Sunday, October 31, 2010
The Director: John Carpenter
The Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles
Release Date: October 25, 1978
It's Halloween, yo.
So that's all I've got for the October Horror Movie of the Day list. Sorry for the delays at times, life has a way of being annoying. Hope you've enjoyed the recommendations and blurbs. Stay scary, boys and ghouls!
Saturday, October 30, 2010
The Director: Frank Capra
The Cast: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey
Release Date: September 23, 1944
OK, this isn't a horror movie. You got me. But it's set on Halloween, and it's one of my favorite movies ever. It talks about Karloff a lot and features murders, mad doctors, plague victims, and dead bodies in window seats. And it's hilarious. So you should watch it, even if it's not a horror movie.
I mean, if Teddy can't make you laugh, check your pulse.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Life, my friends, is a journey for us not to understand. It is a series of random events, and we make it through each day not knowing what tomorrow will bring. However, on this planet, there is a certainty that is pissing me off. Every year, Reese's Peanut butter cups get smaller and smaller. I used to be able to count on a cup that will quench my chocolate craving. Now, my sacred cup has shrunk to the size of a testicle. They say the only certainty in life is death and taxes. Well, like an old man's boner with Erectile Dysfunction, Reese's Peanut butter cups are shrinking to a flaccid poof. Like Sodom and Gomorrah, I'm going to rain fire up in this motha.
Halloween is a time of joyous decadence and a menagerie of masquerades. However, F*$K YOU REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS. You place this term on your cups: "Fun Size." There is nothing fun about your size. It is a piss me off size. You take a bite, and half of it is gone. You take another bite...and you are left feeling empty, lonely, and depressed. You lick the black paper thing the cup comes in to try to get more, but this lickage is met with failure. Like a heroin addict boiling old spoons, I scrape and lick in anguish for more of your chocolate peanut buttery high. I once loved you Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, but your CD (Cuptile Dysfunction) has me searching for new candies. We had a good run.
I bid you farewell Douche Cups.
The Director: Alfred Hitchcock
The Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh
Release Date: August 25, 1960
There are few movies that stand alone like Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho does. Though it's seen as the grandfather of the slasher genre, you'd never mistake it for Friday the 13th or Happy Birthday to Me. You could also say it belongs with serial killer films like The Silence of the Lambs or The Hitcher, but that doesn't quite fit either.
But it doesn't matter what else is out there, because Psycho offers a completely unique experience in horror. A lot of that is due to Anthony Perkins' performance as Norman Bates, which is as good as any performance in any movie. But the film's plot, featuring that famous mid-film shift in perception, and the masterful eye of Alfred Hitchcock, also stand out. This shouldn't be news to anyone who's ever read anything about Psycho, and there's not much new to say about the film 50 years later.
Except that you'll never seen anything like it.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The Director: Joe Dante
The Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Dick Miller
Release Date: June 8, 1984
People don't like to admit it, but Gremlins is 100% a horror movie. Seriously, it's about crazy little monsters that terrorize a town. Yes, I know Steven Spielberg's name is on it and you loved it as a kid. And yes, Gizmo is THE cutest thing to ever be put on film that wasn't named Elisabeth Shue. But that's not the point. It's a horror movie.
And maybe it's a little bit more of a Christmas horror movie than an October horror movie, but that's OK. You can start thinking ahead this time of year, because in a few weeks your Grandma's going to want a Christmas list anyway. And if you're not into Christmas, just watch the scene in which Phoebe Cates gives a darkly hilarious monologue about her worst Christmas. And laugh at the scene where the Gremlin uses a puppet and goes "beepu beepu beppo" and stuff. It's hilarious.
But it's still a horror movie.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The Director: Dario Argento
The Cast: Jessica Harper, Udo Kier, Joan Bennett
Release Date: August 12, 1977
Recently, a blog I loved asked horror fans to give a list of their 20 favorite horror movies, thankfully in no particular order. When I compiled my list, using many tactical measures, I could not, for the life of me, get under 21 movies. Obviously, 21 > 20, so I had to cut something from the list and, in the heat of the moment when I started thinking that tons of people would pick it and I wanted to get one of my less known favorites on the list, I cut Suspiria from the list. I'm not proud of it, but it happened.
The thing is, it's easy to underestimate Dario Argento's masterpiece, which is one of the most beautiful nightmares ever filmed, because the plot is just so darn odd. But that's not the point. On a visceral level, I can think of only a select few horror films that are as gripping as Suspiria. Definitely not 20. I shame me.
My point, I guess, is that you should see Suspiria. It's awesome. (And, if you want to see what that list of 20 looked like, you should check out my friendly blog on Halloween!)
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Growing up, I was a big fan of what is known as professional wrestling and what was known as the WWF. OK, so maybe I still check it out on occasion when I'm flipping channels on a Monday night. Don't judge me, because that's not the point.
The point is Lebron James' latest Nike ad, in which he asks all of us what he should do with his life. Maybe he doesn't have the charisma of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (then again, who the heck does?), but Lebron has just cut himself one darn good heel promo. I almost want to like where the guy's coming from, because it seems he put some heart into this one, even if he is blaming everyone else for where his image is at.
Of course, just like professional wrestling, there are always writers, and Nike stands to gain just as much (if not more) from this spiel as Lebron does. But with the NBA season underway again, it's at least a nice attention grabber to check out. And you can do so here:
The Film: Creepshow
The Director: George A. Romero
The Cast: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen
Release Date: November 12, 1982
Perhaps the greatest horror anthology ever made, the combination of Stephen King and George Romero has a ton of fun with this one. The stories told vary from a jealous tale of adultery featuring Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen to a case of alien plant life attacking a farmer to a dangerous crate and a professor who is sick of his demanding wife. Oh, and there's plenty of cake, too.
For me, the film peaks with the fourth segment, The Crate, in which Hal Holbrook and Fritz Weaver deal with a giant monster. It's hairy and got teeth and claws, and is played by Adrienne Barbeau. (Oh, also there's a beast in a crate, too.) Also, King's turn as plant loving Jordy Verrill is a lot of laughs, and Ed Harris' dance moves should make you a little too excited. I say it's one of the best "comic book" movies ever, and you should see it!
Next week you will all be thrilled to know that Jersey Shores Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino is releasing his first book titled Here's the Situation. Here are a few excerpts from this literary masterpiece:
Monday, October 25, 2010
The Film: Frozen
The Director: Adam Green
The Cast: Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell
Release Date: March 25, 2010
I went in to this movie thinking it was going to be a snowy on land version of Open Water, a movie I was not so much a fan of. I was pleasantly surprised about how much I actually enjoyed this film and how much it made me think. It was refreshing to have a horror film with no bad guy(s). It was simply an intense story of man vs. nature.
The film takes place at Mount Holliston, where three young skiers (played by Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, and Kevin Zegers) don’t have enough money for ski lift tickets, so they bribe the attendant for reduced price tickets. At the end of night they beg this same attendant for one last run down the mountain. As they are going up the ski-lift the attendant has to step away. With the replacement not knowing the skiers are on the lift, he shuts it down. Not only was it shut down for the night, but would not be open until the following weekend. With blizzard like conditions, freezing temps, no food or water, and hungry wolves below, the skiers find themselves having to make life or death decisions. Do they freeze to death or try to get down from the ski lift?
It made me really think of what I would do if I was stuck in a ski lift. Would I jump or stay put? Being a situation that could potentially happen to someone in real-life really put the scare in me (minus the wolves…that was a little unrealistic)! This is a movie I would say is definitely worth a view!
Sunday, October 24, 2010
The Director: Stan Winston
The Cast: Lance Henriksen (!)
Release Date: January 13, 1989
I'm still not sure I really like Pumpkinhead as a movie. I've grown to appreciate it over the years, but the execution seems a little sloppy at times. I mostly attribute this to the fact that Stan Winston - the most skilled effects man to ever walk the face of the Earth - was directing for the first time, and the fact that the script doesn't give the film much help.
What I am absolutely sure of is that I am madly in love with the monster that Winston created here. Pumpkinhead, the demon, has always given me chills. The man created the Alien, the Terminator, Jurassic Park's gorram dinosaurs, and almost every great effect you saw in the '80s and '90s. But I have no problem calling the Pumpkinhead monster one of his greatest creations. Despite the cast (except for the amazing Lance Henriksen, of course) and script, the creature and some great lighting make this an occasionally terrifying tale of demonic revenge.
I'm a little tired of waiting for the zombie apocalypse. It's been more than 40 years since George Romero promised it, and all we've gotten out of it are some incredible films and books surrounded by a lot of really crummy knock-offs. In the last decade, particularly, zombies have been all over cinema screens. For every Shaun of the Dead or Dawn of the Dead remake, there seem to be 7 awful indie zombie flicks out there too. They're even invading our TV sets, thanks to the upcoming The Walking Dead series on AMC.
I must admit that, under these circumstances, I'm also awfully tired of hearing about the "inevitable" zombie apocalypse. I can't take zombies seriously right now, because there are too many of them out there, and some of them can now randomly run or jump or spit or teleport. (That last one's on you, Lucio!)
So when the fellow behind this book - Dr. Dale's Zombie Dictionary - got in touch with me about a review, my instant mental reaction was to wonder if we really need more zombies. I mean, if you've seen a handful of the myriad of z-films (or read any zombie literature), you probably have a pretty good understanding of them by now. What more is there to offer? Can a Zombie Dictionary released in 2010 really sustain itself and not become a one-note joke you've already heard?
I'm happy to say that yes, it can. Because Dr. Dale's Zombie Dictionary is a very, very fun read.
It seems to me that Dr. Dale - if that is his real name - has a pretty good understanding of how saturated the zombie market is right now. He arms himself with this knowledge, and parlays it into an understanding that most people that would be interested in this type of book already know the basics. With this in mind, he focuses on things you might not have considered about the zombie apocalypse, and keeps things light.
For example, I've certainly never considered how the Utilitarian Furniture Mart known as IKEA might play in to the zombie apocalypse. Dr. Dale has. I've never given much consideration to how pixies or "Spiderman Zombies" might or might not come into play, but he has. Dr. Dale covers a lot of things that I have occasionally considered, but gave me new info on them, too. For example, whether or not I'd wear a helmet whilst fighting zombies has crossed my mind, but Dr. Dale's reasoning about helmets took my breath away.
I was mostly laughing while losing that breath, but that's the charm of the book. It makes sense along with zombie lore (making sure to reiterate the fact that running zombies don't exist), but has a lot of fun with how to deal with the undead. In a time when George Romero is up to SIX Dead flicks, we need to maintain a bit of comedy about the topic to keep it fresh. He also peppers in some hilarious analogies using pop culture. Some of it is very British humor, and I may have been a little to yankee to get all the gags entirely, particularly when he talks about London's road planning. It's also worth noting that the book is very up to date, referencing last fall's Zombieland and plenty of recent pop culture names.
Dr. Dale's trying pretty hard to give us a lot of entertaining information here, and some of the topics in the 300+ page text do fall flat. But the book still provides a lot of laughs, and there are plenty of truly interesting ideas inside the book too, including how Freud's idea of the Id might come into play. Maybe it won't invade your psyche too deeply but, if nothing else, the book will come in handy to lighten the mood while you're dealing with zombies. If you're reading this blog, you probably have a decent understanding of what you need to do when there's no more room in Hell. But Dr. Dale has most certainly considered some things you haven't and his method of sharing them works well. I highly recommend it.
If you want more info about the book, check out the official website here. And, if you like, you can pick up your own copy at Amazon.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
The Director: Tobe Hooper
The Cast: Marilyn Burns, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen
Release Date: October 1, 1974
Look, there are about a billion reasons I could pick The Texas Chain Saw Massacre here. I've already covered most of them over at my blog.
But really, I picked this movie for today because a massacre is exactly what happened when Iowa State's football team took out Texas today. BOO-YAH!
Friday, October 22, 2010
The Film: The Pit
The Director: Lew Lehman
The Cast: Sammy Snyders, Jeannie Elias, Sonja Smits
Release Date: October 23, 1981
This has to be the most fun '80s horror film I've found in a long time. One look at that poster should sum up everything that's awesome about it but, in case you can't tell (or in case you're blind, in which case I hope you're reading this in braille) allow me to point out that the poster promises a) a pit; b) an evil teddy bear; c) a potentially evil awkward blonde kid; d) underground creatures of some sort; e) ALL OF THE ABOVE!
Really though, I enjoyed the heck out of this film. Young Sammy Snyders is fantastically odd and creepy in the lead, and his relationships with the underground "tra-logs" and his college age babysitter with the cute '80s hair and eyes are well worth following. Plus it's all filmed in lovely Beaver Dam, Wisconsin - which I have no ties to other than being a Packers fan - which makes the setting seem adequately midwestern. The Pit is truly a film I'm glad I uncovered, and I can't wait to see it again.
Oh, and THIS HAPPENS. I know, it's a giant freaking spoiler, but if THIS can't get your blood boiling, check your pulse!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
The Film: The Silent Scream
The Director: Denny Harris
The Cast: Rebecca Balding, Cameron Mitchell, Barbara Steele
Release Date: July 31, 1987.
A surprisingly minimalist horror film that borders on slasher territory, focusing on some young people who rent rooms in a big house with some weird inhabitants. Most notably, horror icon Barbara Steele is the angry lady in the attic.
I'm admittedly a bigger fan of making fun of early '80s slashers than I am of the films themselves, but Silent Scream really struck a chord with me. Survivor girl Rebecca Balding does a fine job in a poorly written role, and the family that owns the house are perfectly played. I couldn't help noticing that the male lead looked a lot like Michael Bay, but that's OK. A hidden gem that I'm glad I found.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The Film: The Sentinel
The Director: Michael Winner
The Cast: Cristina Raines, Chris Sarandon, Burgess Meredith
Release Date: May 12, 1977.
Did you ever see that movie The Sentinel? That's the question asked by Corey Feldman in Joe Dante's 1989 classic The 'burbs, and it's the question that made me seek out this fine piece of '70s religion-horror. I was far too young to see this when I did - I had no understanding of what Beverly D'Angelo was doing to her leotard (HINT- it rhymes with smashetershmation) - but some of the chills that come from it have always stuck with me.
In short, the movie focuses on a young NYC model (Cristina Raines) who takes an apartment in a building with a lot of odd old folks, and strange stuff starts happening. The supporting cast is a who's who of cool names (Burgess Meredith, Martin Balsam, John Carradine, Jose Ferrer, Arthur Kennedy, Ava Gardner, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Tom Berenger, Jerry Orbach, Jeff Goldblum, and an uncredited Richard Dreyfuss), and Fright Night and The Princess Bride star Chris Sarandon adds a fun performance. If you're looking for a totally creepy, unsettling religious horror (besides the Unholy Trilogy of Rosemary/Exorcist/Omen), The Sentinel should give you some goosebumps.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
The Film: Fright Night
The Director: Tom Holland
The Cast: William Ragsdale, Roddy McDowell, Chris Sarandon.
Release Date: August 2, 1985.
Last time out I mentioned that The Lost Boys - despite its oily, saxophony, goodness - was not my favorite vampire film of the '80s. That title must belong to the ridiculously awesome flick that is Fright Night.
Fright Night is the story of young Charley Brewster, a teen who enjoys trying to snog the future Marcy Darcy, hanging out with a dude named Evil Ed, and watching former horror star Peter Vincent host horror flicks on a TV show called Fright Night. Charley also has some voyeuristic tendencies, and as he spies his new neighbor with a beautiful young woman one night...he begins to think said neighbor is a vampire.
The key to Fright Night - which plays a little like the teenage horror version of Rear Window - is Roddy McDowell as Vincent. He hams it up beautifully as the Peter Cushing-esque hero who doesn't really believe what's going on in the real world. Like Targets, which I mentioned earlier this month, this is a film that looks at the differences between the Gothic horror world we used to know and the changes in society during the latter part of the 20th Century. It's a fun horror flick with a lot of comedy, and I recommend it to anyone.
Monday, October 18, 2010
The Film: The Lost Boys
The Director: Joel Schumacher
The Cast: Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Keifer Sutherland
Release Date: July 31, 1987.
Do I really need to explain myself? It's The Lost Boys, for cryin' out loud!
I suppose if I were to explain myself, I'd say that it's the '80s' most bombastic horror film, fitting the decade's persona perfectly. (However, it's not the decade's best vampire flick...more on that at a later date.) It's got the Coreys, it's got a young Jack Bauer, and the underrated Barnard Hughes delivering one of the best final lines in horror history. It's got some iconic imagery, and I'm not just talking about the sweaty saxophone player. I still believe too, man.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
The Scream 4 Trailer was just shown at at the Scream Awards 2010. I am a fan of the first three scream films but am a little skeptical about this one. The trailer is not all that exciting either. What do you think?!?
The Film: Scream 2
The Director: Wes Craven
The Cast: Neve Campbell, Liev Schreiber, David Arquette, Courtney Cox
Release Date: December 12, 1997.
Wes Craven's Scream is undoubtedly one of the most influential horror films for my generation, but I've always had a real soft spot for the first sequel to that film. What could have been called "Scream: The College Year" lacks some of the novelty of its predecessor, but some interesting character moves make up for that in my mind.
Most notable is my hero, Liev Schreiber. Despite what you know, the dude is totally the best actor ever who's not named Kurt Russell. As the opportunistic Cotton Weary, Schreiber is awesomely snarky and all kinds of awesome. Add in the also-mega-awesome Timothy Olyphant, the always cheesy Jerry O'Connell, and the cuteness of late 90s Sarah Michelle Gellar, and you've got a movie that wins The Mike's heart. Is it better than the first? Nope. But it's AWESOMER!
(Apologies to the gorgeous Rose McGowan, who did her best to keep the original in contention.)
The Director: George A. Romero
The Cast: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross
Release Date: September 2, 1978
Few horror films are as large in scale as George Romero's sequel. Though it's relatively minimal in setting - after a brief set-up the whole movie takes place in the now famous Monroeville Mall - Dawn of the Dead seems to have as wide a view of the human condition as any horror film. Like Romero's other zombie films, the human reactions to a zombie outbreak is the primary focus. The zombies are just the force that sets their story in motion.
While Romero has come back the zombie game a whopping six times now (and while I still slightly prefer the simple nightmare that is Night of the Living Dead), he's never had as much control over his film as he does in Dawn. The result is an intelligent and moving film that survives a few too many montages of the characters' new lives in the mall (at over 130 minutes, it's one of the few horror epics). Don't let me fool you - there's a ton of gore, especially in the final act - but that's not why I love Dawn. This is social commentary in horror at its finest.
Friday, October 15, 2010
The Director: Elisabeth Fies
The Cast: Chauntal Lewis, David Lago, Stuart G. Bennett
Release Date: June 5, 2009
As I've gotten to know some folks in the horror scene via this goofy thing called the world wide web, one of the coolest people I've come across is filmmaker Elisabeth Fies. Using her quick wit and vast knowledge of cinema, Ms. Fies has become a vocal advocate for women filmmakers everywhere - who is also pretty darn good at making movies. Her debut feature, The Commune, is a shocking and realistic tale of feminine fear that packs a helluva punch.
Starring Chauntal Lewis - who gives a remarkable performance - as a young girl who is sent to live with her father at what could only be described as a hippie community. While there, she runs afoul of some psychotropic drugs, meets a young punk rock fellow, and begins to believe that there's something very odd going on around her. Borrowing heavily from films like The Wicker Man, there's a sense of dread that increases throughout the film as the viewer begins to understand there's something not right. The Commune is an independent debut feature that's a little raw, but it'll probably make your skin crawl nonetheless.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
The Director: Clive Barker
The Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence
Release Date: September 18. 1987
After many viewings over many years, Hellraiser remains one of the most unsettling films I've ever seen. Though it's not as polished as most horror films with great reputations, Clive Barker's tale set a high bar for future torture films. The film follows a family who moves into the home where the husband's brother opened a gateway to hell, releasing a team of demons known as Cenobites into their home.
I've never found Hellraiser to be an entirely successful film, but once the Cenobites show up - led by Doug Bradley's Pinhead and his proclamation that they "will tear your soul apart" - the film becomes a total nightmare. The creature effects overcome some silly visual effects, and survivor girl Ashley Laurence (and her incomprehensible hair) does a fine job of carrying the film and helping the viewer relate. And, after more than 10 years since I first saw it, there are still moments of gore here that make me cover my eyes. That's a winner!
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
The Director: Christopher Smith
The Cast: Melissa George, Rachael Carpani, Liam Hemsworth
Release Date: October 16, 2009
One of the most surprisingly daunting horror films of the past year, Christopher Smith's Triangle is a film that intimidates me greatly. I've considered writing about it numerous times, but never have I been able to wrap my head around the film's complex structure. This is most certainly the type of horror film that you'll be confused about while it's going on, and one that will probably leave you talking about it long after the credits roll.
Following a single mother (30 Days of Night and The Amityville Horror's Melissa George) who embarks on a doomed boat trip with some friends, the film pairs an ax toting killer with the intrigue of the Bermuda Triangle; setting up a web of suspense and fear that provides palpable tension. George gives an incredibly strong performance in the lead, and helps carry the twisting film. The final reveals are handled perfectly, and cement Triangle as one of the most fascinating psychological horror films I've seen.
And now, he's gone on one of the web's favorite talk shows, Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis, as originally shown on Funny Or Die. And now, you can watch it here.
As I said, you can check out Willis this weekend in Red, and Galifianakis will be back on the big screen opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in Due Date on November 6th. In the meantime, I'd still like to know if Bruce did worry that The Whole Ten Yards would be too good.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The Director: William Friedkin
The Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Jason Miller
Release Date: December 26, 1973.
I don't know how much time I've spent pondering The Exorcist. If I had I put that amount of time toward anything practical, I'd be pretty amazing at whatever that practical thing is.
Others often find it funny when I say it, but I honestly find The Exorcist to be one of the most enjoyable films ever made. In the moment, it's a harrowing experience that features a lot of scares, some of the creepiest imagery put on film, and a whole dollop of of intensity that's sure to keep the viewer on edge. But the experience is not just about finding fear, it's about finding faith. It's an exploration of the forces that might exist in the world, the forces that don't care if we believe in them or if we don't. The actors, particularly Jason Miller as the jaded Father Karras, seem to know this and sell it well. Director William Friedkin has said that the film is "a positive statement about God, the human condition, and the relationship between the two".
I've wasted a lot of words on this movie over the years, and I've never said it better than that. If you haven't seen The Exorcist yet, do so. It's worth every lofty bit of praise that's ever been lobbed in its direction.
Monday, October 11, 2010
The Director: Amy Holden Jones
The Cast: Michele Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella
Release Date: November 12, 1982
You have to squint really hard to see it - or at the very least set your brain to "receive" and let it wash over you - but The Slumber Party Massacre is more than it seems to be. What some viewers miss about this slasher flick, which offers up a lot of the boobs and blood you'd expect, is that it was designed to be a statement against the average male dominated slasher flick of the '80s.
In fact, Slumber Party Massacre happens to be one of the few films of its type to be directed and written entirely by women. Director Amy Jones and writer Rita Mae Brown take steps to show the drill that is used by the male killer as a phallic symbol, and the girls are painted into the type of extreme stereotypes that these movies made famous. The idea, I guess, is to point out the idiocy of these films by going too far over the top. The flick isn't entirely successful at pulling off its feminist goals - at the end of the day, it can easily be mistaken for just another stupid slasher flick - but it's an interesting piece of horror nostalgia that has a few tricks up its sleeves.
(Ummmm....I can't really show you the trailer for this flick without moving this blog into the R-rated district. It's on YouTube, if you want to see what you're in for....)
In tv news, Fox recently picked up the a new animated series for next year-Napoleon Dynamite! John Heder will be returning to voice Napoleon, Efran Ramirez as Pedro, and John Gries as Uncle Rico. Six episodes have been ordered! I really enjoyed the movie but not sure how I feel about it being an animated series. It could be interesting!
"Researchers have discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researches also discovered other similarities between the two, but can't remember what they are."
- Matt Lauer, Today Show, NBC
Sunday, October 10, 2010
The Director: Steve Miner
The Cast: William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll
Release Date: February 28, 1986
In the tradition of the goofiest '80s horror films, House - from the team behind the Friday the 13th series and with a story by horror genius Fred Dekker - is a cheesy blast that's a lot of fun. The film stars William Katt (The Greatest American Hero himself!) as a Stephen King-ish horror writer who moves into his aunt's house shortly after her suicide to work on his newest book; while also dealing with his divorce, flashbacks to Vietnam, and the disappearance of his son. He maintains that there's something wrong with the house, blaming it for his son's disappearance, and strange things begin to happen to him.
House has some extreme moments of tension and humor, and at times these swings can make the film uneven. The flashbacks to 'Nam that include Richard Moll (Bull from TV's Night Court!) are a highlight, and some of the madcap horror hijinks remind me of The Evil Dead (a tame Evil Dead, but Evil Dead nonetheless). Though there are some definite issues with the tone, the end result is still a fun and silly horror that's great for a movie night with friends.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
The Director: Peter Bogdanovich
The Cast: Boris Karloff, Tim O'Kelly, Nancy Hsueh
Release Date: August 15, 1968
Classic horror meets real-world terror in Peter Bogdanovich's directorial debut, Targets, starring the late Boris Karloff. Karloff stars (in an almost autobiographical role) as Byron Orlok, an aging horror movie star who's sick of Hollywood and the state of horror cinema. He's promoting a film he hates, arguing with his own publicist (director Bogdanovich), and getting scared of his own reflection in a mirror. Orlok represents what was once terrifying, but at this point is just a bit old.
On the other side of town, a young man decides he's had enough with life as it is. He kills his family, takes up a sniper rifle, and begins to pick off motorists and bystanders for no good reason. When he needs somewhere else to take his shots, he sets up at a drive in movie theater - the same theater where Orlok's film is premiering that night.
Targets is one of the most profound statements about society that has ever been put in a horror film, and Bogdanovich does a fine job of showing the disconnect between the old ways of scaring audiences and the events in the news that should give Americans far more fear. Karloff is incredibly natural as Orlok - he's stated that he shared many of the character's opinions on horror films at this stage in his life - and carries the film well. His final scene is one of the most powerful images in horror history, and it all comes together to make Targets a true classic.
Friday, October 8, 2010
The Director: Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino
The Cast: Kurt Russell, Rose McGowan, Marley Shelton
Release Date: April 6, 2007
Undoubtedly the most bold horror experiment taken by Hollywood in the past decade, Tarantino and Rodriguez' Grindhouse is the perfect throwback to the types of double features that permeated cinemas in the 1970s. Featuring two films back to back - Rodriguez' Planet Terror and Tarantino's Death Proof - the chance to see two Hollywood cowboys produce this much schlock is a once-in-a-lifetime cinematic experience.
Surrounded by trailers for fake movies (Rodriguez' recent Machete was born here), Planet Terror and Death Proof are on opposite ends of the horror spectrum. The first film is a all-out action fest, as a zombie-like creatures terrorize a band of survivors after a biochemical terror is released. The follow up film is a more methodical film, in which a retired stuntman (Kurt Russell, the best actor EVER) and his stunt car terrorizes a couple of groups of young women. The latter film is a little bit of a drag in the context of the double feature - I'd have flipped the films, to capitalize on Planet Terror's carnage later in audiences' attention spans - but is probably my favorite of the two to watch on its own.
Grindhouse succeeds because the two filmmakers know what they're doing and love what they're mimicking. The result is a truly memorable horror experience that should become a classic in years to come.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
The Director: Frank De Felitta
The Cast: Charles Durning, Robert F. Lyons, Larry Drake
Release Date: October 24, 1981
I've long searched for the perfect killer scarecrow film, and I'm pretty sure Dark Night of the Scarecrow is as good as I'm gonna find. The film focuses on a group of bigoted men who murder a mentally challenged fellow named Bubba (Darkman's Larry Drake), who then returns to haunt them in the form of a scarecrow. Borrowing from the slasher films of the era, the scarecrow is never seen and kills often occur from his perspective, though this is hardly your typical slasher. (In fact, the film was made for television and features little gore or sexual content.)
There's something to be said for a horror like this which focuses on adults, who are living with a lifetime of their own prejudices. These men are terrorized by the unseen killer, and it's effective to the viewer because one can tell that these people truly don't believe that anything like this could happen to them. I think teen-based horrors sometimes miss this point when they give characters a quick understanding of the terror that surrounds them. It's scarier to see someone realize they've been wrong all their life as they're facing doom.
Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a revenge film under the guise of a slasher, and a darn good one at that. Recently released on DVD for the first time, I strongly recommend you seek out Dark Night of the Scarecrow, and enjoy an old-fashioned terror tale. (Even if it does star Charles Durning, who always does something to make me mad at him.)
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
The Director: Ti West
The Cast: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Greta Gerwig
Release Date: October 30, 2009
Yesterday I said that Dawning was one of my favorite horror films of recent memory. I'm not gonna lie, I'm pretty sure that The House of the Devil is my very favorite horror film of recent memory. A slow burning horror tale about a young college girl (Donahue) who takes a babysitting job in a secluded house. The residents of said house are an older couple played by veteran awesome people Tom Noonan and Mary Wornov, and there's no baby to be found.
One of the most tense films I know, The House of the Devil is an exercise in build up that is punctuated by a bucketload of carnage. The cast does a fantastic job of filling West's minimalist story, and the film pays homage to the horrors of the 1980s beautifully. This isn't your average hack and slash horror, but make no mistake about it - The House of the Devil is gripping horror entertainment at its finest.
On a trip to the Vatican on July 22nd, 2001 former president George W. Bush said: "I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe -- I believe what I believe is right." This cryptic message of genius...this little nugget of insight into the human condition we all experience known as belief can be evidently found in the film Get Him to the Greek. Writer/director Nicholas Stollar vividly portrays a firm belief in doin' chicks, mixing narcotics, and rock and roll. George W., I would surmise by his previous "sniffage" of coke bombs, would love this movie.
Aldous Snow (played by Russell Brand) plays a down and out rock star coming off a flop of an album about an African child/futuristic African Space Jesus. His wife, model and singer performing tunes about sexual positions (played by Ross Byrne), leaves him to be with LARS from Metallica. Meanwhile, Capitol Records exec (played by Sean P. Diddy Combs) needs to make a buck and sends a peon to England (played by Jonah Hill) in order to get Aldous Snow's band to a theater to perform a live show of a very famous album at the Greek Theater. Here is what happens through the whole movie from this point: 1) Puking 2) Drug Use 3) Ladies are plowed 4) More Drug Use 5) Heroin Muling 6) A mixing of drug use and heavy petting on a furry wall 7) A threesome with a suicide attempt 8)More puking and drug use. Somewhere in there P. Diddy eats little P. Diddy floating heads. That is the movie.
When it comes to movies, I am pretty open minded friends. I can watch just about anything anytime, Outside of Gone Fishin' and Angels in the Outfield (both Danny Glover films ironically). The awkwardly forced constant drug use and weak "trip out hallucinating" scenes were heavily annoying. The film sets up this nice fun lovin peon that we all can side with. Then, he nails some random skore (a skank + a whore) in a bathroom. I lost interest at that point. Somehow, Aaron Green's (Jonah Hill) indiscretions get related back to a threesome between Aldous Snow, Aaron Green, and his girlfriend. I don't know what else to say except this movie sucks for pure failure of comedy. Unfortunately, Jason Segal (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) co-wrote this fine cinematic adventure to crap town...I mean to the "Greek." Overall, don't waste your time.
Martin Luther King, Junior once said: "Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness." If you square the darkness from destructive selfishness and multiply it by the stupidity of Sarah Palin, you get this gem of a film. Pretty sure MLK, Jr. would be pissed by this movie and that the scariest part of every town seems near or around a street named after him.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The Director: Gregg Holtgrewe
The Cast: Jonas Goslow, Najarra Townsend, David Coral
Release Date: TBD
One of the great blessings of the internet is the chance to stumble upon things - in my case, usually horror films - that you'd never have found otherwise. Such was the case with Dawning, a fabulous independent horror that's currently making the rounds at film festivals around the globe. While the film waits for distribution, I was fortunate enough to have been given a look at it a few months back - and it instantly became one of my favorite horror films in recent memory.
The film's low-budget and independent background are evident, and could provide a hurdle for viewers who are used to mainstream entertainment. But when you really get into the film - in which a family is reunited in a remote Minnesota cabin and terrorized by an unseen force and a babbling wanderer - you realize that it speaks from the core of horror cinema. This isn't a film about killing for the sake of killing, nor is it out to trick the audience into being on edge. It's the kind of film that, quite frankly, wants to get under your skin and make you shiver.
Across the board, the film is a fine achievement. Writer/Director Holtgrewe has put together a production that feels like a classic horror show, and the actors offer realistic performances that, for the most part, work well. The film's technical aspects were most impressive to me, specifically the sound effects - which truly seemed to capture the creaks and bumps that can enhance terror in an uneasy situation. The film uses the tense relationships between the family to add to the drama, and things definitely boil over in the final act.
I've been thinking more and more about Dawning for almost seven months now, and I can't see it not winning over horror fans everywhere when it does make its wide debut. I assure you, I'll be one of the first to let you all know when Dawning might be available in your area - because this is the kind of horror film that must be seen. In the meantime, check out the film's official website and the trailer below!
Monday, October 4, 2010
The Director: Kaneto Shindo
The Cast: Nobuko Otowa, Jitusko Yoshimura, Kei Sato
Release Date: November 21, 1964
(This post, while serving as part of (O)PP's October Horror Series, is also designed as part of the Final Girl Film Club! I usually drop these FG bombs over at my blog, but tonight - y'all gets some too! Check it out, then head on over to Final Girl and check out what other fine feathered finks* have to say about the film!)
* denotes that those fine feathered finks might just be normal blogger people.
Onibaba is one heck of a strange movie. Set in war-time Japan, the film focuses on a old woman and her daughter in law who are struggling to survive in their minuscule hut. By struggling to survive, I mean they're dispatching of rogue samurai in a giant pit, and then selling their weapons to make money. But when the younger woman becomes interested in a local man whose animal lust quickly flips her freak flag, tensions begin to rise. In the meantime, a soldier wearing a hideous demon mask shows up to torture the old woman, but the tables are quickly turned against him. The old woman, does the most logical thing - takes the demon mask and tries to scare her daughter-in-law away from sexing and leaving her alone.
(The title - Onibaba - is taken from Japanese folklore, and is not to be confused with Baba Yaga (which is a child-eating witch from Slavic folklore). The Onibaba was a human-eating demon, like the one shown in the film, that resembled and old woman with wild hair, large eyes, and a crazy grin on her face.)
The most shocking thing about Onibaba is certainly not the demon, it's the amount of sexual content for a film made nearly 50 years ago. The film is an obvious morality tale, but the frankness of it all really surprised me. Hachi is an entirely sexual creature, and the young woman seems to be completely changed by her encounters with him. There's a small part of the brain that considers the old woman's plan to be for a good cause - the actions of the lovers can't be completely right - but it's only a small part of the story.
The film's horror trappings are most impressive, particularly when the old woman dons the mask and becomes Onibaba. The swamp setting adds to the tension, and the music used - specifically a repeating drum cadence followed by a maniacal scream - adds to the nightmarish feel of the film.
I admired Onibaba greatly from a technical standpoint, but I'm not sure it will become a favorite of mine. The film runs a little slow for its 102 minute length, and it's a long time into the film before the mask becomes a part of the story. Like most Japanese cinema of the era, the actors seem to be overplaying their emotions a little too much for me, but that's just a personal preference. The final scenes added greatly to my enjoyment of the film, but the whole product left me a little less happy than I'd have expected. I can't really explain it...It's just that it took too long to make me care about what it was doing. By the time the demon face showed up, I was out of the film.
Maybe the film just hasn't translated well over the years, but it still has a lot of power at a lot of moments. I recommend it to any horror historian, as it's an incredibly relevant piece of international horror. I'll probably revisit it some day - those visuals of the demon are fabulous enough for that - but I'm not salivating over it like I hoped I would.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
The Director: Herk Harvey
The Cast: Candace Hilligoss, Sidney Berger, Francis Feist
Release Date: September 26, 1962
One of my favorite nightmares on film is most certainly the 1962 independent horror hit Carnival of Souls. Primarily shot in Lawrence, Kansas, the film was made by a company that specialized in industrial film. In other words, the film probably had to battle titles like "Your Safety Goggles and You" in the interoffice awards race. Director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford, waived any profits from the film so they could get it made - a shoot which took only three weeks and cost a minuscule $17,000.
The film's most memorable scenes, however, take place at an abandoned amusement park outside Salt Lake City, Utah. As we follow actress Candace Hilligoss on a cross-country journey, Harvey appears uncredited as a haunting spectre (credited only as "The Man") who seems to be reminding her of past sins. There are plenty of fantastic scenes that capture Hilligoss' Mary as she faces demons she doesn't understand, and the film's amateur nature seems to add to the allure. The film is so simple that it almost feels real.
Despite its meager beginnings and unwatchable remake, Harvey's Carnival of Souls has become a prototypical horror film that lives on nearly 50 years later - you can watch it for free online at many sites, and it's also been restored and released by the Criterion Collection. Check it out, if you dare!