Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Octopunk rants about the end of High Tension


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,

you

should

stop

reading.

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.

Romero says new Dead film on the way


Good news on the zombie front!

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Nameless


(1999) ***1/2

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

There's Foam Everywhere!


Moonbase Alpha. Thanks to Jordan for this one.

The Brady Bunch pulled this gag, too.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Peter Jackson to produce Halo movie


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.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cool, creepy website for Pulse


Remember that creepy Aisan horror film, Pulse? It was recently released in the States and is currently being remade for American audiances (which means it will most likely suck).

Here's the eerie website for the original.

Hostel


I keep reading about this film and it seems to have a lot of good buzz. Check out this review. And this trailer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

JPX's Best of Horrorthon 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.

I'mnotMarc's Summary and Excuses


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

Summerisle's Summary


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.

Octopunk's Best of Horrorthon 2005


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.

Horror Express


(1973)**1/2

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

Audition


(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.

Trauma


(1993) **1/2

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

Friday the 13th Part 3: 3D


(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

Freddy Vs. Jason


(2003) ****1/2

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


(2003) ***

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.

House on Haunted Hill


(1959)***

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


(2000)**1/2

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.

Halloween: Resurrection


(2002) *

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.

Paranoiac


(1963)***

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

Jason X


(2001) *

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.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later


(1998) ****1/2

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

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers


(1995) **1/2

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

New Nightmare


(1994) ****1/2

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.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday


(1993) **

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.

The Mummy


(1959) ***1/2

The Mummy has always been the poor man's classic monster. Menacing, I suppose, but just never able to compete with Draculas's focused intensity or Frankenstein's freakish size and strength. Even the self-loathing Wolfman would not likely opt to trade places. To top it off, the name itself sounds dangerously close to "mommy". The original Mummy movies from the 30's are harmless fun, but mostly just laughable. The Boris Karloff incarnation would wreak a fair amount of havoc, but he wasn't capable of mustering up a sense of intimidation. He hobbled through his reign of terror looking like a mortally wounded patient on the run from a nursing home.

Recent years have not been kind either. The Mummy sat on the bench while the Frankenstein monster was brought back to life by Deniro, the Wolfman by Nicholson, and vampires by Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. I won't get into the recent Mummy endeavors but it looked like the character tried to find relevance by switching genres entirely. Brendan Fraser? The Rock's head on a scorpion's body? What the hell was that? BRENDAN FRASER?!

So it's a relief to know that there is a great Mummy movie out there and that movie is Hammer's 1959 rendition. The story stays the same. A group of archaelogists defy local warnings and remove the ancient Princess Ananka from her tomb to display her to the world. The ancient spirit of Kharis is brought back to life to seek revenge on those who intruded. While the Mummy picks off the infidels one at a time, the tortured backstory of Kharis is slowly revealed. Christopher Lee showcases his horror range and takes the character to new depths, both as the young Kharis and the monster it has become. Peter Cushing plays the last survivor of the expedition and the two of them go at it. No love loss there, Lee and Cushing faced off countless times over the years. The feud continued even after Cushing's death when Lee moved in on his Star Wars turf. Someday soon they'll be duking it out in Hell. Excuse me, I have something in my eye.

Dominique is Dead


(1979)**1/2

David wants his wife Dominique dead. Instead of just offing her in the usual manner, he decides to slowly drive her insane. By playing mind games with her (e.g., hanging a “corpse” in the den, scary sounds, etc) he achieves this goal fairly easily. Convinced that she is going crazy, Dominique kills herself. However, the tables are soon turned as Dominique haunts David; or is he just going insane himself?

Not bad for a .50-cent film picked up in the supermarket on an impulse buy. Although I didn’t predict the ending, I’m assuming that most will. Still, this low-budget effort is just gripping enough to warrant a viewing if you’ve run out of other things to watch. One thing I love about 70s horror is that reputable actors were cast in these films, lending some credibility and respect to the genre. Here we get Cliff Robertson and Jean Simmons. I know, I know, those names aren’t too familiar to you, but when you see them you’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, I recognize them’. Certain trends emerge when you watch as many horror films as we do. We’ve spoken about the awful humor of 80s horror, yet we haven’t really discussed the age sea change. Up through the 70s the casts of horror films were, for the most part, older and more distinguished. During the 80s reputable people shied away from the genre and studio heads became bent on casting younger actors and actresses. From a business perspective this would seem to make sense. After all in the end films are ultimately just a business and horror films typically court the youth market. Unfortunately this means that we get idiots like the Smallville guy starring in The Fog. The best horror films in the past decade have had older casts with better actors and actresses. Look no further than The Ring, The Others, and Frailty to see my point. Ultimately older and better casts make even weak horror efforts more tolerable. Dominique is Dead is not a good film, yet it's made more tolerable, and dare I say more respectable, because of the cast.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People


(1963) ***

I was drawn to this film as I had a similar experience at a Phish show a few years back. A group of seven set out to sea to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The group consists of a writer, a professor, a student, a couple of sailors, a movie star, and another woman who isn't a movie star. Let's just call her Marianne. One inevitable severe storm later, the crew are shipwrecked on a desert island. Unfortunately the island is not as user-friendly as Gilligan's. The only potential sustenance is a meager supply of turtle eggs, some roots and an abundance of giant mushrooms. When they peruse the log of another abandoned ship that washed ashore, they learn that the island was once used to study expermental radiation. Every member of that crew who set out to find food never returned. The log also warned not to snack on the local mushrooms or else you run the risk of mutating into some sort of half human/half mushroom person. Eventually one crew member succumbs to temptation and it all culminates in good old fashioned bugout.

Toho Studios (famous for the Godzilla flicks) delivers what is promised in the title and I must say I took quite a shine to the look of the mushroom people. The story drags for a while (including a love triangle subplot that took precious time away from the mushrooms) but all is forgiven in the grand finale.

Phantasm II


(1988) ***1/2

Man, I really overestimated the amount of flicks I was going to cover. I wanted to get to the remaining Hellraisers, Phantasms, and also Army of Darkness. I ditched the Child's Play movies altogether. However, having some rare access to a VHS player, I couldn't resist packing Phantasm II into the home stretch.

The second outing doesn't have as much of the whacko charm of the first one, but it's the same uniquely-flavored whacko charm. The movie opens with the end of the first, except we get to see what happened next. This is courtesy of footage I assume they shot in 1979 but didn't use (yay!). Then we see Mike all grown up, lying his way out of the asylum he's been stuck in since he related the story we just saw. Mike has gone from skinny kid with 70's hair to James LeGros, who kinda Melrose-Places up the movie a bit with his hunky good looks, but that's fine. Reggie returns to drive Mike home, and with him returns the "get things done" attitude I was so jazzed by in the first flick. In F13 #5 they gave fake Jason the high body count by introducing characters and instantly whacking them; here we don't even see the characters. Reggie spouts off all the people waiting at home to see Mike: "Aunt Martha's coming, my daughter can't wait to meet you," etc. -- and then through the windshield we see his house blow up.

Two minutes later and the movie is where it belongs: reckless gun use and muscle cars. Mike and Reggie pursue the Tall Man, whose corpse-enslaving repertoire has expanded to wiping out small towns. They grab some girls and soon we're fighting creepy morticians, enraged jawas and flying death balls. (About those things: ever notice how they don't discriminate between intruders and the evil staff? No OSHA on the Tall Man's world.)

The mystery dynamics of the Phantasm universe are such that it's easy to accept every whackadoo thing they throw at us, like the weird claw that pops out of the Tall Man's head at one point. I admit I made a little "hmm?" noise when he uses telekenesis to hang the priest with his own rosary, but he caps off the scene by saying "You think you go to Heaven when you die? You come to us!" I thought Yowza, that's right. Whatever the Tall Man's strange origins are, they do involve enslaving the dead. Is he a sci-fi type threat or a supernatural one? To its credit, the movie doesn't tell us.

This is a worthy successor, displaying the same creepy, gory fun as the original. Recommended.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Invasion of the Body Snatchers


(1976) ****1/2

(In preparation for this review, I watched both the original Don Siegel version and this one, consecutively. I maybe could have squeezed two reviews out of this, and looking at the scoreboard, I could certainly have used the other one, but onward.)

The basic nuts and bolts of the two movies are the same: duplicate humans, sprouting from enormous seed-pods, replace our loved ones, copying their mannerisms and their memories down to the very finest detail, but with no emotional edge whatsoever. These newer vege-humans are detached and logical --- frictionless and free from sensitivity. Comparing the '56 and '78 versions won't be at all fair to the original, which is simpler fare for a simpler time. The '78 version is grimmer and meaner. The cinematography, writing, and acting are all far more polished, two decades later. This is all to be expected: social thought became more sophisticated, so our movies had to as well. So no more picking on the '56 version, which did the best it could.

Things that make the flick tick:

1 - Big-city setting -- Gutsy move placing this story in the middle of San Francisco. I always get a kick out of recognizing my haunts onscreen. But a bigger setting means an inability to hide behind dialogue. Who needs a 10 minute description of how awful it would be to see these meta-humans shuffling lifelessly down Market Street when we can see it for ourselves? Also, the SF setting makes for some outstanding establishing shots, including one pearl of a shot of a thin mist passing over the Transamerica building. I don't think I've ever seen SF look so gorgeous on film, nor so stark or imposing.

2 - Music -- It's odd how effective the Moog-synth sound is here. It sounds crappy and dated in the contemporary music of the time. Here though, it sounds just the way it's supposed to sound: weird.

3 - Leonard Nimoy, bitches -- In an age of extreme anxiety, in which psychological problems weren't treated with namby-pamby sensitivity, but rather carved like a pumpkin with the knife of cold logic, is there anyone in the entire world that would have made a better choice for the role of the psychologist than Mr. Logic himself, Spock? He's made a career out of just being smart and his arguments here are so clear and earnest. His central argument to his co-stars is pretty much, "the reason you're freaking out right now is because you're silly and human, so just calm down and be rational." This concept in psychology was overwhelmingly popular in the 70's --- the reason you're unhappy is because of this thing, this thing, and this thing, and if you'd just calm down and see that, you'd be happy. And it's one of the most remarkable mechanisms of the script that this is the *exact* point of view of the invading organisms. There's genuine relief when our cadre of stars finally convinces Nimoy that they aren't deluded. And that this scene is immediately followed by the revelation that Nimoy is, in fact, already one of the vege-men, is one of the most delightfully shocking moments in the script (which I've now ruined for you by not putting a spoiler warning beforehand -- sorry).

Other points to note: *Great* lighting, especially in the chase scene at the pier; Jeff Goldblum at his most Jeff Goldblumy; yes, that's Robert Duvall as the priest on the swingset; the shot of the vege-man, pressed against the pebbled glass in the Public Health building as Brooke Adams and Donald Sutherland walk by gave me a huge jolt -- and this movie is full of huge jolts; did we really need to watch Veronica Cartwright massage oil into that big fat belly for so long? Yes, we really did.

An outstanding film on all levels.

Friday the 13th Part 3: 3D


(1982) Film *** Film experience in actual 3D **

Octopunk has been doing a bang-up job covering the Friday the 13th series and he already covered this film earlier in the Horrorthon (see below). I managed to catch a midnight showing of this film in Boston with 3D glasses, a barrel of popcorn, and Summerisle. What should’ve been the culmination of all our horror movie wet dreams was somewhat marred by the twofold detriment of having a projectionist who repeatedly screwed up the film and a morbidly obese twenty-something who sat behind us insisting on making “pithy” comments throughout the ENTIRE film. You know the guy I’m talking about. He’s that guy who believes he’s really funny but in the end he’s about as funny as a fart in an elevator. For example, in one scene a man is in a convenience store holding a jar of peanuts. Mr. Fat Fuck Funny yelled out, “He’s nuts!” Now you might be asking yourself, ‘Why didn’t you tell Fatty Arbuckle to shut the hell up?’ The main reason is because for some ungodly reason the audience kept laughing at everything he said, fueling his desire to continue his running MST3K commentary. Sigh. The other problem is that the projectionist kept screwing around with the duel projection system so that only the middle third of the film worked in 3D. When it worked, it was a lot of fun. However, most of the time the glasses didn’t make any difference whatsoever and we were seeing double. Sigh. I must remind myself that there’s a reason I don’t really enjoy going to the movies too much anymore. I don’t care if I’m labeled a cranky old man.

Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist


(2005)**1/2

This is the Exorcist film that was never released theatrically because the studio heads deemed it too slow for audiences expecting to see projectile vomiting and heads spinning around. After shelving this effort, it was remade into “Exorcist: The Beginning” (reviewed below).

In this initial effort, Father Merrin experiences a crisis of faith at the hands of the Nazis. After giving up the collar, he heads to East Africa where he joins an archeological dig that has discovered a Byzantine church buried and completely preserved. Learning too late that the church was built on top of ancient crypt where satanic rituals were practiced, Merrin unleashes a demon that immediately takes possession of a local peasant.

Brimming with theological discussions and ultimately lacking much in the way of gore or even true scares, the studio heads were on to something when they prevented Dominion’s release. If you’ve seen “Exorcist: The Beginning” already, than you’ll have a sense of déjà vu as you work through Dominion. Many of the actors are the same and some of the sequences, particularly a brutal scene involving Nazis, are almost note for note. There’s nothing wrong with creating a cerebral film, however, by inserting the word “Exorcist” in your title, you’re inviting trouble if you don’t deliver on the frights. Dominion was merely okay and probably would’ve been more interesting if it hadn’t been marketed as an “Exorcist” film. By asking timeless and provocative questions (e.g., why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?), this story might have fared better if it had been released as a stand-alone film without the pressure of shouldering the Exorcist name.

Carnage


(1972) **

Carnage starts in the past. A newlywed couple is shown standing in a romantic embrace with wedding music playing on the phonograph. Slowly, the groom reaches into a drawer, pulls out a gun, and blows his beloved’s head off. He then turns the gun onto himself. We later learn that this was a suicide pact because the bride was terminally ill or something like that. Fast forward to the (1972) future. A newlywed couple moves into the very same home, which is now apparently haunted by the ghosts of the first newlywed couple. When kitchen appliances start to do weird things, the couple slowly realizes that the house does not want them to live there.

So I watched this thinking that it sounded like an Amityville Horror kind of thing. The problem is that for the most part the “evil” house is merely an annoying house rather than really evil. In one scene the bride wants to write something down on a piece of paper. The house, apparently sensing her desire, hides the pad of paper she wanted to use! In another scene the bride is speaking to her father on the telephone and needs to do something in the kitchen for a moment. She tells her father to wait and she’ll be right back. As she goes into the kitchen, the house hangs up the phone! This isn’t a scary house at all; it’s a house that thinks it’s funny when it’s not. Okay eventually the house actually does a few lethal things, but for most of the film it just inconveniences its inhabitants. It’s never made clear why the suicide newlyweds don’t want anyone else living in their home, I mean, why would they care? With occasional sprinkles of graphic gore, Carnage definitely falls into the so-bad-it’s-fun category.