FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jan 26, 2009

nom nom nom

As I've pointed out in the past, a general rule of thumb regarding anthology movies is that there will be one stinker in the bunch, one shining star, and a few segments that aren't stellar, but at least they're largely inoffensive. This rule can also be applied to the dynamics of groups of friends and salads...stupid carrots, always ruining everything. Well, not everything, exactly- I mean, they're fine when they're cooked or on their own, but in salads? Okay, fine, even in salads they're alright, but only if they're, like, slivers. A big, fat disc of carrot will fuck a salad up like no one's business--

Before I go on and on about carrots and the myriad ways in which I enjoy them or don't enjoy them, let me just say that the 2004 Malaysian film Visits: Hungry Ghost Anthology pretty much proves my theory on the portmanteau flick- to me, this means that I'm right about everything all the time, and therefore no one can contradict my views, whether they be regarding carrots or Battlestar Galactica (best show ever) or what you should do with your hair (I say shave it all off).

Sorry, BSG just started up again and I've got the fever for the flavor of a Pringle.

The 15th night of the 7th month marks, essentially, Chinese Halloween. During this time, "hungry ghosts" are released and spirits walk the earth to mingle with the living. Hungry for what, you ask? No, they're not here for your Cool Ranch Doritos, my friends...they're hungry for your face! At least, that's the way the film played out in my imagination. In reality, the hungry ghosts of Visits are just...sort of...here, despite the fact that we're promised some truly scary stories in the framing narrative, which finds a radio DJ recounting stories to his listeners.

1413

Two girls lie on the ground in a bloody pile. One of them dies, one of them ends up in the hospital with a concussion and amnesia. Was it a suicide pact? Why is the dead one hanging around the largely-empty hospital, showing off her scabby face? How does her boyfriend tie into all this? Flashbacks fill in all the predictable blanks, but unfortunately it all happens a bit too fast. There's no build to the story, and there's little tension- just a few jump scares. Honestly, 1413 had me dreading the hour-plus I still had to slog through in Visits; I'm happy to say that the stinker of the bunch was out of the way first.

WAITING FOR THEM

Sam receives a phone call from her childhood friend Anne, during which Anne imparts that she's recently broken up with her girlfriend and as a result her world has gone to hell. Her ex isn't returning her calls, how did things go wrong, she can't live with out her, blah blah usual breakup drama blah. Soon Sam can't get a hold of Anne- until she finds Anne wandering down a lonely road late one night. Anne has nowhere to go, so Sam takes her in. Anne sees clammy feet in Sam's closet and splits, and only later do we learn her fate.

Huh? Yeah, clammy feet peeing (typo but it stays) out from the back of a closet are about as spooktacular as Waiting For Them gets. It's much more a character study/drama with a few bizarre sequences (a moment that finds the two women brushing their teeth together was a highlight) (yes, brushing teeth was a highlight) than a straight-up horror story, ghost or otherwise. It's odd, then, that I enjoyed this segment- it's so quiet and still that you may wonder if there are actually actors or if the director has simply staged set pieces with mannequins. I liked getting my Murder She Wrote on, though, as I tried to figure out Anne's story. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

NODDING SCOOP

I know, that title, right? I was totally all "What the heck is a nodding scoop? Does it involve ice cream? 'Cause if it does, I'm totally nodding yes! HA HA HA!" Sadly, it does not involve ice cream. "Nodding scoop" is a device constructed from a ladle and a wig, and it's used as a sort of Ouija board when people attempt to communicate with the spirits. So, if you were like "Hey dead person, are you here?" and the dead person was, the scoop would, you know, nod. In this segment, which finds some college students filming themselves using the device as they perform a seance, the silliness of the contraption gave way to supreme creepiness. As can be expected, the students really do summon a spirit; the creepiness promptly goes out the window and the plot quickly devolves into nonsense. An extremely disappointing end to a very promising start.

ANYBODY HOME?

Here we have a security guard who's obsessed with one of the female inhabitants of the apartment building in which he works. He plants tiny cameras in her apartment to spy on her, and his behavior continues to escalate until he's spending time in her home when she's not there. Soon he finds out that she's got a secret of her own.

Anybody Home? was my favorite story of the bunch, and it's certainly the standout of Visits. The segment is almost completely wordless as we view life through the various cameras of the apartment building- we see the girl coming home drunk at 2 am, stumbling to the elevators; we watch every boring facet of her life, from doing the dishes to going to the bathroom- we see what's arousing the security guard. We watch him in her apartment, invading her space and reacting violently to something he finds in her freezer. This moment marks a shift in the story's narrative- the stalker becomes the victim- and unfortunately it's also a change in narrative devices. The security camera conceit is dropped and the rest of Anybody Home? plays out in standard style, which is a complete detriment to the piece. Still, it's an unusual spin on fairly standard Asian Horror fare.

That seems to be the biggest problem with Visits: Hungry Ghost Anthology- each segment treads overly familiar waters, waters that have been explored to much greater effect in other films. Each story here fell victim to the anthology format, in that they're essentially short films. Horror shorts need to pack a wallop, and if anything, Asian ghost stories are slow mood pieces. It's difficult to build ample tension and create an unsettling atmosphere in such a short amount of time. While none of these segments truly pays off in a completely satisfying way, there is some interesting material to be found for enthusiasts of the genre.

7 comments:

Sam said...

I doubt I'll ever watch this movie, but I appreciate the simplicity of the title. It's kind of like renting Haunted Prison; there's no guesswork involved concerning the subject matter because it's right on the box.

B.E. Earl said...

Whaddya mean you didn't like 1413?

"Two girls lie on the ground in a bloody pile." That sounds hawt! ;)

Anonymous said...

More about carrots please! Have you ever eaten just the outside and left the heart in tact? It has creepy tenticles. You should give it a try.

TheDarkInTheDark said...

I found myself at my local used bookstore last night holding a brand new shiny horror anthology and thinking to myself, "Darn! This looks good, and has some good authors, but I don't know... It's an anthology." They're never as satisfying. I feel your pain.

I keep hoping someone else will point this out, but the man seems to have a spooktacular clammy pair of feet peeing out of the closet, which I've spent the last 20 minutes trying to come up with a snappy remark about. Sigh.

Stacie Ponder said...

Even the worst anthology movies appeal to me. They're just a weakness I have...I'll watch ANY one of 'em. I've reviewed enough crappy ones on here to prove it, too!

Yeah, the "peeing" feet. Someone else pointed that out to me in an email...it's just too good a typo to get rid of, though. :D

Ray said...

Anybody Home sounds kind of like Alone with Her, in which Colin Hanks plants hidden cameras all around the apartment of the woman he's obsessed with. The entire movie is shot that way, and there's no such plot twist, but the concept is still pretty similar.

Stacie Ponder said...

What I liked about Anybody Home? was that, for the first 2/3+ anyway, there was a real commitment to the security camera device. The footage was, at times, boring...just like life. It was more interesting because of that, though, because I kept waiting for something to happen...in a good way.