OVA: Original Video Awesomeness Notes (2016)

My computer crashed so I apologize if I forget any titles. Also the titles listed aren’t in the order they were shown, because I lost my playlist. I’ve put a “+” next to the titles worth watching and a “-” next to those that suck.

Baoh+
Bubblegum Crisis+
Butt Attack Punisher Girl Gautaman
Crystal Triangle
Devilman+
Goku: Midnight Eye+
Riding Bean+
Vampire Hunter D+
Cyber City Oedo 808
Giant Robo
Mad Bull 34
Black Lion

Classics OVAs (Not listed above):
Legend of the Galactic Heroes+
Patlabor+
Tenchi Muyo
Devil Hunter Yohko
El-Hazard: The Magnificent World
Gall Force
Gunbuster
Macross Plus+
Megazone 23
Project A-Ko+
Record of Lodoss War+
Robot Carnival+

Questions, comments, or concerns? Email me at jwiderski@gmail.com
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Ring (1998) Review

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Ring, or Ringu as it’s called in the US, is a 1998 japanese film that helped kick off the J-horror craze of the early 2000s. Directed by Hideo Nakata, Ring is not only the highest grossing horror film in Japan, but it’s also one of the creepiest and most atmospheric films ever made.

Ring is the chilling tale of Asakawa, a reporter, who’s investigating the mysterious urban legend of a videotape that curses you to die in seven days if you watch it. Asakawa locates the tape, but upon watching it must team up with her ex-husband Ryuji in order to save her life. As they investigate the history of the tape they discover the tragic history of a psychic named Shizuko and her even more powerful daughter Sadako.

Japanese horror differs greatly from Western horror in that it relies less on action and gore, and more on mood and tension. Thats not to say the two are mutually exclusive, but the Japanese films that have been popular in the West all share this quality. Ring is most certainly no exception. It takes its time, letting the tension and distress settle in. Even individual shots will pause to convey a lack of comfort. For example, when Ryuji visits Asakawa’s apartment to see the tape he pauses when he enters, giving us the impression that something is off without using dialogue or a dutch tilt.

Ring is also a very smart film, making sure not to over-explain to it’s audience what’s going on. Important details like Ryuji being Asakawa’s ex are not mentioned until half an hour past him being introduced and even then in a random line of dialogue. It could be said that it under-explains some things, like how Asakawa’s son Yoichi saw the tape, but the story of the film is still coherent and the ending makes sense. The core mystery of the film is an intriguing one, but accentuated by the progressive discoveries we make about the characters investigating, it becomes incredibly engaging.

Don’t expect jump scares or an action-packed climax, since Ring has neither of those things. If you do prefer those in your horror movie then check out the American remake The Ring (2002). It’ll serve you nicely. Ring on the other hand is a quiet, dwelling, and uncomfortable film that explores themes of urban legend and paranormal phenomena in modern society in a foreign, but relatable way. Like the best of J-horror, you won’t be hiding behind the couch as you watch, but you will have chills on the back of your neck for the rest of the night, especially after the film’s shocking ending.

V/H/S (2012) 50th Review

There was a point in time when I used to be the angry internet geek, one who took the Nostalgia Critic’s word as gospel and points off a film for not meeting my ridiculous expectations. I had little respect for the filmmakers and a mean spiteful opinion of many movies without having seen them. Looking back at my Legend of Sorrow Creek Review you can see that, and while that is where I got my start and where many critics operate, I’m glad I’ve grown out of it. It’s important to look at not just plot holes and bad acting, but why those things don’t work for you in a movie. To see the film as a whole and as a work of art, not just it’s individual parts and as a piece of pure entertainment. To pay mind to the intentions of the filmmakers, as well as how I respond. While to an extent I’m still like that (the mere mention of Baz Luhrmann makes me twitch) there was a time when I was much worse, and during said time I was on a podcast called Podwreck. My co-hosts and I made an effort to review a movie each episode and on one episode we watched V/H/S, which I HATED with the burning rage of a thousand suns . I started to write a script for a video review of it and I made it about 5 full pages before losing interest and giving up. So what better way to reflect on 50 reviews of growth then taking a look at that bane of my existence: V/H/S.

V/H/S is the 2012 anthology horror movie that was (surprisingly) popular enough to warrant a sequel in 2013. Since it is an anthology, it’s hard to talk about the movie without examining it’s parts. So we’ll talk about each short individually and then how they compound to form a movie as a whole.

The first short “Amateur Night” is the story of three guys who go out clubbing, secretly recording the whole thing on a set of camera glasses they bought. The cameraman catches the attention of a mysterious girl who comes along with him and the others back to the hotel where sexual frivolity, and of course horror, ensues. This short is fairly middle of the road with no characters to speak of, mediocre writing and an interesting, (though predictable) twist. The effects are pretty fairly good and the idea of recording from glasses is an intriguing one (definitely ahead of its time considering how Google Glass just came out). My problem with this is that the characters are so obnoxious and unlikeable that the first half is hard to watch. However, once shit hits the fan (which I won’t delve into due to spoilers) it’s admittedly intriguing to watch.

The second vignette, “Second Honeymoon” is written, directed, and edited by Ti West (director of The House of the Devil) and is the story (if you can call it that) of a couple who are on a road trip out west and are unknowingly being stalked by a mysterious stranger. This is definitely the worst of the bunch, because it’s soooo boring. West’s characters aren’t likeable or intriguing, and there is so little going on that there’s no escaping them. The twist is out of nowhere, despite being painfully foreshadowed by a scene with a fortune-telling machine. The acting is mediocre, with some of the better performances of the film, but there’s little in the script to work with. There is an effective scene where the man is being filmed at night and then it pans over to the girl to show she’s not operating the camera, proving that Ti West is still competent. I think that if Ti West can get past his narcissistic auteurism and direct someone else’s script maybe he can pump out another quality work.

The third short ” Tuesday the 17th” is a perfect example of wasted potential in these anthologies. It’s the tale of a group of stereotypical teens who are invited up to a lake by one of their friends, only to end up as her bait for a mysterious killer. This is a great concept and a fantastic twist on the classic slashers, essentially being what would happen after a film like The Burning. However, it’s stained by the incredibly loathsome characters and the awful and cheesy effects. I understand the homage to the 80s, but this is clearly supposed to be some kind of deconstruction and therefore it should be played straight. I would have loved to see this script turned into a feature and put into the hands of someone far more competent.

The fourth vignette is the annoyingly titled “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger.” This will be our final venture into mediocrity, and it’s the chronicle of Emily and her boyfriend, who are long distance due to college. Strange things start to happen in Emily’s apartment and as they get worse it becomes clear to the boyfriend that there’s something wrong with her. This one is just bloody weird, and while I’ve got very few reasons to dislike it, I just do. The progression of the plot is fine and the twist is interesting, despite raising a ton of questions. It just feels hollow, like the writer didn’t think any further than what we saw on screen and never truly created a world for you to get immersed in.

The last short is “10/31/1998” and it’s the only record of a group of guys who, in search of a friend’s halloween party, enter a house and get far more than they bargained for: some kind of ritual in the attic. In every story up to this there’s been a lack of realism, a sense that you’re watching a shitty horror movie instead of actual footage, but this short manages to insert slightly more realism than the others. Despite the unlikeable characters, they still act like normal humans, and because of that the events progress much like one would imagine they would in reality. The effects are pretty good considering it’s budget and thankfully so, as they’re used for some of the most interesting and fresh ideas I’ve seen in horror in a while. This one hits a lot of the right notes for me and while it’s not perfect, it sure makes me wish I had directed it.

Then of course there are the interludes, titled “Tape 56”, and they provide the framework for the film with the story of a group of filmmakers/criminals who get hired to steal a VHS tape out of an old guy’s house. While searching they get picked off one by one, mostly while watching the collection of strange footage this now deceased man has. This one bothered me a lot as the camera work and editing were the most chaotic out of the lot and the characters the least likeable. We see them molest a woman, but we don’t even get to know their names before they’re picked off by the “creature.” It’s lack of explanation of almost everything we see from motivations to plot points set the tone for the underwhelming shorts to follow.

As a whole, despite it’s retro title, V/H/S feels very modern. It abides by the STUPID modern cliche of making your characters dislikable assholes and has a very rebellious/punk feel to it. It plays more on the ideas of the past then creating it’s own, as most horror does these days. The writing as a whole wasn’t very strong and I think that if maybe a few of the weaker shorts were replaced by more original ones, the film could have really risen above the rest of the indy slog. For me the film was summed up in its ending credits, which were flashy, stylized, and nauseating. It wanted to be cool, taking up the very important title of V/H/S (In the horror community VHS is a golden age), but it didn’t exploit its title to the fullest. It instead resorts to the tropes of today and falls flat on it’s face. V/H/S is worth watching if you’re a horror fan, but it’s a low priority one at that. It’s currently on Netflix instant.

Well after all that negativity, it’s about time we move onto something a little more positive. Thanks everyone for sticking with me through 50 reviews! We’ve been through some of the worst and best films made, not to mention a ton of really mediocre ones. We’ve been depressed about the state of cinema and excited for the future. Here’s hoping for not just 50 more, but 500!


Edited by Kelly Leung. Contact/hire her at kellyleung09@gmail.com

Friday the 13th (1980) Review

Friday the 13th will forever be notable for it’s popularization of the slasher genre and kicking off the 80s slasher boom. The Friday franchise was Paramount’s dirty little secret, bringing in more money on an annual basis then any of their other features. Despite the lashing that it got from critics, Friday the 13th isn’t that bad of a movie. It follows the now cliché structure of a group of camp counselors getting picked off one by one at Camp Crystal Lake, which has a history of tragic events including the drowning of the young Jason Voorhees. As the body count rises, the final survivor discovers who the killer is and has to fight her to survive. Friday the 13th is a great movie thanks to its likeable characters, good pacing, and moderation of kills and scares.

As the slasher genre progressed, more and more emphasis was placed on the killer and less on the victims, at first leading to clichéd characters and eventually leading to every slasher starring obnoxious pieces of shit that you desperately want killed so you don’t have to spend more time with them. However, thinking back to the greats (For example Friday the 13th, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream) they have likeable leads or, at the very least, leads you don’t hate. Friday’s leads are generally likeably people, even if they’re a little bland. They’re certainly not clichés, having their own personalities to them, but because we don’t spend enough time with them to know what they’re like, they come off as bland. The acting is… fair, certainly not as bad as some of its successors, but nothing outstanding. Kevin Bacon makes an early career appearance, but he’s got so few lines that you barely notice. The standout performance definitely goes to Jason’s mother, played by Betsy Palmer. She seems to be not only a caring mother, but also a fucking schizophrenic and that’s tricky to pull off.

Since Friday the 13th took up the task of actually getting you to like its protagonists, it ran the risk of getting quite boring. In spite of this, it managed to pace itself quite well. The movie kicks off with a good introduction and then from there does an even better job of throwing in occasional kills or teen antics to keep you interested. It’s never boring, even if it doesn’t grab your interest like some of its successors do. The build-up to the climax takes up a solid chunk of the movie, with neither too much nor too little time in-between the kills. The only real problem the film has pacing wise is that the climax is too long. The fight with Mrs. Voorhees has many different confrontations to it, and there are overly long parts in-between where it’s just the two looking for each other which frankly isn’t that interesting to watch. That being said, all that waiting is worth it for the final kill and scare, which are easily the most memorable parts of the movie.

Speaking of kills and scares, the murders in this movie are… not as gory as you may think. There certainly a good amount of sharp object to head action, but there’s also plenty of kills where we don’t actually see anything. This kind of balance allows for the gore to be effective and for us to remain sensitive. The gore effects are pretty good, but there is such thing as too much of a good thing and this film makes sure not to cross that line. It certainly is an interesting contrast to the later entries, which no longer have the backbone of a mystery to support them and instead concentrate on upping the ante with the kills.

I saw this film, in honor of Friday the 13th, on VHS and I’m glad I did. While some may prefer to get this movie on blue-ray to maximize visual splendor, I prefer the grit and fuzziness that VHS has to offer. It really lends to the tone of the movie and it’s almost like being transported back to the 80s when people were first getting scared by this film. The darkness and dullness of the image actually made the gore effects better, since they blended with the actors more. Seeing the 1080p version of this movie, you can notice a difference, but on VHS it honestly looks like Kevin Bacon’s getting an arrow pushed through his neck.

Should you watch Friday the 13th? Of course you should! It’s cliché, yes. But only because it created the clichés. Is it full of plot holes? Yes, but you’ll be having too much fun to notice. Despite its flaws, Friday the 13th is a film worth watching, not just for horror fans, but for anyone who wants to watch a darker film. It won’t scare you to death, but it still has some effective moments for you to enjoy. For what it is, Friday the 13th is a great movie and one that will surely continue to stand the test of time.

Christina’s House (1999) Review


Christina Tarling (Allison Lange) is a teenage girl who lives with her unstable father James (John Savage) and her younger brother Bobby (Lorne Stewart) in the family’s new home. While Christina is trying to sort out her feelings for both Eddie (Brendan Fehr), her boyfriend, and Howie (Brad Rowe), a handyman she’s become infatuated with, she soon discovers she has bigger fish to fry: there is a stranger in the house who begins leaving messages and gifts for Christina — and who isn’t averse to the idea of killing people in order to make an impression.-rottentomatoes.com

Christina’s House is a VHS I found at a second hand store for 40 cents. The back stated that its plot twists were shocking. Having been burned by Shyamalan and enraged by other shitty teen movies, I figured that this was ripe for the riffing. And ooooohhhh my it was. Christina’s House was delectably bad, with nonsensical story-telling, terrible acting, and… just plain weirdness. It’s not terrible like Dick Tracy where it enrages you because it’s terrible nature comes from how unfunny it is, but rather this film is fun for all from beginning to end because it’s bad moments hit all the right notes.

The movie centers around Christina (big shocker) who’s a whiny teenager with a dumbass younger brother, an horny asshole boyfriend, a creepy father, a ditzy best friend and a shy handyman. Weird things happen in Christina’s house, such as loud noises, random visits from her boyfriend and the inability of anybody to approach her without grabbing her from behind. The movie’s plot isn’t exactly the strongest, with those so called plot twists being just random events that Christina puzzles over while her boyfriend and dad fight over her. The appearance of a dead body means that shit gets real… sort of. The killer is revealed an hour later, but it’s really not a surprise and… well we stopped caring by that point. The movie really does just meander along, hiding so much from us that it doesn’t end up showing us anything and instead just lets us chill with the red herrings. If anything does happen, it’s because the characters acted even more stupid then they already are or the movie just said “fuck it” and screwed both continuity and logic. The killer’s reveal at the end makes no goddamn sense, with none of the kills or strangeness being explained by it.

The killer (who I won’t spoil out of courtesy) is brilliantly acted, not because it’s good, but because it’s sooooo weird. It makes no sense, but the killer’s ramblings and inconsistent behavior are a ball to watch. The rest of the acting is, of course, shit, but also shitty to a degree that made me wonder why they didn’t do another take. It makes me cringe to think those were the best. That being said, all of the performances stand out for being, again, so weird. The dad in particular is so borderline incestual, so much so that your brain is yelling “Bad Touch!!” whenever he starts to pet her. The boyfriend is a complete asshole and throughout the whole movie is fighting Christina on having sex. It makes you wonder why there a couple in the first place if they disagree on such a key issue and have nothing else in common. Sure the actors aren’t good, but the director clearly didn’t know what he was doing, as even the experienced actors can’t get their shit together.

The movie takes itself way too seriously, trying to pass little noises as huge events and characters freaking out over little things and doing random shit as if it was… well logical. To be at least partially fair to the writing, there are some points where there are clear cuts to the movie, and if those scenes had been left in, maybe some of the nonsense could have been… slightly less nonsensical. Character interactions might have been a little clearer and plot holes might have been solved. That’s not to say you won’t be able to follow along, rather it just means you’ll have a couple things to raise an eyebrow at. Christina’s House suffers from the post-Scream syndrome, where horror movies stopped being horror and became thrillers, and this is a detriment to it. If it had more gore and a better designed slasher finale, then this movie could have become a cult favorite. Instead it relies on plot twists that make no sense and a mystery it gives no clues for and doesn’t give a shit about until the finale.

Christina’s House is nowhere close to a good movie; in fact some could call it a bad one. It comes down to the clearly amateur filmmaking, as I got the same vibe from this as I did Devour. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it. If you’re tired of watching Final Destination 5 for all your horror movie giggles, then give this a viewing. It’s a film you should definitely watch with a few companions, because you will make jokes. Its just gonna happen. If you can find this movie then buy it, because it’s b-movie badness at its best.