31 October 2011

October 31st - HALLOWEEN

Let Me In (2010) directed by Matt Reeves
I know it's never a hip thing to say, but I think I like this American remake as much as the Swedish original. I watched the original a couple of years ago, so my memory is a little fuzzy, but the movies seem to be very, very similar.  The differences are small but affect the tones of the films quite a bit.  The largest difference between the two that strikes me is that the American movie is pretty clearly a romance.  In the Swedish version, I liked to think of Eli as a manipulator: an ancient soul using her youthful appearance to ensnare a new helper when her former helper grew too old to be of any use.  The brief shot of her with an old woman's face seemed to reinforce this.  There is no such shot in this film.  Instead, Reeves has Owen reading Romeo and Juliet for school and Abby sentimentally keeps an old photo of her and Håkan (unnamed in this film) from when Håkan was a child.

A few of the scenes I felt were done better than the original.  Towards the end, I liked that Owen actually closed the door on the policeman while Abby was eating him.  It gave him more of an active roll in his first experience at helping Abby feed.  A greater special FX budget likely accounts for a more intense version of the scene in the pool at the end of the movie.  We watch from underwater as the bullies are dragged upside-down through the water while body parts float past Owen in a red storm.  It's beautiful.  Also beautiful was an entirely new scene of Håkan's final kill.  In it, he hides in the backseat of a car.  Unfortunately for him, the driver stops to pick up a friend and get gas.  Suffice it to say, when Håkan decides in a panic to try to steal the car, things don't work out well.  He gets into the most brilliant POV car crash shot I've ever seen, with a Slurpee-obscured windshield only giving us a hint of the violence going on outside of the vehicle.

Though I prefer the vampire in this tale to be an soulless schemer as she was in the original, the remake has a lot of other good things going for it to make up for that loss. (7/10)

The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror XXII" (2011) directed by Matthew Faughnan
Ugh.  Every once in a while, I'll watch a random Simpsons episode on Hulu just to see if the show has gotten any better.  It never has.  This remains sadly true for the once-beloved Halloween episodes as well.    In this one, there's a joke about the ill-fated Spider-Man musical and a parody of Avatar, which only serve to remind me of how slow the show is in comparison to South Park.  Also, 10-year-old Bart -- in a alien body -- loses his virginity to an alien and gets her pregnant.  C'mon, man, I don't want hear about it.

Ghoulies (1985) directed by Luca Bercovici
Here's another one of those '80s movies with tiny, toothy creatures in it that I've always meant to watch but never got around to.  I had no idea what it was about, so I was thinking it'd be like Critters and feature creatures running around biting people (probably on the butt as they used the toilet, as the poster seems to suggest).  Nope.  Turns out this is a pre-Full Moon Charles Band production, so the ghoulies are pretty much just like the toys in Puppet Master, running around a mansion killing guests at the behest of their dead master.

It's still kind of fun in a bad movie way.  By far the best part is when the ever-lovable Jack Nance pops out of nowhere dressed in a wizard's outfit and proceeds to do magic-battle with the main bad guy.  They grab each other around the necks and then take turns shooting lightning bolt/lasers out of their eyes while Nance cackles madly.  It's pretty awesome.  The rest of the movie... not so much. (5/10)

Cemetery Man (1994) directed by Michele Soavi
AKA Dellamorte Dellamore.  This was quite an interesting Italian zombie flick, completely different from a Fulci or Bava film.  Hard to pin down, Cemetery Man swings from zombie horror to romance to black comedy to fairytale.  Francesco is a caretaker at a cemetery in which the dead seem to return to life.  Unable to get anyone in town to believe him or to convince the mayor to investigate, Francesco simply finds it easier to shoot the zombies as they pop up.  When he loses the love of his life -- the widow of one of his clients -- to his own eagerness to shoot zombies, Francesco begins to leave reality behind.  Soon he's seeing visions of the Grim Reaper, attempting to get his penis surgically removed and shooting nuns through the eye.  It's a wild ride.  I'm going to need to watch this one again soon to absorb more of it. (7/10) 

The X-Files: "Home" (1996) directed by Kim Manners
Often called the most horrific of The X-Files' horror episodes, I hadn't seen this one since it originally aired.  It's essentially the story of everyone's favorite federal agents encountering The Hills Have Eyes family in a small town.  For horror veterans, this is nothing particularly shocking; we see inbred rednecks cast as monsters all the time.  But, I can imagine why the more normal sci-fi audience for this show found it disturbing.  I have to admit, the image of the limbless mother being pulled out from under a bed screaming is pretty powerful.

The Exorcist (1973) directed by William Friedkin
I'd been itching to watch my new blu-ray of this classic and Halloween seemed to be the perfect night to do so.  I'd forgotten how intense this picture is.  It builds nice and slow, like movies used to, showing us Regan's normal life before her troubles and Karras' troubled life before his sacrifice.  By the time we get to the actual exorcism, we've earned it.  We've seen how utterly horrible Regan has become and we've completely exhausted every rational explanation for her predicament and every excuse not to try the Catholic rite.  Also, holy cow, Jason Miller as Karras is absolutely amazing.   I'd probably go out on a limb and declare his performance in this film as the best in any horror movie ever made.  Haunted and skeptical and guilty and tired and angry, Karras finds unlikely meaning in his life when tasked with helping Regan.

If I have any complaint at all, it's that I can't figure out how these events were described to Lt. Kinderman in a way that didn't make him immediately throw someone in jail.  Two people died on the steps outside of Regan's window and one person died in her bedroom.  Regan has cuts all over her body and bruises from being tied up.  Her bed is padded and covered in vomit.  From the outside, it's looking like the butler or maid went insane and terrorized the family.  I don't know.  Maybe Kinderman was Catholic? (9/10)

Halloween (1978) directed by John Carpenter
My 13th Halloween watching Halloween.  In recent years -- I suppose ever since Scream -- it's been hip to analyze slasher movies in terms of conservative values asserting themselves against rebellious youth.  We all know the score: the kids who smoke pot and have sex are the ones to die at the hands of the monster.  The virginal innocent is the one to defeat the monster and survive to the end.  Halloween is often pointed to as the originator of this theme, but I really don't see it in this film.

It is true that Michael seems to have a problem with sex.  He began his career as a murderer by killing his post-coital sister and continued 15 years later by killing Lynda, Bob and Annie after or right before they had sex.  However, Michael is also fixated on the non-sexual Laurie just as much (let's not get into the long lost sister BS from the sequels).  Laurie, we should remember, is not quite so innocent.  Right before going to the Doyle house to babysit Tommy, she shares a joint with Annie.  Babysitting stoned would be a death sentence in an '80s slasher, but not quite so here.  Not-so-innocent final girl Laurie also does not defeat Michael.  All she does is  manage to hide from him long enough for Loomis to shoot him.  She does stab him a couple of times, but this doesn't slow him down. Nor do Loomis' bullets.  In Carpenter's universe, morality has nothing to do with it: evil exists, it will always be here, and it'll come for you whether you've gotten laid or not. (9/10)

The Real Ghostbusters: "Halloween II 1/2" (1987) directed by Masakazu HiguchiRichard Raynis
I ended the night and the Six Weeks by popping in a childhood favorite.  The Real Ghostbusters is one of those things that helped form me into a horror fan.  This episode was the sequel to the popular "When Halloween Was Forever" episode that introduced Samhain, the pumpkin-headed spirit of the holiday.  While this one is not as good, it's still some fun with dozens of goofy ghosts gathering at the transformed firehouse to help Samhain on his quest to make every day Halloween.  Can the Real Ghostbusters, Slimer and the Junior Ghostbusters defeat him and return things to normal?  

I had a good Six Weeks.  I watched 61 1/3 movies and 27 TV episodes this year, not a bad effort.  I got to go to two different horror cons and had a blast at each.  I got to take both of my daughters out for some major trick 'r treating this year.  There was pumpkin pie and apple cider and Halloween cupcakes to eat.  My Freddy sweater kept me warm at work.  It was a good Six Weeks.

Squirrels chewed my eyes!

30 October 2011

October 30th

Trick 'r Treat (2007) directed by Michael Dougherty
My third Halloween season in a row watching this one.  One thing that struck me this time out is that the film is quite hard on its kids.  We start with one of them getting poisoned and killed by a serial killer and then watch as that killer beats more of them to death with a shovel in his backyard grave.  Later, we flashback to some kids being killed when a schoolbus is driven off a cliff, then see those kids come back as zombies to kill some other children. I wonder if this was part of the reason WB sat on the film for so long before releasing it direct-to-video?  As a parent, I have to admit the scene in the backyard grave makes me wince.

On the other hand, it also makes me think of Grimm's fairy tales.  In those stories, children are never safe.  There are witches who want to bake and eat children, evil stepmothers who try to have their step-daughters killed, and ugly step-sisters who cut off their own toes in order to fit into glass slippers.  It's a cruel world out there, even on kids, and this used to be reflected in our stories all the time.

One of these Halloweens, I'm going to have to try to watch this film in chronological order.  I suspect it'll hold-up, as this third time around I kept noticing even more tiny little details that connected all of the stories together. (8/10)

Trick 'r Treat: The Lore and Legends of Halloween (2009)
This was the documentary on the Trick 'r Treat blu-ray.  It's half promotional video for the film and half a history of the origins of some Halloween traditions.  Though I'm clearly a huge Halloween nut, I haven't really read into the origins of the holiday since I was a kid.  It's fascinating to think that the whole "trick 'r treat" thing is such a recent invention.  Apparently, it was invented in the 1940s as a way to keep unruly kids from causing trouble on Halloween.  Clever, but I think the kids were even more clever when they moved their mischief to Devil's Night instead.

29 October 2011

October 29th

Flint Horror Con
I'll admit, I wasn't sure how this thing was going to turn out.  It's the first horror convention -- probably the first geek convention of any kind -- outside of Metro Detroit in Michigan.  Growing up an hour north of Flint, I never knew any other horror nerds.  Though I'd subject my classmates to films like Hellraiser II on occasion, I remained the only one who knew all of the different ways to kill a vampire.  Would there be enough people in the area that would even want to come to a horror con?  The answer seems to have been: damn right there was.

Taking place in Flint's Masonic Temple, the first floor was pleasantly packed with vendor tables.  As someone who's been to five (!) of these things this year, I was happy to find most of the vendor tables new to me.  You tend to see a lot of the same folks at cons in the Midwest.  Going to so many of these things in a year means that there starts to be little new for me to check out at the tables.  Not true here.  I think this was probably because many of the vendors were local, which I dug.  I grabbed me some DVDs from local filmmakers, some cool art and couple of creepy stuffed dolls for the daughters.

In addition to the tables, the con had raffle and a costume contest.  Actually, it wasn't just one raffle; it seemed to be a whole bunch of them wisely spread out through the day.  Hell, I even won one of these things for the first time in my life: I got a T-shirt and a zombie postcard pack.  Similarly, the costume contest was actually three contests: one for kids, one for most original costume and one for the scariest costume.  The scariest costume contest was handily won by my pal Eric, dressed as Count Chocola.  You could tell he was a shoe-in for the contest when he walked into the con and was mobbed by people laughing and asking for picture.  You gotta give it to him: the dude really does look like that famous cereal vampire.  Anyway, for a small con in its first year, there were an impressive amount of prizes flying all over the place.  It made things fun.

Count Chocula says: "Blah!"
After the costume contest, it was time to jet upstairs and catch some of the horror movies playing in the theater on the third floor:

Under the Scares (2010) directed by Steve Villeneuve
I only managed to catch the last half of this documentary, but I liked what I saw.  It's a series of interviews with independent horror film directors, convention organizers, established horror directors, scream queens and other industry insiders all giving advise on how to get your independent horror movie out there.  The picture they paint ain't pretty: it seems like the best you can hope for is to get screwed by a distributor and earn zero dollars... but, hey, at least you've gotten a little publicity.  I liked the realistic advice the folks in the film offer.  No one's spouting the cupcakes-n-rainbows line of "you just need to believe in yourself to succeed."  Believe all you want; the film industry is hard and cruel and not many manage to earn a living in it.

After the documentary, there was a series of shorts to watch:

Cosmos Locos (2011)
Project Swan: "The $400 Kiss" (2011)
Project Swan: "Sugar Plum (2011)
Project Swan: "Among Thieves" (2011)

Cosmos Locos was marred by some technical issues -- the sound kept going out -- but this actually served to make the experience special.  The poor director was in the theater with us, so whenever the movie lost sound, he would shout out all of the characters' lines along with snarky commentary like "this scene was really noisy, anyway."  It ended up being hilarious.

When Project Swan ended, there was just enough time pop over to the "Exploring the Paranormal" panel hosted by John E.L. Tenney.  Now, I can't say that I'm a believer in such things, but I still find the subject fascinating.  I have a bookshelf full of "true" ghost stories and alien encounters and Bigfoot sightings.  John was a completely engaging speaker and enthralled the small group with tales from his 25 years of paranormal investigations.  He told of exorcisms, phantom restaurants, weird coincidences and alien pancakes.  I liked his take on these things.  Rather than categorically declare any of these experiences as "ghosts" or "aliens" or whatever, he just liked saying "what a weird place the world is!"

Next up was Ken Sagoes' panel, who played Kincaid in Elm Street 3.  I have to say, it was bit weird at start.  After John Tenney's panel, everyone left except for me and my buddy Jason.  Though we're both Elm Street fans, neither of us introverts really had any questions for Ken.  Luckily, the moderator got the ball rolling and, slowly, more folks started walking in until we had a nice little group.  Ken was great and told some funny stories about his experiences in Hollywood (hanging up on Garry Marshall because he thought his friend was pranking him, how his bad day before the audition helped him get the part of Kincaid).  A really nice guy, he also revealed that all of the profits from his autograph signings for the day were going towards his charity, the Giving Back Corporation.  He left by saying some warm things about the con and how much he enjoyed it.  Good people, that Ken.

And the final panel was for the three Evil Dead guests of the con: Tom Sullivan, Josh Becker and Hal Delrich.  Becker and Sullivan are both complete characters, so they kept things rolling well with stories and jokes.  However, I particularly liked Delrich's favorite memory of Evil Dead.  Growing up, he'd been a big fan of horror movies and read all of the magazines at the time (I'm guessing Famous Monsters of Filmland).  One of the articles he liked was on I Was a Teenage Werewolf and featured a picture of Michael Landon in the make-up chair framed in one of those mirrors with lights around them.  Upon seeing himself in the same kind of mirror in a make-up chair on the ED set, he was in horror heaven.

And then the con starting winding down.  As we sat on the stage, waiting for the group to be ready to grab a drink at Churchill's, John Tenney wandered over and entertained us with more stories.  He spoke of hidden necklaces and pineal glands and the fact that so many people have died since humanity began, every place on Earth has an equal potential of being haunted no matter how creepy or not the building may be.  Whatever I may think of the paranormal, the guy is an expert storyteller and it's easy to see how he was given a TV show to host.

All in all, I had a great time at the con.  This was a helluva good start to things and I'm looking forward to next year already.

Horrors, bought and sold here.

28 October 2011

October 28th

Three Corpse Circus shorts:

Bloody Bunny
Nursery Crimes
There's No Such Thing
Adventure Girls III
The Ghost and Us
Barbee Butcher
Beautiful As You Are
Don't Lose Heart
Snow Day, Bloody Snow Day
Snake Pit
Bon Appetit: Three Short Films about Food
Modern Grim
A Noiva
The Many Doors of Albert Whale

Stake Land (2010) directed by Jim Mickle
I enjoyed Mickle's first film Mulberry Street quite a bit and I was looking forward to his follow-up.  It doesn't disappoint.  Instead of zombies, vampires are the cause of the post-apocalypse in Stake Land.  It's a nice change.  I think we, as a society, are about at peak zombie right now.  Though, admittedly, these vampires are mostly animal-like and not terribly unlike a zombie in effect.  However, sunlight will still kill them, so humans have free reign during the day.  It's a neat difference.  Being used to so many zombie apocalypse films and TV shows, a vampire apocalypse almost doesn't seem that bad.  Given their free time during daylight hours, people have formed little bubbles of civilization in small towns all over northern North America.  As our travelers go from town to town, the movie feels like a Western with the (purposefully, I'm sure) unnamed Mister playing the Clint Eastwood part (played excellently by Nick Damici).  I love Western-influenced horror movies.

Though, I have to say, it stands in the shadow of The Road.  You can feel that this film sort of wants to be the vampire version of that prior film, with its desolate locations (seriously: the location scout for Stake Land needs an award of some kind) and grey skies and threat of cannibals.  But, Stake Land just can't touch the utter despair found in The Road.  The Road has sort of ruined post-apocalyptic movies for me in general.  Anything that isn't as bad as the world in that film -- which is all worlds, everywhere -- seems like a paradise in comparison.

Still, Stake Land was well worth a watch and I'll be picking up the Blu-ray soon. (7/10)

You Can't Rent Here Anymore (2010) directed by Ryan Meade
A local film, shot at Thomas Video & DVD in Royal Oak, Michigan. I think Heavy Mental is safe as the coolest recent horror movie from the area.  This one is more of "friends having fun making a movie" more so than "something you'd really want to watch."  A crazy guy accidentally returns a video of himself killing a woman to a video store.  The clerks watch it, freak out, and then the man comes back to the store to retrieve it.  Hijinks ensue.

Gotta love the fact that despite the story ending at the 55-minutes mark, the movie is 75 minutes long.  I'm guessing there was a festival requirement somewhere that a full-length movie had to be 75 minutes minimum.  Boy, they just scraped by.  Using "where are they now" title cards and blooper-credits and a stinger at the end a really slow credit crawl, they just edged by to the mark they needed.  If anything, this film excels as an achievement in padding. (5/10)

27 October 2011

October 27th

Critters (1986) directed by Stephen Herek
Here's an '80s horror movie I'd been meaning to watch for years.  Tribbles with teeth escape an asteroid prison and head to Earth for some food.  A couple of shape-shifting bounty hunters find them in a small town in Kansas and some shit hits a fan or two.  It's kind of fun, with goofy-looking critters rolling around and growling at people with their teeth-stuffed mouths.  One of the bounty hunters takes the shape of an '80s hair metal rocker, though he isn't recognized enough in town to make this terribly funny.

I think that my issue with the movie is its tameness.  The critters could be pretty scary, but they've found themselves in a PG-13 movie. Consequently, they do a lot of non-lethal biting on shoulders and inexplicable dragging of people to other places without harming them.  In fact, the nine critters in the movie only manage to eat two people the entire time they're causing havoc.  I guess this was sort of an answer to Gremlins, so things were kept at a '80s kid level of violence.  Still, I can imagine an awesome Critters remake in my head with the critters taking huge and horrific bites of people.  Think Jaws on land with furry aliens.  (6/10)

26 October 2011

October 26th

Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) directed by Víctor García
Better than I was expecting.  Like Roger Corman's The Fantastic Four, this is a cinematic ashcan, made quickly and cheaply only so that Dimension wouldn't lose the rights.  As such, production values are low and the overall feel of the film is only slightly more professional than a fanfilm.

Still, much to my surprise, its heart is in the right place. I credit this squarely to writer Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who has also been the special FX guy for the past five films.  The script reaches way, way back and takes us into the Hellraiser universe we saw in part I and in the novella The Hellbound Heart.  Finally, once again, the Cenobites are bent not on world domination or mental trickery, but on delivering physical sensations "beyond the limits."  Finally, we get to see what the Cenobites do with people in Hell.  Finally, the pleasure part of the "pain and pleasure, indivisible" thing is glimpsed.  Just like the book, there's a tolling of a great bell when the box is being solved.  Pinhead nailing bits of flesh to Cenobite Stephen's head reminded me of the great Epic comic series from the '90s.  After two decades of wandering completely off the map Barker had drawn, we're finally back.

But, this is all really just lipstick on a pig.  The new Pinhead is awful.  Stephen Smith Collins spends much of his time as Pinhead with a sort of angry frown on his face.  He just doesn't look right, all puffy-headed and out of proportion with a costume that appears to have giant shoulder pads sewn into it.  I've seen plenty of fan costumes that were closer to Bradley's appearance than this.  His voice, re-dubbed by Fred Tatasciore, is laughably bad, sounding like a teenager attempting to sound grown-up.  Now, I'm not opposed to recasting classic monsters.  If we want these characters to survive, this is necessary.  Doug Bradley is human and cannot play the character forever.  However, I think they could've chosen better.  I had no complaints about Jackie Earle Haley in the new Elm Street and I'm sure they could've done better with Pinhead had they cared.

The other major problem with the movie is the script.  As much as I enjoy the fact that it takes us back to part I, it's a wee too dependent on that movie.  Many lines from the original film are reused verbatim.  Many parts of the general plot are lifted wholesale from that film as well.  A hedonist solves the box, is taken to Hell, and escapes using blood.  A person who loves him kills more people to resurrect him.  The hedonist then steals a skin and impersonates that person.  Pinhead returns to claim the escapee.  It's hard to see why the next movie needs to be a remake when this film already did it.

Despite being only 75 minutes long, there are some slow spots where it feels like the filmmakers didn't know what to do.  Particularly, when Niko returns home wearing Stephen's skin, there's a lot of dead time with the family as we wait for interesting things to happen.  And, c'mon: giving the two families the last names Bradley and Craven, and then giving them all bad ends?  Very respectful, guys.  And what the hell does Wes have to do with Hellraiser, anyway?

I will say that the acting is generally pretty good in the film and I kind of like the flashback structure as device to slowly reveal what happened to the two kids in Mexico.  It's also very vicious in a way quite appropriate to the Hellraiser universe: Niko is implied to have killed a baby, Niko's dad gets his face savagely ripped up by the derelict/puzzle guardian and Stephen's innocent mom is taken to an eternity of torment in Niko's place.  As far as Hollywood movies go, it didn't pull any punches.

However, the ending feels like a cheat.  Suddenly, Pinhead is claiming that Emma has such dark desires in her that she will one day seek out the box on her own.  That's fine, but we're never really shown any evidence of this.  She spends most of the film being the horror damsel in distress, screaming and cowering.  There's one scene in which she makes out with her brother... but it really wasn't her brother.  It was her boyfriend, wearing her brother's skin.  You could argue that she sensed this and didn't really have a perverse incest attraction going on.  Regardless, the film really needed to develop Emma a lot more in order for us to buy the ending.

Had this spent more time in development and had a little bit bigger budget, this could've easily been the best sequel since II.  I was so geeked to see the mythology return to its roots.  Too bad this return to form was packaged in a such a hastily-made write-off. (5/10)

October 25th

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005) directed by Rick Bota
Hellraiser III is a masterpiece in comparison to this abortion.  Holy mother of Leviathan, this was painful to sit through.  A group of dipshit teenagers are really into Hellworld, an online videogame based on the Hellraiser universe.  In this film, Hellraiser is just a movie series (and, despite years of direct-to-video sequels, inexplicably really popular).  One of the friends is so obsessed with the game, he kills himself over it for some reason never explained.  By playing the game really well, the surviving kids all win tickets to a special Hellworld party hosted by Lance Henriksen.  As in every single Hellraiser since V, things start to get weird and the kids can't tell what is real and what is not.  Turns out, Lance is the dad of their dead friend and wants revenge on the kids for not preventing his son's suicide.  Obviously, the best way to go about this is to study up on the Hellraiser mythology, amass a huge Hellraiser collection, convince the owners of the videogame to offer the invite to its players, setup an elaborate party in a huge mansion, acquire a hallucinogen, dose the kids you want to torture, bury them alive with cellphones and talk to them to scare them to death.  Simple, really.  Oh, and, surprise, surprise: Pinhead is really for real and really kills Lance at the end.  Shocking.

I met Lance at a con recently and he's a super-nice guy, so I say this with lots of love: "Dude, why did you agree to be in this?"  Lance is far too good for this garbage.  Speaking of casting, I love all of the pretty people who happen to be both huge Hellraiser nerds and videogame geeks.  Right.  I'm a horror nerd, so feel like I can say this: we're not a good-looking people.  In real life, you wouldn't really want to attend a Hellraiser party in which people are walking around topless and having sex on couches.  It wouldn't be a pretty sight.

Horrible acting, a plot that makes no sense and a ghost that dials 911: Hellworld should've been the nail in Hellraiser's coffin.  Sadly, it looks like I'm in for an even worse sequel tomorrow night.  (3/10)

The Walking Dead: "TS-19" (2010) directed by Guy Ferland
This CDC business happened way, way too early in the series.  Inside, they get a nice break, with real food and hot showers and safety from the dead.  We haven't seen them go through enough hardship for this to really mean anything.  Hell, Rick just had a hot shower five episodes ago.  And, until the zombie, attack, they were perfectly comfortable at their campsite for quite a while.  This break should've been the prison, as in the comics, which comes after weeks and weeks of really hard living on the road and tons of hard work to secure the place.

I'm also not of fan of the plague exposition in this episode.  Using super-technology, the remaining doctor at the CDC shows everyone a magically impossible scan of the neural activity in a person's brain as they die and turn.  He then claims to not know what the root cause is -- viral, bacterial, fungal, etc. -- yet forces everyone to take a blood test.  What the hell was he looking for in the blood if it doesn't know the cause?  Ugh.  Keep the plague a mystery.  After 8 whole years of comics, we still don't know as much as they just learned in episode 6 of the show.

I'm crossing my fingers for season 2 to improve from here.  What they really need next is an extended period of hard living on the road to really drive home how crappy the world has become.

24 October 2011

October 24th

Hellraiser: Deader (2005) directed by Rick Bota
After reading on Wikipedia that this movie didn't start life as a Hellraiser movie (same as V and VI), things make a little more sense.  No wonder the Cenobite stuff feels tacked on in these sequels... it was.  Even ignoring the Hellraiser bits, I can't say I really understand what the hell was going on in this movie.  There's a cult in Romania who believe their flesh isn't really what they are.  To prove this, they kill themselves and their leader, Winter, somehow resurrects them with a deep kiss.  For some reason, the cult thinks reporter Amy Klein is "the chosen one" and gets her to come to Romania so that she might join them.  Apparently, she has the ability to both solve the box and kill herself for the cult.  Why that is special, I'm not sure.  There's a vague mention that Winter is fighting with Pinhead over the box (Winter, apparently, being John Merchant's brother from part IV) and having Amy do these things will somehow help, but it's never made very clear what exactly the goal is.

As a former Sliders watcher, I can't say I am a Kari Wuhrer fan due to the stuff that went down behind the scenes on that show.  Even so, I have to give her props here.  Even though she's stuck in Pinhead, Part 7, she gives the role all of her energy.  She's probably the series' best protagonist since Kirsty, I'd have to admit (though, frankly, that ain't saying much).  I particularly liked the scene where she wakes up with a giant knife stuck in her back.  Her freaking out over the situation -- especially since she's feeling no pain from the wound -- was great, as was her solution for getting the knife out (wedging it in a cabinet door and pulling).

There are some other nice moments in the movie as well.  While searching for Winter, Amy walks into a basement hallway that keeps getting narrower and narrower.  When she's about stuck, barely able to inch forward in the small space, a hooded man with a knife starts approaching from behind.  It's quite an effective and claustrophobic scene.  I also thought the Cenobites appearing in a blaze of blue lighting was a nice updating of the cartoony effects seen in the first film.

Despite this stuff, the movie's still a mess.  It's barely coherent and we're still doing the "protagonist can't tell what is real anymore" shtick started in V.  I'm getting sick of this approach to Hellraiser. (6/10)

The Walking Dead: "Wildfire" (2010) directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
This episode is mainly focused on how the group decides to deal with death.  Daryl wants to shoot the bitten Jim before he's even dead.  Rick stops him and declares that they aren't killers.  Glenn insists that the dead members of the group be buried instead of burned.  Carol applies a pickax to her dead, abusive husband's skull with a little too much gusto.  Andrea stays with her sister until she awakens as zombie, first apologizing to her and then blowing her brains out.  I especially liked the scene with Andrea.  They really get up close to the process of a dead body waking up as a zombie, forcing you to really think about it.  Watching such a thing happen to a loved one would be horrible.  As you struggle to get used to the huge hole in your life their death means to you, you suddenly see them take a couple of ragged breaths and open their eyes.  It'd be very tempting to imagine that they're really going to be OK after all.  I suspect this is how a lot of the plague spread; being bitten by those you love.

The CDC stopover was not in the comic series, but it really does make sense.  It's located in Atlanta, anyway, so might as well stop there just in case.  What I don't really understand was everyone's objections to going there with Rick.  What was the downside?  Do they have anything better to do than go to the one place in the entire world that might have the cure?  It seemed like some false tension was generated for the drama.

23 October 2011

October 23rd

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) directed by Alan Rafkin
Browsing Netflix, a good ol' Don Knotts comedy seemed like a better choice to watch with the little one rather than a Carebears Halloween special.  Knotts is a typesetter at the local newspaper who dreams of being a reporter.  With the egging on of the paper's janitor, he modifies an article on the anniversary of a suicide-murder to make it a little more exciting.  The small town he lives in loves it and the paper concocts a plan to have scaredy-cat Luther spend the night in the supposedly haunted house where the crime took place.  Luther's second article about the ghostly goings on there is hugely successful and makes him the toast of the town.  In reality, this is just a Scooby-Doo story with Don Knotts in the role of Shaggy and the owner of the house playing the "I would've gotten away with it if it hadn't been for you kids" guy.  

The movie was actually pretty funny.  Luther gets some really goofy groupees who are part of a local paranormal club.  They chant silly mystical phrases at him and constantly try to touch him to get some of the supernatural energy they think he has. Don Knotts, of course, is perfect at playing the acts-tough-but-really-isn't role ("My body is a deadly weapon!").  "Attaboy, Luther!"  The unseen guy who kept yelling this during the movie cracked me up every time.  I love that this became a thing to do after the movie came out.

A decently fun film, and good for youngins.  (6/10)

Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002) directed by Rick Bota
Ashley Laurence returns as Kirsty in the first of three of these sequels directed by Bota.  Just like Inferno, a man finds himself in Hell but doesn't realize it because it's just a weird version of his normal life.  Is this what Hellraiser is now?  Is it just a series of weak ripoffs of Jacob's Ladder with asshole protagonists?  I love Jacob's Ladder, but there's not a chance in hell these direct-to-video sequels are going to touch the creepiness of that film.  Only Silent Hill 2 can claim that mantle.

In its defense, the film works fairly well outside of the Cenobite stuff.  Main character Trevor is suffering from migraines and amnesia due to a head injury in a crash.  He seems to be having trouble telling what is real and what is not.  As the audience, we're experiencing exactly the same confusion as we try to figure out what the real story is behind Trevor and his missing wife.  I'd completely forgotten the details of this movie, so I had no idea where it was headed and was assuming Trevor was really the killer.  Without the Hellraiser parts, this could've been a pretty cool movie about a brain damaged man being framed for murder by his wife.

Kirsty's reunion with Pinhead is tremendously disappointing.  Twice she's escaped him and here she is, improbably, fifteen years later after having willingly solved the box again.  If I were Pinhead, the chains would be flying immediately before she had a chance to argue.  Instead, Kirsty offers Pinhead yet another bargin and he, improbably, accepts it.  What the hell?  Fifteen years ago, apon encountering her for a second time, he said "No more deals child, it is your flesh we want to experience, not your skill at bargaining."  I guess that Pinhead died in II.  We now have a Pinhead who merely lets people run around Hell in crappy versions of their regular lives.  And he collects "souls" like Lucifer.  Where'd this come from?  He's supposed to deal with the flesh, not the spirit.  Arg.

As for Kirsty's turn to the dark side, I don't have too much of a problem with that.  Recall that after her experience with dad-skin-wearing Uncle Frank, she woke up in a mental institution with no memory of how she got there.  She's been permanently broken from her experiences in the first two films, I think.  Trevor just had the bad luck of cheating on a psycho. (6/10)

The Walking Dead: "Vatos" (2010) directed by Johan Renck
I'm not really sure what the point of the encounter with the Vatos was.  "Don't judge a book by its cover"?  Well, thanks there, mom.  The idea that so many people are able to survive in the middle of city that should have millions of zombies in it seems a wee unlikely.  Then again, Atlanta seems strangely devoid of zombies.  They grab the guns and walk out of town with absolutely no issues.  And, upon finding the truck gone, why did the group walk back to the camp?  There were literally thousands of cars on the expressway right next to them.  Disappointing.

Finally, at the end of the episodes, zombies attack the camp.  Good stuff.  The survivors had become far to complacent in their hillside campsite.  It's about time the reality of the world intruded.  Part of the theme of the comic is that there is no rest and no normalcy.  They're always moving, always looking for a place they can settle down in and never finding it.  Always walking, you might say.  Hopefully, this attack will get them on the move.  

22 October 2011

October 22nd

Hellraiser: Inferno (2000) directed by Scott Derrickson
A definite improvement over III and IV.  In Inferno, Pinhead's no longer trying to take over the world, or put us to sleep with speeches, or wants to kill everyone he meets.  Hell, he's only in the movie for a few minutes.  Impressive.  Maybe IV's failure taught the execs to keep their hands off?  Instead, the film focuses on Detective Thorne (played by Nightbreed vet Craig Sheffer), who's investigating a case involving a mysterious gold box, some chains, and the messy remains of a person.  One things leads to another and he ends up solving the box shortly after screwing a hooker.  From that point onward, though we're not told explicitly until the end, he's in a Hell that closely resembles his life.

Suspiciously like Jacob's Ladder, he begins to see demons and other weird things out of the corner of his eye.  Soon, his life seems to get worse and worse, culminating in the deaths of his wife and daughter.  Then the cycle restarts, and he's right back to the hotel room where he'd solved the box to do it all over again.  Once he knows that he's no longer living in reality, it's hard to see how repeating the cycle would count as torture.  Who cares if pretend versions of his family are killed?  Why even go through the motions of real life if it isn't real?  I guess he does shoot himself during cycle #2, only to wake up again like he's trapped in Groundhog Day, so that method of defiance doesn't work.  Still, it seems like this torture idea would be worn out quickly.

My big problem with the movie is that Hell is again depicted in the traditional sense.  While there are no flames or pitchforks, Pinhead seems to be punishing Thorne because he was a crappy person.  Or, he's punishing himself due to his guilty conscious.  Either way, I'm not seeing how this is in any way "exploring the further limits."  I suppose it's slightly clever that the filmmakers are having Thorne torn apart emotionally instead of physically, as we've seen in other Hellraisers, but the judgmental part of it simply doesn't belong in the series.  Perhaps some of the blame lies with Peter Atkins, writer of II, who invented Frank's personal Hell of a mental torture.  This small idea has seemingly de-Barkered Hell for everything that followed.

I do dig the Cenobites in this one.  The Wire Twins are the first sexual female Cenobites we've seen and their under-skin massage of Thorne's chest is probably the only Barker-style Hellraiser scene in the whole film.  Torso is a disturbing version of Chatterer without a lower half who makes for an effective vision of horror when seen in brief glimpses.

Unforgivably, the movie ends with Thorns looking upwards and yelling, Darth Vader-style, "Noooooooooooooo!" at the top of his lungs.  I wanted to do the same thing.  The film starts strong, but really falls apart as we learn where it's taking us.  (6/10)

The Walking Dead: "Tell It to the Frogs" (2010) directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton
This episode is pretty talky and lacking in zombie action, but this didn't bother me too much.  I liked the character interactions well enough and I'm hoping this is simply a lull before another zombie storm (something the comics do all the time).  This episode spends most of its time at the camp, where Rick is reunited with his family at last.  Here, we get a glimpse of the dynamics of the camp and meet more of the people living there. Traditional divisions of labor have emerged -- men fixing cars and hunting, with women washing clothes -- and the women aren't happy.  Lori gives former lover Shane the very cold shoulder.  Ed is shown to be a wife-beater.  Squirrels make good food.

Despite his joy at finding his family, Rick, true to his counterpart in the comics, decides he can't morally let Merle die on the roof.  Along with Merle's brother, T-Dawg, and Glenn, Rick ventures back to the department store roof, only to find Merle's amputated hand and nothing else.  I'm guessing budgetary reasons prevented us from seeing the zombie hordes in Atlanta again, so we're disappointingly left to imagine how it was that the group made it back to the department store.  Still, they have to find their way out again in the next episode, so there's that.

21 October 2011

October 21st

Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (1974) trailer
Rock 'n' Roll Frankenstein (1999) trailer
Frankenstein (1910)

(1982) directed by Larry Cohen
I love Michael Moriarty.  He's a complete nut in real life and it tends to show through in his performances.  In Q, he's about at his very best.  Check out when he auditions to be a bar piano player.  That's Moriarty making up a goofy scat song on the spot.  He has similarly goofy verbal quirks in the film, often rambling semi-coherently about whatever he's supposed to be talking about.  I suspect the script only vaguely matches what he ended up saying onscreen.  He's just a ball of fun to watch in the film.

I dig how the end is a reversal of the end of King Kong.  Instead of the monster hanging off the building with airplanes shooting him, it's the monster that's flying and the people that are hanging.  I like stop-motion effects, so I thought that Q itself was really cool.  It gets to chomp people and toss them down into the city in ways Harryhausen monsters never were allowed to.  The reveal of the second Q egg at the end is predictable as anything, but, really, how else would a movie like this end?

A good ol', gritty New York City film with fun characters and a cool monster. (7/10)

Night of the Demon (1980) trailer
Father's Day (2011) trailer
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror IX: Hell Toupée" (1998)

Dead Alive (1992) directed by Peter Jackson
What needs to be said about Dead Alive?  This is the apex of splatter-comedy; there is none higher.  Zombie baby.  Pus in custard.  "I kick ass for the lord!"  Random Nazi vet.  Zookeeper waving a permit in front of the natives' faces.  Mum flying through the store window onto Lionel.  Lionel flying into the church on top of his mother's body.  Lionel's rebirth out of monster Mum's womb.  The nurse's head constantly flipping back.  The woman who's face became a lamp.  The best use of a lawnmower in the history of cinema.  It's all a symphony of goo and slapstick shot with a megaton of energy.  (9/10)

Chalk is a difficult medium to work in and why do we not have regular white chalk in the house?

20 October 2011

October 20th

Red State (2011) directed by Kevin Smith
I don't like Kevin Smith movies.  I think he's a crappy director and most of his characters talk in this sort of hyper-geek speak that I find incredibly grating. But, I keep up with all of his films (yep, even Jersey Girl).  I kinda wish I liked his stuff.  They seem like they should be lots of fun and I am a geek like he is, after all.  I do enjoy the guy's Q&As.  I've seen all four of those and can easily watch him babble on for 3.5 hours, answering only one question in the process.  Well, with Red State, I think Smith's finally improving on this whole moviemaking hobby he has.

Red State isn't a standard horror movie, which is something I found refreshing.  It was made by someone I wouldn't call a "horror movie guy."  Smith tends to geek out over Star Wars and Batman and Stan Lee; I don't recall any references to horror movie geekery in his films or Q&As.  So, Red State starts off being a fairly normal horror film about teenagers being kidnapped and murdered by a crazy cult, and then sort of wanders off in its own direction, never to return to horror.  In a way, it reminds me of The Shining.  Not that this film is anywhere near as good as Kubrick's, but that both were made people people who were only interested in the conventions of the genre in order to be sure to ignore them and do their own thing.

Michael Parks as the head preacher Abin Cooper is wonderful.  At the start of the movie, he gives a fire-and-brimstone sermon that eats up a good 15 minutes of the film's run time, but I was enthralled with his performance.  He has the bible-beating, charismatic preacher character down absolutely perfectly.  I also like that his character is morally consistent.  Usually with these religious nut characters, the filmmakers will be sure to show us that they're really hypocrites or cowardly.  For example, I was expecting Abin to use one of his kids as a shield when the firefight with the ATF started, or to be shown secretly looking at gay porn.  Nope, Abin truly believes his own bullshit.  It makes him less of a caricature and harder to completely hate him.  He's just a profoundly disturbed man, not an evil huckster.

Even though Cop Out was mediocre crap, it seems to have taught Smith about filming shootouts.  The battle between the ATF and the cult is intense.  Bullets whiz about loudly, exploding chunks out of the compound or people's faces.  People die with sudden fury.  The way this violence ends, though, is a bit week.  A deus ex machina (nearly a literal one, except they didn't have the budget for it) stops the shooting and then the end is just a couple of long speeches by John Goodman's ATF character.  Luckily, Goodman's great and I'll watch anything he does.

Still, I dug it.  Now I'm kind of disappointed Smith claims to be retiring after his next film.  (7/10)

Spirits of the Dead: "Toby Dammit" (1968) directed by Federico Fellini
We had some time to kill before going to see Steel Panther (death to all but metal!), so my friend Jack popped in the last section of a movie he'd been watching.  Supposedly based on the Poe story "Never Bet the Devil Your Head," it really only shares its final scene with that tale.  I can't tell if Toby is a transcendentalist, as in the story, or an existentialist.  Is he seeking to free himself from the tedious business of the flesh so he can move into the spiritual, or is he just looking for a way out the ridiculousness that we call existence?  Either way, the film is an absolute trip.  Terence Stamp is great as the world-famous Shakespearean actor Toby.  He walks around in a technicolor semi-future in which people are constantly approaching him due to his celebrity to him pitch projects, to take his photo, to get his thoughts, to give him awards, to offer him marriage.  He couldn't care less and no matter what his responses to these things are -- sticking his tongue out, snark, sleeping -- the people surrounding him only seem to love him more.  Perhaps he is trapped in Hell?  Why, then, does his vision of the devil (a little girl with a white ball) help to free him?

The film is filled with amazing visuals, precise sound design and hilarious characters.  I loved it.  I'm ashamed to admit -- and I even got halfway through a film degree in college -- that I've never seen a Fellini film before this.  I've gotta change that; I've gotta see more. 

19 October 2011

October 19th

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) directed by Kevin YagherJoe Chappelle (as Alan Smithee)
"Needs more Pinhead!" declared the Miramax execs.  And their word was made reality.  The script was rewritten, Yagher quit the film in disgust and Chappelle shot the rest.  What resulted was a mess that doomed the Hellraiser series to an eternity of direct-to-video crappiness.

I hate that Angelique is just a regular demon, summoned using regular old black magic.  Hellraiser's Hell is supposed to special.  Your Sunday school classes were wrong.  Hell isn't about fire and pitchforks; it's about exploring the limits.  Pinhead's the same as he was in III: overly chatty and bizarrely bent on taking over the world.  The filmmakers seemed to realize these were flaws when Merchant pops up a picture of Earth on a screen, which causes Pinhead to yap so long Merchant can escape.  Pinhead is also fooled by a hologram at the end of the film.  Horrible.  The Cenobites on the space station do nothing but murder people Jason-style, which, again, is utterly not what they're about.

It's not all bad.  Angelique is probably the second best Cenobite design of all time after Pinhead.  Too bad she's barely in the film in this form.  I think the Chatterer Beast is pretty cool, even though the idea of Pinhead having a pet doggie is idiotic.  Mickey Cottrell is awesomely hammy as the powdered wig-wearing magician D'Isle.  Too bad many of his scenes were cut. The idea of having a robot solve the box in order to protect yourself is clever.  I appreciate that continuity with part III was kept, with the Lament Configuration-inspired building and the box buried in concrete.

Other than that, the film's a mess that continues the downward slide started in III.  (5/10)

The Walking Dead: "Guts" (2010) directed by Michelle MacLaren
Though not quite as apocalyptic as the first episode, this one was still quite good.  Rick escapes the tank with the help of Glenn and meets up with a group hunting for supplies in the city.  All the noise they've stirred up has attracted a lot of zombies and they end up trapped in a department store.  Their ultimate solution is for Rick and Glenn to cover themselves with zombie guts and walk among the dead to escape.  The scene is played very well, with gore and tension and fast driving.  It was surprisingly gory, actually, for a non-pay channel TV show, with Rick chopping up a dead zombie with an axe.  And, after it begins to rain and the guts start to wash off, Rick and Glenn have to fight tooth-and-nail in order to reach the truck they're aiming for.  It's nice to see some solid zombie action involving axes and shovels, especially since everyone seems to be a deadeye shot with their guns, dropping zombies with ease from a distance.  All in all, I liked it better than the equivalent scene in the comic series.  

I'm a bit worried about the other survivors at the camp, though.  Their scenes are very soap opera-esque.  And, their camp layout is bugging me.  It's spread out all over the place.  It should be tight, so they can quickly gather and fend off any attacks.  And Lori also wanders into the woods without a weapon to get water, which is horrendously stupid in this world.  Then again, the zombie apocalypse just happened and maybe they don't know any better yet.  We'll see how it goes when the two groups join up...

18 October 2011

October 18th

Stag Night (2008) directed by Peter A. Dowling
I don't know why, but this movie worked for me.  It shouldn't.  It's a shaky-cam version of The Hills Have Eyes set in the New York subway featuring even stupider cannibals and a half-dozen annoying twenty-somethings as their fodder.  But, I got into it.  Though terribly annoying, the shaky-cam enhanced the frenzy of the twenty-somethings' fleeing and fighting.  It made things feel more desperate and panicy, headache-inducing or no.  The cannibals look like Alan Moore and can only grunt, but this seems to make them scarier; they're wildmen with crazy eyes and gnashing teeth.  The setting is also really cool: the abandoned tunnels under New York, filled with all kinds of dark things.

My one major objection is the surprise ending.  Mike defeats all of the adult cannibals and finally finds an exit out of the subway.  As he stumbles towards sunlight, the forgotten kid cannibal jumps at him with blades drawn.  No fair.  Mike had proven his marriage worth by beating his foes on his stag night (named after, says this movie, the practice of having to kill a stag before getting married to prove yourself).  Having a kid kill him at the end is cheap.  C'mon, the dude is a worthy warrior; the filmmakers just felt like they needed to tack on a shocker ending.

And that's it for the two Ghost House Underground movies for this year.  At this rate -- 8 in 2009, 4 in 2010 and 2 in 2011 -- it seems like I'll only have one of these for next year.  That's too bad, as I feel like GHU is the best of these horrorfest series, generally having slightly more watchable movies than the others. (7/10)

Hannibal Rising (2007) directed by Peter Webber
Better than I expected.  I was thinking this would be about Hannibal's career as a serial killer before Graham caught him -- probably peppered with flashbacks to abusive parents -- which would've been completely pointless.  We already know that story from the bits and pieces in Silence and Red Dragon.  Instead, we see an 8-year-old Hannibal traumatized in the aftermath of WWII when bandits kill and eat his sister.  Years later, he seeks revenge on those bandits.  As a period revenge story, it's pretty good.  I'm partial to revenge tales and enjoy seeing the wicked punished harshly, which Hannibal certainly does.  Post-war Lithuania and France are both fascinating settings, neither of which I believe I've seen in film before.  The acting and direction in the film are both spot-on.

But, Hannibal's not really Hannibal here; there's a large disconnect between this character and the older version from prior films.  Hannibal here carries a katana, samurai-style.  He's in love with his dead uncle's wife and seems to possess the emotions that true psychopaths do not.  Glossed over is Hannibal's medical career and the development of his love of high culture.  Left unexplained is his transformation into a cannibal.  Was it because the bandits tricked him into eating part of his sister so many years ago?  I can't say that such an event would make me want to eat the cheeks of her killers, personally.  Ignoring the cheek-eating, Hannibal here is the hero of the film.  He slaughters racists and war criminals only.  I can't imagine this same character killing random college girls to use as dinner supplies 30 years later.  I guess it feels like there's something missing from Hannibal's characterization in this film.  The childhood trauma damaged him, yes, but it doesn't seem like it damaged him enough to turn him into the killer Graham caught. (6/10)

17 October 2011

October 17th

Psych:9 (2010) directed by Andrew Shortell
Suspiciously similar to Session 9.  Shut down hospital.  Doing tedious work there while strange things are afoot.  Uncovering the history of a former mental patient.  Mysterious murders.  The worker is a crazy person responsible for the deaths.  There's an attempt to make this another "is she crazy or is the ghost really killing people?" movie, but I don't think it's left at all ambiguous.  We're explicitly shown that Roslyn is talking to herself during her conversations with the dead doctor.  Though we don't see her actually kill anyone, that's seems to be the only reasonably explanation given her mental state.

And, holy crap, what was up with the digital color correction?  Every scene was tinted so far into yellow territory, everyone looked like they had a really bad case of jaundice.  I found it very distracting.  Similarly, Lionsgate seems to have screwed up the transfer, with the black level being more of a gray level.  Nice work.

All in all, the first of two Ghost House Underground movies for this year is derivative and poorly put together. (4/10)

16 October 2011

October 16th

The Munsters: "Herman, Coach of the Year" (1965) directed by Norman Abbott
L'il K was refusing to eat her lunch, so I suggested we head downstairs with lunch and watch some Munsters. That did the trick.  I'm not exactly sure what she sees in this show, but she seems to love it.  This one had her cracking up over Herman's pathetic attempts to train Eddie in track.  It's a bit of weird episode, in that Grandpa whips up some drugs (he calls them magic pills) that give Eddie super track-and-field powers.  Though it turns out in the end that Eddie wasn't even taking the pills, it's not really a message you'd see in a sitcom these days.

The Munsters: "Happy 100th Anniversary" (1965) directed by Ezra Stone
Herman and Lily decide to secretly buy each other a present for their 100th wedding anniversary.  They each think the other has forgotten the day and comedy ensues.  What stuck me is that they each decide to spend $1000 on the present.  According to the inflation calculator, that's $6800 in today's money.  Wow!  Hmm... look at this: on Wikipedia, there wedding anniversary chart does indeed go to 100 years (?) and they say that's supposed to be a 10-carat diamond gift.  According to Wikianswers, a 10-carat diamond ring costs between $250k and $1.1m.  So, I guess they really weren't spending enough, then...

The Munsters: "Operation Herman" (1965) directed by Norman Abbott
Eddie has to get his tonsils out.  Guess what happens when Herman goes to the hospital to visit him?  Yep, they think he's an accident victim who needs surgery.  Best part is Fred Gwynne acting drunk after Herman is given nitrous oxide at the hospital.

The Munsters: "Lily's Star Boarder" (1965) directed by Ezra Stone
Over Herman's objections, the family posts an ad to rent their spare bedroom.  A policeman takes the room in order to conduct surveillance on the criminal operation going on in the house across the street.  What crime are they committing?  They're selling stolen furs.  That's right, there's a suburban house filled with grim-faced, sharply-dressed mobsters, all stuffing furs into garment boxes in the manliest way possible.  Crime was different back then, I guess.

Taken by L'il K using a Fisher Price camera.
Modern art museums: call me.  We have dozens of these things.

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) directed by Anthony Hickox
I hadn't seen this one in many years and now I remember why.  Pinhead just won't shut the hell up in this movie.  He has seemingly endless speeches about pain, flesh, desire, etc.  There's also the laughing.  Pinhead is constantly cackling like a typical horror movie monster, sounding a helluva lot like Freddy when he does so.  At best, Pinhead should only chuckle dismissively, as he does in Hellbound when Kirsty tells him she's come for her father.  And then there's the killing.  Why does Pinhead massacre an entire club full of people?  Isn't he supposed to be an "explorer in the further regions of experience"?  Shouldn't he have chained them all up for later play time?  In short, the character's just completely wrong.  Yeah, yeah, he's been separated from both Hell's rules and his human side... whatever.  He's still acting like a typical slasher villain and a parody of his former self.

Also: CD Cenobite.  Enough said. (5/10)

Clive Barker: The Art of Horror (1992) directed by Christopher Holland
Paramount was thoughtful enough to throw this on the Hell on Earth DVD.  Back in the day, you could buy a VHS two-pack with both movies together.  Basically, it's Barker talking about his philosophy of art for half an hour.  I found it pretty interesting, particularly his thoughts on the tedium of being trapped in flesh.

The Walking Dead: "Days Gone By" (2010) directed by Frank Darabont
Though The Walking Dead comic series is my favorite zombie story of all time, I waited an entire year to start watching the show.  Why?  Well, I don't have cable and it seemed like Halloweentime would be the time to watch such a show instead of last November.  It was worth the wait.  This a tremendous first episode and probably the best piece of made-for-TV horror ever.

One thing they've gotten really, really right is the emotional aspect of the story.  Rick collapses in pain on the floor of his house upon finding it empty and realizing the gravity of the situation he's woken up into.  I love the tears in his eyes as he speaks to the half zombie crawling in the field before shooting her.  If the show follows the arc of the comic, it was quite important to see where Rick's reaction to killing starts off at.  Lennie James, in particular, does a helluva job as Morgan.  The scene in which he tries and fails to shoot his zombie wife was astoundingly good.

The introduction to the zombies was also perfect.  These are Romero-style slow walkers.  At the start of the episode, we only see one or two at a time.  They're annoying, but not a problem.  But, damn, when Rick turns a corner on that street in Atlanta and sees hundreds of the things, that's when you realize the full extent of their threat.  And then when he hides under the tank, with zombies crawling towards him from all side... wow, great suspense.

I'm hoping the TV series has the iron balls that the comic series does.  In the comic, anything could happen to anyone at anytime.  That is one of the things that is so special about it.  No other series has shocked me as much as Walking Dead.  Rick is the only character who will never be killed off, and even that doesn't help him much.  The introductory scene of this episode, in which Rick is forced to kill a poor zombie child, seems like a good sign that they won't be holding back at all.  At any rate, I'm crossing my fingers that the level of quality seen in this episode somehow continues.