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Are You Even Trying To Survive?

Last night, in the continuing spirit of Halloween, my husband and I watched 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a remake of the 1974 film that was very loosely based on some true events.  It got me thinking of all the silly mistakes and bad decisions that characters in horror flicks make that ultimately lead to their untimely death or destruction.  I don’t mean to pick on this movie in particular, especially because it’s one I’m quite fond of, but it’s fresh in my mind so it get stuck being an example.

Mistake #1:  The choice to engage in risky behavior.  The teens are transporting drugs and on their way to a concert when they see a young girl aimlessly walking down the road, crying and on the brink of becoming hysterical.  The women in the van take pity and decide to give her a ride.  The hitchhiker starts talking about a bad man and ends up shooting herself in the head which sets everything in motion.  I don’t care what the person looks like, you do NOT pick up a hitchhiker!  Unfortunately, these teens didn’t have the luxury of having cell phones to use to call the police, but they could have called at the next rest stop they found and reported a strange girl, or simply let it go.  Regardless, hitchhikers are a big no no.

Mistake #2:  Ignoring the initial warning signs.  The group, with the dead body in the van, enter a small store where a creepy woman calls the police for them.  She has rotting animal parts covered in flies in a display case, something that is noted as odd but waved away.  The store clerk tells the teens that they need to meet the sheriff at a mill down the road.  This should have set off more warning bells, but the group instead decides to listen to the odd clerk and drive down to the mill in unfamiliar territory away from the main road.  They also seem to have forgotten that the recently deceased girl became hysterical when she saw the direction they were headed.  She would have rather died than go back there.

Mistake #3:  Splitting up.  After learning from a strange boy that the sheriff is home drinking, the couple walks to the home to retrieve him.  They learn that they have the wrong house but are allowed by the wheelchair-bound stranger to use the phone.  At least Erin is; Kemper is told to wait outside.  This leads to Erin allowing the amputee to distract her while Leatherface attacks Kemper.  Erin should have never gone in alone; the old man didn’t seem to be a threat but they had no idea who else was in that home.  Even after losing Kemper, Erin allows her friend Andy to go into the house alone, ultimately leading to his injuries and capture.  Safety in numbers, people.

Mistake #4:  Trusting a badge regardless of the actions.  Perhaps this was a more trusting time in our country, but warning bells should have been going off when the sheriff started acting erratically.  A competent officer would not stick the gun, evidence, into his boot.  He would not wrap a body up and put it in his trunk.  He would not demand you stick a gun in your mouth to “recreate” the suicide.  The teens should have overpowered the officer and booked it out of there, but they were blinded by the badge and took no action.  Even in the 70s, I find it hard to believe that no one would consider the possibility that this was either not a real cop (uniforms and cars can be stolen) or that he was corrupt.

Mistake #5:  Letting fear take over.  There were plenty of moments where a well-timed kick or punch could have saved the group from the sheriff, but no one had the guts to take action.  The two girls could have both survived Leatherface’s attack on the van if they had run for it immediately instead of screaming and hugging each other.  Erin could have saved Kemper if she wasn’t so fearful of the amputee’s safety and just booked it out of there after using the phone.  The situation is obviously a crisis so it is important for everyone to keep their head and get to safety.

Mistake #6:  Trusting everyone.  You would think that Erin would be a bit more careful after seeing how no one seems to want anything but the worst for the group, but instead she trusts the two women in a trailer in the middle of the woods.  The trailer is obviously too close to the other areas containing untrustworthy people who are assisting Leatherface.  Just because someone seems sweet on the surface doesn’t mean they have your best interests in mind.  She should have kept on running.  It’s easy to see a fresh face as a savior, but it’s the last thing you should be doing in this type of crisis.

Other notable mistakes made from horror characters include running like a maniac and twisting an ankle, driving a car that hasn’t been serviced and will break down, wandering off alone, blindly investigating strange noises, crying loudly in your hiding place, coming out of your hiding place too early, assuming an incapacitated bad guy is truly down for the count and turning your back, and dropping your weapon.  Of course, you also have the ones such as having sex or saying you’ll be right back, but those are solely on the fictional side while the other mistakes can also apply to a real life crisis.

What I want to see more of in my horror flicks are strong and smart characters who don’t make the typical and stale mistakes that we’ve all seen over and over again.  Things that once were classics and were shocking have become routine and predictable.  We expect the female to trip and be captured, we expect the promiscuous couple to die, we expect the group to split up to investigate places they shouldn’t be, and we expect the car to die at the worst possible time.  Again, I’m not picking on Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it just happens to be useful here.  I hope to see more films in the future abandon the clichés and stop making it so obvious who the hero/heroine will be and who will just be another body in the count.  Your move, Hollywood.

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Medium Raw

It’s October and horror flicks must flood my television screen!  In keeping with this, my husband and I settled in to watch 2010’s Medium Raw:  Night Of The Wolf.  Written and directed by Andrew Cymek, who also stars as Johnny Morgan, the film follows Morgan as he searches for the serial killer known as The Wolf who he believes to be responsible for the death of his older sister over 20 years ago.  [SPOILERS]  Teaming with Elliot Carbon (John Rhys-Davies), Morgan finds the lair of The Wolf and is able to capture him, despite his enormous suit of armor and spring-loaded helmet which resembles a wolf’s jaws.  Once the killer is captured, he is sentenced to an asylum after being declares insane.

Morgan and his partner, Pete Gallant (Jason Reso/Christian from the WWE) go to Parker’s Asylum where The Wolf/Harold Grierson (Greg Dunham) is being housed and also where Johnny’s ex wife Jamie (Brigitte Kingsley) works as a psychiatrist.  In the asylum, we see other patients who are all controlled by shock collars; a cannibalistic woman named Mabel (Sandi Ross), a massive man with Hulk-like strength that is angered by the color red, and a quirky naked man with a disturbing foot fetish.  Jamie is seen counseling Mabel briefly, nearly getting attacked in the process.  As she works, Morgan and his partner break into the cell of The Wolf to confront him.  Before Morgan can do something he regrets in his anger about The Wolf not being sentenced to death, the pair is discovered.

At the time their intrusion is discovered, there is a power outage at the asylum.  Dr. Robert Parker (William B. Davis) resets the circuits to restore power but somehow also triggers the cell releases, unlocking cell after cell and allowing the dangerous asylum inmates out into the halls of the building.  During the chaos, the granddaughter of one of the employees, Sabrina, is lost from the group.  They decide to split up and find her before one of the unstable patients does.  As Sabrina wanders the halls, she is cornered in a cell by a crazed male inmate.  Thankfully, before he can lay a hand on her, Mabel shows up and murders the man.  She sweetly asks Sabrina to come with her to the kitchen.  Sabrina obliges, only to be locked in a cage as Mabel hacks up bodies and prepares all sorts of various meals.

With The Wolf uncaged and back in his suit of armor, the group is terrified and in desperate search of safety.  Jamie stumbles upon Mabel, only to be caught up learning how to cook a human and eventually pinned to the table with a knife through her hand.  Morgan is able to lure the massive angry “Hulk” to the kitchen to save his ex-wife and Sabrina, only to find that Grierson has killed the grandmother and is wearing her face.  Meanwhile, Grierson’s defense attorney discovers a file that lists Grierson under a different name and has him living in the asylum for years.

We come to find that Dr. Parker is the actual Wolf, Grierson simply his scapegoat for the crimes.  In typical bad guy fashion, he explains his plan as he prepares to drown Jamie and after he stabs Morgan in the stomach with his Wolverine-like blades.  As he rages, Sabrina slips away.  The foot fetishist manages to hide her in a large air duct, but is quickly murdered right before Sabrina’s location is discovered.  As Parker begins to shed his Wolf armor in order to retrieve the girl, Morgan arrives and saves the day.  He returns to free his wife from what would have been a watery grave and the film ends with the spirits of the dead girls, including Morgan’s sister, shown as finally free.

Mabel is by far my favorite part of this movie.  She’s creepy yet hilarious when she gets into her zone and is cooking up “half the staff” in the words of Jamie.  She’s exactly the same as everyone’s typical sweet grandmother except for her choice of meat.  When Jamie stabs her in the back in her attempt to escape and stop the cooking lesson, Mabel seems only slightly annoyed, easily retaliating and going back to her pots and pans.  Hearing her describe certain dishes was highly entertaining and very witty.

The fact that Dr. Parker is actually The Wolf is apparent well before the movie makes its big reveal.  He’s a shady man and is very concerned with keeping prying eyes away from Grierson.  I would have loved it if Dr. Parker’s character was downplayed a bit more; if there was a single scene that showed him as a victim, the reveal would have had much more impact on the audience.  It was an unfortunate missed opportunity.

Cymek has been criticized for starring as the lead in the movie he both wrote and directed, with many critics saying that he should have remained behind the camera and should have put more effort into editing and creating a solid story.  While he won’t be winning any awards for his performance, I feel that the critics are being a bit too harsh on the man.  He’s not taking anyone’s breath away, but he’s not awful either.  I do think that the three acts with title screens could have been deleted to make the movie flow a bit better.  The final half of the movie could also have been stretched longer with the beginning scenes without action cut down a bit.  Horror movies don’t need excessive character development as other genres do, and Cymek put a bit too much time into that.

Overall, it was a decent flick.  I wouldn’t pay to see it and I probably won’t watch it again, but I enjoyed it.  The creep factor  is high with the naked fetishist, mixed with the cannibal, and fairly decent with The Wolf and the gruesome nature of his crimes against young girls.  There are some tense moments and some lovely gruesome deaths, and the cannibalistic kitchen scene is just horrifying.  Unfortunately, we lack a bit in the suspense department and the storyline could be stronger.  If it’s on your TV, watch it then or DVR for later.  Mabel makes it all worth it.

Dark Passenger Revealed

After what seemed like an endless wait, Dexter made its triumphant return to our television screens last night.  [SPOILERS]  After toying with the idea of Debra Morgan discovering Dexter Morgan’s secret season after season, last year wrapped with Deb entering the church just as Dexter plunged his knife into Travis Marshall, season 6’s Big Bad.  I’m not ashamed to say that I stood up and yelled at my TV in excitement.  Season 5 brought us close to Deb discovering the truth, putting the two of them in the same room with their final kill.  Deb decided to give Dex and Lumen a running start from the police because she understood and sympathized with Lumen, an abused woman seeking retribution and revenge.  After that close call, I was certain the writers would never allow Deb to see under Dexter’s mask.  Damn, was I glad to be proven wrong.

Season 7 picks up right where 6 left off; Deb was shocked to see Dexter standing over Travis Marshall’s body, wrapped in plastic on the altar of the church.  Dexter begins to pretend to be panicked, claiming Travis attacked him and he didn’t know what to do.  After an internal struggle, Deb agrees to assist Dexter in setting fire to the church to cover his tracks and wait to be called back to the scene to investigate, playing ignorant to what she had just witnessed.  In their hurried state, Dexter’s blood slide falls from his pocket and into an air vent on the church floor.

During the investigation of Travis Marshall’s “suicide,” an officer is gunned down in the street, opening an important investigation for Miami Metro and a distraction for the Marshall case.  Dexter easily embraces his dark passenger and takes matters into his own hands.  His sudden departure from the department, usually overlooked, is noticed by Deb, who then questions Jamie Batista, little Harrison’s nanny, and learns that Dexter takes many late nights “working” at the office.  While Dexter is removing the cop killer from this world and delivering him to the ocean floor, Deb goes to Dexter’s apartment where she finds Dexter’s tools and blood slides.  As Dexter enters the apartment to find it in shambles, Deb sitting in front of the blood slide box, he is asked if he is a serial killer and if he killed all these people.  Having no out, he says yes.

Debra spends the episode putting piece after piece together in discovering who Dexter truly is.  She recalls Dexter’s brother, Brian Moser, the Ice Truck Killer, and the way Brian had Deb on a table wrapped in plastic.  The set up was identical to the way Dexter wrapped Travis and Deb does not see this as a coincidence.  She recalls how Dexter was wearing an apron with plastic sleeves when he killed Travis, dressed in clothes she’s never seen before, which leads her to believe he planned this killing.  She begins to have flashbacks of the night Brian nearly killed her and begins to see that while Dexter did save her, perhaps it wasn’t in his nature to do so.  With the discovery of the blood slides, there is no more denying what she knows and what Dexter has done.

Dexter doesn’t only have Deb to deal with this season in protecting his identity and livelihood.  Louis, a tech at the office and Jamie’s boyfriend, has gone through Dexter’s computer, stolen a blood slide, and mailed Dexter the prosthetic hand from the Ice Truck Killer case.  There is no doubt he knows who Dexter is and it remains to be seen what he will do with this knowledge.  He thinks Dexter is a jerk and it wouldn’t be surprising if he tries to reveal his secret.  The other problem is Captain Maria LaGuerta.  In season 2, when James Doakes was believed to be the Bay Harbor Butcher after Dexter planted the blood slides and set him up before his fiery death, LaGuerta fought the idea to the bitter end, believing there was no way that Doakes could do such horrible things.  After she found the blood slide at the scene of Travis Marshall’s “suicide” and confirmed that no other cases other than the Bay Harbor Butcher case involved blood slides, she is confident that Doakes was not the culprit and seems to be ready to go ahead in finding the real killer.  Doakes always suspected there was something wrong with Dexter and it’s quite possible she could follow his lead and begin to look more closely at him as well.  Jonah Mitchell, the son of the Trinity Killer, has knowledge of Dexter’s true colors, as does Detective Quinn.  Add all of the elements together and Dexter could easily be outed.

I have high hopes for this season and I’m looking forward to seeing what Dexter does to deal with Debra learning about his dark passenger and how she comes to terms with the fact that her brother has an uncontrollable urge to kill.  Will Dexter tell her that their father, Harry, gave him the code to be used to kill only those who have killed others?  Will she understand that he has to kill or will she try to curb his urges to do so?  What will Dexter be forced to do in order to silence LaGuerta and to get Louis off his back and out of his business?  With one more season after this one, there are countless things that could happen and endless possibilities.  Whatever course this takes, I’m definitely rooting for the serial killer to come out on top.

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