HHMC, PART II

7. The Faculty is Invasion of the Body Snatchers for the post-Scream ’90s. It was even written by Scream screenwriter (screamwriter? sorry, couldn’t resist) Kevin Williamson, and like the way Scream’s characters made sure to name-check the various horror movies that inspired it (namely Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street), so does the quasi-goth girl in The Faculty, who makes sure to stop and acknowledge that the situation they’re in more than vaguely resembles  Body Snatchers and The Puppet Masters. It’s still an enjoyable movie with a solid cast, from Robert “T-1000″ Patrick hamming it up as the psychotic football coach to a then-unknown Josh Hartnett (pulling double-duty that year with Halloween H2O), as well as Elijah Wood before he put hairy feet on and went cavorting around Middle Earth. Brief appearances by Christopher “Shooter McGavin” McDonald and Jon “I’ve Since Sold My Soul To The Daily Show” Stewart sweeten the deal. The main characters are all from the Breakfast Club handbook, which states that if an unlikely group of students must band together in a time of crisis (in this case, aliens taking over the school), then said group of students must consist precisely of a jock, a pretty cheerleader, a nerd, a quasi-goth outcast, and a bad-boy rebel. Also, the group must defy expectations and stereotypes in the end, by the nerd hooking up with the cheerleader, the jock pairing off with the outcast, and so on. And though it’s directed by Robert Rodriguez, it’s perhaps the least Rodriguez-like movie of his career. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, but it’s a fun flick.  4/5

8.  The Collector is Home Alone meets Saw, and I dare you to come up with a more apt description (though doing so means actually having to watch this turd, which I can’t in good conscience recommend). The plot concerns a carpenter who is working on a wealthy family’s house hours before the family are due to leave on vacation. Carpenter Guy happens to be an ex-con with a little daughter, who needs to find several thousand bucks for his wife, so she can pay back these loan sharks (what model parents these two are). He decides to break back into the family’s house to rob their safe, only to find that while the family appears to be gone, the house is now inhabited by some crazy masked goon who is torturing people in the basement (don’t you hate it when that happens?). The icing on this shit-cake is the fact that this masked asshole has the upper two floors of the house booby trapped out the ass, presumably so nobody can disturb him while he’s in the basement fiddling with people’s innards. Sample traps include a room with hundreds of fish hooks dangling from the ceiling at eye level, a room with a dozen bear traps all over the floor, a chandelier of knives rigged to impale anybody who walks through the front door, and other fun little contraptions. The plot is full of holes, but perhaps the biggest one is how our “hero”, though in pretty good shape and armed with a knife, repeatedly misses opportunities to take out the bad guy, who takes a long time to realize that someone had broken into the house and eluded his traps. It’s like watching two idiots run around a house for an hour and change. In the end you sort of find out the killer’s identity, but you’ll be hard pressed to give a shit.  1.5/5

9.  Wolf is what you get when you have director Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Working Girl, The Birdcage) make a werewolf movie. It’s fairly solid, but about as scary as an episode of The Munsters. Jack Nicholson is reliably awesome as the editor-in-chief of a publishing house, who finds a new spring in his step after being bitten by a wolf. The focus here is on the behavioral changes Nicholson adapts that ultimately help him keep his job and romance his boss’s daughter – the actual werewolf part seems more like an afterthought. It’s clear that Nichols is more interested in the metaphorical and symbolic aspects of the werewolf motif, and when it becomes literal it comes across as obligatory and half-assed.  3/5

10.  Casper, to my surprise, has aged pretty well. It wasn’t quite as silly as I somehow remember it being, and some of the jokes really hit (like one that features an awesome cameo by Dan Aykroyd, among others). Bill Pullman is perfectly cast as Christina Ricci’s dumb-ass of a dad, and speaking of Christina Ricci, the plot manages to recycle the tried-and-true formula of someone trying to steal a (supposed) treasure from a creepy old mansion, which was previously done in both Addams Family movies. I guess that was the required storyline for every early ’90s horror-comedy TV show revival?  3.5/5

11.  Psycho (1960) is the granddaddy of them all, and despite seeing Gus Van Sant’s ill-advised shot-for-shot remake in the theaters, I still hadn’t seen the original in its entirety (shame shame, I know). What can you say? It’s more thriller than horror, and for a film that involuntarily led to the slasher subgenre it seems rather tame compared to…say…anything that’s come out since. Then again, Psycho wasn’t about Hershey’s syrup blood and violence, but rather loads of suspense and manipulation delivered by the master himself (Hitchcock, with an assist from Bernard Herrmann’s chilling score). Anthony Perkins hits all the right notes as the seemingly harmless Norman Bates (something lost on the powers behind the remake, who cast the 6’5″ Vince Vaughn in the role), and Janet Leigh carries the first third of the film well as Employee of the Month, at least before deciding to hop in the shower.  4.5/5

12.  I thought I’d follow up a cinematic classic with a bona fide piece of shit, and for the most part that’s what Whiteout is. I watched this one simply because it was on HBO, which in hindsight was more like banging an ugly hooker just cause she was on the house. A Russian plane goes down over Antarctica in the ’50s, due to a shootout on-board over a mysterious piece of cargo. Fifty years later, Kate Beckinsale arrives playing the role of World’s Hottest U.S. Marshal, to inspect a frozen corpse. The plane is soon discovered underneath the frozen desert, only the mysterious cargo is missing. And because this is supposed to be a horror movie of some sort, a mysterious figure in a parka is going around swinging an ice axe at people. Only, the killer’s identity is revealed rather anti-climactically a mere hour into the movie, so despite the revelation that he had an accomplice, this thing drags on for another half hour even though giving a shit is no longer an option.  1/5

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