31 October 2010

October 31st - HALLOWEEN

Chauffeured trick-or-treating.
Thus ends the 8th annual Six Weeks of Halloween celebration.  I watched 80 full-length horror movies this year, slaughtering previous records by a great deal.  I had six excellently fun Saturday nights with friends.  I drank lots o' beer and ate lots o' pizza and candy.  And, best of all, I got to take my eldest daughter out trick-or-treating for the very first time.  It was a good Six Weeks.

Friday the 13th (2009) directed by Marcus Nispel
Since I watched the Elm Street remake a while back, I thought I should probably catch up on Jason's remake as well.  Well, more of a re-imagining than a remake.  There's a handful of small elements lifted from the first three of the original series (namely: Pamela's decapitation, Jason keeping her head in a shrine and Jason switching from a sack mask to a hockey mask), but it's an original story, otherwise.  I'm not a fan of what they did with Jason here.  Kind of like the original Part 2, he's pretty much just a deformed redneck, but this Jason is smart enough to hook up tripwire alarms and dig an underground hideout under his mom's house. Jason shouldn't be that smart.  He's like a force of nature.  Giving him these engineering abilities is like watching a bear drive a car.

Outside of that, it's just Jason killing people again like he always does.  I like Jason movies, but I was bored out of my mind with this for some reason.  Mostly, he seems to kill people with his machete.  Very uninteresting.  I miss the old Jason who would pick up a sleeping bag and slam it against a tree or use hedge clippers for impromptu eye surgery.  Something just didn't feel right about the old guy in this one.  Even Cyber-Jason in X felt more Jason-ish to me.  I dunno.  Maybe I'm just a grumpy child of the '80s who's sick of these remakes. (5/10)

The Last Horror Film (1982) directed by David Winters
With J over to help me celebrate the holiday, we picked a movie neither of us had seen.  We've seen Maniac, but this other "Joe Spinell is crazy" movie's been in both of our Netflix queues for a while.  It didn't disappoint in the crazy department.  Spinell plays a cabbie obsessed with a horror movie actress.  He's so obsessed, he travels to all the way to Cannes to try to get her to act in a movie he's written.  And by try to get her to act, I mean he starts stalking her and seemingly films himself murdering the people around her.  Needless to say, she doesn't warm up to the idea of being in his movie immediately.

Joe's mother in the film is played by his real-life mom and she is absolutely precious.  She's always trying to talk sense into her nutty son by offering him baked macaroni.  Aww.  She also has the best final line in a movie ever for an old lady: "Vinny! You got a joint?" (6/10)

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) directed by Dwight H. Little
This sequel sort of ties in with Zombie's Part 2 that J and I watched a few weeks ago, so I popped it in.  I've always thought Halloween 4 was a pretty solid slasher movie.  I like that everyone in town immediately takes the threat of Michael Myers seriously.  We completely skip the "convince people the monster is real" stage of the typical horror movie and dive right into the "barricade the house" part.  Also atypical: the redneck lynch mob that chases after Myers with pickup trucks and shotguns -- though they do shoot someone accidentally first -- actually finds and kills Myers successfully.  Sure, he survives because there is a Part 5, but, had this been the final movie in the series, we'd have to assume The Evil that Loomis fears so much is now living in Jamie instead.  I dig it.  It's a nice slasher to pull out every few Halloweens. (7/10)

The Funhouse (1981) directed by Tobe Hooper
Also a nice slasher to watch every once-in-a-while and another movie J'd never seen before.  I love showing people cool, forgotten movies they haven't caught yet..  Plus, carnivals are inherently scary, so it's never a bad idea to set a horror movie at one.  It's true, hiding in the carnival's dark ride to try to spend the night in it may seem like a good idea -- especially when you're smoking the doobies and having premarital sex -- but, generally, you're probably going to discover there's a mutant freak living beneath it who's pissed off because he just got charged $100 for a handjob from an old fortune teller.  Happens all the time.

What is it with '80s horror movies having little brothers trying to see their older sisters naked?  If I recall, the same thing happened at the beginning of Night of the Demons, too.  I'm thinking Kevin Tenney and Tobe Hooper share some issues they should really work out... (7/10)

Phantasm II (1988) directed by Don Coscarelli
J had to depart due to increasing cat allergies -- damn you, Poe the Cat -- so I was on my own for the rest of the night.  Straight to horror comfort food went I.  If I could live in any horror movie universe -- and living underwater with Dagon was out of the question -- I'd be sitting with Reg and Mike in a 'cuda, hunting the Tall Man. (8/10)

Halloween (1978) directed by John Carpenter
The perfect slasher film.  This was the 12th Halloween in a row that I've watched this film.  It was a particular treat watching the Blu-ray using my projector and screen this year.  It's fun noticing all of the little details that were lost on my tiny 32" LCD in years prior.  For example, Laurie watches some kids trick-or-treating at one point and I'd never noticed one of the kids is wearing the same Superman costume I had when I was little.  Then, the angle reverses and Laurie watches another group of kids... but they're the same kids with the same costumes.  Heh, the seams of Carpenter's shoestring budget start to show the more you blow it up. (9/10)

Halloween is over.  Thanksgiving looms.

30 October 2010

October 30th

The traditional bucket of corn syrup.
Saw 3D (2010) directed by Kevin Greutert
Hey, my predications after watching VI weren't too far off, except for the Jill part.  And the dead fetus thing.  I got say that for most of the movie, I was kind of disappointed while watching it.  The main person caught in a trap is yet another guy who pissed off Jigsaw, like the insurance guy in V.  If he weren't dead, I'd warn Jigsaw that people are going to start thinking his lessons are garbage and that he's really just out for revenge.  And I'm still not clear on why Hoffman keeps engineering these things for Jigsaw so long after his death.  I guess he's a sadist and Jigsaw's (presumably) detailed plans make it easy to just do what Jigsaw wanted for the time being.

Speaking of, Jigsaw is relegated to just three cameos in this film: two in flashbacks and one on video.  Sure, that man is dead, but he's still my favorite character (or only character I like, really) in the series.  Though I know full-well there's no room for more Jigsaw backstory, it would've been nice if Tobin Bell had gotten more screen time somehow.

I do like the ending of the movie.  I'm reading on messageboards that the Saw fans are pissed off for a variety of reasons, but I think it brings things full circle in a satisfying way.  I don't even mind that, yet again, they've found a way to shove one more Jigsaw accomplice into the background of all of the previous movies.  But, this time, it really does make sense.  I was wondering during the last movie how Hoffman was able to surgically implant a key into the insurance guy's side without, you know, nicking an artery and accidentally mucking up the game.

As for the 3D: this and Avatar are the only modern 3D movies I've seen so far.  I've really got no use for it.  I think it adds very little to a movie.  Though, there were two instances in Saw 3D where the 3D really added to the experience.  In the first, a man is trying to reach for a lever to pull.  In the second, a man is balancing on boards high above the floor.  In 3D, we're allowed to see just how far from the lever and floor these men are, which adds to the tension.  Outside of that, it's just an occasional body part flying towards your face and nothing much else of use.  That, and it always gives me an eyestrain headache.

Individually, I'm not really a huge fan of the Saw movies.  Mostly, I don't care a wit about the characters trapped in the games and later movies feel like they're struggling to think of new things to do.  However, I admire the hell out of the continuity in these seven films.  Whatever I think of the movies themselves, the series is a notable achievement in horror.  We've seen horror series generate unending annual sequels before, but never have they required so much of the viewer.  You really do need to have at least the previous installment fresh in your mind to make sense of the current film (and even better if the entire series is in mind).  A sequel could refer to any part of any number of the previous movies, revealing more about the story and answering dangling questions from years prior.  I love this part of the series: a seven-year-long soap opera for horror geeks. (6/10)

Phantasm II (1988) trailer
Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980) trailer
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror IV: The Devil and Homer Simpson" (1993)

Tales from the Crypt: "Well Cooked Hams" (1993) directed by Elliot Silverstein
Stars Billy Zane, in a role that must have convinced the producers to cast him the movie a couple of years later.  He plays a magician who likes to steal tricks from other magicians and who receives a predictable punishment for such acts.  Worth watching just to see Martin Sheen ham it up to 11 in three different roles with three different fake beards.

Igor and the Lunatics (1985) trailer
Frankenpimp (2000) fake trailer
Murder Baby (2010)

Alien (1979) directed by Ridley Scott
For "best sci-fi-horror movie ever" it's either this or The Thing, no question.  Me, I tend towards The Thing, but Alien is no slouch.  I love that it is essentially a monster chasing people around a gothic castle... but in space. Giger's beautiful designs still hold up 31 years later.  The intentional sexual undertones to the creature are as fun to pick apart as they are disturbing (how about this one: the alien's inner mouth becomes erect and leaks clear fluid when it's excited).  The space truckers are all realistically drawn and sound like working-class folks just doing their job. Jerry Goldsmith's score is haunting and perfect. There's not a lot to complain about in this film (the unnecessary Sigourney Weaver buttcrack, probably) as it's near-perfect. (9/10)

Cat in the Brain (1990) trailer
Vampire Wars: Battle for the Universe (2005) trailer
Rob Zombie: "American Witch (animated)" (2006)

Dagon (2001) directed by Stuart Gordon
I love this film unabashedly and I'll never understand why it's not more well-known out there in horror land. I love the contrast between the washed-out blue of Imboca and the bright orange of Paul's Miskatonic sweatshirt.  Visually, we can tell he's a fish out of water, so to speak, right off.  Paul's is one of my favorite horror movie heroes.  What I like is, ignoring the rich investor thing, he's a true everyman.  In the hotel, when he hears the villagers making weird noises and coming towards his room en masse, he still calls out a "can I help you?" when they rattle his doorknob.  It's true: it would be hard to switch gears from what you would do in normal civilization to dropping the civilities and realizing they don't matter when things are strange.  He uses his swiss army knife and cellphone as a pathetic weapons, as they are the only thing he has in his pocket.  He tries and fails to hotwire a car -- I sure as  hell don't know how to do that, either.

For the record: yes, I would live forever with the tentacle-legged woman underwater.  Absolutely. (9/10)

A tree in the house?

29 October 2010

October 29th

Altered (2006) directed by Eduardo Sánchez
Rednecks get revenge on their alien abductor.  It sounds silly, but Sánchez turns it into a serious horror movie.  The movie subscribes to the theory that alien abductions are the human equivalent of tranquillizing and tagging bears in the woods.  Unlike bears, though, humans can seek revenge.  After fifteen years of staking out the field where they were abducted, the rednecks finally bag themselves an alien.  They haul it back to the house of a fellow abductee deep in the woods.  The twist: the fellow abductee -- wiser in these matters than his friends -- explains they can't kill the thing.  As we'd put down a dog that bit a person, these critters will scourge the planet if we kill even one of them.  Naturally, the alien gets loose and causes havoc and disease and possession and death.

I liked how we never saw the original abduction of these men; we're just witness to the PTSD fifteen years later.  We have to piece together their trauma and understand how hard it is for them to not torture the alien they've captured.  Not a bad follow-up to Blair Witch for Sánchez.  And, hey, no skaky-cam! (7/10)

Young Frankenstein (1974) directed by Mel Brooks
Never much of a laugh-out-loud movie for me.  It's more one of those comedies that involves a lot of the almost-laugh: the sharp exhale of air out the nostrils that indicates you recognize what is one the screen is amusing, but don't feel the urge to give it a full-on laugh.  It'd probably work better watching it in a group.  That often helps grow the laughs.

Not that I don't like the movie.  I think the characters and the actors who play them are great.  The dialog is witty.  There are plenty of amusing sight-gags to pick up on during multiple viewings.  It's just that, if I feel like a horror comedy, Ghostbusters is gonna make me laugh 10 times harder, is all.

As it is, it's a brilliant, dead-on parody/homage to the Universal horror movies of the 1930s.  So much so, I'd say you're not gonna get much out of the film if you haven't seen Bride of, Son of and the original Frankenstein first.  (7/10)

28 October 2010

October 28th

[REC] (2007) directed by Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza
Oh man, I had to stop watching this a couple of times to quiet my stomach.  Cloverfield didn't bother me at all, but the shaky-cam in this movie was abusive.  I even watched the thing on a tiny laptop screen and I still got motion sick.  I understand this filming technique greatly added to the impact of the movie, but, geez, it's hard to watch sometimes.

The plot of the movie -- at least until the last 15 minutes -- is pretty standard stuff.  It's a zombie movie of the "super-rabies" type, like 28 Days Later.  What it has going for it is that it takes place in a very small apartment complex and is shot with a handheld camera.  Both of these things make the movie feel very claustrophobic and tense.  That, and the movie rarely takes a break.  It almost feels like one, unbroken shot of people running around screaming for 78 minutes.

I loved the ending with what appeared to be Rubber Johnny's mom.  At first, I was not really happy with the sudden left turn into the occult when they got to the penthouse.  But, the more I think of it, the more I like it.  What else were they going to do?  Find one more zombie up there?  Get sniped through the windows by the police?  Instead, they give us a vague explanation for the zombie outbreak, and one that's completely unique as far as I know.  From what I was able to gather in the chaos, it sounds like a doctor was trying to cure a girl possessed by a demon with medical science.  The cure he develops doesn't work at all and instead causes the outbreak.  Logically, he decides to lock the possessed girl in his penthouse and gets the hell out of Dodge.  He must have told the police about it, though.  I'm not sure how else they would've known so fast that they needed to quarantine the apartment building. I suppose [REC2] might explain more. (8/10)

Seventh Moon (2008) directed by Eduardo Sánchez
I've seen a lot of backwoods horror movies, but never one set in China.  It's a great idea to dive into the superstitions of rural China in order to scare the crap out of an American and her Chinese-American husband who can't speak Cantonese very well.  Turns out, in this part of China, they need to offer sacrifices during the full moon of the seventh lunar month, else bad stuff will happen.  Namely: quite creepy, naked, pale moon demons will take you away and kill you.

This was another shaky-cam movie, though not all the way through.  The shaky-cam parts were a little annoying, though, as they was mostly just a technique to make it hard to see the moon demons clearly.  This was not unexpected, though, coming from the director of Blair Witch.  And, I'll grudgingly admit this technique worked.  Never being able to see the moon demons clearly (until the end) greatly increases their scariness.  The blurry, pale, humanoid shapes coming after the characters in the dark are straight out of a nightmare.

I think this movie works for me because it's easy to imagine being hopelessly lost in the middle of a foreign country and not being able to speak the language.  With nothing familiar to grasp onto, it's easy for fear to take over (even without moon demons). (7/10)

And that's it for the 12 Ghost House Underground movies.  They faired a little bit better than your average Horrorfest run: I liked 5/12 of them (42%), which beats the hell out of Horrorfest's current record of 9/35 (26%) for me.  Dance of the Dead and The Children are the clear winners from both GHU sets.  I also dug Dark Floors, The Substitute and today's Seventh Moon.  Looks like I'll be saving Fangoria's Fright Fest films for next year, as I'm all out of time.  The Six Weeks are nearly over!

October 27th

Thaw (2009) directed by Mark A. Lewis
Predictable infection horror.  This time, it's a plague of bugs thawed out of a mammoth carcass in northern Canada.  You know the routine: amputating infected limbs, locking suspected infected people away, realizing how serious it is and killing infected people, one survivor escapes, and the infection spreads to the rest of the world despite the hero's best efforts.

The angle here is that global warming was responsible for thawing these critters out and an ecologist tries to intentionally infect the world as a wake-up call.  Of course, he does it in the stupidest way imaginable.  Though the disease caused by the bug seemingly kills its host rapidly -- after hours of debilitating sickness -- he decides to infect himself out in the middle of nowhere with the idea of catching a helicopter ride into town at a later time.  Even if his daughter hadn't shot his helicopter out of the sky, I'm guessing the pilot and copilot might've noticed him bursting with bugs before they landed.  Here's an idea: throw a bunch of bugs in a plastic bag and carry them that way.

Why make the bugs vertebrates?  It seems to not affect anything, and just makes me wonder how there's a vertebrate species with 6-8 limbs, segmented bodies and little feelers on their heads.  And why cast an actress who refuses to do nudity if there's a good "strip and check for bugs" scene in the middle?  And why make a guy have a bug phobia if all of his actions are better explained by plain old fear of infection? A frustrating movie. (5/10)

Saw VI (2009) directed by Kevin Greutert
Maybe the second-best one after Saw II, but that's not saying too much in this series. As I imagined, it's getting a little bit ridiculous that Jigsaw is still planning these traps three movies after he died.  If they don't magically bring him back to life for VII, it's going to be completely silly.  And his expectations for his wife and Hoffman are pretty high: "Hoffman, you will need to acquire 100 gallons of hydrofluoric acid."  Dude... where's a police detective supposed to get that much acid?  And, when does Hoffman sleep with a full-time job, zillions of people to kidnap, traps to build, and shopping trips that include merry-go-rounds and gallons of acid?  Busy guy.  And the flashbacks are also getting a little ridiculous. Now we're inserting Jill and Amanda into more places in previous movies.  I think it's safe to assume that every character in all six movies was in all locations at all times, somehow.

It's kind of preachy, but I liked that the victims in this movie were predatory lenders and health insurance company employees.  I don't mind horror movies getting a bit political or timely, even if it's in a shallow manner like here.  I think the next, logical step is for Jigsaw to start working on politicians.  In fact, if he only ever trapped people from those three groups, I'm guessing the public would be holding annual Jigsaw parades.

I have no idea what the point of the post-credits tag was.  Amanda tells the little girl kidnapped in III not to trust the man who rescues her.  Yeah, we already know that and so does almost everyone else...  Another question for VII to answer, I guess.

Not having read anything about Saw 3D (except for watching the trailer), here are my predictions for the final movie: Hoffman will die (not a tough call there), though I'd rather see the guy thrown in prison for a change.  Ol' one-foot Dr. Gordon will finally show up (I'm confident we see Jill putting a VHS tape into the mail slot of his office in this movie).  Jill will end up set up for life on a tropical island or something (Jigsaw said he'd give her a way out and I don't think he'd do anything bad to her).  And, let's see, the twist ending is that Dr. Gordon will start playing games with his patients to teach them how important their life is. Post-credit tag scene: Billy the Puppet actually contains the corpse of Gideon, the miscarried fetus. We'll see how close I am this weekend... (6/10)

Nightmare House shorts from Fewdio:

Creep (2009)
Curse (2009)
Door 17 (2009)
Anniversary (2009)
The Tale of Haunted Mike! (2009)
Breach (2009)
Marie (2009)
The Collector (2009)
The Feed (2009)
Smoke (2009)
Cleansed (2009)
The Easter Bunny Is Eating My Candy (2009)
The Tap (2009)

26 October 2010

October 26th

Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008) directed by Robert Hiltzik
The original director and some of the original cast come back 25 years later to do it over again.  I dig that.  Most of the movie is spent observing the campers torturing the overweight Alan.  I thought this part was fairly realistic.  Alan is that typical kid who's eager to belong to the group but just doesn't have the social awareness to manage it.  He seems oblivious to the fact that, for example, wearing the same, smelly shirt everyday just makes the other kids want to pick on him even more.  I remember kids like that in school.  It seems like they don't have a chance, but it's hard to be completely sympathetic to their plight when they act like little a-holes (as Alan often does here).

It must have been hard, in the shadow of the ending of the first film, to figure out what to do with this one.  They probably went the only way they could, given that Angela had to return in some fashion.  I can't say I was shocked when she/he was revealed to be the suspiciously petite, badly-bearded Sheriff, though.  Given this reveal was no surprise, the ending is pretty unsatisfying.  Angela kills a bunch of people, she takes her disguise off, Ricky screams like a girl and Angela cackles.  No one really stopped her... she just sort of quit killing.  That's not really in keeping with slasher traditions. (6/10)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) directed by Samuel Bayer
Not quite as horrible as I was expecting. I think the only reason I say that is because I liked Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy.  He's meaner and move perverted than than Englund's Freddy ever was; you wouldn't see this new Freddy made into a talking doll or a squirt ball, I don't think.  I'm fine with the make-up.  Freddy's face has always changed for each movie.  I think the visible tendons in his cheek make it much grosser when he gets his face near another character's. I think "Why are you screaming? I haven't even cut ya yet." is one of the best Freddy lines of all time.

Everything surrounding Freddy, I didn't care for as much.  I think the film's largest issue is its near-complete lack of character development.  Who are these teens we're watching?  I kinda get that Nancy's a bit of a loner-geek, but why and what do the other kids think of that?  Why does Rod -- er -- Jesse run to Nancy's house after seeing Tina -- sorry-- Kris die?  Were they sort of friends?  I have no idea.  In the original, we had the four main teens gather at Tina's house.  We got to see them interact and watch them happy before anyone died.  That was important and is completely absent here.

I also think all of the scenes that were present in the original were done worse.  The CGI Freddy stretching through Nancy's wall looks ridiculous compared to the realistic-looking rubber wall of the original.  Tina's death was actually much more brutal, I thought, in the original than Kris's.  I think the shot in the original of Freddy on top of Tina under the covers makes it so.  The bathtub scene lacked the cool part where Freddy pulls Nancy deep down into the water.

One exception to this was the death of Nancy's mother at the end, which I liked in this one better than the rubber doll in the original.  And, I liked the Freddy backstory in this film as well.  Seeing the flashbacks of him interacting with the characters when they were children really drove home how evil the guy is.

They kind of shot their wad in this film as far as sequels go.  Nancy and Quentin were the only two kids from the preschool left alive by the end of the movie.  In the original series, Freddy had a seemingly unending supply of Elm street kids to pick off.  He didn't have to move on to every child in town until part 6. Speaking of, where was Elm street?  Was it the street Nancy lived on?  Did all four of the main teens live on that street?  I have no idea.  Maybe the preschool was on Elm street? How about a shot of a street sign, guys?  Remember the title of the film? (6/10)

Due to WB delaying their releases on Netflix for 4 weeks now and my desire to watch this during the Six Weeks, I rented this movie from the PlayStation Network.  That's the first and last time I'll ever do that.  I paid $6 for the HD version, which I got to keep for 14 days (but only 24 hours after playing it once).  It's a complete rip-off.  The movie was a paltry 720p with stereo sound.  The bitrate looked to average 6 or 7 mbps for an AVC encode, which translates to visible compression artifacts all over the place.  This is in no way a replacement for watching a movie on blu-ray, for sure.  I'm sure it's fine on a small screen, but blown up by a projector, it's unacceptable.  Long live physical media.

25 October 2010

October 25th

Trackman (2007) directed by Igor Shavlak
Tremendously boring.  Obviously inspired by My Bloody Valentine, this film follows some bank robbers and hostages in an abandoned mine.  Unfortunately for them, the miner from MBV happens to live there and likes to collect eyeballs.  Though the movie is only 80 minutes long, it feels like twice that.  It doesn't take too long for the characters to flee into the mine, in which there's nothing terribly exciting going on most of the time.  There are minutes upon endless minutes of people walking down dank, dusty tracks.  The movie's more than halfway over with by the time the Trackman starts doing anything interesting.  Granted, the only thing he does is a Michael Myers impression, but at least that spices up the unending walking.  Plus, the characters he stalks are so underdeveloped and unlikable, you can't help but root for the guy.

I will say that making the killer a mutant from Chernobyl was a great idea. I've never see any other movie use that concept, though you'd think it would be common in Russian horror.  The only other nice thing I have to say is that at least the DP did a nice job shooting in the low light of the tunnels. Otherwise, I nearly fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon watching this. (3/10)

The Children (2008) directed by Tom Shankland
It's been a long time since a movie actually made me feel nervous.  I'm pretty sure that me being a parent has everything to do with how effective this film was on me.  I can hear my daughter crying in her room at the opposite end of the house and one floor up while watching a movie at full volume.  You get super-hearing, but only for children's cries, when you become a dad.  Consequently, the screaming of the kids in this film was like nails on a chalkboard to me.  It sort of plugs into a primitive part of your brain and says: "offspring in trouble! quick!"  Hence, one reason for the nervousness.  The other reason, of course, is that the horror of the film is a parent having to quickly decide whether to kill her own children in order to save herself and her older daughter.  When she does this, first by accident and later on purpose, I found it very jarring.  After becoming a parent, my #1 fear of amputation was easily replaced by the fear accidentally killing my own child.  This movie is pretty much my worst nightmare.

The film is also put together really well.  It's constructed in perfect horror rollercoaster style, with periods of intensity broken by increasingly shorter and shorter lulls.  The cinematography is great; they kept finding really interesting shots.  I particularly liked the extreme close-up of the flakes of snow stuck to Elaine's lips as she lay stunned in the snow.  The ending isn't terribly surprising, but I don't think I'd want it to end any other way. A great slice of horror from England. (8/10)

Offspring (2009) directed by Andrew van den Houten
Well, now I'm not terribly motivated to read the book.  A group of cannibals, who look like they split off of the Hills Have Eyes clan, descend on a coastal Maine town and start making steaks out of the locals.  It's kind of a neat idea to think about a hunting party straight out of the stone age doing their thing on people in cars instead of mammoths.  But, wild kids slamming hatchets into folks can only get you so far in a horror movie.  Unfortunately, there's not much else here.  There's some kidnapped women in trouble.  There's an asshole ex-husband.  There's a baby hidden in the woods so the cannibals can't find it.  All of this turns out pretty much the way you'd expect (the women escape, the asshole is killed, the baby is saved) after less than 80 minutes of runtime.

At the end, we're shown a shot of the lone cannibal survivor: a baby.  I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean.  That the cannibals will be back in 10-20 years after it grows up?  I don't think that baby will survive being abandoned in a cave the police couldn't even find.  I can't think of any other reason, though, unless it's just that the producers wanted to reassure us that the hero-lady didn't really kill a baby trying to escape.

I was completely confused when a movie supposedly taking place in Maine had a police car with the distinctive state of Michigan painted on it.  Turns out this is one of those movies that was shot in my home state through the new Michigan Film Office.  I vaguely remember some controversy, but it seems that's over the proposed sequel.  Looks like the Michigan Film Office doesn't want to give van den Houten the 42% tax credit for the follow-up, seemingly because they're uncomfortable having a cannibal movie represent the state. Ah, horror, always the red-headed stepchild of the genres. (4/10)

24 October 2010

October 24th

Room 205 (2007) directed by Martin Barnewitz
A ghost story from Denmark.  I think maybe the only way to make ghosts actually threatening in a movie is to give them the power to hurt people.  Ghosts, as they are described by believers, are just a projections of strong emotions on a place.  Being scared of such a thing would be like being scared of a rainbow.  So, movies often give the ghosts the power to harm or kill people (or take them into a TV), as is the case here.  I will admit that when the ghost appears, accompanied by a really loud musical sting, it's often surprising.  But, after that, it's just a lady with bad cataracts making faces at people (and smushing them in elevators).  It doesn't do anything for me.  If there's a killer ghost haunting your dorm... move the hell out.  Problem solved.  I'm pretty sure this is the first Danish movie I've ever watched, so there's that. (5/10)

The Substitute (2007) directed by Ole Bornedal
And another Danish movie from Ghost House Underground.  They must have gotten a deal or something from a production company over there.  This one's much more enjoyable that the other, but it's not much of a horror movie.  Like The Faculty, it's the body-snatcher scenario in a school.  This time, it's only one snatcher and she is ostensibly here just to learn about love.  Her species completely lacks empathy and is constantly at war with each other.  Humanity's unique ability to care about each other seems like something that might help them with that problem.  She takes the guise of the titular substitute in order to study empathy in children.  Eventually, the kids figure out what she really is and try to convince their parents.  The parents, as is always the case in these films, refuse to believe the kids.  Lacking in empathy, the substitute isn't really a nice entity and plans to snatch the kids to her planet for further study.  She is stopped at the last minute by one of her students and all is right in the world.

Paprika Steen does an excellent job as the alien teacher.  She has lots of fun controlling her facial expressions in the film, all smiley-happy when talking to parents and scary-emotionless when speaking to the kids.  She's sort of reminds me Terri Garr, both physically and in the way that she acts.

Other than the afore-surmised deal, I'm not sure why Ghost House bought this for their horror line.  Outside of the alien eating a miniaturized guidance counselor, there's nothing really horrible in the movie.  I suppose the whole "my teacher is an alien who wants to kidnap us" is scary, though.  This'll be a good one to watch with a 10-year-old in the future, I bet. (7/10)

23 October 2010

October 23rd

They craft crazy things at daycare.
J & C return for week 5's Saturday o' fun.  Pizza and beer and candy and Chicago-style hotdogs were enjoyed by all as we spun up some more horror.  It was C's first visit since I got the new projector, so there was some intense discussion as to which blu-ray we should pick.  Ultimately, it wasn't a choice with the best transfer in the world, but, ah well, it looked better than the videotape-mangled Crypt episode, anyway.

Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1974) trailer
House (1985) trailer
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror IV: Bart Simpson's Dracula" (1993)

Tales from the Crypt: "House of Horror" (1993) directed by Bob Gale
Kind of a meh episode about a frat initiation gone wrong.  It was amusing to see Wil Wheaton crawling around in his tighty-whities (I suggested that this would be prime for a screencap to take to an autograph signing).  Other than that, it's a story that takes entirely too long to get to the point.  The point, as is the case in most of these, is for the asshole to get what's coming to him.  I will say Kevin Dillon -- who looks a eerily like his brother -- plays the asshole to perfection here.

Tentacles (1977) TV spot
The Worm Eaters (1977) trailer
Happy Tree Friends: "Boo Do You Think You Are?" (2003)

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) directed by Francis Ford Coppola
I'm not sure Stoker would recognize the story in this movie -- his demon of disease made sympathetic -- but I suppose they needed to alter the title in some way to differentiate it from all of the other Dracula adaptations out there.  What stuck me, watching this tonight, was how different it is from most vampire movies of the past, say, 30 years.  Modern vampires movies seem to be desperate to cast vampirism in a scientific light.  Vampires are just people infected with a disease.  Their aversion to silver and garlic and sunlight are merely severe allergies.  There's undoubtedly an injection out there that will cure them.  It's refreshing to watch a vampire movie that takes it old school  In this world, all of our old legends are true.  Dracula walks the earth neither dead or alive because he cursed God.  He can change into a wolf or a bat or rats or mist.  Why?  Because those things scared our ancestors and Dracula is scary.  He can control the weather and the creepy-crawly creatures of the night because he is a force of nature and a creature of the night himself.  He enjoys a psychic connection with Mina because she is his soul mate.  If you need any further explanation than that, too bad.  It's sometimes hard to drop a logical analysis of what you see on-screen -- I had that trouble with Paranormal Activity -- but it's enjoyable just to dive into superstition and the supernatural once-in-a-while.

Coppola's clearly enjoying the hell out of himself with this movie.  You can tell he always wanted to make a Universal horror movie.  I love his use of shadow in this movie.  Easy to make fun of, sure -- see the Simpons episode above -- but fun to watch, nevertheless. (8/10)

Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973) trailer
Rubber (2010) trailer
The Wildflower (2007)

The Lair of the White Worm (1988) directed by Ken Russell
It turned into an unofficial Bram Stoker night purely by coincidence.  I've never read the story this was based on, so I don't know how far off the movie is.  I'm going to guess there's quite a bit of difference.  I can't see Stoker having the snake-lady's venom providing acid trips that have the affected person imaging Christ being attacked by a giant snake.  That is the type of thing I want to see in a Ken Russell movie, though.  I can't help but love his wild abandon: he's going to insert large chunks of purely symbolic imagery into his movies and to hell with anyone not down with that type of thing.  In fact, I think these trips into id save the film from being just a typical monster movie.  Without them, we just have the heroes chasing a snake-lady and her pet giant snake.  And the ending is kind of cheezy too, with the snakebite-infected Angus agreeing to "have a bite to eat" with unsuspecting Lord D'Ampton.  Then again, I don't think we're supposed to take the film so seriously as to not enjoy the puns in it.  (7/10)

Stripe makes sure no foo' steals my Ernest Goes to Jail.

22 October 2010

October 22nd

Tonight was J's horror movie night at his place, complete with expertly crafted intermission material for the between-movie times.  Sweet Dagon, that Beyond Re-animator video was awful!  Seven full-fledged horror movie geeks tore into these gems:

House (1977) directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi
Or, How-Soo, as we like to say it.  One of the most insane horror movies ever made.  The director based it on ideas his 7-year-old daughter had.  Awesome.  Essentially, it's a haunted house / body count movie in which a bunch of teen girls are killed.  There's lots of those, right?  Yeah, but probably not a lot with a piano that eats a girl, but then the girl's body parts continue to play the piano anyway.  Doubtful there are any at all with a cannibalistic ghost who uses her fridge as a shortcut to the rafters, or a naked schoolgirl swimming in a enormous pool of blood, or a girl getting killed by pillows or a man turning into a pile of bananas. Colorful, unique and entertaining as hell. (8/10)

Trick 'r Treat (2007) directed by Michael Dougherty
My second Halloween watching this movie.  I think it's definitely on the "must watch every year" list now and I really like Sam as a mascot for the season. I'm still not a fan of the comic book transitions, for which I can see no real point. This time around, I noticed that it cleverly covers every age group's celebration of the season.  We've got kids trick 'r treating (and scaring each other), teenagers drinking and partying (and eating each other), middle-agers retiring early (and failing to have sex with each other) and an old person being grumpy about the entire day.  It's neat that every way people generally celebrate the day gets some representation, though they were missing the movie geeks doing a horror movie marathon (my people).

But, damn, I wish I lived in a town that had such an insane Halloween parade in the streets.  Seriously, what town does this?  I want to move... (8/10)

The Dark Side of Midnight (1984) directed by Wes Olsen
There was a call for something silly for the last movie of the night.  Luckily, I never go anywhere without my TDSoM DVD easily accessible.  Written, directed, produced and starring Wes Olsen, a self-described "sex maniac" and "regular Don Juan."  Watching a truly horrible movie with a bunch of people is always fun.  There always seems to be one little thing in a bad movie that cracks everyone up and becomes a long-lasting joke.  Tonight's: the word "crawlhole."  For some reason, this is how one of the characters describes the hole in the ceiling that leads to the attic.  I think he might have meant crawlspace, but who knows?  Anyway, it got a huge laugh and everyone was using the word "crawlhole" at every possible opportunity ("How many people can they fit in that crawlhole?", "Always check your crawlhole for creepers," etc.).  Also amusing: the preponderance of mustaches in the movies.  We determined that a drinking game based on seeing a mustache in the movie would shortly result in death.

Kinda draggy after they decide early on not to try any more gore effects, but bad movie gold for a group to riff on. (6/10)

21 October 2010

October 21st

The Prowler (1981) directed by Joseph Zito
I got a handful of slasher suggestions from the Going to Pieces documentary, including The Prowler.  It seems like I've missed seeing a few of the semi-classics from that era.  This one fits the slasher formula to an absolute T.  You've got a masked killer, teens partying and being killed for their immorality, the slasher jumps up after seemingly dying, the virginal girl kills the slasher for good and there's an extra jump-scare at the very end.  Actually, I'm confident the producers looked at the success of the previous year's Friday the 13th and said to the writer: "copy that."  It's pretty much a rip-off of that movie with the names and locations changed.  It also bears a lot of similarity to My Bloody Valentine, which came out the same year.  Heh, someone should make a "Slasher Family" tree (like people have been doing for game controllers lately) and trace out how the elements of slasher movies evolved.  Anyway, it's by no means a classic horror movie, but it's fun little slasher picture. (7/10)

No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker (2008) directed by Dave Payne
If you've seen the original, there's really no reason to watch this sequel.  It's pretty much exactly the same story with the same twist.  The only thing extra you're getting is the backstory of the Reeker.  Which, you know, I'm not sure we really needed.  And this one lacks the original's Michael Ironside, so there's another strike. There are some neat bits in the show.  The jerky way the Reeker moves about is cool-looking.  The guys who looses half his head and still walks around was neat for the brief amount of time we got to see it.  Eh, watch this one or the original, but not both. (6/10)

Saw V (2008) directed by David Hackl
I think we're scraping the bottom of the barrel, here.  Just like in III, a good chunk of the story is a flashback detailing how Jigsaw's secret assistant helped him with the traps in all of the previous movies.  We already did that with Amanda, so it just feels tiresome.  How much more can be retconned into the previous movies?  The seams are about to burst, I should think.

Beyond that, I don't think I like Hoffman (or Jigsaw Jr., as I think of him).  He's got this arrogant, smarminess about him that I hate.  Unlike with the coldly logical Jigsaw, I don't find myself secretly rooting for Hoffman.  And, what's his motivation?  Why would he continue Jigsaw's work after Jigsaw's death?  Unlike Amanda, we never really see him grateful for Jigsaw's lesson or caring about Jigsaw as he died.  It just seems like Hoffman was the filmmakers' only idea for continuing the series after stupidly killing everyone in III.

And, maybe I missed something, but it seems like the people caught in the traps have nothing to do with the rest of the movie.  That's a first, as always before the people in the traps had some kind of connection to Jigsaw or the police pursuing him.  That gives us less of a reason to care about the people trapped.  They have nothing to do with anything, so who cares which ones die?

I did enjoy the trap Strahm found himself in.  Classic.  We generally don't get to see the walls close in all the way in movie, as it's usually the hero trapped inside who inevitably finds a release switch.

I hear VI is supposed to be a return to form.  I hope so, as I'm starting get tired of these movies. (5/10)

20 October 2010

October 20th

Halloween II: Unrated Director's Cut (2009) directed by Rob Zombie
Picks up right where part 1 left off, with characters dealing with the direct aftermath of Michael's first rampage.  I thought this introductory section of the film was a great idea on Zombie's part.  He shows us in sickening detail the results of Myer's violence.  We see Laurie and Annie having their cuts stitched up, being intubated, and having their bones set as they scream in pain on the hospital gurney.  I don't recall a slasher sequel ever quite going this far in showing us the real damage the survivors of a masked killer suffer in these types of films.  This also, of course, invites comparisons to the original Halloween II, in which Laurie merely has a few scraps and a sprained ankle taken care of at the hospital.  Overall, a clever beginning to the film.

The rest, I'm not so keen on.  I hate what became of Loomis.  In the original series, Loomis is my favorite character by far.  He's a man with an unstoppable missing to stop an unstoppable monster.  Here, he's turned into a completely unlikable asshole.  It's hard to imagine the Loomis of II ever caring enough about people to have been a psychiatrist in I.  Like most people, I also don't care for Myers imagining that he sees his mother and younger self.  I'm not so offended by the idea, I suppose, but I just don't want to know what's on Myers' mind.  I prefer him as a blank slate... a boogeyman, if you will.  With his crazy visions of mom and bitchin' hobo beard, Myers in this film just seems like a really tall and violent vagrant.  He's not a monster, he's just a nutball.

Again, I love Zombie's casting.  For geeks, he puts together great casts for all of his movies.  I particularly liked seeing Margot Kidder getting some work again. We also get Duane Whitaker, Howard Hesseman, Richard Riehle, Dayton Callie and Weird Al (!).  Obviously, the returning Malcolm McDowellBrad Dourif and Danielle Harris are great, too.

I'm glad to have read the Zombie has pulled out of The Blob remake.  I want more Devil's Rejects and less re-imagined classics, please. (6/10)

19 October 2010

October 19th

The Stepfather (2009) directed by Nelson McCormick
Dylan Walsh makes for a really bland Terry O'Quinn.  You never get a sense that he's as insane as O'Quinn.  Sure, he does the thing where he paces the floor and mutters to himself when he's upset -- my favorite from the original -- but he does it so quietly and with such reserve, it really doesn't look that crazy.  The entire movie is similarly bland.  There's a lot of swimming in the pool and dropping the kids off and speeches about family.  The director also seems to take great interest in Amber Heard's bikini-clad body and inserts her into every scene he can.  It's a long, 100-minute wait for the eldest stepson to put the puzzle together in order to have an inevitable battle with the stepfather.

And, like Stepfather II, the killer isn't even a stepfather.  The entire movie takes place before the wedding.  What a rip. (4/10)

Just Take One (2010)
United Monster Talent Agency (2010)

Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006)
Great documentary covering the slasher era from 1978 to the late '80s.  Many major -- and some minor -- figures are interviewed.  I discovered that Betty Palmer is an absolute treasure.  I remember hearing that she was embarrassed by her F13 roots, but she must've gotten over it.  She's a hoot in this documentary.  Felissa Rose and Amy Holden Jones are similarly great in their interviews.  And, I can always listen to the scholarly Wes Craven talk about horror.  Carpenter, too.

The end of the documentary implies that films like Hostel and Saw are taking the mantle of the slasher film in this era.  This is something I've been pondering, myself.  Is this true?  Is the so-called torture porn genre the successor to the slasher genre?  While I might agree that we're in the middle of a torture porn cycle right now -- similar to how we were in a slasher cycle in the '80s -- I don't really think the two sub-genres share very much in common. At its base level, the evil captures people in torture porn and slowly harms them.  The captured only escape the evil through great personal (normally physical) sacrifice.  In a slasher film, the evil chases and kills a group of people until their pluckiest (normally female) member defeats it.  Maybe even more generally, it's mean-spirited torture vs. just-for-fun inventive murders by people in silly masks.  Could be a generational thing, but give me a slasher over some torture any day. (7/10)

Dark Floors (2008) directed by Pete Riski
Here I was, expecting a complete crapstorm for the remaining six Ghost House Underground movies I need to watch and this one reminds me never to take reviews too seriously.  I liked it.  I thought it was cool.  The 4.6 rating on IMDb seems ridiculously low to me.  Perhaps the IMDb raters are upset that nothing is ever explained by the end of the movie.  And that the reset button is pushed so that nearly everything we've seen doesn't really matter.  I suppose those are valid reasons to hate on it, though they don't bother me so much.

The movie takes place in a hospital, when a group of folks step off an elevator and discover it deserted.  There are causality loops and banshees and heavy metal album cover monsters and zombies and a really Scandinavian-looking Satan.  And, hey, it's William Hope!  I haven't seen him in since he was pathetically killed by Julia in Hellraiser II twenty-two years ago.  Dude needs more work.  He's great in the Walter Peck/Carter Burke/Craig Toomey asshole role.  Anyway, I enjoyed the heck out of the movie, even if I'm not sure what was really going on. (7/10)

The Last House in the Woods (2006) directed by Gabriele Albanesi
Speaking of crapstorms, here's a real brown one.  Everyone seems to think they can make their own Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  They can't.  Italians, if this movie is any indication, are particularly bad at the redneck cannibal family sub-genre.  It's not even worth writing about.  The movie's a mass of bad acting, badly aped moments from TCM and characters making dumb choices. (3/10)

18 October 2010

October 18th

Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970) directed by Freddie Francis
A man, only known as New Friend, is kidnapped by an insane family known only by the names used in the title of the film.  They have a habit of snatching men, keeping them captive and punishing them if they don't obey the rules of the house (one of which is, of course, not to escape).  Though that plot description makes the film sound like a Texas Chainsaw-style horror film, it's really more of a British version of the Addams Family.  Replace the Addams' gothy style with that of proper English society, take away the family's awareness that what they say is blackly humorous and make Gomez the only sane one and there you go.

The film is also a rather ridiculous male fantasy.  We meet New Friend, pictured above, as he exits a party with a beautiful, voluptuous woman on his arm.  Yeah, that guy pictured above.  They encounter young Sonny and Girly, whose short skirt is all the encouragement New Friend needs to go along with them.  New Friend's girlfriend is killed and he ends up a captive of the family.  Once in Mumsy's dilapidated mansion, after unsuccessfully trying to escape, he makes short work of seducing all three of the women living there.  In fact, he is such a Lothario that they begin killing each other over out of jealousy over him.  Yeah, that guy pictured above.  In the end, he decides to stay in the house (though with a weapon stashed under his pillow just in case).  Who wouldn't?

A strange film.  I'm not sure what to make of it. (6/10)

Paranormal Activity (2007) directed by Oren Peli
I wish films like this could scare me.  I think you need to be a believer in the supernatural for them to have any affect, sadly.  I feel the same way about The Exorcist.  For me, it was very difficult to get into the film, because I couldn't help but imagine the hidden stage hands making loud noises in the background and pulling sheets off the bed.  And I can't help but question the logic of the demon.  What's his goal, really?  If he has the power to burn houses down and physically drag people around, why does he spend weeks screwing around by going bump-in-the-night in some random couple's house?  Why not go all out, possess the President and launch nukes all over the place?  Maybe he's like the monsters in Monsters, Inc. and needs to build up their fear to use as energy?

Still, I can't deny the film was put together pretty well.  The cycle of night terrors and relief during daylight is unrelenting.  It was clever of them to have the demon eventually start doing things during the day, too, to take that daylight relief away.  Micah's skeptical / pissed-off reactions to everything struck me as pretty realistic, up to a point.  After watching the video of the demon lighting the Ouija board on fire, he should've calmed down a bit.  I have to say I prefer the alternate ending, too.  I think it makes for a scarier ending if the demon makes Kate slits her own throat on camera, rather than waltzing away and disappearing.  I didn't care for the brief "demon face" she showed in the theatrical ending, either.  Also, great presentation on the Blu-ray.  The disc starts up with a black screen presenting a choice of either cut, then goes right into the movie.  You don't see a real, fancy menu until you're done watching.  Nice touch. (6/10)

The Awakening (1990)

Aftermath (1994) directed by Nacho Cerdà
The Spanish answer to Flower of Flesh and Blood?  I feel the same way about this film as I did about that infamous Japanese movie.  They're both strangely beautiful to watch.  I can imagine either movie playing in a loop at some underground art museum somewhere.  Both feature exquisitely crafted human bodies, filled with blood and fat and realistic organs.  True, Aftermath's bodies look and bounce like the latex rubber they're made out of, but the attention to detail helps cover that up a bit.  Both lack any sort of narrative and are about a man becoming as intimate with another person as is possible.  Interesting.

Genesis (1998) directed by Nacho Cerdà
Another art film from Cerdà, though not anywhere near as gory as Aftermath.  A man sculpts a statue of his dead wife.  Slowly, the statue begins to bleed and then show patches of real flesh, even as the sculptor begins to grow patches of marble on his own skin.  Eventually, the statue and the sculptor have traded places.  Though a tad slow, this one is also strangely beautiful.  I wonder why Cerdà hasn't done any more full-length movies outside of The Abandoned since these fantastic shorts?