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.

25 October 2014

October 25th

Flint Horror Convention Part 4
Not a bad way to inaugurate the sixth week of Halloween, if I do say so. I never have a bad time at the FHC. It has a relaxed atmosphere with enough going on that I have to choose between multiple things I'd like to do at any given time. I also like the family-friendliness of the con, which features a children's costume contest, a lady painting scary faces, and a guy making balloon creations (including a balloon Freddy claw for one lucky girl!). This is exactly how you create the next generation of horror geeks.

Mondo Matt's Trailers
Like the past couple of years, the con kicked off -- at least for me -- with my movie trailer / intermission time compilation in the movie room. There were only a handful of folks there to catch it this time out, but I heard a few laughs for the silliness I included. I think the goofy Psychos in Love trailer went over the best of the lot, though I'm personally in love with the Neon Maniacs trailer.

Vendor Room
Having moved to the Riverfront Banquet Center, there was tons of breathing room for the vendor tables this year. Though the new place lacks the character of the creepy old Masonic Temple from previous years, the space just works better for a convention. Man, I spent way more in here that I intended to. Grabbed some cool pictures to hang up, a set of magnets with the Lament Configuration's faces on them made by my pal Jason, a couple of movies from Synapse's table (Jerry always talks me into one extra), and other fun stuff.

Danny Hicks & Tom Sullivan
My pal Jack hosted a Q&A with this pair of Evil Dead vets. Both had plenty of funny stories to tell not just about Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, but other projects they've worked on as well. I especially liked Danny Hicks' Liam Neeson impression, extra-thick on the Irish accent. Later, I grabbed autographs from both these gentlemen. Tom Sullivan, when he saw that I was buying a print of his Lovecraft Deep Ones painting, enthused at length about "The Shadow over Innsmouth" and showed me all of the other Innsmouth-related paintings he had made for a Chaosium RPG supplement that never made it to print. Very cool.

At the last minute, Christine herself decided to grace the con with her presence. I gotta say, the caretakers of Christine are very professional. It goes without saying that Christine herself has been restored into like-new condition, and they've implanted remote controls into her so that they can scare visitors with a sudden flash of her headlights or beep of her horn. They also had a nice mini-museum of Christine memorabilia with toy cars, just about ever version of the book ever printed, and even an old board game featuring a Plymouth Fury. They had a TV playing the movie on repeat throughout the day. They had numerous Christine items to buy, including a nice polo shirt with a fiery Christine stitched into the breast. I went for the very reasonable $10 photo + print combo. I couldn't pass up the chance to grab a picture with the world's most evil car:

John E.L. Tenney
Towards the end of the day, we attended the John E.L. Tenney talk. I'd caught his paranormal lecture at a couple of previous FHCs, but had regretted skipping it last year. Whatever you may think of the supernatural, Tenney is an excellent storyteller. He spins some odd tales -- a restaurant that he ate in twice that no one had ever heard of and no one could ever find later -- but couches everything in the soft skepticism of "I don't know what it was, I just know it was weird."

One tale in particular I found disturbing to consider. As a teenager, Tenney was clinically dead for some minutes due to a congenital health issue. With some slight hesitation, he revealed what he experienced while dead. It was not a bright light and no dead relatives were there to welcome him. It was not pleasant at all. He said that it was incorporeal awareness trapped in infinity. He said he wanted to scream, but had no mouth. He wanted close his eyes, but he had no eyeballs. Unending awareness of the infinite without recourse. If there's a Hell, this is what it is.

He ended his lecture with the same story he always tells to wrap things up, which I'd heard a couple of times before. This telling was different, though, as his eyes welled up a bit when he related the tale of the lost necklace under the floor. It's hard to dismiss the story as made-up, or misunderstood, or an exaggeration when you see such emotion coming from its teller.

And that was it for this year's Flint Horror Convention. I had a great time again and hope to return in 2015 for part V.

Constantine (2005) directed by Francis Lawrence
After the con, I still needed to get a horror movie in for the day to keep up my Six Weeks pace. I never got around to reading the comic series Hellblazer, so I suppose I'm lucky not to be distracted by what I'm told are huge differences between the film and its source.

On its own without that baggage, I like the film. It's beautifully shot, has an interestingly legalistic take on the mythology of Catholicism, and features a bunch of cool half-mystical / half-physical fights with demons. It doesn't hurt that I am also an unashamed Keanu Reeves fan. Sure, the movie's a little Hollywood in some of its approaches (the super-duper cross-shaped gun with a flamethrower on it comes to mind), and some of the CGI demon stuff looks a little wonky, and Shia LaBeouf is annoying as ever, but I can ignore those things easily enough in favor of the film's numerous other charms.

24 October 2014

October 24th

Feeding Grounds (2006) directed by Junior Bonner
The weird "these are actually good" streak has ended for my $5 Highway to Hell Collection set with Feeding Grounds. It's yet another movie about partying kids getting stuck in the desert and dying. Desert locations are free and easy to shoot at if you live near one, I'm thinking.

The movie's just too low-key, I'm not even sure what the monster was. There was glimpse of a clawed hand under a car, but that's all we ever see. What we mostly see are people with bites on their necks getting sick and then dying mostly off screen. I think they were going for something in the neighborhood of "arty suspense," but it was more of a sleeping potion for me.

I will say DP Tarin Anderson was doing some good work on this movie. There are nice deep focus shots, some cool framing using the desert sun, and interesting stuff like putting a camera in a cooler. She even wrangled a crane for some overhead shots. Her work gives the movie a professional sheen it, frankly, does not deserve.

Tales from the Crypt 6.06: "The Bribe" (1994) directed by Ramón Menéndez
I like Terry O'Quinn and Benicio Del Toro, but I didn't care for this episode so much. Perhaps that says something about me? The deeper story -- outside of a father killing himself because he thought he caused her death in fire -- is about a daughter growing up and expressing her sexuality.

23 October 2014

October 23rd

Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006) produced by Michael Ruggiero
Hat tip again to Kaedrin for another movie watching idea. I guess I've watched a lot of "making of" documentaries over the years, as there wasn't much that I hadn't heard before. I'm tempted to say it's more than that, at this point. These stories have solidified into a horror canon of sorts. These canonical stories and ideas are told over and over again in documentaries like this one, at horror convention panels, and in books. We horror fans internalize them and they become part of the enjoyment of the genre for us. I'm thinking of things like:
  • Wes Craven reading the newspaper article about the man dying in his sleep after telling his family he was afraid he'd die if he slept.
  • Tom Savini mentioning how the gruesome stuff he saw in Vietnam informed his work.
  • Debra Hill explaining the Halloween grew from a demand to make a horror movie about babysitters.
  • The idea that slasher villains seemingly punish teen immorality.
  • The idea that the '80s slasher cycle was a reaction to the Reagan era.
  • The idea that horror series venture more and more into self-parody the longer they last.
  • The controversies and protests over Silent Night, Deadly Night, and Maniac, etc.
It seems like certain things are always covered in these documentaries and always with the same perspective. I think I'd be most interested in a horror documentary that came up with a new angle of attack on this material. But, again, I've seen a lot of these things over the years.

Speaking of the controversies, I found this section of the documentary to be odd. It cuts between 25-year-old footage of Siskel & Ebert expressing their disgust over the then-current horror films, 25-year-old footage of the lady who tried get Silent Night, Deadly Night yanked from theaters, and modern footage of people arguing against this. I found it strange to see the modern pro-horror side debating against these ghosts. The argument has been over for quite a while at this point. We won. Ebert ended up championing Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and I can buy Silent Night on blu-ray if I choose. There's a zombie show on television, of all places, as gory as Dawn of the Dead. Halloween is now the second biggest American holiday after Christmas. There's nothing to be angry about anymore. Folks, you've gotta let it go.

I'm being overly critical. This is a perfectly serviceable overview of the history of the slasher genre that manages to talk to quite a few of the major players. And, thanks to this documentary, I know that I now need to watch The Burning soon. Wow, that scene with the shears...

Watch this whole thing for free on the Youtube:

Tales from the Darkside 2.04: "Parlour Floor Front" (1985) directed by Richard Friedman
A ham-handed metaphor for Western colonization of Africa. Evil white people buy a building but cannot force out a black tenant living in their parlor due to fair housing laws. Naturally, there's voodoo involved and people end up dying. Not my favorite episode.