6WH: Week 4 - Comic Horror

It occurs to me that this year's Six Weeks of Halloween movie marathon is about as long as possible (assuming the six weeks begin on a Sunday) because Halloween falls on a Saturday this year. As such, we're just a hair over the midway point of the marathon, and after last week's batshit insanity, I decided to go a more humorous route this week. Some genre mashups go together like ink and paper (numbers on a calculator), but balancing horror and comedy is a tricky beast that few films manage to tame. Some figure it out by accident; the fabled "so bad it's good" type of movie often runs on an engine of unintentional comedy. But intentionally mashing these genres up takes a deft touch, and even the best examples often veer hard in one direction or another. I'm hard pressed to think of two better examples than Shaun of the Dead and Ghostbusters, but you already knew about those, didn't you? So let's troll the depths of Netflix in search of more.
  • Shining (Fake Trailer)
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V: The Shinning
  • What We Do In The Shadows (trailer)
  • Housebound - After a hair-brained attempt to rob an ATM machine, Kylie is sentenced to house arrest by the judge. The catch is that it's her childhood home with her step-father and frustratingly talkative mother. Also, apparently, ghosts! With the aid of the security officer who monitors her ankle-band (he is an amateur paranormal investigator, naturally), Kylie transitions from selfish punk to mildly-interested in figuring out what is going on. Apparently, house arrest is quite boring so you could argue otherwise, but Morgana O'Reilly plays Kylie with such aplomb that you can't help but fall in love with her, despite her curmudgeonly sneering and initially self-absorbed whining.
    Housebound
    We are spared any romantic subplots, allowing that central performance to really shine through, and O'Reilly doesn't waste the opportunity. I don't want to say more about the plot, especially as it really starts to twist and turn later on, but it's quite enjoyable, with a good proportion of creepy atmosphere and just enough of that quirky New Zealand weirdness to win you over. Of the movies I watched, this one is the clear winner. Great central performance, just enough humor to carry the day, and the best use of a cheese grater ever. Recommended! ***
  • The Ring Video Dating (Robot Chicken)
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror: Bad Dream House
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide To Murder (short)
  • Out of the Dark - Stephen Chow's made a career out of genre mashups, and this early one works reasonably well for fans of the genre, even if it isn't nearly as seamless as Chow's best work (Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer are excellent and worth checking out). The Looney Tunes-like slapstick is the highlight of the film, mostly driven by our intrepid hero, played by Chow, a literal mental patient who dresses up like Leon The Professional and fancies himself a ghost hunter ever since he visited a circus and confused the paper mache monsters for the real thing.
    Out of the Dark
    The scenes with him training the security personnel of a haunted building are delightfully well structured and build on the humor with each variation. The romance is a little less successful, though one can't help but appreciate her pluck when she goes to visit Chow's character by dressing up like Natalie Portman in The Professional. There are one or two decently creepy moments in the film, but the balance tends to favor the more slapsticky side of things, which gives the film less coherence than you'd usually want. The plot, concerning a haunting of a high-rise, is pretty standard stuff and doesn't really hold much interest. This is a fine movie, but Chow doesn't quite hold it all together the way he managed later in his career. Worth checking out for students of the genre. **
  • Tremors (trailer)
  • A Ruined Nation (Robot Chicken)
  • The Netherbeast of Berm-Tech Industries, Inc. (Short)
  • Grabbers - An Irish monster comedy that plays into the stereotype, this one mashes up several tropes and sub-genres to get to the finish line. You've got your typical monster movie conventions, then we've got the the by-the-book cop gets assigned to a rural town and falls in love with the local whilst solving a string of mysterious murders sub-genre (yeah, that old chestnut), and then a good old-fashioned drinking film, a stereotypically Irish sub-genre. Our hero is played by Ruth Bradley, a charmingly prim and proper young woman who is partnered with the generally drunken, curly haired local cop. She looks askance at his general approach, but unlike Out of the Dark's romance, this one works reasonably well.
    Grab her
    The monster works well too, all tentacles and goop. When it's discovered that the attacking monsters can't process alcohol and thus avoid drunk victims, our intrepid heroes endeavor to get the whole town together in the pub to tie one on. You know, for their own safety. This isn't quite as uproariously funny as you'd hope, but it's got plenty of laughs balanced out by solid monster movie execution. This isn't the sort of thing that feels the need to reinvent the wheel or to go particularly deep, but it knows what it's doing and it does it well. Definitely worth checking out, if for no other reason than to see Ruth Bradley's adorable drunken bravura. **1/2
Also of note, What We Do in the Shadows, a movie already covered on the blog (ever so briefly), but highly recommended and hilarious (would make a great double feature with Housebound)! A generally successful mission in Week 4, and you know, Shaun of the Dead and Ghostbusters are pretty much annual rewatches at this point, but you already know about them so I don't need to go over them, right? Good. Stay tuned for next week's theme, scary puppets. Or something like that.