Ted Zep’s Favorite Films of 2015

Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno

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Yeah, I get it. The Green Inferno will probably not populate many Top 10 lists of 2015, and by “many,” I mean “any.” It’s not a great film in the traditional sense. But, then again, it is.

The plot revolves around Justine (Lorenza Izzo), a college freshman with a blossoming interest in social activism. She soon becomes involved with a group of activists that are going on a trip to Peru to protest the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the displacement of the indigenous people living there. The protest is a success, but on the return trip to the United States disaster besets the small plane carrying them. It crashes. Soon after, the survivors come face-to-face with one of the ancient native tribes that they were there to champion. They are captured and imprisoned by this tribe of cannibals and, well, mayhem ensues as the captives wait in terror for their ultimate destiny.

The film is a tribute to Italian horror classic, Cannibal Holocaust, one of the most notorious films of the genre. (In fact, Eli Roth named the picture after the film-within-a-film in Holocaust.) Detractors of The Green Inferno feel that, as a tribute to a movie that “goes there” when it comes to violence and gore, it comes up short. I’m a bit more forgiving. While this film doesn’t go for the throat in the same manner that it’s inspiration does, there are definitely some satisfyingly graphic moments. In fact, there are a couple humdingers. To be fair, Roth was a bit hindered, in that certain elements–such as ACTUAL on-screen animal murders that gave Cannibal Holocaust it’s sour realism–aren’t gonna fly in this day and age. Nor should they.

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Roth has a definite point of view about the danger of misplaced/uninformed activism. Indeed, it is integral to the plot. Without spoiling too much, Justine’s family has political connections that, unknowingly to her, make her more valuable to the mission–and place her in more danger–than she is clued in on. The eventual fate of the activists fall in line with the “don’t-stick-your-nose-where-it-doesn’t-belong”-tone of the film.

Much of the fun of the moviegoing experience began the week before it’s release when Stephen King posted this Tweet:

THE GREEN INFERNO is like a glorious throwback to the drive-in movies of my youth: bloody, gripping, hard to watch, but you can’t look away.”

Talk about tweaking anticipation.

That’s why I include the film. It’s fun. (Well, as fun as torture, dysentery, mutilation, and flesh consumption can be.) Roth’s love of Cannibal Holocaust bleeds through in, ahem, every bloody scene. It’s disturbing and gory, all while paying tribute to a bygone era.

Available on DVD & Blu-ray on January 5, 2016

 

It Follows

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It Follows provides a fresh take on the tired ghost/zombie genres. In a nutshell, high school student “Jay” (played by burgeoning scream queen Maika Monroe) is tethered to a supernatural entity after a sexual encounter with her boyfriend passes the burden of the haunting to her. He explains what he has done and disappears, leaving her tied up and abandoned.

After freeing herself, she returns home. The being, which can assume any appearance, relentlessly stalks her. It assumes the form of friends and family members, but is not limited to such. The inventive and monotonous heaviness generated by the pursuit of the entity adds a thick layer of grim dread to the film that leaves the viewer, at best, thoroughly uneasy.

Eventually, Jay and her friends track down the ex-boyfriend. He reiterates to her that the entity can only be transmitted to another person through the intimate physical engagement of sex. He encourages her to transfer the scourge as he did. Jay must then decide to pass on the curse or deal with it.

The film has legs in a way that most horror doesn’t. The “curse,” as an analogy for, say, sexually transmitted disease allows for interpretations of the film far deeper than the cold bullet points of the plot alone. However, the “curse” is defined so broadly that it may apply to any number of real world situations. Therein lies the richness of the film. It’s disturbing because it’s plausible and relatable.

It Follows is stylish, lo-fi, and very scary. Many critics have named it not only the best horror film of the year, but of the last number of years.

 

Krampus

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I despise Christmas movies. (Actually, I’m not even a huge fan of the holiday as a whole, but that can be saved for another blog.) However, I made an exception this year to see the horror-comedy, Krampus. 

The cast is stacked: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, and David Koechner lead the ensemble.

The first 30-minutes are light, with a tone and plot similar to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (i.e., loving but dysfunctional family dreads a holiday visit by boorish family members).

After being mocked by his cousins, the youngest boy,”Max,” (Emjay Anthony) destroys his earnestly crafted letter to Santa Claus, thus triggering a visit later from the horrifying Krampus.

There are some genuine laughs early. There is a warmth and familiarity that lull the viewer into a feeling of safe complacency.

Then the movie takes a left turn.

The switch in tone from light to dark is handled seamlessly.

Critics have likened it to Gremlinsand there are certainly similarities. During the early stages of mayhem, I can understand where the comparisons are made. However, Krampus has a darkness about it that Gremlins never quite approaches.

My lone complaint is the ending of the film. A figurative “backdoor escape” is included to soften the blow of the grim beats of the plot. If only director (and co-writer) Michael Dougherty would have made a different choice, the film would have perfectly stuck the landing. Be clear, it is a small choice and does not ruin the overall quality of the film.

As far as I’m concerned, Krampus is an instant seasonal classic. Die Hard, Bad Santa, and A Christmas Story finally has some company for the holidays.

 

To be continued…

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