There's an inevitable fact about a good horror movie: one day, someone will think it's a good idea to remake it — and it will suck.
As we roll into the final week of Shocktober, there are more horror movies to be watched, discussed, and sighed at. It wasn't a good week for horror in the Klepek household; we couldn't find time to see Crimson Peak in the theatres, and the majority of the films we watched were terrible. Such is life as a horror fan.
Contracted: Phase II, Poltergeist, and The Tenant were the subjects for the latest episode of my horror podcast, Til Death Do Us Part, which you can subscribe to via iTunes or stream on this website. If you use non-Apple podcast applications, simply grab the RSS feed from right here, and that should get you the podcast.
On with the blood 'n guts. (Actually, there's only a little of that this week...!)
Contracted: Phase II (2015)
Ugh, what a disappointment. You never know what you're going to get when the IFC Films logo come sup, but Contracted was a pleasant surprise two years ago. Body horror isn't for everyone, and I can't explain the appeal of watching somebody's flesh turn on them. We expect our bodies to act a certain way, and when it falls apart, that's worse than a killer with a mask chasing with a knife.
The original Contracted, in which a woman suffers from the world's worst STD after a one-night stand, was disturbing in all the right (wrong) ways. Every time she started poking her eye and goop fell out, you wanted to crawl into a box and never look at the screen again. It was simple story with one aim: gross you out. Contracted: Phase II, however, makes the classic sequel mistake of assuming we gave a shit about what was "really" going on and tries to establish a mythology that's clearly planned to expand beyond this movie. I'm here for the disgusting woman trying to claw her arm off, thank you, not the bland conspiracy theories.
Contracted: Phase II is more concerned with establishing mythology than sticking with what works. Granted, it has a few "what the fuck" moments — I'm looking at you, bloody cheese dip — but it's not nearly enough. This is Netflix or bust.
The Tenant (1976)
This is a tough movie to talk about, as it depends on whether you can separate art from the artist. Roman Polanski has been charged with raping a 13-year-old girl — no getting around that fact. That may put you off from ever indulging in The Tenant, and I wouldn't blame you for passing. Worse, Polanski is the star.
Thing is, he's also responsible for some interesting cinema — who doesn't love Rosemary's Baby? — and The Tenant is an all-time what-the-hell-just-happened horror movie. A film of a different time, The Tenant takes its sweet time before twisting the knife, and it's all the better for it. Polanski plays Trelkovsky, a man looking for an apartment in crowded Paris, France. The only one he's able to nail down, however, is the apartment of a woman who committed suicide by throwing herself out the window. Furthermore, neighbours are convinced he's always making loud noises. (And who hasn't lived in an building like that?)
I want to tell you I know what happened at the end of The Tenant, but I'm not really sure. Things continue to escalate, things continue to get super weird. It goes to some truly bizarre places, full of deliciously strange imagery that stays with you after the film is over. When the credits rolled, my wife and I quickly began swapping theories on what exactly lead Trelkovsky to...well, you'll see.
If you're only used to modern horror films, The Tenant can be tough to settle down with. They really did used to make films differently, with scares not coming until much, much later. More movies could benefit from such habits.
There was a single reason I'd been holding out hope for the Poltergeist remake: Sam Raimi. His production company, Ghost House Pictures, is the one who decided it was worth revisiting Tobe Hooper's 1982 classic. I figured Raimi had come up with an interesting angle, and would pick filmmakers who had something new to say about a family terrorised by ghosts underneath the house.
Every scene feels like the filmmakers going "hey, remember that scene from the old movie? Wanna see a version that's way worse, and full of CG? Here ya go!" I get that remakes want to have nods and homages for diehard fans, but Poltergeist takes this to a groan-worthy extreme that had me chugging my beer.
(What are you doing in this movie, Sam Rockwell?!)
There's little to celebrate in this version of the movie, besides the short running time. It does, however, have a unique vision of the purgatory souls can get trapped in before heading into the light. It's grotesque, unsettling, and despite being completely built from CG, it's the scariest thing the movie has to offer. It sure would have been neat to see a movie built around that idea, but this isn't it.
While this was a dud, I can't wait until they try to remake it again in 20 years.