South Park 16.12: "A Nightmare on Facetime" (2012) directed by Trey Parker
Not nearly as cool as the Halloween episodes of old. This one pokes fun at the not-quite-antiquated notion of renting a physical movie in the guise of a not-as-good-as-The SimpsonsShining parody. Though I will never set foot in a Blockbuster again, I do rent plastic discs with movies on them from Netflix instead. I imagine I'll be doing so for years to come. Though the two movies they specifically mention in the episode -- The Thing and Halloween 4 -- are indeed available to stream on Netflix and Hulu Plus, streaming selection still isn't remotely good enough to completely replace watching physical discs. If I wanted to see Alien, The Exorcist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Near Dark, Evil Dead, Psycho, Frankenstein, The Wicker Man, [REC], Fright Night, Phantasm, Re-Animator, Dawn of the Dead, The Return of the Living Dead, Suspiria, or even The Shining... I'm going to need a disc or I'm going to need to risk pirating. Maybe the hundreds of different rights holders will get their shit together and all of these will be streaming someday on a single service... I won't hold my breath.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) directed by Mel Brooks
A vaguely amusing parody of the Lugosi, Lee and Oldman Dracula movies. Though, "vaguely amusing" is how I feel about all of Mel Brooks' stuff, I have to admit. I understand that the jokes on screen are supposed to be funny, but they're rarely enough to get me to erupt in laughter. Even the superior Young Frankenstein I like mostly because it's such a dead-on homage to its source material and has great actors in it. This one, it doesn't work as well for either of those things. I did like Peter MacNicol, who plays Renfield and does a pretty good Dwight Frye impression. He was fun to watch. I also liked the bit in which Dracula's hypnotized victims need incredibly specific directions in order not to walk the wrong way as he commands them. Other than that: meh.
Tales from the Crypt 5.13: "Till Death Do We Part" (1993) directed by W. Peter Iliff
After taking the girls out trick-r-treating -- costumes covered in coats, the coldest Halloween in a long time -- Jack and Casey and I settled in for a night of movies and pizza and wings and beer and vodka and candy. First up: the final episode of season 5 of Tales from the Crypt. It only took us three years to get through these 13 episodes, having watched the first episode back in 2009. Not bad, eh? The season ends on a strong note, with the talents of Frank Stallone and John Stamos -- no, really -- delivering a neat spin on the "Owl Creek Bridge" idea. Onwards to season 6 next year!
Instead of Trick 'r Treat this year, we picked this other classic that takes place on Halloween. Night of the Demons is just a good old '80s horror flick. A group of teens decide to have a Halloween party in an old, abandoned funeral home. Which is an awesome idea. I asked of us, "why are we sitting here, watching movies, when stuff like this is happening?" "Chlamydia," was Jack's response.
More like demons, which actually do act like an STD in the film, being passed from kid to kid through making out. The possessions making some of the kids start killing some of the other kids and lots of screaming and running ensue. It's all good slasher-esque fun. Also, Linnea Quigley shoves a lipstick through her nipple in one of horror's most bizarre scenes. And, please, never forgot Stooge's words of wisdom -- and one of my favorite horror movie quotes of all time -- when he advised: "Eat a bowl of fuck! Let's party!"
I haven't watched any of these in quite a long time. I think Jack and Casey and I are going try to make it through the whole series in the months ahead. It's strange to think of how it all started. I forget who said it first, but the original Friday the 13th is pretty much an American giallo movie and not so much of a slasher. There's nothing supernatural in the film at all. We get tons of POV shots from the killer's perspective in order to keep the killer's identity a mystery. When the killer is revealed, it turns out to be a crazy old lady, which is a twist Argento would be fond of. The only thing missing: Mrs. Vorhees should've been wearing black gloves.
For my fourteenth Halloween in a row, Halloween. Through sleepy eyes, I wondered: what made Michael choose Laurie? Forget the sister idiocy from the sequels/TV version. Why does he decide to stalk Laurie all day and then ruin her night? Well, he doesn't just stalk Laurie. He also follows Tommy to school as well. What do they have in common? Laurie and Tommy were the first people Michael saw after arriving back at his old house. I think -- given what I know about Carpenter -- it was just rotten luck. Whoever would've walked by first that morning would've caught his interest. It might've helped that Laurie was a teen-aged girl like the sister he killed and Tommy is close to his age when that happened. Maybe being back in the house and seeing those two people put him back in the state of mind he was in at 6. Regardless, it's just rotten luck. Laurie -- through no fault of her own -- attracted the attention of an evil force who decided to destroy her happiness for no reason at all. Happens all the time in real life, too.
It was a good Halloweentime. I watched 56 horror movies and 44 horror episodes. I read some old Hellraiser and Nightbreed comics. Me and the girls had fun playing with tons of glow sticks, which are incredibly cheap these days. I went to two Halloween parties, one with family and the other with friends. I watched the trees in my city undergo their beautiful transition. It was a good Halloweentime.
See again you in 46 weeks!
Sending your kids out begging house to house, dressed as princesses: what a weird world we live in.
The hook of the movie -- a kid discovers his new neighbor is a vampire -- is pure fun. I think the best scene in the movie is early on, when Jerry sneaks into Charlie's house to kill him. It's pretty much every kid's worst nightmare: the monster is real, he's in your bedroom, and mommy can't help you. It's tense stuff and Charlie and Jerry's lopsided fight is quite scary.
Charlie, the hero of the show, is a fellow horror geek and a huge reason I think this movie has stuck in people's minds for 27 years. Charlie's the type of horror geek we horror geeks kinda wish we were. He's the type to first recognize the vampire infestation / zombie apocalypse / werewolf killings because of his extensive and unique (but socially unacceptable) knowledge. Better, he's the type that absolutely refuses to stop trying to defeat the evil even in the face of disbelief and ridicule and a really super-strong monster who wants to kill him. Would that we all had such opportunity to prove to the normal people that we're not proto-serial killers just because we have a few Freddy pictures hanging on the wall...
Jerry, though physically strong, has a number of really big Achilles' heels. He has all of the typical vampire weaknesses -- crosses, holy water, sunlight, stakes -- but they seem to really, really bother the poor guy. Just one poke in the hand by a wooden pencil is enough to make him cry and run home. I propose that an anti-vampire suit would be ridiculously easy to construct. You could become an unbeatable god in the vampire community for under $20. Those demonic slaves of the night would cower in mortal terror at your very sight. All you need? A few dozen boxes of toothpicks and some glue.
A direct-to-video/VOD anthology series hosted by George A. Romero himself. When I say "hosted," what I mean here is that each story is introduced by a low-energy Romero inexplicably wearing a winter coat and apparently sitting on a living room couch while delivering cheezy lines even the Cryptkeeper wouldn't be able to spit out. He looks to be half-amused by the whole process, but not particularly interested. It would be sad, but it looks like the filmmakers are from Pittsburgh. This has gotta be good old George helping some neighbors out by leveraging his name and likeness. There's no way anyone would've seen these otherwise.
"Valley of the Shadow" from Jeff Monahan is one of the worst horror shorts I've ever seen, and I'm counting shit people shot in their backyard with a camcorder. I never did catch what this was supposed to be about. It's something about a fruit in the South American jungle that leaks blue fluid, but I don't know. What it ends up being is a group of unlikable characters chased by a native... except the native is played by a white guy with a shaved head and done up in warpaint. I'm guessing they cast him as the headhunter due to the "tribal" tattoos on his arm. Ugh.
"Wet" from Michael Fischa is a little better, being the second story I've seen this year about an evil mermaid. Despite warnings from a local antiques dealer, a lonely guy digs up some gold and jade boxed on the beach that each contain some decayed body parts. Off camera, they assemble themselves into a beautiful mermaid. She isn't very nice and begins to munch on the man (starting with his groin, with some rather gruesome sound effects). Without explanation, this somehow provides the man with a fish tale and her with legs. Maybe mermaids are sea-vampires and their bite turns you into one of them? I see loads of potential to milk the "supernatural teen romance" market here...
"House Call" from Tom Savini is actually pretty good. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't originally made for this production but was created as the pilot for a failed TV series called Chill Factor. It's very talky, but has a nice mood to it. It involves a doctor making a house call because a mother is worried about her son. She begins to fill him in on what her son has been up to each night, eventually revealing that the boy is a vampire. The still from the trailer below reveals the other twist to the story concerning the doctor:
Slightly better than the first one, but that's not saying much.
"The Gorge" from Matt Walsh is a mix of The Descent and Hunger. Some dumbass kids go caving without telling anyone where they're going and end up trapped. One of them gets his leg smushed by a rock. They start to get hungry. Nature takes its course. It's not bad. The gore effects are pretty good and they take the time to build the characters up into their cannibalistic choice. The coda, after they are rescued, takes a wee too long, though, and the unnecessary monster makeup on the girl at the end is ridiculous.
"On Sabbath Hill" from Jeff Monahan drags on for far too long. An asshole professor gets one of his students pregnant. Rather than simply get an abortion, she decides to kill herself in his class for reasons unfathomable. Naturally, her ghost begins to bug him constantly until he decides to follow her example. It's a simple, not particularly original, story that felt about twice as long as it really needed to be.
"Dust" from Michael Fischa is a little bizarre. A security guard at a science lab discovers that some dust from Mars can temporarily cure his wife of cancer. As a bonus, it also makes her extremely horny. We're treated to more than one scene of an overweight old man being ravaged by his considerably more attractive wife. Props to the actress for being so game. This being a horror story, things go south from there, people end up dead, and the film crew thinks tinting the moon red can stand in for a shot of Mars.
I forgot how awesome this movie is. The 'berg back in the '70s and early '80s really knew how to put a crowd-pleaser together. Great characters versus a hellishly scary monster terrorizing a community. What more do you need for a horror film?
Holy cow, Robert Shaw is incredible in this film. Every line that comes out of Quint's mouth is gold ("Seen one eat a rockin' chair one time."). Why Shaw didn't score an Oscar for the Indianapolis speech, I don't know.
Poltergeist is kind of Jaws with a ghost, ain't it? The house = the beach, the ghosts = Jaws, Steve = Brody, Dr. Lesh = Hooper, the real estate developer = the mayor and, of course, Tangina = Quint. Hmm. In that case, I think Mrs. Kintner should've dove into Bruce's mouth to grab her boy. Or, Steve should've thrown a propane tank from a backyard grill into the ghost's mouth to blow it up. Either way.
Tales from the Darkside 1.12: "In the Cards" (1985) directed by Ted Gershuny
A tarot card reader is given a cursed deck of cards that only reveals bad news. This is not very fun and she desperately tries to find a way to get rid of them. A decent episode, and at least it was serious and dark for a change.
Tales from the Darkside 1.13: "Anniversary Dinner" (1985) directed by John Strysik
A great episode. It's a little predictable, but it establishes a nice mood and the characters are well drawn. An old couple is about to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They are lonely in their old age and miss having their children in the house. When a young runaway wanders by, they invite her to stay with them and encourage her to relax in their hottub. And don't mind the vegetables in there...
Mockingbird Lane (2012) directed by Bryan Singer
Not bad. I'm obviously a fan of the original show, but I'm not opposed to doing different things with those beloved characters. And, those characters have been changed quite a bit. In a reverse of the original show, the Munsters look more-or-less normal but aren't quite as nice as they used to be. The show starts with Eddie transforming into a werewolf and ravaging a boy scout camp, and ends with Grandpa stealing the heart from Eddie's new scoutmaster to repair Herman's broken ticker. Having the Munsters as killers is going to turn off a lot of old school fans, I'm sure. But, I don't think this is really that important of a change.
For me, the meat of the original show was the interactions between the Munsters themselves. They aren't quite there yet with this new show. I like Herman and Lily's relationship, which seems to be as loving as it was in the original. Herman's interactions with Grandpa could use some work. I know it's far too much to ask for a repeat of that magic chemistry Al Lewis and Fred Gwynne had, but they at least need to hint that new Herman and new Grandpa secretly appreciate each other's friendship. The family's attitude towards Marilyn, also, is a little too harsh. They're straying into "shut up, Meg" Family Guy territory a little with her. I like it better when the family simply feels sorry for her.
If this thing gets picked up as a series, I'm not sure where they could really take it. Based on this episode, it would be seem to be about monster-izing typical sitcom problems (instead of having a talk with Eddie about puberty, it's about being a werewolf). That'll get tired fast. There's potential for the family to cause some fun havoc in their little suburban neighborhood, though. We shall see.
Surprisingly good, despite the horrible title. I kind of thought of it as the movie that let us know what was happening on the another side of London while Shaun was having his adventures elsewhere. It has the a bit of the same humor, except for a hundred times more jokes about Cockneys. Which is sometimes a problem. I'm sure there were a slew of jokes that flew over my head because I'm not English and don't know the first thing about the subcultures of London.
While not a mind-blowing zombie movie -- zombies arrive, people run and shoot at them, some die, the end -- this film had a bunch of great little ideas in it I haven't seen in any zombie movie before. A zombie bites a guy, he blows its head off with a gun, but a part of the zombie's face remains biting into his arm. He then has to carry this partial zombie face around for a few scenes. That same guy has a metal plate in his skull from the war. Guess what happens when his companions try to shoot him after he turns?
The best idea: old people vs. zombies. The main characters' grandfather lives at an old folks home and rallies his fellow seniors to defend the place against the undead. Awesome. We get a machine gun taped to a walker, an old lady throwing a box of cereal at a zombie, an old man in a wheelchair killing a zombie in a wheelchair, the inability to flee due to too many hip replacements, and the best chase scene of any zombie movie ever when a slow pack of zombies pursue a slow old man with a walker. In fact, they really should just rename the movie, if they bring it over here, to Seniors vs Zombies. That'll get butts in seats.
I love the movie more every time I see it. I was describing it as the horror Labyrinth, but it's really much better than that. Both are mainly about that confusing transition between girl- and womanhood. Wolves, however, is filled with far more symbolism and has much more to say. It's also not an easy movie to follow (particularly if you've just watched some silliness about old people killing zombies).
What I noticed this time out was the storytelling aspect of the film. Or that, the movie is about our need for storytelling as it is anything else. Stories helps us make sense of the world. They don't even necessarily need to be true stories to be the "God's honest truth." Granny's stories, in the best tradition of our old fairy tales, are thinly disguised morality plays intended to plant seeds in Rosaleen's mind that will grow as she does. Puberty will soon have Rosaleen discover the "wolves with hair on the inside" and Granny's stories, she hopes, will protect the child. And, because the stories are also entertaining, they're easy to remember and retell. Most of Granny's stories in the film are actually told by Rosaleen. Not only will this ensure she can pass these same lessons on to her own children, the repetition makes the lessons more immediate in her mind as well. Now, whether she actually follows what the stories teach, that's an entirely different thing...
The other thing I noticed is that the entire movie is a fairy tale and its moral is this: don't wish to grow up so fast, kids. Once you grow up and lose that innocence, you'll discover the terrible truth: being an adult is hard, confusing, and its only relief is inevitable death.
I've always wanted to see this because of the nuts trailer (below) and because Fulci plays himself in it. In it, Fulci begins to see visions of the gore from his movies in everyday life. As in, when he goes to a restaurant, the meat offered him only makes him think of the cannibal scene he just shot. His visions get so bad, he seemingly can't take three steps in his own home without going into a trance and imagining a five minute gore scene (in reality, ripped off from other movies). It's like horror epilepsy and a cheap way to pad the film. So, he goes to a psychiatrist. Unlucky for him, the shrink is not a nice guy and uses Fulci's problem to make Fulci think he is responsible for the shrink's murders.
It's not a great movie. Still, I got a kick out of Fulci's starring role turn. His acting is bizarre and low-key and kind of fun to watch.
Lots of folks seem to consider this an honorary horror movie -- including Ari Lehman at the Flint Horror Con -- so I gave it a spin during my Six Weeks. Normal people are going to avoid that label in favor of the far more respectable "psychological thriller" tag, but, yes, this is a horror movie about a repressed woman who cracks under pressure and descends into madness. Losing one's mind is one of the more horrific things that can happen to a person and this film illustrates that better than just about any I can think of.
I love the way the film handles Nina's increasing mental instability. It starts slowly, with scratches on her back and mysteriously bleeding fingertips. We catch a very quick glimpse of a drawing's eyes moving. Nina spies a woman dressed in a black on the street who, only at first, seems to mimic her movements. They are all very subtle and, strangely, very believable hints that Nina is having some problems. As a repressed perfectionist, it seems like these are the small ways the intense mental pressure in Nina's mind might seek an outlet.
The arrival of Lily into her life opens the floodgates. Lily -- the real Lily -- represents everything she is not: a free-spirit who, while technically an imperfect dancer, makes up for any flaws with the emotion she infuses into her performance. Which happens to be exactly what Thomas is looking for in a Black Swan performance. Naturally, a part of Nina's already damaged mind begins to take on some of Lily's personality traits in order to pull off a perfect Black Swan performance. Imaginary Lily becomes Nina's own Tyler Durden, in a way, pushing her into letting go of the extreme control she's exercised over herself for her entire life. I dig the subtly of the transformations -- when imaginary Lily's face would switch quickly to Nina's -- quite a bit. It's all blink-and-you'll-miss-it and I was often not sure of what I was seeing, exactly. Perfect for putting you into Nina's frame of mind.
This a heckuva complicated character study. Portman certainly deserved that Oscar. I need to watch this film again to see what else in here.
Highly recommended by a couple of guests at the Flint Horror Con, I popped this movie up to the top of my Netflix queue. There's no doubt it's well made. The cinematography is beautiful, filled with natural lighting and misty vistas. The locations are amazing, with Eel Marsh mansion being a creepy old house in the grand tradition. Never having seen a Harry Potter, I wasn't distracted by the casting of Radcliffe and thought he did a great job with his lead role, much of which involves no dialogue and no other people to interact with. The film is often able to create a very cool mood in its silence and darkness. But, in the end, it's a ghost story. Those just don't work for me.
It's starts out promising. When lawyer Kipps decides to spend a night in the mansion to get some work done, he begins to catch glimpses of things that should not be there. A few times, he spies a woman dressed entirely in black far out in the yard. When outside, a hideous face appears in an upstairs window. I like these briefs peaks at the ghost; they're effectively disturbing. Alas, the ghost cannot keep this much distance for the entire movie. Once the film gets up close to the thing -- they are very fond of jump-cutting to the ghost screaming like a banshee -- it loses its power and becomes, for me, like an actor in a haunted house attraction trying to scare people by shouting "boo!"
The ending is quite interesting. The ghost makes Kipps' son jump into the path of an oncoming train. He dives after the kid and they're both run over. We then get a Jacob's Ladder ending in which the man and son walk into the light, happily reunited with their long-dead wife/mother. I've never seen a horror movie in which victims of the killer monster are shown walking happily off into heaven. It's very bizarre. Think of how we can re-spin every Friday the 13th this way: don't worry, Jason is doing everyone a favor by sending those sweet teenagers to heaven early! In fact, this is something I've always wondered about people who believe in a post-death paradise. If that's what you think lies ahead, shouldn't you -- if suicide is a sin -- be seeking the absolute most dangerous jobs possible in order to maybe get a lucky early trip to those pearly gates? Are Alaskan crab boats filled with true believers, perhaps?
Just, it's very strange. The ending makes the child-killing ghost of the film into a hero. She's sending these innocent kids directly to heaven before they're old enough to do something to damn themselves. Plus, she's sacrificing her own stay in paradise by hanging around this ball of dirt to do it. What a nice, nice lady!
The Walking Dead 2.12: "Better Angels" (2012) directed by Guy Ferland
It had to happen in one of these two final episodes: increasingly out of control Shane is finally killed. I was still hoping that, as in the comics, it would be Carl that pulled the trigger in order to save his dad. It was such a huge moment early in the comics: so damaged by the harsh world he lives in, Carl had no problem blowing away a living person. It casts a pretty grim shadow over the future of this world if this is how children are going to be turning out. Here, they wuss out a little. Or, they prefer to develop Rick's character more than Carl's. Carl still gets to shoot Shane, but only after he's turned into a zombie. It's still significant, as this is the first time TV Carl has had to shoot a zombie, but not quite as horrifying.
The Walking Dead 2.13: "Beside the Dying Fire" (2012) directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
I love the intro to this episode. Why is there a zombie herd suddenly headed towards Hershel's place? Blind, stinking bad luck. The dumb zombies follow any sounds that catch their interest, starting with a helicopter flying over Atlanta and ending with Carl's gunshot at the farm. Along the way, the sheer weight of their numbers topples any obstacle in their path. It's about the best illustration of why these things are so incredibly dangerous en mass as you can get.
As expected, the final episode of the season is pretty exciting. Chaos ensues at the farm as the herd arrives. People are ripped apart. The beloved Winnebago is abandoned. Hershel's barn burns to the ground. People lose each other. The most powerful bit, though, is when Rick's truck begins to run out of gas on the road. They stop and the reality of how grim the situation is begins to set in. They have no gas, no food, it's beginning to get cold out, and they are untold number of zombies walking around unseen in the woods that surround them. The feeling of hopelessness is palpable. Welcome to the real zombie apocalypse, people.
Over the past year, I've seen a lot of complaining online about season 2. I think people are being far too hard on the show. Yes, the search for Sophia went on for too long. I also think they spent too much time at Hershel's farm living comfortably. More of the beginning of the season should've been spent living the hard life on the road. Overall, though, this is still an incredible piece of television. I think it's pretty easily the best horror TV show ever made and I think us horror geeks are pretty lucky enough normal people watch it to keep it going.
The roads are clear and the Internet still works. Minor things, but they set the wrong tone. A world in which, a month into a zombie outbreak, you can still watch YouTube on your iPhone just doesn't feel apocalyptic enough. Who's manning all of those server rooms to make this happen while the rest of the world goes to hell? If you're going to go that way -- things are still running, but there's all these annoying zombies making it a little harder than normal -- Romero should've ran with the idea I once read that he had for part 4: the living dead have become little more than a nuisance; just more homeless on the street for people to ignore.
Instead, for this sixth go-round, Romero goes back to the "let's civilize the zombies" idea again. This time, a man -- not unlike Hershel in The Walking Dead -- thinks the zombies are just sick people. He keeps them chained up on his island, where they repeatedly perform a minor task they used to do while alive. His goal is to train one to eat something other than humans in an effort to find a way to coexist with the creatures. Sounds familiar.
I'm not really sure I follow the logic of this train of thought, though. At the end of the movie, the zombies do indeed eat a horse. So what? I eat chickens, but that doesn't mean cows are safe around me. Saying this is a path to making the zombie safe to be around is like saying, "don't worry about the tiger walking around town. I've trained him to eat only cat food."
In the end, I don't think Romero really had anything new to say here. People are violent and will kill each other over stupid things like differences of opinions. Zombies can learn. You may have to turn into a little bit of a bastard to survive zombieland, but there are lines never to cross. We've tackled all of this stuff in previous Living Dead movies.
I do like the final image. If the visual of two zombies shooting empty guns at each other with a gigantic full moon behind them is the last of the Romeroverse, well, that'll be fine.
The Walking Dead 2.10: "18 Miles Out" (2012) directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
How much time is passing? How in the hell is Randall walking around OK after getting his calf muscle torn to shreds on a fence? And, where are they? Rick gives a nice speech about how winter may slow or end the zombie plague. Aren't they in Georgia, having just fled the CDC in Atlanta? Why is Rick talking about snowmobiles? I'm pretty sure they get rare dustings of snow there in winter and nothing more.
I'm also not sure why the show expects us to care much about whether Hershel's other daughter kills herself or not. I don't think the girl has ever had any lines before this episode and her catatonic state from the episodes prior has been the series' lamest storyline. I don't even remember what her name is.
At least Rick and Shane have come to blows, opening the way for Carl to do what he should'a done long ago.
The Walking Dead 2.11: "Judge, Jury, Executioner" (2012) directed by Gregory Nicotero
I love the group's moral quandary in this episode. It's a tough one. If Randall's group really has 30 people in it, I think the implication is that he's from the Governor's group. If that's the case, knowing what the Governor is like from the comics, I think Shane is right: they need to off him for the safety of the group. Easier said than done, though, as Rick finds out. Should they continue to pretend to be civilized? Or is that impossible in the world they now live in? Great, great stuff. This is exactly what this series can be at its best.
Is this the episode that started the complaints I've seen all over the damn Internet about Carl wandering off into the woods without supervision? There's only two more episodes left after this. I suppose if he does it again and gets lost like Sophia, that may be annoying. But, still, his wandering in this episode is completely understandable to me. He's a 10ish-year-old boy and, up to this point, the farm has been perfectly safe. I'd be curious to go explore and watch a zombie, too. I'm more worried that the idiot lost Daryl's gun in the woods.
Wow. Dale, man. He survived a long, long time in the comic series. I wasn't expecting him to be dying a horrifically agonizing death by being ripped open by a zombie and then shot in the head. Poor TV Dale never got to date Andrea or get his leg chopped off. If the series continues to shock me by mixing up the details of which bad things happens to which character, that's just fine. I just hope they have the balls to torture the members of the Grimes family as much as they've been tortured in the comics. Nothing in a comic book has ever gotten to me more than the three major things that happen to the members of that family over the course of the series.
A found footage film taking us back to the first night the dead got up and began eating people. This time, we're with a group of film majors who happen to be shooting a mummy movie in the woods when the SHtF. A couple of them decide to film everything that happens as they flee in a Winnebago.
Rather than exploring the learning zombie angle from Day and Land, Romero is chewing on much more interesting ideas in this one. How does the fact that there are cellphone video cameras in everyone's pocket, 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, and instant access to all of this affecting us? It's incredibly democratizing, says Romero. Giant media companies no longer have complete control over our perceptions of what happens the next town over, across the country, or on the other side of the planet. If we seek it out, we can discover the harsh, unedited truth floating around on the Internet (scary as that may sometimes be).
Also, how important is it to document a tragedy when there's a chance you could help avert it? People keep telling Jason to put the camera down and, at first blush, you would tend to agree with that demand. What's that idiot doing? Throw the camera down, pick up a weapon, and defend yourself and your friends! But, as Debra says a couple of times, "if it didn't happen on camera, it's like it didn't happen, right?" If there is no one to record these things as they happen, how are we going to know what really went on and how are we going to learn from these events? What if no had bothered to snap the famous photo from Kent State, the napalm girl in Vietnam, or Tiananmen Square? These are powerful, culture-shaking pictures. This is a question that truly plagues photographers. See this excellent article from The Guardian. As one of the interviewees says, "I thought, if I don't take this picture, no one will believe this ever happened."
Outside of this, taken just as a zombie movie, the film is merely OK. It lacks the action of Land, the awesome Savini gore of Day, and the likable characters of Dawn. I think the low budget is what hurt the film the most. But, I'm not going to complain. Romero can make as many zombie movies as he has in him and I'll watch them all.
The Walking Dead 2.08: "Nebraska" (2012) directed by Clark Johnson
This episode perfectly captures the tension often seen in the comics when the main characters encounter a new person or group. The conversation between Rick and the New Englanders in the bar is played perfectly, with the anxiety of Rick and the desperation of the other men slowly increasing until it all explodes in violence. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time Rick has to kill regular people. This is an important step in the development of his character. Hopefully, the show will continue to turn him into the man who will do absolutely anything necessary to protect his family.
The Walking Dead 2.09: "Triggerfinger" (2012) directed by Bill Gierhart
The shootout in the bar in the middle of this episode was incredible. The tension of the scene in which they try to rescue the guy impaled on the iron fence while walkers approach: completely awesome. Definitely one of the best bits in the entire show. I also love how Glenn, when tasked with running to grab the car, completely falls apart and hides after he is shot at. I can identify with that. That would be me. Much as I hate to admit it, I'm not going to be Rick in such a situation and coolly shoot back at the bad guys. Nope, I'm probably going to be Glenn and freak the hell out. But, I hate, hate, hate Glenn's after-the-fact explanation for why he wussed out. He says he didn't want to die because his death would hurt Maggie. C'mon, man. Great line to use on the lady, no doubt, but c'mon, man. Way to jettison a realistic reaction to stress for soap opera crap.
Though tagged with a "horror" label in both IMDb and Netflix, this is not a horror movie. It has horrific imagery in it, sure. The scene at the end that poster to the right references could be inserted into a new Aftermathsequel without anyone questioning. But, the movie's purpose is not to horrify. The film seems to be most interested in commenting on Hungarian society as it has changed over the years by following three generations of not-so-normal men.
I'm afraid I don't know know much about Hungary. Capital is Budapest, former Eastern Bloc country, birthplace of Zsa Zsa, inventors of goulash. That's about it. That ain't anywhere near enough knowledge to understand what this movie is trying to say about Hungary's transformation from empire to communist regime to republic. Given the characters -- a horny military man who resorts to relations with a recently slaughtered pig, an obese competitive eating champion, and a taxidermist -- I'm sure the satire is biting and hilarious to Hungarians.
I suspect most non-Hungarians are in the same boat as me while watching the movie. I would guess that the weird characters and grotesque imagery are what attract foreign audiences to watch this film. The aforementioned Aftermath-like scene at the end is incredible. In it, taxidermist Lajoska places himself in a machine of his own devising in order to practice his craft on himself. Using -- what I hope was -- slaughterhouse renderings, Pálfi shows us an extreme close-up of Lajoska carefully extracting all of the organs from his own abdomen. It's bloodless, but it's also clearly real flesh that is being sliced and retracted and dumped on the floor. The lighting and editing and angles used make this process quite beautiful. Once finished, he sews himself shut and turns on the final portion of his machine, which slices both his head and right arm off. Later, his taxidermied corpse is displayed in a museum. I'm sure it all means something, but it was interesting as hell to watch even without knowing what.
The Walking Dead 2.06: "Secrets" (2011) directed by David Boyd
More searching for Sofia and more lazy days at Hershel's farm. At least they finally get around to training people to use guns so we can finally find out that Andrea is a natural shot. Carl seems to have recovered suspiciously fast. Maybe tell the Chandler Riggs to wince in pain every once in a while to remind us that Carl was seriously wounded and almost died not so long ago? Norman Reedus could give him tips.
The Walking Dead 2.07: "Pretty Much Dead Already" (2011) directed by Michelle MacLaren
Season two seems to be following the general flow of the comics -- not the plot -- by having long periods of not-too-much-happening broken up by shocking events. I think it works OK. The not-too-much-happening episodes never fail to have at least one cool zombie and the shocking episodes tend to change events enough from the comics enough so that I'm surprised by them. Just like this episode. In the comics, Sophia is a long-time survivor who now calls Glenn and Maggie her parents. But, I have to admit, she's probably not necessary to keep around at this point. Carl's the kid who's character is interesting to follow. And, having Rick shoot the zombified Sophia in this episode should have more interesting implications for the show as they deal with its impact.
This event and Hershel's insistence that the zombies are just sick people also opens up the potential to discus my favorite topic from the comic. What are Rick and the gang becoming? Should they be so comfortable blowing away people, even if those people are kinda, sorta dead? Are they losing their humanity by becoming numb to the massive amount of killing they need to do? Hopefully, the show will begin to explore this for the later half of this season.
Maybe, not counting homemade low-budget affairs, the worst zombie movie I've ever seen. The Night remake took place in the same setting and intensified the characters' personalities. The Dawn remake took place in the same setting and intensified the action and danger. This Day remake takes a couple of character names (one of which is copied wrong, the other for a character who dies 20 minutes in) and the idea of a zombie firing a gun and dances merrily on its way into a host of horrible ideas.
This zombie apocalypse is caused by a plague, which is first released in a small town (yep, just like The Crazies). It's an airborne virus, so it spreads like the flu. The beginning of the movie resembles the beginning of The Stand a little, with the sick flooding the hospitals and the town quarantined. Once the virus really kicks in, though, the people turn into zombies. No, really. They turn into zombies. Within seconds, their skin rots in places and their eyes turn milky white. It's like the filmmakers think being a zombie is like being a werewolf: it has a set of physical characteristics you just have to take on once infected. Pro-tip: zombies have rot in their skin because they were previously dead and rotting. The idiocy of this makes my brain want to get up and leave.
Other things in the film that make my brain want to kill itself: in a very small nod to the original, there's a zombie who seems to be more civilized than the others. His name? Bud. Not Bub. Bud. I would bet a million dollars that the screenwriter has always thought they were saying "Bud" when he watched the original as a kid and never realized he had it wrong. The main character Sarah had a bit of crush on Bud before he was infected, so she zip-ties him to the car and keep him with the group. Yeah. She forces her fellow survivors -- including her own brother -- to sit next to a guy with a deadly infection who may try to bite them. Luckily for them, Bud was a vegetarian before infection and -- sigh -- doesn't want to eat people meat. So, Sarah is keeping her boyfriend safe even though he's a zombie. When she spies her zombified mother walking in the road, what does she do? Of course, she rams her mom with the SUV at top speed, exploding her zombie body all over the place. No reason to keep her zombie mom around when she has a zombie boyfriend, right?
The vast majority of the film is just the characters running from and shooting at zombies, while the zombies do bad CGI crawls on ceilings and jump out of hiding spots. Every decision the characters make is horrifically stupid. It's all mind-numbing and feels like nothing other than a bad Sci-Fi Channel movie. Way to ruin the "good Romero remake" streak, Miner!
Flint Horror Con 2012
I had great time at the second annual Flint Horror Con, even more so than last year. Packed with tons of films and events and vendors and panels, I actually had to plan what I was going to do ahead of time in order not to miss anything. Accompanying me, as always when I go to horror cons, were pals Jack and Jason.
First up, I caught one of my contributions to the event. To compliment the shorts and films being shown, I mixed up a trio of intermission collections. They had old drive-in movie bits -- like ads for the concession stand and "prevues of coming attractions" announcements -- and some of the weird/funny/horrible trailers from my huge collection. Being only half an hour after the doors opened, there weren't a whole lot of folks in the fifth floor theater to catch the first batch:
No big deal. At cons, the theater is a place to wander in and out of whenever you have time between panels and don't feel like shopping anymore. This is one reason shorts are the perfect fit for cons: it's easy to pop in, catch one or two, and pop out without feeling that you need to commit to a long movie and miss other things going on. Anyways, I got a kick out of watching my favorite trailer in the world with the small audience.
Next up: Basket Case's Kevin Van Hentenryck's panel, moderated by amigo Jack. Kevin's a friendly, easy-going guy and the panel was a relaxed discussion of his role as Duane Bradley, his music, and his stone carving passion. I asked him what happens when you make a mistake when carving in stone: "No mistakes. It's executive design change." Words to live by, right here in Flint.
Before the next panel started, I popped downstairs to check out the main vending room on the first floor. it was pleasantly busy:
Amigo Jason moderated Cleve "Monster Man" Hall's panel next. Cleve is a complete character and easily launched into all kinds of -- completely uncensored -- stories about everything he's worked on. I saw him before at Motor City Nightmares and he was no less entertaining to listen to here.
Then, back to the theater to catch Kevin's hilarious Texas Chainsaw parody The Catskill Chainsaw Redemption (2004), which was followed by my second set of intermission stuff. After that, it was once again to the vendor floor to start buying some cool art and gifts for the daughters. I also stopped by Kevin's table for an autograph and a picture:
Again: damn nice guy. He shook my hand a couple of times, asked where in Michigan I was from, and insisted on a second picture when the first looked like it might be blurry. I grabbed a photo of Duane and Belial and a DVD of the Catskill short, both of which he signed and dated. No one I've ever gotten stuff signed by has ever scribbled the date under their name, but it's great idea.
Then, back upstairs for Ari Lehman's panel, again moderated by my friend Jason. Ari played the child version of Jason in the first Friday the 13th and now tours the country with his two-person band First Jason. To be honest, before the panel started, I was thinking: here's a guy with no other prospects in his life other than to ride the coattails of an acting job from 32 years ago when he was a kid. Man, I was wrong. Not only is he a talented musician, as I found out later in the night, the guy is well-versed in the philosophy of horror. He spoke at length on horror's place in our culture, how mythology informs reality and vice versa, and why he thinks Jason works as a monster. He and I have very similar viewpoints on the genre and it was pure pleasure to he him speak. The guy has a better handle this stuff than any other guest I've seen at one of these cons. He also highly recommended The Woman in Black, so, yeah, I've gotta see that soon.
After grabbing a bite at the new Mexican restaurant across the street, we made it back in time to catch a full-length flick in the theater:
A hilarious, Troma-style mash-up of a bible camp with a Friday the 13th slasher plot. Why no one has done this before, I don't know, but the idea is gold. Reggie Bannister stars as the priest who takes a group of teen stereotypes to a remote camp in the woods. There, they begin to fall one by one to the the evil Sister Mary Chopper, a mask-wearing nun who takes tool-buying advice from Jason Vorhees.
The film is a ton of fun. Even though some of it is digital, the gore effects are great. There are geysers of blood, ax chops to the abdomen, and a fat kid's head popped like a zit with a cinder block. Padding this out are plenty of funny hijinxs with the repressed Christian teens who are forced to go to this camp by their closeted priest. Also: best casting of Jesus, ever.
After the movie, we waltzed back downstairs to catch the adult costume contest (we'd missed the kids' one earlier). There were some great costumes this year. The final five were these:
Deservedly, the zombie on the far left won 1st place. His makeup was amazing, featuring teeth showing through his cheek, contacts in his eyes, and a great gimmick as a bellhop. He also did this perfect thing with his shoe, turning it sideways on his foot so that it looked like he was walking on a broken ankle. I also really dug the 2nd place winner, the woman with the multitude of white hands. I don't know if this costume is a reference to something I'm not familiar with or a wholly original creation, but it's so weird I can help but admire it.
Then, back up to the theater to catch the last of my intermission stuff. This one, being for later in the evening, I packed with the most surreal stuff I could find. My favorite of these is the batshit animated Videodrome trailer. After it was done, I met a guy who said he's caught all three of my intermissions. He loved them because they reminded him of going to the drive-in when he was a kid. Mission accomplished.
Last for the con, we caught paranormal investigator John Tenney's Q&A. This was his second go-round with the FHC and he did tell some of the same stories as he did last year. What I liked most about his lecture this time out was that he came across as the person sitting between skeptics and true believers. In contrast to what one might think, he's not firmly in the believer camp when it comes to the variety of paranormal activity out there. He'll tell you both sides are trapped in their own preconceptions, making them unable to see all of the possibilities available. He mentioned ghost hunters' fondness for EM detectors. Why are they so insistent that ghosts -- or whatever -- should be visible to these devices? He also poked a bit at some of the commonly held ideas about ghosts themselves. If a ghost is stuck haunting a second floor room in a house for all eternity, he asked, what then when the house burns down? Is it stuck floating around 20 feet in the air? What about when the Earth is destroyed? Will there be ghosts pointlessly haunting empty regions in the space our planet used to be in?
After the con finished, we headed a bit south of town to a bar. There, the con's after party was combined with a charity benefit for a little girl with inoperable brain cancer. Normally, I hate going to bars. They aren't my scene: noisy, crowded, and filled with drunk, rude people. But, I wanted to donate some money to the charity and catch a couple of the bands playing. I wasn't disappointed. The first act we caught was Arlow Xan, a local duo who play a squeeze box and a banjo or guitar. They were amazing. Unfortunately, the noise of the bar wasn't very accommodating to their brand of folksy rock. I'll need to buy some of their tracks soon.
First Jason played later in the evening and kicked ass. They sing songs only about Jason Vorhees -- i.e., "Machete is My Friend" -- and Ari plays a keytar shaped like a machete with a glowing hockey mask in it. Awesome. A perfect way to end a night of horror.
Flint Horror Con: it was a great day. I will see you in 2013, bigger and badder.
After twenty years, a movie studio finally gave George some money to make another zombie movie. I think the success of 2003's The Walking Dead and 2004's remake of Dawn of the Dead probably had a lot to do with it. Those two properties kicked off the zombie wave we're still surfing on today.
Even after all this time, Land feels like a logical progression in the series. Over the years, we see humanity get progressively organized in the face of the apocalypse: from chaos in a farmhouse, to a temporary home in a mall, to scientific research in an underground bunker, to a walled-off city. The men with guns tasked with controlling the chaos have gotten more organized as well. From Ben with his shotgun, to a pair of SWAT officers, to the asshole army guys underground, to the relatively well-functioning militia that protects Fiddler's Green. And, keying off of Day's Bub, Romero continues to explore the idea of zombies learning in Land.
The idea of zombies becoming smarter seems to be the idea Romero is most fascinated with in the film. Big Daddy is pretty much the Einstein of zombies, becoming aware that humans are enemies in addition to food. He's also sort of like one of those chimpanzees who figures out how to use a tool: he's able to teach the others in his species to do the same. Big Daddy raises an army, teaches them to ignore fireworks and use guns, and marches on to the big city to take care of the pesky humans who keep shooting his friends.
It begins to raise some interesting questions that never really get explored. Should we start regarding the zombies as another intelligent species? Maybe Dr. Logan from Day was right? If we civilize them or they civilize themselves, maybe we can coexist? Maybe we have to coexist? Genocide doesn't seem to be working. Even the well-organized Fiddler's Green society isn't attempting to comb the countryside and execute every zombie. There's just too many dead people out there for that (according the Logan's estimate in Day, hundreds of millions in the US alone). Unfortunately, the next Romero zombie movie doesn't pick up this thread.
There's not as much to the human side of the story, unfortunately. The story's message is pretty simple: the haves screw the have-nots in exactly the same way as they did before the apocalypse. I like Dennis Hopper as a villain, but he's pretty cartoony as the dictator of Fiddler's Green. His fall and that the down-trodden take over the city after his death is not particularly interesting.
More interesting is Riley's journey. Sick of humanity -- and who wouldn't be, seeing how they react in the face of the end of the world -- the man just wants to drive away live by himself. That he ends up with a truck full of people to take care of kind of says it all: like it or not, you can't do it all by yourself.
Tales from the Crypt 5.12: "Half-Way Horrible" (1993) directed by Gregory Widen Clancy Brown is awesome. He always plays a great villain. Here, he's the owner of a chemical company that discovers a super-preservative in a remote jungle. Nice guy that he is, he tests the stuff on a coworker and ends up killing him. Or is the guy really dead? The worst part of this episode for me was worrying about the actors. Several of them have to pretend to drink the blue glow stick fluid that stands in for the preservative. That can't be good, right? One of them looked like he really got it in his mouth. I'm goofy that way.
I love this movie. Normally, I can't stand horror movies that use technology way beyond reality. I call it the Exorcist II problem. I have no issues suspending disbelief for ghosts, aliens, vampires, zombies or pieces of Stonehenge frying faces off. But, present the world of 1982 having perfectly human-looking androids, and you're in danger of losing me.
For some reason, though, this doesn't bother me at all in Season of the Witch. I think this is due to the atmosphere the film creates. There's something about the way the movie moves that sucks me in. Maybe it's Carpenter and Howarth's minimalist score? Maybe it's the pleasant-looking small town they shot in, filled with creepy androids watching the outsiders as they drive in to visit? Maybe it's the batshit plan Cochran has to simultaneously melt the faces of thousands of kids in history's largest sacrifice? I don't know. I just know that I unabashedly love Halloween III.