What I'm Watching: Hammer Dracula

The Hammer Dracula films deviate weirdly from the book, and each iteration gets stranger. Still, I'd like to see the rest; I've probably watched all of them at some point but it's been many decades.

  • Horror of Dracula (1958): Jonathan Harker is an ineffectual agent for Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), this time posing as a librarian for Count Dracula (Christopher Lee), whose castle is in "Klausenberg"/Cluj, Romania. The castle is quite nice, moody and gothic but also cleaned up enough to be a run-down Romanian palace. There's a pretty, slutty vampire wench in lieu of the 3 vampire brides. Soon enough we're in Karlstadt, Bavaria: No London or long sea voyages for this production! Mina has morphed into (pompous asshole) Arthur's blonde hausfrau wife (100% opposite of the Mina of the book), Lucy has become his chaste, brunette, engaged to Jonathan sister (even more variant, and completely changes the sexual element of her corruption). There's a Dr John Seward, but he's incidental, there's never a Quincey Morris cowboy in these adaptations.

Van Helsing does soon recruit Arthur and reveals while recording a gramophone memo (for this is an advanced 1885) all the powers and vulnerabilities of the vampire, in case you didn't know. Dracula is physically very powerful in his castle, but here in Karlstadt he relies entirely on suggestion and sneaking around, and while he has his way with "Lucy" the heroes quickly apply their scientific knowledge to destroy him.

The sets are nice, the film is bright and colorful. Chris Lee and Peter Cushing are excellent in their characters. But the script is nonsense, the plot is nothing like Dracula.

★★★★☆

  • I can't find #2 Brides of Dracula or #3 Dracula Prince of Darkness in any reasonable way. Maybe later I'll catch up.

  • Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1969): #4 in the series. It is now 1905. A girl is murdered in a church in the shadow of Dracula's castle; this is never clearly explained, because at this time Dracula is in torpor, frozen in a river (I dunno, #3 did it). A Monsignor (not quite a Bishop) takes the useless local priest up to Dracula's castle, does spiritual warfare (nothing) and claims victory. Well, no, because the useless priest coincidentally resurrects Dracula. So… did Dracula make that happen? Or is it just bad luck, dozens of people fell nearby over the decades but not quite in the right place?

But now we're in "Keinenberg", which sounds German but everyone and everything looks English, much less set decoration effort. The useless priest, a hot redhead barmaid, and a useless boyfriend of the Monsignor's "daughter" all bumble about, Dracula hangs out in the basement and does nothing but smoke a lot of dope, judging from his red eyes. Normally a Hammer film doesn't have time to be boring, but this one feels like it's taken hours.

There's no Van Helsing, is what it is. Say what you will about Abe's "YOU DAMNED FOOL" personality, it moves the plot along. The Monsignor putters about and does nothing, and is too fat and old for rooftop adventures. The lovesick useless boyfriend barely knows his line "where's Maria!" Dracula broods and stares, but apparently lacks the energy to do anything, except kill the slutty redhead, who was the only one I liked.

A very brief return to the bar and front door of the castle in Cluj isn't really enough of a set change, mostly it's just wandering thru woods like any Z-grade flick.

None of the vampire rules seem to apply to this one. You can see Dracula's reflections, it doesn't take multiple feedings to turn a victim, he can enter a house on his own. It is claimed you need prayer to defeat a vampire, which is not at all true in any other film; right angles inexplicably repel vampires, but the religious trappings don't do anything.

★★☆☆☆

Both have a rather overbearing score by James Bernard, who did many another Hammer soundtrack. A lighter touch and it would've been a good soundtrack, but brass shrieking at the audience made it hard to hear lines.

What I Watched, Do Not Follow Me Into Hell: Suicide Squad

Just the worst. I knew going in this was bad, but it's jesus died for the sins of the filmmakers bad. Zero acting, zero script, mediocre CGI that could've been better done with a smoke sprayer and some cel art like Ghostbusters instead. There's shots of the infected building that look just like 1984's better movie.

I've never been more bored by Will Smith; Deadshot's an assassin with no remorse, but here he's daddy of the year. Boomerang keeps tucking a pink unicorn toy into his coat for no sane reason (actual Bronies just get tattoos and jerk it to pony porn, you know?), and barely does anything with his boomerangs or other gadgets. Croc's a gangsta stereotype, and just a normal-sized guy in latex, not a giant half-crocodile mutant who can literally bite a man's head off. Katana is a terrible one-note character in the comics, apparently, but here she's not even that. The rest of the squad are just boring. I like how they didn't even bother to give the disposable example villain any backstory or personality.

The "Hey Vern! It's Ernest!"-looking soldier boss is somehow allowed to sleep with an unstable metahuman whose heart they keep in a suitcase to stop from going on rampages. Amanda Waller is too cartoonishly evil to be in a cartoon, let alone this, you wouldn't trust someone like that with a squad of super-villains, you'd lock her up with them! You tell a room full of professional military that you're operating magic super-villains, but it's OK because the handler is porking her, and they won't thank you for your results. Everyone else normal and nameless dies, and there's zero empathy shown for them or the tens of thousands of people killed by the plot.

The fight scenes are trash. Mobs of black-faced unarmed "monsters" charge into gunfire, like the English murdering the Fuzzy-Wuzzy in Kipling's poem. If you're a reawakened ancient god, and you're building an army, I can see not realizing the value of firearms and modern tactics, but why aren't they armed with swords, spears, bows, slings? Nope, they're literally there to be targets. They rush up, grapple, die. At one point, some of the converted soldiers manage to shoot at the squad, with no cover, and they get annihilated by shitty CGI fire.

The boss fight scene is very directly ripped off from Ghostbusters, with Enchantress playing the part of Gozer, and then gets resolved by her being incredibly stupid, multiple times. You know, it's great that the villains can't hear the squad screaming instructions about "BOMB" across the room, or the surprise of the BOMB might not work. The magic sword that actually hurt you? Just leave it laying around, I'm sure that won't come back up.

This is a version where most of Jared Leto's scenes got cut out; I can't imagine spending more screen time with the loathesome creep who happens to play the Joker so badly. He slurs everything he says like he's got a mouthful of puddin'. He apparently really got into method-acting the Joker on set, which is not how you fucking behave if you're a human being. As I've long noted, the only good thing Jared Leto's ever done was get his head chopped off in American Psycho.

The one bright point to the entire film was Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, who does in fact kill it every chance she gets. "We're bad guys, it's what we do!" She's not just a stripper-with-a-bat, but the only one with any personality, or awareness of what being a super-villain means. Margot did most of her own stunts, and trained hard for it, and it shows. Except where she didn't get to do a stunt, and then it's very obvious, because the crew on this were absolutely incompetent.

OK, now I'm ready to watch Birds of Prey and see her in something good, right?

★½☆☆☆ — the ½ is for Margot.

What I'm Watching: Code 8

Code 8 (2019): Inexplicably, 4% of people have "powers": Brawn, Pyro, Cryo, Electric, Telekinetic, Telepath, Healer. You can make a pretty balanced City of Heroes party. But there's no costumed superheroes or supervillains, instead they do construction work, or are just petty criminals. So now the muggles have outlawed powers, and use "Guardians" (shitty human-sized robot Sentinels). I don't buy the premise, but it's no dumber than any other superpowered show, and is far less preachy about it than most.

Unfortunately, it's just a formulaic drug crime drama, Training Day for super-powered gangsters. There's a couple of good powered fights, one really amusing Electric kill, otherwise it barely needs the powers, just drugs. It feels like a failed TV pilot; they actually made a 10-minute short demo movie, that after 3 years of production work got them to this, but it still doesn't go anywhere.

As with most modern films, entirely too much is shot with cyan/orange filters so there's no other colors in deeply dark rooms.

Baby Henry Rollins (Robbie Amell) (character has a name but I don't care) is a stay-at-home good boy who tries to get normal jobs, not use his probably high-level Electric powers like his dead hoodlum father, his mother's sick and losing control of her Cryo powers.

So after a little humiliation day in and out being treated like an illegal immigrant worker, he takes up a life of crime, just to sock it away in his sock drawer, we never get to see Baby Henry Rollins go on a bender, he never has fun, he's just focused on his mom. I really don't like him, he's a sterile plastic homunculus like a Ken doll.

Imitation Walter Goggins (Stephen Amell, cousin to Baby Henry Rollins) is more fun, he's a good ol' boy gangbanger, takes care of his crew. But again we don't see much of his life or anything about him. The other two crew, one mute and one a snickering girl pyro assassin, are even more cyphers.

Their crime boss Imitation Riff Raff (Greg Bryk) is obviously evil and treacherous, keeps a girl Nia around for her power… and for once, she calls out Baby Henry Rollins "You just want me for my power", instead of treating him like a good guy for helping/using her.

Half-Bacon/Korean Cop (Sung Kang) does OK, and there's like 2 minutes of him getting any personality before he resumes reading the cop lines. There's no resolution to either his personal problems or his assertion he's going to bring in Baby Henry Rollins.

I don't like the message. Nothing really changes, the world just gets shittier and shittier, corrupt government, corporations, and mobsters get what they want, and you should just accept death and misery.

Fuck that. These people should rise up and slaughter the muggles in power, and anyone else who gets in the way, make them know fear, and pain, and then die. That'd be a good ending. That's basically the videogame Infamous, which had a lot more character development and personality than this film.

★★★☆☆

What I'm Watching: Invisible Man (2020)

So, a woman (Elisabeth Moss) who's apparently been given everything she wants, sabotages security systems and flees her husband's home in the night, releases his dog, dings his car. Then she acts like a prisoner in a "safe house" of a single black cop and his daughter, but never explains why. The husband (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, generic English prettyboy but has the stupid Millennial mullet, which means he's coded as villain) is so distraught he commits suicide, and the disrespectful wench can't even sit through his prepared statement at the will reading, only wants money money money.

To say I'm not sympathetic to the viewpoint character is a massive understatement. You need to show, not tell, to get any kind of sympathy.

Lifetime Movie Aside: There's a movie I saw, Enough (2002, Jennifer Lopez), a ripoff of Sleeping with the Enemy (1991, Julia Roberts) where it spends half the film showing her life with an abusive husband who makes her clean perfectly, turn can labels forward in a cupboard, behave perfectly, every petty thing, or he'll beat her; then she escapes, learns "krav maga" (but what it shows is just kickboxing/tai chi), and kicks his ass. It was as preposterous as any other Lifetime movie, but I didn't mind it because it shows, not tells.

Anyway, then she goes paranoid, starts seeing moving shadows, and footprints in sheets in an utterly dark room we can't see anything in either, finds things she lost, and starts committing crimes and claiming her dead, invisible husband did it.

She tries to get a new job, and stays at the safe house, despite having all the money money money from her dead husband's estate. None of her behavior makes sense for someone newly rich. Did the writer (Leigh Whannell, dude best known for the horrendous Saw movies) just forget they'd done that? If he wrote this as little snippets while drinking, it would explain a lot of the "plot". In fact, several of the "I won't hurt you, I'll hurt them!" bits are straight out of Saw.

Security Aside: This shouldn't be news to anyone in 2020, but lock your damned computer. On the Mac, you can do System Preferences, Desktop, Screen Saver, Start after 5 minutes (or whatever), then Security, General, Require Password 5 Seconds after screen saver. The  menu also has ^⌘Q Lock Screen now (formerly in Keychain Access); I don't know/care how Windows and Linux do it, but you can figure it out. Now nobody can get to your desktop and send emails pretending to be you. This is the most basic security procedure. She h4xx0r3d her husband's security at the start, and lip-polishes over the webcam (which on good computers can't be accessed without the green light), so clearly learning security matters… Then she doesn't do the most basic thing. And while I'm at hit, the dead husband had terrible choices for passwords and PINs, do not use important dates in your life! Memorize random number & word sequences!

If this was going to be a psychological study of PTSD, then pretending that the "bad guy" is actually doing it ruins that. If it's going to be an Invisible Man horror story, then never showing the invisible man doing anything until nearly the end ruins that. Either way, it's just 90 minutes of Elisabeth Moss whining. Egregiously so when she whines "You can have any girl! I'm just a suburban girl!"; Mz Moss is dressed down in hoodies and bad makeup here, and nearing 40 not as young as Peggy on Mad Men, but she's still cute, fit, in the top 1% of pretty girls. Can you imagine what kind of psychological damage this is inflicting on girls who aren't her? "Nobody will ever love you if you don't look better than Mz Moss" is the writer's message. FUCK THIS GUY.

Suit Applications Aside: Suppose the invisible super-suit did exist (which it does not, it's her delusion). Every military, espionage, and assassination organization in the world would want it. Who cares about one possibly crazy ex-wife, if you get the ultimate weapon? And what happens when you scale that up to tanks, planes, missiles? You think a cop is gonna let someone walk off with one?

When the brother-in-law offers to make charges go away, to protect his brother's kid, he's just doing his filial duty, it's not a trap. And poor Zeus the dog, he just wants both his people back, but they keep fighting.

The entire last third of the film is a delusional, hallucinating, psychotic widow killing family, friends, and anyone else getting in her way. It's tragic, but there's no invisible man.

★★☆☆☆

(Disclaimer: Movie tropes about insanity are not reality; I'm not characterizing actual mental illness this way.)

What I'm Watching: The Outsider

Miniseries on HoboMax based on a Stephen King novel; I haven't read him regularly since Gerald's Game, which I hated, so I'm not familiar, but if this is representative at all, which movies often are not of King's books, I should get back on the train. It's tangentially related to the Mr Mercedes series which I haven't seen yet.

I do note, almost every shot is in darkness, lit with the minimal number of in-scene lights, and often tinted cyan/orange as usual. It looks like absolute shit. The sound's worse, half the characters, especially the cop, mumble and slur their words, so you can't really watch it without subtitles. Bar music is muffled and ump-ump-umping, with colored gels making the bad lighting worse. Once in a long while, they manage to get a shot in sunlight, outside, and astoundingly they manage to point a camera at it correctly, but mostly this is just incompetently shot and miked. I miss films being, you know, watchable? Put more than a couple little streaks of photons on film?

Also like 90% of the dudes look alike, heavy middle-aged honkie goons with short hair, short beards. I don't know if this is bad casting or intentional? Since it could be anyone? But it plays hell with my mediocre face recognition skills.

The pacing in most scenes is somewhere between glacial and nonexistent, it could've been half the number of episodes with no loss.

On balance, the story being told just barely overcomes the drawbacks, but it's the worst-filmed of King's series and movies that I've seen.

The series starts like every crime drama, an old man with a dog out for a walk in the woods finds a kid's body, abused and bitten(!). Killers, stop leaving your bodies there, you know you're gonna be found, and then a detective with a troubled personal life will get involved and catch you. Well, this one maybe wants it.

So the cliché detective (small-town sheriff) with a troubled personal life arrests the person who looks good for it, with a bunch of blatantly out-of-character eyewitnesses and camera recordings, before the case starts falling apart badly.

Next a new protagonist, P.I. Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo, of Widows, Bad Times at the El Royale), goes looking for an explanation. She's a Rain Man fictional autistic genius type, which makes her awkward to watch and utterly implausible as a person, but a good stand-in for a text adventure or RPG player character, willing to go anywhere, ask anything, assemble giant notebooks of clues until the problem is solved.

SPOILERS

















Right up front Holly brings up the stories of Doppelgangers, Fetch, etc., dark shadows of people who commit atrocities in their form, and whether they're myth or just explanations for schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder, etc., but misses my favorite, the Navajo myth of the Skinwalker, a witch that takes the skin of an animal (or in really dark variants, a person) and assumes their form. I've been expecting that since the moment Terry was accused and obviously not playing the same person as the killer.

So far we have no motive for the skinwalker, but everything in it leads that direction: Claude gets copied at the titty bar. Terry got copied by the skinwalker at the nursing home. Heath got copied in New York. Maria got copied there. If you're a murderous skinwalker, NYC would seem to be the place to stay, nobody'd notice a few missing. Out in the boonies, anyone out of the ordinary is suspicious.

Aside, at one point in a back-story, a kid is scared by the movie Leprechaun (starring the inimitable Warwick Davis!), but the thing is, the leprechaun only kills those who steal his gold (or that he thinks did), so a kid might be squicked out by the gore, but shouldn't be afraid of leprechauns. +5 for reference, -10 for missing the point.

And that's relevant because later Holly's theory is that it's El Coco, here called "El Cuco", or basically the boogeyman. Which also makes no sense because none of the victims were bad kids, and universally we know that the boogeyman only takes away bad kids. If monsters under your bed were eating good kids, parents would rise up in anger & torches & pitchforks, but if they take bad kids, silent sigh of relief and "oh no my dirty-faced angel is gone oh well time to make another".

By episodes 4-5 it really starts to drag, there's no plot advancement except a few minutes of investigation here and there. A lot of repeated scenes of indistinguishable honkie dudes being crazy, the cop brooding, Holly being nerdy at random people who have no reason to hear her out.

E6 manages to get back on track, with Holly explaining everything she knows, making the last few episodes redundant, and new investigation into the monster's abilities.

Nope, E7-E8 are right back to moody nothing, a long car ride into nowhere, Ralph whining at his therapist but unable to even articulate the plot, Holly gets to be cool and stoic until she's not.

Finally, E9-10 have a confrontation, a slow but somewhat tense shootout, and something like final showdown. Even that's made dull, slow and methodical. And then excuses and lies to get the survivors out of trouble.

There's a little post-credits scene, don't just close it, but it doesn't do anything.

I really want to like this. Every element it's doing is clever, in competent filmmakers' hands it'd be great, it's just so incredibly badly told as a show, I can't.

★★½☆☆

What I'm Watching: The Long Kiss Goodnight

I had a rough night trying to find a thriller I hadn't seen. Started watching Clooney's The American, 3 minutes in it loses me by him killing an unarmed girl for no reason. Skipped to the end to get it out of my queue and there's another dead girl, so presumably he just does that a lot. If you kill a dog or an unarmed girl in a flick, I have zero sympathy.

Started watching the Barry series, which immediately pivots from low-rent killer premise to actors playing at learning to act for Hollywood, because actors are the most interesting people… no. They're fucking walking meatsticks, and best case they hit their marks and say their lines, and shut the fuck up otherwise.

So I gave up and watched something I've seen multiple times, but I know is not crap: The Long Kiss Goodnight, by Shane Black.

Now, the one real problem with this film. What I find implausible isn't the soap opera amnesia/MPD, it's that a homeless woman with no paperwork or cash comes out of the ocean and she's immediately able to get a teaching job, a house, raise a kid, have a square life.

Geena Davis & Sam Jackson are cute, of course, and Geena does a plausible turn as an assassin with mom-butt, but Craig Bierko as the antagonist really steals the show. He hasn't been in anything good since The Thirteenth Floor (1999), I mean literally nothing but soap opera, reality TV, and Scary Movie 4 garbage, just a dumpster fire of a career, but here he's just adorable, smirking and lounging around while still being obviously psychotic, he's got crazy eyes and perfect delivery.

Spoiler:










Oh. I'd forgotten this film, from 1996, basically lays out the plan for the CIA faking 9/11 to get their budget increased. Kill 4,000 people. "Oh, blame it on the Muslims, naturally." Yeah, I dunno IRL if they did it, maybe just gave the Saudis a little push?, but the CIA had motive, means, opportunity, and they're all soulless spooks, so this checks out.

There's a lot of points where the plot makes no sense, you'd just kill someone this annoying and get on with your mission. All the deathtraps, and leaving someone to be tortured (it is the CIA, and they love to torture), and kid hostage scenes, are just Shane Black shane-blacking it up. Standard tricks: 1) Teddy bear has a secret, 2) Running & shooting at a helicopter, 3) Exploded safely out of a house (not in a bathtub this time), 4) Tied up and water-tortured, 5) Kid is a hostage.

Unique tricks: 1) Escape from the freezer, I like the callback to the doll and the vigil candles, as I'm a sucker for inventory puzzles from text adventures. 2) The ice skating kills. 3) Way back at the beginning, One-Eye Jack freaking out at the TV.

Unfortunately some of it relies on the kid (Yvonne Zima, worst surname ever, who now plays soap opera & B-movie victims and hookers), and she has a formless, dumpy look and personality, and maybe they sedated her to get her to hold still, so it's utterly implausible that she grows a spine in one scene. Shouting "you can't be dead" at someone doesn't actually bring them back to life, that only works for Tinker Bell.

You'd think the Canadians would have somebody guarding a major border crossing, especially if there's an overturned tanker and a bunch of US pigs on the other side, even if it's just to offer donuts and say "So I see ya got an overturned tanker, eh?" But no Canadians could be arsed to show up.

I don't buy the Charly personality going back in the box as "Samantha" again. She might compromise to raise the dumpy kid, but there's no way she's back on the PTA and marrying the boring white dude.

Didn't quite earn the ½ for rising above cliché, but it's a perfectly fine shoot-em-up.

★★★★☆

What I'm Watching: Lovecraft Country

Based on a fixup "novel" of short stories by Matt Ruff about racism and the supernatural in the lives of a black family in 1950s New England. And then adapted by Jordan "Get Out! I'm Gonna Make Another Good Movie or Show Someday I Swear!" Peele.

Humn, an unpleasant observation. I've read Matt "Chubby White Dude" Ruff before, and wasn't pleased. His Sewer, Gas & Electric trilogy uses tropes of cyberpunk without understanding the ethos of "the street finds its own uses for things (mil/industrial tech)", he just puts power in the hands of a bureaucracy and megacorporations. And it's grossly, excessively racist while trying to… make fun of racism? I don't know what his point was, as I threw the book out halfway thru. In it all black people die of a plague so androids are made with black skin and racist caricature behaviors, to be slaves forever, because white people missed them so. Yes, I'm serious. When you're looking for a guy to translate around H.P. Lovecraft's product-of-his-time racism into more modern terms, Matt Ruff's not the guy I'd pick.

HoboMax is doing the annoying "just like old-timey television" shit of only releasing one ep a week, which I haven't had to deal with since killing cable and buying DVD boxes around 2000. So this just covers S1E1.

On with the show.

A black Korean war veteran Atticus (Jonathan Majors) who loves pulp literature, his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) who edits the Green Book, down-on-her-luck friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett), go on a little road trip into "Lovecraft Country", weird New England from Salem up to Maine, looking for Tic's missing father. Who's an asshole, apparently.

They do need the Green Book, early on we see incredibly hostile racist places. I'm very far in time and culture from these, so maybe I'm off, but I've read period histories and a lot of crime & pulps… and they're exaggerating to an extreme level. I don't buy fat New Englanders racing out of nowhere in car chases with fire engines and gunfire, just because black people sat in a restaurant, without first escalating from threats and bats, to threat of lynching, and then going Mad Max. Inbred pyschotic states like Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, or Texas, sure, but not Pennsylvania. The Green Book used to recommend that black people always carry bail money if they went to Missouri, not "Don't go they'll KILL YOU!"

Matt Ruff. Jordan Peele.

The period is often confused, between Tic's dreams which waver all over time and space from WWII to aliens & saucers from '60s-70s UFO nuts, Cthulhu illustrations popularized in the '80s-'00s, and sets, cars, and costumes which are almost but not quite period '50s, a lot of it looks '60s. I'm not sure how much of that is intentionally making a timeless hostile place, some of it the difficulty of actually making period sets. The music is intentionally anachronistic, which has modern rap mixed in with period blues and jazz; I find that jarring and incompetent, regardless of what their intent was.

So after meeting all the Human monsters, we get 10 minutes with the "real" monsters. Who do great at killing no-name mooks, but are apparently utterly helpless against named characters. For a scene that's supposed to be a horrific chase… it was just goofy. Letitia's running scene, in particular, looked like one of those endless runner videogames, or Telltale Games' "story on rails with quick-time events" games, where you dodge a little left or right, jump now, hammer X to grab the thing. The pacing, the comically bad CGI cartoon look of the monsters, and the stoic/detached/whacked out on 'ludes attitude the actors all have, destroy any "horror" from these things.

I like Tic, he's a good adventurer hero, and his love of pulp SF which often has unpleasant attitudes with a "people are complicated" philosophy. Letitia's a little strident but bland. Uncle George is awfully naïve and passive for a civil rights organizer.

The plot so far has been very episodic and unconnected, a toddler's "and then this happened, then this, then this", and the cliffhanger of them knocking on a front door, wearing bloody rags, and not being shot for their hubris is out of nowhere.

I'm willing to put up with a lot if they actually get to some real horror, but so far it's very comical.

★★★☆☆

What I'm Watching: October Faction

Adapted from an IDW comic. The comic is by spooky Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), with Damien Worms' art, which ranges from blatantly ripping off Charles Addams' "Addams Family" cartoons, to blatantly ripping off Ben Templesmith who formerly worked with Niles; and Ben's entire career is ripping off Bill Sienkiewicz. I've read one of it, wasn't at a time when I cared enough to keep following it, but it seemed fun. At some point I may get all the collected volumes, maybe for Halloween.

The show doesn't really match up. The comic's dark gothic look, skulls and shadows everywhere, lots of backlit outlines, is replaced with perky yuppies in suits, and their annoyingly precocious children. The house could be creepy and gloomy, it has weird locked rooms and summoning circles… but it's always brightly lit, and almost never the set. Instead they're out in the woods like a B-movie, or at a police station, or anywhere but home.

The premise suffers from translation, from a retired monster hunter protecting his family, to a pair of scheming, active agents getting a year of sabbatical which turns very active again.

The monster-killing agency, The Shop Presidio, is just as genocidal and shitty as the comic, but what works in comics, with aged heroes or rookie hillbilly cops holding off masses of armored soldiers and monsters, here turns into almost comedy as this square middle-aged couple—ooh, they're so hip they smoke an old joint found in their '72 Charger!—murder people with bad facial appliances (literally four toothpicks sticking out of some latex around the mouth for the "vampires", and glowing red eyes added with CGI, except they miss sometimes). The goon soldiers all have full armor, modern weapons, and always get killed by unarmored, often untrained good guys. The monsters are worse, many times stronger than Humans, magic powers, maybe centuries of practice killing Humans, and they always get beaten or killed by half-assed Human fighters. At one point, spoiler but meh, Deloris is cornered by five angry vampire bikers. Next scene she comes home with some cosmetic bruises and scratches.

I mock the excesses, but the adult story is OK. Fred (JC McKenzie, who's played boring lawyers or doctors for the last 30 years), Deloris (Tamara Taylor, previously in Altered Carbon), Gina (Nicola Correia-Damude, who's in a ton of fun B-movies & series), Alice (Maxim Roy, French-Canadian femme fatale, mostly in shitty Canadian dramas), and Moshe (Dayo Ade, haven't previously seen him) are all competent, the main story of the family finding out who they are and just how evil The Shop Presidio is, warlocks and vampires seeking revenge, and a father's incredibly stupid desperate attempt to save a son, is interesting.

But the B-plots suck. The Shop Presidio internal politics are far over the top, instant assassinations and Mengele-style tortures instead of, you know, anything subtle or intelligent. There's an entire ep of flashback to when Alice was happy, and for 30+ minutes nothing happens and then it's war porn and a big "I told you so". The final resolution of the main plot involves kids and old people beating up soldiers who have years of experience committing monster genocide, and silly people stepping out of cover to monologue each other to death. If only it were that easy.

Casting diversity is definitely an improvement, there's a range of ethnicities and a token bigot in the first ep to point it out. IDW and Netflix made a big deal on launch about the comic being gay-friendly. Well, I guess. The annoying son is gay (but the actor Gabriel Darku, one of the filth from the terrible ReBoot reboot, is straight, because gay actors don't get to play gay characters), and his teen romance shit, regardless of orientation, goes on forever, but so does the annoying daughter with her catty, dumpy friend, and the girl clique straight out of Heathers or 90210 who are oppressing them. The children are entitled, pompous, loathesome, whiny, and useless. Which means when it comes time for them to be endangered or have to make choices, I DO NOT CARE. The awful kids drove this down from a passable show sympathetic to the monsters, to "UGH, the kids are on screen again, skip skip skip".

I'm glad Netflix killed this after a season, instead of dragging it out.

I kinda wanted to watch Fred possess the monster/robot/whatever in the basement, which seems to be what the ending shot was.

★★☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Harley Quinn

HoboMax delivers a mostly-adult-oriented cartoon about recently-separted-from-Mistah-J Harlequinn/Harley Quinn.

Voice-actor is Kaley Cuoco (the annoying chick from the more annoying Big Bang Laugh Track Show), who is better than I expected, but doesn't really hit the shrill Joisey girl accent I expect; Poison Ivy, her slightly but not too overtly lesbian (well, you'd think, but they do throw in lines about Kite Man) roommate is the surprisingly competent Lake Bell (who has been acting for 20 years but her IMDB page is just a list of trash roles; did you see Surface? Be glad if you didn't.); Alan Tudyk does the Joker, which he's not really fit for, I miss Mark Hammill as the Joker, but he also does Clayface, which really fits his over-the-top thespian tone just like Mr Nobody in Doom Patrol.

"You helped me. I can be around people now. You know, I mean, I hate it, but I can do it without vomiting."

Some of it's well-written, there's a lot of snarky lines, and the plots and tone are similar to the '90s Tick cartoons. But I do find it odd and annoying that A) There's 3 main writers, all of them dudes, B) The art is very male-gazey/Striperella, which hey, I like cartoon porn as much as anyone but it's not a good way to build Harley up as a self-respecting villain. In fact, of the 30 names listed for writing on all 15 episodes, 7 are women, all with 4 eps or less to their names. And it shows over and over again. When they try to "talk about women", it's slightly better than the Rick & Morty Bechdel Test gag, but only very slightly.

"This guy's such a douche."
"I'm sorry, but none of the charming supervillains with great personalities were holding seminars today."

Occasionally manages some social commentary, but at the same time exactly reinforces the stereotypes it's gossiping about.

"I had to make my own [crew] by believing in stupid little things like Mark. No offense, Mark."

SIGH. The curse of the generic name.

Well, I'm rarely bored by it, and I do laugh.

★★★½☆

What I'm Watching: Friday the 13th (2009)

A little palate cleanser before I watch something serious, and it's leaving HoboMax tomorrow. I make sure to check the "Leaving Soon" tab near the end of every month; Hobo doesn't pay for these films in perpetuity, and really stacked the deck on launch. In a few months they may be down to nothing.

Dumb Millennials who act like high schoolers go camping/looking for a weed farm to rob, up near the site of Camp Crystal Lake… OMINOUS MUSIC. Two couples and a stoner, standard crew.

Zero star power or acting talent in this one. Ben Feldman, the douchebag lawyer in Silicon Valley. America Olivo, who's a stripper, opera singer, "professional" soap opera extra. Jared Padalecki, Sam from Supernatural and other male model shows, is great at looking confused or afraid, which are his only two emotional states. Derek Mears who plays him this time, is a long-running giant movie thug, and does a fine job physically; role doesn't require acting, and he couldn't deliver it if it did.

Typical idiots separating, fucking (all you see is some bouncing tits), being picked off, not particularly good kills, often just cutting to black. Except maybe what happens in the cabin, which sets up the final act of the film.

Record scratch. Pause.

So, here's the thing. Friday the 13th (1980) came out when I was a Boy Scout camp-going little Mark (you learn your survival skills where you can; but these days don't give BSA your money or attention, it's a shitty organization). Over the next few years they all came out on Beta and VHS, and of course we all saw them much too young. It is just a fact to me that there are undead psycho killers at all campsites, that's what makes camping exciting (just wait for season 2 of Yuru Camp vs Jason!). I've watched most of these, despite them all being trash except the first three and Jason X. A timeline:

  • 1957: Jason drowns at Camp Crystal Lake.
  • 1980: Friday the 13th: Jason's mom murders the counsellors (who mostly weren't even born when it happened!)
  • 1981: Friday the 13th Part II: Jason rises from the dead.
  • 1982: Friday the 13th Part III: Jason finds his face.
  • … A bunch of shitty sequels, psychic weirdos, death after death.
  • 1993: Jason Goes To Hell: Jason is blown up by the FBI, possesses a body. So there's definitely no more original Jason.
  • 2010: Jason X (2002): Despite this, Jason is captured by the military and cryogenically frozen. 400 years later he'll be in space and on another planet, but that's not important right now.
  • 2009: Friday the 13th (2009): Jason returns again. How? What Jason can possibly be here? OK, maybe this happens just before Jason X, but there's still no original body! I want answers, and this film isn't gonna give them to me.
  • 2011: The Cabin in the Woods: The world ends. "Okay, I'm drawing a line in the fucking sand, here. Do not read the Latin."

Spin on.

24 minutes in, and we're on team 2. Biker Loner looking for his sister (from first segment) is a good walk-on protagonist. Couple blow-dried douchebag bros, weird Chinese-American stoner, black guy who is stereotypically not stereotypical, three bimbos.

Loner finds a few scary locals/psychopomps to talk to. Cop is just a dumb obstructionist, but Cujo lady's good, and stoner hillbilly with woodchipper is fantastic. Really sells the "you don't wanna come round these parts" tone, and keep an eye on that woodchipper.

We haven't been able to clearly see Jason until now, but he finally finds both his burlap sack and then his real face again. Weird that he's been here all this time without them.

Finally after almost an hour of this, there's a new behavior. Something I've never seen Jason do before, and it's completely weird: He keeps a prisoner in his shrine/base, and… not communication, but there's a few moments where Jason and another character interact without killing, which is bizarre.

But back to formula, team 2 gets picked off, not generally interesting. In a big two-story McMansion by the lake, so it's the most generic set possible. A couple of them you kinda root for, but it's pointless. The only question is which of the Final Girls or Loner will survive? Orpheus and harem enter the Underworld. The entire end is shot in the dark and fake rain, so you can't see anything even when they're outside.

Really stupid denouement on a pier, which makes no sense that they'd go there.

★★☆☆☆ — Mostly just boring. I had more fun writing that timeline than I did watching anything in this.