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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 152: Wrong Turn

Wrong Turn
"I just want a little nibble"

Some of the scariest and most lasting movies are ones that take place in real locations with real people serving as villains. Deliverance is a prime example of people and events that can actually happen in real life. Just about everyone knows the twangy banjo music and “the scene” from Deliverance as because it is so terrifying and can easily happen. Sure, mutants and creatures are scary, but it's human beings committing horrible acts that really hits close to home. It's also a good example of hillbillies (Hillwilliams if you prefer) or “mountain folk” serving as the real life monsters in horror movies.

Wrong Turn is a 2003 horror/action movie starring Desmond Harrington (Ghost Ship, Dexter) as Chris Flynn, a med student traveling through West Virginia on his way to a job interview in North Carolina. A traffic jam causes him to travel unpaved back roads in hopes of bypassing the congestion and making it to his interview on time. A slight distraction leads to Chris slamming into a jeep stopped into the middle of the road. The jeep belongs to a group on a hiking trip who stopped because they ran over barbed wire strewn across the road. The group includes Eliza Dushku (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The New Guy) as Jessie, Emmanuelle Chriqui (Entourage, You Don't Mess With The Zohan) as Carly and Jeremy Sisto (Clueless, Law & Order) as Carly's fiance, Scott. Chris, along with those three, go walking down the road looking for help, while two others stay back. The two that stay back are brutally murdered by unseen figures. The rest of the group finds an isolated cabin in the woods filled with various trinkets, belongings, and human body parts. They try to leave, but the owners, three deformed mountain men arrive. After watching them eat the corpse of one of their friends, the group escapes out the back, but are pursued by the hillbillies. Chris tries to distract them well the other three steal their truck, but is shot in the leg. Scott creates a diversion and the hillbillies give chase while Jessie, Carly, and Chris steal their truck. Scott is shot and killed with arrows and the truck gets stuck in the mud. The group makes it to a watchtower where they radio for help, but the hillbillies torch the structure, forcing the group to jump onto surrounding trees. One hillbilly climbs up and beheads Carly. Jessie is eventually captured and taken back to the cabin. Will Chris be able to stop the cannibalistic hicks?

It's like an Abecrombie & Fitch ad come to life

The story in Wrong Turn is your basic “run from the crazy killers” horror movie. We get the good looking teenagers out to an isolated area and then chase them down. There's nothing wrong with that scenario, but it requires something extra, something special that sets it apart from the countless number of similar plots. Unfortunately, Wrong Turn doesn't really do anything to make it stand out from the pack. Other than being crazy mutated cannibals, there is never a specific reason for why the hillbillies are going after the group. I guess you don't really need a reason beyond that, but it would have been nice. I think the main reason why the movie wasn't particularly frightening was that it was set mostly during the day. There are some scenes at night, but not nearly enough. It seems like a wasted opportunity to terrify the audience with startling cuts, music swells, and other horror tricks. In the daylight, you just see that the pursuers are just deformed bumpkins in overalls. It kind of kills the horror when you look at the villains and all you hear in your head is twangy getaway music.

Wrong Turn has a good amount of action and violence with a few gory scenes. For having a movie with cannibals, there should have been a lot more blood and violence. Why bother making them cannibals if you aren't going to show a lot of flesh eating and bone gnawing? The acting is solid throughout with good performances by just about everyone involved. Desmond Harrington plays the handsome hero well and Elisa Dushku plays her part well enough. Director Rob Schmidt (Masters of Horror: Right To Die, The Alphabet Killer) does a good job of capturing the action without resorting to shaky camera tricks.

Knife to see you

This movie has it's moments, but could have been much better. While there is some good action and violence, there just wasn't enough for what the movie deserved. When you have a basic plot, you need to set yourself apart, and Wrong Turn didn't really accomplish that task. The acting and directing are good, but it only goes so far. That's not to say Wrong Turn is bad, because it's not, but it could have been great. It's a decent watch, spawning three sequels, and possibly another one in the near future. While not the best “pursued in the woods” movie, Wrong Turn is still worth a viewing.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 151: Candy Stripers

Candy Stripers
Helloooooooooo, nurse

Sometimes you just need to watch a “bad” movie, you know? You don't want anything complicated or cerebral. You just want some mindless fun for an hour and a half. Horror is really good that accomplishing that goal. Just look at your local video store (if it still exists) or just flip through Netflix and Hulu. A majority of those movies are horrendous, but that's ok. Sometimes you need a little horrendous in your life. It keeps the good movies good and requires little effort from you, the viewer. This was one of those days.

Candy Stripers (not to be confused with the Adult movie, though no one would blame you for confusing the two) is a 2006 horror movies starring Brian Lloyd (Evil Bong, Doll Graveyard) as basketball star Matt. A blind woman is attacked by an unseen force and sent to a local hospital. Dying, she asks a candy striper to kiss her because, um, why not. When they kiss, an alien creature is transferred into the candy striper via mouth-to-mouth. The candy striper becomes hyper-sexual and begins to turn all of the staff into aliens. Matt is injured along with a few of his teammates during a WWE-style basketball game and is cared for at the same hospital. The alien candy stripers go after Matt, his friends, his girlfriend, and Cherise, the plain, but still hot, girl that has a crush on Matt. The aliens have a sweet tooth and need to constantly eat sugar to stay alive. Matt and his crew begin injecting the candy stripers with insulin in order to kill them. The group is slowly whittled down to just Matt and Cherise. Will they be able to escape the alien/naughty candy striper menace?

Best. Hospital. Ever.

Well, I asked for a bad movie and I got one. Candy Stripers is a B or even C movie and doesn't strive to be anything else. The plot is extremely basic with one part Invasion of the Pod People and one part Cinemax After Dark. That's probably why they had Playboy playmates serving as candy stripers. Speaking of candy stripers, from the beginning I was really weirded out by the concept because real candy stripers are usually high school volunteers. On top of that, they do things in the movie that only nurses and doctors would do. Wouldn't it have just been easier (and less creepy) if the women had just been nurses? Was there such a big demand for candy stripers to be used in a horror movie that they couldn't write the script without them?

The acting is just about where you would expect from a movie where aliens are past through lesbian kisses. It's not good, but it is a shade better than a high school play. The women are beautiful and that helps keep your mind off the bad acting and terrible story. The story has very little flow and forces itself from one scene to the other. I would have liked a little more backstory on the aliens and what their plan is other than infecting hot babes. It's a good plan, don't get me wrong, I just would have liked more substance. The movie has some nudity and a few sex scenes, so it's not really for the younger crowd. There is a decent amount of blood and gore and one scene that will make a few men cringe and close their legs in horror. The special effects used are pretty bad with some sort of goofy face warping that looks like it was created on a Macbook. 

Who wants pickles?

When you ask for a bad movie and you get a bad movie, can you really complain? You get what you pay for when you watch Candy Stripers and since I watched this for free via Hulu, I'd say I paid the correct amount. The story and acting and both bad and the special effects are laughable. The women are hot so you'll at least have something to look at while your brain turns to mush. Despite not being an Oscar-worthy movie, Candy Stripers held my attention and even managed to entertain at times. Maybe next time I'll try a real movie.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 150: My Name Is Bruce

My Name Is Bruce
Gimme some sugar

Everyone loves Bruce Campbell. The start of the Evil Dead series and countless B-movies, Bruce Campbell has amassed a huge and loyal fanbase just based on his awesomeness. Even non-horror fans know him now, thanks to a successful role on the television show, Burn Notice. Since this is my 150th review (!!!), I thought I'd treat myself to the awesomness with a movie starring Bruce Campbell where he places...Bruce Campbell.

My Name Is Bruce is a 2007 horror comedy starring (duh) Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Maniac Cop) an amped up, over-the-top version of himself. In the small town of Goldlick, a mall goth teenager named Jeff (Taylor Sharpe) and some friends mess around in the graveyard of Chinese mine workers who died in a collapse. Jeff removes a medallion off a mausoleum, accidentally unleashing an ancient Chinese god of the dead and bean curd named Guan-Di. Jeff escapes and finds the only man who can help defeat Guan-Di: Bruce Campbell. Bruce is a disheveled raging alcoholic looking to get back on top, but is mired in awful horror movies. His agent, Mills Todner (Ted Raimi, Spider-Man, The Grudge) tries to find him work and promises him a special birthday surprise. When Jeff asks Bruce for help, he initially blows him off. Jeff knocks him out and kidnaps him, bringing him to Goldlick. When he is told by the townspeople that they want him to fight Guan-Di, Bruce thinks this is all a movie and goes along with the premise. Bruce tries to woo Jeff's mother, Kelly (Grace Thorsen) and after some initial repulsion, warms up to Bruce's charm. Joined by the townspeople, Bruce goes off to “fight” Guan-Di and runs away when he finds out that Guan-Di is, in fact, real. He returns to town when Jeff tells him that he is going to fight Guan-Di alone. Joined by Kelly, Bruce heads back to fight. How will they be able to defeat a god?

We're gonna need a bigger gun

As you can tell, this movie is just pure fun. There are plenty of genuinely funny moments from start to finish. The movie has a nice mixture of smart writing and physical comedy. The story itself is pretty basic and is really just a vehicle to give us a massive dose of the lead actor/character. It's nice to see the inclusion of a villain from a different culture not normally touched upon by a lot of horror. Unfortunately, this leads to a touch of racism in the movie. Ted Raimi also plays an old descendent of the Chinese miners named Wing, essentially being in “yellow face.” They couldn't have just hired a Chinese actor instead? You would want him painting his face black, calling himself Sambo, and doing a little soft-shoe, would you?

The script breaks the fourth wall a few times, giving the audience a weak and a nod, letting them in on the weird meta joke of Bruce Campbell playing Bruce Campbell, colossal B-movie dick. Bruce is wonderfully over-the-top and yet convincing at the same time. There is a decent amount of violence in the movie and there may in fact be more be-headings in My Name Is Bruce than some Friday The 13th movies. It has a decent amount of blood and rolling heads, but nothing particularly amazing. There's nothing particularly scary, so non-horror fans can still watch it. 

You just heard a thousand nerds simultaneously orgasm

My Name Is Bruce is a pretty good comedy and a decent horror movie. There are some legitimately laugh out loud moments and a few good kills. Bruce Campbell is wonderful and he gets help from a good supporting cast. Despite a lot of laughs, some jokes fall flat and a few are regrettable. If you're looking for some laughs or just want to bask in Bruce Campbell's glowing awesometicity, My Name Is Bruce is for you.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 149: Videodrome

Betamaxdrome was a complete failure

The 80's were a crazy time. The Cold War was still raging, Ronald Reagan was convincing people that greed was good, and cable television began to reach a bigger audience. It seems almost quaint now, but back then, not everyone had 500 channels, computers, and cell phones. Getting cable television was a big deal with specialized programming and movie channels such as HBO. There has always been, and still is, a concern that television will corrupt the youth and will cause them to do all sorts of horrible things. Video games like Grand Theft Auto and music, particularly heavy metal and it's subgenres, get their share of the blame as well, but TV is still the big culprit. Too much violence and sex, they say. It'll rot your brain, they say. It will make you hallucinate and turn you into an assassin. What, they don't say that?

Videdrome is a 1983 Canadian horror movie written and directed by David Cronenberg (The Fly, Scanners) and starring James Woods (Any Given Sunday, Vampires) as Max Renn. Max is the president of a sleazy television station, Channel 83, CIVIC-TV. The channel specializes in sex and violence and Max is looking for the next big thing. He meets with Harlan, the station's satellite pirate who comes across a television feed supposedly from Malaysia that shows people being tortured on a show called Videodrome. He defends himself on a talk show panel across from radio host Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry) and philosopher/television televangelist, Professor Brian O'Blivion. Max begins to see Nicki who, it turns out, is into sado-masochism and is turned on by watching Videodrome. Harlan informs Max that the video feed of Videodrome is actually coming from Pittsburgh, exciting Max with the possibility of acquiring the show for his channel. Nicki tells Max that she is visiting Pittsburgh and, despite his wishes, is going to audition to be on Videodrome. Max contacts Masha, a softcore pornographer, to find out what she can about Videodrome. She discovers that the show is not scripted and is in fact real, and the face of a new philosophy and political movement. She tells Max to speak with Brian O'Blivion to learn more of what Videodrome really is all about. At the Cathode Ray Mission, Max speaks with O'Blivion's daughter, Bianca, who informs Max that her father only speaks to people through video tape and never in person. He later receives a tape from O'Blivion explaining that Videodrome is actually the beginnings of a war to control the minds of the masses. Max begins to have very real and very disturbing hallucinations, including a scar on his stomach suddenly opening up as a gaping wound and a pulsating, throbbing television. He learns from Bianca that these hallucinations are due to a tumor in his brain cause by a malicious broadcast the emanates from Videodrome. Max is contacted by Videodrome's producer and the head of Spectacular Optical Corp, Barry Convex who has been secretly working with Harlan to expose Max to the broadcast, in order to brainwash him and gain control of his station, thus unleashing Videodrome onto the world. Under Convex's influence, Max becomes an assassin, killing his partners at the station. Will he be able to to break free and stop Convex from taking over the world, one television screen at a time.

"I knew I shouldn't have eaten Arby's."

This movie may be one of the craziest things I've ever seen and I mean that in a good way. It is so far out there that I'm not even sure what else to compare it to. Some have described it as “techno-surrealist” and “cyber-violent” but it all adds up to a wild horror/conspiracy movie that keeps the audience glued to the screen for the entire movie. The audience is sucked in to the mystery of what and who is behind Videodrome and is right beside Max when everything goes down. I was concerned that this would be a torture-heavy movie (I don't need to see someone brutalized. I watch these movies to be entertained), but thankfully it's only a small part of the movie and really just serves as a catalyst. There is a good amount of violence and plenty of scary moments. The makeup and effects are impressive and would only be ruined in the CGI era.

David Cronenberg does an excellent job in the director's chair, really capturing the bizarre nature of the entire story. I don't say that lightly because I fucking hated another one of his movies, A History of Violence. FUCKING HATED with the fury of a thousand suns being hit by a thousand nuclear bombs. Seriously, fuck that movie. Regardless, Cronenberg is masterful in Videodrome. James Woods, despite being a dick in real life from what I've heard, is really convincing as Max Renn. The other real star of the movie is the music; a mixture of creepy, steady synth along with a small string section. It fits perfectly with the entire feel of the movie and adds to the overall horror. 

It's rude to point

Videodrome is weird, bizarre, and disturbing, but for all the right reasons. There is a good amount of social commentary, which is an element that brings the movie to a whole new level. There is lots of action and a fun conspiracy combined with great effects and solid music. The directing and acting is spot on, fitting well with such a different story. Videodrome is not for everyone, and certainly not for little kids. It's worth going out of your way to see it, but make sure you buckle in for a strange ride. Long live the new flesh.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 148: Severed: Forest Of The Dead

Severed: Forest Of The Dead
Y'know, some moisturizer will clear that right up

Zombies are the “it” thing right now. Vampires had their day, thanks to the ridiculously dreadful Twilight series that made true horror fans upchuck their fake blood capsules. Now, in part to the popularity of The Walking Dead series on television, Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide/World War Z, and the unfortunate Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, the undead are no longer for the horror geeks and nerds. It kind of takes the fun out of it when non-horror fans sport cutesy zombie shirts. I'm actually wearing one right now, but I'm awesome, so it's cool. With this new found popularity, horror has been inundated with zombie movies for the past 4-5 years. Most range from decent to terrible with more pointing towards the latter. Let's give one a try that came out just before the big zombie craze.

Severed is a 2005 horror movie starring Paul Campbell (88 Minutes, Battlestar Galactic) as Tyler, the son of a wealthy CEO in charge of a forestry company. Environmental protestors, led by Rita (Sarah Lind, Edgemont, Mentors), are trying to stop the company from deforesting, even chaining themselves up to trees. The company has employed scientists to produce trees that are capable of growing much faster than nature intended. A logger cutting down one of the trees accidentally takes a chainsaw to the shoulder which was covered in the tree's sap and almost immediately becomes an infected zombie. The company sends out Tyler to find out why production has stopped and is attacked by zombies. He is saved by Mac, the boss of the construction crew, along with worker Luke and one of the scientists, a weasely man named Carter (JR Bourne, Thirteen Ghosts, The Exorcism of Emily Rose). The band together and eventually rescue Rita and some of her environmentalist friends. The bridge they intended to take has been blocked by the company and the try to find another way out of the dense forest. The group fights off zombie hordes with whatever they can find, including branches and foresting equipment. Some of the group is killed, thanks in part to the cowardly actions of Carter. They manage to find another group of workers that have survived and even made a camp. Things are not as safe as they appear as the survivors in the camp have lost their minds. Will Tyler, Rita, and Mac be able to survive the camp, let alone the zombies?

These zombie walks have gone too far

It feels like every zombie movie nowadays is just an excuse to put zombies in a different location and throw “...of the Dead” in the title. Sure, that's what happens in this movie, but it's not entirely fair to say it's just a zombie rehash. There is a story here with a somewhat deeper meaning, although that specific meaning isn't exactly clear. I would think it's about how man shouldn't mess with nature, but then why are all the protestors essentially caricatures of what environmentalists really are? Granted, they didn't go overboard and make them all hairy dippy hippies, but they still make Rita a whiny anti-everythingalist? You'd think if the movie was pro-conservation, they would have made stronger character development in Rita and the rest of her group.

All that being said, the movie does have some very good action and plenty of blood and guts. There are some creative kills, including the usage of various mechanical equipment, but I actually would have liked to have seen more. You'd think there would have been a lot of different options to kill zombies when surrounded by so much equipment, but perhaps there were time and financial constraints. The acting in the movie ranges all the way from over-acting to under-acting, but nothing particularly painful to sit through. There is also some decent social commentary, but, like the ending, it comes off as rushed and incomplete. The zombies themselves have a weird yellowish look to them, almost as if they have jaundice. These are slow zombies, which I prefer, but they have a weird walk which looks like a cross between walking on a moon bounce and being electrocuted. Too much herky-jerky and not enough lurching. I can't really tell if they follow the usual zombie rules because I don't think I ever saw a head shot in the entire movie.

Happy Pesach, everyone!

Severed: Forest of the Dead is a decent zombie movie with some fun, bloody violence. There is enough action to keep the audience entertained, but the shaky camera is dizzying at times. It tries to have social commentary, which is appreciated, but it just doesn't quite make a full point. There's a wide range of acting ability, but nothing particularly good or bad. Severed has it's moments and is better than a lot of the current straight-to-video zombie movies that come out. You could do better, but you could do worse.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 147: Monkey Shines

Monkey Shines
Quit monkeying around

Happy Creature Feature Saturday and the beginning of Memorial Day weekend. I hope you get a chance to enjoy this extended weekend, unless you're working, then I hope you are paid extra. This holiday weekend I gave me the time to finally see a movie I've wanted to see for a while by one of the masters of horror, George Romero. Best known for his “...of the Dead” films, some people don't even realize that he has down other movies in the horror genre not related to zombies. While some argue that his last few films, Land, Diary, and Survival of the Dead have been less than stellar, they still have their moments of greatness and are entertaining. But those are all zombie movies. It was time to check out something different.

Monkey Shines is a 1988 horror movie, based on the story by Michael Stewart, starring Jason Beghe (G.I. Jane, Californication) as Allan Mann. A star athlete, Allan goes for a run and is hit by a truck, leaving him a quadriplegic. Unable to move anything below his neck, he is relegated to an electric wheelchair and his house is set up with the latest technology. He becomes despondent and tries to kill himself, but is discovered by his friend Geoffrey (John Pankow, Mad About You, Batteries Not Included) in time. Geoffrey is a scientist at the local University has been injecting monkeys with serum derived from a human brain in hopes that it would increase their intelligence. He takes one of the monkeys to Melanie Parker (Kate McNeil) who trains her to become a monkey helper. They give the monkey, named Ella, to Allan and his life slowly improves. Geoffrey continues to secretly inject Ella with the serum and her intelligence grows. A telepathic bond occurs between Ella and Allan as he begins to see through her eyes when she escapes through the house. His anger and rage also begins to grow when she is around, spilling into violence when he learns is former girlfriend is now seeing his doctor. A supposedly random fire breaks out and kills both of them. A romance grows between Allan and Melanie, despite Allan's overbearing mother's objections. Allan visits another doctor and learns that his paralysis is actually congenital and not caused by his accident. Ella becomes possessive of Allan and more violent towards others and actually kills his mother by dropping a hair dryer into her bath. Geoffrey tries to stop Ella by injecting her with poison, but she outsmarts him and stabs him with the syringe. Melanie also tries to stop Ella, but is tripped and hits her head on a table. How will Allan be able to stop Ella when he can't even move?

"Back away from the bananas and no one gets hurt!"

The best way to describe Monkey Shines is “different and interesting”. It's certainly not your typical creature feature as the monkey Ella doesn't just go around and rip faces off. The movie goes for the slow (and sometimes very slow) build, showing the sweetness of the relationship between Ella and Allan and then the relationship turning obsessive and scary. The story is smart, but incredibly dull at times. Clocking in at over two hours, the movie manages to have compelling moments and ideas, but little in the way of action and horror. While the basic concept is scary in general, the movie itself is lacking and true scares. What could have legitimately been terrifying came off as just a little creepy and startling. Part of the problem may have been that the distributor, Orion Pictures, had recut the film against George Romero's wishes, so we'll never really know what could have been. The music for certain scenes is all wrong and takes away any fear the audience might have.

Despite problems with the studio, Romero's talents still shine throughout the movie with some really good shots and direction. Scenes shot from Ella's point of view are similar to that of the traveling through the woods scene in Evil Dead. Frantic shots of Allan's face during tense scenes look good and add to the overall fear and are not overdone. The acting is pretty good throughout, with Jason Beghe putting in a solid performance. It must have been difficult to go through almost an entire movie without using his extremities. Boo, the monkey playing Ella, was very good, aided by tight shots of her face that showed genuine emotion. There are also good, but small parts played by Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Captain America) and Stephen Root (No Country For Old Men, Dodgeball). 

The ultimate killing machine

Monkey Shines is not your typical animal-based horror movie. It is an interesting and different concept that isn't seen very often. The movie is far too long and lacks true horror. It should have been far scarier and had a lot of potential, but just didn't make the cut for whatever reason. Romero still manages to do a good job and the acting is well done. If you're a big fan of Romero's work, Monkey Shines is worth watching. If you're looking for a good horror movie, you could do better. It has it's moments, but not enough to make it great.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 146: Prom Night

Prom Night
Does that mean the limo costs extra?

It's prom season across the country and high schoolers everywhere are spending too much money on fancy clothes and stretch Hummers. What recession? Despite my cynicism and general hatred of most things, I went to my high school's prom and actually had a good time. Go figure. What better way to celebrate girls wearing inappropriate dresses and guys wearing lime green tuxedos with matching fedoras than with a horror movie?

Prom Night is a 1980 cult classic starring Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Trading Places) as Kim Hammond. When she was eleven, Kim's younger sister Robin fell to her death after being taunted by classmates Wendy, Jude, Kelly, and Nick. All four swore not to tell anyone what had happened. Police blamed her death on a known sexual predator and pursued him until he crashed his car. He was badly burned and institutionalized. Six years later, Kim is now dating Nick, much to the dismay of Kelly. Prom season is upon them, with Kim and Nick being crowned king and queen. Wendy, Jude, Kelly all receiving mysterious threatening phone calls. Kim is harassed by a meathead named Lou who gets into a fight with Kim's brother, Alex. The school's principal and Kim and Alex's father, Mr. Hammond (Leslie Nielsen, The Naked Gun, Creepshow), suspends Lou. Kelly, still hurting from being rejected by Nick hatches a plan with Lou to get back at Kim. The threats continue, but the girls ignore them and attend prom night. There, a masked figure goes about brutally killing each of the girls while Lou and his cronies tie up Nick and takes his place as prom king. The killer walks up behind him and chops his head off, sending it down a runway. Who is the killer and what will happen to Kim and Nick?

Kids are assholes

Despite occasionally receiving the “classic” title attached to it, Prom Night is anything but. It's a mixed-up late 70's throwback with a confused story and very little horror to speak of. The main character in the movie is presented as Kim Hammond, but it's not really clear why. We know she isn't the killer early on, so why make her the focus of most of the movie? It's not like the killer is going after her because he's clearly going after the people who killed Robin. If anything, more time should have been given to Wendy, Jude, Kelly, and Nick. The movie strings the audience for far too long, trying to misdirect everyone into thinking who the killer might actually be. That's fine and makes for a fun little mystery, but it takes up most of the movie. The killing doesn't start until the last 25 minutes or so. The movie was only an hour and half long, but felt like it was closer to two and half hours. Another major problem was that the movie was incredibly dark. The version I watched was on DVD, but it had not been remastered and looked to be a direct copy from a VHS version. It's kind of like when you listen to a CD from the early 90's that was transferred from a record. A lot of the detail in the movie is missed simply because you can't see anything. Despite being in the dark, you should still be able to see what the hell is happening. There is some blood and violence, but not enough for a slasher flick.

The acting is decent throughout with Jamie Lee Curtis unsurprisingly putting in the best performance. It was nice to see Leslie Nielsen in a serious role, but he wasn't in it enough. The movie is deeply entrenched in the 70's, down to the hideous furniture, feathered hair, and leisure suits. The real horror in Prom Night comes in the form of the prom's theme: Disco Madness. That's like watching a horror movie 30 years from now where Dubstep is the theme. My senses were assaulted with terrible disco music and a light up dance floor. The cherry on this shit sundae was an unnecessary disco dance scene with Jamie Lee Curtis. She's got moves, don't get me wrong, but it served absolutely no purpose and comes across as unintentionally funny through 2012 eyes. 

 What a pointless decade

Prom Night doesn't hold up to the test of time like some other horror movies do. The story is particularly weak and entrenched in 70's culture. The acting is decent and there are some creative camera shots and direction. It might have been the copy I watched, but the movie is incredibly dark and a the action, where there isn't a whole lot of, is missed. For a slasher movie, there isn't nearly enough violence and blood. The ending is pretty predictable and disappointing. The movie is worth watching just to catch a strange glimpse into the past and watch a young Jamie Lee Curtis, but beyond that, Prom Night isn't anything special.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 145: House On Haunted Hill

House on Haunted Hill
It's more of a slope than a hill

(Blogger's note: Ms. Meghan was kind enough to fill in for me today. I have seen both the original House on Haunted Hill and the remake. The original is infinitely better. This should be on everyone's must-see list if you're any type of horror fan.)

Hi everyone, it's Ms. Meghan here! Jordan asked me to write a post for him, and since I am a nice person, I agreed. So I decided to go OLD SCHOOL on you all and watch the original House on Haunted Hill starring Vincent Price.

"I love it when you threaten to kill me darling." 

The premise of the movie begins, like the best of movies, with an eccentric millionaire, Frederick Loren (Price) and his vivacious (4th) wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart). Loren throws a party in a giant decrepit old house that may or may not be haunted by ghost of previous inhabitants that were gruesomely murdered. The attendees of the party have been promised $10,000 (which would be ~$78,000 by today's standards) if they stay the night and survive. The attendees are Lance Shroeder (Richard Long) a pilot, Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal) a psychiatrist studying hysteria, Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig) a secretary for one of Mr. Loren's companies, Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.) the owner of the house whose brother and sister-in-law were murdered in the house, and Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum) a columnist. All of the attendees (with the exception of the Lorens) are strangers to each other, even Nora, who works for Mr. Loren's company but has never met him.

They just found out Chris Katan starred in the remake. 

The story gets tense as the night goes on, the partgoers are locked into the house by the elderly caretakers, with no electricity or way to get out until 8 am the next morning. The partygoers have all been spooked by a large chandelier falling and nearly killing Nora and later in the evening Lance disappearing and reappearing with a strange bump on his head and no memory of how it got there. Morbid Mr. Pritchard is definitely not helping, because he won't stop talking about the ghosts, and how they're going to claim one of the partygoers before the night is through. And poor Nora keeps getting spooked, but has no evidence to prove it, driving her more and more "hysterical". She seems primed to be "the one" the ghosts will claim, but it could be anyone!

"Enough with this ghost nonsense and get me a drink!" 

The effects are minimal and there's certainly no gore as this is 1959, however the scares are genuine, if few and far between. There's a scene with Nora that even impresses the legendary Tom Savini with its spookiness. This film was also best know for an effect the director used called "Emergo", where a skeleton was swung over the audience at the appropriate time*. I think this is kind of excellent and would love to watch this in a movie theater and have this effect used. 

Here's some Vincent Price, just because. 

I think this film does feel dated at times, but it definitely stands the test of time, I do wish I could have seen more of the Lorens bickering and being a ridiculous married couple, those scenes are especially good. I think this film is also appealing if you aren't really into modern horror that is constantly trying to outdo itself with gore and general awfulness. This film is definitely a classic and well worth checking out.


 *Thanks to the IMDB Trivia Page on the film for this info.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 144: Masters of Horror: Haeckel's Tale

Masters of Horror: Haeckel's Tale
I prefer Duck Tales

The Masters of Horror series sure does love them some Clive Barker. I think this is the second or third episode I've seen from the series with Barker's involvement. I understand why they use his work, since he is such a popular name, but there are so many horror writers out there that would have benefited from being included. This must be such a great story that they just had to include it. Right?

Masters of Horror: Haeckel's Tale, based on the short story by Clive Barker, stars Derek Cecil (Recount, Men In Black II) as Ernst Haeckel a young scientist following in the footsteps of Victor von Frankenstein. He believes that it is capable to reanimate the dead, despite multiple attempts that have failed. He visits a man named Montesquino, a necromancer, who demonstrates his power by reviving a dead dog. The dog comes back to life, but as a demonic abomination. Haeckel learns that his father is ill and travels by foot through the woods to reach him. He meets and older gentleman named Walter Wolfram, who takes him in for the night. Walter shares his cabin with his beautiful young wife Elise and their baby. Terrible shrieks are heard outside and Elise goes to them. Haeckel is strongly attracted to Elise and is shocked that Walter would let her go. Walter reveals that he is not, in fact, the babies father as it's true father has died not long ago. He admits that he cannot satisfy Elise and has paid Montequino to raise her husband from the dead to make her happy. Elise's shrieks can also be heard so Haeckel and Walter go to her. What they see is a most disturbing sight: Elise, surrounded by zombies, having sex with her dead husband. Walter tries to take her home, but is killed by the zombies. Haeckel tries to get Montesquino to end the ritual, but he cannot. Haeckel shoots him in a rage, but is knocked unconscious. What will happen to him and Elise?

"Who wants S'mores?"

This doesn't happen often when I watch movies, but I literally rolled my eyes and slapped my forehead when the necrophilia scene was revealed. It's just so incredibly stupid to actually see that on the screen and shocking that Showtime actually allowed it to happen. As a short story, I can see where this may have it's place and not come off as ridiculous, but actually seeing it happen was unsettling (which is the point) and laughable (definitely not the point). The story itself, though, goes off in too many directions. First we see Haeckel's attempt to reanimate the dead, then he meets Montesquino, then Walter and Elise, and finally the big shocking scene. It doesn't flow well and not enough time if given to Haeckel's love interest in Elise. It just kind of happens and makes me wonder why he even cares that she's banging a corpse. Beyond the final 15 minutes or so, there is nothing of interest in the story with very little action to speak of. There is some good, bloody violence at the end, but not enough to justify very little happening for the previous 45 minutes.

Originally, George Romero was supposed to direct the episode, but has to drop out because of timing issues. I am SO glad he was not involved. Why his past few efforts in the world have zombies have had their ups and downs, I would have hated for him to be involved in such a boring story. John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) handles the directorial duties well with some good up-close shots of the carnage at the end. The acting is fine with no real complaints. The make do with a weak story and some stunted dialogue, managing to scrape together plausible performances.

"He's delicious, but he'll go straight to my thighs"

The way the story was described and the time in which it was set, I was expecting a Lovecraftian-style story. Boy, was I wrong. Why was Haeckel's Tale made for Masters of Horror? Couldn't an episode have gone to another author? Was the necrophilia scene just so amazing that they had to film it? There must have been another reason, but I cannot figure it out. The story is extremely boring with very little action until the end. What little action occurs is good with some nice gore and blood. Beyond that, and a morbid curiosity to see a necrophilia scene that aired on cable television, Haeckel's Tale has nothing to offer.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 143: Frontier(s)

Sacre bleu!

The wonderful world of the public library strikes again. Like I have said previously, the library is great source for movies. I was perusing the movie section when I saw Frontier(s) staring at me from the foreign film section. The cover was pretty striking and had the “8 Horror Films To Die For” stamp from Horrorfest. And hey, it's French! I don't think I've reviewed a horror movie from France yet. Heck, I don't think I've ever scene a French horror movie. Well, that's what this blog is for; new movies and new experiences.

Frontier(s) is a 2007 French horror movie starring Estelle Lefebure as Yasmine. A far-right extremist has been elected in France which leads to rioting in the streets. Alex, Tom, Farid, Sami, and his sister Yasmine, who is three months pregnant with Alex's baby, commit a lucrative robbery before leaving the chaos of the city. The group splits up, with Tom and Farid going ahead with the money, while Alex and Yasmine take a shot Sami to the emergency room. Sami dies, but not before he tells Yasmine to keep the baby. Tom and Farid arrive at a small family-run inn in the French countryside. There they meet two beautiful women, Gilberet and Klaudia, and their musclebound brother Goetz. Tom and Farid text directions to the inn to Yasmine before being seduced by the two women. After the sexy time, Tom and Farid are brutally attacked by all three and their brother Karl. They try to escape in their car, but Goetz runs them off a small cliff. Injured, but alive, they crawl into a mineshaft that leads back to the house and Tom is captured by the third brother, Hans. Farid gropes his way through the shaft while avoiding the family's deformed children. He is eventually trapped in a steam room and cooked to death by Hans. Unaware, Alex and Yasmine arrive at the inn and are soon beaten and captured. The head patriarch of the family, von Geisler, and wants Yasmine to wed Karl and usher in a new generation for him. It is revealed that he and the rest of the family are cannibal Nazis and their house stores the bodies of many past victims. He kills Alex and has another sister, Eva, care for Yasmine. Eva reveals that she was kidnapped and had a few children with Hans, all of whom were rejected due to “complications”. At dinner, von Geisler announces that Karl will lead the family now, much to the chagrin of Goetz. Yasmine grabs a knife and takes von Geisler hostage. Hans accidentally kills von Geisler, and Karl shoots him. Yasmine makes a run for it under a hail of gunfire. Will she be able to escape this deranged family? 

"It smells like Arby's in here"

Originally, Frontier(s) received an NC-17 rating and there's a good reason for that because damn is this violent. It was so bad that they couldn't even show it during the 2007 Horrorfest. ER doctors in the worst neighborhoods don't see this much blood in an hour and a half. Gorehounds will salivate over the various gruesome injuries and deaths. It can be most closely compared to Hostel, High Tension, and House of 1000 Corpses, but it is unique enough to not be considered a ripoff. Where as a movie like Hostel can be considered “torture porn” where gruesome acts are committed just to make the audience squirm and shriek, the violence in this move has a specific purpose to the story and isn't really violence for the sake of violence. That's not to say there aren't some brutal scenes. I won't say exactly what happens, but an Achilles tendon does meet and “cutting” fate. The story itself is pretty thrilling from beginning to end and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The social commentary is appropriate and the parallels between what is happening Yasmine and the country is much appreciated.

Thankfully, the movie is actually in French with English subtitles. I can't tell you how many movies are ruined with terrible dubbing. Director Xavier Gens has a great eye for horror by using creative camera shots and proper lighting.The acting is good all around, each role convincing. One slight problem I had was after going through some of the atrocities, Yasmine goes through a sort of shock and has a trembling twitch. I applaud the realism and in small doses it would have been good, but it happened a bit too much and made her look silly. If you sped it up and put Benny Hill music, the movie would have been slapstick. It's a small complaint and when you get that specific, you're really fishing for things to worry about, but it stuck with me nonetheless.

That cleaver better be clean!

Frontier(s) is a thrilling and gruesome horror movie with an interesting story to keep the action going. There is a lot of violence so this may not be appropriate for some younger viewers. Of course, plenty of violence is inflicted on the Nazis, which is always good, because fuck Nazis. The acting and directing are both solid and the social commentary is done well without being too heavy-handed. It's nice to see other countries getting in on the horror act and I'd love to see more of what France has to offer. If you have a strong stomach, make sure to check out this movie.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 142: Inferno

Feelin' hot, hot, hot

One of the best parts of doing this blog is to discover new movies and see films I've wanted to see for a long time. It also gives me a chance to explore writers and directors that are well-known in the horror world, but whose works never make it on to television. One of these directors is Dario Argento. For years, I have heard people praise his work, but it was never readily available for me to watch. Now, thanks to the internet and streaming video, you're able to watch just about anything. I really enjoyed Argento's work on Masters of Horror: Pelts, but that was based on a short story and geared towards an American audience. Would I like Argento in his crazy prime?

Written and directed by Dario Argento, Inferno is a 1980 supernatural horror film and sequel to Suspiria. The movie is based in part on the concept of “Our Ladies of Sorrow” from the book Suspiria de Profundis. Rose Elliot, a young woman living in New York City, reads an old book written by Verelli called The Three Mothers which tells of three sisters who rule the world through sorrow, tears, and darkness. Each sister lives in a different house; one in New York, Freiburg, and Rome. Rose believes she is living in one of the houses and writes to her brother, Mark, who is studying Musicology in Rome. Mark's friend Sara reads the letter and goes to the library to read The Three Mothers. She is attacked by a deformed man who recognizes the book, but is able to escape. Back at her apartment, Sara and a man named Carlo are stabbed to death by an unknown assailant. Rose calls Mark, telling him she is afraid of what she has discovered. Two shadowy figures appear and brutally murder her. Mark travels to New York where he encounters a strange nurse caring for an old mute named Professor Arnold. He learns that Rose is missing and seeks out the man who sold her the book, Kazanian. He is of no help and is soon killed by lots of cats. Mark is able to discover from Rose's letter, a secret passageway underneath her floor where he discovers Professor Arnold. Who is this Professor and his nurse and what do they want with Mark?

"Where do you get your nails done?"

If my description sounds a bit off and confusing, you're not alone. Right off the bat, I was screwed because this is the second of the Three Sisters trilogy of Argento films. I had no idea, and there's really know way to know that unless you look it up. Inferno is watchable on it's own, but I have to assume that seeing Suspiria first would answer a lot of questions. Different is the best way to describe this movie. The story is very abstract, unlike most horror movies that come out today. During the entire movie, I kept saying to myself “What the hell is going on?” No amount of mind-altering substances can really help follow or explain just what is happening. The motivations for characters are questionable and some are introduced just to be killed. When it comes to an Argento movies, I know you're not supposed to understand everything, but I understood just about nothing and was left scratching my head. The violence is pretty good and the blood used had a thick, paint like texture to it. The scene where Kazanian was attacked was unintentionally hysterical. It pretty much looked like people off screen were tossing cats in his face.

Despite my general confusion, I kept watching because the movie is still captivating. The bright and specific colors used in the movie are staples for Argento and make for a rich viewing experience. Unlike Suspiria, which used the awesome synth music of Goblin, Inferno has a coke-fueled rock-opera composed by Keith Emerson. The music is particularly loud and doesn't really fit in with what's happening on screen. Where Goblin could create that vintage 70's-80's horror atmosphere, Emerson's music bludgeons you over the head with a copy of Xanadu. Another major complaint I had was that the movie appeared to be dubbed. I was following the actors mouths, and they were definitely speaking English, but the voices were off. Maybe this was just the version I watched, but if this was intentional, why?! Is it just to fuck with the audience even more? I can't really talk about the acting because of this problem, but it seemed fine.

"Gasp! That was my good knife!"

One of the biggest questions I ask myself whenever I review a movie is, “Was I entertained?” So did Inferno entertain me? In a word, no. I found the story so confusing and crazy that I couldn't really focus on what was happening. I spent most of the time going “What the fuck?” That's not to say the movie isn't good, because there are good things in it, it was just too much to handle. Inferno has good violence and is cinematically beautiful. I may have enjoyed it more if I had seen Suspiria, but you should be able to pick up a movie and be able to follow it, even if it is out of order. I understand that I don't get “it” and that's fine. To be clear, I don't hate Inferno and I do think you should watch it. You should just be prepared for a trip into the insane world of Dario Argento.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day 141: Children of the Corn

Children of the Corn
Life is Peachy

Stephen King is one of the master's of horror. I don't think there is much debate on that. Stories like It, The Tommyknockers, Salem's Lot, Cujo, and Misery all have their place in the literary and horror world. Sometimes they are great, but sometimes they don't translate well on screen and we're left with good ideas and bad execution. It's not King's fault, some ideas are just better on the page than in motion. Would the same be said for Children of the Corn?

Children of the Corn is a 1984 horror movie based on the short story by Stephen King. It stars Peter Horton (2 Days In The Valley, Grey's Anatomy) as Burt and Linda Hamilton (Terminator, Dante's Peak) as his wife, Vicky. The movie begins with a flashback in the small Nebraska town of Gatlin as told from the point of view of a little boy named Job (Robby Kiger, The Monster Squad). The children of the town rise up and brutally murder all of the adults in town. Cut to three years later, where Burt and Linda are driving towards Seattle for Burt's new job in the medical field. They take the back roads in Nebraska and accidentally hit a young boy standing in the road. Burt inspects him and discovers that the boy had already been killed prior to the car accident. They end up in the supposedly deserted town of Gatlin, trying to find help or a working phone. They come across a little girl named Sara, Job's sister, who has the ability to draw pictures of future events. While Burt goes into to town looking for a working phone, Vicky stays with Sara, who draws a picture of Vicky being tortured in a corn field. Led by Malachi, the most violent of the young people, a group captures Vicky and brings her out to the corn field. The children are being led by a boy preacher by the name of Issac. He talks of sacrificing Vicky and Burt to He Who Walks Behind The Rows. An argument ensues, and Malachi overthrows Issac. Meanwhile, Burt walks into the town church to find a bizarre ritual in which a young man is celebrating his birthday by carving a pentagram in his chest. Burt flees, pursued by the town's children, and discovers that Vicky has gone missing. Aided by Job and Sara, Burt must find a way to free Vicky and stop the fanatical and homicidal children. Who or what is He Who Walks Behind the Rows and will Burt be able to stop it?

Jesus, this won't end well

Children of the Corn is a pretty original idea when it comes to the horror genre. Evil children have been used in earlier horror movies, such as in The Omen and Village of the Damned. The difference with those movies and this one is that the children in Children of the Corn are still human. They don't have supernatural powers or are possessed by demons. For all intensive purposes, they are normal kids. Normal kids that have been overwhelmed and corrupted with a religious fervor that has convinced them to kill all the adults in town. The overall theme of religion and fanaticism is pretty strong throughout the movie, which creates a fun and scary atmosphere.

I appreciate that the story takes place all in one day, but it feels like certain scenes are stretched out a bit too long. It takes some willing suspension of disbelief to accept that Burt and Vicky keep wandering around this clearly creepy town looking for a phone. There is a good amount of action with some blood, but I could have used more. I also would have liked the movie to go more in depth when it comes to the “cleansing” of the town's adults. We really only see this in the opening scene of the movie. A few flashbacks would have really upped the violence, which would have created an even more terrifying experience. In terms of He Who Walks Behind The Rows, he isn't alluded to enough in my opinion and when he is finally revealed, the effects are a bit laughable. The acting is good throughout and the direction is competent.

Originally, I was going to review the movie right after I finished watching it, but I'm glad I waited and let the movie sink in a bit more. On the surface, it's a fun horror movie with a lot of action. Upon further inspection, though, there are a lot of unanswered questions. Where did He Who Walks Behind The Rows come from? Why was he in Nebraska? How have these kids been able to survive for so long? Has no one else come through this town in three years, like a mailman or something? No one called a loved one and realized people were missing? I know I'm seeing this from 2012 eyes from a movie made in the early 80's, but still, it takes a lot to ignore some of these questions. 

Only an evil child would wear a hat like that

Overall, it's still an exciting and fun movie to watch. The kids are pretty creepy, which makes everything more believable. I've spent time in Iowa, so the entire movie reminded me of my less than pleasurable experience living among corn and religious people. Despite some plot problems, Children Of The Corn is worth your time.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 140: The Wolfman

The Wolfman
Na na na na na na na na, Wolfman!

I remember seeing previews for The Wolfman remake and thinking that it looked pretty cool. They had a good mixture of horror, action, and excitement. It didn't hurt that the cast included Anthony Hopkins, Benicio del Toro, and Hugo Weaving. When the movie came out, though, the reviews were not good and I decided not to see it in theaters. It was time to see if the reviews were right.

The Wolfman is a 2010 loose remake of the 1941 horror classic, The Wolf Man, starring Benicio del Toro (Sin City, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas) as Lawrence Talbot. In the late 1800's, Lawrence has received a letter from Gwen Coliffe (Emily Blunt, Wind Chill, The Adjustment Bureau), his brother Ben's fiancee, stating that Ben had been killed. Lawrence returns to his family's estate, which he hasn't seen in many years. He is also reunited with his estranged father, Sir John (Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs, Amistad). Lawrence views Ben's body which has been horribly mutilated by some sort of beast. Among his personal items, Lawrence finds a medallion with three wolves on it, apparently purchased from gypsies that camp near the town. During a full moon, Lawrence speaks with a gypsy named Maleva to gain answers for his brother's death. At the same time, local townspeople come into the gypsy camp to claim their dancing bear, whom they believe is the cause for various animal attacks. A werewolf tears through the encampment, brutally killing people and biting Lawrence. Gwen cares for him and he makes a miraculous recovery. Inspector Abeline (Hugo Weaving, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings) visits the manor and implies that Lawrence is behind recent murders in the area. That night he turns, and kills local villagers trying to capture him. Lawrence is committed to the same asylum he was in when he was younger, due to seeing his mother's suicide. The doctor's believe his lycanthropy is psychological, but are proven very wrong when he turns into a werewolf and goes on a killing spree. It is revealed that Sir John is also a werewolf and had in fact, killed Lawrence's mother. Lawrence and his father have an all-out werewolf throw-down with Lawrence killing his father. Will Gwen be able to set Lawrence free from this horrible curse before it's too late?

This is my war face!

I have seen the original Wolf Man, but it has been so long that I really shouldn't try to compare the two that much. Why some say that there was no need to remake the original, I don't really have a problem with it. The remake certainly has of elements of the original, but goes off into it's own territory about halfway through. That's fine with me because the story needed an update in terms of today's audience which needs more action and sleeker production. I'm happy that the kept the general look of the original Wolf Man and didn't go for a straight werewolf look used in more recent werewolf-based movies like Underworld. They also keep the basic werewolf rules, following the full moon, silver bullets, and being released from the curse by a loved one. I'm not sure why they changed the name from The Wolf Man to the Wolfman. Maybe they made him Jewish. L'Chaim!

The story itself is decent, but it suffers from being uneven. One example of this is the character of Gwen. It felt like she was missing for about half the movie and her romance with Lawrence came out of nowhere. The movie also tries explain Lawrence's relationship with his father, but it barely scratches the surface and comes off more as filler. It's not particularly clear why Inspector Abeline suspects Lawrence of the murders, which comes off as convenient to the story and not logic or reason. There are some moments of horror and a few jolting moments of surprise, but nothing particularly scary. The movie makes up for the lack of horror with lots and lots of bloody action. There is a large amount of blood and gore for a mainstream movie. The Wolfman enough blood and guts for me to think they knocked over a butcher shop before filming certain scenes.

"Oh shit, I left the oven on!"

The acting throughout the movie is pretty good, but that's no surprise with this cast. Anthony Hopkins is pretty great in his domineering, sinister role as Sir John. We know we should be fearful of him, even if he's not a werewolf. Benicio del Toro does well as Lawrence, creating a sympathetic character for the audience to both root and mourn for. I could have used a bit more Hugo Weaving, who's mustache makes him look like a more dapper Lemmy from Motorhead. As I've said before, Emily Blunt's Gwen isn't in as much of the movie as you'd expect, but she is fine in her role. I'm still a bit annoyed from that terrible movie Wind Chill she was in, but she didn't annoy me here. The other big star in the movie is special effects. The transformation scenes look great and the makeup artists won a well-deserved Academy Award. Unfortunately, the movie relies too heavily on other computerized and blue-screen effects, making it look particularly fake in certain scenes. It would have been better to use the real night sky instead of a clearly fake moon. 

The Ace of Spades!

Despite a good amount of bad reviews, I didn't find The Wolfman to be particularly bad. It's not as good as the original, but it wasn't an abomination unworthy of the name. There are plenty of differences, but they do keep some of the heart from the original. The acting is very good and there is plenty of blood and violence. The story is uneven and could have gone much smoother for my liking. Overall, The Wolfman was an OK monster movie with some fun scenes. Is it worthy of the Wolf Man legacy? Maybe, maybe not, but it's still a decent watch.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Day 139: Tale Of The Mummy

Tale Of The Mummy
Mummy dearest

Despite doing over 100 horror movies reviews, I haven't watched a true mummy movie. Even though they fall under the classic monster movie category, I just never found mummies to be scary. Actually, that's not entirely true. I was terrified of the mummy exhibit at Museum of Natural History. Something about seeing corpses on display just didn't sit right with my younger self. When it comes to mummies on the big screen, though, they just don't do it for me. Maybe it's because they just look like a zombie wrapped in toilet paper. Maybe it's because the Brendan Fraiser Mummy trilogy was a fun adventure movie and not horror. Either way, it was time to give them a chance once again.

Tale of the Mummy is a 1998 horror movie starring Jason Scott Lee (The Jungle Book, Soldier) as Detective Riley. A group of archaeologists, led by Sir Richard Turkel, (Christopher Lee, Lord of the Rings, various Dracula movies) digging in Egypt discover the tomb of Talos, a powerful sorcerer/prince (I think, it's not really clear). They open the tomb, breaking the seal and unleashing a mystical wind, disintegrating their bodies. Half a century later, Sir Richard's log book ends up in the hands of his granddaughter Samantha (Louise Lombard, Hidalgo, CSI). Along with a team of archaeologists, Samantha excavates Talos's sarcophogus and puts it on display in London. A series of strange murders occurs throughout the city, with Detective Riley investigating. Each murder victim is found missing a specific body part. Riley teams up with Samantha and discovers that each missing body part was removed from Talos when he was mummified. Talos captures Samantha and it's up to Riley to stop him before the planets align and Talos is resurrected. But things are not what they seem.

"Damn am I dreamy!"

I have to commend the people involved with the movie for casting Jason Scott Lee in the lead role. It's not often you see someone of Hawaiian and Chinese descent in a lead role that isn't some sort of martial arts or historical movie. Kudos to them for going against the grain. They also wisely have Christopher Lee in the movie, though he's unfortunately in it for just a few minutes in the beginning. OK, now that I've gotten the compliments out of the way, I can get to the epic dressing-down that this movie deserves because holy fuck does it suck. This movie is a mess in every sense of the word. The story is half-assed, unclear, and flat-out boring. They tried to give a back story to Talos, but I couldn't follow and, frankly, I didn't care. There's a little side story with another archaeologist being played by Sean Pertwee (Soldier, The Mutant Chronicles) where he can see what Talos sees and then see what Sam sees and some other shit that doesn't really make sense or particularly affect the story.

Another major problem is the special effects. For a majority of the movie, Talos is a computerized mass of used toilet paper, floating through London and attacking people. Even for 1998, the effects used are embarrassingly bad. Remember the screen saver from Windows 95 that looks like a series of pipes going all over the place? That's what Talos looks like. It doesn't get much better when he gains an physical form which looks like a purple rubber alien suit. Didn't they realize that this looked at least a little stupid? The action is laughable and nothing in the movie is particularly scary or even exciting. The acting is fine, perhaps a little over-the-top at certain points, but it's one of the few bright spots in an otherwise black hole of entertainment.

Created in Final Cut Amateur

Mummies can be scary in the right hands. Unfortunately, the hands used to create Tale Of The Mummy must have been firmly jammed up someone's ass when they wrote this because it is incredibly shitty. The story is painfully bad, the special effects were bad even by 1998 standards. I read that there is actually a European version that is actually 20 minutes longer. Europeans already have enough to deal with with the collapse of the euro, they don't need to be tortured more by this terrible movie. Don't waste your time with Tale Of The Mummy.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 138: Trick 'r Treat

Trick 'r Treat
Give me something good to eat

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love Halloween. Maybe it's all the costumes and candy, but just that time of year is perfect. The weather is getting cooler, the days are getting shorter, football has started, and lots of horror is on TV. Some horror movies just use Halloween as background, just to set the scene or an excuse to have actors dress up in silly costumes. Other movies, though, fully immerse themselves in the holiday to create an atmosphere perfect for horror. It doesn't hurt when it's produced by Bryan Singer (X-Men, The Usual Suspects).

Trick 'r Treat is a 2007 horror anthology consisting of 4 stories: The Principal, The School Bus Massacre Revisited, Surprise Party, and Meet Sam. Unlike other horror anthologies like The Creepshow and Deadtime Stories, these stories all take place on one Halloween night in a small town. Each story is connected through various ways including the presence of a pint-sized trick-or-treater in an orange onesy and a burlap sack mask.

In The Principal, Dylan Baker (Spider-Man 2, Road To Perdition) plays the school principle, Steven Wilkins. He catches a young trick-or-treater stealing candy from his yard. He carves a pumpkin while talking to the boy and hands him some more candy. The candy contains poison and Wilkins buries him in the backyard. His neighbor, Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox, X2: X-Men United, Red) yells at him to keep the noise down and is attacked off-screen by an unknown assailant. Wilkins' son Billy is home and almost catches his father burying the body. Billy continues to nag his father about carving a jack-o-lantern. What does Steven have in store for Billy?

Sorry, I just thought about something funny while I was burying this child

In The School Bus Massacre Revisited 4 kids have plans to scare another girl in their class, a savant named Rhonda. They tell her the story of the Halloween School Bus Massacre, where a school bus carrying mentally handicapped children, was driven off a cliff at the behest of their parents. The kids head to the spot where it supposedly occurred. They try to scare Rhonda by saying the children have come back from the dead, but all is not what it seems.

Surprise Party stars Anna Paquin (X-Men, True Blood) as Laurie, the insecure virgin. Dressed as Little Red Riding hood, she attends a Halloween party with her skanked-out sister and friends. They pick up a few guys and head to a bonfire in the woods. Meanwhile, a vampire has been claiming victims and is stalking Laurie. Have we already seen this vampire before and is Laurie really the one in danger?

When does Wolverine jump out?

The final story, Meet Sam, visits Mr. Kreeg, whom we saw being attacked in The Principal. Kreeg is in a life or death battle with the diminutive Sam. During the fight, Kreeg is able to rip off Sam's mask, revealing a disfigured jack-o-lantern skull face. Sam brutalizes Kreeg, but leaves before the killing blow. It is revealed the Kreeg was the bus driver from the Halloween School Bus Massacre. Even though Sam left, is Kreeg really safe?

This movie was flat-out awesome. The stories are all creative and interesting, not an easy task when trying to cram so many stories in a short amount of time. What's even more impressive is that they all connect in unexpected ways. The work very well for the most part, though I was a bit confused while watching, but all is eventually revealed. The writing is fluid and tight while the dialogue never feels unnatural or forced. I'm not sure if each individual story could stand to be a feature-length film, but they all compliment each other so well that it would be unnecessary to stretch each story out. While there's no outright fear induced by the movie, there are a few scenes that will make you feel uneasy, in a good way. 

Deadwood trained him well

There is lots of good action and violence with plenty of excitement to keep you on the edge of your seat. There is a decent amount of blood and gore, but nothing over the top. The movie really succeeds because of the great acting from all involved. Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker, and Brian Cox all play their parts perfectly which strengthen the already strong stories. Director and writer Michael Dougherty (X2 and Superman Returns) has a good eye for capturing the action without resorting to fast cuts and shaky cameras. If I have one complaint, it's that the movie is a bit too dark in certain scenes, but really, that's just nitpicking.

Trick 'r treat is a well-crafted horror movie through and through. The stories are interesting and are weaved into a creative and cohesive connection that is truly unexpected. The writing and direction are old solid, bolstered by great acting performances. There is a good amount of action and violence, enough to keep you entertained for the entire movie. Trick 'r Treat is a fun ride from start to finish and worth your while, no matter time of year you watch it.