Well folks, this is it. The final entry in 2015’s Summer of Horror. I can’t believe another Summer is (more or less) behind us and Phase I is beginning tomorrow!
I’m happy that this year I managed to watch more horror movies than I did last year, but it came at the expense of being a little fast and loose as far as which films I ended up reviewing (being unemployed for much of the Summer also helped). There are still several classics I haven’t gotten around to, including Freaks, Suspiria, and Tales from the Darkside. But that’s why this is an annual tradition!
On to the reviews.
The Hills Have Eyes
This jumped to the top of my list upon yesterday’s sad news. I might not have gotten around to it otherwise, which is sad because it was one of the first films I came up with when putting together the Summer of Horror watch list.
Another proud entry in the Redneck Torture Family subgenre, The Hills Have Eyes is pretty remarkable in the wake of Wes Craven’s later work. This is nothing like Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s not fun, it’s not flashy, it’s not pop, and it shares more in common with Texas Chainsaw Massacre than it does Halloween or Friday the 13th. It’s a remarkably vicious and dirty film, playing out like a very small scale version of Mad Max. A pure fight for survival in an endless desert.
It definitely shows signs of age, not to mention the semi-sloppy stylings of a young director just cutting his teeth. Characters often behave totally illogically, or otherwise show inappropriately muted reactions to horrifying events early in the film. But as things escalate, the situation becomes more and more desperate and brutal, accelerating the pace considerably in the second half. And it ends with a bleak, nihilistic resolution that highlights the indifferent pointlessness of all the savagery we had just witnessed.
The Taking of Deborah Logan
Well this is certainly a new concept. Alzheimer’s Disease has never been the jumping off point of a horror film like this before, to my knowledge. As this film’s first act shows, the disease is frightening enough in real life – the confusion and the fugue states and the endless string of hospital visits – but this film isn’t doing anything quite so revolutionary. It can’t resist the urge to introduce supernatural elements, and then blatantly explain every facet of them to you.
That’s a problem because this is a found footage film. And the weird thing is, it totally didn’t have to be. In fact, I think it actually hobbled the film.
The footage we’re seeing is supposed to be material for a PhD thesis documentary about Alzheimer’s. But for a student production, the cameraman is remarkably adept at capturing artistic, cinematic photography out of events happening on the fly. The number of cameras they use and the situations they happen to be filming make absolutely no sense given the circumstances of that premise. It’s one of the many found footage films that succumbs to that “why the FUCK are they still filming?” response. And they completely lean hard on the crutch of the power outage to make sure characters spend plenty of time slowly creeping through darkness, opening doors at a glacial pace. The house AND the hospital where most of the film take place inexplicably lose power indefinitely.
Found footage-centric flaws aside, this is actually a fairly terrifying film, filled with its fair share of pop scares and musical stings, but also legitimately disturbing imagery, especially towards the end. Whether you want to see the film or certainly DON’T want to see the film, I strongly advise against doing a Google Image search for this title. Its results spoil the single most horrific image at the very end of the movie. I know your curiosity probably won’t heed my warning, but don’t spoil it for yourself.
The Human Centipede
Ah yes, THAT film.
As soon as this came out, and I became aware of the premise of it through the trailer, I kind of wanted to see it, but kind of didn’t want to. Despite being available to stream on Netflix for years, I never pulled the trigger. It felt like having it on my Recently Watched history was tantamount to having hardcore porn on there.
Yet oddly enough, The Human Centipede actually has some sliver of good taste to it. That was probably a poor choice of words. What I’m saying is, while the film is extremely graphic, there were still moments where it showed restraint, even though it kind of didn’t have to.
This movie is, of course, all about the premise. And I mean that literally. The single most terrifying moment in the film is the mad Dr. Hieter calmly walking his bound prisoners through the particulars of his “medical operation”. It turns out thinking about the fate visited upon these characters is worse than actually seeing it happen.
The titular centipede operation is completed at roughly the halfway point in the film, leaving me to initially wonder just where this story could possibly go after a thing like that. Where the story ultimately does progress operates semi-decently as a traditional horror film, even though this is obviously an extreme exploitation movie.
From what I understand, with the sequels director Tom Six apparently decided to enter a series of escalating dares with his own audience, shedding any sense of cinematic coherency and simply trying his damnedest to disgust fans of extreme horror. But such is the folly of the seeker of the extreme – it’s a never-ending pursuit that is incapable of truly satisfying. Anybody can show you disgusting shit. It takes an artist to make you care about that disgusting shit.