Horror Movie Marathon: ‘Hobo’, ‘Insidious’, and ‘Devil’

Welcome back to Justin’s Halloween Horror Movie Marathon! Only one week into the event and six movies down. That’s… let’s see… um, one, two… carry the nine… just about a movie a day! Let’s start this batch off with one filmmakers’s first big break…

Hobo With a Shotgun

Hobo With A Shotgun (2011) – Directed by Jason Eisner. Starring Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman.

In 2007 the SXSW film festival held a contest to promote the Tarantino & Rodriguez two-films-in-one movie Grindhouse. Participants created trailers based on fake “grindhouse” or exploitation films. Aspiring filmmaker Jason Eisner won the contest with a trailer for a phony movie called Hobo With A Shotgun. As a result of winning, though it doesn’t appear to have been the actual prize, he was able to turn it into a full length feature. And it’s damned fantastic.

Rutger Hauer, who was not in the trailer, plays the eponymous hobo who rides a train into Scum Town looking to start a lawn mowing business. But the town is lorded over by a tyrant named The Drake (Brian Downey) and his psychopathic sons Ivan and Slick (Nick Bateman and Gregory Smith). Fed up with the violence inflicted by the cruel family, our hero’s sense of justice overrides his entrepreneurial goals and he abandons the lawnmower for the shotgun. With the aid of a hooker with a heart of gold (cute as a button Molly Dunsworth), he sets out to rescue the town from the evil clutches of the cruel family.

First off, kudos to Eisner for creating this opportunity for himself. I like that the current easy access to technology is allowing artists to flourish who previously might have remained obscure. Exploitation films are the obvious choice for such filmmakers as they can employ a low budget that is a large part of the genre’s charm.

And how stoked must Eisner have been to direct Rutger Hauer? I can only imagine the mixture of awe, intimidation, and excitement a young director might experience making a film with the legend that starred in The Hitcher, Flesh + Bone, and Blind Fury and who played the replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner, you know, only one of the greatest movies ever made. Okay, maybe he’s not a legend to many and if I were to keep listing his films I doubt you’d recognize many more of them. But it doesn’t matter because this movie only adds to the evidence that demonstrates his genius. His performance helps to hold Hobo together. Employing a grim intensity, he takes seriously what could have been approached as a farce and yet he still manages to look like he’s having a great time. Hobo makes me want to go back and check out some of his past work I missed.

The rest of the cast is great too; everyone seems to be having a lot of fun. And I loved the look of the film, particularly the colored lighting that helps give the movie a playful, almost comic book feel. The exploitation tropes are handled in such a way as to not come across as too contrived. That seemed to be the overall feel of the movie -its tongue planted in its cheek, though not too deeply, and maintaining a deep affection for the films that inspired it. I loved it.

Oh, did I mention that it’s as bloody as a slaughterhouse? Hilarious amounts of blood. Decapitations, hangings, glass chewing, a hand mangled off by a lawnmower, a body crushed by construction equipment,  a girl erotically dancing in a fountain of blood. I predict this will be the bloodiest flick of my marathon, though I still plan on trying to top it. I doubt I will.

Check out the original fake trailer:

Here’s a great interview with the director.

Insidious

Insidious (2011) – Directed by James Wan. Starring Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye.

This is one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. So scary I may have literally shouted out during one scene, something I can’t recall ever having done before during a movie. But alas, things fall apart about midway through and the film relies upon the capital won during the first half to carry you through to the end. I admit, that was just about enough for me; for chrissakes, I was so on edge that the closet door I found ajar soon after the movie was over freaked me out.

Insidious was directed by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the same team that brought us the Saw series of horror/”torture-porn” films. This time they bring us a far less gory haunted house tale starring Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson, a couple with three children that have moved into a new house. One of the boys ends up in a mysterious coma after he has a strange encounter in the attic. Soon, strange, frightening things began happening around the home and, well, it’s probably best I don’t tell you much more so that you can at least enjoy the opening half of the movie without having to anticipate what’s to come. But as the circumstances surrounding the boy’s coma are revealed, you start to wonder if there was a way to tell the story without showing so much lameness. Oh, and it owes a strong debt to a certain very popular horror movie from the early eighties that I won’t mention lest too much is given away; the filmmakers are aware of this debt as they make specific reference to it throughout.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but being a father of a young child seems to have raised my sensitivity to films with children in danger and that may have contributed to how Insidious affected me. Which isn’t intended to take any credit away from the filmmakers either. During the early haunting scenes the pacing of the editing, the understated handheld camera work, and the sound all combined to create a simple, terrifying atmosphere where it felt anything could happen. While it’s not a wholly satisfying haunted house movie experience, it’s well worth a look for fans of the genre.

I Saw the Devil

I Saw the Devil (2010) – Directed by Kim Ji-woon. Starring Choi Min-sik, Lee Byung-hun, Cheon Ho-jin, Jeon Kuk-hwan, Choi Moo-sung.

One dark and snowy night a young woman is stranded in her car, waiting for road service. A man (Choi Min-sik) offers assistance that she declines but he returns to brutally beat, kidnap, kill, and dismember her. Her fiancé Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) is a secret agent who utilizes his resources to track the killer down and begin a terrifying cat and mouse game in order to exact his revenge. But our “hero” realizes he might be in over his head as he grapples with the devil he is to become should he continue pursuing vengeance.

I caught some buzz for I Saw the Devil on a movie blog that reported it as one of the most visceral, disturbing films to come from Korea. Well, I’m always up for a disturbing movie challenge so I kept my eye out for it as my anticipation grew. Initially I may have expected a bit too much and my immediate reaction was one of mild disappointment but the more I reflected upon the movie the more it won me over. Though it is overly long at nearly two and a half hours, it’s still intense and gripping enough to hold your attention. I look forward to revisiting it some time.

The cat and mouse gimmick the main character uses to torment his foe is a new one to me and I found it an effective device. It helped blur the line between “protagonist” and “antagonist” as the “hero” of the movie cruelly antagonizes the killer, thus bringing his own morality into question as well as ours as we root for him. As our hero continues he risks putting into danger the lives of others that he cares for.

The two main actors are great in their roles. The hero, played by Lee Byung-hun is handsome, quietly intense, and focused. Some scenes require of him sharp, graceful movements that he accomplishes perfectly. The villain, played by Choi Min-sik, seems a bit more unhinged but portrays a frightening intelligence and dominating physical presence that shows he could take the upper hand in just about any situation, in spite of his opponent’s youthful agility.

All right, here’s where I have to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and try to defend my appreciation for I Saw the Devil in spite of its violence against women, which I decried in another movie in my last post. To begin with the tone of Devil is different from The Burning. Summer camp slasher movies are supposed to be fun, like a ghost story told around the campfire– violent, scary, and fun. But it mixes that campfire style with what I perceived as a gleeful ugliness towards the behavior of the women. On the other hand, Devil has a serious tale to tell. It’s a shocking, violent, gripping story and the women in it are not treated well but we are not encouraged to cheer for the killer the way you might in a flick such as The Burning. The movie explores the consequences of violence and revenge in a way that a run-of-the-mill slasher flick usually does not.

If you’re up for this kind of experience, check it out. But if the thought of watching someone sever a guy’s Achilles tendon puts you off, steer clear.

Next up on my list is a sequel to a movie I greatly enjoyed last year. See ya then!

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2 Responses to “Horror Movie Marathon: ‘Hobo’, ‘Insidious’, and ‘Devil’”

  1. Michael K vaughan Says:

    I was worried Hobo might not work as a whole movie. Sounds like it does though so I will check it out when I get the chance. Insidious made you cringe like a girly-man? Wow. I have to see it.

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