These six weeks have absolutely flown by, but lucky for me, Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, which is basically giving me an extra week of horror watching.
- Pinhead’s New Look (Robot Chicken)
- Werewolf Women of the S.S. (fake trailer)
- The Thing (trailer)
- The Fog: I really wasn’t trying to have a Jamie Lee Curtis movie every week this year, it just seems to have worked out that way (I swears!). This one was on my list for the more mundane (and inexplicable) reason that I never saw this follow-up to John Carpenter’s classic, genre-codifying Halloween. The film starts off with an old man (played by the excellent John Houseman) telling a campfire story of tragedy and revenge. Legend has it that an unearthly fog will descend upon the hundred year old fishing town, and the ghosts of murdered sailors will return to take their revenge. The film starts out great, following numerous unexplained occurrences throughout the normally sleepy town and digging into the checkered history of the town’s founding. A series of payphones ring, cars in a parking lot start honking and flashing lights, a priest finds an old journal hidden in the walls of the church, and so on. Carpenter captures it all and infuses it with dread. You know nothing terrible is going to happen just yet, but you know this foreshadows a coming menace. The first two thirds of the film do a great job of establishing that atmosphere of dread, and even manage to instill some fear in the blank, featureless fog. The last third becomes a bit more conventional and maybe a bit too convenient, but it’s still eminently watchable. The ensemble cast does a reasonable job here. You’ll recognize a lot of the smaller folks from Halloween making a reappearance here, as well as some bigger hitters like Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook, and Adrienne Barbeau (though I think that Barbeau’s radio broadcasting schtick kinda wore out its welcome at that same two thirds point of the movie.) It doesn’t really approach Carpenter’s masterful Halloween or The Thing, but it stands on its own as one of a long string of successful Carpenter flicks in the early 80s. ***
- Shining (fake trailer)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V: The Shinning
- The Shining (trailer)
- Cookers: Ultra-low budget tale of meth cookers and their paranoia as they use too much of their product and slowly go crazy in the abandoned hose they’ve chosen to hide-out in. I hated this movie. I think my biggest issue is that I really hate watching people on drugs just for the sake of doing so. If there’s a larger purpose to the drug use or a coherent storyline, then it’s usually fine, but in this movie, watching meth take its toll on three pretty unlikeable characters is just a torturous experience and I hated almost every second of it. There were occasional respites in the misery, such as when Merle (he wears a John Dear baseball cap and a hillbilly mustache, just in case you didn’t understand that he’s white trash) recounts an urban legend of a young girl who disappeared mysteriously and the ghost that supposedly abducted her, but even those aren’t that great and the way the film attempts to tie that in with the rest of the “story” doesn’t really work too well. The film looks like it was shot on a crappy, consumer-grade video camera from the mid-90s. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, and to be honest, they did a reasonably good job with what they had… but given that I really fucking hated watching these characters tweaking out, it was just adding to the frustration. I know some folks find this movie entertaining, and I suppose if the concept of watching people tweaking out on meth sounds fun to you, give it a shot, but I really hate this movie. To me, the best part was watching what happens to the character of Hector. The problem was that it took 90 minutes to get there. I wanted it to happen approximately 87 minutes earlier. Not recommended! *
- Jack Chop (short)
- Just Take One (short)
- Vampire Chase (Robot Chicken)
- Dead Birds: Another low budget haunted house film, this one turned out, oh, about a million times better than Cookers. It actually takes place during the Civil War era, and it follows some bank robbers who take refuge in an abandoned plantation house after one of their heists (naturally, said heist had gone wrong and lots of people ended up dead). Of course, the house is haunted in the extreme and has no intention of letting the wayward robbers leave. It’s an effective setup and it’s executed really well. Despite the extreme nature of the characters, they are actually able to induce some empathy, thanks primarily to some excellent casting. Most horror these days tends to cast young and pretty teenagers, but the filmmakers here went for a more seasoned bunch, and the film is better for the choice. Henry Thomas plays the leader of the crew and does an admirable job. Patrick Fugit plays his injured brother, and manages to make a lot out of very little. Nicki Aycox and Isaiah Washington also do quite a good job, despite little in the way of screen time. But the real surprise were the two smallest characters, played by Michael Shannon and Mark Boone Junior (both of whom are guys you’d recognize from other stuff, but not necessarily know all that well – they are “that guy” actors). They’re total mercenaries, ruthless and cold (Shannon gets to unleash some pretty unrestrained racist rants, even)… yet, you can’t help but enjoy watching them. Ultimately, they get what’s coming to them and then some, which is where this movie really surprises. It’s very restrained and deliberately paced, and it has an almost Japanese flavor to it, though the setting is distinctly American. In this age of hackneyed remakes and sequels, this makes for a great, refreshing mixture, and while I’m sure some would crave more action, I thought it was pretty well balanced. While I’m sure this had a higher budget than Cookers, it was obviously still quite low, and yet this film looks really good. All of the practical effects are great and the film is photographed really well.
The only real complaint from a visual perspective is the CGI, but that is used quite sparingly and it worked well enough for me The one thing I’m not entirely in love with is the ending. It’s not terrible, but it feels like they kinda wrote themselves into a corner. There’s no real satisfaction there, and that might have been the point, but there’s still something a little off about the ending. Nevertheless, it’s well worth the watch. ***
Well, that covers what will unfortunately be the last week of full-time horror movie watching, but stay tuned on Wednesday for the typical Speed Round, feating short capsules of a whole slew of other stuff I’ve watched during the season. Not sure what I’ll be posting on Halloween proper, but I plan to celebrate by rewatching Halloween (natch) and maybe checking out the new Walking Dead series…