decided to start with Raiders of the Lost Ark, in no small part because Marion is kick-ass. She holds her own in fight scenes, outsmarts the bad guys, smarts off to Indy, and is nobody’s damsel in distress. I (correctly) guessed that Phoebe would find her a kindred spirit.

When I started the movie, Phoebe decided to lay down on the cot that I had in front of the tv. On sleepover nights, Phoebe gets the couch, and I sleep on the cot. (I am WAY too old to sleep on the floor for extended periods of time!) She was laying under her new Wonder Woman blanket that I made her for Christmas. She was ecstatic that Chloe, our Bengal cat, had decided to come and snuzzle with her for the movie. Chloe, for her part, is an older cat and likes it best when people just laze around with her and watch tv. (As I’m writing this post, Chloe is behind me on the futon watching a horror movie, and I’m sitting at my computer, which is on a table to the right of the tv. We are both in the basement.)

I was surprised that Phoebe wasn’t as into the whole sequence with the golden idol and the huge rolling boulder. Until I realized that she’d always been alive for bitchin’ CGI effects. As opposed to Dipper, Tkout, and I, who have had a range of effects to experience throughout our lives.

She was ok with the story, but really perked up when Marion (Karen Allen) appeared. She liked that Marian held her own in the bar fight, and that she didn’t just hand over the medallion to Indy because he smiled at her the right way.

Phoebe likes behind-the-scenes movie trivia, so she perked up when I told her that during an iconic market fight, Harrison Ford had a bad case of food poisoning. Rather than the elaborate sword battle that was scripted, he pulls out his gun and shoots the enemy instead. If you look closely, you can tell he’s not feeling well on that day of the shoot. Phoebe was fascinated by the improv aspect, and the fact that everyone on set just went with it as though it was supposed to happen all along.

My one regret with this choice, is that it comes perilously close to my self-imposed restriction on overly religious movies. I also forgot that she had no frame of reference for Nazis either, besides a brief explanation I had given her some months ago. I settle for explaining it like this:

“The ark is a big chest that some people believes holds the agreement the Jews made with God. The bad people, Nazis, who don’t like the Jews to begin with, want the ark because they believe whoever has it will get incredible power and will be able to hurt lots of people very easily. Indy and Marian want to make sure that nobody gets it, because they don’t think people can be trusted. Oh, and the things that look like ghosts that come out of it towards the end of the movie are angels. But people aren’t supposed to see angels like that, so a bunch of people who look die.”

What seemed like a totally reasonable explanation at the time somehow seems less cut and dry now. Phoebe bailed me out of a potentially precarious situation by asking me if it was like in the superhero shows she watches. I told her yes, think of the creepy guy with the glasses as the big baddie, and Indy and Marian are the good guys. And every bad guy needs someone to hate, so the bad guy hated the Jews, even though they hadn’t ever done anything to him. That proved to be a sufficient explanation, and she kept watching.

She thought the market chase scene was pretty funny, especially when Marion tried to hide in the basket, and the monkey blew her in. Phoebe wasn’t a fan of the monkey when she realized that he wasn’t on the side of the good guys, but she later decided that was the fault of the owners, not the monkey itself. She had no such lenience or compassion for the bad guys. When the monkey was poisoned, she sagely decided that was what happened when you threw your lot in with the wrong people. Talk about a teachable moment!

I don’t have any experience with children just entering puberty, other than having been a teacher. But in that regard, in many ways, the parents have already done the majority of the legwork. I was totally unprepared for what transpired when Marion and Indy share a few kisses aboard the train. I will be the first to admit I didn’t even remember this scene in the movie. It’s short, corny, and didn’t make an impression. Basically, Indy is hurt, Marion kisses his boo-boos, he points out a few more (chest, neck, forehead, etc.) and then he falls asleep literally before anything can get moving in any sort of serious direction. By this time, Phoebe was sitting on the couch, instead of laying down on the cot with Chloe. I was crocheting, Zelda was chewing on a toy between us, and Phoebe was working on her Lego set. When suddenly –

“Ok. No more kissy-kissy.”

“Why?” She sat there, saying nothing. But the face, if only I could have taken a picture! “It’s ok, Phoe, he fell asleep.”

“Are you sure he’s not dead?” I paused the movie.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“How? He looks dead.” There’s no way this wasn’t going to go all the way down the rabbit hole.

“There’s three more movies.”

“Then does he die?”

“No.” I wasn’t sure where we were going at this point.

“What happens?”

“I don’t know, Phoebe. He just gets old. It happens.” I was really hoping this would be sufficient.

“Oh. Then he dies?”

“Don’t know.”

“Why?”

“Because there’s no more movies.”

“Why?” Oh shit. She never does the circular why routine…

“Because he’s old.”

“Oh.” She sits there and thinks this over. I had to strike fast, before she thought of another question that I couldn’t answer satisfactorily.

“Yup. But hey, no more kissy-kissy.”

“Good. I don’t like it.” Just to make sure, she puts her head down and starts working on the Legos.

“Mhm.” I got the death-stare for that one. Haha!

The funniest part of all was that she seemed to hold it against Marion and Indy that they had kissed. Especially when Marion finds herself a prisoner of a Nazi sympathizer. She tries to use her wiles to get out of it. Phoebe was pissed. She thought that Marion was cheating on Indy. I explained that she was pretending, so she could gain the sympathizer’s trust, and somehow escape. Phoebe decided that it was a good plan, but she still didn’t like the dishonesty. I told her that was a good way to look at it, but to give Marion some slack, considering her life was literally on the line. She agreed.

When the movie wrapped up, I honestly wasn’t sure what she would think of it. I was wondering how much the kissy-kissy had weighed into her opinion. As it turns out, even with more kissy-kissy on the horizon, she still wanted to see the rest of the movies. I’m tempted not to show her the 4th movie, because it was so awful. But I think I’ll let her make that decision for herself. (I did forewarn her that it’s nowhere near as good as the other three.)

 

 

 

 

 

A Fitting End

This past weekend was a total shitshow. I’m not going to go into it further than that, because the medical issues involved were (largely) not my own. What I can say is that I backslid in terms of my anxiety, but I am fighting my way out. I am guessing the next few days will be rough, but I am toughing it out as best I can.

Sunday afternoon, Tkout and I went on a date to go see Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Dipper had suggested we take a break from the stress of the weekend and have a small date. I was worried that I wasn’t going to do well, since I have been having trouble in packed theaters. That didn’t happen to be a concern, since there weren’t more than 13 people in the whole theater.

For those readers that maybe haven’t been following the series closely, this final movie is meant to close the franchise and answer some unanswered questions, and clear up inconsistencies between the other films. The film opened in theaters on Friday, January 27th. The Final Chapter received mixed reviews, some people loved it’s action-driven scenes. Others were nonplussed with the offering as the conclusion to the long-running franchise.

I fall in the middle. But that’s not really surprising, considering I do for most Resident Evil movies when I first see them. The plot of this one had me intrigued from the start though, because it was a return to the Hive. Basically, Alice needs to save humanity from extinction, and the answer to that problem (as well as answers for questions she and the audience have had for years) lie where it all started. Below the bombed-out remains of Raccoon City, in the Hive.

PROS:

  • It was great to go back to Raccoon City and the Hive. It felt appropriate, given that’s where the virus escaped.
  • We finally learn Alice’s origin story.
  • How she survived all the previous movies is explained.
  • The visuals were stunning.
  • The action scenes were well choreographed.
  • The movie tied up many previous loose ends nicely.
  • We finally find out the true origin of the T Virus.

CONS:

  • There felt like too much action and not enough plot. I would have liked to learn more about Alice, Wesker, Dr. Isaacs, and Claire Redfield.
  • Where did everyone go?! Luther. Jill Valentine. Ada Wong. Leon Kennedy. Chris Redfield. If this movie picks up from where the last one left off, what happened to everyone?! You can’t expect me to believe they all conveniently died off!
  • How the hell are the zombies running?! When did that happen!?
  • MOAR CREATURES! I was hoping for much more mutated obstacles and hellbeasts.
  • I was hoping to see some of the creatures from the first film make an appearance, only  more badass and mutated than they were at first.
  • What happened to DC?! In the penultimate movie, Resident Evil: Retribution, Wesker gets Alic & Co. to come to DC for humanity’s final stand. I would have at least liked to see what happened. Even for a few minutes!

I’m a fan of the franchise, so I’m going to go full-tilt fangirl and say that the movie was a blast. I’m extremely glad I got to see it on the big screen, and even happier that it was left open-ended. I wouldn’t mind if the franchise kept going. I know Resident Evil: The Final Chapter just came out in theaters, but I can’t wait to own it! That way I can have a weekend-long marathon with all movies included!

Soothing the Beasties with Screams

The first pet we adopted when we moved into our new house was Chloe, our Bengal cat. We got her right after we moved in. We tried to add another cat, but she wouldn’t put up with it. A year ago, we decided to adopt a Boston Terrier, that we named Zelda. They were alright with each other, but not friends yet. Zelda enjoyed (and still does) pulling Chloe around by her ears, and Chloe for the most part took it in stride. As time goes by, they’ve gotten closer. The last few weeks, after I was stuck in bed for a week solid with a strep throat infection, they started to make peace with each other. Even though I’m better and have since gone back to work, they are getting closer still. Zelda cries if Chloe isn’t in the bedroom with us when we go to bed, and when we wake up, if Chloe has spent the night in the basement, she makes sure we let her out so she can see her friend.

A new development that Tkout and I are really pleased with has been their penchant for snuggling. Although they aren’tpuddle quite a cuddlepuddle, they are still inching closer. We joke that they’re trying hard to keep up appearances like they aren’t friends. I think the real issue is that Zelda still has puppy tendencies, and sometimes gets a little too ardent, which results in her dragging Chloe around by the ear. If you’re Zelda was hanging out, and Chloe decided to get up on the futon and snuggle with her. (Our futon is always down like a bed, and yes, I am a compulsive sheet-straightener.)

The entire week that I was sick, I layed on the futon in our finished basement and watched horror movies. More accurately, I layed there like a sack of potatoes while the fuzzies watched the movies. Now that I am no longer sick, they still hang out on the futon, and when they are restless, Tkout and I can rely on a few movies to keep their attention. (I’m not making this up – they really do sit and watch movies!) Some they prefer more than others, but the list of Comfort Movies that they seem to enjoy best are…

FRIGHT NIGHT (2011) – I’m honestly not sure why the fuzzies love this movie so much. It could have something to do with the nonstop action and killer soundtrack. All I know is that once it goes on the TV, they both lay down and watch.

ALIEN (1979) – Chloe seems interested in what Jonesy, the space-cat, is up to. As for Zelda, this is one of her sleeper movies. I can count on her grabbing a chew toy, settling in on the futon, and falling asleep in about 20 minutes.

dreamcatcherDREAMCATCHER (2003) – This fast-paced Stephen King sci-fi flick is always a good one for getting the fuzzies settled down. Clocking in at an impressive 2 hours and 16 minutes, I think the reason they prefer this movie is they know they are guaranteed a long snuggle session.

AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) – This is another guaranteed snuggle session whenever it goes on the TV. Other than that, I think they enjoy the werewolf noises, and the people panicking. (Chloe, especially, seems enamored of people in a state of panic.)

JAWS (1975) – This movie takes place on land, on the sea, and in a boat. There’s lots of action, and colorful characters. Not to mention an awesome orchestral soundtrack. Chloe and Zelda make it about halfway, before they both fall asleep. But putting the movie on almost always brings them to the futon.

What movies do your fuzzies enjoy watching?

 

Gummies, Sharks, and Stupid People OH MY!

jawsI was beyond thrilled when I found out that Phoebe had never seen JAWS before. When I was a kid, it was my absolute all-time favorite movie. Every Easter, TBS would show JAWS as part of it’s animal-themed horror movie marathon. When my parents got me the VHS, I was in my glory. I knew all the trivia. I could recite all the lines, including Quint’s harrowing story of the USS Indianapolis. Hell, I used to clean my room while listening to the soundtrack on CD, and recite the dialogue.

I was absolutely over the moon when Phoebe and I got ready to watch JAWS. I made birthday cake and white chocolate popcorn with shark gummies for our snack. (I don’t care if you judge me or not, I used to be a teacher. I have no children. I miss being a teacher, and I get overboard excited whenever Phoebe comes over to watch a movie.) We had the living room set up, and Zelda snuggled with us.

I explained that the movie was made in 1975, so in some ways she’d have to lower her expectations of the movie’s special effects. I told her that the shark was an actual metal construction, NOT CGI. I also told her that part of it was filmed in a backyard pool, and she asked me to point that part out. (If you’re wondering, it’s when they find Ben Gardner’s boat chewed to hell and back and the head pops out of the bottom of the boat. Classic!) I also told her that the metal shark prop, Bruce, didn’t behave at all. It kept sinking and got messed up from the salt water exposure during filming. That last part wasn’t very exciting to her, except that she questioned the intelligence of the special effects crew, since they kept using a faulty prop.

Phoebe was absolutely not having it right from the beginning. She chastised Chrissy for boatgoing swimming at night in the ocean and the guy who was with her for being stupid drunk. I think what got to her the most was how preventable the whole scene was. If Chrissy hadn’t gone swimming in the dark, at night, by herself, she would have been alright. Phoebe also decided that had she not been hanging around with someone who was so drunk, they might have talked her out of going into the water in the first place. She pointed out how dangerous it is anyway, especially considering that boats can’t see you when it’s dark.

Right around the time when the town meeting is called, Phoebe had hit her limit. She turned to me and said, “Why don’t they kill the shark already?! If it’s that much of a problem, kill it!” Her outburst came about 15 seconds before Quint verbally flays the townspeople for their stupidity. She was stupefied when they argued with Quint about killing the shark. She thought he was the most capable (if not batshit crazy) person in the room. (Which, when you think about it, isn’t really saying much considering how long it took for the townspeople to decide to do something about the shark.) When the Mayor wimps out and doesn’t hire Quint, P decided that he was going to get what he deserved, since he wasn’t doing what he should to protect the townspeople and the tourists.

Even though she’s seen CGI shark movies before (Sharknado, ugh!), she really liked the death scenes. She thought they were really well done. Especially the guy in the estuary whose boat gets tipped over. She was impressed with the effect of the shark creeping up and snagging the guy off the side of the boat.

She wasn’t too thrilled about Quint, but that’s because she didn’t buy into the shark jumping onto the boat. She figured if that’s all it took, the shark could have done that in the beginning and ended the movie right there. However, once Quint was in the jaws of the shark, she was all in again!

What bothered her even after we turned off the movie, was the human element. When Hooper is examining Chrissy’s remains, Phoebe thought it was terribly obvious that a shark had killed her. She didn’t understand why it took a “shark expert” to figure it out. Phoebe has a really good heart, and I hated explaining to her that people don’t always do what’s right for everyone. There are people that are only out for what they can get. She was shocked that people would put other’s lives at risk, but I told her that you can’t underestimate a selfish person.

Phoebe really enjoyed watching JAWS. She’s curious about the sequels, especially when I told her that in one of them, a shark takes out a plane. Since she enjoyed JAWS, Jurassic Park, and Arachnophobia, I asked her if she wanted to see Deep Blue Sea, which is one of my guilty pleasures as horror movies go. We will have to wait until everyone’s in bed, because Dipper hates that movie. Tkout might be up for it though. (Yes, I have forewarned her that it contains CGI effects, and has a paper thin storyline. But hey – Samuel L. Jackson, Thomas Jane, and CGI sharks!)

 

 

 

Dinosaurs…and Stupid People

jurassic-parkThe day started out like any other. Dipper and Phoebe came over to visit. Phoebe grabbed up the blankets and pillows for the living room, and then set about playing with Zelda. I was hellbent on not having to watch another episode of that insipid show Walk the Prank, so I asked her, “Hey Phoe, wanna see stupid people get eaten by dinosaurs?”

Her eyes lit up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. “YES!”

Thus began our adventure of watching 1993’s Jurassic Park. As it turned out, she had seen the newest movie, Jurassic World. I shook my head. How can you see these movies out of order?

I had been planning on showing her Jurassic park, so I pulled out our themed snack. I dinohad made chocolate-covered popcorn with dinosaur gummies. (Yeah, I know. I used to be a teacher.) They’re based off this recipe for Shark Bait Popcorn. I played with the type of cake mix as well as the gummies. It came out great! The chocolate was sickening sweet! And so were the gummies. The kiddo got ramped up, I straight up died and slept through part of our movie.

snuzzlePhoebe and Zelda took up the couch. Like, the WHOLE couch. And wouldn’t you know, my dog settles right in and snuggles up to Phoebe. I don’t know what it is about Boston Terriers, but they LOVE children. That dog lets her get away with murder. Every time. It’s seriously the cutest thing in the world. But I digress. I wound up in the armchair, trying to crochet a blanket and listen to her maniacal laughter. Apparently it’s obvious to EVERYONE that you shouldn’t clone dinosaurs. Or put them in a glorified zoo. Or run when in the presence of a tyrannosaurus rex. Basically, when the shit hits the fan, all you need is Phoebe. To hear her tell it, she’s the undisputed survivor of every type of situation. Which may sound sarcastic, but seriously. This kid has things figured out QUICK.

She wound up loving Jurassic Park, which accidentally started a marathon of all the movies. I’ll leave the other reviews for other posts, but suffice to say, she’s an adorable little ham. It’s worth noting too that Jurassic Park is a stellar movie for a young girl to watch. Despite being made in 1993, it features strong female characters. Both Lex and Ellie are strong, capable women who don’t spend the whole movie waiting to be saved. Dipper and I like showing Phoebe those kinds of movies. We want her to grow up to shatter glass ceilings, and never put limitations on herself. Not to mention, it’s a stellar way to introduce the little sweetie to Samuel L. Jackson, in one of his earliest roles.

She’s not as much of a fan of my movie trivia bits sometimes. I regaled her with stories about how the impressive dinosaur sounds were, in fact, modified tortoise noises. (I left out the part that the sounds were tortoises mating, but maybe when she’s older…)

NO REMORSE.

Yep. That’s right. I can say with a completely unrepentant heart that I showed my nine the-texas-chainsaw-massacreyear old niece Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now, before you go and start a village mob, consider this…

…there is no nudity nor is there sex in the movie. (Honestly, the characters don’t live long enough for either.)

…there is relatively little gore, and much is left to the imagination.

…there is no drug or alcohol use (Again, the characters don’t really live long enough to partake.)

…I watched that movie when I was seven. Two years younger than her. And look how I turned out! (Well, maybe scratch that piece of evidence…)

Not to mention, I had discussed this choice with Dipper thoroughly.

When they arrived at my house that morning, I pulled out the DVD and showed her. I let her read the synopsis on the back, and asked her if she would like to see it. She was very excited, because as she explained, it wouldn’t be before bedtime and wouldn’t possibly give her nightmares. She asked if it was about a monster, and I told her it was kind of like a grown up Scooby Doo in that the monster was actually a human in a costume. (I challenge you to now disassociate Scooby Doo with Leatherface.) She LOVES Scooby, so her decision was made.

Once again, we got our pillows and blankets, and Zelda (my Boston Terrier) and set up in the living room. I got our snacks and Capri Suns read, and we began the movie.

She wasn’t too impressed with the opening images of the corpses set up on the tombstone. Nor was she interested in the preface. But once the unfortunates picked up the hitchhiker, she was hooked. Not only that, but she had a scathing commentary throughout the entire movie.

I had never asked her what she knew about hitchhikers, and truth be told, wasn’t sure she’d ever given it a thought. But when the hitchhiker went crazy and cut Franklin, and smeared his blood all over the van, she couldn’t help herself.

“Wow. Really? What did he do that for?”

“Well, Phoe, he’s not right in the head.”

“He looked creepy. Why did they pick him up in the first place?”

“Because this movie is set in the 1970s, and people acted differently back then. They gave rides to strangers because they didn’t think anything of it.”

“Right. So they saw creepy people at the side of the road, and they picked them up? And then were surprised when they got hurt?”

Sensing a teachable moment, I explained that looks don’t necessarily mean anything. A hitchhiker could look like something out of a Gahan Wilson drawing, but be harmless. Likewise, the most attractive hitchhiker could be a serial killer. I cautioned her to never pick up someone on the side of the road, no matter what, just in case. To my surprise, she rolled her eyes and said, “Everyone knows that! That’s how you get chainsawed! Speaking of which, when does that happen?”

Aaah. Out of the mouths of babes. She and Zelda snuggled closer, and we kept watching.

ruuunThe actions of the characters baffled her. She couldn’t quite figure out how they kept getting themselves into worse and worse situations. For example, when Pam went into Leatherface’s house and saw all of the bird feathers and skeleton parts, Phoe couldn’t figure out why she didn’t just turn around and get the hell out of dodge. I explained that she was scared out of her wits, but Phoebe said she should have been better at getting out of the house if that were the case.

She couldn’t stop laughing when Franklin got whacked with the chainsaw in the middle of the bushes. Phoebe couldn’t figure out what in the hell he was doing out there in a wheelchair to begin with. I tried to explain to her that he was searching for his friends, but the explanation died on my lips. There were other ways to look for them than go charging off into the bushes in the dead of night.

All told, she really enjoyed the movie. She actually asked to watch it again a few days later, so we did. She liked that it was straightforward. In her words, “They were stupid, they got chainsawed.” She also liked the effects – the fact that the kills weren’t overly gory. She realized extreme gore isn’t to her taste when she saw the Sharknado franchise. (I take no credit for that. I wouldn’t have shown that to her.) She’s interested in seeing the rest of the franchise and the other movies in the Texas Chainsaw family. Maybe one day. I’m not sure I’m ready to show them to her. To be honest, the original is the most unique, and I don’t want the charm of it to be lost to her by overburdening her with the others.

As a side note, Dipper and I missed out on our chance to meet Gunnar Hansen, Leatherface himself. After coming to a convention near us ended, he died unexpectedly. From what I hear, he was a wonderful person. I wish I would have had a chance to meet him.

I should also take a moment to give a shout-out to my husband, Panda. He bought me the 40th Anniversary Edition of the movie pictured at the beginning of this post. (That’s right! 40 years. Can you believe it? I can’t!)

 

 

 

What do you mean ‘the alien killed the dogs’ ?!

john-carpenter-the-thing-movie-posterOver the summer, I showed Phoebe one of my favorite movies of all time, John Carpenter’s The Thing. I thought it would be a good one to show her because the effects, while still looking good, aren’t as realistic as some of the more modern movies. I also thought she’d like the psychological guessing game – wondering who survived and who was an alien.

It surprised Dipper and I when it took me two tries to get through the movie with her. As it turns out, The Thing is a little too heavy on talking, and a little too light on the alien massacres. She wanted less discussion and more alien transformations. The second time through, I prepped her that once the proverbial ball got rolling, it was a bloodbath. That seemed to satisfy her. She picked out a craft, and we continued the movie.

Just like with Ridley Scott’s Alien, Phoebe was all about the animals. In fact, the movie opens with a helicopter flying low over the snow, shooting at a beautiful husky. I would be doing her a great disservice if I said she was merely disturbed. I think the phrase, “losing her shit”, while a bit crass, is a better approximation of her reaction.

“MISS HOLLY!” she squealed.

“Yes, Phoebe? What —“

“WHY ARE THEY SHOOTING AT THE DOG, MISS HOLLY? ARE THEY GOING TO KILL IT?” Now, it’s important that at this juncture, I point out that her speaking in capitals is not because she was yelling. Her eyes were the size of the moon, and her body was very still. She was speaking very carefully, emphasizing every single word.

“Phoebe, it’s great that you ask questions and you’re curious, but you’re gonna spoil the movie for yourself.”

“I don’t care. DO THEY KILL THE DOG?”

“Not that one.”

“THEY KILL OTHER DOGS?” Shit. I shouldn’t have let that slip.

“Well, not the humans. More like the alien comes and kills the dogs.”

“Oh. Do the humans kill the alien?”

I was at a loss. I was about to spoil most of the movie. Having learned my lesson with Ridley Scott’s Alien, I proceeded thusly:

“The whole fun of this movie is that at the end, you don’t know if the alien is gone or not. Yes, the alien kills all the dogs –“

“MISS HOLLY!”

“Hang on, let me finish…”

“Ok.”

“Yes, the alien kills all the dogs. But the alien also kills most of the humans. And the humans give the alien a helluva fight.”

She considered that for a moment. I could tell she still wasn’t happy with the dogs dying. After a little more consideration, she shrugged and told me that the humans were stupid because they let the alien kill their dogs. I tried to explain that they weren’t necessarily stupid, more so that they just didn’t know what they were dealing with. I tried to explain that as the viewer, we are omniscient, and having that to our advantage, can suggest better courses of action for the characters. She then told me that if she were in a horror movie, things would be different, chiefly because she wasn’t stupid. (That, however, is a topic for another post at a later date.)

Her final decision on the movie was that it was alright. She didn’t like the alien wiping alienout the dogs, and she would have liked a better idea of who was human and who was an alien. Not knowing made it confusing sometimes. Not to mention there were several characters to track, but not much real character development to help her keep them separate. She also wasn’t terribly impressed with the special effects, until I told her that the movie was made in 1982, and without the help of computers. Once I explained how the special effects artists (Rob Bottin’s work was fantastic!) she began to appreciate it a little more. I promised the next movie would have less talking, and more straight-to-the-point killing.

Where’s the kitty?!

Subtitled, “Watching Alien With My Nine Year Old Cat-Obsessed Niece”…

I spent the summer watching my niece a few days a week, which was awesome. She’s super smart, sweet, and very fun to hang around. But I have to say, you can only see so many Scooby Doo episodes before you begin to question your sanity. I brought up the idea to Dipper of starting to introduce her to more adult horror movies. He gave me the green light.

The first movie we watched was the 1979 classic, Ridley Scott’s Alien. Dipper and I figured it wouldalien be good to start with. Interesting but not overly-verbose plot, strong female lead character, suitable horror with little gore, and the pièce de résistance…a cat. My niece will watch ANYTHING, so long as there is a cat involved.

Phoebe and I piled up the blankets and pillows in the living room, got my Boston Terrier a few toys so she’d stay with us, and snagged some snacks from the pantry. Capri Suns in hand, curtains drawn, we began the movie. The opening parts kept her interested because she was looking to see the cat. The real fun began once the crew of the Nostromo encountered the alien ship.

When Kane began descending into the egg chamber, Phoebe turned to me, furrowed her brow, and asked, “Miss Holly? Is he stupid?” I explained he wasn’t stupid, he was exploring. She wasn’t quite convinced, but agreed to keep watching. When the facehugger attacked Kane, she said “That’s what you get for not being careful!” Try as I might, I couldn’t disagree.

Fast forward. The Xenomorph is rampaging on the ship, the crew are starting to die, and Ripley’s damn cat is nowhere to be found. After the captain gets killed in the airshaft, Phoebe paused the movie. I asked her if it was too scary.

“Miss Holly?” she asked.

“Yes, Phoebe?”

“Why is everyone so stupid?”

I sat there staring at her, literally unable to answer. I thought she was kidding. I burst out laughing, and she took offense. Apparently she was serious.

“What do you mean? Why do you think everyone is stupid?”

“Because they are. They’re not really fighting the alien and it keeps killing them. And nobody is looking out for the cat. They better not hurt the kitty!”

Phoebe LOVED this scene!

Phoebe LOVED this scene!

I couldn’t really argue with her logic. I am an animal-lover, and Xenomorph or not, my animals would be on my mind too. I tried to reason with her. Then, in order to restore peace and order, I had to spoil the movie. I told her the biggest secret of all…JONESY LIVES. All the way to the end. She thought a bit on this and then…

“If they weren’t stupid, we wouldn’t have a movie.”

In case you didn’t know, there are some arguments you don’t win against a nine year old. Especially not a smart one. I thought that was the end of our discussion on the merits of having smart horror movie characters. We continued watching.

Prior to putting on the movie, I had prepped her for the chestburster scene. Truth be told, it was the only scene Dipper and I were unsure of her reaction. I felt like I was spoiling it for her, but I told her a little about it, and that the cast didn’t actually know what was coming. The reactions in the scene are priceless – most likely because they’re genuine. Irregardless, Phoebe loved it. She leaned forward, and watched with rapt attention as Kane writhed and screamed. Her eyes got as big as saucers when the chestburster appeared, and she roared with laughter when it ran amok. I couldn’t help but laugh with her. Though it was a serious scene, there was a certain charm and hilarity watching the ugly little bastard run through the set.

According to Phoebe, these are the only two characters worth watching.

According to Phoebe, these are the only two characters worth watching.

Fast forward. It’s now just Ripley, Jonesy the cat, and the rampaging Xenomorph. Phoebe again pauses the film.

“Yes you could,” she says confidently, apropos of nothing. “You could have a movie where everyone wasn’t stupid.”

“I guess you could, but it wouldn’t be very fun, would it?” I wasn’t sure where she was going with this line of inquiry.

“Yeah it would! They could find the alien, fight it smart, kill it, and move on. With the kitty.”

I told her I would have to think about that and get back to her.

Her final take on the movie was that it was excellent, but she wished there was more of Jonesy the cat. She loved that Ripley took charge and (for the most part) made smart decisions. She was shocked to the core that Ash turned out to be an android, and asked why Ripley didn’t know that. She thought that was silly, considering androids were part of their everyday norm. She was suitably horrified that Ash had been tasked with bringing back an alien organism, and that she was glad it hadn’t happened. Most of all, she wanted more Jonesy. In the end, it turns out that my niece doesn’t care about the human body count, especially when they’re stupid humans, she just wants to know the animals make it out alive.

She is very interested in seeing the other Alien movies, though at another time. The second one is more of an action flick, and she’s significantly more curious about “hardcore horror” movies. Preferably with cats. Our movie watching has continued, as I see her twice a week, and every other weekend. Be on the lookout for more of Phoebe’s take on popular horror and sci-fi movies!