Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dear Charlie:

If you've read any of the movie reviews over there in the sidebar, you realize that I tend to give odd flicks a chance. Indie horror flicks, especially. Most times, that doesn't work out too well.

But once in a while, something really pops. Something that strikes my odd brand of fancy. Something that makes all the dreck worthwhile.

I've found like three of those recently. Four, even. I'm gonna talk about two here.

I tried to post some of this a couple of days ago, but the website wouldn't load and, for the first time in years, I lost the whole post. Suuuuuck, but I'll be copying and pasting before posting this time. Heh, fool me once, and all that.

I do want to at least mention the others I've enjoyed recently. Some are After Dark HorrorFest flicks, one is a Tribeca Films special, and another is from a first-time director. One of the ADHF ones was The Task, which I enjoyed probably because it spits on the concept of reality television. Seriously, give this one a watch. It's loads of fun. The other was Seconds Apart, which features Orlando Jones in a... *gasp*... serious role. I think I like it because he nailed it. Good times.

But the ones I really want to talk about are Grave Encounters and The Presence.

I almost passed on both of them.

Grave Encounters almost lost me because it's one of those "found footage" flicks, and I'm really, really tired of those. It got around that by having the main cameraman be an actual professional cameraman, so I let it slide. And I'm glad I did.

This takes the premise of those "ghost hunter" shows, but takes it to the worst possible scenario. What would happen if one of those teams went into a legitimately haunted place and actually caught blatant visual and audio proof of the supernatural? And what would happen if they couldn't get back out again?

It starts off like most of those shows -- setting the creepy scene and filming the creepy locale, but unable to show any real activity. It's all so subjective. They can get anyone to say anything, but most of the time, there's just nothing but "atmosphere". They even pay a groundskeeper (in a priceless scene) to make up a story about seeing a ghost and hire an actor to pretend to be a psychic, only to be hilariously impressed when he bullshits a story that happens to link up with what the caretaker had already told them. It's actually kinda fun at this point.

And then... stuff starts happening. Slowly, but building to a crescendo.

Better still? They didn't screw up the ending. In fact, I don't think they could have satisfactorily ended it any other way. It wasn't one of those pat "well, let's wrap this crap up and say... I dunno... they've actually been in Hell this whole time" or whatever. Call me a happy camper.

I dunno the Savage Brothers (other than that they have retarded haircuts), but they go on my list of people whose films I won't run screaming from in future. This time.

And then, in a complete one-eighty, I bring you The Presence.

This one almost lost me because the back blurb described it as a "dark romance". In my experience, those inevitably end sooooo cheesy. But... it's Mira Sorvino, and I've always liked her. So, I gave it a go.

This is a weird movie. I won't kid you on that. If you get bored easily, you won't make it past the beginning credits. I'm not sure how far into the film it was before a single line was spoken, but it was a damn long time. It takes balls for a director to risk that. Balls and confidence in the only two actors that have shown up thus far.

None of the characters have names. It sounds weird, but it works. It becomes clear that the man in the cabin isn't really there. When the woman shows up and completely ignores him, it's clear that he's not a corporeal being. But that's why there are no lines for so long -- he can't speak, and she doesn't know she's not alone.

And then she starts to get that feeling... and as it really sets in, her boyfriend arrives. Ratchet up the tension a notch. Here is where you start getting a feel for the characters. There are plenty of reasons she came to this place, and most of them have to do with being alone. I can dig that, though a lot of people wouldn't understand. But she's not as cold as she starts to act, and even the ghost guy is perplexed about why she's acting so strangely.

Until he sees someone else whispering into her ear. Whispering poison, whispering lies, whispering bittersweet reason and bullshit rationale that she can't help but listen to and react to.

But forget all of that. It's a fascinating story, though it may not sound that way as I've described it, but that's not why I think I've fallen in love with this flick. I fell for it because of the ending.

I cannot stress enough how important an ending is. For me, it'll make or break a flick. A bad ending will piss me off to the end of time. A good ending can salvage even a so-so movie and leave me with good feelings.

This ending is... ballsy. The whole flick is ballsy, but taking this particular track in Hollywood? BALLSY. It left me with such a good feeling after everything that had happened. This wasn't a darkly romantic tale (although I can see why they called it that because it defies any other pat explanation). This was... this was what horror movies have forgotten. What all the Saw flicks in the world can never understand or hope to duplicate.

It didn't need blood. Didn't need torture chambers. Didn't need ridiculously Goldberg device entrapments. This flick actually connected me to the characters so strongly that I felt more for their struggle and emotional pain than I could ever feel for any of those torture porn flicks I refuse to watch.

And this was the directoral debut. Seriously. Someone came in with a set of cajones the size of watermelons to get this one in the can and on the screen, and I'm glad for it.

I've been pretty disappointed in movies lately, but these four have really made the others worth the while. I'd watch a lot of Hobo with a Shotgun flicks to see one flick as good as any of these.

Good times.