See You Next Halloween!
See You Next Halloween!
Merrie Melodies: "Scaredy Cat" (1948)It was good six weeks. I managed to watch 55 movies over the 42 days. That beats the hell out of any of the previous six years I've been doing this. I got caught up on a lot of this decade's horror movies I hadn't gotten around to seeing yet. That feels good. Still, I haven't seen any of the Underworld, Resident Evil or Sam Raimi's Ghost House films yet. Ah well. Next year's only 46 weeks away. For now, I'm looking forward to watching some non-scary shows. Firefly and Serenity, here I come...
nine inch nails: "the perfect drug" (1997)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror VI: Attack of the 50 Ft. Eyesores" (1995)
Event Horizon (1997) directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
From IMDb's trivia on this movie: "Paramount didn't officially greenlight the film until 10 weeks before production was due to begin. This meant that the production design was unnecessarily rushed and was the reason why many leading production designers turned the film down." Damn, I hope production designer Joseph Bennett got some kind of award for this film, then. The design of the Event Horizon is fantastic. It's better, I'm willing to say, than the Nostromo, the only other haunted cathedral-like spaceship I can think of. From the cruel, stainless steel medical bay to the medieval-looking gravity drive room to the subtly coffin-shaped doors, it's all made to unnerve.
The movie itself is a nice Haunting meets Hellraiser slice of sci-fi horror. A few of the lines get a little cheezy (describing the dimension the EH travels through as "pure evil" is pushing things), but the cruelty of the ship on its occupants makes up for this for the most part. I dig the recurring theme of characters scooping out their own eyes because they can't handle the horrors they've seen. A bit lovecraftian, that. (7/10)
Merrie Melodies: "Claws for Alarm" (1954)
VAST: "Pretty When You Cry" (1998)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror V: The Shinning" (1994)
Night of the Creeps: Director's Cut (1986) directed by Fred Dekker
I'd somehow missed seeing this one for all these years. I love Monster Squad, but I guess I never looked up what other movies Dekker made back in the day. Based on the love Creeps gets from folks in horrorland, I blind-bought the blu-ray this week just to watch on Halloween. I was not disappointed; it fits in well with the rest of my '80s horror collection.
Man, Tom Atkins kicks ass in this one. Creeps easily displaces Halloween 3 and The Fog as my favorite of his films. You can tell he had a blast playing Detective Cameron in this movie. I should answer the phone at work with "thrill me."
I think part of the reason folks like this one -- outside of the Atkin's Cameron and the awesome zombies-with-space-slugs-in-their-brains thing -- is that it's a geek wish-fulfillment tale. The dorky guy not only gets the girl in the end, but he gets to roast douchebag frat guys with a flamethrower. What's not to love? (8/10)
Merrie Melodies: "Jumpin' Jupiter" (1955)
Rob Zombie: "American Witch (animated)" (2006)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror: The Raven" (1990)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror XX" (2009) directed by Mike B. Anderson & Matthew Schofield
Wow! A Simpsons halloween special airs before halloween? Will wonders ever cease? Maybe due to that fact alone, this was the best "Treehouse" in many years. The first segment, "Dial 'M' for Murder or Press '#' to Return to Main Menu," obviously parodied Hitchcock. It was also done in black and white, which I don't think they've ever done in a halloween episode before. It looked good. There were tons and tons of Hitch references to chew on in this one. I loved it. "Don't Have a Cow Mankind" parodied 28 Days Later. It was nice to have another zombie tale added to the "Treehouse" canon. I watch "Dial 'Z' for Zombie" every Halloween. The final segment, "There's No Business Like Moe Business," I wasn't so keen on. It's a musical vaguely inspired by Sweeney Todd and not terribly horror-ish, though the idea of blood-infused beer is pretty gross. (7/10)
The Real Ghostbusters: "When Halloween Was Forever" (1986) directed by Richard Raynis
Ah, The Real Ghostbusters: one of the reasons I'm a horror fan. As a nine-year-old kid watching this show, I was blown away. Other than Slimer, it took its ghostly subject quite seriously for a Saturday morning cartoon. This episode is one that has always stuck in my mind since then. Watching it 23 years later, I was surprised at how much I remembered. Ah, memories... (7/10)
Halloween (1978) directed by John Carpenter
For the eleventh year in a row, I watched Halloween. I think it's pretty damned close to a perfect horror movie. This year, I really paid attention to the theme of watching. In the beginning of the movie, Carpenter puts Myer's clown mask over the camera lens and forces the audience to be him as he kills his sister. Though the rest of the movie is masked-lens-free, I don't think the audience ever stops seeing things through the killer's eyes. Often, Carpenter will pull way, way back and watches, for example, the teen-aged girls walking home from school from a distance. As the audience, we're voyeuristically spying on these future victims in exactly the same way Myers has been doing in the film.
By the time I got to this film, it was nearly 3 in the morning (pre-fall back). Watching the movie while drifting in and out of a light doze is fun. While my eyes were closed, my brain would go off on tangents related to the film. Then, I would snap awake and have to readjust my thoughts as to where the film really is. Kinda surreal. (9/10)
Hatchet (2006) directed by Adam Green
This is pretty much a Friday the 13th movie without the hockey mask, but with its tongue more firmly planted in check than that series. Kane Hodder, who played Jason more than anyone, portrays the mutant, backwoods killer in this film. Like Jason, he's super-strong, unkillable and has a penchant for creative killing. The victims -- a large group of people taking a nighttime swamp tour near New Orleans -- are entertaining characters to watch even when they don't have a belt sander being applied to their face. Hatchet's just some good, old-school slasher fun. (7/10)
The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009) directed by Rob Zombie
I can't say that when the trailer (below) was released, I was super-interested in watching this. It looked like it might be in the same genre as your typical lame Comedy Central cartoon. Color me surprised when it turned out to be much better than expected. It's closer to a modern day Bob Clampett cartoon, except with boobies and swearing and werewolves getting silver dildos shoved into their hearts. I thought it was a lot of fun. I can certainly see other folks absolutely hating it, though. It's one of those shows that, if it doesn't speak to your sense of humor, will be torturously bad. (7/10)
Blood: The Last Vampire (2009) directed by Chris Nahon
A damned pretty movie to look at. There are nighttime fights in neon-bathed city streets. There's a forest fight with rustling leaves disguising ninjas. The final battle takes place in a pastel dreamworld mimicking the past. A lot of the film looks like an anime or manga come to life, which I suspect was one of the goals of the filmmakers. Sadly, a lot of this beauty was, for me, marred by some absolutely wretched, horrible, worst-I've-ever-seen CGI blood effects. I'm almost tempted to think this was some kind of bizarre stylistic choice on a part of the filmmakers. When the blood comes out of someone's wound, it looks like they have a bubble machine in them. The blood shoots out in little round globules, just dainty bubbles floating in the air. Remember how the klingon blood looks in Star Trek VI when it was floating around in microgravity? That's exactly what the CGI blood looks like it this film.
Outside of the look, the story is pretty bog-standard for this sort of thing. Demons are invading the earth and only the vampire Saya, working with the CIA, can stop them. It a complete shock, it turns out she's related to the lead demon. Though Saya's battles with the demons are very entertaining to watch -- they're up their with The Matrix movies -- that's ultimately all the film has to offer. (6/10)
Slaughter (2009) directed by Stewart HopewellAnd that gets me caught up with three years of Horrorfest movies. Horrorfest III was an improvement over the previous two years. This time around, there were three films -- one more than usual -- that I found decent. The Brøken, The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations and From Within were all worth watching. Hey, at this rate, fully half of Horrorfest V will be enjoyable!
This film's big trick is that it teases the audience with the idea that a deranged farmer is killing his daughter Lola's one-night stands, when it's actually Lola doing the murdering. That's fine. It's just that Lola's evil side comes absolutely out of nowhere. I think actress Lucy Holt should've added some quirks to her portrayal of Lola. Just a few minor indications that Lola was not quite right in the head would've helped in the transition from the first 2/3rds of the movie to the final 1/3rd. As it stands, she's pretty much the Krusty the Clown doll from that Simpsons Halloween episode: a switch on her back gets flipped in the middle of the movie from good to evil. The movie attempts to flashback and explain what Lola's ultimate evil plan was, but it doesn't really make much sense when you think about it. Really, everything about the movie comes across as ham-handed and poorly thought out. (4/10)
Du saram-yida (2007) directed by Ki-hwan Oh
Voices, like every other East Asian horror movie I've seen lately, just doesn't work for me. I suspect there's a cultural difference at play here. Folks on that side of the Pacific Ocean seem to find ghosts and curses supremely scary subjects. I can't say that I do. I suppose Poltergeist was effective... when I was a kid.
In this one, there's a curse going around that causes people to snap and kill people their own family members or friends. The main character has to survive attacks from her schoolmates, mom and boyfriend before she finally succumbs to the curse herself. The curse, by the way, is personified as a creepy-looking kid. I don't think we're supposed to realize that the main character is the only one who can see and talk to him until the end, but it was pretty obvious to me he was a Tyler Durden right away. The curse is also sometimes shown as a burned-up pair of hands or a face popping into the main characters field of the view suddenly. These shots seem to exist simply to add some traditional horror movie shocks to the film, as they don't appear to have anything to do with anything.
All that aside, the movie is massively boring. Once we learn the curse means you can't trust anyone, it becomes obvious that everyone the main character encounters is going to try to kill her. There's not much tension in a horror film when you know what's coming. (5/10)
Perkins' 14 (2009) directed by Craig SingerAfter the crappy movie, I decided to read every Halloween (the movie) comic book ever written:
We seem to be going to greater and greater lengths to make non-zombie zombie movies these days, I see. First we had disease as in 28 Days Later and now we've got brainwashed kids hopped up on PCP. Pretty soon we're going to swing back around to where it all began and it'll be voodoo drugs again.
Horrorfest III had been on a pretty good streak lately. I was wondering the next completely crappy movie might show up. The premise behind the film isn't bad. A man kidnaps 14 kids from families in his home town and keeps them drugged and brainwashed for ten years. They escape from his house and start massacring the folks in town, including their own family members. We hardly see any of this, though. The film is so focused on the police officer main character, we're never allowed to see how the town is reacting to this nightmarish invasion. As far as we can tell, the movie should be called Perkins' 3: Feral Children vs. Morons in a Police Station.
Bad acting, bad plotting, a couple of good gore F/X. It's not really worth me thinking about any more than this. (4/10)
Dying Breed (2008) directed by Jody Dwyer
You know, I don't think I've ever seen Tasmania before. I watched a lot of PBS as a kid, but I don't ever remember seeing any video of this island (I don't think Bugs Bunny cartoons count). More than anything about this movie, I enjoyed seeing a place I've never seen before. It looks to me like Tasmania has a lot in common with the Pacific Northwest. Or, they could've just had some bad weather luck during their filming schedule, I suppose. It's beautiful, anyway.
I've discovered I have a low tolerance for stupidity in horror movies. If a main character makes an obviously idiotic choice -- like one does here by freaking out on the ground and refusing to run when there are crazy people in the area -- I lose all sympathy for them. Sympathy/empathy is the absolute key to a good horror movie. For something to scare or disturb you, you're going to need to empathize with the folks being harmed on screen. Lacking that, you're essentially watching the movie with the mindset of a psychopath, waiting for the morons to be offed.
Watching this, yet another movie about redneck cannibals, I thought of a question I'd like to ask these fictional murderers. Why don't cannibals in horror movies want to cook their food before eating it? Seriously. I'm a carnivore, but I'd never grab a live chicken and start chewing on it. What about all of the diseases people carry around? The main cannibal in this movie eats the lips off of a girl's face. What if he just ate a mouthful of herpes sores? I don't buy that these folks survived a century by eating humans in such a reckless manner... (6/10)
From Within (2008) directed by Phedon Papamichael
This is the second evil doppelganger movie of Horrorfest 2008. You know, this monster concept really doesn't work for me. I can't think of anything less scary than myself. If I were to see my evil twin, I think I'd be more apt to ask him questions than to run. Luckily for this movie, the evil doppelganger ghost part isn't terribly important. In fact, I like the way it was handled. Ostensibly, the evil doppelgangers are the result of a black magic spell that makes it look like people are committing suicide. However, they can just as easily be seen as some sort of contagious psychological condition.
The movies pits the population of a heavily Christian town against a family they think (correctly, as it turns out) are causing a wave of suicides through witchcraft. I always dig a good clash of religions movie (The Wicker Man being the king of these). Surprisingly, this is the first time I've ever seen a megachurch in a horror movie. I think the idea of those places is scary. Particularly, the idea of a charasmatic preacher pursuading his flock of thousands to commit evil. Sadly, that's not really what happens in this film.
I also liked the twist ending in this flick. We think that the last of the witch family has committed a noble suicide in order to end the evil spell his brother cast. Instead, it turns out, he was shot by the son of the megachurch's preacher before he was able to kill himself. This ensures that the curse continues and the movie ends with a montage of the post-suicide occupants of the town. It's an almost Carpenterian apocalyptic ending.
Not the greatest horror movie of all time, but I enjoyed it. (7/10)
Tales from the Darkside: "I'll Give You a Million" (1984) directed by John Harrison
A couple of evil businessmen make a deal that one will buy the other's soul for $1 million. Turns out, the devil loves collecting the souls of evil business men. When the seller dies, he grabs the seller's soul before the buyer collects. The shock of witnessing this gives the buyer a fatal heart attack and the devil grabs his soul as well. It's an all right EC comics-style episode. (6/10)
The Stepfather (1987) directed by Joseph Ruben
I love horror remakes. Not because I like to watch them -- most of them are wastes of time -- but because they almost always herald a special edition DVD/BD release of the original movie. It's even better when, like The Stepfather, the movie's never been released at all. It's been years since I've watched this one on VHS back in high school. It must have made some kind of impression on me, as I bought the new DVD without a thought.
I think the impression made came mostly from Terry O'Quinn, who turns in an excellent performance. O'Quinn as Blake actually only kills two people onscreen. Much more interesting is watching Blake struggle to contain his insanity/anger as his new family falls short of the '50s TV family ideal in his head. Some of the subtle things he does will his facial expressions nail the character of a sociopath. (7/10)
The Butterfly Effect 2 (2006) directed by John R. Leonetti
I had no intention of ever watching this movie. I wasn't terribly impressed with the original, which I thought had a great premise with ham-handed execution. But, Horrorfest 2008 selected part 3 as one of their 8 films, so I pretty much had to catch myself up before getting to that one. Not that this movie has anything to do with the ones before or after it. Which was appreciated; the premise doesn't require that the stories connect, so shoe-horning a reference to Ashton Kutcher would've been distracting and unnecessary.
In this one, a young businessman loses his girlfriend and best friends in a car accident. A year later, he figures out he has the power to jump back into previous parts of his life just by staring at a photo of that time. Naturally, the more he tries to fix the past, the worse things become. The bad stuff that happens when he changes the past isn't quite as ridiculous as in the original. No one is instantly transformed into a crack whore or has all of their limbs amputated here. In fact, things just go mildly wrong for the main character until the end. That coupled with some bland characters and a not-too-interesting plot about a struggling tech company make for a rather unmemorable film. (5/10)
The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (2009) directed by Seth Grossman
This is the first movie I've seen made with the help of the new Michigan Film Office. Most of this movie was shot in Detroit. I've always thought the spookily deserted parts of Detroit would make a great location for a horror movie. Anyway, as a Michigan native, I can't help like this one more than I should.
This time, the time jumper is fully aware of his gift and its dangers. He uses it to identify murderers for the police (pretending to be a police psychic), but never tries to prevent the killings himself. All he does is watch. Of course, the temptation to look into his own girlfriend's murder is too strong. Soon enough, he's messing up the timeline and making things much worse by accidentally creating a serial killer.
His attempts to track down this serial killer is pretty engaging. He becomes more obsessed with each time jump. And, since he keeps showing up at the crime scenes in the past, he quickly makes himself the police's number one suspect. I have to say the mystery of all this kept me guessing until the end. The revelation was a little disappointing, sadly. Turns out his sister has the same power and has been using it to kill his girlfriends. Turns out she has an incestuous crush on him ever since he saved her life as child. That all seems to come out of nowhere. If there'd been hints that something wasn't quite kosher in their relationship before this is revealed, it may have been more acceptable. As it is, it seems a little random.
Speaking of the sister, she was driving me nuts the entire movie. I knew I'd seen her recently in another movie, but couldn't place her. Actually, Rachel Miner seems to be the queen of Horrorest. She was in Penny Dreadful in 2006 and Tooth & Nail in 2007. I wonder which Horrorfest movie she'll be in this year?
It's very rare thing for second sequel to be better than the preceding movies, but here it is. (7/10)
The Fly (1958) trailer
The Fly (1986) trailer
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror VIII: Fly vs Fly"
Tales from the Crypt: "Forever Ambregis" (1993) directed by Gary Fleder
Roger Daltrey tries and fails to steal Steve Buscemi's hot girlfriend... only in Tales from the Crypt land. Also only in this land is some disease transmission that works at the speed of plot. Said disease does cause some fantastic melt-down special F/X, sort of like if Troma had a larger budget to work with during Class of Nuke 'Em High. It's all good Crypt fun. (7/10)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) trailer
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) trailer
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror VI: Nightmare on Evergreen Ter."
An American Werewolf in London (1981) directed by John Landis
Whatever I may think of the director, I can't deny that this is the best werewolf movie ever made (though, admittedly, I cannot remember anything about The Howling). Some may complain about the humor in the film, preferring a more serious werewolf movie. However, the humor is never silly and doesn't diminish the seriousness of the plot. It simply arises naturally from the rather unusual situation David finds himself in, talking to ghosts and changing into an animal.
Folks usually praise the werewolf transformation -- which rightly earned Rick Baker an Oscar -- but I think the make-up job he does on the victims is even better. Jack's transformation from fresh corpse to not-so-fresh corpse sports some of the best gore make-up ever. I think it's the dangly bit of skin on Jack's neck that wiggles when he talks that pushes it over the edge.
If I had any complaints, it's that the film seemed like it might focus on the investigations of the Scotland Yard detectives and David's doctor a little more than it did. They're sort of set up to unravel the mystery of the killer who attacked David, but this is all dropped in order to focus on the werewolf attack in Piccadilly Circus. It's a minor complaint; I'd probably rather stick with David's adventures in wolfdom, anyway. (8/10)
Dolls (1986) trailer
Dollman vs Demonic Toys (1993) trailer
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror III: Clown Without Pity"
Inside (2007) directed by Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
What if an American slasher movie, instead of Michael Myers or Jason Vorhees, had a woman as brutal and insane as Asami from Audition in it? This film is pretty close to what you'd get, I think. The story is relatively simple. A recently widowed, pregnant woman is attacked in her home by a crazy lady who wants her baby. Immediately. What follows is a savage battle between the two women.
Unlike an American slasher, however, the victim in the film doesn't fight back very effectively. She spends most of the movie hiding in her bathroom. When her anger finally replaces her fear, she tries and mostly fails to disable her attacker, then gets a toaster in the face. This is frustrating, perhaps because it plays with our expectations of these types of movies. We've come to expect and savor the cathartic pleasure of the victim harming her tormentor. We get that a little bit in this film, when the crazy lady is burned terribly in the face, but it is brief and not repeated.
The police in the film are so ridiculously stupid, it distracts from the movie. One officer hears gunfire coming from inside of the house. Does he first call for backup? Nope. He grabs a kid he arrested earlier in the night, chains him up, and they both rush into the house. Later, he gives the kid a weapon, but leaves him chained up. Their fates inside of the house can hardly be unexpected. I suppose this was a way to generate more people for the crazy lady to kill, but it could've been handled better.
One bit that I did think was well-done were the repeated shots of the fetus. We're shown the fetus being jostled and bumped around as the mother is attacked. It's a clever way of reminding us that their are two victims to worry about.
Ultimately, I'm not really sure what the point of this movie is, other than the shock people. It does play with the slasher formula in some original ways, but it's also equal parts frustrating. It does contain some things I can't say I've ever seen before in a horror movie, so there's that. (7/10)
Drag Me to Hell: Unrated Director's Cut (2009) directed by Sam Raimi
I was skeptical. It's been 22 years since Raimi did a real horror movie and he's never made one without Bruce. I have to admit, he did all right. Similar to Evil Dead 2, the main character Christine takes a lot of abuse that we're expected to laugh at. Numerous gross items -- flies, maggots, flem -- end up spilling into her mouth, her nose spontaneously sprays blood all over her boss, she has to swim around with a corpse in an open grave and there's a running gag where the gypsy -- both dead and alive -- rips clumps of her hair out. It's all in Ash-style fun. Similarly, the trademarked "Raimi cam" shots make several appearances, the gypsy acts somewhat like a deadite when she's pissed and, of course, both Raimi's Delta 88 and his brother Ted show up.
That might all sound tedious, like Raimi's making another Evil Dead movie in all but name. On the contrary, it was refreshing to watch something that was somewhat of a throwback in an era of Hostels and Saws. It's just a good, old-school, gooey, mostly practical F/X, possessed-people, gypsy-cursed horror flick. Though there's plenty to laugh at in the film, I'd peg it as a more serious horror movie that ED2, leaning towards ED1's style.
I have to admit, the ending caught me by surprise. Not the part where the coin and the button got mixed up -- something so obvious, my wife got pissed at the movie and hated it from the second the envelope fell out of Christine's purse -- and not the fact that the demon was not truly defeated. I was surprised that the pretty girl was the one ending up being dragged to hell. I completely expected the boyfriend to be the unfortunate soul. I was assuming losing the button in his car and him picking it up constituted an ownership change. Christine having to live with the guilt that her nice boyfriend is tortured for eternity seemed like the ending most horror movies would go for. I like that this one fooled me. I suppose the fact that a little boy gets dragged to hell in the beginning should've clued me in to Raimi's dark streak, but I missed it. (8/10)
Autopsy (2008) directed by Adam Gierasch
A group of unlikable 20-somethings end up at a hospital in rural Louisiana. Shockingly, the people at the hospital aren't very nice and all but one of the kids is killed by the end of the movie. Pretty standard stuff done without much style. There's a vague attempt, I noticed, to do some Argento-esque colored lighting, but it's barely there.
A couple of things stood out. I always enjoy the T-1000 in whatever he's in. I buy him as a sort of non-frozen Mr. Freeze, trying to save his wife at the expense of others. Also a stand-out was the death of the main character's boyfriend. For some reason, the T-1000 felt the need to remove all of the man's organs from his chest cavity, suspend them in the air above him and keep them all hooked up with tubes so the man doesn't die. I don't think it would work in real life, but it sure looked cool. Other than that, this was mostly just 84 minutes of my life gone away. (5/10)
The Brøken (2008) directed by Sean Ellis
Whilst watching this film, I was completely intrigued. The movie is slow and loathe to reveal any details about its own plot. I was trying to figure out what was going on the entire time and enjoying it; movies without plot hand-holding are rare. At the end, though, we run into the big twist of the film. Now I'm not sure the movie actually makes much sense on reflection.
Turns out that Gina, whom we've been watching the entire movie, is actually one of the evil mirror people. The EMP have been slyly popping out of mirrors to kill and replace their normal duplicates throughout the movie. Gina notices right away when her boyfriend is replaced and is completely freaked out by him. But, why? She's an EMP herself. Shouldn't she know her own kind? More importantly, shouldn't the boyfriend know his own kind and not be such a dick to her? And, why would head trauma from a car accident cause an EMP to think they're a normal person? She's not a normal person and has never been one. And, why was she so freaked out to discover her normal duplicate's dead body? She's an EMP. That's what EMP do, apparently. I don't really understand.
I also don't understand what the EMP are doing in our world. This particular bit of not understanding, however, I like. The film makes no attempt to explain anything about the EMP or why they've decided to come to our world and scowl a lot. The movie is simply focused on one confused EMP. The rest is left deliciously up to the audience's speculation. Not many movies have the balls to leave such large questions hanging like that. I like it. (7/10)
Dog Soldiers (2002) directed by Neil Marshall
I felt myself slightly bored whilst watching this one. At the time, I couldn't say why. Now I think it was due to how derivative everything in the film was. Most of the film is a bunch of guys trapped in a house, trying to keep the werewolves out. From Night of the Living Dead to Straw Dogs, I've seen this scenario too many times for it to be interesting unless something unique is done with it. Nothing unique is done here. A couple of the guys inside are scratched by the werewolves. Guess what they transform into later? Some of the guys give their lives heroically for the others. One of the guys was a part of an evil government project to catch a werewolf. One of the characters is even named Bruce Campbell. Lots of been-there, done-that in this one.
I think the werewolf design is kind of cool. At first, they look ridiculous. They're very tall, very lanky and have huge wolf heads. They sort of look like Jim Henson's idea of a werewolf. But, at least it's a different take on the design. We've already seen the Wolf Man, mostly human, take and the American Werewolf, mostly wolf, take. Something different is good. (6/10)
Dark Country (2009) directed by Thomas Jane
Sometimes it seems like first time directors are so excited to be directing a film that they throw every film trick they can think of into their movie. Canted angles, chiaroscuro lighting, colored lighting, "creative" scene transitions, racking focus, tons close-ups on inanimate objects... you can see their enthusiasm in every frame. All of this excitement, though kind of fun to observe, can make the movie feel visually cluttered. This is especially true for the beginning section of this film. You can just about picture Jane talking to his DP, trying to figure out a non-standard shot for each scene.
Once the characters get out onto the desert road at night, things calm down a little. Not completely, however. It looks like the desert scenes were shot using green screen. Everything seems to have a black border around it, separating it from the background, kind of like a cartoon. One the one hand, it makes the movie look a bit cheap. On the other hand, it's actually kind of surreal. This look seems to work for a movie about weird things happening while driving through the desert at night. The closest comparison I can think of is if Sin City were shot in color and never cut to those stark no gray-tone shots.
Storywise, this is essentially a Twilight Zone / Night Gallery episode stretched out to ninety minutes. A couple finds a badly injured man on a desert highway at night. He gets a little nutty and tries to choke the husband. The husband kills him with a rock and the couple bury him in the middle of the desert. Some craziness ensues, including Ron Perlman as a police officer. Turns out, the injured man was really the husband and there's either some kind of time looping going on, or we're witnessing a psychological break on the part of the main character. Actually, that's not too unlike Lost Highway in either regard.
Anyway, as far as these type of things go, I liked it, but Bill Paxton got you beat, buddy. (7/10)
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) directed by Tom Tykwer
I was quite surprised when I heard someone was going to make a movie out of the novel. It tells the tale of a man born with a superhuman sense of smell. Smell isn't exactly an easy sense to convey in the audio-visual world of film (barring, of course, strange experiments from the 1960s). It requires a bit more work than a normal film from the audience. In a strange way, watching this movie is closer to the experience of reading the novel than most film adaptions; both require plenty of imagination to fill in the sensory gaps.
The bits that don't require imagination are, for the most part, excellent. Ben Whishaw does a wonderful job with his character. He plays a man who rarely speaks, experiences the world through his nose, has little regard for other people and still manages to the carry the movie by himself for most of the way. I was less impressed with Dustin Hoffman. Maybe it was just me, but I couldn't see him as anything other than Dustin Hoffman in a powdered wig using a bad accent. The cinematography is beautiful and the attention to detail is impressive. The orgy scene at the end suffered, I suspect, due to the producers aiming for an R-rating. It got the point across, nevertheless. An excellent adaption of the source material. (8/10)
Vampire Wars: Battle for the Universe (2005) trailer
Basket Case (1981) trailer
Merrie Melodies: "Hair-Raising Hare" (1946)
Tales from the Crypt: "As Ye Sow" (1993) directed by Kyle MacLachlan
Nothing surprising here as far as Crypt stories go. A man suspects that his wife is cheating on him. He hires a detective who fingers the priest at her church. He hires a hitman to take the priest out in front of her to teach her a lesson. That this man ends up dressed as a priest, in the church and with his wife when the hitman shows up can't really surprise anyone very much. More interesting to me is that Special Agent Dale Cooper directed this episode. He never got a shot to sit in the chair on Twin Peaks since it was canceled so quickly. Looks like he didn't like the job so well, as this was his first and last directing credit. (6/10)
Blood Spattered Bride / I Dismember Mama (1974) trailer
Thanksgiving (2007) fake trailer
Johnny Bravo: "Frankenbravo" (2001)
Trick 'r Treat (2007) directed by Michael Dougherty
It was a full two years ago that I showed Chef Gregory the trailer for this. "That was cool! When's it coming out?" I remember him asking. Little did we know it'd be 24 months later before we'd be able to watch it. Was it worth the wait? Can it possibly stand aside Carpenter's Halloween as an all-time Halloween classic? I'm not sure I can answer that. I think I'm going to need to watch it again to really know how I feel about the film as a whole.
I do know that there are aspects of the movie I like quite a bit. I love that it boldly attempts to add to the mythology of the holiday by way of the "rules of Halloween":
In most of the stories in this anthology, breaking these rules results in your brutal death. I liked that the stories intersected with each other -- though it sometimes feels like the lady in the robot costume is everywhere -- and that the stories leap around Pulp Fiction-style in time. I think the atmosphere presented in the movie captures the spirit of Halloween nicely (I'm glad this film doesn't look like summer in California with fake leaves being throw from off screen!).
- Wear a costume
- Hand out treats
- Never blow out a jack-o-lantern
- Always check your candy
I'm not sure I understand the point of the comic book stuff. The beginning credits suggest the film is really a story in a comic book and the transitions between the stories use comic-style "Earlier..." and "Later than night..." captions. I suppose, like the ill-conceived director's cut of The Warriors, it was meant to spin the movie as a not-so-serious slice of fun. Why the comic format should suggest this in a world with Maus and The Sandman, I'm not sure. I don't think it was necessary here, anyway. This film should be able to stand as a film without having to reference other artistic media.
I liked the movie, but I wasn't as wowed by it as I was hoping. Maybe the long wait and nigh-universal high reviews ruined it for me, but I don't think I'll be able to tell if this is a holiday classic until I've seen it again. Maybe I'll pop it in again on October 31st and see if it affects me differently? Still, I feel like I can't rate it less than: (8/10)
Season's Greetings (1996)
Surf Nazis Must Die (1987) trailer
The Curious Dr. Humpp (1971) trailer
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror IV: The Devil and Homer Simpson" (1993)
Deadgirl (2008) directed by Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel
Chef Gregory and I agreed: better than we expected it to be. I thought this movie was going to be a lot goofier due to the fact that it was written by the man who wrote Citizen Toxie. It's actually a fairly serious examination of how power and sex warp people's thinking. A couple of high school students wander into an abandoned mental hospital and discover a nude woman chained to a table in the basement. It turns out she's a zombie. One of the kids decides to keep her there as a plaything. The other is disgusted by the idea. Their conflict drives the rest of the movie, which also involves asshole jocks, unrequited love and what use rotten bullet holes in a living dead woman have. Disturbing and thought-provoking. (8/10)
Cloverfield (2008) directed by Matt Reeves
I love this movie. I think it's a modern classic. Perhaps I would feel differently if I'd seen it in the theater or had a larger TV, but the shaky cam stuff does not bother me in the least. I think the civilian, ground's eye view of a Godzilla attack was something that was missing from the genre that we hadn't realized. I like the design of the critter just fine. I think dumb-but-lovable Hud as the cameraman was a great choice that allowed for some tension-relieving jokes to be told in an otherwise dire movie. I like that nothing was explained about the beast. I think the actors created believable twenty-somethings, with perhaps the exception of Marlena's decision not to leave the group when she had the chance. Then again, the last time to she followed the military's orders for evacuation she was almost killed on the Brooklyn Bridge. And, I'm glad I was relatively disconnected from the marketing this movie had before it was released. It seems to me that the ultra-hype the movie generated before it came out backfired, causing folks to react more negatively to the film than they otherwise might have. That, or the shaky cam on the big screen made them sick. (9/10)
Metalocalypse: "Religionklok" (2006)
Frontière(s): Unrated Director's Cut (2007) directed by Xavier GensThat's it for the Horrorfest 2007 movies. I had just about the same experience with this batch as I did with the ones from 2006. One movie I respect but have no desire to watch again (Borderland / The Abandoned). One movie I thought was cool enough that I'd buy it when I saw it for sale cheap (Mulberry Street / Dark Ride). One that had a lot of promise but ultimately disappointed (The Deaths of Ian Stone / The Tripper). And the rest vary between mediocre and utter crap. It took me a little longer than I wanted to get through this set. I think I'm still going to try to get the Horrorfest 2008 movies done before the end of Halloween this year. It would be nice to be caught for next year. So far in general, I'm doing a fantastic job of catching up on this decade's horror movies that I've missed. For some reason, I haven't been too keen on renting lots of horror in the 00s.
France takes a whack at the Chain Saw Massacre theme with Frontier(s). I dunno. Maybe it's because this is the third movie this season I've seen involving Achilles tendon trauma, but it all felt rather been-there-done-that to me. However, there's a couple of gore gags near the end of the film that I thought were really cool. One involves Samuel Le Bihan (from Brotherhood of the Wolf!) getting shoved onto a table saw. Best table saw gag ever. Gallons of blood spew into the heroine's face as the blade continues to spin in the body even though the man is dead. The other follows closely and involves a head explosion rivaling that of the one in Scanners. Once the filmmakers take the leash of and start to have fun with things -- rather than trying to shoehorn some kind of political commentary in the film -- the movie starts to pick up. That happens a bit too late to really save the film for me, though. (6/10)
The Wolf Man (1941) directed by George Waggner
I have to admit, I picked this Universal horror movie to watch mostly because the trailer for the remake gave me a taste for it. That, and all the cool kids are watching Universal horror movies this Halloween. You've gotta love Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot in this movie. He's just this damned nice guy who has some really rotten luck. All Larry wants to do is reintegrate into his old home town and get to know the folks living there. Instead, he's almost immediately bit by a werewolf and accused of murder, causing the whole town to hate and fear him. In the end, his dad has to beat him to death with a silver-tipped cane. Pretty grim stuff. I think it's a law that werewolf movies can never end well for the werewolf, no matter how likable. (7/10)
Låt den rätte komma in (2008) directed by Tomas Alfredson
Let the Right One In, I kept reading online, is one of the best vampire movies ever made. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to watching it. I like a good vampire flick. I'd peg Near Dark as my favorite, with Martin a close second. Sadly, after watching it, I won't be adding Let the Right One In to my movie collection, much less considering it a favorite.
It's a cruel thing to write, but LtROI is a bit of a pre-teen Twilight. It's no where near as bad a movie as that piece of crap, but it certainly shares some plot similarities. A pair of lonely souls find each other. One happens to be an old vampire, and the vampire has to struggle not to eat the young human. The pair share lots of plaintive, silent glances with each other. They enjoy sexlessly sleeping next to each other at night. In the end, the vampire defends the human's life from other evil people and they go off to live happily ever after (maybe).
The major difference between the two films, I think, is the bullying plot thread in LtROI. I think this, in part, accounts for the strong love LtROI is getting from the online community. Being made up of more geeks than the average population, folks online can relate to being bullied as kids (note: I'm not excepting myself from this). And, in the film, except for the very last bullying incident, it's portrayed very realistically. Oskar takes the punishment, hates it, wishes he could harm his bullies, but never tells anyone. That's pretty much what kids do -- or did when I was his age, anyway. It's kind of an easy button to push to gain sympathy for your main character, but it does allow us to understand why Oskar has so little problem with Eli murdering people for food.
The crotch shot scene should've been cut. Among other reasons I can think of, it's unnecessarily confusing to anyone who hasn't read the novel. It's supposed to show that Eli is a castrated boy, which is supposed to make Oskar's love for him more remarkable. What I saw was a set set of rubber legs lacking any genitals and with what looked like a horizontal scratch south of the belly button. Logically, not having read the book, I concluded that vampires in this universe don't have private parts at all. I was waiting for this to tie into something in the movie later on, but it was ignored. I had to go online to find out what the hell the point of the scene was. Perhaps not a great adaption choice on the part of the screenwriter.
In the movie's defense, it allows itself to be read a couple of different ways, which I love. You can see the movie as a simple romance: despite their great differences, Oskar and Eli found love in each other and hold onto it no matter what. I read it differently. Eli, we can't forget, is much older than he looks. The movie actually reminds us of this in one scene, where Eli's face briefly transforms into that of an old woman. As such, I think his relationship with Oskar is selfish and manipulative.
I think that Håkan was Eli's previous Oskar. Years ago, he was probably someone Eli seduced/bonded with in order to get human help. Stockholm has 18 hours of daylight in the middle of summer. A vampire there is going to need a regular human to make sure no one opens any curtains on them while they sleep, etc. Håkan also kills people for Eli. This is a task you can see Eli grooming Oskar for, as he first encourages Oskar to hit his bullies harder than he thinks possible and later speaks to him about killing people. I think picking a human on the verge of puberty, close to his apparent age, is an easy way for Eli to gain the help he needs for 50-60 more years. Evil perhaps, but I don't think bullied and lonely Oskar minds so much. (7/10)
Unearthed (2007) directed by Matthew Leutwyler
How did a Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie sneak into Horrorfest? Okay, though it has no connection to the Sci-Fi Channel -- er, I'm mean Siffy -- Unearthed would feel right at home next to Mansquito and Lake Placid 2. It has a crappy CGI monster -- who looks like a cross between a xenomorph and an iz -- that terrorizes some pretty people in a remote town. That's pretty much the plot of all those "SyFy" movies. There's a vague attempt at some characterization with the sheriff -- she's a drunk who accidentally shot a little girl -- but everyone else in the film is either fodder for the beast or an exposition spouter (or both). They even cast Charlie Murphy and didn't bother giving him anything cool to do before he was killed off. I knew I was in for a bad flick the first time I checked the elapsed time and only twenty minutes had passed. Outside of a couple of cool gore effects -- Charlie Murphy's split head was kinda neat -- there's absolutely nothing special about this movie. (4/10)
Silver Bullet (1985) directed by Daniel Attias
This would be a great first "real" horror movie for a kid. Aged ten or eleven, I'm thinking, would be a good Silver Bullet age (about the same as the main character). Though it's rated R, it's really not excessively gory. Well, there's some werewolf scratchin' and punching of heads off, but it's all sufficiently rubbery-looking to not be too scary. Plus, as I mentioned, the main character is a kid, himself. Stephen King always writes children really well. Marty in the movie, though paralyzed, gets to do all kinds of cool stuff 11-year-olds dream of: shooing off illegal fireworks, racing around on a custom motorcycle, climbing out the window in the middle of the night to have fun, shooting a werewolf with a silver bullet... And, I suppose, in the end this film teaches the valuable lesson that not all priests are kind to children. Can't learn that one soon enough. (7/10)
Zombieland (2009) directed by Ruben Fleisher
A bucket of fun. More of a comedy than a zombie film (whereas I might say the opposite about Shaun of the Dead). Sure, the story, when you boil it down, is pretty Hollywood-standard: lost souls wind up together by accident, dislike each other at first and then end up as a happy family. I know, I'm aware that amusement park rides require an operator and don't just go on their own once they sense someone sitting in them. Yeah, a certain actor in a cameo isn't really as rich as they made him out to be. Doesn't matter. This stuff is in the film to drive the fun, not to make sense.
There are lot of good bits stuffed into the picture. I loved Tallahassee's quest for a Twinkie and Columbus' quest to simply push stray hair behind a girl's ear. The zombies were of the fast type, but this okay due to both the awesome slo-mo shots of them chasing food (especially the stripper zombie) and so that Columbus could have his amusing cardio rule. The scene in which the four main characters have a blast trashing a highway tourist shop struck me as unique. In these zombie apocalypse films, I can't recall anyone ever just having fun with the situation (at least, without the scene ending in someone getting bitten or eaten). That was nice. That's one thing I would do myself if zombies were everywhere.
It's not exactly a deep reflection on the end of the world, but it is one of the funniest horror-comedies I've seen. (8/10)
Creepshow (1982) trailer
The Shining (1980) fake trailer
Michael Jackson: "Thriller" (1983)
Bubba Ho-tep (2002) directed by Don Coscarelli
I hadn't seen this in while and it seemed like something mom might possibly get a kick out of. Of course, I'd forgotten how much Elvis talks about his pecker throughout. Ostensibly about a mummy who eats the souls of old people in a rest home, this really isn't much of a monster movie. It's more of a comedic mediation on old age. Most of the movie has little to do with the title character; it's Elvis ruminating on what it means to have lived so long you're about to die of old age. As such, it's not exactly the most exciting mummy movie ever made. You have to be a certain frame of mind to enjoy this one, I think. I suppose this is the frame of mind that finds the idea of a mummy writing dirty graffiti on the wall of a toilet stall while taking a dump amusing. Afterward, mom expressed disbelief such a thing was ever shown in real theaters, stating "that was a weird movie." (7/10)
Book of Blood (2008) directed by John Harrison
After everyone was asleep, I popped in this Netflix acquisition. I read the short stories this was based on so long ago, I had no idea what it was going to be about. It was sort of Clive Barker's version of Poltergeist, in a way. Very much in line with Barker's style, it mixed horror, sexuality and metaphysics as it told the story of a college professor investigating a haunted house. Turns out the house exists at an intersection of a ghost highway, where their realm and ours mix. Turns out also that the ghosts are really sensitive to people messing with them, going so far as to rip the faces off of teenage girls performing seances. It's a bit slow-paced in the middle when the ghosts aren't doing any real harm to people, but I dug this one. (7/10)