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.