Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow horror turkeys!


Now go eat yourselves silly!  And if you already did, eat some more!  You're welcome!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Big Ass Spider!

(2013) ***1/4

Giant alien spider comes face to face with exterminator Alex!  And Ray Wise!

Yay, what a fun horrorthon find, so glad so many of us were able to watch it this year! As others have stated, this is a fun, light mix of horror and comedy and a great short watch! And exclamation points!!

Jurassic World trailer!

Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer to debut Friday morning!



Starwars.com has the full list of U.S. theaters playing it starting Friday morning. It's not a very long list, so feel free to nerd-rage below that your city - or country, if you're not American - was not included.

Good...let the hate flow through you...
[via toplessrobot]

Night of the Comet


1984  ***

Lo, the Comet did look upon the works of Man, and in its booming voice said "THAT IS JUST TOO MUCH HAIR PRODUCT, AND THOSE SHOULDER PADS ARE OUT OF CONTROL."  And so the Comet smote the 80s wicked hard, turning all who saw it into Yucky Red Dust, even the Poodles.

I've had a thing for Lori Singer since Fame was a TV show, so imagine my surprise when it turned out the star of this movie was Catherine Mary Stewart instead.   She's fine, of course, and I was instantly swept away on a tide of pure 80s anyway, watching Cathy Stew bust out all the high scores on Tempest.

In a tweak on the Light Show of Doom from Day of the Triffids, a comet not seen since the dinosaurs disappeared turns out to dissolve any and all animal matter not shielded inside a metal enclosure when it passes (because they didn't have the budget to get rid of all the plants).  I would think that would be every single cell of animal matter 65 million years ago, but I'm nitpicking.

Fortunately for us, there's Regina and Samantha, a pair of sisters from the Valley both lucky enough to live through the Night to forge a bold new vision for post-apocalyptic Los Angeles.  Of course I mean they go shopping, but let's all admit we would do the same thing.

The apocalypse isn't all fun and games however, as there are partially-dissolved quasi-zombies who don't really have plans exactly but make it up with bad attitudes.  Chief among the miscreants are the members of a secret government think tank who hid in a sealed compound but accidentally left the vents open.  Their quest is more directed:  seek out the blood of the living!

If I sound like I mock, I don't.  Night of the Comet is more comedy than horror, but it mixes the goofball with some intelligence.  The cabal of scientists is particularly fun to watch; as the comet's effects take greater hold, they become more confused and forgetful.  And I find the premise of those "in charge" screwing up so profoundly pretty irresistable.  Good old Robert Beltran and Mary Woronov (both from Eating Raoul) bring some class to the cast.

And my god, this movie hits you with 80s style like George Costanza getting his face mashed into Elaine's boobs.  I mean that in a good way.  I saw Night of the Comet as a kid, and I've been meaning to see it again since it surfaced in a  Johnny Sweatpants review almost ten freaking years ago.  It did not disappoint.  Or it did, but in ways I was expecting.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Friday the 13th



(1980) ***

A summer camp on Crystal Lake is about to reopen for the season.  The teenaged staff are there to help the owner get ready for the arrival of the campers.  One by one they are targeted by a mysterious killer.

As a first time viewer, I have to say, not bad.  In some ways I expected worse.  It was plenty cheesy and completely unrealistic but you have to appreciate the body count and at least it wasn't boring. 


Insidious Chapter 2


2013  **

I'll admit this one worked a little better than the last one, and that despite myself I started to care a little about what happened to this family.  And it earned some favor for casting my pretend girlfriend Jocelin "House of the Devil" Donahue as the younger version of Barbara Hershey's character, plus I didn't predict the creepy dead old lady from the first movie was a ghost in drag.  Good for you, Chapter 2, you got a half star more!

The rage kicks in early during the opening flashback, when we see Josh as a kid get ghost-busted by a young Elise and her earlier tech geek Carl.  Elise is played by a younger actress, of course, but this poor actress obviously has her voice blorped over by the distinctly grating Lin Shaye Elise voice. (I've seen Lin Shaye in other stuff, and I'm convinced it's not her but this character, but whatever.  Elise sucks.)  At the end of the session Josh says "I'll show you" and points to a door that mysteriously opens.  More on that later.

Back in the present, the cast deals with the events that ended Insidious, namely Josh saving his kid from the world of movie smoke but getting snookered himself because he stood around yelling "leave us alone!" when he should have been hauling his spirit ass back to his actual ass.  

So Rose Byrne is living with a dead guy possessing her husband and once again a possession story makes me yawn.  There's some ghosts appearing and un-appearing and the piano plays itself a few times, but somehow it's not enough.

Meanwhile Barbara Hershey and the two geeks team up with the older geek Carl from the flashback and together they go scooby-dooing around in the middle of the night, led around by the unseen ghost of their old buddy Elise.  As they collect pieces of the puzzle it becomes apparent that their town contains nothing but long-abandoned buildings.  

Then it turns out the directions they've been following (via Carl's letter dice) aren't coming from Elise but from some bad, unhelpful ghost instead.  I thought this was hilariously inept; when you're taking advice from an invisible, inaudible person it's foolish not to establish identity.  Were JPX to contact me from the afterlife, I could probably rattle off a good half dozen questions that only ghost him would know.

Of course when we see Josh fumbling around in The Further later, actual Elise is there with her stupid scarf draped over her stupid ghost shoulders.  Then she really honked me off.

Stepping back for a bit, indulge me as I return to the rant well.  The subject?  Prequels.  I don't think prequels are necessarily bad, but they often turn out that way.  And the generally accepted lie that powers bad prequels is the idea that various elements of a given movie need to be explained in a whole other different movie.  I first became really irked by this when some ad copy for one of the later Saw movies mentioned that the origin of Jigsaw's mask was included in the story, so people could finally find out where that came from.

I mean, who's asking?  As you may remember, I often become very impatient with origin stories, and this attitude is basically making an origin story not just for the movie's main character, but for the way two characters in the movie met, that guy's distinctive motorcycle jacket, that lamp back there, almost literally WHATEVER.

Insidious Chapter 2 isn't a prequel per se, but it commits a couple of similar crimes against cinema.  I'll overlook the "How We Met Elise" flashbacks because Jocelin Donahue is involved.  But later when Josh is wandering around The Furber he winds up visiting his own house in the recent past, and we discover that the time in Insidious when the burglar alarm went off was Future Spirit Josh!  Wow, nobody saw that coming!  (Because it's stupid.)

That part was silly, but not rage inducing.  The kicker comes when they return to the scene I described above, when little Josh stands up and points and all that.  We see it from the perspective of the Further Gang (Josh and Elise and Carl) and all along it was grown up Spirit Josh that little Josh spoke to, and Spirit Josh who opened the door.  And in her astonishingly cloying, know-it-all voice, Elise says "So that's what that was all about!"

She basically distilled everything I hate about prequels into one smug, self-satisfied sentence.  Were I Elvis, I would've shot the TV.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Godzilla vs. Monster Zero


1965 ***1/2

Here are two things that have been kicking around in my head.  One:  we should start a Horrorthon Glossary.  Two:  one thing that glossary needs is a term for the non-monster characters in giant monster movies, the human actors that -- despite all my wishes -- make or break any monster movie.  "Rodeo Clowns?"  Because they're like rodeo clowns that somehow took over the rodeo?  I don't know.

I'm getting into this because this movie is particularly dominated by the rodeo clowns but I kind of asked for it -- I specifically screened this because of the bad guys' wardrobe.  They're aliens from Planet X and among their enviable technological achievements is the development of an outfit so perfect they all wear it.

As you can see, there's the added bonus of time-spanking both Geordie LaForge and DEVO.

It takes a lot to have an antenna sticking out of your head and keep your cool; I imagine in real life that would be a constant inconvenience.  Once their brains were wired together they discovered they were all into Asian chicks so they developed the perfect one of those and just made a whole bunch of her.  

Although you get a choice of metallic slabs.

The one thing that sucks about Planet X is that Monster Zero (known as King Gedorah on Earth) flies around zapping everything with lightning breath all the time, and so the whole planet is a bunch of crummy mountains.  That and they're a race of computer-controlled robot beings or something.

The guy on the right apparently just heard about this.

Rounding out the rodeo clowns is a perfectly charming bunch of Japanese people plus actor Nick Adams.  I may have to do a Nick Adams film festival some day, as he is the perfect Obnoxious American, punching his way through alien deception with his mitts and New York accent.  (I may have already done that film festival, as he's in Die, Monster, Die! and Frankenstein Conquers the World and maybe nothing else Horrorthon worthy.  Guy's a real actor, was in Rebel Without a Cause and stuff).

"Just try to computer control my BULLETS, you... Planet X guys!"

The Planet X guys ask Earth if they can borrow a couple of monsters in exchange for the cure for all diseases, which you have to admit sounds like a win-win scenario.  Then they come with their 1950's light fixture flying saucers and take the sleeping Godzilla and Rodan away in space bubbles, which they totally could have done -- and do -- without any human cooperation.

"For God's sake, Ron, do NOT play your damn Rush tape right now."

Nick Adams and a couple of buddies go to Planet X to make the trade.  Godzilla and Rodan gang up on Monster Zero and he flies away.  When the humans leave with their prize, they note that the monsters look kind of pissed, and who can blame them?

"Yo where the hell are all the tiny cars and buildings???  This planet looks like piles of poop!  This sucks!"

Next there's an adorable scene in which a room full of people sit down to listen to the massive reel-to-reel tape the aliens gave them that has the cure for all diseases on it.  And it's a fake!  The tape instead says all Earth people have 24 hour to surrender or they'll get stomped by all three monsters.  Goddamn aliens!

Fortunately Nick Adams does a James Bond and turns one of the alien women by showing her true love.  She's zapped for her trouble but not before she slips a note in his pocket that tells him Planet X guys are really vulnerable to a certain horrible noise.  As a matter of fact, the aliens have imprisoned a human inventor who they captured because he invented a device that makes that exact noise.

So Nick Adams and the inventor are in alien jail and the inventor finds the note in Nick Adams' pocket and then looks in his own pocket in which he's been carrying around his prototype noisemaker.  He presses the button and all the aliens writhe around dying and so they escape.  Then a plan is hatched to play the annoying sound on every radio everywhere and the aliens lose control of the monsters and their ships explode.

So the message of the movie is:  If you're taking over a planet and you've captured the two guys who are any threat to you... check their pockets.  Der.

Check their what now?

Godzilla vs. Monster Zero is also known as Invasion of the Astro Monster and sometimes just Monster Zero.  It's light on kaiju action but this gang of rodeo clowns did a decent job holding my interest.  The real star of this movie is the mid-60's design, from the blinky alien control rooms to the aformentioned fan-freaking-tastic outfits.  Good fun.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cottage Country



(2013) ***

Todd and Cammie are headed off to Todd’s family retreat, a remote home in the woods (aren’t they all?). Cammie, who peaked in Todd’s suitcase (jerk) finds an engagement ring and is ecstatic at the prospect of being proposed to in the idyllic setting. As the two settle in and start pounding the punanni pavement their fun is interrupted when Todd’s lower-class brother, Salinger, and Salinger’s skank girlfriend, Masha, arrive unannounced for their own weekend of skronking. Incensed that her romantic weekend is in jeopardy, Cammie insists that Todd get rid of them. Salinger digs in and declares that he is not going anywhere. As things begin to get heated the two come to blows and Todd accidentally kills Salinger with an axe. When Cammie is informed about this unfortunate event she concocts a plan with Todd to get rid of Masha so they can continue their romantic getaway in peace; she wants that proposal, damnit! All goes as planned until a group of Salinger’s friends arrive for a large party. Apparently Todd’s jerk brother made the plans without Todd’s knowledge. As the party is in full swing one of the partygoers begins questioning Salinger’s disappearance. Soon his Columbo-like sleuthing starts to pay off and Todd and Cammie are forced to kill more people to stay out of trouble.



Director Tyler Labine (Tucker and Dale Versus Evil) does a pretty good job balancing humor and gore. I do have a few nitpicks, however; Todd is so wussy that he’s almost unappealing which makes it difficult to empathize about his ruined weekend. Moreover, it’s not clear why Todd and Cammie would even be together. He’s Mr. Nice Guy and she’s a shrewish opportunist. The film’s biggest misstep, however, is the choice to bring Salinger back as a zombie to haunt Todd. Grating in life, Salinger is nothing short of irritating in death. Bringing him back as a zombie was completely unnecessary, the film was doing just fine without him. Still, Cottage Country moves at a brisk pace and it will hold your interest and keep you guessing about how it will all end up.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer to be Released with The Hobbit on December 17!


From starwars7news, The mystery surrounding the release of the much-anticipated teaser trailer may not be a mystery much longer!

That’s right folks, we might finally know exactly when the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser will be released. We are receiving strong hints from multiple sources that it will, in fact, accompany The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies when it is released on December 17th.

Firstly, our own Echo-07 has spoken with a local theater manager, who has indicated that the teaser for The Force Awakens will indeed be released along with the new Hobbit movie in December. The manager said they don’t get the trailer info very far in advance. It comes on a drive (all digital now). He said he didn’t think it would come in with Hunger Games: Mockingjay. He also said that companies (like Disney) aren’t allowed to “cross-promote” except for two times in a year. There are rules and regs about this apparently. However, since Hobbit comes out a year before Star Wars: The Force Awakens it could be close enough to be within these rules.

Secondly, we have this tweet from Reece Steel containing a fairly definitive quote from Tommy Gormley, the first assistant director on The Force Awakens (who recently received a BAFTA award):

UPDATE! The tweet and the whole account of the person who posted it has been deleted. Here’s a screencapture:



And as we recently reported, director Peter Jackson has visited the set ofThe Force Awakens during principle photography. Was this a coincidence? Who knows…

We will keep you posted with updates as we receive them, but it is beginning to look a lot like we’ll be getting our first glimpse of the new Star Wars movie along with our last cinematic visit to Middle Earth next month.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opens December 17, almost exactly one year before Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

'The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death' trailer

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ATM



(2012) **

In the aftermath of a company holiday party, nice-guy David is thrilled when his office crush, Emily, allows him to drive her home. David has been admiring Emily for a while and he is finally gathering up the courage to make his move. However, his excitement is quickly quashed when his obnoxious co-worker Corey (anyone named “Corey” is obnoxious, am I right? *crickets*) invites himself along. Adding insult to injury drunken Corey insists that they stop at a remote ATM Kiosk in the middle of a large, dark parking lot so he can get some money for pizza. Out of spite David parks far away forcing Corey to walk through the foreboding parking lot. When Corey’s ATM card does not work the other two go into the ATM to see what the problem is. Glancing out onto the parking lot they spy a menacing hooded figure in a parka. Corey suggests that they head to the car, where all 3 conveniently left their cell phones, but Emily fears the man will rob them and reasons that it would be safer to remain in the ATM building where one needs a card to get inside. Anxiety turns to horror when the hooded figure murders a dog walker. Soon the menacing, hooded figure disables the heat to the building and the temperature begins to drop to match the sub-freezing temperature outside. The cat and mouse game begins.



ATM is a 30 minute (at most) idea stretched to 70. I generally like a good “predicament” story (this is the same director who directed ‘Buried’) but watching these three ding-a-lings make one stupid decision after another was maddening. Right from the outset the trio of dumb dumbs should have simply walked out the door. There are three of them and only one of him, he doesn’t look like he could move very quickly and he is not brandishing a weapon. Other nitpicks; It’s 5 below zero yet none of them thought to wear a sensible jacket? Also, what is the probability that three people would leave their cell phones in the car at the same time? If you’re like me, your phone is never more than a few feet away from you, am I right? *crickets*. ATM commits ‘The Strangers’ sin; we are never provided with the killer’s motivation so what’s the point of it all?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

'The Peanuts Movie' trailer!

New Universal monster movies are officially going to be awful


From slashfilm, Universal has a plan to reboot its Universal Monsters characters, and it shouldn’t even come as a big surprise: the monsters will anchor action/adventure movies, not horror films. That’s the angle we knew the studio was planning with the new Mummy movie, to be directed byAlex Kurtzman. They’ve done this before, with the last Mummy franchise, and it was a success. (For a while.) They tried it with Van Helsing, which was a joke of a movie. But theFast/Furious model seems too good to ditch now, and so the “horror” part of these monster movies is being pitched in the bin.

Read what Universal’s chief said about the new reboots below.

During a THR roundtable featuring studio heads, Donna Langley, the head of Universal, said that while Universal doesn’t have superheroes, it does have the Monsters. And they’ll basically be approached as superheroes:

We don’t have any capes [in our film library]. But what we do have is an incredible legacy and history with the monster characters. We’ve tried over the years to make monster movies — unsuccessfully, actually. And we had an epihany, which is that the horror genre has a ceiling; it’s not global. There’s a reason why monster characters are enduring, generation upon generation. So we took a good, hard look at it, and we settled upon an idea, which is to take it out of the horror genre, put it more in the action-adventure genre and make it present day, bringing these incredibly rich and complex characters into present day and reimagine them and reintroduce them to a contemporary audience.

For a couple of the monster characters, there’s reason to deviate from horror. The Mummy clearly can work as action/adventure, though the character’s horror underpinnings are important. And the Invisible Man can be a thriller more than anything else, but the story should still have that underlying element of derangement, as the central character really loses his mind. There can be a superhero-like element to these stories, and that principle doesn’t have to be the downfall of the monsters.

But they are monsters, and the stories are horror at their core, even if they’re not modernParanormal Activity-type horror. And rather than trying to innovate or forge a path with these characters that is unusual in the current landscape, Universal — facing the eventual end of the Fast/Furious films — seems to be playing it safe, and cramming these characters into a model that already works for other stories.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Happy Halloween from the Griffins!



It was another great horrorthon this year (until I read how much Octo hated Insidious), and I look forward to next year's!  Now, on to my Christmas movie blog!  (not really) (Wow, that'd be rough.  Do you think there's another group of people like us that try to watch as many Xmas movies as possible during December?  And if so, have they reviewed Black Xmas?)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Insidious


2010  *1/2

Or as I like to call it, Insidpid...ous!  Anyone?

Okay I know that's not so great, but the only emotional places this movie struck me were various points on the annoyance-to-rage spectrum.  Nossir, I didn't like it.

It's possible my feelings were adversely affected by JPX's review of the sequel (which I read the day before I watched this), but I sincerely doubt it.  Actually I think that review just helped me better define my anger as it swept over me, especially this delicious quote from director James Wan himself:

“What I like to do with the soundtrack is set you on edge with a really loud … atonal scratchy violin score, mixing with some really weird piano bangs and take that away and all of a sudden, you’re like, 'What just happened there?'"

For me this translates directly as "I don't know what I'm doing."  I mean, jeez, that's every bad thing we ever say on this blog about the music and sound design in American horror movies rolled into some kind of mission statement.  That's like hearing Michael Bay say "What I like to do is get some army guys and some robots and bkkeewww!  Blamm!  Kaboom!  Pew pew!  And then like tons more of that bullshit until the movie time is all filled up!"  For me the music in Insidious seemed like somebody was rolling a bowling ball around inside a piano, which served less as a soundtrack and more like an annoying distraction.  

Coupled with that was the arrogant notion that you can build a whole movie around "There was an indicator that something or someone was there, but when I checked there was neither anything nor anyone there!  Gaw!"  Don't get me wrong, that tactic can be used to amazing effect, indeed much of my  beloved original Ju-on relies on a variation of that technique.  But it requires some skill; it's not scary on a base level and can therefore be easily abused.  

Take mister Darth Maul ghost up there in the picture.  I'd seen this still before so when the scene started and I saw Dumb Dad with that painting behind him I knew Darth Maul was probably showing up soon.   But I was puzzled, because it just a scene of Dumb Dad sitting around a table talking with his mom and his wife (Barbara Hershey and Rose Byrne, both actresses who I like and forgive for being in this movie).  Sure enough, Barbara Hershey sees Darth Maul behind Dumb Dad and she screams, and then gulp!  He's not there anymore!  

I watched Bob from Twin Peaks advance across the living room and it chilled my blood, but these maneuvers are cheap and artless and deployed all through the movie.  D-minus.

Little did I know it was about to get much worse

Insidious does deserve a technical credit for listening to Eddie Murphy and having the white people in the haunted house move out of the haunted house, but when that doesn't work they revert to type and invite more white people over, led by the impossibly cloying Elise.  I never thought I would ever miss the crazy midget psychic lady from Poltergeist so much.

Should I give credit to JPX's review for influencing my feelings here?  I don't think so, it seemed to come from within, and I hated this woman immediately upon hearing her speak.  It seemed obvious that she was meant to be as friendly, normal and grounded a person as possible to provide a solid basis for the parapsychological jibbity jabber that would soon be coming out of her mouth, but they waaaay overdid it.  Even hearing her ask for tea made me want to slap her, and then when she started saying things like "I believe your son is a very talented Traveler" and "I call it 'The Further,'" I just rolled my eyes.  I think I actually wanted there to be no such thing as ghosts in the movie about ghosts just so I could rub her stupid face in it. 

Besides this series and Sinister, I haven't forayed too deeply into the new generation of haunted house flicks (spawned I guess by the Paranormal series, none of which I have yet seen).  I adored Sinister, but my suspicion is I'll be wading through more experiences like this before I adore another.  I know this flick worked better for some of my fellow Horrorthonners, and I'm truly pleased for you, but Insidious was, for me, a pretty thorough failure.

Coming up next:  I review Insidious: Chapter 2, because I can't resist a good train wreck!

More Universal Monster Writers Confirmed


From slashfilm, It’s like something out of a mad scientist movie: Universal is building its own brain trust like a Frankenstein’s monster version of the Pixar brain trust. We know that two key players in this team are Chris Morgan (Fast/Furious) and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek), with Kurtzman writing and directing a new Mummy picture. Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners) wasrecently confirmed to be on board to write a new Wolfman movie. Now Noah Hawley(Fargo TV series creator/writer) and Ed Solomon (Men in Black, Now You See Me) are confirmed as part of the group as well.

THR reports the names, though we’ve known that Hawley was working on a Universal Monsters movie. We don’t know what characters most of these guys will tackle, or in what order. But THR does say that “other planned movies [besides the Mummy and Wolf Man] revolve around the characters of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein and vampire hunter Van Helsing.”

Earlier this fall, the film Dracula Untold was given a modern-day coda which theoretically allows it to be linked to this series. Whether that version of Dracula will be the one explored going forward it something we don’t know.

The trade also says that this crew is being assembled to work in a manner that is somewhat like Pixar’s brain trust, and something like a TV writer’s room, where everyone collaborates on the broad strokes of the series and characters. The goal is to “work on a model of serialized storytelling.” Guzikowski’s Wolfman will be a new version of the character, and “hopefully re-launch a franchise and also weave in with the movies of the other monster characters.”

As we’ve reported, Kurtzman’s The Mummy will be the first effort in this overall series, with a release date set for June 24, 2015.