30 September 2010

September 30th

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971) directed by Dario Argento
I thought Four Flies was just as a good as Crystal Plumage and it's probably my favorite of Argento's so-called "animal trilogy."  The stylish shots and bright colors from Crystal Plumage are back, but Argento is better at eliciting fear in this film.  One of my favorite sequences was when the killer chases Roberto's maid.  We start out in a bright park with several families playing.  Time passes, the people leave and the maid begins to get nervous.  Darkness falls and the maid is completely frightened.  Fleeing, she takes a turn into a very narrow alley, brick walls pressed against both her back and breasts as the killer peruses her.  Great stuff.

Maybe Argento goes a bit overboard with the POV shots this time, I'm not sure.  There's one POV shot of Roberto carrying a letter into his house that seems to have no point.  The POV shots of the camera going through a series of red curtains was fun, though.  And, of course, the POV shots of a masked killer (though we don't see eye holes over the camera lens) predate Black Christmas and Halloween by several years.

The final explanation for the killer's motive is a bit wonky.  Turns out Roberto's wife only married him in some overly complex plan to murder someone who looks like her father.  First, however, she wants make him crazy by tricking him into thinking he's killed a man who's been following him and then blackmailing him about this.  Sure, she's crazy, but jesus that's a weird plan.  The revelation that she's the killer isn't much of a surprise, either.  We knew by the middle of movie that the killer was someone hanging out in Roberto's house and, since the movie never really focuses on any of the friends that visit him there, there aren't really any other likely suspects.

I think I'm beginning to dig these giallos. (7/10)

Fear Itself: "New Years Day" (2008) directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
You know, it wasn't bad.  Maybe I'm just a sucker for apocalyptic zombie stories, but it felt like this episode was a notch above the others I've seen so far.  A girl wakes up early in the morning New Year's Day and hears all kinds of commotion outside.  Zombies, of course.  She fights her way to her friend's apartment while recalling the events of the previous night.  Those events she recalls are about her best friend stealing her boyfriend, which was certainly the weakest part of the episode.  It's pretty hard to care about a silly love triangle when their are zombies eating people.  Outside of this annoying subplot and frustrating shaky-cam shots, this episode had some pretty good zombie action for a network TV show and a decent twist ending.  Probably my favorite one so far.

29 September 2010

September 29th

Hard Rock Zombies (1985) directed by Krishna Shah
Finally!  After a half a decade, I got someone to watch Hard Rock Zombies with me.  J stopped over before heading to work to catch a bit of horror.  I still say this is my proudest DVD buy ever.  I spotted this disc at a regional store being sold for $1.00.  Given the title and price, there was no way I was leaving without it.  Color me surprised when I watched it and discovered it was also entertaining as hell.

Rock 'n' roll will never die.  You can throw a conservative town counsel at rock 'n' roll and it won't die.  You can throw zombie Hitler and his werewolf wife at rock 'n' roll and it won't die.  You can throw cannibalistic, zombie, midget Nazis at rock 'n' roll and it will not die.  You can kill the actual rock 'n' roll band and it still won't die.  I think there's a lesson in this film for all of us. (7/10)

Cool Air (1999) directed by Bryan Moore
A very nice adaption of this Lovecraft short story.  It's quite faithful to its source, down to the Latina landlady and ammonia refrigeration, with one exception: there's a love story inserted into the middle of it.  Or, rather, Dr. Muñoz relates the tragic tale of his heroic wife who nursed cholera sufferers until she caught the disease herself and was burned to death by panicked police.  It's a really kind of maudlin and very un-lovecraftian.  Lovecraft never wrote about the love of men for women or, really, never wrote fondly of women at all.  That kind of sentiment was as alien to his fiction as Cthulhu is to us.  Yet, this insertion works in this film.  I'd say this is due to Jack Donner's perfect performance as the doctor more than anything.  Not only is his pain convincing, it gives a reason to care about him when he begins to melt at the end of the short.

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988) directed by James Signorelli
All good fun.  I can certainly understand how Elvira would drive folks nuts.  I think you either get a kick out her shtick -- a goth valley girl with massive cleavage and an attitude to match -- or find it too tiresome to bear.  Plotwise, this is just an excuse for Elvira to ham it up for ninety minutes.  It's a mishmash of a couple of common plots: the free spirit stirring up the conservative town matched with the evil relative who wants to steal the good relative's inheritance.  But, really, we're just here to see Elvira give her dog a punk haircut, make lots of sexual innuendos and defeat the bad guy with cheezy, animated magic effects.  I like it, but I'm not sure why. (7/10)

28 September 2010

September 28th

A masked invader in my home.
Fear Itself: "Something with Bite" (2008) directed by Ernest Dickerson
About as good as Dickerson's Masters of Horror episode, which was not really that great.  A giant animal is hit by a car and brought to a vet's office.  Naturally, this being a horror show, the giant animal is a werewolf and it bites the doc.  He starts forgetting what he does at night, has dirty feet in the morning, yadda-yadda-yadda.  It's absolutely no surprise that this was written by John Landis' son, as the episode plays out like a combination of An American Werewolf in London and Teen Wolf.  I did enjoy Wendell Pierce as the vet-wolf, though.  He handles his transformation from weak boss/father/husband to an animal-powered take-charge guy with the right level of humor.

Cat o' Nine Tails (1971) directed by Dario Argento
A step down from Crystal Plumage, I think.  It's hard to tell, though, since the presentations of the two movies were so different.  Crystal Plumage I watched on Blue Underground's excellent Blu-ray.  Netflix's DVD of Nine Tails appears to be some kind of bootleg.  It's pan-and-scanned, missing over twenty minutes of footage and the A/V quality is on par with a VHS tape.  I suspect this crappy DVD deadened the impact of the movie for me.  It also made it harder to follow, what with 20% of the movie gone.  Grrr.

I enjoyed stars James Franciscus and Karl Malden in this film.  I got a big kick out of Malden's Mr. Magoo shtick, though, at least in the cut I watched, he's almost not necessary to the story outside of the finale.  Storywise, the movie runs with the now-discredited idea that boys born with an extra Y chromosome are more prone to violence.  Guess which genetic abnormality the killer in the film has?  Poor guy just happened to be working for a lab researching this and just wants to keep his genetic test a secret.  Killing people to do so probably doesn't help his cause, but what are you gonna do?

Also: best "killed by a train" shot in movie history. (6/10)

Tales from the Darkside: "Pain Killer" (1984) directed by Armand Mastroianni
I know I'm not very far into season 1, but I'm still disappointed that there has yet not been been serious piece of horror that can match the awesome credit sequence.  This one's another deal with the devil story involving a strange doctor and a man with severe back pain.  Seems that the man's back pain is psychosomatic, caused by his nagging wife.  The doctor arranges for the wife's death, which cures the man's pain, but he wants something in return...  Due to Lou Jacobi's affable face and manner, it's a little hard to take the episode seriously.  He seems to be sort of OK with whatever happens to him.

The episode was enhanced a little bit by the strange noises coming from the garage behind my TV.  I got to do a classic horror movie-style investigation: I got out my flashlight and crept into the dark garage to investigate the strange sounds.  Rather than a maniac, though, I fortunately only discovered the masked bandit pictured above.  Damned thing pooped in my garage!

27 September 2010

September 27th

Kill Theory (2009) directed by Chris Moore
A nutjob follows a group of college kids to a remote house and gives them an ultimatum: only one person will be allowed to live.  If he finds more than one person alive at six in the morning, everyone dies.   The nutjob acts like a combination of Jason Vorhees and Jigaw, which I thought was a neat idea.  It's sort of old-school and new-school combining into one psycho.  Like Jigsaw, he forces other people into killing to prove a point.  However, in order to keep those people from escaping, he also has Jason's superpowers: he can appear instantly anywhere in the woods to herd the kids back into the house and nothing the kids try can stop him.  It was worth a watch, though I don't think I'll be picking up the DVD. (7/10)

September 26th

Fear Itself: "In Sickness and in Health" (2008) directed by John Landis
Jesus, as soon as I saw the writing and directing credits...  Really?  Both Victor Salva and John Landis working on the same project?  And the very first shot is of two children playing?  Really?

Ignoring all that, I have to admit the episode started out promising.  At her wedding, a bride is given an anonymous note that reads: "the person you're marrying is a serial killer."  That sort of ruins her big day and she begins to freak out about her fiancé.  At this point, none of the characters' actions make any kind of sense.  When the newly-wedded husband confronts his wife about her strange behavior, he inexplicably decides to scare her and chase her around the church.  He then calms down, admits that he had dinner with another woman during their engagement and asks for forgiveness.  We then discover that the note had been delivered to the wrong person and the wife is actually a serial killer.  Which makes absolutely no sense.  If she's a serial killer, why would she have been so bothered to think she was marrying one?  If she's a cold-blooded killer, why was she so afraid of her husband?  And what was the point of the twin uncles at the wedding?  What a complete mess of a story.

Fear Itself: "Family Man" (2008) directed by Ronny Yu
A remake of Ernest Goes to Jail.  Really, sort of, except without the electricity powers.  An upstanding citizen and a serial killer's souls get swapped into the wrong bodies.  Hijinx ensue and there's a twist ending.  The idea that a serial killer is in your house, with your family, pretending to be you is quite terrifying.  But, not really in this episode.  Once he becomes a family man, the killer kinda just becomes an asshole dad, like the kind of guy that gets angry at Little League games.  Yeah, he ends up killing them at the end, but it seems like it's more for the twist ending than anything.

The Graves (2009) directed by Brian Pulido
It's pretty clear Brian Pulido's a fellow horror geek.  He got Texas Chainsaw 2's Bill Moseley, Candyman's Tony Todd and even Elm Street's Amanda Wyss to star.  He made himself a sort of vaguely lovecraftian slasher hybrid that feels like an old-school horror movie.  So, as a horror brother, it pains me to say that this is a turd of film.

I suppose this is telegraphed right at the start when two improbably pretty comic shop patrons pick out their favorite issues (which happen to be written by the director for Avatar) as the director makes sure we get a good look at the website address of the store which happens to be written on a giant banner at the top of the frame. Ostensibly, this is character development for the two girls, but, come on, man.  Plugging your stuff is okay, but let's try to be a bit more subtle, eh?

The story is pretty standard: girls go to an out-of-the-way tourist trap where the main business happens to be tourist murder.  Instead of a cannibal family or mutants or a masked killer, the tourist trap houses an invisible savior that a cult provides human sacrifices to.  There's a lot of running around the tourist trap with the crazed cultists wielding knives and the girls screaming.  There's an obligatory scene where the girls escape and flag down a car, only to discover the driver is a part of the cult.  In fact, this happens again later in the movie when the ask a waitress at a restaurant for help.  When the stronger of the girls is hurt, the weaker one finds the strength inside to overcome their adversity.  Standard stuff.

Maybe this unoriginality might not have been so bad if the film had been shot with some style.  Alas, it's pretty clear this is the director's first film.  It's not just the choice of shots or lighting or bad CGI blood, but it's the little things, too.  Often, the dialog is difficult to hear, likely because they both didn't mic it correctly and didn't bother to ADR over the inaudible parts.  In one scene, it seems like they forgot to shoot a reverse angle for a conversation.  What's we're left with in the movie are two people on screen talking to someone else just a little off screen, while never seeing the off screen person's face when it's their turn to talk.  When there is a different angle to cut to, it rarely matches the first angle.  Lots of heads and arms suddenly changing position and the like.

The only nice thing I have to say about this film: it's short.  Cutting the (overlong but slick) credits, there's probably only about 75 minutes of movie here.  Still, I haven't had to check the clock this much during a movie in quite a while. (4/10)

25 September 2010

September 25th

With the pumpkin lights lit, the apple cider candle aglow, a fridge stocked with beer and some bowls of candy, the first big weekend night of Halloween was ready to rock!  Amigos J and C came over to help me out with the beer-drinking and candy-eating and horror-watching.  J even brought a treat to try, courtesy of Dan Aykroyd of all people.  After some meandering discussions on what to watch, we settled on the night's selections:

Biozombie (1998) trailer
Satan's Cheerleaders (1977) trailer
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror IV: Terror at 5½ Feet" (1993)

Tales from the Crypt: "Food for Thought" (1993) directed by Rodman Flender
Ah, Tales from the Crypt, a Halloween tradition that makes for a great starter before diving into full-length movies.  Though I've had all of seven season for years, I only watch these things during Six Weeks.  Amazingly, we're up to season five now (though we've been working on it for a long time).  

I don't think I've ever seen Ernie Hudson play a bad guy before.  He was great at it in this episode, where he plays a gluttonous carnival performer who's abusive to his telepathic wife.  Maybe it was the clown make-up he was wearing, but after a few minutes I completely forgot I was watching Winston being a meany.  A decent episode with a nicely gorey zinger at the end.  Gotta love the utterly gratuitous female siamese twin shower scene, too.

Season of the Witch (1972) trailer
Buttcrack (1998) trailer
Donald Duck: "Trick or Treat" (1952)

After.Life (2009) directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
Like Grace last year, I rented this one blind based solely on ads I was seeing for it in the magazines I read.  It was a pleasant surprise.  J and I agreed it was much better than expected.  In it, Anna (Christina Ricci) dies in a car accident and wakes up in Eliot's (Liam Neeson) funeral home.  He explains to her that she's dead and that he has a gift for helping people transition.  She has a bit of trouble accepting this, as does her grieving near-fiancé Paul (Justin Long). The movie does a great job of striking a balance between the two possible interpretations.  Though I think there's a definitive answer, one can make arguments for both Eliot being a crazy kidnapper who's drugging Anna and for Anna really being dead.  Both options are pretty creepy, given the situation.

I can see how people might complain that the movie is slow and that nothing much happens.  They're right, though I liked this aspect of it.  Neeson as Eliot, in particular, sets this tone.  He's very calm and meticulous.  He very slowly cuts Anna's clothes off, very carefully sews up the gash in her forehead and speaks to people in that calming, deep voice Neeson possesses.  Matching this is the camera work, with its slow tracking shots into the morgue where Anna lies naked on her slab.

Not unlike Phantasm, it's a look at "the American way of death" wrapped in a horror movie.  I'll be picking this one up on blu-ray in the future. (7/10)

God Told Me To (1976) trailer
Invasion of the Fish Fuckers (1996) trailer
Akira Yamaoka: "Fukuro" (2001)

Zombieland (2009) directed by Ruben Fleischer
I probably don't have much more to say about this one than I did last year. Though it got me thinking about horror comedies.  Seems like no two are ever alike in tone.  Return of the Living Dead and Shaun of the Dead are also zombie comedies, but all three movies have completely different comedy-to-seriousness mixes.  Return is closest to a straight horror movie, Shaun has that British sense of humor embedded in it and Zombieland is a film in which a character beats a redneck zombie to death with a banjo after playing "Dueling Banjos" to attract its attention.  I think I still like Return the best, though all three are great.  Not sure what that says about me.

(and with Bill Murray's appearance in this movie, three of the four Ghostbusters have shown up in some way tonight.  Whither Harold Ramis?) (8/10)

A skull glows blue in the light of the beer fridge.

24 September 2010

September 24th

Horror of Dracula (1958) directed by Terence Fisher
Christopher Lee's Dracula is powerful.  Even if he wasn't a vampire, he looks like he could easily kick your ass.  Lee towers over the other characters, wearing an enormous cape that make him look thick as a redwood. When someone pisses him off, he leaps at the person and throttles them by the neck.  Not a cat to mess with.

Similar to the 1931 movie, the man playing Dracula is almost the only reason to watch the film.  Non-Dracula scenes tend to be very dry.  There's a lack of emotion in the film that makes many scenes rather boring (though Mina writhing on her bed, dressed in a nightgown and waiting for Dracula to arrive, was a distinct exception that I thought rather risqué for a '50s movie).  I suppose this makes the Dracula scenes all the more entertaining when they occur.  Still, I enjoyed Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, despite his reserved performance.  The man was absolutely no-nonsense when it came to his mission of making the world a better place by killing Dracula.  You've gotta admire the determination, if anything.  (7/10)

September 23rd

Night of the Demons (1988) directed by Kevin Tenney
Ahhh, horror comfort food.  Watching an '80s bodycount film, I find, is relaxing.  You kinda know what's going to happen and all of the characters act in predictable ways, but that's why it's like putting a sweater on on a chilly day.  I have no idea how I missed out on this film for all of these years; I just randomly picked it on Hulu as something to watch at work.  What a treat to accidentally discover an '80s horror gem I haven't seen.

Loved Stooge.  "Eat a bowl of fuck! I'm here to party!"  Great character.  I was completely bummed when he got his tongue bit out, because I wanted more bon mots from him.  Linnea Quigley shoves a lipstick through her nipple and into her breast.  I don't know why she did that (other than the whole demon-possession thing), but it was awesome.  There was surprisingly more gore in this movie, considering its era, than I expected.  Eyes were gouged out, arms chopped off by coffins lids, hands melted in fireplaces and razors burst out of throats.  The effects were pretty well done, though the demon faces the possessed people wear are a little generic. All this an a Bauhaus song, too.  This movie was as fun as hell and can't wait to watch it again next year. (7/10)

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) directed by Dario Argento
He got me.  I wasn't able to guess who the killer was before the end of the movie.  Are we supposed to?  Is the mystery solvable in a giallo movie like in a Murder, She Wrote episode or Agatha Christie novel?  Or is the mystery part just supposed to be a driver of the imagery, violence and psychological explorations in these movies?  Next time I watch this, I'll have to pay attention to the attack on Monica.  Is she holding the knife when we first see it?  Or was that a new shot for the end of the film when she's revealed to be the killer?

A fine first film for Argento.  It's confidently crafted and beautifully shot and, as I've said, the mystery is a puzzler.  The colors aren't as whacked out as they'll be in Suspiria, but they're still eye-popping: the chartreuse of the boxing club jackets, the red velvet cloth the killer keeps her knives on, the shiny black of the killer's coat, the bright white of the art gallery.

Speaking of the art gallery, wow, the first scene set there was brilliant.  Sam getting trapped between panes of glass, forced to watch an unknown woman struggle with an attack and then writhe in pain, bleeding on the floor...  Argento seems to be saying: "yeah, it's my first solo directing gig, but I do know what the hell I'm doing, dammit." (7/10)

22 September 2010

September 22nd

Teeth (2007) directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein
A perfect movie to try to secretly watch at work courtesy of Netflix streaming.  "What are ya watching there?" "Me? Definitely not something about a girl with teeth in her vagina."  So, given the premise, you know this movie is going to involve penises being bitten off.  Here's what I discovered about myself: such imagery is no longer cringe-inducing.  I guess I've seen so many penectomies in horror movies lately that I've become inured.  Which sort of deflates the horror of this film for me.  I'll give it to the filmmakers, though: they went the extra mile and included plenty of bloody, gruesome shots of stumps and severed glans rolling on the ground.  If that don't bug you, well, it ain't their fault.

I was surprised, but not really, to see Camille Paglia thanked in the credits.  In the film, a woman's sexuality is so tightly controlled by masculine society that she's even a motivational speaker for a sexual purity movement.  As the movie progresses, she slowly and violently discovers the power of her sexuality, which is literally represented by her mutation.  In the end, it is the woman who is in control of her own sexuality, a force so powerful she fears no man.  Oh yeah, it would be a cinch to generate an essay for a woman's studies or film class on this movie.

I dug the implication that Dawn's mutation was due to the nearby nuclear power plant.  Very Class of Nuke 'Em High. And, Jess Weixler was great as Dawn.  I completely bought her as both the impossibly naive virgin and the penis-severing superwoman.  The fact that every male in the movie -- except for Dawn's father -- was a rapist or asshole bothered me while watching it.  Thinking about it now, though, it had to be that way. Not only does it allow for the horror movie morality of punishing the sinners with extreme violence, but it also fits the theme of Dawn gaining control of her sexuality (she never bites nice people).

Most assuredly, the best vagina dentata movie ever made. (7/10)

The Final (2010) directed by Joey Stewart
It's a horror movie with just a third act, just about.  I thought that was kind of neat idea to try.  Instead of spending an hour building tension towards a climax, this film spends 20 minutes or so setting a few things up and then dives right into the horror.  I'd always wondered what a horror movie would be like if it did this.  Turns out, this is not the greatest structures.  The largest problem is that we're not allowed to get to know enough of the characters.  Though there are eight killers in the movie, we only really spend time with three of them.  Likewise, we only know six of the victims out of a pool of a dozen or so.  Characters tend to appear in this movie and we wonder who they are and why they're there.

Unsurprisingly, another issue with this structure is that there's not enough story to make up a full-length film.  The outcast kids torture their bullies and then commit suicide.  That's about it.  There are some diversions with an escaping victim and a redneck, but neither amount to much.  Nope, it's mostly an hour of watching kids torture their tormentors.  It got boring.  At one point, Mrs. K asked: "are they going to go through all of them?" referring to the mass of untortured kids left to get to (luckily, they did not).

A horror take on Columbine wasn't a bad idea, but I'm not a fan of the execution (so to speak). (6/10)

American Scary (2006) directed by John E. Hudgens
A nice overview of the past 60 years of horror hosts, but a bit long and repetitive in parts (and the looped organ music drove me insane).  I think I mainly wanted to watch this because Joel Hodgson was interviewed (and MST3K was given due praise), but it was also neat to see some of these classic hosts doing their thing.  I'd never really seen Vampira in live action before (still need to watch Plan 9).  She's certainly an important horror figure to the generation before me, so that was a treat.  The charge the Elvira ripped her off appears to be baseless, as they the only thing they seem to share is a black dress.  I have to say that Maila Nurmi, interviewed at the age of 85 here, was a treasure of an old lady.

Outside of MST3K, the only horror host I could claim as my own from childhood would be Rhonda Shear from USA Up All Night.  I credit her for getting me into Troma and other bad movies.  It makes me think, though, about how I used to discover cool movies on TV all of the time.  Now, I can't stand to watch a film on TV because I can't get beyond the idea that it's both censored and (likely) pan & scanned.  Shame.  I suppose Netflix makes up for this a little, but it's just not the same. (6/10)

21 September 2010

September 21st

Yo Gabba Gabba!: "Halloween" (2007) directed by Christian Jacobs
This was the only show on the Nick Jr Halloween DVD I bought Lil K that I really wanted to watch myself.  I'd heard this show was trippy/cool and that adults would dig it.  Yep, I'd heard right: what a big ball of fun.  A cheery dude in an orange bodysuit and fuzzy hat brings some weird toys to life so they can all dance and sing and learn.  Interspersed throughout are cartoons, snippets of retro-'80s-style goofiness and a real band playing a song.  I had a big grin on my face the whole show.  I also learned that eating too much candy can make you sick.  Words of wisdom.

The coolest cartoon/song from the episode:


kluncklick | MySpace Video

Dread (2009) directed by Anthony DiBlasi
I guess I really should re-read Clive Barker's Books of Blood series again, seeing's how they're methodically getting transformed into movies lately (this one follows the recent The Midnight Meat Train and Book of Blood).  Like those other films, Dread a serviceable horror flick, though not particularly astounding in any way.  It's about some college students working on a film project exploring fear.  They begin by merely interviewing other students about their worst fears, but, as is often the case in this genre, one character is driven to take the project further.

Fortunately that character, Quaid, is allowed to grow into his mad scientist destiny instead of entering the film already obsessive (like West in Re-Animator or Channard in Hellraiser II).  Start with childhood trauma, add in going cold turkey on the meds, mix with nightmares and watch the psychosis grow.  I thought Shaun Evans was great in this role (except when his liverpudlian accent escaped accidentally) and does some neat things with his facial expressions throughout the film in order to reveal his character's thought processes.

Not a bad start to the Horrorfest 4 films. (7/10)

Note: the trailer below is horrendously filled with spoilers.

How Can I Celebrate Halloween: A Young Christian's Guide for the Secular Holiday (2004) produced by David Mead
Damn.  I was hoping for some foaming-at-the-mouth fire and brimstone, explaining why Halloween is satanic and evil and not for good Christians.  What this is, instead, is rather reasonable (though tremendously boring). It's just a pair of puppets against a plain, black background discussing how Halloween is OK to celebrate and that all of that stuff about evil spirits no longer applies these days.  I can't really complain about that.  It's hard to imagine kids actually sitting through this entire thing, though.  The puppet conversations seem endless, the production values are abysmal and the songs are cheese-grater-on-ears bad.  I suspect this is the type of thing forced on captive audiences at Sunday schools.  On the other hand, I bet this video really pissed off the fire-and-brimstone crowd who hate the holiday.  Good on that.

Note: this clip I made below makes the video look way more WTF than it really is:

20 September 2010

September 20th

Lil K-Stein
Halloween 2010 didn't really get started for me until I cracked the seal on my giant tub o' decorations after work today.  Lil K helped me unpack when she wasn't distracted by the Halloween episode of Dora the Explorer playing in the background.  Sweet Nyarlathotep, Dora's voice is annoying.  How do other parents stand it?  Got no one to blame but myself for that, though, since the episode was on Lil K's Halloween gift.

I also whipped up my traditional Halloween candy mix: a massive trick-or-treat bag filled will with all of the important Halloween food groups (you know: peanut butter cups, chocolate bars, Bottle Caps, M&Ms...).  Thanks to the numbers printed on the candy bags, I was able to add them all up this year: 445 pieces of candy.  Damn.  Still, estimating 75 calories per fun-sized piece, eating the whole bag would only add 9.5 pounds to your body or so (assuming my math is correct).  That doesn't seem so bad, now does it?  Even if it were, I've got friends to help with the eating and trick-or-treaters to give handfuls to.

Se7en (1995) directed by David Fincher
Like swimming in a dirty puddle for two hours, but one with a beautiful rainbow of oil floating on top.  I'm glad the Fox execs pissed Fincher off so badly during the filming of Alien3.  I'm thinking this anger gifted Fincher with the proper hunger to tear into his follow-up project with the obsessiveness, technical prowess and eye for detail we've come to expect from him.

As many times as I've seen this movie, I can't believe I've never picked up on the connection between John Doe and Somerset before. Doe is Somerset's dark mirror.  Both well-educated men are upset by the apathy they see -- to sin for Doe and to crime for Somerset -- and both fight that apathy in the only ways they can.  Despite his continual protests throughout the movie, everything Somerset says about himself and his impending retirement is a lie.  He does think "picking up the pieces" matters.  Mills was right on target when he tells Somerset in the bar: "I don't think you're quitting because of these things you say.  I think you say these things because you're quitting."  In the end, in the face of Doe's monstrous evil, he finally realizes that he can't leave the fight.  Like Doe, who couldn't ignore the sin he saw everywhere, that's just not the way Somerset is built.  That I never noticed this before makes me feel like an idiot.  "'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part."

Howard Shore's music for the film is absolutely perfect.  Shore's not one of those composers where you'd rush out to buy the CD soundtrack for your car.  You're not going to be whistling his themes to yourself like you would with a John Williams score. What Shore always excels at is creating a music mood that supports and enhances everything on the screen without ever overpowering it (take notes, Danny Elfman).  It's particularly effective during the finale, in which his music slowly ratchets up in tempo and volume, enhancing the tension of that scene much beyond what it would've been with, say, a violin-screechy Bernard Herrmann score.

Both my favorite serial killer movie of all time and, still, Fincher's best work. (10/10)

Saw (2004) directed by James Wan
The last time I watched Saw I compared it to Se7en, so it felt like a logical follow-up for tonight.  It comes off worse with the immediate comparison.  It easy to tell that Saw was heavily influenced, in part, by Se7en.  Jigsaw is a preacher in the same manner as John Doe, and both like to force their victims to kill themselves or others.  The films share a certain grimy aesthetic; the bathroom the men are locked in could easily be a side room in Doe's apartment.  The serial killers come out on top in both films with their pursuing detectives completely defeated.  And, hell, Det. Tapp even uses the same style of notebooks that Doe used for his journals.

It wasn't a bad movie premise at its heart: "what if we got to spend some time with one of John Doe's victims as they struggled to make their choice?"  It's an interesting idea to explore with plenty of possibilities for pathos courtesy of the trapped men.  However, I don't think this was meaty enough of an idea to built a whole movie out of.

I couldn't find it in me to care about the slowly unraveling mysteries behind Adam and Lawrence's connections and Lawrence's martial troubles.  After a while, the constant flashbacks into back-story just felt like padding.  Maybe they were.  I haven't see the original short Saw film, but I have a feeling it didn't include an adultery subplot.  Similarly, I couldn't find it in me to care about the detectives in the film, either.  They both seemed like unfleshed-out archetypes of detectives and not fully-developed people.  Danny Glover, in particular, gives a terrible performance as a man obsessed with solving the case.

The film's origins as a short and a near-direct-to-DVD movie are never really overcome, making the movie feel cheaper and more rushed and not quite as polished as I would've liked. I am looking forward to seeing where the sequels take this story, however, as I can't imagine what else they can do with it for six more movies outside of having Jigsaw preach to more victims. (6/10)

Six Weeks of Halloween 2010

A lady from a nearby cemetery.
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Movies Watched Episodes Watched
After.Life (2009)
Aftermath (1994)
Alien (1979)
Altered (2006)
American Psycho (2000)
American Scary (2006)
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Brotherhood of Blood (2007)
Cat o' Nine Tails (1971)
The Children (2008)
Cool Air (1999)
Dagon (2001)
Dance of the Dead (2008)
Dark Floors (2008)
Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)
The Dark Side of Midnight (1984)
Deep Red (1975)
Dread (2009)
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)
The Final (2010)
Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)
Frailty (2001)
Friday the 13th (2009)
Frogs (1972)
From Beyond (1999)
Frozen (2010)
The Funhouse (1981)
Genesis (1998)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006)
The Graves (2009)
Halloween (1978)
Halloween II (2009)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Hard Rock Zombies (1984)
Hidden (2009)
Horror of Dracula (1958)
House (1977)
How Can I Celebrate Halloween (2004)
The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)
Inferno (1980)
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Kill Theory (2009)
The Lair of the White Worm (1988)
Lake Mungo (2008)
The Last Horror Film (1982)
The Last House in the Woods (2006)
Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970)
Near Dark (1987)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Night of the Demons (1988)
No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker (2008)
Offspring (2009)
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Phantasm II (1988)
The Prowler (1981)
[REC] (2007)
The Reeds (2009)
Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008)
Room 205 (2007)
Rough Magik (2000)
Saw (2004)
Saw II (2005)
Saw III (2006)
Saw IV (2007)
Saw V (2008)
Saw VI (2009)
Saw 3D (2010)
Se7en (1995)
Seventh Moon (2008)
The Stepfather (2009)
Stepfather II (1989)
The Substitute (2007)
Suck (2009)
Suspiria (1977)
Teeth (2007)
Thaw (2009)
Trackman (2007)
Trick 'r Treat (2007)
28 Days Later (2002)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009)
Zombieland (2009)
Zombieland (2009) [#2]
Fear Itself: "Family Man" (2008)
Fear Itself: "In Sickness and in Health" (2008)
Fear Itself: "New Years Day" (2008)
Fear Itself: "Something with Bite" (2008)
Tales from the Crypt: "Food for Thought" (1993)
Tales from the Crypt: "House of Horror" (1993)
Tales from the Crypt: "People Who Live in Brass Hearses" (1993)
Tales from the Crypt: "Two for the Show" (1993)
Tales from the Crypt: "Well Cooked Hams" (1993)
Tales from the Darkside: "Pain Killer" (1984)
Tales from the Darkside: "The Odds" (1984)
Yo Gabba Gabba!: "Halloween" (2007)

When the scent of fallen leaves arrives on autumn-chilled gusts, I know that Halloweentime is just around the corner.  It's the absolute best time of the year with my favorite holiday anchored right in the middle.  But, I'm not content with a mere single night of horror.  That just doesn't seem like enough time to confront and laugh away the demons that haunt this troubled world.  As such, I've decided to expand Halloween into a six-week feast of horror movies, apple cider, candy and pumpkin carving, all leading up to the big day at the end of October.

Here, you'll find my ramblings about the horror movies and TV episodes I watch during my 42-day celebration.  Feel free to drop a comment or two if the desire strikes.  I'm always up for some good horror movie recommendations.

My watchin' plans for this year include all eight of this year's Horrorfest movies (seeing's how I finally got caught up with them last year), catching up with the entire Saw series (the idea of Saw 3D seems so ridiculously cheezy, I feel like I shouldn't miss it in the theater) and getting through as many Argento films as possible (I've long been embarrassed to admit I've not seen most of his work).  Martyrs and The Human Centipede are definitely on this year's docket as well.  So, too, are [REC] and Survival of the Dead.  And, I must watch Trick 'r Treat again; I have a feeling it's going to become a yearly tradition.

Finally, as I've done for the past 12 years now, I will close out the six weeks by watching John Carpenter's Halloween on Halloween night.  Battling inevitable sleep in the wee hours of November 1st as I watch Sam Loomis chase Michael Myers is my favorite way to cap off the season.

Six Weeks of Halloween VIII is a go!