The BayBCs of Death

I love horror movies. Netflix may not have enough classic horror (try looking up Boris Karloff, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price and see how many movies you get) or modern high profile horror but they sure do have more horror movies than I can watch.

The BayThe Bay (2012) – Rated R

From director Barry Levinson comes this gruesome tale of ecological horror that follows unfolding events in a seaside Maryland town as a deadly menace infests the bay and turns residents into hosts for mutant parasites.”

Like most people I despise both shaky cam and the found footage genre. However, The Bay’s conceit really works as several different video feeds are used to try to determine the causes of a disaster that befalls a small Maryland town. The Bay is a really good, tense low-budget horror movie with a cast of unknowns.

The ABCs of DeathThe ABC’s of Death (2012) – Not rated

Twenty-six masters of the horror genre were each given a letter of the alphabet around which to concoct a story about death in this audacious anthology film that explores the terrifying, humorous and poignant aspects of the journey we all must take.

First let me take objection to the phrase ‘twenty-six masters of the horror genre’. This is not from twenty-six masters of the horror genre. Are there any current masters of the horror genre?

John Carpenter gave us Halloween, The Thing, and The Fog but more recently The Ward and Ghosts of Mars. Wes Craven gave us The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream but more recently Cursed and My Soul to Take. Tobe Hooper gave us Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Salem’s Lot, and Poltergeist but more recently Toolbox Murders and Mortuary. So clearly the older horror masters are no longer masters.

Who are the current masters? Eli Roth (Hostel)? Rob Zombie (Halloween reboot)? Leigh Whannell and James Wan (Saw, Insidious)? None of these people are involved with ABCs.

Looking at their director list I do spot a few masters such as Ti West (The House of the Devil) and Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace) but for the most part, the directors list consists of people who have worked on some horror films but I guess that doesn’t sound as good.

ABCs is certainly a mixed bag. Given only a few minutes and $5,000 to impress, these shorts go in all sorts of directions. Many are juvenile focusing on nudity, masturbation, gore, sex, farts, poop, and POV shots to distinguish themselves. A few are good and one (Q) is excellent, the more so because of the A-P you have to sit through to get there. Unfortunately the majority aren’t worth your time and plenty attempt to shock but will only cause you to shake your head.

…And Justice for All – Al Pacino week

This is Al Pacino week. …And Justice for All is currently available on instant Netflix.

And Justice for All

WATCH: …And Justice for All (1979) – Rated R

“America’s justice system comes under indictment in director Norman Jewison’s trenchant film starring Al Pacino as upstanding attorney Arthur Kirkland. A hard-line — and tainted — judge (John Forsythe) stands accused of rape, and Kirkland (Al Pacino) has to defend him. Kirkland has a history with the judge, who jailed one of the lawyer’s clients on a technicality. When the judge confesses his guilt, Kirkland faces an ethical and legal quandary.”

“I have a client in jail for a busted tail light and I can’t get him out.”

The above quote sums up much of the movie. Norman Jewison made this stinging indictment of the legal system in 1979 but it plays pretty fresh today. It is much like a Catch-22 for the courts. There are a number of travesties of justice across several cases before Pacino’s oft-quoted Network-style rant.

While it is somewhat heavy-handed, the miscarriages are quite believable. I’m glad the story was about how the legal system is a game instead of how it is slanted liberal or conservative. There are innocent people here who are punished as well as guilty ones that are not punished.

Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson’s script was nominated for Best Screenplay. It’s gratifying and disconcerting how they are able to keep a somewhat light tone even with all the dreadful things occurring in this film. I mentioned Catch-22 and Network earlier but the film this most reminds me of is George C. Scott’s The Hospital.

Al Pacino is wonderful again in this and was nominated for an Oscar. I’m glad to have a chance to go back and look at some of his early roles this week. His most recent work is simply awful (88 Minutes and Righteous Kill). His histrionics in his early work (Dog Day Afternoon, And Justice for All) comes off as intensity. Later (the aforementioned 88 Minutes and Righteous Kill) it comes off as self-caricature.

There are some scenes that if replaced would have made this a much stronger film (the helicopter sequence, any part of the unconvincing and unnecessary romance). The themes are nice but there are so many individual cases that none of them are given enough depth to make this a drama. I think this and a need to balance out the bleak outcomes is why they went with a more lighthearted tone.

I recommend this film though yesterday’s Dog Day Afternoon is better.

People Watch: Look for a young ‘Coach’, Craig T. Nelson, as Frank Bowers and Method acting coach Lee Strasberg as Kirkland’s grandfather.