Wednesday, February 15, 2017

JIMBO GOES TO THE MOVIES: 'Split' and 'Death Race 2050' DOUBLE REVIEW!

M. Night Shammalammadingdong cranks out another 'un, while Roger Corman decides 40 years isn't too late to make a sequel. 

By: Jimbo X

Well folks, I've finally found it - the absolute stupidest Wikipedia article of all-time.

And let's not downplay this momentous occasion by writing of all the other dumb Wikipedia articles as minor annoyances, because they've got some downright idiotic ones on that site.

No, folks, this article is worse than the entry for "fictional tricksters." It's worse than the entry for "gender representation in video games." Hell, it's even worse than the entry for "list of furry role-playing games."

Ladies and gents, somebody out there actually made a Wikipedia page about racism in horror films.

Now, from the get-go, you know it's going to be a big ole steaming pile of bull hockey because they use the term "people of colour" with the extra "u," which means it was prolly written by somebody in a country where they only have five or six actual black people in it. You know what? I reckon I'm just going to have to republish the first two paragraphs - charmingly titled "White dominated world" - of this damn thing in its entirety for you to truly grasp the awfulness of the situation:
The stories in horror films are very central to white culture and lifestyle. The films often cater to the fears of white people drawing upon their fantasies.[4] Many horror films stem from a figure or event interfering with an ideal or precious lifestyle, threatening to take away the comfort of the protagonists. Horror genres such as slashers, home invasion, and paranormal films are examples of an unknown "other" coming into the protagonists lives. This presence of the unknown "other" forces the characters to deal with pain, ultimately pushing the protagonist to the point where they must stand up to the attacker and become the hero.[5]
Horror films often start by clearly showing the ideal life or plans of the main characters, showing their promising futures, and privileged everyday lives. Movies like Funny Games and Friday the 13th showcase this setup, with characters going to vacation like destinations to either relax or achieve their goals. These movies are set up in this way to interrupt the fantasy of escaping everyday life. White audiences seek excitement like relaxing in a vacation home or spending the summer at a camp, and to violate that privileged fantasy is the goal of most horror films.[5]
Now, as something of a horror historian (meaning I read a book about it once in the seventh grade), I can tell you up front that the "other" whoever wrote this stupid ass article talks about ain't the black man. Why? Because for the first 40 years of cinema, the only horror movies being made were made by people who had never even seen a black person in their life. You think the folks who made The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari were secretly worried about an African-American uprising? You honestly believe the guys who made The Golem and Nosferatu  and The Student of Prague gave half a shit about people of colour taking their jobs? No way, Jose, because the entire damn genre has its roots in post World War I German expressionism

What these people were afraid of was the Wiemar Republic collapsing and some megalomaniac coming to power and sending them to war all over again, not some dude name Jamal moving into the cul de sac. Even once you get into the heyday of Universal Studios' creature features and all those big bug movies of the 1950s, the great "other" terrifying audiences wasn't black power, but atomic power - the idea that modern science and technology was beginning to spiral out of our meager human hands' control Really, you had to wait all the way until 1968 with Night of the Living Dead before anybody really tried to directly address racism in the genre, and even then, the director himself keeps saying whatever political statement that came out of it was 100 percent unintentional.

But now this Wikipedia article is about to get all kinds of retarded on us. Again, this is the kind of shit I have to print in full, so you can soak up all of the sheer inanity firsthand:
Horror films have a tendency to ignore actual social issues, and the root causes of violence.[4] People within minorities, however, have first-hand experience with the violence depicted. According to Ariel Smith, a native horror filmmaker, "We do not need to think up imagined incidents of vicious, macabre torture. The horror, the terror: it's all around us".[4] In horror films made by/created for minorities, realism acts as the source of fear, rearing from current issues faced by minorities and using it cinematically.[4]
Say whut? Horror movies ignore social issues? The whole goddamn genre is ABOUT facing social issues. Wasn't Dawn of the Dead about mindless consumerism? Wasn't They Live about Reaganomics and the underhanded practices of the advertising business? Wasn't It's Alive about the nation's pro-life/pro-choice schism? Hell, even the rise of the slasher movie in the late 1970s can be seen as a conservative reaction to the sexual liberation movement. Even the cheesiest horror movies out there usually have some kind of real world commentary. For fuck's sake, the ultimate embodiment of camp cinema, Godzilla, started off as a metaphor for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and there's so much academic stuff out there explaining why movies like Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street are actually PRO-feminist that you could probably fill up an entire library floor.

Which segues quite nicely into the comments from one Ariel Smith, this make-believe Jew-Indian from Ottawa who I'm pretty sure is the person who wrote the Wikipedia article. Pardon me, Pocahontas, but exactly how many black folks do you know that have had Dracula chase them around in a haunted mansion? You know of any Meskins who had to outrun Leatherface and his clan of cannibal hillbilly brethren when they crossed the Rio Grande? Can you name a single LGBT Eskimo who's survived a night on the run from a hockey-mask wearing machete killer? Show me one Filipino crossdresser who has "first-hand experience with the violence depicted" in a movie like From Beyond or Basket Case and I'll break dance in your living room for half an hour. 

And what kind of "realism" is this broad talking about concerning ethnic horror films? You mean those outstanding documentaries chronicling real world inner city violence, Scream, Blacula, Scream and Black Devil Doll From Hell? You mean the gripping, authentic account of Guillermo del Toro's real life experiences being chased around by a nine foot tall flukeworm with eyeballs in his palms as a child? Hell, if Takashi Miike has experienced just one percent of the things he's depicted in his movies in his actual life, methinks he'd be too shell shocked to even hold a camera upright, let alone make six or seven damn movies each and every year.

And why would anybody complain about the representation of ANY ethnic group in a genre that literally revolves around killing off 95 percent of the cast? To argue for more diversity in horror films is to literally demand MORE people of colour get killed onscreen OR you want to see more blacks, women, Asians, Hispanics and homosexuals portraying psycho killers. And even that old chestnut about black folks being the first to die in genre movies is a myth - in fact, non-scientific studies have determined that blacks are the first to get killed in just 10 percent of all genre movies. Hell, I can name off the top of my head at least 10 movies where one of the only survivors is a black person: Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, The ThingNight of the Demons, Friday the 13th Part 5, The People Under The Stairs (which is one of the few mainstream horror movies out there that is indeed explicitly about racism), Elm Street 3, Demon Knight, 28 Days Later and Halloween: Resurrection. If we're excluding all the crossover blaxploitation/horror hybrids out there where pretty much the entire cast is black, literally the only mainstream horror series I can think of with a black villain is Candyman. Just looking at the rock solid F.B.I. data, if anything, there's a staggering disconnect between the dearth of cinematic horror antagonists who are black and the real world share of actual African-American murderers - talk about avoiding social issues, eh?

The rest of the article is just a bunch of pissing and moaning about "magical negro" stock characters and Native American mythology, which intersects in exactly one horror film ever made. A good gander at the references used for the article - and my goodness, has Wikipedia ever gotten lax on what constitutes an official source of information - reveals about a dozen links to blogs written by pro-feminist women of colour (a.k.a, professional grievance hustlers) and a couple of college papers written by adjunct professors who will spend the rest of their lives in debt because they just had to get a master's degree in lesbian indigenous film studies.

You know, I have a hard time believing that this meets the "merit" requirements for a Wikipedia page. Indeed, if I didn't know any better, the entire thing was prolly created by one of the people listed in the references, just so her shitty Tumblr page or five sentence abstract on the symbolism of Iroquois vagina iconography in Poltergeist III got more web traffic. 

Come on, even a half retarded bot can see a line like "much of the attention that minorities get within horror films is through the use of their culture as plot devices and structures to scare or guilt the white protagonists," is a statement of personal opinion, not concrete fact. And how such brazenly false statements like "often times in these films, female and minority character have only a minor role in the plot" - when 9 times out of 10 the last character left standing in a horror film is a woman - have passed the great Internet populist smell taste this long is simply beyond me, folks.

Hate to break it to you, kids, but this isn't a screen shot - it's literally a third of the entire movie.
Speaking of things that are totally inexplicable, we've got a pretty discombobulating double feature to plow through this week. Up first, it's Split, the latest genre movie from M. Night Shammalammadingdong, which - believe it or not - has actually grossed more than $100 million at the box office since January.

Long story short - you know the pickings at the multiplex must be mighty slim if this sucker can hit the nine digit, two comma mark.

Right off the bat, I can tell you this one is a steep decline in quality from Shammalammadindong's last movie, The Visit, which was actually a pretty good little found footage movie. It's not quite as bad as some of the other movies he's made - there are still people in withdrawal from The Happening, I've read in at least one medical journal - but it's still a pretty big letdown. 

So we begin with these three high school girls at the mall played by 23-year-old actresses just enjoying some Orange Julius when one of their daddies gets the teriyaki chicken to-go box from Panda Express knocked out of his hands by some chrome dome carjacker who proceeds to spray 'em all with chloroform juice. Naturally, they wake up in some sort of subterranean lair, wondering how in the hell they got there, and that's when we get hit with the movie's big gimmick. 

You see, these girls aren't being held hostage by any old run of the mill psychosexual manaic. Oh, no siree Bob, they're being imprisoned by a guy who has no less than 24 split personalities, which you gotta' admit, is a pretty ingenuous way to spice up what would be an otherwise paint-by-numbers teen captive movie. So practically every four minutes, we're dealing with a different psycho killer personality. One's an autistic fashion designer, one's a gay hairdresser who talks like a James Bond villain, one's a Brooklynite with a germ phobia, one's a mental retard who wears a yellow rain slicker, thinks he's 9-years-old and has a lisp worse than Mike Tyson and - perhaps most terrifying of all - one of them's practically a skinhead Woody Allen

So for the first half hour, things are swimming along quite nicely. We've got the gals trying to break out of the ceiling with high heel shoes and everybody getting chased around a boiler room while our primary protagonist has flashbacks of her uncle giving her the bad touch during a hunting trip when she was in the second grade, and then we slam headlong into the thing that pretty much sinks the whole dang movie. 

Say it with me, kids: psychiatrist fu

I'm not kidding, I'd venture to guess that at least a third of this whole movie involves the schizophrenic kidnapper visiting his shrink over and over again to talk about this mysterious 25th personality called "the beast" and all the times he gets in trouble at work. It's even worse because the psychiatrist sits around watching Wheel of Fortune and doing seminars where she talks about how people with disassociative personality disorders might actually have super powers, and I think all of this might have come about because a whole bunch of special interests dweebs complained about the depiction of the mentally ill in Shammalammadingdong's last movie and he felt he needed to at least delve into the positive side of having two dozen voices in your head telling you to strangle eleventh-graders to death. 

Well, I suppose you can figure out how this one ends. Eventually, our antagonist does evolve into that 25th personality, and he REALLY does have super powers, including the ability to climb on walls like Spider-Man and bend iron jail cell bars open like Popeye. And don't even think about trying to stab this motherfucker - all it does is make him angrier

Which - of course - leads to our big "everybody run down the halls a million billion times and even though we've got a shotgun never shoot the bad guy with it" grand finale. Yeah, it's pretty stale stuff, but I'll at least give 'em credit for coming up with a pretty hilarious post-post-post-modern "the deep, dark secret is revealed" sequence where our final girl uncovers the truth about her captor ... by finding out he maintains 24 separate YouTube accounts.

Oh, and there's a really, really great surprise ending that isn't exactly a twist, but it is something you'll definitely want to stick around for, especially if you are a fan of the overall Shammalammadingdong filmography.

We've got three dead bodies. No breasts (but the captives are in their underwear for most of the movie, if that'll give you your jollies.) One chair upside the head. Therapist crushing. Gratuitous Skype product placement. Gratuitous sandwich making. Gratuitous animal trivia. Gratuitous geek dancing. Gratuitous camping trip flashbacks. Chloroform Fu. And, of course, the thing that made the whole plot possible - failed cognitive behavioral therapy Fu.

Starring James McAvoy, as the psycho high school student kidnapper who says lines like "only through pain can you achieve greatness" and "the broken are more evolved"; Anna Taylor-Joy as the final girl none of the other girls like who momentarily stops the psychosexual maniac by showing him a bunch of self-inflicted wounds on her stomach; Haley Lu Richardson as the obligatory blonde jailbait who says "we should drop a crazy ass bomb on him"; and Betty Buckley as the therapist who's too dumb to realize the patient that emails her 45 times a day is trying to skin teenagers alive in the basement of a zoo and at one point describes Hooters as the King Richard III of fast food places.

Not your best, M. Night, but I'll at least give you some credit for responding to critics who said your last movie insulted the mentally disabled by following it up with a movie that paints them in an even worse light. I give it two stars out of four - it prolly ain't worth paying full price for, but if they're playing it at a dollar theater near you, it does give you an excuse to avoid the misses for a full two hours.

The totally needless romantic subplot in the original movie may have been tepid, but these two stiffs somehow manage to make Nekromantik look like 9 1/2 Weeks.
And if you thought that one was a bit of a head scratcher, what 'til you get a load of the ass-end of our double header: Roger Corman's Death Race 2050

Yeah, I have no earthly clue why they decided they needed to make a sequel literally 40 years after the first one came out. Maybe the failure of the big budget, big studio remake a few years ago (which, itself, spawned a slate of sucky straight-to-Redbox sequels and a knock-off of the knock-off starring the Insane Clown Posse and former ECW 'rassler Raven) had something to do with it, or maybe old Roger's gotten so senile he just rubber stamps every script that people send him to nowadays. Regardless, Death Race 2050 got made, and ... 

... well, to be honest, it ain't as bad as you'd expect it to be. Of course, it pales in comparison to the greatness of the original movie, and this four decade late re-do doesn't come anywhere close to matching its progenitor's biting political satire. And strangely enough, the special effects in this one are somehow worse than the ones in the original Death Race 2000 (which came out two years before Star Wars), but hey - at least we get Malcolm McDowell hamming it up for the camera while he puts on the worst Donald Trump impersonation you've ever seen in your life, so don't you dare say these people didn't try at least a little.

The plot is pretty much the exact same thing as Death Race 2000, except this time around, everybody's acting shitty on purpose - which, as you all know by now, is one of my biggest pet peeves with contemporary B-movies. While the smarmy, self-deprecating "comedy" is annoying as all hell, at least the actors in this one are moderately above average for this kind of flick. I mean, sure, there's no real chemistry ... or character development ... or even a real third act, now that I think about it ... but they pronounce most of their lines right, and for that, they should be applauded. 

A real big problem with this movie, though, is that it tries to be a sequel to Idiocracy more than a sequel to Death Race 2000. There's this whole subplot about the nation (rechristened as the United Corporations of America) having a 99.93 percent unemployment rate because everybody just plays with their VR goggles and eats anti-depressant laced Cheese Whiz all day, and it just feels like that's what the director wanted to focus on instead of the street pizza segments. The actual racing in this movie is god awful, with horrible CGI effects that look ten times shoddier than what we saw in the original. Say what you will about the inherent corniness of Death Race 2000, but at least the cars LOOKED real and looked like they were in actual motion instead of being greenscreened on somebody's MacBook Pro. 

BUT the new racers aren't too shabby. We've get this one bible thumping farmer's daughter named Tammy the Terrorist who tries to convince her fans to let her run 'em over because it'll send them to the great Hooters all-you-can eat buffalo chicken wing buffet in the sky and another one named Minerva Jefferson who I didn't even know was a woman until about 20 minutes before the movie ended who blasts a rap song with the lyrics "drive, drive, drive, kill, kill, kill, drive, drive, drive, kill, kill, kill the white people" at full volume while dodging hillbilly gunfire in what was the NRA belt. There's also a self driving car that gives its occupants electronic orgasms and the big bad guy is this boring narcissistic guy named Jed Perfectus who really isn't even all that ripped (yeah, a machine gun toting Sylvester Stallone, this fella' ain't) but the thing we really got to talk about is how badly they screwed up Frankenstein. Remember how eerily calm and collected David Carradine's take on the character was? Well, this time around, they've got this one dude who's basically a poor man's Gerard Butler playing him, and there's even an entire subplot in there about how his motivation for the race is being able to adopt puppies with mange in the offseason. 

So yes, it is a very, VERY watered-down imitation of the original, and the bulk of the humor - there's a gag about Baltimore being renamed "Upper Shitville" and a joke about an elementary school being named after Justin Bieber, among other kneeslappers - comes off as depressingly desperate. But what the movie lacks in ... well, pretty much everything ... it almost makes up for with sheer gratuitous violence. It might not be able to match the pure twisted metal transcendence of its forerunner, but at the same time, it's still next to impossible to hate a movie with not just one, but three sequences in which severed heads fly through the air spraying blood and spinal fluid in slow motion.

We've got 107 dead bodies. Ten breasts. Four totaled automobiles (and that's an unforgivably low number for a movie of this type.) Legs roll. Heads roll. Arms roll. Intestines roll. Bumper through the stomach. Spear to the abdomen. Spear to the groin. A guy sliced in half by trip wire. Head crushed under a tire. Head crushed with somebody's bare hands. MULTIPLE slow-motion suicide bomber explosions. Knife to the mouth. One transcontinental brawl. Gratuitous rockabilly music. Gratuitous break-dancing ninjas. Terrible Kung Fu. Flamethrower Fu. And, as to be expected, a total lack of original ideas Fu.

Starring Manu Bennett as the extremely poor man's Gerard Butler, who tries his best to say lines like "cheerleaders don't come to practice" with a straight face; Marci Miller as Frankenstein's traveling companion, who has the best line in the entire movie - "it's hard to turn global famine into clickbait"; Burt Grinstead as the movie's hyper forgettable main villain; Folake Olowofoyeku as the gender-bending, honky-hatin' rapper who's actually an Ivy Leaguer who quotes Blaise Pascal when the cameras are off; and Anessa Ramsey as Tammy the Terrorist, the psycho Jesus Freak with a Southern drawl who dresses up like a combination of Wonder Woman and Jan Crouch while spitting out gems like "math is for heathens and nerds" and damn near steals the whole movie in the process. Directed by some guy named G.J. Echternkamp and produced by the one and only Roger Corman, who apparently has decided to spend his golden years crapping out even worse movies than he did back in his salad days as movie-dom's exploitation par excellence. 

There's definitely some good gore in this one - too bad they forgot to wrap an actual movie around it, though. Still, I'm feeling a little generous, so I'll give it two and a half stars out of four. Check it out on Netflix, if you want - you prolly won't hate it that much.


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