Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Jill Schoelen: The Scream Queen Next Door

I read a book the other day that said that female serial killers will often pick their victims based on what they can see in them as a reflection of themselves. I think this probably rings true for more than just serial killers, when I watch a film with actors I'm not familiar with, I'll always gravitate to the ones that remind me of ME. The Winonas, the Mary Liz Winsteads, it's more than just that we look kind of similar, it's a vibe they own that I hope I put into the world half as much as they do. It's so important for us all to have reflections of ourselves in our media, which is of course why representation matters so much, because that's the truly subversive part of film, when you can look at what is happening to a character on screen and think "this is a connection". It doesn't need to be in physical likeness but it's definitely the first thing that will draw me in. That's how I first noticed Jill Schoelen, my favourite Scream Queen.

Amazing and talented actor with a string of low-key hits in the late 80s/early 90s. And Brad Pitt.
 Scream Queen is like, the highest honor I could ever bestow on someone's career personally. I wish I could be a scream queen, I wish I could have that kind of energy and the ability to scream on cue (I have only screamed once and it was on the Harry Potter ride at Universal when my feet got hot when the dragon blew on them). Most Scream Queens are totally untouchable, perfect, tank top wearing, permed and manicured, which is a whole different fantasy all together than my Girl Next Door, my favourite Jill Schoelen.

Popcorn (1991)
I first got to know Jill in The Stepfather and I found her instantly captivating. She was sassy, she wore 80s jeans, she had bangs and she hated her stepdad. It was a match made in heaven. That lightning bolt moment when you think I will watch every thing you have ever been in so help me god because no one has really summed up your aesthetic and your fantasy self so well. Can we just talk about this film for a second? Despite an entirely inappropriate shower scene (Jill is meant to be 15 in the movie) The Stepfather is an underrated gem of the late 80s, Terry O'Quinn is a scene chewing piece of shit in it and only the street-smart Stephanie (Schoelen) can see through his bullshit. Jill really gets to try out her Scream Queen talent with a final showdown that leaves your heart racing, forget the final chase between Laurie and Michael Meyers, The Stepfather is the most legit in-house chase ever put to film.

Cure II: The Bite (1989)
You would not be blamed for thinking this might just be a one-hit wonder, horror films are full of amazing actresses who make one film then disappear into the ether, but man with Jill we got lucky. I have to admit that I haven't seen her entire body of work, but I've seen enough to know that she can basically make or break a film. Have you ever seen Curse II: The Bite? There is absolutely no reason for that film to be good. It's about a human-snake hybrid transformation but Jill plays a long-suffering girlfriend in big hoop earrings and her descent into the slime covered sewer hell that is the finale is SO LEGIT it's riveting. Don't ever even try and tell me that Scream Queens can't act because it simply is not true, if you cannot see the mastery in writhing around, screaming in tons of special effects gloop then honestly what are you even doing here?

Phantom of the Opera (1989)
You get to a point when you truly love an actor that you will convince yourself they can save anything. Not always the case. Phantom of the Opera is basically a bit shit, but that doesn't mean you can't find the good. That's the cool thing about appreciating someone beyond their appearances and if they get nude in a film, because even if a film is shitty you can still appreciate their work. With her raspy voice and warmness on screen you could watch a truly shitty film and still come away feeling like you've had a head massage.

The Stepfather (1987)
Schoelen's film picks between 1987 - 1995 are really interesting to me because maybe it was a happy accident but she seemed to just pick these fantastic films that ended up flying under the mainstream radar. Popcorn was basically Scream 3, hell even Scream, before there was even New Nightmare. Popcorn is a subversive masterpiece set in a theatre and poking fun at every horror trope you could imagine. I love an actor who is able to rib their own profession, it shows a fondness and genuine passion for the genre than someone who just ~settles~ for a horror film as they're starting out. I feel like me and Jill would get on, you know? 

Jill mysteriously quit acting only a few years after she'd started, and although I like to think about the kind of films she would be choosing to be a part of now I also kind of like the mysticism, kind of like American Football making a perfect album and then disappearing for a decade and a bit. She may not be making new material but it's a good job her filmography is full of weird and wonderful films. I want to thank her for making me feel good about myself, about being a pessimistic teenager and for fueling my horror obsession. She's just the best.

Robyn is one half of Bimbo Movie Bash, an avid fan of Angel Delight and a Pee Wee apologist.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Other Glass Slipper: A Journey into Disney Direct-to-Video Sequels: Bambi II

This is possibly one of the longest periods between original and sequel, right? Bambi came out in 1942 and Bambi II in 2006. I would have thought Bambi II would have been greenlit in the 90s sequel heavy heyday, and I'm kind of glad it didn't because even though I don't particularly enjoy Bambi, this sequel makes up for it and I'm glad they waited to do it right. Even though I personally don't like the first film, you have to admit that the sequel is standing on some heavy shoulders, Bambi was an inescapable phenomenon with Walt himself in charge. No one wants to be the one to fuck that up.

Carrying on the saccharine sweetness of the original, Bambi lives in an idyllic forest where all the animals are pals and everyone has a lot to eat and the only thing that can hurt you is man himself. It's a stunning realisation of a setting, the revolutionary backgrounds of Bambi (making everything abstract around the outside and detailed in the middle) are continued to great effect in the sequel. I got to say it's probably the best looking Disney sequel ever released, clear lines and bright backgrounds and a gorgeous use of light as it filters from top to bottom of the forest. It's the little details like the foggy breath rising on a winter morning or the different bark on the different trees that make it worthy of a Disney animation, and considering it came out in 2006 I'm thrilled that they decided to ditch the CGI, even though I'm sure it would have been much easier. This all adds up to an authentic experience, rather than a lazy cash grab.

The sequel focuses on the time between Bambi's mother dying and him starting his own family. It's a nice pick up from the first film, throwing you straight into the turmoil of Bambi, the harsh winter, the sudden loss of his mother. It's actually a pretty interesting main story, with Bambi's dad opening up to grief and love and Bambi's need for approval from his father (and the Prince of the Forest lest we forget!). Bambi's dad is voiced by Patrick Stewart who seems to absolutely revel in his royalty and put's on his best booming omnipresent voice. As Bambi continually tries to prove his worth with varying feats of bravery and his father comes to love him as he is (he is still wonderfully clumsy, all knees and giant head lolling around) surely this would be enough of a plot point to carry the story? 

Apparently not. In comes this dude, a completely unrelated plot point who threatens to throw the entire film off course. Ronno's entire purpose seems to be an asshole and then cry, or fall into some mud, which happens about ten times throughout. I found his addition off-putting and irritating, I mean, I can just about get over Thumper and Flower, in some ways they are sweet, but this guy I cannot get behind. There's never a true rivalry between Ronno and Bambi as even the rest of the forest hates Ronno, I'm just baffled with his inclusion tbh tbh.

Peppered throughout some montages of Bambi walking or Bambi playing with his pals are a few musical numbers which are unremarkable to say the least. I watched this film about an hour ago and I cannot recall what they were. I'm pretty sure Mulan II is going to take away the award for best songs in a Disney sequel once I've finished this challenge, and nothing else will come close. Really the draw here is the animation, the subtle changes of the seasons, the Disney talent for making anthropomorphic animals without them being weird or scary. I guess if you're a fan of Bambi then the amount of critters here is going to satisfy you, every scene is dripping with possums and squirrels and birds that the forest setting really feels alive. I enjoyed the actual expanse I felt, like the forest was never-ending and stretched high and wide. To put that sense of scale into a short running time is no easy task.

Would I recommend Bambi II? It's certainly not a bad film in any respects, but it's probably one just for the kids only. Though it deals with mature themes it's execution is purely for children and they will definitely get a kick out of some of the funnier scenes, plus its anti-hunting message is always a good thing in instill in young minds. I don't think I will ever revist this again, but considering how much I didn't want to watch it, I was pleasantly surprised.

Robyn is one half of Bimbo Movie Bash, an avid fan of Angel Delight and a Pee Wee apologist.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Last Chance Neflix #1

Here is a new series of posts by me, Charlotte, called What's on Netflix. When you and your partner are arguing about what to watch, flicking through the menu saying nah, not that one, not in the mood, we watched that the other day, oh fuck sake we are back to the beginning again, and your chinese is going cold and you could really do without another row, sit back and let us pick for you. Just to let you know every single time I mention Netflix moving forward I am referring to Netflix UK. Those baddies won't let us hop around regions anymore, what a bummer.

This Friday night (31st March) these are some of the best horror films that will be removed from Netflix, potentially forever.

Jonestown: Paradise Lost 

This is a docu-drama about Jonestown mass cult suicide, yeah the don't drink the koolaid people. If you haven't seen a docudrama before it is where the subject of the documentary is dramatised, to make it more exciting and like a movie. Sometimes this makes the credibility of the documentary a bit laughable like a made for TV movie, and sometimes like in this instance it makes it pretty gripping stuff.

This is a pretty harrowing documentary. There are talking heads of people who were actually in the cult,  also journalists and family members who were there the day of the mass suicide and most importantly cult leader Jim Jones son, Stephen Jones. He is incredibly compelling and kind of makes this entire piece worth watching. There is some real footage used at the end which was previously dramatised which was very upsetting but effective.

Eli Roth produced a modern day retelling of Jonestown with 'The Sacrament' which was on Netflix till very recently where some literal Vice journos went to the compound to do their gonzo thing, then the last days were played out. It was a great film and worth a watch after this documentary.

If documentaries are your thing, or you liked making a murderer or you like all those crime podcasts that everyone keeps telling me to listen to, then you should catch this before it goes. Watch it here

The Woman

Possibly the best rape revenge film I have ever seen? I watched this film ages ago and got bored in the first ten minutes as I stupidly thought I had predicted what was gonna happen. I was wrong. I often get bored ten minutes in because I have seen so many horror films and it takes a lot to surprise me, but I gave it another go and oh boy was I wrong.

Directed by the man who bought us May and All Cheerleaders Must Die, you should expect visceral in your face blood and guts and dirt, but also very smart clever shots an incredible soundtrack and even a weird little animation that was great stand alone.

This is actually a sequel to 'The Offspring' which I am yet to see, but after the ending to the Woman I would love to see a third to make this a trilogy. If you haven't seen May or All Cheerleaders Must die I would catch those as well, but you can watch The Woman before Friday on Netflix here.

Body Parts 

A Yuza/Gordon special it aint, this Lovecraftian style body horror is still worth a watch for the special effects alone. Starting with a car crash that honestly left me shook, it does slow down a bit but I just cracked on trying to steal those awesome effect moments.

The acting is really great and your man Brad Dourif is doing some stellar acting with what he has been given. If a very early 90s take on Frankenstein B movie is your thing with frankly awesome special effects then give this a bosh here.

If those don't take your fancy you can see the rest of whats leaving (and coming) to Netflix on New On Netflix 

Charlotte is one half of Bimbo Movie Bash, runs Black Heart Creatives, enjoys gory horror films, shouting, smoking fags, and laying down
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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

An Exploration of Grossness

I am jumping ahead a few years now in my teen movie exploration, contrary to popular belief I am able to sit down and watch a film made after 2002, and Excision is one of them. Richard Bates Jr's new film TRASH FIRE has landed on Netflix, and boy it's really good. You may remember RBJr from such films as Suburban Gothic and his breakout teen gross-out EXCISION.

Excision is a slow-burning exploration of one teen girl's loose grip on reality, puberty and her broken family. Sound like something you've seen a million times? I guarantee not. The protagonist, Paula (played wonderfully by Annalynne Mccord in an unrecognisable role) takes you on a journey into teenage psyche, only things are a little bit too fucked up in Paula's head to really survive high school and her family who TOTALLY DO NOT GET HER.

If you think of Wetlands (review on the way sometime), this film has a lot in common with it, only it's filtered through a dank basement and repulsion abounds. I think the bravest thing about Excision is that we are never truly meant to like Paula. She has pretty much zero likeable qualities. Sure, you can feel sorry for her, but when you look inside yourself, we all had a Paula at school that we did nothing when they were getting bullied, or laughed at their weirdness. It's so easy to put the blame onto Paula herself, because she doesn't help her situation by being so awkward, but really we should be paying attention when a person is screaming to get the proper help they need. This film is not just an exploration into her life, but into our past experiences too. It gives you a lot to think about - where is that girl that always smelt like old tampons I sat next to in Religious Education? Did she ever make it out of high school alive? I can't even remember her name to look her up on Facebook.

So, I find it pretty brave to have a film centred around a teen girl who isn't attractive and eager to please and does everything on her own terms. Could Paula actually be the role model we deserve? I mean, obviously not, but yes, maybe????

If you're a fan of the macabre, the marrying of horror and religion, then this film is right up your street. The action is inter-spliced with Paula's chats with God, where she begs for her mother's death and her sister's survival. Beautiful John Waters plays Paula's priest to perfection, their quiet conversations revealing her failing psyche to a church that don't care, as long as she is a good girl. 

We're often cut to Paula's dream sequences, brightly lit, polished, tanned and lithe bodies playing in blood, playing abortion, playing doctors and nurses. It's a testament to RBJr's eye for direction that he can breezily switch between the mundane suburban existence to these cold, tiled fantasies. The film is a visual feat in so many ways, but it is the dream sequences that elevate it into the sublime art. 

If you're not yet sold on this film (which has obviously disappeared from UK Netflix as Trash Fire enters) then the cast may sway you. Joining Mccord and Waters is the always incredible Traci Lords, taking on her first role as a Good Christian Mother. Traci carries this film with the complex themes of how to love your daughter, whilst not particularly liking the person they have turned into. So many of her scenes are infuriating, because it's so realistic. If you've ever had a rocky teen relationship with your own mother, the times she tries to get Paula to open up to her are excruciating. It's hard to say who the real villain of the film is, but I'd say Lords has a good chance of being it.

Watch Excision to celebrate your feminine repulsion, watch it to feel sorry for outcasts, watch it to be thankful your home life was never this bad. Whatever you take away from it, just watch Excision.

Robyn is one half of Bimbo Movie Bash, an avid fan of Angel Delight and a Pee Wee apologist.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

A Film Without Hang-Ups - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In this installment of our exploration into teen films, I've decided to revist a film dear to my heart, one of my favourites in fact, good old Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Released years before the tele series came into play, Buffy was once a valley girl and balanced her slaying with cheerleader practice. This is was hated by Joss Whedon (another reason to love it in my opinion) and is derided by many as the fuck up before the series took a right turn. I say fuck that, Buffy '92 was a subversive and brave masterpiece that has only gotten stronger as our views on what counts as a feminist piece have matured.

Let's start at the beginning. Buffy is a valley girl, a sweet and unattainable cheerleader, one of those girls who roams in packs so you can't get near them, who seem to have everything in life so easy. Buffy is unapologetically beautiful and talented, she's the kid of girl who would be throwing tampons at Carrie in a different era. She shops, she pretends to care about world issues, she pisses everyone off at the cinema. She is a typical teenager and that, THAT is the crux of this whole film. Buffy doesn't have to be a sassy, tormented smart ass girl to be worthy of kicking ass, she doesn't have to be matured well beyond her high school years to be respected by her fan base, she is a REAL GIRL and that is what Buffy the Series was totally lacking. I don't want to compare Buffy '92 and Buffy '97 too much, but it's safe to say I love one and feel a large amount of frustration bordering on indifference with the other.

Joss Whedon really hates Buffy '92. He couldn't stand that his dark, brooding script had been wrapped up in bubblegum lycra. He's entitled to his opinion, but I think he's basically a huge baby if he can't see a vision here. What makes this film important is that Buffy has flaws and she outgrows them, it's basically a character study of a girl about to embark of life outside of high school, but it just happens to have vampires thrown into the mix.

It's impossible to talk about Buffy '92 without mentioning the FASHION AESTHETICS of the film. There is so much 90s gymwear, and denim and clashing prints with gold earrings. It's honestly a dream, kids on instagram would kill to be this stylish these days. The careful costume design totally MAKES this film, it's a perfect capsule of the era and the best part is the more serious Buffy gets her wardrobe never changes. She's never made to grow up and start wearing dark colours, you keep wearing that lime green sheer shirt girl, you can kick a vampire's ass, do whatever you want.

Would Buffy '92 be anything without Kristy Swanson? I mean, it would probably still be a good film, but Kristy is one of those forgotten and underrated actors of the 80s and 90s and she totally makes this film what it is. It's kind of a big job, portraying The Slayer, and with her tough girl brat act and open, sweet face she nails it completely. What's better than America's Teen Dream actually being capable of killing you in seconds? It's what made this film so good and it's what makes stuff like DEADLY FRIEND so good. Kristy just has something about her and we should give thanks that we were blessed with her on this cold, dead earth.

What can we learn from Buffy '92? Well, that it's fine to outgrow your school friends. It's fine if they start to piss you off and it's not the end of the world to ditch them. Let's not pretend we still speak to anyone we went to school with here. We can also learn that broody goth boys will always be more attractive than their jock counterparts, even if they have soul patches and hang around with David Arquette. We've learnt that you can wear three types of lyrca and still perform a back hand spring, and that clashing prints aren't always a fashion disaster. We now know that Paul Reubens takes at least 30 seconds to die after you stake him so be prepared.

If you'e ever been on the fence about watching this because you love Buffy '97, I would urge you to reconsider your position. Of course you can like one or the other or both, no one can stop you enjoying what you want. I believe a lot of the militant anti-Buffy '92 stuff comes from people who haven't even SEEN the film, and despite their differences the two versions are essentially the same plot. Buffy is WELL WORTH a shot, especially if 90s gymwear is your passion in life (like it is in mine).

Robyn is one half of Bimbo Movie Bash, an avid fan of Angel Delight and a Pee Wee apologist.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

I'm not a geek, I'm a unique weasel

I'm revisiting a bunch of teen films that I love and cherish, to see what these time capsules can teach us about modern day living. I first started with Better Off Dead and sticking with the 80s theme I've moved onto Encino Man, which was a moderate hit that derived lots of bad critical reception. But as we all know, critics don't know shit, because Encino Man is tender and goofy and a super feel good film. In these times, it's good to have feel good films to turn to, just to take your mind of the mounting doom we are facing.

Encino Man (aka California Man) is so much more than the film that brought us the greatest gif of all time (it's still a great gif though).

Not only is Encino Man a tale of popularity and getting the girl you used to share a bath with and beating the jock and surviving high school, it's about friendship and nature versus nurture and it's totally deep, man. The premise is interesting enough, finding a cave man in your backyard is pretty great, but when you can catapult yourself to high school popularity but dressing him up as a 90s high school student? That's where the magic happens.

Encino Man stands out for a big reason and that reason is Pauly Shore. Often derided, I got a huge soft spot for old Pauly. His unique inflections and slang kinda make this film, I'm pretty sure he's a sleeper genius that the world never got on board with. He was nominated for a Razzie (don't get me started on that piece of shit, smug shit show) for this, which is incredible when you think about it because he's truly the heart and soul of the film.

At a pivotal moment in the film (after Link gets sucker punched in the ear), Stoney (Shore) raises an excellent point. We are all born pacifists, and left to his own devices, with all the food he needs and no social constructs put on him about alpha males and pride, Link chooses not to fight anyone, as Stoney says "cavemen's aren't like us, Dave. They fought for food and survival, they did not fight for popularity". HOW COOL IS THAT??? That's the emotional punch of Encino Man that elevates this film above a lot of the teen comedies of the time. You don't have to fight for a girl who probably isn't interested in you, you don't need to save face if you're not a fighter, you can just BE and everything will still carry on as normal.

In fact, I wouldn't even say Matt the Jock is the real villain of this story. Matt the Jock is just a modern day caveman, beating his chest and defending his property (yeesh, the 90s was hard on female love interests). The real villain here is DAVE (Astin), a boy so wholly obsessed with being popular and getting to neck the hot girl (who used to be a plain jane when they were buddies) that he sacrifices his own friendships, doesn't consider this million year old beings feelings stuck in 1990, and is real mean to his only friend in the process. I'm still mad things worked out okay for Dave at the end of this film, he didn't really learn anything. Watching back on this, it's pretty obvious that Stoney and Link had the real friendship connection here. Everyone needs a pal who doesn't get embarrassed by their weirdness, or want them to be normal, and in the running time they find it each other. IT'S BEAUTIFUL REALLY.

Encino Man is an 90s standout for me due to it's feel good message, Pauly Shore, Brendan Fraser before George of the Jungle (you can see the beginnings of that here and all). I would totally recommend this to anyone looking for some escapism, especially if you wanna fantasize about a hot caveman drawing a cave drawing of your tits in ketchup.

Robyn is one half of Bimbo Movie Bash, an avid fan of Angel Delight and a Pee Wee apologist.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Other Glass Slipper: A Journey into Disney Direct-to-Video Sequels: One Hundred and One Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure

YES, you thought I'd given up on the Disney sequels challenge hadn't you? WELL I NEVER GIVE UP ON DISNEY. I'm back with a new review of the very punchy titled 'One Hundred and One Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure'. Seriously, how did that ever get the go ahead? That's nine entire words in that title, god help us all.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians is one of my favourite Disney films, it's utterly charming in the way only Disney can be with animal character designs, plus it has this totally different art style to every other Disney film, so much so that Walt Disney himself absolutely hit the roof when he saw the finished product, which he claimed looked unfinished and messy (this is a man who decided to build a funfair without any of the seedy undercurrent, after all). 

The style of the original echos the free flowing jazz soundtrack, swinging sixties London and the energy that having all those puppies on screen would cause. It's fantastically charged and a great caper story, with of course one of the most iconic villains in cinematic history. This sequel won me over from the start because it tried really hard to echo the art style of the first, it's little touches like that that make a film work, that show that someone on the production actually wanted to make this sequel work.

The sequel follows Patch, who's feeling a little out of sorts and underappreciated, having 98 brothers and sisters can be hard work, and when you're one of so many, known for being one of so many, it can be really hard to find your individual place in the world, you know? It's a pretty great theme for a kid's film and I was invested in this puppy and his hardships from the beginning. Of course things go absolutely awry, Cruella is back, the puppies are in danger, THE BARK CHAIN IS BACK, which is my favourite bit in both of these films.

The animation style is about the quality of the One Hundred and One Dalmatians cartoon series that was shown in the late 90s on the Disney Channel, I wouldn't be surprised to see that the same team worked on both of these. That doesn't mean it's bad by any means, in terms of Disney sequels it's neat and polished enough to feel like it was always intended for a feature length movie.

The design of the puppies has always been absolutely adorable, so no problems there, the scrapes they get into and the animation on their clumsy fat little bodies is enough to carry this film, however they say stuff like "whizzer!" and sound like little Tories, which either the director realised that's what American's want to hear from a British film, or someone recognised that in no way could Roger and Anita be living in a three story London house with 101 dogs to feed AND a maid without being rich as fuck. Either way it grated on me but I doubt that would be an issue for international audiences. I just think it would have been cuter to have them talking in little cockney accents, but I guess that's saved for Dick Van Dyke only.

The subplot involves a famous dog off the telly, his pomposity and bravado were very funny and it had a nice little twist, it's a great echo back to the first film as the puppies watch Thunderbolt on the telly. I'm not sure why these dogs are allowed to roam the streets of London off leash, but hey, this is a cartoon and it really doesn't fucking matter.

There's a great cultural nod as Cruella teams up with a beatnik artist who paints spots, and her yearning just to look at a fur coat is absolutely brilliant. I've always admired Cruella's design, that stick think and bony figure, her coats always falling off her shoulders and a fag in her hand, fans f her will not be disappointed with this sequel as she plays a major part and is her usual charming self.

Would i recommend this sequel to fans of the original? Yes, if you've got a spare hour and a bit, just don't watch the original and this back to back because the difference between the two will be very apparent. It's also worth watching for the cameous from other Disney animals (I spotted Eric's dog from Little Mermaid and the cat from Cinderella that for some reason I'm remembering is called Lucifer?!)

Robyn is one half of Bimbo Movie Bash, an avid fan of Angel Delight and a Pee Wee apologist.