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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 31: House of Fears

House of Fears
Tears for House of Fears

I don't think I've ever been to a house of horrors or a funhouse. I've seen them on TV and in movies plenty, but never in real life. It just never appealed to me to have a guy in funny clothes jump out at me. I could go into the city to have that happen and I'm free to take a swing at them. While I may have little interest in going to one of these places in real life, when they're in a horror movie, I'm willing to take a look.

House of Fears follows teenager Samantha, her step-sister Hailey and 4 other teens wandering a Halloween funhouse called, you guessed it, the House of Fears. While exploring, they all reveal their personal fears. Soon, each of their fears comes to life and they start dying one by one. It is revealed that an ancient African statue is the cause. The embodiment of their fears seemingly cannot be stopped. How can you conquer your fears if your fear can never die?

Funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?

House of Fears is your typical supernatural teen slasher movie. Running through a maze of corridors, things jumping out at you, you know. The usual. You've seen one, you've seen them all. The important part, though, is that you are still entertained. House of Fears still managed to have some entertainment value to it, despite being a bit cliched. The house of horror setting is definitely different and the constant change of scenery kept me interested. I do give them credit for having both physical fears (clowns, scarecrows) and more psychological fears (being buried alive, suffocating). The problem with that is the physical, chasing-you-down fears are far more exciting than a room filling with sand. To some, the latter is far more terrifying, but in terms of viewing enjoyment, the physical fears win. One thing that bothered me was that one of the fears was “being stabbed.” I was hoping to see a giant knife with eyes chasing people down, but the stabbing happened off-screen.

The acting is fine, but certainly nothing great. The look and budget of the movie is better than your average direct-to-dvd fair, but doesn't beg to be released in theaters. The underlying story of step-sisters coming to terms with each other and all that feels a bit forced, especially because these girls are clearly not teenagers. Some good violence and decent blood keep you watching and the changing embodiment of fears will have you guessing what will happen next.

Hey Ladies. My fear is "this" big

Ultimately, House of Fears comes off as a movie you've seen before with some different details and scenery. The movie has it's moments with some creative scenes and kills. Overall, the movie did not particularly offend or annoy, so that's a positive. If you enjoy chase-down slashers with some of the supernatural thrown in, you might enjoy this. If you're looking for something special, though, House of Fears is not your movie.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 30: Deadtime Stories: Volume 1

Deadtime Stories: Volume 1
You're going to have to scrub real hard to get that tub ring out

George Romero is the undisputed king of zombies. Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead are all horror movie classics. Even his later releases Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead have great moments. His non-zombie related movies, such as Monkey Shines and The Dark Half tend to be overlooked, which is unfortunate because Romero has a great eye for directing. I came across Deadtime Stories because his name was plastered right on the poster. I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe this will be like Creepshow. I loved Creepshow.” How wrong I was.

The first story, entitled “Valley of Shadows,” sees a woman searching the jungle for her missing husband . Or at least, that's what I think its about. There is barely a story and it doesn't help that it jumps around faster than a methed-out kangaroo. It's like someone watched ten minutes of Cannibal Holocaust and thought they'd make a 25 minute short. The direction is just awful, with shots out of focus, too close, or just completely pointless. The acting if flat and painful and there's a pointless twist ending. I've seen commercials more entertaining and compelling than this. This movie violates the Geneva Convention because sitting through it is absolute torture.

People paid money for this? HAHAHAH!


Story number 2, “Wet,” follows a man that discovers a mysterious box on the beach with a hand inside. He asks a local dealer about it and it is revealed that the hand belongs to a mermaid. More boxes are discovered and the man pieces together a mermaid skeleton. The mermaid comes to life and terrorizes him. Conceptually, Wet is a decent idea, but it tends to drag on for too long. There is a slight burst of action and a genuinely creepy moment, but its not enough to keep you entertained. The acting is passable, with some good musical swells to keep the sense of horror. The twist ending comes off as silly and unnecessary. Still, it was better than the first movie.

But she has so much INNER beauty!


The final story, “House Call” is about a country doctor that pays a house visit for a teenage boy that claims to be a vampire. This story is directed by Tom Savini, so we're in much better hands than the first two. Well shot and well acted, this is clearly the best of the three. You get a little bit of blood and action, with a steady sense of horror and dread throughout. House Call is shot in an interesting, old-timey style. It takes a little while to get used to it, and it may not appeal to everyone, but I appreciate the effort to make this story stand out. There is yet another twist ending, but at least this time, it helps make the story more compelling.

I think I found the cause of your chest pain


George Romero's name is on this movie, but don't be fooled. He serves as host and executive producer, but not as writer or director. The acting ranges from decent to mind-numbingly bad. Same for the stories. There is no saving grace or scene to make Deadtime Stories worth your time. Thoroughly mediocre, you should avoid this at all cost.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 29: The Haunted World of El Superbeasto

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto
No mas! No mas!

In honor of the WWE's Royal Rumble tonight, I thought I'd watch a movie involving a Luchadore wrestler. Personally, I think Chris Jericho is going to win the Royal Rumble and face CM Punk for the title at Wrestlemania. I also think some surprise entries into the Rumble include Rey Mysterio, Goldust, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and MVP. Ok, that's enough wrestling nerding-out for now. Unfortunately, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto focused more on extreme cartoon violence and nudity instead of suplexes and powerbombs. While that disappoints my wrestling fan side, it pleased my cartoon side.

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto follows the animated adventure of the masked wrestler/actor/secret agent, El Superbeasto )Tom Papa). The evil and nerdy Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti) has kidnapped stripper Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson) in order to make her his bride and gain super powers. Aided by his sister Suzi-X (Sheri Moon Zombie) and her robot partner Murray (Brian Posehn), El Superbeasto must fight through monsters, creatures, Nazi zombies, and his own ego to defeat Dr. Satan and save Velvet Von Black.

I'd say this is horrible, but its happening to a Nazi, so it's ok

This movie boasts a huge cast of famous voices. Including those listed above, Danny Trejo, Harland Williams, Clint Howard, Ken Foree, Sid Haig, and Bill Mosely all lend their vocal talents. Even though this movie is animated, it is definitely not for children. There is tons of sex, nudity, cursing, and violence. I'm fine with all of that, but you should be fairly warned if kids wants to watch this. The humor is crude and a bit sophomoric, but there are some true laugh-out-loud moments. The songs, performed by Hard N' Phirm, are especially entertaining.

Rob Zombie loves horror movies and this entire movie is a big love letter to the genre. You can spend the entire movie picking out all the famous monsters, plots, and references to other films. Zombie knows this and even has songs to point out that a scene is directly being ripped from Carrie. The animation is clear and well done, sometimes reminding me of the old Ren and Stimpy cartoon. The movie clocks in at about 75 minutes, which makes me wonder if it ran long or short. Why not just crank out another 10-15 minutes and make it a full-length movie? I know Zombie was working on The Devil's Rejects and then Halloween while El Superbeasto was being worked on, so perhaps he could not devote his full attention to making this movie longer.

Say "John Cena sucks!" Say it!

Overall, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is a funny raunchy ride into the world of horror. The animation is very good and the cast of characters is top notch. The humor does get a bit crude sometimes and the blatantly nudity and sex would make anyone uncomfortable if they had to watch it with their parents. It's more suited for a stoned college student than a 12 year old. The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is worth a watch for some laughs and to catch lots of horror references. Now it's time to watch the Royal Rumble. Go Y2J!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 28: Priest

I'm wait...

When a movie is adapted from a well-known book or comic, there are certain scenes that we all expect to appear. Peter Parker getting bitten by a radioactive spider, Bruce Wayne seeing his parents killed, and an infant Kal-El being shot into space. These are all iconic characters with iconic stories. When a movie is made from a lesser-known comic book or graphic novel, its hard to know what to expect or even know if the movie is being true to the source material.

Priest is based off a Korean graphic novel of the same name. Starring Paul Bettany (Legion, The Da Vinci Code) as the title character, the world is thrown into a battle between humans and vampires. The vampires are close to winning a war that has devastated the planet, until the arrival of the Priests, humans blessed by God capable of killing vampires. With the vampires defeated, the world becomes a theocracy, ruled by the Church. The vampires eventually return, kidnapping the niece of Priest who gives chase along with her boyfriend Hicks (Cam Gigandet, Twilight, Burlesque). They scour the landscape fighting vampires and are eventually joined by Priestess. They realize that they have been set up and must race back to their city before a train full of vampires devour everyone. Who came up with this diabolical plan, why did they kidnap a relative of Priest, and what does it have to do with his past?


Part horror, part western, part sc-fi, and part steampunk, Priest feels like wants to be a bunch of other movies. It feels like a mish-mash of Mad Max, Underworld, Shane, Batman and Aliens. The movie is full of your typical horror/sci-fi cliches, but it's main focus is talking of religion and authority. Priest is all about the heavy Christian (and anti-Church) overtones and imagery. The falling crucifixes, people dying in a Jesus pose, and crucifixions. It's laid on so thick that you feel like Jesus is about to smack you with a cross. I mean, if this movie was any less subtle, it would just be called "Religion!" Subtlety works best in these situations, but there is nothing subtle about this movie.

The action scenes are over the top, which is fine because the movie is based on a comic book. It's sleek and stylish, but lacking in a lot of substance. The vampires themselves have a unique style and look very good. The story is fine, but the dialogue and acting are painful at times. It feels like lines were written with the intention of being “cool” but you just end up rolling your eyes. The execution of the action, though, just comes off poorly. Each action scene goes into slo-mo, practically saying “We're slowing everything down so you can see how awesome we are!” A lot of the movie involves the characters speeding through the desert on futuristic motorcycles. Why bother killing vampires with knives and blades when you clearly have advanced technology?

Have you heard the good news? He has risen... and wants your blood!

I've never read the Priest comic book, so maybe I missed a lot of subtle things only fans of the book would understand. That still shouldn't stop me from enjoying the movie, though. A cliched story, painful dialogue with mediocre acting and over the top religious commentary makes Priest a difficult watch. Some fun action sequences and a great opening animated scene keep you interested in the hopes that something great will happen. It is up to you to decide if that occurs, but for me, Priest was almost as painful and boring as being in Sunday school.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 27: Masters of Horror: Dreams In The Witch-House

Masters of Horror: Dreams In The Witch-House
Who's house? The Witch's house!

H.P. Lovecraft is one of my favorite authors. I'm such a fan that I have even visited his grave site in Providence, RI. He is one of the few writers that transcends time in his ability to scare people with his work. His stories create unique and creepy worlds that many try to duplicate, but none can match. You would think with such great stories and an already built-in fan base, we'd be overwhelmed with great Lovecraft-inspired stories. Unfortunately, there are not many Lovecraftian movies and most are just not that good. I was cautiously optimistic when I started to watch Masters of Horror: Dreams In The Witch-House.

Dreams In The Witch-House follows the story of graduate student Walter Gillman, played by Ezra Godden (Dagon, Band of Brothers). Walter, who is studying inter-dimensional string theory, rents a room in an old, run-down boarding house in Massachusetts. Walter is plagued by bizarre, otherworldly dreams that include a human-faced rat and an old witch. As he gets closer to completing his thesis, the dreams grow more intense and Walter can swear that they are actually happening. What do the dreams actually mean and what does the witch want with Walter?

Edgar Winter looks great

I have read Lovecraft's “Dreams In The Witch-House,” so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. The movie is fairly loyal to the overall story, but adds a few things. The movie is set in modern times, which is disappointing because it was unnecessary. Another unnecessary addition was a female love interest for Walter. I know a love interest is needed in movies, but the story was perfectly fine having none. Though, the nudity was a small bonus. Ultimately, the story is still the same, but since I already knew the story, I was disappointed to see changes.

The cast does a fine acting job and director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond) knows his Lovecraft. Gordon does a good job of creating a creepy and sinister atmosphere. The effects are good, but the human-faced rat, Brown Jenkins, looks very silly. I guess its hard to make him look scary, but fully CGI creature would have been better than a real person's face superimposed on a rat body. There are some creepy and unsettling moments, enough to keep your average horror fan happy.

Nothing ridiculous about this. Nothing at all

Dreams In The Witch-House is a fun movie based on a great story by a fantastic writer. There are plans to make a movie based on Lovecraft's story “At The Mountains of Madness.” If you are new to H.P. Lovecraft, this movie is a great starting off point. Good directing and acting, solid pacing, and a great atmosphere really help bring the story to life. There are some unnecessary additions for the movie crowd that were not in the original story, so if you're a purist, you may be disappointed. Otherwise, you're in for a good viewing.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 26: Rabid Grannies

Rabid Grannies
Grandma what was it like to be on that holiday sight?

Titles are very important, especially for movies. The title can be smart, creative, and make you think. Sometimes the title can be so ridiculous that you avoid the movie at all costs, just because it sounds silly. Sometimes you can figure out what an entire movie is about just in the title. This is one of those times.

Rabid Grannies (originally Les Mémés Cannibales) is a Belgian horror movie from the late 80's. The story revolves around an extended family attending the birthday of their two grandmothers. Most of the family is generally reprehensible and feign love for the grandmothers in order to get their inheritance. A strange present from the devil-worshiping black sheep of the family arrives and transforms the grandmothers into maniacal cannibalistic monsters. Escape seems to be impossible and weapons have no effect. How will the family survive and how will they stop their rabid grannies?

The Belgians have a terrible dental plan

Rabid Grannies has a simple story and gets it out of the way quickly. Most of the characters are pretty detestable, so you're happy to see them get snapped in half, gored, or eaten alive. This was done before heavy computer animation, so it's nice to see the creative use of makeup and prosthetic. Nowadays, the grannies would be shot with full motion suits on green-screens. The makeup is very good and the grannies look especially terrifying. The acting is ok, but since it is dubbed, I can't really give it a complete grade.

I don't know much about the Belgians besides their delicious waffles. This is the first Belgian horror movie I have ever seen and, boy, they do not hold back. The movie is not just violent, it's ultraviolent. Apparently, there is an unrated European version of Rabid Grannies with even more gore and violence. This version had plenty, so no need to rush out to find it. There is a strong undercurrent of black humor to go along with the violence, so its not a total shock and awe bloodbath. One problem I do have is the quality of the film itself. While I wasn't expecting HD quality, the footage feels like it was shot in the 70s, not the late 80s. It made watching a bit difficult at times and hard to focus in darker scenes.

If Wolverine and Freddy Krueger had a baby...and then puked on it

With a name like Rabid Grannies, you're not going to get high culture entertainment. You're going to get demonic old ladies ripping about people while gleefully cackling. The 80's were a crazy time. Just look at Budweiser spokesdog Spuds MacKenzie and Rambo being marketed as a toy for kids. You can practically hear the writers and director doing lines of coke off a Belgian discotheque toilet while WHAM! plays in the background. Its hyper violent and super gorey. If you're looking for bloody kills and some sick humor, this is your movie. If you want story, pacing, and a well-planned plot, Rabid Grannies, shockingly, is not for you.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 25: Black Swarm

Black Swarm
Riders on the swarm

I haven't reviewed a Creature-based horror movie yet and was having trouble deciding. There's movies about alligators, crocodiles, spiders, bears, sharks, snakes, frogs, and even worms. Why are there so many? Is it because they're easy to make? Anyway, I was due to watch a movie from this subgenre and I happened to that Black Swarm had Robert Englund starring in it. That's all I needed to know. Choice made.

Black Swarm stars Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street, Inkubus) as the secretive beekeeper Eli, Sebastien Roberts (Lucky Number Slevin) as exterminator Devin Hall, and Sarah Allen (Being Human, Dead Zone) as Deputy Sheriff Jane Kozik. Jane moves back to her old town of Black Stone with her daughter Kelsey. In town, Kelsey meets a strange beekeeper named Eli Giles. People in town are quickly dying do to massive wasp stings. Others in town start to act strangely, almost like they are possessed and turned into zombies. Joined by her ex love Devin, Jane must save her daughter from a crazed government entomologist, hoping to turn the genetically modified wasps into weapons. 

Welcome to Prime Time, bee-tch

This movie doesn't know what type of genre it wants to be. Its part horror, sci-fi, romance, thriller, suspense, and a whole bunch of other things. I appreciate the effort to make an actual story in comparison to some of the other creature features that get dumped to the $2.00 DVD bin at the local flea market. Unfortunately, the story bounces around so much that it loses focus. Why have people turn into zombies or “drones” as they're called to terrorize the town? It comes off as a cheap imitation of George Romero's The Crazies. If you want them to be the main danger, that's fine, but then don't have the wasps. Add a government conspiracy on top of this, and you're confused as to why wasps even get top billing as the main villain.

Robert Englund is great as always. He could read the menu at McDonald's and make it sound compelling. Everyone else does a fine job, though the daughter, like all children in horror movies, comes off as extremely annoying. Why is it that every kid in horror has to be irritating? It's like an unspoken requirement. Good special effects and makeup help put Black Swarm into a higher quality of creature feature than your typical animal movie. It thankfully does not have any of those blatantly fake computer-generated animals you see in other films.

I just wanted some honey! AAAAHHHHH!

Black Swarm has a bigger budget, good effects, and far better acting than the usual creature movies you might see on the SyFy channel. The story, while choppy and unfocused, at least tries to give some explanation to why things happen. It has some good ideas, but bounces around too much trying to cram everything in. Robert Englund is great, as usual, supported by an able cast. If you like to see Mr. Freddy Kruger in action, or just like insects, you might enjoy Black Swarm. If not, grab yourself a can of Raid.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 24: The Fog

The Fog
Can I use your phone...OW!

John Carpenter is one of my favorite directors. His list of fantastic movies include Halloween, The Thing, and Escape from NY. He has a knack for storytelling, great atmosphere and creative shots. I have seen many of his other films multiple times, but I figured I would give one I had never seen before a try. Unfortunately, it did not live up to his other films.

The Fog stars Adrienne Barbeau (Creepshow, Escape from NY) as radio DJ Stevie Wayne, Jamie Lee Curtis (Trading Places, Halloween) as the hitchhiker Elizabeth, Hal Holbrook (Creepshow) as Father Malone, and Tom Atkins (Creepshow, Escape from New York) as Nick Castle. Set in the small fishing town of Antonio Bay, California, townspeople are plagued by a mysterious fog that rolls in from the ocean. Father Malone discovers a diary from his grandfather, revealing the six founding members of the town deceived a wealthy leper named Blake, looting and sinking his ship. The characters must survive the fog, the deadly secrets it hides within, and find out how to stop it before Antonio Bay is destroyed.

The Smashing Pumpkins keep getting weirder

The Fog is your classic supernatural revenge story. Someone has been wronged and now, through otherwordly and not wholly explained means, they have come back to gain revenge and claim what belongs to them. Carpenter does a good job of making something as silly as fog seems scary. He smarty conceals the fog creatures to keep an air of mystery to them. It's no secret that the movie was made on a very small budget, but it still manages to work. There are some good scenes of violence and gore, keeping up with the early 80's gorefest of horror movies that were coming out.

The problem is that the story feels fairly rushed. Beyond a quick explanation, there really is much more else to go on. The viewer is bounced between a few too many characters, not giving us enough time to really connect and care for any one of them. Most horror movies stick with a core group of characters that you follow from beginning to end, giving you time to learn who they are, what they are about, and why you should care. The Fog bounces us around between Stevie, Father Malone, Elizabeth and Nick, and secondary characters not even worth mentioning. The acting is fine all around, but you can only do so much screaming and yelling before it comes off as silly.

 This next song goes out to all you Fog lovers out there

Overall, The Fog has its moments, but just doesn't reach the same level as other John Carpenter movies. Some good gore and violence keep the viewer entertained and the story has its merits, but it felt very rushed and showed it's limited budget. Carpenter even re-shot 1/3 of the movie because it didn't live up to his standards and later said that The Fog was “a minor horror classic.” Its still worth your time to see because it is a cult classic, but don't expect to get your socks knocked off.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 23: Night Of The Demons

Night Of The Demons least the pumpkins look happy

I’m a sucker for all things Halloween. It’s probably my favorite time of year. Jack-O-Lanterns and black cats adorn every cheap piece of plastic and fake spider webs are strewn across lawns. The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing, its football and hockey season, and horror is in full swing. And when there’s a movie set during Halloween, I’ll watch it. Throw in some homicidal demons and we’re in for a good time.
Night of the Demons stars Monica Keena (Dawson’s Creek, Freddy Vs. Jason) as Maddi, Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) as the sort-of goth Angela, and Edward Furlong (Terminator 2, American History X) as Maddi’s ex-boyfriend, the drug dealing Colin. Maddi and her two friends are going to Angela’s Halloween night party at Broussard Mansion, the scene of gruesome murders and supposed demonic possessions. Colin, in need of some quick money to appease a drug lord, goes to the party to make some quick cash. The police break up the party, but Maddi , her friends, Angela, and Colin stay behind, eventually getting locked in. In an attempt to get out, they travel to the basement where they find a secret room containing six skeletons. Angela reaches inside one of the skeletons to steal a gold tooth and is bitten. She is soon possessed and starts to turn everyone else into demons. If all seven people are possessed, it will bring about hell on Earth. It’s up to Maddi and Colin to stop the demons and escape.
This cherry pie is DELICIOUS! 

Night of the Demons is actually a remake of the 1988 film of the same name. I give this remake credit because it was able to stand as on its own as an entertaining movie. It has a pretty basic story that has been done numerous times, but it focuses more on good action and entertaining violence. I appreciate that most of the demons have unique looks and powers. They could have easily just had the same-looking demons with the same powers, but it gives you something new to focus on in every scene. Never taking itself too seriously, the movie has some genuinely funny lines and scenes, but there are some flaws and details that should have been fleshed out more.

The acting is pretty good all around, with Edward Furlong leading the pack. And hey, seeing Shannon Elizabeth as a pseudo-goth is an always a plus. The makeup for the demons looks good and the effects are decent. There are moments that will startle you, but not outright scare you. The soundtrack is fantastic. Someone actually took the time to find and use good horror-themed punk/metal music by bands such as Type O Negative, Wednesday 13, T.S.O.L., and Psycho Charger. Usually these movies go with stock music or unknowns. I really appreciate that they went the extra mile. It does make a difference. 

A scene from Night of the De...HOLY SHIT!
Night of the Demons is just a fun movie. The acting and director is good, the makeup is creative, and the killing is fun and creative. You won't have any great revelations or fall in love with the story, but you'll have a good time. Isn't that all we really want when we watch a movie? Night of the Demons is worth a watch if you just want to enjoy yourself for an hour and a half. Its definitely worth your time.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 22: Below

Below me

I'm not really a fan of U-boats and submarines. I always feel cramped and claustrophobic when watching movies that involve going underwater. I like the movies themselves, but I can't help but feel like the walls are closing in on me and air is running out. Throw some haunting in and you've got Below.

Below stars Matthew Davis (Legally Blonde, Pearl Harbor) as World War II Naval officer Odell aboard the USS Tiger Shark. The crew receive a distress call and pick up 3 survivors from a sinking British hospital ship. One of the survivors turns out to be a German and Officer Brice (Bruce Greenwood. I, Robot, Star Trek) shoots him. Strange happenings being to occur on the boat; strange sounds, disturbing images, and malfunctions soon cripple the boat and the crew. It is revealed that Brice gave the order to fire on a boat that he thought was German, but it turned out to be a British hospital ship. His commanding officer, Captain Winters, tried to rescue the British survivors, but Brice and the other officers killed him to keep their secret. Now, through supernatural forces, the boat is heading back to the spot of the boat sinking. How will Odell and the renaming crew survive?

I call them hoagies, not submarines

Below is really on the fringes of the horror genre. There is some haunting going on and a few flashes of something supernatural, but most of the movie lies in the suspense section. A sinking boat, exploding engines, and a lack of oxygen are the real villains in the movie. The ghost is more window dressing than anything else. I'm not really sure I can even call it a ghost. Narrow corridors and tight spaces make the viewer feel like they are right there in the boat along with the characters.

There are a few moments that make you jump, but the movie wouldn't be classified as “scary”. Most of the fear comes from the psychological terror of being stuck in small spaces while sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Acting is fairly good all around, helped by smaller roles from Zach Galifianakis, Scott Foley, and Andrew Howard. There are some effects, but most are used for underwater scenes and not supernatural ones. The movie is about an hour and forty minutes long and it certainly feels like it. Its slow, but it doesn't really drag too much.

You sunk my haunted battleship

Below is a good suspense movie, but a so-so horror movie. It is closer to movies like U-571 and K-19: The Widowmaker than Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror. Thankfully it wasn't cartoonish like Ghost Ship. A decent WWII story with good acting and a good supporting cast make the entire movie watchable. If you're looking for a scare, Below will not help you. If you're looking for a WWII movie, you're in luck.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 21: The Serpent and the Rainbow

The Serpent and the Rainbow
Somewhere over the rainbow...

I had been wanting to see this movie since I first saw a clip of it in Bravo's “100 Scariest Movies Moments.” I wasn't quite sure what to expect. There is talk about zombies, but this isn't a zombie movie in the horror movie sense. These are traditional, voodoo zombies. They are in a death-like state, buried alive, and then rise from the grave, doing the bidding of a voodoo priest. Their souls are enslaved, but they are still technically alive and they are not munching on flesh.

The Serpent and the Rainbow is the story of Ethnobotonist/anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman, Independence Day, Spaceballs). Allan travels to Haiti for to find a zombie-like drug that can be used as an anesthesia for a big pharmaceutical company. Assisted by the doctor Marielle, Alan delves deeper and deeper into the mystical world of voodoo. He is warned to leave and when he refuses to leave, he tortured by the commander of the Haitian secret police, Captain Peytraud. Despite all this, Alan learns how to make the drug and escapes back to the US with it. The distance is not enough to stop Peytraud as Alan is attacked by his boss's possessed wife. He heads back to Haiti to stop Peytraud, but is poision by the zombie drug and is buried alive. Alan must escape and put an end to Peytraud before he can kill Marielle.

My heart will go ooooooonnnnnnn

The Serpent and the Rainbow isn't your usual horror movie. You don't see voodoo too much in movies, especially nowadays. Witchcraft doesn't count. Most of the horror comes from dreams and visions, but there is plenty of real life terror as well. While there is no traditional horror movie creature, Peytraud is more of a monster than most vampires, werewolves, or aliens. I appreciated that the movie included the overthrow of Haitian dictator Francois Duvalier. It added a lot of context and purpose to the story.

The movie works because it there is an air of mystery going throughout the entire story. Questions like “What is the drug?” “How do you get it?” and “What does it do?” keep the viewer invested in the story and keeps us guessing. Fear of the unknown is a big factor in this film. Acting is solid all around and Pullman has a heck of a scream. The movie has some good makeup work and decent effects for the time. The movie is a little over an hour and half, but it felt longer. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
No! Don't make me watch Sex and the City!

The Serpent and the Rainbow is a good all-around movie with a good story and a few scares. It you want a real movie, this is it. If you want lots of blood and monsters, look somewhere else. Beautiful sets, solid acting, and a good script make this a complete watch. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't a zombie movie, but enjoyed myself nonetheless. Its worth your time and non-horror fans can enjoy it as well.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 20: Masters of Horror: We All Scream For Ice Cream

Masters of Horror: We All Scream For Ice Cream

Who ordered the Clown Ripple cone?

A horror movie about ice cream? Sweet! Yeah, I went there. Deal with it. A horror movie starring William Forsythe? Extra sweet. Some people are scared what ice cream will do to their figure. But what if that ice cream did something far worse? What if that ice cream was meant to kill you?

We All Scream For Ice Cream stars Lee Tergesen (Oz, Wayne's World) as Layne Banixter and William Forsythe (Raising Arizona, Boardwalk Empire) as Buster the Clown. Layne has recently returned to his old home town to settle down with his family. When he was younger, Layne was part of a local group of kids called The West End Bunch. Members of the group are now slowly starting to disappear under mysterious circumstances. At the same time, Layne's children are walking out of the house late at night, under some sort of spell. We learn that when Layne was younger, there used to be an ice cream man/clown named Buster, who would perform tricks and sell ice cream. Egged on by group bully, Verne, the bunch pull a trick on Buster that accidentally kills him. Now Buster is back, picking off each member one by one, using their children to eat voodoo-style ice cream bars to kill them. It's up to Layne to stop him before he becomes a puddle of ice-cream goo.

Yeah, he's standing right behind you

A fun story, good atmosphere and solid acting really make WASFIC a great watch. William Forsythe is absolutely fantastic in what is essentially two roles. You love him as the friendly ice cream selling clown and fear him as the revenge seeking monster. Basically a supernatural revenge movie, you want Layne to survive but also want Buster to gain his revenge for being killed. That can be attributed all to Forsythe. Atmosphere is also a big factor in making the movie work. The slow-motion ice cream truck rolling through the fog while a creepy version of the ice cream song plays sets the right tone. Anything else would just come off as silly.

WASFIC is one of those sneaky horror movies that, on the surface, doesn't scare you, but deep down it unnerves you. If you are scared of clowns, you are going to be terrified of this movie. Luckily, I don't have a problem with face-painted merrymakers (excluding Insane Clown Posse). WASFIC's creepy moments also come from the emotionless children that want ice cream. Nothing quite as scary as a child standing silently by themselves. Effects are sparse, but when they're used, they have a serious impact and can get downright gruesome.

 This is what happens when you see Newt Gingrich naked

We All Scream For Ice Cream is a solid movie all around. The pacing worked and never dragged or felt rushed. The hour-long format for Masters of Horror worked to the movie's advantage. A fun story, good effects, and great acting made this a really enjoyable watch. As long as you're not scared of clowns (or ice cream), this movie is definitely worth viewing.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 19: Dracula 2000

Dracula 2000
Presented by X-treme Doritos and Mountain Dew

Remember when the year 2000 sounded so far off and futuristic? Now in 2012, it feels like ancient history. There are no flying cars, no robots serving us, and meals don't in pill form. Lots of things in the mid 90's had “2000” thrown at the end of it, just like the word “Extreme” (or X-treme if they were being really extreme)

The movie stars Gerard Butler (300, Gamer) as Dracula, Christopher Plummer (Syriana, Malcolm X) as Matthew Van Helsing, and Justine Waddell (Great Expectations) as his daughter Mary. Thieves break into Van Helsing's vault and steal a silver coffin. Unwittingly, they release Dracula from the coffin and he turns the thieves into vampires as they make their way towards New Orleans. Meanwhile, Mary has vivid nightmares and visions of Dracula reaching out to her. It turns out she shares blood and a psychic link with Dracula. Van Helsing and his assistant Simon must get to Mary and kill Dracula for good. 

Perfect Strangers 2000

Dracula 2000 has a small nostalgic place in my heart. I remember seeing it in theaters with my dad. I don't know why, but I enjoyed the movie back then. It's fun to see some of the late 90's clothes and hair styles. It harkens back to a simpler time, before 9/11, the recession, and Justin Bieber. Maybe I'm getting crankier as I get older, but things were better then. At least, I like to pretend they were. Dracula 2000 revels in it's 90's awesomeness. A great soundtrack including Pantera, Monster Magnet, Slayer, and System of a Down makes me happy, but I'm not really sure if it helps the movie. Even Monster Magnet's video for their song Heads Explode makes a cameo (watch it here)

All that being said, when you step back and look at what happens in the story, it seems kind of silly. There are some gaping plot holes and too much focus is put on updating the story. Most of the acting comes off as over-the-top and cheesy, but in a fun way. Gerard Butler looks absolutely ridiculous as Dracula. Maybe its the hair. Or maybe it's his face. Dracula 2000 has some decent effects and fun bits of bloody violence.

Wow! Look at that ass!

Overall, Dracula 2000 is a fun vampire movie. Certainly not the best, but definitely not the worst. As long as you don't try to dissect every little thing, you'll have a good time. So-so acting and a weak script tend to drag the movie down at points, but some neck-biting and blood spurts are not far behind. The nostalgia factor for watching this movie is still high for me, but the shine has definitely worn off. Still, its a fun watch and worth your time.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 18: Kill Katie Malone

Kill Katie Malone
Axl Rose looks terrible

Horror movies involving ghosts can either be hit or miss. Done correctly, a ghost movie can terrify you and make you sleep with the lights on. If a ghost movie has done it's job, you will jump at every noise you hear while laying in bed and question your beliefs in the afterlife. Done poorly, you'll have some unintentional laughs and question your beliefs in movie making. Welcome to Kill Katie Malone.

Kill Katie Malone follows three college friends who purchase a mysterious lock-box that supposedly contains a ghost. They open the box and find a locket with a picture of a young woman. Wacky, typical ghost events occur; broken furniture, sudden bursts of cold air, and bloody messages written on the wall. You know, the usual. People start getting hurt and they discover that Katie Malone was an Irish immigrant that was sold from owner to owner and brutally beaten to death. Her spirit now inhabits the box and whoever opens it, she belongs to them. It is up to the three friends to save each other and free themselves of the curse of Katie Malone.

She may be a ghost, but her churned butter is delicious

The biggest trick with making a ghost movie is to make the supernatural action believable. Effects are a minimum and when they are used, they look like they were done in Final Cut Amateur. I understand that sometimes you don't have the money to have great special effects, but try flicking a light on and off real fast or something. When the actors are being shoved and abused by the “ghost,” they just appear to be stumbling around like drunks. It comes off as very silly, which is never what you want in a ghost movie.

If you can't have good effects, having good actors is the next best thing. The acting in Kill Katie Malone ranges from fair to yell-at-the-screen terrible. Dean Cain (Lois and Clark) has a small part at the beginning and end, but was given top billing on the poster. Lies! The characters themselves are all pretty unlikable and you feel yourself cheering for the ghost to finish them off so we don't have to see them again. The dialogue is decent and they do the best they can with a boring script and an unremarkable story. They delve into the past of Katie Malone, but you never really feel any sympathy for her. By the end, I was just saying fuck Katie Malone.

It either contains a ghost or my POG collection

Overall, Kill Katie Malone missed on the major key points to making a good ghost movie. Barely-existant and sometimes laughable special effects, mediocre to bad acting, and a boring story are the “three strikes and you're out” rule. I never felt annoyed or angry at the movie, just kind of bored. There are far worse ghost movies out there, but there are also much better. Not scary and not enjoyable, Kill Katie Malone is not worth your time.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 17: Rammbock: Berlin Undead

Rammbock: Berlin Undead
 Bad strudel and pretzels did this

Zombies are my favorite genre of horror movies. My first real introduction to zombies when my dad bought a VHS copy of Dawn of the Dead. I loved everything about it; the slow zombies, shooting them in the head, and social commentary. Ever since then, I have held every zombie movie I've seen to that golden standard. When newer zombie movies deviate from the form, I have to try extra hard to enjoy it.

Rammbock is a German zombie movie set in a small apartment complex in Berlin. We follow the story of Michael as he returns to his ex-girlfriend Gabi's apartment to try and win her back. It doesn't take long for Michael to be attacked by a crazed handyman. Harper, the teenage apprentice, helps Michael fight back the handyman and the two form an unlikely partnership to stay alive. Michael is determined to find Gabi, but first he must survive a horde of zombies and stave off starvation.

Close the door! This is private time!

The zombies in Rammbock are of the fast 28 Days Later-style zombies. Part of me hates the fast zombie because the real fear comes from being surrounded and helpless. The other part likes it because it ups the action and immediate fear. We are never given a decent reason as to why the zombies are up and about, but they are not the undead. Once again, the traditionalist in me hates that. It doesn't have to be definitive, but give me a few theories and let my mind make the connections. Also, the zombies are susceptible to bright flashes of light. That's certainly a new one for me, but I can accept it.

If you're looking for some good flesh-eating and over-the-top gut ripping, Rammbock isn't for you. There are some moments of violence and fast action, but the movie is light on blood and gore. No fun headshots or arm ripping. More focus is given to the characters dealing with their emotions and plans to survive. That's fine because that's what makes a zombie movie great, but when you don't have the horrific acts of violence, it feels more like a soap opera. With a running time of about an hour, I think the extra 25-30 minutes really could have made the difference between an OK movie and a good one. Everything is told in that time, but it seems odd to just have hour-long movie that wasn't meant for television.

Do you want Cheesy Bread or Wings?

Rammbock is certainly not a bad movie. That being said, everything about the movie felt just “OK”. The characters, the acting, the action; it was all “OK”. I guess it just left me wanting. It's good to see the genre stretching out across the globe, such as in Norway with Dead Snow. I hope to see more international films focusing on zombies and how other cultures choose to portray them. Rammbock would be a good gateway horror film for those not initiated.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 16: Masters of Horror - Family

Masters of Horror - Family
Where everybody knows your AAAHHHH!!!

Everyone needs a family. Whether its blood relatives, friends, or a group of people with similar interests, everyone needs a support system. But maybe that family isn't what you had hoped. What if you want to start a completely new family? Do you try to find that special someone and waste years of courting, marriage, and childbirth or do you skip all that and create your own new family through ghoulish means?

Family stars George Wendt (Cheers, Outside Providence) as the peculiar Harold and his new neighbors Celia (Meredith Monroe, Minority Report) and David (Matt Keeslar, Scream 3). We quickly learn that Harold is a psychotic serial killer and has created his own family with the bones of his victims. In his mind, he has full conversations with his victims, even tucking a little girl skeleton in a bed at night. He becomes obsessed with Celia and when David mysteriously disappears, Harold makes his move to make Celia a part of his family.

That's terrifying! What's that bunny doing there?!?

Directed by John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Animal House), Family is more quirky than your traditional horror movie. Sure there's some gore and a bit of violence, but it doesn't rank high in the horror column. Unless you're terrified of skeletons wearing clothes. It has a slow, creeping sort of terror that works because it is set in the real world, whereas other horror movies can take place on a distant planet or in a remote wilderness. A lovely townhouse on a quite street hides the unspeakable acts within, which is far more disturbing than you would think. You almost forget that Harold is brutally murdering people, melting their skin with acids in his basement, dressing up the skeletons and having full conversations with them.

George Wendt makes the character and the entire movie work because he is so likable. That may be a holdover from his days as Norm from the TV show Cheers. Combined with the upbeat music and bright surroundings, you feel yourself almost cheering for Harold. Meredith Monroe and Matt Keeslar both do a fine job as the new neighbors who may have an ulterior motive for moving to the area. I will say that I thought I knew what the ending would be, but was pleasantly surprised when they went in a different direction. It added a new layer to the movie which I had not expected, making it a better film altogether. 
Cheese! I mean, Boo!

Family is an certainly an enjoyable watch for horror and non-horror fans alike. Good acting, a solid story, and great direction from John Landis make this a fun, yet slightly disturbing movie. Some movies in the Masters of Horror series suffer from being shorter than a feature-length film, but Family fits in perfectly at just under an hour. It's light on the horror and effects, but you won't really notice because everything else is really enjoyable.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 15: Death Row

Death Row
Murder was the case that they gave me

Prisons are inherently a scary place. Being surrounded by criminals and having your freedom taken away is an unspeakable horror for most people. Throw in some ghosts and you're in for some serious nightmares. Heck, throwing in a Play-Doh set into a prison would be terrifying.

Death Row follows 2 separate parties converging on the site of the infamous Isla de la Roca maximum-security prison. The first is a group of diamond thieves led by Marco (Jake Busey). The second is a group of college kids shooting a documentary on the old prison. The haunting begins as the combined groups are slowly picked off one by one. Brutal killings and spooky possessions terrorize the group and reveal the sordid past of the prison. They must find out why this is all happening, how it is connected to Marco and how they can escape the island. in one piece.

Meth Row

Death Row knows that it is a small-screen horror movie. More at home on the SyFy channel and used horror movie bin than the big screen, it focuses more on the fun kills than on a good script or great dialogue. And boy do they have fun with the killing. Excellent horror movie makeup and creative deaths keep the viewer thoroughly entertained. Plenty of blood and entrails for the avid gore fan. The special effects are good for a small-screen horror movie, but when the ghosts themselves appear, they look like they have a fog machine stuck under their clothes.

Jake Busey (Starship Troopers, Idenity) channeling his inner Nicholas Cage, is front and center in Death Row. Usually relegated to a supporting cast, Busey cranks his weirdness to 11. It's entertaining for the most part, but sometimes it almost too over the top. Stacy Keach (Titus, American History X) and Danny Trejo (Machete, Anchorman) are great, but its dissapointing they weren't given larger roles. The rest of the cast does a fine job with only one or two weak links. They do their best with a mediocre script. The characters fall in to the typical horror movie trap of being very stupid; always wanting to split up, going off on their own etc. I know there wouldn't be much of a story if everyone just stayed in one place and thought things through, but still, these people do some stupid things.

All this for an overdue book?!

Death Row is one of those movies that you watch when nothing else is on, but still manage to enjoy yourself. Better than the average SyFy channel movie (Ice Spiders, Sharktopus anyone?), this movie keeps the fun kills coming despite a simple script with more holes than a hunk of swiss cheese. Light on the horror, but heavy on the gore, non horror fans with strong stomachs would enjoy this as well. Death Row is a fun watch if you don't think about it too much.