Movie Reviews Far Too Late: The Descent

Fair warning, and never has this phrasing seemed more apt, SPOILERS BELOW.

Like any human uncontrolled descent, this movie was quite passable until it reached the end.

I mean, it was predictable as hell. This is one of those movies where there is going to be a Final Girl. Literally everything in the movie was telegraphed? Was Sarah’s dead husband having an affair with the hotter Juno? Of course he was. According to Movie karma rules, will there be a reckoning for this? Of course there will! When someone says that this cave doesn’t look like the one they studied, does that have ominous meaning..?

Dur.

But really, all that was almost forgivable, if not excusable, because this film is essentially, an all-girl production of ALIEN in a cave. That’s about enough to sell the movie on its own. But the ending…

Q: Which one?

A: Dude, what the hell? You’re the voice from the LAST MRFTL.

Q: Yeah, I got bored. Which ending?

EITHER ending! Okay, so in the American ending you get on Amazon Prime, Sarah escapes the cave, having wounded the evil Juno because she a) was the last person to sleep with Sarah’s husband, and probably caused the car wreck that killed him and Sarah’s daughter at the beginning of the film because he was thinking about it, and b) Juno accidentally killed another of their friends and then left her to die and lied about it. Oh, and c) Juno was the one who took them to the undiscovered and therefore — even without the C.H.U.D. infestation — HIGHLY DANGEROUS cave without telling anyone.

So, just to be clear, if ANYONE in this film deserves to die, it’s Juno. Although I think it sucks that what really appears to get Juno killed is her MOST excusable act: she puts a pickaxe through another girl’s throat when the girl suddenly appears behind her right after they’ve fought off a whole bunch of C.H.U.D.s. Literally ANYONE could have made that mistake, especially someone who has never fought for her life before. They might even panic and run away and leave their victim dying. Not laudable, but understandable for someone who’s suddenly thrust into a situation where choosing wrong means death.

Then WHY, for the love of crap, after Sarah escapes the cave and flees for her life is she confronted, two seconds before roll credits, with the vision of Juno’s vengeful spirit sitting in the car with her? Juno was, in fact, killed for vengeance. People who get justly killed for revenge don’t get to come back and haunt their killers. Otherwise the concept of vengeance just gets silly.

BUT, as the disembodied voice reminds us, there was another ending. The UK ending, as this film was a UK film. And in THAT ending, we discover that Sarah, after her escape…

…finds out she hallucinated the whole escape, and she’s still back in the cave, and the C.H.U.D.s are closing in.

Oh, gods. The first lesson you learn in storytelling school, usually with eyerolls from your bored elementary-school peers, is that any story ending with “And then I woke up and it was all a dream” is tedious and anticlimactic as shit. IT DOESN’T MAKE IT BETTER WHEN YOU MAKE THE WAKING UP PART BAD. Seriously, I just wish I could make a rule: you are not allowed to have your characters hallucinate shit in the middle of your horror movie.* Because it’s like bringing dead people back to life: once you’ve done it, how do you know anything is real? Maybe she was hallucinating killing ANY of the creatures. Maybe she was the first one killed! Maybe she died when she thwacked her head on the cave wall and all of this were coma hallucinations before she succumbed to a fatal head injury! I mean, either way she’s dead and nothing she thought she did mattered, right?

This trope needs to die in a fire.

*Unless the horror is that they are actually insane or otherwise being influenced to hallucinate. That’s legitimately something to fear.

Movie Reviews Far Too Late: Battle: Los Angeles

Hi, Loyal Readers. Sorry it’s been so long. It’s a boring story: COVID = teaching from home + homeschooling x kitchen remodel, and all of it adds up to almost no writing, and definitely no blogging. Here’s hoping for a rebound.

Oh, Battle: Los Angeles. I was in the mood for a really cheesy, bad Alien Invasion movie, and boy did you deliver. But why did you deliver such awful, awful cliches?

The sad part was that this movie was surprisingly good: I mean, disclaimer, first: I’m a civilian, but the filmmakers consulted Marines when they made the film, and it reminded me of some of the better war movies out there, the ones that have drawn high praise from veterans I know. As a war movie, it wasn’t half bad, except for one thing (later).

But as a science-fiction movie, it commits one of the tiredest, awful cliches out there.

The aliens are invading the Earth for its water. No, really, you read that right. For its WATER. And not that they are using to DRINK. No, they are using the water for FUEL. AND they are using it in such quantities that they are, within one DAY, causing a detectable alteration in the Earth’s coastlines.

Folks, that may have been a pardonable casus belli back when H.G. Wells was invading the Earth. No one knew what any of the planets were made of. But today? Saturn’s rings are dirty snowballs. The Oort cloud is full of MORE snowballs. No one will shoot back at you for mining them. What the hell?

I suspect the film KNEW it was being stupid, because the Scientist On The News tried to cover it by saying, “Nowhere else in the universe do we know of LIQUID water.”

Oh, I see. LIQUID water. Let’s break this down for a moment while I wake up my inner math-and-science nerd and interview him:

Q: Hey, there. How much water is in the Earth’s oceans?

A: 352 quintillion gallons.

Q: Cool. Could you use that water for fuel?

A: There are actually three ways you could theoretically do that, but two are stupid.

Q: Really? What are they?

A: Well, you could break the water down into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis and then burn them again in hydrogen fuel cells. But that’s stupid.

Q: Why? Sounds cool to me.

A: Well, for one thing, it takes more energy to electrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen than you get from burning them. That’s because of the Law Of Conservation Of Energy, pretty much THE fundamental law of physics, almost. And for another, when you do? The ash is water. So, the aliens would be a) losing energy, and b) putting the water right back where they got it.

Q: What’s the other stupid way?

A: Well, you can eleectrolyze the water, toss out the oxygen, and then fuse the hydrogen into helium for a SHIT-ton more energy than it took to electrolyze it.

Q: And why is that stupid?

A: Because to do that you ALREADY need the kind of energy found in the heart of a star. If you’ve got that kind of energy, you really don’t need more. And you’ve got badass enough technology that you can probably wipe out present-day humanity with plasma torches from miles away. No need to engage them with slightly-superior technology unless you’re doing it for sport.

Q: And there’s a third way? That’s smart?

A: Well, kind of: that way involves filtering the seawater for heavy water: water made from oxygen and deuterium. Deuterium is hydrogen with an extra neutron. You can electrolyze THAT and fuse it into helium for a SHIT-ton of energy. And you can do it with technology that’s slightly superior to our own. 

Q: So, technology like the aliens demonstrably have?

A: Yep.

Q: So then, the movie makes sense?

A: Not by a long shot. Heavy water makes up only about 0.0156% of all water. Therefore, of that 352 quintillion gallons mentioned earlier, you have to sort through it to find the mere 54.912 quadrillion gallons you want. Not to mention, of course, all the salt, nickel and horrible organic goop floating around in there. Now, to lower the oceans a mere INCH would necessitate the removal of some 2.4291 quadrillion gallons of water.

Q: Which means that if they took literally all the heavy water on the planet, the oceans would be lowered by approximately less than..?

A: Two feet.

Q: That’s dumb.

A: Oh, it’s dumber than that.

Q: How does it GET dumber than that?

A: The World Nuclear Association has estimated that that’s enough to fuel the entire world, at ten times its current population, and at 100 times the AMERICAN rate of energy consumption, for 1 million years. 

Q: So, waitaminute, you’re saying the aliens can suck the oceans of the planet dry of the amazing energy-water in about a day or two, and they’ve come to invade Earth for water because…?

A: They don’t want to be bothered melting ice.

Q: But they’re okay with lifting it out of Earth’s gravity well?

A: Apparently?

Q: How much energy does it take to melt ice?

A: I dunno, but I and anyone I know can melt a pound of it in a standard oven in far less than an hour for negligible cost.

Q: And to put that pound of water in orbit costs…?

A: $10,000.

Sigh. You know, it would have made more sense for the aliens to have invaded us because they wanted to take all our refined metals, or samples of Earth life, or JUST ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE THAN WATER! Seriously, it was dumb when Star Trek: Voyager pretended water was rare twenty years ago. It was dumb when V: The Final Battle did it in the 1980s. And you have to work at it to get dumber science-fiction than THAT!

Stop it. No one else is allowed to invade the Earth for water. Ever.

Oh, I almost forgot, there’s one other thing you’re not allowed to do, and I promised to come back to this later: you’re not allowed to pretend that there’s just this ONE vulnerable spot on your slightly-larger-than-man-sized aliens and that you’re going to snipe that regularly now. Because pretty much, from everyone I’ve EVER heard talk about real combat, you aim for the center of mass and shoot.

Seriously, stop that.

Movie Reviews Far Too Late: The Bye Bye Man and the Illusion of Horror

So, I watched the movie The Bye Bye Man on Netflix last week. For those who aren’t used to the Movie Reviews Far Too Late format, There Be Spoilers Here.

The Bye Bye Man is now the movie that finally helped me understand two features that really undermine a horror story for me. The movie starts out strong: there is a creepy supernatural entity called the Bye Bye Man. If you hear or see his name, you’re screwed. He will enter your thoughts and cause you to obsessively think, and finally say, his name. During this time, you will also experience hallucinations that may lead you to attack, or believe you are being attacked, by friends. Eventually, the Bye Bye Man will GET you. The only way to stop him is to give yourself up to death and take the secret of his name with you. Although the protagonists get the idea that disbelieving in the Bye Bye Man’s power may lessen his control over your mind, it’s too little too late, and they all die.

The attraction of the Bye Bye Man as a boogaboo is obvious. It is horrifying. Once you know about it, it’s too late to get away. You can’t recruit friends to help you, lest you damn them, too. You can’t fight it alone because its power of illusion may turn your own power against you. Or worse, your friends.

And that, really, is the problem: the power of illusion is so great that in a sense, it transforms the entire story from a horror story into the illusion of a horror story. To understand this, we have to understand two fundamentals of the horror genre:

The Puzzle Box: The solution to a puzzle is at the heart of the horror story. It has to be. For horror to be horror, the protagonists must be up against an opponent that is so overwhelming that normal means of combat are completely inadequate. Normal weapons, intelligence and limitations on action are completely inadequate to stop the boogaboo. So generally there is a vulnerability or a ritual or a sacrifice that must be completed to defeat the horror.
Now the nature of a puzzle is that a solution exists. If no solution exists, then there is not a puzzle, anymore than a bunch of confetti is a jigsaw puzzle. Before you object, please note that “a solution” does not necessarily entail “protagonists survive.” In horror, this is optional. Solution means, “the horror is defeated/deferred.” Sometimes the solution is obvious but horrifying, as in Saw, when Cary Elwes has to cut himself out of handcuffs. Sometimes its dangerous and difficult, as in Alien, when Ripley blasts the alien out of the airlock. And sometimes even solving the puzzle doesn’t really defeat the horror, as in The Ring.

The Horror Exists For A Reason: I think this is where a lot of horror movies fall down: because it’s not necessarily obvious this is true, but I believe it is true. In the best horror movies, the horror always has a reason to exist: in The Cabin in the Woods, the horror has a double reason for existing: the victims cal up their specific horror, but the overarching reason is that the ancient gods must be kept asleep. But after all, I can imagine someone saying, what about movies like The Ring and Alien? There’s no reason for these things to exist.
But there is. The horror can be its own reason for existing, so long as its drive is fundamental. The alien needs to reproduce and feed. The evil spirit from The Ring seems to have been born from an overwhelming desire on the part of its “mother” to have a child, and its evil “revenge” drive tied to the video springs from that.

When a horror movie fails atone or both of these fundamentals, it is at best weakened. The Bye Bye Man fails at both: there is really no solution to the problem. It hints that disbelieving in the Bye Bye Man can weaken his power. But it isn’t put into practice more than once, and halfheartedly at best. The only thing the protagonist can do is commit suicide. That’s a valid solution to horror, but that “solution” was already presented as part of the problem at the beginning of the film. So it doesn’t really count. Once you know the Bye Bye Man’s name, you’re dead at best.
In addition, no reason for the Bye Bye Man is ever shown to exist. What does he want? There seems to be some idea that he wants world apocalypse. But why? Is he an agent of Satan? We don’t know, and the movie doesn’t seem to care.

Another movie weakened by these problems is the critically-acclaimed It Follows, which is an incredible well-executed movie. But again, there seems to be no solution to the problem: even though the protagonists defeat It, the end of the movie hints that It is still out there following them. And even more than the Bye Bye Man, there is never a clue provided as to what this thing wants. Revenge? For what? Food? Then why is it limited to this bizarre venereal chain of feeding targets?

As I’m writing this, I notice that a common flaw here seems to be that when you think about it, it’s almost impossible to imagine how these bizarre chains ever got started. I mean, how did It ever start Following people? Remember, It can look like people the victim trusts. So, the first person to be the victim of It should have had no idea they were being followed, and been killed. End of chain. The only reason that The Bye Bye Man’s chain ever starts at the beginning of the movie is that one of the victims finds the name carved somewhere. So who learned it first? How? And how did it not get passed along infinitely then as the victim got more and more scared?

Now, for a movie that fails at only one of these aims, we can consider Oculus, in which a young brother and sister try to destroy the cursed mirror that claimed the lives of their parents and blamed it on the brother. Again, it’s a great set up: the mirror can project illusions into the minds of its victims in order to manipulate them into killing each other. The reason for the horror is clear: the mirror takes joy in murder. It’s effectively a serial killer. And it comes very close to providing a solution to the puzzle: the mirror cracked itself in the initial round of killings when a victim was propelled into it.

But in the end, the illusions of the mirror are just too powerful. It again kills the sister and leaves the brother blamed for her death. I think this movie would honestly have been perfect if the sister’s sacrifice of herself had worked: if the mirror had been tricked into destroying itself as the price of killing her. It was powerfully hinted that this would be the solution, and the fact that the protagonists lose anyway, leaving the mirror intct was a letdown.

In the end, such movies as The Bye Bye Man and Oculus provide not a horror story, but the illusion of a horror story by presenting us with an inevitable situation. And it may be terrifying: I’m pretty sure that falling out of a plane with no parachute is indeed terrifying. But it isn’t a story.

Top Gun: Maverick SCRIPT RELEASED!!

Spoiler Warning! What you are about to see is the complete and unedited script of the soon-to-be-released movie TOP GUN: MAVERICK. Rather than rely on dubious methods such as paying insiders to smuggle out the script, we have deduced its contents by consulting our memory of the first movie, watching the trailer for this one, and thinking for five minutes.

SCENE 1: CO’S OFFICE

CO: “Maverick, get in here. You’re a terrible officer and a burnout and I don’t like you.”

MAVERICK: “That’s because you’re bald and haven’t got two hot girls a day begging for your children.”

CO: “Obviously, but I can’t fire you because despite your dead-end career and discipline problems, they’ve decided to make you a Top Gun instructor.”

MAVERICK: “Who’s ‘they?'”

CO: “The producers, fueled by all the cash of Generation X’s male mid-life crises, desperately trying to remember the 80s when they were cool.”

MAVERICK: “Yes, sir.”

SCENE 2: A LUDICROUSLY BIG HANGAR

TOP GUN COMMANDANT: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to introduce you to a legendary pilot who somehow is on the verge of career suicide, Maverick.”

MAVERICK: “It’s an honor to be here in your company, and I’d like to particularly thank Goose’s son, who is harboring deep-seated hatred of me for destroying his family when he was a little boy. I’d also like to express how grateful I am for the progressive and diversity-oriented military policies that have made it possible for me to chase hot female pilots twenty years my junior all through the film.”

SCENE 3: MIRAMAR

MONTAGE OF TOP GUN STUDENTS SUITING UP AND TAKING OFF

STUDENTS: “We’re going to kick this old guy’s ass!”

MAVERICK’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

STUDENTS: “I can’t believe he kicked our ass!”

SCENE 4: CLASSROOM

GOOSE’S KID (GOSLING): “So, is that extremely unsafe flying that you kicked our asses with how you got my dad killed?”

MAVERICK: “As the only person in the film who didn’t see this coming: um.”

<after class>

HOT GIRL PILOT: “That wasn’t fair for him to say that.”

MAVERICK: “It wasn’t fair that I killed his dad, either.”

HOT GIRL PILOT: “Sure it was: you’re Tom Cruise, and his dad…”

MAVERICK: “Was Anthony Daniels, yeah: that doesn’t make it right.”

HOT GIRL PILOT: “Anthony Edwards.”

MAVERICK: “Yeah, whatever. Want a motorcycle ride?”

HOT GIRL PILOT: “I thought you’d never ask.”

SCENE 5: THE SKY

GOSLING: “I’ll show this guy that my dad — I mean I — am the better man!”

MAVERICK’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

GOSLING’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

GOSLING: “Oh, noes! My plan horribly failed and my plane is crashing!”

MAVERICK: “Kid! Follow all my instructions to the letter! Don’t you dare die on me! Are you listening?”

GOSLING: “I’m listening!”

MAVERICK: “Don’t hit the ground!”

SCENE 6: THE GROUND

GOSLING: “You saved my life and now I can’t be mad at you anymore. Will you be my daddy, now?”

MAVERICK: “Sure, son.”

HOT GIRL PILOT: “Does this mean I win Top Gun, now?

AUDIENCE: “Who cares?”

SCENE 7: BRIEFING ROOM

ADMIRAL: “Some foreign power who is definitely not…

…Russia because that’s too outdated
…China because we REALLY want to sell this film there
…Arab because we don’t want to draw boycotts and outrage
…Iranian because we all hate Donald Trump…

…and conveniently flies American-looking planes that we’re going to call MiG .357s because we assume the American moviegoing audience is at least as dumb as we are about foreign arsenals has launched a sneak attack that can only be solved by exactly the kind of dogfighting you’ve all just finished training for.”

SCENE 8: THE SKY

MAVERICK’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

GOSLING’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

MAVERICK’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

HOT GIRL PILOT’S PLANE: ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

NAMELESS ENEMY PLANES: <EXPLODE>

ROCK MUSIC SOUNDTRACK: <GOES TO 11>

CREDITS

 

 

Daybroken. Sigh.

See the source imageWell, I was looking forward to writing a blog about a really amazing new series to share with my readers. DAYBREAK is the saga of high-schoolers struggling to survive a bio-bomb triggered zombie apocalypse that converted all the adults into Ghoulies, leaving the teens to build up warring tribes based on their high-school cliques.

Or at least it was. It was cancelled today.

Maybe the problem is that it sounds so much like overdone YA-bait. The reality is that it’s sharp and clever, with some of the best dialogue I’ve seen in ages. It’s completely aware of how overdone the zombie apocalypse has become and skewers itself without mercy. It’s a bit like Deadpool, only with an ability to cut from slapstick ridiculousness to heartfelt pathos with astonishing speed. The characters are brash and irreverent and silly. And they are also fully-realized and heartbreaking as they try to show the world adult faces while at the same time being desperately frightened children.

On top of this, the flashbacks to the world before the bombs are brilliant. We get the pleasure of seeing Matthew Broderick — that’s right, FERRIS BUELLER — playing the high-school principal, coming full-circle as the disrespected authority figure.

But there’s more. There’s intriguing hints that while all the adults were affected by the bombs, they may not all have been reduced to mindless husks. Something better — or worse — may have survived within them.

I am very sad that this excellent show will join Firefly as a might-have-been. It’s worth a watch on Netflix if you can.

Late Reviews From Avalon: The Chaplain’s War

The Chaplain's War by [Torgersen, Brad R.]

I had the privilege of meeting Brad Torgersen for the first time at this year’s DragonCon. I had known him online for several years, and he was gracious enough to agree to blurb my book, All Things Huge and Hideous earlier this year. He was also very (needlessly) apologetic that the blurb had not worked out. (It was just a matter of bad timing; Brad had been deployed for a very long time, and my request came as he was finally getting to come home. A lesser man wouldn’t have even tried to help me out). But I appreciate Brad’s service even more than the blurb.

At the Baen Roadshow, Brad was also giving away copies of his debut novel, The Chaplain’s War, along with his soon-to-be-Dragon-Award-winning The Star-Wheeled Sky. Because I’m a rather obsessive person, I elected to take a copy of The Chaplain’s War, which Brad signed for me.

So on the flight home, The Chaplain’s War was my reading, and all I can say is, it wowed me. It reminded me of nothing so much as one of my early-adulthood favorites, Ender’s Game. Only it seemed to me to reach more deeply into a question that Orson Scott Card didn’t get to until the sequel Speaker For The Dead: How do you make peace?

The story itself is a bit reminiscent of Ender’s Game. It concerns humanity’s war with the mantis-cyborgs, a race much more technologically advanced, and controlling a much larger stellar empire. In fact, we learn early on that the mantes have already exterminated two other intelligent species, and there seems to be no reason that humanity would not become number three on their list. But that all changes when an alien Professor has a conversation with  Harrison Barlow, the Chaplain’s Assistant in a mantis POW camp. The mantes have no concept of God, and the Professor wishes to understand this strange idea that all three of the mantes’ victims have shared.

What follows is an intricate but action-packed story of humans and aliens working together and fighting against each other to survive. In fact, it occurs to me that this is Ender’s Game meets Enemy Mine. Interwoven through the story of Barlow’s capture by and eventually his diplomacy to the aliens is the story of how he became a soldier and a chaplain’s assistant in the first place.  It’s a story that masterfully blends questions of faith and honor together through a cast of beautifully real (and flawed) characters.

I can hardly wait to find time to get to The Star-Wheeled Sky and its eventual sequel. And I’m honored to count Brad Torgersen as a friend and supporter.

New Stories and His Missing Materials: The Logoccentric Returns!

Hi, everyone! Well, it was a good vacation, but now I’m back! It’s the start of a bright new school year full of many good things! I got some great news in and around my vacation, so let’s get cracking!

First, if you’d like some real content, I’d like to direct you to my latest article published with SciPhi Journal (which is gaining readers by leaps and bounds) called “His Missing Materials” in which I take Philip Pullman to task for pretty much slandering the Christian faith.

As far as upcoming sales, I can’t name any right now, but it looks like I’ll have at east one if not two new announcements to make in the near future.

Finally, I’d like to share this awesome possible cover art for my next book, forthcoming as soon as I can get a small amount of edits back to the publisher:

Girl Who Wasn't

Movie Reviews (or something) Far Too Late: Paranormal Activity

DOUBLE SPOILER ALERT: As far as the film goes, I’m going to reveal a plot point.
As far as the review goes, I couldn’t even finish this movie.

I wanted to watch this because I was in the mood for a good creepy ghost story, and I’d heard good things about it.

OPENER: Dude and Dudette moving into apartment. Setting up camera in bedroom to record source of creepy noises that sometimes trouble them at night. Dude is slightly annoyed at Dudette for inviting a psychic consultant to advise them on the source of these noises, which has been messing with her since childhood.

EXPERT: Hey, this thing you’ve got here is not a ghost, but a demon. Potentially very dangerous.

DUDE: So, how about we get a Ouija board and ask this thing what it wants.

EXPERT: Okay, that’s a really terrible idea because that would be inviting it to notice you. Goodbye.

DUDE: Well, I don’t believe in this enough to take an expert’s advice seriously, but I believe in it just enough to still think Ouija boards are a good idea because I was the one who thought of them.

DUDETTE: Hey, babe. Since I’m the one being haunted by this thing, maybe I should get to make the call on how we deal with it.

DUDE (pouty): Well, okay, but you know I think I get a say, too because I didn’t know you came with a demon.

DUDETTE: Just promise me you won’t get a Ouija board.

DUDE: Okay, I promise I won’t buy a Ouija board.

Aaaaand, that was it. I was out. At this point, I can’t spend another second of my precious and finite time on this planet with these two morons. I’d rather be doing something less predictable, like picking my nose. Dude is a complete ass who wants to poke the demon because he wants to be in charge and be right. Dudette is a complete idiot who can’t see that Dude is about to go borrow or otherwise acquire the Ouija board that he only promised not to buy (oh, he is so clever, a master of verbal trickery, this one) so he can poke the demon. This is the very archetype of the Idiot Plot. And I’m going to be expected to spend the rest of the film sympathizing with these two morons, who will check out books about demons, but will never once consider going to church. At this point, I’m rooting for the demon, but figure that watching it eat them slowly from the feet up isn’t on the table.

Shame.

Movie Reviews Far Too Late: Lifeforce

Kevin Murphy, who voiced MST3K’s Tom Servo, in his book A Year At The Movies, recalls deciding to go see the movie Pootie Tang, and encountering a pair of young men arguing about whether to go see it. When he asked the dissenter why he didn’t want to go see it, the reply was, “Because I think it’s gonna be as stupid as I think it’s gonna be.”

And now for my review of Lifeforce.

When that movie came out in 1985, I was twelve. I hated horror movies, so was uninterested. But I knew the movie was about space vampires, and that sounded pretty stupid to me.

Over the years, a number of people have referenced the movie, and it seems to have attained some sort of cult following as an underrated 80s classic. So when I saw it free to watch on Amazon Prime, I decided to see if maybe my twelve-year old self had been overly judgmental. And indeed, it was not so bad as I had thought.

It was much, MUCH worse than I ever could have imagined. I owe my twelve-year old self an apology. And any of you out there who recommended that movie? Yeah. So do you.

How can I summarize Lifeforce? It’s as if it was made by people who had seen the movies Alien, Poltergeist, and The Exorcist, but hadn’t really understood them. These same people had also, however, watched a whole lot of softcore S&M porn and understood it very well. Perhaps too well. The whole movie is about the leading men being unabashedly drawn to an alien who looks an awful lot like Liv Tyler (so, I mean, good taste, there, at least. Note to self: also, Liv Tyler was supposedly 8 years old in 1985. Is it possible that she’s actually a vampire? Research!!), and on the way they acquire telepathic powers that make them capable of telling when a woman wants it rough. Really, I’m not making these plot points up.

During the film it is deduced that the space vampires are truly the source of the vampires of legend, because they demonstrate a whole lot of the classical vampire vulnerabilities and powers, such as vulnerability to being staked, transforming into a giant bat, and becoming a huge glowing ball of light that flies around the city sucking the life out of people using the special effects from Raiders Of The Lost Ark. We all remember when Dracula did that, right?

In truth, the vampires develop their new and frightening powers at the twin speed of plot and arousal, but let’s be fair, so do the humans. Nothing in the whole film ever happens for any reason other than that the writers decided it was time for it to. No question raised by the film is ever answered, including whether Liv Tyler and Captain Sex Slave live or die at the end. But that’s okay because we aren’t interested. The only question that REALLY interests me is how they managed to persuade Henry Mancini not only to score this film, but to produce one that sounded like John Williams’ and James Horner’s Greatest Meh.

How To Get Me To Stop Watching Your Movie.

As readers of this blog are aware, I periodically go back and watch movies that intrigued me when they were released, but that I missed for some reason in the theater. So it was with A Simple Plan. As always, spoilers be here. Sort of.

So the movie opens up with Bill Paxton in the company of his brother and his brother’s buddy, who were obviously runners up for the title roles in Dumb and Dumber. They go out hunting and find a crashed Cessna or similar with 4.4 million dollars in it. After a brief debate, they decide to hide the money for a little while, see if anyone comes looking for it, and then split it, with Bill being the money holder.

So far, not a terribly bad idea. But then. Oh, but then…

Having got away with the bag of money, Bill and his wife decide that they have to put some money back so that people won’t believe any of it was stolen. Now, why? If the cops don’t know where the plane is, it’s a fair bet they don’t know what was on the plane. They wouldn’t necessarily be looking for money. Could be looking for guns. Drugs. And if it’s the criminals whose plane it is looking for you, that won’t work anyway: they will know exactly what was on the plane. So, you’re putting your whole secret in extra danger to do something that will not matter a damn.

And then, rather than simply sneak out to put the thing back in the dead of night, Bill decides to have Dumb stand watch for him while he puts the money back. Inevitably, Dumb is challenged by some old fart on a snowmobile, gets in an argument with him about whether he saw a fox and hits him. Dude dies.

Firstly, that situation smacks of The Hand Of Fate. Basically, the universe isn’t letting these people keep this money, and it’s not JUST because they’re too stupid to keep it, it’s because Fate will inevitably contrive to make sure they are always seen, followed and in trouble. Arguments that shouldn’t ever happen. One-punch kills.

Of course, now we panic, which is the dumbest thing in the world to do, and Paxton says, “We have to make it look like an accident!”

IT ALREADY DOES LOOK LIKE AN ACCIDENT, YOU MORON! No one saw the fight except you. All you have to do is call the cops! “We were changing a flat tire when Old Man Grumpy came up on a snowmobile, fell off and hit his head real hard! We tried CPR! Get an ambulance quick! I think he’s dead!” No one’s even going to ask if you hit him. But without thinking of this, they load Grumpy onto the snowmobile and point it toward a bridge.

Now, Old Man Grumpy wakes up (not REALLY dead! There’s Fate again) and tells Bill “Call the police, your brother hit me!” At which point, Bill, deciding the old man has to be kept quiet, strangles him.
Again, leaving aside the whole murder thing, we have a solution in search of a problem. What was wrong with saying, “Thank God you’re okay! I’ll get you to a hospital! By the way, here’s $1000; leave my brother out of it — he’s an idiot?” Or hell, let Dumb serve a few months for assault and tell him to keep his mouth shut if he wants his share of the money.

And THEN, Bill goes home to his wife (who wasn’t that hot on keeping the money in the first place) and confesses to murder, and she’s basically, “Well, you only did what you thought you had to.”

Oh, sure. I mean, I’d totally understand if my wife was asking me to cover up murder for 4 million dollars and risking us both going to prison for life. And then, in the crowning idiocy, the wife discovers that the 4.4M was a ransom payment for a kidnapping and they get second thoughts about keeping the money. Uh-huh. Because murder was excusable, but keeping someone’s kidnapping money is just WRONG.

I couldn;t stand it anymore. I’m sorry, but I can handle your evil smart protagonist; I loved A Clockwork Orange. I can handle your good dumb protagonist, a la Of Mice And Men. But evil dumb protagonists just make me want to stop watching unless it’s being played for laughs. You can’t drink that piss straight.