I’ve been devoting the past couple of Octobers with a dive into the horror genre, as it’s an area I haven’t really explored. Since October is that time of the year when horror movies pop up all over tv, it’s only appropriate to use this particular month to discover what’s out there beyond the basic mainstream stuff. When I look back on my childhood, I try to remember my first introduction to horror. It wasn’t until the early 1980s when cable television first became available to the town where I was growing up, and as it got hooked up, my brother and I were practically on our knees begging our parents to subscribe to HBO (which cost extra, but we were too young to understand the concept of finances). The number one reason why we were begging was that HBO was showing Star Wars, and it was only way we could watch it during those more primitive formative years. My parents caved, and suddenly we had access to all sorts of films. There are a number of movies I still love today only because they played on HBO so much as a kid that they grew on me over the years. My favorite film genre as a kid was fantasy, thanks to constant showings of Dragonslayer, Time Bandits, and Excalibur.
I will confess that I’m not that familiar with the career of Takeshi “Beat” Kitano. Kitano has had a long career in Japan, where he began his early years in the 1970s as a comedian and television host, and then transitioned to filmmaking in the late 1980s, writing, directing, and starring in his own films. It was just earlier this year that I was able to view his 1989 directorial debut, Violent Cop, in the theater for the first time. The film is just what you’d expect from the title, where he plays a rogue cop taking down a drug trafficking ring using unconventional and violent methods. When Kitano was offered the chance to direct the film, he used it as an opportunity to force audiences to start seeing him as being able to tackle more serious roles outside of his comedic profession.
Leo and Marlon are two friends looking for a little excitement and more money in their lives. As the film opens, they are getting ready to order breakfast at a diner before they go to work at their menial jobs. They want to perform a heist in the hopes to get some decent amount of money so Marlon can take a trip somewhere and for Leo maybe the money can help him move on after a bad breakup with his fiancé. But they don’t have a concrete plan yet (they’ve never done a robbery before) until Leo suggests a house they can break into whose owners are on vacation. The house is in a gated community, so they just have to figure out how to successfully get in and out past the security guard. As they cobble a plan and the next scene begins, the movie’s title, A Bad Idea Gone Wrong, pops up. At this point, I know what I’m getting into, and I’m officially along for the ride.
Sometimes the closest I can get to a vacation is through movies. I can visit different countries or locations for cheap without even leaving my house! Well, maybe movies aren’t a substitute for the real thing, but just let me dream okay? Also it’s more affordable for me right now to live vicariously through movies.
If you’re looking for a fun horror comedy, then Tragedy Girls is what you need to watch. Having had the opportunity to view this film as part of a local horror film festival called Psychorama, I find the film still enjoyably sticking in my head weeks later. It’s like a hybrid that combines horror films like Scream with teen comedies like Clueless (let’s say Scream was told from the point of view of the killers, and they happen be a pair of fashionable teenage girls).
I honestly can’t think of a more appropriate title for a movie than This Is Not What I Expected. It’s a Chinese film that showed up at my local theater recently and I went into it not really knowing what to expect at all. I had only seen a trailer for it but still wasn’t sure exactly what type of film it was going to be. So by the time it ended, it wasn’t what I expected, but that was a good thing.
The documentary Another Year from filmmaker Shengze Zhu is about a year in the life of a poor Chinese migrant family. Migrant workers typically travel from their rural hometowns into the city for factory or construction jobs. This film takes place in the city of Wuhan, China, and we meet a family of six: a husband and wife, their three children, and the husband’s mother. This three-generation family lives in just a 200 square-foot apartment in the city, and the documentary attempts to provide a glimpse into their lives through 13 takes, one a month, over the course of a year. Each take is filmed in real-time, lasting anywhere from around seven to 20 minutes, and takes place during meal times.