This one sounds promising. Any film that includes "biblical plagues" is okay in my book:
"Two brand new official pics from Warner Bros. upcoming horror film The Reaping, which stars Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, Annasophia Robb and William Ragsdale. In ‘The Reaping’, Hilary Swank plays a former Christian missionary who lost her faith after her family was tragically killed, and has since become a world-renowned expert in disproving religious phenomena. But when she investigates a small Louisiana town that is suffering from what appear to be the Biblical plagues, she realizes that science cannot explain what is happening and she must regain her faith to combat dark forces threatening the community..."
Thursday, December 29, 2005
This little blurb comes from Moviesonline:
"Director Neil LaBute's "The Wicker Man", is a remake of Robin Hardy's 1973 thriller. LaBute directs the movie for which he also has written the adaptation for. The story follows a sheriff investigating the disappearance of a young girl on a remote island off the coast of Maine. His hopes of unraveling the girl's disappearance become increasingly uncertain when he discovers evidence of pagan rituals."
I still haven't seen the second one but I recall Octopunk hating it. Looks like a third is on deck:
"Bloody Disgusting recently reiterated expected news that Sienna Guillory is set to reprise her role as Jill Valentine and leading lady Milla Jovovich will once again play Alice in Sony Screen Gems' "Resident Evil: Afterlife". The pair join Mike Epps who confirmed a few weeks back that he would return during an interview.
What's new in the story is that Leon Kennedy and Wekser (characters from the game) look to be appearing in the film and that shocking enough - Paul W.S. Anderson is tapped to direct once again, off a script he is currently writing. The rumour comes as a surprise considering Anderson is already linked with three other projects right now including the vidgame adaptation "Castlevania", the remake "Deathrace 3000" and the nuclear action thriller "Man with the Football".
In any case, 'Afterlife' is now aiming at a 2007 release."
Friday, December 16, 2005
Before Star Wars came out, I was given a book of cover illustrations for early 20th century sci-fi pulps, Amazing Stories and the like. This book fascinated me beyond anything I had at that point, these 50-year-old paintings of impossible skyscrapers, weird machines and life on Neptune. Here’s a gallery of Frank R. Paul, the most famous of those artists, to let you know what I mean. When I think back to my own nascent imagination at that time, I figure it was mostly about that book, plus my knowledge that there were dinosaurs once.
I still have an affinity for that early 20th century sci-fi fantasy vibe, so magnificently fleshed out by The Fifth Element and the Coruscant scenes from Star Wars. And now King Kong. Jack Black calls Skull Island “the last place off the maps,” and that’s just the kind of energy this old stuff has. I imagine the readers in the 30’s thought of these places as somewhere you could really go, if you had the right spirit. I imagine that, for them, the spires of New York were those impossible skyscrapers.
Picture this thing that we’re all chasing, us nerds. These stories of outer space, the supernatural, monsters and robots. These movies, toys, comic books, cartoons, beloved TV shows – all this stuff that forms the dragon tail we’re clinging to, trying to recapture the thrill of new toys on Christmas morning or the delight of settling down on the floor with a big pad and a fistful of magic markers. That. That thing. The place where your mind goes when it wanders. Peter Jackson gives you that place with this movie. He busts through the thick ice of time, reality and half-assed attempts and draws out the pure, glowing elixir of everything you want.
The Skull Island that Jackson gives us is a place of dreams. Dreams that eat you. Compared to Skull Island, the jungles of Jurassic Park are drab, technical and real. Here, every shot is lush and dramatic. The sense of the place as Wild is palpable like a panic attack. The danger is relentless and everywhere (one of my favorite scenes is of a pursuing dinosaur that is still chewing on its last kill as it runs). There are overgrown structures all over the place, speaking of unfathomable history, but now its human denizens cling to the outside of the ancient wall like scuttling crabs, quite literally stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. Skull Island was handed over to the inmates a long, long time ago. You just gotta see it.
Of course, none of this would work if the story and characters didn’t work, but we’re in luck. In my excitement about this movie’s release, I somehow forgot to think about Kong as a character, as a personality. That’s why he’s the world’s favorite monster (screw you, Godzilla) –- people love him. The best way I can sum up their success in making that work is: he's the main character of this movie. And amazingly, this movie is a love story, and one of the purest I’ve seen. By the time they’re in New York, all Kong and Ann want is to be with each other, even though they never have anything to look forward to, or any idea about what to do. Ann becomes as lost as Kong, and Naomi Watts sells the two of them so well I never questioned it at all. I loved him, too.
There’s a ton of other stuff I could say, with a movie this dense. Other characters and themes and things to see. But that's what hit me, and hit me hard. I'll wrap with a few bullet points:
The lamest part of any story with a weird, monster-filled island is when the natives show up. Here you’ve got monsters to see and now we’re supposed to get interested in spears and such. Not so in this movie. For one thing, you see the natives before you see the monsters. For another, the natives are fucking creepy. Brrr.
Thankfully, there isn’t one second of screen time about going back to NYC.
Last one’s a teeny spoiler.
There isn’t a hint of this in any trailer I’ve seen, but Kong doesn’t fight just one T-rex. He fights three. Yeah.
http://www.darkhorizons.com/news05/051216c.php is reporting the following,
"Whilst it shattered industry records in many foreign territories for its opening day, Universal Pictures' "King Kong" took in just $9.8 million in its debut on the domestic front despite strong critical praise and very heavy promotion.
The Peter Jackson directed epic was not surprisingly ranked No. 1 in every market it opened in, whilst $9.8 million is nothing to be shy about. Nevertheless among Wednesday openers that places it a disappointing 21st on the list. It has raised a few eyebrows when compared to other titles like the less enthusiastically received "War of the Worlds" with which took $21.3 million or the less promoted "Batman Begins" which scored $15.1 million on their opening Wednesdays this year. The first of Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" films, the weakest opener in the series, still managed twice that amount on its opening Wednesday.
Just as curious, but in a different way is the tone of reviews. The film has scored amongst the best reviews of the year, yet reaction is surprisingly sharply divided upon closer examination. Some of the older more stalwart critics who've been doing the job for years in major print publications have emphatically embraced the picture, a surprise considering they're usually the first who don't normally click to mainstream blockbuster fantasies. On the filpside a lot of major online critics, people who sometimes get dismissed for being far too kind to films of this type, have been quite mixed or only mildly positive. Complaints also run along the same lines, the most common citing the film's bloated length with sequences far too drawn out and/or pandering to "Jackson's self indulgence".
How the film will fare this weekend remains to be seen, though the soft Wednesday does ensure this beast won't be smashing much in the way of records or "saving the box-office" as pundits were hoping. Nevertheless good word of mouth should ensure healthy business through the holiday season."
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Oh. My. God. I just got back from seeing King Kong and I'm so completely blown away I don't even know what to write. There's sooooo so so much that isn't even hinted at in the trailers. Astounding. Go see it. It's like the most satisfying slice of adventure cake you ever had. With ice cream.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Nudity and gore galore - go here to see the new trailer.
Here's a blurb about if from November 2004, "Director Mike Hurst will helm and write a sequel to House of the Dead by Uwe Boll. The original, which was based on the best-selling video game from Sega, tells the story of a group of college students who go to a rave on a mysterious island and get more than they bargained for when they find themselves stalked by killer zombies and terrifying creatures intent on feasting on the flesh of the living. With only a few weapons and time running out, they take shelter in an ancient house, inside which they will uncover the secrets of the "House of the Dead"."
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Sarah Michelle Gellar has now officially signed on to reprise her role -- albeit briefly -- in the horror sequel The Grudge 2 for Columbia Pictures and Ghost House Pictures, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Gellar will return to pass the supernatural curse -- introduced in the first installation -- on to the franchise's next lead victim, an actor to be cast soon. Director Takashi Shimizu, scribe Stephen Susco and producers Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert and Taka Ichise also are on board for the sequel. "The union of Sarah's innocent girl-next-door persona and Shimizu's twisted Eastern perspective should spawn another original and terrifying tale for the audience," Raimi said. The Grudge 2 hits theaters October 20th, 2006.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
From a BBC article about the enduring appeal of King Kong:
"Both Mr Freer and Mr Setchfield dismiss critics who say the film is merely an indulgence by its director.
"Jackson wanted to remake Kong because it's a real labour of love," says Mr Freer.
"I don't think it is a vanity project," adds Mr Setchfield.
Who the heck are these critics? What's wrong with an indulgent vanity project when it's Peter Jackson? Did they even see Lord of the Rings?
The "labour of love" scenario is the best thing movie audiences could hope for, and it's the opposite of the way most movies are made today. Some day I would love to helm a beautiful, expensive stop-motion movie that my peers loved and that made no money, becoming a cult movie that doesn't recoup it's costs until a decade of dvd sales. I'd rather make something successful, natch, but sometimes I think I'd be more likely to pull that gag, and just get suckers to bankroll me once.
With its five-day opening weekend, I'll be very surprised if Kong doesn't make back its production costs by the 18th.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Friday, December 02, 2005
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Erroneously believing that “Bubba”, a mentally challenged adult, has murdered a young girl, 4 men take it upon themselves to rid their tiny town of this perceived menace. After violently assassinating Bubba, the four men go to court but are acquitted due to a lack of evidence. Soon after, the men begin seeing a freaky-looking scarecrow appearing in their pastures and then things begin to get weird. As Bubba’s mother says, “there are other forms of justice on this earth”.
Back in the 70s and early 80s when there were only 3 television channels (4 if you counted PBS [boo!] or a half dozen if you counted UHF [better!]), you didn’t have a lot of viewing options. For me, one salient aspect of this pre-cable television era, or as I call it, “the Medieval times”, is that the “Movie of the Week” often consisted of dark, twisted horror tales that scared the crap out of my young, still-developing psyche. Although more often than not my mother forced me to go to bed (e.g., Star Wars Holiday Special!!!) effectively preventing me from ever seeing the endings of these little creepfests, I somehow managed to catch all of Dark Night of the Scarecrow and it’s always stayed with me. Yes the tale is simple and by today’s standards it follows a very predictable paint-by-numbers revenge formula, but damnit, DKOTS still works! With its sinister music, Halloween-ish camera work, and a “less-is-more” mentality, DKOTS remains a prime example of how to make an effective “horror” movie. You just don’t see movies like DKOTS on commercial television anymore.
Go here for a list of all the made-for-tv horror films of the 70s and early 80s.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
In the wake of this year’s thon I had a couple flicks left over that I was too curious about to wait an entire 11 months to watch. I intend to give Freeze Me, Audition and High Tension repeat viewings next year and write “formal” reviews for them, but right now I wanted to float some ideas brought out by the twist at the end of High Tension.
In other words, I’m about to spoil it.
So if you don’t want to know,
Okay! First of all: I agree with Summerisle, this twist is needless. I was completely grooving on how successfully scary that killer is, and the arbitrary targeting of Alexia’s family was part of that mystique. When it turns out that it’s all in Marie’s head, so that she can “save” Alexia, it felt like the filmmakers thought they needed a dash of M. Night Shyamalan to wrap up the story.
Props to I’mnotMarc for immediately asking the most pertinent question, “did anybody really have oral sex with a severed head?” Sadly, no.
There are elements in the setup that telegraph the twist a bit: Marie’s dream, the girls’ discussion about Alexia’s many boyfriends to Marie’s none, and, best of all, that Marie is masturbating as the killer is driving up in his truck. I also find it interesting that the killer’s raw brutality is a function of his being a figment – he’s the idea of a brutal killer, and therefore he’s worse, literally inhuman.
Unfortunately, any amount of punch to be gleaned from this twist is out the window after Marie’s revealed herself and we’re still watching a fat guy in jumpsuit. This is particularly nutty when she’s attacking the car with the circular saw: Alexia’s not seeing a fat guy, the poor driver’s not seeing a fat guy – how come we’re seeing a fat guy?
Answer: the filmmakers aren’t really all that into their own twist; they’d rather just have their scary fat guy on the rampage. So would I, for that matter, but dropping him in after they’d gone round the twist feels like a cheat. They'd have been better off ending it with more scenes of Marie in Murder Mode (and those flashes of her doing the family could be meatier as well). The actress certainly has the chops to do a good crazy. If they liked her so much better as a heroine, they should have left her that way. Or, if they really thought a tale of a random spree-killer wasn’t enough without the addition of the Worst Crush Ever, then they should’ve given that a fuller treatment.
Regardless, I am looking forward to watching this again; there’s a lot of interesting features to a movie depicting events that aren’t really happening. For instance:
This explains why Marie hides upstairs and listens to the whole family being murdered without helping.
Alexia’s behavior when Marie finds her bound makes more sense; it’s not that she’s inconsolable, it’s that Marie was the one who chained her up in the first place (this also better explains why Marie can’t get the gag off).
Marie, as the killer, actually pours alcohol on Alexia and threatens to burn her.
Marie hands Alexia the kitchen knife and calls the cops, so it’s clear she’s really quite nutty nutty hoo hoo.
Marie never really drives that zippy car (I was pleased that she imagined herself in something stylish). Despite this, she still has the head wound from the accident, even after we know the truth.
Lastly, it's fun to think about the sheer amount of work Marie had to do to set this all up. Renting a rusty van, filling it with tools, parking it in the country, getting back home again...quite amazing. Apparently she really needed to get laid.
I have a feeling these musings are much longer than my review will be, but there you are. I’d give this a ***1/2, at least.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Upon learning that a young child has been murdered in a brutal fashion, Claudia is convinced that it is her missing daughter. Although the body was badly burned from head to toe with acid and all of the teeth were removed, enough clues suggest that her worst fears are true. Fast forward 5 years and Claudia is now divorced and working as an author. One day she receives an eerie phone call from a girl claiming to be her daughter (e.g., “They told you I was killed but they lied”). Before learning where the girl is being held, they are cut off. With the aid of a retired cop who never stopped working on the case and a reporter working for an occult magazine, Claudia begins investigating the nameless cult who kidnapped her daughter. Through her investigation she learns that this cult is a secret society that has existed for centuries and has had people like Adolph Hitler for members. Apparently the cult is, “devoted to the practice of pure horror, torture, abduction, and killing as a way to purification and power.” Furthermore, the cult believes that as long as they remain nameless they are not responsible for adhering to the conventions of human morality. In other words, they are very evil.
My thirst for horror didn’t end with the conclusion of the Horrorthon. Over the weekend I watched 3 films and enjoyed them all. The Nameless is by the same person who directed Darkness (2002) and shares many of the same atmospheric qualities. Like Darkness, however, The Nameless at times becomes bogged down by said atmosphere at the expense of moving the story forward. Despite its shortcomings, the overall result is satisfying enough to warrant my high rating. The Nameless works because it has an older, unknown cast, it's humorless, and there's no terrible rock soundtrack. What we get instead is a dark, brooding, creepy tale along the same lines as Seven and Silence of the Lambs. Like Darkness, the ending is surprising, bleak, and a bit abrupt but it certainly packs a wallop. This will be great for future ‘thons.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Okay, this news is several weeks old, but I just found out.
More embarrassing is this: when this news was already three weeks old, I said:
"I think some day somebody will make a good movie based on a video game. I think this movie will do things differently somehow, manage to pull out the kineticism and punch of the game without sacrificing the storytelling or the characterization. And I don't think Uwe Boll will have anything to do with it."
Let's hope this film is the one. Because if you consult this list of movies based on video games (except Doom), you'll find a couple of mildly good times, but no standouts.
Of course, if by some cosmic accident Jackson picks Uwe Boll to direct this movie, my whole universe will suck into itself like the house at the end of Poltergeist.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
1. Favorite: Audition, hands down. This was one of the only films this year that made my skin crawl (“deeper, deeper, deeper. . .”)
2. Hidden gem: The Ghost Ship. A psychotic ship captain starts murdering his shipmates in this very dark tale. One death in particular is pretty brutal. I’d also have to include Homebodies, I mean when else have we seen murderous elderly people?
3. Most disturbing: No competition here, the final third of Audition disturbed me so much that I can’t look at Asian girls the same way anymore. The only problem is that I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to sit through this film again.
4. Scream queen: Simone Simon from Cat People, attractive yet weird and creepy.
5. Worst: The Embalmer, the box cover promised me a scary version of Skeletor and all I got was this lousy tee shirt. Also, the remake of The Fog was dreadful.
6. So bad it’s good: Head of the Family, I mean, he has an enormous head, that’s just so freakin’ funny! It’s just so large, oh God, I have tears in my eyes.
7. Goriest: I’d have to go with Infection on this one. Summerisle wasn’t as taken with the ooze of the infection because it was green, but I was totally disgusted. The sounds alone made me want to hurl.
8. Most memorable death: The first victim in House of Wax meets a terrible end involving a lot of hot wax.
9. Best looking monster: Wow, I didn’t really see a lot of “monster” movies this year. I guess I’ll go with the bloody boy from Shallow Grave.
10. Scariest: Not a lot to choose from this year. Again, the Asians have it with their creepy, longhaired women. I’d go with Premonition or Face.
11. Best Horror Release in 2005: If I was going to go strictly by what I watched during the Horrorthon I’d have to go with House of Wax, although Shallow Ground was good too despite the incoherent final few minutes.
While it might seem silly of me to write a summary when I finished with a score of 3, I wound up watching several movies I never reviewed. It may have had something to do with forgetting my password after every post. Just could never seem to remember the damn thing and it didn't help matters that Blogspot's password recovery thing takes a day to kick in.
More likely though, it was because the newest expansion pack for the Sims came out at the beginning of the month and I spent most of October glued to that. Frankly, I'm amazed I managed to get so much work done given how much time I devoted to that friggin game.
Anyhow, I only saw about 6 or 7 movies for the thon, but I'm going to milk those 6 or 7 for all they're worth.
1. Favorite: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - The death of Kevin McCarthy provides a wicked epilogue to a candy-ass 50's sci-fi flick. That wickedness permeates the 70s "sequel"
2. Hidden Gem Award: Alone in the Dark (1982) - to clarify, without Landau, Pleasence and Palance, this movie's dead in the water, but they bring their A-game to B-level material.
3. Most Disturbing: Dunwich Horror - It's disturbing how little I cared about this movie.
4. Scream Queen: Donald Sutherland when he sees the human chick at the end of Snatchers
5. Worst: Pirhana II - Mentally comparing the scariness of the thing popping out of your chest being an alien, versus the thing popping out of your chest being a fish, somehow the fish doesn't match up.
6. So Bad It's Good: Pirhana II again. Campy fun seeing rookie Lance Henriksen ham-hand this whole movie. Plenty of cheesecake to go around.
7. Goriest: None of them really, but the decomposition in Snatchers is rather fucked up.
8. Most Memorable Death: The cockroach scene in Elm Street 4
9. Best Looking Monster: Not much to choose from here. I'll go with the naked chick inside Joey's waterbed in Elm Street 4 who turns out later to be Freddy. Octopunk exclaimed, "Joey's the only one in the Elm Street series that gets to see any tits."
10. Scariest: Snatchers again. From the shocked yelp DS emits after hearing the cop car/body impact when McCarthy exits the scene, I was hooked.
11. Best of 2005: I'd put Hide and Seek here, but I don't think it really deserves to be number 1 at anything so I'm going to say it was the second best 05 movie I watched and leave the top spot blank.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
1) Favorite: It's a complete tossup between Audition and High Tension. If forced to choose I'd go with High Tension right now but this is subject to change. (I didn't include Wicker Man which would win every year)
2) Hidden Gem: It's depressing because last year overflowed with these - Bucket of Blood, Sadist, Zombi 2, She Demons, and others I'm forgetting. This year was much more disappointing in that respect but I think this one goes to the unique Shallow Ground. Terror Train was also a surprise hit.
3) Most Disturbing: That would be Audition.
4) Scream Queen: Asia Argento for Land of the Dead and Stendhal Syndrome.
5) Worst: While Zombie 3, 4 & 5 all made me consider throwing my DVD player out of the window, Curse of the Werewolf earns this prize for being even more boring than my job. Evilspeak, you sucked a lot too.
6) So Bad It's Good: Night of the Comet because of it's unapologetic 80's stupidity.
7) Goriest: Day of the Dead followed closely by City of the Living Dead, Land of the Dead and any other of the Dead that I forgot to mention.
8) Memorable Death: The bastard who had it coming in Stendhal Syndrome.
9) Best Looking Monster: Those damn Mushroom People really opened my eyes man, to a world beyond time and space, a place where the rainbows ride horses.
10) Scariest: The High Tension slovenly soulless butcher really got to me.
11) Best of 2005: Land of the Dead because it was better than it had any right to be.
1. Favorite: The Gift. Just a great movie on so many levels.
2. Hidden Gem Award: Alone in the Dark (1982) Pleasance, Palance and Landau acting like total nustos...and Barclay, too!
3. Most Disturbing: Living Hell, to nobody's surprise.
4. Scream Queen: I'm going with Ona Grauer in House of the Dead. Just the right combo of stately and curvy.
5. Worst: Howling VII, without a doubt. There's a scene I didn't mention, which was a montage of the main character getting friendly with his new job and the locals. At one point he and two other guys are sweeping up the bar while wearing inexplicable giant red sombreros. Then, they start doing a little dance together. I would actually eat a live cricket before watching that movie again.
6. So Bad It's Good: The Crawling Hand by a wide margin, although honorable mentions go out to Cheerleader Massacre and Prophecy (not the Walken one, the other one).
7. Goriest: Hellbound, for that scene with the straight razor and the mattress. I didn't do zombies this year, which is definitely the opportunity for ambitious amounts of gore (okay, I saw House of the Dead, but give me a break).
8. Most Memorable Death: Although Cursed is eminently skippable, Shannon Elizabeth trying to crawl away with half her body missing -- that was inspired.
9. Best Looking Monster: Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Freddy Kreuger in the form of a giant worm. Very effective, whether gobbling down Patricia Arquette or giving Nancy the stink-eye. An honorable mention goes to the caged mutations in Die Monster Die!
10. Scariest: Halloween. This may have been the best viewing of this movie I've ever had. I guess I was just in the right mood; I felt every nuance of the suspenceful buildup. When Michael slowly emerged from the shadowy doorway to finally go after Laurie, my blood was chilled to the perfect temperature.
11. Best of 2005: Skeleton Key, which I didn't watch for the 'thon. The only 2005 flicks I watched for the contest were Hide and Seek and Ring Two, neither of which qualify.
Grand Moff Tarkin and Count Dooku, er, I mean Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee star in the low budget, but fun romp Horror Express. The film is set in 1906 and Lee plays an anthropologist who has discovered what he believes to be the “missing link” frozen in the wastelands of China. After excavating and boxing up his monster popsicle, Lee heads to Russia aboard a trans-Siberian express train with monster safely in storage. While on board Lee runs into his old friend, Peter Cushing, hooray! When Lee refuses to reveal the contents of his cargo, Cushing bribes a guard to sneak a peek in the box and report back to him. Looking into the box proves to be fatal for the guard, however, and the monster is unleashed, slaughtering all in his path. The glimpses we get of this missing link suggest that he most resembles Sasquatch from that Six Million Dollar Man episode that scared the crap out of me as a kid.
All good things come to an end. I think I’ve been putting this, my final review off for a while because I haven’t wanted to accept that Horrorthon 2005 has officially ended. How can 31 days and dozens of films about ghosts, witches, serial killers, and torture go by so quickly? As usual, the Horrorthon has only made me hungry for more. I actually started Horror Express in the middle of the month and it took me about 6 attempts to get through it. Don’t get me wrong I actually really enjoyed this film. I think what happened is that Horror Express was always slotted to be the second (or final) film that I was going to watch in the evening and by time I got around to it I would always fall asleep. There’s nothing worse than waking up to see the credits of a film rolling and the realization that you just slept though it. Well this happened 6 times! If for no other reason this film is a joy to watch just to see Cushing and Lee playing off each other in their heyday. Cushing offers the best line of the film when, after it is suggested that the monster aboard the train could be himself or Lee he a matter-of-factly states, “Monster? We’re British, you know”.
Monday, November 14, 2005
(2000, Japanese) ****1/2
Years after his wife's death, Shigehura Aoyama is encouraged by his son to start dating again. Out of practice and socially inept, he opts for holding a fake movie audition as a shortcut to finding his next love. The woman he "casts" has all the makings of a perfect new wife. She's lovely, humble, obedient and was once a very talented ballet dancer. Much of the movie plays like a love story and it is surprisingly engaging even without the ominous undercurrent. As the viewer and Aoyama learn more about his mysterious belle, the film slowly tightens like a noose until it's too late for everyone involved.
The unbelievably shocking climax cannot be understated. Nothing I could write would ever be able to prepare you for the unforgettably horrific events that transpire. Shocking. Just shocking. And the sounds. That awful, awful sound took weeks to get out of my head. And now, thanks to this review, it's back!
Yet again the Japanese leave their American counterparts to sit in the corner and think about what they haven't done.
Not one of Argento's strongest films by any means, Trauma is still interesting for fans as it's his first and only movie that takes place in the US. It follows an anorexic sixteen year old (played by daughter Asia) on the lam from a mental institution. Shortly thereafter, her parents are beheaded by a traveling nutjob. After striking up a relationship with a local druggie, the two set out to find the killer. This killer uses a strange motorized hand-held gizmo with piano wire to collect the trophies of his victims. Tom Savini is on board to do the dirty work.
This movie faded relatively quickly from my memory partly because it was one too many Argento movies this year, but mainly because I was still numb after seeing Audition on the same day. Piper Laurie (of Twin Peaks fame) plays the mom and she once again does a bang up job portraying a mean bitty.
I wonder why Argento would film his underage daughter naked in this movie and then torture her beyond belief in the Stendhal Syndrome a few years later. Perhaps it's a way for him to justify his controversially violent career. They can't get offended by how he mistreats his female characters if his own flesh and blood is the one on the chopping block. Not that he "mistreats" women, he just puts them in extreme situations that are sometimes erotic but more likely downright vicious.
And Dario, there's more to life than serial killers! (All due respect of course).
Sunday, November 13, 2005
(1982) ***1/2 (previously reviewed by Octo & JPX)
I'm surprised that the trend of bringing back old B-movies to the big screen never really caught fire, aside from the inexplicable Rocky Horror Picture Show phenomenon. Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3D would be a perfect midnight movie selection for nostalgiac 80's slasher movie fans. Audience participation is all but required when lines like "would you want to be yourself if you looked like me?" are uttered by the awkward prankster, or when Tommy Chong reaches through the screen to offer you a larger than life doob. The proper responses are "Awwwwww..." and "Whooooooh!!" respectively. Crappily, the 3 dimensional effects were only working well for a good 20 minutes of the movie. Shame on Coolidge Corner for ruining a rare opportunity to see this classic by their incompetent (or just downright lazy) projectionist (See JPX's angry/cranky letter to the theater). The one saving grace was that we were able to enjoy the harpoon sequence in all its three dimensional glory.
I'll spare you the plot synopsis (this is the 3rd review of this movie on the blog site) but Part 3D is simply a joy and can be filed under the "They-just-don't-make'em-like-this-anymore" category. I've said it before and I'll say it again - it's the best movie the series has to offer. If one hasn't seen any of the 11 Jason movies then they would be well advised to start here. Unlike some of the later sequels, Jason kills his hapless victims with grace and humility. Not even the faulty projection and the profoundly unfunny fat guy behind us could keep me from having a good time.
Like all F13 movies, the target audience here is rowdy teenagers on dates. The squeamish girl watching the movie screams, her date laughs and then puts his arm around her. Everybody wins. So in a way, Jason is actually helping teenagers by killing them. Hmmmmm...
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
This was a great one to end on. That's right, this is my last review. My final score: Fifty-seven movies. Last year I watched forty-one more movies than that, and even just saying that right now makes my shoulders ache with exhaustion. Good gravy, the combination of glee and punishment that makes up this experience...I just can't wait till next year.
I went out with a bang; this movie completely rocks. I know that at face value it just seems like a big marketing maneuver, and that was probably why I didn't see it when it came out. But this turned out to be a really good idea. Look at where the franchises are. There's so many movies, their coexistence is already pretty clumsy. How did Jason get from being a little toxic waste-covered kid in the Manhattan sewer to the SWAT scene that opens Goes to Hell? Does it really matter anymore? And you know who else has so many stories told about them the notion of one single story is lost? Batman. Spider-man. All those guys. Treating horror icons like comic book characters is already what they're doing, conscious or not, so teaming two of them together is exactly the right move. Still, they could have screwed up, and they didn't.
This starts with something we've never actually seen: an alive Freddy Kreuger with one of his victims. No gore, just a scared little girl -- but what a punch. Then there's a fun montage of Freddy footage, as the voice-over tells us about the good old days when people feared him. Now he can't come back because nobody is afraid of him, which I think is a brilliant stroke. No more of this stuff about souls, they took a hint from New Nightmare and made him a creature of fear. He pops into Jason's dreams and, impersonating Mom, lays down Jason's new, broad rules: "You can never die. Go to Elm Street" That's it, it's that simple. Under the dirt, Jason's remains re-form, and off we go.
Another great twist is that this time, the stupid authority figures got it right. By pretending there's no such thing as Freddy, they actually made him go away. All the kids who had any contact with him are institutionalized, popping Nancy's dream-blocking Hypnocil pills. "We don't say his name!" says the older cop to the rookie. Freddy's like Voldemort, or a viral idea. This idea is pushed further when a discussion about him happens in a very crowded school hallway. You can see the fear spreading, hear Freddy growing stronger.
Then his first would-be victim slips right between his finger blades, macheted by Jason in the real world. Then another slamming thing we've never seen before happens: instead of covert killings, Jason wades into a crowd of teens, hacking away. Around this time our trusty teen troupe gets their act together, with the help of the rookie cop. With a lot of information to sift, they get through it quickly and put together something like a plan. The plan goes all wonky, Jason gets sedated and we get to the "Vs." part.
The best thing I can say about the battle is: they did it right. It starts in dream, and we get to see Freddy bring his full powers to bear against Jason's invulnerability. When the battle hits the real world, it's Jason's brute power vs. Freddy's speed and spite (Freddy reminds me a lot of Lady Deathstrike from X2 here, with the spooky-quick way he stabs and stabs). It's really clear that the writers asked themselves what a fan would want from this fight, and then stuffed it all in.
Besides the main event, the strength of this movie is the great job it does of showcasing the Big Two. Freddy's nightmares are creepy stuff indeed (including the return of that little girl), and his buzzkilling sense of humor is nowhere in sight. The shot of him ninja-jumping out of the water, with the dream Crystal Lake turning into a sea of red beneath him...it's downright iconic. Jason has that dark grey corpsey look I liked from #6, never takes off his mask, and actually gains a touch of depth in the picked-on-at-camp flashbacks (something else I can't believe we've never seen). Both characters are operating with a fresh new vibe before the first blade is crossed.
Sometimes the right people get to make their movie. This is an espresso shot of clever, scary fun.
Undead was the eighth and final zombie movie of the month for me.
Zombie movies are inherently awesome for three reasons: 1) The concept of the zombie allows and encourages guilt free carnage. 2) It's great escapism. All of life's trivial problems and bullshit would disappear instantly when your immediate concerns become surviving a slew of rabid zombies . 3) Making a zombie movie has got to be so much fun.
Yes, Undead recreates Night of the Living Dead yet again but it does so with a great appreciation for the genre. And the Australian interpretation is worth looking into for many reasons. The Undead zombies are quick and nasty. They'll rip your brain out of your skull in the blink of an eye. The action is fast paced, super-violent, and workably cartoonish. The Aussies are capable of making a line such as "When I was a kid we respected our parents - We didn't fucking eat them!" extremely funny. The overly dramatic musical recalls 80's science fiction blockbuster films. Amazingly, the pieces all just fit together to make a great, watchable film.
Then things start to get X-Filey... I suppose it's commendable that they chose to go in an entirely different direction but it's also very stupid. I managed to block out most of the last 45 minutes but there was something about the aliens being responsible for reviving the dead. Wait a second, wasn't that Plan 9 From Outer Space?
Unlike Shaun of the Dead, the Undead ultimately only appeals to the real fanatics. But that's quite alright with me.
Five diverse people receive invitations to participate in a “haunted house” party with Fredrick Loren (Vincent Price) and his 4th wife Annabelle. The guests are informed that they will receive $10,000 each if they agree to stay in the house for one night. Things are never as easy as they seem, however, and Fredrick ratchets up the tension by giving everyone revolvers. After setting the stage for his frightfest, Fredrick proceeds to scare the living daylights out of his guests through a series of strange sounds, decapitated heads, and animated skeletons, which in turn provokes the guests to use their fully loaded weapons.
Vincent Price is at his swishiest in Haunted Hill. In truth, I’ve never found him to be particularly scary and it amuses me that he has this long horror movie legacy. For me Vincent Price is the bad guy on The Brady Bunch, the voice on the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyworld, and one of the rappers in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. Nevertheless there’s something almost hypnotic about his performances, particularly here. I recall Octopunk summarily dismissing this film last year, but I actually found it to be a lot of fun. I like the simple “I dare you to spend a night in a haunted house” plot, and the stupid decisions the characters make. This is one of those silly films where the only way that the various “traps” would work is if a number of precise events coalesced perfectly (e.g., standing in exactly the right place in a room, etc). This is the charm of Haunted Hill though, and it’s a hoot to see how each character will be dispatched. I’ll definitely throw this one in from time to time.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Bloody Beach is Korea’s answer to the popular teen slasher genre. A good-looking group of internet chat room friends rents an apartment for the summer in order to get to know one another better. We learn early on that one of the chat room members, Sandmanz, was ousted from the chat room and later committed suicide as a result. The group has mixed feelings about this; some believing that he was an unstable loner who deserved his fate while others suspect that someone in the group spread lies about him, which engendered this negative opinion. Soon the group begins to receive threatening emails suggesting that they too are destined for the same fate as Sandmanz. One by one they are violently murdered and Bloody Beach becomes a paint-by-numbers slasher.
A pretty good slice-and-dice that borrows heavily from the Friday the 13th formula, Bloody Beach more than lives up to its title. While not original in any way, shape or form, the film is saved by a level of sex and violence that is much more graphic than American cinema would ever allow. This is no scarier than your average Jason installment, but the Korean setting makes it more intriguing than it actually is. I found it amusing that all of the pretty characters met in an internet chat room. A fellow student in graduate school once dragged me to an internet Halloween party and when the door opened a midget greeted us with her hand out saying, “Hi, I’m Pat”. She was the most normal of the bunch.
I reviewed this last year, but only because it happened to be on cable at an opportune moment. Watching it this year, in context, I dropped its rating from one and a half stars to the dreaded one. This movie is so bad it made me wonder if they noticed the downward spiral of the Friday the 13th series and tried to catch up in one swift stroke.
First of all, they TOTALLY undermine everything that was cool about H20, just so they could have Jamie Lee Curtis appear in an intro with no bearing whatever on the larger story. I understand that by their very nature, slasher sequels are not kind to the victors of the earlier movies. But this was the cheapest of cheap, and I immediately wanted to pretend it never happened.
Second of all, for some reason this movie is a giant valentine to the coolness of Busta Rhymes, and he's just hateful in this. I don't know much about Busta Rhymes in general, and I'm actually inclined to like him. However, his character is the frontman for Dangertainment, the outfit that runs the Real World: Myers House show whose cast Michael uses as his next pool of victims. That means Busta's the axis point for most of Resurrection's major "ideas," so you're subjected to several self- righteous, sneering speeches directed at whichever character is holding the position of Fool Who Disagrees With Busta. By the end of the movie, each utterance of "muthaFUCKA" made me want to stick my boot through the TV.
Disliking so-called reality TV as I do, I thought it might be fun to see such a show hacked to bits. You know: "and here's the roomate who's really hard to get along with." It soon becomes really clear that such a show would actually be pretty boring-ass shit (since that would be this movie, just without most of the slashings). The characters wander around the dark house, supposedly finding clues to some question nobody really ever asked. I started to choke on the bad logic: the normal-sized house behaves like a vast mansion, the first cast member killed is looking in a mirror when Michael pops out of it, yet NOBODY notices this despite the fact there’s a camera on the victim’s head and supposedly thousands of viewers with rewind buttons.
In the end we get another big speech by Busta about turning OFF the cameras (yes, this contradicts his earlier position) and the surviving cast member grabs the brass ring –- she’s famous! Ugh. This is a five-bushel bucket of suck.
The fragile homeostasis of a dysfunctional family is disrupted when a mysterious man baring an uncanny resemblance to a long lost son/sibling arrives at the door one day. Although he is suspected of being an imposter, the psychological damage proves to be too much for the family, which is thrown into a spiral of turmoil, despair, and ultimately murder.
Summerisle reviewed this earlier (see below). What a strange little film. One thing I’ve noticed about horror films from the 60s is that they seem to be more violent and thematically more sinister than from previous decades. It could probably be argued that this reflects a shift from an innocent Leave it to Beaver world to a world where our president is assassinated. Sure, monster movies and the film noirs of the 30s, 40s and 50s were thematically dark, but they still had a different feel to them. One thing that makes these early films so striking is that regulatory committees forced directors to convey evil and violence in a much more artistic manner. The use of shadows, jump cuts, and deep focus substituted for overt brutality and sadism. When watching films from the 60s we begin to see a shift to more onscreen realism - check out The Sadist, also filmed the same year as Paranoiac, to see what I’m talking about. Paranoiac is ultimately a satisfying “horror” film that inadvertently examines the insidiousness of unresolved grief and the ravages of mental illness.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
The Friday the 13th series was already starting to feel like a bad hangover at this point, then Jason X upgraded it to a bad hangover with a dog barking outside your window. Maybe the idea of Jason on a spaceship isn't intrinsically bad, but I don't care to speculate. This movie didn't earn it.
Jason is being held captive by some government agency, about to be taken away by some other government agency. Agent Jerk, from the new agency...you know what? This part doesn't matter. There's a festival of mindless hubris and incompetence and Jason and his recent captor wind up frozen. Then it's 400 years later and a spacefaring salvage crew pick them up from a now-uninhabited planet Earth. Why is it the worst people wind up frozen for future generations? People thaw out Jason Voorhees or Khan Noonien Singh, but where's the secret bunker with Einstein or Ghandi? Hmm?
Anyhoo, Frozen Girl displays her previous uselessness by not mentioning that EVERY TIME Jason is unrestrained or unfrozen he gets up and starts killing everybody. And then Jason gets out and starts killing everybody. This is where I mention the production values in this crapfest, which are not quite as good as those on Babylon 5. Sci-fi movies with sub-tv level sets and effects are bad enough, but the reason this movie fails so completely is the complete lack of imagination on every level. The actors, the ideas, the costumes, the sets...none of this carries an interesting slant on the future. If there were a finite amount of sci-fi footage available in the world, the makers of this movie would be heavily fined.
With this tepid setting as background, they do an Aliens knockoff bit as a cadre of space marines get picked off one by one. Each time somebody says "Sarge, I found so-and-so," Sarge says "how is he?" (They're dead.) Then they knock off Jason Takes Manhattan for a while, until the awful, comic-relief girl Data knockoff gets an upgrade to a Trinity knockoff and blows his ass up. BUT, he lands on one of the nanotech med tables (which we saw repair some machete wounds earlier) and the nanites turn him into what an employee at a gay S&M club on a Borg ship might look like. You might think a cyborg Jason would possibly be cool, but somehow they manage to miss.
By my usual standards I'd give this one and a half stars, because of two creative deaths: the girl whose face is nitro-frozen and then shattered, and the guy who's dropped on the giant, upright drill-bit thing, because his body slowly spins around as it slides down. But I just wanted to slap this movie.
I call it The Jamie Trilogy: Halloweens 4 through 6, featuring Laurie Strode's orphaned daughter. While they aren't exactly demonstrating the sharp decline the Jason movies are inflicting on us at this point in slasher history, they're not exactly great, either. Then H20 happens, totally knocking one out of the park and through old man Johnson's window. And how did they do it? They pretended The Jamie Trilogy NEVER HAPPENED. Right the fuck on.
And why not? They've got Jamie Lee Curtis back, who's had a lot of acting experience thanks to her old scream queen days. She pulls off an engaging, layered performance as the grown up Laurie Strode. Twenty years after that bad night, her personal strength has earned her a postition as dean of a private school in California -- yet she is still terribly haunted, knocking back booze and pills and seeing Michael in every reflection. Her paranoia makes things difficult with her 17-year old son (Josh Hartnett, who I like), to the point where he is forced to tell her off about it. He's right, but she's more right, because Michael is on their trail.
This tale of Halloween night is a good, tight story with no fat at all. Josh and three friends (including Michelle Williams, whose appeal I completely don't get) sneak to a quiet corner of the school to secretly party while everyone is off on a trip. Laurie, who's been living under an assumed name, gets drunk with her boyfriend Adam Arkin and finally opens up and tells him who her brother is. Meanwhile, Michael is already stalking the campus.
Much like the original, this movie counterbalances a good, suspenseful buildup with an exciting endgame. Watching Laurie square off against Michael is perfect: at every step she flat-out refuses to commit any of the mistakes which sealed the doom of her countless imitators through the last two decades. There's a stellar moment when she opens up a closet as a possible hiding place, looks in it and says "shit!" Does she follow the same plan she did last time? I'm not telling.
H20 revitalizes a spent franchise to make a perfect bookend to the old story we loved so much, a lot like New Nightmare did for Freddy. I guess you'd call it the Jamie Lee Trilogy, which I realize sounds inconveniently similar to the other one. It's not my fault.
Friday, November 04, 2005
I recall seeing this with JPX when it first came out and thinking it was the worst movie ever. It was the first Michael Myers movie I viewed since #2, so rather suddenly I was thrown in with Michael’s niece, Celtic baby rituals and some guy in a black hat. I wasn’t feeling very charitable towards the doddering Donald Pleasance, either. So I was mildly surprised when I threw this in and it wasn’t quite that bad. It wasn’t particularly good, mind you, but certainly not the wandering mishmash I remembered.
We open with a rather painfully long scene of Jamie Lloyd giving birth. Seems she’s been a captive of the group led by the black-clad mystery man from #5, a group that finally fleshes out the Celtic/Samhain/Halloween presence hinted at since #2. They employ Michael as sort of a free-lance security guard, and when Jamie escapes with her baby he takes off after her. I would’ve liked to see Danielle Harris reprise her Jamie role, but it’s just as well she didn’t do it since Michael impales her quickly. I suspect that would have honked me off.
(If they’d just let him kill her in #4 or #5, would he have stopped since he has no blood relatives left? I mean, do the math, people.)
Then we’re back in Haddonfield, where Tommy Doyle (the babysat kid from the first movie, played by the likeable Paul Rudd) lives across from the old Myers house, recently occupied by the relatives of Laurie’s adoptive Strode family. This includes unbelievable Asshole Dad and the actual mom from Better Off Dead, hee hee. She doesn’t serve any Frahnch fries, though. We get the basic “don’t get killed” plot along with a “keep the baby safe” plot, and a more subdued Loomis is on the scene. This time around I liked him a lot more; I thought the beard suited him. There is one line of his I remembered griping about in ’95. I think he says “do you mean to say—“ (that Jamie had a baby), but it sounds like a gout of escaping wheezy air instead of speech. Eh, he was old.
This was the third movie I watched over the weekend that featured uncontrollable minions. The Phantasm balls, the Jason hands from Hell, and this time Michael himself: as the Celtic cabal is prepping for whatever it is they do, he walks in and whacks the lot of them. Suckers!
There was only one scene in this movie that maintained its flagrant stupidity from my viewing of it ten years ago. Michael stuffs one of his kills in a tree, and the discovery happens when a little girl spends two whole minutes saying “Mommy, it’s raining red” without 1)looking up, or 2)knowing what blood looks like. I suppose that’s a decent conclusion for this review: this movie won’t piss you off too much.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Wow. After a trio of really mediocre movies, Wes Craven returns to the helm and shows us that the Kreuger/Craven team is totally money, yo. This might have been the first time I've watched this movie from beginning to end, and I was impressed. Damn impressed.
Wes obviously thought really hard about how to make the character interesting again, and he came up with a doozy of an idea. Well, actually it was the same idea, just moved to a new place: here. Starring as themselves are the key players of the (good) Elm Street flicks, and Craven too, trying to come to grips with the strange emergence of a new, darker Freddy who is crawling out of their nightmares.
One feature that makes this work is the balls-out level of the self reference, which crescendos with a closeup of the script Craven's writing. It's the script for the very movie you're watching, and it reads "close-up on computer screen, fade to black" and then fades to black. This is a level of meta-ness that will make you dizzy, and it's deployed with skill (and much more smoothly than the similar bag of tricks used in Scream).
A wonderful feeling of dread settles over the sunny LA setting. Freddy's manipulations run concurrent with a series of earthquakes, putting everyone on edge. After the first major death (Heather Langenkamp's husband - gutsy move), her young son carries the bulk of the encroaching fear as he tells how "the mean man" is trying to climb up to the foot of his bed every night. The wrong kid can sink any movie, but this kid pulls it off amazingly. The moment I realized how well it had come together was when Heather asked him where he learned the Freddy chant, and he says "little kids singing...under my covers." Atchi matchi, it's giving me the willies right now.
Despite all that good stuff, the best thing about this flick is Freddy. When Heather is telling Robert Englund about her nightmares, he asks "is it me?" She says "no, darker" and she's right. There's a slight makeover: the claw is now part of Freddy's hand, his face is more skull-like, and he's sporting a long black coat that really makes him seem like a creature of shadow. More than his new looks, he works a menacing presence that reminds you of his scariest moments. He ain't funny this time, he's a creature made of fear. Literally.
As Horrorthon fare goes, this is a pretty rich movie, full of clever commentary about our country's often bizarre relationship to our fiction. But at its heart, like the best horror flicks, it's about what scares us.
Sigh. This one is stupid down to its very roots. It starts with a deceptively promising opening, as the scantily-clad girl dashes out of the house at the first sign of trouble (smart) and flees into the woods, Jason stalking behind her, sporting his new "rutabaga head" look. Suddenly the big man's surrounded by spotlights and a SWAT team is peppering him with bullets. Turns out she was a scantily-clad agent, ha ha, and we're finally seeing the authorities muster the right response -- the one we've been waiting to see for years. They blow him to bits and then it's off to the morgue and cinematic suckery.
Just after the coroner discovers that Jason's heart is filled with some unknown black liquid, the heart starts beating. Naturally, the coroner grabs it and starts greedily devouring it like a tar-filled calzone. Then all these orange lights swarm out of the Jason parts and go into the coroner. Get it? He's being possessed. Wow, gosh, jeez, thud.
In principle, I'm not against the "disembodied killer that possesses people" idea. I haven't seen Fallen, but the same premise is done really well in both The Hidden and Shocker (oh wait a second, Shocker sucked). But this is a Jason movie, dammit; didn't they learn their lesson with #5? Even if I got an iota of fun out of seeing Jason's murderous glare coming from regular, unmasked people, I want the mask, dude!
Unfortunately, ripping off The Hidden is only part of the game, as they open up new story ideas that amount to a huuuge pile of horse hocky. This is all thanks to a foolish, instantly-unlikeable bounty hunter played by the captain from 21 Jump Street. He's supposed to be the movie's tough guy, but I hated every moment of his screen time. For some reason he's the only one who knows that Jason can only be killed by a blood relative, and only with a special dagger that this dude happens to have on him. Apparently someone decided, at this very late stage, that they weren't ripping off Halloween enough. So here's Jason's sister and niece, and here's the Voorhees house!
In the end, Jason's host body totally craps out and he emerges as a little demon puppet (if they were smart, it'd have a face like a hockey mask). Instead of putting a bucket over it, our hero (the guy from Friday the 13th TV series) drops it like a spooked housewife and Jason manages to use his sister's corpse to rebirth himself. You heard me. When the kill stroke finally happens, big muppety arms come out of the ground and pull Jason down. They try to inject some drama by having the arms nearly pull TV series guy down, too (I guess Hell has the same safety standards as the Tall Man), but I was just laughing at the arms.
In the end Freddy's hand reaches out of the dirt and grabs the hockey mask. Whatever. I say skip this clunker.