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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 182: Dead Snow

Dead Snow
Oh, don't look so shocked

Zombies? Check. Nazis? Check. Zombie Nazis? Double check. It’s a particularly new idea since we’ve had Nazis zombies before in movies such as Zombie Lake, The Treasure of the Living Dead, Shockwaves, and even Rob Zombie’s animated movie, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, has them. Despite existing in one form or another in horror, Nazi zombies have been, until recently, an underutilized subgenre monster. In the past few years, there has been a small explosion of Nazi zombie-related media, from video games to references in songs like Monster Magnet’s excellent “Wall of Fire”. Sure, we Americans have done the Nazi zombie thing before, but how about another country, not necessarily known for their horror movies? How about Norway?

Dead Snow is a 2009 Norwegian zombie movie directed by Tommy Wirkola (Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Kill Buljo). Seven medical students (Martin, Roy, Hanna, Vegard, Liv, Chris, and Ereland celebrate their Easter vacation in a small cabin on a remote, snow-covered mountain. They drink and party while waiting for their friend Sara, who decided to trek across the mountain instead, to arrive. They hear a noise outside and think Sara has arrived, but are met by a mysterious stranger. He tells them that during World War II, the region was occupied by the Einsatzgruppen, an SS death squad, led by Oberst Herzog. For three years, the Nazis abused and tortured the local villagers. Towards the end of the war with the Russians closing in, the Nazis looted all the gold and silver they could find. Finally, the villagers rose up, killing Nazis and driving Herzog and the remaining survivors into the forest. The stranger departs and is soon murdered in his tent by an unknown assailant. The next morning, Vegard takes the only snowmobile out to find Sara, who, unknown to the group, has also been killed. The partying continues until Chris is attacked and killed. The cabin is swarmed by Nazi zombies trying to get in. They kill Ereland by crushing his head until his brain literally pops out. Meanwhile, Vegard discovers the Nazis secret cave where he find’s Sara’s severed head. He fights off a few zombies and is able to steal their machine gun. In the morning, Martin and Roy create a distraction while Hanna and Liv try to make a run for the car, which is somewhere towards the bottom of the mountain. Will they be able to survive again an army of undead Nazis?

Shabbat shalom!

It’s always nice to see a horror movie from a country other than the United States, Canada, or Japan. As an American, I like to see how storytelling is done elsewhere in the world and how it differs. It’s good to see these movies inject their own culture and ideals which makes for an interesting watch. Dead Snow, though, comes off somewhat as a tribute to American horror movies. The cabin looks similar to the one in Evil Dead, the zombies attacking the cabin reminds me of Night of the Living Dead, and a scene where Martin and Roy grab weapons harkens back to Army of Darkness. Ereland is a big movie fan and frequently quotes American movies such as Die Hard and The Terminator. The way the story is laid out and progresses, it is very close to your typical American horror movies. When I watch a foreign movie, I want to see what they can bring to the table, not how much the writers like American movies.

Speaking of story, Dead Snow focuses more on fun over-the-top violence and loads of gore than plot and character progression. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really begin until about 45 minutes into the movie. Everything is just a lead-to that point, but it’s a little boring. It was nice to see a story with some historical context in a European country, but they completely ignore the fact that Norway had their own SS division. There were Norwegian resistance fighters during the war as well, but perhaps they did not want to bring up too much history for a simple zombie movie. 

Stop! Hammer time!

Dead Snow also tries to go for a lot of questionable humor. There’s a scene where Ereland and Chris have sex in an outhouse. IN AN OUTHOUSE SECONDS AFTER ERELAND HAS USED IT. Please tell me that’s not a regional thing. Nothing says “Let’s make love” than an occupied shithouse. I guess it was a joke because Dead Snow tries for a lot of humor which isn’t particularly funny. You might crack a smile or chuckle, but nothing is good for a real laugh. They try to force humor when they didn’t have to. In one scene, Roy uses a hammer and sickle to kill a Nazi. That subtlety is funnier than just about any joke or reference. 

This excited a really small and really gross group of people

The movie does succeed in the violence and blood category. The deaths are creative and some take a bit of willing suspension of disbelief, but they’re still fun to watch. Dead Snow has tons of blood and the prop department must have cleared out a butcher because there is a large amount of intestines being pulled, ripped, squished, and eaten. The zombie makeup looks good and the uniforms are spot-on. The action is entertaining and keeps things interesting. The zombies are fast and pretty agile, which is a little disappointing for people who prefer the Romero-style lurching zombies, but for the movie’s purposes, it makes sense. The natural beauty and scenery is captured well and makes me want to book a trip to Scandinavia. I’ll just have to avoid all the black metal fans.

I had high hopes for Dead Snow, perhaps too high. The violence and gore is a lot of fun and executed very well. The killings are creative and keep the audience excited. There is not much in the way of story which takes away our connection with what is going on. The American horror worship may be fun for some, but I was hoping for a more unique, regional take on zombies which I didn’t get. There is questionable humor throughout and it takes away from what story does exist. If you like lots of blood and guts, you’ll really enjoy Dead Snow. If you’re looking for something a little deeper, you’ll have to keep digging.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 181: Inkubus

Spelling was always his worst subject

I don’t go to horror conventions. I have nothing against them, they just don’t appeal all that much to me. Buy some movies, get your picture with Kane Hodder, see some people dressed up as movie characters. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just have little desire to see trailers for upcoming movies or listen to a panel discussion from the crew working on Saw 19: This Time It’s Personal. Also, I don’t feel like driving long distances to be around sweaty nerds (love you guys, keep visiting the site!). Such wasn’t the case though, when the people involved with the Independent horror movie Inkubus came literally within walking distance of me to talk about the movie. Oh, and Robert Englund was going to be there. ROBERT ENGLUND! They played a trailer for the movie and answered questions from the group. To my disappointment, Mr. Englund could not make it, but his co-star William Forsythe was there and was kind enough to take a picture with me. It was time to finally see Inkubus.

Your favorite blogger with Mr. William Forsythe

Inkubus is a 2011 independent horror movie starring Joey Fatone (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, being in freaking N’SYNC) as Detective Tom Caretti, William Forsythe (Raising Arizona, The Rock) as retired Detective Gil Diamante, and Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street, 2001 Maniacs) as Inkubus. The movie is told mostly in flashback told by a committed Det. Caretti. A small crew is working the final shift in their closing police station in Wood Haven, Rhode Island when a young man arrives named Mikes, covered in the blood of his decapitated girlfriend. He claims to have seen a man covered in shadow in his room before blacking out. As Miles is being questioned, a man named Inkubus walks into the police station holding a woman’s severed head. He surrenders freely, making his phone call via magic to retired Detective Diamante, beckoning to come to the station so he could confess. Diamante was the closest to capturing Inkubus and was eventually committed after the murder of his wife and disappearance of his son. Inkubus reveals that he has committed numerous murders over the centuries and is closing in on being 100 years old. To continue his survival, he must be reborn in a new body. Using his powers, Inkubus begins to play mind games with the officers and killing them in brutal fashion. Will Diamante finally confront his demon and why is Officer Jen Cole, Caretti’s girlfriend, suddenly in such much pain?

Even evil demons need nap time

Independent horror movies are a real mixed bag. Usually low in budget and star power, indie horror has to rely on creative ideas, good storytelling, and innovative tricks to set themselves apart from bigger Hollywood productions. Inkubus is the exception to the rule because it has established actors involved. Robert Englund, one of the kings of horror, is great as Inkubus, relishing in the character’s evil malevolence. On paper, lines like “Abra-fucking-cadabra” and “Killing is magic” may seem clichéd, but uttered by Englund, it takes on a serious and sinister feel. William Forsythe is enjoyable as the broken and emotionally fragile Diamante. His soft demeanor creates an air of sympathy from the audience and really makes us want to see him defeat Inkubus. Joey Fatone is OK, it’s just hard to talk him seriously as an authority figure. The performances by the supporting cast range from passable to questionable.

The story itself has a few good moments, but overall, doesn’t feel particularly thrilling or interesting. It pretty much boils down to “evil supernatural being fucks with some cops.” There are a few good moments and a decent idea or two, but it just misses the mark in terms of being a complete movie. Making the story told in flashback by Joey Fatone while he’s in an insane asylum is clichéd and unnecessary. Adding this little bit is pointless and adds nothing to the movie other than seeing the guy from N’SYNC in a straight jacket in the world’s brightest white room. The movie tries to compensate with some questionable special effects and a surprising amount of blood and gore. I mean, one person’s spine gets ripped out. Spine. Gets. Ripped. Out. It’s unexpected to say the least and is unintentionally funny when you see Robert Englund just holding a spine in his hand. Another poor effect occurs when Officer Cole gives birth to a demon baby. It look so silly and the movie would have been better served implying the baby is a demon than showing a Cabbage Patch doll with horns covered in red food coloring. Sometimes less is more.

Inkubus has some good moments and lots of gorey violence, but it’s just not enough to get over a mediocre story that doesn’t really go anywhere. Robert Englund and William Forsythe put on strong performances and actually make the movie far more tolerable than it would have been if unknown actors had the lead roles. I liked that the film took place in Rhode Island, a state full of scary places and colonial history. As far as independent horror goes, Inkubus isn’t that bad. I have seen much, much worse. It’s heart was in the right place, it just needed a head to follow.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

180: Vampires

Gee, I wonder what this movie is about

Another day, another John Carpenter movie. He's been working horror for over thirty years and has been involved with some of the biggest and best horror movies ever. Halloween, The Thing, They Live are some of his best work. Even his non horror movies like Escape From New York and Assault On Precinct 13 are fun. Recently, though, John Carpenter has hit a bit of a rough patch. His return movie, The Ward, was thoroughly mediocre and Ghosts of Mars was just plain bad. Fun, but bad. Sometimes you just have a cold streak and sometimes you just have nothing in the tank. But how about the movie right before Ghosts of Mars, Vampires?

Vampires is a 1998 horror movie starring James Woods (Videodrome, Any Given Sunday) as the vampire hunter Jack Crow and Daniel Baldwin (Attack Of The 50 Ft. Woman, Phoenix) as his partner, Anthony Montoya. Jack leads a group of vampire slayers as they clear out a house, or nest, in New Mexico. That night, the crew parties with a group of hookers, including a pretty blond named Katrina (Sheryl Lee, Winter's Bone, Twin Peaks). A master vampire named Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith, xXx, The Karate Kid Part III) arrives, bites Katrina, and brutally kills most of the crew and the women. He calls Jack by name and goes after him, but Jack is able to escape along with Montoya and a woozy Katrina. Montoya and Katrina hold up in a hotel while Jack visits Cardinal Alba (Maximilian Schell, Joan of Arc, The Brothers Bloom) and Father Adam Guiteau (Tim Guinee, CSI, Iron Man). They explain that Valek was the first vampire, thus the most difficult to kill. Meanwhile, Katrina now has a psychic link to Valek, seeing what he sees. She tries to kill herself, but Montoya stops her from jumping out a window, cutting his arm in the process. Katrina sees the blood and bites his arm. Through Katrina's link, they are able to eventually piece together that Valek has found a mythical black cross, The Berziers Cross. It is revealed that Valek was a priest who became possessed by a demon and the cross was used in his exorcism. The exorcism was never completed, turning him into a vampire. Now that he has the cross, he will be able to complete the ritual, allowing him and his vampires to walk in the sunlight. Will Jack, Father Guiteau, and a bitten Montoya be able to stop Valek and his vampire crew and how is Cardinal Alba involved?

Great band picture

This movie is fun, plain and simple. I watched it many times growing up and even through the years, I am still entertained by it. It is filled with loads of action and some genuine laughs. Most of those laughs could be attributed to clever writing and James Woods. Jack Crow is practically made for Woods; he is loud, crude, and obnoxious. He looks like he is having fun in this role and it shows on screen. Screaming “Die! Die! Die you fuck, die!” isn't exactly Shakespeare, and in fact, may have been written by a 16 year old boy, but it does have a fun ring to it. There is plenty of guns, stakes to the heart, stakes to the head, and exploding in sunlight. The exploding bits could have been executed better because certain scenes just looked like the actors had flares attached to their clothing. There is a good amount of blood and one fantastic scene in the beginning when Valek splits one of the vampire hunters in half. Makes me wish they did more of that.

The story itself isn't particularly original, but its enough to keep things moving along between gunshots and curse words. It feels like there is a vampire movie out ever few years where the main vampire is about to unlock the ability to walk in the day time. It just feels played out, but again, the story isn't the real focus of the movie anyway. Thomas Ian Griffith is good as the brooding Valek and Sheryl Lee does well as Katrina. She is very convincing when she is transitioning to vampire and psychically linking to Valek. Daniel Baldwin keeps up with Woods in the fun department and is a good supporting role.

Give me a "T"!

Vampires is a fun, action-packed vampire movie with a good amount of blood and lots of gun shots. The acting and dialogue play very well in between action sequences, making the movie a complete and enjoyable watch. James Woods is great in his role and looks to be enjoying every minute of it. When an actor is having fun and gets into the role, we the audience benefit. While the story isn't anything special, the one-liners will keep you smiling as well as the gunshots and vampire staking. It's not John Carpenter's best, but he does well enough to craft and entertaining vampire movie.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 179: Maniac

Aw, he got raspberry jam all over his shoes

The 1970's and early 80's were a crazy time, especially in New York City. The economy was in the dumps, racial tension was high, crime and drug use was rampant, and disco was popular. It was the perfect setting for plenty of great movies such as Taxi Driver, The Godfather, Death Wish, Raging Bull and Dog Day Afternoon. The grim and gritty backdrop was perfect for movies in need of a “real” setting. It's only natural that a horror movie would use that same setting to create fear and terror.

Maniac is a 1980 horror serial killer film co-written by and starring Joe Spinell (The Godfather Part II, Rocky) as Frank Zito. Frank is a homicidal schizophrenic, killing women, scalping them, and fixing the scalps to the heads of mannequins that he keeps in his tiny apartment. We see him carrying on conversations with his long-dead, abusive mother. The body count rises and police are unable to pinpoint who the killer is. One day, Frank sees a fashion photographre named Anna take his photo in the park. He finds her bag and is able to track her down. He controls himself long enough to appear normal and intelligent, even going out to dinner with Anna. While visiting her on the set of one of her shoots, Frank becomes enamored with one of her models, Rita. He steals her necklace and uses it as a reason to go to her apartment. Once she lets him in, Frank ties her up and speaks to her as if she is his mother and he has finally been reunited with her. He stabs her to death before scalping her and dismembering her body. Frank takes Anna to his mother's grave where his grip on reality completely slips as he tries to attack Anna. She is able to hit Frank with a shovel and runs. Frank weeps at his mother's grave and hallucinates that she is now a zombie and is trying to kill him. Will Anna be able to survive and who, or what, can stop Frank?

I love what I've done with your hair

The biggest problem with Maniac is the story, or lack thereof. Maniac is essentially a combination of real-life killers Ed Gein and Son of Sam. There is no real story to speak of until the last 30 minutes of the movie. Prior to that, we basically watch Frank stalk and murder a few different women. Any female character that is introduced is just killed by Frank, so it's not like we have any connection or feelings towards these characters. What compounds the problem is that these killing scenes are far too long. They all have good suspense because we know what is going to happen and are just waiting. And waiting. And waiting. I actually lost suspense, if that's even possible. There are some jolts, mostly due to the makeup and effects by Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead, From Dusk Till Dawn), who even makes an appearance in the movie. That appearance is cut short when Frank blows his head off with a shotgun in a scene that is both gruesome and impressive as Savini's “head” explodes like a paint-filled melon.

The movie mostly focuses on Frank's schizophrenic conversations which, admittedly, are very terrifying. It's like being part of a peepshow, peering in to the cracked psyche of a madman. Joe Spinell does a superb job convincing me that he was insane, especially since many of his scenes are by himself. It also helps that he looks like a sweatier version of Ron Jeremy. His transition from seething lunatic to polite, even charming man is very impressive, but it comes out of nowhere and was unexpected. Why not start the movie with his relationship with Anna instead of waiting until the very end? The movie really goes off the rails in the last 10 minutes with the addition of Frank's mother and victims appearing as zombies. Zombies?! Where did this come from? For a movie that went for gritty and “real”, the ending did a complete 180 and crashed into a cliff made of “Huh?!”


Maniac does fit in with the other dirty New York City movies of the era, but goes more for shock and blood than story or feeling. It focuses far too much on stalking and violence for the first hour, leaving the last act to feel rushed and out of place. It would have been better if this was reversed because for a majority of the movie, there is no plot other than Frank killing women because he's nuts. Joe Spinell puts on a great performance, both visually and emotionally. Tom Savini's makeup and effects are as good as always with lots of blood and gore. Ultimately, Maniac has a few good things about it, but it's not enough to make it a complete watch.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 178: Countess Dracula

Countess Dracula
The 70's were a crazy time

Hammer Films is a film production company based in the United Kingdom. They are best known for their “Hammer horror” series of movies from the 60's and 70's that focused on classic stories such as Frankenstein, The Mummy, and Count Dracula. They've had a recent resurgence in new movies with the acquisition of the library by Cyrte Investments. Many horror fans are well versed in Hammer's films, but they are almost completely unknown to me. What better way to dive in than with a classic, Countess Dracula?

Countess Dracula is a 1971 horror film starring Ingrid Pitt (Where Eagles Dare, The House That Dripped Blood) as Countess Elisabeth Nadasdy. After the death of her husband, Elisabeth attends his will reading with Captain Dobi (Nigel Green, Zulu, Jason And The Argonauts), the castle steward, Master Fabio (Maurice Denham, Oliver Twist, Hysteria), the historian, and a strapping young soldier named Lt. Imre Thoth (Sandor Eles, The Evil of Frankenstein, The Saint). Lt. Thoth receives the Count's horses, much to the chagrin of Captain Dobit and the countess, who are secretly lovers. After an accident with a servant girl, Elisabeth discovers that the blood of the servant restored her youth and beauty. She enlists Captain Dobi to acquire girls to murder in order for her to bathe in their blood. To explain her rejuvenated state, Elisabeth assumes the identity of her daughter, Ilona, who has been stuck on the other side of the river due to floods. Elisabeth seduces Lt. Thoth and they fall in love. Fabio is suspicious and finds a book that talks about blood sacrifice. He informs Elisabeth that only the blood of virgins will work. Fabio tries to tell Thoth the truth, but Dobi kills him and makes it look like suicide. What will happen to Lt. Thoth if he marries Elisabeth and what if the real Ilona finally arrives?

 It gets awfully drafty in these old castles

When you hear the title “Countess Dracula,” you immediately think of a female version of Dracula, neck-biting, turning into a bat, and lurking in the shadows with a cape. Sadly, we don't get that, but the title is actually quite accurate as this movie is essentially the story of Countess Erzsebet (Elisabeth) Bathory. It is believed that Countess Bathory killed hundreds of virgins and bathed in their blood to retain her youth and beauty. Since she is the basis for Dracula, the title is probably more apt than most horror movies. The movie brings to mind old versions of Robin Hood, with great looking costumes and sets. I don't know if they are particularly accurate, but they look good nonetheless. The story itself, though, is pretty much by-the-numbers. You have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen and to call this movie “horror” is a bit of a stretch. It's not scary so much as it is unnerving at points, like Elisabeth's addiction to virgin blood and the countess's maid Julie expressing not wanting to ever leave the castle.

What helps the movie most is Ingrid Pitt. She is absolutely beautiful, even more so when you see the transition between her old makeup and her actual face. She puts on a very good performance and I was shocked to find out that her voice had actually been dubbed. I have no idea why, but it didn't hinder her portrayal in the movie. Nigel Green is very good as Captain Dobi and Sandor Eles plays his part just as well. There are a few scenes of nudity, far more than there are scenes of violence. I can't really complain about that, so I won't!

Beard time!

I was expecting a vampire movie when I decided to watch Countess Dracula and was a bit disappointed when there was no blood sucking. Essentially a story about Countess Bathory, you pretty much know what is going to happen, so there is not a lot of mystery or excitement. What sets it apart is the very good acting all around and the fun costumes and sets. If you're like me and you're not well-versed in Hammer horror, Countess Dracula is a good starting point. It won't blow you away, but you'll still enjoy the movie for what it is.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 177: Cabin In The Woods

Cabin In The Woods
Cabin designed by H.R. Giger

People love Joss Whedon. They love him more than their own blood relatives. They think he's greater than sliced bread. If they could, they would make a sandwich out of him. While that might be much, he's written a lot of great television and movies. I really enjoyed the Buffy The Vampire Slayer television show. I don't know much about Firefly, but search “Firefly petition” on any search engine and you'll see people love that show second only to breathing. Of course, people overlook his involvement in Waterworld and Alien: Resurrection, but you can keep those in your back pocket if you ever want to make a nerd's head explode. His writing credits for movies also include Toy Story, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Titan AE. How would he stack up writing a full-length horror movie?

Cabin In The Woods is a 2012 horror film, written by Joss Whedon and directed/co-written by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, Lost), starring Kristen Connolly (The Happening, Guiding Light) as Dana Polk. Dana goes on a trip to a cabin in the woods with her friends Jules (Anna Hutchison, Power Rangers, Wild Boys), Curt (Chris Hemsworth, Thor, The Avengers), stoner Marty (Fran Kranz, The Village, Dollhouse) and newcomer Holden (Jesse Williams, Brooklyn's Finest, Grey's Anatomy), whom Jules is trying to set Dana up with. They stop to get gas at a run down station, where a creepy man warns them not to go ahead. They ignore his warnings and make it to the cabin. Holden discovers a two-way mirror between rooms and Dana covers it with a blanket. Unbeknownst to them, their trip is being closely monitored by a sophisticated group, led by Richard Sitterson (Richard Jenkins, Me, Myself, And Irene, The Visitor) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford, Billy Madison, The West Wing). The group has cameras setup inside and outside the house and are pumping different chemicals into the house, affecting the group's personalities and actions. The group soon falls into horror movie cliches, with Dana acting the virgin role, Jules becoming the whore, Curt becoming the jock, Holden as the brain, and Marty as the fool. They are manipulated into going into the cellar, which is filled with strange artifacts. Dana reads from an old diary belonging to a young girl describing horrible violence and destruction. She reads a Latin incantation, unwittingly raising a family of redneck torture zombies. Soon the group is picked off one by one. Marty discovers a camera in his room and survives the attack along with Dana. They discover an elevator that leads down to the facility that has set up their night of terror. Why were they brought to the cabin and how will they survive?

The prettiest group of victims since Mean Girls

I wasn't sure what to expect when I first started watching Cabin In The Woods. I knew there was some horror genre-bending, but was expecting something like Hack or Hatchet, where there would just be an onslaught of stupid horror references and no story. Thankfully I was wrong, as the story is both creative and entertaining. The movie breaks down into two stories; the cabin portion and the facility portion. It doesn't waste time letting you know that some sort of conspiracy is afoot, which helps increase interest and excitement. The cabin portion is a fun nod to plenty of horror movies such as Evil Dead and Pumpkinhead. The characters slipping into the typical horror cliches is fun to watch as the acting is very good and believable. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford and both quite enjoyable and funny, despite technically being villains. I was a bit indifferent towards the zombie rednecks. They look good, though, some scenes were a bit too dark for me. Maybe I'm just tired of zombies being in everything. The movie made up for the lack of diversity when the second portion of the movie commences. Horror fans will have a blast catching all the references when we see the other creatures being held in the facility. Both are very good and acknowledge other horror movies without smashing you over the head with references.

The movie balances legitimately funny humor with good action and violence. Fans of Buffy will definitely appreciate how Cabin In The Woods is written and set up. It brought to mind certain episodes of Buffy, such as “Band Candy” “Homecoming” and the whole Riley/Initiative storyline. Whedon and Goddard create clever dialogue that is well executed by the actors. The movie is cast well and even includes a small role by Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Ghostbusters). The movie ends on a fairly big down-note, especially for an American movie, and I think they actually missed out on possible sequels. Also, I'm upset they passed up the ultimate opportunity to have Cthulhu in a movie. I guess it's a compliment to want to see sequels, but maybe it's for the best.

Enjoy the references

Cabin In The Woods is a fun horror movie for both horror buffs and non horror fans alike. The writing is quick and clever with good humor. The love for Joss Whedon is understandable after seeing the movie. There is a good amount of action, blood, and gore with nice touches of mystery and thrills. The special effects look very good and the acting is spot-on, helping to elevate the movie to another level. While there were a few things I would have changed, Cabin In The Woods is a very enjoyable movie and I definitely recommend it.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 176: Zombie (Zombi 2)

Zombie (Zombi 2)
His smile can light up a room

Thanks to television and the internet, more people have seen iconic scenes from movies than the actual films themselves. While shows like Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments and clips on Youtube are great for introducing unknown movies to the masses, plenty make the mistake of just watching the clips and never seeking out the full experience. It's worth taking the time to see these movies to truly understand and appreciate why these scenes mean so much. It's also worth seeing these movies if they have zombies in them.

Zombie is a 1979 zombie horror movie, directed by Lucio Fulci (City Of The Living Dead, Don't Torture A Duckling) and starring Tisa Farrow (L'Ultimo Cacciatore, Fingers) as Anne Bowles. An abandoned yacht is discovered floating aimlessly in New York Harbor and is boarded by the Coast Guard. A hulking zombie appears on the boat and bites one of the officers in the throat. The remaining officer kills the zombie and the dead officer is taken for an autopsy. Anne Bowles, who's fathered owned the yacht, is questioned by the police, but can only tell them that he was doing research on a tropical island. News reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch, Survivors, Doctor Who) investigates the mysterious boat and comes across Anne doing some investigating on her own. They discover that Anne's father was working on the island of Matool and had been suffering from a strange and unknown disease. They get to the main islands and are able to hitch a ride with a couple, Brian and Susan. During their trip, Susan goes scuba diving and comes across a shark. As she is hiding from the shark, she is attacked by a zombie. She breaks free while the shark and zombie battle it out underwater. On the island, they meet Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson, Aces High, The Haunting) who works as a physician on the island. Menard asks them to check on his wife at their house and they discover her being devoured by zombies. They make a run for it and are attacked by zombies rising from the grave. Will they be able to get off the island and warn the world that the dead are coming back to life?

Sometimes a shark just needs a hug

This movie has a complicated history, but I'll give the cliff notes. For those that don't know, Zombie was also released under the name Zombi 2 after George Romero's Dawn Of The Dead was recut and the name changed to just Zombi. Zombi 2 isn't a sequel to that movie, was most likely used as a way to get more people to see it. Zombie is also known as Zombie Flesh-Eaters, Island Of The Living Dead, and Woodoo. The iconic scene I was referencing was the “Zombie vs. Shark” part of the movie. Just about every horror fan loves that scene. It is pretty amazing that they were able to pull it off convincingly. I've read that they used a well-fed and heavily sedated shark, which makes sense, but I didn't see any air bubbles during the scene. That leads me to conclude it was a real zombie. It's a very cool scene, though it didn't really add much to the story itself.

Speaking of the story, Zombie is your basic island-based voodoo horror movie. Thankfully it focuses more on zombies than voodoo which tends to bring down the entertainment and fear in movies such as The Serpent And The Rainbow and Ritual. The first hour of the movie is a little slower than expected and even boring at times. All roads lead to the characters getting on the island, but it takes a while to get there. Stick with the movie, because the last 30 minutes or so is well worth it. Fulci revels in the extreme gore that got the movie banned in some countries and recut in others. When I say gore, I mean GORE, enough to make me to raise my eyebrows in surprise at some of the things they were able to pull off. Some scenes are gruesome, but still entertaining. The zombies all look great and, thankfully, are the slow, shambling style of zombie. 

Zombies: Now in Sepia tone

There are many versions of the film floating out there, but the one I watched had a weird mixture of English speakers and bad dubbing. It confused me at times to see English speakers in a scene where their costars appeared to be dubbed. That threw me off a bit, and made it a little hard to critique the acting. That being said, the actors still put on good performances and captured feelings of fear and terror. There is a good amount of action, mainly towards the end of the film. The movie has a final stand against the zombies that many of us have probably fantasized about.

Overall, Zombie is an entertaining movie, despite a slow beginning and a story that was not particularly interesting or original. Fulci does a good job capturing all the violence and does not shy away from the extreme. It's a bloody good time with great makeup and effects. The amount of blood and gore may shock some, but if you like your horror red and sticky, you'll really enjoy Zombie. The zombie vs shark scene alone is worth your time. It's been referenced in song (Send More Paramedics - Zombie Vs. Shark) and even on t-shirts. It is no wonder that the movie has become classic, and that scene is one of the main reasons why.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 175: Duel

People wanting to see "Duet" are going to be disappointed

Just about everyone loves Steven Spielberg, right? The man has made some of the best movies in the past 30 + years: E.T., Jaws, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Raiders of the Last Ark. The list goes on and on. Just about everything he touches turns to gold. Sure, we all know the classics, but I wanted to go back to one of his first films and one of the few films that could be considered horror. It might not fit in your traditional horror movie, there's no real blood, nothing supernatural about it, no monsters jumping out from dark corners. That doesn't make it any less thrilling or terrifying.

Duel is a 1971 made-for-television (and later theatrical) horror/thriller starring Dennis Weaver (Dragnet, Touch of Evil) as electronics salesman David Mann. The movie is based on a short story written by Richard Matheson (Twilight Zone, Burn Witch Burn) which he also adapted for the screen. David is on a business trip driving his red Plymouth Valiant in the California desert. On his trip, David gets stuck behind a slow-moving, rusted tanker truck with the word “FLAMMABLE” printed on the back. David speeds up and goes around the truck. The truck roars past him, cuts him off, and then promptly slows down again. David returns the favor, passing him for a second time, leading the truck to blast it's air horn for a long time. The truck follows David as he stops at a gas station to call his wife, who is upset at David for not confronting a man who made a pass at her the night before. The gas attendant tells David that his car needs a new radiator hose, but he ignores him and gets back on the road. The truck now blocks David's multiple attempts to go around him. At one point, the truck driver waves for David to go ahead, but as he does, an oncoming car almost hits David. He goes off road and speeds ahead of the truck, but the truck continues to follow at increasingly fast speeds. David peels off into a cafe's parking lot, crashing into a fence. He goes inside and gets some food, only to see that the truck has stopped. David tries to figure out who in the cafe is the driver and falsely accuses one man of being the driver, leading to David getting punched. He gets back on the road and is flagged down by a stranded school bus that needs a push. His car gets stuck and he panics and flees when he sees the truck approaching, but the truck actually helps the bus. The pursuit continues with the truck almost pushing David into an oncoming train and more high speed chases. David even pulls to the side of the road and takes a nap in hopes that the truck driver will move on. When he continues to drive, he finds the truck waiting for him just down the road. How will David be able to escape this unforgiving truck driver?

What did he say about my mustache?!

The reason why Duel works so well is that it can and does happen in real life. All of us experience bad driving, jerks who cut us off, people who don't signal, and general jackassery on a daily basis. Road rage is a very real thing and it takes real effort for people to not smash each other's heads in because they need to get home to watch Girls on HBO. There is also that creepy feeling that you are being followed. You know it's probably not true, but when you make a few turns and the car behind you makes the same exact turns, you start to get nervous. Richard Matheson really captures this fear in his story. One of the best things he does is to never show the driver. That allows the audience to project whatever they want onto this faceless maniac, similar to Michael Myers in Halloween. The movie is exciting and thrilling while still be scary at the same time. Just when you think the trucker has let up and David can go on, he reappears, more aggressive than ever. Duel is very Hitchcokian in that aspect.

Though he was still a young director at the time, Steven Spielberg really captured the dry, desolate California highways. He used some truly creative shots from different angles. Speeding shots from the hood of cars, closeups of David's face, and shots from cameras following in front and behind the cars make the audience feel like they are right there in the action. Dennis Weaver puts on a strong performance, especially considering that he really doesn't have any costars. He interacts with people here and there, but for the most part, it's just him and an unknown assailant that never speaks and is never revealed. We get to listen in to David's thoughts on what is occurring, such as in the cafe, and it's a great window into his current state of mind. We get fear, anxiety, anger, and confusion. These are all very real emotions that any of us would be having in the same situation. The truck driver is unrelenting and we just want David to make it out OK.

Keep on truckin'

While it may not be a traditional horror movie, Duel is very thrilling and scary on an everyday level. The story is thrilling and completely believable, making it all the more entertaining. Steven Spielberg really shines in this movie and it is no surprise he has gone on to win so many awards and make so many great movies. Dennis Weaver's performance really puts the movie over the top as he runs through the gamut of emotions and really acts without any help from costars. If you like Hitchcock and you like your horror set in the real world, you'll really enjoy Duel.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 174: A Nightmare On Elm Street

A Nightmare On Elm Street
Hat's off to horror

1, 2, Freddy's remade for you. Horror remakes are usually met with fear, anger, and derision from the horror community. Heck, just regular remakes are met the same way. We love our originals and hate to see them re-cut, altered, chewed up, and spat out onto the big screen in hopes of making a few million. A lot of us grew up with these movies and while it's great to see a new generation get into these movies, it's hard to see our favorite things be changed. But not all remakes are horrible. The Dawn of the Dead remake, while different, was still a pretty good horror movie. Could the same be said for a movie based around an iconic character?

A Nightmare On Elm Street is a 2010 remake of Wes Craven's 1984 horror film of the same name. It stars Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo, The Social Network) as Nancy Holbrook. Nancy is a waitress at a local diner and serves classmates Dean and his girlfriend, Kris (Katie Cassidy, Black Christmas, When A Stranger Calls). Dean hasn't slept in days, suffering from nightmares that a mysterious burned man is trying to kill him. He drifts into sleep and is killed in his dream by the man, but appears to kill himself in reality to those around him. At Dean's funeral, Kris sees a picture of them together as children, but doesn't remember knowing him when they were young. Kris begins to dream of the burned man and has her ex-boyfriend Jesse (Thomas Dekker, Laid To Rest, Kaboom) stay with her to keep her company. In her dreams, she meets the burned man, and in reality she is supernaturally slammed all across her room before being slashed to death. Jesse flees to Nancy's house, who reveals she also dreams of the man. Jesse is soon arrested for Kris's murder. He tries to stay awake in jail, but falls asleep and is brutally murdered by the same man. Joined by her classmate Quentin (Kyle Gallner, The Haunting in Connecticut, Jennifer's Body), Nancy discovers that they are all connected through the preschool they attended. There, the gardener named Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley, Rorschach from Watchmen) sexually abused the children and named Nancy as his favorite. Their parents took justice in their own hands and burned Krueger alive. Now he is back, killing the children who told on him through their dreams. Nancy and Quentin try to stay awake, thinking of a way to beat Freddy, but constantly drift in and out of sleep as he gets closer to killing them. Will Nancy, Freddy's favorite, be able to stop him?

Better moisturize

It's hard not to compare the remake to the original and it's impossible to replace Robert Englund. Robert Englund IS Freddy Krueger. Freddy is all personality and hard to recreate whereas a character like Jason, who is essentially just a big, unkillable bastard in a mask, can be played by anyone meeting the height and weight requirements. That being said, Jackie Earle Haley is very good as a different Freddy Krueger. Gone are the one-liners and funny quips. This Freddy is a darker character, staying more true to Wes Craven's original vision in which Freddy was a child molester. Rooney Mara is good in her role, but her characters reminds me of Raven from the cartoon Teen Titans; drab and kind of bland. As far as horror remakes go, A Nightmare On Elm Street isn't that bad. It's a good introduction for viewers who may not have seen the original. Even Freddy's face is different as they went for a more traditional burn victim look. Unfortunately, it looks stiff and a little boring, more closely resembling a cross between an alien and a burnt English muffin.

The movie itself focuses more on stylistic action and cool violence than comprehensive plot. Now that I think about it, I don't know if they ever explained just how Freddy was able to come back from the dead and haunt dreams. The new Nightmare lacks the proper amount of depth and creativity that helped make the original great. By not being a complete movie, this remake just comes off as a good, but typical supernatural slasher. The special effects are actually pretty good and some of the scenes are quite impressive, such as when the floor in a hallway becomes a pool of thick blood that drags Nancy under. The movie has a good amount of blood, gore, and action. There are a few jumps and scares, but nothing overall terrifying.

What do you mean Phish is sold out?!

Horror fans will always be wary of remakes. We hold our horror close to our gorey hearts. A Nightmare On Elm Street probably didn't need to be remade so soon, but in this day and age, it's amazing it took this long. The basic story and some characters are the same as the original, but it's the specifics that are different, similar to the Dawn Of The Dead remake. I was happy to see some scenes recreated, so at least they did that right. Jackie Earle Haley is a very good, if different, Freddy Krueger and Rooney Mara plays her part well. The movie has some great special effects and lots of blood, but the story feels empty and flat. Thankfully, this remake is not bad. It's just not great.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day 173: Hack!


Horror goes all the way back to the silent era of movies. Since then, the genre has branches out to hundreds of different subgenres. In this past generation, a new horror genre has popped up: The Self-Aware Horror movie. I don't know exactly where it started, but Scream brought it the masses. It's a horror movie that acknowledges other horror movies, their “rules”, and their cliches. A lot of these movies go for humor and not-so-subtle references to other (and usually better) horror movies. Some of these even go as far as to acknowledge that they're just bad horror wankfests. The question is, if a movie acknowledges that it's bad, does that make it good?

Hack! Is a 2007 horror comedy starring Danica McKeller (Winnie from The Wonder Years) as the nerdy and innocent Emily. A group of college students, handsome Johnny (Jay Kenneth Johnson, Scrubs, Days Of Our Lives), homosexual Ricky (Justin Chon, Twilight, New Moon) quarterback/douchebag Tim (Travis Schuldt, Scrubs, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia), lesbian Maddy, pothead Q, and the beautiful Sylvia, are chosen to go on a field trip to a small island. They are hosted by film buff couple Vincent King (Sean Kanan, The Young & The Restless, Jack Rio) and Mary Shelley (Juliet Landau, Drusilla from Buffy The Vampire Slayer). Mary carries around a old timey movie recorder and films the students around the island. Unbeknownst to them, their teacher and boat captain have been brutally murdered. One by one, the group is picked off my what appear to be killers from different horror movies. It is revealed that the killer is in fact bother Mary and Vincent who are filming the murders for a reality snuff film that they plan to show at the Cannes Film Festival. The students receive aid from Willy (William Forsythe, Raising Arizona, Boardwalk Empire). Will Johnny be able to stop the killer and how is Emily connected to all of this?

She can be nerdy with me any day

Essentially, Hack! Is just an hour and a half of horror nerds geeking out and trying to cram as many references in as possible. I gave up counting right around the time they said the name “Mary Shelley” as one of the characters. We get it, you like horror movies. I also like hockey, that doesn't mean I want to watch an entire game based off of other hockey games from the past 100 years. Referencing and making nods to other movies is fine as long as it's done with some style, class, and creativity. Hack just clubs you over the head with them while imploring you to laugh. Beyond “Mary Shelley” and “Vincent King,” there are characters named Mr. Argento, Sheriff Stoker, and J.T. Bates. Jesus, we get it! There are a few humorous moments, but nothing that will really make you laugh out laugh. Of course there's also horrific jokes like “Free us, Willy!” that make me want to smash my laptop to keep it from ever making another terrible joke again. My biggest problem with the movie is when it acknowledges that it's full of cliches and isn't even a good movie. Why do that? That's like saying to the audience. “Oh, you're watching this movie? Well, fuck you. Fuck you in your stupid face while we jerk off at all the references we're making.

What the movie lacks in humor or creativity is it's strong cast. Just about everyone involved is a seasoned actor on either television or cinema. Juliet Landau is probably the best in the bunch as she is completely delightful and fun. She takes the role and makes it dementedly sweet. I only know her from her role on Buffy, so it was a little weird to hear her speak without an accent. Danica McKeller is also enjoyable and makes me wish she was in more movies. William Forsythe, though barely in the movie, is great as well, though inexplicably Scottish. Maybe he just wanted to do a different accent. Kane Hodder (Hatchet, a bunch of Friday the 13th movies) makes a brief appearance in the beginning, because they just had to squeeze him in too. The movie has a decent amount of action and some blood, but nothing overly thrilling.

I'm ready for my closeup

By putting more effort into purposely having cliches and referencing better movies, Hack forgot to be a good movie. It's hard enough to get through unoriginal movies, it's even worse when the movie you're watching acknowledges that it's ripping things off left and right. Even the concept is a take off of the movie Peeping Tom. They had the cast who put in good performances, despite a weak story and some horrendous comedy material. The action is fine with OK blood and gore, but even those were referencing other horror movies. We have a movie that is self-aware, breaking the 4th wall, and giving not-so-subtle winks and nods to the audience. If a movie acknowledges that it is a big nerdfest, does that someone make it an enjoyable movie? No. No it doesn't.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 172: Masters of Horror: Dance Of The Dead

Masters of Horror: Dance Of The Dead
It's like the Electric Slide, but way worse

There are many reasons why we decide to watch a horror. Sometimes we like the story it's based off of, sometimes it's a certain director or actor involved, sometimes we like the genre. Whatever the reason, when our interest is peaked, we expect a certain level of quality in what we are about to watch. Those expectations may be too low and we are pleasantly surprised at discovering a new movie. There are other times, though, when your expectations are high and you end up crashing into a mountain of awfulness.

Masters of Horror: Dance Of The Dead is based off a story written by Richard Matheson (What Dreams May Come, I Am Legend) and adapted to the screen by his son Richard Christian Matheson. The movie stars Jessica Lowndes (90210, Kyle XY) as Peggy and Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy vs. Jason) as The MC. In 2008, terrorists deployed a biological weapon called “Blizz,” instantly burning anyone caught in it's path. Ten years pass and the United States has fallen into disarray after World War III. Peggy works in her mother's diner and longs to explore the outside world. When she was younger, she saw people burned to death by Blizz while she, her sister, and mother reached safety. A group of bikers/drug addicts come into the diner one day and Peggy becomes infatuated with one named Jak (Jonathan Tucker, The Ruins, Pulse). Jak, along with his sketchy friend, Boxx, have shady dealings with people in the rundown town of Muskeet, including The MC who works at a club called The Doom Room. We even see them steal a person's blood right off the street. Seriously, we see them come up to an old woman on the street, put an IV in her arms, drain some blood, and run away. Jak returns and takes Peggy on a drug-fueled bender on their way to The Doom Room. Jak and Boxx meet backstage with the MC and give him the stolen blood. Afterwards, they all watch the performance on stage, a zombified woman due to Blizz being electrocuted in order to make her lurch and dance. The MC brings on the next “dancer” which turns out to be Peggy's lost sister, Anna. How did she come to be this way and why has Peggy's mother come to Muskeet?

Now working Bar Mitzvahs and funerals

Wow, this was painfully bad. While the story seems slightly interesting, I think something was really lost in translation from word to film. Richard Matheson is no slouch when it comes to writing good stories. I mean, he wrote the absolute classic Twilight Zone episode, “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet.” While this may have been at one point a good story, it isn't a good one now. The story is all over the place in a confusing and nonsensical mess. So some biological weapon named Blizz (Seriously? Blizz? That sounds like something Dairy Queen would sell) burns people who come in contact with it, but you're safe if you're inside? Seems like you'd do more damage with a bomb. Then they just skip ahead and society has totally crumbled, leading to people stealing blood in broad daylight. Really? REALLY?! I can't even figure out what the story is supposed to be? The horrors of nuclear war? The evils in society? Well, it's sure not about zombies, contrary to what they advertise.

There are two saving graces to Dance Of The Dead; Robert Englund and music by Billy Corgan. Robert Englund is his usual wonderful self, speaking with conviction and making every word matter. Corgan's music is somewhat pounding industrial, or more precisely, Hollywood's idea of insustrial. It is fun to listen to and sets a dark tone to the movie. One of the biggest problems for the movie are the characters and the actors portraying them. No one is likable in Dance Of The Dead. Peggy is far too naïve at the beginning, but easily slides into the world of drugs and debauchery as if she's slipping on an old pair of shoes. The love interest, Jak, is supposed to be some sort of sweet badboy that's still a drug using, blood-stealing scumfuck. I'm supposed to like this guy because I'm pretty sure I hate his guts. It doesn't help that the performances are mediocre at best.

Acting the fuck out of this scene

There are very few good things to say about Dance Of The Dead. The story is barely coherent with unlikable characters, weak acting, and predictable and downright stupid ending. There is very little in the way of action and entertainment. It's labeled as a zombie movie, but that just barely passes for truth. Robert Englund is as great as ever and the music by Billy Corgan is pretty good. Perhaps something was lost in the execution of this movie, but I really don't know why they made this into an episode of Masters of Horror. There are far better stories out there deserving of an episode. I was expecting a fun zombie movie starring Robert Englund. Instead, I got a boring story that goes nowhere with a small Robert Englund role. The movie has a lot of drug use and nudity, so it's definitely not for kids. Dance Of The Dead is not scary and it is not entertaining.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 171: Carrie

Before and After Oceanspray Cranapple Juice

Can a horror movie still be good even when you know specifically what is going to happen? Thanks to television and the internet, it's almost impossible to not know specific scenes from movies even if you've never watched them. This is especially true with classic horror movies and scenes. TV shows like Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments show us all the good and memorable parts of movies. Being a horror fan, of course I watch them (multiple times) despite not having seen all of the movies featured. Just about everyone knows the major scene in Carrie. It has been re-shown, spoofed, satirized, and imitated in lots of different mediums. Heck, it was even in Tiny Toon Adventures in the 90's. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I had to see the movie for myself. I also needed to get Europe's power ballad "Carrie" out of my head.

Carrie is a 1976 adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name. Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner's Daughter, Blast From The Past) stars as Carrie White, a shy high school girl caught in the grip of her overbearing and religious mother, Margret (Piper Laurie, The Faculty, Children Of A Lesser God). Carrie is an outcast and is ridiculed by her female classmates when she gets her period in the shower. As Carrie becomes more frantic, a lightbulb bursts before Miss Collins (Betty Buckley, The Happening, Eight Is Enough) and puts a stop to the harassment. When her mother hears of the incident, she punishes Carrie because she believes the blood is a punishment for sin. She locks Carrie in a closet and forces her to pray. Carrie believes she may be telekinetic and researches it in the school library. Carrie's classmate, Sue, guilty over teasing Carrie, convinces the hunky Tommy to take Carrie to prom. Miss Collins punishes the girls who teased Carrie by making them do physical activities. Sue Snell (Amy Irving, Yentl, Adam), who hates Carrie, refuses and is banned from prom. Carrie's mother warns her not to go to the prom because all the students will laugh at her. She disagrees, using her powers to push her mother away. She enjoys herself at the prom, unaware that Sue, along with her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta, Pulp Fiction, Battlefield Earth) have rigged the prom king and queen voting so that Carrie and Tommy would win. As she accepts her crown, Sue tips a bucket full of pig's blood onto Carrie's head, drenching her and knocking Tommy out with the bucket. Carrie, believing people are laughing at her, finally snaps, using her telekinesis to lock the doors and hurt everyone inside with a wall of flames. She even gets her revenge on Sue and Billy. Covered in blood, she returns home. What will her mother do?

Cut her a piece of cake?

Carrie is a classic for a reason. The acting is truly great, thanks to Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. Spacek is great as both the mousy Carrie and the insane, murderous Carrie. She really shines in the revenge scene at the prom. Without saying a word, her wide eyes and steely expression speak terrifying volumes. Piper Laurie plays the religious Margaret perfectly. I really hated her for all the right reasons. Amy Irving is good as the bratty Sue and John Travolta is in the role made for him, a total douchebag. Beyond the acting, the story is straight to the point and enjoyable. You kind of have an idea of what is going to happen, but are compelled to keep watching. The little hints of Carrie's telekinesis are a big part of that. The audience is fully behind Carrie as a sympathetic character and desperately want her to get revenge.

Director Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables) does a fantastic job of directing. Quick action shots with music swells fit perfectly for Carrie's powers. There are some great shots, including the final scene that was shot in reverse to give it a dream-like feel. The music, composed by Pino Donaggio, is another high point in the movie, though I could have done without some of the dorky 70's music. The soundtrack is so good that it has been re-released multiple times. While a majority of the movie doesn't have a lot of action, there is plenty in the final act. The scene I referenced before is truly awesome and it's no surprised it's been done in other productions so many times.

This should just be every heavy metal album cover ever

Even though I knew what was going to happen, I still really enjoyed Carrie. The story is very believable and still relevant today. Even though the movie is a bit lengthy, it never felt too long or drawn out. The acting is great with special accolades going to Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. It was also fun to see a young John Travolta. The direction and music are very well done and make the movie a complete package. If you've watched the prom scene, but never watched the full movie, do yourself a favor, and go see Carrie now. Make sure to avoid the ridiculous sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2 and the unnecessary made-for-TV remake. Plans are underway to remake the original with Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass, Let Me In) as Carrie and Julianne Moore (Boogie Nights, The Big Lebowski) as Margaret White. Only time will tell if it will be as good as the original. 


Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 170: The Surgeon

The Surgeon
Haw, haw!

Lots of people are afraid of hospitals and not without good reason. They're big, cold, sterile places filled with blood, guts, and dead bodies. There are all sorts of chemicals and machines keeping people from shuffling off this mortal coil. Then there's for-profit hospitals that make sure they bleed you dry before shoving you out the window when your insurance is all gone. It's natural that horror movies delve into hospitals and have a doctor as the monster.

The Surgeon (originally titled Exquisite Tenderness because they wanted to make sure no one watched this) is a 1995 horror movie starring Isabel Glasser (Forever Young, Law & Order) as Dr. Theresa McCann. Theresa is in conflict with Dr. Stein (Malcolm McDowell, Suck, Clockword Orange) who is using an experimental and highly dangerous treatment on patients. She fights to stop Stein, but is in luck when he is mysteriously murdered. It turns out that former surgeon Dr. Julian Mater (Sean Haberle), who was suspended for experimenting on dying patients with cellular regeneration, has returned to continue his experiments and gain revenge on those who wronged him. As a child, he saw a doctor murder his brother, so I guess he decided to go through years of law school and tons of student loans to kill a bunch of patients. Or something. Dr. Mater has been experimenting on himself and is able to heal himself at an incredible rate. Anyway, Theresa finds comfort in the arms of Dr. Ben Hendricks (James Remar, What Lies Beneath, The Girl Next Door) while Lt. McEllwaine (Peter Boyle, Everybody Loves Raymond, Young Frankenstein). Searches for Dr. Mater. Will they be able to stop him before the good doctor kills Theresa and perfects his insane experiments? 

Poor Young Frankenstein

When you have a movie about a killer surgeon, there's no need to make thins unnecessarily complicated. It's nice that they tried to make some sort of back story, but it's just far too muddled and pointless for a simple concept. Just show the surgeon killing people and a cop going after him. That's good enough. The Surgeon tries to inject romance, intrigue, and medical science, though I'm not sure how accurate the science is in this movie. All of that extra window dressing just drags the movie down, making it painfully boring to watch. The pacing for the movie is off and the far-fetched plot doesn't help move things along.

There is some action, but Sean Haberle is so hilariously over-the-top that I can't really be scared of him. He's at a Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever level of scene chewing. Isabel Glasser isn't much better. Malcolm McDowell was good, though barely in the movie. I read that he was paid a nice sum of money for a week's worth of work and didn't even see the movie. I can't blame him for that. Despite having a cast of seasoned actors, their performances aren't particularly good or memorable. Perhaps they just phoned it in for this silly movie or maybe they just couldn't overcome the bad dialogue. There is also some violence and blood in the movie, but not nearly as much as you'd expect from a movie called The Surgeon. It has some creative kills, but not nearly enough to keep the audience entertained.

I think he fell asleep in his own movie

The Surgeon is a nice flashback to the 1990's and brings to mind similar movies like The Dentist and Dr. Giggles, but just doesn't make for an entertaining watch. The plot is too silly, even for B-movie horror standards. The acting is surprisingly poor even though there are legitimate actors involved.. There is not enough violence and blood for a movie based on a killer surgeon. While it's fun to go back to a simpler time, The Surgeon isn't worth it.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 169: Creepshow

It's like a peepshow, but scary for a good reason

Happy Father's Day everyone. I hope you got something special for you dad or if you're a dad yourself, I hope you had a good day. And even if you didn't celebrate the day, I hope you enjoyed yourself because you should. My love of horror was passed down to me from my dad and it all started with a VHS copy of Dawn Of The Dead. “It has zombies in a mall,” he said and I have been hooked ever since. The wonderful world of horror allows people to come together and bond. It also has a great tradition of having stories based off holidays. While I'm still waiting for a Hannukah-based horror movie, a story in Creepshow gives me an excuse to review it.

Creepshow is a 1982 horror anthology written by Stephen King (The Shining, It) and directed by George Romero (Night Of The Living Dead, Monkey Shines). The movie consists of five stories and include an ensemble cast of actors and actresses. Tom Savini (Dawn Of The Dead, The Burning) handled the makeup and special effects. The movie begins starts with young Billy, a young fan of the comic book Creepshow. His father, Stan (Tom Atkins, The Fog, Lethal Weapon) slaps him for reading such “crap” and throws the comic in the garbage. That leads into our first story.

“Father's Day”

Father's Day stars Jonathan Lormer (Star Trek, The Twilight Zone) as Nathan Gratham, the miserly patriarch of a rich, spoiled family that has been involved in illegal operations. On Father's Day, Nathan's daughter Bedelia, who had become emotionally unstable for putting up with her father's demands for so many years, finally snapped and smashed his head in. Years later, several of Nathan's descendants, granddaughter Sylvia, great grandchildren Richard and Cass, and Cass's husband, Hank (Ed Harris, The Rock, Enemy At The Gates) gather on Father's Day for dinner. Bedelia arrives late to pay respect to her dead father at his grave. Nathan's rotten corpse rises from the grave in search of his traditional Father's Day Cake. Will the family be able to survive the zombified Nathan or will he finally get his cake?

I think he needs more than just cake

This story is a good first start for the movie. It starts off a little slow establishing characters, but things really pick up once Nathan rises from the grave. There is some internal conflict from the audience because on the one hand, we kind of hate Nathan because he's a mean, old bastard and now he's a murderous zombie. On the other hand, he was murdered and his descendants are all terrible people. Regardless, the story is fun, if a little simple, with good action and makeup. It may not be the best story in the bunch, but it has it's moments.


“The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”

The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill (originally titled Weeds) stars Stephen King himself in the title role. Jordy is a simple country bumpkin who discovers a meteorite. He believes that the local college will pay him money for it, which would take care of his bank loan. The meteorite begins to ooze a strange glowing substance which Jordy unfortunately touches. A strange green plant-like organism begins to grow on Jordy's skin and in his home. It grows rapidly and itches him terribly The apparition of his dead father warns him not to take a bath, but the itching is too great and Jordy submerges himself in water. What will happen to Jordy after the bath and is there rain in the forecast?

Green is definitely your color

This is probably the shortest of the five stories, which is fine because there is not much to tell. That's not to say it isn't good, it's just one helpless man's story. While being simple, it creeps up on your (see what I did there?) and is actually far heavier than you'd expect. There is some humor and Stephen King actually plays the part very, very well. If you didn't know he was the writer, you'd think King was a full-time actor. The plant-like alien looks pretty good, especially when it covers the house. One complaint was his father appearing in a vision. It really came out of nowhere and was never really alluded to before or after. Also, I didn't like that the slow, goofy character was named Jordy. That's my name!


“Something To Tide You Over”

Something To Tide You Over stars Leslie Nielsen (The Naked Gun, Spy Hard) as Richard Vickers and Ted Danson (Cheers, Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Harry Wentworth. Richard's wife, Becky (Gaylen Ross, Dawn Of The Dead) has been cheating on him with Harry and Richard plans to take revenge on them. Despite his downright upbeat manner, Richard has snapped and wants to kill them both. Richard forces Harry at gunpoint into a hole on the beach and commands him to fill it with sand up to his neck. Richard puts a television in front of Harry so he can watch Becky, who is in the same predicament, drown when the tide rolls in. Richard, done with the deed, returns to his home to unwind. He is soon attacked by the seaweed-covered reanimated corpses of Harry and Becky. He loses his mind as his attempts to kill them fail. How can you kill something that is already dead?

Frank Drebin gets real

This is probably my favorite story in Creepshow and that is based almost solely on the performance of Leslie Nielsen. I loved his comedy work, so it was great to see him play a really evil character, all while doing it with a smile. It's a really interesting take on the character and it may not have worked if it wasn't done by Nielsen. He is extra awesome when he runs from the zombies and starts to lose his mind. Ted Danson also does a really good job. The story is pretty creative in that sick and twisted sort of way. There is a decent amount of action and a nice amount of fear. The makeup for the zombies could have been a bit better. Maybe it was all the seaweed on them. Regardless, it's still a good story with some great acting.


“The Crate”

The Crate stars Fritz Weaver (Marathon Man, Black Sunday) as Professor Dexter Stanley. A custodian discovers a 148 year-old crate beneath a stairwell at the college. He notifies Dexter and they decide to open the crate, unwittingly releasing a vicious, blood-thirsty creature. The creature, which is small and fur-covered, kills Mike and a graduate student who came to help. Stanley, unstable and hysterical tells his story to his friend and college, Professor Henry Northrup (Hal Holbrook, Into The Wild, The Fog). Mild-mannered Henry has been abused and embarrassed by his alcoholic wife, Wilma (Adrienne Barbeau, Escape From New York, The Fog). He sees this creature as a way to finally get rid of her once and for all. Henry concocts a story about Dexter beating up a girl to convince Wilma to come to the school and look underneath the stairs. What will happen to Wilma and how will the creature be contained?


This is another fun story aided by good performances. Hal Holbrook does very well as the beaten-down Henry looking to escape from his terrible wife. Adrienne Barbeau is great as the drunk and abusive Wilma. You really want her to be attacked by the creature and don't feel much remorse. The creature, which was like a cross between a mini-Yeti with a baboon face, looked too goofy for my taste. It's only show a few times, so it didn't kill the story, but it should have been a lot better. There is a good amount of violence and blood to keep us watching during the longest of the stories. At least it felt long because they had to establish Henry and Wilma's relationship before getting to the final act. It's necessary, but because they showed that in the middle of the story, it killed a little momentum. The acting really helped make this a good story.


“They're Creeping Up On You”

They're Creeping Up On You is the fifth and final story in Creepshow, starring E.G. Marshall (Tora! Tora! Tora!, 12 Angry Men) as the ruthless businessman Upson Pratt. Pratt suffers from mysophobia, which is a pathological fear of germs and contamination. He lives in a hermetically sealed apartment which becomes invaded by insects during a thunder storm. At first, he kills off the little bugs, just like the little people he fired and walked all over. He is soon overwhelmed from all sides by various insects. Will he be able to survive.

Donald Trump on a bad day

This is probably my least favorite of the stories. It's not bad, but it just doesn't have the same feel as the others. It comes off more like an episode of Tales From The Darkside than a cinematic story. E.G. Marshall is very good in his role, especially when he doesn't really interact with other actors. It has a few good scares and an overall feeling of dread. If you don't like bugs, you will be extra freaked out because they are literally everywhere. They're Creeping Up On You has good social commentary and some fun moments, but it doesn't measure up to the level of the other stories.


The movie ends with Billy using a voodoo doll on his father that he got out of an ad from Creepshow, with other ads referencing the previous stories. Stephen King is his usual wonderful self crafty this spooky and creative stories while George Romero does a great job directing. There is plenty of action and some real good scares. The ensemble cast really makes Creepshow something special. There is a little something for everyone in this movie and it is highly recommended. You should also check out the awesome horror punk/psychobilly band The Creepshow here and here Happy Father's Day!