31 DAYS OF SPOOKY STUFF – DAY 2 (JOURNAL #66) – We’ve Got Some Work to Do Now

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See, look at me! Second day and another posting, as the Journal moves into Day 2 of the 31 Days of Spooky Stuff series. In this installment, we’ll look at Alex Cox’s punk masterpiece REPO MAN, the supernatural horror MAMA and a twist on a childhood favorite called SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY.

 

RATING SYSTEM

The Best – Reserved for the absolute cream of the crop.
Highly Recommended – Very good. Far better than your typical film and one that I will remember for some time. 
Recommended – Just what it says. This is a good film and earns a recommendation. Don’t think that because it’s not one of the top two categories that these films aren’t worth your time. The “recommended” tag is a winner and nothing to sneer at.
Barely Recommended – The middle of the road. Those films where I didn’t feel it was a complete waste of time, but it didn’t set my world on fire either. Not bad, but leaves me feeling bored and/or apathetic.
Disappointing – Close but no cigar. Does a few things right but is ultimately a whole lot of wasted potential. Not recommended.
Awful – A bad movie. Pure and simple. Not worth your time. 
The Worst – The Britta Perry of ratings, though not as entertaining. The bottom of the barrel.

CRITERIA

What was the film trying to accomplish and how well did it meet those goals?
In addition to (or sometimes despite) that, how does the film hold up on sheer entertainment value?

 

FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 66

(31 DAYS OF SPOOKY STUFF – DAY 2 – OCT. 2, 2013)

 

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repo_man_xlgREPO MAN (1984) – Otto (Emilio Estevez) is a suburban punk who at 18 years old, is already fed up with life and disgusted with what he sees it offering to him. He can’t get a girl, he doesn’t like his friends very much and he is unable with putting on a happy face and working for petty and shallow bosses. He is introduced to the world of repo men by the grizzled Bud (Harry Dean Stanton). The local repo men, and seemingly everybody else, get wind of a Chevy Malibu with a reward for $20,000 attached But of course there’s a reason for the hefty price tag. The Malibu is being driven by an off-kilter scientist (Fox Harris, in perhaps his best role) and what he has in the truck can vaporize anyone it comes in contact with… and that’s just for starters.

There are so many things to love about REPO MAN, but none more so than how it continues to gain resonance with repeat viewings. At first, it does just seem to be a quirky comedy about punks, repo men and some weird stuff about aliens. But that’s really just scratching the surface.

In Otto, we get the perfect representation of the disenfranchised youth. He isn’t such a nice guy himself and he isn’t terribly bright either. But everywhere he turns, he sees people who allow themselves to be used by the system. Their parents are aging hippies who have sold out to conservatism though they still get high in front of the television. Instead of the meaningful messages of their generation, they have become zombie disciples of a painfully transparent televangelist. One of his lamer friends tells Otto is play the game, saying ridiculous things like, “There’s room to move as a fry cook.” And yet, no one seems to end up where they want to be. His friend Butch (Dick Rude) claims to be a great criminal, but he’s just a violent sociopath who knocks over liquor stores and takes part in the most petty of crimes (“Let’s go get sushi and not pay.”). The girl he meets starts out as the ultimate rebel, outrunning machine-like government thugs, but she sells out almost immediately. Even Bud, with all his knowledge and advice, winds up feeling cheated and embittered by the world. Meanwhile, Otto is surrounded by a landscape of desolation that promises nothing but capitalism and consumerism as a reward. Of course, he would want to leave it all behind.

Alex Cox is humble when it comes to crediting himself with REPO MAN’s success. But the fact is that while the ensemble cast was nearly perfect and the writing was fresh and original, Cox did bring it all together and he did so brilliantly. The more I watch REPO MAN, the more I appreciate it.  The Best.

 

 

saturdaymorningmystery01

 

 

saturdaymorningmysterySATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY (2012) – A group of detectives, two boys and two girls, travel in a van with their dog, debunking hauntings. If you’re thinking SCOOBY-DOO, the film makes it very clear that they were as well. But instead of the typical spoof story, this imagines what these people would be like in real life, showing them barely holding onto the frayed remains of their group. Money troubles as well as domestic squabbles have pushed the group to the breaking point. They agree to investigate an alleged haunting, which may turn out to be the real thing.

SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY starts out as one thing and then ends up as another. As for being successful, it is for about half the time. A couple of the performances are good, especially Ashley Rae Spillers as the Velma and ringleader of the group. As for the SCOOBY-DOO motif, the writers work a little too hard to telegraph who they are supposed to represent while unfortunately still referencing SCOOBY-DOO in some of the dialogue. And yet, as the film starts out everything seems much more lighthearted. This is the idea, pushing this group of people into a very dark and harrowing situation. But the film would have benefited from not going into broody territory so soon. SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY suddenly switches gears around the fifteen minute mark, even as the mystery of the haunting is still a long ways off. Even still, the film is well shot with decent characters and enough skill to remain fairly memorable.  Recommended.

 

 

mama_01

 

 

mama_xlgMAMA (2013) – A distraught businessman murders his wife and kidnaps his children, taking them to a cabin in the woods. A spirit manifests itself and kills the father before he can harm the children. Years later, the children are found, practically feral but very much alive. Their father’s brother Lucas takes them in, much to the chagrin of his wife Annabel (Jessica Chastain), who now has to leave her rock n roll lifestyle behind in order to care for them. But there are mysteries surrounding how the children were able to survive all those years. This seems to extend to the children who seem dedicated to their old protector, a being they call “Mama.”

MAMA’s greatest asset is Chastain who breathes a lot of life into her character. The most fascinating parts of the film don’t involve anything supernatural, but Annabel’s struggles with a status of motherhood that she never bargained for. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is pretty standard. There are occasional creepy images (including a scene, shown as one deceptive master shot). But the struggle with the old life vs. the new – Mama vs. Annabel – is just not interesting. Least inspired of all is the design of Mama, who never elicits fear in her CGI-ed visage of ribbons, smoke and hair.  Disappointing.

 

 

Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 291

Miss any of the previous Journal entries? Check them out here!

And tune into my new web series, Moviocrity!



Categories: 31 Days of Spooky Stuff, Scott W. Davis, Scott's Film Geek Journal

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