Friday, October 30, 2009

The Return Of 31 Days Of Horror: #31 The Bride Of Frankenstein

The Bride Of Frankenstein is the first film that I can remember seeing. True I have a jumbled infants memory of the forest fire from Bambi on the big screen. But that's just a flash. My memory of watching Bride is so much more real and complete. I couldn't have been more then three or four, and for some damn reason I'd gotten a hold of the film from the public library (same one with The Wolfman). I popped it in, and made it all of about two minutes before I literally ran sceaming from the room, ran down the hall to my bedroom and hid under my bed.

It was the hand that did it. For those unfamiliar with the movie, the film opens with the villagers standing around the burnt windmill that serves as the location for the first films climax. There's alot of exposition being thrown around, but it all basically amounts to the monster's dead and they're glad of it. The teeming villagers head back to the burg for a pint, leaving only the grieving father of the girl murderered in the first film behind. He's not happy with the outcome, a burned building isn't enough. Until he sees the fucking things smoldering corpse he won't be happy.

He ends up falling through the wood into the cave below the windmill and as he splashes helplessly in the water, a hand comes out from behind a blind wall. A decayed, stitched up dead thing, dragging behind it Boris Karloff lumbering body and lifeless eyes.

At which point I promptly lost my four year old shit.

It's probably just as well, I most likely wouldn't have known what to make of Bride. By far the most sophisticated of Universal pictures. While the others Universal films work by jumping feet first into the myth pool, Bride is an incredibly knowing film. What my four year old self would make of it's camp, religious satire, and gay subtext I know not. Probably not very much.

But I sure appriciate it now. The Bride Of Frankenstein is simply put one of my favorite films. A grand tragedy with a wicked sense of humor. A film that hurts, Karloff's doomed monster, and his dead unrequetted queen, the fey Dr. Pretorious, James Whale's moody style. So many things to recommend it.

But really what it comes down to the hand. The one that sent me screaming from the room. Seeing it now still makes me shudder in some primal place that I like to pretend I don't have. It made me an instant horror junkie of course, but in alot of ways I learned on that day, not just what I want from Horror movies, but from movies. I got an object lesson that Film is the most visceral of the arts. The ability it has to brand itself the brain with nothing more then a plaster wall and a slightly made up hand. I like cinema that scars.

And while it took ten years and another horror sequel (Evil Dead II) for me to realize that I wanted Film to become my profession and life. I like to think that my fate was set, as surely as Karloff's poor monster's was from the moment I laid my eyes on it.

Thanks for following me through these 31 Days. For those of you who've come to me through one of the horror blogothons I hope you stick around. Even though the site isn't strictly horror only don't worry, it comes up quite alot in the "off season".

The Return Of 31 Days Of Horror: # 30 Hellraiser

For whatever reason Hellraiser has never really been my thing. On the surface it seems tailor made for me. Plenty of Clive Barker kink, great effects and costumes, prime 80's horror style, and a genuine feeling of oddity that can't be faked. But for ever reason, the sequels which made the leap to terrible much quicker then usual (Witness a CD based Cenobite in part 3), the arch style of the acting, I've just never been able to call myself a fan.

So color me pleasantly surprised to find upon, that I had underestimated Hellraiser. It's so singular so strange that I can't help but be kind of delighted by it. As this is based on a Clive Barker story nothing is really simple. We start by following Frank in the Middle East as he tracks down and then unwisely purchases a puzzle box said to open the door to hell, like an S&M obessesd Indiana Jones.

For his troubles he gets flayed alive and then sent to hell, by Pinhead and his crew of Cenobites. And that's really the last we see of them for about an hour. Unlike the later installments which became "All Cenobites All The Time" Barker wisely keeps them more or less offscreen for thefilm, after allowing them a rather memorable introduction.

This allows the Cenobites to actually be frightening. They stand not as something to pop out and go boo, but as a terrifying latent threat. A reminder that at any moment the stakes may be raised to a Lovecraftian level higher then we're comfortable with. Allowing them to grow in the mind is the best decision Barker makes. By putting them center stage in the other installments, they became defanged. Familiarity breeds contempt after all, and you can only look at a bunch of people covered in leather, latex, pancake makeup, and gore effects so long before they start to come off as rather silly. Barker is actually able to make these creatures awe inspiring.

Anyway Frank's brother and his wife, a trade mark Barker ice bitch, move into the site of the autoerotic vivicestion. And Frank gets resurected thanks to a drop of his weeny brother's blood. And before you can say "Frank enlists the Ice Bitch to help him in a series of ritualistic murders, to help him escape the cenobites." Frank enlists the Ice Bitch to help him in a series of ritualistic murders, to help him escape the cenobites. This is Prime Barker mixing high melodramitic romance that's nearly camp with graphic body horror, the kind of tone that only he seems to be able to reach.

And for most of the movie it's Skinless Guy and Icebitch Go To Town, coicencidently this is the also the name of the new Adam Sandlar joint. Things get Cenobitey again and vaguely incestous when Frank's Niece gets in the mix. While it would be unfair to spoil just how crazy the movie gets (how about that last scene?) Let's just say that this is well worth any horror movie fan's time. I give it five out of five old homeless guys eating crickets.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Return Of 31 Days Of Horror: # 29 Halloween H20zzzzzzzz

When most people point towards Halloween sequels that aren't wretched, they point to Halloween H20. And while it might not be the series killing, "you must see it to believe it" debacle that was Halloween Resurecction, Halloween H20 is still not very good.

The film gets points for bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back, and look I love Jamie Lee, you love Jamie Lee, we all love Jamie Lee, but it's no fun watching her basically play queen of the harpys. Which she is forced to do, showing none of the backbone that made Laurie Strode such an appealing character to begin with.

And yes, I know she's suffering from post traumatic Shape related stress, I get it, but dear God. Stephen Miner who I should note directed two of my favorite slasher movies of all time, gives things a particularly leaden pace this time out. H20 plays like a Halloween movie on Qualuddes, moving as slowly as Myer's himself.

The rest of the cast is a bunch of Scream money chasers. And LL Cool J, who really kind of sums up the "You know, for the kids." mentality that would eventually end with the franchise beaten and bloody at the fists of Busta Rhymes. Here's the sum total of LL Cool J's roll in the movie.

1. Thirty minutes of bad puns, and him being frightened.
2. He gets shot in the face.
3. He somehow lives.

It's somewhere beyond superfluous sailing into borders of inanity heretofore unknown by the mortal man.

Things do take a turn for the better when Jamie Lee finally nuts up and shuts up and gives Michael the axing he so richly deserves. But by then it's too little too late. If you're looking for a great modern day slasher you should look elsewhere.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Return Of 31 Days Of Horror: #28 Cronos

Guilmero Del Toro’s career, is one of the most interesting and unique in modern cinema. Del Toro is a true original, and that most valuable of artists, one whose imagination is utterly untamed and unique. Del Toro makes dreams with very sharp teeth, fairy tales that leave you exhilarated and unsettled when the lights go out. Terry Gilliam with financial success, Hayao Miyaziki with a wicked sense of humor and the true beating heart of a romantic.

Del Toro ranks among my personal favorite filmmakers. Made on the cheap in his native Mexico, Cronos is one of those rare first films in which we see a directors identity born fully formed. It contains many of the themes and visual fetishes that Del Toro has based his career on. The intersection of myth and reality, the corrosive effect of power, even that pursued for the right reasons, the tweaking of myth to get it closer to it’s most primal origins, the sadness of the supernatural in our modern world, the monsters that so perfectly externalize the protagonists struggles, and the way in which imagination makes the unbearable into play.

Cronos tells the story of an old man who finds a unique and dangerous little machine in his antique store. A clockwork insect that’s got a nasty bite. Soon he starts feeling and looking much younger, connecting with the world in a way that’s alluded him for awhile, he also starts to crave blood, and develops a nasty burn whenever he comes in contact with the sun. As he loses his grasp on his humanity, his only tie to the mortal world comes from his young grand daughter.

Things get even worse when the machine becomes the heart’s desire of a twisted dying billionaire, and his young thuggish son played to a hilt by Ron Pearlman, in the beginning of what would end up being one of the directors most fruitful relationships. While it may lack the elegance of The Devil’s Backbone, or Pan’s Labryinth, or the sheer energy of his comic book work (though not it’s grizzly sense of humor and terror, witness the scene where the poor old man must withstand his own embalming) Cronos is a strong start that for the watchful marked Del Toro as a Director to be reckoned with, even if only hinted at what would come next.

(And that gets us just about caught up. Thanks for your patience everyone. Till then stay sick. Always wanted to say that).

The Return Of 31 Days Of Horror #27 The Midnight Hour

Friends in my years as a horror movie fan I’ve seen some pretty bad ideas fall flat. I’ve seen a naked druid nanny get caressed by an evil tree after sacrificing a baby to it. I’ve seen a man stammer out the immortal line “THEY’RE EATING THEM AND NOW THEY’RE GOING TO EAT ME!”. I’ve witnessed Bela Lugosi whip Tor Johnson while screaming “I COMMAND YOU” I’ve seen a town menaced by giant bunnies and I’ve seen a movie whose climax is built around the fact that giant grasshoppers are really horny.

But I have never scene anything fall flat quite like The Midnight Hour, a movie in which after The Zombie Vampire Wiccan Ghost of a slave succeeds in transforming everyone into Zombies she celebrates them by commanding them to do a righteous version of the electric slide. A Movie in which such Peter Jackson worthy concepts as an angry midget Zombie and a Eight Foot former mass murderer stand around glowering. A movie with the most passive aggressive brood of Zombies to ever moan and stagger across the screen, Zombies whose most villainous acts involve them drinking straight from a punch bowl and waving their fists at those damn kids. Causing me to whine "WHEN ARE THEY GONNA GET TO THE FIREWORKS FACTORY!"

I kept expecting one to drink the milk straight from the carton, or leave the toilet seat up. The Midnight Hour stars a group of startlingly dense teenagers who accidentally raise an army of the dead during a Halloween prank. Oh Kids today and their hijinks. The combined forces of a graveyard full of Zombies and “ALL THE DEMONS OF HELL” run rampant through the town causing what can only be described as mild annoyance. Guided by the voice of Wolfman Jack the kids stumble around not noticing the apocalypse until an extremely rushed finale. I love movies like The Midnight Hour. True it’s awful, and squanders every opportunity it has, but it’s awfulness is organic and spontaneous not test screen driven slick awful. It’s the type of movie that for better or for worse could never be made again.

THE RETURN OF 31 Days Of Horror: #26 The Girl Who Knew Too Much

Giallo, for the uniniated, is an Italian genre known for it’s violent style and stylish violence. Some featuring the supernatural, some merely good old fashion psycho killers. A Giallo has to be stylish, gory, terrifying, and ideally star an American star whose moment of glory has passed.

The Girl who Knew Too Much is consider the ground zero for Giallo movies. It’s director Mario Bava would later refine the style to near perfection, with Blood And Black Lace, but despite its rough edges there’s something that’s a lot of fun about The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

Bava is sometimes referred to as the Italian Hitchcock, I prefer to think of him as the Italian De Palma (At least in his modern day and "Pop Art" films his more traditional horror movies are another thing altogether) (And readers of this blog know that from me at least this is by no means an insult). A drop dead cool stylist, with a wicked sense of humor, a prankster’s sensibility, who can make your blood run cold at will.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much plays out like a darkly funny inverse of Roman Holiday. In what must rank somewhere as the worst vacation ever a young naïve tourist arrives in Rome only to become an unwitting accomplice to a drug smuggler, watch her great aunt die, get mugged, witness a brutal murder, and then get harassed by Nuns. This is in the first five minutes folks and it takes a downturn from there.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much is propelled by a slinky cool Jazz score and beautiful black and white photography (immaculately restored by Anchor Bay for the DVD release). Bava is a master here reigning suspense and scares with equal aplomb, and screwing around gleefully with the conventions of Giallo as he was inventing them. With its slick sense of humor, surprisingly light tone, none too brutal brutality, and quality scares it’s an ideal place to get a good first look at Giallo filmmaking, which is fitting as that’s exactly what it is.

THE RETURN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR: #25 Eyes Without A Face

And I'm back, sorry about the unGodly long wait between the last two articles. I've been busy being up to no good. Anyway time to play catch up. So let's get right to it.

Don’t hold the awful Billy Idol song against it. This film is something special. The things a doting parent will do for their child. Sweet sixteen parties, full rides at college, serial killings. When the daughter of a famous surgeon is horridly disfigured in a car crash, he does what any sensible parent would do. He stalks the streets of Paris killing beautiful women and then tearing off their faces so he can graft them onto his daughters. That’s devotion I tells ya.

The film is like a demented fairy tale and together with Peeping Tom and Psycho it broke horror out of the “big bug” funk it had been in for the past 15 previous years or so. While not as iconic as the latter, or as searing as the former It has a surreal, sickening beauty to it. As the disfigured girl mournfully witnesses what’s being done in her name with two unbearably expressive eyes that peer through a blank plastic mask. The film is truly horrifying, with its cold ruthless villain made all the more terrifying by the fact that he acts out of love. This movie is better than scary; it’s haunting.

If you happen to catch this on the Criterion DVD, check out the director’s documentary on Parisian slaughterhouses. Between it and the film, I guarantee you won’t get good nights sleep.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

THE RETURN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR: #24 Dominion A Prequel To The Exorcist

Your honor I do not deny that my client has done wrong, but look it is not all his fault look at his upbringing. The Exorcist is something of a cursed franchise, why a franchise exists at all is a question we can leave for another day, but at the moment lets just look at its track record. After the first which still ranks as one of the greatest horror movies ever made/best recruitment commercial the Catholic church ever had, we where barraged with a sequel brought to you by the Zardoz himself John Boorman.

The Exorcist II could politely be called metaphysical nonsense with James Earl Jones dressed as a Giant Bee, but really this makes the movie sound more interesting then it really is. To quoth Ghost World “The film is not so bad its good, but so bad that it becomes so bad it’s good then just goes back to being bad again.” The third movie is taken dispassionately is an alright supernatural mystery with a few cool scenes. However, the production was such a nightmare that it ended with Exorcist author William Blatty disowning the franchise he created. Still that production was lollypops and roses compared to what befell its poor brother, Dominion: A Prequel To The Exorcist.

The film was shot by the most caustic man in America Paul Schrader, and was then declared boring. In an unheard of occurrence, the dumbest thing to emerge from Finland since the Herring, Renny Harlin, was given the same story, the same lead actor and told to do the whole damn thing over. When Harlin’s STOOPID movie was finally unleashed, rumors began to circulate about how awesome Schrader’s film was, with the consensus being that the unseen movie was very awesome indeed, blah blah blah the timid yet draconian American studio system, grrr… Argh… When the Schrader version came out and it did not infact make your whites whiter or your brights brighter, and cure rheumatism the critics turned on the film and it now sits with a twenty eight percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film is flawed, no doubt, the last third of the movie pretty much falls apart, wherein Satan becomes Buddha, the sky turns purple, British troops march ever so slowly on African villagers, and the worst looking CGI effects in history gambol merrily across the screen. The rest of the movie though has a major saving grace, simply put it takes this shit seriously. Paul Schrader, is from the old guard of filmmaking and he doesn’t use “quotes”. He takes evil as a serious force in the world not some abstract force, and when asks in desperation if Satan might be preferable in a way to God because at least the devil shows his hand, its not asked to be cute and shocking but in true spiritual desperation. And there is a moment when Skarsgard is asked a question to which he simply answers “Yes” that is bone chilling in its implications. Stellan Skarsgard gives an admirable performance as a priest forced to commit atrocities during World War II. Disgusted with himself and God he leaves the church only to be brought onto an archeological dig where a church that predates Christianity in Africa Is found buried in the sand. While there he witnesses a miracle, as a deformed mentally handicapped boy is suddenly made whole. Guess what happens next? Ladies and gentleman of the jury for it’s intensity of its conviction, for the intelligence of it’s questions, and for its simple daring, I ask that you find, Dominon, Not Guilty.

EDIT: So I'm taking a vacation and as I'll be crashing on friends couches for the majority of the run. As such my computer access will be spotty at best. So if I miss a day please forgive me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

THE RETURN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR: #23 Friday The 13th Part 7: The New Blood

I’ve been rejected by some of the finest Sci Fi Magazines out there!

So we've come to it at last Friday The 13th Part 7: The New Blood, Or as it really should be known Jason Vs. Carrie. In an effort to watch a Friday The 13th movie I’d never seen before, I originally wanted to get Part 5, based mainly on it’s Halloween 3 style outsiderishness, and the fact that The AV Club deemed it’s kill count “Existential”.

Alas the lone VHS copy of Part 7 just looked so trashy, and reminiscent of my misspent youth spent in the horror section dreaming of the terrifying things behind the lurid covers (and coming up with stuff that was probably scarier then the actual movies) that I couldn’t help but rent it.

Friday The 13th Part 7 is pretty OK. It’s not a masterpiece and not as much fun as the first 3. But it capitalizes on it’s clever idea, has some great gore gags (including the classic tree plus girl in sleeping bag one), a great monster performance by Kane Hodder and all in all has a real sense of fun. And if it seems to expect us to take the subplot about The Final Girl’s psychiatrist being an asshat, some guy who so WISHES he was Crispin Glover in The Final Chapter, and her neighbor being a bitch (Though her hiss worthy performance, does end up making her hatchet to the face derived ending extra special) well every rose has it’s thorn.

Tina’s psychiatrist has sent her to Crystal Lake, where her father died, for some therapy, because he is a tremendous douche. In reality he’s just trying to traumatize her further so he can harness her psychic powers because… well because as far as I can tell he thinks it’d be neato.

Anyway, things start to come undone when Tina develops a crush on a pile of feathered hair with a body underneath it, and also Jason has come back in a killing mood. But this time he’s met his match, no not because of Tina’s psychic powers, but because she has just as many fucked up parental issues as he does.

The main difference between Hodder’s Jason and all the others, is that while most Jason’s go for implacable apathy, Hodder’s clearly enjoys what he does. It’s not played to broadly, it’s just all in the details. The extra second he takes to let the poor son of a bitch he’s come across know what’s coming. That extra twist of the knife.

The extra personality comes in handy this time out as this film is the first (only?) time that Jason is actually shocked by what’s going on. Hodder’s reaction when Tina starts throwing psychic blasts at him and throwing him through the floor is a great one, just this “Wait What the fuck?” It’s almost like he’s shaken.

The New Blood’s a whole lot of fun. It’s not perfect, it’s slow, a bit talky for a Friday 13th flick and never threatens to actually be scary. But it’s a great bit of Halloween fun.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Silent Hill desperately wants to be an American Argento film. And it succeeds. Unfortunately, it succeeds in is emulating one of Argento’s post Opera disasters. Complete with an incomprehensible (and not in a good way) yet tirelessly expositioned storyline, luded out performances, unbearably talky stretches, buoyed only by the occasionally arresting bits of imagery that in the end is simply not enough. Frankly it makes Mother Of Tears look like Suspiria.

Directed by Christopher Ganz, maestro behind the equally talky and terrible, though much more beloved, Brotherhood Of The Wolf, there is perhaps forty minutes of a good movie trapped in the two hour prison of Silent Hill. The question of should you watch can be answered simply, is a 2 : 1 ratio good enough for you.

Radha Mitchell and Sean Bean’s (doing his best Liam Neeson) adopted daughter, played by the creepy girl from Tideland, is sleepwalking and screaming about Silent Hill. Deciding to feed into her psychosis Mitchell takes her there. To find that the town has been on fire for the last few of decades, filled with Demons, and thus understandably abandoned. Aside from the few "poor souls" who are trapped in a church and get to speak cryptically whilst cowering in fear. It turns out that like their ancestors before them the townsfolk enjoy burning witches and apart from witches "MORE WITCHES!" reminding us all that once upon a time Eric Idle was funny.

While this all might sound pretty simple, abandoned town, scary demons, witches, religious fanaticism and creepy little girl, Silent Hill decides to bury it underneath layers of “mythology” so that it becomes nigh, incomprehensible. After all why eerily imply something when you can bulldoze it into the ground?

The frustating thing about the movie is that forty minutes or so that works, really really works. The scene where Mitchel is attacked by a pack of mewling eternally burning infants infront of a crucified, bisected, but still living miner, is to put it mildly some freaky shit. You begin to doubt yourself and wonder how this movie could be bad? Then Mitchell has a long incomprehensible conversation with one of the peasant’s from Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and Sean Bean meets up with sergeant exposition and you remember.

Still even if later scares such as the faceless nurses, bondaged barbed wire guy, and two legged skin shrouded mother fuckers, seem cribbed from Jacob’s Ladder and Hellraiser it can still surprise you with a bit of what the fuck perversity like The Pyramid Head. The siren which announces that shit is about to get real is an inspired touch, and the sight of the town going from bad to worse whenever it sounds never gets old. Though for all the good it does it might as well announce that the movie is about to get good again. The town of Silent Hill is a suitably nightmarish setting for the movie. With it’s omnipresent rain of ash, and virtually non existent field of vision.

Still as freaky as this all is, the movie consistently defuses it's scares. When your horror movie climaxes with a fifteen minute expositional monologue delivered in a monotone you have gravely gone off course.

Readers this is a stupid stupid movie inhabited by stupid stupid people, who make the characters in Slaughter High look like the characters Bright Star. And though it’s intentions are good, and it’s effects occasionally unsettling, sometimes that’s just not enough.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Land Of The Dead gets a lot of hate. I remember reading about it when it was still called Dead Reckoning over on the early days of AICN. Even then there was this additude of “This’ll never happen but here’s the script for it anyway.” Then 9/11 came along and any lingering hope seemed to die. Then came Zack Synder’s, it’s taken me along time to come to terms with it, Dawn Of The Dead, and the project got momentum again and suddenly “Holy Shit Romero’s making another Zombie movie.” Curdled into “Bet It’s going to suck.”

Now look I’m not going to say Romero’s a saint. Diary Of The Dead broke my heart, by punching it through my testicles, a painful mortifying experience I never wish to experience again. I’m just saying I feel like a lot of people came to this movie with a chip on their shoulder. The movie’s not perfect, but I would honestly rank it above the underrated but still none too enjoyable Day Of The Dead. Now that the hypes died down, and Romero has done us the courtesy of showing us what a terrible Romero zombie movie actually looks like, we can all calm down a little and watch Land Of The Dead for what it is, a flawed, but cool, and undenialably Romero.

The thing that has always made Romero great as a filmmaker is his refusal to stop at point A. It’s not enough to come up with a clever idea you have to do something with it. So a story of a bunch of people trapped in a mall, becomes a devastating social satire, the story of some daredevil motorcycle guys becomes an unlikely dissection of the viability of artistic purity in a compromised age and the story of the last city on earth has some real teeth to it.

Land Of The Dead, follows a group of mercenaries who work out of Fiddler’s Green, a totalitarian city run by Dennis Hopper. On a routine raid of a nearby town they manage to piss off Big Daddy, a zombie who has apparently decided he’s had just about enough of this bullshit and follows them home. His bid to live in good part of town rejected, John Leguizomo stages an impromptu revolution, threatening to blow up the city with a pretty fucking cool zombie mobile.

All through Land Of The Dead are things I’ve never seen before in a Zombie movie. The eerily beautiful opening of the Zombie’s in their natural habitat as strange and beautiful as anything I’ve seen in a horror movie. When Fiddler’s Green commando’s swarm in with their sky flowersand start massacring it’s genuinely horrific, the canny reverse shot of the zombie massacres we all know and love. The moment where Big Daddy performs his first “mercy killing” and decides to follow the convoy is genuinely electric. It’s a great game changing moment.

The problem with Land Of The Dead is that after this opening scene, we get this weird down shift into what plays like a post 1990 John Carpenter flick, involving Dennis Hopper (in an admirably bug nuts performance), John Leguizomo, and The Mentalist over Dennis Hopper’s giant zombie killing mobile. The problem with this less then enthralling plot is it’s taking place infront of Fiddler’s Green which is so well realized that a more interesting film is taking place in the background of literally every frame of the movie.

The cast is one of the Romero’s least, when even Asia Argento isn’t flying a freak flag you know you’re in trouble. The casting seems mostly based on looks, so you can distinguish the hyper stylized one dimensional mercenaries from each other.

Things pick up again at the end when Romero remembers, “Oh yeah this is a zombie movie.” The siege is one his best, it’s incredibly satisfying to watch those last unfortunate souls who have been able to use status to shield themselves from the horror, finally succumb to the world around them.

Because for all the brain munching that goes on it’s those doomed figures in Fiddler’s Green who fill me with real horror. Waiting for the end of the world with their thumb up their ass. Doing their best to ignore the horror at their doorstep, unaware that they’re just biding time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

THE RETURN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR: #20 City Of The Living Dead (AKA Gates Of Hell)

This is my entry in Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies Italian Horror Blogothon. It's awesome. Go there.

EDIT And now its part of Final Girl's Film Club too! Call it laziness if you want I prefer the term synergy.

Lucio Fulci has always been the goofus to Argento and Bava’s gallant. It’s a matter of personal taste of course, one of those Beatles Vs. Rolling Stones things, but I’ve always been drawn to Bava’s darkly gothic fables, and Argento’s surreal dreamscapes more then Fulci’s beyond the pale splatter. Fulci’s films when compared to Bava’s or even Argento’s remind me of that one episode of South Park where Cartman met Bart Simpson. “What’s that kid? You sawed the head off a stautue? Wow. This guy cooked a kids parents then fed them to him." Have you ever seen Four From The Apocalypse? That weird guy from Bonnie And Clyde ended up feeding a bunch of cowboys a dead guy’s ass. AND HE WASN’T EVEN TRYING TO BE MEAN! It's not a put on. That level of perversion just seems to come just as naturally to Fulci as Michael J. Pollard’s ass serving instincts come to him. He’s not being malicious it’s just what he does. So why write about one of his films rather then one of their’s?

Well I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t thoroughly enjoy some of Fulci’s films. Zombie is always fun, The Beyond is a classic and deservedly so, and I have a particular affection for The House By The Cemetary, as it kind of plays like The Shining if both Kubrick and King had gone batshit insane.

Still neither can hold a candle to the mind melting lethal dose of crazy that is City Of The Living Dead. How crazy is City Of The Living Dead you ask? So crazy that it starts off with a priest hanging himself and that’s the least offensive thing you see in the movie. The Priest hangs himself which somehow causes the zombies to rise (Like many Fulci movies narrative clarity not so much). Teleporting, superstrong Zombies, which in my opinion is somewhat gilding the lily, cause that’s just how this movie rolls.

Meanwhile (a word I’ll be using a lot in this review) A Coven of witches psychically witnesses the event in New York causing one of their number to freak out and end up buried alive (long story). Then there’s a screaming ball of fire. The movie briefly turns into blacksploitation. Some guy’s sex with a blowup doll is interrupted by a rotting corpse. Then some guys in “Maine” drink in a bar that is obviously your Dad’s rec room while mirrors explode and the walls crack. Then the Zombie Ghost Priest makes a couple on lover’s lane vomit up their intestines. Also a woman casually admits her incestuous desire, and there’s a grave digger who looks uncannily like Vince Vaughn.

And that’s just the first twenty minutes.

Yay Fulci!

Guys this is a weird fucking movie. Let me say that again. This is a really. Really. Weird fucking movie.

The thing about Fulci is he’s not a hack. Anyone can throw a bunch of crazy shit at the wall to distract you from the fact that they don’t know a thing about making movies. Hell you just have to look at Slaughter High to prove that. Fulci knows how to put a sequence together. The scene where Mary wakes up in her grave is as clautrophobic and terrible buried alive scene as I can remember. His visuals are tremendous (check the blood pouring into the milk). And even scenes featuring such as over the top as The Zombie Ghost Priest (From here on out referred to as the ZGP) forcing folks on lover lane to vomit up sheep intestines, has a real sense of dread and unease.

The film does calm down enough to be said to have a plot involving a hard boiled reporter and said buried alive witch attempting to close the portal of hell that ZGP has somehow opened before Halloween. Though it does keep going off on these bizarre diversions such as when an enraged guy murders his daughter’s boyfriend with a power drill. Still the way Fulci weaves these batshit insane vignettes with the main narrative of the film makes me mourn the fact that he never made a Stephen King Movie.

City Of The Living Dead shares a lot in common with The Beyond, Fulci’s most famous flick. But I prefer it to it’s more famous big brother. And not least of all because the whole vomiting of the sheep guts scene is one of the most batshit crazy things I’ve ever witnessed in a horror film.

Like most Fulci flicks City Of The Living Dead is loud, gory and if you understand what happened at the end you deserve a cookie and probably also a doctorate. But it is a whole hell of a lot of fun.

Monday, October 19, 2009

THE RETURN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR: #19 Slaughter High

This is part of Final Girl’s Film Club. It’s like being in the Superfriends except you don’t have to worry about fucking gleek, and we’re led by Stacie Ponder who I’m pretty sure could kick Wonder Woman’s ass.

Slaughter High is to bad slasher movies what The Burning and Friday The 13th Part 2 are to good slasher movies. The ultimate. A movie so completely unconcerned with character plot or anything other then The Red Red Kroovy, that it could almost pass for surrealist art. And despite the fact that the movie does not feature Megadeth’s mascot running around killing people, as the poster so clearly promises, it still manages to be a whole hell of a lot of fun.

Come On How Cool Would That Be?

It’s a grand tradition for horror movies to start with a group of kids pulling some dick move on some unfortunate so as to justify the spree of murder that’ll last for the next eighty minutes. Slaughter High though is the only movie I know of that begins with an epic EIGHTEEN MINUTE DICK MOVE.

As an April Fools prank a bunch of jocks decide to play a joke on a nerd. They make him think he’s going to make out with a hot girl, then strip him naked, spray him with goo, videotape him in said state, stab his junk with a javlin, and electrocute him. Then they shove his head down a toilet, which I gotta say can’t help but come off as anti climatic after the junk stabbing and near fatal electrocution. But not to worry they pick up steam later by giving him a laced joint, splattering him with acid and then setting him on fire. As far as slasher movies go this origin is right up there with The Burning. You’ve got to give it Marty he’s got a legitimate reason to be pissed.

Ten years later the same group of students (Including one who looked so disconcertingly like Michael Imperiolli that I could barely keep from yelling CHRIST-UPH-FER) come to a school reunion, to which only they have been invited to. They find their school shuttered abandoned, scheduled for demolition, and for some reason situated on an English moor (The movie is actually an English production, which might explain it’s rather dim view of the American fodder). Determined to have their obviously fake reunion they break into the school, where they find a big feast laid out for them. Not having any brains at all they all wait around calmly waiting to be killed.

Slaughter High takes the kills about as far as they can go. When the most minimalist murder in the movie is a gruesome crucifixion you know you’re in for a wild ride. This movie is so crazy that it made Fulci shake his head and go daaaaaaaammmmnnnn. It’s a gore hounds paradise, stomachs explode, people get crushed under cars, hung, the javelin makes a triumphant return, and someone gets dissolved in acid.

What keeps Slaughter High from being a really good Slasher movie (or in all fairness any good at all) is the utter hateablity of every single person in the movie. There has to be some rooting interest in a slasher movie, even if it’s a rooting interest in seeing everyone die. Both the slasher and the slashees are deeply unpleasant people.

The film ends with a twist that I’ll admit I did not see coming. Which in all fairness was probably because it wasn’t actually coherent. It kind of sums up the film as a whole, it might not actually be good, but you’ve got to admire its nuts.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Duel Reviews: Two Friends Two HUGELY Different opinions. I’m doing this review of Night Of The Creeps with my good friend Robert Leininger. Robbie has the blog A Week Ahead, the compendium of awesomeness that is his Classic Monster Movie’s Blog, and guest stars on the pod cast Celluloidering. We both love horror movies but seldom agree on what makes a good one. So we’ve decided to take each other through a couple of our old favorites. See what makes it out alive.

Robby: For our next duel review, Bryce and I will be reviewing one of my favorite films: "The Wolf Man".

"The Wolf Man" is a "fang"tastic horror film with characters you really care about. Just look at the cast list! Claude Rains, Patrick Knowles, Ralph Bellamy, Warren William, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskya, Evelyn Ankers, and of course Lon Chaney, Jr. How could you not like these characters? Besides Lon Chaney, Jr.'s role in "Of Mice and Men", this is his finest acting performance. You really sympathize with Chaney as Talbot. The film begins with Chaney as a happy go lucky guy, as he tries to win the love of Evelyn Ankers. After Chaney is bit by the werewolf, he falls into a deep depression. His eyes say it all. By the end of the film, you really feel bad for Chaney. Even though he is a monster, he is also the hero of the film. Lon Chaney's lycanthropy in the film is actually a very realistic and personal parallel to the life of the troubled actor himself. Lon Chaney suffered from alcoholism. When sober, Chaney was the nicest man. When under the influence, Chaney could be a horror to be around.

Bryce: I was actually really looking forward to revisiting this one. From a young age I was a huge horror buff, but I also had fairly protective parents so the ratio of horror movies I was actually able to see rather then fantasize about was quite low. For whatever reason the original Wolf Man was one of the few that was deemed suitable, and so the VHS copy the library had got worn out thanks to my dozens of repeat watches (For some reason the cover of this copy was dominated by a picture of Gene Shallit which was infinitely more terrifying then anything in the movie). Still once I got my own damn Video store account and started to branch out a bit, I stopped revisiting The Wolfman, and it’s probably been over ten years since I’ve seen it. So I was primed.

It’s great revisiting a film you’ve forgotten about (I didn’t even know Lugosi was in this) and The Wolfman didn’t disappoint, a great example of old school craft. Still out of the big three of universal monsters I have to judge this movie the weakest. While George Waggner does a fine job directing the film, he’s just not the borderline insane visionary genius that James Whale and Tod Browning where. Same goes for the leading man, Lon Chaney Jr. does a decent job, but compared to Lugosi and Karloff, he just doesn’t match up. Still when judged on it’s own merits, The Wolf Man’s a great slice of universal horror, who could ask for anything more?

Robby: I disagree with your point that "The Wolf Man" is the weakest out of the big three monsters. True it is no "Frankenstein", but I think it is much better than "Dracula". "Dracula" is great and one of the most important horror films, but it has its problems. The film takes a huge downward spiral after the first 15 minutes. I'll review "Dracula" more another time.

I do agree with you on Lon Chaney, Jr.'s acting. He is great in this role, but he is no Karloff or Lugosi. He can't compete.

Another thing I want to mention about "The Wolf Man" is the great musical score my Hans Salter. It has a very distinctive three note theme that is very memorable. Hans Salter did nearly all the Universal Monster films in the 1940s, but "The Wolf Man" is by far his best.

But what made "The Wolf Man" a success was the incredible make of Jack Pierce. Pierce's first attempt at a werewolf make-up was in "Werewolf of London", which came out six years before "The Wolf Man". Pierce originally had plans to do a make-up much more like the Wolf Man's, but Henry Hull, who played the werewolf, could not stand that much make-up. Fortunately Lon Chaney, Jr. did not mind it. The make-up is one of Pierce's best. Pierce did an even better job with the make-up in the sequel: "Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man".

Bryce: Pierces’ designs are great. I’ve heard that the film was originally supposed to be more of a Val Lewton like movie, where you never saw knew for sure whether or not Chaney was really changing. Do you know? Salter’s score is also top notch, reminds me of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme in some places (Dun dun dun duuhhhh dun)

I still really like Chaney I just can’t help but imagine his father in the roll. The whole film is really cast perfectly. Claude Rains is great playing every scene with just a hint of an aristocratic sneer. What Chaney lacks in his father’s subtlety and grace he makes up for with his size. Even before he’s cursed he’s a huge beast of a man towing over his father in a way that’s almost comical. He LOOKS like the kind of guy who could club a wolf’s brains in. You bring up an interesting point with his alcholism, he plays the morning after his first transformation, like a man waking up after a black out drunk. Lugosi makes the most of his cameo role as the original Wolfman. He’s only on screen for about a minute, but manages to invest his character with a real sense of tragedy.

Robby: Yes all of the acting is excellent and lets not forget about Maria Ouspenskya as Maleva the old gypsy woman. She was perfect and this became her signature role.

"The Wolf Man" remains a classic of horror and for good reason. Universal will be releasing a remake soon with Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins. I'm a little suspicious about that one, however...

If you have not seen "The Wolf Man" do yourself a favor and watch it. Watch it at night under the full of the moon. And remember:

Even a man who is pure in heart
And says his prayers by night,
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
And the autumn moon is bright.

Bryce: Yeah I was excited about that one until it became a synonym with disastrous production. Let's face it good Werewolf movies are few and far between, and The Wolf Man deserves its classic status.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

THE RETURN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR: #17 The Reanimator

Time for some truth, when I first saw The Reanimator I didn’t really dig it. Yes It was mostly because I was young and stupid, but the main reason was I had gone crazy in love with Evil Dead 2 directly before seeing it, and was told to rent Reanimator by a well meaning video store clerk because it was just like it. Reanimator however is not Evil Dead 2, which at the time was an unforgivable crime. Still I’m older and wiser now and know that many things are not Evil Dead 2, and that’s OK. Because the Reanimator might not be Evil Dead 2, but it is a movie in which a headless corpse attempts to perform cunnilingus, and that’s just as good.

The Reanimator follows bland medical student Dan Cain, makes the mistake of renting a room to Herbert West. A Scientist who has created a formula for bringing people back from the dead! That’s good. But it brings them back as mindless enraged zombies. That’s bad. But the zombies come with a free Frogurt! That’s Good. But the Frogurt contains Benzium Chlorate. That’s bad. But it comes with a free topping. Which is also cursed.

Anyway one cat murder/resurrection later and Cain’s a firm believer. They use Cain’s access to fresh cadavers to run some expirements, which really isn’t the brightest move on Cain’s part. Cain ends up accidently killing, then bringing back his fiance’s father, which let me tell you will put a strain on even the healthiest of the relationships. Things go from bad to worst when a rival of West’s first steals, then is injected with, and then decapitated because of the formula though none of these things keep him from being a royal pain in the ass, and raising his own undead army of zombies. Dr. Hill who spends the majority of the movie carrying around his own severed head on a tray gives a great grizzly performance. Hilariously funny while still legitimately menacing.

Jeffery Combs as the unhinged Herbert West also sells his roll perfectly. He’s deranged, smug, and kind of a prick. But he’s undeniably charismatic and fun to watch. It’s easy to see how poor Cain gets swept up in his mania. Horror icon turned unlikely art house hit Stuart Gordon, does a great job with the movie, giving it a terrific energy and a nasty sense of humor.

From it’s insane opening to it’s bleak ending Reanimator fully lives up to it’s hype. It’s a true horror cult classic if there ever was one.

Friday, October 16, 2009


From the very start of Scream 3, the series has given up all the ambition that it originally had, while the sequel tried and failed to do something different, it’s clear from minute one that Scream 3 intends to scratch off the try. Which ironically allows it to put together it’s first decent suspense sequence since the original, which features Liev Schrieber’s wrongfully accused killer driving across LA traffic trying to prevent his girlfriend’s murder. It’s a suspenseful clever scene that takes a couple of nice left turns and it’s just about the only thing nice I have to say about this movie. Well OK they gave Lance Henriksen big screen work, and the Roger Corman cameo is nice. Also ironic since Craven didn’t come out of The Corman stable. And the way they choose to bring Jamie Kennedy back is actually kind of clever (Note that is the only time Jamie Kennedy and clever will be used in the same sentence).

Scream 3 follows the making of Stab 3, the final film in the trilogy inspired by the events of Scream. Aside from Day For Night, contrary to Samuel Johnston it is making a movie within a movie that is the actual last refuge of a scoundrel. It’s always the surest sign that a franchise has run out of ideas, and Scream 3 proves to be no exception.

It attempts to wring some laughs out of placing the characters together with their “real life” counter parts. But that just means we get Parker Posey (who don’t get me wrong is occasionally a comic genius “DQ”) at her twitchiest and a fucking Jay And Silent Bob cameo.

When cast members of the film start to die, what’s left of the original Woodsboro gang come together again. The movie does occasionally float a good idea only to ignore it. I like the idea of Sydney slasher proofing her home, but as she’s never attacked there the film misses the chance to test that theory. Scream 3 what it lacks in humor and scares it makes up for with missed opportunities.

Scream 3 is so amateurish at times that it’s hard to believe that Craven made it (hard until one considers that his follow up was Cursed). Parts of it are comically inept, as when the film subtly conveys that Sydney is afraid she’s turning out like her mother, by having a dream sequence in which her Mother’s ghost comes into her room and begins to moan “You’re just like me Sydney. You’re just like me.” Now subtly isn’t one of Craven’s qualities as a director but this looks gauche compared to even to the bumbling cop subplot in The Last House On The Left.

So the Scream trilogy ends in disappointment. But despite the “This is the final film in a trilogy” hype, Scream IV is apparently being prepped with Williamson back in the saddle, which considering the last thing he did was Vampire Diaries, means considerably less then it used to. Still it’ll be interesting to see what comes of it. Remember the first (and still only good) Scream came out when Slasher’s where very out of vogue. Underdog status suits it. All the raw materials for something great are present, now it’s just time to see if they can be put back together again.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Do You Like Good Things?

Then you're going to like this. It's a well known fact that Italian Horror movies are awesome. Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies has decided to devote the rest of the month to this fact. So if you've got a blog and want to be a part of the fun, or you just like reading about awesome movies, make sure you're there on the 19th. It'll be great.


It's a bad sign when a film so clearly fails to do what it sets out to right out the gate.

The film tries to top the original's opening scene but kind of fails miserably. A crowd of theater goers, attending the slasher movie based on the events of the first Scream, end up inadvertently cheering on a real murder. It’s supposed to say something about voyeurism and culpability for our vicarious thrills, and also for some reason the way black people talk in theaters becasuse the movie is actually a stand up routine from 1983, or something but it ends up coming off as deeply hypocritical, given that the rest of the movie is as giddy a kill fest as there has ever been. Because if Scream went from greatness to standard boilerplate, Scream 2 reaches for pseudo profundity and quickly falls into sub mediocrity. Though the department of truth in criticism forces me to admit that the reverse shot of a theater full of Scream Killers cheering on the movie is disquieting.

Scream 2 is about as bland as horror films get. Aside from a few some feeble sequel jokes courtesy of Randy, it carries none of the original voice that Scream did. When people say they hate the dialogue in Scream because it’s shallow self referential and stupid, they really mean they hate the dialogue in Scream 2. The film’s scare sequences, don’t have the brutal on point simplicity of the first film’s, and are far two convoluted and elaborate to actually be frightening and are predicated on the characters doing the exact stupid things that they knew not to do in the first film. Somewhat paradoxically these scenes have none of the gaudy fun that the classic Slasher films of the eighties provided. It tries to split the difference between extravagant and brutal and fails at both. Only an admirably whacked giallo inspired stalking that would do Argento in his prime proud, set during a showcase of Oedipus Rex takes advantage of the laxed rules.

The cast is too large to get attached to any of the characters, even in the superficial my “Rose McGowan sure looks cold.” Way of the first film. Most of the film’s supporting characters are little more then cameos (Sarah Michelle Gellar we hardly knew ye).
The film perks up in the end, with a few remarkably cold blooded kills, and a solution to the who done it at the center of the film, that’s actually satisfying. But it's too little too late to save this anemic sequel.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Movies Don’t Create Psychos Movies Make Psychos More Creative

So after renting the first one on a whim I’ve decided to revisit the Scream trilogy for the first time since whenever the third one came out on video. My goal in looking at one of the most beloved/reviled horror franchise of all time, was to look at it as just that, a horror franchise. Not the movie series that saved/ruined horror forever.

After all despite the fact that it set the model for about five years, Scream’s effects aren’t really felt anymore. Sure for a little while there was nothing but self referential new school slashers, but The Ring basically wiped it out and all we got was wet kids with black hair and eyes. Then their was Saw and the “torture porn” cycle. Horror’s always been such an imitative self reflexive industry that it hardly seems fair to hold the original strain responsible for it’s mutations. But people still get really pissed off at Scream, for launching “WB” horror, as the great Outlaw Vern noted, the WB doesn’t even exist anymore It’s time to let go and move on.

Which doesn’t mean that Scream would necessarily end up being a classic, I just planned on giving it the chance to surprise me.

And the famous oft parodied opening scene really did. I forgot that it is famous for a reason. Most notably that it’s a really fucking effective scene. Even knowing all the beats in advance it still works. The way it gradually escalates from playful flirting to terror (the ugly way the killer says “Hang Up The Phone Again and I’ll Gut You” still makes me flinch) Drew Barrymore’s innate sweetness curdling to desperation. The great use of atmosphere, the way Craven let’s us gradually realize just how vulnerable she is (so many windows). The shockingly brutal and casual murder of her boyfriend, it’s just a great horror scene. With its omniscient killer, and emotional suffering it almost has more in common with a murder from a giallo then a slasher film. I’ve forgotten how grim the whole sequence was. The way it baits you with the thrill of the scare before showing you something truly terrible. Barrymore’s death is ugly and sad; it’s a horror scene that actually aims to horrify. One thing you can say about Craven is that in his better work, he’s one of the few horror directors who doesn’t take enjoyment out of a “good kill”.

Then unfortunately the movie begins. It’s not that Scream is bad exactly, it just fails to live up to the hype, skill and ambition of the opening scenes. The cast is a perpetual whose who of “What ever happened to’s.” (Oh Matthew Lillard where art thou?) and as character focused as the movie is, they don’t exactly have the dynamic charisma to pull it off.

The story follows Neve Campbell, who earlier in the year witnessed her mother’s brutal murder. Her attempts to move on are thwarted when a string of murders begin, and her and her friends end up targets. The film’s mystery is too convoluted and the film’s at its weakest when it’s following it.

The movie is at it’s best when it’s going the straight up horror route, despite the fact that none of the scenes live up to the first one, staying standard slasher set pieces rather then dredging up such a melting pot of conflicting emotion. It even gets into the fun gimmick kills that the opening scene so skillfully deconstructed (Rose McGowan I'm looking at you. For em different reasons then usual this time). Still it’s impossible to deny that the film has some pretty wicked beats, like a scare revolving around a time delay on a live feed that still gets me to jump, and a simple shot of the killer’s boot stepping off a toilet (long story) that still remains one of my favorite “Oh Shit” moments in a horror film.

Scream is definitely a writers film. Craven’s wearing his “old pro” hat and he mostly steps aside and allows Williamson’s voice to shine through. It’s obviously the work of a fan, and there’s so much pleasure in it that it’s easy to see why at the time Williamson seemed sure to be the next big thing. Even the whole “Talking about horror movies in a horror movie” works better now that I’ve forgotten a few punchlines. It’s funny well written stuff.

In the end though Scream must settle for being a good slasher movie rather then a great Horror film. That’s not really a problem, I (and statistically speaking you) wouldn’t be on this site if you didn’t love a good slasher film. But for that opening scene it’s something more, and it’s just a shame that it didn’t stay that way.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Preaching To The Choir, Drag Me To Hell Edition

As a sidenote it's worth noting that Drag Me To Hell came out today. All you need to do is look at my alias to see that I'm a pretty fricking huge Sam Raimi fan. Like really big. Like I own For The Love Of The Game big. Like I liked Spiderman 3 big.

But even if your love of Raimi films doesn't tip towards the delusional scale. You'll still like Drag Me To Hell because it rocks so fucking hard. Everything I said in my review is still true. It's the most fun I've had in a theater all year, and if you're even a little bit of a genre fan you should rent or buy it to show your love. The fact that Friday The Thirteenth TOTALLY XTREME made more money in it's opening weekend then Drag Me To Hell did in it's whole run makes me a sad panda.

Vote with your dollars folks. That's all these companies understand. Sick of Platinum Dunes? Stop giving them these huge opening weekends, that justifies their shitty strip mining business model. Want Lionsgate to stop raping Jigsaw's corpse? Then don't pay to see it. Everytime you take money out of something like that, and put it towards A Drag Me To Hell, or a Trick R' Treat, or a Paranormal Activity you send a message.

Keep Sending It And Remember Always "SUPPORT BADASS CINEMA"

THE RETURN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR: #13 Night Of The Creeps

Duel Reviews: Two Friends Two HUGELY Different opinions. I’m doing this review of Night Of The Creeps with my good friend Robert Leininger. Robbie has the blog A Week Ahead, the compendium of awesomeness that is his Classic Monster Movie’s Blog, and guest stars on the pod cast Celluloidering. We both love horror movies but seldom agree on what makes a good one. So we’ve decided to take each other through a couple of our old favorites. See what makes it out alive.

Bryce: So this years of 31 Days Of Horror has apparently turned into a Tom Atkins tribute. Not that I’m complaining. There are few people as entertaining to watch as Atkins and no movie showcases that better then Night Of The Creeps. The thing that makes Night Of The Creeps special to me is the way it so effortlessly molds the innocence of the old school fifties AIP films, with the anarchy of the eighties splatter punk films. It sets this up with the great transition from the bizarre scifi opening, to the glorious black and white prolouge. Anything can happen. Despite some pretty grisly gore shots, but the movie keeps a feeling of innocence and fun throughout the whole runtime. I kept expecting Nick Adams or Elisha Cooke Jr. to show up. I’ve got to give most of the credit to Fred Dekker here, remember this guy directed The Monster Squad, he knows old school horror. It really is too bad that Robocop 3 seems to have permanently killed his career. Then again since Robocop 3 caused several murder suicides (FACT!) I’m pretty sure the punishment fit the crime. Still I’d love to see him make another movie, because Night Of The Creeps is genuinely fun, after the past ten years of Nu Horror it’s like a breath of fresh air. It THRILLS ME!

Robbie: Let's start out with Fred Dekker, the director of Night of the Creeps. The movie of his that I know best is "The Monster Squad", which I love. I was worried that "Night of the Creeps" would be a big disappointment, especially when comparing it to "The Monster Squad", but as it turns out, "Night of the Creeps" is not bad at all. It is still no "Monster Squad" however...

I love a good zombie movie and this is one of the better ones. I much prefer slow, stupid zombies compared to the fast, clever ones which the remake of "Dawn of the Dead" made popular of late. The thing I did not like about these "Night of the Creeps" zombies was the whole alien aspect. I like not knowing exactly what is going on in the world to make the dead come to life. Personally, zombies scare me and alien creatures do not. Maybe that is the reason I was not keen on the idea of alien creatures creating these zombies. But on the plus side, as Bryce said, I like how it pays homage to the classic films of AIP. It is a true 50's sci-fi/horror film set in the 1980s.

Bryce: Yeah the whole alien aspect is a little funny. The first five minutes of the movie play like someone mixed up the reels with another film in a projection booth. But I think it ultimately fits, as the film becomes more of a tribute to fifties filmmaking. Plus I like the way the alien slugs make a secondary threat. Just cause you kill the zombie doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. That’s something I haven’t seen before, and I love it when the movies are able to give a genre I’ve seen before that little something extra.

Aside from Dekker though, this movie belongs to the man Tom Atkins, who sells his role with a smart ass and a righteous stash. He’s funny as hell in this thing, playing it on just the right side of campy, though serious enough to blast a zombie with his 12 gauge like he really means it. The main characters are good. It’s obvious that Dekker cares about them as characters and not just zombie chow. The main characters progression from wimp to worthwhile human being is believable, the love interest is appealing (I always get a kick out of the how she looks in her party dress wielding a flame thrower) and let’s all take a moment to pour one on the curb for poor old JC proving Zombieland’s axiom about Zombies and toilets true. But still this is Atkin’s show, making him one of my all time favorite horror movie leads.

Robbie: I agree! Tom Atkins steals the entire film. His character was just right. He had the right amount of seriousness with a bit of charming goofiness. He is the character I really cared about. Even when Atkins gives exposition for past events, I was drawn in and truly interested in what has happened to his character over the years.

The other characters were written well enough, but they really were bad actors. True, it is good to see the main character of Chris progress from nerd to hero, but the actor portraying him (Jason Lively) was just plain bad. Even so, the writing of the character was done well enough where a bad actor doesn't hurt it too much.

Another good character was Cynthia's ex-boyfriend Brad, played by Allan Kayser. He was Chris' personal villain for being in his way of his true love with Cynthia. He was the kind of great 80s teenage villain that was made popular by the "Karate Kid" series. He is the type of person that you hate for every reason and you are just waiting for that scene where the hero gets to confront him. The confrontation in this film: Chris gets to shoot Brad in the head after he had become a zombie. That is good stuff!

Bryce: God Brad was such a douche. Like Spader level bad. I miss those old school 80’s WASP villains with their perfectly coiffed hair and sense of entitlement. Anyway, I’m glad you liked this one. It might not be the scariest movie ever made, but it’s a great slice of retro fun.

Robbie: A slice of retro fun for sure. One other scene I did like was when Tom Atkins says to other police officers: "29 year old dead guys don't just get up and walk away!" The film then cuts to the dead guy walking. "The Monster Squad" did the exact same thing. The father in "The Monster Squad" says: "3,000 year old dead guys don't just get up and walk away!" Cut to the Mummy walking down the street. I love seeing hints of a director's previous work in films.

"Night of the Creeps" is a fun movie. It started out slow, but give it a chance. By the end of the film, you will be entertained like only an 80s film can do.

Monday, October 12, 2009

THE RETURN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR: #12 Friday The 13th Part 3

Ah Friday The 13th Part 3, my second favorite of the series. While it’s not quite pure blast of liquidy slasher goodness that is Friday The 13th Part 2. It’s an easy going, fun, slasher flick which goes slips on as easily as a comfy pair of slippers, bolstered by it’s 3-D effects (best watched in 2D, for maximum awesome), great cast of stock characters, awesome gore effects, some truly effective scare scenes and it’s ungodly great theme song.

God I love that thing.

The film opens, after a reusing the climax of Part 2, with Jason polishing off a white trash couple, Shrewish Mc Harpy and her mate Drunken The Doormat. It might be the first time that a Jason slashing could be qualified as a mercy killing. This couple is so horrifying that they seem to have emerged living and breathing from Patton Oswalts Stella Dorra Breakfast treats routine.

We’re introduced to the newest bunch of fodder to join the Crystal Lake Club. The characters show the biggest drop of quality for the series. While the previous movies showcased charismatic and likable, if none too deep, characters, the writing and acting has gotten a lot lazier. The characters are generic even for a Slasher movie, there’s The Horny Ones, A Couple Of Dirty Hippies, The Nerd, The Final Girl, and The Final Girl’s soon to be dead boyfriend. Oh and there’s some bikers, got to give them that, you don’t see those in every horror movie. Truth to tell the series never really recovered. Oh sure they brought out some weirdos for The Final Chapter, but from here on out, it’s all about the kills. Who survives is completely arbitrary. There’s nothing really special about the Final Girl, aside from an unnecessarily convoluted background. She survives by default. And as the ending suggests she’s gone crazy, Its tough to be surprised. She’s got nothing on Amy Steel.

They’re headed up by the infamous Shelly. The cackling annoying bridge troll who accidentally made Jason one of the most iconic boogeymen in cinema history. Shelly is of course, is one of the most annoying characters ever to appear in a horror movie. He’s neck in neck with even the dreaded Franklin. Though he does come down ultimately on the side of merely annoying rather then actively repulsive. So Franklin wins in the end. FRANKLIN ALWAYS WINS!


Anyway Shelly’s the one who ends up giving Jason the hockey mask, which coincides with him not being remotely scary anymore. So we’ve got that to hold against him to. Thanks a lot Franklin. Not only are you a painful to watch asshole who gives horror fans a bad name, but you ruined a great horror icon. I wish something bad would happen to you.

Ah there we go.

Anyway our merry crew make their way to a cabin on Crystal Lake, where they have a nice weekend, forge unbreakable bonds, and all learn a little something about themselves. Naw I’m just fucking with you, they end up getting butchered like swine. LIKE SWINE I TELL YOU!!! Ignoring a hobo wielding a severed eyeball (Not a typo) they go to the cabin, where drugs, alchol, sex, and murder are all done with abandon.

I feel like I’m coming down to hard on this movie, which I really do have a great deal of affection for. Like Part 2, it’s just such a pure slasher experience you can’t help but have fun. The atmosphere at the cabin is suitably eerie, and Director Miner was a cut above most of the other helmers, and manages to pull off some decent scare sequences, beyond the usual jump scares. Even the double fake out that ends the film is suitably creepy.

In a lot of ways I feel like this is the last great Friday The 13th. I know The Final Chapter is a fan favorite but it’s never done that much for me beyond Savini’s effects and Glover’s dance. The rest of the series is just to gimmicky for my tastes. I’ll have a good time while watching them (per my “Greater Friday The 13th Theorem elaborated on in my Nu Friday The 13th review) but I’ll often hate myself in the morning. Part 3 was the last to claim that special fear that comes from being in the woods and not being sure you’re alone.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

THE RETURN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR: #11 Vampire Hookers

I bet you never thought that watching people fuck could be boring could you. Well welcome to Vampire Hookers, a movie that’s almost indescribably bad, and also sort of amazing. Watching it is like staring into The Ark Of The Covenant at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Your face might melt, but damn you’ve really seen something.

Vampire Hookers follows two Sailors in the Phillipines. And when I say it follows them. I mean it really follows them. The opening of the movie plays out nearly in real time as our two seamen stumble through Manilla, trying and failing to get laid and eating various testicles (Not a misprint).

Eventually our boys in blue come across a hooker. A vampire hooker. And as the eerily catchy theme song informs us, blood is not all she sucks. She takes them back to her cemetery which nobody finds odd, where they hang out with her “sisters”, their pot bellied man child of a Renfield who I would say mugs his way through the movie but will nost so as not to give mugging a bad name, and John Carradine dressed in a White Pimp suit watching his dignity die as he quotes Walt Whitman. Again this is not a misprint. While watching John Carradine make his drinking money, in crap that’s way below his level like Billy The Kid Meet’s Dracula, has always been fun, there’s something just kind of pathetic sad rather then funny sad about this particular performance. You can practically feel the DT’s he had between takes, and all you can think is, “Jesus man this guy used to work for John Ford. He was in fucking Stagecoach for the love of God.”

The sailors first escape and then return to the clutches of the Vampire hookers for reasons best not thought about very much. After a long time (A Loooooooonnnnnngggg) time one of the sailors and the three Vampire Hookers start fucking. And after what seems like an even longer time, they stop. Seriously, your eyes will glaze as our fearless sailor goes about the fourway, and cut aways to the pictures on the wall add a subjective hour to the scene. The scene seems to go on forever, fifteen minutes pass outside the room where the film is playing, but those caught in it’s web spend hours and hours trapped in it’s merciless softcore fucking.

Finally the sex scene and the movie have mercy upon us and ends. But not before we get some weird comic routines and a few plot “twists”. Vampire Hookers is... well funs not the right word. Even Carradine’s soul lacerating feeble performance is funny though not funny “haha”. The line between Kitsch and Masochism is often thin and never more so here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

THE RETURN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR: #10 Midnight Meat Train

Vinnie Jones is so intimidating that he’s almost comic. He’s a cartoon mountain man who looks like the love child of the bulldog from Tom and Jerry and the guy who kicks sand in your face in those old ads. It just seems preposterous that anyone that huge and angry could exist.

Vinnie Jone's Father

Vinnie Jone's Mother

Perhaps that’s why he’s so rarely used well. Jones inevitably appears in crappy comedies in which he’s revealed to be a big old softie, or as unimagitive muscle, the sad fact is that while Jones himself is always fun to watch, the movies he’s in are rarely so. So it’s nice to see Jones get a vehicle that makes use of his uniquely hulking presence and a shame so few people got a chance to see it.

Midnight Meat Train got one of the most half assed releases I’ve ever seen a movie receive, in a lot of ways it’s even worse then what happened to Trick R’ Treat since Warner’s at least seemed to realize that there movie was good, while Lionsgate decided to basically run out onto the street telling random people not to see it. Lionsgate dumped it into dollar theaters on the first week, didn’t screen it for critics, and gave it zero ads. Coupled with a title that sounds like a bad porn joke you’d be forgiven for thinking Midnight Meat Train was a huge pile of shit.

But you’d be wrong and for horror fans looking for something new and tired of the same old torture porn it’s practically a God send. Vinnie Jones plays Mahogany, butcher by day, freelance butcher by night. Jones rides the late New York subways, killing unlucky nite owls with a huge hammer and then… well let’s just say he has a purpose, and it’s not quite so simple as you think. A photographer, played by Paul Walker 2.0 Bradley Cooper, starts to become suspicious of Jones and starts following him on his nightly sojourns. As you might guess things rapidly go down hill. Midnight Meat Train is by no means a perfect movie, some of the CGI gore effects are pretty dire, there’s a whole subplot about a snooty art gallery owner, played by Brooke Shields for some God damn reason, that is utterly cuttable, and it has a twist at the end that while darkly hilarious if you think about it, is just kind of silly if you don’t. At the same time it’s creative, stylish, funny, and genuinely frightening, with oodles of often imitated never duplicated Clive Barker kink. It’s more then worth your time.