Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 14: Night of the Demon (1980)

Imagine for a moment that Bigfoot is real--though statistically at least some of you reading this probably already believe he is. Now imagine that Bigfoot is a massive, perpetually grouchy asshole.

That's essentially the core conceit of Night of The Demon.

Hell, based on the many, many flashbacks to stories about deadly encounters with Bigfoot in this film, you begin to wonder how anybody has ever come out of the film's setting alive.

Really, flashbacks are the name of the game in this film as we open in a hospital where anthropology professor Bill Nugent (Michael Cutt) has been taken after he was found in the woods. His face is bandaged because it was badly burned, but the doctor caring for him has determined that he is well enough to tell his incredible story to the police. See, Nugent didn't go into the woods alone and the cops would like to know exactly what happened to the students who all followed him out there.

Well, as Nugent tells them, the inciting incident was the death of a man on a fishing trip. So our first flashback is Nugent relating an event he was not present for, which won't be the first time. At any rate, the man was minding his own business at his campsite when a red-ringed POV cam snuck up on him. (Note that, per this film, Bigfoot has an appalling case of tunnel vision) In shadow we see a hairy figure yank his arm out by the roots, and then the poor man's blood fills in a footprint next to his body--which is a genuinely cool shot.

Well, the daughter of the fisherman joins Nugent's class later, since for some reason Nugent's curriculum is currently focused on Bigfoot and specifically cases where people have been killed or gone missing after encountering the beast. (Also, don't ask me to try and figure out which students are which because I almost immediately gave up trying) Nugent is planning to go camping with the students, something his poor wife is not too keen on, in order to find the truth of the matter.

This involves many shared "hey, did you hear about this story" flashbacks over the course of the film. You'll see a couple be interrupted in the middle of sex when Bigfoot kills the man, Bigfoot casually axe murder a guy who really overacts his death scene, Bigfoot effectively force two girl scouts to knife each other to death by swinging them into each other, and the film's notorious highlight--a biker getting his dick torn out by the roots when he stops to take a leak by the roadside.

If that's not enough, when the group is settling down for the first night, we watch a totally unrelated camper get killed when Bigfoot finds his sleeping bag and then swings him around above his head before launching him onto a pointy tree branch. It is glorious, and rivals the sheer delight of the goofy sleeping bag kill in Prophecy.

I'm not even sure a GIF could capture the sheer lunacy of this moment.
At any rate, Nugent did have a plan to first visit a man who had talked to the police about Bigfoot, but that guy is suddenly mum. However, he does let slip about someone deep in the woods named "Crazy Wanda." Asking around in town, the heroes learn that Wanda was the daughter of some backwoods religious fanatic who ended up burning himself alive after his daughter gave birth to a deformed child. Wanda sure sounds like someone worth talking to...

Finding Wanda requires taking their boat deep into the woods. That night Nugent and another student witness some bizarre cult engaged in a ritual that involves a man preparing to have sex with a woman before an effigy of Bigfoot. Taking the woman's participation in the ceremony to be nonconsensual, Nugent fires into the air to scare off the would-be rapists. This succeeds in one of them accidentally setting the Bigfoot effigy on fire, but Nugent shrugs off the concern that it could start a forest fire.

Unfortunately, Bigfoot apparently doesn't approve of Nugent's half-assed heroism. (Note that he assumed he just stopped a rape, but did nothing to ensure the victim was actually okay) For in the morning they discover that their boat--which contained supplies and back-up ammunition--has been untied and floated off. The footprints at the scene are unmistakable and they make a cast of one.

Alas, by the time they find Wanda (Melanie Graham) in her cabin, Bigfoot has already clawed the back of one of the students when he came upon two of them having sex. Wanda is no help as she seems catatonic, and Nugent realizes she was the woman they "rescued" from the cult earlier. Worse, when one of the students shows her the Bigfoot cast to try and get her to talk, she breaks out of her reverie and smashes it.

Deciding to camp outside of Wanda's cabin proves a poor idea when one of the students wanders to far from camp and Bigfoot bashes his head against a tree and carries his body off. Nugent decides the best way to get answers is to hypnotize Wanda. He's right, in that they learn that her father cast her out of the house when she was 17 after he saw her being romantic with another young man. However, he chose a poor night to do so, as Bigfoot found her and--in a break from his pattern up until now--he decided to rape her instead of killing her.

"Look, sometimes you get tired of just being a relentless murder machine, okay?"
Her father did nothing but wail in anguish as he watched her be attacked, only shooting at the beast once it was finished. However, he did apparently try--and fail--to poison the baby out of Wanda before it was born, assuming it to be a demon spawn. However, the baby was born and when he beheld its poorly made visage he murdered it and buried it outside the cabin. Wanda also reveals that she actually burned her father alive in revenge for murdering her baby.

Nugent decides to dig up the grave and discovers what appears to be a deer skull (?!) in the coffin, which is apparently proof that the baby was half-Bigfoot. He decides this must mean that Bigfoot was desperate to further his species since he knew he was the last, and thus chose Wanda as his mate. Never mind that Bigfoot comes calling on the cabin now and, despite there being several women he could choose from to further his species, he opts to go for "murder everyone but Wanda."

I suppose the women might be grateful for that, if they weren't too busy dying horribly.

Naturally, Nugent somehow survives after Bigfoot smashes his face onto a hot stove. Did you know that having your face burned off causes you to sprout novelty vampire fangs? Well, now you do!

Back in the hospital, the cops decide that Nugent is simply criminally insane and that's that. I mean, why bother looking into such a clearly crazy story? The End.

I bet the Girl Scouts were just thrilled to see their logo used in this movie.
There's really no way of arguing that Night of the Demon is a good movie. Technically competent, sure, and definitely entertaining--but that doesn't automatically make it good.

For one thing, the acting is uniformly awful. I really can't think of any performance that rises above "minimally competent," but most are simply bad. For another, while the film manages to somehow balance flashbacks within flashbacks, its story is still rather nonsensical. Note that it sets up some kind of a Bigfoot cult, implied to be an offshoot of Wanda's father's religious group, and they appear in precisely that one scene with no further role in the story.

Yet, for all its many, many faults, this is a damn fun little movie. It moves along at a great clip and, silly as the frequent flashbacks are, they keep the film from being boring even during the long set-up. It also must be said that, for the most part, its Bigfoot suit is really good. We get a lot of good looks at it and it only looks painfully fake in a few of its shots.

The gore is also far from Tom Savini in quality, but damned if it doesn't give us lots of it.

Really, this is the sort of monster movie that is perfect for watching with a group of friends or at a high school sleepover. It's fun, violent, and sleazy in all the best ways--note that unlike most films of its era, the rape scene is actually not played for titillation--and it really is a hoot.

Shame that the version streaming on Amazon Prime is of such poor quality. True, this is the sort of film that was destined to always be presented in VHS quality, but it would be a treat and a half to see it get an HD release one day.

I mean, you can never have enough scenes of Bigfoot ripping a guy's ding-dong off in HD.

Welcome to Day Fourteen of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for N!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 13: The Monster (2016)

Nothing helps you to confront your metaphorical monsters quite like confronting a real one. I mean, you'd think being almost eaten by a toothy whats-it would be more likely to making you bury yourself even further into self-destructive tendencies, but just you never mind.

And, boy, nothing livens up an awkward road trip with an estranged family member quite like an encounter with a man-eating bat-gorilla-lizard.

Of course, it's hard to anticipate an encounter with such a creature, so 10-year-old Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) is currently more focused on being annoyed at once again playing parent. She cleans up the filthy house full of empty beer bottles, trying to shut out the sound of the alarm that's been snoozed for over an hour. Finally she wakes up her hungover mother, Kathy (Zoe Kazan), who is naturally less than grateful.

Still, late as they are, they do eventually get on the road to Lizzy's father's house. Kathy may be a drunk, but she isn't dumb. When they stop briefly so she can smoke a cigarette outside of the car, she gives Lizzy her grandmother's watch. Lizzy is confused but Kathy explains that she knows Lizzy isn't going to come back this time.

Of course it's a long drive to where they're going and an unexpected bit of construction forces them onto a side road. Just then one of the tires blows out and Kathy loses control of the car, which hydroplanes right into a wolf that had stepped out in front of the car. While they're both shaken up something awful, their only real injuries seem to be Kathy's sprained wrist and a cut on her forehead. The driver's side door is bent inward, so they have to climb out of the passenger door to assess the damage.

The wolf has seen better days.
Lizzy can't shake an eerie feeling that something isn't right. That's not helped by Kathy discovering that the dead wolf has a huge tooth lodged in its side. Luckily, Kathy has her cell phone and they are able to call for a tow truck and an ambulance. The tow truck arrives first, driven by a man who introduces himself as Jesse (Aaron Douglas).

However, Lizzy notices that the wolf has mysteriously disappeared. Jesse loads their bags into his truck, but he discovers that the car has a broken axle he'll need to fix before he can tow them. He advises them to stay put, but when Kathy realizes her cell phone was in one of the bags she sends Lizzy out to get it.

Since the bags are locked in the truck, she'll have to wait for Jesse to finish up before she can get them. In the meantime she follows the bloodstains on the road into the woods at the edge of the pavement. The wolf carcass is there and something has clearly been eating it. Unbeknownst to Lizzy, that something is standing right behind her, just out of focus.

Our first look at the monster.
Lizzy goes back to the car to tell her mother what she found, but a half-eaten wolf seems like small potatoes when they realize Jesse isn't under the car any longer. However, he soon returns--well, part of him returns. His severed arm lands on the hood of the car and the shaken mother and daughter huddle together inside their car.

Unfortunately, it isn't long before they find themselves in the awful position of being helpless to do anything but watch when the mauled Jesse crawls back out of the woods to his truck, and the monster looms up behind him...

The monster prepares to finish the job.
As plots go, The Monster seems as simple as its title. However, the film takes a lot of time to truly set up the relationship between Lizzy and Kathy via flashbacks--and it is harrowing stuff.

Even as someone with a relatively positive relationship with my parents growing up, I recognize a lot of truth in the shouting matches between mother and daughter. However, Kathy is by no means a positive maternal figure. There's no question that the two love each other more than they are able to outwardly admit now, after too many disappointments, heated arguments, and verbally abusive boyfriends.

However, one of the most chilling moments in a film full of them is seeing a time when Lizzy held a knife to her unconscious mother's throat, whispering how much she hates her and wants her gone. It's even worse that we know that that moment of pure animal hatred didn't come from nowhere.

So of course it becomes genuinely heart-wrenching to see their situation spiraling further and further out of control. It isn't long before Kathy is realizing that she may have no option but to give her own life to save her daughter's, and Lizzy is realizing that she doesn't want her mother to go after all.

Kathy tries to sneak out of the car to get the phone from the tow truck.
That's not to say that the film lets Kathy off the hook. She was clearly an abusive mother who let her own demons ruin her child's life rather than seeking help. Lizzy is never made to forgive her mother for being a bad parent, either. It's also a nice touch that, even though we never meet Lizzy's father, the film doesn't try to give us the impression that he was any kind of saint. One of the few glimpses of his character we get is when we hear Lizzy's side of a phone call with him, and she clearly cuts him off from trying to blame the accident on Kathy being drunk.

It's a simple line, but it rather nicely insinuates that just because he's the "better parent," doesn't mean he's above petty swipes at his ex.

The characters are great and the acting is even better. I've seen Zoe Kazan in more than a few things, so I knew she had great chops but Ella Ballentine is amazing as Lizzy. A bad child actor can really sink a project like this, particularly since so much of the film's perspective belongs to her, but she is more than up to the task.

Speaking of characters, our title character is a real standout. The film wisely never gives us too good a look at it, but it's a great man-in-a-suit beast that once again shows that sometimes old school effects are the way to go. It's a great design, very simple yet ferocious and frightening. It also nicely strides the line between "utterly alien" and "could have started as a real animal" that this sort of unexplained menace really needs to be truly effective.

Lizzy gets a lot closer to the monster than she bargained for.
Though I was a tiny bit disappointed that nothing comes of the fact that the creature either has wings or a flying squirrel-style flap of skin between its front and back legs. Unless we're to infer it dropped a couple of its victims onto vehicles whilst flying, that is.

Bottom line, this film is excellent and you should see it at once. If you have Amazon Prime, it's streaming there as of this writing, but I genuinely feel that if you were to just go out and buy the disc based on my recommendation you would not regret it in the slightest. If this hadn't gotten such a small release when it first came out, it would already be destined for minor classic status and I genuinely believe it deserves to be treated as such.

It's always nice to get to watch a genuinely great movie for Hubrisween now and again.

Welcome to Day Thirteen of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for M!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 12: Life (2017)

It's not unusual for an official sequel (or prequel, as the case may be) to a famous film and a clear rip-off of that same film to come out in the same year. After all, when studio executives see something that works, they want more of that exact same thing in any way they can get it. Amazingly, this remains true even when the film everybody wants more of came out nearly 40 years earlier.

And so it was that 2017 gave us both Alien: Covenant and today's film, Life.

Of course, whenever a sequel and a knock-off go up against each other, it's natural to be extremely curious as to which of them will be better. Indeed, oftentimes it's about far more than that--there's a curiosity to see which film does a better job of following in the footsteps of the original.

Well, it wasn't exactly a hard task but I am happy to say that Life makes for a far better Alien "prequel" than the one we actually got. God knows I would have hated having two watch two films painfully fail at that.

That is, unless we're talking The Bye-Bye Man levels of failure, of course.

We open as the International Space Station crew prepares to receive an incoming probe carrying soil samples from Mars. Samples that have clearly already been determined to contain life, based on how eager they are to catch it when it turns out to have gone off course--and the fact that the ISS usually doesn't contain a representative from the CDC, to my knowledge.

Said representative is Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), whose main responsibility is setting up various "firewalls" for the crew to maintain in order to keep whatever specimens they find safely quarantined. The job of studying the specimens falls to Dr. Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), an exobiologist. It's worth noting that Hugh has been wheelchair-bound since he was a child and thus welcomes the freedom that zero-gravity has allowed him.

While Mission Commander Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya), systems engineer Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada), and medical officer Dr. David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) watch closely, the ISS's flight engineer Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds) goes EVA to control the station's arm and manages to catch the probe. Hugh quickly determines one of the specimens contains a unique single-celled organism and before you know it, an elementary school in America has been granted the honor of naming it.

Your nightmarish, flesh-eating extraterrestrial for this evening will be named "Calvin."

Also, Sho's wife just gave birth to their first child, so you can start counting down to his death now.
Calvin is a very curious creature, indeed. Once Hugh manages to find the right atmosphere to wake it up, the creature quickly reveals itself to actually be a multi-cellular organism where each cell is able to perform any task the creature as a whole needs. What's more, it seems to be aware of its surroundings and even extends a friendly pseudopod to explore Hugh's gloved hand inside the quarantine box.

However, its rapid growth makes Miranda nervous. So she's almost relieved when Hugh forgets to check a clamp in the lab and a leak in the box causes Calvin to go dormant. However, they can't exactly give up that easily on the first verifiable case of alien life. Hugh's solution is to use a small electric rod to shock the creature back to life.

This is both a good idea and a really shit one. It's good in that it works, bad in that Calvin wakes up pissed.

Now both looking like and moving like a cartoon starfish that snapped and went homicidal, Calvin snaps the electrical rod in two and then begins breaking all the bones in Hugh's hand until he passes out. Miranda has to fight with the others to maintain the quarantine, especially when Calvin figures out that the rod has a sharp point and the gloves can be broken with this point. Upon seeing the creature make its way into the cage with a rat and devour it in seconds, Rory impulsively breaks the quarantine.

Patrick Star finally loses it.
On the plus side, Hugh is safe. On the downside, Calvin latched onto Rory's leg and he can't leave quarantine until that's resolved. Luckily, the lab has both "oxygen candles" and a flamethrower to use against the little fiend--and Golovkina gives Rory clearance to kill it.

Now, despite a flamethrower seeming like a very, very bad idea inside a pressured oxygen environment, Rory does his damnedest to incinerate the little monster. Unfortunately, it just won't burn and he quickly runs out of fuel with nothing to show for it.

And then Calvin forces his way into Rory's mouth and down his throat. The globs of blood that keep floating out of Rory's mouth as a result of this seem like a pretty bad sign, even before his vitals flatline on the station's monitor.

Unfortunately, the flamethrower's pilot light manages to set off a CO2 sprinkler fire suppression system. Calvin emerges from Rory's body, much larger than before, and it clearly has figured out that the sprinkler vents are a way out. Because the vent system is so poorly designed that it has to be turned off vent by vent in order to seal the lab again, the creature escapes into the station.

And, as luck would have it, their communications go down shortly after--cutting off a distress call they were busy sending. So Golovkina goes EVA to fix the communication array, only to discover that the issue is that the equipment has overheated due to a coolant loss. And when she opens a valve to check she discovers why: Calvin has been feeding on the coolant and it leaps out and latches onto her suit. Somehow the creature is able to survive in the vacuum, which Hugh hypothesizes is because the creature somehow stored oxygen--basically it's holding its breath.

Golovkina is able to close the valve again, but the plan to get her back to the airlock and then remove Calvin goes seriously FUBAR when the tentacled creature somehow damages her spacesuit's coolant pump and she finds her helmet flooding with toxic liquid. David is almost able to get the poor woman back inside when she finds a moment of clarity in her panic and deliberately locks the airlock door and allows herself to drift away rather than risk Calvin getting back inside.

Man, drowning in outer space has got to be one of the most horrifying ways to go that I can think of.

Well, that's a heaping bowl of fuck this, right there.
Unfortunately, Calvin is smart enough to figure out to leap back onto the ISS hull. Worse, it has a way in via the thrusters. Sure, Sho can read a change in the thruster temperature and then burn the creature back out each time it tries to get in, and he does. However, just firing thrusters in orbit is a bad idea and soon the ISS is entering a decaying orbit. The crew find themselves forced to choose between using the last of their fuel to avoid burning up on re-entry or letting Calvin get back into the station.

Given that they can't risk Calvin getting to Earth, they clearly have no choice but to let the creature back in and try to eradicate it. Of course, Calvin is not going to make that easy for them, since not only has the creature grown much bigger and changed into a form that resembles more of a squid crossed with a stingray, it's also distressingly smart and nigh indestructible...

"Well...this is awkward."
I can't say there are genuinely very many surprises left in Life past this point. It's hardly to the point that you'll guess every single development but you also won't be terribly shocked, even when the film expects you to be.

That said, I went into the film with, well, mediocre expectations. So naturally I was pleasantly surprised when the movie turned out to be good. Not great, mind you, but I was expecting utterly disposable trash that wasted a great premise and, instead, I got a very enjoyable film that mostly succeeds in living up to the excellence of its core premise.

Oh, there are definitely some points where it fails. For one, for all that it tries to be a monster movie rooted in science, the film also occasionally just abandons that science totally in ways that make little or no sense. Not just in the fact that it should be plainly obvious using a flamethrower aboard the ISS would be a disaster, but also in the biology of Calvin.

For one thing, Calvin is revealed to be a creature made up of cells that can perform any function as needed. This would seem to be setting up the fact that such a creature could easily regenerate into several more creatures from a single stray cell--but it never does. Also, we are clearly shown that it can survive in space but the plan for killing it revolves around the assumption that it is susceptible to oxygen deprivation?

However, in a way that just adds to the film's charm. There's a lot of this movie that reminds me of science fiction films in the 1950s. In fact, part of the film's ending involves a character recording a warning for Earth to avoid Martian lifeforms, which is almost identical to the speech that ends It! The Terror From Beyond Space about humans needing to bypass Mars and its fearsome native life.

The cast is also excellent, with nobody making the blatant choice to not give a shit about their performance in a monster movie. And the characters are likable enough, to the point that you may not cry over their deaths, but you definitely don't want to see them be killed.

It would be a stretch to call Life a "great" film, but it's a highly enjoyable creature feature. And, really, sometimes that's all you can really ask out of, er, life.

Welcome to the Day Twelve of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for L!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 11: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

King Kong is definitely one of cinema's most enduring and popular characters, but somehow this is true despite most of his incarnations using him to tell the exact same story. Giant ape encounters blonde woman and carries her around his island fighting off the other denizens of said island, before he is taken back to New York City and ends up taking a fatal dive off of the tallest building.

There are, of course, outliers that try something different. Just look at King Kong vs. Godzilla, King Kong Escapes, or King Kong Lives--but generally the one major Kong story is the one that filmmakers find themselves going with.

So it was a welcome change when today's film was announced as a prequel of sorts to the familiar Kong story. However, things change rapidly in Hollywood and before long the film mutated instead into a prequel to Godzilla (2014) in order to set up the rematch, Godzilla vs. Kong in 2020. As you might imagine, this was quite a shift in the film's original intent.

The clear upside is that it meant that we weren't going to be stuck with yet another remake of the original film. Beyond that, it was tough to know precisely what to expect until the trailers came--and they were pleasantly surprising.

I certainly wouldn't have expected a film where the weird two-legged lizard thing from the original King Kong became the basis for Kong's ultimate nemesis.

"Finally, the stardom I deserve!"
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

We open in the Pacific in 1944 in the immediate aftermath of a dogfight that forces both American pilot Hank Marlow (Will Brittain) and Japanese pilot Gunpei Ikaru (pop singer Miyavi) to ditch their planes on a mysterious island. The two decide to continue their battle on foot, but soon find themselves interrupted by the appearance of an enormous ape...

Fast forward to 1973 Washington D.C., as the end of the Vietnam War is announced. We follow Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), two representatives of the shadowy government agency Monarch as they try to make a plea for official support to explore an island recently discovered via satellite. In this film Monarch is not quite as powerful as it will eventually be in Godzilla, in fact it's in danger of being shut down. After all, nobody actually believes in monsters.

However, pointing out that whatever secrets this unknown island has will surely be exploited by the Russians if Monarch doesn't get there first gets their foot in the door. Soon enough Randa, Brooks, and San Lin (Jing Tian) are hitching a ride with a Landsat mission already set for the same island--along with a military helicopter escort led by Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Packard is a career military man who is taking the end of the Vietnam War very hard, so he welcomes one more chance to put himself right in the thick of it.

Of course, Packard isn't super pleased by some of the civilian choices Randa brings aboard. He has no real beef with former SAS Captain turned tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddelston), but he does bristle at photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). In Packard's mind, no-good peaceniks like Weaver lost the war for them.

Luckily, this film learned a lesson from Peter Jackson's bloated remake and once it has established our heroes sufficiently we quickly find ourselves flying through the perpetual storm that walls off Skull Island and the helicopter crew is quickly dropping seismic explosives to map the island. To Brooks and Randa's delight, the island's bedrock is practically hollow, which would seem to back up Randa's hunch that the island is home to monsters.

Unfortunately, his hunch gets proved far sooner than Randa really wanted it to be. Those seismic explosives didn't just disturb the island's population of deer and birds--they angered a gorilla-like creature standing 100 feet tall. And it turns out that the squadron of helicopters is no match for the beast, which quickly destroys every single one of them.

"Permission to turn back whilst shrieking like a frightened toddler, sir?"
While a lot of Packard's men die, most of them survive and end up scattered across the island in various groups. Packard and Randa's group gets to learn the hard way that the island is home to gargantuan spiders that can disguise themselves as stalks of bamboo. A pretty raw deal by any measure.

Weaver, Conrad, Brooks, and Lin's group manage to get a much better deal of it. They only encounter a harmless gigantic water buffalo and then meet the island's natives, who happen to be sheltering Hank Marlow (now John C. Reilly) in their midst. Marlow is therefore able to explain how things work around here. Kong is the king of the island, protector of all that live upon it so long as they are not hostile...or delicious, if Kong's treatment of a huge cephalopod living in the island's river is any indication.

I'm with Kong: calamari is delicious.
However, the tunnels beneath the island are home to what Marlow calls "Skullcrawlers." Years ago, one killed Marlow's best friend Gunpei, and before that the biggest of the beasts killed Kong's parents. Kong is still growing, according to Marlow, but he's not sure he's grown enough to take on the big one.

So the survivors find themselves in a serious conundrum with three major conflicts once they all meet up again: First, Packard wants to kill Kong for what he did to his men. Two, if they don't get to the far side of the island within three days, they'll miss their only window to leave the island. Three, those seismic bombs woke up the Skullcrawlers and one of the little ones decimates most of the survivors before they can put it down.

So if a "little" Skullcrawler can do that, what will the "big one" do? Seems like keeping Kong around might be the best idea after all...

"Oh, hey, a snack!"
It almost seems silly to call Kong: Skull Island a "divisive" film, since it seems like any major release these days seems to manage to have people who love it and hate it in relatively equal measure. That becomes doubly true with a film so ensconced in fandom as a giant monster movie.

For mine own part, I love this film warts and all. And believe me, it has some serious warts.

One wart has seen many essays written about it, so I won't labor on it too much here other than how affects the film's presentation. By that I mean the decision to have a young white male director who had only done low-budget projects previously take over the reigns to a tentpole blockbuster. Don't get me wrong, overall it's clear to me that Jordan Vogt-Roberts was the right person for the job--but he also makes a few bad choices that a more experienced director might not have.

The worst of these poor choices has to be the film's overuse of slow-motion, or more specifically "over-cranked footage immediately followed by normal speed footage." Thankfully the majority of it happens during the initial helicopter fight so we don't spend the whole movie trying to ape Zack Snyder's style. (I make no apologies for that pun) However, it's a choice that really distracts from the film and I wish someone had told Vogt-Roberts to knock it off.

Another wart the film has is that, like Godzilla before it, we spend way too much time with the blandest of our protagonists--Conrad and Weaver. This is thankfully much less egregious here, since this film is much more of an ensemble piece. However, we do still end up with potentially interesting characters given little to do. Hell, Lin is given so little to do that one suspects Jing Tian was included solely to try and sell the film in China. I can't help but wonder if her character got way more scenes in the Chinese cut, in fact, but I feel like I would have heard of that if it were the case.

Well, hopefully she's going to have a bigger part in Pacific Rim Uprising?
The film's final weakness, in my mind, is that there are several times when it writes itself into a corner and just hopes we won't notice. In one scene, a character is carried off and brutally dismembered by the island's knife-headed pterosaurs--but the characters never seem worried about the creatures after that incident. More egregiously, however, in Kong's first encounter with the big Skullcrawler he is quickly overpowered by it...

...but the creature then seems to just leave him alone. There's not even a token attempt to explain why it didn't use that opportunity to kill him, beyond the simple fact that if it had he wouldn't have been around for the big final fight. It seems like a glaring mistake that a script doctor could easily have fixed, but no one did.

"I could have finished the job back there, but it wouldn't have been sporting, old chap!"
Aside from those issues, as I said before, I love this movie. Much like King Kong Escapes its main goal is just to tell a fun story, and it excels at that. The final fight between Kong and the big Skullcrawler is a marvelous battle that goes in some delightful unexpected directions, and the film's moments of comedy are genuinely funny.

And the creature design is wonderful. While it's always a little sad to encounter a Skull Island without a single dinosaur on it, I have to give the film credit for giving us something almost as good. From our reptilian antagonists to ferocious giant spiders and even seemingly gentle creatures like the water buffalo and a giant stick insect, this island feels alive in the best way.

I also have to say that this is my favorite incarnation of Kong. I love the choice to have him walking upright, as he did in the 1976 remake, while also modelling his facial features on the original 1933 ape. It's true that Peter Jackson's version did a much better job of actually building Kong's character, but you still get a great sense of who this film's Kong is and the design is about as unique as "a gorilla but big" can really get.

Obviously, the other major goal of this film is to fully solidify its shared universe and it does a much, much better job of that than other much clunkier attempts like Iron Man 2 or Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Mainly this film succeeds because it actually focuses on the story it's trying to tell first and franchise-building second. Hell, shades of Marvel, it waits until the very end of the credits to give us a teaser for the upcoming Godzilla: King of the Monsters and you better believe that teaser still makes me as giddy as a schoolgirl.

At the end of the day, Kong: Skull Island is a delightfully fun giant monster movie, and most days I just simply couldn't ask for more.

Welcome to the Day Eleven of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for K!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 10: Jack Frost (1997)

Back in the late 90s, if you were a B-Movie Fan you might remember what is easily the funniest case of two movies with the same title and a very premise coming out within a short time of each other. Even though they were produced utterly independently of each other, the world saw the release of two movies about someone dying and coming back as a snowman, both named Jack Frost.

Even more hilariously, one movie was a cheap horror comedy about a serial killer coming back as a snowman to exact his revenge, and the other was a big studio family movie starring Michael Keaton as a man who comes back as a snowman to be with his son. Though, of course, the living snowman in Keaton's version managed to look far creepier.

"Wait, I'm supposed to be bonding with this kid, not eating his eyeballs?"
Both films lack much of any positive reputation, of course, so in theory you could say they both have that going for them, too. However, I tended to find myself in a bit of a disagreement with the popular opinion on this one, because I happened to love Jack Frost.

The killer snowman one, obviously.

Luckily for me, the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome may not have necessarily agreed with my love of the film, but they still felt it deserved an excellent Blu-ray release and so I was able to revisit a film I had loved in my teenage years. And in glorious HD!

Of course, this is always an iffy proposition as a film you loved at 14 is often going to be a painful rewatch at almost 34. I mean, that's nearly 20 years of maturity there and...oh, who am I kidding? My tastes haven't matured that much.

The film begins with a genuinely clever bit of exposition delivery. As the camera pans over some Christmas ornaments with the credits written on them, an offscreen Uncle tells his young niece a "happy, scary story" at her request. This turns out to be the story of Jack Frost, the way he killed people and how he eventually slipped up and was caught, and is on his way to be executed this very night.

Well, we all know that isn't going to go well.

He seems like a jolly old fellow.
Indeed, in the back of the prison van transporting him to his final destination in the midst of a blizzard, Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald), has already managed to kill one of the guards. Whatever plans he had for escape are quickly aided by the van getting into a head-on collision with a tanker truck for a genetics corporation. Said plans are also immediately crushed by the same accident, because heat from the burning truck causes the tank to explode and Jack is doused in a strange acid that quickly melts him into goop.

Said goop, however, disappears into the snow and--via some CGI animation that wasn't even good at the time--we see his cells merge with the ice and snow. The only guard to survive of the crash shoots at the writhing snow as it bellows with Jack's voice...

Meanwhile, the man who caught Jack Frost through sheer dumb luck, Sheriff Sam Tiler (Christopher Allport), is driving home with his wife Anne (Eileen Seeley) and young son Ryan (Zack Eginton, who is clearly not as young as the filmmakers intended him to be). They pass by the scene of the accident, not realizing its significance. Naturally nobody believes the story the crash's lone survivor tells, except Agent Manners (Stephen Mendel) and his twitchy compatriot Agent Stone (Rob LaBelle).

And of course they would believe him--they actually work for the company that acid belonged to, and they know what it was meant to do.

It isn't long before strange deaths start happening in Sam's town, and he begins to wonder if maybe Jack Frost didn't die in the crash as the news claimed. It especially hits home when the local teenage bully is beheaded in Sam's front yard by a sled (it's just as silly as it sounds), after taunting Ryan in front of a mysterious snowman the younger kid was decorating.

I'm shocked this hasn't become its own meme yet.
Of course, it gets even worse when the same snowman pays a visit to the bully's parents. The father gets his own axe shoved right down his throat, and the mother has her face bashed into a box of glass ornaments before being strung up on her own Christmas tree. Sam is baffled and while Manners and Stone "from the FBI" show up to look at the murder scene, they're keeping mum about what they know.

Though, really, all they actually know is that the killer is something able to alter its molecular structure. In other words, it can melt into water and then refreeze into ice and snow, at will. The local hardware store owner, Paul Davrow (F. William Parker), knows what's going on, however. He was making a delivery of salt to the house when he saw the killer gloating over his bloody Christmas tree. Of course, he just appears to have lost his mind when he's found smashing all the snowmen built for the town's annual contest while screaming, "Fucker's a snowman!"

Said snowman is able to finish the job on the bully's family in the meantime. The bully's older sister, Jill (Shannon Elizabeth in her film debut, though she was originally credited as "Shannon Elizabeth Fadal" and it seems the credits were later altered after she became famous) decides to convince her boyfriend, Tommy Davrow (Darren O. Campbell), that they should sneak into the sheriff's house to have sex.

No, I don't have any clue why she wants to do this. Let's just say it's because she gets off on breaking and entering.

Well, after the two strip down to their long underwear to "The 12 Days Of Christmas", Jill retires upstairs to dry her hair and tells Tommy to get her some wine and draw her a bath. (No, I don't know why she dried her hair before a bath) Alas, poor Tommy makes the acquaintance of "the world's most pissed off snow-cone" and gets an icicle shot through his skull. And then Jill discovers that the water in her bathtub is actually Jack Frost, who then...rapes her to death, seemingly by bashing her head against the wall too many times.

Yes, this is played for laughs.
"I have frostbite in all the worst places!"
This is definitely the most indefensible part of the film, made even worse by the fact that you might notice Jack's carrot nose is missing. According to the director, the carrot was supposed to be in place but in the first take poor Shannon Elizabeth got poked in the face by it and they removed it for safety reasons. It was only later that they realized the implications...and then ran with it by showing Jack putting his nose back on afterward.

It says something about where we are as a culture that in 1997 this joke was made most likely without any thought that playing a murder-by-rape as a joke is incredibly fucked up--but if the same joke were done in the movie today, it would have been done specifically to "trigger snowflakes." Both motives are obviously fucked up, but I suppose it's progress that by 2017 only actual shitlords would be unable to realize how wrong it is.

At any rate, Jack very shortly reveals himself to Sam, Manners, and Stone. Bullets don't hurt him and blowing up the sheriff station with him inside it only temporarily inconveniences him. However, he definitely showed an aversion to hairdryers in the sheriff station, so Sam guides the townspeople to use hairdryers to force Jack back into the furnace of the town's meeting hall.

"I'd tell you to 'freeze,' but..."
That works, since it turns Jack into steam. However, what happens when steam hits a cold window, class? Sure enough, Jack returns to his liquid state and then quickly to his solid state. Jack uses icicle teeth to chew Manners's face off and then uses Stone as a host body to try and get out of the hall unnoticed. However, when he confronts Sam and Ryan, Sam makes the discovery that the disgusting-looking oatmeal his son made him earlier in the film burns Jack.

It turns out that Ryan, wanting his father to stay warm, put anti-freeze in the oatmeal. Again, I think this shows that Ryan was meant to be much younger than the actor playing him and also, holy shit if Sam had actually eaten that his son would have killed him.

However, I'm sure Sam will come to that conclusion in time and have a serious talk with his son. For now, however, he finally knows what Jack Frost's weakness is...

Amazingly, not a single Phantom of The Opera joke is made.
It's not hard to see why many folks think Jack Frost is awful. Even aside from the rape of Shannon Elizabeth's character being played as a joke, horror comedy is a tricky subgenre to get right. A film that has a killer snowman as its monster must already seem to be trying too hard for most folks.

There's also little question that this is a very low-budget film, and when a film shows its budget as clearly as this one it tends to meet with an extra layer of scorn.

One of the more amusing stories about this film's production is that, despite multiple mentions of dangerous snowstorms and blizzards, the area where it was filmed was experiencing an unexpected snow drought. Therefore, despite a game attempt by the film to bring in some fake snow, it's hilariously obvious that the town has nary a flake on the ground in most scenes. Frankly, this rather endeared me to the film for doing its damnedest to make do.

As for the horror comedy aspects, well, humor is subjective. If you're not game for a lot of very bad snow and Christmas pun one-liners, you're going to find this film to be torture. Personally, I find it rather charming. I mean, come on, this film's soundtrack is largely hard rock covers of Christmas carols!

Most importantly, the film seems to understand--in most scenes--that its premise needs to be played straight in order to be funniest. It definitely goes in for the broad comedy where it can, but otherwise it strives to hit all the same beats you'd expect it to go for if it was a serious horror movie.

It's definitely true that this film is very much not for everyone, and might even be better classified as "not for most people." However, even twenty years later I still find myself a little bit in love with it.

Welcome to Day Ten of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for J!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 9: Island of Terror (1966)

When it comes to science, there are a great many advances that can actually be attributed to someone messing up. Sometimes it's as simple as forgetting to put away a sample and discovering the fungus that grows on it can kill bacteria. Other times, the screw up just results in wasted research.

However, it takes a very special kind of fuck up to have your attempt to develop a cure for cancer release monsters that suck the bones right out of human beings.

Well, unfortunately for the residents of Petrie's Island off the coast of Ireland, their resident secluded scientist is one such fuck up. Dr. Lawrence Phillips (Peter Forbes-Robertson) has based his operation in a huge mansion on the island and when the film begins, he is just about to start an experiment--in coordination with a sister laboratory in Tokyo--that could very well mean the end of cancer.

Unfortunately for him, he's starting right before the opening credits of a horror film. The sound of breaking glass and the glimpse of his lab full of corpses clues us in that the only way he's developed a cure for cancer is if you consider "death" to be a cure.

Of course, the trouble with the cure that Phillips created is that it didn't simply kill everyone in his lab and then stay put. Alas, hapless farmer Ian Bellows (Liam Gaffney) hears a strange sound in a cave while walking along his property one evening. Investigating the sound proves to be a bad idea, though the extent to just how bad an idea it is only becomes clear when his wife alerts Constable John Harris (Sam Kydd) of his disappearance. It doesn't take long for the Constable to find Bellows and he immediately fetches Dr. Reginald Landers (Eddie Byrne) to take a look at the corpse in the cave.

After all, it isn't often you find a body where all the bones are missing.

"Well, he could still have a promising career as a Dick Tracy villain!"
Landers is utterly stumped, of course. He presumes it must be an unheard of disease, so he requests permission to borrow the island's launch from the head of the community, Roger Campbell (Niall McGinnis). He knows this will leave the island without a means to reach the mainland until the launch can be returned, but he fears it is the only way.

Well, when Landers seeks out famed pathologist, Dr. Brian Stanley (Peter Cushing), in London he finds that Stanley is just as stumped by the details of the case as he is. However, Stanley does know of a colleague who might be of some assistance--Dr. David West (Edward Judd), an expert on bones and the diseases that affect them.

Of course, West is currently busy attempting to canoodle with Toni Merrill (Carole Gray), a wealthy socialite, when they come by his place for a social call. However, West is willing to forgive the intrusion when Landers tells him the details. For her part, Merrill eagerly volunteers the use of her father's helicopter to get back to the island quicker.

Naturally, there's a hitch that isn't revealed until they've already made the trip: Merrill's father needs the helicopter back for some other business, so now the island is completely cut off from the outside world until the helicopter returns.

Sure, why not: what could go wrong?

After examining the corpse of Ian Bellows, West and Stanley find themselves no closer to an answer than before. All they can be sure of is that the bones weren't merely disintegrated but seemingly removed through microscopic punctures in the flesh. Once West and Stanley learn of Dr. Phillips being on the island, they decide to pay him a visit to see what assistance he can offer.

Of course, when they are forced to break into Phillips's mansion, they discover it is strewn with bodies in the same shape as poor Bellows. Hoping Phillips wrote something in his notes, they grab those and return to the hotel. However, after they leave the mansion, it's the poor Constable who discovers the source of the "disease." Landers had left him a note that they were going to visit Phillips, and after the Constable got a report of a boneless horse from another local farmer he went to fetch them. However, when he hears a strange sound in the basement of the mansion, he goes to investigate and is suddenly seized by a tentacle...

"Please, I told you, I don't know where Captain Nemo is!"
It isn't long before Landers, Stanley, West, and Merrill find themselves right back in that basement as well. And then they also meet the creature that killed the Constable, only it's worse than that because it's actually creatures. Later to be dubbed "Silicates" by our heroes, the fiends looks rather like starfish with a single squid-like tentacle snaking out of an opening in what seems to be the front of their carapace.

"Hello! Have you heard the Good Word about our Lord & Destroyer, Cthulhu?"
Well, seeing as how they're trapped by the creatures anyway, Dr. Landers grabs a nearby axe and tries to chop up a Silicate. It's a helpful experiment in that the heroes learn that axes don't even tickle a Silicate, and they get to witness how a Silicate feeds when it grabs Landers with its tentacle and sucks his bones out.

However, the others are spared because the Silicates suddenly retract their tentacles and become inert. This is good news in that they are now given the chance to safely get past the Silicates. The bad news is that the reason the Silicates went inert is so they could divide. So now there are even more bone-eating indestructible monsters on the island, and if our heroes don't think of a solution soon the whole island will soon be overrun...

Mmm, Silicate noodle soup!
There are few things quite so delightful as seeing Peter Cushing in a monster movie, but naturally it's much more delightful to see him in a good monster movie. And Island of Terror most definitely fits the bill there.

For one thing, while their design is incredibly simple and relatively cost-effective, the Silicates are marvelous creations. The way the monsters feed is terrifying enough, but they're also also noisy little bastards. Combine their unnatural vocalizations with the fact that they are slow but inexorable, and you've basically found yourself looking at Romero-style zombies if said zombies were also completely indestructible.

For another, the characters are genuinely engaging. That Peter Cushing is charming and likable is hardly a shock, since he could make even the biggest bastard come across as a plaeasant fellow. However, the rest of the cast is game for the task as well. Edward Judd comes across as rather unbearably smug at times, but the film also make sure to show that he is doing his damnedest to help the people of the island. Even Carole Gray gets her moments to shine, though she is rather annoyingly saddled with the role of being the frightened woman who has to cower and be protected. This was still the mid-1960s, after all, so if a woman insisted on coming along for a dangerous mission because she swears she can handle herself you'd better believe the movie was going to find a way to prove her wrong.

The story is also pitch perfect, setting up its climax perfectly. This is a wonderful case of a horror movie plot building from a few mysterious deaths to a crescendo of carnage. My "indestructible Romero zombie" analogy isn't very far off, since it isn't until late in the film that the heroes discover a way to kill the Silicates--but that means everyone on the island holed up in one building as the Silicates swarm around it, hoping that the solution kills the beasts before they can kill the islanders. Naturally, that means not every islander is going to make it out of this one.

Luckily for those of us outside the world of the film, the wonderful folks at Scream Factory put this one out on a great Blu-ray. I highly recommend picking it up as soon as you can.

It's also a great film to watch over a bowl of chicken noodle soup, as you might have noticed.

Welcome to Day Nine of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for I!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Hubri5Ween 2017, Day 8: Harvest Lake (2016)

Sexuality is hardly an uncommon topic in horror films. I don't just mean in the sense of "people have sex and then die," either. I mean in the sense of being the focus of an entire film, like It Follows or many of David Cronenberg's films.

So a film like Harvest Lake is hardly unique in that sense. Yet, something about the film caused Amazon to pull it from their streaming service without warning. Most reports on this seemed to feel the film was considered too sexually explicit, but I can't say if that was the reasoning behind its removal or not.

However, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if it were. For one thing, most horror films about sexuality tend to be rather implicitly sex negative. Harvest Lake, on the other hand, doesn't seem to view sex with any level of judgment--even though sexuality is the instrument the film's seemingly malevolent force uses to control and destroy its victims. Sexuality is just a part of human nature, after all, and it's ludicrous to condemn people for having that nature used against them.

More distressingly, I can't help but think that the film's willingness to portray homosexual sex as frankly as it does the more "acceptable" hetero variety may have also been a factor in Amazon's squeamishness. I hope I'm wrong about that.

We get a good sense of how frankly this film deals with sexuality right off the bat, as we are introduced to an unnamed couple (Lucretia Lynn and Derek Sturgeon) in the woods. The two quickly disrobe and make love in the woods, affording us something not often seen in the opening minutes of a horror film--full frontal male nudity. The two then doze off, but when they awaken they seem to be in some kind of a trance. They both eagerly imbibe a strange liquid dripping from some leaves, and then wander to the banks of a lake. Without any hint of hesitation, they wade into the lake until they disappear from view...

Now that we've established the lake is up to no good, it's time to be introduced to the expected quartet of friends heading to a lake cabin for the weekend. Except there's a bit of a twist here. Sure, Ben (Dan Nye) and Cat (Tristan Risk) are the expected horny couple, but Jennifer (Ellie Church) and Josh (Jason Crowe) are not a couple. In fact, Josh is gay and they're technically both the third wheel here, since Jennifer asked Josh to come so she wouldn't have to be alone with a couple.

I'm sure you're shocked to discover our cast is full of good-looking people.
Well, to be fair, she also asked him to come because Josh has just gone through a bad break up and she felt it would be good for him to be among friends. Though perhaps Ben's suggestion that Josh should take advantage of his singleness to "whore it up" is a bit less than helpful.

Of course, there is a bit more awkwardness in store than that. For starters, Cat takes Jennifer aside once they reach the cabin and reveals she has an ulterior motive for inviting her: she was hoping to give Ben a threesome for his birthday, with Jennifer as the third member. Jennifer is, understandably, a bit taken aback and needs time to consider this. Second, Cat packed some sexy short-short swim trunks for Ben and it takes a lot of badgering to get him to wear them down to the lake.

However, things will get even weirder at the lake because it isn't long before whatever lives beneath the water senses their presence and begins to work its influence on all of them.

I'm going to assume that the choice to make it a "one-eyed monster" was very, very deliberate.
Ben and Cat wander off and find themselves individually entranced by bizarre fungi so blatantly based on a vagina and a penis that Freud would say to tone it down. Josh finds himself unable to resist touching himself, as does Jennifer. Except Jennifer does it underwater, and quickly finds some extra friendly tentacles giving her some assistance--right up until they pull her under the water.

Josh breaks the trance first, and when he finds some cast-off swimsuits covered in strange slime he calls out for the confused Ben and Cat. Jennifer also joins them, but it does seem odd that the way she covers herself with her towel almost seems to imply she's naked under it--and that sure does look like her body floating in the lake as the group heads back to the cabin.

That night at the cabin, the group finds themselves joined by handsome stranger, Mark (Kevin Roach). A quick game of Truth or Dare reveals that Mark has the hots for Josh. One passionate kiss and soon the two have said good night to the others so they can go back to Mark's tent and, uh, get to know each other better.

Ben's night gets even better, of course, because it turns out Jennifer has decided she is very into the idea that Cat suggested. Of course, there is one small hiccup that Cat didn't expect. I mean, planning a threesome is tricky enough, so you can be forgiven for her not anticipating Jennifer sprouting tentacles and turning into a weird, cyclopean slime monster...

Imagine if John Carpenter's The Thing was a sex demon and you're not far off.
There really isn't a lot to Harvest Lake, since it only runs 78 minutes. However, that's definitely one of its strengths. I've seen it compared to Under The Skin and it definitely is like what that film would have been if it hadn't spent so much of its runtime spinning its wheels.

Even in its short running time, the film does a great job establishing its characters and that something is not right in this lake and its surrounding woods. Sure, the characters aren't really any more realistic than the average spam-in-a-cabin group, but they feel like actual characters instead of just expendable meat.

It's true that we don't really get a lot of insight into what exactly the force that's threatening them actually is. Unlike the frustrating vagueness of The Bye Bye Man's mythology, however, this is a story where we don't really need to know. There's something in the lake and it is clearly ancient and hungry--albeit seemingly not in the traditional fashion of monsters that prey on humans.

Of course, one of the many things I love about this film is that it shows that there are still gems to be found in micro-budget cinema. Harvest Lake is a very independent production, but it rarely shows in the film itself. Sure, some of the performances are a bit more stilted than you might find in a studio production and the one-eyed humanoid form the monster takes seems to be constructed of black garbage bags covered in goop. However, the film looks great and is filmed with a polish that even studio genre fare sometimes lacks.

I often find myself wanting to support indie horror films and coming away disappointed whenever I do, but Harvest Lake is good enough that it definitely made me a believer in its studio, Bandit Motion Pictures. Sure, like any studio their quality varies--I loved this film but was disappointed in Space Babes From Outer Space, which I will speak to at a later date--but I definitely will be digging deeper into their catalogue now that I've seen what they can deliver.

I highly recommend you do the same, dear reader.

Welcome to Day Eight of Hubri5Ween 2017, the fifth year of this nonsense! Click the banner above to see what everyone else did for H!