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Saturday, October 31, 2009
So this year's Six Weeks of Halloween
horror movie marathon concludes with the best Halloween movie of all time
. Also, in the extended entry, some of my favorite title screens from recently watched films...
Again, more title screens in the extended entry... Have a great Halloween!
Also, while I realize this isn't especially in the spirit of the marathon, Go Phillies!
Posted by Mark on October 31, 2009 at 04:23 PM .:
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
6WH: Week 6.5 - Speed Round!
Only a few days away from Halloween, so I figured it's time to cover some movies that I've seen recently, but that haven't been discussed in the Six Weeks of Halloween marathon so far. Some of them just didn't fit with a given week's theme, and for others I only made it two movies into the theme. So here goes:
- Horror of Dracula: First in a Hammer Horror double feature: Christopher Lee is a good Dracula, Peter Cushing is always good, and the plot is a slight improvement over the original, but I'm kinda let down by all these old Vampire movies. I liked the original better, but even that wasn't so great. **1/2
- The Curse of Frankenstein: Second in a Hammer Horror double feature: Peter Cushing and Robert Urquhart are excellent, but I didn't care for Christopher Lee as the Monster (on the other hand, the reveal of the Monster is great filmmaking). The story is similar, but Frankenstein is more diabolical, with the conscience being stressed by the character of Paul. Ultimately, the original is a lot better. **
- Cannibal Holocaust: Wow, this is a disgusting and irresponsible film. I guess it's effective, but the real animal mutilation is inexcusable. I don't especially want to watch this ever again...
- The House on Sorority Row: A pretty straightforward 80s slasher, I had actually gotten this confused with Slumber Party Massacre (and am a little disappointed that those movies aren't on Netflix). It has a few good Boo! moments, some interesting visuals, and some unexpected plot development too. Interestingly, I watched this around the same time as Slaughter High, and both movies feature quasi-jester costume hat thingys. **1/2
- The Burning: Yet another in the summer camp slasher genre, this one is perhaps most notable for featuring Jason Alexander (with hair!) and being one of the first films produced by the Weinsteins. Maybe a bit above average, but not really rivaling the greats. **1/2
- Prom Night: Another slasher of the high school variety. Aside from the fact that it stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen, this is fairly unremarkable. I guess the relatively few kills distinguishes this one, as does the "twist" ending (which is pretty easy to see coming). Perhaps worth watching for the absolutely horrific dance sequence in the middle of the film. Yikes. **
- The Prowler: Yeah, another slasher... but this one is slightly above average. I rather like the backstory and the killer's outfit. **1/2
- The Last House on the Left: Wes Craven's first film and from a technical perspective, one of his weaker films. However, he taps into something raw and dark with the general story, which is why it gets so much praise, even today. ***
- Surveillance: Jennifer Lynch (daughter of David) directed this rather twisted tale. It starts with promise as something of a modern, dark Rashomon type story, but it eventually takes things in a different direction. It's perhaps a little too reliant on a twist in the story, but I thought it was rather well done. Some interesting casting choices as well. ***
- Final Destination 3: Surprisingly good for a third entry in a pretty straightforward series. By this film, the formula was well in place, but they were still having fun executing it. **1/2
- Ginger Snaps: Lycanthropy as a metaphor for puberty, and reasonably well done. ***
- Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust: I always thought vampires would make the best vampire hunters, and a number of stories play on that, but they always seem to be half-vampire, half-human. Why is that? Anyway, I rather enjoyed this film much more than the various Dracula films I saw. Also, it's nice to sneak some anime into the marathon. ***
- Don't Look Now: I've heard a lot of good things about this, so I was a little disappointed when I finally sat down to watch it. The pacing is rather awkward and I think I might just hate Nicolas Roeg's visual style and editing (I didn't like The Man Who Fell To Earth either). The ending of this film almost makes up for it, and there are some good moments throughout. **1/2
- Blue Sunshine: Don't do acid, kids. Because 10 years later your hair might fall out and you'll go crazy and start murdering people. Or something. There are some insanely stupid things in the script (i.e. when he learns how to shoot the gun, then repeats his lesson later in the movie), but I had a lot of fun with this one, and it's reasonably well crafted too. ***
- Masters of Horror: Family: Norm! This was one of John Landis' episodes, and whatever you think of the man, he's a decent filmmaker. This is an above average MoH episode, but clearly not the best. ***
- Masters of Horror: Valerie on the Stairs: Another above average MoH episode, this time directed by Mick Garris and based on a Clive Barker story. It reminded me a lot of other episodes, but it was also pretty good. ***
- Nightbreed: It has its moments, but it is far inferior to the book and I'd rather Barker focused his attention on writing rather than directing. Not that this movie held anything back, but seriously man, when the hell are you going to write the Book of the Art 3 or even The Scarlet Gospels. He's been talking about both novels for like 15 years (no exaggeration). Dammit. Anyway, the movie features David Cronenberg as an actor and a few interesting monsterous characters too. **
- Deep Red: This one is on its way here from Netflix, I plan to view it and write something up for the Italian Horror blog-a-thon...
- The Walking Dead: Based mostly on Karina Longworth's recommendation on the now defect Filmcouch podcast a while ago, this one is also on its way. It stars Boris Karloff and is directed by Michael Curtiz - how could it be bad?
- Blood Feast: Also on its way. I figure I need to see some Herschell Gordon Lewis at some point, and this seems like a good place to start.
That's all for now. I included some films I still need to watch above, but I'll also probably watch some of the old standbys, notably Halloween
Posted by Mark on October 28, 2009 at 07:14 PM .:
Sunday, October 25, 2009
6WH: Week 6
It's hard to believe we're in the last week before Halloween, but here we are, coming down the homestretch. This is another week without a real theme, but they're all films I've wanted to see since last year's 6WH marathon.
- Season's Greetings (short film)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XX
- Somegreybloke: Trick or Treat
- Trick 'r Treat: I've been hearing about this film for about 2 years now. It gets rave reviews everywhere it goes. Festival screenings were packed and viewers were, by all appearances, very enthusiastic about the film. Devin Faraci even ranked it as his #6 movie of 2008 and called it the best Halloween movie of all time (even though it hadn't officially come out yet). Whether it was because of internal politics at Warner Brothers or because they were scared of the Saw franchise, the film never got it's rightful theatrical release... but it has finally appeared on DVD/BR and so I now get to watch it, and it's quite good. I'm not entirely sure it lived up to the hype, but it's still a very good film. The movie consists of several intertwined but mostly unrelated stories, sorta like a horror version of Pulp Fiction (a lot of horror anthologies have more delineation between the various short stories, whereas this movie has a lot of overlap). The thing I like best about the film is that it truly engages the holiday of Halloween like no other movie has. Sure, I love John Carpenter's original Halloween, but that story wasn't really dependent on the holiday... The great thing about Trick 'r Treat is that it incorporates all sorts of Halloween lore and rituals as plot elements. Most of the dangers are things we've heard of: watch out for poisoned candy (or candy with razor blades), never blow out a Jack O'Lantern, and so on. Writer/director Michael Dougherty even attempts to add to the mythology by creating a kind of mischievous mascot in Sam (short for Samhain), the little guy with the orange outfit and sack mask. One of the segments features a modern urban legend, several seem to indicate that things are more dangerous than they seem, and there are some connections between the segments. To be sure, I'd like to see more of Halloween's traditions examined than what appears here, but it's still quite good. I suspect it will become a big cult hit in the years to come, as it is a film that truly celebrates the holiday, but it's hard to tell if it will ever really attain that status as the go-to Halloween movie. Very solid stuff, one of the better horror films of the past few years, and something I definitely want to revisit in the future. ***
- The Others (trailer)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VII: The Thing and I (sorry no vid online)
- Somegreybloke: Halloween 08
- The Other: Last year I watched The Others and Steven noted in a later comment that The Other is also a very creepy film. After a fitful start and a twist I saw coming a mile away, he was indeed correct to note the creepiness factor in this film. It starts slow, following some kids who are playing on a farm (or at least, a very rural area). There's definitely something odd about the main characters, and we later find that their grandmother has taught them how to play a "game" where they essentially practice telepathy. We first see them do it with animals, then later with humans. Of course, mysterious accidents start happening and dead bodies begin appearing, and it's all centered around this little boy Niles and his twin brother Holland. The beginning of the film is unevenly paced, but reasonably effective at setting the stage and hinting at things bubbling beneath the surface of this otherwise ordinary farm. About 2/3 of the way through the movie, there is a twist. Now, it's not a poorly executed twist, to be sure, but it is something that's been done a million times since this film was made in 1972, so I had it pegged from the first scene in the film. But as luck would have it, the film is not completely reliant on the twist to establish the chills. Indeed, from that point on, things get much creepier and much more intense. It all leads up to a rather dark ending that I found quite shocking. There's a real edge to this movie that isn't apparent at first, but which hit like a ton of bricks later in the movie. I don't want to ruin anything, and the movie is certainly not gross, but there are some very disturbing scenes towards the end. If you're a fan of the slower burning 70s psychological horror, this is a pretty good example of the genre. ***
- The Toxic Avenger (trailer)
- Bad Taste (trailer)
- Evil Aliens (trailer)
- Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead: I had originally planned to do a whole week of Troma films, but due to time constraints and quite frankly, not being in the right mood for extreme (and I do mean extreme) gore, I decided to limit it to just this one entry, which has to be a contender for the goriest movie of all time (and even among the other Troma movies, that's saying a lot). There is so much fake blook, feces, and, uh, green chicken zombie goop that is sprayed all over the place in this movie that I couldn't help but wonder where it was all coming from. I mean, there is splatter flicks, and then there's this movie where people gush more blood and pus than could ever conceivably fit in their body. There's even a shot of a camera pointing up from within a toilet (while someone is on the toilet). The film itself takes aim at the fast food industry, and though it gets a few digs in at the typical protester-type, it's pretty steadfast in its desire to gross you out about the food industry. Don't get me wrong, there's no attempt to seriously examine anything in the movie, but those Troma types like to whip a message at you along with all the goop and blood. Also, it has musical numbers. I was certainly not expecting that, though the songs are spread somewhat unevenly throughout the film. In the end, what we're left with is an extremely silly, amazingly gory film. If you're a fan of the Troma aesthetic, you'll love it. If not, you could possibly hate it. It's pretty disgusting after all (of course, that's exactly what it's going for, so it's hard to hold that against them). **1/2
That's all for now. Coming down the homestretch, I've got a couple of additional posts planned for this week, including a speed round of movies I watched but haven't covered (just like last year
), and some other stuff too, so stay tuned.
Posted by Mark on October 25, 2009 at 12:43 AM .:
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
6WH: Week 5.5 - Vincent Price
It has recently
come to my attention that I am woefully deficient in my knowledge of Vincent Price and his filmography. So I set about rectifying that, and so I've watched (or rewatched) four of his movies in the past couple of weeks.
- The Muppet Show with special guest Vincent Price
- Sawed by the Bell (Robot Chicken)
- Se7en (trailer)
- The Abominable Dr. Phibes: Doctors are being found dead under mysterious circumstances. As the deaths continue, a pattern begins to emerge. The deaths are following the 9 biblical plagues and the dead doctors were all involved in an unsuccessful operation involving the wife of Dr. Anton Phibes (who is a concert organist, theological scholar, and mechanical genius). 9 plagues, 9 doctors. But Dr. Phibes can't be the one responsible, can he? He died in a car accident after the death of his wife! This isn't the world's greatest movie, but it's campy fun and you can definitely see the influence in modern films like Se7en (biblically inspired kills) and Saw (dig the key out of this body to save your son). The one major crime the movie commits is making it so that Dr. Phibes (played by Price) can't talk without the aid of some device that sorta distorts his voice (I could listen to Price reading the phone book, why cast him in a role without much talking and a distorted voice?). On the other hand, it turns out that Dr. Phibes doesn't actually look like that, he's just wearing a Vincent Price mask. Heh. Anyway, Price is very good (despite the dearth of dialogue), and I also rather liked the bumbling Inspector Trout (played by Peter Jeffrey). The movie was followed by a quick sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, this time focusing on Egyptian mythology for his kills, but that film is really just more of the same. So the sequel is worth a watch if you liked the first one, but nothing special. **1/2 (for both movies)
- Vincent Price Polaroid VHS commercial
- Suspiria (trailer)
- The Blair Witch Project (trailer)
- Witchfinder General: This isn't really so much of a horror film as it is a period costume drama with some horrific elements. Price plays Matthew Hopkins, the titular Witchfinder, and he's the villain. The film is set during the English civil war of the mid-1700s. As such, the authorities are engaged elsewhere, leaving Hopkins and his sadistic sidekick to roam the countryside and make whatever accusations they like. There's nothing pious or righteous about what they do, it's a big power trip for them, and they usually make a tidy profit as well. In one town, they engage a priest and his beautiful niece, accusing them of witchcraft and eventually taking them down, leaving the niece's fiance to hunt down Hopkins in revenge. Price plays Hopkins as a total scumbag, cowardly and cruel, and you're hoping for his comeuppance throughout the film. This ends up being a much darker film than the other two covered in this post. Hopkins is a true scumbag and the film doesn't pull its punches when it comes to his exploits. Visually, the film has some interesting touches. The director, Michael Reeves, was very young when he made this movie, and he showed a lot of promise as a filmmaker... unfortunately, he died of a drug overdose not long after this movie was released. The film moves a little slower than I would have preferred, but it's still an interesting watch. **1/2
- The Raven, read by Vincent Price
- Cooking with Vincent Price (audio)
- House on Haunted Hill (trailer)
- The Tingler: The most notable and interesting thing about this film is that it is truly a gimmick, and I feel bad watching it on my television... this is a movie that demands to be seen on the big screen with a big crowd. Director William Castle pulled out all the stops here, even going so far as to install buzzers beneath certain seats in the theater that would vibrate the seats during especially scary moments, a system he called "Percepto." Indeed, at the start of the film, Castle himself walks on screen and warns you about it. Later in the film, Price kinda sorta directly addresses the audience in a rather clever way. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The film concerns Dr. Warren Chapin (played by Price) and his quest to understand fear. He discovers a mysterious creature that lives in vertebrates and grows when its host experiences fear. He calls this creature, The Tingler! It's a great bit of silly cinema logic, but in the world created by Castle and Price, it's almost believable. It was great fun (if not all that scary), even on the small screen. It must have been a blast to see this in the theater, especially during its heyday... ***
As I mentioned above, I could listen to Price read the phone book. While I couldn't find any clips of him doing just that, I did find the next best thing. Check out the Cooking With Vincent Price
link. I'm particularly fond of Foods From the Austro-Hungarian Empire
. Well, I didn't listen to the whole thing, but how could you not like that title?
In other news, Kernunrex is still going strong
, putting me to shame with almost daily updates. Countdown to Halloween
features numerous sites also blogging about horror this month. Dennis Cozzalio has a big post about Halloween reads and L.A. Repertory Cinema
. Apparently there's an Italian Horror blog-a-thon
getting underway over at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies
as well. Too many movies, too little time...
Posted by Mark on October 21, 2009 at 08:53 PM .:
Sunday, October 18, 2009
6WH: Week 5 - No Discernible Theme Week
I was hoping to have some sort of theme this week, but the Philly Film Fest got in the way and so I didn't watch much this weekend. So here are a few mostly unrelated movies I've seen in the past week or two:
- Jack Chop (short film)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V: Time and Punishment (excerpt)
- It's Alive (trailer)
- Grace: A pregnant woman named Madeline (Jordan Ladd) gets into a car accident. Her husband and unborn child are killed and even though no one thinks it's a good idea, she decides to carry the fetus to term. When the baby is born, Madeline's seemingly insane decision pays off, as the baby mysteriously comes back to life. Or does it!? Baby Grace certainly seems to have some strange appetites... So yeah, this movie is disgusting. On the other hand, that seems to be exactly what writer/director Paul Solet is going for. The movie doesn't take any of the typical horror film avenues that you'd expect, which is a good thing, but unfortunately, it also doesn't entirely work. The pacing is a bit uneven and the film moves awfully slowly at times. There's a little politics thrown in for good measure - Madeline is a vegan and the movie seems to be a bit snarky about that sort of thing (though it doesn't exactly glorify meat eating either). As the film progresses, there are some uncomfortable psychosexual moments concerning Madeline's mother-in-law and a bizarre encounter with a doctor and his antique breast pump. Indeed, this film sustains a pretty high level of discomfort throughout. The ending is a bit predictable (and one imagines that a sequel would take a more obvious horror movie tack), but that's only because there's not really anywhere else to go. This is risky and adventurous filmmaking, but I'm not really sure how to feel about it. It's certainly not enjoyable, but then, that's the point. Incidentally, the Blu-Ray for this movie seems to have a rather poor transfer, which is disappointing because from what I can see, it's a very slick and well photographed movie. **1/2
- Still Life (short film)
- Spiral (trailer)
- King in the Box (short film)
- Hatchet: Director Adam Green's love letter to the slasher film is entertaining and somewhat impressive in the post-Scream, ironic state of horror. A number of films have attempted to recapture the classical 80s slasher feel, but Green is the only one who has really done it well. Despite a decent amount of humor, there's no winking at the audience or irony in the film, which is a welcome strategy. Green obviously appreciates the genre and his enthusiasm shows through in the end product. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that's enough to make it a great film. A group of people visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras sign up for a haunted swamp boat ride. Of course, the boat crashes near the house of local legend and possible ghost Victor Crowley, who is apparently none-to-pleased at the intrusion. Hijinks ensue. I have to admit that I wasn't that impressed with Crowley's look, but his backstory was ok and his killing methods are awesomely gory and a blast to watch. He doesn't just stab people, he goes the extra mile, literally ripping people's heads off. The characters are a step above the usual slasher fare and for the most part, you actually care when they get offed (but Crowley's creatively gory methods make it fun to watch anyway). All that being said, the film doesn't really have anywhere to go and it ends with something of a whimper. With a better ending and maybe a better villain design, this could have been a modern classic. As it is, it's a solid throwback slasher. This is nothing to sneeze at though, and Green seems to show a lot of promise. I very much enjoyed his follow up Spiral (which is an extremely different type of movie) and am looking forward to his next film, Frozen. **1/2
- The Time of the Great Pumpkin (Robot Chicken)
- Night of the Lepus (trailer)
- Jaws (trailer)
- Black Sheep: It's about goddamned time, isn't it? Those sheep think they're so cute. But no, they're bloodthirsty monsters. Yes, this film from New Zealand features genetically altered sheep that begin attacking and infecting their human masters. This movie is hilarious. Sometimes the transition from gory horror to slapstick or one-liners is a bit incongruous, but on the whole, it works well. With writer/director Jonathan King, we've got another case of someone who seems to have a genuine love for the genre, and you can see evidence of that on screen. For instance, when an infected human turns into a mutated sheep-monster, the transformation is handled almost exactly like various werewolf movies. Again, it's not a perfect mixture of humor and horror, but it works well enough as a B-movie... ***
Sheep are evil
I'm a little disappointed that the trailer for Night of the Lepus
doesn't even mention that it's a movie about giant, killer rabbits
. You'd think that would be a prime selling point. Then again, it's apparently not a very good movie. Anywho, much more to come. Expect more on the coming Wednesdays, including some Hammer Horror, Vincent Price, and maybe even some Troma Studios stuff.
Posted by Mark on October 18, 2009 at 12:07 PM .:
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
6WH: Slaughter High
We're coming down the homestretch of the Six Weeks of Halloween
Horror Movie Marathon, so it's going to be all horror all the time here until we reach the glorious day of costumes and candy. Tonight, I'm playing along with the Final Girl film club
and their selection of the cheesetastic 80s slasher, Slaughter High
Meet Marty Rantzen, the uber-nerd of Doddsville High School. The resident jocks and hot chicks don't seem to like him very much and are always playing jokes on him. Thanks to a horrible April Fool's joke gone wrong, Rantzen is badly burned and scarred in a chemistry lab accident. Cut to 5 years later, when our unsuspecting jocks and hot chicks are invited to a class reunion at the now condemned school building. Someone's gone to a lot of trouble to get them all there and has set up one hell of a party filled with booze, drugs, and DEATH!
Marty the Nerd
I don't want to get carried away with picking apart the unrealities of the plot setup, but there are a lot of things that defy logic. I mean, wouldn't it seem odd when only 10 people showed up for a class reunion? And if you show up for your class reunion and the building is dilapidated and all locked up, would you stick around for like 5 hours before trying to get in (or, you know, leaving)? And walking around the school, the whole thing is in pretty bad shape... except for one room which is pretty lamely decorated... and this setup doesn't set off any alarms for people? Another strange plot point is how the characters deduce that Marty is attempting to kill them all on April Fool's day - the anniversary of his accident. But for some reason, they decide that April Fool's day ends at noon? What? (Update:
According to BC at Horror Movie a Day
: "IN EUROPE that’s how April Fool’s Day works. Here in the real world of America, we celebrate that shit all day!")
But that's all missing the point, isn't it? It takes a little while to get started, but it's fun once it does. Again, the progression of the plot (such as there is one) doesn't make much sense, but I appreciated the touch of Slasher Marty using chemistry-related means to kill off a few of the guests. I must also admit that the use of the creepy old woman jester mask thingy is pretty damn awesome (gratuitous shadow/silhouette shots of the hat, along with the auditory jingle are reasonably effective). Some of the kills strain credibility (to say the least), and because of the setup, we don't really care about... any of the characters, really. Even Marty isn't particularly likeable. He didn't deserve to be burned up in a chemical fire, of course, but that doesn't really make him a guy I want to spend a lot of time with. But the kills are at least somewhat creative at times, if not as gory as they could have been.
Marty lurks in the shadows!
I've got a mixed mind about the music by Harry Manfredini (of the Friday the 13th
movie series fame). There are really two modes in evidence here: First, you've got a so-bad-it's-funny 80s synth-rock song that gets repeated ad nauseam throughout the movie. Second, you've got the typical F13/Psycho rip-off, with the shriek violins and whatnot. It's so obvious and overdone that it actually kinda works. The film is obviously not going for any sort of emotional resonance, it's just hoping to revel in the gory fun of your typical slasher film, and in that respect, the music works.
The ending of the film is rather bizarre, for a couple of reasons. First, it happens during the day, which is odd in itself. Second, well, I don't want to ruin the ending, but it's an amazingly bizarre, almost nonsensical sequence of events (which might, in some ways, answer some of the plot-related questions above - but then, it also opens up a whole new can of crazy worms).
In the end, what you've got here is a thoroughly 80s slasher film. It follows the conventions reasonably well and it has a few interesting touches, but it's not very good in any sort of objective sense. In fact, it's pretty bad, but it's a reasonably fun and entertaining bad that's well worth a watch if you're a fan of 80s culture and slashers. **
More screenshots and comments in the extended entry...
Update: Stacie has posted her review, along with all the other Film Club reviews
. She also points out one of my favorite things about the sex scene that I forgot to mention. Check it out.
April Fool's Day!
As previously mentioned, this movie is pretty firmly part of the Slasher Calendar
, taking place on April Fool's Day.
This is a teenager?
This is the drop dead gorgeous Caroline Munro. I suppose she's what passes for the heroine of this film, but while she is incredibly hot, there's no way she really passes for a teenager... or for that matter, someone who is 22 years old. She was easily in her mid thirties here, and to be honest, most of the rest of the cast is in the same boat (but the rest of the cast is nowhere near as nice to look at).
I believe this is what's referred to as "foreshadowing."
I love how the movie handles the physics of a bottle of liquid dropping on the table. Apparently it shoots a jet of acid directly at your face. The funny part is that they show the bottle crashing into the table, and the liquid doesn't splash much, then it cuts to his face and you get the above screen. Heh.
So after breaking into the building, they wander around the dilapidated building until they stumble onto this room, which is cleaned up and decorated in a decidedly craptacular manner. Again, no warning bells for these characters here? This is perhaps why it's not so bad watching them die horribly.
In one of the most hilariously typical scenes in the film, this guy takes a long drag on the joint, then while trying not to exhale too much, he says "That's good shit, man..." as he passes it on to the next in line. You really need to see this moment to get how perfect and hilarious it is. Classic.
At one point during the party, this douchebag shotguns a beer. I double-checked, and yes, he's drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon.
The implication is that Marty used his chemistry superpowers to poison the beer so that drinking it will cause your intestines to burst out of your stomach, but those of us familiar with Pabst Blue Ribbon aren't fooled.
Again, I'm pretty sure that Pabst Blue Ribbon does this anyway.
Another in a long line of silhouette shots...
One of the odder kills happens when two characters, who know that they're locked in this building with a homicidal maniac, decide to take a time out and fuck. Oh, and she's actually cheating on her boyfriend (who I believe was attempting to fix up a riding lawnmower in an attempt to escape - don't ask). Marty electrocutes them both.
Again, the conclusion of the film happens in broad daylight, giving you your first really good look at the killer... It's a pretty cool costume for a killer.
Look, it's the hulk! This is from the aforementioned crazy, almost nonsensical ending in which all the people who were killed come back as quasi-zombies or something.
Well, that wraps it up for this movie. I can see why it's become something of a cult hit, but it's not one of my favorites...
Posted by Mark on October 14, 2009 at 07:57 PM .:
Sunday, October 11, 2009
6WH: Week 4 - Slasher Part Twos
Continuing the Six Weeks of Halloween Horror Movie Marathon
, this week I take a look at sequels to slasher films...
- It's the Gifts That I Hate (Robot Chicken)
- A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (trailer)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VI: Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace (Sorry, can't find online vid)
- A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge: Like most sequels, this film is inferior to its predecessor, but I found it much better than I was expecting. What makes the movie work is that it's playing with variations on the theme instead of repeating the same stuff from the original film. In this movie, Freddy doesn't haunt the dreams of a group of teenagers, he focuses on one specific teen. Instead of murdering the teen in his sleep, Freddy possesses the teen and carries out his kills in the real world. This movie extends and twists Freddy's powers while retaining the brilliant inescapable nature of the original film. In that movie, you were afraid to sleep because Freddy might get you. In the sequel, you're afraid to sleep because Freddy might possess you and make you kill your friends. In some ways, this is an even more horrific idea and the film does its best to pull it off, but ultimately it's not as fresh or fun as the original. It has its moments though. The scene where Freddy climbs through our hero's stomach terrified me as a kid and I have to admit that it's still pretty effective. It's a valiant effort, and better than most sequels. **1/2
- Slumber Party Massacre 2 (NSFW trailer)
- Scream 2 (trailer)
- Friday the 13th, Part 2 (trailer)
- Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers: I was surprisingly taken with the first movie in this series, and in this sequel we find Angela alive and well, and after years of therapy, she returns to camp, this time as a counselor. As usual, the camp is populated with horny, foul-mouthed kids, horny, foul-mouthed counselors, one of the greatest mullets ever captured on film, and, of course, DEATH! This movie ends up being a lot different from its predecessor - it's silly and more self-aware. Most of the character names are taken from members of the Brat Pack and there are even nods to slasher icons Jason, Freddy and Leatherface. Angela is played by Pamela Springsteen (yes, Bruce's sister - no joke), and she plays the role with a campy glee. For a homicidal murderer, she's pretty likeable. In the end, the movie is a lot of fun, but it doesn't really have anywhere to go. The ending pales in comparison with the original film (which has one of the great horror movie endings ever), making this a worthwhile watch, but ultimately not one a great film. **1/2
Bruce Springsteen's Sister (seriously)
- Halloween II (1981 - Trailer)
- Horror Movie Big Brother (Robot Chicken)
- Grindhouse: Don't (fake trailer)
- Halloween II (2009): (Note, I actually watched this a while ago because for some reason the studios think that the perfect time to release a movie called Halloween is in August (of course!)) I actually liked Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween. The biggest problem I had with it, though, was that it was a remake of Halloween and thus demanded comparison to a film that is nearly perfect. Change a few character names, keep the killer in the mask he had when he left the mental facility, and replace the soundtrack, and you've got a decent throwback slasher movie. Not a classic or anything, but watcheable. Now, Zombie has made a sequel, and he's apparently stopped trying to make any sense at all... and that part of it is actually kinda awesome. This isn't a remake of the 1981 Halloween II (though, ironically, the best scene in Zombie's film takes place in a hospital), so Zombie has freed himself of any necessary structure there (the second half of the first film suffered because it needed to hit all the beats of the original). The iconic Halloween theme is no longer present (though the ending makes use of some other Halloween music). The mask is barely even recognizable anymore. The only thing that remains from the original franchise are the character names, and it's almost easy to pretend that this series isn't even related to the original movies. The problem is with the execution. Zombie seems to have adopted the quick-edit, shaky-cam style... and let's just say that Zombie is no Paul Greengrass. The action in this film is nigh incomprehensible. There's no build up to the kills either - they are all so disconnected and pointless that no tension is ever established. There is some limited success at the beginning of the film at the hospital, but it devolves pretty steadily from there. Storywise, we get a lot of weird shit, and that part I like. Myers is hallucinating a lot, seeing visions of his mother and a white horse (!?) Symbolism is abound. Dr. Loomis makes a few appearances, and boy is he a douchebag. To be honest, I'm not even sure why he's in this movie, as he serves no real purpose (but his scenes, including one that features a funny cameo, are kinda fun to watch). Laurie Strode does find out that she is Myers' sister (this was technically from the original series, but Zombie had sorta established it in his first movie). The town of Haddonfield seems to have changed considerably in that it's a more rural area now, but whatever. So I'm conflicted about this movie. I like some of the ideas (even the kooky ending), but the execution, especially of the action, is way off. It's a hard movie to recommend, but if you like crazy imagery, this movie has a bunch of that. *1/2
Incidentally, why is it so hard to find Simpsons Treehouse of Horror shorts online these days? Get with the program Fox! I have most of them on DVD, but it would be nice to share, right? Anyway, that's all for now. More on Wednesday.
Posted by Mark on October 11, 2009 at 08:31 PM .:
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
18½ Philadelphia Film Festival
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Philly is having another festival in the fall. Traditionally, the festival is held in the Spring (and I've attended for the past few years), so I'm not sure if this fall festival will be a permanent change or simply an addendum to the existing festival. Either way, it's an interesting idea and would allow Philadelphia to play films that premiered at other, larger festivals like Cannes, Toronto, and Venice. This year's fall festival is relatively small: 5 days, 37 films. That being said, a number of them caught my eye (alas, only a couple probably qualify as horror movies and are thus suitable for my 6 weeks of Halloween
marathon). Amazingly enough, four of my choices fall on one day and are not conflicting, so I'll probably end up seeing more of these fall films than I did in the Spring festival. Here's my schedule:
- Stingray Sam: The PFF site lists genres for each movie, and for this one it lists: Comedy, Feature, Musical, Sci-Fi, Western. That's quite an eclectic combination. The only part that worries me is the musical part, but otherwise, the description reminds me a lot of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, which means that this movie could be awesome or an absolute disaster. Another odd thing: it's only about 60 minutes long, which is pretty unusual in itself. Still, it sounds fascinating.
- Bronson: I remember seeing the trailer for this a while ago and thinking that it looked like a ton of fun and that I probably wouldn't get a chance to see it until DVD... So I'm glad this one is playing. Not really sure it will be one of my favorites or anything, but it looks pretty off-the-wall, which could be fun.
- Rembrandt's J'accuse: The description of this documentary, which focuses on Rembrandt's most famous work, pretty much sold me:
In what plays out as a detective story of sorts, Greenaway takes the painting apart, line by line, vector by vector, plane by plane, and reads it the way it was read in 1642 after Rembrandt completed it: as an outrageous piece of theater in which the painter bit the aristocratic hand that fed him by embedding within the painting a sensational charge of murder. With The Night Watch, which Greenaway calls the fourth most celebrated painting in the world after the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and the Sistine Chapel, Rembrandt delivered a work that charged Amsterdam’s leading citizens with a successful plot to eliminate a financial rival.
This sounds pretty fascinating to me.
- Red Cliff: John Woo used to be such a great director. Then he came to Hollywood and started putting out crap. So it's my hope that this return to Chinese cinema is also a return to form for Woo. In this case, we should not expect any operatic gunfights, but rather a period piece pitting massive armies of soldiers against one another in an epic battle. Maybe some martial arts? I'm going into this film mostly blind, so here's to hoping that Woo does not disappoint.
- The Eclipse: Not sure if I'll end up seeing this, but it looks like an interesting mix of horror, romance and drama. I get a distinct gothic vibe from the description as well, but who really knows?
- We Live in Public: Another documentary, this time examining a guy named Josh Harris, who apparently made a name for himself by designing a series of 24-hour surveillance projects and experiments. Another one I'm not sure I'll be able to make it to, but it does sound interesting.
- Antichrist: This is a controversial film by controversial filmmaker Lars von Trier, and I'm only mildly interested in seeing. Mostly because it's billed as a horror film. The controversy aspect kinda bores me and so does von Trier (who is talented but pretentious and annoying). I probably won't see it, but I'm still considering...
I'm excited, even if I wish there were more horror options available...
Posted by Mark on October 07, 2009 at 06:57 PM .:
Sunday, October 04, 2009
6WH: Week 3 - Now Playing
For the last couple of years, I've strangely not seen very many horror movies in the theater. Part of the issue is that most of them don't come out in the Halloween corridor, which makes it somewhat pointless. It seems that the Saw
franchise has cornered the market on the Halloween season and studios don't want to risk challenging it for some reason. That being said, I've seen several horror films in the theater lately, and I've really enjoyed a couple of them...
- Shining (fake trailer)
- The Blair Witch Project (trailer)
- The Exorcist (amazing unreleased trailer)
- Paranormal Activity: So I heard about this movie, right? It was supposedly scary, but it was only playing at the occasional festival and certain theaters. Then I heard it was coming to Philadelphia for a limited run of midnight shows. I thought, why not? I knew nothing about the movie, except that it had something to do with ghosts and it seemed like a found footage movie (a la The Blair Witch Project). And I loved it. Walking out of the theater, I couldn't help but notice the copious amounts of people registering their disappointment. In an attempt to avoid my bedroom once I got home (for reasons that will be obvious after you've seen the movie), I started looking into the movie a bit, and man, it's hyped to high heaven. Suddenly, people's negative reactions seemed more reasonable. Hype is a difficult thing. Stacie Ponder summarized it well:
Sure, we've all experienced movies that turn out to be not quite as good as we'd hoped, but what I'm talking about goes beyond that. I'm talking about people who buy into the hype and walk into a theater with their arms crossed and a "Scariest ever? Then prove it." attitude. How could a movie ever please an audience like that?
Unfortunately, if you're reading this, it's probably too late. The limited release strategy combined with the hype leads to all sorts of "This wasn't worth it" feelings from audiences that drove 50 miles just to see the movie (though that wouldn't have changed my feelings for it at all). Fortunately, it's the sort of thing that would probably work just as well on video, if not better. If you can, avoid everything about this (no trailers, stop reading this review after this sentence, etc...) before seeing it, and don't expect anything action packed or super-exciting. That being said, I loved it. Its got an incredibly simple concept and yet it's everything I could hope for in a horror movie. For the first time in a while (6 months is a while, right?), I was actually scared in the theater. That industrial strength, slinking-back-into-my-seat fear is pretty rare for me these days. When I got home, I couldn't get certain images out of my head, and they kept playing over and over again as I eventually made my way up to bed (that's one good result of the midnight-showing-only aspect of the movie's release). This is very much a film that relies on the fact that things that go bump in the night are more scary than gore or special effects, and the use of sound is exceptionally well done. There isn't much of a soundtrack, but what's there does a great job of establishing an atmosphere of dread. It's not really breaking new ground, but it's very well executed. I don't want to hype it up too much though, and it's certainly not perfect. The setting is repetitive, the daytime scenes were a bit bland, and there's not much plot. I can see how some folks would find it annoying, but it all worked for me. The repetitiveness lulls you into a false sense of security, the blandness of the daytime scenes release the tension built at night and give you a chance to start breathing regularly again, and the plot is no less effective for being simple. For me, the film accomplished exactly what it needed to: it scared me... ***
- Shaun of the Dead (trailer)
- Honest Zombie (Robot Chicken)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror III: Dial "Z" for Zombies (3rd segment)
- Zombieland: Does this count as horror? Inasmuch as it features zombies, I suppose it does. There are a couple of obligatory "boo!" attempts as well, but the film is much more interested in comedy than anything else. Fortunately, it's quite successful on that count. The film follows "Columbus" (played Jesse Eisenberg) as he attempts to navigate his way throughout a zombie infested America. Along the way, he meets Tallahassee (played by an actor I've never really cared for, Woody Harrelson, in a performance that is actually quite good), who loves to kill zombies and is on a quest to find and consume a twinkie. They also run into Wichita (played by Emma Stone) and Little Rock (played by Abigail Breslin), who are trickier than they seem. The film essentially turns into a road trip movie where an unlikely group of people manage to bond and become friends (there is a romantic subplot, of course, but the film also spends time developing other friendships and paternal feelings...) Also notable is the quasi-secret cameo that caps off the second act. It's a brilliant sequence, and it was great to see this particular actor in this type of role again. The film isn't perfect, but it's a whole lot of fun. ***
- Final Destination 2 (trailer)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XIV: Reaper Madness
- The Life of Death by Clive Barker (short story from Cabal)
- The Final Destination: This has been a relatively weird series. The first film had a somewhat clever idea. The second film took that idea to extremes and might be the best of the series. The formula was well in place for the third film, but it was executed very well there. In this latest installment, the formula is getting stale. There's nothing really new here, unless you consider the gimmick of 3D (which, unfortunately, I didn't get to experience). You know the drill, a kid has a psychic experience, envisioning some sort of huge accident (in this case, a crash at a NASCAR event), freaks out and saves a bunch of people from said accident. But Death doesn't like it when you upset his plan, so he begins to take out all the survivors in the same order they would have died in the accident. In the universe of this series, Death is a huge fan of Rube Goldberg and prefers to murder victims through convoluted, indirect means. Perhaps it was the whole 3D gimmick that ruined it for me, but the deaths in this one seems awfully straightforward (or maybe it's just that the series has run its course). I mean, one of the victims gets run over by a truck. That's it. There wasn't any sequence of absurd actions leading up to the crash, it just happens. I could certainly be wrong, but I don't remember anything like that in previous installments. In the end, you know exactly what you're getting with this movie, which if you've seen the other three movies, is a bad thing. It's not terrible, it's just not especially good and the once original idea has pretty much been beaten into the ground. **
That's all for now. Next up... probably some more slashers.
Posted by Mark on October 04, 2009 at 03:48 PM .:
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Now that we've entered October proper, it seems that some other folks are jumping on the Halloween season bandwagon with those of us who started out a few weeks early (which consists of, uh, me
). Here's a few other folks celebrating the season:
- Stacie Ponder over at Final Girl has dubbed the month SHOCKTOBER and has vowed to watch and review a movie every day for the duration of the month (that post also contains a bunch of links to other folks celebrating the season).
- Widge & friends over at NeedCoffee have begun their annual 32 days of Halloween, always an entertaining venture.
- Brian eschews the whole seasonal thing and just watches a horror movie a day, all year long. Now that's dedication.
I'm sure there are lots others, but that's all for now. Go forth, and be scared.
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Posted by Mark on October 01, 2009 at 11:08 PM .: