Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Miranda Murders: Lost Tapes of Leonard Lake and Charles Ng / * (2017)

A movie like this is almost unbearable without a coherent running dialogue. “The Miranda Murders” belongs primarily to that ever-so-volatile subgenre of found footage horror films, but must be prefaced with an even graver emphasis: all the footage functions as a reenactment of an actual killing spree that took place in California during the mid-80s. For those well-versed in serial killer psychology, the names will be familiar: Leonard Lake and Charles Ng were like blood brothers destined for infamy, linked by the nihilistic world view that innocent young women were meant to be abducted and then molded into submissive sex slaves for their own perverse pleasures, often in front of a camcorder. When they acted out or misbehaved, the punishment would be severe – sometimes violent, sometimes intimidating, always ending in their untimely demises. Now comes this strange concoction of a film that attempts to fill a great void: namely, what exactly transpired in those turbulent months between 1983 and 85 when they lured victims to their compound, filmed them in fearful protest and then disposed of their remains throughout the property? Though some of the actual footage of their exploits survives, the gaps were apparently intriguing enough to inspire Matthew Rosvally to interpret the unknown on old-fashioned analogue tape. The result is one of the most poorly realized ideas of recent memory.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Hatchet / *** (2006)

A convoluted legend is never far from the fabric of an original horror film, and Adam Green’s deliriously violent “Hatchet” discovers one of the more interesting of recent memory. Somewhere in the haunted bayous of New Orleans exists the image of a monstrous force, a disfigured man who died long ago in a terrible accident and returns, each night, to stalk the woods in search of his lost father. Unfortunate bystanders who wander nearby are destined to become victims of his murderous rampage, but so rare has their obligatory fate been this ambitiously macabre: in the course of just 85 minutes, the villain is seen prying a skull off someone by the upper jaw, cutting through a man’s spinal column with a machete, beheading countless screaming teenagers and even dismembering one with a belt sander. In the murky depths of Crystal Lake, Jason Vorhees must be sick with envy. But is the terror of one Victor Crowley a cause of some deeply established voodoo curse, or did the poor boy really survive his ordeal in order to carry out his angry mission? That riddle is at the center of an otherwise superfluous mystery, in a movie that has the distinction of being relentlessly delightful while it is inspiring our pained winces.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Cats / 1/2* (2019)

Think of a large wad of cash being doused in gasoline, immediately followed by a lit match tossed into the pile. Picture, with some forlorn amazement, a machine that rapidly prints dollar bills as they are guided on a conveyor belt that empties into the mouth of a giant shredder. Fathom the idea that someone, somewhere, could make “Cats” with a straight face, and you get an impression of how deep these thoughts must run as they regard their own endeavor with some level of regret. So much money went into this ambitiously misfired movie that every scene must play like a eulogy for all their future endeavors. If it is true, as reports suggest, that the film adaptation of the famous Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber was financed to be made with over $100 million in assets, it is worth lamenting the high cost of modern Hollywood trash. Yet those unlucky enough to find themselves at a screening of said result will most likely be concerned with more direct notions: namely, how such an expensive commodity like this could be released in such an unfinished state, much less be considered salvageable in the first place. Take away all of that, and what remains is a who’s-who of actors who look as if they might be occupied by thoughts of exile from the medium.