Movie Review: RARE EXPORTS

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rare exportsOscilloscope
2010
R

“The real Santa was totally different. The Coca-Cola Santa is just a hoax.”

Truth be told, I actually have something of a soft spot for Christmas. There is a good underlying Gothic aesthetic to this holiday, a kind of beautiful darkness mixed in with the whimsy and wonder that the season brings. There used to be a grand tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve, a tradition that lives on in the plethora of Christmas-themed horror movies to choose from.

Which brings us to Rare Exports. This is a movie that I was told I needed to watch since it was put out in 2010. What kept me from getting around to doing so until now was because this was a foreign subtitled movie. Yeah, yeah, lame excuse, I know. I’m not a big fan of reading along in movies, is all. Unless it’s a silent movie. But, I digress.

Of course, like a lot of the movies I’ve been watching recently, Rare Eports was available on the streaming service I utilize, and since t’was the season and all that, I figured it was time to settle in and give Rare Exports a look-see and find out what the hype is all about.

A young boy named Pietari and his friend Juuso think a secret mountain drilling project near their home in northern Finland has uncovered the tomb of Santa Claus. However, this is a monstrous, evil Santa, much unlike the cheery St. Nick of legend. hen Pietari’s father captures a feral old man in his wolf trap, the an may hold the key to why reindeer are being slaughtered and children are disappearing.

Rare Exports isn’t so much a Christmas horror movie as it is a dark fantasy based on folk tales. Okay scratch that–Rare Exports is really a coming-of-age tale of a young boy that happens to utilize a folk tale setting to tell the story. It’s the interaction between Pietari and his father that drives the story, with Pietari coming to terms with his situation and stepping up into being a man. Or whatever.

Of course, the nutmeg in the eggnog here is the way the story plays off of the concept of an ancient, more malevolent Santa, one that–by description and visual design–sounds more like Krampus. However, we never really see the (literally) big buy–only his horns sticking out of a gigantic block of ice. Which is enough to drive the sense of dread and tension. No, where the filmmakers succeeded in making Rare Exports a dark folk tale was the depiction of Santa’s elves–which looked like feral old men, not at all twisted and scary looking at first…but then the eyes and body language transmit otherwise. It’s subtle yet powerful.

There’s some very good use of shadow and keeping things in the darkness, along with the setting lending to a sense of isolation and palpable cold you can feel yourself while watching this. But, that’s not to say that everything is all grim and dark; there is a sense of humor here, especially when we get to the explosive climax and see what happens with all of Santa’s elves. It’s…not what you would expect, but it makes sense, really.

So, overall, I’m sorry it took me eight years to check out Rare Exports. It’s a well-made and greatly engaging dark Christmas folk tale, something that, if you haven’t seen this yet, you should do yourself a favor and do so. Recommended.

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Movie Review: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS

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santa claus conquers the martiansEmbassy Pictures
1964
NR

“Well, when Voldar ‘accidentally’ left us in the airlock and then came up here and ‘accidentally’ threw the door switch, we knew we had to get out of there in a hurry or that would be the end of us. Eh, uh, ‘accidentally’, of course.”

The first time I watched this classic hilarious-for-all-the-wrong-reasons bit of Holiday Sci-Fi cheese was by way of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode roasting this chestnut. Didn’t matter that it was the middle of summer, or that it was late at night; I was marveling at the sheer awfulness of this movie, and constantly doubled over in laughter from the constant barrage of barbs being slung at this from the MST3K crew.

That was then. And now, nearly twenty years after happening upon that particular episode, I now own the original movie sans the color commentary alongside the MST3K episode. And as many fans of this particular brand of bad movies understand, it’s a holiday tradition that gets shown every year in the annual Christmas movie list.

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is so deliciously bad: the ridiculous premise, the thin story, the cheap costumes and sets (this movie is famous for using Wham-O! brand air popper guns for “freeze rays”, and perhaps the worst guy-in-a-polar-bear-suit and cardboard robot I’ve seen this side of The Forbidden Planet), the groan-inducing acting (also featuring the debut of a young Piza Dora), and a theme song that is incredibly annoying yet will become lodged inside your skull. In a certain way, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is the perfect metaphor for the Holiday season, really: you know what you’re experiencing is shoddy and bad, but you can’t help but enjoy yourself despite the goings on. I can’t be the only curmudgeon this time of the year.

Regardless of your take, you owe it to yourself to watch Santa Claus Conquers The Martians at least once. I would recommend the MST3K edition for you newbies out there. For those of us seasoned veterans out there, you know the drill: Grab your friends, keep the eggnog flowing, and sing along with me- “Hor-ray for SAN-TEE-CLAUS!”

Post-Thanksgiving Note…

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NecRoSarX Chronicles Header
turkey carcassSo, here we are, not too long after what some call “Turkey Day”, what some call “White Man’s Oppression Of Indigenous Peoples Day”, and what many others call “Thursday”. But, let’s call it what it was: Thanksgiving. Tradition, and all.

That means, my wonderful freaks, that it’s time for my annual Holiday tradition to hide away from posting on social media, and hide out from the ugliness that comes with it. It’s my time to ignore the flame wars and trolling that comes with the holidays, and let others fight the imaginary war against Christmas, or post the endless memes about how Christians shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, or the whole bevy of things that just lends itself to the darkest, loneliest time of the year for me.

That makes Christmas the most Goth time of the year, if you think about it. But, I digress…

Before I sequester myself in my cave, I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Xmas, as I go now to plan next year’s posting schedule to ignore completely when the time comes. I love the wooshing sound the deadlines make when they pass by. I hope to get my backlog of stuff done, and get back to sharing more brain droppings about randumb stuff again, especially concerning my faith and coping with my mental condition. Should be fun.

Mind you, I still will post your odds and ends during now and the first of what will be 2018. I mean, Star Wars is coming soon, you know. No way I’m going to be missing a review on that. And I’ll still be doing NECRO SHOCK RADIO through the months, only it’s on its own blog now. It’s right here, check it out if you’ve been wondering where they were. And, of course, there will be the customary Obligatory End-Of-Year post, you can count on that.

So, until the New Year, I wish everyone a Merry Xmas, a Happy New Year, and whatever else falls within the spectrum. Cheers, my wonderful freaks.

::END TRANSMISSION::

necrosarx@gmail.com

Movie Review: GREMLINS

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movie-review_-gremlinsWarner Bros.
1984
PG

“You say you hate Washington’s Birthday or Thanksgiving and nobody cares, but you say you hate Christmas and people treat you like you’re a leper.”

Don’t ever get it wet. Keep it away from bright light. And no matter how much it cries, no matter how much it begs…never, ever feed it after midnight. With these instructions, young Billy Peltzer takes possession of his cuddly new pet. Billy will get a whole lot more than he bargained for.

Say what you will about the 1980s. I realize that there are many out there that weren’t even born in the era that gave us many a pop culture item that kids nowadays wear “ironically”, or however they’re doing things nowadays. I pity those who have never known the magical whimsy that came with such imaginative tales that sprung from the era that gave us Steven Spielberg’s peek work in the fantastic, inspiring others to release such classics as…well, this movie right here: Gremlins.

Yeah, I know. The dismount and nailing the landing could have uses a bit of work, but I’m old. No shame whatsoever. Anyway…

I would think that, at this point, pretty much everybody knows about Gremlins. In that “I haven’t seen it, but I know about it” kind of way, I would think. If you haven’t seen it, well…again, I pity you. Because, in my not-so-humble opinion, Gremlins seemed to capture that bit of lightning in a bottle, mixing the whimsical family comedy with dark fantasy horror elements in a way that just inexplicably worked.

In case you’re wondering, I wasn’t able to get around to watching Gremlins until much later. This was due to my parents being rather strict as to what I could and could not watch as a mere grade-schooler. And since Gremlins had that verboten-until-viewed-first-by-the-parental-units PG rating, they deemed it too scary for my 10-year-old self to watch. Of course, this necessitated me to rely not only on my school chums who were able to watch it before me to experience the movie vicariously, but also with the special promotion that the local Hardee’s did, with individual book-and-record movie adaptation that came at a special price when you ordered some kind of combo, I can’t remember exactly. The problem was, since we went into the town that had said Hardee’s rather infrequently, we only got one of the multi-part set that was in the middle of the story. We didn’t get any more of those. I have no idea why.

Regardless, I finally was able to watch the movie a couple of years later, when we bought it on VHS, and despite all of the hype that my over-imagination built up, after watching it for the first time, IT WAS THE MOST AWESOME THING EVER. Yes, even after only having the plushy dolls and various other promotional brick-a-brack for visual references, and taking what I could piece together from second-hand descriptions and filling in the blanks with my imagination, Gremlins stil managed to exceed my fairly high expectations, and then some. Which is kind of a rare thing.

I think that the major part of what makes Gremlins such a classic was the juxtaposition of what is essentially a Christmas comedy injected with a healthy dose of dark fantasy and horror. And like a peanut butter, jelly and bolognia sandwich with cheese, it seems like an unholy combination, but it works and is delicious, I swear (stop making that face).

The story should be very familiar by now: Small town young adult receives a gift of a completely adorable furry creature of myth that comes with three specific rules of care (the last of which is the topic of many a pedantic discussion), the rules are broken pretty much immediately, and wackiness ensues.

Look, I can go on and on about how amazing this movie is. I could also go into specifics as to my favorite scenes and quotes. No, I’m not going to. If you have seen this, you understand what I’m saying. If you haven’t, for whatever reason you’re using to not watch it (and I hope it’s not that “It was from before I was born” non-argument crap), get over it and watch Gremlins. Multiple times. I implore you. Do so now.

Uncle NecRo’s TOP 1O LEAST FAVORITE CHRISTMAS SONGS

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bah-humbugWe are now in full Holiday Clusterbomb Season, and now the Christmas songs are nigh-unavoidable. Here I am, sitting in my favorite Irish pub, listening to the Christmas mix playing overhead from the owner’s Spotify account, and since I have nothing better to write about at the moment, I thought I’d share with all of you wonderful freaks of mine my least favorite Christmas songs that I always stumble upon, despite my best efforts to block out the real world.

I kept things down to a cozy ten-ish, because I have to have something for next year…

10. “Happy Christmas”
…as an artist, John Lennon was overrated, as was that group he was in, the name of which escapes me at the moment. This particular Christmas song of his manages to be a smug passive aggressive lump of coal.

9. “Baby It’s Cold Outside”
…I think that, by now, everyone who hears this overplayed tune can recognize it for the creepy date rape-y song it is. I used to think nothing of it, kind of regulating it to barely noticed background noise, until someone said something about the lyrics, and now I can’t not hear it.

8. “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”
…this song was funny the first 500 or so times I heard it. I was also 10 when that happened. While I am fascinated by how long this ode to Seasonal Matricide has survived since being first released, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t roll my eyes and sigh whenever this comes on.

7. “Feliz Navidad”
…NO. Just…NO. I’ve never liked this song, I will cross my arms and give you Extreme Grumpy Face if you try and get me to sing along to it, and I find it a pity that it’s normally associated with the greatest Christmas-themed foodstuff ever concocted, Nachos Navidad from Taco John’s. Gad’s those are tasty.

6. “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time”
…as much as I snarkily deride John Lennon, at least he wasn’t Paul McCartney. I can’t really think of a song of his that doesn’t suck the life force out of me when it begins playing. And this Christmas ditty is the equivalent of one of those glossy custom Christmas photo postcards, only in song form.

5. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
…okay, let’s look past the fact that this is yet another smarmy star-studded guilt trip disguised as “social awareness” (the 80s was lousy with them); the children being referenced here technically live in a Muslim country, so even if they did know it was Christmas, chances are they wouldn’t be celebrating it anyway.

4. “Christmas Shoes”
…so, I finally forced myself to listen to this song, having been able to avoid doing so for all this time. And I have to say, how do you people live with yourselves? Why would you all think “Christmas Shoes” is a modern classic, when all it is is a nauseating fluff piece based on the doctrine of Sola Feels? I will admit, though, that I like to imagine the mother in this story, with her final dying breath, telling her child, “I wanted a necklace,” before dying. Followed by the standard “Wah-wah-waaaaaaah” trombone.

3. “Mary Did You Know?”
…speaking of overplayed so-called modern “classics”, I’m not content to just turn the channel on the radio whenever this one comes on, but I must go beyond that and turn off the power to said device all together, then smash it with a hammer and burn the pieces, for it was rendered unclean and had to be purged.

2. “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas”
…I want to stab this song repeatedly with several large sharpened candy cane shivs, set the corpse on fire, and roast chestnuts over it whilst drinking eggnog.

1. [TIE] “Chipmunks Christmas Song”/”All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”
…I couldn’t decide which one of these old novelty songs were more annoying, so I decided to end with a tie. Released back when my own parents were wee children, these two songs are always trotted out and played ad nausium on all radio stations doing a Christmas mix for the season. Mind you, they’re only marginally worse to listen to than the Number 2 spot on this list, but somehow I get extra twitchy whenever these come on, and I find myself diving for the OFF switch on whatever device they’re emanating from.

So, there it is. The songs that make me more of a Scrooge whenever they pop up. There will be more for next year, I’m sure. In the meantime, feel free to send your thinly-veiled hate mail to necrosarx@gmail.com. Cheers, all, and Merry Christmas, if I don’t get around to posting another thing until the end of the year.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Star Wars and Tinsel All Around…

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star wars, deadpool, and me

And yes, I did wear a Star Trek shirt to a Star Wars premier…

Yesterday, the first new Star Wars movie in a decade (gads, I remember sitting through Revenge Of The Sith when it came out, has it really been that long?) was released officially into theaters. In case you’re wondering, yes, I did watch it yesterday. Twice. Once at 9:15am, and the post-lunch 1pm showing. Yes, it was that good.

However, since I’ve decided to take the rest of the year off, and won’t be posting anything new until the first of the year (save for the Obligatory Year End post that sums up the previous 365-ish days), and I’m keeping it for the most part, you won’t be seeing my official review of the new Star Wars until then. For now, though, I urge you all to watch it in the theaters while you still can. It’ll wash that lingering aftertaste of the prequels out of your heads.

So, for now, I bid you all a Merry Christmas and a happy rest-of-the-holidays, and will post again at the end of the year that was 2015. Cheers, all.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: KRAMPUS

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krampus-poster-galleryUniversal Pictures
2015
PG-13

“I just got my ass kicked by a bunch of Christmas cookies!”

When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. Little does he know, this lack of festive spirit has unleashed the wrath of Krampus: a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers. All hell breaks loose as beloved holiday icons take on a monstrous life of their own, laying siege to the fractured family’s home and forcing them to fight for each other if they hope to survive.

For an old curmudgeon like myself, who has no use for this manufactured “Christmas spirit” that’s forced down everyone’s throats starting in September and going through the end of the year, it’s a rare movie that actually gets me to smile and get that warm glowing feeling about the part of the Holiday Clusterbomb Season that, more often than not, brings out the worst in everyone. And as you could probably surmise, the recently released Krampus is one of those rare movies that does just that.

Normally, I would wait until the DVD release to watch a movie like Krampus, even though I was greatly intrigued by the fact that it was done by the guys who brought us another favorite holiday classic: Trick R’ Treat. But, I was treated to it as a birthday present, and thus caught it on the day it was released into theaters. And boy howdy, did this dark horror comedy bring me a much-needed distraction to the ongoing existential quandary that comes with turning another year older.

We begin our story with a suburban upper-middle class family preparing to celebrate Christmas with the arrival of the mother’s sister’s family. When gathered together in one house, this goes about as well as would be expected in a Hollywood Christmas movie. That is to say, manufactured tension and drama up the chimney. In a fit of anger, little Max tears up his heartfelt letter to Santa and tosses it out the window the first night, then wakes up the next morning to a surprise blizzard that has frozen the entire neighborhood and knocked out the power. Also, a mysterious snowman has appeared in their lawn. Then a massive scary-looking shadow begins appearing on the rooftops, followed by people disappearing one by one. Then the grandmother tells the tale of when she accidentally summoned Krampus as a child to take everyone in the village she grew up in, except for her as a form of torment. Of course, this is believed to be the senile ramblings of an old lady…until Krampus’ minions arrive to wreak Gremlins-style terror on the clan, until the Anti-Claus himself shows up to drag everyone to the netherworld.

Since seeing this film, I’ve been proclaiming Krampus as an instant Holiday classic. And for good reason: It’s equal parts National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Gremlins, and Ridley Scott’s Alien mixed together and baked into a grizzly looking but tasty cookie. The family dynamic of the characters is palpable enough to warrant a bit of caring about them, and I’m glad they took the time at first to build that. But, of course, this being a holiday horror movie, the horror part is just as effective, managing to build the tension and wisely keeping the scary things in the shadows and implied. And when the scary things do show their ugly mugs, it a very effective usage of mostly practical effects that push this thing over the edge. I say “mostly”, because there’s some unavoidable usage of CGI for what I’ll just refer to as the “cookie attack” that I can understand having to resort to, but still seemed a bit more hokey than I could take. Also, kudos on the movie for faking me out with making me think this was going to take the old “It was all a dream!” cop-out at the end. Very satisfying ending to a very satisfying movie.

So, now I have another movie to add to my list of Christmas themed movies that don’t make me want to vomit up tinsel into the wassail. Indeed, Krampus is destined to be a Holiday classic for those of us who consider “Bah, Humbug” to be a catchphrase this time of year.

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