Wednesday, July 27, 2011

150 Days of Halloween: Faust, Teeth, The Wicker Man

See, this is why I said I would stop promising not to fall behind, its just inevitable. These past two weeks have been both good and bad distractions from posting, I had friends visit for a week and good times were had. I also had a dip into the anxiety/depression wells for awhile, which was not nearly as fun as seeing friends.

I have watched a number of the movies that need reviewing, and also have some marathons in my future to catch up. It's going to be a climb back up to the top of this review mountain, but we will climb it together. I am also beginning the diagnosis and medication process for my mood and sleep disorders, so that will also make for interesting posts I hope. As opposed to no posts. No posts are boring.

Anyway, lets bang out a series of micro-reviews to begin the climb out of this movie hole, shall we?
The story of Faust is an old one, much older then the first film adaption of the story, Murnau's 1926 silent film simply titled Faust. We will be talking more about Murnau a bit later in the list, specifically when we get to Nosferatu. The original story of Faust is religious allegory and morality tale, a man bored with what he has who strikes a deal with the devil for pleasure and power. Its a simple story of christian values, similar tales can be found in many other cultures as well.

Later iterations of the story would seek to complicate and add nuance to what is a rather boring premise, iterations like this silent film. Rather then be a simple story of a man who forgoes scripture for science and then seeks further power through the devil, we get a Faust who is devout and eager to do good from the offset. He is a dedicated man of science as well as scripture, he is so close to the ideal man, in fact, that it attracts the attention of higher powers.
It's the beard, too bitchin' to not attract cosmic notice.
The devil, eager to win the right to spoil the earth, makes a wager with an angel. If he can damn Faust, the world is his. If not, he shall return to hell. The angel agrees to the bargain, and the devil sets to work. He begins by breaking Faust's faith, he consumes the city in a plague that Faust's medicine and prayer are powerless to stop. When his science fails and god seems indifferent to the suffering of the people around him, he throws his books into the fire and despairs. Soon he turns to the devil, after a book in the fire turns to a page detailing how to contact the infernal forces.

Condemning his own soul to save the people around hi, Faust begins to cure everyone he can, until he learns he cannot heal anyone wearing the cross. The people immediately begin to stone him, because while he totally healed little Timmy, the dude can't look at a cross, and Faust's will to help others is thus broken as well. Its here that temptation takes hold and he begins to really sample the demon's wares. Youth, lust, power, glory. Its all his.
How plagues happen.
Unfortunately, its here that the movie also loses its focus and strength. Faust and Mephistopheles run about wooing women. A demon plays Faust's wingman for an hour of the movie, flirting with the ugly friend and everything. The drama of the movie up to now has been that of a mans faith being broken and testing the limits of a persons morals, but when they break too easily and the guy becomes a young playboy for little reason it goes from a horror movie to a buddy comedy.

This drags on for a while until the inevitable breakdown, because seriously, your wingman is Mephistopheles. A pure, young women is wooed and her whole life is completely ruined by Faust. Her family dies, she becomes a symbol of shame for the whole city, she loses everything and gains a baby. Eventually her child dies in the freezing elements, after everyone refuses to help her, and when people discover this they decide to burn her at the stake.
Wacky buddies, these two.
Faust discovers this and rushes to her, but in one last act of betrayal, Mephistopheles takes back his youth. Too feeble to save her, he instead climbs into the fire with her and begs forgiveness. They then both go to heaven and the devil loses the bet, because you just can't trust angels to honor bargains. The devil clearly won here, but because Faust knew love at the end, the angel reneges on the deal. What an asshole.

I was disappointed in where this story placed its priorities, I was looking for a more tense and thought provoking look at a mans fall and less two guys getting into shenanigans to get the girl. Even seeing how his actions impacted others seemed irrelevant because he was largely absent for these moments, only caring about the one women a year after leaving her. Didn't so much as stop to feel bad about killing her brother and mother. An interesting piece of film history, but not my cup of tea.
The rose is a vagina. The thorns are teeth. If you were wondering.
Teeth on the other hand, is my cup of tea. In your normal slasher movie, a group of people are terrorized and killed off one by one by an unseen killer. You can change various bits and bobs, but that is the standard formula for an American slasher movie. Your killer can be a crazy dude in a ghost face mask, an undead killing machine in a hockey mask, or whatever you want. More often then not, your victims are teens who are horny, and the ones that have sex or get naked get the axe. What Puritans must imagine all sinners experience in hell or something.

What makes Teeth so amazing is that it inverts the whole thing. The story follows Dawn O'Keefe (raise your hand if you get the foreshadowed joke her last name presents.) as she attends a youth abstinence club. She quickly falls for one of the boys in the group with her, and they experience understandably conflicting emotions of attraction. One day, while swimming together, they forget about the purity rings on their fingers and begin to kiss. Dawn quickly decides its wrong and wants to stop. The boy is less willing to do that and knocks her head into a rock and decides to rape her.
"Did you get the O'Keefe joke yet!?" ~Maker of the Posters
This is around when she discovers her vagina has retractable razor sharp teeth, and bits the boys penis off. She runs off in horror, confused by what happened. The rest of the movie sees her gynecologist attempt to molest her and lose four fingers, a boy she likes having sex with her on a bet and thusly losing his wiggly bits, and finally Dawn coming to terms with her body and using it to avenge the death of her mother and mauling of her father by seducing and killing her stepbrother.

Instead of an unseen killer and a group of victims, we have a scared women being taken advantage of by a group of vile dudes who inadvertently kills/maims them. Inverted American slasher! It turns so much about the genre on its head, its wonderful! Everyone involved does a great job with the movie, acting is all solid, nothing seems too awkward or jarring despite the subject matter, and its a thoroughly enjoyable film. Its just good to see a horror movie go so confidently in its own direction.
The fourth wall knows, men can be creepy assholes sometimes.
If you have never seen Teeth, then you need to. Its not terrifying, so non-horror people can enjoy it as well. It can be understandably graphic, so those who don't want to see floppy sections of male anatomy fall to the floor and get eaten by a dog may want to shy away. Its just a well done and unique modern horror comedy, and its deserving of your time.

Lets end this entry in the middle of modern and old, lets go back to one of horrors golden ages, the 70's. If you were to look up The Wicker Man on Youtube, you would find clips like this:
That is just a crying shame. Don't get me wrong, that series of clips is intensely funny, but the rest of the movie is so boring that being filthy drunk can't even make it entertaining. Which for anyone who is familiar with the original 1973 Wicker Man can tell you, is a borderline sin, its confusing how a remake could miss the mark as thoroughly as this. It's also confusing why they felt the need to add bees to the whole thing, but I would be sad to live in a world without the BEES! meme, so a fair trade I guess.
Not starring Nicholas Cage or utter madness.
The original is a classic of mysterious foreboding. Our protagonist, Howie, is a devout christian and policeman who is autonomously contacted to help find a missing girl on Summerisle. When he arrives he finds a Pagan community that openly discusses sexuality and has no need for his religion. He also finds a complicated string of lies and secrets regarding the missing child. The islanders are all unhelpful and the culture clash makes every interaction for Howie strained and uncomfortable.

As he learns more about the islands past, the culture of the island, and the beliefs they all hold, he becomes convinced that the girl is still alive and will be sacrificed during the Mayday celebrations. His investigations are always tense, with the unreadable townspeople always coming off as aloof but menacing in the eyes of our devout detective. Once he comes to his conclusion he takes violent action to find the girl and save her from the fate he believes she faces.
Also a whole lot more naked ladies in this version. Take that as you will.
That's all for the plot, as I said, its a mystery movie as well as a horror, so I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone that has yet to see it. Being submersed in an alien culture as he unravels the secrets works well, and the culture clash makes the viewers wonder how much is just prejudice coloring interaction. This movie is hailed for a classic for a reason, so I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys horror classics or even just mysteries. Plus Christopher Lee plays the creepy leader of the island, so you know your in for at least one awesomely strange performance, even though everyone on the island does a fine job as well.

Three down, three million to go! I'll do my best to keep the three a day rate up until we are sitting pretty at the proper point on the list. With luck, life won't interfere as much as it likes to. Oh, and here is the obligatory link to future movies and past reviews! The 150 Days of Halloween.
"This isn't helping me sleep at all!"


  1. Oh wow, now this is what i call an update hahaha I love this kind of posts, the only bad thing is that pictures arent working for me for some reason =/

  2. Yeah, in my haste to finally update I hotlinked like a fool. I'll fix that!

  3. Razor sharp teeth in her vagina? I want to watch, but at the same time, I don't.

  4. I have had a couple girlfrieds who would have used those oddly placed teeth to make me less of a man! ouch!

  5. Gotta watch this Faust version, loved the book.

  6. omg fire! please somebody put down the fire on my fingas!

  7. I've never seen teeth, but I think it's a silly movie, isn't it?

  8. I never heard of teeth beofre, going to check it out