30 September 2012

September 30th

Halloweentown (1998) directed by Duwayne Dunham
Well, I jumped the gun on this one.  I already knew this was a cute kids' show, having watched it seven years ago, and I was thinking it'd be great to watch with my daughters for Halloweentime.  It will be... just not yet.  The near-three-year-old, lacking a nap today, almost immediately fell asleep.  The near-five-year-old was fine and even got a kick out of the kooky monsters that lived in Halloweentown... until the real bad guy showed up.  From there, she made a series of strategic moves: to behind the couch, to just outside the door, to all the way upstairs.  It's really not that scary, but she has a low tolerance for creepy-looking characters acting mean to pleasant characters.  Even with less than 10 minutes of bad guy-ness in the whole show, well, that was beyond her limits.

It really is a charming little made-for-TV movie from Disney.  Debbie Reynolds has a ball and hams it up as the family's grandma and Halloweentown's most powerful witch.  The town itself is really fun, with a werewolf hairdresser and a giant jack-o-lantern in the square and a zombie Elvis broom salesman.  This also the only really girl-centric Halloween special I can think of, focusing on a 13-year-old girl's discovery that she's destined to be a great witch like her mom and grandma.  Ah well, maybe I'll give it another shot with the daughters in 2015 or so...

Watched: DVD from Disney.

Tales from the Darkside 1.10: "Djinn, No Chaser" (1985) directed by Shelley Levinson
Another goofy Darkside, this time with a pair of married goofballs acquiring a magic lamp.  In the realm of genies-played-by-basketball-players stories, this is easily the best.  Sorry Shaq, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has got you here.  He plays a genie who's so grumpy about being tramped in a tiny lamp for 10,000 years, he refuses to grant wishes.  Instead, he drives the married couple crazy.  He conjures lions in the hallway to trap them, makes the walls ooze slime, and won't stop yelling in a really loud voice.  Overall, the guy is pretty annoying.  Once they find the key to his release, though, all is well.  Not a story I'd imagine coming from a darkside, but funny and full of energy.

29 September 2012

September 29th

Shrooms (2007) directed by Paddy Breathnach
My cousin decided to schedule her wedding during the Six Weeks and tapped me to be the cameraman.  In olden days, this might've made my horror-movie-a-day goal difficult.  At a minimum, I'd have been up super-later after the reception ended, watching a movie on my laptop and struggling to keep my eyes open.  Not so now. Welcome to the wondrous 21st Century, where a huge network of towers can supply my hand-held communicator with a constant stream of video even when traveling in excess of 75 miles per hour!  Screw hoverboards: the future is here!

Yeah, about that...  I can't think of any worse way to watch a full-length movie than on a tiny cellphone screen during a noisy car ride.  The glossy glass of my phone nicely reflected the sunlight streaming into the car whilst also showing me the details of my smudged fingerprints.  Additionally, I was given the weird experience of watching myself watch a movie, as the glass neatly reflected my face staring at the screen.  Somewhere behind all that was the movie, but I'll be damned if I could tell you exactly what was going on during the nighttime scenes.  The audio fared a little better, but the movie's soundtrack was forcibly mixed with engine noise and the crappy songs coming out of the car's radio.

From what I could tell, this movie really sucks.  All of the characters are immediately unlikable and incredibly stupid.  For one, they fly all the way to Ireland in order to trip out on mushrooms.  I'm not sure why no one told them that their local drug dealer in college could've helped them out in that regard and saved them thousands on plane tickets.  Instead, their plan is to have an Irish friend take them out into the middle of nowhere to pick fresh shrooms from the floor of the forest.  Apparently, the fear of accidentally eating a misidentified mushroom and dying was not sufficiently drilled into them by their parents.  And, in fact, that's exactly what happens: the female lead, for some reason, eats a death cap mushroom by accident.  Instead of dying in agony as her organs shut down, she has an intense trip and wakes up with psychic powers.  Or so she thinks.  In reality, this film is a shameless ripoff of High Tension and the lead's psychic visions of her friends deaths are really just her mind covering up her memory of murdering them herself.  Ugh.

And that's why you choose a movie that's likely going to suck should you need to watch one on a telephone: the fact that I could barely see or hear the thing just made the experience not as horrible.

Watched: stream on Netflix.

28 September 2012

September 28th

Raw Meat TV spot (1972)
Class of Nuke 'Em High trailer (1986)
Silly Symphony: "The Skeleton Dance" (1929)

Rawhead Rex (1986) directed by George Pavlou
I bought this disc more than ten years ago, but all it did was sit and gather dust.  It sat for so long, it became a running joke with my pal Casey.  Every Halloweentime, one of us would inevitably suggest "Rawhead Rex??" as a movie option for the night.  And every Halloweentime, we'd find something better to pop in.  Until tonight.  Finally, it's Rex time.

It wasn't as bad as I'd remembered.  I like the idea of a pre-Christian pagan god being unearthed and terrorizing a small town in the Old World.  I like Barker's sexualized spin on things, making Rawhead a hyper-masculine brute with an insatiable appetite and a short temper.  He's so masculine, he pees on a guy to baptize him ("mark his territory," I suppose) and can only be defeated by a woman holding a fertility statue that shoots magic lightning out of its stone vagina.

Despite this neat stuff, it's pretty clear why the film has a bad reputation: Rawhead's animatronic head is ridiculously bad.  It looks like something grabbed off the wall of a carnival funhouse.  Its movements are painfully robotic and the glowing red eyes just plain look silly.  It's impossible to look at the guy and not want to chuckle.  It completely deflates any menace the monster has and makes every scene with him look like a dude with a bad Halloween mask pretending to be crazy.  Funny how one really bad special effect can sink the entire ship, but here it is.

Watched: DVD from Artisan.

Intruder trailer (1989)
Blood Freak trailer (1972)
her fresh flesh (2010)

The Cabin in the Woods (2011) directed by Drew Goddard
Brilliant.  Cabin supports multiple interpretations, is very funny in parts, is somehow self-aware without being grating, has the most downer ending possible, and is packed with more cool monsters wreaking havoc than any movie ever made.  It's like someone cracked open my brain and dumped it on the movie screen, even going so far as to include a song from my favorite band in the end credits.  I was blown away seeing this in the theater and I still love it to death watching it again at home.

The most obvious way to look at the film is that it's a mirror held up to us, the audience of horror films.  We are the Old Gods who demand to watch young people sacrificed for their sins.  But, why?  I often dwell on this about myself.  Why do I like horror movies so much?  Looked at from the outside, I can see why some people think poorly of us horror fans: it is kind of screwed-up to get a kick out of seeing people fake-killed in gruesome and inventive ways, isn't it?

Following the logic of this movie, however, may reveal an answer.  The yearly sacrifices to the Old Gods in Cabin keep them sleeping.  Without those sacrifices, the Old Gods awaken and destroy the world.  I think horror tales actually do serve a similar purpose in the real world.  I'm a fan of the idea of catharsis.  I think we're not quite the rational, evolved species we like to think we are; we're violent little monkeys and we're going to need a way to blow off some steam.  Horror stories (and, even more effectively, violent video games) help us do this.  Without the catharsis of pretend violence in our media, I think we'd see even more real violence than we already do.

You could also look at the movie from the creators' perspective.  Cabin is a call for change in the horror genre.  It pulls back the curtain on the genre and says: "see how silly some of these things we do really are?"  Writers are forced to create characters who act in illogical and goofy ways -- almost like they've been gassed -- in order for them to further the horror story.  They lazily use stock characters -- the fool, the nerd, the jock, etc. -- even though no one really fits perfectly into those categories in real life (jockish Curt demonstrates how smart is really is when recommending text books to Dana at the start of the film).

Worse, new ideas are shunned in favor of the tried-and-true things that have worked before (as we're told in the film, the generic redneck zombie Buckners have a 100% success rate).  Bradley Whitford's character Hadley wants nothing more than for someone to choose the merman as their destruction, but he is always disappointed.  I think of Wes Craven here, who stumbled into his role as a horror movie guy but never really thought of himself that way.  When finally given a chance to break out of the genre with Music of the Heart, the film bombed and his fate was sealed.

The end of the movie, in which Marty decides that perhaps it's time for someone else to take over, seems like a ballsy -- maybe even arrogant -- call for new blood and new ideas in horror.  The scenes we'd just seen, with all of the familiar horror tropes running wild, are the film almost saying "here, we just used up every horror monster, ever.  Let's do some new things next."  Pretty bold for a first time director.

And, if you don't want to go all English-major-essay on the film, it works perfectly fine as cool horror film with a neat twist.  It starts in a place we've all seen before -- kids in a cabin in the woods -- and steers into into some fresh territory with some amazingly fun visuals and excellently drawn characters.  Easily my favorite horror movie this century.

Watched: blu-ray from Lionsgate.

27 September 2012

September 27th

The Crazies (2010) directed by Breck Eisner
I never expect much when I sit down to watch a horror remake, so color me pleasantly surprised that I found this one to be better than the original.  Though I like the 1973 Romero film just fine, it's one of his lesser efforts.  In it, Romero repeats himself a bit, expanding his exploration of the breakdown of society from Night of the Living Dead's small farmhouse into an entire town.

While society still breaks down in this remake, it mostly brings the disaster down to a really personal level; for the most part, we're shown how devastating this outbreak is to just two of the characters.  I really liked this approach.  David and Judy fight hard to survive the situation, but often question what the point of their struggle really is.  Everything and everyone they know is destroyed by the outbreak.  Their plans and hopes for a life in their small town are annihilated over the course of a couple of days.  Perhaps worse, everything they thought about the society they live in is also destroyed.  In the end, they're going to be raising their future child in a country whose decision-makers are so inept and amoral that they resort to nuking a city just to deal with their screw-ups.

Not that this is a completely successful movie.  Even though it tells a different story than the original, nothing much that happens in the film is a surprise.  When David and Judy finally arrive back at their house, it is no surprise there is a crazy hiding upstairs.  The same applied for when they reach the truck stop and find a crazy or two there.  That the deputy ends up infected comes as no shock.  I found myself bored with many of the stock crazies/zombies scenes.

On the other hand, some were very well done and original. The scene featured on the poster with the crazy principal and the pitchfork was excellent.  There's some nice tension as he drags the fork along the tile of the school, looking for the next tied-up person to stab through the chest.  Of course, it was obvious David would arrive in time to save Judy, but the same couldn't be said for Judy's employee Becca.  Also great was the scene in the carwash.  I think a lot of us have very old fears from when we were very young about automated carwashes.  Something about going through one them, to a child, is simply terrifying.  I've never scene anyone exploit this strange fear until this film.  Very cool.

Remakes of Romero movies have a great track record for some reason I can't fathom.  He should probably tell poor John Carpenter the secret before someone gets around to crapping on They Live.

Watched: blu-ray from Anchor Bay.

Stigmata (1999) directed by Rupert Wainwright
It's rock-and-roll Exorcist, featuring the music of Billy Corgan!  At least, that's what this sometimes feels like.  Stigmata follows atheist Frankie Paige who one day begins to develop the stigmata.  It's an interesting premise.  What if these wounds started to appear on non-believer?  What would that mean to them and what would that mean to the church?  This film delivers -- amid beautiful photography and energetic editing -- truly dull answers to these questions: "it would freak her out" and "they would try to cover it up."

The artfilm-like style of parts of the movie and the scientist-priest character played by Gabriel Byrne had me fooled.  I thought this film might be into exploring some harder questions regarding Catholicism.  For one, what kind of a deity's ideas of miracles are bleeding statues and holes in people's bodies?  Instead, it takes the easy route and tells yet another tale about the creepy, old Vatican trying to retain its power.  Frankie is experiencing the stigmata not because she's been touched by God; she's merely possessed by a dead priest who really wants to get the word out on a secret gospel of Jesus.  What's the secret of this gospel?  That you don't need the structure of a church to find God.  Or, exactly what the Protestants came up with centuries ago.  Whoop-dee-do.

Pretty to look at and listen to, but completely disappointing story-wise.

Watched: stream from Netflix.

26 September 2012

September 26th

Mother's Day (1980) directed by Charles Kaufman
Having already watched Father's Day, I think it was obligatory that I watch the original Troma parent's holiday movie as well.  This is the only Charles Kaufman movie I've seen -- there aren't many -- but I'm tempted to say he has more technical filmmaking talent than his brother Lloyd.  His shooting style is fun, with interesting angles and things framed nicely.  There are some shots that are terribly out of focus, but I'm guessing the cameraman was asleep at the switch here (there's only so much $115,000 can buy).  The screenplay is nicely constructed, with lots of not-too-obviously-placed setups that payoff by the end (using a sleeping bag to escape the dorm curfew, pretending to be stabbed with a knife, Abbey taking care of her own demanding mother).

Except, one bit of the script bothers me.  The focus of the early part of the movie seems to mostly be on Jackie.  Some time is spent establishing that she's always being walked over and never stands up for herself.  It seemed like this would lead up to her finding the inner strength to overcome her tormentors at the end of the picture, leaving the film a stronger person.  Instead, she dies and her companions have to extract revenge for her.  If this was what Kaufman wanted to do, he should've spent more time with Abbey and her sick mother.  That would've given more impact to Abbey going nuts while killing the hillbilly mom at the end.  Anyways, I can't figure out if Kaufman was trying to take the unexpected path through the story, or if Behind the Mask has permanently warped my perception of horror movie structure.

Watched: blu-ray from Anchor Bay.

25 September 2012

September 25th

Cropsey (2009) directed by Barbara Brancaccio & Joshua Zeman
In the back of my mind, as I clicked on the link to this in Netflix, I remembered that this was supposed to be pretty good documentary that had something to do with an urban legend in New York.  I was expecting something along the lines of an exploration of the Jersey Devil myth, but what I got was something much more grim.  Cropsey investigates a rash of child disappearances and murders in the 1970s and '80s on Staten Island, interviewing those affected and following the trial of the primary suspect.

The most interesting part of the documentary to me was the fact that there were still people absolutely convinced the cause of the disappearances were satanic cults.  Some claimed a vast conspiracy of Satanists on the island whose rituals demanded child sacrifices.  Some were so scared of these imagined Satanists -- even to this day, 20 to 30 years later -- they refused to expand further on their theories or outright refused to be shown on camera.  It's a perfect example of the theme of this documentary: when an unexplainable evil happens, people need something to pin it on.  When that evil happens, repeatedly, to children, the scapegoat doesn't even have to make sense.

I can understand.  Becoming a parent changes you.  My greatest fear used to be amputation; I couldn't imagine anything worse than losing a limb.  Now, I would gladly jump feet-first into a wood chipper if it would save my kids from harm.  Children have this horrible power over their parents.  Your own happiness is directly connected to their well-being.  When something bad happens to them, it's very difficult to stay rational.

Do I think Staten Island put the right guy in prison for these crimes?  Based on what was shown in the documentary: yes.  It seems plausible that an already unstable Andre Rand was so affected by his two years working at the notoriously hellish Willowbrook that he decides to pick off local mentally disabled kids.  Do I think he got a fair trail?  Absolutely not.  From the documentary, it seems as though he was convicted based solely on 20-year-old eye witness testimony.  Am I glad he's in prison, anyway?  Yep.

A really well put together documentary, thoughtfully exploring the underbelly of Staten Island and the psychology of a community afflicted by evil.

Watched: stream on Netflix.

Inhumanoids 1.06: "Cypheroid" (1986) directed by Jim Graziano
Probably the weakest episode of the series.  The sample Bright cut from Tendril's foot a few episodes ago grows into a new Tendril, which they quickly capture.  The government, not realizing Tendril is a moron, places a supercomputer next to his cage in the hopes of translating his speech.  Unbeknownst to the government, the supercomputer is both sentient and evil.  Basically, this episode exists to get the ball rolling on the post-"Evil That Lies Within" storyline.  By its end, Metlar and Tendril are free, the evil Blackthorne Shore has escaped from prison, and Blackthorne's cellmate Dr. Mangler has drown in toxic waste.

Inhumanoids 1.07: "The Surma Plan" (1986) directed by Jim Graziano
Earth Corps vs the Ruskies!  It's the Cold War, Saturday morning cartoon-style.  The USSR decides to drill a hole to the Earth's core and flood it with water, hoping to destroy Metlar's domain.  When anyone tries to explain that this plan will likely crack the Earth in half, the Russian military leadership starts questioning loyalties.  As over-the-top as this is, it actually reminded me of the K-19: The Widowmaker, in which the radiation-poisoned Soviets refuse help from a nearby American ship for fear of giving up their technological secrets.

The best part of the episode, easily, is Dr. Mangler's resurrection.  Blackthorne recovers Mangler's skull from the toxic waste-polluted swamp he drown in and brings it to D. Compose.  D. Compose agrees to resurrect the good doctor and the result is... well, even D. Compose is not sure he made the best choice here:
Got to love how crazy this show is.  Mangler -- re-dubbed Nightcrawler -- has a skull for a face, some kind of weird robot torso, and a giant earthworm for one of his arms.  Creepy.

Inhumanoids 1.08: "Cult of Darkness" (1986) directed by Jim Graziano
Tackling the then-hot issue of teen cults seems natural for this show.  Blackthorne, dressed in a mask and black robe, sets himself up as a cult leader and manages to attract a throng of teen worshipers.  It's all just a front, though, and a touch from D. Compose turns the cult into a zombie army that terrorizes the city.  Kids: don't join a cult or you may be turned into a zombie by giant undead-dinosaur-thing!  Also, it'll help you beat up bullies and get girls:

Inhumanoids 1.09: "Negative Polarity" (1986) directed by Jim Graziano
A accident with a super-magnetic rock turns Magnokor evil and Metlar good.  This also, somehow, weakens Earth's magnetic field and threatens to bring the Van Allen belt down to the surface, irradiating all life.  Even if Inhumanoids' science is ridiculously awful -- traveling from the surface to the core seemingly takes only a few hours of driving through caves -- I have to give the show props for at least trying to be more science-y than its contemporaries.  If it were possible for the Van Allen belt to get low enough to touch the Earth's surface, it would be pretty bad for life on the planet indeed.  I bet a bunch of kids looked up the Van Allen belt it their encyclopedias (to you kids: this was Wikipedia in book form) after this episode aired.

Inhumanoids 1.10: "The Evil Eye" (1986) directed by Jim Graziano
This is the episode I vividly remember from childhood.  Nightcrawler and Blackthorne discover a creature called a gagoyle.  It's kind of a squat, blue dragon with a see-through belly that eats anything in its vicinity, including, in a gruesome scene, all of its siblings.  Nightcrawler somehow establishes control over the critter and uses it to really, really screw with Blackthorne:
Yep.  One Saturday morning when was 9, I watched a toothy, blue monster eat a dude and then puke him up again under the orders of a skull-guy with a worm arm.  Unbelievable!  Nightcrawler later takes the gagoyle to visit D. Compose.  The two monsters fight and the gagoyle bites off D. Compose's arm and swallows it.  Holy crap!  When D. Compose promises to help Nightcrawler, the gagoyle pukes the arm up and D. Compose pops it back on.  But, still... wow.  As a kid, this absolutely blew me away.  Even the non-organic Transformers weren't getting their arms ripped off at this time.

Inhumanoids 1.11: "Primal Passions" (1986) directed by Jim Graziano
After the incredibly screwed-up episode from the week before, Inhumanoids goes way, way in the other direction with this one.  "Jaw-droppingly silly" is how I might describe this ep.  Dr. Bright makes a concoction that he thinks may help fight the Inhumanoids and sprays it on the trio of monsters.  Whoops!  It was actually a love potion!  The fierce Inhumanoids monsters are now crushing on any female they come across.  D. Compose falls in love with Sandra, Tendril falls in love with a robot Tendril from a movie set and Metlar... Metlar steals the Statue of Liberty and brings her to life.  Unfortunately for Metlar, married life isn't what he imagined:
Yeah, who knew Lady Liberty was such a ball-buster?  And this is just one of half-a-dozen scenes in this episode that elicited a verbal "WTF!?" from me (see also: D. Compose waltzing and Tendril nearly crying).

Inhumanoids 1.12: "The Masterson Team" (1986) directed by Jim Graziano
Corrupt Senator Masterson leads an expedition of blimp (?) vehicles into the center of the Earth on a mission to recover the Statue of Liberty from Metlar.  Things don't go their way and it's up to Earth Corps, temporarily teamed-up with Nightcrawler, to rescue them.  As it turns out, the expedition wasn't necessary at all.  Metlar reaches his limit of nagging and returns Lady Liberty to her rightful place on the surface.

Inhumanoids 1.13: "Auger… For President?" (1986) directed by Jim Graziano
A good send-off for the show that ends with a massive battle between the forces of good and evil.  Metlar and his statue army, D. Compose with his zombies, and Tentril with his weird bug-guys face-off against the combined might of Earth's armies, Earth Corps, the Redwoods and the Granites.  One of the more epic battles in Saturday morning cartoon history.

24 September 2012

September 24th

The Cat and the Canary (1927) directed by Paul Leni
Inspired by fellow Six Weeks-a-teer Kaedrin's positive review, I decided to stream this silent horror-comedy.  I don't think I'd actually heard of this one before, but it was a nice surprise.  It's kind of the granddaddy of "stay the night in a creepy mansion" films, but also quite funny in a similar vein to Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Best. Intertitles. Ever.  Admittedly, I've only seen a couple dozen silent films, but none have ever had as dynamic of intertitles as this one.  Text that scrolls for suspense.  LARGE CAPS for shouting.  WiGgLy letters for fear.  Even a  Scooby-Doo-like "G-g-g-g-host!"  It all really adds to the film and makes me wonder why no one else was doing the same at the time.

Similarly dynamic was the shooting style.  It's rare to see a silent picture have this much fun with the camera.  There were low-angle shots, super-impositions of skulls, the creepy silhouette of the mansion, a warped shot of Aunt Susan's screaming face, lighting tricks to make Cousin Paul's glasses look creepy.  It all keeps the film very entertaining.  Well worth the watching.

Watched: stream on Hulu.

Inhumanoids 1.01-05: "The Evil That Lies Within, Parts 1-5" (1986) directed by Jim Graziano
Iron Maiden cover or kids' show?
It was the fall of 1986, I was just 9-years-old, and both this show and The Real Ghostbusters debuted as Saturday morning cartoons.  Wham!  Just like that, a horror fan was born.  These series blew my mind as a kid, offering a tantalizing glimpse of just what kind of weird and scary and grotesque and unique things horror could offer.  Horror, these two shows made clear to me, was not at all like the stuff other kids liked.  It was special.

Reaction to an Inhumanoid.
Inhumanoids was one of several Marvel/Sunbow/Hasbro cartoons produced in the mid-80s.  Their Transformers was for sci-fi geeks, G.I. Joe for action fans, Jem for girls and Inhumanoids was for people like me.  I can't say I'm terribly surprised it only lasted 13 episodes, but, for my money, it was the best of the bunch.  For one, it had the best animation of the lot and a unique look that featured lots of heavy shadowing.  It also was well-written for what was, let's admit it, a 22-minute-long toy commercial.  The episodes were truly episodic, building on what came before, and the plots involved such things as corrupt senators, nuclear winter and discussions on the morality of first strikes.  Heavy stuff for a 9-year-old to observe.  Still, this was all placed into the mold of an '80s cartoon, with its breathless pacing and "just because it looks cool" decision-making.

The show was also incredibly, incredibly messed-up for something ostensibly aimed at little kids.  The titular main villains look like they walked out of a D&D campaign or a Lovecraft story.
D'Compose (center) was especially gory.  Not only did he have an exposed rib cage, he could open it like a cabinet and trap hapless people in his chest next to his pulsating and oozing organs.  Added to that, anything he touched would turn into a zombie.  In these first five episodes, Sandra, the female main character, is touched and turns into this:
Sandra, not having a good day.
That's right: the equivalent of Scarlet or Arcee is turned into a hideous monster for a couple of episodes.  Hell, even the good guys were scary.  Here's the friendly Redlin, a sentient redwood tree:
Take one step closer with that chainsaw, bub.
Years later, when asked about this craziness, writer Flint Dille said in an interview: "Hasbro just did not care. I mean, you couldn’t kill people unwontedly, but inside that little concern, they didn’t care."  What's cooler: the show gets even more utterly screwed up in the final 8 episodes, which I plan to watch next.  Goddamn, Inhumanoids was cool.

23 September 2012

September 23rd

Boy Eats Girl (2005) directed by Stephen Bradley
Kind of like an Irish Dance of the Dead, except nowhere near as good.  Screwing around with a noose he has as a decoration in his room, Nathan accidentally hangs himself.  His mother happens to have discovered a magical tome in the crypt of her church and uses it to resurrect her son.  Things like that never turn out well in horror movies and Nathan returns as a zombie.  Except, only a little bit.  While he's dead, he's not aware that anything is wrong other than he's discovered he has super-strength, has no sense of pain and finds normal food disgusting.  Later, in a fit of rage at a school dance, he bites -- but does not eat -- a chunk of a rival's cheek off.  This sets off a zombie plague that consumes the high school students in town.

The big problem I have with the film is it wants to both have and eat its cake.  While cake-Nathan is a zombie, they never really make him a real zombie because they're more interested in keeping him presentable as the male romantic lead.  Though it's necessary to have Nathan bite someone to kick of the plague, they're sure to show him spitting the cheek bits out.  Even though he'd been complaining about being hungry the entire day, he's not allowed to eat zombie food because that would ruin his desirability.  While every other zombie in town runs around and eats people -- normal zombie behavior -- Nathan inexplicably remains Nathan and never loses control.  Worse, they come up with a ridiculous zombie cure at the end of the film -- his mother happens to observe that a snake bite will cure being dead -- and Nathan is allowed to return to normal and date his crush.  Weak.

Watched: DVD from Lionsgate.

Tales from the Darkside 1.08: "The Word Processor of the Gods" (1984) directed by Michael Gornick
I have great fondness for this story from childhood.  Due to its lack of swearing and gore, it was one of the Stephen King audiobooks my dad let me listen to as a wee lad.  It's a nice little piece of wish-fulfillment in which a homemade word processor (for you kids: a computer that could only run a primitive version of Word) takes the place of Aladdin's genie.  Elevating things a bit is King's typically strong characterization.  What would I type on this machine?  Well, first, "this word process will never break" might make sense, considering the ending.  After that: pizza and beer for everyone on the planet.

Tales from the Darkside 1.09: "A Case of the Stubborns" (1984) directed by Gerald Cotts
As soon as this one started, memories of this episode from 28 years ago came back to me.  It's one of those that just sticks in your head due to its premise.  As a family mourns their father/grandfather's death the prior night, he comes walking down the stairs and demands breakfast.  Turns out he's so darned stubborn, he refuses to believe he's died.  As the days go on, Grandpa begins to look and smell worse and worse, but nothing -- not doctor nor preacher -- will convince him of his lack of life.  A great episode that perfectly captures the flavor of a tall tale or fable.

22 September 2012

September 22nd

Hostel: Part III (2011) directed by Scott Spiegel
There's a glimmer of a great idea in this second sequel.  Rich folks pay to watch people get tortured and gamble on certain aspects of the proceedings.  The setup is a modern version of the Grand Guignol, with patrons observing the show from the comfort of theater seats and real torture replacing the special effects on the stage.  This is an excellent starting position to dish out some commentary on the horror genre.  Why do we horror fans like to watch this stuff?  Where's the line between theatrical and entertaining, and truly disturbing?  Is the coarsening of our culture desensitizing us to the suffering of others?  Kind of like what Cabin in the Woods did, except specifically for "torture porn."  But, yeah, none that is explored one iota here.

And, taken as merely a Hostel movie, it's a failure.  The new tortures they come up with are lame.  CGI cockroaches and crossbow bolts?  Come on.  The new betting aspect is never explored.  The movie is full of twists you can see coming a mile away (hey, you think the Eastern European couple at the beginning might end up as victims this time?).  The movie is so enamored of its twists, it spends half of its running time trying to convince us the escorts are with the bad guys, making a huge chunk of the movie a pseudo-documentary about some guy's bachelor party.  The overall result is a very weak horror film that seems to pick all of the safest choices.

In some slight defense of the film, I will say it was unique to see how nuts main character/good guy Scott goes once he's trying to escape.  He has no trouble at all cutting a piece of his friend's skin off, brutally stabbing that friend, or repeatedly cleaving a man's arm and then throwing it in a furnace.  This was a nice change from the "run away and tip over things behind you" or "setup some traps and run away" type of horror movie escape we typically see.

Watched: stream on Netflix.

21 September 2012

September 21st

Turn Off Your Bloody Phone (2012)
Devil's Express trailer (1976)
Forbidden World trailer (1982)
The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror V": "The Shinning" (1994)

Father's Day (2011) directed by Astron-6
For the first weekend fest of the Six Weeks, amigos Jack and Casey came over for some movies and beer and pizza and candy.  Naturally, we picked a movie about a psycho who likes to rape and kill fathers.

Based purely on the awesome teaser trailer released a couple of years ago, I blind-bought this latest Troma offering.  I wasn't disappointed.  Of the non-Lloyd-directed Troma movies, this is pretty easily the best (which, you know, ain't a huge accomplishment considering the competition, but still...).  Presented as a late-night '80s TV movie, Father's Day creates a cool vibe that mixes the sensibilities of grindhouse, '80s cheeze, Kids in the Hall-esque comedy, and little bit of Troma.

Ahab, obsessed with revenge for the rape and murder of his father, seeks out psychopath Chris Fuchman (pronounced "Fuckman") with the help of a priest and a gay prostitute named Twink.  With a plot summary like that, how could this be not be awesome? And, indeed, there were plenty of laughs, groans of disgust and "I can't believe they did that"s to go around.  Witness: eye gouging, weener injections, the power of maple (pine?) syrup, the best ultra-low-budget vision of Hell ever, fetus-stomping, uncomfortable bloody kisses, psychedelic berries, and a special guest star as God. We all had a ton of fun watching this one.

Watched: blu-ray from Troma

Tales from the Crypt 5.09: "Creep Course" (1993) directed by Jeffrey Boam
Having skipped these last Halloween for some reason -- it's gonna take until the end of the decade to finish this series, I think -- we picked up right where we left off two years ago.  Jeffrey Jones plays an antiquities professor who happens to have a for-real mummy in his basement.  The mummy needs a virgin sacrifice for some reason -- because he's a monster, I guess, and that's what they eat for dinner -- so the prof makes a deal with Anthony Michael Hall to seduce the class nerd into going to the prof's house.  This being a tale from a crypt, things don't work out quite so well for those involved.  This ep is nothing particularly special, but I now want to build a hidden mummy's crypt in my basement.
"Mummies are just zombies with bandages on."
L'il K speaking the truth.

The Worst Horror Movie Ever Made: The Re-Make trailer (2008)
Necronomicon trailer (1993)
Zombie in a Penguin Suit (2011)

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1987) directed by Stephen Chiodo
This seems like the sort of bucket of silliness I might like, with Pennywise-like aliens running amuck in a homage to '50s B-movies, but it all kind of falls flat.  It's not that the Chiodo Bros. don't give it a nice go.  They pack as many clown-related gags into the movie as they can: multiple clowns getting out of a tiny car, shadow puppets that eat people, balloon bloodhounds, cotton candy cocoons, killer puppet shows, acidic cream pies, etc.  But, maybe that was the problem; all of the jokes are pretty obvious and not particularly surprising.  We see a klown doing something typically clowny and we know it'll end up bad for the hapless humans watching him.  Repeat and repeat until the kids from town save the day.

I think this might be because of the Bros. are special effects folks.  I imagine they think of things in terms of gags -- cool set-pieces they can build -- rather than story.  The result is a movie that feels like a series of unrelated klown scenes broken up with some tedious "you've gotta believe me!" stuff from the human characters.  I will say that I really like the klown designs and the weird language they speak.  The production design in general is spot-on.  It's a shame it's all trapped in a movie that doesn't quite work.  I have a feeling there's a pretty good short that could be edited out of this film.

Watched: blu-ray from Fox

20 September 2012

September 20th

The Munsters 2.09: "John Doe Munster" (1965) directed by Earl Bellamy
What better way to kick off Halloween-watchin' season than by sitting down with the elder daughter to enjoy a 47-year-old sitcom filled with goofy monsters?  This one was their obligatory amnesia episode (by federal law, all sitcoms must have at least one amnesia episode... whether before or after the required "two characters trapped in a small space" episode, it doesn't matter).  When a 300 lbs. safe lands on Herman's head, he forgets who he is and begins acting like a child.  Best bit that had me cracking up: Grandpa transforming into Rudolph Valentino in order to pretend to romance his own daughter in order to make Herman jealous in order to hopefully snap him out of his forgetful state.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985) directed by Dan O'Bannon
I'd argue, the second most influential zombie movie ever made after Night of the Living Dead for mostly one reason: brains.  Zombies wanting to eat your brain is something that has just clicked with people in a way that zombies as general cannibals did not (to poor George Romero's eternal confusion).  Maybe this is because it gives zombies a little bit more personality?  Instead of mindless animals munching on whatever body part gets into the vicinity of their mouths, they now have a goal: get to the chewy center of your noggin.  Also, you can't deny that it's fun to hear zombies moan "braaaiiiiiiinssss."

Beyond that contribution to pop-culture, The Return of the Living Dead is simply a great horror movie.  The punk rock atmosphere pumps the movie full of energy (seeming to scream: "this ain't your grandpa's living dead!").  I love Clu Gulager's over-the-top acting as hapless Burt.  The special effects are fun and gooey and funny and gross.  The way the tarman moves is creepy.  The idea of having the trioxin-245 chemical as a sort of unstoppable monster itself is brilliant.  I think the most horrifying part of the movie is this chemical that cannot ever be contained and never stops reanimated any dead tissue it touches.  It's even nuke-proof.

Most zombie movies, once the SHtF, become a series of scenes of running and nailing boards to windows.  While there's a lot of that in this movie, it also takes a break in the middle of the chaos that is really pretty special.  When the gang yanks half of a zombie lady through their barricade, mortician Ernie has them hang onto her.  Here, the film takes a slight pause while Ernie interrogates the poor creature.  We learn about the zombies' reason for their dietary choice and we get a glimpse at how crappy being a zombie really is ("the pain...").  All the while, the severed spinal cord of the half-zombie wiggles around and leaks spinal fluid.  It's a pretty amazing way to get in some exposition, expanded on zombie mythology, and break up the running-and-nailing scenes.

I don't think there's any kind of deeper story here -- slight commentary on how we imagined Reagan's America would deal with a zombie outbreak? -- but as a purely entertaining zombie tale, this flick is hard to beat.

Watched: blu-ray from Second Sight (featuring the original soundtrack).

Six Weeks of Halloween 2012

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn  
He sleeps.
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28 29 30 31

Movies WatchedEpisodes Watched
1408: Extended Director's Cut (2007)
Black Swan (2010)
Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (2011)
Boy Eats Girl (2005)
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Casper (1995)
The Cat and the Canary (1927)
A Cat in the Brain (1990)
Chillerama (2011)
Cockneys vs Zombies (2012)
The Company of Wolves (1984)
The Crazies (2010)
Cropsey (2009)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Day of the Dead (1985)
Day of the Dead (2008)
Deadtime Stories: Volume 1 (2011)
Deadtime Stories: Volume 2 (2011)
Diary of the Dead (2007)
Donovan's Brain (1953)
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
Father's Day (2011)
Friday the 13th (1980)
Fright Night (1985)
Funny Games (1997)
Funny Games (2007)
Halloween (1978)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Halloweentown (1998)
Hatchet (2006)
Hatchet II (2010)
H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer (2004)
Hostel: Part III (2011)
Jaws (1975)
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1987)
Land of the Dead (2005)
Mother's Day (1980)
Near Dark (1987)
Night of the Demons (1988)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Night of the Living Dead (1990)
Night Train Murders (1975)
Pet Sematary (1989)
Possession (1981)
Rawhead Rex (1986)
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Shrooms (2007)
Spiral (2007)
Stigmata (1999)
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989)
Survival of the Dead (2009)
Taxidermia (2006)
Waxwork (1988)
Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992)
The Woman in Black (2012)
Inhumanoids 1.01: "The Evil That Lies Within, Part 1" (1986)
Inhumanoids 1.02: "The Evil That Lies Within, Part 2" (1986)
Inhumanoids 1.03: "The Evil That Lies Within, Part 3" (1986)
Inhumanoids 1.04: "The Evil That Lies Within, Part 4" (1986)
Inhumanoids 1.05: "The Evil That Lies Within, Part 5" (1986)
Inhumanoids 1.06: "Cypheroid" (1986)
Inhumanoids 1.07: "The Surma Plan" (1986)
Inhumanoids 1.08: "Cult of Darkness" (1986)
Inhumanoids 1.09: "Negative Polarity" (1986)
Inhumanoids 1.10: "The Evil Eye" (1986)
Inhumanoids 1.11: "Primal Passions" (1986)
Inhumanoids 1.12: "The Masterson Team" (1986)
Inhumanoids 1.13: "Auger… For President?" (1986)
Mockingbird Lane (2012)
The Munsters 2.09: "John Doe Munster" (1965)
The Munsters 2.10: "A Man for Marilyn" (1965)
The Munsters 2.11: "Herman's Driving Test" (1965)
The Munsters 2.12: "Will Success Spoil Herman Munster?" (1965)
The Simpsons 24.02: "Treehouse of Horror XXIII" (2012)
South Park 16.12: "A Nightmare on Facetime" (2012)
Tales from the Crypt 5.09: "Creep Course" (1993)
Tales from the Crypt 5.10: "Came the Dawn" (1993)
Tales from the Crypt 5.11: "Oil's Well That Ends Well" (1993)
Tales from the Crypt 5.12: "Half-Way Horrible" (1993)
Tales from the Crypt 5.13: "Till Death Do We Part" (1993)
Tales from the Darkside 1.08: "The Word Processor of the Gods" (1984)
Tales from the Darkside 1.09: "A Case of the Stubborns" (1984)
Tales from the Darkside 1.10: "Djinn, No Chaser" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 1.11: "All a Clone by the Telephone" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 1.12: "In the Cards" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 1.13: "Anniversary Dinner" (1985)
The Walking Dead 2.01: "What Lies Ahead" (2011)
The Walking Dead 2.02: "Bloodletting" (2011)
The Walking Dead 2.03: "Save the Last One" (2011)
The Walking Dead 2.04: "Cherokee Rose" (2011)
The Walking Dead 2.05: "Cupacabra" (2011)
The Walking Dead 2.06: "Secrets" (2011)
The Walking Dead 2.07: "Pretty Much Dead Already" (2011)
The Walking Dead 2.08: "Nebraska" (2012)
The Walking Dead 2.09: "Triggerfinger" (2012)
The Walking Dead 2.10: "18 Miles Out" (2012)
The Walking Dead 2.11: "Judge, Jury, Executioner" (2012)
The Walking Dead 2.12: "Better Angels" (2012)
The Walking Dead 2.13: "Beside the Dying Fire" (2012)

Halloween, the high holiday for horror geeks, has no equal.  When is the science fiction fest?  Which day do comedy kooks celebrate?  Would there ever be a spaghetti western wingding?  No, horror is special; it's primal and emotional, tapping into the deepest parts of our psychology and yanking at those uncomfortable pieces we normally pretend do not exist.  Something this unique deserves more than a mere day of honor at the end of October.  I say: let Halloweentime last for six weeks!

Here, I'll record my thoughts as I watch a horror movie or three every day for the next forty-two.  Feel free to leave a comment or a movie-watching suggestion.  I have no particular movie plans for this season, though I'm off to Flint to catch some flicks for a couple of days in October.  I'll be up there first on the 11th for the It Came From The Local showing of free movies and then on the 20th for the 2nd annual Flint Horror Con.  Both should be a ball o' fun!

The leaves are already beginning to change, there's a cool breeze in the air and the scent of pumpkin spices can often be caught...

Six Weeks of Halloween X has begun!