Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Comes Next: Best Friends Forever

In case you’re not familiar with the concept of this series, take a look at my initial post.  And beware of spoilers.  Because there will be spoilers.

Before I get into the meat of the post, I’d like to point out that Harriet pushing a flaming book cart and screaming “Get away from my friend!” was the best scene of the movie, and one of my favorite scenes in any movie I’ve seen this year (although it’s not as good as the elbow-thruster scene in Pacific Rim.  Because that was insanely amazing).

When we leave Harriet and Reba in this movie, Harriet has her left arm bandaged up and in a sling, on account of the gunshot she took while saving Reba.  The only reason she survived at all was due to the knowledge (and, therefore, power) gleaned from books. 
They step out of the library, and we’re treated to comic book scenes of Harriet and Reba in various moments of badassery.  It’s a terrific ending to a beautiful little film.  But what would really happen?

Awesome comic book scenes aside, they don’t really seem like fighters.  Sure, Harriet pushed a cart of flaming books at a group of would-be-rapists and Reba ran over a hipster, but who among us hasn’t done something like that?  I call those days “Wednesdays”.

It took them two attempts to take down a group of three hipsters, when only one of them really seemed ruthless in the first place.  And yet,  after running him over, she felt terrible about it.  She cried and kept asking how she could do such a thing.  Hardly the mark of a survivor in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
And Harriet wasn’t much better.  She pushed a flaming book cart at some guys, but what would’ve happened if they didn’t scatter?  She had no back-up plan.  And, even if she did, she didn’t have the skills to do anything about it.

Beyond all that, the group of rape-minded rednecks were local law enforcement.  Law enforcement that had a mandate on checking any person on the streets for a passport (which, as far as we know, neither Harriett or Reba is carrying).  That was likely not the last band of police officers the girls would come across, and they were highly unlikely to have a cart of flaming books at their disposal the next time they crossed paths with Johnny Law.

But perhaps they have a chance.  After all, among the books (again, books = knowledge = power) scattered in the library was one titled “How to Survive a Nuclear Apocalypse”.  Perhaps they picked up some helpful hints within those pages.
And maybe their lack of a killer instinct won’t hurt them too much.  After all, it took the murder of his wife and child to turn Max into The Road Warrior.  Maybe the loss of their loved ones in the nuclear blasts flipped an internal switch.  Would Reba have dreamed of running someone over a few days before?  Absolutely not.  If she’s capable of that, maybe she is capable of doing what needs to be done to survive in the post-apocalyptic age.  Ditto for Harriet.

Still, there are a lot of “maybes” in that last paragraph.  I can’t shake the feeling that this story does not end well.  What happens when Harriet and Reba come up against a group of grizzled survivors with weapons in their hands and malice in their hearts?  They have shown that they can be crafty in dealing with enemies when they have time to plan.  What happens when they have no time for planning?

I hope they make it.  I really do.  However, I have a feeling that the image of Harriet and Reba heading off into the world at the end of the film – a scene that is supposed to be seen as two best friends heading off to make it in this new world – is more than likely the start of a very short death march.

[If, by some miracle, Brea Grant, Vera Miao or Stacey Storey is actually reading this, I want you to know that I would absolutely throw some money at Kickstarter for a Road Warrior-esque sequel to this, and would be more than willing to contribute some music to the soundtrack/score.]

Friday, July 26, 2013

Best Friends Forever

Short synopsis:
Harriet and Reba – the titular “best friends forever” – embark on a road trip from Los Angeles to Austin.  Unbeknownst to our heroines, nuclear bombs detonate in 4 major cities while they’re on the road.

Notable actors: Brea Grant, Sean Maher

My thoughts:
I’m kind of cheating here, since this isn’t really a traditional horror movie.  But it’s set during an apocalypse, so I figure it counts.  Also, I make the rules around here.

 I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this film.  I knew it was an apocalyptic road trip movie.  And I knew that I liked Brea Grant (on top of her appearances in Heroes, Dexter and Midnight Movie, I was a big fan of her love-story/zombie comic We Will Bury You).  But that was about it.

As it turns out, I really loved this movie.  Easily the best, most unique road trip movie since Wristcutters: A Love Story (I’m not sure if I’ve ever proclaimed my love of Wristcutters in this space before, so let me take care of that right now: I love Wristcutters more than I probably should.  I credit Tom Waits’ involvement).  The premise is terrific, but it’s the two leads (Brea Grant & Vera Miao) that sell it.  They really seem like best friends.  They know each other inside-and-out, and yet there’s an underlying tension in every interaction they have. 

 But, in spite of that tension, there’s an obvious love they have for each other.  And that’s really what drew me in.  They were such opposites (Harriet is quirky, book-loving, reserved individual who just got out of a psych ward after trying to commit suicide, while Reba is a fun-loving, impulsive girl), yet they love each other so much.  Just watching their interactions was enough to keep me invested.  Through most of the movie, I knew that Harriet was harboring some pretty big secrets that would eventually drive a rift between them.  Even though that normally stresses me out, I was really looking forward to how they would resolve the conflict.  I knew that it would be hard to watch, but I also knew that they would eventually work it out.  Beyond that, I wanted them to work it out.  I’ve seen too many movies where I don’t care what happens between the characters.  In this film, I desperately wanted to see them work it out, because I knew their friendship truly meant something.  The world may be ending, but I knew they would be okay as long as they stuck together.  Nothing else really mattered.

Here are a handful of scenes I really, REALLY loved:

1. The scene where they get carjacked.  It’s amazing.  And hilarious.  To me, it’s the second funniest scene of the movie (I can’t talk about my favorite scene of the movie without getting into spoilers, so that might have to wait until a What Comes Next post).  Without giving too much away, they end up meeting up with the carjackers a little later in the movie as well.  And that scene absolutely killed me.  If they made an entire movie of the interactions between the girls and these carjackers, I would absolutely watch that.

2. The scene where they dress up like badass, post-apocalyptic chicks.  I love it.  First of all, it’s a mini-montage.  As a child of the 80s, I’m obligated to love montages.  Second of all, Reba’s outfit is very similar to Alice’s in Resident Evil: Apocalypse (the fact that Milla Jovovich is referenced before that scene is no coincidence), and I adore that movie.  Lastly, it’s exactly the kind of outfit that is to be expected in a movie about an apocalypse.  The fact that they pay homage to that scene is kind of amazing. It’s a definite nod toward the look of Mad Max.  I love everything about this scene, short though it may be.

3. The end of the movie.  There are a couple of moments to love about this.  They show a handful of recognizable scenes from the movie, sans Harriet and Reba.  It’s reminiscent of the end of the original Hallowee.  It’s beautiful.  After that, during the credits, we see the glorified adventures of our heroines after the events of the movie in comic book form.  I truly hope that they release an actual comic book for this.  (The comic scenes are courtesy of the incredibly talented Stacie Ponder at Final Girl.  If you haven’t checked out her horror movie blog/artwork, you really need to.  She’s amazing.)
There’s also a scene with Harriet running out of the library that is absolutely incredible, but I don’t really want to get into it here.  Spoiler territory and all that.

 There are times when it’s a bit cheesy, but I really loved this film.  It looks great.  It has a terrific soundtrack.  Great characters.  Great actors.  I’ve watched it twice now, and it seems like one of those movies that will only get better each time you watch it.  I’ll definitely be going back to it a few more times before the year is over. 
This is Brea Grant’s directorial debut.  I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What Comes Next: Mama

Welcome to the first post in my new series, where I chronicle what I think would happen after the credits roll.  (If you’re curious as to how this idea came about – and why wouldn’t you be? – you can read my original post here.)

For my first post, I thought I would tackle Mama, mainly because it’s one of my favorite movies of the year, but I also left the theater wondering about a lot of the loose ends that were left dangling at the end.  (You can read my original review of Mama here.)

These posts are going to be extremely spoiler heavy.  So, if you haven’t seen Mama and don’t want to know how it ends, I suggest you stop reading now.    So I’ll just put a SPOILER ALERT here, and let you know that it applies to the entire post.


First of all, I’d like to say a few words about the ending.  I know a lot of people had problems with the ending, but I kind of liked it.  I loved the build-up to it.  They make a big point of finding the bones of Mama’s lost child, and pretty much say that giving her those bones (and thus helping her to find the child she lost) will placate her.  This is a common theme in ghost stories.  To help the ghost move on, a wrong must be righted.  So they give Mama the bones of her child, and everything seems like it’s going to work out.  Mama changes from her freaky ghost figure into her freaky human figure.
But it doesn’t work.  She literally tosses the bones of her child aside in order to go after Lilly & Victoria.  Because Mama was crazy before she died, and even death can’t cure crazy.   
I loved that.  It took a scene we’ve seen hundreds of times and turned it on its head. 
Of course, I was a little sad when Mama ended up taking Lilly as a replacement, but the movie had been set up to show that, while Victoria had a real shot at fitting into society, Lilly never really had that chance.  So, while I was sad (if you’re not sad when an innocent child dies, there’s probably something wrong with you), I understood why it happened.

So…what comes next?
When the movie ends, Annabel, Lucas and Victoria seem poised to go on with their lives.  They’ll mourn Lilly, but they’ll try to get back to as normal a life as they can.  It’s not really a happy ending, but at least they didn’t all die.
But their lives probably won’t be good for very long.
On top of dealing with the death of a child, Annabel and Lucas are probably going away for the murder of Jean.  Who, on top of being the grandmother of Victoria and Annabel, was also the woman they went to court with for custody of the children.  The last time she is heard from, she is calling social services from outside the house of Annabel and Lucas, then proceeds to break into the house to get pictures that could show evidence of child abuse.  She is killed in the house by Mama, and her skeletal corpse ends up at the cabin where the girls were originally found.
Speaking of the cabin…
They are probably also on the hook for the disappearance of Lilly.  There’s evidence of all of them in the cabin, and yet they come back home with only one child.  Just because they’ll never find the body of Lilly (unless they just start looking for butterflies matching her description, which is highly unlikely in a police investigation) doesn’t mean she’s not presumed dead.  She went over the cliff and disappeared in the water.  It happens all the time.  Furthermore, the fact that Mama is no longer plaguing the family means that there’s no chance of her showing up and convincing an open-minded detective that all of this was the work of a ghost.  Mama is gone.  Along with her are the stories that paint Annabel and Lucas as innocent.
Last but not least, they’ll also be on the hook for the death of Dr. Dreyfuss, the psychiatrist.  He is killed in the cabin, and Annabel has a box of evidence stolen from his office in her house. 

With Annabel and Lucas in prison – and Jean dead – Victoria will most likely end up in foster care, which doesn’t bode well for her chances of living a normal life.  Even though she warmed up throughout the movie, her ties to reality were tenuous at best.  Without the constant presence of Annabel and Lucas in her life (the only people who know about Mama, so the only people who can really relate to her), she’ll probably crawl back deeper inside of herself, possibly going back to the feral state they found her in.  In a few years, it wouldn’t be a shock if she threw herself off that same cliff.  It’s grim, but that would more than likely be her fate.

It’s pretty depressing, but that appears to be where their story leads.

I welcome any comments that might add something else to this conversation.