Thursday, November 26, 2015
Hey gang! I hope you're reading this in a food coma, or on your way to a food coma. Come next week I'll announce various Horrorthon notices and accolades, and over the next few days I hope to get my last few reviews in. I know there are some outstanding reviews out there (you know who you are), and it would be a groovy thing to see even one from you cats. In the words of Horrible Disembodied Voice, join us!
Here's my thought for Thanksgiving. I was looking at a set of Thanksgiving-themed stickers they were tossing around at the work potluck, and they were little autumny leaves and plants. And I said "Man, for Halloween it's all skulls and ghosts and jack-o-lanterns and for Christmas it's all lights and decorated trees and Santa magic, and for Thanksgiving it's a bunch of stuff you found on the ground."
Discuss! And have a great weekend!
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Greetings! I'm so happy to see Johnny back in print, as I myself am struggling back into relevance (I unfortunately didn't have time to burn out on Horrorthon this year, but it's because I had lots of work, which is good in its way). But I'm excited for some time off to round out the month right, and then we'll dole out some trophies!
Before I tucked into Lucio Fulci's The Beyond I had the good sense to check the Monster List and then I had the good fortune to read Johnny Sweatpants's review, from which the following quote was very useful:
"Fulci claimed to be paying homage to Surrealist French playwright Antonin Artaud and fans praise The Beyond’s dreamlike quality. My personal theory is that he couldn’t be arsed into constructing a decent plot and instead focused solely on the flesh eating tarantulas, the popping eyeballs, the acid burns and the exploding heads. Not that I’m complaining."
What you see there is a key piece of production info I definitely wouldn't have found out about on my own, and some good advice about how to approach the situation. I did not, therefore, become woefully irate when the hero repeats the following actions no less than four times during the climax:
1) Enter room with no visible escape, turn to use revolver on approaching walking dead
2) Shoot member of walking dead in the torso
3) Shoot same member of walking dead in the torso
4) Shoot same member of walking dead in the torso again
5) Shoot same member of walking dead in the head
6) Watch walking dead person fall to the floor (and here's the tricky part...)
7) Learn NOTHING from the event, exit room through door hitherto not shown to the audience, and go back to step 1)
The film starts out promisingly enough, with a young woman named Liza who has inherited an old hotel in New Orleans that she intends to renovate and run. But she doesn't check the basement for Pee Wee's bike and goddammit if there isn't one of those gates to Hell down there.
For me the turning point came when Joe the plumber, the poor scrub who was hired to unknowingly open the gate to Hell, returned to the hotel in walking dead form to get revenge on Martha the hotel maid who hired him. I was sure Martha was in cahoots with the Hellish forces because of various clues but then a Hell-murdered and Hell-resurrected Joe comes back and gets her. And here I thought they'd be on the same side. Is Hell really disorganized?
I think Mr. Fulci just never tires of the surprise of betrayal, and so there's a tendency among characters you thought you could count on to suddenly turn evil. Plus there's a mystical painting, a weird book of incantations, a mysterious blind girl who's offering advice, and instead of converging all these elements kind of fan out from each other, leading to a not unpleasant sort of nothing.
I wonder if someone without a Horrorthon to turn to would find this movie unwatchable and stupid, but I got something out of it. More horror atmosphere in the Italian mode, and a tolerance for the right kind of plotlessness. I can't really rate it any higher, but I can recommend it for those who know what they're getting into.
Monday, November 23, 2015
I hit the Horrorthon wall a few weeks ago but now I intend to squeak out a few more reviews (including all of the Saw flicks!) before month end.
Starry Eyes takes the premise of an actress willing to do anything to make it in Hollywood and uses it as a launching pad for a gruesome horror movie that packs quite the wallop. The protagonist Sarah is the only true likable character in the film so watching her inevitable fall from grace is saddening. Her “friends” are either hostile, jealous or indifferent to her career goals.
Sarah’s first audition for a breakout role begins disastrously and she reacts by yanking her hair out in the bathroom. One of the casting directors sees this and gives her another chance – if she agrees to pull more of her hair out in a second audition. By doing so she is granted the rare opportunity to meet a famous producer that can make all of her dreams come true as long as she submits fully to his vision. At first she rejects the old perv’s offer but after some soul searching she finds herself wooed by his BS Ayn Rand talk about living in a world of doers who act on their ambition. Suffice it to say Sarah chooses to sell her soul with predictably morbid results. Thanks for the recommendation Catfreeek! This was a fun one to watch at the end of a long month.
From ew, The saga of Katniss Everdeen came to a close this weekend as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 opened to an estimated $101 million.
That’s the lowest debut of any of the Hunger Gamesmovies and under initial predictions of $120 million. When the big-screen depiction of Suzanne Collins’ Panem debuted in March 2012, it brought in $152.5 million, the biggest opening ever for a movie with a female lead. The next year, Catching Fire beat its record and stretched to $158.1 million. Last year’sMockingjay – Part 1 saw a slight dip, opening to $121.9 million, and early predictions had Part 2 debuting close to that.
While Mockingjay didn’t manage to soar as high as the earlier installments, the $160 million film still notched the fifth-biggest debut of the year, making it one of only five films to debut above $100 million. And although Mockingjay 2 wasn’t as critically adored as the first two films, it earned an A- CinemaScore. Globally, it reeled in $247 million, and even though Mockingjay couldn’t catch Catching Fire’s box office records, it bumped up the franchise’s worldwide total to a staggering $2.55 billion.
As far as films not set in Panem go, holdovers and newcomers alike fell to Katniss’ arrow, as no other movie in theaters managed to crack $15 million. The Christmas-themed comedy The Night Before, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie, and Seth Rogen, hauled in $10.1 million. Thanks to positive word-of-mouth (it earned an A- CinemaScore) and a lack of other R-rated comedies, it could hold up well over the next few weeks.
The weekend’s final new wide release, the crime thriller Secret In Their Eyes, rounded out the top five with $6.6 million. With a star-studded cast including Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Secret In Their Eyes earned a B- CinemaScore.
Spectre and The Peanuts Movie held second and third place, as 007 brought in $14.6 million and Charlie Brown made $12.8 million.Spectre’s domestic total is now at $153.7 million, while The Peanuts Movie has made $98.9 million.
At the specialty box office, the Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara-starring Carol had a standout debut, opening to $248,149 in only four theaters for a strong start of $62,037 per location. The gangster drama Legend, starring Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy, also debuted in four locations, earning $82,884 for an average just over $20,000.
Spotlight, another limited release, also had a strong weekend as it expanded to just shy of 600 locations, bringing in an estimated $3.6 million. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, and Rachel McAdams, the drama finally moved into the top 10, and after three weekends, its domestic total is now at $5.9 million.
Overall, box office receipts were down about 11 percent from last year, when the first Mockingjay opened. Here are this weekend’s top five at the box office:
1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 — $101 million
2. Spectre — $14.6 million
3. The Peanuts Movie — $12.8 million
4. The Night Before — $10.1 million
5. Secret In Their Eyes — $6.6 million
From ew, For the Love of The Force, a Manchester, England-based fan convention, transformed an exhibition center in Trafford Park into various locations from the Star Wars films, including the Ewok village and Yoda’s swamp in Dagobah. But the festivities wouldn’t be complete without the famous Cantina bar.
A statement on the For the Love of The Force website reads, “We have recreated this famous cantina in all its glory, with all the cantina creatures and band. We will be serving blue milk cocktails and alcohol on the day with live music. Photo opportunity of a lifetime with a dead Greedo in a booth, as you take up Han Solo’s seat and blaster.”
Thank you to all that visited the Cantina bar yesterday for a pint of Blue Milk….great costumes and great people…..all there for one thing…..the love of Star Wars.
Posted by For the Love of the Force - An Independent Star Wars Fan Conventionon Friday, November 20, 2015
The bar also features a number of alcoholic and non-alcholic “Cantina Cocktails,” including the vodka-based Wookie Juice and Bantha Milk.
The Cantina cocktail bar menu……..other cocktails will be added, these are just the vodka based onesNone alcoholic, and other alcoholic drinks will also be served in the Cantina
Posted by For the Love of the Force - An Independent Star Wars Fan Conventionon Saturday, November 21, 2015
Last week, 250 guests were invited to check out the space, which will host a number of events leading up to and through the convention. Andy Kleek, the convention’s managing director, told the Manchester Evening Star that he hopes it’ll remain a permanent fixture that could even serve as a full cocktail bar — with proper demand, of course.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Pregnant Alice and her husband Dave are badgered into taking a Cambodian vacation with Alice’s sister Steph and Steph’s new boyfriend Jeremy. After a night of clubbing, drugs, and booze Jeremy goes missing. The trio agree to remain tight-lipped about Jeremy’s disappearance because they do not wish to deal with Cambodian law enforcement and they assume that Jeremy will eventually turn up. He does not. Returning to Australia, the trio attempt to resume their lives despite inquiries from federal officers. Through flashbacks we learn more about the days leading up to Jeremy’s disappearance.
‘Wish You Were Here’ begins with a mildly interesting premise but is ultimately glacially paced with little payoff. The characters are not particularly sympathetic as we learn their “secrets” via flashbacks and by time Jeremy’s disappearance is explained you will not really care anymore.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
I'll just go ahead and say it: Jon Dies at the End is Don Coscarelli's best film besides the original Phantasm. If you have a minute and forty seconds check out the opening scene above and you'll get the gist of why.
I feel like I would have been happy to see a lot more movies written and directed by Mr. Coscarelli over the years than we have, because his particular brand of horror/comedy is distinct and exciting. But I don't think he made enough movies to really develop himself as an artist (and maybe he didn't want to, for all I know). Bubba Ho-tep was cute but disappointing, and as much as I adore the Phantasm series there are some parts where the cheese is spread a little too thin. It may be that the one-two punch, gleefully economic narrative style I'm always gushing over when reviewing Phantasm movies comes with its own limitations. If so, this movie may be the solution.
John Dies at the End started its life as a novel written by Cracked.com writer David Wong, and watching the movie made me wish Coscarelli had filmed more adaptations in his career. I feel like bringing another voice to the mix was exactly what he needed; the alchemy of story and style here is just right.
After the moment above (the swastika-tongued man not appearing again), we join David in a Chinese restaurant where he meets a reporter named Arnie, (played by Paul Giamatti, and played perfectly, because of course, it's Paul Giamatti). Arnie has heard rumors about David and his friend John, as the pair have spent the past few years in the role of slacker ghostbusters, protecting the people in their town from assorted strange goings-on. David decides to tell Arnie his and John's origin story, which chronicles the forces that shaped their new careers, which are, not coincidentally, the same forces to blame for the assorted strange goings-on.
The unusual events center around a substance called soy sauce, introduced as a mind-bending recreational drug. David first hears of it when he gets a call from John in the middle of the night, he goes over to find his strung-out friend freaking out on soy sauce. David, in no mood for bullshit, is driving John to the ER when John gripes about how many phone calls he had to make before David came over, and how weird David was on the phone. When David says he came over after the first call, John slaps his forehead and apologizes in advance, saying he must have been calling David several times at various points in the future, and David is honked off by this.
Until it starts happening at weird times, like while he's sitting across from John at a diner booth, or after he's heard that John is dead. This is the kind of thing that can happen when you're on the sauce.
I'm not going into further detail because that should be enough to give you the flavor. In the troubled subgenre Horror/Comedy there is an array of forms, and this is one of my favorite, where it's not about the yuk-yuks as much as it's about a loose and energetic mood. In a context like that it's not hard to create likable characters with a few short strokes, or enjoy real gore and scares while admittedly avoiding bonafide horror movie dread.
I should note that there are a few sub par special effects (which are kind of cute), and I will cop to being occasionally confused by various plot points the first time I saw it -- which wasn't this time, and I'm happy to report it's quite strong on a second viewing. Maybe even stronger. I highly recommend this, but I don't recommend watching it in the "as I'm falling asleep" time slot. It might bungle your noodle.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
As 2015 Horrorthon came to a close I thought about how far I'd come in the progression of things. I have honed myself down from a virtual horror watching machine to a much more selective and satisfied connoisseur of scary stuff. The best of tradition has been falling off the blog the last couple of years and I am hoping to revive it, so here is my list.
That concludes my 2015 Horrorthon experience, Happy Hauntings everyone!
Friday, November 13, 2015
Film archivist David and his wife and son (why is every kid in a movie named “Billy”?) live in a beautiful townhouse in Dublin abutting a canal. David’s seemingly idyllic life is shattered when he learns that his wife is having an extramarital affair with a co-worker. Coinciding with this upset David comes into possession of crime footage from a 1902 murder that took place in his home. Apparently a man suspected that his wife was having an affair and he killed her out of jealousy. Soon Alice goes missing and David is the number 1 suspect despite a lack of evidence. As time passes David begins to exhibit paranoia as he tries to convince a co-worker, his nanny and an increasingly suspicious detective that there is a specter in his house that is responsible for his wife’s disappearance.
Clearly influenced by horror movies such as Don’t Look Now (1973), The Ring (2002), Sinister (2012) and even some David Lynch director Ivan Kavanagh nonetheless crafts a creepy ghost story that burns slowly with growing dread as David begins to unravel. The cinematography is top-notch and the ambiguous setting adds to the creep factor. A scene involving the world’s grossest public bathroom is particularly jarring (okay, perhaps Trainspotting still holds that honor). Definitely recommended.
Anne and Paul Sacchetti move to a nice home in a quiet New England town after the untimely death of their son. Unfortunately the house they chose is the one that wakes up every 30 years demanding a sacrifice. Anne feels and hears the presence of her son within the house so no matter what the old place wants to dish out, she is staying put.
Don't go in the basement.
Clearly this and It Follows were the films to see this year. Well done, scary and a fresh new approach all rolled into one. I do love a good haunted house film but it seems more often then not modern films are filled with pop ups and non-scary cgi ghosts. We are Still Here breaks the trend and delivers a much needed truly frightening change to the genre.
Seriously, there's nothing you need in that basement.
The film is set in 1979 which is becoming a recent and brilliant trend in the horror genre. Brilliant because it immediately eliminates the cell phone dilemma while connecting to an entire generation of horror fanatics that relish a time without modern technology, a time when horror found it's place in the limelight and exploded onto drive-in screens, a time when every boarded up abandoned house was surely haunted and sleepaway camp was terrifying because there had to be a killer lurking in the woods. If this film did not make it to your list this year by all means add it to next years line up post haste.
For Godsake lady, get the fuck out of that basement!
This concludes my entries for Horrorthon 2015, my best of's list will be up soon. Horrorthon!
Documentarians travel to the cult commune of Eden Parish where journalist Patrick's sister Caroline now resides. Once they gain entrance it seems to be a happy place where all the inhabitants work together and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Under the direction of a man they call Father it seems they have found a way to live peacefully without stress and violence but things aren't always as they seem. None of the residents are allowed to leave.
Fashioned after the infamous Jonestown massacre this film features a soul stirring performance by Gene Jones (funny his real name is Jones) as Father. Any person watching this who is familiar with Jonestown would immediately make the connection. Like the Reverend Jones himself, Father is charismatic and a natural born leader. It is easy to see why those seeking a better way of life would take his bait greedily. The film gives insight as to why so many followed Rev. Jones all the way to the grave.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
A girl and her brother are attacked and pursued into the woods by an unknown creature. They are separated and the girl seeks refuge in an old treehouse. Meanwhile, news of the missing kids is scrawled across the tv and a curfew is put into effect for the entire area. A young boy and his older brother plan a trek into the woods with some friends to light fireworks but when they arrive they discover they are not alone in the woods but find safety in the treehouse with the missing girl. The younger brother holds up with the girl while the older boy makes a dash for it to get help. As they wait out the night they are tormented by banging and loud noises but the creatures don't seem to want to come in. The girl reveals the fact that she is diabetic and will need to get sustenance soon or succumb to insulin shock. When no help has arrived by the break of day the two decide to make a run for it. All is revealed as the two teens must use their wit and agility to escape certain death.
How about this for a change, teens who make wise decisions, don't act like drunken fools or stoners and actually have some survival skills taught to them by their parents. Treehouse adds an element of realism throughout that sets it aside from the hundreds of other films that use the woods setting for their story. The teens just look like average kids too, no good looking Beeberesque fancy lads looking out of place in their little podunk town. In fact I didn't find any of the kids to be annoying and that in itself is a bloody miracle! Seeing a film like this made in current times gives me hope for the future of horror.
Based on the true life story of Sandra and Beth Andersen who murdered their mother in 2003, the story follows the girls as they come to the conclusion that their lives would be far better without their pill popping alcoholic mother in it. The two sisters concoct a perfectly viable scheme to drug mom into a sleepy daze then ease her into a warm bath where she will slip under the water and drown. The plan is much simpler than it turned out to be, mom still had some fight in her and Sandra had to forcefully hold her under. Still, the police bought it hook, line and sinker and the girls were scott free but Sandra has some trouble coping with what she had to do and begins drinking and bragging about how they killed their mom. A classmate, disturbed by their story goes to the police and turns them in. Altogether a solid story but why wouldn't it be since it is based in truth. Where the film falls short is in the acting, with a more substantial cast this could easily have been a four or five star film. Still, the story was intriguing enough to make me want to research the actual event and see what happened to the girls in the aftermath.