Wednesday, October 29, 2014
6WH: The Ones That Got Away
The Six Weeks of Halloween is an ambitious undertaking. I've noticed that every year, I try to start with some sort of namby pamby, pretentious, usually historical theme. Stuff like Italian Giallos
, German Krimis
, Classic Universal Horror
, Silent Horror
, Kaiju movies
, and this year's Remade
. Invariably, I fall back on schlocky horror or slashers and the like, but I always find myself pining for films I don't actually get to during the actual six weeks of this marathon. It's a long time, but there are still plenty of movies I want to watch, but don't really get the chance to watch in time. Here's a sampling of some stuff I wanted to watch this year, but most likely, won't get to:
- Magic (1978) - A tale of a ventriloquist at the mercy of his vicious dummy, I really wanted to watch this because it stars Anthony Hopkins and is directed by Richard Attenborough (which, for the uninitiated, is a pretty interesting combo that doesn't normally gravitate towards horror).
- Torso (1973) - An Italian Giallo about a serial killer who wears a distinctive red and black scarf, sounds interesting, continually thwarted by Netflix this season.
- No One Lives - Just came in the mail, so I may get to this one yet!
- Cronos - An early Guillermot del Toro film about a vampiric device, I've wanted to check this one out for a while, but for some reason, it's never quite made it to the top of my queue.
- Basket Case - Added to my queue solely because it was on Netflix Instant, I may have to save this for a Frank Henenlotter marathon in years to come...
- The Gingerdead Man - Probably best saved for the Holiday season, but even now, it's on a "Very Long Wait" schedule...
- Raw Meat - I know little about this except that it takes place in a sorta subway setting in London. That being said, it has good reputation, so I'm in...
- American Mary - A somewhat recent film about a medical student who agrees to some more "freakish" procedures. Or something like that.
- Dead Silence - Mostly notable for being the movie James Wan made after the original Saw<, and thus I'd like to give it a chance (as several of Wan's most recent films have been quite interesting)./li>
- Haunter - Wait, so Vincenzo Natali released a movie last year? I guess I should watch it!
And there you have it, the top 10 films I didn't get to this year. Will I get to them later? Only time will tell...
Sunday, October 26, 2014
6WH: Week 6 - David Cronenberg
A fortuitous confluence of events lead to a mini-Cronenberg marathon this weekend. It started with the Criterion Collection
having a sale and then a long out-of-print film popped up on streaming. What's a Cronenberg fan to do? Snag a third film and make it a weekend. There's nothing quite like Cronenberg's early work. Famous for Body Horror
, but a very specific brand of body horror. Few imitators come close to what Cronenberg was doing in the late 70s and early 80s, and quite frankly, Cronenberg himself hasn't done much in this realm himself lately. Like fellow horror auteur Wes Craven, Cronenberg almost always manages to tap into something deeper, almost primal in his work, such that even missteps and failures wind up pretty interesting. Oddly, for someone who often portrays graphic gore on screen, it's what's not shown that really gets under your skin. As Matt Singer noted during a recent episode of the Filmspotting: SVU podcast, Cronenberg has a large number of tropes that he sorta mixes and matches in his movies. Things like "deep distrust of doctors", "completely invented wings of medical science", "mega-grossout climaxes", and the phrase "collapsed fleshy sack". My kinda director. This wound up being a highly entertaining week, perhaps my favorite of the year, but then, I'd already seen two of these movies and the third was one I'd wanted to see for quite a while (and it lived up to expectations). Let's get this party started...
- Rabid (trailer)
- Horror Movie Daycare (short)
- The Exorcist (amazing unreleased trailer)
- Shivers (aka They Came from Within) - While not Cronenberg's first film, it is his breakout film. It has long been out-of-print, but a recent restoration by the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has appeared on both Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming. The film opens with a sorta slideshow presentation of the ultra-modern (modern for the 1970s, that is) apartment complex, complete with all the amenities. Soon, we take a quick tour around the grounds, and meet the charming residents, like the old guy who strangles a much younger woman, cuts her open, and pours some sort of acid inside her. Oh, and then he cuts his throat with a scalpel. Finally, we meet our protagonist, a doctor who has set up his practice right there in the building. He starts to find people with strange growths in their gut, and once he finds out about the murder/suicide, he starts to find an explanation for all the mysterious happenings. It's an effective setup, and there's plenty in the way of creepy doctors, "completely invented wings of medical science", little crawly parasites (akin to those from Night of the Creeps or the more recent Slither), not to mention parasites of the more bulgy kind. The parasites spread through sexual contact, and they seem to increase libido in order to speed things along. This eventually turns the movie into a sorta zombie-like picture, though to my mind, much more effective than your typical zombie. There are plenty of Cronenbergian body horror gross out sequences, like one parasite who enters during a bath, or the guy who speaks almost soothingly to the bulging parasite in his gut. The ending is kinda one-note and lacks a bit of pizazz, but it works well enough. Definitely worth a watch for Cronenberg fans as it contains a lot of his themes (even if they're not fully developed just yet), and probably worth it for regular fans of creepy movies. Also makes a good companion to the Clive Barker story "The Age Of Desire", part of the collection I read recently. ***
- The Brood (trailer)
- Nightbreed (trailer)
- Videodrome (trailer)
- Scanners - This might be my favorite Cronenberg movie. Though perhaps not the best or most influential (see below), it's probably the most fun. There really aren't a lot of movies that really chronicle mind readers or people with mental powers. What's more, when they do, it seems so easy (think Professor X putting a couple fingers to his temple and closing his eyes). Not so here. Scanning seems like an incredibly painful activity for all involved, and when you've got an actor like Michael Ironside hamming it up and chewing scenery, you really see it on his face. The scanning scenes are genuinely effective, and with a couple of notable exceptions, most of it is portrayed by the actors and some excellent sound design (a sorta high pitch pulsing that slowly intensifies as the scan proceeds).
For the most part, this is a pretty straightforward thriller, but as per usual, Cronenberg taps into something deeper here, and while his general tendencies towards body horror are toned down a bit, we do get some rather exceptional set pieces. The most famous one at the beginning culminates in a head exploding (truly a splendid example, rivaled only by Savini exemplars like Dawn of the Dead or Maniac), and the one towards the end, well, we won't go into too much detail here. Let's just say that throbbing veins play a role. Lead actor Stephen Lack comes across as a little on the bland side, especially since he's playing opposite of Ironside, who is just fully committed to the more ridiculous aspects of this world. As a story, Lack's character also seems kinda like a blank slate. There's something interesting going on here, and in a more action packed movie, there might be more of a training montage or something. As it is, Lack's character is just sorta thrust into things, and we have to buy that he's suddenly learned to control his powers. Still, the movie is a lot of fun, and has a lot of great set pieces. The scanning bits, as previously mentioned, are very well portrayed. One of the more memorable things is when a character scans a computer system via a phone line. Pretty advanced stuff for a 1981 movie. Overall, it's a ton of fun, and the Criterion Blu-Ray looks fantastic. ***1/2
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VIII: Fly Vs. Fly
- The Dead Zone (trailer)
- The Fly (1958 trailer)
- The Fly - This remake of the hokey 1958 classic marks the culmination of all of Cronenberg's talents. He's firing on all cylinders here, tackling all of his tropes with gusto and executing nearly flawlessly. The skeleton of the original story is here (scientist messes with teleportation technology), but Cronenberg fleshes (pun intended!) it out considerably, and obviously the makeup and practical special effects here are top notch. Of Cronenberg's movies, this one is probably the absolute grossest, with a fair amount of gore and viscera, and one of the most horrific body transformations - made all the more effective because it happens slowly, and to a character who knows what's happening and yet, cannot stop it. The previous two movies we covered today had lackluster leading men, but Cronenberg eventually caught on and starting casting fantastic actors in the lead roles, and here Jeff Goldblum is perfect as the slightly awkward scientist, he can play the manic crazy scientist when needed, and he can also do the sad, decaying creature we see towards the end of the film.
I've obviously seen this a few times before, and it's funny what scenes I actually remember, and which always seem to surprise me. For instance, I always remember the scene where he explains why he has 7 identical outfits in his closet, and I always remember Geena Davis' dream sequence (who doesn't?), but I always forget about stuff involving the ex-boyfriend (and the dissolvey hands, etc...) It's a big improvement over the original, and stands as one of the best remakes of all time, if not one of the best horror movies in general. Sadly, while Cronenberg has done lots of good work since this movie, he's never quite returned to this sort of horror, which is a real shame... ****
So there you have it. I'm debating on whether Wednesday's post will be the last 6WH, or if I'll extend it out to next Sunday. Time will tell! It's hard to believe we're already this far along, but it's been a fun 6 weeks...
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
6WH: Documenting Horror
Documentaries are not particularly scary, but there are a plethora of documentaries that are worth taking in during the Halloween season. Many of these are focused on chronicling the making of certain movies or a particular genre, and those are great for when you want to explore something in depth yourself (a good list of movies to tick). But the best documentaries really get at the heart of something and try to tackle the questions every horror fan asks themselves: Why am I watching this junk? Of course, those are few and far between, but it's worth seeking them out. Here are a few horror documentaries I checked out this Halloween season:
- Doc of the Dead - This doc covers the history of the Zombie movie, starting with the original voodoo zombies of the 30s and 40s (think White Zombie or I Walked With a Zombie) but quickly hitting the trope codifier of modern zombies, Night of the Living Dead. It covers a fair swath of zombie films after that, including all the typical debates (fast versus slow zombies, to eat brains, or not, etc...), and a solid cast of talking heads, and good production value, but it doesn't particularly achieve the breadth or depth that you would expect out of a documentary like this. It covers most of Romero's films, and the most obvious and famous zombie films, but not much in the way of obscure or underrated stuff. This doesn't make it hard to watch or anything, and I found it a good introduction, but considering that I'm not a particularly big fan of zombie films, even I found a fair amount of gaps in the analysis. Still, I imagine big zombie fans would get a kick out of it, and it would also make a good introduction for someone who wants to get into zombie movies. **1/2
- The American Scream - This movie follows three families in one town as they create haunted houses in their backyard for Halloween. This might sound a bit pedestrian, but these are serious people, ranging from one guy who seems to be better than the pros (and might drive himself or his family crazy in doing so), another that seems to have his priorities straight, and a third that doesn't seem quite with it. All in all, it's an interesting and well executed documentary. Movies like this have to walk a fine line between documenting what's going on while not seeming like they're being mocked for what their doing either. This movie hits the edge a few times, especially with that third guy, but it never goes overboard and it actually has an interesting and hopeful ending. I was ultimately rooting for all of these guys, so I think the movie accomplished what it set out to do. ***
- Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film - I watch this every year, so I have little else to say about it, except to compare it to Doc of the Dead. This movie doesn't go too deep into any one movie (possibly excepting Halloween, for obvious reasons), but really demonstrates a love for the sub-genre in the sheer breadth of films it covers, from popular stuff like Friday the 13th, to more obscure stuff, like The Prowler. It seems I find a new movie I need to catch up with every time I watch this movie, which says a lot. It's certainly not perfect, but it covers the full slasher story, which is more than I can say for most similar films. ***
And that's all for now. I think this weekend (sadly, the final weekend of the Six Weeks of Halloween) will have no discernible theme, followed by the usual Speed Round. It's hard to believe it's almost done.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
6WH: Week 5 - The Week That Dreaded Sundown
Coming down the homestretch, it's hard to believe we're already 5 weeks into the Six Weeks of Halloween marathon. This was actually a light week for us here at Kaedrin, but in keeping with the emerging theme of originals and remakes, I watched both the original The Town That Dreaded Sundown (a famous precursor to the slasher that has nevertheless been out of print for a while) and the recently released remake.
- The Netherbeast of Berm-Tech Industries, Inc. (short)
- Alice, Sweet Alice (trailer)
- Werewolf Women of the S.S. (fake trailer - extended edition)
- The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) - The film chronicles a series of mysterious murders that terrorized the people of Texarkana, Texas, in 1946. It's based on a real-life case referred to as the "Texarkana Moonlight Murders", and supposedly director Charles B. Pierce (generally famous for his work in Blacksploitation films) wanted to make this in a documentary-style that comes off more like a standard police procedural than that implies. Unfortunately, he also sorta wanted to make a slasher movie that incorporates the occasional slapstick antics of a Barney Fife-like deputy. The result is like a less artistic, more lurid version of David Fincher's Zodiac. The scenes with the killer are actually pretty entertaining and even a little tense. This is pre-slasher, so not all the conventions are there, but the killer has a great outfit (including a sack-like mask that was clearly the inspiration for Jason's look in Friday the 13th Part 2), partakes in some stalking and heavy breathing, and you can see him breathing from behind the mask (which was a nice touch). His methods of dispatching his prey are decent for a pre-slasher, though he does resort to a gun at one point (a total no-no for slashers) and the trombone thing is pretty ridiculous (and I love it for that, but it does sorta call into question the veracity of Pierce's documentary ambitions). The procedural or documentary-like aspects of the movie are far less successful. They're punctuated by a particularly inept voice-over that mostly just explains the things you see on screen, and this is also where some of the silly slapstick type stuff comes out. I thought things might turn around when a famous Texas Ranger is brought in to help out, but he turns out to just be some dude in a suit who has a not particularly bitchin' mustache. It's easy to see why this is a cult classic, and its influence is certainly apparent, but this is actually one of those movies I'm happy to see is being remade. It's so uneven and disjointed that a modern remake which could smooth out some of those issues wile maintaining the good bits could be quite successful... All in all, it's a goofy little movie, definitely worth a watch for fans of obscure cult horror that prefigured slashers, even if it's got a fair amount of issues. **
- Black Christmas (2006 trailer)
- Jack Chop (short)
- Happy Halloween (short)
- The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) - Less of a remake and more of a sequel or perhaps re-imagining, this film starts off 67 years later. The film starts off much as the original did, with a voice-over explaining the original 1946 murders and in a self-referential twist, they actually mention that there was a film made in 1976 called The Town That Dreaded Sundown that covered the events. The film makes extensive use of that fact, opening the film proper at a drive-in showing of the original film in Texarkana (in the movie, this is an annual tradition in the small town), and frequently referencing the film all throughout. Since anyone involved in the original killings would be 80-90 years old at this point, the notion here is that new killings are being perpetrated by a copycat of sorts.
He tells our Final Girl heroine that he's doing it all for someone named "Mary", which sets off a sorta dualing mystery. Our heroes are trying to solve the 1946 murders as a way to reveal the current killer's motivations, a clever conceit. For his part, the killer here is a little more brutal than his 1976 movie counterpart even as he hits many of the same notes (including the trombone, pun intended), but generally effective. The police investigation side of things is a big step up. Gone is the slapstick, and the casting is quite an improvement - folks like Gary Cole and a quintessential "That Guy", Ed Lauter, bring some chops to the proceedings. Anthony Anderson as the Texas Ranger who is brought in to see this thing to conclusion is also a big step up from the original, though his role is a bit smaller than the original. Indeed, one of the film's flaws is that we don't get all that much of the police, whose investigation seems mostly redundant. Instead, we get a lot of the Final Girl Jami's investigation of old newspapers and, in a nice touch, interviewing Charles Pierce's son to see if Pierce had any info that hadn't been released (the son is an actual person, but he's played in the movie by another awesome character actor, Denis O'Hare). This separates the remake from something like Zodiac, while staying true to the original. Visually, the film certainly has more style than the original, and while this is mostly welcome, it can get a bit grating in the second act (not every scene needs to be spiced up with canted or 90-degree angles, thanks). That would be a minor complaint though, and the film is otherwise rich in visuals. The script has some clunky dialogue and the final reveal is a bit on the underwhelming side, but then, it's still a massive improvement on the original, which was really seeking to leave things perhaps a bit too ambiguous. As it is, the remake manages some ambiguity while still hewing closer to storytelling than documentary (or whatever the hell the original is supposed to be). Brian Collins notes that "we're now as far removed from Scream as Scream was from Halloween" and wonders if we're in for another Slasher film revival. I love the sentiment and would certainly partake, but judging from the release this is getting, I don't think we'll see it ushering in a new era of mainstream slashers. But I hope I'm wrong! It's far from a perfect movie, but it is really quite solid, and I'd love to see more like it. ***
Sorry for only covering two films, I was away this weekend and had little time to go further, but I thought this worked out well enough. Stay tuned, we still got a few posts left in us!
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
6WH: Season's Readings
During the Six Weeks of Halloween, I like to read a few tales of terror in addition to the usual onslaught of trashy horror films that I normally gravitate towards. Some of these are perfect fits, others are less so, but I read them anyways... So here are a few things I've read during holiday horror seasons:
- The Inhuman Condition by Clive Barker - Barker rose to prominence in the mid-80s by, of all things, writing short stories. They were so imaginative and evocative that they picked up a lot of admirers, and were collected into a series of compilations called the Books of Blood. This is the fourth volume in the series, published as The Inhuman Condition in the US. I picked this up at a used book store on my recent vacation, thinking that it would be perfect 6WH reading, and I wasn't wrong. Barker is an excellent writer of horror, able to tap into something deep and archetypal, while still feeling fresh and new. I don't often read short story collections because of their inherent inconsistency, but this is a particularly good set of stories (even for the Books of Blood). I won't detail each one, but the opening story is a sorta proto-Hellbound Heart with a group of punk kids beating up a vagrant and stealing a piece of string that has a series of knots that represent a sort of puzzle that once opened... well, I'll leave it at that. There's another story about our hands rising up in revolution (that was not a typo), one about a preacher, his wife, and some ghosts, one about a man who attempts to create hell on earth, and finally, a story about a potent aphrodisiac that works a little too well. This might be the best entry in the series, which is rapidly dwindling for me (only the 6th volume remains). Fortunately, it's looking like Barker's Scarlet Gospels will finally (after 20+ years of teasing) be published, so look for a review next year. In the meantime, this is a solid set of horrific short stories.
- The Burning Men by Christopher Farnsworth - I've long been a fan of Farnsworth's Nathaniel Cade novels where a vampire serves the President of the United States by fighting off creepy ghouls and the like. Yes, it's very trashy, but a whole boatload of fun (for reference, the best description of what you're in for in this series is this moment from the second book, which "opened with Bin Laden's assassination-by a vampire who stuffed a grenade in his mouth and then threw him over a cliff so he exploded in midair. Also, Bin Laden was actually a giant lizard, genetically modified by a vast international conspiracy of reptilian humanoids.") The last book, Red, White, and Blood was actually fantastic, but Farnsworth has taken a break from the series to tackle some other novels. In the meantime, he wrote this quick novella where Cade and his human handler Zach fight an outbreak of spontaneous human combustion. It turns out demons are responsible! Or something like that. It's not a particularly meaty tale, and there's not really much of a challenge for Cade, but it's just fun to be around these characters. Alas, it will probably be a while before the next book in the series... but I will read it when it comes out.
- Weird Pennsylvania: Your Travel Guide to Pennsylvania's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets - There used to be this newsletter called Weird NJ, where these guys would travel all over New Jersey and find local urban legends, crazy happenings, and other things. It became so successful that the guys have expanded to other states, recruiting crazy people to track down all the wacky hauntings and weirdness local to whatever state. A well researched academic take, this is not, but it's always fun reading about urban legends, like Pittsburg's Green Man or one of Kaedrin's local tales - Satan Church. Much of this is creepy, but a lot of it is just silly stuff, like the quest for Midgetville (a rumor that seems to exist all throughout the country, but persists particularly in this area). Ghostly handprints, closed roads, Satan's grave, portals to hell, and hey, Spontaneous Human Combustion! It's a fun little book, if a little slight. Still, I could see some of these stories as being ripe for further exploration (and many would make an interesting story)...
And that's all for now, stay tuned for more movies and the homestretch of the 6WH!
Sunday, October 12, 2014
6WH: Week 4 - Neo-Slashers
The Slasher movie has a generally poor reputation, but for whatever reason, I really enjoy them. Indeed, regular readers will remember that I've gone on and on
and on about slashers
over the years of the 6 Weeks of Halloween marathon. I won't rehash too much of the history or tropes in this post, but some delineation is needed here.
Historically, the heydey of the slasher was the 6 year period between 1978 and 1984. This was brought on by the success of Carpenter's Halloween
, but also changes to the industry and distribution model that allowed low-budget independent filmmaking to thrive and produce copycats and imitations. The floodgates were open, and tons of slashers poured through. By 1986, the sub-genre had lost most of its steam, and the slasher entered a period of mostly direct-to-video hell. Mainstays like Jason, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger soldiered on in theaters, but even they were flagging. By the mid 90s, the sub-genre was basically dead (indeed, the early 90s weren't a particularly great time for horror in general). Enter Scream
, whose winking, self-aware take on the genre reignited interests.
This is a simplification of the history, but for my purposes, any slasher made after Scream
represents a Neo-Slasher. The ones that happed right after were derivative and maintained the satirical, self-referential tone of Scream
, but as we entered a new century, more earnest, serious throwback slashers started to show up (perhaps because the kids weaned on slashers in the 80s had grown up and started making movies of their own). The movies I watched this weekend are probably not the best examples of neo-slashers, but rather, ones that I simply haven't caught up with.
- Thursday the 12th (Robot Chicken)
- Thanksgiving (fake trailer)
- My Bloody Valentine (trailer)
- Cold Prey - This Norwegian tale of snowboarders trapped at an abandoned ski-resort and being hunted down by a pick-axe wielding maniac is a solid example of the neo slasher. It hits all the tropes (the killer with his slashing weapons, the final girl, the historical tragedy revisited upon the present, etc...), and a fantastic setting. It's a little reminiscent of The Shining, what with all the snow and isolation, but this is obviously a very different movie. It takes a little while to get going, but it is very well made, with a reasonable setup and decent action once the killer shows up.
The killer is pretty cool. Though clearly just a dude in a snowy mountain man getup, he comes off as a sorta abominable snowman. The kills aren't super creative, but then, there really aren't that many of them either. Time is devoted to character in the first half of the film, and while I won't call them fully realized characters, they do feel like actual human beings who react to things in realistic ways. This is not a slasher where you're rooting for the monster to win, eve if you do want to see some creativity in the gore department. In the end, it ticks the right boxes, and it does its job well enough, though there's nothing particularly amazing here either. Recommended for slasher fans! **1/2
- It's the Gifts That I Hate (Robot Chicken)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VI: Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace (sorry no vid online)
- Scream (trailer)
- House of Wax - One of the glut of recent remakes (though honestly, this barely resembles the original), this one is only debateably a slasher, though I think it fits well enough. There are some very unslasher-like moments, such as when one killer wields a shotgun, but on the other hand, there are some really fabulous slasher-like sequences. As per usual, a group of kids go camping and run afoul of a local ghost-town complete with Wax Museaum, meyhem ensues. The film is completely absurd, but it knows it's absurd and almost revels in it. It is most memorable for casting Paris Hilton as a character who comes to a particularly gruesome end. As with most of the recent remakes, this is a very slick looking movie, with a respectable teen cast that you'll recognize from other things (including Elisha Cuthbert and Jared Padalecki, amongst others), and plenty of visual effects that look practical. There are some genuinely tense moments, and plenty of ridiculousness, and it's packaged up in a relatively fun ball of wax. Or something like that. Again, it's enjoyable, but not necessarily doing anything new. **1/2
- Hardly Working: Slasher (Short)
- Shining (fake trailer)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V: The Shinning
- Cold Prey 2 - The ending of the first Cold Prey doesn't seem particularly open for a sequel, but they manage it. Indeed, this is one of the best neo-slashers since Scream itself. This sequel picks up right where the first film left off: Our Final Girl is found and taken to a hospital, where she tells her story to the authorities, who immediately go out to find the bodies of her friends and the killer (all of whom are presumed dead). I don't think you can call this a clever setup, but they walk a tight rope in getting the killer back alive, and we all know that Hospitals (especially sparsely populated ones that are closing soon) are great settings for horror movies.
This movie clearly owes a debt to Halloween II, with lots of corridors and hallway shots and symmetry, and a killer who has gone from being just a dude in the first film to someone who might have some sort of supernatural abilities in the second film. The killer is great here, and he's given a little more to do than the first film. Lots of atmospheric tension, and the kills are more creative. Jannicke was a strong Final Girl in the first film, and while she's sidelined at the beginning of this one, so is the killer, and once things start going down, she really takes charge and leads the fight. Not everything is perfect (there's a bunch of police investigation stuff that seems extraneous, though for some reason, they're on the disc as "deleted scenes" even though they're in the movie? I guess foreign films get short shrift in the DVD QA department...), but it's all very well executed and paced, with several tense sequences and near misses. Well worth checking out for fans of the genre. ***
That's all for this week. No idea what next week will bring, probably a no discernable theme week. Also watching a bunch of Simpsons Treehouse of Horrorses and reading a few books, which I'll try to write about some point as well...
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
6WH: Link Dump: Other Halloween Movie Marathons
It seems that I'm not the crackpot engaging in a horror movie marathon and general seasonal enthusiasm. These people are awesome, check them out:
- Six Weeks of Halloween - The man, the myth, the legend - kernunrex invented the six weeks of Halloween all by his lonesome, though some of us have followed in his footsteps, and are better for the experience. So much better than the regular old 31 day marathon that amateurs (and ok, some awesome people, as defined below) usually engage in... As evidence of kernunrex's commitment to the cause, his last few movies have been watched on a laptop, in a barn. Holy hell, people.
- Film Thoughts Halloween 2014 - So this Bonehead XL (that is literally what he calls himself, though is real name appears to be Zack) also plays along with the 6 weeks of Halloween, contributing very detailed reviews almost every day. Like kernunrex, he puts me to shame in his ability to watch and write about horror movies. Check him out, for sures.
- Final Girl SHOCKtober 2014 - Unlike recent years, Stacie Ponder is taking the month slow, simply posting about her favorite title sequences, from the exploding Friday the 13th to the classic "The Thing From Another Planet" title card. Awesome, as always.
- NeedCoffee 32 Days of Halloween - Widge tries, and surpasses the pedestrian 31 day marathon, but only by one day. That's admirable, but only barely.
- Hey Look Behind You 31 Days of Halloween - Alright, fine, 31 days is plenty.
There you have it. There are, of course, tons of other folks partaking, but these are the people I follow. You should too!
Sunday, October 05, 2014
6WH: Week 3 - Now Playing
I'm cheating a little bit here, as most of these aren't actually playing at a theater near you. Indeed, I don't think any of these got a particularly good release, mostly making the festival circuit or being released on-demand or something. That being said, they're all things that have only become available somewhat recently, and one just came out this past week, so there is that. I suppose I should have gone out to see Annabelle
, but I didn't get around to it this weekend, perhaps later in the marathon...
- Halloween Rare Deleted Scene 1978 (short)
- Jason's Deceiving Speed (Robot Chicken)
- Stage Fright (1987 trailer)
- Stage Fright - I don't really like musicals, but when you combine musicals with slashers, well, the result is pretty decent. At first, I thought this was going to be a remake of the hokey Italian slasher (preview above), but aside from being mostly set at a theater, the two are very different. The opening establishes the tragic past that will drive the plot in the present, which is set at a theater camp. When the show director picks the tragic show and casts the daughter of a dead theater star, a murderer dressed up as the show's villain starts offing the competition. Or something like that. We're hitting all the slasher tropes pretty hard here, is what I'm saying. The opening is fantastic, a flashback followed by a big musical number that sorta introduces the major players at the camp. Again, not much of a musical kinda guy over here, but these numbers really do inject a sense of energy into the proceedings that would normally be rather drab in a similar movie. The film flags for a bit in the second act, but finishes reasonably well once the killer (whose musical numbers are all metal music) starts picking up the pace. I had a lot of fun with this. Nice cameo from Minnie Driver and for some weird reason, I always love seeing Meat Loaf in movies. I think I prefer the original killer's mask to the Kabuki version, but what are you going to do?
The old style mask rulez!
It's a paint-by-numbers slasher, so there's not a lot of surprises on that front (even when we start revealing killers, etc...), but it has the added twist of being a musical that keeps the proceedings fun and energetic. Of course, the slasher film is an inherently derivative genre, so all those predictable tropes are actually somewhat comforting, and this film really did scratch that itch for me (so much so, that I think I'm going to make a week of it next week). Definitely worth the watch for slasher fans. ***
- Hell No (fake trailer)
- Grindhouse: Don't (fake trailer)
- The Cabin in the Woods (trailer)
- Willow Creek - This one has been making the rounds at festivals for a while, but has only recently become available on streaming. This is director Bobcat Goldthwait's found footage Bigfoot movie. Right away, you probably know what you're in for, so I won't go into too much detail about plot. In short, the found footage elements work (this is another one of those movies where the footage is from people who were themselves trying to make a documentary, in this case about Bigfoot) and the film holds together reasonably well. It is very derivative and The Blair Witch Project seems to have covered much of the same ground. Unlike the slasher movie's sorta comforting tropes, I generally can't get behind the found footage tropes. This worked reasonably well for what it is, but it didn't really do much for me until the last act. Most of this is done in a static two shot, with our two protagonists in a tent hearing all sorts of weird crap out in the woods.
That might sound boring, but it works really well, and when things do get out of hand, I like where the movie goes. It ends about how you think, but there are some tweaks to what that looks like that I found interesting enough. Ultimately, I'd been hearing about this movie for a long time, so it felt like a disappointment, but it's stuck with me reasonably well. **1/2
- The ABCs of Death (trailer)
- V/H/S/2 (trailer)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror III
- ABCs of Death 2 - Like its predecessor and indeed, most anthology films, this is a hit or miss affair. Unfortunately, after a promising start with A is for Amateur and B is for Badger, the rest of the film is mostly miss. There are occasional high points, but they're almost always surrounded by mediocrity. The brevity of each story/letter does keep the pace brisk enough that it never gets boring... and there are some that have really intriguing ideas. I'd say that it's overall better than the first film, but by evening things out, it also doesn't have the true standouts that the first film had. I won't go through each segment, but there are the ones that stood out for me as being pretty solid:
There are plenty of other solid entries, and quite a few mediocre or half-baked ones. All in all, it's worth a watch for horror obsessives, but perhaps not for most folks.
- A is for Amateur (directed by Evan Katz) - An amusing story told in Gambit/Boondock Saints style where we see how a crime is supposed to go down, then watch how the plan disintegrates in reality. Ends with a touch of irony that is perfect. A great start to the anthology.
- B is for Badger (directed by Julian Barratt) - An obnoxious television show host gets his comeuppance. It's pretty obvious what's going to happen right from the start, but it gets points for execution and the gag at the end of the bit.
- M is for Masticate (directed by Robert Boocheck) - When they were making the movie, they left M open for a contest to see who could make the best short. This was the winner, and it might be my favorite bit from the entire movie.
Slow motion rampage set to music followed by a hilarious stinger at the end. Maybe they should do a contest for all the letters next time.
- Z is for Zygote (directed by Chris Nash) - Unquestionably the most disturbing of the segments in this movie (though it never reaches L is for Libido levels from the first film), this one follows a pregnant woman in an old farmhouse who doesn't want to have her baby until her husband returns. It's nasty and grotesque, but it sticks with you and makes for a good way to finish off the anthology. **
And there you have it. Stay tuned for a week of Neo-Slashers. Exciting!