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Friday, April 19, 2013

The Worst Of 365 Days Of Horror

A "Worst Of" list from all the movies I have reviewed
Going down
 
I gave you the best, now here's the worst. When you watch 365 horror movies, you're bound to find a whole bunch of duds. When a horror movie is great, it is truly great. It's far easier to make a bad movie than a good one and it's very apparent in horror. Go to your local Wal-Mart, convenience store, or gas station and you'll probably see a pile of cheap horror movies, most of which you've never heard of. This project allowed me to see some truly great classic horror movies. It also allowed me to see some of the worst bits of entertainment committed to film. There were some movies that were so bad that I couldn't even get through them. While I could probably write for days about each terrible movie, below is a comprehensive list of the worst offenders, split into sub genres. Hope you enjoy my hate!


Worst Overall Movie



How can one movie get something things wrong? H.P. Lovecraft is one of my favorite writers, but for whatever reason, most of the movies based off his work are terrible. I can't say that The Tomb falls into this category because it does not follow the Lovecraft story. I mean, at all. The original story is a great work of the macabre. The movie is just a confused, muddled mess of nothingness. I understand that budget constraints make some of his grander stories hard to create. The Tomb doesn't have that problem because there is no budget. I have no idea who the characters are or what is going on in this movie. The acting is horrible and the direction is almost non-existant. The best part of the movie is when I stopped watching it. Easily the worst out of 365 movies.

Runner-Up: The Zombie Diaries

Zombie Movie (Romero)


It's no secret that I love George Romero's original “...Of The Dead” trilogy. They are what got me into a horror. While some of his non-zombie movies have been less than stellar, he is still the godfather of the undead. Like criticizing your favorite band for putting out an album that you don't like, I find it hard to point out the problems in Survival Of The Dead. Not because there aren't any (believe me, there are plenty) it's just that it's almost painful to see where things went wrong. I appreciate that the story connects with Diary Of The Dead as it adds a nice touch of continuity. Unfortunately, the rest of the story feels incredibly forced and, at times, confusing. Why are there two Irish families feuding on some island in America? And more importantly, why do we care? There is some decent action, but nowhere near the level of brutal violence and gore we've come to expect from a Romero zombie movie. Rather than going out with a bang, Survival ends the second zombie trilogy with a sad whimper.

Runner-up: Diary of the Dead

Zombie Movie (non-Romero)


A picture is worth a thousand words. The cover for The Zombie Diaries dvd looks like a fun, action-packed zombie bloodfest. None of that happens in this shaky found-footage borefest. It starts off relatively interesting, but the action never picks up. The story is as excruciatingly slow as the snail-paced zombies. It jumps between different groups of people, whom the audience does not know or care about. I was left bored and confused the entire length of the movie. The ending tries to be shocking, but by the time I reached the end, I just didn't care. It's shocking that they actually made a sequel to this movie considering just how bad the original is. I highly recommend that you stay far away from this movie.

Runner-up: The Quick and the Dead

Vampire Movie


Just about everything in this movie is bad, but what do you expect from Director Uwe Boll. He's the reverse Midas. Everything he touches turns to garbage. I knew that the movie was going to be bad before I watched it, it was just a matter of how bad. The story is moronic, the acting is terrible, and Michael Madsen's wig should be considered a dangerous animal. At least the movie has lots of blood and violence. Stupid, pointless violence, but violence nonetheless. I've never played the video game, so I can't compare and contrast it with the movie. Either way, Bloodrayne is further proof that video games should never be made into movies.

Runner-Up: Against the Dark


Werewolf Movie


There are no werewolves in this movie. None. Zero. Nada. Sure, there are some wolf sounds and some suggestive shadows, but no actual, on-screen shots of werewolves. I regret watching this movie so early into 365 DoH. If I had watched it later on, I would have been able to rip it apart even more. The story is goofy in the made-for-tv sense. It's clearly made on the the cheap and shots of the moon are reused so many times that it deserves top billing. There's no real horror or suspense to speak of. The only redeeming quality for the entire movie is that Elisa Donovan is in it. Beyond that, Wolves of Wall Street is just a pile of terrible.

Runner-Up: The Beast Of Bray Road


Monster Movie


Monster movies shouldn't be complicated. The old Universal monster movies got it right. Nowadays, monster movies need wild gimmicks to separate themselves from the plethora of horror movies that are churned out every day. The first 30 minutes are passable. Not good, but passable. It's not until the story finally kicks in that things fall off the rails, catch on fire, and crash into the side of a mountain. It's a goofy, convoluted legend about a man turning into some sort of alligator. It could have been fun in a SyFy sense, but it's not executed in a way where the story can be enjoyed. There are scenes of incest and sexual assault throughout the movie and neither are portrayed in a negative light. The monster does not look good and there is not as much violence as you'd expect. There's a reason why Creature made the least amount of money ever for a wide-release movie.

Runner-Up: Monsters


Foreign Movie


This one is partially my fault as I thought I would be watching the original Japanese version of The Grudge. I was half-right as there are certain parts of this movie in the American remake. I found the movie really hard to follow, even beyond language and cultural differences. It's relatively short, but still manages to bounce around between characters too much. I could not forge a strong connection to any characters because they would be out of the movie within 15 minutes. There are some unsettling moments and some decent suspense, but the movie lacks the proper amount of action. Most of the violence is implied and while there is a decent amount of blood, some special effects are less than convincing. Ju-On isn't horrendously bad, it's just not good.

Runner-Up: Dead Cert

Slasher Movie


Despite being quite bad, Rocktober Blood has a special place in my heart. I fondly remember watching it (on VHS!) with my friend and laughing at how ridiculous it is. As far as slashers go, it's not suspenseful or scary, just silly. The idea of a killer that comes back from the grave to kill again is not particularly original, but it doesn't matter as the killer is portrayed in such a way that no one anywhere ever could be afraid of him. The one good takeaway is that the music in the movie is performed by the metal band Sorcery. The songs are extremely catchy. Don't believe me? Well check out this song and see if you're not humming it later on. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvB78T2KUFc

Runner-Up: Bloody Birthday

Horror Comedy


Wait, this movie was supposed to be funny? It's the worst type of horror comedy when the movie is neither scary nor funny. Even the Scary Movie series manages to force a chuckle once in a while. Shocker tries to give us some slapstick physical comedy, but it's so hackneyed that the Three Stooges would blush. The story of an executed killer gaining electric super powers and the main character being able to have weird visions doesn't make much sense, even for a horror movie. Things just kind of happen throughout with no regard for continuity or the audience's sanity. The biggest insult of all is that Wes Craven wrote and directed this terrible movie. It would have been scarier to see Rush Limbaugh naked. Funnier too.

Runner-Up: Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes

Demonic Movie


Sometimes you take a chance on the movie, having no prior knowledge to guide your decision. It might lead you to a pleasant surprise, much like when I watched Pontypool. Then again, it might lead you to The Devil's Rock. I was drawn in by the World War II aspect of the movie. I feel that there is a serious lack of good war-based horror movies and always like to give them a chance. Unfortunately, The Devil's Rock is a boring story about some sort of demon being held in a German bunker. The cast is razor thin as I believe there are only 4 people with speaking roles in the entire film. The demon's mind games are as predictable as the characters actions, leaving me bored and annoyed. It doesn't help that the demon looks stereotypical and cartoonish. You might actually find a better demon at your next Halloween party. By the end, I didn't care what happened and just wanted the movie to be over. So much for good war-based horror. You win some, you lose some.

Runner-Up: Blessed

Stephen King Movie


Stephen King is one of the the best horror writers in the modern era. Just about everyone has either read or seen one of his works. Unfortunately, some of his stories have received less than favorable treatments on the big screen. Well, if you want something right, do it yourself. Maximum Overdrive is King's directorial debut. Of course, this was during his coked-up 80's faze and it shows. The killer machine idea is nothing new, but their portrayal in this movie is far too silly to be considered scary. The movie gets stuck in one location and drags on for too long. Emilio Estevez is fine in his role, though not much was required of him. As a first-time director King was passable. Still, the story is better suited for an episode of the Twilight Zone and not a full-length movie. The wailing soundtrack by AC/DC doesn't help, either.

Runner-Up: Graveyard Shift

Sci-Fi Horror Movie


A heroin-addicted sea monster? Check. Cheap mid-90's sets? Check. Mullets? Check. Proteus is your basic science-fiction monster movie complete with ridiculous evil bad-guy plot thrown on top of everything. The hero and his companions are portrayed as a drug smugglers, so it's hard to cheer for them to survive. The dialogue is very bad, but actor Craig Fairbrass manages to do a decent job. His supporting cast does him no favors and bring down the entire movie. The monster itself looks hilariously bad. It actually makes Carnosaur look like it should be in Jurassic Park. If you can't make a good monster, don't make a monster movie.

Runner-Up: Splice

Horror Anthology

 
This movie suckered me in by having Vincent Price in it. Sadly, he's only in a few scenes, but still manages to be the best thing in it. Everything about this anthology is terrible. There are too many stories and none of them are particularly good. The horror is weak and the storytelling is just not there to keep the audience interested. The ideas for the stories aren't bad, just unoriginal. The problem lies in the execution as the acting is poor and the sets are cheap. A little bit of money and effort could have made the movie far more enjoyable. Instead, it's just a painful reminder that I could be watching Creepshow instead.

Runner-Up: Deadtime Stories Vol. 1

Masters Of Horror


Masters of Horror put out plenty of dudes (Dance of the Dead, Haeckel's Tale), but they usually managed to be horror-centric stories. Chocolate doesn't even come close to horror. The idea of seeing horrible violence through another's point of view has been done before (For example, The Eye) and done better. The acting is pretty bad (with the exception of Matt Frewer) and the story is meandering and pointless. There is nothing scary or even exciting about Chocolate. It's all just one big waste of time. I legitimately feel bad for anyone who buys this on a whim. I've seen Disney movies scarier than this.This was painful to sit through.

Runner-Up: Dance Of The Dead, Haeckel's Tale

Remake


I usually question the necessity for remakes, but I can understand the desire to remake the classic 1932 movie “Freaks”. It's old enough where a good chunk of your audience probably have not seen it. It doesn't help, though, when you classify your remake as a “modern retelling” and the only changes you make are nudity and violence. At first, I thought Freakshow was just ripping off Freaks until I did a little research. The original was supremely unsettling while the remake is just boring and uninspired. There's a lot of talk and planning in the movie with very little action until the rushed ending. I'm not a fan of watching torture which is a problem considering the last 10 minutes of the movie are just torture. The scene is painfully slow and unpleasant, just like the rest of the movie.

Runner-Up: The Hitcher

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Best Of 365 Days Of Horror

A "Best Of" list from all the movies I have reviewed
Better than all the rest

Greetings fellow horror fans. Have you missed me? I sure missed you. I know I posted back in January that I was going to post a few more things, but life always manages to get in the way. To make up for my lack of posting, here is my "Best Of" list where I break down some of my favorite movies from the past year. If you think I should add another genre or missed out of something, leave me a comment. I'll be doing a "Worst Of" list soon as well. Hopefully it won't take me four months to get to like this post.

Zombie Movie (Romero)


George Romero sure does love his zombie movies. Most people split them up into two categories: The original “...Of The Dead” trilogy of Night, Dawn, and Day and then the recent trilogy of Land, Diary, and Survival. Most would agree that the second trilogy is far inferior to the first three movies. Each of those movies have their moments, but they have too many flaws to even be mentioned in the same breath as the original trilogy. While Night and Day are both entertaining, Dawn Of The Dead is really head and shoulders above the rest. The action starts off right away, the characters are good, and the violence is great. The movie really picks up when they get to the mall, fulfilling the audience's fantasy of doing whatever they want. As is common with Romero's other movies, Dawn has a lot of smart social commentary and really positions people as the real monster.

Runner-Up: Night Of The Living Dead

Zombie Movie (non-Romero)


Pontypool really caught me by surprise. I watched the movie on a whim with no prior knowledge. I saw no trailers, read no reviews. I hadn't even heard of it until I started watching. It's a smart zombie movie that is also incredibly scary. While it may not have as much blood or violence as your typical zombie movie, it stays true to the basic tenets of zombie horror. There is a true sense of panic and utter hopelessness as the movie progresses. I also appreciated that the zombies come about not because of radiation or the dead coming back to life, but because of “infected” words that change people. It's abstract and unique, yet still plausible.

Runner-Up: Exit Humanity

Vampire Movie


Despite almost half the movie having no vampires, From Dusk Till Dawn is still an incredibly entertaining vampire movie. It doesn't hurt that the cast includes George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Quentin Tarantino, and a bikini-clad Salma Hayek. The movie has equal parts action, suspense, and horror, all of which make for an incredibly fun watch. It's over-the-top entertainment thanks to the great performances and director Robert Rodriguez's incredible eye for action.

Runner-Up: John Carpenter's Vampires

Werewolf Movie


Director John Landis manages to create a werewolf movie that is both scary and funny. The movie is best known for it's werewolf transformation scene. Unlike previous movies, the transformation takes place in clear light for an extended period. Thanks to incredible special effects, the audience practically feel the pain of the transformation as well. It's your traditional werewolf movie, but thanks to good acting and solid direction, An American Werewolf In London is a great watch.

Runner-Up: Ginger Snaps

Monster Movie



The Host is fashioned after the classic Godzilla movies from Japan. The movie has plenty of emotion and lots of social and environmental commentary. The monster itself looks very good thanks to some great special effects work. The characters are all likable and relatable. Thankfully the movie is in it's native Korean and not dubbed. It's a little long, but it's worth it.

Runner-Up: Monster Brawl

Foreign Movie


Frontier(s) came out of nowhere for me. I had never heard of it before and decided to watch it on a whim. It is shockingly violent, but does not rely on gore alone. It's brutal, grim, and gritty, and not for everyone. The sets and natural locations both look very good and transport the viewer to another place, fully enveloping them in horror.

Found Footage Movie



Cloverfield manages to put the audience directly in the path of a gigantic monster. The movie uses Manhattan to it's advantage with scenes on bridges, on the streets, and in subways. You really feel like you're right there with the characters. There's even a decent love story thrown in for good measure. The monster looks great and some great camera work makes Cloverfield more than just another shaky-cam headache-a-thon.

Runner-Up: Quarantine

Favorite Slasher Movie


I have a special love for Satan's Little Helper. It's cheap, simple, and occasionally stupid, but it's still incredibly fun. The mask for “Satan” looks great and I love that we never see the killer's face. Technically, we're not even sure of the killer's true identity. The ending manages to be both scary and depressing, a high accomplishment for a lesser-known movie. While it might not make it on many (or any) lists, I enjoyed it immensely and have given it multiple views.

Runner-Up: Halloween

Favorite Universal Monster


The classic story is full of horror, romance, and romantic horror. Bela Lugosi is the one and only Dracula and everyone else after him is just holding his place until he inevitably rises from the grave once more. The movie is over 80 years old and hasn't lost anything to time or changing trends. The movie is drenched in shadow giving it an unshakable creepiness that stands to this day.

Runner-Up: Frankenstein

Favorite Horror Comedy


It's Mel Brooks and Leslie Nielsen. What more could you want? The movie stays pretty true to the Dracula story, but still manages to cram in loads of laughs. While it may not be Brooks' best movie, it's still far better than any sort of “spoof” movie that has come out in the past twenty years. Comedy doesn't always work in horror, but Mel Brooks manages to do the impossible.

Runner-Up: Suck

Favorite Satanic Movie


I don't know why, but something about this movie legitimately scared me the first time I watched it. The slow descent of the outside world, the race against time, and the supernatural elements all work together to create something awkward and unsettling. We only see the arm of the Prince of Darkness and it still manages to be frightening. An unsung gem by John Carpenter.

Runner-Up: The Omen

Favorite Stephen King Movie


Misery is scary because it is very real. There's no supernatural elements, no aliens, no magic powers. Just a man trapped in a room with a psychopath. The real praise goes to James Caan and Kathy Bates who put in award-winning caliber performances. Director Rob Reiner does a great job giving us both thrills and chills. Misery proves that you don't need wild stories and fantasy to make good horror. Sometimes a person is the scariest monster.

Runner-Up: The Shining

Favorite Sci-Fi Horror Movie


One of my all-time favorite movies. What can be scarier than an alien creature that can look like anything? An alien creature that can look like hideous twister monsters. Thanks to some great special effects, we see a monster straight out of our nightmares. The movie has plenty of mystery, action, suspense and horror. Kurt Russel is great as well as the rest of the supporting cast. One of John Carpenter's best.

Runner-Up: The Fly

Favorite Horror Anthology


When you combine two great horror minds like Stephen King and George Romero, you know you're in for a good time. Each story in Creepshow is highly enjoyable and could stand on it's own as a full-length. There are great performances from a myriad of talented actors that aren't necessarily synonymous with horror. People like Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, Ed Harris, Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook, and even Stephen King himself make the movie that much more enjoyable. The stories are all different and avoid falling into the usual horror cliches. Highly recommended.

Runner-Up: Trick R Treat

Favorite Masters Of Horror


This was the one Masters of Horror episode that actually gave me the chills. I actually regret reviewing it so early because I feel like I probably missed some things. I really like everything about this movie; from the concept, to the acting, to the execution. Everything about it is as good as it is terrifying. The idea of a haunted video isn't new (The Ring anyone?), but once we actually see clips of said-haunted movie, everything becomes that much more terrifying. This could easily have been a full-length movie and could have even become a new horror classic.

Runner-Up: Family

Favorite Remake


The Crazies took a decent, if somewhat forgettable, George Romero horror movie and improved on it in just about every way. It manages to achieve both reasons for remaking a movie: Exposing the audience to something they might not have originally scene and making it better. The movie has lots of great action and some good scares. There are some memorable scenes and some pretty good acting that help the story along. I'm not the biggest fan of remakes, but The Crazies gives me hope for future ones.

Runner-Up: Fright Night

Most Shocking Moment


Wow! This scene completely and utterly shocked me when I saw it. I was literally on the edge of my seat as I saw a woman pulled closer and closer to a piece of broken wood. Movies tend to cut away, leaving the brutal violence to the audience's imagination. Zombi stays with the scene, showing exactly what happens when the human eye meets something sharp. Here is the scene if you are morbidly curious.

Runner-Up: The “hobbling” scene from Misery

Thursday, January 3, 2013

365 Days Of Horror: Facts, Stats, and Numbers

Facts, Stats, and Numbers from 365 Days Of Horror
Uh...I'd like to buy a vowel.

The reviews may be over, but that doesn't mean the fun has to stop. Over the days and weeks, I'll be putting up a few posts about my experience watching a years worth of horror movies. I plan on writing a "Best Of" list talking about the movies I enjoyed the most, my favorite scenes, and all that other good stuff. I also plan on writing a "Worst Of" or "Razzie" list of the worst things I had to sit through. That will take some time since I saw some truly terrible movies. First, though, I thought it may be fun for loyal readers and casual observers to see some of the stats that came out of a blog updated literally every day with new content. Some numbers are obvious while others are truly surprising. Enjoy!

All-time Pageviews for 365 Days Of Horror
 67, 109

Months With The Most Views
December (14,450)
October (12,604)
November (8,777)

Months With The Least Views
February (934)
January (1,204)
April (1,216)

Reviews With The Most Views
Day 337: It - 3103
Day 155: Dead Silence - 2888
Day 251: Jennifer's Body - 1065
Day 182: Dead Snow - 899
Day 99: Masters of Horror: Fair-Haired Child - 878
Day 102: Village Of The Damned - 738
Day 244: Child's Play - 501
Day 365: Night Of The Living Dead- 397
Day 106: The Lost Tribe - 297
Day 65: Satan's Little Helper - 272

Reviews With The Least Views
Masters Of Horror: Homecoming - 15
I Sell The Dead - 16
Beast of Bray Road - 17
Daybreakers - 17
The Stuff - 18
The Mummy - 18
Night Of The Comet - 19
The Orphan - 19
The Resurrected - 22
Diary Of The Dead - 23

Thanks for pointing to the antiquated part of the internet


Top Referring Websites
Google
Reddit.com
Facebook
Twitter
Bing

Top Browsers
Chrome
Firefox
Internet Explorer
Safari
Opera

Top Mobile Devices
Android
iPhone
iPad
iPod
Blackberry

I can't find Candyland anywhere on this map.


Top Pageviews by Country
United States - 29426
United Kingdom - 6046
Canada - 2310
Russia - 1659
Germany - 1616
Italy - 1188
France - 1174
Brazil - 997
Australia - 743
Turkey - 463


Unexpected Countries That Have Visited The Site Over The Past Year (that I can remember)
Jersey
Netherlands Antilles
Madagascar
Ivory Coast
Guam
Bahrain
Cyprus
Sierra Leon
French Polynesia
Iraq
Iceland
Luxembourg
Oman
Djibouti
Qatar
Burikina Faso
Azerbaijan

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day 365: Night Of The Living Dead

Night Of The Living Dead
Good night and good luck

This is it. The end. The 365th movie review. They said it couldn't be done. I didn't even think I would make it this far, but we made it. I've seen movies about vampires, werewolves, monsters, animals, serial killers, aliens, killer clowns, ghosts, demons, Satan, and my favorite, zombies. I have seen classics, independents, movies I've always wanted to see, and movies I wish I had not. I will be taking a much needed break in the coming days, but I will be doing at least a few more posts, which will include a “Best Of” awards ceremony and Razzies for the worst. I want to personally thank each and every one of you for helping me, whether it was procuring certain movies, helping me with research, correcting some mistakes, and spreading the word. Without you, I would have stopped a long time ago. Without further ado, here is the final review for 365 Days Of Horror.

Night Of The Living Dead is a 1968 zombie movie written and directed by George Romero (Dawn Of The Dead, Creepshow). The movie stars Judith O'Dea (The Pirate, The Ocean) as Barbra and Duane Jones (Vampires, To Die For) as Ben. Barbra and her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner, The Majorettes, Night Of The Living Dead 1990) drive to rural Pennsylvania to visit their father's grave. Johnny is annoyed to be there and entertains himself by teasing Barbra. He playfully chases Barbra, pointing to another man in the cemetery and warning, “They're coming to get you, Barbra!” The man, a zombie, attacks Barbra and then struggles with Johnny who cracks his head on a gravestone. The man chases Barbra to her car and smashes the window with a rock before she is able to pull the emergency break and roll down a hill. The car crashes and Barbra flees to a nearby farmhouse where she discovers a decomposing body upstairs. When she leaves the house, she is surrounded by zombies and is saved by a man named Ben who brings her back inside. Barbra is traumatized by the events and goes into shock while Ben tries to secure the house by boarding up the doors and windows. It is revealed that a group of people have been hiding in the house's cellar the entire time. The group is made up of a young couple named Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Ridley) as well as Harry Cooper (Karl Hardman, Santa Claws) his wife Helen (Kyra Schon) and their daughter, Karen, who has been bitten by a zombie. The cowardly Harry tries to explain why he did not help Ben when he heard him upstairs, but Ben does not believe him. Harry insists that they are safer in the cellar, but Ben rebuffs him, claiming it is a “death trap”. While Harry and his family stay in the cellar, the rest of the group listens to the radio and television for information. The problem is widespread across the entire East Coast and the murderers, who appear to be the recently deceased, are cannibalizing their victims. While there is no definite explanation, it is believed that a space probe returning from Venus that exploded in the Earth's atmosphere may have been contaminated with radiation. A news report reveals that a rescue center has been established nearby and, with the farmhouse becoming increasingly surrounded by the undead, the group agrees to make a run for it. Ben, Tom, and Judy make a run for a truck near the house while Harry throws molotov cocktails at the zombies. Tom accidentally spills fuel on the truck, causing it to eventually explode, killing himself and Judy. Ben runs back to the house, but is unable to enter because Harry refuses to unlock the door. Ben is forced to break down the down, and after securing it, assaults Harry. Harry threatens to shot him, but Ben takes his gun and shoots Harry, who stumbles down the cellar. With the plan failing and zombies surrounding the house, how will Ben and Barbra survive?

Welcome to the gun show

Night Of The Living Dead is the movie to which all other zombie movies are compared. While there were zombie movies previous to this one, like White Zombie and King Of The Zombies, Night Of The Living Dead set the standard for the modern zombie films. George Romero crafted a horror movie that is both smart and graphic, appealing to all types of horror fans. The combination of suspense, thrills, and action makes the movie an intense and gut-wrenching experience. The movie's graphic nature was shocking at the time as we see the zombies tearing at and eating human body parts. Before NOTLD, most zombies were simply the product of voodoo and mind control. Romero created zombies that are far scarier with added aspect of cannibalism. They are violent monsters with an insatiable hunger and virtually limitless numbers. Despite being in black and white, the movie is still quite gory and bloody, especially for a movie in the 1960's. The movie cleverly leaks out bits of information about what is happening, putting the audience in the same position as the characters, causing us to relate to them. By doing this, we learn why there are zombies and how to stop them. We also learn that armed posses are combing the area, a foreshadowing of things to come.

"Oh, tombstone. You're such a great hugger."

More importantly, though, the zombies in Night Of The Living Dead are not the true monsters. As is now common among Romero and other zombie movies, social commentary is in full effect. Romero's casting of a black man in the hero role was seen as slightly controversial at the time. By doing so, the audience is forced to deal with their own personal feelings of prejudice and race. This is one of the main themes of the movie as hatred, mistrust, and deceit are all at work in the movie. Harry is a coward who is clearly out of his element, but refuses to listen to Ben, despite clearly being in control. Harry thought the best idea was to hide and hope for the best while Ben is proactive, boarding up the house and getting the radio and television to work. We all hope to be brave like Ben, but we secretly fear that at the moment of truth, we may be more like Harry. It was disappointed that Barbra was virtually useless for most of the movie and even Romero himself has stated that he was unhappy with the way she was written. The acting is good all around which helps make the movie emotional and believable. 

These flash mobs are ridiculous

Night Of The Living Dead was George Romero's feature-length directorial debut, but you would never know it. Scenes are shot with a competent confidence with a mixture of interesting angles that help convey a sense of frantic horror. The film opens up like any normal event, but quickly disintegrates into an uncontrollable horror that never ens. Less than ten minutes is all it takes for the movie to become a dire struggle for survival. Rather than having the movie take place in an easily recognizable area, Night Of The Living Dead takes place in a rural area that could be just about anywhere. Shot in central Pennsylvania, the natural open setting is all the more terrifying because it appears to be calm and comforting. The movie has a good amount of action and scares that still make modern audiences jump. The musical flourishes are great and make certain scenes far scarier than one would initially expect.

"Hey, put Cougar Town on."

Night Of The Living Dead was not the first zombie movie, but it did manage to completely change the genre. Bland mind-controlled zombies were replaced by the living dead who's only motivation is to feed on the living. The movie established new rules, like shooting zombies in the head, that are still followed to this day. The movie is shockingly violent and gory, still capable of scaring modern audiences. The story is great from the intense and frantic beginning to the brutal, depressing ending. The movie is full of important social commentary that still resonates today. The acting is great and Romero's direction is perfect. Whether you're looking for a straight-forward and scary horror film, or a smart, thoughtful movie with lots of action, Night Of The Living Dead is an all-encompassing and entertaining movie. There is a reason why the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. Unfortunately for Romero, but fortunately for you, the movie entertained the public domain because the original distributor, the Walter Reade Organization, did not put a copyright on prints of the film. The movie is now available through many different mediums, including for free on various websites. Night Of The Living Dead is an incredibly entertaining and incredibly important movie. Aspiring film makers, writers, and actors should watch the film as a blueprint for making a great movie on a limited budget. As for horror fans, it's required viewing. A movie like Night Of The Living Dead makes horror fans proud of the genre they love.

10/10

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Day 364: Suspiria

Suspira
Cleanup on Aisle 3

When it comes to Dario Argento movies, people usually fall into one of two categories: those who “get” them and those who don't. I say usually because I am an outlier and fall right in the middle. I understand what and why things are happening and at the same time have no clue what is going on. They are complicated pieces of cinema with a unique, unmistakable style. The stories are not always clear and easy to understand, which alienates a lot of people. Other relish in the sheer bizarre nature of his movies, soaking up the the director's impressive ability to create beautiful works of art from acts of violence and bloody bodies. Some horror movies go straight for the jugular while others go for a slow burn, letting the audience absorb the deep atmospherics. Argento does both in such a way that can split an entire audience and a single reviewer.

Suspiria is a 1997 Italian horror movie written and directed by Dario Argento (Inferno, Masters Of Horror:Pelts). Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper, My Favorite Year, Stardust Memories) is an American Ballet student enrolling at a prestigious dance academy in Germany. On the night of her arrival, a student named Pat Hingle exits the academy and runs out into the storm. She mutters something about “secret” and “iris”, but Suzy cannot make out what she is talking about. Later that night, Pat, who along with a friend, is brutally murdered by an unseen assailant. The next day, Suzy meets Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett, Dark Shadows, Father Of The Bride) and Miss Tanner (Alida Valli, The Third Man, Senso) along with a few of the girls attending the school. During her first lesson, Suzy becomes mysteriously ill and is moved into the dormitory against her wishes. The doctor treating her insists that she drinks a special glass of wine a day in order to stay medicated. During this time, Suzy befriends Sarah (Stefania Casini, 1900, The Belly Of An Architect) and the two room together. One night, maggots begin to fall from the ceiling and all the girls room together while the house is fumigated. That night, both girls hear a distinct whistling snore from a sleeping woman that Sarah identifies as the school's director, despite her supposedly being away from the school for several more weeks. Sarah reveals that she and Pat were friends and that Pat had been talking about strange things occurring at the school right before her murder. They search for Pat's notes, which appear to have been stolen, and Suzy is suddenly overcome with sleep. Sarah is chased by an unseen figure and her murder is covered up. Suspicious of Sarah's unexplained disappearance, Suzy reaches out to one of Sarah's aquantances, Dr. Mandel (Udo Kier, Blade, End Of Days) who informs her that the school was founded by a witch named Helena Markos. His colleague Professor Millus tells her Markos was very powerful and lead a full coven of witches. Before Suzy departs, he tells her that a coven can only survive if they have their queen. Will Suzy be able to find and stop the queen before it's too late? 

 Haw-haw!

Dario Argento's movies are known for being surreal and Suspiria is no exception. The movie is a strange fever dream of intense violence and strange events that are hard to piece together. Things don't always make sense in Suspiria and it does take some effort to stay interested. The story isn't very clear on exactly what is happening, though it is easier to follow than the follow-up movie Inferno. A decent mystery is coupled with a few scenes of extreme violence, which is entertaining, at least for a while. The bit about witches and Helena Markos doesn't occur until the last 1/3 of the movie. Why not have that in the beginning, giving the audience something to think and worry about. Instead, we're left in the dark for most of the movie. I suppose it puts us in the same position as Suzy, in terms of knowledge, but a little hint or foreshadowing would have made the previous two-thirds of the movie far more interesting. The final ten minutes actually saved the movie for me as they manage to make sense of what is happening while being incredibly thrilling and scary.

Someone teach this girl how to apply lipstick

While the story and pacing could have been better, Suspiria's greatest strengths come from the audio/visual department. Like most of Argento's other films, Suspiria is a feast for the eyes. He employs beautiful radiant colors throughout the film, using them to convey atmosphere and feeling. Deep blues and rich reds splash across scenes, washing the actors in unnatural, but understandable, colors. These visually interesting scenes could easily be shown at any arthouse or museum. The amazing music in the movie is provided by instrumental band Goblin (erroneously named “The Goblins” in the credits). Their synthesizers and vocalizations create music that is both eerily beautiful and utterly terrifying. The music sets the atmosphere and emotion in every scene and the constant repetition bores it's way into your brain. Without their score, I truly believe the movie would not be as good as it is. (Side-note, if you like the music of Goblin, I highly recommend checking out the band Zombi. Give them a listen here, here, and here.) The acting is good throughout, though as usual, I had a hard time with the voice dubbing. It always throws me off, especially when someone is clearly speaking English, but the voice doesn't match up. I'm pretty sure Udo Kier is dubbed, which is just ridiculous, since he speaks English.

The Kool-Aid Man is a wonderful interior decorator

Suspiria is an intense and unique horror movie unlike anything seen before. The story is a bit difficult to follow and the pacing is a bit slow. There should have been more foreshadowing and an earlier mention of witches just to keep the audience on their toes. The talk of witches towards the end comes out of nowhere and feels out of place. When everything comes together, though, the movie becomes much more entertaining. There are a few scenes of violence spread throughout which keeps things interesting and scary. The acting is good, but the real pleasure of Suspiria comes from Argento's directing and Goblin's music. Patience is required for a movie like this, but it is well worth it. While I did not particularly care for Inferno and struggled at times with this movie, I felt that Suspiria was able to pull things together to be an interesting and unique watch. There are plans to remake Suspiria, but watch the original first. If you can deal with a movie that makes complete sense and no sense at all, I think you'll like it.

8/10

Friday, December 28, 2012

Day 363: Frankenstein

Frankenstein
In the name of Science!

There is only one monster from the golden era of horror movies that has managed to spawn countless sequels, remakes, adaptations, and spoofs while staying almost exactly the same: Frankenstein's monster. Though commonly referred to simply as “Frankenstein” the monster has changed very from it's major motion picture in 1931. When people think of Frankenstein today, they are still thinking of Boris Karloff 's stone face and neck bolts. Even the remake starring Robert De Niro in a much more realistic interpretation of how the character looks could not change the public's perception. It is a true testament to how important the 1931 movie really is. Of course, our knowledge of things get distorted over the years thanks to all the various appearances of the character. Sure we remember the big lines like “It's Alive!” but do most people know who said it? When you ask “Who was Dr. Frankenstein's assistant in the movie?” most would be incorrect in saying “Igor”. For a character so beloved in the horror world, sometimes people get the simplest facts wrong.

Frankenstein is a 1931 Universal Pictures horror movie based on the novel of the same name by Mary Shelley. The film stars Colin Clive (Bride Of Frankenstein, Jane Eyre) as Heinrich “Henry” Frankenstein and Boris Karloff (The Mummy, Bride Of Frankenstein) as The Monster, though in the beginning credits, the Monster's role is billed only with a question mark. Henry Frankenstein is a young scientist determined to reanimate dead tissue and create new life. With the help of his hunchback assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye, Dracula, The Invisible Man), Henry steals corpses in an effort to piece together a human body for his ghoulish experiments. To continue with his morbid work, Henry has become reclusive, setting up a laboratory in an abandoned watch tower far from town. Elizabeth (Mae Clarke, The Public Enemy, Waterloo Bridge) Henry's fiance, grows concerned over his increasingly strange behavior and, with the help of her friend Victor Mortiz (John Boles, Sinners In Paradise, Curly Top), reaches out to Dr. Waldman (Edward Van Sloan, Dracula, The Black Room) for help. Dr. Waldman informs Elizabeth of Henry's dark experiments and all three agree to go see him. They find Henry in the last stages of his experiment. They watch in horror and amazement as thunder and lightning start up Henry's machines and give life to the patchwork of dead body parts, giving life to a hulking monster. Unfortunately, because of a mistake by Fritz, an abnormal brain was put into the monster's body and he proves difficult to control. Though he is hideous to look at, the monster is a simple, gentle creature. He is like a newborn baby, discovering the world for the first time. Fritz takes sadistic pleasure in torturing the monster with a torch. His fear is mistaken as an attack so Henry and Dr. Waldman chains him up in the dungeon. Later, they discover Fritz strangled to death by the monster and determine that he is unfit for society. The creature eventually escapes, strangling Dr. Waldman in the process. While Henry and Elizabeth prepare for their wedding, the monster wanders through the countryside where he meets a little girl. Much to his delight, they throw flowers into a lake. When the flowers run out, he tosses the girl into the water, drowning her by accident. An enraged band of peasants pursue the monster who is headed right for Henry and Elizabeth's wedding. What will happen to this misunderstood creature and will Henry be able to save him?

"Look at that manicure! Look at that manicure!!!"

Though it doesn't have the same supernatural elements as it's counterparts Dracula, The Mummy, and The Wolfman, Frankenstein manages to be the most frightening. Though tame by today's standards, the movie truly frightened audiences in the 1930's. Multiple scenes were censored, including the one involving the monster throwing the little girl into the lake. The movie begins with a rather ingenious warning to the audience about what the shocking things they are about to see. It is a clever introduction that sets the audience up nicely. While the monster looks are unnatural, it's the basic human emotions that are both touching and unnerving. We feel for this creature, born into a world that does not understand it. Like a baby, it is innocent, with only the most basic functions of understanding and comprehending. That touching, childlike humanity makes the monster a truly sympathetic character. That sympathy is shattered when we see how strong and violent it could be. Combined with Henry's all-encompassing obsession, Frankenstein has an incredibly sad and somber tone to it despite being a horror movie. Every character suffers in some form or another, making the film a surprisingly tragic experience. The movie does have some differences from the novel, but the overall tone is very much the same. If I have any real complaint with the story is the relatively happy ending.

"Flower Power, you say?"
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What really helps make the movie work is the great cast and solid directing. Boris Karloff's performance conveys the monster's frightening strength and incredible weakness. Though he never utters a word, Karloff is able to use simple sounds and movements that speak louder than words. His stone-solid, emotionless face also seen in The Mummy gives an unnaturalness to the monster that still unnerves audiences to this day. Colin Clive is highly enjoyable as the mad scientist Henry Frankenstein. His iconic scream of “It's Alive!” conveys his absolute madness and has been used in countless forms of media and entertainment. Universal Pictures regulars Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan help round out the cast with good supporting performances. Director James Whale (The Invisible Man, The Old Dark House) creates a dark and winding atmosphere, giving the film a Gothic feel. The sets are classic Universal horror and actually look better than if they were shot in a real location.

Frankenstein Meets Swamp Thing never fully materialized

We have seen Frankenstein's monster in all forms of entertainment, whether it was in the wide number of sequels, remakes, and cross-overs, or The Munsters, comic books, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Throughout it all, it has essentially stayed the same (Frankenberry doesn't count). The iconic monster was able to reach it's status through great acting, incredible directing, and a story that truly touches the audience. One can view Frankenstein as simply a black-and-white monster movie from the old days, but they would be missing the bigger picture. It is an existential story of man's fragile nature and society's inability to understand. It is a deep and incredibly sad story that most can relate to. The movie has a decent amount of action and some scenes deemed “too controversial” when it was first released. Thanks to the hard work and talent of all involved, Frankenstein has rightly become a classic, taking it's place on the Mt. Rushmore of Universal Monsters.

10/10