Friday, 30 May 2008

The Reaping

The origins of Heckler and I's love affair with Hilary Swank, which I hasten to note is entirely unrequited, is lost in the mists of time (although misplacing the space and adding an apostrophe to her name has given us some amusement). What I can reveal is that one night we watched a film called Max Q about a shuttle mission that goes wrong and ends in a crash. It was bad. Afterwards I noted that The Core did it better in seven minutes, so Heckler brought out the DVD and not only was it much better but Hilary Swank and Bruce Greenwood showed more acting ability and characterisation than the entire cast of Max Q in 97 minutes. Take a look for yourself.

Anyway, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences agrees with Heckler and I to the extent that they've awarded Swank two Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role, so I feel that's enough justification for our obsession interest.

The Reaping, (2007, Dir: Stephen Hopkins, Trailer) as befits a two-time Oscar winning actress, is a Serious Horror film, based loosely on the biblical plagues of Egypt. In this case, serious means there aren't many jokes; the plot itself is very silly as most Horror plots are.

Although I anticipate a mostly secular audience for this review, I consider anything that happens in the Bible is not a spoiler. You have been warned.

Let's get the list of plagues out the way. They are:

River turns to blood
Disease of livestock
Hail mixed with Fire
Death of the First Born

Hilary Swank plays Katherine Winter, a former ordained minster who is now Professor of Debunking Miracles (here she is in action) at a Louisiana University. Somewhere in the Bayou, near a town called Haven[1] the river has turned red. They're blaming a young girl, who, not entirely coincidentally, is about the same age Winter's daughter was when she was killed in the Sudan, leading to her loss of faith. Winter arrives in town and fails to find a non-supernatural explanation as the plagues progress. However it seems the town is hiding a dark secret[2].

So let's get to the meat of the issue. What are the theological problems with this? The original 10 plagues were sent by God to convince the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Notably, God sent two representatives to Pharaoh to explain what was going on. We seem very short on prophets telling people what's going on. On the other hand, we see the film mostly from Winter's viewpoint[3], so it could be that God has made the situation clear, but also hardened their hearts to not the girl go, and this all happens off camera where Winter can't see it.

I note in passing that when God unleashes a series of disasters on his peoples, they tend to have a big old-time religious revival which convinces him to stop the smiting. Now there's sufficient reasons in the film to understand why this doesn't happen; you can even understand why God might harden the hearts of the Havenites to not let his chosen go (they deserve everything they get[4]). But here's the thing. He's using the ten plagues to destroy a particular group. Why did he use those exact same ten plagues on Egypt? Was that because it was the same situation?

Is The Reaping suggesting that the story in Exodus is a cover story? In this reading, the release of the Israelites from their bondage was a side effect of the God's main intention - to smite the Egyptians. Exodus is the spin-doctor's version of what actually happened.

My, what a blasphemous film The Reaping is.

Anyway favourite plague? I'm going to pick the most spectacular - Locusts. And it being Horror, I'll also pick out the moment of revelation when you find out what the River of Blood actually is.

Final Score: 6 rounds (One for each plague that's good - Blood, Hail, Darkness, Hail and Death of the Firstborn - and one bonus for Hilary Swank)

Videos linked to in one handy player below.

[1] With a name like that, something disastrous is bound to happen
[2] With a name like Haven, what did you expect?
[3] Additional viewpoints provided by her assistant Ben (Idris Elba), Father Costigan (Stephen Rea) who tries to warn Winter by telephone and comes to a bad end, and some flashbacks from Loren, the girl at the heart of the mystery (AnnaSophia Robb).
[4] True justice is one of the themes of Horror as a genre - if people got what they deserved that would truly be horrific

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Schwarzenegger Corpus 1: Raw Deal

Some years ago Heckler and I came back from the pub with some friends and discovered that a Schwarzenegger film we'd not heard of was coming on: Raw Deal (1986, Director: John Irvin. Trailer.). This, we thought, would be perfect after-pub fare - mindless violence and a quotable one-liner or two. We got the one-liner out of the way fairly quickly:

"You should not drink and bake" (Not Safe For Work) (Afterwards quoted by us as "Don't drink and bake" to anyone who cooked in the style of Keith Floyd)

The film continued with Arnie driving into an oil refinery in his police car, rigging it to blow up and driving out on a motorbike. He then reappears in a smart suit with slicked back hair and begins a one man war against the mob.

("Why did he blow up that oil refinery again?"asked Heckler. "To get enough crude oil to slick back his hair," I replied.)

After Arnie drove a lorry cab into a gambling den, the film got a bit talky for five minutes and we got distracted, stopped paying attention and never did figure out what was going on.

Anyway, the 21st Century rolls around and Raw Deal becomes available on DVD at a highly discounted price. Heckler, determined to find out what the hell that film was about, purchases it. And, earlier this month, we wander back from the pub after a friend's birthday and set it going.

As you might imagine, the evening ended about forty five minutes into the film with Heckler lying on the lounge floor snoring loudly.

If you want to know our impression of the film at that point, this video will probably show you.

Finally last weekend, after watching the Eurovision song contest, we put it on and finally make it through to the end. In brief: Arnie shoots, punches, blows up and generally destroys the Chicago mob, is never in a situation he can't handle, very little collateral damage happens etc. etc. in classic 80s action film style. Good Guys win, Bad Guys lose. High point? The final battle sequence including buildup). Low point? The film in general. Most disappointing is that this exchange (NSFW) is actually in Commando, not Raw Deal as I thought.

So a film from our shared history is out of the way. Still, the DVD has a use: if Heckler is having trouble sleeping, I'll just slip it in the player.

Final Score: 2 rounds (one for the film, and one for you if you miss)

All the Youtube videos from this post arranged in one playlist below.

Monday, 26 May 2008


Heckler and Kochk - we watch bad Sci-Fi so you don't have to.

We're a couple of guys who watch films and TV and then review them in the character of two internet-linked sentient firearms.

I'll note that not every blog description subtitle is 100% accurate. Not everything we watch is bad, nor is it all Sci-Fi[1], but, you know, that's kind of the way to bet. Bad things are generally easier and funnier to review, and our knowledge of Sci-Fi is probably our greatest asset[2] so that will be the meat and potatoes of this blog. And if you want to watch what we have, even though you don't have to, feel free. To a certain extent that's what the comment thread is for.

Anyway, that's the plan. As this is the first post, we haven't actually started yet.

[1] Indeed not everything that gets reviewed here may even be things we've watched - they might be things we've read or heard or smelt, tasted or felt, or even just experienced.
[2] Which would be kind of embarassing, if I weren't an anonymous guy pretending to be a gun. Oh wait...