30 September 2013

September 30th

Tales from the Darkside 1.16: "The Tear Collector" (1985) directed by John Drimmer
Weird episode.  Suspiria's Jessica Harper stars as a woman who is so emotionally sensitive, she cries all of the time for no particular reason.  She runs into a man on the streets of New York City who offers to help.  Though this stranger invites her to his apartment, he is a gentlemen in all respects.  There, he merely collects her tears into a beautiful swan-shaped vial, explaining that such free-flowing tears contain special properties.  We never really learn what they do, nor do we learn more about the man's mission.  He has a large room full of tear vials both new and old and seems to want to truly help his clients.  More, we can't really say.  I like the mystery, even if this was not remotely a dark episode.

Dracula (2012) directed by Dario Argento
Seeing Jessica Harper reminded me that I had a new Argento movie I hadn't watched yet.  Unlike most folks, I'm an apologist for late era Argento.  I actually like Giallo, think Mother of Tears has some good moments (especially if you forget it's related to Suspiria and Inferno), and found The Card Player to be pretty intense.  I won't deny the guy's output quality has diminished over the years, but I still think he can create some interesting films.

I may have misjudged the man.  Argento's Dracula is a truly horrible film.  It's embarrassingly bad.  It's every bit as bad as The Phantom of the Opera, Argento's other abysmal film.  My mouth was literally, in real life, hanging open during some scenes, completely bewildered at how stupid the movie could get.  Here, here is a shot from one of the scenes I could not believe was put into an otherwise serious Dracula movie:
Yes, of course Dracula turns into a giant praying mantis and bites a guy's head off.
The story is a mess.  It lifts some characters and situations from the Stoker novel, but it is only interested in the superficial aspects of the original story.  Harker disappears halfway through the story, only to reappear for a few seconds at the end to be staked.  He could be cut from the story without affecting anything at all.  The same could be said for Renfield, who does nothing important and appears to only be in the film because Dwight Frye made such an impression with the character in the 1930s.  Dracula's motivations make no sense.  The climax is weak.  Nothing works in the story.

Unforgivably, during the last 20 minutes of the film, this film suddenly decides to rip-off Coppola's version as well.  Without any build up at all, Mina is revealed to be the reincarnation of Dracula's dead wife.  Upon learning this, she instantly falls in love with the vampire.  What?  She has traveled to town to meet her husband, who has gone missing.  The last person to see him is the vampire she's allowing to gnaw on her neck.  Why?  It's the laziest storytelling I've seen in quite a while.

Even things that used to be consistently great in Argento movies are failures in this film.  Claudio Simonetti did the score and, for reasons I cannot fathom, decided the theramin was the perfect instrument to complement a supposedly serious horror film set in the 19th century.  Every time he broke out those warbly theramin sounds, I expected to see a rubber-suited monster step out of a flying saucer.  It was completely the wrong way to go, unless Argento had originally planned to make a much, much sillier picture (and considering the giant mantis, maybe he did).

The lighting was similarly a mess.  Classic Argento was a master of lighting and composition in his films.  You can watch Suspiria with the sound off and still be amazed.  In Dracula, there are rare and fleeting moments of beauty, like this shot:
The only moment of beauty in the film.
But, mostly, everything is framed without any thought and flatly lit with, what I imagine to be, giant spotlights just off screen, like this:
This scene is supposed to take place at night before the invention of electric lights.
Or this:
A too-bright, colorless, dully composed meeting of the town's bad guys.

The acting is terrible throughout.  I was looking forward to seeing Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing.  I thought he was a perfect casting choice: he's actually Dutch!  Hauer sleepwalks through the roll, seemingly completely drained of all energy.  The man doesn't even chew the scenery to give us some camp to latch onto.  Not that I blame him, considering the film's script.

Argento's daughter Asia plays Lucy.  Forget about the unnecessary nude bathing scene.  We all know the two have a weird relationship.  I was shocked at how horrible Asia's acting was.  She has the ability to do good work, but here... yeesh.  Check this out.  Awful vampire, or the worst vampire ever committed to the screen?

This film might've been the straw that broke the camel's back for me.  I was happy to give Argento the benefit of the doubt for years.  Now, I'm seriously worried he has a brain tumor or is suffering from dementia.  Dario: please, find a good giallo script, vow to not use any CGI, and give the actors some energy drinks before each scene.  You can't let this be your final film.

Watched: blu-ray from Sony.

29 September 2013

September 29th

The Walking Dead 3.01: "Seed" (2012) directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
I'm still on the Netflix schedule for this show, so I remain a year behind the rest of the world.  Works for me.  Can't say I care about being spoiled.  There's nothing they're ever going to do that will be as remotely shocking as the things that have already gone down in the comic series.

It's a fine start to the season.  They finally find the prison and Rick pushes them to dig deeper into the complex before relaxing.  There's some stupid character moments -- why venture into the prison before completely exhausting the "rattle the fence, stab the head" trick? -- but I expect those in this show now.  Really, it seems like the main reason to continue watching is just for the spectacle of the apocalypse, which, for me, is endlessly fascinating.  Also, though I have a feeling the quality will drop way off during the rest of the season, the zombie effects in this episode were superb.  Particularly, the limbless/jawless companions to Michone looked awesome.

American Horror Story 1.06: "Piggy Piggy" (2011) directed by Michael Uppendahl
No new prior owner-ghosts visit the house this episode!  That alone is a step in the right direction after the drop in quality in the last few eps.  I though Taissa Farmiga was excellent in this episode, playing a teen-aged girl who's just found out that ghosts are real, her boyfriend is one of them, and he killed a whole lot of people before dying.  She mixes in looks of complete hauntedness, anger, and despair as a reaction to these shocking revelations in an incredibly authentic manner.

What I don't understand: why does Constance think Violet is special?  As far as I can tell, everyone in the house can see the ghosts.  Violent doesn't appear to be any more sensitive than the security guard who hauled ghost-Hayden away.  Are we retconning Violet's importance in the series now?

Tales from the Darkside 1.15: "Answer Me" (1985) directed by Richard Friedman
Finally, after 15 episodes, one that I would actually consider to be from "the darkside."  Jean Marsh plays the episode's sole character Joan, who has recently subletted an apartment from a friend.  She quickly discovers that the walls are very thin and the neighbor's phone will not stop ringing.  There are also occasional bangs on their shared wall, as if something is being slammed against it.  Eventually, after a lot of talking to herself (an inevitability in a show with only one character), she musters the courage to go next door and confront the neighbors.

I haven't felt quite this much dread during an older TV show in quite a while.  The neighbor's apartment is dimly light and empty.  There are dents in the wall from what look like hands.  It feels like anything could jump out a Joan.  The mood is enhanced when she speaks with a malevolent operator using the offending phone, then further enhanced when she decides to return a second time to the apartment when the ringing continues.  There, all of the tension is destroyed in one swift move: the telephone itself attacks in some very badly marionetted moves.  Very, very disappointing.

28 September 2013

September 28th

Hatchet III (2013) directed by BJ McDonnell
Just as you would expect and just what I want from a Hatchet movie.  Picking up exactly where part 2 left off, the film starts with a bang and has Victor Crowley still trying to kill Danielle Harris' Marybeth (even with a shotgun-destroyed head).

Over-the-top gore and playing with slasher tropes, that's the fun of these things.  I love how Parry Shen survives (maybe?) for once -- he's played a different character in all three movies -- by studiously not breaking any of the slasher rules.  Reaching for a weapon during a lull in Crowley's attack?  No way.  Constantly hiding like a wimp, not trying to run or fight?  Yes, absolutely.  I like that they've finally come up with a slasher-silly way of killing Crowley for good.  The best idea anyone has is to give him his father's ashes.  This will put his spirit to rest, or some such.  As a horror geek, I was tickled to see a Jason vs Jason fight, with classic Jason Kane Hodder offing remake Jason Derek Mears.  Nice also to see horror vets Zach Galligan, Caroline Williams, and Sean Whalen, too.  Stunt casting is fun in movies like this.  I appreciate the fact that they actually shot in the swamps of Louisiana this time.  The movie looks far better this time out compared to the crap sound stage swamps in the previous two entries.

I haven't laughed quite so much during a recent horror movie as I did during Sid Haig's surprise guest appearance.  He plays Crowley's crazy redneck cousin who own's Crowley's dad's ashes.  He's also incredibly racist, but in that goofy way old people who still use the word "colored" tend to be. When Deputy Winslow -- who's black -- stops by to grab the ashes, hilarity ensues.

Watched: blu-ray from Dark Sky.

Videodrome (1983) directed by David Cronenberg
One of the all-time unreliable narrator classics.  I was pretty sleepy when I popped this in and I can't think of better way to re-experience the film.  In that state, Max Renn's hallucinations become dreams.  The HD images on my screen truly become "the retina of the mind's eye," influencing my thoughts as I slip in and out of a dreamstate.  Fun.  So far, I've had no hallucinations afterwards, but we'll see how it goes.  My abdomen is itching a little...

A year ago, there were rumors of a Videodrome remake being planned, to be directed by Adam Berg.  His short Carousel is pretty cool.  There was the predictable gnashing of teeth over the news, but I think, for once, this remake make sense.  Videodrome should be something that is continually refreshed as technology changes.  Obviously, the Internet will replace TV in a new version.  A smart director could explore just how the New Flesh is different in the Internet age.  Brian O'Blivion's taped monologues would be replaced by YouTube videos, complete with the chaos and idiocy of the comments that go with them.  The Videodrome signal could leak out of the smartphones many carry with them everywhere they go.  Zynga apps on Facebook would cause tumors.  The possibilities are vast.  Not that I have much faith in Universal funding anything as remotely subversive as the original, but there's always a chance something good will sneak out of the studio system.

Watched: blu-ray from Criterion.

27 September 2013

September 27th

Week 2 begins!  That calls for starting things out right, with a nutritious bowl of sugar-infused grains sweetened with marshmellows.  Yum.
Monster Cereal Week 2: Frankenberry.
I have always found his fingernails to be utterly disturbing.
Also, his head looks like a butt.

Twas movie and game night again with pals Jack and Casey.  We played more of zombie board game Last Night on Earth, this time choosing a couple of different scenarios to try.  "Escape in the Truck" seemed to be the most popular one, which has the heroes searching for gasoline and keys in order to fuel up the truck and leave the zombie-infested town behind.  It's fun stuff.  I liked the co-op aspect and strategy while playing as a hero this time out.

Martin (1976) directed by George A. Romero
John Amplas is going to be a guest at next month's Flint Horror Con, so of course we've got to watch this film; Jack more so than me, as he'll be hosting the Q&A panel with Amplas at the con.  Not that re-watching Martin is any kind of hardship.  It remains my second favorite vampire movie (Near Dark is still #1 to me) and is easily Romero's best non-zombie film.

I don't know if I have much more to say on the film beyond what I wrote five years ago, but I did begin to wonder about Martin's family.  It seems as though, probably for centuries, Martin's family line has been plagued by some sort of condition similar to autism, but also with a streak of violence in it.  In the old country, long ago, whoever was born with this condition first was labeled a vampire by his superstitious family.  Thereafter, anyone in the family exhibiting similar symptoms would be told over and over again as they grew up that they were suffering from a vampiric curse on the family.  This family mythology is so strong, it even resists the modern, scientific age.  While Martin continual states that there is no such thing as magic -- showing Cuda that the traditional defenses against vampires mean nothing to him -- he still irrationally believes himself to be a vampire who needs blood to survive.

Which, I think, is a part of what Romero is trying to say.  Tradition is a strong thing, and may control how you see yourself and the world even if you believe yourself to be an otherwise rational being. 

Watched: DVD from Anchor Bay (which is in Romero's preferred 4:3 aspect ratio).

26 September 2013

September 26th

American Horror Story 1.03: "Murder House" (2011) directed by Bradley Buecker
Now ghosts are just waltzing into the house without a thought.  Nora, one of the original owners, stops by and is mistaken for an interested home buyer.  Other than weird reactions to modern appliances -- has she never haunted anyone else in the house before? -- one wouldn't be able to tell she's no longer alive.  Hayden also shows up and begins to go all psycho-girlfriend on poor Ben, telling him she didn't go through with the abortion and she is going to tell Vivien everything.  I was quite surprised when Burned Guy killed her with a shovel.  Nice performance from Dylan McDermott freaking out order the murder.  Dig the reveal of the maid's skeleton and her sadness when cement is poured over the grave.  It seems getting your remains off the house's property is the only way to be free of it.

American Horror Story 1.04: "Halloween, Part 1" (2011) directed by David Semel
And now the ghosts of the just-prior owners of the house stop by to decorate the place for Halloween.  If the entire Earth had the same power as this one little house, we'd be wadding knee-deep in spirits all day.  Walking to the store would be like trudging through deep snow, except more ectoplasmy.  I was again quite surprised when poor Addie is creamed by a car.  Her mother's insistence that she die on the house's lawn means she'll be eternally bothering the home owners, but it's also interesting to learn that the ghost process of the house has some sort of boundary and rules.  Hopefully, they'll explain in the future why Constance knows so much about the rules of the place without, apparently, being a ghost herself.

American Horror Story 1.05: "Halloween, Part 2" (2011) directed by David Semel
The show's getting to that point where the characters' lack of understanding of their situation is getting annoying.  Hayden coughing up body bits and leaving a huge pool of blood in the tub is shrugged off by Ben and Vivien.  A ghost with way-too-real gore on his face coughs up blood and is ignored by Violet, someone who has actually seen ghosts in the basement.  All of the ghosts all but announce that they're dead by the way they talk about themselves, but this goes unnoticed.  If the intention is to get the audience frustrated with the density of the characters, they are well on their way.

25 September 2013

September 25th

American Mary (2012) directed by Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska
I wish there were more female horror directors.  I forget how refreshing it is to watch a horror film from a non-male perspective.  Mary is a powerful woman, but not because she is forced into defending herself from a stalking slasher killer.  While it is true she is stalked, drugged and raped by an evil man, she captures and tortures the perpetrator almost immediately.  This is not what the film is interested in.  Far more important is Mary's discovery of her inner strength and artistry, and how applying those things changes the way people see and react to her, and how they change how she reacts to other people.

As in the narrative, Mary's power is emphasized nicely using visuals.  My favorite comes early in the movie, when Mary is broke and desperate for money.  She responds to a pseudo-Craig's List ad promising $1000 for private dances and sensual massages at a gentlemen's club.  Normally in a film, we'd expect her interview with the sleazy club owner to be entirely controlled by the sleazy club owner.  The desperate applicant would provide only token resistance before taking off her clothes and begging for a job.  In Mary, the sleazy club owner's view of Mary is presented like this:
This shot has Mary completely towering over the owner, her eyes narrowed in a dismissive, semi-hateful gaze.  Though the owner is coaxing her through an audition, Mary is clearly in control.

If I have any complaints, they are minor and reflect more on my own psychology than anything else.  For a movie about the body mod community, it is surprisingly tame.  The gore effects are fairly minimal and all of the worst things that happen are implied instead of shown.  I think the movie could have pushed things a lot further, which would've really emphasized the horror of the work Mary does and why people are afraid of her.  I dunno.  I'm probably just desensitized by both horror movies and the Internet.

I enjoyed the movie a lot.  It has a lot going on in it to chew on, Katharine Isabelle's performance is excellent, and it is beautiful to behold.  I can't wait to see what the Soska twins do next.

Watched: blu-ray from XLrater.

No One Lives (2012) directed by Ryuhei Kitamura
American Mary was probably about the worst opening act this movie could have.  It put me in exactly the wrong mood for this sort of film.   Whereas Mary had a point of view and something to say, No One Lives's only goal is to create a cool villain.

I'll give it to them: they try really, really hard to make the villain cool.  The nameless man -- called Driver in the credits -- played by Luke Evans is pretty much Arnold Schwarzenegger from Commando as a slasher killer.  Not only will the guy not stop stalking his prey -- killing them using Jason-like tools such as scythes and tree grinders -- he also has an extensive collection of high-tech weaponry that he uses to set up elaborate traps.  He is Super Slasher, an unkillable ninja-Leatherface.  It gets ridiculous.

Ridiculousness is fine -- I like Troma -- but that's not the tone the film is going for.  There's an attempt to grab some Devil's Rejects-style ambiguity, with Driver mostly stalking a family of thieves and murderers.  However, at the same time, he's Stockholm-syndroming a young girl. It's not lighthearted stuff, which makes the super-killer act Driver is pulling feel even more out of place.

Also: longest. horror movie shower scene. ever.

Watched: DVD from Anchor Bay.

24 September 2013

September 24th

Prince of Darkness (1987) directed by John Carpenter
First off, the transfer on the blu-ray just released by Scream Factory is fantastic.  Sharp and artifact-free, watching this disc was like watching the movie with a new set of eyes.  Beats the holy hell out of the crappy release from Good Times I used to own.

People usually point to In the Mouth of Madness as Carpenter's most lovecraftian film, but there's a very strong streak of H.P. here as well.  In Prince of Darkness, religion is a comforting lie to cover the horrible truth of the Universe: there is no loving deity out there, only an evil anti-god.  The only reason we haven't been destroyed or enslaved by this entity of pure evil is because it is trapped, sleeping, in another dimension.  Replace "dimension" with "under the sea" and this pretty much describes Cthulhu.

Why did green goo Satan wait 2000 years before attempting to escape his prison and rescue his dad?  He was Schrödinger's cat.  I don't think the discussion Walter and Catherine have about this cat at the start of the film is accidental.  For centuries, Satan, trapped in his vial, existed in a quantum superposition.  It was both dead and alive (well, a self-organizing pre-biotic fluid) at the same time.  Once the scientists arrived and began to observe the entity -- taking samples and shooting x-rays through it -- did its superposition collapse into "living entity" and it was able to extend its power outwards.

I love that the film doesn't bother to explain much.  It's a barrage of high concepts, alternate cosmologies, and weirdness.  I sure this is also why the film doesn't click with a lot of people.  As Catherine complains in the beginning of the movie, "I want the clockwork back. I want to put it all in a little box."  Most people are like that, I think.  Not having things make 100% complete sense or not having everything completely explained drives a lot of people nuts.  For me, movies that dare to do this -- challenge the audience to figure things out on their own -- are special.  Prince of Darkness is special.

Watched: blu-ray from Scream Factory.

American Horror Story 1.02: "Home Invasion" directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Less crazy than the prior episode, which is not too surprising.  This one deals with teenagers breaking into the Harmon house in order to reenact a double murder that happened there in 1968.  It's more of an episode to advance some plot ideas: Ben's former lover is getting an abortion; the maid, wacky neighbor lady and disturbed psych patient are all in on the house's shenanigans; the ghosts in the house can kill people.  Especially interesting is when the crazy neighbor lady casually refers to Ben as an evil man, implying that she's helping the house to punish him.  That seems a little extreme for a dude who simply cheated on his wife, so I wonder if he's got more skeletons in his closet?

At any rate, I'm still really digging the show.  It's energetic visual style and great use of music (wee, the score from Psycho!) are lots of fun.

23 September 2013

September 23rd

Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988) directed by Donald G. Jackson & R.J. Kizer
Okay, not really a horror movie, but I figured a post-apocalypse populated with mutant frog people might be close enough.  Plus, I've been wanting to check this one out after meeting (the incredibly cool in person) Roddy Piper at Days of the Dead a couple of months ago.

What can you say?  It's 100% pure American cheez.  Piper is Sam Hell, a fertile man -- rare after the nuclear war -- drafted by the army to venture into mutant frog people land to rescue and impregnate fertile human females.  He wears metal army-issued chastity panties that can either zap or blow up his junk, which are controlled by the earrings of his female army commander.  Along the way, he's propositioned by a frog lady, has his panties cut off by a chainsaw, and ends up in a truck full of seven horny women at the end.  Pretty much a modern SyFy Channel movie meets an old school Skinamax flick.  You've gotta be in a pretty damned silly mood to enjoy this one.

Watched: bootleg.

American Horror Story 1.01: "Pilot" (2011) directed by Ryan Murphy
Luckily, I didn't read anything about this show before jumping in.  Had I known it was created by the same guys who made the ear-bleedingly bad Glee, I probably would've skipped it.  That would've been a shame, as I found this pilot episode thoroughly entertaining.

It appears to be The Shining: The Series, with the Overlook swapped out for an old mansion in L.A.  Frankly, it might be a little too close to The Shining, with ghost twins, ugly ghost ladies who appear attractive and try to seduce the male lead, a male lead slowly been made crazy by the evil of the building, a previous resident who went mad and killed his family in the house, and the main couple having domestic troubles which lead them to seek solace in a new location.

And, I fear, there might be a little too much going on in this episode.  Teenage cutting, gimp suit sex, flashes of horrible ghosts, a massively burned man, a creepy Down syndrome girl telling people they're going to die, disturbing paintings on the walls, a wacky neighbor, more than one instance of masturbation... everything except the horror kitchen sink seems to be shoved into this episode.  I don't know how they're going to keep up this kind of pace for the next 11 episodes.

That said, it all comes together into something I couldn't take my eyes off of.  We see just enough of a glimpse of the ghosts to make they scary.  There are just the right amount of jump cuts and canted angles to make certain scenes unnerving.  The living characters are complicated and flawed and interesting.  I dug this episode quite a bit.

22 September 2013

September 22nd

Tales from the Crypt 6.01: "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime" (1994) directed by Russell Mulcahy
A fun episode from the director of Highlander.  Catherine O'Hara plays an ambulance-chaser who's been arrested for a minor issue with her license plate while driving through a small town.  It's pretty obvious from the outset that the wacky courthouse she finds herself in is going to damn her for her sins, but the journey is plenty amusing.  I especially like the way each courtroom is more expressionistic than the last, with the final room containing an impossibly high judge's bench set at the narrow end of a long room.

Tales from the Darkside 1.14: "Snip, Snip" (1985) directed by Terence Cahalan
Carol Kane and Bud Cort ham it up as Satan-worshipers who fight over a winning lottery ticket.  And if that don't sound at least a little interesting, I don't know what else to say.

Before the main movie, Jack, Casey and I played the zombie board game Last Night on Earth.  They pitted their four hero characters -- a drifter, the sheriff, a high school jock, and a farmer's daughter -- against my zombie horde.  To win, they needed to kill 15 of me before the sun set and I needed only to kill two of them (or wait for the sun to go down).  While the zombies don't have a lot of choice in what they do each turn -- basically, walk slowly towards the heroes -- the heroes get to move into buildings to search for weapons to use against the zombies.  Luckily for the zombies, though, you need a bit of luck with the dice in order to kill a zombie for good.  Anything less and they are merely "fended off," free to shamble after more brains another turn.  It was fun.  I ended up eating both the jock and farmer's daughter with my zombie army, but not before losing eight of my rotters to revolver fire.  We'll have to try some of the other scenarios that came with the game next time.

Black Sunday (1960) directed by Mario Bava
I can see why this made an impact back in 1960.  It's gothic horror very much in the tradition of the Universal monster classics, but with the horror amped up a bit.  So, while there is an old castle, a curse of some kind, and townsfolk with torches like any Dracula or Frankenstein from the 1930s, Bava also mixes in spiked face masks, hot brands searing flesh, a gross skeleton body on a witch, and stakes through eye sockets.  For the time, this was pretty strong stuff.

Now, it's a little harder to appreciate.  It is beautifully shot.  I'm having trouble thinking of a better visual example of gothic horror than this (unless Rebecca counts).  However, the plot is nothing particularly original and none of the characters are particularly memorable outside of Asa.  But, I suppose that describes a great many Italian horror movies, doesn't it?

Watched: stream on Netflix.

21 September 2013

September 21st

World War Z (2013) directed by Marc Forster
I wonder if this film marks the end -- or the beginning of the end -- of the current zombie cycle?  I figure this cycle began 11 years ago with 28 Days Later, and was reinforced by Shaun of the Dead and the Dawn of the Dead remake in 2004.  Since then, zombies have been the belle of the monster ball in pop culture, exploding into toys and video games and TV shows and zombie walks and commercials.  Here we have a big-budget, Hollywood-style, PG-13-rated, Brad Pitt-starring zombie move.  That sounds like the death knell of an idea's popularity to me; once something is completely mainstreamed, it tends to lose its rebellious luster and we look for other things to latch onto.

Given that, I wasn't going into the movie expecting much.  And, it's pretty much exactly the film I expected: super-dad Brad Pitt single-handedly saves the world after wading through masses of zombies whose feeding habits are always tastefully just out of frame.  It's not as cheezy of an end-of-the-world movie as 2012 or Independence Day, but it's in the same family.

Not that the movie is without merit.  I found the beginning of the film to be intense.  It was probably a parental reaction, but Pitt trying to get his family through the chaos of the world ending got my blood pumping and my brain musing as to what I would do it that situation.  Had the film stayed with this personal, on-the-ground approach -- just a man fighting the hordes of the living and dead to protect his family -- this could've been a favorite.  World War Z was also the first zombie movie to truly capture how a horde of zombies can be a force of nature.  The waves of dead people seem more like ants on a warpath, crawling over each other, scrambling off buildings, as unstoppable as the ocean.  These CGI zombies never look completely convincing, but at least they're doing things I've never seen before in a zombie movie.

What was with the political commentary in the Israel segment?  The Israelis build a wall to keep out the zombies, but allow the Palestinians to take refuge inside.  Once inside, the noise the Palestinians make singing (a religious song? I have no idea) attracts the zombies and leads to the breaching of the walls.  Right.  So, letting "those people" inside to express their culture will bring about the downfall of society, is that it?  I'm not sure what this stuff is doing in this particular film.

Forget slow versus fast zombies.  I think the new zombie debate should be over zombie vocalizations.  What the hell is it lately with zombies making Jurassic Park raptor sounds?  It sounds ridiculous.  If you were dead, would you be constantly scream-hissing?  I don't think so.  "Grooooaaan."  That's what zombies say.

Watched: blu-ray from Paramount.

20 September 2013

September 20th

Taking the day off from work seemed like a sensible way to start off my Six Weeks.  There's nothing quite like have the house to yourself, kicking your feet up, eating a bowl of Count Chocula (a part of my nutritious breakfast (General Mills, please send me a check)) and popping in a horror movie.
Monster Cereal Week 1: Count Chocula.
As a middle-aged parent, I now think:

"Why are there pieces of candy in cereal?" 

The Killer Inside Me (2010) directed by Michael Winterbottom
A guy I work with recommended this one to me, promising "one of the most shocking scenes" he'd ever seen.  Given the name cast -- Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, and Jessica Alba -- I was pretty skeptical of that bold claim, yet he sold it well enough that I chose it to kick off the Six Weeks.  So, yeah... now I'm going to have to go to work on Monday and somehow not come off as a complete psychopath when I ask which scene bothered him so much.  Such is the life of a desensitized horror geek.

While the film is nicely shot and Affleck plays the soft-spoken, mentally deranged Lou very well, I don't think the movie knows what the hell it's trying to say.  It does touch on a handful of interesting subjects.  There's a little about how the small town's good ol' boys network, lead by a corrupt oil baron, ignores the increasingly suspicious deputy sheriff until after he's killed 4 or 5 people.  There's a bit on the cycle of abuse and how abused woman often stick with their abusers.  Some scenes are implied to only take place in Lou's broken mind, toying with the reality of what we're seeing and the reliability of the main character's POV.  None of these ideas are explored in any meaningful way and the film seems only truly interested in watching Lou explode out of his quiet shell into violence.  The result is a film that lacks focus and feels like a mish-mash of better serial killer movies.

Watched: stream on Netflix.

Midnight Movie (2008) directed by Jack Messitt
Kind of a slasher version of Last Action Hero with a dash of Carpenter's "Cigarette Burns" thrown in.  As a slasher, it's -- mostly -- pretty standard stuff.  A group of character tropes end up watching a horror movie made by a man who went insane.  Turns out the slasher killer in the film has the ability to come out into the real world to grab himself extra victims.  He chases them around with his personalized weapon -- a giant corkscrew that's actually kind of cool -- wears a scary mask and does other slashery things.  I like slashers and, as a movie nerd, I tend to like movies set in movie theaters, so this is all OK with me.  It felt like a good halloweentime pallet cleanser after the previous movie.

However, things take an unexpectedly dark turn during the last 15 minutes of the show.  The final girl Bridget finds herself inside of the film, trapped in the killer's dungeon.  Here, the previously very light slasher movie veers off-road into torture porn territory.  We discover that all of the killer's victims -- both real and fictional -- are chained up, alive and still suffering from their grievous corkscrew gouges.  Taking a page from Hostel, the killer uses a tool to remove a few toes from the unfortunate protagonist before she's able to escape.

The change in tone is jarring.  And, I almost hate to say it, I think it works.  What I had previously considered a forgettable slasher film becomes a movie about a girl who will do anything to protect her little brother from further abuse in his life.  The slasher villain suddenly becomes a symbol of their abusive father that needs to be defeated.  That's actually a kind of an interesting turn-around for a movie to make at the last minute.

The Real Ghostbusters 1.08: "When Halloween Was Forever" (1986) directed by Richard Raynis
Chef Gregory came by for a visit and we picked this piece of nostalgia to watch after the pizza arrived.  He hadn't seen the show since it was really on TV, but remembered the Samhain episode as a cool one.  Hah... his reaction, after we'd watched it: "some things some are so incredibly awesome in your memory, it's better not to watch it again."  Yeah, probably very true.  While I still get a kick out of this cartoon, I'm sure a lot of that is the nostalgia blinders I'm wearing for it.  Compared to many modern cartoons, cartoons from the '80s just don't hold up.  Kids have no idea how poorly written and animated these things uses to be.  Ghostbusters and Transformers and He-Man just cannot hold a candle to a modern cartoon like Ruby Gloom, which both my daughters and I love.

Six Weeks of Halloween 2013

Freddy's Littlest Revenge.
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Movies WatchedEpisodes Watched
The ABCs of Death (2012)
American Mary (2012)
The American Scream (2012)
Black Sunday (1960)
Cannibal Ferox (1981)
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Carrie (1976)
Chained (2012)
Communion (1989)
Cut and Run (1985)
Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009)
Dracula (2012)
Eaten Alive! (1980)
Evil Dead (2013)
Halloween (1978)

Hatchet III (2013)
Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)
The Hitcher (1986)
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
The Killer Inside Me (2010)
Last Cannibal World (1977)
Man from Deep River (1972)
Maniac (1980)
Maniac (2012)
Martin (1976)
Midnight Movie (2008)
No One Lives (2012)
Prince of Darkness (1987)
Return of the Living Dead III (1993)
Trick 'r Treat (2007)
Twixt (2011)
Videodrome (1983)
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Wicker Man (2006)
The Wicker Tree (2011)

World War Z (2013)
The Worst Witch (1986)
Zombie: Dawn of the Dead (1978)
American Horror Story 1.01: "Pilot" (2011)
American Horror Story 1.02: "Home Invasion" (2011)
American Horror Story 1.03: "Murder House" (2011)
American Horror Story 1.04: "Halloween, Part 1" (2011)
American Horror Story 1.05: "Halloween, Part 2" (2011)
American Horror Story 1.06: "Piggy Piggy" (2011)

American Horror Story 1.07: "Open House" (2011)
American Horror Story 1.08: "Rubber Man" (2011)

American Horror Story 1.09: "Spooky Little Girl" (2011)
American Horror Story 1.10: "Smoldering Children" (2011)
American Horror Story 1.11: "Birth" (2011)
American Horror Story 1.12: "Afterbirth" (2011)
American Horror Story 2.01: "Asylum: Welcome to Briarcliff" (2012)
American Horror Story 2.02: "Asylum: Tricks and Treats" (2012)
American Horror Story 2.03: "Asylum: Nor'easter
" (2012)
American Horror Story 2.04: "Asylum: I Am Anne Frank, Part 1" (2012)
American Horror Story 2.05: "Asylum: I Am Anne Frank, Part 2" (2012)
American Horror Story 2.06: "Asylum: The Origins of Monstrosity" (2012)
American Horror Story 2.07: "Asylum: Dark Cousin" (2012)

American Horror Story 2.08: "Unholy Night" (2012)
American Horror Story 2.09: "The Coat Hanger" (2012)
American Horror Story 2.10: "The Name Game" (2013)
American Horror Story 2.11: "Spilt Milk" (2013)

American Horror Story 2.12: "Continuum" (2013)
American Horror Story 2.13: "Madness Ends" (2013)

The Real Ghostbusters 1.08: "When Halloween Was Forever" (1986)
The Real Ghostbusters 2.01: "Knock, Knock" (1987)

The Simpsons 25.02: "Treehouse of Horror XXIV" (2013)
Tales from the Crypt 6.01: "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime" (1994)

Tales from the Crypt 6.02: "Only Skin Deep" (1994)
Tales from the Crypt 6.03: "Whirlpool" (1994)
Tales from the Darkside 1.14: "Snip, Snip" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 1.15: "Answer Me" (1985)

Tales from the Darkside 1.16: "The Tear Collector" (1985)
Tales from the Darkside 1.17: "The Madness Room" (1985)
The Walking Dead 3.01: "Seed" (2012)
The Walking Dead 3.02: "Sick" (2012)
The Walking Dead 3.03: "Walk with Me" (2012)
The Walking Dead 3.04: "Killer Within" (2012)

The Walking Dead 3.05: "Say the Word" (2012)
The Walking Dead 3.06: "Hounded" (2012)
The Walking Dead 3.07: "When the Dead Come Knocking" (2012)
The Walking Dead 3.08: "Made to Suffer" (2012)
The Walking Dead 3.09: "The Suicide King" (2013)
The Walking Dead 3.10: "Home" (2013)
The Walking Dead 3.11: "I Ain't a Judas" (2013)
The Walking Dead 3.12: "Clear" (2013)
The Walking Dead 3.13: "Arrow on the Doorpost" (2013)
The Walking Dead 3.14: "Prey" (2013)
The Walking Dead 3.15: "This Sorrowful Life" (2013)

The Walking Dead 3.16: "Welcome to the Tombs" (2013)

Six Weeks to-do list:
  • Watch a whole bunch of horror movies and write about 'em here!
  • Watch a whole bunch more!
  • Eat the resurrected line of Monster cereals!
  • Drink the resurrected line of Jones Soda Halloween flavors!
  • Jump in a pile of leaves!
  • Play some Arkham Horror or Last Night on Earth or other creepy board games!
  • Stop by a local farm for carving pumpkins, pie, mulling spices, and cider!
  • Enjoy the It Came From The Local free movie show from the good people at the Flint Horror Con!
  • Have a blast at the 3rd annual Flint Horror Con in the incredibly spooky Flint Masonic Temple!
  • Stage a lightsaber duel with cheap glow sticks!
  • Go on a mad candy-grabbing trick 'r treat adventure with the daughters!

is the best time of the entire year.  Onward, to 42 days full of dark fun!

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