6WH: Week 5 - Haunted Houses

Well, the past 5 weeks have flown by much quicker than expected (perhaps because of the first two weeks or so were taken up by Fantastic Fest). This week's theme is haunted houses, so let's get this party started:
  • Just Take One (short)
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror: Bad Dream House
  • Jacob's Ladder (trailer)
  • Session 9 - Ah, nothing like a good old haunted hospital, is there? Hospitals are creepy in and of themselves, and dilapidated abandoned hospitals even more so. Hospitals are a place of sickness and death. They're supposed to be clean, but an abandoned hospital is always dirty and grimy. The history of medicine being what it is, it also calls to mind strange experiments and lobotomies and whatnot. In this case, we follow a group of workers seeking to remove asbestos from Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts. Danvers was a real-life abandoned insane asylum, which lends the already effective setting some additional credibility. Of course, one of the workers finds a series of tapes detailing the titular "sessions" with a woman and her multiple personalities. The setting is probably the most effective part of the film, though there are some nice twists and turns in the story. Ultimately it's not quite as scary as I'd have liked, but it made for interesting watching. **1/2
  • Shining (Fake Trailer)
  • Grindhouse: Don't (Fake Trailer)
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V: The Shinning
  • House (aka Hausu) - Last week, I talked about a few loopy Wes Craven films, but the batshit quotient of this film puts those to shame. It is, of course, Japanese, and it's primarily comprised of profoundly weird and surprisingly funny sequences of pure lunacy. The sheer quantity of absurdity packed into this film is amazing. Filled with stylistic flourishes, fades and cuts, even including some animated sequences, and lots of other bizarre imagery, the film follows a group of Japanese schoolgirls as they visit one girl's aunt at her old mansion (which is, of course, haunted... I guess. It's not entirely clear what the hell is going on...)
    House
    Weirdly enough, the girls' names are mostly just funny superficial descriptions like Gorgeous (who is very pretty), Sweet (who likes to clean), Melody (a musician), and my favorite, Kung Fu (guess what she's good at). So yeah, here we have a woman lunging into a flying kick, striking a painting, which then floods the room with blood. Then a piano eats someone. It's a difficult movie to describe. The unrestricted flow of stream of consciousness here may not make much sense, but it's always compelling. I could probably watch this every day and not get bored with it. ***
  • Paranormal Activity (trailer)
  • The Blair Witch Project (trailer)
  • The Ring Video Dating (Robot Chicken)
  • Paranormal Activity 3 - Sequels are usually worse than the original, and prequels are even more likely to be horrible. The problem is usually that, by necessity, you know where the prequel will end. You may also know that certain characters need to survive, and so on. So the Paranormal Activity series has been quite unusual in that it now has not one, but two prequels. I loved the original movie, and the first prequel did a surprisingly good job of retconning the stories together (even if the chief premise of the film was starting to get tired). I expected the series to wear out its welcome in this third installment, but then I heard that it would be yet another prequel, this time taking place in the 1980s, when the two main characters from the first two films were only children. I don't know how they did it, but they effectively managed to retcon this movie into the series as well. Oh sure, it's the same gimmick: cameras all over the house, implausibly capturing weird things on video. And it does suffer from some typical prequalitis, as we know the two little girls will survive. The actions of "Toby" seem more contrived this time around too, as is the ultimate origins of the mythology that would drive the series. All that being said, there is something about the way this series is made that just gets under my skin. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (who made the questionable "documentary" Catfish) show a good capability for storytelling here, and they manage to wring a bunch of tension out of the exhausted found-footage format of the series. It's not the greatest movie ever, but I'm surprised at how well this series has progressed (er, regressed?) If you liked the first two, it's well worth a watch... **1/2
And that covers that. Tune in on Wednesday for a my answers to a long horror movie quiz, and then next Sunday for another edition of the Slasher Calendar!