Thursday, October 21, 2010

The House Next Door: House with an E

Rusty already wrote about this movie, but he said I could write about it again after I begged him to let me not have watched this in vain. Holy crap. From Hulu's description of this movie, I was expecting campy horror and lots of ill-advised scenes of Lara Flynn Boyle trying to kiss Zack from Saved by the Bell with her malformed mouth. I got what I anticipated, but I also got super depressing scenes of a mother grieving for her dead son and eventually hanging herself while her husband is upstairs playing tonsil hockey with the neighbor lady.

I'm getting ahead of myself (and I just wanted to use the phrase "tonsil hockey"). The movie starts with Lara Flynn Boyle's weirdly elderly-sounding voiceover announcing that the house next door is evil or something. Honestly, I couldn't focus on what she was saying, because her narration was done as if she was doing an impression of herself as a 90 year old. "Maybe it's like Titanic," said my boyfriend, before he left the room in disgust.

Anyway, Cole (whose name is later revealed to be either Col or Kohl, in truly the only shocking twist the movie has to offer) and Walker Kennedy are super bummed that someone is building a house next door to them, but they are friendly and go to meet the architect anyway. The architect, who is named Kim because everyone in this movie has a ridiculous name, is excited to finally be building a house. His last project fell through when his client had a stroke, he casually mentions.. Cole/Col/Kohl lets him shower in her house because the water is turned off next door, which leads her husband to make some lame joke about how she totally wants to bone Kim/Zack Morris.

After the extremely ugly house is built, Col goes over to hang out with her new neighbor, Pie, who is expecting her first child with her adoring husband. Pie shows off the new puppy her sweet husband bought her, because housebreaking a puppy is exactly what you want to be doing when you have a newborn. From the second the puppy comes out of his carrier, you know he's going to die, but it's surprising how fast it happens. I felt like thirty seconds elapsed between meeting the puppy and seeing it with its face torn off.

Pie and her husband then have a housewarming party, which ends with Walker accusing Col of getting too cozy with the architect and Pie's loving husband pushing her down the stairs. Pie miscarries, then moves away from the creepy house. Her husband is in jail or something.

Here's part of the house, by the way. It's got like seven garages.


About three days later, an adorable middle-aged couple moves in.Col goes over to welcome them, and the lady mentions they have a son named Toby in Iraq. Watching this part, I was thinking, “oh, he’s going to die, just like the puppy.”

I wish that’s what had happened. Instead, at the housewarming party, Toby’s mom, Anita, opens the front door to see her son standing there in his uniform. “Toby’s home!” she shouts with joy.

“Honey,” her husband says, “Toby’s dead, remember?”

Anita screams, and the vision of Toby transforms into the pizza delivery guy, who is taking this way better than you’d expect. It’s a huge bummer.

Shit gets way more devastating when a new TV is delivered, and the only channel that comes in is just video of Toby screaming for help and then dying. Anita just sits in front of the TV and drinks all day in her bathrobe. She doesn’t even open the door to get the mail, so of course Col has to barge in to her living room. It’s the neighborly thing to do.

Col can’t get Anita to stop crying and drinking, so instead of getting help for her, she decides to snoop around upstairs, where she immediately sees her neighbor Virginia sadly ripping the clothes off Anita’s husband.


Oh, did I mention that five minutes earlier, it was loudly pointed out that Virginia has only ever slept with her husband? Virginia cries and looks horrified as Anita’s husband sucks on her neck, and Col stands there and watches for a little bit.


Then they all go downstairs to see that Anita has hanged herself. Virginia threatens to kill Col if she tells anyone about her tearstained affair.

Col tells her husband that she thinks the house is evil, and he tells her she’s just being stereotypically female and Irish(!). Obviously, this means it’s time for Col and Walker to go on a little vacation at their beach house. Oh, and they bring their cat, because cats love to travel.


Walker mentions how happy he is that Col is painting again. Oh, I guess she’s supposed to be an artist who just does interior decorating to pay the bills, but I forgot for most of the movie because she spends most of her time spying on the neighbors.


Of course, when Walker looks at his wife’s painting, he sees that it is just a lousy depiction of the creepy house next door.

When they go back home, Col and Walker are accosted by their redheaded neighbor, who is pissed that they left without telling her. She says she hasn’t heard from Virginia or her husband, and that nobody knows where they went. When Col won’t tell her what happened to Virginia, she flips out and storms off. This whole fight could have been resolved by Col saying that she didn’t know where Virginia went, or that Virginia told her something in confidence, but instead these two are enemies for the rest of the movie. This does nothing to further the plot, and is even more unrealistic than the concept of an evil house.

Kim the architect comes back, and he and Col share a bottle of wine as he tells her a charming story about a photographer blinded by an exploding light. Col tells him that she thinks the house is evil, so Kim reveals that he knows the security codes and they go in to search for the source of the evil or whatever. The evil house makes them super hot for each other.


Walker comes home, see the two wine glasses, and naturally assumes that his wife is over at the house next door. When he sees his wife on top of Kim, he grabs a knife from the kitchen, kicks the architect in the head, and attacks Col. It is insane that Col and Walker fight and she survives. Seriously, you can’t cast Lara Flynn Boyle if you want a realistic fight scene. A strong breeze could knock that chick over. Once outside, the couple realize that all of that infidelity and attempted murder was caused by the house, and Walker finally believes Col. The viewer is left to assume that Kim decides against pressing charges when he regains consciousness.

A preppy couple with a young daughter move into the house next, and while Walker just wants to move away, Col insists on trying to help. She helps by arranging a meeting with the other neighbors so that they can laugh at her when she tells them the house is evil, and by bringing over banana nut bread. It is during the banana nut bread scene that we catch a glimpse of the worst outfit possible.


Here’s another picture, so you can fully understand the awfulness of this ensemble.


Col and Walker invite the new new neighbors over, and Norman, the father of the little girl, turns out to be a total douche. He keeps referring to himself as Norman-Greene-Greene-with-an-E, and he won’t let his daughter leave the table to go throw up. This is a stupid decision, since she just ends up puking on the patio. Rusty mentions in his review that little Belinda pees herself later on, but it was this scene that made me laugh out loud.


I am including this picture because I want to note that Rusty dressed exactly like Norman Greene with an E in high school.

Later that night, Norman berates his wife, Suzannah, for messing up the invitations for their housewarming party, then tells her it’s too late to fix them, and orders her to mail them. She opens a drawer in the kitchen to get stamps.


What, are you surprised that there’s a gun in that drawer? The drawer where she keeps her stamps? The unlocked kitchen drawer, easily accessible to her young daughter? I’m mostly surprised that she has more than one book of stamps in there. These people are crazy rich.

After the party, where Norman insults Suzannah and their neighbors and shouts his own name a few times and Belinda pees on the floor, he gets out his kitchen gun and attempts to teach his wife how to put things in the fridge. Belinda is freaked out and runs next door into the arms of Col. Walker heads out to talk to her parents, but it’s too late: Suzannah has grabbed the gun and shot her husband and herself.


As soon as the blood has been mopped up, architect Kim and his new girlfriend move in. Col tells Kim that it’s him that’s evil, not the house, but he just puts on his sunglasses and goes inside.


So, Col and Walker decide to blow the house up. They go inside and turn on the gas, but then Col is haunted by disturbing visions of herself with Kim. The best is when vision-Kim stops kissing vision-Col just long enough to look at real Col with an expression of hilarious evil.


Real Col and real Kim start kissing, and I’m not sure if Col is kissing him to try to distract him or if the house is making her crazy horny again, but it all works out for the best: Walker comes in, shoots at Kim, and the house blows up.

Cut to Col and Walker on the beach with their new adopted daughter, Belinda, talking about how they murdered Kim. What a happy ending!

Oops, except for the last scene: a couple looking to build a house are shown the plans for the evil house! And they love it! “It’s magical,” the woman says to her husband, “It’s like it’s alive.” Nobody would ever talk about a house like that, especially this blocky monstrosity, but hey, at least the movie’s over.



This movie would have been hilarious and awesomely campy if not for the Anita-and-her-dead-son part. I felt like that was a total bummer. It was not bad enough to be funny, so it was just depressing.

The rest of the movie was better, and I loved how super-obvious the foreshadowing was, and Norman Greene with an E was AMAZING.



I only watched this because Lara Flynn Boyle was in it, and I spent the next morning in the bathroom mirror trying to move my lips the way she does, and I totally can’t. And I have big lips! How does she do that? I hate everything about her, including but not limited to her politics and the two sets of earrings she alternated wearing throughout the movie and the weird freckles that start halfway down her chest. I know that it makes me a horrible person to judge her based on her looks, and I tell myself that really I just hate her because she’s a Republican, but I know deep down inside that it’s her stupid floppy mouth that makes me hate her.

Also, Zack Morris and the guy from Eureka.



Walker was way too supportive and reasonable for a dude in a Lifetime movie, but ten points just for Norman Greene with an E, plus there was also women’s intuition, men not believing women’s intuition, mentions of an ancient Irish curse, and catty remarks about fertility. Oh! And when Anita’s husband cheats, Walker says that’s “just what men do.”



This movie is worth it just for everything that happens after the last family moves in.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Not Like Everyone Else

I was a sophomore in high school when Columbine went down. I guess I was sort of lucky because it happened right before our April vacation. We were out for a whole week, so a lot of the crazy immediate fear had passed by the time we got back. Nothing had changed. No increased security. I’ve never had a locker, but no one was searching our home room cubbies (yes, seriously). No one confiscated students’ Marilyn Manson CDs. (I had already gotten rid of mine because, obviously, Marilyn Manson isn’t very good. I expect a ridiculous counter-argument from Kate in the comments. She paid money for Holy Wood.)

That obviously wasn’t the typical experience for the American high school. Score another one for the coastal elites, I guess. As soon as I got the Internet, I set my home page to (you DEFINITELY wanted to be my friend in high school, no nerdo) and freaked out about the INJUSTICES being done to my fellow students across the country. Tinker v. Des Moines, amiright?

And that brings us to Not Like Everyone Else, a movie about post-Columbine hysteria leading to the suspension of a student who is just a little bit different.

That student is Brandi Blackbear, played by cutie-patootie Alia Shawkat (aka Maeby/Shirley Funke from Arrested Development). Brandi is one of those gothy creative types. Her hair is raven black. There is too much eyeliner. She writes about the lemmings that make up the popular kids at school. ANGST!

Jesus. Tone it down. We get it.

The movie opens with a media circus as the Blackbear family appears at a courthouse. They are suing the bejesus out of the school district for suspending Brandi for witchcraft. It looks like the population is on Team School District.

What kind of backwoods place would suspend a girl for witchcraft and have that be celebrated by a bunch of backwood yokels?

Oklahoma? Ok. That makes sense.

Bonus! I watched this movie with a real life American Indian from Oklahoma. I got the inside scoop on what it’s really like in the Oh Kay. Apparently the Lifetime version of Oklahoma has a lot more black people than the reality.

So we flash back to April, 1999, immediately after Columbine. The high school is installing security cameras and metal detectors. Brandi does not approve. The popular kids – for no reason other than this is what popular kids do, I guess – do not approve of Brandi. They go to the principal and accuse Brandi of having a hit list. The principal thinks this is pretty dumb but needs to look into it since all those kids just got murdered.

It’s weird that they introduce the principal as sympathetic considering he spends the rest of the movie acting like a supervillain.

Brandi has her bag searched and they find some poetry or lame short story that mentions killing something or other. Angst, angst, angst. Brandi is suspended for an entire semester.

Life ain’t so grand for Brandi at home either. The folks are behind on the mortgage and are picking up extra shifts left and right. The mom is ok but the dad is a real asshole. He forces Brandi to cook for the family when mom is working the late shift at the diner. He doesn’t allow Brandi to talk on the phone and won’t make eye contact with her. Some real Evil Stepmother type stuff. He won’t even take her to the Medicine Man! He only takes his son.

So Brandi is out of school and then she goes back. But everyone thinks she’s evil. When she starts checking out books from the school library about Wicca, more trouble starts. She gets accused of being a witch. She reacts by sarcastically yelling at her tormentors that she was indeed a witch and had cast a spell that put her teacher in the hospital.

Suspended again.

The ACLU takes notice and goes all, “No, You Didn’t!” They sue for every last cent that the school district has to spare. That school will be so poor, the cafeteria will depend on the services of Rose of Sharon to feed its students.

In some kind of disposition type dealie, Brandi admits that she still has her friends and is doing ok. That is not a good thing to say when you are suing for emotional distress and loss of friendship. Case over.

But it’s ok since Brandi’s evil dad read her diaries when she was asleep and totally gets her now. They are buds. He takes her to the Medicine Man. Because that’s exactly how you make your kid feel happy and accepted. You drag their ass to church.


The two hours flew by faster than a normal Lifetime movie, but that’s kind of damning with faint praise. There are no chuckles to be had here. And a lot of the movie is Brandi sitting around being suspended. It’s far too low impact to be considered awesome.


This got DVRed because of the presence of Ms. Shawkat. I got pissed when I saw The Runaways in the theater because she didn’t get enough lines. Also, the movie was terrible. But it could have been saved by Alia Shawkat. Please ignore the irony that she couldn’t save this piece of shit.

Brandi’s mom is played by Illeana Douglas, an actress who I really like despite not seeing in her in anything other than 15 seconds of Goodfellas.


The movie doesn’t really fit the Lifetime template. I guess the women in the family are fantastic and wonderful while the men are cretins. I guess that’s something?


Woof. But don't fret, I watched this as a double bill with Harmony. She gets to write about a way better movie. Coming soon, kids!