Cherry Falls (2000)

Cherry Falls

Genre: Horror

Cast: Brittany Murphy

Synopsis: Someone with a jank-ass weave and wardrobe goes on a killing spree, slicing and dicing the local teenage virgins.

Aaaah, Cherry Falls…the death knell of the 90s teen slasher subgenre and a perfect inclusion into the Baked Movie Review Halloween Rundown. I suppose it was appropriate to kill the subgenre off with such a fucking ridiculous movie. The plot of Cherry Falls is just plain bizarre. If Scream breathed new life into the slasher genre with its gritty realism, self-awareness and wit, and I Know What You Did Last Summer was a logical extension, then Urban Legend was the fatal blow but Cherry Falls did awful things to the body afterwards…weird things. How weird? Like Japanese cartoon weird.

Japan Porn

Part of the weirdness is what makes this movie so fun though. Horror movies should always introduce well-scripted humour to break the tension and to give the audience some variety. Sorority Row is a good example of a film that managed to accomplish this rather well. Cherry Falls does not, however, because the humour is all a bit ham-fisted. I mean, you will be laughing at Brittany Murphy’s inappropriate relationship with her father and her fetish for getting her feet tongue-banged. Similarly, when her boyfriend tells her his dad likes hookers you’ll all be like: “say wut?” It must have taken some balls to pitch this film to a studio.

Then again, I can see what Cherry Falls is trying to do: it’s trying to turn the “only virgins survive horror films” rule on its head. It’s an interesting route to take but one that is not wholly original. Let us not forget, Sydney lost her V-Card in Scream and there’s no way Moesha kept her minky in her pants in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. The point is, in the 90s horror rules were there to be broken and it feels as though Cherry Falls missed the boat simply by being a product of the early noughties…perhaps the worst time period ever. Who could ever forget the horror that struck us all in 2001?

DenimNever forget.

Having said that, the movie does deliver some positives. For starter, the killer’s methods are fucking brutal and creepy and the scene where Brittany Murphy is first chased by the killer is pretty tense. She really gets into the fight scene by turning into some sort of cornered animal which is what I feel I would do if some bitch tried to cut me. Also, the stoner guy is kind of cute and by the way he eats his food you can tell he really knows how to give great oral sex. My point is that there are positive things to find in this movie if you look hard enough and if you’re in the mood for a laugh with some friends then this is a pretty good horror movie to watch.

High-lights:

  • I love Brittany Murphy.
  • “My dad’s into whores”…OK. “I even think my mum may have been a whore”………….OK.
  • “It’s Loralee Sherman….Is your mum home?” Why the fuck would you open the door!? Your classmates have just been brutally murdered and your parents aren’t home and you don’t know who this bitch is!

Downers:

  • A sad reminder that Brittany Murphy is no longer with us.
  • The scene where Brittany Murphy sleepwalks to the window, says “Daddy” and then turns and opens her eyes proving she wasn’t sleepwalking is weird as shit.

Summary:

Funny, stupid, bizarre, and at times scary, Cherry Falls actually makes for a pretty decent film to watch on Halloween because it embodies everything that holiday is. It’s not a genre game-changer in the way that Scream was but it doesn’t have to be. You can take it for what it is and still enjoy it.

7/10

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Orphan (2009)

Orphan

Genre: Horror

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman

Synopsis: A family with a whole load of problems decides to bring another fucked up person into the family, adopting some crazy and violent Eastern European girl from an orphanage that clearly do not run background checks.

Welcome to my second Halloween-themed post. This time, I decided to watch a psychological horror and I opted for Orphan because I needed something to put me off having children for at least another five years. I think parenthood is something a lot of people are scared about. Lord knows I am. That’s 18 years of tantrums and back-talk, not to mention the first year or so when kids are just poop and vomit machines. I don’t think anyone ever feels ready or prepared for kids, but most people settle into it once it happens. You can never really know when you should have kids…unless you’re a woman in which case you should have a kid sometime roughly between the ages of 18 and 35. Clock’s a ticking ladies.

Final-Countdown…….sorry

You can always tell when you shouldn’t have kids, though; when your marriage is falling apart due to an affair, when someone in the family is an alcoholic, or when both parents already have their hands full raising a disabled child. However, that doesn’t stop the fuck-tards in this movie from adopting another child. Seriously, no wonder the girl went bat-shit insane. OK, that’s unfair: the girl in this movie was already insane when she joined the family but the toxic environment couldn’t have helped any. The mother shouts at her deaf child for making too much noise. That’s fucked in the head. She is almost as bad as the mum in Home Alone.

Child botoxBut still not quite as bad as this mum

I feel that Orphan makes light of quite difficult subject matter, namely troubled families and parent who fail to form an emotional attachment to their children. Also, there is a pretty harrowing miscarriage nightmare scene, which will make audience members very uncomfortable. It feels tasteless to deal with this subject matter and these themes in a horror movie, one that is designed to give audiences a cheap thrill and one that is frankly rather predictable. A hard-hitting drama would have been more appropriate than setting a horror film in a barren landscape to mirror the barrenness of Vera Farmiga’s womb.

Having said that, the tastelessness does not entirely ruin the movie. In fact, there are still many things to enjoy. For instance, the performances from the children were impressive and, collectively, they are probably the best child actors I have seen in a movie in long time. Fuhrman, in particular, stands out. She outperforms every adult and manages to grasp the subtleties of her character’s sinister and scheming nature and executes her shocking actions with a confidence that emphasises the brutality. Also, there are some scenes that are so uncomfortable that they become comedic and it’s always good to cut the tension with a bit of humour….then again, I don’t know if a child putting on a sexy dress and makeup to sleep with her adoptive father is supposed to be all that humorous.

High-lights:

  • Good performances from the child cast.
  • Some gruesome but well-executed violence.
  • In soviet Russia, brick kill pigeon.
  • “I’m not your fucking mommy!!!”

Downers:

  • Seriously, why did no-one do a background check on either the girl or the parents?
  • Inappropriate and tasteless at times.
  • Kind of puts you off adoption.

Summary:

Orphan is a horror film for people who do not like horror films. There are no ghosts, serial killers, or monsters in this movie, just a sociopathic and psychologically disturbed girl from the Soviet bloc. It won’t give you nightmares. Still, prospective parents may want to give this film a miss as it may cause you to regret your decision to spawn…don’t get me wrong, you will regret it at some point but it’ll most likely be after the kid is born and you’ve gone months without a good night’s sleep. Children are such a blessing.

6/10

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Kiss the Girls (1997)

Kiss the Girls

Genre: Thriller

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cary Elwes

Synopsis: After his niece is kidnapped, maverick copper Alex Cross must find the culprit and bring him to justice.

Only one week to go before my favourite holiday arrives. Long-time subscribers will know what that means. Yes! It’s time for my official Halloween count-down posts. With one week to go before the big day I thought I would start you off with something light. Although Kiss the Girls is not technically a horror film, I feel as though it should be classed as ‘horror-light’ as the premise is fucking terrifying. For those of you who are unaware, Kiss the Girls is about a cop who forced to hunt down a psychopathic collector of women.

Flavor of love…but not this one

I like to think that I’m a hard-man when it comes to horror movies. I can watch all kinds of subgenres and be relatively unaffected. The ones that do affect me though are the twisted thrillers about serial killers. You want to know why? It’s because that shit could happen. A ghost isn’t suddenly going to pop out in front of me and I’m not going to be possessed by the devil. A randomer might bundle me into his car though and keep me prisoner in his basement though. People are sick. Because of this, you would think that Kiss the Girls would terrify the shit out of me, but it doesn’t.

The problem with Kiss the Girls is that it tries too hard to be something it’s not. Specifically, it tries to be Silence of the Lambs, which is a genuinely terrifying film and has a genuinely creepy villain. Buffalo Bill was a rube who kidnaps women and keeps them in a well in his basement before killing them and skinning them. There was something real and graceless and ruthless about him. He could have been your neighbour. The villain in Kiss the Girls is too organised. He keeps his women in a series of elaborate and stylised underground tunnels in the woods. He also carries enough tranquilisers to take down a rogue elephant. Nobody has access to either of those things in real life without appearing on an FBI database.

In addition, Silence of the Lambs had characters you cared about. You admired Clarice Starling because she was the underdog. You don’t admire Alex Cross much because he’s too perfect and Ashley Judd’s character is Little Miss Apple Fucking Pie. I mean, who has time to be a surgical intern, kickbox, and get home in time to cook a balanced and nutritious dinner? I hate people like that.

Can we also briefly talk about how much this film is a slightly more (or less) fucked up version of Flavor of Love? Think about it. The men in this film and in that TV show amass a harem of women for their own sick pleasure. The only difference is that in Kiss the Girls the villain collects talented women whereas in Flavor of Love Flavor Flav collects women with a history of violence and psychological problems…the kind of women who shit on the floor or spit on each other. Case in point, 25 seconds in:

High-lights:

  • The mask the villain wears in this is kind of scary and the kidnapping scene is scary as hell.
  • The lols when Morgan Freeman pulls out his gun on an elderly couple. If that conservative looking white lady wasn’t already a racist then she sure as hell is now.
  • It held my interest.

Downers:

  • A disappointing Silence of the Lambs knock-off.
  • I don’t think firing a gun through a milk carton would do anything to stop the room from exploding because you fired the mother-fucker in a room full of gas!

Summary:

Kiss the Girls is the sort of film that should be watched when you simply need something to watch. It’s not as well-crafted as other thrillers and it’s not going to rock your world. It definitely won’t make your top 10 list, but there will be enough to hold your attention.

5.5/10

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Fame (1980)

Fame

Genre: Drama

Cast: Lee Curreri, Irene Cara, Paul McCrane

Synopsis: The film follows a bunch of teenagers as they go through their studies at a top performing arts school and get into all sorts of angsty 80s teen shit.

If there’s one thing I love (excluding weed, movies, and sarcasm) it’s taking the piss out of histrionic people with no clue. Throughout my years, I’ve met a whole myriad of people from different walks of life and, on the whole, I’ve found actors and dramatists to be the best source of hyperbolic craziness. When I decided to watch Fame, I wasn’t entirely sure what it was I would be getting. Would it have the optimism and exuberance of Flashdance, or the infuriating teen angst of Beautiful Creatures. It turns out that Fame has a little of both but this is a good thing: it creates an viewing experience whereby you can enjoy the fruits of the performers’ labour but then laugh at them when they have their dreams crushed…like when figure skaters fall over.

ice-skating-fallsSchadenfreude, making me feel glad that I’m not you

It’s not that the characters are unlikeable. In fact there are some really nice ones in this film. They’re all bright-eyed and bushy tailed….but that’s what is so God damn irritating about them. They have all the optimism in the world and they need to be taken down a peg. One of the good things in this film is that it shows how badly life can mess with you so you had better toughen the fuck up. For instance, unwanted teen pregnancy is a thing so if you want to be a prima ballerina you had better find a doctor who knows how to keep his mouth shut and ask few questions. Similarly, there are people in the world who will try to get you to take your clothes off in front of a camera…for free. Learn to say no to these people and walk out the door, which isn’t even locked.

I did sympathise with two of the characters a lot though. The first is the creepy ginger kid who has inappropriate relationships with both his mother and his shrink. Turns out he’s gay but back in 1980 it must have been tough. Then there’s the girl whose mother is bat-shit insane and makes her perform in the way an organ grinder makes his monkey perform, only sans handjob. These two are likeable because they do fucking weird acting exercises like sitting in the snow and pretending to be poor and Russian. It’s this kind of weirdness that I like…although the girl almost ruined it by giving a monologue while looking pensively out the window while wearing a fucking beret. Fashion advice ladies: no-one ever looks good in a beret.

Prince Harry Tours Jamaica To Mark Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee….I stand corrected.

If I had a major criticism about the film it’s that it can seriously disjointed. Some of the storylines are introduced but then left without a conclusion or any sense of resolution. Take the girl who gets naked on camera. Nothing happens to her after that. She just graduates and that’s that. Similarly, does the black kid learn to read and does the posh girl get the abortion? Who the fuck knows? I’m the kind of guy he believes that every plot should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Fame may have the first two parts down, but some of the characters don’t get an ending and that bothered me. Graduating is not the end….there’s still a ton of fucked up shit that can happen and I want to see it happen!

High-lights:

  • The film is set in that really gritty 80s New York…the one we all secretly wish it was still like.
  • That black kid is such a queen…it’s hysterical. I feel bad for his audition partner though. She’s probably in the strip joint now.
  • “You don’t have it Lisa!” Yeah Lisa, GTFO!
  • The ginger kid and the Jewish girl being weird.
  • STOP CRYING AND WALK THE FUCK OUT THE DOOR!!!!

Downers:

  • Some of the characters don’t get their ending.
  • Although I was born in the 80s, it’s a shame that I never got to experience the craziness of the decade.

Summary:

I had fun watching Fame. I don’t think it’s quite as good as Flashdance, but it manages to mesh the optimism of the 80s with the horrors of reality, which is much appreciated. Because of the film’s foray into both the lighter and darker side of life, you’d best watch this when you yourself are feeling balanced. If you’re unhappy, then the optimism will annoy you and you may take a little too much pleasure in the misery…not all of it is funny. Some girl gets accosted by a junky, which is pretty fucked. Similarly, if you’re happy then the hard dose of reality may bum you out. You need to have your shit together to enjoy this film.

7/10

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Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

Drop Dead Gorgeous

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, Brittany Murphy, Amy Adams, Kirstie Alley

Synopsis: A documentary crew follow the contestants participating in a beauty pageant in small-town Minnesota, but things get deadly when someone starts killing the competition.

If I were to sum up my sense of humour it would be with the phrase “gallows humour.” I can find even the most traumatic experiences funny. Some may say it’s because I’m a twisted individual. I, however, prefer to think that it’s because I always like to turn negative situations into positive ones. True character is shown if you can look in the face of death and laugh. There are not many films that manage to cater to gallows humour very well, and it’s easy to see why. It’s difficult to strike the appropriate balance between being morbid and funny but, in my honest opinion, this film hits the nail on the head.

Drop Dead Gorgeous wasn’t received very well when it was first released. That, too, is easy to see why. The film is set in a small town in Minnesota, a town in which the biggest event of the year is a teen beauty pageant. The citizens of this town are God fearing folk with funny accents. When I lived in the US I lived in California so I didn’t really come into contact with these kind of people but, rest assured, they exist. The purpose of this film is to take the piss out of these people and this version of America.

T and T gif…Murica

I personally believe that a lot of Americans are ashamed by this kind of America and Drop Dead Gorgeous can hit close to home. However, I think that in itself is pretty funny. After all, I’ve never met a British person who didn’t like this movie. However, Americans shouldn’t be so sensitive because this movie also displays a lot of the positive things about living in America too; namely that with hard work and a little bit of talent you can achieve your wildest dreams.

SlothThis sloth gets it

It helps that the film gives us a character we can all rally behind. Kirsten Dunst plays Amber Atkins, a beautiful and intelligent trailer-trash girl with big dreams. She’s the sort of girl who can name all 50 states in alphabetical order while working two part-time jobs. She’s nice to everyone she meets and she can dance. She’s the everyman who is fighting against power and corruption. What’s not to love?

It’s not all about Dunst though. Every performer in this film gives it their all. The mockumentary style really works because it allows all the performers to get lost in their characters. These are characters that you love to love and love to hate. Brittany Murphy’s character in particular is so hysterically adorable and it makes me sad to think that she’s no longer around. If anything, this film displays the talents of a lot of actresses and their ability to deliver well-scripted comedy as though it were them speaking naturally. Even Denise Richards pulls it off and we all know she’s not the greatest actress around.

High-lights:

  • Brilliant performances and wonderfully weird characters.
  • “You know what dad? Peter’s gay….GGGAAAAAYYYY!!!” This film is so quotable.
  • “They’re the richest family in a small town. It’s front page news when one of them takes a shit.” See what I mean.
  • Great soundtrack.
  • I always used to think the Soylent Green scene was funny but I actually realise now that it has a purpose.

Downers:

  • Realising that you will be going to hell for laughing at an anorexic girl lip synching to ‘Don’t Cry Out loud’ by Melissa Manchester.

Summary:

In my eyes, Drop Dead Gorgeous is comedy gold. It’s got great performances and moments that have me wiping away tears that came from laughing too hard. Moreover, it provides you with quotes for life. If you’re the sort of person who can find the humour in life’s darkest moments then this is just the film for you.

9/10

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Save the Last Dance (2001)

Save the Last Dance

Genre: Drama, Romance

Cast: Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas

Synopsis: After her mother dies in a tragic accident, a young girl moves to the Chicago hood where she gets an education in dance, love, and life….très corny, I know.

I have never been much of a dancer. In fact, I’m one of the clumsiest people around. I trip over flat surfaces and have a tendency to knock things over. Moreover, I have no natural rhythm. Watching me dance is like watching Bambi learn to walk for the first time. That’s not to say that I hate dancing. If you read my review of Flashdance then you will know that I love awkwardly gyrating around my room when nobody can see. I my head, I move like someone from So You Think You Can Dance. In reality, I move like a typical white person.

white-people-cant-dance_o_762469

I know that I’m giving in to racial stereotyping by saying that white people can’t dance but, in my experience, it’s generally true. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a very rural and white area, but I’ve yet to be blown away by a white guy on the dance floor. This is why Save the Last Dance gives me hope. Here, you have a girl who is whiter than mayonnaise. She knows a thing or two about dance but lacks the ability to get crunk. After moving to an inner city environment, however, she blossoms and becomes the dancer she always wanted to be. It makes me think that one day I too can mesmerise people when I throw shapes on the floor…instead of just filling them with silent dread.

All joking aside, this movie is tooth-achingly sweet. It has that 90s/early 2000s optimism that features in other teen movies from that time. It’s about overcoming adversity and achieving your dreams. Ordinarily, this would not appeal to me but this film is different. Part of the reason why I like this film is that there is a hot and steamy interracial relationship at its core. I wish I could say that we were at a point, as a society, where interracial relationships on screen were not a big deal. Unfortunately, I do not think we are there, even 13 years after this film came out.

Think about all the romance movies out there. How many of them have an interracial couple in them? I guarantee you it’s not that many and a lot of those films will have an African-American/Hispanic relationship as opposed to an African-American/White one. That’s part of the reason why Save the Last Dance is so good. It’s willing to go where few films have gone. Not only that, it presents a realistic yet positive spin on these relationships. This movie doesn’t shy away from the fact that interracial relationships can be seen as taboo. In fact, it deals with the subject head on. I took a critical race theory class while I studied in the US and I know that talking about race in America is hard thing to do. It makes people uncomfortable. However, it’s important to have those conversations and it’s impressive to see a movie engage in a discussion of race so responsibly.

White Chicks movie imageOthers have not been so responsible…

Beyond the topic of race, Save the Last Dance is enjoyable for other reasons. Firstly, Julia Stiles is awesome and she pulls off some killer moves in this film. Secondly, the supporting cast is strong and her sassy friend lets off some cracking one liners. Finally, the music makes you want to bust a move, even if it is in the privacy of your own home. Who can resist grinding to ‘Murder She Wrote.’ I’m very much talking about the song by Chaka Demus and Pliers, not the TV show. As much as I love Angela Lansbury, I wouldn’t get down to the TV show.

High-lights:

  • Great presentation of an interracial relationship.
  • Julia Stiles is my teen idol. I wish we saw more of her today.
  • It’s a sweet story but not too sweet. There’s hardship in there too.
  • Epic dance choreography.

Downers:

  • It’s kind of depressing to realise I will never dance that well.
  • Inner city Chicago is bleak. It’s sad to see parts of a city like that. It’s a reminder to all that inequality is alive and well.

Summary:

Save the Last Dance is the sort of movie you should watch when you’re feeling down in the dumps. It’s a film that is uplifting and just a little bit inspirational. Don’t get me wrong, the movie has its moments of cheese but these can be ignored by focusing on the epic dance scenes and the chemistry between Stiles and Thomas.

7.5/10

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Red Riding Hood (2011)

red riding hood

Genre: Romance, Thriller

Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Julie Christie

Synopsis: It’s basically a retarded but sexed-up version of the fairy tale we all know and love.

Little girl in a red cape goes into the forest to visit her grandmother. She gets to the house and finds that her grandmother has been eaten by a wolf. Wold gets killed. The end. It’s a story that we’ve all grown up with and one that we all know off by heart. It’s a simple story, for sure, and that’s probably why there have not been many attempts to adapt the story for cinema. I mean, how can you stretch the story of Red Riding Hood into 90 minutes? Catherine Hardwicke certainly had an idea…one that maybe wasn’t entirely obvious. Her plan was basically to turn little red riding hood into a ho.

red riding hood“Grandma! What a big erection you have!”

Let’s examine this idea for the moment. In my honest opinion, it’s not THAT bad. As I mentioned in my review for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, a lot of fun could be had with adapting traditional fairy tales for modern audiences. They would have to be dark though. That’s where Hansel and Gretel failed. Red Riding Hood is an improvement as it deals with the theme of female sexuality; something that works well with the original tale. Where the film fails, however, is with the execution.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Hardwicke did direct Twilight and this film has a similar feel. It’s too teen friendly with its hunks and budding ingénue. A proper adaptation would be about prostitution with a serial killer thrown into the mix. Instead we get a film about a werewolf and a girl being torn between two guys who performs a pseudo-lesbian dance to seduce one of them. Seriously girls, that’s the oldest trick in the book and doing it in medieval dress is in no way sexy. You need to watch Showgirls and take some lessons from Nomi Malone.

nomi1

What is surprising is that this film has a very good cast. It’s got Julie Christie in it who, may I remind you, has an Oscar. Gary Oldman is also a brilliant actor. I even think Amanda Seyfried is a good actress. I’ve seen Lovelace and I was impressed with her performance in that. I think the problem with her is that she picks terrible roles and this film’s central character (who is horribly named Valerie) is another role that is beneath her talent.

All in all, I found this film to be wholly underwhelming. It’s like watching a mediocre slutty Sleepy Hollow. It has some great performers, a fresh theme, and even some good style but it lacks the bite and the shock-value that it sorely needs. This film doesn’t really have much to keep your attention if you’re over the age of 15.

High-lights:

  • Max Irons is adorable and he is well buff in The Riot Club.
  • Some beautiful scenery.
  • Good theme.
  • Red Riding Hood’s mum is hysterical. The film is supposed to be set in the middle ages but with all that makeup it looks like the mother just came from the club.

Downers:

  • Poor execution.
  • Inappropriate use of the pseudo-lesbian dance.
  • Creepy incest moment.
  • Boring characters.

Summary:

I’m still waiting on someone to come along and bowl me over with a fresh and exciting fairy tale adaptation. I hear that they’re making a sequel to Hansel and Gretel so it looks like we won’t be getting one for quite some time. Shit.

3.5/10

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