31 October 2014


Tales from the Darkside 2.05: "Halloween Candy" (1985) directed by Tom Savini
Another Savini episode, and, bonus, one that is specifically about Halloween. Not a bad kick-off for the day. If only the episode were more interesting than it was. A grumpy old man refuses to give out candy on Halloween and is visited by a pissed off troll. It's slow and predictable. It's not even a very good example of Savini's F/X work, with the corpse of the old man looking very fake (the TV lighting on it did not help).

Tales from the Darkside 2.06: "The Satanic Piano" (1985) directed by John Harrison
More interesting than the previous episode, a musician runs into some writer's block when composing a new album. A nutball with a fancy synth that can read the creative bits of your mind offers his help. But, yep, he's a satanic priest and it's all an evil plot. The musician's burned hand at the end has got to be one of the goriest things ever broadcast on network TV in the 1980s.

Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) directed by Tom McLoughlin
I always want to watch something comfortable and familiar on Halloween day itself, and that most often leads me to the horror films in the '80s. I hadn't watched a hockey mask Jason movie in quite a while and I could not remember a thing about this one outside of the scene in the cemetery, so it seemed like a great choice to pop in.

And it was. Jason 6 is a completely fun film, mixing just the right amount of goofiness with the always serious threat that Jason poses. I love the hammy cemetery caretaker. The lightning bolt bringing the very decayed Jason back to life is really cool. The otherwise pointless scene with the idiot paintballers always make me laugh, especially when the nerdy one shoots Jason in the chest. I think the shot of Jason underwater, floating vertically and chained by the neck to a rock, is my favorite image in the entire series.

My only real complaint is that the effects of the MPAA on this movie are very apparent. Most of the kill scenes demurely cut away, showing very little of the actual violence Jason visits on the teens. It gets to be a little annoying.

The Real Ghostbusters 2.15: "Ghost Busted" directed by Marek BuchwaldMasakazu Higuchi
I convinced daughters to watch my favorite '80s cartoon with me when they got home from daycare and school. This turned out to be a nicely gentle introduction to the show, with nothing too scary. Having busted all of NYC's ghosts, the Ghostbusters become the Crimebusters and begin to capture criminals instead. Yeah, I'm not so sure about the legal implications of this either...

The Real Ghostbusters 2.16: "Beneath These Streets" directed by Marek Buchwald & Masakazu Higuchi
A more traditional episode, it which something weird and supernatural threatens NYC. The characterization of Ray is great in this episode. He's geeking out about everything -- hoping there's a water ghost to fight, wondering if a new demon is the cause of the troubles, exploring the sewers by himself. Fun.

Trick 'r Treating

Betrayal at House on the Hill (2004) designed by Rob Daviau & Bruce Glassco & Bill McQuillan & Mike Selinker &  Teeuwynn Woodruff
Friends Jack, Casey, and Brent came over to help celebrate the day and we plopped this board game on the table. In Betrayal, you take turns moving through a spooky house, drawing new room tiles as you walk about in order to expand it. Some of the tiles have you draw cards, which can be useful items, events, or omen cards. Collect enough omen cards and the probability of a dice roll causing "the haunt" goes way up. When the haunt is activated, you look in the instruction book to determine which of 50 different scenarios you have activated. One player then become the betrayer and reads his evil scheme in his own scenario book while the rest of the players read the good guy scenario in the other book.

We activated haunt 45, and Brent became a mad bomber who bombs at midnight. He had somehow strapped bombs the the three of us. We had to disable those bombs and attempt to kill Brent before he finished building the big bomb that would blow up the entire house. It was challenging. The game is very random, and the haunts have secrets in them. I painfully discovered that if Brent rolled an 8, the person to his left -- me -- would instantly blow up. With me out of the game, it was up to Jack and Casey to take him out. They got close, but eventually Brent rolled well enough to kill them as well.

Better for storytelling fun than as a strategic game, I think.

Tales from the Crypt 6.07: "The Pit" (1994) directed by John Harrison
Coincidentally directed by the same man who directed "The Satanic Piano" episode of Darkside I watched. Not really a horror episode, as it's about two pit fighters whose wives really, really hate each other. Amusing, but that's about it.

The Beyond (1981) directed by Lucio Fulci
Being sleepy is always a great state to be in when watching an Italian horror movie. This Fulci classic is no different. I don't think I'd be able to relate the plot with any sort of detail. It's something about a hotel sitting on a doorway to hell, zombies, and lots and lots of close-ups of bad things happening to people's faces.

But, you don't tend to watch these things for the plot. I'm interested in the beautiful images, the over-the-top gore, and the weirdness that Fulci can show me. The Beyond delivers.

Halloween (1978) directed by John Carpenter
For the 16th year in a row: Halloween. You know what struck me as really weird this time out? Michael Myers tooling around Haddonfield in a station wagon. Generally, in the post-Halloween slasher films, you don't see slasher villains driving. In fact, their stereotypical mode of transport is a slow and determined walk. Freddy does drive a bus in Part 2 (and I guess is the car at the end of Part 1), but that's just a part of a scheme to trick kids in a nightmare. Even Myers abandons his driving passion in all of the follow-ups. I think that once you establish the villain as a supernatural entity -- as the very end of this film does -- it's then impossible to show them doing such a mundane tasks as driving in a car in the middle of the afternoon. That would be truly odd.

The Simpsons 26.04: "Treehouse of Horror XXV" (2014) directed by Matthew Faughnan
This was the best "Treehouse" in many years. "School is Hell" was full of creative demon designs and amusing Hell puns. "A Clockwork Yellow" tickled my inner Kubrick fan (Comic Book Guy: it was Barry Lyndon!). "The Others" was a fascinating nod to the old Simpsons of the Tracey Ullman Show with the cast deftly doing both their old and modern voices for the their characters. A fun close to my Halloween celebration.


30 October 2014

October 30th

The Walking Dead 4.14: "The Grove" (2014) directed by Michael Edison Satrazemis
An incredible episode and one of the show's best ever. Having discovered a seemingly idyllic cottage complete with hand-pumped well and plentiful pecan trees, Carol, Tyreese, Lizzie, Mika, and baby Judith consider staying there permanently. Lizzie's young mind, however, has been broken by the zombie apocalypse and she insists on considering the undead as just different kinds of people. She so wants to convince Carol of this that she stabs her little sister Mika to death in order to show that zombie Mika is just the same.

I was surprised the show went this dark. This is as dark as the comic series gets. Carol is forced to decide what to do with the little girl. She can no longer trust her around Judith. That means they can't possibly travel with her. They can't even sleep without worrying she'll do something. Life's already hard enough with the constant threat of zombies and human bad guys without having to worry about an insane child who may slaughter a baby. In the real world, we'd send the girl off to a care facility and visit her on the weekends. In zombieland, Carol is forced to a devastating conclusion. Excellent performances all around convey the hard reality the characters live in.

The Walking Dead 4.15: "Us" (2014) directed by Greg Nicotero
A bit of prep episode before the final episode. Glenn and Tara have a Stand-esque scary experience in a dark tunnel while Daryl learns how brutal his new companions are. I do kind of like Eugene's zombie dinosaur idea, though.

The Walking Dead 4.16: "A" (2014) directed by Michelle MacLaren
Wow, the last half of season 4 has been the absolute best this show has ever been. The lazy writing has been slowly replaced by tension, high emotion, and a tight focus on the theme of what the apocalypse is doing to children and their parents. This episode contains one of my favorite scenes from the comic series, when Rick and Carl (and Michonne and Daryl in the show version) are ambushed by nasty people on the side of the road. They plan to rape Carl and kill them all. Driven into a complete frenzy of parental protection, Rick viciously tears out the leader's throat with his teeth to save his son. It's gory and brutal and exactly what I would do to protect my own girls. That it also makes Rick, at that point, only little bit different from the walkers is both intentional and, I think, brilliant.

I wasn't sure if Terminus was going to end up being the community the comic characters currently live in or something more sinister. Seeing Denise Crosby frying meat at the entrance to the city in the previous episode seemed too Texas Chainsaw to be a coincidence and the piles of bones in this episode confirms these are the cannibals. They've got quite a nice setup here compared to their suburban comic versions. I didn't think I'd feel this way, but I can't wait to watch season 5 next year to see how Rick's group tears these folks near assholes.

The Fog (1979) directed by John Carpenter
Unexpectedly, the wife suggested this one as something to watch. She usually wants movies with more action in them, like 28 Days Later... or The Thing. So, I popped it in and she slowly grew more and more confused. "Is this the old version?" she asked. I wouldn't touch the remake with a 10-foot pole, so yep. "This is different that the newer one," she said. Where had she even seen the remake? I don't even own it. It took a little while, but I finally realized she had really wanted to watch The Mist and got things all mixed up. "Does this tie into The Mist?" she asked. Nope, nothing to do with that other movie in the least.

Despite not being The Mist, I was surprised when she liked the film. It doesn't have the precisely timed roller coaster scares of Halloween, or the pervasive paranoia of The Thing, or Kurt Russell's one-liners in Big Trouble or Escape from New York. It just has atmosphere. Literally and figuratively all at once. I can understand why some dislike the film. It's pure mood with a few faceless ghosts thrown doing a few slasher-kills thrown in. But when you're a little sleepy, bundled up in a blanket on cool night, it's just fine.

29 October 2014

October 29th

Christine (1983) directed by John Carpenter
Since I got to see her in person at the Flint Horror Con, I thought it was time for a re-watch of the old girl. Probably no one's favorite Carpenter movie, Christine sports a merely OK story boosted by some very cool car regeneration F/X. In way, I think this is sort of a precursor school shooter story. Nerd Arnie is picked on by bullies at school, so he buys himself a weapon and uses it to take them out. Afterwards, he kills himself with that weapon.

The movie also got me thinking about generational differences. The Boomers love, love, love to fondly reminisce about their childhood, always making sure us Gen-Xers are fully aware that the 1950s was the best time to be a kid and the 1960s was the best time to be a teenager. King, for example, has this story with a '50s car that plays nothing but the cool songs he heard on the radio as a child, "The Body" / Stand By Me, and the first half of IT. Robert McCammon has Boy's Life and Dan Simmons has Summer of Night. Tim Burton has Ed Wood and George Lucas has American Graffiti. Happy Days, The Wonder Years, nearly every episode of Quantum Leap... it never ends.

Frankly, I think this has given my generation a bit of an inferiority complex. We're desperate to have as cool of nostalgia as they do, and we're doomed to fail. The 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s were just not as seminal in our culture. We cannot compete with the likes of That '70s Show, Radio Shack commercials, Hot Tub Time Machine, and horrible Michael Bay movies based on old toys. You know what? Good. Wearing rose colored glasses for too long warps your vision.

28 October 2014

October 28th

Curtains (1983) directed by Richard Ciupka
Well, I broke my own rule about not blind-buying movies and I paid the price. This was the extra blu-ray I got talked into buying at the Synapse table at the Flint Horror Con. In my defense, the labia-like curtains on the cover / poster intrigued me. Nope, that's not the first time this has happened...

Curtains is a failure of a horror movie. It thinks it's a slasher movie, but it doesn't pass my good slasher movie test:
  1. Create a visually interesting villain.
  2. Make that villain's kills either gory or creative (or both).
For #1, the film just qualifies. The villain wears a fairly creepy old woman mask, the top of which you can see on the poster. The villain with this mask on, ice skating in slow motion, was probably the film's best image. For #2, it utterly drops the ball. Editing ensures that we don't see most of the villain's kills. The ones that we do see are completely boring: a knife stab, someone shot with a gun... wake me up when it's over.

Worse, the movie's story is a mess. Supposedly, Curtains had a tortured production that lasted years, and you can certainly tell. The real killer has a lame motivation for her murder spree. The director's audition process doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Matthew disappears on a snowmobile with no explanation. The doll on the poster is used as an effectively creepy totem by the killer, then is completely forgotten later in the movie. The film tries to say something about how actresses can go too far to gain a part, but it ends up just saying "bitches be crazy, yo."

Ugh. To eBay, my new blu-ray goes.

27 October 2014

October 27th

The Walking Dead 4.10: "Inmates" (2014) directed by Tricia Brock
A catch-up episode with most everyone we didn't see in "After." Daryl and Beth are camping in the woods; Maggie, Sasha, and Bob are wandering around looking for Glenn at Maggie's insistence; and poor Tyreese amusingly has ended up with a pack of little girls to take care of, including a screaming baby Judith. Towards the end, Carol emerges out of nowhere to join Tyreese and the girls. Is that what the otherwise pointless plague plot was all about? So that there would be a little extra drama when these two meet up again?

The Walking Dead 4.11: "Claimed" (2014) directed by Seith Mann
While Michonne and Carl hunt for supplies, Rick is surprised when he hears men entering the house and quickly hides under the bed. What follows is a handful of scenes brimming with tension as we wonder if Rick will be noticed by the men, who are so not-nice that one chokes another into unconsciousness over a bed to sleep in. It's been quite a while since the show had remembered that strangers in this post apocalypse can be just as scary as the walkers (and I'm not talking about ego-maniacs in tanks). Great episode.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935) directed by James Whale
My 4-year-old wanted to watch a movie, so I suggested this one. She'd been unfazed by The Mummy and I thought she might get a kick of of the best monster movie that Universal had to offer. Watching the movie through the eyes of a child is fun.

She had to hide her eyes at the beginning when Frankenstein emerges from the water and kills Maria's poor dad and mom, which is a pretty scary way to start the picture. She was enthralled by Dr. Pretorius' little creations, giggling at the silly king. She wanted to hide her eyes again when Frankenstein encountered the blind man, but I convinced her that the scene was not scary at all. She thought it was great when Frankenstein began to learn to talk. That, more than anything, humanized him for her, I think. At the end, we both enjoyed imitating the Bride's weird head movements to make each other laugh.

The Walking Dead 4.12: "Still" (2014) directed by Julius Ramsay
A character-building episode for Daryl and Beth. They fight, they learn more about each other, they become closer in the end. It's the Walking Dead version of a "Locked in a Room" episode and exists entirely to put more punch into what happens in the next episode.

The Walking Dead 4.13: "Alone" (2014) directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
Daryl and Beth settle into a mysteriously clean and well-stocked funeral home. They irrationally decide this is nothing to worry about and proceed to live there without a care. Somewhere else, Maggie irrationally decides to abandon Sasha and Bob and search for Glenn on her own. Sasha irrationally decides that living alone is a smart idea and abandons Bob, who is trying to catch up with Maggie. This show never fails to disappoint by making its characters -- who've lived in this world for years now -- make dumb choices in order to advance the plot.

26 October 2014

October 26th

Hell's Highway (2002) directed by Jeff Leroy
The final and namesake movie of my $5 Highway to Hell Collection was a bit of surprise. It's yet another no-budget camcorder movie in which a group of horny teens get lost in the desert and end up slaughtered. The acting is crappy. The sound is bad. There's a half-assed attempt to do some Blair Witch-y shaky cam stuff. And still, I thought the movie was a load of fun.

It's fun because the folks making the film are clearly having a ball and throwing all of their energy into the thing. They also know the power of upping the ante. The evil character getting hit by a car and having her head smashed was pretty cool. Cooler? Having her intestines stuck to the bumper of the car so that when the kids take off, her torso is dragged along for the ride. For icing on the cake? Have them discover the evil girl's head stuck in the wheel well, which explodes blood all over the slutty girl's face. It's so over-the-top, you can't help but laugh.

I can't believe it, but that $5 collection was well worth the $5. I enjoyed half of the movies in the set, saw things I've never seen before, and got in a few chuckles. Not bad at all.

The Walking Dead 4.09: "After" (2014) directed by Greg Nicotero
Carl gets his own episode. Chandler Riggs must have felt pretty good knowing that the producers trusted his abilities enough to have him carry an entire episode nearly by himself. I vastly prefer seeing the parts of society I'm familiar with in their post-apocalyptic state, rather than the prison. This gives us a handful of nice moments in the episode: Carl's initial excitement at the TV & Xbox, then reality setting in while he rips the HDMI cable out to tie the front door; Carl saying "cool" when he stands in the middle of the road and observes the abandoned neighborhood that is now his to play with; and Carl finding and consuming an entire 120 oz of chocolate pudding.