Pretty awful Masters of Horror episode, continuing Tobe’s long streak of pretty awful movies.

A perfectly good backstory about the deadly acid rainstorm that turned most of the world into zombies is wasted on a crappy movie about Jessica Lowndes meeting Jonathan Tucker from the Pulse and Texas Chainsaw remakes, and daring to venture away from her protective mother to attend a club run by Tobe’s old bud Robert Englund. This has got to be the most boring “extreme” nightclub in any horror movie.

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It’s all downhill from there, as Englund drinks the blood of the elderly to stay alive, and the entertainment of the club turns out to be watching zombies “dance” (the, um, dance of the dead) by shocking ’em with cattle prods. Jessica finds out one of the dancers is her druggie sister, who was sold to Englund by their mom… gets revenge by killing/selling the mom. Whatever.

The movie was bad enough before the SHOCK EDITING, which is unrelenting. Besides the usual quick-cut-crap, they keep blurring and sliding the picture with staticky sound effects to add “energy” to the movie. Ugh.

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Loud music by Billy Corgan, I might add. Credited cinematographer and editor have both done other (decent) MoH episodes, so I have to blame the flash editing entirely on you, Tobe.

MOH trademarks: just the naked women.

Katy didn’t watch this one. Katy wouldn’t have liked it. I wouldn’t have blamed her.

A novel plot (and supposedly based on a Lovecraft story, so no wonder). Ezra Godden (of Stuart Gordon’s Dagon) is a poor physics student who rents a room in a very crappy boarding house. After some fun about studying the angles of his walls, a hot nude witch appears with her rat-creature pet to take over his mind and make him do weird things like sleepwalk to the university library and kill his next door neighbor’s baby. After he’s arrested for the baby-killing, the cops find the remains of all the other babies that past residents of the room have killed, and the rat-creature sneaks into prison to bite our hero to death. Oh and the crazy old man downstairs kills himself.

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A lot better than the plot description sounds. Ezra is pretty convincing and the weirdness and atmosphere and pacing are all well held.

MOH trademarks: naked women, eye gouging (the witch’s eyes / ezra’s fingers), and our hero looks like Edward Norton most of the time (and Ben Affleck the other times).

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Katy didn’t watch this one. Katy wouldn’t have liked it.

Prince (“The Kid”) has a dad who was a great musician and who likes to beat women. Like father, like son. Prince’s slot performing at First Ave is in danger because the slimy club owner and the slimier Morris Day want to replace him with a girl group – and Prince’s own band members are threatening revolution (hyuck) cuz he won’t play the songs they wrote. What will Prince do?! Not learn to be nice to people, and not stop his dad from killing himself, but he does turn his band members’ demo into the groovy title song, so there’s that. Movie scores points for music, costumes, Prince’s motorcycle, and hot nudity, but loses a lot to dialogue, plot and acting. A concert film (with hot nudity) would’ve been a better idea.

Fun, memorable Masters of Horror episode. Woman runs off the road, sees other car with trail of blood towards guard rail, follows trail and insane creature leaps out and chases her through the woods. Flashbacks to her survivalist husband and the lessons he taught her, she fights back for a while but is captured along with the woman from the other car. Creature takes them to house where Phantasm‘s own Angus Scrimm is locked up laughing and yelling. Woman takes control, escapes, kills the monster, kills Angus, and in flashback, kills survivalist husband whose body is still in her trunk, and drives away.

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Pretty good looking movie. I was sucked in. Standard super-baddie with a Hostel-referencing eye-drill. Some surprises (traps that don’t go according to plan) and a not-bad-at-all ending. More, more!! Katy didn’t watch this one. Katy wouldn’t have liked it.

Creepy Tall Man:
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MOH trademarks: eye gouging (see above).

Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) is tricked by his mom into coming to Paris from Mexico to work at a calendar company, moves in next door to Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Job turns out to suck, not that he shows up for it very often, and after briefly falling for her friend, Stephane gets a thing for Stephanie. Unfortunately he lives completely in his dream world and can’t communicate with regular people, eventually has to give up on job and girl and go home.

Gondry isn’t trying to tell us that he is Stephane, since Gondry has a successful career and at least two kids, although both Gondry and Stephane make creative things out of paper and film, and both sometimes get big hands when they sleep. Just saying that dreams are great but it’s important to have a grip.

Stephane isn’t much of a romantic lead. Sometimes he screws up in an endearing way, but sometimes in a creepy, maladjusted, antisocial way. He’s determined when it comes to getting the girl or making crafts, not about holding down a job.

Movie is worth seeing of course because it’s the closest thing to a Gondry music video (mostly minus the music, though I heard a Jack White band in one scene) and that’s just what I’ve been clamoring for. Got what I deserved, and I’m loving it, though I feel the loss of writer Charlie Kaufman. Wonderful: the dreams, the one-second time-travel machine, Stephane’s co-worker, the music he composes using only the broken keys on Stephanie’s piano, the homemade feel to everything.

What did everyone else say?

Robert Keser in Bright Lights After Dark: “it charts Stéphane’s hilariously tortuous passage from awkward man-boy to still awkward man”. But does he become a man? His father dies (an important step towards manhood in the movies) but he’s still running away at the end. Or maybe these experiences in Paris will make him better understand himself in Mexico (we know nothing of his life there). Not putting Keser down: his is the best and most thoughtful review so far.

Ed Gonzalez in Slant Magazine: “Gondry, like David Lynch, makes art from the many-spindled arcs of our dreams and fantasies, but Lynch hasn’t gone so far as to suggest that our dreams are works of art themselves, our imagination a gallery of unfinished, haunted frescos. To submit to Science of Sleep becomes something strangely akin to acknowledging that our dreams make more sense than our waking life.”

Paul: “I did not like the ending much though, as both characters seemed too petulant. he kept saying desperate inappropriate things then went into her bed w/o permission.. made me uncomfy.”

Diego (Nacho Martinez) is an ex-bullfighter. Now injured, he teaches his matador skills to a class which includes Angel (Antonio Banderas), who lives across the street from Diego’s cute young girlfriend Eva (Eva Cobo). Meanwhile, elsewhere in town, Maria (Assumpta Serna, later in Sam Fuller’s Day of Reckoning and the Quays’ Piano Tuner of Earthquakes) worships Diego, and has started killing men Matador-style while having sex with them.

After lamely trying to rape Eva (demonstrating the same stalkerish, kidnapping behavior as every other Almodovar film he’s in), religion-oppressed Antonio turns himself in to the police inspector (Eusebio Poncela from Law of Desire, who looks a lot like Diego so I thought the Matador was also the inspector for a few confusing minutes). That leads nowhere, but to get his mother (Julieta Serrano, the crazy Lucia from Women on the Verge) and her mother (Chus Lampreave, Leo’s mother in Flower of My Secret) all upset.

Two murders are discovered and two more are suspected, and Antonio is blamed… but it’s the work of the star-crossed Matadors, with whom Antonio has some sort of psychic link. Eventually they get to kill each other like they’ve always dreamed of doing. A happy ending!

More suicide and bullfights and movies (the gore films Diego watches while masturbating at the beginning) and the usual cast. A lot more zany than Law of Desire, and to its benefit… more fun to watch. Law of Desire’s murder + police themes seemed tacked on, but Matador is all about the murder and the investigation… seems more sure of itself (until the psychic bit at the end, I guess).

Just pretty good. Some really nice shots here and there. Male-centric mostly. Flat-nose girl plays interviewer – Almodovar himself as a shopkeeper. Opens with people doing voice-over for a film! Just like Women on the Verge. All About My Mother and Flower of My Secret open with hospital training videos. A play (Jean Cocteau’s “The Human Voice”) in Desire. Talk To Her opens and closes with a play. In Desire the lead is a filmmaker, and his transsexual sister is an actress. Lots of connections here… that’s why it’s hard to keep them all straight.

Pablo (Eusebio Poncela) loves Juan (Miguel Molina), who won’t admit he loves Pablo back. Juan goes away and Antonio (Banderas, who has been stalking Pablo, a la Tie Me Up) hooks up with Pablo. Pablo has transsex sister Tina (Carmen Maura, star of Women on the Verge) whose daughter’s mother has moved to Milan. After his latest film, Pablo directs a play of The Human Voice starring his sister and her daughter. Then it gets goofy, as Antonio kills Juan, Pablo gets amnesia, and Antonio takes the sister hostage, eventually killing himself. Great final shot as typewriter hurled from apartment window inexplicably ignites a dumpster and all cops and family in street scramble up the fire escape – shot freezes, roll credits.

Movie feels like it’s going somewhere, has interesting characters (Pablo being the least interesting), then the Antonio murder turns it into standard police-investigation fare.

The police inspector is Fernando Guillen (the elusive Ivan from Women on the Verge). Nacho Martinez was a doctor but I already don’t remember him, and Augustin Almodovar was in there somewhere.

Another Almodovar centering on accidents, suicide, bullfights and brain death on hospital beds… no organ donation discussions this time, though. Opens and closes with our protagonist seeing two different plays (there are either plays or films in every Almodovar movie that I can think of). And we get a gorgeous live performance by Caetano Veloso.

Center of the movie has Marco (Dario Grandinetti) watching over his girlfriend Lydia (Rosario Flores), and Benigno (Javier Camara) watching over his wannabe girlfriend Alicia (Leonor Watling) in a hospital. None of the main actors are Almodovar regulars; it’s a whole new cast. Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie’s daughter) plays Alicia’s dance instructor and Augustin Almodovar has another small part but I never recognize him.

So, the twists. Travel-writer Marco doesn’t realize that matador Lydia was about to leave him for another matador the day of the accident, and Alicia’s family doesn’t realize that Benigno is Alicia’s stalker until she becomes pregnant while still in the coma, and Benigno goes to jail and soon commits suicide. Seemingly happy ending as Marco meets Alicia at the play. Hell of a movie.

Leo (Marisa Paredes, Huma in All About My Mother) is a 50-ish woman with major marital problems. Her husband Paco (Imanol Arias) is always off on distant NATO missions and when he does return one time, it’s just for an hour to shower, fight with Leo, and announce that he’s leaving her for good. He’s also having an affair with Leo’s best friend, psychologist Betty (Carmen Elias). Leo’s mother fights constantly with Leo’s sister Rosa (Rossy de Palma, the one with the nose). What’s more, Leo is secretly the hugely popular romance novelist Amanda Gris, and after interviewing for a newspaper column, the editor Angel (Juan Echanove) finds out. Fortunately, he and Leo are perfect for each other, and he even ghost-ghost-writes a couple Amanda Gris novels while Leo’s getting back on her feet by taking care of her mother in their old village. Oh also Leo’s maid Blanca stages a great flamenco show funded by a script that her son Antonio stole from Leo’s trashcan. Very much an adult movie, with the usual motherhood themes and suicide attempts. Not as wild and fun as the others… pretty grounded, for Almodovar.

Opens the same way as All About My Mother, with Betty taping a play-acted discussion at the hospital regarding organ donation after a patient has died. Nobody dies in this one, though.